Journeys of the Mind


Chapter 23





Chapter Twenty-three






Hawk stood near Dr. Goodfellow, watching intently, silently willing the old man and his cranky robot to hurry.  

As though reading his mind, Dr. Goodfellow said over his shoulder, “I don’t think it will be much longer.” 


“The only problem is going to be the expenditure of energy.  The consumption of fuel will be tremendous to maintain such a distortion,” Dr. Goodfellow explained.

“But will it be enough to get down to the surface of the planet?” Hawk asked.

“Yes, but possibly not enough to get back.”

“That does not concern me as much.  If need be, I can steal fuel,” Hawk replied. 

“That would be most dangerous,” Crichton retorted haughtily. 

“Right now, I feel it is Buck who is in danger,” Hawk replied tersely.  “Time is not on our side.” 

“I understand, Hawk, but we want both of you to return safely,” Dr. Goodfellow said.  “It does no good for you to go down on a rescue mission if you can’t get back.”

“I can modify my ship to carry more fuel,” Hawk said.  “Would that be satisfactory?” 

“Yes, I believe it would,” Goodfellow replied. 

“I will get busy right away,” Hawk said, even as he was walking toward the door.  He hated all of this human bureaucracy that kept him from simply going down to the planet and finding his friend.  When he was waging war on the humans, he simply went where he pleased, dealt with whomsoever he chose and did what he had to do, not caring in the slightest what anyone thought or did.  He longed for some of that now.  He longed for it so desperately that he stopped at his cabin on the way to the hanger and paused in front of a small alcove.  Only two things sat in that niche.  One was a picture of Koori, the one that Buck had commissioned for him on the anniversary of his birth.  The other was a small stone figure, one that Dr. Goodfellow had found in the caves on Throm and taken with him to the Searcher.  

When the old scientist had realized the significance of that figure, he had immediately given it to its real owner, Hawk.  It was a likeness of Make-Make, the ancient god of his people, Make-Make, the all-powerful.   Hawk paused before kneeling.  The last time he had made formal obeisance to his god was when he had begun his war against the humans.  Make-Make had somehow turned the war to peace, but now Hawk felt that peace threatened.  The inner peace of his friends had been compromised, even horribly violated.  And peace in general, in this part of the galaxy, was threatened.  His soul felt as though it were a maelstrom of turmoil.  

He knelt. “Make-Make,” he began in his own language.  Then he stopped.  He was not one who was eloquent in speech; especially to deity.  Make-Make, so much has happened in the year of my odyssey among these humans, so much that has changed my thinking and my heart, he said silently.  He paused, gazing steadily at the small representation of his God, then he lowered his eyes.  Those who have helped in this journey are threatened, have been hurt.  Give me strength to help my friends during their trials, even as they helped me in mine.  Then he looked up again.  “Make-make, I swear to you, as I did before, I will not rest until the one who was truly responsible for our people’s destruction, who has hurt my friends, is either captured or killed.  And if it is by my hand, so be it.”

Although it was not a complete peace, Hawk felt a small bit of solace settle in his heart and he contented himself with that.   But along side of that peace, Hawk felt a fierce and fiery resolve fill his heart; permeate his soul.   Erik Kormand would be meted out a lasting justice. 

Quickly rising, Hawk headed directly to the hanger bay where his starfighter sat in dangerous repose, even with the wings retracted.  Gathering tools and materials that he needed, he began working, continuing through the rest of the day and into the night, only stopping to gather more materials.  Everyone seemed to know of his purpose, and he was not interrupted, except by Twiki, who offered his services.  Hawk gladly accepted. 






“Brandt,” Kormand called out over his shoulder, “I sincerely hope this exercise will help you remember.” 

“As do I,” Brandt replied from his seat in the back of Kormand’s starfighter.  He felt as though things were moving fast, at lightning speed and he wondered if his life before had progressed in the same way.

“You realize that the returning memories might be too painful for you to handle.  You don’t have to do this, Brandt,” Kormand said soothingly. 

“No, no.  I want to go through with this, painful or not,” Brandt replied.  Painful?  Erik Kormand has no idea how painful not knowing is, he thought. 

Kormand nodded.  “It won’t be exactly the same.  There aren’t that many Freeosh around here and only a few of those were willing to participate.”

Brandt was puzzled.  “I thought you said they were animals.”

“Most of them are, but there are a few who have been educated and trained and those are not particularly dangerous,” Kormand replied.  “Remember?  I mentioned tame Freeosh.  You still have to watch them, though.  They can turn, even though I have paid them generously.  So be careful when we do this.”

“Oh, I understand,” Brandt said, only half of his mind on the conversation.  He was gazing out of the canopy trying to see something, anything that might trigger a memory.  Except for the all too brief vision of the woman, presumably his late wife, he had received no flashbacks, no hints of returning memory.  Nothing. 

Kormand landed near a cleared area, part of which was covered with the ruins of buildings.  Only a few beams stuck out from the ground, testament of a fierce and deadly battle.  Mounds of earth stood near the edge of the forest.  This scene also brought nothing to his mind.  There was none of the innate familiarity here as there had been present when he had spent the previous evening playing ten and eleven with Kormand and Drishel.  That had felt right, like something that was a part of him.  Not only did he know how to play the game, he had won most of the hands, much to the irritation of Erik Kormand.  

But here there was no such inherent and subconscious knowledge.  He walked the area as one who had never been to this place before. 

Brandt gazed into the broken doorway of a ruined and charred building and saw the remains of a family’s belongings.  There was a half melted plastic cup, a ragged corner of a blanket, the head of a doll.  Might this have been his house?  There was no responsive chord.  Again, nothing but emptiness and accompanying sadness.  

Suddenly Brandt heard the yelling of angry voices and he pivoted to see a group of aliens rushing toward him, hands clutching clubs and knives.  There were at least six of them, tails lashing in their anger, their eyes blazing in fury.  There was no time to even consider if these were the hired ‘actors’, much less pull his laser; so sudden was this attack.  He met the first Freeosh with a solid kick to the ribcage, doubling his foe over.  The next two came simultaneously and Brandt grabbed the nearest by the arm, making the knife ineffectual.  He jerked the knife away, even as he swung the Freeosh into the other attacker, knocking them both down.  Two more ran at him and Brandt met them with the knife, feinting below the alien’s club and slashing a gash across the Freeosh’s chest.  As that alien fell back, screaming, the other pulled a small laser pistol and raised it. 

Brandt was faster, though, having already dropped the knife in favor of his pistol. The laser, which he had set to stun before he had left the starfighter, dropped the alien in his tracks.  He swung around in time to shoot two other attackers, those who had attacked him first and had gotten their second wind.  The third cowered by the rubble of a blasted building, one hand raised in front of his face.  Brand lowered his pistol slightly.  “Why did you attack me?” he asked, feeling that the ferocity of this attack was greater than warranted by those paid to play a role. 

Suddenly the flair of laser fire hit the Freeosh and the alien sagged to the ground.  Brandt checked and found no pulse, not that he expected any, considering the burn on the alien’s upper chest.  In anger he stood and faced Kormand and the two men who had accompanied them in another star fighter.  One of the men walked over and examined the dead alien.  

“Why did you kill him?  He had surrendered.”

“It appeared that he was drawing a weapon,” Kormand said, pointing. 

The man examining the Freeosh stood up and held up a small laser pistol.  “And considering that this laser was not set to stun, we had no choice.”  The man, whom Brandt recognized him as Leegrand, one of Kormand’s lieutenants, tossed the pistol to him.  

He saw that it was indeed set to kill, but he had not seen a pistol when he had examined the alien.  Sighing, Brandt, in turn, tossed it to Kormand.  “But were these the men that you hired?” 

“Men?  They aren’t men,” Kormand growled.   Then he drew in a deep breath.  He had to calm down; he had to treat Rogers with kid gloves.  At least for now.  This was a crucial part of his plan and he couldn’t mess it up by getting emotional and angry with his star sacrificial lamb.  “I was only able to find four men that were willing to do this re-creation.  We had the other ship here with holographic equipment to make it appear like there were more Freeosh,” he explained, pointing to the other ship and the holo-cameras on their stands.  “There are obviously more than the original numbers, so I can only assume that they decided to use this as an opportunity to kill off a few humans.  Leegrand caught a couple more in the brush sneaking up on us as well.” 

Brandt gazed down at the dead Freeosh and pondered.  What Kormand had said made sense, but still…. 

“Do you remember anything?” Kormand asked.

“No,” Brandt answered.  “And you can put away your equipment.  I don’t think it will provide any more than a real attack would.”  He wasn’t sure what upset him more, the failure of the experiment or the death of the alien. 

“Very well,” Kormand said sympathetically, laying a hand on Brandt’s arm.  He turned to one of the others who had accompanied them.  “William, take care of the others.” 

“What are you going to do?” Brandt asked, feeling that he already knew.

“Kill them, of course.  They tried to kill us,” Leegrand interjected.  His face seemed to show some pleasure.  “Unless you want to take care of them.”  He held out his pistol.

Brandt pondered for only a moment.  While these aliens could have been the very ones who killed his family, the idea of killing defenseless people in cold blood was repugnant to him. 

“They are very likely part of the same group that killed your family, Brandt,” Kormand said, as though reading his mind.  “I doubt they would hesitate to do the same thing to any human man, woman or child.”

Brandt couldn’t dispute that.  “Maybe they did and maybe they didn’t,” he said tentatively.   He was well aware of how Kormand felt and what the Human Rights leader would like him to do.  “But maybe it would be better to leave them.  Their defeat will provide a good lesson, while death would only make them martyrs.” 

Kormand frowned, but after a moment’s hesitation, he nodded.  “Yes, I see your point, although this only means vermin will be still alive to possibly kill more humans, Brandt, like your wife and children.” 

Brandt took a deep breath.  “Yes, I know that’s a distinct possibility.  But let’s try it this way for a change and see what happens, Erik.  There has been enough death here.”  He could say no more.  He holstered his laser and walked back to the ship, not wanting to know Kormand’s final decision.  The smell of death permeated his senses, the sight of burned rubble filled his heart with sadness.  Was this the substitute for the grief he couldn’t feel?  Brandt shuddered. 

As Rogers walked away, Leegrand spat in the dust.  “That one can never be trusted.  He doesn’t have the guts to last in the organization.” 

“It’s not a matter of guts, Michel.  He has courage, plenty of it, but his ethics were formed centuries ago and I doubt that can ever be changed.”  Kormand rubbed his chin in thought.  “And I never intended for him to last in the organization, but it’s obvious that when I set him up for his eventual capture or death, he will need something to boost his, um, ‘courage,’” Kormand added with a sly and knowing grin.  

“How soon, General?  He makes me nervous,” Leegrand asked.   “I don’t like him around and if his memory comes back….”

“As soon as we get enough to incriminate him.  I want his death.  I want the disk to have enough to hang a much better person than he is.” Kormand gazed meaningfully at his two subordinates.  “I assume you have been getting good footage?”

“Yes, sir and I think today’s display will seal the good captain’s fate, even if he was unwilling to actually execute these vermin.”

“How long will it take you to put it together?”

“If we begin editing today, we should have a good disk for you in the morning.”

“Good,” Kormand said with a smile.  “I’ll have our counselor on Cronis order a military ship to head out for Mendalis to take care of the ‘unrest’ immediately.”

Leegrand smiled.  “What about these?” he asked, pointing to the unconscious Freeosh. 

“Exterminate the vermin,” Kormand ordered tersely as he walked away.  He found Rogers standing by the starfighter, rubbing his temples.  A brief wash of fear came over him.  It would not do to have his victim regain his memory just yet.   Then Kormand suppressed his fear.  It mattered not, they had enough to have Rogers branded a traitor, even dead.  He loosened his pistol in its holster and asked, “Are you all right?”

“Just a headache, General,” was all Rogers said. 

“We’ll go back to the compound and Sreena will get you something,” Kormand said. 

“Yes, I’d appreciate that.”




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