Journeys of the Mind

 

Chapter 28

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-eight

   

The Long and Winding Road

 

 

Dr. James Golden gathered up the necessary supplies and turned to his assistant, Med Tech William Dikkon.  “Keep an eye on things here, Dikkon.  I am going to check on our prisoner.” 

“Be careful, Doctor,” the med tech said.  “Why all the supplies?  I heard that Rogers was none the worse for wear.”

“Blood sample.  Searcher requested it and, personally, I’m ashamed I didn’t think of it myself.  Especially if the personality change is as drastic as they suggested it is.” 

Dikkon looked sharply at his superior.  “But what about Brice?  Doesn’t he count for anything?  Let the judiciary take care of Rogers.”

“Of course Brice counts for something.  But everything must be considered, Dikkon, on both sides.  And apparently, this Kormand is one slippery and devious individual.”  Golden smiled.  “Brice is in good hands while I am away, Lieutenant.  I won’t be long.” 

As he walked toward the brig, Golden thought about the men in his care.  Brice had been the worst off, with a concussion that had looked nasty enough to be a near skull fracture.  And there were the others of the landing party.  Almost every one of them sported at least bruises from their encounter with the mysterious Buck Rogers.  The doctor wondered about this man who could so easily overpower six trained men.  When he arrived at the high security brig, Golden noted that the force shield partially hid Rogers from his view.  A guard stood by the doorway, a laser pistol loose in his holster.  “I need to examine the prisoner,” he announced. 

“Yes, sir, after I put the force restraints on him,” the guard said. 

“Force restraints?” Golden asked, peering through the haze of the force field.  “He appears unconscious.” 

“Captain Grishom’s orders, sir.  The prisoner appeared unconscious when he knocked the assault team every which way, too.” 

Golden nodded.  “I understand.” 

The guard turned off the force shield and placed the restraints around the prisoner’s wrists.  Rogers didn’t move and the doctor sat down next to him on the narrow bed, alarmed at how still he was.  Golden examined the unconscious man, checking pulse and breathing, relieved when he found both within normal parameters.  He took out his kit and drew the blood sample, then another for the doctor on the Searcher.   

Again Golden wondered about this terran, wondered how Captain Rogers could have become so embroiled in this situation.  As he returned the samples to his kit, Golden saw Rogers gazing intently at him, his expression a mixture of puzzlement, tinged with sadness.   The doctor saw nothing that would indicate the chaos that had occurred planet-side.   He only saw a confused patient.

 

 

 

Brandt began his journey back to awareness with a quick pain in his arm, combined with the steady throb of another headache.  He opened his eyes and saw that he was in a tiny cubicle, lying on a cot barely long enough to fit his frame, and only soft enough to be considered a bed.  A glance to one side showed a force field, its soft blue light like ice particles barring his way to freedom.  A glance in front of him showed a man swabbing a place inside his elbow.  He felt the restraints on his wrists and experienced a quick burst of anger, but Brandt squelched it, realizing its uselessness.  Remembering what had happened in the little village, Brandt wondered at the fierce white-hot anger he had felt then, the overwhelming desire to get away, to hurt the people trying to stop him. 

Vaguely, he remembered also the expressions and exclamations of pain and wondered how badly he had hurt the people he had fought.  Such consideration had not even occurred to him then, now it did.  He found the man gazing thoughtfully at him.  “You are a doctor?” Brandt asked. 

“Yes, Doctor Jamee Golden,” the other man answered.  

“How badly are the others hurt?” 

“One is still nursing a very serious concussion, another a couple of broken ribs.  The latter is under the orthopedic rehab machine and should be all right in a day or two.  The rest will remember you fondly with a large array of bruises,” Golden answered with a slight smile.  “And you?” 

Brandt looked beyond the force field barrier and saw the guard watching, then he looked down and pondered the bracelets.  “I am sorry for their injuries.  I don’t know why I did that.”

Golden nodded, his expression thoughtful.  “How are you?” he repeated.

“I have a slight headache,” Brandt said.  “That’s all.” 

“I’ll see what I can get you for that,” Golden replied. 

“Where am I?” 

“Galactic Council Military Ship Titan.”  He pondered for a brief moment.  “May I ask a question?  One that your counsel will most likely take me to task for asking.” 

Counsel?  Brandt mentally shrugged.  He would find out what he needed to know soon enough.  He hoped.   “Yes.”

“What in the world were you doing with Erik Kormand?”

Brandt wondered what was behind that question, but at this juncture, he saw no reason not to answer it.  “He . . . he cared for me after the massacre of my family and….”

“Whoa!  Wait a minute.  Your family?” Golden interrupted.  He quickly remembered what little he had been briefed about this man.  Rogers was from the Searcher.  Her exo in charge of exploration and defense.  Most such vessels were not equipped to handle families.  “Captain Rogers, I was led to believe you were a bachelor.

Brandt gazed hard at the doctor.  There was genuine surprise.  And then he caught the name—Captain Rogers.  He remembered being called something similar before.  What was the whole name?  “You know me?” 

Now Golden was really surprised.  “Of course I do.  Or of you.  You’re all over that disk that the Mendalis underground sent.  And you are well known to the Galactic Council.  And have served intimately with the upper echelons of the Earth Defense Directorate.” 

Brand looked expectantly at the doctor.  He thought of all Kormand had told him.  Could all of it been lies?  He wondered.  And this man knew him.  Or acted like he did. 

Golden gazed into the hazel eyes and saw something new—an eagerness, and hope.  And suspicion entered into the doctor’s thinking.  He got up.  “I’ll be back shortly.  You rest.”

The prisoner looked disappointed, but only sighed and nodded. 

As Golden walked back to his laboratory, his thoughts raced through his mind.  In his lab, the doctor packaged the extra blood sample and then called for a crewmember. “Take this down to the launch bay.  Have one of the pilots personally deliver it to Dr. Goodfellow on the Searcher,” he said when the lieutenant arrived.   Then he sat and pondered for a moment before doing Rogers’ blood work.  Could this man be a cleverly disguised plant by Kormand’s organization?  Or is he who he seems to be and has truly been psycho conditioned, causing his disorientation?  Golden took his sample and began analyzing it.  

Suddenly he felt someone at his shoulder and glanced up.  “Dikkon, you startled me,” he said.  

“Sorry, Doctor.  Brice is awake and feeling much better, sir,” the med tech said. 

“Good,” Golden murmured.  He was gazing at the readouts on the computer screen.  No wonder Rogers seemed confused.  And no wonder he had been so violent. 

“What is this, Doctor?” Dikkon asked, looking over Golden’s shoulder.  

“The sample from our prisoner.”

“Find anything?”

“Enough to put doubt on that so-called evidence and to explain his bizarre behavior planet side,” Golden replied.  He put all of the findings into a special medical folder in the computer and stored it.  “I believe I need to give a preliminary report to the Colonel.  Keep an eye on things, Dikkon.  I’ll be back in a while.”

“Yes, sir,” the med tech said, his eyes narrowing as the doctor left.

 

 

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Brandt sat morosely on his bunk, guilt laden and confused.  He had wanted to escape, he still did, but to want to attack and not only hurt, but kill those standing in his way appalled him.  Why?  Why hadn’t he felt the same restraints then that he was feeling now?   He had felt the same anger at the alien and had almost shot the little boy.  Why so uptight?  He had only wanted to find answers to question that had been eating him for all the days he had been with Erik Kormand.  Who am I really? he asked.

Even now, Brandt felt the urge to escape, but he was able to control it.   He laughed softly in self-derision.  Where could I go?  How far would I be able to get with the guard outside?  But the fact of the matter was, when Dr. Golden had told the marine he was leaving and the force field was down, Brandt had not made an escape attempt.  He was grateful, though, that the ever-vigilant guard had removed the restraints.  For some reason, those restraints had irritated him even more than the glowing bars of the force field.    

Brandt wanted answers to so many questions but he refrained from talking to his guard.  He had a raging thirst, but he remained silent.  Dr. Golden had said something about counsel, which told him his arrest was official.  For the injuries to the crewmembers who tried to capture me?  No, it had to be something else, something from before or they wouldn’t have had to try and capture me.  But what have I done?

And what had the doctor said about no family?  I am a bachelor? What is the truth?  With a sigh, Brandt leaned his head back against the cool bulkhead.  The headache was still there, not painful, but a small reminder of something else that had been almost constant since he woke up in Erik Kormand’s sickbay. 

The force field dropped and Brandt gazed wearily at the guard who came in with the restraints, ordering him to hold out his wrists.  Sighing again, Brandt complied. 

A tall, thin man with dark eyes came in.  “I am Dr. Golden’s med tech.  He sent me to get another blood sample.  The first one got contaminated.” 

Brandt nodded.  “When will Dr. Golden be back?” he asked while the med tech pulled out a syringe and felt inside his arm. 

“Soon.” Dikkon began to think this would be a very simple procedure.  Destroying the evidence in the computer had been more complicated than killing Rogers would be.   The trinion would be quick and would leave no traces after death.  The Council would not be able to use Rogers against Kormand.  He smiled as he placed the syringe against the terran’s skin.  

Brandt gazed at the syringe and suddenly all internal alarms began tolling loudly.  Instead of being empty, the syringe contained a liquid, something bluish-green.  Immediately, he grabbed the man’s wrist causing the med tech to release the vial.  The little plastic container skittered across the floor of the cubicle, bouncing off the wall and spinning under a tiny sink.  

“You said you were taking a blood sample, not giving me something,” Brandt growled.  He glanced over at the guard and saw the man reaching for his laser.  At the same time the tech began screaming for help, struggling in the prisoner’s steel hard grip.  Brandt let go only long enough to bring his restrained hands over the tech’s head and pin the struggling man’s arms to his side. 

Brandt formed one hand into a fist and shoved it into the tech’s diaphragm.  Immediately the med tech stopped screaming and began coughing and wheezing.  The guard stood at the doorway, his laser pointed menacingly at both men.  “Call Dr. Golden,” Brandt ordered the guard.  “Quickly, or I’ll do worse than give this murderous little med tech a gut ache!” Brandt bluffed. 

The guard hit an alarm button and then made a call.  The alarm grated on Brandt’s nerves, but he pushed that little annoyance out of his mind, only concentrating on the tech and the guard.  Pulling his prisoner into a narrow corner, where his back would be protected, Brandt waited. 

He didn’t have long to wait.   

An older man, one who appeared to be in command, rushed down the corridor and stopped before the doorway of Brandt’s cell.  To his credit, the newcomer perused the scene before him, gazing directly into Brandt’s eyes before motioning for the men accompanying him to stay back.  “Captain Rogers, according to the records I have read, you are a very intelligent and resourceful man.  I can attest to the latter fact.  I’m not so sure about the report of intelligence.  You surely realize that there is no possible escape.”

“I wasn’t trying to escape.  I was attempting to save my own skin from an attempted murder.”  

“What?” the man in front of him said.  He had on a dark blue uniform, crisply smooth on a trim frame, and containing insignia that Brandt had no doubt indicated high rank.  His dark eyes scrutinized the scene before him coming back to rest on Brandt’s face. 

“He’s lying!” the med tech cried out.

“Quiet!” Brandt hissed in his prisoner’s ear.  “Or my fist will wrap around your backbone.”  The med tech was quiet and Brandt continued.  “Your crewmember came in claiming that Dr. Golden needed another blood sample, but when he started to draw blood, I saw that the vial was already full.”  He motioned with one finger to the vial lying on the floor.  “I certainly won’t stop you or Dr. Golden from getting it and examining the contents.”  He paused.  “And where is Dr. Golden?  I specifically requested him to come.”  

The older man motioned to someone out of Brandt’s view.  “You know, Captain, all we’d have to do is laser stun both of you and that would end this stalemate.” 

“That’s true,” Brandt said grimly.  “But I hope that if you do, you would at least check out that vial before passing any further judgments on me.”  

There was a moment of silence as the officer quickly considered Brandt’s statement.  “I am Colonel Miguel Alvarez, the commander of this vessel.  If I enter and guarantee your safety, will you release Lt. Dikkon?”

“I would really prefer the doctor to examine that vial first, Colonel.  I want him to tell me if my suspicions are correct.  Then I will release your tech.” 

Alvarez sighed.  “Very well, Captain.  The doctor should be here shortly.” 

Brandt nodded, wanting desperately to ask the colonel questions about his identity, but he could wait for a short time.  After all he had waited this long.  The irony of the situation was not lost on Brandt.  Apparently these men, these strangers, knew more about him than he knew about himself.

Dr. Golden appeared in front of his cell and Brandt almost sighed aloud in relief.  There was something about the doctor that he trusted.  

“Jamee, Captain Rogers claims that your med tech tried to kill him using what’s in that vial there,” Alvarez said, pointing to the tiny container lying innocently on the floor of the holding cell.  

As the force field dropped and Golden walked into the small cubicle, Dikkon struggled, trying to free himself.  Brandt squeezed harder against the med tech’s diaphragm and the struggling ceased.  He was sure the force restraints didn’t feel particularly comfortable against his body either. 

Golden picked up the vial and examined it closely, then with a startled look, stared at Dikkon.  Turning to the Colonel, he nodded.  “Without further testing, I can only guess that this is trinion, a very potent sedative, one that dissipates with hardly a trace.  And it appears that this amount could have easily killed the captain or caused extensive brain damage, especially in his present condition.” 

“Why?” Brandt hissed in Dikkon’s ear. 

The med tech moaned, but said nothing, only sagging in defeat. 

“Captain Rogers, that is a question you’ll have to trust us to ask,” Alvarez said softly.  “Let him go and we can talk.  Just the three of us.”  He nodded to include Dr. Golden. 

Brandt said nothing for a moment, considering his options.  There were no other options.  He was being given the opportunity to talk with, not only the doctor, but also the commander of the ship.  It was only what he had wanted.   “All right.”  Brandt motioned Dr. Golden to approach.  He felt confident in Golden and Alvarez’s word, but didn’t put anything past the guards once he had released Dikkon.  When the doctor was several paces in front of him; Brandt released the tech, who all but sagged to the floor. 

“Get out of here,” he growled at Dikkon.  The tech scuttled out of the cubicle. 

“Put him under close arrest until he can be questioned,” Alvarez ordered, as he, too, walked into the tiny cell.  While he was still feeling the frustration of not having caught Erik Kormand and the added insult of having had his star prisoner almost escape, there was something that made him wonder about this man. 

“Sir, do you want a laser?” a guard asked.  

“No, Jimeson, I don’t think Captain Rogers will do anything now,” the colonel said.  Alvarez’s eyes continued to bore into Brandt’s even as he was answering the guard. 

Brandt chose to ignore the exchange.  He gestured toward the narrow bed.  “I would offer a chair but I don’t have one,” he said with a slight smile.  “The bed is available, though.”

Alvarez wasted no time.  “My chief medical officer seems to feel you have been subjected to mind altering drugs in the past week.”

Looking at both men, Brandt shook his head.  “I don’t know that.  All I know is that I felt different down there.  Even more different than I had while in Erik Kormand’s complex.” 

“What do you mean, ‘more different’?” Alvarez asked.

“Colonel, you have been very up front and to the point.  Let me do the same.  You have both called me Captain Rogers.  Erik Kormand called me Brandt.”  He paused, trying to remain calm.  It was difficult.  “Would you please tell me who the hell I am?”

Alvarez and Golden both stared at him in open-mouthed shock. 

 

 

 

 

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