Journeys of the Mind

 

Chapter 29

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-nine

 

Almost Home Again

 

 

 

“Admiral, have you heard anything from the Titan about Buck?” Wilma asked as she sat next to Devlin at the console.  

Hawk stood nearby, listening intently.  When he wasn’t attending to other duties he had been on the bridge, waiting just as Wilma and the others had.  And it galled him, just as it had for a week.  He hated the idea of waiting, of the inactivity and the not-knowing.  

Suddenly Wilma looked up, her eyes filled with hope.  “Call from the Titan, Admiral.  Private.”

The admiral pondered for only a moment.  It was early morning, ship’s time, and there was only a skeleton crew on the bridge, mainly those who were anxious and couldn’t sleep well.  Himself, Wilma and Hawk, for the most part.  Devlin. Twiki and Dr. Theopolis were there as well, but, of course, they didn’t require sleep anyway.  Those here with him were people he had come to know intimately and respect greatly and they deserved to know as soon as he did.  “Go ahead, Wilma.” 

“Admiral, we have the information you requested,” a voice said through the communicator.  “Captain Rogers is in custody on the Titan.  We are sending a pilot with the sample Dr. Goodfellow requested.”

Wilma couldn’t resist.  “This is Colonel Deering.  How is he….”  Wilma cleared her throat.  “What is Captain Rogers’ condition?”

The voice became somewhat sardonic.  “Captain Rogers is fine, which is more than I can say for the six who tried to take him into custody.  Dr. Golden asked if Dr. Goodfellow could contact him with his findings.” 

“Will do,” Wilma answered and then closed the communications channel.  She turned to Asimov.  “The six in sickbay?” 

“Obviously Buck put up a fight,” Hawk observed, his face registering little emotion, but his thoughts digesting the tiny bit of information furiously.  “Admiral, would you like me to meet the Titan’s pilot?” 

“Yes, Hawk, please.” 

The pilot had just landed when Hawk entered the hangar bay.  “I have been sent by Admiral Asimov to meet you.  You have a package for Dr. Goodfellow?” 

“Yes, but I was given strict orders to hand deliver it,” the young pilot said, gazing meaningfully at Hawk. 

“Of course, Lieutenant.  Follow me,” Hawk instructed, choosing to ignore the somewhat more than inquisitive stare the pilot had given him.   It was not malevolent, simply abject human curiosity and for the most part, he had gotten used to it. 

Dr. Goodfellow was already up and puttering around in his lab when the pair arrived at the medical bay.  The young pilot gave the doctor the same instructions that had been given in the message to the bridge.

“You needn’t worry, young man, needn’t worry at all,” Goodfellow assured him.  “I will get on this immediately.”  The pilot looked slightly dubious, but wisely kept his thoughts to himself. 

When Hawk had led the pilot back to the hangar bay and seen the young man off, he immediately returned to the medical lab.  Dr. Goodfellow was already hard at work, bending over his microscope and consulting with the computer, which was recording all the data.  Crichton stood nearby, presumably also analyzing data.  

“Is there anything I can do to help you, Doctor?” Hawk asked. 

“Not right now, Hawk, but if you aren’t needed elsewhere, I might have need of your services in a bit.” 

His shift on the bridge had just ended.  “No, I am not needed.  I can stay.” 

“Good, good,” Goodfellow murmured, turning back to his study of the blood sample. 

Hawk suspected that the old man would quickly forget him, but his staying ensured that he would find out the results of the analysis first.  

Goodfellow muttered and talked aloud to himself, occasionally turning to his robot creation.  After an hour it was Crichton who told Hawk what he wanted to know. 

“Tell me your impressions, Crichton,” the doctor said without looking up from his microscope. 

“I am presuming that you are referring to the findings of the blood sample,” the robot said snidely.  

“Of course I am referring to the results of the tests on the blood sample,” Dr. Goodfellow said testily. 

“The presence of srecosinin would surely put Captain Rogers in a very precarious mental state, most likely making him hypervigilant.”  The robot paused, as though gathering breath.  “That particular drug was administered within the last twenty-four hours.  There are slight traces of another, very rare, drug, one associated with a few non-human species.”

“I was wondering about that,” Goodfellow said.  “Can you identify it?  I am pretty sure of what it is, but I want verification.”

“Of course,” Crichton said stuffily.  “It is aleshizaren, a drug normally used by some non-human cultures for suicide as a prevention to falling into the hands of one’s enemies.  I had not heard of its use by humans before now.  And despite all of Captain Rogers’ personality flaws, it is not something that I would expect him to use.”

“Agreed,” Goodfellow mumbled, rubbing his chin.  “So how did it get in his system?”

Hawk was startled.  Its use was known among his people in the distant past, before they had arrived on Throm.  It was taken by warriors in battle as a last resort to capture.  He had heard of it, but there had been none on Throm and his people had developed an abhorrence to suicide.  But that was one more piece in a puzzle that told him that some of his people were on this planet. 

“So would you concur with me that a fairly recent dose of srecosinin would alter personality?”  Goodfellow asked the robot. 

“Of course.  And despite the fact that its use is not known among humans, we can extrapolate the effects of the aleshizaren on the human physiology and on the human mind.  Both drugs together, despite the time frame of their ingestion, could easily alter personality,” Crichton explained. 

“Yes,” Goodfellow murmured.  “It’s a wonder it didn’t kill him.” 

Throughout the exchange Hawk had stood quietly to the side, pondering the facts that had been presented.  That Kormand had tried to manipulate Buck for his own purposes was a given, but did he give Buck the aleshizaren?  Somehow, he didn’t think so.  There were other things to give a prisoner if a person wanted information, things less unstable and uncertain.  And the Searcher would have known of any activity from Kormand’s camp toward the cave system, if Kormand had been able to extract the information from Buck.  Hawk brought his attention back to the scientist and his robot, but Goodfellow was still muttering to himself.  He knew from the old records that the drug was also used in small quantities to dull pain, but for the doctor to still be finding traces of the aleshizaren in Buck’s blood stream almost a week after it was administered indicated more than just something to control pain.  And Hawk agreed with Crichton this time; he just didn’t see Buck taking this of his own accord.  Suicide was not part of his cultural make-up.   But what had happened?  How?  Did Buck actually take this drug voluntarily? 

Finally Hawk shrugged, unable to come up with any immediate conclusions.  “Dr. Goodfellow, should I let the admiral know of your initial findings?” he asked. 

Goodfellow looked up, startled, having forgotten Hawk’s presence.  “Oh, yes, please.  Tell him we have found evidence of drug-induced pycho-tampering recently, but we’re still studying the data.” 

Hawk nodded and left.   He knew that such news would be a relief to Wilma especially, as it was to him.  Buck was alive and physically well, but Hawk was still worried.  How altered was Buck’s personality?   Pondering the facts that he knew, Hawk continued to the bridge.  The Admiral and Wilma would most likely be about ready to leave for breakfast.  Suddenly, just before reaching the lift that would take him to the bridge, Hawk stopped short, so abruptly that a crewman behind him almost bumped into him.  Murmuring his apologies as he entered the turbo-lift, Hawk felt he had some parts of the mystery sliding into place and he felt he had a pretty good idea what had happened to Buck before Erik Kormand got a hold of him.  

He walked onto the bridge.  It was as he thought; the admiral and Wilma were turning over the comm to other crewman.   “Admiral, Wilma, I have some news from Dr. Goodfellow that we can discuss over breakfast, if that is where you are going now.”  

The admiral nodded and the three of them boarded the lift.  Wilma looked expectant.  “I have some ideas that may also shed light on the mystery of the time before Buck ended up in Kormand’s hands as well.”  Again, Wilma looked expectant.   He gave her a reassuring look.  “I have much to tell you.  I would prefer to do it in a more relaxed atmosphere than a turbo-lift.” 

Wilma nodded, but Hawk noticed that it didn’t take her long to grab a cup of coffee and find a table in a corner of the mess hall.  She was waiting when the admiral and Hawk sat down.  The admiral had only selected a cup of the human drink as well, testament to his own eagerness to hear the news.  Hawk preferred the illyan beverage that he grew up with, but he, too, chose nothing else.  

He noted the location of the table and approved.  While this was a public place, this corner was somewhat more private than any other place in the mess hall.  Others in the mess hall nodded to them as they passed, but did not say anything, seemingly aware of the desire for the senior officers to talk alone.  Hawk first told them what Dr. Goodfellow had found out.  

“But why would Kormand give Buck something only used by non-humans—and a suicide drug at that?” the admiral asked.

“I do not think Kormand gave Buck the aleshizaren.”  Hawk moved over to give the newly arrived Dr. Goodfellow room to sit with them.

“What?” Wilma blurted out.  “Then who did?” She took a sip of coffee to compose herself.  “You know something about this drug that the rest of us don’t,” she next stated. 

Hawk nodded.  “Let me give a bit of historical background first.”  He paused, took a sip of his own drink and began.  “As you know, our people fled Earth to escape the bitter persecutions of humans.  We fled in technology we accepted from visiting voyagers and built upon to make our own.  Legend says my people fled in at least six ships, at different times, but of that I cannot be positive.  During the early flight of my ancestors from Earth, again, according to the records kept by our elders, we met several races.  One of these was a race of alien warriors.  We taught them some of our techniques of navigation and military behavior and they taught us theirs.  Of note to some of our leaders was the use of a drug, one that would render the user either deeply unconscious for use in surgery or dead, depending on the dosage.  After having warred with humans, many of whom reveled in the sadistic torture of their prisoners, this drug, aleshizaren, had a certain appeal to our elders.  We were not just fleeing humans; we were fleeing into the unknown.  Who could tell what evil peoples dwelt among the stars?” 

He paused and looked meaningfully at the humans sitting with him, hoping this history was being felt by his comrades and not just heard by them.    They looked somber, and Hawk continued.  “There arose a faction that wanted extensive use of the aleshizaren and another that wanted its use only for medical reasons, appalled that we would become a suicidal tendencied people . . . no matter what the circumstances.

“Finally in our journey, one that never saw us finding any uninhabited, suitable planets, the two factions founded separate colonies.  My people settled on Throm, the others went elsewhere.  At one time the sky-leaders knew the names of the planets on which other colonies had been established, but for various reasons contact was lost and the knowledge eventually lost as well.  We, on Throm, came to believe that the other colonies had been destroyed.”

“Were there many planets?” Wilma asked, caught up in the story despite her desire to learn more about Buck’s condition.

“As far as other ships leaving Earth, I cannot really say.  Most of that is in the realm of speculation and legend.  But our group was not that large and I do not think there were but a few worlds, according to our tradition.  However, Mendalis may have been one of them.  That was why that Freeosh man acted the way he did.  He thought I was one of the cave dwellers on the plateau.”

“What?” the admiral cried out.  “Surely you are not basing that on the words of one Freeosh and the presence of a drug your people have used in the distant past, are you?  One that showed up in Buck’s blood work?” 

“No, Admiral, I am not.  Only Buck can say for sure what has happened to him on Mendalis.”  Hawk paused.  He wondered, though, just how much Buck could tell them, knowing the nature of aleshizaren and also the fact that Kormand never seemed to have made a move toward the plateau in all the time that Buck was at the compound.  “He all but said in his cryptic way, that he was meeting with non-humans.  That is why he did not come back immediately. Whether that day or later, he met with some of my people.  He was taken to their home, the cave system I explored.” 

“But you said they were empty,” Wilma said. 

“Now they are, but I believe they were not then.”  Hawk took a sip of his, now, lukewarm beverage.  “That was what that short message meant.  The one where Buck referred to Daedelus.  Daedelus was the man in your mythology who built wings and flew.”  Hawk smiled softly.  “I asked Dr. Theopolis about it.” 

“But no one knew they were there!   How could they stay hidden for so long?” Asimov asked. 

“Given the history of Hawk’s people, I am not surprised,” Dr. Goodfellow said. 

“I believe that Buck was with some of my people.   And while there, his starfighter was found and impounded, as you remember.”  Everyone nodded.  “So Buck was left to steal one since Asher was closed to him.  I can only guess that he tried to steal one from the nearest facility.”

“Erik Kormand’s compound!” Dr. Goodfellow cried out.  “Oh, dear, that was dangerous.”

“Yes, but not something that has not been done before,” Hawk said.  “I believe you said that you and Buck had succeeded in doing something similar, Wilma, shortly after his awakening.”

“Yes, a couple of Kaleel’s fighters,” Wilma concurred.  “But what about the aleshizaren?” 

“I believe they gave it to Buck to use if he was captured,” Dr. Goodfellow conjectured. 

“Wait a minute,” Wilma interrupted, indignant.  “Buck wouldn’t commit suicide, no matter how bad things looked.  ‘Where there’s breath, there’s life,’ is what I’ve heard him say.”

“On the surface, I agree, Wilma,” Hawk responded.  “But my people would know how evil Kormand is and Buck probably knew how badly Kormand wanted him,” Hawk said.  At Wilma’s frown, he added.  “I suspect that it was not given as a suicide solution, but as something of a medically induced way of keeping the information from Kormand.”  He paused.  “From my studies of the old records, the drug, in its medical capacity, induces not only an anesthetic feature, but the patient who has ingested it becomes very disoriented and incoherent.  The stronger the dose, the greater those manifestations.  Buck knowing what he held in his mind, probably went along with that premise.”

“But the only problem with that theory, Hawk, is that Buck, first and foremost, is a human, not one of your race.  The reaction could be different,” Dr. Goodfellow said.  “And the other problem, is that Buck did not seem the least bit incoherent or disoriented.” 

“I disagree with that,” Wilma said.  “If you remember, when we were watching that disk, I mentioned that it seemed as though there was something missing from Buck’s personality.”  Her countenance grew hard.  “I cannot help but think that it was meant for Buck to die,” she said accusingly.  

“I do not know, Wilma,” Hawk said softly.  “But apparently Buck felt impelled to go along with it.  I can only believe that Buck knew how vulnerable these brothers of mine would be if Erik Kormand knew about them.  Knew what was in Buck’s mind.”  Hawk gazed into his teacup.  He felt a pain for his friend and a gratitude for the sacrifice that he had made.  “But the point is, he did not die.  For some reason, it must have altered Buck’s mind in a way that allowed Kormand to coerce him into his organization.  Seduce him into it.  And Buck must have been disoriented enough, especially at first, that Kormand felt he could get no information from him.” 

“Then when we see Buck, we have no idea what type of personality he will exhibit,” Wilma said softly.  

Hawk could only nod.

 

 

 

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