Crane gently touched Krilore’s body and felt her welcome as a warmth. Krilore, I need to bounce an idea off of you. At her puzzlement, and to his surprise, Chip’s thoughts of humor, Lee explained his idiom.
<Ah, yes, I understand what you are saying now. Lee, tell me what you have in mind>
I believe that it would be simply too risky for you and Neelis to do the bonding at your base camp.
<But I told you, it has to be witnessed by the council, Lee> She still sounded tired and discouraged.
But if you think that what I have in mind
will work, it will be. She
didn’t direct any specific thoughts to him, but he felt her interest. Chip’s as well. I
have seen various memories from your past.
In them, I get the impression that your people have more than one
<Yes, we have a fleet of ships, the smaller
belonging to the various large central ships> she explained. <Why do you ask?>
How do you send your orders back and forth to each other? Lee asked.
<Basically the same way you do. That was why Trinish and your admiral were able to contact Seaview>
And are they accepted as coming from you?
Are they considered official?
<Yes, Lee, they are>
There was a slight puzzlement, but then she caught on and Lee
felt the joy of her emotions. She
was almost euphoric. <Yes,
it is such a simple solution!> She
paused for a moment and Lee felt from her a bit of letdown.
<Trinish will certainly denounce it>
To hell with Trinish!
Call for one of your voting sessions.
Let the council agree to it and then you and Neelis can bond in
the admiral’s cabin with the rest of the council watching.
Even if they don’t agree, and you do have to bond there, the
council will know what to expect and Trinish will not have the element
of surprise to cause havoc. You
can call for special restrictions on the bonding, Lee suggested.
<As you would say, there is nothing to
Are you ready now?
<Yes, Lee, but there is one problem>
And that is?
<I will have to have complete control of the
host in order to give the codes so that the council will be able to
affirm my identity and intentions>
He didn’t like the sound of that one, but he would ignore that
for the moment. How
does the host send these codes? Voice?
have simple computers. The
codes can be sent on those. Can
one be hooked up to the vidphone?>
Chip answered that one.
Yes, it’s not only possible, the admiral set up the vidphone
in his office so that he could hook one of his micro-computers to it.
other problem, though, the one you were feeling reticent about, Lee>
And that is? both men answered
<That I have to have complete control of the host in order to send out these codes> She let the silence hang for a moment before continuing. <While you are a good host, Chip Morton, I believe that I will have an easier time establishing neural control of Lee. The hosting was . . . longer with him. It was more intense>
Both men were silent, as was Neelis.
Chip? Lee finally asked, still feeling it strange to be
speaking telepathically with his friend.
I’m not insulted, Lee.
This is certainly safer than going into that lion’s den at
Vinson Massif, Chip answered.
So we swap, uh, companions, right?
There was a current of ribald humor in the question.
Keep your dirty thoughts to yourself, Mr.
Morton, Lee replied in mock irritation.
I definitely have to have a talk with you after all this is
over. Something about conduct unbecoming an officer and a
<This is more of your strange human humor, so I will not comment further on it. I gather that you are both in agreement?>
Explain exactly what this neural control entails? Lee asked, a bit anxious.
<I know it will be difficult, but you need to let me take total control of your mind, which will allow me to use your hands to send the message. It also keeps you from knowing the ultra secret codes that were established by Supreme Commanders many generations ago. The latter would not have been an issue with our former hosts, except that it was found that if there was not total control, even a less sentient creature would have the vital information in his/her brain without knowing it>
So how will you do that? Chip
<I will try to use the same techniques that I have used with other hosts> She paused for a moment. <We usually do it when our hosts are tired and their own control is very weak. However, your people are much more sentient>
He had been tired for the past forty hours, but he knew that wasn’t what she was talking about. What about a sedative of some kind? Something mild, Lee asked her, hating the thought of being sedated even while making the suggestion.
<I will have to be aware of its exact properties, so I can keep it from affecting me> she replied.
Lee pondered, but it was Chip that answered first. What if you weren’t with Lee when it took effect?
<Yes, that is distinctly possible>
surreptitiously at the apparatus in Doc’s hand. Jamieson had decided that N2O or nitrous oxide/oxygen
combination would be all that was needed for him to relax enough for
Krilore to do her thing. It
would also be much quicker going in and coming out of it as well.
“Take twenty seconds to begin affecting your brain and only a
few hours to be over it,” Doc had said.
They had made the exchange in the admiral’s cabin, now the
supreme commander was sitting on his neck just above the collar of his
shirt, ready to detach when the time came.
Chip was there, of course, with Neelis.
Chief Sharkey was standing by the door for security sake.
He had been fully briefed.
is done, we leave for Vinson Massif immediately.
No delays. If I’m
not totally recovered from this, go ahead and haul my butt aboard the
Flying Sub anyway. The
effects should be totally gone by the time we get there,” Lee ordered.
“I don’t want Trinish or any of his cronies to have any more
time than necessary to plot something.”
nodded their agreement.
<As much as
I hate to say it, I concur, Lee> Krilore said.
<I worry about your people>
There was nothing anyone could add.
<Shall we contact the camp now?> Krilore asked.
Even though she was the supreme leader of her people, she sounded
anxious and Crane picked up on it.
<Lee, I would not be a good commander if a major operation,
battle or exploration did not make me nervous.
Is it not the same with you?>
I wasn’t questioning your emotions, just
noting them. But, yes,
it’s the same, Lee responded.
I would guess that the day I am not a bit nervous about an
important mission, is the time to retire.
Krilore said nothing, but simply let gratitude for his
understanding reach him.
the connection and Lee sent the scrambled codes.
The line would be ultra-secure now on Seaview’s
end. The admiral’s face
came on the screen. He
appeared very grateful to see him.
He also looked very worn.
Lee wondered if Trinish had been giving him a hard time.
“I trust you are all well, Admiral?”
although I was becoming a bit worried about you.”
“It’s been interesting.
But I can give you more details later.
Are there any members of the Vreestrich command council present?”
didn’t even turn around. “Yes,
Trinish is right here.” Nelson
sounded a bit perturbed as he said the name, as though he had just eaten
Where is Reenish, Motreenin and Fallin?
We can connect to the ships for the rest>
Krilore’s request, this time exactly as she had given it to him.
nearby,” the admiral replied. “I
will get them.”
host appeared on the screen, screeching and clicking.
“Supreme Commander?” The
tone sounded less than respectful.
“The council is not very happy with this lack of
communication—or with your leadership.”
Lee raised an eyebrow at Trinish’s audacity.
pompous imbecile!> Wisely,
the captain didn’t pass that along.
“The Supreme Commander is calling that same council together
now,” he simply said.
“My name is
Lee Crane, Trinish. My rank
is Commander. My
responsibility is captain of this vessel.
Either title will work, even if you don’t like using them!”
Lee ordered, his eyes boring into the host’s eyes.
“And I leave any explanations of purpose up to the Supreme
Commander. It is her intent
to use codes known only to your people.”
The hard eyes
suddenly seemed to glow. Lee
could only guess that Trinish was eager to see just what kind of control
could be had over humans. However,
that was of no consequence right now.
This was the lesser of two dangerous plans.
“The Supreme Commander has directed you to contact the other
council members, Commander Trinish,” Lee said evenly.
Slightly to the side, Admiral Nelson appeared troubled, even as
he seemed to be carefully pondering everything going on.
Commander, I will call them and we will network as the Supreme Commander
wishes,” Trinish’s host said without emotion, making a small bow.
It didn’t take long to gather the members of the **vreestrich
command council together. Lee
presented the bare bones overview of what had been happening the past
twenty-four hours, in the exact words that Krilore had given him.
Trinish blustered, but then the Supreme Commander only had to
call a vote of the commanders to shut him up.
They agreed to the bonding on the Seaview.
Lee felt both
relief and trepidation. It
was time. Krilore severed
contact with him and waited on his shoulder.
The admiral backed away and several hosts gathered around the
communicator at the Vinson Massif camp.
remembered very little of the next couple of hours.
Doc administered the nitrous oxide through a regulator, slowly
and carefully. Lee felt as
though he was floating, where, he couldn’t tell; and he didn’t
you hear me?> Krilore asked.
even realized that she had re-joined him, but it was of no consequence;
he was, for the first time in the past two days, literally feeling no
pain. It was a pleasant sensation.
He vaguely felt his arms move, but had not the slightest clue as
to what they were doing, nor did he care.
The star fields appeared above him; the ocean cradled him from
finally came back to total reality, he was laying comfortably in a bunk
on the Flying Sub, understanding why he had continued to have dreams of
floating or flying.
will it take your submersible aircraft to get here?> Trinish asked as
Nelson gingerly touched the commander with one finger.
Somehow, he didn’t have the same trepidation with the other **vreestrich,
but there was something about Trinish that made him hesitate.
hour or an hour and a half,” Nelson said, immediately withdrawing his
hand. For some reason, he
had felt the need to fudge on the time.
His calculations had the Flying Sub arriving in about two and a
The host made
the screeching sound that Nelson had learned meant that the **vreestrich
wanted contact. Still, the
admiral felt disinclined to do so.
Trinish repulsed him. It
was almost like the space monster that had taken over the entire
compliment of the submarine a few years back.
Taken over…. That
was the other part of his hesitation.
It was through contact that these aliens changed hosts.
No, it seemed best to ignore the request.
Harriman turned to one of the other hosts, the one that Commander
Fallin was linked to. They
were walking away from him, conversing amongst themselves.
Suddenly he felt long, slender, bony fingers grab his arm.
Looking over his shoulder to see who it was, he realized that it
was Trinish. The admiral
tried to pull out of the host’s grasp.
In horror, he saw the ciliated body of the **vreestrich commander
crawling toward him on the host’s arm with amazing rapidity.
several techniques to break the hold, but was unable to. Trinish was almost to his fingertips. Then he was sliding up his arm.
The admiral felt cold and hot at the same time.
Pain coursed through his veins; sweat broke out on his forehead
even as he shivered violently. He tried to cry out, but couldn’t. His feet moved without him having had the thought.
He walked into a nearby, darkened, empty room.
No one was watching; no one saw him taken.
He collapsed to the ground, shaking and in pain, but he was soon
on his feet again, totally against his will.
possible to control humans. You
will do exactly what I want you to do, Admiral Nelson>
blanked his mind as best he could and simply said, Yes,
Commander. He wasn’t going to
argue, not now. And he
wasn’t going to feel despair that Trinish might be totally correct.