Pattern of Infinity - Part II - Rain of JudgmentBy J. Kel
Page 2 of 11
The Defender of Earth
Servalan, the great and terrible beauty, was so busy! Orders flew, were transmitted, received, decoded, and acted upon -- if not always with enthusiasm, always with conviction -- across the planets, stars, nebulae and the fleets moving amongst them. Her word traveled instantaneously -- yet was never quick enough. Her orders brought movement swift and sure -- yet were never quite enough. She watched it all happen, the storm she set in motion at any given moment; never was there rest for her! And there would be none for anyone else! With all the energy and power at her command, she dared anyone, anything, anywhere, to cross her. As those who knew attested, it was only in conflict that she found peace.
Before her, the enormous 3-D display that dominated the room of Central Control awakened at her touch. It throbbed with sparkling blue lights and burning red lines, recording and displaying restless movement commanded; restless movement obeyed.
Click. A black sphere appeared surrounding the hard light of one star that had come to mean so much to her. How infuriating that it had resisted her for so long! That would not, must not, continue, this act of stellar impertinence. (She found defiance amusing, but never impertinence.)
For ten years she had known there was something in there that did not like her -- not that that was unusual. But it was smart and determined and apparently not in the least afraid. That was unusual. Here was an opponent worthy of her, but she was not in the mood to appreciate the complement. She could only wonder how she would feel when it was destroyed.
The star, a solitary white dwarf, was over four hundred light-years from Earth. Around it circled its lone companion along with the usual stellar debris. It was the artificial planet, the hand-me-down from the First Federation, the galactic myth known as "Terminal". Only one other individual knew for certain that it even existed. Yet, "Terminal", for all its obscurity, was an enemy and of the worst kind. It did not take her seriously.
The yellow display to the side of the sphere read: "Forbidden Zone." This zone was 5 light-years in radius: all Federation shipping had been diverted around it.
Click. The star in its black pool, the attendant documentation, the name of "Terminal": vanished. She skimmed thousands of light-years away, and selected another . . . what? This too was an enemy. A swarm of electronic fireflies circled in a red smear around the center of the screen. In that center of that smear was a single object, a place where language failed. It was a hole in space-time, huge, black as a midnight cave, a gravitational spider web, unlike anything that had ever been encountered. Outside the swarm, three tangles of lights circled, 100 light-years from the central object.
Thousands of light-years from Earth, it was the object commonly referred to as the Black Shield. Five light-years in radius, it rotated at nearly the speed of light, and possessed the mass of over a 100 galaxies.
(The "smear" was a representation of the thousands of antimatter mines that surrounded the object. The "light" tangles were Navy Group Omega, three of her galactic fleets which made up the Combined Fleet of 10,000 ships.)
Something in there did not like humanity -- not that that was unusual. But even granting its hostility, what could be its purpose, its origins, its motives?. She was as awed by the Black Shield as anyone, but she did not fear it. It was simply that it did not belong in this universe, her universe, by which she meant she could apparently neither use nor destroy it. It was something that did not fit. She could see it, but make no sense of it. Perhaps it did not matter. Her plans would continue regardless. There had been no attacks on Federation shipping since she ordered the "object" besieged. The Auron intelligence relayed to her military had been sound. But since it was an enemy she did not understand, it remained a concern. Like "Terminal", it insulted her by existing.
Her scientists said the object was a gravitational prison from which nothing could escape. She smiled (always a warning sign). Then how had it attacked Federation ships? She knew better than they. How typical! So they were dismissed. She was disgusted with her learned minions. Sometimes she felt she and the "object" belonged on the same side.
Click. The two screens slid together: two black spheres swelled before her, side by side. They were poisoning her, but she would live. Despite misgivings, she would absorb them both. There was no doubt she would win. She always did.
She noticed the time display pulsing brightly in the corner. It was almost time for the first of two meetings planned for this day. She sighed and clicked the button once more. The information cosmos she ruled vanished. It was as if the whole of the universe had been snuffed out. The image momentarily pleased her.
In the darkness, she inserted the activator into the computer beside her and asked quietly: "ORAC, tell me where to locate New Auron."
The computer hummed to life. #The location of 'New Auron' as you refer to it remains a matter of conjecture as Avon erased the information from the Liberator files before I had access to it. As I have mentioned previously, on numerous occasions I might add, it would be possible for me to generate a search pattern that would result in an efficient search of the area. It is conceivable that only a few thousand star systems would have to be examined. However, I must point out that this problem remains of little intrinsic interest, and I have far more pressing uses for my time. I suggest --#
"Oh, shut up, ORAC," she said wearily and yanked out its activator.
The cell was quiet; comfortable in a way that could have been almost consoling to a prisoner. To this particular prisoner, however, it was only a cell and remarkable only because he had no standard to judge such a thing. "Cozy" was a word that had come to mind, though rather few had ever had occasion to use that term when describing a Federation jail. But let us be generous. For a start there were books, and good books too (he noticed several were copies of books over a millennium old. One was a prayer book dated 1662(!) -- passages were even marked for his consideration, but he did not know if by previous occupants or the jailer.) There was music, soft and soothing. There were lush fruits brought every morning (at least he thought it was morning -- one could never be sure). Regular meals, writing implements (how very thoughtful!) -- the jailer seemed to know him well and certainly had taken a lot of trouble on his behalf. Even a phone with a direct line to the guard captain had been installed. The guards were firm, but polite. They deferred to his every wish -- well, almost every wish. They seemed almost sympathetic in an odd way, though they kept their distance. Incredibly, they seemed to be trying to reassure him, by manner, mood, and gesture.
They informed him that they had received explicit instructions from the Supreme Commander herself, ruler of the Federation, Defender of Earth, all that, (how they loved to repeat her block titles!), and those instructions would be obeyed. So Mykal Hodos waited. He hoped to hear from the man who had saved his life, but the guards informed him stiffly that Lord Avon had no time to spare. He had hoped to learn more about the death of Dr. Geir, but they insisted they had no news. They shrugged and assumed a manner suggesting bottomless ignorance combined with total helplessness. So he resigned himself to the irrevocability of it all. He wanted to mourn and someday he would. But things had moved far too fast to absorb what had happened.
A small part of him wondered if that speed was intentional.
The shock was so great; only the destruction of Auron had equaled it, though the news that Avon had teamed with Servalan to crush Blake had been a close second. Memory was brutal. There had been a moment when death was certain, then the ship, the strange teleportation devices (about which there had long been rumors), and now here. All because of Avon. It was too jarring. In his life it always seemed as if he were stumbling backwards, tripping over the present, landing flat on his rear in the future.
He wondered if there were other Aurons on Earth. Aurons were banned from the Center (the twenty or so worlds that still held the bulk of the human population), but since news did get out through the web, there had to be some kind of underground. Perhaps even on Earth itself. But he would not be able to reach them. His mental powers were academic, in more ways than one.
In the meantime, doctors of medicine, doctors of psychiatry, came and went. They were not nearly as polite as the guards. But after several days (he guessed) of tests and questioning, they apparently had what they needed. He wanted to rebel, to show them what he was made of, but it would have been futile. They noticed him only to the degree necessary. To them, he barely existed.
Thus matters stood, until one day he was awakened and informed by a nervous guard that the hour was eminent. Mykal was groggy. He knew he should have understood, but he didn't. The man became upset: Servalan would be visiting him! She would be coming to his cell! Soon! Everyone was terrified. They had been given the strictest orders to treat the captive extremely well, but this was unheard of. Clearly the prisoner was special indeed. The treatment, always circumspect, became reverential. Mykal enjoyed it: watching the terror and might of the Federation scurrying about as if on a grade school recess.
But at the moment she chose to appear, all the fears and doubts since he had come to Earth surged back in like a mud slide. He had not intended to, but he rose when she entered. And for an instant he thought of Kyv and the gun pointing towards him and the moving finger . . .
Ivory dressed, imperious, the ice empress, ruler of the Federation: there was no doubt it was her. Odd, how she was shorter than any of the guards, and yet seemed to tower over them (an effect he had noticed Avon possessed as well). She stood there a moment, then dismissed them curtly. The door quickly closed behind her. She said nothing, smiled, and moved gracefully to sit beside him, ever so subtly signaling that he could sit as well. Everything about her manner was smooth and reassuring.
She asked how he had been treated, inquired about his condition, apologized with relentless sincerity for not being able to see him earlier, touching his hand with fingers like a freezing stream. She assured him Lord Avon was indeed taking an active interest in his, oh, how shall we put it, case? She wanted him to know that. She smiled throughout; her voice squeezing out sympathy, as if from a rotted fruit. Mykal could not smile, could not talk, his lips and tongue were numb, but she was not offended. She went on regardless. She sighed that while Lord Avon was a great man, he was a difficult one. But she reminded Mykal that not everyone could be said to have been saved by the First Citizen. It was an honor. He couldn't have agreed more.
Finally, she acknowledged his unease. "I know this is a difficult time for you, Mykal. May I call you that? (He nodded ever so slightly, as if terrified his head might fall off). It is difficult for all of us, believe me. The wounds and errors of the Troubles," she paused, watching him closely, "are far from healed. Fools envy my position, but I would give a lot to be free of it." Yet I love it so.
"For better or worse, however, I rule the Federation and we must all make the best of our lot in life. I am sorry, Mykal, about your teacher and friend. Dr. Geir was a great man and I assure you those responsible will pay for their crime. But I must caution you that we err if we dwell on the past. I want you, instead, for a moment to look at things from my point of view. You may not realize it but you are a very important young man -- just turned 30, am I correct? -- and while it may shock you to hear this, the President of the Federation, your Supreme Commander, needs your assistance."
Mykal choked. "How can I help?" he said, or words to that effect. They came out strangled. He was stunned he had said such a thing, but there was something about her that drew it out of him. It was said she had power over men, power other than force. Now he knew first hand. Intrigued, he relaxed slightly.
"Thank you, Mykal" she said. "In time, you will understand why I am asking this. For the moment I simply want you to listen. Then I will answer your questions (for the most part)." She looked at him sympathetically. He waited.
"Please explain," he replied, more calmly now.
"Good," she said, going straight to the point. "There is an Auron whom I want to question. She has information which may be vital to the Federation (especially its ruler). You may have guessed of whom I am speaking."
His eyes were wide: "Molli." He added as an afterthought: "Cally's sister."
"Yes. Cloned sister of the legendary Cally," she replied in an airy way, with frost on the words, not sparing either of them. "Outside of this room that is only a rumor. An unfounded rumor it would be unwise to spread -- and I know you wouldn't do that. Here, however, between us, it is emphatically the truth."
He watched her intently as she continued. "Mykal, the Troubles were a terrible experience. We came very close to civil war, of havoc that has not been seen for centuries -- and we remain on the edge. We dare not move any closer -- another Vespera could mean the end of everything."
Despite himself, he respected the passion in her voice. That seemed genuine, and he was grateful to be in agreement with her overall statement. She continued: "As long as I rule, threats to order will not be tolerated. Though," she hastened to add, "I believe Molli is innocent of wrong intent (unlikely, but possible). However, those helping her are not. They must be captured and brought to justice. From your own experiences, you no doubt are aware of certain romantic types who look on the Troubles as a kind of 'adventure'. The gang that tried to kill you was of that ilk. Such political criminals must not receive further encouragement."
She stopped, waiting, as if having given a cue. Mykal hesitantly finished for her. "You want me to help Lord Avon find Molli. And you want me to enlist the aid of the Auron community in that effort."
She smiled warmly, sincerely, thrilled as always to discover intelligence in a male. "Yes, Mykal, that is precisely what I want! I will add that Lord Avon is quite impressed with you. We have had several talks concerning you (have we ever!)."
He looked at her doubtfully.
"It is true that Lord Avon and I were once enemies, but he has come to be an ally and a good friend. I owe him a great deal," she said brightly. "You see, I can be trusted."
"You made him a Lord and Gentleman," he muttered noncommittedly.
"I made him a Lord," she sighed, the smile fading, "Nobody makes Avon a gentleman. My point is that I am reasonable. Especially when I have something in common with the person I am trying to reach." He looked at her, startled. "We do have a common concern, Mykal -- neither of us wants any harm to come to Molli. So, I want you to be my 'ambassador' to the Auronar. You agree such is needed."
He was miserable and sounded it. "No denying that. But why me?"
"A legitimate question," she nodded, "and I believe you may already suspect the answer. You are fortunate, Mykal, though you may have difficulty believing that at this time. You have a gift for being at the right place, if at the wrong time. There is a glorious destiny in your future. Your family was once prominent on Auron -- Hodos is a name that commands respect. While I have counted on Avon to perform many difficult assignments -- and he has done well -- I feel it best this once that he be accompanied by someone who can, shall we say, serve as a 'guide'."
"Lord Avon is well respected among the Auronar," said Mykal, empty of profundities.
"By that you mean I am not?" she asked delicately.
"True," Mykal said steadily. He couldn't keep the word in.
"You don't trust me?" Her voice was composed and calm.
He winced, but could not deny the truth. "No, not entirely."
Mykal felt bare, small. He had a feeling he was now walking a well-paved road to hell and the ideal companion for that journey was at his side. What had been done to Auron was too terrible to contemplate. Though there remained questions on what had happened, there was total agreement that the criminal responsible was this woman. She had, after all, done nothing to deny it. And given her history, she was hardly going to ask a few questions and then let him go. He could be left to rot here. That was one possibility, if she were inclined to mercy.
The murky logic of his situation had not gotten any clearer during his captivity; indeed, it had gotten worse. Something was very wrong -- yet that uncomfortable feeling was dominated by one resolute fact: Avon had saved his life. The same Lord Avon who had tried to save Auron. And the same man who worked tirelessly for this most feared of rulers. If in that appalling contradiction there might be a way to freedom, only Avon could provide it. But the Lord Protector had not exactly been chummy since the incident.
Mykal had a flash of brilliance: "Can I think this over?"
"You may, Mykal," she replied, rising, a hint of offense in her tone. "But Avon leaves tomorrow. It would make matters easier, if I could assure him you would be accompanying him."
At that, she walked to the exit. The tenuous hold of civility was slipping; the glacier girl was coming back. She looked at him: neither was happy. "And if I refuse?" he asked.
She smiled warmly, and he was ashamed to admit his reaction was momentary relief. "Then we will have to talk some more," she replied.
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