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Jabberwocky - Part 6 - Kyl

By Sheila Paulson
Page 3 of 11

      Hugh began to set up equipment for a computer relay. Orac could function as a lie detector, though it resented such mundane tasks, but in this case, a lie detector would not be enough. If programmed, Kyl would not know it, and he could truthfully claim to be a rebel and still be dangerous. The fact that he agreed to submit willingly to the testing only meant his intentions were pure. Having been conditioned by the Federation himself, Blake had more than sufficient reason to know that the best of good intentions could be voided by the Federation.

      Hugh attached electrodes to the boy's forehead and set his instruments. A frown furrowed his forehead as he dropped into temporary link-mode. Blake guessed he was urging Jabberwocky to monitor Orac's scans to make sure nothing was overlooked. Orac would search for a triggering behaviour mode, but Jabberwocky would look for memory gaps as well. The Federation believed they'd programmed Kyl. Was it only the boy's vanity that convinced him differently?

      "Orac," Blake put in, "Give us some background on Kyl too. See what you find in Federation records."

      "That will take time," Orac complained.

      "That can surely wait," Avon objected. "It is more urgent that Orac determine if there is conditioning present."

      Blake stared at Avon in disbelief. "It's not like you not to take every precaution, Avon."

      "I find this whole charade of marginal importance," Avon retorted. "In future, he shall be Avalon's problem rather than ours, and I do not understand the necessity of wasting Orac's time with redundant information."

      That was true, but Kyl could be useful and he might be able to do invaluable work with Orac later. It only made sense to clear him completely. Though Blake felt it inappropriate to take someone Kyl's age on missions, Ryalon was there, and they could work with Kyl there. So Blake said "Maybe that's true, Avon, but I still want it done." He sensed Vila shifting nervously and vowed to question him as soon as possible.

      "Oh, very well," snapped Orac. "But I will tolerate no further interruptions."

      "How long will it take?" Blake asked Hugh as the doctor began his work.

      "At most several hours. Possibly less. You don't all need to stay here. Leave me somebody in case this tinkering triggers something. I'll be monitoring results and won't be able to guard him too."

      "Put me in restraints," offered Kyl. "That way, you could be sure."

      "Only if you don't know how to get out of them." Hugh glanced around. "Avon, would you stay? You could help me monitor Orac."

      Avon looked on the verge of refusing, then he glanced at Vila out of the corner of his eye. "Oh, very well," he replied in tones identical to Orac's. "But when this is finished and we have gained nothing of value, I hope you will realise our time could have been better spent."

      "Then use it, Avon, by studying the specifications," Blake retorted. He didn't know what was wrong with Avon, but he didn't like it, and he'd not been in the best of moods to begin with. Usually he could deal with Avon better, but right now, he wasn't prepared to listen to complaints. Besides, he wanted to question Vila. "Vila and I will be on the flight deck," he added, grasping Vila's arm before he could slither away. Vila tried to pull free then caught himself and allowed himself be towed along.

      When they were on their way to the flight deck, Blake turned to the thief. "All right, Vila. Suppose you tell me what you know about Kyl Veelan."

      "I don't know anything about him," Vila responded at once. "I never saw him before. How do you think I could know him? You can tell by looking at him that he's an Alpha. You think I spent much time in the Alpha domes back on Earth"

      "Beyond a little honest thievery?" Blake smiled. "Besides, he's not from Earth. He's from Sestus V."

      Vila raised an eyebrow. "Well, I ask you. I've never been there. None of us have been there."

      "Should we have been?"

      "No, of course not."

      "Then what was all that on the flight deck? He meant something to you. You may never have met him, but you know something and I want to know what it is. With his computer background, he could do a lot of damage on this ship."

      "D'you think Avon would let him? Avon doesn't like him. His nose is out of joint."

      That could well be true, but Vila couldn't know that at a glance. "Have you ever seen his picture before?" Blake persisted.

      "No."

      "Vila, I don't like that innocent look of yours. You're up to something and it concerns Kyl."

      "No, I'm not, Blake. I can't tell you anything now. Wait till Orac gets his background information. That's all I ask. Better ask Orac yourself."

      "I intend to."

      

      

"Suppose you tell us a little about yourself, Kyl," Hugh suggested as Orac worked. "Give us some background. Orac can detect lies, but that's not why I'm asking. The more data we put together, the better we can be sure you're free of programming."

      Kyl grimaced. "Well it will pass the time," he agreed. "I'm almost sixteen, live - or did - with a guardian on Sestus V. Roal Bendik. Roal's a resister too, though he's highly connected and no one knows." The tone of his voice indicated that he was willing to trust them, so they should trust him in return.

      "Useful of us to know," Avon retorted unkindly. "Should either of us be caught and interrogated, we could give your guardian away. But perhaps you don't care about that."

      "Well, I do, then. Roal's not the name the Federation knows him by."

      "Go on," urged Hugh, sensing the boy's embarrassment at his slip. "Have you been with him a long time?"

      "Since I was eleven. Before that, the Federation had me."

      "What?" Avon looked surprised. "What would they want with a child?"

      "They expected to programme, hypnotise or drug me into giving information on things I might have witnessed when I was two years old," Kyl returned. "My mother was a resister. She went to meetings and belonged to a resistance group. She might even have known Blake. When I was two, she was captured and tortured for information. She died." He threw a fierce glare at Avon, who was watching him impassively. "They believed I might have witnessed something, but I was too young to tell them what they needed, so they kept me under rigid control in a special home. As I got older, they would have interrogation sessions. They were looking for names or pertinent information, or trying to find out if important resisters had come to our home. I don't know if they ever learned anything. I don't think so. I was only two, and wouldn't have understood, even if people had come. It was a stupid idea. As I got older, I realised what they were doing. They were trying to turn me against my mother, and I wasn't having any. I told myself my name and hers every night before I went to sleep and I repeated it over and over in my mind when they questioned me. My father sold her," he added spitefully as if defying them to correct him. "They told me that much. He gave them her name in exchange for power and position. When she found out, that's when she broke." He glared at them. "I hate the Federation. If they've programmed me, I want Orac to fix it. I'll never help them willingly."

      "You've had a hard life," Hugh said sympathetically. "But you've been living with a resister. Are you sure he's really not part of the Federation's plan?"

      Plainly the idea had never occurred to Kyl, and he half sat up before Hugh put a hand on his chest to stop him from pulling the connections loose. "I never thought of that," he admitted shamefacedly. "But Roal is really a rebel. He even arranged for me to come here. He thought I'd be safer with Avalon."

      He broke off and stared at Hugh in dismay. "If I was programmed, they'd want me here. You mean it was all a lie? I can't-" He turned his face away, and Avon made an involuntary gesture toward him. Avon had healing abilities, Hugh knew, and the boy was clearly in distress. But the time was wrong, and he shook his head. Avon probably couldn't help Kyl while he was so suspicious of him, and it was possible that the boy's story of his mother's death had reminded Avon of Anna Grant. Avon withdrew at once, looking disconcerted, as if the instinct had astonished him.


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Sheila Paulson

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