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Pattern of Infinity - Part III - The Bed At Midnight

By J. Kel
Page 2 of 19

At the conclusion of the interrogation, I finally found courage to request if I could ask some questions. He seemed surprised at that, as if it were understood that only he would be so permitted, but replied evenly that he presumed I was referring to my status as a prisoner. That was true, but only partially so. Seeing the opening, I told him of my concern for Jenna. I

wanted (almost said demanded) assurance that she was being treated well. The name "Jenna" had an affect on him, but he simply replied that no harm had come to her. I wanted to press further, but I got the distinct impression that he did not wish to discuss the matter. Unhappily, I had to drop the subject.

I then asked for clarification of my legal status. Though I am not a Federation citizen (by definition!), I am (was) a citizen of my planet of (former) residence and thus had certain derivative rights (well, I thought I did). As my courage, or foolhardiness built, I insisted that either I be formerly charged or be released on my own recognizance (I am not sure what that would have meant aboard a Federation warship, but it sounded reasonable). I said that with all the strength of voice I could summon. This time he seemed amused. He said my request would be "taken under advisement", adding that no decision regarding my "case" could be made until we reached the Front, the zone where Federation forces surround the Black Shield.

He reminded me that despite his titles, his powers were limited and suggested in a manner implying a hint that I might wish to deal with Mykal, not him, concerning the matter. I had doubts about Mykal's effectiveness, but he was better than nothing. Though I had little hope at the time, it would turn out that my risk would pay off.

I did not see Lord Avon again for the duration of the voyage.

Thus began my "involvement" with Mykal Hodos, Auron Ambassador-at-Large for the Federation(!). I should state up front that while I would come to appreciate Mykal's efforts on my behalf, we were not at once compatible. It is not so much that he is working for the Federation, however unpleasant and embarrassing that must be for him. No, I realize he has little choice in the matter and, further, he does sincerely hope some good will come of his efforts. There is an air of acceptance in him of the personal cost which I truly admire.

No, the reasons for our difficulties are more subtle, perhaps "personal" is the better word. While we are attracted to each other, for one thing I am several years older (admittedly, it is not obvious), and for another our relationship has come about under less than conducive circumstances. This makes for awkwardness. And, as already alluded to, it does not make things easier that while he is an Auron, he lacks the telesending ability. He might as well be a human male (that probably sounds harsher than I intend). There is also the chasm between our education and careers.

Please understand that Mykal is a good person and that I am grateful to him. I am not untouched that he is desperate for companionship. He visited me every day after Lord Avon finished, and brought me such amenities as were permitted. In captivity little things mean a lot. He does his best to reassure me, in his own fumbling fashion. He is surprisingly open. He has even showed me his writings -- they are quite interesting, but I fear too romantic and occasionally silly given the seriousness of the subject.

But he can be such a pain. Had not our fates brought us together, I probably would have gone out of my way to avoid him. But it would be wrong to refuse to acknowledge the reality of our situation. It would be self-destructive to permit antagonism to weaken the bonds between exiles. We are both caught in events far beyond our ability to understand, let alone control. We deserve more than being petty. Let us make the best of it.

So, annoyed as I get with him (his taste in music is as bad as Cally's and every time I ask a teaspoon of question, I get a truckload of answer -- he acts as if I had never been to school!), I am grateful for his presence and kindness. Kindness, in these times, is the rarest and most gracious of gifts.

In fairness to Mykal, part of the strain of our situation results from Lord Avon. I know now for instance, and it should not have been surprising, that Mykal and he have not been getting along. Perhaps I am reading more into this than I should. It is not clear that anyone has ever gotten along with Avon. But in this case it is approaching a complete communications breakdown: in fact, they have been avoiding each other. When I ask Mykal anything regarding Avon, he bristles. He says they discuss technical matters, dry subjects like gravitational theory of which Lord Avon has a surprising grasp, but little else. I wonder if this friction is similar to the tensions between Jenna and myself.

Lord Avon. How I wish, as Mykal must, that we could bind this man within the limits of our understanding. But having, as I did, the telepathic resonance with Cally, I know the strength of this man only too well. There is no freeing myself of him. The reasons are complex, but I can say that for the three years she was aboard the Liberator, her feelings for him became as much a part of me as they were of her.

Are you startled? Confused? Mykal certainly was when I told him, but let me try to explain. I have been asked if, since I was supposedly in full telepathic contact (such is the myth) with Cally, I somehow got to "watch" the three years Avon and she were together. How those questions exasperate me!

Telepathy doesn't work that way; its effects are much more insidious than a kind of mental voyeurism. What happens when "telepathy" take place over very long distances is an emotional transmission that can leave a strong and not easily integrated mental "residue".

Only over very short distances can Auron telepaths "send" to each other as easily as talk. So I was open to Cally's deepest emotions (as you might have guessed, of the three sisters she was the most rebellious and lacking in self control) in full force during those years. Given her psychology, she could not help but share her most intimate feelings, but such things are seldom for the best! Have you ever had a sister? Women without sisters are the ones who have the most difficulty understanding what I went through (men, of course, are hopeless in these matters). After I left Auron, several years before she did, there was no contact between us except the emotional sharing, but that was quite sufficient! I couldn't tune her out.

I thus came to know intimately the feelings and frustrations she had with that man. Her emotions became infused with me; that is the tragedy of telesending.

Would you want to spend the whole of your life being drenched in another's feelings? Would you not fear that you might in some way become that other, be caught in their life pattern, never fully be yourself? Aurons have a curse that supposedly reveals our fear of being alone: may you die alone and silent. How ironic that the truth is much worse. I can never be alone. Cally is always with me, and she was never silent during her life.

You understand then how compelled I was to know more about the Lord Protector. And Mykal, poor Mykal, was my only guide. So, that meant I needed to get along better with Mykal; to make the effort to understand and accept him on his own terms. It would not be easy, but it would be done.

When we arrived at the Front, I assumed our ship would dock at one of the BattleStations, but instead it "parked" several hundred Spacials(?) (Mykal told me a "Spacial" was jargon for a distance of about 44 kilometers) from the 'Station called "Citadel". I then presumed we would be shuttled over. Wrong again. Instead, we were taken to the room in which we had originally boarded the ship -- the teleportation chamber -- and teleported over. It was quite early and I was very tired when I was taken from the chamber by security personnel (not Special Services to my great relief) and separated from Mykal, who looked endearingly unhappy about it. Mykal told me later that Jenna teleported over soon after. And she was "escorted" by the Special Services.

At least my new cell was more spacious and my new clothes less degrading. My magnificent stage dress is, of course, long gone. What I have now is a rather stylish (in a military way) outfit of green leather that looks like some sort of commando uniform. It almost fits, and I rather like it.

But other than that, I began to resign myself to things being much the same as on board ship. It was thus quite a surprise when a few days later a grinning Mykal practically bounded into my cell and told me I was being released -- provided I observed two conditions: I was never to be far from him, and we were both to avoid the Special Services areas. Well, maybe the first was a bother, but I could not complain about the second!

I was ecstatic, irrationally so. More than once, Mykal was put out with my seeming delight in being in a military establishment, but I had no qualms about being among the soldiers of the Front. They had taken no part in the crime against Auron and whatever our misgivings about their profession, they are our allies against the Black Shield. In any event, I was too grateful to be outside that cell to engage in moralizing.

I can't say, however, my delight was reciprocated. For the most part, the soldiers avoided us while watching us closely. Few could be persuaded to speak, and fewer still could be described as friendly. I am not clear if this reluctance was the result of orders, or the fact that we are Aurons, or civilians, or all of the above. But as the days progressed we began to slowly break through their reserve and suspicions and get an understanding of what was happening.

Let me explain about the Citadel. Unless you have been on a BattleStation, you can't imagine how huge the things are (the three assigned to Navy Group Omega orbit the Black Shield at about 100 lightyears, separated from each other by about twice that distance.) From far away, a 'Station resembles a spiny cylinder, one twice as long (over a kilometer, in fact) as it is wide, gleaming silver and protruding all manner of antennae and devices, most of them defensive weaponry. It is said a 'Station can hold even a Fleet at bay with little difficulty.

Statistics: each has a capacity of about 10,000 people, but usually no more than a couple of thousand are present. Rotation provides the pseudo-gravitational field, which saves considerably on power. The 'Station is built in modules, each with their own power sources and escape vehicles in case of an emergency.

This rotation can lead to disconcerting effects: for example, the "wall", or what you would normally think of as being the wall, becomes under rotation the "floor"; "down", because gravity increases the further away you are from the rotation axis, is "out". The architecture is thus totally different in character from that of most spaceships. If you're not used to it, it can be very disorienting.

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