I met a man called Roj Blake
In a city, in a dome
Somewhere in the future
He'd been erased and redrawn
But now he holds the pen.
He stole a ship with his friends
His followers may number as many as five
It depends on how you count the machines
And who's dead.
A hero and a terrorist
He wants to destroy Control
To bring down the Federation though
He doesn't know what will replace it.
His eyes are set on this single passion
To see it through whatever the cost
To Jenna or Gan or Kerr Avon.
I knew this man Roj Blake
I saw his dreams come true
But they destroyed him
Shot him down like Star One and yet
I suppose that one could say
He's never know true peace of mind
Copyright 1989 G. MacDermot/S. Green
From Hip Deep In Heroes
The corridors were stark and bare except for security cameras posted at every vantage point. People dressed in tunics and vests whose colors denoted their work classification walked to their destinations; their steps listless, heads hanging, not quite tired enough to stumble. Over their heads speakers broadcast static-ridden announcements every few minutes.
+Attention: Level 38 walkways will be closed for one hour. Level 38 **** must report to Central immediately.+
A tall man came through the corridors. His green vest and pale tunic marked him as an engineer. He had curly brown hair, brown eyes, his expression was open and curious. He had an almost burly physical build. He avoided the other people in the hallway and looked searchingly around as he walked.
Ahead of him, another engineer peered out from a turn in the corridor. "Roj..." she called softly. Her hair was brown and straight, falling from a wide forehead. She was very slender.
"Ah..!" He started to speak but she grabbed him and pulled him around the corner, drawing a puzzled look from him.
"Did you have any trouble?" she asked, her eyes darting about suspiciously.
"You followed the route I gave you?"
Her behavior perplexed him, and he gave her an impatient frown. "Yes. Can we get on with it, please?"
She looked out into the corridor nervously, then tugged at his arm. "C'mon." They merged with the listless people in the corridor. As they walked, she asked him, "Your food and drink, you did manage to do without?"
"Well since you were so insistent I've done without food or drink for 36 hours..!"
"How do you feel?" she nudged him.
"Hungry and thirsty of course," he replied dryly.
"Nothing else?" As she asked, she kept turning in rapid jerks to look behind them. He followed her gaze, but neither saw anything.
Blake frowned down at her. "Ravella, is this some kind of practical joke?"
"It's no joke." She grabbed his arm and hurried him along.
Behind them trailed a blonde man with a limp. He was thin, nondescript. His pale hair thinning on a small, egg-shaped head. He rushed after them when they disappeared down a side corridor. The hallway speakers blared, +The president will be answering questions about new population control...+
Blake and Ravella entered a dark stairwell and started down it. As they took the steps Ravella lectured urgently, "All our food and drink is treated with suppressants, going without for a day and a half they should be wearing off."
The tall man chuckled indulgently. "Not that again..!" They reached the next level. At the end of the corridor ahead of them was a large, six-sided exit door. Blake looked curiously toward it.
Ravella moved hesitantly down the corridor, then a young man in a light brown tunic stepped out of a side passage. They embraced and kissed briefly. The woman turned to Blake and made introductions. "Dal Richie, Roj Blake."
Richie was a curly haired, slender young man with high cheekbones and a narrow jaw. He shook Blake's hand. "I've been looking forward to meeting you. I hear your family settled on the outer planets?"
"Brother and a sister on Ziegler V," Blake replied warily, settling his hands on his hips. He disliked the secretive way they came here, and how frightened Ravella seemed on the way. It stank of trouble.
"Do you hear from them much?"
"I get vis-tape a... couple of times a year." Suddenly fed up with hints and vague words, he asked, "What is this? I was told you had some news about them?"
"No, not me. The man we're going to meet." Richie took Blake's arm and led him toward the exit door. "He especially asked us to contact you so he could tell you in person. He was on Ziegler V a few months ago."
"Well where is he now?"
It was Ravella who replied, "Waiting for us, outside."
"Outside?!?" Shocked, he gaped at her, then turned to look behind them as if he feared that a guard might suddenly show up merely because of her words.
"Don't worry," murmured Richie, "it's not all that bad. The air's fresh so it smells good."
Blake impatiently shrugged that away, following the other man towards the exit door. "I mean you realize going outside is a Category 4 crime!?"
"We do know a lot more," Richie replied indifferently.
"Yes," Ravella agreed. When Blake turned to her, she added with authority, "So whatever you see tonight you keep silent about."
Richie turned, his tone full of mockery and subtle daring. "Well? Are you coming?"
Blake shook his head in exasperation then stepped forward. "Let's get on with it!"
He was unnerved by all this and watched alertly as Richie took the cover off of the door mechanism and bent over his toolbox. The young man pulled out one red and one green wire and connected them to the mechanism.
"What are you doing?!" Blake demanded.
"Picking the lock."
Ravella stood back from them, looking down the corridor nervously. Hyper-alert by now, Blake stepped close and asked, "What is it?"
"It's nothing," she assured him. She kept glancing back to make sure.
The limping man sat halfway down the stairs and peered at them from behind the railings. His dim colored clothes made excellent camouflage.
Richie began pulling things out of his bag. "Now... one, I think... get away from the door in case this is on the computer. These are circuit integrators..." He placed boxes over the glowing lights on either side of the door. "Now you can steal this entire section of wall and the machine would cheerfully ignore you. Ready?" he asked, turning to them.
Ravella pulled on Blake's arm to get his riveted attention off the door. "Look, you report anything to the authorities and you'll find yourself implicated more deeply than you imagine." She was quite serious and as he had many times this evening, Blake felt the hairs on his neck prickling.
Richie's box was still connected by the green and red wires to the door mechanism. He cranked a handle on its side and the door slowly opened.
They hurried out, carrying torches Richie had brought in the box. The limping man followed at a discreet distance behind them. The corridors beyond were lighted but they had a dry, dusty smell, as if they were rarely used. The trio climbed a ladder up, up, until they came out an open grill, outside. The night was cold, and brilliant starlight shone down upon them. Behind them loomed the city, a huge dome with lights shining in half the levels. In the dark an owl called.
Blake almost stopped there and turned back. Everything was so open, and the air stirred around him, cold compared to inside the domes and penetrating. The stars were so bright, and so far away. The two younger people dragged him on before he made up his mind to bolt. Soon he stopped minding the space so much and concentrated on the oddly scented air and dark shapes of trees all around. Shortly they came to free-flowing water, a stream where they stopped. Richie set his toolbox down and the two young people cupped their hands and scooped up water to drink. Blake eyed them with some doubt. It was one thing to breath this strange air, but to take something so directly into your body, when you do not know what might be in it?
"Try some!" Ravella urged him.
Well she was not writhing on the ground. He hesitated a moment longer then reached down and scooped up a handful of water. His hand seemed to shrink from the cold. As he sipped it Ravella talked. "It's natural water. The stuff we get's been recycled a thousand times." The water had a strange dark taste so startlingly different from the silver-metallic taste Blake was used to that he grimaced and spat it out. "And it's laced with suppressants," Ravella added, wishing Blake would stop looking so like he was suffering the presence of an annoying child.
Richie pulled his boots off and rolled up his trouser legs. He leaned down and murmured to her, "I'll check ahead. Watch my signal."
"Okay." As he waded across the stream carrying his boots, Ravella started to take hers off.
"Improves the flavor if nothing else," Blake muttered sourly.
She stared at him pensively for a long moment. At last she asked, "Doesn't it bother you that you spend your life in a state of drug induced tranquillity?" She grimaced with the effort of pulling her boots off. As she did Blake noticed Richie crossing the stream.
"You're gonna go across that?" he exclaimed, pointing. First breathing unclean air, then drinking unclean water, and now walking in it? Barefoot! This was really too much.
"Yeah." She almost smiled at his expression.
"Why should the Administration try to drug us?" He was confused and did not believe her, but as he had decided he respected her enough to listen in the first place, he rather felt he could not stop listening now. Feeling daring he began to take his boots off.
Ravella shrugged and stood up. "To keep control. They've been stepping up the suppressants because the number of dissidents is growing."
"I'll take this?" he offered, and started across the stream with both pairs of boots and Richie's kit.
Showoff, she thought. She followed behind him. "They've seen what's happening, and they want to stop it."
"Stop what?!!" he asked irritably, turning to her in frustration.
"Don't you know?" She looked so surprised he hesitated to respond. "Can't you remember anything about the treatments they gave you?" The two stepped out onto the opposite bank.
These words snapped his patience and he turned to her angrily. "I've had no treatments." Again he had that feeling, the hairs were raising on his neck. Must be something about being outside, he decided.
Ravella was gazing at him with a sad, pitying expression on her face. "I thought there'd be something left... some trace of memory...."
Inexplicably, her expression frightened him. "What about my memory?"
She shot him a long-suffering glance and started to speak, but before she could do so they saw a torch flashing in the distance. "There's the signal."
The limping man spied on them from a vantage point behind some bushes when they came to a tunnel, its entrance framed by cement slabs. It looked almost grown into the hillside behind it. Deep in the tunnel was a door and Dal Richie opened it from within and let them through. He glanced cautiously down the tunnel before closing the door. Blake gave Richie his kit back, then looked around at the small crowd of people in the room. They were mostly ragged, some gaunt and apparently suffering malnutrition. Most of the men had ragged beards. Many wore hooded capes and what looked a little like animal skins. Realization hit Blake. "They're Outsiders!" he exclaimed, staring around as they walked further into the room.
"Quite a few of them are working for our Cause now," Richie told him.
Startled, Blake said, "It's illegal to have contact with anyone who lives outside the city...." Was this hair-rising feeling to be a part of him forever now? His skin was even crawling!
"Right. Then this whole meeting is illegal," Richie said pointedly. They'd passed fourteen people now, and there were still more ahead.
Blake was badly shaken. "I'm leaving. I want nothing to do with this." His voice rose in alarm. "You told me I was gonna meet a man who could tell me some news about my family! I--"
"Hold on, You can't go back, you've gotta hear Foster."
"I don't wanna hear Foster. I should report everything I've seen to the Administration...." Despite his words he felt as though a battle was raging in his head. Between the hair-raising, flesh-crawling sensation and this new pounding he sought to gather some sense. He planted himself in one spot and glared stubbornly at the two young people who had brought him into this mess.
Ravella licked her lips. "You can't do that."
He turned to her, suspicious. "Why not?"
It was Richie who answered. "We've left documents in the city with your signature on them. Forged of course, but convincing enough to implicate you in everything we've been doing."
"Don't have any doubts," Ravella added, "one word in the wrong place can make you look as guilty as any of us."
"And looking guilty is all it takes," said Richie, bitterly.
Blake was about to rail at them when a movement caught his eye. He glanced up and saw a stranger approaching them. The man's wide face and broad nose, silver hair and bushy eyebrows stunned Blake to silence without even knowing why. For the first time, the sensations he was feeling resolved themselves into a hollow wrench almost like recognition. The man was strangely dressed, not ragged like the Outsiders and not in city clothes, either. The clothing was silver, brown, red and yellow, with heavy shoulder pads on the outside of his jacket and a high collar. He moved with an energy Blake had never seen... not in the city, and not in Richie and Ravella.
"Roj! Good to see you." His voice was deep and gravely; he smiled like sunlight and reached to shake Blake's hand with a firm grip. Blake stared, stunned by something he could not name. "It's been a long time. Bran Foster... Oh! Stupid of me..." He shook his head, smiling sadly. "You don't remember, you had the treatment."
Blake found himself hiding fear behind a front of frustrated indignation. "Look, what is this? I've had no treatments, my memory is fine! Now, what is going on?" He looked around at them angrily.
"I know, I know." Blake realized Foster was not surprised by this reaction, that he had expected it and would have been suspicious of any other. The silver-haired man draped a fatherly arm over Blake's shoulders and led him off to the side. "It's difficult for you, meant to be difficult for those of us who knew you before. The important thing is, you're here!!" and there was a ring of victory in his voice.
While they were speaking, the limping man who had followed the three from the city crossed the room to join Dal Richie and Ravella. He spoke softly to the young couple. "I had trouble getting out of the city, the route was crowded. For a moment I thought we'd been infiltrated..!"
Bran Foster heard him and turned around. "Dev Tarrant's here. Dev!!" The lightly built man limped over to them. Foster grinned and nodded. "You remember Roj Blake?"
"Oh yes, we've met before." Tarrant shook hands cheerfully, only increasing Blake's sense of unreality.
"Ah... I'm trying to persuade Roj to rejoin us," Foster said conspiratorially.
"Yes." Dev took the hint and turned quickly back to the others, leaving them alone.
Foster turned and it seemed to Blake that the man focused his full overwhelming attention upon him. "Now... I want you to listen to what I have to tell you. After that you can... do whatever you like."
"All right. Now what do you know about my family?" Blake demanded.
"Well, I'll come to that. There're... other things you should know first." Foster's eyes were very grave.
The crawling sensation sharpened and Blake's control snapped into defensive alarm. "Forget the other things! Just what do you know?"
"They're dead. Your brother and sister are both dead." Foster met the taller man's stunned gaze and winced. "I'm sorry I... didn't mean you to hear it like that. They were executed four years ago just after your trial." Behind them, Tarrant and Blake's two companions listened at a discreet distance.
"Executed?" Relief tore through him and he almost laughed. "No that's not true! I hear from them regularly, I had a vis-tape only a month ago!"
Foster flinched but met Blake's anger steadily. "Those tapes are fakes. Part of the treatment to keep your memory suppressed. No, this isn't going to be easy for you, but--I'm going to have to tell you things about yourself of which you have no memory. Will you hear me out?" Behind them, Tarrant was looking very thoughtful.
Blake hesitated for a long moment. I know it's not true, he assured himself. "Go on."
Foster's voice was almost hypnotic, its deep sonorous tones holding Blake's ears to each word. He began to speak, hesitating sometimes to choose his words. "Four years ago there was a - a bit of discontent with the Administration. There were many activist groups, but the only one that really meant anything was led by... Roj Blake." Again that alarm sensation, but Blake listened. "You and I worked together... we were outlawed and hunted, but we had supporters, and we were making progress. Then... someone betrayed us. I still don't know who. You were captured. So were... most of our followers. They ... could have killed you. But, that would've given the Cause a martyr. So instead they put you into intensive therapy. They erased areas of your mind, they implanted new ideas. They literally took your mind to pieces and rebuilt it. And when they'd finished they put you up and--you confessed. You said you'd been misguided. You appealed to everyone to support the Administration, hound out the traitors. Oh, yeah. They did a good job on you." his voice was wistful. "You were very convincing. And then they took you back and... erased even that."
Under the spell of Foster's voice, the other man's mind filled with images and feelings. Running terrified down a corridor only to turn a corner and meet a guard who clubbed him; Federation guards surrounding and beating him; being trapped under a flashing light, and the pain and his own screams. For a moment someone else seemed to look out of his eyes, someone whose anger was smoldering into a new flame. "What happened to the others?" he asked coldly.
Foster blinked, startled out of his own spell. "In their benevolence the... Federation allowed them to immigrate to the outer worlds. Like your family they were executed on arrival."
Blake gazed at him, then with an indrawn breath asked, "Why are you telling me this now?"
Seeing the sudden dark focus of Blake's gaze fanned Foster's hopes. "Because we're preparing to move again, and... if it were known that you were with us, we'd get more support. How do you feel, will you help us again?"
The fierceness in Blake's eyes dimmed, but still there was something different now. Something less bewildered. "I don't know, I'm not even sure that I believe you."
"It's all true." Foster said. Under his silver bangs, his eyes glimmered with a hint of tears.
Blake's lips were dry, and he licked them nervously. "I have to think."
Foster nodded. "Of course." He laid a hand on Blake's shoulder, "We'll talk after the meeting." Blake made a non-committal sound and walked away into corridors outside the meeting room, rubbing his face.
Dev Tarrant came up beside Bran Foster, Richie and Ravella on his heels. "What do you think?" he asked.
The silver haired man looked around. "I don't know. There's not much left of the man I knew. We'll see. All right, let's get started, shall we?" He turned purposefully and strode towards the center of the room.
Dev called out to the some twenty-plus men and women around. "All right everybody come on! Let's start the meeting now. You come over here and make a group," he gestured where he wanted them. They all sat in front of the box that had been brought out for Foster. When he stood upon it, resting his hands in his belt, they applauded.
"Thank you for turning up. Now we all know the risks that we are running in being here, so I'll be as brief as possible. You probably heard that the settlers in the outer worlds are rightfully demanding greater autonomy." The listeners glanced at each other. "If we can help to... unify their voices, the Administration will have to listen." There were nods all around.
Blake walked slowly through empty corridors, a troubled frown on his face. The frightening image of himself being tortured kept drifting across his mind. He tried to grasp it, but a stabbing pain made it slip away. He stopped in surprise at the sound of an engine echoing through the corridor. Some voice inside made him flatten himself against a pillar then dive for cover as a vehicle loaded with Federation guards came trundling around the corner. He ducked inside a small room as another vehicle carrying six more guards rolled in behind the first. They wore their black uniforms with breather masks and green flare-visors, and all of them carried energy rifles.
Foster was still speaking. "The security forces are already over-stretched! If we can step up our campaign of civil disobedience here, on Earth, they will have to concentrate their forces here, and that will give the outer worlds much more freedom of action! Now we must aim to have at least one world declare its independence within the next two years." His audience nodded and murmured agreement.
Blake watched the guards from his hiding place. Another vehicle with six more guards joined the first two. One guard peered into the dark room Blake hid in, but saw nothing. "Unit 3 move in," the order came over one man's communicator. Blake closed his eyes and tried to somehow grow into the wall. A voice inside his head seemed to shout angrily at him but he ignored it. Six guards got back onto one of the transports, and six more continued on foot.
"Now I think most of you know my old friend, Dev Tarrant. Dev will give you details of how we can all help."
Dev unfolded his arms and stepped up to stand beside Foster. "We've gotta cause as much disruption as possible in the food manufacturing division. There's nothing more effective than ration cuts to cause unrest. Now there're two methods by which this disruption can be implemented." About to go on, he heard the Federation vehicles and looked up in astonishment. Guards walked into the room from every entrance and exit and trained their weapons on the small, frightened group. One of the vehicles rolled into the room.
Bran Foster stepped off his box and held his hands out in a calming gesture to the crowd. "Now, do not attempt to resist arrest. No matter what the provocation we must not resort to violence." Another troop walked in. He turned to the guards. "We claim our rights as citizens, and demand to be treated as civil prisoners." The guard closest to him fired his weapon and Bran Foster fell dead. There was immediate panic and the firing began again. When Dal Richie was hit and fell, Ravella reached down to help him. He urged her to run, but she was hit in the gut and collapsed across her dying lover. There was no cover, the people tried to run only to be mercilessly shot down.
In his hiding place, Blake stared at the ceiling in a daze. When it was over and the guards were gone, he came out of hiding into the room where the bodies lay. They were scattered like leaves touched by autumn, the blood reflecting light here and there. The silence was oppressive and thick with shattered hopes. He stared, too stunned to really react. The muffled voice that had begun speaking to him was fairly screaming now. A determination grew in him until it blotted out caution and sense. He made his way back to the city and entered through the door they had left it by, his steps purposeful. Suddenly the corridor lit up, he froze and stared wide-eyed at the Federation guards who had been waiting for him. His mind was filled with images seeming to fly into his thoughts, of guards beating and beating him.
Roj Blake, his fingers clenched on his temples to control the pounding there and eyes tightly closed, hissed, "It is not a fantasy."
"Of course it isn't."
Blake looked up, surprised and suddenly hopeful. "Do you believe me?"
"To you it isn't a fantasy."
Blake stared at the other man, then drew a sharp breath and clutched his head, trying to somehow silence that voice shouting warnings at him and banish horrible images that slammed into his thoughts. "Get out! Leave me alone!!" he cried to them.
"Reality is a dangerous concept. Each one of us interprets it in a slightly different way. Every sense impression is filtered by the brain and altered, sometimes just a little... sometimes completely. To fit our individual model of what the world is about. If that model should be changed...."
Blake whispered, "I am not insane," again and again, his eyes wild, rubbing his temples to silence the voice that pounded against his thoughts.
After a length of time suspiciously long, the silky-voiced doctor said, "No. You must put that thought completely out of your mind. You've had a shock."
Blake fell silent, then shuddered and nodded, his brown eyes dimming to dazed exhaustion. "Yes."
"We must work together to uncover what that shock was. I'm going to prescribe a mild sedative--"
"No drugs!" Blake ducked back, spurred by sheer terror from that voice in his head.
"A mild sedative to help you to sleep. You must rest."
He closed his eyes, licking his lips. "N-no drugs."
"All right... no drugs," the voice was deep and reassuring. "Now try not to think anymore. Don't worry, we'll get it sorted out."
Blake sat in the metal walled room, his legs crossed, hands at his temples. "I can't remember," he said in a shaking voice. He looked up at the light and shouted despairingly, "I can't remember!!"
"It's... unlikely." Havant shifted on the couch. "We don't eradicate memory of course, merely make it inaccessible. But in the normal healthy mind the barriers are impenetrable. Should he suffer anything like a nervous breakdown, where all the mental circuitry... malfunctions, as it were, then he might just possibly find a route into his past."
Glynd frowned. "Hmm. That might `just possibly' prove something of a problem."
"Can't he be eliminated?" Havant asked, puzzled.
It was the woman who responded, her heavy jowls shaking. "No, he's a symbol of opposition to the Administration."
Glynd shrugged. "We've done cross-sectional psyche-readings which show that a high percentage of people, particularly the younger ones, believe that Blake's trial was a showpiece, that his statements were rigged."
The woman added thoughtfully, "His death could be used by the dissidents. They need a hero. Alive or dead, Blake could be it."
Havant nodded. "It's difficult." He stood up and went to Glynd's side. "I suppose my department could infect him, some rapidly terminal disease. Would his `natural' death help?"
"I don't think so."
The woman, dressed in a orange tunic over a purple shirt, frowned and leaned forward. "What we need is something to discredit him. If he could be deported to Cygnus Alpha..." she turned to Havant. "Doctor, am I right in thinking you can create experiences, implant them into a subject, who will then believe that they really happened?"
Havant nodded, wondering where she was leading. "Of course. In fact, creating an illusion of reality is quite simple."
"Good." She looked smug. "Then I think we can totally destroy Blake's credibility and get him sentenced. But I'd like to do a feasibility check." She glanced quizzically at Glynd, who nodded, then turned back to Havant. "Doctor would you come with me please?"
"As you wish," he replied, hugely curious.
Glynd stopped her on their way to the door. "I want to bring charges soon, Morag."
"Oh I shall report back." She patted his shoulder, then she and the doctor left.
As Glynd sat down, another man came from the back hallway, a blonde man who walked with a limp and dressed in a light green tunic over a brown turtleneck shirt.
"You heard?" Glynd asked him.
"I heard," he snapped.
Glynd's eyebrows rose, amused by the irritated man. "Satisfied?" he asked, knowing better.
"Not yet. He can identify me. My whole operation is at risk. I'll be satisfied when the risk is eliminated." His voice was colder than winter winds. On the viewscreen Blake had finally stopped pacing and curled up against the wall of his cell.
"Tel! Come in." Glynd gestured at a chair. "Do sit down. Thank you. You know Morag, don't you?"
"Yes, Morag." he greeted her respectfully and took the file Glynd handed him
She flicked her eyes at him and acknowledged, "Varon."
Glynd spoke gently. "I've got a defense assignment for you. Not a very pleasant one, I'm afraid."
Tel's eyes flicked over the data in the file. "No," he agreed.
"Morag is prosecuting."
Morag glanced up. "The evidence is indisputable. If I were you I should concentrate on the mitigation."
"Hmmm." He was aware that she watched him, alert eyes gauging his youth and considering his competence.
Glynd spoke up. "Varon, I'm aware that I needn't say this to you of all people, but I will say it because I feel so very strongly about this case." He sat down and looked earnestly into Varon's eyes. "I want you to do everything in your power to help the man. Our first concern must be to see that he has justice."
Varon felt a slight pang at that. Glynd was so intent on giving everyone, even animals like this criminal, a fair chance that he often risked losing cases.
Later he went to see his new client. At the cell blocks there were guards everywhere in their black uniforms and helmets. Varon went to a seated one and handed him the file. The guard gave it a look, then handed it back and punched a code into the control panel on his desk. A voice blared from speakers above them acknowledging the code.
+Security clear on cell unit M-3 for Justice Department access.+
Through the plexiglas window his client could be seen resting on his cot. Varon went to the visitor's seat and spoke into it.
"I'm Tel Varon, Justice Department. I've been assigned to defend you." He was rather proud of the professional neutrality of his voice.
"I don't need a defense. I'm gonna plead guilty," came wearily through the plexiglas wall.
This certainly was unusual. Reminding himself that everyone was innocent until proven guilty, Varon tried his best to argue against what he himself believed. "Come now, certainly the evidence against you is strong..."
He was interrupted by the firm, angry voice of the prisoner. "I just want to make a statement in open court. I want those responsible for the massacre brought to trial."
A second surprise. Varon was thrown into confusion. "I'm sorry?"
"There can be no justification for deliberate murder!"
He looked over the records quickly to make sure he had not somehow missed something. "Well there's nothing in the charges about murder... there are a number of other counts, assault on a minor..." he read, glancing to see what reaction would come from the back turned to him. "Attempting to corrupt minors, moral deviation that--"
"Let me see that!" Blake was on his feet at the window. Varon held the file against the glass. The other man's eyes widened in horror as he read. "All involving children!! None of this is true!"
Now those words were the expected ones. "Of course not. That's why you surprised me when you said you'd plead guilty."
"Yes, but not to this! Not to these charges..!" the tone was utterly astounded and confused.
Varon felt vaguely out of step. The man looked so... surprised. "Well they are the only ones that have been brought against you. And I must tell you frankly the evidence against you is very damaging."
"Well if there is any evidence, it's been faked!"
Veron felt quietly grim. "I have had the opportunity of talking to the children--that is, the prosecution witnesses, and they do seem very certain of their facts."
Shaken badly, Blake turned away. "Oh yes, yes! Yes their briefing would've been perfect!!" he gasped to himself as Tel sat down.
The young lawyer tried to bring his client to the matter at hand. "If I may I'd like to outline how I think we should conduct your case. There is a possible approach if we could cite your record... your breakdown after your involvement with those illegal political groups. The remorse that you felt! The guilt you carried has placed you under an enormous strain." He glanced up and saw Blake rubbing his temples to steady himself. "Now we can submit that these assaults, these... aberrations , were carried out whilst you were mentally unbalanced."
Blake, eyes closed tightly, hands on his temples, responded in a voice that brooked no argument. "I will offer no defense. But I will plead not guilty."
Tel was so startled he almost lost his professional detachment. "These are grave charges. Without extenuating circumstances you might face deportation. A--a mental institution would be better than spending the rest of your life on Cygnus Alpha!"
"I will offer no defense! Right?!" Blake snarled.
"Won't you reconsider?" asked Tel plaintively, bewildered.
Blake met his eyes in frustration and pain, and waved his hands to emphasize what he was saying. "Even if you could prove me innocent the charges have been made! I've gotta hand it to them." He looked up at the light and shouted, "You've done a brilliant job!"
Blake seemed calmer. He stood up and spoke, choosing each word carefully, "I've had a chance to think things through. It's vital that I have the opportunity to make that statement to the open court."
"Well that's up to the arbiter, it's not usual."
Blake's eyes blazed with barely controlled anger. "There's no way you can prove my innocence is there?!"
Tel found himself on the defensive. "You've given me no chance to try!"
"IS there?!" Blake demanded.
"It is doubtful," Tel reluctantly admitted.
Blake sighed and said wearily, "I am innocent."
That threatened Tel's detachment; his voice became slightly hostile as he responded, "I've spoken to the children. Their statements were all verified by lie detector. And that puts them beyond dispute."
Blake waved him over and sat down. Tel gripped neutrality around him like his cloak and sat next to the bigger man. The curly-haired engineer gestured with his hands as he spoke. "The Administration's gone to enormous trouble. I mean they--they've even put themselves at risk! Th-there must be a number of people involved who know the truth. Now why? Why would they take that chance?" He looked determinedly at Tel for an answer.
Tel shook his head. "There's no possible reason that I can think of." He had a feeling he was being led somewhere.
Blake gazed at him for a moment, then drew a breath and said quietly, "Look... I know you've heard the evidence but... just for the moment, assume that I am innocent."
Tel stared into that serious face, and had to agree. Difficult though it was, that was his duty. "All right."
"Now, at first I thought they wanted to silence me because I was the witness to the murder of twenty people. The ONLY witness!" he added at the young man's doubting expression.
"If they're as ruthless as you suggest, then why didn't they simply eliminate you?"
Blake shot him a frustrated look. "Because I was something of a political figure! Or so you told me," he said resentfully.
Ever so slightly, a feeling of wrongness took hold of Tel. "It's true you--you had a considerable following. But then you publicly denounced your whole movement and placed a call to the Administration. It's suggested there are still people who secretly believe you were coerced into that state-"
"Exactly! And my death would merely reinforce those beliefs. It's exactly the same as if I were arraigned for being at a proscribed political meeting. And so they--trump up these charges against me."
The feeling clawed at his gut, making him frown and look cautiously at Blake's guards. "If it were true, you realize the implication of what you're saying? It would mean there's... corruption, at a high level of the Administration." He glanced again towards the guards, suspicion in his gaze now.
The "ready" signal went off in the courtroom. A severe-looking man spoke. "You will now be silent. By the authority of the Terran Federation this tribunal is in session." Tel and Morag went to stand at their stations on opposite sides of the judgment computer. Morag was also in a brick red tunic and cape. One of Blake's guards waved him forward and they placed him between them, one keeping a light grip on his arm. "The arbiter will permit submissions." Morag and Tel handed large, transparent red cubes to the guards.
The arbiter was an elegant, colorless woman. She leaned forward and spoke solemnly, "Let the Accused be brought forward." Blake was taken to stand in front of her. "Have you the Accused been made aware of the charges that are laid against you, and do you fully understand the nature and gravity of those charges?"
"Yes," he answered.
"Who speaks for the Federation?"
"I do," Morag stated.
"Who speaks for the accused?"
"I do," Tel Varon replied.
"Are you both satisfied that the evidence was fairly obtained? And that all statements were certified as true and correct by lie detector?"
Morag stepped forward. "I am."
Tel avoided Blake's steady gaze. "I am."
"Is the accused satisfied that his defense has been fully and fairly prepared?"
Blake said flatly, "The charges against me are totally false. I am not guilty therefor I offer no defense." He is determined, at least, thought Tel. He found himself admiring Blake.
The woman looked indifferently at their prisoner. "Your guilt or innocence is what we are here to determine. If there are no further submissions the case will be examined. Let it be seen that the evidence for the prosecution is sealed and approved by the defense. Let it be seen that the evidence for the defense is sealed and approved by the prosecution." Tel and Morag retrieved the cubes and took out data globes which they then put on the Judgment Machine's platforms. "Let the matter be assessed and may justice prevail." The globes lit up as they were scanned. The machine scanned back and forth several times, but soon it settled on Morag's globe. The machine's own data globe was removed and brought to the arbiter. The data within scrolled onto the screen behind her. "The accused has been found guilty on all charges. His crimes have been accorded a category nine rating, and as such are judged most grave. In sentencing you the Judgment Machine has taken into account your past record, your service to the state and your loyalty to the Federation. None of these have mitigated in your favor. It is the sentence of this tribunal that you be taken from this place to an area of close confinement. From there you will be transported to the penal colony on the planet Cygnus Alpha, where you will remain for the rest of your natural life. This matter is ended." She activated the `clear court' signal.
For a moment Blake was stunned, unable to speak. Then he said clearly, "I wish to make a statement."
"There can be no more said regarding this case. The matter has been assessed and judgment made."
Sudden fear that he would not have a chance to call for justice made him hurry. "Forget those assaults, these charges are lies!"
"If you have any complaint against the conduct of this tribunal it must be directed through your advocate." She looked down coldly.
"You've gotta listen to me!" he shouted and started toward her. His guard grabbed his arm and injected a sedative. Time seemed to freeze, and he turned to see a familiar face. Dev Tarrant walked into the courtroom, and was smiling faintly at Blake's astonished look. Even as he fell he realized that this man had done it, killed them all. And as he lost consciousness Bran Foster's words came back, with all their attending images.
"They erased areas of your mind, they implanted new ideas. They literally took your mind to pieces and rebuilt it. And when they'd finished they put you up and--you confessed. You said you'd been misguided. You appealed to everyone to support the Administration, hound out the traitors. Oh, yeah. They did a good job on you. You were very convincing. And then they took you back and... erased even that."
"Easy! Easy!" he cried. "I hate personal violence, especially when I'm the person!"
Blake blinked awake and found himself staring into a pair of incredibly bright brown eyes, in a face with a shaky smile. He sat up. "Who're you?" The multi-colored jacket the smaller man wore gave no clue as to his duties.
The thief stared at him in evident surprise and then courageously held out his hand to shake, sitting up. "I'm Vila Restal."
Blake took the proffered hand and then released it. "Where are we?"
"In a transit cell," replied Vila, surprised by the question.
Blake shook his head. "I don't understand you."
The blonde woman was still watching, curious and amused.
"You're on your way to the penal colony on Cygnus Alpha," Vila said, then suddenly looked worried, "or you will be when the ship's refueled." As Blake closed his eyes in a pained look, Vila tried clumsily to comfort him. Grinning he joked, "Try to look on the bright side! It must have something. None of the guests have ever left early...in fact none of them have ever left a'tall!" and then he looked mournful, as if he'd been trying to avoid remembering that.
Blake was fascinated by the array of facial expressions Vila seemed capable of. "Why are you going there?"
"They didn't give me a choice," came the answer, with a sly expression of mischief. "I steal things. Compulsive I'm afraid! I've had my head adjusted by some of the best in the business," seemingly amazed by that fact, "but it just won't stay adjusted!" he finished in an intense whisper.
Blake frowned at him. "A professional thief."
Vila was irrepressible. "More of a vocation than a profession. Other people's property comes naturally to me."
The blonde woman suddenly sat beside Blake, startling him. He stared at her lovely face and almost missed her question. "What's the time?" she asked. He considered that she might be trying to pick him up then noticed Vila dangling his chronometer between two fingers. He snatched it back from the grinning thief.
"Just taking care of it while you were unconscious. The place is... full of criminals." He innocently met Blake's glare.
"Thanks," said Blake to the woman.
"Jenna," Vila interjected.
Blake spared him an annoyed glare before giving out his name to Jenna. "Blake."
"What's your story?" she asked him as he put his chronometer on.
"I'm innocent. Of what I was charged with anyway."
Vila smiled with blatant disbelief. "We have something in common then! We're all victims of a miscarriage of justice!"
"It's true!" was the indignant response.
"Of course it is," said Jenna, obviously not believing him in the least.
After his failure in the courtroom, Blake did not feel up to defending himself again. "What about the others?"
Vila cheerfully answered him. "Oh, a very antisocial bunch. Murderers, liars, cheats... smugglers," he looked at Jenna, who smiled slightly.
"Thieves," she said.
"And they're the nice people!"
Exasperated, Blake asked, "How long before we take off?"
"About twenty-four hours," Jenna answered him. At his look of horror she added, "If you're expecting a last minute reprieve, you better forget it. Once they get you this far there's no going back. You'd better get used to the idea." She twined his hair between her fingers and said coldly, "Nobody out there gives a DAMN about you!" He jerked away from her.
She turned over and looked at him, a smile playing about her lips. "What time is it?"
"Come to bed." He did, snuggling her in his arms and they kissed. After a few moments, he raised his head and looked very seriously at her.
"There's something wrong you know." He always came to Maja when he was troubled and needed to focus his thoughts.
"Blake," she helped him by saying.
He gazed into her eyes, content. "Mmhmm. The prosecution evidence was so complete, " he paused for a kiss, "that I accepted it! I assumed Blake was guilty and concentrated on... justification, and appeals for mercy."
She asked him gently, "What else could you do? You interviewed all the victims, the witnesses, and none of them had any doubts."
He was very serious. "Perhaps they should have," he replied and kissed her again.
Knowing this was important to him, she asked, "What do you mean?"
"I don't know. Perhaps Blake is guilty! Even so it's too perfect." He rolled over, pulling her with him.
She raised her head, "Where are you going?"
"The public records computer."
"To look for what?" She cuddled up to him.
"I don't know!" Laughing, they delayed for some more kisses.
"Give me one minute, and I'll come with you." Kissing him again, she went to get dressed.
The night watchman at the public records computer was enjoying the peace and listening/watching a music video on his vid-glasses. In his chair he tapped and hummed the music's beat, content. A stern voice interrupted the music. "I'm Tel Varon with the Justice Department. I want to run a check on the medical records of those children." He indicated the files he had set on the desk. The other man didn't even look at them.
"It'll have to wait until morning."
Tel pulled out his badge. "I want them now."
The other man looked, was forced to take off his vid-glasses to see, then sighed. He glanced at the files and typed in the passcode. Then he leaned back and spoke the numbers and names of the children. The computer clicked and beeped as it brought up the information he called for. "Alpha 3375. C612 Leesal, Renor. C417 Deca, Carl. C512 Fen, Pater." Their medical records came up on the screen. Tel and Maja studied them.
"Nothing!" Tel felt a bit offended, and turned a hurt look to his wife for sympathy. "Admissions to clinic, treatment records... it all tallies with the evidence. Let me have the school attendance records on those three."
The man sighed, and punched in another code. "Alpha 3377. C612 Leesal Renor."
Looking at the screen, Tel's eyes narrowed. "Well that's interesting. He was absent from school on the afternoon before the assault."
"C417 Deca, Carl."
"So was he!" exclaimed Maja.
"C512 Fen, Pater." He had been absent too.
Tel and Maja stared, delighted by the data. "That makes it more than a coincidence." Tel started to pace. "Now where were they? Give me the admissions to the Central Clinic on that day." He was determined to find out even though a sick feeling was growing in the pit of his stomach.
Sighing again the man typed in a new code. "Alpha 00288 Alpha." The computer view-screen began flashing red.
"What's the matter?" asked Maja.
"The information has been classified. It can be obtained by a Priority 3 clearance." The watchman looked a bit smug.
Tel spun, furious. "But I need that information!"
Maja held out something to Tel. He looked at it, then nodded and took the item. "Look, the Justice Department CAN get a clearance, but it takes time." He set a jewel on the desk. The man considered for a rather short moment before taking it.
"This didn't happen, of course."
"Of course it didn't," replied Tel. The man typed in a code, the screen cleared.
Names and times began scrolling and they saw: "Look at that! Outpatient admission, identity unrecorded. And there's another," as it scrolled off the screen. "And a third."
"Three unidentified admissions on the date the victims weren't at school!" Maja was delighted.
"It's not absolute proof, but it gives us somewhere to start." He was frowning, frowning in gut-sick pain.
"But why would they have been to the clinic?"
"Mental implantation?" Tel looked sick even as he said it.
"A fictional experience and emotion, implanted into the mind so vividly and permanently, that it becomes reality."
"Is that possible?" The idea began to sink in, horrifying.
"Oh the process was perfected years ago but prohibited by the medical profession." The night-watchman's head swiveled back and forth to each speaker with interest. "But if it is being used again..."
"Blake could be telling the truth," she finished for him.
"And THAT could blow the top off the whole Administration. Come on," he said, gathering up the files and taking her hand.
"Where're we going?"
The man watched them go. Then he sighed and typed in a communications code. "Security?"
"The meeting place, how did you get to it?" Tel asked anxiously.
"I--I don't know, it was dark." Blake was so astonished by the turn of events he had been thrown into confusion.
"Well which exit did you use?"
"43...that would be on the north side. All right, where did you go from there?"
He frowned, trying to explain clearly for all his memory was confused. "Well we walked for about three miles... there was a stream."
"Is there anything else you can tell us?"
Blake considered, then his eyes flashed coldly. "Yes, there was a man. I saw him in court just before I passed out."
"What about him?" Maja asked helpfully.
"Well I'd seen him before. At the meeting. I--I thought he was one of them," this with a puzzled frown. "He must have betrayed them! His name was Tarrant!"
"Dev Tarrant?" asked a surprised Tel.
"Do you know him?" Blake asked.
"He works in the outer worlds most of the time. He's in security."
Blake's lip coiled. "He's a murderer!"
"Then he'll come to trial like everyone else in this cover up," Tel assured him with determination.
"And what about me?"
"Well first I'm gonna talk to my superior, then get a holding order on you so that at least you can stay here on Earth while I investigate."
"We haven't got much time," Blake pointed out, shivering.
"With luck I'll get you taken back to the city detention area within a couple of hours."
Tel and Maja turned to go, then Tel paused. "Listen I... I'm sorry I didn't believe you. I'll be in touch."
Blake wandered away from the cell bars only to find Jenna and Vila on either side of him. Vila grinned engagingly at him. "Friends in high places? Can't you put in a word for me?"
"I'll try and think of one," Blake replied dryly.
"Leaving us?" asked Jenna.
"I hope so." Vila started chuckling, earning himself a glare. Blake turned away from him to Jenna. "Nothing personal, why are you here? You didn't tell me."
"I was trading on the inner worlds. I'm a free-trader."
Vila smiled widely. "A smuggler. She's a big name! It's an honor to be locked up with her!"
"I'm glad you're pleased," she replied, amused.
From outside the cells, a speaker blared suddenly, +Attention security personnel: launch is advanced to 1700 hours Earth time. That is all.+
Blake checked his chronometer and the other two turned away, their faces pale. Jenna bit her lip. "That's about eight hours!" came Vila's horrified voice.
Glynd looked increasingly uncomfortable. "But why?" he asked.
Tel understood, Glynd was too honest to consider such a thing. "Blake claims he was arrested after he went outside."
"Outside?!" The man was shocked.
He nodded, "Yeah about three miles beyond Sub-43."
"What did he go outside for?"
"An anti-Administration meeting. He says everyone there was murdered by security forces."
Glynd looked doubtful. "Leaving him as sole survivor?"
Even clinging to how doubtful it is won't help it not be true, thought Tel. "No, an-and a security agent named Tarrant. He says Tarrant organized the massacre."
Glynd refused that statement more than the others. "No. I can't believe that. Even so, it will bear examination."
Tel grinned. "Then you'll order an inquiry?"
"Yes! You've raised a reasonable doubt. The whole matter must now be investigated."
Tel grinned. "Thank you."
"Now go home and get some rest," Glynd started trying to head Varon for his door.
The young man hung back. "Ah, not yet. I-I'd like your authority to go outside the city."
Glynd considered that. "To look for those tunnels. Oh, no. I'll have a team make a survey of the area."
"All right. And Blake's holding order?"
"You leave everything to me. Go home and get some sleep. You've done as much as you can." He ushered Tel out the door.
Tel had a very odd look on his face, and Maja ran to him. "Is it going to be all right?"
He frowned, trying to pinpoint what had clicked, what was scaring him. "Something... there's something n-" he stiffened, understanding and shock on his face. "`To look for those tunnels.' I didn't say anything about tunnels."
In his office, Ven Glynd signaled communications. "Put me through to Dr. Havant, Central Clinic." He sat down, cursing in his mind. I should have known better. Tel's honesty made the trial believable, but it also brought him to find the only hole we left. I must prevent him from getting farther into it!
The doctor's voice came through. "Dr. Havant."
On the other side of the door Maja and Tel listened, horrified, to the voices they tinnily heard.
"Ven Glynd. I think we may have a problem. Might be best if you were unavailable for a few days."
"Is it a very serious problem?"
"Oh no, no. Nothing that can't be handled."
"I'll take a few days leave and... stay at home."
"Arrange to take calls only from me. Right."
Maja leaned close to Tel. "What does it mean?" she whispered.
He felt sick again, but he didn't pause. "Well it's obvious. He's involved." He steered them out of the reception area.
"Then where do we go from here?"
"Higher up! Even to the President, if we have to. But if we're gonna make accusations against Glynd we need the strongest possible evidence." They joined the listless people walking through the corridors until they reached his office. "I'm gonna try something." He sat down at his desk and signaled communications. "Central Clinic, Dr. Havant," he told them. To Maja he said, "Tell him it's Glynd."
The signal was answered. "Dr. Havant."
Maja leaned down and spoke into the microphone. "Dr. Havant I have Glynd for you."
Immediately Tel began speaking, trying to sound like his superior. "Sorry to call you again, but are there any clinical records about the matter? Treatment charts, medical notes..?"
"Yes of course, they're in my office. Do you want them?"
"Yes I'd like to have a look at them. Leave them at Reception and I'll have them picked up."
"I'll get my assistant to bring them down now."
Tel cut the connection, grinning. "We've got them! You go to the clinic and pick up the records, then go home and collect the tape camera."
She looked worried. "And where are you going?"
"To talk to a thief, and borrow a lock-pick." He kissed her. "I'll meet you in two hours at Sub-43."
"They've had long enough to issue a holding order," he said bleakly.
"It's a long process, formalities. Don't worry, they'll get it." Blake turned away. Jenna sighed and rested against the bars. "I wish someone was working for me." Her sad lonely voice brought his attention back to her. "'Til now it hasn't seemed real. Now it's getting close I'm... getting scared." Realizing she too needed comfort he stood beside her, the two helpless prisoners trying to hold back their fear.
They hugged and she handed him the camera. He checked it over and as he put it on she also held out a box. "And there are the records from the hospital."
"Good!" He glanced through the data-disks and started grinning. "Yes! We can build a case on these."
She looked around curiously. "Did you get what you wanted?"
"Come and see!" They went arm-in-arm to the door.
"I've never been outside before."
"I have, years ago. I didn't like it much, it was very strange!"
An alarm went off in a security office. The guard on duty activated a monitor, and saw Tel and Maja Varon opening Sub-43.
"All right c'mon, move! Keep moving, c'mon, faster! Keep your voices down. Find the seat that's allocated you, sit in it, fasten the harness! Stand by for liftoff. Keep your voices down!" the guard shouted to the continued mutterers. "You, fasten your harness. You, down in front, that's your seat. C'mon, move! You, stop talking, fasten your harness."
Jenna wound up seated the next aisle from Blake who suddenly asked the guard, "How long before liftoff?" She glanced at him.
The guard sneered at him. "You in a hurry to get there?"
Jenna said softly, "Don't worry, there's still time." Blake didn't feel reassured. He peered anxiously out the viewport.
"Enough to keep Blake here on Earth?"
"More than enough."
The guard's sneer became more pronounced. "Maybe we can help you hear better. Can start with a couple of hours close confinement. You'll be surprised how quickly your hearing improves!" He called out to a guard at the back of the room, "Seat 11, confinement!" Blake's chair swung away from the viewport. Metal bars coiled out from behind the chair and enclosed his arms and chest. The guard leaned on them to test their strength, as the ship shook, its drive powering up.
Blake glared at him, then turned to meet Jenna's eyes. "No, I'm coming back."
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