Counselor Anklin, Mason, and Claridee walked back to the training room, careful not to say anything until they were alone.
“Proust must have some way of contacting Tranlee and when we find it, it’ll lead us to him,” observed Counselor Anklin. “But first, we need to make sure that Proust can only contact Tranlee when we want him to.”
Claridee was assigned to work with Counselor Tranlee to learn more about the Council’s work. Counselor Anklin suddenly found Mason’s thermodynamics knowledge lacking and increased his number of lessons with her. There also seemed to be a sudden increase in Council meetings where Counselor Tranlee’s presence was required. She even became a frequent guest at meals in the training quarters.
Mason had no trouble believing Counselor Tranlee was helping Proust. Except when teaching him thermodynamics, she never seemed to want to talk to him. When invited to dinner, she’d sit near Claridee and speak to her and Counselor Anklin while ignoring Mason. Although she’d him harshly, in every other way Counselor Tranlee reminded Mason of Proust.
At night, Mason and Claridee took shifts watching Counselor Tranlee’s quarters from a nearby storage room. They were to inform Counselor Anklin immediately if they heard or saw any signs of a doorway being opened.
This went on for a week and the lack of sleep and success took its toll on the three of them. Mason began to wonder if Counselor Anklin might be wrong about another Counselor helping Proust.
“I don’t understand it,” commented Counselor Anklin when the three of them met in the training room. “Proust should have tried to contact Tranlee by now.”
“Only if she’s actually working with him,” grumbled Mason.
Counselor Anklin answered in a voice laced with uncharacteristic impatience.
“You know everything I know. What else could explain all those facts?”
“It’s been a week and nothing,” countered Mason.
“I know, I know.” replied Counselor Anklin. “But if the deliveries started three months ago it has to be her.”
Mason had a sudden thought. “We’re basing that on the summary Counselor Janice gave us. Maybe we should look at the actual reports.”
Counsel Anklin considered Mason’s suggestion.
“The reports should be in the Council chambers. I’ll be right back.”
The two trainees sat together quietly, Mason just enjoying being with Claridee as they waited for Counselor Anklin to return. Counselor Anklin soon returned, holding a thick pile of papers.
“Here’s everything I could find.” He dropped the pile of papers on the table. “Let’s go through these.”
Of the equipment deliveries, only five occurred more than two months ago. Mason noticed something odd about them.
“Look, these are almost identical.”
“What do you mean?” asked Claridee rubbing her eyes.
He spread the papers out. “Each delivery includes only light bulbs and a single generator.” Counselor Anklin leaned forward as he continued. “The more recent deliveries are much more varied; anywhere from one to three motors and generators along with light bulbs and electrical components.”
Claridee scanned the papers she was holding. “You’re right, it’s almost as if the earlier deliveries were meant to stand out.”
Counselor Anklin suddenly stood up. “Something’s not right here. I think we need to take a look at those generators.” He picked up one of the pages and pointed at Mason. “Grab some jackets, you and I are going to Entlurn.”
“What about me?” asked Claridee.
“I have something else I need you to do,” declared Counselor Anklin. “While we’re gone I want you to keep an eye on Counselor Gorwold.”
She nodded. “Of course,” but hesitated before continuing. “Do you mind if I ask why? I didn’t think we suspected Gorwold.”
He looked at her grimly. “That’s what we’re trying to find out.”
As Mason and Counselor Anklin were putting on their jackets, he gave some final instructions to Claridee. “If anyone asks, tell them Mason and I are off training.”
She gave a resolute nod. “Got it.”
Her look softened as she watched Mason zip up his jacket. When he was finished, she wrapped her arms around him and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Be careful.”
He hugged her back. “You too.”
Counselor Anklin turned away as he finished fastening his jacket. Mason hoped that they hadn’t embarrassed him, but needn’t have worried as Counselor Anklin called out in a mischievous voice. “You two all done?”
“Yes,” answered Claridee sheepishly.
“Let’s go then Mr. Grant.”
They arrived on a barren windswept plain not far from a settlement with about twenty buildings. “This way,” called Counselor Anklin, walking briskly towards the settlement.
“Where are we going?” asked Mason.
“To the generator building, since I don’t want to waste time explaining our presence here.”
The generator building looked much like other ones Mason had seen, but seemed much emptier since it only contained two generators. Both generators were covered in scratches and dents, but one looked slightly newer.
Counselor Anklin bent over to examine the end of the newer generator. Curious, Mason asked. “What are you looking for?”
“When a generator is salvaged, a marking is placed on it to show where it was found and when it was modified for service.” After a quick search Counselor Anklin called out. “Ah, here it is.”
He muttered to himself as he read the information.
“According to the marking, this generator was modified for service about eight months ago. That’s strange, usually when a generator is modified for use it’s put into service immediately.”
“Unless it was somehow put aside for someone’s later use,” interjected Mason.
“I think you’re right. Proust made these earlier deliveries to deceive us.” There was deep sadness and concern on his face as he spoke. “Counselor Gorwold is his ally on the Council. We’ve got to get back to Bendroff!”
Mason couldn’t believe it. The Gorwold he knew wouldn’t betray his people. However, he couldn’t argue with facts. Somehow Proust had gotten to Gorwold.
Arriving on Bendroff’s landing field, they hurried to the trainees’ quarters. “Claridee,” called out Counselor Anklin, but there was no response.
“She must be following Counselor Gorwold,” he muttered. “Mason go to Gorwold’s quarters to see if she’s there. I’ll go check the Council Chambers.”
Mason ran to Counselor Gorwold’s quarters and was about to knock on the door when it suddenly opened. Eriline, the young girl who brought meals for the trainees, stepped back in surprise, nearly dropping the dishes she was carrying.
“Trainee Mason,” she gasped. “You startled me.”
“Sorry, I was looking for Counselor Gorwold,” he answered apologetically. “Do you know where I could find him?”
“He was leaving as I returned to get his dishes,” she answered. “Seemed to be in a hurry. He didn’t even finish his dinner and it’s one of his favorites.”
“Which way did he go?”
“That way,” she answered, inclining her head to the left.
“Thanks,” called Mason as he took off in the direction she’d indicated.
He asked each person he met if they’d seen Counselor Gorwold or Claridee. Fortunately, some had and he soon found himself on an elevator heading down to the farming level.
Getting off the elevator he found a group of farmers waiting to get on. “Have any of you seen Counselor Gorwold or Trainee Claridee?” he asked. “I saw Counselor Gorwold,” answered one of them. “He was walking towards the far end of the fields.” Another added. “I saw Claridee in the fields earlier. She seemed in a hurry.”
Mason knew immediately where Counselor Gorwold was headed: the storage area where the remnants of the equipment used to originally build Bendroff were kept. Anything useful had been removed years ago, so it was often vacant. He only knew about it because Counselor Anklin had taken him there when he’d asked about how Bendroff had been built.
Approaching the storage area, he slowed down and listened. From one of the corridors Mason could hear the sound of someone running. Claridee! Came the panicked thought and he sprinted in the direction of the sound. Rounding a corner, he nearly crashed into her.
“Gorwold’s with Proust right now,” she whispered excitedly. “We’ve got to get Counselor Anklin.”
“He was going to the Council Chambers,” Mason answered. “You get him and I’ll see if I can hear what they’re talking about.”
After telling Mason what room Gorwold had gone into and a quick. “Be careful,” Claridee took off to find Counselor Anklin. Mason hurried to the room and crept up to the door. The sound of angry voices could be heard.
“… deceived me. I should never have listened to you,” cried Gorwold.
“How dare you talk that way to Counselor Proust,” snarled a female voice. “After all he’s given up for Myscreth.”
“Now, now, Darnia,” came Proust’s smooth voice. “Gorwold’s clearly been under the influence of Anklin for too long and is confused. Once he returns with us, all will be right again.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” shot back Gorwold. “Counselor Anklin was right all along and I’m going to tell the Council everything I know.”
“I think that would be a mistake,” declared Proust with an eerie menace in his voice. “However, if that’s your decision. Come Darnia, it’s time for us to leave.”
There was the tell-tale humming sound of a doorway being opened followed a moment later by a scream and a thud. Without thinking, Mason flung the door open and saw Proust disappear into the purple doorway just before it faded away.
Mason saw no sign of Gorwold, but the sound of a low moan drew his attention upward and what he saw made him feel sick. Twenty feet above the floor, Gorwold was pinned to the ceiling. The skin on his face was pulled tight forcing his eyes to remain open and giving him a grotesque countenance. He gazed down from the ceiling with terror filled eyes, but showed no evidence of comprehension. Mason couldn’t even tell if he was alive.
Mason had no idea how long it was before he could regain his composure enough to concentrate and bring Gorwold down to the floor. As he did so he could see that Proust had caused him to shoot upward at five times normal gravity. Gorwold was still alive, but at each labored breath, a hoarse, gurgling sound escaped his lips. Mason wanted to try and help Gorwold, but the injuries were far beyond his meager first aid skills. He needed a doctor. Mason raced back to the farming area and grabbed the first person he found, ordering them to immediately bring a doctor to the storage room.
Going back to the room, Mason found Gorwold’s breathing growing more labored. He sat beside Gorwold urging him to keep breathing while he anxiously waited for either the doctor or Counselor Anklin to show up. Mason felt helpless watching the life ebb from his friend.
When the doctor finally arrived, she knelt beside Gorwold and began examining him. She looked grimly over at Mason. “He’s suffered multiple fractures, including a skull fracture, and has lost a great deal of blood.” Gorwold gave deep moans of pain whenever the doctor touched him.
“He’s alive, but just barely. I’ll have to get him to the hospital immediately.”
By this time, a nurse had arrived with a gurney and behind them were Claridee and Counselor Anklin.
“Where …” began Counselor Anklin.
“Over there,” answered Mason pointing over to where the doorway had been generated. Counselor Anklin immediately ran over to the wall and began concentrating.
At the sight of Gorwold, Claridee rushed over to Mason. “How …”
“Proust,” muttered Mason angrily.
Counselor Anklin continued his work as Mason and Claridee helped load Gorwold onto the gurney.
“If only I’d gotten here sooner,” muttered Counselor Anklin, finally turning away from the wall.
He walked over to the gurney and stared at Gorwold with a look of concern. “Will he live Doctor?”
“Too early to tell.”
Once the gurney had been wheeled away, Counselor Anklin looked over at Mason.
“How did this happen?”
“Gorwold told Proust he was going to tell the Council everything he knew,” answered Mason angrily, “and Proust did this to him.”
Counselor Anklin nodded. “I think this removes any doubt about Proust’s true intentions. And if he finds out Gorwold’s still alive …”
“He’ll try again,” finished Mason.
The three of them walked in silence to the hospital to await word on Gorwold’s condition. Except for the rough wooden furniture and doors, the hospital was very similar to ones Mason had seen on Earth. Although made of stone, the walls were painted a bright white and neatly printed signs showed room numbers and familiar department names. Even the wooden doors differed from what he’d seen in the rest of Bendroff as they each had a small window, allowing a view of each room.
As they waited, Mason went over everything he’d heard.
“Darnia,” commented Counselor Anklin when Mason had finished. “I’d never come across her while searching for new Council candidates. Well at least we know her name if nothing else about her.”
“How could Proust do something like this to Gorwold?” growled Claridee heatedly.
Counselor Anklin shook his head sadly. “Proust has become a fanatic and will do whatever it takes to achieve his goal of reviving Myscreth’s past greatness. And that makes it even more imperative that we stop him. Hopefully, Gorwold can give us the information we need to do that.”
It was quite a while before the doctor came to see them.
“We’ve been able to stop the bleeding and repair his broken bones, but he’s still in a coma,” she informed Counselor Anklin gravely. “There’s no way to tell how long it will last.”
After the doctor left, Counselor Anklin turned to the two trainees. “I need the two of you to find the rest of the Council and bring them here. Don’t say anything about Gorwold.”
It wasn’t long before the Council members had gathered in an empty office not far from Gorwold’s room. The Counselor’s sat in chairs around a small desk while Mason and Claridee stood near the door.
“What’s this all about and why are we meeting here?” demanded Counselor Janice.
“Gorwold has been helping Proust,” revealed Counselor Anklin in a subdued voice.
Shocked looks appeared on the faces of the other Counselors.
“Impossible,” declared Counselor Halrous shaking his head in disbelief.
“I wish it were,” replied Counselor Anklin, “but Claridee discovered him meeting with Proust.”
“And where is Gorwold now?” demanded Counselor Janice.
“In a room down the hall. He told Proust he was through and was going to tell the Council everything. Proust tried to kill him and nearly succeeded.”
“Were you able to track Proust?” interrupted Counselor Tranlee.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get there in time.”
“He’s currently in a coma,” resumed Counselor Anklin, “but is expected to live. I’ve already arraigned with the hospital to keep his presence here secret, but enough people already know he’s here that it can’t guarantee Proust won’t find out Gorwold’s still alive.”
“What do you propose?” asked Counselor Halrous.
“That we each take shifts guarding Gorwold in case Proust tries to complete his attempt on Gorwold’s life.”
“Guarding a traitor,” scoffed Counselor Tranlee. “I have better things to do.”
“That’s pretty harsh,” commented Counselor Halrous sounding disappointed. “Besides, Gorwold said he’d tell the Council everything he knows about Proust’s plans.”
Counselor Tranlee looked at the floor. “I’m sorry Halrous. The thought of Gorwold betraying the Council got the better of me I guess.”
Counselor Halrous nodded. “I can understand.”
Before leaving the hospital, Mason went to see Gorwold and was shocked at the sight of the battered body lying there, hooked up to tubes and machines. It only made him angrier at Proust. If he ever had the chance, he’d make Proust pay for what he’d done.
- Parker T. Allan
An engineer who enjoys writing something other than technical reports. Writing let's me share all the ideas floating around my mind. I hope my writing jump starts your imagination as so many books have done for me.
If you enjoy physics, check out https://physicswithcats.com/ for some fun stories which explain various physics topics.