Counselor Anklin stood up to leave.
“We’re not quite done Anklin,” declared Counselor Janice. “There’s another matter we need to discuss.”
“What other matter?”
Counselor Janice gave a reluctant sigh and picked up a pile of papers. “Since we’ve focused so much attention on finding Proust, a backlog of requests for Council assistance has been piling up.”
“Our first priority must be finding Proust,” argued Counselor Anklin. “If he isn’t stopped, there’s no telling how much damage he could do to Myscreth.”
Counselor Halrous shook his head. “It may already be too late Anklin. Proust’s providing what our people need right now while the Council isn’t. I’ve recently spoken to some friends visiting from the equatorial settlements and it’s even worse than we’ve been told. Some are starting to think of Proust and his group as the true Council.”
“You see Anklin; this is more than a battle against Proust,” explained Counselor Janice. “We’re fighting for the hearts and minds of the people of Myscreth. If we continue to neglect our responsibility to aid them, they’ll turn to Proust. To keep this from happening, we have to concentrate on showing our people that the Council is here to serve them.”
Although clearly not pleased, Counselor Anklin seemed resigned to the situation. “I still think finding Proust should be our highest priority, but I understand the Council’s concerns. All I ask is that all Council members and trainees keep their eyes open for any sign of Proust.”
Counselor Janice looked at the other Council members. “I think we can agree to that Anklin.” She then turned to address Claridee.
“Trainee Claridee, you’ll be travelling with Counselor Halrous to continue your training with him.”
Claridee clapped her hands together and with a large smile replied. “Thank you Counselor Janice.”
Counselor Janice then turned to Mason.
“Trainee Mason, based on Counselor Anklin’s recommendation, the Council has decided that you will be allowed to use your abilities in the field while under the direct supervision of a Council member.” Mason thought he saw a slight smile. “You’ll be travelling with me.”
Each Council member was assigned multiple tasks which would keep them away from Bendroff for several weeks. They’d all be leaving early the next day.
Mason had hoped to walk back to the trainee’s quarters with Claridee, but Counselor Anklin intercepted him outside the Council Chamber.
“There’s one last thing you need to learn before you leave,” he said before leading the way to the training room.
Once they’d sat down at the table, Counselor Anklin placed a block between them. “Make the block float upward at 1 g,” he ordered.
Mason concentrated on the block and soon had the images of the block and modified gravitational equation in his mind. However, as he tried to merge them, some force seemed to be keeping them apart.
“Concentrate harder,” urged Counselor Anklin.
Mason nodded and increased his concentration. Suddenly as if a dam had burst, the equation and block merged and a surge of power went through Mason. He heard a thud as the block hit the ceiling.
What happened?” asked Mason looking up at the block.
“I was fighting you,” explained Counselor Anklin. “When you manipulate the scientific laws of an object, if you continue to concentrate on it, you can prevent others from changing the manipulation you’ve performed.”
“But how …” began Mason.
“How did you overcome my resistance?” finished Counselor Anklin. “Quite simply because your abilities are stronger than mine. Whoever has the stronger ability will always win this type of battle.”
After dinner, Mason and Claridee took a walk over to one of the balconies overlooking the farming area. They just stood there in silence with Claridee resting her head on Mason’s shoulder. As much as he wanted to be with Claridee, he’d learned that Council duties took priority over everything else. However, any time spent with Claridee made Mason appreciate Professor Anklin’s surprise visit even more.
The next morning, Mason and Claridee grabbed their packs and walked to the transport hanger together. They said little, having already made their goodbyes in the privacy of the trainee’s quarters. Before boarding their transports they shared a long goodbye hug.
Boarding the transport, Mason saw that a group of eight workers was also travelling with them. He settled into a seat by Counselor Janice and soon the transport was heading for their first destination: the equatorial settlement of Mastrion.
Mason and Counselor Janice spent most of the journey sharing their memories of Earth. Although never far from their thoughts, their fears about what Proust might do there went unspoken.
It was nearly evening when they arrived in Mastrion. Leaving the transport, Mason looked around and saw a small settlement of about thirty buildings. The surrounding mountains provided protection from the cold winds that extended over most of Myscreth. The resulting climate was much milder than he’d expected.
They were met by a small group from the settlement. Counselor Janice and Mason approached the group, but before they could speak a large middle aged man with short brown hair stepped forward and without bowing, addressed them brusquely.
“Well it’s about time you got here. We’ve been asking for your help for several months now.”
Mason was taken aback by the man’s behavior, but Counselor Janice strode up to him.
“I am Counselor Janice and this is Trainee Mason. I apologize for the delay, but we came as quickly as we could. Now who are you?”
The man stood taller and glared at the Counselor.
“I’m Leader Glenrol. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do. These men will show you to your quarters, but I wouldn’t expect anything fancy.”
With that, he stalked off towards the settlement.
The group was shown to a building which reminded Mason of a cabin from when he went to summer camp. It contained a large room set up to be a dining area and two other rooms filled with rough looking beds. A modest dinner was served shortly after they arrived. After the meal, everyone headed to bed to be well rested for the busy day ahead.
After a scant breakfast the next morning, the group began their work. They unloaded a generator, a crate of light bulbs and fixtures, a large spool of wire, and the wall and roof sections for four new buildings from the transport. Mason manipulated the gravity of the equipment to make it easier to move.
Leader Glenrol came to watch the transport being unloaded and Mason could quickly see that he wasn’t happy.
“We asked for two generators, why is there only one?” he demanded of Counselor Janice.
Counselor Janice appeared annoyed, but responded in a calm voice.
“I’m sorry Leader Glenrol, but this is all that’s available right now. We’ll get you the additional generator when we can.”
His face grew red and he replied in a furious tone.
“That’s not good enough! I’ve heard that other settlements have gotten everything they’ve needed from Counselor Proust. Why must we go without?”
Having never seen anyone on Myscreth show such disrespect towards a Council member, Mason expected Counselor Janice to explode in anger, but she just stood there.
“Answer me! Why must we go without?”
Mason could tell she was trying to restrain her anger.
“Proust’s a criminal. The equipment he’s been providing was stolen.”
“I don’t care where the stuff comes from,” he cried. “I only know that the people in my settlement need it.”
Leader Glenrol stormed off, muttering to himself. Watching him go, Mason remembered Counselor Anklin’s words after they’d found Claridee. Unfortunately, here on Myscreth we don’t always have the luxury of putting ethics ahead of survival. He now understood how true those words were.
Unloading the transport was just the beginning of a long hard day of work. Mason used his abilities to help while Counselor Janice kept a close eye on him. He manipulated the generator and building sections to make them easier to move and levitated the roofs as Counselor Anklin had done in Dafrum. Each time Mason used his abilities, the wonderful sensation of power flowed through his body leaving him feeling euphoric. However, the good feelings were quickly replaced with guilt for enjoying the sensation so much.
The work continued throughout the day with only a short break for lunch. As the last building was completed, a cheer broke out from the workers. Everyone was tired and hungry and looked forward to the customary feast provided by the settlement. However, to everyone’s disappointment, there was no feast. Instead a dinner which was really more of a snack was provided. Based on Leader Glenrol’s earlier behavior, Mason wasn’t too surprised.
After dinner everyone headed to bed, exhausted from the day’s activities. However, hunger and thoughts of missing Claridee kept Mason from sleeping and he decided to go for a walk. He wandered around the settlement and eventually made his way to one of the farming areas. As he stared at the farming area illuminated by the grow lights he thought about the night that he and Claridee had first kissed. At last, stifling a yawn, he headed back to the guest quarters.
On the way back, he heard the sound of murmured voices. Although curious, he figured it was just some people out for a walk. However, a sudden humming made him to start running towards the source.
Peering around the corner of a building Mason’s heart jumped when he saw a collection of equipment illuminated by the purple light of a doorway into which a young woman with long dark hair, clearly Darnia, had just entered. Mason saw a man and woman preparing to follow. He knew they had to be Klarth and Betrine, Proust's two trainees.
Here's my chance to capture one of Proust's followers, he thought impulsively. Betrine had just entered the doorway and Klarth was about to do so. Deciding it was too good an opportunity to pass up, he concentrated on Klarth's shoes and set their friction to zero. As he merged the shoes and modified frictional equation in his mind, Klarth's feet slipped out from under him as if he'd stepped on a sheet of ice. With a yell, he fell backwards and hit the ground hard. As he did so, the doorway disappeared
Mason rushed over and found Klarth unconscious. He listened for anyone coming, but no one had seemed to hear the scream. Modifying Klarth’s gravity so that he was essentially weightless, Mason grabbed him by the feet and dragged him through the air to the guest quarters.
Once inside, Mason lowered him to the floor of the dining area and increased the gravity of his clothing so he’d be unable to move. He went to get Counselor Janice.
He knocked on the door of the women’s bedroom and waited, but heard no one stirring. He knocked louder and his efforts were soon rewarded when the door opened a crack. Lelia, one of the female workers looked out at Mason.
“Trainee Mason, what is it?”
“I need to speak with Counselor Janice immediately.”
Lelia closed the door and soon Counselor Janice appeared. She was wrapped in a robe and still seemed half asleep. Through bleary eyes she asked. “What is it Mason?”
“It’s easier to show you.”
He brought her to the dining area where the sight of a man lying on the floor brought instant wakefulness.
“What’ve you done?”
Mason couldn’t help but feel proud as he pointed at the man. “That’s Klarth. While I was out walking, I saw him, Darnia and Betrine delivering equipment. I was able to capture him once the others had left.”
Counselor Janice examined the man lying on the floor. “It doesn’t look like you injured him too badly, but you should have gotten me before using your abilities.”
Feeling deflated, Mason tried to not sound defensive. “I had no choice, he was just about to escape.”
As they were speaking, Klarth started to regain consciousness. He tried to stand, but cried out when he found he couldn’t move.
“What’s going on? Where am I?”
Counselor Janice looked down at him, the disdain on her face apparent.
“I’m Counselor Janice and this is Trainee Mason. Right now, you’re on the floor of our dining area.”
There was a brief look of terror, but it was quickly replaced by a composed expression.
“I should have realized,” he responded condescendingly. “Counselor Proust warned us about you and the other Council members.” He then gave a seething look at Mason. “And I’ve heard all about you, Trainee Mason.”
“Where is Proust now?” asked Mason.
Klarth glared at him angrily. “That’s Counselor Proust. Show a little respect to those better than you.”
Mason shrugged his shoulders, deciding it’d be better not to antagonize Klarth. “Okay then, where is Counselor Proust?”
Klarth flashed a mischievous smile. “I’m sure he’s somewhere nearby.”
Mason could tell Counselor Janice was losing patience with Klarth’s flippant attitude as she crossly questioned him.
“Where does Counselor Proust train you?”
He turned his head and looked at the wall. Counselor Janice repeated her question, but he remained silent. At last she threw up her hands. “You may not answer my questions now, but you will once you’re back in Bendroff.”
He looked at her with contempt. “Counselor Proust will never allow that to happen.”
Counselor Janice motioned Mason to join her at the far end of the dining area where they wouldn’t be overheard. She spoke to him in a low voice.
“I think we have to assume that Proust will try and rescue Klarth. It would be best if we leave Mastrion immediately before he has a chance to act.” As she turned towards the woman’s bedroom, she looked back at him. “It might be a good idea to gag him so he doesn’t wake the settlement.”
Mason nodded and tried to hide a smile.
After gagging Klarth, he helped Counselor Janice quietly wake the others, telling them to make preparations to leave. Soon they were ready to head to the transport. Mason had workers hoist Klarth onto a pallet so they could carry him to the transport. It was still dark and the streets of the settlement were empty. However, about thirty feet from the transport Leader Glenrol and a group of ten men awaited them.
“What is the meaning of this?” barked Counselor Janice.
Leader Glenrol stepped forward with an almost gleeful expression.
“A little while ago I had a visit from Counselor Proust. He was kind enough to tell me about the equipment he’d left for us. He also mentioned that one of his workers had gone missing and asked if I knew anything about it. When I told him that maybe he should check with you, he was most upset. He told me all about you and Trainee Mason. You’re not even from Myscreth,” he pointed at Counselor Janice, “but aliens who seek to rule over us.”
There were angry murmurs from the crowd of men behind him.
Mason stepped forward.
“That’s not true! We’re here on Myscreth because we want to help you.”
Leader Glenrol laughed.
“Oh, you want to help, do you? All we get from you is excuses, but Counselor Proust gave us what we needed.”
“And what about the new buildings we provided? Is that an excuse?” retorted Mason.
“Crumbs, that’s all that is. Generators and motors are what we need most and Counselor Proust has given them to us.”
Mason glanced over at Counselor Janice.
In an annoyed tone, she addressed Leader Glenrol.
“That’s enough. Now get out of our way, we’ve important business elsewhere.”
Neither he nor the men with him moved.
“Well there’s still the question of Counselor Proust’s missing man. He asked me to find him and I think you might be trying to take him with you.”
“Yes” replied Counselor Janice “he’s helped Counselor Proust break the law and must be taken to Bendroff.”
Leader Glenrol and his men menacingly took a step towards Counselor Janice’s party. He spoke in a threatening tone.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t allow that. I promised Counselor Proust that I’d get his man back. I don’t want to hurt anyone, so it’d be best if you gave us the man and left.”
Both groups stood there in silence until Leader Glenrol started leading his men forward. Mason impatiently waited for Counselor Janice to give orders to defend themselves, but she remained silent. At last he could wait no longer and in exasperation asked. “What are we waiting for? We’ve got to defend ourselves. They’re no match for…”
Realizing what he was saying, he stopped. He looked self-consciously at Counselor Janice.
“I’m sorry. I should know better.”
She gave him a small smile.
“I’m glad you understand.”
She called out to Leader Glenrol.
“Stop! We’ll give you Proust’s man.”
Mason hated giving up Klarth, but realized they had no choice. Their abilities couldn’t be used against the people of Myscreth. Even though Leader Glenrol and his people had been beguiled by Proust, they were still innocent bystanders.
Counselor Janice ordered the workers to bring Klarth forward and had Mason return his clothing to their normal state so he could move. Mason thought he saw Counselor Janice concentrating as well, but had no idea why. As Klarth took off his gag and stood up, he looked over at Mason and Counselor Janice and in a mocking tone called out.
“I told you Counselor Proust would take care of me.”
And in a low threatening voice he added.
“I’m sure that in time, he’ll take care of you too.”
- 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.