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Mason, Counselor Janice, and the workers boarded the transport. Instead of the usual laughing and talking Mason had grown used to hearing, there was silence. Shortly after taking off, Counselor Janice got up and spoke with the pilot. Returning to her seat, she didn’t say a work and just stared out the window.

Mason didn’t mind, he was in no mood to talk. Proust had outsmarted them again. Now that the people of Myscreth were starting to follow him, there appeared to be no way to stop him. His despair and lack of sleep eventually caused him to doze off.

When he woke up, he looked out the window and in the dim morning light saw barren grey ground below them. Their next destination, Pranline, was also near the equator, so he’d expected to see some vegetation. Puzzled he turned to Counselor Janice.

“Aren’t we going to Pranline?”

“There’s been a change of plans” she replied. “We’re going to the city of Dreardor.”

Mason tried to remember if he’d ever heard of Dreardor, but nothing came to mind. “I’m not familiar with Dreardor, what’s it like?”

“Dreardor is an underground city located in the southern hemisphere of Myscreth. It’s similar to Bendroff, but not quite as large. We should be there shortly.”

“Why are we going there?”

“Because that’s where I expect to find Counselor Anklin.”

He was about to ask why they were meeting up with Counselor Anklin, when he noticed that her demeanor seemed much more positive than it had earlier.

She seemed to sense his confusion and looked over at him with a smile.

“You know Mason, there is actually some overlap between electrodynamics and relativistic physics,” she said in a low voice. “In fact, theoretically one could modify the electrodynamics of an object such that if it passes through a doorway it will cause the imprint of the modifications made to generate the doorway last indefinitely.”

At first he didn’t understand what she meant, but then it came to him. “You modified Klarth so he’d become a human tracking beacon,” he whispered back excitedly.

She gave a broad smile. “His clothes actually, but you’ve got the right idea.”

“You mean that Counselor Anklin could still track Proust?”

“That’s my hope. We’ll have to wait for Counselor Anklin to see if it worked. Based on his schedule, he should be in the city of Dreardor.”

He now realized what she’d been doing while he was returning Klarth’s clothing back to normal. Maybe Proust didn’t beat them this time after all.

Having left Mastrion before dawn, it was early afternoon when they reached Dreardor. Immediately upon their arrival, Counselor Janice sent word to the city leaders that she’d arrived.

A small group of leaders soon gathered outside the transport. Noticing them, she turned to Mason. “Let’s see what kind of reception we get here.”

As they exited the transport, the leaders bowed and an older woman stepped forward from the group. “Welcome Counselor Janice, it’s an honor to welcome you to Dreardor,” she said in a respectful tone. “I am Leader Shorline.”

“Thank you,” replied Counselor Janice. She gestured towards Mason. “This is Trainee Mason.”

The entire group of city leaders bowed once again. “And what brings you to Dreardor?”

“We are here to confer with Counselor Anklin, is he still here?”

“Yes, he’s in one of our lower levels, helping to excavate an expansion of our farming areas. Please allow us to take you to him.”

Counselor Janice nodded. “That would be very helpful. And could you please also arrange quarters for our workers?”

Leader Shorline nodded. “Of course,” and gestured to one of the other leaders.

Counselor Janice and Mason followed the city leaders. After taking the elevator to the city’s lowest level, they made their way to the far end of the fields. There they saw Counselor Anklin standing by a small catapult, which was aimed at the far wall. The catapult was identical to the one Proust has used in Langtom.

“Everyone clear!” cried out Counselor Anklin as he released the catapult. Almost instantaneously, there was a loud concussion as the projectile hit the wall causing a large section of the wall to collapse. Workers then went to work cleaning up the rubble, with Counselor Anklin modifying the gravity of the larger pieces to make them easier to move.

Noticing Counselor Janice and Mason, he called out. “Mason, since you’re here, why don’t you give me a hand.”

Mason quickly began modifying the gravity of the larger pieces of rubble to make them easier to move. The rubble was moved to carts, which were then taken down a tunnel to a section of the city that was too badly damaged to be used by the residents.

After the rubble had been cleared away, Counselor Anklin turned to Mason. “Why don’t you try this next one? You know what needs to be done, don’t you?”

He thought back to his experience with Proust in Langstrom and what Counselor Halrous had told him. “How could I ever forget?”

Counselor Anklin gave him a quizzical look and gestured towards the catapult. “It’s all yours.”

Mason carefully placed a heavy metal ball on the catapult and after performing all the required modifications, cried out. “Everybody clear!” and then fired it into the wall.

He smiled to himself as he saw a large section of wall crumble.

“Well done Mr. Grant,” congratulated Counselor Anklin.

They went through this process three more times to achieve the desired amount of excavation. When they were finished, Counselor Anklin wiped his brow.

“I sure wish Counselor Halrous was here. With him modifying the structural mechanical laws of the rock, we could have done this with a single shot.”

Sitting down, Counselor Anklin looked curiously at Mason and Counselor Janice.

“I’m glad to see the two of you, but have to wonder why you’re here.”

Counselor Janice looked around.

“Why don’t we go to your rooms so we can discuss things without being interrupted?”

Counselor Anklin smiled. “Follow me.”

When they reached the guest quarters, Counselor Janice recounted what had happened in Mastrion. “Things are even worse than we expected, I’ve never been treated with such disrespect. Leader Glenrol,” she almost spat out the name. “Went out of his way to make us feel unwelcome.”

Counselor Anklin nodded gravely. “I didn’t really think it was as bad as Halrous said, but based on your experience, it appears he was right. However, I’m sure you didn’t come all this way just to tell me that.”

“Well something else did happen while we were there,” she replied with a small smile. “Proust made another nighttime delivery and,” she gave Mason a slight look of disapproval. “Trainee Mason took it upon himself to capture one of Proust’s workers; Klarth.”

Counselor Anklin beamed at Mason. “Well done my boy, how did you accomplish …”

She gave Counselor Anklin a sharp look. “Don’t encourage him.”

“But there was no …” began Mason, but Counselor Anklin held up a hand.

“We’ll discuss it later Mr. Grant.” He turned back to Counselor Janice. “Please go on. Where’s Klarth now?”

“Back with Proust,” she revealed in what Mason considered a mischievous tone.

Counselor Anklin didn’t seem to know what to make of her response. “What happened?”

“Unfortunately, Proust paid a visit to Leader Glenrol and convinced him to get Klarth back. When Leader Glenrol met us with a group of residents, we had no choice but to hand him over.”

Counselor Anklin looked over at Counselor Janice. “Well at least were you able to learn anything from him?”

“Not yet,” replied Counselor Janice with a broad smile.

“Not yet?” repeated Counselor Anklin, but Mason suddenly saw a look of comprehension in his eyes. “What’d you do Janice?”

Mason had never seen Counselor Janice like this, she almost seemed to be blushing. “Before we gave Klarth up, I was able to modify his clothing, so they’d leave a permanent imprint of the modifications made to any doorway he passed through.”

Counselor Anklin laughed out loud and slapped his knee. “Excellent work Janice. Proust would never expect that. We may finally have him, thanks to the two of you.”

Mason stood up. “So should we be going?”

“No, not quite yet,” answered Counselor Anklin. “Based on what you’ve told me about Leader Glenrol, I don’t think he’d take too kindly to seeing us. I think it would be best if we left later this evening. That way, we can search for Proust’s doorway without being disturbed.”

Counselor Janice glanced over at Counselor Anklin. “There’s something else Anklin.”

Counselor Anklin looked at her expectantly. “Yes?”

Counselor Janice continued in a subdued tone. “Proust told Leader Glenrol that Mason and I were aliens seeking to rule Myscreth. I’m afraid he’s trying to turn the people of Myscreth against Earth.”

Counselor Anklin stared at the table. “Unfortunately, I’m not surprised. It helps him turn people against the Council and based on what Gorwold told us, it provides a reason for an eventual war against Earth.”

Mason responded heatedly, a feeling of fierce protectiveness taking over. “I think Proust is underestimating the people of Earth. Defeating us won’t be as easy as he thinks.”

Counselor Anklin gave Mason a long look and shook his head. “I appreciate the confidence Mason, but if we don’t defeat Proust, there’s no power on Earth capable of stopping him.”

The three of them sat there in silence as they digested Counselor Anklin’s words.

 Counselor Anklin stood up. “I think it would be best if we get some rest before tonight’s excursion. We want to be late enough to ensure we’re not interrupted.”

It was the middle of the night when he three of them met in the common area of the guest quarters.

“Any idea where the doorway might be?” asked Counselor Anklin.

Counselor Janice considered the question. “If I had to guess, it’s probably somewhere near Leader Glenrol’s house since that’s likely where he’d taken Klarth.”

“We’ll start there then,” answered Counselor Anklin as he turned to face the wall.

When they were ready, Counselor Anklin opened a doorway to Mastrion. They emerged near the top of a small hill overlooking the settlement.

Counselor Anklin bent close to Counselor Janice and whispered. “Show me where Leader Glenrol’s house is.”

They carefully made their way into Mastrion and found the streets of the settlement deserted. Counselor Janice silently pointed at a building a short distance ahead of them. Counselor Anklin nodded and carefully made his way around the nearby buildings. While he worked, Mason and Counselor Janice kept watch.

It was a while before Counselor Anklin rejoined them. He whispered in a frustrated tone. “I can’t find anything here. Is it possible that there was an error when you made your modifications Janice?”

She shook her head.

“I’ve gone over the equations again and again in my mind, and I’m sure they’re right.”

“Maybe the doorway’s in Leader Glenrol’s house. After all, Proust had no reason to fear him, and that way no one else in the settlement would see him leave,” suggested Mason.

“Seems reasonable,” agreed Counselor Anklin. “Let’s try our luck inside.”

As they made their way to Leader Glenrol’s front door, Counselor Anklin whispered instructions. “Mason, you’re with me. Janice you keep watch outside.”

Mason had rarely seen a locked door on Myscreth, and Leader’s Glenrol’s door proved no different. It opened easily when Counselor Anklin lifted the latch. Pushing the door slowly open, the only sound was a very low squeak. Mason followed him inside while Counselor Janice remained outside to make sure they weren’t interrupted.

The lighting inside was dim, but Mason could see they were in a sitting room with two doors. Counselor Anklin pointed at the doors and Mason went over to listen for signs of anyone coming.

After closing the door most of the way, Counselor Anklin started slowly walking around the room, concentrating on the walls. He started to the right of the front door and continued in a clockwise direction. Mason could hear him muttering to himself and saw him shaking his head as he worked. At last he reached the front door itself.

Counselor Janice’s efforts must have been effective because Counselor Anklin appeared startled, letting out a low gasp and taking a step backwards. In doing so he bumped a table sending a small bowl crashing to the floor. At the sound, a loud male voice called out from the bedroom.

“Who’s out there?”

Mason could see Counselor Anklin continuing to concentrate on the door, but heavy footsteps were rapidly approaching from the bedroom. Noticing the door’s heavy hinges, Mason concentrated on them and increased their friction by a factor of a thousand. He finished just in time as he saw the door knob turn and heard Leader Glenrol screaming as he tried in vain to push the door open.

“Let’s go,” whispered Counselor Anklin when he’d finished, motioning for them to leave. For an instant, Mason considered leaving the hinges as they were, but before closing the front door, he returned them to normal. Hurrying to the back of the house, he heard the sound of a crash and someone falling. He couldn’t help but smile.

Counselor Anklin had already opened a doorway by the time Mason reached him and motioned for him to go through. He found Counselor Janice waiting for him on the other side, and a few seconds later, Counselor Anklin appeared. Looking around, Mason could see transports, and a short distance away, a building which he assumed was Dreardor’s transport hanger.

“Did it work?” asked Counselor Janice excitedly.

Although Mason couldn’t see his face, he was sure that Counselor Anklin was beaming as he replied. “Yes, but let’s discuss this when we get back inside.”

Reaching the guest quarters, Mason and Counselor Janice both started talking at once. Counselor Anklin sat down wearily and waved his hands in front of him. “Please give an old man a chance to rest.”

Mason smiled to himself, certain that Counselor Anklin was joking.

“I must say Janice, the modifications you made to Klarth’s clothing were quite effective. I’ve never seen the scientific law manipulations made to an object as clearly as I did tonight.”

Counselor Janice stammered out a small. “Thank you.” Mason thought he’d seen Counselor Janice blush earlier, but now there was no doubt.

Anxiously, Mason asked. “What’d you find out?”

Counselor Anklin laughed. “I think Counselor Janice might be right about your impatience Mason.”

He paused dramatically before continuing with a smile. “But to answer your question, the doorway led to a mountainous area not too far from the equator. If I remember correctly, there was once a large city in that area, but it was completely destroyed during the war. I’ll need to check a map to be sure, but I’m not aware of any other settlements in the area due to the rough terrain.”

Mason was ecstatic upon hearing the news and exclaimed. “We have Proust now!”

Counselor Anklin shook his head. “No, finding him was the easy part. Stopping him is another manner.”

Mason looked down sheepishly, embarrassed by his overconfidence.

“We’ll need to gather the rest of the Council,” continued Counselor Anklin. “Janice, do you know where everyone is?”

“Counselor Tranlee is scheduled be in the city of Grandline, and Counselor Halrous and Claridee should be in the equatorial settlement of Vandrous.”

 “Good, we’ll met up with them tomorrow and then make our plans to move against Proust.”

Mason vaguely remembered reading about Grandline in one of the history books. “Wasn’t Grandline one of the underground cities destroyed during the war?”

Counselor Anklin smiled. “I’m glad to see you remember some of the history I had you read. It was heavily damaged during the war, but was made habitable a hundred years ago.”

“However,” he continued as a yawn interrupted him. “I think it would be best if we went to bed. We’ll need to be well rested for the work ahead of us.”

With that the three of them headed to bed, but Mason was too excited to sleep; not only had they finally located Proust, but he’d get to see Claridee again. He lay there staring up at the ceiling, thinking about how wonderful it would be to hear her voice and see her smile again. With that thought, he finally drifted into a peaceful slumber.

After breakfast, they collected their belongings and prepared to leave.

“I think we should go to Grandline to meet up with Tranlee first,” Counselor Anklin declared. “Then all of us can continue on to Vandrous together.”

“Agreed,” responded Counselor Janice.

Soon they stood about a hundred yards away from Grandline’s transport hanger.

“I’ll check the hanger manifest to see if Tranlee’s still here,” suggested Counselor Janice as they entered the hanger. She wasn’t gone long. “Yes, she’s still here.”

“It’s early so she should still be in the guest quarters,” suggested Counselor Anklin.

When they reached the guest quarters Counselor Anklin called out. “Counselor Tranlee, its Counselor Anklin. I need to speak with you.”

After hearing no response, he called down the hall where the bedrooms were located. A bleary eyed Counselor Tranlee opened a door and leaned out into the hall. She was wearing a night gown, and in a sleepy, yet surprised voice replied. “Anklin? What are you doing here?”

“We’ve discovered where Proust’s settlement is. Once you’re ready to go, we need to travel to Vandrous to collect Halrous and Claridee.”

Mason thought he saw Counselor Tranlee jump when she heard these words, but wasn’t sure. She looked down at her clothes and gave a nervous laugh.

“Sorry for how I look, guess I enjoyed myself a bit too much at last night’s feast. I’ll be ready to go shortly.”

As they were waiting, Counselor Anklin seemed to be thinking out loud. “It might tip off Proust if Counselor Tranlee’s transport returns to Bendroff without her, so it might be best if the workers travelling with her remain here. Mason, go tell the workers that they’ll be staying here until Counselor Tranlee returns?”

“Of course.” Mason was already down the corridor when he realized he had no idea where the workers would be located. He was about to return to the visitor quarters when he saw a young woman. “Excuse me,” he called. “Could you tell me where the quarters for visiting workers are located?”

She gave a slight laugh. “Right behind you,” said the woman pointing at the door he was standing in front of.

Mason just shook his head. “Thank you.”

As he entered, he was surprised to see Klarene, who he’d met while on his first assignment to Dafrum. It seemed so long ago now, but he still remembered her kindness. He called out to her.

“Klarene, it’s good to see you again.”

She seemed surprised. “Trainee Mason, what brings you to Grandline? I thought you were off with Counselor Janice.”

“Some business has come up that requires the Council’s attention, so I’m here with Counselor Janice. Actually, that’s why I’m here. Counselor Tranlee shouldn’t be gone too long, so you’re all to wait here until she returns.”

Klarene smiled.

“I don’t think anyone will mind too much. We all like it here in Grandline, and they gave us quite a feast last night.”

“Yes, Counselor Tranlee mentioned how good a time she had.”

Klarene looked puzzled.

“Counselor Tranlee said she wasn’t feeling well last night and went to bed early. She didn’t attend the feast.”

“I must’ve misunderstood what she meant,” answered a confused Mason.

“Happens to the best of us,” laughed Klarene as she headed off to inform the workers they were remaining in Grandline.

Why would Counselor Tranlee lie about being at the feast? Mason wondered as he hurried back to the guest quarters. He’d always felt unsure about her because she never seemed to want to be around him. Could it be because she had the same views about Earth as Proust? All he knew is that he needed to tell the two Counselors about what he’d learned.

When he got back, Counselor Tranlee was still in the bedroom. “I just spoke with Klarene and she told me that Counselor Tranlee didn’t attend last night’s feast,” he whispered.

A grave expression came over Counselor Anklin’s face, and he spoke in a low voice. “Perhaps she was busy with something else last night.”

“You don’t think Tranlee …” began Counselor Janice in a shocked whisper.

“I don’t know,” replied Counselor Anklin. “But I think I have an idea how we can find out. Mason and I will need to go to Bendroff.”

Counselor Janice nodded, a look of shock still on her face. “What about me?”

“I need you to stay here and keep an eye on Tranlee. Until we’re sure, don’t tell her anything about what we ...”

He stopped speaking as Counselor Tranlee entered the common area carrying a satchel. She had a determined look on her face.

“I’m ready, let’s go.”

“Slight change of plans Tranlee,” explained Counselor Anklin. “Janice suggested that Mason and I go to Vandrous to get Halrous and Claridee. We’ll be back shortly.”

Counselor Anklin concentrated on the wall. Once in Bendroff, the two men rushed to the Council chambers.

“What are we doing here?” asked Mason.

Counselor Anklin started gathering papers from the drawers and looked up at him. “We need the reports that list what Proust provided to the equatorial settlements.”

He thrust a pile of reports into Mason’s hands.

“I need to know how many generators Proust supplied.”

Mason started going through the reports mentally keeping track of the total number of generators.

“According to these reports, the settlements received thirty-two generators.”

“And I got twenty-five for a total of fifty-seven generators.” Counselor Anklin put down the papers. “Now we need to pay a visit to Counselor Gorwold.”

Although Counselor Gorwold’s condition had greatly improved, he was still in the hospital. He smiled broadly when Counselor Anklin and Mason entered the room.

“Mason and Counselor Anklin, it’s so good to see the two of you. I thought you wouldn’t be back for several weeks.”

Counselor Anklin got right to his question. “On how many generators did you manipulate thermodynamics for Proust?”

Gorwold thought for a moment. “Must’ve been less than forty. I’d only just gained my abilities and couldn’t do many at one time. On each visit to Proust’s settlement I’d usually do eight or nine, and I went there four times.”

Counselor Anklin’s face had grown pale.

He stared hard at Counselor Gorwold. “I need you to think carefully. Did Proust ever say anything about Counselor Tranlee?”

Counselor Gorwold furrowed his brow in thought.

“Not that I’m aware of. I’d always thought he didn’t like her since he seemed to go out of his way to avoid her. What’s this all about?”

Counselor Anklin motioned for Mason to check the door. When Mason indicated that it was safe, he bent down close to Counselor Gorwold and spoke in a low voice.

“We’ve checked, and Proust delivered fifty-seven generators to the settlements. You just told us that you hadn’t modified that many. The only way that is possible is if someone else who can manipulate thermodynamics is helping him.”

Shock spread across Counselor Gorwold’s face.

“You mean that Counselor Tranlee is helping Proust?”

Counselor Anklin looked down. “It’s the only possible explanation. I knew someone else had to be helping him, since he always seemed to know our plans. However, I never thought it would be another Council member.”

Suddenly Mason realized why the equipment deliveries Proust made before Counselor Gorwold could manipulate thermodynamics were so poorly disguised. Proust must’ve wanted them to discover the earlier deliveries were faked so that Tranlee would not be suspected. He’d been willing to sacrifice Counselor Gorwold to protect her.

Counselor Anklin concentrated on the wall. “We’ve got to get back to Grandline.”

Almost instantly, a humming sound and flashing purple light heralded the appearance of a doorway. He pushed Mason through before he had a chance say goodbye to Counselor Gorwold.

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About the author

parkertallan

Bio: 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.

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