Chapter 13 – Loc’s Design

He could instantly switch off the mirror program or just delete it so I had to prevent that.  I again reached into his mind and prevented him from noticing the program. I got the sense that it wasn’t hard to block his perception of it because he had not been paying attention to it before. I pointed the mirror program at him and started it.

He waited for a moment. He likely hadn’t recognized that I did anything yet. “Do something or do nothing” was what he was looking for and so far I had done nothing that he was aware of.

His mind reached out to me. The whisper was different, it felt like one of the mocking whispers. No, not mocking, I got a better feel for it now. It was a question but more than that, an interrogation. The mocking whispers were when the priests were trying to read my mind.

I held it and crushed it as I had many times before with this kind but it was enough. He knew that I resisted him. He knew that I wasn’t Kelpei.

His lip curled into a smile. He wanted it this way.

“I could have the Warriors kill you but I want to have some fun first.” He spoke into my mind.

His whispers swirled around me. I caught as many as I could and crushed them one by one but it wasn’t enough. First he shut off my sight, then my hearing, then my touch.

I tried to move my arms around me but I couldn’t tell what they were doing or if I touched anything. My body was numb. Then I smelled burning flesh. I tried to move, but I had no way of knowing if I had gotten away. I could still smell it. I nearly panicked which was exactly what he wanted.

I needed more time, just a few minutes would do. I had to stall him. I had to fight back.

I tried reaching into his mind but he fought me off. I was too weak to fight him directly.

I realized I didn’t need to reach into his mind, one of the Warriors would do. I tried to reach into one of their minds but I was still having difficulty. My anger flared at this and instinctively I lashed out at him. I felt his mind recoil at my rebuke and I was able to reach into his mind.

I knew the priest would just negate my commands to the Warrior and it would give my strategy away if I forced the Warrior to attack. Instead I used the Warrior’s eyes.

I could see myself now through the Warrior’s eyes. I was laying on the ground, it wouldn’t have taken much to knock me down in my state, maybe I just fell over. The priest was leaning over me holding a red hot knife blade to my nose. Smoke rose from my flesh.

In that position there really wasn’t much I could do except punch him in the groin. I was really amazed that I connected since I was just guessing where my arm should go.

The priest staggered backward.

“I think I’m done with you now.” I said out loud.

The mirror program was finished with it’s task. It’s first job is to break into the computer in his mind, circumventing it’s security barriers.

With this new path, I now told the mainframe to stream all it’s programming into his mind. It wouldn’t actually do any harm to him unfortunately but it would fill his mind with meaningless information and slow him down.

The priest stumbled around for several moments. This gave me the chance to undo the block on my senses. More importantly, he wouldn’t be able to block my commands to the Warriors. He had wiped out the idea of having the Warriors kill each other so the first thing to come to my mind was “Raise you gun.” He struggled against me but I had weakened him earlier. “Point it at the Priest.” I continued.

The other Warrior raised his gun at me. He knew what was happening. “No!” I commanded. “Drop it!” He struggled so I tried again. “Put your gun on the ground.” This time he relented and put it down.

I turned my attention to the first Warrior. “Fire!”

The bright flash and smell of ozone and burning flesh was becoming familiar to me now.

“Put your gun down.” I commanded.

He hesitated slightly but complied, almost like it didn’t matter anymore. I turned my head as I heard a slight whimper. The other Warrior’s face was red, but not with anger, he was crying.

“Father.” He mouthed.

Father is a common term of respect among the Chezbah and Scimrahn but he meant more than that. I reached into his mind. I saw memories of a young man growing up and being cared for by this priest. This cruel monster of a man also had a kind side?

Both Warriors were visibly shaken at this point. I hated the man and the two mental images were too much for me to take. I wanted them to be gone but I realized that if they got to me in such a short time then reinforcements were on their way.

“Walk back home, don’t turn around and don’t call for help.” I commanded the crying one. He complied, he would likely be picked up eventually anyway.

To the remaining Warrior, “Get on the vehicle.” He did and I followed him on.

Being so close I remembered their brute strength. “You will not try to hurt me.” I commanded. I didn’t have a way of telling if the command held other than him not thrashing me, so it seemed like it worked.

“Fly away from any Chezbah that you know of.” I commanded.

The Warrior complied. The vehicle rose from the ground and we accelerated away. I accessed his thought stream and monitored for any hostile plans for me. It was strange, he was more crushed than angry. It was almost as if he’d given up. I closed my eyes. I imagined if I didn’t know where I was going then Loc wouldn’t be able to. There could be some kind of tracking device in me but I wasn’t aware of one yet.

“The first battle is over.” Path said.

“What do you mean? The battle with the Priest?” I asked.

“No! You don’t realize how far you’ve come. Your Transformation is finished, the scourge has run it’s course. Loc can’t wipe out your thoughts anymore.” He said.

“Why? What changed?” I asked.

“You’re not Kelpei, your a Kelec now.” He answered unsatisfactorily.

“That doesn’t answer the question. Why would the scourge change at this point? What makes now different than a few hours ago?” I  demanded.

“You’ve got a lot to learn about the design of things. I’m glad to see that you were able to survive that Priest. Don’t worry about your nose, a Kelec can heal far faster than a regular person.” He said.

“Wait, you’re still not answering the question! What does a few hours change?” I asked, upset at his avoiding the answer.

“Onix, I’m here to help you. You don’t have to get upset at me. I want to help you become the hero that you came here to be. There are some things that I think will be useful to you and others that you don’t need to worry about. For now, lets just get you where you need to go.” He paused. “You need to use your new situation to your advantage instead of thinking of it as a hinderance.” He said.

“Why do you care if I’m a hero? What does it do for you?” I asked.

“There aren’t a lot of people with minds strong enough to resist the Scourge. You’re a bit of rarity. Some who do make it through are barely empty husks. If you haven’t noticed there’s a war going on and everyone is grabbing on to as many strong people as they can. You’re an asset to anyone you’re fighting for, especially now. Don’t you want to make a difference?” Path said.

“Of course. So if you’re involved in this war, who’s side are you on, the Scimrahn or the Chezbah?” I said.

Path laughed. “I’m on my own side. I know that sounds like I’m avoiding the question but I don’t really care who wins as long as there’s someone left standing at the end. I don’t want this conflict to go on any longer, it’s got to end or there won’t be anything left to fight for.”

“So how do you end the conflict? What’s your plan?” I asked.

“The Chezbah are developing weapons, weapons that will extend this conflict another thousand years. Sure, they’ll crush the Kelrath as a nation, but the Scimrahn and you Earthers are a different matter. Earth is supplying technology that will cross fertilize with the Scimrahn’s and that will give rise to new weapons against the Chezbah. I figure that Gadios would fall, but with Earth forces able to retreat back to your planet and then return stronger than ever, the conflict will just drag on. We need to stop that from happening. We can stop that from happening. We can steal the Chezbah’s new weapons and give them to Earth. Then all the Chezbah’s gains will be nullified.” He said.

“How do we do that?” I tried to bluff that I didn’t know what he was talking about.

“I know what your ‘gift’ was. You got more than you were supposed to. You were supposed to just get a little bit of information about the weapons. I manipulated things so that you got all the information on them.” I could tell he was proud of himself just by the feel of his voice.

“So you can hack Loc? I tried and was thrown out.” I said.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time. Maybe when you’re as old as me, you’ll have as many tricks as I do.” He chuckled.

“But can’t Loc just read my mind and know all this anyway?” I asked.

“Of course, but he can’t wipe out the memory anymore. Now it’s up to you. You need to get that information to your people and put an end to this.” He said.

I thought for a moment what going to command with my “gift” would mean. First I’d be locked up as a possible enemy sympathizer. Next they would interrogate me over and over again. I would try to explain what I knew. Then they would have to study the technology and try to replicate it. Just that portion would take years.

I said. “No.”

“What? If you don’t there will be generation after generation of suffering! I thought you wanted to be a hero.” He said.

“It leaves Loc too much time to plan. That’s what he’s good at. I’ll need to do something less predictable. Something more. . . heroic.” I said.

“You’re being reckless, follow my plan and this can end.” Path said.

“No. You said you needed a strong mind. I need to stick to what I know is the truth.” I answered.

“You are a fool! You will end up dead and I’ll just have to find someone else.” He said angrily. I felt his mind leave.

“Maybe, but it’s gotten me this far. You’ve got to stick to what you know.” I said out loud.

The Warrior turned, I felt his confusion at my sudden statement. “What?”

“Nothing, grownups are talking, you just drive.” I commanded.

Something bothered me, who was this “Path”. Something the way he was talking to me wasn’t right. The priest had to come into range to talk to me. For some reason, actually it was information from Loc about the anti-grav vehicle, I knew that we had traveled about twenty five Kilometers from our original location. That should have put me out of range of him talking to me directly.

And why didn’t he answer my question about the Scourge? If he didn’t know he could have simply said so. Instead he purposefully didn’t want me to know. What would motivate him to protect that information? He was right about one thing. I had to learn about the design of things and a big part of design is purpose.

Why did Loc want to give me this information in the first place? What did he expect me to do with it? I contemplated this for several hours and arrived at the conclusion that my reaction should have been the same as Path’s plan, only I would have less to reveal. I would have no technical details to share, then the ASO and the Scimrahn might try to steal the weapon designs. In the end the results would be similar. There may be a delay of several months but it wouldn’t be significant compared to the years that it would take to replicate the technology. Path’s plan didn’t make sense.

That left two possibilities, Path was incompetent as a planner or he was leaving out information in order to mislead me. The first didn’t seem likely so I assumed that he was trying to deceive me but to what end?

There were two things that his plan did. One, it would make the ASO more confident that they would not be at a disadvantage for long. Two, it would make them reluctant to attack until they felt they could counter the technologies the Chezbah have. Both of these effects meant a delay on them engaging the Chezbah.

I went over the information in my “gift” again, this time looking for something specific and I didn’t find it. There was no examples of a Priest being proficient with the new technology. All of them were barely able to get it to work.

That meant that Path is working with Loc. He is trying to delay the ASO and the Scimrahn so that his Priests have time to practice. No, it was more than that, Path was accessing my mind in a similar or maybe even the same way as Loc. Was Path really Loc? It wasn’t inconceivable. He would make himself likable, someone that I trust and then steer me in the direction he wanted.

I fully expected Path or Loc to contact me at that point. It didn’t happen and that bothered me. If they weren’t interfering that meant that I was doing what they wanted me to do. I wasn’t vain enough to think I could out smart them.

In reality all of this could be a sham and the “gift” a fabrication. If it were, then what was the goal? It was also possible that everything that Path said was true and Loc fully expected me not to believe Path. In any event he had to be prepared for both eventualities.

Do something or do nothing those were my choices. Either I was walking directly into what Loc wanted or maybe he just wanted me to worry that I was. The logic was circular. I had to rely on something more than logical or reasonable arguments. I had to act on what I knew to be true. Unfortunately I was loosing my grip on that.

I could fight as hard as I can and in the end wind up helping Loc somehow. I could do nothing and help no one. There was no way I could be sure to be out maneuvered. I couldn’t do anything that would have the slightest hint of failure or he would unravel any scheme I came up with.

What did I know was true? What could I rely on? I was, in effect like a madman, unable to distinguish shadows of my own mind from reality.

Do something or do nothing. They were what Loc was prepared for and separate from each other. Perhaps there was a way to do both and do what Loc was not prepared for.

Chapter 14 – Pursuit and Quandary