Novel by David Smith
Available through Amazon and his official website.
“The strength of two connected neural pathways is thought to result in the storage of information, resulting in memory. This process of synaptic strengthening is known as long term potentiation.”
“Who can say where inside a man’s body his soul is kept? Who can pinpoint a part of his brain, or even a single synapse, and say this is or is not the essence of that person? Can one body be possessed by two souls, and if so is one equally as guilty of the crimes committed by the other?”
Abel sits forward in his chair. He has a look of pure hate on his face as he speaks to me.
Abel sits forward in his chair. He has a look of pure hate on his face as he speaks to me.
‘I’m bringing the case.’
‘Grow is doing this to me!’
‘I’m a contractor, like you Jek, hired by Grow for my experience and skill as a litigator. I hold a very senior and privileged position in that organization. I have access to all of Grow’s most sensitive and confidential information, secrets even most of Grows top tier of executives aren’t aware of, things Grow has done that are base, beyond immoral. Other than that I have no association with Grow whatsoever,’ he says, ‘in fact the opposite.’
Noone leans forward and says, ‘Abel is a Phalk. He is a member of the government in exile of Arginet In fact he is its President. In this case Abel represents the Phalk, not Grow.’
Abel takes over, ‘You have seen the evidence against you. It’s irrefutable. You helped Grow steal our planet. You helped them kill our people. You are a mass murderer, Jek.’
‘It wasn’t your planet,’ I say, desperately tired but doing what I can to fight my corner, ‘Grow owned it and owned the Phalks at the time I did what I was ordered to do.’
Jane chips in, ‘You’re a mercenary, Jek, not a soldier. You can’t use being under orders in mitigation. You’re not subject to redress for not following Grow’s orders. You chose to contaminate the oceans on Arginet.’
‘What were you paid?’ asks Abel.
‘Shouldn’t you have a breathing mask on down here…all this clean, oxygenated air?’ I say just to yank his chain.
‘I can breathe easily in oxygen rich air and so can the rest of the Phalk survivors, thanks to the oxy-platelet medication developed and provided by The Powers. We can survive back on Arginet should we regain our home.’
‘Tell us what you were paid,’ says Jane.
‘None of your business, bitch.’
‘What were you paid?’ pipes in Noone.
‘Payment is relevant,’ I say.
‘What were you paid to kill all those people?’
‘In Earth terms, the cash equivalent of Miami, but that’s peanuts in relation to Grow’s profit from what I did.’
‘So, you regret not pressing for a higher fee,’ adds Abel, a look of sheer disgust on his face.
‘Nevertheless, you were paid,’ adds Jane.
‘So you admit you were Grow’s well rewarded mercenary in the murder of millions of my people,’ says Abel.
I can hear the choke of barely contained fury in his voice. He has to stop. He looks like he wants to get up, run round from wherever the hell he is to my nice new home so he can punch the life out of me. But after a few moments he regains his control, ‘We want our planet back, Jek, and you will help us achieve that end, after which you will be sentenced.’
‘Fuck you,’ I say.
I’m near exhaustion and my curse sounds lame. So I close my eyes and take a few moments to digest this little information gem. How can I help the Phalks get their planet back? I think I begin to understand what’s going on. They’ve played their hand. This is all the evidence they have concerning Grow and the contamination of the ocean on Arginet. Sure, they’ve got me bang to rights. The same goes for Krillik. The video of the two of us together taking the flask from that old bitch seals our death warrant for certain. Like Abel said, it’s irrefutable. It’s taken from the old buzzard’s seed reader. That can’t be faked. But there’s no link with Grow, just our dialogue on the video.
I get it. They need to capture Krillik alive! He’s the link to Grow’s complicity.
Krillik was always meticulously cautious. He always covered his back in case he ever went too far and Grow hung him out to dry. Krillik will have every important meeting with his controller from Grow recorded on his own seed reader. If Abel can gain access to that he can get the vital and conclusive evidence he needs to show The Powers that Grow ordered the contamination of the ocean on Arginet. They know Krillik will have lied about the contents of his seed reader being damaged when he caught the disease from the Revelation spores. He had to corrupt the audio otherwise he’d have admitted his intent to release the spores on Earth.
But Krillik is hunting me down. He wants me dead. He and his team of Dreeks is searching everywhere for me. How can I play any part at all in Krillik’s capture?
The screen on the TV goes grey.
‘We are humane people, Jek. It’s time for you to rest,’ says Noone.
I’m exhausted but when I see the pale yellow gas start to belch from the air vent I try with every fibre in my body to prevent inhaling it. I know whatever happens when I’m under its influence won’t be nice. I hold my breath for as long as I can while I try to stop its flow. I jump out of the seat and grab a blanket off the cot and press it hard against the air vent. It’s useless. The gas seeps around the edges of the blanket. I can hold my breath no longer. As soon as the first trace of the gas hits my nostrils my head spins. It’s like when an anesthetic injection in the wrist rushes up your arm and hits your head like a hammer. I feel the ice cold numbness immediately as the gas hits the back of my throat and I’m out. I doubt if I last half a second before everything goes black.
The lights appear to have been dimmed when I wake up, and I think, ‘how very considerate of my captors.’ But I’m miles off the mark. I’m no longer in the container cell. I’m lying on a bed. When I look at the ceiling it isn’t the bank of bright strip lighting it’s a bank of six Dichromic bulbs mounted into the ceiling. My eyes begin to focus as I sit up on the bed. I’m in what looks like a hotel bedroom. I’m fully clothed, shirt, Chinos, shoes and socks, this time in garments that actually fit me. I see my wrist watch is back where it should be. Like they taught Jake in the army, after contact with the enemy re-assess your situation. I look around to take in my surroundings. It seems like a typical four star hotel bedroom, a TV sitting on a useless table that serves no real purpose, a set of drawers, a wardrobe, smart unchallenging art hung on the walls where there’s a gap that needs filling. There’s a door, presumably to an en suite. I swing my legs off the bed. I need a pee.
The en suite is what I expect, shower, can, sink and a few stupid glass shelves mounted on the wall next to an enormous, well lit and unflattering mirror that shows every crack and pimple of the viewer’s face. I take my pee before checking my looks in the mirror. When I do I see what I expect, the face of Jek but something is very wrong. It’s my hair. It isn’t mine, it isn’t real. I run my hands through it and it feels like human hair but I feel no sensation when I touch it.
I think to myself, ‘What the fuck?’
It’s an artificial hairpiece of some sort, a wig, a real good one. Looks just like my natural hair. I try to pull it off my head but it’s bonded to my scalp. This time I say it aloud.
‘What the fuck?’
‘Your head was shaved and a pulse screen fitted.’
It’s Jane. She’s talking as she comes into the room. She must have a key. I’m still half doped from the gas and not yet fully alert so she surprises me, though I expected to see her sometime soon if I wasn’t still incarcerated. She’s like an old mutt, loyal and stupid, following me around. I turn towards her and step close so our faces are almost touching. I want to intimidate her, have her fearing me again now I can lay my hands on her.
‘Give me one good reason why I don’t wring your scrawny neck right now.’
‘Oh, I wouldn’t do that if I were you,’ she says.
Suddenly my knees buckle and I slump to the floor as a wave of excruciating pain hits my head. It feels as if the pain is coming from deep within my own brain. I can hardly breathe and I’m helpless, rolling on the floor of the bathroom squealing like a stuck pig. After a few moments the pain subsides and, apart from a headache that feels like my head’s been for a spin in a tumble dryer, I’m compos mentis again.
‘So you know,’ she says all smug and dominant, ‘you’ve been fitted with a special skull cap. Your head was shaved when you were out and the skull cap fitted to your exact measurements. It’s chemically bonded to your scalp. The cap masks your pulse. It also prevents you from planting visions in anyone.’
‘Nice,’ I say.
My time will come.
‘You should also know this,’ she says, stepping away from me as I get up off the floor, ‘There are special modifications in your pulse screen, Jek, fibrils, hundreds of them running from the inner wall of the cap through your skull into and around your brain. I can control their movement with my mind. If you don’t do as I say you’ll get a worse experience than the one I’ve just given you. I can see what you see, hear what you hear and all of it is being recorded through my seed reader.’
‘Nice,’ I say again.
I will cut her eyes out and eat them.
‘There’s more,’ she says, and I think I know what’s coming. They didn’t run me to near collapse with exhaustion in that container because they’re evil, or because they think I deserved it. They didn’t do it even to make me confess. I was happy to do that anyway. They broke me so they could record my distress pulses. Torps connect with our own through the pulses, each letting the others know where and how we are. The more exhausted and threatened I became in that cell, the more my pulses would have been screaming for help. The bastards will have recorded my distress calls. I think I know what’s coming next.
‘We’ve fitted a pulse beacon inside the cap. It’s emitting your distress pulse even as we speak.’
‘You think Krillik will come running to my aid?’
‘No, but he might be able to find you a lot easier,’ she says.
Of course, she’s right. A pulse distress call is a gigantic scream for help. It travels five times the distance of a normal pulse, and no doubt they’ve fitted a booster to the cap they’ve bonded onto me. If Krillik is still alive and on Earth he’ll know exactly where I am by now. I’m to be used like a tethered goat in a tiger hunt.
‘Where are we?’ I ask.
‘Melville, in the Marriott hotel. Don’t you recognize the room? It’s where we first made love.’
‘That was Jake back then, not me,’ I say, ‘What happens now? Do you tie me to the bed and let Krillik burst in and cut me up?’
‘Krillik wants you dead,’ she says, ‘He’s tried to capture or kill you since he arrived back on Earth. His first attempt was at Jessup’s bar. He should have planted a vision in someone’s head and had you gunned down in the bar, or got a fighter pilot to drop a bomb on the place but that would have denied him the pleasure of seeing you go through hell.’
‘…and what about Josh and Mary’s farm?’ I say, cutting across her, ‘That wasn’t the good old US of A, was it?’
‘We believe that was Krillik, yes,’ she says, ‘After the missile strikes on the farmhouse Noone sent in a crew to try to capture us, protect us both. The soldiers weren’t just scouring the woods looking for us. They were also looking for Krillik’s goons, using the hunt for us as their cover.’
‘Do you know what I think?’ I say, ‘All this running around we’ve been doing, stumbling from disaster to disaster, it’s all been a fake, hasn’t it?’
‘Not all of it,’ she says, ‘The Jessup’s bar debacle was real enough. Abel found out that Krillik was back on Earth and that he had orders from Grow to kill you. He said it was the most lucrative contract Krillik had ever been given by Grow. We were a click behind the Torp that was sent in as my double. But luckily I second guessed what they were planning. Planting the tracker in Jake’s neck was also real, as was the Dreeks trying to capture us. The warehouse full of Zygs was also…’
‘Yeah, that’s obvious,’ I say cutting across her, ‘but the portal in the back of the Reach…come on!’
‘Yes that was stage managed to get you to Tallip. We had a plan all worked out to give you a chance to escape but it never happened the way it should have. Krillik appeared unexpectedly. He wasn’t supposed to turn up at Grow’s base in Wales. That was a shock. But despite that what we wanted to happen happened.’
I now see what all of this charade was in aid of.
‘I had to be sent back to the portal in the Reach as Jek, right?’
‘Right,’ she says.
There’s that look right back on her face again now she holds the sway of power, ‘Jake would never have allowed Jek to re-emerge from the depths of his brain. He’d never release a beast like you back into society willingly. Jake had Jek well and truly under control. You were his captive, subdued virtually to non-existence. Jake is an innocent man. It was you, Jek, that committed those terrible crimes, not him. We couldn’t put Jake on trial. It had to be you in the dock answering for your sins.’
‘So you manufacture a situation where Jake had no choice, yes? When the genie is out of the bottle…’
‘It can’t be put back in,’ she says cutting me off, ‘especially once this particular genie has been reconstructed through a portal. You were sent from the portal in the back of the Reach as Jake, and it was the perfect reconstruction of Jake’s body that was returned. But the brain, the synapses, the tiny electrons whizzing around that go to make up one person or another? Well…’
‘So, now you’ve got me and Jake Redwood is well and truly dead,’ I say, ‘You must be beside yourself with guilt.’
‘I’m sad Jake no longer exists. He was a wonderful man. But you are a monster. The Earth and other planets in the universe will never be safe until you and Krillik are dead.’
‘So, if my fate is death anyway, why should I help you try to capture Krillik? Where’s my percentage in this enterprise?’
‘What you’ll get for your help is a quick, clean and painless execution,’ she says, ‘as opposed to what awaits you if Krillik gets his hands on you.’
‘You make it sound so nice,’ I say.
My time will come and I will make her suffer a long, agonizing, indescribably hellish death.
The plan is for Jane and me to have lunch, not the most brilliant tactic I’ve ever come across in my life as a mercenary. Jane’s booked a table in the restaurant in the wide open space of the atrium on the ground floor of the hotel. We leave the bedroom and make our way to the staircase. She seems nervous and a little twitchy. Why shouldn’t she be? She’s protected from anything I can do to her, but Krillik is a different matter. If he’s close by he’ll be observing our every movement, planning his moves carefully. He’s a clever strategist. He won’t try to rain down missiles on the building this time. We’re in Melville, the town that is home to the only legitimate portal on Earth. He’ll know the airspace for a five hundred mile radius around the portal will be closely monitored and protected by state of the art jet fighters. The pilots will be fitted with anti-vision screens in their helmets. I know. Jane told me not long after she had them designed, commissioned and put into service.
He could follow my example. He could get as far away as possible, the west coast somewhere and find a mall, a special one, with its little silo of secrets. He could drop a 4.5 megaton bomb on Melville. That would get rid of me, the portal, the American government and the UN in one simple move.
But would Grow continue to keep watching his back if he did that? It’s highly unlikely. No, Grow would step aside and let him twist in the wind. His handlers’d think it’s a little bit of an overkill under the circumstances, all that real estate destroyed, and radiation contaminating a shit load more for decades to come. It also wouldn’t play well in Grow’s court case due to come before The Powers if two of Grow’s agents each exploded a nuclear device within a few days of each other.
Besides, I think the UN and the US government will have acted quickly to secure any military establishment that could be turned to the advantage of a Torp. I’ll bet every facility using nuclear materials, from missile bases to power stations, will now have guards with anti-vision screens in their helmets. Same’ll go for any other establishments that deal with weapons of mass destruction of any kind.
I’m surprised at the sheer stupidity of the plan. Right now as I walk down the stairs with Jane the recording they’ve made of my distress pulse is screaming out a distress call. Krillik will be nearby.
We’re acting all natural, harmless, butter wouldn’t melt, as we walk into the restaurant. It’s a nice big public place, all burble and echoey noise, clattering crockery, scraping chairs and business bullshit, loud and whispered. A flunky shows us to our table and we sit down as if we didn’t have a care in the world. All around us are humans, innocent and harmless, minding their own business enjoying a bite of lunch. Every single one of them is a lethal weapon Krillik can use.
We order food. The waiter is a real pro, smooth and fussy. While we’re waiting for our meals we chit-chat as if we too are business types working our break, but I’m pumping her for explanations and she’s letting me know just what she thinks I need to know. I start the ball rolling with an easy one.
‘Where did Abel get the Dreeks from?’
‘The ones at Betty’s Diner?’
‘Were there others?’
‘No,’ she says, ‘just those. They weren’t Dreeks. They were all FBI. We had to scour the ranks to find people with the right build. The rest was done with prosthetics and make-up. The guy you killed was a last minute replacement for an agent that went sick just before the mission started.’
‘I didn’t kill him. You can’t pin that one on me. That’s down to Jake.’
‘I can’t get over the way your sick mind works,’ she says, all indignation, ‘You kill millions of people and don’t bat an eyelid, but you stand your ground on that one guy. Jake would have been perfectly justified in killing him under the circumstances. Jake wasn’t to know he was FBI.’
I up the anti with a trickier question.
‘Why did you keep moving me around?’
She doesn’t answer straight away. It’s a considered response. She’s clearly filtering information before she replies.
‘We needed time to secure the skies. The fighter pilots needed to be re-kitted with anti-vision protection. That took time. So, we kept you on the move in case Krillik could somehow find your location and do to your container what he did to Mary’s farm.’
I know this is bullshit. The low loader carrying my little prison cell would move at a top speed of sixty miles an hour. An F-15 fighter can top mach 1.2 at low altitude and over mach 2.5 if a little higher. Why would she lie about this? I figure it is a time thing but nothing to do with re-kitting pilots. Perhaps they were waiting for a verdict or a judgment from a higher authority or something. Perhaps they got it. They did move me to Melville after all. Since I fried Anglesey, Melville is the only portal they know about down here. If they’d been given the all clear to send me home to face trial they’d have to send me back through the Melville portal.
‘Here’s what I think,’ I say, being a little more friendly towards her, ‘There’s more than one container on a low loader dragging up and down the highways across the country with my distress pulse being broadcasted from it, right?’
She looks across the table at me and says, ‘You’re thinking like a detective, Jek. Go on.’
So I do.
‘I figure my natural distress pulse will radiate about a thousand miles top whack. You’d need what? Twenty, thirty low loaders set up like mine, spread right across the States top to bottom, coast to coast.’
‘I’m listening,’ she says.
‘I’m right, aren’t I?’
‘There’s nothing to be gained or lost in lying to you? Yes, you’re right. We did keep you on the move and it was partly to buy ourselves the time to make your skull head piece, but that wasn’t the main reason. Whatever message your pulse was emitting was sent to twenty eight similar rigs, all looking exactly like the one you were imprisoned inside. They were located throughout the States and all continuously on the move.’
‘You wanted to make sure Krillik could find me, right?’
‘Yes. We figured Krillik would not be traveling so he’d only pick up on one pulse from one container.’
I say smugly, ‘How many did he get?’
‘Eight,’ she says without hesitation, ‘…in the space of about twenty minutes, all air strikes. That’s why we knew we had to secure the skies. We had to play safe and move the low loader with your cell to an underground bunker until the pilots could be properly protected from Krillik’s manipulation.’
‘…and I’ll bet it wasn’t random. I’ll bet the air strikes were hitting the low loaders in a single direction, a straight line moving towards me in Melville.’
‘Right again,’ she says, ‘Clever boy.’
I want to slap her hard for that remark but it wouldn’t do me any good, so I swallow it down and smile.
My time will come.
‘Thank you,’ I say with a forced smile.
‘You know Krillik better than anyone alive,’ she says, ‘How did he figure it out?’
‘Figure what out?’
I pretend I don’t understand what she wants to know but I do. Krillik’s mind is on a higher plain than your common or garden Torp, and he’s very smart. The beacons broadcasting my distress pulse must inevitably overlap at some point. They are pulses emitting an ever expanding signal just like the waves created by a stone thrown into a pond. Throw two stones into a pond and at some point the waves will overlap, interfere with each other’s wave pattern and create patches of disturbance. Krillik would have sensed there was more than one signal, so would have deduced one might be real, but all the others are phonies. So, knowing Krillik, he would have tested the water by obliterating a few to see what happened. Knowing Krillik after the first few hits but no change to the pulses he’d have figured I’d be inaccessible, tucked away somewhere underground nice and safe.
Knowing Krillik he would have guessed it was all a clumsy ruse to trap him. He knows I’ll wind up at the Melville portal sometime. So why waste energy and take risks systematically destroying decoy containers? Why not just head straight to Melville, hunker down and wait for the next clunky attempt to capture him?
She looks at me and instinctively knows I won’t tell her what I think so she drops it.
‘Nothing,’ she says, taking a sip of water.
‘Grow must have been pretty dumb to hire a Phalk as their top legal guy,’ I say. It’s my turn to pump her for information.
‘How would anybody in Grow know he was a Phalk, let alone secretly their species’ top freedom fighter? They just hired the best guy for the job.’
I try my luck with a believable scenario.
‘So, Abel’s sitting at his desk in Grow’s HQ and some guy breezes in, some do-gooder, some low life whistleblower. He hands Abel the video of me and Krillik taking possession of the Storret culture. It must have been a Godsend to him, like all his birthdays had come at once. In that fucking video I even admit to that old bitch of a technician what I intended to do with it.’
‘Almost right,’ she says, ‘It wasn’t a whistleblower. It was a clumsy attempt at blackmail by one of the Dreeks that killed the technician. He found the seed reader on her body and looked at what was on it. He saw an opportunity to make some big money. All he got for his trouble was being abducted by the Arginet freedom fighters. He’s now a key witness for the Phalks and safely locked away somewhere nice and secret until their case to reclaim their planet comes before The Powers.’
‘Does Grow know who Abel really is?’
‘What do you think? Grow sent him here to press the case for your capture and return to face trial in Grow’s courts. Of course they don’t know who he is, dumb ass.’
She picks up on the flash of anger in my eyes but she’s not in the least scared of me this time. She leans across the table and gently takes hold of my chin between her thumb and index finger. I know what’s coming but I don’t move away. She draws back her arm then slaps me hard across my cheek, a stinging blow and loud, so loud the other diners in the restaurant stop whatever they’re doing and look over at us. It’s suddenly deathly quiet in the restaurant. Because it’s now so quiet the sound of her second hard slap across my cheek seems disproportionately loud to its actual force, albeit she put all her shoulder weight behind it. I don’t flinch or react in any way, just keep my eyes locked on hers with ice cold hate.
‘Don’t ever look at me that way again, dumb ass!’
She says the words quietly but everybody in the restaurant hears. A second or two later and the background burble returns. No doubt we are the new subject of everyone’s conversation.
I ache to kill this woman and I feel helpless in my rage. I’m a prisoner and she holds supreme power over me. The skull cap fibrils can inflict indescribable pain at the blink of her eyes. Because I haven’t yet been pronounced guilty by the court, and if I’m lucky, there’s a possibility they’ve used the fibrils of the type that’ll be loosely coiled around the outside of my brain. Those don’t penetrate too far into it. This type can be removed and the person they were planted in still survive with some kind of quality of life, not wind up dead, or worse, a dribbling husk. That’s if I’m lucky. If I’m not it’ll be the type that burrows deep into the subject’s brain. There’s no hope for those poor bastards.
I have to escape. If I remain her prisoner I’m facing a trial and an inevitable death sentence. But how can I ever escape from those holding me prisoner? And if I did then where could I hide? Jane and the people she represents on Earth want me dead for crimes I committed here. Abel and his Phalks are seeking retribution for what I did on Arginet. If I escape from Earth then Abel will hunt me throughout the universe.
Then there’s Noone. He represents The Powers, the ultimate controlling force in the universe. There will be no planet that I could go to that would dare to defy their laws. No one in the universe would give me safe shelter. There would be no refuge.
I’ve only survived as Jek this far because my captors think I can help them catch Krillik, a man they want to bring to book even more than me, a man vital to the Phalks’ case to reclaim their planet. I was safe hidden deep inside Jake Redwood. But that wasn’t being alive, it was barely an existence. Inside Jake I was nothing, tiny electrical charges, nothing more than static. Out here as Jek I am alive, and whilst I’m still alive there’s hope of escape.
And I will.
When I do all those that have made me suffer will be punished. I will rain down such horrors on these people it will be the stuff of legend throughout the universe.
We talk, we eat, nothing happens. If a trap has been set up to capture Krillik, should he be dumb enough to attack the restaurant, I see no evidence of it. Krillik is no fool. He’ll be near but keeping a safe distance. He’ll know that if I’m so blatantly out and about in public places it will be a trap. He’s here for sure, watching, waiting for the right moment.
I won’t be able to pick up his pulse. The cap they’ve bonded to my skull screens off any contact between me and anyone of my species. However, Jane should be able to sense Krillik’s pulse, but I’m convinced she hasn’t. She would have registered any contact in her face, a wince, a movement, a sudden shake of her head. She would also have let whoever else is searching for him know she feels his presence.
It’s my guess Krillik is watching us right now. Not directly. He’ll be watching by proxy, using some poor mutt’s eyes and ears, possibly a waiter or another diner in this room, the guy at the next table perhaps. It’s a little trick Krillik can do that other Torps can’t, a trick Jane obviously doesn’t know about.
These people hunting him are idiots. They underestimate him. They think he’s just a common or garden thug. He’s not. His brain is on a higher plain. He’s razor sharp and as cunning as the king of all foxes. Sure, he’ll be nearby but Jane won’t pick up his pulse. Neither will Abel or Noone. He’ll be wearing some sort of skull shield, a screening device set in tune with his biorhythmic pulses so he can still keep control, still plant visions, but blocking his pulses so he can’t be detected.
We finish the meal and leave the restaurant and head towards the hotel’s lift. There is a restroom alongside the lift entrance.
Jane turns to me and says, ‘I need the restroom. I’ll be half a minute. Unless you can get further than one mile from me in that time I’d advise you to stay exactly where you are.’
She turns from me and goes through the restroom door. I stand like a chastised ten year old being a good boy, doing as I’ve been told.
It’s while I’m waiting for her I see the signs that it was a trap after all. I spot a man walking towards the hotel reception area, young, all muscle and ‘don’t mess with me’ mean looking. He’s dressed like any other Joe but his face is flushed and sweating, and there are red marks visible around his neck, chaffing from an anti-vision visor. I spot another one coming out of the door to the reception desk’s back office. By the time Jane reappears I’ve seen six of these goons.
Jane looks fresher, her face now with a more vivid layer of make-up. To any other red blooded male she would look stunning. To me she’s a dead bitch walking. It’s just a matter of time.
We step into an empty lift and Jane presses the button for the fourth floor. Just as the doors start to close a young, pretty waitress bustles into the lift. She turns her back once inside so she faces the lift doors and stands beside us. She’s carrying a room service tray balanced on her left hand, a silver dome over a plate of food, cutlery and a coffee pot, and a napkin draped over her other hand. Jane has her head bowed, looking at her feet. No one speaks as the doors finally close and the lift starts to slowly ascend.
We’re between the second and third floor when the lift suddenly stops. All power is lost except for the emergency light. I look at Jane. This can’t have been in the script but she just stands there looking at her feet. I smile. Krillik’s making his move. If Krillik is here to kill me I know he’ll kill her right alongside, the one small piece of satisfaction I gain from the hopeless situation I’m now in.
In the dim emergency lighting I see Jane slowly raise her head. I expect her to whip her hand around towards the small of her back to pull out the pistol she keeps hidden under her jacket but she doesn’t. She seems transfixed, as if she doesn’t know how to react, stuck in the lift in near darkness waiting for Krillik to stick it to her.
Suddenly the waitress drops the tray she’s holding and it lands with a clatter, the contents of the tray spilling across the lift floor. At the exact same time she rips away the napkin and swings her right hand round at Jane. In her hand is a Hi-V hand held Taser. It crashes into Jane’s neck, the electrodes delivering a powerful shock that sends her flying backwards against the lift wall. She slides slowly to the floor, the synapses in her brain scrambled to hell. She’s dazed and barely conscious, her eyes wide and staring, fighting hard to make sense of what’s just happened.
The waitress turns to me. When she speaks I hear Krillik’s voice, not that of the puppet he’s using.
‘Jek, I know we’re now enemies but we were once close friends. I was sent by Grow to find and kill you for what you did to them with the Revelation spores. But something is very wrong. I had you in my grasp but Tallip stopped me from killing you. He even helped you escape. Now I believe that I’m also in great danger from Grow.’
I talk quickly and directly to the waitress as if Krillik was standing right in front of me.
‘Abel is a Phalk, the leader of their government in exile. I suspect Tallip was one too. Abel has obtained the seed reader video of us at the Grow portal when we were given the Storret culture. He’s working with Noone and the UN to build a case against Grow to reclaim Arginet and for Grow to give up its claim on this planet.’
The waitress is quiet for a few moments. Then I hear Krillik’s voice talking through her again.
‘Now I understand. We two are the only people that can link what happened on Arginet to Grow, so it will have to eliminate us. We’re to be scapegoats for what Grow ordered us to do on Arginet. We’re both in great danger. Jek, we can survive this if we work together. Will you join me?’
What I say is enough to let Krillik know I’m once again his man. He needs me as much as I need him right now. We are both facing death. We will forget the past until it’s safe again for us to remember it. Then we will settle our differences and only one of us will survive that confrontation. But that’s in the future. We need to live through this now.
‘They’ve fitted me with a pulse skull cap. I’m useless.’
‘Who controls it?’ says Krillik.
‘This bitch with me.’
‘Bring her. Keep her alive but disorientated.’
The waitress gives me the hand held Hi-V. I look down at Jane lying on the floor of the lift. She’s starting to move her arms, brushing her face with her hands as she struggles to regain her wits. I take great pleasure in leaning down towards her and pushing the terminals of the Hi-V hard against her neck. I press the trigger and a belt of electricity is fired through her body. She groans before she passes out, arms and legs once again lifeless, her eyes rolled back in her head. I kneel down beside her, put my head under her arm and lift her over my shoulder.
The power is switched back on as suddenly as it disappeared. The lift jolts back into life and continues its journey but stops at the third floor, not the fourth. The waitress suddenly slumps to the floor as if dead. She’s not. Krillik has released her. He has no further need of her now. In a few minutes she will jerk back into life. She will feel numb for an hour or so, unable to control her speech and her movements. But she’ll be perfectly normal again in a couple of hours. She won’t remember anything about what happened to her when Krillik was in control of her body. She won’t be able to tell tales to Abel and Noone, and their dumb grunts.
The doors open onto the corridor of the third floor. Krillik is standing there, his massive bulk blocking my exit from the lift. His right arm is crooked at the elbow and in his hand he’s holding a hypodermic needle. Standing behind Krillik are two Dreeks. The faintest nod of his head is as a signal to them to step forward into the lift.
‘Welcome back Jek,’ he says, a broad grin breaking out across his puck marked and disfigured face.
End of Part Ten