Bewildering Stories

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Chapter 5: Mind Games

The arrival of the Saturn Weekender caused little stir or commotion on the seven mile wide chunk of rock. They had been on the homing beacon for three days and their docking was choreographed down to the second. They had traveled just under 21 million miles in nine point nine days, using most of their fuel because of the speeds involved and the braking necessary to dock with the spinning rock. They had no planet to orbit and no other way to bleed off speed. It took exactly as much fuel to slow to docking speed as it took to accelerate, minus the amount required to brake the mass represented by fuel burned from their tanks.

A number of computers linked to every function of the ship made the operation easy, requiring only a certified helmsman and one officer on deck to supervise. When they were safely attached to the hulk of the old troop carrier that was their base, the Blanchard family was taken off and shown to new quarters. Joey was to have his own rooms and he went with the men without any resistance. He already knew this was coming and they knew he knew.

As soon as he met the men at the base he knew they were different. They looked and acted like androids, in fact more like androids than some real androids he had seen. But their minds were readable and quite human. They had a lot of pain memories and as he got the chance to read them, he soon realized that they were actual persons who had been given some kind of mechanical bodies. It was not long after he made that discovery that he began to see how they might be beaten.

Charlie Ramos was off-loaded along with the rest of the cargo and into a storage area. When everyone went to lunch, he was free to move about as long as he was careful not to be seen. On a ship the size of the old troop carrier, there were plenty of places to fade out of sight and still see what was going on. In his exploration, he soon learned that Joey Blanchard was separated from his family and where the boy was located. By moving through ventilators and pipe chases, Charlie was able to overhear conversations and he didn't like any of what he was hearing. Things were going to get rough and nasty and he was sure he was going to need help. He had no doubt that Ben was out there somewhere, following the lead he had left for him, but the big android would probably need some help. Charlie set about finding the radio equipment. He would need to get off a message or activate a beacon somehow.

Within twelve hours of their arrival at the asteroid base, Joey had his first session with the syndicate. They had simply come to his room and made him a business proposition. Two of the man-things, the ones with the artificial bodies, had set him in a chair and a third guy had talked to him at some length. Joey felt like this third guy was talking down to him, like he was a baby, and it sort of pissed him off. It started out pretty easy.

"Joey, how ya feelin'?" the man asked.

"Okay, but I wanta go home."

"Yeah, kid, I know. And we wanna get ya there, just as soon as we can. But first we gotta have us an arrangement."

Liar! Joey thought. These bastards won't ever take me home. It's right there in his mind. They'll keep me forever. And they'll kill Mom and Dad when they don't need 'em anymore. "What kind of arrangement?"

"We need you to do some work for us. See, we know what you can do, kid."

"What is it that you think I can do?" Careful, careful, don't screw this up.

"You can see things with your mind. You can make things happen from a long ways away. They say you were the kid that crashed the Mindgames, all the way from Mars."

"Is that what they say?"

"Yeah." The man leaned closer. His breath smelled like peppermint. "That's what they say. So, how about it?"

"What if I just tell you to go shit in your hat?"

The man's bark of laughter was completely unexpected, and put Joey back a little. Then the man stopped laughing and said, "Joey, I like you. You got spunk. Spunk is good. But just understand this. We've got your Ma, and we've got your Dad. I'm sure you don't want nothin' bad should happen to 'em. Am I right, or am I right?"

"Right." Joey whispered.

"Then we need you to show us some of your tricks."

Joey slumped in his chair, the picture of defeat. "What would you like to see?"

Aboard Nimrod, Captain Hollister was paged from her cabin. She stepped onto the bridge, her features puffy from sleep, and accepted a cup of strong coffee from her ensign. "What's goin' on, Mr. Dover?"

"We had a radio contact, Ma'am. It's gone now, but it was good and strong. We had time to track it and get a fix on its course."

"Voice transmission?"

"Negative, Ma'am. Radio beacon, unknown code. We got lucky and caught it on our scanners. It was on an old shipping frequency, clear down in the 800 megahertz range."

"Outstanding, Mr. Dover. You may alter course, then. Let's track it down."

"Aye, aye, Ma'am. Helm, make your course 228 relative."

"228 relative, Aye, Sir." the helm responded.

"Begin braking sequences also," Hollister commanded, "We don't wanna run right over 'em."

"Roger that, Ma'am," the ensign concurred, "we've got a lot of inertia to get rid of."

Overdrive Olsen's converted cutter, the Evangeline, was making one hundred ten thousand miles per hour and it wasn't enough. He knew the old girl had more than that in her and even though she was kicking up her skirts, he wasn't satisfied.

From his command chair on the bridge, he picked up the phone and punched in the code for his engineer.

"Yeah?" the voice of the engineer, Tiger Guerrero, was tinny and far away. Damn phone systems, anyway.

"Tiger. Captain Olsen. Won't this bucket go any faster?" He held the phone away from his ear as Tiger went through his usual rant of screaming protests about his engines, then, as it subsided, he spoke calmly and rationally into the instrument.

"Look, Tiger, if you break one of your lovely engines, I'll buy you a brand new, shiny one. Now, gimme more speed, goddamn it!" He slammed the phone down, cutting Tiger off in mid-bitch. Tiger claimed to be of Phillipino stock and much of his temperament was a put-on, Olsen suspected. Most of his crew consisted of whack-os and misfits anyway, so he was used to bitching and screaming. But when the chips were down, they were a damn fine bunch and they'd get the job done.

"Show us some of your pretty pictures, Joey." The man with the peppermint breath said, "Show us what you did at the Mindgames."

"I didn't do anything at the Mindgames," Joey protested, "I was just there. 'Course, I coulda."

"Coulda what?"

"I coulda shown those guys up, if I wanted to. They were weak. They were usin' amps."


"Yeah, big amplifiers, projectors, sorta, you know."

"And you wouldn't need no amp? Is that what you're sayin'?"

"Naw, I could do that stuff just by myself."

"All the way from Mars?"

"Sure. No problem."

"Show us."

"What? You don't believe me?"

"I believe what I can see, Joey, and so far all I see is a kid in a chair blowin' hot air."

Joey didn't even close his eyes. He just turned and looked at the wall and as the men also turned to look, the metal of the wall first stretched, then showed the shape of huge claws, then with a creaking and popping sound, the claws broke through the metal. The men stepped back, even though they knew this could not be real. It was an involuntary reaction to what their senses told them was real.

From behind the wall a primal scream of rage bellowed out, shaking the room, then the metal wall let go with a screech and collapsed inward and the monster was in the room with them. It was not a Tyrannosaurus and it was not Velociraptor. It was much worse. It was the nightmare of a child who has seen all the horror movies, all the monster movies, all the chop and slash and gore movies and still couldn't get enough.

The foulness of the thing's breath alone made the men gag and draw back even farther. Its hot exhalations reeked of raw meat and sour blood and slime dripped from multiple rows of six-inch teeth. Its nostrils blew as it stepped closer and the men felt their hair flutter. Its pinkish eyes focused on them and they saw its slitted irises dilate. Scaly skin drooped from its limbs and a slime trail formed as it crossed the floor. It reached out a forelimb and delicately touched the chest of one of the men and opened its maggot-filled mouth to utter one word:


The man shrieked and jumped back, slamming against the wall, then he shuddered to the floor.

"Enough!" Peppermint-breath yelled, and the apparition slowly dissolved. The stench disappeared and the wall reformed into solidity.

"Jesus!" the man on the floor breathed.

"No, it's Joey," the young Blanchard said, "and I'm just gettin' warmed up."

The helmsman jumped a little when the loud-hailer sounded, its raucous noise echoing around the bridge of Evangeline.

They had been slowing for three days, under reversed engines and closing on the point in space where the radio signal had come from. The helmsman checked his screens and saw nothing. He picked up his radio mike and keyed it. "What ship?" was all he said.

"Federation Cutter Nimrod. Captain Hollister sends greetings and asks that you uncloak your vessel and prepare to be boarded. Have your ship's master, logs, registration and personnel available for examination."

"Oh shit." the helmsman said, and called for the captain.

Olsen and Ben came on deck in a few minutes. "What's the problem?" Olsen asked.

"Federation Cutter Nimrod, sir. They want to board us."

"Again, I say, what's the problem? We're perfectly legal here."

"Oh, yeah," the helmsman breathed, "I forgot."

Olsen picked up the hand mike and called, "Nimrod, Nimrod, this is Evangeline. We will welcome your inspection and be standing by for your boarding party."

"Is this going to delay us any?" Ben asked.

"Well, they haven't asked us to 'heave to' or change course, so I'd say no."

Ben was impressed with the conduct and courtesy of the Nimrod crew as they boarded and inspected Evangeline. They found no contraband or anything questionable about the crew, cargo or papers. Olsen invited captain Hollister to the officer's mess for coffee and made sure Ben was there as well.

As coffee was poured and passed around the tiny table, Mamie Hollister noted that Ben declined. There was something about him. His handshake, the way he moved.

"You're an artificial." She said, looking Ben straight in the eye.

"Yes, ma'am, generation two. Benjamin model, number 2108."

She turned her attention to Overdrive Olsen. "What are ya doin' way out here, burnin' up perfectly good fuel, with nothin' illegal aboard? It's not like you, Olsen."

"We're under.charter. From Ben, here."

"Under charter, huh? What kind of a charter?" Her eyes told of her suspicions.

Ben spoke up, rescuing Olsen from the keenness of her gaze.

"I'm an investigator from Earth. Eagle Eye Investigations. I hired Captain Olsen to take me out and find my boss. His name is Charlie Ramos."

"And what is Mr. Ramos doing out here? What's the nature of your investigation?"

"Kidnapping. A family was taken from Mars. The child of the family is a telepath. My boss managed to get on the ship they left in."

"The Blanchards."

"Yes. The Blanchards. We picked up a beacon-" the Captain held up her hand.

"We picked it up, too. That's where we're headed also. I figure six hours, sound about right to you?"

Ben shrugged and looked at Olsen. Olsen nodded thoughtfully, then said, "I hope this isn't going to involve gunplay. We're unarmed."

"Hard to say. But if we have to, I can open up our armory and equip you."

"By the time we find out, it'll be too late."

Emmel Waltman was only three compartments away when Joey put on his monster demonstration and proved that he could scare even seasoned gangsters shitless. He felt the full force of the boy's telepathic powers and he witnessed what Joey created.

He realized immediately that he was out of his league and that the boy might already know about him and what he had agreed to do. He would have to carefully guard his thoughts to remain safe and undetected, if it was not already too late. He was already starting to regret his bargain, even though to have turned it down would have been to die. He did not know it yet, but the regret he was feeling now was only the tip of the iceberg of sorrow that would eventually chill his soul.

"What else kin ya do, kid?"

Joey wondered how much he should show, how much would keep him and his parents safe.

"I can read minds."

"Can you read mine?" the man with the peppermint breath asked.

"Yeah, you think I'm fulla shit, but you're also scared of me. And you're worried about your wife. You think she's screwing around on ya."

The man's face turned darker, but he maintained his composure. "How 'bout readin' somebody else? Somebody farther away? Can ya do that?"

"Yeah," Joey said, "how 'bout your boss?"

"The big guy? I don't think."

"Too late. Already done. He thinks you're a screw-up. And he's thinkin' about havin' somebody whack you. He's also the one that's doin' your wife."

"Wha... Jesus Christ! That mother..."

"Now, you," Joey was pointing at another of the men, "you're not really even human. They've given you an android's body, but you weren't always that way. You were a.regular person, but you had.a, an operation. Ohh, that's nasty."

Peppermint breath said, "Okay Joey, I think that's enough for today." Then he turned to one of the others and said, "Go ahead and take him back. I gotta go see the boss."

"He keeps it in his upper right desk drawer." Joey said.

"What?" Peppermint was staring at Joey now, his curiosity aroused.

"The gun he's going to kill you with when you confront him about your wife."

Emmel Waltman chuckled to himself and shook his head. "You little shit." he mused. He had read the conversation and he knew exactly what Joey was up to. And it might just work, too. Gangsters would be very easy to turn against one another. But the result might be deadly to them all. This would bear watching. He stood up and put on a faded pair of coveralls and grabbed his mop bucket. Time to get into character.

Charlie Ramos was just outside the compartment where Joey demonstrated his talents, inside an air duct, and even though he had an idea it must have been a hell of a show, he saw and heard nothing. Everything the men had seen was based on the perception of the human mind being influenced by another more powerful mind. None of it worked for Charlie and he considered this an advantage. No matter what Joey caused the others to see, his mind would remain tuned to reality.

"Mayday, Mayday. This is Evangeline, Mars registration, with in-flight emergency. Any station, Mayday, Mayday! This is Evangeline."

The radio operator on the asteroid base jumped in his chair and then, without a second thought answered.

"Evangeline, what is the nature of your emergency?"

The reply seemed weak and partially broken. "We have met---ite -amage and have -ost compression. All survivors are suited --. We -eed to put in for repairs and to rees---lish hull pressure. Are you nearby?"

Now the radio operator hesitated. He knew to give away their location was risky, but Federation Space Navigation rules were clear-they must assist any craft that declared an emergency. The radio operator flipped on his Nav beacon, a device that was normally left off, except when they were expecting ships.

"Evangeline, our Nav beacon is on. You are cleared to land." He said, then he reached to another switch on his panel and activated the alert horns.

Aboard Evangeline, Ben and Olsen stood on the bridge and listened to the conversation first hand. "Well, that should get us aboard." Ben said.

Mamie Hollister nodded and said, "I'd better get back to the Nimrod. I'll wait for your signal. When you're sure the Blanchards are there, don't wait. Send it immediately."

Charlie heard the alert horns sounding throughout the complex that had been built from an old troop carrier. In addition, yellow beacons were flashing at intervals along the ceilings. He didn't know what the horns were for and he at first suspected that his presence aboard the station had been discovered. But he didn't see how that could have occurred, and he soon put that down to paranoia. From one of his hiding places, he watched men running to suit stations and suiting up and he realized something was arriving, or the clandestine hideout was coming under attack. Knowing that one person looks much like any other in a space suit, he soon located an extra suit and donned it so that he could move about more freely and see what was going on.

In their private quarters, the Blanchard family heard the alert horns and Joey reached out with his mind to see what was going on. He soon reported that it seemed to be some kind of rescue attempt, and that there were two ships, one landing and one standing off, cloaked. His parents were just digesting this information when there was a knock at there door and a janitor stuck his head inside.

"You folks need to suit up. We're getting visitors. You'll find everything you need in those lockers over there." He smiled at Joey, then ducked out. As he left, Joey tried to read him and found his mind well guarded. It was like trying to see through a dirty window and pushing at stretchy fabric at the same time. Something seemed familiar though, and for some reason Joey's mind slipped back to the suffocating feeling he'd had at the Mindgames and the taste of ashtrays and cough medicine. The feeling he'd had of sitting in the lap of a dirty old man was there again momentarily, then it was gone like smoke.

As the Evangeline docked with the old ship embedded in the rock of the unnamed asteroid, Charlie Ramos stood with the receiving crew. He hoped they wouldn't notice that he was the only one not wearing a weapon. He had the gun belt rig strapped on, but the holster was empty. Looking out through a nearby view port, he watched the slow ballet of maneuvering of the Evangeline as it settled onto the docking ring. He had never seen or heard of this ship before and he had no way of knowing if Ben was aboard or if there really was an emergency. He was betting it was a ruse, but he was not sure until the personnel from Evangeline came through the docking tunnel one by one. The second one off was Ben. Charlie stood by with the others as all of the crew from Evangeline were checked for weapons. By the time this was done, he knew Ben had spotted him, but wisely, the big android showed no sign. Several of the cyborg guards accompanied the newcomers to quarters and Charlie knew they would be constantly watched over. At his first opportunity he would slip away and get out of his suit and into whatever passageways or air ducts he needed to use to get to Ben.

The janitor knocked and stuck his head in again and said, "All clear, folks. You can unsuit now."

Joey looked at him and sent his thoughts very clearly. "I know who you are."

Emmel Waltman gave no sign, but backed out and shut the door.

Could he be wrong? Joey wondered. This janitor had one of the artificial bodies, but in order to shut him out so effectively, he had to be a telepath. There weren't that many of them. Besides he felt like the same presence as at the Mindgames.

Why would someone that talented be mopping floors in the very place they had taken the Blanchards?

Emmel Waltman headed straight back to his quarters. He didn't like this shit, not one little bit. These guys thought he was going to be able to handle this kid, but Emmel knew better. There was no way. The kid was just too strong. It would only be a matter of time before the kid would know everything. Waltman's relatives had already collected his meager life insurance benefits and had no idea he was still actually alive somewhere. If it was established that he was still breathing and walking around somewhere, it would not only mean forfeiture of those benefits, but he would probably be charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. He was regretting more and more his involvement with the syndicate, but he had no idea which way to turn. When he reached his quarters, he dug around in his locker until he found his gun. It was an antique Colt revolver he'd managed to smuggle in and he'd never fired it. He wasn't even sure it would fire, but he felt better, somehow, when he tucked it into his belt, in the back, under his shirt.

Ben, Olsen and two other crew members had been in their assigned room for only a few minutes when they heard a voice from the air duct that supplied their room. It was above head level in the wall. Ben recognized the voice at once.

"Charlie! You okay?"

"Yeah, how ya doin'?"

"I dunno. Is the kid here?"

"Oh yeah. They've been having him give little demonstrations. They haven't asked him to do anything bad yet."

"Good. I can call in the cavalry and we can get out of here."

"The cavalry?"

"Yeah. We've got a Federation cutter standing off, cloaked, waiting for us to call."

"Whoa, wait a minute. Let's think about this. If the Feds show up, the kid'll be in more danger. They'll use him as a hostage to force us to back off. And the Feds might not back off at all."

"So what do we do?" Olsen asked.

"Who's this guy?" Charlie asked.

"Overdrive Olsen, Captain of the Evangeline. He seems to be trustworthy."

"Okay. It's best we get the Blanchard family off this rock and onto your ship. As we take off, the Feds can move in and handle these syndicate types."

"Sounds good to me. How we gonna do it?"

"I know where the Blanchard family's being held. I'll go get 'em and bring 'em here, then we'll get 'em out."

It was Emmel Waltman who raised the alarm. He realized something was going down just as soon as the Blanchard family crawled out of their confinement and into the air duct that Charlie Ramos had kicked open in their rooms. The kid was so excited he was broadcasting like crazy and Waltman picked it right out of the air. By the time Charlie and the Blanchards had made it to the quarters where Olsen and Ben were being kept, everyone in the complex was looking for them. They had heard all the horns sounding and the commotion of running men and Joey told them they were being hunted. It made no difference. They would all be caught anyway if they hesitated.

Ben pounded on the inside of their door, yelling "Fire! Fire!" and their guard responded. He was quickly overpowered by Ben and Charlie and they were none too gentle with him. For the moment, the corridor outside their room was empty. They set about finding the rest of Olsen's crew and in less than two minutes they had a sizable group of men assembled. Now they needed a distraction.

"Call the Feds." Charlie told Ben.

From an inner pocket Ben produced a hand-held two way radio. It was a good thing their hosts hadn't examined it closely-it had "Nimrod" stenciled on the back. He called the cutter Nimrod and he recognized the voice of Hollister herself on the radio. She was all too ready to uncloak her ship and move in. Seconds later, the horns throughout the complex began their raucous note again as the cutter uncloaked and was recognized.

"All right. Let's get to the ship." Charlie said, "Ben, take the lead."

They hadn't gone more than thirty or forty yards when they heard running feet, coming their way.

"Oh, shit," Ben said, "now what?"

Charlie turned to the Blanchards. "Joey, can ya fake 'em out?"

"I can try." the boy said, and this time he closed his eyes.

When the cyborgs and other men from the syndicate charged down the passageway toward the compartments the prisoners had just left, they saw only an empty corridor. The Blanchards and the rest all had to press themselves against the walls as they ran by to keep from being run down by the mob.

After they went by, Charlie told Joey, "Hold 'em as long as ya can, son. C'mon, let's hurry." Again, they started for the Evangeline.

Joey kept their progress secret, deflecting the attention of their captors right up until they reached the docking tube and found their way blocked by Emmel Waltman. He was holding an antique firearm and pointing it at them.

"It's that man." Joey said.

"What man?" Charlie asked.

"The one from the mind games. He's got a new body, but it's him."



"That's right," Waltman said, "it's me, in the flesh, so to speak." Charlie didn't like the way he was grinning. He had an almost maniacal look of stubbornness on his features. "You know I can't let you leave with him."

"Do you really think you can stop us?" Ben asked.

"I can stop him," Waltman said, "and he's what really counts. Leave him and y'all can go."

"I don't see it happenin'." Charlie said. "Why are you helpin' these syndicate pukes, anyway?"

Waltman shrugged and said, "They gave me my life back. I owe them."

"Let us pass."

Waltman cocked the revolver and smiled tightly. "Not a chance."

Charlie's analytical mind classified the weapon even as it raced to find a solution. Colt Diamondback revolver-six shot, Cal. 38 Special-muzzle velocity just under nine hundred feet per second-if it will fire at all.

Charlie saw Ben moving from his left and immediately knew what the big android was up to. He had a history of putting himself in front of loaded guns and the repairs were damned expensive.

Waltman was momentarily distracted and Charlie hissed, "Joey! Can ya take him?"

"I'm trying!" the child gasped. His mouth was hanging open, his breathing harsh with the effort of trying to control the other telepath. Then the gun fired and the boy collapsed just as Ben landed on Emmel Waltman.

The next few minutes would always seem blurred to Charlie, no matter how many times he accessed the memory files. He scooped up Joey as Ben was clubbing Waltman unconscious and ran with the boy into the docking tube. None of them wore suits, but they were willing to take their chances to escape. As the lock was equalizing, he heard Joey's mother wailing and he was sure at that point that Joey would die. The bullet had struck him in the head and humans had a poor record of survival from massive head trauma.

"There's no sick bay aboard Evangeline that amounts to anything." Olsen said. "We'll have to get him to Nimrod as soon as we can."

The crew scrambled to their posts and they quickly moved the ship away, while the Nimrod and her crew attacked and arrested the syndicate thugs.

There was a further delay as both ships took on fuel from the syndicate stores, then they lit their engines and made their best possible speed for Mars.

The syndicate kidnappers were all in the brig aboard Nimrod and Waltman had the luxury of a cell all to himself. As they made the flight, Joey continued to hold on. He was given synthetic blood and IV fluids and kept as comfortable as possible. The bullet had struck his temple and exited through the roof of his mouth. The medics had found it lodged in his throat and removed it.

While they were still enroute he passed through a period of brain swelling which then diminished. Charlie and Ben could do nothing but pace the decks and worry throughout the nine day passage, expecting to hear at any moment that Joey had died.

When they at last reached Mars Station, Joey was evaluated and transferred to the hospital at New Pittsburg. Charlie and Ben rode the shuttle down and were met at the spaceport by Detective Harms.

They shook hands all around and this time Charlie could detect no hesitation or reluctance in the man's manner. He seemed genuinely pleased to see them.

"Hell of a thing," he said, shaking his head, "to get that close, then have the kid get shot."

"Yeah," Charlie said, "if I had it to do over again, I'm not so sure I wouldn't have just let the Feds handle it."

"Well, ya can't go back. How soon's your ship gonna be leavin'?"

"Couple days, why?"

"You stayin' at the Hilton again?"

"Might as well. This trip has lost us money anyway. My partner gave Olsen fifty thousand credits when he could've got him for ten, probably."

"Well then, let me give you a free ride to your hotel, and I might even buy dinner."

As they piled into Harms' unmarked car in the fading purple twilight of the dome, Charlie reflected on how he still didn't like the smell of the place.

By the time Charlie and Ben had made the five-week transit to Earth, they learned that Joey was on his way to a full recovery, except that he would be permanently blind in his left eye. The bullet had severed the optic nerve as it plowed through his head. His parents also reported that he no longer seemed to be possessed of his telepathic abilities. He had little or no memory of the entire episode, but for all that he seemed pretty normal and happy.

Emmel Waltman was to be tried for attempted murder as well as conspiracy to kidnap. Both carried life sentences, which for a cyborg could mean several hundred years of confinement in the maximum security facility on Luna.

Charlie was able to report to the World Mindfighting Federation that their troubles with the Mars telepath were over and he collected the contracted fee. His losses on the job amounted to several thousand credits, but he knew his business would be bolstered by recommendations he might receive from persons associated with that organization.

A week after their return, Ben came into Charlie's office one morning waving a telex he had received from Cindy, aboard Galileo. She would be docking at Earth station in three more weeks and hoped he could meet her.

"No problem, Ben," Charlie said, "you deserve some time off, anyway."

"What do suppose it would take for two androids to get married?" Ben asked, in a dreamy voice.

"I don't know, Ben, but you might see if you can find an android priest..."

Emmel Waltman was eventually tried and during the course of his trial managed to convince a jury of the manner in which he was framed and made a victim in the entire affair. He drew only forty years in confinement on Luna. He would still be able to look forward to some good years after he was released, provided his cybernetic body held up.

On the third night of his confinement, just as he was settling in to go to sleep, a presence seemed to fill his cell, and deep within the recesses of his mind, the voice of Joey Blanchard said, "Emmel, I forgive you."

The old telepath turned on his side to face the concrete wall and wished that his cybernetic body possessed the ability to cry.

Copyright © 2002 by Kenneth James Crist

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4