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The Antar Chronicles, Chapter 8: Universal Law Strikes Again
Reply to Alex Parrish
Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list June 25, 2004
"What the... Where the... Where the fuck am I?" As expected, Michael was totally disoriented when he woke. Maria, Jesse and Isabel were instantly at his side, calming him and explaining the situation. All he could remember was boarding the ship with Seed and Kier and several hours later, deciding to sleep. Then he woke up here.
"And where the hell are my clothes?"
Jesse began a search, eventually finding them in a trash container in the room where Cur had been imprisoned. They stunk, and upon further examination it appeared they had been cut off and were totally destroyed. One of the Security force offered to get Michael a spare uniform. He returned with a jumpsuit. It was the largest they had but it was still a little short on Michael, but good enough for now. Isabel used her powers to enlarge it enough to make it comfortable for Michael's generous frame.
Liz and I waited patiently for Max to wake, each commanding one side of the table. Occasionally, Liz would reach up and stroke his hair or his cheek, but I was a little self-conscious with strangers around. Don't know why, I just was.
Another fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes went by, and by then pretty much everybody's attention was on Max. The Doctor came over and waved a small instrument around Max.
"Umm huh, umm huh? umm huh."
I'm not translating, that is exactly what he said; I swear to you. Apparently it is some kind of universal medical language known throughout the entire universe (even on Earth) only to doctors.
I tried to lighten the mood. "Eh...what's up Doc?" Nobody laughed.
"Everything seems perfectly normal as far as I can tell. He is merely sleeping. His temperature, pulse, breathing, everything appears normal. He should wake at any moment."
Ten, fifteen, twenty more minutes pass. Max sleeps. This time the doctor hooks up some additional equipment: some patches on Max's chest and a device on his forehead.
"Umm huh, umm huh? umm huh." The Doctor looked a little more concerned, but again announced that all was well. Nevertheless, this time he remained at Max's side.
Jesse had taken Isabel to the other side of the room, but I could hear her saying "But, why isn't he WAKING UP?" again and again as Jesse tried to calm her. She was crying again.
I decided I needed to get more closely involved. I announced I was going to read Max's thoughts. Everyone looked more hopeful, but their hopes were dashed when I had to tell them that all I got from Max was a kind of 'white-noise.'
I considered a dream-walk, but this was hardly the environment for creating a dream state. I doubted I could even manage to sleep, let alone enter the dream. And besides, I was not willing to risk going to sleep myself and not being here when Max woke. I was about to ask Isabel to do it, but Isabel was plenty upset already, and I thought it best not to add to her distress. I set-aside the idea. There would be a better time and a better place for doing it later if it was needed. I desperately wanted and needed to believe that it wouldn't be necessary.
Liz was on the verge of tears. So was I. Another fifteen minutes passed. This time the Doctor wheeled over a larger piece of equipment. After another five minutes with the machine the Doctor once again pronounced everything in order.
That was it! I had reached my limit!
"What the hell do you mean, everything's in order? He's not waking up! What the hell is going on?" I was pretty pissed, mostly out of fear. Liz tried unsuccessfully to calm me a little. I was shaking.
The Doctor looked perplexed, and I'm sure I wasn't helping the situation. I had no choice; I was operating on pure fear. He took me by the elbow, motioning with his head, and led me to a chair, pulling another up in front of me.
"Please understand, it is my medical opinion that everything possible has been done for this patient. Nothing is medically wrong with him that I can ascertain. His vital signs are perfect. There is plenty of evidence of brain activity, both in motor and cognitive areas. I believe that, for some reason, he has simply chosen not to wake. This might be a psychological condition brought on by the shock to his systems. He may wake up momentarily or he may just linger in this state for... for an indeterminate period of time. My best advice is to continue to have people who care about him around, stimulating him. This is the best thing for him. Then, I can only recommend he be taken to someplace which has a more thorough understanding of the human psyche than we have here on Maroon -- preferably his place of origin."
I think my jaw dropped open, but nothing came out.
"That's... that's not possible." Michael was standing behind me, and placed both hands on my shoulders and I was too shocked to even wince. Quietly Michael said, "We need a second opinion."
The doctor thought for a moment and then responded. "I understand that you were headed for Antar. That is good. The medical facilities there are among the finest in the galaxy."
My head was swimming. I put my elbows on my knees and buried my face in my hands. I wasn't exactly crying, but there was this terrible pain in my throat, and I knew I couldn't speak. Michael was rubbing my back.
Michael knelt down beside me. "Listen, it'll be OK. When we get to Antar, we'll get him the best medical care possible. Everything's gonna be OK -- I promise." He was speaking quietly in my ear. He stayed with me that way, head-to-head, arm around my throbbing shoulder, and in a moment I could feel the hot tears silently streaking my cheeks. At least, I wasn't crying out-loud in front of everybody.
On my own, without even asking permission, I scanned Michael's thoughts to see if he really believed what he had said. I found that he had already moved on from that thought and was thinking instead, about me. He was asking himself what he could do to help me get through this. I hadn't expected this. My tears stopped and I blew my crooked nose and decided that there was something which would benefit both of us in his concern.
"Michael," I asked very quietly, "Would you do me a favor?"
"It's my shoulder. My right shoulder is killing me. I seem to have wrenched it pretty bad. Do you think you could fix it for me?"
He froze for a second or two, and then almost got half of a crooked grin on his face and said, "Yeah, bro... , I can do that for you." Then he just did it, quietly, without any fuss, and without anyone noticing.
"Thanks. I owe you."
"No... you don't." He rose and went to help Maria comfort Liz.
I was a little ashamed. I had entered his thoughts without permission, breaking my promise not to do so, but I was pleased with the end result. I warned myself of the 'slippery slope,' and resolved never to do it again, then put it out of my mind and returned to Max's side.
Max slept. It occurred to me that Max wasn't even snoring. He almost always snores -- quietly -- but he snores. Not today.
In four hours, we were ready to leave Maroon. The Antarian Security Force was efficient, if somewhat cold. In response, I tried to appear stoic. It wouldn't do for them to see their Avatar losing-it right in front of everyone. They saw to it that nothing about our presence on Maroon could be confirmed, and our exit was to be invisible. We would all leave the same way Max, Michael and Maria had arrived. They outfitted a large cargo container with as many creature-comforts as they could scrounge, and then herded us in.
Their original idea was to remove only Max, Michael and Maria in the container, letting the rest of us leave as we had come. I wasn't buying that scenario under any circumstances. I had lost Max once and there wasn't going to be any chance of a second time. It was an ultimatum.
Michael was understandably suspicious of the plan. Who wouldn't be after what he had been through? To ease his fears I conducted a thorough person-by-person thought-reading session and allowed Michael to interrogate each of our rescuers while I scanned them. The Antarians were patient and cooperative. Of course, they really couldn't have behaved otherwise given who they were dealing with, could they?
In the course of our interrogation we learned that the Antarian Security Force discovered our situation shortly after Kier and Seed's ship first left the cover of Earth's moon. Kier -- the real Kier -- managed to escape from some rather bungling kidnappers and went right to the Council representative. Neither Kier's nor Seed's family was ever in danger, that was a ruse.
The Council decided that they had no choice but to turn to the Antarian Security Force, but they managed to secure a top-secret elite unit to handle the operation. The soldiers immediately apprehended the bungling kidnappers, smalltime crooks, who had been holding Kier, and thereby learned most of the details of the plot.
The trail led directly back to a mole on the council, and when the council convened in emergency session, the perpetrator was already known to the leaders of the council. They had discovered that one council member, Ardaenias, a commoner for the planet Prota'ar, had connections with Gal'vign'nkorr which went back nearly a century. When the traitor was confronted, he admitted everything. He proudly proclaimed himself a patriot, saving the Antarian Federation from an eventual invasion and enslavement by Earth.
Further investigation disclosed, however, that Ardaenias had been closely associated with one of the ruling houses on Usa'ar which fomented the Rebellion, later changing sides when the rebellion began to come undone.
Council members who had vouched for him in the past claimed that they believed him to be a genuine supporter of the King, but others said that Ardaenias had, on occasion, expressed fear of reprisal over past disloyalty. He was particularly fearful of Rath. Added to that was the fact that his business had been completely ruined by the war and he had been concealing the fact that he was nearly destitute. He had been surviving on loans from usurious lenders and he desperately needed the money.
The picture was simple but complete. Ardaenias needed the money and was afraid of Rath. Given the Rebellion's history, it is surprising that there aren't more compromised council members, but so far, no one has uncovered any more plots.
What had we gotten ourselves into?)
Antarian custom called for a summary judgment of death, but the council took the unheard-of step of incarcerating him to appear before the King when he arrived.
(My immediate thought was, "This is a test. The council is testing us to see how we handle it, and to test if we can live up to their expectations of a more 'humane' approach. We'd better put our heads together on this matter as soon as Max is with us. This could be our "Kobiashi Maru"** and we need to find a way to change the ground-rules in order to succeed.")
The Antarian Security Force team was actually present on Maroon before the ship holding Max docked, and they had been tracking our ship for days before we arrived. They avoided direct contact because they were very suspicious that Vilandra might have played a part in the plot.
Kivar's ship, which was to have a rendezvous with the kidnappers to exchange megabucks for Max and Michael popsicles, actually never left orbit from Usa'ar, the planet where Kivar was based. It was turned back immediately by the Antarian forces. It was not until the debriefing with Kuhn and Ray that security was fully convinced that Isabel was not somehow involved in the plot. At that point they had to admit that they could not tie her to Ardaenias, and there just was no evidence that she had participated.
Finally being satisfied with the answers he received, Michael grudgingly gave the exit plan his support and put up no fuss when the time came to load us into the cargo carrier. As it turned out, I should have been the one putting up a fuss.
Max was brought in on a gurney which was then strapped down. We were to remain in the cargo container until our spaceship was clear and away from Maroon and had docked with the Antarian flagship which was en route from Antar since several days ago. The flagship was now approaching Maroon on a 'secret mission.' Isabel complained that it was too dark --there was only minimal light in the container -- but that was no problem for me. I could have read a book. There was a sufficient air-supply for nearly three weeks, even though our confinement was only expected to last 6-8 hours. There was some prepackaged Antarian food and the local version of a 'porta-potty' with a makeshift curtain for modesty.
I had no idea that I got space-sick, or cargo-container-sick, or motion-sick or whatever it was, or perhaps it was heart-sick. All I can say is that it was six-and-a-half of the most miserable hours I have ever spent in a cargo-container. The ride was particularly rough and bumpy and we couldn't even really bitch out-loud. I was too damn proud to hurl my guts into the porta-potty, so it was six-and-a-half solid hours of concentrating on not puking. Everything about the movement of the cargo container went as planned, due I think, to some well-greased palms along the way. At six-and-a-half hours the leader of the security detail broke open the seal and opened the container and we found ourselves in the cargo bay of a spacious vessel. Four of the crew were at the ready to carry Max's gurney to the private quarters which had been set aside for the VIP cargo, us.
Liz and I announced that she and I would be sharing the same quarters with Max. No one dared object, even though the quarters had obviously been designed for only two officers. That meant it was quite crowded and it limited visitors to one-at-a-time, perhaps not a bad thing. The Mess Officer sent up some food without even bothering to ask if we wanted to come to the Mess. He had prepared some rather bland dishes by Antarian standards. I'm not sure if that was because he anticipated our human tastebuds, or he if he knew I had been 'sick as a dog' during the journey. I asked the crew-woman who delivered the food to thank the cook for his/her thoughtfulness. I nibbled, but couldn't eat much, and neither could Liz. We looked forward to getting a little sleep, each insisting that the other should go first; that the other needed it more. I was relieved when Liz let me win that argument and settled into a exceptionally large sleep-pod, more like a compartment within our compartment, to try to sleep.
This was the first time in nearly three weeks that I had a moment of near-solitude to reflect on the astounding things that had happened to me -- to us -- in this short period. In less than three weeks, we had taken in a Nisga'a child who turned out to be a mystic and put us in touch with the ruling council of Antar. We had learned of an elaborate plan to take all of us, humans and aliens alike, to Antar to lead the Federation. I had undergone a radical physical change to become the Avatar of the Sacred Granolith. We had been set-upon by a small army intent on exterminating us, and we barely escaped... in a spaceship! Max and Michael and Maria had been kidnapped. I had learned to dream-walk and Isabel had begun to teach me about my new powers. We had stumbled through a daring (or stupid, depending on your point-of-view) plan to rescue our comrades, and succeeded, and then been ourselves rescued by the Antarian Security Force. We had escaped the planet 'Maroon' in a cargo container with Max still in a coma-like state from which he couldn't or wouldn't awake. Now, here we were on the Antarian flagship on our way to lead The Antarian Federation.
Suddenly Max's coma seemed not only understandable, but almost downright appealing.
**[Authors Note: If you are familiar with the "Kobiashi Maru" just skip over this note. If you are not, shame on you. What are you doing reading sci-fi? Consider this note "Remedial Star Trek." Kobiashi Maru is the name of a fictional spacecraft which was the the subject of a final test given to officer candidates at the Star Fleet Space Academy. The details of the scenario are unimportant, but the gist was that the candidate was posed an insoluble problem, a no-win situation, and his/her handling of the situation was critical to appointment as an officer of Star Fleet. A young candidate named James T. Kirk (later to gain fame as the second Captain of the Starship 'Enterprise') gained early notoriety by breaking into the Academy's computers the night before the test, and altering the scenario so that it became solvable. While his unorthodox solution scandalized the Academy faculty, this ability to "change the rules" became Kirk's trademark and the key to his renowned success as an officer. His name is forever connected with that of the Kobiashi Maru, and with a type of imaginative thinking which seeks to gain advantage by using that which is now commonly referred to as "thinking outside the box." Kyle Valenti, as you can see, knows his "Star Trek."]
Continue to Chapter 9
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