I don't know if you can really imagine the shock I felt. I suppose if I asked you to picture Adolf Hitler walking into your room six months after the fall of Berlin you might be able to grasp it. I just stood there staring idiotically.
He smiled slightly, the oily ingratiating smile I'd seen so many times in his televised speeches. I suddenly realized that he was alone in the room with me. I knew I could overpower him physically. If anyone deserved killing it was Teyn, I thought, rising to my feet, anger flooding through me as I remembered the attempt on Kiri's life in Fontana.
"Don't do it, Senaria," he said calmly, easily reading my expression. "Your collar, and that of every prisoner in this complex, has been adjusted to prevent you from getting within six feet of me. It would pinch your head off long before you could touch me. Be a good girl and spare my cleaning staff the mess." I sat down heavily on the bed, forcing back the emotions that had engulfed me for a moment. I wondered that he had called me Senaria, then realized that Veldra had doubtless been required to make reports on my condition and might have included my preferred name among the information.
For a long time he just stood there, his eyes silently boring into mine in a disquieting way. "What do you want with me?" I said finally.
"To ask you some questions," he answered easily. "Remember, it was you who dropped in on us."
"I was shot down," I snapped.
"Yes," he admitted. "We've had a recent infestation of idiots here. It's hard to believe people like that actually get ahead on Earth. They've been appropriately disciplined. In any case, you're here, and we can't very well let you go."
"And--?" I prompted, still feeling a lot more belligerent than common sense dictated.
"While I don't expect you to willingly provide us with useful information," he said, "you could nonetheless prove valuable." (I felt distinctly uneasy about that word "willingly.") "After all, you're a member of the Empress' bodyguard, her longtime friend, and daughter of the Qozernan ambassador. I'm sure there's some leverage there; at least enough to warrant the cost of feeding and housing you for the time being. Besides, I'd like to hear the details of your little adventure in Tar Deshta. I'm well aware that the news media didn't tell the whole story there."
"First tell me why you tried to kill Ki--Empress Mikiria on Earth last month," I burst out, feeling control over my anger slipping away. "You sent a slimy, filthy, gun-toting assassin in the middle of the night. Why should I talk to someone like you?"
He was actually caught off guard by that, I realized as I felt the blood pounding in my temples. "What assassin?" he finally said levelly. "I did nothing of the sort. What are you talking about?"
At that I totally lost it. "You lying sack of shit!" I practically screamed. "It was the head of your goddam bodyguard that we identified. Will blew him to bits with one of his bolts," I added with considerable satisfaction, then kicked myself as I realized I had just let something slip that I shouldn't have. Teyn didn't seem to catch it. To my surprise, he backed away slightly. "What?" I taunted him furiously, still totally out of control. "Afraid of me?" Even as I said it I realized what an incredibly idiotic remark it was, and I felt my face redden. Time to calm down, Senaria, I signaled urgently to myself.
"Afraid?" he echoed, his calm utterly unruffled. "No, I wouldn't say so. I just don't want you to accidentally kill yourself." I involuntarily put a hand to my throat, suddenly feeling very shaky, as he made himself comfortable in one of the chairs. "Now why don't you take a few deep breaths and tell me about this attack?"
"It was the head of your bodyguard," I said at last, feeling a little less combustible. "He tried to shoot her with an Earth rifle through a window. If you didn't send him, then who did?" The look of surprise on his face seemed genuine, I thought.
"My bodyguard?" he said. "I sent them to Earth to--" and then he stopped and his expression hardened. For a moment I wondered if I'd gone too far. My big mouth has gotten me into trouble on more than a few occasions. "Tell me about this," he said icily. "I knew nothing about it."
I snorted, but somehow I felt he was telling the truth. I briefly told him of the attempt at Fontana, this time trying to back-pedal over my previous slip by simply saying that Will had killed the rifleman just in time. It was no use. "And Wilorian blew him apart," he mused to himself as I cursed mentally. "So it actually worked." He seemed rather pleased about it for some reason.
"Let's get back to you," he said. "Your dropping in may prove to be even more fortunate than I thought. A shame about your new flier, though."
I felt a distinct sensation of shock at just how much everyone here seemed to know about me. "Look," I said desperately, "you can't keep me here forever. I had my locator on. Everyone knows where I went down, and they're not going to quit searching until they find me." If it wasn't true it ought to be, I told myself.
"I'm afraid I have disappointing news," he answered ironically. "You see, they've already come and gone. The search is over." I regarded him in obvious dismay. "We took the liberty of distributing the bloody shreds of what was left of your clothing around the general vicinity, and also made sure a few of the local wild dogs were seen roaming about. And, of course, we picked you up from one of our fliers, so there weren't any footprints to detect. I'm afraid they're probably even now mourning your unfortunate destiny as canine cuisine. Crude, I know," he added, "but we didn't have a lot of time to improvise. One of the barbarian Earthmen that shot you down wanted to leave one of your arms lying around for extra authenticity, by the way." I could have sworn that for just an instant a suppressed grin flitted across his features.
He stopped for a moment. As understanding finally sank in of just what I had done to everyone back home I felt sick to my stomach. I'm so sorry, I thought bitterly. What a hell I must have put them all through, especially my mother and Kiri. For a moment I felt my eyes blurring up, and furiously fought off the unexpected urge to cry in front of Krigghin Teyn.
"Now," he went on, and to my surprise he seemed hesitant, "I want you to tell me more about--my daughter."
For a moment I was nonplused. As far as I knew Teyn had never married and had no children. And what would I possibly know about his daughter? His next words answered my unspoken question, and started a chain reaction that was to eventually lead to circumstances I couldn't have imagined.
"You see, Senaria," he said quietly, "I may look to you like Krigghin Teyn, but I'm not Teyn. My name is Romikor Tenako." He let this sink in for a few moments.
I'm in the presence of a madman, I thought wildly. He's insane. He shook his head. "No, I'm not crazy, Senaria. It will all make sense in a few minutes. And then perhaps you'll understand better why I've chosen to question you myself."
"Krigghin Teyn was assassinated a decade ago. I had known something like this could happen at any time, and made appropriate preparations. One of the Virrin devices we had reconstructed was a recorder, for storing the complete neural engrams of a human brain in a computer file. This file contained a detailed snapshot of a person's memories, beliefs, phobias, dreams--literally of their mind at the time it was taken. Eventually we learned how to reload it into a living human being as well without harming them. They simply became the person downloaded into them. Their original mind was still present, but permanently submerged. Since then we've even perfected the technique of adding someone's memories to another person without them becoming dominant."
"The body you see in front of you was cloned from Teyn's genetic material a good twenty years ago. It was kept in stasis and artificially aged to keep pace with the real Teyn. A similar clone was made of myself--Tenako. At the same time, I began requiring Teyn and several other of my top people to submit to having their personalities stored on a regular basis, as did I likewise. The process, while mildly unpleasant, is harmless and provides a unique form of insurance against mishaps such as the one that befell Teyn."
"When Teyn was assassinated, we immediately activated his clone and downloaded his engrams to it. The result was a virtually identical copy of the man. There was no danger of his giving himself away, because it actually was him, as he had been just days before the assassination. The remaining slight gap was easily explained away to his associates as a memory lapse resulting from a fall."
"When the clone was created, a number of instructions were implanted in it as well. One of them was that if something happened to myself--Tenako, remember--it would see that my engrams were downloaded to my clone as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that clone was stored in one of the buildings in Tar Deshta, which your little party so effectively vaporized. Therefore Teyn's clone came here, where the files were also accessible, and downloaded my most recent file into itself, replacing Teyn's personality. So here I am, Senaria. A rather fascinating story, is it not?"
I was frankly too stunned to speak. During this tale my first assumption had been that I was hearing the ramblings of a lunatic. But I was beginning to realize that with Tenako's access to Virrin technology it was indeed possible. Cloning, of course, had been a practicality for centuries, although illegal for the past century and a half.
"Why?" I finally managed. "To live forever?"
He smiled again, and to my shock I recognized the same sad smile Tenako had given us at Tar Deshta. "Of course not," he said patiently. "The original Tenako's consciousness died at Tar Deshta, just as Teyn's did when he was assassinated. The intention was that my work would go on, of course."
"Your work..." I began, trailing off as his words sank in. I felt a chill go up my spine, as if a long-past nightmare had recurred out of the blue. "You're still trying to set up the planar field," I whispered, eliciting an astonished stare.
"How could you know about that?" His voice was suddenly urgent, and I felt an undertone of threat. "Nothing of it was mentioned in the news accounts. I assumed you thought you had simply destroyed the energy source for our weapons. How did you find out about the planar field?"
For a moment I was unsure of myself. So far I had managed to let him talk, and hadn't really said much of anything myself, except for the blunder over Will's bolts. I felt his eyes boring into me. "Kiri told you in the control room at Tar Deshta what she found out. Don't you remember?" I said, then I realized how stupid the statement was. Tenako looked nonplused. "No," I said in some confusion, "that Tenako is dead. You don't have those memories."
"Tell me," he said, a hard edge beginning to creep into his voice. I made my decision and took a deep breath. It was better that he knew. At least there was a small chance that the truth might sway him, if only slightly.
"Kiri--that's your daughter Mikiria--spent fifteen months in space overtaking the last Virrin transmissions and decoding them," I began, remembering again the personal anguish those months had cost me. It took me a second to continue. "She found they had done the same thing. Only when something big wandered into their field they discovered that they couldn't shut it off, and it turned them into the biggest supernova ever. She said she had to stop you, and she did." I shuddered at the memory.
"Don't you understand?" I pleaded. "It might not happen today, or tomorrow, or next century. But you can't do this. Sooner or later it will destroy all of us."
He remained staring at me, his expression unchanged, for some time. "Very interesting," was all he finally said. I wondered if I'd made any impression at all.
"Why did you tell me?" I said. "About yourself, I mean." The change of topic seemed to startle him.
"I'm not really sure," he responded, his voice oddly uncertain. "I remember being Teyn, and of course he's still there to some extent. I can't imagine Teyn taking the time to talk to you at all. But when I found that you were my daughter's friend..." He trailed off again. Suddenly he stood up.
"We'll continue this at another time," he said brusquely, his mood again shifting abruptly. "I suggest you keep one thing in mind at all times. My staff here is loyal, and devoted to me. They understand perfectly that although I look like Krigghin Teyn I am really Tenako. The Earthers that you'll be encountering, however, do not, and to them you will always refer to me as Teyn or The Boss. Be sure you clearly understand that for you a single slip will be fatal. I cannot endanger this project over one prisoner." And without further words he departed, closing the door behind him.
It was a long time before I picked up the novel I'd been reading. When I did, the words ran aimlessly across the pages. Was that really Romikor Tenako? I wondered. Or was it someone else? Endlessly I replayed the conversation in my mind, trying to make sense of it. Only one thing seemed clear in my mind, and that was that the nightmare we thought we'd ended six months ago was only beginning.
THE THREE MINDS. Copyright © 1998, 2000, 2001 Lamont Downs. All rights
reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or
otherwise, without written permission from the author,
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