The next day was relatively quiet. Occasionally a new rumor would surface on the television news, make the rounds, and then sink without a trace. After an hour or two of this journalistic travesty I disgustedly shut off the telecom and spent a few hours in the gymnasium, then whiled away the remainder of the day reading outside on the grass. Interestingly, the overhead light sources (which also long predated the Brizali) followed the outdoor diurnal cycle exactly, probably for psychological reasons. As "dusk" fell and it became too dim to read, I continued reading in my room. It was well after midnight before I realized what time it was and decided to hit the sack. For a change I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.
I was awakened in the early hours of the morning by a quiet knock at the door. "Senaria?" I heard a woman's voice say softly. "It's Veldra. Can I come in?" Blearily I climbed out of bed and opened the door a crack. "What?" I mumbled, seeing that it was indeed her and letting her in.
"Something's happening on Earth," she said as I threw on a shirt and some shorts. "I saw someone that looked like the American President, but since none of us know English very well we don't know what's going on. Sorry to wake you," she added apologetically. I activated the telecom, to find a Japanese station rerunning one of the Gojira movies for the umpteenth time. I switched to a U.S. channel. It was indeed the President speaking.
"--and work with me to recover from this terrible tragedy which has come so close to overwhelming our nation and our way of life," he was intoning. "By the grace of God and the loyalty of our armed forces, we will restore democratic rule in the United States of America." A moment later his face had been replaced by the inevitable commentators, once again back on the airwaves. It was soon apparent that somehow the government had managed to regain control of the situation and had the rebels on the defensive, although just how this had happened didn't seem to be quite clear to anyone including the participants.
I finished dressing and followed Veldra down to the mess hall. Even though it was only a little after five, there were already a number of fascinated spectators watching the viewscreen. A muted cheer went up as I entered. "Never fear, your translator's here," I announced with a mock bow (it's bad doggerel in Deshtiran too, by the way). After that I was too busy interpreting to do much clowning around.
For the next fourteen hours straight we watched as the Lucie rebellion fell apart and finally ended with a particularly pathetic whimper. I don't even remember eating during that time, although I suppose I did (still being Senaria, after all). It was one of the most fascinating shows I've ever seen, with drama, adventure, and even a touch of mystery here and there. Especially interesting were the reports about an "apparently unrelated incident" of a large meteorite impacting somewhere in Virginia just before the rebellion began to collapse. I had my own suspicions about that, but didn't mention them to the others. It did seem like an awfully unlikely coincidence, however.
Between lack of sleep and the emotional strain of the long day, I was feeling thoroughly stretched out by the time I stumbled back to my room, only to find Tenako waiting for me, Tora as usual on his lap. The telecom was still droning away. For an instant I felt my stomach tense up as the memory of his previous visit flashed by.
"Something wrong?" he inquired, seeing my expression.
"Well," I said cautiously, "you did try to kill me the last time I saw you. I think I have a right to be a little nervous."
"I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am about that," he said softly. "I didn't even bring the controller this time, just in case."
"Do you remember what happened?" I asked. "It looked to me as though Teyn's personality somehow took over for a few minutes."
"I remember," he said. "It was as if I were just shoved aside and watching helplessly as someone else controlled my body. It was terrifying, Senaria, and I don't quite understand it, but I do know one thing. It will never happen again." There was grim determination in his voice as he spoke the last phrase. He paused for a moment. "There was something else," he said.
"Something else?" I asked uneasily. "What?"
"It doesn't make much sense, but when I felt Teyn's personality assert itself, I also felt--Tenako's. As if I were looking at it from outside, like Teyn's. But if that's true, then--well, never mind. I don't even remember it all that well. It was more like a feeling, or an impression. Forget I said it."
"What did you think of the news today?" he continued in a more normal tone, changing the subject. I looked at the telecom, where the announcer was reporting on some kind of communications blackout earlier that evening. Apparently things were settling down if more mundane news could finally start making its way onto the airwaves. "Have you solved the puzzle yet?" I looked at him blankly. "I have to say, I didn't expect her to use an asteroid, though. That was a stroke of genius."
"Are we in the same universe?" I asked, rather bewildered. He smiled, a very tired, sad smile.
"Yes we are," he answered. "Finally."
By now I must have looked utterly befuddled. "Don't worry," he added, "I'll explain it to you someday. If you don't figure it out yourself first."
"Look, Teyn--Tenako--oh hell, what am I supposed to call you?" I burst out in frustration. I was tired, I was a little giddy, and though I didn't realize it I was approaching the limit of my emotional tether. "You'll understand if I decline to address you as 'The Boss,' " I added.
"I don't really care what you call me," he replied calmly. "Names are not particularly important to me."
"I know," I said, "I'll call you 'T.T.' For Teyn/Tenako. How's that?" and I giggled. I think that's when I finally understood how close I was to a total breakdown.
"T.T.," he said to himself, rather bemused at the idea. "All right, suit yourself." And from then on he was "T.T."
After he left, I found myself seriously doubting my own sanity. Am I really in control of what I'm doing anymore? I wondered. I knew there was a recognized pattern of captives eventually sympathizing with their captors; I think on Earth it's known as the Stockholm Syndrome. Was that what was happening to me? Or was there something more?
Just the same, I called him "T.T." from then on. To hell with self-analysis.
For a few days things returned more or less to normal, except that to our surprise access to Earth television remained available. Whether this was intentional or an oversight wasn't quite clear, but nobody was complaining, even though apart from myself only a few of the older Brizali knew any of the Earth languages.
I saw no sign of Tenako during this time, and began to feel a bit uneasy. I was also feeling something else, though I did my best to pretend it wasn't there. I used the opportunity to concentrate on getting back into shape, spending at least several hours a day in the gymnasium.
Although it was used by both prisoners and Brizali, they didn't as a general rule pay much attention to one another. However, as my leg healed I had taken increasing advantage of my recovering agility and on several occasions had attracted a bit of an audience among the uniformed officers.
"Pretty good for a little girl," commented one this particular morning, a stocky fellow with a distinctly arrogant sneer.
"Are you really?" I answered, trying to regain my breath after a particularly strenuous bout. I heard an appreciative chorus of low laughs from his companions. His face darkening, he glared at those around him. Judging from the snickers, I gathered that he wasn't particularly feared by his fellows.
"How about asking her for a match, Kizuko?" one of them suggested.
For a moment I was horribly tempted to use the familiar Earth riposte, but restrained myself with an effort. "I'm game if he is," I said instead.
"Fight a child?" he snorted. In a moment he was being heckled and goaded unmercifully by his companions, and sheepishly stepped into the little arena after pulling a practice sword off the rack.
"I promise not to hurt you," he said solicitously.
"Nor I you," I answered, meeting his first thrust with a quick parry. "Too much," I added with a jeer, as I jabbed him in the gut, eliciting a wounded grunt (and a bout of applause from the audience). Even the rounded ends of the practice blades can inflict painful bruises, and that one would have hurt.
For a while we continued along these lines, he trying to get in at least a minor hit, and me poking him pretty much at will in assorted parts of his anatomy. I saw his face darkening with anger, however, and was going to suggest that we call a halt when he lost his temper entirely and lunged at me with a vicious thrust that could have done serious internal damage had it connected.
It didn't, though, as I jumped backwards upon a platform behind me (feeling a sudden sharp twinge in my right leg in the process) and with a quick twist sent his blade flying into the little group gathered around the periphery. "Give me that," he shouted hoarsely to the fellow who had caught it in midair.
"Cool down, Kiz," the man retorted, tossing the blade to someone further back. "She beat you fair and square." For a moment he looked as if he was going to charge me like a bull, and then a broad grin spread across his bovine features.
"You're as good as they said you was, kid," he said in a friendlier tone. "Where the hell d'you ever learn to fight like that, anyways?"
"I had a good teacher," I panted. It took me a few seconds to get my breath back.
"Who?" someone else asked. "Anyone we've heard of?"
"Her name," I finally said very slowly, "is Mikiria." And I put my blade back on the rack and slowly walked out without even a backward glance, ignoring the sudden hush behind me. Once out in the corridor, I looked down at the bandage on my leg, to see a spreading red stain seeping through the fabric. "Damn," I muttered as I limped towards the infirmary. "Veldra's going to kill me for this."
THE THREE MINDS. Copyright © 1998, 2000, 2001 Lamont Downs. All rights
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