Crayle had been drinking heavily to relieve the boredom of waiting in the shuttle
for instructions from Normec. He was beginning to think that he and the troops had been abandoned and Normec had returned
to Earth. He had not been told that Peto and Shak had sabotaged the warship’s communication system.
He was just about to pour himself another drink when Careen entered the shuttle.
He was quick to notice that she was wearing her own clothes and not the native leather garments that she had been wearing
when he last saw her.
“Well, well. You've got a nerve, coming here,” he said, “You
know that Normec is out for your blood, don't you?” He was unshaven and had obviously not washed for some days and had
not bothered to put his tunic on. She could smell the stale sweat that glistened on his naked chest.
“You look terrible, Edwan. Don't you have any pride in your appearance any
more? The troops out there look better than you do,” said Careen, “And this place stinks. How can you stand this
smell? All you have to do is turn on the air purifiers.” She went to a wall and pressed a switch and the purifiers immediately
began to hum, filtering the stale, smoke-laden air.
“The troops have to shave. Their superiors make sure of that. At least,
I am free to please myself. As for the purifiers, I do turn them on occasionally but the hum gets on my nerves. It's all right
when you have someone to talk to. But tell me, why have you risked your life to come here? Are you missing me?”
“Don't flatter yourself, Edwan. I still remember the bruise you gave me.
I came here because I think we can still make something out of this mess, after all. I want you to take me to Normec. While
I have been staying with Peto and Diata I've learned a lot.”
“What makes you think Normec will listen to you? You are a traitor as far
as he is concerned. He'll have you put in chains and taken back to Earth to be executed. That is, after he and his men have
finished having their fun with you.” Crayle smiled at the thought, “You would have been better off if you had
stayed with me.”
“I'll take my chances with Normec. I'm sure he'll listen. It's to his advantage
to listen. Now, take me to the warship or you won't be in his good books either.” Careen knew that she would be risking
her life by meeting Normec. It was a gamble that had to pay off if the Family was to be saved from the wrath of the Empire.
Crayle was no fool, either. He realised that Careen must have a good solution or she would not be sticking her neck out like
“Listen, Careen. It will be safer for you to stay here. Let me know what
you want to tell Normec and I'll put it to him. Then if he doesn't like it, you are safe. On the other hand, if he likes it
and goes ahead, I'll tell him that it was your idea and you can thank me later.”
Careen was surprised. She expected Crayle to be less transparent. After all, he
was the best salesman in the Empire. He had almost advertised that he intended to double-cross her. He wanted the credit if
what she had to offer pleased Normec. If it didn't please him, he would pass the discredit on to her. She put the obvious
treachery down to his dulled senses that were due to the drink.
“No, I have to see Normec myself. He is bound to ask questions and you won't
be able to answer them. I will be able to fill in any details that he may want to know. But thanks for the concern. I appreciate
it.” She didn't care if Crayle knew that she had seen through his deception or not. I think we ought to get going as
soon as possible. This is urgent. Are you fit to fly this shuttle or do you want me to?” Crayle downed his drink in
“Just give me time to shave and clean up and we'll go. Let's hope that Normec
doesn't get mad at us for leaving here. His orders were to stay put.”
Crayle was ready in half an hour, during which time Careen went to her own room
and changed into fresh clothes and had a drink herself. The alcoholic drinks on Diata were limited and she had missed her
favourite. She felt that she needed a good stiff drink to calm her nerves. She was aware that there was no guarantee that
Normec would listen to her, Although Peto and Shim had assured her that she would come to no harm. She could not understand
their confidence in her and she certainly didn't share it. It was her idea and she was prepared to do anything to save the
Family or die trying. In the short time that she had lived with them, she had grown to love them and felt that she was a member
of it. At least she felt more loyal to them than to the Empire.
Crayle had tried unsuccessfully to contact the warship to inform Normec of their
intentions. He finally gave up and took his seat at the controls of the shuttle. He switched on the computer and set the tracer
to find the warship in orbit around the planet. After a few seconds delay, there was a beep and the screen showed the position
of the ship. All he had to do was to home the in on the warship. The shuttle rose and sped sky-wards.
When they eventually arrived, the docking was automatic. The computer gently guided
the shuttle to the airlock and locked it into place. Crayle and Careen were about to go to the airlock when the doors hissed
open and a lieutenant and four guards rushed in.
“Stand where you are and don't move! How many are there aboard this shuttle?”
barked the lieutenant.
“Just the two of us. We tried to contact you on the communicator but couldn't
get through,” said Crayle. He was startled and not a little fearful.
The two were pushed up against a wall and subjected to a rough search. The soldier
that dealt with Careen took his time and made an unnecessary thorough search, much to her disgust.
“You are both under arrest and will be kept under guard until Councillor
Normec Questions you at his pleasure.” The lieutenant turned and walked out into the warship. The soldiers followed,
using their weapons to push Careen and Crayle ahead of them.
They were taken to a room and guards were
posted outside the door. As soon as they were alone, Crayle turned on Careen.
“Why didn't you stay where you were? Now we're really in it. You've had
it for sure and you've dragged me into Normec's disfavour. Hell, why did I listen to you?”
“Stop whining. You listened because you thought that there was something
in it for you. And, you were already in Normec's disfavour. Anyway, he'll listen to me. He's bound to want this mess cleared
up as soon as possible,” answered Careen, “Especially if it is going to make him look good in the eyes of the
Governors. He's deep in it too, you know.” She sat down on one of the two chairs, that apart from a small table, were
the only items of furniture in the room. Crayle scowled and paced the room, frowning. Careen guessed that he was desperately
thinking of an excuse to explain to Normec why he was here. Since they had arrived on Diata, she had seen a side of him that
she had never seen before.
They were not kept waiting for long. The lieutenant arrived with the four guards
and ordered them to follow him. They were taken to Normec's room. As they entered, Normec swung around to face them.
“What the hell is happening down there?” he thundered, “Why
didn't the shuttle return? What the hell are those troops playing at? Why haven't I had any reports?”
Crayle looked at him and then at Careen and back to Normec, his eyes wide and
his mouth opening and closing.
“But... but... your orders. You ordered me to stay on the planet until I
heard from you. I just did what you ordered,” stammered Crayle, “And you ordered the shuttle to remain on the
planet, so I understand.”
“What do you mean, I ordered the shuttle to remain on the planet? Do you
think I would maroon myself on this ship going round and round this damned planet? How the hell can I give instructions to
anyone without any communication system? The shuttle is the only way that I could
do that, you fool!”
“But Councillor, I didn't know that there was no communication system. I
wasn't told. That must be why I couldn't contact you. I tried but I wasn't getting any reply.” Crayle was almost on
his knees before Normec. “I tried to inform you that we were on our way here to see you. Miss Soman insisted that I
bring her here.”
Normec's eyes turned to Careen and looked her over coldly.
“Ahh. The traitor. Have they turned you in? Both sides usually hat traitors.
Neither side can trust a traitor. You will suffer the penalty of death or at least life as a slave of the Empire, you know
“I came of my own free will. While I was mingling with the...enemy...I was
able to discover quite a bit that would interest you. I was able to find out their weaknesses and the things that worry them.
I believe that I can offer you a solution to this mess that we are all in. If you are interested, that is.” Careen was
trying to appear cool and calm in spite of the fear within her. This little man could order her to be executed where she stood
and no one would ask any questions. She would just be another individual that had disappeared from the human race.
Normec eyed her silently for a few moments, waiting for her to continue. When
it was clear that she was not going to continue, he sighed impatiently and spread his hands.
“Well. Go on girl. Tell me this interesting solution that you have.”
“Alone. Tell these others to leave and I will tell you. It is for your ears
only,” said Careen, calmly. Normec raised his eyebrows and smiled thinly.
“Do you think that I would allow myself to be alone with a traitor? The
guards stay, Crayle can wait outside,” he said. Careen shrugged her shoulders. She could see that he was curious.
“In that case, I have nothing to say,” she said, “I thought
that you may be interested in saving face with the Governors.” Normec's smile faded from his face. He did not like to
be reminded in front of his subordinates that even he was expendable.
“I could have you made to talk, if that is your attitude. However, I am
interested in a solution that will save time.” He turned to the lieutenant, “Give me your hand laser and leave
us alone. You will have Mister Crayle taken back to his room and you will wait outside.” The lieutenant hesitated and
was about to object, then thought better of it and handed his weapon to Normec. Normec placed the laser on his desk and sat
Careen waited until they were alone before she faced Normec and spoke.
“My purpose of going to the natives was to find a way to persuade them to
let you have the sycnel. I thought that by doing so, I would be able to find favour in your eyes and that you would not be
too harsh when you made your report to the Governors. I have no wish to become unemployed and join the ranks of those living
on a subsistence benefit.
“While I was with them, I befriended a certain native who told me that they
were able to control your troops by using a hypnotic drug that they put in the water supply that the troops drank. When the
troops were under the influence of the drug, they were simply given orders they believed came from you. They believe that
you have ordered them to remain on the planet and await further instructions and are obeying those orders to the letter.
“This 'friend' also informed me that there were many villages that opposed
the decision of The Father and felt that they should co-operate with the Empire. Apparently, the laws of these people are
to traditionally accept the decisions of The Father without question out of respect. That seemed to work quite successfully
under normal conditions. Our arrival has changed the thinking of many of the people and they feel that they could benefit
from being part of the Empire. The problem is, they will not go against the decisions of The Father while he is still their
leader, and will follow his orders to the death. They will also not take orders from anyone but their own kind. This means
that one of their own kind must take the place of The Father. My 'friend' feels that he should have the position of The Father
and has gathered considerable support from neighbouring villages. He feels that with your help he will be able to overthrow
The Father and those that support him.” Normec was not impressed and made it clear that he had not heard anything to
“How does that help me? I have intentions of overthrowing him, anyway. My
troops will execute all the leaders and will take control of the planet. I have no need of your friend. The weapons of this
ship are already trained on all the villages ready to wipe them out of existence.” Normec spread his hands as if to
say the matter was over.
“But then you will have to bring men here to mine the sycnel, and guards
to watch over them. That would be costly when there are men already here who will be willing to do it for you. Any action
against them will only serve to unite them. As I said, they will follow The Father's orders to the death. He is like a god
to them and they will feel it an honour to die for him. On the other hand, if one of their own kind replaces him, then they
will show the same loyalty to the new Father. Their primitive traditions demand it of them. My friend would be most grateful
for your help and you can always do what you want with them after you have exploited them to the full. I'm sure the Governors
will be very pleased that you managed to get the sycnel so cheaply.” Careen
was watching Normec's face as she spoke, to see how he was reacting. She could see that he was thinking over what she had
said. She sensed that he was not entirely convinced. She decided to play her trump card. She smiled at him.
“I was wondering what will happen to the hypnosis inducing drug after you
have taken over the planet. If it got into the wrong hands one could rule the universe simply by putting it into the water
supply. No-one would be able to stand in their way,” she said.
Normec's eyes narrowed slightly, then began to gleam. He had not taken much notice
of the previous mention of the drug, now it had become significantly more interesting. His heavily armed troops on the surface
of the planet, were under the complete control of these half naked primitives. Somehow they must have used it to get the communication
system and the navigation plates. The girl was right. With sufficient supplies of the drug he could rule the Empire. The five
hundred Governors would have to bend to his will, rather than he to theirs. He rather liked the idea of being supreme Emperor
of the universe. He was fifty-four years old and he reckoned that he had about twenty-five years of life left to enjoy the
ultimate in luxury and power. He had two sons on Earth who would assist him in ruling and who could take over should he become
too old or should die. Yes, the idea appealed to him immensely. The drug would be worth more to him than the sycnel.
“If I should agree to assist your friend, what do you expect to get out
of it?” he asked Careen. He was not so naive as to think that all she was concerned about was gaining his favour so
that she would not have to live on a meagre subsistence benefit.
“That is easy to answer. A pardon for my failure here. Also, I enjoyed my
work and the benefits it brought. I would like to have Crayle's position. That is why I didn't want him here while I spoke
to you,” she answered readily.
“How are you going to earn that? According to you, my men are still under
the control of the natives down there. I have another seven hundred on this ship. How can I be sure that this is not a trick
and if they go down to the planet, they won't be drugged?”
“You will have me as hostage. I can lead you to where my friend is and you
can talk to him. He has promised to be at a certain place every day at noon so that he can explain how he intends to overthrow
The Father. If there are any suspicious circumstances, you can kill me. As for the drug, all you have to do is make sure that
your men don't drink any of the water that is on the planet. The drug was introduced into the supplies that your troops have.
The villagers have their own wells and reservoirs that are not drugged.”
“Does this friend of yours know where the drug is kept and manufactured?”
Normec had already placed the drug as his number one priority.
“Everyone knows where it is made but my friend tells me that only a few
know how it is made,” said Careen. She felt that he was nibbling the bait and that he would soon take the hook. Normec
sat thoughtfully for a full two minutes before speaking again.
“What does this native want me to do?” he asked.
Careen sighed inwardly with relief. He had swallowed the hook, she was sure of
it. The worst and most difficult part was over. Now she had to make sure that Normec would agree to go down to the surface.
“He can explain that better than I can. He told me that he needed as many
of your troops as possible to help him to overthrow the leaders of the villagers before they had time to resist. The quicker
and smoother this operation took place the better as the people would then accept his becoming The Father. He has a plan that
would accomplish the overthrow in less than two hours, providing that you have enough men to help him. His one concern is
that your troops will not take orders from him. He said that if you can ensure that they will, then there will not be any
need for you to be there.” Careen was hoping that the suggestion that Normec be excluded would have the opposite effect.
She was not disappointed. Normec was immediately suspicious.
“If there is to be any alliance between your friend and myself, then I shall
be there to make sure that everything is satisfactory,” he said, “That is, if I decide to agree.” He stood
up, picking up the hand laser he walked to the door.
“I will give it some thought,” he said. Opening the door he called
in the lieutenant and told him to escort Careen back to join Crayle in the sparsely furnished room. The discussion was over.
All Careen could do now was to wait and pray that Normec would find that the desire to possess the drug would be too great
Crayle greeted her return with a sneer, which Careen ignored.
“Well? Did he listen?” he asked. When Careen did not answer he laughed.
“You alone. I want to talk to you alone,” he mimicked, “That
was good. I bet it had as much affect on Normec as an ant trying to stop a freight train.” He was trying to get her
to enlighten him on the results of her talk with Normec. Careen was too weary to take any notice, which only served to annoy
“You have had it, or you wouldn't be here locked up with me.” Careen
looked at him and said, “Crayle. Shut up. You are not at all impressive. You seem determined to make me respect you
less and less.” She sat in a corner and shut her eyes, trying to rest.
An hour later the guards came and to get them. They were told that they were to
be taken to other rooms where they could sleep. As they followed the guards, they passed military personnel hurrying along
the corridors. Troops were carrying equipment and officers were barking orders. Crayle wondered if he had failed to hear an
alarm that had caused the commotion that was going on. He stopped one of the soldiers and demanded to know what was happening.
The soldier, mountain of a man just shouldered Crayle aside with a snarl and continued on his way. One of the guards that
were taking them to their rooms, pushed him with his heavy weapon.
“Get a move on. We've got work to do,” he hissed. Crayle decided that
it wasn't the right moment to argue with him.
Careen found herself in a room with a bed and a hand basin that she immediately
put to use, splashing her face to freshen herself. She dried herself and sank down on the bed. The noise of the activity continued
throughout the night, preventing her from sleeping as soundly as she would have liked. To her, it was a good sign. Normec
was obviously preparing to send the troops down to the planet. She had no idea what Shim and Peto were going to do once they
had the army on the surface. She was taking Shim's word for it that she would be safe. At the moment she felt far from safe
and wouldn't be until she was well away from Normec.
Someone shaking her rudely awaked Careen, after finally falling asleep. It was
a young guard. She guessed his age to be around twenty.
“Wake up, miss,” he said, “Councillor Normec wants to see you.”
His eyes widened as she threw the sheets from her, revealing that she was dressed only in her under wear. There had been no
nightclothes in the room and she would have slept naked, had she have been anywhere but on the warship. She took no notice
of his stare as she dressed quickly.
“What time is it?” she asked.
“0705 hours ship's time, Miss,” replied the guard, “please hurry.
I have been trying to wake you for five minutes. You wouldn't answer the door. The Councillor wanted to see you at 0700.”
“I'm sorry, I was tired. Blame it on me.” Careen doubted if the young
guard would get into any trouble, in spite of his concern. Normec would have too much on his mind right now. She followed
the guard to Normec's room. Normec bade them enter when the guard knocked.
“I have decided to help your friend, Miss Soman. That does not mean that
I will necessarily go along with his plans. Now that we have the shuttle at our disposal, I felt that we ought to use it to
the best advantage. We have been virtually prisoners on this ship since those leaders removed all means of returning to Earth,”
said Normec, “I have ordered all the troops to prepare for an attack and they have been instructed to eat and drink
only the supplies that we take with us. Now, where do we have to meet this friend of yours?”
“He said that the meeting place should be on the south side of the planet,
close to where there is a sea of grey metal. He said you couldn’t fail to see the area as it is quite large and very
prominent. It is also uninhabited, which will enable you to land without being seen.” Careen could hardly conceal her
relief that her mission appeared to have been successful. Now, she thought, it was up to Shim and Peto.
“You understand that if there is any sort of double-cross, you will die,
don't you? If you have just been used by them to trick us, you cannot escape immediate execution.”
Careen nodded and said, “I understand, perfectly.” Normec eyed her,
“Good. Then I think we are about ready to board the shuttle.” He motioned
to the guard with his hand, “Take her to the shuttle and hand her over
to your lieutenant.”
Most of the troops were already aboard the shuttle when Careen arrived and was
taken to the lieutenant who then had her escorted to her own room. Crayle was there, holding a pair of her panties in his
hand. He had taken the opportunity to go through her personal things while he had been waiting. She gave him a look of contempt
and snatched them out of his hand and replaced them in a drawer. He laughed to cover up his obvious embarrassment. Careen
ignored him and poured herself a drink without offering him one.
The shuttle was under way within thirty minutes and all they had to do was wait
for it to enter the atmosphere of Diata. Careen spent the time gathering some personal keepsakes that she had collected. Crayle
watched place them in a holdall, and then she packed a case with some of her clothes. His curiosity got the better of him.
“If you think you are going away, forget it.” he said “Normec
won't let you out of his sight now that he has got you. Even if you have managed to make him believe that you can solve his
problems, he's not going to let you go back to the village.”
Careen continued with her packing silently, pausing only to take a sip of her
drink. Crayle's failure to draw her out annoyed him. He tried another tactic.
“Or are you moving in with him to save your skin?” Careen turned and
gave him a withering look, closed the case and sat down, determined not to be forced into making any comment. Crayle saw that
he was getting nowhere.
“Look. Those troops are getting ready to blast your friends to hell. It's
obvious. You have given Normec the chance that he wanted.” He poured himself a drink and gulped it down. “He was
Careen frowned. That was one thing that she was not sure about. She finished her
drink and went to her closet and locked herself in. Sitting down on the toilet seat, she allowed the tears to well up into
her eyes. She knew that he could be right but it was too late to turn back now. She remained there for the duration of the
The shuttle had entered the atmosphere on the south side of the planet and landed
by the sea of grey metal. Normec lost no time in ordering the troops to surround the shuttle to defend it should it be necessary.
When that was accomplished, he left the shuttle himself to breathe in the fresh, slightly scented air. His cold grey eyes
took in the surroundings. It was a desolate area but it was better than the confines of the warship that he had been forced
to endure since Peto had immobilised it.
He looked at the sea of grey. This was the sycnel, he thought. He had never believed
that there was so much sycnel in the universe. The grey stretched as far as he could see. Just one shuttle holds full would
make him the richest man in the Empire, if the Governors would allow it. There would be no chance of that. They would want
it all for themselves. He thought of the hypnosis-inducing drug that the Soman girl had told him about. That could change
everything for him. He could come for the sycnel after he had the means to manufacture the drug. That thought made him look
around for the man that he was supposed to meet. There was no one in sight, but he realised that they were early. It was not
yet noon, the time of the meeting. The commander in charge of the troops approached him.
“Councillor. We have detected a small group of men approaching from the
north. They have just emerged from that wooded area.” The commander pointed to a clump of trees on the horizon, about
a mile distant. “I have sent a party of twelve men to circle round to get behind them to cut off any retreat should
they be hostile.” Normec looked in the direction indicated and nodded.
“Good. I don't expect any trouble, but one can't be too careful.”
he said approvingly, “You could also send out a party to meet them. That will distract they attention from the other
party.” He felt pleased with his own suggestion. It would show that the commander had not thought of everything.
“Yes Councillor. A good idea. I'll see that it is done at once.” The
commander left to attend the matter, leaving Normec watching the approaching group for a while before going inside to have
Careen brought out to him.
Careen joined him at the airlock and Normec pointed to the approaching group.
“It looks like your friends are arriving. You will introduce me to the one
that wants to be the First Father.” Normec spoke in a matter-of -fact way as if it was a foregone conclusion.
Careen was straining her eyes to see if one of the men in the group was Shim but
as yet they were too far away to distinguish individuals. She became aware that her heart was pounding at the thought of him
being near. She told herself that she had no right to feel the way she did. Shim had never made any advances towards her and
the only indication that he even liked her, was that he seemed to enjoy her company.
Until she met him, she had never been uncertain of a man's feelings towards her, or failed to discern whether it was purely
physical, as it usually was. Neither had she had any difficulty in attracting a man's attention for her own purposes. She
knew how she felt about him. She had wondered if she should make some move to show him how she felt, but was afraid that somehow,
this would cheapen her in his eyes, and so she had refrained from doing so. She fervently wished that he would make some sign
that he felt the same towards her as she did towards him
At that moment, one of the men in the approaching group raised his arm and waved.
The party of soldiers had met them and had formed a line abreast behind them, as though bringing in captive prisoners. She
concentrated on the man that had waved and recognised the fair hair of Shim. Instinctively, she waved back. Again, she had
the uncanny feeling that he knew what she had been thinking.
When the group arrived at the shuttle, Shim greeted Careen with a smile.
“I'm so glad that you are back, Careen. I've missed you,” he said.
“I've missed you, too,” replied Careen. Shim turned to Normec and
extended his hand towards the shuttle airlock.
“Shall we go inside?” Careen looked at Normec to see his reaction.
It was not proper to make such suggestions to a Councillor. Normec merely turned and entered the airlock. Shim and two of his group followed him. Careen hesitated until Shim invited her to come with them.
Normec led the way to his office and sat down at his desk. Careen thought that
he appeared to be quite subdued as he looked at Shim expectantly. Shim stood before Normec and spoke.
“I think it would be a good idea if you told your men to put their weapons
down and to make their camp here.” Normec did as Shim suggested, using his wrist communicator to issue the order to
the officers waiting outside.
“Thank you,” said Shim with a smile, “we will also need as many
uniforms that you can spare that are used by the crew of your warship. If necessary, you can have the use of the smaller shuttle
to bring them down.”
“Very well,” said Normec, “When do you want them?”
“The sooner the better, I think. We are will have to get used to wearing
them. None of us have ever worn your kind of clothing.”
Careen was astounded that Normec accepted without question Shim's demands. He
had never allowed anyone to tell him what to do before. Normec, who had always been an arrogant and ruthless man, was now
meek and willing to help. Gone was the holier than thou attitude that was the accepted bearing of a Councillor of the Empire.
Fearing a trick on Normec's part, Careen reached out and touched Shim on the arm.
“Shim, can I talk to you for a moment, outside?” she asked. Shim smiled
at her reassuringly.
“Anything that you have to say can be said here, in front of Normec,”
he said. Careen looked at Shim and frowned. How can he be so naive, she thought.
“No, it can't. I need to speak to you alone. I think it is important, very
important,” she insisted. Shim smiled again and took her hand.
“Careen. You want to warn me about Normec's change of attitude. Believe
me, there is nothing to worry about. There is nothing that Normec can do at the moment to harm us.” Careen was completely
unprepared for such an answer.
“You can read my mind! You could
all the time!” Careen desperately tried to think of everything that had gone on in her mind while she had been with
Shim. Her face cheeks flushed with embarrassment as she remembered that she had frequently had thoughts that she would rather
Shim did not know about.
“Careen, everything will be explained to you when we go to Hometown. We
were unable to explain before as we were not completely sure where your loyalty lay. You have proved beyond any doubt that
you have the welfare of the Diatans at heart. You can also be assured that we would not have allowed you to come to any harm
at the hands of Normec while you were on the warship.”
Careen was confused and angry. She did not know exactly why she was angry but
felt that she had a right to be. She was about to question Shim when he put his arm around her.
“Brace yourself for a shock, Careen. We are returning to Peto's home now,”
For a split second Careen's mind went blank and she found herself in the lounge
of Peto's house. Shim was standing beside her and he still had his arm around her. In spite of the warning to brace herself,
Careen was more frightened at what had happened to her than shocked. It was some seconds before she could speak and when she
did it was to Shim.
“Shim! What happened? How did I get here? Did you drug me? Was that story I gave Normec about a drug true?” The questions came one after another without pausing
for answers. She looked around the room. Diata was coming towards her, her arms outstretched and with a smile on her face.
Eelan and Peto were also there and smiling at her. Diata reached her and took her hands.
“Come and sit down, Careen,” she said, leading her to one of the seats,
“don't worry, you have not been drugged. Peto will explain what has happened to you.” Diata urged Careen to sit
down and sat down beside her. She took Careen's hands in hers and looked expectantly at Peto.
“Let's all sit down,” said Peto, indicating to the others to make
themselves comfortable, “I expect Careen will have quite a few questions to ask later.” He waited until they were
“Careen, I'm sure you understand how concerned we have been since the Empire
discovered us here on Diata. It is because of our concern that we have not been completely open with you. It has been for
our own protection as we are quite vulnerable.
“However, although we are vulnerable, we are not entirely defenceless. We
could not be open with you until we were sure that you would not betray us. We now know that you will not and that we can
trust you.” Peto went on to explain the effects the radiation from the sun had on them and how they had become capable
of using mental powers that were beyond the capabilities of Earthmen. He explained that they had used these powers for the
good of The Family and as a result they had been able to progress without the need of help from Earth.
Peto told her how they had used their powers to manipulate the actions of Crayle
and Careen as experiments to see if they could use them to defend themselves.
“We would have welcomed the Empire with open arms had we not seen the evil
of it in the minds of those that came. We discussed it at great length and decided that we wanted no part of it.” Peto
finished speaking and looked apologetically at Careen.
“Do you mean to tell me that I was under your control and I couldn't do
anything about it?” Careen asked. Shim answered her.
“Only for a short time, Careen,” he said. Once again, Careen flushed
“What did you make me do? Act like an idiot while you all laughed your heads
off?” She covered her face in her hands. Diata could see that Careen had misunderstood.
“Oh no, Careen. You were not unaware of what you were doing! You did nothing
that you don't remember doing. All we did was to persuade you to wear the Kandeer outfit that I made for you that's all.”
Careen looked at her unconvinced.
“But I like wearing that. I agreed to wear it. You didn't make me.”
Diata squeezed her hand and smiled.
“Your mind was completely opposed to wearing it in the company of the men.
You felt that it was too revealing. You would not have worn it without being manipulated. It is our native dress here so it
doesn't worry us but we did notice that Crayle appreciated it in his own crude way. Just as he did when he saw us.”
“Did you make me agree to go to Normec?”
“No. That was your idea. We thought about it and we agreed to go along with
it,” said Shim, “when you came up with the idea, I told Peto and the leaders. It seemed a good idea to get Normec
down here with his troops.”
Careen was relieved. She had thought that she had been used all the time and was
unsure of her own feelings.
“The next step is to take control of the warship. We are going to have to
go to Earth in it,” said Peto.
“That's why I asked Normec to get the uniforms,” said Shim. Careen
shook her head. She didn't believe what she was hearing.
“That's ridiculous! You can't possibly be serious! You don't understand
the power of the Empire. You wouldn't last five minutes if you tried to take on the Empire!” She looked at them incredulously.
“We have to, Careen. We know we will be successful,” said Shak. Careen
laughed at him.
“How could you know that? You don't know anything about the Empire. It is
powerful. It controls all the military might in the known universe.” Peto
stood up and faced her.
“We know that too. We also know that between now and two years time we will
have met with success. That is a fact.” Careen's eyes flitted from face to face as she tried to read their thoughts.
She could see that they were all deadly serious.
“Are you going to tell me that you can also see into the future?”
“We can't, but Comp can. Within limits. He has seen that we will win. He
also told us that you would have a part in bringing about our success. He was right, you have,” said Shak, “we
did not know what to do until you came up with your suggestion.”
It was Diata who explained what had happened to Comp, how he had found that he
was able to move through time. She also explained the limitations that he had as the same thoughts came into Careen's head
that had come into theirs.
Careen thought of all that had happened. Shim had demonstrated their telekinetic
powers and she had already experienced teleportation. She knew them all well enough to know that they would not lie to her.
She finally accepted that they would do whatever they believed they would have to do, and that she, too, would become involved.