3) The Conspiracy of Light

Biltar ap Dyn stood on the rear balcony of his dome smoking his pipe and watching the harvest rain. It had come suddenly and in torrents after months of the worst drought in history. Miraba was once a beautiful jewel with life abounding in its seas, forests and mountains. Now, many species perished because of unregulated mining, deforestation and water poisoning. Greediness and blindness coupled with a suicidal disconnection from nature seemed to prevail.Most of the crops had already been ruined in the breadbasket of Shaluma. The rain came much too late to save the withered grain and pulses. Something strange was occurring. He had seen the geological reports of alarming increases in strong quakes throughout the planet, especially deep activity a mile or more below. Many of his scientific colleagues were voicing concern about highly unusual volcanism now swelling under the entire north coast and seismic reports indicated that the whole planet was wobbling and shaking far more than usual. Many of his old colleagues were even near panic, claiming that Miraba’s rotation had slowed measurably.Measurements proved that the magnetic field of Miraba was collapsing and the frequency was increasing. They were quietly packing up survival gear and moving their families out of the cities to safer locations in the countryside in order to ride out the expected cataclysm and the devastation it would surely bring. The instigator, they claimed, was a planetoid – too large and too magnetically potent to deal with or divert in time with nuclear explosions. Some claimed to have already photographed it on its deadly collision course, though the government, with its controlled media, acted predictably as if nothing was happening.

Biltar flinched as there came a heavy pounding on his front door. Uh oh. He went back inside his dome to look through the front peep hole and saw a pod of manchines standing in the entry way. The three ‘chines wore gray jumpsuits and leather belt harnesses with straps across the shoulders and near transparent glasses with a cobalt tint. Their heads were bald and each had some kind of small appliance on the very top connected by wires to ear plugs. None of them looked like they had a sense of humor. A black VTL aerocar was parked next to his blue one on the landing pad.

National Security Police, he thought. I’m surprised it took them so long. I guess they want to close in on us before the chaos hits.

Biltar opened the front door. “May I help you?”

They stood motionless and did not answer.

“Hello,” said Biltar, “what can I do for you?”

There was no answer.

“Are we having a staring contest or have your batteries run low?”

The three figures on the porch still did not move nor say anything.

“Well … I have things to do, so let me know if you need anything.” Biltar started to close the door but the ‘chine on the left quickly blocked it with his boot.

“Look out there officer,” said Biltar, “you’re going to lose a toe doing that!”

The ‘chine in the middle grabbed Biltar by the collar and pulled him outside while the one on the right cuffed his hands behind his back. “Hey,” said Biltar, “don’t you fellows have any identification … or a warrant … or something?”

“You know who we are,” said one of them. It was hard to tell which. Then, all three dragged him through the rain and put him into the back seat of their aerocar. The ‘chine who had stuck his foot in the door got in the right front passenger seat and turned around to stare at Biltar while the other two went inside his dome.

“Nice day, isn’t it,” said Biltar. “We sure need this rain.”

The expressionless face staring at him wasn’t saying anything, so Biltar settled back in the seat and tried his best to relax. He knew what was happening and was worried, but wouldn’t let on. The pain in his back tormented him.

Biltar’s eyes fixed on a monitor next to the pilots seat. Pictures of suspects were cycling up the screen followed by information. At first, he didn’t recognize any of the faces or names but suddenly, Fryd was there, front and side. Fryd ap Lat – NSS #227-680-4002 – white male – violent fanatic sympathizer – charlatan and fraud – suspected revolutionary – keep under surveillance – open warrant – suspected of anti-Shaluman activities – may be armed and dangerous – do not apprehend without special approval.

“My, what a photo album you have,” said Biltar. “Would you like one of me?”

“We already have one,” the ‘chine in the right front seat said as he brought Biltar’s photograph up on the screen.

“I hope so,” said Biltar, hiding his surprise. “I sure don’t want to be left out.”

The picture scrolled up followed by the information. Biltar ap Dyn – NSS #327-982-1411. It contains the exact information as for Fryd, he thought. I guess they think we are clones.

After a long while, the two men returned to the aerocar. One got into the pilots seat and one sat in the back seat next to Biltar.

“Am I being apprehended?” asked Biltar. “If so, do you have … special approval?”

No one answered and the hydrogen engines roared into life. The aerocar went straight up and accelerated north. Soon, they flew over a bustling exchange center. A huge polished black citadel with the red letters “NSP” appeared. The aerocar zoomed over the complex and went straight down into an inner quadrangle to land. The three manchines hustled Biltar out of the aerocar into the complex. They took an elevator down to the basement and led him into an empty waiting room where they uncuffed him.

“Wait there!” one of them ordered, pointing to a metal folding chair. Biltar sat and two of the ‘chines left, while the third went to a door at the end of the long room and knocked once. The door opened. He went in and shut the door. In a few microns, he came back out and left.

This place has the sterile odor of every other government building I’ve been in, Biltar thought. How long will I have to wait?

There were no clocks but it seemed like a very long time before the door opened and a dapper looking gentleman appeared. He was well manicured and dressed in an expensive light blue tunic.

“Come in Mr. ap Dyn,” he said with a gesture of invitation.

Biltar walked into a plush office and sat down where the man indicated, in a wooden chair across from a huge desk. The man took his seat behind the desk, in a heavily padded executive chair, and began going through some folders. Biltar immediately noticed the strong smell of expensive cologne.

“Your papers please,” said the man holding out his hand but not looking up.

“I’m sorry … I don’t have them,” said Biltar. “Your ‘chines didn’t give me time to get my coat. Am I under arrest?”

“Not at this moment,” said the man looking up with a glance and then back to the folders, “this is an interview. My name is Hersh ap Zet. I am National Security Advisor for Urbantia 7.”

“An interview? Why am I here?” Biltar asked.

“Just to have a little chat, Mr. ap Dyn. More than likely, we’ll fly you home after we’ve finished.”

“This is some rain, isn’t it? We sure can use it.”

“Do you recognize this, Mr. ap Dyn?” The man pulled out a pouch from the desk and held it up.

“Yes …”

“This pouch is full of illegal drugs.” The man pulled out a pipe from another drawer and held it up. “And here is your paraphernalia. You’re a drug addict.”

“No,” said Biltar, “those are herbs I smoke to lessen my pain and strengthen my immune system.”

“Pain?”

“The doctors say I am a dying man. Surely you have my medical records in one of those folders.”

“Probably … but to save time, tell me.”

“Fifteen years ago, my whole family was poisoned while I was working on a project for the government. My two children, Vali and Jyla and my beloved wife Sinya are already dead … and I’m next. It’s just a matter of time.”

“Project for the government?”

“Project Quant.”

Hersh went through his folders on the desk. “Yes … I see it here … Project … Qua … Quant?”

“Yes … it was the near proximity to the experiments.”

“Our government doesn’t poison people, Mr. Ap Dyn.”

“Oh yes they do … and they do it knowingly every day. My family died horribly from the insidious diseases which resulted from the gradual collapse of their immune systems … and I will too. I’m already in constant pain and pick up every bug that comes along.”

“You are a dope head, Mr. ap Dyn. You just want to get high … get out of your mind … escape from reality.”

“Heh … well … that too. Is that what this is all about?”

“Not yet, Mr. ap Dyn … but it could be.”

“Quit beating around the bush and get to the point,” said Biltar.

“Ah … the point. What is a … Point Source Generator?”

“My invention, sir. I have a Shaluman patent on it.”

“How come I never heard of it?”

“Your National Security State is afraid of it … because it can empower people.”

“What does this Point Source Generator do?” he asked, looking through the papers on his desk again.

“The PSG extracts electromagnetic energy from the ambient vacuum to produce unlimited amounts of free energy for all.”

“Free?”

“Yes … that’s why your National Security State is afraid. It can make people independent of your electrical grid.”

“Where are those PSGs?”

“There aren’t any,” Biltar lied easily.

“You’re a confidence man, aren’t you, Mr. ap Dyn. A dope head and a fraud. It says right here in this scientific report that it is impossible to pull electricity out of the air.”

“Well, if a scientific report says so.”

“You’re a scientist?”

“Yes, a physicist and electromagnetic engineer.”

“Where are those PSGs?”

“Well … I had one … but dismantled it.”

“Why?”

“Because real scientists say it’s impossible.”

“How did you get a Shaluman patent on something that is impossible?”

“That’s a good question, isn’t it?”

“Trickery … that’s how.”

“If you say so.”

“No, I don’t say so. Our legitimate scientists say so, Mr ap Dyn. Our legitimate scientists say so.”

“Okay.”

“Our great Nation of Shaluma is the hope of Miraba, the only true superpower. You’re either with us or against us. There’s a war going on, Mr.ap Dyn. A war on violent fanatics who want to destroy our way of life. A war on illegal drugs. And, most important, a war to eradicate evil everywhere. We’re going to sanitize this planet.”

“Well, you’re going to be pretty busy then,” said Biltar. “Do they pay you extra for the added stress?”

“You’re deluded, Mr.ap Dyn. Probably because of all the drugs you smoke. You’re a radical liberal. Do you talk with space people too?”

“Only on the full eclipse of Avengarone.”

“I’m going to have you checked out by our psychiatrist who will recommend a course of therapy to straighten you out. If you do not follow his advice and take all your medications, I’m going to turn you over to my narcotics division for prosecution. I have the evidence. In the meantime, you can go home. Be back here for your appointment.

“I’m writing down the day and time on this piece of paper. And … if you come up with a working PSG … let me know.”

Hersh ap Zet gave Biltar his card and the piece of paper then showed him out. The three manchines were waiting. Without a word, they flew him back to his residence.

I must contact Fryd and Rysen, he thought. The NSS is closing in.

Biltar got into his VTL aerocar and took off. When he was sure no one was following, he headed east and landed at a small pub in the suburbs of Urbantia 7. He used the audicom to contact Fryd and Rysen, then bought a bottle of wine, picked up three glasses and went into an empty back room to wait. He sat down at a table and poured himself a drink.

Fryd arrived first. “Greetings, Biltar my friend, we have a lot to talk about. The National Security State is getting desperate. They can smell death on the wind.”

“Yeah, things are getting intense,” said Biltar trying not to shake while he poured Fryd a glass of wine. “What do you think, Fryd? How far away is the cataclysm?”

“Right on top of us,” said Fryd. “What do you think the NSS will do?”

“The bastards probably have plans to save their own skins and emerge after the devastation as total world dictators. Perhaps they will crawl out from those expensive underground complexes to find nothing but a civilization in ashes and some indigenous people roaming the countryside gathering food. Ah, but those simple people will have electric power to help them, I’ve seen to that.”

“Yes,” Fred asserted, “that was a smart move. Those indigenous people have a lot to teach us and they’ll need an edge after the cataclysm in order to survive. The PSGs will help them get their own agriculture going when the government commodities come to an abrupt end. But it is so important for us to get those devices spread out in places where the surviving technology will eventually allow for further development.”

“Well,” said Biltar, “the planetoid may postpone the further development of the PSG but nothing can stop it. Project Quant paid off in the spin off … even though it cost me everything … Sinya and my precious children.”

“I know,” said Fryd looking down. “… I’m so sorry about that.”

Biltar nodded. “We need to get those fifty PSGs out and check on the Native Preserves. I haven’t heard a thing from them.”

Rysen arrived and sat down while Biltar was talking. “So they paid you a little visit.”

“Sure did,” said Biltar. “It was surreal beyond belief. They have me set up with an appointment to see a psychiatrist.”

Fryd shook his head. “Better not get into their clutches. They’ll have you so drugged and mind-controlled you’ll tell them anything.”

“Why did they let you go?” asked Rysen.

“I really don’t know for sure,” Biltar replied. “Interrogation and torture could easily become an embarrassment for them. Perhaps they think I’ll lead them to the PSGs.”

“That’s why we’ve got to be extremely careful,” said Rysen.

“They’ve got your picture, Fryd, as well as mine,” Biltar said. “I didn’t see yours, Rysen, but you’re probably there somewhere.”

Rysen nodded as he poured a glass of wine.

“Do you think our rendezvous point is still safe?” asked Fryd.

“The cabin in the mountains is as safe as any place I know,” Biltar answered. “We just have to be sure we’re not being followed. We’re under surveillance. Be careful.”

“Look,” said Rysen. “I’ll go to the Native Preserves and check on them while you and Fryd distribute the rest of the PSGs. I’ll get back with you after that, if the sky hasn’t fallen.”

“Thanks Rysen,” said Biltar. “That’ll be a great help. I don’t know how far we’re going to get with this before we hit a wall. Regardless, the cat is out of the bag forever. Free energy is here and once the powers that be have slithered back into their holes, everyone will know about it.”

As Biltar poured himself another glass of wine, Rysen looked at him with admiration.

“Biltar … we both appreciate what you’ve done.”

“Yes,” said Fryd, “in the whole history of Miraba, there are few examples like yours. Hardly anyone ever does anything like that. You gave this invention away to the whole world. That’s why it will survive. No one ever expected you to do that.”

Biltar smiled. “Well … that was back in the days when we still had a world-wide computer network.”

“Yeah,” said Rysen, “before they brought down that last bastion of freedom.”

“And blamed it on the ‘violent fanatics’ of course,” Fryd added, then finished his drink.

Biltar picked up the wine bottle and looked thoughtfully at the label, running his fingers over it, then set it back down. “I hope visionaries in other countries have picked up and fully utilized the plans and data I sent out. There should be a few copies of the PSG up and operating by now throughout Miraba.”

“Say, Biltar,” said Fryd, changing the subject, “what about security?”

Biltar thought for a moment. “Don’t use the audicom unless it’s an emergency. With the kind of crisis we’re likely to have, they’ll be too overwhelmed to come after us. I intend to keep going until I’m either dead or arrested.”

“Me too,” said Fryd.

Rysen gave an affirmative nod. “We’d better get out of here now.”

They left the pub one at a time and were careful to be sure they weren’t being followed. Fryd went north and Biltar south. They encountered no problems.

Rysen headed east. The traffic wasn’t too heavy on the electronic airway but he took his time. After twenty zerons, he noticed a black aerocar behind him.

Is he following me?

Just to test it out, he swung left and lowered his altitude. Sure enough the black aerocar followed.

“A coincidence?” He spoke out loud.

He took another couple of turns and knew for sure he had a tail.

“Okay,” he said, “catch me if you can, Mr. NSP.”

He hit the turbo-boost and disengaged from the electronic airway. The pursuer turned on flashing purple and blue lights and stayed right behind him. I’ll never be able to outrun him, he thought. That vehicle is too hot. Others will join him and cut me off electronically. I have to land. What to do. What to do.

Rysen shot down to low altitude and looked desperately for a way out. He saw heavy power lines and headed straight for them. He aimed directly for the steel tower supporting the power lines and at the last possible moment swerved to the left. He zoomed under the wires and pulled back hard on the stick roaring straight up and barely missing a line of traffic directly above. “Whew!” he exclaimed and looked into his rear view mirror a moment before his pursuer hit the tower and exploded in a ball of fire. The power lines shot out arcs of electricity and a large area of the city below went dark.

I know they have my number now! I’ll have to ditch the aerocar!

He found an unoccupied parking pad in front of a busy market place and set down, then quickly disappeared into the crowd. He slipped into an audicom booth and called the NSP to tell them he’d just discovered that his aerocar had been stolen.

The report is registered just in case they get me now. It may confuse the issue and at least give me some legal standing, if that still means anything.

He boarded the monorail and got off a short distance from the safe house. He didn’t go there until he was positive no one was following him. Inside, he pulled the shades and flopped down exhausted. No need to tell Biltar. He has enough problems … and soon it probably won’t matter anyway.

CONTINUE: 4) The Kultaki

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