Charod watched the prisoner from the booth and was convinced he’d succeeded in frightening him enough to talk during the next session, at least until Charod saw that enigmatic smile. Suddenly, he had doubts.
What was it that gave this creature such strength? Others had broken under far less, but this one was the first of his kind to experience the machine. The only way to know if he was different, or if he was typical of his race, was by comparative studies. However, so far the other one had escaped, abandoning the prisoner to Midean fate, but he couldn’t get off the surface. The patrols would find him and then Charod would have his comparison. The thought revived his good mood.
“Sir,” called Boren from the console to Charod’s left, “a report from Morovny. They’ve tracked another vehicle coming through the shield. It’s a similar configuration to the one that crashed, except this one is larger. However, this one isn’t having much difficulty. It’s maintaining reasonably good flight.” He hesitated and listened again. “Also, sir, it could be headed in this direction.”
“Could be?” Charod asked imperiously.
Boren quickly contacted Morovny for an update. “It’s too soon to be one hundred percent certain, sir, but Morovny thinks there’s a good chance from its orbital vector that it’ll land in this vicinity. When he has a positive plot, sir, he’ll advise you.”
“Very well,” Charod replied. Interesting. More of your kind, he thought, watching the prisoner. Some sort of rescue attempt perhaps? Well, if it was, there was time to prepare. The craft hadn’t even landed yet, though, there was the need to know how it was able to breach the shield. If it did land somewhere nearby, its crew would have to climb the mountain. There was plenty of time for one more session…not yet, but in a little while. “Any news yet of when our warship might arrive?”
“They estimate twenty hours, sir.”
Charod nodded. He turned his attention back to the prisoner, pleased to see the smile had faded. It was time to let the creature’s mind work for a while. There was nothing as destructive as one’s own psyche. It proved more beneficial to leave a reasonable length of time between each session. In the intervening time, the subject would remember suffering under the light, would fear the next session, and that fear would magnify the memory and do much to increase the work of the machine during the next session.
A remarkable organ, the brain, thought Charod, with a smirk.
Lector scouted ahead as he had when they’d climbed up the opposite face such a short time before. He used his senses to check the summit for the positioning of Midean patrols. The plan was to check out the small buildings near the lake. It seemed logical the large building would be the headquarters of the guard patrols. They’d already seen evidence of Mideans who clearly weren’t guard personnel moving between the smaller buildings, making it most likely Jon was being held in one of those.
Lector signaled the others when it was safe to come forward and when they were all together again Triena erected her shield. They climbed over the crest and back onto the summit, moving toward the small buildings. They’d have to search each until they found Jon, unless Triena could sense him as they got closer, which was possible, but would depend on his condition.
They approached the first building, a simple rectangle formed of some kind of light alloy, fashioned from pre-fabricated sheets with a flat roof. A simple utilitarian design. It had a door in one of the short sides and windows at Midean eye level in the other three sides. Moving carefully forward, Lector used hand signals to indicate there were three occupants.
While Lector and Triena kept low, Manny slowly moved to the window to look inside. As Mideans were a little taller than humans he needed to stretch on tiptoe to see the interior. He saw three Mideans with their backs to the window. They were huddled around a large console and obviously intent on whatever they were doing. There was only one large room in the interior of the building and it appeared to be some sort of workplace. Manny backed away and shook his head. On to the next structure.
They investigated two other buildings, one containing five Mideans, in what appeared to be some type of relaxation center. The other was empty, apparently another workplace. That only left two; surely, one would contain Jon.
Of the two remaining buildings, one was a bit larger than the other, and for no other reason than its difference, Manny chose to check that one next. He again looked in a window, though as they got nearer, they’d noted this building did have one long wall without a window, a fact that gave Manny hope they’d found the correct place. As he looked into the building, Manny saw another workplace with a console, with one seated operator and another standing behind him.
Manny felt a moment’s disappointment, until he noted the differences in the standing man’s uniform compared to the others he’d seen so far. More elaborate. That fact made him look again and then he realized what he’d thought was a large mirror on the wall above the console was, in fact, a glass wall. Unfortunately, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t see beyond the glass because there was some kind of bright light reflecting on it.
He backed away, raising a finger to his mouth. Then he made a circle out of his thumb and forefinger, the pre-arranged signal for success, though he quantified it with another signal. He placed his two hands together and then twisted them left and right, to indicate possibly. They would understand he meant he was pretty sure he’d found the correct place, but had not specifically seen Jon. He then raised two fingers to indicate two occupants seen, which didn’t tally with the three persons Lector indicated he’d sensed.
It seemed fairly certain Jon was the third person in that building.
They’d formed an outline plan for implementation if they found Jon and there were not too many Mideans with him. Triena nodded to confirm she still felt strong enough to continue maintaining her shield, and Lector nodded confirmation of his strength also.
They approached the door and Manny raised his hand as if to knock on it. However, before he could complete the movement, they heard a sharp exclamation from inside, and a fraction of a second later, Triena breathed the name. “Jon!”