The Other Five (Thick of Mind, Part 14)

Day 46. 64 pages, 30,172 words. One step forward, one step back. Still editing and cutting some stuff I didn’t like.


He couldn’t hide his ability from the doctors, of course. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to hide it, but the truth was he probably wouldn’t have been able to if he tried. They had already known, he came to realise, or had at least suspected to some degree. They’d known when they found his pod. They’d known when he recovered as much of his mind as he had. And even if they hadn’t known then, they certainly did after he revealed that he’d heard his p’bruz screaming when they had not been.

And it was why they’d gone to the Pelindrake, to witness the ceremony. They had been monitoring him for some sign of connection.

They didn’t know exactly what form his ability took, because Maladin didn’t know himself. The Bonshooni he’d watched them reviving on the Pelindrake had not been like him – not really. They had been older, and had gone into the pods far later, and as far as he gathered they had not possessed abilities of any kind. They’d just been normal Bonshooni.

So why had he heard the cries? Perhaps it had been a function of the skullie. Perhaps it had been the simple fact of their mutual ordeal in the pods, emptying their minds and leaving them to echo mournfully for millennia upon millennia in the dark.

There was no way he could figure any of it out alone, Maladin realised, and the doctors were as eager as he was to get answers – and that made cooperation with them his best chance.

“Why are there no aki’Drednanth here?” he asked Doctor Galhbron during one of their casual interaction-and-monitoring sessions.

Doctor Galhbron blinked in mild puzzlement. “This is a Molran-only facility,” she explained, “not through any specific policy, but a coincidence of standards and prerequisites … it is difficult to explain, but we enjoy autonomy but have the benefit of Six Species charter and Fleet oversight…”

She continued to talk for a time, and Maladin knew that this was something of a diversionary tactic. The information she was providing was all valid and arguably addressed his query, but it was also sufficiently voluminous to obscure the most important facets of the issue. He also knew she did this because he was only capable of taking on so much raw information at once, before taking it all on without further scrutiny. He knew that this occurred, but at the same time he remained incapable of really preventing himself from drifting.

“I just thought, since the material you provided me mentioned the prevailing belief that they have powers of the mind … a well-documented likelihood rather than fantasy, especially considering my own apparent abilities … it stood to reason that they might be of assistance,” he remarked when she was finished explaining the intricacies of the laboratory’s administrative structure.

Doctor Galhbron looked at him sharply. “The aki’Drednanth do not act as assistants to the Molren, Maladin,” she said in a reproving tone.

“I know,” he said, “but I also thought that they would be interested in the phenomenon of the Jathan’s School pods, and perhaps willing – if not to assist the laboratory, then guide the research with their superior knowledge and experience,” he had also wondered, if the aki’Drednanth mass memory was as long as some researchers theorised it to be, whether they might have some recollection of what Jathan’s School had actually been. But considering the way Doctor Galhbron had responded to his first question, he didn’t quite dare raise the second.

“Who is Dunnkirk?”

Maladin was caught off-guard. Doctor Galhbron did not habitually change the subject so bluntly. It could be that she simply had nothing more to say on the subject and was satisfied that they had each made their points, and was therefore moving on; or it could be a means of getting around to addressing his query that he simply could not see his way to the end of yet. It seemed unlikely that she was changing the subject purely as a way to distract him from a line of questioning she did not wish to follow. If she did not want to tell him – or could not tell him – why the laboratory did not host aki’Drednanth, she had only to say precisely that.

“Who?” he asked blankly.

“You say the word sometimes when you are deep in concentration,” Doctor Galhbron said. “You talk … it seems to be a name, rather than a term – the name of somebody you are talking to.”

Maladin frowned, concentrating. The word – the name – was familiar, he realised. Thinking it – Dunnkirk – brought something to the forefront of his memory. “He … I think he was a friend,” he said hesitantly. “My p’bruz, of the same – from the sleeper pods.”

“From before you went into the pods?” Doctor Galhbron asked, leaning forward. “From Jathan’s School?”

“I don’t remember,” he admitted. “I only remember some parts, I know he – I think he went in a pod like I did. And he is not one of the two other Bonshooni I have lived here with,” he gestured with a lower hand at the lab, the one vacant nook in the next room and the one filled with his placid, slack-faced p’bruz. “Were there others?” he asked.

“Some,” Doctor Galhbron seemed hesitant. “We had eight pods from your set – from the School. You three were the only survivors of the awakening process. And of the three, you were the only fully viable subject. But there are many other pods, we think. From the design, and the serial markings, we think there may have been scores of pods holding sleepers from Jathan’s School – perhaps hundreds. Hundreds of children who may have the same abilities you do.”

“Whatever they may be,” Maladin smiled faintly.

Doctor Galhbron smiled back, although he could tell she was still feeling cautious. “The aki’Drednanth do take an interest in Molranoid telepathic ability,” she said, seeming to relent. “Some of them approve of our dabbling in their domain, and wish to help. Some of them disapprove. The aki’Drednanth know of this facility, Maladin. We will gladly and gratefully host any who wish to come here and examine you. But we cannot, by Fleet regulations and charter policy, push that invitation into an obligation. This is not the relationship between Molran and aki’Drednanth.”

Maladin nodded slowly. Whether or not she had been using the question about Dunnkirk to avoid the matter or answer it in a roundabout way, he remained uncertain – but she had given him an answer. Of sorts.

“Can I see the other five?” he asked. “Of the eight, the five who were not even unsuccessfully awakened. Were their remains destroyed?”

Again Doctor Galhbron hesitated. “No,” she said, “they were not destroyed. Two were dissected, their brains subjected to intensive scans. The same was done to your … p’bruz who sadly died during your recovery. But if you wish to see them, I can take you to see them.”

Maladin stood. “I would like that.”

About Hatboy

I’m not often driven to introspection or reflection, but the question does come up sometimes. The big question. So big, there’s just no containing it within the puny boundaries of a single set of punctuationary bookends. Who are these mysterious and unsung heroes of obscurity and shadow? What is their origin story? Do they have a prequel trilogy? What are their secret identities? What are their public identities, for that matter? What are their powers? Their abilities? Their haunted pasts and troubled futures? Their modus operandi? Where do they live anyway, and when? What do they do for a living? Do they really have these fantastical adventures, or is it a dazzlingly intellectual and overwrought metaphor? Or is it perhaps a smug and post-modern sort of metaphor? Is it a plain stupid metaphor, hedged around with thick wads of plausible deniability, a soap bubble of illusory plot dependent upon readers who don’t dare question it for fear of looking foolish? A flight of fancy, having dozed off in front of the television during an episode of something suitably spaceship-oriented? Do they have a quest, a handler, a mission statement, a department-level development objective in five stages? I am Hatboy.
This entry was posted in Astro Tramp 400, IACM, Oræl Rides To War, The Book of Pinian and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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