If you missed the start of Alien Secrets, Flight of the Kestrel book 2, here is the link.
Nefar and Tomos guided the hover stretcher off the bridge and down the corridor to sick bay. What now? Nefar thought. Is this more of the brain injury I hoped the Casparans would heal?
'What do you think would make everyone pass out, Doctor?' Tomos asked. 'Should we ask Engineering to check for a coolant leak? I know inhaling coolant fumes can cause loss of consciousness, but I don’t see how it would get all the way around the ship.'
'Good thinking Tomos,' said Nefar. 'Any other ideas?'
'Some kind of anomalous field in the space we passed through? A sound beyond human hearing? Would that be a question for Engineering too?'
'Let us leave those questions to Engineering and see if medical science can tell us anything. Try hard to remember what you experienced and record it as soon as you can.'
They eased Tanu onto a bed and Nefar switched on the medscanner.
'What's happened to his forehead?' Tomos asked. 'Why is it so red?'
Nefar sighed. 'Take the medkit and see each member of the crew, including the captain - use my authority to insist. Check for anything unusual and treat any contusions. I can manage here.'
'Yes, sir.' Tomos left.
Nefar studied the medscan. The Casparans had indeed healed Tanu's brain. He must have been affected by the same phenomena that caused the rest of the crew to pass out. Nefar couldn't find anything wrong with him. Then he gasped.
'Right in front of my face!' he said.
The triangular lump on Tanu's forehead was bright red, but the scan showed him as fully healthy. The glow of the lump was natural.
'Now where have I seen that before?' he muttered.
He went to his console and searched the database. Nothing. He searched the historical database. Nothing. He was sure he had seen it referred to before. Then he searched the mythological database. He couldn't believe what he read. Was it possible? Nefar reached for the comm channel.
* * *
'Captain, I need to speak with you urgently about Tanu.'
'Not now, Doctor, the ship is badly damaged. Speak to me after the meeting.'
'Sorry Captain, but this will not wait. The whole crew could be in danger. I am coming to your office now.'
A minute later Nefar rushed into Darrow's office and dropped into the seat across the desk.
‘There is something you should know, Captain.' Nefar leaned across the desk and spoke softly. ‘The lump on Tanu’s forehead is not a wound, it is part of him. When I realised, I started a search through the database to see if it is a characteristic of some species with which I am not familiar. The result was surprising. Have you ever heard of Cerebra?'
Darrow frowned. 'Something to do with the brain, isn't it?'
'Well, that is where we get the word from, but it is a place.'
'A place? Oh, do you mean the legend about a planet of people with incredible mental powers?'
Nefar sat back and smoothed his beard. 'I do not think it is a legend any more, Captain. I think that is where Tanu is from.'
For a moment Darrow considered in silence. 'But Cerebra's a myth, it's not real.'
Nefar shook his head. 'I am as certain as I can be. Do you know, every species has a similar word? Where do you think it came from?' He paused to let it sink in.
'Think about it,’ he continued, leaning forward. ‘You decided to rescue Tanu from Caspar because he seemed important. He caused a commotion with the Bokans and the Casparans. I think they both recognised the lump on his forehead and were trying to make him work for them. And this latest incident happened immediately after he arrived on the bridge.'
'Now wait a minute,' said Darrow, running his hand through his curly hair. 'He’s got mental powers? Are you saying he destroyed those ships with his mind?'
Nefar nodded slowly. 'Exactly, and if so, it raises a lot of questions.'
Darrow's mind reeled with the implications. He got up and paced the short distance between his desk and the door. 'You’ve spent most time with him, but what do we really know about him? He's been semi-conscious most of the time. How do we know he won’t use his powers for his own gain? Is anyone safe around him?' He shook his head. 'I can't risk my crew or my ship.'
Nefar placed a hand on Darrow's arm. 'You have already risked both to rescue him, twice. I would hope he would be grateful. He is here now, we cannot just get rid of him. He is sedated now, but that will not help us discover what his plans are.'
Darrow nodded. 'At least it will give us some thinking time. Any indication he might be hostile?'
'Not so far, but he has been too weak to do anything. He was mentally impaired too, traumatised by his treatment at the hands of the Bokans. I cannot say what his mental state is now.' Nefar shook his head.
'Even if he co-operates,' Darrow said, thinking out loud, 'we have to consider what we're going to do with him. If we report this to the Alliance, they won't pass up such an opportunity. If we let him go, where will he go? Everyone will want him. We’ve opened a whole can of worms, haven’t we?'
Darrow sank down on his chair and as Nefar looked puzzled, apologised for the colloquialism.
'Sorry, an unmanageable situation with lots of variables and unknowns. Keep him sedated for now, and see if you can find out any more about his people.'
After the doctor left, Darrow sat for a long time in thought. This was a tough one. He could hardly believe it was true. Nowhere in the known galaxy was there any species with proven mass mental abilities, telekinesis and telepathy were theoretical, consigned to folklore and fringe studies. This man could be the greatest danger they had ever faced, or their greatest ally.
How could he keep his crew safe and be fair to Tanu? Having rescued him twice, could they now deliver him up to another government who would want to use him for their own ends? Where did loyalty to the Alliance end? Were there some things you couldn’t be asked to do?
* * *
The horror of what he had seen and felt lay like a lead weight in Reuel's stomach. He sat on his bunk, his cranial spines limp as he thought about what happened. Tanu came through the bridge door and stared at the viewscreen. Then he frowned and the triangular lump on his forehead began to glow red.
Every Altairian knew what that glow meant - Rayt!
But surely not.
The Rayt had not been seen for a thousand years. They came to Altair and used their mind control powers to enslave everyone. Over the generations the story faded into legend and many people no longer believed such a species ever really existed. But now Reuel knew the truth. In the moment before he blacked out, he felt the force in his mind and saw the Bokan and Casparan ships start to break apart.
Tanu did it, he was certain. The shock of the revelation made him sick.
Did that make Tanu a monster of legend?
He had seemed to be a gentle soul, so traumatised by his mistreatment at Bokan hands. Reuel felt sorry for him. But then he had been badly treated, broken down. Now he was recovering. Now his powers were manifesting. Reuel got up and paced the few steps to the cabin door and back. His spines began to tremble. Had he really seen what he thought he had seen?
His forehead lump glowed, I am sure of it, he thought. Does that make him Rayt? Maybe there are other species whose foreheads glow. None that I have ever found in my species research. His forehead glowed and the ships broke apart. I felt it too, we all did. We all lost consciousness.
Why did he do that to us? A subject is of no use if they pass out when you try to control their mind. Maybe he was not trying to control our minds, maybe he was destroying the ships and the mental force affected us somehow.
He sat back down. The pacing agitated him. He needed to think carefully.
What but the power of the Rayt could explain the ships disintegrating like that? What other cause could there be for the crew’s loss of consciousness? After all, Tanu lost consciousness too.
Reuel's mind grasped at straws. Maybe we passed through some type of cloud in space. I was on scanners and nothing registered, though I was concentrating on the other ships, rather than space. Could some unknown phenomena have affected the structural integrity of the ships? Ah, but Kestrel was not affected, so that idea will not work.
Tanu was trying to save us, it had to be him. Does that sound like a monster? Yes - he was not saving us, he was saving himself! If the Kestrel was destroyed, he would perish along with us, and if she was defeated, the Bokans or the Casparans would take him away. He is using us, and what will he do next?
What should I do about it? Would anyone believe me if I try to warn them? The idea is fantastical.
We should have left him on Boka, he thought, the next round of torture would probably have killed him. Why did he not use his mind control on them? Why did he let them torture him? Suppose he suddenly released it and got away?
He paused as a thought struck him.
We rescued him! I rescued him - twice. I thought he was harmless, I was sorry for him - was that mind control?
Well, whatever the reason, his power is working now. He is a monster. It is only a matter of time before he enslaves the crew and controls the ship Then he can get to PACT HQ, take control of the whole of PACT, the whole of the Alliance - the entire galaxy - we’d all be slaves. I’ve got to stop him before he appoints himself Emperor of the Known Universe. The captain will not believe me. I must take action alone. I rescued him, I identified him, I must stop him.
Although he was used to violence around him as he grew up, Reuel had never killed or even hurt anyone in cold blood, only defended himself and his family. He swallowed hard at the thought.
Tanu had to die.
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz