The Mind Warden

Warning! This contains major spoilers for The Heir! Do NOT read it if you haven’t read The Heir yet!

 

This scene is from Keridan’s point of view from the time he has arrived on Verindon with Sarah and covers as he leaves her and is put through the Mind Warden. I hope you like it.

 

“Now, if you will excuse me, my Lady,” Denzik said, bowing before her again. “We must return to the High Command. We will need to obtain all we can from Agent Keridan about this mission. As soon as we have retrieved the Star Runner your personal items will be delivered to the Palace.”

I could see an accusation in his eyes. I was sure he was angry that Jillandrina had accused me of inappropriate behavior, but now Jillandrina was dead, especially since she had died in the service of the Overlord, he would be unwilling to sully her name by dismissing the charges.

We marched away together. I let my thoughts linger with Sarah. Hopefully, Letz would help her and her ladies in waiting would learn to love her. Hopefully, her uncle wouldn’t kill her. I wished I could be certain I would be around to protect her.

Denzik didn’t speak during our journey, although as we passed through the far end of the High Command’s lobby, a security detail began following us. It was not a good sign.

I began preparing my mind for what was ahead. I trawled through every single thought of Sarah, sorting out which were likely to incriminate me only and which might be damaging for her. I pushed all memory of what had happened in the escape pod and when I was maintaining the ship to the bottom of my mind, bringing memories of Sarah when she was grieving for her father to the fore. I knew that most of the things that had happened then would convict me of guilt without any effect on her.

I toyed with the idea of letting them see me in Sarah’s room first. It would undoubtedly condemn me to death instantly. But the way she had clung to me … it made me worry that Denzik might read too much into it and start digging for something else. Hopefully other things would condemn me without that.

As we entered Denzik’s office, the High Commander signaled me to stand before his desk. I noted that the security squad had entered with us and had taken up positions around me.

Denzik sat at his desk. “Agent Keridan, are you aware of the highly damaging report that Agent Jillandrina submitted on your performance before she died for the glory of Verindon?”

I looked at the wall, not my commander. I had not been given permission to look at him. “I am, sir.”

“She informed us that you behaved in an inappropriate manner to the Lady Sarah, our Overlord. That you spent time with her without the company of other agents. That you gave rise to the opinion, in the natives around you, that you had feelings for her. What do you say to these charges?”

“Sir, we were in exceptional circumstances. The mission raised many unforeseen events, including Agent Jillandrina being unable to fulfill her role as primary contact for several weeks, during which time the Lady Sarah’s adoptive father was murdered. As I was the only other contact she knew socially, I was required to have more contact with her than normal.”

“Be that as it may, agent,” he said in a ominous voice, “these are serious allegations and must be examined at the highest level.”

Two of the agents standing behind me stepped up, one on either side.

“Agent Keridan,” said Denzik, and I could hear regret in his voice, “you will be interrogated so that we can find out the truth of these allegations. We shall honor Agent Jillandrina’s report, as she was a great agent – dying to save her Overlord.”

I did not allow the fear to show as the agents led me away, but I was struck with the irony. If Jillandrina had been here, I was sure Denzik wouldn’t have taken her word over mine. For one, she was female. Secondly, she was a rookie. My experience, although limited, would have given me the edge. Thirdly, Denzik knew me and liked me. But because she had given her life on our mission, especially to save Sarah, her wishes had to be honored.

Now I would also give my life to save Sarah. I could only hope that Denzik would be convinced by what I offered and would execute me and leave her alone.

The agents took me to the interrogation unit. I had been there only once before, as part of my Academy training, but we were all familiar with its procedures. The unit was buried deep in the bowels of the High Command. There were no windows, no doors and if those in charge of the procedures deemed it suitable, no light. It was all part of the plan to break down the resistance of those who were brought there, usually criminals of some kind or other, although procedures on agents were not unheard of.

I was processed and taken to a cell. It was a barely two meters by two meters, and lit only sparsely. I knew it was the first part of their attempt to psyche me out before my procedure, to try and break through any defenses I had set up.

So I waited, taking care to think no more of Sarah and our time together. I had arranged my memories in the order I wanted and I couldn’t risk disturbing that, as much as I wanted to dwell on the feel of her body in my arms and her lips moving with mine. I would save that memory for the execution, when there was no longer any chance of anyone seeing it.

They left me there for about an hour. By then I was fully prepared for what was about to happen and for its inevitable conclusion. I was led from my cell and taken straight to the primary interrogation unit.

It was dark when I entered. This was another part of the procedure. The only area that was lit was the place where the Mind Warden sat. It was designed to frightened the subject. I didn’t allow it to disturb me.

I could see Denzik standing in the shadows, his face grim. He let the interrogators proceed without any interference. I noticed with surprise that Hajitis was in attendance. On his face was a huge scowl, but whether it was out of sympathy for me or anger at my behavior I wasn’t sure.

I took a deep breath to calm myself as the computer started thrumming. I could feel the heat on my temples, and I again ensured the right memories were first and foremost in my mind.

“We’re ready to commence, High Commander,” one of the interrogators said.

“Begin,” came Denzik’s voice.

I felt a searing pain coming through each of my temples and meeting in the middle. My teeth vibrated under the assault. I clenched them together, determined to keep silent for as long as possible.

As I’d hoped, they were starting on a low setting. Memories began to surface in my mind. I knew that they were being projected on the virtual screen behind me for all to see. I was pleased that the ones I had selected were proceeding in the order I had arranged.

I had started with memory of me with Sarah when she had first come to stay at the Bradfield house. This was the memory that I felt was least likely to reflect on her – she was grieving at the time – and would portray me in a bad light. I thought I could see Denzik conferring with Hajitis.

I heard a murmur run through the others as they saw my memories of my involvement with her at our house. I let them see every time I had been alone with her in the early days. I could hear the disapproval from the agents standing around. They shouldn’t need anymore to find me guilty.

“Next level.” It was Denzik’s voice.

I grew nervous at this, although I soon forgot about that as pain charged through my head. Sweat gathered on my forehead and trickled down my face. I began to gasp through my teeth.

They were looking at my memories of the art exhibition now. I was worried about that; now that I knew what to look for, I could see love on Sarah’s face and in her ready blushes. I could only hope that this emotionless gathering would be as oblivious to it as I had been then. I could feel the memories coming loose. I was losing control of what they selected. I couldn’t allow that, and I hoped they wouldn’t notice I was struggling against the machine.

They looked through those memories and I could hear more muttering. I hoped that they were upset with my behavior and not Sarah’s.

“Next level.”

I tried to keep the shock off my face at Denzik’s request. He had to have seen enough!

I could feel the Mind Warden probing around for more. It was unpackaging the time when I had gone into Sarah’s room to comfort her. I allowed it to do so – I couldn’t stop it at this stage – hoping that they wouldn’t read anything into the way she had clung to me. It should be all that was needed. No one knew I had done this. It was unacceptable behavior.

I could hardly see through the searing agony that blazed through my brain. However, a commotion caught my eye, even through the haze and shadows. There seemed to be some sort of conference, with someone rushing up to Denzik. Had they finally decided to execute me?

Through the darkness a shaft of light appeared. At first, I thought I was hallucinating, because along that corridor of light, Sarah came towards me. She was clothed in the regal robes of the Overlord, looking so beautiful it took my breath away.

But the expression on her face made me realize this was not some pain-induced fantasy. I had never seen her so angry. As she looked up at the screen behind me, her face turned white with rage.

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