Chapter 9.

30 Jan

Raxis was afraid to reveal too much, too soon, to the animal doctor. How far should this huge man be trusted? Only a series of questions to test him could establish that for sure.

But Gaen himself disclosed his profound distaste for how the policed state operated over Velvet society and the economy of the planet. He spoke at great length to his new acquaintance as he led him about the barn on an inspection round. Raxis was surprised at the candid criticism by the rural farrier. It was sharp and graphic in its fearless sincerity.

“There is no prosperity in our region, or anywhere else for that matter. Our cultivators, whether landowners or share-renters, have little left over after paying for necessities. Trade is stagnant. There is cynical negativism instead of the optimism that prevailed before the coming to power of Dictator Duko. Everything is in decay. Life has been corrupted in a million ways.”

“How do the villagers pay you for the services you render them?” inquired Raxis suddenly.

Gaen looked up from a mulet’s leg he was diagnosing.

“Many still owe me. Others send me part of what they cultivate on their land.”

“The regime, then, is the cause of significant suffering and misery. That has been my view from the beginning. I like it that you share that opinion. Am I correct, Gaen?” inquired his guest.

The veterinarian gave a nod. “I see only one way out of our troubles.”

“And what might that be?” asked the traveler with excitement.

Gaen lowered his voice, as if there might be a chance of being overheard even here in an animal barn in open country.

“Insurrection,” he murmured in a barely audible voice.

Here was something that Raxis felt he had to pursue further.

“Many people believe that the Dictator is too powerful to overthrow by a popular uprising. They have no hope that his tyranny can be ended soon.”

Gaen stared at him with blazing yellow eyes.

“I am not one of those pessimists,” he baldly admitted.

Raxis made no immediate reply to these statements. He had to think about possible implications for his personal plans. What might it mean for the psychic movement on Velvet?

That night, Jeca transmitted a report to her husband about the closing of the Tinok Glass Company’s laboratory by a special squad of clandestines.

“They entered unannounced late in the afternoon, when work was at a feverish height. Everyone was ordered out of the building, told to go home and not return tomorrow. The laboratory will no longer be in operation. All its apparati and materials are now state property and not to be handled by unauthorized persons. The salaries of everyone connected with the lab are suspended. Records and documents were taken by these police thugs while we were still present. Nothing of value was left in the place.

“All of this means an end to our pursuit of telepathic enhancement. There will be a meeting of our fired comrades tonight at a safe location. What can we do? How can our research be continued? That will be discussed and decided there.

“Your advice is desperately needed. For now, we are proceeding slowly. There is uncertainty in our ranks. We await your counsel and guidance.”

Raxis sprang out of the cot he was lying on. The room was in complete darkness. Only stellar light from the sky gave a small amount of illumination. His eyes focused on the rear window and what it revealed: the closed door of the animal barn. Faint sounds of sleeping equines, burros, and mulets could be heard.

An eerie idea struck the mind of the fugitive. Should he present it to his wife by telepathy? No, it was better to find out first whether Gaen was willing to agree to it. There was danger to all concerned if the idea failed.

He resolved to discuss the scheme with his host the next morning.

The Dictator stalked about his enormous office in frenzy and anger. Why could his police not carry out his decisions as ordered by him?

The closing of the laboratory at Timok Glass should have been a final action, not an initial one. The purples had jumped the gun by barging in too early. Was the inept raid a result of rivalry with the clandestines, also about to make secret entry there?

This was not the way a centralized, efficient dictatorship was supposed to work.

With all his personal power, Duko felt entangled in an illogical web of bureaucracy. Why was it so difficult to keep the police units together, in line?

His instruments of oppression frustrated his very own will. Meanwhile, the dangerous Raxis Absum had to be found. Duko decided to double the number of persons, both purples and clandestines, searching for this archfoe. The hunt must not slacken. The pace had to quicken.

He decided to offer a reward of ten thousand mazumons for information leading to his capture.

Every corner of Velvet had to be searched for this enemy of the Dictator. He must not be allowed to continue his treachery. Fear of him haunted Duko day and night.

Gaen led his guest into the basement below his cottage. “This is where I keep my pharmacopeia for equines,” said the farrier, climbing down the stairs ahead of Raxis. “I have my microscopes here. My special interest is the endocrine systems of animals. There are so many hormones inside these creatures that I fear that the research is far from complete.”

They reached the lower floor, where large cabinets ran in all four directions.

Gaen pointed to a long table with several microscopes on it. He led Raxis over to a metalline cabinet set on top of a low table there. “I am studying the brain hormones of the hinny. You know the differences between mules and hinnies?”

“They are the products of contrary sets of parents,” answered Raxis. “Mules result from breeding a mule ass with an equine mare, while hinnies are the offspring of an equine stallion and a female ass. Am I not correct?”

Gaen gave a nod, then went on explaining.

“As you know, both these hybrids are sterile and cannot in any way be bred. Cultivators prefer the mule because of its greater size and strength. I have for a number of years studied the hormonal system of the mule. Recently my attention has centered on certain peculiar characteristics of secretions from the hypophysis, the pituitary gland within the brain of the hinny. I call this amazing substance hinny hypophysic hormone. It took me much time and effort to isolate the compound at the core of it.

“I have been able to trace certain extraordinary qualities in the hinny to the hormone. They are attributes I never expected the creature to possess. Such features were a great surprise.”

Raxis sensed his interest increasing by the second.

“What, specifically, are they?” he asked.

“I believe that, due to having the hypophysic hormone, hinnies are capable of mental communication even when distant from one another. They transmit thoughts over near and far distances. This is a result of a unique compound in the hormone.”

A shudder passed through the body of the listener on hearing this revelation. It was several moments before Raxis was able to say anything in reaction.

“This hormone allows hinnies to experience telepathy?”

“They do not think in verbal terms like humans, of course. But emotions and visual pictures can be transferred between such animals. I am more than certain of that. It is an uncanny capacity that I have not found in any other equid, or in any other animal species. It is a particularly unique phenomenon. There is nothing like it anywhere else in nature.

“Perhaps the miracle is due to the hybrid nature of the hinny. Mules completely lack any telepathic sensitivity. Some biological modification has occurred that grants psychic powers to the hinny, a freakish genetic combination. There is nothing like it anywhere else in animals.”

“I find this discovery fascinating,” confessed Raxis, looking away to hide his excitement. “You must tell me everything you know about the hinny hormone and how it works. And there are certain things I want to reveal to you about my own studies in the area of telepathy.”

The guest began to narrate his own history as a pioneer leader among Velvet psychics.

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