Chapter III.

20 Feb

What is so urgent that Psychic Minister Lei Trenx must see me at once? the veteran psychographer asked himself.

Bran Carq could not remember how many years had passed since he had last met and talked with the head of the department he worked for.

There had been no bureaucratic reason for the two men to consult on any matter. Each had operated without contact involving the other. One was at the top and the other at a low echelon of the official pyramid. Why should they ever see each other?

What was strangest about this summons was the fact that they were not to come together in the Minister’s official office, but in a nearby theobromine shop where cacao and chocolate drinks and deserts were served, a place of leisure delights and informal relaxation.

Why is old Lei acting so secretively? Bran asked himself endlessly.

The psychographer arrived first, took a small table in the back, and ordered a cylix of hot chocolate. As he began to drink it, he caught sight of the entrance of the Minister. The latter spotted him and made it to the rear where the other sat.

After shaking hands and exchanging greetings, the two sat down on antique ice cream chairs. The shop was almost empty, both of them realized. No one was sitting near enough to overhear them. Trenx got down to business at once, wasting not a second of his time.

“We wish to make use of your knowledge and experience, Bran,” began the cabinet member. “There is a stubborn problem that you probably recognize. I refer to the Velvet phenomenon that has swept over the planet.”

For a fraction of a second, Carq made a sour, cynical face. “I am not involved with it in any way. Politics has always been beyond my interests. And I never read novellae of any sort. They would interfere with my work as a psychographist. No, I don’t even like to read what I have received and taken down telepathically. What you speak of is beyond my everyday interest and knowledge. It is as if all this business of Velvet were happening in another world, at a different time in which I no longer exist. Is that clear to you, sir?”

“But you have acquaintances who may have joined the movement of the futural dreamers,” countered Trenx.

“I do not deny that,” sourly muttered Bran Carq with reluctance.

“That is why I called you here, my friend. The Ministry has a big favor to ask of you. Of course, this will all be voluntary on your part.”

“What is it you want me to do?” impatiently asked the freelancer.

Tenx took a minute to go over to the service bar, order a cocoa malt, pay for it, and then return to the table with his beverage.

The official rattled off the mission he had in mind for Bran Carq.

“Grave concerns weigh on our government. The Primary Minister wishes to have the psychics who work under me to join in the opposition to the conspiracy that endangers the stability of our planet.

“So, it is my duty to recruit willing agents from our pool of psychographers to draw away members of the Velvet movement. My goal is to help attract these people away from alliance with and support of the Improvement Party.

“I immediately thought of you, Bran. Who has more experience in the psychic field than you? Who has more ability to fight against such poisoning of minds? It is your duty to assist me. We must devise some method of reforming the misled innocents. They are blind to how the Improvers will exploit them. Somehow, you and I must enlighten their befogged minds. It may not be easy, but it must be done. A victory for the Improvers in the coming election would be a catastrophe.”

“What is it you specifically want me to do?” impatiently asked the psychic.

Trenx took a quick sip of his cooling cocoa malt, then continued in a guarded tone, as if revealing an arcane secret.

“The center of their web has to be Sucre Publications. They issued the entire Velvet series. The owner, Brage Sucre, is the formal head of the futural association, but the actual boss is his Chief Editor, Tado Foleg.

“I want you to become acquainted with them so you can learn one vital fact: the identity of their secret psychographer, the one who records Velvet world for them.”

“You are certain there is such  person?” said Carq, though he knew that Endo Valino was now credited with the writing of the novellae. “It could be that the author is the person named on the cover and the title page. What if there is no psychography whatever involved in this series of books?”

The face of Trenx turned red. “I have dealt with transmissions for decades and can tell what is and what is not psychographic. These novellae have a certain flavor of a different time to them.” He looked at Bran sternly. “The government will reward you generously for your efforts. But you will have to operate on your own. The decisions you make will be personal ones. Do you understand what we require of you, Bran?”

“Get into Sucre Publications and learn who is their receptor, and try to keep that person out of the clutches of the Improvers.”

“Will you do that for your government, then?”

“I can at least try, sir,” said the newly recruited spy to his superior.

Bran smiled internally where no one could see.

He was perfectly certain he knew who the psychographer of the Velvets had to be.

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