Chapter XIV.

6 Apr

Inhabitants of Plumbago of advanced age could think back to the age of the Xartic Cataclysm as they looked from their windows at rolling war vehicles and marching troopers.

Dreadful memories revived in many elderly minds. Fifty years had passed but fear of military rule still shook their inner being. Those not old enough to have had personal experience of the troubled past now trembled at the threat of the unknown before them. How far were the military authorities going to exercise their powers? How long was this state of emergency meant to last? What did they plan to do to the miners and the sympathizers to their movement? Would they execute their enemies summarily? Was a horrific blood bath imminent? No one was able to do more than make guesses. Many contradictory rumors spread through the city of Plumbago.

The miners were the most worried section of the population as they continued to work underground. What would their situation become under these extraordinary conditions? What horrors might lie ahead?

Slowly, contacts were restored between the local units of the miners and the center over wirephone.

No authority had yet interfered with such direct communications. In time, activists were able to make connection with the doctor’s office in Spodumene. From many sides came queries about the condition of the wounded Founder. Dey Skull helped Beryl Sehr give reports on Slyn’s successful surgery. At the same time, Bato Mentin informed the leaders of other districts about the course of events in the Plumago region. Information started to flow. The Miners Organization was coming back to life.

The doctor who performed the surgery offered his nearby cottage as a safe, private place for the patient to rest and recover. Once again the Founder was carried to a loco, this time on a medical gurney. It was a short ride to the offered refuge. The sedated leader slept in peace there. The doctor’s wife and daughter went to work in their kitchen preparing food for the entourage of the Founder. Those who had accompanied him took turns eating at the dining room table.

Beryl Sehr, drained and exhausted, sat down beside Dey. She talked as if by herself alone.

“Although Bato is talking by wirephone to the district directors, that cannot be the same as actually meeting together and deciding things in a group.

“I am certain that when the Founder awakens he will wish to assemble the Central Crew quickly. We should be preparing to send out his call for a conference to set a new course for the movement. There will probably be several major changes in policy and direction. That’s why I believe that Garen must start making decisions immediately, as soon as he awakens. There is no time to lose, none at all.”

“Won’t he be too weak and tired for that?” softly objected Dey under his breath.

Her sharp brown eyes seemed to bore into him like a drill.

“I know him well enough to anticipate his frustration at being out of action for so long,” she murmured. “He will want to start talking and working on problems at once. Do you realize how little sleep this man gets in an average day when he is well? I know, because of my duties in serving him. He is a demanding taskmaster, but the heaviest burdens that he assigns are those on himself. His working never finishes.”

“I find him a most extraordinary individual,” confessed the journalist. “Of course, my interview with him will be off for a considerable length of time. But I have already received a deep impression of his character from his bravery at the rally and following it. A fearful man might have dived off the platform from the instant the trouble started. But the Founder stood his ground, setting a marvelous example for all to see. Such courage is rare in public leaders. Most are unwilling to take the ultimate risk. There can be no doubt of the personal fearlessness of Garen Slyn. He possesses genuine courage.”

The aide to the Founder gave him a sad smile. “He can be merciless to himself. I have trouble keeping him from overexertion with work and activity. His sense of duty has no limits. Just watch how fast he gets back into harness once he regains full consciousness. You will be astounded at his energy so soon after serious surgery. The man will be inexhaustibly active.”

Everyone eating at the table looked up as Bato Mentin entered from the living room where he had set up an impromptu office as soon as the group had come to the cottage.

“There is bad news,” proclaimed the ex-miner, his gray eyes expanding. “Other towns are also falling under emergency military law. I have received word that has already happening in Glucinium and Corundum. It is now a general crisis that we face, not merely a localized one. The forces of the government’s army mean to use the present circumstances to destroy our movement all the way to its roots. They do not intend to show us the least mercy.”

All those present had stopped eating as they absorbed this bad news. The first to ask a question was Beryl.

“What can be done right now?” she asked the entire assembled staff. “We cannot doubt that the Founder, if he could speak, would tell us to call the Central Crew to meet together at once. This is an unprecedented situation we are in.”

Bato moved to the center of the dining room, standing behind Beryl and Dey.

“That is what Taval Renda just told me over the wire,” he announced in an ominous tone. “In fact, he is already on his way here. His loco is racing toward Spodumene, avoiding the roads watched by the military police. Taval wants the Central Crew summoned without word from Garen Slyn, on the authority of its remaining members. That is something unheard of till now.”

Those around the table exchanged questioning looks with each other.

“We all know what the Founder’s decision would be at the moment,” asserted Beryl with forceful will. “I venture to think he would chide us for not carrying out what is clearly necessary, a summoning of the Central Crew.”

All eyes focused on the only woman in the room.

But in a single instant, a second female entered from out of the corridor leading to the bedrooms. It was the doctor’s wife. The heavy, wrinkled mother appeared shaken by something.

“He is awake,” she hesitantly said, as if not believing her own tired eyes. “Mr. Slyn has opened his eyes and is no longer in a coma. He asked to see his personal assistant.”

Beryl sprang out of her chair as soon as she heard this said.

She was first to enter the bedroom where her boss lay in bed, his head propped up on a large pillow. His face remained pale and yellowish.

Excitement seized hold of the men remaining at the table in the dining room. They waited with impatience to see the Founder for themselves. No one appeared willing to say a word.

Beryl soon returned to summon Bato to the bedroom. A little later, all the other men were called there to hear what Slyn wished to tell them.

Commands and messages to transmit elsewhere by wirephone soon came forth. New life began to animate the miners’ movement and cause. Energy seemed to flow from the leader still in a bed. He was once more the active leader.

Garen Slyn was once again thinking and talking. The Founder was once more in charge. A revived confidence began to spread in all directions. The miners’ movement was coming back to life.


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