Chapter VI.

2 Jun

She wore a bright yellow chartreuse snow coat.

“Come in and sit down, Sunda,” said Cam, rising from behind his writing desk. He helped her take off her coat, placing it on a clothes hook near his console.

The singer had on a tan suit with large up-and-down pockets.

As soon as both of them were seated, the therapist began their session.

“Tell me about your childhood in the Urth Zone, Sunda. That is the best place to start. Just say anything that enters your consciousness.”

“That is not easy,” she frowned. “Where should I begin?”

“How did you discover your interest in singing, Sunda?”

She smiled wryly, her eyes misting over with early memories.

“My mother and father told me that I made melodic noises as soon as my voice was developed. They said that I sang before my first spoken word, though that is a little hard to believe.

“I learned and repeated the lullabies my mother put me to sleep with, she told me later. My father worked at a pine mill and knew the traditional music of the Urthian forests. He taught me the lyrics and tunes of scores of songs from the woods. I came to love them. My knowledge of the folksongs grew to enormous dimensions because this kind of music captured my imagination and interest. I came to live for the sake of mastering and performing this inheritance from out of our country’s past.”

“Most interesting,” murmured the psychiatrist, smiling at his patient.

“So you see, there was no any point in my life when I became a singer. By the time I entered primary school, my course was well set. Music became the central core of my existence. It is my life purpose. There has been nothing else as important to me. It is my special vocation, my personal calling.”

“What was your experience in school?”

She turned her eyes away from him. “Not pleasant at all.”

“In what way?” he asked, his interest soaring.

Sunda fixed her gaze on his face. “I had no friends, not even a single one. And there were a number of jealous enemies there.”

“Jealous of your singing talent?”

“Exactly,” she said with a sigh.

“So, I would say that you had no close ties beyond those with your parents.”

“No sisters, no brothers. I grew up all to myself, for the most part.”

“How about your music instructors?”

She grimaced as if with disgust. “For me, they were hard taskmasters who had no regard for me as an individual. In their eyes, I was only a gifted singing machine. There was nothing to me beyond my voice. They were never close to me.”

“You make them sound very cold, Sunda.”

“That’s the way my teachers were, as gelid as dry ice.”

“Yet your love of folk music never weakened, did it?”

The singer made a bittersweet smile. “It only grew greater. What other refuge did I have? Singing became the center of my living. Nothing else has been as important or satisfying to me.”

Cam stared at her for a short while before plunging deeper.

“I can conclude, therefore, that prior to arriving in Bifrost City you never had a sweetheart or intimate friend.”

She trembled for an instant before replying in a lowered voice.

“That is true down to today.”

The psychiatrist started to gasp for air because her unexpected confession had disoriented his plan for this initial session. “I did not mean to ask about your…” He searched in vain for an acceptable euphemism. “…sex life or experience.”

“I have never had any interest in that sort of thing,” she coldly stated.

He said nothing more about that, waiting for her to continue by herself.

“Perhaps something is missing inside me. I can sing songs of love, but have never had any personal experience in that area of life. It is an alien, unknown territory.”

Cam looked at her compassionately. “But you certainly have had admirers, Sunda,” he suggested. “I doubt that you can deny that.”

All of a sudden, her face flushed red as she remembered recent events.

“That is not what I would call Fyn Kvaloz,” she muttered sardonically.

“How do you see that man?”

“He is a predator,” she answered. “A spoiled playboy.”

“What exactly do you mean by that?”

Leaning forward, Sunda lowered her voice till it became nearly inaudible.

“He has had his way with quite a few of the showgirls at the hotel, I have learned from backstage gossipers. Fyn never remains too long with any particular one, but is always looking around for new conquests. He drops his current lover the moment someone else attracts his wandering attention.

“They say that his sexual lust is insatiable, that he has no self-control at all.”

Cam decided to be candid. “Yes, I have learned that he will be taking treatment for his condition here at the Clinic.”

“He lies and cannot be trusted,” bawled Sunda. “Fyn is capable of convincing all of you that he has been cured and turned normal. He knows how to bend and twist how others see and treat him. I call him an evil trickster.”

For several seconds, neither of them said a word.

“I take it, then, that you fear Fyn Kvaloz,” whispered Bingen.

“Don’t I have plenty of reason to do so?” she countered.

Doctor and patient stared in silence at each other.

When the singer had left, Cam glanced at his horologe. Since he had considerable free time till noon, he decided to visit Jyl Skager in the Engineering Department. There was no one in the corridor that crossed the rear of the hospital, nor in the optical workroom.

Bingen, approaching the closed metal door of the tiny office, picked up two voices from inside. He stopped several span away, listening to a spirited exchange going on within the room.

“You have no alternative,” shouted a rough, unfamiliar bass. “No one else in Bifrost can finance and produce your new beam gun. Only I can.”

The voice of Skager then followed. “No. I am not involved in this to make myself rich. Anything that I develop here must be the property of the Clinic. It is not to be exploited for profit by me or anyone else. That is what I intend to follow as an unchangeable rule.”

“You are a stupid fool!” shouted the unidentified voice.

“If I’m so dumb, then leave me alone.”

All at once, the door flew open. A towering shape of imposing size barreled out of the office. As it passed him, Cam noticed the frigid force in the ice blue eyes.

The huge figure disappeared through a back door of the workshop, not having seen or noticed Cam Bingen as it hurried by.

The doctor turned to the fat little man with reddish hair who had moved to the entrance of the office.

“Do you know who that was?” Skager unexpectedly asked Cam.

“No,” replied the therapist.

“The wealthiest man in the city,” said the engineer. “In fact, in the whole of Bifrost. No one is close to being as rich as he is.”

Cam knew at once who it was.

“The owner of the Hiberna Hotel, I take it,” he ventured.

Skager nodded yes, then waved his visitor into the office. “Have a seat,” he told the psychiatrist.

The latter sat down and waited for some explanation, but it did not come till scores of seconds had passed.

“I was offered a fortune by Mr. Aar Kvaloz when he was here in this room.”

Bingen stared at the engineer’s russet eyes.

“What would you have to do in order to receive it?” he inquired with force in his voice.

“Sell out.”

“Sell out?”

“The hospital and my own conscience. I am to exchange the new holographic beamer for untold wealth. That was the offer the big man presented to me. He has found out about the plan to project light images directly into the brains of patients.”

“And what answer did you give to him?”

Jyl Skager made a grimace of disgust. “You could see how angry my refusal made him. He lost his temper and stalked out of here.”

“He was tempting you to betray all of us?”

The inventor bit his lower lip. “I am not that kind of person.”

“The tycoon made a colossal miscalculation, then,” concluded the newest staff member. “But why is he so eager to win control of your device?”

“He dominates the algae industry, along with tourism and gambling. I suspect that his avaricious mind dreams of exploiting my new beamer, although the specific applications remain still foggy. He uses optical condensers out on his many icecap plantations to speed up and control algoid photosynthesis. Perhaps Aar Kvaloz foresees uses that will make him a lot of money. He can spot opportunities from a great distance.

“People like him have the ability to make fortunes where no one else sees any possibilities. He could try to exploit the power that the holographic beamer has over human minds. It is obviously greed that is motivating him to approach me with fantastic offers of money.”

“Yes, that is what this tycoon is after,” nodded Cam, his voice grave and solemn. “Tell me if he bothers you again. But don’t reveal this to anyone else. You and I will deal with it by ourselves. We must keep what we know to ourselves for the present time.”

“You shall help me, then?”

“All that I can,” Cam promised the photonic inventor.

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