Chapter XIV.

8 Jun

A sudden, unexpected leap and Fyn Kvaloz was on top of his supposed keeper.

Like a bolt of aurora australis, the lightning of the southern arctic night, the combative one grabbed control of his situation.

The attacker, growling like a wild wolf, bit the face of its victim. Naze looked on, passive and defenseless, as he was pummeled all over his head and upper torso. On and on continued the assault, without let-up or mercy. With the ferocity of a mad beast, Fyn punished his foe.

Each punch hit like a heavy brick.

The cuffing went beyond rational limit, unceasing and uncontrolled. Until, at last, the subject of the beating fell to the floor.

Fyn gazed about the room, whitish foam flowing over his swollen lips. He bent down, picking the pockets and the wallet of the unconscious man with the bleeding face. There was no trace of anything human in how he was behaving. His actions were those of some strange kind of animal. There was an aura of wild beastliness about him.

Finding his own outdoor coat, he threw it on.

Out of the room, down the hallway to the stairs, fled the desperate playboy. A fast run brought him through the empty lobby onto he sheltered sidewalk outside. He moved with unflagging energy. His energy was without limit.

His feverish mind worked as swiftly as a photonic reckoner as it planned the movements he would have to make to satisfy the uncontrolled urges that were driving him on. He had become a beast with the high intelligence of his human victims and enemies.

An unanswered holophone call at noon informed Cam that a new crisis had struck. He took a sleehack at once from the Monera Clinic to the Austral Hotel. His heart pulsed with alarm and anxiety as he ran up to the room where he had last seen his patients, Naze Thun and Fyn Kvaloz. The former was in charge of keeping watch over the latter whenever he should awaken.

The door to the room was unlocked, allowing instant entry. On the carpet lay a body with a pale but bloody head. Dr. Bingen bent down to feel for the pulse of life of the little man sprawled out there.

Naze was alive he decided. But he has been seriously harmed by his assailant. His wounds and injuries were clearly evident. He was a terribly injured person.

Cam looked all around, finding no sign of the other person whom he had left here that morning.

First things first, he advised himself.

Springing up on his feet again, the psychiatrist went for the nearest public holophone. He pressed the tab for the main desk of the hotel, and succinctly described the present condition of Naze to the clerk.

“Get an ambulance sled here as soon as possible. The man must be transported to the Monera Clinic immediately,” he barked out with determination and decision.

Then, shutting off the speaker, he returned to the wounded one to see what he could do for him till help arrived.

On the swift ride to the local hospital, Bingen sat next to the stretcher holding the suffering victim.

What may have caused this to happen? he asked himself again and again.

Something obviously went wrong with the new, advanced therapy. But what could it have been? Had there been some unforeseen mistake made? By whom?

Perhaps Naze knows something that can help me solve this puzzle. But maybe he does not. There was no evident answer to the question of how this happened.

Where is Fyn at the moment? he desperately asked himself.

What would I be doing if I were in his place? How would I attempt to conceal myself? Where would I try to flee?

All at once, Cam realized the enormous peril threatening Sunda Vipur.

She is now at Protista Station, perhaps already singing there.

He bit his lower lip, realizing where the fugitive was in all probability headed. Where he himself also was obliged to travel as rapidly as possible. But first came the task of taking care of Naze Thun, seeing to his recovery from the violent attack he had suffered here.

The canopied sled entered a delivery chamber of the hospital, from where the patient was wheeled into the Trauma Section on a powered trestle.

Cam followed the medicos in green polyfabric into the diagnosis room.

A half minute of optico-holographic testing in a special tank resulted in a grave, troubling conclusion.

“Extremely serious wounds,” groaned the head of the Trauma Division. “He must be taken into physical surgery at once. There must be no delay, not at all. His life is hanging in the balance. Every second is going to count.”

Cam now realized the dilemma that was facing him.

Stay here with Naze or proceed to Protista to protect Sunda?

There was nothing that he could do for the victim that the competent staff of this clinic could not, he thoughtfully advised himself.

Yet he had a serious responsibility toward Sunda and her protection.

Watching Naze being taken into a low-gravity chirurgery, the psychiatrist forced himself to turn away and walk off toward the icehack stand at the main entrance.

I must get to the docks and take the first available carrier to Protista, he commanded himself. The very life of Sunda depends upon what I am able to do.

Waiting to board the icecap, Cam studied the timetable posted on the wall of the wharf shelter.

Only a single passenger vessel had left that morning for points further to the south.

Fast mental calculation placed Fyn Kvaloz at Protista Station within four hours of departure from the dock. Arrival time would be around the start of Sunda’s afternoon appearance on stage.

Cam felt a shiver down his back. At the same time, an idea struck him. Why not attempt to send some warning message ahead? He hurried to the ticket office, where he found a public holographic communicator.

It took half a minute to get through to the Lyceum in Protista. The front business office receiver rang on and on.

Why did no one answer? worried the distressed long-distance caller.

Perhaps because the customers had already purchased their tickets and were inside the auditorium. It could be that the afternoon matinee had already begun. The situation had become absolutely perilous for Sunda.

Sunda sang the epic legend of the Golden Apples of Youth.

Of how an evil ensorcel, Eryngo, figured out a way of bewitching the goddess of spring, Ithunn. A kolboldic barghest, disguised as a green merchant, sold her a pair of albic apples that carried a deep hexing potential within them. These came from the center of the entire universe, claimed the deceiver.

No one in the entire South had ever tasted this magical fruit that can rejuvenate whoever eats of it. One was for Ithunn, and the other for the god of poetry, Brage, her beloved husband. The apples will bring the vigor of youth to both of them. Neither shall ever grow old, promised the goblin sent south by Eryngo.

But the promise proved as false as could be. The result was that both Ithunn and Brage fell into a long, dreamless sleep. It went on and on. Not for a thousand years did they awake in their youthful form. And that was for only one long estival day, at the peak of summer.

Then, they would fall asleep for the next millennium. They waited in an unconscious state for their next day of rejuvenation to arrive. Waiting and waiting, with no end in sight anywhere, at any moment of time.

Sunda ended her song to long, enthusiastic applause.

She bowed again and again in heartfelt appreciation. Her singing had a ring of liberation to it, now that she believed that the danger to her had disappeared. Freedom seemed to be hers again.

No one need be fearful, because Dr. Cam Bingen had erased the evil traces in the memory of her crazy pursuer. That nightmare was over. She had transcended it.

As she and Razo her accompanist left the stage, a speeding sleehack stopped a little way from the Lyceum’s back exit.

Fyn Kvaloz had not succeeded in making it to the afternoon show in time to hear her sing. But he was going to be present for the aftermath that was to follow.

Cam paced the covered deck of the slowly moving ice vehicle, until he tired of it and drifted forward to the observation nest in the prow of the ship.

A tour guide was addressing the half dozen travelers he was leading southward.

“We are in the special region where reddish varieties of Rhodophyceae predominate. Up to now, you have viewed mostly the brown Phaeophyceae and the golden Chrysophyceae. But now you will begin to behold algae of extraordinary brilliant crimson and vermilion. These include varieties such as ceramium, chodrus, porphyra, and polysiphonia. You will find the coloring of the algoid beds breathtaking, I assure you. There is nothing like it anywhere in terms of natural beauty.

One of the tourists asked him a question.

“Will we see the famous methane fire?”

The guide smiled benignly. “The ignis fatuus appears when it wills. It takes only a small spark to start the fire because there is so much gas in the air everywhere. It is one of the strange things that the inhabitants of the icecap have to live with.”

Cam gazed out far at the bright yellowish red glow rising from the cinnabar algae. It was a sight he had never thought was possible. His mind whirled as he took in the flaming sight.

His thoughts was transported to the Lyceum in Protista, where unknown perils threatened his patient, the folksinger.

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