Chapter XVI.

9 Jun

Cam Bingen went with Razo to a nearby hotel to check in for the night.

“The police promise to keep us up to date on developments,” said the doctor as the pair sat down at a snack counter on one side of the lobby. “There appears to be nothing for us to do but wait.”

Razo took a sip of Urthian lichen tea.

“I fear that there may be serious harm to her,” he murmured with trembling lips. “Who can say what that lunatic might do in a fit of emotion.”

For a brief time, the psychiatrist appeared distant and abstracted.

“What I attempted may have been too ambitious to succeed,” he began to muse. “An individual’s memories are highly complex and deeply buried. What if the basis of Fyn’s conflicts are hidden in some unreachable idioplasmatic level of the brain? What I was attempting to do may have been an impossible task. Such treatment is impractical because of its idioplasmatic nature.”

Razo turned his eyes on the Landian. “Idioplasmatic?” he inquired.

“From the germ plasm,” explained the other. “At the most unconscious depth of his unique protoplasm.”

“I’ve never heard of that,” admitted Razo. “I’m only a musician, of course.”

“Think of the idioplasm as the foundation of physical and psychological life. It could be an invisible depository of the memory markings engraved by our life experiences and those that humans are born with. Both our own lives and those of our ancestors are possible sources of imbalances, pressures, and conflicts within the personalities of individuals.”

“And that is the mental force driving Fyn Kvaloz to act the way he does?” asked Razo.

Cam pursed his mouth. “I hope I get the chance to investigate and find out in future says,” he said with desperate hope in his voice. “My explorations in the core areas of the limbic brain hold promise of revealing the source of personal problems.

“Photonic treatment through the eye, we already know, can rebalance the hormones that originate in the pineal, pituitary, and hypothalamus. My hope is that such adjustments performed with light beams can reach all the way to the amygdala and make it healthier than it may be in my patients.

“That is my dream and ambition, my friend,” said Cam with a warm grin.

Sunda said nothing, her eyes fixed on the darkening green sky. The long twilight of arctic summer was fast falling. Shortened night was quickly approaching.

The driver slowed the sled to a gradual halt, then climbed out of the vehicle through the door on his side. His captive prisoner watched what he did out of the corner of her eye. Was this going to be the beginning of her doom? she wondered with fear.

Her mind seemed to freeze solid.

Fyn walked to a large shed with something written on its side wall. Sunda squinted to make out what the letters said. “Methane Gas” was what she managed to make out in the dusky light of the daystar from behind the northern horizon. Before her eyes, the abductor tried the door to the shed, but failed to get it open.

Frustrated, he returned to the sled and climbed back in. For a time, nothing came from out of his mouth. Then he spoke as if only to himself.

“I’ll find another storage location,” he grumbled with suppressed anger, restarting the sled’s engine and advancing down the iceway.

Sunda decided to pose a question to him.

“Are we running out of fuel?” she said in a low murmur.

The driver, scanning both sides, slowed the cruising vehicle.

“Not exactly,” he enigmatically replied. “I assure you, no harm is going to come to you. I have something in mind that will show how much I have changed. The theory that Dr. Bingen created and holds has transformed my whole perspective.

“I apologize for the alarm that my actions have caused you in the past. None of that will ever occur again, believe me.”

The prisoner felt her heart take a broad leap.

“You intend to set me free, then?” she asked hopefully.

The sled came to an abrupt stop. By the side of the channel stood a depot many times larger than the shed they had left behind them.

“I brought you out here to witness how I will expiate for the evil that has originated within my own mind,” whispered the heir to the Kvaloz fortune. “It is my father who created this rotten character that destroyed me as a person. I was never allowed to become the individual I might have become. Now, he must pay for all that he did to me when I was a tender child. My father was the one who destroyed and poisoned me.

“The moment for reparation is here. It cannot be delayed. All accounts are going to be squared and balanced, once and for all.”

Fyn opened the door on his side and exited onto the snowy surface. His feet moved swiftly in their skidless boots. He went up to the door of the metal pantechnicon used for storage and tried an electrokey, then another. The second one was the key that worked.

Sunda waited while her keeper entered and rummaged for a time inside the building.

When he came out again, he carried several pieces of equipment, including a long hose and a canister.

Cam looked up when the Chief of Police entered the dressing room that the kidnapped songstress had been using.

“Dr. Bingen, a message has arrived concerning you.”

The psychiatrist gave him a surprised look of alarm. “What is it?” he asked.

“It came from Mr. Kvaloz himself. He is on his way here, flying in his private hymenopter. We are to take you to the Protista landing field on the edge of town. The Director of the clinic you work in will be arriving on the same aircraft, along with the head of the Psychiatry Department of that hospital.”

Cam, breathing heavily, rose to his feet.

“Yes, I can understand why those people have been summoned to fly here with the father. The logic is clear to me.”

He then followed the official in uniform out to a police sledge available to transport them with speed.

The incendiary found his work simple and easy. In the short hours of the summer night, he initiated scores of fires that spread through the crimson algae fields between Protista and Dinobryon. Flames shot up into the dark green sky, igniting the covering layer of methane over the sea. Never had anyone on the Bifrost icecap ever witnessed such an awesome ignis fatuus. It was unprecedented.

Sunda glanced back at the wall of blazing orange and yellow behind the sled. Her abductor would stop about every quarter mile to begin a new conflagration. In minutes, burning gas would fill the space between these points where hydrogen gas was also being ignited.

Fire created more fire.

It was arson on a scale never experienced before anywhere on the entire Continent.

The singer smelled a mixture of nauseating odors from the burning organic matter and the inflammable gas.

This is the Ragnarok, an inferno of fatal destruction and twilight battle. Is this the end of everything?

The epic tale she had often sung flashed into her mind.

The classic triple conflict of clashing bygone Urth, present Verthand, and future Skuld, all happening at the same moment.

Loki, god of darkness and strife, challenges the supremacy of Yggr, the master of wisdom and creation. The conflict that will be decisive.

This is the final contest for icy Bifrost, fought in an ocean of flame.

Sunda felt her hand swim in a dizzying whirl.

She dared not look at the fire-maker as he carried out his brutal vengeance toward his own father.

Cam promised to keep Razo informed about whatever he learned.

He arrived at the landing field in a police sledge, accompanied by the Protista Police Chief and several high-ranking detectives. Fire glow brightened the southern sky to a reddish yellow.

The wait for the pteronal craft lasted only about three minutes.

A small hymenopter with four rotating wings descended straight down into a specially marked circle of helium lights, extending its support legs onto the surface of ice.

Once the pterons had stopped rotating, the cabin door opened and a ladder fell to the solid below.

Cam recognized the grand figure of Aar Kvaloz even in a heavy anoraq.

The magnate rushed down to the bottom, followed by Hekla Knax and Gand Halsing, both in red parkas.

“Let’s go forward,” said the Police Chief, giving Bingen a gentle nudge in the back.

The two moved toward the approaching trio from the hymenopter.

Before the police official was able to greet the visitors, Aar Kvaloz began to question him.

“What is that strange light in the sky? It looks like fire.”

“It is, sir,” sputtered the Chief of Police. “It only began a half hour or so ago. No one knows why the algae icefields are aflame.”

Cam looked at Dr. Knax, then Director Halsing, but said nothing to either of them.

The billionaire glared at the local official. “Those are my algae plantations that are illuminating the horizon,” he yelled in rage. “I think an effort to find out the cause is called for.”

“I have sent out several ice-sleds, Mr. Kvaloz, to scout about and investigate.”

The businessman grumbled, then turned to Cam.

“You are Bingen, the psychiatrist. I recall seeing you in Bifrost City.”

“I have been treating your son for his painful emotional condition,” candidly confessed Cam. He looked all about the landing site. “This is not the place to discuss such grave family matters.”

“Yes, you are right,” agreed Kvaloz, turning to the Police Chief and telling him where he wanted to go next. “The offices of my own company is the place from which it will be best for me to operate now. That is where we must go in order to talk, Doctor.”

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