Chapter XVII.

9 Jun

The explosion of storage tanks containing methane scooped up from the beds of algae provided an infernal accompaniment to the spreading organic fire.

Sunda shuddered with fright as the sled fled immediately in front of the yellow flames. Each time that the firebug stopped to make a new explosion, the escape route southward became closer and narrower.

When will this fiend stop his insane annihilation of family property? the prisoner wondered, her body shivering with fear. His fury seemed to have no limit to it. Would he have to halt his arson at some moment? How was that going to happen?

Each time, Fyn returned to the vehicle with a wilder expression in his eyes. His fever had risen to a level of frenzy she could only compare to that of the drunken demigods and heroes of prehistoric Bifrost. She was horrified to a degree never experienced before in her life.

Why does no one come to stop him? she asked herself. How does he manage to commit so much destruction without opposition or limit?

Fyn is too swift, taking an irregular, zig-zagging route southward. Since no one inhabits these algae plantations, help can only come from the settled towns like Protista or Dinobryon. Opposition to him remains too distant to succeed quickly or easily?

The driver jumped into the cab of the sled, gunning the carrier forward just in time to escape the lapping flames of the blazing cinnabar algae.

Fyn spoke to her without turning his head.

“It will be accomplished,” he exclaimed with devilish delight. “All his plantations will be destroyed. Nothing of value will be left once I am finished with my work.”

Sunda stared at his transfigured, ecstatic face.

He is fulfilling his final wish, she realized with a shudder.

His insanity has not been exhausted yet, for there is so much more he wishes to accomplish.

Aar Kvaloz took one side of a long conference table, across from the two psychiatrists and the Clinic Director.

It took Cam only a few minutes to explain why he had moved to holographic memory erasure through photonic radiation for the magnate’s son. He finished with the kidnapping of Sunda Vipur. As Aar Kvaloz listened, his face grew a deep, blood red. Suddenly, when Bingen ended his discourse, the wealthiest man in the country turned to Gand Halsing.

“I am not going to buy any medical apparatus that doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. There is no future for such ineffective technology that does not produce the promised results,” he growled angrily.

All at once, Dr. Hekla Knax interrupted him in a cold, hard voice.

“Fyn has, in all probability, gone to the extreme limit. I fear that he is creating this all-engulfing fire in the ice fields. It is the result of the terrible turmoil in his troubled mind. The imbalance in his neurohormones has not been overcome and replaced. The memories buried in his amygdala remain as strong and destructive as they ever have.

“Light therapy has not been successful with your son, sir.”

All eyes had by now turned upon her. Ignoring them, she continued expressing her thoughts.

“The danger has been there from the beginning of our probing into the fundamental memory ideograms. Any major memory erasure is going to change an individual’s personality radically. It looks to me like that is what happened with Fyn. He has developed into an unbalanced animal, not a harmonized, even-handed adult.”

Cam felt a bolt of revelatory enlightenment strike him.

“That’s it. I knew that there was a connection, but couldn’t make it myself.”

Aar Kvaloz asked a question not posed to anyone in particular. “What are you people saying happened to my son as a consequence of the treatment he received at the Clinic?”

Cam looked directly and fearlessly at the disturbed father.

“There is a hidden, subterranean region within each of us. We who study it label the profound, unconscious stratum the idioplasm. It is the silent, invisible portion of the personality. The part that rarely awakens or comes to know itself subjectively. It is rooted in our inherited physical soma, in our genes and chromosomes. But this idioplasm possesses a subconscious memory all its own, engraved into our cellular makeup. It is the basic, true memory of a person, but unknown and invisible most of the time.

“The photonic treatments gave life to this buried, previously unseen aspect of the young man. It made visible what had been invisible and inactive.

“We unknowingly brought out what we did not know lay at the bottom of his brain.”

The Landian psychiatrist drew a long breath, then went on.

“Although I erased certain areas of conscious memory in Fyn, my probing could not affect what was in the idioplasm. And that underlying mnemonic foundation seeped up into the vacuum I had caused within his conscious recall. That was the reason for the explosion of his wild passions in recent days. I made him into a mad being, without intending to do so.

“An imbalance arose within his imago of self, caused by what I caused to happen with the holographic beamer that I used on his brain. His pituitary gland came to need the memory traces buried deeply in his idioplasm. His personality configuration was transformed into that of an annihilator, taking vengeance on the one who had done the most to shape him, his own father.”

Bingen gazed squarely into the icy blue eyes of the billionaire.

“My holographic, photonic intervention made Fyn into a monstrous avenger upon you, sir.”

Flames rose high on all sides of the sled. Only a narrow exit channel remained. Sunda gulped for air, choking at the smell of algoid smoke and burning methane. Fumes seeped into the vehicle, affecting the passengers inside. The pair began to cough and gasp for breath.

Fyn turned to his prisoner, his face almost orange in the reflected glow of fire. His eyes had an unhuman character to them.

“I have won,” he gloated in a ghoulish tone. “My revenge is now achieved. There is no more for me to accomplish. My father’s algae plantations can never recover from what I have done to them. My accomplishment is now complete. I have proven that I am his superior. He shall never again be able to push me around. This means that I am, at last, a free person with independence.”

The singer stared at him, her face expressionless and lifeless.

All at once, her tormentor grinned as if something humorous had struck him.

“Can you drive the sled into Dinobryon?” he asked her almost casually. “Do you know how to steer this vehicle using the control levers on your side?”

Bewildered and astounded, she nodded that she did.

“Good,” he said to her. “Tell my father, when you happen to see him, that I made these fires for him alone. To repay him for everything he did to me. To square accounts between him and me.”

With that said, Fyn opened his door and leaped out.

Sunda watched in horror as he advanced into the peak of the methane flames, as if taking a stroll on the icecap. His pace was quick but orderly.

Once he was gone from sight, the stunned young woman slid over to the driver’s seat and released the brake, then steered the sled forward through the surrounding, overarching tongues of fire.

Cam Bingen took Sunda back to Bifrost City on an ice packet. Only Razo accompanied them, no one else.

The three of them were out of work. None had a job any longer, either at the hotel of Aar Kvaloz or the Photonic Clinic.

Their futures had become foggy and uncertain.

They stopped a day at Protista Station to see how Naze Thun was recovering from the attack on him.

It was the psychiatrist who narrated the end of Fyn Kvaloz to the former sociopath, still in a surgical cocoon at the local hospital.

“What you are telling me is incredible,” marveled Naze. “So, the madcap playboy killed himself after destroying the base of his father’s fortune. But the young singer escaped safe and sound.” He turned to the side and studied the face of Sunda for a short time. “So, what is going to become of each of us now? What does life have in store for people in such desperate circumstances?”

“I am returning to my home region of Urth,” announced the singer. “I can find work there as a vocal instructor. There are many young people who wish to learn our folk songs. There is a lot that I can teach them. That should give me a lot of inner happiness. I can see no better option for myself, so I am moving to the zone that I came from.”

She looked at Dr. Bingen with a question in her eyes.

“A clinic in the mineral uplands of Landia had offered me a staff position before I came to Bifrost. It is still open, I have discovered. What I know about the right use of the holographic beamer will be very useful to me in my therapy there. My ambition is to include the new invention in a broader, inclusive system of treatment, without the negative side-affects that we have witnessed. I am certain that I can work out the necessary changes and corrections. It will be a difficult task and take much time and effort, but I am willing to undertake it.

“In time, all peoples of our Continent will be able to avail themselves of the breakthrough. We are inhabitants of one planet with one Continent. Each nation must share its discoveries with the others. That is a necessity for all of us everywhere.”

Razo grinned with joy. “It is back to Bifrost City for me. Aar Kvaloz is a ruined man because he was never able to find anyone to insure his algae holdings. Rumor has it that he will soon lose his hotel and casino to creditors. I am sure that the new management will need an orchestrion musician for the nighclub’s entertainment shows. There is no one else as qualified as me, I can say with modest pride.”

“And what are your plans when you leave here, Naze?” asked Cam Bingen.

The man in the medical cocoon wrapping made a sour face for a moment.

“The same as I was doing before: fighting against Dr. Knax and her ilk of mindbenders. But I won’t go after any who think and behave like you, Dr. Bingen. No, you are a different breed. All the psychiatrists should become like you. Everything would be better if that could come about.”

The group joined Naze in friendly, prolonged laughter.

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