Wanted Part 3: The Psychotic Psi-Casters of Bedlam
The data she had taken from Nell’s neural pathways was encrypted. It took her three days sitting in Ellos’s ship while in orbit around Kara’Kresh’s second moon to translate it. All she got was what she likes to call an “astral image” of the data, which she had to translate into real data, and let a machine decrypt it. It turned out the ugly cyber-demon could only afford a cheap operating system and encryption algorithm for his implants, making her work only slightly easier.
But now she wished she wasn’t able to decrypt it so easily.
The data referred to a contact by the name of Gram Bellington, as the person that contacted Nell. This person’s transmission was heavily encoded, but was traced with some work back to a relay-sat orbiting a planet called Bedlam. The transmission itself originated from Bedlam.
Of all places in the region, it had to be Bedlam.
Bedlam was claimed by the Expanse Fleet at the end of the First Karian War, and set up as a special military training facility. It was top secret for the time between the two Karian conflicts. Its existence was said to be one of the causes of the Second Karian War. It seems the Karian apes didn’t like the humans experimenting with the psionic sciences. It scared them.
And Fleet didn’t think of the drawbacks to all their experimenting either. Now, it’s a special asylum for the Fleet’s special projects and “prototypes” – projects that revolve around the powers of the mind. Psi-Casters is the term the Fleet-types to use. It was rumored that the military spent considerable time studying the sciences surrounding psionic powers, attempting to boost them, find new powers, and new ways to use them. They found out that overuse tends to fray the human mind. So hundreds upon thousands of sentients that had enrolled in this program had gone insane. They and their children and their children’s children now reside on Bedlam and are watched over by a special division of Fleet.
Bedlam was a harsh world. Fleet attempted to terraform once, and regretted it. The storms only got worse. So now, the 8 cities that existed on Bedlam exist only because of transparent-steel bubbles over or, as in two cases, because it was underground. There were 20 or so other cities, built on the gamble that the terraforming would hold, but all those were abandoned.
All 8 cities are guarded asylums for some faction of the Bedlam-Psi society. Without special Fleet permission, no one was getting into any of the cities of Bedlam.
However, she had her own way in. Her mother had died there when she was a young girl, admitted to it just after she was born. Diara still had her free passage codes to visit her mother’s grave. All she had to do was cover her trail once she was in. She had developed the hacking ability over the past sevens to be able to do that, even to the best Fleet security systems.
No one explained why her mother was admitted into Bedlam. Diara remembered very little of her mother, being raised by her Aunt and Uncle in the Noble Courts of New Avalon. She was told the circumstances around her conception when she was eighteen. She still suffers from the resultant mental scars. A Terran soldier raped her mother during the Second Karian War. That’s all she was told.
But what did that have to do with anyone wanting her dead … and this badly. This Mr. Bellington better know.
A few more hours of hacking into a local Expanse Fleet node found that Bellington was not a in-mate, but a member of the Fleet Psi-chiatric Staff on Bedlam. It was Dr. Bellington. To find him, she had to go to the city called New Arkham, which was one of the smaller one and resided underground, near the coast.
The trip to Bedlam would take 3 weeks, in Void-Space. Diara had time to rest. She climbed into the Sleeper Pod, after engaging the Void-Engines.
In her dreams, she heard her mother’s voice, saw her mother’s face. So kind, so gentle…. And then it was gone and replaced by a demon. Diara felt her body being ripped to shreds, her organs thrown to the four winds. Sounds of a horrid battle could be heard behind this scene. A single man standing at the top of thousands of bodies, holding a sword in hand, his mother’s head in the other.
That’s the biggest problem with sleep pods. No matter how badly your psyche wants you to wake up, you can’t. Which is why some have been known to go insane while under Pod-induced sleep, while others took dream-depriving drugs.
Either way, space travel was not good for the mind.
She awoke on the edges of the Bedlam System. Instead of locking onto the guidance beacons of the system, she took the ship in herself. The beacons would log her presence. She could be expected, however, she didn’t want to knock on the front door just quite yet.
The flight from the system outer edge to orbit took another three and a half weeks, at full thrust. Fortunately, it was a small system. She rested more, this time taking the dream-depriving drugs.
The city of New Arkham was a dark and morbid place. Attempts to make it look like a normal city, with normal citizenry were corrupted by the occasional made scream or pointless babble from a wondering person. Only occasionally, did she wonder if a person was actually a citizen or just visiting like herself, and most times she figured the answer was citizen anyway.
It was a twisted place she didn’t want to be in for very long.
As she walked the streets, she felt something strange, like she was being watched. More than watched… scanned. But from what, and how?
Also, something else made her nervous. Diara thought that maybe it was because she had never been to this city, her mother’s grave residing in New Providence. However, it seemed to her that there was a deficiency in regular personnel. Perhaps this city was a low security facility. Underground?
Diara walked to a place where the data showed the transmission originated – an Expanse Fleet office complex. She could see it’s tower from a distance, and as she turned a corner, saw the entrance.
The entrance was ran-sacked. Expanse Fleet symbols were defaced, the front gate and door destroyed, the front foyer burned out by an age-old fire. This happened a while ago. Diara drew her pistol. It appeared that the staff was no longer in charge of the asylum. At least this one. No telling how many others had been taken over.
She looked around nervously as more faces appeared out of the darkness of alleyways, street corners and windows, all looking at her. She turned on the night vision visor on her helmet, and saw more faces in the darkness.
Diara started to run. A shower of debris came from upper level windows of buildings she passed, as citizens of New Arkham started screaming and howling. She turned down an alleyway that had fewer windows. She could at least control her fields of fire that way. She found a “bunker” of garbage to hide behind, and she took aim down one direction of the alleyway. She kept another eye on the other, not really sure where it ended. All she saw was darkness.
The screaming and the howling stopped. If the city could get anymore ominous, it did in that moment.
Diara suddenly heard a chorus of hums coming from down the other end of the alleyway. She shifted her aim. She saw movement but waited to see what it was. Four figures, all dressed the same, came into the light, followed by four more, followed by for more. All in formation, dressed in black and brown leather tunics and pants, with leather masks like out of some very bad S&M vid. They were all humming the same monotone note, never changing it. She felt the pressure on her mind, as if the chorus was penetrating it. She fought back, pushed against them.
The chorus and the formation stopped. Oh, no one has ever done that before, have they?
Diara lowered her pistol in their direction, in their moment of confusion and fired. The blast struck juts in front of the left-most lead man, and deflected. Damn, Psi-shield… these guys are good.
The man looked in her direction – first one to do that – and lifted his hand. A blast of force hit her and in an explosion of garbage and debris, sent her sliding down the alleyway. The blow nearly knocked the wind out of her, but the armor absorbed some of it.
She fired again as she got up. The blast was deflected and went wild. The chorus of hums started again and they began to march towards. She needed more time than she had to drum something up with her power. She thought of something small and released it.
A ball of flame launched from her hands and exploded at their feet. Diara gambled that, with all the garbage in this alleyway, there had to be something flammable on the floor. There was. Flames engulfed the formation of leather-bound men, obscuring them from her vision.
Diara smiled at her minor victory.
Movement from with the flames told her just how minor it was. The formation marched on, in full force, despite a few charred members. The released another telekinetic ball of force, which she dodged. It went across the street, toppling the small building there in a cloud of dust and smoke.
The humming continued.
She ran down the street, across it, not looking behind her. In her rush, she attempted to conjure up some of her own defenses, which did deflect a few of their attacks. She turned a corner, down another alleyway, just as the walls of the building she just past erupted. She was covered in a shower of brick dust and shards.
She stopped only for a moment to catch her breath, when she saw a figure in the alleyway, dressed in what looked like a lab coat, waving to her. She wasted no time, heading in that direction. Anything not wearing leather had to be better than this, right now.
The figure was gone before she could reach it, but a door stood open. She went into the door and closed it. Inside was darkness. She moved to switch on her night-vision, but a whisper stopped her. “They will sense that if you turn it on. We have your essence covered as long as nothing else will give us away.”
She heard the humming approaching. She also heard the whimper of someone else as they approached, someone in the room with her. She sensed that there were several people here, but did not reach out with her power to find out. They could probably sense that too. The humming soon faded.
A few minutes afterwards, a candle was lit.
In the small cramped room no bigger than a broom-closet were a dozen ragged figures of varying sexes, and a single male in a lab coat, with the letters GB stenciled on the pocket. Any Fleet symbols that might have been on the coat were gone. “Gram Bellington?” She said.
He looked shocked. “You know who I am? How?” He looked suddenly suspicious, reaching into his pocket. The group of people in the room suddenly cowered.
“Woooah, wait. I’m a newcomer here. I got a transmission from here that had your name on it and I have a few question for you.” Being careful not to reveal too much of herself. Diara did, however, remove the helmet. Her blond hair fell lose over her shoulders, sweat beading from her forehead.
Bellington’s twelve “disciples” all gasped at her sight. Bellington removed his hand from his pocket, and produced a handful or so of medicine bottles. He opened one and began passing them around to each of his disciples. They devoured the substance as if it were food.
“The only way to keep the upper hand around here. Take advantage of their addictions. It’s one of the few things he can’t seem to over come.” He said as he passed out the last of the meds. Bellington looked as though he could use some of the therapy they handed out here.
“What? What’s going on here?”
“These kind folks are what’s left of Ward 19. They were in isolation before He took over. He killed most of them, but I was able to save these twelve. They are my only defense against him and everyone else here, like those guys out there – the Hummers. They help me hide from them. They are called Maskers.” The group of twelve smiled and snickered as they saw the look of approval from Bellington. He snickered back. “They don’t talk much though.”
“He? He who? What the hell is going on?”
Bellington looked shocked. “You mean you don’t know? I thought you got my distress signal. You’re not Fleet here to save us? Oh God, who are you?”
She was tired of the games. She put her blaster to his head. “What the hell is going on?!”
Bellington froze. “I don’t know what transmission you received, but whatever it was, I didn’t send it. I only sent a distress signal a few months ago. Could he…? Is he that powerful…? …”
“Patient 991-09-1009…We call him the Sovereign. We have no other name. His records were lost in the fires. He took control a few years ago… about seven, I would say. He keeps the other administrators out by controlling everyone, some how, and making them believe New Arkham is operating normally. New Arkham is one of the rarely visited cities here on Bedlam, because of the strange cases it gets.
“Since then, I have survived. I was only recently able to get into the offices and find that transmitter. Oh God, what did he do? Did he change the transmission? How could he? His power must be getting greater. No one has been able to manipulate EM waves at that level, let alone hyper-EM transmissions…. Oh, God help us.”
“The Sovereign?” Who was he? Is this who wanted me dead? Why? Was I a threat to him while he was here in this asylum? Why?
Her only choice was to find him. To go to him and present herself to him and ask why. And if possible, kill him. “Take me to him.”
The entire group cowered at the suggestion. “What? We can’t. You must be kidding.”
“I am Fleet and I am here to kill him. You must take me to him” A slight glint of hope flared up inside Bellington’s mind. But he was hiding something, also, and she sensed it, even past the psi-shield the other twelve were still forming.
“But, it’s suicide. He is all-powerful. There are rumors that he even controls parts of New Providence. You can’t possibly go alone.”
She stared sternly into the doctor’s eyes, one of which was obviously cybered as a medical scanner “Let me worry about the dangers. Debrief me on what you know of the threat on the way, and I will deal with the rest.” She said in her best gung-ho-military tone. She learned that from the mercenaries.
The doctor sighed. “We will have to take the tunnels. There are only a few citizens there, and we can hide from them.” He looked at the twelve of Ward 19. They all nodded that they would go along and help. “The Hummers are just one of his minions, and they are one of the least dangerous.”
Great. She rolled her eyes. Who was this guy?
The tunnels turned out to be the service tunnels used by the staff to avoid the regular population. It seemed to her that the staff was more imprisoned than the regular population.
The doctor continued to speak as they walked down the hallway. “The Sovereign took over by first controlling some staff, then some inmates. No one knows how he does it. Unlike most of the population, Fleet didn’t make him… well, not entirely.”
“How long has he been here?”
“Too long. Before I started, that’s for sure. They say he’s been here since the Second War. That’s a least 30 years or so, isn’t it?”
“And he wasn’t one of the Fleet’s toys?”
“Not in the paranormal sense, at least at first. He was a regular soldier who lost in on the battlefield during the Second War. ” He paused. “I can’t remember much else, other than when they brought him in, he showed signs of paranormal abilities beyond anything anyone had ever seen.” His thought was interrupted by a sound down the hallway. “Damn…” The Twelve disappeared in corners, cowering in fear. “I should have seen where we were. Ward 32 – Pyrokinetics.” Bellington hid in another dark corner near his twelve.
Diara stood alone in the dim light of the hallway. She heard the noise again, like something being dragged across the floor. She smelled something burned, like meat badly burned. Her mind races to conjure something up. She tapped deep into her reservoirs to find the right thing.
A hulking beast of a man turned a corner, as Bellington spoke “They are very powerful. I would be careful. Oh. And they are cannibals, too.”
Cannibals? They cook their own meat and eat it, huh? That’s sick.
The beast-man, muscular and dark skinned dressed in tattered and charred clothing, pulled an inert body, presumably lifeless, along with it. A young female, with one leg gnawed on already. Her senses told her it was dead, but not totally useless to her.
The pyrokinetic roared as he saw Diara. The air around her warmed as his rage built. She felt his fire building up inside him. She prepared a defense, as she looked at Bellington. “Find cover for all of you. This is going to get nasty. ” He herded them into a nearby room.
Now she could deal with him without worry of someone getting hurt.
The man roared again, as flame built up around his mouth. Oh, he likes to breathe fire, does he? He probably learned it when working for a travelling freak show or something. Probably the only way he knows how to use his powers. How one-dimensional.
The beast bellowed as a fireball launched forward from his mouth, striking her dead center. Steam erupted around her as she withstood the blast. The fire cleared and she stood unmarked. Her defenses held. She summoned up her own attack, while at the same time attempting to conceal her power from Bellington. She pointed her gun at the pyro-beast and manipulated its power with her own to create a much more powerful blast. Diara fired. The blast was met with another blast of flame, deflecting it.
Going to have to try another tactic. Diara thought as she prepared another defense. She started to feel the fatigue of over-use of her powers. She couldn’t let this next strike hit her dead center. She waited, shift to the side behind a pillar just as the second attack came.
She had just enough to try one more thing. The body. She left her defenses up, and concentrated on the body, attempting something she had never tried but had a gut feeling she could do. She felt its limpness, its empty shell. She then separated her own self from her physical body, just enough to get the dead body to do what she wanted. That part of her filled that emptiness, and soon, it had life again.
The beast was lumbering forward to get a better angle on Diara’s body. At the same time, it dropped body near a pile of debris. Diara, now in giving the body temporary life, caused the body to stand. She waited for her moment. As the beast angled closer to Diara’s body, the dead body waited. She waited until she knew a new fireball was welling up. When it did, the dead body moved.
As the beast was about to release the fireball, the young unnamed girl kissed the beast, blocking the way of the flame. Her last action was to blow back into the beast’s mouth. Then Diara was out, and back in her own body.
Diara ducked as both heads exploded in a ball of flame. The smell of burned flesh filled the hallway.
Bellington came out of the room amazed. “She must have not been completely dead. Pretty crazy sacrificing her life like that.”
“Yea, well, this is a crazy place.”
They crawled out of tunnels into what Bellington said was Ward 99, the special cases ward.
“He was one of five that stayed here. He killed the other four in the first few weeks of his take over. They said the other four were a threat to his power. “
“What else happened here? What did they do to the special cases?”
They walked into an atrium, where they could see multiple levels of hallways, like a central area of a prison. “Well, I’m not really at liberty to say. It’s all top secret.”
At liberty to say? She turned and grabbed him. His twelve disciples, already scared to be there, turned and ran. Her power welling up inside, she roared at him “What happened here!!??” He shriveled in her grip, in fear.
“That voice…. I know that voice, that power… you are one too…. You have that power…” the doctor cowered in fear. He scanned her with his cyber-eye. “Yes, I see it now, surging through you. You do have his power. You are another one…”
With her voice again, Diara flared “Tell me!!”
“They experimented. Did everything to him short of killing him to determine his power…”
Suddenly Diara doubled over in pain. Flashes came to her. Imagery of a battlefield. Dying soldiers. Horrid scenes of death and destruction. Screaming Karians being slaughtered by an unknown force. Tortured soldiers on pikes. Heinous war crimes beyond anything anyone had seen. A voice calling to her. And another pushing her away. The one pushing her away was her mother’s voice.
She still gripped the cowering doctor. A roar of thunder came from above. They were showered with debris from an already faltering ceiling. “Take me to him!”
The Sovereign resided at the top level of the tower of Ward 99, overlooking the underground waterway that led out to sea. The room at the top was a dark and dank one, solid cement walls, with restraints lining them. When Diara saw it, she could only think it looked like a dungeon. But what shocked her the most was the Sovereign himself.
He lay upside-down, suspended in the air by chains and steel cable, spread eagle, in the center of the room. His body was wrapped in leather restraints and connected to electrodes that were long dead. His face was covered in a horrid clinical mask. Only the rise and fall of his chest told her he was alive. He was a big man, a warrior, with a lot of rage and anger bent up inside him. She could even tell he was insane, as insane gets. But she also could tell something else.
This was her father.
Something she had suspected since she arrived. But something she denied as well. She had felt her mother’s spirit pushing her away, but she knew she had to face him. This is where she got her power, the originator of it all. And the one that wanted her dead so badly.
How can I be a threat to you like this? This is hell? Why would you want to protect this? Are you controlling more than I know? Maybe you have your own little empire already. Maybe that’s what I threaten. She realized he wasn’t protecting anything.
She sensed something else in him, also. An implant left in his brain by Fleet. A small array of memory, enough for him to use as a journal. They never saw it, but she did. She captured that data image and stored it away. Then turned to the doctor.
Diara could hear her father talking to her now, and she understood why. She looked at the doctor. In an instant, he was dead on the floor, a twisted ball of flesh and bone – a terrible bloody sculpture of death. Her rage continued to flare up. Anger not toward her father, who had chased her down and tried to kill her uncountable times. Not at him for all those that died trying to kill her or trying to protect her. She had lost friends, family and lovers to this, but that didn’t make her angry anymore. She was angry with those that did this to her father, and would have done it to her if they captured her.
The angry was at a boiling point, higher than it had ever been, and she didn’t tap it until she was well outside Ward 99. She was 20 blocks away before she finally focused it. The Ward and all those 20 blocks suddenly crumbled to dust, destroyed with her blink of an eye and a phrase.
“This is what you wanted, father.” His final release.
She decrypted the journal on her way back to New Avalon. Most of it she had guessed.Her father considered himself not of this universe, but from another with different laws and axioms. He had powers beyond what this universe would allow and this is what drove him insane. The axioms of this universe repelled against him. His life was a living paradox. For what he brought into this universe of technology and science was what some people would call magic. The forces that rule what was right and wrong, what was real and unreal, battled against him, even as he battled against the Karian enemy during the Second War. It drove him insane, but never destroyed his inner compassion. Even though he had no control over his own actions, deep down inside, he knew what was right and wrong. When he raped her mother in one of his fits of rage, he knew that a child would be conceived. When they put him in Ward 99, his inner self could only hope that his child was nothing like him.
As they experimented, he sensed that the child was different. Through the years, he worked hard at his powers, even as they poked and prodded him. No matter what happened, he never wanted another person to live through what he had. The insanity and the experiments. When her mother was admitted, he got a name and a location. It turned out that her mother was a psi-talent Fleet had been watching. She too went insane.
So his quest to kill her was to save her from a life of insanity and a life of Fleet experiments. But what he didn’t realize was she was a child of this universe. The Axioms had reformed to fit her into this universe. She belonged to this universe. And she had made sure no Fleet doctors knew of her existence. She was no longer wanted and she could lead a normal life again.
It was over…