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The Neutral

Dirmac Nor is the Neutral, a natural psycho-detective, in his first space adventure.

The Neutral
By Matt Chatelain


Published by Matt Chatelain

Copyright 2012 by Matt Chatelain

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

Author's note

I wrote Neutral, intending it to be the first of a long series of stories, following the adventure of Sherlock Holmes in space. I had developed an entire universe and long story ark, presented through a mixture of Arthur Conan Doyle and Isaac Asimov styles. I only wrote the one story, giving up shortly after, convinced I did not have sufficient skills to write mystery stories.

Going back to it after thirty years, I found it quite acceptable, even if it was simpler than my later projects. I decided to make it available as a free book, to give you an idea where my mind was back then. Enjoy!-Matt

Chapter One

I looked around at the immense halls, awed. I was over-come by their splendor. Their multicolored haze-paint influenced not only my eyes, but my very mood. At the farthest end of the corridor, however, I spied someone who seemed too entranced in his own moods to be affected by that of the haze-paint. To my surprise, I recognized him. He had studied psycho-history with me about ten years ago. I hailed him as he hurried past:

"Jirn, Jirn Talbruk."

He turned suddenly and recognised me at once.

"Why, it's Clem Wilson, isn't it? From Earth?

"The same!"

"What in the Empire are you doing here?"

"Top research, psycho-history. Really just wandering about, though. It's a relief to see a familiar face. What of you, Jirn?"

"I work here."

"In here?"

"Yes. Grand, isn't it?"

"I don't think words can actually describe it. I'd heard before of the Empress Empire Planet but being here makes it more than real. All of a sudden, it becomes a dream.

"I know what you mean. I felt like that when I arrived here but after a year or two, you get used to it. Psycho-history research, eh? You must be rather far up the ladder by now?

"Yes , two more years and I get my Document."

"What's your security clearance?"

"Level nine. Why do you ask?"

"My work is involved with planetary psychology.

What I deal with would ... uhm ... imbalance people with a level five or less. But you're safe. You see, I might be able to give you a hand in your research."

"Really? In what way?"

"It's rather long to explain and I'm rushed for time. I must reach section three in less than seven minutes. Tell you what: meet me at Deflo's at lunchtime. How's that?"
"Fine. I'll be there."

He ran off, leaving me to wonder about his offer. I was quite interested as I only had a few months left to put in my research papers and did not have even a quiver of a notion about a topic. I was relieved to find some help. I'd no idea in what direction Talbruk's help should lead but I was certainly willing to look into it. I had a hunch he was more important than he let on. Still there was little use in theorizing without facts. Let what come what may.

*

I had just seated myself at Deflo's when Jirn walked in.

He saw me and waved. I ordered some Brachschnaw soup, while he prodded his way through the crowd. He collapsed in the chair opposite me with an exhausted sigh.

I detected the tell-tale signs of an ulcer and migraine headaches on his face. There was also a certain tenseness about him that made me positive he held a high post indeed. He let out a long sigh and the tenseness faded from him as if it had never been there.

"Where did you l earn do that ?"

"What? . . . Oh, you clean the freedom pause. A neutral taught one that one. I can say it allowed me stay the job for years longer than my predecessor." 

"A Neutral?"

"As a matter of fact, that's what I was talking about when I said I could help you with your research. The neutrals are a race from a race. Have you hear of Kremtek?"

"The planet was discovered about fifteen years ago, wasn't it? Populated with a humanoid species, believe."

"That's right. About four years after they were discovered, we found that a mutant race had sprung out, so to say, from these Kremtarians. A highly intelligent race with very special abilities. They're the ones I referred to as Neutrals."

"Why do you call them Neutrals?"

"It's easier to explain after you've seen one. And that's exactly what you'll do. This afternoon I'll take you up to my office, where I'm meeting a neutral on business. I'm sure he'll be quite willing to explain it to you much better than I could." 

"A mutant race, eh? I've heard of something like that before. I think it was back in fifty-six. They found an offshoot mutation with those crab creatures ..."

"The War-Huls?"

"That's right, the War-Huls. If I remember my facts, the mutant race died out after two or three generations. A theory was eventually published on the subject. I did a dissertation on it in Second Year. It suggested the evolutionary drive of any planet consistently brought about new and better species. Most did not make it. The ones that did were usually from species different from the previous ones. A side conclusion was that no offshoot mutation of one species can be expected to survive for long." 

"That's quite true. We recently discovered the neutrals are sterile, which makes them all the more valuable."

"Ah, really? Why so?"

"They are the only race capable of instantaneous intuitive and emotive perception."

"What do you mean?"

"We have on hand a race of psycho-detectives ..."

Chapter Two

After our meal, Talbruk led me through a maze of buildings and corridors, until we reached a section I was sure I'd not seen before. Facing us was a long corridor painted in two colors of haze-paint. Black doors and white walls. There was something in its very drabness that made it more impressive than the rest of the worlds combined. I had no doubt I was walking along the famed Empress Corridor. Jirn led us to a door halfway down the corridor, opened it and calmly motioned me in.

It was a small room, equipped with the rare and expensive sub-wave Communico System. The system enabled him to contact any Empress planet with a very minimal loss of time.

I sat down, facing him. He pressed a telecom activator.

"Send the Neutral in, please."

"Yes sir, He'll be up immediately."

"I'm sure you'll be surprised when the Neutral comes in. Don't worry about offending him with your reaction. He is aware of your every feeling and intentions, both conscious and subconscious."

The Neutral entered. I struggled to keep my jaw closed. The man facing me was neutral in every sense of the word. He radiated nothing. He seemed to have no particular color. He did not seem to possess any identifiable feature, apart from his very neutrality. It was as if I was looking at a robot, or not even that. When he spoke, his voice was in a monotone.

"You are Jirn Talbruk?"

"That is right. I'd like you to meet Clem Wilson, from Earth. Clem, meet Dlrmac Nor, from Kremtek."

"Glad to make your acquaintance, Mr Nor."

"Honored, Mr Wilson."

"Wilson here, is involved in psycho-history research. Since the situation ls directly related to psycho-history, I thought he might accompany you on your expedition to Earth-type Colony Number Three."

This was an unexpected turn of events. I immediately saw the advantages to such a trip and the insight it could give me on an utterly unknown type of psychology. I gave Talbruk a quiet but thankful nod, while Dirmac Nor replied to Talbruk's query.

"I have no objection, Mr Talbruk. He might even come as an aid," mused Nor. "However, I must obtain some particulars as to the situation on Colony Number Three.

"Of course. Both Earth-type Colonies established before this one have failed. The cause of these failures is unknown. Both colonies were highly successful before their sudden collapse. The situation was similar in all aspects. The production quota fell dramatically and less than six months later, there was a sudden stop in communications. Upon the arrival of our emergency groups, we found nothing but the charred remains of the colony. One month ago, Colony Number Three had a sharp decrease in its production quota. Noting the similarities between it and the earlier colonies, we decided to contact you at once."

"I see. A few theories present themselves but I'd prefer to base myself on further facts before drawing any conclusion. Therefore, we had best be on our way."

"Certainly. I've got a speed ship reserved for you and Clem. It leaves in one hour at dock 5J6. You'll be supplied with everything you may require. I'll see you on your return. I wish you luck."

"Thank you , Mr Talbruk. Mr Wilson?"

"I'm right behind you."

Chapter Three

I'd never before been on a speed ship. All my trips had been by the economical charter routes, so one can understand my amazement upon coming out on the dock. The ship was huge. A gleaming giant called 'The Soaring Hydra'. Mr Nor told me about its method of propulsion, but I understood little. I caught a few phrases about magnetic reversal of polarities for liftoff and using the attraction and repulsion of surrounding planets as a means of spacial displacement. All this was meant to explain why we had to wear 'magnetic belts'.

My ears were as small as my eyes were large. This was an achievement of humankind which made me proud to be part of the Empire. We were transported aboard in a Solidair bubble and led by a crew member to a pair of remarkably well-padded chairs. Sitting down, straps automatically snaked out from hidden holes, securing us in place. The crewman assured us we'd have to wait little more than five minutes before liftoff. As he left, to go seat himself, no doubt, I turned to my new companion and engaged him in conversation.

"We must have top priority to be able leave so quickly. One usually has to wait a day or two before any sort of clearance is given."

"This is the usual procedure for Speed Ships. Why should a ship, that can reach its destination in an hour two, have to wait a few days for clearance?"

"I had no idea that Speed Ships were so fast."

"It is certainly not a well publicized fact."

"I can understand the need for secrecy. Every planet would clamor for such ships."

"Indeed."

"Yet, Mr Nor, I cannot help but wonder..."

A strange tingling swept through me, interrupting my thoughts. Some type of energy was flowing through my body. I vaguely heard a 'WHOOOSHH'. I was pushed into my seat with jarring force and, then, knew no more.

I woke to a peculiar sight. My head was turned towards a pothole yet all I could see was an incredible array of inter-changing lines of various colors. I noticed Dirac Nor sitting calmly in his chair and asked him about it.

"It is very simple, Mr Wilson. We are moving so rapidly that our eyes cannot perceive the stars as dots. We merely see flashing lines."

"Simple to you, perhaps, Mr Nor. Tell me, concerning this Earth Colony business, have you any idea as to the cause of their destruction?"

"One thing is obvious to me, Mr Wilson; both earlier colonies were destroyed in exactly the same way. Now, a third is following an identical pattern of destruction. This implies random factors cannot be responsible. I must conclude intelligent beings are behind this."

"I hadn't even thought of that. It does seem curious that the colonies were destroyed in precisely the same fashion."

"I can also deduce a few possibilities concerning those responsible. Since only empire-funded colonies are being attacked, It seems apparent those responsible hold a grudge towards the Empire."

"Mr Nor that may be true but it doesn't help us much since we all hold a grudge of some sort towards the Empire."

"Yes, but who would be willing to carry out such aggression. Repercussions could be quite serious. Only a few groups would have the temerity, the courage necessary. Also, such large scale attacks can only be realized through careful planning by dedicated group of people."

"Jirn did say nothing was found on the destroyed colonies to indicate the cause the disaster. Where would that group have vanished?"

"You have a point, Sir. Either we are dealing with a clever group of aggressors or inept Empire investigators."

"I hope we find our answer on Colony Number three... Uhm... If I may... Mr Nor? I find myself impelled to question you about...uhm..."

Nor seemed to sense what I wished to talk about and did not leave me time to embarass myself further, by bringing the topic out in the open.

"You wonder about my neutrality. Why so?"

"It is unusual."

"Quite true. It is meant as a protection."

"From whom?"

"I'm sorry, you misunderstand. In being neutral, I am protecting you. Allow me to explain. Our race is so quick at reading another person's psychological makeup that we tend to automatically mimic the other personal appearance and personality. Let's say that I understand you so totally that I become you. This would trouble you greatly. In maintaining neutrality, I save you anxiety and contain my energy."

"How well could you mimic another? "

"Perfectly."

"And how well do you understand the other's problems and personality?"

"As I said, I understand it totally."

I finally understood why Jirn had called him a psycho-detective. He was a perfect psychologist who could, at a glance, see a person's problems and, at a glance, find a common problem between perhaps a whole colony of people. I looked at him again.

"My hat off to you, Sir," I said.

Chapter Four

The landing was as momentous as the liftoff. Recovering my senses, I found myself being helped along a corridor by Dirmac Nor.

I could not distinguish if his hands were warm or cold. His neutrallty seemed to extend to every aspect of his body. We passed a technician receiving directives from one of the many computer-lok wall units.

Wondering about our reception committee, I turned to ask Nor if he knew anything about them but my question was stalled by my surprise. I was no longer walking with Dirmac Nor. Instead, the technician had somehow takin his place. I burst out immediately.

"Where's Dirmac Nor? What have you done with him? Answer me man or I will call security."

The man chuckled.

"Calm yourself Mr Wilson. I am Dirmac Nor. It is imperative to reveal nothing of my presence here. You are here as a tourist, hence my appearance. I am a simple technician showing you the way to the city."

"Tourists? On a colony?"

"This is no normal colony. The Earth-Type Colonies are Empire-funded and very sophisticated. You might even say luxurious. In fact, they invent dozens of gadgets a week for the single purpose of comfort."

Dirmac Nor opened a door and we stepped out into brilliant sunlight. On our left was a road leading towards a towering city of uncertain colors. There was a forest facing us. Its trees were not overly large but their leaves were certainly peculiar. They were about three feet in diameter and of various colors, the dominant one being a light blue. The sight was calming and peaceful. On our right, the shore of a huge lake baked in the sun.

"In the middle of this lies chaos somewhere."

"What do you mean, Dirmac?"

"I sense a wrongness, something disturbing. Perhaps we'll find more answers in the city."

We walked towards the road. The city seemed rather distant and there was no transportation device in sight. Stepping onto the road, the entire segment suddenly lifted into the air and stopped motionless at the height of two feet. A voice slipped into my head, saying one word clearly.

"Where?"

I looked at Dirmac Nor, astonished. He smiled as the technician would smile, answering:

"To the city, tourist section."

The road segment started moving, rapidly gaining speed. Approaching the edge of the road segment, I felt the unmistakable tension of an energy field. I returned next to Dirmac Nor and we silently entered the city. In horror, I saw Nor staggering from pain. I grabbed his arm before he collapsed. He was nearly unconscious for a minute, vacillating to and fro. When he recovered, he spoke as if he were wounded.

"Can you feel it, Wilson?"

"I feel nothing, Dirmac."

"You are lucky then."

"What is it you feel?"

"Death. The death of a race. The entire city reeks of it. I can barely stand it. It's like a raging fire burning my soul."

"Do you know the cause?"

"Not yet. But I'll find it. No matter the cost, I will find it."

The road segment had automatically changed direction, heading at full speed towards a hospital. Dirmac Nor, holding his pain reined in, sent a thought to the machine to return to the original destination.

We shortly arrived at a luxurious hotel. The floating segment lowered, vanishing into the road beneath us. Dirmac altered his clearance, this time to that of a random tourist.

Walking into the hotel, a robo-person greeted us at the front desk.

Directed to an elevator, we found ourselves in our room. The elevator was a trans-beam device. A very costly convenience. I collapsed into a comfortable chair as Nor began pondering aloud.

"Something is definitely happening here, Wilson. I can distinguish feelings of aggression all around. The feelings are so strong I feel oppressed by them. I cannot understand why these people are so upset."

"I thought you understood everything, Mr Nor. Why is it you're incapable of dealing with the first problem you face? Perhaps you aren't as good as you think you are, eh?"

I was increasingly irritated by his lack concern over the fate of this colony. He kept examining me, a strange look in his eyes.

"What are you looking at, Nor? I'll bet you don't like the fact that I can see things as they are. Admit it, Nor, you're a failure. I can't help you either. This colony is doomed. We're all going to die. And for what? Why don't you do something instead just sitting there?"

"Mr Wilson, I believe I will do what you suggest. You've unwittingly shown ne what is going on. I am going to go out and attempt to verify if what I suspect is true. Meanwhile, it would be better for you if you relaxed here until I came back.

He stood up and left immediately. I was fuming. The nerve of that man, to tell me what to do. I felt like showing him a thing or two. And to claim that I had helped him. It was ludicrous. How could I have helped him? I was not native to the colony. I was not affected like they were. He was bluffing and I would make him admit it when he came back empty-handed.

Dirmac Nor had been gone for hours. I was tired and upset and so, retired for the night. It must have been three or four in the morning when Nor returned. He woke me with a gentle shake of my shoulder. I felt very tense and barked at him:

"What do you mean, waking me up at this ungodly hour? Can't you see I'm in bed? Have you no..."

"Calm yourself, Mr Wilson. I would appreciate it greatly if you would put this device over your ears."

I eyed him with suspicion.

"What are you trying to do to me?"

"Mr Wilson please take hold of yourself. You are behaving irrationally. This device is a sound filter. That is all it is."

I grumbled but finally acquiesced, installing the contraption. It looked somewhat like a pair of bulky headphones. Sounds became muted. Surprisingly, I felt myself relax.

"Feeling better Wilson?"

"Indeed I do. I feel very relaxed. I also feel perplexed. Why in the Empire did I get so upset at you and how does a sound filter better my mood?"

"That, Sir, is a good question. And if you would sit with me for a meal, I'll provide you with the answer."

Chapter Five

We were drinking an after supper relaxant before Nor carried out his promise.

"The answer is both simple and complex. The damage is caused by sound. Low intensity subsonics are used to irritate and create tension in the colony's inhabitants.

"If this is true, the answer is very simple indeed. Why was it never noticed?"

"Because of its low intensity. You Homo sapiens have the habit of getting over-involved in the situation you are in. For example, when you became irritated earlier, you never once rose above the irritation. You simply became irritated. You did not question the reason for your irritation and that was your undoing."

"I see."

"When you became more and more tense, I grew curious. You had no reason to be tense. So I examined you, hoping to notice what was affecting you."

"Did you find anything? "

"Yes. Your ears."

"My ears?"

"They were twitching. A very slight twitching and subsonics are known to cause vibrations. It all became clear. That's why the investigators found no one A system could be installed and the activists could leave, operating it remotely."

"That means we won't be able to catch them."

"I don't think that's quite true in this case, Mr Wilson, because this is the last colony established by the Empire. I cannot believe these aggressors would destroy all three colonies without a reason. No such reason has been shown yet. I expect some of these activists will have remained on this colony, preparing a demonstration, a statement to be made against the Empire."

"Maybe they have done that already, Dirmac."

"Don't forget less than two months have passed since the production quota drop. There are still four months to go before the colony self-destructs. If we move with speed, I suspect we have a good chance to catch them in the act."

"How do you propose to locate them, Mr Wilson?"

"These subsonics must be emitted by some apparatus which we should be able to locate with an appropriate device. That was the reason for my earlier exit. I obtained such a device from a contact. So perhaps it is time for a sortie."

"I'm ready to go, Mr Nor. I have two destroyed colonies on my mind. They shall give me the courage I need."

"Let's be off, then."

Leaving the hotel, we visited a rental office, obtaining a private vehicle for the night. I was not so naive to think they would surrender without a fight, yet Dirmac Nor seemed unperturbed by the risks we were taking. I found myself trusting his instincts far more than I did mine.

His device did its job well. Within forty-five minutes, we found ourselves examining a three-story apartment building. Nor pointed at a large parabolic reflector on its roof. That size of reflector was not needed for any residential purpose.

"How do you propose to enter?"

"We shall wait for someone to leave. I will imitate his appearance and our foray will begin."

"Our wait was short. A few minutes later, a man walked out, carrying a large box. He seemed worried.

I noticed that he was wearing bulky headphones.

"Look Dirmac. He's got a muting device on his head."

"Indeed. We are more than fortunate; that box he carries contains something crucially important to him. Look how worried he is. We can use that to our advantage. Come, it's time to enter."

"But what about me? You can disguise yourself, but I'll stand out in that place."

"Don't worry. I'll blanket you. It is easy to attract their attention onto myself. They won't even notice you. Simply stay out of their way and follow me."

We ran across the street to the entrance of the building. I was again astounded by Dirmac Nor when he took on the appearance of the man we'd seen. He made himself look disheveled and seemed to have bruises on his face. He signaled me to be quiet and then crashed through the door. Several men ran down a flight of stairs, rapidly reaching Dirmac and surrounding him. None of them glanced at me.

"Jack, what's wrong? What happened? Where's the box?"

"They took it from me. They jumped on me and took it."

"They? Who's they?"

"I don't know. I didn't see anyone and then it was too late. They were gone. I think our cover's blown."

I grasped the purpose of Dirmac's ranting. He was pushing them into a course of action they were unprepared for. They helped Dirmac up the stairs. We reached a room and entered it. It was difficult to prevent jostling the men in the small room. One of them jumped at a screenphone, jabbing numbers. Looking over his shoulder, I committed it to memory. He spoke in clipped sentences. The man on the screen replied they were to wait. Dirmac Nor spoke up.

"What's going on?"

"Relax, Jack. The Conclave isn't through yet. The Planetary Supervisor is on his way over. He'll know what to do."

The Conclave. We now had a name, and the Supervisor, whoever that might be, would soon be in our grasp. Again, our wait was short. A short, fat man entered and the others saluted him. He approached Dirmac.

"All right Jack. Do you remember anything about what they looked like? I've heard rumors about an Empire investigation. Anything you can tell me will help."

A ripple flowed over Dirmac's face and he became the supervisor. A smile spread across his face, as gasps were uttered by everyone in the room. They stood frozen, uncomprehending.

"Gentlemen, you are under arrest by order of the Empress."

Chapter six

The security force had no problem gathering the conclave group. I could not forget the look of consternation on the Supervisor's face when Dirmac took on his appearance.

"You know, Dirmac, I understand much more about your neutrality now. I'm glad you've never chosen to imitate me."

"You need not worry about that, Mr Wilson. However, do not believe for a moment that our search for the Conclave is over. We may have saved the colony but we have only a handful the conclave to show for it."

"I don't know about that, Mr Nor. The Empire Security are rather good at questioning."

"I have a feeling that..."

Dirmac Nor was interrupted by a sergeant. It seemed the Conclave's supervisor wished to speak to Dirmac and no one else. We got into the security flyer and sat in silence until our arrival at the Empire Prison House. We were led to a small cubicle where the Supervisor sat, waiting.

"My name ls Nor. You wish to speak to me?"

"Mr Nor! I do not understand your abilities and must congratulate you on our swift capture. However, you have changed nothing. The conclave will survive such minor defeats and vanquish in the end because its cause is just. The Empire's greed and control is the cause of much pain and suffering for the benefit of few. This Empire, Sir, is at an end. We, the Conclave will bring about that end. That is all I have say."

The man started shaking violently and collapsed. to the floor. I noticed his left hand had a small self-inflicted cut, caused by his nail. The man was dying, surely self-poisoned. I shouted for a doctor but to no avail, for, within seconds, the Supervisor was dead. Nor looked at me.

"I fear greatly that such determination will cause the Empire much pain before it is brought to an end, Mr Wilson. I perceived his intentions too late."

"Don't blame yourself, Nor. This man meant to die one way or another. You would never have stopped him."

"Yes. Yet, his words disturb me. We may have won a small battle but what war still waits for us, up there? What fate waits for the Empress Empire?"

Dirmac looked out of the window and remained bitterly silent for a long time.

The End

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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