The Train - Installment 7

in #thetrain2 years ago

At the terminus of teleportation, Bob and his companion found themselves standing on a platform at the end of a long narrow room. Willing his head to stop spinning, Bob realized he was on a train similar to the one which had carried him to Sollis.

    "This way," the soldier directed.

He guided Bob out the door, through the enclosed connector and into another car containing several empty, barred cells.

    "Seems like I just left one of these," commented the earthman.

    "We're holding you here until we figure out if you are dangerous or not," his captor said, pointing Bob to the nearest cell. "Are you hungry?"

    "Yes, I am," Bob replied, entering the enclosure.

    "I'll send somebody back with some food."

Closing the cell door, the soldier dictated a string of Thingelli to the opposite wall and exited the room.

Bob sat down on the bunk connected to the wall and surveyed his accommodations. Compared to the enclosure he had just left, this new cell seemed absolutely palatial.

    "Hey, Ally?" Bob thought.

    "Yes, Boss?"

    "Why can't you interpret Thingelli?"

    "It is forbidden by IA Treaty II for any mnibit to interpret the official language of the IA Peace Force unless interpreting for a member of that force."

    "Are you capable of interpreting Thingelli?"

    "The capability exists, but is currently disabled by an interlock."

    "Is it a hardware or software lock?"

    "The lock is hardware based."

    "Ally, show me your hardware schematic."

Poring over the image of the mnibit electronics that flashed into his head, the earthman began to query Ally about the symbols used and the logic expressed in the diagram. As a computer designer and reverse engineer, Bob had analyzed hundreds of circuits in the past, and was pleasantly surprised that the hardware under study responded to his questions. Engrossed in trying to understand the mnibit's inner workings, Bob failed to notice the IA soldier enter the room with a tray of food until the man tapped it against the bars of his enclosure. Sliding the tray through a horizontal slot in the cell door, the soldier handed the tray to the earthman and left the room without speaking.

Uncovering the tray, Bob gazed at its unappealing contents. Sniffing it cautiously, he spooned a bit into his mouth. It seemed edible, but not satisfying. He continued to examine the mnibit schematics between bites. After finishing, he felt tired and stretched out on the bunk with his hands behind his head. He soon nodded off.

Sometime later, Bob awoke to find two soldiers standing at the door of his cell.

    "Come with us," the shorter of the two commanded, while the other opened the door.

The two guards escorted Bob through the teleportation carriage and into the next car where they stopped at an enclosed compartment with an open door. Inside, another soldier sat at a small table, holding a tablet in his hand. Directing Bob to enter, the two escorts closed the door after him and stationed themselves on either side.

    "Hello," the man at the table said. "Please sit down."

Bob sat in the chair across from the soldier.

    "I have a few questions for you," the man stated. "What is your name?"

    "Robert Zelazny."

    "Planet of origin?"

    "Earth."

    The soldier looked at Bob sharply. "Please, be serious." he intoned. "Planet of origin?"

    "I am being serious," Bob responded. "I'm from Earth."

    "If you are from Earth, how did you arrive on Sollis?" the interrogator queried.

Bob recounted his story of meeting the stranger in the Australian desert and the events leading to his capture on Sollis.

    "You say you had help from a being named Teetok?"

    "That's right."

    "Where is Teetok now?"

    "I'm not sure. He stayed on the train at Sollis. He said it was completing the Grand Circuit, or something like that."

The soldier entered a few notes in the tablet and got up from the table.

    "That's all for now," he stated. Opening the door, he spoke to the guards in Thingelli and then turned back to Bob. "These two will take you back to your cell."

    "Wait," Bob said. "How long do you plan to hold me prisoner?"

    "That's not for me to say," the interrogator responded.

Bob allowed the guards to escort him back to the cell. Entering the enclosure, he lay down on the bed again. Detecting a slight swaying motion, Bob surmised that the train was underway. He wondered where they were headed and whether or not the train was carrying him toward or away from home.

<-- Installment 6

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