Time passed slowly in the cell. Bob spent it sleeping, eating, doing calisthenics and using Ally to learn more about mnibits, his captors and other aspects of his new environment. Without reference to a rising or setting sun, Bob was unsure how long he had been locked up. At first, he attemped to query Ally, asking her the current date and time in Fort Collins, Colorado. He had been surprised at her response-- that she did not have that information. He tried gauging the passing time by the arrival of his meals, assuming they were brought to him during the day, but he found it difficult to detect a recognizable pattern.
Twice during his confinement, he had been taken to the room with the small table and interviewed by the same IA soldier. The queries centered around his activities on Sollis, his knowledge of earth and how he had escaped from his home world. He had answered their questions and then asked his own. Why was he being held captive? When would he be released? What were the charges against him? The responses had been vague and noncommittal.
Lying on the bunk, Bob felt the train slow and then come to a stop. Some time passed before a soldier appeared at his cell door.
Unlocking the enclosure, the soldier spoke, "On your feet. It's time to go."
Getting up, Bob exited the cell. Prompted by his captor's waving gun, he entered the car into which he had first teleported. Another soldier handed him a small bottle.
"Are we teleporting?" Bob asked.
"Drink that and stand over there," the guard directed.
Bob did those things and felt a now familiar sensation as the train faded from view. He found himself alone, standing outdoors on a grassy knoll in what appeared to be a park. Beyond the borders of the green space, buildings rose in regular ranks as far as he could see. It reminded him of New York city, except he had never seen buildings with the shapes and colors displayed before him.
Looking around, he saw several humanoids walking through the park. Wondering where he was, he remembered the mnibit on his head.
"Ally, where am I?"
"You appear to be in the city of Japath, capital of the planet Corooth."
Pondering his situation, the earthman suddenly heard a familiar voice.
Turning, Bob saw Teetok walking toward him.
"It is you!" the approaching Gridet exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"
"Teetok! Am I ever glad to see you," Bob replied.
Teetok motioned to a bench-like structure at the foot of the knoll. "Come," he invited. "Let's sit down and talk."
Perched on the bench, Bob recounted his experiences on Sollis and in the military train.
On finishing, he asked, "What is the Interdimensional Alliance?"
"It is an alliance of the planets that have developed interdimensional travel," the Gridet explained. "A set of treaties ratified by the governing bodies of those worlds maintains its existence."
"And the soldiers on the train?"
"They are the IA peace-keeping force, charged with seeing that the terms of the treaties are observed."
"Why did they hold me prisoner, and why did they let me go?" Bob wondered out loud.
"There is an organized group of rebels on Sollis that want to leave the IA," responded Teetok. "The peace-keeping force is battling them and may have thought you were a member of that group. Perhaps they decided that was not the case and that you are harmless."
"On the train," Bob said. "They asked me a lot of questions about Earth. They didn't believe me when I told them I'm an earthling."
"Wait, are you saying you are a native to Earth?" Teetok queried. "That is hard to believe."
"Yes," replied the earthman. "Why is that hard to believe?"
Teetok looked at Bob carefully before answering. "Earth hasn't yet developed interdimensional travel. They aren't part of the Alliance."
"I told you how I got on the train. Did you not believe me?"
Looking ashamed, Teetok answered, "I assumed you were making it up."
"Who did you think I was?" Bob demanded.
"I was hoping you had escaped and were a fugitive," Teetok said.
Seeing the earthman's confused look, the Gridet resumed. "Bob, Earth is used as a penal planet by the IA. Criminals are sent there without teleportation technology to serve out their life sentences."
Teetok continued, "In my culture, it is honorable to seek out the poor, the downtrodden and the oppressed to try to help them. I thought that you were a fugitive in need of help. Oftentimes, prisoners of the IA are drugged to keep them docile. Sometimes those drugs cause memory loss or confusion. I concluded that was the case with you."
Copyright (C) 2017 Winslow Williams. All rights reserved.