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Orion’s Dendrites

by Lawrence R. Dagenstine

Table of Contents
Part 3 appears
in this issue.


Lebros Inquiry - Day 3...

It was no wonder he had a migraine the size of Jupiter. Poor Orion, sitting by himself in some new prison-like environment.

It was there, waiting for him, as he slowly regained consciousness. A flooding sensation in the back of his mind, followed by two thoughts, one ungraspable and the other just plain common sense, lighting up the interior with a feeling that was almost physical.


He had to escape.

He lay quite still, disciplined by a training that had stamped itself even on his tortured mind. In the darkness his senses put out feelers. They began a very slow and methodical exploration. Perhaps this wasn’t a cell after all, but a small room.

The luminous effect of distant stars shone through the windows at the far end of this new room. And what a nice room it was! Outside, a white dwarf hung limp in the interstellar regions of the solar system. Beyond that the space was pale, an impressive view of Alpha Centauri, washed-out orange and blue nebulae, and sun beams from far away which glinted off the glass with blinding flashes as if mirrors were being played across its surface. Cautiously, Orion inspected the modernistic furniture, the bathroom and recreation room. Was this the same station? Having made sure no danger lurked behind him, he returned to the bedroom, confused.

Everything was very quiet; then all at once, the sharp, painful feeling that had awakened him came again. With it came the smell of death, the hysteria, and — in a series of razor-sharp images — everything that had happened to him. He looked down at his body. Not a mark on it. And the pain — vanished. But he still cringed at the thought of further punishment. The memory is what had brought the smell of death and the pain back to him. But was it just a nightmare? There was just no way of explaining it.

The new feeling in torture, he thought grimly. More effective than anything a human has probably undergone. No aftereffects except paranoia. He unglued his tongue from the floor of his mouth and at once the caustic taste of chloral hydrate burst through. That made him wonder how long he’d been there, and where here or there was. He sensed movement behind him and swung around, overly tensed and neurotic, ready to defend himself.

“Good morning, Orion. Feeling better, I hope.”

All smiles, the General Observer came ploughing through the heavy carpeting with a tray in his hand. Orion stared him up and back. He was old and thin, with eyes like gray pebbles, and the cosmonaut noticed the laser pistol under his arm. Actually, he gave the impression of possessing both rat-like ingenious and rat-like simplicity, all for getting information. A small, quick mind and a very dangerous one. You would know what he thought when he acted or asked questions. Yes, he was dangerous all right. Physically strong, too; his body was amazingly wiry. The kind of guy who reminded you of a snake.

The tray held a glass of water and an assortment of foods. “The kitchen didn’t have anymore breakfast so I hope sandwiches are all right.”

“Why, have I been starved?” Orion asked sarcastically.

Stevens handed him the glass; it was accepted with caution. “No, but I’m sure you’re thirsty. Have some water.” He then put the tray down and found himself a seat. “I hope you like your new accommodations. You deserve it.”

“Any why is that? Because I was a good abductee?”

“No, because you passed our tests. And we were still unable to get any legible data concerning the lunar surface and your memory of it.”

“You can’t make a man remember the past, especially if he doesn’t know what that past experience or recollection pertains to. And no matter how amazing your technology or interrogative methods are, and no matter how many times you try, it’ll always backfire. So your day-to-day inquiries have been performed in vain.”

“Yet the discovery and exploration of a partially uncharted outpost within the Lebros Canyon still had a desired effect on you,” Stevens pointed out. “Don’t play the fool with me, Orion. We might have gained next to nothing, but what little bit the exams did prove, such as your awareness to the fact that something was down there, is enough to tell us you caught a quick glimpse of it.”

Orion crossed his arms. “Such as?”

“Such as yellow team almost discovering it a day before you. That right there is proof in itself that what we seek is not only important but also extraordinary.”

“There is nothing you can say that will make me believe this nonsense.”

“If denial suits you,” said Stevens, “then so be it.”

A moment’s silence, and then, “Where’s Sam?”

“Sam is dead. They’re all dead.”

Orion gave him an incredulous look. “I don’t believe you.”

“Blue team, red team, yellow team — gone forever! The exploration is, shall we say, history?”

“And my rocket?”

“We had it destroyed. All evidence of your existence wiped out.”

A black tide of panic swept over the cosmonaut. “You mean I’m stranded?”

“No, you’re just in our custody,” said Stevens contemptuously, “as is your ego and overall mental health from this point on unless you cooperate.”

Orion narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Just where am I really?”

Stevens crossed his legs and smiled. “In outer space,” he said candidly. “And I thought you would have figured that one out right away by the spectacular view of the Milky Way from your bedroom window.” He snarled with laughter. “Dendrite Seven is a top secret observatory, where science and intelligence reign almighty; a station in constant lunar-orbital stasis around the moon Lebros. It is financed by a handful of intergalactic aristocrats, and they’ve been looking for what you found for a very long time.” He now stood up. “You see, out here in the confines of space we are invisible to everything except our own detection technology.”

“You mean no one can find me?”

“No one.”

As the General Observer circled him, Orion held his ears and said, “I refuse to remember then. My mind is suddenly clouded, my senses cut off to the world.”

“What did you see?” Stevens asked as he walked circles around him.

Orion kept up his inaudible barrier. “I — can’t — hear you!”

“What did you find on Lebros at the UB4 outpost?”

“I — can’t — hear you!”

“Your senses may be clouded by refusal now,” Stevens whispered to him, “but they should all come flooding back real soon... especially when the terrible dreams begin to resurface... the dreams about the man in the spacesuit who drove that big vehicle out of the rocks and attacked you.”

Orion let go of his ears. “How did you know about that? I... I thought that was just a nightmare.”

“No, it was real. A product of your memory due to the dendrite probe, a giant computer receptor used for scanning and conditioning recall cells. The science of anamnesis.” Stevens now sat back down. “The dendrite probe is a truly marvelous work of ingenuity, a machine which some influential superiors of mine have put a lot of time and energy into creating, and a lot of money already invested in.”

“A dendrite probe, huh? And how does this ungodly technology work?”

“Well, earlier experiments were performed on monkeys. To tell you the truth, I’m not quite sure myself. My job is to observe, calculate, then record. Anything else is left to the scientists and technicians. All findings are reported at the end of the day.” He picked up one of the sandwiches and began to eat it. “Sure you’re not hungry, Mr. Jacobs?”

Orion declined and tossed the tray to the side. That’s all he needed, food with drugs inside of it. Then he would have no chance of evading this man’s inquiries.

“I think the precise mechanism,” Stevens went on, “by which the probe exerts its memory-inducing effects are still yet unknown. It does not appear to derive or emerge from the synapses, nor does it appear to unfold from any interaction with known mechanisms involved in inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmission. We do know that certain hypnotic agents prevent cerebral debilitation and help speed the remembrance process. Certain neurotransmitters and receptor cells are often fired off in localized areas of the brain, attaching itself to the given memory of the moment. In your case, the mystery behind Lebros. In another subject, perhaps a guilty conscience, a subconscious thought, or even a dream sequence.”

Orion now clenched his hands into fists. “How dare you poke at my brain,” he shouted. “How dare you attack my memory! No one — and I do mean no one — has the right to dehumanize another, whether it be an intergalactic blue-blood excuse for a government or not. You can’t assume control over a simple man’s mind.”

Stevens grinned. “Here at Dendrite Seven we can.”

“Why? Because of your dendrite technology?” Orion argued on. “Please! They make it look so new and high-tech and rewarding your employers, don’t they?”

Stevens was slightly confused. “What do you mean?”

“I know for a fact that this technology of yours is old, and the only reason you put guys like me inside a cell and under the third degree is because your scientists want to learn where this technology originated from: how they can build it; how it can work better and more efficient; what they can learn from it; what significance it holds for the future of memory-induced mind control; and what corrections can be made to it.”

Stevens now sat upright, a bulbous glow surrounding his cheekbones. “So you do remember!”

“Your so-called employers are after the moon itself,” said Orion openly. “They want to steal someone else’s secret, and slap it into a computer mainframe. God’s secret! It’s like the secret policing agencies you read about in those old tomes, the ones about the CIA, KGB, and MI-5 five-hundred years ago. A time when nations were divided, and the object of global control was stealing secrets and technology. Some things back on earth might have changed, but I see humans haven’t. There is still the greedy few roaming around out there. The only difference is that we’ve spread universally.”

Now it was the General Observer who narrowed his eyes. “Who do you speak of?”

“Us. Our seed has been planted on thousands of other worlds, in the hope we can use our knowledge and resources to change the outcome of evolution. But we haven’t changed much. We still lust for power and control, and that just proposes a great danger to ourselves. And now we’re using that power to regulate the mind and restrain individuality.”

“You said something about God’s secret. What was that in reference to?”

“What God originally created. Like any other moon in the universe. The rock many miles below us.” A brief pause as the cosmonaut approached the window. “I saw it the moment the cosmonaut teams were dispatched. Not only UB4. There’s more than meets the eye down there. I learned of it, and so you wanted to steal of what I learned. You knew it had some significance with power, and these probing machines you use up here.” He turned and faced the General Observer again. “It’s why I was dispatched to this region. For exploration purposes, like you.”

Stevens wrinkled his brows. “Observation,” he muttered, part embarrassment to realize, what was obviously the scientific truth, painful on his behalf.

Orion put his head down. “Yes.” He walked toward the ever-curious observer. “Lebros is a crater-pocked memory cell. Your technology up here originates from there. That answers all questions, proves all theories. A cold barren satellite with many ravines, but the canyon itself is one great strand of mental energy. Memory pouring out of its low-density core. Pure channels of dendrite technology.”

“But those channels were once an ash flow,” Stevens insisted.

“No, a river of people’s memories. Powerful memories once run rapid.”

“I suppose it’s no wonder an enemy organization would want to safeguard it,” Stevens figured to himself, in reference to the man in the spacesuit. “Memories in its most concentrated form before mankind or some alien civilization were able to outfit it into an abusive technology.”

Orion shook his head. “Yes. A moon of virtually millions... perhaps a memory cell of God himself... the universe ultimately his brain... .”

Stevens looked up at him. “And you find that plausible?”

“You own the technology. I just know what I saw and what I realized. I guess it’s up to you to tell me what went wrong.” Orion took a step back. “You were used by your superiors, and the information you probed my mind for was right in front of you, staring you dead in the face.”

The General Observer was looking a little shamefaced. “I... I’m sorry.”

But it was too late for apologies.

Orion perched himself tentatively on the arm of a chair. “No more probing.”

“No more.” Stevens tore up his report with an air of a man to whom successes in the observation of science and technology were once commonplace, and tossed them on the floor for Orion to see.

He shook his head impatiently. “I just ask that you grant me my freedom.”

“There will be more inquiries, Mr. Jacobs. You will return, won’t you?”

“Of course. It is not ended yet. The horrible nightmares and memories of the tests alone will always be with me. How could I ever forget that?”

Looking back on those last few moments of remembrance was, he found, like looking at a computer through the wrong end of a monitor. The people on it were moving, but their faces were too small to see. He must try to turn his head all the way around. And yet, when he tried to do that the people and instances inside his mind were blurred at the edges and distorted. It is only by, so to speak, staring at a portion of the screen one segment at a time that one can see things clearly.

After all, the mind is its own computer.

Copyright © 2005 by Lawrence R. Dagenstine

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