Roland

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ROLAND

When Jill returned to the Boda in River City she laid out the bad news first. Jerry Shy Bear is either dead or in the hands of the enemy.

Robyn, Hunky, and Dory were filled with grief and they pressed Jill for answers. She answered truthfully, but the hardest questions came from Robyn, and had to do with why Inge was traveling together with Jerry in the first place.

I betrayed you, Robyn, she admitted. We both did. Please don't ask me to Share, you won't like what you see.

So it was an affair. Robyn had to admit she opened the door to that when she went off in search of her freebie. Her marriage to Jerry should have come first in every instance.

Next, Jill dribbled out some good news: Inge had allowed Jerry to take possession of her body, in the same way Binah had taken possession of Kim Lokken and became Robyn. All of Jerry's memories until the moment of possession are intact. But I am not Jerry, nor am I Inge Hahn anymore. I ask you to call me only Jill.

This cheered up the Boda somewhat. Both Jerry and Inge were still present with them. If Jerry was dead, then he lived on through Inge's eyes.

After that Jill laid out some more bad news: There never was any such person as Inge Hahn. My name was Becky Roland, and I was the daughter of Earl Roland, planted by him here in River City so I could infiltrate your band.

Why do that to us? Dory wailed, hardly able to believe it. We loved you!

And I still love you, she said, all of you. Enough to surrender my body and soul so that Jerry might live. And I'm not finished giving. If there's a chance Jerry's alive, I must find him. And if he's dead, it's even more important that I find him. Can you say the same, Mrs. Shy Bear?

Robyn thought about it for a moment. Then: I will go with you.

And what about us? Hunky asked her.

I'm risking half the Boda. I don't want to risk all of it. And you need to watch my daughter.

There was a brief period of only ten years, from the close of the War until the introduction of the 707, when commercial air travel across the country used large four-engine propeller planes. They were noisy and slower than jets, and the tickets were expensive, but there was a certain charm about it that was soon extinct. Jill and Robyn flew to the east coast this way, rather than risk another saucer.

Earl Roland was delighted to see Becky return to his Bethesda, Maryland home after nearly eight months' apart. There had been no contact during that time and he had a million questions, beginning with, How many people are we talking about?

Well, four, now, because Jerry's dead. Not enough to warrant all your attention, Father.

Who's the leader?

Robyn. The singer and piano player.

The girl calling herself Robyn is really Kimberly Lokken. She's lying to you, Becky.

Did you have anything to do with Roswell, Daddy? When Jerry was shot?

Of course not, dear, don't be silly. Her father pulled her close for a hug. He ran his fingers through her hair and felt the bump on the back of her head. Do you want to talk about what's happened to you?

I know what's happened to me. We call it the Change. My brain has been remodeled by a virus from outer space.

You don't know that!

The source of the Change seemed to be a sore spot with him, something his mind refused to accept. She asked, Fine, let's not talk about me. What happened to Jerry's body?

Jerry Shy Bear lived for a week after the Air Force picked him up. We just wanted to ask him some questions, dear.

You asked how he got the Change and you didn't like his answers.

We just wanted to ask him a few questions, but he died. I don't know how, but it was not my doing.

Let me get the story straight from him.

I'm sorry dear, I told you, he's dead.

I'm betting you still have a...souvenir...from Jerry. A part of him that doesn't rot because it isn't really alive anymore. I'm betting your curiosity won out and you have Jerry's brain. Bring him out to me, Father. They showed me what to do.

I'd rather you didn't.

No more lies! No more hiding the truth. I'll go back to them, Daddy. Back to your enemies! I'll beg them to take me back. You and I will be enemies and I'll never return to you, unless you kidnap me too.

He looked at her for a long time. Finally he opened a desk drawer and removed a crumpled black lump resembling a water bag, with one end narrowing to a connector. He laid it on the desktop. People's Exhibit A.

Jill stared at him. For a moment she could not recognize him as her father. He was dead to her. Her father was dead and Jill didn't know who this strange man was. Then again, Becky really was dead also.

She grabbed it and showed him the 55 pin connector. Look at it! This is what happened to me! This is real! Can the United States do this yet? Can anyone in the world do this yet? Don't say the Soviets. Oh, that's what you've told everybody, enough times that you are even starting to believe your own propaganda. But no one on Earth has this kind of science.

We cannot know the answer to that, one way or the other!

No, you cannot know the answer because you refuse to let your mind be conformed to reality. We aren't the only ones in the universe. We aren't as clever as we think we are.

Honey, your brain has been affected. A strong delusion could be built right in, it could be an intended part of the change.

This wasn't her father anymore. He could hatch schemes centered around the strange Change that had happened to Robyn and Jerry, even send his own daughter to accept the Change, but he would dance around and around the central reality of it. He wasn't really sane anymore, and this made the part of her that was still Becky Roland very sad.

Jill unlatched the Purple Cable that doubled as her belt and removed it from around her dress. She hooked up to what was left of Jerry's brain and did the download while he was watching.

Jerry's last moments were the most vivid. He had been stripped naked, because that was an foolproof way to remove from a person their natural psychological shielding that would allow them to resist torture more effectively. His arms had been tied, bent back around a 55 gallon drum filled with solid concrete that refused to budge even under Jerry's strongest attempts to move it. His legs were spread straight out, including the one in a cast, and his ankles were held in clamps securely mounted to the floor. There were two men there to torment Jerry. One man was wielding a pair of bolt cutters. They were closed around the toe right next to the big toe on Jerry left foot. He looked eager to use them, and he only awaited the signal from the other man.

That other man said, I'm Earl Roland, Mr. Shy Bear. Kim Lokken might have spoken to you about me.

Who's this asshole? Jerry said, with a single nod of his head at Roland's companion.

Roland said, Meet Ed Conley. He does all my wet work. This is really going to amaze you, Jerry, how much it's going to hurt. So I really suggest you start telling me everything you know. Because you've got ten toes, each one good for at least two bites, and after Ed gets done, he can start picking at your feet with a knife like it was leftover turkey.

So Jerry started to speak about elohim, the living suns which men have worshiped as gods, and how one of them named Binah had taken possession of Kim Lokken, his wife, in order to live among human beings as one of them.

All of this seemed like so many lies to Earl. Obviously you're not taking this interview seriously at all, Jerry. So Ed, go ahead and make the first slice.

Jerry chose that moment to die. The record came to an abrupt end. But now Jill had all of Jerry's memories. There would be no True Death for him.

You tortured Jerry, Daddy! Jill said, letting Becky come through once more. And now Earl had scientific confirmation that memories were transfered through the cable.

That is what I wanted to spare you from. There was some things we had to know, and some things I've had to do that I'm not proud of. I'm sad that you had to learn about this mess.

And he died for nothing. He told you the truth!

Roland offered up something in his defense. But we didn't kill him! He did that on his own.

He performed an EOC. That's what Robyn calls it. End Of Cycle. We can kill ourselves just by thinking about it. But Father, don't you dare tell me Jerry Shy Bear was to blame for committing suicide. Not when you had him tied up and helpless, and were cutting his toes off.

I know they're working toward a purpose. I need to know what they want. The band is nothing more than a way to raise funds.

So you asked me to pretend to be a Hunky-Dory fan, to learn everything about them. I was bait, with my trust fund opened up to catch their eye.

You have to go back. You have to ask them to take you back.

Father, please listen to me well, because I want an answer. On this everything hinges. Where did you get all your money? The truth, Daddy.

The thing growing from Kim Lokken's head, it was bone, yes, but there was also...a new kind of material made from carbon, the atoms arranged in ways we never thought of before. We still don't know what they are, who made them, why, or where it came from.

At that point Jill stood up and went to a corner of the room, and her head became very still, with not the slightest movement. Only her mouth moved to speak. She did this because she wanted to record everything her father said, and it had to look like it was taken from a television camera mounted on a tripod. It was a sting. Jill got her own father to make a smoking gun film.

On the flight back to River City, Robyn and Jill sat apart. Robyn wanted time to think.

Jerry was officially dead, but Jill had obtained his final memories. By doing this, she set a powerful precedent. No matter what happened, if a sister went down, the Boda dropped everything and worked to save her final memories. In years to come, a continuous wireless transceiver would add a measure of safety, but there would still be times when an extraordinary effort would be required to retrieve a fallen sister from the True Death.

Both Jerry and Inge were gone. Only Jill remained.

Somewhere over Yellowstone Park, Robyn came to a decision. She got up, went forward in the cabin, and found an empty seat next to her. She said, I know you are in there, Jerry, but you must know that I consider our marriage to be dissolved. Til death do us part and all that.

Jill nodded and bowed her head. Then she smiled and looked straight at Robyn. I understand. But I will still get to watch Joy grow up, and that will be enough for me. She watched Robyn accept this silently. That really wasn't my father at the end, you know. I have happier memories.

Then let us celebrate your father, Robyn said, the Earl Roland who was.

Everything Roland said was taken directly from Jill's memories and transfered to sixteen millimeter film using a kinetiscope, a television cathode ray tube connected directly to a movie camera. Video tape would not become widely available until 1957.

It also required a device to actually map the thoughts, memories, and daydreams of Jill as a television video signal, but with thousands, not just hundreds, of scan lines, since film grain was so dense. This gadget was constructed by Robyn at her Proxima lab, and it required another voyage through the Land We Know that took several weeks.

Robyn took baby Joy with her because she missed her daughter. Jill was still largely Jerry, so none of the sights in the Land We Know or the Proxima station were new to her. But Jill felt a certain thrill because to the Becky still inside her, all of this was new.

At first the images they built up were indistinct, but they became more and more clarified as Jill learned to use it. She threw up an image of her father from the recent encounter. Each take was a performance demanding all of her attention. She had to concentrate as hard as she could to provide every detail of her conversation with Earl. Many takes were rejected because she had forgotten to animate the muscles in Earl's face as he spoke, or mismatched the audio to his lips. Each new take was an improvement over the old. Pathways in her modified brain kicked in to make the work easier as soon as they "caught on" to what she was trying to do.

It took two more weeks, and when it was finished they had a short black and white segment of video indistinguishable from the real thing, as though Jill had worn a television camera strapped to her head that day with her father. It wasn't the entire discussion, just the juicy "smoking gun" part at the end that would eliminate Roland as an irritant to Robyn forever.

They also had a number of photographs printed from Jill's memories of the principals in the case they were building, Earl Roland, Ed Conley, Jerry Shy Bear, and the condition of the flying saucer at the crash site.

Robyn strapped herself into the thing and made photographic hard copies of the people at the Hanford Clinic she was going to testify about: Dr. Gary Trochmann, Nurse Karen Ramsey, and Andrew Fulford, who was the man in the white scrubs, the "muscle" to make sure Robyn behaved. She also made a photograph from her memory of the keypad that was used to open the door of the Clinic from the inside.

The only hard part would be explaining how the photographs were taken. Robyn decided she would commit perjury. She would say a camera was smuggled into one of her CARE packages from Hunky and Dory, disguised inside a box of cereal, and the film carried out by herself when she escaped. Jill's pictures, of course, would be mixed with the legitimate ones she did take with Jerry on their little lover's get-away.

Are you sure this will work? Jill asked Robyn when they packed everything carefully for the journey home to Earth.

It very likely will. We have evidence that Earl Roland is running a government inside the government. And the, you know, actual government, mightn't like it. But it will be risky, Jill. We'll have to surrender to US Marshals and walk right into the lion's den, Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC. But if we play our cards right, we'll be free.

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