Read CHAPTER 16 of Rebels of the Red Planet , free online book, by Charles Louis Fontenay, on ReadCentral.com.

Nuwell Eli sat with Placer Viceroy, director of the Canfell Hydroponic Farm, in its large underground dining room, eating lunch.  This meal was not the tasteless, gelatin-like food that was fed to the Jellies and Toughs and sold on the Martian market.  It was a meal of thick, juicy steaks from the dome farms around Hesperidum and vegetables from the gardens inside the Mars City dome.

“We’ve been here better than a week, and she’s still stubborn,” Nuwell said morosely.  “Surely she has the intelligence to realize how ridiculous and impractical is her sudden conversion to a lost rebel cause.  I’m half convinced that this Kensington fellow put her under some sort of a hypnotic spell.”

“You’ve been very gentle in your methods of conversion,” said Placer.  “It isn’t like you, Nuwell.  If you want quick results, we could turn her over to the Toughs for a while.”

“No, I don’t want her hurt.  I love the woman and intend to marry her.  The whippings and humiliations are as far as I’m willing to go.”

“A peculiar sort of love, if you don’t mind my saying so,” remarked Placer.

Nuwell stared at him coldly.

“I do mind your saying so,” he said.  “My personal emotions are not subject to your interpretation.  But Martian wives are expected to obey their husbands with deference and, by Saturn, I’m going to break her of that liberal terrestrial training!”

“You’d have the legal right to take the steps necessary for that, if she were married to you,” Placer pointed out.

“But the little fool refuses to marry me now!” exclaimed Nuwell in exasperation.  “If she hadn’t refused, do you think I’d have brought her here?  But I couldn’t take her to one of the cities, except as a prisoner to be tried for sedition and treason, as long as she expresses this violent and open support of the rebel cause.  Whether you consider it love or not, I want the woman for myself.  I don’t want her imprisoned or executed.”

“Perhaps if she were presented with that alternative, she’d be more reasonable about it,” murmured Placer.

“Don’t you think I’ve threatened her with it?  She just says that she’d rather die or go to prison than go back on her convictions and knuckle under to me.  If she could only forget that she’d ever met that man Kensington!”

“Well, as for that, it might not be so hard to arrange,” suggested Placer quietly.

Nuwell stared at him.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You’re not familiar with the details of our work here, are you, Nuwell?”

“I thought I was, pretty well.  But what you just said doesn’t strike a chord.”

“As you know, the Toughs and Jellies are originally criminals and vagabonds you have smuggled to us for experimental purposes.  One major effect of our initial glandular experiments with them, which makes them into Toughs and Jellies, is that they lose all memory of their past.”

“I don’t want a flabby woman, like a Jelly!” exclaimed Nuwell with a shudder.

“I think we could eliminate the memory, permanently, without any physical changes at all,” said Placer.  “There are some pretty good scientists here.  I expect the operation would cut down her thinking ability pretty heavily, though.  I think it would still be slightly higher than that of the Jellies, but you couldn’t ever expect her again to get above the intellectual level of a child of six or eight terrestrial years.”

“I don’t care anything about an intelligent woman,” answered Nuwell ruthlessly.  “If she weren’t so proud of her intelligence now, I wouldn’t have so much trouble with her.  I want her as a beautiful woman, which is all a woman has a right to expect from a man, and if she were less intelligent and more tractable I might be able to train her to become the sort of wife a man of my profession and position requires.”

Placer speared a bite of steak, casually, with his fork.

“Any time you say the word,” he said carelessly.

“I’ll give her the rest of today,” said Nuwell with decision.  “I’ll work her over again with the whip this afternoon, and if she doesn’t break I’ll tell her what she can expect.  Then, if that doesn’t do the trick, I’ll turn her over to you the first thing tomorrow.”

“Tonight would be better,” suggested Placer.  “The initial surgery takes only about thirty minutes, and she’d do better to rest a night after that.  It alone will remove a great deal of her volitional power.  The entire series of operations will require about three days.”

“Tonight it is, then,” said Nuwell, “if she doesn’t break this afternoon.”

Maya sat in her locked room, her tunic and trousers covering the red welts on her back and legs.  The tasteless gelatin which had been her only food since their arrival almost gagged her with every spoonful, but she had eaten all her lunch.  She needed all the strength she could get to maintain her defiance.

She was in the grip of dull, unrelenting pain, physically and emotionally.  Her flesh ached from yesterday’s beating, and she was sick at heart at the revelation of Nuwell’s essential brutality and callousness.  She had thought him a sensitive and intelligent man, and she had admired him for this even after some of his exhibitions of childish temper had disillusioned her as to the glowing nobility which she had at first attributed to him.

She had felt a warm attraction to him and, when she thought Dark was dead, she had been willing to marry him on the basis, not of the passionate love she now felt for Dark, but of a mellow tenderness which she conceived a sound basis for an understanding life together.

But now!  She shuddered at the thought that she might have married him, and perhaps lived all her life with him, thinking him to be gentle and kind.  Whatever happened to her, she felt fortunate that this crisis had brought to her view the hidden side of him, that heretofore had been seen only by his partners in political manipulation and by the unfortunate victims of his prosecution.

Her shoulders drooped wearily.  She stared across the room.  It was as bare as a prison cell, which intrinsically it was.

There was a glass on the washbasin.  It was made of heavy metal, with no sharp edges.  Did Nuwell think she would commit suicide?  Not as long as she knew Dark was alive!

Her mind touched the glass.  It quivered.  It tilted and fell to the floor with a clang.

She looked at it with mild curiosity as it rolled into a corner.  She hadn’t done that for a long time, not since she suppressed it because of Nuwell’s hatred of witchcraft.

It was telekinesis.  She had had the power since she was a child.  It seemed that she remembered using it often, and in rather startling ways, when she was a small child with the Martians.  But when she went to Earth, she gradually stopped playing with it, except in small ways when she was alone, because it seemed to make her elders very uncomfortable.

Telekinesis was ESP.  It did not mean that she had any other ESP powers.  But there was her experience in the copter....

Her mind reached out.  At once, like a shock, she was in contact with Dark.  His mind turned to hers at once.

Dark:  Maya!  Where are you?

Maya:  Come into my room, darling.  I’m at the Canfell Hydroponic Farm. 
Are you still at Ultra Vires?

Dark:  No, I’m in the vats below you.  I knew you were here, but I didn’t know where.  I can see your room now, though, and its place in the building.

Maya:  Can you free me?

Dark:  Not now.  There are four Toughs outside your door, guarding it.  I can’t attack them without arousing the Masters.  Soon, though.

Maya:  I don’t know how I’m doing this.  I didn’t know I had telepathic powers.

Dark:  A good many people have them, potentially.  They don’t have to have been “changed,” as I was.  But they usually require development.

Maya:  I’m just glad I can, to know that you’re here.

Dark:  Maya, why are you in pain?

Maya:  Nuwell has been whipping me, to try to get me to recant on my expressions of support for the rebel cause.

There was a white-hot explosion in her brain that almost literally seared her mind.  Staggered at its impact, she recognized it as the explosion of Dark’s sudden anger.  Then she was no longer in contact with him.

A hundred feet away, in another room, Nuwell pulled on a pair of black gloves and picked up a short, thick-lashed whip.  Coiling the whip, he stepped out into the corridor, and turned toward Maya’s room.

He met Placer, walking in the opposite direction.

“You’re going to make your last try, now?” asked Placer.

“Yes,” replied Nuwell.  “I hope it works.  Actually, her spirit and quick wit are among the reasons I like the girl.  But I don’t intend to be defied in this.”

He proceeded on down the hall.

As he started past the barred gate to one of the ramps leading down into the vats below, the buzzer beside it sounded.  A Jelly was standing behind the gate, fat, pathetic face pressed against the bars.

Nuwell stopped.  No one else was in sight in the corridor.

“What do you want?” he asked the Jelly.

“Master, I seek entry in answer to the summons,” replied the Jelly in a voice that quavered with fright.

“What summons?”

“It was ordered that one of us come above and do a task for the Masters,” replied the Jelly.  “I am one of those who must work today, and I have come in answer to the summons.”

Nuwell looked up and down the corridor.  He saw no one.

“What sort of task?” he asked, reluctant to accept the responsibility of admitting the Jelly.

“I don’t know, Master.”

“Look,” said Nuwell, “I’m not a Master.  I don’t know anything about the summons.  Someone else will have to let you in.”

“If I’m late, they’ll let the Toughs whip me!” wailed the Jelly pathetically.  “Please let me in, Master!”

Nuwell, the whip coiled in his hand, impatient to get to Maya’s room, was moved to pity at the creature’s plight.  Besides, the Jellies were harmless, and this one certainly wouldn’t be seeking admittance without having been called.

“All right, then,” said Nuwell, and flipped the switch.

The bars grated open and the Jelly came into the corridor.  But as Nuwell reached out to activate the switch and close the gate, the Jelly, with surprising agility, slipped between him and the switch.

“What in space?” growled Nuwell.  “Get out of the way!”

The Jelly did not move.

“I said get out of the way!” snapped Nuwell, shaking out the whip.

The Jelly cringed and its eyes were terrified, but it still stood against the switch, its huge, translucent body barring Nuwell.

“No, Master,” it whimpered.  “Don’t shut the gate!”

Viciously, Nuwell slashed the whip across its naked shoulders, and the Jelly squealed with pain.  Nuwell raised the whip again.

But then through the open gate there poured a solid mass of translucent flesh, a horde of naked Jellies.  Silently, they tumbled into the corridor, filling it from wall to wall, and others behind them pushed to enter as they paused.

Wide-eyed, Nuwell stared at them for the briefest of moments.  Then he dropped the whip and fled back up the hall, shouting at the top of his voice.

The door at the end of the corridor opened as Nuwell neared it, and Placer appeared in it.  He held up a restraining hand.

“Don’t make so much noise!” he snapped.  “There’s a conference going on in there.  What’s the ”

Voiceless now, Nuwell grasped Placer’s arm and pointed, trembling, back down the corridor.

“What in space?” demanded Placer irritably, peering at the mass of Jellies pouring out of the gate and beginning to move hesitantly along the corridor in both directions.

“Jellies!” croaked Nuwell.  “The Jellies are loose!  They’re attacking us!”

“Soft hunks of blubber!” said Placer contemptously.  “They can’t hurt anybody.  I wonder what idiot left that gate open?”

“I did,” admitted Nuwell.  “I mean, one of them wanted in and I let him in, and then he backed up against the switch so I couldn’t close it, until the others came in.”

“I don’t know what sort of harebrained idea has gotten into their feeble minds,” said Placer.  “But I can take care of it in short order.”

He stepped back into the room, and Nuwell heard him apologizing to the others for the disturbance.  Then Placer reappeared, two whips in his hand, and closed the door behind him.  He handed one of the whips to Nuwell.

“They’re a lot more tractable than that woman of yours,” said Placer.  “Let’s go.”

Placer moved down the corridor toward the slowly advancing Jellies, and Nuwell followed reluctantly, at a respectable distance.

“Get back below!” shouted Placer at the Jellies as he neared them.  “You know better than to come up here without permission!”

They stopped and milled as he approached them relentlessly, those in front trying to hold back and those behind them pushing them on.  Placer moved straight up to them and began slashing right and left with his whip.

There was a sudden surge forward of the Jellies and Placer was engulfed.  He vanished in a mass of seething, translucent flesh.  Nuwell stopped, appalled, and began to edge backward.

There was a flurry of movement in the forefront of the Jellies, and Placer burst out of the group, his hair awry, his clothing torn, his whip gone.  He staggered toward Nuwell at a half run.

“Get back to the room!” cried Placer.  “I don’t know what’s stirred them up, but they can’t be frightened back with whips!”

The two men ran back down the corridor and burst through the door, startling a conference group of five of the other Masters.

“Heatguns!” snapped Placer.  “Something’s stirred the Jellies up, and they’re up here causing trouble!  I’ll turn the Toughs loose on them.”

While two of the others hurried out another door for weapons and a third bolted the door through which the two men had just come, Placer picked up a microphone and switched on the amplifier system that covered every area of all levels of the Canfell Hydroponic Farm.

Into the microphone, he gave an animal call, a cry that started out on a low crooning note and rose in volume and intensity until it hurt the ears.  He repeated this three times.  Then he set the microphone down and turned back to his colleagues, an expression of satisfaction on his face.

“That releases the Toughs,” he said.  “Every Tough in the place is free to maim or kill any Jelly he sees, without fear of restraint or punishment.  That should bring them to heel pretty quickly!”