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As a perceptive Vulcan once observed, “It is far easier for civilized men to behave like barbarians, then it is for barbarians to behave like civilized men.”
The same might be said, in reverse, for the insane…or at least for Garth of Izar. Oh, he was insane, but his insanity did not manifest itself in the flamboyant, openly psychotic mannerisms that he had adopted on his arrival at Elba II. He had not hidden his intentions…he would take over the universe by right of conquest…but by playing a flamboyant role he had cowed his fellow inmates and bent them to his will. By his quicksilver moods and temper tantrums he had also succeeded in reducing the respect for him of the guards and medical staff, who saw him simply as a posturing fool.
Except for Dr. Evangeline. She had listened to his monologues, to his soliloquies about the universe and his place in it…and she had believed. To her he had been as a god…she had been among the first of his converts.
And now this girl…this Katya Landau…would become one, too.
It was galling, of course, to walk among these ants, these inferiors, to have to play these roles…but it had to be done…but once he had achieved his rightful place…he would cast aside these shackles and….
“I guess I do feel a little sad,” admitted Katya.
Garth blinked, and returned his attention to the girl. “What….what?”
“Well, who wouldn’t, orbiting a place like this?”
“Oh, yes,” said Garth, bringing himself back to the task at hand. “Elba II, home to the most incorrigibly criminally insane in the universe.”
“Not even that, although that’s depressing, of course. But to think that Garth of Izar is down there…”
Garth raised an eyebrow. “You’ve heard of Garth of Izar?”
It was her turn to stare at him in surprise. “Everybody has! Garth of Izar! We studied him at the academy.”
“Not him,” murmured Garth. “You studied his strategies…his battles…the famous battle of Axanar where he made his reputation.”
Katay nodded. “That’s true. But I’ve found out stuff about him since. Did you know he was actually born on Axanar?”
Garth’s eyes flared briefly. “You are incorrect,” he said, very quietly. “Garth was born on the planet Izar.”
She shook her head. “No…no he wasn’t. He was born in a little village called Izar, on Axanar.”
A fin of rage poked up out of the black waters of Garth’s mind. He jumped to his feet, and seizing her wrist, pulled Katya to her feet also. “Where’s your proof?” he demanded.
Katya stared at him in surprise, as he punched a button that caused a computer screen to rise up out of one of the tables in the observation chamber. (They were all equipped with them.)
“Show me,” he said.
“What’s the matter?” laughed Katya. “Have you been writing your thesis on Garth, or something? You’re not going to find the truth in the computer system. Electronic books can be rewritten easier than anything, you know.”
“Yes,” said Garth, with a quick smile. “That’s true. That is very true. But…I must admit I am somewhat disconcerted. Of a thousand people on this ship, I sit next to the one person who knows that Garth was born on Axanar.”
“Oh, no, everyone knows,” said Katya carelessly.
Garth felt like he was going insane. (The irony of that feeling was lost on him.) He forced himself to speak calmly.
“How do they know? Explain this to me!”
“Well, I shouldn’t say everyone,” admitted Katya. “Probably just everyone in my jetpack group. The Pit Boss told us.”
“The Pit Boss?”
“That’s just what we call him,” Katya said with a grin. “We have a weekly poker game – my jetpack group, that is – the Boss is the only one who won’t play. So we just call him the Pit Boss. Anyway, his father was actually one of the marines who fought on Axanar. And he brought back a book...a printed book…they still had those on Axanar back then. And it says that Garth had been born there. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
“I see,” said Garth. Each word dropped like a piece of ice.
“I’ve often wondered who was responsible for this rewriting of history,” Katya admitted. “The Federation let down Axanar badly, and then Garth came in to save the day. Saves the Federation fleet only to find out that his entire planet is destroyed, all his people, killed.”
Garth was very, very still.
“So did the Federation rewrite the reference books, change Garth’s birthplace, so it wouldn’t seem…I dunno, quite so tragic? Or did Garth ask that it be done himself? I mean, it would have been galling, wouldn’t it, everyone complementing him on his success at the Battle of Axanar, and then saying, in low tones, “too bad about the planet and your family, though. You’re coping very well.” So he has them change the references to where he was born, so he doesn’t have to put up with that stuff.”
“Yessss,” said Garth.
“As a matter of fact,” continued Katya, “I don’t think it was his later accident that drove him mad, at all. I think it happened the day he beamed down onto what was left of Axanar. Well…the seeds of it were sewn then, anyway.”
“How perceptive of you, Katya,” murmured Garth, looking at her with his cold grey eyes.
Katya looked at him searchingly. “Are you alright? Don’t tell me, you are writing a thesis on Garth, aren’t you!”
Garth laughed. “No, not at all. But I wonder…would you mind introducing me to this Pit Boss of yours? I would very much like to meet him.”
Katya looked at her chronometer. “He’s off duty, too. I think he spends his time in Library Four about now. Let’s go.”
They turned toward the door, then suddenly Garth swung back. He watched, incredulously, as the aspect outside the rear observation window changed. The Enterprise had turned so that the beautiful green…and ironically poisonous….atmosphere of Elba II loomed large in their sights. And then suddenly it began to drop away, as the ship left orbit in a hurry.
Katya stared out with him. “That’s odd,” she murmured. “I thought we were here for another forty-eight hours. I wonder what’s going on.”
“Yes,” said Garth very quietly. “So do I.”