|"Rather than asphyxiate him, the vapor seemed to clear his head..."|
At that moment, Granthem noticed some newcomers in their midst. From the four corners of the room, three beings stood—two furry beings (one tall and one squat), and a human—wearing masks and carrying guns that instead of lasers or bullets sprayed some sort of vapor over the crowd. The entire student body stood en masse, bringing their faces directly into the cloud of vapor hanging over them. It reached Granthem, and he inhaled it slowly. Rather than asphyxiate him, the vapor seemed to clear his head—the clearest it had been all his life! Yes, he could believe “human error” existed, but it was a fact of life, not something to be eradicated.
Who should appear next, but Sister Miligred herself, and her four escorts! Granthem blinked; the woman standing there was not Sister Miligred! She was an Elf-maiden! She raised her hands to attract the attention of the whole crowd.
“My friends,” she cried aloud, “now is the hour of your liberation! My name is Laurel, and I and my friends seek to free you! See, the wyrts no longer force strange beliefs on you; watch how they scurry out of the building! Do you not realize, good scholars, that you have long been kept in the dark by these seemingly innocent creatures, really vehicles of control keeping you under the lies and the oppression of the Elitinati!”
The students cried out in anger, and Granthem called out, “What shall we do?”
Laurel smiled, “We must spread this same message to all the Teaching Schools! We need your help! I have succeeded in confusing the wyrt-influence, but every school must have the analthraxine-vapor to complete the vaccination! Let us free our fellow Eillumaeians!”
Everyone cheered, and it was all Gorrmunsa could do to pass around the vials of analthraxine fast enough.
The fact that Granthem was at their lead granted them quick access into the next school, and the professors from that school spread to other schools. By evening curfew, every school had been thoroughly saturated with analthraxine. As they walked back through the town (still in disguise, for not all the citizens of Eillumaeia—particularly not the Elitinati initiates—had been dosed with analthraxine), Laurel observed how the wyrts now scuttled right past or right over the university buildings, and their hosts did not walk inside as they used to, but directly past the stairs.
Laurel, on a whim, stopped a passing wyrt-host.
“Tell me, commoner,” she said with the authoritative air of an Elitinati novice, “what is that building there?” she pointed at the university that only hours before had been filled with students.
The man shook his head. “It is but an empty building, madam,” he said.
“What of the schools here?” Laurel asked significantly.
“Schools?” the man scoffed, “how can there be schools until the school-masters can confirm the material!”
“I’m sorry,” Laurel apologized, testing further, “I did not know.”
The man shrugged, “To err is human,” he quoted, “now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a new film at the pavilion that I simply must see!” and the man scurried away.
Carsius, having observed the entire conversation, smiled at her from behind the leather straps of the helmet.
“So, the influence is broken, and the Scholarship Pillar is no more,” he remarked.
Laurel nodded, “The idea of human error is firmly ingrained in the mother-mind. She will continue to filter information by that.” The Elf-maid’s face looked troubled.
“What is it?” Augustus asked.
“We must not celebrate too soon, my friends,” she said as they entered the tunnel into the mansion. “The wyrts may not notice the universities any longer, but they are still strong in the other areas.”
“Aye,” Atis agreed, “and even those whose wyrts left the university were discovered by them again as soon as they exited the building.” He kicked the front door closed behind him with particular venom. “Those blasted Elitinati!”
“Tomorrow,” Deej remarked, “I will send for more hourosh from my people. Never fear, Laurel. We now have an effective method for taking down each pillar till the Eillumaeians are completely free!”
In The Illustrious Temple University….
The Elitinati Mentor searched frantically. It had to be there! There just wasn’t any explanation. He mopped his sweating brow, frantically searching the few consciousnesses under his control. Nowhere did they register any use for the buildings he knew once held the finest example of Elitinati conditioning on the planet.
The Mentor winced as the thought from the Elitinati Overseer directly superior to him ripped through his brain so fast it made his head ring. Hammacus reluctantly opened his mind and “entered” the mental presence of his master.
“Yes, Master?” he responded.
“What seems to be the trouble, Hammacus? I see excessive levels of doubt and curiosity among the populace. As the Scholarship Mentor, can you explain to me why this is so?”
Hammacus trembled, “I don’t know, Master,” he thought in reply. “Typically the Teachers are pliable and suggestible, but lately they have been questioning my direction. They seem to think—“
“Stop! I don’t want to hear any more!” the Overseer cut him off. “So, the Teachers are thinking, are they? Yes, I have seen this; I have also seen an increase in experimentation. The Eillumaeians seem to languish under the delusion that their puny minds can come up with a solution in and of themselves, and many are more satisfied with trusting their own ways than what we tell them.”
“Milord, I have been serving you faithfully as ever; could it not be that the mother-mind has caught some sort of virus that distorts our commands?”
“Do not blame your incompetence on a creature vastly superior to yourself!” The Overseer snapped, “See that you continue to do your job; I expect full cooperation from the populace within the week. Meanwhile…give them more entertainment to distract them from their experiments; assuage their doubts with tricks and shows, soak up their time with media: art, games, and movies, parties and events. If they’re going to use their free time to think, well, then, we shall just take away their free time!”
Hammacus bowed his head, “It will be so, Master.”