A Visit From The Ogdoad

That morning, like most mornings, Simon's road to wakefulness was a slow one. It was several minutes before he registered the differences in his surroundings. He was not in his usual featherbed, but lying on something scratchy and rustled. There was a distinctive gementous odor in the air rather than the usual soft perfume. He could dimly hear voices that did not sound like his servants'. And his arms were cramped in an odd position.

Finally he rose out of his hypnopompic state and opened his eyes. He was lying in a bed of straw in what he presumed were his stables, though he'd never seen them from this angle before. His arms were bound behind him. Standing over him were two men with masked faces.

"So you're awake, I see," one of them said. "Give him some water." He helped Simon sit up, leaning him against the wall as the second man gave him tepid water from a rude wooden cup.

"I imagine you want to know who we are, why you've been brought here, and all that. Perhaps even how we spirited you out of your decadent bedroom, but I'm afraid that will have to remain a trade secret for now. Fifteen? Prepare the needle."

The second man(Fifteen?)opened a wooden case which had been sitting on the floor. The first man said, "First thing first. Have you heard of the Ogdoad?"

"No," Simon said, his voice still hoarse.

"I didn't think so. It's not something your friends are likely to have told you about. Those of them that do know have had similar... interviews with us, and are loath to advertise them widely. Though you might have noticed some of them beefing up their security. Closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. Sometimes," he looked around with an obvious air of amusement, "literally.

"We--the Ogdoad--are a group of eight people who wanted to break you folks' stranglehold on this planet. We have amassed considerably more than eight on our side, but for convenience we kept the name. You can call me 'Three' if you need something to tag me with in your brain." 'Three' looked at Simon expectantly, but he remained silent. Fifteen had, by this point, removed a needle from the case and was filling it with a pale bluish liquid.

Three continued. "So we offer you a choice. You may join with us. Some of your compatriots have, though I am of course not at liberty to say which. You have no hope of retaining your current position, but at least if you aid us you can retain a little bit of your current wealth, your freedom, your life, and other such things that I don't believe you would retain as an opponent."

"And if I don't?" Simon asked.

"Then I'm afraid we shall have to take steps to reduce your effectiveness against us. The time is not quite propitious yet to move against you, but we can neutralize you well enough." Fifteen held up the syringe to the light, the threat plain.

"I--how long do I have to decide?" Simon said, his mind whirling, now fully raised to wakefulness. Of course he would have to play along, for now, but too quick an acquiescence would make them suspicious. With all likelihood the stories about having converted some of the other Lords were sheer fabrication. Unless they'd approached Whelan, he decided. Or perhaps Bastiaans.

But enough time for list-making later. "Very well. I have no choice," he said, trying to make his voice convincingly quavery.

Three smiled. "Good. Very good. Just as I hoped." He nodded to Fifteen. "Proceed with the injection."

"What?" Simon writhed against his bonds, outraged. "I told you, I'm willing to help you!"

"Oh, of course you are," Three said patronizingly. "But it's not true that you have no choice. You see, you can change your mind at any time. We realize that, and we can't do anything about it. But what we can do is ensure that your change of mind doesn't endanger us in any way." Then he had to help Fifteen pin Simon down and inject the substance into his neck.

"It's a little substance we cooked up called Lethologica," Three said. "It's a selective neural disruptor, which should be taking effect any minute now. It destroys neural connections, the things that allow us to unlock any of the data stored in our brain. It also contains a chemical that will help you make a few of these connections, so we can have some control over what you will forget. Well, perhaps 'forget' is not quite the correct term. Anything you try to call to mind will be continually on the tip of your tongue, but will never emerge.

"Of course, we have an antidote. Lethologica leaves distinct traces, and there is a chemical that can rebuild neural connections, if applied within a few days. Otherwise some of them will be lost forever. And I'm afraid we won't be able to give you a full-strength antidote until we are entirely sure of your allegiances."

Simon was starting to drift. He was trying to think of a word...for someone who fought at your side in battle...but it was gone.

Three glanced at Fifteen, who nodded. "The Ogdoad," Three said. "Anyone you think might be part of it. Anyone you've been hunting with for the last three summers. Any possibility of rebellion to your rule. The locations of your secret defense caches." The list went on and on, an eternal now as each item disappeared from his mind as soon as he heard it.

Finally he heard, "...your bank account passwords. The names of our moons."

"He's back," Fifteen said.

"Ah. Well, goodbye, then. If you want to get in touch with us, just post a message to the global network containing the names of the three moons. One of our agents will make sure there is no duplicity before we even consider giving you the antidote. Otherwise, there are a great many things you will have to learn all over again."

They soon disappeared--how, Simon was never quite sure, though he knew he should know--and shortly thereafter he was found by one of the stableboys, whose name he couldn't call to mind. He couldn't explain how he'd gotten to the stables, or even how one could get to the stables. He'd forgotten the names of his horses. Eventually his stewart came out and led him back to his suite, where he lay there numbly, waiting for a doctor, trying to remember what it was he'd forgotten.

< Matt Marchese gave me the words


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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com