Credence Foundation
Author:Marco Guarda

Chapter Twenty-One



Trumaine realized immediately that something wasn’t quite right with the place where he had opened his eyes—it looked very much like an emergency escape, but he had never seen it before. He looked upward; from possibly a good fifty feet above him, a small square opening shed some light below, to where he was.

He grabbed the handrail and started climbing. He climbed and climbed. He bounded up the stairs so quickly he almost missed a solitary double door opening in the corner. He retraced his steps, lunged for the door handle and pulled it. The door swung easily and a bright light wrapped him, bedazzling him, preventing him from seeing what lay beyond the opening.

It took a while to get his eyes accustomed to the brightness. When it did, the most amazing vision wobbled and dangled in front of his eyes, slowly becoming real.

It was the wide the gallery of a spaceport. Not any spaceport; this was so huge it was fifty times any spaceport Trumaine had ever seen, as if all spaceports in the world had been assembled together, side by side, in a colossal, monstrous building.

Half a million people swarmed about, boarding or leaving the twenty or more spaceships aligned on either side of the main hall like thoroughbred horses at the racetrack gate.

The view was so breathtaking and overpowering, that Trumaine had to lean against the next parapet to steady himself. At a loss for any words that could describe what he was seeing, he just glared from his overlook, contemplating the vastness of that place ...

Trumaine hurried along the main hall, weaving through the mindless crowd. He kept looking around him, still incapable of understanding what that place was. Out of breath, he reached over to an elephantine help desk, where an information clerk out of twenty more noticed him:

“How can I help you, sir?” he asked politely.

Trumaine stroked his jaw and groaned.

He wanted to laugh and to shout. He wanted to slam his fists on that desk and slap himself, because Benedict had already won and he, the little helpless cop with the little arrogant brain, had lost—there was no way he could find Benedict’s crawler in that crowd, not in a month, not in a whole year.

Trumaine waved off the clerk and leaned his elbows on the desk, disbelieving and feeling light-headed.

Maybe he should sit down ...

Then, suddenly, a silvery voice called from behind him. He could be wrong, but he thought he had heard that voice before; it belonged to a young a woman he had dreamed of, a long time ago.

“Chris! Thank God, there you are!” said the voice.

Trumaine turned his head slowly and saw the woman he had dreamed of approach at a jog. She was flushed and out of breath; the huge spaceport was getting the best out of her too, but she shouldn’t worry about that, thought Trumaine—it was all in his mind.

“What the hell is this place!?” he asked.

“Why, it’s the real feed,” replied the young woman with the same practical tone one would use to say that two and two is four.

“And ... you work in here?” wondered Trumaine.

“Welcome to the All Worlds Spaceport—this is how it happens,” she said with a nod.

Trumaine stared. “How what happens?”

Faith pointed at some of the bystanders.

“Don’t you recall them? You must have seen them, at the canteen—they’re Credence believers. Not all of them are, of course. What you see here is the administered feed as believers see it.”

She motioned around her.

“The feed is a huge projection, Trumaine. All the passengers you see here, are also in all the real spaceports all around the universe, right now! The same goes for the spaceships—they are all real. They are going to take off according to their timetables, bringing with them their passengers. Credence’s believers see it happen here moments before it does in reality! The moment they believe it’s happening, it does in reality too! Do you understand now? It’s how Jarva’s miracle of Pistocentrism works!”

Trumaine’s head was spinning.

“I never thought it was going to be this big ... We’ll never catch him ...”

“No, I’ve found him!”

“What!? Where?”

“Come!”

Faith took Trumaine’s hand and pulled him along; they jogged and hustled into the crowd.

“He’s over there,” she said, leading the way. “I can understand now why I never realized before it was him—he’s so ... unsuspecting.”

“Did you enter his mind?”

Faith shook her head. “I couldn’t.”

“How do you know it’s him, if you didn’t read him?” protested Trumaine.

“Because of that! Don’t you understand? He’s the one guy whose head I couldn’t get into, that’s why I found him so quickly!”

“You can’t read him? How come?”

“I don’t know. Maybe he wears a shield?”

“A shield ...?”

The questions that needed an answer started to pile up in Trumaine’s brain faster than he could count them.

They arrived in front of a group of at least twenty, between passengers, guards and spaceport attendants.

“Where is he?” he asked.

Faith pointed her finger. “He’s that one, with the—”

“With the—?” repeated Trumaine.

But Faith didn’t answer him.

Trumaine turned his head toward her, trying to understand why she had stopped talking of a sudden; for the briefest moment, he glimpsed her. She was looking down at her hands with a questioning look—because the strangest thing was happening to them: they had begun to flicker and flutter, as if seen from behind a heat wave ...

Faith vanished like that, and Trumaine was left to stare at the bustle of the anonymous passengers.

Faith blinked her eyes open, trying to understand where she was; it took her a few moments to realize she was back in the chamber.

She glanced at her watch—only fifteen minutes had passed since she had entered the feed. What had happened? How come she was back? Where was Trumaine? She found the answer to her questions when she looked up.

Benedict, Matthews and the gallery guard stood in a circle around her, watching her warily.

“Ms. Alveraz,” said Benedict. “You have no right to be here. Please, come.”

He reached out his hand to help Faith out of the couch, but she didn’t take it. Still feeling a bit dizzy from having awakened so soon from the trance, she wobbled to her feet. She looked to her right and saw with relief that the cradle of couch 144 was empty—at least Trumaine was still in the feed.

She wondered if he had been able to spot the man she was pointing at. She recalled the puzzled look on his face when he had turned to her; maybe he hadn’t heard her when she had uttered the name of Benedict’s crawler, maybe she had vanished before he could hear it ...

Benedict turned to Matthews, nodding to her.

“Bring him back too,” he said.

Faith thought as fast as she could; what if Trumaine didn’t get her words? In that case, he needed more time to find the telepath, maybe just a few moments would do. But who was going to give him the precious time he needed? There was only one person he could count on now, and it was her. But what could she possibly do?

Later on, Faith remembered what had followed as something blurred, due more to improvisation than real planning.

“No! You can’t do that, yet!” She shouted at Matthews, who was about to hit the return key in her control pad and summon Trumaine from the chamber.

Faith took advantage of Matthews’s momentary confusion to jump her. The two fought over the pad, until Faith pried it furiously from Matthews’s fingers and flung it away, beyond the gallery parapet and into the chamber—it spun lazily like a boomerang, gliding in the air for a while, then lost its momentum and fell into the abyss of the chamber.

Benedict rolled his eyes and scowled.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Miss Alveraz. What are you planning on doing next?”

He nodded to the guard, who drew his gun and aimed it at Faith.

With lightning speed, Faith’s sharp fingernails swung nastily through the air, digging in Matthews’s throat, clutching it in an inescapable hold.

Using her as a shield, Faith pulled Matthews to the edge of the gallery, inches away from the chasm of the chamber.

“Not a move, or we both jump!” she warned.

The guard lifted his gun, about to shoot her, but Faith leaned back against the parapet, overbalancing toward the outside, threatening to vault over with Matthews in tow.

“I MEAN IT!” shouted Faith, looking straight into Benedict’s eyes, and he knew she would have done it.

He snorted, unable to sort out of the irritating deadlock.

A few feet away from him, the guard had frozen. Only his eyes moved; they shifted restlessly from Benedict to Faith, uncertain about what to do next ...

Trumaine was still where Faith had left him.

Because he had no idea about who in the group of people in front of him was the crawler, he had retrieved his taser and was ever since holding them up at gunpoint.

“Nobody move!” he had shouted. “One of you is involved in the murder of Aarmo Jarva, the scientist, and I’m going to find out who it is!”

At first, the group had complied obediently: they had stopped and turned; those who carried their luggage rested it on the floor. They had shot nervous and wary glances at each other, afraid that the murderer was their neighbor and that he might attempt something extreme now that he had been cornered.

But when they had realized that Trumaine wasn’t going to arrest anybody, they had started to doubt him. Soon, they had begun to suspect he didn’t have the faintest idea about who the murderer was, and now they were quite sure that the murderer must be in his head.

They were getting bored and annoyed. Who did that crazed man who gave himself out as a cop think he was? Most of them were in a hurry; either their flight was taking off in moments, or they had undeferrable duties that must be taken care of.

When Faith had spoken about the crawler, she had used male pronouns, hence the crawler was a man.

Trumaine kept searching every single face of the men in the group ...

There were possibly six whose eyes had flashed from genuine surprise at hearing the word “murderer” and had started whispering among themselves in concern, throwing sideways glances at the rest of the group, trying to see for themselves who was the felon.

They were the first Trumaine had ruled out.

Of the four that remained, three had rolled their eyes and had scoffed in disbelief; they didn’t seem to give a damn if there was a killer on the loose, as long as they wouldn’t be late.

Trumaine could understand the hurry, but not the hate that showed behind those inquiring glares, and even if he would be pleased to include them all in his list of suspects, his attention focused on two of them.

The first candidate was a perfectly shaven young man wearing a white, stiff collar and a light-blue suit. He was Trumaine’s favorite mainly because he was in very good shape. He looked as if he could endure continued strain with ease, and strong enough to steer an ancient eighteen-wheeler on a freeway, ram someone else’s car off the road, crash the truck in the attempt, survive the ensuing collision, and still have the strength to make it all the way back to Credence.

He certainly looked the type.

Not as tall as the clerk was, the second suspect was at least twice as thick. He was a brawny businessman with a bushy brow and a slanted cut across his face for a mouth. Compared to him, the suitcase he was carrying in his hand looked like a doll’s toy. The neatly pressed silk suit and his manners could never hide the fact that, deep inside him, behind the seemingly meek eyes, something savage lurked. He was the kind of man who could pick up a fellow and fling him into a wall if he stared at him the wrong way—he was a dangerous man and he was without a doubt a good suspect.

Trumaine could have argued with himself for ages about who the crawler was, it would never change the fact that he still didn’t know who it was. More, this was the feed, he couldn’t arrest them all and question them with ease in a room. He needed to find another way to tell the crawler from the others and he needed to find it as soon as yesterday.

The group was getting restless.

“Hey, I’m late for my flight, pal! Do you really need to hold us all? I don’t have all day,” pleaded the fit clerk, after he had peeked at his wristwatch.

“He can’t arrest us all, can he?” asked the burly businessman with a sick glare.

“Sure as hell he can’t,” said the fit clerk.

“I said stay where you are!” threatened Trumaine.

“Now, then!” said an exasperated senior passenger who wasn’t on Trumaine’s list.

“This behavior is unacceptable. I’m going to report you. What’s your ID number again?” said another.

“Look, my flight takes off in five minutes,” insisted the clerk. “If I lose it, who’s gonna buy me another ticket, you? I don’t think so.”

“I’m going,” decided the burly business man.

With a shrug that could have shaken a hill, he spun around and strode away.

“One step more and I’m gonna stun you!” shouted Trumaine.

“Well, I guess you will have to stun us all, then,” said the senior passenger.

He too took a tentative step—so did the others.

Trumaine aimed his taser at each of them, but they ignored him. The group begun to split.

Trumaine didn’t know whom he should follow, he just kept pointing his taser, helplessly.

The group was almost gone now.

Trumaine thought hard, stroking his chin, swearing.

Then, somehow, his attention was drawn to a man in the group he hadn’t considered:

He was a young man wearing a white suit. Even if a vague stubble was growing around his cheek and chin, there was nothing striking about him—nothing odd, nothing weird. He had an average built, an average height, and a common, easily forgotten face.

More than anything else, he was the only one in the group who had never looked up at him—not even once since he had stopped them.

Trumaine studied him as he approached a boarding gate, queuing up with a few other passengers. When the last of them left, he stepped forth and the boarding officer turned to him.

The unsuspecting man retrieved a silvery ticket from his pocket and handed it over to the officer, who processed it, returning a silvery boarding card.

The man nodded his head in acknowledgment, then proceeded to the boarding gate ...

In a few minutes, he would be gone.

“You, there!” called out Trumaine.

The man didn’t seem to hear—he didn’t stop.

But he had to when Trumaine jumped in front of him, waving the gun at his nose.

“Wait a minute, pal, will you?” he said.

Trumaine took the boarding card from the hands of the man, looking at it. Below the destination—some forgotten outpost in the PEGASI II system—a name read: TROY GROMER.