Whatever purpose such an arrangement served the satellite’s owners, it was no friendly one. The multiple-image area showed malice; a number of displays were meant to shock and frighten. Others must have walked in the maze before this, bewildered and mystified, while their reactions were observed. She’d been tricked into entering it as she attempted to follow Perr Hasta, perhaps to reduce her resistance and make her more easy to handle.
At any rate, she had to get out. The satellite was a complex machine; the machine had controls. The smaller the staff employed by Torai Sebaloun—and there’d been no indications of any staff so far—the more intricate the controls must be. Somewhere such a system was vulnerable. But she had no more chance here to discover its vulnerabilities and try to change the situation in her favor than she would have had behind locked doors.
Therefore, do nothing. Stay here, appear reasonably relaxed. If somebody was studying her reactions as seemed likely, that couldn’t be too satisfactory; and if they wanted to prod further reactions out of her, they’d have to make some new move. Possibly one she could turn to her advantage.
* * *
“Hello, Trigger!” said Perr Hasta.
Trigger looked around. The blond child figure stood a dozen feet away.
“Where did you come from?” Trigger asked.
Perr nodded at a stand of bushes uphill, which Trigger had reason to consider part of the beach scene’s illusion setup. “I saw you from there and thought I’d come find out what you were doing,” Perr said.
“A short while ago,” Trigger remarked, “there was a force screen between that place and this.”
Perr smiled. “There still is! But there’s a way around the screen if you know just where to turn—which isn’t where you’d think you should turn.”
She sat down in the sand, companionably close to Trigger. “I’ve been thinking about you,” she said. “There’s an odd thing you have that didn’t want you to be hypnotized.”
Which seemed to be a reference to the Old Galactic mind shield. Trigger didn’t intend to discuss that, though she might already have told them about it. “I’ve never been easy to hypnotize,” she said.
“Hm-m-m,” said Perr. “Well, we’ll see what happens. You’re certainly unusual!” She smiled. “I was hoping Torai would let Attuk bring your psi friend here. It should have been an interesting situation.”
“Of course, Attuk doesn’t really care what Telzey knows,” Perr went on. “Her dossier shows what she looks like, and Attuk forms these sudden attachments. He can be quite irresponsible then. He formed a strong attachment to you, too—but you’re Torai’s! So Attuk’s been sulking.” She chuckled.
Trigger looked at her. The three of them might be deranged. “What kind of being is he?” she asked, as casually as she could.
“Attuk?” Perr shrugged. “Well, he is what he is. I don’t know what it’s called. A crude creature, at any rate, with crude tastes. He even likes to eat human flesh. Isn’t that disgusting?”
“Yes, I’d call it disgusting,” Trigger said after a moment.
“He says there was a time when he had human worshipers who brought him human sacrifices,” Perr said. “Perhaps that’s when he developed his tastes. I’m sure he’d like it to be that way again, but it’s not so easy to arrange now. So he makes himself useful to Torai and she keeps him around.”
“How is he useful to her?” Trigger asked.
“This way and that,” said Perr.
“What are you, Perr?”
Perr smiled, shook her head. “I never tell anyone. But I’ll show you what I do, if you like. Would you? We’d have to leave the playground.”
“This is the playground?” Trigger said.
“That’s what we call it.”
“Where would we go?”
“To the residence.”
“Where I was before?”
Trigger stood up. “Lead the way!”
Getting out of the maze without running into force screens was, as Perr Hasta had indicated, apparently a matter of knowing where to turn. The turning points weren’t detectably marked and there seemed to be no pattern to the route, but in less than two minutes they’d reached an open doorway with a room beyond. They went through and closed the door. There was nothing illusory about the room. They were back in the residence.
“Torai controls the satellite from the residence?” Trigger asked.
Perr gave her a glance. “Well, usually that’s where she is. But she could control it from almost anywhere on it.”
“Ordinarily that’s done from a computer room.”
“We go through here, Trigger. No, hardly anyone goes to the computer room. Only when something needs adjusting or repairs. Then Torai has someone brought out to do it.”
“You mean you don’t have a computer technician on hand?” Trigger said. “What would happen to the satellite if your main computer broke down?”
“Goodness. There’re three main computers. Any one of them could keep the satellite going perfectly by itself—and they’re hardly likely to break down all together, are they? Here we are!” Perr stopped at a passage door and slid back a panel covering a transparent section in the upper part. “There! That’s what I do, Trigger.”
The room was small and bare. Blethro sat on a bench with his back against the wall, facing the door. His hands were loosely folded in his lap. His head lolled to the side, and a thread of spittle hung from a comer of his mouth. His eyes were fixed on the door, but he gave no sign of being aware of visitors.
“What have you done to him?” Trigger said after a moment.
Perr winked at her.
“I drank what Torai would call his personality,” she said. “Oh, not all of it, or he’d be dead. I left him a little. He can sit there like that or stand, or even walk if he’s told to. But I took most.”
Drugs could account for Blethro’s condition, but Trigger felt a shiver of eeriness.
“Why did you do it?” she asked.
“Why not? It was a kindness really. They weren’t going to let Blethro live. He’s Attuk’s meat. But that won’t bother him now.” Perr Hasta slid the window shut. “Besides, that’s what I do: absorb personalities or whatever it is that’s there and different in everybody. Some seem barely worthwhile, of course, but I may take them while I’m waiting for a prime one to come along. Or I’ll sip a bit here and there. That’s barely noticeable. I’m not greedy, and when I find something that should be a really unusual treat, I can be oh-so-patient until the time comes for it. But then I have a real feast!” She smiled. “Would you like me to show you where the computer room is?”
Trigger cleared her throat. “Why do you want to show me that?”
“Because I think you want to know. Not that it’s likely to do you much good. But we’ll see. It’s this way, Trigger.”
* * *
They went along the passage. Perr glanced sideways up at Trigger. “Blethro wasn’t much,” she remarked. “But you have a personality I think I’d remember for a long, long time.”
“Well, keep away from it,” Trigger said.
“That odd mind thing of yours couldn’t stop me,” Perr told her.
“Perhaps not. There might be other ways to stop you.”
Perr laughed delightedly. “We’ll see how everything goes! We turn here now. And that’s the passage that leads to the computer room. The room’s probably locked though—”
She took a step to the side as she spoke, and a door that hadn’t been noticeable in the wall was suddenly open, and Perr Hasta was going through it. Trigger reached for her an instant too late. She had a glimpse of the smiling child face turned back to her as the door closed soundlessly. And even before she touched it, Trigger felt quite sure there’d be no way in which she could reopen that door. Its outline had disappeared again, and there was nothing to distinguish it from the rest of the passage wall.
There was another door at the end of the passage Perr Hasta had said led to the computer room. The computer room might very well lie behind it. It was a massive-looking door; and while there were no visible indications of locks, it couldn’t be budged.
Its location, at any rate, was something to keep in mind. And now, before she ran into interference, she’d better go through as much of the residence area as possible to see what useful articles or information it might provide.
The search soon became frustrating. The place seemed to be laid out like a large house with wings, extending through a number of satellite levels. Some of the doors she came to along the passages and halls wouldn’t open. Others did. The rooms they disclosed were of such widely varying styles that this might have been almost a museum, rather than a living place furnished to someone’s individual preferences. As a rule, very little of the furnishing would be in sight when Trigger first came into a room; but it began to emerge from walls and flooring then, presenting itself for use. The computers were aware of her whereabouts.