Way-Farer - Kensho Novel #1 of 4

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Author: Dennis Schmidt
Pub: 1978 by The Berkeley Publishing Group
Pages: 277
Ranking:Five Star Rating
Out of Print: Check Price Now!

 


Other Books in the Series:

I must admit that these four books are almost at the top of my list when it comes to works of fiction that are martial arts oriented. I think only Steve Perry's books could top these. Although these are out of print, they are not difficult to locate in used book stores, and they would well reward any effort you put out to acquire them.


 

Back Cover:

According to every reading it was a paradise planet- a warm and fecund world far more desirable than the teeming, polluted warrens of the planet-city that Earth had become. Yet when the last of the one-way trans-ports had landed its cargo of Pilgrims, the men of Earth were to learn of a danger that no machine could detect, and against which no machine could defend them-the Mushin, mental entities that stimulate and amplify the dark streak of violence that lies near the core of every human being.

Seven generations would pass before a descendant of the scattered remnant of the original colonists would be ready to face the power of the Mushin. But first he would have to learn to wield the weapon that is no weapon-and that only where there is no Will, is there a Way...

His name is Jerome. This is his story. He is the WAYFARER

Dennis Schmidt has written a fast-paced, tightly plotted adventure novel that skillfully blends traditional science-fiction themes with martial arts and meditation. But Way-farer is more than that: it is a novel that may well change the way you view reality itself.

 

PROLOGUE

Something's got to be wrong. It's just too damn perfect! Paul Suarez leaned on his shovel, let his gaze pass over the gently rolling hills to the distant mountains, purple in the slight haze. No question about it, it's the most beautiful sight I've ever seen: oh, sure, the light's a little bluer than Sol's, and the vegetation's a bit queer-but these are little things. He'd been, he knew, conditioned to absorb much greater stresses. So what could it be? Why do I feel so uneasy? A shadow swept over him. He looked up quickly: mare of the one-way orbit-to-ground airfoil type transports, with their loads of Pilgrims and their meager possessions. The transports would slip gently to earth not far from where he was working, there to be unloaded and then dismantled to supply building components for Base. As he watched, a bigger, multiple-use type shuttle came to a roaring touchdown farther off in a separate area already blackened by exhaust flames.

That must be about the last load. Even the kids are down. Nobody left in orbit except for the Flagship's Command Staff-and the Admiral, of course. They must still be re-checking the Planetary Analysis data brought in by the probes and survey teams. They had been 95 percent sure before they'd let even the first landing party go down, 99 percent before they'd dispatched the Main Survey. Before the first load of Pilgrims had debarked that "99" had been carried to four decimal places. But the Admiral was still checking, and would continue to do so until the Flagship left its parking orbit for the return trip to Earth. Suarez knew all this.

So why do I feel this way? Kensho has no intelligent native life, nor any animal remotely dangerous to an armed man. No inimical micro-organisms. No weird proteins. It's like somebody had set out to create the perfect planet for human colonization... or the perfect. trap. Death wears many beautiful masks...

For the Virgin's sake, stop! This is not the slums of Ciudad-this is Kensho, a new planet. Your new planet! For you the rat-infected ruins of Earth no longer exist. You've escaped; you're free! Your children will grow up proud and strong, and their children, and their children's children. Be happy, idiot!

But somewhere in the back alleys of his mind a cynical little voice chuckled: "You may not get what you pay for," it whispered, "but you always pay for what you get. Did not all your years in the street teach you that there is no such thing as a free lunch?"

Jesu! Basta! Silence! The voice snickered quietly. "Sure beats that damn cesspool, Earth, eh, Mex?" commented a gruff voice beside him. startled, Saarez turned his head to find Wes Bannerman leaning on another shovel. "Yeh," he replied laconically, not really in the mood for conversation.

Bannerman had no such reluctance; he obviously wanted to talk. "Damn, but I'm sure glad I joined the Pilgrimage! She-it, hombre, now I got a chance to do all the things I always wanted to do! You know what? First thing they get the animals-quickened and matured, I'm gonna apply for a horse. They brought 'em-I saw the manifest while we were unloading the zygotes. And when I get my horse I'm gonna make me a saddle and ride across those hills, like a goddamn Texan should! This colony's gonna need explorers, and I'm gonna be one or know why!

"By God, Mex, don't you laugh-I mean it! It's something I've dreamed of all my life." Suarez smiled in spite of his dark mood. Bannerman's rough good humor and enthusiasm were contagious. Hell, Texas is damn near as bad as Ciudad. It took quite a few hits during the Co-Dominium War. Mostly slagged rubble and desert now. Yet look at Bannerman. The big loco jerk is as excited as a kid. Rarin' to go, not wasting any energy worrying about how good things have turned out, just accepting his luck and riding with it.

The big Texan straightened up and looked over at Suarez out of the corner of his eye, uncertainly, with a quality almost of coyness that would have been hilarious were it not so touching. "You'd... uh... maybe you'd like to ride with me, amigo?" For a moment Suarez continued to gaze out over the hills. "Hell," he finally said, "maybe I would. "He turned to look directly at Bannerman. Why don't I hate this gringo? He calls me "Mex" all the time, and he uses pidgin Spanish whenever he talks to me... but he doesn't seem to mean anything bad by it-it seems to be his way of showing affection. I think he wants to be my fiend.

Friend. It was a new idea to Suarez. One didn't have friends in the teeming warrens of Ciudad. It was every man for himself, and root, hog, or die. Friend... It made him feel good and strange at the same time.

Bannerman held out his hand. "Compadre, I'd be proud to have you." Suarez took the-hand and shook it.

"Well," the big man, turned back to his shovel, "guess we better quit the jawbonin' and start dig-gin' muy pronto or that damn Looie will be over here beatin' out chingas." Suarez glanced over his shoulder and nodded. Bannerman continued, his words matching the rhythm of his work. "Don't know why... the Admiral couldn't... let as use... lasers... for this damn job... what'd it hurt?... gonna hafta work... hard enough ...once the Flagship leaves... deserve a little help now... you know... break us in... gradual like..."

Murmuring token agreement, Suarez dug steadily. Bannerman knew as well as he did why Admiral Nakamura was making them set up Base with hand tools. Once the Flagship left, the Pilgrims on Kensho would be without the advanced technology of Earth. Oh, they'd have a basic industrial capacity of their own, the ability to manufacture the simple tools and implements needed for their spread over Kensho. But they were destined-to be an agricultural society for many generations to come.

When they were ready they'd build their own technology, based on the information stored in the Central Library here at Base. For now, though, the Laws of the Pilgrimage demanded that they prepare themselves for the kind of lives they and their children would be living. And they'd be digging with shovels for a long time to come. Suarez slopped and leaned on his shovel again.

What was that? Maybe I'm working too hard. There it was again! A strange tingling feeling, almost like heat, at the edge of his mind. Odd. Maybe the sun. The feeling came stronger, in a great wave. He stood, looked wildly about. I need help! Others were also standing. Oh, my God-the lunch isn't free after all! Bannerman looked up. "Hey, Mex, you OK?" Mex! That hated slur again! Fucking Gringo spitting on la Raza! Hijo de puta! Filthy Texan bastard! Always giving me all kinds of shit, spouting rotten Spanish! Jesus how I hate that pedaze de carraco! Hate him! HATE HIM! HATE! Screaming, Suarez split his friend's skull with the blade of his shovel.

 
           (background of hunger hunger hunger hunger)
                   Flicker of awareness                  
                        Tentative search                 
                               Energy source!            
 Alertness of totality.                                   
                                    Viable energy source?
 Quantity?                           Extensive and growing.
 Quality?                             Superior.          
 Decision of totality:                                   
     Gather and await full                               
     realization of potential. Acceptance.               
     (gather gather gather gather gather gather)         
                         TOTALITY UNIFIED                
                        Period of waiting.               
           Analysis of potential. Judgement. Decision.
                         Attack! Attack!                 
                             Feed!!!                     
                              Feed!                      
                              Feed.                      
        Satiation. Quiessence.                           
      Awareness of status.                               
      Quantity of source seriously diminished.           
                         Concern.                        
      Viability endangered? Possibility,                
            Recall of previous experience:               
              Source attacked.                           
                 Viability destroyed.                    
                 Source destroyed.                       
                 Hungerhungerhunger...                   
                 Totality diminished.                    
  DANGER!                                                
            Problem. Grave concern.                      
 Solution? Withdraw. Wait.

 

The whole area was littered with corpses. Here and there a body writhed in its final death throes, or a drooling, jibbering hulk shambled insanely by, while a few stunned survivors huddled off to one side, clinging to each other for mutual support against the horror of the scene. In a far corner, one last dying killer was tearing at the throat of another.

Admiral Y. Nakamura, Commander of the Flag-ship Mushima, Leader of the Pilgrimage Expedition, High Master of the Universal Way of Zen, switched off the hologram and sat back with a sigh. It was his twelfth time through the scene. Unpleasant, but necessary.

He sat alone in the Command Conference Room aboard the Flagship, which hung in synchronous orbit directly over First Touch. His crew and officers had been sent down to organize relief for the survivors of the attack, and to gather information. So far, he had reached several conclusions. First, whatever had decimated the Pilgrims at Base was either invisible or microscopic. He had viewed the event in everything from infrared to ultra-violet light and found no sign of the attacker. A vastly enlarged projection had been equally un-productive, nor had a scrutiny of the records of the ship's other sensors turned up anything of interest. Forced to choose between an invisible enemy or a microscopic one, he chose the latter and checked the autopsy reports on several of the victims.

There was no sign of any foreign body, cellular, viral, or chemical. Indeed, the only unusual thing about the dead Pilgrims was that their systems were flooded with adrenalin and the synapses of some of their neurons appeared to have "burned out," as if overloaded. He had never heard of such a thing and had no idea what it could mean. Reluctantly returning to the alternate theory-that the source of the attacker was invisible-he realized his only source of information would be the actions of the men who had experienced it. He ran the hologram through twice more at normal speed, then slowed it down considerably, especially the opening sequences.

In creeping slow motion, he watched a calm Pilgrim turn into a raving beast. He could see the first shock, the fear, the growing, upward-spiraling; surge of horror that finally exploded into madness.

Again and again, he watched the same process unfold in other victims.

Having discovered the similarities, he began searching for differences. The first that caught his eye was the time differential in the passage from calmness to insanity in each individual. Some seemed literally to erupt. Others appeared to be able to fight it off for a time. Then he remembered the survivors. Quickly he ran the hologram to the end, identified one of those who had not succumbed, and followed that individual backwards to the opening sequence. Intently, from the beginning, he watched that face.

There was the same initial fear. But what followed was not increasing terror. Rather there was a brow-wrinkling, sweat-producing effort to fight back, to control the emotions, to get hold of one's self! A cross-check on other survivors produced confirmation.

Sure of what he would find, Nakamura punched up the psych-profiles of the survivors and a random sample of those who had died. Even a quick survey showed what he had suspected: to a man, those who had beaten off the attack had stable, strong personalities. Curious, he cross-tabulated the data in terms of religious affiliation. The result was revealing: 50% of the members of sects which practiced mind control had lived through the attack, against 14% for other groups. Only one follower of the Universal Way of Zen had died, a pickaxe sunk eight inches into his neck. Nakamura's third conclusion was now obvious. Whatever it was, it affected men's minds. It started small, apparently working within the mind on whatever emotional instability was present. It grew rapidly, perhaps enhancing the existing instability by feeding it back into the mind in an ever increasing spiral of emotion. If the individual did not clamp down on it with iron control, he would quickly be driven into raving madness. He sighed again and rubbed his temples with tired fingers. He had learned all he would learn by reviewing the past. Precious little it was, too! Now it was time to bring himself up to date on the current situation. His officers would have had time to beam up their respective reports by now. If he needed more data, he could probably ferret it out of the ship's computer.

Within an hour, he knew the worst. About 80% had perished in the first attack. Things were temporarily quiet, but it was clear that the assault could be renewed at any moment. Given the condition of the survivors, he doubted any would be able to withstand the shock. There was no way he could organize a defense since he only knew what the enemy did, not what it was. Hence the only sensible choice was to cut and run for it. Which was impossible. The fatality rate among the crew and officers who had been present at First Touch when the attack struck; and had been caught in the middle trying to stop the slaughter, had been even higher than among the Pilgrims. There were barely enough men left to man the Flagship, let alone the four Arks. In addition, the vehicles that had taken the Pilgrims down had been one-way transports with just enough fuel capacity to enter atmosphere safely and make minor course corrections; once grounded they could never fly again. And all but one of the heavy-duty shuttles had been planetside at the time. They all had sustained heavy damage and would require extensive repairs before they could be made spaceworthy. He had neither the engineers to do the work nor the time in which to do it. And even if he had both, there was insufficient fuel to evacuate more than a third of the survivors.

So he couldn't run.

And he couldn't stay.

A logical analysis of the problem indicated that the answer was a-logical. So much for Aristotle! So much for Science, too, he mused. Even before the third Probe had returned, the planet had rated over 97%. At the time of the attack, the computer was just completing a final analysis which would have put the figure so close to 100% that the difference would have been meaningless. A paradise! Hanging there in space, its beauty had so im-pressed him that he had named it Kensho after one of the stages of Enlightenment. But now 80% of the expedition's personnel-Pilgrims, crew and officers-were dead. And the survivors couldn't stay and couldn't leave. Since they couldn't do either, they'd have to do both. Or neither.

Well, he thought, since neither Aristotilian Logic nor the disciplines of Science seemed to offer much hope, it's time to go beyond them.

He stood, turned the halo-viewer off, and walked slowly over to his meditation spot. On the wall was a scroll bearing his favorite koan, brushworked by a 13th Century Japanese master. Directly in front were zafu and zabuton in black. He knelt, bowed, and then arranged himself on the pillows. Drawing a few deep even breaths, he entered a mental state practiced only by Masters of the Universal Way of Zen. In it his mind floated freely, able to rummage at will among the bits and pieces of data he had absorbed, undistracted by any outside disturbances. Logical structures no longer inhibited him. Pre-conceptions, prejudices, ordinary human standards vanished. All things, those previously trivial as well as those once thought important, became absolutely equal by acquiring an absolute value, revealing relation- ships not evident to ordinary vision. Like beads strung on a string of their own meaning, each thing pointed to its own common ground of existence, shared by all. Finally, each began to melt into each, staying itself while becoming all others. And Mind no longer contemplated Problem, but became Problem, destroying Subject-Object by becoming them.

Time passed, unheeded.

Eventually, there was a tentative stirring, then a decisive one, and Nakamura arose, a smile on his face and the light of laughter in his eyes. He had a plan, one that delighted him. It took advantage of all the important aspects of the situation, even the apparently negative ones, and used them all to positive effect. It was as natural as a river finding its way to the sea. Once set in motion, it would proceed as inevitably as a ball rolling down an inclined plane.

Initiating it, however, called for rather harsh sacrifices. His own death was least among these. And he feared that the fate in store for most of his officers, who otherwise would have returned to Earth, was even worse. As for what the Pilgrims would suffer... well, only the end results-and the lack of alternative-could justify such means. Calmly, his back straight and proud, almost as if walking in a ceremonial procession, he approached a small chest against one wall. He knelt before it and bowed his respect. Then he lifted the lid and took out two long bundles wrapped in silk.

Reverently, he folded back the cloth to expose a long, slightly curved, two-handed samurai sword in an inlayed ebony scabbard, and a shorter matching dagger in an identical sheath. He pulled the dagger slowly from its sheath and looked thought-fully at the glistening blade. It was sharp enough to cut a falling hair. Satisfied with what he saw, he replaced the dagger in the sheath and stuck it in his obi belt on the left side. With great care, he re-wrapped the sword. He bowed once more, then stood and walked over to the scroll and cushions. On the floor, about two-thirds of the way to the wall from the cushions, he laid the silk-enfolded bundle.

He paused for a few moments of quiet contemplation, letting his eyes wander about the room. Goodbye, he said silently.

Giving himself a slight shake, he turned and strode briskly to the center of the room. Aloud he commanded, "Enter Passive Mode for 200 of this planet's circuits around its primary. Maintain cur-rent position with respect to the planetary surface. All external sensors, both planetary and local are to remain in operation. Continue accumulation and correlation of data. Establish and keep constant contact with the Admiral's launch after it lands on the surface. Re-establish Active Mode in both the launch and Flagship immediately upon contact with any descendent of the crew or passengers."

"Aye, aye, sir," came quiet acknowledgement from the air. "Assuming Passive Mode, mark 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1,0." The lights dimmed and a thousand little noises, barely discernible before, ceased, their absence startling in the silence.

Nodding satisfaction, Admiral Nakamura turned and walked toward the lift that would take him to his launch. His face was relaxed and a slight smile played about the corners of his mouth. And now, he thought, to the end... and the beginning.

This, then, is the Koan of Nakamura. Hear it well and commit it to memory. Think on it day and night, for therein lies salvation for Mankind on Kensho, salvation from the Mushin and the Madness.

To be free, a man must follow the Way that leads to the place where he dwelt before he was born.

 

 

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