This etext was produced from Space Science Fiction, February and March, 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.
A STORY IN TWO PARTS
BY H. BEAM PIPER
ILLUSTRATED BY ORBAN
"The heathen geeks, they wear no breeks," the Terrans sang. But on a crazy world like Ullr, clothes didn't make the fighting man. There both red and yellow meant danger—and blood!
* * * * *
The big armor-tender vibrated, gently and not unpleasantly, as the contragravity field alternated on and off. Sometimes it rocked slightly, like a boat on the water, and, in the big screen which served in lieu of a window at the front of the control-cabin, the dingy-yellow landscape would seem to tilt a little. The air was faintly yellow, the sky was yellow with a greenish cast, and the clouds were green-gray.
No human had ever set foot on the surface, or breathed the air, of Niflheim. To have done so would have been instant death; the air was a mixture of free fluorine and fluoride gasses, the soil was metallic fluorides, damp with acid rains, and the river was pure hydrofluoric acid. Even the ordinary spacesuit would have been no protection; the glass and rubber and plastic would have disintegrated in a matter of minutes. People came to Niflheim, and worked the mines and uranium refineries and chemical plants, but they did so inside power-driven and contragravity-lifted armor, and they lived on artificial satellites two thousand miles off-planet. Niflheim was worse than airless; much worse.
The chief engineer sat at his controls, making the minor lateral adjustments in the vehicle's position which were not possible to the automatic controls. At his own panel of instruments, a small man with grizzled black hair around a bald crown, and a grizzled beard, chewed nervously at the stump of a dead cigar and listened intently. A large, plump-faced, young man in soiled khaki shirt and shorts, with extremely hairy legs, was doodling on his notepad and eating candy out of a bag. And a black-haired girl in a suit of coveralls three sizes too big for her, and, apparently, not much of anything else, lounged with one knee hooked over her chair-arm, staring into the screen at the distant horizon.
"I can see them," the girl said, lifting a hand in front of her. "At two o'clock, about one of my hand's-breaths above the horizon. But only four of them."
The man with the grizzled beard put his face into the fur around the eyepiece of the telescopic-'visor and twisted a dial. "You have good eyes, Miss Quinton," he complimented. "The fifth's inside the handling machine. One of the Ullrans. Gorkrink."
* * * * *
The largest of the specks that had appeared on the horizon resolved itself into a handling-machine, a thing like an oversized contragravity-tank, with a bull-dozer-blade, a stubby derrick-boom instead of a gun, and jointed, claw-tipped, arms at the sides. The smaller dots grew into personal armor—egg-shaped things that sprouted arms and grab-hooks and pushers in all directions. The man with the grizzled beard began talking rapidly into his hand-phone, then hung it up. There was a series of bumps, and the armor-tender, weightless on contragravity, shook as the handling-machine came aboard.
"You ever see any nuclear bombing, Miss Quinton?" the young man with the hairy legs asked, offering her his candybag.
"Only by telecast, back Solside," Paula Quinton replied, helping herself. "Test-shots at the Federation Navy proving-ground on Mars. I never even heard of nuclear bombs being used for mining till I came here, though."
"It'll be something to see," he promised. "These volcanoes have been dormant for, oh, maybe as long as a thousand years; there ought to be a pretty good head of gas down there. The volcanoes we shot three months ago yielded a fine flow of lava with all sorts of metals—nickel, beryllium, vanadium, chromium, iridium, as well as copper and iron."
"What sort of gas were you speaking about?" she asked.
"Hydrogen. That's what's going to make the fireworks; it combines explosively with fluorine. The hydrogen-fluorine combination is what passes for combustion here: the result is hydrofluoric acid, the local equivalent of water. The subsurface hydrogen is produced when the acid filters down through the rock, combines with pure metals underneath."
The door at the rear of the control-cabin opened, and Juan Murillo, the seismologist, entered, followed by an assistant, who was not human. He was a biped, vaguely humanoid, but he had four arms and a face like a lizard's, and, except for some equipment on belt, he was entirely naked.
He spoke rapidly to Murillo, in a squeaking jabber. Murillo turned.
"Yes, if you wish, Gorkrink," he said, in Lingua Terra. Then he turned back to Gomes as the Ullran sat down in a chair by the door.
"Well, she's all yours, Lourenco; shoot the works."
Gomes stabbed the radio-detonator button in front of him.
* * * * *
Out on the rolling skyline, fifty miles away, a lancelike ray of blue-white light shot up into the gathering dusk—a clump of five rays, really, from five deep shafts in an irregular pentagon half a mile across, blended into one by the distance. An instant later, there was a blinding flash, like sheet-lightning, and a huge ball of varicolored fire belched upward, leaving a series of smoke-rings to float more slowly after it. The fireball flattened, then spread to form the mushroom-head of a column of incandescent gas that mounted to overtake it, engorging the smoke-rings as it rose, twisting, writhing, changing shape, turning to dark smoke in one moment and belching flame and crackling with lightning the next.
"In about half an hour," the large young man told Paula Quinton, "the real fireworks should be starting. What's coming up now is just small debris from the nuclear blast. When the shock-waves get down far enough to crack things open, the gas'll come up, and then steam and ash, and then magma."
"Well, even this was worth staying over for," the girl said, watching the screen.
"You going on to Ullr on the City of Canberra?" Lourenco Gomes asked. "I wish I were; I have to stay over and make another shot, in a month or so, and I've had about all of Niflheim I can take, now."
"When are you going to Terra?" the girl asked him.
"Terra? I don't know; a year, two years. But I'm going to Ullr on the next ship—the City of Pretoria—if we get the next blast off in time. They want me to design some improvements on a couple of power-reactors at Keegark so I'll probably see you when I get there."
"Here she comes!" the chief engineer called. "Watch the base of the column!"
The pillar of fiery smoke and dust, still boiling up from where the bombs had gone off far underground, was being violently agitated at the bottom. A series of new flashes broke out, lifting and spreading the incandescent radioactive gasses, and then a great gush of flame rose. A column of pure hydrogen must have rushed up into the vacuum created by the explosion; the next blast of flame, in a lateral sheet, came at nearly ten thousand feet above the ground. Then geysers of hot ash and molten rock spouted upward; some of the white-hot debris landed almost at the acid river, half-way to the armor-tender.
"We've started a first-class earthquake, too," Murillo said, looking at the instruments.
"About six big cracks opening in the rock-structure. You know, when this quiets down and cools off, we'll have more ore on the surface than we can handle in ten years, and more than we could have mined by ordinary means in fifty."
"Well, that finishes our work," the large young man said, going to a kit-bag in the corner of the cabin and getting out a bottle. "Get some of those plastic cups, over there, somebody; this one calls for a drink."
The Ullran, in the background, rose quickly and squeaked apologetically. Murillo nodded. "Yes, of course, Gorkrink. No need for you to stay here." The Ullran went out, closing the door behind him.
"That taboo against Ullrans and Terrans watching each other eat and drink," Paula Quinton commented. "But you were speaking to him in Lingua Terra; I didn't know any of them understood it."
"Gorkrink does," Murillo said, uncorking the bottle and pouring into the plastic cups. "None of them can speak it, of course, because of the structure of their vocal organs, any more than we can speak their languages without artificial aids. But I can talk to him in Lingua Terra without having to put one of those damn gags in my mouth, and he can pass my instructions on to the others. He's been a big help; I'll be sorry to lose him."
"Yes, his year's up; he's going back to Ullr on the Canberra. He's from Keegark; claims to be a prince, or something. But he's a damn good worker. Very smart; picks things up the first time you tell him. I'll recommend him unqualifiedly for any kind of work with contragravity or mechanized equipment."
They all had drinks, now, except the chief engineer, who wanted a rain-check on his.
"Well, here's to us," Murillo said. "The first A-bomb miners in history...."
Carlos von Schlichten, General of the troops on Ullr, threw his cigarette away and set his monocle more firmly in his eye, stepping forward to let Brigadier-General Themistocles M'zangwe and little Colonel Hideyoshi O'Leary follow him out of the fort. On the little hundred-foot-square parade ground in front of the keep, his aircar was parked, and the soldiers were assembled.
Ten or twelve of them were Terrans—a couple of lieutenants, sergeants, gunners, technicians, the sergeant-driver and corporal-gunner of his own car. The other fifty-odd were Ullrans. They stood erect on stumpy legs and broad, six-toed feet. They had four arms apiece, one pair from true shoulders and the other connected to a pseudo-pelvis midway down the torso. Their skins were slate-gray and rubbery, speckled with pinhead-sized bits of quartz that had been formed from perspiration, since their body-tissues were silicone instead of carbon-hydrogen. Their narrow heads were unpleasantly saurian; they had small, double-lidded red eyes, and slit-like nostrils, and wide mouths filled with opalescent teeth. Being cold-blooded, they needed no clothing, beyond their belts and equipment, and the emblem of the Chartered Ullr Company painted on their chests and backs. They had no need for modesty, since all were of the same gender—true, functional hermaphrodites; any individual among them could bear young, or fertilize the ova of any other individual.
Fifteen years before, when he had come to Ullr as a newly commissioned colonel in the army of the Ullr Company, it had taken him some time to adjust. But now his mind disregarded them and went on worrying about the mysterious disappearance of pet animals from Terran homes; there must be some connection with the subtle change he had noticed in the attitudes of the natives, but he couldn't guess what. He didn't like it, though, any more than the beginning of cannibalism among the wild Jeel tribesmen. Or the visit of Paula Quinton on Ullr as field-agent for the Extraterrestrials' Rights Association; now was no time to stir up trouble among the natives, unless his hunch was wrong.
He shrugged it aside and climbed into the command-car, followed by M'zangwe and O'Leary. Sergeant Harry Quong and Corporal Hassan Bogdanoff took their places in the front seat; the car lifted, turned to nose into the wind, and rose in a slow spiral.
"Where now, sir?" Quong asked.
"Back to Konkrook; to the island."
* * * * *
The nose of the car swung east by south; the cold-jet rotors began humming, and the hot-jets were cut in. The car turned from the fort and the mountains and shot away over the foothills toward the coastal plains. Below were forests, yellow-green with new foliage of the second growing-season of the equatorial year, veined with narrow dirt roads and spotted with occasional clearings. Farther east, the dirty gray woodsmoke of Ullr marked the progress of the charcoal-burnings. That was the only natural fuel on Ullr; there was too much silica on Ullr and not enough of anything else; what would be coal-seams on Terra were strata of silicified wood. And, of course, there was no petroleum. There was less charcoal being burned now than formerly; the Ullr Company had been bringing in great quantities of synthetic thermoconcentrate-fuel, and had been setting up nuclear furnaces and nuclear-electric power-plants, wherever they gained a foothold on the planet.
As planets went, Ullr was no bargain, he thought sourly. At times, he wished he had never followed the lure of rapid promotion and fanatically high pay and left the Federation regulars for the army of the Ullr Company. If he hadn't, he'd probably be a colonel, at five thousand sols a year, but maybe it would be better to be a middle-aged colonel on a decent planet than a Company army general at twenty-five thousand on this combination icebox, furnace, wind-tunnel and stonepile, where the water tasted like soapsuds and left a crackly film when it dried; where the temperature ranged, from pole to pole, between two hundred and fifty and minus a hundred and fifty Fahrenheit and the Beaufort-scale ran up to thirty; where nothing that ran or swam or grew was fit for a human to eat.
Ahead, the city of Konkrook sprawled along the delta of the Konk river and extended itself inland. The river was dry, now. Except in Spring, when it was a red-brown torrent, it never ran more than a trickle, and not at all this late in the Northern Summer. The aircar lost altitude, and the hot-jet stopped firing. They came gliding in over the suburbs and the yellow-green parks, over the low one-story dwellings and shops, the lofty temples and palaces, the fantastically-twisted towers, following a street that became increasingly mean and squalid as it neared the industrial district along the waterfront.
* * * * *
Von Schlichten, on the right, glanced idly down, puffing slowly on his cigarette. Then he stiffened, the muscles around his right eye clamping tighter on the monocle. Leaning forward, he punched Harry Quong lightly on the man's right shoulder.
"Yes, sir; I saw it," the Chinese-Australian driver replied. "Terrans in trouble; bein' mobbed by geeks. Aircar parked right in the bloody middle of it."
The car made a twisting, banking loop and came back, more slowly. Von Schlichten had the handset of the car's radio, and was punching out the combination of the Company guardhouse on Gongonk Island; he held down the signal button until he got an answer.
"Von Schlichten, in car over Konkrook. Riot on Fourth Avenue, just off Seventy-second Street." No Terran could possibly remember the names of Konkrook's streets; even native troops recruited from outside found the numbers easier to learn and remember. "Geeks mobbing a couple of Terrans. I'm going down, now, to do what I can to help; send troops in a hurry. Kragan Rifles. And stand by; my driver'll give it to you as it happens."
The voice of somebody at the guardhouse, bawling orders, came out of the receiver as he tossed the phone forward over Harry Quong's shoulder; Quong caught it and began speaking rapidly and urgently into it while he steered with the other hand. Von Schlichten took one of the five-pound spiked riot-maces out of the rack in front of him.
Bogdanoff rose into the ball-turret and swung the twin 15-mm.'s around, cutting loose. Quong brought the car in fast, at about shoulder-height on the mob. Between them, they left a swath of mangled, killed, wounded, and stunned natives. Then, spinning the car around, Quong set it down hard on a clump of rioters as close as possible to the struggling group around the two Terrans. Von Schlichten threw back the canopy and jumped out of the car, O'Leary and M'zangwe behind him.
There was another aircar, a dark maroon civilian job, at the curb; its native driver was slumped forward over the controls, a short crossbow-bolt sticking out of his neck. Backed against the closed door of a house, a Terran with white hair and a small beard was clubbing futilely with an empty pistol. He was wounded, and blood was streaming over his face. His companion, a young woman in a long fur coat, was laying about her with a native bolo-knife.
* * * * *
Von Schlichten's mace had a spiked ball-head, and a four-inch spike in front of that. He smashed the ball down on the back of one Ullran's head, and jabbed another in the rump with the spike.
"Zak! Zak!" he yelled, in pidgin-Ullran. "Jik-jik, you lizard-faced Creator's blunder!"
The Ullran whirled, swinging a blade somewhere between a big butcher-knife and a small machete. His mouth was open, and there was froth on his lips.
"Znidd suddabit!" he shrieked.
Von Schlichten parried the cut on the steel shaft of his mace. "Suddabit yourself!" he shouted back, ramming the spike-end into the opal-filled mouth. "And znidd you, too," he added, recovering and slamming the ball-head down on the narrow saurian skull. The Ullran went down, spurting a yellow fluid about the consistency of gun-oil.
Ahead, one of the natives had caught the wounded Terran with both lower hands, and was raising a dagger with his upper right. The girl in the fur coat swung wildly, slashing the knife-arm, then chopped down on the creature's neck.
Another of them closed with the girl, grabbing her right arm with all four hands and biting at her; she screamed and kicked her attacker in the groin, where an Ullran is, if anything, even more vulnerable than a Terran. The native howled hideously, and von Schlichten, jumping over a couple of corpses, shoved the muzzle of his pistol into the creature's open mouth and pulled the trigger, blowing its head apart like a rotten pumpkin and splashing both himself and the girl with yellow blood and rancid-looking gray-green brains.
O'Leary, jumping forward after von Schlichten, stuck his dagger into the neck of a rioter and left it there, then caught the girl around the waist with his free arm. M'zangwe dropped his mace and swung the frail-looking man onto his back. Together, they struggled back to the command-car, von Schlichten covering the retreat with his pistol. Another rioter was aiming one of the long-barreled native air-rifles, holding the ten-inch globe of the air-chamber in both lower hands. Von Schlichten shot him, and the native literally blew to pieces.
For an instant, he wondered how the small bursting-charge of a 10-mm. explosive pistol-bullet could accomplish such havoc, and assumed that the native had been carrying a bomb in his belt. Then another explosion tossed fragmentary corpses nearby, and another and another. Glancing quickly over his shoulder, he saw four combat-cars coming in, firing with 40-mm. auto-cannon and 15-mm. machine-guns. They swept between the hovels on one side and the warehouses on the other, strafing the mob, darted up to a thousand feet, looped, and came swooping back, and this time there were three long blue-gray troop-carriers behind them.
These landed in the hastily-cleared street and began disgorging native Company soldiers—Kragan mercenaries, he noted with satisfaction. They carried a modified version of the regular Terran Federation infantry rifle, stocked and sighted to conform to their physical peculiarities, with long, thorn-like, triangular bayonets. One platoon ran forward, dropped to one knee, and began firing rapidly into what was left of the mob. Four-handed soldiers can deliver a simply astonishing volume of fire, particularly when armed with auto-rifles having twenty-shot drop-out magazines which can be changed with the lower hands without lowering the weapon.
* * * * *
There was a clatter of shod hoofs, and a company of King Jaikark of Konkrook's cavalry came trotting up on their six-legged, lizard-headed, quartz-speckled, mounts. Some of these charged into side alleys, joyfully lancing and cutting-down fleeing rioters, while others dismounted, three tossing their reins to a fourth, and went to work with their crossbows. Von Schlichten, who ordinarily entertained a dim opinion of the King of Konkrook's soldiery, admitted, grudgingly, that it was smart work; four hands were a big help in using a crossbow, too.
A Terran captain of native infantry came over, saluting.
"Are you and your people all right, general?" he asked.
Von Schlichten glanced at the front seat of his car, where Harry Quong, a pistol in his right hand, was still talking into the radio-phone, and Hassan Bogdanoff was putting fresh belts into his guns. Then he saw that they had gotten the wounded man into the car. The girl, having dropped her bolo, was leaning against the side of the car.
"We seem to be, Captain Pedolsky. Very smart work; you must have those vehicles of yours on hyperspace-drive.... How is he, colonel?"
"We'd better get him to the hospital, right away," O'Leary replied. "I think he has a concussion."
"Harry, call the hospital. Tell them what the score is, and tell them we're bringing the casualty in to their top landing stage.... Why, we'll make out very nicely, captain. You'd better stay around with your Kragans and make sure that these geeks of King Jaikark's don't let the riot flare up again and get away from them. And don't let them get the impression that they can maintain order around here without our help; the Company would like to see that attitude discouraged."
"Yes, sir; I understand." Captain Pedolsky opened the pouch on his belt and took out the false palate and tongue-clicker without which no Terran could do more than mouth a crude and barely comprehensible pidgin-Ullran. Stuffing the gadget into his mouth, he turned and began jabbering orders.
Von Schlichten helped the girl into the car, placing her on his right. The wounded civilian was propped up in the left corner of the seat, and Colonel O'Leary and Brigadier-General M'zangwe took the jump-seats. The driver put on the contragravity-field, and the car lifted up.
"Them, see if there's a flask and a drinking-cup in the door pocket next you," he said. "I think Miss Quinton could use a drink."
* * * * *
The girl turned. Even in her present disheveled condition, she was beautiful—a trifle on the petite side, with black hair and black eyes that quirled up oddly at the outer corners. Her nails were black-lacquered and spotted with little gold stars, evidently a new feminine fad from Terra.
"I certainly could, general.... How did you know my name?"
"You've been on Ullr for the last three months; ever since the City of Canberra got in from Niflheim. On Ullr, there aren't enough of us that everybody doesn't know all about everybody else. You're Dr. Paula Quinton; you're an extraterrestrial sociographer, and you're a field-agent for the Extraterrestrials' Rights Association, like Mohammed Ferriera, here." He took the cup and flask from Themistocles M'zangwe and poured her a drink. "Take this easy, now; Baldur honey-rum, a hundred and fifty proof."
He watched her sip the stuff cautiously, cough over the first mouthful, and then get the rest of it down.
"More?" When she shook her head, he stoppered the flask and relieved her of the cup. "What were you doing in that district, anyhow?" he wanted to know. "I'd have thought Mohammed Ferriera would have had more sense than to take you there, or go there, himself, for that matter," he added quickly.
"We went to visit a friend of his, a native named Keeluk, who seems to be a sort of combination clergyman and labor-leader," she replied. "I'm going to observe labor conditions at the North Pole mines in a short while, and Mr. Keeluk was going to give me letters of introduction to friends of his at Skilk. We talked with Mr. Keeluk for a while, and when we came out, we found that our driver had been killed and a mob had gathered. Of course, we were carrying pistols; they're part of this survival-kit you make everybody carry, along with the emergency-rations and the water desilicator. Mr. Ferriera's wasn't loaded, but mine was. When they rushed us, I shot a couple of them, and then picked up that big knife.... I never in my life saw anything as beautiful as you coming through that mob swinging that warclub!"
* * * * *
The aircar swung out over Konkrook Channel and headed toward the blue-gray Company buildings on Gongonk Island, and the Company airport.
"Just what happened, while you and Mr. Ferriera were in Keeluk's house, Miss Quinton?" O'Leary asked, trying not to sound official. "Was Keeluk with you all the time? Or did he go out for a while, say fifteen or twenty minutes before you left?"
"Why, yes, he did." Paula Quinton looked surprised. "How did you guess it? You see, a dog started barking, behind the house, and he excused himself and...."
"A dog?" von Schlichten almost shouted. The other officers echoed him.
"Why, yes...." Paula Quinton's eyes widened. "But there are no dogs on Ullr, except a few owned by Terrans. And wasn't there something about ...?"
Von Schlichten had the radio-phone and was calling the command car at the scene of the riot. The sergeant-driver answered.
"Von Schlichten here; my compliments to Captain Pedolsky, and tell him he's to make immediate and thorough search of the house in front of which the incident occurred, and adjoining houses. For his information, that's Keeluk's house. Tell him to look for traces of Governor-General Harrington's collie, or any of the other terrestrial animals that have been disappearing—that goat, for instance, or those rabbits. And I want Keeluk brought in, alive and in condition to be interrogated."
"But, what ...?" the girl began, her voice puzzled.
"That's why you were attacked," he told her. "Keeluk was afraid to let you get away from there alive to report hearing that dog, so he went out and had a gang of thugs rounded up to kill you."
"But he was only gone five minutes."
"In five minutes, I can put all the troops in Konkrook into action. Keeluk doesn't have radio or TV—we hope—but he has his forces concentrated, and he has a pretty good staff."
"But Mr. Keeluk's a friend of ours. He knows what our Association is trying to do for his people...."
"So he shows his appreciation by setting that mob on you. Look, he has a lot of influence in that section. When you were attacked, why wasn't he out trying to quiet the mob?"
"When they jumped you, you tried to get back into the house," M'zangwe put in. "And you found the door barred against you."
"Yes, but...." The girl looked troubled; M'zangwe had guessed right. "But what's all the excitement about the dog? What is it, the sacred totem-animal of the Ullr Company?"
"It's just a big brown collie named Stalin. But somebody stole it, and Keeluk was keeping it. We want to know why. We don't like geek mysteries—not when they lead to murderous attacks on Terrans, at least."
It seemed to satisfy her, as the aircar let down on the hospital landing stage. But it didn't satisfy von Schlichten. He could smell trouble brewing. Just what could the geeks do with a dog? Nothing, so far as he could tell—but they didn't go in for such behaviour without what they considered good reason. Good for them, that is!
Governor-General Sidney Harrington had a ruddy outdoors-man's face and a ragged gray mustache; in his old tweed coat spotted with pipe ashes, he might have been any of a dozen-odd country-gentlemen of von Schlichten's boyhood in the Argentine. His face was composed enough for the part, too. But beyond him in the governor's office, Lieutenant-Governor Eric Blount matched von Schlichten's frown, his sandy-haired and younger face puckered in worry.
"We picked up a few of Keeluk's goon-gang," von Schlichten was reporting. "But I doubt if they'll tell us anything we don't already know. The dog was gone, but we found where it had been kept; at least one of the rabbits had been there, too. No trace of the goat. Anyhow, the riot's been put down. The Kragans and some of King Jaikark's infantry are patrolling the section. Jaikark's troops are busy making mass arrests. Either more slaves for the King's court favorites or else our Prime Minister Gurgurk wants to use them for patronage."
Blount nodded. "Gurgurk's building quite a political organization, lately. He must be about ready to shove Jaikark off the throne."
"Oh, Gurgurk wouldn't dare try anything like that," Harrington said. "He knows we wouldn't let him get away with it."
"Then why's he subsidizing this Mad Prophet Rakkeed?" Blount wanted to know. "Rakkeed is preaching a holy war against all Terrans and against Jaikark. Gurgurk subsidizes Rakkeed, and...."
"You haven't any proof of that," the governor protested.
Blount shrugged, his face looking grim. Von Schlichten knew how he felt. They couldn't prove it, but both knew that Rakkeed had been getting funds from the hands of Gurgurk. The prophet had been stepping up his crusade against the Terrans, and Gurgurk wasn't the only one backing him. The Prime Minister probably figured on using Rakkeed to stir up an outbreak; then Gurgurk could step in, after Jaikark was killed, put down the revolt he helped incite, and claim to be the best friend of the Company. But the question was whether Rakkeed could be used that way. He was becoming more of a menace than Gurgurk could ever be. Everywhere they turned, Rakkeed was at the bottom of their trouble—just in this case, where Keeluk was one of Rakkeed's followers.
His power seemed to be growing, too. There were rumors that he had been entertained at the palace in Keegark, just as he was usually entertained by the big shipowning nobles here at Konkrook; come to think of it, the last time here, he'd been guest of the Keegarkan ambassador. He went all over Ullr, crusading, traveling coolie-class in disguise on Company ships, according to their best information.
Blount sighed heavily. "This damned dog business worries me."
"Worries me, too," Harrington said. "I'm fond of that mutt, and God only knows what sort of stuff he's been getting to eat."
"I'm a lot more worried about why Keeluk was hiding him, and why he was willing to murder the only two Terrans on Konkrook who trust him, to prevent our finding out he had Stalin," Blount struck in.
Von Schlichten chain-lit another cigarette and stubbed out the old one. "Maybe Keeluk turned him over to Rakkeed to kill before a congregation of his followers—killing us in effigy. Or maybe they figure we worship Stalin, and getting him would give them power over us. I wish I knew a little more about Ullran psychology."
"One thing," Blount said. "It doesn't take any Ullran psychologist to know about eighty per cent of them hate us poisonously."
"Oh, rubbish!" Harrington blew the exclamation out around his pipe stem with a gush of smoke. "A few fanatics hate us, but nine-tenths of them have benefitted enormously from us."
"And hate us more deeply with each new benefit," Blount added. "They resent everything we've done for them."
"Yes, this spaceport proposition of King Orgzild of Keegark looks like it, doesn't it?" Harrington retorted. "He hates us so much he's offered us a spaceport at his city...."
"At what cost?" Blount asked. "He takes the land from some noble he executes for treason and gives it to us—together with forced labor. We furnish everything else. We get a port we don't need, and he gets all the business it'll bring. In fact, considering that Rakkeed is a welcome guest there, I wonder if he isn't fomenting trouble here at Konkrook to make us move our main base to Keegark. He's so sure we'll accept already that he's started building two new power-reactors to handle the additional demand from increased business."
"Where's he getting the plutonium?" von Schlichten asked, suspiciously.
"He just bought four tons of it from us, off the City of Pretoria," Harrington replied.
"A hell of a lot of plutonium," Blount said. "I wonder if he has any idea of what else plutonium can be used for?"
"Oh, God, I hope not!" Harrington exclaimed. "Bosh! What about those letters Keeluk gave the Quinton girl?"
"All addressed to rabidly anti-Terran Rakkeed disciples," von Schlichten replied. "We couldn't find any indication of a cipher, but the gossip about Keeluk's friends might have had code-meanings. I'll have to advise her to have nothing to do with any of the people Keeluk gave her letters to."
"Think she'll listen to you? These Extraterrestrial Rights Association people are a lot of blasted fanatics, themselves. They think we're a gang of bloody-fisted, flint-hearted imperialists."
"Oh, they're not as bad as all that. Old Mohammed Ferriera's always been decent enough. And the Association's really done a lot of good in other places."
A calculating look came into Harrington's eye. "She was going to Skilk, eh? And you're going there yourself, to investigate some of this Rakkeed worry of Eric's. Why not invite her along, and maybe you can plant a couple of ideas where they'll do the most good. We all know there are a lot of things at the polar mines that would look bad to anybody who didn't understand. And with all this trouble being stirred up now...."
It was his first admission that there was trouble, but von Schlichten let it pass. "Her company wouldn't be any heavy cross to bear," he replied. "I won't guarantee anything, of course...."
The intercom-speaker on the table whistled, and Harrington flipped a switch and spoke into the box. "Governor," a voice replied out of it, "there's a geek procession just landed from a water-barge in front, coming up the roadway to Company House. A platoon of Jaikark's Household Guards with a royal litter, Spear of State, gift-litter, nobles and such."
"Gurgurk with indemnity for the riot, eh? Let them in, give them an honor guard of Kragans, but keep their own gun-toters outside. Take them to Reception Hall until I signal from Audience Hall, then herd them in." He flipped back the switch and turned back. "We'll have to let them wait or they'll think we're worried. But you see—everything's going along normal lines."
Blount nodded, but his face showed disbelief. And von Schlichten grumbled unhappily to himself, without knowing why, until they finally went out to the big Audience Hall to meet the delegation.
Governor-General Sidney Harrington, on the comfortably-upholstered bench on the dais of the Audience Hall, didn't look particularly regal. But then, to a Terran, any of the kings of Ullr would have looked like a freak birth in a lizard-house at a zoo; it was hard to guess what impression Harrington would make on the Ullran psychology.
He took the false palate and tongue-clicker, officially designated as an "enunciator, Ullran" and, colloquially, as a geek-speaker, out of his coat pocket and shoved it into his mouth. Von Schlichten and Blount put in theirs, and Harrington pressed the floor-button with his toe. After a brief interval, the wide doors at the other end of the hall slid open, and the Konkrookan notables, attended by a dozen Company native-officers and a guard of Kragan Rifles, entered. The honor-guard advanced in two columns; between them marched an unclad and heavily armed native carrying an ornate spear with a three-foot blade upright in front of him with all four hands. It was the Konkrookan Spear of State; it represented the proxy-presence of King Jaikark. Behind it stalked Gurgurk, the Konkrookan equivalent of Prime Minister or Grand Vizier; he wore a gold helmet and a thing like a string-vest made of gold wire, and carried a long sword with a two-hand grip, a pair of Terran automatics built for a hand with six-four-knuckled fingers, and a pair of matched daggers. He was considerably past the Ullran prime of life—seventy or eighty, to judge from the worn appearance of his opal teeth, the color of his skin, and the predominantly reddish tint of his quartz-speckles. The retinue of nobles behind Gurgurk ran through the whole spectrum, from a princeling who was almost oyster-gray to the Keegarkan Ambassador, who was even blacker and more red-speckled than Gurgurk.
Four slaves brought up in the rear, carrying an ornately inlaid box on poles. When the spear-bearer reached the exact middle of the hall, he halted and grounded his regalia-weapon with a thump. Gurgurk came up and halted a couple of paces behind and to the left of the spear, and most of the other nobles drew up in two curved lines some ten paces to the rear; the ambassador and another noble came up and planted themselves beside Gurgurk.
* * * * *
The Governor-General rose slowly and descended from the dais, advancing to within ten paces of the Spear, von Schlichten and Blount accompanying him.
"Welcome, Gurgurk," Harrington gibbered through his false palate. "The Company is honored by this visit."
"I come in the name of my royal master, His Sublime and Ineffable Majesty, Jaikark the Seventeenth, King of Konkrook and of all the lands of the Konk Isthmus," Gurgurk squeaked and clicked. "I have the honor to bring with me the Lord Ambassador of King Orgzild of Keegark to the court of my royal master."
"And I," the ambassador said, after being suitably welcomed, "am honored to be accompanied by Prince Gorkrink, special envoy from my master, His Royal and Imperial Majesty King Orgzild, who is in your city to receive the shipment of power-metal my royal master has been honored to be permitted to purchase from the Company."
More protocol about welcoming Gorkrink. Then Gurgurk cleared his throat with a series of barking sounds.
"My royal master, His Sublime and Ineffable Majesty, is prostrated with grief," he stated solemnly. "Were his sorrow not so overwhelming, he would have come in His Own Sacred Person to express the pain and shame which he feels that people of the Company should be set upon and endangered in the streets of the royal city."
"The soldiers of His Sublime and Ineffable Majesty came most promptly to the aid of the troops of the Company, did they not, General von Schlichten?" Harrington asked, solemn-faced.
"Within minutes, Your Excellency," von Schlichten replied gravely. "Their promptness, valor and efficiency were most exemplary."
* * * * *
Gurgurk spoke at length, expressing himself as delighted, on behalf of his royal master, at hearing such high praise from so distinguished a soldier. Eric Blount contributed a short speech, beseeching the gods that the deep and beautiful friendship existing between the Chartered Ullr Company and His Sublime etcetera would continue unimpaired. The Keegarkan Ambassador spoke his piece, expressing on behalf of King Orgzild the deepest regret that the people of the Company should be so molested, and managing to hint that things like that simply didn't happen at Keegark.
The Prince Gorkrink then spoke briefly, in sympathy. Von Schlichten noticed that a few of his more recent quartz-specks were slightly greenish in tinge, a sure sign that he had, not long ago, been exposed to the fluorine-tainted air which men and geeks alike breathed on Niflheim. When a geek prince hired out as a laborer for a year on Niflheim, he did so for only one purpose—to learn Terran technologies.
Gurgurk then announced that so enormous a crime against the friends of His Sublime etcetera had not been allowed to go unpunished, signalling behind him with one of his lower hands for the box to be brought forward. The slaves carried it to the front, set it down, and opened it, taking from it a rug which they spread on the floor. On this, from the box, they placed twenty-four newly severed opal-grinning heads, in four neat rows. They had all been freshly scrubbed and polished, but they still smelled like crushed cockroaches.
The three Terrans looked at them gravely. A double-dozen heads was standard payment for an attack in which no Terran had been killed. Ostensibly, they were the heads of the ringleaders; in practice, they were usually lopped from the first two-dozen prisoners or overage slaves at hand, without regard for whether the victims had ever heard of the crime they were expiating.
There was another long speech from Gurgurk, with the nobles behind him murmuring antiphonal agreement—standard procedure, for which there was a standard pun, geek chorus—and a speech of response from Sid Harrington. Standing stiffly through the whole rigamarole, von Schlichten waited for it to end, as, finally, it did.
They walked back from the door, whence they had escorted the delegation, and stood looking down at the saurian heads on the rug. Harrington raised his voice and called to a Kragan sergeant whose chevrons were painted on all four arms.
"Take this carrion out and stuff it in the incinerator," he ordered.
* * * * *
"Wait a minute," von Schlichten told the sergeant. Then he disgorged and pouched his geek-speaker. "See that head, there?" he asked, rolling it over with his toe. "I killed that geek, myself, with my pistol. And Hid O'Leary stuck a knife in that one." He walked around the rug, turning heads over with his foot. "This was a cut-rate head-payment; they just slashed off two-dozen heads at the scene of the riot. Six months ago, Gurgurk wouldn't have tried to pull anything like this. Now he's laughing up his non-existent sleeve at us."
"That's what I've been preaching, all along," Eric Blount took up after him. "These geeks need having the fear of Terra thrown into them."
"Oh, nonsense, Eric; you're just as bad as Carlos, here!" Harrington tut-tuted. "Next, you'll be saying that we ought to depose Jaikark and take control ourselves."
"Well, what's wrong with that, for an idea?" von Schlichten demanded.
"My God!" Harrington exploded. "Don't let me hear that kind of talk again! We're not conquistadores: we're employees of a business concern, here to make money honestly, by exchanging goods and services with these people...."
* * * * *
He turned and walked away, out of the Audience Hall, leaving von Schlichten and Blount to watch the removal of the geek-heads.
"You know, I went a little too far," von Schlichten confessed. "Or too fast, rather."
"We can't go too slowly, though," Blount replied.
Von Schlichten nodded seriously. "Did you notice the green specks in the hide of that Prince Gorkrink?" he asked. "He's just come back from Niflheim. Probably on the Canberra, three months ago."
"And he's here to get that plutonium, and ship it to Keegark on the Oom Paul Kruger," Blount considered. "I wonder just what he learned, on Niflheim."
"I wonder just what's going on at Keegark," von Schlichten said. "Orgzild's pulled down a regular First-Century-model iron curtain. You know, four of our best native Intelligence operatives have been murdered in Keegark in the last three months, and six more have just vanished there."
"Well, I'm going there in a few days, myself, to talk to Orgzild about this spaceport deal," Blount said. "I'll have a talk with Hendrik Lemoyne and Colonel MacKinnon. And I'll see what I can find out for myself."
"Well, let's go have a drink," von Schlichten suggested.
But he kept remembering the falsehood of Gurgurk's indemnity. When the Ullrans started making a mockery of such things, it was no time for Harrington's trusting policies. The smell of trouble was suddenly stronger in his nostrils.
Von Schlichten and Blount entered the bar together. Going to a bartending machine, von Schlichten dialed the cocktail they had decided upon and inserted his key to charge the drinks to his account, filling a four-portion jug.
As they turned away, they almost collided with Hideyoshi O'Leary and Paula Quinton. The girl wore a long-sleeved gown to conceal a bandage on her right wrist, and her face was rather heavily powdered in spots; otherwise she looked none the worse for recent experiences. Von Schlichten invited her and her escort to join him and Blount. Colonel O'Leary was carrying a cocktail jug and a couple of glasses; finding a table out of the worst of the noise, they all sat down together.
"I suppose you think it's a joke, our being nearly murdered by the people we came to help," Paula began, a trifle defensively.
"Not a very funny joke," von Schlichten told her. "It's been played on us till it's lost its humor."
"Yes, geek ingratitude's an old story to all of us," Blount agreed. "You stay on this planet very long and you'll see what I mean."
"You call them that, too?" she asked, as though disappointed in him. "Maybe if you stopped calling them geeks, they wouldn't resent you the way they do. You know, that's a nasty name; in the First Century Pre-Atomic, it designated a degraded person who performed some sort of revolting public exhibition...."
"As far as that goes, you know what the geek name for a Terran is?" Blount asked. "Suddabit."
She looked puzzled for a moment, then slipped in her enunciator. Even in the absence of any native, she used her handkerchief to mask the act.
"Suddabit," she said, distinctly. "Sud-da-a-bit." Taking out the geek-speaker, she put it away. "Why, that's exactly how they'd pronounce it!"
"And don't tell me you haven't heard it before," O'Leary said. "The geeks were screaming it at you, over on Seventy-second Street, this afternoon. Znidd suddabit; kill the Terrans. That's Rakkeed the Prophet's whole gospel."
"So you see," Eric Blount rammed home the moral, "this is just another case of nobody with any right to call anybody else's kettle black.... Cigarette?"
* * * * *
"Thank you." She leaned toward the lighter-flame O'Leary had snapped into being. "I suspect that of being a principle you'd like me to bear in mind at the Polar mines, when I see, let's say, some laborer being beaten by a couple of overseers with three foot lengths of three-quarter-inch steel cable."
"If you think the natives who work at the mines feel themselves ill-treated, you might propose closing them down entirely and see what the native reaction would be," von Schlichten told her. "Independently-hired free workers can make themselves rich, by native standards, in a couple of seasons; many of the serfs pick up enough money from us in incentive-pay to buy their freedom after one season."
"Well, if the Company's doing so much good on this planet, how is it that this native, Rakkeed, the one you call the Mad Prophet, is able to find such a following?" Paula demanded. "There must be something wrong somewhere."
"That's a fair question," Blount replied, inverting a cocktail jug over his glass to extract the last few drops. "When we came to Ullr, we found a culture roughly like that of Europe during the Seventh Century Pre-Atomic. We initiated a technological and economic revolution here, and such revolutions have their casualties, too. A number of classes and groups got squeezed pretty badly, like the horse-breeders and harness-manufacturers on Terra by the invention of the automobile, or the coal and hydroelectric interests when direct conversion of nuclear energy to electric current was developed, or the railroads and steamship lines at the time of the discovery of the contragravity-field. Naturally, there's a lot of ill-feeling on the part of merchants and artisans who weren't able or willing to adapt themselves to changing conditions; they're all backing Rakkeed and yelling 'Znidd suddabit!' now. But it is a fact, which not even Rakkeed can successfully deny, that we've raised the general living standard of this planet by about two hundred per cent."
* * * * *
Both jugs were empty. Colonel O'Leary, as befitted his junior rank, picked them up; after a good-natured wrangled with von Schlichten, Blount handed the colonel his credit-key.
"The merchants in the North don't like us; beside spoiling the caravan-trade, we're spoiling their local business, because the landowning barons, who used to deal with them, are now dealing directly with us. At Skilk, King Firkked's afraid his feudal nobility is going to force a Runnymede on him, so he's been currying favor with the urban merchants; that makes him as pro-Rakkeed and as anti-Terran as they are. At Krink, King Jonkvank has the support of his barons, but he's afraid of his urban bourgeoisie, and we pay him a handsome subsidy, so he's pro-Terran and anti-Rakkeed. At Skilk, Rakkeed comes and goes openly; at Krink he has a price on his head."
"Jonkvank is not one of the assets we boast about too loudly," Hideyoshi O'Leary said, pausing on his way from the table. "He's as bloody-minded an old murderer as you'd care not to meet in a dark alley."
"We can turn our backs on him and not expect a knife between our shoulders, anyhow," von Schlichten said. "And we can believe, oh, up to eighty per cent of what he tells us, and that's sixty per cent better than any of the other native princes, except King Kankad, of course. The Kragans are the only real friends we have on this planet." He thought for a moment. "Miss Quinton, are you doing sociographic research-work here, in addition to your Ex-Rights work?" he asked. "Well, let me advise you to pay some attention to the Kragans."
"Oh, but they're just a parasite-race on the Terrans," Dr. Paula Quinton objected. "You find races like that all through the explored Galaxy—pathetic cultural mongrels."
Both men laughed heartily. Colonel O'Leary, returning with the jugs, wanted to know what he'd missed. Blount told him.
"Ha! She's been reading that thing of Stanley-Browne's," he said.
"What's the matter with Stanley-Browne?" Paula demanded.
"Stanley-Browne is one author you can depend on," O'Leary assured her. "If you read it in Stanley-Browne, it's wrong. You know, I don't think she's run into many Kragans. We ought to take her over and introduce her to King Kankad."
* * * * *
Von Schlichten allowed himself to be smitten by an idea. "By Allah, so we had!" he exclaimed. "Look, you're going to Skilk, in the next week, aren't you? Well, do you think you could get all your end-jobs cleared up here and be ready to leave by 0800 Tuesday? That's four days from today."
"I'm sure I could. Why?"
"Well, I'm going to Skilk, myself, with the armed troopship Aldebaran. We're stopping at King Kankad's Town to pick up a battalion of Kragan Rifles for duty at the Polar mines, where you're going. Suppose we leave here in my command-car, go to Kankad's Town, and wait there till the Aldebaran gets in. That would give us about two to three hours. If you think the Kragans are 'pathetic cultural mongrels', what you'll see there will open your eyes. And I might add that the nearest Stanley-Browne ever came to seeing Kankad's Town was from the air, once, at a distance of more than four miles."
"Well, general, I'll take you up," she said. "But I warn you; if this is some scheme to indoctrinate me with the Ullr Company's side of the case and blind me to unjust exploitation of the natives here, I don't propagandize very easily."
"Fair enough, as long as you don't let fear of being propagandized blind you to the good we're doing here, or impair your ability to observe and draw accurate conclusions. Just stay scientific about it and I'll be satisfied. Now, let's take time out for lubrication," he said, filling her glass and passing the jug.
Two hours and five cocktails later, they were still at the table, and they had taught Paula Quinton some twenty verses of The Heathen Geeks, They Wear No Breeks, including the four printable ones.
* * * * *
Four days later they stood together as the aircar passed over the Kraggork Swamps—pleasantly close together, von Schlichten realized. For the moment, he could almost forget the queer, intangible tension that had been growing steadily, and the feeling that things were nearing a breaking point of some kind.
Von Schlichten was scanning the horizon ahead. He pulled over a pair of fifty-power binoculars on a swinging arm and put them where she could use them.
"Right ahead, there; just a little to the left. See that brown-gray spot on the landward edge of the swamp? That's King Kankad's Town. It's been there for thousands of years, and it's always been Kankad's Town. You might say, even the same Kankad. The Kragan kings have always provided their own heirs, by self-fertilization. The offspring is an exact duplicate of the single parent. The present Kankad speaks of his heir as 'Little Me,' which is a fairly accurate way of putting it."
He knew what she was seeing through the glasses—a massive butte of flint, jutting out into the swamp on the end of a sharp ridge, with a city on top of it. All the buildings were multi-storied, some piling upward from the top and some clinging to the sides. The high watchtower at the front now carried a telecast-director, aimed at an automatic relay-station on an unmanned orbiter two thousand miles off-planet.
"They're either swamp-people who moved up onto that rock, or they're mountaineers who came out that far along the ridges and stopped," she said. "Which?"
"Nobody's ever tried to find out. Maybe if you stay on Ullr long enough, you can. That ought to be good for about eight to ten honorary doctorates. And maybe a hundred sols a year in book royalties."
"Maybe I'll just do that, general.... What's that, on the little island over there?" she asked, shifting the glasses. "A clump of flat-roofed buildings. Under a red-and-yellow danger-flag."
"That's Dynamite Island; the Kragans have an explosives-plant there. They make nitroglycerine, like all the thalassic peoples; they also make TNT and propellants. Learned that from us, of course. They also manufacture most of their own firearms, some of them pretty extreme—up to 25-mm. for shoulder rifles. Don't ever fire one; it'd break every bone in your body."
"Are they that much stronger than us?"
He shook his head. "Just denser; heavier. They're about equal to us in weight-lifting. They can't run, or jump, as well as we can. We often come out here for games with the Kragans, where the geeks can't watch us. And that reminds me—you're right about that being a term of derogation, because I don't believe I've ever knowingly spoken of a Kragan as a geek, and in fact they've picked up the word from us and apply it to all non-Kragans. But as I was saying, our baseball team has to give theirs a handicap, but their football team can beat the daylights out of ours. In a tug-of-war, we have to put two men on our end for every one of theirs. But they don't even try to play tennis with us."
"Don't the other natives make their own firearms?"
"No, and we're not going to teach them how!"
* * * * *
The aircar came in, circling slowly over the town on the big rock, and let down on the roof of the castle-like building from which the watchtower rose. There were a dozen or so individuals waiting for them—the five Terrans, three men and two women, from the telecast station, and the rest Kragans. One of these, dark-skinned but with speckles no darker than light amber, armed only with a heavy dagger, came over and clapped von Schlichten on the shoulder, grinning opalescently.
"Greetings, Von!" he squawked in Kragan, then, seeing Paula, switched over to the customary language of the Takkad Sea country. "It makes happiness to see you. How long will you stay with us?"
"Till the Aldebaran gets in from Konkrook, to pick up the Rifles," von Schlichten replied, in Lingua Terra. He looked at his watch. "Two hours and a half.... Kankad, this is Paula Quinton; Paula, King Kankad."
He took out his geek-speaker and crammed it into his mouth. Before any other race on Ullr, that would have been the most shocking sort of bad manners, without the token-concealment of the handkerchief. Kankad took it as a matter of course. At some length, von Schlichten explained the nature of Paula's sociographic work, her connection with the Extraterrestrials' Rights Association, and her intention of going to the Arctic mines. Kankad nodded.
"You were right," he said. "I wouldn't have understood all that in your language. If I had read it, maybe, but not if I heard it." He put his upper right hand on Paula's shoulder and uttered a clicking approximation of her name. He turned and introduced another Kragan, about his own age, who wore the equipment and insignia of a Company native-major and was freshly painted with the Company emblem. "This is Kormork. He and I have borne young to each other. Kormork, you watch over Paula Quinton." He managed, on the second try, to make it more or less recognizable. "Bring her back safe. Or else find yourself a good place to hide."
Kankad introduced the rest of his people, and von Schlichten introduced the Terrans from the telecast-station. Then Kankad looked at the watch he was wearing on his lower left wrist.
"We will have plenty of time, before the ship comes, to show Paula the town," he suggested. "Von, you know better than I do what she would like to see."
* * * * *
He led the way past a pair of long 90-mm. guns to a stone stairway. Von Schlichten explained, as they went down, that the guns of King Kankad's town were the only artillery above 75-mm. on Ullr in non-Terran hands. They climbed into an open machine-gun carrier and strapped themselves to their seats, and for two hours King Kankad showed her the sights of the town. They visited the school, where young Kragans were being taught to read Lingua Terra and studied from textbooks printed in Johannesburg and Sydney and Buenos Aires. Kankad showed her the repair-shops, where two-score descendants of Kragan river-chieftains were working on contragravity equipment, under the supervision of a Scottish-Afrikaner and his Malay-Portuguese wife; the small-arms factory, where very respectable copies of Terran rifles and pistols and auto-weapons were being turned out; the machine-shop; the physics and chemistry labs; the hospital; the ammunition-loading plant; the battery of 155-mm. Long Toms, built in Kankad's own shops, which covered the road up the sloping rock-spine behind the city; the printing-shop and book-bindery; the observatory, with a big telescope and an ingenious orrery of the Beta Hydrae system; the nuclear-power plant, part of the original price for giving up brigandage.
Half an hour before the ship from Konkrook was due, they had arrived at the airport, where a gang of Kragans were clearing a berth for the Aldebaran. From somewhere, Kankad produced two cold bottles of Cape Town beer for Paula and von Schlichten, and a bowl of some boiling-hot black liquid for himself. Von Schlichten and Paula lit cigarettes; between sips of his bubbling hell brew, Kankad gnawed on the stalk of some swamp-plant. Paula seemed as much surprised at Kankad's disregard for the eating taboo as she had been at von Schlichten's open flouting of the convention of concealment when he had put in his geek-speaker.
"This is the only place on Ullr where this happens," von Schlichten told her. "Here, or in the field when Terran and Kragan soldiers are together. There aren't any taboos between us and the Kragans."
"No," Kankad said. "We cannot eat each others' food, and because our bodies are different, we cannot be the fathers of each others' young. But we have been battle-comrades, and work-sharers, and we have learned from each other, my people more from yours than yours from mine. Before you came, my people were like children, shooting arrows at little animals on the beach, and climbing among the rocks at dare-me-and-I-do, and playing war with toy weapons. But we are growing up, and it will not be long before we will stand beside you, as the grown son stands beside his parent, and when that day comes, you will not be ashamed of us."
* * * * *
It was easy to forget that Kankad had four arms and a rubbery, quartz-speckled skin, and a face like a lizard's.
"I want Little Me, when he's old enough to travel, to visit your world," Kankad said. "And some of the other young ones. And when Little Me is old enough to take over the rule of our people, I would like to go to Terra, myself."
"You're going," von Schlichten assured him. "Some day, when I return, I'll see that you make the trip with me."
"Wonderful, Von!" Kankad was silent for a moment. When he spoke again, it was in Kragan, and quickly. "If we live so long, old friend. There is trouble coming, though even my spies cannot find what that trouble is. And two days ago in Keegark, two of my people died trying to learn it. I ask you—be careful!"
Then he switched hastily back to the language Paula could understand, apologizing. It gave von Schlichten time to wipe the worry from his face before she turned back to him, though it was worse news than he had expected. If Kankad thought things were bad enough to add his own spies to those of the Company, things couldn't be much worse. In fact, anything that brought whatever it was out into the open would be better.
He was still fretting over it as they said their good-byes to Kankad and boarded the Aldebaran for Skilk.
The last clatter of silverware and dishes ceased as the native servants finished clearing the table. There was a remaining clatter of cups and saucers; liqueur-glasses tinkled, and an occasional cigarette-lighter clicked. At the head table, the voices seemed louder.
"... don't like it a millisol's worth," Brigadier-General Barney Mordkovitz, the Skilk military CO, was saying to the lady on his right. "They're too confounded meek. Nowadays, nobody yells 'Znidd suddabit!' at you. They just stand and look at you like a farmer looking at a turkey the week before Christmas, and that I don't like!"
"Oh, bosh!" Jules Keaveney, the Skilk Resident-Agent, at the head of the table, exclaimed. "If they don't bow and scrape to you and get off the sidewalk to let you pass, you say they're insolent and need a lesson. If they do, you say they're plotting insurrection."
"What I said," Mordkovitz repeated, "was that I expect a certain amount of disorder, and a certain minimum show of hostility toward us from some of these geeks, to conform to what I know to be our unpopularity with many of them. When I don't find it, I want to know why."
"I'm inclined," von Schlichten came to his subordinate's support, "to agree. This sudden absence of overt hostility is disquieting. Colonel Cheng-Li," he called on the local Intelligence officer and Constabulary chief. "This fellow Rakkeed was here, about a month ago. Was there any noticeable disorder at that time? Anti-Terran demonstrations, attacks on Company property or personnel, shooting at aircars, that sort of thing?"
"No more than usual, general. In fact, it was when Rakkeed came here that the condition General Mordkovitz was speaking of began to become conspicuous."
Von Schlichten nodded. "And I might say that Lieutenant-Governor Blount has reported from Keegark, where he is now, that the same unnatural absence of hostility exists there."
"Well, of course, general," Keaveney said patronizingly, "King Orgzild has things under pretty tight control at Keegark. He'd not allow a few fanatics to do anything to prejudice these spaceport negotiations."
* * * * *
"I wonder if the idea back of that spaceport proposition isn't to get us concentrated at Keegark, where Orgzild could wipe us all out in one surprise blow," somebody down the table suggested, and others nodded.
"Oh, Orgzild wouldn't be crazy enough to try anything like that," Commander Dirk Prinsloo, of the Aldebaran, declared. "He'd get away with it for just twelve months—the time it would take to get the news to Terra and for a Federation Space Navy task-force to get here. And then, there'd be little bits of radioactive geek floating around this system as far out as the orbit of Beta Hydrae VII."
"That's quite true," von Schlichten agreed. "The point is, does Orgzild know it? I doubt if he even believes there is a Terra."
"Then where in Space does he think we come from?" Keaveney demanded.
"I believe he thinks Niflheim is our home world," von Schlichten replied. "Or, rather, the string of orbiters and artificial satellites around Niflheim. Where he thinks Niflheim is, I wouldn't even try to guess."
"Yes. After he'd wiped us out, he might even consider the idea of an invasion of Niflheim with captured contragravity ships," Hideyoshi O'Leary chuckled. "That would be a big laugh—if any of us were alive, then, to do any laughing."
"You don't really believe that, general?" Keaveney asked. His tone was still derisive, but under the derision was uncertainty. After all, von Schlichten had been on Ullr for fifteen years, to his two.
"Any question of geek psychology is wide open as far as I'm concerned; the longer I stay here, the less I understand it." Von Schlichten finished his brandy and got out cigarette-case and lighter. "I have an idea of the sort of garbled reports these spies of his who spend a year on Niflheim as laborers bring back."
* * * * *
"You know the line Rakkeed's been taking, of course," Colonel Cheng-Li put in. "He as much as says that Niflheim's our home, and that the farms where we raise food, here, and those evergreen plantings on Konk Isthmus and between here and Grank are the beginning of an attempt to drive all native life from this planet and make it over for ourselves."
"And that savage didn't think an idea like that up for himself; he got it from somebody like Orgzild," the black-bearded brigadier-general added. "You know, the main base off Niflheim is practically self-supporting, with hyproponic-gardens and animal-tissue culture vats. And it's enough bigger than one of the City ships to pass for a little world. Yes; somebody like Orgzild, or King Firkked, here, could easily pick up the idea that that's our home planet."
"The Company ought to let us stockpile nuclear weapons here, just to be on the safe side," another officer, farther down the table, said.
"Well, I'm not exactly in favor of that," von Schlichten replied. "It's the same principle as not allowing guards who have to go in among the convicts to carry firearms. If somebody like Orgzild got hold of a nuclear bomb, even a little old First-Century H-bomb, he could use it for a model and construct a hundred like it, with all the plutonium we've been handing out for power reactors. And there are too few of us, and we're concentrated in too few places, to last long if that happened. What this planet needs, though, is a visit by a fifty-odd-ship task-force of the Space Navy, just to show the geeks what we have back of us. After a show like that, there'd be a lot less znidd suddabit around here."
"General, I deplore that sort of talk," Keaveney said. "I hear too much of this mailed-fist-and-rattling-sabre stuff from some of the junior officers here, without your giving countenance and encouragement to it. We're here to earn dividends for the stockholders of the Ullr Company, and we can only do that by gaining the friendship, respect and confidence of the natives...."
* * * * *
"Mr. Keaveney," Paula Quinton spoke. "I doubt if even you would seriously accuse the Extraterrestrials Rights Association of favoring what you call a mailed fist and rattling sabre policy. We've done everything in our power to help these people, and if anybody should have their friendship, we should. Well, only five days ago, in Konkrook, Mr. Mohammed Ferriera and I were attacked by a mob, our native aircar driver was murdered, and if it hadn't been for General von Schlichten and his soldiers, we'd have lost our own lives. Mr. Ferriera is still hospitalized as a result of injuries he received. It seems that General von Schlichten and his Kragans aren't trying to get friendship and confidence; they're willing to settle for respect, in the only way they can get it—by hitting harder and quicker than the natives can."
Somebody down the table—one of the military, of course—said, "Hear, hear!" Von Schlichten came as close as a man wearing a monocle can to winking at Paula. Good girl, he thought; she's started playing on the Army team, and about time!
"Well, of course...." Keaveney began. Then he stopped, as a Terran sergeant came up to the table and bent over Barney Mordkovitz' shoulder, whispering urgently. The black-bearded brigadier rose immediately, taking his belt from the back of his chair and putting it on. Motioning the sergeant to accompany, he spoke briefly to Keaveney and then came around the table to where von Schlichten sat, the Resident-Agent accompanying him.
"Message just came in from Konkrook, general," he said softly. "Governor Harrington's dead."
It took von Schlichten all of a second to grasp what had been said. "Good God! When? How?"
"Here's all we know, sir," the sergeant said, giving him a radioprint slip. "Came in ten minutes ago."
It was an all-station priority telecast. Governor-General Harrington had died suddenly, in his room, at 2210; there were no details. He glanced at his watch; it was 2243. Konkrook and Skilk were in the same time-zone; that was fast work. He handed the slip to Mordkovitz, who gave it to Keaveney.
"You from the telecast station, sergeant?" he asked. "All right, in that case, let's go."
As he hurried from the banquet-room, he could hear Keaveney tapping on his wine-glass.
"Everybody, please! Let me have your attention! There has just come in a piece of the most tragic news...."
* * * * *
A woman captain met him just inside the door of the big soundproofed room of the telecast station, next to the Administration Building.
"We have a wavelength open to Konkrook, general," she said. "In booth three."
Another girl, a tech-sergeant, was in the booth; on the screen was the image of a third young woman, a lieutenant, at Konkrook station. The sergeant rose and started to leave the booth.
"Stick around, sergeant," von Schlichten told her. "I'll want you to take over when I'm through." He sat down in front of the combination visiscreen and pickup. "Now, lieutenant; just what happened?" he asked. "How did he die?"
"We think it was poison, general. General M'zangwe has ordered autopsy and chemical analysis. If you can wait about ten minutes, he'll be able to talk to you, himself."
"Call him. In the meantime, give me everything you know."
"Well, at about 2210, the Kragan guard-sergeant on that floor heard ten pistol-shots, as fast as they could be fired semi-auto, in the governor's room. The door was locked, but he shot it off with his own pistol and went in. He found Governor Harrington on the floor, wearing only his gown, holding an empty pistol. He was in convulsions, frothing at the mouth, in horrible pain. Evidently he'd fired his pistol, which he kept on his desk, to call help; all the bullets had gone into the ceiling. One of the medics got there in five minutes, just as he was dying. He'd written his diary up to noon of today, and broken off in the middle of a word. There was a bottle and an overturned glass on his desk. The Constabulary got there a few minutes later, and then Brigadier-General M'zangwe took charge. A white rat, given fifteen drops from the whiskey-bottle, died with the same symptoms in about ninety seconds."
"Who had access to the whiskey-bottle?"
"A geek servant, who takes care of the room. He was caught, an hour earlier, trying to slip off the island without a pass; they were holding him at the guardhouse when Governor Harrington died. He's now being questioned by the Kragans." The girl's face was bleakly remorseless. "I hope they do plenty to him!"
"I hope they don't kill him before he talks."
* * * * *
"Wait a moment, general; we have General M'zangwe, now," the girl said. "I'll switch you over."
The screen broke into a kaleidoscopic jumble of color, then cleared; the chocolate-brown face of M'zangwe was looking out of it.
"I heard what happened, how they found him, and about that geek chamber-valet being arrested," von Schlichten said. "Did you get anything out of him?"
"He's admitted putting poison in the bottle, but he claims it was his own idea. But he's one of Father Keeluk's parishioners, so...."
"Keeluk! God damn, so that was it!" von Schlichten almost shouted. "Now I know what he wanted with Stalin, and that goat, and those rabbits! Of course they'd need terrestrial animals, to find out what would poison a Terran! Who's in charge at Konkrook now?"
"Not much of anybody. Laviola, the Fiscal Secretary, and Hans Meyerstein, the Banking Cartel's lawyer, and Howlett, the Personnel Chief, and Buhrmann, the Commercial Secretary, have made up a sort of quadrumvirate and are trying to run things. I don't know what would happen if anything came up suddenly...." A blue-gray uniformed arm, with a major's cuff-braid, came into the screen, handing a slip of paper to M'zangwe; he took it, glanced at it, and swore. Von Schlichten waited until he had read it through.
"Well, something has, all right," the African said. "Just got a call from Jaikark's palace—a revolt's broken out, presumably headed by Gurgurk; Household Guards either mutinied or wiped out by the mutineers, all but those twenty Kragan Rifles we loaned Jaikark. They, and about a dozen of Jaikark's courtiers and their personal retainers, are holding the approaches to the King's apartments. The native-lieutenant in charge of the Kragans just radioed in; says the situation is desperate."
"When a Kragan says that, he means damn near hopeless. Is this being recorded?" When M'zangwe nodded, he continued. "All right. Use the recording for your authority and take charge. I'm declaring martial rule at Konkrook, as of now, 2258. Tell Eric Blount what's happened, and what you've done, as soon as you can get in touch with him at Keegark. I'm leaving for Konkrook at once! I ought to get in by 0800.
"Now, as to the trouble at the Palace. Don't commit more than one company of Kragans and ten airjeeps and four combat-cars, and tell them to evacuate Jaikark and his followers and our Kragans to Gongonk Island. And alert your whole force. These geek palace revolutions are always synchronized with street-rioting, and this thing seems to have been synchronized with Sid Harrington's death, too. Get our Kragans out if you can't save anybody else from the Palace, but sacrificing thirty or forty men to save twenty is no kind of business. And keep sending reports; I can pick them up on my car radio as I come down." He turned to the girl Sergeant. "Keep on this; there'll be more coming in."
* * * * *
He rose and left the booth. If we can pull Jaikark's bacon off the fire, he was thinking, the Company can dictate its own terms to him afterward; if Jaikark's killed, we'll have Gurgurk's head off for it, and then take over Konkrook. In either case, it'll be a long step toward getting rid of all these geek despots. And with Eric Blount as Governor-General....
The inner door of the soundproofed telecast-room burst open, three men hurried inside, and it slammed shut behind them. In the brief interval, there had been firing audible from outside. One of the men had a pistol in his right hand, and with his left arm he supported a companion, whose shoulder was mangled and dripped blood. The third man had a burp-gun in his hands. All were in civilian dress—shorts and light jackets. The man with the pistol holstered it and helped his injured companion into a chair. The burp-gunner advanced into the room, looked around, saw von Schlichten, and addressed him.
"General! The geeks turned on us!" he cried. "The Tenth North Ullr's mutinied; they're running wild all over the place. They've taken their barracks and supply-buildings, and the lorry-hangars and the maintenance-yard; they're headed this way in a mob. Some of the Zirk Cavalry's joined them."
"Have any ammo left for that burp-gun? Come on, then; let's see what it's like at Company House," von Schlichten said. "Captain Malavez, you know what to do about defending this station. Get busy doing it. And have that girl in booth three tell Konkrook what's happened here, and say that I won't be coming down, as I planned, just yet."
He opened the door, and the rattle of shots outside became audible again. The civilian with the burp-gun knew better than to let a general go out first; elbowing von Schlichten out of the way, he crouched over his weapon and dashed outside. Drawing his pistol, von Schlichten followed, pulling the door shut after him.
* * * * *
Darkness had fallen, while he had been inside; now the whole Company Reservation was ablaze with electric lights. Somebody at the power-plant had thrown on the emergency lights. There was a confused mass of gray-skinned figures in front of Company House, reflected light twinkling on steel over them; from the direction of the native-troops barracks more natives were coming on the run. On the roof of a building across the street, two machine-guns were already firing into the mob. From up the street, a hundred-odd saurian-faced native soldiers were coming at the double, bayonets fixed and rifles at high port; with them ran-several Terrans. Motioning his companion to follow, von Schlichten ran to meet them, falling in beside a Terran captain who ran in front.
"What's the score, captain?" he asked the panting captain.
"Tenth North Ullr and the Fifth Cavalry have mutinied; so have these rag-tag Auxiliaries. That mob down there's part of them." He was puffing under the double effort of running and talking. "Whole thing blew up in seconds; no chance to communicate with anybody...."
A Terran woman, in black slacks and an orange sweater, ran across the street in front of them, pursued by a group of enlisted "men" of the Tenth North Ullr Native Infantry, all shrieking "Znidd suddabit!" The fugitive ran into a doorway across the street; before her pursuers were aware of their danger, the Kragans had swept over them. There was no shooting; the slim, cruel-bladed bayonets did the work. From behind him, as he ran, von Schlichten could hear Kragan voices in a new cry: "Znidd geek! Znidd geek!"
The mob were swarming up onto the steps and into the semi-rotunda of the storm-porch. There was shooting, which told him that some of the humans who had been at the banquet were still alive. He wondered, half-sick, how many, and whether they could hold out till he could clear the doorway, and, most of all, he found himself thinking of Paula Quinton. Skidding to a stop within fifty yards of the mob, he flung out his arms crucifix-wise to halt the Kragans. Behind, he could hear the Terrans and native-officers shouting commands to form front.
"Give them one clip, reload, and then give them the bayonet!" he ordered. "Shove them off the steps and then clear the porch!"
The hundred rifles let go all at once; and for five seconds they poured a deafening two thousand rounds into the mutineers. There was some fire in reply; a Zirk corporal narrowly missed him with a pistol; he saw the captain's head fly apart when an explosive rifle-bullet hit him, and half a dozen Kragans went down.
"Reload! Set your safeties!" von Schlichten bellowed. "Charge!"
* * * * *
Under human officers, the North Ullr Native Infantry would have stood firm. Even under their native-officers and sergeants, they should not have broken as they did, but the best of these had paid for their loyalty to the Company with their lives. At that, the Skilkan peasantry who made up the Tenth Infantry, and the Zirk cavalrymen, tried briefly to fight as individuals, shrieking "Znidd suddabit!" until the Kragans were upon them, stabbing and shooting. They drove the rioters from the steps or killed them there, they wiped out those who had gotten into the semicircle of the storm-porch. The inside doors, von Schlichten saw, were open, but beyond them were Terrans and a dozen or so Kragans. Hideyoshi O'Leary and Barney Mordkovitz seemed to be in command of these.
"We had about thirty seconds' warning," Mordkovitz reported, "and the Kragans in the hall bought us another sixty seconds. Of course, we all had our pistols...."
"Hey! These storm-doors are wedged!" somebody discovered. "Those goddam geek servants ...!"
"Yeah; kill any of them you catch," somebody else advised. "If we could have gotten these doors closed...."
The mob, driven from the steps, was trying to re-form and renew the attack. From up the street, the machine-guns, silent during the bayonet-fight, began hammering again. The mob surged forward to get out of their fire, and were met by a rifle-blast and a hedge of bayonets at the steps; they surged back, and the machine-guns flailed them again. They started to rush the building from whence the automatic-fire came, and there was a fusilade and a shriek of "Znidd geek!" from up the street. They turned and fled in the direction from whence they had come, bullets scourging them from three directions at once.
For a moment, von Schlichten and the three Terrans and eighty-odd Kragans who had survived the fight stood on the steps, weapons poised, seeking more enemies. The machine-guns up the street stuttered a few short bursts and were silent. From behind, the beleaguered Terrans and their Kragan guards were emerging. He saw Jules Keaveney and his wife; Commander Prinsloo of the Aldebaran; Harry Quong and Bogdanoff. Ah, there she was! He heaved a breath of relief and waved to her.
The Kragans were already setting about their after-battle chores. A couple of hundred more Kragans, led by Native-Major Kormork, the co-parent of young with King Kankad, came up at the double and stopped in front of Company House.
* * * * *
"We were in quarters, aboard the Aldebaran and in the guest-house at the airport," Kormork reported. "We were attacked, fifteen minutes ago, by a mob. We took ten minutes beating them off, and five more getting here. I sent Native-Captain Zeerjeek and the rest of the force to re-take the supply-depot and the shops and lorry hangars, which had been taken, and relieve the military airport, which is under attack."
"Good enough. I hope you didn't spread yourself out too thin. What's the situation at the commercial airport?"
"The two ships, the Aldebaran and the freighter Northern Star, are both safe," Kormork replied. "I saw them go on contragravity and rise to about a hundred feet."
"Whose crowd is that you have?" he asked the Terran lieutenant who had taken over command of the first force of Kragans.
"Company 6, Eighteenth Rifles, sir. We were on duty at the guardhouse; fighting broke out in the direction of the native barracks. A couple of runners from Captain Retief of Company 4 came in with word that he was being attacked by mutineers from the Tenth N.U.N.I., but that he was holding them back. So Captain Charbonneau, who was killed a few minutes ago, left a Terran lieutenant and a Kragan native-lieutenant and a couple of native-sergeants and thirty Kragans to hold the guardhouse, and brought the rest of us here."
Von Schlichten nodded. "You'd pass the military airport and the power-plant, wouldn't you?" he asked.
"Yes, sir. The military airport's holding out, and I saw the red-and-yellow danger-lights on the fence around the power-plant."
That meant the power-plant was, for the time, safe; somebody'd turned twenty thousand volts into the fence.
"All right. I'm setting up my command post at the telecast station, where the communication equipment is." He turned to the crowd that had come out onto the porch from inside. "Where's Colonel Cheng-Li?"
"Here, general." The Intelligence and Constabulary officer pushed through the crowd. "I was on the phone, talking to the military airport, the commercial airport, ordnance depot, spaceport, ship-docks and power plant. All answer. I'm afraid Pop Goode, at the city power-plant, is done for; nobody answers there, but the TV-pickup is still on in the load-dispatcher's room, and the place is full of geeks. Colonel Jarman's coming here with a lorry to get combat-car crews; he's short-handed. Port-Captain Leavitt has all the native labor at the airport and spaceport herded into a repair dock; he's keeping them covered with the forward 90-mm. gun of the Northern Star. Lorry-hangars, repair-shops and maintenance-yards don't answer."
"That's what I was going to ask you. Good enough. Harry Quong, Hassan Bogdanoff!"
His command-car crew front-and-centered.
"I want you to take Colonel O'Leary up, as soon as my car's brought here.... Hid, you go up and see what's going on. Drop flares where there isn't any light. And take a look at the native-labor camp and the equipment-park, south of the reservation.... Kormork, you take all your gang, and half these soldiers from the Eighteenth, here, and help clear the native-troops barracks. And don't bother taking any prisoners; we can't spare personnel to guard them."
Kormork grinned. The taking of prisoners had always been one of those irrational Terran customs which no Ullran regarded with favor, or even comprehension.
There was fresh intelligence from Konkrook, by the time he returned to the telecast station. Mutiny had broken out there among the laborers and native troops, who outnumbered the Terrans and their Kragan mercenaries on Gongonk Island by five thousand to five hundred and fifteen hundred respectively. The attempt to relieve Jaikark's palace had been called off before the relief-force could be sent; there was heavy and confused fighting all over the island, and most of the combat contragravity and about half the Kragan Rifles had had to be committed to defend the Company farms across the Channel, on the mainland, south of the city. There had also been an urgent call for help from Colonel Rodolfo MacKinnon, in command of Company troops at the Keegark Residency.
He called Keegark; a girl, apparently one of the civilian telecast technicians, answered.
"We must have help, General von Schlichten," she told him. "The native troops, all but two hundred Kragans, have mutinied. They have everything here except Company House—docks, airport, everything. We're trying to hold out, but there are thousands of them."
"What happened to Eric Blount and your Resident-Agent, Mr. Lemoyne?"
"We don't know. They were at the Palace, talking to King Orgzild. We've tried to call the Palace, but we can't get through. General, we must have help...."
A call came in, a few minutes later, from Krink, five hundred miles to the north-east across the mountains; the Resident-Agent there, one Francis Xavier Shapiro, reported rioting in the city and an attempted palace-revolution against King Jonkvank, and that the Residency was under attack. By way of variety, it was the army of King Jonkvank that had mutinied; the Sixth North Ullr Native Infantry and the two companies of Zirk cavalry at Krink were still loyal, along with the Kragans.
* * * * *
There was a pattern to all this. Von Schlichten stood staring at the big map, on the wall, showing the Takkad Sea area at the Equatorial Zone, and the country north of it to the Pole, the area of Ullr occupied by the Company. He was almost beginning to discern the underlying logic of the past half-hour's events when Keaveney, the Skilk Resident, blundered into him in a half-daze.
"Sorry, general; didn't see you." His face was ashen, and his jowls sagged. "My God, it's happening all over Ullr! Why, it's the end of all of us!"
"It's not quite that bad, Mr. Keaveney." He looked at his watch. It was now nearly an hour since the native troops here at Skilk had mutinied. Insurrections like this usually succeeded or failed in the first hour. "If we all do our part, we'll come out of it all right," he told Keaveney, more cheerfully than he felt, then turned to ask Brigadier-General Mordkovitz how the fighting was going at the native-troops barracks.
"Not badly, general. Colonel Jarman's got some contragravity up and working. They blew out all four of the Tenth N.U.N.I.'s barracks; the Tenth and the Zirks are trying to defend the cavalry barracks. Some of our Kragans managed to slip around behind the cavalry stables. They're leading out hipposaurs, and sniping at the rear of the cavalry barracks."
"That'll give us some cavalry of our own; a lot of these Kragans are good riders.... How about the repair-shops and maintenance-yard and lorry-hangars? I don't want these geeks getting hold of that equipment and using it against us."
"Kormork's outfit are trying to take back the lorry-hangars. Jarman's got a couple of airjeeps and a combat-car helping them."
"... won't be one of us left by this time tomorrow," Keaveney was wailing, to Paula Quinton and another woman. "And the Company is finished!"
Colonel Cheng-Li, the Intelligence officer, approached Keaveney and tried to quiet him. At the same time, a woman in black slacks and an orange sweater—the one whose pursuers had been overrun by the Kragans at the beginning of the fighting—approached von Schlichten.
"General; King Kankad's calling," she said. "He's on the screen in booth four."
* * * * *
Kankad's face was looking out of the screen at him, with Phil Yamazaki, the telecast operator at Kankad's Town, standing behind him.