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Title: Warlord of Kor
Author: Carr, Terry Gene, 1937-1987
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Warlord of Kor" ***

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Transcriber's Note:

   A list of repaired typographical errors will be found at the
   end of this e-book.





Horng sat opposite the tiny, fragile creature who held a
microphone, its wires attached to an interpreting machine. He
blinked his huge eyes slowly, his stiff mouth fumblingly forming
words of a language his race had not used for thirty thousand

"Kor was ... is ... God ... Knowledge." He had tried to convey
this to the small creatures who had invaded his world, but they
did not heed. Their ill-equipped brains were trying futilely to
comprehend the ancient race memory of his people.

Now they would attempt further to discover the forbidden
directives of Kor. Horng remembered, somewhere far back in the
fossil layers of his thoughts, a warning. They must be stopped!
If he had to, he would stamp out these creatures who were called



His mental quest led him too close to a dangerous secret.


His ideas for colonizing that world didn't include survival for
its native beings.


This ruffian-preacher could be the one man that everyone might
have to trust.


She wanted to save the aliens, but did they want to be saved?


In the recesses of his brain was the key to a dead
civilization--or a live menace....


Was it a legend, a king, a thing, or a trap from another galaxy?




Ace Books, Inc.
1120 Avenue of the Americas
New York 36, N.Y.
Copyright ©, 1963, by Ace Books, Inc.


Lee Rynason sat forward on the faded red-stone seat, watching the stylus
of the interpreter as the massive grey being in front of him spoke, its
dry, leathery mouth slowly and stumblingly forming the words of a spoken
language its race had not used for over thirty thousand years. The
stylus made no sound in the thin air of Hirlaj as it passed over the
plasticene notepaper; the only sounds in the ancient building were those
of the alien's surprisingly high and thin voice coming at intervals and
Rynason's own slightly labored breathing.

He did not listen to the alien's voice--by now he had heard it often
enough so that it was merely irritating in its thin dryness, like old
parchments being rubbed together. He watched the stylus as it jumped
along sporadically:


Rynason was a slender, sandy-haired man in his late twenties. A sharp
scar from a knife cut left a line across his forehead over his right
eyebrow. His eyes, perhaps brown, perhaps green--the light on Hirlaj was
sometimes deceptive--were soft, but narrowed with an intent alertness.
He raised the interpreter's mike and said, "How long ago?"

The stylus recorded the Earthman's question too, but Rynason did not
watch it. He looked up at the bulk of the alien, watching for the slow
closing of its eyes, so slow that it could not be called a blink, that
would show it had understood the question. The interpreter could feed
the question direct to the telepathic alien, but there was no guarantee
that it would be understood.

The eyes, resting steadily on him, closed and opened and in a few
moments came the Hirlaji's dry voice.


Rynason calculated quickly. Translating that to about 8200
Earth-standard years and subtracting, that would make it about the
seventeenth century. About the time of the Restoration in England, when
the western hemisphere of Earth was still being colonized. Eighteen
generations ago on Hirlaj. He read the date into the mike for the stylus
to record, and sat back and stretched.

They were sitting amid the ruins of a vast hall, grey dust covering the
stone floor all around them. Dry, hard vegetation had crept in through
cracks and breaks in the walls and fallen across the dusty interior
shadows of the building. Occasionally a small, quick animal would dart
from a dark wall across the floor to another shadow, its feet soundless
in the dust.

Above Rynason the enormous arch of the Hirlaji dome loomed darkly
against the deep cerulean blue of the sky. The lines of all Hirlaji
architecture were deceptively simple, but Rynason had already found that
if he tried to follow the curves and angles he would soon find his head
swimming. There was a quality to these ancient buildings which was not
quite understandable to a Terran mind, as though the old Hirlaji had
built them on geometric principles just slightly at a tangent from those
of Earth. The curve of the arch drew Rynason's eyes along its silhouette
almost hypnotically. He caught himself, and shook his head, and turned
again to the alien before him.

The creature's name, as well as it could be rendered in a Terran script,
was Horng. The head of the alien was dark and hairless, leathery,
weathered; the light wires of the interpreter trailed down and across
the floor from where they were clamped to the deep indentations of the
temples. Massive boney ridges circled the shadowed eyes set low on the
head, directly above the wide mouth which always hung open while the
Hirlaji breathed in long gulps of air. Two atrophied nostrils were
situated on either side and slightly below the eyes. The neck was so
thick and massive that it was practically nonexistent, blending the head
with the shoulders and trunk, on which the dry skin stretched so thin
that Rynason could see the solid bone of the chest wall. Two squat arms
hung from the shoulders, terminating in four-digited hands on which two
sets of blunt fingers were opposed; Horng kept moving them constantly,
in what Rynason automatically interpreted as a nervous habit. The lower
body was composed of two heavily-muscled legs jointed so that they could
move either forward or backward, and the feet had four stubby but
powerful toes radiating from the center. The Hirlaji wore a dark garment
of something which looked like wood-fibre, hanging from the head and
gathered together by a cord just below the chest-wall.

Rynason, since arriving on the planet three weeks before as one of a
team of fifteen archaeological workers, had been interviewing Horng
almost every day, but still he often found himself remembering only with
difficulty that this was an intelligent being; Horng was so slow-moving
and uncommunicative most of the time that he almost seemed like a mound
of leather, like a pile of hides thrown together in a corner. But he was
intelligent, and in his mind he held perhaps the entire history of his

Rynason lifted the interpreter-mike again. "Was Tebron Marl king of all

Horng's eyes slowly closed and opened. TEBRON MARL WAS RULER LEADER IN

"How did he unite the planet?"


"But the reign of Tebron Marl is remembered as an era of peace."


Rynason suddenly sat forward, watching the stylus record these words.
"Then it was Tebron who abolished war on Hirlaj?"


Rynason felt a thrill go through him. This was what they had all been
searching for--the point in the history of Hirlaj when wars had ceased,
when the Hirlaji had given themselves over to completely peaceful
living. He knew already that the transition had been sharp and sudden.
It was the last question mark in the sketchy history of Hirlaj which the
survey team had compiled since its arrival--how had the Hirlaji managed
so abruptly to establish and maintain an era of peace which had lasted
unbroken to the present?

It was difficult even to think of these huge, slow-moving creatures as
warriors ... but warriors they had been, for thousands of their years,
gradually building their culture and science until, apparently almost
overnight, the wars had ceased. Since then the Hirlaji moved in their
slow way through their world, growing more complacent with the passage
of ancient generations, growing passive, and, eventually, decadent. Now
there were only some two dozen of the race left alive.

They were telepathic, these leathery aliens, and behind those shadowed
eyes they held the entire memories of their race. Experiences
communicated telepathically through the centuries had formed a memory
pool which each of the remaining Hirlaji shared. They could not, of
course, integrate in their own minds all of that immense store of
memories and understand it all clearly ... but the memories were there.

It was at the same time a boon and a trial for Rynason and the rest of
the survey team. They were trained archaeologists ... as well schooled
as possible on the worlds of this far-flung sector near the constantly
outward-moving Edge, the limit of Terran expansion. Rynason could
operate and if necessary repair the portable carbondaters of the team,
he knew the fine points of excavation and restoration of artifacts and
had studied so many types of alien anatomy that he could make at least
an educated guess at the reconstruction of beings from fragmentary
fossil-remains or incomplete skeletons ... or exoskeletons.

But the situation on Hirlaj was one which had never before been
encountered; here he was not dealing with a dead race's remains, but
directly with members of that race. It was not a matter of sifting
fragmentary evidence of science, crafts and customs, finding out what he
could and piecing together a composite picture from the remains at hand,
as they had done with the artifacts of the Outsiders, those unknown
beings who had left the ruins of their outposts and colonies in six
galaxies already explored and settled by the Earthmen; all he had to do
here was ask the right questions and he would get his answers.

Sitting there under that massive dome, with the quiet-eyed alien before
him, Rynason couldn't completely suppress a feeling of ridiculousness.
The problem was that the Hirlaji could not be depended upon to be able
to find a particular memory-series in their minds; the race memory was
such a conglomeration that all they could do was strike randomly at
memories until the correct area was touched, and then follow up from
there. The result was usually irrelevant and unrelated information.

But he seemed to be getting somewhere now. Having spent three weeks with
Horng, gradually learning a little about the ways of his alien mind, he
had at last run across what might be the important turning-point in the
history of Hirlaj.

Horng spoke, and Rynason turned to watch the stylus of the interpreter
as it moved across the paper. TEBRON SPENT HIS YEARS BRINGING HIRLAJ

"What were these sciences?"

Horng closed and opened his eyes. MANY OF THEM ARE FORGOTTEN.

Rynason looked up at the alien, who sat quietly on a rough stone
benchlike seat. "But your race doesn't forget."


"But you can remember these if you try?"

Horng's head dipped to one side, a characteristic movement which Rynason
had not yet managed to interpret. The shadowed, wrinkled eyes closed

"You've mentioned Kor before. Who was he?"


Rynason frowned. The interpreter automatically translated terms which
had no reliable parallel in Terran by giving two or three related words,
and usually the concept was fairly clear. Not quite so with this

"God and knowledge are two different words in our language," he said.
"Can you explain your term more fully?"

Horng shifted heavily on his seat, his blunt fingers tapping each other.

Rynason, watching the stylus, pursed his lips. "Mm," he said softly, and
shrugged his shoulders. Kor was apparently some sort of god, but the
interpreter didn't seem capable of translating the term precisely.

"What were the sciences of Kor?"

There was a silence as the stylus finished moving across the paper, and
Rynason looked up at Horng. The alien's eyes were closed and he had
stopped the constant motion of his leathery grey fingers; he sat
immobile, like a giant statue, almost a part of the complex of the hall
and the crumbling domed building. Rynason waited.

The silence remained for a long time in the dry air of the empty hall.
Rynason saw from the corner of his eye one of the dark little scavengers
darting out of a gaping window. He could almost hear, it seemed, the
noise of the brawling, makeshift town the Earthmen had established a
little less than a mile away from the Hirlaji ruins, where already the
nomads and adventurers and drifters had erected a cluster of prefab
metal buildings and were settling in.

"What were the sciences of Kor?" Rynason asked again, not wanting to
think of the cheapness and dirt of the Earth outpost which huddled so
near to the Hirlaji domes.

He felt Horng's quiet gaze, heavy with centuries, resting on him. THEY

"Part of Kor?"

Horng's head dipped to one side. APPROXIMATELY.

"How is this known? Tebron broke the power of the priesthood, didn't


"Including the information that these sciences were prohibited?"

Horng shifted forward, like a massive block of stone wavering. His
fingers moved briefly and then rested. THE MEMORIES ARE BURIED DEEPLY.

Rynason's head jerked up from the interpreter. "Tebron spoke with Kor?"

After a pause, Horng's dry voice came. APPROXIMATELY. THERE WAS ...

"Then Tebron made this prohibition in the name of Kor. When did this


"The same day?"


Rynason watched Horng's replies as they were recorded by the
interpreter; he was frowning. So this dawn-era king was supposed to have
spoken, perhaps telepathically, with the god of the Hirlaji. Could he
have simply claimed to have done so in an effort to stabilize his own
power? But the fact that this race was telepathic threw some doubt on
that supposition.

"Are there memories of Tebron's conversation with Kor?" he asked.

Horng's eyes closed and opened in acknowledgement, and then abruptly the
alien rose to his feet. He moved slowly past Rynason to the base of a
long, sweeping flight of stairs which led upward toward the empty dome,
trailing the wires of the interpreter. Rynason moved to unplug the
wires, but Horng stopped at the base of the stairs, looking up along the
curving ramp to where it ended in a blunt, weathered break two-thirds of
the way up. Rubble lay below the break.

Rynason watched the grey being staring silently up those broken steps,
and asked softly, "What are you doing?"

Horng, still gazing upward, dipped his head to one side. THERE IS NO
PURPOSE. He turned and came slowly back to his stone seat.

Rynason grinned wryly. He was beginning to get used to such things from
Horng, whose mind often seemed to run in non sequiturs. It was as though
the alien's perceptions of the present were as jumbled as the welter of
memories he held. Crazy old mound of leather.

But he was not crazy, of course; his mind simply ran in a way that was
alien to the Earthmen. Rynason was beginning to learn to respect that
alien way, if not to understand it.

"Are there memories of Tebron's conversation with Kor?" Rynason asked


"Are there memories of what was said?"

Horng sat silently, perhaps in thought. His reply didn't come for
several minutes.


"_Can you remember_ the actual communication?"

Horng's head tilted to one side in a peculiarly strained fashion;
Rynason could see a muscle jumping where the alien's neck blended with

Rynason gazed pensively at the interpreter as these words were recorded.
What could have happened during that conversation that would have caused
its memory to be so deeply buried?

"Can you find among any of the rest of Tebron's memories any thoughts
about Kor?"


The Hirlaji was shaking, his entire body trembling with some sort of
tension which even communicated itself through the interpreter, causing
the stylus to quaver and jump forward, dragging a jagged line across the
paper. Rynason stared up at the alien, feeling a chill down his back
which seemed to penetrate through to his chest and lungs. This massive
creature was shaking like the rumbling warnings of an earthquake, his
eyes cast downward from the deep shadows of their sockets; Rynason could
almost feel the weight of their gaze like a heavy, dark blanket. He
lifted the interpreter's mike slowly.

"Your race does not forget," he said softly. "Why can't you remember
this conversation?"

Horng's four-digited hands clasped tightly and the powerful tendons
stood out starkly on the heavy wrists as Horng drew in long breaths of
air, the sound of his breathing loud in the great space under the dome.



The Earthman called the town Hirlaj too, because the spaceport was
there. It was a new town, only a few months old, but the gleaming alloys
of the buildings were already coated with dirt and pitted by the
frequent dust storms that swept through. Garbage littered the alleys;
its odor was strange but still foul in the alien atmosphere. The small,
darting creatures were here too, foraging in the alleys and the
outskirts of the town, where the streets ended in garbage heaps and new
cemeteries or faded into the trackless flat where the spacers touched

The Earthmen filled the streets ... drinking, fighting, laughing and
cursing, arguing over money or power or, sometimes, women. The women
here were hard and self-sufficient, following the path of Terran
expansion in the stars and taking what they felt was due them as women
or what they could get as men. Supply houses did a thriving business,
their prices high between shipments on the spacers from the inner
worlds; bars and gambling houses stayed open all night; rooming houses
and restaurants and laundries displayed crude handlettered signs along
the streets.

Rynason pushed his way through a jostling crowd outside the door of a
bar. He was supposed to meet the head of his Survey team here--Rice
Manning, who had been pushing the survey as hard as he could since the
day they'd set foot on Hirlaj. Manning was hard and ambitious--a leader
of men, Rynason thought sardonically as he surveyed the tables in the
dim interior. The floor of the bar was a dirty plastic-metal alloy,
already scuffed and in places bloodstained. The tables were of the
cheap, light metals so common on the spacer-supplied worlds of the Edge,
and they wobbled.

The low-ceilinged room was crowded with men. Rynason didn't know many of
them by name, but he recognized a lot of the faces. The men of the Edge,
though they lacked money, education, often brains and usually ethics, at
least had the quality of distinctiveness: they didn't fit the half-dozen
convenient molds which the highly developed culture of the inner worlds
fitted over the more civilized citizens of the Terran Federation. These
men were too self-interested to follow the group-thoughts which
controlled the centers of empire, and the seams and wrinkles of their
faces stamped a rough kind of individuality even more visually upon

Of them all, the man who was instantly recognizable in any crowd like
this was Rene Malhomme; Rynason immediately saw the man in one corner of
the room. He stood six and a half feet tall, heavily muscled and a bit
wild-eyed; his greying hair fell in disorder over his dirty forehead and
sprayed out over his ears. He was surrounded by laughing and shouting
men; Rynason couldn't tell from this distance whether he was engaged in
one of his usual heated arguments on religion or in his other avocation
of recounting stories of the women he had "converted". He waved a
black-lettered sign saying REPENT! over his head--but then, he always

Rynason found Manning in the back, sitting under a cheap print of a
Picasso nude with cold light trained on it in typically bad taste. He
had a woman with him. Rynason recognized her--Mara Stephens, in charge
of communications and supplies for the survey team. She was a strange
girl, aloof but not hard, and she carried herself with a quiet dignity.
What was she doing with Manning?

He passed a waiter on his way to the table and ordered a drink. Malhomme
saw him as he passed: "Lee Rynason! Come and join me in repentance! Give
your soul to God and your money to the barman, for as the prophet
sayeth, lo, I am dry! Join us!"

Rynason grinned and shook his head, walking past. He grabbed one of the
light-metal chairs and sat down next to Mara.

"You wanted to see me," he said to Manning.

Manning looked up at him to apparent surprise. "Lee! Yes, yes--sit down.
Wait, we'll get you a drink."

So he was in that kind of a mood. "I've got one coming," Rynason said.
"What's our problem today?"

Manning smiled broadly. "No problem, Lee; no problem at all. Not unless
you want to make one." He chuckled goodnaturedly, a tacit statement that
he was expecting no such thing. "I've got good news today, by god. You
tell him, Mara."

Rynason turned to the girl, who smiled briefly. "It just came over the
telecom," she said. "Manning has a good chance for the governorship
here. The Council is supposed to announce its decision in two weeks."

Rynason looked over at Manning, his face expressionless.
"Congratulations. How did this happen?"

"I've got an inside track; friend of mine knows several of the big guys.
Throws parties, things like that. He's been putting in a word for me,
here and there."

"Isn't this a bit out of your line?" Rynason said.

Manning sat back, a large man with close-cropped dark hair and heavy
features. His beard was trimmed to a thin line along the ridge of his
jaw--a style that was popular on the inner worlds, but rarely seen here
on the Edge. "This _is_ my line," he said. "God, this is what I was
after when I took this damned job. Survey teams are a dime a dozen out
here, Lee; it's no job for a man."

"We've got sort of a special case here," Rynason said evenly, glancing
at Mara. She smiled at him. "We haven't run into any alien races before
that were intelligent."

Manning laughed, and took a long swallow of his drink. "Twenty-six lousy
horsefaces--now there's an important discovery for you. No, Lee, this is
peanuts. For that matter, they may be running into intelligent aliens
all over the Edge by now--communication isn't so reliable out here that
we'd necessarily know about it. What we've found here isn't any more
important than all the rubble and trash the Outsiders left behind."

"Still, it _is_ unique so far," Mara said.

"I'll tell you exactly how unique it is," Manning said, leaning forward
and setting down his glass with a bang. "It's just unique enough that I
can make it sound important in my report to the Council. I can make
myself sound a little impressive. That's how important it is; no more
than that."

Rynason pursed his lips, but didn't say anything. The waiter arrived
with his drink; he threw a green coin onto the table which was scooped
up before it had finished ringing to a stop, and sat back with the glass
in his hand.

"Is that your pitch to the Council?" he asked. "You're telling them that
Hirlaj is an important archaeological area and that's why you should get
the governorship?"

"Something like that," Manning nodded. "That, and my friend at
Seventeenth Cluster headquarters. Incidentally, he's an idiot and a
slob--turns on quadsense telemuse instead of working, drinks hopsbrau
from his own sector. I can't stand him. But I did him a few favors, just
in case, and they're paying off."

"I think it's marvelous the way our frontier policy caters to the
colonists," Mara said quietly. She was still smiling, but it was an
ironic smile which suddenly struck Rynason as characteristic of her.

He knew exactly what she meant. Manning's little push for power was
nothing new or shocking in Terran frontier politics. With the rapid
expansion of the Edge through the centuries, the frontier policy of the
Confederation had had to adapt itself to comparatively slipshod methods
of setting up governments in the newly-opened areas. Back in the early
days they'd tried sending out trained men from each Cluster
headquarters, but that had been foredoomed to failure: travel between
the stars was slow, and too often the governors had arrived after local
officialdoms had already been established, and there had been clashes.
The colonists had almost always backed the local governments, and there
were a few full-scale revolts when the system had been backed too
militantly by Cluster headquarters.

So the Local Autonomy System had been sanctioned. The colonists would
always support their own men, who at least knew conditions in the areas
they were to govern. But since this necessarily limited the choice of
Edge governorships to the roustabouts and drifters who wandered the
outworlds, the resulting administrations were probably even more corrupt
than they had been under the old system of what had amounted to
centralized graft. The Cluster Councils retained the power of appointing
the local governors, but aside from that the newly-opened worlds of the
Edge were completely under their own rule. Some of the more vocal
critics of the Local Autonomy System had dubbed it instead the
Indigenous Corruption System; it was by now a fairly standard nickname
in the outworlds.

The system made for a wide-open frontier--bustling, wild, hectic, and
rich. For the worlds of the Edge were untamed worlds, raw and
forbidding, and the policy of the Councils was calculated to attract the
kind of men who not only could but would open these frontiers. The
roustabouts, the low drifters of the spaceways ... men who were hard and
strong from repeated knocks, who were looking for a way to work or fight
their way up. The lean and hungry of the outworlds.

Rynason glanced across the table at Manning. He was neither lean nor
hungry, but he had that look in his eyes. Rynason had been around the
Edge for years--his father had travelled the spacers in the commercial
lines--and he had seen that look on many men, in the fields and mines,
in the spaceports, in the quickly-tarnished prefab towns that sprang up
almost overnight when a planetfall was made. He could recognize it on
Manning despite the man's casual, self-satisfied expression.

"You don't have to worry about the colonists here," Manning was saying
to the girl. "I'll treat 'em decently. There'll be money to be made
here, and I can make it without stepping on too many toes."

Mara seemed amused. "And what would happen if you _had_ to step on them
to make your money? What if Hirlaj doesn't turn out to have any natural
resources worth exploiting--a whole civilization has been here for
thousands of years? What if the colony here starts to falter, and the
men move on?"

Manning frowned at her for a moment, then gave a grunting laugh. "No
chance of that. It's like Lee was just saying--this planet is an
important discovery--we've got tame aliens here, intelligent horsefaces
that you can lead around with a rope on their necks. That alone will
draw tourists. Maybe well set up an official Restricted Ground, a sort
of reservation."

"A zoo, you mean," Rynason interrupted.

Manning raised an amused eyebrow at him. "A reservation, I said. You
know what reservations are like, Lee."

Rynason glared at the heavier man, then subsided. There was no point in
getting into a fight over if's and maybe's; in the outworlds you learned
quickly to confine your clashes to tangibles. "Why did you want to see
me?" he said.

"I want your preliminary report completed," Manning said. "I've got to
have my complete report collated and transmitted within the week, if
it's to have any effect on the Council. Most of the boys have got them
in already; Breune and Larsborg have promised theirs within four days.
But you're still holding me up."

Rynason took a long swallow of his drink and put it down empty. The
noise and smell of the bar seemed to grow around him, washing over him.
It might have been the effects of the tarpaq in the drink, but he felt
his stomach tighten and turn slightly when he thought of how Earth's
culture presented itself, warped itself, here on the frontier Edge. Was
this land of mercenary, slipshod rush really what had carried Earthmen
to the stars?

"I don't know if I'll have much to report for at least a week," he said

"Then give me a report on what you've got!" Manning snapped. "If nothing
else, turn in your transcripts and I'll do the report myself; I can
handle it. What the hell do you mean, you won't have much to report?"

"Larsborg said the same thing," Mara interjected.

"Larsborg said he'd have his report ready in a couple of days anyway!"

"I'll give you what I've got as soon as I can," Rynason said. "But
things are just beginning to break for me--did you see my note this

"Yes, of course. The part about this Tedron or whatever his name was?"

"Tebron Marl. He's the link between their barbaric and civilized
periods. I've only begun to get into it."

Manning was waving for more drinks; he caught a waiter's eye and then
turned back to Rynason. "What's this nonsense about some damned block
you ran into? Have you got a crazy horse on your hands?"

"There's something strange there," Rynason said. "He tells me this
Tebron was actually supposed to have communicated with their god, or
whatever he was. It sounds crazy, all right. But there's more to it than
that, I'm sure of it. I wanted time to go into it further before I made
my report."

"I think you've got a nut alien there, boy. Don't let him foul you up;
you're one of my best men."

Rynason almost sneered, but he managed to bring it out as a grin. The
role of protective father did not sit well on Manning's shoulders.
"We're dealing here with a remarkably sane race," he pointed out. "The
very fact that they have total recall argues against any insanity in
them. There've been experiments on the inner worlds for over a century
now, trying to bring out total recall in us, and not much luck so far.
We're a sick, hung-up race."

Manning slapped his hand down on the table. "What the hell are you
trying to do, Lee? Are you trying to measure these aliens by our
standards? I thought you had better sense. Total recall doesn't
necessarily mean a damn thing in them--but when they start telling you
straightforward and cold that they've talked with some god, and then
they throw what sounds like an anxiety fit right in front of you....
Well, what does it sound like to you?"

Rynason accepted one of the drinks that the waiter banged down on the
table and took a sip. He felt lightheaded. "It would have been an
anxiety fit if Horng had been human," he said. "But you're right, I do
know better than to judge him by our standards. No, it was something

"What, then?"

He shook his head. "I don't know. That's the point--I can't give you a
decent report until I find out."

"Then, dammit, give me an _indecent_ report! Fill it out with some very
learned speculations, you know the type...." Manning stopped, and
grinned. "Speaking of indecent reports, what have we turned up on their
sex lives?"

"Marc Stoworth covered that in his report yesterday," Mara said.
"They're unisexual, and their sex life is singularly boring, if you'll
pardon the expression. At least, Stoworth says so. If it weren't I'm
sure he'd tell us all about it."

Manning chuckled. "Yes, I imagine you're right; Marc is a good boy. Well
look, Lee, I've told you the position I'm in. Now I'm counting on you to
get me out of this spot. I've _got to_ transmit my report to Council
within a week. I don't want to pressure you, but you know I'm in a
position to do it if I have to. Dammit, give me a report."

"I'll turn something in in a few days," Rynason said vaguely. His brain
was definitely fuzzy now from the tarpaq.

Manning stood up. "All right, don't forget it. Trick it out with some
high-sounding guesses if you have to, like I said. Right now I've got to
see a man about a woman." He paused, glancing at Mara. "You're busy?"

"I'm busy, yes." Her face was studiedly expressionless.

He shrugged briefly and went out, pushing and weaving his way through
the hubbub that filled the bar. It was dark outside; Rynason caught a
glimpse of the dark street as Manning went through the door. Night fell
quickly on Hirlaj, with the suddenness of age.

Rynason turned back to the table, and Mara. He looked at her curiously.

"What were you doing with him, anyway? You usually keep to yourself."

The girl smiled wryly. She had deep black hair which fell to her
shoulders in soft waves. Most of the women here grew their hair down to
their waists, in exaggerated imitation of inner-world styles, but Mara
had more taste than that. Her eyes were a clear brown, and they met his
directly. "He was in a sharp mood, so I came along as peacemaker. You
don't seem to have needed me."

"You helped, at that; thanks. Was that true about the governorship?"

"Of course. Manning seldom brags, you should know that. He's a very
capable man, in some ways."

Rynason frowned. "He could be a lot more useful on this survey if he'd
use his talents on tightening up the survey itself. He's forcing a
premature report, and it isn't going to be worth much."

"Is that what's really bothering you?" she asked.

He tried to focus on her through the haze of the noisy bar. "Of course
it is. That, and his whole attitude toward these people."

"The Hirlaji? Are they people to you?"

He shrugged. "What are people? Humans? Or reasoning beings you can talk
to, communicate with?"

"I should think people would be reasoning beings you could relate to,"
she said softly. "Not just intellectually, but emotionally too. You have
to be able to understand them to communicate that way--that's what makes

Rynason was silent, trying to integrate that into the fog in his head.
The raucous noise of the bar had faded into an underwater murmur around
him, lost somewhere where he could not see.

Finally, he said, "That's the trouble with them, the Hirlaji. I can't
really understand them. It's like there's really no contact, not even
through the interpreter." He stared into his drink. "I wish to hell we
had some straight telepathers here; they might work with the Hirlaji,
since they're telepathic anyway. I'd like to make a direct link myself."

After a moment he felt Mara's hand on his arm, and realized that he had
almost fallen asleep on the table.

"You'd better go on back to your quarters," she said.

He sat up, shaking his head to clear it. "No, but really--what do you
think of that idea? What if I had a telepather, and I could link minds
with Horng? Straight linkage, no interpreter in the middle. I could get
right at that race memory myself!"

"I think you need some sleep," she said. She seemed worried. "You're
getting too wrapped up in this thing. And forget about the telepathers."

Rynason looked at her and grinned. "Why?" he said quietly. "There's no
harm in wishing."

"Because," she said, "we've got three telepathers coming in the day
after tomorrow."


Rynason continued to smile at her for several seconds, until her words
penetrated. Then he abruptly sat up and steadied himself with one hand
against the edge of the table.

"Can you get one for me?"

She gave a reluctant shrug. "If you insist, and if Manning okays it. But
is it a good idea? Direct contact with a mind so alien?"

As a matter of fact, now that he was faced with the actual possibility
of it, he wasn't so sure. But he said, "We'll only know once we've tried

Mara dropped her eyes and swirled her drink, watching the tiny red spots
form inside the glass and rise to the surface. There was a brief silence
between them.

"_Repent_, Lee Rynason!" The words burst upon his ears over the waves of
sound that filled the room. He turned, half-rising, to find Rene
Malhomme hovering over him, his wide grin showing a tooth missing in the
bottom row.

Rynason settled back into his chair. "Don't shout. I'm going to have a
headache soon enough."

Malhomme took the chair which Manning had vacated and sat in it heavily.
He set his hand-lettered placard against the edge of the table and
leaned forward, waving a thick finger.

"You consort with men who would enslave the pure in heart!" he rumbled,
but Rynason didn't miss the laughter in his eye.

"Manning?" he nodded. "He'd enslave every pure heart on this planet, if
he could find one. As a matter of fact, I think he's already working on
Mara here."

Malhomme turned to her and sat back, appraising her boldly. Mara met his
gaze calmly, raising her eyebrows slightly as she waited for his

Malhomme shook his head. "If she's pure, then it's a sin," he said. "A
thrice-damned sin, Lee. Have I ever expostulated to you upon the
Janus-coin that is good and evil?"

"Often," Rynason said.

Malhomme shrugged and turned again to the girl. "Nevertheless," he said,
"I greet you with pleasure."

"Mara, this is Rene Malhomme," Rynason said wearily. "He imagines that
we're friends, and I'm afraid he's right."

Malhomme dipped his shaggy head. "The name is from the Old French of
Earth--badman. I have a long and dishonorable family history, but the
earliest of my ancestors whom I've been able to trace had the same name.
Apparently there were too many Smiths, Carpenters, Bakers and Priests on
that world--the time was ripe for a Malhomme. My first name would have
been pronounced Reh-_nay_ before the language reform dropped all accent
marks from Earth tongues."

"Considering your background," Mara smiled, "you're in good company out

"Good company!" Malhomme cried. "I'm not looking for good company! My
work, my mission calls me to where men's hearts are the blackest, where
repentance and redemption are needed--and so I come to the Edge."

"You're religious?" she asked.

"Who _is_ religious in these days?" Malhomme asked, shrugging. "Religion
is of the past; it is dead. It is nearly forgotten, and one hears God's
name spoken now in anger. God damn you, cry the masses! _That_ is our
modern religion!"

"Rene wanders around shouting about sin," Rynason explained, "so that he
can take up collections to buy himself more to drink."

Malhomme chuckled. "Ah, Lee, you're shortsighted. I'm an unbeliever, and
a black rogue, but at least I have a mission. Our scientific advance has
destroyed religion; we've penetrated to the heavens, and found no God.
But science has not _dis_proved Him, either, and people forget that. I
speak with the voice of the forgotten; I remind people of God, to even
the scales." He stopped talking long enough to grab the arm of a passing
waiter and order a drink. Then he turned back to them. "Nothing says I
have to _believe_ in religion. If that were necessary, no one would
preach it."

"Have you been preaching to the Hirlaji?" Rynason asked.

"An admirable idea!" Malhomme said. "Do they have souls?"

"They have a god, at least. Or used to, anyway. Fellow named Kor, who
was god, essence, knowledge, and several other things all rolled into

"Return to Kor!" Malhomme said. "Perhaps it will be my next mission."

"What's your mission now?" Mara asked, smiling in spite of herself.
"Besides your apparently lifelong study and participation in sin, I

Malhomme sighed and sat back as his drink arrived. He dug into the pouch
strung from his waist and flipped a coin to the waiter. "Believe it or
not, I have one," he said, and his voice was now low and serious. "I'm
not just a lounger, a drifter."

"What are you?"

"I am a spy," he said, and raised his glass to drain half of it with one

Mara smiled again, but he didn't return it. He sat forward and turned to
Rynason. "Manning has been busily wrapping up the appointment for the
governorship here," he said. "You probably know that."

Rynason nodded. The headache he had been expecting was already starting.

"Did you also know that he's been buying men here to stand with him in
case someone else is appointed?" He glanced at Mara. "I go among the men
every day, talking, and I hear a lot. Manning will end up in control
here, one way or another, unless he's stopped."

"Buying men is nothing new," Rynason said. "In any case, is there a
better man on the planet?"

Malhomme shook his head. "I don't know; sometimes I give up on the human
race. Manning at least has a little culture in him--but he's more
vicious than he seems, nevertheless. If he gets control here...."

"It will be no worse than any of the other planets out here," Rynason
concluded for him.

"Except for one thing, perhaps--the Hirlaji. I don't have much against
men killing each other ... that's their own business. But unless we get
somebody better than Manning governing here, the Hirlaji will be wiped
out. The men here are already talking ... they're afraid of them."

"Why? The Hirlaji are harmless."

"Because of their size, and because we don't know anything about them.
Because they're intelligent--any uneducated man is afraid of
intelligence, and when it's an alien...." He shook his head. "Manning
isn't helping the situation."

"What do you mean by that?" Mara asked.

Malhomme's frown deepened, creasing the dark lines of his forehead into
furrows. "He's using the Hirlaji as bogey-men. Says he's the only man on
the planet who knows how to deal with them safely. Oh, you should hear
him when he moves among his people.... I envy his ability to control
them with words. A little backslapping, a joke or two--most of them I
was telling last year--and he talks to them man to man, very friendly."
He shook his head again. "Manning is so friendly with this scum that his
attitude is nothing short of patronizing."

Rynason smiled wearily at Malhomme; for all the man's wildness, he
couldn't help liking him. It had been like this every time he had run
into him, on a dozen of the Edge-worlds. Malhomme, dirty and cynical,
moved among the dregs of the stars preaching religion and fighting the
corporations, the opportunists, the phony rebels who wanted nothing for
anyone but themselves. He had been known to break heads together with
his huge fists, and he had no qualms about stealing or even killing when
his anger was aroused. Yet there was a peculiar honesty about him.

"You always have to have a cause, don't you, Rene?"

The greying giant shrugged. "It makes life interesting, and it makes me
feel good sometimes. But I don't overestimate myself: I'm scum, like the
rest of them. The only difference is that I know it; I'm just one man,
with no more rights than anyone else, except those I can take." He held
up his large knuckled hands and turned them in front of his face. "I've
got broken bones in both of them. I wonder if the Buddha or the Christ
ever hit a man. The books on religion that are left in the repositories
don't say."

"Would it make any difference if they hadn't?" Rynason asked.

"Hell, no! I'm just curious." Malhomme stood up, hefting his repentance
sign in the crook of one big arm. His face again took on its arched look
as he said, "My duty calls me elsewhere. But I leave you with a message
from the scriptures, and it has been my guiding light. 'Resist not
evil,' my children. Resist not evil."

"Who said that?" Rynason asked.

Malhomme shook his head. "Damned if I know," he muttered, and went away.

After a moment Rynason turned back to the girl; she was still watching
Malhomme thread his way through the men on his way to the door.

"So now you've met my spiritual father," he said.

Her deep brown eyes flickered back to his. "I wish I could use a
telepather on him. I'd like to know how he really thinks."

"He thinks exactly as he speaks," Rynason said. "At least, at the moment
he says something, he believes in it."

She smiled. "I suppose that's the only possible explanation for him."
She was silent for a moment, her face thoughtful. Then she said, "He
didn't finish his drink."

       *       *       *       *       *

"You're all hooked up," the girl said. "Nod or something when you're
ready." She was bent over the telepather, double checking the
connectives and the blinking meters. Rynason and Horng sat opposite each
other, the huge dark mound of the alien looming silently over the

He never seemed upset, Rynason thought, looking up at him. Except for
that one time when they'd run into the stone wall of the block on
Tebron, Horng had displayed a completely even temperament--unruffled,
calm, almost disinterested. But of course if the aliens had been
completely uninterested in the Earthmen's probings at their history they
would never have cooperated so readily; the Hirlaji were not animals to
be ordered about by the Earthmen. Probably the codification of their
history would prove useful to the aliens too; they had never arranged
the race memory into a very coherent order themselves.

Not that that was surprising, Rynason decided. The Hirlaji had no
written language--their telepathic abilities had made that
unnecessary--and organization of material into neatly outlined form was
a characteristic as much of the Earth languages as of Terran mentality.
Such organization was not a Hirlaji trait apparently, at least not now
in the twilight of their civilization. The huge aliens lived dimly
through these centuries, dreaming in their own way of the past ... and
their way was not the Earthmen's.

So if they cooperated with the survey team on codifying and recording
their history, who was the servant?

Well, with the direct linkage of minds the work should go faster.
Rynason looked up at Mara and nodded, and she flicked the connection on
the telepather.

Suddenly, like being overwhelmed by a breaking wave of seawater, Rynason
felt Horng's mind envelope him. A torrent of thoughts, memories,
pictures and concepts poured over him in a jumble; the sensory
sensations of the alien came to him sharply, and memories that were
strange, ideas that were incomprehensible, all in a sudden rush upon his
mind. He fought down the fear that had leapt in him, gritted his teeth
and waited for the wave to subside.

It did not subside; it settled. As the two minds, Earthman and Hirlaji,
met in direct linkage they became almost one. Gradually Rynason could
begin to see some pattern to the impressions of the alien. The picture
of himself came first: he was small and angular, sitting several feet
below Horng's--or his own--eyes; but more than that, he was not merely
light, but pallid, not merely small, but fragile. The alien's view of
reality, even through his direct sensations, was not merely visual or
tactile but interpreted automatically in his own terms.

The odor of the hall in which they sat was different, the very
temperature warmer. Rynason could see himself reeling on the stone bench
where he sat, and Mara, strangely distorted, put out a hand to steady
him. At the same time he was seeing through his own eyes, feeling her
hand on his shoulder. But the alien sensations were stronger; their very
strangeness commanded the attention of his mind.

He righted himself, physically and mentally, and began to probe
tentatively in this new part of his mind. He could feel Horng too
reaching slowly for contact; his presence was comfortable, mild,
confused but unworried. As his thoughts blended with Horng's the present
faded perceptibly; this confusion was merely a moment in centuries, and
soon too it would pass. Rynason could feel himself relaxing.

Now he could reach out and touch the strange areas of this mind: the
concepts and attitudes of an alien race and culture and experience.
Everything became dim and dream-like: the Earthmen possibly didn't
exist, the dry wastes of Hirlaj had always been here or perhaps once
they had been green but through four generations the Large Hall had
stood thus and the animals changed by the day too fast to distinguish
them even under Kor if he should be reached ... why? there was no
reason. There was no purpose, no goal, no necessity, no wishing,
questing, hoping ... no curiosity. All would pass. All was passing even
now; perhaps already it was gone.

Rynason shifted where he sat, reaching for the feeling of the stone
bench beneath him for equilibrium, pulling out of Horng's thoughts and
going back in almost immediately.

A chaos of mind enveloped him, but he was beginning to familiarize
himself with it now. He probed slowly for the memories, down through
Horng's own personal memories of three centuries, dry feet on the dust
and low winds, down to the racial pool. And he found it.

Even knowing the outlines of the race's history did not help Rynason to
place and correlate those impressions which came to him one on top of
another, overlapping, merging, blending. He saw buildings which towered
over him, masses of his people moving quietly around him, and thoughts
came to him from their minds. He was Norhib, artisan, working slowly day
by ... he was Rashanah, approaching the Gate of the Wall and looking ...
he was Lohreen discussing the site where ... he was digging the ground,
pushing the heavy cart, lying on the pelt of animals, demolishing the
building which would soon fall, instructing a child in balance.

A dirt-caked street stretched before him by night, the stones
individually cut and smooth with the passage of heavy feet. "Tomorrow we
will set out for the Region of Chalk while there is still time." A
mind-voice from a Hirlaji hundreds, perhaps thousands of years old, dead
but alive in the race-memory. Rynason could feel the whole personality
there, in the memories, but he passed on.

"Murba has said that the priests will take him."

"There is no need for planting this year ... the soil is dry. There is
no purpose."

"The child's mind is ready for war."

He felt Horng himself watching him, beside him or behind him ... nearby,
anyway. The alien heard and saw with him, and stayed with him like a
protector. Rynason felt his presence warmly: the calm of the alien
continued to relax him. Old leather mother-hen, he thought, and Horng
beside him seemed almost amused.

Suddenly he was Tebron.

Tebron Marl, prince in the Region of Mines, young and strong and
ambitious. Rynason caught and held those impressions; he felt the
muscles ripple strangely through his body as Tebron stretched, felt the
cold wind of the flat cut through his loose garment. It was night, and
he stood on the parapet of a heavy stone structure looking down across
the immense stretch of the Flat, spotted here and there by lights. He
controlled all this land, and would control more....

He was Tebron again, marching across the Flat at the head of an army.
Metal weapons hung at the sides of his men, crudely fashioned bludgeons
and jagged-edged swords, all quickly forged in the workshops of the
Region of Mines. The babble of mind voices swelled around him, fear and
anger and boredom, dull resentment, and other emotions Rynason could not
identify. They were marching on the City of the Temple....

He slipped sideways in Tebron's mind, and suddenly he was in the middle
of the battle. There was dust all around, kicked up by the scuffling
feet of the huge warriors, and his breath came in gasps. Mind-voices
shouted and screamed but he paid no attention; he swung his bludgeon
over his head with a ferocity that made it whistle with a low sound in
the wind. One of the defenders broke through the line around him, and he
brought the bludgeon smashing down at him before he could thrust with
his sword; the warrior fell to one side at the last moment and took the
blow along one arm. He could feel the pain in his own mind, but he
ignored it. Before the warrior could bring up his sword again Tebron
crushed his head with the bludgeon, and the scream of pain in his own
head disappeared. He heard the grunting and gasps of his own warriors
and the clash of bodies and weapons around him....

The Hirlaji could not really be moving so quickly, Rynason thought; it
must be that to Tebron it seemed so. They were quiet, slow-moving
creatures. Or had they degenerated physically through the centuries?
Still smelling the sweat of battle, he found Tebron's mind again.

There was still fighting in the city, but it was far away now; he heard
it with the back of his mind as he mounted the steps of the Temple.
Those were mop-up operations, clearing the streets of the last of the
priest-king forces; he was not needed there. He had, to all intents,
controlled the city since the night before, and had slept in the palace
itself. Now it was time for the Temple.

He mounted the heavy, steep steps slowly, three guards at his back and
three in front of him. The priests would be gone from the Temple, but
there might be one or two last-ditch defenders remaining, and they would
be armed with the Weapons of Kor ... hand-weapons which shot dark beams
that could disintegrate anything in their path. They would be dangerous.
Well, there would be no temple-guards in the inner court; his own men
could remain outside to take care of them while he went in.

He stopped halfway up the steps and lifted his head to gaze up at the
Temple walls rising above him. They were solid stone, built in the
fashion of the Old Ones ... smooth-faced except for the carvings above
the entrance itself. They too were in the traditional style, copied
exactly from the older buildings which had been built thousands of years
ago, before the Hirlaji had even developed telepathy. The symbols of Kor
... so now at last he saw them.

Tomorrow he would effect a mass-linkage of minds and broadcast his
orders for reconstruction. That would mean staying up all night
preparing the communication, for it was impossible to maintain complete
planet-wide linkage for too long and Tebron had many plans. Perhaps it
would be possible to find a way to extend the duration of mass-linkages
if the science quest could be pushed forward fast enough.

But that was tomorrow's problem--today, right now, it was right that he
enter the Temple. It was not only symbolic of his assumption of power,
but necessary religiously: every new ruler leader within the memory of
the race had received sanction from Kor first.

A momentary echo-whisper of another mind touched his, and he whirled to
his right to see one of the temple-guards in the shadows; he had been
unable to successfully shield his thoughts. Tebron dropped to the ground
and sent a quick, cool order to his own guards: "Kill him." The heavy,
dark warriors stepped forward as the guard tried to shrink back further
into the shadows. He was trapped.

But not unarmed. As he dropped to the steps and rolled quickly to one
side Tebron heard the low vibration of a disintegrator beam pass over
his shoulder and the crack of the wall behind him as it struck. And then
the guards were on the warrior in the shadows.

They had brought down several of the temple-guards the night before, and
commandeered their weapons. In a matter of moments this one fell too,
his head and most of his trunk gone. One of the warriors shoved the
half-carcass down the stairs, and bent forward at the knees to pick up
his fallen weapon.

So now they had all fourteen of them; if any more of the temple-guards
remained they could be dealt with easily. Tebron rose from the steps and
wished momentarily that those weapons could be duplicated; if his whole
army could be equipped with them.... But after today that would probably
be unnecessary; the entire planet was his now.

He walked up the last few steps and stepped into the shadows of the
Temple of Kor....

The walls melted around him and Rynason felt his mind wrenched
painfully. There was a screaming all through him, thin and high,
blotting out the contact he had held with Tebron's mind. It was Horng's
scream, beside him, overpowering. Terror washed over him; he tried to
fight it but he couldn't. The shadows of the walls twisted and faded,
Tebron's thoughts disappeared, and all that remained was the screaming
and the fear, like a mouth open wide against his ear and hot breath
shouting into him. He felt his stomach turn and nausea and vertigo threw
him panting out of Tebron's mind.

Yet Horng was still beside him in the darkness, and as the echoes faded
he felt him there ... alien, but calm. There had been fear in this huge
alien mind, but it had disappeared almost immediately with the breaking
of the connection with Tebron. All that remained in Horng's mind now was
a dull quietness.

Rynason felt a rueful grin on his face, and he said, perhaps aloud and
perhaps not, "You haven't forgotten what happened here, old leather. The
memories are there, all right."

From Horng's mind came a slow rebuilding of the fear that he had just
experienced, but it subsided. And as it did Rynason probed again into
his mind, searching quickly for that contact he had just lost. He could
almost feel Tebron's mind, began to see the darkness forming the
wall-shadows, when again there was a blast of the terror and he felt his
mind reeling back from those memories. The screaming filled his mind and
body and this time he felt Horng himself blocking him, pushing him back.

But there was no need for that; the fear was not Horng's alone. Rynason
felt it too, and he retreated before its onslaught with an overpowering
need to preserve his own sanity.

When the darkness subsided Rynason became aware of himself still sitting
on the stone bench, sweat drenching his body. Horng sat before him in
the same position he had been in when they had started; it was as if
nothing had happened at all. Rynason wearily raised one hand and
motioned to Mara to break the linkage.

She switched off the telepather and gingerly removed the wires from his
head, frowning worriedly at him. But she waited for him to speak.

He grinned at her after a moment and said, "It was a bit rough in there.
We couldn't break through."

She was removing the wires from Horng, who sat unmoving, staring dully
over Rynason's shoulder at the wall behind him. "You should have seen
yourself when you were under," she said. "I wanted to break the
connection before, but I wasn't sure...."

Rynason sat forward and flexed the muscles of his shoulders and back.
They ached as though they had been tense for an hour, and his stomach
was still knotted tight.

"There's a real block there," he said. "It's like a thousand screaming
birds flapping in your face. When you get that far into his mind, you
feel it too." He sat staring down at his feet, exhausted mentally and

She sat on the bench and looked closely at him. "Anything else?"

"Yes--Horng. At the end, the second time I went in, I could feel him,
not only fighting me, but ... hating me." He looked up at her. "Can you
imagine actually feeling him, right next to you in your mind like you
were one person, hating you?"

Across from them, the huge figure of the alien slowly stood up and
looked at them for several long seconds, then turned and left the


Manning's quarters were larger than most of the prefab structures in the
new Earth town; the building was out near the end of one of the streets,
a single-storied plastic-and-metal box on a quick-concrete slab base.
Well, it was as well constructed as any of the buildings in the Edge
planetfalls, Rynason reflected as he knocked on the door. And there was
room for all of the survey team workers.

Manning himself let him in, grabbing his hand in a firm grip that
nevertheless lacked the man's usual heavy joviality. "Come on in; the
others are already here," Manning said, and walked ahead of him into the
larger of the two rooms inside. His step was brisk as always, but there
was a touch of real hurry in it which Rynason noticed immediately.
Manning was worried about something.

"All right; we're all set," Manning said, leaning against a wall at the
front of the room. Rynason found a seat on the arm of a chair next to
Mara and Marc Stoworth, a slightly heavy, blond-haired man in his
thirties who wore his hair cut short on the sides but long in back. He
looked like every one of the young corporation executives Rynason had
seen in the outworlds, and probably would have gone into that kind of
position if he'd had the connections. He certainly seemed out of place
even among the varied assortment of types who worked the archaeological
and geological surveys ... but these surveys were conducted by the big
corporations who were interested in developing the outworlds; probably
Stoworth hoped eventually to move up into the lower management offices
when the corporations moved in.

"Gentlemen, there's something very wrong about these dumb horses we've
been dealing with," Manning said. "I'm going to throw out a few facts at
you and see if you don't come to the same conclusions that Larsborg and
I did."

Rynason leaned over to Mara and murmured, "What's his problem today?"

But she was frowning. "He's got a real one. Listen."

Manning had picked up a sheaf of typescript from the table next to him
and was flipping through it, his lips pursed grimly. "This is the report
I got yesterday from Larsborg here--architecture and various other
artifacts. It's very interesting. Herb, throw that first photo onto the

The lights went off and the screen in the wall beside Manning lit up
with a reproduction of one of the Hirlaji structures out on the Flat. It
stood in the shadow of an overhanging rock-cliff, protected from the
planet's heavy winds on three sides. Larsborg had apparently set up
lights for a clearer picture; the whole building stood out sharply
against the shadows of the background.

"This look familiar to any of you?" Manning said quietly.

For a moment Rynason continued to stare uncomprehending at the picture.
He had seen a lot of the Hirlaji buildings since they'd landed; this one
was better preserved but not essentially different in design. Larsborg
had cleared away most of the dirt and sand which had been packed up
against its sides, exposing the full height of the structure, and he'd
apparently sand-blasted the carved designs over the entrance, but....

Then he realized what he was seeing. The angle of the photo was a bit
different than that from which he'd seen the other structure back on
Tentar XI, but the similarity was unmistakable. This was a reproduction
in stone of that same building, the one they'd reconstructed two years

He heard a wave of voices growing around the room, and Manning's voice
cut-through it with: "That's right, gentlemen: it's an Outsiders
building. It's not in that crazy, damned metal or alloy or whatever it
was that they used, but it's the same design. Take a good long look at
it before we go on to the next photo."

Rynason looked ... closely. Yes, it was the same design a bit cruder,
and the carvings weren't the same, but the lines of the doorway and the

The next picture flashed onto the screen. It was a closeup of the
designs over the entrance, shot in sharp relief so that they stood out
starkly. The room was so quiet that Rynason could hear the hum behind
the screen in the wall.

"That's Outsiders stuff too," said Breune. "It's not quite the same,
though ... distorted."

"It's carved in stone, not stamped in metal," Manning said. "It's the
same thing, all right. Anybody disagree?"

No one did.

"All right, then; let's have the lights back up again."

The lights came on and once more there was a murmur of talking around
the room. Rynason shifted his position on the seat and tried to catch
the thought that had slipped through his mind just before the screen had
faded. There was another similarity.... Well, he'd seen a lot of the
Outsider buildings in the past few years; it wasn't necessary to trace
all the evidences right now.

"What I want to know is, why didn't any of the rest of you see this?"
said Manning angrily. "Have you all got plastic for brains? Over a dozen
men spend weeks researching these damn horsefaces, and only one of you
has the sense to see the evidence of his own eyes!"

"Maybe we should turn in our spades," said Stoworth.

Manning glared at him. "Maybe you should, if you think this isn't
serious. Let's get this clear: these old horsefaces that so many of you
think are just as quaint as can be have been building in exactly the
same style as the Outsiders. Quaint, are they? Harmless too, I suppose!"

He stood with his hands on his hips, dropped his head and took a long,
deep breath. When he looked up again his forehead was furrowed into an
intense frown. "Gentlemen ... as I call you from force of habit ...
we've been finding dead cities of the Outsiders for centuries. They were
all over God knows how many galaxies before your ancestors or mine had
stopped playing with their tails; as far as we can tell they had a
civilization as tightly-knit as our own, and probably stronger. And
sometime about forty thousand years ago they started pulling out. They
left absolutely nothing behind but empty buildings and a few crumbling
bits of machinery. And we've been following those remains ever since we
got out of our own star-system.

"Well, we just may have found them at last. Right here, on Hirlaj. Now
what do you think of that?"

No one said anything for a minute. Rynason looked down at Mara, caught
her smile, and stood up.

"I don't think the Hirlaji are the Outsiders," he said calmly.

Manning shot a sharp glance at him. "You saw the photos."

"Yes, I saw them. That's Outsiders work, all right, or something a lot
like it. But it doesn't necessarily prove that these ... how many of
them are there? Twenty-five? I don't think these creatures are the
Outsiders. We've traced their history back practically to the point of
complete barbarism. Their culture was never once high enough to get them
off this planet, let alone to let them spread all over among the stars."

Manning waited for him to finish, then he turned back to the rest of the
men in the room and spread his hands. "Now that, gentlemen, just shows
how much we've found out so far." He looked over at Rynason again. "Has
it occurred to you, Lee, that if these horses _are_ the Outsiders, that
maybe they know a little more than we do? I suppose you're going to say
you had a telepathic hookup with one of them and you didn't see a thing
to make you suspicious ... but just remember that they've been using
telepathy for several thousand years and that you hardly know what
you're doing when you try it.

"Look, I don't trust them--if they're the Outsiders they've got maybe a
hundred thousand years head-start on us scientifically. There may be
only a couple dozen of them, but we don't know how strong they are."

"That's if they're really the Outsiders," said Rynason.

Manning nodded his head impatiently. "Yes, that's what I'm saying. If
they're the Outsiders, which looks like a sensible conclusion. Or do you
have a better one?"

"Well, I don't know if it's better," said Rynason. "It may not even be
as attractive, for that matter. But have you considered that maybe when
the Outsiders pulled out of our area they simply moved on elsewhere?
We're so used to seeing dead cities that we think automatically that the
Outsiders must be dead too, which I suppose is what's bothering you
about finding the Hirlaji here alive. But it might be worse. That whole
empire could simply have moved on to this area; we could be on the edge
of it right now, ready to run head-on into a hundred star systems just
crowded with the Outsiders."

Manning stared at him, and the expression on his face was not quite
anger. Something like it, but not anger.

"The ruins we've found here were built by the Hirlaji," Rynason said. "I
saw them building when I was linked with Horng, and these are the same
structures. But the design was copied from older buildings, and I don't
know how far back I'd have to search the memories before I found where
they originally got that kind of approach to design. Maybe back before
they developed telepathy. But this race simply isn't as old as the
Outsiders; they came out of barbarism thousands of years after the
Outsiders had left those dead cities we've been finding. The chances are
that if the Hirlaji were influenced by the Outsiders it was sometime
around thirty thousand years ago ... which means the Outsiders came this
way when they left those cities. That would mean that we're following
them ... and we might catch up at any time."

He stopped for a moment, then said, "We're moving faster than they were,
and we have no idea where they may have settled again. One more starfall
further beyond the Edge, and we may run into one of their present
outposts. But this isn't it. Not yet."

Manning was still staring at Rynason, but it was a curious stare.
"You're pretty sure that what you've been getting out of that
horseface's head is real?" he asked levelly. "You trust them?"

Rynason nodded. "Horng was really afraid; that was real. I felt it
myself. And the rest of it was real, too--I could see the whole racial
memory there, and nobody could have been making that up. If you'd
experienced that..."

"Well, I didn't," Manning said shortly. "And I don't think I trust
them." He paused, and after a moment frowned. "But this direct linkage
business does seem to be the best way we have of checking on them. I
want you to get busy, Lee, and go after that horse's thoughts for us.
Don't let him drive you out again; if he's hiding something, get in
there and see what it is. Above all, don't trust him.

"If these things are the Outsiders, they could be bluffing us."

Manning stopped talking, and thought a minute. He looked up under raised
eyebrows at Rynason. "And be careful, Lee. I'm counting on you."

Rynason ignored his paternal gaze, and turned instead to Mara. "We'll
try it again tomorrow," he said. "Get in a requisition for a telepather
this afternoon; make sure we'll have one ready to go first thing in the
morning. I'll check back with you about an hour after we leave here

She looked up at him, surprised. "Check back? Why?"

"I put in a requisition myself, yesterday. Wine from Cluster II, vintage
'86. I was hoping for some company."

She smiled. "All right."

Manning was ending the session. "...Carl, be sure to get those studies
of the Outsiders artifacts together for me by tonight. And I'm going to
hand back your reports to each of the rest of you; go through them and
watch for those inconsistencies you skipped over the first time. We may
be able to turn up something else that doesn't check out. Go over them
_carefully_--all the reports were sloppy jobs. You're all trying to work
too fast."

Rynason rose with the rest of them, grinning as he remembered how
Manning had rushed those reports. Well, that was one of the privileges
of authority: delegating fault. He started for the door.

"Lee! Hold it a minute; I want to talk to you, alone."

Rynason sat, and when all the others had gone Manning came back and sat
down opposite him. He slowly took out a cigaret and lit it.

"My last pack till the next spacer makes touchdown," he said. "Sorry I
can't offer you one, but I'm a fiend for the things. I know they're
supposed to be non-habit-forming these days, but I'm a man of many

Rynason shrugged, waiting for him to come to the point.

"I guess it makes me a bit more open-minded about what the members of my
staff do," Manning went on. "You know--why should I crack down on
drinking or smoking, for instance, when I do it myself?"

"I'm glad you see it that way," Rynason said drily. "Why did you want me
to stay?"

Manning exhaled a long plume of smoke slowly, watching it through
narrowed eyes. "Well, even though I'm pretty easy going about things, I
do try to keep an eye on you. When you come right down to it, I'm
responsible for every man who's with me out here." He stopped, and
laughed shortly. "Not that I'm as altruistic as that sounds, of
course--you know me, Lee. But when you're in a position of authority you
have to face the responsibilities. You understand me?"

"You have to protect your own reputation back at Cluster headquarters,"
Rynason said.

"Well, yes. Of course, you get into a pattern of thinking eventually ...
sort of a fatherly feeling, I suppose, though I've never even been on
the parentage rolls back on the in-worlds. But I mean it--it happens, I
get that feeling. And I'm getting a bit worried about you, Lee."

Rynason could see what was coming now. He sat further back into the
chair and said, "Why?"

Manning frowned with concern. "I've been noticing you with Mara lately.
You seem pretty interested in her."

"Is she one of those vices you were telling me about, Manning?" said
Rynason quietly. "You want to warn me to stay away from her?"

Manning shook his head, a quick gesture dismissing the idea. "No, Lee,
not at all. She's not that kind of a woman. And that's my point. I can
see how you look at her, and you're on the wrong track. When you're out
here on the Edge, you don't want a wife."

"What I need is some good healthy vice, is that what you mean?"

Manning sat forward. "That puts it pretty clearly. Yeah, that's about
it. Lee, you're building up some strong tensions on this job, and don't
think I'm not aware of it. Telepathing with that horseface is getting
rough, judging from what you've told me. I think you should go get good
and drunk and kick up hell tonight. And take one of the town women;
they're always available. Do you good, I mean it."

Rynason stood up. "Maybe tomorrow night," he said. "Tonight I'm busy.
With Mara." He turned and walked toward the door.

"I'd suggest you get busy with someone else," Manning said quietly
behind him. "I'm really telling you this for your own good, believe it
or not."

Rynason turned at the door and regarded the man coldly. "She's not
interested in you, Manning," he said. He went out and shut the door
calmly behind him.

Manning could be irritating with his conceited posing, but his veiled
threats didn't bother Rynason. In any case, he had something else on his
mind just now. He had finally remembered what it had been about the
carvings over the Hirlaji building in the photo that had touched a
memory within him: there was a strong similarity to the carvings that he
had seen, through Tebron's eyes, outside the Temple of Kor. The symbols
of Kor, Tebron had called them ... copied from the works of the Old

The Outsiders?


They had some trouble getting cooperation from Horng on any further
mind-probing. The Hirlaji lived among some of the ruins out on the Flat,
where the winds threw dust and sand against the weathered stone walls,
leaving them worn smooth and rounded. The aliens kept these buildings in
some state of repair, and there was a communal garden of the planet's
dark, fungoid plant life. As Rynason and Mara strode between the massive
buildings they passed several of the huge creatures; one or two of them
turned and regarded the couple with dull eyes, and went on slowly
through the grey shadows.

They found Horng sitting motionlessly at the edge of the cluster of
buildings, gazing out over the Flat toward the low hills which stood
black against the deep blue of the horizon sky. Rynason lowered the
telepather from his shoulder and approached him.

The alien made no motion of protest when Rynason hooked up the
interpreter, but when the Earthman raised the mike to speak, Horng's dry
voice spoke in the silence of the thin air and the machine's stylus
traced out, THERE IS NO PURPOSE.

Rynason paused a moment, then said, "We're almost finished with our
reports. We should finish today."


"No purpose to the report?" Rynason said after a moment. "It's important
to us, and we're almost finished. There would be even less purpose in
stopping now, when so much has been done."

Horng's large, leathery head turned toward him and Rynason felt the
ancient creature's heavy gaze on him like a shadow.


"We don't think alike," Rynason said to him. "To me there is a purpose.
Will you help me once more?"

There was no answer from the alien, only a slow nodding of his head to
one side, which Rynason took for assent. He motioned Mara to set up the

After their last experience Rynason could understand the creature's
reluctance to continue. Perhaps even his statement that there was no
purpose to the Earthmen's researches made sense--for could the
codification of the history of a dying race mean much to its last
members? Probably they didn't care; they walked slowly through the ruins
of their world and felt all around them fading, and the jumbled past in
their minds must be only one more thing that was to disappear.

And Rynason had not forgotten the terrified waves of hatred which had
blasted at him in Horng's mind--nor had Horng, he was sure.

Mara connected the leads of the telepather while the alien sat
motionlessly, his dark eyes only occasionally watching either of them.
When she was finished Rynason nodded for her to activate the linkage.

Then there was the rush of Horng's mind upon his, the dim
thought-streams growing closer, the greyed images becoming sharper and
washing over him, and in a moment he felt his own thoughts merge with
them, felt the totality of his own consciousness blend with that of
Horng. They were together; they were almost one mind.

And in Horng he heard the whisper of distrust, of fear, and the echoes
of that hatred which had struck at him once before. But they were in the
background; all around him here on the surface was a pervading feeling
of ... uselessness, resignation, almost of unreality. The calm which he
had noted before in Horng had been shaken and turned, and in its place
was this fog of hopelessness.

Tentatively, Rynason reached for the racial memories in that grey mind,
feeling Horng's own consciousness heavy beside him. He found them,
layers of thoughts of unknown aliens still alive here, the pictures and
sounds of thousands of years past. He probed among them, looking again
for the memories of Tebron ... and found what he was searching for.

He was Tebron, marching across that vast Flat which he had seen before,
the winds alive around him among the shuffling feet of his army. He felt
the muscles of his massive legs tight with weariness, and tasted the
dryness of the air as he drew in long gasps. He was still hours from the
City, but they would rest before dawn....

Rynason turned among those memories, moving forward in them, and was
aware of Horng watching him. There was still the wariness in his mind,
and a stir of anxiety, but it was blanketed by the tired hopelessness he
had seen. He reached further in the memories, and....

The temple-guard fell in the shadows, and one of his own warriors
stepped forward to retrieve his weapon. The remains of the guard's body
rolled down three, four, five of the steps of the Temple, and stopped.
His eyes lingered on that body for only a moment, and then he turned and
went up to the entrance.

There was a moaning of pain, or of fright, rising somewhere in his head;
he was only partly aware of it. He walked into the shadows of the
doorway and paused. But only for a moment: there was no movement inside,
and he stepped forward, down one step into the interior.

Screams echoed through the halls and corridors of the Temple--high and
piercing, growing in volume as they echoed, buffeting him almost into
unconsciousness. He knew they were from Horng, but he fought them,
watching his own steps across the dark inner room. He was Tebron Marl,
king priest ruler of all Hirlaj, in the Temple of Kor, and he could feel
the stone solid beneath his feet. Sweat broke out on his back--his own,
or Tebron's? But he _was_ Tebron, and he fought the blast of fear in his
mind as though it were a battle for his very identity. He _was_ Tebron.

The screaming faded, and he stood in silence before the Altar of Kor.

So this is the source, he thought. For how many days had he fought
toward this? It was useless to remember; the muscles of his body were
remembrance enough, and the scar-tissue that hindered the movement of
one shoulder. If he remembered those battles he would again hear the
fading echoes of enemy minds dying within his, and he had had enough of
that. This was the goal, and it was his; perhaps there need be no more
such killing.

He opened his mouth and spoke the words which he had learned so many
years before, during his apprenticeship in the Region of Mines. The
rituals of the Temple were always conducted in the ancient spoken
language; Kor demanded it, and only the priest-caste knew these words,
for they were so old that their form had changed almost completely even
by the time his people had developed telepathy and discarded speech;
they were not communicated to the rest of the people.

"I am Tebron Marl, king priest leader of all Hirlaj. I await your orders

He knelt, according to ritual, and gazed up at the altar. The Eye of Kor
blinked there, a small circle of light in the dark room. The altar was
simple but massive; its heavy columns, built upon the traditional lines,
supported the weight of the Eye. He watched its slow waxing and waning,
and waited; within him, Rynason's mind stirred.

And Kor spoke.

_Remain motionless. Do not go forward._

He felt a child as a wave of sensitivity spread through all of his skin
and his organs sped for a moment. Then it was true: in the Temple of
Kor, the god leader really did speak.

"I await further words."

The Eye held his gaze almost hypnotically in the dimness. The voice
sounded in the huge arched room. _The sciences quests of your race lead
you to extinction. The knowledge words offered to me by your priests
make it clear that within a hundred years your race will leave its
planet. You must not go forward, for that way lies the extermination of
all your race._

His mind swam; this was not what he had expected. The god leader Kor had
always aided his people in their sciences; in the knowledge word
offerings they reported to the Eye the results of their studies, and
often, if asked properly, the god leader would clarify uncertainties
which they faced. But now he ordered an ending to research quests. This
was unthinkable! Knowledge was godhood; godhood was knowledge, of the
essence; the essence was knowing understanding. To him, to his people,
it was a unity--and now that unity repudiated itself. Faintly in the
darkness somewhere he again heard screaming.

"Are we to abandon all progress? Are the stars so dangerous?"

_The concept wish of progress must die within your people. There must be
no purpose in any field of knowledge. You must remain motionless,
consolidate what you have, and live in peace._ The Eye in the dimness
seemed larger and brighter the longer he looked at it; all else in the
echoing room was darkness. _The stars are not dangerous, but there is a
race which rises with you, and it rises more rapidly. Should you expand
into the stars you will only meet that race sooner, and they will be
stronger. They are more warlike than your people; already you are
capable of peace, and that must be your aim. Remain on your world;
consolidate; cultivate the fruits of your civilization as it is, but do
not go forward. In that way, you will have five thousand years before
that race finds you, and if you are no threat to them they will not
destroy you._

He felt a rising anger in him as the god leader's words came to him in
the dark room, and a fear that lay deeper. He was a warrior, and a
quester ... how could he give up all such pursuits, and how could he be
expected to force all his people to do the same? There would be no hope
wish of advance, no curiosity ... no purpose.

"Is this other race so much more advanced than we are?" he asked.

He heard a low humming from the altar and the Eye grew brighter again.
_They are not so much ahead of you now ... but they are more warlike,
and will therefore develop more quickly. In both your races, war is a
quest which you use as a release for what is in you. Your sciences
questings and your wars are the same thing ... you must suppress both.
They are discontentment, and you will find that only in peace, if at

He dipped his head to one side, a gesture of acquiescence or agreement.
He couldn't argue with the god leader Kor, and he had been wrong even to
think of it.

"How am I to suppress the race? Is it possible to convince each of them
of the necessity for abandoning forgetting all questing?"

The Eye hummed, and grew brighter against the darkness of the carved
wall behind it, but it was some time before Kor spoke again. _It would
be impossible to convince every one. The reasons must be kept from them,
and kept from the shared memories; you must not communicate my knowledge
words in any way. Consolidate your power, force peace upon them and lead
them into acceptance. The knowledge questing can be made to die within
them. Remember that there will be no purpose ... in that they must find

The king priest leader of all Hirlaj waited a moment, and was ready to
rise and leave when the Eye spoke again.

_You must abolish the priesthood. The knowledge which I have given to
you must die when you die._

He waited for a long time in the dim, suddenly cold hall for the god
leader to speak again, then slowly rose and walked to the door, the
image of the Eye of Kor still bright in his vision. He stopped outside
the doorway, hearing the soft wind of the city flowing slowly past the
stone archway above him. One of his guards reached out and touched his
mind tentatively, but he blocked his thoughts and strode heavily down
the steps past them.

The sound of the wind above him rose to a screaming, and suddenly it was
as though he were tumbling down the entire length of the stairway,
fragments of sky and stone and faces flashing past in a kaleidoscope,
and the screaming all around him. He almost reached for his bludgeon,
but then he realized that he was not Tebron Marl ... he was Lee Rynason,
and the screaming was Horng and he was being driven out of those
thoughts, tumbling through a thousand memories so fast he could not
grasp any one of them.

He withdrew from Horng's mind as though from a nightmare; he became
aware of his own body, lying in the dust of Hirlaj, and he opened his
eyes and motioned weakly to Mara to break the connection.

When she had done so he slowly sat up and shook his head, waiting for it
to clear. For awhile he had been an ancient king of Hirlaj, and it took
some time to return to the present, to his own consciousness. He was
dimly aware of Mara kneeling beside him, but he couldn't make out her
words at first.

"Are you all right? Are you sure? Look up at me, Lee, please."

He found himself nodding to reassure her, and then he saw the expression
on her face and felt the last wisps of alien fog clearing from his mind.
There were tears in her eyes, and he touched the side of her face with
his hand and said, "I'm all right. But why don't you kiss me or

She did, but before Rynason could really immerse himself in it she broke
away and said, "You must have had a bad time with him! It was as though
you were dead."

He grinned a trifle sheepishly and said, "Well, it was engrossing. You'd
better unhook the beast; he had a bad time of it too."

Mara rose and removed the wires from Horng gingerly. Rynason remained
sitting; some of the meaning of what he had just experienced was coming
to him now. It certainly explained why the Hirlaji had suddenly passed
from their war era into lasting peace, and why the memories had been
blocked. But could he credit those memories of a voice of an alien god?

And sitting in the dust at the edge of the vast Hirlaj plain the full
realization came to him, as it could not when he had been Tebron. Not
only the Temple, but the Altar of Kor itself had been unmistakably the
workmanship of the Outsiders.


They left Horng sitting dully at the edge of the Flat and retraced their
steps through the Hirlaji ruins, still drawing no notice from the
aliens. Rynason had been in some of the small planetfall towns where
settlements had been established only to be abandoned by the main flow
of interstellar traffic ... those backwater areas where contact with the
parent civilization was so slight that an entirely local culture had
developed, almost as different from that of the mainstream Terran
colonies as was this last vestige of the Hirlaji civilization. And in
some of those areas interest in Earth was so slight that the offworlders
were ignored, as the Earthmen were here ... but he had never felt the
total lack of attention that was here. It was not as though the Hirlaji
had seen the Earthmen and grown used to them; Rynason had the feeling
that to the Hirlaji the Earthmen were no more important than the winds
or the dust beneath their feet.

As they passed through the settled portion of the ruins Rynason had to
step around a Hirlaji who crossed his path. He walked silently past, his
eyes not even flickering toward the Earthlings. Crazy grey hidepiles,
Rynason thought, and he and Mara hurried out across the Flat toward the
nearby Earth town.

On the outskirts of the town, where the packed-dirt streets faded into
loose dust and garbage was already piled several feet high, they were
met by Rene Malhomme. He sat long-legged with his back leaning against a
weathered stone outcropping. He seemed old already, though he was not
yet fifty; his windblown hair was almost the color of the surrounding
grey dust and rock--perhaps because it was filled with that dust,
Rynason thought. He stopped and looked down at the worn, tired man whose
eyes belied that weariness.

"And have you communicated with God, Lee Rynason?" Malhomme asked with
his rumbling, sardonic voice.

Rynason met his gaze, wondering what he wanted. He lowered the
telepather pack from his shoulder and set it in the dust. Mara sat on a
low rock beside him.

"Will an alien god do?" Rynason said.

Malhomme's eyes rested on the telepather for a moment. "You spoke with
Kor?" he asked.

Rynason nodded slowly. "I made a linkage with one of the Hirlaji, and
tapped the race-memory. I suppose you could say I spoke with Kor."

"You have touched the alien godhead," Malhomme mused. "Then it's real?
Their god is real?"

"No," said Rynason. "Kor is a machine."

Malhomme's head jerked up. "A machine? _Deus ex machina_, to quote an
ancient curse. We make our own machines, and make gods of them." The
tired lines of his face relaxed. "Well, that's a bit better. The gods
remain a myth, and it's better that way."

Rynason stood over him on the windy Flat, still puzzled by his manner.
He glanced at Mara, but she too was watching Malhomme, waiting for him
to speak again.

Suddenly, Malhomme laughed, a dry laugh which almost rasped in his
throat. "Lee Rynason, I have called men to God for so long that I almost
began to believe it myself. And when the men started talking about the
god of these aliens...." He shook his head, the spent laughter still
drawing his mouth back into a grin. "Well, I'm glad it isn't true.
Religion wouldn't be worth a damn if it were true."

"How did the men find out about Kor?" Rynason asked.

Malhomme spread his hands. "Manning has been talking, as usual. He
ridicules the Hirlaji, and their god. And at the same time he says they
are a menace."

"Why? Is he still trying to work the townsmen up against them?"

"Of course. Manning wants all the power he can get. If it means
sacrificing the Hirlaji, he'll do it." Malhomme stood up, stretching
himself. "He says they may be the Outsiders, and he's stirring up all
the fear he can. He'll grab any excuse, no matter how impossible."

"It's not so impossible," Rynason said. "Kor is an Outsiders machine."

Malhomme stared at him. "You're sure of that?"

He nodded. "There's no doubt of it--I saw it from three feet away." He
told Malhomme of his linkage with Horng, the contact with the memories,
the mind, Tebron, and of the interview with the machine that was Kor.
Malhomme listened with fascination, his shaggy head tilted to one side,
occasionally throwing in a comment or a question.

As he finished, Rynason said, "That race that Kor warned them about
sounds remarkably like us. A warlike race that would crush them if they
left the planet. We haven't found any other intelligent life ... just
the Hirlaji, and us."

"And the Outsiders," said Malhomme.

"No. This was a race which was still growing from barbarism, at about
the same level as the Hirlaji themselves. Remember, the Outsiders had
already spread through a thousand star-systems long before this. No,
we're the race they were warned against."

"What about the weapons?" Malhomme said. "Disintegrators. We haven't got
anything that powerful that a man can carry in his hand. And yet the
Hirlaji had them thousands of years ago."

"Yes, but for some reason they couldn't duplicate them. It doesn't make
sense: those weapons were apparently beyond the technological level of
the Hirlaji, but they had them."

"Perhaps your aliens _were_ the Outsiders," Malhomme said. "Perhaps we
see around us the remnants of a great race fallen."

Rynason shook his head.

"But they must have had some contact with the Outsiders," Mara said.
"Sometime even before Tebron's lifetime. The Outsiders could have left
the disintegrators, and the machine that they thought was a god...."

"That's just speculation," Rynason said. "Tebron himself didn't really
know where they'd come from; they'd been passed down through the
priesthood for a long time, and within the priesthood they did have some
secrets. I suppose if I could search the race-memory long enough I might
find another nice big block there hiding that secret. But it's

"And you may not have time," Malhomme said. "When Manning hears that the
Altar of Kor was an Outsiders machine, there'll be no way left to stop
him from slaughtering the Hirlaji."

"I'm not sure there'll be any real trouble," Rynason said.

Malhomme's lips drew back into the deep lines of his face. "There is
always trouble. Always. Whoever or whatever spoke through the machine
knew that much about us. The only way you could stop it, Lee, would be
to hold back this information from Manning. And to do that, you would
have to be sure, yourself, that there is no danger from the Hirlaji.
You're in the key position, right now."

Rynason frowned. He knew Malhomme was right--it would be difficult to
stop Manning if what he'd said about the man's push for power was true.
But could he be sure that the Hirlaji were as harmless as they seemed?
He remembered the reassuring touch of Horng's mind upon his own, the
calmness he found in it, and the resignation ... but he also remembered
the fear, and the screaming, and the hot rush of anger that had touched

In the silence on the edge of the Flat, Mara spoke. "Lee, I think you
should report it all to Manning."


Her face was clouded. "I'm not sure. But ... when I disconnected the
wires of the telepather, Horng looked at me.... Have you ever looked
into his eyes, up close? It's frightening: it makes you remember how old
they are, and how strong. Lee, that creature has muscles in his face as
strong as most men's arms!"

"He just looked at you?" said Rynason. "Nothing else?"

"That's all. But those eyes ... they were so deep, and so full. You
don't usually notice them, because they're set so deeply in the shadows
of his face, but his eyes are _large_." She stopped, and shook her head
in confusion. "I can't really explain it. When I moved around him to the
other side, I could see his eyes following me. He didn't move,
otherwise--it was as though only his eyes were alive. But they
frightened me. There was much more in them than just ... not seeing, or
not caring. His eyes were alive."

"That's not much evidence to make you think the Hirlaji are dangerous."

"Oh, I don't _know_ if they could be dangerous. But they're not just ...
passive. They're not vegetables. Not with those eyes."

"All right," Rynason said. "I'll give Manning a full report, and we'll
put it in his hands."

He picked up the telepather pack and slung it over his shoulder. Mara
stood up, shaking away the dust which had blown against her feet.

"What will you do," Malhomme asked, "if Manning decides that's enough
cause to kill the Hirlaji?"

"I'll stop him," Rynason said. "He's not in control here, yet."

Malhomme flashed his sardonic smile again. "Perhaps not ... but if you
need help, call to God. The books say nothing about alien races, but
surely these must be God's creatures too. And I'm always ready to break
a few heads, if it will help." He turned and spat into the dust. "Or
even just for the hell of it," he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rynason found Manning that same afternoon, going over reports in his
quarters. As soon as he began his description of the orders given to
Tebron he found that Malhomme's warnings had been correct.

"What did this machine say about us?" Manning asked sharply. "Why were
the Hirlaji supposed to stay away from us?"

"Because we're a warlike race. The idea was that if the Hirlaji stayed
out of space they'd have about five thousand years before we found

"How long ago was all this? I had your report here...."

"At least eight thousand years," Rynason said. "They overestimated us."

Manning stood up, scowling. There were heavy lines around his eyes and
he hadn't trimmed his thin beard. Whatever he was working on, Rynason
thought, he was putting a lot of effort into it.

"This doesn't make sense, Lee. Damn it, since when do machines make
guesses? Wrong ones, at that?"

Rynason shrugged. "Well, you've got to remember that this was an alien
machine; maybe that's the way they built them."

Manning threw a cold glance at him and poured a glass of Sector Three
brandy for himself. "You're not being amusing," he said shortly. "Now,
go on, and make some sense."

"I'd like to," Rynason said. "Frankly, my theory is that the machine was
a communication-link with the Outsiders. It could explain a lot of
things--maybe even the similarities in architecture."

Manning scowled and turned away from him. He paced heavily across the
room and looked out through the plasticene window at the nearly empty,
dust-strewn street for a few moments; when he returned the frown was
still on his face.

"Damn it, Lee, you're not keeping your mind on the problems here. While
you were looking into Horng's mind, how do you know he wasn't spying in
yours? You had an equal hookup, right?"

Rynason nodded. "I couldn't have prevented him in any case. Why? Are we
supposed to be hiding anything?"

"I told you not to trust them!" Manning snapped. "Now if you can't even
match wits with a senile horsehead...."

"You were the one who said they might be more adept at telepathy than we
are," Rynason said. "It was a chance we had to take."

"There's a difference between taking chances and handing them
information on a silver platter," Manning said angrily. "Did you make
any effort at all to keep him from finding out too much about us?"

Rynason shrugged. "I kept him pretty busy. All of the time I was running
through Tebron's memories I could feel Horng screaming somewhere; he
must have been too upset to do any probing in my mind."

Manning was silent for a moment. "Let's hope so," he said shortly. "If
they find out how weak we are, how long it would take us to get
reinforcements out here...."

"They're still just a dying race, remember," Rynason said. "They're not
the Outsiders. What makes you so sure that they're dangerous?"

"Oh, come _on_, Lee! Think! They're in contact with the Outsiders; you
said so yourself. And just remember this: _the Outsiders obviously
considered it inevitable that there would be war between us_. Now put
those two facts together and tell me the horses aren't dangerous!"

Rynason said slowly, "It isn't as simple as that. The order given to
Tebron was to stop all scientific progress and stifle any military
development, and he seems to have done just that. The idea was that if
the Hirlaji were harmless when we found them there might be no need for

"Perhaps. But we weren't supposed to know that they were in contact with
the Outsiders, either--that was probably part of the purpose of the
block in the race-memory. But we got through the block, and they know
it, and presumably by now the Outsiders know it. That changes the
picture, and I'd like to know just how much it changes it."

"They're not in contact with the Outsiders any longer," said Rynason.

"What makes you so sure of that?"

"Tebron broke the contact--that was in the orders too. The priesthood,
which had been the connecting link with the Outsiders through the
machine, was disbanded. When Tebron died he didn't appoint a successor;
the machine hasn't been used since."

Manning thought about that, still frowning. "Where is the machine?"

"I don't know. If it hasn't been kept in repair it might not even be
usable any more, wherever it is."

"I'll tell you something, Lee," said Manning. "There's still too much
that we don't know--and too much that the Hirlaji _do_ know, now.
Whether or not your horse-buddy was picking your brains, they know we're
not as strong as they thought we were. It took us eight thousand years
to get here instead of five thousand. Let's just hope they don't think
about that too much."

He stopped, and paced to the window again. "Look around you, Lee--out on
the street, in the town. We've hardly put our feet down on this planet;
we've got very little in the way of weapons with us and it will take
weeks to get any more in here; there's practically no organization here
yet. We could be wiped off this planet before we knew what hit us. We're
sitting ducks."

He came back to stand before Rynason. "And what about the Outsiders?
They think of us strictly in terms of war, and they've been keeping
themselves away from us all this time. That's obviously why they pulled
out of this sector of space. Up until now we'd thought they were dead.
But now we find they've been in contact with this planet ... all right,
it was eight thousand years ago. But that's a lot more recent than the
last evidences we've had of them, and they've obviously been watching

"Now, you've been in direct contact with the horses' minds; you've
practically been one of them yourself, for awhile. All right, what's
their reaction going to be when they realize that the Outsiders, their
god, overestimated us? What will they do?"

Rynason thought about that. He tried to remember the minds he had
touched during the linkage with Horng: Tebron, the ancient warrior-king,
and the young Hirlaji staring at the buildings of one of the ancient
cities, and the old, dying one who had decided not to plant again one
year ... and Horng himself, tired and calm on the edge of the Flat, amid
the ruins of a city. He remembered the others in that crumbling last
home of an entire race ... slow, quiet, uncaring.

"I don't think they'll do anything. They wouldn't see any point to it."
He paused, remembering. "They lost all their purpose eight thousand
years ago," he said quietly.

Manning grunted. "Somehow I lack your touching faith in them."

"And somehow," Rynason said, "I lack your burning ambition to find an
enemy, a handy menace to crush. You argue too hard, Manning."

Manning raised an eyebrow. "I suppose I haven't even put a doubt in your
mind about them? Not one doubt?"

Rynason turned away and didn't answer.

Manning sighed. "Maybe it's time I went out there myself and had a
seance with the horses." He set down his glass of brandy, which he had
been turning in his hand as he spoke. "Lee, I want you to check back
here with me in two hours ... by then I should have things straightened
up and ready to go."

He strode to the supply closet at one end of the room and took from it a
belt and holster, from which he removed a recent-model regulation
stunner. "This is as powerful a weapon as we have here so far, except
for the heavy stuff. I hope we never have to use any of that--clearing
it for use is a lot of red tape." He looked up and saw the cold
expression on Rynason's face. "Of course, I hope we don't have to use
the stunners, either," he said calmly.

Rynason turned without a word and went to the door. He stopped there for
a moment and watched Manning checking over the weapon. He was thinking
of the disintegrators he had seen on the steps of the Temple of Kor, and
of the shell of a body tumbling out of the shadows.

"I'll see you at 600," he said.


Rynason spent the next two hours in town, moving through the windy
streets and thinking about what Manning had said. He was right, in a
way: this was no more than a foothold for the Earthmen, a touchdown
point. It wasn't even a community yet; buildings were still going up,
prices varied widely not only between landings of spacers but also
according to who did the selling. A lot of the men here were trying some
mining out on the west Flat; their findings had so far been small but
they brought the only real income the planet had so far yielded. The
rest of the town was rising on its own weight: bars, rooming houses,
laundries, and diners--establishments which thrived only because there
were men here to patronize them. Several weeks before a few of the men
had tried killing and eating the small animals who darted through the
alleys, but too many of those men had died and the practice had been
quickly abandoned. And they had noticed that when those animals foraged
in the refuse heaps outside the town, they died too.

A few of the big corporations had sent out field men to look around, but
it was too soon for any industry to have established itself here; all
the planet offered so far was room to expand. Despite the wide expansion
of the Earthmen through the stars, a planet where conditions were at all
favorable for living was not to be overlooked; the continuing population
explosion, despite tight regulations on the inner worlds, had kept up
with the colonization of these worlds, and new room was constantly

But the planetfall on Hirlaj was still new. A handful of Earthmen had
come, but they had not yet brought their civilization with them. They
stood precariously on the Flat, waiting for more settlers to come in and
build with them. If there should be trouble before more men arrived....

At 600 Rynason walked out on the dirt-packed street to Manning's
quarters. He met Marc Stoworth and Jules Lessingham coming out the door.
They looked worried.

"What's wrong?" he said.

They didn't stop as they went by. "Ask the old man," said Stoworth,
going past with an uncharacteristically hurried step.

Rynason went on in through the open door. Manning was in the front room,
amid several crates of stunner-units. He looked up quickly as Rynason
entered and waved brusquely to him.

"Help me get this stuff unloaded, Lee."

Rynason fished for his sheath-knife and started cutting open one of the
crates. "Why are you unloading the arsenal?"

"Because we may need it. Couple of the boys were just out at the
horse-pasture, and they say the friendly natives have disappeared."

"Jules and Stoworth? I met them on the way in."

"They were doing some follow-up work out there ... or at least they were
going to. There's not a single one of them there, not a trace of them."

Rynason frowned. "They were all there this morning."

"They're not there now!" Manning snapped. "I don't like it, not after
what you've told me. We're going to look for them."

"With stunners?"

"Yes. Right now Mara is out at the field clearing several of the fliers
to use in scouting for them."

Rynason stacked the boxes of weapons and power-packs on the floor where
Manning indicated. There were about forty of them--blunt-barrelled guns
with thick casing around the powerpacks, weighing about ten pounds each.
They looked as statically blunt as anvils, but they could stun any
animal at two hundred yards; within a two-foot range, they could shake a
rock wall down.

"How many men are we taking with us?" Rynason asked, eying the stacks on
the floor.

Manning looked up at him briefly. "As many as we can get. I'm calling a
militia; Stoworth and Lessingham went into town to round up some men."

So he was going ahead with the power-grab; Malhomme had been right. No
danger had been proven yet, but that wouldn't stop Manning--nor the
drifters he'd been buying in the town. Killing was an everyday thing to

"How many of the Hirlaji do you think we'll have to kill to make it look
important to the Council?" Rynason asked after a moment, his voice
deliberately inflectionless.

Manning looked up at him with a calculating eye. Rynason met his gaze
directly, daring the man to take offense. He didn't.

"All right, it's a break for me," Manning shrugged. "What did you
expect? There's precious little opportunity on this desert rock for
leadership in any sense that you might approve of." He paused. "I don't
know if it will be necessary to kill any of them. Take it easy and we'll

Rynason's eyes were cold. "All right, we'll see. But just remember, I'll
be watching just as closely as you. If you start any violence that isn't

"What will you do, Lee?" said Manning. "Report me to the Council?
They'll listen to me before they'd pay attention to complaints from a
nobody who's been drifting around the outworlds for most of his life.
That's all you are, you know, Lee--a drifter, a bum, like the rest of
them. That's what everybody out here on the Edge is ... unless he does
something about it.

"I hold the reins right now. If I decide to do something that you don't
like, you won't be able to stop me ... neither you, nor your female

"So Mara's against you too?" Rynason said.

"She made a few remarks earlier," Manning said calmly. "She may regret
it soon enough."

Rynason looked at the man through narrowed eyes for a moment, then
strapped on a gunbelt and loaded one of the stunners. He snapped it into
the holster carefully, wondering just what Manning had meant by his last
remark. Was it a threat in any real sense, or was Manning just letting
off steam? Well, they'd see about that too ... and Rynason would be

       *       *       *       *       *

Within half an hour close to sixty men had collected outside Manning's
door. They were dirty and unshaven; some of them were working in the
town, a few were miners, but most of them were drifters who had followed
the advance of the star frontier, who drank and brawled in the streets
of the town, sleeping by day and raising hell at night. They stole when
they could, killed when they wanted.

The drifters were men who had been all over the worlds of the Edge, who
had spent years watching the new planets opened for colonization and
exploitation, but had never got their own piece. They knew the feel of
these planetfall towns on the Edge, and could talk for hours about the
worlds they had seen. But they were city men, all of them; they had seen
the untamed worlds, but only from the streets. They hadn't taken part in
the exploring or the building, only in the initial touchdowns. When the
building was done, they signed on to the spacers again and drifted to
the next world, farther out.

Rynason looked at their faces from where he stood in the doorway,
listening to Manning talking to them. They were hard men, mean and
sometimes vicious. Nameless faces, all of them, having no place in the
more developed areas of the Terran civilization. And maybe that was
their own fault. But Rynason knew that they were running, not to
anything, but from the civilization itself. Running ... because when an
area was settled and started to become respectable, they began to see
what they did not have. The temporary quarters would come down, to be
replaced by permanent buildings that were meant to be lived in, not just
as places for sleeping. Closets, and shelters for landcars; quadsense
receivers and food integrators. They didn't want to see that ... because
they hated it, or because they wanted it? It didn't matter, Rynason
decided. They ran, and now they were here on the Edge with all their
anger and frustration, and Manning was ready to give them a way to let
it out.

At the side of the mob he saw a familiar grey shock of hair--Rene
Malhomme. Was he with them, then? Rynason craned his neck for a better
view, and for a moment the crowd parted enough to let him see Malhomme's
face. He was looking directly toward Rynason, holding a dully gleaming
knife flat against his thick chest ... and his lips were drawn back into
the crooked, sardonic smile which Rynason had seen many times. No,
Malhomme at least was not part of this mob.

"We already know which direction they went," Manning was saying.
"Lessingham will be in charge of the main body, and you'll follow him.
If he gives you an order, _take it_. This is a serious business; we
won't have room for bickering.

"Some of us will be scouting with the flyers. Well be in radio contact
with you. When we find out where they are we'll reconnoiter and make our
plans from there."

Manning paused, looking appraisingly at the faces before him. "Most of
you are armed already, I see. We have some extra stunners here; if you
need them, come on up. But remember, the men who carry the shockers will
be in front; and their business will be simply to down the horses--any
killing that's to be done will be left to those of you who have knives,
or anything lethal."

There was a rising wave of voices from the crowd. Some men came forward
for weapons; Rynason saw others drawing knives and hatchets, and a few
of them had heavy guns, projectile type. Rynason watched with narrowed
eyes; it had been a filthy maneuver on Manning's part to organize this
mob, and his open acceptance of their temper was dangerous. Once they
were turned loose, what could stop them?

There was a sudden shouting in the back of the mob; men surged and fell
away, cursing. Rynason heard scuffing back there, and sounds of bone
meeting flesh. The men at the front of the mob turned to look back, and
some tried to shove their way through to the fight.

A scream came from the midst of the crowd, and was answered by an
excited, angry swelling of voices around the fighting men. Suddenly
Manning was among them, smashing his way through with a stunner in his
hand, swinging it like a club.

"Get the hell out of the way!" he shouted, stepping quickly through the
men. They grumbled and fell back to let him by, but Rynason heard the
men still fighting in the rear, and then he saw them. There were three
of them, two men and what looked like a boy still in his teens. The boy
had red hair and a dark, ruddy complexion: he was new to the outworlds.
The two older men had the pallor of the Edge drifters, nurtured in the
artificial light of spacers and sealed survival quarters on the less
hospitable worlds.

The larger of the two men had a knife, a heavy blade of a type that was
common out here; many of the men used them as hatchets when necessary.
This one dripped with blood; the smaller man's left arm was torn open
just below the shoulder, and hanging uselessly. He stood swaying in the
dust, hurling a string of curses at the man with the knife, while the
boy stood slightly behind him, staring with both fear and hatred in his
eyes. He had a smaller knife, but he held it loosely and uncertainly at
his side.

Manning stepped between them. He had sized up the situation already, and
he paused now only long enough to bite out three short, clipped words
which told these men exactly what he thought of them. The man with the
knife stopped back and muttered something which Rynason didn't hear.

Manning raised the stunner coldly and let him have it. The blast caught
the man in the shoulder and spun him around, throwing him into the
crowd; several of them went down. The long knife fell to the ground,
where dirt mixed with the blood on it. There was silence.

Manning looked around him, swinging the stunner loosely in his hand.
After a moment he said calmly, but loud enough for all to hear, "We
won't have time for fighting among ourselves. The next man who starts
anything will be killed outright. Now get these men out of here." He
turned and strode back through the mob while the boy and a couple of the
other men took the wounded away.

Malhomme had moved further into the crowd. He was strangely silent;
usually he went among these men roughly and jovially, cursing them all
with goodnatured ease. But now he stood watching the men around him with
a frown creasing his heavily lined face. Malhomme was worried, and
Rynason, seeing that, felt his stomach tighten.

Manning faced the men from the front of the crowd. He stared at them
shrewdly, holding each man's gaze for a few seconds. Then he grinned,
and said, "Save it for the horses, boys. Save it for them."

       *       *       *       *       *

Rynason rode out to the field with Manning, Stoworth, and a few of the
others. It was a short trip in the landcar, and none of them spoke much.
Even Stoworth rode silently, his usual easy flow of trivia forgotten.
Rynason was thinking about Manning: he had handled the outbreak quickly
and decisively enough, keeping the men in line, but it had been only a
temporary measure. They would be expecting some real action soon, and
Manning was already offering them the Hirlaji. If the alarm turned out
to be a false one, would he be as easily able to stop them then?

Or would he even try?

The flyers were ready when they got to the field, but Mara was gone. Les
Harcourt met them at the radio office on the edge of the field; he was
the communications man out here. He led them into the low,
quick-concrete construction office and shoved some forms at Manning to
be signed.

"If there's any trouble, you'll be responsible for it," he said to
Manning. "The men can look out for themselves, but the flyers are
Company property."

Manning scowled impatiently and bent to sign the papers.

"Where's Mara?" Rynason asked.

"She's already taken one of the flyers out," Harcourt said. "Left ten
minutes ago. We've got her screen in the next room." He waved a hand
toward the door in the rear of the room.

Rynason went on back and found the live set. The screen, monitored from
a camera on the flyer, showed the foothills of the southern mountains
over which Mara was flying. They were bare and blunt; the rock
outcroppings which thrust up from the Flat had been weathered smooth in
the passage of years. Mara was passing over a low range and on to the
desert beyond.

Rynason picked up the mike. "Mara, this is Lee; we just got here. Have
you found them yet?"

Her voice came thinly over the speaker. "Not yet. I thought I saw some
movement in one of the passes, but the light wasn't too good. I'm
looking for that pass again."

"All right. We'll be going up ourselves in a few minutes; if you find
them, be careful. Wait for us."

He refitted the mike in its stand and rose. But as he turned to the door
her voice came again: "There they are!"

He looked at the screen, but for the moment he couldn't see anything.
Mara's flyer was coming down out of the rocky hills now, the Flat
stretching before her on the screen. Rynason could see the pass through
which she had been flying, but there was no movement there; it took him
several seconds to see the low ruins off to the right, and the figures
moving through them.

The screen banked and turned toward them; she was lowering her altitude.

"I see them," he said into the mike. "Can't make out what they're doing,
on the screen. Can you see them any more clearly?"

"They're entering one of the buildings down there," she said after a
moment. "I've counted almost twenty of them so far; they must all be

"Can you go down and see what they're doing? The sooner we find out, the
better: Manning's got a pretty ugly bunch of so-called vigilantes on the
way out there."

She didn't reply, but on the screen he saw the crumbling buildings grow
larger and nearer. He could make out individual structures now: a wall
had fallen and was half-buried in the dust and sand; an entire roof had
caved in on another building, leaving only rubble in the interior. It
was difficult to tell sometimes when the original lines of the buildings
had fallen: they had all been smoothed by the wind-blown sand, so that
broken pillars looked almost as though they had been built that way,
smooth and upright, solitary.

At last, he saw the Hirlaji. They were slowly mounting the steps of one
of the largest of the buildings and passing into the shadows of the
interior. This building was not as deteriorated as most of the others;
as Mara's flyer dipped low over it Rynason could see its characteristic
lines unbroken and clear.

With a start, he sat up and said hurriedly, "Mara, take another close
pass over that building, the one they're entering."

In a moment she came in again over the smooth stone structure, and
Rynason looked closely at the screen. There was no mistaking it now: the
high steep steps leading up to a colonnade which almost circled the
building, the large carvings over the main entrance.

"You'd better set down away from them!" he said. "That's the Temple of
Kor!" But even as he finished speaking the image on the screen jolted
and rocked, and the flyer dipped even closer toward the jumbled ruins

"They're firing something!"

He saw that she was trying to gain altitude, but something was wrong;
the buildings on the screen dipped and wavered, up and down, spinning.

"Mara! Pull up--get out of there!"

"One of the wings is damaged," she said quickly, and suddenly there was
another jolt on the screen and he heard her gasp. The picture spun and
righted itself, seemed to hang motionless for a moment, and then the
stone wall of one of the buildings was directly ahead and growing


The image spun wildly, the building filled the screen, and then it went
black; he heard a crash from the speaker, cut off almost before it had
sounded. The room was silent.


Rynason stared at the dead screen for only a moment; he wheeled and ran
back to the outer room.

"Let's get those flyers up! Mara's found them, but they've brought her
down." He was already going out the door as he spoke.

Manning and the others were right behind him as he dashed out onto the
field. Rynason headed for the nearest flyer, a small runabout which had
been discarded as obsolete on the inner worlds and consigned to use out
here on the Edge, where equipment was scarce. He leaped through the port
and was shutting the door when Manning caught it.

"Where are they? What's happened to the woman?"

"They were shooting something!" Rynason snapped. The knife-scar over his
right eye stood out sharply in his anger. "She crashed--may be badly
hurt. She didn't have too much altitude, though. The hell with where she
is--_follow_ me!"

He slammed the door and squeezed into the flying seat. While he warmed
the engines he saw the others scattering across the field to the other
flyers. In a moment the hum of the radioset told him that their
communications were open. He saw the props of the other flyers starting
to turn, and flicked on his mike.

"They're on the other side of the south range," he said quickly. "She
didn't give me coördinates, but I should be able to find the spot. When
we get there, we land away from the city and go in on foot."

Manning's voice came coldly through the radioset: "Are you giving orders
now, Lee?"

"Right now I am, yes! If you want to try going in before reconnoitering,
that's your funeral. They have weapons."

"When we touch ground again I'll take over," Manning said. "Now let's
get going--Lee, you're first."

But Rynason was already starting his run across the field. When he had
some speed he kicked in the rocket booster and fought the little flyer
skyward. When he had caught the air he banked southward and fed the
motors all he had. He didn't look around for the others; he was setting
his own pace.

The mountain range was ten miles to the south; they should be able to
make it in five or six minutes, he figured. Below him on the dry Flat he
saw the pale shadow of his flyer skimming across the dust. The drone of
the motors filled the compartment.

The radio cut in again. It was Manning. "What's this about a city, Lee?
Is that where they are?"

"The City of the Temple," Rynason said. "It's down among overhanging
rocks--no wonder we hadn't seen it before. Doesn't seem to have been
used for centuries or more. But that's where the Temple of Kor is--and
the Hirlaji are all in the Temple."

Static hissed at him for a moment. "How did they bring her down?"
someone asked. It sounded like Stoworth.

"Probably the disintegrators," Rynason said. "The Hirlaji don't have
many of them, but they've got enough power to give us a lot of trouble."

"And they're using them, eh?" Manning said. "What do you think of your
horses now, Lee?"

Rynason didn't answer.

In a few minutes they were over the range. Rynason had to scout for
awhile before he found the pass he had seen on Mara's screen, but once
he saw it below him he followed it out to the other side. The city was
there, lying darkly amid the shadows of the mountains. Rynason banked
off and set down half a mile away.

He waited for the others to land before he left the flyer. He took a
pair of binocs from the supply kit and trained them on the city across
the Flat, but he couldn't find Mara's fallen flyer.

When they were all down he clambered out of the compartment and alighted
heavily in the dust. Manning strode quickly to him, wearing twin
stunners. He took one from its holster and fingered it thoughtfully as
he spoke.

"The main party was back in the pass. They should be here inside half an
hour. We'll storm the temple immediately--we've got them outnumbered."

Rynason made a dubious sound deep in his throat, looking out at the
city. He was remembering that he had seen it before from this Flat ...
and had stormed it before. The defensive walls were high.

"They can fire down on us from the walls," he said in a low voice.
"There's no cover out there--they'd wipe half of us out before we could
get in."

"We can come around from the pass," Manning said. "There's plenty of
cover from that direction."

"And more fortification, too!" Rynason snapped. "Just remember, Manning,
that city was built as a fortress. We'd _have_ to come from the Flat."

Manning paused, frowning. "We've got to take them anyway," he said
slowly. "Damn it, we can't just stand here and wait for them to come out
at us. What are they doing, anyway?"

Rynason regarded the older man for several moments, almost amused.
"Right now," he said, "they're probably having a conference--with the
Outsiders. That's where the machine is, remember."

"Then the sooner we attack, the better," Manning said. "Marc, get the
main party on the hand-radio--tell them to get here as fast as they
can." He turned for a moment to look out across the Flat at the city.
"And you can promise them some action," he said.

Stoworth dropped the radio from his shoulder and threw back the cover.
He switched on the power, and static sounded in the dry air. He lifted
the mike ... and a voice cut through the static.

"Is anyone picking this up? Is anyone there?"

It was Mara's voice.

Rynason knelt beside the set and took the mike from Stoworth's hand.
"This is Lee. Are you hurt?"


"I hear you. Are you hurt?"

"Not badly. Lee, what are you doing? I saw the flyers land."

"Manning wants to attack the city as soon as the land party gets here.
What's going on there?"

"I'm ... in the temple. I've been trying to communicate with them. I've
got an interpreter, but they don't listen to what I say. Lee, this is
incredible here! They've brought out a lot of weapons ... some of them
don't work. The hall is half-filled with dust and sand, and they move so
clumsily! They're trying to hurry, because they saw you too, but it's
like ... like they've forgotten how. They think they can get rid of us
all, but they.... It's pitiful--they're so slow."

"Those disintegrators aren't slow," Rynason said. Manning was standing
beside him; he dropped a hand on his shoulder, but Rynason shook it off.
"Are they using the machine ... the altar?"

"They were using it when they brought me in. I think it _is_ the
Outsiders. But they don't seem to know it's just a machine--they kneel
in front of it, and chant. It's so strange, in that language of theirs
... those thin, high voices, and the echoes...."

"They're holding you prisoner?"

"Yes. I think they want to hold you off till they can get ready for
their own attack."

"_For their what?_" Rynason stood up, and looked toward the city; he
could see no movement there.

"I know ... it's incredible. Lee, they don't know what they're doing.
Horng said on the interpreter that they were going to drive us off the
planet, and then rebuild their cities, and re-arm. It's something to do
with Kor, or the Outsiders. The orders have changed. They think that if
they can drive us away for awhile they can build themselves up to where
they can repel any further touchdowns here."

"This order came from the machine?"

"Yes. There was a mistake, and Horng realized it after you linked with
him this morning. The Outsiders, or Kor or whatever it is, had
overestimated us."

"Maybe then, but not now. They're committing suicide!" Rynason said.

"I know, and I tried to tell them that. But the machine says
differently. Lee, do you think that's really the Outsiders?"

"If it is," he said slowly, "they wouldn't send the Hirlaji against us
without some help." He thought a minute, while the wind of the Flat blew
sand against his leg and static came from the radio. "They could be
making another mistake!" Mara said. "I'm sure what they told the
Outsiders wasn't true--they think they're as strong as they were before.
But their eyes ... their eyes are afraid. I know it."

"Do they know what you're saying to me?"

"No. Lee, I'm not even sure they know what a radio is. Maybe they think
I carry my portable altar with me." Her voice had taken on a frantic
note. "It's a ... a simple case of freedom of religion, Lee! Freedom of

"Mara! Calm down! Calm down!" He waited for a few seconds, until her
voice came again, more quietly:

"I'm sorry ... it's just that they're so...."

"Forget it. Sit tight there. I think I know how to slip in--alone." He
switched off.

He stood up and shrugged his shoulders heavily, loosening his tensed
muscles. Then he turned purposefully to Manning.

"The rest of the party won't be here for awhile yet, so you can't
possibly go in now. I'm going to try to get Mara out before any fighting

"What if they capture you too?" Manning said. "I can't hold off an
attack too long--you could be right about the Outsiders helping them.
The sooner we finish them off, the better."

Rynason looked coldly at him. "You heard what Mara said. We won't have
any trouble taking them. You can't attack them while she's in there,
though. Or can you?"

"Lee. I've told you--I can't take chances. If the Outsiders are in this,
it's a dangerous business. You can go in if you want, but we're not
waiting more than half an hour for you to get out."

Rynason met his gaze steadily for a moment, then nodded brusquely. "All
right." He turned and moved into the over-hanging shadows of the
mountains, toward the ancient, alien city.

       *       *       *       *       *

He stayed in the shadows as he approached the walls of the fortress,
darting quickly across exposed ground. The Hirlaji were large and
powerful, physical battle with them was of course out of the question.
But he had some things on his side: he was small, and therefore less
likely to be seen; he was faster than the quiet, aged aliens. And he
knew the city, the fortress and the temple, almost as well as they did.

Perhaps better, in fact, for his purposes. For while he had shared
Tebron's mind he had been ... not only Tebron, but also Rynason,
Earthman. A corner of his mind had been alert and aware ... hearing the
distant screams of Horng, wondering about the design of the Altar of
Kor. And he had seen other things when he looked through Tebron's eyes:
when the ancient warlord had stormed the city-fortress, there had been
an observer in him who had said: An Earthman could go in this way,
unobserved. A smaller attacker could slip through _here_, could conceal
himself where no Hirlaji could reach.

He arrived, at last, at the base of the wall where the blunt rocks of
the mountains tumbled to a dead-end against flat, weathered stone. So
far he must not have been seen; there had been no disintegrator beams
fired at him, no leathery Hirlaji heads watching from the walls. He
flattened against the stone and raised his eyes to the barriers.

The wall here had been built higher than the portions which faced the
Flat, and it was stronger. No one had tried to storm the city from this
position, because it was too well protected. But the walls had been
built against the heavy, clumsy bodies of the grey aliens; with luck, a
man could scale this wall. The footholds in the weathered stones would
be precarious, but perhaps it could be done. And the Hirlaji, who
regarded this wall as impregnable, would not be guarding it.

Sighting upward from flat against the wall, he chose his path quickly,
and began to climb. The stone was smooth but grainy; he dug his fingers
into narrow niches and pulled himself slowly upward, bracing himself
with footholds whenever he could. It was laborious, painful work; twice
he lost handholds and hung precariously until his straining fingers
again found some indentation. Sweat covered him; the wind from the Flat
whipped around the wall and touched the moisture on his back coldly. But
his face was set in a frozen grimness and though his breath came in
gasps he made no other sound.

When he had neared the top he suddenly seemed to reach a dead-end; the
stones were smooth above him. His arms ached, his shoulders seemed
deadened; he clung numbly to the wall and searched for another path.
When he found it, he had to descend ten feet and move to the right
before he could re-ascend; as he retraced his route down the wall he
noticed blood where his torn fingers had left their mark. But he could
not feel the pain in his fingers.

At last, when the wall had come to seem a separate world of existence
which was all that he would ever know, a vertical plane to which he
clung with dim determination, hardly knowing why any longer ... at last,
he reached the top. His groping hand reached up and found the edge of
the wall; his fingers grasped it gratefully and he pulled himself up to
hang by both hands and survey the interior of the fortress.

A deserted floor stretched before him, shadowed by the late-afternoon
darkness which crept down from the mountains to rest on the aged remains
of the city. Forty feet down the walkway he saw stairs descending, but
his head swam and all he could focus on clearly was the light film of
dust and sand which covered even this topmost level of the city, blown
in shallow drifts against the walls which rose a few feet above the
floor here. There were no footprints in that dust; no one had walked
here for thousands of years.

Wearily, he pulled himself over the last barrier and fell numbly to the
floor, where he lay for long minutes fighting for breath. His lungs were
raw; the thin air of the planet caught and rasped in his throat. His
hands were torn and bleeding, and the knife-scar over his right eye had
begun to throb, but he ignored the pain. He had to clear his head....

Eventually he was able to stand, swaying beneath the dark sky. Below him
he saw the city, broken and dim, empty streets winding between fallen
walls and pillars. Mara's flyer lay shattered against one of those
broken walls; seeing it, he wondered how badly she had been hurt.

He moved toward the stairs, and descended them slowly. The stairs of the
city were as he had remembered them from Tebron's memories, and yet not
the same. To the Earthman they were steep: the steps were like separate
levels, three feet across and almost four feet deep. His legs ached at
each step as the shock of his weight fell on them.

He reached the bottom level and paused in the doorway onto the street.
It was empty, but he had to think a moment before he could remember his
bearings. Yes, the Temple was that way, somewhere down the dusty street.
He moved through the deeper shadows at the base of the buildings,

Tebron had taken this city at the head of a force of warriors. To him it
had been large and majestic, a place of power and knowledge. But
Rynason, moving wearily through the dust of the ages which had fallen
upon the city since the ancient king, found it not merely large, but
huge; not majestic, but futile. And the power and knowledge which it
once had held was but a dusty shadow now. Somewhere ahead, in the
Temple, the survivors of that ages-old culture were trying to bring the
city to life again. With or without the Outsiders, he felt, they must
fail. They really wanted to bring themselves back to life, to reawaken
their minds, their dreams, their own power. But they tried to do it with
memories, and that was not the way.

No one was guarding the Temple. Rynason went up the steps as quickly as
he could, vaulting from level to level, trying to stay in the shadows,
listening for movement. But sounds did not carry far in the air of
Hirlaj; the aliens would not hear him approaching, but he might not hear
any of them either until he stumbled upon them.

At the top of the stairs he darted into the shadows of the colonnade
which surrounded the interior. Doorways opened at intervals of fifty
feet around the building; he would have to circle to the side and enter
there if at all. He slipped quickly between the columns and paused at
the third doorway. He dropped to the floor, lay flat on his chest and
looked inside.

They were all there--two dozen heavy grey aliens, sitting, standing,
staring quietly at the floor. There was little movement among them, but
nevertheless he could feel the excitement which pervaded the Temple. No,
not excitement--anxiety. Fear. Watching those huge bodies huddling into
themselves, he heard an echo of Horng's screams in his mind. These
creatures were afraid of battle, of conflict, and yet they had thrust
themselves into a fight which they must lose. Did they know that? Could
they believe what the machine of the Outsiders told them, after it had
been proven fallible?

The Eye of Kor glowed dully in the dark inner room; two of the Hirlaji
stood silently before it, watching, waiting. But the religion of Kor had
played no part in the lives of the Hirlaji for generations. Now that the
ancient, muddled religion had been brought to life again, could it have
the same hold on them that it had once had?

Mara was on the floor of the Temple, leaning with her back against the
wall. One of the doorways from the outer colonnade was nearby, but five
of the Hirlaji surrounded her. And with a start Rynason noticed that her
left arm hung limp and twisted at her side, and blood showed on her
forehead. Her face showed no emotion, but as he watched she raised her
right hand to run fingers through her long dark hair, nervously.

She had not seen him, but she was waiting. When he made his move she
would follow him. Rynason slipped back from the doorway and circled the
building again until he had reached the entrance nearest the girl. He
drew out his stunner from its holster and looked at it for a moment. He
would have to be fast; his weapon would give him no advantage against
the disintegrators of the Hirlaji, but surprise and speed might. And,
perhaps ... fear.

He broke around the corner of the doorway at a dead run, firing as he
went. Two of the Hirlaji fell before they could even turn; they crumpled
to the floor heavily. Then he screamed--a high scream, like Horng's, and
as loud as he could make it, a wail, a cry of anguish and terror and
pain. They felt it, and it touched a response in them; the Hirlaji who
surrounded Mara twisted to look at him, but they instinctively shrank
away. He continued to fire, bringing down three more of them while the
confusion lasted. He broke through to Mara, who was already on her feet;
without breaking his stride he grasped her by her good shoulder and
pulled her along with him as he ran through.

But some of the Hirlaji recovered in time to block their escape. Rynason
wheeled, looking frantically around the room for an unguarded exit. None
of those within reach were clear. He fired again, and ran for the altar.

One of the Hirlaji had raised a disintegrator; Rynason caught him with
the stunner as he fired, and the beam of the alien's weapon shot past
his leg, digging a pit into the floor beyond him. Other weapons were
raised now; they had only seconds left.

But they had reached the altar; the two Hirlaji there moved to block
them, but they were unarmed and Rynason dropped them with the stunner.
He pushed Mara past them and around to the side of the altar, seeking
cover from the disintegrators.

Behind the altar, there was a space just large enough for them to
squeeze through. Rynason's heart leaped; he pointed quickly to it and
turned to fire again as Mara pushed her way into the narrow aperture. A
disintegrator beam hissed over his head; another tore into the wall two
feet away from him. The Hirlaji were trying to keep their fire away from
the altar itself.

Rynason turned and squeezed behind the altar as soon as Mara was clear.
It was tight, but he made it, and once through the narrow opening they
found more room in the darkness. They could hear noise outside as the
Hirlaji moved toward the altar, but it sounded far away and dim. Mara
moved back into the darkness, and he followed.

They moved perhaps twenty feet into the wall behind the altar before
they were brought to a halt. The passage ended. Well, no matter; if it
was not an escape route, at least it would afford cover from the weapons
of the Hirlaji. Rynason dropped to the floor and rested.

Mara sat beside him. "Lee, you shouldn't have tried it," she said
anxiously. "Now we're trapped." He felt her hand touch his face in the

"Maybe," he said. "But we may be able to catch them off their guard
again, and if so we may be able to get out."

She was silent. He felt her lean against his shoulder wearily, her hair
soft against his neck. Then he remembered that she had been hurt.

"What happened to your arm? And you were bleeding."

"I think it's broken. The bleeding was nothing, though: you should see
yourself. You were so tattered and bloody when you came in that I hardly
knew you. Knights should come in more properly shining armor."

He grinned wearily. "Wait till next time."

"Lee, where are we?" she said abruptly. Their eyes were becoming
adjusted to the darkness, and they could see rising around them a
complexity of machine relays, connectives, and pieces which did not seem
to make sense.

Rynason looked more closely at the complex. It was definitely Outsiders
work, but what was it? Part of the Altar of Kor, obviously, but the
Outsiders telecommunicators had never used such extensive machinery. Yet
it did look familiar. He tried to remember the different types of
Outsiders machinery which had been found and partially reconstructed by
the advancing Earthmen in the centuries past. There weren't many....

Then, suddenly, he had it, and it was so simple that he was surprised he
hadn't thought of it before.

"This is Kor," he said. "It's not a communicator--it's a computer. An
Outsiders computer."


Mara's frown deepened; she looked around them in the dimness, her eyes
taking in the complexity and extent of the circuitry. It faded into the
darkness behind them; lines ran into the walls and floor.

"They built their computers in the grand manner, didn't they?" she said

"I've seen fragments of them before," Rynason said. "This is a big
one--no telling how much area the total complex takes up. One thing's
certain, though: it's no ordinary computer of theirs. Not for plain
math-work, nor even for specialized computations, like the one on Rigel
II--that was apparently used for astrogation, but it wasn't half the
size of this. And navigation between stars, even with the kind of drive
they must have had, is no simple problem."

"The Hirlaji think it's a god," she said.

"That raised another problem," Rynason mused. "The Outsiders built it,
and must have left it here when they pulled back to wherever they were
going ... if they ever left the planet. But the Hirlaji use it, and they
communicate with it verbally. The Hirlaji are apparently responsible for
keeping it protected since then. But why should the Hirlaji be able to
use it?"

"Unless they're the Outsiders after all?" said Mara.

Rynason frowned. "No, I'm still not convinced of that. The clue seems to
be that they communicate verbally with it--they must have been using it
since before they developed telepathy."

"Couldn't there have been direct contact between the Hirlaji and the
Outsiders back when the Hirlaji were just evolving out of the beast

"There must have been," said Rynason. "The Temple rituals are conducted
in an even older form of their language than most remembered--a
proto-language that was kept alive only by the priest caste, because the
machine had been set to respond to that language."

"But aren't primitive languages usually composed of simple, basic words
and concepts? How well could they communicate in such a language?"

"Not very well," Rynason said. "Which would explain why the machine
seemed to make mistakes--clumsiness of language. So the Outsiders,
maybe, left the machine when they pulled out, but they set it to respond
to the Hirlaji language because our horsefaced friends were beginning to
build a civilization of their own and the Outsiders thought they'd leave
them some guidance...." He stopped for a moment, remembering that first
linkage with Horng, and Tebron's memories. "The Hirlaji called them the
Old Ones," he said.

"And that order to Tebron ... about the other race that they would meet
someday. That was based on Outsiders observations."

"I wonder when the Outsiders were on Earth," Rynason said. "Sometime
after we'd started our own rise, certainly. Maybe in ancient
Mesopotamia, or India. Or later, during the Renaissance?"

"The time doesn't matter, does it?" Mara said. "They touched down on
Earth, took note of us, and left. Somehow they thought we were going to
develop more rapidly than we did."

"Probably before the Dark Ages," Rynason said. "Maybe they didn't see
that thousand-year setback coming...." He stopped, and stood up in the
low passageway among the ancient circuitry. "So here we are,
second-guessing the Outsiders. And outside, their proteges have
disintegrators probably left by the Outsiders, and they're just waiting
for us to try to get out."

"Our new-found knowledge isn't doing us much good, is it?" she said.

He shook his head slowly. "When I was still on the secondary senseteach
units I met Rene Malhomme for the first time. My father worked the
spacers, so I don't even remember what planet this was on. But I
remember the night I first saw Rene--he was speaking from the top of a
blue-lumber pile, shouting about the corporations that were moving in.
He was getting all worked up about something, and several people in the
crowd were shouting back at him; I stopped to watch. All of a sudden six
or seven men moved in from somewhere and dragged him down from where he
was standing. There was a fight--people were thrown all around. I hid
till it was over.

"When the crowd finally cleared, there was Rene. His clothes were torn,
but he wasn't hurt. Every one of the men who had attacked him had to be
carried away; I think one of them was dead. Rene stood there laughing;
then he saw me hidden in the darkness and he took me home. He told me
that when he'd been younger he'd worked his way all the way in to Earth,
and studied some of the cultures there. He'd learned karate, which was
an ancient Japanese way of fighting."

Rynason took a deep breath. "He said everything a person learns will be
useful someday. And I believed him."

"A nice parable," Mara said. "We could use him against the Hirlaji,

Rynason was silent, thinking. If they could only catch the aliens off
guard ... but of course they couldn't, now. He let his eyes wander
aimlessly along the circuitry surrounding them. Tell me, old Kor, what
do we do now?

After a moment his eyes narrowed; he reached up and traced a connection
with his fingers, back to the front, toward the altar. It led directly
to ... the speaker!

The voice of Kor.

And if he could interrupt that connection, put his own voice through the
speaker, out through the altar....

"Mara, we're going out. I've found my own brand of karate for our
friends out there."

He helped her to her feet. She moved somewhat painfully, her broken left
arm hanging stiffly at her side, but she made no protest.

"We've got to be fast," he said. "I don't know how well this will
work--it depends on how much they trust their clay-footed god today."
Quickly, he outlined his plan. Mara listened silently and nodded.

Then he set to work. It was largely guesswork, following those intricate
alien connections, but Rynason had seen this part of such machines
before. He found the penultimate point at which the impulses from the
brain were translated into sound and broadcast through the speaker. He
disconnected this, his torn fingers working awkwardly on the delicate


Mara was just inside the narrow passage behind the altar. She nodded

Rynason twisted himself so that he could speak directly into the input
of the speaker. He raised his voice to approximate the thin, high sounds
of the Hirlaji language.

_Remain motionless. Remain motionless. Remain motionless._

The command burst out upon the altar room of the Temple, shattering the
silence. The Hirlaji turned in surprise to the altar--and stood still.

_Remain motionless. Remain motionless._

It was the phrase he had heard the machine use so often to Tebron, king
priest leader of all Hirlaj. It had meant something else then, but the
proto-language of the Hirlaji had no precise meanings; given by itself,
it seemed to mean precisely what it said.

"All right, let's go out!" Rynason said, and the two of them broke from
behind the altar. The Hirlaji stood completely still; several of those
that Rynason had dropped with his stunner had recovered consciousness,
but they made no move either. Rynason and the girl ran right through the
quiet aliens; only a few of them turned shadowed eyes to look at them as
they passed. They made the outside colonnade in safety, and paused

"They may see through this in a minute," Rynason said. "Don't wait for
me--get out of the city!"

"You're not coming?"

"I won't be too far behind. Get going!"

She hesitated only a moment, then hurried down the broad levels of the
Temple steps. Rynason watched her to the bottom, then turned and
re-entered the altar room.

Rynason went quickly among them, taking their weapons. Most of them made
no effort to stop him, but a few tightened their grips on the
disintegrators and he had to pry those thick fingers from the weapons,
cursing to himself. How long would they wait?

There were fourteen of the disintegrators. They were large and heavy; he
couldn't hold them all at once. He dumped five of them outside the altar
room and returned to disarm the rest of the aliens. Sweat formed beads
on his forehead, but he moved without hesitation.

Another of the Hirlaji tightened his grip when Rynason began to take the
weapon from him. He looked up, and saw the quiet eyes of Horng resting
on him. The leathery grey wrinkles which surrounded those eyes quivered
slightly, but otherwise he made no movement. Rynason dropped his gaze
from that contact and wrested the weapon away.

As he started to move on to the next, Horng silently dipped his massive
head to one side. Rynason felt a chill go down his back.

In a few more minutes he had disarmed them all. He set the last three
disintegrators on the stone floor of the colonnade--and a movement in
the distance caught his eye. It was on the south wall of the city; two
men stood for a moment silhouetted against the Flat, then disappeared
into the shadows. In a moment, another man appeared, and he too dropped
inside the wall.

So Manning had already sent the men in. The mob was unleashed.

Rynason hesitated for a moment, then turned and went quickly back into
the altar room. Mara's radio was there; he lifted it by its strap and
took it with him out to the colonnade.

He could see the Earthmen moving through the streets now, darting from
wall to wall in the gathering darkness of evening. In a short time it
would be full night--and Rynason knew that these men would like nothing
better than to attack in the dark.

He warmed the radio and opened the transmitter.

"Manning, call off your dogs. I've disarmed the Hirlaji."

The radio spat static at him, and for several seconds he thought his
signal hadn't even been picked up. But at last there was a reply:

"Then get out of the Temple. It's too late to stop this."


"I said get clear. You've done all you can there."

"Damn it, there's no need for any fighting!"

Manning's voice sounded cold even in the faint reception of the
hand-radio. "That's for me to decide. I'm running this show, remember."

"You're running a massacre!" Rynason shouted.

"Call it what you like. Mara says they weren't so docile when you broke

Rynason's mind raced; he had to stall for time. If he could get Manning
to stop those men until they cooled down....

"Manning, there's no need for this! Didn't she tell you that the altar
is just a computer? These people haven't had anything to do with the
Outsiders since before they can remember!"

The radio carried the faint sound of Manning's chuckle. "So now they're
people to you, Lee? Or are you one of them now?"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Lee, my boy, you're sounding like an old horsefaced nursemaid. You
linked minds with them, and you say you were practically a Hirlaji
yourself when you went into that linkage. Well, I'm not so sure you ever
came out of it. You're _still_ one of them!"

"Is that the only reason you can think of that I might have for wanting
to prevent a massacre?" Rynason said icily.

"If they tried to revolt once, they'll try it again," Manning said.
"Well crush them _now_."

"You think that will impress the Council? Slaughtering the only
intelligent race we've found?"

"I'm not playing to the Council!" Manning snapped. "I've got these men
following me, and I'll listen to what _they_ want!"

Rynason stared at the microphone for a moment. "Are you sure you aren't
afraid of your own mob?" he said.

"We're coming in, Lee. Get out of there or we'll cut you down too."


"I'm switching off."

"_Not quite yet._ There's one more thing, and you'd better hear this

"Make it fast," Manning said. His voice sounded uninterested.

"If any of your boys try to come in, I'll stop them myself. I've got the
disintegrators, and I'll use them."

There was silence from the radio, save for the static. It lasted for
long seconds. Then:

"It's your funeral." There was a faint click as Manning switched off.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rynason stared angrily at the radioset for a moment, then left it lying
at the top of the steps and went back inside. The Hirlaji stood
motionlessly in dimness; it took awhile for Rynason's eyes to adjust to
it. He found the interpreter that Mara had left and quickly hooked it up
to Horng. The alien's eyes, moving heavily in their sockets, watched him
as he connected the wires.

When everything was ready Rynason lifted the interpreter's mike. "The
Earthmen are going to attack you," he said. "I want to help you fight
them off."

There was no reaction from the alien; only those quiet eyes resting on
him like the shadows of the entire past.

"Can you still believe that Kor is a god? That's only a machine--I spoke
through it myself, minutes ago! Don't you realize that?"

After a moment Horng's eyes slowly closed and opened in acknowledgement.

"And all of you will be dead too!" Rynason said.

The huge alien sat unmoving. His eyes turned away from Rynason.

"You've got to fight them!" Rynason said.

But he could see that it was useless. Horng had made no reply, but
Rynason knew what was in his thoughts now.



Wearily, Rynason switched off the interpreter, leaving the wires still
connected to the alien. He walked through the faintly echoing,
dust-filled temple and stepped out onto the colonnade around it. It was
almost dark now; the deep blue of the Hirlaj sky had turned almost black
and the pinpoint lights of the stars broke through. The wind was rising
from the Flat; it caught his hair and whipped it roughly around his
head. He looked up at the emerging stars, remembering the day when Horng
had suddenly, inexplicably stood and walked to the base of a broken
staircase. He had looked up those stairs, past where they had broken and
fallen, past the shattered roof, to the sky. The Hirlaji had never
reached the stars, but they might have. It had taken a god, or a jumbled
legacy from an older, greater race, to forestall them. And now all they
had was the dust and the wind.

Rynason could hear the rising moan of that wind gathering itself around
him, building to a wailing planet-dirge among the columns of the Temple.
And inside, the Hirlaji were dying. The knives and bludgeons of the
Earth mob outside would only complete the job; the Hirlaji were too
tired to live. They dreamed dimly under the shadowed foreheads ...
dreamed of the past. And sometimes, perhaps, of the stars.

Behind the altar, the huge and intricate mass of alien circuits glowed
and clicked and pulsated ... slowly; seemingly at random, but steadily.
The brain must be self-perpetuating to have lasted this long ... feeding
its energy cells from some power-source Rynason could only guess at, and
repairing its time-worn linkages when necessary. In its memory banks was
stored the science of the race which had preceded even the ancient
Hirlaji. The Outsiders had sprung up when this planet was young, had
fought their way to the stars and galaxies, and eventually, when aeons
of time pressed down, had pulled in their outposts and fallen back to
this world. And they had died here, on this world, falling to dust which
was ground under by the grey race which had followed them to dominance.
"Before time," Horng had said; that must have meant before the Hirlaji
had developed telepathy, before the period covered by the race-memory.

But the Outsiders were still here, alive in that huge alien brain ...
the science, the knowledge, the strange arts of a race which had
conquered the stars while men still wondered about the magic of
lightning and fire. A science was encapsuled here which could speak of
war and curiosity as discontent, but could say nothing definite of
contentment. An incomplete science? A merely alien science? Rynason
didn't know.

And the Hirlaji.... Twenty-six of their race remained, dreaming under
heavy domes through which the stars shone at night and silhouetted the
worn edges of broken stone. Twenty-six grey, hopeless beings who had not
even been waiting. And the Earthmen had come.

For a moment Rynason wondered if the Hirlaji did not perhaps carry a
message for the Earthmen too: that decadence was the price of peace,
death the inevitable end of contentment. The Hirlaji had stilled
themselves, back in the grey past ... had taken their measure of quiet
and contentment for thousands of years, the searching drives of their
race dying within them. And this was their end.


Rynason shook himself, and felt the cold wind cut through his clothing;
it reawakened him. Stooping, he gathered up several of the
disintegrators and brought them with him to the head of the massive
stairs up which the attackers must come. He crouched beside those
stairs, watching for movement below. But he couldn't see anything.

Something about the Hirlaji still bothered him; kneeling in the
gathering darkness he finally isolated it in his mind. It was their
hopelessness, the numbness that had crept over them through the
centuries. No purpose? But they had lived in peace for thousands of
years. No, their death was not merely one of decadence ... it was

They had not chosen peace; it had been thrust upon them. The Hirlaji had
been at the height of their power, their growth still gathering momentum
... and they had to stifle it. The end in view didn't really matter: it
had not been what they would have chosen. And, having had peace forced
upon them before they had been ready for it, they had been unable to
enjoy it; and the stifling of scientific curiosity that had been
necessary to complete the suppression of the war-instinct had left the
Hirlaji with nothing.

But it had all been so unnecessary, Rynason thought. The ancient
Outsiders brain, computing from insufficient evidence probably gathered
during a brief touchdown on Earth, had undoubtedly been able to give
only a tentative appraisal of the situation. But the proto-Hirlaji
language was not constructed to accommodate if's and maybe's, and the
judgments of the brain were taken as law by the Hirlaji.

Now the Earthmen for whom this race had deadened itself into
near-extinction would complete the job ... because the Hirlaji had
learned their mistake far too late.

Rynason shook his head; there was a sickness in his stomach, a gnawing
anger at the ways of history. It was capricious, cruel, senseless. It
played jokes spanning millennia.

Suddenly there were sounds on the stairs below him. Rynason's head
jerked up and he saw five of the Earthmen climbing the stairs, moving as
quickly as they could from level to level, crouching momentarily at each
beneath the cover of the steps. He raised one of the disintegrators,
feeling the rage building up within him.

There was a humming sound by his ear; the beam of one of the stunners
passed by him, touching the rock wall. The wall vibrated at the touch,
but the range was too great for the beam to have done it any damage.
They were close enough, though to stun Rynason if they hit him.

He dropped flat, looking for the man who had fired. In a moment he found
him: a small, lean man slipped almost silently over the edge of one of
the step-levels and rolled quickly to cover beneath the next. He had got
further than Rynason had realized; only three levels separated them now.
He could see, from this distance in the near-dark, the cruel lines of
the man's face. It was a harsh, dirty face, with wrinkles like seams;
the man's eyes were harsh slits. Rynason had seen too many faces like
that here on the Edge; this was a man with a bitter hatred, looking for
the chance to unleash it upon anyone who got in his way. And the
enjoyment which Rynason saw gleaming in the man's eyes chilled him

In that moment the man leaped to the next level, sending off a beam
which struck the wall two feet from Rynason; he felt the stinging
vibration against his body as he lay flat. Slowly he sighted the
disintegrator at the top of the level under which the man had crouched
for cover, and waited for his next leap. Within him he felt only a
bitter cold which matched the wind whipping above him.

Again the man moved--but he had crept to the side of the stairs before
he leaped, and Rynason's shot bit into the stone beside him as he rolled
to safety. Now only one level separated them.

Further down the stairs, Rynason saw the others moving up behind the
smaller man. Still more were moving out from the other buildings and
darting to the stairs. But he had no time to hold them back.

There was silence, except for the wind.

And the man leaped, firing once, twice. The second beam took Rynason in
the left wrist and spun him off-balance for a moment. But he was already
firing in return, rolling to one side. His third shot took the man's
right shoulder off, and bit into his neck. The man staggered forward two
steps, trying to raise his stunner again, but suddenly it clattered to
the floor and he crumpled on top of it. A pool of blood spread around

Rynason moved back to the cover of the side wall, and watched for the
other men. The first one had got too near; Rynason hadn't realized how
easily they could approach in this near-darkness. He felt the numbness
of the stunnerbeam spreading nearly to his shoulder; his left arm was
useless. Cursing, he trained the disintegrator along the line of the
steps and fired.

The disintegrator cut through the stone as though it were putty, for a
range of twenty feet. Rynason played the beam back and forth along the
steps, cutting them down to a smooth ramp which the attackers would have
to climb before they could get to him.

One of them tried to leap the last few levels before Rynason could cut
them, but he sliced the man in two through the chest. The separate parts
of the man's body fell and rolled back to the untouched levels below. He
had not had time to utter even a cry of pain.

For a time, now, there was complete silence in the wind. Rynason could
see the inert legs of the last attacker projecting out over the edge of
the third level down, and undoubtedly the others saw them too. They were
hesitating now, unsure of themselves. Rynason stayed pressed to the
stone floor, waiting. The wind whipped in a rising moan through the
upper reaches of the building.

Another of the men slipped over the edge of the massive stairs, hugging
the deeper darkness at the side of the stair-wall, and slowly inched his
way up the newly-flattened ramp. Rynason watched him coldly, through a
grey haze of fury which was yet tinged with despair. What use was all
this, the killing, the blood and sweat and pain? It disgusted him--yet
by its perverse senselessness it angered him too.

He cut a swathe through the crawling man, through head and neck and
back. A gory shell-like hulk slid back to the foot of the ramp.

And abruptly the remaining men broke and ran. One of them rose and
stumbled down the steep levels of the stairs, heedless of his exposure;
with a shock, Rynason saw that it was Rene Malhomme. Another followed
... and another. There were almost a dozen of them on the stairs; they
all broke and ran. Rynason sent one beam after them, biting a depression
into the rock wall beside them. Then they were gone.

Rynason moved back from the head of the stairs and leaned wearily
against the stone. His left arm was beginning to tingle with returning
circulation now; he rubbed it absently with his good hand and wondered
if they would try the sheer walls on the other side of the Temple. He
had scaled one of these ancient walls, but would they try it? Certainly
they stood little chance coming up the stairs, unless they gathered for
a concerted rush. And who would lead such a suicidal attack? These men
were vicious, but they valued their lives too.

Yet he couldn't watch the black walls. Leaving the stairway unguarded
would be the most dangerous course of all.

In a few minutes the hand-radio, forgotten on the stone floor behind
him, flashed an intermittent light which caught his eye in the dusk.
That would be Manning.

Rynason slid the radio over to the head of the stairs and switched on
there, keeping an eye on the stairway.

"Lee, do you hear me?"

"I hear you." His voice was low and bitter.

"I'm coming in to talk. Hold your God damned fire."

"Why should I?" said Rynason,

"Because I'm bringing Mara with me. It's too bad you don't trust me,
Lee, but if that's the way you want it I won't trust you either."

"That's a good idea," he said, and switched off.

Almost immediately he saw them come out from behind the cover of a
fallen wall across the dusty street. Mara walked in front of Manning;
her head was high, her face almost expressionless. The cold wind threw
dust against their legs as they crossed the open space to the base of
the steps.

Rynason stood motionless, watching them come up. Manning still had his
two stunners, but they were in their holsters. He kept behind the girl
all the way, pausing before pushing her up the open ramp at the top,
then moving even more closely behind her. Rynason stood with the
disintegrator hanging loosely in one hand at his side.

On the colonnade Manning gripped the girl by her undamaged arm. He
nodded to one of the doorways into the temple, and Rynason preceded him

As they entered Manning lit a handlight and set it on the floor. The
room was thrown into stark relief, the shadows of the motionless aliens
striking the walls and ceiling with an almost physical harshness.
Manning paused a moment to look at the Hirlaji, and at the altar across
the room.

"We can hear each other in here," he said at last.

"What do you want?" said Rynason. There was cool hatred in his voice,
and the knife-scar on his forehead was a dark snake-line in the hard
glare of the handlight.

Manning shrugged, a bit too quickly. He was nervous. "I want you out of
here, Lee, and I'm not accepting any argument this time."

Rynason looked at Mara, standing helplessly in the older man's grip. He
glanced down at the disintegrator in his hand.

Manning drew one of his stunners quickly, and trained it at Rynason's
face. "I said no arguments. Put the weapon down, Lee."

Rynason couldn't risk a shot at the man, with Mara in front of him. He
carefully laid the disintegrator on the floor.

"Slide it over here."

Rynason kicked it across the floor. Manning bent and picked it up,
returned the stunner to its holster and held the disintegrator on him.

"That's better. Now we can avoid arguments--right, Lee? You've always
like peaceful settlements, haven't you?"

Rynason glared at him, but didn't say anything. He walked slowly into
the center of the room, among the Hirlaji. They paid no attention.

"Lee, he's going to kill them!" Mara burst out.

Rynason was standing now next to the interpreter. The handlight which
Manning had set on the floor across the room was trained upwards, and
the interpreter was still in the darkness. He lowered his head as if in
thought and switched on the machine with his foot.

"Is that true, Manning? Are you going to kill them?" His voice was loud
and it echoed from the walls.

"I can't trust them," Manning said, his voice automatically growing
louder in response to Rynason's own. He stepped forward, pushing Mara in
front of him. "They're not human, Lee--you keep forgetting that, for
some reason. Think of it as clearing the area of hostile native animal
life--that comes under the duties of a governor, now doesn't it?"

"And what about the men outside? Did you put it that way to them?"

"They do what I say!" Manning snapped. "They don't give a damn who they
kill. There's going to be fighting here whether it's against the Hirlaji
or between the townsmen. As governor, I'd rather they took it all out on
the horses here. Domestic tranquillity, shall we say?" He was smiling
now; he had everything in control.

"So that's your purpose?" Rynason said. There was anger in his voice,
feigned or real--perhaps both. But his voice rose still higher. "Is
butchery your only goal in life, Manning?"

Manning stepped toward him again, his eyes narrowing. "Butchery? It's
better than no purpose at all, Lee! It'll get me off of these damned
outworlds eventually, if I'm a good enough butcher. And I mean to be,
Lee ... I mean to be."

Rynason turned his back on the man in contempt, and walked past Horng to
the base of the ancient altar. He looked up at the Eye of Kor, dim now
when not in use. He turned.

"_Is_ it better, Manning?" he shouted. "Does it give you a right to
live, while you slaughter the Hirlaji?"

Manning cursed under his breath, and took a quick step toward Rynason;
his hard, black shadow leaped up the wall.

"_Yes!_ It gives me any right I can take!"

It happened quickly. Manning was now beside the massive figure of the
alien, Horng; in his anger he had loosened his grip on Mara. He raised
the disintegrator toward Rynason.

And Horng's huge fist smashed it from his hand.

Manning never knew what hit him. Before he had even realized that the
disintegrator was gone Horng had him. One heavy hand circled his throat;
the other gripped his shoulder. The alien lifted him viciously and broke
him like a stick; Rynason could almost hear the man's neck break, so
final was that twist of the alien's hands.

Horng lifted the lifeless body above his head and hurled it to the floor
with such force that the man's head was stoved in and his body lay
twisted and motionless where it fell.

Afterwards there was silence in the room, save for the distant sound of
the wind against the building outside. Horng stood looking down at the
broken body at his feet, his expression as unfathomable as it had ever
been. Mara stared in shocked silence at the alien.

Rynason walked slowly to the mike lying beside the interpreter. He
raised it.

"You can move quickly, old leather, when there's a reason for it," he

Horng turned his head to him and silently dipped it to one side.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rynason lifted the broken form of Manning's body and carried it out to
the top of the steps leading down from the temple. Mara went with him,
carrying the handlight; it fell harshly on Manning's crushed features as
Rynason waited atop the huge, steep stairway. The wind tore at his hair,
whipping it wildly around his head ... but Manning's head was caked with
blood. In a moment, the men from the town came out from cover; they
stood at the base of the steps, indecisive.

They too were waiting for something.

Rynason hefted the body up over one shoulder and drew a disintegrator
with the hand he had freed. Slowly, then, he descended the steps.

When he had neared the bottom the circle of men fell back. They were
uneasy and sullen ... but they had seen the power of the disintegrator,
and now they saw Manning's crushed body.

Rynason bent and dropped the body to the ground. He looked up coldly at
the ring of faces and said, "One of the Hirlaji did that with his hands.
That's all--just his hands."

For a moment everyone was still ... and then one of the men broke from
the crowd, snarling, with a heavy knife in his hand. He stopped just
outside the white circle of the handlight, the knife extended before
him. Rynason raised the disintegrator and trained it on him, his face
frozen into a cold mask.

The man stood in indecision.

And from the crowd behind him another figure stepped forward. It was
Malhomme, and his lips were drawn back in disgust. He struck with an
open hand, the side of his palm catching the man's neck beneath his ear.
The man fell sprawling to the ground, and lay still.

Malhomme looked at him for a moment, then he turned to the men behind
him. "That's enough!" he shouted. "_Enough!_" Angrily, he looked down at
the crumpled form of Manning's body. "Bury him!" he said.

There was still no movement from the men; Malhomme grabbed two of them
roughly and shoved them out of the crowd. They hesitated, looking
quickly from Malhomme to the disintegrator in Rynason's hand, then bent
to pick up the body.

"It's a measure of man's eternal mercy," said Malhomme acidly, "that at
least we bury each other." He stared at the men in the mob, and the fury
in his eyes broke them at last. Muttering, shrugging, shaking their
heads, they dispersed, going off in two and threes to take cover from
the wind-driven sand.

Malhomme turned to Rynason and Mara, his face relaxing at last. The hard
lines around his mouth softened into a rueful smile as he put his arm
around Rynason's shoulder. "We can all take shelter in the buildings
here for the night. You could use some rest, Lee Rynason--you look like
hell. And maybe I can put a temporary splint on your arm, woman."

They found a nearby building where the roof had long ago fallen in, but
the walls were still standing. While Malhomme ministered to Mara he did
not stop talking for a moment; Rynason couldn't tell whether he was
trying to keep the girl's mind off the pain or whether he was simply
unwinding his emotions.

"You know, I've preached at these men for so many years I've got
callouses in my throat. And one of these days maybe they'll know what
I'm talking about, so that I won't have to shout." He shrugged. "Well,
it would be a dull world, where I didn't have a good excuse to shout.
Sometimes you might ask your alien friends up there, Lee ... what did
they get out of choosing peace?"

"They didn't choose it," said Rynason.

Malhomme grimaced. "I wonder if anybody, anywhere, ever will. Maybe the
Outsiders did, but they're not around to tell us about it. It's an
intriguing question to think about, if you don't have anything to drink
... what do you do, when there's nothing more to fight against, or even

He straightened up; the splint on Mara's arm was set now. He settled her
back in a drift of sand as comfortably as possible.

"I've got another question," Rynason said. "What were you doing among
those men who came at me on the steps earlier?"

Malhomme's face broke into a wide grin. "That was a suicidal rush on
you, Lee. A damned stupid tactic ... a rush like that is only as strong
as the weakest coward in it. All it takes is one man to break and run,
and everybody else will run too. So it was easy for me to break it up."

Rynason couldn't help chuckling at that; and once he had started, the
tension that had gripped him for the past several hours found release in
a full, stomach-shaking laugh.

"Rene Malhomme," he gasped, "that's the kind of leadership this planet

Mara smiled up from where she lay. "You know," she said, "now that
Manning is dead they'll have to find someone else to be governor...."

"Don't be ridiculous," said Malhomme.

Here's a quick checklist of recent releases of



    D-547 THE SUPER BARBARIANS by John Brunner

    D-550 NO WORLD OF THEIR OWN by Poul Anderson

    D-553 THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND by Wm. H. Hodgson

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    F-141 THE DARKNESS BEFORE TOMORROW by Robert. M. Williams
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    F-145 THE SEED OF EARTH by Robert Silverberg
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    F-147 SEA SIEGE by Andre Norton
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    F-153 THE SWORD OF ALDONES by M. Z. Bradley
          and THE PLANET SAVERS by M. Z. Bradley

    F-154 THE WIZARD OF LINN by A. E. Van Vogt

    F-161 TIMES WITHOUT NUMBER by John Brunner
          and DESTINY'S ORBIT by David Grinnell


    F-167 CATSEYE by Andre Norton

    F-173 SECOND ENDING by James White
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    F-174 FIRST THROUGH TIME by Rex Gordon

          Edited by Donald A. Wollheim

  If you are missing any of these, they can be obtained directly
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       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Note: Typographical errors have been repaired in this text.


    Old: cemetaries
    New: cemeteries

    Old: hefting his repentence sign
    New: hefting his repentance sign

    Old: what happenedt here, old leather
    New: what happened here, old leather

    Old: I suppose, thought I've never even been
    New: I suppose, though I've never even been

    Old: casing aound the powerpacks
    New: casing around the powerpacks

    Old: as staticly blunt as anvils
    New: as statically blunt as anvils

    Old: Rynason knelt beside the set and took the Mike
    New: Rynason knelt beside the set and took the mike

    Old: can repell any further touchdowns
    New: can repel any further touchdowns

    Old: over-hanging shadows of the mounains
    New: over-hanging shadows of the mountains

    Old: collonade
    New: colonnade

    Old: The brain must be eslf-perpetuating
    New: The brain must be self-perpetuating

    Old: their hoplessness,
    New: their hopelessness,

    Old: millenia
    New: millennia


    Old: Manning's quarters, He met Marc Stoworth
    New: Manning's quarters. He met Marc Stoworth

    Old: daring the man to take offense. He didn't."
    New: daring the man to take offense. He didn't.

    Old: "Where's Mara? Rynason asked.
    New: "Where's Mara?" Rynason asked.

    Old: echo of Horng's screams in his mind
    New: echo of Horng's screams in his mind.

    Old: Manning said. I'm going to throw out
    New: Manning said. "I'm going to throw out

    Old: he said. Tonight I'm busy.
    New: he said. "Tonight I'm busy.

  Missing word

    Old: Rynason that that it was Rene Malhomme
    New: Rynason saw that it was Rene Malhomme

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