Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Ullr Uprising
Author: Piper, H. Beam, 1904-1964
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 "Ullr Uprising" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                         Transcriber's Note:

   This etext was produced from Space Science Fiction, February and
   March, 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the
   U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.



                            ULLR UPRISING

                         A STORY IN TWO PARTS

                            [Illustration]



                           BY H. BEAM PIPER


                         ILLUSTRATED BY ORBAN

                            [Illustration]


         "The heathen geeks, they wear no breeks," the Terrans
          sang. But on a crazy world like Ullr, clothes didn't
          make the fighting man. There both red and yellow
          meant danger--and blood!

       *       *       *       *       *



I


The big armor-tender vibrated, gently and not unpleasantly, as the
contragravity field alternated on and off. Sometimes it rocked
slightly, like a boat on the water, and, in the big screen which
served in lieu of a window at the front of the control-cabin, the
dingy-yellow landscape would seem to tilt a little. The air was
faintly yellow, the sky was yellow with a greenish cast, and the
clouds were green-gray.

No human had ever set foot on the surface, or breathed the air, of
Niflheim. To have done so would have been instant death; the air was a
mixture of free fluorine and fluoride gasses, the soil was metallic
fluorides, damp with acid rains, and the river was pure hydrofluoric
acid. Even the ordinary spacesuit would have been no protection; the
glass and rubber and plastic would have disintegrated in a matter of
minutes. People came to Niflheim, and worked the mines and uranium
refineries and chemical plants, but they did so inside power-driven
and contragravity-lifted armor, and they lived on artificial
satellites two thousand miles off-planet. Niflheim was worse than
airless; much worse.

The chief engineer sat at his controls, making the minor lateral
adjustments in the vehicle's position which were not possible to the
automatic controls. At his own panel of instruments, a small man with
grizzled black hair around a bald crown, and a grizzled beard, chewed
nervously at the stump of a dead cigar and listened intently. A large,
plump-faced, young man in soiled khaki shirt and shorts, with
extremely hairy legs, was doodling on his notepad and eating candy out
of a bag. And a black-haired girl in a suit of coveralls three sizes
too big for her, and, apparently, not much of anything else, lounged
with one knee hooked over her chair-arm, staring into the screen at
the distant horizon.

"I can see them," the girl said, lifting a hand in front of her. "At
two o'clock, about one of my hand's-breaths above the horizon. But
only four of them."

The man with the grizzled beard put his face into the fur around the
eyepiece of the telescopic-'visor and twisted a dial. "You have good
eyes, Miss Quinton," he complimented. "The fifth's inside the handling
machine. One of the Ullrans. Gorkrink."

       *       *       *       *       *

The largest of the specks that had appeared on the horizon resolved
itself into a handling-machine, a thing like an oversized
contragravity-tank, with a bull-dozer-blade, a stubby derrick-boom
instead of a gun, and jointed, claw-tipped, arms at the sides. The
smaller dots grew into personal armor--egg-shaped things that sprouted
arms and grab-hooks and pushers in all directions. The man with the
grizzled beard began talking rapidly into his hand-phone, then hung it
up. There was a series of bumps, and the armor-tender, weightless on
contragravity, shook as the handling-machine came aboard.

"You ever see any nuclear bombing, Miss Quinton?" the young man with
the hairy legs asked, offering her his candybag.

"Only by telecast, back Solside," Paula Quinton replied, helping
herself. "Test-shots at the Federation Navy proving-ground on Mars. I
never even heard of nuclear bombs being used for mining till I came
here, though."

"It'll be something to see," he promised. "These volcanoes have been
dormant for, oh, maybe as long as a thousand years; there ought to be
a pretty good head of gas down there. The volcanoes we shot three
months ago yielded a fine flow of lava with all sorts of
metals--nickel, beryllium, vanadium, chromium, iridium, as well as
copper and iron."

"What sort of gas were you speaking about?" she asked.

"Hydrogen. That's what's going to make the fireworks; it combines
explosively with fluorine. The hydrogen-fluorine combination is what
passes for combustion here: the result is hydrofluoric acid, the local
equivalent of water. The subsurface hydrogen is produced when the acid
filters down through the rock, combines with pure metals underneath."

The door at the rear of the control-cabin opened, and Juan Murillo,
the seismologist, entered, followed by an assistant, who was not
human. He was a biped, vaguely humanoid, but he had four arms and a
face like a lizard's, and, except for some equipment on belt, he was
entirely naked.

He spoke rapidly to Murillo, in a squeaking jabber. Murillo turned.

"Yes, if you wish, Gorkrink," he said, in Lingua Terra. Then he turned
back to Gomes as the Ullran sat down in a chair by the door.

"Well, she's all yours, Lourenço; shoot the works."

Gomes stabbed the radio-detonator button in front of him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Out on the rolling skyline, fifty miles away, a lancelike ray of
blue-white light shot up into the gathering dusk--a clump of five
rays, really, from five deep shafts in an irregular pentagon half a
mile across, blended into one by the distance. An instant later, there
was a blinding flash, like sheet-lightning, and a huge ball of
varicolored fire belched upward, leaving a series of smoke-rings to
float more slowly after it. The fireball flattened, then spread to
form the mushroom-head of a column of incandescent gas that mounted to
overtake it, engorging the smoke-rings as it rose, twisting, writhing,
changing shape, turning to dark smoke in one moment and belching flame
and crackling with lightning the next.

"In about half an hour," the large young man told Paula Quinton, "the
real fireworks should be starting. What's coming up now is just small
debris from the nuclear blast. When the shock-waves get down far
enough to crack things open, the gas'll come up, and then steam and
ash, and then magma."

"Well, even this was worth staying over for," the girl said, watching
the screen.

"You going on to Ullr on the _City of Canberra_?" Lourenço Gomes
asked. "I wish I were; I have to stay over and make another shot, in a
month or so, and I've had about all of Niflheim I can take, now."

"When are you going to Terra?" the girl asked him.

"Terra? I don't know; a year, two years. But I'm going to Ullr on the
next ship--the _City of Pretoria_--if we get the next blast off in
time. They want me to design some improvements on a couple of
power-reactors at Keegark so I'll probably see you when I get there."

"Here she comes!" the chief engineer called. "Watch the base of the
column!"

The pillar of fiery smoke and dust, still boiling up from where the
bombs had gone off far underground, was being violently agitated at
the bottom. A series of new flashes broke out, lifting and spreading
the incandescent radioactive gasses, and then a great gush of flame
rose. A column of pure hydrogen must have rushed up into the vacuum
created by the explosion; the next blast of flame, in a lateral sheet,
came at nearly ten thousand feet above the ground. Then geysers of hot
ash and molten rock spouted upward; some of the white-hot debris
landed almost at the acid river, half-way to the armor-tender.

"We've started a first-class earthquake, too," Murillo said, looking
at the instruments.

"About six big cracks opening in the rock-structure. You know, when
this quiets down and cools off, we'll have more ore on the surface
than we can handle in ten years, and more than we could have mined by
ordinary means in fifty."

"Well, that finishes our work," the large young man said, going to a
kit-bag in the corner of the cabin and getting out a bottle. "Get some
of those plastic cups, over there, somebody; this one calls for a
drink."

The Ullran, in the background, rose quickly and squeaked
apologetically. Murillo nodded. "Yes, of course, Gorkrink. No need for
you to stay here." The Ullran went out, closing the door behind him.

"That taboo against Ullrans and Terrans watching each other eat and
drink," Paula Quinton commented. "But you were speaking to him in
Lingua Terra; I didn't know any of them understood it."

"Gorkrink does," Murillo said, uncorking the bottle and pouring into
the plastic cups. "None of them can speak it, of course, because of
the structure of their vocal organs, any more than we can speak their
languages without artificial aids. But I can talk to him in Lingua
Terra without having to put one of those damn gags in my mouth, and he
can pass my instructions on to the others. He's been a big help; I'll
be sorry to lose him."

"Lose him?"

"Yes, his year's up; he's going back to Ullr on the _Canberra_. He's
from Keegark; claims to be a prince, or something. But he's a damn
good worker. Very smart; picks things up the first time you tell him.
I'll recommend him unqualifiedly for any kind of work with
contragravity or mechanized equipment."

They all had drinks, now, except the chief engineer, who wanted a
rain-check on his.

"Well, here's to us," Murillo said. "The first A-bomb miners in
history...."



II


Carlos von Schlichten, General of the troops on Ullr, threw his
cigarette away and set his monocle more firmly in his eye, stepping
forward to let Brigadier-General Themistocles M'zangwe and little
Colonel Hideyoshi O'Leary follow him out of the fort. On the little
hundred-foot-square parade ground in front of the keep, his aircar was
parked, and the soldiers were assembled.

Ten or twelve of them were Terrans--a couple of lieutenants,
sergeants, gunners, technicians, the sergeant-driver and
corporal-gunner of his own car. The other fifty-odd were Ullrans. They
stood erect on stumpy legs and broad, six-toed feet. They had four
arms apiece, one pair from true shoulders and the other connected to a
pseudo-pelvis midway down the torso. Their skins were slate-gray and
rubbery, speckled with pinhead-sized bits of quartz that had been
formed from perspiration, since their body-tissues were silicone
instead of carbon-hydrogen. Their narrow heads were unpleasantly
saurian; they had small, double-lidded red eyes, and slit-like
nostrils, and wide mouths filled with opalescent teeth. Being
cold-blooded, they needed no clothing, beyond their belts and
equipment, and the emblem of the Chartered Ullr Company painted on
their chests and backs. They had no need for modesty, since all were
of the same gender--true, functional hermaphrodites; any individual
among them could bear young, or fertilize the ova of any other
individual.

Fifteen years before, when he had come to Ullr as a newly commissioned
colonel in the army of the Ullr Company, it had taken him some time to
adjust. But now his mind disregarded them and went on worrying about
the mysterious disappearance of pet animals from Terran homes; there
must be some connection with the subtle change he had noticed in the
attitudes of the natives, but he couldn't guess what. He didn't like
it, though, any more than the beginning of cannibalism among the wild
Jeel tribesmen. Or the visit of Paula Quinton on Ullr as field-agent
for the Extraterrestrials' Rights Association; now was no time to stir
up trouble among the natives, unless his hunch was wrong.

He shrugged it aside and climbed into the command-car, followed by
M'zangwe and O'Leary. Sergeant Harry Quong and Corporal Hassan
Bogdanoff took their places in the front seat; the car lifted, turned
to nose into the wind, and rose in a slow spiral.

"Where now, sir?" Quong asked.

"Back to Konkrook; to the island."

       *       *       *       *       *

The nose of the car swung east by south; the cold-jet rotors began
humming, and the hot-jets were cut in. The car turned from the fort
and the mountains and shot away over the foothills toward the coastal
plains. Below were forests, yellow-green with new foliage of the
second growing-season of the equatorial year, veined with narrow dirt
roads and spotted with occasional clearings. Farther east, the dirty
gray woodsmoke of Ullr marked the progress of the charcoal-burnings.
That was the only natural fuel on Ullr; there was too much silica on
Ullr and not enough of anything else; what would be coal-seams on
Terra were strata of silicified wood. And, of course, there was no
petroleum. There was less charcoal being burned now than formerly; the
Ullr Company had been bringing in great quantities of synthetic
thermoconcentrate-fuel, and had been setting up nuclear furnaces and
nuclear-electric power-plants, wherever they gained a foothold on the
planet.

As planets went, Ullr was no bargain, he thought sourly. At times, he
wished he had never followed the lure of rapid promotion and
fanatically high pay and left the Federation regulars for the army of
the Ullr Company. If he hadn't, he'd probably be a colonel, at five
thousand sols a year, but maybe it would be better to be a middle-aged
colonel on a decent planet than a Company army general at twenty-five
thousand on this combination icebox, furnace, wind-tunnel and
stonepile, where the water tasted like soapsuds and left a crackly
film when it dried; where the temperature ranged, from pole to pole,
between two hundred and fifty and minus a hundred and fifty Fahrenheit
and the Beaufort-scale ran up to thirty; where nothing that ran or
swam or grew was fit for a human to eat.

Ahead, the city of Konkrook sprawled along the delta of the Konk river
and extended itself inland. The river was dry, now. Except in Spring,
when it was a red-brown torrent, it never ran more than a trickle, and
not at all this late in the Northern Summer. The aircar lost altitude,
and the hot-jet stopped firing. They came gliding in over the suburbs
and the yellow-green parks, over the low one-story dwellings and
shops, the lofty temples and palaces, the fantastically-twisted
towers, following a street that became increasingly mean and squalid
as it neared the industrial district along the waterfront.

       *       *       *       *       *

Von Schlichten, on the right, glanced idly down, puffing slowly on his
cigarette. Then he stiffened, the muscles around his right eye
clamping tighter on the monocle. Leaning forward, he punched Harry
Quong lightly on the man's right shoulder.

"Yes, sir; I saw it," the Chinese-Australian driver replied. "Terrans
in trouble; bein' mobbed by geeks. Aircar parked right in the bloody
middle of it."

The car made a twisting, banking loop and came back, more slowly. Von
Schlichten had the handset of the car's radio, and was punching out
the combination of the Company guardhouse on Gongonk Island; he held
down the signal button until he got an answer.

"Von Schlichten, in car over Konkrook. Riot on Fourth Avenue, just off
Seventy-second Street." No Terran could possibly remember the names of
Konkrook's streets; even native troops recruited from outside found
the numbers easier to learn and remember. "Geeks mobbing a couple of
Terrans. I'm going down, now, to do what I can to help; send troops in
a hurry. Kragan Rifles. And stand by; my driver'll give it to you as
it happens."

The voice of somebody at the guardhouse, bawling orders, came out of
the receiver as he tossed the phone forward over Harry Quong's
shoulder; Quong caught it and began speaking rapidly and urgently into
it while he steered with the other hand. Von Schlichten took one of
the five-pound spiked riot-maces out of the rack in front of him.

Bogdanoff rose into the ball-turret and swung the twin 15-mm.'s
around, cutting loose. Quong brought the car in fast, at about
shoulder-height on the mob. Between them, they left a swath of
mangled, killed, wounded, and stunned natives. Then, spinning the car
around, Quong set it down hard on a clump of rioters as close as
possible to the struggling group around the two Terrans. Von
Schlichten threw back the canopy and jumped out of the car, O'Leary
and M'zangwe behind him.

There was another aircar, a dark maroon civilian job, at the curb; its
native driver was slumped forward over the controls, a short
crossbow-bolt sticking out of his neck. Backed against the closed door
of a house, a Terran with white hair and a small beard was clubbing
futilely with an empty pistol. He was wounded, and blood was streaming
over his face. His companion, a young woman in a long fur coat, was
laying about her with a native bolo-knife.

       *       *       *       *       *

Von Schlichten's mace had a spiked ball-head, and a four-inch spike in
front of that. He smashed the ball down on the back of one Ullran's
head, and jabbed another in the rump with the spike.

"_Zak! Zak!_" he yelled, in pidgin-Ullran. "_Jik-jik_, you
lizard-faced Creator's blunder!"

The Ullran whirled, swinging a blade somewhere between a big
butcher-knife and a small machete. His mouth was open, and there was
froth on his lips.

"_Znidd suddabit!_" he shrieked.

Von Schlichten parried the cut on the steel shaft of his mace.
"_Suddabit_ yourself!" he shouted back, ramming the spike-end into the
opal-filled mouth. "And _znidd_ you, too," he added, recovering and
slamming the ball-head down on the narrow saurian skull. The Ullran
went down, spurting a yellow fluid about the consistency of gun-oil.

Ahead, one of the natives had caught the wounded Terran with both
lower hands, and was raising a dagger with his upper right. The girl
in the fur coat swung wildly, slashing the knife-arm, then chopped
down on the creature's neck.

Another of them closed with the girl, grabbing her right arm with all
four hands and biting at her; she screamed and kicked her attacker in
the groin, where an Ullran is, if anything, even more vulnerable than
a Terran. The native howled hideously, and von Schlichten, jumping
over a couple of corpses, shoved the muzzle of his pistol into the
creature's open mouth and pulled the trigger, blowing its head apart
like a rotten pumpkin and splashing both himself and the girl with
yellow blood and rancid-looking gray-green brains.

O'Leary, jumping forward after von Schlichten, stuck his dagger into
the neck of a rioter and left it there, then caught the girl around
the waist with his free arm. M'zangwe dropped his mace and swung the
frail-looking man onto his back. Together, they struggled back to the
command-car, von Schlichten covering the retreat with his pistol.
Another rioter was aiming one of the long-barreled native air-rifles,
holding the ten-inch globe of the air-chamber in both lower hands. Von
Schlichten shot him, and the native literally blew to pieces.

For an instant, he wondered how the small bursting-charge of a 10-mm.
explosive pistol-bullet could accomplish such havoc, and assumed that
the native had been carrying a bomb in his belt. Then another
explosion tossed fragmentary corpses nearby, and another and another.
Glancing quickly over his shoulder, he saw four combat-cars coming in,
firing with 40-mm. auto-cannon and 15-mm. machine-guns. They swept
between the hovels on one side and the warehouses on the other,
strafing the mob, darted up to a thousand feet, looped, and came
swooping back, and this time there were three long blue-gray
troop-carriers behind them.

These landed in the hastily-cleared street and began disgorging native
Company soldiers--Kragan mercenaries, he noted with satisfaction. They
carried a modified version of the regular Terran Federation infantry
rifle, stocked and sighted to conform to their physical peculiarities,
with long, thorn-like, triangular bayonets. One platoon ran forward,
dropped to one knee, and began firing rapidly into what was left of
the mob. Four-handed soldiers can deliver a simply astonishing volume
of fire, particularly when armed with auto-rifles having twenty-shot
drop-out magazines which can be changed with the lower hands without
lowering the weapon.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a clatter of shod hoofs, and a company of King Jaikark of
Konkrook's cavalry came trotting up on their six-legged,
lizard-headed, quartz-speckled, mounts. Some of these charged into
side alleys, joyfully lancing and cutting-down fleeing rioters, while
others dismounted, three tossing their reins to a fourth, and went to
work with their crossbows. Von Schlichten, who ordinarily entertained
a dim opinion of the King of Konkrook's soldiery, admitted,
grudgingly, that it was smart work; four hands were a big help in
using a crossbow, too.

A Terran captain of native infantry came over, saluting.

"Are you and your people all right, general?" he asked.

Von Schlichten glanced at the front seat of his car, where Harry
Quong, a pistol in his right hand, was still talking into the
radio-phone, and Hassan Bogdanoff was putting fresh belts into his
guns. Then he saw that they had gotten the wounded man into the car.
The girl, having dropped her bolo, was leaning against the side of the
car.

"We seem to be, Captain Pedolsky. Very smart work; you must have those
vehicles of yours on hyperspace-drive.... How is he, colonel?"

"We'd better get him to the hospital, right away," O'Leary replied. "I
think he has a concussion."

"Harry, call the hospital. Tell them what the score is, and tell them
we're bringing the casualty in to their top landing stage.... Why,
we'll make out very nicely, captain. You'd better stay around with
your Kragans and make sure that these geeks of King Jaikark's don't
let the riot flare up again and get away from them. And don't let them
get the impression that they can maintain order around here without
our help; the Company would like to see that attitude discouraged."

"Yes, sir; I understand." Captain Pedolsky opened the pouch on his
belt and took out the false palate and tongue-clicker without which no
Terran could do more than mouth a crude and barely comprehensible
pidgin-Ullran. Stuffing the gadget into his mouth, he turned and began
jabbering orders.

Von Schlichten helped the girl into the car, placing her on his right.
The wounded civilian was propped up in the left corner of the seat,
and Colonel O'Leary and Brigadier-General M'zangwe took the
jump-seats. The driver put on the contragravity-field, and the car
lifted up.

"Them, see if there's a flask and a drinking-cup in the door pocket
next you," he said. "I think Miss Quinton could use a drink."

       *       *       *       *       *

The girl turned. Even in her present disheveled condition, she was
beautiful--a trifle on the petite side, with black hair and black eyes
that quirled up oddly at the outer corners. Her nails were
black-lacquered and spotted with little gold stars, evidently a new
feminine fad from Terra.

"I certainly could, general.... How did you know my name?"

"You've been on Ullr for the last three months; ever since the _City
of Canberra_ got in from Niflheim. On Ullr, there aren't enough of us
that everybody doesn't know all about everybody else. You're Dr. Paula
Quinton; you're an extraterrestrial sociographer, and you're a
field-agent for the Extraterrestrials' Rights Association, like
Mohammed Ferriera, here." He took the cup and flask from Themistocles
M'zangwe and poured her a drink. "Take this easy, now; Baldur
honey-rum, a hundred and fifty proof."

He watched her sip the stuff cautiously, cough over the first
mouthful, and then get the rest of it down.

"More?" When she shook her head, he stoppered the flask and relieved
her of the cup. "What were you doing in that district, anyhow?" he
wanted to know. "I'd have thought Mohammed Ferriera would have had
more sense than to take you there, or go there, himself, for that
matter," he added quickly.

"We went to visit a friend of his, a native named Keeluk, who seems to
be a sort of combination clergyman and labor-leader," she replied.
"I'm going to observe labor conditions at the North Pole mines in a
short while, and Mr. Keeluk was going to give me letters of
introduction to friends of his at Skilk. We talked with Mr. Keeluk for
a while, and when we came out, we found that our driver had been
killed and a mob had gathered. Of course, we were carrying pistols;
they're part of this survival-kit you make everybody carry, along with
the emergency-rations and the water desilicator. Mr. Ferriera's wasn't
loaded, but mine was. When they rushed us, I shot a couple of them,
and then picked up that big knife.... I never in my life saw anything
as beautiful as you coming through that mob swinging that warclub!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The aircar swung out over Konkrook Channel and headed toward the
blue-gray Company buildings on Gongonk Island, and the Company
airport.

"Just what happened, while you and Mr. Ferriera were in Keeluk's
house, Miss Quinton?" O'Leary asked, trying not to sound official.
"Was Keeluk with you all the time? Or did he go out for a while, say
fifteen or twenty minutes before you left?"

"Why, yes, he did." Paula Quinton looked surprised. "How did you guess
it? You see, a dog started barking, behind the house, and he excused
himself and...."

"A dog?" von Schlichten almost shouted. The other officers echoed him.

"Why, yes...." Paula Quinton's eyes widened. "But there are no dogs on
Ullr, except a few owned by Terrans. And wasn't there something
about ...?"

Von Schlichten had the radio-phone and was calling the command car at
the scene of the riot. The sergeant-driver answered.

"Von Schlichten here; my compliments to Captain Pedolsky, and tell him
he's to make immediate and thorough search of the house in front of
which the incident occurred, and adjoining houses. For his
information, that's Keeluk's house. Tell him to look for traces of
Governor-General Harrington's collie, or any of the other terrestrial
animals that have been disappearing--that goat, for instance, or those
rabbits. And I want Keeluk brought in, alive and in condition to be
interrogated."

"But, what ...?" the girl began, her voice puzzled.

"That's why you were attacked," he told her. "Keeluk was afraid to let
you get away from there alive to report hearing that dog, so he went
out and had a gang of thugs rounded up to kill you."

"But he was only gone five minutes."

"In five minutes, I can put all the troops in Konkrook into action.
Keeluk doesn't have radio or TV--we hope--but he has his forces
concentrated, and he has a pretty good staff."

"But Mr. Keeluk's a friend of ours. He knows what our Association is
trying to do for his people...."

"So he shows his appreciation by setting that mob on you. Look, he has
a lot of influence in that section. When you were attacked, why wasn't
he out trying to quiet the mob?"

"When they jumped you, you tried to get back into the house," M'zangwe
put in. "And you found the door barred against you."

"Yes, but...." The girl looked troubled; M'zangwe had guessed right.
"But what's all the excitement about the dog? What is it, the sacred
totem-animal of the Ullr Company?"

"It's just a big brown collie named Stalin. But somebody stole it, and
Keeluk was keeping it. We want to know why. We don't like geek
mysteries--not when they lead to murderous attacks on Terrans, at
least."

It seemed to satisfy her, as the aircar let down on the hospital
landing stage. But it didn't satisfy von Schlichten. He could smell
trouble brewing. Just what could the geeks do with a dog? Nothing, so
far as he could tell--but they didn't go in for such behaviour without
what they considered good reason. Good for them, that is!



III


Governor-General Sidney Harrington had a ruddy outdoors-man's face and
a ragged gray mustache; in his old tweed coat spotted with pipe ashes,
he might have been any of a dozen-odd country-gentlemen of von
Schlichten's boyhood in the Argentine. His face was composed enough
for the part, too. But beyond him in the governor's office,
Lieutenant-Governor Eric Blount matched von Schlichten's frown, his
sandy-haired and younger face puckered in worry.

"We picked up a few of Keeluk's goon-gang," von Schlichten was
reporting. "But I doubt if they'll tell us anything we don't already
know. The dog was gone, but we found where it had been kept; at least
one of the rabbits had been there, too. No trace of the goat. Anyhow,
the riot's been put down. The Kragans and some of King Jaikark's
infantry are patrolling the section. Jaikark's troops are busy making
mass arrests. Either more slaves for the King's court favorites or
else our Prime Minister Gurgurk wants to use them for patronage."

Blount nodded. "Gurgurk's building quite a political organization,
lately. He must be about ready to shove Jaikark off the throne."

"Oh, Gurgurk wouldn't dare try anything like that," Harrington said.
"He knows we wouldn't let him get away with it."

"Then why's he subsidizing this Mad Prophet Rakkeed?" Blount wanted to
know. "Rakkeed is preaching a holy war against all Terrans and against
Jaikark. Gurgurk subsidizes Rakkeed, and...."

"You haven't any proof of that," the governor protested.

Blount shrugged, his face looking grim. Von Schlichten knew how he
felt. They couldn't prove it, but both knew that Rakkeed had been
getting funds from the hands of Gurgurk. The prophet had been stepping
up his crusade against the Terrans, and Gurgurk wasn't the only one
backing him. The Prime Minister probably figured on using Rakkeed to
stir up an outbreak; then Gurgurk could step in, after Jaikark was
killed, put down the revolt he helped incite, and claim to be the best
friend of the Company. But the question was whether Rakkeed could be
used that way. He was becoming more of a menace than Gurgurk could
ever be. Everywhere they turned, Rakkeed was at the bottom of their
trouble--just in this case, where Keeluk was one of Rakkeed's
followers.

His power seemed to be growing, too. There were rumors that he had
been entertained at the palace in Keegark, just as he was usually
entertained by the big shipowning nobles here at Konkrook; come to
think of it, the last time here, he'd been guest of the Keegarkan
ambassador. He went all over Ullr, crusading, traveling coolie-class
in disguise on Company ships, according to their best information.

Blount sighed heavily. "This damned dog business worries me."

"Worries me, too," Harrington said. "I'm fond of that mutt, and God
only knows what sort of stuff he's been getting to eat."

"I'm a lot more worried about why Keeluk was hiding him, and why he
was willing to murder the only two Terrans on Konkrook who trust him,
to prevent our finding out he had Stalin," Blount struck in.

Von Schlichten chain-lit another cigarette and stubbed out the old
one. "Maybe Keeluk turned him over to Rakkeed to kill before a
congregation of his followers--killing us in effigy. Or maybe they
figure we worship Stalin, and getting him would give them power over
us. I wish I knew a little more about Ullran psychology."

"One thing," Blount said. "It doesn't take any Ullran psychologist to
know about eighty per cent of them hate us poisonously."

"Oh, rubbish!" Harrington blew the exclamation out around his pipe
stem with a gush of smoke. "A few fanatics hate us, but nine-tenths of
them have benefitted enormously from us."

"And hate us more deeply with each new benefit," Blount added. "They
resent everything we've done for them."

"Yes, this spaceport proposition of King Orgzild of Keegark looks like
it, doesn't it?" Harrington retorted. "He hates us so much he's
offered us a spaceport at his city...."

"At what cost?" Blount asked. "He takes the land from some noble he
executes for treason and gives it to us--together with forced labor.
We furnish everything else. We get a port we don't need, and he gets
all the business it'll bring. In fact, considering that Rakkeed is a
welcome guest there, I wonder if he isn't fomenting trouble here at
Konkrook to make us move our main base to Keegark. He's so sure we'll
accept already that he's started building two new power-reactors to
handle the additional demand from increased business."

"Where's he getting the plutonium?" von Schlichten asked,
suspiciously.

"He just bought four tons of it from us, off the _City of Pretoria_,"
Harrington replied.

"A hell of a lot of plutonium," Blount said. "I wonder if he has any
idea of what else plutonium can be used for?"

"Oh, God, I hope not!" Harrington exclaimed. "Bosh! What about those
letters Keeluk gave the Quinton girl?"

"All addressed to rabidly anti-Terran Rakkeed disciples," von
Schlichten replied. "We couldn't find any indication of a cipher, but
the gossip about Keeluk's friends might have had code-meanings. I'll
have to advise her to have nothing to do with any of the people
Keeluk gave her letters to."

"Think she'll listen to you? These Extraterrestrial Rights Association
people are a lot of blasted fanatics, themselves. They think we're a
gang of bloody-fisted, flint-hearted imperialists."

"Oh, they're not as bad as all that. Old Mohammed Ferriera's always
been decent enough. And the Association's really done a lot of good in
other places."

A calculating look came into Harrington's eye. "She was going to
Skilk, eh? And you're going there yourself, to investigate some of
this Rakkeed worry of Eric's. Why not invite her along, and maybe you
can plant a couple of ideas where they'll do the most good. We all
know there are a lot of things at the polar mines that would look bad
to anybody who didn't understand. And with all this trouble being
stirred up now...."

It was his first admission that there _was_ trouble, but von
Schlichten let it pass. "Her company wouldn't be any heavy cross to
bear," he replied. "I won't guarantee anything, of course...."

The intercom-speaker on the table whistled, and Harrington flipped a
switch and spoke into the box. "Governor," a voice replied out of it,
"there's a geek procession just landed from a water-barge in front,
coming up the roadway to Company House. A platoon of Jaikark's
Household Guards with a royal litter, Spear of State, gift-litter,
nobles and such."

"Gurgurk with indemnity for the riot, eh? Let them in, give them an
honor guard of Kragans, but keep their own gun-toters outside. Take them
to Reception Hall until I signal from Audience Hall, then herd them in."
He flipped back the switch and turned back. "We'll have to let them wait
or they'll think we're worried. But you see--everything's going along
normal lines."

Blount nodded, but his face showed disbelief. And von Schlichten
grumbled unhappily to himself, without knowing why, until they finally
went out to the big Audience Hall to meet the delegation.

Governor-General Sidney Harrington, on the comfortably-upholstered
bench on the dais of the Audience Hall, didn't look particularly
regal. But then, to a Terran, any of the kings of Ullr would have
looked like a freak birth in a lizard-house at a zoo; it was hard to
guess what impression Harrington would make on the Ullran psychology.

He took the false palate and tongue-clicker, officially designated as
an "enunciator, Ullran" and, colloquially, as a geek-speaker, out of
his coat pocket and shoved it into his mouth. Von Schlichten and
Blount put in theirs, and Harrington pressed the floor-button with his
toe. After a brief interval, the wide doors at the other end of the
hall slid open, and the Konkrookan notables, attended by a dozen
Company native-officers and a guard of Kragan Rifles, entered. The
honor-guard advanced in two columns; between them marched an unclad
and heavily armed native carrying an ornate spear with a three-foot
blade upright in front of him with all four hands. It was the
Konkrookan Spear of State; it represented the proxy-presence of King
Jaikark. Behind it stalked Gurgurk, the Konkrookan equivalent of Prime
Minister or Grand Vizier; he wore a gold helmet and a thing like a
string-vest made of gold wire, and carried a long sword with a
two-hand grip, a pair of Terran automatics built for a hand with
six-four-knuckled fingers, and a pair of matched daggers. He was
considerably past the Ullran prime of life--seventy or eighty, to
judge from the worn appearance of his opal teeth, the color of his
skin, and the predominantly reddish tint of his quartz-speckles. The
retinue of nobles behind Gurgurk ran through the whole spectrum, from
a princeling who was almost oyster-gray to the Keegarkan Ambassador,
who was even blacker and more red-speckled than Gurgurk.

Four slaves brought up in the rear, carrying an ornately inlaid box on
poles. When the spear-bearer reached the exact middle of the hall, he
halted and grounded his regalia-weapon with a thump. Gurgurk came up
and halted a couple of paces behind and to the left of the spear, and
most of the other nobles drew up in two curved lines some ten paces to
the rear; the ambassador and another noble came up and planted
themselves beside Gurgurk.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Governor-General rose slowly and descended from the dais,
advancing to within ten paces of the Spear, von Schlichten and Blount
accompanying him.

"Welcome, Gurgurk," Harrington gibbered through his false palate. "The
Company is honored by this visit."

"I come in the name of my royal master, His Sublime and Ineffable
Majesty, Jaikark the Seventeenth, King of Konkrook and of all the
lands of the Konk Isthmus," Gurgurk squeaked and clicked. "I have the
honor to bring with me the Lord Ambassador of King Orgzild of Keegark
to the court of my royal master."

"And I," the ambassador said, after being suitably welcomed, "am
honored to be accompanied by Prince Gorkrink, special envoy from my
master, His Royal and Imperial Majesty King Orgzild, who is in your
city to receive the shipment of power-metal my royal master has been
honored to be permitted to purchase from the Company."

More protocol about welcoming Gorkrink. Then Gurgurk cleared his
throat with a series of barking sounds.

"My royal master, His Sublime and Ineffable Majesty, is prostrated
with grief," he stated solemnly. "Were his sorrow not so overwhelming,
he would have come in His Own Sacred Person to express the pain and
shame which he feels that people of the Company should be set upon and
endangered in the streets of the royal city."

"The soldiers of His Sublime and Ineffable Majesty came most promptly
to the aid of the troops of the Company, did they not, General von
Schlichten?" Harrington asked, solemn-faced.

"Within minutes, Your Excellency," von Schlichten replied gravely.
"Their promptness, valor and efficiency were most exemplary."

       *       *       *       *       *

Gurgurk spoke at length, expressing himself as delighted, on behalf of
his royal master, at hearing such high praise from so distinguished a
soldier. Eric Blount contributed a short speech, beseeching the gods
that the deep and beautiful friendship existing between the Chartered
Ullr Company and His Sublime etcetera would continue unimpaired. The
Keegarkan Ambassador spoke his piece, expressing on behalf of King
Orgzild the deepest regret that the people of the Company should be so
molested, and managing to hint that things like that simply didn't
happen at Keegark.

The Prince Gorkrink then spoke briefly, in sympathy. Von Schlichten
noticed that a few of his more recent quartz-specks were slightly
greenish in tinge, a sure sign that he had, not long ago, been exposed
to the fluorine-tainted air which men and geeks alike breathed on
Niflheim. When a geek prince hired out as a laborer for a year on
Niflheim, he did so for only one purpose--to learn Terran
technologies.

Gurgurk then announced that so enormous a crime against the friends of
His Sublime etcetera had not been allowed to go unpunished, signalling
behind him with one of his lower hands for the box to be brought
forward. The slaves carried it to the front, set it down, and opened
it, taking from it a rug which they spread on the floor. On this, from
the box, they placed twenty-four newly severed opal-grinning heads, in
four neat rows. They had all been freshly scrubbed and polished, but
they still smelled like crushed cockroaches.

The three Terrans looked at them gravely. A double-dozen heads was
standard payment for an attack in which no Terran had been killed.
Ostensibly, they were the heads of the ringleaders; in practice, they
were usually lopped from the first two-dozen prisoners or overage
slaves at hand, without regard for whether the victims had ever heard
of the crime they were expiating.

There was another long speech from Gurgurk, with the nobles behind him
murmuring antiphonal agreement--standard procedure, for which there
was a standard pun, geek chorus--and a speech of response from Sid
Harrington. Standing stiffly through the whole rigamarole, von
Schlichten waited for it to end, as, finally, it did.

They walked back from the door, whence they had escorted the
delegation, and stood looking down at the saurian heads on the rug.
Harrington raised his voice and called to a Kragan sergeant whose
chevrons were painted on all four arms.

"Take this carrion out and stuff it in the incinerator," he ordered.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Wait a minute," von Schlichten told the sergeant. Then he disgorged
and pouched his geek-speaker. "See that head, there?" he asked,
rolling it over with his toe. "I killed that geek, myself, with my
pistol. And Hid O'Leary stuck a knife in that one." He walked around
the rug, turning heads over with his foot. "This was a cut-rate
head-payment; they just slashed off two-dozen heads at the scene of
the riot. Six months ago, Gurgurk wouldn't have tried to pull anything
like this. Now he's laughing up his non-existent sleeve at us."

"That's what I've been preaching, all along," Eric Blount took up
after him. "These geeks need having the fear of Terra thrown into
them."

"Oh, nonsense, Eric; you're just as bad as Carlos, here!" Harrington
tut-tuted. "Next, you'll be saying that we ought to depose Jaikark
and take control ourselves."

"Well, what's wrong with that, for an idea?" von Schlichten demanded.

"My God!" Harrington exploded. "Don't let me hear that kind of talk
again! We're not _conquistadores_: we're employees of a business
concern, here to make money honestly, by exchanging goods and services
with these people...."

       *       *       *       *       *

He turned and walked away, out of the Audience Hall, leaving von
Schlichten and Blount to watch the removal of the geek-heads.

"You know, I went a little too far," von Schlichten confessed. "Or too
fast, rather."

"We can't go too slowly, though," Blount replied.

Von Schlichten nodded seriously. "Did you notice the green specks in
the hide of that Prince Gorkrink?" he asked. "He's just come back from
Niflheim. Probably on the _Canberra_, three months ago."

"And he's here to get that plutonium, and ship it to Keegark on the
_Oom Paul Kruger_," Blount considered. "I wonder just what he learned,
on Niflheim."

"I wonder just what's going on at Keegark," von Schlichten said.
"Orgzild's pulled down a regular First-Century-model iron curtain. You
know, four of our best native Intelligence operatives have been
murdered in Keegark in the last three months, and six more have just
vanished there."

"Well, I'm going there in a few days, myself, to talk to Orgzild about
this spaceport deal," Blount said. "I'll have a talk with Hendrik
Lemoyne and Colonel MacKinnon. And I'll see what I can find out for
myself."

"Well, let's go have a drink," von Schlichten suggested.

But he kept remembering the falsehood of Gurgurk's indemnity. When the
Ullrans started making a mockery of such things, it was no time for
Harrington's trusting policies. The smell of trouble was suddenly
stronger in his nostrils.



IV


Von Schlichten and Blount entered the bar together. Going to a
bartending machine, von Schlichten dialed the cocktail they had
decided upon and inserted his key to charge the drinks to his account,
filling a four-portion jug.

As they turned away, they almost collided with Hideyoshi O'Leary and
Paula Quinton. The girl wore a long-sleeved gown to conceal a bandage
on her right wrist, and her face was rather heavily powdered in spots;
otherwise she looked none the worse for recent experiences. Von
Schlichten invited her and her escort to join him and Blount. Colonel
O'Leary was carrying a cocktail jug and a couple of glasses; finding a
table out of the worst of the noise, they all sat down together.

"I suppose you think it's a joke, our being nearly murdered by the
people we came to help," Paula began, a trifle defensively.

"Not a very funny joke," von Schlichten told her. "It's been played on
us till it's lost its humor."

"Yes, geek ingratitude's an old story to all of us," Blount agreed.
"You stay on this planet very long and you'll see what I mean."

"You call them that, too?" she asked, as though disappointed in him.
"Maybe if you stopped calling them geeks, they wouldn't resent you the
way they do. You know, that's a nasty name; in the First Century
Pre-Atomic, it designated a degraded person who performed some sort of
revolting public exhibition...."

"As far as that goes, you know what the geek name for a Terran is?"
Blount asked. "_Suddabit_."

She looked puzzled for a moment, then slipped in her enunciator. Even
in the absence of any native, she used her handkerchief to mask the
act.

"Suddabit," she said, distinctly. "Sud-da-a-_bit_." Taking out the
geek-speaker, she put it away. "Why, that's exactly how they'd
pronounce it!"

"And don't tell me you haven't heard it before," O'Leary said. "The
geeks were screaming it at you, over on Seventy-second Street, this
afternoon. _Znidd suddabit_; kill the Terrans. That's Rakkeed the
Prophet's whole gospel."

"So you see," Eric Blount rammed home the moral, "this is just another
case of nobody with any right to call anybody else's kettle black....
Cigarette?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Thank you." She leaned toward the lighter-flame O'Leary had snapped
into being. "I suspect that of being a principle you'd like me to bear
in mind at the Polar mines, when I see, let's say, some laborer being
beaten by a couple of overseers with three foot lengths of
three-quarter-inch steel cable."

"If you think the natives who work at the mines feel themselves
ill-treated, you might propose closing them down entirely and see what
the native reaction would be," von Schlichten told her.
"Independently-hired free workers can make themselves rich, by native
standards, in a couple of seasons; many of the serfs pick up enough
money from us in incentive-pay to buy their freedom after one season."

"Well, if the Company's doing so much good on this planet, how is it
that this native, Rakkeed, the one you call the Mad Prophet, is able
to find such a following?" Paula demanded. "There must be something
wrong somewhere."

"That's a fair question," Blount replied, inverting a cocktail jug
over his glass to extract the last few drops. "When we came to Ullr,
we found a culture roughly like that of Europe during the Seventh
Century Pre-Atomic. We initiated a technological and economic
revolution here, and such revolutions have their casualties, too. A
number of classes and groups got squeezed pretty badly, like the
horse-breeders and harness-manufacturers on Terra by the invention of
the automobile, or the coal and hydroelectric interests when direct
conversion of nuclear energy to electric current was developed, or the
railroads and steamship lines at the time of the discovery of the
contragravity-field. Naturally, there's a lot of ill-feeling on the
part of merchants and artisans who weren't able or willing to adapt
themselves to changing conditions; they're all backing Rakkeed and
yelling '_Znidd suddabit!_' now. But it is a fact, which not even
Rakkeed can successfully deny, that we've raised the general living
standard of this planet by about two hundred per cent."

       *       *       *       *       *

Both jugs were empty. Colonel O'Leary, as befitted his junior rank,
picked them up; after a good-natured wrangled with von Schlichten,
Blount handed the colonel his credit-key.

"The merchants in the North don't like us; beside spoiling the
caravan-trade, we're spoiling their local business, because the
landowning barons, who used to deal with them, are now dealing
directly with us. At Skilk, King Firkked's afraid his feudal nobility
is going to force a Runnymede on him, so he's been currying favor with
the urban merchants; that makes him as pro-Rakkeed and as anti-Terran
as they are. At Krink, King Jonkvank has the support of his barons,
but he's afraid of his urban bourgeoisie, and we pay him a handsome
subsidy, so he's pro-Terran and anti-Rakkeed. At Skilk, Rakkeed comes
and goes openly; at Krink he has a price on his head."

"Jonkvank is not one of the assets we boast about too loudly,"
Hideyoshi O'Leary said, pausing on his way from the table. "He's as
bloody-minded an old murderer as you'd care not to meet in a dark
alley."

"We can turn our backs on him and not expect a knife between our
shoulders, anyhow," von Schlichten said. "And we can believe, oh, up
to eighty per cent of what he tells us, and that's sixty per cent
better than any of the other native princes, except King Kankad, of
course. The Kragans are the only real friends we have on this planet."
He thought for a moment. "Miss Quinton, are you doing sociographic
research-work here, in addition to your Ex-Rights work?" he asked.
"Well, let me advise you to pay some attention to the Kragans."

"Oh, but they're just a parasite-race on the Terrans," Dr. Paula
Quinton objected. "You find races like that all through the explored
Galaxy--pathetic cultural mongrels."

Both men laughed heartily. Colonel O'Leary, returning with the jugs,
wanted to know what he'd missed. Blount told him.

"Ha! She's been reading that thing of Stanley-Browne's," he said.

"What's the matter with Stanley-Browne?" Paula demanded.

"Stanley-Browne is one author you can depend on," O'Leary assured her.
"If you read it in Stanley-Browne, it's wrong. You know, I don't think
she's run into many Kragans. We ought to take her over and introduce
her to King Kankad."

       *       *       *       *       *

Von Schlichten allowed himself to be smitten by an idea. "By Allah, so
we had!" he exclaimed. "Look, you're going to Skilk, in the next week,
aren't you? Well, do you think you could get all your end-jobs cleared
up here and be ready to leave by 0800 Tuesday? That's four days from
today."

"I'm sure I could. Why?"

"Well, I'm going to Skilk, myself, with the armed troopship
_Aldebaran_. We're stopping at King Kankad's Town to pick up a
battalion of Kragan Rifles for duty at the Polar mines, where you're
going. Suppose we leave here in my command-car, go to Kankad's Town,
and wait there till the _Aldebaran_ gets in. That would give us about
two to three hours. If you think the Kragans are 'pathetic cultural
mongrels', what you'll see there will open your eyes. And I might add
that the nearest Stanley-Browne ever came to seeing Kankad's Town was
from the air, once, at a distance of more than four miles."

"Well, general, I'll take you up," she said. "But I warn you; if this
is some scheme to indoctrinate me with the Ullr Company's side of the
case and blind me to unjust exploitation of the natives here, I don't
propagandize very easily."

"Fair enough, as long as you don't let fear of being propagandized
blind you to the good we're doing here, or impair your ability to
observe and draw accurate conclusions. Just stay scientific about it
and I'll be satisfied. Now, let's take time out for lubrication," he
said, filling her glass and passing the jug.

Two hours and five cocktails later, they were still at the table, and
they had taught Paula Quinton some twenty verses of _The Heathen
Geeks, They Wear No Breeks_, including the four printable ones.

       *       *       *       *       *

Four days later they stood together as the aircar passed over the
Kraggork Swamps--pleasantly close together, von Schlichten realized.
For the moment, he could almost forget the queer, intangible tension
that had been growing steadily, and the feeling that things were
nearing a breaking point of some kind.

Von Schlichten was scanning the horizon ahead. He pulled over a pair
of fifty-power binoculars on a swinging arm and put them where she
could use them.

"Right ahead, there; just a little to the left. See that brown-gray
spot on the landward edge of the swamp? That's King Kankad's Town.
It's been there for thousands of years, and it's always been Kankad's
Town. You might say, even the same Kankad. The Kragan kings have
always provided their own heirs, by self-fertilization. The offspring
is an exact duplicate of the single parent. The present Kankad speaks
of his heir as 'Little Me,' which is a fairly accurate way of putting
it."

He knew what she was seeing through the glasses--a massive butte of
flint, jutting out into the swamp on the end of a sharp ridge, with a
city on top of it. All the buildings were multi-storied, some piling
upward from the top and some clinging to the sides. The high
watchtower at the front now carried a telecast-director, aimed at an
automatic relay-station on an unmanned orbiter two thousand miles
off-planet.

"They're either swamp-people who moved up onto that rock, or they're
mountaineers who came out that far along the ridges and stopped," she
said. "Which?"

"Nobody's ever tried to find out. Maybe if you stay on Ullr long
enough, you can. That ought to be good for about eight to ten honorary
doctorates. And maybe a hundred sols a year in book royalties."

"Maybe I'll just do that, general.... What's that, on the little
island over there?" she asked, shifting the glasses. "A clump of
flat-roofed buildings. Under a red-and-yellow danger-flag."

"That's Dynamite Island; the Kragans have an explosives-plant there.
They make nitroglycerine, like all the thalassic peoples; they also
make TNT and propellants. Learned that from us, of course. They also
manufacture most of their own firearms, some of them pretty
extreme--up to 25-mm. for shoulder rifles. Don't ever fire one; it'd
break every bone in your body."

"Are they that much stronger than us?"

He shook his head. "Just denser; heavier. They're about equal to us in
weight-lifting. They can't run, or jump, as well as we can. We often
come out here for games with the Kragans, where the geeks can't watch
us. And that reminds me--you're right about that being a term of
derogation, because I don't believe I've ever knowingly spoken of a
Kragan as a geek, and in fact they've picked up the word from us and
apply it to all non-Kragans. But as I was saying, our baseball team
has to give theirs a handicap, but their football team can beat the
daylights out of ours. In a tug-of-war, we have to put two men on our
end for every one of theirs. But they don't even try to play tennis
with us."

"Don't the other natives make their own firearms?"

"No, and we're not going to teach them how!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The aircar came in, circling slowly over the town on the big rock, and
let down on the roof of the castle-like building from which the
watchtower rose. There were a dozen or so individuals waiting for
them--the five Terrans, three men and two women, from the telecast
station, and the rest Kragans. One of these, dark-skinned but with
speckles no darker than light amber, armed only with a heavy dagger,
came over and clapped von Schlichten on the shoulder, grinning
opalescently.

"Greetings, Von!" he squawked in Kragan, then, seeing Paula, switched
over to the customary language of the Takkad Sea country. "It makes
happiness to see you. How long will you stay with us?"

"Till the _Aldebaran_ gets in from Konkrook, to pick up the Rifles,"
von Schlichten replied, in Lingua Terra. He looked at his watch. "Two
hours and a half.... Kankad, this is Paula Quinton; Paula, King
Kankad."

He took out his geek-speaker and crammed it into his mouth. Before any
other race on Ullr, that would have been the most shocking sort of bad
manners, without the token-concealment of the handkerchief. Kankad
took it as a matter of course. At some length, von Schlichten
explained the nature of Paula's sociographic work, her connection with
the Extraterrestrials' Rights Association, and her intention of going
to the Arctic mines. Kankad nodded.

"You were right," he said. "I wouldn't have understood all that in
your language. If I had read it, maybe, but not if I heard it." He put
his upper right hand on Paula's shoulder and uttered a clicking
approximation of her name. He turned and introduced another Kragan,
about his own age, who wore the equipment and insignia of a Company
native-major and was freshly painted with the Company emblem. "This is
Kormork. He and I have borne young to each other. Kormork, you watch
over Paula Quinton." He managed, on the second try, to make it more or
less recognizable. "Bring her back safe. Or else find yourself a good
place to hide."

Kankad introduced the rest of his people, and von Schlichten
introduced the Terrans from the telecast-station. Then Kankad looked
at the watch he was wearing on his lower left wrist.

"We will have plenty of time, before the ship comes, to show Paula the
town," he suggested. "Von, you know better than I do what she would
like to see."

       *       *       *       *       *

He led the way past a pair of long 90-mm. guns to a stone stairway.
Von Schlichten explained, as they went down, that the guns of King
Kankad's town were the only artillery above 75-mm. on Ullr in
non-Terran hands. They climbed into an open machine-gun carrier and
strapped themselves to their seats, and for two hours King Kankad
showed her the sights of the town. They visited the school, where
young Kragans were being taught to read Lingua Terra and studied from
textbooks printed in Johannesburg and Sydney and Buenos Aires. Kankad
showed her the repair-shops, where two-score descendants of Kragan
river-chieftains were working on contragravity equipment, under the
supervision of a Scottish-Afrikaner and his Malay-Portuguese wife;
the small-arms factory, where very respectable copies of Terran rifles
and pistols and auto-weapons were being turned out; the machine-shop;
the physics and chemistry labs; the hospital; the ammunition-loading
plant; the battery of 155-mm. Long Toms, built in Kankad's own shops,
which covered the road up the sloping rock-spine behind the city; the
printing-shop and book-bindery; the observatory, with a big telescope
and an ingenious orrery of the Beta Hydrae system; the nuclear-power
plant, part of the original price for giving up brigandage.

Half an hour before the ship from Konkrook was due, they had arrived
at the airport, where a gang of Kragans were clearing a berth for the
_Aldebaran_. From somewhere, Kankad produced two cold bottles of Cape
Town beer for Paula and von Schlichten, and a bowl of some boiling-hot
black liquid for himself. Von Schlichten and Paula lit cigarettes;
between sips of his bubbling hell brew, Kankad gnawed on the stalk of
some swamp-plant. Paula seemed as much surprised at Kankad's disregard
for the eating taboo as she had been at von Schlichten's open flouting
of the convention of concealment when he had put in his geek-speaker.

"This is the only place on Ullr where this happens," von Schlichten
told her. "Here, or in the field when Terran and Kragan soldiers are
together. There aren't any taboos between us and the Kragans."

"No," Kankad said. "We cannot eat each others' food, and because our
bodies are different, we cannot be the fathers of each others' young.
But we have been battle-comrades, and work-sharers, and we have
learned from each other, my people more from yours than yours from
mine. Before you came, my people were like children, shooting arrows
at little animals on the beach, and climbing among the rocks at
dare-me-and-I-do, and playing war with toy weapons. But we are growing
up, and it will not be long before we will stand beside you, as the
grown son stands beside his parent, and when that day comes, you will
not be ashamed of us."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was easy to forget that Kankad had four arms and a rubbery,
quartz-speckled skin, and a face like a lizard's.

"I want Little Me, when he's old enough to travel, to visit your
world," Kankad said. "And some of the other young ones. And when
Little Me is old enough to take over the rule of our people, I would
like to go to Terra, myself."

"You're going," von Schlichten assured him. "Some day, when I return,
I'll see that you make the trip with me."

"Wonderful, Von!" Kankad was silent for a moment. When he spoke again,
it was in Kragan, and quickly. "If we live so long, old friend. There
is trouble coming, though even my spies cannot find what that trouble
is. And two days ago in Keegark, two of my people died trying to learn
it. I ask you--be careful!"

Then he switched hastily back to the language Paula could understand,
apologizing. It gave von Schlichten time to wipe the worry from his
face before she turned back to him, though it was worse news than he
had expected. If Kankad thought things were bad enough to add his own
spies to those of the Company, things couldn't be much worse. In fact,
anything that brought whatever it was out into the open would be
better.

He was still fretting over it as they said their good-byes to Kankad
and boarded the _Aldebaran_ for Skilk.



V


The last clatter of silverware and dishes ceased as the native
servants finished clearing the table. There was a remaining clatter of
cups and saucers; liqueur-glasses tinkled, and an occasional
cigarette-lighter clicked. At the head table, the voices seemed
louder.

"... don't like it a millisol's worth," Brigadier-General Barney
Mordkovitz, the Skilk military CO, was saying to the lady on his
right. "They're too confounded meek. Nowadays, nobody yells '_Znidd
suddabit!_' at you. They just stand and look at you like a farmer
looking at a turkey the week before Christmas, and that I don't like!"

"Oh, bosh!" Jules Keaveney, the Skilk Resident-Agent, at the head of
the table, exclaimed. "If they don't bow and scrape to you and get off
the sidewalk to let you pass, you say they're insolent and need a
lesson. If they do, you say they're plotting insurrection."

"What I said," Mordkovitz repeated, "was that I expect a certain
amount of disorder, and a certain minimum show of hostility toward us
from some of these geeks, to conform to what I know to be our
unpopularity with many of them. When I don't find it, I want to know
why."

"I'm inclined," von Schlichten came to his subordinate's support, "to
agree. This sudden absence of overt hostility is disquieting. Colonel
Cheng-Li," he called on the local Intelligence officer and
Constabulary chief. "This fellow Rakkeed was here, about a month ago.
Was there any noticeable disorder at that time? Anti-Terran
demonstrations, attacks on Company property or personnel, shooting at
aircars, that sort of thing?"

"No more than usual, general. In fact, it was when Rakkeed came here
that the condition General Mordkovitz was speaking of began to become
conspicuous."

Von Schlichten nodded. "And I might say that Lieutenant-Governor
Blount has reported from Keegark, where he is now, that the same
unnatural absence of hostility exists there."

"Well, of course, general," Keaveney said patronizingly, "King Orgzild
has things under pretty tight control at Keegark. He'd not allow a few
fanatics to do anything to prejudice these spaceport negotiations."

       *       *       *       *       *

"I wonder if the idea back of that spaceport proposition isn't to get
us concentrated at Keegark, where Orgzild could wipe us all out in one
surprise blow," somebody down the table suggested, and others nodded.

"Oh, Orgzild wouldn't be crazy enough to try anything like that,"
Commander Dirk Prinsloo, of the _Aldebaran_, declared. "He'd get away
with it for just twelve months--the time it would take to get the news
to Terra and for a Federation Space Navy task-force to get here. And
then, there'd be little bits of radioactive geek floating around this
system as far out as the orbit of Beta Hydrae VII."

"That's quite true," von Schlichten agreed. "The point is, does
Orgzild know it? I doubt if he even believes there is a Terra."

"Then where in Space does he think we come from?" Keaveney demanded.

"I believe he thinks Niflheim is our home world," von Schlichten
replied. "Or, rather, the string of orbiters and artificial satellites
around Niflheim. Where he thinks Niflheim is, I wouldn't even try to
guess."

"Yes. After he'd wiped us out, he might even consider the idea of an
invasion of Niflheim with captured contragravity ships," Hideyoshi
O'Leary chuckled. "That would be a big laugh--if any of us were alive,
then, to do any laughing."

"You don't really believe that, general?" Keaveney asked. His tone was
still derisive, but under the derision was uncertainty. After all,
von Schlichten had been on Ullr for fifteen years, to his two.

"Any question of geek psychology is wide open as far as I'm concerned;
the longer I stay here, the less I understand it." Von Schlichten
finished his brandy and got out cigarette-case and lighter. "I have an
idea of the sort of garbled reports these spies of his who spend a
year on Niflheim as laborers bring back."

       *       *       *       *       *

"You know the line Rakkeed's been taking, of course," Colonel Cheng-Li
put in. "He as much as says that Niflheim's our home, and that the
farms where we raise food, here, and those evergreen plantings on Konk
Isthmus and between here and Grank are the beginning of an attempt to
drive all native life from this planet and make it over for
ourselves."

"And that savage didn't think an idea like that up for himself; he got
it from somebody like Orgzild," the black-bearded brigadier-general
added. "You know, the main base off Niflheim is practically
self-supporting, with hyproponic-gardens and animal-tissue culture
vats. And it's enough bigger than one of the _City_ ships to pass for
a little world. Yes; somebody like Orgzild, or King Firkked, here,
could easily pick up the idea that that's our home planet."

"The Company ought to let us stockpile nuclear weapons here, just to
be on the safe side," another officer, farther down the table, said.

"Well, I'm not exactly in favor of that," von Schlichten replied.
"It's the same principle as not allowing guards who have to go in
among the convicts to carry firearms. If somebody like Orgzild got
hold of a nuclear bomb, even a little old First-Century H-bomb, he
could use it for a model and construct a hundred like it, with all the
plutonium we've been handing out for power reactors. And there are too
few of us, and we're concentrated in too few places, to last long if
that happened. What this planet needs, though, is a visit by a
fifty-odd-ship task-force of the Space Navy, just to show the geeks
what we have back of us. After a show like that, there'd be a lot less
_znidd suddabit_ around here."

"General, I deplore that sort of talk," Keaveney said. "I hear too
much of this mailed-fist-and-rattling-sabre stuff from some of the
junior officers here, without your giving countenance and
encouragement to it. We're here to earn dividends for the
stockholders of the Ullr Company, and we can only do that by gaining
the friendship, respect and confidence of the natives...."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Mr. Keaveney," Paula Quinton spoke. "I doubt if even you would
seriously accuse the Extraterrestrials Rights Association of favoring
what you call a mailed fist and rattling sabre policy. We've done
everything in our power to help these people, and if anybody should
have their friendship, we should. Well, only five days ago, in
Konkrook, Mr. Mohammed Ferriera and I were attacked by a mob, our
native aircar driver was murdered, and if it hadn't been for General
von Schlichten and his soldiers, we'd have lost our own lives. Mr.
Ferriera is still hospitalized as a result of injuries he received. It
seems that General von Schlichten and his Kragans aren't trying to get
friendship and confidence; they're willing to settle for respect, in
the only way they can get it--by hitting harder and quicker than the
natives can."

Somebody down the table--one of the military, of course--said, "Hear,
hear!" Von Schlichten came as close as a man wearing a monocle can to
winking at Paula. Good girl, he thought; she's started playing on the
Army team, and about time!

"Well, of course...." Keaveney began. Then he stopped, as a Terran
sergeant came up to the table and bent over Barney Mordkovitz'
shoulder, whispering urgently. The black-bearded brigadier rose
immediately, taking his belt from the back of his chair and putting it
on. Motioning the sergeant to accompany, he spoke briefly to Keaveney
and then came around the table to where von Schlichten sat, the
Resident-Agent accompanying him.

"Message just came in from Konkrook, general," he said softly.
"Governor Harrington's dead."

It took von Schlichten all of a second to grasp what had been said.
"Good God! When? How?"

"Here's all we know, sir," the sergeant said, giving him a radioprint
slip. "Came in ten minutes ago."

It was an all-station priority telecast. Governor-General Harrington
had died suddenly, in his room, at 2210; there were no details. He
glanced at his watch; it was 2243. Konkrook and Skilk were in the same
time-zone; that was fast work. He handed the slip to Mordkovitz, who
gave it to Keaveney.

"You from the telecast station, sergeant?" he asked. "All right, in
that case, let's go."

As he hurried from the banquet-room, he could hear Keaveney tapping on
his wine-glass.

"Everybody, please! Let me have your attention! There has just come in
a piece of the most tragic news...."

       *       *       *       *       *

A woman captain met him just inside the door of the big soundproofed
room of the telecast station, next to the Administration Building.

"We have a wavelength open to Konkrook, general," she said. "In booth
three."

Another girl, a tech-sergeant, was in the booth; on the screen was the
image of a third young woman, a lieutenant, at Konkrook station. The
sergeant rose and started to leave the booth.

"Stick around, sergeant," von Schlichten told her. "I'll want you to
take over when I'm through." He sat down in front of the combination
visiscreen and pickup. "Now, lieutenant; just what happened?" he
asked. "How did he die?"

"We think it was poison, general. General M'zangwe has ordered autopsy
and chemical analysis. If you can wait about ten minutes, he'll be
able to talk to you, himself."

"Call him. In the meantime, give me everything you know."

"Well, at about 2210, the Kragan guard-sergeant on that floor heard
ten pistol-shots, as fast as they could be fired semi-auto, in the
governor's room. The door was locked, but he shot it off with his own
pistol and went in. He found Governor Harrington on the floor, wearing
only his gown, holding an empty pistol. He was in convulsions,
frothing at the mouth, in horrible pain. Evidently he'd fired his
pistol, which he kept on his desk, to call help; all the bullets had
gone into the ceiling. One of the medics got there in five minutes,
just as he was dying. He'd written his diary up to noon of today, and
broken off in the middle of a word. There was a bottle and an
overturned glass on his desk. The Constabulary got there a few minutes
later, and then Brigadier-General M'zangwe took charge. A white rat,
given fifteen drops from the whiskey-bottle, died with the same
symptoms in about ninety seconds."

"Who had access to the whiskey-bottle?"

"A geek servant, who takes care of the room. He was caught, an hour
earlier, trying to slip off the island without a pass; they were
holding him at the guardhouse when Governor Harrington died. He's now
being questioned by the Kragans." The girl's face was bleakly
remorseless. "I hope they do plenty to him!"

"I hope they don't kill him before he talks."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Wait a moment, general; we have General M'zangwe, now," the girl
said. "I'll switch you over."

The screen broke into a kaleidoscopic jumble of color, then cleared;
the chocolate-brown face of M'zangwe was looking out of it.

"I heard what happened, how they found him, and about that geek
chamber-valet being arrested," von Schlichten said. "Did you get
anything out of him?"

"He's admitted putting poison in the bottle, but he claims it was his
own idea. But he's one of Father Keeluk's parishioners, so...."

"Keeluk! God damn, so that was it!" von Schlichten almost shouted.
"Now I know what he wanted with Stalin, and that goat, and those
rabbits! Of course they'd need terrestrial animals, to find out what
would poison a Terran! Who's in charge at Konkrook now?"

"Not much of anybody. Laviola, the Fiscal Secretary, and Hans
Meyerstein, the Banking Cartel's lawyer, and Howlett, the Personnel
Chief, and Buhrmann, the Commercial Secretary, have made up a sort of
quadrumvirate and are trying to run things. I don't know what would
happen if anything came up suddenly...." A blue-gray uniformed arm,
with a major's cuff-braid, came into the screen, handing a slip of
paper to M'zangwe; he took it, glanced at it, and swore. Von
Schlichten waited until he had read it through.

"Well, something has, all right," the African said. "Just got a call
from Jaikark's palace--a revolt's broken out, presumably headed by
Gurgurk; Household Guards either mutinied or wiped out by the
mutineers, all but those twenty Kragan Rifles we loaned Jaikark. They,
and about a dozen of Jaikark's courtiers and their personal retainers,
are holding the approaches to the King's apartments. The
native-lieutenant in charge of the Kragans just radioed in; says the
situation is desperate."

"When a Kragan says that, he means damn near hopeless. Is this being
recorded?" When M'zangwe nodded, he continued. "All right. Use the
recording for your authority and take charge. I'm declaring martial
rule at Konkrook, as of now, 2258. Tell Eric Blount what's happened,
and what you've done, as soon as you can get in touch with him at
Keegark. I'm leaving for Konkrook at once! I ought to get in by 0800.

"Now, as to the trouble at the Palace. Don't commit more than one
company of Kragans and ten airjeeps and four combat-cars, and tell
them to evacuate Jaikark and his followers and our Kragans to Gongonk
Island. And alert your whole force. These geek palace revolutions are
always synchronized with street-rioting, and this thing seems to have
been synchronized with Sid Harrington's death, too. Get our Kragans
out if you can't save anybody else from the Palace, but sacrificing
thirty or forty men to save twenty is no kind of business. And keep
sending reports; I can pick them up on my car radio as I come down."
He turned to the girl Sergeant. "Keep on this; there'll be more coming
in."

       *       *       *       *       *

He rose and left the booth. If we can pull Jaikark's bacon off the
fire, he was thinking, the Company can dictate its own terms to him
afterward; if Jaikark's killed, we'll have Gurgurk's head off for it,
and then take over Konkrook. In either case, it'll be a long step
toward getting rid of all these geek despots. And with Eric Blount as
Governor-General....

The inner door of the soundproofed telecast-room burst open, three men
hurried inside, and it slammed shut behind them. In the brief
interval, there had been firing audible from outside. One of the men
had a pistol in his right hand, and with his left arm he supported a
companion, whose shoulder was mangled and dripped blood. The third man
had a burp-gun in his hands. All were in civilian dress--shorts and
light jackets. The man with the pistol holstered it and helped his
injured companion into a chair. The burp-gunner advanced into the
room, looked around, saw von Schlichten, and addressed him.

"General! The geeks turned on us!" he cried. "The Tenth North Ullr's
mutinied; they're running wild all over the place. They've taken their
barracks and supply-buildings, and the lorry-hangars and the
maintenance-yard; they're headed this way in a mob. Some of the Zirk
Cavalry's joined them."

"Have any ammo left for that burp-gun? Come on, then; let's see what
it's like at Company House," von Schlichten said. "Captain Malavez,
you know what to do about defending this station. Get busy doing it.
And have that girl in booth three tell Konkrook what's happened here,
and say that I won't be coming down, as I planned, just yet."

[Illustration]

He opened the door, and the rattle of shots outside became audible
again. The civilian with the burp-gun knew better than to let a
general go out first; elbowing von Schlichten out of the way, he
crouched over his weapon and dashed outside. Drawing his pistol, von
Schlichten followed, pulling the door shut after him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Darkness had fallen, while he had been inside; now the whole Company
Reservation was ablaze with electric lights. Somebody at the
power-plant had thrown on the emergency lights. There was a confused
mass of gray-skinned figures in front of Company House, reflected
light twinkling on steel over them; from the direction of the
native-troops barracks more natives were coming on the run. On the
roof of a building across the street, two machine-guns were already
firing into the mob. From up the street, a hundred-odd saurian-faced
native soldiers were coming at the double, bayonets fixed and rifles
at high port; with them ran-several Terrans. Motioning his companion
to follow, von Schlichten ran to meet them, falling in beside a Terran
captain who ran in front.

"What's the score, captain?" he asked the panting captain.

"Tenth North Ullr and the Fifth Cavalry have mutinied; so have these
rag-tag Auxiliaries. That mob down there's part of them." He was
puffing under the double effort of running and talking. "Whole thing
blew up in seconds; no chance to communicate with anybody...."

A Terran woman, in black slacks and an orange sweater, ran across the
street in front of them, pursued by a group of enlisted "men" of the
Tenth North Ullr Native Infantry, all shrieking "_Znidd suddabit!_"
The fugitive ran into a doorway across the street; before her pursuers
were aware of their danger, the Kragans had swept over them. There was
no shooting; the slim, cruel-bladed bayonets did the work. From behind
him, as he ran, von Schlichten could hear Kragan voices in a new cry:
"_Znidd geek! Znidd geek!_"

The mob were swarming up onto the steps and into the semi-rotunda of
the storm-porch. There was shooting, which told him that some of the
humans who had been at the banquet were still alive. He wondered,
half-sick, how many, and whether they could hold out till he could
clear the doorway, and, most of all, he found himself thinking of
Paula Quinton. Skidding to a stop within fifty yards of the mob, he
flung out his arms crucifix-wise to halt the Kragans. Behind, he could
hear the Terrans and native-officers shouting commands to form front.

"Give them one clip, reload, and then give them the bayonet!" he
ordered. "Shove them off the steps and then clear the porch!"

The hundred rifles let go all at once; and for five seconds they
poured a deafening two thousand rounds into the mutineers. There was
some fire in reply; a Zirk corporal narrowly missed him with a pistol;
he saw the captain's head fly apart when an explosive rifle-bullet hit
him, and half a dozen Kragans went down.

"Reload! Set your safeties!" von Schlichten bellowed. "Charge!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Under human officers, the North Ullr Native Infantry would have stood
firm. Even under their native-officers and sergeants, they should not
have broken as they did, but the best of these had paid for their
loyalty to the Company with their lives. At that, the Skilkan
peasantry who made up the Tenth Infantry, and the Zirk cavalrymen,
tried briefly to fight as individuals, shrieking "_Znidd suddabit!_"
until the Kragans were upon them, stabbing and shooting. They drove
the rioters from the steps or killed them there, they wiped out those
who had gotten into the semicircle of the storm-porch. The inside
doors, von Schlichten saw, were open, but beyond them were Terrans and
a dozen or so Kragans. Hideyoshi O'Leary and Barney Mordkovitz seemed
to be in command of these.

"We had about thirty seconds' warning," Mordkovitz reported, "and the
Kragans in the hall bought us another sixty seconds. Of course, we all
had our pistols...."

"Hey! These storm-doors are wedged!" somebody discovered. "Those
goddam geek servants ...!"

"Yeah; kill any of them you catch," somebody else advised. "If we
could have gotten these doors closed...."

The mob, driven from the steps, was trying to re-form and renew the
attack. From up the street, the machine-guns, silent during the
bayonet-fight, began hammering again. The mob surged forward to get
out of their fire, and were met by a rifle-blast and a hedge of
bayonets at the steps; they surged back, and the machine-guns flailed
them again. They started to rush the building from whence the
automatic-fire came, and there was a fusilade and a shriek of "_Znidd
geek!_" from up the street. They turned and fled in the direction from
whence they had come, bullets scourging them from three directions at
once.

For a moment, von Schlichten and the three Terrans and eighty-odd
Kragans who had survived the fight stood on the steps, weapons poised,
seeking more enemies. The machine-guns up the street stuttered a few
short bursts and were silent. From behind, the beleaguered Terrans and
their Kragan guards were emerging. He saw Jules Keaveney and his wife;
Commander Prinsloo of the _Aldebaran_; Harry Quong and Bogdanoff. Ah,
there she was! He heaved a breath of relief and waved to her.

The Kragans were already setting about their after-battle chores. A
couple of hundred more Kragans, led by Native-Major Kormork, the
co-parent of young with King Kankad, came up at the double and stopped
in front of Company House.

       *       *       *       *       *

"We were in quarters, aboard the _Aldebaran_ and in the guest-house at
the airport," Kormork reported. "We were attacked, fifteen minutes
ago, by a mob. We took ten minutes beating them off, and five more
getting here. I sent Native-Captain Zeerjeek and the rest of the force
to re-take the supply-depot and the shops and lorry hangars, which had
been taken, and relieve the military airport, which is under attack."

"Good enough. I hope you didn't spread yourself out too thin. What's
the situation at the commercial airport?"

"The two ships, the _Aldebaran_ and the freighter _Northern Star_, are
both safe," Kormork replied. "I saw them go on contragravity and rise
to about a hundred feet."

"Whose crowd is that you have?" he asked the Terran lieutenant who had
taken over command of the first force of Kragans.

"Company 6, Eighteenth Rifles, sir. We were on duty at the guardhouse;
fighting broke out in the direction of the native barracks. A couple
of runners from Captain Retief of Company 4 came in with word that he
was being attacked by mutineers from the Tenth N.U.N.I., but that he
was holding them back. So Captain Charbonneau, who was killed a few
minutes ago, left a Terran lieutenant and a Kragan native-lieutenant
and a couple of native-sergeants and thirty Kragans to hold the
guardhouse, and brought the rest of us here."

Von Schlichten nodded. "You'd pass the military airport and the
power-plant, wouldn't you?" he asked.

"Yes, sir. The military airport's holding out, and I saw the
red-and-yellow danger-lights on the fence around the power-plant."

That meant the power-plant was, for the time, safe; somebody'd turned
twenty thousand volts into the fence.

"All right. I'm setting up my command post at the telecast station,
where the communication equipment is." He turned to the crowd that had
come out onto the porch from inside. "Where's Colonel Cheng-Li?"

"Here, general." The Intelligence and Constabulary officer pushed
through the crowd. "I was on the phone, talking to the military
airport, the commercial airport, ordnance depot, spaceport, ship-docks
and power plant. All answer. I'm afraid Pop Goode, at the city
power-plant, is done for; nobody answers there, but the TV-pickup is
still on in the load-dispatcher's room, and the place is full of
geeks. Colonel Jarman's coming here with a lorry to get combat-car
crews; he's short-handed. Port-Captain Leavitt has all the native
labor at the airport and spaceport herded into a repair dock; he's
keeping them covered with the forward 90-mm. gun of the _Northern
Star_. Lorry-hangars, repair-shops and maintenance-yards don't
answer."

"That's what I was going to ask you. Good enough. Harry Quong, Hassan
Bogdanoff!"

His command-car crew front-and-centered.

"I want you to take Colonel O'Leary up, as soon as my car's brought
here.... Hid, you go up and see what's going on. Drop flares where
there isn't any light. And take a look at the native-labor camp and
the equipment-park, south of the reservation.... Kormork, you take all
your gang, and half these soldiers from the Eighteenth, here, and help
clear the native-troops barracks. And don't bother taking any
prisoners; we can't spare personnel to guard them."

Kormork grinned. The taking of prisoners had always been one of those
irrational Terran customs which no Ullran regarded with favor, or even
comprehension.



VI


There was fresh intelligence from Konkrook, by the time he returned
to the telecast station. Mutiny had broken out there among the
laborers and native troops, who outnumbered the Terrans and their
Kragan mercenaries on Gongonk Island by five thousand to five hundred
and fifteen hundred respectively. The attempt to relieve Jaikark's
palace had been called off before the relief-force could be sent;
there was heavy and confused fighting all over the island, and most of
the combat contragravity and about half the Kragan Rifles had had to
be committed to defend the Company farms across the Channel, on the
mainland, south of the city. There had also been an urgent call for
help from Colonel Rodolfo MacKinnon, in command of Company troops at
the Keegark Residency.

He called Keegark; a girl, apparently one of the civilian telecast
technicians, answered.

"We must have help, General von Schlichten," she told him. "The native
troops, all but two hundred Kragans, have mutinied. They have
everything here except Company House--docks, airport, everything.
We're trying to hold out, but there are thousands of them."

"What happened to Eric Blount and your Resident-Agent, Mr. Lemoyne?"

"We don't know. They were at the Palace, talking to King Orgzild.
We've tried to call the Palace, but we can't get through. General, we
must have help...."

A call came in, a few minutes later, from Krink, five hundred miles to
the north-east across the mountains; the Resident-Agent there, one
Francis Xavier Shapiro, reported rioting in the city and an attempted
palace-revolution against King Jonkvank, and that the Residency was
under attack. By way of variety, it was the army of King Jonkvank that
had mutinied; the Sixth North Ullr Native Infantry and the two
companies of Zirk cavalry at Krink were still loyal, along with the
Kragans.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a pattern to all this. Von Schlichten stood staring at the
big map, on the wall, showing the Takkad Sea area at the Equatorial
Zone, and the country north of it to the Pole, the area of Ullr
occupied by the Company. He was almost beginning to discern the
underlying logic of the past half-hour's events when Keaveney, the
Skilk Resident, blundered into him in a half-daze.

"Sorry, general; didn't see you." His face was ashen, and his jowls
sagged. "My God, it's happening all over Ullr! Why, it's the end of
all of us!"

"It's not quite that bad, Mr. Keaveney." He looked at his watch. It
was now nearly an hour since the native troops here at Skilk had
mutinied. Insurrections like this usually succeeded or failed in the
first hour. "If we all do our part, we'll come out of it all right,"
he told Keaveney, more cheerfully than he felt, then turned to ask
Brigadier-General Mordkovitz how the fighting was going at the
native-troops barracks.

"Not badly, general. Colonel Jarman's got some contragravity up and
working. They blew out all four of the Tenth N.U.N.I.'s barracks; the
Tenth and the Zirks are trying to defend the cavalry barracks. Some of
our Kragans managed to slip around behind the cavalry stables. They're
leading out hipposaurs, and sniping at the rear of the cavalry
barracks."

"That'll give us some cavalry of our own; a lot of these Kragans are
good riders.... How about the repair-shops and maintenance-yard and
lorry-hangars? I don't want these geeks getting hold of that equipment
and using it against us."

"Kormork's outfit are trying to take back the lorry-hangars. Jarman's
got a couple of airjeeps and a combat-car helping them."

"... won't be one of us left by this time tomorrow," Keaveney was
wailing, to Paula Quinton and another woman. "And the Company is
finished!"

Colonel Cheng-Li, the Intelligence officer, approached Keaveney and
tried to quiet him. At the same time, a woman in black slacks and an
orange sweater--the one whose pursuers had been overrun by the Kragans
at the beginning of the fighting--approached von Schlichten.

"General; King Kankad's calling," she said. "He's on the screen in
booth four."

       *       *       *       *       *

Kankad's face was looking out of the screen at him, with Phil
Yamazaki, the telecast operator at Kankad's Town, standing behind him.

"Von!" The Kragan spoke almost as though in physical pain. "What can I
do to help? I have twenty thousand of my people here who are capable
of bearing arms, all with firearms, but I have transport for only five
hundred. Where shall I send them?"

Von Schlichten thought quickly. Keegark was finished; the Residency
stood in the middle of the city, surrounded by two hundred thousand of
King Orgzild's troops and subjects. Sending Kankad's five hundred
warriors and his meager contragravity there would be the same as
shovelling them into a furnace. The people at Keegark would have to be
written off, like the twenty Kragans at Jaikark's palace.

"Send them to Konkrook," he decided. "Them M'zangwe's in command,
there; he'll need help to hold the Company farms. Maybe he can find
additional transport for you. I'll call him."

"I'll send off what force I can, at once," Kankad promised. "How does
it go with you at Skilk?"

"We're holding, so far," he replied.

Captain Inez Malavez, the woman officer in charge of the station, put
her head into the booth.

"General! Immediate-urgency message from Colonel O'Leary," she said.
"Native laborers from the mine-labor camp are pouring into the
mine-equipment park. Colonel O'Leary's used all his rockets and
mg-ammunition trying to stop them."

"Call you back, later," von Schlichten told Kankad. "I'll see what
Them M'zangwe can do about transport; get what force you can started
for Konkrook at once."

He left the booth. "Barney!" he called. "General Mordkovitz! Who's the
ranking officer in direct contact with the Eighteenth Rifles? Major
Falkenberg?"

"That's right."

"Well, tell him to get as many of his Kragans as he can spare down to
the equipment-park." He turned to Inez Malavez. "You call Jarman; tell
him what O'Leary reported, and tell him to get cracking on it. Tell
him not to let those geeks get any of that equipment onto
contragravity; knock it down as fast as they try to lift out with it.
And tell him to see what he can do in the way of troop-carriers or
lorries, to get Falkenberg's Rifles to the equipment-park.... How's
business at the lorry-hangars and maintenance-yard?"

"Kormork's still working on that," the girl captain told him. "Nothing
definite, yet."

       *       *       *       *       *

In one corner of the big room, somebody had thumbtacked a
ten-foot-square map of the Company area to the floor. Paula Quinton
and Mrs. Jules Keaveney were on their knees beside it, pushing out
handfuls of little pink and white pills that somebody had brought in
two bottles from the dispensary across the road, each using a
billiard-bridge. The girl in the orange sweater had a handful of
scribbled notes, and was telling them where to push the pills. There
were other objects on the map, too--pistol-cartridges, and
cigarettes, and foil-wrapped food-concentrate wafers. Paula, seeing
him, straightened.

"The pink are ours, general," she said. "The white are the geeks." Von
Schlichten suppressed a grin; that was the second time he'd heard her
use that word, this evening. "The cigarettes are airjeeps, the
cartridges are combat-cars, and the wafers are lorries or
troop-carriers."

"Not exactly regulation map-markers, but I've seen stranger things
used.... Captain Malavez!"

"Yes, sir?" The girl captain, rushing past, her hands full of
teleprint-sheets, stopped in mid-stride.

"What we need," he told her, "is a big TV-screen, and a pickup mounted
on some sort of a contragravity vehicle at about two to five thousand
feet directly overhead, to give us an image of the whole area. Can
do?"

"Can try, sir. We have an eight-foot circular screen that ought to do
all right for two thousand feet. I'll implement that at once."

Going into a temporarily idle telecast booth, he called Konkrook, and
finally got Themistocles M'zangwe on the screen.

"How is it, now?" he asked.

"Getting a little better," the Graeco-African replied. "Half an hour
ago, we were shooting geeks out the windows, here; now we have them
contained between the spaceport and the native-troops and labor
barracks, and down the east side of the island to the farms. We have
the wire around the farms on the island electrified, and we're using
almost all our combat contragravity to keep the farms on the mainland
clear." He hesitated for a moment. "Did you hear about Eric Blount and
Lemoyne?"

Von Schlichten shook his head.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The whole party that were at Orgzild's palace were massacred. Some of
them were lucky enough to get killed fighting. The geeks took Eric and
Hendrik alive; rolled them in a puddle of thermoconcentrate fuel and
set fire to them. When we can spare the contragravity, we're going to
drop something on the Kee-geek embassy, over in town."

Von Schlichten grimaced, but he'd expected something like it. He told
M'zangwe about King Kankad's offer. "His crowd ought to be coming in
in a couple of hours. What can you scrape up to send to Kankad's Town
to airlift Kragans in?"

"Well, we have three hundred-and-fifty-foot gun-cutters, one 90-mm.
apiece. The _Elmoran_, the _Gaucho_, and the _Bushranger_. But they're
not much as transports, and we need them here pretty badly. Then, we
have five fertilizer and charcoal scows, and a lot of heavy transport
lorries, and two one-eighty-foot pickup boats."

"How about the _Piet Joubert?_" von Schlichten asked. "She was due in
Konkrook from the east about 1300 today, wasn't she?"

M'zangwe swore. "She got in, all right. But the geeks boarded her at
the dock, within twenty minutes after things started. They tried to
lift out with her, and the Channel Battery shot her down into Konkrook
Channel, off the Fifty-sixth Street docks."

"Well, you couldn't let the geeks have her, to use against us. What do
you hear from the other ships?"

"_Procyon's_ at Grank; we haven't had any reports of any kind from
there, which doesn't look so good. The _Northern Lights_ is at Grank,
too. The _Oom Paid Kruger_ should have been at Bwork, in the east,
when the gun went off. And the _Jan Smuts_ and the _Christiaan De
Wett_ were both at Keegark; we can assume Orgzild has both of them."

"All right. I'm sending _Aldebaran_ to Kankad's, to pick up more
reenforcements for you."

       *       *       *       *       *

Leaving the booth, he heard, above the clatter of
communications-machines and the hubbub of voices, Jules Keaveney
arguing contentiously. Evidently Colonel Cheng-Li's efforts to drag
the Resident out of his despondency had been an excessive success.

"But it's crazy! Not just here; everywhere on Ullr!" Keaveney was
saying. "How did they do it? They have no telecast equipment."

"You have me stopped, Jules," Mordkovitz was replying. "I know a lot
of rich geeks have receiving sets, but no sending sets."

The pattern that had been tantalizing von Schlichten took visible
shape in his mind. For a moment, he shelved the matter of the
_Aldebaran_.

"They didn't need sending equipment, Barney," he said. "They used
ours. Sid Harrington was poisoned in Konkrook. The news, of course,
was sent out at once, as the geeks knew it would be, to every
residency and trading-station on Ullr, and that was the signal they'd
agreed upon, probably months in advance!"

"Well, what was our Intelligence doing; sleeping?" Keaveney demanded
angrily.

"No; they were writing reports for your civil administration blokes to
stuff in the wastebasket, and being called mailed-fist-and-rattling-sabre
alarmists for their pains." He turned away from Keaveney. "Barney, where
is Dirk Prinsloo?"

"Aboard his ship. He hitched a ride to the airport with Jarman, when
he was here picking up air-crews."

"Call him. Tell him to take the _Aldebaran_ to Kankad's Town, at once;
as soon as he arrives there, which ought to be about 1100, he's to
pick up all the Kragans he can pack aboard and take them to Konkrook.
From then on, he'll be under Them M'zangwe's orders."

"To Konkrook?" Keaveney fairly howled. "Are you nuts? Don't you think
we need reenforcements here, too?"

"Yes, I do. I'm going to try to get them," von Schlichten told him.
"Now pipe down and get out of people's way."

He crossed the room, to where two Kragans, a male sergeant, and the
ubiquitous girl in the orange sweater were struggling to get a big
circular TV-screen up, then turned to look at the situation-map. A
girl tech-sergeant was keeping Paula Quinton and Mrs. Jules Keaveney
informed.

"Start pushing geeks out of the Fifth Zirk Cavalry barracks," the
sergeant was saying. "The one at the north end, and the one next to
it; they're both on fire, now." She tossed a slip into the wastebasket
beside her and glanced at the next slip. "And more pink pills back of
the barracks and stables, and move them a little to the north-west;
Kragans as skirmishers, to intercept geeks trying to slip away from
the cavalry barracks."

       *       *       *       *       *

A young Kragan with his lower left arm in a sling and a daub of
antiseptic plaster over the back of his head came up and gave him a
radioprint slip. Guido Karamessinis, the Resident-Agent at Grank, had
reported, at last. The city, he said, was quiet, but King Yoorkerk's
troops had seized the Company airport and docks, taken the _Procyon_
and the _Northern Lights_ and put guards aboard them, and were
surrounding the Residency. He wanted to know what to do.

Von Schlichten managed to get him on the screen, after awhile.

"It looks as though Yoorkerk's trying to play both sides at once," he
told the Grank Resident. "If the rebellion's put down, he'll come
forward as your friend and protector; if we're wiped out elsewhere,
he'll yell '_Znidd suddabit!_' and swamp you. Don't antagonize him; we
can't afford to fight this war on any more fronts than we are now.
We'll try to do something to get you unfrozen, before long."

He called Krink again. A girl with red-gold hair and a dusting of
freckles across her nose answered.

"How are you making out?" he asked.

"So far, fine, general. We're in complete control of the Company area,
and all our native-troops, not just the Kragans, are with us.
Jonkvank's pushed the mutineers out of his palace, and we're keeping
open a couple of streets between there and here. We airlifted all our
Kragans and half the Sixth N.U.N.I. to the Palace, and we have the
Zirks patrolling the streets on 'saur-back. Now, we have our lorries
and troop-carriers out picking up elements of Jonkvank's loyal troops
outside town."

"Who's doing the rioting, then?"

She named three of Jonkvank's regiments. "And the city hoodlums, and
priests from the temples of one sect that followed Rakkeed, and the
whole passel of Skilkan fifth columnists."

"How long do you think it'd take, with the equipment you have, to
airlift all of Jonkvank's loyal troops into the city?"

"Not before this time tomorrow."

"All right. Are you in radio communication with Jonkvank now?"

"Full telecast, audio-visual," the girl replied. "Just a minute,
general."

       *       *       *       *       *

He put in his geek-speaker. Within a few minutes, a saurian Ullran
face was looking out of it at him; a harsh-lined, elderly, face, with
an old scar, quartz-crusted, along one side.

"Your Majesty," von Schlichten greeted him.

Jonkvank pronounced something intended to correspond to von
Schlichten's name. "We have image-met under sad circumstances,
general," he said.

"Sad for both of us, King Jonkvank; we must help one another. I am
told that your soldiers in Krink have risen against you, and that your
loyal troops are far from the city."

"Yes. That was the work of my War Minister, Hurkkirk, who was in the
pay of King Firkked of Skilk, may Jeels devour him alive! I have
Hurkkirk's head here somewhere. I can have it found, if you want to
see it."

"Dead-traitors' heads do not interest me, King Jonkvank," von
Schlichten replied, in what he estimated that the Krinkan king would
interpret as a tone of cold-blooded cruelty. "There are too many
traitors' heads still on traitors' shoulders.... What regiments are
loyal to you, and where are they now?"

Jonkvank began naming regiments and locating them, all at minor
provincial towns at least a hundred miles from Krink.

"Hurkkirk did his work well; I'm afraid you killed him too
mercifully," von Schlichten said. "Well, I'm sending the _Northern
Star_ to Krink. She can only bring in one regiment at a trip, the way
they're scattered; which one do you want first?"

Jonkvank's mouth, until now compressed grimly, parted in a gleaming
smile. He made an exclamation of pleasure which sounded rather like a
boy running along a picket fence with a stick.

"Good, general! Good!" he cried. "The first should be the regiment
Murderers, at Furnk; they all have rifles like your soldiers. Have
them brought to the Great Square, at the Palace here. And then, the
regiment Fear-Makers, at Jeelznidd, and the regiment Corpse-Reapers,
at...."

"Let that go until the Murderers are in," von Schlichten advised.
"They're at Furnk, you say? I'll send the _Northern Star_ there,
directly."

"Oh, good, general! I will not soon forget this! And, as soon as the
work is finished here, I will send soldiers to help you at Skilk.
There shall be a great pile of the heads of those who had part in this
wickedness, both here and there!"

"Good. Now, if you will pardon me, I'll go to give the necessary
orders...."

       *       *       *       *       *

As he left the booth, he saw Hideyoshi O'Leary in front of the
situation-map, and hailed him.

"Harry and Hassan are getting the car re-ammoed; they dropped me off
here. Want to come up with us and see the show?" O'Leary asked, as he
saw the general.

"No, I want you to go to Krink, as soon as Harry brings the car here
again." He told O'Leary what he intended doing. "You'll probably have
to go around ahead of the _Star_ and alert these regiments. And as
soon as things stabilize at Krink, prod Jonkvank into airlifting
troops here. You're authorized, in my name, to promise Jonkvank that
he can assume political control at Skilk, after we've stuffed
Firkked's head in the dustbin."

Jules Keaveney, who always seemed to be where he wasn't wanted, heard
that and fairly screamed.

"General von Schlichten! That is a political decision! You have no
authority to make promises like that; that is a matter for the
Governor-General, at least!"

"Well, as of now, and until a successor to Sid Harrington can be sent
here from Terra, I'm Governor-General," von Schlichten told him,
mentally thanking Keaveney for reminding him of the necessity for such
a step. "Captain Malavez! You will send out an all-station telecast,
immediately: Military Commander-in-Chief Carlos von Schlichten, being
informed of the deaths of both Governor-General Harrington and
Lieutenant-Governor Blount, assumes the duties of Governor-General, as
of 0001 today." He turned to Keaveney. "Does that satisfy you?" he
asked.

"No, it doesn't. You have no authority to assume a civil position of
any sort, let alone the very highest position...."

Von Schlichten unbuttoned his holster and took out his authority,
letting Keaveney look in to the muzzle of it.

"Here it is," he said. "If you're wise, don't make me appeal to it."

Keaveney shrugged. "I can't argue with that," he said. "But I don't
fancy the Ullr Company is going to be impressed by it."

"The Ullr Company," von Schlichten replied, "is six and a half parsecs
away. It takes a ship six months to get from here to Terra, and
another six months to get back. A radio message takes a little over
twenty-one years, each way." He holstered the pistol again.

"That brings up another question, general," one of Keaveney's
subordinates said. "Can we hold out long enough for help to get here
from Terra?"

"By the time help could reach us from Terra," von Schlichten replied,
"we'll either have this revolt crushed, or there won't be a live
Terran left on Ullr." He felt a brief sadistic pleasure as he watched
Keaveney's face sag in horror. "On this planet, there's not more than
a three months' supply of any sort of food a human can eat. And the
ships that'll be coming in until word of our plight can get to Terra
won't bring enough to keep us going. We need the farms and livestock
and the animal-tissue culture plant at Konkrook, and the farms at
Krink and on the plateau back of Skilk, and we need peace and native
labor to work them."

       *       *       *       *       *

Nobody seemed to have anything to say after that, for awhile. Then
Keaveney suggested that the next ship was due in from Niflheim in
three months, and that it could be used to evacuate all the Terrans on
Ullr.

"And I'll personally shoot any able-bodied Terran who tries to board
that ship," von Schlichten promised. "Get this through your heads, all
of you. We are going to break this rebellion, and we are going to hold
Ullr for the Company and the Terran Federation." He looked around him.
"Now, get back to work, all of you," he told the group that had formed
around him and Keaveney. "Miss Quinton, you just heard me order my
adjutant, Colonel O'Leary, on detached duty to Krink. I want you to
take over for him. You'll have rank and authority as colonel for the
duration of this war."

She was thunderstruck. "But I know absolutely nothing about military
matters. There must be a hundred people here who are better qualified
than I am...."

"There are, and they all have jobs, and I'd have to find replacements
for them, and replacements for the replacements. You won't leave any
vacancy to be filled. And you'll learn, fast enough." He went over to
the situation-map again, and looked at the arrangements of pink and
white pills. "First of all, I want you to call Jarman, at the military
airport, and have an airjeep and driver sent around here for me. I'm
going up and have a look around. Barney, keep the show going while I'm
out, and tell Colonel Quinton what it's all about."



VII


He looked at his watch, as the light airjeep let down into the street.
Oh-one-fifteen--two hours and a half since the mutiny at the
native-troops barracks had broken out. The Company reservation was
still ablaze with lights, and over the roof of the hospital and
dispensary and test-lab he could see the glare of the burning
barracks. There was more fire-glare to the south, in the direction of
the mine-equipment park and the mine-labor camp, and from that
direction the bulk of the firing was to be heard.

The driver, a young lieutenant, slid back the duraglass canopy for him
to climb in, then snapped it into place when he had strapped himself
into his seat, and hit the controls.

They lifted up, the driver turning the nose of the airjeep in the
direction of the flames and explosions and magnesium-lights to the
south and tapping his booster-button gently. The vehicle shot forward
and came floating in over the scene of the fighting. The situation-map
at the improvised headquarters had shown a mixture of pink and white
pills in the mine-equipment park; something was going to have to be
done about the lag in correcting it, for the area was entirely in the
hands of loyal Company troops, and the mob of laborers and mutinous
soldiers had been pushed back into the temporary camp where the
workers had been gathered to await transportation to the Arctic. As he
had feared, the rioting workers, many of whom were trained to handle
contragravity equipment, had managed to lift up a number of
dump-trucks and power-shovels and bulldozers, intending to use them as
improvised air-tanks, but Jarman's combat-cars had gotten on the job
promptly and all of these had been shot down and were lying in
wreckage, mostly among the rows of parked mining-equipment.

       *       *       *       *       *

From the labor-camp, a surprising volume of fire was being directed
against the attack which had already started from the retaken
equipment-park.

Hovering above the fighting, aloof from it, he saw six long
troop-carriers land and disgorge Kragan Rifles who had been released
by the liquidation of resistance at the native-troops barracks. A
little later, two air-tanks floated in, and then two more, going off
contragravity and lumbering forward on treads to fire their 90-mm.
rifles. At the same time, combat-cars swooped in, banging away with
their lighter auto-cannon and launching rockets. The titanium
prefab-huts, set up to house the laborers and intended to be taken
north with them for their stay on the polar desert, were simply wiped
away. Among the wreckage, resistance was being blown out like the
lights of a candelabrum.

He took up the hand-phone and called HQ.

"Von Schlichten; what's the wavelength of the officer in command at
the equipment-park?"

A voice at the telecast station furnished it; he punched it out.

"Von Schlichten, right overhead. That you, Major Falkenberg? Nice
going, major; how are your casualties?"

"Not too bad. Twenty or thirty Kragans and loyal Skilkans, and eight
Terrans killed; about as many wounded."

"Pretty good, considering what you're running into. Get many of your
Kragans mounted on those hipposaurs?"

"About a hundred; a lot of 'saurs got shot, while we were leading them
out from the stables."

"Well, I can see geeks streaming away from the labor-camp, out the
south end, going in the direction of the river. Use what cavalry you
have on them, and what contragravity you can spare. I'll drop a few
flares to show their position and direction."

Anticipating him, the driver turned the airjeep and started toward the
dry Hoork River. Von Schlichten nodded approval and told him to
release flares when over the fugitives.

"Right," Falkenberg replied. "I'll get on it at once, general."

"And start moving that mine-equipment up into the Company area. Some
of it we can put into the air; the rest we can use to build
barricades. None of it do we want the geeks getting hold of, and the
equipment-park's outside our practical perimeter. I'll send people to
help you move it."

"No need to do that, sir; I have about a hundred and fifty loyal North
Ullrans--foremen, technicians, overseers--who can handle it."

"All right. Use your own judgment. Put the stuff back of the
native-troops barracks, and between the power-plant and the Company
office-buildings, and anywhere else you can." The lieutenant nudged
him and pushed a couple of buttons on the dashboard. "Here go the
flares, now."

       *       *       *       *       *

Immediately, a couple of airjeeps pounced in, to strafe the fleeing
enemy. Somebody must have already been issuing orders on another
wavelength; a number of Kragans, riding hipposaurs, were galloping
into the light of the flares.

"Now, let's have a look at the native barracks and the
maintenance-yards," he said. "And then, we'll make a circuit around
the Reservation, about two-three miles out. I'm not happy about where
Firkked's army is."

The driver looked at him. "I've been worrying about that, too, sir,"
he said. "I can't understand why he hasn't jumped us, already. I know
it takes time to get one of these geek armies on the road, but...."

"He's hoping our native-troops and the mine laborers will be able to
wipe us out, themselves," von Schlichten said.

There was nothing going on in the area between the native barracks
and the mountains except some sporadic firing as small patrols of
Kragans clashed with clumps of fleeing mutineers. All the barracks,
even those of the Rifles, were burning; the red-and-yellow
danger-lights around the power-plant and the water-works and the
explosives magazines were still on. Most of the floodlights were still
on, and there was still some fighting around the maintenance-yard. It
looked as though the survivors of the Tenth N.U.N.I. were in a few
small pockets which were being squeezed out.

There was nothing at all going on north of the Reservation; the
countryside, by day a checkerboard of walled fields and small
villages, was dark, except for a dim light, here and there, where the
occupants of some farmhouse had been awakened by the noise of battle.

Then, two miles east of the Reservation, he caught a new sound--the
flowing, riverlike, murmur of something vast on the move.

"Hear that, lieutenant?" he asked. "Head for it, at about a thousand
feet. When we're directly above it, let go some flares."

"Yes, sir." The younger man had lowered his voice to a whisper.

"That's geeks; headed for the Reservation."

"Maybe Firkked's army," von Schlichten thought aloud. "Or maybe a city
mob."

       *       *       *       *       *

The noises were growing clearer, louder. He picked up the phone and
punched the wavelength of the military airport.

"Von Schlichten; my compliments to Colonel Jarman. Tell him there's a
geek mob, or possibly Firkked's regulars, on the main highway from
Skilk, two miles east of the Reservation. Get some combat
contragravity over here, at once. We'll light them up for you. And
tell Colonel Jarman to start flying patrols up and down along the
Hoork River; this may not be the only gang that's coming out to see
us."

The sounds were directly below, now--the scuffing of horny-soled feet
on the dirt road, the clink and rattle of slung weapons, the clicking
and squeaking of Ullran voices.

The lieutenant said: "Here go the flares, sir."

Von Schlichten shut his eyes, then opened them slowly. The driver,
upon releasing the flares, had nosed up, banked, turned, and was
coming in again, down the road toward the advancing column. Von
Schlichten peered into his all-armament sight, his foot on the
machine-gun pedal and his fingers on the rocket buttons. The highway
below was jammed with geeks, and they were all stopped dead and
staring upward, as though hypnotized by the lights. It was obviously a
mob. A second later, they had recovered and were shooting--not at the
airjeep, but at the four globes of blazing magnesium. Then he had the
close-packed mass of non-humanity in his sights; he tramped the pedal
and began punching buttons. He still had four rockets left by the time
the mob was behind him.

"All right, let's take another pass at them. Same direction."

The driver put the airjeep into a quick loop and came out of it in
front of the mob, who now had their backs turned and were staring in
the direction in which they had last seen the vehicle. Again, von
Schlichten plowed them with rockets and harrowed them with his guns.
Some of the Skilkans were trying to get over the high fences on either
side of the road--really stockades of petrified tree-trunks. Others
were firing, and this time they were shooting at the airjeep. It took
one hit from a heavy shellosaur-rifle, and immediately the driver
banked and turned away from the road, heading back.

"Dammit, why did you do that?" von Schlichten demanded, lifting his
foot from the gun-pedal. "Are you afraid of the kind of popguns those
geeks are using?"

"I am not afraid to risk my vehicle, or myself, sir," the lieutenant
replied, with the extreme formality of a very junior officer chewing
out a very senior one. "I am, however, afraid to risk my passenger.
Generals are not expendable, sir."

He was right, of course. Von Schlichten admitted it. "I'm too old to
play cowboy, like this," he said. "Back to the Reservation; telecast
station."

Looking back over his shoulder, he saw eight or ten more flares
alight, and the ground-flashes of exploding shells and rockets; the
air above the road was sparkling with gun-flames. Jarman must have had
some contragravity ready to be sent off on the instant.

       *       *       *       *       *

While he had been out, somebody had gotten a TV-pickup mounted on a
contragravity-lifter and run up to two thousand feet, on the end of a
steel-tough tensilon mooring-line. The big circular screen was lit,
showing the whole Company Reservation, with the surrounding
countryside foreshortened by perspective to the distant lights of
Skilk. The map had been taken up from the floor, and a big
terrain-board had been brought in from the Chief Engineer's office and
set up in its place. In front of the screen, Paula Quinton, Barney
Mordkovitz, Colonel Cheng-Li, and, conspicuously silent, Jules
Keaveney, sat drinking coffee and munching sandwiches. Half a dozen
Terrans, of both sexes, were working furiously to get the markers
which replaced the pink and white pills placed on the board, and one
of Captain Inez Malavez' non-coms, with a headset, was getting combat
reports directly from the switchboard. Everything was clicking like
well-oiled machinery.

On the TV-screen, the Residency area was ablaze with light, and so
were the ship-docks, the airport and spaceport, the shops, and the
maintenance-yard. On the terrain-board, the latter was now marked as
completely in Company hands. The ruins of the native-troops barracks
were still burning, and there was a twinkle of orange-red here and
there among the ruins of the labor-camp. Much of the equipment for the
Polar mines had already been shifted into defensible ground. The rest
of the circle was dark, except for the distant lights of Skilk, where
the nuclear power plant was apparently still functioning in native
hands.

Then, without warning, a spot of white light blazed into being
south-east of the Company area and south-west of Skilk, followed by
another and another. Instantly, von Schlichten glanced up at the row
of smaller screens, and on one of them saw the view as picked up by a
patrolling airjeep.

The army of King Firkked of Skilk had finally put in its appearance,
about three miles south of the Reservation. The Skilkan regulars had
been marching in formation, some on the road and some along parallel
lanes and paths. They had the look of trained and disciplined troops,
but they had made the same mistake as the rabble that had been shot up
on the north side of the Reservation. Unused to attack from the air,
they had all halted in place and were gaping open-mouthed, their opal
teeth gleaming in the white flare-light.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the big screen, it could be seen that Colonel Jarman had thrown
most of his available contragravity at them, including the combat-cars
that had already started to form the second wave of the attack on the
mob to the north. Other flares bloomed in the darkness, and the fiery
trails of rockets curved downward to end in yellow flashes on the
ground.

The airjeep with the pickup circled back; the troops on the road and
in the adjoining fields had broken. The former were caught between the
fences which made Ullran roads such deathtraps when under air-attack.
The latter had dispersed, and were running away, individually and by
squads; at first, it looked like a panic, but he could see officers
signalling to the larger groups of fugitives to open out, apparently
directing the flight. By this time, there were ten or twelve
combat-cars and about twenty airjeeps at work. In the moving view from
the pickup-jeep, he saw what looked like a 90-mm. rocket land in the
middle of a company that was still trying to defend itself with
small-arms fire on the road, wiping out about half of them.

"The next time they're air-struck, they won't stay bunched,"
Mordkovitz stated. "A lot of them didn't stay bunched this time, if
you noticed. And they'll keep out from between the fences."

In the large screen, a quick succession of gun-flashes leaped up from
the direction of the Hoork River; shells began bursting over the scene
of the attack. The screen tuned to the pickup on the airjeep went
dead; in the big screen, there was a twinkling of falling fire. Almost
at once, thirty or forty rocket-trails converged on the gun-position,
and, for a moment, explosions burned like a bonfire.

"They had a 75-mm. at the rear of the column," somebody called from
the big switchboard. "Lieutenant Kalanang's jeep was hit; Lieutenant
Vermaas is cutting in his pickup on the same wavelength."

       *       *       *       *       *

The small screen lighted again. In the big screen, a cluster of
magnesium-lights then appeared above where the Skilkan gun had been;
in the small screen, there was a stubbled grain-field, pocked with
craters, and the bodies of fifteen or twenty natives, all rather badly
mangled. An overturned and apparently destroyed 75-mm. gun lay on its
side.

"As far as we know, that was the only 75-mm. gun Firkked had," Colonel
Cheng-Li said. "He has at least six, possibly ten, 40-mm's. It's a
wonder we haven't seen anything of them."

"Well, there's no way of being sure," Jules Keaveney said, "but I have
an idea they're all at or around the Palace. Firkked knows about how
much contragravity we have. He's probably wondering why we aren't
bombing him, now."

"He doesn't know we've sold the Palace to King Jonkvank for an army,"
von Schlichten said. "And that reminds me; how much contragravity
could Firkked scrape together, for an attack on us? I've been
expecting a geek Luftwaffe over here, at any moment."

Colonel Cheng-Li studied the smoking tip of his cigarette for a
moment. "Well, Firkked owns, personally, three ten-passenger aircars,
a thing like a troop-carrier that he transports some of his courtiers
around in, four airjeeps armed with a pair of 15-mm. machine-guns
apiece, and two big lorries. There are possibly two hundred vehicles
of all types in Skilk and the country around, but some of them are in
the hands of natives friendly to us."

Von Schlichten nodded. "And there'll be oodles of
thermoconcentrate-fuel, and blasting explosives. Colonel Quinton,
suppose you call Ed Wallingsby, the Chief Engineer, right away; have
him commissioned colonel. Tell him to get to work making this place
secure against air-attack, to consult with Colonel Jarman, and to get
those geeks Leavitt has penned in the repair-dock at the airport and
use them to dig slit-trenches and fill sandbags and so on. He can use
Kragan limited-duty wounded to guard them.... Mr. Keaveney, you'll
begin setting up something in the way of an ARP-organization. You'll
have to get along on what nobody else wants. You will also consult
with Colonel Jarman, and with Colonel Wallingsby. Better get started
on it now. Just think of everything around here that could go wrong in
case of an air attack, and try to do something about it in advance."



VIII


At 0245, an attack developed on the north-western corner of the
Reservation, in the direction of the explosives magazines. It turned
out to be relatively trivial. Remnants of the mob that had been broken
up by air attack on the road had gotten together and were making
rushes in small bands, keeping well spread out. Beating them off took
considerable ammunition, but it was accomplished with negligible
casualties to the defenders. They finally stopped coming around
daylight.

In the meantime, Themistocles M'zangwe called from Konkrook. "About
six hundred of Kankad's people have gotten in, already, in the
damnedest collection of vehicles you ever saw," he reported. "Kankad
must be using every scrap of contragravity he has; it's a regular
airborne Dunkirk-in-reverse. Kankad sent word that he's coming here in
person, as soon as he has things organized at his place. And the
geeks, here, have scraped together an air-force of their
own--farm-lorries, aircars, that sort of thing--and they're using them
to bomb us here and at the mainland farm, mostly with nitroglycerine.
We've shot down about twenty of them, but they're still coming. They
tried a boat-attack across the Channel. We've been doing some bombing,
ourselves; we made a down-payment for Eric Blount and Hendrik Lemoyne.
Took a fifty-ton tank off a fuel-lorry, fitted it with a detonator,
filled it with thermoconcentrate, and ferried it over on the Elmoran
and dumped it on the Keegarkan Embassy. It must have landed in the
middle of the central court; in about fifteen seconds, flames were
coming out every window in the place." His face became less jovial.
"We had something pretty bad happen here, too," he said. "That
Konkrook Fencibles rabble of Prince Jaizerd's mutinied, along with the
others; they got into the hospital and butchered everybody in the
place, patients and staff. The Kragans got there too late to save
anybody, but they wiped out the Fencibles. Jaizerd himself was the
only one they took alive, and he didn't stay that way very long."

"How are you making out with your Civil Administration crowd?"

M'zangwe grimaced. "I haven't had to put any of them under actual
arrest, so far, but we've had to keep Buhrmann away from the
communications equipment by force. He wanted to call you up and chew
you out for not evacuating everybody in the North to Konkrook."

"Is he crazy?"

"No, just scared. He says you're going to get everybody on Ullr
massacred by detail, when you could save Konkrook by bringing them all
here."

"You tell him I'm going to hold this planet, not just one city. Tell
him I have a sense of my duty to the Company and its stockholders, if
he hasn't; put it in those terms and he may understand you."

       *       *       *       *       *

By 0330, it was daylight; the attacks against the north-west corner of the
perimeter stopped entirely. Wallingsby had the three-hundred-odd Skilkan
laborers at work; he had gathered up all the tarpaulin he could find, and
had the two sewing-machines in the tentmaker's shop running on sandbags.
Jules Keaveney, to von Schlichten's agreeable surprise, had taken hold of
his ARP assignment, and was doing an efficient job in organizing for
fire-fighting, damage-control and first aid. Colonel Jarman had his
airjeeps and combat-cars working in ever-widening circles over the
countryside, shooting up everything in sight that even looked like
contragravity equipment. Some of these patrols had to be recalled, around
1030, when sporadic nuisance-sniping began from the side of the mountain
to the west. And, along with everything else, Paula Quinton managed to get
a complete digest prepared of the situation elsewhere in the
Terran-occupied parts of the planet.

The situation at Konkrook was brightening steadily. The second wave of
Kankad's improvised airlift, reenforced by contragravity from
Konkrook, had come in; there were now close to two thousand fresh
Kragans on Gongonk Island and the mainland farms, Kankad himself with
them. The _Aldebaran_ had reached Kankad's Town, and was loading
another thousand Kragans.... There was nothing more from Keegark. A
message from Colonel MacKinnon had come in at dawn, to the effect that
the geeks had penetrated his last defenses and that he was about to
blow up the Residency; thereafter Keegark went off the air.... By
0730, the _Northern Star_ had landed the regiment Murderers, armed
with first-quality Terran infantry-rifles and a few machine-guns and
bazookas, at the Palace at Krink, and by 0845 she had returned with
another regiment, the Jeel-Feeders. The three-street lane connecting
the Palace and the Residency had been widened to six, and then to
eight.... Guido Karamessinis, at Grank, was still at uneasy peace with
King Yoorkerk, who was still undecided whether the rebels or the
Company were going to be the eventual victors, and afraid to take any
irrevocable step in either direction.

       *       *       *       *       *

At 1100, Paula Quinton and Barney Mordkovitz virtually ordered him to
get some sleep. He went to his quarters at Company House, downed a
spaceship-captain's-size drink of honey-rum, and slept until 1600. As
he dressed and shaved, he could hear, through the open window, the
slow sputter of small-arms-fire, punctuated by the occasional
_whump-whump-whump_ of 40-mm. auto-cannon or the hammering of a
machine-gun.

Returning to his command-post at the telecast station, the
terrain-board showed that the perimeter of defense had been pushed out
in a bulge at the north-west corner; the TV-screen pictured a crude
breastwork of petrified tree-trunks, sandbags, mining machinery,
packing-cases and odds-and-ends, upon which Wallingsby's native
laborers were working under guard while a skirmish-line of Kragans had
been thrown out another four or five hundred yards and were exchanging
potshots with Skilkans on the gullied hillside.

"Where's Colonel Quinton?" he asked. "She ought to be taking a turn in
the sack, now."

"She's taking one," Major Falkenberg told him. "General Mordkovitz
chased her off to bed a couple of hours ago, called me in to take her
place, and then went out to replace me. Colonel Guilliford's in the
hospital; got hit about thirteen hundred. They're afraid he's going to
lose a leg."

More reports came in. The entire garrison of the small Residency at
Kwurk, the most northern of the eastern shore Free Cities, had arrived
at Kankad's Town in two hundred-foot contragravity scows and five
aircars. Two of the aircars arrived half an hour behind the rest of
the refugee flotilla, having turned off at Keegark to pay their
respects to King Orgzild. They reported the Keegark Residency in
ruins, its central buildings vanished in a huge crater; the _Jan
Smuts_ and the _Christiaan De Wett_ were still in the Company docks,
both apparently damaged by the blast which had destroyed the
Residency. One of the aircars had rocketed and machine-gunned some
Keegarkans who appeared to be trying to repair them; the other blew up
King Orgzild's nitroglycerine plant. Von Schlichten called Konkrook
and ordered a bombing-mission against Keegark organized, to make sure
the two ships stayed out of service.

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Northern Star_ was still bringing loyal troops into Krink. King
Jonkvank, whom von Schlichten called, was highly elated.

"We are killing traitors wherever we find them!" he exulted. "The city
is yellow with their blood; their heads are piled everywhere! How is
it with you at Skilk? Do the heads fall?"

"We have killed many, also," von Schlichten boasted. "And tonight, we
will kill more; we are preparing bombs of great destruction, which we
will rain down upon Skilk until there is not one stone left upon
another, or one infant of a day's age left alive!"

Jonkvank reacted as he was intended to. "Oh, no, general; don't do all
that!" he exclaimed. "You promised me that I should have Skilk, on the
word of a Terran. Are you going to give me a city of ruins and
corpses? Ruins are no good to anybody, and I am not a Jeel, to eat
corpses."

Von Schlichten shrugged. "When you are strong, you can flog your
enemies with a whip; when you are weak, all you can do is kill them.
If I had five thousand more troops, here...."

"Oh, I will send troops, as soon as I can," Jonkvank hastened to
promise. "All my best regiments. But, now that we have stopped this
sinful rebellion, here, I can't take chances that it will break out
again as soon as I strip the city of troops."

Von Schlichten nodded. Jonkvank's argument made sense; he would have
taken a similar position, himself.

"Well, get as many as you can over here, as soon as possible," he
said. "We'll try to do as little damage to Skilk as we can, but...."

       *       *       *       *       *

At 1830, Paula joined him for her breakfast, while he sat in front of
the big screen, eating his dinner. There had been light ground-action
along the southern end of the perimeter--King Firkked's regulars,
reinforced by Zirk tribesmen and levies of townspeople, all of whom
seemed to have firearms, were filtering in through the ruins of the
labor-camp and the wreckage of the equipment-park--and there was
renewed sniping from the mountainside. The long afternoon of the
northern Autumn dragged on; finally, at 2200, the sun set, and it was
not fully dark for another hour. For some time, there was an ominous
quiet, and then, at 0030, the enemy began attacking in force, driving
herds of livestock--lumbering six-legged brutes bred by the North
Ullrans for food--to test the defenses for electrified wire and
landmines. Most of these were shot down or blown up, but a few got as
far as the wire, which, by now, had been strung and electrified
completely around the perimeter.

Behind them came parties of Skilkan regulars with long-handled
insulated cutters; a couple of cuts were made in the wire, and a
section of it went dead. The line, at this point, had been rather
thinly held; the defenders immediately called for air-support, and
Jarman ordered fifteen of his remaining twenty airjeeps and five
combat-cars into the fight. No sooner were they committed than the
radar on the commercial airport control-tower picked up air vehicles
approaching from the north, and the air-raid sirens began howling and
the searchlights went on.

The contragravity which had been sent to support the ground-defense at
the south side of the Reservation turned to meet this new threat, and
everything else available, including the four heavy air-tanks, lifted
up. Meanwhile, guns began firing from the ground and from rooftops.

There had been four aircars, ordinary passenger vehicles equipped with
machine-guns on improvised mounts, and ten big lorries converted into
bombers, in the attack. All the lorries, and all but one of the
makeshift fighter-escort, were shot down, but not before explosive and
thermoconcentrate bombs were dumped all over the place. One lorry
emptied its load of thermoconcentrate-bombs on the control-building at
the airport, starting a raging fire and putting the radar out of
commission. A repair-shop at ordnance-depot was set on fire, and a
quantity of small-arms and machine-gun ammunition piled outside for
transportation to the outer defenses blew up. An explosive bomb landed
on the roof of the building between Company House and the telecast
station, blowing a hole in the roof and demolishing the upper floor.
And another load of thermoconcentrate, missing the power-plant, set
fire to the dry grass between it and the ruins of the native-troops
barracks.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before the air-attack had been broken up, the soldiers of King Firkked
and their irregular supporters were swarming through the dead section
of wire. They had four or five big farm-tractors, nuclear-powered but
unequipped with contragravity-generators, which they were using like
ground-tanks of the First Century. This attack penetrated to the
middle of the Reservation before it was stopped and the attackers
either killed or driven out; for the first time since daybreak, the
red-and-yellow lights came on around the power-plant.

As soon as the combined air and ground attack was beaten off, von
Schlichten ordered all his available contragravity up, flying patrols
around the Reservation and retaliatory bombing missions against Skilk,
and began bombarding the city with his 90-mm. guns. A number of fires
broke out, and at about 0200 a huge expanding globe of orange-red
flame soared up from the city.

"There goes Firkked's thermoconcentrate stock," he said to Paula, who
was standing beside him in front of the screen.

Half an hour later, he discovered that he had been over-optimistic.
Much of the enemy's supply of Terran thermoconcentrate had been
destroyed, but enough remained to pelt the Reservation and the Company
buildings with incendiaries, when a second and more severe air-attack
developed, consisting of forty or fifty makeshift lorry-bombers and
fifteen aircars.

Like the first, the second air-attack was beaten off, or, more
exactly, down. Most of the enemy contragravity was destroyed; at least
two dozen vehicles crashed inside the Reservation. As in the first
instance, there was a simultaneous ground attack from the southern
side, with a demonstration-attack at the north end. It was full
daylight before the last of the attackers was either killed or driven
out.

Five minutes later, the _Northern Star_ came bulking over the
mountains from the west.



IX


Von Schlichten raced for the telecast station, to receive a call from
a Colonel Khalid ib'n Talal, aboard the approaching ship.

"I've one of Jonkvank's regiments, the Jeel-Feeders, armed with Terran
9-mm. rifles and a few bazookas; I have a company of our Zirks, with
their mounts, and a battalion of the Sixth N.U.N.I.; I also have four
90-mm. guns, Terran-manned," he reported. "What's the situation,
general, and where do you want me to land?"

Von Schlichten described the situation succinctly, in an ancient and
unprintable military cliche. "Try landing south of the Reservation, a
little west of the ruins of the labor-camp," he advised. "The bulk of
Firkked's army is in that section, and I want them run out as soon as
possible. We'll give you all the contragravity and fire support we
can."

The _Northern Star_ let down slowly, firing her guns and dropping
bombs; as she descended, rifle-fire spurted from all her lower-deck
portholes. There was cheering, human and Ullran, from inside the
battered defense-perimeter; combat-cars, airjeeps, and improvised
bombers lifted out to strafe the Skilkans on the ground, and the four
air-tanks moved out to take position and open fire with their
90-mm.'s, helping to flush King Firkked's regulars and auxiliaries out
of the gullies and ruins and drive them south along the mountain, away
from where the ship would land and also away from the city of Skilk.
The _Northern Star_ set down quickly, and troops and artillery began
to be unloaded, joining in the fighting.

It was five hundred miles to Krink; three hours after lifting out, the
_Northern Star_ was back again, with two more of King Jonkvank's
infantry regiments, and by 1300, when the fourth load arrived from
Krink, the fighting was entirely on the eastern bank of the dry Hoork
River. This last contingent of reenforcements was landed in the
eastern suburbs of Skilk and began fighting their way into the city
from the rear.

It was evident, however, that the pacification of Skilk would not be
accomplished as rapidly as von Schlichten wished--street fighting,
against a determined enemy, is notoriously slow work--and he decided
to risk the _Northern Star_ in an attack against the Palace itself,
and, over the objections of Paula Quinton, Jules Keaveney, and Barney
Mordkovitz, to lead the attack in person.

       *       *       *       *       *

Inside the city, he found that the Zirk cavalry from Krink had thrust
up one of the broader streets to within a thousand yards of the
Palace, and, supported by infantry, contragravity, and a couple of
air-tanks, were pounding and hacking at a mass of Skilkans whose
uniform lack of costume prevented distinguishing between soldiery and
townsfolk. Very few of these, he observed, seemed to be using
firearms; with his glasses, he could see them shooting with long
Northern air-rifles and a few Takkad Sea crossbows. Either weapon
would shoot clear through a Terran or half-way through an Ullran at
fifty yards, but at over two hundred they were almost harmless. There
were a few fires still burning from the bombardment of the night
before--Ullran, and particularly North Ullran, cities did not burn
well--and the blaze which had consumed the bulk of Firkked's stock of
thermoconcentrate fuel had long ago burned out, leaving an area of six
or eight blocks blackened and lifeless.

The ship let down, while the six combat-cars which had accompanied her
buzzed the Palace roof, strafing it to keep it clear, and the Kragans
aboard fired with their rifles. She came to rest on seven-eights
weight reduction, and even before the gangplanks were run out, the
Kragans were dropping to the flat roof, running to stairhead
penthouses and tossing grenades into them.

The taking of the Palace was a gruesome business. Knowing exactly how
much mercy they would have shown had they been storming the Residency,
Firkked's soldiers and courtiers fought desperately and had to be
exterminated, floor by floor, room by room, hallway by hallway. They
had to fight for every inch downward.

Driving down from above, von Schlichten and his Kragans slithered over
floors increasingly greasy with yellow Ullran blood. He had picked up
a broadsword at the foot of the first stairway down; a little later,
he tossed it aside in favor of another, better balanced and with a
better guard. There was a furious battle at the doorways of the Throne
Room; finally, climbing over the bodies of their own dead and the
enemy's, they were inside.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here there was no question of quarter whatever, at least as long as
Firkked lived; North Ullran nobles did not surrender under the eyes of
their king, and North Ullran kings did not surrender their thrones
alive. There was also a tradition, of which von Schlichten was
mindful, that a king must only be killed by his conqueror, in personal
combat, with steel.

With a wedge of Kragan bayonets around him and the picked-up
broadsword in his hand, he fought his way to the throne, where Firkked
waited, a sword in one of his upper hands, his Spear of State in the
other, and a dagger in either lower hand. With his left hand, von
Schlichten detached the bayonet from the rifle of one of his followers
and went forward, trying not to think of the absurdity of a man of the
Sixth Century A.E., the representative of a civilized Chartered
Company, dueling to the death with swords with a barbarian king for a
throne he had promised to another barbarian, or of what could happen
on Ullr if he allowed this four-armed monstrosity to kill him.

It was not as bad as it looked, however. The ornate Spear of State,
in spite of its long, cruel-looking blade, was not an especially good
combat-weapon, at least for one hand, and Firkked seemed confused by
the very abundance of his armament. After a few slashes and jabs, von
Schlichten knocked the unwieldy thing from his opponent's hand. This
raised a fearful ullulation from the Skilkan nobility, who had stopped
fighting to watch the duel; evidently it was the very worst sort of a
bad omen. Firkked, seemingly relieved to be disencumbered of the
thing, caught his sword in both hands and aimed a roundhouse swing at
von Schlichten's head; von Schlichten dodged, crippled one of
Firkked's lower hands with a quick slash, and lunged at the royal
belly. Firkked used his remaining dagger to parry, backed a step
closer his throne, and took another swing with his sword, which von
Schlichten parried on the bayonet in his left hand. Then, backing, he
slashed at the inside of Firkked's leg with the thousand-year-old
_coup-de-Jarnac_. Firkked, unable to support the weight of his
dense-tissued body on one leg, stumbled; von Schlichten ran him neatly
through the breast with his sword and through the throat with the
bayonet.

There was silence in the throne-room for an instant, and then, with a
horrible collective shriek, the Skilkans threw down their weapons. One
of von Schlichten's Kragans slung his rifle and picked up the Spear of
State with all four hands, taking his post ceremoniously behind the
victor. A couple of others dragged the body of Firkked to the edge of
the dais, and one of them drew his leaf-shaped short-sword and
beheaded it.

At mid-afternoon, von Schlichten was on the roof of the Palace,
holding the Spear of State, with Firkked's head impaled on the point,
while a Terran technician aimed an audio-visual recorder.

"This," he said, with the geek-speaker in his mouth, "is King
Firkked's Spear of State, and here, upon it, is King Firkked's head.
Two days ago, Firkked was at peace with the Company, and Firkked was
King in Skilk. If he had not dared raise his feeble hand against the
might of the Ullr Company, he would still be alive, and his Spear
would still be borne behind him. So must all those who rise against
the Company perish.... Cut."

The camera stopped. A Kragan came forward and took the Spear of State,
with its grisly burden, carrying it to a nearby wall and leaning it
up, like a piece of stage property no longer required for this scene
but needed for the next. Von Schlichten took out his geek-speaker,
wiped and pouched it, and took his cigarette case from his pocket.

"Well, this is the limit!" Paula Quinton, who had come up during the
filming of the scene, exploded. "I thought you had to kill him
yourself in order to encourage your soldiers; I didn't think you
wanted to make a movie of it to show your friends."

Von Schlichten tapped the cigarette on the gold-and-platinum case and
stared at her through his monocle.

"Sit down, colonel." He lit the cigarette. "Your politico-military
education still needs a little filling in. At Grank, we have two
ships. One is the _Northern Lights_, sister ships of the _Northern
Star_. The other is the cruiser _Procyon_, the only real warship on
Ullr, with a main battery of four 200-mm. guns. How King Yoorkerk was
able to get control of those ships I don't know, but there will be a
board of inquiry and maybe a couple of courts-martial, when things get
stabilized to a point where we can afford such luxuries. As it is, we
need those ships desperately, and as soon as he gets in, I'm sending
Hideyoshi O'Leary to Grank with the _Northern Star_ and a load of
Kragan Rifles, to pry them loose. The audio-visual of which this is
the last scene is going to be one of the crowbars he's going to use."

"But why did you have to fight Firkked, yourself?" she asked.

"I had to kill him, myself, with a sword; according to local custom,
that makes me King of Skilk."

"Why, your Majesty!" She rose and curtsied mockingly. "But I thought
you were going to make Jonkvank King of Skilk."

He shook his head. "Just Viceroy," he corrected. "I'm handing the
Spear of State _down_ to him, not up to him; he'll reign as my vassal,
and, consequently, as vassal of the Company, and before long, he won't
be much more at Krink, either. That'll take a little longer--there'll
have to be military missions, and economic missions, and
trade-agreements, and all the rest of it, first--but he's on the way
to becoming a puppet-prince."

       *       *       *       *       *

Half an hour later, a large and excessively ornate air-launch,
specially built at the Konkrook shipyards for King Jonkvank, was
sighted coming over the mountain from the east. An escort of
combat-cars was sent to meet it, and a battalion of Kragans and the
survivors of Firkked's court were drawn up on the Palace roof.

"His Majesty, Jonkvank, King of Krink!" the former herald of King
Firkked's court, now herald to King Carlos von Schlichten, shouted,
banging on a brass shield with the flat of his sword, as Jonkvank
descended from his launch, attended by a group of his nobles and his
Spear of State, with Hideyoshi O'Leary and Francis X. Shapiro
shepherding them. As the guests advanced across the roof, the herald
banged again on his shield.

"His Majesty, Carlos von Schlichten,"--which came out more or less as
Karlok vonk Zlikdenk--"King, by right of combat, of Skilk!"

Von Schlichten advanced to meet his fellow-monarch, his own Spear of
State, with Firkked's head still grinning from it, two paces behind
him.

Jonkvank stopped, his face contorted with saurian rage.

"What is this?" he demanded. "You told me that I could be King of
Skilk; is this how a Terran keeps his word?"

"A Terran's word is always good, Jonkvank," von Schlichten replied,
omitting the titles, as was proper in one sovereign addressing
another. "My word was that you should reign in Skilk, and my word
stands. But these things must be done decently, according to custom
and law. I killed Firkked in single combat. Had I not done so, the
Spear of Skilk would have been left lying, for any of the young of
Firkked to pick up. Is that not the law?"

Jonkvank nodded grudgingly. "It is the law," he admitted.

"Good. Now, since I killed Firkked in lawful manner, his Spear is
mine, and what is mine I can give as I please. I now give you the
Spear of Skilk, to carry in my name, as I promised."

The Kragan who was carrying the ceremonial weapon tossed the head of
Firkked from the point; another Kragan kicked it aside and advanced to
wipe the spear-blade with a rag. Von Schlichten took the spear and
gave it to Jonkvank.

"This is not good!" one of the Skilkan nobles protested. "That you
should rule over us, yes. You killed Firkked in single combat, and you
are the soldier of the Company, which is mighty, as all here have
seen. But that this foreigner be given the Spear of Skilk, that is not
at all good!"

Some of the others, emboldened by his example, were jabbering
agreement.

"Listen, all of you!" von Schlichten shouted. "Here is no question of
Krink ruling over Skilk. Does it matter who holds the Spear of Skilk,
when he does so in my name? And King Jonkvank will be no foreigner. He
will come and live among you, and later he will travel back and forth
between Krink and Skilk, and he will leave the Spear of Krink in
Krink, and the Spear of Skilk in Skilk, and in Skilk he will be a
Skilkan. That is how it must be."

       *       *       *       *       *

That seemed to satisfy everybody except Jonkvank, and he had wit
enough not to make an issue of it. He even had the Spear of Krink
carried back aboard his launch, out of sight, and when he accompanied
von Schlichten, an hour later, to see Hideyoshi O'Leary off for Grank,
he had the Spear of Skilk carried behind him. When he was alone with
von Schlichten, in the room that had been King Firkked's bedchamber,
however, he exploded.

"What is all this foolishness which you promised these people in my
name and which I must now carry out? That I am to leave the Spear of
Skilk in Skilk and the Spear of Krink in Krink, and come here to
live...."

"You wish to hold Skilk?" von Schlichten asked.

"I intend to hold Skilk. To begin with, there shall be a great killing
here. A very great killing: of all those who advised that fool of a
Firkked to start this business; of those who gave shelter to the false
prophet, Rakkeed, when he was here; of the faithless priests who gave
ear to his abominable heresies and allowed him to spew out his
blasphemies in the temples; of those who sent spies to Krink, to
corrupt and pervert my soldiers and nobles; of those who...."

"All that is as it should be," von Schlichten agreed. "Except that it
must be done quickly and all at once, before the memories of these
crimes fade from the minds of the people. And great care must be taken
to kill only those who can be proven to be guilty of something; thus
it will be said that the justice of King Jonkvank is terrible to
evildoers but a protection and a shield to those who keep the peace
and obey the laws. And when the priests are to be killed, it should be
done under the direction of those other priests who were faithful to
the gods and whom King Firkked drove out of their temples, and it must
be done in the name of the gods. Thus will you be esteemed a pious,
and not an impious, king. It must not be allowed to seem that the city
has come under foreign rule. And you must not change the laws, unless
the people petition you to do so, nor must you increase the taxes, and
you must not confiscate the estates of those who are put to death, for
the death of parents is always forgiven before the loss of
patrimonies. And you should select certain Skilkan nobles, and become
the father of their young, and above all, you must leave none of the
young of Firkked alive, to raise rebellion against you later."

Jonkvank nodded, deeply impressed. "By the gods, Karlok vonk Zlikdenk,
this is wisdom! Now it is to be seen why the likes of Firkked cannot
prevail against you, or against the Company as long as you are the
Company's upper sword-arm!"

Honesty tempted von Schlichten, for a moment, to disclaim originality
for the principles he had just enunciated, even at the price of trying
to pronounce the name of Niccolo Machiavelli with a geek-speaker.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sun slid lower and lower toward the horizon behind them as the
aircar bulleted south along the broad valley and dry bed of the Hoork
River, nearing the zone of equal day and night. Hassan Bogdanoff drove
while Harry Quong finished his lunch, then changed places to begin his
own. Von Schlichten got two bottles of beer from the refrigerated
section of the lunch-hamper and opened one for Paula Quinton and one
for himself.

"What are we going to do with these geeks,"--she was using the nasty
and derogatory word unconsciously and by custom, now--"after this is
all over? We can't just tell them, 'Jolly well played; nice game,
wasn't it?' and go back to where we were Wednesday evening."

"No, we can't. There's going to have to be a Terran seizure of
political power in every part of this planet that we occupy, and as
soon as we're consolidated around the north of Takkad Sea, we're going
to have to move in elsewhere," he replied. "Keegark, Konkrook, and the
Free Cities, of course, will be relatively easy. They're in arms
against us now, and we can take them over by force. We had to make
that deal with Jonkvank, or, rather, I did, so that will be a slower
process, but we'll get it done in time. If I know that pair as well as
I think I do, Jonkvank and Yoorkerk will give us plenty of pretexts,
before long. Then, we can start giving them government by law instead
of by royal decree, and real courts of justice; put an end to the
head-payment system, and to these arbitrary mass arrests and
tax-delinquency imprisonments that are nothing but slave-raids by the
geek princes on their own people. And, gradually, abolish serfdom. In
a couple of centuries, this planet will be fit to admit to the
Federation, like Odin and Freya."

"Well, won't that depend a lot on whom the Company sends here to take
Harrington's place?"

"Unless I'm much mistaken, the Company will confirm me," he replied.
"Administration on Ullr is going to be a military matter for a long
time to come, and even the Banking Cartel and the mercantile interests
in the Company are going to realize that, and see the necessity for
taking political control. And just to make sure, I'm sending Hid
O'Leary to Terra on the next ship, to make a full report on the
situation."

"You think it'll be cleared up by then? The _City of Montevideo_ is
due in from Niflheim in a little under three months."

"It'll have to be cleared up by then. We can't keep this war going
more than a month, at the present rate. Police-action, and mopping-up,
yes; full-scale war, no."

"Ammunition?" she asked.

       *       *       *       *       *

He looked at her in pleased surprise. "Your education has been
progressing, at that," he said. "You know, a lot of professional
officers, even up to field rank in the combat branches, seem to think
that ammo comes down miraculously from Heaven, in contragravity
lorries, every time they pray into a radio for it. It doesn't; it has
to be produced as fast as it's expended, and we haven't been doing
that. So we'll have to lick these geeks before it runs out, because we
can't lick them with gun-butts and bayonets."

"Well, how about nuclear weapons?" Paula asked. "I hate to suggest
it--I know what they did on Mimir, and Fenris, and Midgard, and what
they did on Terra, during the First Century. But it may be our only
chance."

He finished his beer and shoved the bottle into the waste-receiver,
then got out his cigarettes. "There isn't a single nuclear bomb on the
planet. The Company's always refused to allow them to be manufactured
or stockpiled here."

"I don't think there'd be any criticism of your making them, now,
general. And there's certainly plenty of plutonium. You could make
A-bombs, at least."

"There isn't anybody here who even knows how to make one. Most of our
nuclear engineers could work one up, in about three months, when we'd
either not need one or not be alive."

"Dr. Gomes, who came in on the _Pretoria_, two weeks ago, can make
them," she contradicted. "He built at, least a dozen of them on
Niflheim, to use in activating volcanoes and bringing ore-bearing lava
to the surface."

Von Schlichten's hand, bringing his lighter to the tip of his
cigarette, paused for a second. Then he completed the operation,
snapped it shut, and put it away.

"When did all this happen?"

She took time out for mental arithmetic; even a spaceship officer had
to do that, when a question of interstellar time-relations arose.

"About three-fifty days ago, Galactic Standard. They'd put off the
first shot, six bombs, before I got in from Terra. I saw the second
shot a day or so before I left Niflheim on the _Canberra_. Dr. Gomes
had to stay over till the _Pretoria_ to put off the third shot. Why?"

"Did you run into a geek named Gorkrink, while you were on Nif?" he
asked her. "And what sort of work was he doing?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Gorkrink? I don't seem to remember.... Oh, yes! He was helping Dr.
Murillo, the seismologist. His year was up after the second shot; he
came to Ullr on the _Canberra_. Dr. Murillo was sorry to lose him. He
understood Lingua Terra perfectly; Dr. Murillo could talk to him, the
way you do with Kankad, without using a geek-speaker."

"Well, but what sort of work ...?"

"Helping set and fire the A-bombs.... _Oh! Good Lord!_"

"You can say that again, and deal in Allah, Shiva, and Kali," von
Schlichten told her. "Especially Kali.... Harry! See if you can get
some more speed out of this can. I want to get to Konkrook while it's
still there!"

It wouldn't be there long, the way things looked. King Orgzild had
four tons of plutonium, and with Prince Gorkrink probably able to
build A-bombs, Keegark would be set to bring Ullr its first taste of
nuclear warfare. Von Schlichten shuddered as he pictured that
happening. At the moment, shuddering was about the only thing he could
do.



X

[Illustration]


It was full dark when Konkrook came in view beyond the East Konk
Mountains, a lurid smear on the underside of the clouds, and at
Gongonk Island and at the Company farms to the south, a couple of
bunches of searchlights were fingering about in the sky. When von
Schlichten turned on the outside sound-pickup, he could hear the
distant tom-tomming of heavy guns, and the crash of shells and bombs.
Keeping the car high enough to be above the trajectories of incoming
shells, Harry Quong circled over the city while Hassan Bogdanoff
talked to Gongonk Inland on the radio.

The city was in a bad way. There were seventy-five to a hundred big
fires going, and a new one started in a rising ball of thermoconcentrate
flame while they watched. The three gun-cutters, _Elmoran_, _Gaucho_ and
_Bushranger_, and about fifty big freight lorries converted to bombers,
were shuttling back and forth between the island and the city. The Royal
Palace was on fire from end to end, and the entire waterfront and
industrial district were in flames. Combat-cars and air jeeps were
diving in to shell and rocket and machine-gun streets and buildings. He
saw six big bomber-lorries move in dignified procession to unload, one
after the other, on a row of buildings along what the Terrans called
South Tenth Street, and on the roofs of buildings a block away, red and
blue flares were burning, and he could see figures, both human and
Ullran, setting up mortars and machine-guns.

Landing on the top stage of Company House, on the island, they were
met by a Terran whom von Schlichten had seen, a few days ago, bossing
native labor at the spaceport, but who was now wearing a major's
insignia. He greeted von Schlichten with a salute which he must have
learned from some movie about the ancient French Foreign Legion. Von
Schlichten seriously returned it in kind.

"Everybody's down in the Governor-General's office, sir," he said.
"Your office, that is. King Kankad's here with us, too."

He accompanied them to the elevator, then turned to a telephone; when
von Schlichten and Paula reached the office, everybody was crowded at
the door to greet them: Themistocles M'zangwe, his arm in a sling;
Hans Meyerstein, the Johannesburg lawyer, who seemed to have even more
Bantu blood than the brigadier-general; Morton Buhrmann, the
Commercial Superintendent; Laviola, the Fiscal Secretary; a dozen or
so other officers and civil administrators. There was a hubbub of
greetings, and he was pleased to detect as much real warmth from the
civil administration crowd as from the officers.

"Well, I'm glad to be back with you," he replied, generally. "And let
me present Colonel Paula Quinton, my new adjutant; Hideyoshi O'Leary's
on duty in the North.... Them, this was a perfectly splendid piece of
work, here; you can take this not only as a personal congratulation,
but as a sort of unit citation for the whole crowd. You've all behaved
above praise." He turned to King Kankad, who was wearing a pair of
automatics in shoulder-holsters for his upper hands and another pair
in cross-body belt holsters for his lower. "And what I've said for
anybody else goes double for you, Kankad," he added, clapping the
Kragan on the shoulder.

"All he did was save the lot of us!" M'zangwe said. "We were hanging
on by our fingernails here till his people started coming in. And
then, after you sent the _Aldebaran_...."

"Where is the _Aldebaran_, by the way? I didn't see her when I came
in."

"Based on Kankad's, flying bombardment against Keegark, and keeping an
eye out for those ships. Prinsloo caught the _De Wett_ in the docks
there and smashed her, but the _Jan Smuts_ got away, and we haven't
been able to locate the _Oom Paul Kruger_, either. They're probably
both on the Eastern Shore, gathering up reenforcements for Orgzild,"
M'zangwe said.

"Our ability to move troops rapidly is what's kept us on top this
long, and Orgzild's had plenty of time to realize it," von Schlichten
said. "When we get _Procyon_ down here, I'm going to send her out,
with a screen of light scout-vehicles, to find those ships and get rid
of them.... How's Hid been making out, at Grank, by the way? I didn't
have my car-radio on, coming down."

That touched off another hubbub: "Haven't you heard, general?" ... "Oh,
my God, this is simply out of this continuum!" ... "Well, tell him,
somebody!" ... "No, get Hid on the screen; it's his story!"

Somebody busied himself at the switchboard. The rest of them sat down
at the long conference-table. Laviola and Meyerstein and Buhrmann were
especially obsequious in seating von Schlichten in Sid Harrington's
old chair, and in getting a chair for Paula Quinton. After awhile, the
jumbled colors on the big screen resolved themselves into an image of
Hideyoshi O'Leary, grinning like a pussycat beside an empty
goldfish-bowl, licking its chops.

"Well, what happened?" von Schlichten asked, after they had exchanged
greetings. "How did Yoorkerk like the movies? And did you get the
_Procyon_ and the _Northern Lights_ loose?"

"Yoorkerk was deeply impressed," O'Leary replied. "His story is that
he is and always was the true and ever-loving friend of the Company;
he acted to prevent quote certain disloyal elements unquote from
harming the people and property of the Company. _Procyon's_ on the way
to Konkrook. I'm holding _Northern Lights_ here and _Northern Star_ at
Skilk; where do you want them sent?"

"Leave _Northern Star_ at Skilk, for the time being. Tell the
Company's great and good friend King Yoorkerk that the Company expects
him to contribute some soldiers for the campaign here and against
Keegark, when that starts; be sure you get the best-armed and
best-trained regiments he has, and get them down here as soon as
possible. Don't send any of your Kragans or Karamessinis' troops here,
though; hold them in Grank till we make sure of the quality of
Yoorkerk's friendship."

"Well, general, I think we can be pretty sure, now. You see, he turned
Rakkeed the Prophet over to me...."

"_What_?" Von Schlichten felt his monocle starting to slip and took a
firmer grip on it. "Who?"

"Pay me, Them; he didn't drop it," Hideyoshi O'Leary said. "Why,
Rakkeed the Prophet. Yoorkerk was holding our ships and our people in
case we lost; he was also holding Rakkeed at the Palace in case we
won. Of course, Rakkeed thought he was an honored guest, right up till
Yoorkerk's guards dragged him in and turned him over to us...."

"That geek," von Schlichten said, "is too smart for his own good. Some
of these days he's going to play both ends against the middle and both
ends'll fold in on him and smash him." A suspicion occurred to him.
"You sure this is Rakkeed? It would be just like Yoorkerk to try to
sell us a ringer."

O'Leary shook his head solemnly. "I thought of that, right away. This
is the real article; Karamessinis' Constabulary and Intelligence
officers certified him for me. What do you want me to do, send him
down to Konkrook?"

Von Schlichten shook his head. "Get the priests of the locally
venerated gods to put him on trial for blasphemy, heresy,
impersonating a prophet, practicing witchcraft without a license, or
any other ecclesiastical crimes you or they can think of. Then, after
he's been given a scrupulously fair trial, have the soldiers of King
Yoorkerk behead him, and stick his head up over a big sign, in all
native languages, 'Rakkeed the False Prophet.' And have audio-visuals
made of the whole business, trial and execution, and be sure that the
priests and Yoorkerk's officers are in the foreground and our people
stay out of the pictures."

"Soap and towels, for General Pontius von Pilate!" Paula Quinton
called out.

"That's an idea; I was wondering what to give Yoorkerk as a
testimonial present," Hideyoshi O'Leary said. "A nice thirty-piece
silver set!"

"Quite appropriate," von Schlichten approved. "Well, you did a first-class
job. I want you back with us as soon as possible--incidentally, you're now
a brigadier-general--but not till the situation Grank-Krink-Skilk is
stabilized. And, eventually, you'll probably have to set up permanent
headquarters in the North."

       *       *       *       *       *

After Hideyoshi O'Leary had thanked him and signed off, and the screen
was dark again, he turned to the others.

"Well, gentlemen, I don't think we need worry too much about the
North, for the next few days. How long do you estimate this operation
against Konkrook's going to take, to complete pacification, Them?"

"How complete is complete pacification, general?" Themistocles
M'zangwe wanted to know. "If you mean to the end of organized
resistance by larger than squad-size groups, I'd say three days, give
or take twelve hours. Of course, there'll be small groups holding out
for a couple of weeks, particularly in the farming country and back in
the forest...."

"We can forget them; that's minor-tactics stuff. We'll need to keep
some kind of an occupation force here for some time; they can deal
with that. We'll have to get to work on Keegark, as soon as possible;
after we've reduced Keegark, we'll be able to reorganize for a
campaign against the Free Cities on the Eastern Shore."

"Begging your pardon, general, but reduce is a mild word for what we
ought to do to Keegark," Hans Meyerstein said. "We ought to raze that
city as flat as a football field, and then play football on it with
King Orgzild's head."

"Any special reason?" von Schlichten asked. "In addition to the
Blount-Lemoyne massacre, that is?"

"I should say so, general!" Themistocles M'zangwe backed Meyerstein
up. "Bob, you tell him."

Colonel Robert Grinell, the Intelligence officer, got up and took the
cigar out of his mouth. He was short and round-bodied and bald-headed,
but he was old Terran Federation Regular Army through and through.

"Well, general, we've been finding out quite a bit about the genesis
of this business, lately," he said. "From up North, it probably looked
like an all-Rakkeed show; that's how it was supposed to look. But the
whole thing was hatched at Keegark, by King Orgzild. We've managed to
capture a few prominent Konkrookans"--he named half a dozen--"who've
been made to talk, and a number of others have come in voluntarily and
furnished information. Orgzild conceived the scheme in the beginning;
Rakkeed was just the messenger-boy. My face gets the color of the
Company trademark every time I think that the whole thing was planned
for over a year, right under our noses, even to the signal that was to
touch the whole thing off...."

"The poisoning of Sid Harrington, and our announcement of his death?"
von Schlichten asked.

"You figured that out yourself, sir? Well, that was most of it."

Grinell went on to elaborate, while von Schlichten tried to keep the
impatience out of his face. Beside him, Paula Quinton was fidgeting,
too; she was thinking, as he was, of what King Orgzild and Prince
Gorkrink were doing now. "And I know positively that the order for the
poisoning of Sid Harrington came from the Keegarkan Embassy, here, and
was passed down through Gurgurk and Keeluk to this geek here who
actually put the poison in the whiskey."

"Yes. I agree that Keegark should be wiped out, and I'd like to have
an immediate estimate on the time it'll take to build a nuclear bomb
to do the job. One of the old-fashioned plutonium fission A-bombs will
do quite well."

Everybody turned quickly. There was a momentary silence, and then
Colonel Evan Colbert, of the Fourth Kragan Rifles, the senior officer
under Themistocles M'zangwe, found his voice.

"If that's an order, general, we'll get it done. But I'd like to
remind you, first, of the Company policy on nuclear weapons on this
planet."

"I'm aware of that policy. I'm also aware of the reason for it. We've
been compelled, because of the lack of natural fuel on Ullr, to set up
nuclear power reactors and furnish large quantities of plutonium to
the geeks to fuel them. The Company doesn't want the natives here
learning of the possibility of using nuclear energy for destructive
purposes. Well, gentlemen, that's a dead issue. They've learned it,
thanks to our people on Niflheim, and unless my estimate is entirely
wrong, King Orgzild already has at least one First-Century
Nagasaki-type plutonium bomb. I am inclined to believe that he had at
least one such bomb, probably more, at the time when orders were sent
to his embassy, here, for the poisoning of Governor-General
Harrington."

With that, he selected a cigarette from his case, offered it to Paula,
and snapped his lighter. She had hers lit, and he was puffing on his
own, when the others finally realized what he had told them.

"That's impossible!" somebody down the table shouted, as though that
would make it so. Another--one of the civil administration
crowd--almost exactly repeated Jules Keaveney's words at Skilk: "What
the hell was Intelligence doing; sleeping?"

"General von Schlichten," Colonel Grinell took oblique cognizance of
the question. "You've just made, by implication, a most grave charge
against my department. If you're not mistaken in what you've just
said, I deserve to be court-martialled."

"I couldn't bring charges against you, colonel; if it were a
court-martial matter, I'd belong in the dock with you," von Schlichten
told him. "It seems, though, that a piece of vital information was
possessed by those who were unable to evaluate it, and until this
afternoon, I was ignorant of its existence. Colonel Quinton, suppose
you repeat what you told me, on the way down from Skilk."

"Well, general, don't you think we ought to have Dr. Gomes do that?"
Paula asked. "After all, he constructed those bombs on Niflheim, and
it'll be he who'll have to build ours."

       *       *       *       *       *

Von Schlichten nodded in instant agreement.

"That's right." He looked around. "Where's Dr. Lourenço Gomes, the
nuclear engineer who came in on the _Pretoria_, two weeks ago? Send
out for him, and get him in here to me at once."

There was another awkward silence. Then Kent Pickering, the chief of
the Gongonk Island power-plant, cleared his throat.

"Why, general, didn't you know? Dr. Gomes is dead. He was killed
during the first half hour of the uprising."



XI


He flinched inwardly, and tightened his eye-muscles on the edge of the
monocle to keep them from flinching physically as well, trying to
freeze out of his face the consternation he felt.

"That's bad, Kent," he said. "Very bad. I'd been counting heavily on
Dr. Gomes to design a bomb of our own."

"Well, general, if you please." That was Air-Commodore Leslie
Hargreaves. "You say you suspect that King Orgzild has developed a
nuclear bomb. If that's true, it's a horrible danger to all of us. But
I find it hard to believe that the Keegarkans could have done so, with
their resources and at their technological level. Now, if it had been
the Kragans, that would have been different, but...."

"Paula, you'd better carry on and explain what you told me, and add
anything else you can think of that might be relevant.... Is that
sound-recorder turned on? Then turn it on, somebody; we want this
taped."

       *       *       *       *       *

Paula rose and began talking: "I suppose you all understand what
conditions are on Niflheim, and how these Ullran native workers are
employed; however, I'd better begin by explaining the purpose for
which these nuclear bombs were designed and used...."

He smiled; she realized that he needed time to think, and she was
stalling to provide it. He drew a pencil and pad toward him and began
doodling in a bored manner, deliberately closing his mind to what she
was saying. There were two assumptions, he considered: first, that
King Orgzild already possessed a nuclear bomb which he could use when
he chose, and, second, that in the absence of Dr. Gomes, such a bomb
could only be produced on Gongonk Island after lengthy experimental
work. If both of these assumptions were true, he had just heard the
death-sentence of every Terran on Ullr. The first he did not for a
moment doubt. The reasons for making it were too good. He dismissed it
from further consideration and concentrated on the second.

"... what's known as a Nagasaki-type bomb, the first type of
plutonium-bomb developed," Paula was saying. "Really, it's a
technological antique, but it was good enough for the purpose, and Dr.
Gomes could build it with locally available materials...."

That was the crux of it. The plutonium bomb, from a military
standpoint, was as obsolete as the flintlock musket had been at the
time of the Second World War. He reviewed, quickly, the history of
weapons-development since the beginning of the Atomic Era. The
emphasis, since the end of the Second World War, had all been on
nuclear weapons and rocket-missiles. There had been the H-bomb, itself
obsolescent, and the Bethe-cycle bomb, and the subneutron bomb, and
the omega-ray bomb, and the negamatter bomb, and then the end of
civilization in the Northern Hemisphere and the rise of the new
civilization in South America and South Africa and Australia. Today,
the small-arms and artillery his troops were using were merely slight
refinements on the weapons of the First Century, and all the modern
nuclear weapons used by the Terran Federation were produced at the
Space Navy base on Mars, by a small force of experts whose skills were
almost as closed to the general scientific and technical world as the
secrets of a medieval guild. The old A-bomb was an historical
curiosity, and there was nobody on Ullr who had more than a layman's
knowledge of the intricate technology of modern nuclear weapons. There
were plenty of good nuclear-power engineers on Gongonk Island, but how
long would it take them to design and build a plutonium bomb?

"... Gorkrink also has a good understanding of Lingua Terra," Paula
was saying. "He and Dr. Murillo conversed bi-lingually, just as I've
heard General von Schlichten and King Kankad talking to one another. I
haven't any idea whether or not Gorkrink could read Lingua Terra, or,
if so, what papers or plans he might have seen."

"Just a minute, Paula," he said. "Colonel Grinell, what does your
branch have on this Gorkrink?"

"He's the son of King Orgzild, and the daughter of Prince Jurnkonk,"
Grinell said. "We knew he'd signed on for Nif, two years ago, but the
story we got was that he'd fallen out of favor at court and had been
exiled. I can see, now, that that was planted to mislead us. As to
whether or not he can read Lingua Terra, my belief is that he can. We
know that he can understand it when spoken. He could have learned to
read at one of those schools Mohammed Ferriera set up, ten or fifteen
years ago."

"And Dr. Gomes and Dr. Murillo and Dr. Livesey left papers and plans
lying around all over the place," Paula added. "If he went to Niflheim
as a spy, he could have copied almost anything."

"Well, there you have it," von Schlichten said. "When Gorkrink found
out that plutonium can be used for bombs, he began gathering all the
information he could. And as soon as he got home, he turned it all
over to Pappy Orgzild."

"That still doesn't mean that the Kee-geeks were able to do anything
with it," Air-Commodore Hargreaves argued.

"I think it does," von Schlichten differed. "As soon as Orgzild would
hear about the possibility of making a plutonium bomb, he'd set up an
A-bomb project, and don't think of it in terms of the old First
Century Manhattan Project. There would be no problem of producing
fissionables--we've been scattering refined plutonium over this planet
like confetti."

"Well, an A-bomb's a pretty complicated piece of mechanism, even if
you have the plans for it," Kent Pickering said. "As I recall, there
have to be several subcritical masses of plutonium, or U-235, or
whatever, blown together by shaped charges of explosive, all of which
have to be fired simultaneously. That would mean a lot of electrical
fittings that I can't see these geeks making by hand."

"I can," Paula said. "Have you ever seen the work these native
jewelers do? And didn't you tell me about a clockwork thing they have
at the university, here, to show the apparent movements of the
sun...."

"That's right," von Schlichten said. "And what they couldn't make,
they could have bought from us; we've sold them a lot of electrical
equipment."

"All right, they could have built an A-bomb," Buhrmann said. "But did
they?"

"We assume they tried to. Gorkrink got back from Nif on the
_Canberra_, three months ago," von Schlichten said. "If Orgzild
decided to build an A-bomb, he wouldn't give the signal for this
uprising until he either had one or knew he couldn't make one, and he
wouldn't give up trying in only three months. Therefore, I think we
can assume that he succeeded, and had succeeded at the time he sent
Gorkrink here to get that four tons of plutonium we let him have, and,
incidentally, to tell his ambassador to pass the word to have Sid
Harrington poisoned according to plan."

"Then why didn't he just use it on us at the start of the uprising?"
Meyerstein wanted to know.

"Why should he? Getting rid of us is only the first step in Orgzild's
plan," Grinell said. "Back as far as geek history goes, the Kings of
Keegark have been trying to conquer Konkrook and the Free Cities and
make themselves masters of the whole Takkad Sea area. Let Konkrook
wipe us out, and then he can move in his troops and take Konkrook. Or,
if we beat off the geeks here, as we seem to be doing, he can bomb us
out and then move in on Konkrook. I think that as long as we're
fighting, here, he'll wait. The more damage we do to Konkrook, the
easier it'll be for him."

"Then we'd better start dragging our feet on the Konkrook front,"
Laviola said. "And get busy trying to build a bomb of our own."

       *       *       *       *       *

Von Schlichten looked up at the big screen, on which the battle of
Konkrook was being projected from an overhead pickup.

"I'll agree on the second half of it," von Schlichten said. "And we'll
also have to set up some kind of security-patrol system against
bombers from Keegark. And as soon as _Procyon_ gets here, we'll have
to send her out to hunt down and destroy those two Boer-class
freighters, the _Jan Smuts_ and the _Kruger_. And we'll have to
arrange for protection of Kankad's Town; that's sure to be another of
Orgzild's high-priority targets. As to the action against Konkrook,
I'll rely on your advice, Them. Can we delay the fall of the city for
any length of time?"

M'zangwe shook his head. "When we divert contragravity to
security-patrol work, the ground action'll slow up a little, of
course. But the geeks are about knocked out, now."

"The hell with it, then. I doubt if we'd be able to buy much time from
Orgzild by delaying victory in the city, and we'll probably need the
troops as workers over here." He turned to Pickering. "Dr. Pickering,
what sort of a crew can you scrape together to design a bomb for us?"
he asked.

"Well, there's Martirano, and Sternberg, and Howard Fu-Chung, and Piet
van Reenen, and...." He nodded to himself. "I can get six or eight of
them in here in about twenty minutes; I'll have a project set up and
working in a couple of hours. There has to be somebody qualified on
duty at the plant, all the time, of course, but...."

"All right; call them in. I want the bomb finished by yesterday
afternoon. And everybody with you, and you, yourself, had better
revert to civilian status. This isn't something you can do by the
numbers, and I don't want anybody who doesn't know what it's all about
pulling rank on your outfit. Go ahead, call in your gang, and let me
know what you'll be able to do, as soon as--sooner than--it's
possible."

He turned to Hargreaves. "Les, you'll have charge of flying the
security patrols, and doing anything else you can to keep Orgzild from
bombing us before we can bomb him. You'll have priority on everything
second only to Pickering."

Hargreaves nodded. "As you say, general, we'll have to protect
Kankad's, as well as this place. It's about five hundred miles from
here to Kankad's, and eight-fifty miles from Kankad's to Keegark...."

       *       *       *       *       *

He stopped talking to von Schlichten, and began muttering to himself,
running over the names of ships, and the speeds and pay-load
capacities of airboats, and distances. In about five minutes, he would
have a program worked out; in the meantime, von Schlichten could only
be patient and contain himself. He looked along the table, and caught
sight of a thin-faced, saturnine-looking man in a green shirt with a
colonel's three concentric circles marked on the shoulders in
silver-paint. Emmett Pearson, the communications chief.

"Emmett," he said, "those orbiters you have strung around this planet,
two thousand miles out, for telecast rebroadcast stations. How much of
a crew could be put on one of them?"

Pearson laughed. "Crew of what, general? White mice, or trained
cockroaches? There isn't room inside one of those things for anything
bigger to move around."

"Well, I know they're automatic, but how do you service them?"

"From the outside. They're only ten feet through, by about twenty in
length, with a fifteen-foot ball at either end, and everything's in
sections, which can be taken out. Our maintenance-gang goes up in a
thing like a small spaceship, and either works on the outside in
spacesuits, or puts in a new section and brings the unserviceable one
down here to the shops."

"Ah, and what sort of a thing is this small spaceship, now?"

"A thing like a pair of fifty-ton lorries, with airlocks between, and
connected at the middle; airtight, of course, and pressurized and
insulated, like a spaceship. One side's living' quarters for a six-man
crew--sometimes the gang's out for as long as a week at a time--and
the other side's a workshop."

That sounded interesting. With contragravity, of course, terms like
"escape-velocity" and "mass-ratio" were of purely antiquarian
interest.

"How long," he asked Pearson, "would it take to fit that vehicle with
a full set of detection instruments--radar, infrared and ultraviolet
vision, electron-telescope, heat and radiation detectors, the whole
works--and spot it about a hundred to a hundred and fifty miles above
Keegark?"

"That I couldn't say, general," Emmett Pearson replied. "It'd have to
be a shipyard job, and a lot of that stuff's clear outside my
department. Ask Air-Commodore Hargreaves."

"Les!" he called out. "Wake up, Les!"

"Just a second, general." Hargreaves scribbled frantically on his pad.
"Now," he said, raising his head. "What is it, sir?"

"Emmett, here, has a junior-grade spaceship that he used to service
those orbital telecast-relay stations of his. He'll tell you what it's
like. I want it fitted with every sort of detection device that can be
crammed into or onto it, and spotted above Keegark. It should, of
course, be high enough to cover not only the Keegark area, but
Konkrook, Kankad's, and the lower Hoork and Konk river-valleys."

"Yes, I get it." Hargreaves snatched up a phone, punched out a
combination, and began talking rapidly into it in a low voice. After
awhile, he hung up. "All right, Mr. Pearson--Colonel Pearson, I mean.
Have your space-buggy sent around to the shipyard. My boys'll fix it
up." He made a note on another piece of paper. "If we live through
this, I'm going to have a couple of supra-atmosphere ships in service
on this planet.... Now, general; I have a tentative set-up. We're
going to need the _Elmoran_ for patrol work south and east of
Konkrook, and the _Gaucho_ and _Bushranger_ to the north and
north-east, based on Kankad's. We'll keep the _Aldebaran_ at Kankad's,
and use her for emergencies. And we'll have patrols of light
contragravity like this." He handed a map, with red-pencil and
blue-pencil markings, along to von Schlichten. "Red are Kankad-based;
blue are Konkrook-based."

"That looks all right," von Schlichten said. "There's another thing,
though. We want scout-vehicles to cover the Keegark area with
radiation-detectors. These geeks are quite well aware of
radiation-danger from fissionables, but they're accustomed to the
ordinary industrial-power reactors, which are either very lightly
shielded or unshielded on top. We want to find out where Orgzild's
bomb-plant is."

"Yes, general; as soon as we can get radiation detectors sent out to
Kankad's, we'll have a couple of fast aircars fitted with them for
that job."

"We have detectors, at our laboratory and reaction-plant," Kankad
said. "And my people can make more, as soon as you want them." He
thought for a moment. "Perhaps I should go to the town, now. I could
be of more use there than here."

Kent Pickering, who had been talking with his experts at a table
apart, returned.

"We've set up a program, general," he said. "It's going to be a lot
harder than I'd anticipated. None of us seem to know exactly what we
have to do in building one of those things. You see, the uranium or
plutonium fission-bomb's been obsolete for over four hundred years. It
was a classified-secret matter long after its obsolescence, because it
hadn't been rendered any the less deadly by being superseded--there
was that A-bomb that the Christian Anarchist Party put together at
Buenos Aires in 378 A.E., for instance. And then, after it was
declassified, it had been so far superseded that it was of only
antiquarian interest; the textbooks dealt with it only in general
terms. The principles, of course, are part of basic nuclear science;
the secret of the A-bomb was just a bag of engineering tricks that we
don't have, and which we will have to rediscover. Design of tampers,
design of the chemical-explosive charges to bring subcritical masses
together, case-design, detonating mechanism, things like that.

"The complete data on even the old Hiroshima and Nagasaki types is
still in existence, of course. You can get it at places like the
University of Montevideo Library, or Jan Smuts Memorial Library at
Cape Town. But we don't have it here. We're detailing a couple of
junior technicians to make a search of the library here on Gongonk
Island, but we're not optimistic. We just can't afford to pass up any
chance, even when it approaches zero-probability."

Von Schlichten nodded. "That's about what I'd expected," he said. "I
suppose Gomes got his data out of one of the dustier storage-stacks at
Jan Smuts or Montevideo, in the first place.... Well, I still want
that bomb finished by yesterday afternoon, but since that's
impractical, you'll have to take a little--but as little as
possible--longer."

"What are we going to do about publicity on this?" Howlett, the
personnel man. asked. "We don't want this getting out in garbled
form--though how it could be made worse by garbling I couldn't
guess--and having the troops watching the sky over their shoulders and
going into a panic as soon as they saw something they didn't
understand."

"No, we don't. I've seen a couple of troop-panics," von Schlichten
said. "There can't be anything much worse than a panic."

"I think the Terrans ought to be told the worst," Hargreaves said.
"And told that our only hope is to get a bomb of our own built and
dropped first. As to the Kragans.... What do you think, King Kankad?"

"Tell them that we are building a bomb to destroy Keegark; that we are
running short of ammunition, and that it is our only hope of finishing
the war before the ammunition is gone," Kankad said. "Tell them
something of what sort of a bomb it is. But do not tell them that King
Orgzild already has such a bomb. Old Kankad, who made me out of
himself, told me about how our people fled in panic from the weapons
of the Terrans, when your people and mine were still enemies. This
thing is to the weapons they faced then as those weapons were to the
old Kragans' spears and bows.... And when the geeks from Grank come
here, tell them that we are winning and that if they fight well, they
can share the loot of Konkrook and Keegark."

Von Schlichten looked up at the big screen. Already, Themistocles
M'zangwe had ordered the Channel Battery to reduce fire; the big guns
were firing singly, in thirty-second-interval salvos. There was less
bombing, too; contragravity was being drawn out of the battle.

"Well, we all have things to do," he said, "and I think we've
discussed everything there is to discuss. Anybody think of anything
we've forgotten?... Then we're adjourned."

He and Paula Quinton took the elevator to the roof, and sat side by
side, silently watching the conflagration that was raging across the
channel and the nearer flashes of the big guns along the island's city
side.

"Wednesday night, I thought we were all cooked," Paula told him.
"Cleaning up the North in two days seemed like an impossibility, too.
Maybe you'll do it again."

"If I pull this one out of the fire, I won't be a general; I'll be a
magician," he said. "Pickering'll be a magician, I mean; he's the boy
who'll save our bacon, if it's saveable." He looked somberly across
the flame-reflecting water. "Let's not kid ourselves; we're just
kicking and biting at the guards on the way up the gallows-steps."

[Illustration]

"Well, why stop till the trap's sprung?" she asked. "What'll happen to
these people on this planet, after we're atomized?"

"That I don't want to think about. Kankad's Town will get the second
bomb; Orgzild won't dare leave the Kragans after he's wiped us out.
Yoorkerk and Jonkvank, in the North, will turn on Keaveney and Shapiro
and Karamessinis and Hid O'Leary and wipe them out. And when the next
ship gets in here and they find out what happened, they'll send the
Federation Space Navy, and this planet'll get it worse than Fenris
did. They'll blast anything that has four arms and a face like a
lizard...."

Half a dozen aircars lifted suddenly from the airport and streaked
away to the north-east. As they went past, in the light of the
burning-city, he could see that at least three of them had multiple
rocket-launchers on top. In a matter of seconds, a gun-cutter raced
after them, and a second, which had been over Konkrook, jettisoned a
bomb and turned away to follow.

"Maybe that's it," Paula said.

"Well, if it is, we won't be any better off anywhere else than here,"
he told her. "Let's stay where we are and watch."

After what seemed like a long time, however, a twinkle of lights
showed over the East Konk Mountains. They weren't the flashes of
explosions; some were magnesium flares, and some were the lights of a
ship.

"That's _Procyon_, from Grank," he said. "Everybody gets a good mark
for this--detection stations, interceptors, gun-cutters. If that had
been it, there'd have been a good chance of stopping it." He felt
better than he had since Pickering had told him that Lourenço Gomes
was dead. "It's a good thing Gorkrink didn't pick up any dope on
guided missiles, while he was at it. As long as they have to deliver
it with contragravity, we have a chance."

They rose from the balustrade where they had been sitting, and, for
the first time, he discovered that he had had his left arm over her
shoulder and that she had had her right hand resting on the point of
his right hip, just above his pistol. He picked up the folder of
papers she had been carrying, and put her into the elevator ahead of
him, and it was only when they parted on the living-quarters level
that he recalled having followed the older protocol of gallantry
rather than the precedence of military rank.



XII


He woke with a guilty start and looked up at the clock on the ceiling;
it was 0945. Kicking himself free of the covers, he slid his feet to
the floor and sprinted for the bathroom. While he was fussing to get
the shower adjusted to the right temperature, he bludgeoned his
conscience by telling himself that a wide-awake general is more good
than a half-asleep general, that there was nothing he could do but
hope that Hargreaves' patrols would keep the bomb away from Konkrook
until Pickering's brain-trust came up with one of their own, and that
the fact that the commander-in-chief was making sack-time would be
much better for morale than the spectacle of him running around in
circles. He shaved carefully; a stubble of beard on his chin might
betray the fact that he was worried. Then he dressed, put his monocle
in his eye, and called the headquarters that had been set up in Sid
Harrington's--now his--office. A girl at the switchboard appeared on
his screen, and gave place to Paula Quinton, who had been up for the
past two hours.

"The _Northern Lights_ got in about three hours ago, general," she
told him. "She had four of King Yoorkerk's infantry regiments
aboard--the Seventh, Glorious-and-Terrible, the Fourth,
Firm-in-Adversity, the Second, Strength-of-the-Throne, and the
Twelfth, Forever-Admirable. They're the sorriest looking rabble I ever
saw, but Hideyoshi says they're the best Yoorkerk has, and they all
have Terran-style rifles. General M'zangwe broke them into battalions,
and put a battalion in with each of the Kragan regiments. I think
they're more afraid of the Kragans than they are of the rebels."

He nodded. That was probably the best way to employ them, within the
existing situation. The trouble was, Them M'zangwe was incurably
tactical-minded. Put those geeks of Yoorkerk's in with the Kragans and
they'd be most useful in conquering Konkrook, but the trouble was
that, after associating with Kragans, they might develop into
reasonably good troops, themselves, to the undesired improvement of
King Yoorkerk's army. On the other hand, maybe not. Keep them in
Company service long enough, and they might want to forget about
Yoorkerk and stay there.

"How's the situation over in town?" he asked.

"Well, it's slowing up, since we began pulling contragravity out," she
told him, "but the geeks are breaking up rapidly.... Oh, there was
something funny about that hassle, last evening, when the Procyon came
in. Two contragravity vehicles, an aircar and an air-lorry, that went
out to meet the ship, are unaccounted for."

"You mean two of our vehicles are missing?"

She shook her head, frowning in perplexity. "Well, no. All the
vehicles that answered that unidentified-aircraft alert returned, but
there were these two that went out that we haven't any record of.
Colonel Grinell is investigating, but he can't find out anything...."

"Tell him not to waste any more time," he said. "Those two were
probably geeks from Konkrook. You know, that's how the von Schlichten
family got out of Germany, in the Year Three--flew a bomber to Spain.
The Konkrook war-criminals are getting out before the Army of
Occupation moves in."

"Well, the posts at the old Kragan castles report some contragravity,
and parties riding 'saurs, moving west from the city," she told him.
"There are a lot of refugees on the roads. And combat reports from
Konkrook agree that resistance is getting weaker every hour.... And
the supra-atmosphere observation-craft--they're beginning to call her
the Sky-Spy--is up a hundred and fifty miles over Keegark. We have
radar and vision screens and telemetered radiation and other detectors
here, tuned to her. They're installing a similar set on the _Northern
Lights_ at the shipyard. By the way, Air-Commodore Hargreaves wants to
know if he can take a pair of 155-mm rifles from the Channel Battery
and mount them on the _Lights_."

"Yes, of course; he can have anything he wants, as long as it isn't
urgently needed for the bomb project."

"_Sky-Spy_ reports normal contragravity traffic between Keegark and
the farming-villages around--aircars, lorries, a few scows--but
nothing suspicious. No trace of either of the Boer-class ships.
Kankad's people are building receiving sets to install on the
_Procyon_ and the _Aldebaran_, and another set for Kankad's Town.
Pickering and his people are still working, but they all look pretty
frustrated. They have Major Thornton, at the ammunition plant, doing
experimental work on chemical-explosive charges to bring the
subcritical masses together and hold them together till an explosion
can be produced; they're using most of the skilled electrical and
electronics people to work up a detonating device. That's why
Kankad's people are doing most of the detection-device work.
Hargreaves is fitting a lot of small craft--combat-cars and civilian
aircars--with radar sets, to use for patrolling."

"That sounds good," von Schlichten said. "I'll be around and see how
things are, after I've had some breakfast."

He had breakfast at the main cafeteria, four floors down; there wasn't
as much laughing and talking as usual, but the crowd there seemed in
good spirits. He spent some time at headquarters, watching Keegark by
TV and radar. So far, nothing had been done about direct
reconnaissance over Keegark with radiation-detectors, but Hargreaves
reported that a couple of privately-owned aircars were being fitted
for the job.

He made a flying inspection trip around the island, and visited the
farms south of the city, on the mainland, and, finally, made a sweep
in his command-car over the city itself. Reconnaissance in person was
an archaic and unprogressive procedure, and it was a good way to get
generals killed, but one could see a lot of things that would be
missed on TV. He let down several times in areas that had already been
taken, and talked to company and platoon officers. For one thing, King
Yoorkerk's flamboyantly-named regiments weren't quite as bad as Paula
had thought. She'd been spoiled by the Kragans in her appreciation of
other native troops. They had good, standard-quality, Volund-made
arms; they were brave and capable; and they had been just enough
insulted by being integrated into Kragan regiments to try to make a
good showing.

By noon, resistance in the city was beginning to cave in. Surrender
flags were appearing on one after another of the Konkrookan rebel
strong-points, and at 1430, after he had returned to the Island, a
delegation, headed by the Konkrookan equivalent of Lord Mayor and
composed largely of prominent merchants, came across the channel under
a flag of truce to surrender the city's Spear of State, with abject
apologies for not having Gurgurk's head on the point of it. Gurgurk,
they reported had fled to Keegark by air the night before, which
explained the incident of the unaccountable aircar and lorry. The
Channel Battery stopped firing, and, with the exception of an
occasional spatter of small-arms fire, the city fell silent.

At 1600, von Schlichten visited the headquarters Pickering had set up
in the office building at the power-plant. As he stepped off the lift
on the third floor, a girl, running down the hall with her arms full
of papers in folders, collided with him; the load of papers flew in
all directions. He stooped to help her pick them up.

"Oh, general! Isn't it wonderful?" she cried. "I just can't believe
it!"

"Isn't what wonderful?" he asked.

"Oh, don't you know? They've got it!"

"Huh? They have?" He gathered up the last of the big envelopes and
gave them to her. "When?"

"Just half an hour ago. And to think, those books were around here all
the time, and.... Oh, I've got to run!" She disappeared into the lift.

Inside the office, one of Pickering's engineers was sitting on the
middle of his spinal column, a stenograph-phone in one hand and a book
in the other. Once in a while, he would say something into the
mouthpiece of the phone. Two other nuclear engineers had similar books
spread out on a desk in front of them; they were making notes and
looking up references in the Nuclear Engineers' Handbook, and making
calculations with their slide-rules. There was a huddle around the
drafting-boards, where two more such books were in use.

"Well, what's happened?" he demanded, catching Pickering by the arm as
he rushed from one group to another.

"Ha! We have it!" Pickering cried. "Everything we need! Look!"

He had another of the books under his arm. He held it out to von
Schlichten, and von Schlichten suddenly felt sicker than he had ever
felt since, at the age of fourteen, he had gotten drunk for the first
time. He had seen men crack up under intolerable strain before, but
this was the first time he had seen a whole roomful of men blow their
tops in the same manner.

The book was a novel--a jumbo-size historical novel, of some seven or
eight hundred pages. Its dust-jacket bore a slightly-more-than-bust-length
picture of a young lady with crimson hair and green eyes and jade earrings
and a plunging--not to say power-diving--neckline that left her
affiliation with the class of Mammalia in no doubt whatever. In the
background, a mushroom-topped smoke-column rose, and away from it
something intended to be a four-motor propeller-driven bomber of the First
Century was racing madly. The title, he saw, was _Dire Dawn_, and the
author was one Hildegarde Hernandez.

"Well, it has a picture of an A-bomb explosion an it," he agreed.

"It has more than that; it has the whole business. Case
specifications, tampers, charge design, detonating device, everything.
Why, end-papers even have diagrams: copies of the original
Nagasaki-bomb drawing. Look."

Von Schlichten looked. He had no more than the average intelligent
layman's knowledge of nuclear physics--enough to recharge or repair a
conversion-unit--but the drawings looked authentic enough. They seemed
to be copies of ancient blueprints, lettered in First Century English,
with Lingua Terra translations added, and marked TOP SECRET and U. S.
ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS and MANHATTAN ENGINEERING DISTRICT.

"And look at this!" Pickering opened at a marked page and showed it to
him. "And this!" He opened where another slip of paper had been
inserted. "Everything we want to know, practically."

"I don't get this." He wasn't sick, any more; just bewildered. "I read
some reviews of this thing. All the reviewers panned hell out of
it--'World War II Through a Bedroom Keyhole'; 'Henty in Black Lace
Panties'--that sort of thing."

"Yeh, yeh, sure," Pickering agreed. "But this Hernandez has illusions
of being a great serious historical novelist, see. She won't try to
write a book till she's put in years of research--actually, about six
months' research by a herd of librarians and college-juniors and other
such literary coolies--and she boasts that she never yet has been
caught in an error of historical background detail.

"Well, this opus is about the old Manhattan Project. The heroine is a
sort of super-Mata-Hari, who is, alternately and sometimes
simultaneously, in the pay of the Nazis, the Soviets, the Vatican,
Chiang Kai-Shek, the Japanese Emperor, and the Jewish International
Bankers, and she has affairs with everybody from Joe Stalin to Joe
McCarthy, and of course, she is in on every step of the A-bomb
project. She even manages to stow away on the Enola Gay, with the help
of a general she's spent fifty incandescent pages seducing.

"In order to tool up for this production-job, La Hernandez did her
researching just where Lourenço Gomes probably did his--University of
Montevideo Library. She even had access to the photostats of the old
U. S. data that General Lanningham brought to South America after the
debacle in the United States in A.E. 114. Those end-papers are part of
the Lanningham stuff. As far as we've been able to check
mathematically, everything is strictly authentic and practical. We'll
have to run a few more tests on the chemical-explosive charges--we
don't have any data on the exact strength of the explosives they used
then--and the tampers and detonating device will need to be tested a
little. But in about half an hour, we ought to be able to start
drawing plans for the case, and as soon as they're finished, we'll
rush them to the shipyard foundries for casting."

Von Schlichten handed the book back to Pickering, and sighed deeply.
"And I thought everybody here had gone off his rocker," he said. "We
will erect, on the ruins of Keegark, a hundred-foot statue of Señorita
Hildegrade Hernandez.... How did you get onto this?"

Pickering pointed to a young man with dull brick colored hair, who was
punching out some kind of a problem on a small computing machine.

"Piet van Reenen, over there; he has a girl-friend whose taste runs to
this sort of literary bubble-gum. She told him it was all in a book
she'd just read, and showed him. We descended in force on the bookshop
and grabbed every copy in stock. We are now running a sort of
gaseous-diffusion process, to separate the nuclear physics from the
pornography. I must say, Hildegarde has her biological data very well
in hand, too."

"I'll bet she'd have fun writing a novel about these geeks," von
Schlichten said. "Well, how soon do you think you can have a bomb made
up and all ready for us?"

"Casting the cases is going to slow us down the most," Pickering said.
"But, even with that, we ought to have one ready in three days, at the
most. By two weeks, we'll be turning them out on an assembly-line."

"I hope we don't need more than one. But you'd better produce at least
half a dozen. And have some practice-bombs made up, out of concrete or
anything, as long as they're the right weight and airfoil and have
some way of releasing smoke. Get them done as soon as you have your
case designed. We want to be able to make a couple of practice drops."

There was no use, he thought, of raising hopes which might prove
premature. He told Paula Quinton, of course, and Themistocles
M'zangwe, and, by telecast on sealed beam, King Kankad and
Air-Commodore Hargreaves. Beyond that, there was nothing to do but
wait, and hope that Hargreaves could keep Orgzild's bombers away from
Gongonk Island and Kankad's Town and that Hildegarde Hernandez had
been playing fair with her public. He visited the city, where a few
pockets of die-hard resistance were being liquidated, and where
everybody who had not been too deeply and publicly involved in the
_znidd suddabit_ conspiracy was now coming forward and claiming to
have been a lifelong friend of the Terrans and the Company. Von
Schlichten returned to Gongonk Island, debating with himself whether
to declare a general amnesty or to set up a dozen guillotines in the
city and run them around the clock for a week. There were cogent
arguments for and against either procedure.

By 2100, the last organized resistance had been wiped out, a curfew
had been imposed, and peace of a sort restored. There was still the
threat from Keegark, but it was looking less ominous now than it had
the evening before. Von Schlichten and Paula were having dinner in the
Broadway Room, confident that there was nothing left to do that they
could do anything about, when the extension phone that had been
plugged in at their table rang.

"Colonel Quinton here," Paula identified herself into it, and listened
for a moment. "There has? When?... Well, where did it come from?... I
see. And the direction?... Anything else?"

Apparently there was nothing else. She hung up, and turned to von
Schlichten.

"The _Sky-Spy_ just detected a ship lifting out from Keegark, presumed
one of the Boer-class freighters, either the _Jan Smuts_ or the _Oom
Paul Kruger_. It was first picked up on contragravity at about a
hundred feet, rising vertically from near the Palace. The supposition
is the geeks had her camouflaged since the time Commander Prinsloo
first bombarded Keegark with the _Aldebaran_. That was about twenty
minutes ago; at last report, she's fifty miles north of Keegark,
headed up the Hoork River."

Von Schlichten started thinking aloud: "That could be a feint, to draw
our ships north after her, and leave the approach to Konkrook or
Kankad's open, but that would be presuming that they know about the
_Sky-Spy_, and I doubt that, though not enough to take chances on.
They know we have ground and ship-radar, and they may think they can
slip down the Konk Valley either undetected or mistaken for one of our
ships from North Ullr."

He picked up the phone. "Get me through on telecast to Air-Commodore
Hargreaves, aboard the _Procyon_," he said. "I'll take it in the
office; I'll be up directly." He rose. "Finish your dinner, and have
the rest of mine sent up," he told Paula.

Leaving the elevator, he rushed into the big headquarters room just as
contact was established with the _Procyon_, on station over the
north-western corner of Takkad Sea, between Kankad's Town and Keegark.
The Aldebaran, he knew, was west of Keegark; the _Northern Lights_,
now fitted with a pair of 155-mm guns, in addition to her 90's, had
just arrived at Kankad's. He had the _Aldebaran_ sent north along the
crest of the mountain-range between the Hoork and Konk river-valleys,
where she could cover both with her own radar and other
detection-devices and exchange information with the _Sky-Spy_, and the
_Gaucho_ sent in what looked like the right course to intercept the
Boer-class freighter from Keegark. The _Northern Lights_, also with
screens tuned to the _Sky-Spy_, was sent to take over the Aldebaran's
regular station. Finally, he called Skilk and had the _Northern Star_
sent south down the Hoork Valley.

After that, there was nothing to do but wait, and watch the screens.
Paula Quinton put in an appearance shortly after he had finished
calling Skilk, pushing a cocktail-wagon on which their interrupted
dinners had been placed. They finished eating, and drank coffee, and
smoked. Most of the rest of his staff who were not busy on the
bomb-project or at the shipyards or with the occupation of Konkrook
drifted in; they all sat and stared from one to another of the
screens, which told, in radar-patterns and direct vision and
telescopic vision and heat and radiation detection, the story of what
was going on to the north-east of them.

Keegark was dark, on the vision-screen; evidently King Orgzild had
invented the blackout, too. Not that it did him any good; the
radar-screen showed the city clearly, and it was just as clear on the
radiation and heat screens. The Keegarkan ship was completely blacked
out, but the radiations from her engines and the distinctive
radiation-pattern of her contragravity-field showed clearly, and
there was a speck that marked her position on the radar-screen. The
same position was marked with a pin-point of light on the vision
screen--some device on _Sky-Spy_, synchronized with the detectors,
kept it focused there. The Company ships and contragravity vehicles
all were carrying topside lights, visible only from above, which
flashed alternate red and blue to identify them.

Time crawled slowly around the clock-face on the wall, the
sixty-five-second minutes of Ullr dragging like hours. The spots that
marked the enemy ship and her hunters crawled, too; seen from the
hundred-and-fifty-mile altitude of the _Sky-Spy_, even the
six-hundred-mile speed of the _Gaucho_ was barely visible. They drank
coffee till the stuff revolted them; they smoked until their throats
and mouths were dry, they watched the screens until they thought that
they would see them in their dreams forever. Then the _Gaucho_
reported radar-contact with the Keegarkan ship, which had begun to
turn in a hairpin-shaped course and was coming south down the Konk
Valley.

After that, the _Gaucho_ began reporting directly, and her topside
identification-light went out.

"... doused our lights; we're down in the valley, altitude about a
thousand feet. We're trying to get a glimpse of her against the sky,"
a voice came in. "We're cutting in our forward TV-pick-up." The voice
repeated, several times, the wavelength, and somebody got an auxiliary
screen tuned in. There was nothing visible in it but the darkness of
the valley, the star-jeweled sky, and the loom of the East Konk
Mountains. "We still can't see her, but we ought to, any moment; radar
shows her well above the mountains. Ah, there she is; she just
obscured Beta Hydrae V; she's moving toward that big constellation to
the east of it, the one they call Finnegan's Goat. Now she'll be right
in the center of the screen; we're going straight for her. We're going
to try to slow her down till _Aldebaran_ can get here...."

The enemy ship was vaguely visible, now, becoming clearer in the
starlight. She was a Boer-class freighter, all right. Probably the
_Jan Smuts_; the _Oom Paul Kruger_ had last been reported at Bwork,
and there was little chance that she had slipped into Keegark since
the uprising had started. For all anybody knew, she could have been
destroyed in the fighting before the Bwork Residency fell.

"All right, we have her spotted; we're going to open up on her," the
voice from the _Gaucho_ announced. "She has two 90's to our one; we'll
try to disable them, first." The vision-screen lit with the indirect
glare of the gun-flash, and the image in it jiggled violently as the
ship shook to the recoil, then steadied again, with the enemy ship
visible in the middle of it, growing larger and larger as the _Gaucho_
rushed toward her. The gun fired again and again, flooding the screen
with momentary yellow light and disturbing the image as the recoil
shook the gun-cutter. The enemy ship began firing in reply; the shots
were all wide misses. Apparently the geek gun-crew didn't know how to
synchronize the radar sights, and were ignorant of the correct setting
for the proximity-fuzes. The _Gaucho's_ searchlights came on, bathing
her quarry in light. It was the _Jan Smuts_; the name, and the
figure-head-bust of the old soldier-philosopher, were plainly visible.
Her forward gun had been knocked out, and she was trying to swing
about to get a field of fire for her stern-gun.

"We're going to give her a rocket-salvo," the voice said. "Watch this,
now!"

The rockets leaped forward, from the topside racks, four and four and
four and four, at half-second intervals. The first four hit the Smuts
amidships and low, exploding with a flare that grew before it could
die away as the second four landed. Nobody ever saw the third and
fourth four land. The _Jan Smuts_ vanished in a blaze of light that
blinded everybody in the room; when they could see again, after some
thirty seconds, the screen was dark.

In the direct-vision screen from the _Sky-Spy_, the whole countryside
of the Konk Valley, five hundred miles north of Konkrook, was lighted.
The heat and radiation detectors were going insane. And in the
shifting confusion on the radar-screen, there was no trace either of
the _Jan Smuts_ or the _Gaucho_.

"Well, the geeks did have an A-bomb," Themistocles M'zangwe said, at
length. "I'd been trying to kid myself that we were just preparing
against a million-to-one chance. I wonder how many more they have."

"Paula, find out who was in command of the _Gaucho_; he'd be a
junior-grade lieutenant. Fix up orders promoting him to navy captain,
as of now. It's probably the only thing we can do for him, any more.
And promotions of the same order for everybody else aboard that
cutter. Authority Carlos von Schlichten, acting Governor-General." He
picked up a phone. "Get me Commander Prinsloo, on _Aldebaran_...."

He ordered Prinsloo to launch airboats and make a search; cautioned
him to be careful of radiation, but to take no chances on any of the
_Gaucho's_ complement being still alive and in need of help. While
that was going on, the _Sky-Spy_ reported another ship coming over her
horizon to the east, from the direction of Bwork. That would be the
_Oom Paul Kruger_. Hargreaves had already learned of the advent of the
second freighter. He was unwilling to take the _Procyon_ off her
station until the _Aldebaran_ returned from the Konk Valley. In this,
von Schlichten concurred.

Somebody suggested that a drink would be in order. They had just
watched the all-but-certain death of three Terran officers, fifteen
Terran airmen, and ten Kragans, but they had all been living in too
close companionship with death in the past three days--or was it three
centuries--to be too deeply affected. And they had also watched, at
least for a day or so, the removal of the threat that had hung over
their heads. And they had seen proof that they had a defense against
King Orgzild's bombs.

They were still mixing cocktails when Pickering phoned in.

"Some good news, general, from Operation 'Hildegarde.' We ought to
have at least one bomb ready to drop by 1500 tomorrow; four or five
more by next mid-night," he said. "We don't need to have cases cast.
We got our dimensions decided, and we find that there are a lot of big
empty liquid-oxygen flasks, or tanks, rather, at the spaceport,
that'll accommodate everything--fissionables, explosive-charges,
tampers, detonator, and all."

"Well, go ahead with it. Make up a few of them; as many as you can
between now and 2400 Sunday." He thought for a moment. "Don't waste
time on those practice bombs I mentioned. We'll make a practice drop
with a live bomb. And don't throw away the design for the cast case.
We may need that, later on."



XIII


The Company fleet hung off Keegark, at fifteen thousand feet, in a
belt of calm air just below the seesawing currents from the warming
Antarctic and the cooling deserts of the Arctic. There was the
_Procyon_, from the bridge of which von Schlichten watched the
movements of the other ships and airboats and the distant horizon. The
_Aldebaran_ was ten miles off, to the west, her metal sheathing
glinting the red light of the evening sun. There was the _Northern
Star_, down from Skilk, a smaller and more distant twinkle of
reflected light to the north of _Aldebaran_. The _Northern Lights_ was
off to the east, and between her and _Procyon_ was a fifth ship;
turning the arm-mounted binoculars around, he could just make out, on
her bow, the figure-head bust of a man in an ancient top-hat and a
fringe of chin-beard. She was the _Oom Paul Kruger_, captured by the
_Procyon_ after a chase across the mountains north-east of Keegark the
day before. And, remote from the other ships, to the south, a tiny
speck of blue-gray, almost invisible against the sky, and a smaller
twinkle of reflected sunlight--a garbage-scow, unflatteringly but
somewhat aptly rechristened _Hildegarde Hernandez_, which had been
altered as a bomb-carrier, and the gun-cutter _Elmoran_. With the
glasses, he could see a bulky cylinder being handled off the scow and
loaded onto the improvised bomb-catapult on the _Elmoran's_ stern.
Shortly thereafter, the gun-cutter broke loose from the tender and
began to approach the fleet.

"General, I must protest again against your doing this," Air-Commodore
Hargreaves said. "There's simply no sense in it. That bomb can be
dropped without your personal supervision aboard, sir, and you're
endangering yourself unnecessarily. That infernal-machine hasn't been
tested or anything; it might even let go on the catapult when you try
to drop it. And we simply can't afford to lose you, now."

"No, what would become of us, if you go out there and blow yourself up
with that contraption?" Buhrmann supported him. "My God, I thought Don
Quixote was a Spaniard, instead of a German!"

"Argentino," von Schlichten corrected. "And don't try to sell me that
Irreplaceable-Man, either. Them M'zangwe can replace me, Hid O'Leary
can replace him, Barney Mordkovitz can replace him, and so on down to
where you make a second lieutenant out of some sergeant. We've been
all over this last evening. Admitted we can't take time for a long
string of test-shots, and admitted we have to use an untested weapon;
I'm not sending men out under those circumstances and staying here on
this ship and watch them blow themselves up. If that bomb's our only
hope, it's got to be dropped right, and I'm not going to take a chance
on having it dropped by a crew who think they've been sent out on a
suicide mission. What happened to the _Gaucho_ when she blew the
_Smuts_ up is too fresh in everybody's mind. But if I, who ordered
the mission, accompany it, they'll know I have some confidence that
they'll come back alive."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well, I'm coming along, too, general," Kent Pickering spoke up. "I
made the damned thing, and I ought to be along when it's dropped, on
the principle that a restaurant-proprietor ought to be seen eating his
own food once in a while."

"I still don't see why we couldn't have made at least one test shot,
first," Hans Meyerstein, the Banking Cartel man, objected.

"Well, I'll tell you why," Paula Quinton spoke up. "There's a good
chance that the geeks don't know we have a bomb of our own. They may
believe that it was something invented on Niflheim for mining
purposes, and that we haven't realized its military application.
There's more than a good chance that the loss of the _Jan Smuts_ has
temporarily demoralized them. Personally, I believe that both King
Orgzild and Prince Gorkrink were aboard her when she blew up. That's
something we'll never know, positively, of course. That ship and
everything and everybody in her were simply vaporized, and the
particles are registering on our geigers now. But I'm as sure as I am
of anything about these geeks that one or both of them accompanied
her."

"Paula knows what she's talking about," King Kankad jabbered in the
Takkad Sea language which they all understood. "Just like Von saying
that he has to go on our cutter, to encourage the crew. They always
insist that their kings and generals go into battle, particularly if
something important is to be done. They think the gods get angry if
they don't."

"And we have to hit them now," von Schlichten said. "They still have a
couple of bombs left. We haven't been able to locate them with
detectors, but those geeks Kankad's men caught on that commando-raid,
last night, say that there were at least three of them made. We can't
take a chance that some fanatic may load one into an aircar and make a
kamikaze-raid on Gongonk Island."

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Elmoran_ ran alongside, with her Masai-warrior figure-head and
the black cylinder on her catapult aft. Somebody had painted, on the
bomb: DIRE DAWN _by Hildegarde Hernandez. Compliments of the author to
H. M. King Orgzild of Keegark._ A canvas-entubed gangway was run out
to connect the ship with the cutter. Von Schlichten and Kent Pickering
went down the ladder from the bridge, the others accompanying them.
As he stepped into the gangway, Paula Quinton fell in behind him.

"Where do you think you're going?" he demanded.

"Along with you," she replied. "I'm your adjutant, I believe."

"You definitely are not going along. Personally, I don't believe
there's any danger, but I'm not having you run any unnecessary
risks...."

"Von, I don't know much about the way Terrans think, except about
fighting and about making things," Kankad told him. "And I don't know
anything at all about the kind of Terrans who have young. But I
believe this is something important to Paula. Let her go with you,
because if you go alone and don't come back I don't think she will
ever be happy again."

He looked at Kankad curiously, wondering, as he had so often before,
just what went on inside that lizard-skull. Then he looked at Paula,
and, after a moment, he nodded.

"All right, colonel; objection withdrawn," he said.

Aboard the _Elmoran_, they gave the bomb a last-minute inspection and
checked the catapult and the bomb-sight, and then went up on the
bridge.

"Ready for the bombing mission, sir?" the skipper, a Lieutenant (j.g.)
Morrison, asked.

"Ready if you are, Lieutenant. Carry on; we're just passengers."

"Thank you, sir. We'd thought of going in over the city at about five
thousand for a target-check, turning when we're half way back to the
mountains, and coming back for our bombing-run at fifteen thousand. Is
that all right, sir?"

Von Schlichten nodded. "You're the skipper, lieutenant. You'd better
make sure, though, that as soon as the bomb-off signal is flashed,
your engineer hits his auxiliary rocket-propulsion button. We want to
be about fifteen miles from where that thing goes off."

The lieutenant (j.g.) muttered something that sounded unmilitarily
like, "You ain't foolin', brother!"

"No, I'm not," von Schlichten agreed. "I saw the _Jan Smuts_ on the
TV-screen."

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Elmoran_ pointed her bow, and the long blade of the figure-head
warrior's spear, toward Keegark. The city grew out of the ground-mist,
a particolored blur at the delta of the dry Hoork River, and then a
color-splashed triangle between the river and the bay and the hills on
the landward side, and then it took shape, cross-ruled with streets
and granulated with buildings. As they came in, von Schlichten, who
had approached it from the air many times before, could distinguish
the landmarks--the site of King Orgzild's nitroglycerine plant, now a
crater surrounded by a quarter-mile radius of ruins; the Residency,
another crater since Rodolfo MacKinnon had blown it up under him; the
smashed _Christian De Wett_ at the Company docks; King Orgzild's
palace, fire-stained and with a hole blown in one corner by the
_Aldebaran's_ bombs.... Then they were past the city and over open
country.

"I wish we had some idea where the rest of those bombs are stored,
sir," Lieutenant Morrison said. "We don't seem to have gotten anything
significant when we flew reconnaissance with the radiation detectors."

"No; about all that was picked up was the main power-plant, and the
radiation-escape from there was normal," Pickering agreed. "The bombs
themselves wouldn't be detectable, except to the extent that, say, a
nuclear-conversion engine for an airboat would be. They probably have
them underground, somewhere, well shielded."

"Those prisoners Kankad's commandos dragged in only knew that they
were in the city somewhere," von Schlichten considered. "How about
midway between the Palace and the Residency for our ground-zero,
lieutenant? That looks like the center of the city."

The cutter turned and started back, having risen another ten thousand
feet. Morrison passed the word to the bombardier. The city, with the
sea beyond it now, came rushing at them, and von Schlichten, standing
at the front of the bridge, discovered that he had his arm around
Paula's waist and was holding her a little more closely than was
military. He made no attempt to release her, however.

"There's nothing to worry about, really," he was assuring her.
"Pickering's boys built this thing according to the best principles of
engineering, and the stuff they got out of that big-economy-size
shilling-shocker all checked mathematically...."

The red light on the bridge flashed, and the intercom shouted "_Bomb
off!_" He forced Paula down on the bridge deck and crouched beside
her.

"Cover your eyes," he warned. "You remember what the flash was like in
the screen, when the _Jon Smuts_ blew up. And we didn't get the worst
of it; the pickup on the _Gaucho_ was knocked out too soon."

He kept on lecturing her about gamma-rays and ultraviolet rays and
X-rays and cosmic rays, trying to keep making some sort of intelligent
sounds while they clung together and waited, and, with the other half
of his mind, trying not to think of everything that could go wrong
with that jerry-built improvisation they had just dumped onto Keegark.
If it didn't blow, and the geeks found it, they'd know that another
one would be along shortly, and....

       *       *       *       *       *

An invisible hand caught the gun-cutter and hurled her end-over-end,
sending von Schlichten and Paula sprawling at full length on the deck,
still clinging to one another. There was a blast of almost palpable
sound, and a sensation of heat that penetrated even the airtight
superstructure of the _Elmoran_. An instant later, there was another,
and another, similar shock. Two more bombs had gone off behind them,
in Keegark; that meant that they had found King Orgzild's remaining
nuclear armament. There were shattering sounds of breaking glass, and
heavy thumps that told of structural damage to the cutter, and hoarse
shouts, and lurid cursing as Morrison and his airmen struggled with
the controls. The cutter began losing altitude, but she was back on a
reasonably even keel. Von Schlichten rose, helping Paula to her feet,
and found that they had been kissing one another passionately. They
were still in each other's arms when the pitching and rolling of the
cutter ceased and somebody tapped him on the shoulder.

He came out of the embrace and looked around. It was Lieutenant (j.g.)
Morrison.

"What the devil, lieutenant?" he demanded.

"Sorry to interrupt, sir, but we're starting back to _Procyon_. And
here; you'll want this, I suppose." He held out a glass disc. "I never
expected to see it, but at that it took three A-bombs to blow you
loose from your monocle."

"Oh, that?" Von Schlichten took his trade mark and set it in his eye.
"I didn't lose it," he lied. "I just jettisoned it. Don't you know,
lieutenant, that no gentleman ever wears a monocle while he's kissing
a lady?"

He looked around. They were at about eight hundred to a thousand feet
above the water, with a stiff following wind away from the explosion
area. The 90-mm gun, forward, must have been knocked loose and carried
away; it was gone, and so was the TV-pickup and the radar. Something,
probably the gun, had slammed against the front of the bridge--the
metal skeleton was bent in, and the armor-glass had been knocked out.
The cutter was vibrating properly, so the contragravity-field had not
been disturbed, and her jets were firing.

"It was the second and third bombs that did the damage, sir," Morrison
was saying. "We'd have gone through the effects of our own bomb with
nothing more than a bad shaking--of course, on contragravity, we're
weightless relative to the air-mass, but she was built to stand the
winds in the high latitudes. But the two geek bombs caught us off
balance...."

"You don't need to apologize, lieutenant. You and your crew behaved
splendidly, lieutenant-commander; best traditions, and all that sort
of thing. It was a pleasure, commander; hope to be aboard with you
again, captain."

They found Kent Pickering at the rear of the bridge, and joined him,
looking astern. Even von Schlichten, who had seen H-bombs and
Bethe-cycle bombs, was impressed. Keegark was completely obliterated
under an outward-rolling cloud of smoke and dust that spread out for
five miles at the bottom of the towering column.

       *       *       *       *       *

There had been a hundred and fifty thousand people in that city, even
if their faces were the faces of lizards and they had four arms and
quartz-speckled skins. What fraction of them were now alive, he could
not guess. He had to remind himself that they were the people who had
burned Eric Blount and Hendrik Lemoyne alive; that two of the three
bombs that had contributed to that column of boiling smoke had been
made in Keegark, by Keegarkans, and that, with a few casual factors
altered, he was seeing what would have happened to Konkrook. Perhaps
every Terran felt a superstitious dread of nuclear energy turned to
the purposes of war; small wonder, after what they had done on their
own world.

For one thing, he thought grimly, the next geek who picks up the idea
of soaking a Terran in thermoconcentrate and setting fire to him will
drop it again like a hot potato. And the next geek potentate who tries
to organize an anti-Terran conspiracy, or the next crazy
caravan-driver who preaches _znidd suddabit_, will be lynched on the
spot. But this must be the last nuclear bomb used on Ullr....

Drunkard's morning-after resolution! he told himself contemptuously.
The next time, it will come easier, and easier still the time after
that. After you drop the first bomb, there is no turning back, any
more than there had been after Hiroshima, four-hundred-and-fifty-odd
years ago. Why, he had even been considering just where, against the
mountains back of Bwork, he would drop a demonstration bomb as a
prelude to a surrender demand.

You either went on to the inevitable catastrophe, or you realized, in
time, that nuclear armament and nationalism cannot exist together on
the same planet, and it is easier to banish a habit of thought than a
piece of knowledge. Ullr was not ready for membership in the Terran
Federation; then its people must bow to the Terran Pax. The Kragans
would help--as proconsuls, administrators, now, instead of
mercenaries. And there must be manned orbital stations, and the
Residencies must be moved outside the cities, away from possible
blast-areas. And Sid Harrington's idea of encouraging the natives to
own their contragravity-ships must be shelved, for a long time to
come. Maybe, in time....

Kankad had a good idea, at that; a most meritorious idea. He was sold
on it, already, and he doubted if it would take much salesmanship with
Paula, either. Already, she was clinging to his arm with obvious
possessiveness. Maybe their grandchildren, and the Kankad of that
time, would see Ullr a civilized member of the Federation....

They paused, as the gun-cutter nuzzled up to the _Procyon_ and the
canvas-entubed gangway was run out and made fast, looking back at the
fearful thing that had sprouted from where Keegark had been.

"You know," Paula was saying, echoing his earlier thought, "but for
the female pornographer, that would have been Konkrook."

He nodded. "Yes. I hope you won't mind, but there will always be a
place in my heart for Hildegarde."

Then they turned their backs upon the abomination of Keegark's
desolation and went up the gangway together, looking very little like
a general and his adjutant.

       *       *       *       *       *





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ullr Uprising" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home