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´╗┐Title: Delay in Transit
Author: Wallace, F. L. (Floyd L.)
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 "Delay in Transit" ***

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



                           DELAY IN TRANSIT

                           By F. L. WALLACE

                         Illustrated by SIBLEY

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                Galaxy Science Fiction September 1952.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]



              An unprovoked, meaningless night attack is
           terrifying enough on your own home planet, worse
             on a world across the Galaxy. But the horror
             is the offer of help that cannot be accepted!


"Muscles tense," said Dimanche. "Neural index 1.76, unusually high.
Adrenalin squirting through his system. In effect, he's stalking you.
Intent: probably assault with a deadly weapon."

"Not interested," said Cassal firmly, his subvocalization inaudible
to anyone but Dimanche. "I'm not the victim type. He was standing on
the walkway near the brink of the thoroughfare. I'm going back to the
habitat hotel and sit tight."

"First you have to get there," Dimanche pointed out. "I mean, is it
safe for a stranger to walk through the city?"

"Now that you mention it, no," answered Cassal. He looked around
apprehensively. "Where is he?"

"Behind you. At the moment he's pretending interest in a merchandise
display."

A native stamped by, eyes brown and incurious. Apparently he was
accustomed to the sight of an Earthman standing alone, Adam's apple
bobbing up and down silently. It was a Godolphian axiom that all
travelers were crazy.

Cassal looked up. Not an air taxi in sight; Godolph shut down at dusk.
It would be pure luck if he found a taxi before morning. Of course he
_could_ walk back to the hotel, but was that such a good idea?

A Godolphian city was peculiar. And, though not intended, it was
peculiarly suited to certain kinds of violence. A human pedestrian was
at a definite disadvantage.

"Correction," said Dimanche. "Not simple assault. He has murder in
mind."

"It still doesn't appeal to me," said Cassal. Striving to look
unconcerned, he strolled toward the building side of the walkway and
stared into the interior of a small cafe. Warm, bright and dry. Inside,
he might find safety for a time.

Damn the man who was following him! It would be easy enough to elude
him in a normal city. On Godolph, nothing was normal. In an hour the
streets would be brightly lighted--for native eyes. A human would
consider it dim.

"Why did he choose me?" asked Cassal plaintively. "There must be
something he hopes to gain."

"I'm working on it," said Dimanche. "But remember, I have limitations.
At short distances I can scan nervous systems, collect and interpret
physiological data. I can't read minds. The best I can do is report
what a person says or subvocalizes. If you're really interested in
finding out why he wants to kill you, I suggest you turn the problem
over to the godawful police."

"Godolph, not godawful," corrected Cassal absently.

That was advice he couldn't follow, good as it seemed. He could give
the police no evidence save through Dimanche. There were various
reasons, many of them involving the law, for leaving the device called
Dimanche out of it. The police would act if they found a body. His own,
say, floating face-down on some quiet street. That didn't seem the
proper approach, either.

"Weapons?"

"The first thing I searched him for. Nothing very dangerous. A long
knife, a hard striking object. Both concealed on his person."

Cassal strangled slightly. Dimanche needed a good stiff course in
semantics. A knife was still the most silent of weapons. A man could
die from it. His hand strayed toward his pocket. He had a measure of
protection himself.

"Report," said Dimanche. "Not necessarily final. Based, perhaps, on
tenuous evidence."

"Let's have it anyway."

"His motivation is connected somehow with your being marooned here. For
some reason you can't get off this planet."

That was startling information, though not strictly true. A thousand
star systems were waiting for him, and a ship to take him to each one.

Of course, the one ship he wanted hadn't come in. Godolph was a
transfer point for stars nearer the center of the Galaxy. When he
had left Earth, he had known he would have to wait a few days here.
He hadn't expected a delay of nearly three weeks. Still, it wasn't
unusual. Interstellar schedules over great distances were not as
reliable as they might be.

Was this man, whoever and whatever he might be, connected with
that delay? According to Dimanche, the man thought he was. He was
self-deluded or did he have access to information that Cassal didn't?

       *       *       *       *       *

Denton Cassal, sales engineer, paused for a mental survey of himself.
He was a good engineer and, because he was exceptionally well matched
to his instrument, the best salesman that Neuronics, Inc., had. On the
basis of these qualifications, he had been selected to make a long
journey, the first part of which already lay behind him. He had to go
to Tunney 21 to see a man. That man wasn't important to anyone save the
company that employed him, and possibly not even to them.

The thug trailing him wouldn't be interested in Cassal himself, his
mission, which was a commercial one, nor the man on Tunney. And money
wasn't the objective, if Dimanche's analysis was right. What _did_ the
thug want?

Secrets? Cassal had none, except, in a sense, Dimanche. And that was
too well kept on Earth, where the instrument was invented and made, for
anyone this far away to have learned about it.

And yet the thug wanted to kill him. Wanted to? Regarded him as good as
dead. It might pay him to investigate the matter further, if it didn't
involve too much risk.

"Better start moving." That was Dimanche. "He's getting suspicious."

Cassal went slowly along the narrow walkway that bordered each side of
that boulevard, the transport tide. It was raining again. It usually
was on Godolph, which was a weather-controlled planet where the natives
like rain.

He adjusted the controls of the weak force field that repelled the
rain. He widened the angle of the field until water slanted through it
unhindered. He narrowed it around him until it approached visibility
and the drops bounced away. He swore at the miserable climate and the
near amphibians who created it.

A few hundred feet away, a Godolphian girl waded out of the transport
tide and climbed to the walkway. It was this sort of thing that made
life dangerous for a human--Venice revised, brought up to date in a
faster-than-light age.

Water. It was a perfect engineering material. Simple, cheap, infinitely
flexible. With a minimum of mechanism and at break-neck speed, the
ribbon of the transport tide flowed at different levels throughout
the city. The Godolphian merely plunged in and was carried swiftly
and noiselessly to his destination. Whereas a human--Cassal shivered.
If he were found drowned, it would be considered an accident. No
investigation would be made. The thug who was trailing him had
certainly picked the right place.

The Godolphian girl passed. She wore a sleek brown fur, her own. Cassal
was almost positive she muttered a polite "Arf?" as she sloshed by.
What she meant by that, he didn't know and didn't intend to find out.

"Follow her," instructed Dimanche. "We've got to investigate our man at
closer range."

       *       *       *       *       *

Obediently, Cassal turned and began walking after the girl. Attractive
in an anthropomorphic, seal-like way, even from behind. Not graceful
out of her element, though.

The would-be assassin was still looking at merchandise as Cassal
retraced his steps. A man, or at least man type. A big fellow,
physically quite capable of violence, if size had anything to do with
it. The face, though, was out of character. Mild, almost meek. A
scientist or scholar. It didn't fit with murder.

"Nothing," said Dimanche disgustedly. "His mind froze when we got
close. I could feel his shoulderblades twitching as we passed.
Anticipated guilt, of course. Projecting to you the action he plans.
That makes the knife definite."

Well beyond the window at which the thug watched and waited, Cassal
stopped. Shakily he produced a cigarette and fumbled for a lighter.

"Excellent thinking," commended Dimanche. "He won't attempt anything
on this street. Too dangerous. Turn aside at the next deserted
intersection and let him follow the glow of your cigarette."

The lighter flared in his hand. "That's one way of finding out," said
Cassal. "But wouldn't I be a lot safer if I just concentrated on
getting back to the hotel?"

"I'm curious. Turn here."

"Go to hell," said Cassal nervously. Nevertheless, when he came to that
intersection, he turned there.

It was a Godolphian equivalent of an alley, narrow and dark, oily
slow-moving water gurgling at one side, high cavernous walls looming on
the other.

He would have to adjust the curiosity factor of Dimanche. It was all
very well to be interested in the man who trailed him, but there was
also the problem of coming out of this adventure alive. Dimanche, an
electronic instrument, naturally wouldn't consider that.

"Easy," warned Dimanche. "He's at the entrance to the alley, walking
fast. He's surprised and pleased that you took this route."

"I'm surprised, too," remarked Cassal. "But I wouldn't say I'm pleased.
Not just now."

"Careful. Even subvocalized conversation is distracting." The mechanism
concealed within his body was silent for an instant and then continued:
"His blood pressure is rising, breathing is faster. At a time like
this, he may be ready to verbalize why he wants to murder you. This is
critical."

"That's no lie," agreed Cassal bitterly. The lighter was in his hand.
He clutched it grimly. It was difficult not to look back. The darkness
assumed an even more sinister quality.

"Quiet," said Dimanche. "He's verbalizing about you."

"He's decided I'm a nice fellow after all. He's going to stop and ask
me for a light."

"I don't think so," answered Dimanche. "He's whispering: 'Poor devil. I
hate to do it. But it's really his life or mine'."

"He's more right than he knows. Why all this violence, though? Isn't
there any clue?"

"None at all," admitted Dimanche. "He's very close. You'd better turn
around."

       *       *       *       *       *

Cassal turned, pressed the stud on the lighter. It should have made him
feel more secure, but it didn't. He could see very little.

A dim shadow rushed at him. He jumped away from the water side of the
alley, barely in time. He could feel the rush of air as the assailant
shot by.

"Hey!" shouted Cassal.

Echoes answered; nothing else did. He had the uncomfortable feeling
that no one was going to come to his assistance.

"He wasn't expecting that reaction," explained Dimanche. "That's why he
missed. He's turned around and is coming back."

"I'm armed!" shouted Cassal.

"That won't stop him. He doesn't believe you."

Cassal grasped the lighter. That is, it had been a lighter a few
seconds before. Now a needle-thin blade had snapped out and projected
stiffly. Originally it had been designed as an emergency surgical
instrument. A little imagination and a few changes had altered its
function, converting it into a compact, efficient stiletto.

"Twenty feet away," advised Dimanche. "He knows you can't see him, but
he can see your silhouette by the light from the main thoroughfare.
What he doesn't know is that I can detect every move he makes and keep
you posted below the level of his hearing."

"Stay on him," growled Cassal nervously. He flattened himself against
the wall.

"To the right," whispered Dimanche. "Lunge forward. About five feet.
Low."

Sickly, he did so. He didn't care to consider the possible effects of
a miscalculation. In the darkness, how far was five feet? Fortunately,
his estimate was correct. The rapier encountered yielding resistance,
the soggy kind: flesh. The tough blade bent, but did not break. His
opponent gasped and broke away.

"Attack!" howled Dimanche against the bone behind his ear. "You've got
him. He can't imagine how you know where he is in the darkness. He's
afraid."

Attack he did, slicing about wildly. Some of the thrusts landed; some
didn't. The percentage was low, the total amount high. His opponent
fell to the ground, gasped and was silent.

Cassal fumbled in his pockets and flipped on a light. The man lay near
the water side of the alley. One leg was crumpled under him. He didn't
move.

"Heartbeat slow," said Dimanche solemnly. "Breathing barely
perceptible."

"Then he's not dead," said Cassal in relief.

Foam flecked from the still lips and ran down the chin. Blood oozed
from cuts on the face.

"Respiration none, heartbeat absent," stated Dimanche.

       *       *       *       *       *

Horrified, Cassal gazed at the body. Self-defense, of course, but
would the police believe it? Assuming they did, they'd still have to
investigate. The rapier was an illegal concealed weapon. And they would
question him until they discovered Dimanche. Regrettable, but what
could he do about it?

Suppose he were detained long enough to miss the ship bound for Tunney
21?

Grimly, he laid down the rapier. He might as well get to the bottom of
this. Why had the man attacked? What did he want?

"I don't know," replied Dimanche irritably. "I can interpret body
data--a live body. I can't work on a piece of meat."

Cassal searched the body thoroughly. Miscellaneous personal articles
of no value in identifying the man. A clip with a startling amount
of money in it. A small white card with something scribbled on it. A
picture of a woman and a small child posed against a background which
resembled no world Cassal had ever seen. That was all.

Cassal stood up in bewilderment. Dimanche to the contrary, there seemed
to be no connection between this dead man and his own problem of
getting to Tunney 21.

Right now, though, he had to dispose of the body. He glanced toward the
boulevard. So far no one had been attracted by the violence.

He bent down to retrieve the lighter-rapier. Dimanche shouted at him.
Before he could react, someone landed on him. He fell forward, vainly
trying to grasp the weapon. Strong fingers felt for his throat as he
was forced to the ground.

He threw the attacker off and staggered to his feet. He heard footsteps
rushing away. A slight splash followed. Whoever it was, he was escaping
by way of water.

Whoever it was. The man he had thought he had slain was no longer in
sight.

"Interpret body data, do you?" muttered Cassal. "Liveliest dead man
I've ever been strangled by."

"It's just possible there are some breeds of men who can control the
basic functions of their body," said Dimanche defensively. "When I
checked him, he had no heartbeat."

"Remind me not to accept your next evaluation so completely," grunted
Cassal. Nevertheless, he was relieved, in a fashion. He hadn't _wanted_
to kill the man. And now there was nothing he'd have to explain to the
police.

He needed the cigarette he stuck between his lips. For the second
time he attempted to pick up the rapier-lighter. This time he was
successful. Smoke swirled into his lungs and quieted his nerves. He
squeezed the weapon into the shape of a lighter and put it away.

Something, however, was missing--his wallet.

The thug had relieved him of it in the second round of the scuffle.
Persistent fellow. Damned persistent.

It really didn't matter. He fingered the clip he had taken from the
supposedly dead body. He had intended to turn it over to the police.
Now he might as well keep it to reimburse him for his loss. It
contained more money than his wallet had.

Except for the identification tab he always carried in his wallet, it
was more than a fair exchange. The identification, a rectangular piece
of plastic, was useful in establishing credit, but with the money he
now had, he wouldn't need credit. If he did, he could always send for
another tab.

A white card fluttered from the clip. He caught it as it fell.
Curiously he examined it. Blank except for one crudely printed word,
STAB. His unknown assailant certainly had tried.

       *       *       *       *       *

The old man stared at the door, an obsolete visual projector wobbling
precariously on his head. He closed his eyes and the lettering on the
door disappeared. Cassal was too far away to see what it had been. The
technician opened his eyes and concentrated. Slowly a new sign formed
on the door.

                         TRAVELERS AID BUREAU
                     Murra Foray, First Counselor

It was a drab sign, but, then, it was a dismal, backward planet. The
old technician passed on to the next door and closed his eyes again.

With a sinking feeling, Cassal walked toward the entrance. He needed
help and he had to find it in this dingy rathole.

Inside, though, it wasn't dingy and it wasn't a rathole. More like a
maze, an approved scientific one. Efficient, though not comfortable.
Travelers Aid was busier than he thought it would be. Eventually he
managed to squeeze into one of the many small counseling rooms.

A woman appeared on the screen, crisp and cool. "Please answer
everything the machine asks. When the tape is complete, I'll be
available for consultation."

Cassal wasn't sure he was going to like her. "Is this necessary?" he
asked. "It's merely a matter of information."

"We have certain regulations we abide by." The woman smiled frostily.
"I can't give you any information until you comply with them."

"Sometimes regulations are silly," said Cassal firmly. "Let me speak to
the first counselor."

"You are speaking to her," she said. Her face disappeared from the
screen.

Cassal sighed. So far he hadn't made a good impression.

Travelers Aid Bureau, in addition to regulations, was abundantly
supplied with official curiosity. When the machine finished with him,
Cassal had the feeling he could be recreated from the record it had of
him. His individuality had been capsuled into a series of questions and
answers. One thing he drew the line at--why he wanted to go to Tunney
21 was his own business.

The first counselor reappeared. Age, indeterminate. Not, he supposed,
that anyone would be curious about it. Slightly taller than average,
rather on the slender side. Face was broad at the brow, narrow at the
chin and her eyes were enigmatic. A dangerous woman.

       *       *       *       *       *

She glanced down at the data. "Denton Cassal, native of Earth.
Destination, Tunney 21." She looked up at him. "Occupation, sales
engineer. Isn't that an odd combination?" Her smile was quite superior.

"Not at all. Scientific training as an engineer. Special knowledge of
customer relations."

"Special knowledge of a thousand races? How convenient." Her eyebrows
arched.

"I think so," he agreed blandly. "Anything else you'd like to know?"

"Sorry. I didn't mean to offend you."

He could believe that or not as he wished. He didn't.

"You refused to answer why you were going to Tunney 21. Perhaps I can
guess. They're the best scientists in the Galaxy. You wish to study
under them."

Close--but wrong on two counts. They were good scientists, though not
necessarily the best. For instance, it was doubtful that they could
build Dimanche, even if they had ever thought of it, which was even
less likely.

There was, however, one relatively obscure research worker on Tunney 21
that Neuronics wanted on their staff. If the fragments of his studies
that had reached Earth across the vast distance meant anything, he
could help Neuronics perfect instantaneous radio. The company that
could build a radio to span the reaches of the Galaxy with no time lag
could set its own price, which could be control of all communications,
transport, trade--a galactic monopoly. Cassal's share would be a cut of
all that.

His part was simple, on the surface. He was to persuade that researcher
to come to Earth, _if he could_. Literally, he had to guess the
Tunnesian's price before the Tunnesian himself knew it. In addition,
the reputation of Tunnesian scientists being exceeded only by their
arrogance, Cassal had to convince him that he wouldn't be working
for ignorant Earth savages. The existence of such an instrument as
Dimanche was a key factor.

Her voice broke through his thoughts. "Now, then, what's your problem?"

"I was told on Earth I might have to wait a few days on Godolph. I've
been here three weeks. I want information on the ship bound for Tunney
21."

"Just a moment." She glanced at something below the angle of the
screen. She looked up and her eyes were grave. "_Rickrock C_ arrived
yesterday. Departed for Tunney early this morning."

"Departed?" He got up and sat down again, swallowing hard. "When will
the next ship arrive?"

"Do you know how many stars there are in the Galaxy?" she asked.

He didn't answer.

       *       *       *       *       *

"That's right," she said. "Billions. Tunney, according to the notation,
is near the center of the Galaxy, inside the third ring. You've
covered about a third of the distance to it. Local traffic, anything
within a thousand light-years, is relatively easy to manage. At longer
distances, you take a chance. You've had yours and missed it. Frankly,
Cassal, I don't know when another ship bound for Tunney will show up on
or near Godolph. Within the next five years--maybe."

       *       *       *       *       *

He blanched. "How long would it take to get there using local
transportation, star-hopping?"

"Take my advice: don't try it. Five years, if you're lucky."

"I don't need that kind of luck."

"I suppose not." She hesitated. "You're determined to go on?" At the
emphatic nod, she sighed. "If that's your decision, we'll try to help
you. To start things moving, we'll need a print of your identification
tab."

"There's something funny about her," Dimanche decided. It was the usual
speaking voice of the instrument, no louder than the noise the blood
made in coursing through arteries and veins. Cassal could hear it
plainly, because it was virtually inside his ear.

Cassal ignored his private voice. "Identification tab? I don't have it
with me. In fact, I may have lost it."

She smiled in instant disbelief. "We're not trying to pry into any
part of your past you may wish concealed. However, it's much easier
for us to help you if you have your identification. Now if you can't
_remember_ your real name and where you put your identification--" She
arose and left the screen. "Just a moment."

He glared uneasily at the spot where the first counselor wasn't. His
_real_ name!

"Relax," Dimanche suggested. "She didn't mean it as a personal insult."

Presently she returned.

"I have news for you, whoever you are."

"Cassal," he said firmly. "Denton Cassal, sales engineer, Earth. If you
don't believe it, send back to--" He stopped. It had taken him four
months to get to Godolph, non-stop, plus a six-month wait on Earth for
a ship to show up that was bound in the right direction. Over distances
such as these, it just wasn't practical to send back to Earth for
anything.

"I see you understand." She glanced at the card in her hand. "The
spaceport records indicate that when _Rickrock C_ took off this
morning, there was a Denton Cassal on board, bound for Tunney 21."

"It wasn't I," he said dazedly. He knew who it was, though. The man who
had tried to kill him last night. The reason for the attack now became
clear. The thug had wanted his identification tab. Worse, he had gotten
it.

"No doubt it wasn't," she said wearily. "Outsiders don't seem to
understand what galactic travel entails."

Outsiders? Evidently what she called those who lived beyond the second
transfer ring. Were those who lived at the edge of the Galaxy, beyond
the first ring, called Rimmers? Probably.

       *       *       *       *       *

She was still speaking: "Ten years to cross the Galaxy, without
stopping. At present, no ship is capable of that. Real scheduling is
impossible. Populations shift and have to be supplied. A ship is taken
off a run for repairs and is never put back on. It's more urgently
needed elsewhere. The man who depended on it is left waiting; years
pass before he learns it's never coming.

"If we had instantaneous radio, that would help. Confusion wouldn't
vanish overnight, but it would diminish. We wouldn't have to depend
on ships for all the news. Reservations could be made ahead of time,
credit established, lost identification replaced--"

"I've traveled before," he interrupted stiffly. "I've never had any
trouble."

She seemed to be exaggerating the difficulties. True, the center was
more congested. Taking each star as the starting point for a limited
number of ships and using statistical probability as a guide--why, no
man would arrive at his predetermined destination.

But that wasn't the way it worked. Manifestly, you couldn't compare
galactic transportation to the erratic paths of air molecules in a
giant room. Or could you?

For the average man, anyone who didn't have his own inter-stellar ship,
was the comparison too apt? It might be.

"You've traveled outside, where there are still free planets waiting to
be settled. Where a man is welcome, if he's able to work." She paused.
"The center is different. Populations are excessive. Inside the third
ring, no man is allowed off a ship without an identification tab. They
don't encourage immigration."

In effect, that meant no ship bound for the center would take a
passenger without identification. No ship owner would run the risk of
having a permanent guest on board, someone who couldn't be rid of when
his money was gone.

Cassal held his head in his hands. Tunney 21 was inside the third ring.

"Next time," she said, "don't let anyone take your identification."

"I won't," he promised grimly.

       *       *       *       *       *

The woman looked directly at him. Her eyes were bright. He revised his
estimate of her age drastically downward. She couldn't be as old as he.
Nothing outward had happened, but she no longer seemed dowdy. Not that
he was interested. Still, it might pay him to be friendly to the first
counselor.

"We're a philanthropic agency," said Murra Foray. "Your case is
special, though--"

"I understand," he said gruffly. "You accept contributions."

She nodded. "If the donor is able to give. We don't ask so much that
you'll have to compromise your standard of living." But she named a sum
that would force him to do just that if getting to Tunney 21 took any
appreciable time.

He stared at her unhappily. "I suppose it's worth it. I can always
work, if I have to."

"As a salesman?" she asked. "I'm afraid you'll find it difficult to do
business with Godolphians."

Irony wasn't called for at a time like this, he thought reproachfully.

"Not just another salesman," he answered definitely. "I have special
knowledge of customer reactions. I can tell exactly--"

He stopped abruptly. Was she baiting him? For what reason? The
instrument he called Dimanche was not known to the Galaxy at large.
From the business angle, it would be poor policy to hand out that
information at random. Aside from that, he needed every advantage he
could get. Dimanche was his special advantage.

"Anyway," he finished lamely, "I'm a first class engineer. I can
always find something in that line."

"A scientist, maybe," murmured Murra Foray. "But in this part of the
Milky Way, an engineer is regarded as merely a technician who hasn't
yet gained practical experience." She shook her head. "You'll do better
as a salesman."

He got up, glowering. "If that's all--"

"It is. We'll keep you informed. Drop your contribution in the slot
provided for that purpose as you leave."

A door, which he hadn't noticed in entering the counselling cubicle,
swung open. The agency was efficient.

"Remember," the counselor called out as he left, "identification is
hard to work with. Don't accept a crude forgery."

He didn't answer, but it was an idea worth considering. The agency was
also eminently practical.

The exit path guided him firmly to an inconspicuous and yet inescapable
contribution station. He began to doubt the philanthropic aspect of the
bureau.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I've got it," said Dimanche as Cassal gloomily counted out the sum the
first counselor had named.

"Got what?" asked Cassal. He rolled the currency into a neat bundle,
attached his name, and dropped it into the chute.

"The woman, Murra Foray, the first counselor. She's a Huntner."

"What's a Huntner?"

"A sub-race of men on the other side of the Galaxy. She was vocalizing
about her home planet when I managed to locate her."

"Any other information?"

"None. Electronic guards were sliding into place as soon as I reached
her. I got out as fast as I could."

"I see." The significance of that, if any, escaped him. Nevertheless,
it sounded depressing.

"What I want to know is," said Dimanche, "why such precautions as
electronic guards? What does Travelers Aid have that's so secret?"

Cassal grunted and didn't answer. Dimanche could be annoyingly
inquisitive at times.

Cassal had entered one side of a block-square building. He came out on
the other side. The agency was larger than he had thought. The old man
was staring at a door as Cassal came out. He had apparently changed
every sign in the building. His work finished, the technician was
removing the visual projector from his head as Cassal came up to him.
He turned and peered.

"You stuck here, too?" he asked in the uneven voice of the aged.

"Stuck?" repeated Cassal. "I suppose you can call it that. I'm waiting
for my ship." He frowned. He was the one who wanted to ask questions.
"Why all the redecoration? I thought Travelers Aid was an old agency.
Why did you change so many signs? I could understand it if the agency
were new."

The old man chuckled. "Re-organization. The previous first counselor
resigned suddenly, in the middle of the night, they say. The new one
didn't like the name of the agency, so she ordered it changed."

She would do just that, thought Cassal. "What about this Murra Foray?"

The old man winked mysteriously. He opened his mouth and then seemed
overcome with senile fright. Hurriedly he shuffled away.

Cassal gazed after him, baffled. The old man was afraid for his job,
afraid of the first counselor. Why he should be, Cassal didn't know. He
shrugged and went on. The agency was now in motion in his behalf, but
he didn't intend to depend on that alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The girl ahead of you is making unnecessary wriggling motions as she
walks," observed Dimanche. "Several men are looking on with approval.
I don't understand."

Cassal glanced up. They walked that way back in good old L.A. A pang of
homesickness swept through him.

"Shut up," he growled plaintively. "Attend to the business at hand."

"Business? Very well," said Dimanche. "Watch out for the transport
tide."

Cassal swerved back from the edge of the water. Murra Foray had been
right. Godolphians didn't want or need his skills, at least not on
terms that were acceptable to him. The natives didn't have to exert
themselves. They lived off the income provided by travelers, with which
the planet was abundantly supplied by ship after ship.

Still, that didn't alter his need for money. He walked the streets at
random while Dimanche probed.

"Ah!"

"What is it?"

"That man. He crinkles something in his hands. Not enough, he is
subvocalizing."

"I know how he feels," commented Cassal.

"Now his throat tightens. He bunches his muscles. 'I know where I can
get more,' he tells himself. He is going there."

"A sensible man," declared Cassal. "Follow him."

Boldly the man headed toward a section of the city which Cassal had
not previously entered. He believed opportunity lay there. Not for
everyone. The shrewd, observant, and the courageous could succeed
if--The word that the quarry used was a slang term, unfamiliar to
either Cassal or Dimanche. It didn't matter as long as it led to money.

Cassal stretched his stride and managed to keep the man in sight. He
skipped nimbly over the narrow walkways that curved through the great
buildings. The section grew dingier as they proceeded. Not slums; not
the show-place city frequented by travelers, either.

Abruptly the man turned into a building. He was out of sight when
Cassal reached the structure.

He stood at the entrance and stared in disappointment. "Opportunities
Inc.," Dimanche quoted softly in his ear. "Science, thrills, chance.
What does that mean?"

"It means that we followed a gravity ghost!"

"What's a gravity ghost?"

"An unexplained phenomena," said Cassal nastily. "It affects the
instruments of spaceships, giving the illusion of a massive dark body
that isn't there."

"But you're not a pilot. I don't understand."

"You're not a very good pilot yourself. We followed the man to a
gambling joint."

"Gambling," mused Dimanche. "Well, isn't it an opportunity of a sort?
Someone inside is thinking of the money he's winning."

"The owner, no doubt."

Dimanche was silent, investigating. "It is the owner," he confirmed
finally. "Why not go in, anyway. It's raining. And they serve drinks."
Left unstated was the admission that Dimanche was curious, as usual.

       *       *       *       *       *

Cassal went in and ordered a drink. It was a variable place, depending
on the spectator--bright, cheerful, and harmonious if he were winning,
garish and depressingly vulgar if he were not. At the moment Cassal
belonged to neither group. He reserved judgment.

An assortment of gaming devices were in operation. One in particular
seemed interesting. It involved the counting of electrons passing
through an aperture, based on probability.

"Not that," whispered Dimanche. "It's rigged."

"But it's not necessary," Cassal murmured. "Pure chance alone is good
enough."

"They don't take chances, pure or adulterated. Look around. How many
Godolphians do you see?"

Cassal looked. Natives were not even there as servants. Strictly a
clip joint, working travelers.

Unconsciously, he nodded. "That does it. It's not the kind of
opportunity I had in mind."

"Don't be hasty," objected Dimanche. "Certain devices I can't control.
There may be others in which my knowledge will help you. Stroll around
and sample some games."

Cassal equipped himself with a supply of coins and sauntered through
the establishment, disbursing them so as to give himself the widest
possible acquaintance with the layout.

"That one," instructed Dimanche.

It received a coin. In return, it rewarded him with a large shower of
change. The money spilled to the floor with a satisfying clatter. An
audience gathered rapidly, ostensibly to help him pick up the coins.

"There was a circuit in it," explained Dimanche. "I gave it a shot of
electrons and it paid out."

"Let's try it again," suggested Cassal.

"Let's not," Dimanche said regretfully. "Look at the man on your right."

Cassal did so. He jammed the money back in his pocket and stood up.
Hastily, he began thrusting the money back into the machine. A large
and very unconcerned man watched him.

"You get the idea," said Dimanche. "It paid off two months ago. It
wasn't scheduled for another this year." Dimanche scrutinized the man
in a multitude of ways while Cassal continued play. "He's satisfied,"
was the report at last. "He doesn't detect any sign of crookedness."

"_Crookedness?_"

"On your part, that is. In the ethics of a gambling house, what's done
to insure profit is merely prudence."

       *       *       *       *       *

They moved on to other games, though Cassal lost his briefly acquired
enthusiasm. The possibility of winning seemed to grow more remote.

"Hold it," said Dimanche. "Let's look into this."

"Let me give _you_ some advice," said Cassal. "This is one thing we
can't win at. Every race in the Galaxy has a game like this. Pieces of
plastic with values printed on them are distributed. The trick is to
get certain arbitrarily selected sets of values in the plastics dealt
to you. It seems simple, but against a skilled player a beginner can't
win."

"Every race in the Galaxy," mused Dimanche. "What do men call it?"

"Cards," said Cassal, "though there are many varieties within that
general classification." He launched into a detailed exposition of the
subject. If it were something he was familiar with, all right, but a
foreign deck and strange rules--

Nevertheless, Dimanche was interested. They stayed and observed.

The dealer was clumsy. His great hands enfolded the cards. Not a
Godolphian nor quite human, he was an odd type, difficult to place.
Physically burly, he wore a garment chiefly remarkable for its
ill-fitting appearance. A hard round hat jammed closely over his skull
completed the outfit. He was dressed in a manner that, somewhere in the
Universe, was evidently considered the height of fashion.

"It doesn't seem bad," commented Cassal. "There might be a chance."

"Look around," said Dimanche. "Everyone thinks that. It's the classic
struggle, person against person and everyone against the house.
Naturally, the house doesn't lose."

"Then why are we wasting our time?"

"Because I've got an idea," said Dimanche. "Sit down and take a hand."

"Make up your mind. You said the house doesn't lose."

"The house hasn't played against us. Sit down. You get eight cards,
with the option of two more. I'll tell you what to do."

Cassal waited until a disconsolate player relinquished his seat and
stalked moodily away. He played a few hands and bet small sums in
accordance with Dimanche's instructions. He held his own and won
insignificant amounts while learning.

It was simple. Nine orders, or suits, of twenty-seven cards each. Each
suit would build a different equation. The lowest hand was a quadratic.
A cubic would beat it. All he had to do was remember his math, guess
at what he didn't remember, and draw the right cards.

"What's the highest possible hand?" asked Dimanche. There was a note
of abstraction in his voice, as if he were paying more attention to
something else.

Cassal peeked at the cards that were face-down on the table. He shoved
some money into the betting square in front of him and didn't answer.

"You had it last time," said Dimanche. "A three dimensional
encephalocurve. A time modulated brainwave. If you had bet right, you
could have owned the house by now."

"I did? Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because you had it three successive times. The probabilities against
that are astronomical. I've got to find out what's happening before you
start betting recklessly."

"It's not the dealer," declared Cassal. "Look at those hands."

They were huge hands, more suitable, seemingly, for crushing the life
from some alien beast than the delicate manipulation of cards. Cassal
continued to play, betting brilliantly by the only standard that
mattered: he won.

       *       *       *       *       *

One player dropped out and was replaced by a recruit from the
surrounding crowd. Cassal ordered a drink. The waiter was placing it in
his hand when Dimanche made a discovery.

"I've got it!"

A shout from Dimanche was roughly equivalent to a noiseless kick in the
head. Cassal dropped the drink. The player next to him scowled but said
nothing. The dealer blinked and went on dealing.

"What have you got?" asked Cassal, wiping up the mess and trying to
keep track of the cards.

"How he fixes the deck," explained Dimanche in a lower and less painful
tone. "Clever."

Muttering, Cassal shoved a bet in front of him.

"Look at that hat," said Dimanche.

"Ridiculous, isn't it? But I see no reason to gloat because I have
better taste."

"That's not what I meant. It's pulled down low over his knobby ears and
touches his jacket. His jacket rubs against his trousers, which in turn
come in contact with the stool on which he sits."

"True," agreed Cassal, increasing his wager. "But except for his
physique, I don't see anything unusual."

"It's a circuit, a visual projector broken down into components. The
hat is a command circuit which makes contact, via his clothing, with
the broadcasting unit built into the chair. The existence of a visual
projector is completely concealed."

Cassal bit his lip and squinted at his cards. "Interesting. What does
it have to do with anything?"

"The deck," exclaimed Dimanche excitedly. "The backs are regular,
printed with an intricate design. The front is a special plastic,
susceptible to the influence of the visual projector. He doesn't need
manual dexterity. He can make any value appear on any card he wants. It
will stay there until he changes it."

Cassal picked up the cards. "I've got a Loreenaroo equation. Can he
change that to anything else?"

"He can, but he doesn't work that way. He decides before he deals who's
going to get what. He concentrates on each card as he deals it. He can
change a hand after a player gets it, but it wouldn't look good."

"It wouldn't." Cassal wistfully watched the dealer rake in his wager.
His winnings were gone, plus. The newcomer to the game won.

He started to get up. "Sit down," whispered Dimanche. "We're just
beginning. Now that we know what he does and how he does it, we're
going to take him."

       *       *       *       *       *

The next hand started in the familiar pattern, two cards of fairly good
possibilities, a bet, and then another card. Cassal watched the dealer
closely. His clumsiness was only superficial. At no time were the faces
of the cards visible. The real skill was unobservable, of course--the
swift bookkeeping that went on in his mind. A duplication in the hands
of the players, for instance, would be ruinous.

Cassal received the last card. "Bet high," said Dimanche. With
trepidation, Cassal shoved the money into the betting area.

The dealer glanced at his hand and started to sit down. Abruptly he
stood up again. He scratched his cheek and stared puzzledly at the
players around him. Gently he lowered himself onto the stool. The
contact was even briefer. He stood up in indecision. An impatient
murmur arose. He dealt himself a card, looked at it, and paid off all
the way around. The players buzzed with curiosity.

"What happened?" asked Cassal as the next hand started.

"I induced a short in the circuit," said Dimanche. "He couldn't sit
down to change the last card he got. He took a chance, as he had to,
and dealt himself a card, anyway."

"But he paid off without asking to see what we had."

"It was the only thing he could do," explained Dimanche. "He had
duplicate cards."

The dealer was scowling. He didn't seem quite so much at ease. The
cards were dealt and the betting proceeded almost as usual. True,
the dealer was nervous. He couldn't sit down and stay down. He was
sweating. Again he paid off. Cassal won heavily and he was not the only
one.

The crowd around them grew almost in a rush. There is an indefinable
sense that tells one gambler when another is winning.

This time the dealer stood up. His leg contacted the stool
occasionally. He jerked it away each time he dealt to himself. At the
last card he hesitated. It was amazing how much he could sweat. He
lifted a corner of the cards. Without indicating what he had drawn,
determinedly and deliberately he sat down. The chair broke. The dealer
grinned weakly as a waiter brought him another stool.

"They still think it may be a defective circuit," whispered Dimanche.

The dealer sat down and sprang up from the new chair in one motion. He
gazed bitterly at the players and paid them.

"He had a blank hand," explained Dimanche. "He made contact with the
broadcasting circuit long enough to erase, but not long enough to put
anything in it's place."

The dealer adjusted his coat. "I have a nervous disability," he
declared thickly. "If you'll pardon me for a few minutes while I take a
treatment--"

"Probably going to consult with the manager," observed Cassal.

"He is the manager. He's talking with the owner."

"Keep track of him."

       *       *       *       *       *

A blonde, pretty, perhaps even Earth-type human, smiled and wriggled
closer to Cassal. He smiled back.

"Don't fall for it," warned Dimanche. "She's an undercover agent for
the house."

Cassal looked her over carefully. "Not much under cover."

"But if she should discover--"

"Don't be stupid. She'll never guess you exist. There's a small lump
behind my ear and a small round tube cleverly concealed elsewhere."

"All right," sighed Dimanche resignedly. "I suppose people will always
be a mystery to me."

The dealer reappeared, followed by an unobtrusive man who carried a
new stool. The dealer looked subtly different, though he was the same
person. It took a close inspection to determine what the difference
was. His clothing was new, unrumpled, unmarked by perspiration. During
his brief absence, he had been furnished with new visual projector
equipment, and it had been thoroughly checked out. The house intended
to locate the source of the disturbance.

Mentally, Cassal counted his assets. He was solvent again, but in other
ways his position was not so good.

"Maybe," he suggested, "we should leave. With no further interference
from us, they might believe defective equipment is the cause of their
losses."

"Maybe," replied Dimanche, "you think the crowd around us is composed
solely of patrons?"

"I see," said Cassal soberly.

He stretched his legs. The crowd pressed closer, uncommonly aggressive
and ill-tempered for mere spectators. He decided against leaving.

"Let's resume play." The dealer-manager smiled blandly at each player.
He didn't suspect any one person--yet.

"He might be using an honest deck," said Cassal hopefully.

"They don't have that kind," answered Dimanche. He added absently:
"During his conference with the owner, he was given authority to handle
the situation in any way he sees fit."

Bad, but not too bad. At least Cassal was opposing someone who had
authority to let him keep his winnings, _if he could be convinced_.

The dealer deliberately sat down on the stool. Testing. He could endure
the charge that trickled through him. The bland smile spread into a
triumphant one.

"While he was gone, he took a sedative," analyzed Dimanche. "He also
had the strength of the broadcasting circuit reduced. He thinks that
will do it."

"Sedatives wear off," said Cassal. "By the time he knows it's me, see
that it has worn off. Mess him up."

       *       *       *       *       *

The game went on. The situation was too much for the others. They
played poorly and bet atrociously, on purpose. One by one they lost and
dropped out. They wanted badly to win, but they wanted to live even
more.

The joint was jumping, and so was the dealer again. Sweat rolled down
his face and there were tears in his eyes. So much liquid began to
erode his fixed smile. He kept replenishing it from some inner source
of determination.

Cassal looked up. The crowd had drawn back, or had been forced back by
hirelings who mingled with them. He was alone with the dealer at the
table. Money was piled high around him. It was more than he needed,
more than he wanted.

"I suggest one last hand," said the dealer-manager, grimacing. It
sounded a little stronger than a suggestion.

Cassal nodded.

"For a substantial sum," said the dealer, naming it.

Miraculously, it was an amount that equaled everything Cassal had.
Again Cassal nodded.

"Pressure," muttered Cassal to Dimanche. "The sedative has worn off.
He's back at the level at which he started. Fry him if you have to."

The cards came out slowly. The dealer was jittering as he dealt. Soft
music was lacking, but not the motions that normally accompanied it.
Cassal couldn't believe that cards could be so bad. Somehow the dealer
was rising to the occasion. Rising and sitting.

"There's a nerve in your body," Cassal began conversationally, "which,
if it were overloaded, would cause you to drop dead."

The dealer didn't examine his cards. He didn't have to. "In that event,
someone would be arrested for murder," he said. "You."

That was the wrong tack; the humanoid had too much courage. Cassal
passed his hand over his eyes. "You can't do this to men, but, strictly
speaking, the dealer's not human. Try suggestion on him. Make him
change the cards. Play him like a piano. Pizzicato on the nerve
strings."

Dimanche didn't answer; presumably he was busy scrambling the circuits.

The dealer stretched out his hand. It never reached the cards. Danger:
Dimanche at work. The smile dropped from his face. What remained was
pure anguish. He was too dry for tears. Smoke curled up faintly from
his jacket.

"Hot, isn't it?" asked Cassal. "It might be cooler if you took off your
cap."

The cap tinkled to the floor. The mechanism in it was destroyed. What
the cards were, they were. Now they couldn't be changed.

"That's better," said Cassal.

       *       *       *       *       *

He glanced at his hand. In the interim, it had changed slightly.
Dimanche had got there.

The dealer examined his cards one by one. His face changed color. He
sat utterly still on a cool stool.

"You win," he said hopelessly.

"Let's see what you have."

The dealer-manager roused himself. "You won. That's good enough for
you, isn't it?"

Cassal shrugged. "You have Bank of the Galaxy service here. I'll
deposit my money with them _before_ you pick up your cards."

The dealer nodded unhappily and summoned an assistant. The crowd,
which had anticipated violence, slowly began to drift away.

"What did you do?" asked Cassal silently.

"Men have no shame," sighed Dimanche. "Some humanoids do. The dealer
was one who did. I forced him to project onto his cards something that
wasn't a suit at all."

"Embarrassing if that got out," agreed Cassal. "What did you project?"

Dimanche told him. Cassal blushed, which was unusual for a man.

The dealer-manager returned and the transaction was completed. His
money was safe in the Bank of the Galaxy.

"Hereafter, you're not welcome," said the dealer morosely. "Don't come
back."

Cassal picked up the cards without looking at them. "And no accidents
after I leave," he said, extending the cards face-down. The manager
took them and trembled.

"He's an honorable humanoid, in his own way," whispered Dimanche. "I
think you're safe."

It was time to leave. "One question," Cassal called back. "What do you
call this game?"

Automatically the dealer started to answer. "Why, everyone knows...."
He sat down, his mouth open.

It was more than time to leave.

Outside, he hailed an air taxi. No point in tempting the management.

"Look," said Dimanche as the cab rose from the surface of the transport
tide.

A technician with a visual projector was at work on the sign in front
of the gaming house. Huge words took shape: WARNING--NO TELEPATHS
ALLOWED.

There were no such things anywhere, but now there were rumors of them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Arriving at the habitat wing of the hotel, Cassal went directly to
his room. He awaited the delivery of the equipment he had ordered and
checked through it thoroughly. Satisfied that everything was there, he
estimated the size of the room. Too small for his purpose.

He picked up the intercom and dialed Services. "Put a Life Stage Cordon
around my suite," he said briskly.

The face opposite his went blank. "But you're an Earthman. I thought--"

"I know more about my own requirements than your Life Stage Bureau.
Earthmen do have life stages. You know the penalty if you refuse that
service."

There were some races who went without sleep for five months and then
had to make up for it. Others grew vestigial wings for brief periods
and had to fly with them or die; reduced gravity would suffice for
that. Still others--

But the one common feature was always a critical time in which certain
conditions were necessary. Insofar as there was a universal law, from
one end of the Galaxy to the other, this was it: The habitat hotel had
to furnish appropriate conditions for the maintenance of any life-form
that requested it.

The Godolphian disappeared from the screen. When he came back, he
seemed disturbed.

"You spoke of a suite. I find that you're listed as occupying one room."

"I am. It's too small. Convert the rooms around me into a suite."

"That's very expensive."

"I'm aware of that. Check the Bank of the Galaxy for my credit rating."

He watched the process take place. Service would be amazingly good from
now on.

"Your suite will be converted in about two hours. The Life Stage Cordon
will begin as soon after that as you want. If you tell me how long
you'll need it, I can make arrangements now."

"About ten hours is all I'll need." Cassal rubbed his jaw reflectively.
"One more thing. Put a perpetual service at the spaceport. If a ship
comes in bound for Tunney 21 or the vicinity of it, get accommodations
on it for me. And hold it until I get ready, no matter what it costs."

He flipped off the intercom and promptly went to sleep. Hours later,
he was awakened by a faint hum. The Life Stage Cordon had just been
snapped safely around his newly created suite.

"Now what?" asked Dimanche.

"I need an identification tab."

"You do. And forgeries are expensive and generally crude, as that
Huntner woman, Murra Foray, observed."

       *       *       *       *       *

Cassal glanced at the equipment. "Expensive, yes. Not crude when we do
it."

"_We_ forge it?" Dimanche was incredulous.

"That's what I said. Consider it this way. I've seen my tab a
countless number of times. If I tried to draw it as I remember it,
it would be inept and wouldn't pass. Nevertheless, that memory is in
my mind, recorded in neuronic chains, exact and accurate." He paused
significantly. "You have access to that memory."

"At least partially. But what good does that do?"

"Visual projector and plastic which will take the imprint. I think hard
about the identification as I remember it. You record and feed it back
to me while I concentrate on projecting it on the plastic. After we get
it down, we change the chemical composition of the plastic. It will
then pass everything except destructive analysis, and they don't often
do that."

Dimanche was silent. "Ingenious," was its comment. "Part of that we can
manage, the official engraving, even the electron stamp. That, however,
is gross detail. The print of the brain area is beyond our capacity.
We can put down what you remember, and you remember what you saw. You
didn't see fine enough, though. The general area will be recognizable,
but not the fine structure, nor the charges stored there nor their
interrelationship."

"But we've got to do it," Cassal insisted, pacing about nervously.

"With more equipment to probe--"

"Not a chance. I got one Life Stage Cordon on a bluff. If I ask for
another, they'll look it up and refuse."

"All right," said Dimanche, humming. The mechanical attempt at
music made Cassal's head ache. "I've got an idea. Think about the
identification tab."

Cassal thought.

"Enough," said Dimanche. "Now poke yourself."

"Where?"

"Everywhere," replied Dimanche irritably. "One place at a time."

Cassal did so, though it soon became monotonous.

Dimanche stopped him. "Just above your right knee."

"What above my right knee?"

"The principal access to that part of your brain we're concerned
with," said Dimanche. "We can't photomeasure your brain the way it was
originally done, but we can investigate it remotely. The results will
be simplified, naturally. Something like a scale model as compared to
the original. A more apt comparison might be that of a relief map to
an actual locality."

"Investigate it remotely?" muttered Cassal. A horrible suspicion
touched his consciousness. He jerked away from that touch. "What does
that mean?"

"What it sounds like. Stimulus and response. From that I can construct
an accurate chart of the proper portion of your brain. Our probing
instruments will be crude out of necessity, but effective."

"I've already visualized those probing instruments," said Cassal
worriedly. "Maybe we'd better work first on the official engraving and
the electron stamp, while I'm still fresh. I have a feeling...."

"Excellent suggestion," said Dimanche.

Cassal gathered the articles slowly. His lighter would burn and it
would also cut. He needed a heavy object to pound with. A violent
irritant for the nerve endings. Something to freeze his flesh....

Dimanche interrupted: "There are also a few glands we've got to pick
up. See if there's a stimi in the room."

"Stimi? Oh yes, a stimulator. Never use the damned things." But he was
going to. The next few hours weren't going to be pleasant. Nor dull,
either.

Life could be difficult on Godolph.

       *       *       *       *       *

As soon as the Life Stage Cordon came down, Cassal called for a doctor.
The native looked at him professionally.

"Is this a part of the Earth life process?" he asked incredulously.
Gingerly, he touched the swollen and lacerated leg.

Cassal nodded wearily. "A matter of life and death," he croaked.

"If it is, then it is," said the doctor, shaking his head. "I, for one,
am glad to be a Godolphian."

"To each his own habitat," Cassal quoted the motto of the hotel.

Godolphians were clumsy, good-natured caricatures of seals. There was
nothing wrong with their medicine, however. In a matter of minutes
he was feeling better. By the time the doctor left, the swelling had
subsided and the open wounds were fast closing.

Eagerly, he examined the identification tab. As far as he could tell,
it was perfect. What the scanner would reveal was, of course, another
matter. He had to check that as best he could without exposing himself.

Services came up to the suite right after he laid the intercom down. A
machine was placed over his head and the identification slipped into
the slot. The code on the tab was noted; the machine hunted and found
the corresponding brain area. Structure was mapped, impulses recorded,
scrambled, converted into a ray of light which danced over a film.

The identification tab was similarly recorded. There was now a means of
comparison.

Fingerprints could be duplicated--that is, if the race in question
had fingers. Every intelligence, however much it differed from its
neighbors, had a brain, and tampering with that brain was easily
detected. Each identification tab carried a psychometric number which
corresponded to the total personality. Alteration of any part of the
brain could only subtract from personality index.

The technician removed the identification and gave it to Cassal. "Where
shall I send the strips?"

"You don't," said Cassal. "I have a private message to go with them."

"But that will invalidate the process."

"I know. This isn't a formal contract."

Removing the two strips and handing them to Cassal, the technician
wheeled the machine away. After due thought, Cassal composed the
message.

     Travelers Aid Bureau Murra Foray, first counselor:

     If you were considering another identification tab for me, don't.
     As you can see, I've located the missing item.

He attached the message to the strips and dropped them into the
communication chute.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was wiping his whiskers away when the answer came. Hastily he
finished and wrapped himself, noting but not approving the amused glint
in her eyes as she watched. His morals were his own, wherever he went.

"Denton Cassal," she said. "A wonderful job. The two strips were in
register within one per cent. The best previous forgery I've seen was
six per cent, and that was merely a lucky accident. It couldn't be
duplicated. Let me congratulate you."

His dignity was professional. "I wish you weren't so fond of that word
'forgery.' I told you I mislaid the tab. As soon as I found it, I sent
you proof. I want to get to Tunney 21. I'm willing to do anything I can
to speed up the process."

Her laughter tinkled. "You don't _have_ to tell me how you did it or
where you got it. I'm inclined to think you made it. You understand
that I'm not concerned with legality as such. From time to time the
agency has to furnish missing documents. If there's a better way than
we have, I'd like to know it."

He sighed and shook his head. For some reason, his heart was beating
fast. He wanted to say more, but there was nothing to say.

When he failed to respond, she leaned toward him. "Perhaps you'll
discuss this with me. At greater length."

"At the agency?"

She looked at him in surprise. "Have you been sleeping? The agency is
closed for the day. The first counselor can't work all the time, you
know."

Sleeping? He grimaced at the remembrance of the self-administered
beating. No, he hadn't been sleeping. He brushed the thought aside and
boldly named a place. Dinner was acceptable.

Dimanche waited until the screen was dark. The words were carefully
chosen.

"Did you notice," he asked, "that there was no apparent change in
clothing and makeup, yet she seemed younger, more attractive?"

"I didn't think you could trace her that far."

"I can't. I looked at her through your eyes."

"Don't trust my reaction," advised Cassal. "It's likely to be
subjective."

"I don't," answered Dimanche. "It is."

       *       *       *       *       *

Cassal hummed thoughtfully. Dimanche was a business neurological
instrument. It didn't follow that it was an expert in human psychology.

       *       *       *       *       *

Cassal stared at the woman coming toward him. Center-of-the-Galaxy
fashion. Decadent, of course, or maybe ultra-civilized. As an Outsider,
he wasn't sure which. Whatever it was, it did to the human body what
should have been done long ago.

And this body wasn't exactly human. The subtle skirt of proportions
betrayed it as an offshoot or deviation from the human race. Some of
the new sub-races stacked up against the original stock much in the
same way Cro-Magnons did against Neanderthals, in beauty, at least.

Dimanche spoke a single syllable and subsided, an event Cassal didn't
notice. His consciousness was focused on another discovery: the woman
was Murra Foray.

He knew vaguely that the first counselor was not necessarily what she
had seemed that first time at the agency. That she was capable of such
a metamorphosis was hard to believe, though pleasant to accept. His
attitude must have shown on his face.

"Please," said Murra Foray. "I'm a Huntner. We're adept at camouflage."

"Huntner," he repeated blankly. "I knew that. But what's a Huntner?"

She wrinkled her lovely nose at the question. "I didn't expect you to
ask that. I won't answer it now." She came closer. "I thought you'd ask
which was the camouflage--the person you see here, or the one at the
Bureau?"

He never remembered the reply he made. It must have been satisfactory,
for she smiled and drew her fragile wrap closer. The reservations were
waiting.

Dimanche seized the opportunity to speak. "There's something phony
about her. I don't understand it and I don't like it."

"You," said Cassal, "are a machine. You don't have to like it."

"That's what I mean. You _have_ to like it. You have no choice."

Murra Foray looked back questioningly. Cassal hurried to her side.

The evening passed swiftly. Food that he ate and didn't taste. Music he
heard and didn't listen to. Geometric light fugues that were seen and
not observed. Liquor that he drank--and here the sequence ended, in the
complicated chemistry of Godolphian stimulants.

Cassal reacted to that smooth liquid, though his physical reactions
were not slowed. Certain mental centers were depressed, others left
wide open, subject to acceleration at whatever speed he demanded.

Murra Foray, in his eyes at least, might look like a dream, the kind
men have and never talk about. She was, however, interested solely in
her work, or so it seemed.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Godolph is a nice place," she said, toying with a drink, "if you like
rain. The natives seem happy enough. But the Galaxy is big and there
are lots of strange planets in it, each of which seems ideal to those
who are adapted to it. I don't have to tell you what happens when
people travel. They get stranded. It's not the time spent in actual
flight that's important; it's waiting for the right ship to show up
and then having all the necessary documents. Believe me, that can be
important, as you found out."

He nodded. He had.

"That's the origin of Travelers Aid Bureau," she continued. "A loose
organization, propagated mainly by example. Sometimes it's called Star
Travelers Aid. It may have other names. The aim, however, is always the
same: to see that stranded persons get where they want to go."

She looked at him wistfully, appealingly. "That's why I'm interested
in your method of creating identification tabs. It's the thing most
commonly lost. Stolen, if you prefer the truth."

She seemed to anticipate his question. "How can anyone use another's
identification? It can be done under certain circumstances. By neural
lobotomy, a portion of one brain may be made to match, more or less
exactly, the code area of another brain. The person operated on suffers
a certain loss of function, of course. How great that loss is depends
on the degree of similarity between the two brain areas before the
operation took place."

She ought to know, and he was inclined to believe her. Still, it didn't
sound feasible.

"You haven't accounted for the psychometric index," he said.

"I thought you'd see it. That's diminished, too."

Logical enough, though not a pretty picture. A genius could always be
made into an average man or lowered to the level of an idiot. There
was no operation, however, that could raise an idiot to the level of a
genius.

The scramble for the precious identification tabs went on, from the
higher to the lower, a game of musical chairs with grim over-tones.

She smiled gravely. "You haven't answered my implied question."

The company that employed him wasn't anxious to let the secret of
Dimanche get out. They didn't sell the instrument; they made it for
their own use. It was an advantage over their competitors they intended
to keep. Even on his recommendation, they wouldn't sell to the agency.

Moreover, it wouldn't help Travelers Aid Bureau if they did. Since she
was first counselor, it was probable that she'd be the one to use it.
She couldn't make identification for anyone except herself, and then
only if she developed exceptional skill.

The alternative was to surgery it in and out of whoever needed it. When
that happened, secrecy was gone. Travelers couldn't be trusted.

       *       *       *       *       *

He shook his head. "It's an appealing idea, but I'm afraid I can't help
you."

"Meaning you won't."

This was intriguing. Now it was the agency, not he, who wanted help.

"Don't overplay it," cautioned Dimanche, who had been consistently
silent.

She leaned forward attentively. He experienced an uneasy moment. Was it
possible she had noticed his private conversation? Of course not. Yet--

"Please," she said, and the tone allayed his fears. "There's an
emergency situation and I've got to attend to it. Will you go with me?"
She smiled understandingly at his quizzical expression. "Travelers Aid
is always having emergencies."

She was rising. "It's too late to go to the Bureau. My place has a
number of machines with which I keep in touch with the spaceport."

"I wonder," said Dimanche puzzledly. "She doesn't subvocalize at all. I
haven't been able to get a line on her. I'm certain she didn't receive
any sort of call. Be careful. This might be a trick."

"Interesting," said Cassal. He wasn't in the mood to discuss it.

Her habitation was luxurious, though Cassal wasn't impressed. Luxury
was found everywhere in the Universe. Huntner women weren't. He watched
as she adjusted the machines grouped at one side of the room. She spoke
in a low voice; he couldn't distinguish words. She actuated levers,
pressed buttons: impedimenta of communication.

At last she finished. "I'm tired. Will you wait till I change?"

Inarticulately, he nodded.

"I think her 'emergency' was a fake," said Dimanche flatly as soon as
she left. "I'm positive she wasn't operating the communicator. She
merely went through the motions."

"Motions," murmured Cassal dreamily, leaning back. "And what motions."

"I've been watching her," said Dimanche. "She frightens me."

"I've been watching her, too. Maybe in a different way."

"Get out of here while you can," warned Dimanche. "She's dangerous."

       *       *       *       *       *

Momentarily, Cassal considered it. Dimanche had never failed him. He
ought to follow that advice. And yet there was another explanation.

"Look," said Cassal. "A machine is a machine. But among humans there
are men and women. What seems dangerous to you may be merely a pattern
of normal behavior...." He broke off. Murra Foray had entered.

Strictly from the other side of the Galaxy, which she was. A woman can
be slender and still be womanly beautiful, without being obvious about
it. Not that Murra disdained the obvious, technically. But he could see
through technicalities.

The tendons in his hands ached and his mouth was dry, though not with
fear. An urgent ringing pounded in his ears. He shook it out of his
head and got up.

She came to him.

The ringing was still in his ears. It wasn't a figment of imagination;
it was a real voice--that of Dimanche, howling:

"Huntner! It's a word variant. In their language it means Hunter. _She
can hear me!_"

"Hear you?" repeated Cassal vacantly.

She was kissing him.

"A descendant of carnivores. An audio-sensitive. She's been listening
to you and me all the time."

"Of course I have, ever since the first interview at the bureau," said
Murra. "In the beginning I couldn't see what value it was, but you
convinced me." She laid her hand gently over his eyes. "I hate to do
this to you, dear, but I've got to have Dimanche."

She had been smothering him with caresses. Now, deliberately, she began
smothering him in actuality.

Cassal had thought he was an athlete. For an Earthman, he was. Murra
Foray, however, was a Huntner, which meant hunter--a descendant of
incredibly strong carnivores.

He didn't have a chance. He knew that when he couldn't budge her hands
and he fell into the airless blackness of space.

       *       *       *       *       *

Alone and naked, Cassal awakened. He wished he hadn't. He turned over
and, though he tried hard not to, promptly woke up again. His body was
willing to sleep, but his mind was panicked and disturbed. About what,
he wasn't sure.

He sat up shakily and held his roaring head in his hands. He ran aching
fingers through his hair. He stopped. The lump behind his ear was gone.

"Dimanche!" he called, and looked at his abdomen.

There was a thin scar, healing visibly before his eyes.

"Dimanche!" he cried again. "Dimanche!"

There was no answer. Dimanche was no longer with him.

He staggered to his feet and stared at the wall. She'd been kind
enough to return him to his own rooms. At length he gathered enough
strength to rummage through his belongings. Nothing was missing. Money,
identification--all were there.

He could go to the police. He grimaced as he thought of it. The
neighborly Godolphian police were hardly a match for the Huntner; she'd
fake them out of their skins.

He couldn't prove she'd taken Dimanche. Nothing else normally
considered valuable was missing. Besides, there might even be a local
prohibition against Dimanche. Not by name, of course; but they could
dig up an ancient ordinance--invasion of privacy or something like
that. Anything would do if it gave them an opportunity to confiscate
the device for intensive study.

For the police to believe his story was the worst that could happen.
They might locate Dimanche, but he'd never get it.

He smiled bitterly and the effort hurt. "Dear," she had called him
as she had strangled and beaten him into unconsciousness. Afterward
singing, very likely, as she had sliced the little instrument out of
him.

He could picture her not very remote ancestors springing from cover and
overtaking a fleeing herd--

No use pursuing that line of thought.

Why did she want Dimanche? She had hinted that the agency wasn't always
concerned with legality as such. He could believe her. If she wanted it
for making identification tabs, she'd soon find that it was useless.
Not that that was much comfort--she wasn't likely to return Dimanche
after she'd made that discovery.

       *       *       *       *       *

For that matter, what was the purpose of Travelers Aid Bureau? It was a
front for another kind of activity. Philanthropy had nothing to do with
it.

If he still had possession of Dimanche, he'd be able to find out.
Everything seemed to hinge on that. With it, he was nearly a superman,
able to hold his own in practically all situations--anything that
didn't involve a Huntner woman, that is.

Without it--well, Tunney 21 was still far away. Even if he should
manage to get there without it, his mission on the planet was certain
to fail.

He dismissed the idea of trying to recover it immediately from Murra
Foray. She was an audio-sensitive. At twenty feet, unaided, she could
hear a heartbeat, the internal noise muscles made in sliding over
each other. With Dimanche, she could hear electrons rustling. As an
antagonist she was altogether too formidable.

       *       *       *       *       *

He began pulling on his clothing, wincing as he did so. The alternative
was to make another Dimanche. _If_ he could. It would be a tough job
even for a neuronic expert familiar with the process. He wasn't that
expert, but it still had to be done.

The new instrument would have to be better than the original. Maybe not
such a slick machine, but more comprehensive. More wallop. He grinned
as he thought hopefully about giving Murra Foray a surprise.

Ignoring his aches and pains, he went right to work. With money not a
factor, it was an easy matter to line up the best electronic and neuron
concerns on Godolph. Two were put on a standby basis. When he gave them
plans, they were to rush construction at all possible speed.

Each concern was to build a part of the new instrument. Neither part
was of value without the other. The slow-thinking Godolphians weren't
likely to make the necessary mental connection between the seemingly
unrelated projects.

He retired to his suite and began to draw diagrams. It was harder than
he thought. He knew the principles, but the actual details were far
more complicated than he remembered.

Functionally, the Dimanche instrument was divided into three main
phases. There was a brain and memory unit that operated much as the
human counterpart did. Unlike the human brain, however, it had no body
to control, hence more of it was available for thought processes.
Entirely neuronic in construction, it was far smaller than an
electronic brain of the same capacity.

The second function was electronic, akin to radar. Instead of material
objects, it traced and recorded distant nerve impulses. It could count
the heartbeat, measure the rate of respiration, was even capable of
approximate analysis of the contents of the bloodstream. Properly
focused on the nerves of tongue, lips or larynx, it transmitted that
data back to the neuronic brain, which then reconstructed it into
speech. Lip reading, after a fashion, carried to the ultimate.

Finally, there was the voice of Dimanche, a speaker under the control
of the neuronic brain.

For convenience of installation in the body, Dimanche was packaged in
two units. The larger package was usually surgeried into the abdomen.
The small one, containing the speaker, was attached to the skull
just behind the ear. It worked by bone conduction, allowing silent
communication between operator and instrument. A real convenience.

It wasn't enough to know this, as Cassal did. He'd talked to the
company experts, had seen the symbolical drawings, the plans for an
improved version. He needed something better than the best though, that
had been planned.

The drawback was this: _Dimanche was powered directly by the nervous
system of the body in which it was housed_. Against Murra Foray, he'd
be over-matched. She was stronger than he physically, probably also in
the production of nervous energy.

One solution was to make available to the new instrument a larger
fraction of the neural currents of the body. That was dangerous--a
slight miscalculation and the user was dead. Yet he had to have an
instrument that would overpower her.

Cassal rubbed his eyes wearily. How could he find some way of supplying
additional power?

Abruptly, Cassal sat up. That was the way, of course--an auxiliary
power pack that need not be surgeried into his body, extra power that
he would use only in emergencies.

Neuronics, Inc., had never done this, had never thought that such an
instrument would ever be necessary. They didn't need to overpower their
customers. They merely wanted advance information via subvocalized
thoughts.

It was easier for Cassal to conceive this idea than to engineer it. At
the end of the first day, he knew it would be a slow process.

Twice he postponed deadlines to the manufacturing concerns he'd
engaged. He locked himself in his rooms and took Anti-Sleep against
the doctor's vigorous protests. In one week he had the necessary
drawings, crude but legible. An expert would have to make innumerable
corrections, but the intent was plain.

One week. During that time Murra Foray would be growing hourly more
proficient in the use of Dimanche.

       *       *       *       *       *

Cassal followed the neuronics expert groggily, seventy-two hours sleep
still clogging his reactions. Not that he hadn't needed sleep after
that week. The Godolphian showed him proudly through the shops, though
he wasn't at all interested in their achievements. The only noteworthy
aspect was the grand scale of their architecture.

"We did it, though I don't think we'd have taken the job if we'd known
how hard it was going to be," the neuronics expert chattered. "It works
exactly as you specified. We had to make substitutions, of course, but
you understand that was inevitable."

He glanced anxiously at Cassal, who nodded. That was to be expected.
Components that were common on Earth wouldn't necessarily be available
here. Still, any expert worth his pay could always make the proper
combinations and achieve the same results.

Inside the lab, Cassal frowned. "I thought you were keeping my work
separate. What is this planetary drive doing here?"

The Godolphian spread his broad hands and looked hurt. "Planetary
drive?" He tried to laugh. "This is the instrument you ordered!"

Cassal started. It was supposed to fit under a flap of skin behind his
ear. A Three World saurian couldn't carry it.

He turned savagely on the expert. "I told you it had to be small."

"But it is. I quote your orders exactly: 'I'm not familiar with your
system of measurement, but make it tiny, very tiny. Figure the size you
think it will have to be and cut it in half. And then cut _that_ in
half.' This is the fraction remaining."

It certainly was. Cassal glanced at the Godolphian's hands. Excellent
for swimming. No wonder they built on a grand scale. Broad, blunt,
webbed hands weren't exactly suited for precision work.

Valueless. Completely valueless. He knew now what he would find at the
other lab. He shook his head in dismay, personally saw to it that the
instrument was destroyed. He paid for the work and retrieved the plans.

Back in his rooms again, he sat and thought. It was still the only
solution. If the Godolphians couldn't do it, he'd have to find some
race that could. He grabbed the intercom and jangled it savagely. In
half an hour he had a dozen leads.

The best seemed to be the Spirella. A small, insectlike race, about
three feet tall, they were supposed to have excellent manual dexterity,
and were technically advanced. They sounded as if they were acquainted
with the necessary fields. Three light-years away, they could be
reached by readily available local transportation within the day. Their
idea of what was small was likely to coincide with his.

He didn't bother to pack. The suite would remain his headquarters. Home
was where his enemies were.

He made a mental correction--enemy.

       *       *       *       *       *

He rubbed his sensitive ear, grateful for the discomfort. His stomach
was sore, but it wouldn't be for long. The Spirella had made the new
instrument just as he had wanted it. They had built an even better
auxiliary power unit than he had specified. He fingered the flat cases
in his pocket. In an emergency, he could draw on these, whereas Murra
Foray would be limited to the energy in her nervous system.

What he had now was hardly the same instrument. A Military version
of it, perhaps. It didn't seem right to use the same name. Call it
something staunch and crisp, suggestive of raw power. Manche. As good a
name as any. Manche against Dimanche. Cassal against a queen.

He swung confidently along the walkway beside the transport tide. It
was raining. He decided to test the new instrument. The Godolphian
across the way bent double and wondered why his knees wouldn't work.
They had suddenly become swollen and painful to move. Maybe it was the
climate.

And maybe it wasn't, thought Cassal. Eventually the pain would leave,
but he hadn't meant to be so rough on the native. He'd have to watch
how he used Manche.

He scouted the vicinity of Travelers Aid Bureau, keeping at least one
building between him and possible detection. Purely precautionary.
There was no indication that Murra Foray had spotted him. For a
Huntner, she wasn't very alert, apparently.

He sent Manche out on exploration at minimum strength. The electronic
guards which Dimanche had spoken of were still in place. Manche went
through easily and didn't disturb an electron. Behind the guards there
was no trace of the first counselor.

He went closer. Still no warning of danger. The same old technician
shuffled in front of the entrance. A horrible thought hit him. It was
easy enough to verify. Another "reorganization" _had_ taken place. The
new sign read:

                       STAR TRAVELERS AID BUREAU
                            STAB _Your Hour
                               of Need_
                   Delly Mortinbras, first counselor

Cassal leaned against the building, unable to understand what it was
that frightened and bewildered him. Then it gradually became, if not
clear, at least not quite so muddy.

STAB was the word that had been printed on the card in the
money clip that his assailant in the alley had left behind. Cassal had
naturally interpreted it as an order to the thug. It wasn't, of course.

The first time Cassal had visited the Travelers Aid Bureau, it had
been in the process of reorganization. The only purpose of the
reorganization, he realized now, had been to change the name so he
wouldn't translate the word on the slip into the original initials of
the Bureau.

Now it probably didn't matter any more whether or not he knew, so the
name had been changed back to Star Travelers Aid Bureau--STAB.

That, he saw bitterly, was why Murra Foray had been so positive that
the identification tab he'd made with the aid of Dimanche had been a
forgery.

_She had known the man who robbed Cassal of the original one, perhaps
had even helped him plan the theft._

       *       *       *       *       *

That didn't make sense to Cassal. Yet it had to. He'd suspected the
organization of being a racket, but it obviously wasn't. By whatever
name it was called, it actually was dedicated to helping the stranded
traveler. The question was--which travelers?

There must be agency operatives at the spaceport, checking every likely
prospect who arrived, finding out where they were going, whether
their papers were in order. Then, just as had happened to Cassal, the
prospect was robbed of his papers so somebody stranded here could go on
to that destination!

The shabby, aging technician finished changing the last door sign and
hobbled over to Cassal. He peered through the rain and darkness.

"You stuck here, too?" he quavered.

"No," said Cassal with dignity, shaky dignity. "I'm not stuck. I'm here
because I want to be."

"You're crazy," declared the old man. "I remember--"

Cassal didn't wait to find out what it was he remembered. An impossible
land, perhaps, a planet which swings in perfect orbit around an ideal
sun. A continent which reared a purple mountain range to hold up a
honey sky. People with whom anyone could relax easily and without worry
or anxiety. In short, his own native world from which, at night, all
the constellations were familiar.

Somehow, Cassal managed to get back to his suite, tumbled wearily onto
his bed. The show-down wasn't going to take place.

Everyone connected with the agency--including Murra Foray--had been
"stuck here" for one reason or another: no identification tab, no
money, whatever it was. That was the staff of the Bureau, a pack of
desperate castaways. The "philanthropy" extended to them and nobody
else. They grabbed their tabs and money from the likeliest travelers,
leaving them marooned here--and they in turn had to join the Bureau
and use the same methods to continue their journeys through the Galaxy.

It was an endless belt of stranded travelers robbing and stranding
other travelers, who then had to rob and strand still others, and so on
and on....

       *       *       *       *       *

Cassal didn't have a chance of catching up with Murra Foray. She had
used the time--and Dimanche--to create her own identification tab and
escape. She was going back to Kettikat, home of the Huntners, must
already be light-years away.

Or was she? The signs on the Bureau had just been changed. Perhaps the
ship was still in the spaceport, or cruising along below the speed of
light. He shrugged defeatedly. It would do him no good; he could never
get on board.

He got up suddenly on one elbow. He couldn't, but Manche could! Unlike
his old instrument, it could operate at tremendous distances, its power
no longer dependent only on his limited nervous energy.

With calculated fury, he let Manche strike out into space.

"There you are!" exclaimed Murra Foray. "I thought you could do it."

"Did you?" he asked coldly. "Where are you now?"

"Leaving the atmosphere, if you can call the stuff around this planet
an atmosphere."

"It's not the atmosphere that's bad," he said as nastily as he could.
"It's the philanthropy."

"Please don't feel that way," she appealed. "Huntners are rather
unusual people, I admit, but sometimes even we need help. I had to have
Dimanche and I took it."

"At the risk of killing me."

Her amusement was strange; it held a sort of sadness. "I didn't hurt
you. I couldn't. You were too cute, like a--well, the animal native to
Kettikat that would be called a teddy bear on Earth. A cute, lovable
teddy bear."

"Teddy bear," he repeated, really stung now. "Careful. This one may
have claws."

"Long claws? Long enough to reach from here to Kettikat?" She was
laughing, but it sounded thin and wistful.

Manche struck out at Cassal's unspoken command. The laughter was
canceled.

"Now you've done it," said Dimanche. "She's out cold."

There was no reason for remorse; it was strange that he felt it. His
throat was dry.

"So you, too, can communicate with me. Through Manche, of course. I
built a wonderful instrument, didn't I?"

"A fearful one," said Dimanche sternly. "She's unconscious."

"I heard you the first time." Cassal hesitated. "Is she dead?"

Dimanche investigated. "Of course not. A little thing like that
wouldn't hurt her. Her nerve system is marvelous. I think it could
carry current for a city. Beautiful!"

"I'm aware of the beauty," said Cassal.

       *       *       *       *       *

An awkward silence followed. Dimanche broke it. "Now that I know the
facts, I'm proud to be her chosen instrument. Her need was greater than
yours."

Cassal growled, "As first counselor, she had access to every--"

"Don't interrupt with your half truths," said Dimanche. "Huntners
_are_ special; their brain structure, too. Not necessarily better,
just different. Only the auditory and visual centers of their brains
resemble that of man. You can guess the results of even superficial
tampering with those parts of her mind. And stolen identification would
involve lobotomy."

He could imagine? Cassal shook his head. No, he couldn't. A blinded
and deaf Murra Foray would not go back to the home of the Huntners.
According to her racial conditioning, a sightless young tiger should
creep away and die.

Again there was silence. "No, she's not pretending unconsciousness,"
announced Dimanche. "For a moment I thought--but never mind."

The conversation was lasting longer than he expected. The ship must be
obsolete and slow. There were still a few things he wanted to find out,
if there was time.

"When are you going on Drive?" he asked.

"We've been on it for some time," answered Dimanche.

"Repeat that!" said Cassal, stunned.

"I said that we've been on faster-than-light drive for some time. Is
there anything wrong with that?"

Nothing wrong with that at all. Theoretically, there was only one means
of communicating with a ship hurtling along faster than light, and that
way hadn't been invented.

_Hadn't been until he had put together the instrument he called Manche._

Unwittingly, he had created far more than he intended. He ought to have
felt elated.

Dimanche interrupted his thoughts. "I suppose you know what she thinks
of you."

"She made it plain enough," said Cassal wearily. "A teddy bear. A
brainless, childish toy."

"Among the Huntners, women are vigorous and aggressive," said Dimanche.
The voice grew weaker as the ship, already light-years away, slid into
unfathomable distances. "Where words are concerned, morals are very
strict. For instance, 'dear' is never used unless the person means it.
Huntner men are weak and not over-burdened with intelligence."

The voice was barely audible, but it continued: "The principal romantic
figure in the dreams of women...." Dimanche failed altogether.

"Manche!" cried Cassal.

Manche responded with everything it had. "... is the teddy bear."

The elation that had been missing, and the triumph, came now. It was no
time for hesitation, and Cassal didn't hesitate. Their actions had been
directed against each other, but their emotions, which each had tried
to ignore, were real and strong.

The gravitor dropped him to the ground floor. In a few minutes, Cassal
was at the Travelers Aid Bureau.

Correction. Now it was Star Travelers Aid Bureau.

And, though no one but himself knew it, even that was wrong. Quickly he
found the old technician.

"There's been a reorganization," said Cassal bluntly. "I want the signs
changed."

The old man drew himself up. "Who are you?"

"I've just elected myself," said Cassal. "I'm the new first counselor."

He hoped no one would be foolish enough to challenge him. He wanted an
organization that could function immediately, not a hospital full of
cripples.

The old man thought about it. He was merely a menial, but he had been
with the bureau for a long time. He was nobody, nothing, but he could
recognize power when it was near him. He wiped his eyes and shambled
out into the fine cold rain. Swiftly the new signs went up.

                       STAR TRAVELERS AID BUREAU
                          S. T. A. _with us_
                     Denton Cassal, first counselor

       *       *       *       *       *

Cassal sat at the control center. Every question cubicle was visible
at a glance. In addition there was a special panel, direct from the
spaceport, which recorded essential data about every newly arrived
traveler. He could think of a few minor improvements, but he wouldn't
have time to put them into effect. He'd mention them to his assistant,
a man with a fine, logical mind. Not really first-rate, of course,
but well suited to his secondary position. Every member quickly rose
or sank to his proper level in this organization, and this one had,
without a struggle.

Business was dull. The last few ships had brought travelers who
were bound for unimaginably dreary destinations, nothing he need be
concerned with.

He thought about the instrument. It was the addition of power that made
the difference. Dimanche plus power equaled Manche, and Manche raised
the user far above the level of other men. There was little to fear.

But essentially the real value of Manche lay in this--it was a
beginning. Through it, he had communicated with a ship traveling
far faster than light. The only one instrument capable of that was
instantaneous radio. Actually it wasn't radio, but the old name had
stuck to it.

Manche was really a very primitive model of instantaneous radio. It
was crude; all first steps were. Limited in range, it was practically
valueless for that purpose now. Eventually the range would be extended.
Hitch a neuronic manufactured brain to human one, add the power of a
tiny atomic battery, and Manche was created.

The last step was his share of the invention. Or maybe the credit
belonged to Murra Foray. If she hadn't stolen Dimanche, it never would
have been necessary to put together the new instrument.

The stern lines on his face relaxed. Murra Foray. He wondered about the
marriage customs of the Huntners. He hoped marriage was a custom on
Kettikat.

Cassal leaned back; officially, his mission was complete. There was no
longer any need to go to Tunney 21. The scientist he was sent to bring
back might as well remain there in obscure arrogance. Cassal knew he
should return to Earth immediately. But the Galaxy was wide and there
were lots of places to go.

Only one he was interested in, though--Kettikat, as far from the center
of the Galaxy as Earth, but in the opposite direction, incredibly far
away in terms of trouble and transportation. It would be difficult even
for a man who had the services of Manche.

Cassal glanced at the board. Someone wanted to go to Zombo.

"Delly," he called to his assistant. "Try 13. This may be what you
want to get back to your own planet."

Delly Mortinbras nodded gratefully and cut in.

Cassal continued scanning. There was more to it than he imagined,
though he was learning fast. It wasn't enough to have identification,
money, and a destination. The right ship might come in with standing
room only. Someone had to be "persuaded" that Godolph was a cozy little
place, as good as any for an unscheduled stopover.

It wouldn't change appreciably during his lifetime. There were too many
billions of stars. First he had to perfect it, isolate from dependence
on the human element, and then there would come the installation. A
slow process, even with Murra to help him.

Someday he would go back to Earth. He should be welcome. The
information he was sending back to his former employers, Neuronics,
Inc., would more than compensate them for the loss of Dimanche.

Suddenly he was alert. A report had just come in.

Once upon a time, he thought tenderly, scanning the report, there was
a teddy bear that could reach to Kettikat. With claws--but he didn't
think they would be needed.





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