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´╗┐Title: The Raider
Author: Berry, Don
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 "The Raider" ***

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



                              THE RAIDER

                             BY DON BERRY

                  _He was a hunter with a Cause that
                 transcended all law. But, now, could
                  the Cause forgive him his service?_

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
               Worlds of If Science Fiction, April 1958.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


They dropped the raider on the night side, less than thirty miles from
Thanlar, the capitol city. The dark, slim ship drifted silently to the
ground, discharged its passenger and lifted again, moving slowly like
a great shark in the night. On the way out into space, it was caught
by the defense screens of Thanlar and disappeared in a gout of flaming
energy that lit up the entire night sky.

The raider did not see it; he was already asleep.

He slept, and his dreams were troubled by images of a familiar face.
Strong cheekbones, the mane of white hair, the famous half-smile of
Mayne Landing, Earth Commissioner to the Colony Planets. Mayne Landing,
the gentle representative of Terra to her children, the kindly old
gentleman with the fist of steel, the benevolent despot over a hundred
Colony Planets.

Mayne Landing: victim.

The raider woke with the dawn, a dawn that was slightly more red-tinged
than the sun he was used to. He gathered his small store of equipment
together and cached it in the low scrub of the surrounding forest. By a
clear, sparkling stream he washed, wincing slightly from the shock of
the too-cold water against his face.

He wore clothes indistinguishable from the other farmers of this
district, slightly shabby, a uniform dun color. They did not fit him
well, but they could not hide the wide shoulder and slim waist. Well,
it didn't matter: the farmers of this planet, like all the Colonies,
had to work hard to scrape their meager living from the rocky soil.
They were all in good condition; he would not be conspicuous.

He finished washing and dried himself on the sleeve of his jumper. Then
he began to walk down the rocky hill to the village that stood in the
tiny valley below. In the early sun, the tiny assemblage of white clean
houses sparkled like a handful of sand-polished shells clustered on a
beach. He stopped for a moment, halfway down, looking at the village.

It was a nice little place, he thought. Peaceful in the early light,
calm. There were a few people moving about the streets, probably
farmers early on their way to the fields. It was a pastoral scene, like
something he had read in a book a long time ago.

_Nice_, he thought. _Quiet. I wonder what it will be like when I'm
finished here._

It didn't pay to think about things like that. Not in his business.

He let his eyes shift slightly to take in the tall towers of Thanlar,
just visible over the crest of hills on the other side of the valley.
Thanlar, the capitol. That was his concern. That was what he had to
think about, not the village.

He sighed once, started down the hill again, walking slowly, picking
his way through the loose rocks with care.

As he neared the village, he passed several crews of men going out into
the fields. He greeted them in Interlingua, and they replied shortly,
without curiosity. He knew he was a stranger to them; they did not
recognize him, but they showed no curiosity. These days, curiosity was
not much advantage to anyone, he thought. The farmers had probably
learned long ago not to show too much interest in any stranger who
suddenly appeared from nowhere.

He came into the village and walked quickly to the faded wooden sign
that announced, TAILOR. Entering the little shop, more a general
dry-goods store than a tailor, he moved to the rear, to a small
counter. No one was there, and he rang the bell on the counter.

After a moment, a man appeared, hastily buttoning a tunic, his hair
still tousled, sleep in his eyes.

"Yes, yes? What is it? You are too early."

"My apologies, old man," said the raider. "I am looking for a hunting
cloak."

The small man's eyes narrowed. "Ah," he said. "A hunting cloak. I have
several. What did you have in mind."

"Something in gray. To suit my name."

"Ah. And what might you be hunting, Mr.--Gray?"

"An animal of my home planet. It is called a jackal."

"Ah."

The old man suddenly turned from the low rack of cloaks and stared
directly at his customer. His mouth compressed in a thin, bitter line.

"So. You are he. The Mr. Gray who hunts the jackal. Come."

He turned and led the way into his living quarters behind the counter.

"I will tell the others you are here," he said. He left through a rear
door, leaving the raider to wander about the tiny room, inspecting
it without interest. He had seen too many like it in the past five
years to be interested. Dingy little rooms in the back of a store,
insect-ridden chambers in public lodgings, shack in the backwoods
outside a city, too many, too many. And never a place to rest.

_After this one_, he promised himself. _After this one._

Soon the little tailor came back, and there were two others with him.
One was a ferret-eyed little man with a suspicious stare, the other a
heavy-set farmer. The heavy-set man had a scythe in his hand, he had
apparently been on his way to his fields when the tailor found him. He
held the scythe tightly, and the raider could see he was very nervous.
It was probably the first time he had ever come into contact with one
of the raider's--profession. He didn't like it.

Extending his free right hand, the farmer said, "My name is Carroll.
Joseph Carroll. You are--Mr. Gray?"

The raider took the proffered hand warmly, trying to gain this man's
friendship. He would need all the help he could get.

"Gray is my given name, Mr. Carroll. My last name--" he laughed
embarrassedly, "--well, they call me Wolf, for the time being."

"Appropriate," said the man bitterly.

"I'm sorry I have to meet you under these conditions, Mr. Carroll, very
sorry."

The other shrugged, keeping his eyes fixed on the raider's lean, brown
face, trying to guess what sort of mind lay behind it.

"In these times," he said finally, with an air of discouragement, "one
cannot choose either one's friends or the conditions of meeting."

The ferret-eyed man had been watching the exchange closely, and now
he sidled up to the raider with his thin, white hand extended. "Please
forgive Joseph," he said smoothly. "He is not happy about this affair."
His voice exuded a sort of artificial charm, and Wolf found himself
repelled by the man.

"None of us do," he said. He turned to the farmer again, who was
standing uncomfortably, his eyes on the floor. Wolf watched him for a
moment, just long enough for the farmer to know he was being watched.

"Perhaps," said Wolf slowly, "we had better straighten this out right
now."

The heavy-set man looked up defiantly. "All right," he said. "I admit
I do not like this business, I do not like what you are here for, I do
not like what will happen to our village when you are gone."

The thin man laughed. "The old man means to say he is a coward."

"No," said the man stubbornly, without taking his eyes away from Wolf.
"I am not a coward. But your mission means death for many people,
people I call my friends. I do not like that."

"There is a necessity," said Wolf, quietly.

"Perhaps, perhaps," said Joseph Carroll, shaking his head dubiously. "I
do not pretend to understand the political complications. I know only
that, whether you succeed or fail, our village is lost. Our people will
suffer for what you do. Many will probably die. You cannot expect me to
like that."

"No," Wolf agreed. "We do not expect that of you, Joseph. No one
expects you to like this. But, tell me--"

"Yes."

"What was your tax the past year?" Wolf asked.

The old man laughed bitterly. "Seventy-nine percent."

"Enough to live on?"

"Barely," said Carroll, leaning heavily on the scythe. "It means we
must work many hours, sixteen or more a day, in order to survive."

"That is what we fight," said Wolf simply. "That, and the near slavery
of many of the Colonies. Do you know what happens to the money you pay
the Terran Federation in taxes?"

"No," admitted Carroll. "No one has dared ask."

Wolf laughed. "And yet they say the Federation is a republic? When the
citizen does not dare ask what happens to the taxes that are ground out
of him? I'll tell you, my friend Joseph. It is used for administration.
Simply that. Administration of a space empire is an expensive project,
and you must pay for it. It costs a great deal of money, our treasured
Empire. And what does the administration consist of? Machinery to
collect taxes. It is like a snake that feeds on its own tail, Joseph.
Taxes are increased in order to have enough money to collect more
taxes. It never ends."

"This is one thing," said Joseph. "The killing of people is another."

"How many do you know who have died in Debtor's camps, or died because
they could not work hard enough? Joseph, this is no life for a man. The
Colonies cannot develop under the Federation. They must be free to
govern themselves. Otherwise, we have simply a great, cancerous tumor,
spreading through the universe, calling itself the Terran Federation."

Joseph sighed. "All right," he said. "In principle I agree. The
colonies must be free. But is there no other way than murder and
assassination? This violence--what can come of it? And if the
revolution succeeds eventually, how can we know the Federation will not
be replaced by the same thing under another name?"

"Because you will govern yourselves," Wolf said. "Every Colony will be
autonomous, trading as a sovereign nation with the other Colonies. The
idea of a Galactic Empire is self-defeating, Joseph, it is unhealthy,
vicious. The only way man can go to the stars with his head up, is
without dreams of infinite power blinding him."

"You are an idealist," said the ferret-eyed man, with surprise.

"A man must live for something," said Wolf, quietly.

"Certainly, certainly," the thin man agreed quickly. "I was surprised
to find an idealist in your--trade."

"My trade is as distasteful to me as it is to you," said Wolf, speaking
more to Joseph Carroll than to the pale, thin man.

"What will the death of Mayne Landing accomplish?" Carroll asked.

"Confusion. He is the Administrator of over one hundred planets. He
is a strong man, a focal point. Without him, without his personal
strength, the administration of those planets will falter, and stop.
It isn't that he carries on the routine work, of course. But decisions
come from him, the decisions that cannot be made by routine, the
decisions that require a man's creative spark. Without that, the
routine itself cannot stand."

"It rather sounds as if you respect the man," said Carroll.

"Respect him? I--" Wolf hesitated, uncertain. "Yes," he finished. "I
respect him. He is doing what he thinks is right, as I do what I think
is right."

"And you would kill a man for whom you hold no hatred," Carroll
muttered. "This thing is making beasts of us all."

_If you only knew_, thought Wolf, _if you only knew._

"Sometimes it is necessary," he said aloud. "Sometimes bad things are
necessary, that good may follow."

Carroll sighed. "Well, we are committed now. We must go ahead."

"I will need detailed information on Landing's plan of inspection,"
Wolf said.

"You will have it," Carroll told him. "Daimya has been in the city for
five days, listening and watching."

"Good," said Wolf. He felt better now, getting into the operation. This
he knew, this he could handle. It was what he was trained for. It was
the other things that were bad, the thinking, the wondering, the long
nights spent sleepless, uncertain.

"When will he be back?" Wolf asked. "This Daimya."

"She. Daimya is my daughter," Carroll said. "Even our children must
have blood on their hands. She will return this evening."

       *       *       *       *       *

Daimya came, just after dark. Wolf was startled. He had expected a
child, from the way Carroll spoke, and Daimya was far from a child. She
was a slim woman, in her early twenties, he estimated. Her body was
sleek and fit, and her long black hair was tied behind her head, where
it flowed over her back like a waterfall carved from ebony. She had
large eyes, slightly almond shaped, that regarded him solemnly as she
gave the information she had gathered.

"He will come to inspect this village in two days," she said. "He will
visit four farms, picked at random, and then there will be a procession
down the main street."

"That would be our time," Wolf mused. "Crowds about."

"Some will be killed," Daimya objected. "His guards will not take this
thing lightly."

"I am sorry," Wolf said sincerely. "It is our best chance of success."

Daimya shrugged. "You are the killer, not I," she said, with obvious
distaste.

Wolf felt an impulse to explain, to justify, to make this slight girl
see that he hated this. Angrily he fought it down.

_It doesn't matter what she thinks_, he told himself. _It doesn't
matter. What matters is to get the job done and get out. That's all._

"Tell me," Daimya said curiously, "how do you come to be mixed up in a
thing like this? You don't act like a hired killer."

Wolf laughed shortly. "No," he said. "I'm an amateur. I was a Captain
of the Security Patrol once. My whole family was in Federation Service,
as a matter of fact. I was on Colony Patrol for three years. In that
time I saw so much suffering, so much injustice, so much simple cruelty
that--well, never mind. When I was contacted by a member of the
revolution underground, I deserted. It almost killed my father. Since I
was familiar with the Federation's higher echelons, I was assigned the
pleasant job of assassin."

"How many men have you killed in that job?" Daimya asked, almost
casually.

Wolf watched her for a long moment before answering. "You don't want to
know that," he said slowly.

The girl dropped her eyes. "No. No, I guess you're right. I'm sorry."

She stood and went to the door. She stopped there and turned, looking
at Wolf. He met her eyes and held them with his own, frankly, without
embarrassment.

"I'm sorry," she repeated. She closed the door softly behind her, and
Wolf bent to study the map of the village she had provided.

       *       *       *       *       *

The village lay in a cup-shaped valley. The main street was also
a direct highway out of Thanlar. On either side of the highway,
the farmer's fields stretched, checkered brown and green, to the
foothills. The entire valley was not more than a mile wide, and
the fields extended only a quarter of a mile on either side of the
main road. The foothills added another quarter of a mile, and then,
abruptly, the mountains started.

Though one of the principal highways to Thanlar, the main street was
fairly narrow, bordered closely on either side by the small business
district, composed mostly of single story buildings constructed out of
native lumber from the hills.

Wolf decided the center of the business district would offer the most
concealment. Any group of men at any other place would be viewed with
suspicion by Mayne Landing's bodyguards, and their chances would be
proportionately diminished.

It remained to determine the most effective weapon. Explosive? No,
too many villagers would be killed. Yet that would certainly be the
most certain way, a grenade thrown from the roof of one of the low
buildings. He wondered how thoroughly the Administrator's men would
check the village before the procession.

Joseph Carroll told him the check was cursory; except for the spasmodic
attacks of the revolution underground, the Colonies were submissive
enough, and the precautions taken were in the nature of routine.

It looked to be easy, Wolf thought wryly. The easiest of them all,
since the planet was fairly distant from the scene of previous
underground operations.

They wouldn't be expecting it, he thought. Down the main street in
procession, the Administrator standing in the little ground car,
smiling and waving to his subjects, genial, effusive. And then--

"Joseph," said Wolf suddenly. "How many men can I depend on?"

"Perhaps thirty," said the farmer. "Perhaps a few more."

"Are they completely dependable?"

"Within reason," said Carroll. "They are farmers, not soldiers. Plows
are more familiar to them than guns."

"How many can you get me that will obey me without question, no matter
what?"

Joseph Carroll tugged absently at his ear. Finally, he shrugged.
"Perhaps five," he said. "Including myself."

"All right," sighed Wolf. "It will have to be that way, then. But the
others can be depended on 'within reason?'"

"Yes," Carroll said. "Do not expect too much. They do not like this
business."

"Neither do you," Wolf said. "But you count yourself among the five
trustworthy."

Carroll didn't answer, and Wolf took his silence as a declaration of
faith.

"All right," he said. "Leave me now. At sunset, bring your men to me,
all of them. I will work out the attack."

"Very well," said Carroll, and started to leave.

"Joseph," said Wolf softly, and the older man turned at the door.

"What is it?"

"What about Daimya?"

"What about her?"

"Where will she be during--this attack?"

"At home, I expect," said Carroll. "Where she belongs."

Wolf toyed for a moment with the map that lay before him.

"Joseph," he said. "What _will_ happen to the village?"

"You don't know?" asked Carroll in surprise.

"No," Wolf admitted. "I have never stayed behind."

Carroll laughed bitterly. "One of two things," he said. "They will
either demolish it from the air, including the populace, or they will
put everyone in one of the forced labor camps." The farmer made a small
gesture of resignation.

"I didn't know," Wolf said, almost under his breath. _Can I be
responsible for that?_

"They don't like Colonists cooperating with the revolutionaries,"
Carroll continued. "Did you expect they exempted us all from our taxes
as a reward?"

"No," Wolf said. "But I didn't know it was so--complete."

"They are thorough," the old man shrugged. "Any village where an
incident occurs is made an example. Before long, you people will not
find much welcome in the Colonies."

"I suppose not," Wolf mused. "Perhaps by then--"

"You really believe you're going to succeed in overthrowing the
Federation, don't you?"

"I must," said Wolf. "Without that, all this--" he gestured to the map
before him, traced with arrows, notations, ideas, "--is meaningless
slaughter."

"So it seems," Carroll said flatly.

"Joseph," said Wolf suddenly. "With luck, there will be a ship waiting
for me in the mountains when I've--finished here."

"That's your good fortune," Carroll said grimly.

"Will you come with me?"

"And join the revolutionaries?"

"You--and Daimya."

Carroll considered it slowly. "No," he said finally. "Not I. I have
gotten my people into this, I must stay with them. All were against it
when you first contacted us. All but me. It is my fault. I have to stay
with them."

Wolf felt a sudden surge of affection for the old man. Reluctant he
might be, but he knew what he was doing and he knew the consequences
and was willing to accept them.

"And Daimya?"

"That is a different matter," said Carroll. "It is not right that she
should suffer for her father's folly."

_Or that a father should suffer for his son's folly_, thought Wolf. But
he said nothing.

"You would take her?" Carroll asked.

"If I am--able," said Wolf.

"All right," said the old man. "I will see to it. Better she should be
alive than dead. That is all that matters."

       *       *       *       *       *

Wolfs final plan was simple. He had not enough men to count on a direct
attack. The major work would be performed by the dependable five,
of which Carroll assured him. The others would be used to create a
diversion to cover the actual assault.

There was a slight bend to the highway just before it entered the
village. When the procession passed this point, they would see a
group of men disperse quickly into the low scrub at the side of the
road. This would put them on their guard, they would be apprehensive,
watching.

When the procession had entered the village itself and was within the
short commercial strip, there would be an explosion back of them.
Grenades, perhaps some shooting. If Wolf's prediction were accurate,
this would divert the attention of at least the major portion of guards
for long enough.

Long enough for the five men in the crowd to do what they had to do--

"This must be timed perfectly," he told the man who was to head the
diversionary squad.

"I understand that."

"Too soon or too late, either will destroy us. It will take us too long
to reach the Administrator. He must be exactly opposite the tailor's
shop. It must be done right."

"It will be done right."

"If it is not, all the sacrifices are for nothing, you understand that?
The consequences will be as bad, or worse, for the village, and we will
have accomplished nothing. If the Administrator is dead, there will
be time for most of the villagers to escape into the hills before the
Federation can take action against them."

The man left, after Wolf had provided him with the weapons his group
would need from his cache on the nearby hillside.

The dependable five were instructed in their parts, and then there was
nothing to do but wait.

The next morning dawned clear. The air was cool, a slight breeze
ruffled the fields around the village. As the sun rose higher in the
sky, it glinted sharply from the towers of Thanlar.

It had been impossible to keep the entire operation a secret from
the villagers. They knew something was to happen, and they knew it
concerned the inspection trip of Mayne Landing to the village. It was
not hard to guess what it was.

As the day drew on toward noon, the tension of the people grew. Small
knots of farmers gathered on the corners, their fields forgotten for
the day, talking low.

Wolf didn't like it, it was too obvious. The village was primed, ready
to explode, and he was afraid the tension would make the guards _too_
alert. They had to be just tense enough to respond to the diversion,
not enough so they would be watching _everywhere_. He was counting on
an instinctive, rapid response.

He sat behind the tailor shop, talking to his men with a confidence and
calm he did not feel. He spoke as if the success of the mission were a
foregone fact, and the escape of the villagers into the hills. But he
knew it was tenuous.

Perhaps he had planned it too critically. Perhaps a simple direct
attack would have been better. Perhaps, perhaps--

Any number of things were possible, he thought. But it was done now. If
he had made a mistake, they would know soon.

On the contraband comset behind the tailor shop, Wolf had called the
mother-ship that hovered just out of detection range. All right, they
confirmed, there would be a shuttle in the hills back of the town. Did
he know the shuttle that had brought him had been lost? No? Well, it
had. With the whole crew aboard.

_That many more_, thought Wolf. _If anybody's keeping a list, I've got
a lot to my credit. Or damnation._ And, bitterly: _More friends than
enemies._

Don't think about it. Do your job and get the hell out. If you can.

He spoke to Daimya, but on her father's advice did not tell her of his
plan to take her along.

"She won't go voluntarily," the old man said frankly. "We will have to
pretend we are all going to the hills. After that--" he nodded slowly,
"--the problem is yours."

"I will take care of her, Joseph," Wolf had promised, and the
sun-browned farmer had clasped his hand tightly in a mute gesture of
hopefulness.

"You understand--a man and his daughter--you understand?"

_More than you probably know, Joseph._

"Yes," he said aloud. "I think I understand."

And then came the word that the Administrator's procession was in
sight.

Wolf looked at his five dependables. He passed each face slowly,
as if he had never seen them before. They were young, and old, and
middle-aged. They were dark from the hours in the sun, strong from the
work that pulled their muscles for the long hours each day. They smiled
at him, grimly, nervous, but they were good men.

_The faces of freedom_, Wolf thought. _These are the faces and the
bodies of freedom._

Then it was time.

       *       *       *       *       *

The streets were lined with silent people when the procession came into
view around the slight curve.

Then there was a tentative cheer from someone. It was taken up by
someone else, and soon the crowd was roaring its synthetic appreciation
of Administrator Mayne Landing. Wolf breathed easier.

Craning his neck in the crowd, Wolf spotted the other five, standing
dispersed in the crowd, but all near the spot on the street opposite
the tailor's shop. They made no acknowledgement except meeting his
eyes, then turning away to watch the procession near.

As they came closer, Wolf noted with satisfaction that several of the
guards occasionally glanced at the street behind them.

Good. They had seen the knot of men outside town, then. If they
expected anything, they were expecting it from behind them.

He could see the tall, straight figure of Mayne Landing in the ground
car. He took in the familiar face almost hungrily, the great shock
of white hair moving gently in the slight breeze, the characteristic
gesture, a half-salute, the slight smile, the kindly eyes of the old
man--

He tore his eyes away from the dignified figure and glanced behind him,
down the street. He saw a figure move on a roof-top, and wondered if
the guards saw it, too.

Then the ground car was opposite, and Wolf had a wrenching sensation
that the diversionary squad was not going to go through with it....

An explosion rocked the street a block away, shaking the ground
underfoot, shattering windows in the adjacent stores. A billow of dirty
black smoke began to drift toward the sky. There was a scattering of
small, explosive fire.

The tone of the crowd's roar changed. It deepened and became a mass cry
of confusion and fright.

Quietly, Wolf edged forward to the street, automatically noting that
his men were doing the same. Several of the guards had turned, were
running back toward the source of the excitement, and others were
turned toward it. But those around Mayne Landing had not responded.
They were keeping their eyes fixed on the crowd. They were too well
trained to be drawn off, and Wolf cursed under his breath.

He stopped his forward motion and waited, rocking on the balls of his
feet. This was the part he hadn't told his five about.

Suddenly there was a flurry in the crowd on the opposite side of
the street. The nearest guard whirled, in time to draw his hand gun
and fire. The first of the five sprawled in the street, a bloody
stump where his head had been. But the guard's blast had not been in
time to stop the long mowing knife that buried itself to the hilt in
his throat. He lurched forward, dropping the hand gun. His momentum
carried him almost into the edge of the crowd, and a woman screamed
hysterically.

Wolf's other men had been only a fraction of a second behind the first,
and the street was now a chaos of shouting and the sharp, flat reports
of the guards' hand guns. The crowd milled frantically, adding to the
confusion as the attackers leaped at the procession.

Wolf waited, waited, watching for the single split-second when the
guards were fully engaged with the crowd.

Then it came, and their heads were momentarily turned away from Mayne
Landing.

Wolf sprinted from the crowd, the short stiletto cradled in his hand.
He leaped to the side of the ground car just as Mayne Landing turned
toward him.

He saw the old man's face clearly in that moment. It held no fear, but
only an unbelievable surprise, an astonishment beyond understanding.
Then the stiletto slid gently into the throat, severing the jugular,
and all surprise and emotion was lost in the implacable blank agony
of death. The still-pumping heart forced a pulsing stream of bright
arterial blood around the blade of the knife.

Then, as quickly as he had come, Wolf was gone. He slipped back
through the crowd, into the door of the tailor shop. Seconds later,
Joseph Carroll was there, one side of his gray farmer's tunic turning
brown-black from the blood that soaked it.

"Come on!" Carroll snapped, running for the back.

"What about the others?"

"Gone," said the old man shortly. "All of them." He dashed out the door
of the tailor shop into the back and Wolf followed him.

"Daimya!" Wolf shouted.

"She's waiting for us in the foothills."

The sound of the crowd and the blasting of hand guns was loud behind
them as they began their dash across the checkered fields. For a few
moments, nothing followed. Then Wolf heard a faint shout behind them,
and a huge gout of dirt erupted from the field beside him, almost
knocking him down.

He regained his balance and started to run low, crouched and
zig-zagging while the tiny explosive pellets pocked the field around
him. It seemed an eternity before they had crossed the field, but he
knew it was not more than a couple of minutes.

Joseph Carroll was ahead of him, already beginning to tear through the
scrub growth of the foothills, making his way up. Just as he entered
the undergrowth, Wolf saw the old man joined by a smaller, slighter
figure.

There was a roar in his ears, and he fell, a searing pain across his
back. Numbly, he realized he'd been hit, but somehow it didn't seem
important. He picked himself up and followed Carroll into the scrub.
Soon he was out of sight of their pursuers, though the explosions of
their weapons still followed them with uncanny accuracy.

He caught up with the old man and his daughter in a small clearing.
Carroll lay with his head cradled in Daimya's lap, gasping for breath.

"We've got to go on," Wolf said. "Come on, I'll help."

"You're hurt!" the girl said.

"Not badly. Come on, we've got to get your father out of here!"

The old man put his arms around the shoulders of the other two, and
they struggled up the hill, breaking their way through the brush,
slipping, sometimes falling. Behind them, there was still the
occasional sound of the explosive pellets, and infrequently, one came
very near.

"Close," muttered Wolf as an explosion showered them with dirt.
"They're on the path now."

They went a few steps farther, and Joseph slumped between them.

"Dad!" called Daimya. "Please! Please try to go on!"

Wolfs hand slid down the old man's back, came away warm and wet.

He was silent for a moment, then gently lowered the suddenly limp body
to the ground.

"Come on," he said to Daimya. The girl was standing over the inert
form of her father, not understanding what had happened, words of
encouragement still on her lips.

"Dad?" she said, bewildered.

Wolf took her arm. "Daimya, he's gone. Come on."

"No--Dad--" She knelt beside him on the ground.

"Sorry, Daimya," Wolf said under his breath. He swung, hitting her
cleanly behind the head. The girl collapsed soundlessly, and he slung
her over his shoulder and started on up the hill.

Finally, he cleared the crest. Just beyond it, lying in a tiny meadow
lay the black, unmarked shuttle ship. As he came in view, the port
opened and a man ran toward him. Wolf stumbled, caught his balance,
went on.

"Here," said the crewman, "let me take her."

Silently, out of fatigue, Wolf relinquished his load and stumbled
toward the port. It slid shut behind them, just in time to keep them
from being covered with dirt blown from a hole that suddenly appeared a
yard behind. Wolf caught a glimpse of men appearing at the crest.

Inside the ship, he could hear the thud and clang of the explosive
cartridges detonating uselessly against the permalloy hull. Then the
drives roared their song of power, and the shuttle lifted clear.

       *       *       *       *       *

The crewmen were more than curious.

"Who the hell's the girl?"

"Got me. Never heard of such a thing."

"Well, I suppose a Raider has a right to pick up a little booty now and
then," another laughed. "They don't have the easiest job in the world."

"Bet she's going to be mad when she wakes up."

"Yeah. Looks like the Raider might be worrying a little about that
right now."

Wolf stood at the forward screen, silently watching the shape of the
mother-ship grow larger and larger until the screen held nothing but
the great black hull.

The crewmen were wrong, he wasn't worried about Daimya's waking. He
could take care of that when the time came.

He was thinking about other things, the things that came to him when he
slept, the faces, the names, the actions, the right and wrong of living
according to what you think is right, no matter what the cost.

But the cost, the cost....

It was so high sometimes, so terribly high.

_This trip_, he thought. A shuttle crew. Five good men, probably the
whole village, eventually. Those who did escape into the hills would
lead a life of fear and pursuit, foraging as they went until finally
they were caught. And worst of all, this was worst of all, and mentally
he saw the list, the list of his responsibilities, the list for which
he would someday have to account.

The bright name of Mayne Landing: victim.

His mind shied away from it.

_Can that be forgiven? Can such a thing ever be forgiven?_

Gray Landing, called Wolf in the underground, turned away from the
forward screen and began to prepare to board the mother-ship.





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