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´╗┐Title: A Tourist Named Death
Author: Anvil, Christopher
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 "A Tourist Named Death" ***

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                  _There was something rotten in the
                 planet named Truth ... rotten enough
                 to call for the intervention of ... _

                         A Tourist Named Death

                         By CHRISTOPHER ANVIL

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                Worlds of If Science Fiction, May 1960.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


Dan Redman walked swiftly and quietly down the broad hallway toward a
door lettered:

                               A SECTION
                             J. KIELGAARD
                               DIRECTOR

As Dan opened the door, his trained glance caught the brief reflection
of a strange, strong-featured face, and a lithe, powerful, and
unfamiliar physique. Dan accepted this unfamiliar reflection of himself
as an actor accepts makeup. What puzzled him was the peculiar silent
smoothness with which his hand turned the knob, while his shoulder
braced firmly and easily against the opening door. He stepped into the
room in one sudden quiet motion.

The receptionist inside gave a visible start.

What kind of a job, Dan asked himself, did Kielgaard have for him this
time?

The receptionist recovered her poise, to usher Dan into the inner
office.

Kielgaard--big, stocky, and expensively dressed--glanced up from a
sheaf of glossy photographs. He said bluntly, "Sit down. We've got a
mess to straighten out."

"What's wrong?"

"A few years back, Galactic Enterprises discovered a totally
undeveloped planet with no inhabitants. They claimed development rights
and got to work to find an economical route to the planet, which is
called Triax."

Kielgaard snapped a switch on the edge of his desk and the room lights
dimmed out. Three stellar maps seemed to hang in space in front of Dan,
one map directly above the other.

Kielgaard's voice said, "Galactic found a route to Triax that promised
to be very economical. Watch."

       *       *       *       *       *

On the lowest map, the word "Earth" lit up, and a silver line grew out
from it along the stellar map, then jumped up in a vertical straight
line to the second map, traveled along this map almost to a place where
the word "Truth" lit up. The line then jumped straight up to the third
map and traveled along it to the word "Triax."

The room lighted and the maps vanished.

Kielgaard said, "In two subspace jumps and not too much normal-space
traveling, Galactic can ship a cargo from Triax to Earth. That's a
good, short route, but it comes too close to that planet called Truth."

Dan said, "Truth is the native name for the planet?"

"Exactly. Truth is inhabited. The inhabitants look much like us,
and they're very highly developed technologically, though there is
no sign that they use space travel in any form. The problem is that
Galactic's cargo ships will pass close enough to Truth so that the
inhabitants--call them Truthians--will eventually detect them and may
or may not like the idea. Galactic's worry is that after sinking a lot
of money into the development of Triax, and just as it's about to make
a profit on the planet, these Truthians may blossom out with a fleet of
commerce raiders, or else claim sovereignty over all contiguous space
and land Galactic in a big court fight." Kielgaard glanced at Dan with
a smile. "Suppose you were running Galactic and had this problem. What
would you do?"

"Try to vary the route. But subspace being what it is, a mild variation
of the starting point can produce an abrupt shift in the place where
they come out."

Kielgaard nodded. "There's probably a usable route, but there's no
telling when they'll find it. Meanwhile, the development license only
runs so long before Galactic has to show proof of progress."

"What's this Truth look like?"

"Earth-type, with cities and towns scattered over its surface at
random, some of the cities remarkably advanced, some antique, with
forest and wilderness in between, and only haphazard communications
between cities."

Dan frowned. "Well, then, I'd set down an information team, brain-spy
some of the inhabitants, and ease agents into key cities and towns. At
the same time, I'd go on looking for a new route, and do enough work on
Triax to keep the development license. When things clear up on Truth,
I'd develop Triax further."

Kielgaard nodded. "A sound and sensible plan. That is exactly what
Galactic did. And after a slow start, things began to straighten out
very nicely, too. The more Truth cleared up, the more Galactic invested
in Triax. And then, one day, this photograph came in."

Kielgaard held out a photograph showing a busy street corner in a city
at night. A brightly clothed crowd was walking along the sidewalk past
store windows showing a variety of merchandise.

Kielgaard said, "Look down that street. You see a low building, part
way down the block, with a wide chimney?"

"Yes," said Dan, "I see it."

"Look just above the top of the chimney."

"You mean this arrow-shaped constellation?"

Kielgaard nodded. "There is no such arrow-shaped constellation visible
from Truth."

"Then this photo is a fake?"

"They're all fakes. What apparently happened is that someone managed
to get a spy into Galactic's planning division, and through him found
out when and where Galactic's agents were to be set down. They grabbed
the agents one by one soon after each agent landed. Since then, they've
sent back reports to build up a purely synthetic picture of the planet.
The only reports Galactic can rely on are the original impressions of
the information team they set down to begin with."

Dan whistled. "So someone is working Galactic into position to jerk the
rug out from under it."

"Exactly."

"What's Galactic doing?"

"They're trying hard to keep this quiet. But meanwhile, no one knows
for sure who the spy is."

"A nice situation," said Dan. "What do we do about this planet Truth?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well," said Kielgaard, "the first thing we do is set a man down and
let him get the lay of the land. We get more agents ready to move in
right behind him. We intend to use the best men available, and nothing
but the latest and best equipment. If things turn out as we intend
them to, whatever organization started this will come out slit up the
middle, stuffed, roasted, and with an apple in its mouth."

Dan said cautiously, "Who's the first agent we set down on this planet?"

"You," said Kielgaard. "And you're going to be up against a deadly
proposition. Our opponent is established on the planet, and we're
going in cold. Fortunately, we've sunk a good part of our profits into
research and it's about to pay off. We have, for instance, installed in
your body cavity a remarkably small organo-transceiver. It uses a new
type of signal which should escape detection under any circumstances
you're likely to face on Truth."

       *       *       *       *       *

"So I can be more or less constantly in touch with you?"

"In any period of relative calm, yes. During violent action, the
interference of other currents in your brain would drown out the
signal. But we've also run a series of delicate taps to your optic and
auditory nerves, so we should have continuous contact by sight and
sound."

"You mentioned that the cities and towns on the planet were separated
by wilderness. How do I travel?"

"We have a new type of unusually small mataform transceiver." Kielgaard
reached in a drawer and tossed on his desk a smooth olive-colored
object little larger than a package of cigarettes. "The range is only a
few hundred miles, but it uses the new type of signal I've mentioned,
which eliminates the problem of orbiting a set of satellites to relay
the signal. The problem of first putting the mataform transceiver in
the place where you want to go is tricky, but we have a little glider
that ought to do the trick."

He showed Dan how to use the glider, and several other new items of
equipment, then frowned and sat back. "The worst of this is, we don't
know exactly what to expect on the planet. Some big organization could
even be trying to take over the planetary government. If so, a lot will
depend on what stage things are in when you land. To give you as much
chance as possible, your body has been carefully restructured to give
you exceptional strength and endurance. The neuro-conditioning lab has
recreated in your nervous system the reflexes of one of the deadliest
agents ever known. Don't be surprised if you perform certain actions
almost before you're aware of your own intentions. It has to be that
way to cut down the risks."

Dan and Kielgaard shook hands, and Dan went out to check his equipment.

Early the next day, he was on a fast spaceship to the planet called
Truth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dan was dropped low over the night side of the planet in a vaned
capsule that whirled straight down, burst open on contact with the
water, and sank. From this capsule, a small boat nosed out toward the
coast.

In the cramped space inside, Dan checked a little gauge to be sure the
boat's outer layer had adjusted to the water around it, so that there
would be no sharp difference in the radiation of heat to show up on any
infrared detector that might be in range. Then the boat nosed down with
a _suck-swish_ from the water-jet engine and began to pick up speed.

Several hours later, a thin flexible cable shot out from shallow water
at the edge of the junglelike coastline. The cable whipped around the
trunk of a tree well back from the water's edge, there was a faint low
hum, a grating noise, and something slid up over the rocks and pebbles
and came to rest among the tangled trunks and roots of the trees. A
moment later, Dan was out and dragging the boat further inland.

When he was satisfied that the boat was safe, he glanced at his watch.
The planet's large moon should soon be up and he intended to waste no
time making his position more secure.

He broke open a carton of the little mataform transceivers, clipped
several of them on small, almost completely transparent gliders, and
checked to be sure the little auxiliary motors of the gliders were in
working order. He slid on a helmet that fit tightly over his head and
eyes, and sent up the first glider. As the faint whir of the small
engine receded, Dan could see before him in the helmet a clear view of
the sea, with the thin rim of the planet's moon just rising, huge and
blood-red, over the horizon.

The small sensor unit on the glider sent back an image from a safe
height above the forest, and Dan switched the helmet from this glider
long enough to send up another.

By dawn, he had landed gliders, with their small mataform transceivers,
in isolated spots outside three moderate-sized cities within range of
the boat. Dan then took another of the mataform units and buried it.
Standing nearby, he mentally pronounced a key word.

As he did this, the electro-chemical change in a nervous tract
triggered a tiny implanted device that sent its imperceptible signal
to the mataform transceiver. The transceiver interpreted the signal,
and for an instant Dan sensed a shift in the pattern of things around
him.

Abruptly he was standing in the clearing where he had brought down
the first glider. Around him were several tall wind-thrown trees. In
the gray light of early dawn, he could barely make out the glider and
little mataform unit clipped to it. A few minutes later, the unit was
temporarily hidden, he had returned the glider to the boat, and he was
picking up the second glider in a badly burned tract of forest near the
second city.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the three mataform units were all hidden, Dan paused for a moment
to think through the next step. The three gliders, invisible to the
naked eye as they passed high above the tree tops, might possibly have
shown up on any of a number of detection devices, to give away both the
starting point and the places where they had landed. It was now Dan's
problem to outwit these detection devices.

Dan clipped another mataform transceiver to a glider, put on the
control helmet, and sent the glider dodging low and carefully through
the trees. He found a spot about two miles away that suited him
and landed the glider. He swiftly unloaded the boat and carried its
contents to the buried mataform unit, where he mentally pronounced a
new key word, which triggered the unit and took him to the glider and
transceiver he had just landed. In a short time, he had the contents of
the boat stacked beside the glider.

Dan then disassembled the boat and engine, and stacked the parts beside
the boat's piled-up contents. By now, the sun was well up, and Dan
was becoming aware of a thrumming drone that grew steadily louder. He
quickly dug up the buried mataform unit, clipped it to a glider, and
hung the glider to an overhead limb by a green string, knotted so as to
come undone at the first sharp pull.

Dan glanced around carefully and listened to the increasing drone. He
looked up and studied a bumpy blue-green limb well overhead. This limb
was located so that a spy unit on it would cover most of the place
where the boat had been. Dan carefully gauged the speed with which the
droning was coming closer, then went by the mataform to the pile of
goods he had transferred, came back with a long tube, and sighted at
the overhead limb. There was a _whoosh_ and a small colorless blob with
a tiny bump in the center spread out on the limb. The blob gradually
turned blue-gray, matching the limb, and then the spy unit was
indistinguishable from the limb's other bumps and irregularities.

The droning noise was now quite loud.

Dan went by the mataform to his new camp and put on the helmet he used
to control the glider.

An instant later, the glider gave a whir and jerked forward. The knot
came untied, and the glider, carrying the mataform unit and a length of
dark-green string, flitted out of sight amid the big tree trunks.

Dan, his hand on a knob at the side of the helmet, shifted his vision
rapidly back and forth from the glider to the spy unit over the spot
where the boat had been.

There now came into view, in the place where the boat had been,
something that looked like a cross between an oversize bloodhound and a
tiger. Right behind this came a man with a rifle. Then another man, and
another. The angle of vision did not let Dan see exactly where the men
came from, but he supposed there was a jetcopter just overhead.

The tiger-like animal snuffled around, pawed at the ground, made trips
into the jungle on all sides, and finally ran back toward the shore.
The men followed close behind.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dan, shifting his attention back and forth from this scene to the
glider, landed the glider nearby, just as the last of the men left the
place where the boat had been. Dan quickly went to each of the three
places near cities where he had landed the mataform transceivers, and
moved each of them by glider well away from the places where they had
landed. He left behind in each place a small spy unit.

He had just finished doing this when several loads of heavily armed men
in jetcopters came down in all three places. The men, Dan noticed, wore
no uniforms, and the copters were unmarked.

Dan said mentally, "Can you hear me, Kielgaard?"

"Loud and clear," came the familiar voice. "We're getting sight and
sound perfectly."

"Have you got your corps of experts working on everything that comes
in?"

"Naturally," said Kielgaard. "But I wouldn't advise you to stop and
chat right now. Those boys seem to mean business."

"Do they look like planetary police to you?"

"No. They don't look like anything that was born on that planet."

"That's exactly the way they strike me. Well, maybe I can make them
some more trouble."

Dan got out a map and noted a long, fairly straight road from one
of the cities, near which he had a mataform transceiver, to another
distant city. From this distant city, a winding river curled away to a
city even more distant. That night, Dan intended to make use of road
and river alike. But right now, he spent an hour or so moving his goods
to a place further away from the landing; then he partly reassembled
the boat, and cat-napped till evening. He was awoken at frequent
intervals by sudden drops of men and more of the tiger-like animals, at
each of the four places where they had been before. Each time there was
sudden activity at one of these places, a little alarm buzzed in Dan's
ear, and he slid on the helmet to watch a renewed search of the ground.

He had the impression that someone had reported nothing was to be
found, and that this word had been passed along to someone who had said
there _must_ be something there, and it had better be found or else.
The search this time was much more careful. But it was not till the
last place was searched that one of them came very close to the spy
unit, and reached out toward it.

Dan regretfully slid back a protective cover at the lower edge of the
helmet and pressed a button underneath. There was a dazzling flash,
and then the scene was gone.

Dan would much rather have kept them thinking that maybe there was
nothing to look for after all. But he could tell from their numbers
and zeal that he was not likely to have very much his own way on this
planet.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, Dan sent a glider under power down the long road to the
distant city. The glider was low enough to avoid the usual detectors,
but happily free of the need to dodge an endless succession of tree
trunks. The river served much the same purpose, so that well before
dawn, Dan had mataform transceivers planted near each of the two new
cities, and also at a place right at the edge of the river. From
this spot, Dan threw out into the river a heavily weighted mataform
transceiver. He returned to the partly assembled boat and methodically
put it together again. This time, however, he fitted sections together
differently and left the heavy engine out entirely. He put his arms
around one end of the thing he had put together and mentally said a
keyword.

The river water rushed coldly around him, gritty with silt sweeping
along the bottom. There was a _chug_ in his ears as the water triggered
off the grab anchors around the rim of the shelter. Dan said another
key word and he was inside. He snapped on a light and looked carefully
around, but found no sign of a leak.

He transferred the rest of his goods, checked to see that the selective
membrane panel was keeping the oxygen at the right level inside, then
lay down to catch up on sleep.

The following day, he took three of his small transceivers, and went by
the mataform to a place outside the nearest city.

A short walk along a winding trail took Dan past a series of huts and
cabins to a rough covered stand displaying combs, brooms, and other
simple merchandise, along with a dusty case of what looked like soda
pop, and a dust-covered carton of what appeared to be candy bars.
The soda pop was labeled "GAS," and the candy had a card labeled
"TOOTHROT." The girl in charge of the stand smiled and said, "Good
morning, Death."

There was no one else around, and the girl spoke in a perfectly natural
way, so Dan smiled back and said, "Good morning."

But as he walked on down the trail, he said mentally, "Kielgaard?"

Kielgaard's voice replied, "I heard it, Dan. We're checking at this
end to see if it's some error in the vocabulary we implanted in your
brain." A moment later, Kielgaard said, "As nearly as we can tell
here, 'Death' is the word she used."

"Funny."

Dan rounded a bend in the trail and came to a moderately wide road,
paved with smooth blocks of stone. To his right was a wall about ten
feet high, with an open gate and a city street visible behind it. From
somewhere came the steady beat of a drum. Dan started toward the gate,
but had to jump aside as a heavily armed column of troops marched out,
their faces set and their feet striking the ground in an unvarying
cadence.

As the last of the troops went by, a man standing nearby turned to Dan
and said, "Well, there they go. We won't be seeing some of them again
in this life."

Dan nodded noncommittally, and the man looked at him sharply, then
grinned and said, "Good hunting."

"Thank you," said Dan. He could hear a faint muttering somewhere in the
background, which he took to be Kielgaard and his experts, trying to
understand this latest exchange.

Dan followed the man through the city gates, and walked past a variety
of small shops selling baked goods, meats, groceries, hand tools,
books, and appliances.

Dan noted the location of the bookstore, so that on the way back he
could buy some books. He wanted to transmit the contents of the books;
the staff of experts could learn a great deal from a cross-section of a
planet's fiction and non-fiction.

       *       *       *       *       *

As Dan walked toward the center of the city, he noted that the
buildings grew larger, and the shops turned into big department stores.
These all looked much the same as the ones on Earth, or on many other
technologically advanced planets. The merchandise showed only minor
differences in design. Looking in a hardware store, for instance, Dan
discovered that ordinary screwdrivers had a short curved crosspiece
on the handle--apparently a thumb rest to give greater leverage in
turning. Aside from such minor differences, everything seemed the same.

Dan had just decided that the planet looked almost like home when
he came to a low building with a paved yard. Into the yard trundled
several small carts, similar to the kind used to transfer baggage in
railroad and mataform depots back home. On these carts, however, were
canvas covers, which were thrown back to reveal fully clothed human
forms. On all but one cart, the human forms wore the same kind of
white garment, trimmed in various colors. These forms--bodies, Dan
supposed--were lifted from the carts by attendants who handled them
with the greatest care and respect.

On the other cart, though, the bodies wore street clothes. These bodies
were grabbed under the arms, dragged to a black door like the door of a
furnace, set in the wall of the building, and shoved through the door
head first. As the bodies were shoved in, Dan saw the sunlight glint on
what looked like tight metal cords around their necks, bearing oblong
metal tags.

Several men had stopped while Dan glanced in to watch this scene. Dan
now overheard their comments, which were made in tense angry tones:

"Look at that. If this referendum isn't over soon, it'll dust the lot
of us over the forest."

"It's all these charges and accusations that make the trouble. Why we
can't do it like civilized human beings, I don't know."

"The trouble is, there's no precedent."

The men walked away.

Dan had the out-of-focus sensation of a man who comes into a room where
a joke has already been half-told.

He glanced at the low building. "Are you getting all this, Kielgaard?"

"We're getting it. But I hope it makes more sense to you than it does
to us."

"Well, it doesn't."

Dan glanced around, noted the discreet word "DISPOSAL"
printed on the face of the small building where the bodies were shoved
through what looked like a furnace door. Dan thought he could see what
was going on here, but the reasons for the things that were happening
were totally obscure to him.

It was in the next block that he began to get some sort of an idea,
when he saw a large poster bearing a blue triangle standing point down.
Stamped over this triangle were large letters: VOTE YES!

Several blocks away was a big poster showing a green triangle, its base
down, and bearing the words: VOTE NO!

       *       *       *       *       *

Both posters were dented, scratched, and spattered, as if stones
and rotten fruit had been thrown at them. But, though Dan watched
carefully as he walked on toward the center of the city, he saw no clue
as to what the voting was about. He was also puzzled to find that,
though there were many stores, and a fair number of what looked like
hotels, office buildings, and apartment houses, there seemed to be no
factories, large or small.

The people passing here were another source of uncertainty. As Dan
approached the center of the city, he began to sense the peculiar air
of freedom that he had noticed in resort towns on a dozen planets. And
yet this did not look to him like a resort town. Moreover, it was hard
to gauge the mood of the people passing by, because nearly all seemed
to react to his presence in some way. Some looked suddenly alarmed,
a few looked furtive, others seemed pleased and smiled at him. A
considerable number of the women had a thrilled look when they saw him.

Dan walked another block and saw part of the reason for the resort-town
atmosphere. Across the street was a sweeping expanse of green. In the
far end of this green was an enormous swimming pool, with floats and
concrete islands dotted through it to hold diving boards that were
almost constantly in use.

Dan, wanting to watch the passersby without their watching him,
stepped into a quiet, old-fashioned-looking bookstore that fronted on
the green. He looked out the many-paned front window and immediately
noticed a change in the people. Without his inexplicably disturbing
influence, nearly all of the people fell into two distinct categories.
One group had a depressed and angry look. The other group looked
cheerful and carefree. Aside from their mood, they didn't seem to
differ noticeably in dress, age, or any other way.

Dan glanced around the bookstore and saw that it, like the other
stores, could be transplanted to Earth, and--except for the unfamiliar
lettering on storefront and book titles--would hardly be noticed. He
nodded to an elderly woman working at a small desk to one side of the
store, then walked to the rear, where the stacks of books left a far
corner partially in shadow and out of sight from the front of the
store. Dan stooped, glanced at the dusty row of books on the bottom
shelf, and slid a mataform transceiver behind the books.

He walked back to the front of the store, stepped out on the sidewalk,
and saw a cart come slowly along in the street. This was the kind of
cart he had seen earlier. The outstretched figures of men lay bumping
loosely on the cart, metal cords with oblong tags tight around their
necks. Dan stepped over to note that the tags he could see all read:

                               --KILL--
                             UNAUTHORIZED

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a buzz of indignation from the crowd on the sidewalk as the
cart went by.

Then there was a sudden silence.

Dan glanced around.

Walking along the sidewalk toward him was a man about his own height
and build, who moved with controlled catlike steps.

The man looked directly at Dan and called out: "Hello, Death!"

The people on the sidewalk rushed to get out of the way. Abruptly the
man's arm swung back and forward.

"Catch."

Something flashed in the air.

Dan's impulse was to jump aside, then tackle the man. Instead, his
body turned slightly. His right hand, already partly raised, whipped
in a short arc, caught something, flicked it to his left, and blurred
straight out again.

The man opposite Dan blinked and jumped aside.

At the same instant, Dan's left hand shot out.

There was a gasp from the crowd. The man collapsed with the butt of a
knife jutting from his chest.

A voice behind Dan said warmly, "Superb! A return attack complete in
one stroke!"

Dan turned to see three alert, strong-looking men. One counted bills
from a thick roll. The second opened up a square case with carrying
handle. The third was unwinding an armband with a badge on it.

The man with the case held it out. "If you'll just put your fingertips
on these plates, so we'll be sure to get your mating credits--"

Dan sensed from the waiting attitude of the people watching that this
was some kind of test. Unhesitatingly, he held out his fingertips.
There were also two bright flashes as a small tube was held to Dan's
eyes.

Once Dan could see again, everyone seemed relaxed and friendly. The
crowd was excitedly arguing the details of what had happened. The man
with the roll of bills handed over a small fistful, saying, "Double,
for the return at one stroke."

The man with the armband put it on Dan's arm as he rapidly recited the
words of some rote formula, of which all Dan caught was a frequent
reference to "the Code," and the words "peril and deadly danger," and
the last words, "now say, 'I do.'"

"I do," said Dan, fervently wishing he were somewhere else.

The man with the case was beaming as he snapped the little rod inside.
He said genially, "I always know an honest fight when I see it. And
these days it's a real pleasure to--"

Just then, he clapped the case shut.

The case gave out a clang like the general alarm on a space cruiser
under surprise attack.

The crowd gave a shout. "Unauthorized kill!"

The three men beside Dan jumped forward.

Dan's left hand lashed out to smash the nearest of the three men in
the midsection. The flat edge of his right hand struck the second man
just below the nose; then Dan had thrown the first man back against the
third, had whirled around and seen the crowd start to surge across the
sidewalk to block his escape. He sprinted directly past this crowd, so
that when it completely blocked the sidewalk an instant later, he was
cut off from the view of the three men he had just knocked down.

Dan did not doubt that these three men were officials of the planet,
and he strongly suspected that they were armed and knew how to use
their weapons.

       *       *       *       *       *

Across the street, at the edge of one corner of the green, was a tall
hedge of flowering shrubs, back of which was a grove of young trees.
Dan dodged past carts and small, square, silent automobiles, and ran
through this hedge. Behind him there was a shout of anger.

To Dan's left were two young trees, growing close together. Dan still
had with him two of his little mataform units, and he quickly thrust
one of them between the two dark, slender tree trunks.

An instant later, he was in the dark corner of the bookstore, hearing
the angry shouts dwindle into the distance outside. The door of the
store closed as the elderly woman who ran the store stepped outside,
apparently to see what had happened.

A moment later, Dan was in the shelter under the river. He worked
quickly with a small brush and some dye, then got out another set of
clothes. He checked his appearance swiftly and thoroughly.

Then with more of a tanned look than he had had before, with much
darker hair, and wearing entirely different clothes, Dan mataformed
back to the bookstore. The elderly woman was standing by the front
window as he came forward, to pick up a thin scientific volume lying on
a table and say, "I believe you were outside when I came in."

"Oh," she said, "the most frightful thing just happened." She then gave
a highly inaccurate account of Dan's fight with the knife man, and
described how the crowd was hunting him down right now at the far end
of the park.

Dan took his change and said, "I'll have to go look."

He stepped outside and could see the path of the crowd with no
difficulty. The flowering shrubs were flattened, and the ground under
the trees showed the marks of many feet. Dan recovered his mataform
unit and walked a short distance to look down toward the far end of
the green, where the swimmers were all out of the pool--probably so
that it could be searched for Dan.

He turned around and noticed near the bookstore a large restaurant,
built in a style that made him think of an old English tavern. Several
men looking well contented came out. Dan realized he was hungry.

He went in, and from a weird merry-go-round serving apparatus got
a steak indistinguishable from those at home, and a selection of
unfamiliar side dishes that looked good to him, but made other diners
nearby wince. Dan paid for his selection and sat down.

During the meal, someone at a nearby table began to talk loudly, and
someone else shouted, "Spacerot!" There was a momentary hush in the
restaurant, and two burly men in white jackets quickly crossed to
the table and spoke firmly to the diners. Peace was restored, and
the two burly men wove back through several parties just leaving the
restaurant, and separated to stand quietly but alertly near the far
wall.

As Dan ate, he thought, "Kielgaard!"

"Right here."

"Do you make any sense out of what we've seen so far?"

"I get the impression something's about to snap, but I don't know
what. Or as my experts here tell me, 'It's too early to venture an
opinion.'"

"That," thought Dan, "is likely to be the trouble with this place.
By the time we find out what's going on, it will be too late to do
anything about it. We're going to have to play hunches to crack this
one in time."

Kielgaard said fervently, "_How_ we crack it makes no difference to me,
so long as we _do_ crack it."

       *       *       *       *       *

While Dan ate, a considerable crowd of people went out the front door,
and two couples came in. The restaurant, however, remained very nearly
full.

"Something tells me," Dan thought, "that there must be a lot more to
this planet than meets the eye."

He got up and walked toward the back of the restaurant. What he had
taken for the rear wall turned out to be merely a wall that divided one
section of the restaurant from another equally large, where waitresses
served individual tables.

A flight of carpeted steps led down to men's and women's rest rooms and
a gently sloping, softly lighted hallway. People were coming up the
hall in considerably greater numbers than they went down, and Dan was
startled to see that they reacted to him exactly as the crowd outside
had, before he had gone into the bookstore to watch them unnoticed.

Dan went to the men's rest room, washed, and inconspicuously studied
himself in the mirror. He looked very much different than he had
before. Why, then, did the people react in the same way?

Dan concealed a mataform unit in the dimly lit lounge outside the
washroom, then went out and down the hall. He had gone perhaps thirty
steps when a lithe man coming the other way saw him, whipped out a gun,
and shouted, "_Death!_"

One instant Dan was walking down the right side of the hall. A split
fraction of an instant later, he had thrown himself to the other side
of the hall.

There was a swift, bright flash.

Someone screamed.

The gun went spinning and Dan had the man on the floor, both hands
locked at his throat. It was a severe struggle for Dan to loosen his
hands.

A crowd gathered so quickly that there was scarcely room to stand. A
man carrying a small box with a handle forced his way through. Dan had
his captive, half-unconscious, on his feet. Improvising rapidly, Dan
said, "I think that was unauthorized."

The man with the carrying case said grimly, "We'll soon find out." He
held the man's fingertips to plates in the case, flashed a small tube
in his eyes, and shut the case. There was a loud clang.

Two powerfully built men wearing armbands with shields stepped up. One
glanced at Dan and said, "Want to finish him? He's yours, by rights."

Someone in the crowd said, "_Question_ him! Find out which side is
behind this!"

The man with the carrying case said sternly, "That's neither here nor
there. The only question is, which side is _right_?"

There was a tense silence. It occurred to Dan that this planet might
not be called Truth for nothing. He was still gripping his captive by
the arms and wanted in the worst way to question him. But how, in this
crowd? And then he remembered that he still had one mataform unit with
him.

The man with the case was saying to the sullen crowd, "Maybe you think
something's wrong. Maybe it is. All right, you know what to do--_go to
the War Ruler_--"

Dan mentally pronounced a key word, then opened his hands as he
pronounced another.

A momentary flash of dense jungle, and then he was in the corridor
again, his prisoner gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

It all seemed to take a moment to register. As soon as it did, someone
shouted, "Spacerot!" This word acted on the crowd like a blazing
torch thrown into an explosives shack. They began smashing each other
violently around in the crowded corridor. Dan barely recovered his
mataform unit, which had fallen to the floor when he transferred his
prisoner, and had a rough time merely staying on his feet. The savage
pressing and crowding in the jammed corridor seemed to drive the crowd
to hysteria.

Dan realized there was no way to tell when he might get loose. For the
second time, he used the mataform unit to get out of the corridor. This
time he went to the shelter under the river. He got some strong cord,
went to the place in the jungle where his prisoner was, and tied him
up. Then he returned to the shelter, fitted a set of small filters in
his nostrils, and went back to the lounge outside the washroom near
the corridor, carrying a small egg-shaped object. Someone happened
to be looking at the spot where he appeared. Dan ignored the staring
onlooker, went out to the corridor, and found that things were even
worse than when he had left.

He threw the egg-shaped object at the wall of the corridor and ducked
back into the lounge.

There was a loud _bang_, followed by a number of smaller explosions.
Abruptly the lounge was filled with bright points of light and little
popping noises. The air was permeated with a gray vapor. The people
in the room sagged in their seats or collapsed on the floor, and Dan
was very careful to breathe only through the filters in his nostrils.
He mentally said a key word and he was in the corridor, standing on a
mound of unconscious people. He worked till he found the transceiver,
went by mataform back to the lounge, took the transceiver there in case
the lounge should be searched, and walked back through the corridor
over heaps of people, picked up the other mataform unit, and went on
down the corridor.

He wasn't happy about the people behind him. When the concentration of
the drug in the air reached a low enough point, those on top of the
heap were going to come to, then those under them, till there was one
writhing hysterical mass that would be even worse than it had been
before he threw the bomb. The only good feature--if it could be called
that--was that they would all very soon be violently nauseated, with an
urgent need for fresh air, and yet would be too sickened and weak to
head for the outside in a rush.

Thinking this, Dan rounded a corner and came to a dead stop.

       *       *       *       *       *

Directly before him was a short, wide, high-ceilinged cross-corridor
with half a dozen doors swinging open as people hurried in, walked
a few paces, and collapsed. Either side of this short hall was made
of shiny metal containing numerous slots. As Dan watched, a man came
through a door, and in one automatic motion jammed a coin in a slot,
ripped off a ticket that popped out another slot, then suddenly blinked
and jerked around to stare at the pile of people on the floor of the
corridor. Then he collapsed.

Dan glanced from this man to the wall above the doors, which was
brilliant with lights and moving letters, forming a maze that made him
dizzy to look at:

    SKL MACH OPS--80L6h4 S
    WANTED ON LEVEL 10
    MNL LBRS-647L25h2*MN
    *MEN WITH FAST REFLE
    PENSES PAID HOUSING

Dan strode forward and through a door with the numeral "1" over it.

Directly before him was a short dead-end hallway that abruptly
vanished, and he was walking toward a crowd of hurrying people in an
immense room.

       *       *       *       *       *

Glancing around, Dan again felt at home. The immense room reminded him
of Grand Central Mataform Terminal back on Earth. One wall even had
the same kind of huge map of the tunnels and cross-tunnels that gave
underground access to stores in the area. But the map here was even
larger and more complex. Near its face were spidery walks and moving
stairways, so that people could examine individual parts from close at
hand if they wanted.

Dan looked over the terminal carefully, then walked slowly along
looking for a place to hide one of his mataform units. He spotted, near
a door in a corner, a poster on a stand showing a strong young man in
uniform with a series of numbers, apparently dates, stretching out
like a road before him. The stand held a poster on either side, and
there was a place between them where Dan could slip one of the mataform
units. An instant after he did this, he was in the shelter under the
river.

Quickly, he got out a very light, strong two-man tent, an air mattress,
a hypodermic, and a shiny half-globe with web straps at the back.
He immediately went to the spot in the jungle where he had left his
prisoner and found him thrashing furiously in an attempt to get loose.
Dan injected a small quantity of a fast-acting hypnotic drug, and the
man lay still. Then Dan set up the small tent and got the man inside on
the mattress.

It was now getting dark outside, and, with the darkness, there was
a rumble of thunder in the distance. Dan went back to the shelter,
returned with a light, and adjusted the half-globe over the man's
face and head, then fastened the straps behind his head. He inserted
in the man's ears two little thimblelike devices, then said mentally,
"Kielgaard?"

Kielgaard's voice answered, "We'll know in a minute." After a
considerable pause, he said, "Yes, he's responding. Watch."

Very slowly, the man's right arm lifted from the mattress, then dropped
limply.

Dan said, "You can handle it all from that end?"

"Easily. We've got a team here that will do nothing else but question
him."

Dan nodded, aware that the voices of specially trained psychologists
were now speaking in the man's ears, so that he heard nothing else,
while he saw only what the screen in the half-globe projected directly
into his eyes. Soon he should begin to talk, and what he said would be
transmitted through subspace to Kielgaard's team of questioners. Then
it might be possible to learn something of what was going on on this
planet. But there was another way that might also help.

Dan glanced at his wristwatch and saw that it was late enough so that
if this were Earth most stores would probably be closed by now. Dan
didn't know how it was on this planet, but he pronounced a key word and
was in the bookstore that faced the green. The bookstore was closed.

Dan quickly selected an armload of books, brought them back to the
shelter under the river, went back and got another stack of them.
He set up a spidery device of light metal and piled the books near
enough so the feed arms could reach them. A set of rubber-tipped rods
like long skeletal fingers turned the pages, while the scanner on an
overhead arm oscillated from a position over one page to a position
over the other page.

Dan said, "How's it coming in, Kielgaard?"

"Speed it up a little."

Dan moved a small lever. The pages turned more quickly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dan said, "We'll see how the feeder works before I leave it." Then he
got out a mirror and went to work to change his appearance again.

The second book fed in with no difficulty, so Dan took four of his
little mataform units, which was all he had room for, and went back to
the terminal.

The crowd seemed to have thinned out somewhat, so he supposed the
evening rush was about over. As in terminals nearly everywhere Dan had
been, most of the people moved briskly, intent on their own affairs. No
one paid much attention to Dan while he glanced around, noting the wall
of flashing lights and moving letters, similar to but far larger than
the one he had seen before, and a series of sizable blocky structures
with large numerals suspended above them, and the stylized outlines
of doorways on their four walls. People appeared in front of these
doorways, or strolled directly toward them and vanished, hesitating
only when a red glow outlined the door to show that someone was coming
through from the other side.

In the center of the room toward either end were large silvery
structures with the word "Information" hanging above them. Dan went
to one and found that vertical blue lines divided it into twenty-four
sections, with room left over for more that weren't there as yet, plus
a section headed "General Information."

Dan studied the numerous slots, went to the General Information
section and spent most of his change. He sat down with a small package
of maps and folders and soon had before him a cross-sectional drawing
showing a series of spherical layers one inside the other, labeled,
"Level 1--Retail," "Level 2--Retail," "Level 3--Wholesale," "Level
4--Manufacturing," and so on, numbered from the outside in toward the
center of the sphere, from one to twenty-five.

Dan sat perfectly still for a moment, looking at this. He leafed
carefully though the folders, and was soon convinced that this wasn't a
map of underground layers under just one city, but of an interconnected
system that appeared to stretch over most of the planet. The surface
was labeled, "Recreation--Ordeals--General."

The complex of underground layers seemed to be much thicker than
separate floors of a building would be; the map showed cross-sections
of buildings of many stories in the individual layers.

Dan studied the map further and found that Level 10 was marked,
"Coordination--Government." Dan walked to the information machine
and came back with a general map of Level 10, which was divided into
sixteen sections. Sections 4 and 5 were headed "Government Sections,"
and Dan got large-scale maps of each of them.

What he was looking at was being reproduced far away on big screens,
and instantly recorded, to be examined in detail by staffs of trained
men. He was thankful this was so. The map was a maze of colored lines,
blocks, and curves, with numbered lists up and down both sides and
across the bottom.

Abruptly, Kielgaard's voice said, "Dan, see that dark purple oval a
little to the left of the center of the page?"

"I see it." Dan glanced from the number to the list at the side of the
page and read, "War Ruler's Control Center."

       *       *       *       *       *

Kielgaard said, "The staff going over those books thinks there is some
sort of an arrangement by which a 'war ruler' takes over absolute power
in an emergency. What would be a better way to take over the planet
than to get control of this War Ruler and then provoke an emergency?"

Dan studied the purple oval on the map. "Yes. But what do we do about
it?"

"The first of your reinforcements will be coming down tonight. If you
can get near that control center and plant a few transceivers, we might
be able to make a good deal of trouble for anyone who may have seized
it."

"I'll do my best," said Dan. He got up, put most of the maps and
folders into a locker, and bought a ticket for Level 10, Section 4. As
he turned, he noticed two men standing about twenty feet away, talking.
On impulse, Dan went, not to the block that would take him to Level
10, but instead toward the station that his pamphlet had told him
would take him to Section 6 of the same level he was on. As he rounded
a corner and strode up a deserted corridor, he stooped and slid a
mataform unit into the space between a waste container and the wall.

An instant later, he was back beside the posters where he had hidden a
transceiver earlier.

Two men were walking in the same direction he had gone.

Dan followed them till they vanished, walking very rapidly now, around
another corner.

He picked up the mataform transceiver and looked around for the blocky
structure with the big number "10" over it. He saw it, after a moment,
near the wall with the lights and moving letters on it.

"Kielgaard," he thought, "what do you suppose that wall is?"

"We think it's a sort of abbreviated classified ad arrangement."

"Sounds reasonable," Dan thought.

Dan was by now near the blocky structure with the big numeral "10"
above it. Each of the four faces of the structure had four large doors
outlined on it--one door for each of the sixteen sections of the
level. Dan stepped up to the door marked "4" and it was immediately
outlined in red. A voice said, "Travelers are reminded of the special
restrictions now enforced at the governmental sections. To enter, you
must present valid authorization papers, or state an acceptable reason
for entering."

Dan stood perfectly still. He was fairly sure now that he must get into
this section. But how?

At that moment, the lights of the huge wall of moving letters caught
his attention, and Kielgaard's voice said, "Dan, look to the left,
about halfway up."

Dan looked and saw moving letters spell out:

    S WANTED ON LEVEL 10 ALL CREDITS PAID SHORT TERM EMPLOYMENT
    *MEN WITH FAST REFLEXES WANTED ON LEVEL 10

       *       *       *       *       *

Dan realized he had seen parts of this ad spelled out twice at the
terminal entrance. He didn't know if it was a trap or something he
could use. He said, "I'm interested in a job on Level 10."

"You have examined the record?"

Dan had no idea what this meant. He said, "I understand men with fast
reflexes are wanted on Level 10."

"One moment."

There was a short pause, then a new voice. "What we offer you is a
special credit allotment sufficient for all normal mating and purchase
needs. On account of these latest restrictions, I can't tell you
exactly what the job is, but I can say this: The rewards are great. But
you also might end up getting sprinkled over the forest. We've got a
situation down here that has to be cleaned up fast. With the special
referendum tomorrow, it might boil over and make an interstellar mess.
We want you for a night's work. At the end you're either rich or dead.
How about it?"

Dan thought of the two words "interstellar mess," used in connection
with a "special referendum." He had the sensation that he was getting
close.

"All right," he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a blur as mataform stations shuttled him from one place to
the next. Then he was walking into a large room holding about thirty
men, all of whom had something of the look of big cats alert for prey.

Dan had hardly come in when a lithe man walked out on a raised
platform, looked over the waiting men, and said, "I'd like to wait till
there are more of us, but there isn't time. I'll come to the point
without delay. I'll only explain it once, so listen carefully.

"On this level, we have the War Ruler's control center. Two levels up,
there is the planetary zoo. Among the animals in the zoo is an ape
about our size and general shape, with a thick layer of fur, strong
muscles, and a sense of humor like a white-hot rivet dropped down your
collar. By some process I don't understand, about fifty of these apes
have gotten into a storeroom in an arms depot attached to the control
center.

"With this referendum coming up to decide whether we should join the
Stellar Union, every time there is a disturbance the election committee
blames it on one faction or another. Using their emergency powers, they
then clap on some new restriction to keep order till the referendum is
over. If there is now a disturbance near the control center itself,
tempers are going to shorten further. If the blame should be stuck on
one side or the other, true or untrue, it could swing the vote either
way.

"We have got to get those apes out of the arms depot right away. The
trouble is, there's an alarm in the arms depot that can't be shut off
except from the control center. Fire any kind of impact or vibration
weapon in there, or change the composition of the atmosphere by pouring
in gas, and the alarm automatically goes off in guard stations all over
this level. If we had more time, we could starve them out. We don't
have the time.

"The result is that we have to go after them with knives and clubs.
Now, the apes are fast, they gang up, they throw things, and if they
can, they'll grab you from opposite sides and pull your arms and legs
off. That's very funny--for them. So we'll have to work together as a
team and fight as hard as we know how."

       *       *       *       *       *

After the speaker finished, there was a silence in the room. Dan was
thinking over the idea and he liked nothing about it. He had little
enough time to do his job, and he did not want to spend it being pulled
to pieces by apes. He called out, "Mind if I make a suggestion?"

"I'm willing to try anything. Let's hear it."

Dan said, "I don't know about anybody else here, but I am no team
player myself. Let me go in alone first. You wait half an hour and then
come in and see if there are fifty apes left."

Everyone craned to see who was offering to fight fifty wild apes
singlehanded.

The man on the platform turned pale, but said, "Agreed. And if you win,
you received the combined credits of all."

Dan found himself walking down a corridor, surrounded by well-wishers,
to a room where several tables were loaded with hand-weapons. He picked
up a short weighted club, and a short double-edge, razor-sharp sword. A
few minutes later, he arrived at a heavy metal door studded with rivets
and painted green.

Dan had intended to hide a transceiver nearby on the outside and
spend as little time in the storeroom as possible. But everything had
happened so fast, and there were so many eyes watching him, that he had
no chance to hide a mataform unit anywhere.

There was a loud clang as the heavy door swung shut behind him. Then he
was in a big dimly lighted room with a twelve-foot aisle running down
the center, a narrower aisle along each wall, and high piles of wooden
crates and wirebound heavy cardboard cartons spaced five feet apart
to either side of the central aisle. There was a strong smell of damp
dirty fur. On the floor partway up the aisle lay what looked like a
clothed human arm.

From the far end of the building came a series of low gruff barks. A
humping motion ran along like a wave up the aisle and over the piles of
crates toward Dan.

He glanced briefly to either side at the solid concrete walls of the
building, felt behind him. The door was locked.

It flashed through his mind that up till now he had had good luck on
this planet.

Dan saw, in the nearest corner of the room, several pipes that ran
up from the floor and were bent to travel along near the ceiling. He
quickly slipped a mataform unit behind these pipes on the floor, then
cut into a cardboard carton about fifteen feet away and put another
unit inside. He tossed a third on top of the nearest pile of cartons,
mentally said a key word, and was on the pile slashing open a carton to
slide the unit inside. Then he was on the floor in the corner.

In the dim light, the shadowy figures came toward him. Their long arms
swung up and a barrage of rifle parts, bayonets, scabbards, and helmets
smashed into the corner. Dan was fifteen feet away when they hit. An
instant later, he was back, kicking the rubble out of the corner. There
was a repeated gruff cough, then the aisles were jammed, and he had a
brief view of bared teeth in fur-covered faces, and hairy arms that
reached out to grasp him. There was a grisly laugh that started as a
low chuckle and ended on a high-pitched wavering note.

Dan mentally pronounced a key word and he was on the pile of cartons
with a half a dozen apes. The short sword flicked out and back. Other
apes sprang from the next pile of cartons. Dan dropped the weighted
club, threw his last mataform unit toward the top of a pile across the
aisle, and an instant later had recovered it, dropped to the floor, and
raced up the aisle.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was noise like teeth clicking together and then the wavering
laugh burst out again as the apes turned to chase him up the aisle. Dan
slid the transceiver into a slit-open carton and whirled as the leaders
rushed toward him. The short sword flashed out and back in rapid
thrusts, and abruptly Dan was on top of the first pile of cartons. He
recovered the weighted club, glanced down at the apes turning to rush
up the aisles, and then suddenly he was with them, slamming the last
few of them over the heads with the weighted club.

He thrust, stabbed, and smashed, now in one place, now another,
always striking the gibbering horde where they were fewest and most
off-balance.

After a long, hideous interval, there came a silence. Dan could see
that there were four heaps of dead or unconscious apes, the only live
ones were a few clinging to overhead beams with their eyes shut.

Dan recovered his transceivers and made his way to one of the few
windows in the room. This was about seven feet from the floor, heavily
barred, with its glass panes broken out. Dan pulled himself up and
looked out at a walk and a high wall a few feet away. He cut the
sleeve of his shirt into strips and knotted the strips together with a
transceiver tied onto either end, so that one transceiver hung on the
outside and the other on the inside.

Then Dan was outside, in an underground part of the planet where no one
was supposed to be without an official permit.

The air seemed as fresh as outdoors, while overhead there was the
appearance of the sky on a heavily overcast day. There was light enough
to see by, but it was apparently dimmed to provide an artificial night.

Dan saw no one, and said mentally, "Kielgaard?"

Kielgaard's voice had a hoarse sound. "Are you out of that place?"

"I'm out of it--thank heaven."

"Amen. But listen, things have taken a nasty turn."

"What's happened?"

"We've questioned that prisoner. The outfit behind this trouble is
Trans-Space. But they don't have the control center. Instead, they've
got the headquarters of the election committee that controls the
referendum. Trans-Space is representing itself as the government of an
interstellar league of planets. They have everything set up to falsify
the vote tomorrow."

Dan frowned. "What of it? I can still plant the mataform transceivers
and we can bring men down from above."

"Yes, but Trans-Space has a mataform terminal set up in the terminal
election headquarters. It hooks into the local system and connects with
an outpost in the jungle on the surface. Trans-Space has been building
up to this day for over three years. The election headquarters is
manned like a fortress. It's in immediate touch with the outpost on the
surface where they've got an army of reinforcements."

Dan stood still, thinking. He remembered the official with the carrying
case in the corridor overhead, who had said to the angry crowd, "Go to
the War Ruler." Dan mentioned the incident and said, "What about this
War Ruler and his emergency powers?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Kielgaard said, "It looked promising to us at first, but actually
that's as if someone should say, 'England is in peril. Go to King
Arthur.'"

"What?" said Dan, puzzled.

"The War Ruler is a myth. A thousand years or more ago, after a
terrific internal war, they had a famine. They also had a huge army
to disband, headed by a very popular leader. The army apparently
threatened to take over the planet, but by a clever gimmick, the
government put off the crisis. They announced that their scientists had
discovered a way to halt the flow of time after the famine--and the War
Ruler marched the whole army loyally into a kind of big mausoleum where
they presumably killed the lot of them with a quick-acting gas. That is
the War Ruler's Control Center.

"Ever since then, they've been making ritual gestures. They stock new
arms of standard design nearby, and recruit a number of fresh soldiers
to join the old--as a population control measure. To make the illusion
complete, they say that any man or woman who sincerely believes the
state to be in peril can enter the control center, by passing through
a lethal field that kills the insincere and lets the sincere through
alive. A number of people have tried it and got killed, so now they
don't try any more."

"Where is this place?" asked Dan.

"If we read your map rightly, that wall in front of you marks the edge
of the field surrounding it."

Dan set down one of the mataform units and mentally pronounced a
keyword.

He was in the shelter under the river.

An instant later he was back by the wall, a glider and the control
helmet in his hands. He clipped a transceiver to the glider and guided
it toward a huge, dark-stained building with the look of a fortress.
He sent the glider around to the front of the building and saw two
huge bronze doors, one of which stood open. There was a totally still,
motionless look about the place that Dan did not care for. But the
glider had come to a closed inner door and that was as far as it could
go. Dan took off the control helmet, drew a deep breath and said a key
word.

He was standing in the huge hall, before the closed door. He opened the
door.

Before him was a room with tall slit windows, and as Dan went in, he
could see dimly, but, like a man in a hall of mirrors, what he saw did
not make sense.

Distorted shapes and forms, with bright points and blots of light,
shifted as he moved, and shifted again as he moved closer, to see one
leg of what looked like a very old, faded table. A heavy cable ran up
the leg to the top, where there was a switch, and a bronze plate with
the words, "Open Switch."

Dan reached for the switch, and hesitated. If Kielgaard's theory was
right, he would now be electrocuted, or otherwise disposed of.

He swallowed hard, reached the rest of the way, and opened the switch.

A pall of choking dust spread over the room, with the sound of coughing
all around him and the rustle of clothing and stamping of feet.

Dan wiped his streaming eyes, and saw a man in uniform behind the desk,
all but one corner of which looked new.

The man stared at Dan and said, "So soon? What's happened?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Dan glanced around. The huge room was filled with tough, weary-looking
men in combat uniform, all fully armed and equipped. He thought fast,
turned back to the man behind the desk and said earnestly, "Peace
is restored to the planet. It's been rebuilt and the damage is all
repaired. But now, fantastic as it may seem, an enemy has come down to
this world from outer space--"

The man at the desk angrily brought down his fist. "No one lives in
outer space! That's foolishness!"

Dan said, his mind racing, "Whoever they are, they've seized a vital
communications center! They've got men on guard, armed to the teeth.
They've issued orders through captive government officials to seal off
this part of the level from the public. They're trying to take over the
whole government!"

There was a stir in the room and a low ugly rumble.

"I knew it," said the man behind the desk, jumping to his feet. "I knew
they'd lie low and then creep back again when things are quiet. If we'd
been demobilized, it would all have been for nothing. But we _aren't_
demobilized!"

Abruptly there were shouted orders, and someone was gripping Dan by the
arm. "Just lead the way. Show us where they are and we'll take care of
the rest."

Dan said mentally, "Kielgaard?"

Kielgaard said, "Good Lord! Go straight outside and turn right."

Someone threw a switch beside the door. Outside, they followed Dan
to the right. Behind him, Dan heard the mutter and cough of engines
starting up. They were in a well-lighted street like that of a large
city, but there was no traffic, either because it was late or because
of the travel restrictions.

Kielgaard said, "Next left and it's in front of you."

Dan turned the corner. Directly before him was a large white marble
building with a lawn on either side of a broad flight of steps, and
guards on the sidewalk, the steps, and in emplacements in the shrubbery
on either side of the steps.

One of them saw Dan and casually snapped a shot at him. Dan got back
around the corner fast and looked around. On both sides of the street,
men were lying flat at the bases of the buildings, or crouching in
doorways. Down the street, they were running up a block to the left.
Up the middle of the street came a tank. It paused just out of sight
from the building around the corner, and an amplified voice boomed out,
"This is the War Ruler. Get out of that building before the count of
thirty, or we clean you out."

A voice began to count. There was a sound of fast footsteps on the
sidewalk around the corner, and half a dozen men carrying guns came
into view. Dan recognized some of the men who had searched the place
where he'd landed his boat. One of them, not yet quite in a position to
see the tank, called out irritably, "All right, you. Get out here!"

Then he caught sight of the men lying at the base of the buildings, and
crouched in the doorways. He fired.

Flashes of light came from the men by the buildings. There was a roar
and a grind and the tank rolled forward. A whistle blew. Dan heaved a
mataform transceiver toward the emplacement at the base of the stairs,
and an instant before it landed, he mentally pronounced a key word.

In the emplacement, he jerked the men away from their gun before they
could fire a shot. He knocked them senseless, grabbed a rifle, and
sprang up onto the staircase, with the intent of sprinting to the
other side and diving into the emplacement there. Halfway across the
steps, there was a sensation as if someone had smacked him between the
shoulder blades with a rifle butt. He saw the stairs coming up to meet
him, and then he saw nothing.

       *       *       *       *       *

He came to with a pretty face smiling at him through a sort of fog. The
fog cleared away, and a highly attractive nurse was looking at him very
admiringly. She said, "Sir, you have a visitor."

Dan glanced around and saw Kielgaard, a sorrowful look on his face.

Dan said as the nurse went out, "She spoke Truthian, didn't she?"

"She did. You're still on the planet."

"What's this 'sir' business and the pleasant smile for?"

Kielgaard said. "You're a hero. It shows, incidentally, how the best
experts can make awe-inspiring mistakes. We gave you fast reflexes,
thinking that would make you safer. But it turns out that the planet
has a class of authorized assassins who hunt down criminals for a
livelihood, and never get too numerous because they fight each other
for extra credits and prestige. With your fast reflexes and built-in
wariness, the populace immediately spotted you for one of these lawful
assassins, so you couldn't have been more conspicuous."

Kielgaard shook his head. "Meanwhile, Trans-Space was bringing in hired
killers to knock off the planet's lawful assassins at a huge bonus per
head, in order to create an uproar so that the election committee,
which they had already captured and conditioned, would clap on more
restrictions, thus creating more tension, so that Trans-Space could
swing the referendum at the last minute. You see, the most dangerous
thing we could have done to you was to give you these extra-fast
reflexes. But now, because of it, you're a hero." Kielgaard looked sad.

"Luckily," said Dan, "I'm still alive. And so were all those soldiers."

"Another mistake of the experts," said Kielgaard. "The highest
authorities on Truth strongly suspected something was wrong with the
protective field around the control center. This made them fearful
that the scientific device to halt the flow of time hadn't worked
either. This would have been a terrible catastrophe, so by a set of
rationalizations that would do credit to a bunch of habitual liars,
they evaded the whole issue. The experts and I made the mistake of
drawing the logical conclusion. I'm glad it wasn't so."

"What happened to Trans-Space?"

Kielgaard stopped looking sad and smiled a smile of deep satisfaction.
"Galactic has its contract with this planet. Trans-Space is in a very
anemic condition. The Truthians don't like people who lie, and they
always settle their accounts very strictly."

Kielgaard's face subsided into its gloomy look.

Dan said, "What's wrong?"

"Well," said Kielgaard, "you see, you're a planetary hero for settling
that business with Trans-Space. Also, you have--let's see"--he took out
a slip of paper--"the equivalent of around six hundred thousand dollars
spending money for cleaning out those apes, plus--I don't know how to
translate this--six thousand mating credits. They have a weird system
for romance, and these credits--"

Dan grinned. "Envious?"

"It isn't that," said Kielgaard. "I'm thinking how I'd feel in your
place. These Truthians don't have any give in their system. Right's
right, and wrong's wrong, and they hand out rewards and punishments
irrespective of persons."

There was a sharp rap at the door.

Dan tried to sit up, but he was still too weak.

Kielgaard said sadly, "I tried to reason with them, but I might as well
have talked to a wall."

"Listen," said Dan, becoming alarmed. "What's wrong?"

"I don't have the heart to tell you," said Kielgaard.

       *       *       *       *       *

Picking up a large briefcase, he said, "Do what you think best. I might
mention that we're giving you a bonus, though I suppose that's no
consolation."

The rap at the door was repeated and there were sounds of arguments
outside.

"What's in that briefcase?" said Dan.

"A big version of the kind of mataform transceiver you used. There's a
dreadnaught of ours orbiting the planet with another transceiver like
this on board. The key word, in case you should have use for it, is
'Krakior.'"

The door burst open and three men came in, arguing with a man in a
white jacket.

"That doesn't matter," said the first man, a familiar-looking
individual who was opening a square case with carrying handle. "The
only question is, was it or was it not an unauthorized kill, and is
this the man? We have our checker set up to answer this question
and that's all there is to it." He glanced at Dan. "Hold out your
fingertips, please, and touch those plates. Purely a routine check."

Behind the man with the case were two men with armbands and shields.
One glanced disinterestedly at Dan and cocked his gun.

Dan looked at the head of A Section and said fervently, "Thank you,
Kielgaard."

The doctor in the white jacket was arguing to no visible effect as the
tube was held to Dan's eyes, snapped back into the case, and the case
clapped shut, to give its loud alarm clang.

The assassin with the gun calmly leveled it at Dan and fired.

All he hit was a suddenly empty bed.

Dan had said the key word.





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