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´╗┐Title: The Governor of Glave
Author: Laumer, Keith
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 Governor of Glave" ***

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



                         THE GOVERNOR OF GLAVE

                            BY KEITH LAUMER

                   The revolution was over and peace
            restored--naturally Retief expected the worst!

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
             Worlds of If Science Fiction, November 1963.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


                                   I

Retief turned back the gold-encrusted scarlet cuff of the mess jacket
of a First Secretary and Consul, gathered in the three eight-sided
black dice, shook them by his right ear and sent them rattling across
the floor to rebound from the bulk-head.

"Thirteen's the point," the Power Section Chief called. "Ten he makes
it!"

"Oh ... Mr. Retief," a strained voice called. Retief looked up. A tall
thin youth in the black-trimmed gray of a Third Secretary flapped a
sheet of paper from the edge of the circle surrounding the game. "The
Ambassador's compliments, sir, and will you join him and the staff in
the conference room at once?"

Retief rose and dusted his knees. "That's all for now, boys," he said.
"I'll take the rest of your money later." He followed the junior
diplomat from the ward room, along the bare corridors of the crew
level, past the glare panel reading NOTICE--FIRST CLASS ONLY BEYOND
THIS POINT, through the chandeliered and draped ballroom and along a
stretch of soundless carpet to a heavy door bearing a placard with the
legend CONFERENCE IN SESSION.

"Ambassador Sternwheeler seemed quite upset, Mr. Retief," the messenger
said.

"He usually is, Pete." Retief took a cigar from his breast pocket. "Got
a light?"

The Third Secretary produced a permatch. "I don't know why you smoke
those things instead of dope sticks, Mr. Retief," he said. "The
Ambassador hates the smell."

Retief nodded. "I only smoke this kind at conferences. It makes for
shorter sessions." He stepped into the room. Ambassador Sternwheeler
eyed him down the length of the conference table.

"Ah, Mr. Retief honors us with his presence. Do be seated, Retief." He
fingered a yellow Departmental despatch. Retief took a chair, puffing
out a dense cloud of smoke.

"As I have been explaining to the remainder of my staff for the past
quarter-hour," Sternwheeler rumbled, "I've been the recipient of
important intelligence." He blinked at Retief expectantly. Retief
raised his eyebrows in polite inquiry.

"It seems," Sternwheeler went on, "that there has been a change in
regime on Glave. A week ago, the government which invited the dispatch
of this mission--and to which we're accredited--was overthrown.
The former ruling class has fled into exile. A popular workers' and
peasants' junta has taken over."

"Mr. Ambassador," Counsellor Magnan broke in, rising. "I'd like to be
the first--" he glanced around the table--"or one of the first, anyway,
to welcome the new government of Glave into the family of planetary
ruling bodies--"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Sit down, Magnan!" Sternwheeler snapped. "Of course the Corps always
recognizes _de facto_ sovereignty. The problem is merely one of
acquainting ourselves with the policies of this new group--a sort of
blue-collar coalition, it seems. In what position that leaves this
Embassy I don't yet know."

"I suppose this means we'll spend the next month in a parking orbit,"
Counsellor Magnan sighed.

"Unfortunately," Sternwheeler went on, "the entire affair has
apparently been carried off without recourse to violence, leaving the
Corps no excuse to move in--that is, it appears our assistance in
restoring order will not be required."

"Glave was one of the old Contract Worlds," Retief said. "What's become
of the Planetary Manager General and the technical staff? And how do
the peasants and workers plan to operate the atmospheric purification
system, the Weather Control station, the tide regulation complexes?"

"I'm more concerned at present with the status of the Mission! Will we
be welcomed by these peasants or peppered with buckshot?"

"You say that this is a popular junta, and that the former leaders have
fled into exile," Retief said. "May I ask the source?"

"The despatch cites a 'reliable Glavian source'."

"That's officialese for something cribbed from a broadcast news
tape. Presumably the Glavian news services are in the hands of the
revolution. In that case--"

"Yes, yes, there is the possibility that the issue is yet in doubt.
Of course we'll have to exercise caution in making our approach. It
wouldn't do to make overtures to the wrong side."

"Oh, I think we need have no fear on that score," the Chief of the
Political Section spoke up. "I know these entrenched cliques. Once
challenged by an aroused populace, they scuttle for safety--with large
balances safely tucked away in neutral banks."

"I'd like to go on record," Magnan piped, "as registering my deep
gratification at this fulfillment of popular aspirations--"

"The most popular aspiration I know of is to live high off someone
else's effort," Retief said. "I don't know of anyone outside the Corps
who's managed it."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Gentlemen!" Sternwheeler bellowed. "I'm awaiting your constructive
suggestions--not an exchange of political views. We'll arrive off
Glave in less than six hours. I should like before that time to have
developed some notion regarding to whom I shall expect to offer my
credentials!"

There was a discreet tap at the door; it opened and the young Third
Secretary poked his head in.

"Mr. Ambassador, I have a reply to your message--just received from
Glave. It's signed by the Steward of the GFE, and I thought you'd want
to see it at once...."

"Yes, of course; let me have it."

"What's the GFE?" someone asked.

"It's the revolutionary group," the messenger said, passing the message
over.

"GFE? GFE? What do the letters SIGNIFY?"

"Glorious Fun Eternally," Retief suggested. "Or possibly Goodies For
Everybody."

"I believe that's 'Glavian Free Electorate'," the Third Secretary said.

Sternwheeler stared at the paper, lips pursed. His face grew pink. He
slammed the paper on the table.

"Well, gentlemen! It appears our worst fears have been realized!
This is nothing less than a warning! A threat! We're advised to
divert course and bypass Glave entirely. It seems the GFE wants no
interference from meddling foreign exploiters, as they put it!"

Magnan rose. "If you'll excuse me Mr. Ambassador, I want to get off a
message to Sector HQ to hold my old job for me--"

"Sit down, you idiot!" Sternwheeler roared. "If you think I'm
consenting to have my career blighted--my first Ambassadorial post
whisked out from under me--the Corps made a fool of--"

"I'd like to take a look at that message," Retief said. It was passed
along to him. He read it.

"I don't believe this applies to us, Mr. Ambassador."

       *       *       *       *       *

"What are you talking about? It's addressed to me by name!"

"It merely states that 'meddling foreign exploiters' are unwelcome.
Meddling foreigners we are, but we don't qualify as exploiters unless
we show a profit--and this appears to be shaping up as a particularly
profitless venture."

"What are you proposing, Mr. Retief?"

"That we proceed to make planetfall as scheduled, greet our welcoming
committee with wide diplomatic smiles, hint at largesse in the offing
and settle down to observe the lie of the land."

"Just what I was about to suggest," Magnan said.

"That might be dangerous," Sternwheeler said.

"That's why I didn't suggest it," Magnan said.

"Still it's essential that we learn more of the situation than can be
gleaned from official broadcasts," Sternwheeler mused. "Now, while I
can't justify risking the entire Mission, it might be advisable to
dispatch a delegation to sound out the new regime."

"I'd like to volunteer," Magnan said, rising.

"Of course, the delegates may be murdered--"

"--but unfortunately, I'm under treatment at the moment." Magnan sat
down.

"--which will place us in an excellent position, propaganda-wise.

"What a pity I can't go," the Military Attache said. "But my place is
with my troops."

"The only troops you've got are the Assistant Attache and your
secretary," Magnan pointed out.

"Say, I'd like to be down there in the thick of things," the Political
Officer said. He assumed a grave expression. "But of course I'll be
needed here, to interpret results."

"I appreciate your attitude, gentlemen," Sternwheeler said, studying
the ceiling. "But I'm afraid I must limit the privilege of volunteering
for this hazardous duty to those officers of more robust physique,
under forty years of age--"

"Tsk. I'm forty-one," Magnan said.

"--and with a reputation for adaptability." His glance moved along the
table.

"Do you mind if I run along now, Mr. Ambassador?" Retief said. "It's
time for my insulin shot."

Sternwheeler's mouth dropped open.

"Just kidding," Retief said. "I'll go. But I have one request, Mr.
Ambassador: no further communication with the ground until I give the
all-clear."


                                  II

Retief grounded the lighter, in-cycled the lock and stepped out. The
hot yellow Glavian sun beat down on a broad expanse of concrete, an
abandoned service cart and a row of tall ships casting black shadows
toward the silent control tower. A wisp of smoke curled up from the
shed area at the rim of the field. There was no other sign of life.

Retief walked over to the cart, tossed his valise aboard, climbed
into the driver's seat and headed for the operations building. Beyond
the port, hills rose, white buildings gleaming against the deep green
slopes. Near the ridge, a vehicle moved ant-like along a winding road,
a dust trail rising behind it. Faintly a distant shot sounded.

Papers littered the ground before the Operations Building. Retief
pushed open the tall glass door, stood listening. Slanting sunlight
reflected from a wide polished floor, at the far side of which
illuminated lettering over empty counters read IMMIGRATION, HEALTH
and CUSTOMS. He crossed to the desk, put the valise down, then leaned
across the counter. A worried face under an oversized white cap looked
up at him.

"You can come out now," Retief said. "They've gone."

The man rose, dusting himself off. He looked over Retief's shoulder.
"Who's gone?"

"Whoever it was that scared you."

"Whatta ya mean? I was looking for my pencil."

"Here it is." Retief plucked a worn stub from the pocket of the soiled
shirt sagging under the weight of braided shoulderboards. "You can sign
me in as a Diplomatic Representative. A break for you--no formalities
necessary. Where can I catch a cab for the city?"

The man eyed Retief's bag. "What's in that?"

"Personal belongings under duty-free entry."

"Guns?"

"No, thanks, just a cab."

"You got no gun?" The man raised his voice.

"That's right, fellows," Retief called out. "No gun; no knife, not
even a small fission bomb. Just a few pairs of socks and some reading
matter."

A brown-uniformed man ran from behind the Customs Counter, holding a
long-barreled blast-rifle centered on the Corps insignia stitched to
the pocket of Retief's powder-blue blazer.

"Don't try nothing," he said. "You're under arrest."

"It can't be overtime parking. I've only been here five minutes."

"Hah!" The gun-handler moved out from the counter, came up to Retief.
"Empty out your pockets!" he barked. "Hands overhead!"

"I'm just a diplomat, not a contortionist," Retief said, not moving.
"Do you mind pointing that thing in some other direction?"

"Looky here, Mister, I'll give the orders. We don't need anybody
telling us how to run our business."

"I'm telling you to shift that blaster before I take it away from you
and wrap it around your neck," Retief said conversationally. The cop
stepped back uncertainly, lowering the gun.

"Jake! Horny! Pud! come on out!"

Three more brown uniforms emerged from concealment.

"Who are you fellows hiding from, the top sergeant?" Retief glanced
over the ill-fitting uniforms, the unshaved faces, the scuffed boots.
"Tell you what. When he shows up, I'll engage him in conversation. You
beat it back to the barracks and grab a quick bath--"

"That's enough smart talk." The biggest of the three newcomers moved
up to Retief. "You stuck your nose in at the wrong time. We just had a
change of management around here."

"I heard about it," Retief said. "Who do I complain to?"

"Complain? What about?"

"The port's a mess," Retief barked. "Nobody on duty to receive official
visitors! No passenger service facilities! Why, do you know I had to
carry my own bag--"

"All right, all right, that's outside my department. You better see the
boss."

"The boss? I thought you got rid of the bosses."

"We did, but now we got new ones."

"They any better than the old ones?"

"This guy asks too many questions," the man with the gun said. "Let's
let Sozier answer 'em."

"Who's he?"

"He's the Military Governor of the City."

"Now we're getting somewhere," Retief said. "Lead the way, Jake--and
don't forget my bag."

       *       *       *       *       *

Sozier was a small man with thin hair oiled across a shiny scalp,
prominent ears and eyes like coal chips set in rolls of fat. He
glowered at Retief from behind a polished desk occupying the center of
a spacious office.

"I warned you off," he snapped. "You came anyway." He leaned forward
and slammed a fist down on the desk. "You're used to throwing your
weight around, but you won't throw it around here! There'll be no spies
pussyfooting around Glave!"

"Looking for what, Mr. Sozier?"

"Call me General!"

"Mind if I sit down?" Retief pulled out a chair, seated himself and
took out a cigar. "Curiously enough," he said, lighting up, "the Corps
has no intention of making any embarrassing investigations. We deal
with the existing government, no questions asked." His eyes held the
other's. "Unless, of course, there are evidences of atrocities or other
illegal measures."

The coal-chip eyes narrowed. "I don't have to make explanations to you
or anybody else."

"Except, presumably, the Glavian Free Electorate," Retief said blandly.
"But tell me, General--who's actually running the show?"

A speaker on the desk buzzed. "Hey, Corporal Sozier! Wes's got them two
hellions cornered. They're holed up in the Birthday Cake--"

"General Sozier, damn you! and plaster your big mouth shut!" He
gestured to one of the uniformed men standing by.

"You! Get Trundy and Little Moe up here--pronto!" He swiveled back to
Retief. "You're in luck. I'm too busy right now to bother with you.
You get back over to the port and leave the same way you came--and tell
your blood-sucking friends the easy pickings are over as far as Glave's
concerned. You won't lounge around here living high and throwing big
parties and cooking up your dirty deals to get fat on at the expense of
the working man."

Retief dribbled ash on Sozier's desk and glanced at the green uniform
front bulging between silver buttons.

"Who paid for your potbelly, Sozier?" he inquired carelessly.

Sozier's eyes narrowed to slits. "I could have you shot!"

"Stop playing games with me, Sozier," Retief rapped. "There's a
squadron of Peace Enforcers standing by just in case any apprentice
statesmen forget the niceties of diplomatic usage. I suggest you start
showing a little intelligence about now, or even Horny and Pud are
likely to notice."

       *       *       *       *       *

Sozier's fingers squeaked on the arms of his chair. He swallowed.

"You might start by assigning me an escort for a conducted tour of
the capital," Retief went on. "I want to be in a position to confirm
that order has been re-established, and that normal services have been
restored. Otherwise it may be necessary to send in a Monitor Unit to
straighten things out."

"You know you can't meddle with the internal affairs of a sovereign
world!"

Retief sighed. "The trouble with taking over your boss's job is
discovering its drawbacks. It's disillusioning, I know, Sozier, but--"

"All right! Take your tour! You'll find everything running as smooth as
silk! Utilities, police, transport, environmental control--"

"What about Space Control? Glave Tower seems to be off the air."

"I shut it down. We don't need anything and we don't want anything from
the outside."

"Where's the new Premier keeping himself? Does he share your passion
for privacy?"

The general got to his feet. "I'm letting you take your look, Mr.
Big Nose. I'm giving you four hours. Then out! And the next meddling
bureaucrat that tries to cut atmosphere on Glave without a clearance
gets burned!"

"I'll need a car."

"Jake! You stick close to this bird. Take him to the main power plant,
the water works and the dispatch center. Ride him around town and show
him we're doing okay without a bunch of leeches bossing us. Then dump
him at the port--and see that he leaves."

"I'll plan my own itinerary, thanks. I can't promise I'll be finished
in four hours--but I'll keep you advised."

"I warned you--"

"I heard you. Five times. And I only warned you once. You're getting
ahead of me." Retief rose, motioned to the hulking guard. "Come on,
Jake. We've got a lot of ground to cover before we come back for our
dinner."


                                  III

At the curb, Retief held out his hand. "Give me the power cylinder out
of your rifle, Jake."

"Huh?"

"Come on, Jake. You've got a nervous habit of playing with the firing
stud. We don't want any accidents."

"How do you get it out? They only give me this thing yesterday."

Retief pocketed the cylinder. "You sit in back. I'll drive." He wheeled
the car off along a broad avenue crowded with vehicles and lined with
flowering palms, behind which stately white buildings reared up into
the pale sky.

"Nice looking city, Jake," Retief said conversationally. "What's the
population?"

"I dunno. I only been here a year."

"What about Horny and Pud? Are they natives?"

"Whatta ya mean, natives? They're just as civilized as me."

"My boner, Jake. Known Sozier long?"

"Sure. He useta come around to the club."

"I take it he was in the army under the old regime?"

"Yeah--but he didn't like the way they run it. Nothing but band playing
and fancy marching. There wasn't nobody to fight."

"Just between us, Jake--where did the former Planetary Manager General
go?" Retief watched Jake's heavy face in the mirror. Jake jumped,
clamped his mouth shut.

"I don't know nothing."

Half an hour later, after a tour of the commercial center, Retief
headed towards the city's outskirts. The avenue curved, leading up
along the flank of a low hill.

"I must admit I'm surprised, Jake," Retief said. "Everything seems
orderly. No signs of riots or panic. Power, water, communications
normal--just as the general said. Remarkable, isn't it, considering
that the entire managerial class has packed up and left?"

"You wanta see the Power Plant?" Retief could see perspiration beaded
on the man's forehead under the uniform cap.

"Sure. Which way?" With Jake directing, Retief ascended to the ridge
top, cruised past the blank white facade of the station.

"Quiet, isn't it?" Retief pulled the car in to the curb. "Let's go
inside."

"Huh? Corporal Sozier didn't say nothing--"

"You're right, Jake. That leaves it to our discretion."

"He won't like it."

"The corporal's a busy man, Jake. We won't worry him by telling him
about it."

Jake followed Retief up the walk. The broad double doors were locked.
"Let's try the back."

The narrow door set in the high blank wall opened as Retief approached.
A gun barrel poked out, followed by a small man with bushy red hair. He
looked Retief over.

"Who's this party, Jake?" he barked.

"Sozier said show him the plant," Jake said.

"What we need is more guys to pull duty, not tourists. Anyway, _I'm_
Chief Engineer here. Nobody comes in here 'less I like their looks."
Retief moved forward, stood looking down at the redhead. The little
man hesitated, then waved him past. "Lucky for you I like your looks."
Inside, Retief surveyed the long room, the giant converter units, the
massive busbars. Armed men--some in uniform, some in work clothes
or loud sport shirts--stood here and there. Other men read meters,
adjusted controls or inspected dials.

"You've got more guards than workers," Retief said. "Expecting trouble?"

The redhead bit the corner from a plug of spearmint. He glanced around
the plant. "Things is quiet now; but you never know."

"Rather old-fashioned equipment isn't it? When was it installed?"

"Huh? I dunno. What's wrong with it?"

"What's your basic power source, a core sink? Lithospheric friction?
Sub-crustal hydraulics?"

"Beats me, Mister. I'm the boss here, not a dern mechanic."

       *       *       *       *       *

A gray-haired man carrying a clipboard walked past, studied a panel,
made notes, glanced up to catch Retief's eye, moved on.

"Everything seems to be running normally," Retief remarked.

"Sure. Why not?"

"Records being kept up properly?"

"Sure. Some of these guys, all they do is walk around looking at dials
and writing stuff on paper. If it was me, I'd put 'em to work."

Retief strolled over to the gray-haired man, now scribbling before a
bank of meters. He glanced at the clipboard.

_Power off at sunset. Tell Corasol_ was scrawled in block letters
across the record sheet. Retief nodded, rejoined his guard.

"All right, Jake. Let's have a look at the communications center."

Back in the car, headed west, Retief studied the blank windows of
office buildings, the milling throngs in beer bars, shooting galleries,
tattoo parlors, billiard halls, pinball arcades, bordellos and
half-credit casinos.

"Everybody seems to be having fun," he remarked.

Jake stared out the window.

"Yeah."

"Too bad you're on duty, Jake. You could be out there joining in."

"Soon as the corporal gets things organized, I'm opening me up a place
to show dirty tri-di's. I'll get my share."

"Meanwhile, let the rest of 'em have their fun, eh Jake?"

"Look, Mister, I been thinking. Maybe you better gimme back that
kick-stick you taken outa my gun...."

"Sorry, Jake; no can do. Tell me, what was the real cause of the
revolution? Not enough to eat? Too much regimentation?"

"Naw, we always got plenty to eat. There wasn't none of that
regimentation up till I joined up in the corporal's army."

"Rigid class structure, maybe? Educational discrimination?"

Jake nodded. "Yeah, it was them schools done it. All the time trying
to make a feller do some kind of class. Big shots. Know it all. Gonna
make us sit around and view tapes. Figgered they was better than us."

"And Sozier's idea was you'd take over, and you wouldn't have to be
bothered."

"Aw, it wasn't Sozier's idea. He ain't the big leader."

"Where does the big leader keep himself?"

"I dunno. I guess he's pretty busy right now." Jake snickered. "Some of
them guys call themselves colonels turned out not to know nothing about
how to shoot off the guns."

"Shooting, eh? I thought it was a sort of peaceful revolution. The
managerial class were booted out, and that was that."

"I don't know nothing," Jake snapped. "How come you keep trying to get
me to say stuff I ain't supposed to talk about? You want to get me in
trouble?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Oh, you're already in trouble, Jake. But if you stick with me, I'll
try to get you out of it. Where exactly did the refugees head for? How
did they leave? Must have been a lot of them; I'd say in a city of this
size alone, they'd run into the thousands."

"I don't know."

"Of course, it depends on your definition of a big shot. Who's included
in that category, Jake?"

"You know, the slick-talking ones; the fancy dressers; the guys that
walk around and tell other guys what to do. We do all the work and they
get all the big pay."

"I suppose that would cover scientists, professional men, executives,
technicians of all sorts, engineers, teachers--all that crowd."

"Yeah, them are the ones."

"And once you got them out of the way, the regular fellows would have a
chance. Chaps that don't spend all their time taking baths and reading
books and using big words; good Joes that don't mind picking their
noses in public."

"We got as much right as anybody--"

"Jake, who's Corasol?"

"He's--I don't know."

"I thought I overheard his name somewhere."

"Uh, here's the communication center," Jake cut in.

Retief swung into a parking lot under a high blank facade. He set the
brake and stepped out.

"Lead the way, Jake."

"Look, Mister, the corporal only wanted me to show you the outside."

"Anything to hide, Jake?"

Jake shook his head angrily and stamped past Retief. "When I joined up
with Sozier, I didn't figger I'd be getting in this kind of mess."

"I know, Jake. It's tough. Sometimes it seems like a fellow works
harder after he's thrown out the parasites than he did before."

A cautious guard let Retief and Jake inside, followed them along
bright-lit aisles among consoles, cables, batteries of instruments.
Armed men in careless uniforms lounged, watching. Here and there a
silent technician worked quietly.

Retief paused by one, an elderly man in a neat white coverall, with a
purple spot under one eye.

"Quite a bruise you've got there," Retief commented heartily. "Power
failure at sunset," he added softly. The technician hesitated, nodded
and moved on.

Back in the car, Retief gave Jake directions. At the end of three
hours, he had seen twelve smooth-running, heavily guarded installations.

"So far, so good, Jake," he said. "Next stop, Sub-station Number Nine."
In the mirror, Jake's face stiffened. "Hey, you can't go down there--"

"Something going on there, Jake?"

"That's where--I mean, no. I don't know."

"I don't want to miss anything, Jake. Which way?"

"I ain't going down there," Jake said sullenly.

Retief braked. "In that case, I'm afraid our association is at an end,
Jake."

"You mean ... you're getting out here?"

"No, you are."

"Huh? Now wait a minute, Mister! The corporal said I was to stay with
you."

Retief accelerated. "That's settled, then. Which way?"


                                  IV

Retief pulled the car to a halt two hundred yards from the periphery
of a loose crowd of brown-uniformed men who stood in groups scattered
across a broad plaza, overflowing into a stretch of manicured lawn
before the bare, functional facade of sub-station number Nine. In the
midst of the besieging mob, Sozier's red face and bald head bobbed as
he harangued a cluster of green-uniformed men from his place in the
rear of a long open car.

"What's it all about, Jake?" Retief enquired. "Since the parasites have
all left peacefully, I'm having a hard time figuring out who'd be holed
up in the pumping station--and why. Maybe they haven't gotten the word
that it's all going to be fun and games from now on."

"If the corporal sees you over here--"

"Ah, the good corporal. Glad you mentioned him, Jake. He's the man to
see." Retief stepped out of the car and started through the crowd. A
heavy lorry loaded with an immense tank with the letter H blazoned on
its side trundled into the square from a side street, moved up to a
position before the building. A smaller car pulled alongside Sozier's
limousine. The driver stepped down, handed something to Sozier. A
moment later, Sozier's amplified voice boomed across the crowd.

"You in there, Corasol! This is General Sozier, and I'm warning you to
come out now or you and your smart friends are in for a big surprise.
You think I won't blast you out because I don't want to wreck the
planet. You see the tank aboard the lorry that just pulled up? It's
full of gas--and I got plenty of hoses out here to pump it inside with.
I'll put men on the roof and squirt it in the ventilators."

Sozier's voice echoed and died. The militiamen eyed the station.
Nothing happened.

"I know you can hear me, damn you!" Sozier squalled. "You'd better get
the doors open and get out here fast!"

Retief stepped to Sozier's side. "Say, Corporal, I didn't know you went
in for practical jokes."

Sozier jerked around to gape at Retief.

"What are you doing here!" he burst out. "I told Jake--where is that--"

"Jake didn't like the questions I was asking," Retief said, "so he
marched me up here to report to you."

"Jake, you damn fool!" Sozier roared. "I got a good mind--"

       *       *       *       *       *

"I disagree, Sozier," Retief cut in. "I think you're a complete
imbecile. Sitting out here in the open yelling at the top of your
lungs, for example. Corasol and his party might get annoyed and spray
that fancy car you've swiped with something a lot more painful than
words."

"Eh?" Sozier's head whipped around to stare at the building.

"Isn't that a gun I see sticking out?"

Sozier dropped. "Where?"

"My mistake. Just a foreign particle on my contact lenses." Retief
leaned on the car. "On the other hand, Sozier, most murderers are
sneaky about it. I think making a public announcement is a nice gesture
on your part. The Monitors won't have any trouble deciding who to hang
when they come in to straighten out this mess."

Sozier scrambled back onto his seat. "Monitors?" he snarled. "I
don't think so. I don't think you'll be around to do any blabbering
to anybody." He raised his voice. "Jake! March this spy over to the
sidelines. If he tries anything, shoot him!" He gave Retief a baleful
grin. "I'll lay the body out nice and ship it back to your cronies.
Accidents will happen, you know. It'll be a week or two before they get
around to following up--and by then I'll have this little problem under
control."

Jake looked at Retief uncertainly, fingering his empty rifle.

Retief put his hands up. "I guess you got me, Jake," he said. "Careful
of that gun, now."

Jake glanced at Sozier, gulped, aimed the rifle at Retief and nodded
toward the car. As Retief moved off, a murmur swept across the crowd.
Retief glanced back. A turret on the station roof was rotating slowly.
A shout rose; men surged away from the building, scuffling for way;
Sozier yelled. His car started up, moved forward, horns blaring. As
Retief watched, a white stream arced up from the turret, catching the
sun as it spanned the lawn, plunged down to strike the massed men in a
splatter of spray. It searched across the mob, came to rest on Sozier's
car. Uniformed men scrambled for safety as the terrified driver gunned
the heavy vehicle. The hose followed the car, dropping a solid stream
of water on Sozier, kicking and flailing in the back seat. As the car
passed from view, down a side street, water was overflowing the sides.

"The corporal will feel all the better for an invigorating swim in
his mobile pool," Retief commented. "By the way, Jake, I have to be
going now. It wouldn't be fair to send you back to your boss without
something to back up your story that you were outnumbered, so--"

Retief's left fist shot out to connect solidly with Jake's jaw. Jake
dropped the gun and sat down hard. Retief turned and headed for the
pumping station. The hose had shut down now. A few men were standing,
eyeing the building anxiously. Others watched his progress across the
square. As Retief passed, he caught scattered comments:

"--seen that bird before."

"--where he's headed."

"--feller Sozier was talking to...."

"Hey, you!"

Retief was on the grass now. Ahead, the blank wall loomed up. He walked
on briskly.

"Stop that jasper!" a shout rang out. There was a sharp whine and a
black spot appeared on the wall ahead. Near it, a small personnel door
abruptly swung inward. Retief sprinted, plunged through the opening
as a second shot seared the paint on the doorframe. The door clanged
behind him. Retief glanced over the half dozen men confronting him.

"I'm Retief, CDT, acting Charge," he said. "Which of you gentlemen is
Manager-General Corasol?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Corasol was a tall, wide-shouldered man of fifty, with shrewd eyes, a
ready smile, capable-looking hands and an urbane manner. He and Retief
sat at a table at one side of the large room, under a maze of piping,
tanks and valves. Corasol poured amber fluid into square glass tumblers.

"We spotted you by the blazer," he said. "Baby blue and gold braid
stand out in a crowd."

Retief nodded. "The uniform has its uses," he agreed. He tried the
drink. "Say, what is this? It's not bad."

"Sugarweed rum. Made from a marine plant. We have plenty of ocean here
on Glave; there's only the one continent, you know, and it's useless
for agriculture."

"Weather?"

"That's part of it. Glave is moving into what would be a major
glaciation if it weren't for a rather elaborate climatic control
installation. Then there are the tides. Half the continent would be
inundated twice a year when our satellite is at aphelion; there's
a system of baffles, locks and deep-water pumps that maintain the
shore-line more or less constant. We still keep our cities well inland.
Then there are the oxygen generators, the atmosphere filtration
complex, vermin control and so on. Glave in its natural state is a
rather hostile world."

"I'm surprised that your mines can support it all."

"Oh, they don't." Corasol shook his head. "Two hundred years ago, when
the company first opened up Glave, it was economical enough. Quintite
was a precious mineral in those days. Synthetics have long since
taken over. Even fully automated, the mines barely support the public
services and welfare system."

"I seem to recall a reference in the Post Report to the effect that a
company petition to vacate its charter had been denied...."

Corasol nodded, smiling wryly. "The CDT seemed to feel that as long
as any of the world's residents desired to remain, the Company was
constrained to oblige them. The great majority departed long ago, of
course. Relocated to other operational areas. Only the untrainables,
living off welfare funds--and a skeleton staff of single men to operate
the technical installations--have stayed on."

"That explains the mechanics of the recent uprising," Retief said.

The bottle clinked against glasses for a second round. "What about the
good corporal?" Retief asked. "Assuming he's a strong swimmer, you
should be hearing from him soon."

Corasol glanced at his finger watch. "I imagine he'll be launching his
gas attack any minute."

"The prospect doesn't seem to bother you."

"Sozier is a clever enough chap in his own way," Corasol said. "But he
has a bad habit of leaping to conclusions. He's gotten hold of a tank
of what someone has told him is gas--as indeed it is. Hydrogen, for
industrial use. It seems the poor fellow is under the impression that
anything masquerading as gas will have a lethal effect."

"He may be right--if he pumps it in fast enough."

"Oh, he won't be pumping it. Not after approximately five minutes from
now."

"Hmmm. I think I'm beginning to see the light. 'Power off at sunset.'"

Corasol nodded. "I don't think he realizes somehow that all his
vehicles are operating off broadcast power."

"Still, he has a good-sized crowd of hopefuls with him. How do you plan
to get through them?"

"We don't. We go under. There's an extensive system of service ways
underlying the city; another detail which I believe has escaped the
corporal's notice."

"You'll be heading for the port?"

"Yes--eventually. First, we have a few small chores to see to. Sozier
has quite a number of our technical men working at gun point to keep
various services going."

Retief nodded. "It won't be easy breaking them out. I made a fast tour
of the city this afternoon. Locked doors, armed guards--"

"Oh, the locks are power-operated, too. Our fellows will know what to
do when the power fails. I think the sudden darkness will eliminate any
problem from the guards."

The lights flickered and died. The whine of the turbines was suddenly
noticeable, descending. Faint cries sounded from outside.

Corasol switched on a small portable lantern. "All ready, gentlemen?"
he called, rising. "Let's move out. We want to complete this operation
before dawn."

       *       *       *       *       *

Four hours later, Retief stood with Corasol in a low-ceilinged tunnel,
white-tiled, brilliantly lit by a central glare strip, watching as the
last of the column of men released from forced labor in the city's
utilities installations filed past. A solidly-built man with pale blond
hair came up, breathing hard.

"How did it go, Taine?" Corasol asked.

"They're beginning to catch on, Mr. Corasol. We had a brisk time of it
at Station Four. Everybody's clear now. No one killed, but we had a few
injuries."

Corasol nodded. "The last few crews in have reported trouble. Ah--what
about--"

Taine shook his head. "Sorry, sir. No trace. No one's seen them. But
they're probably at the port ahead of us, hiding out. They'd know we'd
arrive eventually."

"I suppose so. You sent word to them well in advance...."

"Suppose I stand by here with a few men. We'll patrol the tunnels in
case they show up. We have several hours before daylight."

"Yes. I'll go along and see to the preparations at Exit Ten. We'll make
our sortie at oh-five-hundred. If you haven't seen anything of them by
then...."

"I'm sure they're all right."

"They'd better be." Corasol said grimly "Let's be off, Retief."

"If it's all the same to you, Mr. Manager-General, I'll stay here with
Taine. I'll join you later."

"As you wish. I don't imagine there'll be any trouble--but if there is,
having a CDT observer along will lend a certain air to the operation."
He smiled, shook Retief's hand and moved off along the tunnel. The
echo of feet and voices grew faint, faded to silence. Taine turned to
the three men detailed to him, conversed briefly, sent them off along
branching corridors. He glanced at Retief.

"Mr. Retief, you're a diplomat. This errand is not a diplomatic one."

"I've been on a few like that, too, Mr. Taine."

Taine studied Retief's face. "I can believe that," he said. "However, I
think you'd better rejoin the main party."

"I might be of some use here, if your missing men arrive under fire."

"Missing men?" Taine's mouth twisted in a sour smile. "You fail to
grasp the picture, Mr. Retief. There'll be no missing men arriving."

"Oh? I understood you were waiting here to meet them."

"Not men, Mr. Retief. It happens that Corasol has twin daughters, aged
nineteen. They haven't been seen since the trouble began."


                                   V

Half an hour passed. Retief leaned against the tunnel wall, arms
folded, smoking a cigar in silence. Taine paced, ten yards up the
corridor, ten yards back....

"You seem nervous, Mr. Taine," Retief said.

Taine stopped pacing, eyed Retief coldly. "You'd better go along now,"
he said decisively. "Just follow the main tunnel. It's about a mile."

"Plenty of time yet, Mr. Taine." Retief smiled and drew on his cigar.
"Your three men are still out."

"They won't be back here. We'll rendezvous at Exit Ten."

"Am I keeping you from something, Taine?"

"I can't be responsible for your safety if you stay here."

"Oh? You think I might fall victim to an accident?"

Taine narrowed his eyes. "It could happen," he said harshly.

"Where were the girls last seen?" Retief asked suddenly.

"How would I know?"

"Weren't you the one who got word to them?"

"Maybe you'd better keep out of this."

"You sent your men off; now you're eager to see me retire to a safe
position. Why the desire for solitude, Taine? You wouldn't by any
chance have plans?"

"That's enough," Taine snapped. "On your way. That's an order!"

"There are some aspects of this situation that puzzle me, Mr.
Taine. Mr. Corasol has explained to me how he and his Division
Chiefs--including you--were surprised in the executive suite at
Planetary Central by a crowd of Sozier's bully-boys. They came in past
the entire security system without an alarm. Corasol and the others put
up a surprisingly good fight and made it to the service elevators--and
from there to the sub-station. There was even time to order an
emergency alert to the entire staff--but somehow, they were all caught
at their stations and kept on the job at gun point. Now, I should think
that you, as Chief of Security as well as Communications, should have
some ideas as to how all this came about."

"Are you implying--"

"Let me guess, Taine. You have a deal with Sozier. He takes over,
ousts the legal owners, and sets himself up to live off the fat of the
land, with you as his technical chief. Then, I imagine, you'd find it
easy enough to dispose of Sozier--and you'd be in charge."

       *       *       *       *       *

Without warning Taine put his head down and charged. Retief dropped
his cigar, side-stepped and planted a solid right on Taine's jaw. He
staggered, went to his hands and knees.

"I suppose you'd like to get word to Sozier that his work force is
arriving at the port at oh-five-hundred," Retief said. "Of course,
he'll want to have a good-sized reception committee on hand as they
come out."

Taine plunged to his feet, threw a vicious left that went past Retief's
ear, then abruptly dropped, clamped a lock on Retief's leg, twisted--

The two men rolled, came to rest with Taine on top, Retief face-down,
his arm bent back and doubled. Taine, red-faced and puffing, grunted as
he applied pressure.

"You know a lot about me," he grated, "but you overlooked the fact that
I've been Glavian Judo champion for the past nine years."

"You're a clever man, Taine," Retief said between clenched teeth. "Too
clever to think it will work."

"It will work. Glave's never had a CDT mission here before. We're too
small. Corasol invited your Embassy in because he had an idea there
was something in the wind. That forced my hand. I've had to move
hastily. But by the time I invite observers in to see for themselves,
everything will be running smoothly. I can even afford to let Corasol
and the others go--I'll have hostages for his good behavior."

"You've been wanting to boast about it to someone who could appreciate
your cleverness, I see. Sozier must be an unappreciative audience."

"Sozier's a filthy pig--but he had his uses."

"What do you plan to do now?"

"I've been wondering that myself--but I think the best solution is to
simply break your arm for now. You should be easy to control then. It's
quite simple. I merely apply pressure, thus...."

"Judo is a very useful technique," Retief said. "But in order to make
it work, you have to be a pretty good man...." He moved suddenly,
shifting his position. Taine grabbed, holding Retief's arm by the wrist
and elbow, his own arm levering Retief's back, back.... Retief twisted
onto his side, then his back. Taine grunted, following the movement,
straining. Slowly, Retief sat up against Taine's weight. Then, with a
surge, he straightened his arm. Taine's grip broke. Retief came to his
feet. Taine scrambled up in time to meet a clean uppercut that snapped
him onto his back--out cold.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Ah, there you are," Retief said as Taine's eyes fluttered and opened.
"You've had a nice nap--almost fifteen minutes. Feeling better?"

Taine snarled, straining against the bonds on his wrists.

"Gold braid has its uses," Retief commented. "Now that you're back,
perhaps you can answer a question for me. What's the Birthday Cake?"

Taine spat. Retief went to stand over him.

"Time is growing short, Mr. Taine. It will be dawn in another two
hours. I can't afford the luxury of coaxing you."

"You won't get away with this."

Retief looked at the glowing end of his cigar. "This won't be subtle, I
agree--but it will work."

"You're bluffing."

Retief leaned closer. "In my place--would you hesitate?" he asked
softly.

Taine cursed, struggled to break free, eyes on the cigar.

"What kind of diplomat are you?" he snarled.

"The modern variety. Throat-cutting, thumb-screws, poison and stiletto
work were popular in Machiavelli's time; nowadays we go in more for the
administrative approach--but the cigar-end still has its role."

"Look, we can come to an agreement--"

"What's the Birthday Cake?" Retief snapped.

"I'm in a position to do a lot for you!"

"Last chance--"

"It's the official Residence of the Manager-General!" Taine screeched,
writhing away from the cigar.

"Where is it? Talk fast!"

"You'll never get close! There's a seven-foot wall and by this time the
grounds are swarming with Sozier's men."

"Nevertheless, I want to know where it is--and the information had
better be good. If I don't come back, you'll have a long wait."

Taine groaned. "All right. Put that damned cigar away. I'll tell you
what I can...."

       *       *       *       *       *

Retief stood in the shadow of a vine-grown wall, watching the relief
of the five-man guard detail at the main gate to the Residence
grounds. The bluish light of the Glavian satellite reflected from the
rain-pocked street, glinted from the leaves of a massive tree ten yards
from the gate. The chill in the air cut through Retief's wet clothes.
The men at the gate huddled, hands in pockets, coat collars turned up,
backs to the wind--and to Retief. He moved silently forward, caught a
low branch of the tree, pulled himself up.

The men at the gate exchanged muttered remarks. One lit a cigarette.
Retief waited, then moved higher. The guards talked in low voices,
edged closer to the shelter of the gate-house. Retief lowered himself
onto the wall, dropped down onto the sodden lawn, crouched, waiting.
There was no alarm.

Through the trees the dark shape of the house loomed up, its top storey
defiantly ablaze with lights. Retief moved off silently, from the
shadow of one tree to the next, swinging in an arc that would bring
him to the rear of the great round structure. He froze as the heavy
footfalls of one of Sozier's pickets slogged past five yards from him,
then moved on. The glow of a campfire flickered near the front of the
house. Retief could make out the shapes of men around it--a dozen or
two, at least. Probably as many more warmed themselves at each of the
other fires visible on the grounds--and most of the rest had doubtless
found dryer shelter in the lee of the house itself.

Retief reached the conservatory at the rear of the house, studied the
dark path leading to the broad terrace, picked out the squat shape of
the utilities manifold behind a screen of shrubbery. So far, Taine's
information had been accurate. The next step was to--

There was a faint sound from high above, followed by a whoosh! Then
with a sharp crack! a flare appeared overhead, rocking gracefully,
floating down gently under a small parachute. Below it, inky shadows
rocked in unison.

In the raw white light, Retief counted eighteen men clinging to
handholds on the side of the house, immobile in the pitiless glare.
Above them, a face appeared, then a second, peering over the edge of
the fourth-storey gallery. Both figures rose, unlimbering four-foot
bows, fitting arrows to strings--

_Whok! Whok!_ Two men lost their holds and fell, yelling, to slam into
the heavy shrubbery. A second flight of arrows found marks. Retief
watched from the shadows as man after man dropped to flounder in the
wet foliage. Several jumped before the deadly bows were turned on
them. As the flare faded, the last of the men plunged down to crash
among their fellows. Retief stepped out, ran swiftly to the manifold,
forcing his way among the close-growing screen, scrambled to its top.
His hand fell on a spent arrow. He picked it up.

It was a stout wooden shaft twenty inches long, terminating in a rubber
suction cup. Retief snorted, dropped the arrow and started up.


                                  VI

Twenty feet above ground level, the wide windows of the third floor
sun terrace presented a precarious handhold as Retief swung back a
foot and kicked in a panel. Inside, he dimly made out the shape of a
broad carpeted room, curving out of sight in both directions. There
were wide-leaved tropical plants in boxes, groups of padded chairs,
low tables with bowls of fruit. Retief made his way past them, found
an inner door, went into a dark hall. At the far end, voices exchanged
shouted questions. Feet pounded. A flicker of light from a hand lantern
splashed across the wall, disappeared. Retief found a stair, went up
it noiselessly. According to Taine, the elevator to the top floor
apartment should be to the left--

Retief flattened himself to the wall. Footsteps sounded near at hand.
He moved quickly to a doorway. There was a murmur of voices, the
wavering light of lanterns. A party of uniformed men tiptoed past a
cross corridor, struggling under the weight of a massive log two feet
in diameter and twelve feet long.

"... on signal, hit it all together. Then ..." someone was saying.

Retief waited, listening. There was the creak of a door, the fumbling
of awkwardly laden feet on a stair, hoarse breathing, a muffled curse.

"... got my fingers, you slob!" a voice snarled.

"Shaddup!" another voice hissed.

There was a long moment of silence, then a muffled command--followed
an instant later by a thunderous crash, a shout--cut off abruptly by
a ponderous _blam!_ followed instantly by a roar like a burst dam,
mingled with yells, thumps, crashes. A foamy wash of water surged along
the cross corridor, followed a moment later by a man sliding on his
back, then another, two more, the log, fragments of a door, more men.

In the uproar, Retief moved along to the elevator, felt over the
control panel, located a small knurled button. He turned it. The panel
came away. He fumbled cautiously, found a toggle switch, flipped it. A
light sprang up in the car. Instantly Retief flipped the light switch;
the glow faded. He waited. No alarm. Men were picking themselves up,
shouting.

"... them broads dropped a hundred-gallon bag of water ..." Someone
complained.

"... up there fast, men. We got the door okay!"

Feet thumped. Yells sounded.

"No good, Wes! They got a safe or something in the way!"

Retief silently closed the lift door, pressed the button. With a sigh,
the car slid upward, came to a gentle stop. He eased the door open,
looked out into a dim-lit entrance hall. Footsteps sounded beyond a
door. He waited; the clack of high heels crossing a floor. Retief
stepped out of the car, went to the door, glanced into a spacious
lounge with rich furniture, deep rugs, paintings, a sweep of glass, and
in an alcove at the far side, a bar. Retief crossed the room, poured a
stiff drink into a paper-thin glass and drained it.

The high-heeled steps were coming back now. A door opened. Two leggy
young women in shorts, with red-gold hair bound back by ribbons--one
green, one blue--stepped into the room. One girl held a coil of
insulated wire; the other, a heavy-looking gray-enameled box eight
inches on a side.

"Now, see if you can tinker that generator to get a little more juice,
Lyn," the girl with the wire said. "I'll start stringing...."

Her voice died as she caught sight of Retief. He raised his glass. "My
compliments, ladies. I see you're keeping yourselves amused."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Who ... who are you?" Lyn faltered.

"My name's Retief. Your father sent me along to carry your bags. It's
lucky I arrived when I did, before any of those defenseless chaps
outside were seriously injured."

"You're not ... one of them?"

"Of course he's not, Lyn," the second girl said. "He's much too
good-looking."

"That's good," Lyn said crisply. "I didn't want to have to use this
thing." She tossed a bright-plated 2 mm needler onto a chair and sat
down. "Dad's all right, isn't he?"

"He's fine, and we've got to be going. Tight schedule, you know. And
you'd better get some clothes on. It's cold outside."

Lyn nodded. "Environmental Control went off the air six hours ago. You
can already feel snow coming."

"Don't you suppose we have time to just rig up one little old circuit?"
the other twin wheedled. "Nothing serious; just enough to tickle."

"We planned to wire all the window frames, the trunk we used to block
the stair, the lift shaft--"

"And then we thought we'd try to drop a loop down and pick up the
gallery guard rail, and maybe some of that wrought-iron work around the
front of the house--"

"Sorry, girls; no time."

Five minutes later, the twins were ready, wrapped in fur robes. Retief
had exchanged his soaked blazer for a down-lined weatherproof.

"The lift will take us all the way down, won't it?" he asked.

Lyn nodded. "We can go out through the wine cellar."

Retief picked up the needler and handed it to Lyn. "Hang on to this,"
he said. "You may need it yet."

       *       *       *       *       *

A cold wind whipped the ramp as dawn lightened the sky.

"It's hard to believe," Corasol said. "What made him do it?"

"He saw a chance to own it all."

"He can have it," Corasol's communicator beeped. He put it to his ear.
"Everything's ship-shape and ready to lift," a tiny voice said.

Corasol turned to Retief. "Let's go aboard."

"Hold it," Retief said. "There's someone coming."

Corasol spoke into the communicator. "Keep him covered."

The man slogging across the concrete was short, wrapped in heavy
garments. Over his head a white cloth fluttered from a stick.

"From the set of those bat-ears, I'd say it was the good corporal."

"I wonder what he wants."

Sozier stopped twenty feet from Retief and Corasol.

"I want to ... ah ... talk to you, Corasol," he said.

"Certainly, General. Go right ahead."

"Look here, Corasol. You can't do this. My men will freeze. We'll
starve. I've been thinking it over, and I've decided that we can reach
an understanding."

Corasol waited.

"I mean, we can get together on this thing. Compromise. Maybe I acted a
little hasty." Sozier looked from Corasol to Retief. "You're from the
CDT. You tell him. I'll guarantee his people full rights...."

Retief puffed at his cigar in silence. Sozier started again.

"Look, I'll give you a full voice in running things. A fifty-fifty
split. Whatta you say?"

"I'm afraid the proposal doesn't interest me, General," Corasol said.

"Never mind the General stuff," Sozier said desperately. "Listen, you
can run it. Just give me and my boys a little say-so."

"Sorry." Corasol shook his head. "Not interested, General."

"Okay, okay! You win! Just come on back and get things straightened
out! I got a belly full of running things!"

"I'm afraid I have other plans, General. For some time I've wanted
to transfer operations to a world called Las Palmas on which we hold
a charter. It has a naturally delightful climate, and I'm told the
fishing is good. I leave Glave to the Free Electorate with my blessing.
Good-by, General." He turned to the ship.

"You got to stay here!" Sozier howled. "We'll complain to the CDT! And
don't call me General! I'm a Corporal--"

"You're a General now--whether you like it or not." Corasol said
bluntly. He shivered. There was a hint of ice in the air. "If you or
any of your men ever decide to go to work, General, I daresay we can
train you for employment on Las Palmas. In the meantime--Long Live the
Revolution!"

"You can't do this! I'll sue!"

"Calm down, Sozier," Retief said. "Go back to town and see if you can
get your radio working. Put in a call for Mr. Magnan aboard the CDT
vessel. Tell him your troubles. It will make his day. And a word of
advice: Mr. Magnan hates a piker--so ask for plenty."

       *       *       *       *       *

"My boy, I'm delighted," Ambassador Sternwheeler boomed. "A highly
professional piece of work. A stirring testimonial to the value of the
skilled negotiator!"

"You're too kind, Mr. Ambassador." Retief said, glancing at his watch.

"And Magnan tells me that not only will the Mission be welcomed, and my
job secure for another year--that is, I shall have an opportunity to
serve--but a technical mission has been requested as well. I shall look
forward to meeting General Sozier. He sounds a most reasonable chap."

"Oh, you'll like him, Mr. Ambassador. A true democrat, willing to share
all you have."

Counsellor of Embassy Magnan tapped and entered the office.

"Forgive the intrusion, Mr. Ambassador," he said breathlessly, "but I
must--"

"Well, what is it, man? The deal hasn't gone sour?"

"Oh, far from it! I've been exploring General Sozier's economic
situation with him via scope, and it seems he'll require a loan."

"Yes, yes? How much?"

Magnan inhaled proudly. "Twenty. Million. Credits."

"No!"

"Yes!"

"Magnificent! Good lord, Magnan, you're a genius! This will mean
promotions all around. Why, the administrative load alone--"

"I can't wait to make planetfall, Mr. Ambassador. I'm all a-bubble
with plans. I hope they manage to get the docking facilities back in
operation soon."

"Help is on the way, my dear Magnan. I'm assured the Environmental
Control installations will be coming back in operation again within a
year or two."

"My, didn't those ice-caps form quickly. And in the open sea."

"Mere scum ice. As my Counsellor for Technical Affairs, you'll be in
charge of the ice-breaking operation once we're settled in. I imagine
you'll want to spend considerable time in the field. I'll be expecting
a record of how every credit is spent."

"I'm more the executive type," Magnan said. "Possibly Retief--"

A desk speaker hummed. "Mr. Corasol's lighter has arrived to ferry Mr.
Retief across to the Company ship...."

"Sorry you won't be with us, Retief," Sternwheeler said heartily. He
turned to Magnan. "Manager-General Corasol has extended Retief an
exequatur as Consul General to Las Palmas."

       *       *       *       *       *

Retief nodded. "Much as I'd like to be out in that open boat with you,
breaking ice, I'm afraid duty calls elsewhere."

"Your own post? I'm not sure he's experienced enough, Mr. Ambassador.
Now, I--"

"He was requested by name, Magnan. It seems the Manager-General's
children took a fancy to him."

"Eh? How curious. I never thought you were particularly interested in
infant care, Retief."

"Perhaps I haven't been, Mr. Magnan." Retief draped his short blue cape
over his left arm and turned to the door. "But remember the diplomat's
motto: be adaptable...."





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