In his initial address to the Patronate, following his return from
Venus, Tews said among other things, "It is difficult for us to realze,
but Linn is now without formidable enemies anywhere. Our opponents on Mars
and Venus having been decisively defeated by our forces in the past two
decades, we are now in a unique historical position: the sole great power
in the world of man. A period of unlimted peace and creative
reconstruction seems inevitable."
He retrned to the palace with the cheers of the Patronate ringing in
his ears, his mood one of thoughtful jubilation. His spies had already
reported that the patrons gave him a great deal of the credit for the
victory on Venus. After all, the war had dragged on for a long time before
his arrival. And then, abruptly, almost overnight, it had ended. The
conclusion was that his brilliant leadership had made a decisive
contribution. It required no astuteness for Tews to realize that, under
such circumstances, he could generously bestow a triumph on Jerrin, and
lose nothing by the other's honors.
Despite his own words to the Patronate, he found himself, as the
peaceful weeks went by, progressively amazed at the reality of what he had
said: no enemies. Nothing to fear. Even yet, it seemed hard to believe
that the universe belonged to Linn; and that, as the Lord Adviser, he was
now in his own sphere in a position of power over more subjects than any
man had ever been. So it seemed to the dazzled Tews.
He would be a devoted leader, of course - he reassured himself
hastily, disowning the momentary pride. He visualized great works that
would reflect the glory of Linn and the golden age of Tews. The vision was
so noble and inspiring that for long he merely toyed with hazy,
magnificent plans and took no concrete action of any kind.
He was informed presently that Clane had returned from Venus. Shortly
thereafter he received a message from the mutation.
Lord Adviser Tews
My most honored uncle: I should like to visit you and describe to you
the result of several conversations between my brother Jerrin and myself
concerning potential dangers for the empire. They do not seem severe, but
we are both concerned about the preponderance of slaves as aganst citizens
on Earth, and we are unhappy about our lack of knowledge of the present
situation among the peoples of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
Since these are the only dangers in sight, the sooner we examine
every aspect of the problem the more certain we can be that the destiny of
Linn will be under the control of intelligent action and not governed in
future by the necessary opportunism that has been for so many generations
the main element of government.
Your obedient nephew,
The letter irritated Tews. It seemed meddlesome, It reminded him that
his control of Linn and of the glorious future he envisaged for the empire
was not complete, that in fact these nephews might urge compromises that
would dim the beauty that only he, apparently, could see. Nevertheless,
his reply was diplomatic:
My dear Clane: It was a pleasure to hear from you, and as soon as I
return from the mountans, I shall be happy to receive you and discuss all
these matters in the most thoroughgoing fashion. I have instructed various
departments to gather data so that when we do get together, we can talk on
the basis of facts. Tews, Lord Adviser
He actually issued the instructions and actually listened to a brief
account from an official who was an "expert" concerning conditions on the
moons of Jupiter and Saturn. They were all inhabited by tribes in various
stages of barbaric culture. Recent reports gleaned from questioning of
primitives who came from there and from the Linnan traders who visited
certain ports of entry indicated that the old game of intrigue and murder
ainong tribal chieftains seeking ascendancy was still going on.
Relieved in spite of his previous conviction that the situation was
exactly as it was now described, Tews departed on his mountain vacation
with a retinue of three hundred courtiers and five hundred slaves. He was
still there a month later when a second message arrived from Clane.
Most gracious Lord Adviser Tews: Your response to my message was a
great relief to me. I wonder if I could further impose upon your good
offices and have your department heads determine how many are still here
and where they are presently concentrated. The reason for this inquiry is
that I have discovered that several of my agents on Europa, the great moon
of Jupiter, were suddenly executed about a year ago and that actually my
own information from that territory is based upon reports, all of which
are not less than two years old, and those are extremely vague. It seems
that about five years ago a new leader began to unify Europa; and my
agents' reports - when I now examine the data they furnished - grew less
clear with each month after that. I suspect that I have been victimized by
carefully prepared propaganda. If this be so, the fact that somebody was
astute enough to seize my channels of information worries me.
These are only suspicions, of course but it would seem advisable to
have your people make inquiries with the possibility in mind that our
present information sources are unreliable.
Your faithful servant, and nephew,
The reference to the mutation's "agents" reminded Tews unpleasantly
that he lived in a world of spies. I suppose, he thought wearily,
propaganda is even now being circulated against me because I am on a
vacation. People cannot possibly realize what great plans my engineers and
I are making for the State on this so-called pleasure trip.
He wondered if, by releasing a series of public statements about the
grandiose future, he might successfully head off criticism.
That irritation lasted for a day, and then he read Clane's letter
again and decided that an unruffled and diplomatic approach was desirable.
He must ever be in a position to say that he invariably took the most
thorough precaution against any eventuality.
He gave the necessary instructions, advised Clone that he had done so
- and then began to consider seriously the situation that would exist when
Jerrin returued from Venus six or eight months hence to receive his
triumph. It no longer seemed quite the satisfactory prospect that it had
been when he himself had first returned from Venus. These nephews of his
tended to interfere in State affairs, and indeed both had the legal right
to be advisers of the government. Each, according to law, had a Council
vote in Linnan affairs, although neither could directly interfere with
I suppose, Tews grudgingly acknowledged to himself, Clane is within
his rights; but what was it mother once said: "It is an unwise man who
always exercises his rights." He laughed, grimacing.
That night, just before he went to sleep, Tews had a flash of
insight: I'in slipping back into suspicion - the same fears that disturbed
me when I was on Venus. I'in being influenced by this damnable palace
He felt personally incapable of base thoughts, and accepted their
presence in others - he told himself - with the greatest reluctance, and
then only because of the possible effect on the State.
His sense of duty - that was the real pressure on him, he felt
convinced. It compelled him to be aware of, and actually to look for,
scheming and plotting, even though he was revolted by any indications of
The realization of his own fundamental integrity reassured Tews.
After all, he thought, I may occasonally be misled, but I cannot be wrong
if I remain constantly on the alert for danger from all sources. And even
a mutation with scientific knowledge and weapons is a matter about which
I, as guardian of the State, must take cognizance.
He had already given considerable thought to the weapons he had seen
Clane use on Venus. And during the days that followed he came to the
conclusion that he must take action. He kept saying to himself how
reluctant he was to do so, but finally he advised Clane:
My dear nephew:
Although you have evidently not felt free to ask for the protection
to which your rank and the value of your work entitles you, I am sure you
will be happy to hear that the State is prepared to undertake protection
of the material that you have rescued from the pits of the gods and from
other ancient sources.
The safest place for all this material is at your residence in Linn.
Accordingly, I am authorizing funds to transport to the city any such
equipment that you have at your country estate. A guards unit will arrive
at the estate within the week with adequate transport, and another guards
unit is this day taking up guard duty at your town residence.
The captain of the guard, while of course responsible to me, will
naturally grant you every facility for carrying on your work.
It is with pleasure, my dear Clane, that I extend to you this costly
but earned protection.
At some time not too far in the future I should like to have the
privilege of a personally conducted tour so that I may see for myself what
treasures you have in your collection, with a view to finding further uses
for them for the general welfare.
With cordial best wishes
Tews, Lord Adviser
At least, thought Tews, after he had dispatched the message and given
the necessary orders to the military forces, that will for the present get
the material all in one place. Later, a further more stringent control is
always possible - not that it will ever be necessary, of course.
The wise leader simply planned for any contingency. Even the actions
of his most dearly beloved relatives must be examined objectively.
He learned presently that Clane had offered no resistance and that
the material had been transported to Linn without incident.
He was still at the mountain palace of the Linns when a third letter
arrived from Clane. Though briefly stated, it was a major social document.
The preamble read:
To our uncle, the Lord Adviser:
It being the considered opinion of Lords Jertin and Clane Linn that a
dangerous preponderance of slaves exists in Linn and that indeed the
condition of slavery is wholly undesirable in a healthy State, it is
herewith proposed that Lord Adviser Tews during his government lay down as
a guiding rule for future generations the following principles:
1. All law-abiding human beings are entitled to the free control of
their own persons.
2. Where free control does not now obtain, it shall be delivered to
the individual on a rising scale, the first two steps of which shall
become effective immediately.
3. The first step shall be that no slave shall in future be
physically punished except by the order of a court.
4. The second step shall be that the slave's work day shall not in
future exceed ten hours.
The other steps outlined a method of gradually freeing the slaves
until after twenty years only incorrigibles would be 'not free,' and all
of these would be controlled by the State itself under laws whereby each
was dealt with "as an individual."
Tews read the document with amazement and amusement. He recalled
another saying of his mother's: "Don't ever worry about the idealists.
"The mob will cut their throats at the proper moment."
His amusement faded rapidly. These boys are really interfering in the
affairs of state in Linn itself, which is only remotely in their province.
As, the summer over, he made preparations to return to the city, Tews
scowlingly considered the threat "to the State," which - it seemed to him
- was building up with alarming speed.
On the second day after his return to Linn he received another letter
from Clane. This one requested an audience to discuss "those matters
relating to the defense of the empire, about which your deparments have
been gathering information."
What infuriated Tews about the letter was that the mutation was not
even giving him time to settle down after his return. True, the work of
reestablishment did not involve him - but it was a matter of courtesy to
the office he held. On that level, Tews decided in an icy rage, Clane's
persistence bore all the earmarks of a deliberate insult.
He sent a curt note in reply, which stated simply:
My dear Clane:
I will advise you as soon as I am free of the more pressing problems
of administration. Please await word from me.
He slept that night, confident that he was at last taking a firm
stand and that it was about time.
He awoke to news of disaster.
The only warning was a steely glinting of metal in the early-morning
sky. The invaders swooped down on the city of Linn in three hundred
spaceships. There must have been advance spying, for they landed in force
at the gates that were heavily guarded and at the main troop barracks
inside the city. From each ship debouched two hundred-odd men.
"Sixty thousand soldiers!" said Lord Adviser Tews after he had
studied the reports. He issued instructions for the defense of the palace
and sent a carrier pigeon to the three legions encamped outside the city,
ordering two of them to attack when ready. And then he sat pale but
composed, watching the spectacle from a window that overlooked the hazy
vastness of Linn proper.
Everything was vague and unreal. Most of the invading ships had
disappeared behind large buildings. A few lay in the open, but they looked
dead. It was hard to grasp that vicious fighting was going on in their
vicinity. At nine o'clock, a messenger arrived from the Lady Lydia:
Have you any news? Who is attacking us? Is it a limited assault or an
invasion of the empire. Have you contacted Clane?
The first prisoner was brought in while Tews was scowling over the
unpalatable suggestion that he seek the advice of his relative. The
mutation was the last person he wanted to see. The prisoner, a bearded
giant, proudly confessed that he was from Europa, one of the moons of
Jupiter, and that he feared neither man nor god. The man's size and
obvious physical prowess startled Tews. But his naive outlook on life was
cheering.Subsequent prisoners had similar physical and mental
characteristics. And so, long before noon, Tews had a fairly clear picture
of the situation.
This was a barbarian invasion from Europa. It was obviously for loot
only. But unless he acted swiftly, Linn would be divested in a few days of
treasures garnered over the centuries. Bloodthrsty commands flowed from
Tews' lips. Put all prisoners to the sword. Destroy their ships, their
weapons, their clothing. Leave not one vestige of their presence to
pollute the eternal city.
The morning ran its slow course. Tews considered making an inspection
of the city escorted by the palace cavalry. He abandoned the plan when he
realized it would be impossible for commanders to send him reports if he
were on the move. For the same reason he could not transfer his
headquarters to a less clearly marked building. Just before noon, the
relieving report arrived that two of three camp legions were attacking in
force at the main gates.
The news steadied him. He began to think in terms of broader, more
basic information about what had happened. He remembered unhappily that
his departments probably had the information that - spurred by Clane - he
had asked for months ago. Hastify, he called in several experts and sat
somberly while each of the men in turn told what he had learned.
There was actually a great deal of data. Europa, the great moon of
Jupiter, had been inhabited from legendary times by fiercely quarreling
tribes. Its vast atmosphere was said to have been created artificially
with the help of the atom gods by the scientists of the golden age. Like
all the artificial atmosphere, it contained a high proportion of the gas,
teneol, which admitted sunlight but did not allow much heat to escape into
Starting about five years before, travelers had begun to bring out
reports of a leader named Czinczar who was ruthlessly welding all the
hating factions of the planet into one nation. For a while it was such a
dangerous territory that traders landed only at specified ports of entry.
The information they received was that Czinczar's attempt at unfication
had faifed. Contact grew even more vague after that; and it was clear to
the listening Tews that the new leader had actually succeded in his
conquests and that any word to the contrary was propaganda. The cunning
Czinczar had seized outgoing communication sources and confused them while
he consolidated his position among the barbarous forces of the planet.
Czinczar. The name had a sinister rhythm to it, a ring of leashed
violence, a harsh, metallic tintinnabulation. If such a man and his
followers escaped with even a fraction of the portable wealth of Linn, the
inhabited solar system would echo with the exploit. The goverument of Lord
Adviser Tews might tumble like a house of cards.
Tews had been hesitating.There was a plan in his mind that would work
better if carried out in the dead of night. But that meant giving the
attackers precious extra hours for loot. He decided not to wait, but
dispatched a command to the third - still unengaged - camp legion to enter
the tunnel that led into the central palace.
As a precaution, and with the hope of distracting the enemy leader,
he sent a message to Czincxar in the care of a captured barbarian officer.
In it he pointed out the foolishness of an attack that could only result
in bloody reprisals on Europa itself and suggested that there was still
time for an honorable withdrawal. There was only one thing wrong with all
these schemings. Czinczar had concentrated a large force of his own for
the purpose of capturing the Imperial party. And had held back in the hope
that he would learn definitely whether or not the Lord Adviser was inside
the palace. The released prisoner, who delivered Tews' messuge,
established his presence inside.
The attack in force that followed captured the Central Palace and
everyone in it, and surprised the legionnaires who were beginning to
emerge from the secret passageway. Czinczar's men poured all the oil in
the large palace tanks into the downward sloping passageway and set it
Thus died an entire legion of men.
That night a hundred reserve barbarian spaceships landed behind the
Linnan soldiers besieging the gates. And in the morning, when the
barbarians inside the city launched an attack, the two remaining legions
were cut to pieces.
Of these events the Lord Adviser Tews knew nothing. His skull had
been turned over the previous day to Czinczar's favorite goldsmith, to be
plated with Linnan gold and shaped into a goblet to celebrate the greatest
victory of the century.
To Lord Clane Linn, going over his accounts on his country estate,
the news of the fall of Linn came as a special shock. With unimportant
exceptions, all his atomic material was in Liun. He dismissed the
messenger, who had unwisely shouted the news as he entered the door of the
accounting department. And then sat at his desk - and realized that he had
better accept for the time being the figures of his slave bookkeepers on
the condition of the estate.
As he glanced around the room after announcing the postponement, it
seemed to him that at least one of the slaves showed visible relief. He
did not delay, but called the man before him instantly. He had an
inexorable system in dealing with slaves, a system inherited from his long
- dead mentor, Joquin, along with the estate itself.
Integrity, hard work, loyalty, and a positive attitude produced
better conditions, shorter working hours, more freedom of action, after
thirty the right to marry, after forty legal freedom. Laziness and other
negative attitudes such as cheating were punshed by a set pattern of
demotions. Short of changing the law of the land, Clane could not at the
moment imagine a better system in view of the existence of slavery. And
now, in spite of his personal anxieties, he carried out the precept of
Joqnin as it applied to a situation where no immediate evidence was
available. He told the man, Oorag, what had aroused his suspicions and
asked him if they were justifed. "If you are guilty and confess," he said,
"you will receive only one demotion. If you do not confess and you are
later proven guilty, there will be three demotions, which means physical
labor, as you know."
The slave, a big man, shrugged and said with a sneer, "By the time
Czinczar is finished with you Linnans, you will be working for me." "Field
labor," said Clane curty, "for three months, ten hours a day."
It was no time for mercy. An empire under artack did not flinch from
the harshest acts. Anything that could be construed as weakness would be
As the slave was led out by guards, he shouted a final insult over
his shoulder. "You wretched mutation," he said, "you'll be where you
belong when Czinczar gets here."
Clane did not answer. He considered it doubtful that the new
conqueror had been selected by fate to punish all the evildoers of Liun
according to their desserts. It would take too long. He put the thought
out of his mind and walked to the doorway. There he paused and faced the
dozen trusted slaves who sat at their various desks.
"Do nothing rash," he said slowly in a clear voice, "any of you. If
you harbor emotions similar to those expressed by Oorag, restrain
yourselves. The fall of one city in a surprise attack is not important."
He hesitated. He was, he realized, appealing to their cautious instincts,
but his reason told him that in a great crisis men did not always consider
all the potentialities.
"I am aware," he said finally, "there is no great pleasure in being a
slave, though it has advantages - economic security, free craft training.
But Oorag's wild words are a proof that if young slaves were free to do as
they pleased, they would constitute a jarring, if not revolutionary factor
in the community. It is unfortunately true that people of different races
can only gradually learn to live together."
He went out, satisfied that he had done the best possible under the
circumstances. He had no doubt whatsoever that here, in this defiance of
Oorag, the whole problem of a slave empire had again shown itself in
miniature. If Czinczar were to conquer any important portion of Earth, a
slave uprising would follow automatically. There were too many slaves, far
too many for safety, in the Linnan empire.
Outside, he saw his first refugees. They were coming down near the
main granaries in a variety of colorful skyscooters. Clane watched them
for a moment, trying to picture their departure from Linn. The amazing
thing was that they had waited till the forenoon of the second day. People
must simply have refused to believe that the city was in danger, though,
of course, early fugitives could have fled in other directions. And so not
come near the estate.
Clane emerged decisively out of his reverie. He called a slave and
dispatched him to the scene of the arrivals with a command to his personal
guards. "Tell these people who have rapid transportation to keep moving.
Here, eighty miles from Linn, we shall take care only of the foot-weary."
Briskly now, he went into his official residence and called the
commanding officer of his troops. "I want volunteers, "he explained,
"particularly men with strong religious beliefs who on this second night
after the invasion are prepared to fly into Linn and remove all the
transportable equipment from my laboratory."
His plan, as he outlined it finally to some forty volunteers, was
simplicity itself. In the confusion of taking over a vast city it would
probably be several days before the barbarian army would actually occupy
all the important residences. Particularly, on there early days, they
might miss a house situated, as his was, behind a barrier of trees.
If by some unfortunate chance it was afready occupied, it would
probably be so loosely held that bold men could easily kill every alien on
the premises and so accomplish their purpose.
"I want to impress upon you," Clane went on "the importance of this
task. As all of you know, I am a member of the temple hierarchy. I have
been entrusted with sacred god metals and sacred equipment, including
material taken from the very homes of the gods. It would be a disaster if
these precious relics were to fall into unclean hands, I, therefore,
charge you that if you should by some mischance be captured, do not reveal
the real purpose of your presence. Say that you came to rescue your
owner's private property. Even admit you were foolish to sacrifice
yourself for such a reason."
Mindful of Tews' guard unit, he finished his instructions. "It may be
that Linnan soldiers are guarding the equipment, in which case give the
officer in command this letter."
He handed the document to the captain of the volunteers. It was an
authorization signed by Clane with the seal of his rank. Since the death
of Tews, such an authorization would not be lightly ignored.
When they had gone out to prepare for the mission, Clane dispatched
one of his private spaceships to the nearby city of Goram and asked the
commander there, a friend of his, what kind of counteraction was being
prepared against the invader. "Are the authorities in the cities and
towns," he asked, "showing that they understand the patterns of action
required of them in a major emergency? Or must the old law be explained to
them from the beginning?"
The answer arrived in the shortest possible time, something under
forty minutes. The general placed his forces at Clane's command and
advised that he had dispatched messengers to every major city on Earth in
the name of "his excellency, Lord Clane Linn, ranking survivor on Earth of
the noble Tews, the late Lord Adviser, who perished at the head of his
troops, defending the city of Linn from the foul and murderous surprise
attack launched by a barbarian horde of beastlike men who seek to destroy
the fairest civilization that ever existed."
There was more in the same vein, but it was not the excess of
verbiage that startled Clane. It was the offer itself and the
implications. In his name an army was being organized.
After rereading the message, he walked slowly to the full-length
mirror in the adjoining bathroom and stared at his image. He was dressed
in the fairly presentable reading gown of a temple scientist. Like all his
temple clothing, the shoulder cloth folds of this concealed his
"differences" from casual view. An observer would have to be very acute to
see how carefully the cloak was drawn around his neck, and how it was
built up to hide the slant of his body from the neck down, and how tightly
the arm ends were tied together at his wrists.
It would take three months to advise Lord Jerrin on Venus and four to
reach Lord Draid on Mars, both planets being on the far side of the sun
from Earth. It would require almost, but not quite, twice as long to
receive a message from them. Only a member of the ruling family could pos-
sibly win the support of the diversified elements of the empire. Of the
fate of the Lord Adviser's immediate family, there was as yet no word.
Besides, they were women. Which left Lord Glane, youngest brother of
Jerrin, grandson of the late Lord Leader. For not less than six months
accordingly he would be the acting Lord Leader of Linn.
The afternoon of that second day of the invasion waned slowly.Great
ships began to arrive, bringing soldiers. By dusk, more than a thousand
men were encamped along the road to the city of Linn and by the riverside.
Darting small craft and the wary full-sized spaceships floated overhead,
and foot patrols were out, guarding all approaches to the estate.
The roads themselves were virtually deserted. It was too soon for the
mobs from Linn, which air-seooter scouts reported were fleeing the
captured city by the gates that, at midafternoon, were still open.
During the last hour before dark, the air patrols reported that the
gates were being shut one by one. And that the stream of refugees was
dwindling to a trickle near the darkening city. All through that last
hour, the sky was free of scooters transporting refugees. It seemed clear
that the people who could afford the costly machines were either already
safe or had waited too long, possibly in the hope of succoring some absent
member of the family.
At midinght the volunteers deparied on their dangerous mission in ten
scooters and one spaceship. As a first gesture of his new authority Glane
augmented their forces by adding a hundred soldiers from the regular army.
He watched of those general officers who had had time to arrive. A dozen
men climbed to their feet as he entered. They saluted, then stood at
Clane stoped short. He had intended to be calm, matter-of-fact,
pretending even to himself that what was happening was natural. The
feeling wasn't like that. An emotion came, familiar, terrifying. He could
feel it tingling up the remoter reflexes of his nervous system as of old,
the beginning of the dangerous childish panic, product of his early,
horrible days as a tormented mutation. The muscles of his face worked.
Three times he swallowed with difficulty. Then, with a stiff gesture, he
returned the salute, And walking hastily to the head of the table, he sat
Clane waited till they had seated themselves, then asked for brief
reports as to available troops. He noted down the figures given by each
man for his province and at the end added up the columns.
"With four provinces still to be heard from," he announced, "we have
a total of eighteen thousand trained soldiers, six thousand party trained
reserves and some five hundred thousand able-bodied civilians."
"Your excellency," said his friend Morkid, "the Linnan empire
maintains normally a standing army of one million men. On Earh by far the
greatest forces were stationed in or near the city of Linn, and they have
been annihilated. Some four hundred thousand men are still on Venus and
slightly more than two hundred thousand on Mars."
Clane, who had been mentally adding up the figures given, said
quickly, "That doesn't add up to a million men."
Morkid nodded gravely. "For the first time in years, the army is
under strength. The conquest of Venus seemed to eliminate all potential
enemies of Linn, and Lord Adviser Tews considered it a good time to
"I see," said Clane. He felt pale and bloodless, like a man who has
suddenly discovered that he cannot walk by himself.
Lydia climbed heavily out of her sedan chair, conscious of how old
and unattractive she must seem to the grinning barbarians in the
courtyard. She didn't let it worry her too much. She had been old a long
time now, and her image in a mirror no longer shocked her. The important
thing was that her request for an interview had been granted by Czinczar
after she had, at his insistence, withdrawn the proviso that she be given
a safe conduct.
The old woman smiled mirthlessly. She no longer valued highly the
combination of skin and bones that was her body. But there was
exhilaration in the realzation that she was probably going to her death.
Despite her age and some self-disgust, she felt reluctant to accept
oblivion. But Clane had asked her to take the risk. It vaguely amazed
Lydia that the idea of the mutation's holding the Lord Leadership did not
dismay her any more. She had her own private reasons for believing Clane
capable. She walked slowly along the familiar hallways through the
gleaming arches, and across rooms that glittered with the treasures of the
Linn family. Everywhere were the big, bearded young men who had come from
far Europa to conquer an empire about which they could only have heard by
hearsay. Looking at them, she felt justified in all the pitiless actions
she had taken in her day. They were, it seemed to the grim old woman
living personifications of the chaos that she had fought against all her
As she entered the throne room, the darker thoughts faded from her
mind.She glanced around with sharp eyes for the mysterious leader. There
was no one on or near the throne. Groups of men stood around talking. In
one of the groups was a tall, graceful young man, different from all the
others in the room. They were bearded. He was clean-shaven.
He saw her and stopped listening to what one of his companions was
saying, stopped so noticeably that a silence fell on the group. The
silence communicated itself to other groups. After not more than a minute,
the roomful of man had faced about and was staring at her, waiting for
their commander to speak. Lydia waited, also, examining him swiftly.
Czinczar was not a handsome man but he had an appearance of strength,
always a form of good looks.And yet it was not enough. This barbarian
world was full of strong-looking men. Lydia, who had expected outstanding
qualities, was puzzled.
His face was sensitive rather than brutal, which was unusual. But
still not enough to account for the fact that he was absolute lord of an
enormous undisciplined horde.
The great man came forward. "Lady," he said, "you have asked to see
And then she knew his power. In all her long life she had never heard
a baritone voice so resonant, so wonderfully beautiful, so assured of
command. It changed him. She realized suddenly that she had been mistaken
about his looks. She had sought normal clean-cut handsomeness. This man
The first fear came to her. A voice like that, a personality like
She had a vision of this man persuading the Linnan empire to do his
will. Mobs hypnotized. The greatest men bewitched. She broke the spell
with an effort of will. She said, "You are Czinczar?"
"I am Czinczar."
The definite identification gave Lydia another, though briefer,
pause. But this time she recovered more swiftly. And this time, also, her
recovery was complete. Her eyes narrowed. She stared at the great man with
a developing hostility. "I can see," she said acridly, "that my purpose in
coming to see you is going to fail."
"Naturally." Czinczar inclined his head, shrugged. He did not ask her
what was her purpose. He seemed incurious. He stood politely, waiting for
her to finish what she had to say.
"Until I saw you," said Lydia grimly, "I took it for granted that you
were an astute general. Now I see that vou consider yourself a man of
destiny. I can already see you being lowered into your grave."
There was an angry murmur from the other men in the room. Czinczar
waved them into silence. "Madam," he said, "such remarks are offensive to
my officers. State your case, and then I will decide what to do with you."
Lydia nodded, but she noted that he did not say that he was offended.
She sighed inwardly. She had her mental picture now of this man, and it
depressed her. All through known history these natural leaders had been
spewed up by the inarticulate masses. They had a will in them to rule or
die. But the fact that they frequently died young made no great
difference. Their impact on their times was colossal. Such a man could,
even in his death throes, drag down long-established dynasties with him.
Already he had killed the legal ruler of Linn and struck a staggering blow
at the heart of the empire. By a military freak, it was true - but history
accepted such accidents without a qualm.
Lydia said quietly, "I shall be brief since you are no doubt planning
high policy and further military campaigns. I have come here at the
request of my grandson, Lord Clane Linn."
"The mutation!" Czinczar nodded. His remark was noncommittal, an
identification, not a comment.
Lydia felt an inward shock that Czinczar's knowledge of the ruling
faction should extend to Clane, who had tried to keep himself in the
background of Linnan life. She dared not pause to consider the
potentialities. She continued quietly. "Lord Clane is a temple scientist,
and, as such, he has for many years been engaged in humanitarian scientifc
experiments. Most of his equipment unfortunately is here in Linn." Lydia
shrugged. "It is quite valueless to you and your men, but it would be a
great loss to civilization if it were destroyed or casually removed. Lord
Clane therefore requests that you permit him to send slaves to his town
house to remove these scientific instruments to his country estate. In
"Yes," echoed Czinczar, "in return -" His tone was ever so faintly
derisive; and Lydia had a sudden realization that he was playing with her.
It was not a possibility that she could pay any attention to.
"In retrn," she said, "he will pay you in precious metals and jewels
any reasonable price which you care to name." Having finished, she took a
deep breath and waited.
There was a thoughtful expression on the barbarian leader's face. "I
have heard," he said, "of Lord Clane's experiments with the so-called" -
he hesitated - "god metals of Linn. Very curious stories, some of them;
and as soon as I am free from my military duties, I intend to examine this
laboratory with my own eyes. You may tell your grandson," he continued
with a tone of finality, "that his little scheme to retrieve the greatest
treasures in the entire Linnan empire was hopeless from the beginning.
Five spaceships descended in the first few minutes of the attack on the
estate of Lord Clane to insure that the mysterious weapons there were not
used against my invading fleet, and I consider it a great misfortune that
he himself was absent in the country at the time. You may tell him that we
were not caught by surprise by his midnight attempt two days ago to remove
the equipment and that his worst fears as to its fate are justified." He
finished, "It is a great relief to know that most of his equipment is safe
in our hands."
Lydia said nothing. The phrase, "You may tell him," had had a
profound chemical effect on her body.
She hadn't realzed she was so tense. It seemed to her that if she
spoke she would reveal her own tremendous personal relief. "You may tell
him -" There could be only one interpretation. She was going to be allowed
to depart. Once more she waited.
Czinczar walked forward until he was standing directly in front of
her. Somethng of his barbarous origin, so carefully suppressed until now,
came into his manner. A hint of a sneer, the contempt of a physically
strong man for decadence, a feeling of genuine basic superiority to the
refinement that was in Lydia. When he spoke, he showed that he was
consciously aware that he was granting mercy.
"Old woman," he said, "I am letting you go because you did me a great
favor when you maneuvered your son, Lord Tews, into the - what did he call
it - Lord Advisership. That move, and that alone, gave me the chance I
needed to make my attack on the vast Linnan empire." He smiled. "You may
depart, bearing that thought in mind."
For some time, Lydia had condemned the sentimental action that had
brought Tews into supreme power. But it was a different matter to realize
that, far away in interplanetary space, a man had analyzed the move as a
major Linnan disaster. She went out without another word.
Czinczar slowly climbed the hill leading up to the low, ugly fence
that fronted Lord Clane's town house. He paused at the fence, recognized
the temple building material of which it was composed - and then walked on
thoughtfully. With the same narrow-eyed interest a few minutes later, he
stared at the gushing fountains of boiling water. He beckoned finally to
the engineer who had directed the construction of the spaceships that had
brought his army to Earth. "How does it work?" he asked.
The designer examined the base of the fountain. He was in no hurry, a
big fattish man with a reputation for telling jokes so coarse that strong
men winced with shame. He had already set up house in one of the great
palaces with three Linnan girls as mistresses and a hundred Linnan men and
women as slaves. He was a happy man, with little personal conceit and very
little pride as yet to restrain his movements. He located the opening into
the fountain and knelt in the dirt like any worker. In that, however,he
was not unique. Czinczar knelt beside him, little realizing how his
actions shocked the high-born Linnans who belonged to his personal slave
retinue. The two men peered into the gloom. "Temple building material,"
said Meewan, the designer.
Czinczar nodded. They climbed to their feet without further comment,
for these were matters that they had discussed at length over a period of
years. At the house, a few minutes later, the leader and his henchman both
lifted the heavy draperies that covered the walls of a corridor leading
into the main laboratory. Like the fence outside, the walls were warm as
from some inner heat.
Temple building material! Once again no comment passed between them.
They walked on into the laboratory proper; and now they looked at each
other in amazement. The room had been noticeably enlarged from its
original size, although this they did not know. A great section had been
torn out of one wall, and the gap, although it was completely filled in,
was still rough and unfinished. But that was only the environment. On
almost every square yard of the vast new floor were machines opaque and
machines transparent, machines big and small, some apparently complete,
others unmistakably mere fragments.
For a moment there was a distinct sense of too much to see. Czinczar
walked forward speculatively, glanced at several of the transparent
articles with an eye that tried to skim the essentials of shape and inner
design. At no time during those first moments did he have any intention of
pausing for a detailed examination. And then, out of the corner of his eye
he caught a movement.
A glow. He bent down and peered into a long, partly transparent metal
case, roughly shaped like a coffin, even as to the colorful and
costly-looking lining. The inside, however, curved down to form a narrow
channel. Along this channel rolled a ball of light. It turned over
sedately, taking approximately one minute to cover the distance to the far
side. With the same lack of haste, it paused, seemed to meditate on its
next action, and then, with immense deliberation began its return journey.
The very meaningless of the movement fascinated Czinczar. He extended
his hand gingerly to withn an inch of the ball. Nothing happened. He drew
back and pursed his lips. In spite of his attack on Linn, he was not a man
who took risks. He beckoned toward a guard. "Bring a slave," he said.
Under his direction a former Linnan nobleman, perspiring from every pore,
extended his finger and touched the moving ball. His finger went in as if
there were nothing there.
He drew back, startled. But the inexorable Czinczar was not through
with him. Once more the reluctant, though no longer quite so fearful,
finger penetrated the moving ball. The ball rolled into it, through it,
beyond it. Czinczar motioned the slave aside and stood looking at him
thoughtfully. There must have been something of his purpose in his face,
for the man gave a low cry of horror: "Master, I understand nothing of
what I have seen. Nothing. Nothing."
"Kill him," said Czinczar.
He turned, scowling, back to the machine. "There must be," he said,
and there was a stubborn note in his glorious voice, "some reason for its
movements, for - its existence."
Half an hour later he was still examining it.
"If I could only -" thought Clane many times. And knew that he dared
not. Not yet.
He had with a certain cynicism permitted the soldiers sent by Lord
Tews to remove his equipment to Linn. This included the prize of all his
findings, a ball that rolled to and fro in a coffinlike container; a
discovery of the golden age that had shaken his certainties to the core of
Because of the ball of energy he had not hesitated to let Tews take
control of the artifacts of that ancient and wonderful culture.
He need merely go into the presence of the ball and because of his
knowledge of its function could attune himself to it.
It could then be mentally controlled from a distance; all its strange
power available - for about three days. At some not precisely determinable
time on the third day, it would cease to "come" when he "called" it.
Then he would have to visit it while it was in its container and by
direct contact reestablish rapport.
It had seemed evident from Tews' action that the Lord Adviser had not
intended to bar him from the equipment. And so the location of the ball in
his own Linnan residence under guard had not mattered.
He had not despite his anxieties anticipated a major attack that
would capture Linn in one swift assault.
And so the weapon that could end the war was out of his reach, unless
he could somehow get to it by cunning means.
He did not yet feel that desperate.
Nor actually were the Linnan forces strong enough to take advantage
of a miracle.
Even as in a kind of mental agony he wondered how he would get into
Linn, and into his house, he devoted himself to the grim business of
training an army as it fought.
There was an old saying in the Linnan army to the effect that, during
his first month, a trainee, if put into battle, caused the death of his
trained companions. During the second month he hindered retreats made
necessary by his presence. And during the third month he was just good
enough to get himself killed in the first engagement.
Clane, watching a group of trainees after several weeks of drilling,
experienced all the agony of realizing how true the adage was. Learning to
fire a bow effectively required complex integration of mind and body.
In-fighting with swords had to include the capacity for cooperating with
companions. And effective spear fighting was an art in itself.
The plan he outlined that night to the full general staff was an
attempt to cover up against the weakness. It was a frank determination to
use unfit men as first-line defense troops. He put in a word for the
unfit. "Do not overexercise them. Get them out into the open air and
simply teach them the first elements of how to use weapons. First bows and
arrows, then spears, and finally swords."
After the meeting, long into the night, he examined reports on the
cities of Nouris and Gulf, which had fallen virtually without a fight. As
the barbarians attacked, the slaves simply rose up and murdered their
masters. A supplementary general-staff report recommended mass execution
for all able-bodied male slaves.
The uneasy Clane dispatched messengers to gather commercial and
industrial leaders for a morning conference and then unhappily took the
slave problem to bed with him.
At ten o'clock he called the meeting to order and told the
hundred-odd assembled representative merchants that the army had
recommended universal death for male slaves.
His statement caused an immediate uproar.
One man said, "Your excellency, it is impossible. We cannot destroy
so much valuable property."
With two exceptions, that seemed to be the attitude. Both exceptions
were young men, one of whom said, "Gentleman, this is a necessary action."
The other said, "My own feeling is that this crisis makes possible a
great progressive act - the end of slavery in Linn."
Both men were shouted down by enraged merchants.
Clane stepped forward and raised his hand. When he had silence, he
began. "There is no time for half-measures. We must adopt one or the other
of these alternatives."
There followed a series of conferences among groups of merchants.
Finally a bland spokesman said, "Your excellency, the merchants here
present favor promising the slaves freedom."
For a long moment Clane gazed at his grinning audience, then abruptly
turned his back on them and left the room. That afternoon he prepared a
FREEDOM FOR LOYAL SERVANTS
By order of his excellency, Lord Clane Linn, Leader of Linn, temple
scientist, beloved of the Atom Gods themselves, it is hereby commanded,
and so it shall be forevermore:
GREETINGS to all those good men and women who have quietly and
efficiently served the empire in atonement for sins of leaders who rashly
led them into hopeless wars against the god-protected Linnan empire - here
is the chance of complete freedom that you have earned by your actions and
attitudes during the past years.
The empire has been attacked by a cruel and barbarous invader. His
reign of terror cannot but be temporary, for invincible forces are
gathering against him, An army of a million men is on the way from Mars
and Venus, and here on Earth irresistible forces totaling more than two
million men are already organizing for battle.
The enemy numbers less than sixty thousand soldiers. To this small
army, which gained its initial victory by a surprise and base attack, a
few foolish men and women have rashly attached themselves. All the women,
unless they are convicted of major crimes,will be spared. For the men who
have already gone over to the enemy, there is but one hope: Escape immedi-
ately from the barbarian enemy and REPORT TO THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS
listed at the bottom of this proclamation. There will be no guards at the
camps, but weekly roll calls will be made. And every man whose name
appears regularly on these rolls will be granted full freedom when the
enemy is defeated.
For hardened recalcitrants the penalty is death.
To those men and women still loyally serving at their appointed
tasks, I, Lord Clane, acting Lord Leader of Linn, give the following
All women and children will remain at their present residences,
continuing to serve as in the past. All men report to their masters and
say, "It is my intention to take advantage of the offer of Lord Clane.
Give me a week's food so that I, too, may report to a concentration camp."
Having done this, and having received the food, leave at once. DO NOT
DELAY A SINGLE HOUR.
If for some reason your master is not at home, take the food and go
without permission. No one will hinder you in your departure from the
Any man to whom this order applies who is found lurking within any
city or town twenty-four hours after this proclamation is posted will be
suspected of treasonable intent.
The penalty is death.
Any man who after one week is found within a fiftymile radius of a
city will be suspected of treasonable intent.
The penalty is death.
To save yourself, go to a concentration camp and appear regularly for
roll call. If the barbarians attack your camp, scatter into the forests
and hills and hide, or go to another camp. Adequate food rations will be
supplied all camps.
All those of proven loyalty will receive freedom when the war is
over. They will immediately have the right to marry. Settlement land will
be opened up. After five years citizenship rights, granted alien
immigrants, will be available on application.
This is the end of slavery in the Linnan empire.
BE WISE - BE SAFE - BE FREE
It was a document that had its weak points. Before issuing it, Clane
spent time arguing its merits to a group of doubtful officers - he ignored
the merchants; they were too venal to be considered. He pointed out that
it would be impossible to keep secret a general order for mass execution.
A majority of the slaves would escape, and then they would really be
dangerous. He admitted that the proclamation, though he meant every word
of the promise in it, was full of lies. A million slaves in Linn alone had
gone over to Czinczar, many of them trained soldiers. Czinczar could use
them to garrison any city he might capture and thus have his own army free
for battle. It was Morkid, sardonic and scathing, who ended the argument
late in the afternoon.
"Gentlemen," he said, "you do not seem to be aware that our
commander-in-chief has at one stroke cut through all our illusions and
false hopes, and penetrated straight to the roots of the situation in
which we find ourselves. What is clear by the very nature of our
discussion is that we have no choice." His voice went up. "In this period
when disaster is so imminent, we are fortunate in having as our leader a
genius of the first rank who has already set us on the only military path
that can lead to victory.
"Gentlemen" - his voice rang with the tribute - "I give you Lord
Clane Linn, acting Lord Leader of Linn."
The clapping lasted for five minutes.
Clane watched the battle for Goram from a patrol craft that darted
from strong point to strong point. Enemy squadrons tried again and again
to close in on him, but his own machine was faster and more maneuverable.
The familiar trick of getting above him was tried, an old device in
patrol craft and spaceship fighting. But the expected energy flow upward
did not take place. His small vessel did not even sag, which was normally
the minimum reaction when two sources of atomic energy operated on a
The efforts worried Clane. Czinczar was, of course, aware by this
time that his enemy knew more about the metals of the gods than he or his
technicians. But it would be unfortunate if they should conclude from the
actions of this one ship that Clane himself was inside. He wanted to see
this battle. In spite of evening, minute by minute, he saw it.
The defense was tough, tougher than he had anticipated from the fact
that four more cities had fallen in the past four weeks. The untrained
were fighting grimly for their lives. Arrows took a toll of the attackers.
Spears, awkwardly but desperately manipulated, inflicted wounds and
sometimes death. The sword-fighting stage was the worst. The muscular and
powerful barbarians, once they penetrated the weapons that could attack
them from a distance, made shortwork of their weaker adversaries.
The first line was down, devastated, defeated. The secondline battle
began. Barbarian reserves came forward and were met by waves of arrows
that darkened the sky - and took their toll when they struck the advancing
groups of men. Hoarse cries of pain, curses, the shrieks of the
desperately wounded, the agonized horror of Linnans suddenly cut off and
doomed, rose up to the ears of those in the darting small craft. The
defenders strove to stay together. That was part of their instrnctions.
Retreat slowly to the central squares - which were strongly held against a
surprise rear attack.
Retreat, and at the last minute spaceships would land and rescue the
hard-pressed, but theoretically still intact army of what had once been
able-bodied civifians. After a month and a half of training they were too
valuable to sacrifice in a last-ditch fight.
As it was, their dogged resistance was shaping the pattern of the
war. Surely, Czinczar, counting his men after each battle, must already be
having his own private doubts, His armyas a whole, augmented by the
unrepentant among the slaves, was increasing daily. But the larger the
army grew, the smaller was his chance of controlling it.
Yet there was no doubt about this battle, or this city, As the dark
tide of night slipped in from the east, victory fires began to burn in all
the important streets. The smoke wreathed into the sky, and blood-red
flames licked up into the blackness. The Linnans below, at this very
moment enduring the beginning of a barbarian occupation, would not be in a
humor to appreciate that their grudgingly accepted defeat represented a
possible turning point in the war.
The time had come to decide when and where and under what conditions
the main Linnan force would be thrown into a decisive battle for the
control of the planet. And there was another decision, also, involving an
immensely risk attempt to get near the ball of light. Clane shifted
uneasily and drew his cloak tightly around his thin shoulders.
He was still considering ways and means when a message was brought
him by a released Linnan nobleman who had been captured by the barbarians.
The message was a one-sentence question from Czinczar. "Have you ever
wondered, my dear Lord Clane, how the civilization of the golden age was
so completely destroyed?"
It was a problem about which Clane had pondered many times. But it
had never occured to him that the answer might be known to a barbarian
from a remote moon of Jupiter.
He questioned the released nobleman, a middle-aged knight of the
empire, as to conditions in Linn. The answers were not pleasant. Many
slaves had taken revenge on their former masters. Numerous Linnan women of
rank had been reduced to the status of prostitute.
In questioning the man for any news of his Linnan residence, he
learned that Czinczar had publicly invited temple scientists to take care
of "certain relics" formerly in the possession of Lord Clane.
Clane said at that point, "He actually mentioned my name."
"It was posted," was the reply, and the man shrugged. "I read it on
one of my errands out of the palace grounds."
Long after the interview was over, Clane considered that. He
suspected a trap - and yet Czinczar could not know how immensely valuable
that sphere was.
If the barbarian leader had looked into it through a hollow tube, he
might be startled at what was "inside." But still it would do him no good.
Nevertheless, suppose it was a trap.
It still made no difference. For his purpose, momentary proximity to
the ball was all that would be required. Dared he take the chance?
He was still considering the gamble when another released nobleman
brought a second message from Czinczar:
I shall like to have a conversation with you and should like to show
you an object the like of which - I'll wager - you have never seen. Can
you think of a way in which such a meeting could be arranged?
Lord Clane showed the message to the general staff at its meeting the
following morning. They unanimously forbade such a rendezvous but agreed
that it was an opportunity to send a formal message to the barbarian
The mutation, who had his own reasons for appearing firm, had already
written the communication. He read it to the assembled officers:
To the barbarian chieftain, Czinczar:
Your cowardly attempt to win mercy for your crimes against humanity
by a personal appeal to myself is of no avail. Get off this planet with
your barbarous forces. Only immediate compliance can save you and Europa
from destruction. Take heed!
Acting Lord Leader
The message was approved and dispatched in the care of a captured
barbarian officer. Clane began immediately to complete preparations for
launching an attack against the city of Linn. Such an attack had been
discussed several times by the staff and had been agreed on reluctantly,
as a feint. The generals felt that a landing might confuse the defenders
of the city and thus enable the Linnan army to recapture key outlying
cities, which would indeed be the real goal. It was understood that the
assault force would withdraw from Linn during the night of the day of
Clane was content with this. He set out for the city of Linn the day
before the attack, making the initial part of the journey in an air
scooter. From this, in a secluded spot, he unloaded a donkey and a cart of
vegetables, and trudged beside it the final twelve miles.
In his drab work garb of a temple initiate, he was one of many carts;
and at no time was there any problem. So vast was the slave army that held
Linn that Gzinczar's forces had quickly sought to establish a normal flow
of food from the surrounding countryside into the city to ward off
Linnan scouts had long since reported that the gates were open.
Clane entered without interference from the former slaves who guarded
that particular gate. Once inside, he was even less conspicuous, and no
one questioned his right to go along the street toward his city residence.
He climbed the hill at the trades entrance and was permitted to take his
cart through an opening in the low fence by the single barbarian soldier
who guarded that section of it.
Dutifully, as if he were sent on lawful business, he headed for the
trades entrance of the house, and he turued the vegetables over to two
women and said, "Who is in charge today?"
He was given a barbarian name, "Cleedon!"
"Where is he?" Clane asked.
"In the office of course-through there." The older woman pointed
along the main hallway, which led through the large central room where
most of the precious machinery and equipment had been stored.
As he entered the great room, he saw that there were a dozen
barbarian soldiers at the various entiances. He saw also that the
container with the ball of light was at the center of the chamber.
... Misty sphere, vaguely glowing as if from an inner flame, rolling
to and fro ...
He could walk by and touch it in passing.
Without appearing too hurried, he walked forward, put his finger
through the flimsy surface of the sphere, and, without pausing, continued
on toward the office.
He was sorely tempted, at this point, to take no further chances. If
he acted at once and seized the house, then he would have control of the
But if he carried through with his original plan and then the box
were removed so that he could not find it during the three days that the
sphere would not be activated - He shuddered and refused to think of such
He had been impressed by Czinczar's communications. The barbarian
leader had important information to give. Somehow, somewhere, he had
gotten hold of an object so valuable that he had risked his self-esteem in
attempting to establish contact.
If too hasty action were taken, that knowledge might be lost.
Even as he walked on through the room, the mutation silently
reaffirmed his purpose. A moment later he entered the office and informed
the barbarian officer there that he had come for the job of taking care of
the relics of the atom gods.
The big man stood up and squinted down at him, gave an almost naive
start of recognition, and then called two soldiers from the hallway.
And then he said, "Lord Clane Linn, you are under arrest.'
To one of the soldiers he commanded, "Get ropes. Tie him up."
Meekly, the mutation submitted to being bound.
The moment the news arrved, Czinczar headed for Linn. He was met on
the roof of the central palace by Meewan. The big man had a smile on his
plump, good-fellow face. "Your theory was right," he said admiringly. "You
thought he would take a chance at the critical period of the invasion. He
arrived this morning."
"Tell me exactly how you accepted his services." The golden voice
spoke softly. The strange face was thoughtful as the other man gave his
detailed account. There seemed no end to his interest. When the story was
finished, he asked question after question. Each answer seemed merely to
stimulate new questions. Meewan said finally, querulously:
"Your excellency, I have no doubt that our men have put the best face
on the capture to make themselves look good. They claim to have captured
him as he entered the building, before he could do anything or touch
anything. Since they're a lax bunch of rascals, I question this. But what
does it matter? What are you doubtful about?"
That gave Czinczar pause; he had not realized how tense he was. After
all, he told himself, the situation was simple enough. He had issued an
open invitation for temple scientists to come and take care of "some
god-metal relics" that had fallen into possession of the conquerors. It
was a cleverly worded request, designed to win general approval from the
defeated even as it drew the temple scientist to his own undoing, Its only
stipulation, very guardedly worded, was that in return for the privilege
of sharing the "safe-guarding of the relics," experiments should be
continued as if no war were being waged.
"The gods," Czinczar had said sanctimoniously in the invitation, "
are above the petty quarrels of mankind."
Apparently, at least one of its purposes was accomplished. The
mutation himself had applied for the job. Czinczar meditated cautiously on
tactics. "Bring him here," he said finally. "We can't take any risks of
his having established control over anthing at his house. We know too
little and he too much."
While he waited, he examined the rod of force - which was one of the
few workable instruments that had been found in the house. He was not a
man who accepted past truths as final. That it had worked a week ago did
not mean that it would work now. He tested it from a great window,
pointing it at the upper foliage of a nearby tree. No sound, no visible
light spewed forth - but the upper section of the tree crashed down onto a
pathway below. Czinczar experienced the satisfaction of a logical man
whose logic had proved correet. It was not an uncommon satisfaction. From
the early days when he had been a backcountry transcriber of messages to
the days of his rise to power, he had taken risks that seemed necessary,
no more, no less. Even now he could not be sure that the atomic wizard,
Lord Clane, would not defeat him by some decisive wile. For several
minutes, he pondered that and then ordered a box brought in from the ice
room of the palace. The contents of the box had come all the way from
Europa packed in ice. He was indicating to the slaves where to place the
box when an officer burst breathlessly into the throne room.
"Excellency," he cried. "Hundreds of spaceships. It's an attack."
Standing at the windows a moment later, watching the ships settling
down, Czin~ar realized that his hazy suspicions had been correct. The
appearance of Clane in the city was part of a planned maneuver that would
now run its deadly course. It was a pleasure to know that Lord Clane
himself was caught in a trap.
He wasted no time watching a battle that he could not hope to see
from the palace in any important detail. Nor did he have the feeling Tews
had had months earlier that it was necessary for commanders to know where
he was in the early stages of the engagement. He issued quick
instructions, ordering the ice-packed box sent after him, and wrote a note
for Meewan. Then he rode with a strong escort to the headquarters of the
reserve army in the middle of the city.
The reserve contained a barbarian core, but like the main defense of
the city it was overwhelmingly made up of slaves. Czinczar's arrival was
greeted by a roar of excitement. The cheers did not die down until long
afier he had entered the building.
He talked over the situation with some of the slave officers and
found them calm and confident. According to their estimates sixty thousand
Linnan soldiers had landed in the first wave. That that was exactly the
number of barbarians who had originally invaded the city did not seem to
occur to the slaves. But the comparison struck Czinczar sharply. He
wondered if it was designed to have some symbolic meaning. The possibility
made him sardonic. Not symbols but swords spoke the language of victory.
As the afternoon dragged on, the Linnan attack was being held
everywhere. The box, still dripping, was delivered from the palace about
three. Since there was no longer any immediate danger, Czinczar sent a
messenger to Meewan. At three-thirty Meewan came in grinning broailly. He
was followed by slave Linnans carrying a sedan chair. In the chair, bound
hand and foot, was the acting Lord Leader of Linn. There was complete
silence as the chair was set down, and the slaves withdrew.
Clane studied the barbarian leader with genuine interest. Lady
Lydia's opinion of the man had impressed him more than he cared to admit.
The question was, could this strong, fine-looking military genius be
panicked into thinking that the atom gods existed? Panicked now, during
the next half hour? Fortunately, for the first time in his career as an
atomic scientist, he had behind him the greatest power ever developed by
the wizards of the fabulous days of the legends. He saw that the
impersonal expression on the other's face was transforming into the
beginning of contempt.
"By the god pits," said Czinczar in disgust, "you Linnans are all the
same - weaklings every one.
Clane said nothing. He had looked often with regret into mirrors that
showed him exactly what Czinczar was seeing. A slim, young man with a face
that was white and womanish and ... well, it couldn't be helped.
Czinczar's face changed again. There was suddenly irony in it. "I am
speaking," he asked politely, "to Lord Clane Linn? We have not made a
Clane couldn't let the opening pass. "No mistake," he said quietly.
"I came into Linn for the sole purpose of talking to you while the battle
was on. And here I am."
It must have sounded ridiculous, coming from a man bound as he was.
The near guards guffawed, and Meewan giggled. Only Czinczar showed no
sign. And his marvelous voice was as steady as steel as he said, "I have
not the time to flirt with words, nor the inclination. I can see that you
are counting on something to save you, and I presume it has something to
do with your knowledge of atomic energy."
He fingered the rod of force suggestively. "So far as I can see, we
can kill you in less than a second whenever we desire."
Clane shook his head. "You are in error. It is quite impossible for
you to kill me."
There was a sound from Meewan. The engnieer came forward. "Czinczar,"
he said darkly, "this man is intolerable. Give me permission to slap his
face, and we shall see if his atom gods protect him from indignity."
Czinczar waved him aside. But he stared down at the prisoner with
eyes that were abnormally bright. The swiftness with which tension had
come into the room amazed him. And, incredibly, it was the prisoner who
had seized the advantage - "Impossible to kill me!" In one sentence he
dared them to make the attempt.
There was a crinkle of frown in Czinczar's forehead. He had been
careful in his handling of Clane as a matter of common sense, not because
he actually anticipated disaster. But now, quite frankly, he admitted to
himself that the man was not reacting normally. The words Clane had spoken
had a ring in them, a conviction that could no longer be ignored.The
purpose of his own invasion of the Linnan empire could be in danger.
He said urgently, "I have something to show you. No attempt will be
made to kill you until you have seen it. For your part, do nothing hasty,
take no action, whatever power you have, until you have gased with
He was aware of Meewan's giving him an astounded glance.
"Power!" exclaimed the designer and it was like a curse. "The power
Czinczar paid no attention. This was his own special secret, and
there could be no delay.
"Guards "he said "bring the box over here." It was soaking wet when
they brought it. It left a dirty trail of water on the priceless rug, and
a pool began to accumulate immediately in the place where it was set down.
There was a delay while sweating men pried off the top. Even the guards at
far doors strained to see the contents. A gasp of horror broke the tension
What was inside was about eight feet long. Its width was
indeterminable, for it seemed to have folds in its body that gave an
impression of great size. It had obviously died only a short time before
it was packed in ice. It looked fresh, almost alive, there in its case of
ice, unhuman, staring with sightless eyes at the ornate ceiling.
"Where did you get it?" Clane asked at last.
"It was found on one of the moons - within hours after a strange ship
"How long ago?" The mutation spoke in a steady tone.
"Two years, Earth time."
"It would seem that whoever was in the ship will have departed by
Czinczar shook his head. "Miners found a second body exactly like
this on a meteorite in a spacesuit - seven months ago."
For a long time the mutation gazed down at the creature. Finally he
looked, and his eyes met Czinczar's waiting gaze. He said slowly, "What is
"A nonhuman race of great scientific attainments. Ruthless,
unfriendly - for there are reports of sudden destruction in outlying areas
of Europa which puzzled me until this body was found ... I tend to wonder
if this might not be a second visitation to the solar system. I cannot
give you briefly all the logical relationships I have visualized, but my
feeling is that the civilization of the golden age was destroyed by the
Clane said, "I am glad that you have shown me this, but what is your
purpose in doing so?
Czinczar drew a deep breath. And made his second move to avert the
catastrophe suggested by every action and manner of this unorthodox
prisoner. He said, "It would be a grave error for either of us to destroy
each other's armies."
"You are asking for mercy?"
That was too strong to take. The barbarian showed his teeth in a
snarl. "I am asking for common sense," he said.
"It's impossible" said Clane "The people must have their revenge. In
victory they will accept nothng less than your death."
The words brought an obscene curse from Meewan. "Czinczar," he
shouted "what is all this nonsense? I have never seen you like this. I
follow no man who accepts defeat in advance. I'll show you what we'll do
with this ... this - " He broke off, "Guards, put a spear into him."
Nobody moved. The soldiers looked uneasily at Czinczar, who nodded
coolly. "Go right ahead," he said. "If he can be killed, I'd like to
Still nobody moved. It was apparenfly too mild an order, or something
of the leader's tension had communicated to the men. They looked at each
other, and they were standing there doubtfully when Meewan snatched a
sword from one of them and turned toward the bound man.
That was as far as he got. Where he had been was a ball of light.
"Try," came the voice of Clane "to use the rod of force against me."
A fateful pause. "Try. It won't kill you."
Czinczar raised the rod of force and pressed the activator. Nothing
happened - Wait! The ball of light was growing brighter.
Clane's voice split the silence tantalizingly. "Do you still not
believe in the gods?"
"I am astonished," said Czinczar "that you do not fear the spread of
superstition more than the spread of knowledge. We so-called barbarians,
"he said proudly," despise you for your attempt to fence in the human
spirit. We are freethinkers, and all your atomic energy will fail in the
end to imprison us."
He shrugged. "As for your control over that ball, I do not pretend to
At last, he had shocked the mutation out of his ice-cold manner. "You
actually," said Clane incredulously, "do not believe in the atom gods?"
"Guards," shouted Czinczar piercingly, "attack him from every side."
The ball of light flickered but did not seem to move. There were no
"Now do you believe?" Clane asked.
The barbarian looked haggard and old. But he shook his head. "I have
lost the war," he mumbled. "Only that I recognize. It is up to you to take
up the mantle which has fallen from my shoulders." He broke off. "What in
the name of your gods is that ball?"
"It contains the entire sidereal universe." Czinczar kint his brow
and leaned forward as if he were trying to understand.
"The what universe?" he asked at last.
"When you look inside through a hollow tube," Clane explained
patiently, "you see stars. It's like a window into space - only it's not a
window. It's the universe itself."
The barbarian leader looked genuinely bewildered, "This universe?" he
Clane nodded but made no comment. It hadn't been easy to grasp so
vast an idea, even with the written explanations that he had found.
Czinczar shook his head. "You mean the Earth is in there?" He pointed
at the glowing sphere.
"It's a fourth-dimensional idea," said Clane; and still he remained
patient. He could recognize a bemused man when he saw one. It was not the
moment to press any other point.
The barbarian narrowed his eyes and said at last, "How can you get a
large object into a smaller one?" His tone appealed for a logical
Clane shrugged. "When largeness or smallness are illusions of
viewpoints, the problem does not exist."
Czinczar scowled at that and straightened. "I have been assuming," he
said, "that at this point in our relations you would be speaking nothing
but truth. Evidently, you are not prepared to tell me anything valid about
your weapon. Naturally, I reject this fanciful story."
Clane shook his head but said nothing. He had given the only
explanation he had, and it had run up against the other man's magnificent
realism. Not that he blamed the barbarian. Only gradually had he himself
been able to accept the idea that matter and energy were different than
they appeared to the sense perceptions of the body.
But now it was time to act, to force, to convince. The bonds fell
from him as if they did not exist. He stood up, and now that crown among
all the jewels of the ages rode above his head in a matchless perfect
rhythm with his movements.
Czinczar said stubbornly, "It would be a mistake to kill any
able-bodied man, slave or otherwise."
Clane said, "The gods demand absolute surrender."
Czinczar said in fury, "You fool, I am offering you the solar system!
Has this monster in the box not changed your mind in the slightest
"But then -"
"I do not," said Clane, believe in joint-leadership arrangements."
A pause. Then Czinczar said, "You have come far - who once used
atomic power merely to stay alive."
"Yes," said Clane, "I have come far."
Czinczar frowned down at the thing in the box. "The real threat to
Linn is there. Will you promise to try for the Lord Leadership?"
"I," Clane said, "can promise nothing."
They looked at each other, two men who almost understood each other.
It was Czinczar who broke the silence. "I make an absolute surrender," he
said and it was a sigh, "to you and you alone, of all my forces - in the
belief that you have the courage and common sense to shrik none of your
new duties as Protector of the Solar System. It was a role," he finished
somewhat unnocessarily, suddenly gloomy, "that I originally intended for
In a well-guarded room in a remote suburb of Linn a core of energy
rolled sedately back and forth along a narrow path. In all the solar
system there was nothing else like that core. It looked small, but that
was an illusion of man's senses. The books that described it and the men
who had written the books knew but a part of its secrets.
They knew that the micro-universe inside it pulsed with a multiform
of minus forces. It reacted to cosmic rays and atomic energy like some
insatiable sponge. No submolecular energy released in its presence could
escape it. And the moment it reached its own strange variation of critical
mass it could start a meson chain reaction in anything it touched.
One weakness it had, and men had seized upon that in their own greedy
fashion. It imitated thought. Or so it seemed. So it seemed.
The great question that Clane, and before him the ancients, asked
after observing this remarkable characteristic was: Did this mean that ...
man controlled the universe or that the universe controlled man?