Сборники Художественной, Технической, Справочной, Английской, Нормативной, Исторической, и др. литературы.


    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.
    His Excellency,
    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
was beautiful.
    The first fear came to her. A voice like  that,  a  personality  like
that -
    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
return -"
    "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
his being.
    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
special bulletin:

                        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
    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.

    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
gravity line.
    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
an eventuality.
    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
he has!"
    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
of waiting.
    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
was sighted."
    "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
your theory?"
    "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
first visitation."
    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
understand it."
    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
said blankly.
    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
    "It has."
    "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?

Яндекс цитирования