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Title: Spoilers of the Spaceways
Author: W. Bradford Martin
Release Date: January 21, 2021 [eBook #64359]
Language: English
Character set encoding: UTF-8
Produced by: Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at

Spoilers of the Spaceways


Out beyond hyper-space soared the
transmuted Terran—to Trygon II—where all
mad men die willingly for the Empress.

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Planet Stories July 1953.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

It could be said that the Resistance began at the moment the great spaceship from Trygon II first appeared as an unknown body on the photographic plates at Palomar, for while the astronomers propounded theories as to its origin and composition, it entered our atmosphere and came to earth on the runways of Idlewild Airport, just outside of what was then New York City. Nothing need be said of the panic caused by its coming.

Three Trygonians went immediately in a ground car to the United Nations Building in the city. The records of their pronouncement have, unfortunately, been lost, but from subsequent events it has been established that they granted Terra fifteen days to submit to Trygonia.

Then they returned to space.

Fifteen days later they returned and crushed the feeble opposition they encountered.

Ross Savage was tired of seeing nothing but white; the walls and ceiling of his small, windowless room, the few pieces of utilitarian furniture and the sheets covering the narrow bed, which sagged under the weight of his muscularly massive, six-foot five-inch frame. He was tired too, of the white bandages on his hands and, although he could not see them, the white bandages that swathed his head and face, leaving only slits for his eyes and mouth.

Today is the day, he thought. Why don't they come? As if in answer to his unspoken question the door latch clicked. Savage turned his head stiffly to watch the door open. As it swung wide the doctor entered, followed by General Strathmore and two nurses guiding a wheeled tray.

"It's time to take them off," the doctor said. No one answered, but Savage felt his hands grow sweaty in their wrappings.

As the group reached the bed a nurse handed the doctor a pair of surgical scissors. He bent over Savage as he said, "We'll take the hands first."

There was no sound other than the snip-snip of the scissors as the doctor carefully cat through the gauze. Finally the sound stopped and Savage looked at his hands. They were white and soft, but there were no scars to betray the fingerprint change.

The doctor permitted himself a small smile of satisfaction, but the room was pregnant with tension as he turned his attention to the gauze covering Savage's head.

The snip-snip came again as the cold steel slid slowly over his skin. An eternity passed before the sound again ceased and a nurse carefully removed the freed gauze. For a long moment there was no sound and Savage looked anxiously from face to face and tried to interpret what he read there. The nurses stared in disgust and horror while the doctor looked satisfied. The General beamed.

"Beautiful job," the General said finally, and the doctor nodded in agreement.

"Let me see," Savage croaked through stiff lips.

A nurse took the hand mirror from the bedside table and held it in front of him. From the glass the bearded face of a Trygonian stared at him; there was no mistaking the narrow chin, the high, broad cheekbones and aquiline nose.

Almost a month later Savage stood at attention in the General's office. He wore the flamboyantly brilliant uniform of a Trygonian officer. Medals and orders sparkled on his breast. His new face wore a sardonic scowl.

"Fleet captain Choon reporting, sir," he said, and the General's stern face relaxed to a half smile.

"Sit down, Ross," the General invited and indicated the chair beside his desk. "So you're ready to go, eh? How do you like yourself?"

"Well," Savage smiled, "I have to keep myself from going for my gun when I see myself in a mirror, but outside of that I'm pretty used to it by now."

"We've made tremendous strides in the twenty years since we went underground. I guess it was the pressure. But Phillips told me that by every test you're a Trygonian. I hope however, that you haven't become one emotionally. That was the one thing we were afraid of when we decided to use the Ceregraph. Choon died, of course, but how was it for you?"

"Nothing to it, sir. I just seemed to go to sleep and when I awoke I knew everything Choon knew, but Doctor Phillips almost drove me crazy testing me to find out whether I'd picked up Choon's mental outlook. Apparently, though, the Ceregraph transfers only knowledge, not emotions."

"Thank the Lord," exclaimed the General heavily.

"I want to thank you for this opportunity," Savage said. "I've wanted to do something concrete against them since they killed my parents twenty years ago."

"Whether or not you can do something concrete is up to you." The General was stern again. "You were chosen because of your physical and mental qualifications. You just happened to be Choon's exact physical double. Fortunately he was rather shorter than the average Trygonian."

"Doctor Phillips told me that, except for size, there is no anatomical difference between the Trygonians and ourselves," said Savage. "It is his theory that the highest intelligent life form on any planet suitable to the evolution of intelligent life will be a humanoid type."

"That may be possible, but exact duplication seems strange," the General said. "Although I'm interested in Trygon I haven't had a chance to read your report. I think you have time to fill me in on some of the details. Why do they call their planet Trygon II?"

"Trygon is the name of their sun," explained Savage. "Their system consists of three planets, Trygon I, II and III. Until about seven hundred years ago only the middle planet, Trygon II was inhabited by their race. Then they discovered a method of utilizing Solar energy directly and what amounted to a social revolution took place.

"At the time, Trygon II was divided into a number of countries. The discovery was made in a country called Czur and with it Czur conquered the rest of the planet. They used pretty brutal methods, but they welded the entire planet into one country using one language and having one ruler.

"Space was the next step and they explored the other planets. The innermost one was hot and lush and eventually they tamed it and now they grow all their food there. The third planet, as might be expected was cold and bare, but it was fantastically rich in minerals. They transferred their mining and manufacturing to the third planet, leaving Trygon II the center of trade, the rich and the military.

"There are a number of commercial space-ports but only one military. It's near the capital city, named Czur in honor of the country that started it all.

"Two hundred years ago they ventured into deep space. Earth is the fifth humanoid planet they have conquered."

"That's quite a history," said the General. "What form of government do they have?"

"Autocratic. The Emperor is the supreme authority, but the High Commissioner works out the details and sees that the orders are carried out. All military matters are in the hands of the Emperor and in that respect the High Commissioner is just a figure head. As you can imagine there is a good deal of intrigue."

"Yes, I can see that there would be," agreed the General. He glanced at the wall clock. "But it's almost H-hour."

"Are there any last orders?" Savage asked.

The General smiled wryly. "It might be said that there were no first orders. You're on your own, Ross. We don't know what you can do, but if you can get into one of their intrigue groups you should be able to do something. The rank of Fleet captain carries a lot of weight. All I can say is be careful and do your best.

"The skeleton crew is moving out and the station is going on automatic as soon as you leave."

Savage stood up, saluted and then the General took his hand and shook it warmly. Savage turned and walked out of the office without looking back.

Outside two guards waited and they walked together down a long hall to a bare, cement-walled room. There was only one way to make sure that he would look like an escaped prisoner and they had to make sure. So they fought and when they were through, his uniform was a sad caricature of its former splendor and he had the beginnings of a black eye.

He shook hands with the two men and then went up three flights of stairs where the Trygonian patrol ship waited. There was no one in sight as he climbed into the ship and roared away, but anti-aircraft guns opened up almost immediately. Savage smiled grimly as he saw the shells burst a safe distance from him.

Then, as he was almost out of range, the ship lurched from the blast of a near miss. A hole appeared in the hull beside him and he saw his sleeve rip and redden as a fragment cut across his arm. He switched on the automatics and cursed the unknown gunner as he crudely bandaged the flesh wound with part of his already torn shirt. At least, he thought finally, it would add verisimilitude to his story.

An hour later he crash-landed on the outskirts of what had once been Denver, Colorado, and what was now the Trygonian Capital for North America. Then he settled down to wait for the Trygonians.

Something less than ten minutes passed before a ground car skidded to a stop near the wrecked ship. Two Trygonian soldiers jumped out with hand-blasters at the ready. More sedately, as befitted his rank, a Senior Lieutenant followed and Savage walked briskly to meet him. The Lieutenant eyed Savage dubiously for a brief moment and then snapped to the salute.

"At ease," Savage ordered. "Take me to Headquarters immediately."

"Yes, sir," the Lieutenant replied and followed Savage into the car. It was evident that he was wondering why such an exalted personage as a full Fleet captain should appear in a single place patrol ship and in this condition, but Savage let him wonder. The soldiers reentered the car and they sped away with a full-throated roar.

Savage remained grimly silent as they roared through the Trygonian capital. Trygonians were everywhere, but still Earthmen predominated, and Savage wondered what had induced them to remain. There were probably many reasons, he decided, for man in spite of everything must live somewhere and he must eat. After twenty years they were probably used to it.

He had lived briefly in Denver as a child, but nothing remained now of the city he had known. The old buildings had been blasted during the invasion and starkly functional ferro-concrete had replaced the rubble. At the very site of the old State Capitol the Trygonians had raised a towering structure to house the offices of the High Command.

They filed into the building and, as the Lieutenant had done, the honor guard eyed him dubiously before snapping to attention. Savage strode haughtily between them and finally, after a succession of guards and lesser officers, he was ushered into the presence of Vice Admiral Harna lor-Harna.

"Fleet captain Choon," he announced.

The Admiral was tremendous. He towered a full foot over Savage and his heavily decorated uniform was stretched tightly over a majestic paunch. His great jowls moved loosely as he boomed:

"Choon, by the great Galactic Gods. I knew your father on the old Arrano. He was the best Executive Officer I ever had.

"But sit down—you may leave, Lieutenant—and tell me what you are doing here. What happened to your uniform?"

"I was taken by the Terrans." The Admiral's eyes became icy chips. "I have just escaped from a Terran stronghold...."

"Have you, by the Eternal Stars," the Admiral interrupted. "Too many of our men have vanished in spite of reprisals, but this is the first definite proof of an organized movement. Where is it?"

"About five hundred ling North in the mountains," Savage said and the Admiral went into action. With his left hand he flipped a switch and a colored relief map of the area sprang into view on the wall, while with his right hand he pushed up a row of communicator buttons.

"Ready three attack units for immediate takeoff," he roared. "I will take personal command. Have my car at gate three."

With the buttons still up he asked, "What is the exact location?"

Savage moved quickly to the map and examined it closely. After a moment's hesitation he said, "As closely as I can make it, it was zone three, sector five. It was well camouflaged."

The Admiral roared the location into the communicator and slammed down the buttons. With swiftness surprising for one of his bulk he strode to the door.

"You will come with me in my flagship, Choon. These miserable savages won't give us much of a fight, but it may be of some interest. We'll both be decorated for this."


An hour and twenty minutes later the fifteen unit fleet was hovering high over the Canadian Rockies, zone three, sector five. At the Admiral's direction Savage examined the mountain below through the electronic scanners. Although he knew there was no one left in the hidden cavern below him it was an effort to point it out, it had been his home for a long time.

The Admiral barked co-ordinates into the microphone and then barked an order. One ship detached itself from the formation and dived toward the hidden entrance of the cavern, its heat guns burning great swaths through trees and brush. It made a second pass and antiquated anti-aircraft guns opened up, tearing the air futilely.

Savage barely suppressed a start of surprise before remembering that the guns were automatic-radar controlled.

The Admiral roared into the microphone again: "Squadron three cover, one and two land and deploy for attack. Remember, I want prisoners."

As the ships descended the anti-aircraft guns opened up again from their now revealed turrets and as they fired the Trygonian guns blasted them into so much molten scrap. Finally they were completely silenced and the attack ships landed and the soldiers deployed. They were almost to the entrance and Savage was beginning to wonder what had happened to the trips, when an Atomic blast took away the side of the mountain.

The troops and five Trygonian ships went with it.

The Admiral had had within his grasp a stronghold of the resistance and he had lost it. It could be argued that the loss could not have been avoided, but in his service such an argument was not admissible. A full report was sent to Trygon II and both the Admiral and Choon were recalled.

The three ships which first found Terra had been equipped with ordinary Space Drive and had been in space for more than eighteen years. Lacking a radio which would cover the immense distance, one of the ships had taken a second eighteen years to make a report of the conquest. But in the meantime both space radio and Space Warp had been achieved, and forty-five days after the abortive attack they were on Trygon II.

They were placed under house arrest in hotel suites and two days later the Admiral was given a swift trial. He was demoted three grades and then given permission to retire.

Having extracted the penalty for failure from its Admiral the Supreme Command would next turn its attention to erring Fleet captain; capture by the enemy was bad enough, but he had given the information which had led to serious losses. Confined in his suite he waited anxiously for two days more without receiving word and then he received a visit from a Captain Lin.

After identifying himself, Lin said, "You are in serious trouble with the High Commissioner, sir, and not about your capture or the attack on the Terran stronghold. At least, not directly. You had better sit down while I tell you what happened."

"I will stand, thank you," Savage said coldly.

"As you wish, sir. It's hard to believe, but every file and record concerning you for the past two years, as well as the records of the trial have been either destroyed or rewritten. Officially, you are here on leave. And to top it off lor-Harna was found dead this morning. The evidence pointed to suicide, but it is believed to be murder."

"What?" exclaimed Savage and found a chair.

"The High Commissioner is blowing his jets," continued Lin with thinly veiled excitement. "He doesn't know how it was done, but he suspects that the Empress ordered it. If that's the case his hands are tied, but in the meantime he'll do anything to get you.

"I have been instructed to advise you to deny everything except that you are indeed home on leave. Incidentally, no one is to know of my visit."

"How about the guards?" Savage asked.

Lin smiled. "I am in command of the guard detail. I must return to duty now, but please remember that you are a person of extreme importance and as such you must be very careful."

Before Savage could reply, Lin turned on his heel and left the room, leaving him to ponder this sudden turn of events. How could anyone change everything so completely, he wondered. If it was on the Empress' order, why should she take such an interest in him? Why should Lin give him the information? Who did he represent?

An hour later a knock on the door brought him out of his private Hell.

The panel slid open and a Lieutenant in the jet black uniform of the Fleet CID strode in importantly. Behind him come four enlisted men in the same uniform, two of whom planted themselves firmly beside the door with their hands on open-holstered blasters. The other two wheeled in an equipment table.

Savage waited with silent calm while the Lieutenant crossed the room and drew himself to attention. Then he asked sharply:

"What is the meaning of this intrusion? I demand every courtesy of house arrest and this does not fall in that category."

"I am under the explicit orders of the High Commissioner," the officer said icily. "Any complaints should be addressed to him. I have also been instructed to take any necessary action to carry out my orders."

"And what are they?" Savage parried.

"Please be good enough to follow me to the table," the officer said, fingering his blaster. Savage followed.

At the table the officer flipped a switch and from somewhere in the apparatus came a muffled hum. Then a flat plate set into the surface of the table glowed and Savage was instructed to place his hands, palms down, on the plate. He did so and the officer pushed a button.

"You may remove your hands," he said and bent over a double eyepiece. After adjusting and readjusting a pair of knobs he raised his head and gave Savage a surprised look. He bent down again and made new adjustments. At last he straightened up. His voice lacked some of its former arrogance as he said, "Thank you, sir."

The Lieutenant and his men left without saying anything further and Savage wondered what they had tried to prove with a fingerprint check. Apparently, however, the High Commissioner was covering every angle. The episode gave Savage a momentary feeling of pleasure, which however was quickly replaced by his former doubts.

Several hours passed, during which he had lunch, before a knock again sounded. This time, as the door slid open, Savage could see a double row of crimson-uniformed men, the personal guard of the High Commissioner himself. The guards stiffened to attention as the Commissioner appeared, followed by a group of high ranking officers.

Now what, Savage wondered as he ram-rodded his spine and saluted.

The group stopped in front of Savage and the Commissioner didn't bother to conceal his distaste as he announced without preamble, "His Supreme Mightiness, Emperor Hlar, Ruler of the Universe, has seen fit to bestow upon you, Fleet Captain Jarlon Choon, the Order of Trygon."

At the mention of the decoration an officer stepped forward with a flat, gold case. Opening it, he took from it a heavy golden chain, from which depended a jewel encrusted medallion. This he hung about Savage's neck. Then he stepped back into position and the Commissioner went on:

"I am further instructed to inform you that you have been promoted to the rank of Commodore. Commodore Loong here will give you further orders."

Savage's senses reeled from this succession of shocks as the Commissioner turned and strode out with his retinue, leaving only the officer who had presented the decoration.

Loong waited until the door was completely closed and then he laughed uproariously. Savage could only look at him with amazement until he finally stopped and said, "Did you see the look on his face? I think he would almost rather have marooned himself on an asteroid."

"I don't understand," Savage said.

"To tell you the truth, I don't either," Loong replied. "Have you ever been to Court?"

"I was born in Space," said Savage.

"That checks and that's what puzzles me. I have been reliably informed that it was the Empress' agents who caused the alteration of your records. In addition to that, Palace gossip has it that she persuaded the Emperor to honor and promote you. The Emperor was against it. You saw for yourself how the High Commissioner felt. What's the explanation?"

"I have none," Savage replied stiffly.

Loong glanced at him sharply and said, "In addition the Empress expects you at the Palace this evening. Full dress uniform is required, of course. I think you should also wear this." He produced a small, holstered needle gun. "It's not as messy as a blaster, but just as effective at close range. Above all, be careful. You have very few friends."

Savage took the gun and went to his room to change. Things were moving a little too swiftly. Why was the Empress so interested in him? There were a lot of unanswered questions and no immediate way to get the answers. He dressed quickly, strapped the needle gun to his left wrist, and returned to the living room.

"How do you fit in?" he asked Loong bluntly.

"As an officer in the Space Fleet I am under the orders of the Emperor, the Empress and the High Commissioner," he answered evasively. "I have arranged for a car. The driver has his instructions."

"You are not coming?" Savage asked.

"No, but I'll be here when you return. In the meantime I've ordered supper."

The brilliantly lighted Palace was thronged with splendid uniforms and lavish gowns and the main hall was a babble of sound. It stilled abruptly when the name of Commodore Choon was announced. All eyes were on him as a servant guided him across the floor; the women gazing at him with frank speculation and the assembled officers and statesmen with envy or thinly veiled hatred. Loong was right, he had few friends.

He was led up the long, curving flight of stairs and the babble burst out anew behind him. At the end of a long hall they stopped before a plain door and the servant rapped lightly. Without waiting for an answer he opened the door and motioned Savage inside.

The Empress was regally beautiful, tall and slim in a sweeping, brilliantly hued gown. Although she was more than twice Savage's age neither her face or figure showed it. She extended her hand as Savage crossed the room and knelt before her. He kissed her hand and she said:

"Rise, Commodore Choon, son of Admiral Choon. Come, sit beside me."

"Thank you," said Savage.

"A long time ago I knew your father very well," she said. She smiled reminiscently and murmured, "Very well. And we too shall know each other well. You are fully as handsome as he was." And so, one question was answered.

He remained with her a long time, and when he retraced his steps to the main hall he found it more crowded than before. Again all conversation ceased as he entered the main hall and he could feel countless hostile eyes on him. He felt decidedly uncomfortable as he crossed the seemingly endless room and he felt himself walking too stiffly. He tried to relax, but instead he found himself pressing the needle gun against his side to make sure it was still there.

Finally he reached the great double doors and he heard speculative murmurs behind him as the footmen opened them. This was the heart of a powerful interplanetary empire and yet it was no different than the courts of Europe during the heyday of the ancient kings.

His chauffeured car waited outside the Palace and in a moment he was speeding down the winding roadway through barely visible gardens and groves. Then they passed the gates to the public highway. As they slowed and turned the corner there came the flare of heat guns.

The glassite windows on the attacked side turned a rosy pink and then went black. The interior of the car became insufferably hot. The chauffeur cursed and trod heavily on the accelerator and the car shot forward. Flame licked at them, until they were out of range.

The driver mopped his brow as he said, "It's a good thing she's got full armor. Even so, I thought we'd had it."

"Yes," snapped Savage.

They roared through the now almost deserted streets without further incident. On his guard now, Savage had the little needle gun in his hand when they stopped in front of the hotel. The doorman stepped forward and pulled open the door. He looked into the car and his hand flashed into his uniform. Savage fired.

The gun made no sound, but the doorman gave a choking gasp and fell into the car.

"Quick, sir, pull him all the way in," Savage heard the chauffeur whisper. "There were no witnesses. I'll take care of him."

Without stopping to think Savage followed the chauffeur's advice and dragged the heavy weight into the car while the chauffeur alighted and came around to help him. Finally they closed the door on the body and, still without witnesses, the chauffeur drove it away.

In his suite, Savage found Loong waiting.

"Good morning," Loong smiled. "How did everything go?"

"Just fine," Savage replied. "Not only do I have no friends, I have some active enemies."

"You were attacked?" Loong asked calmly.

"Twice," Savage said. "You don't seem very surprised."

"I rather expected it, but you seem to have survived. What happened?"

Savage told him in a few brief sentences and when he was finished Loong said:

"This is better than I had hoped."

"Better than you'd hoped," Savage exclaimed. "What am I, a target for your friends to shoot at?"

"They are no friends of mine," Loong answered. "You've been in Space for a long time. I'd better fill you in on recent history right now."


It was at that point that Savage was shocked to find that the anger seething inside him was not that of Terran toward Trygonian, but of one Trygonian toward another, or one Terran toward another. He found too that, in spite of the uncertainty he felt about Loong, he was actually beginning to like him. He wondered then if Doctor Phillip's tests were accurate.

"That's better," Loong smiled when Savage sat down. "Here, have a drink and I'll tell you what I think the shooting is about."

Savage took the proffered glass and waited expectantly.

"As you know," Loong began, "Kalnor was Emperor until Hlar, then High Commissioner, staged a coup d'etat. Kalnor and his family were murdered and Hlar proclaimed himself Emperor. Czako, our present High Commissioner, was Captain of the household Guard and was elevated to his present lofty position as a reward for his part in the conspiracy.

"During the years you have been in space our esteemed High Commissioner has secretly been laying the groundwork for a coup of his own. The situation is really quite simple; the Emperor wants to remain Emperor, while Czako wants to become Emperor. Fortunately, at the moment neither seems powerful enough to dispose of the other.

"Now consider the situation as it applies to you. A formerly unknown and unnoticed Fleet captain has suddenly been decorated and promoted on the orders of Hlar himself, and this after records concerning him were altered. He has been invited to the private chambers of the Empress, where few men are invited. The High Commissioner fears the Emperor and Hlar is jealous of his wife. So...."

Loong spread his hands expressively to finish the sentence, but Savage needed no more.

"That's clear enough," he said, "but how do you fit in?"

"I am the faithful servant of the Emperor and his representative, the High Commissioner."

"You said that before," Savage said.

Loong just spread his hands again. Then he asked abruptly:

"What do you think of our planetary policies?"

The question took Savage aback. "What do you mean?" he stalled.

"I mean our policy of immediate conquest and subjugation of any inhabited planet we discover," Loong replied.

"That depends," said Savage carefully. He drank slowly, watching Loong over the edge of the glass.

"On what I think?" smiled Loong. "I know what I think. I want your opinion."

Savage decided to take a chance. "I believe a friendly, diplomatic approach would be a far better method," he said. "For example, in the case of Terra...."

"Exactly," Loong interrupted heatedly. "Nothing permanent is gained by force. A conquered people will not remain so forever."

Savage's glass suddenly slipped from his hand. As though from a great distance he watched the liquid splash on the rug and then the room seemed to be receding in the distance. He tried to rise, urgently aware of his dangers, but instead he felt himself collapse. Then all sensation ceased.

He had no idea how much later it was when he awakened in his own bedroom. Other than a slight headache he felt no effects of the drug. He saw that the Trygonian day had come again, but that meant nothing; he could have been unconscious for several days. Then he rolled over and found that Loong was sitting beside the bed.

"I'm sorry I had to do that," Loong said calmly, "but I had to be sure."

"Sure of what?" Savage said, checking an impulse to say more violent things.

"Your sympathies."


Loong reached inside his tunic and brought out a needle gun. "Your scientists did an excellent piece of work."

"What do you mean?" Savage asked, and at the same time knew there was no escape.

"I mean that you are a Terran. You betrayed yourself under hypnosis."

Savage knew the bitter feeling of utter defeat. He had accomplished nothing and now this was the end. But Loong wasn't wearing the look of triumph that was to have been expected. Instead he was smiling and he put the gun away as he said:

"I should hate to see you executed. I wasn't just talking last night when I disagreed with our policies. I think a friendly and mutually beneficial relationship can and should be established between our planets."

"That's fine," said Savage, "but what can you do about it?"

"That remains to be seen," answered Loong. "I propose that we join forces. The fact that you have been able to come this far makes you a worthy ally. And without me you can do nothing. Is it agreed?"

"Yes," said Savage.

"Excellent. I have several matters to attend to, but I will return at six. As a recently returned space officer it will be expected that you enter social life to a certain extent and I think it best that you begin tonight."

After Loong had gone Savage cursed himself for a fool, yet he thanked the gods that he was still alive. Something could still be made of this. A vague, uncrystallized thought was gnawing at his mind. He jumped out of bed and dressed quickly. He was not surprised to find that Loong had left him the needle gun. Without bothering with food he went to the State Library.

His rank carried him into the innermost recesses of the great library, to the guarded tape banks where the most accurate information was to be found. After a quick search of the index he selected two tapes and then took one of the many unoccupied reading booths.

He slipped the first tape, an ancient history of Trygon II to fill the blanks in Choon's education, into the projector, and all thought of time left him as he slumped down in the soft chair before the screen. It wasn't long before he realized that a rough parallel could be drawn between the early histories of Trygon and Terra.

There had been wars and famines and great empires, but Trygon had progressed more rapidly, without the great recessions Terra had known. Three-quarters of a century before the beginning of Atomics on Terra, Trygonian scientists had already harnessed solar energy. At that point the parallel ended.

It was already late when he turned to the history of the Kalnor family. He found that they had ruled for almost a century—first Czur, then Trygon II and finally the System and the Empire. There had been periods when usurpers had gained control, but always the Kalnors had returned, until finally Klar, determined to put an end to the family, had destroyed them. The tape hinted vaguely that there had been a survivor and then immediately discredited the thought.

Then the tape came to an end and Savage put them both away. Things were somewhat cleared now.

Loong, in a full dress uniform hung heavily with decorations, was again waiting when Savage returned to the hotel.

"What were you doing at the State Library?" Loong asked after they had exchanged guardedly friendly salutations.

"Doing a little checking," Savage said calmly. "I have a theory that I'm working on. By the way, I haven't eaten all day. Will you order something for me while I change?"

"I have already done so. You'll find a fresh full dress in the bedroom. You can tell me about your theory when you're finished."

Savage went to the bedroom and found beside the fresh uniform a belted holster containing a larger version of the needle gun he still wore. As he hefted it the reason for his presence on Trygon II came to him again, and he thought about Loong.

By training and instinct he should have hated him and all Trygonians for what they had done to his people, but he found it a hard struggle to achieve that feeling. He liked and somehow trusted Loong and at the same time he still wanted freedom for Terra. Still pondering the problem he dressed quickly, not neglecting to buckle on the gun, and returned to the living room.

A food laden table awaited him. Loong poured drinks as he entered and gave him one.

"What is your theory?" Loong asked.

"It's not definite yet. I'll tell you when it is."

"Very well," replied Loong. "I want to apologize again for last night."

"I'd have done the same thing," Savage said.

They ate quickly and in silence. When they were through, Loong declared:

"You're in for a treat tonight. I have reservations at the Club Galaxy."

"Oh?" said Savage with polite interest. He had seen or heard the name somewhere, but it meant nothing to him.

"We'll have to hurry or we'll miss the first show," Loong said, and pushed back his chair. "I have a car waiting outside."

"Armored?" Savage asked.


The existence of the Club Galaxy was discreetly proclaimed by a small, lighted sign and inside the theme of smallness was continued. Packed into its narrow confines was the highest strata of Trygonian society, uniforms predominating. They were guided to a microscopic ringside table just as the already dim lights dimmed still further.

From somewhere came soft, gentle music and a spotlight went on to reveal a male trio. They sang a song, barely heard over the buzz of conversation, and then bowed themselves out to the accompaniment of a light spattering of applause. Then the lights faded out completely and the spotlight cut off. All conversation ceased and an air of expectancy filled the room.

With an unexpectedness that made Savage catch his breath, the music crashed out in a wild, driving rhythm. The spotlight cut suddenly through the dark and caught a whirling figure in the center of the floor. The audience gave a gasp of appreciation in which Savage shared.

The dancer spun on her toes, a tall, long-legged girl in the briefest of costumes, her long hair flashing in a golden circle. She broke the spin abruptly and danced with flashing feet and writhing body to the wild rhythms. She moved with the precision of a fine machine, yet with the graceful beauty of a wild cat.

She gave a magnificent performance and when the spotlight suddenly cut out, her audience shouted its approval. But when the lights went on again she had disappeared and, in spite of the ovation, she did not return to the floor.

"She never takes a bow," Loong explained, "but you will meet her shortly."

A waiter suddenly loomed large over them and Loong spoke to him briefly and he went away again. They made small talk and presently the waiter returned, bearing three glasses and a decanter of purple liquor. Savage questioned the third glass with the raise of an eyebrow.

"Larhana is to join us," Loong explained. "It is a great honor to be favored with her presence at one's table."

Almost as if summoned by Loong's words she appeared on the opposite side of the floor. She crossed it with the same easy grace she had shown in her dance, her hair flowing gently down over her bare shoulders as she moved. Although she had typically Trygonian features, Savage thought her the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He wondered if it was Choon's influence again.

They stood to receive her and Savage found that she was as tall as he.

"May I present Commodore Jarlon Choon," Loong said and Savage bowed.

"Delighted, Commodore. I have heard a great deal about you." Her green eyes sparkled at him mischievously.

"I am honored ..." Savage began, but a harsh voice behind him interrupted:

"Choon, the Empress' lover, is trying to make another conquest."

Savage spun around, his fists clenched, but Loong grabbed his arm.

"Careful," he whispered urgently, "that's Satish, the High Commissioner's right hand man."

Savage shrugged him off and, remembering the formula, said:

"You have affronted my honor, sir. Who is your friend?"

Attention had been drawn to them at the arrival of Larhana, but this exchange brought all eyes on them. Satish stood up, towering over Savage, and said thickly:

"Captain Droga will act for me."

"Let it pass," interjected Loong. "He is drunk."

"Not too drunk to teach this whelp to respect his superiors," Satish bellowed. "Captain Droga, make the arrangements."

His distaste for the affair evident, Loong reluctantly conferred with Captain Droga, while the two principals stood aloofly silent. In the end it was decided that the duel was to take place immediately on the grounds of the Palace of the Stars. The choice of weapons was Savage's and he decided on needle guns.

Satish and his two companions stamped out and Savage turned to Larhana, who had stood silently by.

"I deeply apologize for causing you this embarrassment," he said.

She looked at him soberly for a moment. Then she smiled and gave him her hand.

"Until we meet again," she said.

"Thank you," he said and turned away, reluctant to leave her. A lane opened through the hostile faces surrounding them. They walked out quickly and found their car waiting.

"Now you've done it," Loong said as they entered the car. "Satish is deadly with the needle gun. If you lose, the High Commissioner will have my head for being your second."

"And if I should win?" Savage asked.

"I don't know. We may be able to salvage something if I can get to the Commissioner first. But we're not ready yet. The 'Agreet' is just beginning her trials in the morning, and I've had word that you are to be her captain. We must have her if we are to do anything at all."

"And as her captain, you must have me," Savage said.

"Not exactly, but it would be a help."

"We'll have to see what happens," Savage said and relaxed against the cushions.


They raced through the crowded streets and then out of the city. A short time later they pulled to a stop on the dueling grounds and found that Satish had already arrived. Savage moved to open the door and Loong said:

"Wait. I'm taking no chances."

He opened a compartment built into the back of the driver's seat and took out a pair of heat guns. He buckled one to his belt and gave the other to the chauffeur with instructions to keep his eyes open.

"All right," he said, "we're as prepared as we'll ever be. I just hope you can shoot straight."

The two parties met in the middle of the field and a further discussion took place between Loong and Droga. The car lights were to provide illumination and their positions were established. Then the guns were examined. Finally Satish and Savage were placed in position with ten yards between them and the guns were given them. The seconds backed away.

"Under the rules you will raise your guns and fire one shot at the count of three," Loong said loudly. "Only head shots are permitted. If both miss, honor is satisfied, and the principals will leave the field. Your guns down, please, I am about to count."

Savage braced his feet and stood relaxed, a light, firm grip on his gun.


What was the connection between Larhana and Loong, Savage wondered, and what was Loong's plan?


He had to go along with Loong, he decided. His comments on the Terran situation presented interesting possibilities. Larhana was the most beautiful woman he had ever known.


With a swift, continuous motion Savage swung up the gun, centered the sights and pressed the stud. There was no sound, no sensation, and for a moment he thought they had both missed. Then Satish swayed and crumpled.

Savage lowered his gun. Under the rules he had to remain in position until notified of the results. Others ran to Satish. Loong bent over him briefly and then shouted, "He's dead."

Savage walked toward the huddled group and as he approached, Droga protested.

"That was not a head shot," he said heatedly. "Look, it grazed the chin and entered the neck."

"I beg to differ," Loong countered.

"I insist," argued Droga. "I demand satisfaction."

"I concur with Captain Droga," broke in Satish's second companion. "I will act for him."

"But ..." Loong protested and Savage interrupted:

"If he insists, he insists. It is his right."

They were quickly placed in position and again Loong counted. At "Three" Savage again swung up the needle gun and pressed the stud. Droga's head snapped back as his shot entered the ground almost at Savage's feet.

Savage remained in position until Loong summoned him.

"There's no doubt about it this time," Loong said triumphantly. "Right between the eyes."

"Honor is satisfied," said Satish's second companion and he turned away. He walked a step and spun around, a blaster in his hand. A blaster cut him in half. Loong's chauffeur had kept his eyes open.

Then there came a blaze of heat, this time from Satish's car, and flame burned the grass beside them. Loong's chauffeur turned his attention to the car. A stink filled the air. Loong worked his heat gun and they made their way back to their car behind a wall of fire. They roared away and there was no fire from the other car.

"I didn't think a heat gun was any good for spot shooting," the chauffeur apologized, "so I used a blaster."

"Good thing," said Loong, "or we'd all been fried."

He opened the well stocked compartment and brought out a blaster. "Take this," he said to Savage. "I'll drop you at your hotel and then try to see the High Commissioner. You had better stay in your rooms until you hear from me."

Savage was breakfasting in his room the next morning when the communicator buzzed.

"Loong here," it announced, when Savage answered. "Things have come to a head. I couldn't get to see the High Commissioner, but he has already had an interview with the Emperor. I can only guess what it was about, but I'm told that it was pretty stormy.

"But that's the least of it. The Commissioner has just issued secret orders for your arrest. Go to the roof of the hotel. One of my hilocars is already on its way to pick you up."

"Thanks. I'm on my way," Savage replied, and disconnected. He buckled on the blaster and with a needle gun in his hand he went to the door. The hall outside was empty and he ran swiftly to the service stairs.

On the floor above he ran to the levitor bank and pressed the "up" stud. He watched the indicator impatiently as the levitor shot upward and stopped on the floor below. Then it resumed its upward climb and Savage held the needle gun ready as the doors slid apart to reveal a CID man with a blaster in his hand.

Savage fired and leaped into the car as the blaster clattered to the floor. The CID man was still crumpling as Savage pressed the stud for the top floor.

When the levitor doors again slid apart Savage jammed them with a blaster and raced up the stairs to the roof, praying that the hilocar would be waiting. It was there and it took off with savage acceleration as soon as he was aboard. Blaster and heat gun fire burned the air as they rose and then it faded out of range.

"Whew," Savage breathed, "that was close."

"We're not out of it yet," the pilot replied. "There's a CID hilocar on our tail."

A glance behind confirmed the pilot's statement and Savage said:

"My hand blaster won't do any good against the stuff they carry. Can you get away from them?"

"I'm using full power, but they're gaining. There's a high powered heater mounted behind you. I'll bring it up."

A section of the fuselage slid open and a long, turret-mounted heat gun rose into view. At the same time the seat back slid down to permit entry into the turret. Savage climbed in and settled himself over the sights.

"All right," he said, "cut your speed."

At full aperture this weapon didn't require supreme accuracy. Savage pressed the firing stud and the other hilocar was engulfed in flame and then it exploded. Savage's pilot dived to ground level and after half an hour of maneuvering between, over and sometimes almost through hills and trees they were deep in the mountains south of the city.

They landed in a mountain clearing. Then the trees in front of them slid apart and they rolled down into a ferro-concrete cavern; the Terran stronghold repeated.

Larhana greeted him as he alighted.

"What are you doing here?" he asked involuntarily.

"I am wanted too," she said. "Hurry, Commodore Loong is waiting for us."

The cavern hummed with swift, orderly activity. Larhana led him quickly through it, but Savage had time to note the fighting ships being readied and the blasters and heat guns being uncrated and loaded. Finally they entered a small room where Loong, alone, awaited them.

"Quite a place you have here," Savage said.

"We've been preparing for a long time," replied Loong, "and now we are going to make use of it."

"How, Prince Kalnor?" asked Savage quietly. His hand was on the needle gun in his pocket.

"The High Commissioner has.... What did you say?"

"Prince Kalnor, your Majesty."

"How did you know that?" Loong asked. He clutched at his blaster. But Savage brought out the needle gun and he stopped the movement.

"It was evident from the beginning that you were not working with either the High Commissioner or the Emperor, but at the same time it was evident that you were highly placed in a third organization. Then you yourself mentioned the Kalnor family and I went to the State Library.

"With two powerful factions competing for the Empire, it struck me that only the Kalnor name would attract enough adherents to form a third party. It wasn't until a few moments ago that I realized that you were the Kalnor in question; that you would be the leader and not a follower.

"Now that we each know who the other is, I'd like to know exactly what you intend to do about Terra after we've put you on the throne of Trygon."

"I meant what I said the other day," the Prince exclaimed. "Terra will be free. And in time the friendly relationship of which I spoke can be established."

Savage realized that he could use the Prince to bargain with the Emperor, but once he had Kalnor would the Emperor stick to the terms of whatever bargain he had made? No, it was ridiculous to think that he would. He would have to trust the Prince. "That's all right with me," Savage said, and put away his gun. "I'd like to know what's happened, though."

"An attempt was made on the Emperor's life, and at the same time, the High Commissioner proclaimed himself Emperor. Something went wrong, however, and the Emperor did not die. As a result we have what amounts to war between the two factions, confined to the military and the city of Czur. The average Trygonian citizen won't become involved."

"How about your men?" Savage asked.

"They are adapting to conditions and at the same time spreading a rumor that a Kalnor will come. When I give the signal they will drop all pretense and fight for the name of Kalnor. Now we must hurry to get control of the Agreet. A ship is being readied to take us there."

"All right. Let's go," said Savage, the light of battle in his eyes.

"I'm coming too," announced Larhana and they looked at her in surprise.

"It'll be no place for a woman," Savage said. "There'll probably be a battle."

Larhana's green eyes darkened and Loong said, "There's no use arguing with her. If she's made up her mind to come nothing short of a blaster will stop her."

"You're right," Larhana said and they went out together.

Loong's ship proved to be one of the latest medium fighters, crammed with firepower and short on passenger space. They found cramped space against the control room bulkhead and blasted off.

Minutes later they were approaching the great Fleet Spaceport, on which rested the tremendous Agreet. A minor battle was in progress below them for control of the port, but it was impossible to tell one faction from the other. Loong's radio operator worked his instrument with swift efficiency and the gunners peered into their scanner plates and fingered their controls.

After a suspense-filled eternity the radioman said "Okay" and their ship dived toward the Agreet. A port opened in the huge hull and they floated in.

They alighted quickly and a pneumatic car carried them swiftly forward to the bridge.

There they were met by an officer whom Loong introduced as Captain Slan.

"Everything is ready, your Highness," Slan said, careful not to notice the presence of Larhana. "The officers faithful to either the High Commissioner or the Pretender have been confined. The bare minimum for the operation of the ship remain."

"Very good," said Loong with formal dignity. "Commodore Choon, will you kindly take command?"

"Yes, sir. Captain Slan, you will take off immediately and establish an orbit at three diameters. All screens are to be thrown out as soon as we are clear and any ship that attempts to interfere is to be destroyed."

"Yes, sir," said Slan and he went to the main controls. The ship vibrated strongly for a moment and then they felt it rise gathering momentum as it went.

"We made it," said Larhana, taking Savage's arm.

"Yes," said Savage stiffly, "but we still have a lot to do."

He was very certain now that she had attracted all Trygonian officialdom to the Club Galaxy so that information could be gathered from liquor-loosened lips for Loong, but he didn't know how much further their relationship extended.

The return of Slan recalled Savage to the problem at hand.

"Good news, your Highness," he announced. "Our men have captured the Pretender and are proceeding according to plan."

"And the Commissioner," Loong asked. "Where is he?"

"He is directing the operations of his forces from his offices in the Supreme Headquarters Building, your Highness. What are your orders?"

"He must be destroyed at any cost," Loong said grimly. "An assault would be indicated."

"Screens have been set up to guard the building," Slan said. "The most powerful blaster will not penetrate them."

"We must use the Agreet's Atomics then...."

"You'd destroy half the city," Savage interrupted. "There's been too much bloodshed already."

"What do you suggest, then?" asked Loong.

"Have you any men in the building?" Savage asked.

"We have not been able to contact any," Slan said.

"Well, perhaps this will work. We will make a concentrated attack, using the Agreet's armed scouts and your fighter. During the attack I can take one of the scouts under the screen, land near the building, and force my way in."

"That might succeed," agreed Loong. "But once inside you'd never find the Commissioner. You don't know the building. I'll go with you."

"I couldn't permit that, your Highness," Slan objected. "Your life is too valuable to risk."

"What ..." Loong flashed, but Savage interrupted.

"He's right," he said. "You'll have to remain on board the Agreet."

"I will go in your stead, your Highness," Slan said firmly.

"Very well," said Loong unhappily.

"I will make the arrangements," said Slan. "We will use number seven scout."

He excused himself and left the group, while Loong turned to Savage.

"I am beginning to understand why we have not been able to completely subdue your people. Tell me, what is your Terran name?"

Savage told him.

"I have studied one of the Terran languages a bit—English, I believe it is called—and it seems that your name is also a word. What does it mean?"

"Untamed," Savage said.

"Aha!" said Loong.

At this point Slan returned.

"We will be in position to launch the attack shortly," he said. "We had best make ready. I beg your pardon, but the lady seems to have disappeared."

"So she has," said Loong after glancing around. "Well, we can't look for her now."

They took another car to their scout ship and exchanged their uniforms for more efficient fighting suits; black coveralls, crash helmets, respirator masks and battle packs.

They were each provided with a heat gun and a blaster, but Savage strapped the little needle gun to his wrist over the coverall sleeve.

"For sniping," he explained.

Loong held out his hand.

"Good luck," he said, and Savage remembered the General.


The attacking fleet, the medium fighter and twelve scouts, roared in over the city and blaster fire came up to meet them. They passed through the wall of flame with the loss of only one scout and then they opened up with their own weapons. The only effect of their combined fire was to make the invisible force screen protecting their target flash and flare.

They made a second pass. Two more scouts went down and Savage decided that they too crashed. He manipulated the controls and the scout lurched sickeningly and went into a steep dive.

At the last possible moment Savage pulled out and, barely off the streets, roared between the buildings toward Supreme Headquarters. He slowed as they approached the building and rested one hand lightly on the bank of blaster studs.

"Brace yourself, we're going in," he said and slammed down on the studs. A chunk of wall in front of them disintegrated and he decelerated savagely. They went through the gap at dead low speed, but still they crashed through two inner walls before they finally stopped. They were bruised and shaken, but otherwise unhurt.

"Here's where we get out," Savage announced and Larhana's voice came from behind them.

"Wait for me," she cried and they whirled around.

From somewhere she had gotten a suit of coveralls that were almost the right size, as well as a helmet and mask. Two blasters were belted to her slim waist and the whole effect was one of efficient deadliness, spoiled only by the loveliness that insisted on making itself known through the coveralls.

"What are you doing here?" Savage finally got out.

"I wanted to help you," she said simply.

"What are we to do?" asked Slan. "We surely can't leave her here."

"She'll have to come with us. Let's go," Savage said, there was no time for argument or recrimination.

He kicked open the hatch and jumped down to the rubble covered floor. Flames were already crackling behind the ship as he helped Larhana alight, and when Slan had joined them he blasted their way through the wall into a corridor.

With Slan in the lead they ran to the levitor bank. They had just reached it when a pair of doors slid open and black-uniformed men poured out, only to be cut down bloodily by Savage's blaster. The carnage lasted only a few moments and then they were in the levitor.

"Czako's offices are on the forty-fifth floor," Slan explained as he pressed the stud. "They will be thick with his men, of course."

Savage nodded grimly, his weapons ready, and watched the moving indicator. Then, as the forty-third floor clicked by and they were bracing themselves for the rush, a muffled blast rocked the building. The lights went out and they were hurled to the floor as the car stopped abruptly. Then they began to fall.

For an agonizing moment they felt helpless, doomed. Then the safety brakes went on and the car ground to a halt.

"What happened?" Larhana gasped.

"The fire must have gotten to the scout's fuel or blaster magazine and it blew up," Savage said. "But we've got to get out of here."

Slan produced a hand torch while Savage tried to open the doors.

"They're jammed," he said after a moment's effort. "Stand back. I'll use a blaster."

The car filled with heat and smoke and the stink of burning metal came through their masks. Finally he had a man-sized opening and he stuck his head out cautiously. A blaster bolt from down the hall gashed the door above his head and he recoiled.

"Burn a hole through the back while I keep them busy," he ordered and he felt reflected heat from behind him as he filled the hall outside with flame.

A few minutes later he heard Slan whisper from close behind him, "Everything is clear on the other side and Larhana is on guard. As soon as I finish this we can get out of here."

Alternating his attention between the hall and Slan, Savage watched him set a block charge booby-trap with practiced efficiency. Then he was finished and they stepped over the trip-wire and out of the levitor.

They ran across the room and as they went through the door a blaster roared behind them. Slan screamed and fell, only his momentum carrying him around the angle of the door jamb. Savage whirled to return the fire and then the block charge erupted and was thrown against a desk.

Protected by the wall Larhana was already at Slan's side as Savage picked himself up. Vainly she was trying to staunch the flow of blood from the clean-cut stumps that were all that remained of Slan's legs.

Savage quickly took two pieces of Plastograft from his kit and with them sealed the stumps as Slan ground out between clenched teeth, "You've got to get Czako." He struggled to get up, but fell back into Larhana's arms, sweat glistening on his face.

"We'll take care of you first," Savage said.

"Get Czako," Slan gasped. "Take the stairs.... Room five leads to office.... Armored door, use block charge.... Three blocks.... Hurry, hurry...."

His voice trailed off to nothingness and he died.

Larhana's green eyes were blazing as they cautiously traversed the offices.

At the forty-fifth floor Savage tried the door. It opened and then the frame splintered under the impact of a heavy needle gun. They dropped to the floor, leaving the door ajar. He held his heat gun and blaster together and quickly shoved them through the opening toward the unseen gun and pressed the studs. They roared and a scream answered.

Still on the floor, he twisted his weapons around and bathed the hall with flame in the other direction. Then he scrambled to his feet and with her dancer's agility Larhana followed him. Behind the flame of his weapons they ran down the scarred hall and found office five.

Savage took no chances; he used the blaster on the door and his heat gun was on as they went in. The room's furnishings were reduced to charred ruins, as were the three guards, but after the draperies and papers were consumed there was nothing left to burn.

"Keep your eyes on the door while I get the charges ready," Savage ordered.

He went to the armored door set into the opposite wall and carefully taped on the block charges. Then he set and connected the igniter.

Returning to Larhana, he said, "We don't have much time now. Cover me while I toss a couple of charges down the hall. As soon as they go off, run across to that other office and get under cover."

Quickly he prepared two more charges, setting the igniters for contact. He threw one and it had not yet exploded when he threw the second. The roaring double blast shook the floor and ferro-concrete dust filled the hall. Behind a sheet of flame they raced across the hall. Then, sheltered behind the wall, they waited for the next blast.

Savage was ready to believe that something had gone wrong with the igniter when the roaring thunder came. The rolling concussion lifted them and then slammed them with cruel violence to the floor. They lay dazed for a long moment before they were able to get up and return to office five. This time there was no interference.

The charge had blown in the heavy door and crushed under it was a twisted needle gun and its crew. Of the five other men in the room, only one seemed capable of movement. He made a feeble effort to raise his blaster and Savage cut him down.

They found High Commissioner Czako dazed and bleeding behind his huge desk. Savage hauled him roughly to his feet and jabbed the blaster into his middle.

"You're finished, Czako," he said. "Get on the radio and tell your men to lay down their arms."

Czako nodded in bitter defeat.

It was three Trygonian months later when His Highness, Emperor Kalnor met Savage and Larhana at the great space-port. Above them loomed the Agreet, ready to depart on its voyage through hyper-space to Terra.

"We'll be back someday," Larhana promised.

"Yes," agreed Savage. "I'm as much Trygonian now as Terran, but we want to see Terra on the road to complete reconstruction first. A lot of prejudices will have to be overcome, but in time it will be done."

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