The Currents of Space (Page 22)

"Then answer your own question."

"I say they told you of their knowledge of Khorov’s true identity as a gesture of triumph. They knew that the fact of their knowledge could no longer either help or harm them since I have known for twelve hours that they knew Khorov was one of our men."

"But how?"

"By the most unmistakable hint possible. Listen! Twelve hours ago Matt Khorov, agent for Trantor, was killed by a member of the Florinian Patrol. The two Florinians he held at the time, a woman and the man who, in all probability, is the field man you have been seeking, are gone, vanished. Presumably they are in the hands of the Squires."

Junz cried out and half rose from his seat.

Abel lifted a glass of wine to his lips calmly and said, "There is nothing I can do officially. The dead man was a Florinian and those who have vanished, for all we can prove to the contrary, are likewise Florinians. So, you see, we have been badly outplayed, and are now being mocked in addition."

7. The Patroller

RIK saw the Baker killed. He saw him crumple without a sound, his chest driven in and charred into smoking ruins under the silent push of the blaster. It was a sight that drowned out for him most of what had preceded and almost all that had followed.

There was the dim memory of the patroller’s first approach, of the quiet but terribly intent manner in which he had drawn his weapon. The Baker had looked up and shaped his lips for one last word that he had no time to utter. Then the deed was done, there was the rushing of blood in Rik’s ears and the wild screaming scramble of the mob swirling in all directions, like a river in flood.

For a moment it negated the improvement Rik’s mind had made in those last few hours of sleep. The patroller had plunged toward him, throwing himself forward upon yelling men and women as though they were a viscous sea of mud he would have to slog through. Rik and Lona turned with the current and were carried away. There were eddies and subcurrents, turning and quivering as the flying patrollers’ cars began to hover overhead. Valona urged Rik forward, ever outward to the outskirts of the City. For a while he was the frightened child of yesterday, not the almost adult of that morning.

He had awakened that morning in the grayness of a dawn he could not see in the windowless room he slept in. For long minutes he lay there, inspecting his mind. Something had healed during the night; something had knit together and become whole. It had been getting ready to happen ever since the moment, two days before, when he had begun to "remember." The process had been proceeding all through yesterday. The trip to the Upper City and the library, the attack upon the patroller and the ffight that followed, the encounter with Baker-it had all acted upon him like a ferment. The shriveled fibers of his mind, so long dormant, had been seized and stretched, forced into an aching activity, and now, after a sleep, there was a feeble pulsing about them.

He thought of space and the stars, of long, long, lonely stretches, and great silences.

Finally he turned his head to one side and said, "Lona."

She snapped awake, lifting herself to an elbow, peering in his direction.


"Here I am, Lona."

"Are you all right?"

"Sure." He couldn’t hold down his excitement. "I feel fine, Lona. Listen! I remember more. I was in a ship and I know exactly-"

But she wasn’t listening to him. She slipped into her dress and with her back to him smoothed the seam shut down the front and then fumbled nervously with her belt.

She tiptoed toward him. "I didn’t mean to sleep, Rik. I tried to stay awake."

Rilc felt the infection of her nervousness. He said, "Is something wrong?"

"Sh, don’t speak so loudly. It’s all right."

"Where’s the Townman?"

"He’s not here. He-he had to leave. Why don’t you go back to sleep, Bik?"

He pushed her consoling arm aside. "I’m all right. I don’t want to sleep. I wanted to tell the Townman about my ship."

But the Towr~man wasn’t there and Valona would not listen. Rik subsided and for the first time felt actively annoyed with Valona. She treated him as though he were a child and he was beginning to feel like a man.

A light entered the room and the broad figure of the Baker entered with it. uk blinked at him and was, for a moment, daunted. He did not entirely object when Valona’s comforting arm stole about his shoulder.

The Baker’s thick lips stretched in a smile. "You’re early awake."

Neither answered..

The Baker said, "It’s just as well. You’ll be moving today."

Valona’s mouth, was dry. She said, "You’ll not be giving us to the patrollers?"

She remembered the way he had looked at Rik after the Townman had left. He was still looking at Rik; only at Rik.

"Not to the patrollers," he said. "The proper people have been informed and you’ll be safe enough."

He left, and when he returned shortly thereafter he brought food, clothes and two basins of water. The clothes were new and looked completely strange.

He watched them as they ate, saying, "I’m going to give you new names and new histories. You’re to listen, and I don’t want you to forget. You’re not Florinians, do you understand? You’re brother and sister from the planet Wotex. You’ve been visiting Florina-"

He went on, supplying details, asking questions, listening to their answers.

Rik was pleased to be able to demonstrate the workings of his memory, his easy ability to learn, but Valona’s eyes were dark with worry.

The Baker was not blind to that. He said to the girl, "If you give me the least trouble I’ll send him on alone and leave you behind."

Valona’s strong hands clenched spasmodically. "I will give you no trouble."