The Currents of Space (Page 26)

The Captain said carefully, "Please to understand, my Lady, that no orders of mine are involved. My advice was not asked. I have been told plainly and flatly what I am to do."

He fumbled for the copy of his orders halfheartedly. He had tried to present her with the evidence twice before and she had refused to consider it, as though by not looking she could continue, with a clear conscience, to deny where his duty lay.

She said once again, exactly as before, "I am not interested in your orders."

She turned away with a ringing of her heels and moved rapidly away from him.

He followed and said softly, "The orders include directions to the effect that, if you are not willing to come, I am, if you will excuse my saying so, to have you carried to the ship."

She whirled. "You wouldn’t dare do such a thing."

"When I consider," said the Captain, "who it is who has ordered me to do it, I would dare anything."

She tried cajolery. "Surely, Captain, there is no real danger. This is quite ridiculous, entirely mad. The City is peaceful. All that has happened is that one patroller was knocked down yesterday afternoon in the library. Really!"

"Another patroller was killed this dawn, again by Florinian attack."

That rocked her, but her olive skin grew dusky and her black eyes flashed. "What has that to do with me? I am not a patroller."

"My Lady, the ship is being prepared right now. It will leave shortly. You will have to be on it."

"And my work? My research? Do you realize-. No, you wouldn’t realize."

The Captain said nothing. She had turned from him. Her gleaming dress of copper kyrt, with its strands of milky silver, set off the extraordinary warm smoothness of her shoulders and upper arms. Captain Racety looked at her with something more than the bald courtesy and humble objectivity a mere Sarkite owed such a great Lady. He wondered why such an entirely desirable bite-size morsel should choose to spend her time in mimicking the scholarly pursuits of a university don.

Samia knew well that her earnest scholarship made her an object of mild derision to people who were accustomed to thinking of the aristocratic Ladies of Sark as devoted entirely to the glitter of polite society and, eventually, acting as incubators for at least, but not more than, two future Squires of Sark. She didn’t care.

They would come to her and say, "Are you really writing a book, Samia?" and ask to see it, and giggle.

Those were the women. The men were even worse, with their gentle condescension and obvious conviction that it would only take a glance from themselves or a man’s arm about her waist to cure her of her nonsense and turn her mind to things of real importance.

It had begun as far back, almost, as she could remember, because she had always been in love with kyrt, whereas most people took it for granted. Kyrt! The king, emperor, god of fabrics. There was no metaphor strong enough.

Chemically, it was nothing more than a variety of cellulose. The chemists swore to that. Yet with all their instruments and theories they had never yet explained why on Florina, and only on Florina in all the Galaxy, cellulose became kyrt. It was a matter of the physical state; that’s what they said. But ask them exactly in what way the physical state varied from that of ordinary cellulose and they were mute.

She had learned ignorance originally from her nurse.

"Why does it shine, Nanny?"

"Because it’s kyrt, Miakins."

"Why don’t other things shine so, Nanny?"

"Other things aren’t kyrt, Miakins."

There you had it. A two-volume monograph on the subject had been written only three years before. She had read it carefully and it could all have been boiled down to her Nanny’s explanation. Kyrt was kyrt because it was kyrt. Things that weren’t kyrt, weren’t kyrt because they weren’t kyrt.

Of course kyrt didn’t really shine of itself but, properly spun, it would gleam metallically in the sun in a variety of colors or in all colors at once. Another form of treatment could impart a diamond sparkle of the thread. It could be made, with little effort, completely impervious to heat up to 6oo degrees Centigrade, and quite inert to almost all chemicals. Its fibers could be spun finer than the most delicate synthetics and those same fibers had a tensile strength no steel alloy known could duplicate.

It had more uses, more versatility than any substance known to man. If it were not so expensive it could be used to replace glass, metal, or plastic in any of infinite industrial applications. As it was, it was the only material used for cross hairs on optical equipment, as molds in the casting of hydrochrons used in hy peratomic motors, and as lightweight, long-lived webbing where metal was too brittle or too heavy or both.

But this was, as said, small-scale use, since use in quantity was prohibitive. Actually the kyrt harvest of Florina went into the manufacture of cloth that was used for the most fabulous garments in Galactic history. Florina clothed the aristocracy of a million worlds, and the kyrt harvest of the one world, Florina, had to be spread thin for that. Twenty women on a world might have outfits in kyrt; two thousand more might have a holiday jacket of the material, or perhaps a pair of gloves. Twenty million more watched from a distance and wished.

The million worlds of the Galaxy shared a slang expression for the snob. It was the only idiom in the language that was easily and exactly understood everywhere. It went: "You’d think she blew her nose in kyrt!"

When Samia was older she went to her father.

"What is kyrt, Daddy?"

"It’s your bread and butter, Mia."


"Not just yours, Mia. It’s S ark’s bread and butter."

Of course! She learned the reason for that easily enough. Not a world in the Galaxy but had tried to grow kyrt on jts own soil. At first Sark had applied the death penalty to anyone, native or foreign, caught smuggling kyrt seed out of the planet. That had not prevented successful smuggling, and as the centuries passed, and the truth dawned on Sark, that law had been abolished. Men from anywhere were welcome to kyrt seed at the price, of course (weight for weight), of finished kyrt cloth.