The Currents of Space (Page 28)

The old man’s lips yawned open, but no sound came.

The Townman said, "I killed a man two minutes ago. I don’t care if I kill another."

"Please. Please. I do not know, sir."

"’You will die for not knowing."

"But he did not tell me. He made some sort of reservations."

"You have overheard so much, have you? What else did you overhear?"

"He mentioned Wotex once. I think the reservations were on a spaceship."

Terens thrust him away.

He would have to wait. He would have to let the worst of the excitement outside die. He would have to risk the arrival of real patrollers at the bakery.

But not for long. Not for long. He could guess what his erstwhile companions would do. Rik was unpredictable, of course, but Valona was an intelligent girl. From the way they ran, they must have taken him for a patroller indeed and Valona was sure to decide that their only safety lay in continuing the flight that the Baker had begun for them.

The Baker had made reservations for them. A spaceship would be waiting. They would be there.

And he would have to be there first.

There was this about the desperation of the situation. Nothing more mattered. If he lost Rik, if he lost that potential weapon against the tyrants of Sark, his life was a small additional loss.

So when he left, it was without a qualm, though it was broad daylight, though the patrollers must know by now it was a man in patroller uniform they sought, and though two air-cars were in easy sight.

Terens knew the spaceport that would be involved. There was only one of its type on the planet. There were a dozen tiny ones in Upper City for the private use of space-yachts and there were hundreds all over the planet for the exclusive use of the ungainly freighters that carried gigantic bolts of kyrt cloth to Sark, and machinery and simple consumer goods back. But among all those there was only one spaceport for the use of ordinary travelers, for the poorer Sarldtes, Florinian civil servants and the few foreigners who managed to obtain permission to visit Florina.

The Florinian at the port’s entry gate observed Terens’ approach with every symptom of lively interest. The vacuum that surrounded him had grown insupportable.

"Greetings, sir," he said. There was a slyly eager tone in his voice. After all, patrollers were being killed. "Considerable excitement in the City, isn’t there?"

Terens did not rise to the bait. He had drawn the arced visor of his hat low and buttoned the uppermost button of the tunic.

Gruffly he snapped, "Did two persons, a man and a woman, enter the port recently en route to Wotex?"

The gatekeeper looked startled. For a moment he gulped and then, in a considerably subdued tone, said, "Yes, Officer. About half an hour ago. Maybe less." He reddened suddenly. "Is there any connection between them and- Officer, they had reservations which were entirely in order. I wouldn’t let foreigners through without proper authority."

Terens ignored that. Proper authority! The Baker had managed to establish that in the course of a night. Galaxy, he wondered, how deeply into the Sarkite administration did the Trantorian espionage organization go?

"What names did they give?"

"Careth and Hansa Barne."

"Has their ship left? Quickly!"

"N-no, sir."

"What berth?"


Terens forced himself to refrain from running, but his walk was little short of that. Had there been a real patroller in sight that rapid, undignified half run of his would have been his last trip in freedom.

A spaceman in officer’s uniform stood at the ship’s main air lock.

Terens panted a little. He said, "Have Gareth and Hansa Barne boarded ship?"

"No, they haven’t," said the spaceman phlegmatically. He was a Sarkite and a patroller was only another man in uniform to him. "Do you have a message for them?"

With cracking patience Terens said, "They haven’t boarded!"

"That’s what I’ve said. And we’re not waiting for them. We leave on schedule, with or without them."

Terens turned away.

He was at the gatekeeper’s booth again. "Have they left?"

"Left? ‘Who, sir?"

"The Barnes. The ones for Wotex. They’re not on board ship. Did they leave?"

"No, sir. Not to my knowledge."

"What about the other gates?"

"They’re not exits, sir. This is the only exit."

"Check them, you miserable idiot."

The gatekeeper lifted the communi-tube in a state of panic. No patroller had ever spoken to him so in anger and he dreaded the results. In two minutes he put it down.

He said, "No one has left, sir."

Terens stared at him. Under his black hat his sandy hair was damping against his skull and down each cheek there was the gleaming mark of perspiration.

He said, "Has any ship left the port since they entered?"

The gatekeeper consulted the schedule. "One," he said, "the liner Endeavor."

Volubly he went on, eager to gain favor with the angry patroller by volunteering information. "The Endeavor is making a special trip to Sark to carry the Lady Samia of Fife back from Florina."

He did not bother to describe exactly by what refined manner of eavesdropping he had managed to acquaint himself with the "confidential report."

But to Terens now, nothing mattered.

He backed slowly away. Eliminate the impossible and whatever remained, however improbable, was the truth. Rik and Valona had entered the spaceport. They had not been captured or the gatekeeper would certainly have known about it. They were not simply wandering about the port, or they would by now have been captured. They were not on the ship for which they had tickets. They had not left the field. The only object that had left the field was the Endeavor. Therefore, on it, possibly as captives, possibly as stowaways, were 131k and Valona.