The Currents of Space (Page 34)

"You believe in the law, don’t you, boy, and in the good Squires?" The Towuman maintained the impressive fiction of consulting his notebook.

"My husband is a good man," burst in the woman volubly. "He hasn’t ever been in trouble. He doesn’t associate with trash. And I don’t. No more do the children. We always-"

Terens waved her down. "Yes. Yes. Now look, boy, I want you to sit right here and do what I say. I want a list of everyone you know about on this block. Names, addresses, what they do, and what kind of boys they are. Especially the last. If there’s one of these troublemakers, I want to know. We’re going to clean up. Understand?"

"Yes, sir. Yes, sir. There’s Husting first of all. He’s down the block a way. He-"

"Not like that, boy. Get him a piece of paper, you. Now you sit there and write it all down. Every bit. Write it slowly because I can’t read native chicken tracks,"

"I have a trained writing hand, sir."

"Let’s see it, then."

Jacof bent to his task, hand moving slowly. His wife looked over his shoulder.

Terens spoke to the girl who had let him in. "Go to the window and let me know if any other patrollers come this way. I’ll want to speak to them, Don’t you call them. Just tell me."

And then, finally, he could relax. He had made a momentarily

• secure niche for himself in the midst of danger.

Except for the noisy sucking of the baby in the corner, there was reasonable silence. He would be warned of the enemy’s approach in time for a fighting chance at escape.

Now he could think.

In the first place, his role as patroller was about over. There were undoubtedly road blocks at all possible exits from the town, and they knew he could use no means of transportation more complicated than a diamagnetic scooter. It would not be long before it would dawn on the search-rusty patrollers that only by a systematic quartering of the town, block by block and house by house, could they be sure of their man.

When they finally decided that, they would undoubtedly start at the outskirts and work inward. If so, this house would be among the first to be entered, so his time was particularly limited.

Until now, despite its black and silver conspicuousness, the patroller uniform had been useful. The natives themselves had not questioned it. They had not stopped to see his pale Floninian face; they had not studied his appearance. The uniform had been enough.

Before long the pursuing hounds would find that fact dawning upon them. It would occur to them to broadcast instructions to all natives to hold any patroller unable to show proper identification, particularly one with a white skin and sandy hair. Temporary identifications would be passed out to all legitimate patrollers. Rewards would be offered. Perhaps only one native in a hundred would be courageous enough to tackle the uniform no

matter how patently false the occupant was. One in a hundred would be enough.

So he would have to stop being a patroller.

That was one thing. Now another. He would be safe nowhere on Florina from now on. Killing a patroller was the ultimate crime and in fifty years, if he could elude capture so long, the chase would remain hot. So he would have to leave Florina.


Well, he gave himself one more day of life. This was a generous estimate. It assumed the patrollers to be at maximum stupidity and himself in a state of maximum luck.

In one way this was an advantage. A mere twenty-four hours of life was not much to risk. It meant he could take chances no sane man could possibly take.

He stood up.

Jacof looked up from his paper. "I’m not quite done, sir. I’m writing very carefully."

"Let me see what you have written."

He looked at the paper handed him and said, "It is enough. If other patrollers should come, don’t waste their time saying that you have already made a list. They are in a hurry and may have other tasks for you. Just do as they say. Are there any coming now?"

The girl at the window said, "No, sir. Shall I go out in the street and look?"

"It’s not necessary. Let’s see now. Where is the nearest elevator?"

"It’s about a quarter of a mile to the left, sir, as you leave the house. You can-"

"Yes, yes. Let me out."

A squad of patrollers turned into the street just as the door of the elevator ground into place behind the Townman. He could feel his heart pound. The systematic search was probably starting, and they were at his heels.

A minute later, heartbeat still drumming, he stepped out of the elevator into Upper City. There would be no cover here. No pillars. No cementalloy hiding him from above.

He felt like a moving black dot among the glare of the garish buildings. He felt visible for two miles on every side and for five miles up in the sky. There seemed to be large arrows pointing to him.

There were no patrollers in view. The Squires who passed looked through him. If a patroller was an object of fear to a Florinian, he was an object of nothing-at-all to a Squire. If anything would save him, that would.

He had a vague notion of the geography of Upper City. Somewhere in this section was City Park. The most logical step would have been to ask directions, the next most logical to enter any moderately tall building and look out from several of the upperstory terraces. The first alternative was impossible. No patroller could possibly need directions. The second was too risky. Inside a building, a patroller would be more conspicuous. Too conspicuous.

He simply struck out in the direction indicated by his memory of the maps of Upper City he had seen on occasion. It served well enough. It was unmistakably City Park that he came across in five minutes’ time.

City Park was an artificial patch of greenery about one hundred acres in area. On Sark itself, City Park had an exaggerated reputation for many things from bucolic peace to nightly orgies. On Florina, those who had vaguely heard of it imagiped it ten to a hundred times its actual size and a hundred to a thousand times its actual luxuriance.