The Currents of Space (Page 38)

Samia let her think about it. She tried to smile in a friendly way. Then she said, "Only Florinians aren’t allowed to look at Ladies. So you see you’ve admitted that you’re a Florinian."

Valona burst out, "He’s not."

"Are you?"

"Yes, I am. But he’s not. Don’t do anything to him. He really isn’t a Floriian. He was just found one day. I don’t know where he comes from, but it’s not Florina." Suddenly she was almost voluble.

Samia looked at her with some surprise. "Well, I’ll speak to him. What’s your name, boy?"

Rik was staring. Was that how women Squires looked? So small, and friendly-looking. And she smelled so nice. He was very glad she had let him look at her.

Samia said again, "What’s your name, boy?"

Rik came to life but stumbled badly in the attempt to shape a monosyllable.

"Rik," he said. Then he thought, Why, that’s not my name. He said, "I think it’s Rik."

"Don’t you know?"

Valona, looking woebegone, tried to speak, but Samia held up a sharply restraining hand.

Rik shook his head. "I don’t know."

"Are you a Florinian?"

B,ik was positive here. "No. I was on a ship. I came here from somewhere else." He could not bear to look away from Samia but he seemed to see the ship co-existing with her. A small and very friendly and homelike ship.

He said, "It was on a ship that I came to Florina and before that I lived on a planet."

"What planet?"

It was as though the thought were forcing its way painfully through mental channels too small for it. Then Rik remembered and was delighted at the sound his voice made, a sound so long forgotten.

"Earth! I come from Earth!"


Rik nodded.

Samia turned to the Captain. "Where is this planet Earth?"

Captain Racety smiled briefly. "I never heard of it. Don’t take the boy seriously, my Lady. A native lies the way he breathes. It comes naturally to him. He says whatever comes first into his mind."

"He doesn’t talk like a native." She turned to Rik again. "Where is Earth, Rik?"

"I-" He put a shaking hand to his forehead. Then he said, "It’s in the Sirius Sector." The intonation of the statement made it half a question.

Samia said to the Captain, "There is a Sirius Sector, isn’t there?"

"Yes, there is. I’m amazed he has that right. Still, that doesn’t make Earth any more reaL"

Rik said vehemently, "But it is. I remember, I tell you. It’s been so long since I remembered. I can’t be wrong now. I can’t."

He turned, gripping Valona’s elbows and clawing at her sleeve. "Lona, tell them I come from Earth. I do. I do."

Valona’s eyes were wide with anxiety. "We found him one day, Lady, and he had no mind at all. He couldn’t dress himself or talk or walk. He was nothing. Ever since then he’s been remembering little by little. So far everything he’s remembered has been so." She cast a quick, fearful glance at the bored face of the

Captain. "He may really have come from Earth, Squire. No contradiction intended."

The last was a long-established conventional phrase that went with any statement that seemed in contradiction to a previous statement by a superior.

Captain Racety grunted. "He may have come from the center of Sark for all that story proves, my Lady."

"Maybe, but there’s something queer about all this," insisted Samia, making up her mind flatly, woman-wise, on the side of romance. "I’m sure of it… What made him so helpless when you found him, girl? Had he been hurt?"

Valona said nothing at first. Her eyes darted helplessly back and forth. First to Rik, whose fingers clutched at his hair, then to the Captain, who was smiling without humor, finally to Samia, who waited.

"Answer me, girl," said Samia.

It was a hard decision for Valona to make, but no conceivable lie could substitute for the truth in this place and at this time. She said, "A doctor once looked at him. He said m-my Rik was psycho-probed."

"Psycho-probed!" Samia felt a slight wash of repulsion well over her. She pushed her chair away. It squeaked against the metal floor. "You mean he was psychotic?"

"I don’t know what that means, Lady," said Valona humbly. "Not in the sense you’re thinking of, my Lady," said the Captain almost simultaneously. "Natives aren’t psychotic. Their needs and desires are too simple. I’ve never heard of a psychotic native in my life."

"But then-"

"It’s simple, my Lady. If we accept this fantastic story the girl tells, we can only conclude that the boy had been a criminal, which is a way of being psychotic, I suppose. If so, he must have been treated by one of those quacks who practice among the natives, been nearly killed and was then dumped in a deserted section to avoid detection and prosecution."

"But it would have to be someone with a psycho-probe," protested Samia. "Surely you wouldn’t expect natives to be able to use them."

"Perhaps not. But then you wouldn’t expect an authorized medical man to use one so inexpertly. The fact that we arrive at a contradiction proves the story to be a lie throughout. If you will accept my suggestion, my Lady, you will leave these creatures to our handling. You see that it’s useless to expect anything out of them."

Samia hesitated. "Perhaps you’re right."

She rose and looked uncertainly at Rik. The Captain stepped behind her, lifted the little chair and folded it with a snap.

Rik jumped to his feet. "Wait!"

"If you please, my Lady," said the Captain, holding the door open for her. "My men will quiet him."