The Currents of Space (Page 40)

He screamed the words and then there was silence, a silence that was anticlimactically broken by the prosaic buzz of the Captain’s wrist communo.

He said, "What is it?"

The answering voice was reedy and precisely respectful. "A message to the Captain from Sark. It is requested that he accept it personally."

"Very well. I will be at the sub-etherics presently."

He turned to Samia. "My Lady, may I suggest that it is, in any case, dinnertime."

He saw that the girl was about to protest her lack of appetite, to urge him to leave and not to bother about her. He continued, more diplomatically, "It is also time to feed these creatures. They are probably tired and hungry."

Samia could say nothing against that. "I must see them again, Captain."

The Captain bowed silently. It might have been acquiescence. It might not.

Samia of Fife was thrilled. Her studies of Florina satisfied a certain aspiration to intellect within her, but the Mysterious Case of the Psycho-probed Earthman (she thought of the matter in capitals) appealed to something much more primitive and much more demanding. It roused the sheer animal curiosity in her.

It was a mystery!

There were three points that fascinated her. Among these was not the perhaps reasonable question (under the circumstances) of whether the man’s story was a delusion or a deliberate lie, rather than the truth. To believe it anything other than truth would spoil the mystery and Samia could not allow that.

The three points were therefore these. (i) What was the danger that threatened Florina, or, rather, the entire Galaxy? (z)

Who was the person who had psycho-probed the Earthman? (~)

Why had the person used the psycho-probe?

She was determined to sift the matter to her own thorough satisfaction. No one is so modest as not to believe himself a competent amateur sleuth, and Samia was far from modest.

As soon after dinner as she could politely manage, she hurried down to the brig.

She said to the guard, "Open the door!"

The sailor remained perfectly erect, staring blankly and respectfully ahead. He said, "If Your Ladyship pleases, the door is not to be opened."

Samia gasped. "How dare you say so? If you do not open the door instantly, the Captain shall be informed."

"If Your Ladyship pleases, the door is not to be opened. That is by the strict order of the Captain."

She stormed up the levels once more, bursting into the Captain’s stateroom like a tornado compressed into sixty inches.


"My Lady?"

"Have you ordered the Earthman and the native woman to be kept from me?"

"I believe, my Lady, it was agreed that you were to interview them only in my presence."

"Before dinner, yes. But you saw they were harmless?"

"I saw that they seemed harmless."

Samia simmered. "In that case I order you to come with me now."

"I cannot, my Lady. The situation has changed."

"In what way?"

"They must be questioned by the proper authorities on Sark and until then I think they should be left alone."

Samia’s lower jaw dropped, but she rescued it from its undignified position almost immediately. "Surely you are not going to deliver them to the Bureau of Florinian Affairs."

"Well," temporized the Captain, "that was certainly the original intention. They have left their village without permission. In fact they have left their planet without permission. In addition, they have taken secret passage on a Sarkite vessel."

"The last was a mistake."

"Was it?"

"In any case, you knew all their crimes before our last interview."

"But it was only at the interview that I heard what the socalled Earthman had to say."

"So-called. You said yourself that the planet Earth existed."

"I said it might exist. But, my Lady, may I be so bold as to ask what you would like to see done with these people?"

"I think the Earthman’s story should be investigated. He speaks of a danger to Florina and of someone on Sark who has deliberately attempted to keep knowledge of that danger from the proper authorities. I think it is even a case for my father. In fact I would take him to my father, when the proper time came."

The Captain said, "The cleverness of it all!"

"Are you being sarcastic, Captain?"

The Captain flushed. "Your pardon, my Lady. I was referring to our prisoners. May I be allowed to speak at some length?"

"I don’t know what you mean by ‘some length," she retorted angrily, "but I suppose you may begin."

"Thank you. In the first place, my Lady, I hope you will not minimize the importance of the disturbances on Florina."

"What disturbances?"

"You cannot have forgotten the incident in the library."

"A patroller killed! Really, Captain!"

"And a second patroller killed this morning, my Lady, and a native as well. It is not very usual for natives to kill patrollers and here is one who has done it twice, and yet remains uncaught. Is he a lone hand? Is it an accident? Or is it all part of a carefully laid scheme?"

"Apparently you believe the last."

"Yes, I do. The murdering native had two accomplices. Their description is rather like that of our two stowaways."

"You never said so!"

"I did not wish to alarm Your Ladyship. You’ll remember, however, that I told you repeatedly that they could be dangerous."

"Very welL What follows from all this?"

"What if the murders on Florina were simply side shows intended to distract the attention of the patroller squadrons while these two sneaked aboard our ship?"