The Currents of Space (Page 41)
"That sounds so silly."
"Does it? Why are they running away from Florina? We haven’t asked them. Let us suppose they are running away from the patrollers since that is certainly the most reasonable assump tion. Would they be running to Sark of all places? And on a ship that carries Your Ladyship? And then he claims to be a Spatioanalyst."
Samia frowned. "What of that?"
"A year ago a Spatio-analyst was reported missing. The story was never given wide publicity. I knew, of course, because my ship was one of those that searched near space for signs of his ship. Whoever is backing these Florinian disorders has undoubtedly seized on that fact, and just knowing that the matter of the missing Spatio-analyst is known to them shows what a tight and unexpectedly efficient organization they have."
"It might be that the Earthman and the missing Spatio-analyst have no connection."
"No real connection, my Lady, undoubtedly. But to expect no connection at all is to expect too much of coincidence. It is an impostor we are dealing with. That is why he claims to have been psycho-probed."
"How can we prove he isn’t a Spatio-analyst? He knows no details of the planet Earth beyond the bare fact that it is radioactive. He cannot pilot a ship. He knows nothing of Spatioanalysis. And he covers up by insisting he was psycho-probed. Do you see, my Lady?"
Samia could make no direct answer. "But to what purpose?" she demanded.
"So that you might do exactly what you said you intended to do, my Lady."
"Investigate the mystery?"
"No, my Lady. Take the man to your father."
"I still see no point."
"There are several possibilities. At the best, he could be a spy upon your father, either for Florina or possibly for Trantor. I imagine old Abel of Trantor would certainly come forward to identify him as an Earthman, if for no other reason than to embarrass Sark by demanding the truth concerning this fictitious psycho-probing. At the worst, he will be your father’s assassin."
"This is ridiculous!"
"Perhaps, my Lady. But if so, the Department of Security is also ridiculous. You will recall that just before dinner I was called away to receive a message from Sark."
"I’his is it."
Samia received the thin translucent foil with its red lettering. It said: "Two Floriians are reported to have taken secret, illegal passage on your ship. Secure them immediately. One of them may claim to be a Spatio-analyst and not a Florinian native. You are to take no action in this matter. You will be held strictly responsible for the safety of these people. They are to be held for delivery to Depsec. Extreme secrecy. Extreme urgency."
Samia felt stunned. "Depsec," she said. "The Department of Security."
"Extreme secrecy," said the Captain. "I stretch a point to tell you this, but you have left me no choice, my Lady."
She said, "What will they do to him?"
"I cannot say for certain," said the Captain. "Certainly a suspected spy and assassin cannot expect gentle treatment. Probably his pretense will become partly a reality and he will learn what a psycho-probe is really like."
12. The Detective
Tins FouR Great Squires regarded the Squire of Fife each in his own way. Bort was angry, Rune was amused, Balle was annoyed, and Steen was frightened.
Rune spoke first. He said, "High treason? Are you trying to frighten us with a phrase? What does it mean? Treason against you? Against Bort? Against myself? By whom and how? And for S ark’s sake, Fife, these conferences interfere with my normal sleeping hours."
"The results," said Fife, "may interfere with many sets of sleeping hours. I don’t refer to treason against any of us, Rune. I mean treason against Sark."
Bort said, "Sark? What’s that, anyway, if not us?"
"Call it a myth. Call it something ordinary Sarkites believe in."
"I don’t understand," moaned Steen. "You men always seem so interested in talking each other down. Really! I wish you’d get all this over with."
Balle said, "I agree with Steen." Steen looked gratified.
Fife said, "I’m perfectly willing to explain immediately. You have heard, I suppose, of the recent disturbances on Florina."
Rune said, "The Depsec dispatches speak of several patrollers killed. Is that what you mean?"
Bort broke in angrily. "By Sark, if we must have a conference, let’s talk about that. Patrollers killed! They deserve to be killed! Do you mean to say a native can simply come up to a patroller and bash his head in with a two-by-four? Why should any patroller let any native with a two-by-four in his hand come close enough to use it? Why wasn’t the native burned down at twenty paces?
"By Sark, I’d rattle the Patrol Corps from captain to recruit and send every dunderhead out on ship duty. The entire Corps is just an accumulation of fat. It’s too easy a life for them down there. I say that every five years we should put Florina under martial law and scrape out the troublemakers. It would keep the natives quiet and our own men on their toes."
"Are you through?" asked Fife.
"For now, yes. But I’ll take it up again. It’s my investment down there, too, you know. It may not be as big as yours, Fife, but it’s big enough for me to worry about."
Fife shrugged. He turned suddenly to Steen. "And have you heard of the disturbances?"
Steen jumped. "I have. I mean, I’ve heard you just saying-"
"You haven’t read the Depsec announcements?"