The Currents of Space (Page 46)

"No? Where is he then?"

"Why, in Upper City. Here."

"Go on." Genro’s eyes widened, then narrowed in disbelief. "No, really," said the committeeman, a little hurt, "I have it for a fact. The patrollers are swooping up and down Kyrt Highway. They’ve got City Park surrounded and they’re using Central Arena as a co-ordination point. This is all authentic."

"Well, maybe." Genro’s eyes roved carelessly over the hangared ships. "I haven’t been at g for two months, I think. Are there any new ships in the place?"

"No. Well, yes, there’s Hjordesse’s Flame Arrow."

Genro shook his head. "I’ve seen that. It’s all chromium and nothing else. I hate to think I’ll have to end by designing my own."

"Are you selling Comet VP’

"Selling it or junking it. I’m tired of these late models. They’re too automatic. With their automatic relays and trajectory computers, they’re killing the sport."

"You know, I’ve heard others say the same thing," agreed the committeeman. "Tell you what. If I hear of an old model in good condition on the market, I’ll let you know."

"Thanks. Mind if I wander about the place?"

"Of course not. Go ahead." The committeeman grinned, waved, trotted away.

Genro made his siow rounds, his cigarette, half gone, drooping from one side of his mouth. He stopped at each occupied hangar, appraising its contents shrewdly.

At Hangar 26 he displayed a heightened interest. He looked over the low barrier and said, "Squire?"

The call was one of polite inquiry, but after a pause of several moments he had to call again, a little more peremptorily, a little less politely.

The Squire who emerged to view was not an impressive sight. For one thing, he was not in yachting costume. Secondly, he needed a shave, and his rather repellent-looking skullcap was yanked down in a most unfashionable manner. It seemed to cover half his face. Lastly, his attitude was one of peculiarly suspicious overcaution.

Cenro said, "I’m Markis Genro. Is this your craft, sir?"

"Yes, it is." The words were slow and tense.

Genro disregarded that. He tilted his head back and looked over the yacht’s lines carefully. He removed what was left of his cigarette from between his lips and flicked it high in the air. It had not yet reached the high point of its arc when, with a little flash, it vanished.

Genro said, "I wonder if you’d mind my coming in?" The other hesitated, then stepped aside. Genro entered.

He said, "What kind of motor does the craft carry, sir?"

"Why do you ask?"

Genro was tall, skin and eyes were dark, hair crisp and cut short. He topped the other by half a head, and his smile showed white, evenly spaced teeth. He said, "To be very frank, I’m in the market for a new ship."

"You mean you’re interested in this one?"

"I don’t know. Something like it, maybe, if the price is right. But anyway, I wonder if you’d mind my looking at the controls and engines?"

The Squire stood there silently.

Genro’s voice grew a trifle colder. "As you please, of course." He turned away.

The Squire said, "I might sell." He fumbled in his pockets. "Here’s the license!"

Genro looked at each side with a quick, experienced glance. He handed it back. "You’re Deamone?"

The Squire nodded. "You can come in if you wish."

Genro looked briefly at the large port-chronometer, the lumi

nescent hands, sparking brightly even in the daylight illumination, indicating the beginning of the second hour after sunset.

"Thank you. Won’t you lead the way?"

The Squire rummaged his pockets again and held out a booklet of key slivers. "After you, sir."

Genro took the booklet. He leafed through the slivers, looking at the small code marks for the "ship stamp." The other man made no attempt to help him.

Finally he said, "This one, I suppose?"

He walked up the short ramp to the air-lock balcony and considered the fine seam at the right of the lock carefully. "I don’t see– Oh, here it is," and he stepped to the other side of the lock.

Slowly, noiselessly, the lock yawned and Genro moved into the blackness. The red air-lock light went on automatically as the door closed behind them. The inner door opened and as they stepped into the ship proper white lights ffickered on over all the length of the ship.

Myrlyn Terens had no choice. He no longer remembered the time, long since, when such a thing as "choice" had existed. For three long, wretched hours, now, he had remained near Deamone’s ship, waiting and helpless to do anything else. It had led to nothing till now. He did not see that it could lead to anything but capture.

And then this fellow had come with an eye to the ship. To deal with him at all was madness. He could not possibly maintain his imposture at such close quarters. But then he could not possibly remain where he was, either.

At least within the ship there might be food. Strange that that had not occurred to him before.

There was.

Terens said, "It’s close to dinnertime. Would you like to have something?"

The other had scarcely looked over his shoulder. "Why, later, perhaps. Thank you."

Terens did not urge him. He let him roam the ship and applied himself thankfully to the potted meat and cellulitewrapped fruit. He drank thirstily. There was a shower across the

corridor from the kitchen. He locked its door and bathed. It was a pleasure to be able to remove the tight skullcap, at least temporarily. He even found a shallow closet from which he could choose a change of clothing.

He was far more master of himself when Genro returned.