The Currents of Space (Page 50)

"Not the I.S.B.," insisted Junz. "Myself. I’ve been working in almost an unofficial manner."

"The Squires don’t know that and wouldn’t believe it if you told them. Then, too, Trantor has been interested."

"At my request."

"Again they don’t know that and wouldn’t believe it."

Junz stood up and his chair moved automatically away from the table. Hands firmly interlocked behind his back, he strode the carpet. Up and back. Up and back. At intervals he glanced harshly at Abel.

Abel turned unemotionally to a second cup of coffee.

Junz said, "How do you know all this?"

"All what?"

"Everything. How and when the Spatio-analyst stowed away. How and in what manner the Townman has been eluding capture. Is it your purpose to deceive me?"

"My dear Dr. Junz."

"You admitted you had your men watching for the Spatioanalyst independently of myself. You saw to it that I was safely out of the way last night, leaving nothing to chance." Junz remembered, suddenly, that whiff of somnin.

"I spent a night, Doctor, in constant communication with certain of my agents. What I did and what I learned comes under the heading of, shall we say, classified material. You had to be out of the way, and yet safe. What I have told you just now I learned from my agents last night."

"To learn what you did you would need spies in the Sarkite government itself."

"Well, naturally."

Junz whirled on the ambassador. "Come, now."

"You find that surprising? To be sure, Sark is proverbial for the stability of its government and the loyalty of its people. The reason is simple enough since even the poorest Sarkite is an aristocrat in comparison with Florinians and can consider himself, however fallaciously, to be a member of a ruling class.

"Consider, though, that Sark is not the world of billionaires most of the Galaxy thinks it is. A year’s residence must have well convinced you of that. Eighty per cent of its poprilation has its living standard at a par with that of other worlds and not much higher than the standard of Florina itself. There will always be a certain number of Sarkites who, in their hunger, will be sufficiently annoyed with the small fraction of the population obviously drenched in luxury to lend themselves to my uses.

"It is the great weakness of the Sarkite government that for centuries they have associated rebellion only with Florina. They have forgotten to watch over themselves."

Junz said, "These small Sarkites, assuming they exist, can’t do you much good."

"Individually, no. Collectively, they form useful tools for our more important men. There are members even of the real ruling class who have taken the lessons of the last two centuries to heart. They are convinced that in the end Trantor will have established its rule over all the Galaxy, and, I believe, rightly convinced. They even suspect that the final dominion may take place within their lifetimes, and they prefer to establish themselves, in advance, on the winning side."

Junz grimaced. "You make interstellar politics soljncj a very dirty game."

"It is, but disapproving of dirt doesn’t remove it. N~r are all its facets unrelieved dirt. Consider the idealist. Consider the few men in Sark’s government who serve Trantor neither for money nor for promises of power but only because they honestly believe that a unified Galactic government is best for humanity nnd that only Trantor can bring such a government about. ~ have one such man, my best one, in Sark’s Department of Security, and at this moment he is bringing in the Townman."

Junz said, "You said he had been captured."

"By Depsec, yes. But my man is Depsec and my ~ar~" For a moment Abel frowned and turned pettish. "His useful~iess will be sharply reduced after this. Once he lets the Town-man get away, it will mean demotion at the best and imprisorlme2t at the worst. Oh well!"

"What are you planning now?"

"I scarcely know. First, we must have our Towi~m~n. I am sure of him only to the point of arrival at the spaceport. What happens thereafter…" Abel shrugged, and his olil, yellowish skin stretched parchmentlike over his cheekbones.

Then he added, "The Squires will be waiting for th.e Town-man as well. They are under the impression they have fiiin, and until one or the other of us has him in our fists, nothirig tnore can happen."

But that statement was wrong.

Strictly speaking, all foreign embassies throughout th~ Galaxy maintained extraterritorial rights over the immediate areas of their location. Generally this amounted to nothing ‘~or~ than a pious wish, except where the strength of the home p1.anet enforced respect. In actual practice it meant that O~ly Trantor could truly maintain the independence of its envoys.

The grounds of the Trantorian Embassy covered ~ear1y a square mile and within it armed men in Trantorian Cos~JThe and insignia maintained patrol. No Sarkite might enter ~ut on invitation, and no armed Sarkite on any account. To 1e ~ure, the sum of Trantorian men and arms could withstand the determined attack of a single Sarkite armored regiment for not more than two or three hours, but behind the small band was the power of reprisal from the organized might of a million worlds.

It remained inviolate.

It could even maintain direct material communication with Trantor, without the need of passing through Sarkite ports of entry or debarkation. From the hold of a Traritorian mothership, hovering just outside the hundred-mile limit that marked off the boundary between "planetary space" and "free space," small gyro-ships, vane-equipped for atmospheric travel with minimum power expenditure, might emerge and needle down (half coasting, half driven) to the small port maintained within the embassy grounds.