The Currents of Space (Page 53)

She was poisonous about it.

The commander cleared his throat and the expression of pain on his lined face grew, if anything, clearer and more definite. Finally he said, "As a matter of fact, my Lady, we have no wish at all to exclude you. It is only that we have received specific orders from the Squire, your father, to forbid your meeting the ship."

Samia said frozenly, "Are you ordering me to leave the port, then?"

"No, my Lady." The commauder was glad to compromise. "We were not ordered to exclude you from the port. If you wish to remain here you may do so. But, with all due respect, we will have to stop you from approaching closer to the pits."

He was gone and Samia sat in the futile luxury of her private ground-car, a hundred feet inside the outermost entrance of the port. They had been waiting and watching for her. They would probably keep on watching her. If she as much as rolled a wheel onward, she thought indignantly, they would probably cut her power-drive.

She gritted her teeth. It was unfair of her father to do this. It was all of a piece. They always treated her as though she understood nothing. Yet she had thought he understood.

He had risen from his seat to greet her, a thing he never did for anyone else now that Mother was dead. He had clasped her, squeezed her tightly, abandoned all his work for her. He had even sent his secretary out of the room because he knew she was repelled by the native’s still, white countenance.

It was almost like the old days before Grandfather died when Father had not yet become Great Squire.

He said, "Mia, child, I’ve counted the hours. I never knew it was such a long way from Florina. When I heard that those natives had hidden on your ship, the one I had sent just to insure your safety, I was nearly wild."

"Daddy! There was nothing to worry about."

"Wasn’t there? I almost sent out the entire fleet to take you off and bring you in with full military security."

They laughed together at the thought. Minutes passed before Samia could bring the conversation back to the subject that filled her.

She said casually, "What are you going to do with the stowaways, Dad?"

"Why do you want to know, Mia?"

"You don’t think they’ve plans to assassinate you, or anything like that?"

Fife smiled. "You shouldn’t think morbid thoughts."

"You don’t think so, do you?" she insisted.

"Of course not."

"Good! Because I’ve talked to them, Dad, and I just don’t believe they’re anything more than poor harmless people. I don’t care what Captain Racety says."

"They’ve broken a considerable number of laws for ‘poor harmless people,’ Mia."

"You can’t treat them as common criminals, Dad." Her voice rose in alarm.

"How else?"

"The man isn’t a native. He’s from a planet called Earth and he’s been psycho-probed and he’s not responsible."

"Well then, dear, Depsec will realize that. Suppose you leave it to them."

"No, it’s too important to just leave to them. They won’t understand. Nobody understands. Except me!"

"Only you in the whole world, Mia?" he – asked indulgently, and put out a finger to stroke a lock of hair that had fallen over her forehead.

Samia said with energy, "Only I! Only I! Everyone else is going to think he’s crazy, but I’m sure he isn’t. He says there is some great danger to Florina and to all the Galaxy. He’s a Spatio-analyst and you know they specialize in cosmogony. He would knowr

"How do you know he’s a Spatio-analyst, Mia?"

"He says so."

"And what are the details of the danger?"

"He doesn’t know. He’s been psycho-probed. Don’t you see that that’s the best evidence of all? He knew too much. Someone was interested in keeping it dark." Her voice instinctively fell and grew huskily confidential. She restrained an impulse to look over her shoulder. She said, "If his theories were false, don’t you see, there wouldn’t have been any need to psycho-probe him."

"Why didn’t they kill him, if that’s the case?" asked Fife and instantly regretted the question. There was no use in teasing the girl.

Samia thought awhile, fruitlessly, then said, "If you’ll order Depsec to let me speak to him, I’ll find out. He trusts me. I know he does. I’ll get more out of him than Depsec can. Please tell Depsec to let me see him, Dad. It’s very important."

Fife squeezed her clenched fists gently and smiled at her. "Not yet, Mia. Not yet. In a few hours we’ll have the third person in our hands. After that, perhaps."

"The third person? The native who did all the killings?"

"Exactly. The ship carrying him will land in about an hour."

"And you won’t do anything with the native girl and the Spatio-analyst till then?"

"Not a thing."

"Good! I’ll meet the ship." She rose.

"Where are you going, Mia?"

"To the port, Father. I have a great deal to ask of this other native." She laughed. "I’ll show you that your daughter can be quite a detective."

But Fife did not respond to her laughter. He said, "I’d rather you didn’t."

"Why not?"

"It’s essential that there be nothing out of the way about this man’s arrival. You’d be too conspicuous at the port."

"What of it?"

"I can’t explain statecraft to you, Mia."

"Statecraft, pooh." She leaned toward him, pecked a quick kiss at the center of his forehead and was gone.

Now she sat helplessly car-bound in the port while far overhead there was a growing speck in the sky, dark against the brightness of the late afternoon.