The Currents of Space (Page 54)

She pressed the button that opened the utility compartment and took out her polo-glasses. Ordinarily they were used to follow the gyrating antics of the one-man speedsters which took part in stratospheric polo. They could be put to more serious use too. She put them to her eyes and the descending dot became a ship in miniature, the ruddy glow of its stern drive plainly visible.

She would at least see the men as they left, learn as much as she could by the one sense of sight, arrange an interview somehow, somehow thereafter.

Sark filled the visiplate. A continent and half an ocean, obscured in part by the dead cotton-white of clouds, lay below.

Genro said, his words a trifle uneven as the only indication that the better part of his mind was perforce on the controls before him, "The spaceport will not be heavily guarded. That was at my suggestion too. I said that any unusual treatment of the arrival of the ship might warn Trantor that something was up. I said that success depended upon Trantor being at no time aware of the true state of affairs until it was too late. Well, never mind that."

Terens shrugged his shoulders glumly. "What’s the difference?"

"Plenty, to you. I will use the landing pit nearest the East Gate. You will get out the safety exit in the rear as soon as I land. Walk quickly but not too quickly toward that gate. I have some papers that may get you through without trouble and may not. I’ll leave it to you to take necessary action if there is trouble. From past history, I judge I can trust you that far. Outside the gate there will be a car waiting to take you to the embassy. That’s all."

"What about you?"

Slowly Sark was changing from a huge featureless sphere of blinding browns and greens and blues and cloud-white into something more alive, into a surface broken by rivers and wrinkled by mountains.

Genro’s smile was cool and humorless. "Your worries may end with yourself. When they find you gone, I may be shot as a traitor. If they find me completely helpless and physically unable to stop you, they may merely demote me as a fool. The latter, I suppose, is preferable, so I will ask you, before you leave, to use a neuronic whip on me."

The Townman said, "Do you know what a neuronic whip is like?"

"Quite." There were small drops of perspiration at his temples. "How do you know I won’t kill you afterward? I’m a Squire-killer, you know."

"I know. But killing me won’t help you. It will just waste your time. I’ve taken worse chances."

The surface of Sark as viewed in the visiplate was expanding, its edges rushed out past the border of visibility, its center grew and the new edges rushed out in turn. Something like the rainbow of a Sarkite city could be made out.

"I hope," said Genro, "you have no ideas of striking out on your own. Sark is no place for that. It’s either Trantor or the Squires. Remember."

The view was definitely that of a city now and a green-brown patch on its outskirts expanded and became a spaceport below them. It floated up toward them at a slowing pace.

Genro said, "If Trantor doesn’t have you in the next hour the Squires will have you before the day is out. I don’t guarantee what Trantor will do to you, but I can guarantee what Sark will do to you."

Terens had been in the Civil Service. He knew what Sark would do with a Squire-killer.

The port held steady in the visiplate, but Genro no longer regarded it. He was switching to instruments, riding the pulse-beam downward. The ship turned slowly in air, a mile high, and settled, tail down.

A hundred yards above the pit, the engines thundered high. Over the hydraulic springs, Terens could feel their shuddering. He grew giddy in his seat.

Genro said, "Take the whip. Quickly now. Every second is important. The emergency lock will close behind you. It will take them five minutes to wonder why I don’t open the main lock, another five minutes to break in, another five minutes to find you. You have fifteen minutes to get out of the port and into the car."

The shuddering ceased and in the thick silence Terens knew they had made contact with Sark.

The shifting diamagnetic fields took over. The yacht tipped majestically and slowly moved down upon its side.

Genro said, "Now!" His uniform was wet with perspiration.

Terens, with swimming head, and eyes that all but refused to focus, raised his neuronic whip..

Terens felt the nip of a Sarkite autumn. He had spent years in its harsh seasons until he had almost forgotten the soft eternal June of Florina. Now his days in Civil Service rushed back upon him as though he had never left this world of Squires.

Except that now he was a fugitive and branded upon him was the ultimate crime, the murder of a Squire.

He was walking in time to the pounding of his heart. Behind him was the ship and in it was Genro, frozen in the agony of the whip. The lock had closed softly behind him, and he was walking down a broad, paved path. There were workmen and mechanics in plenty about him. Each had his own job and his own troubles. They didn’t stop to stare a man in the face. They had no reason to.

Had anyone actually seen him emerge from the ship?

He told himself no one had, or by now there would have been the clamor of pursuit.

He touched his hat briefly. It was still down over his ears, and the little medallion it now carried was smooth to the touch. Genro had said that it would act as identification. The men from Trantor would be watching for just that medallion, glinting in the sun.

He could remove it, wander away on his own, find his way to another ship-somehow. He would get away from Sark- somehow. He would escape-somehow.

Too many somehows! In his heart he knew he had come to the final end, and as Genro had said, it was either Trantor or Sark. He hated and feared Trantor, but he knew that in any choice it could not and must not be Sark.