The Currents of Space (Page 55)

"You! You there!"

Terens froze. He looked up in cold panic. The gate was a hundred feet away. If he ran… But they wouldn’t allow a running man to get out. It was a thing he dared not do. He must not run.

The young woman was looking out the open window of a car such as Terens had never seen, not even during fifteen years on Sark. It gleamed with metal and sparkled with translucent gem mite. –

She said, "Come here."

Terens’ legs carried him slowly to the car. Genro had said Trantor’s car would be waiting outside the port. Or had he? And would they send a woman on such an errand? A girl, in fact. A girl with a dark, beautiful face.

She said, "You arrived on the ship that just landed, didn’t you?"

He was silent.

She became impatient. "Come, I saw you leave the ship!" She tapped her polo-glasses. He had seen such glasses before.

Terens mumbled, "Yes. Yes."

"Get in then."

She held the door open for him. The car was even more luxurious inside. The seat was soft and it all smelled new and fragrant and the girl was beautiful. –

She said, "Are you a member of the crew?"

She was testing him, Terens imagined. He said, "You know who I am." He raised his fingers momentarily to the medallion.

Without any sound of motive power the car backed and turned.

At the gate Terens shrank back into the soft, cool, kyrtcovered upholstery, but there was no need for caution. The girl spoke peremptorily and they passed through.

She said, "This man is with me. I am Samia of Fife."

It took seconds for the tired Terens to hear and understand that. When he lurched tensely forward in his seat the car was traveling along the express lanes at a hundred per.

A laborer within the port looked up from where he stood and muttered briefly into his lapel. He entered the building then and returned to his work. His superintendent frowned and made a mental note to talk to Tip about this habit of lingering outside to smoke cigarettes for half an hour at a time.

Outside the port one of two men in a ground-car said with annoyance, "Got into a car with a girl? What car? What girl?" For all his Sarkite costume, his accent belonged definitely to the Arcturian worlds of the Trantorian Empire.

His companion was a Sarkite, well versed in the visicast news releases. When the car in question rolled through the gate and picked up speed as it began to veer off and upward to the express level, he half rose in his seat and cried, "It’s the Lady Samia’s car. There isn’t another like it. Good Galaxy, what do we do?"

"Follow," said the other briefly.

"But the Lady Samia-"

"She’s nothing to me. She shouldn’t be anything to you either. Or what are you doing here?"

Their own car was making the turn, climbing upward onto the broad, nearly empty stretches on which only the speediest of ground travel was permitted.

The Sarkite groaned, "We can’t catch that car. As soon as she spots us she’ll kick out resistance. That car can make two-fifty."

"She’s staying at a hundred so far," said the Arcturian.

After a while he said, "She’s not going to Depsec. That’s for sure."

And after another while he said, "She’s not going to the Palace of Fife."

Still another interval and he said, "I’ll be spun in space if I know where she’s going. She’ll be leaving the city again."

The Sarkite said, "How do we know it’s the Squire-killer that’s in there? Suppose it’s a game to get us away from the post. She’s not trying to shake us and she wouldn’t use a car like that if she didn’t want to be followed. You can’t miss it at two miles."

"I know, but Fife wouldn’t send his girl to get us out of the way. A squad of patrollers would have done the job better."

"Maybe it isn’t really the Lady in it."

"We’re going to find out, man. She’s slowing. Flash past and stop around a curve!"

"I want to speak to you," said the girl.

Terens decided it was not the ordinary kind of trap he had first considered it. She was the Lady of Fife. She must be. It did not seem to occur to her that anyone could or ought to interfere with her.

She had never looked back to see if she were followed. Three times as they turned he had noted the same car to the rear, keeping its distance, neither closing the gap nor falling behind.

It was not just a car. That was certain. It might be Trantor, which would be well. It might be Sark, in which case the Lady would be a decent sort of hostage.

He said, "I’m ready to speak."

She said, "You were on the ship that brought the native from Florina? The one wanted for all those killings?"

"I said I was."

"Very well. Now I’ve brought you out here so that there’ll be no interference. Was the native questioned during the trip to Sark?"

Such naIvetй, Terens thought, could not be assumed. She really did not know who he was. He said guardedly, "Yes."

"Were you present at the questioning?"


"Good. I thought so. Why did you leave the ship, by the way?"

That, thought Terens, was the question she should have asked first of all.

He said, "I was to bring a special report to-" He hesitated. She seized on the hesitation eagerly. "To my father? Don’t worry about that. I’ll protect you completely. I’ll say you came with me at my orders."

He said, "Very well, my Lady."

The words "my Lady" struck deeply into his own consciousness. She was a Lady, the greatest in the land, and he was a Florinian. A man who could kill patrollers could learn easily how to kill Squires, and a Squire-killer might, by the same token, look a Lady in the face.