The Currents of Space (Page 56)

He looked at her, his eyes hard and searching. He lifted his head and stared down at her.

She was very beautiful.

And because she was the greatest Lady in the land, she was unconscious of his regard. She said, "I want you to tell me everything that you heard at the questioning. I want to know all that was told to you by the native. It’s very important."

"May I ask why you are interested in the native, my Lady?"

"You may not," she said flatly.

"As you wish, my Lady."

He didn’t know what he was going to say. With half his consciousness he was waiting for the pursuing car to catch up. With the other half he was growing more aware of the face and body of the beautiful girl sitting near him.

Florinians in the Civil Service and those acting as Townmen were, theoretically, celibates. In actual practice, most evaded that restriction when they could. Terens had done what he dared and what was expedient in that direction. At best, his experiences had never been satisfactory.

So it was all the more important that he had never been so near a beautiful girl in a car of such luxuriance under conditions of such isolation.

She was waiting for him to speak, dark eyes (such dark eyes) aflame with interest, full red lips parted in anticipation, a figure more beautiful for being set off in beautiful kyrt. She was completely unaware that anyone, anyone, could possibly dare harbor dangerous thought with regard to the Lady of Fife.

The half of his consciousness that waited for the pursuers faded out.

He suddenly knew that the killing of a Squire was not the ultimate crime after all.

He wasn’t quite aware that he moved. He knew only that her small body was in his arms, that it stiffened, that for an instant she cried out, and then he smothered the cry with his lips.

There were hands on his shoulder and the drift of cool air on his back through the opened door of the car. His fingers groped for his weapon, too late. It was ripped from his hand.

Samia gasped wordlessly.

The Sarkite said with horror, "Did you see what he did?"

The Arcturian said, "Never mind!"

He put a small black object into his pocket and smoothed the seam shut. "Get him," he said.

The Sarkite dragged Terens out of the car with the energy of fury. "And she let him," he muttered. "She let him."

"Who are you?" cried Samia with sudden energy. "Did my f ather send you?"

The Arcturian said, "No questions, please."

"You’re a foreigner," said Samia angrily.

The Sarkite said, "By Sark, I ought to bust his head in." He cocked his fist.

"Stop it!" said the Arcturian. He seized the Sarkite’s wrist and forced it back.

The Sarkite growled sullenly, "There are limits. I can take the Squire-killing. I’d like to kill a few myself, but standing by and watching a native do what he did is just about too much for me."

Samia said in an unnaturally high-pitched voice, "Native?" The Sarkite leaned forward, snatched viciously at Terens’ cap. The Townman paled but did not move. He kept his gaze steadily upon the girl and his sandy hair moved slightly in the breeze.

Samia moved helplessly back along the car seat as far as she could and then, with a quick movement, she covered her face with both hands, her skin turning white under the pressure of her fingers.

The Sarkite said, "What are we going to do with her?"


"She saw us; She’ll have the whole planet after us before we’ve gone a mile."

"Are you going to kill the Lady of Fife?" asked the Arcturian sarcastically.

"Well, no. But we can wreck her car. By the time she gets to a radio-phone, we’ll be all right."

"Not necessary." The Arcturian leaned into the car. "My Lady, I have only a moment. Can you hear me?"

She did not move.

The Arcturian said, "You had better hear me. I am sorry I interrupted you at a tender moment but luckily I have put that moment to use. I acted quickly and was able to record the scene by tri-camera. This is no bluff. I will transmit the negative to a safe place minutes after I leave you and thereafter any interference on your part will force me to be rather nasty. I’m sure you understand me."

He turned away. "She won’t say anything about this. Not a thing. Come along with me, Townman."

Terens followed. He could not look back at the white, pinched face in the car.

Whatever might now follow, he had accomplished a miracle. For one moment he had kissed the proudest Lady on Sark, had felt the fleeting touch of her soft, fragrant lips.

16. The Accused

DIPLOMACY has a language and a set of attitudes all its own. Relationships between the representatives of sovereign states, if conducted strictly according to protocol, are stylized and stultifying. The phrase "unpleasant consequences" becomes synonymous with war and "suitable adjustment" with surrender.

When on his own, Abel preferred to abandon diplomatic double-talk. With a tight personal beam connecting himself and Fife, he might merely have been an elderly man talking amiably over a glass of wine.

He said, "You have been hard to reach, Fife."

Fife smiled. He seemed at ease and undisturbed. "A busy day, Abel." –

"Yes. I’ve heard a bit about it."

"Steen?" Fife was casual.

"Partly. Steen’s been with us about seven hours."

"I know. My own fault, too. Are you considering turning him over to us?"

"I’m afraid not."

"He’s a criminal."

Abel chuckled and turned the goblet in his hand, watching the lazy bubbles. "I think we can make out a case for his being a political refugee. Interstellar law will protect him on Trantorian territory."