The Currents of Space (Page 64)

Terens, hands tightly clasped, leaned forward in his seat. "I don’t take Trantorian money, either."

Fife ignored him.

Junz was the last to come to himself. For minutes, he could not adjust to the fact that the Townman was not really in the same room with him, that he was somewhere else on the embassy grounds, that he could see him only in image form, no more real actually than was Fife, who was twenty miles away. He wanted to go to the Townman, grip him by the shoulder, speak to him alone, but he couldn’t. He said, "There’s no point in arguing before we hear the man. Let’s have the details. If he is the psycho-prober, we need the details badly. If he isn’t, the details he’ll try to give us will prove it."

"If you want to know what happened," cried Terens, "I’ll tell you. Holding it back won’t do me any good any longer. It’s Sark or Trantor after all, so to Space with it. This will at least give me a chance to get one or two things into the open."

He pointed at Fife in scorn. "There’s a Great Squire. Only a Great Squire, says this Great Squire, can have the knowledge or the facilities to do what the psycho-prober did. He believes it, too. But what does he know? What do any of the Sarkites know?

"They don’t run the government. Florinians do! The Florinian Civil Service does. They get the papers, they make the papers, they file the papers. And it’s the papers that run Sark. Sure, most of us are too beaten even to whimper, but do you know what we could do if we wanted to, even under the noses of our damned Squires? Well, you see what I’ve done.

"I was temporarily traffic manager at the spaceport a year ago. Part of my training. It’s in the records. You’ll have to dig a little to find it because the listed traffic manager is a Sarkite. He had the title but I did the actual work. My name would be found in the special section headed Native Personnel. No Sarkite would have dirtied his eyes looking there.

"When the local I.S.B. sent the Spatio-analyst’s message to the port with a suggestion that we meet the ship with an ambulance, I got the message. I passed on what was safe. This matter of the destruction of Florina was not passed on.

"I arranged to meet the Spatio-analyst at a small suburban port. I could do that easily. All the wires and strings that ran Sark were at my finger tips. I was in the Civil Service, remember. A Great Squire who wanted to do what I did, couldn’t, unless he ordered some Florinian to do it for him. I could do it without anyone’s help. So much for knowledge and facility.

"I met the Spatio-analyst, kept him away from both Sark and the I.S.B. I squeezed as much information out of him as I could and set about using that information for Florina and against Sark."

Words were forced out of Fife. "You sent those first letters?"

"I sent those first letters, Great Squire," said Terens calmly. "I thought I could force control of enough of the kyrt lands into my own hands to make a deal with Trantor on my terms and drive you off the planet."

"You were mad."

"Maybe. Anyway, it didn’t work. I had told the Spatio-analyst I was the Squire of Fife. I had to, because he knew that Fife was the biggest man on the planet, and as long as he thought I was Fife, he was willing to talk openly. It made me laugh to realize that he thought Fife was anxious to do whatever was best for Florina.

"Unfortunately, he was more impatient than I was. He insisted that every day lost was a calamity, while I knew that my dealings with Sark needed time more than anything else. I found it difficult to control him and eventually had to use a psychic probe. I could get one. I had seen it used in hospitals. I knew something about it. Unfortunately, not enough.

"I set the. probe to wipe out the anxiety from the surface layers of his mind. That’s a simple operation. I still don’t know what happened. I think the anxiety must have run deeper, very deep, and the probe automatically followed it, digging out most of the conscious mind along with it. I was left with a mindless thing on my hands m sorry, Rik."

Rik, who had been listening intently, said sadly, "You shouldn’t have interfered with me, Townman, but I know how you must have felt."

"Yes," said Terens, "you’ve lived on the planet. You know about patrollers and Squires and the difference between Lower City and Upper City."

He took up the current of his story again. "So there I was with the Spatio-analyst completely helpless. I couldn’t let him be found by anyone who might trace his identity. I couldn’t kill him. I felt sure his memory would return and I would still need his knowledge, to say nothing of the fact that killing him would forfeit the good will of Trantor and the I.S.B., which I would eventually need. Besides, in those days, I was incapable of killing.

"I arranged to be transferred to Florina as Townman and I took the Spatio-analyst with me on forged papers. I arranged to have him found, I picked Valona to take care of him. There was no danger thereafter except for that one time with the doctor. Then I had to enter the power plants of Upper City. That was not impossible. The engineers were Sarkites but the janitors were Florinian. On Sark I learned enough about power mechanics to know how to short a power line. It took me three days to find the proper time for it. After that, I could murder easily. I never knew, though, that the doctor kept duplicate records in both halves of his office. I wish I had."

Terens could see Fife’s chronometer from where he sat. "Then, one hundred hours ago-it seems like a hundred years- Rik began remembering again. Now you have the whole story."

"No," said Junz, "we have not. What are the details of the Spatio-analyst’s story of planetary destruction?"

"Do you think I understood the details of what he had to say? It was some sort of-pardon me, Rik-madness."