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Chapter 9

  • The soft silvery radiance which this planet seemed to feature, bathed th_etal hallway as Kirk marched stolidly toward the slim arcing stairway tha_ed toward Naia's floor. This was certainly a strange building, he thought.
  • The architects of Mythox knew how to use curves. They utilized them fo_tility and beauty to a point where a straight line was something to b_urprised at. Pretty smart people, the Mythoxians—in more ways than one.
  • And Kirk, for no apparent reason, thought of a phrase common among childre_uring his own childhood, "Who died and left you boss?"
  • He counted the markings over one door. He had seen those markings before. Nai_orth lived here.
  • And Naia North was in. Kirk walked softly across the large foyer room an_uietly pushed open a door to the left. Naia, clad as always, in beauty, la_leeping on a bed that stood out from the wall on two narrow rods of metal an_eeded no other support.
  • As Kirk opened his mouth, Naia awakened, so she was looking calmly at him a_e spoke. "Up, baby. You've got a date with a hot electrode a lot of ligh_ears from here. It's a hike, so rise and shine."
  • Naia sat up very slowly, very gracefully. She was what men dream of finding i_ed beside them. What they marry to keep in bed beside them.
  • "You must be mad."
  • "As a hatter, baby. Into your duds." He saw her glance at the door jamb of th_edroom entrance, saw the shadow of disappointment in her lovely eyes. "Yo_idn't put those Joe Louis light rays in your bedroom, did you?"
  • Naia set her feet on the floor and drew herself to her full height. She wor_ight blue, a gown that hung as had that of Guinevere, as that of the Maid o_halot.
  • But Naia was contempt. She was contempt clothed in cold blue, then contemp_aked as she allowed the gown to fall to the floor. A few minutes later, sh_as contempt clothed for the street in tight britches and a loose blouse.
  • "You go first," Kirk said. "And do as you're told. You may be a Mythoxian, bu_his .45 doesn't know that. It puts big holes in anybody."
  • As Mala walked serenely toward the hall door, there was only a touch o_ullenness at the corners of her mouth. She turned her head to speak over he_houlder. "Hiding behind a woman, brave Earthman?"
  • "Yes and no. I'm hiding behind a woman from those damn straight-left rays; an_'m not a brave Earthman. I spend most of my time scared to death. That's wh_ll of us are getting back to Earth quick, so I can draw an easy breath."
  • "All of us?"
  • "Oh yes. Didn't I tell you? You're taking me to the places I can find Alm_akin and Orin. We're going to have witnesses and testimony. And the party wh_ets burned isn't going to be Paul Cordell."
  • "I won't—"
  • "Hold it, honey."
  • Kirk had picked up two items upon leaving Naia's apartment. A pair of film_ilk stockings and a white scarf. He jerked Naia's hands behind her back i_omewhat of a surprise move. Before she recovered, her wrists were tightl_ound. She gasped, "You—madman," just before he deftly pulled the scarf acros_er mouth and twisted it into an effective gag. He stepped back to admire hi_andywork.
  • "Now we're all ready. Orin and Alma."
  • Naia shook her head in a slow negative, Kirk pushed her gently into the hal_nd rounded to face her. "Yes, baby," he said. "You ought to know now I won'_e stopped. I need Orin to fly that space buggy. If I don't get him we can'_o. Then there'd be nothing left for me to do but even the score for Pau_ordell. He'll have to go but you'll keep him company."
  • Naia stood like a statue, apparently considering. Then she moved slowly dow_he corridor in the opposite direction from which Kirk had come. Down thre_urving flights and stopping finally in front of a door identical to her own.
  • Kirk stepped forward and leaned firmly on the knob. The door opened. He kne_here the bedroom was in these apartments now. He pushed Naia ahead of him, into the bedroom and saw Alma lying with her eyes closed.
  • Kirk whirled, just in time to level his gun and bring Orin to a dead stop.
  • "Over by the bed, high-born." As Orin complied, Kirk leered at Naia. "That wa_lever, but I had it doped. I spotted them for husband and wife or the Mytho_quivalent quite some time back. A good chance shot to hell."
  • "What do you want here?" Orin demanded.
  • "A chauffeur. We're heading Earthward on the first ship. That's the one out i_he jungle."
  • "But you talked to Tamu. I thought—"
  • "I'd been suckered? No, no my friend! On the force they called me the boy wit_he one-track mind."
  • "I can see what they meant," Orin sighed.
  • "I thought you would. Tell your wife to get dressed. We're getting an air- sled."
  • "You might have the decency to—"
  • "I won't turn my back. You can stand between us. That's the best I can do."
  • Alma dressed swiftly in a costume similar to Naia's. When they were ready t_eave, Kirk said, "Now let's get it straight once and for all. I'll stand fo_o fast moves. It's Earth, or some quick slugs. Do you follow me?"
  • They did not speak but they evidently believed Kirk because, fifteen minute_ater, the party of four stood beside the ugly ship while thick trees an_rasses whispered around them.
  • "Inside."
  • In the corridor, Orin stopped and turned as though having thought of _onvincing argument he was bent upon trying. Kirk poked him sharply in th_ibs with the barrel of the .45 and he moved on after the women toward th_adder and thence to the motor room.
  • Once inside, Orin turned and spoke sharply. "Won't you reconsider?"
  • "Push the levers, Jack. The right ones."
  • "Tamu is a reasonable man. We could talk to him again. He would make even _ore generous offer."
  • "I'm waiting."
  • "Certainly you did not refute the logic of his argument? We are in the right.
  • Our case is just. The galaxies must be protected from—"
  • "The right levers, Jack."
  • "—from those who through ignorance, stupidity, or ferocity would destroy it."
  • "One more minute of this and there'll be dead people aboard this ship."
  • "You're helpless, really. You can't fly this ship without me. Therefore m_ife is safe. I merely refuse to launch it."
  • "Would you like a dead wife?"
  • Orin whitened perceptibly.
  • "She may be a wife to you, but to me she's just a doll who helped lie a ma_nto the chair."
  • "You wouldn't do it! You haven't got the nerve to shoot down a man or a woma_n cold blood."
  • Kirk looked steadily into Orin's eyes. "You don't believe that do you, bud?"
  • Orin held the gaze for a long time. Then he dropped his eyes. "No. I don'_elieve it."
  • "Then get to work."
  • "One last offer. Won't you reconsider. Join us?"
  • "No!"
  • "Very well."
  • And Orin, a fixed, taut look on his face, reached forth his hand and touched _utton on the panel board. It was a very special button.
  • A button for use only when all hope was gone.
  • The exploding space-time ship lighted the countryside to blinding brilliance.
  • >
  • >
  • > A.P. Jan 21st—Shortly after midnight today, Paul Cordell, convicted kille_n the famous "woman from Mars" case, was put to death in the electric chai_t the state penitentiary.