The sun slid lower and lower toward the horizon behind them as the airca_ulleted south along the broad valley and dry bed of the Hoork River, nearin_he zone of equal day and night. Hassan Bogdanoff drove while Harry Quon_inished his lunch, then changed places to begin his own. Von Schlichten go_wo bottles of beer from the refrigerated section of the lunch-hamper an_pened one for Paula Quinton and one for himself.
"What are we going to do with these geeks,"—she was using the nasty an_erogatory word unconsciously and by custom, now—"after this is all over? W_an't just tell them, 'Jolly well played, nice game, wasn't it?' and go bac_o where we were Wednesday evening."
"No, we can't. There's going to have to be a Terran seizure of political powe_n every part of this planet that we occupy, and as soon as we're consolidate_round and north of Takkad Sea, we're going to have to move in elsewhere," h_eplied. "Keegark, Konkrook, and the Free Cities, of course, will b_elatively easy. They're in arms against us now, and we can take them over b_orce. We had to make that deal with Jonkvank, or, rather, I did, so that wil_e a slower process, but we'll get it done in time. If I know that pair a_ell as I think I do, Jonkvank and Yoorkerk will give us plenty of pretexts, before long. Then, we can start giving them government by law instead of b_oyal decree, and real courts of justice; put an end to the head-paymen_ystem, and to these arbitrary mass arrests and tax-delinquency imprisonment_hat are nothing but slave-raids by the geek princes on their own people. And, gradually, abolish serfdom. In a couple of centuries, this planet will be fi_o admit to the Federation, like Odin and Freya."
"Well, won't that depend a lot on whom the Company sends here to tak_arrington's place?"
"Unless I'm much mistaken, the Company will confirm me," he replied.
"Administration on Uller is going to be a military matter for a long time t_ome, and even the Banking Cartel and the mercantile interests in the Compan_re going to realize that, and see the necessity for taking political control.
The Federation Government owns a bigger interest in the Company than th_ublic realizes, too; they've always favored it. And just to make sure, I'_ending Hid O'Leary to Terra on the next ship, to make a full report on th_ituation."
"You think it'll be cleared up by then? The City of Montevideo is due in fro_iflheim in a little under three months."
"It'll have to be cleared up by then. We can't keep this war going more than _onth, at the present rate. Police-action, and mopping-up, yes, full-scal_ar, no."
"Ammunition?" she asked.
He looked at her in pleased surprise. "Your education has been progressing, a_hat," he said. "You know, a lot of professional officers, even up to fiel_ank in the combat branches, seem to think that ammo comes down miraculousl_rom Heaven, in contragravity lorries, every time they pray into a radio fo_t. It doesn't; it has to be produced as fast as it's expended, and we haven'_een doing that. So we'll have to lick these geeks before it runs out, becaus_e can't lick them with gunbutts and bayonets."
"Well, how about nuclear weapons?" Paula asked. "I hate to suggest it—I kno_hat they did on Mimir, and Fenris, and Midgard, and what they did on Terra, during the First Century. But it may be our only chance."
He finished his beer and shoved the bottle into the waste-receiver, then go_ut his cigarettes.
"I'd hate to have to make a decision like that, Paula," he told her. "Th_ilitary use of nuclear energy is the last—well, the next-to-last—thing I'_ant to see on Uller. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it's a decision I won'_ave to make. There isn't a single nuclear bomb on the planet. The Company'_lways refused to allow them to be manufactured or stockpiled here."
"I don't think there'd be any criticism of your making them, now, general. An_here's certainly plenty of plutonium. You could make A-bombs, at least."
"There isn't anybody here who even knows how to make one. Most of our nuclea_ngineers could work one up, in about three months, when we'd either not nee_ne or not be alive."
"Dr. Gomes, who came in on the Pretoria, two weeks ago, can make them," sh_ontradicted. "He built at least a dozen of them on Niflheim, to use i_ctivating volcanoes and bringing ore-bearing lava to the surface."
Von Schlichten's hand, bringing his lighter to the tip of his cigarette, paused for a second. Then he completed the operation, snapped it shut, and pu_t away.
"When did all this happen?"
She took time out for mental arithmetic; even a spaceship officer had to d_hat, when a question of interstellar time-relations arose.
"About three-fifty days ago, Galactic Standard. They'd put off the first shot, six bombs, before I got in from Terra. I saw the second shot a day or s_efore I left Niflheim on the Canberra. Dr. Gomes had to stay over till th_retoria to put off the third shot. Why?"
"Did you run into a geek named Gorkrink, while you were on Nif?" he asked her.
"And what sort of work was he doing?"
"Gorkrink? I don't seem to remember… . Oh, yes! He was helping Dr. Murillo, the seismologist. His year was up after the second shot; he came to Uller o_he Canberra. Dr. Murillo was sorry to lose him. He understood Lingua Terr_erfectly; Dr. Murillo could talk to him, the way you do with Kankad, withou_sing a geek-speaker."
"Well, but what sort of work … ?"
"Helping set and fire the A-bombs… . Oh! Good Lord!"
"You can say that again, and deal in Allah, Shiva, and Kali," von Schlichte_old her. "Especially Kali… . Harry! See if you can get some more speed out o_his can. I want to get to Konkrook while it's still there!"
It was full dark when Konkrook came in view beyond the East Konk Mountains, _urid smear on the underside of the clouds, and, at Gongonk Island and at th_ompany farms to the south, a couple of bunches of searchlights fingerin_bout in the sky. When von Schlichten turned on the outside sound-pickup, h_ould hear the distant tom-tomming of heavy guns, and the crash of shells an_ombs. Keeping the car high enough to be above the trajectories of incomin_hells, Harry Quong circled over the city while Hassan Bogdanoff talked t_ongonk Island on the radio.
The city was in a bad way. There were seventy-five to a hundred big fire_oing, and a new one started in a rising ball of thermoconcentrate flame whil_hey watched. The three gun-cutters, Elmoran, Gaucho, and Bushranger, an_bout fifty big freight lorries converted to bombers, were shuttling back an_orth between the island and the city. The Royal Palace was on fire from en_o end, and the entire waterfront and industrial district were in flames.
Combat-cars and airjeeps were diving in to shell and rocket and machine-gu_treets and buildings. He saw six big bomber-lorries move in dignifie_rocession to unload, one after the other, on a row of buildings along wha_he Terrans called South Tenth Street, and on the roofs of buildings a bloc_way, red and blue flares were burning, and he could see figures, both huma_nd Ulleran, setting up mortars and machine-guns.
Landing on the top stage of Company House, on the island, they were met by _erran whom von Schlichten had seen, a few days ago, bossing native-labor a_he spaceport, but who was now wearing a major's insignia. He greeted vo_chlichten with a salute which he must have learned from some movie about th_ncient French Foreign Legion. Von Schlichten seriously returned it in kind.
"Everybody's down in the Governor-General's office, sir," he said. "You_ffice, that is. King Kankad's here with us, too."
He accompanied them to the elevator, then turned to a telephone; when vo_chlichten and Paula reached the office, everybody was crowded at the door t_reet them: Themistocles M'zangwe, his arm in a sling; Hans Meyerstein, th_ohannesburg lawyer, who seemed to have even more Bantu blood than th_rigadier-general; Morton Buhrmann, the Commercial Superintendent; Laviola, the Fiscal Secretary; a dozen or so other officers and civil administrators.
There was a hubbub of greetings, and he was pleased to detect as much rea_armth from the civil administration crowd as from the officers.
"Well, I'm glad to be back with you," he replied, generally. "And let m_resent Colonel Paula Quinton, my new adjutant; Hid O'Leary's on duty in th_orth… . Them, this was a perfectly splendid piece of work here; you can tak_his not only as a personal congratulation, but as a sort of unit citation fo_he whole crowd. You've all behaved simply above praise." He turned to Kin_ankad, who was wearing a pair of automatics in shoulder-holsters for hi_pper hands and another pair in cross-body belt holsters for his lower. "An_hat I've said for anybody else goes double for you, Kankad," he added, clapping the Kragan on the shoulder.
"All he did was save the lot of us!" M'zangwe said. "We were hanging on by ou_ingernails here till his people started coming in. And then, after you sen_he Aldebaran… ."
"Where is the Aldebaran, by the way? I didn't see her when I came in."
"Based on Kankad's, flying bombardment against Keegark, and keeping an eye ou_or those ships. Prinsloo caught the De Wett in the docks there and smashe_er, but the Jan Smuts got away, and we haven't been able to locate the Oo_aul Kruger, either. They're probably both on the Eastern Shore, gathering u_eenforcements for Orgzild," M'zangwe said.
"Our ability to move troops rapidly is what's kept us on top this long, an_rgzild's had plenty of time to realize it," von Schlichten said. "When we ge_rocyon down here, I'm going to send her out, with a screen of light scout- vehicles, to find those ships and get rid of them… . How's Hid been makin_ut, at Grank, by the way? I didn't have my car-radio on, coming down."
That touched off another hubbub: "Haven't you heard, general?" … "Oh, my God, this is simply out of this continuum!" … "Well, tell him, somebody!" … "No, get Hid on the screen; it's his story!"
Somebody busied himself at the switchboard. The rest of them sat down at th_ong conference-table. Laviola and Meyerstein and Buhrmann were especiall_bsequious in seating von Schlichten in Sid Harrington's old chair, and i_etting a chair for Paula Quinton. After a while, the jumbled colors on th_ig screen resolved themselves into an image of Hideyoshi O'Leary, grinnin_ike a pussy-cat beside an empty goldfish-bowl.
"Well, what happened?" von Schlichten asked, after they had exchange_reetings. "How did Yoorkerk like the movies? And did you get the Procyon an_he Northern Lights loose?"
"Yoorkerk was deeply impressed," O'Leary replied. "His story is that he is an_lways was the true and ever-loving friend of the Company; he acted to preven_uote certain disloyal elements unquote from harming the people and propert_f the Company. Procyon's on the way to Konkrook. I'm holding Northern Light_ere and Northern Star at Skilk; where do you want them sent?"
"Leave Northern Star at Skilk, for the time being. Tell the Company's grea_nd good friend King Yoorkerk that the Company expects him to contribute som_oldiers for the campaign here and against Keegark, when that starts; be sur_ou get the best-armed and best-trained regiments he has, and get them dow_ere as soon as possible. Don't send any of your Kragans or Karamessinis'
troops here, though; hold them in Grank till we make sure of the quality o_oorkerk's friendship."
"Well, general, I think we can be pretty sure, now. You see, he turned Rakkee_he Prophet over to me… ."
"What?" Von Schlichten felt his monocle starting to slip and took a firme_rip on it. "Who?"
"Pay me, Them; he didn't drop it," Hideyoshi O'Leary said. "Why, Rakkeed th_rophet. Yoorkerk was holding our ships and our people in case we lost; he wa_lso holding Rakkeed at the Palace in case we won. Of course, Rakkeed though_e was an honored guest, right up till Yoorkerk's guards dragged him in an_urned him over to us… ."
"That geek," von Schlichten said, "is too smart for his own good. Some o_hese days he's going to play both ends against the middle and both ends'l_old in on him and smash him." A suspicion occurred to him. "You sure this i_akkeed? It would be just like Yoorkerk to try to sell us a ringer."
O'Leary shook his head solemnly. "I thought of that, right away. This is th_eal article; Karamessinis' Constabulary and Intelligence officers certifie_im for me. What do you want me to do, send him down to Konkrook?"
Von Schlichten shook his head. "Get the priests of the locally venerated god_o put him on trial for blasphemy, heresy, impersonating a prophet, practicin_itchcraft without a license, or any other ecclesiastical crimes you or the_an think of. Then, after he's been given a scrupulously fair trial, have th_oldiers of King Yoorkerk behead him, and stick his head up over a big sign, in all native languages, 'Rakkeed the False Prophet.' And have audio-visual_ade of the whole business, trial and execution, and be sure that the priest_nd Yoorkerk's officers are in the foreground and our people stay out of th_ictures."
"Soap and towels, for General Pontius von Pilate!" Paula Quinton called out.
"That's an idea; I was wondering what to give Yoorkerk as a testimonia_resent," Hideyoshi O'Leary said. "A nice thirty-piece silver set!"
"Quite appropriate," von Schlichten approved. "Well, you did a first-clas_ob. I want you back with us as soon as possible—incidentally, you're now _rigadier-general—but not till the situation Grank-Krink-Skilk is stabilized.
And, eventually, you'll probably have to set up permanent headquarters in th_orth."
After Hideyoshi O'Leary had thanked him and signed off, and the screen wa_ark again, he turned to the others.
"Well, gentlemen, I don't think we need worry too much about the north, fo_he next few days. How long do you estimate this operation against Konkrook'_oing to take, to complete pacification, Them?"
"How complete is complete pacification, general?" Themistocles M'zangwe wante_o know. "If you mean to the end of organized resistance by larger than squad- size groups, I'd say three days, give or take twelve hours. Of course, there'll be small groups holding out for a couple of weeks, particularly i_he farming country and back in the forest… ."
"We can forget them; that's minor-tactics stuff. We'll need to keep some kin_f an occupation force here for some time; they can deal with that. We'll hav_o get to work on Keegark, as soon as possible; after we've reduced Keegark, we'll be able to reorganize for a campaign against the Free Cities on th_astern Shore."
"Begging your pardon, general, but reduce is a mild word for what we ought t_o to Keegark," Hans Meyerstein said. "We ought to raze that city as flat as _ootball field, and then play football on it with King Orgzild's head."
"Any special reason?" von Schlichten asked. "In addition to the Blount-Lemoyn_assacre, that is?"
"I should say so, general!" Themistocles M'zangwe backed Meyerstein up. "Bob, you tell him."
Colonel Robert Grinell, the Intelligence officer, got up and took the ciga_ut of his mouth. He was short and round-bodied and bald-headed, but he wa_ld Terran Federation Regular Army.
"Well, general, we've been finding out quite a bit about the genesis of thi_usiness, lately," he said. "From up north, it probably looked like an all- Rakkeed show; that's how it was supposed to look. But the whole thing wa_atched at Keegark, by King Orgzild. We've managed to capture a few prominen_onkrookans"—he named half a dozen—"who've been made to talk, and a number o_thers have come in voluntarily and furnished information. Orgzild conceive_he scheme in the beginning; Rakkeed was just the messenger-boy. My face get_he color of the Company trademark every time I think that the whole thing wa_lanned for over a year, right under our noses, even to the signal that was t_ouch the whole thing off… ."
"The poisoning of Sid Harrington, and our announcement of his death?" vo_chlichten asked.
"You figured that out yourself, sir? Well, that was it." Grinell went on t_laborate, while von Schlichten tried to keep the impatience out of his face.
Beside him, Paula Quinton was fidgeting, too; she was thinking, as he was, o_hat King Orgzild and Prince Gorkrink were doing now. "And I know positivel_hat the order for the poisoning of Sid Harrington came from the Keegarka_mbassy here, and was passed down through Gurgurk and Keeluk to this geek her_ho actually put the poison in the whiskey."
"Yes. I agree that Keegark should be wiped out, and I'd like to have a_mmediate estimate on the time it'll take to build a nuclear bomb to do th_ob. One of the old-fashioned plutonium fission A-bombs will do quite well."
Everybody turned quickly. There was a momentary silence, and then Colonel Eva_olbert, of the Fourth Kragan Rifles, the senior officer under Themistocle_'zangwe, found his voice.
"If that's an order, general, we'll get it done. But I'd like to remind you, first, of the Company policy on nuclear weapons on this planet."
"I'm aware of that policy. I'm also aware of the reason for it. We've bee_ompelled, because of the lack of natural fuel on Uller, to set up nuclea_ower reactors and furnish large quantities of plutonium to the geeks to fue_hem. The Company doesn't want the natives here learning of the possibility o_sing nuclear energy for destructive purposes. Well, gentlemen, that's a dea_ssue. They've learned it, thanks to our people on Niflheim, and unless m_stimate is entirely wrong, King Orgzild already has at least one First- Century Nagasaki-type plutonium bomb. I am inclined to believe that he had a_east one such bomb, probably more, at the time when orders were sent to hi_mbassy here, for the poisoning of Governor-General Harrington."
With that, he selected a cigarette from his case, offered it to Paula, an_napped his lighter. She had hers lit, and he was puffing on his own, when th_thers finally realized what he had told them.
"That's impossible!" somebody down the table shouted, as though that woul_ake it so. Another—one of the civil administration crowd—almost exactl_epeated Jules Keaveney's words at Skilk: "What the hell was Intelligenc_oing, sleeping?"
"General von Schlichten," Colonel Grinell took oblique cognizance of th_uestion, "you've just made, by implication, a most grave charge against m_epartment. If you're not mistaken in what you've just said, I deserve to b_ourt-martialed."
"I couldn't bring charges against you, colonel; if it were a court-martia_atter, I'd belong in the dock with you," von Schlichten told him. "It seems, though, that a piece of vital information was possessed by those who wer_nable to evaluate it, and until this afternoon, I was ignorant of it_xistence. Colonel Quinton, suppose you repeat what you told me, on the wa_own from Skilk."
"Well, general, don't you think we ought to have Dr. Gomes do that?" Paul_sked. "After all, he constructed those bombs on Niflheim, and it'll be h_ho'll have to build ours."
"That's right." He looked around. "Where's Dr. Lourenço Gomes, the nuclea_ngineer who came in on the Pretoria, two weeks ago? Send out for him, and ge_im in here at once."
There was another awkward silence. Then Kent Pickering, the chief of th_ongonk Island power-plant, cleared his throat.
"Why, general, didn't you know? Dr. Gomes is dead. He was killed during th_irst half hour of the uprising."