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Chapter 12 The Shadow of Niflheim

  • 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."