Von Schlichten, in a fresh uniform, sat at the end of the table in Sidne_arrington's office; Harrington and Eric Blount, the Lieutenant-Governor, faced each other across it, over the three-foot disc of an Ulleran chess- board. Harrington had the white, or center, position. Blount, sandy-haired an_onsiderably younger, was playing black, and his pieces were closing i_elentlessly from the outer rim.
"Well, then what?" Harrington asked.
Von Schlichten dropped ash from his cigarette into the tray that served al_hree of them.
"Nothing much," he replied. "Keeluk bugged out as soon as he saw my car le_own. We picked up a few of his ragtag-and-bobtail, and they're bein_uestioned now, but I doubt if they'll tell us anything we don't know already.
The dog had been kept in a lean-to back of the house; it had been removed, probably as soon as Keeluk called in his goon-gang. At least one of th_abbits had been kept on the premises, too, some time ago. No trace of th_oat."
He watched Blount move one of his pieces and nodded approvingly. "The riot'_een put down," he continued, "but we're keeping two companies of Kragans i_he city, and about a dozen airjeeps patrolling the section from Eightiet_own to Sixty-fourth, and from the waterfront back to Eighth Avenue. There i_lso the equivalent of a regiment of King Jaikark's infantry—spearmen, crossbowmen, and a few riflemen—and two of those outsize cavalry companies o_is, helping hold the lid down. They're making mass arrests, indiscriminately.
More slaves for Jaikark's court favorite, of course."
"Or else Gurgurk wants them to use for patronage," Blount added. "He's bee_uilding quite a political organization, lately. Getting ready to shov_aikark off the throne, I'd say."
Harrington pushed one of his pieces out along a radial line toward the rim.
Blount promptly took a pawn, which, under Ulleran rules, entitled him to _econd move. He shifted another piece, a sort of combination knight an_ishop, to threaten the piece Harrington had moved.
"Oh, Gurgurk wouldn't dare try anything like that," the Governor-General said.
"He knows we wouldn't let him get away with it. We have too much of a_nvestment in King Jaikark."
"Then why's Gurgurk been supporting this damned Rakkeed?" Blount wanted t_now, hastily interposing a piece. "Gurgurk can follow one of two lines o_olicy. He can undertake to heave Jaikark off the throne and seize power, o_e has to support Jaikark on the throne. We're subsidizing Jaikark. Rakkee_as been preaching this crusade against the Terrans, and against Jaikark, who_e control. Gurgurk has been subsidizing Rakkeed… ."
"You haven't any proof of that," Harrington protested.
"My Intelligence Section has," von Schlichten put in. "We can give sums o_oney, and dates, and the names of the intermediaries through whom they wer_aid to Rakkeed. Eric is absolutely correct in making that statement."
"Personally, I think Gurgurk's plan is something like this: Rakkeed will sti_p anti-Terran sentiment here in Konkrook, and direct it against our puppet, Jaikark, as well as against us," Blount said. "When the outbreak comes, Jaikark will be killed, and then Gurgurk will step in, seize the Palace, an_se the Royal army to put down the revolt that he's incited in the firs_lace. That will put him in the position of the friend of the Company, an_ost of his dupes will be rounded up and sold as slaves, and King Gurgurk'l_ocket the proceeds. The only question is, will Rakkeed let himself be use_hat way? I think Rakkeed's bigger than Gurgurk ever can be. And more of _hreat to the Company. Everywhere we turn, Rakkeed's at the bottom of whateve_appens to be wrong. This business, for instance; Keeluk's one of Rakkeed'_ollowers."
"Eric, you have Rakkeed on the brain!" Harrington exclaimed impatiently, the_oved the threatened piece counterclockwise on the circle where he had place_t. "He's just a barbarian caravan-driver."
Eric Blount moved the piece that had taken Harrington's pawn.
"Your king's in danger," he warned. "And Hitler was just a paper-hanger."
"Rakkeed has no following, except among the rabble." Harrington puffe_uriously at his pipe, trying to figure the best protection for his king.
"You just think he hasn't," Blount retorted. "Here in Konkrook, he's alway_ntertained by one or another of the big ship-owning nobles. They probabl_eprecate his table-manners, but they just love his politics. And the sam_hing at Keegark, and at the Free Cities along the Eastern Shore."
"The last time Rakkeed was in Konkrook, he was the guest of the Keegarka_mbassador," von Schlichten stated. "Intelligence got that from a spy we'_lanted among the embassy servants."
"You sure this spy wasn't just romancing?" Harrington asked. "You get s_onfounded many wild stories about Rakkeed. Three days after he was reporte_ere at Konkrook, he was reported at Skilk, five thousand miles away, said t_e having an audience with King Firkked."
"No mystery to that," von Schlichten said. "He travels on our ships, i_isguise, coolie-class, on the geek-deck."
"Be a good idea if he could be caught at it, some time," Blount said, makin_nother move. "One of the lower-deck loading ports could be left unlocked, b_arelessness, and he could blunder overboard at about five thousand feet." H_atched Harrington make a deceptively pointless-looking move. "Sid, this dam_og business worries me."
"Worries me, too. I'm fond of that mutt, and God only knows what sort of stuf_e's been getting to eat. And I hate to think of why those geeks stole him, too."
"Well, at risk of seeming heartless, I'm not so much worried for Stalin as _m about why Keeluk was hiding him, and why he was willing to murder the onl_wo Terrans in Konkrook who trust him, to prevent our finding out that he ha_im."
"A Mr. Keeluk, a clergyman," von Schlichten quoted. He chain-lit anothe_igarette and stubbed out the old one. "Maybe the Rev. Keeluk wanted Stali_or sacramental purposes."
Blount looked up sharply. "Ritual killing?" he asked. "Or sympathetic magic?"
Von Schlichten shrugged. "Take your choice. Maybe Rakkeed wanted the dog, t_ill before a congregation of his followers, killing us by proxy, or i_ffigy. Or maybe they think we worship Stalin, and getting control of hi_ould give them power over us. I wish we knew a little more about Ullera_sychology."
That wasn't the first time he'd made that wish. Even if sex weren't th_aramount psychological factor the ancient Freudians believed, it was a_xtremely important one, and on Uller most of the fundamental terms of Terra_sychology were meaningless. At the same time, the average Ulleran probabl_ad complexes and neuroses that would have had Freud talking to himself, an_hey certainly indulged in practices that would have even stood Krafft-Ebing'_air on end.
"One thing," Blount said. "It doesn't take any Ulleran psychologist to kno_hat about eighty percent of them hate us poisonously."
"Oh, rubbish!" Harrington blew the exclamation out around his pipe-stem with _ush of smoke. "A few fanatics hate us, and a few merchants who lost mone_hen we replaced this primitive barter economy of theirs, but nine-tenths o_hem have benefited enormously from us, and continue to benefit… ."
"And hate us more deeply with each new benefit," Blount added. "They resen_verything we've done for them."
"Yes, this spaceport proposition of King Orgzild of Keegark looks like it, no_oesn't it?" Harrington retorted. "He hates and resents us so much that he'_ffered us a spaceport at his city… ."
"What's it going to cost him?" Blount asked. "He furnishes th_and—sequestered from the estate of some noble he executed for treason—and th_abor—all forced. We furnish the structural steel, the machine-equipment, th_ngineering. We get a spaceport we don't really need, and he gets all th_usiness it'll bring to Keegark. Considering the fact that Rakkeed is _elcome guest at his embassy here, and at the Royal Palace at Keegark, I'_eginning to wonder if he isn't fomenting trouble for us here at Konkrook t_ake us willing to move our main base to his city."
He made a move. Instantly, Harrington slashed out from the middle of the boar_ith one of his heavy-duty, all-purpose pieces and took a piece, then move_gain.
"Now look whose king's threatened!" he crowed.
"Yes, I see." Blount brought a piece clockwise around the board and took th_hreatening piece, then moved again. "I hope you see whose king's threatened, now."
Harrington swore, reached out to move a piece, and then jerked his hand bac_s though the piece were radioactive. For a while, he sat puffing his pipe an_taring at the board.
"In fact, Orgzild's so sure that we're going to accept his offer that he'_tarted building two new power-reactors, to handle the additional power-deman_hat'll result from the increased business," Blount continued.
"Where's he getting the plutonium?" von Schlichten asked.
"Where can he get it?" Harrington replied. "He just bought four tons of i_rom us, off the City of Pretoria."
"That's a hell of a lot of plutonium," Blount said. "I wonder if he mightn'_ave some idea of what else plutonium can be used for, beside generatin_ower."
"Oh, God, I hope not!" Harrington exclaimed. "You're going to get me starte_eeing burglars under the bed, next… ."
"Maybe there are burglars," Blount said, pointing with his cigarette-holder t_arrington's threatened king. "Can't you do something about that, Sid?" The_e turned to von Schlichten. "Before we get off the subject, how about thos_etters the Rev. Keeluk gave to the Quinton girl?"
"All addressed to Skilkans known to be Rakkeed disciples and rabidly anti- Terran," von Schlichten replied. "We radioed the list to Skilk; Colonel Cheng- Li, our intelligence man there, teleprinted us back a lot of material on the_hat looks like the Newgate Calendar. We turned the letters themselves over t_oc Petrie, the Ulleran philology sharp, who is a pretty fair cryptanalyst. H_ouldn't find any indications of cipher, but there was a lot of gossip abou_eeluk's friends and parishioners which might have arbitrary code-meanings.
I'm going to explain the situation to Miss Quinton, and advise her to hav_othing to do with any of the people Keeluk gave her letters to."
Harrington had gotten his king temporarily out of danger, losing a piece doin_t.
"Think she'll listen to you?" he asked. "These Extraterrestrials' Right_ssociation people are a lot of blasted fanatics, themselves. We're a gang o_loody-handed, flint-hearted, imperialistic sons of bitches in their book, an_nything we say's sure to be a Hitler-sized lie."
"Oh, they're not as bad as all that. I never met the girl before today, bu_ld Mohammed Ferriera's a decent bloke. And their association's really done _ot of good. For one thing, they put an end to the peonage system o_ggdrasill, and I know what conditions were like, there, before they did."
A calculating look came into Harrington's eye. He puffed slowly at his pip_nd slid a piece from the center toward the sector of the board nearest him.
Blount whistled softly and made a quick re-arrangement.
"Carlos, did you say she told you she was going to Skilk, in the near future?"
Harrington asked. "Well, look here; you're going up that way, yourself, wit_hat battalion of Kragans, on the Aldebaran. Why don't you invite her to mak_he trip with you? You can be quite attractive to young ladies, when you try, and she'll be grateful for that rescue this afternoon, which is always a goo_oundation. Maybe you can plant a couple of ideas where they'll do the mos_ood. She's only been here for three months—since the Canberra got in fro_iflheim. You know and I know and we all know that there are a lot of thing_p there at the polar mines that would look like hell to anybody who didn'_nderstand local conditions… ."
"Well, Miss Quinton's company won't be any particularly heavy cross for me t_ear," von Schlichten replied. "I won't guarantee anything, of course… ."
The intercom-speaker on the table whistled several times. Harrington swore, laid down his pipe, and got up, brushing ashes from the front of his coat. H_lipped a switch and spoke into the box.
"Governor," a voice replied out of it, "there's a geek procession just lande_rom a water-barge in front, and is coming up the roadway to Company House. _latoon of Jaikark's Household Guards, with rifles; the Spear of State; _oyal litter; about thirty geek nobles, on foot; a gift-litter; anothe_latoon of riflemen, if you say the last syllable quick enough."
"That'll be Gurgurk, coming to tell us how unhappy his Sodden and Inebriate_eekship is about that fracas on Seventy-second Street," Harrington said. "Th_ift-litter will contain the customary indemnity, at the current marke_uotation. Have Gurgurk and party admitted, all but the rifle-platoons; giv_im an honor guard of our Kragans, and keep his own gun-toters outside. Tak_hem to the Reception Hall, and hold them there till I signal from th_udience Hall, and then herd them in."
He came back and made a move. Immediately, Blount took one of his pieces, moved again, took another, and made the third move to which he was entitled.
"I'll mate you in four moves," he predicted. "Want to play it out, before w_o down?"
"Sure; what's time to a geek? Gurgurk'd think we were worried about somethin_f we didn't keep him waiting… . Good Lord! You do have me over a barrel, Eric!"