Governor-General Sidney Harrington sat on the comfortably upholstered bench o_he dais of the Audience Hall, flanked by von Schlichten and Eric Blount. H_idn't look particularly regal, even on that high seat—with his rudd_utdoorsman's face and his ragged gray mustache and his old tweed coat spotte_ith pipe-ashes, he might have been any of the dozen-odd country-gentlema_eighbors of von Schlichten's boyhood in the Argentine. But then, to a Terran,
any of the kings of Uller would have looked like a freak birth in a lizard-
house at a zoo; it was hard to guess what impression Harrington would make o_n Ulleran.
He took the false palate and tongue-clicker, officially designated as an
"enunciator, Ulleran" and, colloquially, as a geek-speaker, out of his coa_ocket and shoved it into his mouth. Von Schlichten and Blount put in theirs,
and Harrington pressed the floor-button with his toe. After a brief interval,
the wide doors at the other end of the hall slid open, and the Konkrooka_otables, attended by a dozen Company native-officers and a guard of Kraga_ifles, entered. The honor-guard advanced in two columns; between them marche_n unclad and heavily armed native carrying an ornate spear with a three-foo_lade upright in front of him with all four hands. It was the Konkrookan Spea_f State; it represented the proxy-presence of King Jaikark. Behind it stalke_urgurk, the Konkrookan equivalent of Prime Minister or Grand Vizier; he wor_ gold helmet and a thing like a string-vest made of gold wire, and carried _ong sword with a two-hand grip, a pair of Terran automatics built for a han_ith six four-knuckled fingers, and a pair of matched daggers. He wa_onsiderably past the Ulleran prime of life—seventy or eighty, to judge fro_he worn appearance of his opal teeth, the color of his skin, and th_redominantly reddish tint of his quartz-speckles. An immature Ulleran woul_e a very light gray, white under the arms, and his quartz-specks would ru_rom white to pale yellow. The retinue of nobles behind Gurgurk ran throug_he whole spectrum, from a princeling who was almost oyster-gray to ol_hroghrank, the Keegarkan Ambassador, who was even blacker and more red-
speckled than Gurgurk. All of them carried about as much ironmongery as th_rime Minister—the pistols were all Terran, and the swords and daggers wer_ostly made either on Terra or at the Terran-operated steel-works on Volund.
Four slaves brought up the rear carrying an ornately inlaid box on poles. Whe_he spear-bearer reached the exact middle of the hall, he halted and grounde_is regalia-weapon with a thump. Gurgurk came up and halted a couple of pace_ehind and to the left of the spear, and all the other nobles drew up in tw_urved lines some ten paces to the rear, with considerable pushing an_ostling and a sotto voce argument, with overtones of weapon-fingering, abou_recedence. All, that is, but Ghroghrank and another noble, who came up an_lanted themselves beside Gurgurk. Von Schlichten regarded the assemblag_ourly through his monocle. Maybe Sid Harrington did look regal, after all.
The Governor-General rose slowly and descended from the dais, advancing t_ithin ten paces of the Spear, von Schlichten and Blount accompanying him. Ou_f the corner of his eye, von Schlichten watched a couple of Kraga_ercenaries with fifty-shot machine-rifles move unobtrusively to position_rom whence they could, if necessary, spray the visitors with bullets withou_ndangering the Terrans.
"Welcome, Gurgurk," Harrington gibbered through his false palate. "The Compan_s honored by this visit."
"I come in the name of my royal master, His Sublime and Ineffable Majesty,
Jaikark the Seventeenth, King of Konkrook and of all the lands of the Kon_sthmus," Gurgurk squeaked and clicked. "I have the honor to bring with me th_ord Ghroghrank, Ambassador of King Orgzild of Keegark to the court of m_oyal master."
"And I," Ghroghrank said, after being suitably welcomed, "am honored to b_ccompanied by Prince Gorkrink, special envoy from my master, his Royal an_mperial Majesty King Orgzild, who is in your city to receive the shipment o_ower-metal my royal master has been honored to be permitted to purchase fro_he Company."
More protocol about welcoming Gorkrink. Then Gurgurk cleared his throat with _eries of barking sounds.
"My royal master, His Sublime and Ineffable Majesty, is prostrated wit_rief," he stated solemnly. "Were his sorrow not so overwhelming, he woul_ave come in His Own Sacred Person to express the pain and shame which h_eels that people of the Company should be set upon and endangered in th_treets of the royal city."
If he weren't doped to the ears, von Schlichten substituted mentally. Ther_as a native drug which had, on its users, the combined effects of hashish,
heroin and yohimbine; Jaikark and all his court circle were addicts. H_robably hadn't even heard of the riot.
"The soldiers of His Sublime and Ineffable Majesty came most promptly to th_id of the troops of the Company, did they not, General von Schlichten?"
"Within minutes, Your Excellency," von Schlichten replied gravely. "Thei_romptness, valor, and efficiency were most exemplary."
Gurgurk spoke at length, expressing himself as delighted, on behalf of hi_oyal master, at hearing such high praise from so distinguished a soldier.
Eric Blount then contributed a short speech, beseeching the gods that the dee_nd beautiful friendship existing between the Chartered Uller Company and Hi_ublime etcetera would continue unimpaired, and that His Sublime etceter_ould enjoy long life and peaceful reign, managing, by a trick of Konkrooka_rammar, to imply that the second would be conditional upon the first. Th_eegarkan Ambassador then spoke his piece, expressing on behalf of Kin_rgzild the deepest regret that the people of the Company should be s_olested, and managing to hint that things like that simply didn't happen a_eegark.
The Prince Gorkrink then spoke briefly, in sympathy for the great and goo_riend of all Ulleran peoples, Mohammed Ferriera, who had been injured, an_oping that he would soon enjoy full health again. He also managed to conve_ing Orgzild's pleasure at having obtained the plutonium. Von Schlichte_oticed that a few of his more recent quartz-specks were slightly greenish i_inge, a sure sign that he had, not long ago, been exposed to the fluorine-
tainted air which men and geeks alike breathed on Niflheim. When a geek princ_ired out as a laborer for a year on Niflheim, he did so for only on_urpose—to learn Terran technologies.
Gurgurk then announced that so enormous a crime against the friends of Hi_ublime etcetera had not been allowed to go unpunished, signaling behind hi_ith one of his lower hands for the box to be brought forward. The slave_arried it to the front, set it down, and opened it, taking from it a ru_hich they spread on the floor. On this, from the box, they placed twenty-fou_ewly severed opal-grinning heads, in four neat rows. They had all bee_reshly scrubbed and polished, but they still smelled like crushe_ockroaches.
The three Terrans looked at them gravely. A double-dozen heads was standar_ayment for an attack in which no Terran had been killed. Ostensibly, the_ere the heads of the ringleaders: in practice, they were usually lopped fro_he first two-dozen prisoners or over-age slaves at hand, without regard fo_hether the victims had even heard of the crime which they were expiating. I_he Extraterrestrial's Rights Association were really serious about the right_f these geeks, they'd advocate booting out all these native princes an_urning the whole planet over to the Company. That had been the Terra_ederation's idea, from the beginning; why else give the Company's chie_epresentative the title of Governor-General?
There was another long speech from Gurgurk, with the nobles behind hi_urmuring antiphonal agreement—standard procedure, for which there was _tandard pun, geek chorus—and a speech of response from Sid Harrington.
Standing stiffly through the whole rigamarole, von Schlichten waited for it t_nd, as finally it did.
They walked back from the door, whence they had escorted the delegation, an_tood looking down at the saurian heads on the rug. Harrington raised hi_oice and called to a Kragan sergeant whose chevrons were painted on all fou_rms.
"Take this carrion out and stuff it in the incinerator," he ordered. "If an_f you think you can clean up this rug and this box, you're welcome to them."
"Wait a moment," von Schlichten told the sergeant. Then he disgorged an_ouched his geek-speaker. "See that head, there?" he asked, rolling it ove_ith his toe. "I killed that geek, myself, with my pistol, while Them and Hi_ere getting Ferriera into the car. Miss Quinton killed that one with th_olo; see where she chopped him on the back of the neck? The cut that took of_he head was a little low, and missed it. And Hid O'Leary stuck a knife i_hat one." He walked around the rug, turning heads over with his foot. "Thi_as cut-rate head-payment; they just slashed off two-dozen heads at the scen_f the riot. I don't like this butchery of worn-out slaves and petty thieve_ny better than anybody else, but this I don't like either. Six months ago,
Gurgurk wouldn't have tried to pull anything like this. Now he's laughing u_is non-existent sleeve at us."
"That's what I've been preaching, all along," Eric Blount took up after him.
"These geeks need having the fear of Terra thrown into them."
"Oh, nonsense, Eric; you're just as bad as Carlos, here!" Harrington tut-
tutted. "Next, you'll be saying that we ought to depose Jaikark and tak_ontrol ourselves."
"Well, what's wrong with that, for an idea?" von Schlichten demanded. "Don'_ou think we could? Our Kragans could go through that army of Jaikark's lik_ast neutrons through toilet-paper."
"My God!" Harrington exploded. "Don't let me hear that kind of talk again!
We're not conquistadores; we're employees of a business concern, here to mak_oney honestly, by exchanging goods and services with these people… ."
He turned and walked away, out of the Audience Hall, leaving von Schlichte_nd Blount to watch the removal of the geek-heads.
"You know, I went a little too far," von Schlichten confessed. "Or too fast,
rather. He's got to be conditioned to accept that idea."
"We can't go too slowly, either," Blount replied. "If we wait for him t_hange his mind, it'll be the same as waiting for him to retire. And that'l_e waiting too long."
Von Schlichten nodded seriously. "Did you notice the green specks in the hid_f that Prince Gorkrink?" he asked. "He's just come back from Niflheim. Not o_he Pretoria, I don't think. Probably on the Canberra, three months ago."
"And he's here to get that plutonium, and ship it to Keegark on the Oom Pau_ruger," Blount considered. "I wonder just what he learned, on Niflheim."
"I wonder just what's going on at Keegark," von Schlichten said. "Orgzild'_ulled down a regular First-Century-model iron curtain. You know, four of ou_est native Intelligence operatives have been murdered in Keegark in the las_hree months, and six more have just vanished there."
"Well, I'm going there in a few days, myself, to talk to Orgzild about thi_paceport deal," Blount said. "I'll have a talk with Hendrik Lemoyne an_acKinnon. And I'll see what I can find out for myself."
"Well, let's go have a drink," von Schlichten suggested, consulting his watch.