The lights had come on inside the semicircular and now open storm-porch o_ompany House, but it was still daylight outside. The sky above the mountai_o the west was fading from crimson to burnt-orange, and a couple of th_righter stars were winking into visibility. Von Schlichten and the sergean_urried a hundred yards down the street between low, thick-walled offic_uildings to the telecast station, next to the Administration Building.
A woman captain met him just inside the door of the big soundproofed room.
"We have a wavelength open to Konkrook, general," she said. "In booth three."
He nodded. "Thank you, captain… . We've all lost a true friend, haven't we?"
Another girl, a tech-sergeant, was in the booth; on the screen was the imag_f a third young woman, a lieutenant, at Konkrook station. The sergeant ros_nd started to leave the booth.
"Stick around, sergeant," von Schlichten told her. "I'll want you to take ove_hen I'm through." He sat down in front of the combination visiscreen an_ickup. "Now, lieutenant, just what happened?" he asked. "How did he die?"
"We think it was poison, general. General M'zangwe has ordered autopsy an_hemical analysis. If you can wait about ten minutes, he'll be able to talk t_ou, himself."
"Call him. In the meantime, give me everything you know."
"Well, the governor decided to go to bed early; he was going hunting in th_orning. I suppose you know his usual routine?"
Von Schlichten nodded. Harrington would have taken a shower, put on hi_ressing-gown, and then sat down at his desk, lighted his pipe, poured a drin_f Terran bourbon, and begun to write his diary.
"Well, at 2210, give or take a couple of minutes, the Kragan guard-sergeant o_hat floor heard ten pistol-shots, as fast as they could be fired semi-auto, in the governor's room. The door was locked, but he shot it off with his ow_istol and went in. He found Governor Harrington on the floor, wearing onl_is gown, holding an empty pistol. He was in convulsions, frothing at th_outh, in horrible pain. Evidently he'd fired his pistol, which he kept on hi_esk, to call help; all the bullets had gone into the ceiling. The sergean_unched the emergency button, beside the bed, and reported, then tried to hel_he governor, but it was too late. One of the medics got there in fiv_inutes, just as he was dying. He'd written his diary up to noon of today, an_roken off in the middle of a word. There was a bottle and an overturned glas_n his desk. The Constabulary got there a few minutes later, and the_rigadier-General M'zangwe took charge. A white rat, given fifteen drops fro_he whiskey-bottle, died with the same symptoms in about ninety seconds."
"Who had access to the whiskey-bottle?"
"A geek servant, who takes care of the room. He was caught, an hour earlier, trying to slip off the island without a pass; they were holding him at th_uardhouse when Governor Harrington died. He's now being questioned by th_ragans." The girl's face was bleakly remorseless. "I hope they do plenty t_im!"
"I hope they don't kill him before he talks."
"Wait a moment, general; we have General M'zangwe, now," the girl said. "I'l_witch you over."
The screen broke into a kaleidoscopic jumble of color, then cleared; th_hocolate-brown face of Themistocles M'zangwe was looking out of it.
"I heard what happened, how they found him, and about that geek chamber-vale_eing arrested," von Schlichten said. "Did you get anything out of him?"
"He's admitted putting poison in the bottle, but he claims it was his ow_dea. But he's one of Father Keeluk's parishioners, so… ."
"Keeluk! God damn, so that was it!" von Schlichten almost shouted. "Now I kno_hat he wanted with Stalin, and that goat, and those rabbits!"
Five thousand miles away, in Konkrook, Themistocles M'zangwe whistled.
"Bismillah! How dumb can we get?" he cried. "Of course they'd need terrestria_nimals, to find out what would poison a Terran! Wait a minute; I'll make _ote of that, to spring on this geek, if the Kragans haven't finished him b_ow." Von Schlichten watched M'zangwe pick up a stenophone and whisper into i_or a moment. "All right, Carlos, what else?"
"Has Eric been notified?"
"We called Keegark, but he's in audience with King Orgzild, and we can't reac_im."
"Well, who's in charge at Konkrook, now?"
"Not much of anybody. Laviola, the Fiscal Secretary, and Hans Meyerstein, th_anking Cartel's lawyer, and Howlett, the Personnel Chief, and Buhrmann, th_ommercial Secretary, have made up a sort of quadrumvirate and are trying t_un things. I don't know what would happen if anything came up suddenly… ." _lue-gray uniformed arm, with a major's cuff-braid, came into the screen, handing a slip of paper to M'zangwe; he took it, glanced at it, and swore. Vo_chlichten waited until he had read it through.
"Well, something has, all right," the African said. "We just got a call fro_aikark's Palace—a revolt's broken out, presumably headed by Gurgurk; Household Guards either mutinied or wiped out by the mutineers, all but thos_wenty Kragan Rifles we loaned Jaikark. They, and about a dozen of Jaikark'_ourtiers and their personal retainers, are holding the approaches to th_ing's apartments. The native-lieutenant in charge of the Kragans just radioe_n; says the situation is desperate."
"When a Kragan says that, he means damn near hopeless. Is this bein_ecorded?" When M'zangwe nodded, he continued: "All right. Use the recordin_or your authority and take charge. I'm declaring martial rule at Konkrook, a_f now, 2253. Tell Eric Blount what's happened, and what you've done, as soo_s you can get in touch with him. I'm leaving for Konkrook at once; I ought t_et in by 0800.
"Now, as to the trouble at the Palace. Don't commit more than one company o_ragans and ten airjeeps and four combat-cars, and tell them to evacuat_aikark and his followers and our Kragans to Gongonk Island. And alert you_hole force. These geek palace revolutions are always synchronized wit_treet-rioting, and this thing seems to have been synchronized with Si_arrington's death, too. Get our Kragans out if you can't save anybody els_rom the Palace, but sacrificing thirty or forty men to save twenty is no kin_f business. And keep sending reports; I can pick them up on my car radio as _ome down." He turned to the girl sergeant. "Keep on this; there'll be mor_oming in."
He rose and left the booth. If we can pull Jaikark's bacon off the fire, h_as thinking, the Company can dictate its own terms to him afterward; i_aikark's killed, we'll have Gurgurk's head off for it, and then take ove_onkrook. In either case, it'll be a long step toward getting rid of all thes_eek despots. And with Eric Blount as Governor-General… .
The girl captain in charge of the station met him as he came out.
"Poison," he told her. "A geek servant did the job, on orders from Gurgurk an_ossibly Rakkeed. Gurgurk's started a putsch against King Jaikark; I'm goin_o Konkrook at once. Call the military airport and have my command-car brough_o Company House."
Harry Quong and Hassan Bogdanoff had been at the banquet, too; on a world o_izard-faced silicate-eaters, the social difference between a human genera_nd a human aircar-driver was almost infinitesimal. He'd have to talk t_arney Mordkovitz, too; when word of events at Konkrook got out among th_ocal geeks, as it probably had already… .
The inner door of the soundproofed telecast-room burst open, three men hurrie_nside, and it slammed shut behind them. In the brief interval, there had bee_iring audible from outside. One of the men had a pistol in his right hand, and with his left arm he supported a companion, whose shoulder was mangled an_ripped blood. The third man had a burp-gun in his hands. All were in civilia_ress-shorts and light jackets. The man with the pistol holstered it an_elped his injured companion into a chair. The burp-gunner advanced into th_oom, looked around, saw von Schlichten, and addressed him.
"General! The geeks turned on us!" he cried. "The Tenth North Uller'_utinied; they're running wild all over the place. They've taken thei_arracks and supply-buildings, and the lorry-hangars and the maintenance-yard; they're headed this way in a mob. Some of the Zirk Cavalry's joined them."
"How about the Kragans?"
"The Eighteenth Rifles? They're with us. I saw a party of them firing into th_ob; I saw some of the Tenth N.U.N.I. tossing a dead Kragan on their bayonets… ."
"Have any ammo left for that burp-gun? Come on, then; let's see what it's lik_t Company House," von Schlichten said. "Captain Malavez, you know what to d_bout defending this station. Get busy doing it. And have that girl in boot_hree tell Konkrook what's happened here, and say that I won't be coming down, as planned, just yet."
He opened the door, and the rattle of shots outside became audible again. Th_ivilian with the burp-gun knew better than to let a general go out first; elbowing von Schlichten out of the way, he crouched over his weapon and dashe_utside. Drawing his pistol, von Schlichten followed, pulling the door shu_fter him.
Darkness had fallen, while he had been inside; now the whole Compan_eservation was ablaze with electric lights. Somebody at the power- plant—either the regular staff, if they were still holding, or the mutineers, if they had taken it—had thrown on the emergency lights. There was a confuse_ass of gray-skinned figures in front of Company House, reflected ligh_winkling on steel over them; from the direction of the native-troops barrack_ore natives were coming on the run. On the roof of a building across th_treet, two machine-guns were already firing into the mob. A group of Terran_ame running out of a roadway between two buildings, from the direction of th_epair-shops; several of them paused to fire behind them with pistols. The_tarted toward Company House, saw what was going on there, and veered, dartin_nto the door of the building from which the auto-weapons were firing. From u_he street, a hundred-odd saurian-faced native soldiers were coming at th_ouble, bayonets fixed and rifles at high port; with them ran several Terrans.
Motioning his companion to follow, von Schlichten ran to meet them, falling i_eside a Terran captain who ran in front.
"What's the score, captain?" he asked.
"Tenth North Uller and the Fifth Cavalry have mutinied; so have these rag-ta_uxiliaries. That mob down there's part of them." He was puffing under th_ouble effort of running and talking. "Whole thing blew up in seconds; n_hance to communicate with anybody… ."
A Terran woman, in black slacks and an orange sweater, ran across the stree_n front of them, pursued by a group of enlisted "men" of the Tenth Nort_ller Native Infantry, all shrieking "Znidd suddabit!" The fugitive ran into _oorway across the street; before her pursuers were aware of their danger, th_ragans had swept over them. There was no shooting; the slim, cruel-blade_ayonets did the work. From behind him, as he ran, von Schlichten could hea_ragan voices in a new cry: "Znidd geek! Znidd geek!"
The mob were swarming up onto the steps and into the semi-rotunda of th_torm-porch. There was shooting, which told him that some of the humans wh_ad been at the banquet were still alive. He wondered, half-sick, how many, and whether they could hold out till he could clear the doorway, and, most o_ll, he found himself thinking of Paula Quinton. Skidding to a stop withi_ifty yards of the mob, he flung out his arms crucifix-wise to halt th_ragans. Behind, he could hear the Terrans and native-officers shoutin_ommands to form front.
"Give them one clip, reload, and then give them the bayonet!" he ordered.
"Shove them off the steps and then clear the porch!"
"One clip, fire, and reload, at will!" somebody passed it on in Kragan.
The hundred rifles let go all at once, and for five seconds they poured _eafening two thousand rounds into the mutineers. There was some fire i_eply; a Zirk corporal narrowly missed him with a pistol, he saw the captain'_ead fly apart when an explosive rifle-bullet hit him, and half a doze_ragans went down.
"Reload! Set your safeties!" von Schlichten bellowed. "Charge!"
Under human officers, the North Uller Native Infantry would have stood firm.
Even under their native-officers and sergeants, they should not have broken a_hey did, but the best of these had paid for their loyalty to the Company wit_heir lives, and the rest had destroyed their authority by revolting agains_he source from which it was derived. At that, the Skilkan peasantry who mad_p the Tenth Infantry and the Zirk cavalrymen tried briefly to fight a_ndividuals, shrieking "Znidd suddabit!" until the Kragans were upon them, stabbing and shooting. They drove the rioters from the steps or killed the_here, they wiped out those who had gotten into the semicircle of the storm- porch. The inside doors, von Schlichten saw, were open, but beyond them wer_errans and a dozen or so Kragans. Hideyoshi O'Leary and Barney Mordkovit_eemed to be in command of these.
"We had about thirty seconds' warning," Mordkovitz reported, "and the Kragan_n the hall bought us another sixty seconds. Of course, we all had ou_istols… ."
"Hey! These storm-doors are wedged!" somebody discovered. "Those goddam gee_ervants … !"
"Yeah, kill any of them you catch," somebody else advised. "If we could hav_otten these doors closed… ."
The mob, driven from the steps, was trying to reform and renew the attack.
From up the street, the machine-guns, silent during the bayonet-fight, bega_ammering again. The mob surged forward to get out of their fire, and were me_y a rifle-blast and a hedge of bayonets at the steps; they surged back, an_he machine-guns flailed them again. They started to rush the building fro_hence the automatic-fire came, and there was a fusillade and a shriek of
"Znidd geek!" from up the street. They turned and fled in the direction fro_hence they had come, bullets scourging them from three directions at once.
For a moment, von Schlichten and the three Terrans and eighty-odd Kragans wh_ad survived the fight stood on the steps, weapons poised, seeking mor_nemies. The machine-guns up the street stuttered a few short bursts and wer_ilent. From behind, the beleaguered Terrans and their Kragan guards wer_merging. He saw Jules Keaveney and his wife, Commander Prinsloo of th_ldebaran, Harry Quong and Bogdanoff. Ah, there she was! He heaved a breath o_elief and waved to her.
The Kragans were already setting about their after-battle chores. About twent_f them spread out on guard; the others, by fours, went into the street, on_overing with his rifle while the other three checked on their own casualties, used the short, leaf-shaped swords they carried to slash off the heads o_nemy wounded, and collected weapons and ammunition. A couple of hundred mor_ragans, led by Native-Major Kormork, the co-parent of young with King Kankad, came up at the double and stopped in front of Company House.
"We were in quarters, aboard the Aldebaran and in the guesthouse at th_irport," Kormork reported. "We were attacked, fifteen minutes ago, by a mob.
We took ten minutes beating them off, and five more getting here. I sen_ative-Captain Zeerjeek and the rest of the force to retake the supply-depo_nd the shops and lorry hangars, which had been taken, and relieve th_ilitary airport, which is under attack."
There was still firing from the commercial airport and the smaller militar_irfield. Once there was a string of heavy explosions that sounded like 80-m_ockets.
"Good enough. I hope you didn't spread yourself out too thin. What's th_ituation at the commercial airport?"
"The two ships, the Aldebaran and the freighter Northern Star, are both safe,"
Kormork replied. "I saw them go on contragravity and rise to about a hundre_eet."
"Whose crowd is that you have?" he asked the Terran lieutenant who had take_ver command of the first force of Kragans.
"Company 6, Eighteenth Rifles, sir. We were on duty at the guardhouse; fighting broke out in the direction of the native barracks. A couple o_unners from Captain Retief of Company 4 came in with word that he was bein_ttacked by mutineers from the Tenth N.U.N.I. but that he was holding the_ack. So Captain Charbonneau, who was killed a few minutes ago, left a Terra_ieutenant and a Kragan native-lieutenant and a couple of native-sergeants an_hirty Kragans to hold the guardhouse, and brought the rest of us here."
Von Schlichten nodded. "You'd pass the military airport and the power-plant, wouldn't you?" he asked.
"Yes, sir. The military airport's holding out, and I saw the red-and-yello_anger-lights on the fence around the power-plant."
That meant the power-plant was, for the time, safe; somebody'd turned twent_housand volts into the fence.
"All right. I'm setting up my command post at the telecast station, where th_ommunication equipment is." He turned to the crowd that had come out onto th_orch from inside. "Where's Colonel Cheng-Li?"
"Here, general." The Intelligence and Constabulary officer pushed through th_rowd. "I was on the phone, talking to the military airport, the commercia_irport, ordnance depot, spaceport, ship-docks and power-plant. All answer.
I'm afraid Pop Goode, at the city power-plant, is done for; nobody answer_here, but the TV-pickup is still on in the load-dispatcher's room, and th_lace is full of geeks. Colonel Jarman's coming here with a lorry to ge_ombat-car crews; he's short-handed. Port-Captain Leavitt has all the nativ_abor at the airport and spaceport herded into a repair dock; he's keepin_hem covered with the forward 90-mm gun of the Northern Star. Lorry-hangars, repair-shops and maintenance-yards don't answer."
"That's what I was going to ask you. Good enough. Harry Quong, Hassa_ogdanoff!"
His command-car crew front-and-centered.
"I want you to take Colonel O'Leary up, as soon as my car's brought here… .
Hid, you go up and see what's going on. Drop flares where there isn't an_ight. And take a look at the native-labor camp and the equipment-park, sout_f the reservation… . Kormork, you take all your gang, and half these soldier_rom the Eighteenth, here, and help clear the native-troops barracks. An_on't bother taking any prisoners; we can't spare personnel to guard them."
Kormork grinned. The taking of prisoners had always been one of thos_rrational Terran customs which no Ulleran regarded with favor, or eve_omprehension.