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The Lani People by J. F. Bone

Part 4 out of 5

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behind the two men.

"Well, Evald, what do you think? Does it strike you that Kennon's
sincere -- or does it sound as though he has something up his

"If he does," Blalok said, "I don't know what it could be. I
wouldn't take a job on Olympus if you gave it to me."

"If he doesn't know about the place," Alexander said
thoughtfully, "it's probable that his suggestion was honest. I
think it is but I'm not sure. He worries me now that I can't read
him. I think I'll send Douglas back here to watch him."

"Why? In my book that'd be a poor choice. After all, you said
Kennon saved his life. He should be grateful."

"You don't know Douglas," Alexander said. "He hates Kennon's guts
for what he did."

"What did he do?"

"He made Douglas feel inferior. And there's no surer way to gain
my cousin's undying enmity." Alexander laughed. "I know," he
said. "He'd like to kill me, too."

Blalok shrugged.

"But in the meantime I want you to keep an eye on Kennon. If his
outline is all right, I'm going to authorize him to set up this
experiment. I want to give him every possible chance. I like him
-- and he's done good work. I wouldn't want him to feel that I
distrust him."

"Which you do, of course," Blalok said dryly.

Alexander smiled. "Actually," he said with equal dryness, "I
distrust everyone."


"If you think this job is easy, you have another think coming,"
Kennon said bitterly. "I hired out as a veterinarian, not as a
nursemaid for a bunch of psychoneurotic humans and superstitious
Lani. The place is jinxed, they tell me. -- Ha! Jinxed! Sure it's
jinxed! What job wouldn't be with a bunch of goofballs like these
I've got working on it.

"I can't keep a Lani here for two weeks without having her throw
a catfit, and the superstitious idiots are affecting the men --
who ought to know better! I wish I'd never have opened my big
mouth to Alexander! As far as I'm concerned he can take this job

"Hey -- take it easy, man!" Blalok said. "You're heading straight
for a nervous breakdown."

"And why shouldn't I?" Kennon asked. "Nothing goes right. There's
always trouble. I order materials -- they don't arrive. There's
worker trouble, equipment trouble, installation trouble.
Everybody's cutting corners, trying to get done faster and away
sooner -- and all they do is mess up work that should have been
done right the first time. We should have been finished last
week, but we have another week to go, at least unless some
bumble-fingered beanbrain gets another bright idea that sets us
back again. I'm sick to death of it!"

"I know, I know," Blalok said soothingly, "and I'm sorry."

"Sorry? What good is that? You and Jordan come up here in relays.
Just what do you think you'll find? Or has Alexander dragged you
into keeping an eye on me because I don't like someone snooping
inside my skull?"

"It's not that," Blalok said. "It's just----"

"Oh, don't make excuses. You know and I know the Boss-man is
suspicious." Kennon shrugged. "Normally I wouldn't blame him but
it's a damned nuisance with things the way they are. All we have
is one more bay and a hall to finish - but if---- "

"Now wait a minute," Blalok said. "Get the kink out of your neck
and simmer down. Sure -- the Boss-man told us to keep an eye on
you -- but that's not why I'm here this time."


"Douglas came back this morning."

"What for?"

"I don't know." Blalok's face wore the noncommittal look it
always wore when he was taking liberties with the truth.

"You're probably the worst liar in the galaxy," Kennon chuckled.
"He's here to breathe down my neck, isn't he?"

Blalok nodded.

"Keep him off my back for another week and he can breathe all he
wants to. I'll be done then."

"I can't promise a thing."

Kennon shrugged. "It's too much to ask, I guess."

"But I can try," Blalok added.

"That's enough for me." Kennon grinned. "Has he turned Alexandria
into a shambles yet?"

"Not yet, but everyone's uneasy."

"I can't blame them. That young fellow's undiluted poison. By the
way, how does he look?"

"About the same."

"The medics must have done a good job," Kennon said.

"The Boss-man shipped him to Beta for treatment," Blalok said.
"He didn't trust the docs out here."

"That figures. At any rate Douglas couldn't have gone to a better

"What happened to him?"

"He stuck his nose where he shouldn't," Kennon said pointedly.

Blalok stiffened.

"I'm sorry, Evald. Even if you knew, I couldn't talk about it.
What I know about Douglas is classified!"

"Well -- Douglas is doing plenty of talking. Claims his stay in
the hospital was all your fault."

Kennon shrugged. "That's his opinion. And as long as he stays out
of my way he's welcome to it."

Blalok looked at Kennon's haggard face with mild concern, "Doc,"
he said, "you'd better take it easy. You're going to pieces."

"I'll be through here in another week, I'll have this all wrapped

"Providing you're not wrapped up first."


"In a shroud. You look like a walking corpse."

Kennon chuckled wearily. "Sometimes I feel like one. But I'd like
to get this job finished."

"Well, I'll do what I can," Blalok said. "I'll try to keep him
down at Alexandria for a few days."

"It'll be enough," Kennon said. More than enough -- he added
mentally. The coils of fuel wire were ready to load, and the
power slugs for the ship's reactor were already stored in the
power plant building here at Olympus. Three more days and the old
spacer would be as ready to fly as she would ever be. And after
that, it was in the lap of fate.

He ushered Blalok to his jeep and watched until he disappeared.

"I'm getting to be a first-class liar," he remarked wryly to
himself as he turned back to the temporary quarters he was
occupying at the station. "And the bad thing about it is that I'm
actually enjoying it."

A few weeks ago an admission like that would have been
inconceivable. It was odd, he thought, how one thing led to
another and produced an end that could not be foreseen. Now he
could lie and dissemble with the best. He had no compunction
about falsifying a requisition, or stealing what he could not
obtain with apparent honesty. His character had sunk to an
all-time low, he reflected with grim humor as he walked into the
shadow of the main building. Neither Blalok's nor Jordan's
frequent visits bothered him. Both men were creatures of habit
and both were married. They stayed home at night -- and it was
nighttime that he worked on the spacer. The project afforded him
a perfect cover and it was only minutes by jeep away from the

Even so, the double duty was an appalling task. And it would have
been impossible if it wasn't for Copper. Her quick fingers, keen
eyesight, and uncanny memory made the work seem simple, and
neither the tediousness of repairing miles of circuitry nor the
depressing environment of Olympus Station seemed to bother her.
While he worked with the men on the project she restored and
reassembled circuits in his quarters and at night they replaced
them in the old ship. And the God-Egg was rapidly becoming

Kennon wondered what it was about Copper that made her so
different from the rest. Olympus didn't bother her at all. In
fact she seemed to thrive on the depressing atmosphere that
filled the Station. Perhaps it was because she had violated the
tabu about the God-Egg so often that ordinary superstition had no
effect upon her. He shrugged. He had troubles enough without
worrying about Copper's motivations, and not the least of these
was taking the God-Egg into space.

Kennon looked forward to blast-off with distinct misgivings.
There was too much about the ancient spacer that was strange --
and too much that was terrifying.

Basically the ship was an ion-jet job with atomic primaries and a
spindizzy converter that might possibly take her up as high as
middle yellow Cth -- far enough to give her a good turn of speed,
but not enough to compensate for timelag. Her screens were
monstrosities, double polyphase lattices that looked about as
spacetight as so many sieves. There were no acceleration dampers,
no temporal compensators, no autopilot, no four-space computer,
and the primaries operated on nuclear rather than binding energy.
The control chairs weren't equipped with forcefields, but instead
had incredibly primitive safety webs that held one in place by
sheer tensile strength. Taking a ship like that into space was an
open invitation to suicide. A man needed a combination of
foolhardy bravery and incredible fatalism to blast off in a can
like this. He had the stimulus, but the knowledge of what he
would face troubled him more than he cared to admit. More and
more, as he understood the ship, he was amazed at the courage of
the ancients who had blithely leaped into hyperspace in these
flying coffins with no more motivation than to see what was
beyond the nearest star. And in ships more primitive than this
men had swept through the star systems nearest Earth in the
outward expansion of the First Millennium.

He sighed. The breed of man must have been tough in the old days
-- and he'd soon be finding out if any of that ancient toughness

He opened the door to his quarters.

Copper was sitting in his favorite chair, a pile of completed
assemblies neatly stacked beside her, and a disorderly file of
crumpled cloth at her feet. Her face was sullen as she looked up
at him. "I've had about all of this I'm going to take," she said
mutinously as she stirred the heap of cloth with a bare foot.
"Not even you are going to make me wear those -- things!"

Kennon sighed. It was the same old story. For months he had been
trying patiently to indoctrinate Copper with a minimum of
civilized habits, but she was quite literally a savage. In her
entire lifetime she had never worn clothing, and to encase her
body in hose, kilts, blouse, and sandals was a form of torture.
She scratched, wiggled, and twisted at the garments until she
looked as bad as she felt, and would usually finish a session by
tearing off the offending clothes and sulking. She was doing it

"You must act like a civilized human being," Kennon said mildly.
"You're simply going to have to learn to wear these clothes

"Why? I'm more comfortable as I am."

"That's not the point. You are going to be living in human
society and you must act human. The only planet where you could
get away with nudity is Santos, and we're not going there."

"Why not?"

"I've explained it time and again. We'll have to go to Beta.
That's the only place I know where you'll have a fair hearlng.
And on Beta people wear clothes. They have to. It's cold, even in
summer, and in the wintertime, there's snow."

"What's snow?"

"Ice crystals that fall like rain, but I've told you this

"And I still don't believe it."

"Believe it or not you're going to wear those things. Now put
them on!"

She looked at him with mutiny on her face. "All right, slave
driver," she muttered as she picked up the clothing, "but I hope
you'll itch someday and be unable to scratch."

"And try to wear those garments more gracefully. You make them
look like a sack."

"They feel like one. I keep thinking that all I need is a tag
around my neck."

"You haven't much time to get used to them," Kennon said. "We're
leaving this week."

"So soon?"

"Yes -- and you'll wear those things to the ship, into the ship,
and all the time we're on the ship. You'll keep wearing clothing
until it looks right."

"Slave driver!" Copper hissed.

"Slave," Kennon answered equably.

Copper giggled. The sound was utterly unexpected, and completely
incongruous. That was the wonder of her, Kennon reflected. Her
mercurial temperament made life something that was continually
exciting She was a never-ending delight.


It was the last trip. Kennon loaded the jeep with the last-minute
items he would need. The four reactor cores in their lead cases
went aboard last and were packed inside a pile of lead-block

He helped Copper in and looked back without regret as the bulk of
Olympus Station vanished below him in the dusk. The last of the
work crew had left that afternoon. The station was ready for
occupancy. His assignment had been completed. He felt an odd
pleasure at having finished the job. Alexander might not be happy
about his subsequent actions, but he could have no complaint
about what he did while he was here.

"Well -- say good-bye to Flora," he said to Copper.

"I don't want to," she said. "I don't want to leave."

"You can't stay. You know that."

She nodded. "But that doesn't make me any less regretful."


"All right -- scared. We're going to try to make the God-Egg fly
again. Not only is it sacrilege, but as you've often said, it's
dangerous. I have no desire to die."

"You have two courses---"

"I know -- you've pointed them out often enough," Copper said.
"And since you decided to go I'd go with you even though I knew
the Egg would blow up."

"You're quite a girl," Kennon said admiringly. "Did I ever tell
you that I love you?"

"Not nearly often enough," Copper said. "You could do it every
day and I'd never get tired of hearing it."

The jeep settled over the lava wall. "We'll leave it in the
passageway when we're through," Kennon said. "Maybe it will
survive blast-off."

"Why worry about it?" Copper asked.

"I hate destroying anything needlessly," Kennon said.

"And since we have plenty of time, we might as well be neat about
our departure."

He was wrong, of course, but he didn't know that.

* * *

Douglas Alexander checked the radarscope and whistled in surprise
at the picture it revealed. "So that's where he's going," he said
softly to himself. "Cousin Alex was right as usual." He grimaced
unpleasantly. "He's up to something -- that's for sure." His face
twisted into an expression that was half sneer, half triumph.
"This is going to be fun." He moved the control, and his airboat,
hovering silently at five thousand meters, dropped toward the
ground in free fall as Douglas loosened the Burkholtz in the
holster at his waist. "But what is he doing?" he muttered. The
question hung unanswered in the still air of the cabin as the
airboat dropped downward.

Douglas hadn't been impressed with Blalok's attempt at a delaying
action. Normally he might have been, but his fear of his cousin
was greater than his respect for Blalok. The superintendent had
only succeeded in accomplishing something he had not intended
when he had tried to dissuade Douglas from visiting Kennon. He
had made Douglas cautious. The airboat and long-range
surveillance had been the result. For the past two nights Douglas
had hung over Olympus Station, checking the place -- to leave at
dawn when the new day's work began. For two nights Kennon had
been lucky. He had departed for the Egg shortly before Douglas
took up his station, and had returned after the watcher had
called it a night and had returned home. But this last night,
Kennon left late -- and his departure was noted.

"Wonder who's the girl with him?" Douglas said as the boat
plunged down. "Well, I'll be finding out in a minute."

Kennon's head jerked upward at the sound of air whistling past
the airboat's hull, and a wave of icy coldness swept through his
chest. There was no question that he was discovered. His
shoulders sagged.

"Well -- it was a good try," he said bitterly as Copper looked at
him with sudden terror on her face.

"I don't want to die," she wailed.

"You won't -- not if I can help it," Kennon said. "Move away from
me -- quickly!"


"Do as I say!" Kennon's voice was sharp. "And keep that hood over
your face."

The airboat settled softly on the ash in front of him, the door
snapped open and Douglas dropped to the ground, Burkholtz jutting
from his pudgy fist.

"My, my," Douglas said, "what have we here? Dr. Kennon and a
woman! I thought better of you than that, Doctor. And all dressed
up in antiradiation suits. This is interesting. Just what are you
doing up here on the mountain so late at night -- prospecting?"

"You might call it that," Kennon said. His body sagged with
relief. Douglas thank Ochsner it was Douglas! He was running true
to form -- talking when he should have been shooting.

Douglas jerked his head toward Copper, standing a few feet to his
left. "Who is she?"

"None of your business," Kennon snapped, hoping that his outburst
covered Copper's gasp of surprise and fear, and knowing that it

"I'm making it my business. There's something funny going on
around here."

Kennon blinked. Could it be that Douglas didn't know? Had he been
watching them on radar? Durilium was radar-transparent. It
absorbed and dissipated electromagnetic waves rather than
reflecting them. For a second he felt a tiny surge of hope.

"Stand where you are," Douglas said as he stepped over to the
half-paralyzed Copper and jerked the hood back from her face. For
a moment he looked puzzled. "Just who are you?" he demanded. "I
don't recall seeing you before." And then recognition dawned.
"Old Doc's Lani!" he gasped.

"She works for me now," Kennon said.

Douglas laughed. It wasn't a nice sound. "All dressed up?" he
asked. "Nice work."

"That's my fault," Kennon said.

"You know the rules," Douglas said. "I could blast you both."

"Go ahead," Kennon said, "but if you do, you'll never find out
what we're doing up here."

Douglas hesitated. Kennon's voice was flat and filled with utter

"There's a reason why Copper's wearing that suit," Kennon
continued, "and you won't know that either."

The Burkholtz swiveled around to point at Kennon's belly. "I've
had about enough of this. Let's have it. Tell me what you're
doing here!"

"I'll do better than that," Kennon said promptly. "I'll show you.
You'll be surprised at what we've uncovered." He made his muscles
relax, and forced himself to speak naturally. Copper, he noted,
was still rigid with terror. The Alexanders -- any of them --
were everything he had said they were. They were the masters
here. And despite Copper's boast, she was as susceptible to their
influence as any other Lani.

"All right," Douglas said, "show me this thing I'd never be able
to find without your help." He half turned to Copper. "Stay where
you are, Lani," he said. "Don't move until I come back."

"Yes, Man Douglas," Copper replied. Her voice was flat,
colorless, and submissive.

Kennon shuddered. He had never heard precisely that tone from her
before. One word from Douglas and she had become a zombie -- a
mindless muscle preparation that existed only to obey. Anger
filled him -- anger that one he loved could be ordered by someone
who wasn't worth a third of her -- anger that she obeyed -- anger
at his own impotence and frustration. It wasn't a clean anger. It
was a dark, red-splashed thing that struggled and writhed inside
him, a fierce unreasoning rage that seethed and bubbled yet could
not break free. For an instant, with blinding clarity, Kennon
understood the feelings of the caged male Lani on Otpen One. And
he sympathized.

"Follow me," he said and started around the ship.

"Stay -- no -- go ahead," Douglas said, "but remember, I'm right
behind you."

Kennon walked straight up to the pit and pointed down at the dark
bulk of the Egg., concealed in the shadows of the bottom.

"That's it" he said.

"What? I don't see anything," Douglas said suspiciously.

"Here -- I'll shine a light." Kennon reached for his belt.

"No you don't! I know that trick. You're not going to blind me.
Take that torch loose carefully -- that's it -- now hand it to
me." Douglas' hand closed over the smooth plastic. Cautiously he
turned on the beam and directed it downward.

"A spacer!" he gasped. "How did that get here?" He leaned forward
to look into the pit as a dark shadow materialized behind him.

Kennon choked back the involuntary cry of warning that rose in
his throat. Copper! His muscles tensed as her arm came up and
down -- a shadow almost invisible in the starlight. The leaning
figure of Douglas collapsed like a puppet whose strings had been
suddenly released. The torch dropped from his hand and went
bouncing and winking down the wall of the pit, followed by
Douglas -- a limp bundle of arms and legs that rotated
grotesquely as he disappeared down the slope. Starlight gleamed
on the Burkholtz lying on the lip of the crater, where it had
fallen from his hand.

"I told you that not even Man Alexander could order me since I
gave my love to you," Copper said smugly as she peered over the
edge of the pit, a chunk of lava gripped in one small capable
hand. "Maybe this proves it."

"Douglas isn't Alexander," Kennon said slowly as he picked up the
blaster, "but I believe you."

"Didn't I act convincingly?" she said brightly.

"Very," he said. "You fooled me completely."

"The important thing was that I fooled Douglas."

"You did that all right. Now let's get him out of that pit."


"The jet blast will fry him when we take off."

"What difference would that make?"

"I told you," Kennon said, "that I never destroy things
unnecessarily -- not even things like Douglas."

"But he would have destroyed you."

"That's no excuse for murder. Now go back to the jeep and fetch a
rope. I'll go down and get him out."

"Do we have to bother with him?" Copper asked, and then shrugged.
It was an eloquent gesture expressing disgust, resignation, and
unwilling compliance in one lift of smoothly muscled shoulders.

"There's no question about it," Kennon said. "You're becoming
more human every day."

He chuckled as he slid over the edge of the pit following the
path Douglas had taken a moment before. He found him sitting on a
pile of ashes, shaking his head.

"What happened?" Douglas asked querulously. There was fear in his

"Copper hit you on the head with a rock," Kennon said as he bent
over and retrieved the torch, still burning near Douglas' feet.

"The Lani?" Douglas' voice was incredulous.

"Not a Lani," Kennon corrected. "She's as human as you or I."

"That's a lie," Douglas said.

"Maybe this spacer's a lie too. Her ancestors came in it -- a
pair of humans named Alfred and Melissa Weygand. They were
Christian missionaries from a planet called Heaven out in
Ophiuchus Sector. Went out to convert aliens and landed here when
their fuel ran out." Kennon paused. "That was about four
millennia ago. Their descendants, naturally, reverted to
barbarism in a few generations, but there's enough evidence in
the ship to prove that the Lani were their children.''

"But the tails -- the differences -- the failure of the test,"
Douglas said.

"Mutation," Kennon replied. "Those old spindizzy converters
weren't too choosy about how they scattered radiation. And they
had come a long way." He paused, looking down at Douglas, feeling
a twinge of pity for the man. His world was crumbling. "And there
was no other human blood available to filter out their
peculiarities. It might have been done during the first couple of
generations, but constant inbreeding fixed the genetic pattern."

"How did you discover this?" Douglas asked.

"Accident," Kennon said briefly.

"You'll never be able to prove they're human!" Douglas said.

"The ship's log will do that."

"Not without a humanity test -- they can't pass that."

"Sorry to disappoint you. Your grandfather used the wrong sort of
sperm. Now if there had been a Betan in the crew--"

"You mean she's pregnant!"

Kennon nodded. "There's been mutation on Beta," he said. "And
it's apparently a similar one to hers. Betan-Lani matings are

Douglas's shoulders sagged, and then straightened. "I don't
believe it," he said. "You're just a damned sneaking spy. Somehow
or other you got a spacer in here after you wormed your way into
Cousin Alex's confidence -- and now you're going to space out
with the nucleus of a new farm. Just wait. When Alex learns of
this the galaxy'll be too small to hold you."

"Don't babble like a fool!" Kennon said with disgust. "How could
I land a spacer here without being spotted? You sound like a
two-credit novel. And even if I did -- would it be a can like
this?" Kennon played the torch over the blue-black durilium
protruding from the ashes.

Douglas' eyes widened as he took in the details of construction.
"What an antique!" he blurted. "Where did you get this can?"

"I found it here."

"Tell me another one."

"You won't believe," Kennon said flatly, "because you don't dare
believe. You have a mental block. You've killed, maimed, tortured
-- treated them like animals -- and now your mind shrinks from
admitting they're human. You know what will happen if the old
court decision is reversed. It will wreck your little empire, dry
up your money, break you -- and you can't stand the thought of
that. You don't dare let us leave, yet you can't stop us because
I have your blaster and I'd just as soon shoot you as look at
your rotten face. Now get on your feet and start climbing if you
want to stay alive. We're getting out of here, and you'll fry
inside this pit."

"Where are you taking me?"

"Back to your airboat. I'm going to tie you up and set you off on
autopilot. You'll be able to get loose quickly enough but it'll
be too late to stop us. We'll be gone, and you can think of how
you'll manage to face the human race."

"I hope you blow yourself and that antique clear out of space."

"We might. But you'll never know for sure. But mark this -- if I
live I'll be back with the Brotherhood. You can count on it."

They struggled up the side of the pit and halted, panting, on the
rim. "How much radiation was down there?" Douglas asked

"Not enough to hurt you."

"That's good." Douglas accepted the statement at face value, a
fact which failed to surprise Kennon. "You know," he said, "I've
been around Lani all my life. And I know that they're not human.
No self-respecting human would take a tenth of what they put up

"Their ancestors didn't," Kennon said. "They fought to the end.
But your Grandfather was a smart man even though he was a

"He wasn't!" Douglas exploded. "No Alexander is a Degrader."

"He realized," Kennon went on, "that he'd never succeed in
enslaving the Lani unless he separated the sexes. And since women
are more subjective in their outlook -- and more pliable -- he
picked them for his slaves. The males he retired to stud.
Probably the fact that there were more women than men helped him
make up his mind.

"In every society," Kennon went on inexorably, "there are
potential freeman and potential slaves. The latter invariably
outnumber the former. They're cowards: the timid, the
unsacrificing -- the ones that want peace at any price -- the
ones who will trade freedom for security. Those were the ones who
hid rather than risk their lives fighting the aggressor. Those
were the ones who survived. Old Alexander had a ready-made slave
cadre when be finished off the last of the warriors. For four
centuries the survivors have been bred and selected to perpetuate
slave traits. And the system works. The men don't want freedom --
they want liberty to kill each other. The women don't want
freedom -- they want males. And they'd serve them precisely as
the Sarkian women serve their menfolk. You've killed any chance
they had to become a civilization. It's going to take generations
perhaps before they're reoriented. There's plenty you Alexanders
should answer for."

"If there's any fault, it's yours," Douglas snarled. "We were
doing all right until you came here. We'd still be doing all
right if I had shot you both." His shoulders sagged. "I should
have killed you when I had the chance," he said bitterly.

"But you didn't," Kennon said, "and to show my gratitude I'm
letting you get away with a whole skin. I don't expect you to be
grateful, but at least you'll not be on my conscience. I don't
enjoy killing, not even things like you."

Douglas sneered. "You're soft -- a soft sentimental fool."

"Admitted," Kennon said, "but that's my nature."

"Yet you'd destroy the family, wreck Outworld Enterprises, and
throw a whole world into chaos over a few thousand animals. I
don't understand you."

"They're human," Kennon said flatly.

"Admitting they might once have been, they're not now."

"And whose fault is that?"

"Not ours," Douglas said promptly. "If there is any fault it's
that of the court who decided they were humanoid."

"You didn't help any."

"Why should we? Does one treat a shrake like a brother? ---or a
varl? ---or a dog? We treat them like the animals they are. And
we've done no worse with the Lani. Our consciences are clear."

Kennon laughed humorlessly. "Yet this clear conscience makes you
want to kill me, so you can keep on treating them as animals --
even though you know they're human."

"I know nothing of the sort. But you're right about the killing,
I'd kill you cheerfully if I had the chance. It's our necks if
you get away with this. Of course, you probably won't, but why
take the chance. I like my neck more than I like yours."

"You're honest at any rate," Kennon admitted. "And in a way I
don't blame you. To you it's probably better to be a rich slaver
living off the legacy of a Degrader than a penniless
humanitarian. But you've lost your chance."

Douglas screamed with rage. He whirled on Kennon, his face a
distorted mask of hate.

"Hold it!" Kennon barked. "I don't want to kill you, but I'll
burn a hole clear through your rotten carcass if you make another
move. I have no love for your kind."

Douglas spat contemptuously. "You haven't got the guts," he
snarled. But he didn't move.

"Just stand still -- very still," Kennon said softly. The iron in
his voice was not hidden by the quiet tone.

Douglas shivered. "I'll get you yet," he said, but there was no
force in the threat.

"Here's the rope you wanted," Copper said as she emerged abruptly
from the darkness. "I had a hard time finding it."

"You haven't been too long," Kennon said. "Now tie Douglas' hands
behind him while I keep him covered."

"It's a pleasure," Copper murmured.


"I'm frightened," Copper said, twisting uncomfortably in the
shock chair beside Kennon's.

"After you have been so brave?" Kennon asked. "That's nonsense.
It's just nervous reaction. Now web in like I showed you. It's
time for blast-off. We don't dare wait much longer."

"All right -- but I have a feeling that this isn't right.
Something is going to go wrong."

"I hope you don't have precognition." Kennon smiled. "I've
checked everything. The ship is as good as she'll ever be.
There's nothing more that we can do."

"There's one consolation," Copper said wanly. "At we'll die

"There's a better chance that we'll live together."

"I hope so."

"Ready?" Kennon asked.

She nodded.

He flipped the switches that would send the fuel rods into the
reactor. Below them a soft, barely audible whine ascended the
sonic scale to a point of irritating inaudibility. Kennon smiled.
The spindizzy was functioning properly. He flipped a second bank
of switches and a dull roar came from the buried stem. Ashes and
pumice heated to incandescence were blown through the air. Molten
drops of radioactive lava skittered across the durilium hull as
Kennon advanced the power. The whole stem of the ship was
immersed in a seething lake of bolling rock as the Egg lifted
slowly with ponderous dignity into the night sky.

"Hang on!" Kennon said. "I'm going to hyper." His hand moved a
red lever and the Egg shimmered and vanished with a peculiar
wrenching motion into an impossible direction that the mind could
not grasp. And the interceptor missile from Otpen One nosed
through the space the Egg had occupied.

* * *

"We made it!" Kennon said, looking across the writhing semifluid
control board, shifting oddly in the harsh yellow monochromatic
light that pervaded the cabin. The screens were leaking like
sieves, but they were holding well enough to keep Cth yellow from
being anything more than an annoyance. He glanced over at Copper,
a fantastically elongated Copper who looked like a madman's dream
of chaos.

And Copper screamed! The sound echoed and re-echoed, dying away
with a lingering discordant reverberation that made his skin

"Copper! It's all right! It's all fight! Stop it!"

Copper screamed again and her elongated figure suddenly
foreshortened and collapsed into a small writhing ball from which
two small pink hands emerged clutching at a gelid mass of air
that flowed sluggishly around them.

And Kennon knew what he had forgotten! Hyperspace with leaky
screens was nothing to inflict upon an unprepared mind. It is one
thing to endure partial exposure after months of training, with
experienced medics standing by to help you through the shock
phase, but quite another to be thrust from a safe and sheltered
existence into the mind shattering distortions of the Cth

The Egg was old. Her screens, never good at best, were hardly
more than filters. Through the hull, through the drive lattice,
the viciously distorted Cth environment seeped into the ship
turning prosaic shapes of controls and instruments into writhing
masses of obscene horror that sent extensions wiggling off into
nothingness at eye-aching angles. A spaceman could take this --
knowing it wasn't real -- but a tyro could not.

Copper collapsed. Her mind, assaulted by sensations no untrained
person should experience, went into shock. But she wasn't granted
the mercy of unconsciousness. Terrified by a pseudo reality that
surpassed her wildest nightmares, she stared wide-eyed at the
control room and the thing that had been Kennon. She screamed
until her throat was raw, until the monster beside her touched
her with Kennon's hands. Then, mercifully, she felt a stinging in
her arm and all sensation ceased.

Kennon stared glumly at the controls. Fleming alone knew how many
objective years were passing outside as they hurtled through
four-space. Subjectively it would only be hours aboard the Egg,
but a decade -- or maybe a century -- might pass outside this mad
universe where neither time nor speed had meaning. The old ships
didn't have temporal compensators, nor could they travel through
upper bands of Cth where subjective and objective time were more
nearly equal. They were trapped in a semi-stasis of time as the
ship fled on through the distorted monochromatic regions that
bypassed normal space.

The Egg slipped smoothly out of the hyper jump, back into the
normal universe. Beta floated above them, the blue shield of her
atmosphere shining softly in the light of Beta's sun.

"Couldn't hit it that good again in a hundred tries," Kennon
gloated. "Halfway across the galaxy -- and right on the nose." He
looked at the shock chair beside him. Copper was curled into a
tight ball inside the confining safety web, knees drawn up, back
bent, head down -- arms wrapped protectingly around her legs --
the fetal position of catatonic shock.

He shook her shoulder -- no response. Her pulse was thready and
irregular. Her breathing was shallow. Her lips were blue. Her
condition was obvious -- space shock -- extreme grade. She'd need
medical attention if she was going to live. And she'd need it

"Just why, you educated nitwit," he snarled at himself, "didn't
you have sense enough to give her that injection of Sonmol before
we hypered! You haven't the sense of a decerebrate Capellan

He turned on the radio. "Emergency!" he said. "Any station!
Space-shock case aboard. Extreme urgency."

"Identify yourself -- give your license. Over."

"What port are you?"

"Hunterstown -- will you please identify? Over."

"Your co-ordinates," Kennon snapped. "Over."

"280.45--67.29 plus. Repeat -- request your identification."

"Pilot Kennon, Jac, Beta 47M 26429. I have no I.D. for the ship
-- and you'll see why when I land. Over."

"Hunterstown Port to Kennon. You are not -- repeat not - cleared
to land. Go into orbit and report your position. Over."

"Sorry, Hunterstown. You wouldn't have checked in if you didn't
have room, and a hospital. This is an emergency. I'm setting
down. Out."

"But--" The words got no farther. Kennon was already spinning the

"All right -- we have you on the scope. But this is a class one
violation. You may come in on Landing Beam One."

"Sorry. I have no GCA."

"What? -- what sort of ship are you flying?" The voice was

"I'm matching intrinsics over your port. Talk me in when I break
through the overcast."

"Talk you in?"

"That's right. My instruments are obsolete."

"Great Halstead! What else?"

"I have an Ion drive. Plus two radioactive."

"Oh no! -- And you still want to come in?"

"I have to. My passenger's in shock. She's going to have a baby."

"All right -- I'll try to get you down in one piece."

"Have an ambulance ready," Kennon said.

Kennon lowered the Egg through the overcast. Ground control
picked him up smoothly and took him down as though it had been
rehearsed. The Egg touched down in the radioactive area of the
port. Decontamination jets hissed, sluicing the ship to remove
surface contamination.

"Ochsner! what sort of a ship is that?" Ground Control's startled
voice came over the annunciator.

"It's an old one," Kennon said.

"That's a gross understatement. Stand by for boarders. Ambulance
coming up."

Kennon opened the airlock and two radiation-suited men entered.
"At least you had sense enough to wear protective clothing in
this hotbox," one said as they carefully unwebbed Copper and
carried her out of the lock. "You wait here. The Port Captain
wants to see you."

"Where are you taking her? What Center?" Kennon asked.

"What should you care? You've nearly killed her. The idea of
taking a pregnant woman up in this death trap! What in Fleming's
name's the matter with your brain?"

"I had to," Kennon said. "I had to. It was a matter of life and
death." For once, he thought wryly, the cliche was true.

The Betan's face behind the transparent helmet was disgusted and
unbelieving. "I hear that sort of thing every day," he said. "Am
I supposed to believe it?"

"You'd believe it if you'd have been where I was," Kennon
muttered. "Now -- whe're are you taking her?" he demanded.

The man arched blond eyebrows. "To the local Medical Center --
where else? There's only one in this area."

"Thanks," Kennon said.

He watched the ambulance flit off as he waited for the Spaceport
Patrol. There was no further need for the protection suit, so he
peeled it off and hung it in the control-room locker. Copper was
right, he mused. It did itch.

The Port Captain's men were late as usual - moving gingerly
through the radiation area. A noncom gestured for him to enter
their carryall. "Port Captain wants to see you," he said.

"I know," Kennon replied.

"You should have waited upstairs."

"I couldn't. It was a matter of medicine," Kennon said.

The noncom's face sobered. "Why didn't you say so? All you said
was that it was an emergency."

"I've been away. I forgot."

"You shouldn't have done that. You're a Betan, aren't you?"

Kennon nodded.

They drove to the Port Office, where Kennon expected - and got --
a bad time from the port officials. He filled out numerous forms,
signed affidavits, explained his unauthorized landing, showed his
spaceman's ticket, defended his act of piloting without an
up-to-date license, signed more forms, entered a claim for
salvage rights to the Egg, and finally when the Legal Division,
the Traffic Control Division, the Spaceport Safety Office,
Customs, Immigration, and Travelers Aid had finished with him, he
was ushered into the presence of the Port Captain.

The red-faced chunky officer eyed him with a cold stare. "You'll
be lucky, young man, if you get out of this with a year in
Correction. Your story doesn't hang together."

It didn't, Kennon thought. But there was no sense telling all of
it to a Port Captain. Under no circumstances could the man be any
help to him. He had neither the power nor the prestige to request
a Brotherhood Board of Inquiry. In rank, he was hardly more than
a glorified Traffic Control officer. It would do no good to tell
him an improbable tale of slavery on a distant planet. The only
thing to do was wait out the storm and hope it would pass. If
worst came to worst he'd use his rank, but he'd made enough stir
already. He doubted if the Captain had authority to order him
into Detention -- but he was certain to get a lecture. These
minor officials loved to tell someone off. He gritted his teeth.
He'd endure it for Copper's sake -- and to get out of here
quietly. Alexander would undoubtedly have agents posted by now,
and his only chance for temporary freedom of action was to get
out of here with as little fuss as possible.

He sat quietly, his flushed face and tight jaw muscles betraying
his impatience as the Captain paced up and down and talked on and
on. The man sounded like he could go for hours. With increasing
impatience Kennon listened to the cadenced flow of complaint and
condemnation, occasionally inserting a "Yes, sir" or "Sorry, sir"
or "No, sir" as the words flowed around him.

However, there had to be a breaking point somewhere, and the
monotony was beginning to wear his temper thin. Another five
minutes, he reflected, was about all he could take.

The door chime rang softly.

"Come in," the Port Captain said, breaking off in mid-tirade. The
change in his manner was so abrupt that Kennon couldn't help

A young blond man in an interne's gray uniform entered the room.

"Yes, Doctor," the Port Captain said. "What can I do for you?"

"Do you have a Jac Kennon here? Dr. Jac Kennon?"

"Did you say doctor?" the Port Captain said in a half-strangled

"You never let me tell you," Kennon said mildly, "that my landing
here was a matter of medicine. Technically you have contributed
to a delay in treatment."

The Port Captain's face paled. "Why didn't you say something?" he

"Against your gale of wind I would be but a faint breeze," Kennon
said coldly. He turned to the interne. 'Tm Dr. Kennon." They
bowed formally to each other.

"I'm Smalley, sir, from the medical center. Dr. Brainard sends
his compliments and requests that you join him for consultation."

"The Port Captain--" Kennon began.

"Don't worry about it, Doctor. I'll relinquish responsibility to
Dr. Brainard," the Captain said.

"I have placed a formal written request with your office,"
Smalley said stiffly. "You are relieved of further charge. Dr.
Kennon is urgently needed. It is a matter of medicine."

The Captain looked relieved. On Beta it was poor policy to
interfere with the doings of doctors and engineers -- or even
doctors of philosophy.

"Very well. He's yours -- and I'm glad to be rid of him." The
Port Captain bowed to Kennon and Smalley and stalked out of the

"Pompous little man," Kennon observed, "but he certainly can

"Oh -- you know these Administrative people," the interne said
depreciatingly. "One mustn't mind them. They're necessary
nuisances." He eyed Kennon curiously. "How is it that you didn't
stand on your professional rights?"

"I have my reasons -- but they have nothing to do with medicine."

"Oh -- I see. Ethical." The interne's voice was faintly

"Manners, Doctor -- manners." Kennon's voice was gentle but the
interne flushed a dull red.

"Sorry, sir."

"Don't mention it. It's normal for a graduate to confuse liberty
with license." Kennon smiled. "Don't worry. I shan't report you."

"That's good of you, sir." Smalley's face registered relief.
Demerits were difficult to erase -- particularly ones of

Kennon wondered if the young man would report himself. He doubted
it. The interne didn't look the type -- probably he was dated for
some obscure job, like a general practitioner. He shrugged. It
took all kinds to make a profession. Even the Smalleys had their

"That girl you brought in," Smalley said as they entered a white
car emblazoned with the three crosses, red, blue, and green, that
represented the three fields of medicine. "She's an interesting
case. I've never seen space shock before. And the patient herself
-- one would hardly believe she was a Betan."

"She isn't," Kennon said.

"So?" Blond eyebrows rose in inverted U's of surprise. "But
that's hardly possible. Our tests indicate-"

"Don't you think that this is a matter for Dr. Brainard?" Kennon
said icily. "Protocol--"

"Of course. Stupid of me -- but the case is so interesting. Half
the center staff have seen her already. I wasn't proposing to
discuss the case. It wouldn't be proper. Even though you are only
a veterinarian."

"Only?" Kennon's voice was hard. "I shouldn't have to remind you
of this, Mr. Smalley -- but I have been for the past two years on
a world of bad manners. I expected better here at home."

Smalley flushed to the roots of his straw-colored hair. "Sorry,
Doctor," he muttered. "I don't know what's the matter with me."

"I can tell you," Kennon said. "You've just graduated."

"How did you know?" Smalley said.

"I was a graduate once, myself -- not too long ago."

"How long, sir?"

"Class of Eighty-seven."

"That's twelve years ago," Smalley said.

Kennon nodded. Ten years lost. Not bad -- not bad at all. But
Alexander could have done a lot in ten years.

"I meant no disrespect," Smalley said worriedly.

"I know it. But if you intend to practice on Beta, you'd better
polish your professional manner. Now where I was, it didn't make
much difference. Laymen often called me 'Doc.'"

Smalley was properly shocked. "I hope you didn't encourage them,

"It was impossible to discourage them," Kennon said. "After all,
when the man who hires you----"

"Oh -- entrepreneurs," Smalley said in a tone that explained

* * *

The car stopped in front of the Medical Center's staff entrance.
"This way, sir," Smalley said. He led the way down a green-tiled
corridor to an elevator -- then down another corridor past a pair
of soft-footed nurses who eyed them curiously -- looking at
Kennon's tunic and sandals with mild disapproval in their eyes.
Smalley stopped and knocked softly on a closed door.

"Enter," said a pleasant baritone voice from the annunciator.

"Dr. Brainard -- Dr. Kennon," Smalley said.

Kennon liked the man instantly. A plump, pink-cheeked man of
middle age, with prematurely white hair, Dr. Will Brainard
combined a fatherly appearance with an impression of quick
intelligence. The fat that sheathed his stocky body had obviously
not touched his mind. Brainard rose from the deep chair near the
window where he had been sitting, knocked the ashes from his
pipe, and bowed stiffly. His eyes -- sharp points of blue in the
smooth pinkness of his face - surveyed Kennon curiously.

"So you're the young man who takes untrained pregnant women for
rides in old-fashioned spacers," he said. "Didn't you know what
would happen?"

"I was in a hurry, Doctor," Kennon said.

"Obviously. Now tell me about it." Brainard looked at the
eager-faced interne standing behind Kennon. "That will be all,
Smalley," he said.

Kennon waited until the door closed. "Ordinarily," he said, "I'd
never have done a thing like that, but there were some very
pressing reasons. However, I should have given her an injection
of Somnol before we started. I'm criminally liable. If anything
happens to her----" His voice was tight with worry.

"You'd give her an injection?" Brainard said. "I hope you didn't
mean that."

"But I did, sir. I've given thousands of Lani injections."

"What's a Lani?"

"She is, sir. The impression has been that her race isn't human."

"Nonsense -- it's obvious she is."

"A Brotherhood Court of Inquiry didn't think so."

"Hmm. Is that so?"

"Yes, sir. -- But before I go on, tell me, how is she?"

"Oh, she'll be fine. A little mental therapy and plenty of rest
are all she needs. She's a remarkably healthy young woman. But
this is beside the point. There are a number of unusual features
about this case that need investigation." Brainard took a
standard hospital form from his desk. "Mind if I ask you some
questions, Doctor?"

"Not at all but you are due for some unpleasant shocks as you go
through that form."

"I believe I can survive them," Brainard said dryly.

"This is professional confidence---" Kennon began.

"Of course, of course," Brainard said impatiently. "Now let's get
on with it."

* * *

"This is the most amazing tale I've ever heard," Brainard said
slowly. "Are you certain you are telling the truth?"

Kennon grinned. "I don't blame you for not believing me -- but
the evidence is conclusive, and there is enough documentary
evidence in the space ship -- and in the fact of the ship itself
to prove what I am saying. Laboratory tests here will establish
the fact that Copper's child is also mine. And as for Flora, a
Brotherhood Investigation Team can prove that part."

"That will be attended to," Brainard said grimly.

"But how did you deduce she wasn't from a Betan colony?" Kennon

Brainard smiled. "That wasn't hard. Her sun tan and the condition
of her feet proved she was a practicing nudist. No Betan girl
ever practices nudism to my knowledge. Besides, the I.D. tattoo
under her left arm and the V on her hip are no marks of our
culture. Then there was another thing -- the serological analysis
revealed no gerontal antibodies. She had never received an
injection of longevity compound in her life. This might occur,
but it's highly improbable. The evidence indicates that she's

Kennon nodded.

"But this business of her being fifteen years old! That's
impossible. She has the development of a woman of twenty-five."

"Remember the Alpha V colony?" Kennon said.

"Of course -- oh -- I see! It could be something like that.
Certainly -- strong yellow G-type sun -- an isolated colony
serviced at twenty-year intervals -- there was a marked physical

"And if this had been continued for several millennia?" Kennon

"Hmm -- I see. Yes, it's possible. On Alpha V the colonists grew
from infancy to maturity in fifteen years."

"And wasn't Heaven one of our early colonies?"

"Yes -- it was established after the Great Schism near the end of
the First Millennium -- when science and religion split
irrevocably on this world. We packed the whole lot of them off to
a world of their own where they could develop as they pleased.
They called it Heaven -- odd name for a fogworld - but there's no
accounting for tastes." Brainard chuckled.

"I thought that was the case, but I couldn't remember. My ancient
history is pretty weak."

"You should read more," Brainard said. "But as I see it -- this
girl is of Betan ancestry providing your theory and the facts

"Which could also explain why an outworld species of agerone
would be toxic. They tried to prolong Lani life and met with
failure. Our plants are mutant forms."

"Just as we are a mutant race," Brainard said, "or partly
mutant." He sighed. "You have brought us a great deal of trouble,
Kennon. You are bringing matters to a head. If our investigations
prove your statements, we are morally bound to open the Lani
question. And if those people are of Betan origin -- that fellow
Alexander will have plenty to answer for."

"I don't believe it is really his fault," Kennon said slowly. "I
don't think he has ever known the truth."

"Why didn't you tell him?"

"The answer to that should be obvious. Even though I trusted him
completely, I could never be sure. He has a Free Trader
background and those people can't he trusted where money's
concerned. The whole Kardonian culture is an outgrowth of Free
Traderism: small business, independent corporation, linear
trusts, and all the cutthroat competition such a culture would
naturally have. It's a regular jungle of Free Enterprise. I
couldn't predict how he would react. He could either act in a
moral manner and make restitution, or he could quietly cut our
throats and go on with his business."

"I see. The temptation to cut a throat might be overwhelming."

"They fight commercial wars," Kennon said.

"Disgusting -- utterly uncivilized! Under the circumstances you
had no other course. Still, they have no moral right to enslave
human beings."

"There is always the element of doubt. Maybe they didn't know.
After all, an impartial court declared the Lani alien - and the
Betan mutation isn't known throughout the Brotherhood."

"One doesn't go around broadcasting data on the variations of
one's germ plasm," Brainard said. "That's a private affair - a
matter of personal privacy."

"And public safety?"

Brainard nodded. "We're no more courageous than any other
civilization. We have no desire to borrow trouble. We are content
to leave things alone."

"That's the trouble," Kennon said. "We're all content to leave
things alone. If I hadn't found the spaceship I'd not have been
able to lay aside my moral conditioning. And if I had not, Copper
would not have become pregnant and forced me into these drastic
actions. It's even possible that I would have done nothing." He
grimaced. "And when I left Alexander's employment mnemonic
erasure would have removed all memory of the Lani's human
origin." He shrugged. "I still am not certain that it wouldn't
have been the wiser course. Naturally, once I knew, I couldn't do
anything else than what I did."

"Naturally," Brainard said. "Humanity reaches the heights when it
faces questions of moral responsibility."

"To mankind," Kennon added heavily. "We have a convenient blind
spot regarding our moral responsibility to other intelligent

"A harsh fact, but true -- and who is to judge whether it is
right or wrong? We achieved dominance of Earth by our moral
responsibility to family, tribe, and nation -- and we nearly
exterminated ourselves when we forgot that this responsibility
went beyond nations and embraced all mankind. We learned that
after the Exodus. As for the other races - perhaps someday we
will learn moral responsibility for all intelligence -- but we
are not ready for that yet. That's too big a mental hurdle."
Brainard sighed. "We are what we are, and we change slowly. But
we change."

"True enough," Kennon said. "But it's hard to be philosophical
about it."

"You're young. Live a couple of centuries and you will understand

Kennon smiled.

"You know," Brainard said thoughtfully,"you still have plenty of
things to do."

"I know. I'll have to make a transcript of this discussion, have
it witnessed, and make a sealed record. I have to arrange for the
reposition of the evidence inside the Egg, and a complete
recording of the Egg itself."

"And to be safe you'll need several facsimiles, properly
attested. The arms of these outworld entrepreneurs are long, and
unfortunately not all Betans are models of honesty."

"I'd better get started then."

"Let me help you,"Brainard said. "I have a little influence in
this area - and your cause interests me." He picked up the phone
on his desk.

Kennon sighed. He had found an ally.


"What are you going to do with that girl?" Brainard asked.

"Formalize our mating as soon as she is able to get out of bed,"
Kennon replied.

"She is an ignorant, untrained savage!" Brainard protested. "You
should hear the stories the nurses tell about her!"

Kennon chuckled. "You don't have to tell me about those. I've
lived with Lani for two years. But she's not stupid."

"What are your plans?"

"After we establish her humanity legally," Kennon said, "I'm
going to send her to school."

"For twenty years?"

"If necessary. But I don't think it will take that long. She has
some schooling."

"But no training -- and what of the Lani in the meantime?"

"I have plans for that. I'm going back to Kardon and give
Alexander a chance to make restitution. I think he is an
honorable man. Slavery may be as revolting to him as it is to any
civilized human. He deserves a chance to rectify his
grandfather's error."

"That is reasonable -- and in the best traditions of the

"Furthermore, it's practical," Kennon said. "Alexander is the
only one fully qualified to handle the problems of
enfranchisement. He's known the Lani all his life, and he is an
executive type. A Brotherhood committee would probably botch the
whole affair. What with colonial jurisdiction, territorial
rights, and all the legal quibbling that committees love, the
Lani would get a poor deal. And there's no reason to wreck the
lives of a couple of hundred million Kardonians because the
rightful owners of Kardon were illegally enslaved. That happened
too long ago to have any practical meaning. There are other and
better solutions."


"How should I know?" Kennon asked. "But I'm sure Alexander will.
That's his field."

"All you have to worry about is whether he'll co-operate,"
Brainard said.

"He'll co-operate once he knows the score," Kennon said
confidently. "And he'll have to make some form of restitution.
But it shouldn't involve Kardon. Actually the Lani were never in
a position to develop that world. They'd probably have remained
on Flora indefinitely. The old court records showed no tendency
for their culture to expand. They were an inbred group, a static,
balanced society in harmony with their environment. In nearly
thirty-five hundred years their numbers increased only to a few
thousand. Actually there is a good possibility that the race
would ultimately have died out if Old Alexander hadn't enslaved
them and instituted a controlled breeding program. There are more
Lani alive today than there were at the height of their power. So
in a way Old Alexander did them a favor. He kept their race
alive. All we can expect is a fair and just settlement."

"But if Alexander doesn't co-operate?"

"That's where you come in. You'll be a watchdog. If you don't
receive annual progress reports from me -- and see or talk to me
personally every second year, you are released from our bond and
can do what you wish with the evidence I've accumulated."

"We'd better get this into Private Record," Brainard said. "We
can transcribe an agreement and place it in the Public

"A good idea and we'd better waste no time. Alexander might still
be looking for me -- and if he is, it's merely a question of time
before he catches up."

"Ten years have passed. It's doubtful. But we could keep you here
at the Center."

Kennon shook his head. "Too dangerous. And besides it would
compromise you. No -- we'll get everything possible done to make
the Lani's case airtight, and then I'll return to Kardon. It will
put our case in a better light if it ever comes to trial, if I go
back voluntarily. Anyway -- I'm morally bound to return. Now
let's make this record."

"It's your decision," Brainard said. "And it's your neck - but I
must admit that I agree with you."

"I'll feel safer when we get the legal details clarified," Kennon

"And what of the girl?"

"Can you take care of her if I have to leave quickly?"

"Of course. I'll give her personal attention, and after she has
her child I'll see that she is sent to you."

"That's decent of you, Doctor."

"It's my moral responsibility," Brainard said as he slipped a new
tape into the recorder.

* * *

Copper responded quickly to rest and therapy. The space shock
cleared up quickly. The gerontological treatments put her to bed
again, but within a month she was completely normal, and her
lifespan was now that of a normal human. She could look forward
to some four hundred years with Kennon -- and the prospect was
not unpleasant. The Center fascinated her. Never before had she
seen a hospital devoted to the care and treatment of humans. It
was a far cry, in its polished steel and stone magnificence, from
the tiny primitive structure over which Kennon had presided. Yet
both places served the same purpose. Perhaps Kennon was right --
that there was no difference between man and Lani. The idea was
not nearly as unbelievable as it was at first.

"I never realized what it meant to be human," Copper said as she
held Kennon's hand. "It is nice to feel important and to know
that our child is a member of the race that rules the galaxy."

"So you're convinced?" Kennon chuckled.

"The serological identity--" she began.

"Hmm. You've been getting some education, I see."

"Well," Copper smiled, "I didn't think you wanted a stupid woman.
I can read -- and since you are around so seldom nowadays, there
is little else to do. I've been reading history, medicine, and
novels," she finished proudly.

"A fine catholic selection," Kennon said, "Now if you add
mathematics, sociology, and philosophy you'll have a well-rounded
basic education."

"Dr. Brainard has been trying something he calls 'hypno.' He says
it will help me learn faster. But I can't see that it's done much

"You won't until you need the information," Kennon said.

"That technique is only good for implanting basic knowledge, and
much of that will merely supplement or complete that which you
already have. You won't be conscious of it."

"Oh -- I think I see what you mean."

"Of course, you'll have to continue your formal education.
There's a great deal for you to learn. It should keep you busy
while I'm away."

"Away? Where are you going?"

"Back to Kardon."

"But you can't! Alexander will destroy you."

"I think not. After all, ten years have elapsed since we left
there and he's had plenty of time to think. Douglas must have
told him about us. I wouldn't be surprised if he has already done
something about your people."

She shivered. "He might -- but the question is what would he do?
He could have killed them all!"

Kennon shook his head. "I don't think so. He never struck me as a
mass murderer."

She shook her head. "You don't know the Alexanders like I do. I
was raised by them. They're capable of anything. But what is this
business of ten years? That's silly. I haven't had my child yet
-- and it doesn't take ten years of pregnancy to produce a baby."

"It's the difference between subjective and objective time,"
Kennon said. "We traveled here through hyperspace -- low Cth --
in an uncompensated ship, and there is little temporal flow in
the levels below the blue."

"Oh -- of course."

Kennon chuckled. "That would have been Greek to you a couple of
weeks ago. See where that basic data fits?"

"But I've always known that."

"You just think you have. Search your memory and see if I'm not

Copper shook her head. "It's very strange," she said. "But that's
not important. This idea of going back to Kardon, though --
that's a different thing -- that is important."

"I have to do it. Not only because it's a personal moral
obligation but also because of the Lani. They must have their

"Providing there are any still alive."

"Stop being a calamity howler. Whatever Alexander may be, he's
not a butcher. He even loved a Lani once. You told me so
yourself. And he couldn't kill where he loved."

She nodded. "I suppose you're right, but I've never lost my fear
of the Man Alexander. He held the power of life and death over
me. But if you must go then I should go too. My obligation is
greater than yours."

"Later," Kennon said. "You're not ready to return. It will be
time enough after you have learned some civilized habits."

Copper's face lengthened. "You mean like wrapping myself in cloth
like these people do?"

"That's part of it."

"Why can't they be sensible -- or are they so ashamed of what the
gods gave them that they must hide themselves?"

"No, it's not that. At least not exactly. It's custom. And you
must learn to conform to customs -- outwardly at least -- no
matter what you may really think."

"Isn't that a form of lying?" Copper asked.

"I suppose so."

"Isn't that strange. Your society exalts truth, honor, morality,
and intelligence -- yet you lie about your attitude."

"It's called diplomacy," Kennon said. "It's part of respect for
others' attitudes and beliefs, a necessary part of human

"Then you'd be a nudist on Santos?"

"Of course -- even though I think it isn't proper, I couldn't
inflict my ideas and attitudes on the customs of an independent

"Oh -- you think I'm doing that?"

"Yes -- and it is a mark of barbarism."

"Sometimes you're not very nice," Copper said.

Kennon smiled wryly. "I suppose I'm not," he agreed.

"I'll try to be civilized," Copper said. "But if you go to Kardon
-- I'm going with you."

"Perhaps," Kennon said. "We'll see how things turn out."

"You don't want me to go with you?"

"To be honest -- no," Kennon said. "You're safe here, and until
your status is cleared by a Brotherhood court, I wouldn't care to
place you in Alexander's hands. And clearing your status is going
to take time."

"You mean that I am still his property?"

"Yes. But there is a legal doubt that will prevent him from
exercising his claim as long as you stay on Beta. In the area
where he has power, that doubt might not hold. So until your
status is definitely proven to be human, you should not leave."

"And what happens if this court denies my claim?"

"Then we appeal to the Council. However, with the evidence we
have, your claim cannot reasonably be denied. The only question
is one of time. It may take years. Still, I don't think there is
anything to worry about. I don't think Alexander will give us any
trouble, but there's no sense in taking chances."

"You still think I'm a Lani," she said accusingly.

"I do not."

"Then you think that I'd obey Alexander, after what I did to

"I can only repeat that Douglas isn't the Boss-man."

"I wish I knew what you really thought."

"That isn't hard. I think you should stay here until I get this
business straightened out."

"That's all?" she asked suspiciously. "After all, I know I'm not
very pretty now. And there's lots of Lani on Flora----"

Oh, for Ochsner's sake! Do you think that I'm---" He paused,
speechless. "Just what do you think I am?"

"You're a man. And that's the trouble."

Kennon chuckled. "So that's it! You don't trust me."

"I love you," Copper said.

"Sometimes I wonder why men ever finalize their status with
women," Kennon murmured. "It does no good. It doesn't convince
the woman. She's still fearful, jealous, and suspicious -- always
belittling her ability to hold what she has, always alert for
competition, clinging, holding, absorbing -- when she should be
working as part of a team."

"That's not true!"

"Then prove it."

"How -- by staying here while you go to the end of the galaxy and
play noble?"

"I'm only doing what I have to do."

"And so am I -- and if you go I'm going with you"

Kennon shrugged. There was no sense arguing. The only thing to do
was make his plans and leave quietly. If she was faced with an
established fact, she might be more reasonable. He doubted it,
but alone, she could do nothing -- and Brainard would see that
she was comfortable. The salvage money from the Egg would keep
her from being a public charge. And he had more banked in
Albertsville which he could send her once he got there. He'd
start making plans to leave as soon as possible.

Copper looked up at him as he stood above her bed. Slowly she
reached out and placed one slim hand in his. "I know what you are
thinking," she said, "and--" her face twisted in a grimace of
pain, and the hand in his clutched with convulsive strength at
his fingers.

"What's the matter?" he said.

"Nothing -- it's perfectly normal," she said. "I'm just going to
give you a son. Now if you'd call for the doctor, perhaps we can
get this over. That pain was only twenty minutes from the last. I
think it's about time."

Kennon -- who had attended several hundred Lani births and had
developed a certain callousness about them -- was suddenly
frightened and helpless as he pushed the call button. He could
feel the cold sweat form on his forehead. He had started this. It
was his fault if anything went wrong. He wished that it was
someone else rather than Copper who was going through this trial.
He was nervous, unsure, and guilty. In a word, he felt like a man
whose mate was giving birth to their first child.

* * *

"It's a boy," Dr. Bra!nard said. He smiled down at Kennon's
haggard face.

"How is Copper?" Kennon asked.

"Fine -- she's healthy as a horse."

Kennon winced at the cliche It was so ancient that it had lost
all meaning. Most Betans didn't know what a horse was, let alone
whether it was healthy or not. From what Kennon could remember of
veterinary history, the horse wasn't too healthy an animal. It
was rather delicate, in fact.

"How is the child?" Kennon asked. It took a little courage to ask
this question. The baby could be anything from normal to a

"Perfectly normal," Brainard said. "A true Betan type even down
to the vestigial tail. We amputated that, of course."

"Thank Ochsner!" Kennon breathed. "I was afraid."

"Of course you were," Brainard said. "Do you want to see them
now? When I left, Copper was asking for you."

Kennon sighed. Leaving, he realized, wasn't going to be as easy
as he had thought.

"We'll have to keep them here for a couple of months," Brainard
said. "We must take exhaustive tests if we expect the court to
reverse its prior decision."

"I expected that," Kennon said. He shrugged, "It's probably
best," he said. "Now show me where Copper is."

"She's back in the same room. You don't need a guide."

Kennon didn't. In fact, he behaved quite admirably.


Longliners, Kennon reflected, didn't make Beta a port of call,
and the Shortliner connections with other worlds were
'infrequent. Beta had done a good job separating from the rest of
the Brotherhood. Too good. The spaceline schedules showed only
one departure in the next month, a Shortliner for Earth, and from
Earth the road to Kardon was long and tortuous, involving a
series of short jumps from world to world and a final
medium-range hop from Halsey to Kardon. If everything went right
and he made every connection he would be in Kardon four months
after he left Beta. Kennon sighed as he left Travelers Aid.
Morality was a heavy load to carry.

He walked slowly down the road from the spaceport toward the
Co-operative where he had been staying. He had left Huntersville
and Copper a week ago, after he had seen his child. His child!
The thought of being a father was oddly dismaying. It distorted
his sense of values. But one thing was certain. He was returning
to Kardon, and Copper was not coming with him. She had a duty to
their son - and he had a duty to his contract with Alexander, to
the Lani on Flora, and to Copper -- and none of these could be
satisfied by further running. He had to return and settle the

A tall man in a conservative yellow-and-black suit was waiting
patiently in front of his room. "My name is Richter," he said "
-- Art Richter. Are you Dr. Jac Kennon?"

"I could deny it, but I won't," Kennon said.

"Thank you, Doctor. It was just a formality anyway. You see, I
know you by sight." He sighed. "One has to observe the
formalities in this business." He drew a long white envelope from
his tunic and handed it to Kennon. "Most of my subjects try to
deny their identity," he said.

"It's a refreshing change to find an honest man." He bowed
formally. "I really thought this would be harder, considering the
charges against you." He bowed again and walked away.

"Now -- what was that?" Kennon muttered as he opened the
envelope. The man Richter was undoubtedly a process server -- but
who had hired him? He unfolded the sheet and scanned the charges
-- coercion, larceny, livestock theft, and breach of contract. He
shrugged. This was Alexander's work. What was the man thinking
of? It was insanity to bring the Lani matter into open court.
Hadn't Douglas told him what had happened? Couldn't Alexander
guess that he had fled with Copper for a good reason -- one that
would stand up in court? Didn't he know about the spacer? Or had
Douglas turned on his cousin? The pup had so many hates that it
was possible. He was a natural troublemaker. Maybe Alexander
didn't know. Maybe he was working in the dark. Kennon scanned the
sheet quickly. Ah! here it was. Complaint - Mr. Alexander X. M.
Alexander, Skyline Tower 1024, Beta City!

Alexander! Here on Beta! Kennon opened the door of his room, went
straight to the phone beside the bed. He lifted the handset from
its cradle and dialed the operator. "Get me Huntersville THU
2-1408. I want to speak to Dr. Brainard, Dr. Will Brainard. This
is a priority call -- my name is Kennon. Dr. Jac Kennon D.V.M.
I'm in the registry -- 47M 26429 -- yes -- of course, and thank
you." He waited a moment. "Hello -- Dr. Brainard? -- Kennon here.
I've just had some news. Alexander's on Beta! Yes -- he served me
with a summons. Can you get a restraining order to prevent him
from leaving? You can? Good! Here's his address." Kennon rattled
off the location. "Yes -- I'm taking the next airboat to Beta
City. This should simplify things considerably. -- Of course it
should. He was a fool to have come here. Yes -- I suppose you
should tell Copper. Oh! She is? I'm sorry to hear that, but
there's no reason for her to be angry. She should realize that I
did this for her -- not to make her miserable. Hmm.-- She -- she
has? You think she should come with me? -- Yes, I realize she can
be a problem when she wants to be. All right then -- tell her to
pack a toothbrush and a few spare diapers. And see if you can get
me a couple of tickets on the next flight to Beta City. I'll be
over in a couple of hours and pick her up." He cradled the phone
and dialed the operator again.

"I want the phone number of Skyline Tower 1024, Beta City, Mr.
Alexander. Yes. I'll wait. This number is HUV 2-1278 and my name
is Kennon, Dr. Jac Kennon 47M 26429. I called you before. No, I'm
a transient. I can refer you to Dr. James Brainard, Huntersville
Medical Center. Yes, I'll accept charges. Now will you give me
that number? BCA 7-8941--thank you."

Kennon hung up, dialed the number, and waited.

"Hello," he said. "Mr. Alexander? This is Dr. Kennon. - Yes -- I
suppose you do, but I've been trying to get back to Kardon for
the past month. You are? Well, that's your privilege, but I'd
advise you to go easy until I see you. Naturally -- I'm coming as
soon as I can get there. We'll be seeing you tomorrow morning at
the latest. We? -- I'm bringing Copper, of course. I just wanted
you to know."

Kennon wiped his forehead. Alexander sounded angry and dangerous.
Ten years hadn't served to cool him off. What had happened on
Kardon after he had left? Kennon shook his head. There was
something here he didn't understand. The entrepreneur should have
been covering his tracks, not threatening jail and
disaccreditation. It was obvious that a personal visit was more
necessary than he had thought.

Alexander was waiting. His eyebrows rose at the sight of Copper
in formal Betan dress -- and lifted a trifle more at the sight of
the baby.

"What is this, Kennon?" he asked.

"Trouble," Kennon said. He took off his hat. "I came here to
settle things before you took this case to court. You obviously
do not understand what has happened. I suppose Douglas has
double-crossed you. It would be characteristic of him. But before
we go any further I think we should clear the air and let each
other know where we stand. I don't want to make trouble if it's
not necessary. You'll notice I'm not wearing a thought screen, so
you'll be able to check everything I say, and know I'm telling
the truth."

"It had better be good," Alexander said grimly. "I've been
looking for you for ten years. I intend to throw the book at

"I don't know whether my reason is good or not. Technically I'm
guilty of breach of contract and larceny of corporation property,
but there are extenuating circumstances."

Alexander chuckled mirthlessly. "There are a few other charges.
And quite probably I can think of more if you beat these. I'm
going to make an example of you, Kennon. I'm going to drag you
down and stamp on you. You're going to be a horrible example to
all smart operators who think they can break contracts. It's
taken a million credits and ten years' time to hunt you down, but
it's going to be worth it."

"Copper's child is a boy," Kennon said mildly. "My son."

Alexander froze. "You can prove that?" he asked in a
half-strangled voice.

Kennon nodded. "You see the extenuating circumstance?" he asked.
"Suppression of human slavery!"

Alexander sat down. It was as though some unseen hand had pulled
his legs from under him. "You believe it," he said. "-- No --
you've proved it! Why -- why didn't you tell me? What sort of a
man do you think I am?"

"I didn't know. I couldn't take the chance until Copper was
protected. You see, sir, I love her."

"That isn't hard to do with Lani," Alexander said. He sank back
in his chair, his face clouded, his expression troubled. It was
obvious that the realization shocked him.

Kennon felt an odd sympathy for the entrepreneur. It wasn't a
nice feeling, he suspected, to have the beliefs of a lifetime
ripped apart and sent to the disposal chute.

"So the Lani are a human variant," Alexander said dully.

"The proof is here," Kennon said, "and the supporting evidence is

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