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The blow to the head came without warning, and knocked Roberts against the white-painted concrete-block wall of the spaceport washroom. A second blow followed so fast that he was unconscious before his body hit the pitted, urine-smelling floor.

Roberts' arms were jerked behind his back, steel cuffs clamped on his wrists and ankles, and a heavy padlock slid through the links to bind his hands close to his feet. He was lifted, carried through a door, and slid along a truck bed sheathed in iron. The door clanged shut behind him. With a jolt, the vehicle started forward. Roberts was unaware of any of it. The roar of the departing ferry rocket, that had brought him to this world less than an hour before, passed over him unheard, just as it passed over the sand, the rocks, and the weeds growing in the shellholes beside the road.

Roberts had been none too happy when the Chief of Operations had first suggested the plan. Seated before Colonel Sanders' desk in the Interstellar Patrol dreadnought that served as command ship, Roberts hadn't concealed his doubts:

"Sir, I can see it might not be right to just kill the lot of them. On the other hand, at least it would work. This—"

The Colonel shook his head. "Amongst other things, if we kill this lot of home-grown barbarians, just possibly we might kill our own people being used as shields. A little subtlety is called for."

"Subtlety may not work. But if we make an example of the worst of these macho bandits, the rest should be more cooperative."

"Unfortunately, they aren't stupid. Before you hit them, you have to find them. And we want our people back alive, if possible. In any case, we want to handle this in such a way that, afterwards, no one will be overeager to use us for shields, or for trades in an interstellar prisoner swap." The colonel handed Roberts a sheet of paper. "A little of this is plenty."

Roberts found himself looking over a copy of the news-sheet that had popped out of innumerable printers at breakfast. One of the articles was circled:


The Interstellar Patrol, the shadowy quasi-military organization that for many people represents the ultimate human power in the universe, finds itself today at the mercy of a band of anarchists. FIAM, the Freedom in Anarchy Movement, founded by imprisoned planetary raider Ian Pulgor, today announced the capture of twenty-seven IP members in a raid carried out late last month on the planet Tiamaz. 
In a terse ultimatum, FIAM warned: " . . . These prisoners, who have now been fully questioned, will be killed one by one until Colonel-General Ian Pulgor is released unharmed from the detention facility . . ." 
The IP members had apparently been on leave on Tiamaz, the popular gaming and vacation planet, and were seized, the FIAM spokesman reported, without casualties to the Shock Troops of the Movement. 
FIAM Shock Brigades VIII and XVI are reliably reported to have returned with their hostages to the bleak and desolate home planet of Anarchy . . .  

Roberts skimmed the rest of the article, then looked up.

"You want me to volunteer to carry out 'a check of the physical condition of the prisoners'?"

"Correct, Roberts. The proofs the Pulgorites sent included photographs evidently taken on Tiamaz, details of build and age, fingerprints, a few sets of retinal patterns, and messages anyone could have fabricated. The total seems convincing, but all it really shows is the someone has investigated these men. That doesn't prove they've been captured. All these so-called hostages could actually have been killed in the raid on Tiamaz."

Roberts nodded. "If the reports are right, a good part of the casino district was blown to bits."

"And the main part of the resort our people were staying at was vaporized. The Tiamaz authorities think upwards of ten thousand visitors got killed in that blast alone. We could humbly do as we're told, then find that the killers had parleyed a witless slaughter into a victory through a faked kidnap. As a matter of fact, they may already have killed all of our men."

Roberts nodded. "They may have no hostages now. But they will have, if I go to check up on them."

The colonel nodded matter-of-factly. "That's true, Roberts. Namely, you."

"That's my point, sir."

"But you see, Roberts, we need to find out for certain whether they do have prisoners. However unlikely, we have to check that possibility."

"Sir, I'm prepared to risk my neck. But you are asking for a volunteer. I won't volunteer to be the one they boot around to soothe their egos, and then trade for the colonel general."

There was a little silence, during which Roberts saw no interpretable expression on Colonel Sanders' face, but nevertheless got the impression of a backwoodsman switching baits in his trap.

"Roberts, they have guaranteed the personal safety of any representative we might care to send, specifically the safety of Captain Vaughan N. Roberts, I.P."

"I'd as soon sleep with the crocodiles as trust that guarantee."

"Trust," growled the colonel, producing a uniquely unpleasant smile, "was not exactly what I had in mind. The odds are that they've killed no less than twenty-seven of us. We aren't handing you over to them as a free gift. I hope you don't think that."

"Sir, from what I've heard of this plan so far, suicide looks good by comparison. I suppose there's something you don't want to tell me, because if I don't know it, I can't reveal it. Well, maybe someone else will volunteer."

"Roberts, there is a very real risk for you. But if you should become their hostage, the risk to them will be worse."

Roberts felt the curiosity this statement naturally roused. And like a predator noting tasty bait in a deadfall, he moved on. "If I had some idea why that should be, it would be different. But why hand myself over as a prisoner to this bunch of murderous lunatics, for no reason I can understand".

"Well, the reasons are clear enough. First, we have to know whether our men are or are not prisoners. If they are, we aim to free them. If not, we will take care of whoever killed them. But before we do either, we have to find out what happened, and that is the second problem. Third, what is this 'freedom in anarchy' movement? There are possibly a hundred crackpot organizations, born of a combination of frustration and a lack of historical perspective, to each organization that makes sense. Which is this? We need information, and this outfit is cunning and secretive. We have drugs that would, amongst other things, induce them to talk freely, but first we have to make contact. They won't come to us. So—"

"Where's the connection between handing me over to them, and your getting the answers?" Roberts shook his head. "Are their so-called Shock Troops back on Anarchy?"

"That's the information they've leaked out."

"I'll volunteer for the first wave to hit the place."

The colonel shook his head. "If it were that simple, the Space Force would have wiped them out long since. It isn't a question of force. The problem is that they are clever." 

Roberts considered the peculiar expression on the colonel's face as he spoke the word "clever."

"There must be quite a few things I don't know."

The colonel looked at Roberts with exasperation, then sighed and nodded.

"These are very clever people. They are shrewd swindlers and cunning bush-whackers. But there's more than one way to use brainpower. For years, we've been doing research on jump-points—what R-Branch refers to as 'singularities in space.' These things are used regularly to cut travel distances and lower freight rates—you shoot the freight through jump-point Ceres, say, and it comes out on the other side for a total two-month trip instead of one that takes six years. In effect, two different locations in space are joined, and the join can be used as a shortcut."

Roberts felt the disorientation of the desert traveler, prepared to endure heat, glare, and blowing grit, who trudges over a sand dune to find blue ocean in front of him.

The colonel, outwardly unaware of the effect of this change of subject, was going on: "Now, how does this work? What are the principles behind it? Could the principles be used differently? Could we, perhaps, find a way to create this kind of effect ourselves?"

Roberts said warily, "As I've heard it explained, sir, there are at least two parts to the theory. One has to do with the curvature of space, and the other with the effects of unusually intense gravitic fields. In short, an extremely concentrated gravitic field may make a hole from one section of space to another. But what does this have to do with the Pulgorites?"

"Do you know of a theory that would enable you to construct a jump-point?"

Roberts looked blank.

The colonel said, "Without gigantic masses of collapsed matter, Roberts, or huge magnetic or gravitic fields—using tiny focused gravitic generators controlled by ultraminiaturized processors, the whole works small enough to fit in your pocket, and all perfectly safe and inoffensive when you put it there—that is, if you leave it turned off."

He reached into the top drawer of his desk, and tossed across a thing like a small mother-of-pearl spoon with no handle, about an inch and three-quarters long by an inch at the widest, with a smooth slick surface that felt faintly warm to the touch.

"That, Roberts, is a demonstration unit in the larger size. Put your thumb in the center where it's dished in, with the palm of your other hand on the opposite side, and press hard."

Roberts did as told.

Abruptly his hands were pushed aside, there was a six-inch hole in the air, and Roberts, his mind numb and hands pressed against a hard unseeable edge around the outside of nothing, was looking through the hole into some other room where there was a laboratory bench on which lay a hand slate and, beside the slate, a stick of white chalk.

The colonel said, "I can't see it from here, Roberts, but you should be looking into R-Branch's molecular physics lab. The usual connection is near a bench with something on it like a pencil, puzzle cube, or some other small object."

Roberts stared at the colonel, then leaned forward to look at the hole from the colonel's direction—and found he was looking through the space where the hole had been and it wasn't there any more. He sat back, feeling foolish, and there it was again, and, inside it, the top of the lab bench.

The colonel said, "Our original model was not only invisible from the back, and unstable, but had a rim like the edge of a razor blade. This is better, believe me. But it's still invisible from the back. It's almost as if you had a small hatchway, with one side in one location in space, and the other side of it in a different location."

"What happens if I try to reach through this hole?"

"Try it."

Roberts, expecting something like a closed window or porthole, cautiously put his hand in, met no resistance, reached through, picked up the chalk, and then the view shifted, his hand and half his arm disappeared, and the inner edge of the hole dropped free of his other hand to rest on his arm like a small, light, unseeable hoop. It dawned on Roberts that he had been trying to hold it with one hand and must not have gripped the edge tightly enough.

The colonel stepped out from behind his desk. "Don't move, Roberts. It won't hurt you, but we could have trouble finding it if it lands wrong side up. It's thin, and transparent from the back." He put his wide open hands on opposite sides of the outer edge of the hole, fingers spread, lifted it up, and Roberts withdrew his arm and opened his hand, the chalk resting on his palm.

Roberts felt the chalk, glanced up at the colonel patiently holding the device, then reached back through, returned the chalk, briefly weighed the hand slate, then pulled his arm and hand back out. He gave a low, fervent exclamation.

The colonel said, "Now, put your hands back on the outer edge, and press. Keep increasing the pressure."

Roberts put his hands on the outer edge of the hole, pressed lightly, and nothing happened. He pressed harder, and the circular rim resisted, then abruptly collapsed to an oval, then, by stages, to longer narrower openings, then the lab bench was gone, and he was holding the little rounded dished-in bit that looked like mother-of-pearl.

The colonel sat down behind his desk.

Roberts exhaled slowly. "You say this is the 'larger size'?"

"Correct. The smaller size would fit easily on the nail of your little finger."

"There are just two sizes?"

"There seem to be two limiting sizes. At best, they aren't easy to make. And when we try to use this method for one much larger or smaller, the border wavers, and sooner or later the connection breaks down. But we now have several sets of these space-connectors that are reliable."

"What's on the other end, in the lab?"

"A second unit, keyed to the demo unit you've got there. The second unit is ordinarily kept turned off, and mounted in a circular holder that fits tightly around its rim. Both units have to be turned on for the connection to function. When your unit is off, the other just looks like a short pedestal mount holding a rim that you can look through—like a mirror frame with no mirror in it. When your unit is turned on, you can see from the proper side a six-inch hole into the place your unit is in. In this case, someone in the lab could look—and could reach—into this room."

Roberts sat looking at the little curving piece like mother-of-pearl. "Suppose one place has a much heavier gravity than the other?"

"If you reach through, you might feel it. If there's a higher atmospheric pressure in one of the places, there will be a flow of gas from the higher pressure toward the lower. R-Branch says they've found no measurable effects due to relative velocity, or to a greater potential energy on one side of the connection."


"If one connector was to be put, say, in a fast-moving satellite, and the other were motionless on the ground below, you'd expect an object passed across from one side to the other to come through with high velocity. It doesn't. Any difference in velocity, or potential energy of the places joined, seems to be absorbed. R-Branch tells me there are theoretical difficulties, but it's as if places joined were motionless with respect to each other."

"Suppose something is thrown through from one side to the other?"

"It goes through as hard as you throw it."

Roberts thought it over, frowning. "How far apart can the places be that you connect?"

"We have yet to find the upper limit. Whatever it may be, the Pulgorite planet, Anarchy, is well within it." He added with no special emphasis. "The connection is made, Roberts, by having someone go the place with the device."

Roberts considered that for a while, then he smiled, and looked the colonel in the eye.

"Sir, I volunteer to check the physical condition of the hostages the Pulgorites claim to have taken."


Roberts became aware of voices, and of a muted throbbing somewhere in his head. He tried to move, and found that he couldn't. He managed to partly open his eyes, and a white light was glaring down from overhead. In the light, a short, very sharp knife glittered as a square competent hand held the knife out, and a more slender hand took it, and passed over a clamp, then another clamp, and another.

A male voice spoke quietly: "That's it."

A rougher male voice said, "Find anything more?"

"There are no artifacts actually inside the body itself, so far as we can determine."

The rough voice grated. "I asked you if you'd found anything more."

"No, sir. We did not."

"Just a minute, Surgeon. When I ask a question. I expect an answer in a certain form. And I will either get it, or you will find that those hands you're so proud of will break easily. Understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"All right. Now I'll ask you again: "Find anything more?"

"No, sir."

"What chance is there that something has been miniaturized, or that there is something there made to resemble body tissue?"

"I don't know, sir."

"But you don't see anything?"

"No, sir."

"Nor any sign that anything was inserted?"

"No, sir.

"Everything looks normal to you in the body cavities?"

"Yes, sir."

It dawned on Roberts suddenly that they were talking about him. It was him that was stretched out on this table.

The harsh voice said, "Does it mean anything to you, Surgeon, that that slab of meat you're working on represents victory for the Movement? If we can block every one of their dirty little tricks?"

"No, sir."

"No. You're not one of us. All right. Sew him up. And he'd better live long enough for us to wring the juice out of him."

"Yes, sir."

The rough voice grated. "Did I just ask you a question?"

"No, sir."

"Then shut up."

There was a silence, then another male voice spoke nervously, "Request to increase the anesthetic. The patient is regaining consciousness."

The rough voice answered. "We're short on anesthetic. To hell with him."

The surgeon said, "I can't promise the patient will survive if he becomes conscious in this situation."

"He's in the IP. They're tough."

"In this situation, no-one is tough."

There was a silence, and it penetrated to Roberts that he was lying on his back opened up on a table while an argument took place whether he could have anesthetic.

There was the sound of someone spitting. "All right," said the rough voice. "Give him some more gas. But you'd damned well better not waste it on him."

Roberts smelled something sweetish, and instantly passed out.

Somewhere nearby, a coldly sneering male voice was saying, " . . . don't know what's wrong with Guff and Petzky. They were OK when they brought the jerk, here, to the blockhouse. But now they've got chills, fever, and the shakes. I've put a ton of blankets on them in there. Guff is starting to hallucinate."

A feminine voice said, "Sounds like they've got the grakes."

"The what?"

"Grakes. In the settlement where I grew up, every spring at least half of us would come down with it."

"Never heard of it. What is it?"

"Chills, fever, and shaking. The worst is, you have vivid dreams. Well—vivid—nightmares."

"What causes it?"

"I don't know."

""How do you cure it?"

"We never found a cure. You just endure it."

"Great. Those two are worthless, then. For how long?"

"It usually took us about three or four days to get over the worst. By the end, we were worn out."

Roberts eased his eyes to narrow slits, to see the small passenger compartment of the tug that had brought him to the surface of Anarchy. Since this tug served as a kind of shuttle between the planet and the nearest space station, and had been about to leave the planet as Roberts had stepped into the spaceport washroom, it followed that the tug had taken off, returned later, and Roberts had again been put on board. Supposedly this would have had to take a good deal of time.

Up front, one of the cabin lights was shining on a metal trim-strip. Roberts head moved slightly, the strip glittered, and Roberts suddenly remembered the surgical knife, and realized where the time had gone. The realization was followed by urgent thought, and the memory of the colonel's voice:

"Needless to say, Roberts, there are limits to what we should tell you in advance. But you can expect to be very thoroughly searched on arrival. Naturally, we will be prepared, so don't worry about that." It occurred to Roberts to wonder just how thorough an examination the colonel had expected.

Beside him, now, the male voice was saying, "What are the odds on this sucker catching it?"

The feminine voice replied, "The grakes?"

"What are we talking about?"

"You tell me."

"Guff and Petzky were carrying him, and they've both down with it. Could he get it from them?

"I don't know why not. I'd think the odds were good."

"Does it kill?"


"So, after all we went through to catch the bastard, he could die on us before we've used him?"

"People in bad shape were the ones who usually ended up dying. The rest of us only felt like it."

"Well, he's already been sliced open, so that will weaken him. And they're putting him through a full-suite psycho battery when we get him there."

The feminine voice said judiciously, "It might kill him. The hallucinations can be really hellish."

"I don't mind putting him through hell. I just don't want him to die on us before we're through with him."

Roberts opened his eyes.

Beside him, the male voice gave a low chuckle. "Well—the sleeper awakes. Give Prince Charming a kiss, Ginette."

The feminine voice spoke softly. "I'd love to."

There was a faint hissing sound, as of a spray can, then a feeling of cobwebs brushing Robert's face and shoulders, then a pain that blotted out the headache, and brought Roberts wide awake. For an instant he was on his feet, straining at a wide band that covered his chest and arms, and another band that bound his legs together. Then a particularly agonizing pain warned him that, just a little while before, he had been on an operating table. He felt a great weariness, and his eyes went shut. As he fell back into the seat, the soft feminine voice spoke from his left: "Sully? Again? There's still plenty in the can."

From his right came the sarcastic masculine voice: "Oh—not just yet. Keep it handy. We'll have a few questions, and if he acts too smart, we'll give him a squirt. After a while, you can make a hiss with your mouth, and he'll jump."

The girl giggled. "Fun."

Roberts gave an involuntary shuddering gasp, got his eyes open, and saw that he was wearing a kind of hospital robe partly pulled down over his bare shoulders, and that the passenger compartment was empty forward of his seat. To his left was a pretty woman of perhaps twenty-five, dark-haired, demure, pertly holding what looked like a can of insect repellent. To his right was a well-dressed man of about forty, wearing a dark business suit. Both of them looked highly respectable.

Roberts recovered from the mind-stopping pain, and his instinct for self-preservation prompted him to try to distract this pair. The best he could think of was to get them talking. He turned to the man. "The ship is grounded on Anarchy?"

A look of contempt lit up in the man's eyes, and then there was a very faint hiss. Roberts' muscles tightened of their own accord. He turned around toward the girl, who favored him with a sweet smile and suggestively raised the can. The hiss was still going on, but she wasn't causing it. It was a faint hiss that he could just hear in his right ear. As he turned back to face the man, the hiss suddenly stopped.

His well-dressed seatmate had a look of glazed puzzlement. He hesitated, appeared to be groping mentally, then shrugged. "We're in flight. The so-called home planet is well behind us."

Roberts alertly studied the glazed expression, then said, "I thought the prisoners were being held on Anarchy?"

"Why should we make a target you could hit? You know where Anarchy is. We said they were there, so they aren't."

"There was an announcement that the Shock troops who carried out the raid had returned to Anarchy."

"We make statements to mislead. Why give free information to our enemies?"

"The Interstellar Patrol is your enemy?"

"We killed twenty-nine of your people. Sure you're our enemy. We didn't intend it, but we might as well make the most of it."


"At first we thought there were twenty-seven. But the records show a K-class IP ship was on the planet, along with the G-class ship we'd known of. The K-class ship had a crew of two."

Roberts kept his voice casual. "What records do you mean?"

"The Tiamaz internal security records. The planet has probably the best internal security of any planet not run by a dictator—and it beats some of them. We aimed to get the records. We did get them. That part, at least, worked."

The girl leaned across Roberts. "Sully, he's questioning you? Shouldn't we be questioning him?"

"Why do I want to ask questions? They've got a bunch of experts lined up for that."

"Yes, but—"

His tone was offended. "But what?"

"I thought—"

"Thought what?"

Listening to this exchange, and seeing the angry, defensive and still glazed look on Sully's face, while the girl looked incredulous and angry, Roberts remembered the faint hissing sound in his right ear. He felt a sensation as of chills and fever. He twisted around his seat—no small achievement considering the bonds, the aches and pains, and the girl's raising of the spray can—and said, while looking over the back of the seat, with his right side toward the girl. "Are we alone in here?"

She said, ignoring Roberts after one quick puzzled glance, "Sully, are you all right?"

There was no one in sight in the seats behind them. Again there was a faint distinct hiss, which went on for some time, to end only as he turned toward the front again. As he turned, Sully was saying resentfully, "I'm in charge here. You understand that, Ginette?"

Roberts automatically braced for her sharp response.

The girl said meekly, "I understand, Sully. I just wondered, that's all. I'm sorry."

Roberts sensation of chills and fever produced an actual shiver as he recognized the unlikelihood of this submissive reply. Like Sully's cooperativeness, it followed closeness to the right side of Roberts' face—more specifically, closeness to his right ear. Moreover, there was a distinct unmistakable sense of coldness in his right ear. Not for the first time, he damned the colonel's reluctance to give information, and his own willingness to act without getting it. Thanks to that failing, though he now had an idea what was going on, he didn't actually know, and might make a slip anytime. He turned to Sully, and casually asked, "What was the point of the raid?"

Sully sighed, and settled back. "We intended to replace the internal security on Tiamaz with our own people. It didn't work. But we did get the records."

Roberts stared at him. "You were going to take over Tiamaz?"

"Just the internal security section."

"But you couldn't stop there. The planetary government wouldn't have put up with that."

"Why not? Tiamaz is run by a syndicate of financiers, gamblers, and entertainers. Naturally, we weren't going to tell them we were taking over the planet for Colonel-General Pulgor. We were going to tell them we represented Intergalactic Security, a competitor of Transspace Security—the outfit they'd contracted with—and that we had spotted a hole in the Transspace security set-up, and pushed Transspace out of there. Then we'd offer to take on the security contract on the same terms, and do the job right. What do they care who does the work?"

Roberts, suffering from a severe headache, a number of pains and twinges, and a general feeling of weakness, asked himself if his own physical shape might be the reason for his difficulty in following this explanation. He cleared his throat.

"But there is an actual Intergalactic Security. What were they going to do when they heard about this?"

"Why should they complain? Tiamaz is a big contract. What do they care if Transspace gets a bloody nose? What Intergalactic would want is the money."

"Yes, but wouldn't they be surprised to find out they had a branch office they didn't know about?"

"Oh, sure, but we weren't going to tell them we were from Intergalactic. Hell, no. We'd tell them we were an independent outfit called Unicorn Investigations. We'd already set Unicorn up, so, if they checked, that was documented. We'd say we'd found holes in Transspace's set-up, penetrated it, and Transspace had resisted, and one thing had led to another, and we'd had to clean out the whole operation. Now we wanted to affiliate ourselves with a real professional security outfit, and would they take us on as part of Intergalactic. Then they'd ask who gets the payment, and we'd say they did, and they could pay us at their wage rate, and we figured they'd jump at it. Tiamaz is a gold mine."

Roberts remembered the peculiar expression on the colonel's face as he said, "They're clever." He grappled with this explanation, and asked himself if this could have worked. With a sense of shock, it dawned on him that it appeared so tailored to the greed or ignorance of everyone involved that it just might have worked, at that.

To his left, the girl sighed, and settled back, and the girl's sigh seemed loud, while the man's voice seemed somewhat low, as if Roberts' right ear was partly plugged. Automatically, he tried yawning and swallowing to clear his ear, then realized that wasn't going to work, and said, "So, you'd finish off the team from Transspace, and try to join up with Intergalactic?"


"How about Transspace?"

"As soon as we'd wiped out their people, we'd send Transspace a message over their planet chief's name, saying we'd gotten a better offer from Modular Investigations, and had accepted it as a unit."

"This would be a message supposedly from Transspace's people on Tiamaz?"


"The ones you'd just killed?"

"Sure. They couldn't deny it."


"Transspace wouldn't know what to think. Because there is a Modular Investigations, but it's halfway around the universe. If Modular needed people to work in some place far from home, this is just what they might do."

"So Transspace might believe it."

"Might. They wouldn't know."

"Couldn't they check?"

"Sure." He chuckled. "They could ask Modular."

Roberts considered the chuckle. "Ah—"

"Naturally, Modular would deny it."


"They'd deny it either way, whether they did it or not."

"But if Transspace believed they had a message from their own chief of planet, naming Modular, why would they doubt—"

"How do they know whether he's lying? He could have joined some other outfit, and named Modular to lay a false trail."

Roberts considered it in silence. "All right. Suppose Transspace got in touch with you?" 

"Ah, we'd have loved that. We were Unicorn Investigations, and we'd done a small job for the Transspace outfit on Tiamaz, and their planet chief had got in touch with us, and asked how we'd like to fill in on Tiamaz for them, and we'd asked why, and he'd said he'd had an offer from Pilgrim Protective, but don't repeat it, and so we'd gone to Tiamaz, and the planet chief had eased us into the job, and then left with Transspace's people, and here we were, and he'd suggested we get in touch with Intergalactic, and we'd done it, and Intergalactic had asked no questions and just taken us on. Naturally, we wouldn't tell them this all at once. We'd let them dig it out, a piece at a time."

Roberts sat back. "There is a Pilgrim Protective?"

"You bet."

"So Transspace would—"

Sully chuckled. "Probably they'd just drop it. They'd have a sweet time checking it out."

Roberts exhaled carefully. On top of his pains and general sense of enfeeblement, he was suffering from a growing impression that he was mentally dull, and badly out of step with the latest progress in crime.

"Did you," he asked, "work this out yourself?"

His seat companion smiled with quiet pride. "Oh, we all had input. Where you have to be careful is getting rid of the bodies."


"We left that to Marty. He's careful. It's better if not too many know just what happened."

"Yes, I guess it would be, at that."

Roberts sat back, and gathered his mental faculties together. He had the impression that he had to get out and push to get them to work. Stubbornly, he went through the explanation again, trying to pin down just what it was that seemed to be lacking. Let's see, he thought, the Movement kills Transspace's people on Tiamaz. They send a false message so Transspace will think their people have quit their jobs. The Movement tells Tiamaz that they work for Intergalactic. They tell Intergalactic they are a small outfit and want to join Intergalactic. They agree that, in exchange, Intergalactic can have the lavish payment from Tiamaz, while, for its part, Intergalactic will pay their wages. Roberts thought that over.

No matter how he examined it, it appeared to Roberts that, after a complicated string of lies, murder, and trickery, the payoff was that the Movement had got into a position where now it could work for Intergalactic.

"What," said Roberts, "would you get out of this?"

"Me, personally, or the Movement?"

"The Movement."

Sully smiled expansively.

"Think of all the important people who come to Tiamaz, how they can be set up while they're there, and the information you can get on them. There's a lot of angles there. Then there are the entertainers. Just for starters, we had a show on the colonel-general's life—a sympathetic show—and someone from Anarchy was going to take it around to the entertainers. If any one of them would it handle it right, we—internal security—would help that entertainer. There was a lot we'd be able to do to favor one of them over another after we'd been around a while."

"That was a public relations gimmick? To build up your leader's reputation?"

"Sure, why not? All these influential people pass though Tiamaz. If you're on Tiamaz, you've got a handle on them, not to mention the information you can use or sell."

It occurred to Roberts that being told all this would do nothing to improve his chances of getting home alive to repeat it. On the other hand, he was being told, and just possibly he was not the only one hearing it. He cleared his throat.

"What went wrong?"

"It never occurred to us there would be off-duty police or troops there. All we expected to run into was Transspace, and maybe the local police. But there was a platoon of Space Force combat infantry in civilian clothes taking their furlough there, and the two IP ships we didn't know about till later. Then there was something else—we don't know what it was—and the scam turned into a shambles."

"What happened?"

"The idea was to do away with Transspace's operatives—all of them—in about a three-hour period. The problem was to keep it quiet. We had their schedule, and one of our own people was their dispatcher on duty. We knew where everyone on duty was going to be, they didn't expect trouble, and the dispatcher could pull in the people off duty when it suited us. It should have gone like silk."

Roberts, soberly considering it, could see the point. "But it didn't?"

"What we didn't know was that two of the Transspace women operatives had made friends with a couple of Space Force sergeants. That is, we knew they had boyfriends, but it hadn't dawned on us that the boyfriends were combat troops with buddies all over the place. When we tried to get rid of these female operatives, all hell broke loose. To make it worse, some Space Force men had got friendly with the IP, taking their own vacation there, and they got in it, too, and damn it, no one is supposed to be armed on Tiamaz except the Tiamaz police and internal security—but several of these holier-than-thou IP bastards had guns."

Roberts murmured, "Oh, unfair."

"Well, if they don't obey the law, who can you trust?"

"What happened?"

"We cleaned out most of Transspace, but the two women caught on, warned the rest, and it was like a nature vacation where you go to shoot the tame rock hen for dinner, and waiting there for you is a giant constrictor. The Tiamaz police got in it along with the Space Force and the IP, and what was left of Transspace. We loaded up the Transspace files, blew up the internal security headquarters, and on the way off the planet a big IP ship came at us low and fast, we fired everything we could throw at it, accidentally hit some building on the edge of the casino district, and that went up like a torch with the IP ship right over it, and this building and the IP ship blew up. We don't know what happened. But we were far enough away to live though it, and it did so much damage we thought it would build up our reputation to claim the credit. After that blast, anyone who knew what was going on was probably dead, so we could claim anything. So we called it a raid."

"The hostages—?"

"The last thing we were thinking about was hostages. We wanted out of there with a whole skin. What we said afterward was just to look good. See, we're not scared of the Patrol. First we question them. Then we kill them, one at a time. How is anyone going to know what happened? Of course, now we have got a hostage. You."

Roberts noted that the glazed expression was wearing off, and Sully was now acquiring a faintly puzzled look—possibly as if he wondered just why he was telling Roberts all this. Roberts nodded moodily. "These—ah— Shock Troops—?"

"Same idea. Like the colonel-generals' rank. He's got followers enough in the Movement so he could claim to be, maybe, a lieutenant or even a captain. How's that sound—Lieutenant Pulgor, Supreme Commander? You can hear the press: 'In a dramatic development today, First-Lieutenant Pulgor announced that his troops, based on the home planet of Anarchy, will destroy any commercial traffic in the region.'—Kind of unconvincing. You don't dare do that unless you've actually got the power. So he reached into his imagination, and now he's a Colonel-General. We got the Shock Troops out of the same place."

It occurred to Roberts again that this frankness did not bode well for his longevity. He waited until a particularly vicious jolt of pain passed, and until the detestation he was beginning to feel for his seat companion died down a little, then he cleared his throat.

"So, obviously, there is no point to my checking the condition of prisoners."

As if the words were some kind of signal, the girl at once lifted the spray can, and aimed it at his face.

The man noted Robert's wince, and laughed. "Not yet, Ginette." He glanced at Roberts. "You see, we're pretty sure the IP isn't actually stupid. The Space Police—by and large, they're stupid. The Space Force? Well, it depends. They're one-sided. You get in the way of their specialty, and they're anything but stupid. But they just fight outsiders, so we don't have to worry about them. See what I mean?"

Roberts noted the complete disappearance of the glazed look, nodded, kept his mouth shut, and listened.

"Planetary Development? It's full of smart people, but the organization is bird-brained. But except when they take over a settled planet, that's no problem. Obviously, as the colonel-general says, we need to get rid of the Space Police. You can't have real individual freedom—Unrestricted Individual Freedom—Anarchy—with police around. And Planetary Development's regulations have to be changed so they can't interfere on a planet after it's settled. That's all. But the IP?" He looked at Roberts.

Roberts kept his mouth shut, and looked attentive. His seat companion nodded.

"We don't know. We don't truly know what it is. But now we've got a grip on a piece of it, and we aim to find out what the IP is. Maybe we can use it. Or maybe we have to eliminate it. For all we know, it's a secret government, the very opposite of anarchy. You may be part of anti-freedom. We have to find out."

Roberts observed the bright glow in his seat companion's eyes, looked around and saw the spray can aimed at him. He glanced back to the man, who was smiling. The silence began to stretch out uncomfortably.

"How," said Roberts, "do you find out?"

"Well, like I say, we're a small organization. But we have some shrewd people. As an organization, we're sharp. A lot sharper than the IP. You see, we trapped you because you couldn't be sure we didn't have some of your men as prisoners. You probably didn't really believe it, but you had to be sure. Right?"

"That's a fair statement."

"You bet it is. Now we've got you. The rest of the Patrol knows we've got you. When we send back a finger, they'll know it's your finger. When we send back an ear, they'll know it's your ear. We can stretch that out a long time. They won't be able to bear it. Sooner or later, they'll attack. That's when we'll get some more hostages. Because where are they going to attack? Why, Anarchy, of course. Everything will be datelined Anarchy. The press will have interviews there. It's established that we're there. But, of course, we're not. What is there is a few of us and a damned big booby trap. Ordinarily, I suppose the Patrol wouldn't make a land attack. They could just pull a warship into range and blast us from a distance. But we've got you. They'll land." 

Roberts considered the words, "When we send back a finger, they'll know it's your finger," and reminded himself that if he got out of this in one piece, in the future to be a little more restrained when the next chance came along to volunteer. He said, as if uncertain. "You can't be sure they'll land."

His seatmate looked exceedingly shrewd. "Well, I think they'll land. You'll be surprised how we'll play them. And when they land, the odds are we'll get a few of them, anyway. They'll suffer heavy losses. And then they'll realize they don't know where we are. We'll find out just what the IP is like. And we'll get the colonel-general free in the process. It'll tear the IP to bits. And you're the start." He looked at his watch. "OK, Ginette, give him a dose."

There was a hiss, a sense of brushing into cobwebs, and an agonizing pain. The hissing kept up, and pain knocked the vague hopefulness Roberts had started to feel out of his mind, spread over his exposed head, neck and shoulders to turn into one livid blinding agony—and he was unconscious.

This time when he came to, Roberts had a distinct sense of the passage of time. His first clear conscious thought was—"Don't volunteer!" Then his eyes focused, he remembered the operating room and the space tug, and realized he was no longer on the space tug.

The room he was in was large, the plastered walls water-stained, and the ceiling high. The closed doors were paneled, dark, and set in massive frames. Here and there, plaster had fallen, to give the impression of a mansion in ruins. Roberts himself was lying on his back in a double bed with several woolen blankets on it. Watching from across the room by a high closed window was the girl who had wielded the spray can. She smiled and smoothed her brief playsuit.

Roberts winced and revised his estimate of the anarchists downward as she spoke:

"We don't have to be enemies," she said. "We could be a lot more friendly."

He tried to sit up, and discovered he was in a kind of straitjacket, though now his legs were free. He glanced at the girl.

"Now where are we?"

"Home. You've been examined by our experts, given nourishment, psychologically tested, and now the Veep is going to talk to you."


"The colonel-general's eldest son. He is in charge of the Movement in the absence of Colonel-General Pulgor himself. You see, the colonel-general is Presiding Officer of the Movement."

She rolled the titles reverently off her tongue as Roberts bit back sarcastic comments and noted that the feeling of weakness seemed to be gone, while his headache had died down to a hammering throb with occasional blinding sensations as if his head were being split open down the middle. This seemed, by comparison with what had gone before, almost good health, just as being in a straitjacket with his legs unbound seemed almost like freedom. Before he could congratulate himself on any of this, a massive paneled door swung open to let in a tall, bent individual who looked to be in his mid-thirties, and who spoke in a whining voice.

"Damn it, Marty. I never get a chance to do what I want. If the old man wants to run this damn show, let him run it. I don't give a good—"

"Now, Mr. Vice-President, you know that His Excellency is imprisoned. That's the whole point of all this. To get him out of prison. You know that."

"And then what? He'll yell at me! He'll tramp up and down the room and scream and holler and demand what I'm doing with my life and why I don't care two—"

"Sir, please—"

"He'll say I'm supposed to give my life for the Cause, and how he's devoted his all to the Movement, and, damn it, Marty, the damned Movement is supposed to make everybody free, but tell me, am I free? Heh? Am I? All those people got blown up, and now we've got the Space Force, and the Interstellar Patrol, and God knows what else after us—I mean, it's personal now! Don't you see what I mean?"

"Sir, permit me to introduce Lieutenant-General Vaughan Nathan Roberts of the Interstellar Patrol. General Roberts, you are in the presence of the son of His Excellency, Colonel-General Ian Pulgor, Presiding Officer of the Movement for the Creation of Universal Freedom In Anarchy. Gentlemen, time is limited. Permit me to urge that we waste no effort to arrive at a mutual understanding as soon as possible."

Roberts, gaining the impression he was among lunatics, while himself trying to loosen the straitjacket, now became aware of a faint hissing sound that intensified any time he turned so that the right side of his head was toward either the vice-president or his companion. Roberts glanced around, and said absently, "Just Captain Roberts. I'm not a general."

The tall vice-president of the Movement laughed. "It's all right. Nobody speaks the truth around here. We're all free to lie however we choose. Even our own names aren't true. They're picked to conceal our identity, not state it. That's just another part of anarchy. But the rest of what he said, aside from the lies, is true. We'd better get down to cases pretty fast. You're in trouble."

Roberts said seriously, "I'm listening."

"We've delivered an ultimatum, stating that the captives are being killed, one at a time. Each day, we 'kill' another, giving his name and a personal description. We get that from the internal security documents we captured on Tiamaz. The Transspace operatives had files on all kinds of things. It looks to us as if they had in mind the kind of scam we were planning ourselves."

Roberts noted the way this statement somehow slid from a threat to a delivery of information. He glanced around, to note the various expressions.

The "Veep" looked glazed, and faintly puzzled.

His companion, Marty, looked glazed and thoroughly confused.

Ginette was watching Roberts in puzzlement, and smiled as he looked at her.

Roberts, as he turned his head, was conscious of a succession of faint hissings, and a damp cold sensation in his right ear. He looked at the tall fretful Veep.

"What do you gain by claiming that you're killing men who have already died?"

"What do we get from it? Well, we get the direct personal enmity of the IP. I get nightmares. My buddies on the Governing Council get a sense of power. That doesn't help me any, but what can I do? I've got one vote on the Council, and I get outvoted every time. But never mind that. Now, we've got twenty-nine names to go through, and then we arrive at you. Your name is last on the list. I'm telling you, you'd better take that fact seriously. Just about every male member of this outfit except me is a homicidal maniac. They aren't stupid; they're vicious."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Cooperate. Tell Ginette here—that's not her real name, by the way—everything you know about the Patrol. Everything. All our members will be delighted if you and she really get along in a personal way, because they'll think it's a real joke to see a member of the IP on the film that will be made up from the hidden cameras around the room. But they won't insist on that. All they want is the information. Everything else is irrelevant, if you know what I mean. What counts is that you spit out your guts and tell everything—everything—everything that you know about the IP. Don't hold anything back. Your life depends on it. Believe me, there's a body blow to the prestige and image of the IP with every death announcement, but that's nothing compared to what's coming. What they're going to do to you. If I could stop it, I'd stop it. I'd just kill you, not do what they're going to do. But I've only got one vote. What they're going to do to you will scare everyone else into line, believe me. We're going to leave now, but Ginette will stay here. With you. You two will be all alone together here. You can do anything you want. But before we go, I just want to say one more thing. OK, Marty?"

Roberts glanced at the second man, who still looked as glazed as the vice-president, and who shook his head, then shrugged. "Go on. After all, you're the Veep."

"OK, it's my judgment. I believe in being honest. Why not tell him?"

Marty looked as if he were trying to think, but couldn't find the controls. "I said OK."

"All right."

"Then go ahead and tell him. Whatever."

The girl, looking at the same time puzzled and anxious, spoke up: "Marty—look—he's tensing and relaxing different muscles. I've been watching him. I think he's getting ready to try something."

"I noticed it. He can't do much in that jacket."

Roberts, who had been trying to calculate the odds if he did try something, said candidly, "What I'm trying to do is loosen the thing up a little. What were you going to say?"

The vice-president cleared his throat.

"I have to tell you, your lack of consciousness, both here and on the planet Anarchy, was not natural. We have some very capable medical people working for us. You have undergone a most thorough physical examination. We know the Interstellar Patrol is a scientifically formidable opponent, and we have been taking no chances. As a result of our examination, we have removed from the soles of your feet two closely adhering containers made of a fleshlike substance, containing picks to be used on locks. From the roof of your mouth, we have removed a similar substance in appropriate pink color, containing a small very thin sharp blade and a loop of fine wire. From your intestinal tract we have extracted a series of capsules containing light weapon components that might be assembled. Even your body cavities have been examined. Your clothing has of course been searched, and found to contain a really incredible number of deceptive arrangements and devices. The belt buckle, the wire woven in the trouser weave, the boots—everything has been checked, and just in case we've somehow missed something, we aren't returning anything to you."

Roberts nodded moodily. He thought he could survive the disappointment.

The vice-president continued. "Your equipment, clothing, and your body itself have all been thoroughly examined. We have left nothing to chance. It is obvious that you expected to be able to produce an arsenal at will. But there is nothing left." He looked at Roberts with a glint of satisfaction and said, "I'm sorry." He noted Roberts' expression, glanced at Ginette, and looked back at Roberts. "Your fate really is in the soft caring hands of that lovely girl there." He added earnestly, "I hope you can find it in you to show the courage to recognize facts, and I sincerely hope you reach a satisfactory accommodation. The two of you."

Roberts drew a breath to speak, and the vice-president, with an air of having just remembered something, said, "Oh, yes, there was something else. We also examined your teeth, removed the old-fashioned fillings in some of them, and replaced them afterward, having removed the miniaturized circuits embedded in the fillings. It would be nice to know just what they were. You can tell Ginette." He nodded and left. His companion studied Roberts' face, smiled like a shark, and went out, closing the door behind him.

Ginette looked at Roberts, and raised her eyebrows. She reached behind her, and held up the pressure can. Her voice was soft and pleasant:

"The Lady or the Tiger?"

Roberts winced at the sight of the can, and shook his head.

"Why bother to ask me to answer? The obvious thing is to put the questions under hypnotic drugs."

"As you well know, that's been done. Every answer was silly. At one point you said you were really a fusion bomb which would go off as soon as you reached a vulnerable spot in our arrangements. Another time you said that you were being shadowed by an IP dreadnought in kappa space, and that this dreadnought would materialize out of kappa space in seventeen point four seconds. Seventeen seconds later you laughed and said you hadn't started to count yet. This happened under a combination of hypnotic drugs that is supposed to make any lack of cooperation totally impossible." She looked at him uneasily, and shivered. "It really shook the experts. You didn't make any friends during the questioning, I'll tell you. You should have been a good boy."

"What did they do beside question me?"

"Oh, the doctors examined you, and said you'd had a course of immunization treatments they couldn't truly understand. You seemed to have been immunized against all kinds of sicknesses. There were things in your blood stream they didn't remotely begin to understand."

"Anything else?"

"Well, there were—ah—several interruptions, and it sort of threw things off schedule a little bit."

Roberts looked at her. "Interruptions?"

She said nervously, "The inspector-general of the Movement had just got back from Anarchy, and he wasn't in a very sweet mood. He and one of the doctors had sort of a little disagreement. After they'd got the inspector-general bandaged up, and gotten the bullet out of the doctor, they went back to work on you, only somehow there were a lot of tiny insects in the room—so small you could hardly see them—and every time the doctors would try to do anything, they would bite, and the doctors accused the nurses of leaving the windows open, and the nurses said some pretty bad things to the doctors, and the inspector-general threw such a fit that some of his stitches came out, and in the middle of this, the patient—that is, you—said in a loud voice that if anarchy was what we were aiming at, we'd achieved it, and how did we like it?—Don't you remember any of this?"

Roberts said regretfully, "I missed it. I suppose it was the drugs. Where did all this take place?"

"Right here in the Citadel—Well, not in this room, but in the interrogation room, upstairs."

"Are we at the headquarters of the Movement?"

"No, the colonel-general himself is the real Headquarters. But most of the rest of us are here now. This is our safest place—our citadel. I guess it can't do any harm to tell you now."

"What happened then?"

"The inspector-general said something like, 'Get that bastard out of here before I kill him,' and the doctors went through their checklist and decided they had done everything to you they had to do, so they brought you down here, put you in a straitjacket, and the Veep said, 'I told you it would be a mess to take on the IP. We've had more trouble since we caught him than we've had in the last five years,' and Marty said, 'But where did all these damned tiny bugs come from? Don't we have any bug killer?' and someone by accident picked up the pain spray and used it, and got Sully and the Veep with it, and when we'd recovered from that, Marty got me off in a corner and said, 'Look, Ginette, somehow this SOB is more trouble doped unconscious than the whole twenty-seven of them on Tiamaz. What's it going to be like when he comes to? You've got to make the ultimate sacrifice for the Movement and at least keep him distracted.' And the Veep overheard the last of this and he nodded and said to me that they'd used science and it hadn't worked worth a damn, so it was all up to me now—and we all went to sleep for what was left of the night, and you know the rest."

Roberts, who thought he finally understood what was going on, said, "If we're supposed to be friends, what's the point of the straitjacket?"

"I can let you out of it, but first I have to sure you're not going to make trouble. So far, I'm not sure."

"Were you there on Tiamaz?"

She hesitated, then nodded. "I don't know why I should tell you, but why not?"

"After all," said Roberts, "if we're friends—"

She looked at him with no great conviction, and shrugged. "Yes, I was there. It was awful."

Roberts said, "Shouldn't there have been at least some survivors?"

"IP survivors?"


She shook her head. "The only man in this outfit who doesn't hammer on his chest all the time is the Veep. He spends his time whining and complaining. The rest are all so macho it would make you sick. Sully—he's the one on the tug—it sounded as if he was being frank, but in fact he covered up just how awful it really was."

"He said it was a shambles. It was worse than that?"

She nodded. "The takeover from Transspace was going all right until we ran into the Space Force and the IP—that was just as he said. But the unarmed Space Force men more than held their own when they protected the two girl operatives, and then when the IP got in it, it was horrible. Sully made it sound as if he took a cold look at the situation and decided to salvage what he could. In fact, we were run off the planet, and the only thing that saved us was the explosion, and he doesn't have any idea what made that."

"You're saying—"

"I'm saying the IP ship was probably fully manned. There weren't any survivors spread around through the casinos and fun houses. When the IP man with the Space Force saw what was happening, he called for help. So did Sully. We had the internal security set-up, but the IP got there faster. Our men were armed to the teeth. When Sully and his boys let loose, it sounded like the end of the universe. I don't know how many people got killed by accident with the shots that missed. But every time the IP shot, somebody on our side went down. The IP ship, held at the spaceport, blasted loose and got there before we could get away. If you ask me, the IP men got on their ship. That's where they belonged, so that's where they were. There were no IP survivors because when the ship went up, they all got caught in the explosion."

"And you don't have any idea what caused that?"

She shook her head. "Sully and the others think it was some kind of illegal explosives factory. But he doesn't know."

"You don't sound to me as if you hate the Interstellar Patrol."

She smiled wistfully. "A girl likes a man who can do things."

Roberts reminded himself how enthusiastically she had wielded the can of pain spray, then said, "It's a shame you're on the wrong side."

She shook her head. "No, you're on the wrong side. Your side will lose this one. Because, even though Sully got beat by the IP, and he'll get beat every time he comes out in the open and fights the IP, Sully isn't stupid. He's crafty. Every one of these macho swaggerers is an underhanded sneak, and the Patrol will never know what hit it. Even the Veep is crafty. And for pure slick cunning cleverness, no-one beats the colonel-general."

"He's in prison."

"Sure he's in prison. That's where he recruits."

Roberts looked at her.

She laughed. "You see, you don't know how to beat cleverness. What's wrong with the Movement is, it's macho. But after what the Patrol did to us on Tiamaz, it will be a long time before Sully and the boys come out in the open and fight again. They'll boast and brag and swagger, but when it comes right down to it, from now on, they'll stick to dirty tricks, clever ploys, lies, stabs in the back, bushwhacking—all the things they're good at."

"If the colonel-general is in prison to recruit, why can't he get out?"

She shook her head. "Of course he can get out."

"Then why does a captive have to be traded for him?"

"That's to embarrass the IP. We know they can't get him out without making a lot of trouble and losing their reputation. So that's why we demand it."

Roberts looked totally blank. She looked at his expression, and smiled. "You don't understand, do you? We make the demand that will make you go against your own standards, and that will turn you and the other authorities against each other. No matter how that turns out, we can't lose." She added, "You're cute when you're confused."

Roberts reminded himself that this was the same girl who had shown no hesitation to blast him with the pain spray. She, however, apparently interpreting his silence as embarrassment, came closer, watching his face and smiling. Roberts looked away, and jumped at a faint hissing sound before realizing it must be within his own ear.

"There, there," she said, smiling. "I won't bite you." She stood close beside him, bent, and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

Roberts remembered her aiming the pain spray and saying, "Another dose?" and he glanced around the room. "Are there really cameras all over in here?"

She nodded. "There are. And even if there weren't, the doors are handy to peep through. The Veep is good at telling you something that's true, and because you know he's a liar, you don't believe the truth he tells you." She looked at him, still smiling. "You're embarrassed, aren't you? Because of the cameras?"

"Well," he said, groping for a suitably embarrassed answer, "there's no privacy, no—"

"Here," she said, giggling, and suddenly undid the straps of the straitjacket that bound him, slid it free, and said, "I knew you liked me."

A tiny voice spoke in Roberts' right ear:

"Roberts, get the seductress into bed with you, and turn your head so this ear is against her nostrils. Don't waste any time. All hell is going to break loose shortly."

Roberts, of two minds on this idea, recognized the urgency in the voice, and did as he was told.

"Oh," she said, and abruptly lay still, the triumphant smile still on her face.

The voice spoke urgently in his ear. "Roberts, lie flat, face-down, turn your head to your left, and pull the covers over your head." An instant later, there was a brief sense of pressure and a scraping in his external ear canal, and something landed beside him. He found a thin tube, the cap off one end, a little ointment coming out.

The voice was tiny but clear. "Rub it over your face, neck, and shoulder, but not your ears. Stay under the covers. Rub it on her face, neck, and shoulders. And keep well under the covers while you do it.

Roberts busied himself with the ointment.

From the door of the room came a puzzled murmur.

The tiny voice in Roberts' ear said, "OK. Now listen closely. Arrange the covers to make a channel from the right side of your head to the room. Lie flat on your face. Whatever happens, don't move, even if you feel a severe pain."

Roberts did as he was told, and lay flat.

There was a rapid crawling sensation as of a half-dozen tiny clawed feet hastening through his ear, accompanied by a bristle brush that just fit the ear canal. Something landed lightly on the sheet beside him. There was a second sensation just like the first. Then there was a buzz, that diminished into the room. Then there was another of the same set of sensations, and another buzz. And another. And another.

Across the room, the door slammed back against the wall. A baffled angry voice shouted, "All right! On your feet!"

Roberts didn't move.

The air instantly filled with a menacing whining droning sound. The sensation of thrusting crawling dozens of hurrying claws in Roberts' ear continued, and he lay severely still as the yells and screams echoed around the room, then moved off into what must be a hallway outside, to dwindle into the distance and mingle with a volley of shots and new screams from other parts of the building.

The crawling sensations in his ear stopped. The buzzing droning sounds were gone.

The tiny voice said, "Move further away from the woman, Roberts. Very slowly . . . now, open your eyes slowly . . . Do you see any insects? Speak in a low voice and we can hear you."

"No," said Roberts.

"Good. Turn over carefully . . . Slowly . . . Any insects on the covers?"


"OK. Lie still, face up. Pull the covers over your face. Don't get impatient. Don't move."

Roberts pulled the covers over his face, and lay very still.

There was the feeling of a stiff hard wire forcing its way out his ear. It was a tight fit, and very stiff, and it felt for an instant as if it would tear his ear off from the sheer force of its passage. Then the pain died away.

There was a light small sound, as of a feather brushing the sheet beside him. Then the mattress was pressed down, as if a large heavy hand pushed down on it beside him. Something cold and hard scraped past him. There were metallic sliding clicking sounds, as of machined parts being fitted together to form a larger assemblage.

"Roberts, whatever happens next, don't move. One way or another, it should be over very fast."

Something heavy was in the bed, under the covers on the opposite side from the woman. The thing moved down next to his side, to his waist, and stopped. He could feel the mattress give under it as it moved. There was a faint hiss, a smell as of burnt wool, a flare of warmth against his side, a snap, a sizzle, a second sizzling noise, and a repetition so fast that for an instant the air seemed filled with hissing sizzling snapping noises, as if sparks and bolts of flame momentarily filled the space of the room.

From all sides came a crash of plaster, the thud, bang, and clatter of heavy mechanisms striking the floor. Something whistled past his head, there was a dull crash, and bits of plaster pattered on the covers.

The voice in his ear said, "OK, Roberts. Wait a minute." Whatever it was traveled further down in the bed, to pause by his calves and ankles. There was a fresh smell as of burnt wool, and silence.

The voice sounded pleased. "Now, the room you're in should be clear of ordinary surprises. But take a look on your right side. Move slowly."

Roberts, wearying of this, opened his eyes slowly, and at once growled, "Could you put a weapon through?"

The small voice said, "Stay right where you are."

Beside him was a neat precise six-inch round hole opening straight down for a clear drop of what looked like about eighty feet, to a gray deck where he could see figures moving around lathes, drills, and a flexible arm that swung precisely around a workpiece. Roberts' view was obstructed by a thick flexible black cable that was bent over the edge of the hole toward whatever was lying, heavy and cold, beside his right calf and ankle. From under the covers came a click and snap, and at nearly the same moment, a gauntleted hand appeared briefly down in the hole and hauled the cable, a metal connection at the end, down the hole and out of sight.

It occurred to Roberts that if he did what he was apparently expected to do, and stayed where he was, and if he survived whatever was coming next, he would need quite a lot of ingenuity to explain what he had done while the Patrol settled with the Pulgorites. He could hear the questions already, before he was even out of the place:

"Say. Captain, were you actually in the Pulgorite safehouse when the attack came through?"

"Well . . . yes."

"You were a prisoner?"

"That's right."

"A hostage?"


"That must have been rough."

"Well—no complaint. I volunteered for it."

"Yeah? Gee. That took courage. Just where were you when the attack came in that got you out of there?"

"Ah—I was—well—you see—"

"Lieutenant Jones is telling everyone around that when he got there, you were in bed with one of the anarchists. Is that right?"

He could, of course, be suffering from some form of paranoia to even think that anyone might say this, and of course there were a number of ways this conversation might go; but there was no way it could go that Roberts wanted to actually experience. He cautiously tensed one muscle after another, and while there was soreness, and a cramped sensation, he found nothing that seemed touchy or severely painful. He carefully began to ease himself out of bed. The massive object under the covers near the foot of the bed was incidentally in his way. He tried to get a foot over it, and the thing made a quiet ticking noise as it moved its gun-like snout projecting through a burned hole in the covers. What the thing looked and acted like was a standard small-size turret, which suggested he shouldn't have an attack from FIAM to worry about from that direction, except that, for some reason, the turret's power cable had been disconnected.

"Roberts," said the tiny, very clear voice in his ear, "try to steady the rim."

Roberts carefully turned on his side, and put a hand on either side of the hole.

From somewhere down the hallway outside came a scream, then a volley of muffled yells:

"Kill the bastard!"

"Look out! There's another one!"

"Get the thing, damn it! Get it!"

"That's it! Come on!"

The small voice said, "Don't move, Roberts."

There was the sound of running feet approaching up the hallway. Roberts thought of the turret, and stayed still.

Through the hole, Roberts could see, as he carefully lowered his head to try to get a wider angle of vision, a railed work platform to his right, where a man in an informal pale blue-gray Interstellar Patrol uniform raised one of a set of checkered black-and-yellow paddles, gesturing with the raised paddle toward his own left. There was a thump, and he winced, gesturing downward with the other paddle. He then moved both paddles urgently back toward himself.

Roberts put his head closer to the hole, and could see to his left, a little K-class patrol ship, with a kind of slender periscope mounted vertically aft the turret belt. A second glance showed him that the periscope was vertical only because the ship was tilted, to avoid the main upper turret interfering with the slender metal cylinder.

Whoever was in charge of the ship apparently had the problem of getting the periscope up through the other half of the hole Roberts was looking down through.

The shouts, screams, and shots faded from Roberts' awareness as he considered the problem. No doubt if he could see the inside of the ship, he would have a better chance to understand what was wrong—but, no problem, he thought—and moved his part of the hole to try to see if he could center it over the periscope.

The scene stayed the same, moving as he moved the hole, and it dawned on him that it was the other half of the hole he would have to move if he was going to do it that way, and the other half of the hole was doubtless clamped solidly in place. There was another thump, and a string of curses came up through the connection as Roberts asked himself what imbecile was responsible for this set-up. All that should have been necessary was to leave the ship in its rack, and just slide the other half of the pair of space-connectors over the periscope. Exasperated as he watched the ship move backwards, forwards, and sideways without getting close enough, he reached down through the hole toward the periscope, and a voice instantly shouted, "Now I see it!" The ship at once came closer, and Roberts yanked his arm back, and moved his head aside.

From somewhere close by in the hall came a scream:

"Die, damn you!"

Roberts glanced toward the door of the room.

From beside Roberts' ankle came a brief low whine, then a sizzling snap, and the room lit up in a blinding white glare.

There was a brief humming twanging sound, followed by another blinding glare, and a crash like a lightning bolt striking thirty feet away.

At Roberts' elbow, a male voice said casually, "Here you go."

Roberts, temporarily blinded by the glare, tried to look around, saw nothing but afterimages, listened to the smash of falling plaster, smelled smoke, and banged his head on a steel-hard column that rose up out of the hole to tower above him like a periscope. As his vision recovered, he could vaguely make out grid-like geometric forms folding out of an opening in the side of the cylinder. An inverted cone swung slowly around, made a number of fine adjustments, then locked into place.

Somewhere amongst the crashes and yells, a voice seemed to be singing a song with the refrain, "Never ever volunteer," and Roberts didn't know if he was hearing the small voice inside his ear, someone on the other side of the space connection, one of the Pulgorites, or if it was all strictly in his imagination. Wherever it was, he agreed with it. He started to get up, and the clear tiny voice said sharply, "Stay where you are, Roberts! It's almost over!"

This comment bothered Roberts more than the mounting volume of sound, or the menacing whine that shot past his head from time to time.

From outside came a sound like thunder, that grew louder and louder, and then there was a fresh set of yells, from inside and, now, from outside.

Roberts' hand bumped something, he felt again at his side, and his fingers closed around the muzzle of a hand gun. At once, he remembered the words, "Here you go." The gun must have been pitched through just ahead of the periscope. He switched grips on the gun as someone yelled from the hallway.

He jumped out of bed, to hear the words, "The son of a bitch is still alive!" Able to at least see as if through a fog, Roberts fired at the doorway, fired again, the whole room lit up as the turret fired, and an instant later the window where Ginette had stood earlier smashed in, and three figures in camouflaged armor were in the room, and then more came pouring through behind them.


The colonel tossed across the latest issue of the news sheet. Roberts caught it, and read the circled item:

The Freedom in Anarchy Movement, headed by jailed leader Colonel-General Ian Pulgor, seems to have vanished into thin air. 
Reporters seeking information at the devastated news conference site on the planet called "Anarchy" left when no one showed after a wait lasting for five days. There have been no recent announcements from FIAM. 
The Anarchy Movement achieved notoriety recently with its raid on the planet Tiamaz, and its capture and reported execution of many members of the Interstellar Patrol. The Patrol has refused to comment on the abrupt disappearance of FIAM. 
The attempts of reporters to connect this disappearance with terrific explosions on the planet Anarchy, with an abortive FIAM victory announcement, and with reports of screams, armored troops, and heavy gunfire at a suspected safehouse of the Movement, have all been inconclusive to date. 
In short, no one seems to know what has happened. Colonel-General Pulgor, due to be released on parole, had stated that FIAM has merely gone underground. But his voluntary confession yesterday to a crime carrying a five-year prison sentence, and his lawyer's insistence that he spend the sentence in prison, cast some doubt on the colonel-general's assertion. 
What has really happened to the Freedom In Anarchy Movement? No one who knows is saying. 

Roberts handed back the paper. "According to what Ginette said, the colonel-general recruits while in prison."

"We doubt his latest recruits will show much enthusiasm, as things have turned out."

"Eventually, he'll be out again."

"Oh, not necessarily, Roberts. We've looked into his history, and there are quite a few more crimes he can confess to, in order to not get out."

"Where's Ginette?"

"Back on her home planet. There are those who'd say that was a severe punishment, but she was happy. She was, by the way, the only one of that crew who hadn't yet committed a capital crime."

"If pain spray would kill—"

"Yes, she had a talent there that it was just as well not to develop."

"I have a few questions."

The colonel nodded. "I'm listening."

"Why didn't I have a better idea of what was going on?"

"At the beginning, we had no way to know how capable their doctors and interrogators might be. The less we told you, the less they could get out of you. Moreover, we knew you were resourceful, and would catch on by yourself, provided you lived long enough. One way to keep you alive was to not satisfy their curiosity."

"OK. Now, what happened? I was there. I saw part of it. I have theories. But, I'd like to know." 

"You understand the working of the space-connector?"

"I saw what it does."

"Good enough. The smaller size was almost a custom fit for the external passage of your right ear. We pumped you full of counteractants for a variety of drugs, some of which we expected them to use, and some of which we planned to use ourselves, put together a holder for the other half of the connector pair, got a volunteer to have that connection fitted in his ear every time you were examined—"


"Because they very thoroughly examined you, and used a flexible explorer device to look up your nostrils, down your throat, and into your ears, amongst other places. If we hadn't had the other half of that connector in someone's ear, what would they have seen?"

"This explorer device would have come out in your lab?"

"It would have come out the other half of the pair of space-connectors, in our lab. It would have been as disastrous as for a couple of Greek soldiers to have stuck their heads prematurely out of the Trojan horse."

"I see. This way, they saw the inside of an ear, albeit a different ear."

"Exactly. Fortunately, they made the natural assumption that the inside belonged to the same person as the outside. When they weren't examining you, we felt free to put our half of the connector pair back in its mount, and spray hypnotic drugs or distractants, or pass through a particularly vicious type of tiny black fly, or bad tempered bees, or spray a kind of quasi-human pheromone, or push a tube of—"

Roberts looked blank. "Quasi what?"

The colonel looked faintly embarrassed. "We thought it prudent to moderate the girl's tendency to empty the can of pain spray into your face."

Roberts started to ask another question, then changed his mind.

The colonel went on, "Well, you know what happened. We sent a tube of special-purpose insect repellent through this little jump-point straight into their so-called citadel. We put through spy devices so small no one who doesn't know about them believes in the possibility of their existence. When the opportunity was offered, we could aim a hypodermic gun through, and inject the thugs who were carrying you with a particularly nasty variety of planetary flu."


"Right. Of course, it was important that no one actually see these things as they happened. If, near the end, they had seen the oversized bees emerge in large numbers from your ear, anyone who happened to get away would have had something to talk about. For that same reason, you had to be under some kind of cover when we put through one of the larger size of space-connectors, squeezed into a narrow elliptical shape. The first thing we fed through that was a device to change the opening to a more usable circular shape, and the second thing was a kind of modular small-size mobile fusion turret that detected and blew the spy devices in the room to bits, and guaranteed problems for anyone on the other side who tried to get at you."

"Why disconnect the power cable? To make room for the periscope?"

"Partly. Mainly because we had a better connection, through a pair of space connectors. We wanted to be certain that worked before disconnecting the cable. Next, we ran the specially fabricated periscope through, after a trifling little contretemps that could have wrecked the whole operation if you hadn't seen what to do,"

"Getting the periscope through the hole."

"Right, Roberts."

"Why not slide the hole over the periscope?"

The colonel shook his head. "Well—I'm afraid my explanation of the nature of the device must have taken too much for granted. I warned that it couldn't be seen from the wrong side. The officer in charge concluded that it would be a lot safer if it were screwed down, and for some asinine reason he put the whole ship—well, you saw it. So then the captain of the ship had a shadowy hole in a grey rim to find against a grey background, and amongst the experimental junk on the ship, and the pipes overhead in the workshop, he almost didn't do it. Fortunately, you saw what to do."

Roberts, who had acted out of exasperation, on the thought of taking hold of the periscope to guide it to the opening—which overlooked the mass of the ship—kept his mouth shut, and the colonel went on, "Once the periscope had passed through into their stronghold, it, among other things, emitted a signal we picked up from outside, that enabled us to locate the place exactly. And that was that."

"Ginette was sure we were too dull to compete with their cunning minds. Sully was positive they were a lot sharper than we are."

"Which was all a big help to us." The colonel added innocently, "Of course, Roberts, they were judging our intelligence by their captive."

Roberts said ruefully, "A serious mistake on their part."

"It's hard to shine after you've been knocked over the head, put through surgery, and pumped full of two organizations' special drugs."

"Yes, but it was their framework of calculated lies that stunned me. Not a word of truth; but if they hadn't run into trouble, would anyone have known?"

Colonel Sanders nodded.

"They were clever, but on a basis not in line with the facts. When they spoke to you, their words came out in our laboratory. When they took you into their 'citadel', they opened it up to our selection of small pests, and ultimately to anything the parts of which we could get in through a six-inch hole, including a device that could locate their position exactly. Springing dirty tricks on the suckers seems a lot more clever than research. But research can change the conditions to such an extent that, for the time being, at least, the clever swindlers can't even recognize the game. And quite a lot can happen before they figure out what went wrong—if they're still around to figure."

Roberts said thoughtfully, "To those on the receiving end, that must seem like quite a clever trick from such a bunch of gullible innocents."

The colonel smiled.

"That's true, Roberts. To someone who has a racket nicely adapted to present circumstances, research that unexpectedly changes the circumstances is in the ultimate class of mind-stopping underhanded knockout blows—right along with older versions like the Trojan Horse."



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