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Vaughan Roberts glanced from the viewscreen to the landing display, and dropped the salvaged Interstellar Patrol ship into the clearing, between a gnarled tree with thorns as big as a man's forearm, and a battered space yacht whose big hatch was just swinging open.

Roberts pushed forward a toggle-switch on the left side of the control panel, and with a faint whir the stabilizer feet telescoped out, to steady the ship on its smoothly-curved underside. Roberts switched off the gravitors and unbuckled his safety harness, then slipped out of the control seat, ducked under the long shiny cylinder that ran the length of the ship, and went up several steps in the cramped aft section, to release the clamp on the small outer hatch. He spun the lockwheel counterclockwise, pulled the hatch-lever down and slammed it forward, and the hatch swung up and back. A shaft of sunlight shone in, casting shadows of large sharp thorns partly hidden by leaves.

Roberts looked warily all around, loosened his fusion gun in its holster, and pulled himself out the hatch. He sucked in a breath of fresh planetary air, glanced around at the rustling leaves and gently blowing grass, looked up at a white puffy cloud drifting across the clear blue sky, and abruptly snapped his gun out of its holster as brush moved in a rippling motion at the edge of the clearing.

A thing much bigger than a tiger, mottled gray in color, silently blurred out of the brush to bound straight for Roberts, forepaws outstretched.

Roberts fired, fired again, jumped down the hatchway, grabbed the lever and heaved.

Clang! The hatch slammed shut.

WHOOM! There was a noise like an enormous gas burner, gone almost as soon as it began. The ship quivered. Then there was a thud somewhere aft.

Roberts crouched in the cramped space under the hatch, gripping the fusion gun, and listened intently. He heard nothing more. Very cautiously, he opened the hatch.

In the slit of sunlight revealed, he could see, farther aft, the number two reaction-drive nozzle slowly settle back into position. A wisp of smoke was rising from a small gun turret a few feet from the hatch. A long shiny metal stalk, not quite as thick as a man's wrist, arced out from another turret forward, extruded a set of metal fingers, picked up a riddled and smoldering furry head and dropped it over the side. Roberts looked around, but if the rest of the body was anywhere nearby, he couldn't see it.

He thought a moment, went back and put on a bulky suit of battle armor, and decided to try again.

He shoved open the hatch, and climbed out to look at the ship. Wherever he turned, guns bristled. Small turrets, meant for short-range defense, dotted the smooth armored surface. Amidships, a movable belt of fusion turrets faced aft, so that he was looking down their muzzles. Further forward, two large turrets, one behind and above the other, mounted fusion cannon big enough for a man to put his arm into. The sight of all these gun turrets, and of the snap-beam transceptor head steadily rotating atop its mast, gave Roberts a warm pleasant sensation, far different from what he'd felt the last time he'd been on this planet.

From above, where to one side the big hatch of the battered space yacht was now wide open, a rough masculine voice called down.

"The place hasn't changed much, has it?"

Roberts looked up, to see a strongly built figure, somewhat foreshortened by his angle of vision, grinning down at him. This was Hammell, who'd been stranded here with him the last time.

"No," said Roberts, automatically glancing around the clearing, and taking a quick look overhead. "Not out here, at least. Where's Morrissey?"

"Up above. He just got through setting up the gear. Come on up, if you can stand to leave that flying fort of yours."

Roberts grunted, took another quick look around, studied the ground below the curve of the patrol-ship's hull, walked aft along one of the horizontal fins, and dropped off. The moment he was clear of the ship, there was a clang, and Roberts turned to see that the patrol-ship's hatch had shut.

From overhead, Hammell laughed, and called, "You've got that thing trained."

* * *

Roberts gave a second grunt, but no reply. The patrol ship was a sore point between them. Marooned on the planet earlier because of gravitor trouble, the three men had promised themselves to come back under better conditions, bringing with them an improved version of the device that had made their escape possible. One of the little details they hadn't settled beforehand was what they would come back in. Hammell and Morrissey wanted something roomy, comfortable—if possible luxurious. Roberts wanted plenty of firepower, and as much armor between himself and the planet as possible. Hammell and Morrissey duly selected a large roomy yacht with a solitary energy-cannon mounted in the bow, but otherwise equipped like a luxury hotel. Roberts selected the much smaller patrol ship, cramped and functional perhaps, but armed to the teeth, and fitted with a powerful drive-unit. Neither side had compromised, and the argument was still going on.

Roberts, climbing the ladderlike recessed holds up to the space yacht's big hatch, reminded himself that he, Hammell, and Morrissey were all equals in rank for the duration of their leave. At work, Roberts was captain of the fast interstellar transport Orion, Hammell was cargo-control officer, and Morrissey was communications officer. Possibly for this reason, there was a little extra friction now and then. Roberts was determined not to add to it if he could help it. But he didn't intend to lean over backwards so far that he fell on his head, either.

He reached the top of the ladder, and Hammell reached down to help him up.

"It would be better if we were all in the same ship," said Hammell. "You wouldn't have to go around looking like a gorilla in an iron suit every time we have to get together. It would be a lot more convenient."

"You take the convenience," said Roberts, "and I'll take the guns. Where's Morrissey?"

"Up on the sixth level."

Roberts thought a moment, and remembered that on the yacht, which set down upright on its tail, the horizontal levels started with the drive-unit and storage compartment at the base, below where they now stood. The sixth level would be the control room.

"Wouldn't there be more room down one level?"

Hammell nodded. "That's where he's got the spy screen set up. But right now I think he's back up in the control room checking the communicator again."

"Good," said Roberts. "We can get an idea whether things have changed much."

Hammell touched a button beside the hatch, and the hatch swung silently shut. He and Roberts walked towards a softly-glowing oval on the deck. The right half of this oval was green, and the left half red. Roberts stepped carefully on the green, and at once the walls of the ship dropped downward, and with a soft murmur an oval section of the next level overhead slid back. One-by-one, the levels dropped past, disclosing entrances to a succession of medium-sized rooms with curving walls, designed for entertainment, eating, sleeping, and then they passed the level where Morrissey had set up the equipment, and reached the control room, which seemed comparatively small because of the inward-curving sides near the nose of the ship. Roberts caught a polished silvery bar, and stepped out of the lift. He nodded to the lean sandy-haired individual who glanced up with worried electric-blue eyes from the communicator.

"Hello, Morrissey," said Roberts.

Morrissey blinked in momentary alarm at the battle armor.

"Sir," he said automatically, then added. "Something's changed since we were here before."


"The screen no longer gives continuous news broadcasts from the city."

"That doesn't sound good."

"It sure doesn't. So we can see what's happening, I've let go the spy-system pickups, set to tap into the city's surveillance network. I hope that works."

"Yes," said Roberts, remembering that this had been Morrissey's big worry. "When will we find out?"

"If nothing's wrong, we ought to be able to pick up the relayed signals any time now. I came back up here because I didn't want to sit down below chewing my nails."

"Let's go take a look now. If we can't get that spy screen to work, we're in a mess right at the beginning."

They dropped down to the next lower level, to see with relief that the big spy screen, though still unfocused, was already lit up. As Morrissey and Hammell dragged over some chairs, Roberts climbed out of the battle armor.

* * *

They sat down in the three chairs, in front of the wide improvised control panel, and Roberts, in the center, adjusted the focus of the spy screen. At once, he had a sharply-detailed view of a potholed street strewn with trash. To the left was a large building with the windows knocked out. To the right was a park where rats scurried amidst the leafless dead trees and smoldering heaps of garbage. Straight ahead, in the center of the street, two small boys stood menacingly with short lengths of iron pipe, their legs wide apart, their clothes ragged and dirty save for armbands marked with triple lightning-bolt insignia. Just rolling onto the screen were a pair of roboid policemen, their whip antennas swaying, the sunlight flashing on the spokes of their high bicycle-type wheels.

Morrissey, to Roberts' right, gave a surprised grunt.

Roberts said, "If this is typical, no wonder they aren't broadcasting."

Hammell nodded. "There's nothing like disorder and violence to get people worked up. And there's nothing like having people worked up to bring on disorder and violence."

"And this is just the spot for it," said Roberts. He was thinking of the gigantic slum-city, built by a beneficent foundation, and peopled from the slums of half-a-dozen older worlds. But it struck him suddenly that it applied to the whole planet as well.

He glanced out one of the space yacht's portholes at the small bristling Interstellar Patrol ship below. Roberts had located the patrol ship in a salvage cluster, and the salvage operator had been only too happy to trade it for most of Roberts' accumulated savings. There were quite a number of special devices on the patrol ship, any one of which was worth far more than the purchase price. But this didn't affect the salvage operator's delight in getting rid of the ship.

In the first place, his sharpest tools and hottest torches wouldn't cut the patrol ship's armor. In the second place, the patrol ship's large and numerous weapons were controlled by a combat computer, which came on automatically whenever anyone tried anything that promised to blast off a chunk of high-grade metal. In the third place, worst of all, the ship was partially controlled by what was sometimes called a "symbiotic computer." This computer had apparently existed in a special relationship with the former crewmen, and now it passed judgment on prospective purchasers, applying roughly the same standards that were necessary to enlist in the Interstellar Patrol. If the prospective purchaser wasn't up to par—mentally, physically, or morally—the computer disdained him. As a result, nothing on the ship would work for him.

Roberts had barely squeezed by the computer's forbidding scrutiny. But that was all he needed to do. The ship flew for him. Roberts soon found himself with a ship equipped with an armament fit to dent a planet. The salvage operator, for his part, relievedly blew a kiss after the dwindling speck in the distance, and resolved never again to touch anything like that unless he had a private dreadnought to break it up with.

Now, on the planet, Roberts looked out with pleasure at the ship, but at the same time got a view of the trees that surrounded the clearing. Just what was hidden back in those trees, perhaps only fifty feet from the clearing, would have been hard to say. But the space yacht, while coming down to land, had run into some kind of monster with the bad judgment to jump up and take a snap at one of the big fins that would steady the yacht as it stood on its tail. The fin, with the weight of the yacht behind it, crushed the animal. The smell of blood having already apparently spread the promise of a free meal, Roberts could see that other creatures were now prospecting around. There was a flap of big wings overhead, and the rustle of leaves at the edge of the clearing. Just what would pop out was hard to say, but Roberts took a quick glance at his suit of battle armor, fixing its location in mind so he could get into it with no wasted time if he had to. Then he reluctantly placed his trust in the space yacht's energy-cannon, and turned back to the spy screen.

* * *

Hammell was leaning forward tensely, "Something's getting ready to blow in that city. Otherwise the police just wouldn't be this heavily reinforced."

On the screen, two more roboid policemen had swung into view behind the first pair, and these were followed in turn by a flying wedge of roboid police.

Straight ahead, the two boys in the middle of the street stayed where they were and jeered.

Roberts glanced at the locator screen in front of Morrissey. This screen was marked off in city blocks, like a big elongated chessboard with oval edges. A strip of street, running through an intersection and about a fourth of a block farther in both directions, was lit up whitely, showing the section now in view on the spy screen.

As Roberts glanced from one screen to the other, suddenly the two boys snapped their arms forward, the lengths of pipe arced out to slam into the roboid police, and twin flashes of dazzling light outlined a tangle of ripped and torn metal housings, shredded insulation, bent tubing, and bare gears, shafts, and axles. The first pair of roboid police smashed to a stop.

The two boys were already sprinting toward opposite sides of the street.

The second pair of roboid police rolled unswervingly past the wreckage of the first.

Roberts, Hammell, and Morrissey stared at the screen, their expressions perfectly blank.

From behind a heap of garbage at the edge of the park, two more boys raced out, clutching short lengths of pipe.

As Morrissey snapped a switch, twin speakers to either side of the spy screen came on, relaying sounds from the scene. An amplified voice spoke out:

"Clear the street. This warning will not be repeated. Clear the street. Further violence against your Law-Enforcement Officers will be met with maximum force. Clear the street."

The two boys sprinted directly toward the approaching roboid police. Their right arms swung back. Their faces twisted in hatred and contempt, and their arms swung sharply forward. The short lengths of pipe streaked out, slammed into the fronts of the pair of oncoming machines. There were two dazzling flashes.

The roar of the explosions drowned out all other sounds. The boys had already separated, to sprint, off-balance from the force of the explosions, toward opposite sides of the street.

Two more roboid policemen smashed to a stop in a whirl of flame, smoke, and showers of sparks.

Behind them, the V of the flying wedge rushed forward. Unlike the others, which had been light-blue, these roboid police were painted black with silver markings.

In the building to the left of the street, the doors now swung open, and small groups of boys sprinted out to form a line completely across the street. The ends of the line rushed forward, then the center, forming a rough inverted U that raced toward the oncoming V. The V opened briefly to pass the wrecked police machines, then closed again in precise alignment.

For a moment there was a silence, broken only by the hiss of tires on the pavement, the pound of feet, and the panting of breath. Then there was a concerted yell, "Kill the mechs!" The boys' arms swung back in unison.

At the fronts of the police machines, small doors snapped up and back. From behind each door came a bright spurting flash.

The boys' arms flew out, their knees buckled, and their lengths of pipe dropped free as they fell sprawling to the pavement amidst sudden dazzling flashes of light.

The flying wedge of roboid police swept forward with no change of speed or direction. Their narrow tires, heavily-loaded, crossed the torn inert bodies, cut, ground, and slashed them. The tires and rims turned red, to lay down narrow red strips in absolutely straight lines on the pavement.

Hammell, Roberts, and Morrissey, momentarily unable to move, sat with their hands gripping the edge of the control panel.

A pretty woman, a baby bundle in her arms, rushed from a door down the street, screaming, "My boys! My boys!" and ran toward a pair of the inert, mangled bodies, herself coming into the path of the flying wedge.

In the fronts of the onrushing police robots, the little doors snapped open.

Hammell gave an inarticulate sound of horror.

Roberts, his mind a whirling maze of calculations, came to his feet. His patrol ship was heavily enough armed to handle any concentration of police robots. If he took the ship to the edge of this section of the city . . . 

On the screen, directly in the path of the flying wedge, the woman screamed, and raised her bundle high overhead, as if to lift her baby out of danger.

From behind the little doors, bright flashes spurted out.

Roberts had already started to turn away, his hand reaching out for the battle armor he had to wear to cross the clearing.

On the screen there was a huge, brilliantly dazzling flash as the "baby" blew up.

Roberts, blank-faced, one hand on the battle armor, stared at the screen.

Beside him, Morrissey stood motionless with a perfectly blank expression.

Hammell grunted in disgust, and settled back into his seat.

Roberts tilted the battle armor back against the wall of the ship and sat down.

* * *

On the screen, the wedge of roboid police swept by, followed by two long columns of roboid police firing as they passed at the building and into the dump on opposite sides of the street.

Down the street at the end of the building, a flash of movement left Roberts with a brief afterimage of something vaguely shaped like a camera, that had apparently recorded what had happened so far, and was now pulled inside as the roboid police came dangerously close.

The long double column of roboid police was now slowing to a halt, the point of the wedge extending exactly to the center of the intersection beyond the far end of the building. From the left, a second wedge followed by another two columns appeared from behind the building, moving along the intersecting street, and joined up with the first wedge. The individual roboid police now had turned ninety degrees, to face the building and the adjoining parks, and the lines of police themselves moved farther apart, to open up a wide protected strip of avenue between the lines.

Down this protected roadway came something long, low, and broad, with jointed body sections running on many wheels, with turrets on top slowly swinging large muzzled uptilted guns toward the building.

From the building came shots and small bundles that arced out and down. Up and down the street, more small bundles flew out from the cellar windows. With bright flashes, gaps began to appear in the lines of roboid police.

The long many-wheeled device now slowed to a stop. Its upward-pointing barrels moved slowly, methodically. At the mouth of each barrel there was a blur, then another blur, then another blur.

From the windows of the building came a flash, then from the next window another flash, then from the next window another flash.

Another long low many-wheeled device rolled past the first and stopped farther down the street, to heave its explosive shells through the next section of windows.

The repeated short blast of a whistle cut through the roar of explosives. The tossing of bundles from the windows abruptly stopped.

Down the street came a chunky vehicle with several big hemispherical bulges at the top. It stopped at a thing in the street like a manhole cover, flipped the cover off with two pronged levers, eased forward and dropped something round and bellowslike over the hole. Wisps of yellow smoke began to escape around the edges.

"Sealing off the sewer system," said Hammell. "No one will get out of the building that way."

"They'd better get out some way pretty quick," said Morrissey, "or they aren't going to. Look there."

A low blocky object, like a huge metal brick, heavily mounted the sidewalk, and moved massively forward on concealed wheels or rollers. The door of the building snapped back before it like a matchstick, there was a bright flash from underneath, with no visible effect, then the device was inside. It backed up, taking half the doorframe and part of the adjoining wall with it, and rolled forward again. In the silence now that the shooting had died away, there was a dull heavy crunch. The massive device then reappeared, and rumbled down the sidewalk toward the next door. Behind it, there now moved forward a host of spidery devices, varying from about one to four feet tall, that moved methodically into the building, followed by low long broad things with many short legs, like metal centipedes. They crawled off of a steady procession of low broad-roofed carriers with open sides, that rolled up the street, discharged their cargo, and moved on to vanish around the corner.

Time passed, and spidery many-legged metal forms appeared on successively higher floors of the building, and finally on the roof. But only two humans were carried out, and both of them were plainly dead.

Meanwhile, a small crowd of people had gathered, apparently from neighboring buildings, to watch raptly from the far side of the double line of roboid police. As the metal devices appeared on successively higher floors, the people pointed and shouted in pleasure. As the dead bodies were carried out, they cheered.

Roberts sat back and looked blankly at Hammell. Hammell shook his head. Roberts glanced at Morrissey. Morrissey ran his hand over his face.

"Well," said Roberts finally, "before we can decide what to do this time, it looks like we're going to have to figure out what's developed out of what we did the last time."

Morrissey nodded. Hammell looked moodily out at the clearing.

From behind them came the bland voice of Holcombe, the life-like roboid butler that had come with the space yacht, and added a special touch of luxury that had enabled the manufacturers to charge what they had for this deluxe version of the ship when it was new.

Holcombe was saying deferentially: "A little light refreshment, my lords?"

Morrissey said wearily, "Just a pitcher of water, Holcombe. Plus three glasses and a large bottle of aspirin."

"Yes, my lord." Holcombe bowed and retired.

The three men stared moodily at the screen.

* * *

It took them most of the day, methodically working with the spy screen, to get a rough idea what was going on in the city. Once they had it, they sat back in exasperated bafflement.

From one end of the city to the other, barring only the region around the Planetary Control Center itself, a highly-organized gang of fanatics seemed to be at work, operating from a network of their own tunnels. These tunnels were independent of the city's network of steam lines, cables, pipes, and underground maintenance tunnels, though the two connected at a number of points. Except at these points, the city's surveillance devices showed nothing of what went on inside the newly-dug tunnels. Hence the spy screen, which operated from taps on the city's surveillance system, also showed nothing, except at these points. But from watching the movement of maintenance and combat devices inside the city's tunnels, it became obvious that a continuous skirmishing and probing was going on, with the computer trying to isolate and clean out sections of the fanatics' tunnels, while the fanatics calculatedly sabotaged water pipes, steam lines, and power cables, to keep the computer distracted with maintenance problems, and its tunnels clogged with maintenance devices. Meanwhile, above ground, gangs of fanatics, wearing triple lightning-bolt insignia, burst out to seize able-bodied protesting citizens for work in the shovel gangs. The general bulk of the populace, if anything, looked more run-down and put upon than before. Now they had two sets of rulers instead of one, and the rulers were at war with each other.

"This network of tunnels," said Hammell finally, "makes it a mess. How do we know what effect we're having on them if we can't see them?"

"We can try," said Morrissey, "to figure it out from what happens afterward."

"That's nice. We can figure out whether a bottle had nitroglycerine in it by 'what happened afterward' when we jarred the bottle."

Roberts studied the screen. "Suppose we bring them all to the surface, then?"


"Have we got anything on that list that will serve the purpose of claustrophobia?"

Morrissey blinked. "That's a thought." He ran his finger down a paper tacked by the locator screen, flipped the paper up, and ran down a second list underneath.

"Here we are. 'Desire for light and air.' 'Desire to escape confinement.' " He flipped up the next page. " 'Desire for room, space.' "

"Just what we need. How would you like to be down in a tunnel and suddenly start to feel one of those desires?"

"I wouldn't. But if I were a fanatic, maybe I'd be able to resist it."

"Could we work it so that a blend of all those desires would be generated? After all, with this synchronous rotor setup you worked out, we can hit different sections with different settings at the same time. Why not the same section with several settings at once?"

Morrissey blinked, and looked wary. "But not throughout the whole city?"

"No, of course not," said Roberts. "Who knows what would happen? No, just try one place at a time. A good spot to start might be near that building where all the fighting was earlier. There should still be some people in tunnels under there. Then we can see how this works."

Morrissey nodded. "Good idea. We'll try it."

* * *

They switched the spy screen back to a view of the building, and of the garbage-filled park beside the building. Morrissey set up the want-generator to hit just that section of the city with "desire for light and air," "desire to escape confinement," and "desire for room, space."

Then they watched the screen.

Somewhere underground, there should be some fanatical humans, lurking in tunnels, and suddenly stricken with an urgent desire for light, air, and unconfined space.

Very soon, these humans should come to the surface somewhere.

For a long time, they waited.

But for a long time, nothing happened.

Roberts, frowning, studied first the building, then the park, to make out finally, in the center of the park amidst the enormous heaps of garbage, the remains of what appeared to be a bandstand. He was frowning at this structure, when a wild-looking individual with improvised gun in one hand suddenly burst out a trapdoor in the center, and plunged out into the heaped-up garbage. Right behind him came two more, their faces frantic and chests pumping desperately for air. After the first three came a flood of humanity, each carrying a club, a length of pipe, a gun apparently taken from a wrecked roboid policeman, and fitted with a stock, or some other weapon. There was no room for them all on the bandstand, and in any case they didn't try to stay there, but immediately sprang off into the heaped garbage, to plunge and heave desperately, as if trying to climb up into the open air itself.

Last out of the hole came a man about five feet ten inches tall, strongly built, neatly-dressed in coveralls with triple lightning-bolt armband, carrying a rifle in his right hand, and plainly boiling mad. He gestured angrily toward the trapdoor, shook his fist, and threatened the others with his gun. His voice came out in a flow of words so rapid that all Roberts could make out was the sense of urgency, and the tone of command. Meanwhile, the scores of armed men ceased their struggles and lay flat, face-down in the garbage, or stared up dazedly at the open sky overhead, and tried to act as if they didn't hear.

At the same time, around the edges of the park, roboid police began to pour in from eight different directions, coming both ways along the four wide streets that intersected to form the boundaries of the park.

It dawned on Roberts that this scene must have appeared on some panel in the Planetary Control Center, or otherwise have come to the attention of the planetary computer. And the computer was losing no time in taking advantage of the windfall.

A new urgency came into the voice of the man on the bandstand.

Around the sides of the park, the rapidly accumulating roboid police milled, searching for some route through the heaps of garbage. Here and there, one or two eased in, went forward a little distance, lost headway, came to a stop, backed up, and slammed forward again, to bog down once more in towering piles of decaying trash and garbage.

Down one of the intersecting streets came a long snakelike wheeled carrier, that pulled alongside the edge of the dump and slowed to a stop. The arched armored roof tilted up and back in sections, the first sections swinging far back to brace the carrier from tipping off-balance, as successively, other heavy sections swung up and over. Out of the carrier crept a long device like a metal centipede, with flanged underside instead of legs. The device inched its way forward as successive waves of expansion and contraction moved along its length. The headlike appendage at the front, fitted with multiple visual receptors behind thick glass plates, and two groups of four large gun muzzles on a side, selected a low place between two heaps of garbage, and pushed forward steadily, thrust ahead by the metallic bulk following along behind in steady successive waves of expansion and contraction; the flanges lifting, tilting, flowing forward, dipping down and thrusting steadily back.

Now an amplified voice boomed out: "You are surrounded. Surrender peacefully and you will be remanded for psychiatric examination to the Central Medical Computer. You will not be harmed. Resist, and you will be destroyed at once. You have no choice. Surrender. Throw your weapons toward the—"

Atop the bandstand, the man who'd been arguing with the others had dropped to one knee, his gun resting on a half-rotted rail at the edge of the platform.

There was a solitary bang, and the voice demanding surrender went silent.

* * *

Morrissey said, "They aren't throwing their guns out, and they aren't fighting, either. That metal snake is going to get to them in about a minute-and-a-half and blow them to bits. Isn't there something we can—"

Roberts thought fast, and said, "Reset the generator. Hit them with 'Desire to obey the law.'"

Morrissey flipped quickly through the list, glancing nervously back at the screen as the enormous metal centipede crawled steadily through the piles of trash.

"Do we have 'Desire to obey the law'?"

Roberts tore his gaze from the screen. "It's halfway down the list. 'Obedience to authority' or something like that."

"That's it," said Morrissey. Quickly, he reset the want-generator.

On the screen, the leader of the humans, on the bandstand, was talking in a low urgent voice, lying flat on the stand as a metallic head started up over a mound of trash, and suddenly every other human stood up. Every single individual either threw a length of pipe, or threw a padded bundle, or fired a gun, or lunged right or left through the garbage to get a clean shot or throw around the side of the stand.

Everyone's aim was good.

In a terrific series of flashes, the head end of the huge metal centipede blew apart.

In one spontaneous surge, the humans then plunged through the garbage to the stand and in a line that moved like clockwork, dropped one-by-one through the trapdoor into the interior.

All save for the leader, who was now on his knees, hands clasped and head uplifted, lips moving, his expression earnest.

"Shut it off," said Roberts exasperatedly.

On the screen, the leader suddenly bowed his head, opened his eyes, and jumped down the hole. The trapdoor slammed shut.

A plume of dirty smoke climbed up from the wrecked front end of the metal centipede.

"Now what?" said Morrissey, glancing from the controls to the screen. "Did I somehow get the wrong setting?"

"No," said Roberts. "As usual, it was the right setting, but they just interpreted it their own way. To them, 'desire to obey authority' meant desire to obey their leader. And to the leader, it apparently meant desire to obey God. None of them had the slightest impulse to do what we intended, and obey the city authority—the computer and the roboid police."

"Well," said Morrissey, "all I have to say is, this little incident opens up sweeping vistas of trouble ahead. Other groups of people in that city would have obeyed the city authorities."

Roberts nodded. "Their reactions are more diverse than they were the last time. It's as if they were somehow splitting up into factions that respond differently to the same desire."

Hammell cleared his throat. "And there's one minor faction that apparently can resist the desire-field when it conflicts with his purpose—the leader of that gang. To hit him with the effects we want might take an intensity that would send the others into shock."

Roberts considered that in silence.

"You've got to admit we're getting nowhere." said Morrissey.

"We've just started," said Roberts stubbornly

Hammell said sourly. "Yeah. We're finding out the things that don't work."

Outside in the forest, where darkness was starting to gather, something gave a bellowing roar that the yacht's thin hull hardly seemed to muffle.

The roboid Holcombe appeared at the entrance to the gravity lift, and bowed.

"Dinner is served, my lords."

* * *

Dinner was a sumptuous meal, but halfway through the dessert the curving wall of the space yacht's dining saloon lit up in a reflected pinkish glow. There was a bellow of pain and rage from outside. From overhead came a metallic rattle, then a muffled booming voice:

"Your attention, please. This vessel is fully protected by appropriate devices of the Advanced Synodic Products Corporation. It will retaliate automatically against any aggressive or hostile action."

There was a second glare of pink light, the deck shook underfoot; there was a bellow that traveled around in a large circle outside; then abruptly there was a dazzling white glare, followed by a sizzle as if ten tons of meat had been dropped into a monster frying pan.

Roberts quickly understood that sound. It meant that some gigantic beast, singed by the space yacht, had galloped around and got too close to the patrol ship. Which of the patrol ship's big fusion guns had done the business was a good question, but it was all the same to whatever got in their way. Roberts finished his dessert quickly, anxious to get back to something with a hull that wouldn't fold up if some irritable monster took a crack at it.

Hammell said nervously, "The stinking fifth-rate computer on this tub must not be able to distinguish between dead behemoths lying around, and live ones sneaking in. Otherwise, how did that thing get so close?"

"Yes," said Roberts, getting up and reaching for his suit of battle armor. He tilted it off-base, lugged it over to the table, reached inside and turned a valve that relaxed the hydraulic columns inside. The suit slumped facedown on the table, which creaked under it, then Roberts heaved the back panel open and climbed in. Without a sling to hold the suit upright, getting into it was a fairly ridiculous procedure, but neither Hammell nor Morrissey had anything to say about that. They were too busy staring out into the dark clearing, and worrying about ways to get a little more protection out of the energy cannon and the pure-routine computer that operated it. Hammell finally shook his head, glanced absently toward Roberts, and suddenly jumped back.

Roberts had straightened up, and was just swinging the back panel shut. He grinned.

"What's the matter? Don't I look nice in this thing?"

Hammell's laugh came to him clearly, through the earphones of the suit. "I've already told you. You look like an overgrown gorilla. I was thinking about those animals outside, and for a second, I thought one had got in. Ye gods, that suit is big! Is it hard to work the arms?"

"A little," said Roberts. "Not too bad."

"Why's the helmet so big?"

"I don't know. It's not big inside."

"Well, it must be comforting to be inside that."

"You want one?" said Roberts. "There are three extras just like it on the patrol ship—for three other crew members. In fact, you could sleep there. There are four bunks. I could bring back a couple of extra suits for you to wear across the clearing, and—"

Hammell hesitated, then shook his head.

"No, thanks. Even at used-ship prices, we've got too much invested in this yacht to leave it to the mercies of these beasts, even overnight. And we couldn't work in armored suits, so—thanks anyway."

Reluctantly, Roberts nodded. "O.K. then."

The three men said good night, and Roberts went down the grav-drop, out the hatch and into the night.

* * *

Roberts was sound asleep when, sometime during the night, there was a banging noise somewhere outside. It reached him, well-muffled and distant, and he merely turned over and pulled the covers more tightly around him.

Several hours went by, broken by very distant bellows and screams, and booming far-off public-address-system noises.

Around four in the morning, there came a thundering crash.

Roberts woke up enough to wonder if he had heard something, but quickly fell asleep again.

About 0630, the symbiotic computer gradually turned up the lights, and then woke him with a buzz.

Roberts slid out of the bunk, performed a series of exercises to the computer's satisfaction, shaved, showered, dressed, ate an A-ration bar, drank two glasses of water, swung the suit of battle armor out on its sling, got into it, and headed for the hatch.

Roberts had the hatch up, and had already pulled himself halfway out, before he saw what was going on outside.

Three huge mottled-gray cats were working on the remains of several gigantic bony-snouted creatures, tearing the meat off the bones in chunks, and wrestling with sheets of tough fibrous membrane that apparently separated one huge bundle of muscle fiber from another.

Creeping in on the cats, apparently for a quick grab at a chunk of the meat, was a long many-legged segmented green creature with jaws about three feet long.

Overhead, light-blue against a sky that was a darker blue with drifting white clouds, huge birds circled, the dark green of their upper feathers showing from time to time as they dipped, eyeing a behemoth with a suggestively flicking sledgehammer tail, that was upright on two pillarlike hind legs beside the space yacht. The head and shoulders of this beast were inside the yacht, the big door of the space yacht being buckled outward, and the side inward, to make room.

Studying the other animals with cold calculating gaze from the foliage of a nearby thorn tree, was a large snaky head.

Roberts dropped back inside the patrol ship, and slammed the hatch.

The voice of the symbiotic computer spoke from the helmet's earphones.

"For an armored member of the Interstellar Patrol to retreat in the face of mere beasts, with onlookers watching from another ship, is unacceptable."

"To do anything else would be nuts. And as I've explained at least a dozen times, I'm not a member of the Interstellar Patrol."

"Evidently you've neglected to study your 'Model A-6 Battle-Suit Dynamics.' A demonstration is in order. Press down the chin-lever in the left side of the helmet."

Roberts, not wanting to pointlessly antagonize the computer, pressed down the lever. He immediately found himself walking toward the hatch. Before he knew what had happened, he'd thrown the hatch open, and was climbing out.

The three gigantic cats looked up from their meal and bared their teeth. The green many-legged creature swung its yard-long jaws around and hissed. In the thorn tree, the snaky eyes looked on with cold calculation.

Roberts dropped off the curving side of the ship, his feet sinking deeper into the soil at every step, as if the suit were acquiring mass as it moved forward. He was headed straight for the green many-legged creature.

After a moment's startled hesitation, this beast opened up its yard-long, four-foot-wide jaws, and lunged for Roberts.

Roberts' right foot came up in a kick that left a ten-inch-wide groove in the soil, hit the creature's lower jaw and shut it with a CLACK! that echoed around the clearing.

His right hand then reached out, seized the top of the creature's snout, and yanked it down, cracking its nose into the ground.

The three huge cats began edging back toward the forest.

* * *

All the many legs of the green creature now began to kick, but Roberts set his feet, turned the whole head over sidewise, pinned the upper swell of the head under the right arm of his suit, and gripping the forward curve of the snout with his left arm, heaved the head of the monster along with him as he started for the space yacht. Behind him, the rest of the beast lifted clear of the ground, like one cable of a suspension bridge, the far end anchored out of sight somewhere back in the forest.

Roberts kept going for the space yacht, his feet sinking as if he were in soft muck.

Behind him, there was a heavy rending, a loud creak, successive cracking, straining noises, then the rustling and swishing of uncounted leafy branches, followed by the ground-shaking crash of a big tree.

The far end of the many-legged creature suddenly was trotting along, stumbling and lurching as it crossed ground not selected by the head end, so that some of its feet went down into holes while others banged into rotting logs and low hillocks, but the creature did its best, and stopped instantaneously when Roberts stopped, beside the gray pillarlike leg of the behemoth that had its shoulders and snout inside the space yacht, and its huge sledgehammer-like tail swishing threateningly behind it.

Roberts unhesitatingly reached up, gripped one of the tail's muscular cords, that stood out like tree roots, and yanked on it.

The upper end of the creature froze. There was a menacing rumble. The tail wrenched, twisted, and couldn't get free. The head and shoulders of the behemoth jerked back and out of the space yacht. Roberts gripped the tail. The animal tried without success to step back to get its balance, but Roberts held the tail while his body blocked the right rear leg.

Ponderously, stamping hard with its left leg to try to right itself, the creature tipped over, to land full-length with a shock that jarred the earth.

Overhead, in the thorn tree, a little flutter of leaves marked the departure of the snake.

The behemoth lay still for a moment, in shock, then sucked in a huge breath of air, let out a ringing high-pitched bellow, rolled over, twisting its tail loose at the expense of a large chunk of skin, and staggered to its feet.

Roberts took a few steps, bent, shoved his armored left hand through the dirt under the behemoth's left hind foot, and heaved it up.

Roberts himself sank into the soil as if it were quicksand, but the behemoth's left hind leg shot high up into the air, and the whole creature went up and over on its back with a jar that made the trees sway.

The many-legged creature again had its nose pinned to the earth, this time because Roberts was down inside a form-fitting foxhole in the soil, but was still absently holding onto the many-legged creature with his right hand. For its part, it kept its eyes shut, its mouth closed, and just waited to see what Roberts wanted it to do next.

Roberts pulled himself up out of the ground.

The behemoth staggered to its feet, gave a pitiful bleat, and bolted for the forest.

Roberts let go the head of the many-legged creature, its eyes came warily half-open, and with steadily gathering speed, it headed for the forest.

Roberts looked around, saw the clearing was deserted, and climbed up the handholds into the space yacht.

* * *

Inside, Hammell and Morrissey stared at him as he climbed out of the battle armor. The suit having done practically all the work, Roberts was just slightly damp with perspiration.

Hammell and Morrissey, on the other hand, looked like they'd spent the night being bounced around in an oversize tin can. Which, Roberts thought, was probably exactly what had happened.

"Well," he said, "are you guys sure you don't want to come over to the patrol ship?"

Hammell stared at the armor, and said hesitantly, "Ah—No offense, but—Look, was it your idea to just go out there and kick those monsters around?"

"No," said Roberts frankly, "the symbiotic computer on the patrol ship got the idea, and it . . . well . . . made the initial suggestion."

"Ah. And so you—"

"Naturally," said Roberts, standing the battle armor against a bulkhead, "when the symbiotic computer is unhappy, the ship isn't worth living in. I have to extend myself a little now and then to keep the symbiotic computer happy."

Morrissey glanced out into the clearing where the huge dead carcasses were lying around, swallowed hard, and said nothing.

"We'll stay here," said Hammell firmly.

Roberts shrugged exasperatedly. "Suit yourself."

They went over to the spy screen, and as they turned it on, a dazzling flash loomed out through an unfocused scene of grayness and glowing smoke, and when Roberts adjusted the focus, a nightmarish barren landscape came into view, with running figures briefly glimpsed in the distance.

Roberts glanced at the locator screen, and realized that he had a view of the dump they'd watched earlier. He frowned at it for a moment, then said, "Let's see the streets adjoining this."

Morrissey changed the setting, and in quick succession Roberts saw views of four different streets. On all of them, there were overturned roboid policemen, being taken apart by humans using tools apparently improvised from the axles, shafts, and cover plates of other roboid policemen.

On the streets, leading toward the center of the city, little groups of men and boys went past, alternately running and walking, carrying guns, short lengths of pipe, and heavy axles sharpened on one end to a needle point. Other groups of men carried buckets and still others carried garbage cans slung on pairs of long pipes.

"Ye gods," said Hammell. "It looks like that first time we tried to do something, and they had a revolution going before the day was over."

Roberts said, "The want-generator hasn't been on overnight, has it?"

Morrissey shook his head. "We couldn't even have started to figure out what to do. We left it turned off."

"Then we don't have that to worry about, at least. Let's follow one of these avenues toward the center of the city."

The scene shifted, up one of the long avenues, to show, at first, scattered gangs of men moving forward out in the open, then men moving single file next to the buildings, then men sprinting across intersections to file through narrow lanes through the trash-filled parks, to emerge opposite the center of the next block, cross the street at a run and disappear through doorways guarded by armed men who stayed flat against the wall and peered warily toward the nearest intersection.

As the scene shifted still farther forward, the alternating checkerboard pattern of buildings and garbage-dump-filled parks was suddenly interrupted. Two-thirds of the way down the next block, the buildings were smashed to rubble, and the dumps were burnt black. A tangled confusion of barbed wire and tetrahedral clusters of razor-sharp needle-pointed blades was shrouded in a foamy mass of solidified translucent bubbles, through which could be dimly seen the glitter of other, finer wires, of narrow sharp-edged metal strips, and the looming shapes of dark spheres, ovoids, and platelike objects, suggestive of explosive mines.

In the street bordering this barrier, armored turrets mounting four guns apiece, in two opposite pairs, were thrust up out of manhole-like openings in the street. Mobile guns were clustered at the corners of the parks. In the avenues farther back long, low, many-wheeled devices waited.

With growing amazement, Roberts, Hammell, and Morrissey watched as they shifted the scene, and the length of this barrier became clear. It stretched on far across the city from west to east, then swung far to the south, then finally west again, with massively fortified squares at the corner.

Hammell said in astonishment, "Two-thirds of the city is outside that barrier."

"At least," said Roberts. As the scene changed, they could see, at the high windows of the smashed buildings outside the barrier, triple lightning-bolt banners hung out. In the dumps, pipes torn out of buildings were thrust deep in the heaps of garbage, with triple lightning-bolt flags flying from them. Along the edges of the barrier itself, there were flashes of occasional explosions as small parties of men tried to force their way through. Then, apparently, some new command was given. Along the whole length of the enormous barrier, the attempt to break through gradually died out.

* * *

After a lengthy silence, Hammell said, "Trying to make something out of this place is like trying to build a house out of hand grenades."

Morrissey nodded. "It was easy to see what they needed before: They were too sunk in the backwash of all the slums they'd been taken from before they were put here. But what do they need now?"

Roberts stared off into the distance.

Hammell shook his head. "Where do we even start? Last time, we had an inert mass to work with. This time, we've got something that explodes from one crisis to the next. How did this mess ever come about anyway? I thought we'd improved things—not set up a powder keg!"

Roberts, who at least had been sleeping at night, began to dimly see a possible cause of the trouble.

After a moment, he said tentatively, "Every time we've used the want-generator, except at very low power on just the three of us, there's been an inertia. Once started, the effect seems to go on, even though we turn off the want-generator itself. We've accepted this as a fact, but we haven't tried to find any mechanism to explain it. What if each individual has, in effect, a slight want-generator capacity himself? Suppose that once his desire is aroused, it energizes a field, similar to an electric field around a wire. This hypothetical desire-field, once energized, would create, in effect, a force tending to maintain the desire, because any lessening of the desire would cause a flow of energy from the collapsing field to reinforce the desire. The result would be an inertia of the desire, once created."

Morrissey blinked. "In that case, there should be induction effects. Once a strong desire is created, it will tend to induce a corresponding desire in others, and there will be something similar to attraction and repulsion, based on these interacting desire-fields."

There was a moment's silence as they thought it over, then Roberts said, "To begin with, to all intents and purposes, these people were desireless, or rather, their desires were comparatively few, simple, and predictable. It follows that there would be comparatively few of the interacting desire-fields. What we apparently did was to set up more of these interacting fields."

Hammell said, "Of course, this is just a theory."

"Sure," said Roberts. "But are you under the impression that we were operating without a theory before? We had a theory. The theory was that the city, and the people in it, were passive subjects for the operation of the want-generator. Granted that when the effect was concentrated on just the three of us, here, it seemed to work that way. But then, the city is much larger, the effect is more widespread and there are far more of what you might call 'natural want-generator units' in the city. Well, we've been acting on the theory that the want-generator operated on a passive object, and the passive object is now running away with the experiment. It looks like time to reconsider the theory."

Hammell thought it over. "You figure we've set up these 'desire-fields' with the want-generator, and now they're in operation, whether we run the want-generator or not?"

"How else do you explain what's going on? It's exactly as if such fields were in operation. If so, where do they come from?"

"But look, remember how we hit the whole city with 'desire for achievement?' And how then we discovered that their idea of achievement was to 'kill mechs'? And to stop that, we had to give them a stiff jolt of 'desire to give up'? Then there was an uncontrollable panic, and we gave them a shot of 'desire to fight' to break the panic? That incidentally started a mess of fist fights, and we had to use 'desire to sleep' to end that? Remember?"

"Yes," said Roberts. "I wouldn't be likely to forget that."

"Well, if 'desire to give up' knocked out 'desire for achievement,' and if 'desire to fight' knocked out 'desire to give up,' and so on, these hypothetical fields have all been discharged except the last one, which, as I remember, was 'desire to think.' Where's the problem? Where did this mess come from?"

"It depends on what you mean when you say the desires were 'knocked out,' " said Roberts. "Maybe 'desire to fight' eliminates 'desire to give up.' They're directly opposed to each other. But how does 'desire to think' eliminate 'desire for achievement'? And how do either of them eliminate the 'desire to kill mechs' which these people had to start with?"

Hammell was silent for a moment, then his eyes narrowed in thought. "Yes, I see. One desire may just be set aside for a while, as when you tune a receiver to pick up one signal instead of another."

Roberts nodded. "And it seems to me that we've added quite a few signals to those that can be picked up in that city. 'Desire to achieve' seems to be operating, and in practice it's still interpreted the same way: 'Kill mechs.' This affects 'desire to learn,' which is interpreted as 'desire to learn how to kill mechs.' And then, 'desire to work' seems to be in operation, since, for instance, the improvised tools and weapons take work. But that desire manifests as 'desire to work at killing mechs.' And it's obvious that for all this to happen so fast, 'desire to think' must have been operating, no doubt in the form of 'desire to think how to kill mechs.' Every desire we've added has apparently been brought to serve that one dominating desire that they had before we started, namely, 'Kill the lousy mechs.' Thanks to that, they've got a fair chance to blow up the planetary computer and smash every machine that serves it."

"Yes," said Hammell. "And once they succeed in that, there'll be mass starvation here, because the computer and a few technicians run the mechanized farms through roboid machinery. Once they destroy the computer they land right back in a bare subsistence, dog-eat-dog setup."

"Speaking of technicians," said Roberts, frowning, "have you noticed these different kinds of specialized machines that weren't here before? Did that computer program itself to make them. Or—"

Morrissey had been experimentally changing the view on the screen, and now cleared his throat. "While you theoreticians have been groping for conclusions by pure deduction, I've got hold of some facts. Take a look at this."

Roberts and Hammell glanced at the screen, to see a tall gray-haired man wearing dark-blue clothing of good material and narrow cut, who was standing before a wall-size screen showing a roughly rectangular section of fortified city, with square bastions at the corners.

Beside him stood a burly giant with bristling red beard, who said angrily, "Damn it, Kelty, they'll tunnel. Right this minute, a dozen teams of shovel-gangs are digging under your fortified line."

Hammell stared at the red-bearded giant. "That's one of the technicians!"

Roberts ran his hand over his face. The last time they'd been here, Kelty, second-in-command of the city's huge police force, had told Roberts that the bulk of the technicians had left the city. Moreover, Kelty said, there was an implacable enmity between the bulk of the technicians and the computer, and hence no chance of the technicians returning to the city. So, how—

From somewhere in the ship came an odd creaking gritting noise, but Roberts was too preoccupied to pay any attention to it.

Morrissey said, "I suppose if anything could make that planetary computer give concessions to get the technicians back, this is it."

On the spy screen, Kelty was now saying, " . . . Very true. Right this minute, they're tunneling. But eventually, they'll have to come up, or come out in another tunnel that we control. And when they do—"

"No, they won't have to come out. That's the point. They can dig from that fortified line of yours, right under one of the power mains, all the way to Center, and with a little luck they can then blow the computer itself right off the map."

"If," said Kelty, "they don't lose their following first."


"This tunnel will take a long time to dig. A lot of food will be consumed in that time. They don't have it to consume. The stores outside the line have only so much, and no more is going to them. Without food, the fanatics will lose their grip on the populace. They'll be forced to give up."

The red-bearded giant shook his head. "Maybe we can starve the other eighty or ninety percent of the populace into submission, but not that crew. They're a bunch of fanatics, led by a fanatic to end all fanatics. They'll dig till they don't have the strength to lift a pick. And all they need to do to maintain their strength is to take the lion's share of the food for themselves."

"The point," said Kelty, "is in this other eighty or ninety percent of the populace you speak of. What will they do when they don't get food!"

The giant snorted. "Raid the remaining food stores, steal from each other, run around screaming till they're out of strength. Don't kid yourself that they'll attack the fanatics' Leader. He's got ninety percent of the men with weapons. The best the rest of them will do is to knock off a few stragglers and isolated guards here and there to relieve their feelings. Meanwhile, the fanatics and their work-gangs will tunnel. When the computer blows up, you and I and the rest of us will have no choice but to get out somewhere beyond the forest, and I can tell you from experience that that's no fun. But it's better than starving, which is what will happen to us if we're back here once the computer is gone."

Kelty's face had the look of a man forcing himself to consider unwelcome facts. He turned away, then suddenly turned back again.

"What's your idea?"

"We're producing some items of machinery I haven't mentioned before."


"I've got three oversize trenchers in process, and the largest is almost finished. These are step-trenchers. The first makes a trench big enough for a canal. The second rides in the bottom of that and sends its dirt up on a conveyer. The third rides in the bottom of that trench and makes a deep cleft like a glacial crevasse. Let the fanatics try to tunnel across that. For good insurance, we can drop projectors of some good heavy gas in there, and when their tunnel comes through the wall of the trench down below, the gas will go to work on them."

Kelty looked horrified. "That's too hor . . ."

"It will work."

Kelty shook his head. "A trench like that would cut every power and water main from Center out."

"We can stop the flow from the cut mains. We've . . ."

"I don't mean that. This will cut off their water supply."

"Let it. We'll still be alive afterward, and we'll have the wherewithal to put the whole place back together again.

"Do you have some way to put millions of dead men back together? The minute you cut those mains, you sign the death-warrant for three-quarters of the human population of this planet."

"The minute you let the Great Leader blow up the computer, you sign the death-warrant for ninety-nine percent of the human population of this planet."

Kelty hesitated. "Suppose we cut off the water in the mains from here? Just shut the main valves?"

"Now you're grasping at straws. Their leader thought of that before we did. He's already got gangs of men doing nothing but carrying up buckets and cans filled with water. A deep trench is what we need, to cut their tunnels. Shutting off the water from here won't do it."

Kelty shook his head wearily. "These trenches of yours will cut through the mains. Won't they break down?"

"They'll chew right through them. That part's no problem. What we need is your approval, so we don't waste any time. When you're dealing with fanatics, you can't afford to give them any advantage, and we don't want them to get a minute's lead on us."

"But it's my job in a situation like this to restore order with a minimum loss of life."

"That's exactly what I'm talking about. You spend a winter out with us in that forest, and you'll run into situations that make this seem easy by contrast. All you have to do is stop those fanatics, and the best-skilled, most cooperative section of the populace lives. This is horrible in its way"—the giant shrugged—"but what do you expect? This way, you get to save the sources of power, the skills, and the organization, to hold back what you might call the wild forces of this planet. Do you know what it's like to fight the elements and the beasts and insects of this so-called Paradise with no technology? That's the problem, Kelty. To save humanity plus technology."

Kelty, his face pale and shaken, said, "How long before this first big trencher of yours is ready?"

"Not long. About three hours."

"I'll think it over."

"The sooner we get started with it, the better."

"All right. I'll think it over."

* * *

Roberts glanced at Morrissey. "Is there any way we can possibly find the chief fanatic they call the Great Leader?"

Morrissey shook his head. "So far as I can see, only by pure luck. He's almost sure to be in one of those tunnels, and since the city's surveillance system doesn't cover the tunnels, the screen won't either. How do we find him?"

"Yes. That's no solution."

From somewhere in the ship came a creaking noise that momentarily caught Roberts' attention, but then he saw what was happening on the screen. The red-bearded technician had left the room, and Kelty had crossed to a kind of typewriter keyboard set out from the wall. His hands flashed over it in a blur. After only a moment's delay, the wall lit up in several lines of green letters:




Now that it was too late, it suddenly came to Roberts that the crisis might have been delayed by using the want-generator on Kelty. But now the computer had accepted the plan, and the want-generator could no more influence the computer than a bee could intimidate a sledgehammer.

Hammell said, "Wait—Why not hit the whole city with an overpowering jolt of 'desire for peace'? Just pour it on, and end this!"

Morrissey's face cleared. "Why didn't we think of that sooner?" He set up "desire for peace" on the want-generator, and turned it on.

Roberts, Hammell, and Morrissey waited tensely to see what would happen.

Somewhere, there was a grinding crunching nose.

Roberts looked around curiously, then a flash of movement on the screen caught his attention.

A number of hard-looking individuals were walking out of doorways and climbing out of trenches in the garbage dumps. They tossed their guns aside, and waving their hands over their head, shouted "Let's be friends!" and walked out toward the burnt bare no-man's-land and its wire barrier.

The roboid police devices waited until the men were well out in the open. Then they opened fire, and shot the men down.

More men came forward behind them, shouting, "We want peace!"

The roboid devices cut them down with automatic efficiency.

Still more came forward.

"Shut it off!" said Roberts.

The roboid devices waited for a better shot, and suddenly the target vanished in flying dives into the nearest gutter, through cellar windows, and behind heaps of trash.

The three men stared at the screen and the unmoving bodies.

"Well," said Morrissey in a dull voice, "that sure didn't work."

Hammell said shakily, "Suppose we hit Kelty with an extra-strong dose of 'desire for peace'? He could call off the police, couldn't he?"

Roberts through a moment, then shook his head. "If the computer is in its right mind, so to speak, it will sack Kelty if he tries that. The fanatics have apparently booby-trapped the roboid police so many times that any call for peace will ring false to it—like the woman with her 'baby,' but on a larger scale.

"Damn it," said Hammell, "we can't influence the computer. The thing has no emotions to influence."

Roberts was frowning. "There's a thought."

"What do you mean?" said Hammell.

Roberts glanced out the porthole, which was nearer Hammell than himself, at the patrol ship. "It just occurred to me that if the want-generator won't influence the computer, maybe we've got something else here that will."

"We have?" Hammell turned around, looked out, and froze.

"There are advantages," said Roberts, "to having something a little stronger than a space yacht. We . . . what's the matter?"

Hammell drew in a slow deep breath.

"Have you been hearing a funny gritting noise lately?"

"Now that you mention it," said Roberts, "I have. But every time I've heard it, something else has come up. Why?"

"Ease over here a little, and look outside from a different angle. Don't make any fast move, or the thing may jerk back and hurt the ship."

Frowning, Roberts carefully eased over toward Hammell—to look directly into the cold calculating gaze of a pair of snaky eyes as big as his fists. The thing had a pointed head large enough at the thickest to wrap both arms around and just clasp hands. Roberts at once recognized the creature. This was the thing that had been looking down at him earlier from the trees. Apparently it had coiled itself around the ship to climb up this high, and the pressure of its coils had created the creaking noise.

Roberts carefully glanced aside at his battle armor. Probably the best thing to do was to get into that, go out, and—

Hammell sitting as if paralyzed, murmured. "Oh, oh. Look—"


The porthole, transparent plate, frame, gasket, rims, and all, smashed inward and clattered and bounced on the deck.

The big head was right there in the ship beside them, looking at them and the want-generator coldly.

Somewhere there was a creaking grating noise. The head flowed in farther on its dark-green muscular neck.

* * *

Roberts, half-paralyzed, began to have the illusion that he was dreaming. This couldn't be real. With an effort, he forced his mind to face the facts.

For him to try to quickly reach the battle armor now would only get the snake's attention. Any sudden motion was a form of suicide. Yet, to stay still promised the same result after a slight delay.

Very gradually, he began to ease toward the armor. Then he began to wonder, how was he going to go through the awkward process of getting into the armor with the snake looking on?

Meanwhile, the snake was feeding another length of coil in steadily; but abruptly it froze, looking back past Roberts.

It dawned on Roberts that the snake had just spotted the battle armor standing against the wall. Its attention intensely riveted, the snake hung motionless.

Roberts barely murmured.



"Turn on 'desire for peace.' Focus it on the yacht here."

Morrissey, moving with slow careful motions, focused the want-generator.

Roberts warily turned, very slowly, to look around.

A sleepy film suddenly seemed to come down over the snake's eyes.

At the same moment, Roberts felt an intense yearning for peace and quiet. Enough of conflict. "For heaven's sake," the thought went through his mind, "why can't everyone get along together?"

The snake was moving carefully, its huge head lowered and somehow suggestive of a dog expecting a kick. With increasing speed, the length of neck went out the hole in the ship, followed by the head.

There was a grating, grinding, scraping noise, and Roberts cautiously put his head out, to see the creature drop free at the base of the ship and rapidly head for cover.

Roberts sucked in a deep breath, and glanced around.



"Is there a timer in that circuit?"

"Yes, sir."

"Set it for a minute, and give us a stiff jolt of 'desire for sleep.' "

Morrissey bent briefly at the controls.

Roberts suddenly realized that he was worn out, dazed. The room spun around him, and he sat down, cradled his head on his arms, sagged against the control panel . . . 

. . . Somewhere, tinnily, a bell was ringing, and Roberts dazedly sat up. He felt as if he had been dredged up from a hundred fathoms down, but he was amazed at the way his desire for sleep evaporated. Now he felt rested, refreshed, and—

Suddenly he remembered something, and sprang to the porthole.

Outside, the huge snake lay motionless, half in and half out of the forest.

Hammell and Morrissey were both face down on the control panel. As the timer's bell rang on, only Morrissey was even beginning to stir.

The alarm kept ringing, and now Morrissey groped around dazedly but couldn't seem to connect with it.

Naturally, Roberts thought. He glanced around sourly. After a night spent in this bucket, who wouldn't be worn out? Every time you turned around, some monster was coming in after you. Why not just live in a cheesecloth tent, and get it over with quick?

Morrissey finally found the timer, shut it off, and passed out again.

So far, Hammell hadn't even moved.

Roberts grunted in disgust, looked back out into the clearing, and decided the snake mustn't have spent a very restful night, either. It lay on the ground like a felled tree.

Roberts leaned out farther, to see what damage it might have done to the yacht in climbing up it, and at once he heard a rustle overhead, and felt the heat of the sun, shining down on his neck, abruptly cut off.

There was a dazzle of light.


Roberts was inside so fast that he knocked Hammell half out of his chair, and himself landed in a sprawl over the edge of the want-generator's control panel.

The air outside the porthole was suddenly filled with huge blue and green feathers. There was a sizzling noise, a smell of cooked meat and burnt pinfeathers, a kind of low popping sound, and a burnt-paint smell.

Cautiously, Roberts looked out, to see one of the smaller turrets on the patrol ship swinging back into position.

Just what caused it, Roberts didn't know, but there was something about the patrol ship as he looked at it that suggested reproach.

Roberts eased farther back and looked around. Morrissey and Hammell—despite the fact that he'd almost been knocked flat—were still asleep. Roberts glanced at the patrol ship. How had it—

That thought was drowned out as it began by a crackling noise, and the boom of a loudspeaker close by:


* * *

Hammell was immediately on his feet. Morrissey lurched out of his chair and looked stuporously around.

"The snake!" said Hammell. "Where—"

"It's right down below," said Roberts, "and it's just started to move. This warning system you've got here just woke it up."

Morrissey looked blankly at the want-generator.


"Then," said Roberts, "it follows that the snake, at least, is affected by the want-generator. The last time we were here, we used a 'desire to help out' field to persuade the technicians to trade with us on a fair basis. The instant that field was shut off, there was an uproar out in the forest. It occurred to me at the time that there might be a bunch of predators out there being obliging to their prey."

Hammell glanced at the hole in the side of the ship. "That knowledge may just get us some sleep tonight. But we're still stuck with the problem of what to do about this city. The want-generator may affect the wild animals, but it still doesn't affect that computer."

"No," said Roberts, "but something we can do may affect the computer. I was thinking of doing it with the patrol ship alone, but this snake suggests new possibilities."

Hammell glanced uneasily out into the clearing. "What were you thinking of?"

"Well," said Roberts, "the immediate problem here is that the fanatics and the computer are opposed. Either one, if successful, can destroy the other. The enmity has to be gotten around somehow inside of three hours or so, or we are right on the edge of a crisis that can mean the death of millions of people."

"Yes," said Hammell, "I see the problem. But where's the solution?"

Roberts said, "Why do we get unexpected reactions from the people in the city when we beam desires at them? Isn't it because their thought processes are different?"

"Sure," said Hammell exasperatedly. "But how do we—"

"We have to affect, not only the emotions, but the thought processes, too. The want-generator affects only the emotions. We've got to reach their minds."

Morrissey looked puzzled.

Hammell said, "I can see, with the guns on that patrol ship of yours, that you can reach their bodies. But how you get at their minds—"

"When you and your brother," said Roberts, "are about to shoot each other, it really breaks up the family quarrel fast if you find some outsider waiting around to shoot the survivor."

"Yeah," said Hammell, frowning, "that's a point. You mean, we make ourselves the villains, in order to unite them?"

"Once we're the villains, will they listen to us?"

Hammell looked momentarily foolish. "Then how do we do it?"

"Obviously, somebody else has to be the villain."

"Who? There are only the three of us."

Roberts thought a moment. "How's 'Oggbad' sound?"

Morrissey said blankly, "Who in space is Oggbad?"

"If we're going to have a villain," said Roberts, "I fail to see why any of us has to be stuck with the job. Let Oggbad do it."

"Who's Oggbad?" said Morrissey.

"Do what?" said Hammell.

Roberts said, "Amongst other things, attack the city. Can you think of any better way to get our advice listened to than by a demonstration of what the fiend Oggbad is up to?"

Morrissey looked at Hammell. "Have we missed this much sleep?"

Hammell shook his head. "We can follow it this far: a) The city is divided into two warring factions. b) We've got to unite them to straighten out the mess. c) An outside menace is the best way to unite them. d) We don't want to play the part of this outside menace ourselves, because that would debar us from taking any direct part in the situation. e) Therefore, somebody else should do it—I suppose Oggbad is as good as anybody; but, in the first place, where do we get Oggbad? And how do we provide Oggbad with an army to attack the city? And, just incidentally, that computer may be stupid in dealing with people, but that doesn't mean it can't check facts. We've got to convince both sides. How do we outwit the computer? And best of all, how do we do all this in three hours or less?"

Roberts said patiently, "With a decent night's sleep, all this should be obvious. Who says we've got to have a real villain? A real villain is likely to get out of hand and complicate the situation when you want to simplify it. Oggbad is strictly a fiction of our imaginations."

"Your imagination," said Hammell.

"But," said Roberts, "Oggbad is to appear real, to the city. This he will accomplish by attacking the city."

Morrissey said earnestly, "How does a figment of your imagination attack the city?"

"Take a look out that porthole," said Roberts. "As we should know, there are beasts out in that forest that can create chaos in nothing flat. Do you mean to tell me you don't see how Oggbad can attack the city?

"But," said Hammell, "to lead the animals—How does he—"

* * *

Morrissey gave a sudden start. "Ye gods. We must need sleep. We've already seen that the want-generator affects the animals. If that holds true, we can control the animals!"

"I don't mean that," said Hammell. "How do we explain, so it convinces the computer, among others, that this Oggbad can influence the animals?"

"Obviously," said Roberts, "the only conceivable ways are for Oggbad to be either a great animal trainer, a great biologist, or a great sorcerer. And if the story is going to have to stand the computer's scrutiny, I'm in favor of putting in broad claims right at the beginning, so if the computer is going to choke on it, we find it out immediately."

"Hm-m-m," said Morrissey. "How is the computer, based on science, going to judge a sorcerer?"

Hammell said thoughtfully, "There are rumors of planets run by . . . ah . . . if not sorcery, something just as good."

"Exactly," said Roberts. "That's what I want to take advantage of."

Morrissey shook his head. "This part starts to make sense to me, but there's a catch. Kelty saw you and Hammell when we were here before. So did the computer's surveillance system. The technicians have seen all three of us. How do we explain that a cargo-ship captain, his cargo-control officer, and his communications officer, are tangled up in a fight with this Oggbad?"

"Frankly," said Roberts, "I'm a little sick of being a cargo-ship captain. I don't think a cargo-ship captain is going to have much impact on them, anyway. If we're going to deal with the city, let's deal with them on nothing less than an equal basis. I'm not interested in going through another dose of what we got the last time."

Hammell nodded, but Morrissey still shook his head. "They've got records of our last visit."

"That won't do them much good," said Roberts, "if every time they see us, we're inside a suit of battle armor."

For the first time, Morrissey smiled. "Yes, that's a point. But how do we explain—"

"If we get things on the right basis to start with, I don't think they're going to ask for too many explanations."

Hammell said, "Are you going to say we're investigative officers of some kind?"

"No, because then we have to say what bureau we're working for, and so on. I'm in favor of our appropriating so much rank, right at the start, that it jars them back on their heels, makes them listen when we talk, and makes them hesitate before asking any questions. If we're going to get them out of this mess, I fail to see why we have to do it on bended knee. The last time we were here, the animals tried to eat us, the plants tried to smother us, the people threw bottles and chunks of cement at us, and the roboids slapped us in prison. This time, let them accommodate themselves to us. I don't know what you guys intend to be, but as far as I'm concerned, I aim to get a little satisfaction out of this mess. I'm going to be Vaughan the Terrible, Duke of Trasimere, and I'm on the trail of the evil prince and sorcerer Oggbad the Foul, and if anyone disbelieves or doubts my word, I'll punish his impertinence with a couple of blasts from my fusion guns, which are real."

Hammell grinned. "Between the fantastic story, and the real power, it would be possible for the computer to get tied in knots."

Morrissey said, "And there's nothing to prevent our beaming 'desire to believe' at the people. The computer won't be affected, but we should be able to so tie up that computer that it doesn't know what to accept and what to reject."

"That's it," said Roberts.

Hammell said, "Time's passing. This seems to hang together. Let's try it and see what happens."

Morrissey nodded. "Let's get started."

"O.K.," said Roberts.

He got into the battle armor to go back to the patrol ship.

* * *

Roberts had intended to make a few slapdash preparations, such as smearing some fresh paint over the Interstellar Patrol identification of the ship—which always showed through any covering he put over it, but the symbiotic computer immediately took a hand.

"Effacing the patrol ship designation without good reason is prohibited."

"I have good reason," said Roberts promptly.

"What?" demanded the computer.

Roberts, stupefied at this last-minute delay, gave a quick explanation, and waited angrily for the next piece of obstruction.

"Excellent," said the symbiotic computer. "The plan shows admirable insight into the nature of the problem. However, you evidently have neglected to study your 'Patrol Ship Special Board Number Three—Typical Ship and Equipment Disguises and Physical Aspects of Stratagems.' A demonstration is in order. Press down the blue lever numbered '3' at the left of the control panel."

Roberts hesitated. Beads of sweat popped out on his brow. Then he took control of himself, stopped thinking what the last demonstration had been like, and pushed down blue lever number "3" at the left of the control panel.

At once, there was a hum, and a clank from the weapons lockers where, among other things, the suits of battle armor were stored. From outside came a low whirring noise and a faint sliding sound. Then there was a continuous low rumble, followed by an odd noise Roberts couldn't place. Then the ship lifted.

Roberts waited a moment, then snapped on the outside viewscreen, to see in astonishment that the space yacht was already painted jet black with silver markings, and was now acquiring a set of weird symbols—oddly distorted silver cats, skulls with one red and one blue eye, silver snakes with their gold-colored insides apparently pulled out through their mouths. The sight gave Roberts a nauseous sensation, but he watched as the slender arms with their batteries of nozzles moved over the space yacht while the patrol ship circled it.

There was a clank and rumble from inside the weapons lockers, then the patrol ship set down again.

Roberts quickly climbed out the hatch, and was startled to see that the patrol ship was now gold with a kind of platinum trim. Some kind of dark purple marking was evident farther forward, and Roberts glanced around, walked aft along a horizontal fin, dropped off, and took a look at the ship.

From a short, distance, the impression of wealth and power set Roberts back on his heels. No detail of trim had been overlooked, and on the sides of the ship were three complete coats of arms, the center one placed slightly higher than the other two, and surrounded by a kind of bright golden sunburst.

Roberts shook his head, and glanced up at the big hatch of the space yacht, where Hammell was leaning out to stare at the lurid designs on the space yacht.

The two men looked at each other blankly, then Roberts grinned, and called, "Ready?"

Hammell nodded. "How many passes?"

"Two should do it, especially if there's some time in between."


* * *

They got back in their ships, lifted off, flew low and fast away from the direction of the city, and then rose high into the sky on the far side of the planet. From very high up, Hammell and Morrissey dove on the city, the speed of their passage creating a crack and rumble that brought people into the streets on both sides of the barrier. A few moments later, Roberts flashed low over the city, the sound of his passage creating an even sharper crack and louder rumble.

The communicator buzzed, and there was a faint click, as if someone had just snapped it on. An authoritative voice said, "Planetary Control Center, Paradise City, Paradise. No flights are authorized, and no landings permit—"

A harsh voice snarled, "Be damned with your authorization. This is the Imperial light cruiser Droit de Main, flagship of Search Force IX. Vice Admiral Sir Ian Cudleigh is aboard this ship, in direct service to their Imperial Highnesses, the Dukes of Malafont and Greme, who accompany His Royal and Imperial Highness, Vaughan, Duke of Trasimere, surnamed The Terrible, Prince Contestant to the Throne. You seek to bar our way at your own immediate and deadly peril. Submit at once, or we destroy you and every inhabitant of this place. We are on a business of holy vengeance, and you stand warned. Master of the Ordnance! Give them a taste of our steel!"

Roberts sat wide-eyed and half-paralyzed. As thick as he had intended to lay it on, this beat anything he'd had in mind.

There was a faint clicking from somewhere forward, and on the outside viewscreen, two buildings, one inside and one outside the foam-covered barrier of wire and mines, erupted in sheets of flame and smoke.

The harsh voice wasted scarcely a second. "Enough. Stand ready if this place lies servile to the fiend . . . All right, which is it? Oggbad, or Vaughan?"

There was a brief buzz from the receiver, then "Vaughan."

"So be it. Now, know you that their Imperial Highnesses are locked in mortal combat with Oggbad the Traitor. Know you that Oggbad, though shorn of his material power, still sways mighty forces in the realms of sorcery. Only if his soul be cleaved from his body, and chained for its million years of punishment in the nether regions, will the blight be ended. Know, then, that as this condition is as yet unmet, and as you serve the Duke Vaughan, Oggbad may seek to smite you. Now, listen closely. If, under fear of the traitor's evil power, you recant to Oggbad, Duke Vaughan with fire and sword will smite you to the death. If, mayhap, under influence of the fiend's sorcery, you are bound over mindless into his evil cause, Duke Vaughan will then faithfully seek to cleanse your soul by agony here, before sending you to your reward. These are—There goes the fiend! Give chase!"

The scene on the viewscreen flashed backwards, whirled, and for the second time, the patrol ship streaked after the space yacht.

The communicator clicked off. The voice of the symbiotic computer said, "The instruments in the city are now picking up all the signs and indications of a formidable fleet passing the planet."


Roberts, streaking along the curve of the planet after the space yacht, was starting to wonder what a patrol ship with fully trained crew would be like. What had happened so far was apparently mere routine, as far as the symbiotic computer was concerned.

Then he was swinging the patrol ship low over the forest, and following the space yacht in a wide curve to a landing in the clearing. He extended the stabilizer feet, snapped off the gravitors, and got up.

He yanked open the weapons locker, to get out the battle armor, and a glittering suit of armor with helmet curving up into a slender spire came out on its sling. The breastplate of this suit was covered with a dazzling coat of arms. The big fusion gun that hung on the right side was matched on the left by a broadsword. Tied to the top of the helmet's spire was a thing like a pink silk handkerchief.

Looking closely, Roberts could see that his armor was essentially the same as what he'd been wearing before. But the effect was very different.

He wasted a moment asking himself how that had been done. Was there some kind of metal-working equipment recessed into the hull behind the weapons locker? How—"

The voice of the symbiotic computer spoke dryly: "In a crisis, each minute is a precious jewel."

Roberts swore, got into the armor hurriedly, and started for the hatch. On the way, the sword banged around and got crosswise of his legs. He'd barely recovered his balance when he straightened up and rammed the helmet's spire into the ceiling. There was a sarcastic throat-clearing noise in the earphones, but the symbiotic computer didn't actually say anything; the cause of this trouble was its own fault.

* * *

Roberts finally managed to get the hatch open despite the spire, heaved himself out, and crossed to the space yacht, where Morrissey and Hammell looked up from the spy screen to stare at him in amazement.

"Not my idea," said Roberts, getting out of the armor. "This idea belongs to the computer. What's going on in the city?"

Morrissey said, "I've been watching this screen since we started, and as nearly as I can tell, the people generally are scared, and subject to all kinds of rumors. The general impression seems to be that the planetary computer got a spaceship up, and the Great Leader is up there fighting it with one of his own. As for the fanatics themselves, the more rank they have, the more uncertain they seem to be; but again, so far as I've been able to find out, the top ones are still out of sight."

"That makes it nice," said Roberts, trying to tilt the armor against the wall. The needlelike tip of the spire, even though it rested at a shallow angle against the wall, looked as if it just might push a hole through the hull. Exasperated, Roberts tilted the armor away from the wall, and tried to ease it down on the deck. At the last moment, it got away from him, and hit with a heavy thud.

Hammell and Morrissey jumped and looked around. Roberts straightened up carefully, "This thing sure isn't made of feathers. And watch out for the spike on the helmet. I don't know what kind of metal it is, but it doesn't give, and it's got a point like a needle." Hammell and Morrissey acknowledged the warning with bare grunts and immediately turned back to the screen. Roberts, uneasily conscious what ship he was in, looked around at the porthole to find it temporarily repaired with an airtight double plate-and-gasket screwtight seal. Satisfied that nothing was going to come in there, Roberts slid into his chair, and immediately saw, on the screen, Kelty and the red-bearded technician.

"Nuts," the technician was saying. "There isn't any such place. You've been sold a bill of goods. The whole—"

"Shut up for a minute," said Kelty, "and see for yourself. We got the whole thing down as it happened. Look at this." He tapped one of several buttons on the edge of his desk, and the far wall of the room suddenly was like blue sky, across which a black-and-silver ship, weirdly decorated, streaked erratically into view, followed a moment later by a dazzling golden ship that unleashed searing bolts of energy that missed the black-and-silver ship by the narrowest of margins. The golden ship was suddenly enormously magnified, to fill the wall. The details of its trim and armament stood out clearly, the coats of arms thoroughly detailed and distinct, the center coat of arms raised above the others and set off in a blaze of bright gold trim.

Kelty said, "A bill of goods, huh? Are you going to tell me the Great Leader dreamed this up?"

The technician looked dazzled. "Still, I never heard of—"

"Wait," said Kelty. "The computer's air-traffic-control circuit ordered the ship off. Here's what happened." He touched a second button. The wall blanked.

A voice said authoritatively, "Planetary Control Center, Paradise City, Paradise. No flights are authorized, and no landing permit—"

The wall flared with color, and a hard face, eyes narrowed, scarred below the left eye and across the bridge of the nose, appeared against an unfocused background, to snarl, "Be damned with your authorization. This is the Imperial light cruiser Droit de Main, flagship of Search Force IX. Vice Admiral Sir Ian Cudleigh is aboard this ship . . ."

The red-bearded technician stared at the screen, where the tough figure suddenly turned aside:

"Master of the Ordnance! Give them a taste of our steel!"

Kelty hit another button, and the wall lit with a view of buildings exploding in sheets of flame and smoke.

At the end, Kelty turned to the technician. "Then the first ship showed again, and the two ships went out of view, and the long-range pickups started feeding in more data. There's a fleet out there."

The technician, obviously shaken, stared at the blank wall. "Where does this leave us?"

"You tell me. The computer had to make a quick choice which side to be on, and it must have only taken one-tenth of one percent of its circuits to decide that. There wasn't much choice, if you know what I mean."

"But where in space did these—"

There was a jarring buzz. A voice said urgently, "Now receiving."

* * *

The wall lit up again. A very pale face, marked by dissipation but with intense dark eyes, looked out under a narrow golden crown.

"I see you not. To whom do I speak?"

"This is the Planetary Control Center, Paradise City, Para—"

"Listen closely. It is I, Oggbad, Prince of the Empire, Premier Peer of the Kingdom, High Master of the Unseen Realms. I require your immediate aid to repulse the treasonous assaults of the low villains, Vaughan, Percy, and Ewald. Yield at once to my command or come under ban of the most hideous punishment. How say you?"

There were several buzzing sounds of varying pitch, then the words, "Owing to a lack of sufficient data—"

"Bah! These are the words of poltroons, or traitors! I am Oggbad! Yield!"

There was a total silence, then, "Very well! You think the material power of the traitor Vaughan will protect you. I say it will not! Nay, if the fools hound me throughout the length of the universe, and drive me from sun to sun, and destroy the last remnant of my worldly power, still, I am Oggbad! In the unseen realms, guns count for nought. All is unchanged, and I am still High Master of the Unseen Realms. As an earnest of my intent, and a warning to those who believe matter can of a right rule the universe, I shall inspirit the very animals with a hate of your treason, and hurl the might of the forest against you. Nay, I say, yield, or face the most dread powers of the Unseen Realms!"

The computer could manage nothing but a buzz.

"So be it," said the pale dissipated face looking at them from the wall, its dark eyes blazing. "You anger me. And though I be shorn of material power you will soon learn the might of my dominion. I will regain a footing for my power! And as I am here, you will serve, or I will destroy you. Bear my words closely in mind."

The wall went blank. Kelty stared at it dazedly. The technician passed a hand across his eyes.

Finally, Kelty said, "All right. But we're on the right side, at least. That last business was lunacy. That's—"

There was another jarring buzz. "Now receiving."

Kelty and the technician winced and turned back toward the wall. The wall lit up with a view of the same scarred tough face they'd seen first. This face now had a thoughtful exasperated look.

"The fiend has slipped away. No cloak of invisibility could hide so large a ship from our instruments, but there it is. He is gone. Trouble is on foot again. But he'll not leave this world alive. Well, so be it. I speak now to the Earldom-Designate of Paradise, so-called. Answer!"

The computer gave another buzz. "We are listening."

"Why have you a voice but no face?"

"Owing to technical difficulties."

"Be damned with technical difficulties! On all we know, Oggbad is still alive! Listen closely. As you have yielded to His Royal and Imperial Highness, Vaughan, Duke of Trasimere, Prince Contestant to the Throne, on the truth of whose cause the light of Heaven shines, so are you in duty bound to obey him. You are now a part of the Empire, in immediate fiefdom to Duke Vaughan himself. Whosoever denies this, does so on instantaneous peril of his life. Now then, the cursed Oggbad is loose on the planet. You must set your defenses in order. Mischief is afoot, and on such a scale as you may never have seen before. But fear not. Duke Vaughan is here. His material power is no small weight against the invisible might of Oggbad. Oggbad must first ensheathe his strength in material form to act in the visible realms. The Duke Vaughan's power is already on rein to act. And we are quick, ready, and hold our minds to the task—we will come through the storm. Oggbad's first onset is the worst. Prepare to meet the Duke Vaughan himself within the hour. There is no time to waste."

The wall went blank.

Like two punchdrunk fighters, Kelty and the red-bearded technician stared at the wall.

* * *

Roberts, himself half-dazed, suddenly realized that Kelty and the technician, probably the two most important humans in the computer-run part of the city, were now stuck on dead center. The slightest push would move them in either direction.

"Quick!" said Roberts. "Hit Kelty with 'desire to inform, explain, and expound!' Easy at first, then if he does what he should, step it up. We want the rest of the city to know what's going on."

On the screen, Kelty was saying dazedly, "Are we dreaming? How do we handle a thing like this?" The red-bearded technician was starting to grin. "They don't waste any time, do they? Well, well. What does the computer say to this?"

"That's a point," said Kelty. He crossed to the keyboard set out from the wall. Almost immediately, the wall lit up in yellow letters:




Kelty stepped back as if he'd been struck.

The technician nodded. "That's about all we can expect from it. After the crisis is over, then it will have the data and the answers."

"Damn it," said Kelty, "we've got to do something!" His face cleared. "Yes, we'll let the people know what's going on!"

"What good will that do?"

"Maybe it will give that collection of fanatics something to think about besides blowing up the computer."

"Yes. That's an idea."

Roberts glanced at Morrissey. "O.K. So far so good. But now we have the little problem of providing Oggbad with an army."

Morrissey said, "I've been thinking about that. It strikes me we're making big promises, and don't know whether we can actually come through with any results."

"If not, they're no worse off in that city than before. And as for us, we can always explain it away by 'capturing' Oggbad, and then having him escape by sorcery as soon as we figure out what to do next. After all, when you've only got three hours to save the lives of millions of people, you can't expect perfection."

"Well, no—" said Morrissey.

"What might work," said Roberts, "is to make a kind of large U-shaped pattern of 'desire to escape', and move it slowly forward, from the forest across the cultivated belt toward the city. Can we do that?"

Morrissey nodded. "That's about what I'd planned. What I don't know is whether it will work."

"Let's try it. If we can get those behemoths really moving, they should be able to cover that distance pretty fast. Then there's the problem of the city. Unless that symbiotic computer puts its oar in again, what I think we ought to do is for Hammell and me to land near the border, between the two parts of the city, while you move the animals along . . ."

"If they move," said Morrissey.

" . . . And also pour 'desire to cooperate' at the city's populace. Once we get them in the right frame of mind, we'll wait till the animals arrive, and then there'll be a common enemy. After that, any time the people start to break into factions, Oggbad will bash them over the head. Meanwhile, we can use the want-generator to pour the right desires at the city, while the situation itself tends to make it certain that these desires are interpreted the right way. Once we really get that setup going, we can probably shut off the want-generator entirely, except for emergencies."

"We don't know yet," said Morrissey stubbornly, "if those animals will move. I'm going to have to use different intensities of U-shaped regions of 'desire to escape,' one region inside the other, to create a kind of fear-gradient, if you know what I mean. The desire to escape has to be strongest at the outermost region, so that the animals will move forward in the right direction, toward the center-line of the U."

"Good." Roberts glanced at Hammell. "Now, unless this Duke Vaughan is going to turn up all alone, probably you'd better come with me."

Hammell nodded without enthusiasm. "I guess so."

"Great," said Morrissey. "And what happens if some tree-sized animal with eight-foot jaws goes after the ship? What do I do then? It takes concentration to work this want-generator and watch the screen to be sure things aren't getting out of hand. I can't do that and fight off a horde of monsters, too."

"Hm-m-m," said Roberts. "Why not hit them with 'desire to sleep'? It certainly worked on that snake."

Morrissey called: "Holcombe!"

"Yes, my lord?"

"The tranquilizers."

"At once, my lord."

"O.K." said Roberts, heaving the battle armor over on its face so he could get the back plate open, "then that's settled. Watch out for the point on the helmet when I get up."

"Listen" said Morrissey, "I keep trying to tell you, these animals may not move. Or they may mill around, fight each other, and generally be slow as mud."

"Use 'desire to cooperate' on them in the center of the U. Do the best you can. Just pour on the power and hope for the best. It will be quite a coup for Oggbad if you can manage it."

Morrissey said something Roberts didn't quite catch, but then he was inside the armor, and the rest of the comment came across clearly in the earphones: " . . . to be quite an experience. Who got this bright idea, anyway?"

Hammell's voice, somewhat hollow, replied, "We did."

"Yeah. Then I guess we're stuck with it. Well, stay healthy."

"I'll try. Watch out for the gangbats. Don't let Oggbad get you."

Roberts, inside the armor, swung shut the back plate, listened critically to the multiple click of the latch, and shoved home the lock lever.

"O.K., let's go. Stick close to me crossing the clearing."

"I sure will," said Hammell.

"And look out for the spike on this helmet."

A few minutes later, Roberts and Hammell were aboard the ship.

And a few minutes after that, they were sweeping out in a wide curve, in order to come back toward the city high up, and from a different direction.

* * *

Kelty was apparently acting fast under the influence of "desire to inform, explain, and expound." The patrol ship's symbiotic computer, in the guise of a tough no-nonsense Imperial officer, made arrangements to land, and immediately the buildings nearby were crowded with nervous onlookers.

Roberts and Hammell, taking care not to run each other through with their helmet-spikes, squeezed out the patrol ship's hatch, to face an uneasy-looking Kelty, who was accompanied by a nondescript individual with triple lightning-bolts on his armband, on the sash across his chest, and on the visor of his floppy cap. The place was surrounded with roboid police, who with apparent uneasiness faced the gap blasted in the barrier that last time Roberts had gone by. Through this gap, a number of armed toughs were seeping forward, but the roboid police hesitated to stop them lest they provoke an uproar in the midst of the ceremonies.

Roberts decided there was no point fooling around. His voice came out amplified into a close resemblance to thunder:

"I am Vaughan of Trasimere. Let all who would serve me kneel. Let all who would serve the traitor Oggbad stand."

Kelty wasted no time kneeling. About fifty percent of the toughs with armbands took a quick glance at the guns on the patrol ship, and either kneeled or dove for cover. The remaining fifty percent remained upright. The nearest tough, with the largest number of lightning-bolt insignia, gave a peculiar laugh, and a sidewise flick of his right hand. His followers snapped up their guns. One heaved a sharpened axle straight at Roberts.

There was a brief crisscrossing dazzle of white lines from the patrol ship's fusion cannon.

The wind blew away a few puffs of smoke, and all that was left of the immediate opposition was a smoldering armband here, a red-hot piece of metal there, and a scattering of grisly trophies that Roberts tried not to look at.

Giving no time for the stunned silence to turn into a new show of opposition, this time from under cover, Roberts demanded in a voice of thunder, "Who else serves Oggbad the fiend? Know you not that each man of this city will serve his true liege-lord or die? What manner of treachery is this?"

To give emphasis to his words, and because he sensed he might look silly just standing there after this speech, Roberts whipped out his sword. The sword came out with a menacing hiss that carried a long way in the silence. Then, since it would have been ridiculous to threaten the whole city, he took a quick step toward Kelty.

A roboid policeman immediately blocked his way.

Roberts' sword flashed out, sliced the machine in two with one blow, and a hard kick of his right foot knocked the pieces twenty feet away. He gripped Kelty by the shirt front.

"Serve you Oggbad?"

"No! But this has all been so fast. And we have a . . . ah . . . a rebellion going on here—"

"A rebellion? Against me?"

"No. No. Against the machines." Hastily, Kelty gave an explanation of the situation in the city, at the end of which Roberts shrugged.

"This is no matter. It is of the past. What concerns us now is Oggbad. I accept the submission of the part of the city ruled by the thinking-machine. And by the grace of the power invested in me as suzerain create the thinking-machine a Baron of the Duchy of Trasimere. So, too, do I create you, Kelty, a Baron of the Duchy of Trasimere. Let no man raise his hand against your joint authority in the Inner City, by which I so designate that portion of land within this barrier of fanged wire and subtle entrapments, upwards to the limits of the aery realm, and downwards to the center of the world. Now, so much for that. We have still this Outer City to deal with. Who rules there? Every minute the power of Oggbad ensheathes itself in matter, and we waste time on this foolery? Who rules? Come forward now, or I destroy your power root and branch, thorn, twig, seed, and fruit! Come forth, I say!"

* * *

Roberts was becoming aware of an urgent desire to cooperate. If everyone else was feeling it as strongly as he was, the factions in the city wouldn't last long. But how could he cooperate with somebody who didn't show up?

Just then, as he was wondering what to do next, and wishing the symbiotic computer was handling this instead of him, a strongly built figure about five-feet ten, carrying a rifle in his left hand, strode forward, handed the rifle to one of a small group of followers, and walked toward Roberts unarmed. This man had a look of intelligence and intense self-discipline. When he was directly in front of Roberts, he dropped on one knee.

Roberts said, "You rule in the Outer City?"

"I have five to ten percent of the people behind me. My men are armed. The others aren't."

"Good enough. Do you yield to me, Vaughan of Trasimere—or would you serve the foul traitor Oggbad?"

"I'm for you."

"Then by grace of the power vested in me as suzerain, I create you a Baron of the Duchy of Trasimere, and ruler of the Outer City, by which I designate that portion of the presently-existing city outside this barrier of entrapments and fanged wire, upwards to the limits of the aery realm, and downwards to the center of the world. Let no man raise his hand against you in the Outer City. Rise, Baron. Now, we have no time for the pleasures which should attend these ceremonies, or for their proper form. Each minute spent here the foul cause of Oggbad advances that much further. Dissension within our ranks must be healed at once, as it serves Oggbad's cause. Now then, you, Baron Kelty, and you, the thinking-machine with rank of Baron, and you, Baron of the Outer City, listen close.

"What Oggbad will do, we know not. But he vanished to the west, and from the west will his attack almost certainly come. Therefore, so far as is possible, post your main strength to the west, with but light forces toward the other quarters. And your strength permit it, hold strong reserves in hand. Fight by craft and cunning, from hidden places. Oppose stone walls and empty space to Oggbad's attack, so far as it be possible. Fight him not by main strength. That I will do, as my strength surpasses his. Seek to pin him, entangle him. Chisel at his power. When confronted, run, hide, and appear again at his flank. Let his arms fight stone and air, while your sword seeks his belly.

"Oggbad fights by—"

Hammell's voice interrupted. "Your Grace! Look overhead!"

Roberts looked up to see three huge birds, their feathers blue underneath, winging past. He glanced at Kelty. "Do these birds often fly over the city?"

"Sometimes one alone. I never saw three together before."

Roberts turned toward the ship. "Master of the Ordnance! Bring down those birds!" Roberts turned to his two wide-eyed human Barons. "Their form is but a physical envelope for Oggbad's purpose. Now it begins."

From the ship, a voice called, "Your Highness, this planet must have crystal on it, and Oggbad has found it! The guns are enwrangled!"

Roberts grappled blankly with the word "enwrangled," then turned around, to see the big fusion guns aimed generally toward the birds, but apparently unable to aim precisely. The guns were moving in small circles around their true point of aim, and not one pointed directly at any of the birds.

"Then," said Roberts, thinking fast, "it is Oggbad! Well, gentlemen, get your men quickly in hand. Remember, Oggbad's first onset is the worst. I will shield you as best I may, and in the end we will win, because our cause is just. Now, get to cover! Quick!"

A terrific desire to fight was building up in Roberts, and, no doubt, in everyone else around. But only Roberts and Hammell knew that the same angry desire they felt was, in all likelihood, shared by the huge birds.

Suddenly, there was a fierce scream from overhead. Roberts looked up, to see the birds draw in their wings. At that same instant, he realized that their camouflage was far better than it seemed. He had seen three birds. But when they began to dive, their green upper feathers came into view, and there were nearly a dozen of them. At once a voice, so like Roberts' own amplified voice that he thought it must be his, roared:

"Guards! We'll fight on foot!"

This sounded valiant. It sounded heroic. It just suited the situation, except for one little detail:

There was no one left in the patrol ship.

Hammell already had his sword in one hand and his gun in the other. The patrol ship was already letting off futile bolts at the birds, its "enwrangled" guns doing no damage. So far as Roberts knew, there was nothing left in the ship but a couple of empty suits of battle armor. Meanwhile, from windows and doors, people were looking at him, the birds, and the patrol ship to see what would happen next.

Roberts, cursing himself, turned back toward the patrol ship, and braced himself to shout another order.

The patrol ship, somehow sunk deeply as if it were digging its way into the cracking concrete, disgorged from its hatch an armed man-sized figure in silver armor. Then another, and another, until there were half-a-dozen of them outside. Since they couldn't be human, they must be roboid, controlled by the symbiotic computer. But where in the cramped interior, with so much space already taken up by guns and missile storage, was there room for the fabricating machinery and the stocks of materials? Was the ship so much more advanced than it seemed? Roberts looked around, hastily gave up trying to find the answer, and roared, "Have at the fiend!"

A huge shadow was sweeping over the ground, and now gigantic claws shot toward him. Roberts fired his fusion gun, sheared off one of the clawed feet with a savage stroke of his sword, was grappled and knocked backwards by the other, beheaded the bird, and landed in a tangled bloody mass of bone, sinew, and feathers. He pulled himself free, to find the air suddenly thick with birds of every description, fighting the people and each other. A moment later, carnivorous bats began to arrive, to dive at Roberts' faceplate, bounce off, then cling to his armor, and squeak their teeth grittily over every bump and joint, in the hope of getting through into the flesh underneath.

The city's loudspeaker system was booming, "Take cover! Get to the tunnels! The city is under attack! Get to the tunnels!"

Flying insects were all over the place now. The air was like fog. The screams of the people told of the attacks of every kind of flying pest known to the planet. It dawned on Roberts that Morrissey had been successful beyond their wildest dreams. If they weren't careful, they might exterminate the very population they were trying to save.

Then the onslaught of another gigantic bird knocked Roberts back into the foam-covered entanglement of wires, mines, and sharp-edged strips of metal. Something seemed to snap inside him, and in a terrific outburst of anger, he sliced the bird in half, cut the entangling wires, and settled grimly to the work of slaughter.

He had killed half-a-dozen giant birds, and uncounted numbers of smaller birds and carnivorous gangbats, when Oggbad's main force arrived on the scene.

Huge gray cats, ordinarily day-time creatures, loomed at him out of the gathering dusk. The computer's roboid police, firing from windows and doorways, were suddenly confronted with gigantic beasts with armored bony snouts and tails like giant sledgehammers. Many-legged segmented creatures crawled up the sides of buildings, groped around out in the air, vanished within, and reappeared in the tunnels. Enormous snakes grappled with equally enormous armored metal caterpillars, and, as often as not, the snakes crushed or smashed some vital part before the guns of the metal caterpillars could kill the snakes. The street lights came on to light a scene out of a nightmare, a war amongst animals and machines, with no humans in sight but Roberts and Hammell, dripping blood, the golden coating of their armor chipped and dented, but swords and guns in hand and hewing to the task with such savage energy they seemed to be everywhere at once.

* * *

Toward dawn, a powerful amplified voice boomed out:

"The power of the fiend yields to the Duke! The usurper weakens!"

As daylight shone down on the bloody shambles, the same voice roared: "By command of the Duke, clear the tunnels of the enemy! The worst is over!"

By noon, dented roboid maintenance machines were dragging off the bodies of huge creatures in one direction, while towing disabled machines away in the other direction.

Kelty, covered with large and small bandages, beside an equally-bandaged figure with tattered lightning-bolts armband, was in a building along the boundary between the two parts of the city, listening attentively to Roberts, whose armor looked as if it had spent the last thousand years grinding along under a glacier. Roberts wasted no time finishing up the conference with his two subordinates.

"That's how it is," he said. "Now you've experienced it. Oggbad inspirited those beasts, using the arts of the Unseen Realms, and had he been able to calm their mutual distrust, it would have gone ill with us. Next time, he may have learned that lesson. By that time, our strength must encompass a portion of the forest itself, and all of the fields, lest he destroy the food supply. No man can rest easy while the fiend's soul still cleaves to his body. Now, then. My duties do not allow me to oversee the details. Great affairs are afoot in the Empire, and I must see to them. But count on me to come back, to reward the diligent, destroy the faithless, cleanse by agony the souls of those ensnared by Oggbad—and, if possible, surprise the fiend himself when he expects it least."

Kelty glanced at the fanatics' leader, who looked back with the expression of someone tangled up in a legal matter that threatens to go on forever, but who is determined to find a way to somehow warp it around to his own advantage. This fit right in with the atmosphere of the Baron's Council Hall, which was what Roberts had named the building. In this building, there was a mild, but nevertheless noticeable urge to think. Since Roberts had been in here, several patrolling guards had turned away uneasily, while others had briefly stepped in with an air of interest. Other parts of the city had other faint, but noticeable, suggestions of a desire to work, a desire to study, to relax, to worship, or to rest. For each place, a slight but definite atmosphere had been created, and was being maintained, by the want-generator. But that didn't mean that it couldn't readily get out of hand, if a person seriously misinterpreted the purpose of the desire.

"I hope," said Roberts, noting the intensely-calculating look on the faces of his two human companions, "that there will be no warring among my vassals. In the Empire, it is our custom to submit such affairs to heavenly judgment. This we do by sending both disputants into the next world. We can get them there, but so far have found no way to get them back again. Now, gentlemen, I must leave for a time. Would that Oggbad were destroyed, but at least his material power and the strength of his coalition are broken. While you hold him here, we must smash the last of his confederates." Roberts stood up. "Good-bye for now, gentlemen. I am sorry to be in such haste. But I'll be back."

Roberts went out to the ship just outside, and, worn-out and half-dazed, and not knowing if he were the Duke Vaughan, or whether Oggbad was real, or what was going on, Roberts got back into the patrol ship, managed to get out of his armor without spearing Hammell with the tapering helmet-spike, and lifted off.

The viewscreen showed him that, down below, battered and bandaged tens of thousands were cheering the rising patrol ship. "Well," said Roberts, sucking in a deep breath, "either they're cheering us, or our departure."

"Our apparent departure," said Hammell.

"Correct," said Roberts, starting to feel like himself again.

He swung the ship in a fast steep climb, taking it apparently toward outer space. When he'd gotten up high enough, the symbiotic computer told him that that was enough to enable it to fool the planetary computer into thinking they'd left the planet. Then Roberts came back from a different direction, and headed for the clearing.

"Well," he said, "that gets us past the first crisis, anyway. Now they've got an urgent reason to stick together. The next thing we want to do is to lay down an overall 'desire for order' field in the city, and a 'desire for adventure' field outside. It seems to me there's an interaction between a person's natural desires, and the field impressed by the want-generator. People can only be comfortable when the two are compatible. What we want is for the workers to be in the city, and the warriors and hunters to be in the forest. This business of trying to cram different types into the same mold in the same place won't work. Let's have it so that if a man wants out, he can get out. But, after he does get out, survival is his problem."

"What you figure," said Hammell, "is that the ones that want to learn will find it possible to study; the ones that want to fight, to conquer something, will be able to do that; the ones that want to work will be able to. And the desire-fields will keep the warriors from raiding the workers, and the teachers from trying to drag the warriors into the classrooms; while the individual, if he outlives one desire, is free to settle in another place with a different outlook, so long as his own desire doesn't so conflict with the desire-field there as to make him acutely uncomfortable?"

"That's the general idea," said Roberts. "And if we can do it, it ought to eliminate a lot of need for external controls, allow a good deal of freedom, and bring this place closer to being a paradise than it would ever be with a computer monotonously doling out food, clothing, lodging, and everything else on a ration system, and then insisting that now everyone should be happy. The computer is great for rationalizing the production and distribution of the necessities of life. But it just naturally gets stuck when it leaves desire out of its calculations."

"Which," said Hammell, "it naturally does. Human leaders do it themselves. There's nothing quite like desire to wreck anyone's calculations. Maybe even ours."

Roberts nodded soberly. "Very possible. Well—We'll see."

* * *

Their accumulated leave was almost up when the three men took a final look at the city on the spy screen. The change in the place was noticeable not only in the glazed windows and painted buildings, but in the walk of the people who remained in the city. They no longer had to fear being knocked over the head and robbed for daring to do anything. Those of them who best loved a good knock-down drag-out fight, an ambush, or a raid for plunder, were out beyond the roboid-manned barrier line fighting Oggbad's army. Either they had what it took, and came back with a heavy leather sack of fangs and claws which the computer—on Duke Vaughan's order, relayed from a distance—would redeem at an impressive price in whatever merchandise or service the victorious warriors might choose—or else they lacked what it took and "went to Oggbad." Those that tended to be warriors mostly with their mouths were in a worse spot yet. The workers invariably asked to see their trophies, while the warriors were becoming adept at spotting them on sight, and would lug them off to the forest just for the fun of it.

"Boy," said Hammell, "what a place! And yet, if anyone should go around there now demanding a revolution, he'd get brained."

Roberts nodded. "They don't want to revolt, because their real desires have a legitimate outlet. Not just the desires they ought to have, but the desires they do have. A man who wants steak can get awfully sick of a steady diet of ice cream—even if it's the best ice cream made, and he can't find any fault with it."

Morrissey said moodily, "I hate to leave this place. And I still don't trust the head of those fanatics."

Hammell said, "Just among the three of us, it's going to be a little hard to go back to being a cargo-control officer after being His Imperial Highness, Duke Ewald of Greme."

Roberts said, "The first chance we get, after we stock up on more parts for the want-generator, I think we'd better come back here."

Hammell and Morrissey at once looked up with enthusiasm.

"After all," said Roberts, "from the way things are going, poor Oggbad is going to need help."


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