"Von!" The Kragan spoke almost as though in physical pain. "What can I do to help? I have twenty thousand of my people here who are capable of bearing arms, all with firearms, but I have transport for only five hundred. Where shall I send them?"
Von Schlichten thought quickly. Keegark was finished; the Residency stood in the middle of the city, surrounded by two hundred thousand of King Orgzild's troops and subjects. Sending Kankad's five hundred warriors and his meager contragravity there would be the same as shovelling them into a furnace. The people at Keegark would have to be written off, like the twenty Kragans at Jaikark's palace.
"Send them to Konkrook," he decided. "Them M'zangwe's in command, there; he'll need help to hold the Company farms. Maybe he can find additional transport for you. I'll call him."
"I'll send off what force I can, at once," Kankad promised. "How does it go with you at Skilk?"
"We're holding, so far," he replied.
Captain Inez Malavez, the woman officer in charge of the station, put her head into the booth.
"General! Immediate-urgency message from Colonel O'Leary," she said. "Native laborers from the mine-labor camp are pouring into the mine-equipment park. Colonel O'Leary's used all his rockets and mg-ammunition trying to stop them."
"Call you back, later," von Schlichten told Kankad. "I'll see what Them M'zangwe can do about transport; get what force you can started for Konkrook at once."
He left the booth. "Barney!" he called. "General Mordkovitz! Who's the ranking officer in direct contact with the Eighteenth Rifles? Major Falkenberg?"
"Well, tell him to get as many of his Kragans as he can spare down to the equipment-park." He turned to Inez Malavez. "You call Jarman; tell him what O'Leary reported, and tell him to get cracking on it. Tell him not to let those geeks get any of that equipment onto contragravity; knock it down as fast as they try to lift out with it. And tell him to see what he can do in the way of troop-carriers or lorries, to get Falkenberg's Rifles to the equipment-park.... How's business at the lorry-hangars and maintenance-yard?"
"Kormork's still working on that," the girl captain told him. "Nothing definite, yet."
* * * * *
In one corner of the big room, somebody had thumbtacked a ten-foot-square map of the Company area to the floor. Paula Quinton and Mrs. Jules Keaveney were on their knees beside it, pushing out handfuls of little pink and white pills that somebody had brought in two bottles from the dispensary across the road, each using a billiard-bridge. The girl in the orange sweater had a handful of scribbled notes, and was telling them where to push the pills. There were other objects on the map, too—pistol-cartridges, and cigarettes, and foil-wrapped food-concentrate wafers. Paula, seeing him, straightened.
"The pink are ours, general," she said. "The white are the geeks." Von Schlichten suppressed a grin; that was the second time he'd heard her use that word, this evening. "The cigarettes are airjeeps, the cartridges are combat-cars, and the wafers are lorries or troop-carriers."
"Not exactly regulation map-markers, but I've seen stranger things used.... Captain Malavez!"
"Yes, sir?" The girl captain, rushing past, her hands full of teleprint-sheets, stopped in mid-stride.
"What we need," he told her, "is a big TV-screen, and a pickup mounted on some sort of a contragravity vehicle at about two to five thousand feet directly overhead, to give us an image of the whole area. Can do?"
"Can try, sir. We have an eight-foot circular screen that ought to do all right for two thousand feet. I'll implement that at once."
Going into a temporarily idle telecast booth, he called Konkrook, and finally got Themistocles M'zangwe on the screen.
"How is it, now?" he asked.
"Getting a little better," the Graeco-African replied. "Half an hour ago, we were shooting geeks out the windows, here; now we have them contained between the spaceport and the native-troops and labor barracks, and down the east side of the island to the farms. We have the wire around the farms on the island electrified, and we're using almost all our combat contragravity to keep the farms on the mainland clear." He hesitated for a moment. "Did you hear about Eric Blount and Lemoyne?"
Von Schlichten shook his head.
* * * * *
"The whole party that were at Orgzild's palace were massacred. Some of them were lucky enough to get killed fighting. The geeks took Eric and Hendrik alive; rolled them in a puddle of thermoconcentrate fuel and set fire to them. When we can spare the contragravity, we're going to drop something on the Kee-geek embassy, over in town."
Von Schlichten grimaced, but he'd expected something like it. He told M'zangwe about King Kankad's offer. "His crowd ought to be coming in in a couple of hours. What can you scrape up to send to Kankad's Town to airlift Kragans in?"
"Well, we have three hundred-and-fifty-foot gun-cutters, one 90-mm. apiece. The Elmoran, the Gaucho, and the Bushranger. But they're not much as transports, and we need them here pretty badly. Then, we have five fertilizer and charcoal scows, and a lot of heavy transport lorries, and two one-eighty-foot pickup boats."
"How about the Piet Joubert?" von Schlichten asked. "She was due in Konkrook from the east about 1300 today, wasn't she?"
M'zangwe swore. "She got in, all right. But the geeks boarded her at the dock, within twenty minutes after things started. They tried to lift out with her, and the Channel Battery shot her down into Konkrook Channel, off the Fifty-sixth Street docks."
"Well, you couldn't let the geeks have her, to use against us. What do you hear from the other ships?"
"Procyon's at Grank; we haven't had any reports of any kind from there, which doesn't look so good. The Northern Lights is at Grank, too. The Oom Paid Kruger should have been at Bwork, in the east, when the gun went off. And the Jan Smuts and the Christiaan De Wett were both at Keegark; we can assume Orgzild has both of them."
"All right. I'm sending Aldebaran to Kankad's, to pick up more reenforcements for you."
* * * * *
Leaving the booth, he heard, above the clatter of communications-machines and the hubbub of voices, Jules Keaveney arguing contentiously. Evidently Colonel Cheng-Li's efforts to drag the Resident out of his despondency had been an excessive success.
"But it's crazy! Not just here; everywhere on Ullr!" Keaveney was saying. "How did they do it? They have no telecast equipment."
"You have me stopped, Jules," Mordkovitz was replying. "I know a lot of rich geeks have receiving sets, but no sending sets."
The pattern that had been tantalizing von Schlichten took visible shape in his mind. For a moment, he shelved the matter of the Aldebaran.
"They didn't need sending equipment, Barney," he said. "They used ours. Sid Harrington was poisoned in Konkrook. The news, of course, was sent out at once, as the geeks knew it would be, to every residency and trading-station on Ullr, and that was the signal they'd agreed upon, probably months in advance!"
"Well, what was our Intelligence doing; sleeping?" Keaveney demanded angrily.
"No; they were writing reports for your civil administration blokes to stuff in the wastebasket, and being called mailed-fist-and-rattling-sabre alarmists for their pains." He turned away from Keaveney. "Barney, where is Dirk Prinsloo?"
"Aboard his ship. He hitched a ride to the airport with Jarman, when he was here picking up air-crews."
"Call him. Tell him to take the Aldebaran to Kankad's Town, at once; as soon as he arrives there, which ought to be about 1100, he's to pick up all the Kragans he can pack aboard and take them to Konkrook. From then on, he'll be under Them M'zangwe's orders."
"To Konkrook?" Keaveney fairly howled. "Are you nuts? Don't you think we need reenforcements here, too?"
"Yes, I do. I'm going to try to get them," von Schlichten told him. "Now pipe down and get out of people's way."
He crossed the room, to where two Kragans, a male sergeant, and the ubiquitous girl in the orange sweater were struggling to get a big circular TV-screen up, then turned to look at the situation-map. A girl tech-sergeant was keeping Paula Quinton and Mrs. Jules Keaveney informed.
"Start pushing geeks out of the Fifth Zirk Cavalry barracks," the sergeant was saying. "The one at the north end, and the one next to it; they're both on fire, now." She tossed a slip into the wastebasket beside her and glanced at the next slip. "And more pink pills back of the barracks and stables, and move them a little to the north-west; Kragans as skirmishers, to intercept geeks trying to slip away from the cavalry barracks."
* * * * *
A young Kragan with his lower left arm in a sling and a daub of antiseptic plaster over the back of his head came up and gave him a radioprint slip. Guido Karamessinis, the Resident-Agent at Grank, had reported, at last. The city, he said, was quiet, but King Yoorkerk's troops had seized the Company airport and docks, taken the Procyon and the Northern Lights and put guards aboard them, and were surrounding the Residency. He wanted to know what to do.
Von Schlichten managed to get him on the screen, after awhile.
"It looks as though Yoorkerk's trying to play both sides at once," he told the Grank Resident. "If the rebellion's put down, he'll come forward as your friend and protector; if we're wiped out elsewhere, he'll yell 'Znidd suddabit!' and swamp you. Don't antagonize him; we can't afford to fight this war on any more fronts than we are now. We'll try to do something to get you unfrozen, before long."
He called Krink again. A girl with red-gold hair and a dusting of freckles across her nose answered.
"How are you making out?" he asked.
"So far, fine, general. We're in complete control of the Company area, and all our native-troops, not just the Kragans, are with us. Jonkvank's pushed the mutineers out of his palace, and we're keeping open a couple of streets between there and here. We airlifted all our Kragans and half the Sixth N.U.N.I. to the Palace, and we have the Zirks patrolling the streets on 'saur-back. Now, we have our lorries and troop-carriers out picking up elements of Jonkvank's loyal troops outside town."
"Who's doing the rioting, then?"
She named three of Jonkvank's regiments. "And the city hoodlums, and priests from the temples of one sect that followed Rakkeed, and the whole passel of Skilkan fifth columnists."
"How long do you think it'd take, with the equipment you have, to airlift all of Jonkvank's loyal troops into the city?"
"Not before this time tomorrow."
"All right. Are you in radio communication with Jonkvank now?"
"Full telecast, audio-visual," the girl replied. "Just a minute, general."
* * * * *
He put in his geek-speaker. Within a few minutes, a saurian Ullran face was looking out of it at him; a harsh-lined, elderly, face, with an old scar, quartz-crusted, along one side.
"Your Majesty," von Schlichten greeted him.
Jonkvank pronounced something intended to correspond to von Schlichten's name. "We have image-met under sad circumstances, general," he said.
"Sad for both of us, King Jonkvank; we must help one another. I am told that your soldiers in Krink have risen against you, and that your loyal troops are far from the city."
"Yes. That was the work of my War Minister, Hurkkirk, who was in the pay of King Firkked of Skilk, may Jeels devour him alive! I have Hurkkirk's head here somewhere. I can have it found, if you want to see it."
"Dead-traitors' heads do not interest me, King Jonkvank," von Schlichten replied, in what he estimated that the Krinkan king would interpret as a tone of cold-blooded cruelty. "There are too many traitors' heads still on traitors' shoulders.... What regiments are loyal to you, and where are they now?"
Jonkvank began naming regiments and locating them, all at minor provincial towns at least a hundred miles from Krink.
"Hurkkirk did his work well; I'm afraid you killed him too mercifully," von Schlichten said. "Well, I'm sending the Northern Star to Krink. She can only bring in one regiment at a trip, the way they're scattered; which one do you want first?"
Jonkvank's mouth, until now compressed grimly, parted in a gleaming smile. He made an exclamation of pleasure which sounded rather like a boy running along a picket fence with a stick.
"Good, general! Good!" he cried. "The first should be the regiment Murderers, at Furnk; they all have rifles like your soldiers. Have them brought to the Great Square, at the Palace here. And then, the regiment Fear-Makers, at Jeelznidd, and the regiment Corpse-Reapers, at...."
"Let that go until the Murderers are in," von Schlichten advised. "They're at Furnk, you say? I'll send the Northern Star there, directly."
"Oh, good, general! I will not soon forget this! And, as soon as the work is finished here, I will send soldiers to help you at Skilk. There shall be a great pile of the heads of those who had part in this wickedness, both here and there!"
"Good. Now, if you will pardon me, I'll go to give the necessary orders...."
* * * * *
As he left the booth, he saw Hideyoshi O'Leary in front of the situation-map, and hailed him.
"Harry and Hassan are getting the car re-ammoed; they dropped me off here. Want to come up with us and see the show?" O'Leary asked, as he saw the general.
"No, I want you to go to Krink, as soon as Harry brings the car here again." He told O'Leary what he intended doing. "You'll probably have to go around ahead of the Star and alert these regiments. And as soon as things stabilize at Krink, prod Jonkvank into airlifting troops here. You're authorized, in my name, to promise Jonkvank that he can assume political control at Skilk, after we've stuffed Firkked's head in the dustbin."
Jules Keaveney, who always seemed to be where he wasn't wanted, heard that and fairly screamed.
"General von Schlichten! That is a political decision! You have no authority to make promises like that; that is a matter for the Governor-General, at least!"
"Well, as of now, and until a successor to Sid Harrington can be sent here from Terra, I'm Governor-General," von Schlichten told him, mentally thanking Keaveney for reminding him of the necessity for such a step. "Captain Malavez! You will send out an all-station telecast, immediately: Military Commander-in-Chief Carlos von Schlichten, being informed of the deaths of both Governor-General Harrington and Lieutenant-Governor Blount, assumes the duties of Governor-General, as of 0001 today." He turned to Keaveney. "Does that satisfy you?" he asked.
"No, it doesn't. You have no authority to assume a civil position of any sort, let alone the very highest position...."
Von Schlichten unbuttoned his holster and took out his authority, letting Keaveney look in to the muzzle of it.
"Here it is," he said. "If you're wise, don't make me appeal to it."
Keaveney shrugged. "I can't argue with that," he said. "But I don't fancy the Ullr Company is going to be impressed by it."
"The Ullr Company," von Schlichten replied, "is six and a half parsecs away. It takes a ship six months to get from here to Terra, and another six months to get back. A radio message takes a little over twenty-one years, each way." He holstered the pistol again.
"That brings up another question, general," one of Keaveney's subordinates said. "Can we hold out long enough for help to get here from Terra?"
"By the time help could reach us from Terra," von Schlichten replied, "we'll either have this revolt crushed, or there won't be a live Terran left on Ullr." He felt a brief sadistic pleasure as he watched Keaveney's face sag in horror. "On this planet, there's not more than a three months' supply of any sort of food a human can eat. And the ships that'll be coming in until word of our plight can get to Terra won't bring enough to keep us going. We need the farms and livestock and the animal-tissue culture plant at Konkrook, and the farms at Krink and on the plateau back of Skilk, and we need peace and native labor to work them."
* * * * *
Nobody seemed to have anything to say after that, for awhile. Then Keaveney suggested that the next ship was due in from Niflheim in three months, and that it could be used to evacuate all the Terrans on Ullr.
"And I'll personally shoot any able-bodied Terran who tries to board that ship," von Schlichten promised. "Get this through your heads, all of you. We are going to break this rebellion, and we are going to hold Ullr for the Company and the Terran Federation." He looked around him. "Now, get back to work, all of you," he told the group that had formed around him and Keaveney. "Miss Quinton, you just heard me order my adjutant, Colonel O'Leary, on detached duty to Krink. I want you to take over for him. You'll have rank and authority as colonel for the duration of this war."
She was thunderstruck. "But I know absolutely nothing about military matters. There must be a hundred people here who are better qualified than I am...."
"There are, and they all have jobs, and I'd have to find replacements for them, and replacements for the replacements. You won't leave any vacancy to be filled. And you'll learn, fast enough." He went over to the situation-map again, and looked at the arrangements of pink and white pills. "First of all, I want you to call Jarman, at the military airport, and have an airjeep and driver sent around here for me. I'm going up and have a look around. Barney, keep the show going while I'm out, and tell Colonel Quinton what it's all about."
He looked at his watch, as the light airjeep let down into the street. Oh-one-fifteen—two hours and a half since the mutiny at the native-troops barracks had broken out. The Company reservation was still ablaze with lights, and over the roof of the hospital and dispensary and test-lab he could see the glare of the burning barracks. There was more fire-glare to the south, in the direction of the mine-equipment park and the mine-labor camp, and from that direction the bulk of the firing was to be heard.
The driver, a young lieutenant, slid back the duraglass canopy for him to climb in, then snapped it into place when he had strapped himself into his seat, and hit the controls.
They lifted up, the driver turning the nose of the airjeep in the direction of the flames and explosions and magnesium-lights to the south and tapping his booster-button gently. The vehicle shot forward and came floating in over the scene of the fighting. The situation-map at the improvised headquarters had shown a mixture of pink and white pills in the mine-equipment park; something was going to have to be done about the lag in correcting it, for the area was entirely in the hands of loyal Company troops, and the mob of laborers and mutinous soldiers had been pushed back into the temporary camp where the workers had been gathered to await transportation to the Arctic. As he had feared, the rioting workers, many of whom were trained to handle contragravity equipment, had managed to lift up a number of dump-trucks and power-shovels and bulldozers, intending to use them as improvised air-tanks, but Jarman's combat-cars had gotten on the job promptly and all of these had been shot down and were lying in wreckage, mostly among the rows of parked mining-equipment.
* * * * *
From the labor-camp, a surprising volume of fire was being directed against the attack which had already started from the retaken equipment-park.
Hovering above the fighting, aloof from it, he saw six long troop-carriers land and disgorge Kragan Rifles who had been released by the liquidation of resistance at the native-troops barracks. A little later, two air-tanks floated in, and then two more, going off contragravity and lumbering forward on treads to fire their 90-mm. rifles. At the same time, combat-cars swooped in, banging away with their lighter auto-cannon and launching rockets. The titanium prefab-huts, set up to house the laborers and intended to be taken north with them for their stay on the polar desert, were simply wiped away. Among the wreckage, resistance was being blown out like the lights of a candelabrum.
He took up the hand-phone and called HQ.
"Von Schlichten; what's the wavelength of the officer in command at the equipment-park?"
A voice at the telecast station furnished it; he punched it out.
"Von Schlichten, right overhead. That you, Major Falkenberg? Nice going, major; how are your casualties?"
"Not too bad. Twenty or thirty Kragans and loyal Skilkans, and eight Terrans killed; about as many wounded."
"Pretty good, considering what you're running into. Get many of your Kragans mounted on those hipposaurs?"
"About a hundred; a lot of 'saurs got shot, while we were leading them out from the stables."
"Well, I can see geeks streaming away from the labor-camp, out the south end, going in the direction of the river. Use what cavalry you have on them, and what contragravity you can spare. I'll drop a few flares to show their position and direction."
Anticipating him, the driver turned the airjeep and started toward the dry Hoork River. Von Schlichten nodded approval and told him to release flares when over the fugitives.
"Right," Falkenberg replied. "I'll get on it at once, general."
"And start moving that mine-equipment up into the Company area. Some of it we can put into the air; the rest we can use to build barricades. None of it do we want the geeks getting hold of, and the equipment-park's outside our practical perimeter. I'll send people to help you move it."
"No need to do that, sir; I have about a hundred and fifty loyal North Ullrans—foremen, technicians, overseers—who can handle it."
"All right. Use your own judgment. Put the stuff back of the native-troops barracks, and between the power-plant and the Company office-buildings, and anywhere else you can." The lieutenant nudged him and pushed a couple of buttons on the dashboard. "Here go the flares, now."
* * * * *
Immediately, a couple of airjeeps pounced in, to strafe the fleeing enemy. Somebody must have already been issuing orders on another wavelength; a number of Kragans, riding hipposaurs, were galloping into the light of the flares.
"Now, let's have a look at the native barracks and the maintenance-yards," he said. "And then, we'll make a circuit around the Reservation, about two-three miles out. I'm not happy about where Firkked's army is."
The driver looked at him. "I've been worrying about that, too, sir," he said. "I can't understand why he hasn't jumped us, already. I know it takes time to get one of these geek armies on the road, but...."
"He's hoping our native-troops and the mine laborers will be able to wipe us out, themselves," von Schlichten said.
There was nothing going on in the area between the native barracks and the mountains except some sporadic firing as small patrols of Kragans clashed with clumps of fleeing mutineers. All the barracks, even those of the Rifles, were burning; the red-and-yellow danger-lights around the power-plant and the water-works and the explosives magazines were still on. Most of the floodlights were still on, and there was still some fighting around the maintenance-yard. It looked as though the survivors of the Tenth N.U.N.I. were in a few small pockets which were being squeezed out.
There was nothing at all going on north of the Reservation; the countryside, by day a checkerboard of walled fields and small villages, was dark, except for a dim light, here and there, where the occupants of some farmhouse had been awakened by the noise of battle.
Then, two miles east of the Reservation, he caught a new sound—the flowing, riverlike, murmur of something vast on the move.
"Hear that, lieutenant?" he asked. "Head for it, at about a thousand feet. When we're directly above it, let go some flares."
"Yes, sir." The younger man had lowered his voice to a whisper.
"That's geeks; headed for the Reservation."
"Maybe Firkked's army," von Schlichten thought aloud. "Or maybe a city mob."
* * * * *
The noises were growing clearer, louder. He picked up the phone and punched the wavelength of the military airport.
"Von Schlichten; my compliments to Colonel Jarman. Tell him there's a geek mob, or possibly Firkked's regulars, on the main highway from Skilk, two miles east of the Reservation. Get some combat contragravity over here, at once. We'll light them up for you. And tell Colonel Jarman to start flying patrols up and down along the Hoork River; this may not be the only gang that's coming out to see us."
The sounds were directly below, now—the scuffing of horny-soled feet on the dirt road, the clink and rattle of slung weapons, the clicking and squeaking of Ullran voices.
The lieutenant said: "Here go the flares, sir."
Von Schlichten shut his eyes, then opened them slowly. The driver, upon releasing the flares, had nosed up, banked, turned, and was coming in again, down the road toward the advancing column. Von Schlichten peered into his all-armament sight, his foot on the machine-gun pedal and his fingers on the rocket buttons. The highway below was jammed with geeks, and they were all stopped dead and staring upward, as though hypnotized by the lights. It was obviously a mob. A second later, they had recovered and were shooting—not at the airjeep, but at the four globes of blazing magnesium. Then he had the close-packed mass of non-humanity in his sights; he tramped the pedal and began punching buttons. He still had four rockets left by the time the mob was behind him.
"All right, let's take another pass at them. Same direction."
The driver put the airjeep into a quick loop and came out of it in front of the mob, who now had their backs turned and were staring in the direction in which they had last seen the vehicle. Again, von Schlichten plowed them with rockets and harrowed them with his guns. Some of the Skilkans were trying to get over the high fences on either side of the road—really stockades of petrified tree-trunks. Others were firing, and this time they were shooting at the airjeep. It took one hit from a heavy shellosaur-rifle, and immediately the driver banked and turned away from the road, heading back.
"Dammit, why did you do that?" von Schlichten demanded, lifting his foot from the gun-pedal. "Are you afraid of the kind of popguns those geeks are using?"
"I am not afraid to risk my vehicle, or myself, sir," the lieutenant replied, with the extreme formality of a very junior officer chewing out a very senior one. "I am, however, afraid to risk my passenger. Generals are not expendable, sir."
He was right, of course. Von Schlichten admitted it. "I'm too old to play cowboy, like this," he said. "Back to the Reservation; telecast station."
Looking back over his shoulder, he saw eight or ten more flares alight, and the ground-flashes of exploding shells and rockets; the air above the road was sparkling with gun-flames. Jarman must have had some contragravity ready to be sent off on the instant.
* * * * *
While he had been out, somebody had gotten a TV-pickup mounted on a contragravity-lifter and run up to two thousand feet, on the end of a steel-tough tensilon mooring-line. The big circular screen was lit, showing the whole Company Reservation, with the surrounding countryside foreshortened by perspective to the distant lights of Skilk. The map had been taken up from the floor, and a big terrain-board had been brought in from the Chief Engineer's office and set up in its place. In front of the screen, Paula Quinton, Barney Mordkovitz, Colonel Cheng-Li, and, conspicuously silent, Jules Keaveney, sat drinking coffee and munching sandwiches. Half a dozen Terrans, of both sexes, were working furiously to get the markers which replaced the pink and white pills placed on the board, and one of Captain Inez Malavez' non-coms, with a headset, was getting combat reports directly from the switchboard. Everything was clicking like well-oiled machinery.
On the TV-screen, the Residency area was ablaze with light, and so were the ship-docks, the airport and spaceport, the shops, and the maintenance-yard. On the terrain-board, the latter was now marked as completely in Company hands. The ruins of the native-troops barracks were still burning, and there was a twinkle of orange-red here and there among the ruins of the labor-camp. Much of the equipment for the Polar mines had already been shifted into defensible ground. The rest of the circle was dark, except for the distant lights of Skilk, where the nuclear power plant was apparently still functioning in native hands.
Then, without warning, a spot of white light blazed into being south-east of the Company area and south-west of Skilk, followed by another and another. Instantly, von Schlichten glanced up at the row of smaller screens, and on one of them saw the view as picked up by a patrolling airjeep.
The army of King Firkked of Skilk had finally put in its appearance, about three miles south of the Reservation. The Skilkan regulars had been marching in formation, some on the road and some along parallel lanes and paths. They had the look of trained and disciplined troops, but they had made the same mistake as the rabble that had been shot up on the north side of the Reservation. Unused to attack from the air, they had all halted in place and were gaping open-mouthed, their opal teeth gleaming in the white flare-light.
* * * * *
In the big screen, it could be seen that Colonel Jarman had thrown most of his available contragravity at them, including the combat-cars that had already started to form the second wave of the attack on the mob to the north. Other flares bloomed in the darkness, and the fiery trails of rockets curved downward to end in yellow flashes on the ground.
The airjeep with the pickup circled back; the troops on the road and in the adjoining fields had broken. The former were caught between the fences which made Ullran roads such deathtraps when under air-attack. The latter had dispersed, and were running away, individually and by squads; at first, it looked like a panic, but he could see officers signalling to the larger groups of fugitives to open out, apparently directing the flight. By this time, there were ten or twelve combat-cars and about twenty airjeeps at work. In the moving view from the pickup-jeep, he saw what looked like a 90-mm. rocket land in the middle of a company that was still trying to defend itself with small-arms fire on the road, wiping out about half of them.
"The next time they're air-struck, they won't stay bunched," Mordkovitz stated. "A lot of them didn't stay bunched this time, if you noticed. And they'll keep out from between the fences."
In the large screen, a quick succession of gun-flashes leaped up from the direction of the Hoork River; shells began bursting over the scene of the attack. The screen tuned to the pickup on the airjeep went dead; in the big screen, there was a twinkling of falling fire. Almost at once, thirty or forty rocket-trails converged on the gun-position, and, for a moment, explosions burned like a bonfire.
"They had a 75-mm. at the rear of the column," somebody called from the big switchboard. "Lieutenant Kalanang's jeep was hit; Lieutenant Vermaas is cutting in his pickup on the same wavelength."
* * * * *
The small screen lighted again. In the big screen, a cluster of magnesium-lights then appeared above where the Skilkan gun had been; in the small screen, there was a stubbled grain-field, pocked with craters, and the bodies of fifteen or twenty natives, all rather badly mangled. An overturned and apparently destroyed 75-mm. gun lay on its side.
"As far as we know, that was the only 75-mm. gun Firkked had," Colonel Cheng-Li said. "He has at least six, possibly ten, 40-mm's. It's a wonder we haven't seen anything of them."
"Well, there's no way of being sure," Jules Keaveney said, "but I have an idea they're all at or around the Palace. Firkked knows about how much contragravity we have. He's probably wondering why we aren't bombing him, now."
"He doesn't know we've sold the Palace to King Jonkvank for an army," von Schlichten said. "And that reminds me; how much contragravity could Firkked scrape together, for an attack on us? I've been expecting a geek Luftwaffe over here, at any moment."
Colonel Cheng-Li studied the smoking tip of his cigarette for a moment. "Well, Firkked owns, personally, three ten-passenger aircars, a thing like a troop-carrier that he transports some of his courtiers around in, four airjeeps armed with a pair of 15-mm. machine-guns apiece, and two big lorries. There are possibly two hundred vehicles of all types in Skilk and the country around, but some of them are in the hands of natives friendly to us."
Von Schlichten nodded. "And there'll be oodles of thermoconcentrate-fuel, and blasting explosives. Colonel Quinton, suppose you call Ed Wallingsby, the Chief Engineer, right away; have him commissioned colonel. Tell him to get to work making this place secure against air-attack, to consult with Colonel Jarman, and to get those geeks Leavitt has penned in the repair-dock at the airport and use them to dig slit-trenches and fill sandbags and so on. He can use Kragan limited-duty wounded to guard them.... Mr. Keaveney, you'll begin setting up something in the way of an ARP-organization. You'll have to get along on what nobody else wants. You will also consult with Colonel Jarman, and with Colonel Wallingsby. Better get started on it now. Just think of everything around here that could go wrong in case of an air attack, and try to do something about it in advance."
At 0245, an attack developed on the north-western corner of the Reservation, in the direction of the explosives magazines. It turned out to be relatively trivial. Remnants of the mob that had been broken up by air attack on the road had gotten together and were making rushes in small bands, keeping well spread out. Beating them off took considerable ammunition, but it was accomplished with negligible casualties to the defenders. They finally stopped coming around daylight.
In the meantime, Themistocles M'zangwe called from Konkrook. "About six hundred of Kankad's people have gotten in, already, in the damnedest collection of vehicles you ever saw," he reported. "Kankad must be using every scrap of contragravity he has; it's a regular airborne Dunkirk-in-reverse. Kankad sent word that he's coming here in person, as soon as he has things organized at his place. And the geeks, here, have scraped together an air-force of their own—farm-lorries, aircars, that sort of thing—and they're using them to bomb us here and at the mainland farm, mostly with nitroglycerine. We've shot down about twenty of them, but they're still coming. They tried a boat-attack across the Channel. We've been doing some bombing, ourselves; we made a down-payment for Eric Blount and Hendrik Lemoyne. Took a fifty-ton tank off a fuel-lorry, fitted it with a detonator, filled it with thermoconcentrate, and ferried it over on the Elmoran and dumped it on the Keegarkan Embassy. It must have landed in the middle of the central court; in about fifteen seconds, flames were coming out every window in the place." His face became less jovial. "We had something pretty bad happen here, too," he said. "That Konkrook Fencibles rabble of Prince Jaizerd's mutinied, along with the others; they got into the hospital and butchered everybody in the place, patients and staff. The Kragans got there too late to save anybody, but they wiped out the Fencibles. Jaizerd himself was the only one they took alive, and he didn't stay that way very long."
"How are you making out with your Civil Administration crowd?"
M'zangwe grimaced. "I haven't had to put any of them under actual arrest, so far, but we've had to keep Buhrmann away from the communications equipment by force. He wanted to call you up and chew you out for not evacuating everybody in the North to Konkrook."
"Is he crazy?"
"No, just scared. He says you're going to get everybody on Ullr massacred by detail, when you could save Konkrook by bringing them all here."
"You tell him I'm going to hold this planet, not just one city. Tell him I have a sense of my duty to the Company and its stockholders, if he hasn't; put it in those terms and he may understand you."
* * * * *
By 0330, it was daylight; the attacks against the north-west corner of the perimeter stopped entirely. Wallingsby had the three-hundred-odd Skilkan laborers at work; he had gathered up all the tarpaulin he could find, and had the two sewing-machines in the tentmaker's shop running on sandbags. Jules Keaveney, to von Schlichten's agreeable surprise, had taken hold of his ARP assignment, and was doing an efficient job in organizing for fire-fighting, damage-control and first aid. Colonel Jarman had his airjeeps and combat-cars working in ever-widening circles over the countryside, shooting up everything in sight that even looked like contragravity equipment. Some of these patrols had to be recalled, around 1030, when sporadic nuisance-sniping began from the side of the mountain to the west. And, along with everything else, Paula Quinton managed to get a complete digest prepared of the situation elsewhere in the Terran-occupied parts of the planet.
The situation at Konkrook was brightening steadily. The second wave of Kankad's improvised airlift, reenforced by contragravity from Konkrook, had come in; there were now close to two thousand fresh Kragans on Gongonk Island and the mainland farms, Kankad himself with them. The Aldebaran had reached Kankad's Town, and was loading another thousand Kragans.... There was nothing more from Keegark. A message from Colonel MacKinnon had come in at dawn, to the effect that the geeks had penetrated his last defenses and that he was about to blow up the Residency; thereafter Keegark went off the air.... By 0730, the Northern Star had landed the regiment Murderers, armed with first-quality Terran infantry-rifles and a few machine-guns and bazookas, at the Palace at Krink, and by 0845 she had returned with another regiment, the Jeel-Feeders. The three-street lane connecting the Palace and the Residency had been widened to six, and then to eight.... Guido Karamessinis, at Grank, was still at uneasy peace with King Yoorkerk, who was still undecided whether the rebels or the Company were going to be the eventual victors, and afraid to take any irrevocable step in either direction.
* * * * *
At 1100, Paula Quinton and Barney Mordkovitz virtually ordered him to get some sleep. He went to his quarters at Company House, downed a spaceship-captain's-size drink of honey-rum, and slept until 1600. As he dressed and shaved, he could hear, through the open window, the slow sputter of small-arms-fire, punctuated by the occasional whump-whump-whump of 40-mm. auto-cannon or the hammering of a machine-gun.
Returning to his command-post at the telecast station, the terrain-board showed that the perimeter of defense had been pushed out in a bulge at the north-west corner; the TV-screen pictured a crude breastwork of petrified tree-trunks, sandbags, mining machinery, packing-cases and odds-and-ends, upon which Wallingsby's native laborers were working under guard while a skirmish-line of Kragans had been thrown out another four or five hundred yards and were exchanging potshots with Skilkans on the gullied hillside.
"Where's Colonel Quinton?" he asked. "She ought to be taking a turn in the sack, now."
"She's taking one," Major Falkenberg told him. "General Mordkovitz chased her off to bed a couple of hours ago, called me in to take her place, and then went out to replace me. Colonel Guilliford's in the hospital; got hit about thirteen hundred. They're afraid he's going to lose a leg."
More reports came in. The entire garrison of the small Residency at Kwurk, the most northern of the eastern shore Free Cities, had arrived at Kankad's Town in two hundred-foot contragravity scows and five aircars. Two of the aircars arrived half an hour behind the rest of the refugee flotilla, having turned off at Keegark to pay their respects to King Orgzild. They reported the Keegark Residency in ruins, its central buildings vanished in a huge crater; the Jan Smuts and the Christiaan De Wett were still in the Company docks, both apparently damaged by the blast which had destroyed the Residency. One of the aircars had rocketed and machine-gunned some Keegarkans who appeared to be trying to repair them; the other blew up King Orgzild's nitroglycerine plant. Von Schlichten called Konkrook and ordered a bombing-mission against Keegark organized, to make sure the two ships stayed out of service.
* * * * *
The Northern Star was still bringing loyal troops into Krink. King Jonkvank, whom von Schlichten called, was highly elated.
"We are killing traitors wherever we find them!" he exulted. "The city is yellow with their blood; their heads are piled everywhere! How is it with you at Skilk? Do the heads fall?"
"We have killed many, also," von Schlichten boasted. "And tonight, we will kill more; we are preparing bombs of great destruction, which we will rain down upon Skilk until there is not one stone left upon another, or one infant of a day's age left alive!"
Jonkvank reacted as he was intended to. "Oh, no, general; don't do all that!" he exclaimed. "You promised me that I should have Skilk, on the word of a Terran. Are you going to give me a city of ruins and corpses? Ruins are no good to anybody, and I am not a Jeel, to eat corpses."
Von Schlichten shrugged. "When you are strong, you can flog your enemies with a whip; when you are weak, all you can do is kill them. If I had five thousand more troops, here...."
"Oh, I will send troops, as soon as I can," Jonkvank hastened to promise. "All my best regiments. But, now that we have stopped this sinful rebellion, here, I can't take chances that it will break out again as soon as I strip the city of troops."
Von Schlichten nodded. Jonkvank's argument made sense; he would have taken a similar position, himself.
"Well, get as many as you can over here, as soon as possible," he said. "We'll try to do as little damage to Skilk as we can, but...."
* * * * *
At 1830, Paula joined him for her breakfast, while he sat in front of the big screen, eating his dinner. There had been light ground-action along the southern end of the perimeter—King Firkked's regulars, reinforced by Zirk tribesmen and levies of townspeople, all of whom seemed to have firearms, were filtering in through the ruins of the labor-camp and the wreckage of the equipment-park—and there was renewed sniping from the mountainside. The long afternoon of the northern Autumn dragged on; finally, at 2200, the sun set, and it was not fully dark for another hour. For some time, there was an ominous quiet, and then, at 0030, the enemy began attacking in force, driving herds of livestock—lumbering six-legged brutes bred by the North Ullrans for food—to test the defenses for electrified wire and landmines. Most of these were shot down or blown up, but a few got as far as the wire, which, by now, had been strung and electrified completely around the perimeter.
Behind them came parties of Skilkan regulars with long-handled insulated cutters; a couple of cuts were made in the wire, and a section of it went dead. The line, at this point, had been rather thinly held; the defenders immediately called for air-support, and Jarman ordered fifteen of his remaining twenty airjeeps and five combat-cars into the fight. No sooner were they committed than the radar on the commercial airport control-tower picked up air vehicles approaching from the north, and the air-raid sirens began howling and the searchlights went on.
The contragravity which had been sent to support the ground-defense at the south side of the Reservation turned to meet this new threat, and everything else available, including the four heavy air-tanks, lifted up. Meanwhile, guns began firing from the ground and from rooftops.
There had been four aircars, ordinary passenger vehicles equipped with machine-guns on improvised mounts, and ten big lorries converted into bombers, in the attack. All the lorries, and all but one of the makeshift fighter-escort, were shot down, but not before explosive and thermoconcentrate bombs were dumped all over the place. One lorry emptied its load of thermoconcentrate-bombs on the control-building at the airport, starting a raging fire and putting the radar out of commission. A repair-shop at ordnance-depot was set on fire, and a quantity of small-arms and machine-gun ammunition piled outside for transportation to the outer defenses blew up. An explosive bomb landed on the roof of the building between Company House and the telecast station, blowing a hole in the roof and demolishing the upper floor. And another load of thermoconcentrate, missing the power-plant, set fire to the dry grass between it and the ruins of the native-troops barracks.
* * * * *
Before the air-attack had been broken up, the soldiers of King Firkked and their irregular supporters were swarming through the dead section of wire. They had four or five big farm-tractors, nuclear-powered but unequipped with contragravity-generators, which they were using like ground-tanks of the First Century. This attack penetrated to the middle of the Reservation before it was stopped and the attackers either killed or driven out; for the first time since daybreak, the red-and-yellow lights came on around the power-plant.
As soon as the combined air and ground attack was beaten off, von Schlichten ordered all his available contragravity up, flying patrols around the Reservation and retaliatory bombing missions against Skilk, and began bombarding the city with his 90-mm. guns. A number of fires broke out, and at about 0200 a huge expanding globe of orange-red flame soared up from the city.
"There goes Firkked's thermoconcentrate stock," he said to Paula, who was standing beside him in front of the screen.
Half an hour later, he discovered that he had been over-optimistic. Much of the enemy's supply of Terran thermoconcentrate had been destroyed, but enough remained to pelt the Reservation and the Company buildings with incendiaries, when a second and more severe air-attack developed, consisting of forty or fifty makeshift lorry-bombers and fifteen aircars.
Like the first, the second air-attack was beaten off, or, more exactly, down. Most of the enemy contragravity was destroyed; at least two dozen vehicles crashed inside the Reservation. As in the first instance, there was a simultaneous ground attack from the southern side, with a demonstration-attack at the north end. It was full daylight before the last of the attackers was either killed or driven out.
Five minutes later, the Northern Star came bulking over the mountains from the west.
Von Schlichten raced for the telecast station, to receive a call from a Colonel Khalid ib'n Talal, aboard the approaching ship.
"I've one of Jonkvank's regiments, the Jeel-Feeders, armed with Terran 9-mm. rifles and a few bazookas; I have a company of our Zirks, with their mounts, and a battalion of the Sixth N.U.N.I.; I also have four 90-mm. guns, Terran-manned," he reported. "What's the situation, general, and where do you want me to land?"
Von Schlichten described the situation succinctly, in an ancient and unprintable military cliche. "Try landing south of the Reservation, a little west of the ruins of the labor-camp," he advised. "The bulk of Firkked's army is in that section, and I want them run out as soon as possible. We'll give you all the contragravity and fire support we can."
The Northern Star let down slowly, firing her guns and dropping bombs; as she descended, rifle-fire spurted from all her lower-deck portholes. There was cheering, human and Ullran, from inside the battered defense-perimeter; combat-cars, airjeeps, and improvised bombers lifted out to strafe the Skilkans on the ground, and the four air-tanks moved out to take position and open fire with their 90-mm.'s, helping to flush King Firkked's regulars and auxiliaries out of the gullies and ruins and drive them south along the mountain, away from where the ship would land and also away from the city of Skilk. The Northern Star set down quickly, and troops and artillery began to be unloaded, joining in the fighting.
It was five hundred miles to Krink; three hours after lifting out, the Northern Star was back again, with two more of King Jonkvank's infantry regiments, and by 1300, when the fourth load arrived from Krink, the fighting was entirely on the eastern bank of the dry Hoork River. This last contingent of reenforcements was landed in the eastern suburbs of Skilk and began fighting their way into the city from the rear.
It was evident, however, that the pacification of Skilk would not be accomplished as rapidly as von Schlichten wished—street fighting, against a determined enemy, is notoriously slow work—and he decided to risk the Northern Star in an attack against the Palace itself, and, over the objections of Paula Quinton, Jules Keaveney, and Barney Mordkovitz, to lead the attack in person.
* * * * *
Inside the city, he found that the Zirk cavalry from Krink had thrust up one of the broader streets to within a thousand yards of the Palace, and, supported by infantry, contragravity, and a couple of air-tanks, were pounding and hacking at a mass of Skilkans whose uniform lack of costume prevented distinguishing between soldiery and townsfolk. Very few of these, he observed, seemed to be using firearms; with his glasses, he could see them shooting with long Northern air-rifles and a few Takkad Sea crossbows. Either weapon would shoot clear through a Terran or half-way through an Ullran at fifty yards, but at over two hundred they were almost harmless. There were a few fires still burning from the bombardment of the night before—Ullran, and particularly North Ullran, cities did not burn well—and the blaze which had consumed the bulk of Firkked's stock of thermoconcentrate fuel had long ago burned out, leaving an area of six or eight blocks blackened and lifeless.
The ship let down, while the six combat-cars which had accompanied her buzzed the Palace roof, strafing it to keep it clear, and the Kragans aboard fired with their rifles. She came to rest on seven-eights weight reduction, and even before the gangplanks were run out, the Kragans were dropping to the flat roof, running to stairhead penthouses and tossing grenades into them.
The taking of the Palace was a gruesome business. Knowing exactly how much mercy they would have shown had they been storming the Residency, Firkked's soldiers and courtiers fought desperately and had to be exterminated, floor by floor, room by room, hallway by hallway. They had to fight for every inch downward.
Driving down from above, von Schlichten and his Kragans slithered over floors increasingly greasy with yellow Ullran blood. He had picked up a broadsword at the foot of the first stairway down; a little later, he tossed it aside in favor of another, better balanced and with a better guard. There was a furious battle at the doorways of the Throne Room; finally, climbing over the bodies of their own dead and the enemy's, they were inside.
* * * * *
Here there was no question of quarter whatever, at least as long as Firkked lived; North Ullran nobles did not surrender under the eyes of their king, and North Ullran kings did not surrender their thrones alive. There was also a tradition, of which von Schlichten was mindful, that a king must only be killed by his conqueror, in personal combat, with steel.
With a wedge of Kragan bayonets around him and the picked-up broadsword in his hand, he fought his way to the throne, where Firkked waited, a sword in one of his upper hands, his Spear of State in the other, and a dagger in either lower hand. With his left hand, von Schlichten detached the bayonet from the rifle of one of his followers and went forward, trying not to think of the absurdity of a man of the Sixth Century A.E., the representative of a civilized Chartered Company, dueling to the death with swords with a barbarian king for a throne he had promised to another barbarian, or of what could happen on Ullr if he allowed this four-armed monstrosity to kill him.
It was not as bad as it looked, however. The ornate Spear of State, in spite of its long, cruel-looking blade, was not an especially good combat-weapon, at least for one hand, and Firkked seemed confused by the very abundance of his armament. After a few slashes and jabs, von Schlichten knocked the unwieldy thing from his opponent's hand. This raised a fearful ullulation from the Skilkan nobility, who had stopped fighting to watch the duel; evidently it was the very worst sort of a bad omen. Firkked, seemingly relieved to be disencumbered of the thing, caught his sword in both hands and aimed a roundhouse swing at von Schlichten's head; von Schlichten dodged, crippled one of Firkked's lower hands with a quick slash, and lunged at the royal belly. Firkked used his remaining dagger to parry, backed a step closer his throne, and took another swing with his sword, which von Schlichten parried on the bayonet in his left hand. Then, backing, he slashed at the inside of Firkked's leg with the thousand-year-old coup-de-Jarnac. Firkked, unable to support the weight of his dense-tissued body on one leg, stumbled; von Schlichten ran him neatly through the breast with his sword and through the throat with the bayonet.
There was silence in the throne-room for an instant, and then, with a horrible collective shriek, the Skilkans threw down their weapons. One of von Schlichten's Kragans slung his rifle and picked up the Spear of State with all four hands, taking his post ceremoniously behind the victor. A couple of others dragged the body of Firkked to the edge of the dais, and one of them drew his leaf-shaped short-sword and beheaded it.
At mid-afternoon, von Schlichten was on the roof of the Palace, holding the Spear of State, with Firkked's head impaled on the point, while a Terran technician aimed an audio-visual recorder.
"This," he said, with the geek-speaker in his mouth, "is King Firkked's Spear of State, and here, upon it, is King Firkked's head. Two days ago, Firkked was at peace with the Company, and Firkked was King in Skilk. If he had not dared raise his feeble hand against the might of the Ullr Company, he would still be alive, and his Spear would still be borne behind him. So must all those who rise against the Company perish.... Cut."
The camera stopped. A Kragan came forward and took the Spear of State, with its grisly burden, carrying it to a nearby wall and leaning it up, like a piece of stage property no longer required for this scene but needed for the next. Von Schlichten took out his geek-speaker, wiped and pouched it, and took his cigarette case from his pocket.
"Well, this is the limit!" Paula Quinton, who had come up during the filming of the scene, exploded. "I thought you had to kill him yourself in order to encourage your soldiers; I didn't think you wanted to make a movie of it to show your friends."
Von Schlichten tapped the cigarette on the gold-and-platinum case and stared at her through his monocle.
"Sit down, colonel." He lit the cigarette. "Your politico-military education still needs a little filling in. At Grank, we have two ships. One is the Northern Lights, sister ships of the Northern Star. The other is the cruiser Procyon, the only real warship on Ullr, with a main battery of four 200-mm. guns. How King Yoorkerk was able to get control of those ships I don't know, but there will be a board of inquiry and maybe a couple of courts-martial, when things get stabilized to a point where we can afford such luxuries. As it is, we need those ships desperately, and as soon as he gets in, I'm sending Hideyoshi O'Leary to Grank with the Northern Star and a load of Kragan Rifles, to pry them loose. The audio-visual of which this is the last scene is going to be one of the crowbars he's going to use."
"But why did you have to fight Firkked, yourself?" she asked.
"I had to kill him, myself, with a sword; according to local custom, that makes me King of Skilk."
"Why, your Majesty!" She rose and curtsied mockingly. "But I thought you were going to make Jonkvank King of Skilk."
He shook his head. "Just Viceroy," he corrected. "I'm handing the Spear of State down to him, not up to him; he'll reign as my vassal, and, consequently, as vassal of the Company, and before long, he won't be much more at Krink, either. That'll take a little longer—there'll have to be military missions, and economic missions, and trade-agreements, and all the rest of it, first—but he's on the way to becoming a puppet-prince."
* * * * *
Half an hour later, a large and excessively ornate air-launch, specially built at the Konkrook shipyards for King Jonkvank, was sighted coming over the mountain from the east. An escort of combat-cars was sent to meet it, and a battalion of Kragans and the survivors of Firkked's court were drawn up on the Palace roof.
"His Majesty, Jonkvank, King of Krink!" the former herald of King Firkked's court, now herald to King Carlos von Schlichten, shouted, banging on a brass shield with the flat of his sword, as Jonkvank descended from his launch, attended by a group of his nobles and his Spear of State, with Hideyoshi O'Leary and Francis X. Shapiro shepherding them. As the guests advanced across the roof, the herald banged again on his shield.
"His Majesty, Carlos von Schlichten,"—which came out more or less as Karlok vonk Zlikdenk—"King, by right of combat, of Skilk!"
Von Schlichten advanced to meet his fellow-monarch, his own Spear of State, with Firkked's head still grinning from it, two paces behind him.
Jonkvank stopped, his face contorted with saurian rage.
"What is this?" he demanded. "You told me that I could be King of Skilk; is this how a Terran keeps his word?"
"A Terran's word is always good, Jonkvank," von Schlichten replied, omitting the titles, as was proper in one sovereign addressing another. "My word was that you should reign in Skilk, and my word stands. But these things must be done decently, according to custom and law. I killed Firkked in single combat. Had I not done so, the Spear of Skilk would have been left lying, for any of the young of Firkked to pick up. Is that not the law?"
Jonkvank nodded grudgingly. "It is the law," he admitted.
"Good. Now, since I killed Firkked in lawful manner, his Spear is mine, and what is mine I can give as I please. I now give you the Spear of Skilk, to carry in my name, as I promised."
The Kragan who was carrying the ceremonial weapon tossed the head of Firkked from the point; another Kragan kicked it aside and advanced to wipe the spear-blade with a rag. Von Schlichten took the spear and gave it to Jonkvank.
"This is not good!" one of the Skilkan nobles protested. "That you should rule over us, yes. You killed Firkked in single combat, and you are the soldier of the Company, which is mighty, as all here have seen. But that this foreigner be given the Spear of Skilk, that is not at all good!"
Some of the others, emboldened by his example, were jabbering agreement.
"Listen, all of you!" von Schlichten shouted. "Here is no question of Krink ruling over Skilk. Does it matter who holds the Spear of Skilk, when he does so in my name? And King Jonkvank will be no foreigner. He will come and live among you, and later he will travel back and forth between Krink and Skilk, and he will leave the Spear of Krink in Krink, and the Spear of Skilk in Skilk, and in Skilk he will be a Skilkan. That is how it must be."
* * * * *
That seemed to satisfy everybody except Jonkvank, and he had wit enough not to make an issue of it. He even had the Spear of Krink carried back aboard his launch, out of sight, and when he accompanied von Schlichten, an hour later, to see Hideyoshi O'Leary off for Grank, he had the Spear of Skilk carried behind him. When he was alone with von Schlichten, in the room that had been King Firkked's bedchamber, however, he exploded.
"What is all this foolishness which you promised these people in my name and which I must now carry out? That I am to leave the Spear of Skilk in Skilk and the Spear of Krink in Krink, and come here to live...."
"You wish to hold Skilk?" von Schlichten asked.
"I intend to hold Skilk. To begin with, there shall be a great killing here. A very great killing: of all those who advised that fool of a Firkked to start this business; of those who gave shelter to the false prophet, Rakkeed, when he was here; of the faithless priests who gave ear to his abominable heresies and allowed him to spew out his blasphemies in the temples; of those who sent spies to Krink, to corrupt and pervert my soldiers and nobles; of those who...."
"All that is as it should be," von Schlichten agreed. "Except that it must be done quickly and all at once, before the memories of these crimes fade from the minds of the people. And great care must be taken to kill only those who can be proven to be guilty of something; thus it will be said that the justice of King Jonkvank is terrible to evildoers but a protection and a shield to those who keep the peace and obey the laws. And when the priests are to be killed, it should be done under the direction of those other priests who were faithful to the gods and whom King Firkked drove out of their temples, and it must be done in the name of the gods. Thus will you be esteemed a pious, and not an impious, king. It must not be allowed to seem that the city has come under foreign rule. And you must not change the laws, unless the people petition you to do so, nor must you increase the taxes, and you must not confiscate the estates of those who are put to death, for the death of parents is always forgiven before the loss of patrimonies. And you should select certain Skilkan nobles, and become the father of their young, and above all, you must leave none of the young of Firkked alive, to raise rebellion against you later."
Jonkvank nodded, deeply impressed. "By the gods, Karlok vonk Zlikdenk, this is wisdom! Now it is to be seen why the likes of Firkked cannot prevail against you, or against the Company as long as you are the Company's upper sword-arm!"
Honesty tempted von Schlichten, for a moment, to disclaim originality for the principles he had just enunciated, even at the price of trying to pronounce the name of Niccolo Machiavelli with a geek-speaker.
* * * * *
The sun slid lower and lower toward the horizon behind them as the aircar bulleted south along the broad valley and dry bed of the Hoork River, nearing the zone of equal day and night. Hassan Bogdanoff drove while Harry Quong finished his lunch, then changed places to begin his own. Von Schlichten got two bottles of beer from the refrigerated section of the lunch-hamper and opened one for Paula Quinton and one for himself.
"What are we going to do with these geeks,"—she was using the nasty and derogatory word unconsciously and by custom, now—"after this is all over? We can't just tell them, 'Jolly well played; nice game, wasn't it?' and go back to where we were Wednesday evening."
"No, we can't. There's going to have to be a Terran seizure of political power in every part of this planet that we occupy, and as soon as we're consolidated around the north of Takkad Sea, we're going to have to move in elsewhere," he replied. "Keegark, Konkrook, and the Free Cities, of course, will be relatively easy. They're in arms against us now, and we can take them over by force. We had to make that deal with Jonkvank, or, rather, I did, so that will be a slower process, but we'll get it done in time. If I know that pair as well as I think I do, Jonkvank and Yoorkerk will give us plenty of pretexts, before long. Then, we can start giving them government by law instead of by royal decree, and real courts of justice; put an end to the head-payment system, and to these arbitrary mass arrests and tax-delinquency imprisonments that are nothing but slave-raids by the geek princes on their own people. And, gradually, abolish serfdom. In a couple of centuries, this planet will be fit to admit to the Federation, like Odin and Freya."
"Well, won't that depend a lot on whom the Company sends here to take Harrington's place?"
"Unless I'm much mistaken, the Company will confirm me," he replied. "Administration on Ullr is going to be a military matter for a long time to come, and even the Banking Cartel and the mercantile interests in the Company are going to realize that, and see the necessity for taking political control. And just to make sure, I'm sending Hid O'Leary to Terra on the next ship, to make a full report on the situation."
"You think it'll be cleared up by then? The City of Montevideo is due in from Niflheim in a little under three months."
"It'll have to be cleared up by then. We can't keep this war going more than a month, at the present rate. Police-action, and mopping-up, yes; full-scale war, no."
"Ammunition?" she asked.
* * * * *
He looked at her in pleased surprise. "Your education has been progressing, at that," he said. "You know, a lot of professional officers, even up to field rank in the combat branches, seem to think that ammo comes down miraculously from Heaven, in contragravity lorries, every time they pray into a radio for it. It doesn't; it has to be produced as fast as it's expended, and we haven't been doing that. So we'll have to lick these geeks before it runs out, because we can't lick them with gun-butts and bayonets."
"Well, how about nuclear weapons?" Paula asked. "I hate to suggest it—I know what they did on Mimir, and Fenris, and Midgard, and what they did on Terra, during the First Century. But it may be our only chance."
He finished his beer and shoved the bottle into the waste-receiver, then got out his cigarettes. "There isn't a single nuclear bomb on the planet. The Company's always refused to allow them to be manufactured or stockpiled here."
"I don't think there'd be any criticism of your making them, now, general. And there's certainly plenty of plutonium. You could make A-bombs, at least."
"There isn't anybody here who even knows how to make one. Most of our nuclear engineers could work one up, in about three months, when we'd either not need one or not be alive."
"Dr. Gomes, who came in on the Pretoria, two weeks ago, can make them," she contradicted. "He built at, least a dozen of them on Niflheim, to use in activating volcanoes and bringing ore-bearing lava to the surface."
Von Schlichten's hand, bringing his lighter to the tip of his cigarette, paused for a second. Then he completed the operation, snapped it shut, and put it away.
"When did all this happen?"
She took time out for mental arithmetic; even a spaceship officer had to do that, when a question of interstellar time-relations arose.
"About three-fifty days ago, Galactic Standard. They'd put off the first shot, six bombs, before I got in from Terra. I saw the second shot a day or so before I left Niflheim on the Canberra. Dr. Gomes had to stay over till the Pretoria to put off the third shot. Why?"
"Did you run into a geek named Gorkrink, while you were on Nif?" he asked her. "And what sort of work was he doing?"
* * * * *
"Gorkrink? I don't seem to remember.... Oh, yes! He was helping Dr. Murillo, the seismologist. His year was up after the second shot; he came to Ullr on the Canberra. Dr. Murillo was sorry to lose him. He understood Lingua Terra perfectly; Dr. Murillo could talk to him, the way you do with Kankad, without using a geek-speaker."
"Well, but what sort of work ...?"
"Helping set and fire the A-bombs.... Oh! Good Lord!"
"You can say that again, and deal in Allah, Shiva, and Kali," von Schlichten told her. "Especially Kali.... Harry! See if you can get some more speed out of this can. I want to get to Konkrook while it's still there!"
It wouldn't be there long, the way things looked. King Orgzild had four tons of plutonium, and with Prince Gorkrink probably able to build A-bombs, Keegark would be set to bring Ullr its first taste of nuclear warfare. Von Schlichten shuddered as he pictured that happening. At the moment, shuddering was about the only thing he could do.
It was full dark when Konkrook came in view beyond the East Konk Mountains, a lurid smear on the underside of the clouds, and at Gongonk Island and at the Company farms to the south, a couple of bunches of searchlights were fingering about in the sky. When von Schlichten turned on the outside sound-pickup, he could hear the distant tom-tomming of heavy guns, and the crash of shells and bombs. Keeping the car high enough to be above the trajectories of incoming shells, Harry Quong circled over the city while Hassan Bogdanoff talked to Gongonk Inland on the radio.
The city was in a bad way. There were seventy-five to a hundred big fires going, and a new one started in a rising ball of thermoconcentrate flame while they watched. The three gun-cutters, Elmoran, Gaucho and Bushranger, and about fifty big freight lorries converted to bombers, were shuttling back and forth between the island and the city. The Royal Palace was on fire from end to end, and the entire waterfront and industrial district were in flames. Combat-cars and air jeeps were diving in to shell and rocket and machine-gun streets and buildings. He saw six big bomber-lorries move in dignified procession to unload, one after the other, on a row of buildings along what the Terrans called South Tenth Street, and on the roofs of buildings a block away, red and blue flares were burning, and he could see figures, both human and Ullran, setting up mortars and machine-guns.
Landing on the top stage of Company House, on the island, they were met by a Terran whom von Schlichten had seen, a few days ago, bossing native labor at the spaceport, but who was now wearing a major's insignia. He greeted von Schlichten with a salute which he must have learned from some movie about the ancient French Foreign Legion. Von Schlichten seriously returned it in kind.
"Everybody's down in the Governor-General's office, sir," he said. "Your office, that is. King Kankad's here with us, too."
He accompanied them to the elevator, then turned to a telephone; when von Schlichten and Paula reached the office, everybody was crowded at the door to greet them: Themistocles M'zangwe, his arm in a sling; Hans Meyerstein, the Johannesburg lawyer, who seemed to have even more Bantu blood than the brigadier-general; Morton Buhrmann, the Commercial Superintendent; Laviola, the Fiscal Secretary; a dozen or so other officers and civil administrators. There was a hubbub of greetings, and he was pleased to detect as much real warmth from the civil administration crowd as from the officers.
"Well, I'm glad to be back with you," he replied, generally. "And let me present Colonel Paula Quinton, my new adjutant; Hideyoshi O'Leary's on duty in the North.... Them, this was a perfectly splendid piece of work, here; you can take this not only as a personal congratulation, but as a sort of unit citation for the whole crowd. You've all behaved above praise." He turned to King Kankad, who was wearing a pair of automatics in shoulder-holsters for his upper hands and another pair in cross-body belt holsters for his lower. "And what I've said for anybody else goes double for you, Kankad," he added, clapping the Kragan on the shoulder.
"All he did was save the lot of us!" M'zangwe said. "We were hanging on by our fingernails here till his people started coming in. And then, after you sent the Aldebaran...."
"Where is the Aldebaran, by the way? I didn't see her when I came in."
"Based on Kankad's, flying bombardment against Keegark, and keeping an eye out for those ships. Prinsloo caught the De Wett in the docks there and smashed her, but the Jan Smuts got away, and we haven't been able to locate the Oom Paul Kruger, either. They're probably both on the Eastern Shore, gathering up reenforcements for Orgzild," M'zangwe said.
"Our ability to move troops rapidly is what's kept us on top this long, and Orgzild's had plenty of time to realize it," von Schlichten said. "When we get Procyon down here, I'm going to send her out, with a screen of light scout-vehicles, to find those ships and get rid of them.... How's Hid been making out, at Grank, by the way? I didn't have my car-radio on, coming down."
That touched off another hubbub: "Haven't you heard, general?" ... "Oh, my God, this is simply out of this continuum!" ... "Well, tell him, somebody!" ... "No, get Hid on the screen; it's his story!"
Somebody busied himself at the switchboard. The rest of them sat down at the long conference-table. Laviola and Meyerstein and Buhrmann were especially obsequious in seating von Schlichten in Sid Harrington's old chair, and in getting a chair for Paula Quinton. After awhile, the jumbled colors on the big screen resolved themselves into an image of Hideyoshi O'Leary, grinning like a pussycat beside an empty goldfish-bowl, licking its chops.
"Well, what happened?" von Schlichten asked, after they had exchanged greetings. "How did Yoorkerk like the movies? And did you get the Procyon and the Northern Lights loose?"
"Yoorkerk was deeply impressed," O'Leary replied. "His story is that he is and always was the true and ever-loving friend of the Company; he acted to prevent quote certain disloyal elements unquote from harming the people and property of the Company. Procyon's on the way to Konkrook. I'm holding Northern Lights here and Northern Star at Skilk; where do you want them sent?"
"Leave Northern Star at Skilk, for the time being. Tell the Company's great and good friend King Yoorkerk that the Company expects him to contribute some soldiers for the campaign here and against Keegark, when that starts; be sure you get the best-armed and best-trained regiments he has, and get them down here as soon as possible. Don't send any of your Kragans or Karamessinis' troops here, though; hold them in Grank till we make sure of the quality of Yoorkerk's friendship."
"Well, general, I think we can be pretty sure, now. You see, he turned Rakkeed the Prophet over to me...."
"What?" Von Schlichten felt his monocle starting to slip and took a firmer grip on it. "Who?"
"Pay me, Them; he didn't drop it," Hideyoshi O'Leary said. "Why, Rakkeed the Prophet. Yoorkerk was holding our ships and our people in case we lost; he was also holding Rakkeed at the Palace in case we won. Of course, Rakkeed thought he was an honored guest, right up till Yoorkerk's guards dragged him in and turned him over to us...."
"That geek," von Schlichten said, "is too smart for his own good. Some of these days he's going to play both ends against the middle and both ends'll fold in on him and smash him." A suspicion occurred to him. "You sure this is Rakkeed? It would be just like Yoorkerk to try to sell us a ringer."
O'Leary shook his head solemnly. "I thought of that, right away. This is the real article; Karamessinis' Constabulary and Intelligence officers certified him for me. What do you want me to do, send him down to Konkrook?"
Von Schlichten shook his head. "Get the priests of the locally venerated gods to put him on trial for blasphemy, heresy, impersonating a prophet, practicing witchcraft without a license, or any other ecclesiastical crimes you or they can think of. Then, after he's been given a scrupulously fair trial, have the soldiers of King Yoorkerk behead him, and stick his head up over a big sign, in all native languages, 'Rakkeed the False Prophet.' And have audio-visuals made of the whole business, trial and execution, and be sure that the priests and Yoorkerk's officers are in the foreground and our people stay out of the pictures."
"Soap and towels, for General Pontius von Pilate!" Paula Quinton called out.
"That's an idea; I was wondering what to give Yoorkerk as a testimonial present," Hideyoshi O'Leary said. "A nice thirty-piece silver set!"
"Quite appropriate," von Schlichten approved. "Well, you did a first-class job. I want you back with us as soon as possible—incidentally, you're now a brigadier-general—but not till the situation Grank-Krink-Skilk is stabilized. And, eventually, you'll probably have to set up permanent headquarters in the North."
* * * * *
After Hideyoshi O'Leary had thanked him and signed off, and the screen was dark again, he turned to the others.
"Well, gentlemen, I don't think we need worry too much about the North, for the next few days. How long do you estimate this operation against Konkrook's going to take, to complete pacification, Them?"
"How complete is complete pacification, general?" Themistocles M'zangwe wanted to know. "If you mean to the end of organized resistance by larger than squad-size groups, I'd say three days, give or take twelve hours. Of course, there'll be small groups holding out for a couple of weeks, particularly in the farming country and back in the forest...."
"We can forget them; that's minor-tactics stuff. We'll need to keep some kind of an occupation force here for some time; they can deal with that. We'll have to get to work on Keegark, as soon as possible; after we've reduced Keegark, we'll be able to reorganize for a campaign against the Free Cities on the Eastern Shore."
"Begging your pardon, general, but reduce is a mild word for what we ought to do to Keegark," Hans Meyerstein said. "We ought to raze that city as flat as a football field, and then play football on it with King Orgzild's head."
"Any special reason?" von Schlichten asked. "In addition to the Blount-Lemoyne massacre, that is?"
"I should say so, general!" Themistocles M'zangwe backed Meyerstein up. "Bob, you tell him."
Colonel Robert Grinell, the Intelligence officer, got up and took the cigar out of his mouth. He was short and round-bodied and bald-headed, but he was old Terran Federation Regular Army through and through.
"Well, general, we've been finding out quite a bit about the genesis of this business, lately," he said. "From up North, it probably looked like an all-Rakkeed show; that's how it was supposed to look. But the whole thing was hatched at Keegark, by King Orgzild. We've managed to capture a few prominent Konkrookans"—he named half a dozen—"who've been made to talk, and a number of others have come in voluntarily and furnished information. Orgzild conceived the scheme in the beginning; Rakkeed was just the messenger-boy. My face gets the color of the Company trademark every time I think that the whole thing was planned for over a year, right under our noses, even to the signal that was to touch the whole thing off...."
"The poisoning of Sid Harrington, and our announcement of his death?" von Schlichten asked.
"You figured that out yourself, sir? Well, that was most of it."
Grinell went on to elaborate, while von Schlichten tried to keep the impatience out of his face. Beside him, Paula Quinton was fidgeting, too; she was thinking, as he was, of what King Orgzild and Prince Gorkrink were doing now. "And I know positively that the order for the poisoning of Sid Harrington came from the Keegarkan Embassy, here, and was passed down through Gurgurk and Keeluk to this geek here who actually put the poison in the whiskey."
"Yes. I agree that Keegark should be wiped out, and I'd like to have an immediate estimate on the time it'll take to build a nuclear bomb to do the job. One of the old-fashioned plutonium fission A-bombs will do quite well."
Everybody turned quickly. There was a momentary silence, and then Colonel Evan Colbert, of the Fourth Kragan Rifles, the senior officer under Themistocles M'zangwe, found his voice.
"If that's an order, general, we'll get it done. But I'd like to remind you, first, of the Company policy on nuclear weapons on this planet."
"I'm aware of that policy. I'm also aware of the reason for it. We've been compelled, because of the lack of natural fuel on Ullr, to set up nuclear power reactors and furnish large quantities of plutonium to the geeks to fuel them. The Company doesn't want the natives here learning of the possibility of using nuclear energy for destructive purposes. Well, gentlemen, that's a dead issue. They've learned it, thanks to our people on Niflheim, and unless my estimate is entirely wrong, King Orgzild already has at least one First-Century Nagasaki-type plutonium bomb. I am inclined to believe that he had at least one such bomb, probably more, at the time when orders were sent to his embassy, here, for the poisoning of Governor-General Harrington."
With that, he selected a cigarette from his case, offered it to Paula, and snapped his lighter. She had hers lit, and he was puffing on his own, when the others finally realized what he had told them.
"That's impossible!" somebody down the table shouted, as though that would make it so. Another—one of the civil administration crowd—almost exactly repeated Jules Keaveney's words at Skilk: "What the hell was Intelligence doing; sleeping?"
"General von Schlichten," Colonel Grinell took oblique cognizance of the question. "You've just made, by implication, a most grave charge against my department. If you're not mistaken in what you've just said, I deserve to be court-martialled."
"I couldn't bring charges against you, colonel; if it were a court-martial matter, I'd belong in the dock with you," von Schlichten told him. "It seems, though, that a piece of vital information was possessed by those who were unable to evaluate it, and until this afternoon, I was ignorant of its existence. Colonel Quinton, suppose you repeat what you told me, on the way down from Skilk."
"Well, general, don't you think we ought to have Dr. Gomes do that?" Paula asked. "After all, he constructed those bombs on Niflheim, and it'll be he who'll have to build ours."
* * * * *
Von Schlichten nodded in instant agreement.
"That's right." He looked around. "Where's Dr. Lourenco Gomes, the nuclear engineer who came in on the Pretoria, two weeks ago? Send out for him, and get him in here to me at once."
There was another awkward silence. Then Kent Pickering, the chief of the Gongonk Island power-plant, cleared his throat.
"Why, general, didn't you know? Dr. Gomes is dead. He was killed during the first half hour of the uprising."
He flinched inwardly, and tightened his eye-muscles on the edge of the monocle to keep them from flinching physically as well, trying to freeze out of his face the consternation he felt.
"That's bad, Kent," he said. "Very bad. I'd been counting heavily on Dr. Gomes to design a bomb of our own."
"Well, general, if you please." That was Air-Commodore Leslie Hargreaves. "You say you suspect that King Orgzild has developed a nuclear bomb. If that's true, it's a horrible danger to all of us. But I find it hard to believe that the Keegarkans could have done so, with their resources and at their technological level. Now, if it had been the Kragans, that would have been different, but...."
"Paula, you'd better carry on and explain what you told me, and add anything else you can think of that might be relevant.... Is that sound-recorder turned on? Then turn it on, somebody; we want this taped."
* * * * *
Paula rose and began talking: "I suppose you all understand what conditions are on Niflheim, and how these Ullran native workers are employed; however, I'd better begin by explaining the purpose for which these nuclear bombs were designed and used...."
He smiled; she realized that he needed time to think, and she was stalling to provide it. He drew a pencil and pad toward him and began doodling in a bored manner, deliberately closing his mind to what she was saying. There were two assumptions, he considered: first, that King Orgzild already possessed a nuclear bomb which he could use when he chose, and, second, that in the absence of Dr. Gomes, such a bomb could only be produced on Gongonk Island after lengthy experimental work. If both of these assumptions were true, he had just heard the death-sentence of every Terran on Ullr. The first he did not for a moment doubt. The reasons for making it were too good. He dismissed it from further consideration and concentrated on the second.
"... what's known as a Nagasaki-type bomb, the first type of plutonium-bomb developed," Paula was saying. "Really, it's a technological antique, but it was good enough for the purpose, and Dr. Gomes could build it with locally available materials...."
That was the crux of it. The plutonium bomb, from a military standpoint, was as obsolete as the flintlock musket had been at the time of the Second World War. He reviewed, quickly, the history of weapons-development since the beginning of the Atomic Era. The emphasis, since the end of the Second World War, had all been on nuclear weapons and rocket-missiles. There had been the H-bomb, itself obsolescent, and the Bethe-cycle bomb, and the subneutron bomb, and the omega-ray bomb, and the negamatter bomb, and then the end of civilization in the Northern Hemisphere and the rise of the new civilization in South America and South Africa and Australia. Today, the small-arms and artillery his troops were using were merely slight refinements on the weapons of the First Century, and all the modern nuclear weapons used by the Terran Federation were produced at the Space Navy base on Mars, by a small force of experts whose skills were almost as closed to the general scientific and technical world as the secrets of a medieval guild. The old A-bomb was an historical curiosity, and there was nobody on Ullr who had more than a layman's knowledge of the intricate technology of modern nuclear weapons. There were plenty of good nuclear-power engineers on Gongonk Island, but how long would it take them to design and build a plutonium bomb?
"... Gorkrink also has a good understanding of Lingua Terra," Paula was saying. "He and Dr. Murillo conversed bi-lingually, just as I've heard General von Schlichten and King Kankad talking to one another. I haven't any idea whether or not Gorkrink could read Lingua Terra, or, if so, what papers or plans he might have seen."
"Just a minute, Paula," he said. "Colonel Grinell, what does your branch have on this Gorkrink?"
"He's the son of King Orgzild, and the daughter of Prince Jurnkonk," Grinell said. "We knew he'd signed on for Nif, two years ago, but the story we got was that he'd fallen out of favor at court and had been exiled. I can see, now, that that was planted to mislead us. As to whether or not he can read Lingua Terra, my belief is that he can. We know that he can understand it when spoken. He could have learned to read at one of those schools Mohammed Ferriera set up, ten or fifteen years ago."