[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

But he could have saved his trouble. Other doors in the
dome were spewing forth Shanga. There must be a hun-
dred of them, Joyce thought. Van Rijn's lips skinned back
from his teeth. "You want to play happy fun games yet,
ha?" He switched on the headlights.
A warrior was caught in the glare, dazzled by it so that
he stood motionless, etched against blackness. Joyce's
eyes went over him, back and forth, as if something
visible could explain why he had turned on her. He was a
typical t'Kelan of this locality; races varied elsewhere, as
on most planets, but no more than among humans.
The stout form was about 150 centimeters tall, heav-
ily steatopygous to store as much liquid as the drying land
afforded. Hands and feet were nearly manlike, except for
having thick blue nails and only four digits apiece. The
fur that covered the whole body was a vivid orange,
striped with black, a triangle of white on the chest. The
Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html
head was round, with pointed ears and enormous yellow
cat-eyes, two fleshy tendrils on the forehead, a single nos-
tril crossing the 'broad nose, a lipless mouth full of sharp
white teeth framed- in restless cilia. This warrior carried
a sword-the bladeJike horn of a gondyanga plus a wooden
handle-and a circular shield painted in the colors of the
Yagola Horde to which the Shanga clan belonged.
"Beep, beep!" Van Rijn said. He gunned the car for-
ward.
The warrior sprang aside, barely in time. Others tried
to attack. Joyce glimpsed one with a bone piston whis-
tle in his mouth. The Yagola never used formal battle
cries, but advanced to music. A couple of spears clattered
against the car sides. Then Van Rijn was through, bound-
ing away at a hundred KPH with 'a comet's tail of dust
behind.
"Where we go now?" he demanded. "To yonder town
on the mountain? You said they was local big cheeses.
"The Ancients? No!" Joyce stiffened. "They must be
the ones who caused this."
"Ha? Why so?"
"I don't know, I don't know. They were so helpful be-
fore... But it has to be them. They incited. . . No
one else could have. W-we never made any enemies
among the clans. As soon as we had their biochemistry
figured out, we synthesized medicines and-and helped
Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html
them-" Joyce found suddenly that she could cry. She
leaned her helmet in her hands and let go all emotional
holds.
"There, there, everything's hunky-dunky," Van Rijn
said. He patted her shoulder. "You been a brave girl, as
well as pretty. Go on, now, relax, have fun."
T'Kela rotated once in thirty hours and some minutes,
with eight degrees of axial tilt. Considerable mght re..
mained when the car stopped, a hundred kilometers from!
Kusulongo, and the escapers made camp. Uulobu took a
sleeping bag outside while the others Earth-condition
the interior, shucked their suits, and crawled into bunks.
Not even Van Rijn's snores kept Joyce awake.
Dawn roused her. The red sun climbed from the east
with a glow like dying coals. Though its apparent diameter
was nearly half again that of Sol seen from Earth or Pax
from Esperance, the light was dull to human eyes, shad-
ows lay thick in every dip and gash, and the horizon was
lost in darkness. The sky was deep purpie, cloudless, but
filled to the south with the yellow plumes of a dust
storm. Closer by, the plain stretched bare, save for sparse
gray vegetation, strewn boulders, a coldly shimmering ice
field not far nothward. One scavenger foul wheeled over-
head on leathery-feathered wings.
Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html
Joyce sat up. Her whole body ached. Remembering what
had happened made such an emptiness within that she
hardly noticed. She wanted to roll over in the blankets,
bury her head, and sleep again. Sleep till rescue came, if it
ever did.
She made herself rise, go into the bath cubicle, wash,
and change into slacks and blouse. With refreshment
came hunger. .She returned to the main body of the car
and began work at th~ cooker.
The smell of coffee wakened Van Rijn. "Ahhh!" Whale-
like in the Long John he hadn't bothered to remove, he
wallowed from his bunk and snatched at a cup. "Good
girl." He sniffed suspiciously. "But no brandy in it? After
our troubles, we need brandy."
"No liquor here," she snapped.
"What?" For a space the merchant could only goggle
at her. His jowls turned puce. His mustaches quivered.
"Nothings to drink?" he strangled. "Why-why-why, this
is extrarageous. Who's responsible? By damn, I see to it
he's blacklisted from here to Polaris!"
"We have coffee, tea, powdered milk and fruit juices,"
Joyce said. "We get water from the ice outside. The chem-
ical unit removes ammonia and other impurities. One
does not take up storage space out in the field with liquor,
Freeman Van Rijn."
"One does if one is civilized. Let me see your food
Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html
stocks." He rummaged in the nearest locker. "Dried meat,
dried vegetables, dried-Death and-destruction!" he wailed.
"Not so much as one jar caviar? You want me to
crumble away?"
"You might give thanks you're alive."
"Not under this condition. . . . Well, I see somebody
had one brain cell still functional and laid in some ciga-
rettes." Van Rijn grabbed a handful and crumbled them
into a briar pipe he had stuffed in his bosom. He lit it.
Joyce caught a whiff, gagged, and returned to work at the
cooker, banging the utensils about with more ferocity
than was needful.
Seated at the folding table next to one of the broad win-
dows, Van Rijn crammed porridge down his gape and
peered out at the dim landscape. "Whoof, what a place.
Like hell with the furnaces on the fritz. How long you been
here, anyways?"
"Myself, about a year, as a biotechnician." She decided
it WM best to humor him. "Of course, the Esperancian
mission has been operating for several years."
"Ja, that I know. Though I am not sure just how-, I
was only here a couple of days, you remember, before the
trouble started. And any planet is so big and complicated a
thing, takes long to understand it even a little. Besides,
I had some other work along 1 must finish before investi-
Generated by ABC Amber LIT Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abclit.html
gating the situation here."
"I admit being puzzled why you came. You deal in spices
and things, don't you? But there's nothing here that a
human would like. We could digest some of the proteins
and other biological compounds-they aren't all poison-
ous td us-but they lack things we need, like certain amino
acids, and they taste awful."
"My company trades with nonhumans too," Van Rijn
explained. "Not long ago, my research staff at home came
upon the original scientific reports, from the expedition [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]