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just a low-bred gunnie that doesn't know a
thing. The other one may not know anything or he may know a lot," and he told,
in a very few words. about the too
imperturbable observer of the brawl. He finished: "So our secret rendezvous
was no secret."
"I see." The Head raised his left wrist to his lips and said, "Colonel
Grandon."
"Yes, sir?"
"Be on the roof in exactly two minutes. You'll find two men who got number
three stunbeams about twenty minutes
ago. They're in a Mark Forty-One Service Special near Space Jay Twelve. Revive
them, find what they know and
report."
"Very well, sir," and the Head led the way to an elevator. The elevator took
them down to the thirty-first floor,
where it stopped of itself and opened its door into what was very evidently
the private office of an exceedingly im-
portant man.
It was a fairly large room, furnished richly but quietly. The rug, brown in
color, was thick and soft. The beamed
ceiling was of beautifully grained brown solentawood; the panelled walls were
of the same fine, almost metal-hard
wood. On the wall behind the big solentawood desk was inlaid the gold-crowned
Shield of Empire.
"Now we can talk," the girl said then, holding out her hand to Jules. "I'm
Grand Lady. . . . Oh, excuse that please!"
She flushed hotly, whereupon Jules kissed her hand in true Court style; after
which she shook hands cordially with
both Jules and Yvette.
"She should blush, friends," the Head said, but with no reproof in his voice.
"But she hasn't been in the Service very
long." Turning to the girl, he went on. "You are the Head's Girl Friday here,
my dear. Our guests are of the thinnest
upper crust of the entire Service; their worth to the Crown is
immeasureable-beyond any number of Grand Ladies.
We'll sit down, please, and Helena will pour. A whiskey sour for me, if you
please." He cocked an eyebrow at his
two agents. "Yours?"
"Orange juice, please," Yvette said, promptly; and Jules said, "Lemonade"
please" if you have it handy."
Drinks in hand-Grand Lady Helena was drinking a weirdlooking ice-cream
concoction-the Head said:
"The attack on you was a complete surprise. No leak" no hanky-panky was even
suspected until the man who was to
bring you to me here was killed. The connection between this business and the
matter that brought you to Earth is
clear. In that connection it is a highly pleasing thought that the opposition
knows nothing of you or of the Circus.
You agree?"
"I agree, sir," Jules said, and Yvette nodded.
But Helena was puzzled. "How can it follow that they don't know, father?"
"The d'Alemberts are new to you because there is no record anywhere of any
connection between them and us.
Except for this surprise attack you would not be learning of them now. I will
go into detail after they leave, but for
the present I will simply state as a fact that no one who knows anything about
them would send only six men against
Jules and Yvette d'Alembert. Or, if only six, all six would have fired
simultaneously and on sight at them instead of
burning the contact man first. That shows that they were more afraid of the
Service here than of the supposed
Delfian agents-a fatal error."
"Oh, I see-excuse me, please, for interrupting." "That's quite all right. It's
part of your education, Girl Friday. To
proceed: we are investigating. We will find out where the leak is here and
clean up the mess. In the meantime we
will go ahead with the business for which we scheduled the Circus of Earth.
There's trouble: centering, probably,
on Durward. I'll give you all forty-odd reels of the record on it, but there
are many things that are not on record and
never will be, which is why I had to discuss it with you in person. You'll
also have to talk to some outsiders to get
the full picture. You may want to conduct preliminary investigation on Earth
and/or elsewhere before you go
anywhere near Durward."
The Head got up. These were his most valuable agents, and the fact that he had
brought them here was a measure of
the importance he attached to the situation. He had fully expected that there
would be trouble waiting for them be-
tween the Circus and his office . . . and he had been equally confident that
the d'Alemberts would be able to handle
it.
What he was less sure of was that they-even they would be able to handle the
trouble that lay ahead.
He said abruptly, "Let's fill in some background. For example, consider the
question of loyalty. The Service is loyal
to the Crown as the symbol of Empire; to the wearer of the Crown, whoever or
whatever he or she may be, as the
focal point of the Empire. You agree?"
"Of course, sir," Jules said, and both girls nodded. "Very well. In early
2378, when Crown Prince Ansel was
planning the murder of every other member of the Royal Family, if we could
have caught him at it in time we could
have burned him down" Crown Prince though he was.,"
"Why, I . . . suppose that . , . yes, sir"" Jules said, and Yvette added
thoughtfully.
"I never thought of it before in just that way, sir. But that's the way it
would have to be."
"Nevertheless, after those eleven murders were accomplished facts Ansel, as
the sole surviving member of the
House of Stanley, became Emperor Stanley Nine. Was there then any question of
gunning him? No. We instantly
became as loyal to him as we had been to his father Stanley Eight and now are
to his son Stanley Ten."
"Of course, sir. But what. . . ."
"Now comes some off-the-record material. Have you ever heard of Banion the
Bastard?"
Jules thought for a moment. "I don't think so, sir," he said. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]