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Title: Star Ship
Author: Anderson, Poul
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Star Ship" ***

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                               STAR SHIP

                           By POUL ANDERSON

           The strangest space-castaways of all! The Terrans
            left their great interstellar ship unmanned in
            a tight orbit around Khazak--descended, all of
            them, in a lifeboat to investigate that weird,
            Iron Age world--_and the lifeboat cracked up!_

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                       Planet Stories Fall 1950.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


                                   I

With sunset, there was rain. When Dougald Anson brought his boat in to
Krakenau harbor, there was only a vast wet darkness around him.

He swore in a sulfurous mixture of Krakenaui, Volgazani, and half a
dozen other languages, including some spaceman's Terrestrial, and let
down the sail. The canvas was heavy and awkward in the drenching rain;
it was all he could do to lash it around the boom. Then he picked up
the long wooden sweep and began sculling his boat in toward the dock.

Lightning flared bluely through the rain, and he saw the great bay in
one livid flash, filled with galleys at anchor and the little schooners
of the fishing fleet. Beyond the wharfs, the land climbed steeply
toward the sky, and he saw the dark mass of the town reaching up to the
citadel on the hilltop. Dark--dark! Hardly a light showed in the gloom.

What in the name of Shantuzik was up? The waterfront, at least, should
have been alive with torches and music and bawdy merriment. And the
newly installed street lights should have been twinkling along the main
avenues leading up to the castle. Instead Krakenau lay crouched in
night, and--

He scowled, and drove the light vessel shoreward with rhythmic sweeps
of the long oar. Uneasiness prickled along his spine. It wasn't right.
He'd only been gone a few days. What had happened in the meantime?

When he reached the pier, he made fast with a quietness unusual to him.
Maybe he was being overcautious. Maybe it was only that the king had
died or some other reason for restrained conduct had arisen. But a man
didn't spend years warring among the pirates of the outer islands and
the neighboring kingdoms around Krakenau without learning to be careful.

He ducked under the awning in the bows which was the boat's only
shelter, and got a towel from the sea chest and rubbed his rain-wet
body dry. He'd only been wearing a tattered pair of breeches, and the
water ran along his ribs and down his flanks. Then he shrugged on a
tunic, and a coat of ring-mail over that. A flat-bladed sword at his
side and a helmet over his long yellow hair completed his outfit. He
felt secure now, and jumped up to the pier.

For a moment he stood in thought. The steady rain washed down over
his leather cape, blurring vision a few meters away, and only the
intermittent flicker of lightning broke the darkness. Where to go?
His father's house was the logical place, perhaps. But the Masefield
dwelling was a little closer to here, and Ellen--

He grinned and set out at a long stride. Masefield's be it.

The street onto which he turned opened before him like a tunnel of
night. The high steep-roofed houses lay dark on either side, walling it
in, and the fluoroglobes were unlit. When the lightning blinked, the
wet cobblestones gleamed; otherwise there was only darkness and rain.

He passed one of the twisting alleys, and glanced at it with automatic
caution. The next instant he had thrown himself to the ground, and the
javelin whipped through the place where his belly had been.

He rolled over and bounded to his feet, crouched low, the sword whining
out of its scabbard into his hand. Four Khazaki sprang from the alley
and darted at him.

Dougald Anson grunted, backed up against a wall. The natives were armed
and mailed, they were warriors, and they had all the unhuman swiftness
of their species. Four of them--!

The leading attacker met his sword in a clang of steel. Dougald let him
come lunging in, took the cut on his mailed ribs, and swept his own
weapon murderously out. Faster than a man could think, the Khazaki had
his own blade up to parry the sweeping blow. But he wasn't quite fast
enough; he met it at an awkward angle and the Terrestrial's sheer power
sent the sword spinning from his hand. The hand went too, a fractional
second later, and he screamed and fell back and away.

The others were upon Anson. For moments it was parry and slash, three
against one, with no time to feel afraid or notice the cuts in his arms
and legs. A remote part of his brain told him bleakly: This is all.
_You're finished. No lone Earthling ever stood up long to more than two
Khazaki._ But he hardly noticed.

Suddenly there were only two in front of him. He darted forth from
the wall, his sword crashing down with all the power of his huge body
behind it. The warrior tried to skip aside--too late. The tremendous
blow smashed his own parry down and sang in his skullbones.

And the last of the attackers died. He tumbled over beside the second,
and each of them had a feathered shaft between his ribs.

The bowman came loping through the rain. He paused, in typical Khazak
fashion, to slit the throat of the wounded being, and then came up to
where Dougald Anson stood panting.

The human strained through the rainy dark. Lightning glimmered in the
sky, and he recognized the newcomer. "Janazik!"

"And Anson," nodded the Khazaki. His sharp white teeth gleamed in his
shadowed face. "You seem to have met a warm welcome."

"Too warm. But--thanks!" Anson bent over the nearest of the corpses,
and only now did the realization penetrate his brain. They all wore
black mail of a certain pattern, spiked helmets, red cloaks--Gods of
Gorzak! They were all royal guardsmen!

       *       *       *       *       *

He looked up to the dark form of Janazik, and his lean face was
suddenly tight. "What is this?" he asked slowly. "I thought maybe
bandits or some enemy state had managed to enter the city--"

"That would be hard to do, now that we have the guns," said Janazik.
"No, these are within our own walls. If you'll look closely, you'll see
they wear a gold-colored brassard."

"Prince Volakech--but he--"

"There's more to this than Volakech, and more than a question of the
throne," said Janazik. Then suddenly, urgently: "But we can't stay here
to talk. They're patrolling the streets, it's dangerous to be abroad.
Let's get to shelter."

"What's happened?" Anson got up, towering over the native by a good
quarter meter, his voice suddenly rough. "What happened? How is
everyone?"

"Not well. Come on, now."

"Ellen? Masefield Ellen?"

"I don't know. Nobody knows. Now come on!"

They slipped into the alley. Anson was blind in the gloom, and
Janazik's slim six-fingered hand took his to guide him. The Khazaki
were smaller than Terrestrials and lacked the sheer strength and
endurance which Earth's higher gravity gave; but they could move like
the wind, they had an utter grace and balance beside which humans were
clumsy cattle, and they saw in the dark.

Dougald Anson's mind whirred in desperate speculation. If Volakech had
gotten enough guardsmen and soldiers on his side to swing a palace
revolution, it was bad. But matters looked worse than that. Why should
Volakech's men have assaulted a human? Why should Janazik have to sneak
him into a hiding place? How had the revolutionists gotten control in
the first place, against King Aligan's new weapons? What powers did
they have now?

What had become of the human community in Krakenau? What of his father,
his brother and sisters, his friends? What of Masefield Ellen? What of
Ellen?

He grew aware that Janazik had halted. They were in an evil-smelling,
refuse-littered courtyard, surrounded by tumble-down structures, dark
and silent as the rest of the city. Anson realized that all Krakenau
was blacked out. In such times of danger, the old Khazaki clandom
reasserted itself. Families barricaded themselves in their dwellings,
prepared to fight all comers till the danger was past. The city was
awake, yes--it was crouched in breathless tension all around him--but
not a light showed, not a hand stirred, not a voice spoke. They were
all waiting.

Janazik crouched at the base of one of the old buildings and lifted a
trapdoor. Light gleamed dimly up from a cellar. He dropped lightly down
and Anson followed, closing the door behind him.

There was only one smoky lamp in the dank gloom. Shadows were thick
and huge around the guttering wick. The red flame picked out faces,
shimmered off cold steel, and lost itself in darkness.

Anson's eyes scanned the faces. Half a dozen humans: Chiang Chung-Chen,
DuFrere Marie, Gonzales Alonzo and his wife Nora who was Anson's
sister, Dougald Joan, Masefield Philip--No sign of Ellen.

"Anse! Anse!" The voices almost sobbed out of the dim-lit hollowness.
Joan and Nora sprang forward as if to touch their brother, make sure he
was alive and no vision of the night, but Janazik waved them back with
his sword.

"No noise," hissed the Khazaki's fierce whisper. "No noise, by all the
thirteen hells! Volakech's _burats_ are all over the city. If a patrol
finds us--"

"Ellen!" Anson's blue eyes searched for Masefield Philip, crouched near
the lamp. "Where's your sister, Phil?"

"I don't know," whispered the boy. "We're all who seem to've escaped.
They may have caught her--I don't know--"

"Father." Joan's voice caught with a dry sob. "Anse, Father and Jamie
are dead. The rebels killed them."

For a moment, Anson couldn't grasp the reality of that. It just wasn't
possible that his big laughing father and young Jamie-the-brat should
be killed--_no!_

But--

He looked up, and then looked away. When he turned back to face
them, his visage had gone hard and expressionless, and only the
white-knuckled grip on his sword showed he was not a stranger.

"All right," he said slowly, very slowly and steadily. "All right. Give
me the story. What is it? What's happened in Krakenau?"


                                  II

Janazik padded around to stand before him. He was not the only Khazaki
in the cellar; there were a good dozen others. Mostly they were young
males, and Anse recognized them. Bolazan, Pragakech, Slavatozik--he'd
played with them as a child, he'd fared out with them as a youth and a
man to the wars, to storm the high citadel of Zarganau and smite the
warriors of Volgazan and pirate the commerce of the outer islands. They
were good comrades, yes. But Father and Jamie were dead. Ellen, Ellen
was vanished. Only a fragment of the human community remained; his
world had suddenly come down in ruin about him.

Well--his old bleak resolution came back to him, and he met the yellow
slit-pupilled gaze of Janazik with a challenging stare.

They were a strange contrast, these two, for all that they had fought
shoulder to shoulder halfway round the planet, had sung and played and
roistered from Krakenau to Gorgazan. Comrades in arms, blood brothers
maybe, but neither was human from the viewpoint of the other.

Dougald Anson was big even for a Terrestrial; his tawny head rode at
full two meters and his wide shoulders strained the chain mail he
wore. He was young, but his face had had the youth burned out of it
by strange suns and wild winds around the world, was lean and brown
and marked with an old scar across the forehead. His eyes were almost
intolerably bright and direct in their blue stare, the eyes of a bird
of prey.

The Khazaki was humanoid, to be sure--shorter than the Terrestrial
average, but slim and lithe. Soft golden fur covered his sinewy body,
and a slender tail switched restlessly against his legs. His head was
the least human part of him, with its sloping forehead, narrow chin,
and blunt-muzzled face. The long whiskers around his mouth and above
the amber cat-eyes twitched continuously, sensitive to minute shifts
in air currents and temperature. Along the top of his skull, the fur
grew up in a cockatoo plume that swept back down his neck, a secondary
sexual characteristic that females lacked.

Janazik was something of a dandy, and even now he wore the baggy
silk-like trousers, long red sash, and elaborately embroidered blouse
and vest of a Krakenaui noble. It was woefully muddy, but he managed
to retain an air of fastidious elegance. The bow and quiver across his
back, the sword and dirk at his side, somehow looked purely ornamental
when he wore them.

He was almost dwarfed by Anse's huge-thewed height. But old Chiang
Chung-Chen noticed, not for the first time, that the human wore
clothing and carried weapons of Khazaki pattern, and that the
harsh syllables of Krakenaui came more easily to his lips than the
Terrestrial of his fathers. And the old man nodded, gravely and a
little wearily.

Janazik spoke rapidly: "Volakech must have been plotting his return
from exile a long time. He managed to raise a small army of pirates,
mercenaries, and outlawed Krakenaui, and he made bargains with groups
within the city. Two days ago, certain of the guards seized the new
guns and let Volakech and his men in. Others revolted within the town.
I think King Aligan was killed; at least I've seen or heard nothing
of him since. There's been some fighting between rebels and loyalists
but the rebels got all the Earth-weapons when they captured the royal
arsenal and since then they've just about crushed resistance. Loyalists
who could, fled the city. The rest are in hiding. Volakech is king."

"But--why us? The Terrestrials--what have we to do with--"

Janazik's yellow eyes blazed at him. "You aren't stupid,
blood-brother. Think!"

After a moment Anse nodded bleakly. "_The Star Ship_--"

"Of course! Volakech has seized the rocket boat. No Terrestrial in his
right mind would show him how to use it, so he had to capture someone
who understood its operation and force them to take him out to the
Star Ship. Old Masefield Henry was killed resisting arrest--you know
how bloody guardsmen are, in spite of orders to take someone alive.
Volakech ordered the arrest of all Terrestrials then. A few surrendered
to him, a few were killed resisting, most were captured by force. As
far as we know, this group is all which escaped."

"Then Ellen--?"

"That's the weird thing. I don't believe she has been caught.
Volakech's men are still scouring the city for 'an Earthling woman'
as the orders read. And who could it be but Ellen? No other woman
represents any danger or any desirable capture to Volakech."

"Ellen understands astrogation," said Anse slowly. "She learned it from
her grandfather."

"Yes. And now that he is dead, she is the only human--the only being on
this planet--who can get that rocket up to the Star Ship. And Masefield
Carson knows it."

"Carson? Ellen's older brother? What--"

Janazik's voice was cold as Winter: "Masefield Carson was with
Volakech. He led the rebels inside the city. Now he's the new king's
lieutenant."

"Carson! No!"

"Carson--yes!" Janazik's smile was without mirth or pity. His eyes
sought out Philip, huddled miserably beside the lamp. "Isn't that the
truth?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The boy nodded, too choked with his own unhappiness to cry. "Carse
always was a friend of Volakech, before King Aligan outlawed him," he
mumbled. "And he always said how it was a shame, and how Volakech would
know better what to do with the Star Ship than anyone now. Then--that
night--" His voice trailed off, he sat dumbly staring into the flame.

"Carson led the rebel guardsmen in their seizure of the city guns,"
said Janazik. "He also rode to the Masefield house at the head of a
troop of them and called on his people to surrender on promise of good
treatment. Joe and the mother did, and I suppose they're held somewhere
in the citadel now. Phil and Ellen happened to be out at the time.
When Phil heard of the uprising, he was afraid to give himself up, in
spite of the heralds that went about promising safety to those who
did. He heard how the rebels had been killing his friends. He went to
Slavatozik here, whom he could trust, and later they got in touch with
me. I'd used this hiding place before, and gathered all the fugitives I
could find here." Janazik shrugged, a sinuous unhuman gesture. "Since
then I've seen Carse, at a distance, riding around like a prince of the
blood, with a troop of his own personal guardsmen. I suspect he really
runs things now. Volakech wants power, but only Carse can show him how
to get it."

"And Ellen--?"

"No sign of her. But as I said, I think she's in hiding somewhere,
or the guards wouldn't be out looking for a woman. She wouldn't give
herself up."

"Not Ellen." A grim pride lifted Anse's head.

"Remains the problem of finding her before they do," said Gonzales
Alonzo. "If they catch her and make her plot an orbit for the rocket,
they'll have the Star Ship--which means power over the whole planet."

"Not that I care who's king," growled Pragakech. "But you know that
Masefield Carson never did want to use the ship to get out to the
stars. And I want to see those other worlds before I die."

"To the thirteenth hell with the other worlds," snarled Bolazan.
"Aligan was my king, and it's for me to avenge him and put his rightful
heir on the throne."

"We all have our motives for wanting the blood of Volakech and Carson,"
said Janazik. "Never mind that now; the important thing is how to
get at their livers. We're few, Anse. Here are all the free humans
we know of, except Masefield Ellen. There can't be more than two or
three at large, and perhaps ten dead. That means the enemy holds
almost a hundred humans captive. Discounting children and others who
are ignorant of Terrestrial science, it still means they'll be able to
operate the guns, the steel mill, the atomic-power plant--all the new
machines except the rocket boat, and they only need Ellen for that."

Anse nodded, slowly. "What is our strength?" he asked.

"I don't know. Not much. I know where about a hundred Khazaki warriors
are hiding, ready to follow us whenever we call on them, and there will
be many more sitting at home now who'll rise if someone else takes the
lead. But the enemy has all the guns. It would be suicide."

"What about the Khazaki who fled?" Usually, in one of the planet's
violent changes of governments, the refugees were powerful nobles
who would be slain as a safety measure if they stayed at home but
who could, in exile, raise strong forces for a comeback. Such a one
had Volakech himself been, barely escaping with his life after his
disastrous attempt to seize the throne a few years back.

"Don't be more stupid than you can help," snorted Janazik. "By the time
they can have rallied enough to do any good, Volakech and Carson will
have the Star Ship, one way or another, and then the whole world is at
their mercy."

"That means we have to strike back somehow--quickly!" Anse stood for a
moment in thought.

The habits of his warring, wandering years were coming back to him. He
had faced death and despair before, and with strength and cunning and
bluff and sheer luck had come through alive. This was another problem,
more desperate and more urgent, but still another problem.

No--there was more to it than that.

       *       *       *       *       *

His face grew bleak, and it was as if a coldness touched his heart.
Carson was Ellen's older brother, and even if they had quarreled from
time to time he knew she had always felt deeply bound to him. _Carse is
everything I never was. He stayed in Krakenau and studied and became
an educated man and a skilled engineer while I went hallooing over
the world. He's brave and a good fighter--so am I--but he's so much
more than that. I imagine it was his example that made Ellen learn the
astrogation only her grandfather knew._

_And now I'm back from roaming and roving with Janazik, and I'm
trying hard to settle down and learn something so that I won't be
just a barbarian, a wild Khazaki in human skin, when we go out to the
civilization of the stars. So that I won't be too utterly ashamed to
ask Ellen to marry me. And it was all going pretty well until now._

_But now--I'm fighting her brother--_

Well--he pushed the thought out of his brain. After all, apparently she
was in opposition to Carse's plans too.

"I wonder why they tried to kill me?" he asked aloud, more to fill in
the time while he thought than out of curiosity.

"You'd be of no use to Carson, having no technical education," said
Janazik, "while your knowledge of fighting and your connections with
warlike groups make you dangerous to him. Also, I don't think he ever
liked your paying attention to Ellen."

"No--he always said I was a waster. Called me a--an absorbed Khazaki.
I'd've split his skull if he hadn't been Ellen's brother--No matter
now. We've more important things to talk over."

_Have we, now?_ he thought sickly. _Carson must know Ellen well, better
than I do. If he thinks he can have me killed without making her hate
him, then--maybe I never had any chance with her then--_

"How'd you happen by?" he asked tonelessly.

"I've been out from time to time, looking for Ellen and killing
guardsmen whenever I could catch them alone." Janazik's white fangs
gleamed in a carnivore's smile. "And, of course, I expected you back
from your fishing trip about this time, and watched for you lest you
blunder into their hands."

Anse began to pace the floor, back and forth, his head bent to avoid
the basement rafters. If Carson was in control, and out to kill him....
There was more to it than that, of course. The whole future of the
planet Khazak, perhaps of the fabulous Galactic civilization itself,
was balanced on the edge of a sword. If Volakech or a descendant of
his took the warlike race out among the stars, with a high level of
industry to back a scheme of conquest--

But it didn't matter. All the universe didn't matter. There was only
Ellen, and his own dead kin, and himself.

A man's heart can only hold so much.

Janazik stood quietly back, watching his friend's restless prowling.
He had seen that pacing before, and he knew that some scheme would come
out of it, crazy and reckless and desperate, with his own cool unhuman
intelligence to temper it and make it workable. He and Anse made a good
team. They made the best damned fighting team Khazak had ever seen.

Presently the human lifted his head. There was silence in the hiding
place, thick and taut, so that they could hear their own breathing and
the steady drum of rain on the trapdoor.

"I have an idea," said Anse.


                                  III

The long night wore on. Janazik had sent most of his Khazaki out to
alert the other loyalists in their hiding places, but only they had a
chance of slipping unobserved past the enemy patrols. Humans, obviously
alien, slow-footed and clumsy beside the flitting shadows of Khazak,
would never get far. They had to wait.

Anse was glad of the opportunity for conference with Janazik, planning
the assault on the citadel. Neither of them was very familiar with the
layout, but Alonzo, as an engineer on the rocket building project, and
old Chiang had been there often enough to know it intimately.

It was impossible that a few hundred warriors armed with the primitive
weapons of Khazak could take the stronghold. Its walls were manned by
more fighters than that, and there were the terrible Earth-type guns
as well. Alonzo had a blaster with a couple of charges, but otherwise
there was nothing modern in the loyalist force.

But still that futile assault was necessary--

"It's taking a desperate chance," said Dougald Joan. She was young yet,
hardly out of girlhood, but her voice had an indomitable ring. The true
warriors among the five Earthling families were all Dougald thought
Janazik. "Suppose Ellen doesn't come out of hiding? Suppose she's dead
or--or captured already, in spite of what we think."

"We'll just have to try and destroy the rocket then," said Alonzo.
"Certainly we can't let Volakech get to the Star Ship." He sighed,
heavily. "And the labor of another generation will be gone."

"It wouldn't take us long to build another boat," said his wife. "We
know how, now, and we have the industry to do it."

"There are only a few who really know how to handle and build the
Terrestrial machines, and most of them are in the enemy's hands,"
reminded old Chiang. "I'm sure I couldn't tell you much about atomic
engines, even though I was on the Star Ship herself once. If those
few are killed, we may never be able to duplicate our efforts. What
Terrestrials survive will sink back into barbarism, become simply
another part of Khazaki culture."

"I don't know--" said Nora.

"I know, because I've seen it happen," insisted Chiang. "In the fifty
years since we were marooned here, two generations have been born on
Khazak. They've grown up among Khazaki, played with native children,
worked and fought with Khazaki natives, adopted the dress and speech
and whole outlook of Krakenau. Only a few in this third generation have
consciously tried to remain--Terrestrial. I must admit that Masefield
Carson is one such. Ellen is another. But few others."

"Would you have us wall ourselves out from the world?" asked Anse with
a bridling anger.

"No. I don't see how the situation could be helped. We are a minority
in an alien culture with which we've had to cooperate. It's only
natural that we'd be more assimilated than assimilating. Even at that,
we've wrought immense changes."

       *       *       *       *       *

Janazik nodded. The stranded Terrestrials had found themselves in an
early Iron Age civilization of city-states, among a race naturally
violent and predatory. For their own survival, they had had to league
forces with the state in which they found themselves--Krakenau, as it
happened. Before they could build the industry they needed, they had
to have some security--which meant that they must teach the Krakenaui
military principles and means of making new weapons which would make
them superior to their neighbors. After that--well, it took an immense
technology to build even a small spaceship. The superalloys which could
stand the combustion of rocket fuel required unheard-of elements such
as manganese and chromium, which required means of mining and refining
them, which required a considerable chemical plant, which required--How
far down do you have to start? And there were a hundred or a thousand
other requirements of equal importance and difficulty.

Besides, the Terrestrials had had to learn much from scratch
themselves. None of them had ever built a rocketship, had ever seen one
in action even. It was centuries obsolete in Galactic civilization. But
gravity drives were out of the question. So--they'd had to design the
ship from the ground up. Which meant years of painstaking research ...
and only a few interested humans and Khazaki to do it. The rest were
too busy with their own affairs in the brawling barbaric culture.

Ten years ago, the first spaceboat had blasted off toward the Star
Ship--and exploded in mid-acceleration. More designing, more testing,
more slow building--and now the second one lay ready. Perhaps it could
reach the Star Ship.

The Star Ship--faster than light, weightless when it chose to be for
all its enormous mass, armed with atomic guns that could blast a
city to superheated vapor. Whoever controlled that ship could get to
Galactic stars in a matter of weeks. Or could rule all Khazaki if he
chose.

No wonder Carson and Volakech had struck now, before the rocket boat
was launched. When _they_ had the ship--

But only Ellen knew the figures of its orbit and the complicated
calculations by which the boat would plot a course to get there. A bold
warrior might make a try at reaching the ship by seat-of-the-pants
piloting, but he wouldn't have much chance of making it. So Ellen, and
the rocket boat, were the fulcrum of the future.

"Strange," mused Chiang. "Strange that we should have had that
accident...."

They had heard the story a hundred times before, but they gathered
around to listen; there was nothing else to do while the slow hours
dragged on.

"We were ten, all told, five men and their wives. Exploratory
expeditions are often out for years at a time, so the Service makes it
a policy to man the ships with married couples. It's hard for a Khazaki
to appreciate the absolute equality between the sexes which human
civilization has achieved. It's due to the advanced technology, of
course, and we're losing it as we go back to barbarism--"

Anse felt a small hand laid on his arm. He looked down into the dark
eyes of DuFrere Marie. She was a pretty girl, a little younger than he,
and until he'd really noticed Ellen he'd been paying her some attention.

"I don't care about equality," she whispered. "A woman shouldn't try to
be a man. I'd want only to cook and keep house for my man, and bear his
children."

It was, Anse realized, a typical Khazaki attitude. But--he remembered
with a sudden pity that Carson had been courting Marie. "This is pretty
tough on you," he muttered. "I'll try to see that Carse is saved.... If
we win," he added wryly.

"Him? I don't care about that Masefield. Let them hang him. But
Anse--be careful--"

       *       *       *       *       *

He looked away, his face hot in the gloom, realizing suddenly why
Masefield Carson hated him. Briefly, he wished he hadn't had such
consistent luck with women. But the accident that there was a
preponderance of females in the second and third generations of Khazaki
humans had made it more or less inevitable, and he--well, he was only
human. There'd been Earthling girls; and not a few Khazaki women had
been intrigued by the big Terrestrial. _Yes, I was lucky_, he thought
bitterly. _Lucky in all except the one that mattered._

"--we'd been a few weeks out of Avandar--it was an obscure outpost
then, though I imagine it's grown since--when we detected this Sol-type
sun. Seeing that there was an Earth-like planet, we decided to
investigate. And since we were all tired of being cooped in the ship,
and telescopes showed that any natives which might exist would be too
primitive to endanger us, we all went down in the lifeboat.

"And the one-in-a-billion chance happened ... the atomic converters
went out of control and we barely escaped from the boat before it was
utterly consumed. We were stranded on an alien planet, with nothing but
our clothes and a few hand weapons--and with our ship that would go
faster than light circling in its orbit not ten thousand kilometers
above us!

"No chance of rescue. There are just too many suns for the Galactic
Coordinators to hope to find a ship that doesn't come back. Expansion
into this region of space wasn't scheduled for another two centuries.
So there we were, and until we could build a boat which would take us
back to our ship--there we stayed!

"And it's taken us fifty years so far...."

Pragakech came in with the rain glistening on his fur and running in
small puddles about his padding feet. "We're ready," he said. "Every
warrior whose hiding place we knew has been contacted."

"Then we might as well go." Janazik got up and stretched luxuriously.
His eyes were like molten gold in the murky light.

"So soon?" Marie held Anse back with anxious hands. "This same night?"

"The sooner the better," Anse said grimly. "Every day that goes by,
more of our friends will be found out and killed, more places will be
searched for Ellen, Volakech's grip on the city will grow stronger." He
put the spiked helmet back on his head, and buckled the sword about his
mailed waist. "Come on, Janazik. The rest stay here and wait for word.
If we're utterly defeated, such of us as survive will manage to get
back and lead you out of Krakenau--somehow."

Marie started to say something, then shook her head as if the words
hurt her throat and drew Anse's face down to hers. "Goodbye, then," she
whispered. "Goodbye, and the gods be with you."

He kissed her more awkwardly than was his wont, feeling himself a
thorough scoundrel. Then he followed Pragakech and Janazik out the
trapdoor.


                                  IV

The courtyard was filled with Khazaki warriors, standing silently in
the slow heavy rain. It was the darkness of early morning, and only an
occasional wan lightning flash, gleaming on spears and axes, broke the
chill gloom. Anse was aware of softly-moving supple bodies pressing
around him, of night-seeing eyes watching him with an impassive stare.
It was he and Janazik who had the plan, and who had the most experience
in warfare, and the rest looked to them for leadership. It was not
easy to stand under that cool, judging scrutiny, and Anse strode forth
into the street with a feeling of relief at the prospect of action.

As they moved toward the castle, along the narrow cobbled lanes winding
up the hills, their army grew. Warriors came loping from alleys, came
slipping out of the dark barricaded houses, seemed to rise out of
the rainy night around them. All Krakenau was abroad, it seemed, but
quietly, quietly.

And throughout the town other such forces were on the move, gathering
under the lead of anyone who could be trusted, converging on the
citadel and the rocketship it guarded.

_Tonight--victory, or destruction of the boat and a drawn battle ... or
repulsion and ultimate shattering defeat. The gods are abroad tonight._

Somewhere, faint and far through the dull washing of rain, a trumpet
blew a harsh challenge, once and again. After it came a distance-muted
shouting of voices and a clattering of swords.

"One of our bands has come across a patrol," said Janazik
unnecessarily. "Now all hell will be loose in Krakenau. Come on!"

They broke into a trot up the hill. Rounding a sharp turn in the
street, they saw a close-ranked mass of warriors with spears aloft.

Guardsmen!

The two forces let out a simultaneous yell and charged at each other
in the disorderly Khazaki fashion. It was beginning to lighten just a
little; Anse could make out enough for purposes of battle. Hai-ah--here
we go!

He smashed into a leading guard, who stabbed at him with his long pike.
The edge grazed off Anse's heavy chain mail as the Earthling chopped
out with his sword. He knocked the shaft aside and thrust in, hewing
at the Khazaki's neck. The guard intercepted the blow with his shield,
and suddenly rammed it forward. The murderous spike on its boss thudded
against the Terrestrial's broad chest and the linked rings gave under
that blow--just a little, just enough to draw blood. Anse roared and
chopped down across the other's right arm. The Khazaki howled his pain
and stumbled back.

Another was on the Earthling like a spitting cat. Swords hummed and
clashed together. Leaping and dodging, the Khazaki lashed out with a
blade like a flickering flame, and none of Anse's blows could land on
him.

The Khazaki leaped in suddenly, his edge reaching for the human's
unprotected throat. Anse parried with his sword, while his left fist
shot out like an iron cannonball. It hit the native full in the face,
with a crunch of splintering bones. The guard's head snapped back and
he fell to the blood-running street.

Janazik was fighting two at once, his sword never resting. He leaped
and danced like the shadow of a flame in the wind, and he was
laughing--laughing! Anse hewed out, and one of the foemen's heads
sprang from its neck. Janazik darted in, there was a blur of steel, and
the other guardsman toppled.

Axe and sword! Spear and dagger and flying arrows! The fight rolled
back and forth between the darkling walls of houses. It grew with time;
Volakech's patrols were drawn by the noise, loyalists crouched in
hiding heard of the attack and sped to join it. Anse and Janazik fought
side by side, human brawn and Khazaki swiftness, and the corpses were
heaped where they went.

A pike raked Anse's hand. He dropped his sword and the enemy leaped in
with drawn knife. Anse did not reach for his own dirk--no human had a
chance in a knife fight with a Khazaki--but his arms snaked out, his
hands closed on the native's waist, and he lifted the enemy up and
hurled him against another. They both went down in a crash of denting
armor and snapping bones. Anse roared his war-cry and picked up his
sword again.

       *       *       *       *       *

Janazik leaped and darted and fenced, grinning as he fought,
demon-lights in his yellow eyes. A spear was hurled at him. He picked
it out of the air, one-handed, and threw it back, even as he fought
another guardsman. The rebel took advantage of it to get in under
Janazik's guard. Swifter than thought, the warrior's dagger was in his
left hand--and into the rebel's throat.

Back and forth the battle swayed, roaring, trampling, and the rain
mingled with blood between the cobblestones. Thunder of weapons,
shrieking of wounded, shouting of challenges--lightning dancing
overhead!

Suddenly it was over.

Anse looked up from his last victim and saw that the confusion no
longer snarled around him. The street was heaped with dead and wounded,
and a few individual battles were still going on. But the surviving
guardsmen were in full flight, and the victorious warriors were
shouting their triumph.

"That was a fight!" panted Janazik. He quivered with feral eagerness.
"Now on to the castle!"

"I think," said Slavatozik thoughtfully, "that this was the decisive
struggle as far as the city is concerned. Look at how many were
involved. Almost all the patrols must have come here--and now they're
beaten. We hold the city!"

"Not much good to us while Volakech is in the castle," said Anse. "He
need only sally forth with the Earth-weapons--" He leaned on his sword,
gasping great lungfuls of the cool wet air into him. "But where's
Ellen?"

"We've had heralds out shouting for her, as you suggested," said
Slavatozik. "Now that the city is in our control, she should come out.
If not--"

"--then I know how to blow up the boat," said Gonzales Alonzo bleakly.
"If we can get inside the citadel to it."

The loyalists were reassembling their forces. Warriors moved over the
scene of battle, plundering dead guardsmen, cutting the throats of
wounded enemies and badly mutilated friends. It was a small army that
was crowding around Anse's tall form.

His worried eyes probed into the dull gray light of the rainy dawn.
Of a sudden, he stiffened and peered more closely. Someone was
coming down the street, thrusting through the assembled warriors.
Someone--someone--he knew that bright bronze hair....

_Ellen._

He stood waiting, letting her come up to him, and his eyes were hungry.
She was tall and full-bodied and supple, graceful almost as a Khazaki,
and her wide-set eyes were calm and gray under a broad clear forehead
and there was a dusting of freckles over her straight nose and her
mouth was wide and strong and generous and--

"Ellen," he said wonderingly. "Ellen."

"What are you doing?" she asked. "What have you planned?"

No question of how he was, no look at the blood trickling along his
sides and splashed over his face and arms--well--"Where were you?"
he asked, and cursed himself for not being able to think of a better
greeting.

"I hid with the family of Azakhagar," she said. "I lay in their loft
when the patrolmen came searching for me. Then I heard your heralds
going through the streets, calling on me to come out in your name. So I
came."

"How did you know it wasn't a trick of Volakech's?" asked someone.

"I told the heralds to use my name and add after it--well--something
that only she and I knew," said Anse uncomfortably.

       *       *       *       *       *

Janazik remained impassive, but he recalled that the phrase had been
"Dougald Anson, who once told you something on a sunny day down by
Zamanaui River." He could guess what the something had been. Well, it
seemed to happen to all Earthmen sooner or later, and it meant the end
of the old unregenerate days. He sighed, a little wistfully.

"But what did you want me for?" asked Ellen. She stood before Anse in
her short, close-fitting tunic, the raindrops glittering in her heavy
coppery hair, and he thought wryly that the question was in one sense
superfluous. But in another sense, and with time so desperately short--

"You're the only one of us who can plot a course for the rocket," he
said. "Alonzo here, or almost anyone, should be able to pilot it, but
you're the only one who can take it to the Star Ship. So that, of
course, is why Carson and Volakech were after you, and why we had to
have you too. If we can get into the citadel, capture the rocket and
get up to the Star Ship, it'll be easy to overthrow Volakech. But if he
gets there first, all Khazak couldn't win against him."

She nodded, slowly and wearily. Her gray eyes were haunted. "I wonder
if it matters who gets there," she said. "I wonder why we're fighting
and killing each other. Over who shall sit on the throne of an obscure
city-state on an insignificant planet? Over the exact disposition to
be made of one little spaceship? It isn't worth it." She looked around
at the sprawled corpses, lying on the bloody cobblestones with rain
falling in their gaping mouths, and shuddered. "It isn't worth that."

"There's more to it than that," said Janazik bleakly. "Masefield Carson
and his friend--his puppet, I think--Volakech would use the ship to
bring all the world under their rule. Then they would mold it into a
pattern suited for conquering a small empire among the neighboring
stars."

"Volakech always talked that way, before his first revolution," said
Ellen. "And Carse used to say--but that can't be right! He can't have
meant it. And even if he did--what of it? Is it worth enough for
brothers to slay each other over?"

"Yes." Janazik's voice was pitiless. "Shall the freemen of Khazak
become the regimented hordes of a tyrant? Let all this world be blown
asunder first!"

"Shall the innocent folk of the other stars become his victims?" urged
Alonzo. "Shall Khazak become a menace to the Galaxy, one which must
be destroyed--or must itself destroy? Shall there be war with--Earth
herself?"

"To Shantuzik with that," growled Anse. "These are our enemies, to be
fought and beaten. Out there is the great civilization of the Galaxy,
and they would keep us from it for generations yet, and make it in the
end our foe. And Volakech is a murderer with no right to the throne of
Krakenau. I say let's get at his liver!"

"Well--" Ellen looked away. When she turned back, there was torment in
her eyes, but her voice was low and steady: "I'm with you in whatever
you plan. But on one condition. Carse is not to be harmed."

"Not harmed!" exploded Janazik. "Why, that dirty traitor deserves--"

"He is still my brother," said Ellen. "When Volakech is beaten, he
will not be able to do any more harm, and he will see that he was
wrong." Her eyes flashed coldly. "Whoever hurts Carse will have me for
blood-enemy!"

"As you will," shrugged Anse, trying to hide the pain in his heart.
"But now.... Our plan is to storm the citadel. We can't hope to take
it, but we'll keep the garrison busy. Meanwhile a few of us break in,
get the rocket, and take it back out here, where you will have an orbit
plotted--"

"I can't make one that quickly. And who can pilot it well enough to
land it here without cracking it up?"

       *       *       *       *       *

They looked at each other, and then eyes turned to Gonzales Alonzo. He
smiled mirthlessly. "I can try," he said. "But I'm only an engineer; I
never imagined I'd have to fly the thing. Chiang Ching-Wei was supposed
to be the pilot, but he's a prisoner now."

"If we smash the rocket--well, then we smash it," said Anse heavily.
"It'll mean a long and hard war against Volakech from outside, and
he'll have all the advantages of the new weapons. We may never
overthrow him before he gets another boat built. Still--we'll just have
to try."

Ellen said quietly: "I can pilot it."

"You!"

"Of course. I've been working on the second boat from the beginning. I
know it as well as anyone, every seam and rivet and wiring diagram. I
was aboard when Chiang took her on a practice run only a few days ago.
I'll fly it for you!"

"You can't--we have to fight our way into the castle itself, the very
heart of Volakech's power--you'd be killed!"

"It's the best chance. If you think we can get in at all, I stand as
good a chance of living through it as anyone else."

"She's right," said Janazik. "And while we waste time here arguing, the
citadel is getting ready. Come on!"

Automatically, Anse broke into movement, trotting along beside Janazik,
and the army formed its ranks and followed them.

He had time for a few hurried words with Ellen, whispered as they went
up the hill: "Stay close by me. There'll be a small group of us getting
in, picked fighters, and we'll make a ring about you."

"Of course," she nodded. Her gray eyes shone, and she was breathing
quickly. "I begin to see why you were a rover all those years, Anse.
It's mad and desperate and terrible--but before Cosmos, we're alive!"

"Most recruits are frightened green before their first battle," he
said. "You have a warrior's heart, Ellen--" He broke off, hearing the
banality of his own words.

"Listen, my dearest," he said then, quickly. "We may not come alive
through all this. But remember what I did say, down by the river that
day. I love you."

She was silent. He went on, fumbling for words: "You wouldn't answer me
then--"

"I thought it was just your usual talk to women."

"It may have been--then," he admitted. "But it hasn't been since, and
it isn't now." His sword-calloused hand found hers. "Don't forget,
Ellen. I love you. I will always love you."

"Anse--" She turned toward him, and he saw her eyes alight. "Anse--"

A bugle shrilled through the rain, high and harsh ahead of them. Dimly,
they made out the monstrous bulk of the castle, looming through the
misty gray light, its towers lost in the vague sky. Janazik's sword
flashed from its sheath.

"The battle begins," said a voice out of the blurring rain.

Anse drew Ellen over against a wall and kissed her. Her lips were cool
and firm under his, wet with rain; he would never forget that kiss
while life was in him.

They looked at each other for a moment of wonder, and then broke apart
and followed Janazik.


                                   V

The loyalists charged in a living wave that roared as it surfed against
the castle walls and spattered a foam of blood and steel. From three
sides they came, weaving in and out of the hailing arrows, lifting
shields above them, leaving their dead behind them.

The blaster cannon mounted on the walls spouted flame and thunder.
Warriors were mowed down before that whirling white fury, armor melted
when the lightning-like discharges played over it, but still the
assault went on with all the grim bitter courage of the Khazaki race.

Old siege engines were appearing, dragged out of storehouses and hiding
places where they had been kept against such a day of need. Now the
great catapults and ballistae were mounted; stones and fireballs and
iron-headed bolts were raking the walls. A testudo moved awkwardly
forth up the steep hill toward the gates. It was blasted to flaming
molten ruin, but another got underneath the walls and the crash of a
battering ram came from under its roof.

Shadowlike in the blinding rain, the warriors flitted up toward the
walls. No spot of cover was too small for one of those ghostly shapes;
they seemed to carry their own invisibility with them. Under the
walls--scaling ladders appearing as if out of nowhere--up the walls and
into the castle!

The ladders were hurled down. The warriors who gained the walls were
blasted by cannon, cut down by superior numbers, lost in a swirl of
battle and death. Boiling water rained down over the walls on those
below, spears and arrows and the roaring blaster bolts. But still they
came. Still the howling, screeching demons of Krakenau came, and died,
and came again.

Anse cursed, softly, luridly, pain croaking in his voice: "We can't be
with them. They're being slaughtered and we can't be with them."

"We're needed worse here," said Janazik curtly. "If only Pragakech can
maintain the assault for an hour--"

He and Anse loped in the forefront. Behind them came Gonzales, Ellen,
and a dozen picked young Khazaki. They wove through a maze of alleys
and streets and deserted market squares, working around behind the
castle. The roar of battle came to them out of the gray mist of rain;
otherwise there was only the padding and splashing of their own feet,
the breath rasping harsh in their lungs, the faint clank and jingle
of their harness. All Krakenau not at the storming of the citadel had
withdrawn into the mysterious shells of the houses, lay watching and
waiting and whetting knives in the dark.

The paths dipped steeply downward, until, when they came around behind
the citadel and stood peering out of a tunnel-like alley, there was a
sheer cliff-face before them. On this side the castle was impregnable.
The only approach was a knife-edged trail winding up the cliff, barely
wide enough for one man at a time. At its top, flush with the precipice
edge, the wall was built. Against this wall, commanding the trail,
there had in the old days been an archer post, but lately a cannon had
been mounted there.

Yet that very security, thought Anse, might be a weakness. Except for
that gun, the approach wouldn't be watched, especially with the fight
going on elsewhere. So--

"Give me your weapon, Alonzo," said Janazik.

"Here." Gonzales handed him the blaster pistol. "But it only has two
charges left in it."

"That may be enough." Janazik slipped it under his cloak. Then he wound
a gold brassard about his arm and started up the trail. A couple of his
Khazaki came behind them, then Anse, Ellen, and Alonzo, and finally the
rest of the warriors.

       *       *       *       *       *

The trail was steep and slippery, water swirling down it, loose rocks
moving uneasily beneath the feet--and it was a dizzying drop off the
sheer edge to the ground below. They wound upward slowly, panting,
cursing, wondering how much of a chance their desperate scheme really
had.

Ellen slipped a little. Anse reached back and caught her hand. He
smiled lop-sidedly. "Now I don't want to let go," he said.

"I wonder--" Ellen looked away, then back to him, and her eyes were
wide and puzzled. "I wonder if I want you to, Anse."

His heart seemed to jump up into his throat, but he let her go and said
wryly: "I'm afraid I have to right now. But wait till later."

Up and up--_Later! Will there ever be a later?_

_And if there is, what then? I'm still more than half a Khazaki. Can we
live together in the great civilization I hardly comprehend?_

_It was simpler when Janazik and I were warring over the planet ...
Janazik! I wonder if two beings of the same race could ever know as
close a friendship as that between us two aliens. We've fought and
laughed and sung together, we've saved each other's lives, sweated and
suffered and been afraid, together. We know each other as we will never
know any other being._

_Well, it passes. We'll always remain close friends, I suppose. But the
old comradeship--I'll have to give that up._

_But Ellen--_

Up and up--

Janazik whistled, long and loud, and called: "Hail Volakech! Friends!"

He could dimly see the looming bulk of the blaster cannon, crouched
behind its iron shield. Above it the walls of the castle were high and
dark and--empty.

The voice came from ahead of him, taut with nervousness: "Who goes
there?"

"A friend. I have a message for His Highness." Janazik moved forward
almost casually. His eyes gleamed with mirth. It tickled his heart,
this dicing with death. Someday he'd overreach himself and that would
be the end, but until then he was having fun.

"Advance.... No, no one else. Just you alone."

Janazik sauntered forward until he stood only a meter from the blunt
ugly muzzle. He had his left arm out of his cloak, so that the golden
brassard shone in plain view. Underneath, his right hand thumbed the
catch of Alonzo's pistol.

"Who are you?" challenged the voice from behind the shield.

"A messenger for His Highness from his allies in Volgazan," said
Janazik. "Seeing that there was still fighting going on, I and my men
decided to come in the back way."

"Well--I suppose I can let you in, under guard. But your men, will have
to stay out here."

"Very well." Janazik strolled over behind the shield.

There were three warriors crouched there, in front of a small door in
the wall. One of them was about to blow his trumpet for a guard detail.
The other two poised their spears near Janazik's throat. None of them
thought that anyone outside the citadel might possess an Earth-weapon.

       *       *       *       *       *

Janazik shot right through his cloak. In that narrow space, the
ravenous discharge blinded and blistered him, stung his face with
flying particles of molten iron. The hammer-blow of concussion sent him
reeling back against the wall. His cloak caught afire; he ripped it off
and flung it down on the three blackened corpses before him.

Vision returned to his dazzled eyes. These Earth-weapons were hideous
things, he thought; they made nothing of courage or strength or even
cunning. He wondered what changes Galactic civilization would bring to
old Khazak, and didn't think he'd like most of them. Maybe Volakech was
right.

But Anse was his comrade and Aligan had been his king. He whistled, and
the others came running up.

"Quick," rasped Janazik. "The noise may draw somebody--quick, inside!"

"Can't we swing this lightning thrower around and blast them?" wondered
a Khazaki.

"No, it's fixed in place." Anse threw his brawny shoulders against
the solid mass of the door. It swung ponderously back and they dashed
through the tunnel in the thick wall--out into the open courtyard of
the castle!

The noises of the fight rose high from here, but there were only a few
warriors in sight, scurrying back and forth on their errands without
noticing the newcomers--a fact which did not surprise Anse or Janazik,
who knew what vast confusion a battle was. The human remembered the
layout now--the rocket would be over by the machine shops, near the
donjon keep--"This way!"

They trotted across the court, around the gray stone bulk of the
citadel's buildings and towers, toward the long wooden shed which
housed the new machine shop. The rain was beginning to slacken now, and
the sun was up behind its gray veil, so that there was light shining
through slanting silver. Against the dark walls, the lean torpedo shape
of the rocket boat gleamed like a polished spearhead.

"Now--ahead!" Janazik broke into a run toward the boat, and they
followed him in a close ring about Ellen.

A band of fighters came around the corner of the machine shop, in front
of the rocket. The wet light shone off their brassards. Janazik swore
bitterly, and his hand dropped to his sword.

One of the enemy warriors let out a yell. "Earthlings--two--three of
them! Not ours--"

The blaster crashed in Janazik's hand, and five dropped their charred
bodies on the ground. With a spine-shivering yell, Janazik bounded
forward, and after him came Anse, Alonzo, and a round dozen of the
fiercest fighters in Krakenau. The blaster was exhausted now--but they
had their swords!

The leader of the enemy band was a huge Khazaki, dark-furred and
green-eyed. His men were scattering in panic, but he roared a
bull-voiced command and they rallied about him and stood before the
rocket.

Volakech. By all the thirteen hells, _Volakech_!

He must have been leading reinforcements to a threatened point on
the wall, thought Anse in a fleeting moment, and his sharp mind had
instantly deduced that the invaders were after the rocket--and that
they could have no more blaster charges, or they would be using them.
And Volakech's band was still larger than theirs, and he had all the
forces of the citadel behind him if he could summon them!

       *       *       *       *       *

The two bands crashed together and steel began to fly. Anse stood
before Ellen and lashed out at a spitting Khazaki who reached for his
belly with a sword. The enemy dodged past his guard, drilled in close.
Ellen shouted and kicked at the native's ankles. He stumbled, dropping
his defense, and Anse clove his skull.

Volakech roared. He swung a huge battle axe, and its shock and thunder
rose high over the swaying tide of battle. Two of Janazik's men leaped
at him. He swept the axe in a terrible arc and the spike cracked one
pate and the edge split the other's face open. Alonzo sprang at him
with furious courage, wielding a sword. Volakech knocked it spinning
from his hand, but, before he could kill the engineer, Anse was on him.

They traded blows in a clamor of steel. Axe and sword clashed together,
sheared along chain mail and rang on helmets. It was a blur of rake
and slash and parry, with Volakech grinning at him behind a network of
whirling steel.

Anse gathered his strength and pressed forward with reckless fury.
His sword hummed and whistled and roared against Volakech's hard-held
guard. He laid open arms, legs, cheek; he probed and lunged for the
rebel king's trunk. Volakech snarled, but step by step he was driven
back.

Warriors fell, but it was on the bodies of foemen and even dying they
stabbed upward at the enemy. Bitter, bloody, utterly ruthless, the
struggle swayed about the rocketship. It was old Khazak that fought,
the planet of warriors, and, even as he hewed and danced and slew,
Janazik thought bleakly that he was trying to end the gory magnificence
of that age; he was bringing civilization and with it the doom of his
own kind. Khazak of the future would not be the same world.

If they won--if they won!

"To me!" he yelled. "To me, men of Aligan! Hai, Aligan! Krakenau!
Dougald!"

They heard and rallied round him, the last gasping survivors of his
band. But there were few of Volakech's men left, few.

"Volakech! Aid the king! To me, men of Volakech!" The rebel shouted at
the top of his lungs. And Anse lunged in at him, beating against the
swift armor of the axe.

"Anse!" Janazik's urgent shout cut through the clangor of battle.
"Anse, here! We're blasting free!"

The human hardly heard him. He forced his way closer in against
Volakech, his sword whistling about the usurper's helmeted head.

"Anse!" shouted Janazik. "Anse--Ellen needs you--"

With a tiger snarl, Anse broke free from his opponent and whirled
about. A rebel stood before him. There was an instant of violence too
swift to be followed, and Anse leaped over the ripped body and up to
Janazik.

The Khazaki stood by the airlock. There was a ring of corpses before
him; his sword ran blood.

"Ellen?" gasped Anse. "Ellen?"

"Inside," rasped Janazik. "She's inside. We have to get out of
here--only way to get your attention--_Come on!_"

Anse saw the armed band swarming at them from one of the outer towers,
defenders who had finally noticed the battle at the rocket and were
coming to aid their king. Not a chance against them--except the boat!

Man and Khazaki stepped back into the airlock. A storm of arrows and
javelins broke loose. Anse saw two of his men fall--then Janazik had
slammed the heavy outer valve and dogged it shut.

"Ellen!" he gasped. "Ellen--take the boat up before they dynamite it!"

The girl nodded. She was strapping herself into the pilot's seat before
the gleaming control panel. Only Alonzo was there with her, bleeding
but still on his feet. Four of them survived--only four--but they had
the boat!

Through the viewport, Anse saw the attackers surging around the hull.
They'd use ballistae to crush it, dynamite to blow it up, blaster
cannon to fry them alive inside the metal shell--unless they got it
into the sky first.

"Take the engines, Alonzo," said Ellen.

Gonzales Alonzo nodded. "You help me, Janazik," he said. "I'm not sure
I--can stay conscious--"

       *       *       *       *       *

The pilot room was in the bows. Behind it, bulkheaded off, lay the air
plant and the other mechanisms for maintaining life aboard--not very
extensive, for the boat wouldn't be in space long. Amidships were the
control gyros, and behind still another bulkhead the engine controls.
Rather than install an elaborate automatic feed system, the builders
had relied on manual controls acting on light signals flashed by
the pilot. It was less efficient, but it had shortened the labor of
constructing the vessel and was good enough for the mere hop it had to
make.

"I don't know anything about it," said Janazik doubtfully.

"I'll tell you what to do--Help me--" Leaning on the Khazaki's arm,
Alonzo stumbled toward the stern.

Anse strapped his big body into the chair beside Ellen's. "I can't help
much, I'm afraid," he said.

"No--except by being here," she smiled.

Looking out, he saw that the assault on the castle was almost
over--beaten off. It had provided the diversion they needed--but at
what cost, at what cost?

"We might as well take off for the Star Ship right away," he said.

"Of course. And that will end the war. Volakech can either surrender or
sit in the castle till he rots."

"Or we can use the ship to blast the citadel."

"No--oh, Cosmos, no!" Her eyes were filled with sudden horror.

"Why not?" he argued angrily. "Only way we can rescue our people if he
won't give them up of his own will."

"We might kill Carse," she whispered.

It was on his tongue to snap good riddance, but he choked down the
impulse. "Why do you care for him that much?"

"He's my brother," she said simply, and he realized that in spite of
her civilized protestations Ellen was sufficiently Khazaki to feel the
primitive unreasoning clan loyalty of the planet. She added slowly:
"And when Father died, years ago, Carse took his place, he's been both
father and big brother to me. He may have some wrong ideas, but he's
always been so--good--"

A child's worship of the talented, handsome, genial elder brother, and
she had never really outgrown it. Well--it didn't matter. Once they had
the Star Ship, Carse didn't matter. "He'll be as safe as anyone can be
in these days," said Anse. "I--I'll protect him myself if need be."

Her hand slid into his, and she kissed him, there in the little boat
while it rocked and roared under the furious assaults from without.
"Anyone who hurts Carse is my blood foe," she breathed. "But anyone who
helps him helps me, and--and--"

Anse smiled, dreamily. The engines began to stutter, warming up, and
Volakech's men scattered in dismay. They had seen the fire that spurted
from the rocket tubes.

And in the engine room, Masefield Carson held his blaster leveled on
Alonzo and Janazik. "Go ahead," he smiled. "Go ahead--take the ship up."


                                  VI

The Khazaki swore lividly. His sword seemed almost to leap halfway out
of the scabbard. Carse swung the blaster warningly, and he clashed
the weapon back. Useless, useless, when white flame could destroy him
before he got moving.

"How did you get here?" he snarled.

The tall, bronze-haired man smiled again. "I wasn't in the fight," he
said. "Volakech wanted to save my knowledge and told me to stay out
of the battle. I wasn't really needed. But it occurred to me that your
assault was obviously a futile gesture unless you hoped in some way
to capture the boat. So I hid in here to guard it--just in case. And
now--we'll take her up. We may just as well do so. Once I have the Star
Ship--" He gestured at Alonzo. "Start the engines. And no tricks. I
understand them as well as you do."

Gonzales strapped himself in place and stood swaying with weakness
while he manipulated the controls. "I can't--reach that wheel--" he
gasped.

"Turn it, Janazik," said Carse. "About a quarter turn--that's enough."

The impassive faces of meters wavered and blurred before Alonzo's
swimming eyes. He had been pretty badly hurt. But the engines were
warming up.

"Strap yourself in, Janazik," said Carse.

The Khazaki obeyed, sickly. He didn't really need the anti-acceleration
webbing--Carse himself was content to hang on to a stanchion with one
hand--but it would hamper his movements, he would have no way of making
a sudden leap. Between them, he and Alonzo could handle the engines
readily enough, Carse giving them their orders. Then once they were
at the Star Ship he could blast them down, go out to capture Anse
and Ellen--and the old books said one man could handle the ship if
necessary--

How to warn the two in the pilot room? How to get help? The warrior's
brain began to turn over, cool and steady now, swift as chilled
lightning.

The boat spouted flame, stood on its tail and climbed for the sky.
Acceleration dragged at Carse, but it wasn't too great for a strong man
to resist. Carse tightened his grip on the stanchion. His blaster was
steady on them.

Ellen's signal lights blinked and blinked on the control panels. More
on the No. 3 jet, ease to port, full ahead, cut No. 2.... Alonzo
handled most of it, occasionally gasping a command to Janazik. The
bellow of the rockets filled the engine room.

And in the bows, Dougald Anson saw the world reel and fall behind, saw
the rainy sky open up in a sudden magnificence of sun, saw it slowly
darken and the stars come awesomely out. Gods, gods, was this space?
Open space? No wonder the old people had longed to get away!

       *       *       *       *       *

_How to get help, how to warn Anse_--Janazik's mind spun like an
unloaded engine, spewing forth plan after unusable plan. Quickly, now,
by Shantuzik's hells!

No way out--and the minutes were fleeing, the rocket was reaching for
the sky, he knew they were nearing the Star Ship and still he lay in
his harness like a sheep and obeyed Carse's gun-point orders!

The disgrace of it! He snarled his anger, and at Alonzo's gasped
command swung the wheel with unnecessary savagery. The ship lurched as
a rocket tube overfired. Carse nearly lost his hold, and for an instant
Janazik's hands were at the acceleration webbing, ready to fling it off
and leap at him.

The man recovered, and his blaster came to the ready again. He had to
shout to be heard above the thundering jets: "Don't try that--either of
you! I can shoot you down and handle it myself if I must!"

He laughed then, a tall and splendid figure standing strained against
the brutal, clawing acceleration. Ellen's brother--aye! And one could
see why she wanted him spared. Janazik's lip curled back from his teeth
in a snarl of hate.

       *       *       *       *       *

The rocket must be very near escape velocity now. Presently Ellen would
signal for the jets to be turned off and they would rush weightless
through space while she took her readings and plotted the orbit that
would get them to the Star Ship. And if then Carse emerged with his
blaster--

Anse had only a sword.

_But--Anse is Anse_, thought Janazik. _If there is any faintest glimmer
of a chance Anse will find it. And if not, we're really no worse off
than now. I'll have to warn Anse and leave the rest up to him._

The Khazaki nodded bleakly to himself. It would probably mean his own
death before Carse's blaster flame--and damn it, damn it, he liked
living. Even if the old Khazak he knew were doomed, there had been many
new worlds of the Galactic frontier. He and Anse had often dreamed of
roving over them--

However--

A red light blinked on the panel. Ellen's signal to cut the rockets.
They were at escape velocity.

Wearily, his hand shaking, Alonzo threw the master switch. The sudden
silence was like a thunderclap.

And Janazik screeched the old Krakenaui danger call from his fullest
lungs.

Carse turned around with a curse, awkward in the sickening zero-gravity
of free fall. "It won't do you any good," he yelled thickly. "I'll kill
him too--"

Alonzo threw the master switch up! With a coughing roar, the rockets
burst back into life. No longer holding the stanchion, Carse was hurled
to the floor.

Janazik clawed at his webbing to get free. Carse leveled his blaster on
Alonzo. The engineer threw another switch at random, and the direction
of acceleration shifted with sudden violence, slamming Carse against
the farther wall.

His blaster raved, and Alonzo had no time to scream before the flame
licked about him.

[Illustration: _His blaster raved, and Alonzo had no time to scream
before the flame licked about him...._]

And in the control room, Anse heard Janazik's high ululating yell. The
reflexes of the wandering years came back to galvanize him. His sword
seemed to leap into his hand, he flung himself out of his chair webbing
with a shout....

"Anse!" Ellen's voice came dimly to his ears, hardly noticed.
"Anse--what is it--"

He drifted weightless in midair, cursing, trying to swim. And then the
rockets woke up again and threw him against the floor. He twisted with
Khazaki agility, landed crouched, and bounded for the stern.

Ellen looked after him, gasping, for an instant yet unaware of the
catastrophe, thinking how little she knew that yellow-maned savage
after all, and how she would like to learn, and--

The rocket veered, crazily. Anse caught himself as he fell, adjusted to
the new direction of gravity, and continued his plunging run. The crash
of a blaster came from ahead of him.

He burst into the control room and saw it in one blinding instant.
Alonzo's charred body sagging in its harness, Janazik half out of his,
Carse staggering to his feet--the blaster turned on Janazik, Janazik,
the finger tightening--

       *       *       *       *       *

Tiger-like, Anse sprang. Carse glimpsed him, turned, the blaster half
swung about ... and the murderous fighting machine which was Dougald
Anson had reached him. Carse saw the sword shrieking against his face;
it was the last thing he ever saw....

Anse lurched back against the control panel. "Turn it off!" yelled
Janazik. "Throw that big switch there!"

Mechanically, the human obeyed, and there was silence again, a deep
ringing silence in which they floated free. It felt like an endless
falling.

Falling, falling--Anse looked numbly down at his bloody sword. Falling,
falling, falling--but that couldn't be right, he thought dully. He had
already fallen. He had killed Ellen's brother.

"And I love her," he whispered.

Janazik drifted over, slowly in the silent room. His eyes were a deep
gold, searching now. _If Ellen won't have him, he and I will go out
together, out to the stars and the great new frontier. But if she will,
I'll have to go alone, I'll always be alone--_

_Unless she would come too. She's a good kid.... I'd like to have her
along. Maybe take a mate of my own too.... But that can never be, now.
She won't come near her brother's slayer._

"You might not have had to kill him," said Janazik. "Maybe you could
have disarmed him."

"Not before he got one of us--probably you," said Anse tonelessly.
"Anyway, he needed killing. He shot Alonzo."

He added, after a moment: "A man has to stand by his comrades."

Janazik nodded, very slowly. "Give me your sword," he said.

"Eh?" Anse looked at him. The blue eyes were unseeing, blind with pain,
but he handed over the red weapon. Janazik slipped his own glaive into
the human's fingers.

Then he laid a hand on Anse's shoulder and smiled at him, and then
looked away.

_We Khazaki don't know love. There is comradeship, deeper than any
Earthling knows. When it happens between male and female, they are
mates. When it is between male and male, they are blood-brothers. And a
man must stand by his comrades._

Ellen came in, pulling her way along the walls by the handholds, and
Anse looked at her without saying a word, just looking.

"What happened?" she said. "What is the--_Oh!_"

Carse's body floated in midair, turning over and over in air currents
like a drowned man in the sea.

"Carse--Carse--"

Ellen pushed from the wall, over to the dead man. She looked at his
still face, and stroked his blood-matted hair, and smiled through a
mist of tears.

"You were always good to me, Carse," she whispered. "You were ...
goodnight, brother. Goodnight."

Then turning to Anse and Janazik, with something cold and terrible in
her voice: "Who killed him?"

Anse looked at her, dumbly.

"I did," said Janazik.

He held forth the dripping sword. "He stowed away--was going to take
over the ship. Alonzo threw him off balance by turning the rockets back
on. He killed Alonzo. Then I killed him. He needed it. He was a traitor
and a murderer, Ellen."

"He was my brother," she whispered. And suddenly she was sobbing in
Anse's arms, great racking sobs that seemed to tear her slender body
apart.

But she'd get over it.

Anse looked at Janazik over her shoulder, and while he ruffled her
shining hair his eyes locked with the Khazaki's. _This is the end.
Once we land, we can never see each other, not ever again. And we were
comrades in the old days...._

_Farewell, my brother._

       *       *       *       *       *

When the star ship landed outside Krakenau's surrendered citadel, it
was still raining a little. Janazik looked out at the wet gray world
and shivered. Then, wordlessly, he stepped from the airlock and walked
slowly down the hill toward the sea. He did not look back, and Anse did
not look after him.





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