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from time to time, the stubby fingers of his hands forming a pyramid
before his lips as he slumped in his chair. Lors left nothing out,
except his love for Beth Danson. He couldn't bring himself to tell about
that. When he had finished, Commander Zark's eyes were hot with angry
"I'll see that Imry cannot get a command on a planet with a pure ammonia
atmosphere for this trick! I'll see him tortured by Thistians!" The old
man stopped his tirade as quickly as he had begun it. "You know what
this means, Lors?"
"I'm afraid to guess."
"The wrecked scout ship can be covered up easily enough because of the
Terran politics; they always arrange it so that one branch of government
has no idea of what the other branches are doing. We'll have some of our
men in Washington mumble in their beards about experimental aircraft
until everyone is taken from the scene except our people. Then we'll
have the ship taken somewhere, ostensibly to be studied, and they'll all
"But these Terrans are another matter. If they can get their people to
listen to them, we're in trouble..."
"Perhaps," Lors said softly, "if they were believed, it would speed up
our relations with the Terran governments."
Zark shook his grey head. "No. They aren't ready yet. They're still in
such a fluctuating state that half the population believes in witchcraft
and superstition, while the other half understands science and looks
toward the future.
"Besides, Lors, others have tried those same tactics and were not
believed. To tell the truth, I'm not quite sure _what_ to do."
"We could continue the bluff."
The Commander's brows lifted. "You mean you continue as our agent down
"Yes, sir. The way it worked out, with the crash, it merely supported
the story I was to tell Danson's wife. I really did have temporary
amnesia. No one knows anything, except about the ship. Brice found
Danson's watch at the crash site, but we could work a little mental
trick on him and make him forget everything he knows, couldn't we?"
"It would be risky. You never know if that process will work until it is
tried. As much as I hate the thought, it would be best to kill both of
them and send you back to the Terran woman. After we had tried to bluff
out Imry's plan for a month, or so, we could arrange an accident for you
in which it would appear that you were dead - perhaps utilizing the real
Danson for the accident. Does the woman suspect anything?"
"I don't think so," Lors told him. "She seems too happy in having me
back, at the moment."
Zark smiled at him and clamped a hand to his shoulder. "You're tired, my
boy. Get some rest and we'll talk about this thing later. You can use
Firstspacer Thesa's quarters. Danson is in yours."
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