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Lors finished dressing himself, buckling the black belt about his waist;
then he looked down at the still form of Zark's daughter, Jela, golden
in the light of the overhead bulb. She slept like a baby. He blew a kiss
to her and let his breath out in a rush.
"If everything goes right," he whispered, "I'll be back before you know
I'm gone. If not..." He let it hang there and checked the loads in the
Then he went out into the bright light of the corridor.
* * * * *
The guard merely accepted his auto-pistol when he stopped at the door to
Danson's prison. Lors gave it to him and the spacer opened the door.
Nick Danson rubbed the beard on his face and grinned at him.
"Forget something, Firstspacer?" He asked.
When the door closed, Lors said: "Shut up."
"How badly do you want to get off this ship, Danson?"
"How badly do you want to make Commander?" Danson countered and lit a
"You willing to risk your life?"
"Why not? It isn't worth a hell of a lot anyhow."
Lors reached into Danson's shirt pocket, found the pack of cigarettes
and filched one. Nick touched a match to it and Lors dragged the smoke
into his lungs. He could see the Terran regarding him suspiciously.
"What's the play, Firstspacer?" Danson asked.
"You're dead, Nick," Lors said softly, "if you stay on this ship. That
can be either literally, or figuratively speaking, I don't know. It all
depends on Zark's plans for you."
Nick snorted, "Hell, Lors, it can't be any worse than whatever Imry had
cooked up for me."
"It'll be better. That I can assure you. Zark is a just man, but he
hasn't much feeling for Terrans..."
"Yeah, I know. The "god" theory."
"Well, look, Firstspacer," Danson said, snubbing out his cigarette.
"Your concern for my welfare touches me deeply, but I don't get it. How
Lors grinned. "I've been asking myself that same question, and while I
can get answers that make sense to me, I sincerely doubt if they'd make
sense to you.
"Why don't we just say I like you."
"That's rich, but I'll buy it. All I've got to lose is my chains..."
"And your memory."
Lors sucked on the cigarette. "You can't talk about this thing to anyone
except your wife."
"Who'd believe me anyhow?"
"It's bigger than that, Danson. If you talk to anyone, I'll kill you."
"You don't make sense. Why not kill me now?"
Lors sighed. "Look, Commander Imry made a booboo, to use one of your
terms, and I got caught in the middle. This whole operation is fouled up
because of what he did. If we don't try to put things back, it's going
to be in a real tough light.
"For the first time in history, Terra is in possession of a scout ship
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