Ocenite etot tekst:


     Translated by Alex Miller
     RADUGA PUBLISHERS MOSCOW
     OCR: http://home.freeuk.com/russica2/
     Translation from the Russian
     Illustrated and designed by Mikhail Verkholantsev
     Original Russian title: GIBELX FA|NY
     Na anglijskom yazyke
     (c)Izdatel'stvo "Detskaya literatura" 1974
     English translation (c)Raduga Publishers 1989



     From the author

     Part One. Tension

     Chapter One. The Wave
     Chapter Two. Two Shores
     Chapter Three. The Masters
     Chapter Four. The Temple of Eternity
     Chapter Five. Blood
     Chapter Six. No Happiness in this World
     Chapter Seven. The Forgotten Hump

     Part Two. Explosion

     Chapter One. The Little World
     Chapter Two. The Golden Apple
     Chapter Three. Paradise Lost
     Chapter Four. At the Peak of Civilisation
     Chapter Five. Craters in the Wilderness
     Chapter Six. Judgement
     Chapter Seven. The Star of Hatred

     Part Three. Fragments

     Chapter One. Twilight
     Chapter Two. Mutiny in Space
     Chapter Three. In the Name of Reason
     Chapter Four. Spiders in Jar
     Chapter Five. The Naked Leader
     Chapter Six. The Testament of the Great Elder

     Epilogue. The Talking Beast



     From the author

     Cosmogony is no less  full of  riddles than  the history of  Earth. And
where  there  are  riddles,  there  is room for fantasy. However,  if  it is
divorced from  reality  and rejects verisimilitude and authenticity, fantasy
is empty,  it  leaves no  trace in  the  heart;  the  best it can  do is  to
titillate  the  reader's  senses.  But  I  have  always  wanted  to  achieve
"authenticity in the  incredible", to  write fantasy founded  solely on real
facts and unsolved mysteries.
     One  such riddle  that  excited  me was the  ring  of  asteroids (minor
planets) between the orbits of  Mars  and Jupiter  instead of the planet, as
predicted  by  Kepler's  law,  which had exploded  for  some unknown reason,
scattering fragments all round its orbit. How could that have happened?
     If the  planet had  exploded from within  because of certain processes,
its fragments would have flown in all directions as  from  a  high-explosive
bomb  and would have continued moving  round the sun in elongated elliptical
orbits...  But  they  are  moving  round in  their  former  almost  circular
planetary  orbit.  If the  planet had perished because  of a  collision with
another  cosmic  body,  their  common  fragments would have tended towards a
resultant,  also  acquiring  elongated  elliptical  orbits;  but  they  have
virtually stayed where they were.
     The  planet  apparently  cracked  as the  result of  a  powerful impact
received simultaneously from all directions; it then disintegrated under the
influence of the gravity of Mars and Jupiter. Its remains kept colliding and
breaking up, creating swarms of meteorites and stringing out round the whole
former orbit of the planet. But what kind of explosion was it? The explosion
of its water envelope, its oceans?
     It  so happened  that  I was able  to  put  this question to  the great
20th-century physicist. Nils Bohr when he met us Moscow writers.
     "Can  all a planet's oceans  explode if a super powerful nuclear device
is detonated in their depths?" I asked him.
     "I don't deny  such a possibility," he replied, and added, "but even if
it weren't so, nuclear weapons must be banned in any case."
     He  understood it  all  at  once! If the planet had  perished when  its
oceans exploded, then  there was  a  civilisation on it  that  had destroyed
itself because of a nuclear war.
     This  was  the stimulus for me as  a novelist  to  write my trilogy The
Faetians. Other problems found their way  into it.  Why has the missing link
between  man and the Earth's  animal world never been  discovered?  Why does
Mars seem  uninhabited, and was it always so? Why did great cataclysms occur
on Earth,  such  as  the  sinking of  Atlantis  and the  rise of the  Andes?
According to some theories, the cause was a gigantic asteroid that fell onto
Earth,  or the appearance  of the hitherto non-existent Moon in the sky over
Earth. Is this so?
     The reader will learn all about it in the novel as he follows the lives
of the characters, who witnessed unprecedented catastrophes.
     The author will be  happy if this book  helps the reader to  acquire  a
taste for the great secrets of the Universe and of Earth's history.

     Alexander Kazantsev


     Peace is the virtue of civilisation.
     War is its crime.
     Victor Hugo



     Tension

     Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace,Profaners of
     this neighbour-stained steel.
     Will they not hear?-
     What ho! You men, you beasts.
     That quench the fire of your pernicious rage
     With purple fountains issuing from your veins.
     On pain of torture, from those bloody hands
     Throw your mistempered weapons to the ground...

     W. Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet

     Chapter One



     Translation of an extraterrestrial message inscribed in the language of
the Faetians who  lived on Faena a million years ago.  (Books 2  and 3 of my
science-fantasy novel, The Faetians, tell of who wrote and sent this message
to Earth and who deciphered it.)

     The only daughter of the Dictator  of Powermania, an  ancient continent
of Faena, was named Yasna after her mother. Her  father,  Yar Jupi, had been
hoping for a son, but he loved his daughter beyond measure. He kept dreaming
that she would  grow up, get married and leave him. When, as was the custom,
he  needed  to give  his grown-up daughter a  final name, he could think  of
nothing better than calling her  Mada, which meant Falling-in-love. Surnames
on Faena were borrowed from the  stars and planets. For example.  Mar, Jupi,
Alt or Sirus.
     Mada  Jupi took after her  mother:  she was  called beautiful. Her face
baffled  the  artists,  being lively, always changing, now merry, now clear,
now pensive.  How  could  they  paint  her?  She typified  the  best  of the
longfaces, but the oval of her features was moderate and soft, her  nose was
straight and her lips were firmly compressed.
     This  blue-eyed Faetess (as  they were called on Faena) was met  on the
Great Shore by Ave Mar, a visitor to Powermania. The girl  was coming out of
the water, having chosen the moment when a  breaker had crashed on the shore
and was sliding back in a mass of hissing foam.
     Ave wished he had  been  a sculptor. Everything he had heard about Mada
from his  hunchbacked secretary  Kutsi Merc  was pale, inadequate  and  dull
compared with what he could see with his own eyes.
     A fat, elderly Faetess, one of the roundheads, ran into  the  water and
wrapped the girl in a soft, fluffy sheet as she emerged.
     Mada took no notice  whatever  of Ave, although from what her companion
had told her, she knew quite a lot about him. The nanny deftly put a folding
chair down on  the sand and Mada sat on it, wrapping the sheet  round her as
the ancients used to drape themselves in their robes.
     Kutsi Merc noticed the  impression that  Mada had  made on Ave,  and he
hunched his back even more as he bent down to speak.
     "Shall we show this to the local natives?"
     And with a significant smile on his clever, evil face, he held a small,
smooth board out to Ave. Sitting on  the sand and admiring Mada, Ave vaguely
replied:
     "Well, I didn't realise we'd brought that with us!"
     "The  proud and  beautiful  Mada  Jupi  is here,"  said  the  secretary
encouragingly.  Ave Mar stood  up.  Thanks to  his impressive  height, long,
strong  neck and piercing eyes, he gave  the impression of  looking over the
heads of everybody else.
     In obedience to his own impulse, as it seemed to him, he took the board
from Kutsi and walked boldly with it into the water.
     Without taking  her eyes off Kutsi, Mada's companion whispered into the
girl's ear:
     "Look, Mada! The stranger from Danjab I was telling you about has taken
a board with him."
     In spite of the breakwater, built to make swimming easier when the tide
was coming in, the waves were crashing violently onto the shore. Outside the
barrier, they were truly gigantic, rearing up their foaming crests one after
another as on the open sea.
     "Where's he  swimming to?" asked  Mada's companion in alarm. "Shouldn't
we call the lifeguards?"
     "He's a better swimmer than you think," commented Mada vaguely.
     "But why's he taken that board? It's frightening to watch."
     Even so, she couldn't take her eyes off him.
     Ave swam as  far  as the  breakwater  and climbed  over it.  He had now
attracted the attention of many swimmers.
     "Why did you decide he's that particular stranger?" asked Mada.
     "Because of his  companion.  Roundheaded, like me; a hunchback into the
bargain, yet he's as proud as if he was strolling along the beach of Danjab.
I feel ashamed for our own people. Isn't anyone going to teach that show-off
how to swim?"
     "No, I don't  want  to," said  Mada, watching as the gigantic  breakers
swept the foreign visitor up onto their crests.
     And suddenly all the holidaymakers on the beach stirred in amazement.
     The swimmer chose the moment when a particularly big wave lifted him up
on its crest, jumped  to his  feet and  waved his arms, as if wanting to fly
like  a bird. He did not take  off, however,  but simply kept his balance on
the  slippery  board.  He  stood like  that  on the foaming crest  and  with
frightening speed swept towards the shore, clad in foam and spray. It seemed
incredible that he should stay on the moving watery mountain. But the madman
not only held his position; laughing  defiantly, he  began  gliding down the
steep watery slope, then allowed the wave to throw him upon its crest again.
     The crowded beach gasped at this bold display of skill.
     "But I must  see how that's  done," said Mada determinedly, casting off
the "ancient robe" and handing it to her worried nanny.
     "What are  you doing, my  dear?" she  protested, forgetting  her recent
advice. "He'll bump you with  his board. And is it fitting for the  daughter
of Yar Jupi to swim beside him?"
     Mada ran into the sea and dived into an oncoming wave.  The dark cap of
stretch  material protecting her thick  hair from the water  bobbed amid the
foaming crests.
     Mada swam as far  as the breakwater and climbed onto it. From there she
saw  the foreign swimmer going back  to the sea  with his board for  another
ride on the breakers. She waved to him, although he could not see her.
     There was  unlikely to be as skilful a  swimmer on the  Great  Shore as
Mada. The  ocean waves bore her  up onto their crests and tried to hurl  her
back.  But she was not accustomed to giving up once she had set her heart on
something.  She decided that she absolutely must stand on that magic  board,
and no force in the world could have stopped her.
     The foreigner swimming away from the shore didn't even look round.
     Mada  only had a glimpse of the stranger, but as she swam after him she
had the  distinct impression of  an athletic  figure  in a loincloth, strong
muscles rippling under the skin, and curly hair as tousled as that of a boy.
     Suddenly, Mada  saw him. He was  standing on a foaming crest. The water
seemed to be boiling under him, and with reckless abandon  he began  gliding
down the watery slope straight at Mada.
     Ave  noticed her at the last moment  and jumped, while Mada dived under
the board.
     It seemed to her that the wave had crashed down on her, but it was just
the board grazing her slightly.
     Mada  surfaced and  looked  round. The stranger's eyes  met hers as  he
bobbed up  to the surface.  He laughed joyfully and  promptly began swimming
towards her, seizing the board on the way.
     "Hold on!" he shouted while still some distance off.
     Mada could  not make anything out, but she smiled in answer, since  she
realised that he was hurrying to her assistance. When he swam up to her, she
said:
     "I want to stand on that..." and she pointed at the board.
     "Ave Mar will be happy to help..."
     "Mada Jupi."
     "You'll learn the meaning of joy, strength and happiness!"
     The  people  standing  on the  shore watched what was happening  on the
other side  of the breakwater. A sigh coursed  along the beach  when the two
figures appeared standing  straight up on the crest of a wave, holding on to
one another  and each evidently  standing with  one  foot  on  the board. It
seemed  like a  miracle. With their arms round  each other's  waists in full
view  of the onlookers  and without falling, they were borne on the  foaming
crest towards the beach.
     Never had Mada experienced such pleasure before.
     Even  so, when Mada  and Ave crossed the  breakwater and were returning
with  the board to the crowded beach, Mada felt  uneasy. If someone had told
her the day before that she was  capable of such flightiness, she would have
burst out laughing.
     Ave held the board in one hand  and  was ready  to  help  Mada with the
other  if the  surf  swept her off her feet. But Mada went ahead of him and,
skipping  over the gurgling foam with a laugh, was the first to  run up onto
the beach.
     She seemed to be showing that, as the Dictator's daughter, she could do
whatever she liked!
     Her anxious companion wrapped her charge up in the fluffy sheet.
     "How good it was! If you only knew how good it was, Mother Lua!"
     "As if I couldn't know," she grumbled. "I nearly died, waiting for you.
If anything  happened to you, I'd surely be  executed  by order of  Yar Jupi
(may he be happy, the great man!)"
     "It's a good thing  you're alive and can help me with one or two little
matters."
     Mother Lua gave her a stern look.
     "It frightens me to think of it, my dear."
     Mother Lua had  guessed rightly about her charge's intentions. Mada had
always dreamed about a real  Faetian,  manly, noble and pure. The uncultured
Faetians among  the  Superiors, flaunting a  civilisation  that  had  become
static since ancient times,  repelled her with their  boorishness, arrogance
and contempt for  the roundheads, whose children her mother had once nursed.
The  stranger,  as  her  nanny  had  told  her,  was  alien  to  all  gloomy
superstitions of the Superiors; he  was  a scholar  of  Danjab  who was  not
afraid to break free of the Science of Death there and end up at loggerheads
with everybody. It was just such a Faetian  that Mada could dream about, and
he had, on top of all that, turned out to be athletic, daring and handsome.
     It  was innate in Faetians to be mutually attracted  "at  first sight",
which they did not always admit even to themselves.
     The daughter of Yar Jupi had  justified the name  her  father had given
her-she had fallen in love straightway  with a visitor  clad in foam and, in
Mother Lua's opinion, had lost her wits.
     "Think,  my dear! If he was a  longface, it  would have been all right.
But they're going to call this one a half-breed. Contempt and hatred!  Think
again, my dear! I taught you the truth about  all the  Faetians, but not for
that!.."
     "No," replied Mada firmly. "Let it be the way I want it. You will go to
his companion and tell him where Ave and I are going to meet."
     "You'll be noticed together! The Blood Guard will seize him. Don't wish
him harm."
     "It shall be as I have said. Others will not be able to look at us.  We
shall meet in the palace garden."
     "The garden behind the Wall?" echoed Lua in alarm.
     "You will escort them through the Blood Door."
     Mother Lua looked downcast. But Mada paid no attention to her,  walking
on with her chin up.
     The Blood Door! It was one of  the most reliable of the devices  in the
Lair, as  the Dictator's palace was called. Yar Jupi had long been racked by
persecution mania.  It seemed to him  that there were conspiracies under way
everywhere  to assassinate him.  Consequently, he had  been living for  many
cycles  without leaving the  territory of the Lair and never letting himself
be  seen outside its walls. He communicated with his subordinates only  over
closed  TV.  He  trusted  no one. Security  was  maintained at key points by
automatons  who  admitted  only  chosen  Faetians  with  identifiable  brain
biocurrents.
     Only the  Faetians closest to  the  Dictator could use the  Blood Door.
There was no other key to it and no outsider could open it.
     And now Mother Lua had to escort foreigners into the garden outside the
Wall. She knew that her charge would not change her mind. Moreover,  she did
not want to obstruct Mada in any case.
     Need it be said that  Ave, the young Faetian, had also fallen in  love?
Inclined to extremes by  nature, time and  time again he relived the moments
when,  with  their  arms  round  each other's waists,  he and  the wonderful
Faetess had  ridden the surf together. He was in  a fever, but he  could not
imagine how to see  his beloved again, since she had turned  out to  be  Yar
Jupi's daughter.
     Grunting as if carrying a  heavy load, Kutsi Merc trudged along  behind
Ave. He was not in the least surprised  to notice  that the nurse had fallen
behind her charge and was adjusting a shoelace.
     Letting Ave go ahead, the  hunchback hung back near  the roundhead, and
she, without straightening up, said almost inaudibly:
     "As soon  as  shining  Jupi rises in  the sky,  take your master to the
ruins of the old shrine in the Dread Wall."
     Kutsi Merc nodded, grinned craftily and caught up with his master.
     "Success is  the  envy of  failures. A tryst  has been  made at the old
ruins in the light of Jupi, the brightest of planets."
     Ave looked round suddenly.
     "Are you jesting?"
     "Jesting is of no avail in my profession. Kutsi  Merc is too good a ...
helper."


     By a whim of the Dictator's, the Dread  Wall round his Lair ran through
a tiny  ruined shrine dividing  it  into two halves. This screened from view
the Blood Door,  which was hardly noticeable in any  case. The  wall in  the
lower part  divided  in obedience to the brain biocurrents written  into the
program of the electronic automatons.
     Mother Lua  nervously gave  the door its  mental  instructions  and  it
opened.
     Ave and  Kutsi Merc,  who  were  standing  in  the half-ruined portico,
quickly proceeded  through  the gap, Lua followed  them and  the Wall closed
behind  her. Only the ruins on the  inner  side of the wall  showed where to
look for the vanished door.
     Ave looked  round. He was  in a  luxuriant  garden. Sinuous lianas hung
down like snakes guarding their prey. Beyond the shaggy tree-trunks lurked a
gloom  that seemed dense and clammy. Lua, the nocturnal  luminary whose name
the nurse  bore, had not yet begun to rise,  and Jupi,  the brightest of the
planets, was only just silvering the tree-tops. Under them it was as dark as
on a starless night.
     The young Faetian's heart was thudding in his breast.
     Kutsi Merc's pulse was throbbing evenly enough. He had gained access to
the Lair, into which not even a snake could crawl its way...


     Chapter Two



     Ave  Mar first  met  Kutsi Merc, his secretary, half a cycle before the
encounter with Mada on the Great Shore.
     Ave Mar's steamcar stopped that day in a mountain pass on the continent
of the Culturals of Danjab.
     The view  took Ave's  breath  away. The ocean,  revealed from high  up,
seemed to ascend to the  very heavens. The misty band of the  horizon looked
like a ridge of lofty clouds.
     Below  lay Business  City. The skyscrapers stood in concentric circles.
They were  linked  by ring and radial streets and avenues, on both sides  of
which lay  green  parks and glittering lakes. In  the city centre towered  a
skyscraper resembling the conical axis of  the  monstrous Wheel  of Business
Life.
     Ave put his  foot down on  the  pedal to open the high-pressure  boiler
valve. The steam drive slowly moved the car  from its place, accelerating it
to the required speed.
     Steamcars  had  appeared very  recently, but  had  quickly replaced the
obsolete vehicles powered by internal  combustion engines.  In  their  time,
these machines had  poisoned the air of the cities with their exhaust gases.
The fuel  they consumed could  have  served as  chemical  raw  material  for
clothing and other goods in daily use.
     As he drove at  top  speed  along the magnificent road, Ave Mar crossed
the outer circle avenue on which stood the tower blocks of Business City.
     From a  distance, they seemed conical. In fact, they were stepped. They
were girt  by a spiral  steamcar road  which gave  access to  each storey in
succession and to the garage entrances outside every flat.
     The conical  towers  housed shops with corridors  leading to exits onto
the  spiral  road, restaurants,  cafes,  and  also theatres and  concert  or
viewing halls. There were production workshops and  business  offices in the
centre of the multistorey building.
     Moving staircases led to the garages under the living quarters.
     The ordinary Faetians, toiling in the workshops, had no cars and hardly
ever left  their cramped little rooms,  unaware of any world other than that
shut in by the skyscraper's spiral roadway.
     Ave stopped his steamcar. The  garage  doors  opened  automatically and
closed behind him when he had driven in.
     The car needed no maintenance, being permanently ready for use with the
necessary steam pressure in its boiler. The heating device of disintegration
matter was, so to speak, part of the machine and wore out with it.
     Ave Mar was in  a dejected  mood. He dropped in on one of his  friends;
but  the friend had summoned a secret meeting  and had  not invited Ave. Ave
understood what it was all about and drove off immediately.
     On the  way back he saw the pathetic hovels of the  Faetians who worked
in the  fields. He felt ashamed  of himself  for  having,  over his  garage,
several living rooms in which no one lived, in fact, except for himself.
     He had never known lack of room, but he  had known loneliness and could
only call  up his mother over  the  screen. Oh, Mother, Mother! Even at that
enormous distance, she unerringly guessed what  was  in her son's heart  and
was always the first to appear on the screen.
     Ave glumly stepped onto the upward moving staircase.
     What was the  meaning of life, if all that lay  ahead was a blind alley
from which the Faetians could not escape? It was madness to seek deliverance
in wars of annihilation. Many Faetians understood as much...
     But why did his friends not trust him? He needn't keep quiet with them.
Did he not also subscribe to the  Doctrine of Justice? But they didn't  need
him... No one needed him...
     Ave went  into the  first of  his  round  rooms  and  stopped  dead  in
amazement. A broad-shouldered,  burly hunchback came up to  meet him with  a
guarded smile on his hard face.
     "Ease  and  happiness!" said the stranger.  "I am Kutsi Merc! The Ruler
Dobr Mar gave me the key of this flat as his son's secretary."
     Ave smiled bitterly.
     "Is my father worried that his son is gnawed by misery?"
     "Your father was thinking of something more important."
     "Will it deliver me from bitterness?"
     "Would it be a bad thing to visit  the ancient continent of Powermania?
High technology in the hands of barbarians who call themselves Superiors?"
     "What's the sense of such dreams? I worked with Um Sat. I specialise in
the  disintegration of  matter, so I am  not allowed  to travel overseas. We
live in times of emptiness, disillusion, tension..."
     "As your  secretary, I shall help you in everything,  even in a trip to
the continent of the barbarians."
     So  saying, the hunchback went into the  other room.  He soon  returned
carrying  vessels with  beverages and  two cylinders of  compressed narcotic
smoke  which  the Culturals  loved  to  inhale  when  relaxing. Kutsi Merc's
clothes were stretched tight over his hump, as if tailored for someone else.
     Ave  was amazed at  the speed  with  which  his  new  acquaintance made
himself at home. The neglected flat was transformed. Mechanisms, switched on
before the occupant's arrival, had cleaned the place up.
     As he inhaled the smoke, the young Faetian studied Kutsi Merc.
     "If only  we  journey  to  Powermania," he said  reflectively,  "before
misery kills desire..."
     "Desires must  be  fulfilled.  Otherwise it is not  worth desiring. The
Faetesses over the ocean are very beautiful."
     "How can that be of any importance? Even knowledge is powerless to lead
the  Faetians  out  of  their  blind  alley. Soulless power politics,  blind
subordination to dogma! The blockheads refuse to listen  to anything that is
unfamiliar to them!.." Ave was suffering from rejection of his ideas and was
airing his sense of injury.
     "The  great law of inertia! Inertia can be overcome  by the application
of energy. The law must be interpreted more broadly."
     "Kutsi Merc  is  undoubtedly  more  than  adequately  equipped for  the
obligations of secretary."
     "One must also overcome the inertia in oneself." Kutsi Merc blew out an
intricate pattern of smoke.
     The hunchback was certainly astonishing Ave  Mar; but there were  still
more surprises to come.
     Kutsi  now  came  to see Ave Mar every day and tirelessly  told stories
about  the legendary continent of a very ancient civilisation. It turned out
that he knew Power-mania extremely well, was familiar with its history, art,
and architecture, had evidently been there a number of times, and was fluent
in the  language  of  the  barbarians,  as  he  called  the  inhabitants  of
Powermania.
     "Look and marvel. The depths of ignorance and the heights of knowledge,
an alien technology and the wild theories of the Superiors, the slums of the
roundheaded monsters and the legendary beauty, Mada Jupi."
     "The Dictator's daughter?" asked Ave, interested in spite of himself.
     "Brought  up  by a  most  cultured nurse  of  roundhead stock. Became a
Sister of Health, looks after  children in spite of her father's Doctrine of
Hatred. He loves her so much that he will tolerate any of her whims."
     "What does she look like?" asked Ave vaguely.
     Kutsi brightened up.
     "The long legs of the runner, but feminine. The lines of her body would
make a classical sculpture. A soft heart and the hauteur of pride. It's hard
to win her indulgence."
     "It looks as though Kutsi Merc has been having a try."
     With a bitter smile, the hunchback pointed to his hump.
     "Kutsi Merc bears too heavy a burden in life."
     He had now completely  relieved Ave Mar of  his daily household chores.
He went on talking about Powermania, but didn't mention Mada again.
     It was Ave Mar who  raised the subject of  a  possible journey over the
sea.
     Kutsi Merc had apparently been waiting for this.
     "The berths on the ship have been booked."


     Ave Mar stood on the deck  of the ocean-going ship and looked  into the
distance. This time, the ocean wasn't rising  to heaven, as in the view from
the  mountain  pass, but it was  as boundless and  no less  striking  to the
imagination.
     Dm Sat had confided a terrible secret  to  his pupil  about this ocean.
Every  secret  is  a burden,  and this  one, concerning the destiny  of  all
Faetians, was a particularly heavy weight on Ave's mind.
     Kutsi warily tried to  found out the cause  of  Ave's bad mood, but Ave
avoided the subject by holding forth against scientists who would not accept
his ideas about the possibility of life on other planets.
     Kutsi  grinned craftily and poked fun at the young Faetian, maintaining
that the real reason was that he hadn't yet fallen in love.
     The  barbarians' continent appeared on the horizon. Sharp arrows seemed
to be sticking up out of the water. Over the sea rose the weird buildings of
the ancient continent, on which the houses were not  round,  but rectangular
(how  absurd!}.  Incredibly crowded, they reached for the sky  and gradually
merged  into  a  pile of  irregular acute-angled pillars  that  suggested  a
cluster of crystals.
     Almost  leaping out of the water, a security launch  raced towards  the
ship.
     They were faced  with the control procedure. Kutsi Merc sought  out his
master so as to be at his side.
     Longfaced  men with hooked noses were climbing aboard. They were all in
identical  angular clothes with collars upraised at the back  and short dark
hooded capes that became rectangular bands on the chest.
     "Hey  you, hunchbacked offspring of carrion-eaters! Make way before the
Blood Guard!" snarled the first of the longfaces as he drew level with Kutsi
Merc. "You'll have to get out of here and go back to your stinking island."
     Ave Mar, who had specially learned the language of  Powermania, flushed
with  rage  but, on catching  Kutsi's sidelong  glance  of warning, he  kept
quiet.
     But Kutsi Merc arched  his  hump as he bowed, meekly  lowering his head
and using a manner of speech not his own, but typical of the local dialect.
     "Perhaps the officer of the Blood Guard will be interested to know that
the insignificant  roundhead  whom he sees  before him  is only secretary to
this  distinguished traveller, the  clear-thinking Ave Mar, son of the Ruler
of Danjab."
     The longface, who was  wearing a beard  in imitation  of  Dictator  Yar
Jupi, glanced contemptuously at Kutsi.
     Ave Mar offered him his tokens.
     "The athletic  son  of Ruler Dobr Mar is  recognisable even without his
tokens," said  the officer, showing off his familiarity  with the old manner
of speech.  "As for  this contemptible  roundheaded  cripple,  he should  be
attached as if by a chain to his master while serving him, as is preordained
by nature." And the officer made for the other passengers.
     Kutsi Merc ran after  him, humbly begging the return of the tokens. The
officer threw them down; they  landed on the  deck  with a jingle and nearly
rolled overboard. Kutsi Merc bent  over to snatch them up and even went down
on his knees.
     The officer laughed coarsely.
     "That's  how  to welcome the land of  Superiors-in  the posture of  the
lizard from which you are not so distantly descended."
     "May happy days last for a long time here," replied Kutsi Merc humbly.

     The ocean-going ship sailed  into a harbour which was surrounded on all
sides by  enormous,  weirdly rectangular  buildings.  Among  them,  Ave  Mar
immediately  recognised  several  famous  temples which  had been  built  in
ancient  times  and  had towered  high over all the other buildings of  that
period. The city had risen since then and had blotted them from view.
     So this was what it was like. Pleasure City!
     Some  of the gigantic  blocks  were linked  by fantastical multi-tiered
street-bridges crossing at various levels.
     Ave thought  that  he was looking  at  a  forest  mound, which  in  his
homeland was built by little insects with many feet.
     This impression of the maritime city of  the Superiors was strengthened
even further when he and  Kutsi Merc were on dry land. They were pushed  and
jostled by crowds of hurrying Faetians. In addition to the steam-cars, there
were vehicles powered by  obsolete  internal  combustion  engines. Making an
appalling din  and poisoning the air, this medley  of heterogeneous vehicles
surged past  the  half-asphyxiated  Ave or thundered overhead on  the  crazy
bridges  between the massive artificial  canyons of the  buildings. Squeezed
into  a corner  of the tiny lift-cage by other  Faetians, Ave and Kutsi were
taken up  to the tiny  room set aside for them  in  the expensive Palace  of
Visitors.
     While Kutsi Merc unpacked, Ave stood  at  the lancet window and  looked
out on an alien world. He  could not see  any of  the old-time  romance  for
which  he  had  yearned  since childhood.  Everything here was  an  eyesore,
beginning with the  uniform of the coarse Blood Guards  and ending with  the
awkward angles of the cramped little room.
     "Don't torture your  eyes  with barbarian buildings,"  said Kutsi Merc.
"We'll be on the Great Shore tomorrow."
     A roundhead servant of  low stature appeared and asked whether the  new
arrivals would prefer vegetable or animal food with  blood  for dinner,  and
whether  they  wanted,  like all  travellers,  to  look  round  the  densely
populated quarters of  the  city,  and whether they had any other orders for
him.
     Kutsi  Merc  considered  it  necessary   to   display  the  traditional
curiosity,  so he and  Ave  did  not  allow themselves time for a  rest, but
trailed off into the famous roundhead quarters.
     Although  he  knew the slums  of his  native continent,  Ave had  never
imagined that Faetians could live in such filthy and overcrowded conditions.
It was only  possible to  breathe on  a street  when  it became a suspension
bridge. But where the street was hemmed in by buildings and ran between them
like a  tunnel, it became, as it were, part  of the living quarters. Not shy
of passers-by,  the  Faetians kept  their  doors  open,  got  on with  their
household chores, sat at the table with children born  before the roundheads
were banned from  having children, ate their simple  but acrid-smelling food
and went  to bed. The Faetesses poked their heads out of the open doors and,
shouting loudly,  conversed  with  the inhabitants on  the  second  or third
stories up. Here and there, only just above the heads of the passers-by, the
inmates' washing had been hung out to dry; most of them did not know whether
they would have to sweat at work on the next day as well.
     Ave very much  wanted to hold  his nose when, accompanied  by Kutsi, he
fled  from those evil-smelling  quarters, famed for their  openly  exhibited
poverty. The Power of Justice  had only existed for a hundred and three days
and it had not been able to help the residents...
     "So  what's the  answer to this?" wondered  Ave. "Is  it really in  the
monstrous  law  of  a Dictator  who  has forbidden  these families  to  have
children?"
     Was  it really to see all this that  he had dreamed of coming here from
across the ocean ever since childhood?
     But next day he saw the Great Shore and Mada.


     Chapter Three



     Dictator Yar Jupi's palace was part of the Temple of Eternity, in which
worship had ceased after the Faetians  forgot their religion. Now the  Dread
Wall  separated  the  temple  from the  monastery  buildings  that had  been
converted for the Dictator's use. The soaring spire of black stone resembled
a  torpedo  with  a disintegration warhead.  The  ancient  architects  never
suspected that they were  anticipating the outlines of a future weapon. Even
less  could they have imagined that, in the event of  a disintegration  war,
the  cellars under  the  Temple  of Eternity would house the Central Control
Panel  of Defence  Automatons.  The machines could  unleash a  death-dealing
swarm of disintegration torpedoes against Danjab.
     A  session of  Peaceful Space  was now  being held  over these fearsome
machines in the  former shrine of the temple with its black columns  soaring
up into  the  sky.  Its chairman was Dm  Sat of Danjab, who  had in his time
discovered the disintegration of  matter  (By the  disintegration of matter,
the  Faetians meant  the  nuclear reactions  of fissionand  synthesis, as  a
result of which,  as is known,  a  deficiency of  mass is observed; that is,
matter diminishes; it disintegrates, releasing an enormous amount of energy)
and had  made  a  terrible  mistake  by  publishing  his  discovery  on both
continents simultaneously.  The great roundhead, as he was  called,  and the
planet's  first authority  on  matter,  had decided that he was  as great an
authority  on  life.  Believing  that  the  simultaneous   appearance  of  a
superpowerful weapon on both continents would create a "balance of fear", he
hoped  that  war  would  become impossible.  However,  the  tension  of  the
relations between the continents was growing. Urn Sat had only hit on one of
the causes: overpopulation and  hostility because of  the lack  of room. But
the  hostility  over  profits  was  far more  dangerous. Overpopulation  was
aggravating all  aspects of  the  struggle even further. The  proprietors on
both  continents, while suppressing dissatisfaction of the toilers by force,
were also threatening one another with force across the ocean. It seemed  to
them that they could,  at the expense of  their  competitors, not only boost
profits, but could pacify the malcontents  in their own country with a small
handout.
     The horrified  Um Sat  was  beginning to realise the inevitability of a
disintegration war and he considered himself responsible for it. That is why
he was now  trying to find a  solution for everything in the  exploration of
new space continents, dreaming about the partial resettlement of Faetians on
them and about universal reconciliation.
     Heavy responsibility, disillusion, care and fatigue had left their mark
on  the old Faetian's face. His high forehead under the dense shock  of hair
was furrowed by deep lines. The big, sad eyes were full of kindly wisdom and
understanding. But with it all went a weak chin covered by a greying beard.
     In spite of the Sat's tragic mistake, he  was  still respected for  his
tremendous  achievements in science and  for his unquestionable integrity of
purpose. Consequently, the sages of learning from both continents met him in
the hall with the greatest respect.
     But  at  that moment, within only a hundred  paces  of  the  Temple  of
Eternity, behind  the  wall  of  the  Lair, there was  another  world-famous
Faetian whom no one respected but all feared.


     Yar  Jupi  became Dictator  during  the  black  days when the  Power of
Justice was suppressed.
     Before his daughter was born, he was merely an  inconspicuous tradesman
who did business with the roundheads. To please his clients, he  took Mother
Lua  into service for Mada, who had lost her mother.  The nurse replaced the
child's real  mother at the  memorable time  when the fury of the  oppressed
burst  into   the  open.   The  uprising  shook  Powermania,  depriving  the
proprietors of power and possessions.
     Lying low in their burning hatred, they refused to reconcile themselves
to defeat. They  had the brutal  experience of struggle amongst  themselves.
They had  always fought to the death with the toilers and with one  another.
However, they were now ready to forget their own quarrels.
     There  were  proprietors  on  both  sides  of the ocean. But  since the
discovery and  settlement of the new continent of Danjab, the  Faetians  had
lived there without the ancient prejudices; there wasn't even any favourable
soil  on  which they  could flourish. The  result was  that, under  the  new
circumstances, both roundheads and longheads began enjoying equal rights and
opportunities to make others work for them. Be that as it may, it led to the
rapid growth of, if  not  a culture, at least a  technology. The products of
the  Gutturals, as its  inhabitants  began to style  themselves,  invariably
proved better  and  cheaper than those of  Powermania's  barbarians. And the
proprietors of  Danjab inundated the old continent  with their products.  In
Powermania,  crude and primitive means of manufacture still  prevailed.  The
proprietors of  that  continent found themselves under  threat  of ruin.  No
matter how much they oppressed their toilers,  the profits were slipping out
of their hands. They came to seethe with hatred for everything from  Danjab.
Only  a  defeat  in  the  struggle  with  the Justice  Movement  temporarily
relegated a reckoning with the overseas proprietors to the background.
     When  Yar  Jupi  proclaimed his  Doctrine of Hatred,  he had only heard
about the Council of Blood, not suspecting who the members  might  be. Once,
when summoned to a secret meeting  of the council in a cellar, he was shaken
to recognise,  under the  cowls  of  those present,  two  important workshop
proprietors and one big land proprietor.
     "Our choice has fallen on you, Yar Jupi," declared the land proprietor.
"Your Doctrine of Hatred could unite, for  nothing unites better than common
hatred. With its help, the Movement of Blood should suppress the Movement of
Justice. But do  not forget  that purity of blood,"  he added significantly,
"though  regarded  as  the  supreme  ideal,  is  still  only  a  weapon  for
suppressing the power of the riff-raff."
     "The Movement of  Blood  will justify its name," affirmed Yar Jupi, who
already considered himself as one of its leaders.
     The proprietors exchanged glances.
     "We shall deal with the roundheads both  here  and  overseas," said the
future Dictator with inspiration.
     "You  traded  with the roundheads,  your wife  nursed  their children,"
began a workshop proprietor insinuatingly, and he threw back his cowl. "That
is advantageous to us, because, however loudly you may  shout  about hatred,
the  overseas  proprietors can still trust you  most of all for  having been
able to get on with the  roundheads. You will go overseas and  convince them
that  what has happened here  will happen  to them too. Let  them help us to
deal with the power of the 'seekers after justice', having thereby preserved
their own possessions. Let them send good weapons to the contingents of your
cutthroats.  You  will know  how  to  use it.  Both  now ... and  later. You
understand?" And the  workshop proprietor  pulled the hood with its eyeslits
down over his face.
     Yar Jupi  understood everything perfectly.  Shrewd and cunning, he made
his Doctrine of Hatred the main weapon against the Power of Justice. He even
did not hesitate to publicise his maniacal plan for the seizure of the whole
planet  by  the longfaces. The overseas proprietors  turned  a blind  eye to
this. It was most important of all for them to help the leader  to deal with
the hated power of the  toilers, and  if he also spouted empty phrases about
conquests, then let him amuse  himself, but  he would at least be  doing his
job.
     The   ex-tradesman  not  only  fooled  the  overseas  proprietors,   he
surrounded himself with bands of cutthroats lusting for booty. He distracted
the unstable elements from the defence of their own interests by encouraging
them to  persecute the roundheads. In a  word,  he  did  everything that was
required.
     The Power of  Justice was smashed.  Its leaders  from among the toilers
and also  many roundfaced  Faetians were exterminated. The continent swam in
blood. Yar Jupi was carried to the top on a crest of bloody foam.
     The Council of Blood  made the subtle and  obliging shopkeeper Dictator
of Power-mania, counting on his  subservience. No one, apart from  him, knew
who was a member of the Council of Blood and whose interests it defended.
     After dealing with the toilers' revolt, the new Dictator proclaimed all
roundheads (mostly toilers) to be inferior citizens. In the name of struggle
with overpopulation on the planet, he forbade them to have children. Newborn
infants  and their parents  were threatened with the  death penalty. But the
roundheads had  to  labour twice as  hard as the  rest.  The use of overseas
products  was  declared  incompatible  with the  principles  of  blood.  The
proprietors of Powermania sighed with relief: their profits were safe.
     The overseas proprietors came  to their senses  too  late. Yar Jupi not
only deprived them of profits on the old continent, but threatened them with
a  war of disintegration, of  total annihilation. They had no option  but to
prepare  for such  a  war in  defence,  above  all, of  their own  power and
profits.
     The  military leaders  of both sides,  fearing  a  disintegration  war,
intended to deliver the strike first. To  ensure that it would  also be  the
last, they demanded the build-up of disintegration weapons.  The proprietors
of  both continents,  equally  demented  and  camouflaging their  intentions
behind phrases about a  love of  peace, compelled their workshops to produce
even more frenziedly.
     The naive hopes of  Um Sat, the great Elder of learning, for a peaceful
"balance of  fear" came down with a  crash and he now began voicing a demand
for  the total  elimination of all reserves of disintegration weapons and  a
ban on their use. Many sober minds supported him.
     In  the tense pre-war atmosphere, Yar  Jupi found himself  hearing more
and  more  often the  name of Um Sat, who had discovered the  secret  of the
disintegration  of  matter  and was now appealing  to the conscience of  the
Faetians so that it could be "covered up again".
     The Dictator  received reports  of  dangerous  conversations:  "If  the
roundheads could give the planet a Faetian like Um Sat, then how can they be
declared  inferior? Why  do the roundheads have  to  work  twice as hard  as
others,  but throughout the life  of  one  generation  they must yield their
place on Faena to the longfaces?"
     Yar Jupi sensed a threat in these "brazen" questions!
     Fearing another  Uprising  of  Justice, the Dictator lost  his peace of
mind. He fell prey  to persecution mania. He no longer left the Lair,  where
he  led an ostentatiously  ascetic  life. He was equally  mistrustful of the
roundheads  and the longfaces, and even of the proprietors of the Council of
Blood, whom he served and to whom he could become useless.
     To appease the  people,  who were boiling  with rage, he stepped up his
preparations for a disintegration  war, promising that the ban on roundheads
having children would be lifted  after the successful end of the war and the
resettlement of the victors on the overseas continent.
     Alongside  this,  he  muffled   the  discontent  of  the  toilers  with
adventurist  plans  for the transfer  of the roundheads  to the planet  Mar,
where they would be free of all prohibitions  (as if it was simply  a matter
of resettlement!).
     He therefore encouraged the conquest of space and promoted the creation
of Space  Station  Deimo  near Mar. The Culturals already  had  a base there
named Phobo. Yar Jupi even agreed to  declare Outer Space "peaceful",  since
the interests of the proprietors clashed mainly on Faena.
     However, the great learned Elder Um Sat, who  had solved  the mysteries
of matter, could  not fathom  the  depths of unscrupulous politics. For him,
the "problem of  overpopulating the planet"  really  blotted  out everything
else, although, in fact, it merely aggravated the burdens of the toilers and
their  struggle with the proprietors,  not to mention  the hostility of  the
proprietors amongst themselves. Evidently, in order to be  a true  Elder, it
was still inadequate to be learned in one specific branch of knowledge.
     No one  had expected to see  the cautious and calculating Yar Jupi at a
session of Peaceful Space. He was too afraid of assassination. Obviously, it
was not for  nothing that  Yar Jupi had chosen a place for  the session near
the Lair. The  Temple of  Eternity communicated with the former monastery by
an underground passage.
     During the session, Yar Jupi suddenly appeared out of the wall with two
impressive robot bodyguards.
     He  was  a tall, well-built Faetian with  a long, clean-shaven face,  a
small  dark beard, a  hooked  nose,  a  narrow, harsh mouth  and suspicious,
restless eyes that looked out from  under the zigzags of irregular eyebrows.
His  egg-shaped  skull,  clean shaven  on purpose,  was  considered to be of
impeccable  form among  the Superiors.  There was  something  bird-like  and
predatory in the expression on his face.
     Yar Jupi addressed  those  present with  a pompous speech  in which  he
spoke about the innate  striving of the Superiors  for  peace and about  his
agreement with the project for resettling Faetians on other planets to avoid
war on Faena.
     He had  brought as a gift  to  Peaceful Space  an interplanetary  ship.
Quest, ready for immediate lift-off together  with an  experienced astronaut
commander; he offered Um Sat the opportunity to lead the expedition to Terr.
     Then he announced the Council of Blood's decision to consider Um Sat an
"honorary longface" with rights of the  Superior amongst the  Superiors. The
basis  for  this  was  research  by  the  "historians"  of  Blood,  who  had
established that the name Sat in honour of the planet, marked  with a  noble
ring, was only given to the purest longfaces.
     Um  Sat was flabbergasted.  The expedition to  Terr  was a reality.  On
Danjab  they had  merely  been  arguing  over  how much  to allocate for  an
interplanetary ship for  Terr, whereas he could now lead such an expedition.
But  ...  that  falsification  by  the  "historians"!  The  Dictator had not
disdained to use it  so as  to take Um Sat from the roundheads.  The learned
Elder's first impulse was to turn down the Dictator's gifts; anyone  else in
his  place would have acted likewise, but he refrained. After all, he  stood
for reconciliation,  for the  settlement of Faetians  in space. How could he
say  no  to  the Faetians and refuse to survey the planet Terr,  which could
become their new home? Had he the right to display personal or racial vanity
to the detriment of all Faetian society? Would it  not be more reasonable to
demonstrate the feasibility of space resettlement and divert the interest of
the workshop  proprietors to  building spaceships  instead of  manufacturing
torpedoes for a disintegration war?
     In his answering speech,  Um Sat controlled  himself and expressed  his
gratitude to Yar Jupi both for  the interplanetary ship being handed over to
Peaceful Space and for the high rank bestowed on him, Um Sat. He promised to
think about the possibility of personally taking part in the expedition.
     He  despised  himself,  but  considered that  he  was  making  a  great
sacrifice.
     The Dictator grinned and vanished through the gap in the  wall with his
robot bodyguards. Overseas technology never failed.
     Dm  Sat  announced  an  intermission in the work of the Peaceful  Space
session. He needed to pull himself  together and justify himself to himself.
Of  course,  he  was  still  the  same  roundhead-true,  inwardly  confused,
devastated and now the owner of rights he did not need at all.
     But these rights  proved particularly necessary to his former pupil and
favourite, Ave Mar.


     Dobr Mar,  Ave's  father, the Ruler of Danjab,  felt ill at ease in the
round    office    with    the     vaulted     ceiling.    He     was    the
nine-hundred-and-sixty-second ruler who had moved in there.
     An angular chin  and a bony  jaw on the intelligent face  spoke of will
and energy; the fine mouth, turned down at the corners, testified to  worry;
the bags under the eyes and  the balding head with its  remnants  of greying
hair, to a hard  life.  He had  been given  the  name  Dobr  (Kind)  for his
coming-of-age. Until then he had borne his father's name. Terrible Mar, with
the  addition  The  Second Junior.  The Ruler was thinking of his son on the
barbarians' continent, where an explosion could occur at any time...
     In spite of himself, there arose in his mind's eye, in all its details,
that accursed day half a  cycle ago, when he had decided on an act for which
he could now find neither justification nor forgiveness.
     The robot  secretary reported that Kutsi Merc  was in the waiting-room.
Since the time when Dobr Mar's predecessor had been shot in that very office
by  his  own  secretary,  the  Grand  Circle  had  decreed that  only  robot
secretaries should work in the Ruler's Palace. And now the "intelligent box"
had shown Kutsi Merc on the screen. While  waiting to be received, Kutsi had
not noticed that he was being watched, but he was naturally alert. A typical
roundhead,  he had  a face like  the disc of Lua, Faena's eternal satellite.
His narrow eyes were looking sideways at the door.
     Relations were complex between Dobr Mar and Kutsi Merc. Only Kutsi knew
how the Ruler had come to power. Dobr Mar had formerly been a "friend of the
Ruler",  and  by law had to occupy the  "first chair"  in  the  event of his
death.
     No one abused the "mentally  unstable" assassin  more than Dobr Mar. He
swore  to pursue  the same  foreign policy  as  the late  Ruler: the eternal
hostility with Powermania was to be tempered and everything  possible should
be done to  reconcile  the planet's two continents  and deliver the Faetians
from the horrors of war.
     Not long before the assassination of Dobr Mar's predecessor, Kutsi Merc
had handed  him the terrible conditions  on  which he could become Ruler: he
must be the first to start a disintegration war.
     Once he had taken  his predecessor's place, Dobr Mar was in no hurry to
pursue the lunatic policy of the  "mortally unstable" who  demanded that the
war be won with disintegration weapons.
     Dobr Mar ruled Danjab,  finding  work and living accommodation  for the
ominously growing population. He  tried  to reduce the tension in  relations
between the continents,  put  through a  law  making  old  goods subject  to
destruction so that new  ones  would be  acquired and managed things so that
Yar  Jupi, satisfied by the cut in the  import  of  overseas goods, was even
forced to agree to joint actions in space.
     ...Dobr Mar had  guessed why Kutsi Merc had come and  what he was going
to say. After all, the Ruler had not  yet met the "special  conditions". And
on the eve of the elections,  Dobr Mar was afraid of possible denunciations.
What if he struck the first blow?
     When he went into the office, Kutsi Merc halted. Squat, but  well-built
and  broad-shouldered,  almost  without a  neck, he  looked  like a wrestler
before a match.
     The match took place. Dobr Mar went trustingly towards him.
     "The councillors  of the Grand Circle are  troubled by the  information
obtained by Kutsi Merc  to the effect that the barbarians have mastered  and
even improved on the automatic machines they originally obtained from us, so
that they have become dangerous."
     "The  Ruler is right. The  automatic  machines are dangerous. I  have a
reliable agent in the Lair."
     "What guarantee is there that  the automatic machines won't function by
accident?"
     "They're almost the same on Danjab."
     "That's not enough!  The barbarians must not be allowed  to  keep them.
Such is the decision of the Grand Circle."
     "I bow  before  the  will of the first proprietors. But  the  barbarian
automatic machines  are  under the Lair. Even a snake couldn't  get  through
there."
     "A  snake  couldn't, but Kutsi Merc could.  Besides,  he has a reliable
agent there."
     Kutsi  Merc  understood  everything.  Dobr  Mar  needed  to   show  the
proprietors that he was carrying out their conditions, and at  the same time
he could get rid of Kutsi Merc by sending him on an impossible assignment.
     After  his inevitable failure, Kutsi  Merc could no longer prevent Dobr
Mar from being re-elected.
     Not a line moved on Kutsi Merc's face.
     "It  is  clear," he said  respectfully.  "Penetrate into  the Lair  and
destroy it and its automatic machines  by using a disintegration charge." He
thought  for a moment and added almost casually, "A  reliable cover  will be
needed."
     "Fine,"  agreed  the Ruler,  walking  round the  horse-shoe  table  and
settling himself  in the  comfortable armchair. Many of his predecessors had
used  that chair  and he intended to keep his place in it for a long time to
come.
     "The cover would be Ave Mar."
     "Ave Mar? My son?" Dobr Mar rose abruptly to his feet.
     He turned away to hide  his wrath. This experienced spy was  playing an
unworthy game with him,  hoping  that the father  would not risk  his  son's
life.
     Before Dobr Mar  had thrice  put up his candidature  for Ruler and  had
been defeated for refusing to become the "Ruler's  friend", he  had been the
owner of vast fertile fields.  His son Ave had  been born  in  those fields,
close to nature. He had been given his  name  Ave (Welcome) when  he reached
maturity.  As a little boy,  he had  run around with half-naked  children of
roundheads working in his father's fields.
     He had not only gone fishing with them to help them  fill their bellies
at least  once in  a while, he had climbed trees for the nutrient buds, but,
like all generations of children, he had played at war.
     Dobr Mar was proud of his son, although the boy had inherited his curly
hair from his roundhead grandmother and his girlish curved eyelashes and his
clear gaze from  his  mother. The  father didn't  particularly  like his son
looking at the world too ecstatically, naively believing in  justice and the
ancient  laws  of  honour.  Life  had  punished  him  many  times  for  this
old-fashionedness. But  the father was flattered that his son worshipped him
for his  efficiency and  love  of peace. However, the son sometimes  behaved
rashly. On leaving his teacher  Um Sat, "not wishing to serve the science of
death", he  openly spoke up against the fact that the decisive  role on both
continents  was  being  played  by the  proprietors  of the  fields and  big
workshops who had profited from the  over-populated lands and the  labour of
those working for the proprietors. Fortunately for him, as his  father  knew
from the secret reports, he never managed to  attach himself to the "current
under the ice"  of  young people threatening to  break through even here, on
Danjab,  in  a  new  Uprising of Justice.  Ave himself often heard seditious
remarks by  disciples of  the Doctrine of Justice, but he didn't consider it
necessary to  report them to his father. Ave knew about the secret meetings,
the participants in which as in token of greeting used  to touch their right
eyebrow  with their left hand. But he was not  admitted to these assemblies.
The toilers apparently did  not trust him because he was the Ruler's son. It
never entered  his father's head that Ave  Mar's friends could safeguard him
as a  capable  scientist. After leaving Um Sat,  Ave devoted himself  to the
problem of a possible life  for the Faetians on other planets. Dobr Mar knew
but  did  not  really  understand  his  arguments  that the  authorities  on
astronomy were wrong in affirming that  life was  impossible anywhere except
on Faena, since  the other planets were  either too far away from their star
or, like Merc, Ven and Terr, had been incinerated  by its rays. The Faetians
had nowhere to go if they fled  from their own planet, if you discounted the
grim planet  Mar,  which was hardly capable of  supporting life and had been
earmarked by the  Dictator of the  barbarians' continent as a place of exile
for roundheads. It  turned out that the only means of purging the planet for
future generations might  be war and war alone. Ave, however, affirmed  that
the  temperatures there were  not as  high  as  might be  expected  from its
proximity  to Sol,  its  star.  What was decisive  was  the  carbon  dioxide
content,  which  created the greenhouse effect,  preventing  the excess heat
radiation into  space. This effect made it  possible for life to  develop on
Faena. On its horizon, the star  rose solely  as the brightest star, whereas
on Terr it must have been a blinding disc to look at. Ave held that if there
was  less carbon dioxide than on Faena, there would be no greenhouse effect,
the superfluous heat could be dissipated and any life forms could develop on
its surface.
     Ave's  views  were  rejected  by  the  experts  as  absurd.  He  became
disillusioned  in the Elders of  learning, in the  teachings and in himself,
lost heart and began to pine away.
     His father merely shrugged his shoulders. He would have preferred a son
more adapted to life, although he loved and pitied him.
     And now Kutsi Merc was demanding a sacrifice...  To carry out the task,
Dobr Mar must risk his son's life.
     Kutsi  Merc was certainly calculating  that the  Ruler would back down,
but he was mistaken. The Ruler, too, was cornered.
     ...As  he remembered all this,  Dobr  Mar,  "defender of the right  and
culture", did  not know what to do. He  did not know  how  the operation  on
Powermania was going to turn out. Would the crazy mission succeed? Would the
dangerous Kutsi Merc be eliminated, and would Ave survive?

     Chapter Four



     Every evening, when bright  Jupi  began shining  over  the  Dread Wall,
Mother Lua conducted the alien Ave to her charge.
     She kept watch for  them with the hunchback, who always accompanied his
master. The  nurse  and the secretary  did not  get  on very well  with  one
another. The hunchback was trying to get Mother  Lua to  take him somewhere,
but she was frightened.
     One evening, Ave came into the garden looking downcast.
     "What's the matter?" asked Mada in alarm.
     Ave Mar confessed that he had to leave the Great Shore on the following
day. The travellers were not allowed to stay any longer near the  Dictator's
palace. Kutsi had spotted that they were being trailed.
     The  young Faetians,  as  at their  first tryst,  were  standing in the
shadow of  the trees. Mada  rested  her  head on Ave's  breast  and wept. He
stroked her hair,  not knowing  what  to say. It was obvious that they loved
one another and could not bear to be apart.
     Mada held her head back  and looked up  at Ave. His  curly hair blotted
out the stars.
     "Everything'll sort  itself out,"  he said  reassuringly. "We  must use
certain of your  father's  oddities-his attachment to  the old  customs, for
instance. He  refers  in  his  teaching  to  the  former monarchs;  he  even
remembers that  intermarriage between the children of hostile kings  used to
stave off war. I'm  going to my father. I shall ask him to approach Yar Jupi
with an offer of alliance between us."
     Mada shook her head.
     "What? Get married now?" Ave had read her mind.
     "Yes. Before you leave."
     Mada said this firmly, almost imperiously.
     "You  mean  tonight?"  asked Ave,  perplexed.  "But  who's  capable  of
marrying two polar opposites of hostility?"
     Mada  laughed, although  her face was  still wet with tears. Ave had an
odd way of putting things in a foreign language.
     "You  just don't know the ways of  the  Superiors. It's the  roundheads
that need permission from the authorities to  get married.  But we longfaces
are free. Any of the  Superiors whose age  exceeds the combined ages  of the
lovers can pronounce them man and wife."
     "But  where are we going  to find such an elder? Ave is only a guest of
the Superiors."
     "What does 'guest' mean? Are you helpless to find an answer?"
     Ave flared up.
     "I  was a pupil of  Dm Sat himself, the first Elder of learning  on the
planet. He is old enough and he lives here."
     "But he's a roundhead," said Mada disappointedly.
     "Urn  Sat  has  only   just  been  proclaimed  'honorary  longface'  in
Powermania. He is equal to the Superiors amongst the Superiors."
     Mada  pushed Ave away from her,  but  clasped  his hands in hers as she
looked adoringly up at him.
     "Hurry to him! You're  a  true Faetian  and you'll be able  to convince
him."


     Bowing low, the hunchback  Kutsi Merc conducted the young Faetian  into
Dm Sat's cell.
     "Ave  Mar?  You  have  returned  to  your  teacher?"  said  the  Elder,
half-rising from his chair to greet them.
     "Yes, I have-at a most difficult moment in my life."
     "You speak as though it were a matter of life or death."
     "No!"  Ave  vigorously   shook  his  head.  "Much  more.  A  matter  of
happiness!"
     The Elder looked intently at his pupil's face.
     "So that's it! But how can I help?"
     "By  using the rights bestowed on  him by the Council of Blood, Dm Sat,
by the law of the Superiors, has the right to join together for all time Ave
Mar and she whom he loves more than life."
     "The  clear-thinking Ave Mar has chosen none other than the daughter of
Dictator  Yar  Jupi,  the  beautiful  Mada,  in  spite  of  the  obstacles,"
interposed Kutsi Merc in the flowery language of Powermania.
     "What? Roundhead Sat is to  use  the rights of the oppressors?" The old
man was outraged.
     "It is  not just a  matter of love,"  interposed Kutsi Merc again. "The
marriage of the son and  daughter of the rulers of two  continents will help
to avert a war... That is what Yar Jupi says in his teaching."
     The  cunning  Kutsi  knew  how to  convince  Um Sat.  The Elder  became
thoughtful.
     "He  talks sensibly. Though burning with shame,  I did not  reject  the
gift of the barbarians solely because I was thinking of how to avoid war."
     "Then use your rights and help us to be happy!" responded Ave.
     "What must I do?" asked the Elder.
     "The ceremony  is quite simple. Mada's nurse and Kutsi Merc will be the
witnesses."
     "Is that enough?" The Elder was amazed.
     "Yes, for the age  of Um  Sat exceeds the combined ages of the  lovers,
and he has the right to join them in wedlock."
     "So the man who created the doctrine of matter, the man who refuted the
religions of the past," said the  Elder with a smile,  "will have to perform
almost the function of an unworthy priest..."
     "And, what is more, in the shrine of a former temple," interposed Kutsi
Merc.
     "Then  let the marriage truly serve peace and  remain a secret for  the
time being," decided the scientist. "The wedding  will be announced when Ave
returns to Danjab. May it help the father to come to terms with Yar Jupi, if
the Dictator is really in the traditions of the ancient monarchs."
     "So be it!" announced the hunchback.
     "I  will  persuade my  father. He's a politician and  won't miss such a
chance,"  said Ave warmly in support. "However, the ceremony absolutely must
take place tonight."
     "Why the hurry?" said Um Sat with a frown.
     "Alas, travellers, even distinguished  ones, cannot stay for  long near
the Dictator's palace. Besides ... it was Mada's request."
     "There is  no Faetess  more  beautiful  and intelligent! She  thinks of
everything," commented Kutsi Merc.
     "Well, then..." Um Sat shrugged his  shoulders. "The shrine  is  empty.
And old men don't need such a lot of sleep."
     Ave silently embraced his teacher. Um Sat gazed sadly at him for a long
time.


     The Blood Door opened once again. Mother Lua, as usual, was waiting for
Ave and  Kutsi in the  half-ruined portico. The three of  them went into the
ancient  monastery garden,  lit now by the faint light of Lua.  The dangling
lianas  didn't look like snakes any more, they suggested the cords of costly
curtains screening off the garden. The trees resembled colonnaded galleries.
     There was a  fragrance  of  rotting  leaves  and something strange  and
gentle-perhaps the flowers that Yar Jupi used to grow with such passion.
     Mada  was waiting for her beloved and rushed to meet him as soon  as he
walked through the Blood Door.
     "Has he agreed?"
     "Urn Sat  has so far created  reactions of disintegration, but now (may
Kutsi Merc be forgiven for this!)  he will have to accomplish the opposite,"
joked the hunchback,  and  he grinned,  but quickly changed the grin into an
ingratiating smile.
     It had grown dark in the garden. The silver light  had faded. Lightning
began flashing beyond the  outer wall, casting dense black  shadows onto the
shrubbery. One of the trees seemed to leap out of the darkness and blaze up,
its white bark shining.
     A  bellowing noise came  from somewhere  far  away.  It was  as  if  an
enormous,  lumbering machine had gone out of control and had finally plunged
down into an abyss, deafening and blinding all like a disintegration blast.
     Mada huddled closer to Ave.
     It  was now totally  dark; the avenue colonnades and the tree  with the
white bark had disappeared.
     "What a thunderstorm!" whispered Mada ecstatically.
     "We'll be  soaked as we  go  round the Dread  Wall  to  the  Temple  of
Eternity," observed the hunchback.
     "Should we put it off till tomorrow, perhaps?" asked Ave cautiously.
     "Never!" exclaimed Mada. "Are we going  to be stopped by the thunder of
heaven?  As for  the rain wetting  our  clothes, my  nanny can  take care of
them."
     "Of our clothes?"  inquired Kutsi  Merc. He  held out his hand and felt
the first  raindrops fall on to his  palm. "Yes, she'll have to take care of
them."
     "I can do without that  care,"  grumbled Mother Lua. "I'd do  better to
take you there under cover."
     "What d'you mean?" asked Kutsi Merc, suddenly on the alert.
     "It's  all quite simple," explained Mada. "An old  underground  passage
leads from here to the Temple of Eternity. The priests used it once, but now
we're going to walk along it. Nanny knows everything and will open the doors
as we come to them."
     "Does the passage run from the garden?" inquired Kutsi.
     "Yes, we can go into it not far from here. Nanny will show us."
     The rain began, a downpour from the start. They all ran, stumbling over
the tree roots. Lua went  in  front, with  Kutsi,  Mada and Ave following on
behind.
     "This way! It's no darker here than outside. The old passage isn't much
to look at. I'm sorry to say," said Mother Lua as she led them further.
     "Still, it's better than in the rain," responded Kutsi.
     Ave  could  smell  the damp. When he  touched the wall,  it was wet and
sticky. With the other hand he tightly squeezed Mada's fingers.
     "Wait," came Lua's voice from in front. "I must make an effort."
     "Does the good lady need a hand in lifting something?"
     "I must concentrate."
     It turned out that Mother Lua had  to use  will-power to open a certain
door that would obey her brain biocurrents.
     The young Faetians saw  a bright rectangle  in front of them,  with Lua
and Kutsi sharply silhouetted against it.
     Mada and Ave went into a spacious underground, plastic-lined corridor.
     "Aha!" said Kutsi Merc. "The ancient priests knew their materials."
     "We turn left for the Temple of Eternity."
     Kutsi Merc stopped and felt a thick cable in red braiding.
     Mada firmly squeezed Ave's fingers in her little hand.
     The footsteps of the Faetians rang under the low ceiling.
     Ave looked back  suspiciously to where  the corridor  made  a turn. The
light  that  had automatically come on  when they appeared had already  gone
out.
     Twice the Faetians were confronted by a  blank  wall, and each time, in
response to Mother Lua's mental command, the barrier disappeared to let them
pass through.
     "I  wouldn't  like to be left  here  without our companion,"  commented
Kutsi Merc.
     "Has  the  visitor from  Danjab  no  more  to say than that?" said  Lua
reproachfully.
     The  secret passage had branches, but Lua confidently walked past them,
leading the others along a route with which she was thoroughly familiar.
     Finally, she stopped again before a blank wall and looked intently into
the centre of a spiral ornament. This was enough for the wall to divide, and
Lua let the young  Faetians go  first  with Kutsi Merc,  then went  into the
familiar shrine herself.
     Mada huddled  closer to Ave. She had not been scared of going along the
underground passage, but the ancient temple with  its shrine and a roof that
disappeared into unseen heights had a disturbing effect on her imagination.
     Something stirred in the semidarkness and a voice rang out:
     "I welcome the  happy ones! I  guessed  that because of the bad weather
you  would use the tunnel  by  which the Dictator of Power-mania came to the
session."
     Mada Jupi looked in agitation  at the tall figure of the great Elder of
learning, who was standing on a dais. She thought of  the High Priest of the
temple who used to deliver his invocations from that spot. And his voice had
echoed under the dark vaults  then as now, when Um Sat began addressing  the
young Faetians.
     The  Elder  of  learning  tactfully  performed  a  rudimentary  wedding
ceremony, ending it with the words:
     "So be it!"
     His  voice echoed and re-echoed in the  depths of the shrine, as if the
ancient priests were chanting the responses.
     Then  Um Sat  embraced  each  of  the young  Faetians  and wished  them
happiness.
     Ave wanted to take his leave of Mada, but  Kutsi intervened, exchanging
significant glances with Mother Lua.
     "Isn't it worth going by the underground passage so as to see the young
bride off? She will let us out through the Blood Door."
     "Through our Blood Door!" said Mada, looking at Ave.
     Mother Lua stood meekly beside Kutsi, as if entirely dependent on him.
     And  again Ave  acted apparently of his  own  volition, expressing  his
willingness to go by the underground passage.
     Mother Lua heaved a sigh. She had devoted her whole life to ensure that
Mada took  after her mother and not her father. What  lay in store  for  the
girl?..
     Kutsi Merc was content and did not hide it.

     Chapter Five



     Yar Alt, Supreme Officer of  the  Blood  Guard, was  proud that, on his
coming-of-age, his  strength  of character  had earned him  the  name of his
maternal uncle, Yar Jupi himself.
     He lived up  to his nickname  in the contingents of the Blood Guard, to
which he had been  appointed by the Dictator. Coarse, hot-tempered, ready to
strike and even to kill, he despised the views of others and could  not bear
objections.
     That was why the Dictator had given him the more important assignments.
And it had certainly not been by  chance that Yar Alt had met  on board ship
the son of Danjab's Ruler  arriving with his secretary. Camouflaging himself
with  the rudeness typical  of the security officers, he had been "checking"
the new arrivals, having decided not to let them out of sight.
     Finally,  as Yar Alt had been expecting, the young  Faetians and  their
companions entered the shrine through a gap in the wall.
     During the improvised wedding  ceremony under the temple vaults,  apart
from the  nanny and  the secretary, there had been one invisible witness. He
had been  unable to suppress  a groan, as  if  echoing, like the officiating
priests, the Elder's cry:
     "So be it!"
     Yar Alt had failed to win "full psycho-life contact" from  Mada,  while
this foreign half-breed had achieved it without effort. In the depths of his
soul, Yar Alt considered that  he could  have  become  a  totally  different
Faetian  if  his love had  been  reciprocated.  Tenderness,  sensitivity and
goodness  would  have blossomed  in him if  the  beautiful long-face  of his
choice had not responded to him with proud disdain. That was why Yar Alt had
come to hate the world.
     And now, in fear and shame at having groaned aloud, he kept himself  in
hand so as to carry out his duty.
     He waited until Mother  Lua led  the newly-weds and the  hunchback into
the secret passage, watched as Um Sat retired  to his  cell, and  only after
that  did he  risk going to the  hidden door. He strained all his will as he
ordered the wall  to divide.  And he  sighed with relief. The wall parted to
form an opening. Yar Alt dived through it.
     The  criminals  shouldn't have gone far. The biocurrents of the Supreme
Officer of the Blood Guard were effective. He would find the intruders while
they were still  underground and not give them a  chance  to shelter  in the
palace.
     He ran along the passage, but the cursed lamps were coming on and going
out again of  their own accord. He  stopped, realising that  they would give
him away. All it needed was for one of the party to look round...
     If only  the lovers could  have  suspected what they were walking past!
The galleries of the Central Console! The heart of the disintegration war!
     Why  hadn't the alarm gone off?  Or was  it  all because  of  the brain
biocurrents of the roundhead woman whom the automatic machines recognised as
friendly,  just as  they recognised him,  the  Supreme  Officer of the Blood
Guard?
     So reasoned Yar Alt as he hurried in pursuit  of  the departing  group.
Suddenly, he stopped abruptly.
     To one side, a gallery sloped steeply downwards;  along it ran a  cable
in red  braiding. It seemed to Yar Alt  that  the light had just gone out in
this gallery, which  certainly didn't lead to the Dictator's palace. Had the
hunchback turned off for the Central Console? Why?
     Yar  Alt caught his breath. Enemies were sneaking up to the Console! It
was  not just  a matter of purity of blood,  but of a threat to the whole of
Powermania!
     Without another thought, Yar Alt also turned  off  into the gallery and
ran headlong  down the slope. He  was blocked by  a  blank  wall.  The light
switched itself on and a spiral, the symbol of the Superiors, became visible
on the smooth surface.
     Yar Alt had never been here before and did not know whether he would be
able to  open the door in the Wall. Terror and fury  made  the force  of his
gaze ten times stronger as he fixed it on the spiral. The moment  before the
automatic  machines began  working seemed  agonisingly  long.  But  the Wall
divided.  His status  as Supreme Officer of the Blood Guard had  helped. The
biocurrents of his brain were familiar to these machines too.
     Yar Alt rushed through the gap.
     After a short while, he saw the  secretary and the nanny  walking ahead
of him.
     He drew a pistol loaded with  poisoned  bullets. Even a  light  scratch
would stun a man.
     Without  warning,  Yar Alt fired  at  the hunchback from behind.  Kutsi
started, but stayed on his feet. The bullet had ricocheted off his hump into
the wall.
     Alt fired  again and  yet again.  The shock of  the  bullets threw  the
secretary onto his knees this time.
     Yar Alt slowly walked up, waiting for his enemy to breathe his last.
     But the  other,  who was lying on his back,  suddenly kicked the weapon
out of Yar Alt's hand. It clattered over the flagstones.
     Alt flung himself on  the enemy as he struggled to get  up and tried to
pin the hunchback down to the floor.
     Kutsi Merc was unarmed. He had intentionally  not brought a weapon with
him, anticipating possible searches  which could have ruined his whole plan.
Endowed with exceptional strength, he would easily have coped with a lighter
opponent had it not been for the heavy burden on his back.
     Yar Alt drew  a long stiletto that served  him as a personal antenna in
the Blood Guard communications system.  Embracing the hunchback with one arm
and breathing heavily into  his  face, he drove  the stiletto into his back.
But the point slid over something solid, slitting the cloth.
     Yar  Alt thought  only of bullet-proof armour and of nothing else. This
spelled disaster, and not only for him.
     Almost without hope of  success, Yar Alt stabbed his foe  in the chest.
Strange to  say,  the  hunchback had no  frontal  armour.  The stiletto went
straight into Kutsi's heart. His grip loosened and he fell backwards. A pool
of blood spread over the stones.
     Yar Alt  jumped  to his feet and  prodded  the hunchback with his foot.
Only then did he turn to Mother Lua.
     But she was not there. She had snatched up Alt's pistol and disappeared
during the brief struggle so as to warn Mada and save her life.
     Yar Alt ran forward and immediately came up against  the blank Wall. He
fixed a malignant  glare  on the centre  of the spiral, but it never budged.
Yar Alt realised that Mother Lua was standing on the other side of  the door
and by  effort of will was commanding the door not to open. That was why the
automatic machines were not reacting to his own command!
     A  struggle began between Yar Alt and Mother Lua. Separated by a  solid
barrier,  they glared  furiously  at  the centres  of the  two spirals.  The
programmed machines were paralysed by the opposing wills.
     Yar Alt was bathed  in drops  of sweat and his lips were  flecked  with
foam.
     It  had been easier to  kill  Kutsi Merc than to cope with  this damned
witch. He knew  that  she composed forbidden songs. Her kind  had  once been
burned at the stake.
     Finally, the Wall shuddered and parted to leave a gap, but slammed shut
again.  Yar Alt just  managed to catch sight of  the  nanny. Fortunately, it
hadn't  occurred to  her to shoot at  him. At the mere thought of  this, Yar
Alt's skin crawled. He had not noticed how exhausted she had been.
     The Wall shuddered and was  still by turns. Yar Alt ground  his  teeth.
Mother Lua's mistake had suggested a plan of  action.  He wanted very little
now: it  was  for a  gap to open for only a fraction of a second. He himself
would not, of course, be in front of it.
     The perspiration streamed into his eyes. In a wild frenzy, he continued
drilling the  centre of the  spiral with his  eyes, commanding  the Wall  to
open.  He  made ready, drawing  his left  arm back in  order  to  throw  the
stiletto.
     Mother Lua was almost losing consciousness. Her arms hung helplessly by
her sides. She knew her own life and that of  her favourite depended  on her
will-power.
     The nanny swayed. The Wall opened just a little way. Yar Alt waited for
the  right  moment and hurled his stiletto  through the gap. It  pierced the
roundhead woman in the throat. Her eyes went blank and the Wall divided.
     Yar Alt jumped over the fallen nanny. He tugged the stiletto out of her
throat and started racing down the corridor. After a few strides he suddenly
realised that he had not retrieved his  pistol from Mother Lua. He was about
to go  back, but changed his mind, hurrying to catch  up with  Ave  Mar  and
Mada. The traitress who had led the evildoer towards the Central Console had
already received her deserts!
     Yar Alt ran along the underground passage  and the lighting went on  as
he approached and went out again behind him.
     The  Wall  directly before the palace barred  his  way  once again, but
opened as soon as he glanced at the spiral.
     He was now in the palace. The monastery building, reconstructed for the
Dictator,  still  bore  the features  of  the  old architecture. Low vaulted
ceilings, slit windows from floor to ceiling.
     The  rooms  were sumptuously decorated for  ceremonial  assemblies that
were no longer held for fear that the Dictator might be assassinated.
     Yar Alt knew how to get through to Mada's chambers. Subtle taste and  a
woman's hand had completely transformed the austere cells and oratories. Yar
Alt burst  into one that had been decorated with pale blue fabric and silver
cords, and it was there that he found Ave and Mada.
     Mada was doing her hair. Beside herself with fury, she turned round and
stamped her foot.
     "How dare you burst in on me, you despicable robot of the Guard?"
     Yar Alt showered Mada with threats.
     "Silence, you boor!" exploded the furious  Ave Mar, drawing  himself up
to his full height.
     Mada shielded him with her body.
     "Get  out of  here,  you filthy robot! You're not worth  a hair  of  my
husband's head!"
     "Husband?"  Yar  Alt  bellowed  with offensive laughter. "They  are  no
longer alive, the unscrupulous witnesses of your ignominious ceremony  under
cover  of  which  the  enemies  of  the  Superiors planned to  wipe out  our
continent!"
     "Blood on your hands and slander on  your  tongue-that is all you stand
for! What can you know of goodness, love and nobility?"
     Yar Alt pushed Mada roughly out of  the way and hurled himself with his
stiletto  on the unarmed Ave. The  other fended him off  with a kick. As  he
fell, Alt seized hold of Mada and tried to stab her.
     Ave  Mar gripped  his arm and twisted it so that  the  weapon  tore Yar
Alt's own tunic.
     Yar Alt was an experienced fighter. Ave Mar was an experienced athlete.
They locked in combat, rolling about the ancient oratory and leaving a trail
of bloodstains on the carpet.
     Mada stared transfixed and could not tell whose blood it was. Ave Mar's
face was smeared all over with it.
     Yar Alt stabbed Ave several times, but could not draw his hand far back
enough for the  fatal blow. Ave Mar sprang to his feet, seized a heavy chair
and hurled it at his opponent. The other tried to dodge it, but a leg caught
him on the head  and he fell onto the floor. He nevertheless managed to draw
back the stiletto, taking aim for a throw at Mada.
     Ave Mar struck Yar  Alt  on the  temple. His enemy was flung backwards,
but  threw out his legs  and locked them round  Ave's ankles. Turning with a
jerk, he threw Ave to the floor, then, getting up onto his knees, raised the
stiletto. Ave knocked the weapon out of his hand.
     Two shots rang out in succession. Mother  Lua crawled through the door,
a  pistol dancing  in her hand. Yar Alt reached  for his stiletto  again  to
finish Ave off.
     Mada rushed to Lua,  snatched  the weapon  out of her  failing hand and
pressed  the firing  button. Yar Alt  jerked  convulsively, slumped, and lay
still.
     "He loaded it with  poisoned  bullets  himself," gasped Mother Lua. "My
dear, what will become of you?.."
     Ave Mar rose to his feet and, breathing heavily, looked in amazement at
the body  of his adversary  and at the unperturbed  Mada.  But  she suddenly
threw the pistol aside with revulsion.
     "Blood! Blood!" she said in despair. "Now there can only be death. They
will tear you to pieces, my husband. No one  will believe  it was  I who did
this."
     Ave Mar himself couldn't believe it as he stared in bewilderment at his
bloodstained hands.

     Chapter Six



     Mada  Jupi  was,  of  course,  a  pampered  child. Her every  wish  was
fulfilled, she was glorified and bowed down to. But she had nevertheless not
become  spoiled  and  capricious,  or incapable  of doing anything  but give
orders. Mother  Lua, who  preserved the  wisdom of the  people,  had managed
after the death of Mada's mother to inspire the girl with the  idea of equal
rights for  all  Faetians, whatever  their  outward appearance.  Restrained,
always  calm.  Mother  Lua had  the rare  talent of  the story-teller and an
innate  gift  of  influencing the minds  of others. In another  country,  at
another time. Mother Lua would have been the pride of the people; but on the
barbarian continent of Power-mania's Superiors she was only a nanny-true, of
the Dictator's daughter. She had always held up the girl's own mother as  an
example, convincing her that the daughter should follow suit.
     Mada grew up resembling her mother, but  she also took after her father
to some  extent.  Perhaps  in  her ability  to love and  hate  to  extremes.
Consequently, the meeting with Ave swept her right off her feet. She fell in
love, and a soft tenderness  was  combined  with ruthless determination, and
bewilderment with irrepressible daring. She had shot Yar Alt as if he were a
mad beast, yet she was dismayed at the sight of his body.
     The nanny  was dying.  Mada kneeled in  front of her, listening as  she
whispered something almost inaudible.
     "Nanny is  talking about her son. And  she  says  that Yar Alt murdered
Kutsi."
     "Where? How?"
     But  Mother Lua could not say any more. Her strength had ebbed away. No
efforts on Mada's part were of any avail, neither the kiss of life nor heart
massage. The nanny's  eyes closed and her body  stretched out  The hand that
Mada had been holding began to turn cold. There was no pulse any more.
     "It's the end," said Mada, and she burst into tears.
     Ave now saw his companion  as a weak and helpless girl.  Like a  child,
she shook her nurse, kissed her cold hands and tried to wake her up.
     Finally she turned her tear-stained face to Ave.
     "My nanny  is dead.  She was so kind and clever! And we are  finished."
And she glanced at Yar Alt's contorted body. "Just think! He was my cousin."
     "Maybe we should try and help him!"
     Mada shuddered.
     "The bullets were poisoned. I don't know how my poor nanny came  by his
pistol." She began sobbing again.
     Ave decided  that  he must do something. He lifted up the dead Alt, who
had stiffened in his last convulsions, and  carried him into a corner of the
room behind the curtains.
     Mada stood up determinedly and threw her head back.
     "It's no use. The  Guards will  be here soon, and  then my father." She
picked Alt's pistol up off  the floor. "Forgive me for taking charge  of our
last step.  There is no need to  fire a bullet. One scratch is enough. Death
will be instant. We shall hold hands  with  a bullet in our palms.  We shall
leave this world in which there is no happiness for us."
     Ave looked  into her  face: determination  in her  was  struggling with
despair.
     Mada took the last round out of the pistol. The  bullet was silvery and
its sharp prickles were brown where the poisonous coating had been applied.
     Ave resolutely gripped Mada's hand.
     "No! Faetians don't give in so easily. We can still  renounce life, but
happiness... No!"
     "There is no happiness in this world," replied Mada.
     "Show  me  the way  into the garden," said  Ave  masterfully, "and then
through the Blood Door."
     "You think we can flee  somewhere? Dawn is near, the last  in our life.
Can you hear the birds  singing?  I  shall  follow you  because you  are  my
husband.  But  we shall take the prickly bullet with us.  It  will be a safe
protection for us."
     "Lead the way," urged Ave.
     Mada looked at  him  curiously. Until  now, she had thought herself the
stronger.
     They carried Lua's body to a couch and Mada spread over it a  pale blue
coverlet from her bed. Then she showed Ave a low door  leading into a narrow
passage that ended in a steep ladder.
     Just before dawn,  the garden had  changed  completely. A silvery cloud
had  filled the avenues,  hiding the bushes  and  tree-trunks from  view. It
seemed to Ave  that he and Mada  were walking into another  world above  the
clouds. He clasped her slender hand more tightly.
     The quivering mist at their feet seemed treacherous, weightless and yet
dense. It was as if there might be water under it  one  moment and an  abyss
the next.
     Mada stepped fearlessly into the  swirling mist and  took Ave with her.
The obedient Blood Door opened in front of her.
     A  dense mist had enveloped the ruins of the old shrine under the Dread
Wall. As they walked  breast-high through the cloud that lay on  the stones,
Ave and Mada seemed to be fording a river of foam.
     Mada knew the way. They came surprisingly soon to the black building of
the Temple of Eternity. Ave thought that the unfortunate Kutsi must have led
them  the  long  way round. Poor wretch! It cost Ave  an effort  to restrain
himself; he did  not even  allow himself a sigh,  but he felt sorry  for the
man.
     Ave despised his  own habitual changes of mood. But now he was firm and
knew what had to be done. That was why he was taking Mada to Um Sat.
     The Elder was astounded when he saw the  newly-weds on the threshold of
his cell once again.
     He gave Mada a seat  in an armchair opposite the table at  which he had
spent the whole night. Ave stood beside Mada.
     "What's happened? Can I help you in any way?"
     "There  is no happiness in this world," cried Ave. "But  in your  power
there is another world!"
     The Elder raised his eyebrows in astonishment.
     "There is another world in space," explained Ave, and he told the Elder
all about what had happened.
     Um Sat became thoughtful.
     "So I must accept Yar Jupi's conditions and, in my turn, demand that he
send  his daughter to  Terr? Doesn't that seem incredible? To take refuge in
space?"
     "But  that would mean salvation  not  only for me and Ave,"  intervened
Mada. "It would be the fulfilment of a dream: to help the Faetians,  to find
them a new  world. Nanny and Mother were thinking about it. Not only Ave and
I, but  all of  us could be  happy there. It's not  just for myself that I'm
ready to fly to Terr. That's what I'm going to tell my father."
     Mada understood global problems in no way more deeply than Um Sat.
     "What duties as an astronaut can Mada carry out?" asked Um Sat sternly.
     "I  am a Sister of Health.  We are needed everywhere. And not  only for
the children."
     "That's true," agreed Um Sat. "Ave Mar, you will stay here,  no  one is
going  to look for  your  secretary.  Mada must go to  her chambers and lock
herself in. Ave, see your young wife as far  as the Dread Wall.  It's a good
thing that you both look  on the  trip to Terr as an exploit, not just as an
escape."


     After their departure, the Elder sat for a while in reflection. Then he
summoned several sages  of  learning  who had arrived  for the session. They
filled his cell. Many of them were  roundheads, but there were  longfaces as
well. As they came in, each  touched his right eyebrow with  his left  hand.
When the  cell was packed  full, Um Sat asked if he should fly from Faena on
the eve of possible  events  for  which, in the name of Justice, the toilers
and their friends had been preparing for so many cycles.
     After all, he was an  adherent of the struggle  against the proprietors
on both continents, although he had not fully fathomed its depths.
     Those present decided unanimously that Um Sat, the  personification and
pride of learning on Faena, should go into space to find the continents that
the Faetians needed. Many of them considered  that in  this  way  they would
best safeguard the life of  the great Elder, but no one said anything  about
it to him.
     Um Sat threw  his  hands apart. He must submit to the general decision.
He had now received the right to  act.  When Ave returned, Um Sat called the
Dictator's secretary over the closed TV. The screen lit  up and the slits of
the secretary box glittered on it.
     "Dictator Jupi,  most  illustrious  of  the  illustrious,  consents  to
receive  the  honorary longface Um Sat  and is  sending an  escort for him,"
announced the box, which had been programmed to  speak in the old style. The
screen went blank.
     "What?"  whispered  Ave Mar. "Go into  the Lair? Doesn't this mean that
Yar Jupi wants to take a hostage?"
     The Elder smiled sadly.
     "The risk is not so great."
     An officer of the  Blood  Guard soon appeared in  the cell. Ave's blood
froze. Before him stood the living Yar Alt.
     The caller bowed  to the  Elder,  glanced  casually  at  Ave  and  said
pompously:
     "The greatest of the great,  the Dictator Yar Jupi, gave you the right,
honorary long-face, to enter his presence. I have been sent to escort you to
the palace."
     Ave Mar  had  the impression that even the Blood Guard officer's  voice
was the same as  Alt's. Had he  really come back from the dead? Perhaps  the
paralysis caused  by the bullet had  only been temporary. But why didn't  he
rush at Ave the way he had done in Mada's room?
     The  officer of  the Blood Guard merely glanced indifferently  again at
Ave Mar and bowed to him.
     "In the name of the most illustrious Dictator, I bear apologies  to the
honoured guest."
     As soon as the officer of the Blood Guard and Um Sat had gone  out, Ave
Mar rushed to the door of the cell.  To his amazement, it was unlocked. Only
then did Ave  Mar realise  that the  officer's  face had been innocent of  a
scar.


     Dictator Yar  Jupi was waiting  impatiently for Um  Sat  Omnipotent  by
grace of the Blood Council, capable in favour of  the proprietors of sending
millions  of Faetians to their death and ready to  unleash  a disintegration
war  at any moment, he was powerless to safeguard the one life that was  the
most dear to him.
     Yar Jupi was a complicated person. He understood extremely well whom he
was serving and  how. After losing his wife in his time, he had come to hate
the roundheads from whom she had  contracted  a fatal disease  while nursing
them. This hatred had finally found expression in a barefaced doctrine which
it was impossible to believe, but which proved convenient to the proprietors
from  the Blood Council. Now, at the height of power, when he was ostensibly
leading the life of an ascetic in voluntary seclusion, love for his daughter
had become the only ray of light to Yar  Jupi. Everything else was darkness:
fear  for his own life, terror  of a war which he was nevertheless preparing
himself, terror also of the toilers and of his own masters who were ready to
get rid of him.
     The thing that mattered to  him most now was Mada's safety. She was the
only one he would want to save from among the millions of doomed.
     But how?
     And so, in fulfilment of the complex plan that had  occurred to him, he
had appeared  unexpectedly during a session of Peaceful Space in the  Temple
of Eternity. And now Um Sat was due to arrive.
     The officer of the Blood Guard, Yar  Alt's brother, handed Um Sat  over
to two security robots which led the sage of learning through low-ceilinged,
sumptuously furnished halls.
     Urn Sat glanced out of the corner of his eye at his unwieldy bodyguards
or escorts with their cubic heads and hooked, scaly manipulators.
     In one of  the rooms, a box with glittering  slits in it, just like the
one  that  the  Dictator  used,  said  with  programmed  floweriness  in the
impeccable ancient manner:
     "Urn Sat, honorary longface, may pass through the door in front of him,
on  the other side of which there awaits  him the most blissful meeting with
the greatest of the great,  the most  brilliant of the  brilliant, Yar Jupi,
Dictator of the continent of the Superiors."
     The door opened of its own  accord,  the  robot  security  guards  fell
behind and Urn Sat went into the grim, empty dungeon with the grey walls.
     Yar  Jupi,  bearded,  hook-nosed, with  a  shaven  skull and upslanting
eyebrows, rushed to meet the visitor, riveting him with a piercing, half-mad
stare.
     "Does Urn Sat realise what honour  and trust has been afforded him?" he
shouted.
     "Yes,  so  be it,"  sighed the  Elder.  "Though  I be  unworthy of such
honour, I may be trusted."
     "I am going to talk as Superior to Superior, the  more so since you are
famous for your mind," said the Dictator more calmly this time.
     According to  the  ritual, the guest was  supposed  to reply  that  his
brains  were below comparison with the  divine and  enlightened intellect of
Yar Jupi, but Um Sat calmly said:
     "I shall  converse with the  Dictator Yar Jupi as  an Elder of learning
with a politician, striving to understand and be understood."
     Yar Jupi  started, his nose twitched and his  face  was  distorted by a
nervous grimace. He looked sideways at  a niche under the window. There were
wonderful flowers standing in it. Their tender, dark-blue corollas  with the
golden sprinkling of the finest stars, each with  up  to six  petals, looked
down, dangling on bowed stems.
     This was a miracle, bred by the nurserymen on the orders of Yar Jupi, a
passionate  lover of  flowers. But it  was  not  their evening  beauty  that
attracted  him. The  submissive  horticulturalists  had managed to  breed  a
vegetable  miracle,  or  rather  monster,  which  exuded an aroma  that  was
poisonous, however  gentle it might seem.  Any  Faetian  who  inhaled it was
stricken down with a fatal disease.  More than once,  rare  visitors to this
study,  excessively  independent-minded  comrades-in-arms, received  by  the
Dictator   with   unexpected  warmth,   sometimes   even  a   few   of   his
over-discontented masters, the big proprietors, had been privileged to sniff
the greatest of all treasures. On  returning home,  they  had died in  agony
without suspecting why.
     Needless  to  say,  a  reliable  ventilation  system  was  sucking  the
dangerous scent out of the room.
     "Well?" asked the Dictator nervously.
     "After thinking it  over all night, I have decided to accept your offer
and lead the expedition to the planet Terr."
     Yar Jupi started and sighed with relief.
     "Urn Sat,  having become an honorary longface, you confirm your wisdom.
I shall glorify this on both continents. However, yesterday in the Temple of
Eternity, I had in mind one stipulation which you will have to observe."
     "I  also  wanted  to  add  a  condition  to  my  consent  to  head  the
expedition."
     "I can't bear it when conditions are imposed on me," said the Dictator,
raising his voice slightly.
     "It  is  rather  the  first practical  step  to complementing the space
crew."
     "I shall  complement the space crew with longfaces, the  most worthy of
the worthy."
     "Perhaps Dictator Yar Jupi will remember yesterday's promise to include
any of the longfaces in the crew."
     "I confirm that, even if it means my daughter."
     "The daughter  of Dictator Yar Jupi?" Dm Sat was  truly  astonished. It
had never even entered his head that  the Dictator himself  would talk about
her first.
     "Do you dare to regard my daughter as ballast on the flight when she is
a Sister of Health?" said Yar Jupi, raising his voice.
     Both men  fell  silent,  studying each  other.  No matter how clever he
might be, it had never occurred to Urn Sat  that the Dictator had thought of
saving  his daughter from the horrors of a disintegration war by sending her
on a space expedition; and however cunning and crafty  Yar Jupi might be, he
could not have presumed that  Dm Sat  had  come  to  him solely in  order to
obtain his consent to his daughter's flight to Terr.
     "So  you don't  want her to fly?" demanded Yar  Jupi ominously. "You're
worried about  her?  I  appreciate that Would you care to  go over  to those
flowers?  They  are  beautiful, are they not? Have you  ever seen the  like?
Savour their aroma!.."
     "I  have  never  seen  anything  more  beautiful than  the daughter  of
Dictator  Yar  Jupi.  Have no doubt that  she will be the fairest  flower on
Terr..."
     "Then we  shall  leave  those  blossoms in peace," interrupted Yar Jupi
curtly.

     Chapter Seven



     The body  of Kutsi Merc was lying in  a damp underground passage behind
blank walls with a spiral ornament.
     The casing  of the  artificial hump had been pierced  and the  air  was
entering it, slowly destroying the safety fuse.
     No one on Faena, however, had an  inkling  of this danger on the day of
the ceremonial farewell to the astronauts leaving for the planet Terr.
     The expedition consisted of three Culturals and three Superiors, one of
the latter being Mada Jupi.
     For the toilers in the fields and  workshops of Powermania, the  day of
the send-off was declared a public holiday so that the Faetians could go out
on the road  all the way as far as Cape Farewell, as the Dictator  had named
part of  the  Great Beach near the cosmodrome. This  was the  usual point of
departure for  all space probes, and also for the ships of the Superiors who
were maintaining contact with Space Station  Deimo. The proprietors hoped to
gain considerable profits from the possible colonisation of the  planets and
were not parsimonious with their out lays.
     Mada  and Ave  could not escape  the feeling that they  would soon find
themselves  being pursued. They were riding in the same steam-car as Dm  Sat
The old scientist was pensive and sad.
     The young members of the expedition kept either looking back over their
shoulders or looking intently  at the Faetians who flashed past, standing on
either  side of the road  and throwing flowers under the wheels of the  car.
There  were roundheads and longfaces among  them. They stood closely  packed
side  by side,  as if  there were  no  distinction  between them.  For  many
Faetians, a  joint expedition of the two continents to a planet was a symbol
of peace and inspired them with the hope that it might be possible  not only
to come  to terms  on  Faena and  avoid a war,  so  but to send  part of the
population to other planets.
     Many Faetians had come out onto the road with their children.
     The Faetian  landworkers were conspicuous with their dark suntan. Those
who  toiled   in  the  workshop  buildings   had   earthy  complexions.  But
particularly noticeable were the Faetians from the deep mines. The coal-dust
had so  ingrained itself into their pores that their skin seemed dark, as if
they were of another race and were neither longfaces nor roundheads.
     Mada  had  withdrawn   wholly  into  herself,  depressed  by  what  was
happening. Like a  true Faetess, she evaluated everything through the images
near to her. She  hardly remembered her own mother, but her nanny was to her
a symbol of  everything  that  she  was  leaving behind on Faena.  She  felt
troubled because happiness  lay ahead of her, whereas here... She  shut  her
eyes tight.
     When  she  opened  them again, she saw  that the  road  had reached the
ocean. She looked at Ave, and her expression spoke volumes.
     Ave had  been thinking all the time about the Faetians  standing by the
roadside. Tomorrow they would return  to  workshops filled with the noise of
lathes and  the  reek  of oil. They  would take up their stations by  moving
belts  conveying  the frames of  machines in the process  of  stage-by-stage
assembly, and  they would  stay there with no hope of  Justice, compulsorily
and joylessly toiling to the end of their hopeless days.
     Ave Mar knew  that  on his  shoulders lay  the  responsibility  for the
outcome  of the space flight  and how much  it  meant to all these  deprived
people.
     Millions of  these Faetians were  also  dreaming of happiness  and  the
right to  have children, whatever shape their  heads might be.  The means of
annihilation alone must no longer be  taken  from the civilised world. Faena
could not exist like that!
     Um  Sat was thinking sadly about the same thing. He was reflecting that
the  laws  governing  life  of  the  whole  community of  the Faetians  must
evidently be understood like the laws  of nature.  The most serious mistake,
apart from  the  discovery and promulgation of the  means  of disintegrating
matter, was  that, having lived until  old age,  he did not understand those
laws. Why, for  example, were the Faetian toilers creating with their  hands
not only what was needed to all for life, but also that which was capable of
cutting that life off? Why did these crowds now seeing them off tolerate the
power of a  maniac  who had made war  his  goal  in  life? Yar  Jupi had now
conceived  the idea of making a grand gesture,  of sending out an expedition
to  look  for new "space continents". But how  would the settlers  live  out
there?  According  to  the  former laws  of Faena, taking injustice  and the
threat of  wars into  space?  No, true  wisdom  was in seeking not only  new
planets to inhabit, for which  even Yar Jupi was  prepared, but new laws  by
which to live  that would scare  the daylight  out of  him. Only why had the
half-crazed Dictator let his daughter go out into space so easily? It was no
picnic, after all!..
     As he compared  one  detail with another,  the  old  sage  of  learning
suddenly  came  to the  frightening  conclusion that the  Dictator  might be
trying to save his daughter from an imminent disintegration war on Faena.
     He looked  in a  different light  at the  crowds  of Faetians who  were
seeing him off. Would he ever see them again?
     Mada pressed Ave's hand and looked round eloquently. Ave understood her
fears...
     Her alarm was not unfounded... Much had  indeed  been discovered in the
Dictator's palace.
     Grom Alt,  the  brother of the dead Yar Alt, had stumbled on the trail.
This was the Grom Alt who had escorted Um Sat to the Dictator.
     The  officer  of  the Blood Guard noticed  a dark streak  on the  floor
running  from the  Blood Door to Mada Jupi's chambers,  to  the  underground
passage. Grom Alt was of  too  humble a rank to use the "blood" passage. But
he decided  that at all costs he  must check what that stain was. He scraped
up a sample of the dried substance and hurried to the laboratory.
     His hands shook when, in secret from the others so as  not to share his
discovery with anyone, he established the composition of the  test, a method
taught  to Blood Guard officers while at school,  where skilful use was made
of foreign science.
     He was so  agitated that his  hair became damp, although it was  almost
standing on end. He had established that the stain on the floor was blood!
     He hesitated to report his discovery  to the Dictator, especially since
Mada  had  shown  up  and  had  seen her  father.  True, she  had  not  been
accompanied by her nanny as usual. If something had happened, she could have
told the Dictator herself. But after his meeting with her, Yar Jupi had been
aloofly solemn. He  had  proclaimed a  historical decision that had left the
whole palace and after that  the whole continent dumbfounded, then delirious
with  joy. The whole leadership had choked with effusions in which they  had
pointed out to the ordinary people that the Wisest of the Wise  was also the
most Fearless of the Valiant, prepared even to  risk  his beloved daughter's
life for  the welfare of  the Faetians, thinking of their distant future and
also of universal progress and of peace between the continents.
     The  obsequious  joy  in  the  Dictator's  palace  impeded  Grom  Alt's
investigation. Everyone he met  could  talk about nothing except the exploit
of Yar Jupi and his daughter.
     In such  an atmosphere, it  was  positively dangerous to draw  anyone's
attention  to a bloodstain  that could cast a shadow on  Mada,  who had been
pronounced heroine  of  the day. Grom  Alt found  it particularly suspicious
that  Mada had not left  the Blood Door  to her chambers open  and  that her
nanny had still failed to show up.
     He decided  to consult his brother, even if it meant sharing the honour
of the possible discovery with him. But Yar Alt had disappeared.
     It  could be that Yar Jupi had sent his trusted Supreme Officer on some
mission, as often before.
     Grom  Alt  decided to act at  his  own risk. While Mada,  amid sobs and
compliments, was being seen to the  cosmodrome,  Grom  Alt, who had remained
behind on duty, went to the girl's chambers. The Blood  Door was locked, but
not by  automatic  machines this time.  All he needed was  the skeleton  key
which he had been  taught to use  in the Blood Guard  school.  Grom Alt went
cautiously into the pale-blue room.
     He not only found the body of Mada's nanny lying on the couch, but that
of his own brother.
     A poisoned bullet!
     Yar  Alt's pistol was lying nearby. Such a weapon could  only have been
carried by the Supreme Officer of the Blood Guard.
     Grom  Alt  examined the weapon. There were no bullets left  in it.  His
brother was not the kind of Faetian to  have had only one round left in  the
magazine and to have used it on himself. On whom had the others been used?
     With  mixed  feelings  of  regret and  disgust, Grom  Alt looked at his
brother's cold  body. They had never been good friends in his lifetime.  Yar
Alt had forever oppressed his  younger brother. And now there he was,  lying
dead at  Grom Alt's feet, thereby giving him a foothold on the next rung  of
the career ladder.
     Grom Alt was so pleased with his comparison of the corpse to a rung  on
the  ladder that he could not withhold himself and set his foot on the body,
but promptly jerked  it away again and hurried  out  of the nauseating  room
into the garden, then straight to the Dictator.
     It  was not easy getting through to Yar Jupi, in spite  of the shocking
news that Grom Alt was bringing him.
     The  impartial secretary box would understand nothing. Feelings did not
exist for it, and the security robots and the door automatic machines of the
Dictator's study were controlled solely by that brainless box.
     To tell the truth to the box would mean a refusal for sure, because the
stupid machine would promptly  record in its memory all the circumstances of
the  affair  and  send it  for investigation  to  the officers  of  Criminal
Investigation, who hated  the  officers of the  Blood Guard. They would risk
reporting  the  incident to  the  Dictator only  after the  findings of  the
Criminal Investigation  officers  who, of course, would squeeze Grom Alt out
of the picture.
     That was why Grom Alt decided to lie to  the secretary box, inventing a
version according to which he had a most important message for the Dictator;
it had been given to him by Mada Jupi in person on the way to Cape Farewell.
After all, she was his cousin!
     "You  may give me the gist of the beautiful Mada's words," jabbered the
box, which  was packed full with electronic  circuits.  "The Greatest of the
Great will study it when he checks my daily entries."
     "I  have nothing to  tell you, meritorious guardian  of  memory. I must
deliver a certain object to the  Greatest of the Great, the most Illustrious
of the Illustrious. If  you, as a guardian of memory, could take this object
to the Greatest of the Great, I would be at peace."
     The confounded box resisted for a long time, but gave way in the end.
     The  secretary box impartially reported to the Dictator  that Grom Alt,
officer of the Blood Guard, begged to be received without use of the screen.
     The  Dictator was very  busy.  He had held a  conference of the  higher
military ranks who,  of course, were not admitted to his presence but simply
attended  on  the  monitor  screens  in  his  office.  On  the  eve  of  the
disintegration war, no  one had  access to Yar Jupi. He  feared  his masters
from the Blood Council perhaps more than his subordinates.
     The conference ended at last.
     "Officer of  the Blood Guard Grom Alt," creaked the secretary box, "you
may pass through the  door to  genuflect before the most Illustrious of  the
Illustrious."
     The agitated Grom Alt went  into the Dictator's unprepossessing office,
afraid to  raise  his head and look at  the face of the man who had invented
the Doctrine of Hatred.  Like  his brother, he  aped the Dictator's external
appearance in every way.
     According  to  the  ritual,  Grom Alt genuflected and, staring  at  the
floor, told in a  trembling voice about the trail of blood  leading into the
beautiful Mada's chambers and about the bodies he had found in there.
     "Despicable robot of the guard! What are you drivelling about?"
     "May your wrath descend on the foul murderers  who plotted evil against
you  and your incomparable daughter, and whose traces I was able to uncover.
I grieve  over  my brother's  fate and am happy that your  daughter did  not
become a victim of the villainous conspiracy."
     "Conspiracy?" roared the Dictator, and he quivered from head to foot.
     He  stood  with clenched  fists  and glared  with crazed  eyes  at  the
terrified officer, who did not know what was going to happen next.
     Yar  Jupi  only   reflected  for  a  moment.  The   discovery  of  this
over-zealous officer of the Blood Guard could upset all his calculations and
force him to cancel the orders he had only just given to his military men.
     Yar Jupi roared with laughter.
     "So  that's  how  it  is,  is  it?"  shouted  the  Dictator through his
laughter. "You bring me news of the infinite grief of the Faetians who could
not bear to part with my incomparable Mada?"
     "I meant something altogether different"
     "Brainless insect! Answer my questions!"
     "I am in fear and trembling."
     "Why did my Supreme Officer Yar Alt die?"
     "He was poisoned by a bullet."
     "Who had such bullets, apart from him?"
     "No one."
     "Then is it  not clear to you, insect, that, enamoured of the beautiful
Mada, the Supreme Officer committed  suicide in her  room as  a mark of  his
hopeless yearning for her?"
     "But the nanny's body..."
     "Was she  not attached to  her  mistress?  Did  not  the  low  creature
understand that with the departure  of her mistress to another  planet,  she
would become an  ordinary roundhead, insignificant  and despised, as is only
right?"
     "What? She  took her own life?" Grom  Alt was  dumbfounded, remembering
the wound in Lua's throat and  shaking with fear at the thought that he  had
displeased the Dictator.
     Yes, he certainly had displeased the Dictator. Yar Jupi was  not at all
disposed to  ascertain why  only  two had been killed  when  at  any  moment
hundreds of  millions of Faetians could perish.  The more so that this could
hold up the space expedition that was meant to save Mada's life.
     "However,  this  stripling from the Blood  Guard  will hardly keep  his
mouth shut," thought Yar Jupi.
     The Dictator gently raised the terror-stricken officer off his knees.
     "My good sentinel Grom  Alt! You have every justification for replacing
your suicide brother. Thank  fate that true Faetians are the slaves of their
feelings.  If you should ever fall in love with a beautiful Faetess  and she
does  not reciprocate your feelings, behave as did your  elder  brother. But
allow me, as  one  who  is  proud of  a daughter capable  of  inspiring such
powerful  emotions, to thank you for your faithful service and for  bringing
me news that has made my  heart rejoice. I shall show you the treasure of my
flower collection,  which is  unrivalled  on  Faena.  These  blooms  are  as
beautiful as the Faetesses of our dreams. Savour their aroma."
     Grom Alt obediently went to the niche where he could see the incredibly
beautiful blossoms,  dark-blue as the sky before evening and glittering with
the gold spangles of new-lit stars.
     "How do  you  like that perfume,  my trusty sentinel?" asked Yar  Jupi,
turning away.
     "I  have never breathed anything more  enchanting. I feel  an  uncommon
lightness all over my body. I feel like flying."
     "Perhaps  you  will indeed fly  one  day,  as  the incomparable Mada is
flying at this moment. If she  discovers a life-supporting planet, then many
longfaces  will  fly  there  to  turn  new  continents  into  lands  of  the
Superiors."
     "Those words must be engraved on eternal stone. Each thought in here is
like a disintegration explosion; it flashes and it casts down."
     "The scent of the flowers is undoubtedly calling forth your  eloquence.
Order yourself the tunic of a Supreme Officer of the Blood Guard."
     A blissful Grom Alt, who had never expected such a turn of events, flew
out of the Dictator's office as if on wings.
     If the  secretary box had somehow  been  able to fathom the feelings of
living Faetians, it would have noticed Grom Alt's unusual state of mind. But
the  box was only a  machine and  merely noted how much time the visitor had
spent with the Dictator. Very little...
     And it took very little  time for Grom Alt to feel ill. He collapsed in
the Blood Guard barracks and died in dreadful agony.
     In  the meantime, the automatic secretary began compiling  a  report on
the  state  of  the  armed  forces  after the preparations announced by  the
Dictator  for a  disintegration  war.  But  Yar Jupi  switched off the power
supply to the pestilential box in a fury. He had been watching on the screen
the last moments  of the expedition's lift-off for Terr, mentally seeing off
his daughter. With his whole  being  he  suffered the parting  with her  and
squeezed his temples between the palms of his hands until it hurt.
     He had  seen Mada, with a strange look on  her face, run her eyes round
the  cosmodrome  before she  entered the lift-cage, her  gaze resting on the
ocean  with its white  bands of  foam  on the  crests of the waves.  She was
followed by a Faetian, evidently one from the other continent.
     For a moment, Yar Jupi was troubled at seeing a curly-haired half-breed
so close  to his daughter, but then  he remembered that she  would  at least
stay  alive. He sighed heavily.  He  had  a feeling that he had stepped on a
steep  and slippery surface. He could  not  keep his footing.  And below him
yawned an abyss.
     Ave Mar and Mada  were  looking through the barred lift-cage. The ocean
was expanding and the horizon seemed to be lifting up the clouds. Ave turned
round and saw on the  opposite side  another ocean, a  living  one of massed
Faetian heads with their faces  upturned to the  rocket.  As if to symbolise
Faena's overpopulation, they were jammed incredibly close together. A sudden
spasm of yearning clutched at  Ave's throat. Would he  ever come back again?
But he looked at Mada.  They had chosen this course themselves,  and  let it
not be  only  the  course  of their  own  happiness. Ave  still  had  little
understanding of the true forces driving Faena into war. He only wished with
all  his  heart that  the mysterious planet  Terr  would prove suitable  for
settlement by Faetians and that the danger of a disintegration war  would be
over and done with forever. Ave again remembered Kutsi Merc, who had brought
him here, brought him and Mada together and had, in fact, given his life for
their happiness. May his bones rest in peace...
     Kutsi Merc's  bullet-riddled hump had not been taken  to its goal,  but
the delayed-action fuse, decaying under the action of the air, was measuring
out the last moments of peace on the planet Faena.

     End of Part One




     Explosion

     Clubs, bills and partisans! Strike, beat them down!
     Down with the Capulets! Down with the Montagues!
     W. Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet

     Chapter One



     There was uproar on Space Station Deimo.
     Station engineer Tycho Veg, handsome, prematurely grey-haired, slow and
pensive,  was looking in disapproval at the bustle that  had just begun. But
it was not in  conformity with his mild nature to interfere  in anything: he
gave way  in all things to  his  wife, Ala Veg, and she was  the one who had
thought of holding a banquet in honour of the arriving spaceship Quest.
     The still unfaded beauty Ala Veg had become bored at home on Faena with
teaching  astronomy to blockheaded Superiors.  She insisted  on leaving with
her husband for the space station,  which only took married couples with the
required special qualifications. They would be able to return to their three
children left  on Faena after  earning enough to last  them for the rest  of
their lives, and Tycho Veg would finally become a workshop proprietor.
     Ala Veg, with the pedigree face of a Superior, a fine, straight nose, a
short  upper  lip and a sensual mouth, went about with a permanently haughty
frown;  she  considered  herself  and  her husband  the two  most  important
Faetians on the base.
     However, the wife  of the station chief, Nega Luton, who  had illegally
taken over the  post of Sister  of Health  without being a qualified doctor,
was  of  a  different  opinion.  Encouraged  by her  husband, Mrak Luton,  a
corpulent donkey, she  passed herself off  as  the  first lady  of space and
never  missed  an  opportunity  to  sting  Ala  Veg  with a reference to the
children  she  had abandoned. Ala  would parry these blows,  sparing neither
Nega's barrenness nor her unattractive appearance.
     Lada,  the young but well-upholstered cook and gardener, a good-natured
woman  with  an  affectionate  smile  on her  broad,  snub-nosed  face,  did
everything quickly  and efficiently, trying  to please everybody. She adored
her husband, proud  that  he, Brat  Lua, was the only one of the roundheads,
thanks to his mother's position in the Dictator's family,  who had been able
to  obtain an education on Danjab, the  continent of the  Culturals.  He was
sent  to  Deimo  both as jack-of-all-trades  and  as a representative of the
roundheads  who were to move  to the  uncomfortable planet  of Mar. Lada Lua
willingly followed him to serve all the inhabitants of Deimo.
     A  signal  from  her communications  bracelet  found  Lada  Lua in  the
greenhouse,  a  transparent cylindrical  corridor thousands  of paces  long.
Apart from Lada, no one used that corridor because it was on the axis of the
space station  and there was  no artificial  gravity created by  centrifugal
force as in the other quarters on the station. The nurserywoman did not feel
her weight as she floated  in and out among the air-roots of the plants. The
function of  soil  was  performed by  a nutritive mist of  the saps that the
roots needed. The harvest in space was much bigger than on Faena.
     The  signal found Lada Lua collecting sweet fruits for the  forthcoming
banquet.
     Holding on to the air-roots, Lada Lua hurried to answer Ala Veg's call.
She had to float quite a distance through the tangled  air-roots and then go
down  the shaft  inside a spoke of  the  giant wheel,  in whose rim all  the
station's quarters were housed.
     The cage in the shaft seemed to fall down into an abyss. The feeling of
weight  began to appear only at  the end of the  ride,  when the cage slowed
down  and stopped. The doors  opened  automatically.  Lada  Lua, her  normal
weight restored, walked out into  the corridor, which seemed to tilt upwards
before and behind her. She did not, however, have to climb any gradients.
     Ala Veg  was rushing about  her cabin, exasperated at the clumsiness of
her husband who was on his knees, unsuccessfully trying  to pin some kind of
frill to her gown.
     Lada Lua threw up her hands in delight.
     Ala  Veg unceremoniously  dismissed  her  husband and  he  went off  to
prepare the welcome for the approaching ship, which would have to refuel. He
realised that  his  wife was  bored to  death  with the monotonous  days and
tedious dinners at the common table, the faces  that she was sick of seeing,
always  the same ones, the  same words  heard  so many  times and the mutual
friction that grew worse  from day to day. Tycho Veg tried to understand his
wife, to excuse her failings, to  put them  down  to homesickness and to her
pining for  her  children. He  was missing them himself. If only one of them
was here, they  would be  so  happy! But  the  presence of children was  not
allowed on the space stations. The Superiors, when complementing  the  staff
on  Deimo,  managed to  oppress  the roundheads  there too. Nega  Luton  was
barren,  Ala Veg already had three children  and at her age, which  she kept
secret, she  had not  decided to have  a fourth. As  a result, the ban  only
affected the  young  Lua couple, who could not have children  on the planet,
nor on the space station.
     After helping Ala Veg to dress, Lada Lua ran to  the  kitchen with  its
glittering pans and dials to boil, roast and bake...
     But the communications bracelet summoned  her  again, this time to Nega
Luton. That important lady loved comforts and luxury more than anything. Her
husband,  a  Supreme Officer  of the Blood Guard, had supplied  her with all
these in full measure  on  Faena. Least of all had the  Lutons wanted  to go
into space. However, they had ended up there by order of the Dictator.
     Lada  Lua switched  the automatic kitchen machines to a set program and
hurried off to Nega Luton.


     When the spaceship Quest went into orbit round Deimo and approached the
station for docking, Mada and Ave never left the porthole.
     The  enormous  planet Mar  with its convex  rim  filled  over half  the
window.  Sol no longer looked like a brilliant round star, but had  become a
blinding disc  with a  magnificent corona.  For a  short  while,  the planet
blotted out its own star, plunging the ship into a swiftly-passing night.
     Hand in hand, Mada and Ave greeted this unusual dawn of their new life,
waiting for the brilliant, curly-fringed Sol to begin rising from behind the
hump of Mar.  The black surface  of the deserts turned brown, and gradually,
according to height, there followed one after another all the most  delicate
hues of a gigantic rainbow  that did not  hang  over the rain-washed forests
and plains, as on their native Faena,  but embraced the desert  planet  in a
crescent that  merged with  the rim of the gigantic sphere.  Mada caught her
breath. She could only squeeze Ave's fingers in silence.
     Then the rainbow glittered  at one point  and  the Faetians  saw Deimo,
their first  destination.  It was the brightest  star in the heavens, rising
swiftly over the rim of the rainbow.
     As it drew nearer, Deimo became  a gigantic, irregularly shaped lump of
rock,  and  soon  a small  star  became visible next  to it. This  was Space
Station Deimo, the Faetians' destination.
     Then they were able to see that this star was a ring inclined at slight
angle to the  mass of Mar. Comparable to  the planet Sat, it was a satellite
of Mar's  satellite. Finally, their eyes began to ache with  staring at this
artificial metal structure, which was reflecting the rays of Sol.
     The first pilot of Quest, Smel  Ven, the  celebrated astronaut  of  the
Superiors, was executing a complicated manoeuvre to approach the axis of the
station's wheel and dock on to  the central compartment. The silvery tail of
the greenhouse extended  from the station,  a bright line  receding into the
darkness.
     When Quest moved up to  Deimo station, engineer Tycho Veg summoned Brat
Lua  to the central compartment as the mechanic who did the heavy work. Mrak
Luton, the chief of the station, did not  consider it  necessary to go up to
the  central compartment  in  order to "float  about  on the  loose" in null
gravity.  He  preferred to  stay  in the  ring corridor and paced  round it,
important and pompous, with his hands thrust behind his back.
     The  name Mrak (Gloom), given  to him in his early youth, suited him: a
pudgy, rectangular face, sparse grey hair and  small, suspicious eyes  under
the tufted eyebrows.
     He  did not linger by the lift-cage but continued  promenading  in  the
same direction all the time until finally, after he had gone round the whole
outer ring, he turned up in the corridor on the other side.
     However, all three Faetesses,  unable to restrain  their curiosity, met
at the lift-cage.
     The  first to  come out into the corridor was the exceptionally tall Dm
Sat.
     The ladies respectfully inclined their heads.
     Two Faetians came next.
     The giant Gor  Terr, up to the eyes in whiskers, was  the ship's flight
engineer  and one  of  the men  who designed it.  He had a pronounced stoop,
thanks to which  his arms seemed  uncommonly long. His friends used  to joke
that in height,  strength and appearance he resembled  the  ancestors of the
Faetians. However, his low, hairy brow hid an exceptional mind.
     His new friend, Toni Fae, educated and refined, wrote poetry.  He had a
round face, a thin nose and wide-open eyes behind big spectacles.
     Nega  Luton took  charge of the  gigantic Gor  Terr.  Ala Veg  took the
youthful Toni Fae under her wing.
     Um Sat went of his own accord to the roundhead Lada Lua.
     "Will the gentle Faetess show me to where I can have a rest?"
     Lada Lua blushed and, beside herself with happiness, led the great sage
to his appointed cabin.
     Ala  Veg ran down the corridor with a provocative laugh, beckoning Toni
Fae to catch up with her. She conducted him into a comfortable cabin and sat
down in a light chair.
     "And so is it not true, Toni Fae, that we have kindred souls.  Is it by
chance that we are both astronomers,  that we find ourselves amid  the stars
and are sitting within reach of one another?"
     Toni Fae took off his spectacles to see more clearly.
     "The stars have made us friends, is it not so?" continued Ala Veg, well
aware of the effect she was having on the young visitor.
     "For the sake of everything I see here, it was well worth flying to the
stars," he murmured, lowering his eyes.
     "I  already know that you're a  poet. But you are also an astronomer. I
want us to have views in common."
     "I would like that so much!"
     They were silent for a moment as they gazed at one another.
     "Soon there will be a banquet. We shall sit side by side."
     "Oh,  yes!" Toni Fae nodded his  head. "But we must  also take Gor Terr
under our wing. He is as helpless as I am."
     "I love  the  helpless ones," laughed Ala Veg, affectionately  touching
Toni Fae's  hand. "You are  a  charming boy and  I'm so happy that  you have
arrived. If only you knew how fed up we are with one another here!"
     Mrak  Luton, who was  finishing his stroll  along the corridor as if no
one had  arrived  at the station, had in fact been  carefully measuring  his
pace. Of  all the new arrivals, he regarded the  Dictator's daughter as most
important.  For  that  reason, he went up to  the  lift-cage at the  precise
moment when Mada, Ave and Smel Ven, the first pilot, came out of it.
     The  chief of  the station  was  chewing  it over in  his  mind:  after
lift-off from Faena, the Dictator's daughter had married Ave Mar, son of the
Ruler of the Culturals. What was this? Politics?
     "May they be prolonged, the successful cycles in the life of the Wisest
of the  Wise  who had the good  fortune to have such  a daughter,"  was  the
flowery welcome with which  he  greeted Mada, and he  announced that she and
Ave had been given two  magnificent cabins in opposite  compartments  of the
station.
     Mada flared up.
     "Was not Station Deimo  in electromagnetic  communication  with Quest?"
she asked angrily.
     Mrak Luton shrugged his shoulders apologetically.
     "If  the customs  of  the  Superiors  are  effective  on  the station,"
continued Mada, as if giving an  order, "then you  must give  my husband and
myself a double cabin and send the roundheaded Lua couple there at once."
     The station chief bowed respectfully as low as his paunch would allow.
     "They exist  to serve. May the cycles in the lives  of the Dictator and
the Ruler be prolonged," he concluded, glancing at Ave for the first time.
     Mrak  Luton personally conducted the young couple to the best  cabin on
the  station, and on the way he showed the glowering Smel Ven his  quarters.
Then he found Brat Lua and Tycho Veg who had just  emerged from the  central
compartment.  He ordered Brat Lua to find  his  wife and report with  her to
Mada and Ave. Only then did he  notice that  Smel  Ven  was  still  standing
outside  his cabin door. Mrak  Luton  went up to him and heard the following
words, uttered in a half-whisper:
     "The Dictator will hardly approve of such hasty hospitality."  Smel Ven
vanished, slamming the door behind him.
     Mrak Luton stared dully at the plastic-covered door.
     Brat Lua  not only brought his  wife to Ave  and Mada,  he also brought
drawings. He  was a calm Faetian of medium height, with a tight, glossy skin
and intent eyes.
     Since his mother had become Mada's nanny he had grown up away from her,
but had always felt her influence. She had even managed to bring her son and
her charge  together and make them friends. However, their meetings had soon
become  impossible.  The  Dictator  shut himself off  from the  world behind
walls. The  boy learned humiliation and injustice. Impressionable and proud,
he became more and more withdrawn.
     He had a rare determination. Mother Lua taught  him that only knowledge
would  compel  even  those who  were oppressing the roundheads  to  take him
seriously. And so he fought stubbornly for every crumb of knowledge.
     The  result  was  that even  in  early  youth,  his  face  acquired  an
expression of firmness and concentration.
     He fell in  love  with Lada  Nep before his  departure for  Danjab, the
continent of the Gutturals, to finish his education there. Finally persuaded
by the nanny  and Mada herself, Yar Jupi agreed, although  he kept his  real
opinion to himself.
     For several cycles, Lada devotedly  waited for her betrothed, intending
after  his return to  leave  immediately on the  Dictator's orders for Space
Station Deimo, created by him to consolidate his authority and ostensibly to
fulfil his plan of resettling the roundheads on Mar.
     Brat Lua was now hurrying  to share with Mada and Ave the fruits of his
reflections and of sleepless nights spent at his drawings.
     "I've been planning how to make  life better  for the  roundheads,"  he
said  hurriedly  but  firmly.  "I've  planned   the  construction   of  deep
underground cities with an artificial atmosphere.  On the surface of Mar, in
the midst of the deserts which you see in the porthole, I have been planning
oases  of fertility. It will be enough to  water them with melted water from
the polar ice and  deliver it to them along underground  rivers.  These will
have to be  excavated." He looked trustingly at his  listeners. "I have been
waiting so long for real men of learning!"
     Mada went up to Brat Lua.
     "We have known one another since childhood,  and we  both loved  Mother
Lua."
     " 'Loved' her?" The Faetian went suddenly on his guard, staring hard at
Mada.
     Inwardly alarmed, Lada Lua went over to her husband.
     "I... I must tell you everything..." continued Mada.
     "What is it? Is the war beginning?"
     "Mother Lua tried to  stop it," said Mada in a flash of intuition. "And
she was killed. Brat..."
     "Killed?" The Faetian went white in the face.
     "She was murdered by that scoundrel  Yar Alt But your mother, and mine,
has been avenged."
     Brat Lua let his head fall onto  the table with the drawings spread  on
it and  began sobbing.  Mada  held Ave by the hand, herself almost in tears.
Lada Lua rushed to the door.
     "Mrak Luton is coming to invite us to a banquet," she whispered.
     "He must not know anything," warned Mada.
     The  little  world of the tiny inhabited islet in the Universe was like
the big world of the planet, rent by hostile forces.


     Chapter Two



     Mada's  strongest  sensation was one of  light. It  was  falling  in  a
brilliant mosaic  onto  the ground through the  leaves  of the trees,  whose
trunks  resembled  compactly  grown  roots.  Above,  they  spread  out  like
transparent canopies filled with light. Each fruit up there was like a  tiny
star.
     A stream of foam,  tumbling down  from a  stone ledge, was lit up by  a
quivering  rainbow. The  smooth  lake  that fed  the  current lay tranquilly
there, crossed by a sparkling mother-of-pearl footpath.
     Round  the  banks grew fantastic trees bearing  golden  apples. And the
water lured Mada  from the  depths with the same vivid fruits, very slightly
tinged  with haze, that you could touch so easily by just reaching  out your
hand.
     She thought how ugly the two unwieldy, clumsy creatures  seemed in such
a  setting. They moved  about on their hind legs, holding their bodies erect
but rolling from side to side at  each step. Their sturdy bodies, with belts
high on  the  hips,  were decorated with  a spiral ornament  Their upper and
lower  extremities  were covered  with inflated bubbles and their heads were
enclosed in hard spheres with slits for the eyes.
     Two  enormous birds were swimming across the lake with proudly upcurved
necks; they turned their heads with  their red beaks and made trustingly for
the shore.
     Several light  quadrupeds  came out of the  forest.  They  had the same
wondrous trees with root-branches growing on their heads, but without fruits
or foliage. The creatures began drinking the water.
     A mighty beast with greenish, glittering eyes softly  sprang  onto  the
bright patches in the shade of the canopied trees. His hide merged  with the
bright mosaic. Lithe and powerful,  he made his way soundlessly towards  the
water,  paying no attention to the horned denizens of the  forest nor to the
strange newcomers.
     "I'm not even frightened," said Mada through her helmet intercom.
     "A virgin, unfrightened world," responded Ave.
     "And there's so much light!"
     "The experts on Faena thought it could kill."
     "It can kill only darkness, ignorance and hatred. We have found a world
where evil and hatred do not and cannot exist."
     Mada went up quite close to the watering place. A young reindeer looked
round curiously,  leapt out of the water and dug its wet muzzle into  Mada's
glove.
     "Could you think of such a thing on Faena?" she cried.
     "Alas, there's no room left for them there!"
     "These  are  children  of  light. Open  your visor  and  look. Don't be
afraid, the eye is a  most  self-accommodating organ. They won't believe our
stories on Faena."
     "Millions of Faetians are waiting for them."
     "Aren't we  cheating this way? Why  this  envelope shutting us off from
the new world. I've opened my visor all the way!"
     "Mada, my dear!" warned Ave. "That's dangerous."
     "We've found a  world of amazing beauty, but we haven't proved  that we
can live on it."
     "We must remember Dm Sat's warning."
     "What  is there to be afraid of? Dangerous invisible beings?  But light
is the best medicine for them. I myself am a Sister of Health. Our ancestors
didn't take thought, they injected themselves with illness-creating microbes
in order  to rid all  Faetians of deadly diseases. It is the doctor  on Terr
who should be  the first to shed a space-suit! It is a duty! Besides, I want
to bathe  in the lake. Will  my  Ave, who tamed the ocean waves  on a board,
back out now? Take  the tablets I gave you. They will protect  you from  the
unknown  world of the Planet of Light.  And its light will help us. Take off
your space-suit! And help me."
     "Why are you tempting me, Mada?"
     "So that we can be the first to do what must be done anyway. After all,
we can't go back to Faena without having tried to live here in real freedom.
And not in a shell."
     So saying, Mada plucked a golden apple and held it out to Ave.
     "Peel it for me, please. It has a skin as bright as Sol and as tough as
one of our space-suits."
     When Quest began  approaching the orbit  of  Terr,  the members of  the
expedition found  the  brilliant light of Sol more and more  intolerable. It
became particularly searing when the ship went into orbit round the planet.
     Mada  established that Terr's atmosphere  was strikingly like  that  of
Faena.  Except that  there  was  little  carbon dioxide  and  there  was  no
greenhouse effect.  The planet freely  emitted the  excess  solar  heat into
space. The conditions of  existence on it were consequently similar to those
on Faena, as Ave Mar had once suggested.
     Toni Fae, the astronomer, observed the planet with the enthusiasm  of a
poet. Most of  it was under water and seemed to be hatched with the lines of
the waves. The land and  sea surfaces were strikingly varied in  colour. But
most of all, there were clouds over Terr. Singly, they cast distinct shadows
onto the surface of  the planet, and  in  the misty oceans here and there it
was possible  to distinguish the spiral whirlwinds of hurricanes raging down
below.
     But  nowhere, neither on land  nor on the sea coast, could they see the
patches of  towns stretching out the tendrils of roads. This was what struck
everyone at the first sight of Terr from space.
     "Must be a dead planet," suggested Flight Engineer Gor Terr.
     "It's a live  one!" exclaimed  Toni Fae. "The  green of the  continents
means vegetation. And the others..."
     "That's the whole point; you won't guess what they mean."
     "Why not?" said Toni Fae animatedly. "It's easy!"
     "R-really?" said Gor Terr, astonished.
     "The priests in  ancient times  believed  that every  living  being was
surrounded  by  an aura.  Its  colour  was supposed to  enable the  'psychic
vision' to recognise the most secret thoughts and feelings."
     "You  mean  the  pr-riests  would  have looked  on  Terr  as  a  living
cr-reature?"
     "Yes, so as to draw a map of it," laughed Toni Fae.
     "All  r-right, let's  get  on with it.  I  can  see  black gaps in  the
mountain r-range."
     "That means the Mountains of Bitterness and Hate."
     "Much as on our Faena. There are dirty green valleys r-running into the
distance."
     "The Valleys of Jealousy."
     "And the black and gr-reen ones?"
     "Base Deceit."
     "Is it worth it, starting with such gr-rim names?"
     "Then look at the big land areas."
     "Bright gr-reen."
     "The priests considered that colour to be  a sign of worldly wisdom and
subtle deceit."
     "Let's  be indulgent  to  Terr  and call the dry land the  Continent of
Wisdom without any deceit. And  here is a  narrow  sea with r-red  lightning
flashing over it."
     "The Sea of Wrath."
     "It has a pink bay."
     "The Bay of Love."
     "And the sea coast here is r-russet brown."
     "The Coast of Greed."
     "Not  bad  for  future Terrans.  Will it be  better with  the dark blue
ocean, perhaps?"
     "The Ocean of Hope."
     "And its light blue bay?"
     "The Bay of Justice."
     "That's  better  already.  And these fire-breathing mountains  with the
r-red flames and the black smoke?"
     "The Volcanoes of Passions."
     As  they  carried on with their game, the young Faetians gradually drew
the  first map  of Terr with  amusing names  recalling the  members  of  the
expedition.
     "As for Mada's aura," continued Toni Fae, "that's a spectrum of dawn in
space."
     "And what about Toni Fae himself? Hasn't he  been blazing with a bright
r-red aura ever since the visit to Deimo?"
     Toni looked embarrassed.
     "You see," continued Gor Terr, "I interpret your aura no worse than one
of those ancient pr-riests." And he laughed knowingly.
     "It's not so difficult," said Toni  Fae in an attempt  at self-defence.
"You can see into Ave and even into Smel Ven."
     "R-really?.. Even into Smel Ven?"
     "We're  all  blazing red,"  sighed  Toni Fae, "only the shades are  all
different."
     "Then  shouldn't  we  name  the  seas  after lovers?"  said  Gor  Terr,
clutching at this playful idea.
     "It would be better to call Terr the Planet of Eternal Passions."
     Toni Fae had been right not only about Terr, but about Smel Ven. If  he
had an aura, then it must inevitably be fiery red. He  was burning with love
for Mada, and  the  feelings she inspired would have  streaked his  own aura
with black and dirty-green.
     Fate's  darling on Faena, a celebrated  astronaut, the favourite of the
Faetesses, he had not even dared to make Mada's acquaintance although he had
often admired her on the Great Shore. He had hoped that the prompt departure
into  space  would cure him, but..  Mada was close at hand to  humiliate and
destroy  him with her marriage  to an insignificant half-breed whose  father
had gained the Ruler's chair by nefarious means.
     Like many longfaces, Smel Ven never did things  by halves. Which is why
he had become a celebrated and fearless astronaut and  had flown to Terr. He
had not  been unpleasant or cunning  as a young man, but Mada's contempt had
stirred up the hidden  sides of his character. Seeing how happy Mada and Ave
were together  and hating them  for that reason,  he  brooded  on  plans  of
revenge  as cunning as  they were cruel... But he had to remain  beyond  all
suspicion. The planet Terr itself was going to help him!
     Quest,  its  braking engines  switched  on,  was decelerating,  without
friction in the atmosphere  and without any overheating of the cabin's outer
surface. Gor Terr, the ship's designer, carried out the landing as "lift off
in reverse", in his own words. He did not apply the parachute brakes typical
of  the  early  stages in  Faetian astronavigation. The spaceship could make
landfall as slowly as it had lifted off.
     Quest came down  on its three landing feet, towering  above the tallest
trees  and   listing   dangerously.   The   automatic  controls  immediately
straightened it up.
     The astronauts pressed their  faces  up against  the portholes. A dense
forest of unrecognisable trees rose on either side of a river.
     "This is  Terr," announced Dm Sat, "that is to  be the  birthplace  of
our successors! In the meantime,  however,  we  must refrain from taking off
our space-suits. We have yet to explore the unknown world of this planet."
     First, they lowered  the  instruments  through  the  open  hatch,  then
dropped  the ladder, and strange  figures  wearing  stiff  space-suits began
climbing down to the ground.
     The last to  emerge were Smel Ven and Mada. Smel Ven helped Mada to put
on her helmet.
     "Could it be that a Faetess like Mada Jupi..."
     "Mada Mar," she corrected him.
     "Could it  be  that a Faetess  like Mada could agree  with  Dm  Sat and
disgrace herself with this garb?"
     "You are suggesting a brave deed that is worthy of you, Smel Ven."
     "There is  nothing  in the world that could frighten me. But  I  am the
ship's pilot, and an element of return is vital to Um Sat."
     Mada frowned at his pompousness.
     "You consider yourself the most valuable?" Smel Ven restrained himself;
it was not in his interests to annoy Mada.
     "You are a  Sister of  Health yourself  and will feel a need to discard
that clothing as soon as  you go  into the new world." Mada pulled down  her
visor.


     The sunset on Terr was spreading over the river.
     In space, the astronauts had become  familiar with Sol and his furious,
raging brilliance. But here,  in the evening of  their first day on Terr, it
was  possible to  stare with  the naked  eye  at the reddish, flattened Sol,
shorn of his space corona. Elongated  clouds were  beginning to  gather near
its oval disc.  Two of them, coming from different directions, joined up and
divided Sol  into  two. And then  a miracle happened.  Instead  of  one, two
heavenly  bodies  hung over  the  horizon one  after the other, each of them
purple in colour.
     Mada could not take her eyes off this spectacle as  she watched the two
bodies  change in size: the lower one touched the sea of forest,  the  upper
one became thinner  and  thinner, dwindling to  a mere segment of a disc and
finally disappearing altogether. The  lower part of Sol also vanished behind
a big cloud. Now the whole sky  flickered with fire. And, as if in a crimson
ocean spreading above the clouds, there hung  lilac waves, and very high up,
illumined by  the sinking Sol, there floated  a solitary  white island,  its
red-hot edges blazing.
     The sunset glow was gradually dying away,  but the  little cloud burned
on without going out. Then,  as if all  of a sudden, darkness  came down  on
Terr. Night had fallen, just as on Faena. And even the stars were the same.
     Except  that  Terr did  not have at that time  a  magnificent nocturnal
luminary like Faena's satellite, Lua, which  gave such beauty to the Faetian
night and  which had  appeared near Terr a  million years  later. The planet
Ven, however, was particularly brilliant here. Toni Fae pointed  out to Mada
the  evening star that had begun shining  on the horizon like a spark in the
flames of dawn. It was still the brightest object in the night sky.
     The astronauts continued admiring the sky of Terr for  quite some time.
Strange nocturnal sounds came from the forest.
     Urn Sat suggested spending the night in the rocket.
     Mada  went back  inside  reluctantly, although she  could  take off her
heavy space-suit in there.
     She could  not shake off the unpleasant impression  made  by Smel Ven's
remarks.
     Next  morning,  the Faetians went for a  stroll through  the  forest in
pairs. They were to assemble by the rocket at a prearranged time.
     Long shadows  lay on the ground. According  to the  instruments, it had
turned cooler. They were about to see Sol set on Terr for the second time.
     Ave and Mada  were  late. Urn  Sat was alarmed. Toni Fae  painstakingly
kept  calling  the  missing  pair.  Mada  and  Ave  did  not  reply,  as  if
electromagnetic communications had broken down.
     Gor Terr sent up two signal rockets in succession. They soared up  into
the  colourful evening sky,  leaving  curly trains of smoke behind them. The
red and yellow curves floated across the heavens for a long time.
     "From  red  to  yellow,"  quipped  Toni  Fae.  "From love to  wisdom. A
hopeless call."
     Gor Terr shook the inflated sleeve of his space-suit at him.
     Smel Ven kept apart as  if nothing had happened. His  helmet  concealed
tightened lips and downcast eyes.
     His hopes were  finally fulfilled. Mada ran out  of  the  forest in her
skin-tight, wet undergarment. She had taken off her space-suit!
     Smel Ven trembled and raised his visor.
     This was the Mada whom the sculptors had tried to catch sight of on the
Great Shore and  whom Smel Ven himself had admired.  Head flung back  on the
slender neck, dark  blue, ecstatic eyes. She  was  holding a golden apple in
each hand.
     "Ave and I are now the first inhabitants of Terr. It'll go down  in the
planet's history!"
     Ave  followed  behind  her,  also  without  his  space-suit.  They  had
evidently been enjoying a swim. He was also carrying two golden fruits.
     "Maybe we are  at fault," he  said  in  response to  the reproach in Dm
Sat's eyes, "but  it's now been proved that Faetians can  live on Terr.  The
planet  will  feed them.  The labours  of  the  colonists will be generously
rewarded. This means an end to overpopulation on Faena!"
     Dm  Sat  merely  gave   Ave  a  look;  the  other  bowed  his  head  in
embarrassment.
     "We simply carried out an experiment.  Someone had  to, otherwise there
would have been no point in flying here."
     Smel Ven waited for  many days, but in vain. Ave and Mada, Terr's first
inhabitants, enjoyed all the benefits of the paradise they had found and did
not succumb to any form of illness.
     After  a sufficient  period of  time had elapsed. Dm  Sat permitted the
other Faetians to take off their space-suits.
     They took  this  alien world of  nature at once: the  air,  filled with
strange  perfumes,  the bright light, unknown  on  Faena, and the unfamiliar
sounds coming from  the forest. Something  would be walking about  in there,
hiding, leaping from branch to branch, shrieking, bellowing. Then, suddenly,
all the noises would die down  and from  the  depths of the  forest  Silence
itself would seem to be watching the uninvited guests.

     Chapter Three



     Dm Sat  was  regarding his companions with a kind  of  strange sadness,
trying not  to go near them. He made  a sign to Smel Ven and climbed up into
the  rocket. The First Pilot of Quest  found the  scientist already lying on
the couch in the common cabin. His  cheeks were hollow and the pouches under
his eyes were even more pronounced.
     Smel Ven stopped  a short distance  away. His narrow  face with the big
bald  patches on his  head looked even longer because of the straggly little
goatee beard.
     "I feel a great weakness," said the Elder. "I have no headache or rash.
It might pass off. Let the Sister of Health stay with me; the rest can carry
on with their work. However,  I still  consider  it my duty to hand over the
leadership of the expedition to you, as the ship's commander."
     "So be it,"  declared Smel Ven  solemnly, drawing  himself up  as if on
parade.  "I  assume all the  authority! Henceforth, I  shall be in charge of
everything. And I order you, my aged friend, to lie down. You know where the
provisions are. I forbid all subordinates to come near the rocket."
     "Even the Sister of Health?" asked Um Sat quietly.
     "Even her," snapped Smel Ven. "She will be useful to the others if they
fall ill as well."
     Um Sat laughed weakly but said nothing.
     "I am leaving now," Smel Ven hastened to say.
     "I am  replacing you," said the  old man  after him,  but the hatch had
already slammed shut.
     Um Sat wearily closed his eyes. When would he stop making mistakes? Why
ever did they think him wise?
     Smel Ven assembled all the astronauts.
     "Um Sat has ordered me to inform you that the camp is being transferred
from the rocket into the forest. As it will be hard for the old man to spend
the night there, he has delegated the leadership  of the camp to  me  as his
deputy."
     "But the forest's dangerous at night," commented Toni Fae.
     Smel Ven looked at him contemptuously.
     "I don't  know who is more graced with cowardice: the astronomer or the
poet."
     Toni Fae flushed. Gor Terr interceded on his behalf.
     "Caution is useful, even in a leader."
     "What risk can there be," said Smel Ven aggressively, "if we've come to
a world of love and harmony?" And he turned to Mada and Ave.
     "Who's threatening us?" said Mada, backing him up.
     Ave nodded silently.
     The explorers collected up everything they needed, armed  themselves at
Gor  Terr's  insistence with pistols, though loaded  only with  stun bullets
harmless to animal life, and set off into the forest.
     Mada urgently wanted to see Um Sat, but Smel Ven refused to let her; he
was anxious to get into the forest before darkness fell.
     They pitched camp  on the shore of the lake from  which the stream fell
into  the chasm. White  birds  with curved  necks were  swimming on rippling
water that was tinged with mother-of-pearl.
     "Why do they have such long necks?" asked Toni Fae.
     "To fetch up underwater weeds," replied Mada.
     "A very peaceful occupation," commented Gor Terr.
     The  evening glow was already flickering in  the sky when Smel Ven sent
Mada and Ave to survey  the other shore of the lake. They had  to make their
way across the stream, jumping from rock to rock.
     They walked on,  occasionally  stooping under  low branches, dressed in
their  clinging black  suits and  delightedly looking  about them. Suddenly,
they both stopped in their tracks.
     A reindeer, its antlered head flung back, raced past  in front of them.
A powerful beast with a spotted hide was following it in  great soft bounds.
It  overtook the reindeer and pounced on its  neck.  The victim,  its artery
bitten  through, made  a last  desperate bound and collapsed  under  a tree.
There was a bellowing sound. The beast was tearing its prey to pieces.
     Ave snatched at his pistol to reload it with poisoned bullets.
     "We daren't  take  lives  here,"  intervened  Mada. "We  mustn't  bring
Faena's morals with us."
     "I'm afraid they already exist here."
     "But why?"
     "The laws of life's development on the planets are exactly the same."
     "But what about the watering place?" protested  Mada  weakly. "None  of
them attacked any of the others there."
     "A  beast  of prey  can't just slaughter animals.  It  lets them  live,
drink, propagate  and grow. Otherwise  it won't  have  anything to eat. It's
like a forest animal-breeder: by catching the weakest when  out  hunting, it
improves the selection of the herd."
     Mada made  no objection.  She  walked  along at  Ave's  side, dejected,
conscious of his hand  on her shoulder. But suddenly he snatched it away and
slapped his  forehead.  Mada involuntarily did the same. Then she  stared in
bewilderment at her fingers, which were  stained with  blood. It had  become
dark in the forest and there  was  a  buzzing noise  everywhere. Tiny flying
creatures swooped  on the Faetians and began stinging them. Ave and Mada had
to pluck branches and beat the flies off.
     They found Smel Ven  alone in the camp. He was frantically slapping his
cheeks and neck.
     "Filthy creatures!" he swore. "We'd be better off in our space-suits."
     "I was terribly wrong," began Mada at once.  "Ave and I  have just seen
murder in the forest. Murder is committed here as on Faena! We must move the
camp  back to  the rocket as  soon  as possible,  to open ground where there
aren't any insects or beasts of prey."
     "We're  not going back to the rocket," snapped Smel Ven. "There's a far
more terrible death in store for us there-the one that was lying in wait for
Dm Sat."
     "What  d'you  mean?" Mada  was outraged.  "And you.  Dm  Saf's  deputy,
wouldn't allow me, as a doctor, to be with him?"
     "Such was his will. It's  not  just filthy flying creatures  or spotted
predators, but the hidden microworld that's bared its teeth at us."
     "I'm going to Um Sat!" declared Mada.
     "With me," added Ave.
     "Only  cowards who've found a  pretext escape by running away!" shouted
Smel Ven after them, forgetting his own false warning.
     Mada  ran ahead.  Ave could  hardly  see  her  outline in  the  swiftly
approaching darkness. Suddenly, his heart contracted with pain. It seemed to
him that Mada had  been stopped by a gigantic round-shouldered creature with
long, dangling  arms. He drew his pistol, which he  still hadn't loaded with
live  ammunition, but noticed  that Mada was not  in the least  afraid.  Ave
gasped with relief. That showed how badly his nerves had been set on edge by
the forest episode! He hadn't recognised Gor Terr. And now the puny Toni Fae
also turned up.
     Ave put his pistol away and only then  did he see at least five figures
like Gor Terr with  him. The Faetoids  knocked Toni Fae and  the frantically
resisting Mada off their feet. The whole gang of them charged at Gor Terr.
     Ave  dashed towards Gor Terr,  but couldn't  tell him  from  among  the
similar round-shouldered,  shaggy beasts. They sorted themselves out and all
five of them hurled themselves on Ave.
     He hadn't time  to draw his pistol. He merely shook off  the assailants
clinging to him. They were bigger  than Ave, but had  no idea  how to fight.
Using his fists and his feet, Ave scattered the beasts as  they fell on him.
Two of them writhed under a tree, the others flung themselves at  Ave again.
Throwing over his shoulder one who stank  of sweat  and mud, he glimpsed Gor
Terr dealing with his opponents. Several shaggy carcasses  were squirming at
his feet. But  still more of the enemy were tumbling down onto his shoulders
from the trees. Ave tried to shout  that he should run to open ground, but a
shaggy paw clamped  itself over his face. Ave twisted the paw till the bones
cracked.
     Mada  was nowhere to be seen. Nor was Toni  Fae.  Only Gor Terr and Ave
Mar continued the unequal struggle.
     "Hold out, Ave!" shouted Gor Terr. "These are all of one local family!"
     Ave flung aside the first assailants,  but at  least a dozen fresh ones
leapt on him. Four taloned paws fastened on to each of his hands and feet.
     The  young Faetian summoned up all his strength,  heaved and crashed to
the ground, crushing his  enemies  underneath  him. More shaggy beasts leapt
onto the  pile of weltering  bodies. He felt as if  he had  been buried in a
mine shaft: he could neither move nor breathe.
     On seeing Ave's predicament, Gor Terr  rushed to help him. But it would
have probably  been easier to fell with one shoulder the wide-spreading tree
under which the scrum had taken place than to come to Ave's assistance. Then
Gor Terr made a sudden leap and grabbed hold  of a low  branch. Two or three
of  the  Faetoids, no shorter in stature  than he was himself, hung onto his
legs. The bough bent,  threatening to  crack.  With  an incredible  burst of
strength, Gor Terr hoisted  himself up  onto  the bough with all the animals
clinging to him. They dived head-downwards off  it, howling frantically. Two
more seemed to be waiting above Gor Terr, but were thrown down.
     With an  agility denied  to  his shaggy  opponents, Gor Terr  literally
soared up to the topmost branches of the tree.
     Despairing shrieks and roars came from below.
     Gor Terr jumped  down from the topmost branch  and, it seemed, ought to
have crashed into the paws of the beasts galloping in a frenzy round it, but
by some miracle he seized  hold of  a branch on a neighbouring  tree and ran
lightly along it, although it bent under his considerable weight.
     A way had been found, the only escape from the bellowing herd below.
     Gor Terr  couldn't  understand why none of the fanged beasts had bitten
him. There was no time to think about it, and he continued running along the
upper branches. He might well have been envied by his remote ancestors,  who
had come down from the trees of Faena once upon a time.
     His pursuers, however, were running along below every bit as fast as he
was himself.
     At this  point,  Gor Terr saw  something like a Faetian  liana. It hung
down from  a distant, very high tree and was caught on one  of the  branches
near  him. Gor  Terr seized hold of the  living cable and flew downwards. He
had a  glimpse of the  infuriated herd.  Gathering  speed  like  a  swinging
pendulum, he sailed over his pursuers' heads and managed to kick the biggest
of them. He was followed by a despairing wail.
     Gor Terr caught sight of  a  waterfall below him. The liana carried him
across to the other bank. He clutched at a branch, jumped down to the ground
and started running.
     The  shouts of pursuit  died down far  behind him.  The  Faetoids  were
evidently afraid of water and could not cross to the other side of the river
after him.
     Gor Terr slowed  down and breathed heavily,  inflating his  chest,  and
only then did he  discover that  in his confusion he had forgotten to  bring
his  pistol  from the  camp, although he  had been  the one to  insist  that
everybody should be armed.
     He was overcome with horror. There was no one left now, except himself.
He must hurry back to the  rocket,  but his news of what had happened to all
the Faetians would be the death of Urn Sat.
     He  had  no  alternative,  however.  He  decided  to wait  until  dawn,
believing that the Faetoids were nocturnal and feared the daylight.
     He climbed a tree and settled himself on the topmost branch.
     As he  pictured his  friends  torn to pieces, he  wept  with grief  and
helplessness. The tears stuck in his beard, which was as  matted as the hair
of a Faetoid. At times, his reason was clouded with frenzy. Suddenly, in the
pale glimmer  of dawn, he saw one of the abominable creatures slowly  coming
along under the tree.
     Round-shouldered,  almost  the same height, it was rolling from side to
side  at every step. Its back was covered with wool. The beast turned round,
and Gor  Terr  realised that it was a female Faetoid. She was walking erect,
and her forepaws  dangled down to her  knees. From time to time, she stooped
to pluck a plant or grub up a root.
     Gor Terr shook with fury, making  ready to pounce on the beast and deal
with her.
     At  that moment, something flashed past  below and the  Faetoid fell to
the ground. She  was  being suffocated by the spotted  animal that  Mada had
told him about.
     Himself not  knowing why,  Gor  Terr jumped  down on the predator.  The
animal roared, trying to struggle free of the weight that had landed on  its
back. But  Gor  Terr jumped off and gripped it by the  hind legs.  The human
giant  pulled  the  beast  towards  him,  raised  it  into  the  air on  his
outstretched hands  and dashed its head against a tree-trunk, then flung the
inert body to one side.
     The Faetoid  rose to  her feet and  stared at Gor  Terr with  curiosity
rather than in fear. He even took offence.
     "Am I really so like  her fellow-creatures that I didn't even  frighten
her?"
     She approached him trustingly and said, "Dzin!"
     Yes, that was what she  said! These animals  could pronounce articulate
words. If they were not wholly rational,  then in a million  or more  cycles
they could become like the rational Faetians.
     "Gor," said  the Faetian, pointing at his naked, hairy chest. His shirt
had been ripped down to the waist.
     "Dzin," repeated the Faetoid, and she pointed  at  herself. It would be
hard to say what thought process was taking place in the low-browed, sloping
skull. However, she too was capable  of the gratitude innate in many Faetian
animals.
     Dzin had obviously been overtaken by some kind of thought. She clutched
Gor Terr by the hand and pulled him along, gibbering incoherently.
     Was  she taking him to  her  lair, acknowledging  him not  only as  her
saviour, but as her master?
     Gor Terr frowned. He wanted  to shoo her away and even raised his hand.
But she waited for the blow so meekly that he thought better of hitting her.
It  occurred to  him  that  she  might  lead him  to  the  dwelling  of  her
fellow-creatures.  What  if his friends were still alive?  Could he  miss  a
chance  of  going to their assistance? He pushed her forward and went  after
her.
     Dzin was overjoyed and  ran off, looking  round at Gor Terr. Both moved
fast and soon crossed the same stream. She knew where  a tree lay across it.
Dzin was afraid of water.
     Then they walked through the Faetian camp on the shore of the lake. Gor
Terr  could  see the  traces of  a  violent struggle.  Bags  and  scientific
instruments lay scattered all  round, but the victims of the  struggle  were
nowhere to be  seen. Smel  Ven had evidently not been able to use his weapon
and had been seized by the beasts.
     Dzin  looked at Gor Terr, but he prodded her firmly in the  back.  That
was evidently the kind  of treatment she understood best. She looked  round,
bared her fangs in the semblance of a grin and joyfully ran on ahead.
     Soon she stopped and  made  a warning sign, if the movement of her  paw
meant anything at all.
     Gor Terr looked cautiously out from  behind a tree growing on  the edge
of a gully. On the opposite side he  could see caves, and down below swarmed
a  herd of  shaggy  beasts.  He  could  hear them  growling,  bellowing  and
shrieking.
     Gor Terr saw Smel  Ven among  the Faetoid  predators.  He was  standing
proudly in their  midst, with  many of them clutching  him. For some reason,
they had not yet killed him.
     At this point, Gor  Terr  realised that these creatures  could not  tie
people up,  they could  only hold  the  prisoner  with their forepaws  while
standing on their hind legs. But what  if they didn't slaughter their victim
before devouring him? What if they didn't like dead flesh?
     The  Faetoids began roaring  down below.  Smel  Ven  was hurled  to the
ground and the shaggy bodies piled on top of him, tearing him to pieces.
     It was too much for Gor Terr. He felt sick.
     But Smel Ven never uttered a groan or a cry. Gor Terr had never thought
it possible to have such  superhuman  fortitude. He felt  ashamed of his own
weakness. He was almost about  to  jump down, but saw Mada, Ave and Toni Fae
on the opposite cliff. They had evidently  not been slaughtered so that they
could be eaten alive.  All of them, like Smel  Ven,  were  unbound. But four
beasts were holding each by the  hands and  feet. The Faetians couldn't move
an inch.
     Gor  Terr  turned  to  Dzin. She  sprang  back and  lay on the  ground,
pretending to have fallen asleep. Then she jumped up,  waved her paw towards
the beasts who were devouring their victim and again threw  herself down  on
the ground.
     The engineer understood. Dzin was trying to explain that they would  go
to sleep as soon as they had gorged themselves.
     Dzin was right. She knew her fellow-creatures well.
     They soon lay down in a heap and began snoring.
     Only the sentries stayed in their places, pretending to  be awake,  but
actually nodding their shaggy heads.
     Gor Terr was not very hopeful of success. Still, he crawled to one side
and silently moved across the  gully.  When he had crawled up to the cave in
which the prisoners were lying, he jumped to his feet at the entrance.
     Ave Mar was lying nearest to him with a useless pistol at his side.
     Before the flesh-glutted sentries could make a move, Gor Terr proceeded
to  dispatch  them  by  methods ordered  by  Yar  Jupi  in  schools  for the
Superiors. He  struck  with precision in  the  morning  light. The sensitive
spots of  the Faetoids were  almost the  same as those of the  Faetians. The
shaggy  beasts rolled over  without a  sound. Gor Terr snatched up Ave Mar's
pistol  and  fired point-blank at the fourth  Faetoid who was still gripping
Ave by the hand. It was  a stun bullet; the creature fell in convulsions and
lay still.
     The crash of the explosion  terrified the other guards.  They  let Mada
and Toni Fae go free. Mada seized her  chance and hit one  of them so deftly
that he rolled down over the rocks.
     Toni Fae had barely recovered his breath when Ave and Gor  Terr  hurled
themselves on the dumbfounded guards.
     Gor Terr fired a few more shots. Ave was throwing the  feebly resisting
beasts  down to the  bottom of the gully. Indescribable panic broke out down
there.
     The beasts  had no idea of how to put up a fight. They had seized their
victims with  the sole  purpose of eating  them.  After devouring the first,
they had slept peacefully without even  mounting  a guard. And now-deafening
claps of  thunder, of which  they had  always gone in terror. Moreover,  the
corpses of their  fellow-creatures were raining down  on them as if from the
sky.
     The herd scattered, shrieking and abandoning the dead and maimed on the
bottom of the gully.
     Mada threw herself on Ave Mar's breast and sobbed her heart out.
     Toni Fae offered his hand to his friend and saviour.
     In  the corner  of  his eye, Ave noticed  one more  Faetoid at the cave
entrance who was evidently intending to attack Gor Terr from behind.
     He promptly sprang  to  the rescue, but  Gor Terr's huge arm  held  him
back.
     "This is Dzin, a female. She helped me to r-rescue you."
     Mada stared in amazement at the shaggy creature, who was not hiding her
delight at Gor Terr's strength and fearlessness.

     Chapter Four



     When Quest lifted off for space, the body of Kutsi Merc was lying in an
underground corridor. But the pool  of blood under him did not dry up, as if
the stiletto-pierced heart was still  bleeding. Suddenly, Kutsi Merc's  hand
twitched,  fell on the  wound  and  stanched it.  The  blood  coagulated and
stopped flowing.
     It was a  long  time  before Kutsi Merc  moved  again. Not one  of many
millions of Faetians  could  have survived  his  condition; not a single one
except Kutsi Merc himself.
     Kutsi Merc  came from a roundhead family who had  fled the continent of
the Superiors  after the Uprising of Justice was defeated. Yar Jupi was only
beginning  the Blood Bath there. Kutsi was still a small boy  without a name
of his  own. Kutsi's father,  Khrom Merc, suspected of  being sympathetic to
the Doctrine of Justice,  was earmarked for  elimination by the Blood Guard.
The Mercs were poor  and  could not  afford  to escape by ship. The three of
them  made an incredible journey on a raft knocked  together  by Khrom Merc.
After  harrowing days  at sea, enduring storms that  swept away their meagre
provisions and a lull  that  brought  an  intolerable  thirst,  they avoided
pursuit (none of  the Blood Guard ever thought of  looking for a raft in the
ocean!) until finally,  emaciated and  at  the  end  of  their  tether, they
reached the  coast  of Danjab. But no one there had prepared  a warm welcome
for the refugees. They could not  even find work in the fields and workshops
of the proprietors, who  were  indifferent to anything that did not  promise
gain.
     Reduced to desperation by poverty, Khrom Merc steeled himself  for what
he would have  formerly  rejected with disgust: he decided to make money out
of his deformed little son.
     Kutsi had  two  hearts. This  "deformity"  is exceedingly rare.  On the
continent of the  Superiors,  the parents had kept quiet  about their  son's
abnormality, afraid that he might be pronounced unfit and destroyed.
     But here, on the continent of the Culturals, anything that could arouse
even morbid curiosity could be a source of profit.
     They  began exhibiting  the  little  boy at show-booths.  Crowds of the
curious  came rolling in. And  each spectator felt himself entitled to  feel
the naked, terrified "monster". He was roughly turned round, cold tubes were
applied  to  his  chest and  back, or  ears were  pressed to his  skin in  a
repulsive manner. He was made to squat, dance to general guffaws and shouts,
then  again he was  examined  and  auscultated.  The rubbernecks shook their
heads in bewilderment, marvelled and went away to tell, exaggerating wildly,
about the weird monster they had seen with their own eyes.
     The enterprising Khrom Merc managed to earn so much that he  became the
owner,  first of a small workshop, then  of big  ones in which thousands  of
Faetians were employed by him.
     Kutsi Merc grew up, remembering  with shame and revulsion the days when
his deformity had been "put  on show". However, not only his father profited
by  it. Soon,  it transpired  that the little  boy  was  becoming uncommonly
strong and  tough. By tacit agreement between the son  and his parents,  his
two  hearts now  became a family secret so as  not  to attract  a  wearisome
curiosity about  the  boy in school.  When  he was given a  new  name on his
coming-of-age (he was called Khrom-Merc Junior), he was named Kutsi (Shorty)
because of his ungainly shape as a result of his having a double heart.
     Kutsi soon grasped that he could make a virtue of his deformity. During
the  humiliating career of the "show-booth freak", Kutsi  Merc developed the
traits of character that were to decide his profession.
     Unsociable, cunning, venomous,  hating the Superiors across  the ocean,
he  possessed rare  strength and stamina.  He caught the  attention  of  the
Special  Service.   He  was  found  suitable  for  intelligence  work.   His
irreproachable  knowledge of  barbarian  mores  and the  barbarian  language
enabled him to carry out many dangerous transoceanic assignments (but not on
a raft any more).
     Making  his  way up the secret ladder,  intelligent  and self-effacing,
rational and decisive, the son of a  proprietor and in no way sympathetic to
the Doctrine of Justice, he came to enjoy a position of trust among the  big
proprietors who were selecting convenient rulers for themselves.
     Dobr Mar's predecessor had been so afraid of  a disintegration war that
he had been ready  to give way to  Dictator Yar Jupi, and  so he had  become
useless  to the proprietors.  Kutsi Merc  was able at that time to warn "the
Ruler's  friend", Dobr Mar, on  what terms he could himself become Ruler, by
being the first  to start a disintegration war.  That was the only  way  the
proprietors, who were members of  the Great  Circle, thought of dealing with
the proprietors of the Blood Council.
     On becoming Ruler,  Dobr Mar manoeuvred  skilfully on the brink of war.
When  his  re-election  fell due  and he had to take the prescribed step, he
sent Kutsi on  a diversionary escapade, even risking  his own son's life  in
his personal interests.  Kutsi Merc was  such an eminent  spy that  he could
have refused the mission. But ever since childhood he had  had his own score
to settle with the Superiors. He could forgive  them neither the Blood Bath,
nor the misfortunes of his own family, nor the oppression of the roundheads.
That  is  why Kutsi  Merc  became  a  "hunchback", carrying  on his  back  a
disintegration charge  to destroy the Dictator's Lair together with  all the
technology delivered by the short-sighted proprietors of Dan jab.
     Kutsi Merc had  taken a dangerous risk and had lost, struck down by Yar
Alt's stiletto.
     But it  could  never  have entered Yar Alt's mind,  when he tugged  the
stiletto out of Kutsi's heart, that the hunchback had a second heart.
     Kutsi took a long, long time to regain consciousness. The  second heart
continued beating. Only an organism as unusual as  his could win. But he was
too weak owing to the enormous loss of blood.
     When he came round and realised what had happened, he first of all took
off his "hump" and examined it. It had been punctured in several places. The
delayed-action fuse had been rendered useless. He threw the "hump" aside.
     He was  spurred on by a ravenous hunger.  He must get out of this place
somehow, although it seemed impossible. Kutsi, however, was not  one to give
up, even when the situation was hopeless.
     Overcoming  his  pain  and  stomach spasms,  he crawled over  the stone
floor, convinced that  the Wall would bar his way.  He could not believe the
evidence of  his own eyes when he saw a gap  in it. After the battle  of the
brain  biocurrents, when Yar Alt  had mentally  been trying to open the door
and Lua to close it, no one had ordered the automatic system to close up the
Wall. Also  still open were the next two barriers through which Yar  Alt had
hurried and through which the  dying Mother Lua  had managed to crawl on her
hands and knees.
     At the  familiar turn in the palace gardens,  which Kutsi was hoping to
reach, his way was barred by a high wall. He  crawled off along Lua's bloody
trail. He would crawl a little way, stop out of exhaustion and then carry on
further. And still Kutsi Merc was alive!
     During the few  hours that had  elapsed, the spaceship Quest had lifted
off  from Cape  Farewell.  Yar  Jupi  himself  had  gone down into  the deep
underground bunker  to begin the disintegration war on which he had  finally
decided.
     The  palace was empty. After  switching  off  the energy  that  fed the
palace's  automatic systems, the security  robots carried  a heavy  box with
slits on it down into the shelter.
     And  now the Wall  in front of Kutsi Merc trembled slightly. He managed
to insert his  fingers into the gap and, to his great surprise, was able  to
assure  himself that the  Wall  was yielding to  his  pressure. Finally,  it
parted enough for him to crawl through.
     Then, without understanding how,  he got to  his feet and  leaned  back
against the  Wall. It trembled  again and moved. Kutsi Merc fell down.  (The
power supply had been switched on again.)
     Kutsi lay  there  gritting his teeth and  trying to understand what had
happened. He suddenly realised that the disintegration war was beginning and
that he had failed to prevent it nevertheless.
     He forced himself to rise to his feet. Everything went dark. He screwed
up his eyes and  stood swaying slightly,  then supported himself  by holding
onto the priceless wood panelling  on the walls. It finally led him out into
the  garden, fragrant with the Dictator's  celebrated flowerbeds. Kutsi felt
very much  like lying  down and dying.  He  had  even stopped thinking about
food.
     He decided  that the  disintegration war  had evidently  not yet broken
out. He couldn't hear any explosions, which meant that he must go on living!
He did not  allow  himself to remain lying  on the  sand in  the avenue, but
crawled on until  he  was able to stand  up  from the kneeling position.  He
wanted to get to the Blood Door, hoping that it, too, would be  open. He was
right, and he crawled into the  ruined shrine. He could wait there till dark
in the familiar niche and  at night he could make his way to the aged Nepts,
a  couple who were friendly with  Kutsi's parents.  They lived  in  a former
miners'  settlement near Pleasure  City.  Their youngest daughter, Lada, was
married  to a roundhead who  had been educated in Danjab. They had flown  to
Space Station Deimo together.
     Only Kutsi Merc, with his insatiable lust for life,  could have made it
to the Nepts that night.
     When he entered their home, he collapsed on the floor in a dead faint.
     The  solicitous old couple,  both overweight, flabby and  white-haired,
looking very much like one another as is often the case with  a married pair
who have  lived together for a long time,  carried his heavy, bleeding  body
across  the  room  with difficulty  and laid it down on some bedding  in the
corner.
     Kutsi Merc  had overlooked the fact that the cover  of his  "hump"  had
been  riddled  with bullet-holes and  the subterranean air had been  leaking
into the charge. Although the  detonator had not been activated, it was sure
to explode after a time because of contact with the air.


     That explosion was being awaited with terror by Ruler Dobr Mar, who was
tired  of guessing  when  it might happen.  By  destroying  the anti-torpedo
defence, the explosion would be the signal for a strike, with  no  chance of
retaliation,  against  Powermania  by  rockets   armed  with  disintegration
warheads, as was desired by the proprietors who had put Dobr Mar in power.
     Against  any possible emergency, Dobr  Mar had  taken refuge in a  deep
bunker,  still  hoping that  Kutsi Merc  would  be  killed  before he  could
detonate  his  "hump" and  that  the war  desired  by  the  Great Circle  of
proprietors would be postponed for a time. The Ruler of Danjab was preparing
for a war, but he was afraid of it.
     Above all, he wanted the disintegration weapon to stay where it was and
things to settle down somehow ... at least, until the next election.
     Deep down below,  a luxurious  government office had been reproduced in
every  detail, circular in shape with a  vaulted  ceiling and  highly placed
oval  windows that  looked out on  nothing.  The communications monitors had
been mounted underneath them.
     Dobr Mar had changed. His face had lost its hardness and his eyes their
penetration. He  had become garrulous and seemed to be justifying himself to
someone all the time. He even  said to one of his military leaders  with the
intention of making it known to everyone:
     "History will not forget the Ruler who started the  disintegration war.
Is that not so?" And he stared past the other man.
     Dobr Mar  was troubled by  Ave  Mar's sudden departure for outer space,
not because of his son's fate, but because of  Kutsi Merc. Why  had the  man
allowed that flight? And  what had become of him? Had he really  perished in
the end?


     But  everything  turned  out differently  from  what Dobr  Mar had been
expecting, and not as  his enemy. Dictator Yar Jupi, had planned. Nor as the
proprietors of the Great Circle or of the Blood Council had planned.
     The  moment  came  when  the  fuse  in  Kutsi  Merc's  artificial  hump
functioned  of its own accord.  A deep  underground disintegration explosion
took place.
     Kutsi  Merc, who  had been sitting on the  Nepts' bedding, felt himself
hurled upwards. The floor  of the cabin shook,  the crockery rattled on  the
rickety  shelves and the portrait of Dictator  Yar Jupi  fell  down from its
place on the wall. The  transparent film in the window was torn apart  and a
violent gust  of  wind blew into the humble room, overturning the table. The
sheets of paper covered with writing over which old Nept had bent his  back,
having taken  it into his  head  to learn  to  write in his declining years,
began whirling about in mid-air.
     Kutsi Merc cringed as he waited for the  blast. But the ceiling did not
collapse. Kutsi limped over to the window.
     Nothing, apparently, had happened. But there was no sign of  the  black
spire over the Temple of Eternity.
     One of Kutsi Merc's eyebrows shot up. The left side of his face smiled,
the  other  remained  watchful.  Suddenly, his face  grew longer,  his  eyes
widened and he turned pale.
     Directly in front  of the window, an enormous flowerbed rose up in  the
centre of the  square and out from underneath it glided a smooth cylindrical
body with a pointed nose. It grew taller before Kutsi Merc's eyes and became
a lofty tower. A moment later, black  smoke began  billowing  from the shaft
hidden underneath and the tower began, to rise on a  column of fire. Then it
detached itself from the square, gained height and set course for the ocean.
Soon, the rear end of the rocket  turned  into a fiery cross which  steadily
diminished to a tiny glittering star. Only then did it vanish altogether.
     Kutsi Merc's hair stood on end. He already knew that not only here, but
at a thousand  other  points on the  continent, from identical  subterranean
shafts,  from under  the surface of  the  seas, perhaps even from buildings,
terrible rockets were bursting forth to head in a deadly swarm for Danjab.
     Kutsi  Merc was right. Activated by  the automatic systems, the rockets
had indeed burst out of their hiding places and, programmed to hit the vital
points of Danjab, were speeding across  the ocean. One of those rockets rose
from  the  multistorey block  in which Ave and Kutsi had  been staying,  and
another was to  soar  straight up from the Temple of  Eternity, where it had
been camouflaged  as one  of the columns.  The  temple  had collapsed at the
subterranean  explosion  of Kutsi's "hump". However,  the  Central Automatic
Defence Console, which  was  at a  great  depth, had not  been  damaged. Its
sensitive  instruments,  only  just  detecting the radiation  caused  by the
disintegration  explosion, immediately  sent  their signals to thousands  of
rocket installations.


     Dictator Yar Jupi was terrified when the bunker  shook. He learned from
the instruments  about the  explosion  and  the response  of  the  automatic
systems and  he realised that the disintegration war had  begun earlier than
he  had  intended.  He rushed up  and down the  cramped  shelter. He  craved
action. But it had all been done without him.
     He  was alone. No one could see  him except the mindless secretary  box
which was unable to appreciate the Dictator's joy and triumph. Forgetful  of
his  personal fears, he  giggled and  danced about.  He  was  filled with  a
delicious excitement  at the knowledge that  in a short  time the cities and
industrial centres of Dan jab  would be destroyed and tens, perhaps hundreds
of millions of enemy Faetians would cease to exist. He had never experienced
a pleasure like this before. Now that the war had started, let it spread! He
had achieved his aim: to command life and death over the whole of the planet
Faena!  And  so, grimacing  because  of a nervous tic,  he pulled  back  the
curtain in front of the live screens.
     The  questioning and  distraught  faces of the  military  leaders  were
staring at him from them. Yar Jupi directed a mad glare at the servile faces
and, foaming at the mouth in a burst of inspiration, he screamed:
     "What? You  weren't expecting  it? You  were marking  time?  Well, hear
this. I've  done  it! I! I've blown up the Temple of Eternity and the palace
to activate the automatic systems! What? Are you frightened?"
     He  ran round the bunker, shouting, although  the screens were blacking
out one after another.  The military leaders were obviously not in agreement
with their  lord and master  and  preferred  to  take cover  as  quickly  as
possible in  their bunkers, which  were similar to the  Dictator's own. When
the secret screens  of the Blood  Council's  members were switched on,  they
revealed  the unhooded, frightened  faces  of the  first  proprietors of the
ancient continent.


     The barbarians' rockets went above the limits of the atmosphere as they
flew over the ocean. Their approach was spotted at once by the ever-vigilant
automatic observers far from the  targets to  which the rockets were flying.
Without any  help  from the  military  or from  Ruler  Dobr Mar, the  rocket
defence system went  automatically into action.  A flock of defence missiles
soared up  from Danjab and headed for the disintegration  armada. They  were
themselves packed  with disintegration  warheads  intended  to  explode when
close to any missiles that flew towards them.
     And the  disintegration  explosions  occurred one after another in  the
upper layers of  the atmosphere,  over the ocean. The shock waves  threw the
rockets off course or simply destroyed them. Mangled fragments and sometimes
even  whole torpedoes fell into the  ocean, to the great horror of seafarers
from both continents. It was as if  a meteorite shower had  plunged into the
ocean, raising to the cloudy sky columns  of water like the weird trees of a
forest that had suddenly sprung up in the sea.
     Over  eight  hundred  rockets  were  destroyed  by  Danjab's  automatic
sentinels. But over two hundred continued on their way.
     During those first moments  of the disintegration  war,  not  a  single
Faetian  took part except for  the  wounded Kutsi Merc. Not one Faetian  was
killed in that appalling battle of the rockets.
     But this was only during the first few moments.
     Soon,  Danjab  began  to  tremble  under  disintegration  explosions in
hundreds of different places.
     A disintegration explosion!
     Is there  anything to compare  with it? Perhaps only the supernovas  or
the  mysterious  processes  which astronomers  have  observed  on Sol,  when
enormous  tongues of white-hot matter have  been ejected over distances many
times greater than the star's diameter.
     Matter itself was disintegrating, part of it was ceasing to  be matter,
its  mass  was  diminishing.  The  energy of the  internal  bonds was  being
unleashed and,  converted into heat energy  according to the laws of nature,
was  raising the heat  level  at the place  of disintegration by a factor of
millions. All  the surrounding  matter that remained as matter was instantly
converted into white-hot gas  that  shot out in  all  directions, wiping out
everything in its path. But even faster was the action of the radiation that
accompanies the  disintegration of matter.  Penetrating  living  tissue, its
impact  was fatal. Even long after the  explosion, the impact  of those rays
was  to destroy  all who had  survived  the  firestorm  or  the  devastating
hurricane.
     On the site of each disintegration explosion, a fireball rose up first,
immeasurably brighter  than Sol itself. Light  of such brilliance had  never
been known on the gloomy planet Faena. This brilliant  ball  became a pillar
of fire that rose up like the white trunk of a magic, gigantic tree, growing
up and soaring into the sky, where it spread out in a swirling canopy.
     Shuddering, Dobr Mar saw  on the  communications monitors those ominous
mushrooms sprouting on the sites of flourishing cities.
     He was appalled. As  he paced round his study, he felt  himself keeling
over; his knees buckled and  he  slumped into an armchair, scarcely able  to
clutch hold of it.
     What had happened? How had the enemy anticipated him? What about Kutsi?
     What had become of the Faetians who were to elect him for another term?
They were dead, dead! Thousands, maybe millions,  maybe hundreds of millions
had ceased to exist!
     The  military leaders rushed into his office and  hastened  to help the
old  Faetian with the  shaking  head...  He was groaning; his left  leg  was
twitching, but his right leg, like his arm, had gone numb.
     The military leaders bustled about the circular office and sent for the
Sister  of Health. They tried to pour  water and broke the tumblers.  No one
was yet capable of understanding the full gravity of the position.
     The disintegration war,  when they mentioned it, sounded like something
horrible but impossible, like  a children's fairy  tale. Even now, when  the
ominous mushrooms could be seen on nearly all the monitors in the bunker and
many of the screens were black  and networking, the scurrying Faetians still
didn't want to believe that it was all over  up above.  It was somewhere far
away, but here, what  was close and visible was  the  Ruler's weakness,  the
Sister of Health fussing over him and the unpleasant odour of medicines.
     The dejected military leaders made no decisions and issued no orders.
     Once again, commands were given by automatic systems.
     Dictator  Yar Jupi,  who had not such  secret  communications with  the
enemy continent like  those maintained by Kutsi Merc through  the roundheads
did not suspect that Danjab had no less reliable a "retaliation system" than
the Superiors.
     Instruments recording the disintegration radioactivity in  the air, the
seismic  effects of  the explosions on Danjab territory and the force of the
heat  blasts, gave firing commands to countless  rocket installations,  also
camouflaged on  the  seabed, in deep mine  shafts and in mountain gorges. An
armada  of  vengeance  had  already  set  off  to  fly  across the ocean  to
Powermania.
     Only Kutsi Merc had foreseen this. No sooner had the coloured, swirling
cloud risen up before his  eyes than he managed to dive into a disused shaft
in which Nept had worked all his life and over which, when it was exhausted,
he had  built  his own cabin.  Kutsi Merc took cover in  a narrow stone well
down which he climbed by means of damp metal rungs.
     His weakness seemed to have  passed off.  Nervous tension had given him
back his strength.
     He couldn't see anything any  more, but could hear and, it seemed, felt
with every cell in his body the terrible explosion that rocked the vicinity.
Stones  rained  down  on  Kutsi;  one  of  them struck  him painfully on the
shoulder. But Kutsi clung convulsively to the rungs. Even now, he refused to
give in.

     Chapter Five



     The exultant and triumphant news about the outbreak of a disintegration
war was picked up by Ala Veg on Space Station Dei-mo.
     Terribly  frightened, unable  to believe her own  eyes,  she  read  the
automatically taped report  in which there was news of disintegration strike
unleashed on Danjab, the continent of the Gutturals, about the extermination
of tens of millions of the enemy, if not more.
     With the sole feeling that  the explosions had fortunately taken  place
on  the other  continent and  her children  were alive, Ala Veg  ran out  to
report about this terrible event to Mrak Luton, the station commander.
     He did not admit  her. Puffed up and pompous, as if his office had been
invaded by  dozens of Faetians awaiting  an audience, he made  Ala Veg stand
for a long time outside the door before he let her in.
     He glanced over the proffered papers, stood up and shouted hoarsely:
     "Joy! This  means happiness for us! May they be without end, the cycles
in the blissful life of Dictator Yar Jupi! At last it has  come to pass! The
continent of Danjab is being cleansed of the scum that settled there!"
     Nega  Luton ran in and, after a  glance at the  papers, threw her  arms
round Ala Veg's neck.
     "What  happiness,  my  dear!   At  last  our  mission   here  is  being
accomplished and the roundheads needn't move to this  accursed Mar, but will
be settled on the newly available spaces of Faena. I've been so homesick for
comforts, services and refined society. Haven't you too, my dear?"
     Ala Veg seemed turned to stone.
     "Is the disintegration war over  already?" was all she could  manage to
say.
     "Not yet, of course!" announced  Mrak Luton portentously, "but this war
will be won by whoever delivers the most devastating salvo. And we are going
to do the same too."
     "Who are 'we'?" asked Ala Veg uncomprehendingly.
     Mrak Luton sounded the general  alarm  and left his office for  the big
cabin next door in which Mada and Ave had stayed only recently.
     Soon, the entire crew of  the  space station was  assembled there.  The
timid Tycho Veg came, as did the flustered, out-of-breath Brat and Lada Lua.
     Mrak Luton read  out the news  concerning  the annihilation of Danjab's
main cities.
     Nega  Luton  closely  watched  the expressions on the  faces  of  those
present.  She did not miss Brat Lua's  horror. His now  pale  face was  like
polished bone. Lada Lua burst into tears.
     "I will not tolerate treachery," Mrak Luton shouted at her, "even if it
expresses itself in pity for the enemy. I order an automatic ship to be sent
to Phobo immediately."
     "What? To the enemy?" said Nega Luton in astonishment.
     "With a disintegration warhead," explained Mrak Luton.
     "That's another matter." And Nega Luton sighed with relief.
     "The gentle lady should be ashamed to say such things!" Lada  Lua could
not help saying. "She is a Sister of Health, after all!"
     "Silence!" roared Mrak Luton. "Engineer Tycho Veg and assistant servant
Brat Lua! In the name of the Dictator, I order you to fit  a missile  with a
disintegration warhead on the  station's ship and program  it for  automatic
flight to Phobo."
     "A disintegration warhead?"  asked  Tycho Veg. "But there  isn't one on
the station."
     Mrak Luton roared with laughter so that his flabby jowls quivered.
     "Don't be so  naive.  Engineer Tycho Veg! You will find the  warhead in
space at  the  end of the  greenhouse to which  it  was delivered as a spare
cabin for the ship."
     "I object, profoundly thoughtful Mrak Luton," exclaimed Brat Lua.  "The
blessed Dictator of Powermania concluded a treaty with the Ruler of Dan jab.
There cannot be any disintegration weapon in space."
     "Treachery!"  roared  Mrak  Luton. "You're under arrest,  you roundhead
traitor! Engineer Tycho Veg, tie the mutineer's hands!"
     Tycho Veg glanced in indecision at his wife.
     "If the disintegration war has begun, it means... Clearly, all treaties
are invalid," she said timidly.
     Tycho Veg  reluctantly obeyed the order. He  and Mrak Luton pushed Brat
Lua into the chief's office. Mrak Luton locked the door.
     "Now proceed to the greenhouse, quickly," he ordered Tycho Veg. "I took
measures for the disintegration warhead to be close at hand!.."
     With a  glance  at  his  wife,  Tycho  Veg  went  despondently  to  the
lift-cage.
     "I proclaim the  station  to be in  a  state of emergency.  Any act  of
disobedience will be dealt with not by arrest, but with a poisoned  bullet!"
And Mrak Luton brandished his pistol.
     "Gentle sir, please spare my husband.  He  didn't know  that the treaty
wasn't valid any more," said Lada Lua, rushing up to the station chief.
     "Quick march to  your stations, all  of you!" roared Mrak  Luton.  "The
astronomer Ala  Veg will  report all space observations  to  me and maintain
electromagnetic communications. But your place, roundhead  woman,  is in the
kitchen."
     Mrak Luton collapsed into his armchair, exhausted. His rectangular face
with the pendulous jowls went purple,  his  neck swelled.  He tugged at  his
collar, unable to breathe properly for want of air.


     On  the  other  Marian  orbit, on the  station near Phobo, news of  the
disintegration war  had been brought by Engineer Vydum (Inventor) Polar. His
intelligent face,  always  keenly alert, now expressed horror and dismay. He
had earned his name for an early inclination to invention. He had once built
a walking  steamcar, had  made magnetic  fastenings  for  clothes and sprung
running shoes, and had obtained  a fine strip of dried  wood which  in  some
other  age  on  some other  planet  would have  been  called paper.  He  was
invariably assisted by his friend,  the talented, always cheerful, small and
mercurial craftsman Al Ur, who regarded Vydum  as an unrecognised genius. He
was with him this time too,  and  had  hurried after  him  into  the station
chief's office to back his friend's demands.
     There was  one  more Faetian  who had taken  note  of  the unsuccessful
inventor. This  was Dovol (Content) Sirus, a powerful proprietor. He was not
averse to profiting  by Vydum  Polar's abilities, and, on his wife's advice,
had  married Vydum to  Sveta,  his daughter by  his  first marriage, a mild,
quiet girl, totally  submissive to  her powerful  stepmother, who ruled  the
family with a rod of iron in order to further its social influence.
     Dovol  Sirus, a sleek, almost bald Faetian with heavy features and thin
lips, took fright on meeting Vydum Polar.
     Usually genial, always ready to agree with the other person, he was the
personification  of prosperity, sufficiency and equanimity. But his peace of
mind had  now been shattered. His small eyes darted here and there almost in
dismay. When he heard  Vydum Polar's news, he  promptly  sent out a call for
the greenhouse nurserywoman, his wife Vlasta Sirus.
     Vydum Polar passionately tried to drive  his  point home to the station
chief.
     "I am prepared personally to take a ship to Deimo, and I am prepared to
take my wife  and  Mila Ur. Her husband  will stay behind  with  you to look
after  the  machinery.  Space  has  been   declared  peaceful.  The  war  of
disintegration that  has just broken out is our common misfortune:  we  must
share it with the personnel on Deimo."
     Dovol Sirus nodded his agreement,  glancing at  the door from  time  to
time.
     Sveta was his favourite.
     On the insistence of his vociferous wife  Vlasta, Dovol Sirus  had made
use on Faena of the  pre-war  jitters to acquire influence over Dobr  Mar in
Danjab. He  had even  obtained the rank of  general  from him. True, when  a
disintegration war became imminent, Vlasta  Sirus made General Sirus  get as
far away from Faena as possible  and become chief of a space station, taking
his stepdaughter with him and her luckless husband.
     "You'll  fly  from  here,  but  what  about  us?"   asked  Dovol  Sirus
uncertainly.
     "We'll  come  back as  soon  as  we've  discussed with our  unfortunate
brothers from Faena what's to be done next.."
     "What's the  meaning of all this gadding about?" came the fruity  voice
of Vlasta Sirus as  she entered the room. "I shall never let Sveta go. I  am
as a mother to her."
     "But, my dear-" objected the station chief.
     "What if the people on Deimo  take  our ship for a torpedo? They've got
defence rockets too, you know."
     "But, my dear..."
     "'My dear, my dear'!" mimicked Vlasta. "We have a daughter we love. She
must be rescued. By any possible means."
     Vlasta Sirus cast a withering glance at her husband  from under knitted
brows and compressed her thin lips.
     "But my  dear... I promise you. Our  ship  will surely fly  to  Station
Deimo. And you and I, you and I only, will appoint the crew members."
     Vlasta Sirus slapped the table with the flat of her hand.
     "Exactly-you and I. And  that  will be the most  reliable crew! We must
preserve our  lives!  Preserve them! In this  war, what matters  most  is to
survive!"  And she ran  a glare  of  hatred over  all  three  Faetians.  "To
survive!"


     Helplessly wringing his  hands. Brat  Lua was pacing up and down inside
the office that was now his prison.
     Tycho Veg was uncomplainingly  carrying out his assignment without even
giving a thought to the possibility that the  disintegration  warhead in the
spare cabin might  be inadequately screened and dangerous to any Faetian who
approached it.
     To get  to  the spare  cabin, he had to  float  all the  way  along the
greenhouse through the air-roots that  seemed to be trying to hold him back.
But he pulled his weightless body  forward by clutching  at  them  so as  to
carry out as quickly as possible the chief's order, which had been confirmed
by a nod from Ala Veg. He  tried not  to think about his children's fate, as
he tried not to think about anything at all: neither the Faetians on Station
Phobo, nor himself. In spite of himself, however, he was thinking that there
were only two spaceships at the station. Would six people be able to  fly to
their native planet in one ship? Of course not!  It was only a three-seater.
Evidently, they would have to wait for another ship from Faena.
     The  spare cabin, which resembled a conical  cap, was  floating not far
from the long cigar of the ship, to which it was attached by a cable.
     Tycho  Veg  put on his space-suit  and,  securing  himself with a line,
kicked  himself off  from the greenhouse  airlock and floated off  into  the
silvery darkness of space.
     He miscalculated and did not reach his goal straightway. He had to wind
himself back by pulling in the line hand over hand and then push off again.
     This  time, he propelled himself with one  leg only so  as  to give his
jump better direction.
     The  spare cabin looked rough to him, like a meteorite. Tycho Veg clung
to  it  and  crawled towards the base of the  cone,  where  the cable to the
spaceship was secured.
     He seized hold of the metal bracket outside the spare cabin and  taking
up  the cable  that ran to the  ship, began  pulling it towards him together
with the  cabin. After a short time, the cabin  came  into contact  with the
ship.  Tycho  Veg  had  steeled  himself  for  a  tough job.  To  his  great
astonishment,  however,  he  noticed that the  parts  of  the ship  had been
designed  for instant replacement. It only needed one contact with the joint
for the automatic machinery inside  to be activated and for the old cabin to
detach itself easily from this ship and sail away towards the stars. The new
cabin fitted itself into place with the same ease.
     Tycho Veg crawled inside to set the automatic pilot.
     Another  surprise awaited  him inside:  there was  no need  for him  to
readjust the settings.
     The impersonal voice of the automatic machine warned him about this the
moment he touched the control panel. All  he  had to do was to switch on the
automatic pilot and go back to the greenhouse.
     As soon  as he was there, he saw  the rocket's  nozzles begin  blazing;
after  making a precisely  calculated  turn, the ship headed for Phobo  on a
course that had been unerringly checked by the machines.
     Tycho Veg sighed. He had only been doing his duty. He never even gave a
thought to whether the warhead had been properly screened.
     When  he  emerged from the lift-cage into the station corridor, he  was
met by a pale and trembling Ala Veg.
     "What's happened, darling?" asked Tycho.
     "Our children... Children..." was all that she could say, and she burst
into tears.
     She was holding in her hands a tablet inscribed with the latest news by
electromagnetic communication. Tycho read it and swayed, resting his hand on
the lift-cage door.
     The news  was  that flocks of  disintegration torpedoes from Danjab had
descended on the continent of the Superiors. There had been devastation  and
casualties... But Yar Jupi foresaw victory and demanded rejoicing.
     Mrak Luton ran into the corridor, waving his arms.
     "The  Dictator  is alive! The Dictator is  alive! The Blood  Council is
continuing the struggle! To your stations! This is a space outpost!"
     "Can  our  observer be  in  her  place?" sneered  Nega  Luton, who  had
appeared  after him. "She should be worrying about her relatives, not  about
winning the war."
     Her eyes flashing, Ala Veg went into the observatory.
     Tycho  Veg  was left  standing in the  corridor. He just couldn't  make
sense of  what  was  happening; he just  couldn't believe  that  his  native
Pleasure City might be lying in ruins, and his children...
     He followed his wife into the observatory.
     "I can't keep watch because of my tears," said Ala Veg as she turned to
him. "Take my place  at the instrument.  A strange star has appeared in that
quarter."
     "Could it be our ship with the warhead?" "No, it's somewhere else."
     Tycho began helping his wife and they soon established that the unknown
star was not obeying the usual laws of celestial mechanics and seemed to  be
choosing its own flight trajectory.
     Summoned  by the alarm signal,  Mrak Luton rushed into  the observatory
and peered suspiciously at Tycho and Ala Veg.
     "News from  Faena? Orders from  the Dictator? An  instruction  from the
Blood Council?"
     "No," replied Ala  Veg. "Communications have broken down. We  have also
lost contact with Station Phobo."
     "With Phobo?" bellowed Mrak Luton. "Treachery? Who dared to communicate
with Phobo,  the enemy fortress in space?" He drew his pistol and brandished
it threateningly at them.
     "I am simply reporting  that communications with them do not exist. The
former channel has gone dead, as if something had happened there."
     "It  hasn't happened  yet! But it  soon  will!  Are  you  watching  our
torpedo's flight?"
     "It's flying dead on course, but..."
     "What else?"
     "It's being intercepted by an unidentified ship. Apparently from Phobo.
It  seems  to be heading  for us.  Is it possible that the station personnel
have packed and are flying to us?"
     Mrak Luton roared with laughter.
     "So as to surrender?  To dump themselves  on us? To  gobble up our food
supplies? To  breathe our oxygen?  Or  do they want  to escape  the punitive
torpedo?"
     "But they might not know we sent it."
     "But  I know their ship's  coming our way.  Engineer Tycho Veg, I order
you to fire a defence rocket. The approaching ship must be destroyed."
     "What d'you mean  'destroyed'?" protested  Ala Veg.  "Mightn't there be
living Faetians on board?"
     "Living Faetians?" jeered Mrak Luton. "As if there were living Faetians
flying in our ship with the warhead! I've issued my orders. Send out defence
rockets, knock it out, destroy it!" Mrak Luton stamped his foot  in a frenzy
and brandished his pistol.
     Tycho Veg left the observatory. He knew where the defence rockets were.
They  were not covered by the Agreement on Peace in Outer Space.  They  were
short-range missiles and could  not  reach another station,  but  they  were
capable of locating in space and destroying the target approaching Deimo.
     To activate these defence weapons,  Tycho Veg did not have  to  descend
into the greenhouse. It was enough to go to Station Deimo's Central Console.
     He  fired  the  defence  rockets when the ship  from  Station Phobo was
clearly distinguishable as a point glittering in Sol's rays.
     He  returned  to  his wife  in  the  observatory, looking  dejected and
drained of his strength. He felt he had done something dreadful.
     Ala Veg could not hold back her tears.
     "There are Faetians on board, there could be living Faetians on board,"
she kept repeating. "And no news from Faena."
     "Our children can't possibly have been killed," said Tycho Veg, who had
no grounds whatever for such a statement.
     He  squinted through the eyepiece and saw something  flare  up in space
like a nova. One of defence  rockets had exploded  on  encountering the ship
from Phobo.
     On the big screen displaying the  image,  the ship-star plunged steeply
after the explosion towards the surface of Mar. It  had been  knocked out of
orbit by the force of the blast, but not destroyed.
     All  the Faetians on the station assembled  in  the observatory, except
for the imprisoned Brat Lua.
     Mrak Luton personally came to fetch him.
     "Let him  watch!" he said, pushing Lua into the observatory and showing
him the mass of Mar in the porthole. "Let him watch with his own eyes!"
     "Are you so sure that'll knock some  sense into him?" asked  Nega Luton
quietly.
     Her husband grinned complacently.
     "I know the inner world of the Faetians too well to be wrong. Otherwise
I wouldn't be Supreme Officer of the Blood Guard."
     The six Faetians on Deimo saw another star flare up in space and go out
again.
     "They've knocked out our torpedo!" And Mrak Luton stamped his foot.
     Then, on the surface of Mar, two  disintegration explosions occurred in
succession. In  the russet  deserts,  the  trunks of fabulous trees could be
seen from space as they soared up into the sky, billowing  out into swirling
canopies.  The distinct  shadows  of first  one  and then  a second gigantic
mushroom lay across the sandy wilderness.
     "What did I tell you!" roared Mrak Luton. "They wanted to be the .first
to wipe us  out. Their ship with  its warhead  exploded first. But you  were
just whining, you were talking about living Faetians."
     "The station  chief is  right,"  sighed Tycho Veg. "He can see into the
Faetian soul."
     "Engineer Tycho Veg! Stop drivelling! I know what I'm worth! Go back to
the greenhouse at once and fit one more ship with a torpedo."
     "But  we won't have any more ships left," said Tycho in  an attempt  at
protest.
     "Victory! Victory at all costs! A ship will be sent for us as heroes of
the disintegration war from the triumphant continent of the Superiors."
     "To hear is to obey," said Tycho Veg with a covert glance at Ala Veg.
     But she sat with bowed head, her hands dangling down in despair.
     Tycho Veg left to set up another ship-torpedo.
     However, this second missile was also knocked out  by  defence  rockets
fired by the Culture Is on Phobo.
     A second volley of defence rockets  was launched from Deimo to beat off
yet another ship that  was glittering in the rays of Sol and might also have
been primed with a disintegration warhead.
     Both ships, the one  from Phobo and the one from Deimo, blew  up almost
side by side in the deserts of  Mar. First, monstrous mushrooms on stalks of
smoke rose up  on the site of the  explosions, and  then, when the smoke had
dispersed, it was  possible to see from above  craters in the deserts of Mar
which had not been there before.
     "How amazed the astronomers would be," said Ala Veg in a sinking voice,
"if they found craters like that on Mar."
     Tycho did  not react at all to these words. He  had  barely reached the
Central Console from which he  had been discharging the defence rockets.  He
was feeling  really  ill  this time. It  seemed  to him  that there had been
children flying to them in the ships and that they had been killed.

     Chapter Six



     Sheltering in  the deep  abandoned  mine-shaft, Kutsi Merc had survived
the disintegration blast. The thunder above had long since died away.
     It was damp underfoot. The  raindrops  were  falling  from  above as if
counting the  moments.  It seemed  to  Kutsi that they  were  measuring  out
infinite  time. He  sat there  without strength or thoughts, dozing or in  a
faint. Only hunger made him rise to his feet. But he was afraid to  see what
awaited him above; he was afraid even to imagine it.
     The  raindrops were falling noisily, the  only sounds to indicate  that
the  world still  existed.  The  world? What  world?  Dead puddles  and dead
raindrops?
     His ravenous  hunger drove Kutsi up  the slippery metal rungs.  Some of
them wobbled. Kutsi could fall to  the bottom of the well. And  it would all
be over. But the metal  rungs  held. There was a little  blue circle high up
above.  Strange!  The  Nepts'  cabin  had  been   built  directly  over  the
mine-shaft.
     The sky! With stars in it! Was it really night?
     Kutsi  climbed on upwards. The circle above  him was growing bigger and
brighter,  and  the  stars were gradually  disappearing.  But  certainly not
because  day was breaking.  It was simply the  effect of a darkened chimney,
when stars are visible from the  bottom  in the daytime. The circle overhead
was growing bigger while they were disappearing. Kutsi climbed out on to the
surface.
     Sol  was  at its  zenith. The  Nepts' cabin no  longer existed. It  had
evidently been blown away when the stones were falling on to his shoulders.
     The  Faetian looked round and was dumbfounded. Not only had  the Nepts'
cabin  disappeared,  not  a  single   roundhead  shack  was  left  standing.
Everything around  had  been  turned into an enormous refuse tip of garbage,
pathetic kitchen utensils,  smashed furniture and rubble. A jagged wall rose
at an angle in the distance.
     Kutsi  made his way over to  it. And  immediately stumbled on the first
corpses. The Faetians had been killed by the windstorm that had followed the
disintegration  explosion. Many were  buried  under the  wreckage  of  their
shacks, many had been carried through  the air and  dashed against any solid
object in their way.
     That  was what had  happened to the  old Nept  couple. Kutsi recognised
their mangled bodies by their clothes.
     A chill  ran up and  down Kutsi's spine. He had heard plenty about  the
disintegration  weapon, but had never imagined that it would look like  this
after an explosion.
     The wall he had  reached proved to be part of some huge  workshops in a
suburb of  Pleasure City. The  building had collapsed,  burying machines and
the Faetians who worked in it. In its place towered an ugly pile of rubble.
     Had no one survived at all?
     Kutsi Merc's two hearts were thudding painfully in his breast  and  his
temples throbbed accordingly. Why had the wounded one recovered?
     Himself not knowing  why, perhaps in the hope of meeting  at  least one
living Faetian,
     Kutsi began wandering round Pleasure City.
     His  hunger,  dulled  by the  initial horror,  made  itself felt again.
Kutsi's  mind  was in  shock, and  instinct was  forcing  him  to  look  for
something edible in the mass of rubble.
     Two mountainous ramparts rose like grey barkhans on either side of what
had been a street. In one place,  under the fused stones, he  thought he saw
food containers.  He began digging into the pile and came upon a  protruding
hand. He could  not force himself to dig any further and went on between the
dunes of ash-covered rubble.
     He  had the  feeling  that  he was wandering along an  enormous dump of
builders' rubble.
     Kutsi had never thought that  the devastation could be so  complete. It
was even impossible to  make out the shapes of former buildings. There could
be no thought of finding something to eat in this pile of rubble.
     Kutsi was  suffering  the torments  of hunger. And  this combination of
horror  with the  pangs of hunger was unnatural. He  was disgusting even  to
himself.
     However,  a more powerful emotion  was beginning  to get the  better of
Kutsi.
     Who  was  to  blame  for what  had been done?  Who  had  made a war  of
disintegration  the purpose of his doctrine? Who  had  turned  the continent
into such a wilderness strewn with ashes?
     Kutsi  was  overcome by a  frenzied  hatred  of Dictator Yar  Jupi;  it
flooded his whole being, it overshadowed everything that he had  known, even
the stipulations which the  Great Circle  of  the proprietors had made about
unleashing  a disintegration war and which he had once reported to Dobr Mar.
Kutsi  Merc had failed  to carry out  his  mission!  The  automatic  systems
console was intact. Yar Jupi had begun the disintegration war first!
     When he climbed  up the  cone of rubble, Kutsi saw the ocean. Its shore
was disfigured by a  gigantic crater, now flooded with sea water. A  torpedo
had  evidently  exploded in  the port. The  enormous  crater was ringed by a
rampart that had covered part of the ruins. Clouds of sand and ooze had been
thrown up from the seabed into the air  during  the  explosion  and had then
fallen as dry ash onto the ruins.
     Hatred, horror and the hopelessness of his position drove Kutsi further
on. The results of a shock wave are freakish. In  one place,  he stumbled on
the cross-section  of  a  rocky  hill with  window  openings  and  shapeless
patches. When he  went closer, Kutsi saw a pile of  scrap iron driven into a
wall.
     In front of him he saw the wreckage of a steamcar that had been passing
that way at the time of the explosion.
     Nearby,  on  the  fused  stone, shone  patches  vaguely  suggestive  of
Faetians.
     Kutsi shuddered:  "The  white shadows of  passers-by!" The  pedestrians
themselves had been vapourised by the incredible heat, but their shadows had
been  imprinted  by the  exploding  star right  there  on the wall where the
outlines, the mangled images of those who not long ago had been living human
beings now showed up as lighter, less fused areas on the wall...
     Kutsi could not bear it  any longer.  He ran  back.  His foot struck  a
stone that rolled over the slag  of the  roadway. A smashed jar of something
edible! He  picked it up.  It proved to  be carbon inside. The unprecedented
heat had coked the contents, converting it into a black, coagulated mass.
     Kutsi wanted to get to the central quarters of the city. But he already
knew what he was going to see there: shadows on the walls, if the stones had
not been piled into shapeless heaps, and endless ramparts of rubble...
     Then  Kutsi made a  decision. What he had  been through had clouded his
mind. Not a single Faetian in possession of his faculties would have decided
on the crazy plan that hatched out in Kutsi's inflamed brain.
     Kutsi  knew that he  was doomed:  the  deadly radiation  had long since
penetrated his body. It would soon begin to make itself felt. There was very
little time left. He had no hope of survival whatever! Nor had he any desire
to live among the dead.
     However, he considered himself under obligation to do his last duty.
     With his characteristic determination, he went back across the heaps of
rubble to the Great Shore where, not so long ago, a sea wave had brought Ave
and Mada together.
     The further away  he was from the site of  the explosion, the more hope
there was of finding something to eat. A house lizard with  charred skin was
lying under  a  wall  just like  the bodies of the Nepts.  The affectionate,
quick-moving, nimble lizard had, of course, been a general  favourite of the
dead couple.
     Kutsi  laughed bitterly. The Supreme Officer of the Blood Guard had met
him on the ship and  had called him  a carrion-eater. Had it occurred to the
man that he would prove to be right?
     Only at night  did Kutsi reach  the  Temple of Eternity, or rather  the
mountain of stones lying where it had once stood. If his "hump" had been the
cause  of the explosion,  then  it  might be possible to find a way into the
underground by way of the crater.
     Kutsi  was certain that the electric  power system had been put out  of
action and that the automatic doors would not be working.
     He proved right in one respect and wrong in the other.
     Only  in the  morning did he  manage  to  find  the way  into  the deep
corridor where  the  explosion had occurred. The gallery was less  cluttered
with stones than everything else around, since the gases had shot  out of it
as from a gun-barrel.
     Kutsi's frenzied will-power helped him to dig out the entrance into the
underground where he had been "killed" by Yar Alt.
     His  old  self again, Kutsi made his  way like a  spy along  the walls,
lighting his path with a  pocket  torch. But suddenly a bright light came on
of its  own accord.  Kutsi Merc was  overjoyed  at  this,  but  he  was also
frightened by it. If the supply to the underground rooms was  still working,
he would not  be able to  get through  the closed walls.  Yar Jupi was still
alive.  He was still sending  disintegration torpedoes against Danjab. Kutsi
Merc had no right to retreat.
     A  blank  wall rose up in front  of him. When Kutsi had crawled outside
from there,  the  walls had  been  divided,  which meant that  this  must be
another route leading to the Dictator's underground Lair.
     Kutsi Merc tried in  vain to separate the walls, driving into a chink a
piece of metal he had picked out on the surface.
     Beads of  cold sweat started up on  his brow. He could not back out, he
simply could not  do it! He fixed a  glare  full  of  hatred at  the  spiral
ornament on the accursed wall.
     The wall divided.
     Kutsi  was well versed  in  the  technology of automatic  machines that
could  memorise the  brain biocurrents. He instantly  realised that they had
been programmed  to  a particularly strong  character trait  of  the  chosen
Faetians. For Yar Jupi himself, whom all automatic machines had, of  course,
to obey,  the predominant  characteristic was hatred. It was answered by the
"blood doors", which were also tuned to Mada's kindly nature and that of her
nanny. But Kutsi's  hatred now was  evidently not inferior to  that  of  the
Dictator  himself.  And  so the  automatic machines  of the  Lair went  into
action.
     Kutsi ran along the illuminated corridor. Each time the wall barred his
way, Kutsi's glare of hatred opened it.
     After a steep downward slope, the corridor made a turn, emerging into a
spacious  apartment reminiscent of  a  palace hall with  a vaulted  ceiling.
There  was  no  furniture  in it  except for a  huge  cupboard  with shining
vertical slits.
     Two  enormous  robots with  cubic heads and  articulated tentacles came
rushing straight at him.
     Kutsi  guessed  that  he  must have  reached  his goal.  The Dictator's
bunker!
     Hatred  made  Kutsi Merc  invincible. He rushed at the robots, ordering
them  to follow him.  And the robots obeyed,  programmed to  respond to  the
Dictator's principal emotion.
     Kutsi Merc stopped  before the secretary-box, not admitting to  himself
that it might refuse to obey him.
     "Open the  study door!" he commanded, fixing his gaze on  the machine's
glowing slits.
     The  machinery of the Faetians was so  sophisticated that  it  detected
their moods. This height of development had its vulnerable side.
     The secretary-box, manufactured in Dan-jab, was simply a machine always
obedient  to  the  will  of its  owner, the Dictator  of Powermania. It  now
recognised this will in Kutsi and obeyed it.
     The door to Yar Jupi's study opened.
     Yar Jupi  jumped up from the table and stared  in  terror at the  burly
stranger with a wrestler's neck and a sneer on his face.
     "Who are you?" shouted the Dictator, shaking from head to foot.
     "Your judge," replied Kutsi coldly, advancing on him.
     If Yar Jupi  had not been in such  a panic fear of living  Faetians and
had not kept  them at  a distance, Kutsi's plan would  not  have worked. But
this time Kutsi was face to face with the Dictator in person.
     "Robots!  Security  robots!"  yelled Yar  Jupi in a  voice hoarse  with
terror.
     The robots ran in, ready for action.
     "Tie his hands together!"
     It  was not Yar Jupi, but Kutsi who  gave the order in a voice  full of
hatred.
     Yar Jupi  raged,  screamed and ordered the  robots to obey him, but his
brain was radiating terror, not the hatred so familiar to the robots.
     The robots unthinkingly bound the Dictator's hands.
     "You  are  the greatest criminal of  all  time!" announced  Kutsi Merc,
standing before the  helpless Dictator. He  considered himself the  only one
who had survived to act on behalf of all the  victims. "I bear within me the
hatred  of all the victims of your criminal doctrine,  whose goal  you  made
destruction and whose meaning was hatred. But there is a hatred greater than
yours.  I  bring that hatred down  on  you  in the name  of  the history  of
Reason!"
     "I pray you for mercy,"  whined the Dictator. "Not many are left  alive
on Faena. I shall  work humbly, like the last roundhead; I shall acknowledge
the  Doctrine  of Justice, I shall grow  flowers.  Just look at the beauty I
have  raised. Let us go  to the niche, let  us savour the fragrance of those
blossoms together."
     "Silence. I shall not let you  breathe the scent of  your own  flowers.
Prepare  yourself for the  most  shameful execution  of all.  I  am going to
switch on all  the monitor screens and before the eyes of your fellows /  am
going to hang you!"
     Kutsi Merc tore down  the curtains covering the screens.  The  monitors
lit up.
     The terrified military leaders and members of the Blood Council watched
helplessly from them.
     Kutsi deftly  pulled a cord out of the curtains, deftly  tied a  noose,
jumped onto the desk and attached the cord to the chandelier hook. The noose
dangled directly under the lamps. The table had to be moved aside.
     Then  Kutsi  stood  Yar  Jupi,  who was  shaking  with  terror,  on the
Dictator's chair as if he were no more than a will-less puppet.
     The  robots moved away, watching  the  proceedings  impassively.  Kutsi
noticed that on several screens the military leaders  had covered their eyes
with their hands, while on the others, the Faetians, with their cowls thrown
back, were watching the progress of the execution with malignant glee.
     "In the name of History," announced Kutsi Merc, and he kicked the chair
from under the Dictator's feet.
     Dobr  Mar only  came round  from  time to time,  half-recumbent in  the
Ruler's chair and in a far from comfortable position.
     All  the screens in the bunker were  dead. The  lamps of  the emergency
lighting glowed dully.
     The military  leaders  and the  anguished  Sister of  Health were still
fussing over the Ruler. Her  name was, Vera Fae. All her family had perished
up above: father, mother, husband,  three daughters-all except  her son, who
had flown to Terr with a  space  expedition. Vera  Fae was  in  despair. She
could find strength only in attending to the sick Ruler.
     Dobr Mar had lost the power of speech. His tongue, right hand and right
leg were paralysed. He could only communicate with his eyes. Vera Fae  alone
could understand him.
     Haggard, her hair turned white in the last few hours, with tear-stained
eyes,  she had  not lost the gentle touch and warm  voice  of the doctor-all
that the Ruler could respond to.
     There was no one  to take over from him. The  "Ruler's friend", who was
supposed  to do  so according to  the law, had  been killed  up above,  like
millions of other Faetians.
     The  military  leaders  announced  through  Vera Fae  that the  reserve
torpedoes had been expended. But barbarians' torpedoes were  still showering
down on their own continent, leaving a scene of total devastation.
     The Ruler made an attempt to move. The Sister of Health looked into his
eyes, trying to read his thoughts.
     The chief of the disintegration weapons came up. He had been  entrusted
with that terrible means of  aggression  because of  his known cowardice and
reluctance to make his own decisions. Even this time  he, too, wanted at all
costs  the  Ruler's  written  consent  to  the  detonation  of   the   last,
superpowerful  underwater  disintegration  device which  had  been delivered
under Kutsi Merc's supervision  to the Great Shore, almost to the very place
where Ave and Mada had once been surf-riding.
     Dobr Mar could not understand the showily overdressed general who,  his
voice  rising  to a falsetto,  tried to convince  the  Sister of  Health  by
saying,  "The  destruction of  the  Dictator's underground  Lair is our only
salvation. Such is the will of the Great Circle."
     Dobr Mar wearily closed his eyes.
     "He agrees! He agrees!" said the hunchbacked general delightedly.
     But Dobr Mar opened his eyes  again and, in an effort to say something,
stared at his desk.
     Vera Fae took some inscribed tablets off it and held  them  in front of
his eyes.
     On seeing one of them, Dobr Mar looked down.
     Vera Fae showed the tablet to the general.
     "I  know that!"  he screeched like  a cockerel.  "When he  invented the
disintegration weapon,  the honoured Elder Dm Sat wanted to restrict its use
and frightened the  Faetians with the apparent prospect of all the  planet's
oceans being blown up."
     Dobr Mar closed his eyes.
     "Does Ruler Dobr  Mar agree?" persisted the general. "Can the Sister of
Health sign  on  his behalf  a document authorising  the detonation  of  the
underwater disintegration device?"
     "How can I  do  that if the Ruler himself  has reminded us of the great
Elder's warning?"
     "A naive fabrication! As if all the waters of the oceans, in the  event
of  a  superpowerful explosion,  would  immediately  disintegrate, releasing
their  energy like a supernova.  And as if our whole planet  would be turned
into a tiny supernova."
     "Don't you find that terrifying?" asked the Sister of Health.
     "What  could be  more  terrifying  than  what's  already  happened? The
Dictator of Powermania must be stopped at all costs. An underwater explosion
by the Great Shore will start an earthquake; it will destroy his bunker down
there.  The oceanic tidal wave will  rise to the heavens, crash down on  the
Lair and flood  it. If the Sister of Health can convince the  Ruler, he will
agree.  His  written  order  is  needed  for  the  explosion.  He  alone  is
responsible for everything."
     The Sister of  Health looked  into  the  dim eyes of  the  sick man. He
closed them.
     "He agrees, at last he agrees!" howled the general, seizing the Ruler's
lifeless  hand  and  applying  it  to the  plate. "Explode it!" shouted  the
general  in  a thin voice  and, his leg dragging, he  ran out of the  study,
plate in hand.
     Dobr  Mar  watched  him  go with  a  frightened look. He wanted to  say
something, but was unable to.
     The Sister of Health came to her senses and  tried to stop the general,
but the Ruler felt worse and she had to help  him, wiping  his face that was
twisted in a grimace and was covered with beads of sweat.
     The general returned. The order had been passed on. The explosion would
take place...
     "I take no responsibility for anything!" he shouted.

     Chapter Seven



     Every Sister of Health has something of the mother in her.
     Her desire  to help  a sick man, her maternal  attitude  to a suffering
person, now helpless as a child and therefore  as dear to her as if  he were
her  own,  were  struggling  in  Mada  with  a  keen,  unjustified,  as  she
considered, homesickness.
     Unable  to  understand  this  feeling  and  rejecting  it,  she  looked
devotedly after Um Sat, whose life was now fading...
     With his  large  beard, his piercing, yearning (for Faena, of  course!)
eyes,  he was lying motionless on  his couch. His illness was  delaying  the
return  of  Quest  and  intensifying  the  homesickness  that  Mada  and her
colleagues felt for Faena.
     As a Sister of Health,  however, she had to  rise  above  her  personal
sufferings and  she  looked after the Elder, trying to  cure  his mysterious
illness, since a speedy return might mean his salvation. But there could  be
no  thought of that with Um  Sat so  seriously  ill. Mada  looked after  him
devotedly; she  was not  only  a Sister of  Health to  him,  but a spiritual
confidante.  She  admitted  to him  her  yearning  for Faena and received in
return  the Elder's terrible confession that all the  oceans on Faena  might
blow up as  a result of a disintegration  war. Mada shuddered,  frowned  and
shook her head in protest.
     By shouldering  part of the Elder's  alarm,  she eased  his  condition,
affirming that  matters could not go as  far as such a  catastrophe and they
would surely go back to their Faena where they were so eagerly awaited.
     On Mada's  instructions,  Ave and Gor Terr went hunting in the  forest.
She would not let them touch the provisions intended for the return journey.
     Return journey! It was a goal, a dream, a passionate desire, and it was
not felt by Mada alone.
     She  told  Toni  Fae to  stay  by  the  electromagnetic  communications
apparatus which,  for  some  strange  reason,  had  gone  silent. The thread
linking Quest and their native planet  had  snapped. Mada reassured Toni Fae
that  the  atmosphere of  Terr  was  to  blame:  it  was blanketing off  the
electromagnetic waves from Faena and Mar.
     Toni  Fae was desperate to go home.  He could not  sleep. He would doze
off at  the apparatus, then wake up in a cold sweat, now hearing his mother,
Vera Fae, calling him,  now imagining that it was  Ala Veg laughing  at him.
But the apparatus remained silent. There were times when  Toni  Fae couldn't
bear it  any more. Then  Jvlada's gentle hand  would rest on  his  trembling
shoulder and her calm, soft voice would assure him that the state of  Terr's
atmosphere  would change;  they  need  only  wait,  and  he  would hear  the
longed-for signal.
     Um  Sat, however, was not so easily pacified. Mada knew what he thought
about a disintegration  war and how it  had been tormenting him even  before
they had left Faena.
     Ave was gloomy for the same reason.
     He was no longer the sensitive youth who had made such an impression on
Mada as he rode  the ocean waves.  He had changed  inwardly  and  outwardly.
After growing a moustache and a beard on Terr, he looked much older, calmer,
more self-assured and stronger.
     Mada knew that  by sending her  husband out hunting, she was subjecting
him  to  danger. But as she thought  about all the crew, she  could  not act
otherwise, for she had faith in his strength, agility and courage.
     Consequently, when, apart from a reindeer rescued from a beast of prey,
Ave brought back a spotted hide with its jaws fixed in a snarl, Mada was not
surprised, seeing it as only natural.
     Ave was morose. He  said nothing to Mada, but she knew  everything! And
she feared not so much the  something  terrible that could happen out there,
perhaps somewhere far away, as for her "children" whom she was looking after
here, although these children were Ave, Um Sat, Toni Fae and Gor Terr.
     The long-armed and stooping Faetian giant was missing his native planet
as badly as  everyone else. The primitive  mode of life which he and Ave, as
the  main providers, had to lead here was unpleasant and even offensive to a
skilled engineer.
     As he wandered  through  the  densely packed  tree-trunks  on the alien
planet,  Gor  Terr  never  ceased  making   grandiose  plans  for  technical
improvements that there was no one to implement on  Terr: there were neither
workshops, nor assistants, and  so  there  could  not  be  any  progress  or
civilisation.
     Around them lay the alien,  primeval  forest. From time  to time,  they
would glimpse antlers  or the  spotted hide of  a predator. Who was going to
win?
     Gor Terr stubbornly shook his  head. No! This life was not for him!  He
didn't  want to  be like  his ancestors  with  their  clubs  and stone axes,
however much he might resemble them physically.  He was not going to be like
the savages of the Stone Age. Let other Faetians colonise other planets, but
he was going to return to workshops, steamcars, rockets and skyscrapers!
     One  starry  night,  in  despair  of ever  hearing  a signal  over  the
electromagnetic communications, Ton! Fae began searching among the stars for
the faintly visible Faena, as if hoping to see a light signal.
     And then he saw one!
     The  young astronomer couldn't believe his eyes and rushed to  the star
map. Was he looking at the right place? No,  he hadn't made a mistake. Faena
should be passing through that particular constellation between Alt and Veg.
     The little star had evidently been swamped by the brilliant flare of  a
supernova. Somewhere immeasurably far away, beyond the fringe of the Galaxy,
the latest cosmic disaster had taken place and the light of a once exploding
star had  finally reached  Sol and its planets. And only by  chance had  the
supernova blotted out Faena.  He must now wait  until the planet, travelling
across the sky on a complex path  divergent from  that of the stars, emerged
from the  brilliant light of the supernova  and began to shine at a distance
with its usual faint, but so very dear and appealing light.
     The supernova, however, shining more brightly than all the other stars,
except for Sol in the daytime, seemed not to want Faena to  get away. It was
moving across the sky, not like a star, but like a planet...
     Ton! Fae  caught  his breath. He started  rousing  Gor Terr, who simply
wouldn't wake up and merely bellowed in his sleep.
     Ave Mar woke up and applied his eye to the eyepiece.
     Yes, an unusually bright  star was  blazing in  the night  sky.  It was
clearly  visible to  the naked eye;  it  was like a lantern  in the sky. But
there was something in its effulgence that made Ton! Fae's heart beat faster
in alarm.
     Ave understood everything at once. He had long  been keeping to himself
the  secret that Dm Sat had entrusted to him about the danger hidden  in the
oceans. And now out there...
     Mada came in from the big cabin in which Um Sat slept. She was as white
as a  sheet. She  had only been  suspecting it,  but  when she looked at her
husband, she understood everything.
     "My dear Toni  Fae," said  Mada.  "Prepare yourself for the worst. Tell
me, is your new star moving across the sky the way Faena should be moving?"
     "It doesn't make sense, but it's true."
     "Faena  doesn't exist any more," said Ave Mar gloomily, and he  put his
arm round Mada's shoulders.
     "To  be more precise, the  former  inhabited Faena  doesn't  exist  any
more," corrected Mada. "A star has lit up in its place, but not for long."
     Toni Fae looked at Mada and Ave with  frightened eyes. He took  off his
spectacles and methodically wiped the lenses.
     "So  Faena doesn't exist? And what about Mother?" The  young astronomer
looked with childlike  eyes at Mada,  as if she ought to  dispel  a terrible
dream. "Why hasn't it  lit up for long? No! Isn't it just that they've found
a way of signalling to us?"
     "My dear Toni Fae, it really is a signal to us..."
     "Just as I said!" exclaimed the young Faetian happily.
     Ave stood with bowed head.
     "It's a signal that there is nowhere for us to return to," he said with
an effort.
     "What's going on here?" came Gor Terr's rolling bass voice.
     Ave Mar took a deep breath.
     "The disintegration  war,  which we have  all  been  so afraid  of, has
evidently  taken  place  on  our unhappy  Faena.  And its  civilisation  has
committed suicide."
     "What  utter  r-rubbish!" yelled Gor Terr. "Leave  our  civilisation in
peace. It gave us all we have here."
     "That's not enough for us to carry on living here."
     "That's the last thing I'm aiming to do!"
     Toni Fae rushed to his friend as he had done that time in the cave...
     "They're  saying  that..." he whimpered  like  a  child, "that life has
perished on Faena, that the planet has flared up for a time like a star."
     "That's  impossible," objected the engineer calmly. "There's been  some
kind of observation error here. A disintegration war can wipe out a planet's
inhabitants, I'm  not disputing that.  But it can't annihilate a planet as a
heavenly  body. Mass  is mass, it  can't just disappear. And what does  'has
flared up for a time' mean?"
     Mada looked inquiringly at Ave.
     "We must go down  to Um Sat," he said. "Back on Faena, he told me about
one  of the  secrets  of the  disintegration  of matter. If  a  superviolent
explosion  should take place in  the depths of the sea and if the heat level
should  reach  the critical limit,  then  all the  water in the oceans would
instantly split  into oxygen  and  hydrogen, and  the  hydrogen would become
helium, in this way releasing so much energy that the planet  would flare up
like a star during the reaction."
     "Damnation!" whispered the engineer.
     "Um Sat warned both Dobr Mar and Yar Jupi of this. They wouldn't listen
to him."
     "If all the oceans blow up at the same time, then  the planet shouldn't
just  flare  up,"  said the engineer. "Under  the  impact of  shock from all
directions, it should be broken up into pieces..."
     "To  be scattered  later," confirmed  Ave  Mar. "And  countless  cycles
later, its  fragments, colliding and breaking  up, would  spread  out  along
Faena's former orbit."
     "How can you say all that?" shouted Toni Fae,  clenching his fists. "My
mother was there, and my little sisters..."
     "My mother was there too," replied Ave Mar sadly.
     Toni Fae began sobbing. Gor Terr drew him towards  himself, patting him
on the shoulder.
     Ave  and Mada exchanged glances and  said  more by  doing so than could
ever have been conveyed in words. Then they held hands.
     "So that's why there were no electromagnetic communications," said Toni
Fae, still sobbing. "War had started up there."
     "And on the Mar stations?" boomed Gor Terr.
     "Perhaps on them too," confirmed Ave Mar sadly.
     "No, no!" protested Toni Fae, looking in terror at  Ave  with eyes full
of tears. "It can't be possible out there too!"
     Ave shrugged his shoulders.
     "There are Faetians on them as well."
     "Ala Veg is there!" shouted Toni Fae. "She's not one of them!"
     "Calm yourself, Toni Fae," said Mada  gently. "I think we  should still
tell Dm Sat about the end of Faena."
     "Wretched  carr-rion-eaters!  Why couldn't  they value what  they  had?
They've destroyed thousands  of millions of  lives! How much higher and more
humane the local Faetoids are!"
     As he shouted this, Gor Terr charged round the cabin in a frenzy.
     "Calm down,  friend Gor Terr," said Ave. "It's hard  for us to bear the
horror that's come down on all of us when we've not only lost our dear ones,
but..."
     "Towns, fields, r-rivers, forests, seas, oceans!" wailed Gor Terr.
     "Yes. And oceans," confirmed Ave Mar sadly.
     Gor Terr glared at him almost with hatred.
     Then he sighed and said very quietly this time:
     "Yes, it's easier for you. There are two of you."
     "There are five of us," said Mada.
     "If the Elder survives the shock."
     "He has been  readying himself for it  too long," replied Mada. "He saw
it all coming."
     "I was the one who didn't see anything coming. I was dreaming about new
spaceships, about wonderful cities on new planets, about incredible machines
that I was inventing in my mind."
     "It will all have to be done on Terr," said Mada softly.
     Gor Terr burst into a roar of forced laughter.
     "Forget about  civilisation once  and for all, forget about technology.
Make clubs and stone axes. If you have children, you won't  be able to teach
them anything that  the unhappy Faetians knew. Civilisation means  workshops
and Faetians toiling in them.  Civilisation means writings that preserve the
treasures of thought. All that is gone, gone, gone! And it cannot exist here
either!"
     Gor Terr was  shouting in a frenzy. Toni Fae was frightened by this fit
of   fury,   but  his  attention   was  distracted  by  a  signal  from  the
electromagnetic apparatus. The indicator  lamp was  winking  on and off. The
astronomer rushed to the set.
     "At last! Now the nightmare is over! You see, they're worried about us,
they want to tell us that it was a supernova, not Faena at all. How could we
have assumed such a thing?"
     The Faetians watched Ton! Fae, each trying to retain at least a glimmer
of hope.
     Finally the chesty  voice  of a  Faetess  was heard in  the cabin. Toni
recognised it as Ala Veg's.
     "Quest!  Quest!  Quest!  Can you hear  me?  There  has  been a dreadful
catastrophe! We shall never have  a homeland again.  Faena  has blown up for
some  unaccountable reason, although it was recently  intact, in spite of  a
disintegration  war that broke  out on  it. Quest! Quest! Quest! Hostilities
between Deimo and Phobo have ceased. If  you  too have been fighting amongst
yourselves, stop the conflict.  There  aren't any  more Gutturals  and there
aren't  any more  Superiors.  There are only three small  groups  of unhappy
Faetians who  have lost their homeland. Are you alive? If only you are still
alive! Can we live on Terr?"
     Ave Mar put out the light in the observation cabin.  The starry sky was
now  clearer than ever, and so was the new star blazing in it, the malignant
Star of Hatred.

     End of Part Two


     ________________________________________________________
     Did an exploded planet actually exist in the Solar System?
     In 1596, when he was investigating the laws governing  the structure of
the  Solar  System, Kepler suspected there might be a planet missing between
Mars and Jupiter. At the end of  the 18th century, the scientists Titius and
Bode gave a series of numbers:  0.4-0.7-1.0-1.6-2.8-5.2... It reflected  the
distance of the planets from the Sun. The distance of the Earth from the Sun
was taken as unit. But there was  no fifth planet with an Earth-Sun distance
of 2.8.  The astronomers searched and  began discovering, one after another,
the "minor planets" and even smaller bodies, or asteroids, which were moving
on  a common orbit. They were fragmentary in shape and seemed to have formed
during  the  DISINTEGRATION  of  a  destroyed planet.  The German astronomer
Hermann Oberth 150 years ago expressed the hypothesis that such a planet had
once  existed. In  our  own times,  Professor  Sergei Orlov,  analysing this
hypothesis, gave  the planet the romantic  name  of  Phaeton.  His work  was
continued by Academicians  Alexander  Zavaritsky  and  Leonid Kvasha. Soviet
research, notably that  of Yekaterina Gusakova, has  shown that the residual
magnetism of the  meteorites could be explained only by  their magnetisation
as parts of a  big mother planet. Felix Zigel  (1963) determined its size as
approaching  that of  the Earth.  However, neither  the  advocates  nor  the
opponents of this hypothesis have successfully accounted for the destruction
of the planet. If Phaeton blew up like a high-explosive bomb, its  fragments
would have flown  apart in elongated  elliptical  orbits round  the Sun, but
they have remained  in their  old circular orbit... If two cosmic bodies had
collided in space, then their fragments would also have flown  in elliptical
orbits and would not have formed a  ring  on the former orbit of the planet.
It is suggested that meteorite swarms  form in at  least ten  places  on the
ring of asteroids. It is possible that they are created by the collision and
disintegration of the former planet's fragments.  Meteorites are falling  on
Earth to this day, but they include so-called tektites  which, perhaps, fell
on  Earth only  once as a  consequence of a  colossal  nuclear explosion  in
space.  All  the more so that the form, composition and  dehydration  of the
tektites are identical with nuclear slag.

     Thus,  a supposition about the  cause of its destruction has been added
to the hypothesis of a Phaeton that existed in the past.




     Fragments

     Where be these enemies?- Capulet! Montague!
     See what a scourge is laid upon your hate...
     W. Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet

     Chapter One



     The new star shone ominously in Quest's porthole.
     The Faetians maintained a shocked silence.
     Suddenly, Gor Terr jumped to his feet.
     "Technology! Damned technology!  It's  to blame for everything.  I, Gor
Terr,  the   last  of  Faena's  engineers,  am  the   first   to  r-renounce
civilisation! To the forests! To the forests! To the caves! Wild Faetians on
a  wild  Terr!"  he  boomed, foaming at  the mouth. ."If anyone r-refuses to
leave the  r-rocket.  I'll  wring  his  neck. Let not  a  single  metal part
r-remind  wretched people  that  they were once  cultured. Beasts  are  much
higher and nobler!"
     His  friends tried to calm the  engineer down, still unwilling to admit
to themselves that his mind had become clouded.
     "Please  try to understand, Gor Terr," said Ave reassuringly, "that the
five  Faetians left on Terr can only  have one purpose-not just to  survive,
but to preserve civilisation, to hand down the heritage of reason to  future
generations..."
     "R-really?" roared Gor Terr with a glare at Mada.
     Embarrassed, Mada turned away.
     "There must be cultured Faetians after us," confirmed Ave Mar, "and our
duty is to preserve for them the knowledge we possess."
     "High-flown r-rubbish!"  bellowed Gor Terr. "I hate  those words and  I
hate  all  those  instruments.  Even touching  the damned  metal  drives  me
frantic."
     "Gor Terr will have to  pull  himself together,"  said Ave Mar, raising
his  voice. "He's an engineer, and he'll  stay an engineer to the end of his
days."
     Gor Terr roared with laughter.
     "So  that  your  sons  can  learn how  to  make  r-rockets out of  wall
partitions? So  that they can learn to slaughter animals, and then their own
kind?"
     "Never shall the  Faetians on  Terr  learn how to kill their own kind!"
exclaimed  the outraged Ave Mar.  "It will  be the most terrible thing if we
bow  down  in   our   grief.  No!  Only   energy,  faith  in  ourselves  and
resourcefulness will save what is left of the Faetian race."
     "For what?" asked Gor Terr gloomily.
     "For the triumph of reason!"
     "High-flown words again! What d'you want?"
     "I want you to think about what kind of building the Faetians are going
to use when they're in the forest, what apparatus and parts  will have to be
taken  from here to the  new house, and how we  can  gradually dismantle the
rocket: it's the only source of metal on Terr."
     "Dismantle?" echoed Toni Fae in fright.
     "Yes," confirmed  Ave Mar.  "We  won't need a spaceship  any more.  The
Faetians  will use its  walls for  axes, knives, spear-points and arrows. We
have  enough metal to last us  several generations for that purpose. By that
time, Gor Terr's pupils and their  descendants will have learned to prospect
for ore here and to smelt it. Civilisation must be preserved!"
     Mada  looked  at her husband  with  rapture.  How  many  times  had  he
presented himself to her in a new aspect,  stronger, firmer, as one who knew
which course to adopt!
     "Filthy despot!" roared Gor Terr. "He wants to make us serve his unborn
offspring! I've had enough of blind  obedience to a Dictator who aimed for a
disintegration  war and achieved it! No! I won't tolerate any authority over
me!  I  don't  want  to  obey  anybody's  orders, least of  all those of  an
offspring of Danjab's R-ruler!"
     "Gor Terr, my  dear,"  intervened Mada gently, putting her hand on  his
massive hairy arm. "Think what you are saying. We have no dictators here, or
rulers, or their  children. There are only Faetians,  united by common grief
and a common fate. Weren't you the one who dreamed of workshops on Terr? You
shall  have workshops here in which we, your  comrades, shall work  for you,
and then..." She looked  into his eyes and added, "I shall raise helpers for
you."
     Gor Terr scowled, glaring malevolently  from  under his beetling brows.
Mada's  maternal tone  soothed  him  a little.  But not for  long.  He  soon
relapsed into  his  former  fury and, without  listening  to  anyone,  began
smashing up  the spaceship's  control levers, bending them, trying to wrench
them out of their sockets.
     To save the Faetians, the madman himself and  keep the ship's equipment
intact, Mada ordered Gor Terr  to be confined to the airlock which  was used
for going out into space.
     The noisy struggle with the  Faetian strong man distracted the Faetians
from  their common  misfortune. The immediate blotted out what was far away.
And only after the hatch had been fastened  down behind Gor Terr did Ave Mar
and Toni Fae,  exhausted  and shattered, collapsed into the armchairs at the
control panel. They stared dismally in front of them, panting for breath.
     Mada was  busy near the dispensary. She had decided to give Gor Terr an
injection and administer a shock that would bring him to his senses.
     All attempts to  go into the airlock, however, merely provoked  further
attacks of frenzy. They could not even serve him his food.
     Such was the unhappy way in which the Faetians spent the first  days of
their  permanent   exile.  Below,   in  the   common  cabin,   Faena's  most
distinguished scientist lay dying; above, in the airlock, the last surviving
engineer had gone raving mad.
     Toni Fae was deeply depressed.
     He   heard   Ala  Veg's  voice   again  during  a  routine  session  of
electromagnetic communication with Deimo. It was remote and sad. She  talked
about the meaninglessness of existence, about her husband's serious illness,
about the total  lack of change and how the station chief, as before,  hated
the roundhead couple. She  said that she despised life. She was terrified at
the thought of the distance that separated her from Toni Fae. Was life worth
living? She suggested that Toni Fae and she  should both put an end to their
own lives during the next communications session.
     Toni Fae  could not  hold out  against  this and  agreed. He stole from
Mada's dispensary an  ampoule of stupefying gas, a large dose of which could
be fatal.  After he  had inhaled a little of it,  he felt  blissfully happy,
could not stay  on  his feet,  swayed and  sang a  silly song about a lizard
which  ate its own  tail. He then collapsed and went to  sleep. Mada guessed
what  had happened, found  the ampoule hidden  on his person and confiscated
it. When he came round, he made the discovery that Mada's language could  be
far from endearing.
     Toni Fae succumbed to apathy.  Everything around him  seemed dismal and
wretched. Even the world of nature had changed. There were no more colourful
sunsets  on  Terr.  Night  gave  way  to  dull  daylight. It  never  stopped
drizzling, and a patchy grey pall of mist clung  to the tree-tops level with
the portholes of the control cabin. There were no golden  apples left in the
forest.
     When twilight  descended on Terr, it reminded  them of their own gloomy
planet.
     Misery  and homesickness seemed capable of destroying the  will to live
in all the other Faetians, as had happened with Toni Fae.
     Mada, however, in whom nature had stirred a sense of responsibility for
all, sick and well alike,  could not give in to  despair. She  had  to  look
after Um Sat, feed everybody, keep an eye on Toni Fae and encourage Ave with
an affectionate glance from time to time.
     Ave Mar was conducting himself with dignity. He had  obligations  which
none but he could fulfil: it was  necessary to go hunting in the forest. Gor
Terr couldn't help him now. Ave would go  out of the ship, leaving Mada in a
state of permanent anxiety, but he always returned before dark, and with his
kill.  By the  will of  circumstances, Ave,  a  passionate  believer  in the
preservation  of  the  lost Faena's civilisation, was having to lead a  very
primitive mode of life. He had stopped using firearms, saving the ammunition
for more urgent occasions. He had made a bow and he practised archery. Using
his natural strength,  he could draw a bowstring so that  the arrow with its
hand-made head could pierce a stout tree-branch right through.
     Once, Ave Mar  brought back  a  big fat bird hit by one of  his arrows.
Careful  not  to disturb  Dm Sat, the  astronauts assembled  in the  control
cabin, talking  quietly  amongst themselves. Mada began  inexpertly plucking
the hunting trophy, pleased that it would make a good bouillon for  the sick
man.
     Toni Fae was  adjusting the electromagnetic communications  set, hoping
for a  session  with  Ala Veg. Mada warned  him  that if  he made a fool  of
himself again,  she  would  ban communications with  Deimo. Toni  sheepishly
bowed his head.
     Ave Mar was relaxing after  his hard day in the rain while  hunting  in
the forest.
     Mada looked round at the porthole and screamed.  The snarling face of a
Faetoid was staring into the cabin. His shoulders and chest were matted with
curly hair, his skin  showing through underneath. No thought was readable in
the crazy eyes.
     Only Ave Mar realised that this was Gor Terr lowering himself  by rope,
not a wild beast  that  had  made its way to them. The  madman had evidently
torn  his clothes into strips and knotted them together to  make  a rope. He
had opened  the outer airlock hatch,  climbed outside and was now descending
the ship's fuselage.
     In an attempt to head  him off, Ave Mar rushed to the transition hatch,
tore through  the  common cabin and disappeared  into the lower airlock.  He
shinned down the vertical ladder, hardly touching the rungs on the way.
     But however agile Ave Mar may have been, Gor Terr had time on his side.
     Ave Mar was only just getting out of the lower airlock when the escapee
was already clinging to the end of the home-made  rope. No rational  Faetian
would ever have risked jumping  from  such a height.  But Gor  Terr  was not
being  rational. He dropped  to the ground  in front of Ave  Mar, jumped  up
below him, as if on springs, and made a dash for the forest.
     Without  realising  what he was  doing,  Gor  Terr  ran into the forest
straight on to the  path beaten by the animals on their  way to the watering
place. It  was sodden  after the rain and  his  feet  slipped and  slithered
apart. But  he was conscious of only  one thing:  he was  being pursued.  He
leaped aside into a small glade, unrecognisable after the rain, since it was
covered with  muddy  puddles that disappeared into  the mist. Gor Terr never
suspected that  there was a bog  hidden underneath the wet green surface. He
dived into a cloud of mist hanging over the grass and disappeared.
     Ave Mar, who had  been following on his  heels, stopped  dead. Then  he
immediately dashed  forward. His feet  sloshed through the  slime.  He  took
several careful, squelching  steps and suddenly saw Gor Terr in the mist. He
looked as if he was sitting down on the green grass. Only his head and torso
were visible above it. It took Ave Mar a moment to realise that Gor Terr had
sunk waist-deep into a quagmire.
     Until  recently, Ave  Mar, used to dwelling in the civilised cities  of
Faena  and to  driving  a steamcar  along  magnificent  highways, had  never
suspected that it might be possible to sink up to the waist in the soil like
that. Ave  had  wandered into this  bog a  few days back when the  rain  had
started  pouring  down. But his  instinctive caution,  aroused by the  foul,
stinking  mud that was squelching underfoot, had saved him, making him skirt
the deceptive glade with its murky puddles. This time, however, he could not
back away; he rushed to Gor Terr's assistance. He immediately sank knee-deep
into the quagmire. He made a movement to extricate himself and realised that
he was  sinking into the  mire himself. Fortunately, he was not as  heavy as
Gor  Terr; moreover, he was nearer  to the edge of  the bog. Avoiding sudden
movements,  he lay  down and began  to  extricate himself by crawling, as if
swimming over a shallow surface covered with wet grass.
     Once he felt himself on firmer ground, Ave stood  up,  glanced over his
shoulder and saw Gor Terr. Now only his head was showing above the grass and
his outstretched  hands, with  which he  was  clutching at  some  roots. Gor
managed  to  turn  his head and  look  at Ave Mar, his  bulging, glazed eyes
staring  out of the  mist.  Every  movement  he  made sucked him down  still
further.
     Ave Mar felt his horror physically and stopped in spite of himself, but
read  such reproach in the doomed man's eyes that he shuddered. Ave abruptly
turned back,  crawled out a little way and, although he  hardly felt himself
on  firm ground, jumped to his feet, ran to the  nearest tree and tore off a
dangling liana.
     When he returned to the cloud of mist hanging over  the  grass,  he had
some difficulty in making out the shaggy head and the outstretched hands.
     At the sight of Ave Mar, Gor Terr's rounded eyes came to life again and
shone with entreaty, hope and even joy.
     Ave  Mar threw the end of the liana to  the  sinking man. Understanding
glimmered in Gor Terr's eyes and he grabbed at the line.
     Ave Mar was now faced with the impossible-to drag the gigantic Gor Terr
out of  the  quagmire. Ave  Mar  had nothing like  the strength to do such a
thing. But  with  the liana  he had brought a  crooked  branch  which he had
broken off a tree. He drove it into a firm mound and began winding the liana
onto it as if onto a windlass.
     Turn by turn, he gradually  pulled  Gor  Terr out  so that  the  latter
finally managed  to lie flat and crawl along, as Ave had done before him. At
last, a mud-plastered Gor Terr rose to his full height in front of Ave.
     "You're not bad as an engineer, Ave Mar," he said. "Thank you."
     These words meant more  to Ave Mar than  any diagnosis. He now realised
that the deadly danger to which  Gor Terr had been subjected in the bog  had
administered the nervous shock  needed to save  him from insanity.  Gor Terr
had come back to his senses.
     "What happened? How did I end up here? Weren't we out hunting together?
Who undressed me? Your wife will take me for a Faetoid."
     "She'll be happy! You've been seriously ill."
     "R-really?"  Gor Terr  was astonished. "But  I've certainly been having
nightmares. I dreamt the Dictator had thrown me into prison."
     "That's  all  over.  Don't think  about  it any  more.  There  are more
important things to be done. We can't live in the rocket any longer. We have
to deliver food and water to the top. The Elder can't go outside."
     "Then we'll have to build a house in the forest."
     "I must admit I don't know how to do that. I'm only a theoretician."
     "But  the  theoretician  figured out how to rig  up a  windlass quickly
enough.  With a helper like you, it would be easy to knock up a house in the
forest. I can already see how to set about it."


     Mada couldn't believe  her eyes when she  saw Ave  Mar and the recently
crazed Gor Terr chatting amiably together on the way back.
     "I  don't understand this at all," whispered Toni  Fae. "Oughtn't we to
help Ave Mar tie him up?"
     "No, certainly not!" exclaimed Mada.
     With the instinct of a Sister of Health, she  had grasped that years of
training and care  couldn't have given as good a result as what had happened
in the forest.


     ...The unfamiliar thudding of axes was heard in the forest.
     The enormous, round-shouldered Dzin,  wringing out her wet ginger  hair
with her long hands, crept up to the spot where the mighty stranger, who had
put paid to a Spotted Horror and to many of Dzin's fellow tribesmen, was now
slaying trees. And yet he wasn't eating them.
     Hidden  in a thicket,  squatting on her haunches  and holding her heels
with her forepaws, she was  watching as he and another, who had hair only on
his head, were hitting the  trees  with strange sticks that  had what looked
like wet, glittering ends. Their  strength was so great that  the  tree fell
down  like a slain beast. Then  the strangers skinned  the trees with  their
clubs,  breaking  off  all  the branches, and the tree  became  straight and
smooth. They shortened the tree with a screaming stick, then dragged it over
to the other slain trees and forced them to fit together.
     In this way,  they helped to raise from the ground a huge tree that was
empty inside. It looked like a cave.
     Almost as soon as the strangers had finished banging their sticks, Dzin
would hide in a  thicket so as to come to the summons of  the thudding noise
on the next day.
     Ave Mar and Gor Terr never suspected that their work was being watched.
They knocked  together  a frame  thought up by  Gor Terr  without  any metal
fixings. The work was nearing its end.
     Many  instruments and much equipment had to be transferred to the house
into which the astronauts had to move.
     Gor Terr and Ave Mar went to the ship to fetch all these  things. So as
not to disturb Dm Sat by hammering  in the common cabin,  they went straight
up to  the control cabin.  Assisted by Ave Mar, Gor Terr began breaking  off
the  levers and rods on which  the electromagnetic communications  apparatus
was secured.
     At this  point, the always  quiet  and  tactful Toni  Fae flew  off the
handle.
     "Gor  Terr  and Ave Mar can kill  me first," he screamed  hysterically,
"but I won't let anything in the spaceship be damaged."
     Gor Terr bellowed with laughter, as during his recent crazy spell.
     "D'you want me to pay  you off, kid,  tie your hands together and  dump
you in an empty airlock? I feel sorry for you. Just get this into your head:
no one needs my Quest any more. I shall be  the first to break it up. So out
of the way, my dear Toni Fae."
     "Kill your old friend first!"
     Ave Mar turned to Mada in his astonishment.
     Her face was troubled and her eyes were sad.
     "Get out of the way!" roared Gor Terr.
     "Stop," came a feeble voice from the hatch. Overcoming his weakness, Um
Sat  climbed  up into the control  cabin.  (Gor  Terr involuntarily froze in
front of Toni  Fae, not thrusting him  aside after all.) "Stop," repeated Um
Sat. "The spaceship Quest is inviolable. Everything is changing in the  life
of the Faetians. They must choose a new way."
     Again Ave Mar looked at the alarmed, saddened Mada.
     Gor Terr stood still in bewilderment.
     Toni Fae rushed to the electromagnetic communications apparatus.

     Chapter Two



     Ala  Veg realised that her husband  was going to die. When she made the
mutual  suicide  pact  with  Toni  Fae,  she  prepared  for the  forthcoming
electromagnetic communications session by stealing  from Mrak Luton a pistol
loaded with a poisoned bullet.
     Tycho Veg was fading away. Completely bald,  without even  eyebrows and
beard,  he  was lying on the  bed in the Vegs' common cabin  and was staring
intently at his wife as if from somewhere far  way. Ala  Veg could not stand
that anguished stare and fled into the observatory.
     She  went  over to  the  electromagnetic communications  apparatus  and
looked for a long time at  the bullet with  the brown prickles which she had
hidden on the control panel among the instruments.
     She was afraid that she might  not be able to squeeze it  in  her fist,
although  somewhere out  there, on  faraway Terr, young Toni Fae, who  loved
her, must  depart  this life at the  same time. She was afraid of inflicting
this last  blow on  her dying  husband. Ala  Veg  was torn by  contradictory
feelings.  She could not  recover from  the  knowledge that her children had
perished.  The starry  distance that separated her  from  them, however, was
dulling her despair.  And yet the starry distance to Terr, which brought her
the young man's voice after a long delay, had not prevented her from turning
his head and even persuading him  to commit suicide with her. But  Tycho Veg
was  here, close  to  her,  was  suffering,  and was looking at  her out  of
non-existence with  huge sad  eyes. Ala Veg wept a  great  deal and  stopped
observing the stars altogether. What was the point of all that now?
     Engineer Tycho Veg died at dinner-time as quietly as he had  lived. His
wife remained  at his side, unable to do anything  to help. His  naked  head
with the shadows of the sunken  eyes, the taut skin of the face and the grin
of the sagging lower jaw were indeed reminiscent of a skull.
     When Ala Veg realised that her husband was no more, she was seized by a
fit of rage.
     Flinging  the door wide open, she burst  noisily into  the common cabin
where the Lutons and Brat Lua were having their dinner. Lada Lua was waiting
on them at table.
     Mrak  Luton,  flabby, pot-bellied  and pompous,  was presiding  at  the
table.
     "I accuse  you, Mrak Luton!" screamed Ala Veg from  the threshold. "You
murdered my husband  Tycho Veg! You made him charge a torpedo with a warhead
that wasn't even screened against radiation!"
     Mrak  Luton went purple  in the  face. His pendulous cheeks bulged, his
small eyes darted about frantically.
     "Is  this mutiny?"  he  wheezed.  "I won't stand  for it! Silence!  Who
incited you, a longhead, to this insubordination?"
     "My husband Tycho Veg is dead.  Stand up, all of you. Honour his memory
and curse his murderer, who is sitting at the head of this table."
     Brat  Lua and  Lada  rose  to their feet. Nega Luton  played  for time,
pretending that  she had difficulty in rising from the  table, but she stood
up nevertheless. Mrak Luton remained seated, frenziedly rolling his eyes and
fingering the pistol which he was holding in his hand under the table.
     "There is no insubordination here, deep-thinking Mrak Luton," said Brat
Lua in a conciliatory tone of voice. "There is only the grief and despair of
a Faetess, and that cannot but  be respected.  We  all share your grief. Ala
Veg. Engineer Tycho Veg was  a good Faetian and of  his  own accord he would
never have begun sending torpedoes to Station Phobo."
     "What?  Is  this  treachery?  Have you forgotten that all the power  in
space  belongs to me, the heir of  Dictator Yar Jupi? Don't  forget that the
ship  Quest is also subordinate to me. Only  I,  in  the  name  of the Blood
Council, can command it to  return here in order  to deliver us all to Terr,
where we can enjoy a life of ease."
     "You are mistaken, deep-thinking Mrak Luton," objected Brat Lua. "There
isn't enough fuel on board the  ship  to ferry us all to Terr.  There  isn't
enough  on the station either. And there is even less  fuel on Phobo." "What
happened to all the fuel? You and engineer  Tycho Veg were answerable for it
with your lives!"
     "Deep-thinking  Mrak  Luton has  forgotten that on his orders  Engineer
Tycho Veg fuelled the two torpedo-ships sent to Phobo. A similar madness was
also committed on Station Phobo."
     "Madness? Silence! How dare you, as a roundhead, condemn the Dictator's
successor? I, a Supreme  Officer of the Blood Guard, remain so in space! You
are under arrest! I am going to shoot you like a crazed lizard!"
     "Wise  husband, I implore  you,"  intervened  Nega  Luton. "Why  use  a
pistol? After the  death of our beloved engineer, the roundhead  will be the
only  one left on the station who can handle the machinery. It's his duty to
provide us with the facilities."
     "You are right, Nega! Thank the gentle lady, roundhead! You will simply
get away with imprisonment in my office. Quick march!"
     Brat Lua meekly went  ahead of the station chief, who kept prodding him
in the back with his pistol.
     When both  Faetians  had left the common  cabin, Ala Veg  turned to the
remaining Faetesses.
     "Isn't it enough that Faena has perished? Why must its satellite go the
same fatal way? Power, dictatorship, murder?"
     "What  d'you  want,  you  poor wretch? To rise up against  my husband?"
demanded Nega Luton angrily.
     "You  stopped him yourself. If he kills Brat Lua,  then we  won't  have
anyone left who can  understand the station's machinery, and Lada  Lua might
well refuse to feed us. Then  we'll all perish because of that crazy old man
of yours."
     "Aren't you trying to talk me into mutiny?" sneered Nega Luton.
     "Let it be  mutiny, then!" confirmed Ala Veg hysterically.  "If  mutiny
will save us, we'll go that far."
     "How can there be any talk of salvation if there aren't any spare ships
at the stations?" insisted Nega.
     "There's Quest. It could fly here."
     "Why?  To add to  our starving mouths? Or because there happens to be a
certain  young  man among the astronauts who  has  finally taken widow Veg's
fancy?"
     "Shut up, you viper! Get it into your tiny lizard's brain that Brat Lua
planned an underground settlement on the surface of Mar. In such a  shelter,
on Mar, the Faetian survivors could go on living."
     "That's not living, that's vegetating."
     "I've  been  wanting to say for some  time," interposed Lada Lua, "that
there aren't enough fruits in  the greenhouse. But my husband wanted to grow
a great many nutritive greens on the surface  of Mar.  There would be enough
not only for us, but for our children."
     "What children do you mean?" asked Nega Luton, stamping her foot. "Have
you forgotten, you  pug-nosed fattie, about  the  law forbidding you to have
children in space?"
     "My husband said the old laws are invalid  now. We're going  to have  a
child!"
     "Criminals!" hissed Nega Luton. "They want to ruin us! There's food and
oxygen for only six here, and no more!"
     "Tycho Veg is dead," said Ala Veg sadly. "Even if a tiny Lua is born to
follow him, the station will survive. But we have to think about the future.
We shall have to go down onto the surface of Mar."
     "Well, of course, you'll be given a  ship the way a big proprietor gets
a steamcar," jeered Nega Luton.
     "I'll take the responsibility for that," announced Ala Veg.
     "But first we must strip Mrak Luton of his powers."
     "What?" Nega Luton nearly choked with fury.
     "You must understand  yourself, as a one-time lady  of importance, that
you  won't  survive without  the Luas, even if  your husband  starts  firing
poisoned bullets  in all  directions.  The two  of  you  know  nothing about
technology or astronavigation. We Faetesses  are the  ones who  have  got to
decide."
     "Decide what?"
     "Who's going to be in charge of the station."
     "I will not betray my husband."
     "Then you will betray yourself."
     "But he won't give up his power, not for anything. And he's armed."
     "The Faetesses can do anything if they act together."
     "I fully support the gentle Ala Veg," declared Lada.
     "Make  up your mind, Nega  Luton. You  will  be fed and looked after as
before only if you take our side."
     "But I..." Nega Luton was still vacillating, glaring inimically at  the
inflexible Ala Veg.
     The door was flung wide open and Mrak Luton  burst in like a conqueror.
He  pushed  out  his  huge  belly  and puffed  up his cheeks  to  hide their
flabbiness.
     "Mrak Luton!" announced Ala Veg. "You have been removed by us from your
post as chief of the station!"
     Mrak Luton collapsed into an armchair,  his little sunken eyes goggling
at Ala Veg.
     "What did you say, madwoman?"
     "I  am speaking for all  the Faetesses on the  station. You have got to
submit to  us and go into your office until your fate has been decided. Brat
Lua will run  the  station machinery,  since we have to breathe and  use  up
energy. If you kill any of us now, then  you will  thereby  bring about your
own destruction."
     Nega Luton nodded in agreement.
     "What? You too, Nega?" was all that Mrak Luton could manage to say, his
eyes riveted on his hook-nosed wife.
     "Mrak,  I'm  concerned solely  for the two of us. I have obtained their
agreement to  take care of us and  supply us with  everything  necessary. We
shall be in the position of proprietors."
     "I refuse!" roared Mrak Luton, drawing his pistol.
     However, he didn't go so far as to use it.
     Ala Veg and Lada Lua advanced on him, whereas Nega held back.
     Mrak Luton  rose  reluctantly to  his feet and, still  brandishing  his
pistol, began backing away.
     In this manner, they all went out into the corridor.
     Enraged and distraught, Mrak Luton was backing towards his office door,
and the  two Faetesses were crowding him. Nega Luton timidly brought  up the
rear.
     "I'll still  settle the score with  you! I'm  giving way  out of mercy.
I'll release that mangy  roundhead purely so that he can do  the dirty jobs.
But I'm not relinquishing my power! You'll never get me to do that!"
     "We'll  talk to you, Mrak Luton, tomorrow. But today, just think it all
over carefully in your office."
     "But  I didn't  get all  my  dinner.  Let them bring  the other courses
here."
     "We'll postpone your dinner until tomorrow. Thinking works better on an
empty stomach. We may also cut down on the oxygen supply to your office. But
not immediately, because FOR  THE  TIME  BEING  your  brain cells must  work
normally so that you can become reconciled."
     "You're not a Faetess, Ala Veg, you're a monster."
     "My husband, whom you murdered, wouldn't agree with you, Mrak Luton."
     "I have never committed  murder.  I served  the Dictator faithfully and
honestly, and I carried out his instructions. I had a secret order from  him
in the event of a  disintegration war. I am  in no way to  blame. I can show
you the inscribed tablet."
     "You can do  that when we  put  you on trial. Meanwhile, you are simply
relieved of your post."
     Ala Veg opened the chief's office and let out the  bewildered Brat Lua.
With a businesslike air,  as if nothing had happened, Mrak Luton went inside
and sat down at his desk with dignity, pretending that he had urgent matters
to deal with.
     Ala Veg locked  the door from  outside  and invited Brat  Lua  into the
common cabin.
     "We have to elect a new station chief," she announced.
     "Why?"  protested  Nega Luton. "I've helped you to release Brat Lua.  I
hope  he will  support me. I  have risked losing  my family  happiness.  You
Faetesses ought to appreciate this."
     "Your husband  is the criminal  who murdered  my husband to violate the
Agreement on Peace in Outer Space and  unleash  a disintegration war between
the space stations of Mar."
     "They sent  torpedoes against us  from Phobo  too,"  said  Mrak Luton's
wife, in self-justification on her husband's behalf.
     "We could have defended ourselves without attacking. And then Tycho Veg
would still have been alive."
     "You have been blinded  by your grief.  Ala Veg.  I understand you with
the heart of a Faetess. But can  we talk about one death, when  thousands of
millions of Faetians have perished? Remember, we need Mrak Luton as chief of
the station. We've got to survive. Smel Ven, as commander of  the ship, will
obey only his orders to fly to us."
     "Have you forgotten Ton!  Fae's message  that Smel Ven had been killed?
Besides, Um Sat was in charge of the expedition, not Smel Ven."
     "The destruction of  Faena has  deprived me of memory and reason.  What
are you counting on, Ala Veg?"
     "On Terr's Faetians. They won't abandon us. But first, Mrak  Luton must
be removed."
     Brat Lua was listening to the women in dismay.
     "Then  let the gentle Ala Veg be chief  of the station,"  proposed Lada
Lua.
     "On no account!" screamed Nega Luton.
     "Calm  yourself,  once distinguished  lady.  I am not  making  any such
claim.  The chief of the station must be the  one who shows the Faetians the
way to a future existence."
     "Who can do that except my husband?"
     "The insignificant Mrak Luton is only capable of threats. He can't even
bring  himself to shoot anyone now because  he's  afraid for  his fat belly.
He's just a stinker, and certainly not the leader of the future Marians."
     "Marians?"
     "Yes,  Marians, that  is,  the  Faetians  who will live  on Mar in  the
underground cities planned by Brat Lua."
     "Aren't  you  trying  to  say  that  the  station  chief  should  be  a
roundhead?" said Nega Luton, outraged.
     "What good fortune that the Lutons can't leave any descendants on Mar,"
said Ala Veg with unconcealed contempt.
     "You aren't thinking of leaving any descendants, are you, Ala  Veg? And
with whose help?"
     "Shut up, you viper! I've lost three children and a husband; all you've
lost is your conscience."
     "I refuse to  agree that Mrak  Luton should have his post taken over by
someone else."
     "Then off you  go, join  your husband  and think the matter  over  with
him."
     "I haven't finished my dinner."
     "You can finish dining at table with him ... tomorrow. If you have both
changed your minds."
     "That is force!.."
     "Brat  Lua,"  said Ala Veg,  turning to the released Faetian. "We elect
you chief of the station.  We will now get in touch with the people on Phobo
and find out how they have been faring.  We  shall all beseech Quest to come
and fetch us."
     "Quest  can only set us down on the surface of Mar," said Brat Lua.  "I
will  shoulder all  the worry  and responsibility. The  Faetian race and its
civilisation  must be preserved.  I've  long had projects  for installations
that,  given  the  efforts of  all  surviving  Faetians,  can be  brought to
fulfilment."
     The little Faetian stood solemnly before the Faetesses as he  undertook
this new mission.
     After a moment's thought, he added:
     "However, everything will depend on whether the Faetians of Quest agree
to abandon  the bountiful and flourishing Terr and undergo  fresh  hardships
and perils to rescue us."
     "I shall implore them!" cried Ala Veg.
     "No one will risk losing happiness," said Nega Luton. "There's no sense
in Brat Lua being chief. No  one will fly to the station, no one will  ferry
us to the surface of Mar."
     "Not  everybody  there  is as  soft-hearted as  the  gentle  Sister  of
Health," said Lada Lua.
     Nega  Luton  bristled  with indignation.  How  dare this  insignificant
roundhead talk about  her like that? But she pulled herself up at once. Lada
was now the wife of the new station chief, so Nega Luton controlled herself.
     "It's just that I'm  worried  about us  all," she muttered  through her
teeth in self-justification.
     "It's  nearly  time  for  the  electromagnetic communications session,"
announced Ala Veg.
     She left the common cabin and made for the observatory.
     When she  sat down at  the  control panel, she  saw in front of her the
silvery bullet with the sharp brown prickles.  She picked  it up gingerly by
the blunt end and threw it into the rubbish chute through which it would end
up in space.
     The signal lamp lit up, indicating a call.
     "Poor Toni Fae!  He thinks  he's called  Deimo for the last time," said
Ala Veg aloud, although there was no one near her.
     Brat Lua walked into the observatory and announced:
     "Mrak Luton  has just informed us  over the intercom that he has agreed
to  relinquish  his post as station chief in return for the dinner he didn't
have time to finish."
     "Even his own greedy stomach's against him," replied Ala Veg.
     "As the new chief, I  shall have to take part in the  session with  the
Faetians of Quest on Terr."
     "Allow  me  to open  the  session,  Brat  Lua.  I'll try to put  it  as
convincingly as possible."
     "The first word is yours," agreed the new chief.
     The signal lamp began winking on the control panel.
     Ala Veg switched the apparatus on.

     Chapter Three



     Stooping  and breathing  heavily.  Dm  Sat  lowered  himself  into  the
armchair before the control  panel. His  wrinkled face  with its bushy white
beard had  sagged noticeably, his eyes were deeply sunken, but  watched with
their  former close and sad attention. He asked Toni Fae, for the benefit of
those who had come back from the forest, to re-run the recording of the last
communications  session. Ala Veg's chesty voice was heard in  the cabin once
again.
     "Quest!  Quest!  Quest! Faetians of Terr!  Your brothers  and  sisters,
abandoned on an  artificial speck of dust  amid the stars, are crying out to
you for help. Around us is the cold and infinite emptiness of space. We have
no solid  ground  under  our  feet, we  are feeding  on  the  produce of the
greenhouse,  which  is  being destroyed  by  endless  showers  of  particles
discharged  by the explosion of Faena.  We shall not survive here unless you
come to our  rescue. Quest! Quest!  Quest! Faetians  of Quest! Remember that
you are of the same flesh and blood as those who gave life to you and to us!
Fly to us in your ship, which  we consider ours also. Fly to us  in the name
of  the love  which shall  forever  be  the  beginning  of  the  future  and
everlasting  life. The Faetians  must  not perish!  Help us in  the  name of
Reason, whose heritage we must preserve. Quest! Quest! Quest!"
     Ala Veg's voice fell silent.
     The Faetians exchanged glances. Um  Sat glanced  inquiringly at Ave Mar
and Gor Terr.
     Gor Terr went up to Toni Fae and  rested his enormous hand on the other
man's shoulder.
     "My friend Toni Fae," he said, as if his decision was the only one that
mattered.  "The appeal  by our brothers and sisters from Deimo will r-remain
bitter and unanswered, and it will break our hearts. I think we ought not to
maintain electromagnetic communications with space any more."
     "What?" cried Mada, outraged.  "Turn  our backs  on our own people when
they're in trouble?"
     "We can't help them,"  Gor Terr tried to say as gently as possible. "If
we  flew to the station, we would just be parasites, using up all their food
and oxygen."
     "But  they're hoping Quest will put them down  on the surface  of Mar,"
protested Toni Fae.
     "Alas!" continued Gor  Terr  gloomily.  "That's  as  impossible as  our
r-resettlement on Deimo.  We could fly  as far as the space station, but the
ship hasn't got enough fuel for a braked landing on Mar."
     With  a  column  of  figures written  on  a plastic  tablet,  Gor  Terr
convincingly demonstrated the  impossibility  of  flying to the Faetians  on
Station Dei mo.
     Ave Mar, Toni  Fae  and Mada understood everything  perfectly. Only  Um
Sat,  apparently,  could not wait until the engineer had finished. He took a
turn  for the worse and had to be put to bed in the control cabin this time.
Mada fussed about him, trying to bring him round.
     Water was needed. There wasn't any,  since the reserve supply  had been
used up. More would have to be fetched up from below.
     When  he had brought some  water, Gor Terr  began  insisting that  they
should all move into the house, which was now ready.
     "The forest air is more likely to cure the Elder," he affirmed.
     It was  decided  that  Toni should  stay behind  at the  communications
apparatus. At the next session, he could inform the Faetians  on Deimo  that
they could not possibly be reached on Quest.
     Toni  Fae  was brooding silently.  Mada feared  for him. She  carefully
locked up the dispensary so that he wouldn't be able  to get his hands on an
ampoule of stupefying  gas and she made Ave Mar collect  up all the poisoned
bullets.
     Sadly,  as if saying goodbye  to their  ship  forever,  the  astronauts
climbed down the vertical ladder leading out of the lower airlock.
     Um Sat,  whom they wanted  to carry refused to be  helped  and actually
went down the ladder himself with Mada supporting him.
     The path that  the Faetians took as they carried the  various gear from
the ship turned slippery. Gor Terr nearly fell down.
     "Don't stray off the tr-rack," he warned anxiously.
     The building with its sloping roof appeared among the trees.
     In  his  time, Ave  Mar, accustomed to the round  buildings of  Danjab,
would have thought  the house ugly, but the change from a round rocket to  a
rectangular structure now seemed right. He even sighed with relief; they had
a refuge for long cycles of their forthcoming life.
     Suddenly, a tawny shadow darted across the window.
     Ave Mar  gripped  Gor  Terr by  the arm.  He too had  noticed something
suspicious and he  headed determinedly for  the house. The door  had not yet
been made.
     On the threshold, Gor Terr collided with an enormous Faetoid with bared
fangs. He charged at it, unaware that this was Dzin showing her teeth in the
semblance of a smile. He  grabbed the uninvited guest by the paw and  nimbly
threw  her over his  shoulder so that she landed on some tree-stumps nearby.
She jumped up and fled howling into the forest.
     In this way, an "attack" by Faetoids on the house was beaten off.
     The Faetians went through the doorway.
     Gor Terr  screwed up his  nose in distaste. There  was an animal stench
inside.
     Mada opened the windows to air the place.
     "Home at last," she said with relief.
     'Tarn afraid,"  said  Um Sat,  "that for a long  time the Faetians will
have to prove that this is their home."
     "Just let those filthy beasts try to barge in again!" roared Gor Terr.
     "I was afraid you  were  going to kill our uninvited  guest," confessed
Ave Mar.
     "I would  have done so, if I hadn't thought it was Dzin. We  owe her so
much."
     "Dzin?" asked Mada, on the alert "Really?"
     "Settle yourselves in," suggested Gor Terr. "I'll go to meet  Ton! Fae,
otherwise he might be met by someone else."
     Mada  smiled as he  left. Such friendship between Faetians was a joy to
her.
     Ave began fashioning a  door,  skilfully  wielding a home-made axe. The
Faetoids  might attack  the sleeping Faetians in the night As he  barred the
windows and the door, he wondered  what the future held  in  store for  them
all:  it would be bleak enough  if they had to  live in a permanent state of
siege.
     When  the  windows had been barred with  stakes, the atmosphere  in the
house had a depressing effect on Mada. As she watched the imperturbable Ave,
however, she too was filled with confidence.
     Twilight was deepening. Mada felt uneasy as she  thought about Toni Fae
and  Gor  Terr. The  fate of the faraway Faetians on Deimo also gave  her no
peace of mind. How she wished that all the survivors could be together!
     Mada peered out  of the window  through the stakes. It was totally dark
in the forest. Tired after his walk, Um Sat was sound asleep. Mada had given
him a whiff of stupefying gas from an ampoule.
     Ave was admiring his newly-made door, rough-hewn,  but solid. He locked
it for the first time.
     Mada looked at it regretfully.
     "Ave, wasn't  it  you  who  said  that the Faetians  must  preserve the
civilisation of their ancestors?"
     "Of course, and I shall go on saying it."
     "Then how is it that we,  as carriers of civilisation, could abandon in
space the Faetians who are so  close to us? Is there no way of bringing them
to join us? If we could only find fuel here!.."
     Ave Mar heaved a sad sigh.
     "Even  the fuel we  found  here wouldn't help. We  wouldn't  be able to
process it the  way they used to in Faena's fuel workshops. Where are we  to
get all the pipes and distil ling spheres?"
     "Surely Engineer Gor Terr will think of something?"
     "Hardly..."
     "Couldn't  we  fly  to  Deimo  and  all  work  together  to  extend the
greenhouse, improve  the machinery and still  live together?  I'm afraid  of
staying here  on a  hostile planet. It's not at  all what  it seemed on that
first day. D'you remember the watering place, with the baby reindeer and the
beast of prey drinking together in peace? But now?"
     The door opened with a creak. Mada jumped up and seized Ave by the arm.
Gor Terr was standing in the doorway. He moved aside  to  admit a distraught
and dejected Toni Fae.
     Mada rushed over to him, clasped him to her breast and began sobbing.
     "Was there a session?" asked Ave Mar.
     Trying to control himself, Toni Fae replied:
     "It would  have been better to die than  hear  the answer that  Ala Veg
came out with when she heard our refusal."
     "R-refusal? It's an impossibility!" interrupted Gor Terr.
     "She was sobbing.  Sobs have never been broadcast over the air  before.
It was too much. Only why did Mada take the yellow ampoule from me?.."
     "Calm  yourself,  my  dear Toni Fae. I'll give  you a  whiff from  that
ampoule in a moment. Look how well Dm Sat is sleeping."
     "But how can I sleep in peace if out there, on Deimo, Ala Veg has given
up all hope and has lost faith in  the power  of love? I  would fly  to  her
without a second thought."
     Ave and Mada exchanged glances.
     Mada  gently calmed Toni Fae  down. Sitting  by the window  stakes, Gor
Terr was plunged in gloom. The damp came wafting in from  the forest. It had
started raining again. The Faetians couldn't  possibly have imagined so much
water coming  down from the sky.  There had never been anything  like it  on
Faena.
     Toni dozed off, but tossed and turned, moaning in his sleep.
     Ave Mar squatted down  at the rough-hewn table, took a split branch and
began making marks on it.
     Gor Terr,  his  shoulders hunched, was still sitting by the window.  He
looked like a huge boulder. He was asleep.
     Exhausted by all she' had  been  through during the  day, Mada  settled
down on some bedding  not  far from Dm  Sat and Toni  Fae, who were sleeping
side by side.
     Ave Mar was doing his best to save the batteries for the portable lamp.
He switched it off and lit a taper which he had improvised out of a resinous
splinter similar to the one he had split to make a tablet.
     The rain finally stopped in the morning, the wind dispersed the  clouds
and Sol peeped into the  Faetians'  new  house. A  mother-of-pearl  footpath
showed through the trees, the water on it shimmering.
     Mada,  barely  awake  and  already  busy  with  the  household  chores,
instantly noticed a change in Ave.
     Gor Terr was in a bad mood.
     Mada  offered  everyone  some  plain food,  economising  in  the stores
brought from the ship.
     "If only you'd heard her voice," said Toni Fae to no one in particular.
     Gor Terr exploded.
     "They're selfish! All they think about is themselves. Who gave them the
r-right to  demand such a sacrifice of  us  as the r-re-fusal to live  on  a
bountiful planet? And they're the ones who tried to blow up a space  station
like their own! If I was  deciding whether  we should fly to them or  not, I
wouldn't allow it!"
     Mada  was  frightened  to  detect a familiar  ring in his booming  bass
voice.
     Toni Fae looked dismally at his friend.
     'They're  not all  in the wrong.  We've  got to distinguish between the
station chief, the  Supreme Officer of the Blood Guard, and  Ala Veg and the
roundhead Luas, neither of whom is in the least to blame."
     "And  there are some Faetians on Phobo who aren't in the least to blame
either," interposed Mada.
     "No matter how many  of  them  there may be,  how  can we possibly help
them?" snapped Gor Terr.
     "It's not quite like that," intervened Ave suddenly.
     All turned to  look at  him.  Even Dm  Sat,  lying on a  bench near the
table, tried to raise himself on one elbow.
     "I did  some calculations during the night Gor  Terr,  as  an engineer,
could verify them."
     "A specialist on  elementary particles has been checking  the  engineer
who designed the spaceship Quest?" inquired Gor Terr darkly.
     "Excuse me, Gor Terr, but I've been going through your calculations and
I found them correct"
     "Well, well!.. I'm so glad," said Gor Terr, heaving a sigh of relief.
     "What a pity!" responded Toni Fae.
     "Even so, Gor Terr's calculations can be taken further."
     "R-really?" Gor Terr looked sharply round at Ave Mar.
     "His calculations were based on the assumption that all the Faetians of
Quest must fly to Deimo."
     "But of course! How can we possibly split up?" exclaimed Mada.
     "Only by doing that could we save the civilisation of Faena."
     "Let Ave clarify his idea," requested Dm Sat.
     "To  economise in fuel for Quest, only two of us must go up in her, not
five. Then the remainder of the fuel  plus the reserves of fuel on Deimo and
Phobo will enable us to deliver the Faetians on the  space stations  to Mar.
Quest, of course, will not be able to return to Terr."
     "Which means," shouted Toni Fae, "that only one Faetian can go with the
pilot Gor Terr!"
     "Ave Mar can also fly the ship,"  commented  Gor Terr. "After all, he's
been fighting so hard for the preservation of Faena's culture."
     Mada looked at her husband in alarm.
     "I haven't  had the time to discuss  it with Mada, but she can  express
her opinion now.
     In the name of Reason, I am prepared to stay on Terr if Mada stays with
me. True, after Quest has gone, we'll be living like savages who  will  from
then on have to make axes and arrowheads out of stone."
     "I am prepared to stay with my Ave," said Mada, "as I would be prepared
to fly with him to Deimo."
     "Then  I  can  fly with Gor Terr!"  whispered Toni Fae with unconcealed
joy.
     "No,"  objected Ave firmly. "If a great sacrifice has to be made in the
name of Reason, then the continued  Faetian  civilisation on Mar can only be
headed by Faena's Great Elder, Urn Sat, its first man of learning."
     Toni Fae buried his head in his hands.
     Dm Sat looked at him with compassion and said:
     "I am old and ill.  Is it worth counting on  me when you speak of a new
civilisation on Mar?"
     "Surely it  is not for  a Great  Elder  to live like a  savage  in  the
primeval forest?" objected Ave. "That is the lot of the younger ones."
     "I agree to anything," said Toni Fae in a dead voice.
     "I swear it's not going to be like that!" Gor Terr  suddenly banged his
fist on the  table.  "Urn  Sat  will, of  course, fly  on Quest to head  the
civilisation of the Marians.  They'll have  to apply  the  technology of the
space stations. Without technology, the  Marians won't survive. However,  it
is not Engineer Gor Terr  who will fly to Mar  with the great scientist, but
his fr-riend Toni Fae."
     "But I can't fly spaceships!" exclaimed the agitated Toni Fae.
     Mada looked admiringly at Gor Terr.
     "I'm  r-right, am I not?" continued Gor Terr. "Those who stay behind on
Terr won't have it any easier than the ones flying  to Mar. They'll have  to
fight for  every step they take  in  this confounded  forest. Toni Fae would
find it hard protecting the family of Ave and Mada here."
     "But I can't fly spaceships," repeated Toni Fae sadly.
     "You'll learn. Let the  first university also start  work in this first
house, knocked  together on Terr. It will have only one student,  but  three
professors: the gr-reat  scientist Um  Sat, his celebrated pupil Ave Mar and
the modest engineer, Gor Terr."
     "Two  professors will eventually become savages," said  Ave Mar with  a
smile. "Gor Terr has just shown us what true friendship is. I will undertake
to help Toni Fae in every way so that he can fly to Deimo with Um Sat"
     The Elder rose from his bench.
     "However hard the history of future generations of  Terrans and Marians
may be, it is a good thing that it begins with such noble sentiments!"
     Tears were trickling down the old man's wrinkled face.
     There was never a more terrible day than the one when Quest had to lift
off from Terr for space.
     Left behind on Terr, Ave Mar, Mada and Gor Terr tried not to  show what
it cost them to see the others off.
     The giant rocket loomed above the forest like a pointed tower. The last
farewells were imminent.
     The  Elder embraced in turn each of the two sturdy, strong Faetians who
were staying behind on the alien planet. Would they be able to survive?
     Then  Mada came up to him.  Resting  her  head on his white  beard, she
raised her  head and said something.  The Elder drew  her close to  him  and
kissed her hair.
     "Does Ave Mar know about it yet?"
     "No, not yet," replied Mada.
     "May Reason remain to live on in your descendants!"
     Ave Mar, who had just come up, understood everything without having  to
be told. He hugged his wife in gratitude.
     When Um  Sat followed  by  Toni  Fae, climbed with  difficulty  up  the
vertical ladder, he looked round and called:
     "At least teach them how to write!"
     Gor Terr understood and smiled bitterly.
     "They'll have to learn  hunting,  not writing.  And  how  to make stone
axes!"
     The Elder disappeared through the hatch.
     As the engines fired, the three Faetians moved away from the rocket and
raised their  hands in a last  farewell.  They were seeing off forever those
who, in  the  name of Reason, were taking  away  with  them the  heritage of
Faetian civilisation.
     Clouds of black smoke burst out from under the rocket.
     In the dense  forest,  the trees were dotted with shaggy Faetoids. With
malignant curiosity, they  watched their two-legged  victims, who were to be
eaten in the gully.
     The strongest of the Faetoids would seize the hairless ones and not let
them return to their "cave without rocks".
     Suddenly, under  the smooth stone  tree into which two of  the hairless
ones had disappeared, such  a terrible thunder roared that even the fiercest
of the Faetoids fell from their branches. Then,  from under the smooth stone
tree, black  clouds billowed  forth, as before the water falling from above,
and flames gushed forth.
     The beasts fled helter-skelter in all directions.
     The  path  to  the house of  the  depleted  Faetians  on  Terr had been
cleared.
     This  time  they  were able  to return to  their refuge, not suspecting
that, in  dispersing their enemies, their departed friends had rendered them
their last service.


     Chapter Four



     After  picking  up  all  the  Faetians  from  Station Deimo, Quest  was
approaching Phobo. An increasingly brilliant star was already conspicuous in
the porthole.
     Vydum Polar, Phobo's engineer, had become the new station chief.
     When  the disintegration  war began on  Faena and when Phobo  and Deimo
each sent out two  torpedoes, the young Faetians  on Phobo, insisting  on  a
peaceful  visit by spaceship  to Deimo and outraged by  the station  chief's
conduct, had replaced Dovol Sirus even before the  destruction  of Faena and
before communicating with Deimo about the changes on Phobo.
     Dovol Sirus had  not resisted.  He  had  even willingly surrendered his
powers to Vydum Polar, believing that at last he was going to get some peace
of mind and all his worries  would be shouldered  by  the inventor. He  was,
however, cruelly mistaken.
     Quest flew to Phobo with all  Deimo's Faetians and with Dm Sat and Toni
Fae from Terr.
     Vydum  Polar  and  Ala  Veg had to  sit with  Dm Sat in  order to  pass
judgement on the war  criminals. Um Sat named  them as  the Lutons and Dovol
Sirus.
     The concave  cabin  walls  were hung with landscapes of  Faena-forests,
meadows, rivers, towns and seas that did not exist any more.
     Terrified and outraged, totally unprepared for such a state of affairs,
the accused  sat before the judges on a black bench and  behind, against the
silvery walls, stood all the Faetians left in space.
     The space station always turned on its axis. The gigantic sphere of Mar
kept appearing in  the  portholes and floating away  again  with  inexorable
regularity.  The baleful,  reddish-brown  colours  of  the planet during the
strange,  swift-passing night alternated in the cabin  with the daytime glow
of Sol.
     Um  Sat  proved  to  be a  Faetian  with a will  of iron. He  had  been
seriously ill on Terr  and  had only fully recovered  on the  journey.  Now,
enormously  tall,  white-haired  and white-bearded, he had  vigorously taken
charge of the Faetian colony. The first thing he had done was to put the war
criminals  of space  on trial. He  now sat calmly at the table, rhythmically
tapping it with his finger.
     The  interrogation began. Vlasta  Sirus,  smirking nastily,  put  up an
evasive and spirited resistance.
     "The self-appointed court has no right to try us. There are no  laws in
space and you cannot pass sentence."
     "The law is the will of the Faetians here,"  replied Um Sat firmly. His
knitted brows boded ill for  the accused.  He  glanced significantly  at the
landscapes in their frames, which were now black in token of mourning.
     The  old scientist inspired Vydum Polar with great  respect. He did not
look like the other men of learning who had refused to recognise him. On the
contrary,  Um  Sat  was  interested in  Vydum's inventions  and  immediately
invited him to implement Brat Lua's project.
     In spite  of  her assumed arrogance, Vlasta  Sirus had the shivers. She
looked pathetic, although her tone of voice was defiant.
     "Then look for  war criminals among  the chiefs of the  space stations,
not among the serving girls."
     These words aroused  general laughter among the Faetians,  who knew the
real part played by Phobo's greenhouse nursery-woman.
     General Dovol Sirus, gasping at the  insult to his wife,  was forced to
confirm that the decision to  send torpedoes  to Deimo had been suggested by
Vlasta.  When he was being questioned, he  would hastily  jump to  his feet,
though with  an effort. He was  now  very annoyed, emphasising this in every
possible way.
     "I can only be condemned for weakness  of  character  in my family life
and  not  for my military  actions. I  am  only  a Faetian  businessman.  My
general's rank  was  conferred  on me for the  trade-mark  of the  munitions
workshops. As a Faetian businessman, I was intending to acquire territory on
Mar so as to sell plots of land at a profit to the Faetian settlers." And he
smiled trustingly.
     "Whom did  you force to  prime the disintegration torpedoes?" asked Ala
Veg bluntly.
     "I primed them myself."
     "Was it safe?" asked Ala Veg, pursuing her inquiry further.
     "Absolutely. The warheads were well screened to prevent radiation."
     "So at no risk to yourself,  you took measures to  destroy Deimo?"  Ala
Veg was remorselessly driving the accused into a corner.
     "I had to come to terms with fear. I mean above all my fear of my wife,
Vlasta Sirus," replied Dovol Sirus, wiping the  perspiration  from his  bald
patch.
     "I was right  not to  trust the  Faetians on  Deimo," interposed Vlasta
Sirus. "They were the first to try and destroy our Phobo."
     "But wasn't Vlasta Sirus plotting  the same move against  Deimo?" asked
Vydum Polar, coming forward.
     Vlasta Sirus  glared from under close-knit black eyebrows with contempt
at her failure of a son-in-law who had dared to condemn her.
     "War isn't a picnic," she said defiantly.
     "Did the accused  really  not know of the Agreement on  Peace in  Outer
Space?" Um Sat reminded her, calmly pouring himself some water and motioning
to Dovol Sirus that he could sit down.
     "How could that  be known  to a  simple nurserywoman who was serving in
space for the benefit of the Faetians?" said Vlasta, lowering her eyes.
     At this point, even her meek spouse jumped up again and shouted:
     "All of us here knew about it!"
     "Then why did  you lay in torpedoes  for the station?" inquired Ala Veg
nastily, looking the former chief of Phobo straight in the eye.
     "The  Faetians on Deimo  couldn't be trusted." And  Dovol Sirus  smiled
disarmingly at her again.
     "And what has the former chief of  Deimo, Supreme Officer of  the Blood
Guard Mrak Luton, to say about his misbehaviour?" asked Um Sat.
     Mrak Luton rose heavily to his feet.
     "I, at least, don't vegetate  under someone's  heel.  I am a soldier. I
was carrying out the orders given  to me. Here is an order from Dictator Yar
Jupi.  I  was  under  obligation  to  carry  it  out  in  the  event   of  a
disintegration war. I cannot be condemned for my integrity as a soldier. The
one to blame  is certainly not me, his  officer, but  Yar Jupi  himself, who
violated an order  he had signed  in person." Mrak  Luton laid  the  written
tablets down on the table.
     "Mrak Luton, did you know that the warhead was not screened and that it
was  lethally  dangerous to  be anywhere near  it;  yet  you still drove  my
husband Tycho Veg to certain death?"
     Mrak Luton grinned and shrugged his fat shoulders.
     "An officer sent his soldier ahead in battle. There was a war on."
     "The  reference to war is  irrelevant," observed Um Sat.  "It shouldn't
happen on a planet, much less in space, for war is an unjustifiable crime."
     "Even if it is defensive?" asked Mrak Luton challengingly.
     "A  disintegration  weapon  is  an  attack  weapon.  It  can  never  be
defensive."
     "The inventor  of the  disintegration weapon,  of course, has a clearer
idea of what to call  it," commented Vlasta Sirus  maliciously.  "Perhaps it
would  be  more correct to  condemn the one who created this weapon, not the
ones who were forced to use it! But he is passing judgement!" And she sighed
heavily with affected bitterness.
     "Very well, then!  Condemn me, Um  Sat, scientist  of matter, because I
made my  discovery public on two continents  simultaneously, hoping that the
fear  of exterminating all living things would prevent the insanity of wars;
condemn me because I did not ban dangerous knowledge  as I would do now. But
those who, after surviving in space, used that knowledge to harm others-they
should answer for their crimes."
     The Elder  had remained  true to himself. As  before,  he had not  been
learned in the profundities of the soul; he still thought that it was enough
to punish the guilty and ban dangerous  knowledge for all time so that  evil
would be averted. But he was the oldest of the survivors, no one could doubt
his  integrity,  and  so  he  was  putting   on  trial  those  guilty  of  a
disintegration war in  space. An unfamiliar harshness rang in his voice  and
his eyes burned darkly.
     Vlasta Sirus cringed at his words as if she were being whipped.
     It was hard to tell from  the faces of the judges what was in store for
the accused.
     Unlike Vlasta  Sirus, Nega Luton was completely crushed at being judged
by Ala Veg, of all people!..
     Lada Lua came up to the judges'  table. She was embarrassed  and didn't
know what to do with her red hands.
     "The  gentle lady Nega Luton is in no way  to blame.  When the  station
chief had to be removed, she sided with us Faetesses on Deimo."
     "Will Ala Veg confirm that?" asked Vydum Polar.
     "I confirm it," said Ala  Veg to her rival's  great astonishment. "Mrak
Luton went mad with fury when  his  wife refused to obey him. She is only to
blame for wanting to become first lady of the station."
     Nega  Luton flushed.  Better she had been condemned  than  made to hear
such words. She could have incinerated her judges with a single glance.
     Ala Veg sat  with  lowered eyes, and Ton! Fae,  standing behind all the
Faetians,  watched   her  admiringly.  How   beautiful  she  was,   and  how
fair-minded!


     The great Elder read out the court's sentence.
     Dovol  Sirus,  Vlasta Sirus  and  Mrak Luton were  guilty of  launching
disintegration torpedoes with the intention of destroying space stations and
were sentenced to imprisonment on Station Phobo. They would not  be taken to
Mar. They would provide their own services for the rest of their days:  they
would be left the necessary machinery and the greenhouse.
     Nega Luton was acquitted and would be taken to Mar.
     Mrak Luton stamped his foot when he heard the sentence.
     "This is violence! This  is lawlessness! This  is  a  crime!"  He began
foaming at the mouth. He clutched at his heart and collapsed into his chair.
     Dovol Sirus  watched him in  fright. "I implore you," he whined, "don't
leave a maniac with us. Send him back to Deimo... He is a Supreme Officer of
the Blood Guard, after all. His hands are steeped in blood."
     "Certain Faetians  claim to be fair-minded, but they want to destroy us
without  mercy!"  shrieked  Vlasta  Sirus.  "So let  them  fly  away!  We're
banishing them from our  station! We're sending  them into exile  on  barren
deserts! Exile! Exile! Exile!"
     The Faetians gradually dispersed, trying not to look at the condemned.
     Nega Luton went up to the judges.
     "Thank you for acquitting me. But please leave me with the condemned."
     Vydum  Polar  eyed  Nega  Luton closely  and with distaste.  He  didn't
believe that she wanted to  stay behind with that flabby,  corpulent Faetian
who  was  choking with rage.  This  was  more  likely a matter of calculated
self-interest:  there  would  be  less  work  to  do on the station  than on
inhospitable Mar, where they would be compelled to build underground refuges
for the Faetians and their descendants.
     Vydum Polar  was right, but he still hadn't reckoned  with Nega Luton's
obsessive hatred for Ala Veg at the time.
     It took a considerable time to complete Brat Lua's project,  augmented,
as it was, with many of Vydum Polar's own technical ideas.
     It was possible to  build an underground  settlement with an artificial
atmosphere, constantly purified and enriched with oxygen.
     Quest was preparing for its last trip.
     Station Phobo  would forever be  an artificial  satellite of the planet
Mar.
     Since  only  nine  instead of  thirteen  Faetians were landing  on  the
planet,  this meant that they could take with them considerably  more cargo,
technical appliances, instruments and inscribed  tablets for study by future
Marians.
     Vydum Polar envisaged an acute shortage of the metal necessary to build
underground shelters with  an artificial  air supply, and  so  he  suggested
dropping part  of Station Phobo onto the planet's surface. This would entail
dismantling  a third of the station's  structure and fitting  it with one of
the remaining defence rockets.
     Station Phobo  was much bigger than Station Deimo.  A reduction  in its
accommodation space would not affect the future life of the condemned.
     Needless  to say, they themselves refused  point-blank to  take part in
this operation, leaving it to the future Marians.
     Some of the  metal pipes used as  corridors and  the  premises  of  the
disused laboratories were detached from the station. Braked  by the reactive
force of the  defence rocket, they were  to leave the station's  orbit  and,
reducing speed relative to the Marian  orbital velocity, were to begin their
descent onto  the  planet. Because of its thinness and  low oxygen  content,
Mar's  atmosphere  should add  to the braking  effect on the  falling  metal
without causing re-entry burn-up.
     The  whole of Vydum Polar's operation took a considerable  time, during
which all the  Faetians lived together. The  condemned, however,  kept apart
from the rest and their attitude to them was hostile.
     The leave-taking of the Marians and the  condemned was consequently not
a particularly sad occasion. On the contrary, both  sides  had a  feeling of
relief.
     Dm Sat and Toni Fae were the first to  cross over into Quest. Both were
thinking  about Ave,  Mada and Gor Terr who had self-sacrificingly  given up
their places on the ship to  the Faetians from the  space stations. How were
the other three finding  it on Terr?  Would they hold out in the battle with
the Faetoids?
     Then all the other Faetians who were leaving went into the ship through
the airlock of the station's central section.
     Ala Veg went up to Toni Fae.
     "We're going to a new world  together,"  she said, putting her hand  on
his shoulder.
     The  young Faetian  nearly choked  with  emotion. Incredible trials and
tribulations lay ahead of them, but he was happy.
     Toni Fae had to determine the exact landing place for the reserve metal
to be used by future generations of Marians.
     Um Sat ordered that Quest  should land as near as possible to the metal
dropped onto Mar. Initially, they would  have to  dig the first deep shelter
themselves.  Afterwards,  perhaps, they would be  able to find natural caves
into which future generations would move.
     Remembering the lessons taught to him by  his friends on Terr, Toni Fae
began the gradual undocking of the  ship from the central section of Station
Phobo.
     "Will some other  spaceship  ever  come  close  to  this  station?"  he
wondered. "And when will it be?"
     None of those remaining behind was in the central section.
     Nega Luton and Vlasta Sirus locked themselves in their cabins.
     Mrak Luton, his arms thrust behind his back, was pacing up and down the
ring corridor onto  which the lifts opened. He was considering  how to seize
power  on Station  Phobo.  It was Vlasta Sirus whom he  regarded as his main
opponent, not the bloated Dovol Sirus.
     He mentally  assigned them all to the various sections leaving the sole
leadership to himself. They had many, many cycles to live yet!


     The Faetians may not have known about the behaviour of spiders in a jar
and how  they devour  one another.  Consequently, the  court  in space, when
leaving  the  condemned  on  Phobo,  was  not  influenced  by  this example.
However...
     Dovol Sirus  became the chronicler on  Phobo. He solemnly wrote memoirs
which, in his view,  would tell the truth about the tragedy of Faena and its
space colonies.
     A  long, long time afterwards,  they  did indeed,  in certain respects,
help to establish the fate of the condemned.

     Chapter Five



     When the wail of a newborn child was heard in the Faetians' house, Dzin
was  in the  forest nearby. She crept up to  the window, squatted  down and,
gripping  her heels with her  forepaws, began listening.  Sensing  that  the
hunters were  returning, she leapt for  cover into the  undergrowth and from
there she looked round at the stake-barred window.
     The first native Terran had appeared in  the Faetians' house. He had to
be called by his father's abbreviated surname-Av, or simply Avik.
     Mada  doted  upon  her  first  baby.  Often,  with his  arm  round  her
shoulders, Ave would look for a long time at the tiny, helpless creature.
     "The first boy on Terr!"  boomed  Gor Terr happily. "It's  a good thing
that a boy was born first. Let him grow up fast so that I can teach him many
tricks of the trade that a r-real Faetian ought to know."
     Gor  Terr was a wonderful  comrade. Modest, tactful, quiet in spite  of
his  reverberating bass  voice,  he looked after Ave  and Mada  in  the most
touching way.
     "The future of civilisation is in you," he would say.
     After Quest's thunderous  lift-off, the  Faetoids were evidently afraid
of the Faetians for some time and did not come near them. But they gradually
forgot their fear.  The  beasts  became  bolder; Ave and  Gor  noticed  them
several times  while  hunting in  the forest.  They even stole  the trophies
occasionally.
     As a  precaution,  the Faetians decided to  keep together wherever they
went.
     The Faetoids took advantage of this.
     Once, at  dusk,  when Mada, left on  her own in  the house, went to the
lake for water, three or four shaggy beasts rushed up to the  barred windows
and began smashing the stakes.
     On hearing  the baby cry out, Mada  took alarm  and  ran back, spilling
water from the home-made vessel before finally throwing it aside.
     The door of the house was locked, but  she could not  hear  Avik crying
inside. She threw the door open and froze with horror.
     Stakes broken out of the window were lying on the floor. The chi Id was
gone. There was a foul reek of animals. Mada recognised it at once.
     Snatching something from the shelf and not closing the door behind her,
Mada rushed into a thicket where she had glimpsed a tawny red shadow.
     Mada was not  conscious of her actions. She was impelled purely by  her
maternal   instinct,  which  replaced  courage,   strength  and  even   cool
calculation.
     Her sixth  sense told  her that the animal that had kidnapped Avik  was
heading for the caves so as to tear him to pieces...
     There is no knowing how she guessed which way  the beast would run; she
even guessed  that  the  creature was  afraid of crossing  water. She  twice
forded a loop in the stream and reached the gully ahead of the kidnappers.
     Dzin  sprang  down from the tree, clutching the  howling infant  to her
hairy breast.
     Mada had  already  heard her child crying  in  the  distance.  She  ran
towards the creature. The powerful beast automatically turned back, but Mada
overtook her in a single bound. Then Dzin turned round and bared her fangs.
     Mada boldly advanced on the shaggy  beast, although  Dzin  could easily
have snapped her fragile opponent in two. But Mada was the more intelligent.
Not for nothing had  she  stopped in the  house to snatch something from the
shelf. She didn't have a  firearm, but she was holding in her fist a silvery
bullet, being careful not to be stung by the brown prickles.
     Dzin had  not yet  released the stolen baby.  She threateningly reached
for Mada with her free paw. Mada dodged it, jumped at Dzin and struck her in
the breast.
     One blow  by the fragile Faetess  was  enough for the enormous beast to
crash backwards to the  ground.  Her paws quivered convulsively and her eyes
rolled upwards.
     Mada snatched up the  child without noticing that he too had  curled up
and gone silent. She  ran  off, but  her way was barred by  two  more female
Faetoids who had accompanied Dzin on her raid.
     Mada rushed fearlessly forward,  hugging  the inert little body to  her
breast.
     Both Faetoids were  struck by accurate blows in  quick succession. They
collapsed. Their paws curled up and their muzzles froze in a grimace.
     Without pausing  for breath,  Mada ran back the  way  she had come. The
spray from the stream helped to bring her to her  senses. She looked at Avik
for the first time and screamed.
     Someone touched her  shoulder. Mada looked round  to find  Ave  bending
over  her.  He  had  heard  her cry  in the  forest and  had  rushed  to her
assistance. Gor Terr was standing close by, ready to beat off any attack.
     Ave understood everything without having to be told.
     "How did this happen?" he asked in a strangled voice.
     Mada told him through her tears about the raid by the Faetoids.
     She walked  beside  Ave, pressing the stiff little Avik to  her breast.
They did not say another word until they were home.
     "Isn't there any antidote at all?" cried Mada, wringing her hands after
she had laid the infant on its tiny bed.
     Ave stood at the  shelf, counting up the rounds of ammunition.  Then he
turned to Mada.
     "Let Mada  warm her  son. Fortunately, what's missing  here  is  a stun
bullet, not a poisoned one. Warmth will bring Avik round."
     Gor Terr was carefully refixing the stakes in the window.
     Avik's first cry as he came round was no less of a joy to Mada than his
very first wail, heard in the house not so long ago.
     "This means the Faetoids will recover too," observed Mada.
     "That's bad," responded Gor Terr. "They've found the way here!"


     Gor Terr proved right. The Faetoids  had become completely fearless and
began to fight a real war with the newcomers.
     Several times, the  beasts openly  attacked the hunters, who  only beat
off  the animals  by using  firearms.  Their  reserves  of  ammunition  were
limited. They would hardly last out for more than a few local cycles.
     Gor Terr had the idea of fixing a bullet to the end of a spear so as to
strike  the beasts  without losing the bullet. The inspiration for this  had
been Mada's desperate behaviour in the battle with Dzin.
     Ave  insisted that stun bullets should be used,  not the poisoned ones.
He  did not want  to  exterminate the  Faetoids, who  were Terr's indigenous
population.
     Gor Terr grumbled about this, but finally agreed.
     However, this softness on  the part of  the Faetians  led to even  more
ferocity and determination from the Faetoids. The realisation  that, if they
had a brush with the  newcomers, they would wake up alive after only a brief
sleep, led to the beasts imagining that they could always get away with it.
     It came  to the point  at which  the herd laid systematic  siege to the
house.  The men could  not go out hunting and each time they were  forced to
disperse the frenzied Faetoids waiting for them outside the door.
     Gor Terr  began  determinedly insisting that the enemy should be  wiped
out.
     "Ave's  right," objected  Mada.  "Can  we  really bring  the  ill-fated
Faena's terrible principles to Terr? The Faetoids didn't come to us, we came
to them uninvited. Perhaps we could find a common language with them."
     "R-really?" said Gor Terr, astonished, and he became thoughtful.
     The situation  deteriorated.  The  Faetoids  were  no longer the stupid
beasts  who had originally seized the  newcomers in the forest so as to  eat
them alive.  They now seemed guided by will and thought  inspired by someone
more rational. They were fighting to exterminate the Faetians or drive  them
away. Mada  could not go outside alone for  water or golden apples any more.
Shaggy bodies could always drop on  her from a  tree to strangle her or tear
her  to pieces. Hit  by  the  stun  weapon, they recovered consciousness  to
attack again on the next day. Their brazen determination was impressive and,
perhaps, had indeed been  born of a feeling of  immunity to punishment.  The
beasts could evidently understand only crude force and deadly danger.
     "They'll all have to be killed off," decided Gor Terr.
     But Mada and Ave didn't agree.
     "It  would  be better if we went away from here," suggested Mada. "This
is their place. They have the right to drive uninvited guests away."
     "Will you ever get away from them?" asked Gor Terr, gloomily doubtful.
     "D'you remember  the snowy  mountains we saw through the upper porthole
on  Quest? We'll go where it's  too cold for  the Faetoids. They  won't come
after us."
     "You have no r-right to  risk the  child's life," boomed Gor Terr. "But
you're  right about  one  thing. Someone's  got  to leave  here. Either  the
Faetians or the Faetoids."


     From that  time  on,  Gor Terr  began disappearing frequently from  the
house and returning without the usual hunting trophies.
     Ave and Mada didn't ask him  where he was  going, believing that it was
up to him to tell them.
     He was, in  fact, secretly making his way to the gully  with the caves.
He had selected  a reliable shelter and  spent a long time observing how the
Faetoids lived.
     He had  marked out an  enormous shaggy  Faetoid who  was  evidently the
leader  of  the tribe. Wasn't  it  he  who was  conducting  the war  on  the
newcomers?
     Exceptionally  burly and fierce, he  dealt ruthlessly  with  anyone who
displeased him. He once gave Dzin a terrible beating:  Gor  Terr spotted her
unerringly among the other beasts.  However,  it was not  just strength that
made him superior to the rest of the Faetoids. His brain must have been more
developed than that of any other individual.
     The Faetoids had not yet developed as far  as rational speech, but they
nevertheless  communicated   amongst   themselves  with  monosyllables  that
differed mainly in cadence. After being  beaten, Dzin fled the cave and came
upon Gor Terr hiding in a thicket.
     She took fright at first,  then  squatted in silence not far from  him,
clutching  her  heels with  her  forepaws,  and began  making  soft, piteous
sounds. When he realised that she was not going to make a noise at the sight
of him, Gor Terr didn't strike her with his  stun-spear. He was conceiving a
plan of insane daring, and Dzin could be useful to him.
     Every day after  that, when Gor Terr went  to  the hiding-place that he
had picked between two close-growing tree-trunks, he would find Dzin waiting
for him.
     She  became a kind of ally to him. Gor Terr  could not explain anything
to  her. But she behaved exactly as he wanted. With her animal instinct, she
was able to guess his intentions.  Several times, when one of  the  Faetoids
drew near to Gor Terr's hiding-place, Dzin jumped up, screamed threateningly
and gesticulated to drive the uninvited beast away.
     Gor  Terr's dangerous plan was  soon  ripe for  action. He  decided  to
disclose it to the others.
     When she heard him, Mada decided that he was having another crazy spell
and offered to shock him out of it with an injection.
     But Gor Terr was adamant.
     "One thing's certain," he affirmed. "The herd's got to be driven out of
here; it must be led away. They'll  take  me for  one of themselves.  I look
sufficiently like  them  and I know their habits.  I'll  deal quickly enough
with the disobedient ones. I'll become  their tyrant, their  r-ruler,  their
dictator. And to their own advantage. I'll teach them sense and r-reason."
     It proved  impossible to dissuade Gor Terr. He  regarded  his scheme as
the duty of a friend.
     "We certainly won't win a war with them,"  he said. "I'll lead them off
into  the mountains.  When  they're settled  there, I'll  come back to  you.
You'll  already  have had lots of children.  I'll turn your little ones into
r-real Faetians."
     Gor Terr began preparing for his exploit as if for an afternoon stroll.
In fact, he didn't need to take anything with him.
     Ave  could not  let him  go  out  alone and  decided to back  him  with
small-arms fire  from under cover  if events did not work out  as  Gor  Terr
planned.
     As Gor Terr had requested, Ave Mar was following Gor Terr at a distance
so as not to frighten Dzin. They had embraced as they left the house and had
said  goodbye in silence. But  Mada had wept in the doorway as she waved Gor
Terr goodbye.
     Dzin was sitting in her usual attitude. She was waiting.
     Ave watched the strange scene from a distance.
     Gor Terr went up to the Faetoid, who met  him amicably, even warmly. He
then took off his Faetian clothes.
     He was covered  with dense  hair,  but compared with  one of the shaggy
beasts he looked almost naked, although in general body shape, height, broad
shoulders  and  stoop  he vaguely resembled a  Faetoid. He  could  have been
mistaken for one in  the dark, but,  of course,  not in broad daylight or at
dusk. So, at least, it seemed to Ave Mar, who feared greatly for his friend.
But Gor Terr, unarmed, went fearlessly down into the gully with Dzin.
     Ave was gripping a pistol so as  to come to Gor Terr's  aid; his friend
was  already  approaching  the cave from which he  had rescued  his  captive
friends.
     Ave watched  as the  Faetoids  who met  Dzin paid no  attention  to her
companion at first. Then they noticed something  unusual about him and began
gathering in twos and  threes to study the newcomer with  the thin hair whom
Dzin had brought back with her.
     At last, the rest returned from the hunt.
     Accompanied by Dzin, Gor Terr went bravely up to them.
     Dzin began shrieking something, squatting, falling  onto the stones and
jumping up again. She  must have been explaining that she was starting a new
family and was presenting the one of her choice to the others.
     The Faetoids didn't take the one of her choice very much. One beast, at
the far end, stood up, rudely thrust Dzin aside and struck the stranger with
his forepaw.  To be more precise,  he  had intended to strike. But before he
could do so, he shot up into the air and crashed to the ground several paces
away. Bellowing, he got up  on all  fours and sprang at his assailant like a
spotted predator. But the stranger  dealt him  such a blow that the  Faetoid
spun round on  the stones, howling. The others reacted to  the incident with
what  seemed like  total  indifference. However,  no one  else dared try his
strength with the newcomer.
     Interestingly enough, Gor Terr had only to take his clothes off for the
beasts not  to  recognise their  former  enemy  and  not  even  to  see  any
difference between him and themselves.
     Sol was  rising. It was the beginning of the magnificent dawn  that had
impressed the  Faetians  so much during the first  days of their  sojourn on
Terr.
     The Faetoids, however, were  not admiring it.  They  were lying down to
sleep in their caves.
     Only  one  particularly large  beast with  repulsive  features,  flared
nostrils  and brown  fangs protruding from his mouth, wandered from  cave to
cave as if checking something.
     His mental powers were unlikely to have been so developed that he could
really have been capable of checking anything at all.  He might simply  have
been wandering aimlessly from one cave to another.
     Any  beast he found  outside, however, hurriedly  disappeared into  the
darkness under the vaulted roof.
     Ave  had  still not left  his observation post,  fearing for Gor Terr's
safety.
     He  had stayed there all day,  well aware how  alarmed Mada must be for
him. He was waiting for, and dreading, the showdown between Gor Terr and the
leader.
     The leader appeared earlier than  the rest  and summoned all the others
with a throaty scream.
     Stretching and yawning, the  Faetoids  emerged  reluctantly from  their
shelters. Gor  Terr  also  came out.  Compared with all the others,  he  now
looked almost puny. No  wonder the beasts were  looking askance  at the  new
arrival. He didn't wait to be attacked, but exhibited his own character.
     For  no apparent  reason,  he attacked  a  fairly inoffensive  Faetoid,
nimbly knocking  him off his hind legs and hurling him down to the bottom of
the gully. Another  was outraged at this conduct on the newcomer's part, but
paid dearly for it. Gor Terr rushed at him in a fury and, pinning him to the
stone wall, began banging his head so hard  against it that the other howled
with pain.
     At this point, the infuriated leader decided to put the wild one in his
place.  He  began  bellowing with wrath,  but  this had  no  effect  on  the
newcomer,  who knocked another beast over  and hurled him down to the bottom
of the gully.
     The leader's patience snapped. He snatched  up a heavy stone and  threw
it  at the rebel. Neither Gor Terr nor Ave Mar had been expecting  this. Ave
nearly fired, drawing a bead on the leader, but desisting when he  saw  that
Gor Terr had nimbly dodged the stone.
     That Faetoid  knew  how  to use  weapons! This meant  that he  was more
developed than the others!
     Ave didn't know  what  Gor Terr was  going to do  next, but  his friend
didn't stop to think. He,  too, picked up  a stone and threw it at his enemy
with much better results.
     The leader jumped  and then bellowed with fury, hurling himself at  Gor
Terr. But the other was already rushing to meet his enemy.
     The Faetoids  were  bunched  together  at the rocky wall, watching  the
savage battle. Their enormous leader,  compared with whom the  newcomer  was
merely a small animal, crushed Gor Terr underneath his own weight.
     At this point, Ave realised what he must do.
     The Faetoids howled with glee at this duel and  the lesson being taught
to the newcomer by their leader. Because of all the shouting, the crack of a
shot  went unnoticed.  Ave didn't miss,  aiming at the leader's shaggy  back
just below the powerful neck.
     Half-crushed by the heavy body, Gor Terr realised what had happened. As
if continuing the fight, he raised the massive, convulsed body of the leader
up on his outstretched arms and hurled him  from  a rocky ledge down  to the
bottom of the gully.
     The  Faetoids tried to look down,  gibbering. Those thrown down by  Gor
Terr had recovered  from their beating, had successfully climbed up onto the
ledge and  were crowded together in the rear  of the herd;  but their leader
was still lying motionless.
     Ave had fired the first live round on Terr. The leader was dead.
     Dzin bounded nimbly down to the bottom of  the gully  and began dancing
frenziedly near the overthrown body.
     Dealing out punches and blows, sometimes knocking the  beasts over, Gor
Terr drove all the Faetoids back into their caves. He had put a stop  to the
aggressive campaign evidently launched by his predecessor.
     The stranger's incredible  strength  convinced  the  beasts that it was
useless to resist him.
     "The tyrant has  seized  power," thought  Ave.  "Now  he will teach the
Faetoids  to use clubs, he will make their hunting more successful, the herd
will no longer starve and will be content with the new leader."
     Thus did the naked leader appear in the herd of Faetoids.
     Ave and Mada never managed to find out anything more about Gor Terr.
     Their self-sacrificing friend kept  his word,  however. He led the herd
of Faetoids away  somewhere else.  No longer did the shaggy beasts annoy the
solitary Faetians.

     Chapter Six



     Polar, great-great-great  grandson  of Vydum  Polar,  the first  Marian
inventor, who  was honoured  on Mar  alongside Brat Lua, the  creator of the
first  cave shelter,  had inherited from  his  remote ancestor a  daring and
penetrating mind that was immune to all prohibitions.
     He was a young Marian  with a handsome, calm and self-confident face, a
straight  chin and  a  curly head on the long, sturdy neck  typical  of  the
Marians.
     He recognised no  obstacles in life,  being always  ready  to tear them
down. He learned  easily  and  eagerly, flummoxing  the  teachers  with  his
questions. It seemed  to him that the writings  of his  ancestors  concealed
something about the origin of the Marians.
     Tome  Polar would put on a space-suit, without  which Marians could not
breathe  their  planet's atmosphere, and would often wander over  the desert
sands. He was  looking among  the  mountain  ridges for a cave that could be
used as a laboratory. In it,  mentally, he  was already carrying  out daring
experiments on matter.
     However, he had neither the instruments nor a cave for his research.
     Once upon a time, the first  Marians had been lucky. They had found  in
the mountains an  interconnected network of caves with an  underground river
flowing through them which they named the River of Life.
     Most  probably of all,  his ancestors had come from  a remote region of
Mar  where  the  conditions  had  once  been  different:  the  air had  been
breathable and there had been  rivers flowing on  the  surface of the planet
(as now in the  caves).  That was  why the  legends told of incredibly large
areas of  water.  After  all,  every  drop  of  the  River  of Life  in  the
underground  city was  precious.  They  even  obtained  water  artificially,
extracting it  from  mines sunk in distant  caves.  Water, together with the
metal found  in the depths, was the  basis  of Marian civilisation. Owing to
the small amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, metal was native. This baffled
Tome somewhat. After all, his remote ancestors had breathed in the open air.
     Tome Polar  finally  discovered a  convenient little cave with a narrow
entrance which could easily be converted into an airlock.
     Excited and  happy,  he went down on to the  sandy plain  from where he
would make  his way direct to the oasis of cultivated plants  and further on
down into the underground city.
     In his short life. Tome Polar had not known  any  landscapes other than
the dead Marian sands.  They were dear to him and he thought them beautiful.
As he walked over them, he  sometimes  tried to imagine himself crossing the
bed of one of the fabulous seas of the  ancient Marians. But  his  sceptical
reason gained the uppermost over fantasy.
     He could not imagine what was absolutely impossible.
     Tome Polar was hoping to return to  the city not  alone, but  with  Ena
Fae, the most wonderful girl on the planet. At least, so she seemed to him.
     He knew where to find her and headed for the clumps of nutritive plants
irrigated by water from  the underground river. Tome knew from  the  ancient
folk tales that  there was even supposed to be water on the surface at their
planet s poles, and at a low heat level it solidified there in the form of a
hard cap. This cap sometimes melted under Sol's rays. A lovely folk tale! If
it could be  proved true, the Marians would one day deliver the melted water
from  the  poles  to  their  oases.  But,  in  the  meantime,  the  fabulous
accumulations of solid water  on Mar,  if they  existed, were infinitely far
away from the underground Marian city.
     To the inhabitants of the  legendary Faena, the local plants would have
looked  like sickly  bushes.  But  to Tome Polar,  they  were  an impassable
thicket in which it was possible to make out with difficulty several figures
in space-suits.
     They could all have seemed identical, but not to Tome Polar. He had  no
difficulty in recognising Ena, who was gathering fruits.
     She  was  the only creature on Mar to whom Tome Polar could confide his
secret  thoughts. He had  decided to do that today. He  and  Ena would begin
experimenting in the new  cave together  and they would revolutionise Marian
civilisation.
     The Marian  girl, lissom  in spite  of her garb, was  gathering fruits.
Tome Polar went up to the bushes.
     Ena Fae recognised him, signalled to him with a wave and followed after
him.
     They did not switch on the intercom in their helmets so that the others
wouldn't hear them talking. They understood one another without words.
     The love story of Tome and Ena was touchingly simple. They were brought
together by Great  Chance, which seemed to be answering a  legitimate  need.
They met during  the celebrations  for the end  of  their studies. The young
people were singing and dancing in one of the remoter caves.
     The stone icicles of stalactites hung from the roof to meet the needles
of stalagmites  reaching up  from the  floor.  Joined  in  some places, they
formed fantastic columns that seemed to be supporting the roof.
     Lit  up  so that  they  seemed  almost  transparent, these  colonnades,
demolished  in other  caves to  make  way  for  buildings,  gave  a  magical
appearance to the place where the young were celebrating.
     The young Marians used to enjoy themselves here with all their  hearts,
donning airtight helmets for a lark to make themselves unrecognisable.
     Tome Polar somehow managed to fall for his dancing partner, although he
hadn't yet seen her face. It seemed to him that it ought to be beautiful, so
vibrant and tender was her voice, even when muffled by the mask.
     When Ena took off her helmet, she turned out to be exactly what he  had
been expecting.
     A  straight brow sloping slightly backwards to continue the line of the
nose, elongated eyes with a slight slant up towards the temples, russet hair
with  a  heavy  bun  on  the neck so  that it  did  not  fit  easily into  a
helmet-such was his new acquaintance, Ena Fae. There was something in her of
her great-great-great-grandmother, Ala Veg; but neither Tome nor Ena had the
slightest idea of what she had looked like.
     It was love at first sight between the two  Marians, as if  two torches
had been brought to the same fire.
     The young couple passed through the entrance airlock, which  had always
been a source of puzzlement to Tome Polar. Why had it been  made entirely of
metal (and  when there  was a permanent  metal  famine!), round in shape and
straining upwards, like the ancient  skyscrapers of the legendary Faena? Had
the first Marians perhaps wanted to set up a monument to the beautiful fairy
tale?  Tome  Polar, of course did not  share  the superstitions according to
which the tower had once voyaged among the stars with no mechanical means of
propulsion.  This  legend  had  been  born  of  the  unusual  shape  of  the
installation which served as an entrance airlock to the city.
     There  was only  one real  monument in the city, the  one to  the Great
Elder. Sculpted out of  a  stalagmite, the Elder of ancient times towered to
his full enormous stature, with his  stone beard falling onto his  chest and
with mystery in the dark, piercing cavities of his eyes.
     New  deposits  had formed with the  years on the  stone  sculpture, and
these smoothed over (as in memory) the  features  of the great Marian of the
past who had called himself a Faetian.
     The monument to the Great Elder stood in the cave of the young.
     It was towards  this that  Tome Polar and Ena Fae made  their  way when
they had taken off their space-suits.
     Nothing, it seemed, could ever come between them to spoil their radiant
love and happy life  together. Tome and Ena, however, had a hard trial ahead
of them.
     According  to the ancient Marian  tradition, it was by  the monument to
the Great Elder that vows of  love and faithfulness were sworn, and also the
work  was chosen which, from that moment on, the future married couple would
take upon themselves. On Mar, the young people bound themselves with ties of
marriage which, as they understood it, concerned no one else.
     On this  spot,  the lovers had to declare to one  another which path in
life each had chosen.
     "Ena!" said Tome.  "There can be no greater happiness for me than to be
with  you always,  not  only in the family but at work. I  want you to  be a
loyal helpmate to me in the scientific research which I have decided to do."
     "Am  I ready  for this?" said Ena doubtfully, looking admiringly at her
betrothed.
     "It  will  be  enough  for   me  if  you   are   by  my  side  in   our
cave-laboratory."
     "What cave?"  asked Ena, brightening  up. "Are they going  to give us a
small hall?"
     "No. I've  found  myself  a cave  in the mountains.  We'll  fit it  out
ourselves.  We'll make  airlocks and we'll take  with  us the  air-recycling
equipment from spare space-suits."
     "But what for?" asked Ena, amazed. "Surely you could find a cave in the
underground city?"
     "The experiments we are going  to do are dangerous. No one believes me,
but I  suspect that matter has a tendency to disintegrate  into even smaller
particles than the 'indivisible' ones of which matter consists."
     "Matter has a tendency to disintegrate?" echoed Ena in horror.
     "Yes,  that's  the  thought  I've  reached.  Of  course,  it's  only  a
scientific hunch, nothing more. You and I will take a vow here to enrich the
Marians with the energy of disintegration."
     "No," said Ena Fae firmly. "You're mad to have such ambitions."
     "But why? Are you really going to become one of those who misunderstand
me?"
     "Listen to what,  as  a Marian girl,  I have to say to you. We who bear
within  us  new generations  of  Marians  have  had passed  down  to  us the
injunction of the Great Elder at whose monument we now stand."
     "The Great Elder bequeathed to us the power of knowledge. What else?"
     "Follow me," commanded Ena.
     Tome obediently went after her.
     Ena took him by a roundabout path. Descending steeply, it led them into
a stalagmite cave which was evidently directly underneath the Cave of Youth.
     Ena pointed at the roof.
     "The  Elder above  is pointing downwards, and if you follow the line of
direction, it runs through a stalactite to indicate some writings."
     Sure enough, under the stalactite there was a stone slab fashioned from
the base  of a  removed  stalagmite. The  deposits on it  had been carefully
cleaned off.
     "Read it!" commanded Ena.
     Some  passages in  the inscription  seemed particularly strange to Tome
Polar.
     "Never  must the  Marians,  descendants  of the Faetians,  touch  those
fields of  knowledge  which  led to the destruction of the  beautiful Faena.
Never must they  strive to  learn  of what matter consists, never  must they
strive to achieve movement without  propulsion.  These  prohibitions are for
the protection of future generations who  must  be saved from the  suffering
that comes from such knowledge."
     Tome turned to Ena.
     "What crude superstition! What  did this Elder do  to be  called great?
What do  the structure  of matter  and movement  without propulsion have  in
common?  Apart from  that,  the  deciding  question should be,  'Who  is  in
possession of the knowledge?' "
     "I don't  know enough to argue with you," said  Ena, "but what rational
people know today can become  the property of very  different ones tomorrow.
That  is  why the Prohibitions of  the Great Elder have been imposed on  the
Marian  women. That duty  of ours is higher than anything else.  No one must
know what is forbidden."
     "What d'you mean by 'higher than  anything else'?" said Tome, much  put
out. "Higher than love?"
     Ena lowered her eyes.
     "Yes, my Tome, even higher than love."
     "I don't recognise you!"
     Tome Polar could not bear objections, especially if they weren't upheld
by  the logic  of reason. He despised and rejected  everything  that  seemed
unfounded. This  had been encouraged  in  him since  early childhood by  his
parents,  whom  he  remembered  vaguely (he  had  been the  youngest of nine
children),  and  it had subsequently developed thanks to his own outstanding
abilities, enabling him to  laugh off any lack of understanding. But to meet
with no response from the girl of  his choice was too hard for Tome Polar. A
spoiled darling of fate, he refused to believe  his ears. His mood  darkened
and he said haughtily:
     "I didn't expect your love to be  so  feeble that it would  pale before
the first flash of superstition."
     "You must  make  a vow," demanded  Ena in  a ringing  voice that echoed
under  the  roof  of the cave,  "you must  make a vow never again to try and
learn   the  secret  of  matter  which   is   supposed   to  be   liable  to
disintegration."
     "How can I make such a vow if that is the one thing I yearn for?"
     "I thought you were yearning for me..."
     Tome  Polar  was  taken  aback. He had  been  ready for anything in the
marriage ceremony with Ena Fae except this unreasonable stubbornness. He did
not know that his bride  was speaking for  generations of Faetesses  who had
handed  down their  concern for  posterity  to  her.  Perhaps  the  terrible
disaster on  Faena  had awakened in the  exiles on  Mars a new feature which
should  guarantee  life for the Marians.  This  had found  expression in the
Great  Elder's  Prohibitions,  which had  been  passed  on  to  all  without
exception.
     The tragedy of Faena must not happen again.
     Ena realised that Tome Polar  would only respond to conviction. She sat
beside him on a rock near the stalactite with the  inscriptions and told him
in  a  sad  voice  everything she  had learned  from her  mother  about  the
destruction of Faena.
     The exasperated Tome Polar refused to listen. To him, the Marian girl's
story was an  ignorant fairy tale full  of senseless superstitions. What use
was  the mere  assertion that  the Faetians who escaped the  destruction  of
their planet had flown from it in a kind of projectile that, it was claimed,
moved on its own without pushing itself off from anything? Incidentally, the
possible disintegration of matter was quite rightly not in any way connected
with such movement.
     Convinced that a Marian girl's fictitious duty, to save  the population
of Mar  from future disasters, was being put higher than her  own  love  for
him. Tome Polar decided that she did not truly love him.
     Hot-tempered,   vain,   and,   moreover,   not   one   to   acknowledge
half-measures, he broke it off with the girl he  loved and walked out of the
stalactite cave on his own.
     Behaving  like that  in the heat  of  the moment, however,  proved much
easier than living without Ena afterwards.
     Tome Polar began pining away. The population of the underground City of
Life (it was so named after the River of Life in the caves) was not so great
that Tome  and Ena could  avoid  one  another.  On the  contrary, they  kept
meeting one  another accidentally  all the  time, and  Ena seemed even  more
beautiful  than ever to  Tome  Polar. He started trying  to make a date with
her,  but Ena  was cold  and  distant.  At least  she  managed to make  that
impression on him.
     He  was suffering. "She's simply oppressed  by ignorant superstitions,"
he thought, trying to justify her to himself.
     He  soon became convinced  that he couldn't live  without Ena.  By this
time,  his  dreams of setting  up a laboratory for himself in a distant cave
had also faded away. He hadn't the strength to equip  it by himself, and the
Marians he approached for help refused, mentioning the  hostility  of  their
wives. These,  evidently,  were prisoners of the same  superstitions as  the
young Ena.
     Tome Polar was in despair. The ancient traditions were tightening round
him in a ring, as if squeezing the breathing tubes of a space-suit.
     Civilisation on Mar had developed  in  an  unusual way.  Receiving  the
heritage of a more ancient  culture, the Marians  on  the whole  devoted all
their  energies not to the struggle with  the representatives of  the animal
world, since the planet's atmosphere was unfavourable for the development of
certain species, but to the struggle with the harsh natural environment.  It
was only  possible to live  in shelters supplied with artificial  air and go
out to the surface in space-suits. Plants could be grown successfully at the
oases, but the  Marians had to supply artificial  irrigation and  tend  them
while wearing space-suits. The struggle of rational beings  with one another
remained  only  in the  memories of  long-past  generations that  had become
embodied in the duty of the Marian women and girls.
     Perhaps  like  no other Marian of her kind, Ena felt the full burden of
that duty. She suffered more than Tome Polar, because she could renounce her
duty in the name of love. She didn't do  so, however, never doubting  for  a
moment that she was protecting the whole population of Mar from destruction.
     Yet she was the first to call Tome Polar into the Cave of Youth.
     Tome Polar was  overjoyed.  He was  no longer hoping for mutual vows at
the monument to the Great Elder. He simply wanted to see her.
     Ena  came  to  her  beloved  fully  armed  with  the   cunning  of  her
great-grandmothers, who had not lived solely on Mar. She knew perfectly well
about his unsuccessful attempts to  equip a cave and make the instruments he
had invented. She brought with her a flower grown at the oasis.
     "Isn't it more  important for the Marians to devote  all their energies
to the struggle for water?" she said,  ruffling the petals with her fingers.
"I  would  like my Tome" (she said MY TOME, and his heart missed a beat) "to
lay the foundations of an  enormous task for  the  future-to  create a river
deep underground  that will  bring the  melted  waters from the poles to new
oases.  Isn't  that more  important  than  seeking  the conditions  for  the
disintegration  of matter, forbidden by  the Great  Elder? Leaves,  flowers,
fruits..."
     Tome  Polar had a lively mind. One hint  was enough for  him to imagine
the  vast installations of the future irrigation system, as  fabulous as the
ice caps at the poles. Moreover, he was game for anything just so long as it
would bring Ena back to him.
     "I  surrender, my  incomparable Ena," he said, taking  the flower  from
her. "Rather let me leave  for the poles in search of melted water than lose
you."
     So Tome and Ena were joined after overcoming the obstacle that had come
between them,  and  in this way was buried the idea of the disintegration of
matter that had arisen so unexpectedly among  the Marians. The Great Elder's
behest had been fulfilled.


     ...The struggle for power on Phobo was fought  between Vlasta Sirus and
Mrak Luton. It ended in  favour  of the intractable Faetess when Mrak Luton,
skilfully driven by her to a heart attack, suddenly died.
     Next, Nega Luton, who did not wish to yield her supremacy, was poisoned
by a fruit specially grown by Vlasta in the greenhouse.
     Left  on  Phobo, its  native inhabitants,  the  Siruses, lived for many
cycles, sick to death of each other's company.
     When Dovol Sirus,  at  an advanced age, fell ill,  Vlasta, "desirous of
relieving his sufferings", reduced the oxygen supply to his  cabin and then,
to put an end to them, turned the tap right off.
     Vlasta Sirus continued her  husband's memoirs  and, reduced to despair,
with no one left on the station to order about, took her own life by jumping
outside without a space-suit.  Her rigid corpse,  preserved by the  absolute
cold of interplanetary space, became an eternal satellite of Station Phobo.


     Epilogue



     O forebears, forebears! Who are you?
     Toni Fae, Marian poet, early period

     Av had not yet reached maturity and still bore his father's abbreviated
name, but his younger brother still went by the child's name of Avik.
     Av was  a strong, graceful boy and  resembled his  father, from whom he
had inherited the long, powerful neck, like a tree-trunk, the curly head and
the firm, dimpled  chin. The  slightly uplifted eyebrows and the clear  gaze
made  his  face calm and quizzical. He loved wearing the  skin  of a spotted
predator, slinging its fanged head over his shoulder onto his chest.
     Av became  first helper to his  father, who was finding it increasingly
difficult to feed his big family by hunting.
     Av was a skilful archer, able to pierce any branch on  a  tree  without
missing. The boy made himself a sharp stone knife which was in no way  worse
than his father's metal one. He taught himself to wield a spear with a sharp
stone head that  he had fashioned  himself. He also had a  replaceable metal
spear-point  with a  silvery blade and brown prickles. He didn't  know where
his  father  had obtained such  a strange  spear-point  and he kept  it  for
exceptionally difficult duels when he had to fell his dangerous enemy with a
dexterous blow. His mother cautioned him against these fights and could  not
in any way get used to  the idea  that  her  son was in constant danger when
hunting in the forest.
     The boy merely laughed, which threw Ma, his sister, into raptures.
     One day, an enormous reptile with a powerful long body but no legs fell
onto him from a tree. It coiled itself round the boy several times, crushing
him  in a deadly  embrace.  Av was out  hunting  alone, a long way  from his
father. It was no use crying and it was impossible  anyway-he  couldn't even
gasp for breath. Then  he acted as his father  had taught him: he tensed all
his muscles, not letting the serpent crush his ribs in its coils.
     It was a silent struggle. The  boy realised that he was doomed.  He had
often watched from the undergrowth as a serpent crushed its victim to death.
The boy didn't know how much longer he could hold out. There was a  crack as
the spear, pressed against his side with his arm, snapped in two.
     The  fanged  head  of the spotted  predator slung over his shoulder was
used by Av as a kind  of pocket or bag. A spare spear-point was kept between
the jaws. If only he could get at it!
     The  serpent,  its coils  wound  round his  body, was rolling  over the
ground with him.
     The  boy  was still alive, straining muscles that were  on the verge of
giving  way. He was  also watching  out for a  moment  when the  maw  of the
spotted predator was facing the ground.
     Fortunately, the serpent itself was rolling its victim over in order to
exhaust him completely. Ave's hope was justified: the spare spear-point fell
out.
     He  could see  it quite near him, but could not reach it  with his hand
pinned to his side.
     From  time to  time,  the  serpent  loosened its coils to  deceive  its
victim, let him relax and then squeeze him with renewed force.
     Av  waited for the moment when he could move his wrist and snatched  up
the spear-point with the sharp prickles on its end.
     At this  moment,  the  serpent  evidently  decided  to finish  off  its
obdurate  prey once and for all;  it tightened its  coils  so  hard  that Av
fainted.
     When  he came round, he  felt that he was being crushed as before by  a
long,  muscular body,  but it was not throbbing  as it  had done  during the
struggle. There was indeed something dead about  its death-grip.  It  turned
out  that even  when  unconscious, Av  had continued  straining his body  to
resist  being crushed. Now  he relaxed, trying  to make  himself as thin  as
possible and began gradually crawling out of the dead serpent's rigid coils.
     And  so,  after  surviving and  beating  in  single  combat  a terrible
serpent,  Av  could receive on coming of  age  a  name  associated  with his
victory.
     But  he was still  just a  brave, agile boy for whom manhood was yet to
come.  He used  to dream about this  time,  developing his  own courage  and
strength.
     Although  he  had  become  a  hunter,  he grew  up  to be  kind-hearted
nevertheless and he never killed animals except out of dire necessity.
     He  enjoyed watching from a tree as the  little animals frolicked about
near their lair.
     They  were four-footed beasts with mouths full of  teeth and they could
not  climb  trees. They had  long muzzles, erect ears and bushy  tails. They
only  attacked small animals.  In case of need,  however, they could hunt in
packs and set upon the big denizens of the forest.
     Av thought it might be a good idea  to train these little animals.  His
father, after all, had mentioned the domesticated lizards on Faena, which Av
imagined to have  been a  faraway, fabulous land from which  his parents had
flown like birds.
     The little animals were playing on the glade, in full view of Av  up in
a tree-top.
     The   little   grey  balls  of  fur  were  rolling  over   the   grass,
somersaulting,  growling and fighting  endlessly with one  another. Or  they
chased one another tirelessly across the glade.
     Av saw a cub he liked the look of. He jumped down from his tree no less
nimbly than a serpent and seized  hold  of  the terrified  little animal. It
clawed and bit him,  but Av  clutched it to his chest and ran off,  stuffing
its  sharp-toothed  little muzzle into  the  spotted predator's skin that he
wore for camouflage.
     He took his prize home-it had been quietened down by the warmth  of his
body-fed it and began training it.
     His  mother was very  much  surprised  at  his  behaviour.  His younger
brothers and sisters were in raptures.
     The little animal used to play with them. It grew up quickly and became
attached to Av. It  was evidently  in  no way  inferior to the  domesticated
lizards of Faena.
     When the animal had  grown up a little, Av decided  to train it  to  go
hunting  with him. His  father smiled condescendingly at the idea, but in no
way interfered with his son's experiments.
     Av called his future helper Ding.
     The disaster occurred  after a domestic  ceremony  at which Av had been
awarded his new name. Serpent, in honour of his victory over that creature.
     Serpent insisted that his mother should let  Avik go hunting  with him.
It was time he became an assistant provider.
     His younger brother was beside  himself with joy and ready to follow Av
anywhere.
     Ding,  of course, had to go with them.  Gifted with an amazing nose, he
could scent game even before Serpent had noticed it.
     ...Serpent came back from the hunt alone.
     His mother tore her hair and screamed frantically at him:
     "You've killed him, you've killed my Avik!"
     Serpent turned pale at these words. They were unfair. Serpent could not
have been accused of such a crime, although he was partly to blame.
     The brothers were  walking  through the forest. Ding was running ahead.
Suddenly, he stopped and growled. His fur bristled.
     Just at that moment, a huge shaggy body fell on him from above. Serpent
had heard from his father about the Faetoids which had  carried him off as a
baby.
     Now a  beast like one of those described by his father had seized Ding,
who yelped, went hoarse and then was silent.
     The shaggy beast rushed off with its prey.
     Without thinking of his  brother (and this was where he was terribly at
fault!), he ran after the Faetoid.
     The  beast  was, however,  more  agile.  But  Serpent had a  determined
nature, however. He neither wanted to nor was he capable of backing out, any
more than his mother, the young Mada Jupi.
     With his keen  hunter's instinct,  he noticed which  way the beast  had
run. Although slower than  the  beast,  he  was unerringly  following in its
tracks.
     Serpent found it under a wide-branching tree  where it  imagined itself
to be safe and was devouring the luckless Ding.
     Serpent went mad  with rage. He did not even shoot an arrow. Blind with
fury, incapable of containing himself, he  hurled himself at  the  beast and
caught it unawares.
     The Faetoid  proved smaller than Serpent had imagined at first.  He was
much  stronger  and, above all,  much  more  experienced than  his opponent.
Moreover, he knew his father's fighting tricks.
     Serpent overthrew  the creature;  it  lay helpless  beside  the mangled
corpse of Ding which it had not yet finished  eating. Serpent was just about
to finish the creature off, when it said:
     "Do r-rationals kill those who are lying down?"
     Serpent jumped back and asked in horror:
     "Who are you, a talking beast?"
     "I am a r-rational amid Terrans."
     The  creature was  talking  in Serpent's native  Faetian,  but with  an
unfamiliar burr.  Even so, it was talking. The  flabbergasted Serpent let go
of it. He wanted to ask where it came from and who had taught it Faetian.
     But  the beast, which called itself rational and was able to speak, was
cunning into the bargain.
     No sooner had Serpent relaxed  his hold, prepared to carry on  with the
conversation, than his shaggy opponent sprang on to its hind-legs and jumped
up onto the lowest  branch of the tree. A moment later, it vanished into the
foliage.
     The  dismayed  Serpent  rushed  in  pursuit  of  the Faetoid, but  then
stopped, deep in thought.
     Only  then did he fear for his brother  Avik. What had happened to him?
The little boy must  have been left behind while he chased after the talking
beast.
     Stifling  his  alarm.  Serpent  ran back  over the scarcely  noticeable
tracks that had  brought  him  to the spot.  Serpent  could  run  for  great
distances without losing his breath. But this time he felt short of air, his
lungs were ready  to burst and his  heart  seemed about to jump  out  of his
breast. Even  so,  he did not slow down  until he reached the ill-fated spot
where poor Ding had been carried off.
     His  experienced hunter's eye immediately pictured the drama  that  had
been enacted there.
     Avik had proved himself  to be a true  Faetian,  although still a small
boy.  Judging  by  the  traces  of the fight,  he  had  put  up  a desperate
resistance.
     But  there had been many attackers and they had overpowered  the little
lad. Serpent found the  route by which they had carried him off. For a  long
time he  pursued the kidnappers until  he realised that he had lost too much
time and it would be impossible to overtake them.
     Dusk  had  fallen  on  the  forest as,  stumbling  over the tree-roots,
Serpent made his way back home in utter despair. His arms dangled helplessly
down by his sides, his head was bowed on his breast.
     Thus  he  returned  home alone on  that tragic day and told  his mother
everything.
     ...Mada went crazy with grief and screamed that he had killed Avik. She
meant that he was responsible for his brother's death, but the proud Serpent
flared  up. Perhaps  it  was  his grandfather's blood  in him, not  just his
mother's.  He  was stung by the  accusation she hurled at him. If his mother
was capable of such a reproach, then he would go away to the caves and would
live there on his own.
     Mada was  too crushed  by grief  to recollect herself  and restrain her
son.
     She lay on the threshold with her  hair unloosed and, through a veil of
tears and the evening mist  that reminded her of the lost Faena, she saw her
beloved firstborn disappear behind the trees.
     But she was threatened by yet another loss.
     The lissom form of Ma, her elder daughter, slipped  past her. Without a
second thought, the girl had gone to follow Serpent.
     When  he  came back that  night from  the  hunt,  Ave was shaken by the
despondency with which he was met at home.
     On  learning  about  the double  disaster-  the  loss of  Avik  and the
departure of the elder children-Ave's face  darkened and he thrust his  hand
into his thick, greying beard.
     "Even if I'm in the wrong, and I am in the wrong, of course," said Mada
to her husband, "how will  Serpent and Ma be able to live on their own?  You
must bring them back."
     "That's got to be done!" replied Ave. "On their own, they won't be able
to beat off attacks by the Faetoids, who have resumed the war with us. Their
first catch, our poor  Avik,  will  only  make  them  even more  fierce  and
determined."
     "I  refuse  to believe it!" protested Mada. "If Gor Terr  lived  for so
long with them and taught them a thing or two, they could have kidnapped our
Avik so that he could teach them too. But you've got to bring Serpent and Ma
back."
     "I'll find them,"  promised Ave, and he added thoughtfully, "It'll be a
good thing if you're right about Avik."
     Like a truly courageous Faetian, he was trying not to let his  wife see
how shattered he was by it all.
     "I'm worried about that talking beast."
     "All my hopes are on him!" intervened  Mada. "According to what Serpent
told me, he talks like our beloved friend, Gor Terr."
     "That's just what's bothering me."
     "But I'm delighted. Even Dzin had  a feeling  of gratitude. The talking
beast, whoever he may be, could save Avik."
     "He must  be a pupil of Gor Terr's. You  were saying yourself that when
Gor Terr became a leader, he hoped to teach the beasts a great deal."
     "But why have they come back? Perhaps Gor Terr isn't alive... Either he
wouldn't have let them come here, or he would have come to us."
     "Who knows what's happened to our friend after all these years?" sighed
Ave Mar.
     "Perhaps they need  another leader and  they came for a Faetian,"  said
Mada.
     "I'll find Serpent and  we'll look for  the new lair  of  the  Faetoids
together. Perhaps we'll meet Gor Terr or even find Avik still alive. Anyway,
we'll catch one of the talking beasts and question him."
     Ave did  not manage to carry out his plan, however. Serpent  and Ma had
gone somewhere a long way  away. They  weren't  to be  found  in  the nearby
caves. He could only hope that they hadn't fallen victim to the Faetoids.
     Perhaps in  another  forest they had  founded  a  new  station for  the
descendants of the Faetians on Terr. The offended hunter hadn't forgiven his
mother for her reproach, although he had deserved it to some extent.
     Nothing was known of Avik either.
     Life continued for Ave and Mada with  their family. As if  to take over
from the lost Avik and the runaway children, Mada gave birth to twins, a boy
and a girl,  and their mother  was fully occupied  in caring for them. As if
she hadn't enough cares already.
     She  cooked  for  the  whole  family,  treated  hides with  her younger
daughters  so  as  to  sew, with the aid  of tendons, primitive clothing and
footwear  for  the growing children, herself  and  Ave.  They had  to gather
medicinal  herbs, about  which Mada knew a great  deal, and not just because
she had  once  been  a  Sister of Health. She had been attending to all  the
members of her big family. She hadn't time to help Ave with the hunting.
     After the working day, when darkness had fallen, keeping the fire going
in the hearth and grinding the day's harvest of com in a stone mortar with a
stone pestle, Mada would tell her children fairy tales.
     She didn't invent anything, she simply recalled her  life on Faena. But
for the little Terrans, living in  the dense forest, stories about houses as
high as  the  clouds,  or about rooms that moved about and even went up into
the air like birds, and even of the piloted star on which her parents landed
on  Terr,  all sounded like an amazing,  unattainable and  incredible  fairy
tale.
     Ave Mar also used to listen to these stories about the irrevocable past
as he dozed on his couch after an exhausting day.
     He would  listen and could  never  understand  whether  he  was  having
fantastic dreams or whether  he was remembering long-forgotten pictures from
the words of the now white-haired but still beautiful Mada.
     And, to the rhythmic murmur of her  infinitely beloved voice, the first
Faetian  on  Terr  wondered   what  lay  in   store  for  his  children  and
grandchildren.
     Would the  Faetoids return? Surely the  talking beast that  Serpent had
let go would feel duly grateful and would not only save Avik, but would lead
the Faetoids away,  as Gor  Terr  had done in his time? Or  were neither Gor
Terr nor  Avik still alive, and was the war with the Faetoids about to begin
again?  And who would survive  in that conflict? Who would settle the planet
with a race  of rational beings: the descendants of the Faetians or those of
the Faetoids? In the process of  development,  they would  begin to resemble
the  present-day  Faetians. Otherwise  the law  of development of all living
creatures would have to be seen in a wider perspective than had been thought
of  on Faena. It must be extended from one  planet to all  inhabited worlds!
Rational beings  could appear everywhere and could migrate  to those planets
where rational beings had not yet  appeared. They  would enter into conflict
with the  less developed. Was this not  the meaning of the all-embracing law
of the struggle for existence in which Reason must come out on top.
     Ave decided  to  carve  the  history  of his  family on a cliff  in the
mountains where he went hunting.
     One day, his rational descendants would read the inscription.
     But what would they be like?





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