Translated by Alex Miller
RADUGA PUBLISHERS MOSCOW
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.
Peace is the virtue of civilisation.
War is its crime.
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"I want to stand on that..." and she pointed at the board.
"Ave Mar will be happy to help..."
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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 ...
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
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...
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"A snake couldn't, but Kutsi Merc could. Besides, he has a reliable
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
"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
"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
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
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?
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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"I wouldn't like to be left here without our companion," commented
"Has the visitor from Danjab no more to say than that?" said Lua
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
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
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
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
Kutsi Merc was content and did not hide it.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?" 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
"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
"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
Ave Mar himself couldn't believe it as he stared in bewilderment at his
Alexander Kazantsev. The Destruction of Faena
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
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!"
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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.
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
"Does Urn Sat realise what honour and trust has been afforded him?" he
"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
"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
"I shall complement the space crew with longfaces, the most worthy of
"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
"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
"Then we shall leave those blossoms in peace," interrupted Yar Jupi
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
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
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
Her alarm was not unfounded... Much had indeed been discovered in the
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
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?"
"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
"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,
"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
"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
Clubs, bills and partisans! Strike, beat them down!
Down with the Capulets! Down with the Montagues!
W. Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet
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
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
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
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
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
" 'Loved' her?" The Faetian went suddenly on his guard, staring hard at
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"That means the Mountains of Bitterness and Hate."
"Much as on our Faena. There are dirty green valleys r-running into the
"The Valleys of Jealousy."
"And the black and gr-reen ones?"
"Is it worth it, starting with such gr-rim names?"
"Then look at the big land areas."
"The priests considered that colour to be a sign of worldly wisdom and
"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
"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
"As for Mada's aura," continued Toni Fae, "that's a spectrum of dawn in
"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
"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
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
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
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
"Ave and I are now the first inhabitants of Terr. It'll go down in the
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
"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.
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
"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
"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
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."
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
"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.
NO HAPPINESS IN THIS WORLD
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
AT THE PEAK OF CIVILISATION
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"It's flying dead on course, but..."
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
However, a more powerful emotion was beginning to get the better of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"I take no responsibility for anything!" he shouted.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
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
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.
Where be these enemies?- Capulet! Montague!
See what a scourge is laid upon your hate...
W. Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
When twilight descended on Terr, it reminded them of their own gloomy
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
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
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
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
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
At this point, the always quiet and tactful Toni Fae flew off the
"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.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
Brat Lua was listening to the women in dismay.
"Then let the gentle Ala Veg be chief of the station," proposed Lada
"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."
"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
"Then off you go, join your husband and think the matter over with
"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
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.
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"I would have done so, if I hadn't thought it was Dzin. We owe her so
"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
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
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?"
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
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.
After picking up all the Faetians from Station Deimo, Quest was
approaching Phobo. An increasingly brilliant star was already conspicuous in
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
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
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
"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
"Whom did you force to prime the disintegration torpedoes?" asked Ala
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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.
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
A long, long time afterwards, they did indeed, in certain respects,
help to establish the fate of the condemned.
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
"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
As a precaution, the Faetians decided to keep together wherever they
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
CRATERS IN THE WILDERNESS
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"It will be enough for me if you are by my side in our
"What cave?" asked Ena, brightening up. "Are they going to give us a
"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
"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
"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
"Read it!" commanded Ena.
Some passages in the inscription seemed particularly strange to Tome
"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
"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
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
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,
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
...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
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
"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
"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
"Perhaps they need another leader and they came for a Faetian," said
"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
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
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?
THE TESTAMENT OF THE GREAT ELDER
Last-modified: Thu, 04 Apr 2002 20:25:08 GMT