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Chapter 18

After breakfast he told Rhes that he wanted to return to the city.

"Then you have seen enough of our barbarian world, and wish to go back to your friends. To help them wipe us out perhaps?" Rhes said it lightly, but there was a touch of cold malice behind his words.

"I hope you don't really think that," Jason told him. "You must realize that the opposite is true. I would like to see this civil war ended and your people getting all the benefits of science and medicine that have been withheld. I'll do everything I can to bring that about."

"They'll never change," Rhes said gloomily, "so don't waste your time. But there is one thing you must do, for your protection and ours. Don't admit, or even hint, that you've talked to any grubbers!"

"Why not?"

"Why not! Suffering death are you that simple! They will do anything to see that we don't rise too high, and would much prefer to see us all dead. Do you think they would hesitate to kill you if they as much as suspected you had contacted us? They realize—even if you don't—that you can singlehandedly alter the entire pattern of power on this planet. The ordinary junkman may think of us as being only one step above the animals, but the leaders don't. They know what we need and what we want. They could probably guess just what it is I am going to ask you.

"Help us, Jason dinAlt. Get back among those human pigs and lie. Say you never talked to us, that you hid in the forest and we attacked you and you had to shoot to save yourself. We'll supply some recent corpses to make that part of your story sound good. Make them believe you, and even after you think you have them convinced keep on acting the part because they will be watching you. Then tell them you have finished your work and are ready to leave. Get safely off Pyrrus, to another planet, and I promise you anything in the universe. Whatever you want you shall have. Power, money—anything.

"This is a rich planet. The junkmen mine and sell the metal, but we could do it much better. Bring a spaceship back here and land anywhere on this continent. We have no cities, but our people have farms everywhere, they will find you. We will then have commerce, trade—on our own. This is what we all want and we will work hard for it. And you will have done it. Whatever you want we will give. That is a promise and we do not break our promises."

The intensity and magnitude of what he described rocked Jason. He knew that Rhes spoke the truth and the entire resources of the planet would be his, if he did as asked. For one second he was tempted, savoring the thought of what it would be like. Then came realization that it would be a half answer, and a poor one at that. If these people had the strength they wanted, their first act would be the attempted destruction of the city men. The result would be bloody civil war that would probably destroy them both. Rhes' answer was a good one—but only half an answer.

Jason had to find a better solution. One that would stop all the fighting on this planet and allow the two groups of humans to live in peace.

"I will do nothing to injure your people, Rhes—and everything in my power to aid them," Jason said.

This half answer satisfied Rhes, who could see only one interpretation of it. He spent the rest of the morning on the communicator, arranging for the food supplies that were being brought to the trading site.

"The supplies are ready and we have sent the signal," he said. "The truck will be there tomorrow and you will be waiting for it. Everything is arranged as I told you. You'll leave now with Naxa. You must reach the meeting spot before the trucks."

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