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Chapter 19

"Trucks almost here. Y'know what to do?" Naxa asked.

Jason nodded, and looked again at the dead man. Some beast had torn his arm off and he had bled to death. The severed arm had been tied into the shirt sleeve, so from a distance it looked normal. Seen close up this limp arm, plus the white skin and shocked expression on the face, gave Jason an unhappy sensation. He liked to see his corpses safely buried. However he could understand its importance today.

"Here they're. Wait until his back's turned," Naxa whispered.

The armored truck had three powered trailers in tow this time. The train ground up the rock slope and whined to a stop. Krannon climbed out of the cab and looked carefully around before opening up the trailers. He had a lift robot along to help him with the loading.

"Now!" Naxa hissed.

Jason burst into the clearing, running, shouting Krannon's name. There was a crackling behind him as two of the hidden men hurled the corpse through the foliage after him. He turned and fired without stopping, setting the thing afire in midair.

There was the crack of another gun as Krannon fired, his shot jarred the twice-dead corpse before it hit the ground. Then he was lying prone, firing into the trees behind the running Jason.

Just as Jason reached the truck there was a whirring in the air and hot pain ripped into his back, throwing him to the ground. He looked around as Krannon dragged him through the door, and saw the metal shaft of a crossbow bolt sticking out of his shoulder.

"Lucky," the Pyrran said. "An inch lower would have got your heart. I warned you about those grubbers. You're lucky to get off with only this." He lay next to the door and snapped shots into the now quiet wood.

Taking out the bolt hurt much more than it had going in. Jason cursed the pain as Krannon put on a dressing, and admired the singleness of purpose of the people who had shot him. They had risked his life to make his escape look real. And also risked the chance that he might turn against them after being shot. They did a job completely and thoroughly and he cursed them for their efficiency.

Krannon climbed warily out of the truck, after Jason was bandaged. Finishing the loading quickly, he started the train of trailers back towards the city. Jason had an anti-pain shot and dozed off as soon as they started.


While he slept, Krannon must have radioed ahead, because Kerk was waiting when they arrived. As soon as the truck entered the perimeter he threw open the door and dragged Jason out. The bandage pulled and Jason felt the wound tear open. He ground his teeth together; Kerk would not have the satisfaction of hearing him cry out.

"I told you to stay in the buildings until the ship left. Why did you leave? Why did you go outside? You talked to the grubbers—didn't you?" With each question he shook Jason again.

"I didn't talk to—anyone." Jason managed to get the words out. "They tried to take me, I shot two—hid out until the trucks came back."

"Got another one then," Krannon said. "I saw it. Good shooting. Think I got some, too. Let him go Kerk, they shot him in the back before he could reach the truck."

That's enough explanations, Jason thought to himself. Don't overdo it. Let him make up his mind later. Now's the time to change the subject. There's one thing that will get his mind off the grubbers.

"I've been fighting your war for you Kerk, while you stayed safely inside the perimeter." Jason leaned back against the side of the truck as the other loosened his grip. "I've found out what your battle with this planet is really about—and how you can win it. Now let me sit down and I'll tell you."

More Pyrrans had come up while they talked. None of them moved now. Like Kerk, they stood frozen, looking at Jason. When Kerk talked, he spoke for all of them.

"What do you mean?"

"Just what I said. Pyrrus is fighting you—actively and consciously. Get far enough out from this city and you can feel the waves of hatred that are directed at it. No, that's wrong—you can't because you've grown up with it. But I can, and so could anyone else with any sort of psi sensitivity. There is a message of war being beamed against you constantly. The life forms of this planet are psi-sensitive, and respond to that order. They attack and change and mutate for your destruction. And they'll keep on doing so until you are all dead. Unless you can stop the war."

"How?" Kerk snapped the word and every face echoed the question.

"By finding whoever or whatever is sending that message. The life forms that attack you have no reasoning intelligence. They are being ordered to do so. I think I know how to find the source of these orders. After that it will be a matter of getting across a message, asking for a truce and an eventual end to all hostilities."

A dead silence followed his words as the Pyrrans tried to comprehend the ideas. Kerk moved first, waving them all away.

"Go back to your work. This is my responsibility and I'll take care of it. As soon as I find out what truth there is here—if any—I'll make a complete report." The people drifted away silently, looking back as they went.

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