Beyond The Farthest Star by Edgar Rice Burroughs
First published in
Blue Book magazine—January 1942
Part II. Tangor
PART I. ADVENTURE ON POLODA
We had attended a party at Diamond Head; and after dinner, comfortable on
hikiee and easy-chairs on the lanai, we fell to talking about the legends and
superstitions of the ancient Hawaiians. There were a number of old-timers
there, several with a mixture of Hawaiian and American blood, and we were the
only malihinis—happy to be there, and happy to listen.
Most Hawaiian legends are rather childish, though often amusing; but many
of their superstitions are grim and sinister—and they are not
confined to ancient Hawaiians, either. You couldn't get a modern kane or
wahine with a drop of Hawaiian blood in his veins to touch the bones or
relics still often found in hidden burial caves in the mountains. They seem
to feel the same way about kahunas, and that it is just as easy to be polite
to a kahuna as not—and much safer.
I am not superstitious, and I don't believe in ghosts; so what I heard
that evening didn't have any other effect on me than to entertain me. It
couldn't have been connected in any way with what happened later that night,
for I scarcely gave it a thought after we left the home of our friends; and I
really don't know why I have mentioned it at all, except that it has to do
with strange happenings; and what happened later that night certainly falls
into that category.
We had come home quite early; and I was in bed by eleven o'clock; but I
couldn't sleep, and so I got up about midnight, thinking I would work a
little on the outline of a new story I had in mind.
I sat in front of my typewriter just staring at the keyboard, trying to
recall a vagrant idea that I had thought pretty clever at the time, but which
now eluded me. I stared so long and so steadily that the keys commenced to
blur and run together.
A nice white sheet of paper peeped shyly out from the underneath side of
the platen, a virgin sheet of paper as yet undefiled by the hand of man. My
hands were clasped over that portion of my anatomy where I once had a
waistline; they were several inches from the keyboard when the thing happened
—the keys commenced to depress themselves with bewildering rapidity,
and one neat line of type after another appeared upon that virgin paper,
still undefiled by the hand of man; but who was defiling it? Or what?
I blinked my eyes and shook my head, convinced that I had fallen asleep at
the typewriter; but I hadn't—somebody, or something, was typing a
message there, and typing it faster than any human hands ever typed. I am
passing it on just as I first saw it, but I can't guarantee that it will come
to you just as it was typed that night, for it must pass through the hands of
editors; and an editor would edit the word of God.
I was shot down behind the German lines in September, 1989. Three
Messerschmitts had attacked me, but I spun two of them to earth, whirling
funeral pyres, before I took the last long dive.
My name is—well, never mind; my family still retains many of the
Puritanical characteristics of our revered ancestors, and it is so
publicity-shy that it would consider a death-notice as verging on the vulgar.
My family thinks that I am dead; so let it go at that—perhaps I am. I
imagine the Germans buried me, anyway.
The transition, or whatever it was, must have been instantaneous; for my
head was still whirling from the spin when I opened my eyes in what appeared
to be a garden. There were trees and shrubs and flowers and expanses of
well-kept lawn; but what astonished me first was that there didn't seem to be
any end to the garden—it just extended indefinitely all the way to
the horizon, or at least as far as I could see; and there were no buildings
nor any people.
At least, I didn't see any people at first; and I was mighty glad of that,
because I didn't have any clothes on. I thought I must be dead—I knew
I must, after what I had been through. When a machine-gun bullet lodges in
your heart, you remain conscious for about fifteen seconds—long
enough to realize that you have already gone into your last spin; but you
know you are dead, unless a miracle has happened to save you. I thought
possibly such a miracle might have intervened to preserve me for
I looked around for the Germans and for my plane, but they weren't there;
then, for the first time, I noticed the trees and shrubs and flowers in more
detail, and I realized that I had never seen anything like them. They were
not astoundingly different from those with which I had been familiar, but
they were of species I had never seen or noticed. It then occurred to me that
I had fallen into a German botanical garden.
It also occurred to me that it might be a good plan to find out if I was
badly injured. I tried to stand, and I succeeded; and I was just
congratulating myself on having escaped so miraculously, when I heard a
I wheeled about, to face a girl looking at me in open-eyed astonishment,
with just a tinge of terror. The moment I turned, she did likewise and fled.
So did I; I fled to the concealment of a clump of bushes.
And then I commenced to wonder. I had never seen a girl exactly like her
before, nor one garbed as was she. If it hadn't been broad daylight, I would
have thought she might be going to a fancy dress ball. Her body had been
sheathed in what appeared to be gold sequins; and she looked as though she
had either been poured into her costume, or it had been pasted on her bare
skin. It was undeniably a good fit. From the yoke to a pair of red boots that
flapped about her ankles and halfway to her knees, she had been clothed in
Her skin was the whitest I had ever seen on any human being, while her
hair was an indescribable copper color. I hadn't had a really good look at
her features; and I really couldn't say that she was beautiful; but just the
glimpse that I had had assured me that she was no Gorgon.
After I had concealed myself in the shrubbery, I looked to see what had
become of the girl; but she was nowhere to be seen. What had become of her?
Where had she gone? She had simply disappeared.
All about this vast garden were mounds of earth upon which trees and
shrubbery grew. They were not very high, perhaps six feet; and the trees and
shrubbery planted around them so blended into the growth upon them that they
were scarcely noticeable; but directly in front of me, I noticed an opening
in one of them; and as I was looking at it, five men came out of it, like
rabbits out of a warren.
They were all dressed alike—in red sequins with black boots; and
on their heads were large metal helmets beneath which I could see locks of
yellow hair. Their skin was very white, too, like the girl's. They wore
swords and were carrying enormous pistols, not quite as large as Tommy guns,
but formidable-looking, nonetheless.
They seemed to be looking for someone. I had a vague suspicion that they
were looking for me... Well, it wasn't such a vague suspicion after all.
After having seen the beautiful garden and the girl, I might have thought
that, having been killed, I was in heaven; but after seeing these men garbed
in red, and recalling some of the things I had done in my past life, I
decided that I had probably gone to the other place.
I was pretty well concealed; but I could watch everything they did; and
when, pistols in hand, they commenced a systematic search of the shrubbery, I
knew that they were looking for me, and that they would find me; so I stepped
out into the open.
At sight of me, they surrounded me, and one of them commenced to fire
words at me in a language that might have been a Japanese broadcast combined
with a symphony concert.
"Am I dead?" I asked.
They looked at one another; and then they spoke to me again; but I
couldn't understand a syllable, much less a word, of what they said. Finally
one of them came up and took me by the arm; and the others surrounded us, and
they started to lead me away. Then it was that I saw the most amazing thing I
have ever seen in my life: Out of that vast garden rose buildings! They came
up swiftly all around us—buildings of all sizes and shapes, but all
trim and streamlined, and extremely beautiful in their simplicity; and on top
of them they carried the trees and the shrubbery beneath which they had been
"Where am I?" I demanded. "Can't any of you speak English, or French, or
German, or Spanish, or Italian?"
They looked at me blankly, and spoke to one another in that language that
did not sound like a language at all. They took me into one of the buildings
that had risen out of the garden. It was full of people, both men and women;
and they were all dressed in skin-tight clothing. "Out of that vast garden
rose buildings." They looked at me in amazement and amusement and disgust;
and some of the women tittered and covered their eyes with their hands; at
last one of my escort found a robe and covered me, and I felt very much
better. You have no idea what it does to one's ego to find oneself in the
nude among a multitude of people; and as I realized my predicament, I
commenced to laugh. My captors looked at me in astonishment; they didn't know
that I had suddenly realized that I was the victim of a bad dream: I had not
flown over Germany; I had not been shot down; I had never been in a garden
with a strange girl... I was just dreaming.
"Run along," I said. "You are just a bad dream. Beat it!" And then I said
"Boo!" at them, thinking that that would wake me up; but it didn't. It only
made a couple of them seize me by either arm and hustle me along to a room
where there was an elderly man seated at a desk. He wore a skin-tight suit of
black spangles, with white boots.
My captors spoke to the man at length. He looked at me and shook his head;
then he said something to them; and they took me into an adjoining room where
there was a cage, and they put me in the cage and chained me to one of the
I will not bore you with what happened during the ensuing six weeks;
suffice it to say that I learned a lot from Harkas Yen, the elderly man into
whose keeping I had been placed. I learned, for instance, that he was a
psychiatrist, and that I had been placed in his hands for observation. When
the girl who had screamed had reported me, and the police had come and
arrested me, they had all thought that I was a lunatic.
Harkas Yen taught me the language; and I learned it quickly, because I
have always been something of a linguist. As a child, I traveled much in
Europe, going to schools in France, Italy and Germany, while my father was
the military attach at those legations; and so I imagine I developed an
aptitude for languages.
He questioned me most carefully when he discovered that the language I
spoke was wholly unknown in his world, and eventually he came to believe the
strange story I told him of my transition from my own world to his.
I do not believe in transmigration, reincarnation or metempsychosis, and
neither did Harkas Yen; but we found it very difficult to adjust our beliefs
to the obvious facts of my case. I had been on Earth, a planet of which
Harkas Yen had not the slightest knowledge; and now I was on Poloda, a planet
of which I had never heard. I spoke a language that no man on Poloda had ever
heard, and I could not understand one word of the five principal languages of
After a few weeks Harkas Yen took me out of the cage and put me up in his
own home. He obtained for me a brown sequin suit and a pair of brown boots;
and I had the run of his house; but I was not permitted to leave it, either
while it was sunk below ground or while it was raised to the surface.
That house went up and down at least once a day, and sometimes oftener. I
could tell when it was going down by the screaming of sirens, and I could
tell why it was down by the detonation of bursting bombs that shook
everything in the place.
I asked Harkas Yen what it was all about, although I could pretty well
guess by what I had left in the making on Earth; but all he said was: "The
After I had learned the language so that I could speak and understand it,
Harkas Yen announced that I was to be tried.
"For what?" I asked.
"Well, Tangor," he replied, "I guess it is to discover whether you are a
spy, a lunatic, or a dangerous character who should be destroyed for the good
Tangor was the name he had given me. It means from nothing, and he said
that it quite satisfactorily described my origin; because from my own
testimony I came from a planet which did not exist. Unis is the name of the
country to which I had been so miraculously transported. It was not heaven
and it was certainly not hell, except when the Kapars came over with their
At my trial there were three judges and an audience; the only witnesses
were the girl who had discovered me, the five policemen who had arrested me,
Harkas Yen, his son Harkas Don, his daughter Harkas Yamoda, and his wife. At
least I thought that those were all the witnesses, but I was mistaken. There
were seven more, old gentlemen with sparse grey hairs on their chins—
you've got to be an old man on Poloda before you can raise a beard, and even
then it is nothing to brag about.
The judges were fine-looking men in grey sequin suits and grey boots; they
were very dignified. Like all the judges in Unis, they are appointed by the
government for life, on the recommendation of what corresponds to a bar
association in America. They can be impeached, but otherwise they hold office
until they are seventy years old, when they can be reappointed if they are
again recommended by the association of lawyers.
The session opened with a simple little ritual; everyone rose when the
judges entered the courtroom; and after they had taken their places, every
one, including the judges said, "For the honor and glory of Unis," in unison;
then, I was conducted to the prisoner's dock—I guess you would call
it—and one of the judges asked me my name.
"I am called Tangor," I replied.
"From what country do you come?"
"From the United States of America."
"Where is that?"
"On the planet Earth."
"Where is that?"
"Now you have me stumped," I said. "If I were on Mercury, Venus, Mars, or
any other of the planets of our solar system, I could tell you; but not
knowing where Poloda is, I can only say that I do not know."
"Why did you appear naked in the limits of Orvis?" demanded one of the
judges. Orvis is the name of the city into which I had been ruthlessly
catapulted without clothes. "Is it possible that the inhabitants of this
place you call America do not wear clothing?"
"They wear clothing, Most Honorable Judge," I replied (Harkas Yen had
coached me in the etiquette of the courtroom and the proper way to address
the judges); "but it varies with the mood of the wearer, the temperature,
styles, and personal idiosyncrasies. I have seen ancient males wandering
around a place called Palm Springs with nothing but a pair of shorts to hide
their hairy obesity; I have seen beautiful women clothed up to the curve of
the breast in the evening, who had covered only about one per centum of their
bodies at the beach in the afternoon; but, Most Honorable Judge, I have never
seen any female costume more revealing than those worn by the beautiful girls
of Orvis. To answer your first question: I appeared in Orvis naked, because I
had no clothes when I arrived here."
"You are excused for a moment," said the judge who had questioned me; then
he turned to the seven old men, and asked them to take the stand. After they
had been sworn and he had asked their names, the chief judge asked them if
they could locate any such world as the Earth.
"We have questioned Harkas Yen, who has questioned the defendant," replied
the oldest of the seven, "and we have come to this conclusion." After which
followed half an hour of astronomical data. "This person," he finished,
"apparently came from a solar system that is beyond the range of our most
powerful telescopes, and is probably about twenty-two thousand light-years
That was staggering; but what was more staggering was when Harkas Yen
convinced me that Canapa was identical with the Globular Cluster, N. G. C.
7006, which is two hundred and twenty thousand light-years distant from the
Earth and not just a measly twenty-two thousand; and then, to cap the climax,
he explained that Poloda is two hundred and thirty thousand light-years from
Canapa, which would locate me something like four hundred and fifty thousand
light-years from Earth. As light travels 186,000 miles per second, I will let
you figure how far Poloda is from Earth; but I may say that if a telescope on
Poloda were powerful enough to see what was transpiring on Earth, they would
see what was transpiring there four hundred and fifty thousand years ago.
After they had quizzed the seven astronomers, and learned nothing, one of
the judges called Balzo Maro to the stand; and the girl I had seen that first
day in the garden arose from her seat and came forward to the
After they had gone through the preliminaries, they questioned her about
me. "He wore no clothes?" asked one of the judges.
"None," said Balzo Maro.
"Did he attempt to—ah—annoy you in any way?"
"No," said Balzo Maro.
"You know, don't you," asked one of the judges, "that for wilfully
annoying a woman, an alien can be sentenced to destruction?"
"Yes," said Balzo Maro; "but he did not annoy me. I watched him because I
thought he might be a dangerous character, perhaps a Kapar spy; but I am
convinced that he is what he claims to be."
I could have hugged Balzo Maro.
Now the judges said to me. "If you are convicted, you may be destroyed or
imprisoned for the duration; but as the war has now gone into its one hundred
and first year, such a sentence would be equivalent to death. We wish to be
fair, and really there is nothing more against you than that you are an alien
who spoke no tongue known upon Poloda."
"Then release me and let me serve Unis against her enemies," I made
The judges discussed my proposition in whispers for about ten minutes;
then they put me on probation until the Janhai could decide the matter, and
after that they turned me back to the custody of Harkas Yen, who told me
later that a great honor had been done, as the Janhai rules Unis; it was like
putting my case in the hands of the President of the United States or the
King of England.
The Janhai is a commission composed of seven men who are elected to serve
until they are seventy years old, when they may be re-elected; the word is a
compound of jan (seven) and hai (elect). Elections are held only when it is
necessary to fill a vacancy on the Janhai, which appoints all judges and what
corresponds to our governors of States, who in turn appoint all other State
or provincial officials and the mayors of cities, the mayors appointing
municipal officers. There are no ward-heelers in Unis.
Each member of the Janhai heads a department, of which there are seven:
War; Foreign, which includes State; Commerce; Interior; Education; Treasury
and Justice. These seven men elect one of their own number every six years as
Elianhai, or High Commissioner. He is, in effect, the ruler of Unis but he
cannot serve two consecutive terms. These men, like all the appointees of the
Janhai, the provincial governors, and the mayors, must submit to a very
thorough intelligence test, which determines the candidate's native
intelligence as well as his fund of acquired knowledge; and more weight is
given the former than the latter.
I could not but compare this system with our own, under which it is not
necessary for a Presidential candidate to be able either to read or write;
even a congenital idiot could run for the Presidency of the United States of
America, and serve if he were elected.
There were two cases following mine, and Harkas Yen wanted to stay and
hear them. The first was a murder case; and the defendant had chosen to be
tried before one judge, rather than a jury of five men.
"He is either innocent, or the killing was justifiable," remarked Harkas
Yen. "When they are guilty, they usually ask for a jury trial." In a fit of
passion, the man had killed another who had broken up his home. In fifteen
minutes he was tried and acquitted.
The next case was that of the mayor of a small city who was accused of
accepting a bribe. That case lasted about two hours and was tried before a
jury of five men. In America, it would possibly have lasted two months. The
judge made the attorneys stick to facts and the evidence. The jury was out
not more than fifteen minutes, when it brought in a verdict of guilty. The
judge sentenced the man to be shot on the morning of the fifth day. This gave
him time to appeal the case to a court of five judges; they work fast in
Harkas Yen told me that the court of appeal would examine the transcript
of the evidence and would probably confirm the finding of the lower court,
unless the attorney for the defendant made an affidavit that he could bring
in new evidence to clear his client. It he made such an affidavit, and the
new evidence failed to altar the verdict, the attorney would forfeit his fee
to the State and be compelled to pay all court costs for the second
Attorneys' fees, like doctors', are fixed by law in Unis; and they are
fair—a rich man pays a little more than a poor man, but they can't
take his shirt. If a defendant is very poor, the State employs and pays any
attorney the defendant may select; and the same plan is in effect for the
services of doctors, surgeons and hospitalization.
After the second trial I went home with Harkas Yen and his son and
daughter. While we were walking to the elevators, we heard the wail of
sirens, and felt thee building dropping down its shaft. It was precisely the
same sensation I had when coming down in an elevator from the 102nd story of
the Empire State Building.
This Justice Building, in which the trials had been held, is twenty
stories high; and it dropped down to the bottom of its shaft in about twenty
seconds. Pretty soon we heard the booming of anti-aircraft guns and the
terrific detonation of bombs.
"How long has this been going on?" I asked.
"All my life, and long before," replied Harkas Yen.
"This war is now in its one hundred and first year," said Harkas Don, his
son. "We don't know anything else," he added with a grin.
"It started about the time your grandfather was born," said Harkas Yen.
"As a boy and young man, your great-grandfather lived in a happier world.
Then men lived and worked upon the surface of the planet; cities were built
above-ground; but within ten years after the Kapars launched their campaign
to conquer and rule the world, every city in Unis and every city in Kapara
and many cities on others of the five continents were reduced to rubble.
"It was then that we started building these underground cities that can be
raised or lowered by the power we derive from Omos." (The Sun of Poloda.)
"The Kapars have subjugated practically all the rest of Poloda; but we were,
and still are, the richest nation in the world. What they have done to us, we
have done to them; but they are much worse off than we. Their people live in
underground warrens protected by steel and concrete; they subsist upon the
foods raised by subjugated peoples who are no better than slaves, and work no
better for hated masters; or they eat synthetic foods, as they wear synthetic
clothing. They themselves produce nothing but the material of war. So heavily
do we bomb their land that nothing can live upon its surface; but they keep
on, for they know nothing but war. Periodically we offer them an honorable
peace, but they will have nothing but the total destruction of Unis."
Harkas Yen invited me to remain in his home until some disposition of my
case was made. His place is reached by an underground motorway a hundred feet
beneath the surface. Throughout the city many buildings were still lower,
those more than a hundred feet high having entrances at this hundred-foot
level as well as at ground level when they were raised. The smaller buildings
were raised and lowered in shafts like our elevator shafts. Above them are
thick slabs of armour plate which support the earth and top soil in which
grow the trees, shrubbery, and grass which hide them when they are lowered.
When these smaller buildings are raised they come in contact with their
protecting slabs and carry them on up with them.
After we left the center of the city I noticed many buildings built
permanently at the hundred-foot level; and when I asked Harkas Yen about
this, he explained that when this underground city had first been planned it
was with the expectation that the war would soon be over and that the city
could return to normal life at the surface; that when all hope of the war's
end was abandoned, permanent underground construction was commenced.
"You can imagine," he continued, "the staggering expense involved in
building these underground cities. The Janhai of Unis ordered them commenced
eighty years ago and they are nowhere near completed yet. Hundreds of
thousands of the citizens of Unis live in inadequate shelters, or just in
caves or in holes dug in the ground. It is because of this terrific expense
that, among other things, we wear these clothes we do. They are made of an
indestructible plastic which resembles metal. No person, not even a member of
the Janhai, may possess more than three suits, two for ordinary wear and one
suit of working-clothes, for all productivity must go into the construction
of our cities and the prosecution of the war. Our efforts cannot be wasted in
making clothes to meet every change in style and every silly vanity, as was
true a hundred years ago. About the only things we have conserved from the
old days, which are not absolutely essential to the winning of the war or the
construction of our cities, are cultural. We would not permit art, music, and
literature to die."
"It must be a hard life," I suggested, "especially for the women. Do you
have no entertainment nor recreation?"
"Oh, yes," he replied, "but they are simple; we do not devote much time to
them. Our forebears who lived a hundred years ago would think it a very dull
life, for they devoted most of their time to the pursuit of pleasure, which
was one of the reasons that the Kapars prosecuted the war so successfully at
first, and why almost every nation on Poloda, with the exception of Unis, was
either subjugated or exterminated by the Kapars."
The motorcars of Unis are all identical, each one seating four people
comfortably, or six uncomfortably. This standardization has effected a
tremendous saving in labour and materials. Power is conducted to their motors
by what we would call "radio" from central stations where the sun's energy is
stored. As this source of power is inexhaustible, it has not been necessary
to curtail the use of motors because of war needs. This same power is also
used for operating the enormous pumps which are necessary for draining this
underground world, the mechanism for raising the buildings, and the numerous
air-conditioning plants which are necessary.
I was simply appalled by contemplation of the cost of the excavating and
constructing of a world beneath the surface of the ground, and when I
mentioned this to Harkas Yen he said: "There never has been enough wealth in
the world to accomplish what we have accomplished, other than the potential
wealth which is inherent in the people themselves. By the brains of our
scientists and our leaders, by the unity of our people, and by the sweat of
our brows we have done what we have done."
Harkas Yen's son and daughter, Don and Yamoda, accompanied us from the
Hall of Justice to their home. Yamoda wore the gold sequins and red boots
that all unmarried women wear, while Don was in the blue of the fighting
forces. He and I have hit it off well together, both being flyers; and
neither of us ever tire of hearing stories of the other's world. He has
promised to try to get me into the flying service; and Harkas Yen thinks that
it may be possible, as there is a constant demand for flyers to replace
casualties, of which there are sometimes as many as five hundred thousand in
These figures staggered me when' Harkas Don first mentioned them, and I
asked him how it was the nation had not long since been exterminated.
"Well, you see," he said, "they don't average as high as that. I think the
statistics show that we lose on an average of about a hundred thousand men a
month. There are sixteen million adult women in Unis and something like ten
million babies are born every year. Probably a little better than half of
these are boys. At least five million of them grow to maturity, for we are a
very healthy race. So, you see, we can afford to lose a million men a
"I shouldn't think the mothers would like that very well," I said.
"Nobody does," he replied, "but it is war; and war is our way of
"In my country," I said, "we have what are known as pacifists, and they
have a song which is called, 'I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier.'"
Harkas Don laughed and then said what might be translated into English as:
"If our women had a song, it would be, 'I didn't raise my son to be a
Harkas Yen's wife greeted me most cordially when I returned. She has been
very lovely to me and calls me her other boy. She is a sad-faced woman of
about sixty, who was married at seventeen and has had twenty children, six
girls and fourteen boys. Thirteen of the boys have been killed in the war.
Most of the older women of Unis, and the older men, too, have sad faces; but
they never complain nor do they ever weep. Harkas Yen's wife told me that
their tears were exhausted two generations ago.
I didn't get into the flying service, I got into the Labour Corps—
and it was labour spelled with all capitals, not just a capital L! I had
wondered how they repaired the damage done by the continual bombing of the
Kapars and I found out the first day I was inducted into the Corps.
Immediately following the departure of the Kapar bombers we scurried out of
holes in the ground like worker ants. There were literally thousands of us,
and we were accompanied by trucks, motorized shovels, and scrapers, and an
ingenious tool for lifting a tree out of the ground with the earth all nicely
balled around the roots.
First, we filled the bomb craters, gathering up such plants and trees as
might be saved. The trucks brought sod, trees, and plants that had been
raised underground; and within a few hours all signs of the raid had been
It seemed to me like a waste of energy; but one of my fellow workers
explained to me that it had two important purposes—one was to
maintain the morale of the Unisans, and the other was to lower the morale of
We worked nine days and had one day off, the first day of their ten-day
week. When we were not working on the surface we were working below-ground;
and as I was an unskilled laborer, I did enough work in my first month in the
Labour Corps to last an ordinary man a lifetime. On my third day of rest,
which came at the end of my first month in the Labour Corps, Harkas Don, who
was also off duty on that day, suggested that we go to the mountains. He and
Yamoda got together a party of twelve. Three of the men were from the Labour
Corps, the other three were in the fighting service. One of the girls was the
daughter of the Elianhai, whose office is practically that of the President.
Two of the others were daughters of members of the Labour Corps. There was
the daughter of a university president, the daughter of an army officer, and
Yamoda. The sorrow and suffering of perpetual war has developed a national
unity which has wiped out all class distinction.
Orvis stands on a plateau entirely surrounded by mountains, the nearest of
which are about a hundred miles from the city; and it was to these mountains
that we took an underground train. Here rise the highest peaks in the range
that surrounds Orvis; and as the mountains at the east end of the plateau are
low and a wide pass breaks the range at the west end, the Kapars usually come
and go either from the east or west; so it is considered reasonably safe to
take an outing on the surface at this location. I tell you it was good to get
out in the sun again without having to work like a donkey! The country there
was beautiful; there were mountain streams and there was a little lake beside
which we planned to picnic in a grove of trees. They had selected the grove
because the trees would hide us from any chance enemy flyers who might pass
overhead. For all of the lives of four generations they have had to think of
this until it is second nature for them to seek shelter when in the open.
Someone suggested that we swim before we eat. "I'd like nothing better," I
said, "but I didn't bring any swimming things."
"What do you mean?" asked Yamoda.
"Why, I mean clothes to swim in—a swimming-suit."
That made them all laugh. "You have your swimming suit on," said Harkas
Don, "you were born in it."
I had lost most of my tan after living underground for a couple of months;
but I was still very dark compared with these white-skinned people who have
lived like moles for almost four generations, and my head of black hair
contrasted strangely with the copper hair of the girls and the blond hair of
The water was cold and refreshing and we came out with enormous appetites.
After we had eaten we lay around on the grass and they sang the songs that
Time passed rapidly and we were all startled when one of the men stood up
and announced that we had better leave for home. He had scarcely finished
speaking when we heard the report of a pistol shot and saw him pitch forward
upon his face, dead.
The three soldiers with us were the only ones who bore arms. They ordered
us to lie flat on our faces, and then they crept forward in the direction
from which the sound of the pistol-shot had come. They disappeared in the
underbrush and shortly afterward we heard a fusillade of shots. This was more
than I could stand, lying there like a scared rabbit while Harkas Don and his
companions were out there fighting; so I crawled after them.
I came up to them on the edge of a little depression in which were perhaps
a dozen men behind an outcropping of rock which gave them excellent
protection. Harkas Don and his companions were concealed from the enemy by
shrubbery, but not protected by it. Every time an enemy showed any part of
his body one of the three would fire. Finally the man behind the extreme
right end of the barrier exposed himself for too long; and we were so close
that I could see the hole the bullet made in his forehead before he fell back
behind the barrier. Beyond the point where he fell thick trees and underbrush
concealed the continuation of the outcropping, if there was more, and this
gave me an idea which I immediately set to work to put into execution.
I slipped backward a few yards into the underbrush and then crawled
cautiously to the right. Taking advantage of this excellent cover, I circled
around until I was opposite the left flank of the enemy; then I wormed myself
forward on my belly inch by inch until through a tiny opening in the
underbrush I saw the body of the dead man and, beyond it, his companions
behind their rocky barrier. They were all dressed in drab, grey uniforms that
looked like coveralls, and they wore grey metal helmets that covered their
entire heads and the backs of their necks, leaving only their faces exposed.
They had crossed shoulder belts and a waist-belt filled with cartridges in
clips of about fifteen. Their complexions were sallow and unwholesome; and
though I knew that they must be young men, they looked old; and the faces of
all of them seemed set in sullen scowls. They were the first Kapars that I
had seen, but I recognized them instantly from descriptions that Harkas Don
and others had given me.
The pistol of the dead man (it was really a small machine-gun) lay at his
side, and there was almost a full clip of cartridges in it. I could see them
plainly from where I lay. I pushed forward another inch or two and then one
of the Kapars turned and looked in my direction. At first I thought that he
had discovered me, but I presently saw that he was looking at his dead
comrade. Then he turned and spoke to his companions in a language I could not
understand; it sounded to me something like the noise that pigs make when
they eat. One of them nodded to him, evidently in assent, and he turned and
started to walk toward the dead man. That looked like the end of my little
scheme, and I was just about to take a desperate chance and make a lunge for
the pistol when the Kapar foolishly permitted his head to show above the top
of the barrier, and down he went with a bullet in his head. The other Kapars
looked at him and jabbered angrily to one another; and while they were
jabbering I took the chance, extended my arm through the underbrush, grasped
the pistol and dragged it slowly toward me.
The Kapars were still arguing, or scolding, or whatever they were doing,
when I took careful aim at the nearest of them and commenced firing. Four of
the ten went down before the others realized from what direction the attack
was coming. Two of them started firing at the underbrush where I was hidden,
but I brought them down, and then the other four broke and ran. In doing so
they were exposed to the fire of Harkas Don and his companions, as well as of
mine, and we got every one of them.
I had crawled out from the underbrush in order to my friends would get me
before they recognized me; so I called Harkas Don by name and presently he
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"Tangor," I replied. "I'm coming out; don't shoot."
They came over to me then, and we went in search of the Kapar ship, which
we knew must be near by. We found it in a little natural clearing, half a
mile back from the place where we had shot them. It was unguarded; so we were
sure that we had got them all.
"We are ahead twelve pistols, a lot of ammunition, and one ship," I
"We will take the pistols and ammunition back," said Harkas Don, "but no
one can fly this ship back to Orvis without being killed."
He found a heavy tool in the ship and demolished the motor.
Our little outing was over; and we went home, carrying our one dead with
The next day, while I was loading garbage on a train that was going to the
incinerator, a boy in yellow sequins came and spoke to the man in charge of
us, who turned and called to me. "You are ordered to report to the office of
the Commissioner for War," he said; "this messenger will take you."
"Hadn't I better change my clothes?" I asked. "I imagine that I don't
smell very good."
The boss laughed. "The Commissioner for War has smelled garbage before,"
he said, "and he doesn't like to be kept waiting." So I went along with the
yellow-clad messenger to the big building called the House of the Janhai,
which houses the government of Unis.
I was conducted to the office of one of the Commissioner's assistants.
He looked up as we entered. "What do you want?" he demanded.
"This is the man for whom you sent me," replied the messenger.
"Oh, yes, your name is Tangor. I might have known by that black hair. So
you're the man who says that he comes from another world, some 548,000
light-years from Poloda."
I said that I was. Poloda is four hundred and fifty thousand light-years
from Earth by our reckoning, but it is 547,500 Polodan light-years, as there
are only three hundred days in a Polodan year; but what's one hundred
thousand light-years among friends, anyway?
"Your exploit of yesterday with the Kapars has been reported to me," said
the officer, "as was also the fact that you were a flyer in your own world,
and that you wish to fly for Unis."
"That is right, sir," I said.
"In view of the cleverness and courage which you displayed yesterday, I am
going to permit you to train for the flying force—if you think you
would prefer that to shoveling garbage," he added with a smile.
"I have no complaint to make about shoveling garbage, or anything else
that I am required to do in Unis, sir," replied. "I came here an uninvited
guest, and I have been treated extremely well. I would not complain of any
service that might be required of me."
"I am glad to hear you say that," he said. Then he handed me an order for
a uniform, and gave me directions as to where and to whom to report after I
had obtained it.
The officer to whom I reported sent me first to a factory manufacturing
pursuit-plane motors, where I remained a week; that is, nine working days.
There are ten assembly lines in this plant and a completed motor comes off of
each of them every hour for ten hours a day. As there are twenty-seven
working days in the Polodan month, this plant was turning out twenty-seven
hundred motors a month.
The science of aerodynamics, whether on Earth or on Poloda, is governed by
certain fixed natural laws; so that Polodan aircraft do not differ materially
in appearance from those with which I was familiar on Earth, but their
construction is radically different from ours because of their development of
a light, practically indestructible, rigid plastic of enormous strength. Huge
machines stamp out fuselage and wings from this plastic. The parts are then
rigidly joined together and the seams hermetically sealed. The fuselage has a
double wall with an air space between, and the wings are hollow.
On completion of the plane the air is withdrawn from the space between the
walls of the fuselage and from the interior of the wings, the resulting
vacuum giving the ship considerable lifting power, which greatly increases
the load that it can carry. They are not lighter than air, but when not
heavily loaded they can be maneuvered and landed very slowly.
There are forty of these plants, ten devoted to the manufacture of heavy
bombers, ten to light bombers, ten to combat planes, and ten to pursuit
planes, which are also used for reconnaissance. The enormous output of these
factories, over a hundred thousand planes a month, is necessary to replace
lost and worn-out planes, as well as to increase the fighting force, which is
the aim of the Unisan government.
As I had in the engine factory, I remained in this factory nine days as an
observer, and then I was sent back to the engine factory and put to work for
two weeks; then followed two weeks in the fuselage and assembly plants, after
which I had three weeks of flying instruction, which on several occasions was
interrupted by Kapar raids, resulting in dog-fights in which my instructor
and I took part.
During this period of instruction I was studying the four of the five
principal languages of Poloda with which I was not familiar, giving special
attention to the language of the Kapars. I also spent much time studying the
geography of Poloda.
All during this period I had no recreation whatsoever, often studying all
night until far into the morning; so when I was finally awarded the insignia
of a flyer, I was glad to have a day off. As I was now living in barracks, I
had seen nothing of the Harkases; and so, on this, my first free day, I made
a beeline for their house.
Balzo Maro, the girl who had been first to discover me on my arrival on
Poloda, was there, with Yamoda and Don. They all seemed genuinely glad to see
me and congratulated me on my induction into the flying service.
"You look very different from the first time I saw you," said Balzo Maro,
with a smile; and I certainly did, for I was wearing the blue sequins, the
blue boots, and the blue helmet of the fighting service.
"I have learned a number of things since I came to Poloda," I told her,
"and after having enjoyed a swimming party with a number of young men and
women, I cannot understand why you were so shocked at my appearance that
Balzo Maro laughed. "There is quite a difference between swimming and
running around the city of Orvis that way," she said, "but really it was not
that which shocked me. It was your brown skin and your black hair. I didn't
know what sort of wild creature you might be."
"Well, you know when I saw you running around in that fancy-dress costume
in the middle of the day, I thought there might be something wrong with
"There is nothing fancy about this," she said. "All the girls wear the
same thing. Don't you like it—don't you think it's pretty?"
"Very," I said. "But don't you tire of always wearing the same thing?
Don't you sometimes long for a new costume."
Balzo Maro shook her head. "It is war," she said: the universal answer to
almost everything on Poloda.
"We may do our hair as we please," said Harkas Yamoda, "and that is
"I suppose you have hairdressers who are constantly inventing new styles,"
Yamoda laughed. "Nearly a hundred years ago," she said, "the hairdressers,
the cosmeticians, and the beauticians went into the field to work for Unis.
What we do, we do ourselves."
"You all work, don't you?" I asked.
"Yes," said Balzo Maro, "we work that we may release men for men's work in
the fighting service and the Labour Corps."
I could not but wonder what American women would do if the Nazis succeeded
in bringing total war to their world. I think that they would arise to the
emergency just as courageously as have the women of Unis, but it might be a
little galling to them at first to wear the same indestructible costume from
the time they got their growth until they were married; a costume that, like
Balzo Maro's, as she told me, might be as much as fifty years old, and which
had been sold and re-sold time and time again as each wearer had no further
use for it. And then, when they were married, to wear a similar, destructible
silver costume for the rest of their lives, or until their husbands were
killed in battle, when they would change to purple. Doubtless, Irene, Hattie
Carnegie, Valentina, and Adrian, would all commit suicide, along with Max
Factor, Percy Westmore, and Elizabeth Arden. It was rather a strain on my
imagination to visualize Elizabeth Arden hoeing potatoes.
"You have been here several months now," said Harkas Don; "how do you like
our world by this time?"
"I don't have to tell you that I like the people who live in it," I
replied. "Your courage and morale are magnificent. I like your form of
government, too. It is simple and efficient, and seems to have developed a
unified people without criminals or traitors."
Harkas Don shook his head. "You are wrong there," he said. "We have
criminals and we have traitors, but unquestionably far fewer than in the
world of a hundred years ago, when there was a great deal of political
corruption, which always goes hand in hand with crimes of other kinds. There
are many Kapar sympathizers among us, and some full-blooded Kapars who have
been sent here to direct espionage and sabotage. They are constantly dropping
down by night with parachutes. We get most of them, but not all. You see,
they are a mixed race and there are many with white skins and blond hair who
might easily pass for Unisans."
"And there are some with black hair, too," said Harkas Yamoda, as she
looked at me meaningly, but softened it with a smile.
"It's strange I was not taken for a Kapar, then, and destroyed," I
"It was your dark skin that saved you," said Harkas Don, "and the fact
that you unquestionably understood no language on Poloda. You see, they made
some tests, of which you were not aware because you did not understand any of
the languages. Had you, you could not have helped but show some
Later, while we were eating the noonday meal, I remarked that for complete
war between nations possessing possibly millions of fighting ships, the
attacks of the Kapars since I had been in Unis had not seemed very
"We have lulls like this occasionally," said Harkas Don. "It is as though
both sides became simultaneously tired of war, but one never can tell when it
will break out again in all its fury."
He scarcely had ceased speaking when there came a single, high-pitched
shrieking note from the loudspeakers that are installed the length and
breadth of the underground city. Harkas Don rose. "There it is now," he said.
"The general alarm. You will see war now, Tangor, my friend. Come."
We hurried to the car, and the girls came with us to bring the car back
after they had delivered us to our stations.
Hundreds of ramps lead to the surface from the underground airdromes of
Orvis, and from their camouflaged openings at the surface planes zoom out and
up at the rate of twenty a minute, one every three seconds, like winged
termites emerging from a wooden beam.
I was flying a ship in a squadron of pursuit planes. It was armed with
four guns. One I fired through the propeller shaft, there were two in an
after cockpit, which could be swung in any direction, and a fourth which
fired down through the bottom of the fuselage.
As I zoomed out into the open the sky was already black with our ships.
The squadrons were forming quickly and streaking away toward the southwest,
to meet the Kapars who would be coming in from that direction. And presently
I saw them, like a black mass of gnats miles away.
Of course, at the time that I had been killed in our little war down on
Earth, there had not been a great deal of aerial activity; I mean, no great
mass flights. I know there was talk that either side might send over hundreds
of ships in a single flight, and hundreds of ships seemed a lot of ships; but
this day, as I followed my squadron commander into battle, there were more
than ten thousand ships visible in the sky; and this was only the first wave.
We were climbing steadily at terrific speed in an effort to get above the
Kapars, and they were doing the same. We made contact about twelve miles
above the ground, and the battle soon after developed into a multitude of
individual dog-fights, though both sides tried to keep some semblance of
The atmosphere of Poloda rises about one hundred miles above the planet,
and one can fly up to an altitude of about fifteen miles without needing an
In a few minutes I became separated from my squadron and found myself
engaged with three light Kapar combat planes. Ships were falling all around
us, like dead leaves in an autumn storm; and so crowded was the sky with
fighting ships that much of my attention had to be concentrated upon avoiding
collisions; but I succeeded in maneuvering into a commanding position and had
the satisfaction of seeing one of the Kapars roll over and plummet toward the
ground. The other two were now at a disadvantage, as I was still above them
and they turned tail and started for home. My ship was very much faster than
one of theirs, and I soon overhauled the laggard and shot him down, too.
I could not but recall my last engagement, when I shot down two of three
Messerschmitts before being shot down myself; and I wondered if this were to
be a repetition of that adventure—was I to die a second time?
I chased the remaining Kapar out over the enormous bay that indents the
west coast of Unis. It is called the Bay of Hagar. It is really a gulf for it
is fully twelve hundred miles long. An enormous island at its mouth has been
built up with the earth excavated from the underground workings of Unis,
pumped there through a pipe that you could drive an automobile through. It
was between the coast and this island that I got on the tail of this last
Kapar. One gunner was hanging dead over the edge of the cockpit, but the
other was working his gun. Above the barking of my own gun I could hear his
bullets screaming past me; and why I wasn't hit I shall never know, unless it
was that that Kapar was Poloda's worst marksman.
Evidently I wasn't much better, but finally I saw him slump down into the
cockpit; and then beyond his ship I saw another wave of Kapar flyers coming,
and I felt that it was a good time to get away from there. The Kapar pilot
that I had been pursuing must have seen the new wave at the same time that I
did, for he turned immediately after I had turned and pursued me. And now my
engine began to give trouble; it must have been hit by the last spurt from
the dead gunner's piece. The Kapar was overhauling me, and he was getting in
range, but there was no answering fire from the gunners in my after cockpit.
I glanced back to find that they were both dead.
Now I was in a fix, absolutely defenseless against the ship pulling up
behind me. I figured I might pull a fast one on him; so I banked steeply and
dived beneath him; then I banked again and came up under his tail with my gun
bearing on his belly. I was firing bullets into him when he dived to escape
me, but he never came out of that dive.
To the west the sky was black with Kapar ships. In a minute they would be
upon me; it was at that moment that my engine gave up the ghost. Ten or
eleven miles below me was the coast of Unis. A thousand miles to the
northeast was Orvis. I might have glided 175 or 180 miles toward the city,
but the Kapars would long since have been over me and some of their ships
would have been detached to come down and put an end to me. As they might
already have sighted me, I put the ship into a spin in the hope of misleading
them into thinking I had been shot down. I spun down for a short distance and
then went into a straight dive, and I can tell you that spinning and diving
for ten or eleven miles is an experience.
I brought the ship down between the coast and a range of mountains, and no
Kapar followed me. As I climbed out of the pilot's cockpit, Bantor Han, the
third gunner, emerged from the ship.
"Nice work," he said, "we got all three of them."
"We had a bit of luck," I said, "and now we've got a long walk to
"We'll never see Orvis again," said the gunner.
"What do you mean?" I demanded.
"This coast has been right in the path of Kapar flights for a hundred
years. Where we are standing was once one of the largest cities of Unis, a
great seaport. Can you find a stick or stone of it now? And for two or three
hundred miles inland it is the same; nothing but bomb craters."
"But are there no cities in this part of Unis?" I asked.
"There are some farther south. The nearest is about a thousand miles from
here, and on the other side of this range of mountains. There are cities far
to the north, and cities east of Orvis; but it has never been practical to
build even underground cities directly in the path of the Kapar flights,
while there are other sections less affected."
"Well," I said, "I am not going to give up so easily. I will at least try
to get to Orvis or some other city. Suppose we try for the one on the other
side of these mountains. At least we won't be in the path of the Kapars every
time they come over."
Bantor Han shook his head again. "Those mountains are full of wild
beasts," he said. "There was a very large collection of wild animals in the
city of Hagar when the war broke out over a hundred years ago. Many of them
were killed in the first bombing of the city; but all their barriers were
broken down, and the survivors escaped. For a hundred years they have ranged
these mountains and they have multiplied. The inhabitants of Polan, this city
you wish to try to reach, scarcely dare stick their heads above-ground
because of them. No," he continued, "we have no complaint to make. You and I
will die here, and that will mean that we have lost four men and one pursuit
plane to their three light combat ships and, possibly, twenty men. It is a
mighty good day's work, Tangor, and you should be proud."
"That is what I call patriotism and loyalty," I said; "but I can be just
as patriotic and loyal alive as dead, and I don't intend even to think of
giving up yet. If we are going to die anyway, I can see no advantage in
sitting here and starving to death."
Bantor Han shrugged. "That suits me," he said. "I thought I was as good as
dead when you tackled those three combat planes, and the chances are that I
should have been killed in my next engagement. I have been too lucky; so, if
you prefer to go and look for death instead of waiting for it to come to you,
I'll trot along with you."
So Bantor Han and I took the weapons and ammunition of our dead comrades
and entered the Mountains of Loras.
I was amazed by the beauty of these mountains after we entered them. We
were about eight or nine hundred miles north of the Equator and the climate
was similar to the south temperate zone of Earth in summertime. Everything
was green and beautiful, with a profusion of the strange trees and plants and
flowers which are so like those of Earth, and yet so unlike. I had been
cooped up for so long in the underground city of Orvis that I felt like a boy
lust released from a schoolroom for a long vacation. But Bantor Han was
uneasy. "Of course, I was born here in Unis," he said, "but being on the
surface like this is to me like being in a strange world, for I have spent
practically all of my life either underground or high up in the air."
"Don't you think that this is beautiful?" I asked him.
"Yes," he said, "I suppose it is, but it is a little bewildering; there is
so much of it. There is a feeling of rest, and quiet, and security down there
in underground Orvis; and I am always glad to get back to it after a
I suppose that was the result of living underground for generations, and
that Bantor Han had developed a complex the exact opposite of claustrophobia.
Possibly it has a name, but if it has I never heard it. There were streams in
the mountains, and little lakes where we saw fish playing, and the first
animal that we saw appeared to be some sort of an antelope. It was armed with
long, sharp horns, and looked something like an addax. It was standing with
its forefeet in shallow water at the edge of a lake, drinking, when we came
upon it; and as it was upwind from us it did not catch our scent. When I saw
it I drew Bantor Han into the concealment of some bushes.
"There is food," I whispered, and Bantor Han nodded.
I took careful aim and brought the animal down with a single bullet
through the heart. We were busy carving a few steaks from it when our
attention was attracted by a most unpleasant growl. We looked up
"That's what I meant," said Bantor Han. "The mountains are full of
creatures like that."
Like most of the animals that I have seen on Poloda, it did not differ
greatly from those on Earth; that is, they all have four legs, and two eyes,
and usually a tail. Some are covered with hair, some with wool, some with
fur, and some are hairless. The Polodan horse has three-toed feet, and a
little horn in the center of his forehead. The cattle have no horns, nor are
their hoofs cloven, and in fighting they bite and kick like an earthly horse.
They are not horses and cows at all, but I call them by earthly names because
of the purposes for which they are used. The horses are the saddle animals
and beasts of burden, and occasionally are used for food. The cattle are
definitely beef animals, and the cows give milk. The creature that was
creeping toward us with menacing growls was built like a lion and striped
like a zebra, and it was about the size of an African lion. I drew my pistol
from its holster, but Bantor Han laid a hand upon my arm.
"Don't shoot it," he said, "you may make it angry. If we go away and leave
this meat to it, it probably will not attack us."
"If you think I am going to leave our supper to that thing, you are very
much mistaken," I said. I was amazed at Bantor Han! knew that he was no
coward. He had an excellent record in the fighting service and was covered
with decorations. But everything here on the ground was so new and strange to
him. Put him twelve miles up in the air, or a hundred feet underground, and
he wouldn't have backed down for man or beast.
I shook his hand off and took careful aim just as the creature charged,
with a charge for all the world like an African lion. I let him have it
straight in the heart—a stream of four or five bullets, and they
almost tore him apart, for they were explosive bullets.
Civilized, cultured, as these Unisans are, they use both dumdum and
exploding projectiles in their small arms. When I commented on the fact to
one of them, he replied: "This is the complete war that the Kapars asked
"Well," exclaimed Bantor Han, "you did it, didn't you?" He seemed
surprised that I had killed the beast.
We cooked and ate the antelope steaks, and left the rest where it lay, for
we had no means of carrying any of it with us. We felt much refreshed, and I
think that Bantor Han felt a little safer now that he had found that we were
not going to be eaten up by the first carnivorous animal that we met.
It took us two days to cross through this mountain range. Fortunately for
us, we had tackled it near its extreme northern end, where it was quite
narrow and the mountains were little more than large hills. We had plenty to
eat, and were only attacked twice more by dangerous animals, once by a huge
creature that resembled a hyena, and again by the beast that I have named
"the lion of Poloda." The two nights were the worst, because of the increased
danger of prowling carnivora. The first we spent in a cave, and took turns
standing watch, and the second night we slept in the open; but luck was with
us and nothing attacked us.
As we came down out of a cañon on the east side of the mountains we
saw that which brought us to a sudden stop—a Kapar plane not half a
mile from us, on the edge of a little ravine that was a continuation of the
cañon we were in. There were two men beside the plane, and they seemed
to be digging in the ground.
"Two more Kapars for our bag, Bantor Han," I said.
"If we get them and destroy their plane, we can certainly afford to die,"
"You're always wanting to die," I said reproachfully. "I intend to live."
He would have been surprised had he known I was already dead, and buried
somewhere 548,000 light-years away! "And furthermore, Bantor Han," I added,
"we are not going to destroy that plane; not if it will fly."
We dropped into the ravine and made our way down toward the Kapars. We
were entirely concealed from above, and if we made any noise it was drowned
out by the noise of the little brook running over its rocky bed.
When I thought we had gone far enough, I told Bantor Han to wait and then
I clambered up the side of the ravine to reconnoiter. Sure enough, I had hit
the nail right on the head. There were the two Kapars digging away, scarcely
a hundred feet from me. I crouched down and beckoned Bantor Han to come
There is no chivalry in complete war, I can assure you. Those two Kapars
didn't have a chance. They were both dead before they knew there was an enemy
within a thousand miles. Then we went to see what they had been at, and found
a box beside the hole which they had been excavating. It was a metal box with
a waterproof top, and when we opened it we found that it contained two
complete blue uniforms of the Unis Fighting Corps, together with helmets,
boots, ammunition belts, daggers, and guns. There were also directions in the
Kapar language for entering the city of Orvis and starting numerous fires on
a certain night about a month later. Even the location of the buildings that
might most easily be fired, and from which the fires would spread most
rapidly, was given.
We put the box aboard the ship and climbed in.
"We'll never make it," said Bantor Han. "We're bound to be shot down."
"You're certainly determined to die, aren't you?" I said, as I started the
engine and taxied for the takeoff.
I knew that the sound-detectors were already giving warning of the
approach of a ship, and of a Kapar ship, too; for our ships are equipped with
a secret device which permits the detectors to recognize them. The signal
that it gives can be changed at will, and is changed every day, so that it
really amounts to a countersign. Watchers must be on the alert for even a
single ship, but I was positive that they would be looking up in the air; so
I hugged the ground, flying at an elevation of little more than twenty
Before we reached the mountains which surround Orvis, I saw a squadron of
pursuit planes come over the summit.
"They are looking for us," I said to Bantor Han, who was in the after
cockpit, "and I'm going right up where they can see us."
"You'll come down in a hurry," said Bantor Han.
"Now, listen," I said; "as soon as we get where you can distinguish the
gunners and pilots and see that their uniforms are blue, you stand up and
wave something, for if you can see the color of their uniforms, they can see
the color of yours; and I don't believe they will shoot us down then."
"That's where you're mistaken," said Bantor Han; "lots of Kapars have
tried to enter Orvis in uniforms taken from our dead pilots."
"Don't forget to stand up and wave," I said.
We were getting close now, and it was a tense moment. I could plainly see
the blue uniforms of the gunners and the pilots; and they could certainly see
Bantor Han's and mine, and with Bantor Han waving to them they must realize
that here was something unusual.
Presently the Squadron Commander ordered his ships to take position above
us; and then he commenced to circle us, coming closer and closer. He came so
close at last that our wings almost touched.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"Bantor Han and Tangor," I replied, "in a captured Kapar ship."
I heard one of his gunners say: "Yes, that's Bantor Han. I know him
"Land just south of the city," said the Squadron Commander. "We'll escort
you down; otherwise you'll be shot down.."
I signalled that I understood, and he said, "Follow me."
So we dropped down toward Orvis near the apex of a V-formation, and I can
tell you I was mighty glad to pile out of that ship with a whole skin.
I told the Squadron Commander about what we had seen the two Kapars doing,
and turned the box over to him. Then I went and reported to my own Squadron
"I never expected to see you again," he said. "What luck did you
"Twenty-two Kapars and four ships," I replied.
He looked at me a bit skeptically. "All by yourself?"
"There were three in my crew," I said. "I lost two of them, and my
"The balance is still very much in your favor," he said. "Who else
"Bantor Han," I replied.
"A good man," he said. "Where is he?"
"Waiting outside, sir."
He summoned Bantor Han. "I understand you had very good luck," he
"Yes sir," said Bantor Han; "four ships and twenty-two men, though we lost
two men and our ship."
"I shall recommend decorations for both of you," he said, and dismissed
us. "You may take a day off," he said, "you have earned it; and you, too,
I lost no time in setting off to the Harkases. Harkas Yamoda was in the
garden, sitting staring at the ground and looking very sad; but when I spoke
her name she leaped to her feet and came running toward me, laughing almost
hysterically. She seized me by both arms.
"Oh, Tangor," she cried, "you did not come back, and we were sure that you
had been shot down. The last that anyone saw of you, you were fighting three
Kapar combat planes alone."
"Harkas Don," I asked, "—he came back?"
"Yes; now we shall all be so thankful and so happy—until next
I had dinner with Yamoda and her father and mother, and after dinner
Harkas Don came. He was as surprised and delighted as the others to see
"I didn't think you had a chance," he said. "When a man is gone three
days, he is reported dead. You were very fortunate."
"How did the battle go, Harkas Don?" I asked.
"We thrashed them as usual," he said. "We have better ships, better
pilots, better gunners, better guns, and I think that now we have more ships.
I don't know why they keep on coming over. They sent over two waves of five
thousand ships each this time, and we shot down at least five thousand of
them. We lost a thousand ships and two thousand men. The others parachuted to
"I don't see why they keep it up," I said. "I shouldn't think they'd be
able to get men to fight when they know they are just going to their death
for no good reason."
"They are afraid of their masters," replied Harkas Don, "and they have
been regimented for so many years that they have no initiative and no
individuality. Another reason is that they wish to eat. The leaders live like
princes of old; the army officers live exceptionally well; and the soldiers
get plenty to eat, such as it is. If they were not fighting men, they would
be laborers, which, in Kapara, is the equivalent of being a slave. They get
barely enough food to subsist upon and they work from sixteen to eighteen
hours a day; yet their lot is infinitely better than that of the subjugated
peoples, many of whom have been reduced to cannibalism."
"Let's talk of something pleasant," said Yamoda.
"I think I see something pleasant to talk about, coming," I said, nodding
toward the entrance to the garden where we were sitting. It was Balzo
She came in with a brilliant smile, which I could see was forced. Harkas
Don met her and took both her hands and pressed them, and Yamoda kissed her.
I had never seen such demonstrations of affection before, for though those
three people loved one another, and each knew it, they made no show of that
love in front of others.
They evidently saw that I was puzzled, and Balzo Maro said, "My youngest
brother died gloriously in the battle;" and after a pause she said: "It is
war." I am not terribly emotional, but a lump came in my throat and tears to
my eyes. These brave people! How they have suffered because of the greed for
power, the vanity, and the hate of a man who died almost a hundred years
They did not speak of Balzo Maro's loss again; they never would speak of
it again. It is war.
"So you have tomorrow free," said Harkas Don. "Perhaps you are
"Why?" I asked.
"Tomorrow we raid Kapara with twenty thousand ships," he said. "It is a
"And then they will send over forty thousand ships in reprisal," said
Harkas Yamoda; "and so it goes on forever."
"I shall not have a free day tomorrow," I said.
"Why, what do you mean?" asked Yamoda.
"I am going out with my squadron," I said. "I don't see why the commander
didn't tell me."
"Because you have earned a day to yourself," said Harkas Don.
"Nevertheless, I am going," I said.
We took off the next morning just before dawn, thousands of planes of all
descriptions. We were to fly at an altitude of twelve miles, and as we gained
it, four of Omos' eleven planets were visible in the heavens, the nearest
less than six hundred thousand miles away. It was a gorgeous sight indeed.
Around Omos, the sun of this system, revolve eleven planets, each
approximately the size of our Earth. They are spaced almost exactly
equidistant from one another; the path of their orbits being a million miles
from the center of the sun, which is much smaller than the sun of our own
solar system. An atmospheric belt seventy-two hundred miles in diameter
revolves with the planets in the same orbit, thus connecting the planets by
an air lane which offers the suggestion of possible inter-planetary travel;
this Harkas Yen told me might have been achieved long since had it not been
for the war.
Ever since I came to Poloda my imagination has been intrigued by thoughts
of the possibilities inherent in a visit to these other planets, where
conditions almost identical with those on Poloda must exist. On these other
planets there may be, and probably are, animal and plant life not dissimilar
from our own, but which there is little likelihood that we shall ever see
while complete war is maintained upon Poloda.
I had a long flight ahead of me, and speculating on inter-planetary travel
helped to pass the time away. Kapara lies on the continent of Epris, and
Ergos, the capital of Kapara, is some eleven thousand miles from Orvis; and
as our slowest planes have a speed of five hundred miles an hour, we were due
over Ergos a couple of hours before dawn of the following day. As all three
of my gunners are relief pilots, we relieved each other every four hours.
Bantor Han was not with me on this flight, and I had three men with whom I
had not previously flown. However, like all of the men of the fighting forces
of Unis, they were efficient and dependable.
After crossing the coastline of Unis we flew three thousand and five
hundred miles over the great Karagan Ocean, which extends for eighty-five
hundred miles from the northern continent of Karis to the southernmost tip of
Unis, where the continents of Epris and Unis almost meet.
At an altitude of twelve miles there is not much to see but atmosphere.
Occasional cloud banks floated beneath us, and between them we could see the
blue ocean, scintillating in the sunlight, looking almost as smooth as a
millpond; but the scintillation told us that high seas were running.
About noon we sighted the shore of Epris; and shortly after, a wave of
Kapar planes came to meet us. There were not more than a thousand of them in
this wave; and we drove them back, destroying about half of them, before a
second and much larger wave attacked us. The fighting was furious, but most
of our bombers got through. Our squadron was escorting one of the heavy
bombers, and we were constantly engaged in fighting off enemy attack planes.
My plane was engaged in three dog-fights within half an hour, and I was
fortunate to come through with the loss of only one man, one of the gunners
in the after cockpit. After each fight I had to open her up wide and overtake
the bomber and her convoy.
The cruising speed of these pursuit ships is around five hundred miles an
hour, but they have a top speed of almost six hundred miles. The bombers
cruise at about five hundred, with a top speed around five hundred and
Of the two thousand light and heavy bombers that started out with the
fleet on this raid, about eighteen hundred got through to Ergos; and there,
believe me, the real fighting commenced. Thousands upon thousands of Kapar
planes soared into the air, and our fleet was augmented by the arrival of the
survivors of the dog-fights.
As the bombers unloaded their heavy bombs we could first see the flames of
the explosions and then, after what seemed a long while, the sound of the
detonation would come to us from twelve miles below. Ships were falling all
about us, ours and the Kapars. Bullets screamed about us, and it was during
this phase of the engagement that I lost my remaining after cockpit
Suddenly the Kapar fleet disappeared, and then the anti-aircraft guns
opened up on us. Like the anti-aircraft guns of Unis, they fire a
thousand-pound shell twelve or fifteen miles up into the air, and the burst
scatters fragments of steel for five hundred yards in all directions. Other
shells contain wire nets and small parachutes, which support the nets in the
air to entangle and foul propellers.
After unloading our bombs, some seven or eight thousand tons of them, upon
an area of two hundred square miles over and around Ergos, we started for
home, circling to the east and then to the north, which would bring us in
over the southernmost tip of Unis. I had two dead men in the after cockpit;
and I hadn't been able to raise the gunner in the belly of the ship for some
As we circled over the eastern tip of Epris, my motor failed entirely, and
there was nothing for me to do but come down. Another hour and I would have
been within gliding distance of the tip of Unis, or one of the three islands
which are an extension of this tip, at the southern end of the Karagan
The crews of many ships saw me gliding down for a landing, but no ship
followed to succor me. It is one of the rules of the service that other ships
and men must not be jeopardized to assist a pilot who is forced down in enemy
country. The poor devil is just written off as a loss. I knew from my study
of Polodan geography that I was beyond the southeastern boundary of Kapara,
and over the country formerly known as Punos, one of the first to be
subjugated by the Kapars over a hundred years before.
What the country was like I could only guess from rumors that are current
in Unis, and which suggest that its people have been reduced to the status of
wild beasts by years of persecution and starvation.
As I approached the ground I saw a mountainous country beneath me and two
rivers which joined to form a very large river that emptied into a bay on the
southern shoreline; but I found no people, no cities, and no indication of
cultivated fields. Except along the river courses, where vegetation was
discernible, the land appeared to be a vast wilderness. The whole terrain
below me appeared pitted with ancient shell-craters, attesting the terrific
bombardment to which it had been subjected in a bygone day.
I had about given up all hope of finding a level place on which to make a
landing, when I discovered one in the mouth of a broad cañon, at the
southern foot of a range of mountains.
As I was about to set the ship down I saw figures moving a short distance
up the cañon. At first I could not make out what they were, for they
dodged behind trees in an evident effort to conceal themselves from me; but
when the ship came to rest they came out, a dozen men armed with spears and
bows and arrows. They wore loincloths made of the skin of some animal, and
they carried long knives in their belts. Their hair was matted and their
bodies were filthy and terribly emaciated.
They crept toward me, taking advantage of whatever cover the terrain
afforded; and as they came they fitted arrows to their bows.
The attitude of the reception committee was not encouraging. It seemed to
indicate that I was not a welcome guest. I knew that if I let them get within
bow range, a flight of arrows was almost certain to get me; so the thing to
do was keep them out of bow range. I stood up in the cockpit and levelled my
pistol at them, and they immediately disappeared behind rocks and trees.
I wished very much to examine my engine and determine if it were possible
for me to repair it, but I realized that as long as these men of Punos were
around that would be impossible. I might go after them; but they had the
advantage of cover and of knowing the terrain; and while I might get some of
them, I could not get them all; and those that I did not get would come back,
and they could certainly hang around until after dark and then rush me.
It looked as though I were in a pretty bad way, but I finally decided to
get down and go after them and have it out. Just then one of them stuck his
head up above a rock and called to me. He spoke in one of the five languages
of Unis that I had learned.
"Are you a Unisan?" he asked.
"Yes," I replied.
"Then do not shoot," he said. "We will not harm you."
"If that is true," I said, "go away."
"We want to talk to you," he said. "We want to know how the war is going
and when it will end."
"One of you may come down," I said, "but not more."
"I will come," he said, "but you need not fear us."
He came down toward me then, an old man with wrinkled skin and a huge
abdomen, which his skinny legs seemed scarcely able to support. His grey hair
was matted with twigs and dirt, and he had the few grey hairs about his chin
which can note old age on Poloda.
"I knew you were from Unis when I saw your blue uniform," he said. "In
olden times the people of Unis and the people of Punos were good friends.
That has been handed down from father to son for many generations. When the
Kapars first attacked us, the men of Unis gave us aid; but they, too, were
unprepared; and before they had the strength to help us we were entirely
subjugated, and all of Punos was overrun with Kapars. They flew their ships
from our coastlines, and they set up great guns there; but after a while the
men of Unis built great fleets and drove them out. Then, however, it was too
late for our people."
"How do you live?" I asked.
"It is hard," he said. "The Kapars still come over occasionally, and if
they find a cultivated field they bomb and destroy it. They fly low and shoot
any people they see, which makes it difficult to raise crops in open country;
so we have been driven into the mountains, where we live on fish and roots
and whatever else we can find."
"Many years ago," he continued, "the Kapars kept an army stationed here,
and before they were through they killed every living thing that they could
find—animals, birds, men, women, and children. Only a few hundred
Punosans hid themselves in the inaccessible fastnesses of this mountain
range, and in the years that have passed we have killed off all the remaining
game for food faster than it could propagate."
"You have no meat at all?" I asked.
"Only when a Kapar is forced down near us," he replied. "We hoped that you
were a Kapar, but because you are a Unisan you are safe."
"But now that you are so helpless, why is it that the Kapars will not
permit you to raise crops for food?"
"Because our ancestors resisted them when they invaded our country and
that aroused the hatred upon which Kapars live. Because of this hatred they
tried to exterminate us. Now they fear to let us get a start again, and if we
were left alone there would be many of us in another hundred years; and once
again we would constitute a menace to Kapara."
Harkas Yen had told me about Punos and I had also read something about the
country in the history of Poloda. It had been inhabited by a virile and
intelligent race of considerable culture. Its ships sailed the four great
oceans of Poloda, carrying on commerce with the people of all the five
continents. The central portion was a garden spot, supporting countless
farms, where grazed countless herds of livestock; and along its coastline
were its manufacturing cities and its fisheries. I looked at the poor old
devil standing before me: this was what the warped, neurotic mind of one man
could do to a happy and prosperous nation!
"Won't your ship fly?" he asked me.
"I don't know," I said. "I want to examine the motor and find out."
"You'd better let us push it into the cañon for you," he said. "It
can be better hidden there from any Kapars who may fly over."
There was something about the poor old fellow that gave me confidence in
him, and as the suggestion was a wise one, I accepted it. So he called his
companions and they came down out of the cañon—eleven dirty,
scrawny, hopeless-looking creatures of all ages. They tried to smile at me,
but I guess the smiling muscles of their ancestors had commenced to atrophy
They helped me push the ship into the cañon, where, beneath a large
tree, it was pretty well hidden from above. I had forgotten the dead men
aboard the ship; but one of the Punosans, climbing up on the wing, discovered
the two in the after cockpit; and I knew that there must be another one in
the belly of the ship. I shuddered as I thought what was passing through the
"There are dead men in the ship," he said to his fellows; and the old man,
who was the leader, climbed up on the wing and looked; then he turned to
"Shall we bury your friends for you?" he asked, and a weight of fear and
sorrow was lifted from my shoulders.
They helped me remove the cartridge belts and uniforms from the bodies of
my friends and then they scooped out shallow graves with their knives and
their hands, and laid the three bodies in them and covered them again.
When these sad and simple rites were ended, I started taking my engine
down, the twelve Punosans hanging around and watching everything I did. They
asked many questions about the progress of the war, but I could not encourage
them to think that it would soon be over, or ever.
I found the damage that had been done to my engine, and I knew that I
could make the necessary repairs, for we carried tools and spare parts; but
it was getting late and I could not complete the repairs until the following
The old man realized this and asked me if I would come to their village
and spend the night there.
I could have slept in the ship, but purely out of curiosity I decided to
accept his invitation.
Before we started for his village he touched me timidly on the arm. "May
we have the guns and ammunition of your dead friends?" he asked. "If we had
them, we might kill some more Kapars."
"Do you know how to use them?" I asked.
"Yes," he said, "we have found them on the bodies of Kapars who crashed
here, and those whom we killed, but we have used up all the ammunition."
I followed them up the cañon and then along a narrow, precipitous
trail that led to a tiny mesa on the shoulder of a towering peak. A waterfall
tumbled from the cliff above into a little lake at its foot, and from there a
mountain stream wandered across the mesa to leap over the edge of another
cliff a mile away. Trees grew along one side of the stream and up to the foot
of the cliff, and among these trees the village was hidden from the eyes of
Hide! Hide! Hide! A world in hiding! It seemed difficult to imagine that
anyone had ever walked freely in the sunlight on the surface of Poloda
without being ready to dodge beneath a tree, or into a hole in the ground;
and I wondered if my world would ever come to that. It didn't seem possible;
but for thousands of years, up until a hundred years ago, no inhabitant of
Poloda would have thought it possible here.
In the village were a hundred people, forty women, fifty men, and ten
children, poor, scrawny little things, with spindly arms and legs and
enormous bellies, the result of stuffing, themselves with grasses and twigs
and leaves to assuage the pangs of hunger. When the villagers saw my escort
coming in with me they ran forward hungrily, but when they recognized my blue
uniform they stopped.
"He is our friend and guest," said the chief. "He has killed many Kapars,
and he has given us guns and ammunition to kill more." And he showed them the
weapons and the ammunition belts.
They crowded around me then and, like the twelve men, asked innumerable
questions. They dwelt much upon the food we had in Unis, and were surprised
to know that we had plenty to eat, for they thought that the Kapars must have
devastated Unis as they had Punos.
The little children came timidly and felt of me. To them I was a man from
another world. To me they were the indictment of a hideous regime.
The hunting party whose activities I had interrupted had brought in a
couple of small rodents and a little bird. The women built a fire and put a
large pot on it, in which there was a little water. Then they took the
feathers off the bird and skinned the rodents, and threw them in without
cleaning them. To this they added herbs and roots and handfuls of grass.
"The skins will make a little soup for the children for breakfast," an old
woman explained to me as she laid them carefully aside.
They stirred the horrible mess with a piece of a small branch of a tree,
and when it boiled the children clustered around to sniff the steam as it
arose; and the adults formed a circle and stared at the pot hungrily.
I had never seen starving people before, and I prayed to God that I might
never see any again unless I had the means wherewith to fill their bellies;
and as I watched them I did not wonder that they ate Kapars, and I marvelled
at the kindliness and strength of will that kept them from eating me. When
those mothers looked at me I could imagine that they were thinking of me in
terms of steaks and chops which they must forego although their children were
In a community in which there were forty adult women there were only ten
children, but I wondered how there could be any, infant mortality must
certainly be high among a starving people. I could imagine that I was looking
at the remnant of a race that would soon be extinct, and I thought that there
must be something wrong with all the religions in the universe that such a
thing could happen to these people while the Kapars lived and bred.
When they thought the mess in the pot was sufficiently cooked, little cups
of clay, crudely burnt, were passed out, and the chief carefully measured out
the contents of the pot with a large wooden ladle. When he came to me, I
shook my head; and he looked offended.
"Is our fare too mean for you?" he asked.
"It is not that," I said. "I am well fed, and tomorrow I shall eat again.
Here are starving men, and starving women, and, above all, starving
"Forgive me," he said. "You are a very kind man. The children shall have
your share." Then he dipped out other cupful and divided it among the ten
children, scarcely a mouthful apiece; but they were so grateful that once
again the tears came to my eyes. I must be getting to be a regular softy; but
before I came to Poloda I had never seen such sadness, such courage, such
fortitude, or such suffering, as I have upon this poor war-torn
Next morning the whole village accompanied me down the cation to see me
take off for Orvis. Three men went far in advance and when he got down into
the cation one of them came running back to meet us. I could see that he was
very much excited, and he was motioning to us to be silent.
"There is a Kapar at your ship," he said, in a whisper.
"Let me go ahead," I said to the chief. "There will probably be
"We should have brought the guns," he said. "Why did I not think of that?"
And he sent three men scurrying back to get them.
I walked down the cañon until I came to the other two men who had
gone ahead. They were hiding behind bushes and they motioned me to take
cover, but I had no time for that; and instead I ran forward, and when I came
in sight of the ship a man was just climbing up onto the wing. He was a Kapar
all right, and I started firing as I ran toward him. I missed him, and he
wheeled about and held both hands above his head in sign of surrender.
I kept him covered as I walked toward him, but as I got nearer I saw that
he was unarmed.
"What are you doing there, Kapar?" I demanded.
He came toward me, his hands still above his head. "For the honor and
glory of Unis," he said. "I am no Kapar." He removed his grey helmet,
revealing a head of blond hair. But I had been told that there were some
blond Kapars, and I was not to be taken in by any ruse.
"You'll have to do better than that," I said. "If you are a Unisan, you
can prove it more convincingly than by showing a head of blond hair. Who are
you, and from what city do you come?"
"I am Balzo Jan," he said, "and I come from the city of Orvis."
Now Balzo Jan was the brother that Balzo Maro had said was shot down in
battle. This might be he, but I was still unconvinced.
"How did you get here?" I demanded.
"I was shot down in battle about two hundred miles from here," he said.
"We made a good landing and some Kapars who saw that we were evidently not
killed came down to finish us off. There were four of them and three of us.
We got all four of them, but not before my two companions were killed.
Knowing that I was somewhere in Epris, and therefore in Kapar-dominated
country, I took the uniform of one of the Kapars as a disguise."
"Why didn't you take his gun and ammunition, too?"
"Because we had all exhausted all our ammunition," he replied, "and guns
without ammunition are only an extra burden to carry. I had killed the last
Kapar with my last bullet."
"You may be all right," I said, "but I don't know. Can you tell me the
name of some of your sister's friends?"
"Certainly," he said. "Her best friends are Harkas Yamoda and Harkas Don,
daughter and son of Harkas Yen."
"I guess you're all right," I said. "There are a couple of blue uniforms
in the after cockpit. Get into one of them at once, and then we'll go to work
on the motor."
"Look," he cried, pointing beyond me, "some men are coming. They are going
to attack us."
I turned to see my friendly hosts creeping toward us with shafts fitted to
"It is all right," I shouted to them, "this is a friend."
"If he is a friend of yours, then you must be a Kapar," replied the
"He is no Kapar," I insisted; and then I turned and shouted to Balzo Jan
to get into a blue uniform at once.
"Perhaps you have deceived us," shouted the chief. "How do we know that
you are not a Kapar, after all?"
"Our children are hungry," screamed a woman farther back up the
cañon. "Our children are hungry, we are hungry, and here are two
It was commencing to look very serious. The men were creeping closer; they
would soon be within bow range. I had put my pistol back into its holster
after I had been convinced that Balzo Jan was no impostor, and I did not draw
it as I walked forward to meet the chief.
"We are friends," I said. "You see, I am not afraid of you. Would I have
given you the three guns and the ammunition had I been a Kapar? Would I have
let that man back there live if I had not known that he was a Unisan?"
The chief shook his head. "That is right," he said. "You would not have
given us the guns and ammunition had you been a Kapar. But how do you know
this man is not a Kapar?" he added suspiciously.
"Because he is the brother of a friend of mine," I explained. "He was shot
down behind the Kapar lines and he took the uniform from a Kapar he had
killed to use as a disguise, because he knew that he was in Kapar
About this time Balzo Jan crawled out of the after cockpit dressed in the
blue suit, boots, and helmet of a Unisan fighting man.
"Does he look like a Kapar?" I asked.
"No," the chief said. "You must forgive us. My people hate the Kapars, and
they are hungry."
With Balzo Jan's help I had the engine repaired and we were ready to take
off a little after noon; and when we rose into the air the starving villagers
stood sad-eyed and mute, watching us fly away toward a land of plenty.
As we rose above the mountains that lay between us and the coast I saw
three ships far to our left. They were flying in a south-westerly direction
"I think they are Kapars," said Balzo Jan, who was far more familiar with
the lines of Polodan ships than I, having spent most of his lifetime looking
Even as we watched, the three ships turned in our direction. Whatever they
were, they had sighted us and were coming for us.
If they were Unisans, we had nothing to fear; nor for that matter did we
have anything to fear if they were Kapars, for my ship could out fly them by
a hundred miles an hour. Had they been as fast as ours, they could have cut
us off, for they were in the right position to do so. We had been making
about four hundred miles an hour and now I opened the throttle wide, for I
did not purpose taking any chances, as I felt that we wouldn't have a chance
against three Kapars, with three or four guns apiece, while we only had two.
I opened the throttle, but nothing happened. The engine didn't accelerate at
all. I told Balzo Jan.
"We shall have to fight, then," he said, "and I wanted to get home and get
a decent meal. I have had practically nothing to eat for three days."
I knew how Balzo Jan felt, for I had had nothing to eat myself for some
time, and anyway I had had enough fighting for a while.
"They are Kapars all right," said Balzo Jan presently.
There was no doubt about that now; the black of their wings and fuselages
was quite apparent, and we were just about going to meet them over the island
off the southern tip of Unis. We were going to meet right over the last and
largest of the three islands, which is called the Island of Despair, where
are sent those confirmed criminals who are not to be destroyed, and those
Unisans whose loyalty is suspected, but who cannot be convicted of
I had been fiddling with the engine controls, trying to step up the speed
a little, when the first burst of fire whistled about us. The leading ship
was coming head-on toward us, firing only from her forward gun, when Balzo
Jan sent a stream of explosive projectiles into her. I saw her propeller
disappear then, and she started to glide toward the Island of Despair.
"That's the end of them," shouted Balzo Han.
Quite suddenly and unexpectedly my motor took hold again, and we
immediately drew away from the other two ships, which Balzo Jan was spraying
We must have been hit fifty times, but the plastic of our fuselage and
wings could withstand machine-gun fire, which could injure us only by a lucky
hit of propeller or instrument-board. It is the heavier guns of combat planes
and bombers that these fast, lightly armed pursuit planes have to fear.
"I hate to run from Kapars," I shouted back to Balzo Jan. "Shall we stay
and have it out with them?"
"We have no right to throw away a ship and two men," he said, "in a
Well, that was that. Balzo Jan knew the rules of the game better than I;
so I opened the throttle wide and soon left the remaining Kapars far behind,
and shortly after, they turned and resumed their flight toward Kapara.
There are two pilot seats and controls in the front cockpit, as well as
the additional controls in the after cockpit. However, two men are seldom
seated in the front cockpit, except for training purposes, as there is only
one gun there and the Unisan military chiefs don't believe in wasting man
power. However, the seat was there, and I asked Balzo Jan to come up and sit
"If you see any more Kapars," I said, "you can go back to your gun."
"Do you know," he said, after he had crawled up into the forward cockpit
and seated himself beside me, "that we have been so busy since you first
discovered me climbing into your ship that I haven't had a chance to ask you
who you are. I know a lot of men in the fighting service, but I don't recall
ever having seen you before."
"My name is Tangor," I said.
"Oh," he said, "you're the man that my sister discovered without any
clothes on after a raid several months ago."
"The same," I said, "and she is mourning you for dead. I saw her at the
Harkases the night before we took off for this last raid."
"My sister would not mourn," he said proudly.
"Well, she was mourning inwardly," I replied, "and sometimes that's worse
for a woman than letting herself go. I should think a good cry now and then
would be a relief to the women of Poloda."
"I guess they used to cry," he said, "but they don't any more. If they
cried every time they felt like crying, they'd be crying all the time; and
they can't do that, you know, for there is work to do. It is war."
It is war! That was the answer to everything. It governed their every
activity, their every thought. From birth to death they knew nothing but war.
Their every activity was directed at the one purpose of making their country
more fit for war.
"I should think you would hate war," I said to Balzo Jan.
He looked at me in surprise. "Why?" he demanded. "What would we do with
ourselves if there were no war?"
"But the women," I said. "What of them?"
"Yes," he replied, "it is hard on them. The men only have to die once, but
the women have to suffer always. Yes; it is too bad, but I can't imagine what
we would do without war."
"You could come out in the sunshine, for one thing," I said, "and you
could rebuild your cities, and devote some of your time to cultural pursuits
and to pleasure. You could trade with other countries, and you could travel
to them; and wherever you went you would find friends."
Balzo Jan looked at me skeptically. "Is that true in your world?" he
"Well, not when I was last there," I had to admit, "but then, several of
the countries were at war."
"You see," he said, "war is the natural state of man, no matter what world
he lives in."
We were over the southern tip of Unis now. The majestic peaks of the
Mountains of Loras were at our left, and at our right the great river which
rises in the mountains south of Orvis emptied into the sea, fifteen hundred
miles from its source. It is a mighty river, comparable, I should say, to the
Amazon. The country below us was beautiful in the extreme, showing few
effects of the war, for they have many buried cities here whose Labour Corps
immediately erase all signs of the devastating effects of Kapar raids as soon
as the enemy has departed.
Green fields stretched below us in every direction, attesting the fact
that agriculture on the surface still held its own against the Kapars on this
part of the continent; but I knew at what a price they raised their crops
with low flying Kapar planes strafing them with persistent regularity, and
bombers blasting great craters in their fields.
But from high above this looked like heaven to me, and I wondered if it
were indeed for me the locale of that after-life which so many millions of
the people of my world hope and pray for. It seemed to me entirely possible
that my transition to another world was not unique, for in all the vast
universe there must be billions of planets, so far removed from the ken of
Earth men that their existence can never be known to them.
I mentioned to Balzo Jan what was passing in my mind and he said, "Our
people who lived before the war had a religion, which taught that those who
died moved to Uvala, one of the planets of our solar system which lies upon
the other side of Omos. But now we have no time for religion; we have time
only for war."
"You don't believe in a life hereafter, then?" I asked. "Well, I didn't
either, once, but I do now."
"Is it really true that you come from another world?" he asked. "Is it
true that you died there and came to life again on Poloda?"
"I only know that I was shot down by an enemy plane behind the enemy
lines," I replied. "A machine-gun bullet struck me in the heart, and during
the fifteen seconds that consciousness remained I remember losing control of
my ship and going into a spin. A man with a bullet in his heart, spinning
toward the ground from an altitude of ten thousand feet, must have died."
"I should think so," said Balzo Jan, "but how did you get here?"
I shrugged. "I don't know any more about it than you do," I replied.
"Sometimes I think it is all a dream from which I must awake."
He shook his head. "Maybe you are dreaming," he said, "but I am not. I am
here, and I know that you are here with me. You may be a dead man, but you
seem very much alive to me. How did it seem to die?"
"Not bad at all," I replied. "I only had fifteen seconds to think about
it, but I know that I died happy because I had shot down two of the three
enemy planes that had attacked me."
"Life is peculiar," he said. "Because you were shot down in a war on a
world countless millions of miles away from Poloda, I am now alive and safe.
I can't help but be glad, my friend, that you were shot down."
It was a quiet day over Unis; we reached the mountains south of Orvis
without sighting a single enemy plane, and after crossing the mountains I
dropped to within about a hundred feet of the ground. I like to fly low when
I can; it breaks the monotony of long flights, and we ordinarily fly at such
tremendous altitudes here that we see very little of the terrain.
As we dropped down I saw something golden glinting in the sunshine below
us. "What do you suppose that is down there. I said to Balzo Jan, banking so
that he could see it.
"I don't know," he said, "but it looks amazingly like a woman lying there;
but what a woman would be lying out in the open for, so far from the city, I
"I am going down to see," I said.
I spiraled down and as we circled over the figure I saw that it was indeed
a woman, lying upon her face—an unmarried woman, I knew, for her suit
was of golden sequins. She lay very still, as though she were asleep.
I put the plane down and taxied up close to her. "You stay at the
controls, Balzo Jan," I said, for one must always think of Kapars and be
ready to run, or fight, or hide.
I dropped to the ground and walked over to the still form. The girl's
helmet had fallen off, and her mass of copper red hair spread over and hid
that part of her face which was turned up. I knelt beside her and turned her
over, and as I saw her face my heart leaped to my throat—it was
Harkas Yamoda, little Harkas Yamoda, crushed and broken.
There was blood on her lips, and I thought she was dead; but I didn't want
to believe it, I wouldn't believe it; and so I placed my ear against her
breast and listened—and faintly I heard the beating of her heart. I
lifted the little form in my arms, then, and carried it to the ship.
"It is Harkas Yamoda," I said to Balzo Jan, as I passed her up to him;
"she is still alive. Put her in the after cockpit." Then I Sprang to the wing
of the ship and told Balzo Jan to take the controls and bring the ship
I got in with Harkas Yamoda and held her in my arms as gently as I could,
while the ship bumped over the rough ground during the take-off. I wiped the
blood from her lips; that was all I could do, that and pray. I had not prayed
before since I was a little boy at my mother's knee. I remember wondering, if
there were a God, if He could hear me, so very far away, for I had always
thought of God as being somewhere up in our own heaven.
It was only a matter of fifteen or twenty minutes before Balzo Jan set the
ship down outside of Orvis and taxied down the ramp to our underground
There are always fleets of ambulances at every airdrome, for there are
always wounded men in many of the ships that come in. Also, close by is an
emergency hospital; and to this I drove with Harkas Yamoda, after telling
Balzo Jan to notify her father.
The surgeons worked over her while I paced the floor outside. They worked
very quickly and she had only just been carried to her room when Harkas Yen,
and Don, and Yamoda's mother came. The four of us stood around that silent,
unconscious little form lying so quietly on her cot.
"Have you any idea how it happened?" I asked Harkas Yen.
He nodded. "Yes," he said, "she was on an outing with some of her friends
when they were attacked by Kapars. The men put up a good fight and several of
them were killed. The girls ran, but a Kapar overtook Yamoda and carried her
"She must have jumped from the plane," said Don.
"Planes!" said Yamoda's mother bitterly. "Planes! The curse of the world.
History tells us that when they were first perfected and men first flew in
the air over Poloda, there was great rejoicing, and the men who perfected
them were heaped with honors. They were to bring the peoples of the world
closer together. They were to break down international barriers of fear and
suspicion. They were to revolutionize society by bringing all people
together, to make a better and happier world in which to live. Through them
civilization was to be advanced hundreds of years; and what have they done?
They have blasted civilization from nine-tenths of Poloda and stopped its
advance in the other tenth. They have destroyed a hundred thousand cities and
millions of people, and they have driven those who have survived underground,
to live the lives of burrowing rodents. Planes! The curse of all times. I
hate them. They have taken thirteen of my sons, and now they have taken my
"It is war," said Harkas Yen, with bowed head.
"This is not war," cried the sad-faced woman, pointing at the still form
upon the cot.
"No," I said, "this is not war—it is rapine and murder."
"What else can you expect of the Kapar's?" demanded Harkas Don. "But for
this they shall pay.
"For this they shall pay," I, too, swore.
Then the surgeons came in and we looked at them questioningly. The senior
surgeon put his hand on the shoulder of Yamoda's mother and smiled. "She will
live," he said. "She was not badly injured."
Yes; planes used in war are a curse to humankind, but thanks to a plane
Balzo Maro's brother had been returned to her, and little Yamoda would
Listen! The sirens are sounding the general alarm.
PART II. TANGOR RETURNS
Naturally, my imagination has been constantly intrigued by speculation as
to the fate of Tangor, since his unseen, perhaps ghostly, fingers typed the
story of his advent upon Poloda, that mysterious planet some 450,000 light
years from Earth; typed them upon my own machine one midnight while I sat
amazed, incredulous, and fascinated, with my hands folded in my lap.
His story told of his death behind the German lines in September, 1959,
when he was shot down in a battle with three Messerschmitts, and of how he
had found himself, alive, uninjured, and as naked as the day he was born, in
I hung upon every line that he wrote; his description of the underground
city of Orvis with its great buildings that were lowered deep beneath the
surface of the ground when the Kapar bombers flew over by thousands to drop
their lethal bombs in the great war that has already lasted more than a
I followed his adventures after he became a flier in the air corps of
Unis, the Polodan country of his adoption. I grieved with him at the bedside
of little Harkas Yamoda; and there were tears of relief in my eyes, as there
must have been in his, when the surgeons announced that she would live.
And then the last line that he typed: "Listen! The sirens are sounding the
That was all. But I have sat before my typewriter at midnight many a night
since that last line was typed by unseen hands. I have wondered if Tangor
ever came back from the battle to which that general alarm called him, or if
he died a second death and, perhaps, a final one.
I had about given up my midnight vigils as useless, when one night
recently, shortly before midnight, I was awakened by a hand upon my shoulder.
It was a moonlight night. The objects in the room were faintly visible, yet I
could see no one. I switched on the reading light at the head of my bed.
Other than myself there was no one in the room, or at least no one I could
see; and then I heard and saw the space bar of my typewriter moving up and
down with something that seemed like a note of urgency.
As I started to get out of bed, I saw a sheet of typewriter paper rise
from my desk as though endowed with life and place itself in the typewriter.
By the time I reached my desk and sat down before the machine, those ghostly
fingers had already started to type the story which you are about to
Tangor had returned!
That general alarm certainly called us to a real battle. The Kapars sent
over ten thousand planes, and we met them over the Bay of Hagar with fully
twenty thousand. Perhaps a thousand of them got through our lines to drop
their bombs over Orvis, those that our pursuit planes did not overtake and
shoot down; but we drove the others out over the Karagan Ocean, into which
ships plunged by the thousands.
At last they turned and fled for home, but we pursued them all the way to
Ergos, flying low over the very city, strafing them as they taxied for their
ramps; then we turned back, perhaps ten thousand ships out of the twenty
thousand that had flown out to meet the Kapars. We had lost ten thousand
ships and perhaps fifty thousand men, but we had practically annihilated the
Kapar fleet and had saved Unis from a terrific bombing; and on the way back,
we met a few straggling Kapars returning, shooting down every last one of
Once more all three of my gunners were killed, while I came through
without a scratch. Either I have a charmed life or else, having died once, I
cannot' die again.
I saw practically nothing of Harkas Yamoda while she was convalescing, as
the doctors had ordered that she have perfect rest; but a flier has to have
relaxation, and he has to have girl friends—he sees altogether too
much of men while he is on duty, as about half of those he does see are
firing rifles or machine guns or cannons at him. It is a nerve-racking
business, and the majority of us are always on edge most of the time when we
are on the ground. It is a strange thing; but that restlessness and
nervousness seem to leave me when I am in the air; and of course when you are
in battle, you haven't time to think of such things.
There was a girl working in the office of the Commissioner for War, whom I
had seen and talked to many times. She was always exceedingly pleasant to me
and as she seemed a nice sort, intelligent and witty, I finally asked her to
have dinner with me.
We had a mightily pleasant evening together, and after that I saw a great
deal of her when I was off duty. She liked to get me to talk about my own
world, way off there so far beyond Canapa.
Once, after we had been going together for some time, Morga Sagra said she
couldn't understand why it was I was so loyal to Unis when I hadn't been born
there and had no relations, even, on the planet.
"Suppose you had come down in Kapara," she asked, "instead of in
I shrugged. "I don't like to think of it," I said; "I am sure that I never
could have fought for and been loyal to the Kapars."
"What do you know about them," she asked, "except what we Unisans have
told you? and naturally, we are biased. As a matter of fact, I don't think
they are a bad sort at all, and their form of government is based upon a much
more enduring concept than ours."
"Just what do you mean?" I asked.
"It is based on war," said Morga Sagra, "and war is the natural state of
the human race. War is their way of life. They are not always thinking of
peace as are we."
"You wouldn't like peace?" I asked.
"No!" she exclaimed, "I should hate it. Think of having to associate with
men who never fought. It would be disgusting. If I were a man, I would join
the Kapars, for they are going to win the war eventually."
"That is a very dangerous thing to say, Morga Sagra," I told her.
"I'm not afraid to tell you," she said; "you are no Unisan, you owe no
more allegiance to Unis than you do to Kapara. Listen, Tangor; don't be
stupid. You are an alien here; you have made a good record as a fighter, but
what can it get you?—nothing. You will always be an alien, who can do
no more than fight for Unis—and probably get killed in the long
"Well, and what do you want me to do, stop fighting?"
"No," she said, leaning close to me and whispering; "I want you to go to
Kapara and take me with you. You and I could go far there with the Unisan
military secrets we could take with us."
I was immeasurably shocked, but I did not let her see it. The little fool
was a traitor, and if she had thought that I was greatly shocked by what she
had said, she would be afraid that I might turn her in to the authorities. If
she would turn against Unis for no reason whatsoever other than a perverted
admiration for the Kapars, she certainly wouldn't hesitate to' turn against
me if she had reason to fear me. She was right, I am an alien here. Any lie
that she could make up might be believed.
"You take me by surprise, Morga Sagra," I said; "I had never thought of
such a thing. I don't believe that it could be done; the Kapars would never
After that she evidently thought that I could be won over easily, for she
told me that she had long been in touch with Kapar sympathizers in Orvis and
knew two Kapar secret agents well.
"I have discussed this matter with them," she said, "and they have
promised me that you and I will be treated like kings of old if we can get to
Ergos. That's the capital of Kapara," she added.
"Yes, I know," I told her; "I have been there."
"You have!" she exclaimed.
"Yes, to drop bombs on it. It would be amusing to go there now to live,
and have my old comrades in arms dropping bombs on me."
"Then you'll go?" she asked.
"Let me think it over, Morga Sagra," I said; "this is not something that a
man can do without thought."
So we left it that way, and the next day I went to the Commissioner for
War and told him the whole story, and I didn't have even a single qualm of
conscience for betraying Morga Sagra; she was a traitor and she tried to make
a traitor of me. While I am on Poloda, Unis will be as dear to me as my own
United States of America. I wear the uniform of her fighting force; I have
been well treated; my friends are here; they trust me, as do my superiors and
my fellow fighters. I could never betray them.
The Commissioner for War is a crusty old fellow, and he almost blew up
like one of his own bombs when he learned that a Kapar agent was employed in
"She'll be shot tomorrow!" he exploded, and then he thought a moment and
calmed down. "Maybe it would be better to let her live," he said; "maybe we
can use her. Come with me."
He took me to the Eljanhai's office and there he had me repeat what I had
told him. "It is too bad," said the Eljanhai; "I knew her father well; he was
a brave officer. He was killed in battle when she was a little baby. I hate
to think of ordering his daughter destroyed, but I suppose there is no other
"I have another way," said the Commissioner for War. "I suggest that if
Tangor will accept the mission, we let him accede to Morga Sagra's
proposition. As you know, the Kapars are supposed to have perfected a power
amplifier which will permit them to fly to great distances from Poloda,
possibly to other planets. I have heard you say that you wished that we could
get the drawings of this new amplifier." He turned to me. "It would be a very
dangerous mission, Tangor, and one in which you might not possibly be able to
succeed, but there would be a chance, if you were there. What do you say to
"I am in the service of Unis," I said; "whatever you wish me to do, I will
do to the best of my ability."
"Excellent," said the Eljanhai, "but do you realize that the chances are
about a thousand to one that you will be unsuccessful and that you will never
get out of Kapara alive."
"I realize that, sir," I said, "but I take similar chances almost ever day
of my life."
"Then it is settled," he said, "let us know when you are ready to go, and
every arrangement will be made to facilitate your departure; and, by the way,
when you get to Kapara, see if you can get any information as to the fate of
one of our most valuable secret agents from whom we have not heard for two
years; he is an officer named Handon Gar," and then he described the man very
minutely to me, as I could not, of course, inquire about him, and
furthermore, he had unquestionably changed his name after he reached
The two then gave me certain military information to report to the Kapars,
information they were perfectly willing to trade for a chance to get the
secret of the amplifier.
I wondered just why they were so anxious to obtain the secret of this
power amplifier and so I made bold to ask.
"To be perfectly frank," said the Eljanhai, "Unis is tired of war; and we
wish to send an expedition to one of the nearer planets, either Tonos or
Antos, to see what conditions are there; and if they are better, eventually
to transport all Unisans to one of these planets."
What an amazing and stupendous project, it was staggering even to
contemplate—an heroic migration unparalleled in history.
"But if you get the secret," warned the Eljanhai, "you must destroy all
copies of the plans you do not bring away with you, and destroy also all
those who could reproduce them, so that the Kapars cannot follow. Our sole
desire is to find some world free from war, and no world would be free from
war if there were Kapars there."
I saw Morga Sagra again that evening. "Well," she asked, "have you made up
"Yes," I replied. "I have come to the conclusion that you were right; I
owe these people nothing, and if the Kapars are going to win this war, I
might as well be on the winning side."
"You are quite right," she said; "you will never regret it. I have made
all the necessary arrangements for our entry into Kapara, but the problem of
getting out of Unis is for you to solve."
"I will take care of everything," I told her, "and in the meantime I think
that we should not be seen together too much. Hold yourself in readiness to
leave at any moment; I may call for you tomorrow or the next day."
We parted then and I went out to the Harkases' to bid them good-bye.
Yamoda was stronger and had been moved out into the garden, where she lay on
a couch in the artificial sunlight which illuminates this underground city.
She seemed so genuinely happy to see me that I hated to tell her that I was
going away for an indefinite period. We had become such excellent friends
that it saddened us both to realize that we might not see one another again
for a considerable time, and her lip trembled when I told her that I had come
to say good-bye. She seemed to sense that this was more than an ordinary
parting to which the women of Unis are so accustomed.
"How long will you be gone?" she asked.
"I have no idea," I replied.
"Then I suppose that you can't tell me where you are going, either."
"No, I can't," I replied; "about all I can tell you is that it is a secret
She nodded and placed her hand on mine. "You will be careful of yourself,
won't you, Tangor?" she asked.
"Yes, Yamoda, I will be careful; and I will try to get back as quickly as
possible, for I shall miss you very much."
"You have been doing very well without me lately," she said, with a
mischievous twinkle in her eye; "is she such very good company?"
"She is better than nobody," I replied, "and I get terribly lonesome when
I can't come out here."
"I don't believe I know her," she said; "she does not go with the same
people I do."
I thought I noticed just a trace of contemptuousness in that speech,
something quite unlike Yamoda. "I have never met any of her friends," I said.
Just then Yamoda's mother came into the garden, and we talked of other
things. They insisted on my staying to dinner.
When I left, later in the evening, it was very hard for me to say good-bye
to them all, for the Harkases are my best friends in Unis, and Don and Yamoda
are just like brother and sister to me; in fact their mother calls me her
Early the following morning, I called on the Commissioner for War, and
told him that I planned on leaving that day. I explained in detail the
procedure I wished to follow to get Morga Sagra out of Orvis, and he told me
that everything would be arranged in accordance with my plans. He then gave
me a sheaf of military documents which I was to turn over to the Kapars as
proof of my good faith and of my potential value to them.
"You will need something to meet expenses while you are there," he said,
and he handed me a heavy leather pouch. "As there is no longer any monetary
medium of international exchange," he continued, "you will have to do the
best you can with the contents of this pouch, which contains gold and
precious stones. I shall immediately instruct your squadron commander that
you have been ordered to make a reconnaissance flight alone and that the
mission is a secret one, he is to see that no one is in the hangar between
the third and fourth hours after noon, as it is my wish that no one sees you
depart. During that time, you can smuggle in your co-conspirator; and now
good-bye, my boy, and good luck. The chances are that I shall never see you
again, but I shall remember you as one who died gloriously for the honor and
glory of Unis."
That sounded altogether too much like an obituary, and I went away
thinking of the little white cross somewhere in the Rhine valley. If what I
had been told about the Kapars were true, I would have no little white cross
there, as my body would be shipped off to serve as food for some of their
subjugated peoples working in slavery for them.
I called on Sagra at the third hour after noon. "Everything is arranged,"
I told her, "and we shall be on our way within the hour."
She had not smiled as she usually did when we met, and I noticed a certain
constraint in her manner. Finally the cause of it came out, as she blurted,
"What were you doing in conference with the Commissioner for War this
"How did you think I was going to get out of Orvis?" I demanded. "I had to
work on the old chap a long time to get him to order me to make a
reconnaissance flight alone."
"I'm sorry," she said, "but this is dangerous business; and when one's
life is constantly at stake, suspicion becomes almost an obsession.
"I can well understand that," I said; "but if our mission is to be
successful, we must trust one another fully."
"I shan't doubt you again," she said, "but right now my nerves are on
edge. I am really terrified, for I don't see how you are going to get me out
of the city; and if you are caught trying it, we'll both be shot."
"Don't worry," I said; "just do as I tell you."
We went out to my car then, and I had her get in the rear compartment, and
when I was sure that no one was looking, I told her to lie down on the floor;
then I threw an old robe over her.
I drove directly to the hangar, which I found entirely deserted. I drove
as close to my ship as I could and then had Sagra crawl into the gunner's
compartment in the belly of the fuselage. A moment later I had taxied up the
ramp and taken off.
"Which way?" I asked Sagra, over the communicating system.
"Northwest," she replied. "When can I get out of here? I don't like it
"In just a moment," I replied.
By mutual agreement, Sagra had kept all of the plans covering our flight
to Kapara and our entry into that country to herself. My job had been to
simply get the military secrets and get us out of Orvis.
A small hatchway in the ceiling of the compartment in which Sagra was led
to the rear gunner's cockpit, and when I told her to come up with me, she
came through this hatchway and climbed over into the forward cockpit.
"Now," I said, "you can tell me why we are flying northwest if we are
going to Kapara, which lies southwest of Unis."
"It's a long way around, I know," she said, "but it's the only way in
which we can eventually enter Kapara in a Kapar plane. In this plane and with
that uniform of yours, we'd not get far in Kapara; so we are flying to Gorvas
Gorvas is a city on the continent of Karis, the farthest removed from the
continent of Epris on which Kapara is situated. It is a poor barren
continent, and the one least affected by the war, for it possesses nothing
that the Kapars want.
After an uneventful flight, we landed at Gorvas. No fighting planes had
come up to meet us, and no anti-aircraft shells had burst around us, as we
had circled above Gorvas before landing; for the people of Karis know they
have nothing to fear from Unis, and we received a friendly greeting from some
officers at the airport.
Morga Sagra had obtained forged credentials for us, and she had told me
that my name hereafter would be Korvan Don, while she would keep her own name
which was favorably known to her connections in Ergos, the capital of
After leaving the airport, Sagra told the driver of the public conveyance
we had hired, to drive to a certain house, the address of which had been
given her by a Kapar agent in Orvis.
Gorvas is a poor city, but at least it is not underground, although, as I
was told, every building has its bombproof cellar. Occasionally we saw bomb
craters, indicating that the Kapars came even here to this far away, barren
country, either because the Kerisans were known to be friendly with Unis or
just to satisfy their inordinate lust for destruction.
Our driver took us to a poor part of town and stopped before a mean little
one-story stone house where we dismissed him. We stood there until he had
driven away; then Sagra led the way along the street to the third house,
after which she crossed the street to the house directly opposite. It was all
quite mysterious, but it showed the care with which everything had been
arranged to avoid leaving a well-marked trail.
Approaching the door of this house, which was a little more pretentious
than the one before which we had first stopped, Sagra knocked three times in
rapid succession, and then twice more at intervals; and after a moment the
door was opened by a hard-faced, scowling man.
"What do you want?" he demanded gruffly.
"I am Morga Sagra," replied my companion, "and this is Korvan Don."
"Come in," said the man; "I've been expecting you. Let me see your
Sagra handed him a perfectly blank piece of paper. I was standing near the
man, and when he opened it up, I saw that there was nothing on it.
"Sit down," said the man, and then he went to a desk; and, seating himself
there, took what appeared to be a pocket flashlight from one of the drawers
and shone its light upon the paper.
The light must have made writing on the paper visible for I could see him
passing it back and forth and that his eyes followed it. Presently he got up
and handed the paper back to Sagra.
"You will remain here," he said, "while I go and complete arrangements."
Then he left us.
"Do you know that fellow's name?" I asked Sagra.
"Yes," she said.
"What is it? Why didn't you introduce me?"
"His name is none of your business," said Sagra. "You must learn not to
ask questions, Korvan Don; however, just to satisfy your curiosity, I don't
mind telling you that his name is Gompth."
"What a beautiful name," I said, "but as far as I am concerned you needn't
have told me what it was. His name doesn't interest me any more than his
"Don't say things like that," snapped Sagra. "He is a very important
person, and it is not wise to make unpleasant remarks about important
persons. Now be sure not to let him know that you know his name, for that is
not the name that he goes by here."
I was getting my introduction to the fear and suspicion which hangs like a
pall over everything Kapar. I had said that I did not care whether I knew
this man's name or not, for how could I know that one day I should be very
glad that I did know it.
In about an hour, Gompth returned. He had brought with him civilian
clothing such as is worn by the inhabitants of Karis, and after we had
changed into it, he drove us out into the country, where he turned an old
Karisan plane over to us.
It was not until Sagra and I were in the plane that he gave us our final
instructions, and handed us credentials. He directed us to fly to a city
called Pud, on the continent of Auris, and report to a man with the poetic
name of Frink.
"What will become of my plane?" I asked him.
"What difference does it make to you?" he demanded.
"It makes a great deal of difference to me," I snapped, for I was getting
fed up with all this rudeness and secrecy. "I expect that, unquestionably, I
shall be sent on missions to Unis; and if I am, I shall need my plane and my
He eyed me suspiciously before he replied. "How could you ever return to
Unis without being destroyed as a traitor?" he asked.
"Because I used my head before I left Orvis," I replied; "I arranged to be
sent out on reconnaissance flight, and I can think of a hundred excuses to
explain even a long absence."
"If you ever need your plane or your uniform," he said, "they will be here
when you return."
I breathed more freely when we rose into the clear air and left Mr. Gompth
behind. His was a most depressing personality. His conversation gave the
impression that he was snapping at you like an ill-natured dog, and not once
while we were with him had he smiled. I wondered if all the Kapars were like
In Pud we found Frink by the same devious means that we had arrived at the
house of Gompth, only here there was a slight difference; we were allowed to
call Frink by name, because Frink was not his name.
We stayed overnight in Pud; and in the morning, Frink gave us Kapar
clothes, and later furnished us with a Kapar plane, a very excellent plane
too; and for that I was glad, as I had not been very happy crossing the
Voldan Ocean from Karis to Auris in the ancient crate that Gompth had
furnished us. Before us lay a flight of some two thousand miles across the
Mandan Ocean from Auris to Kapara.
The crossing was monotonous and uneventful, but after we got over Kapara,
and were winging toward Ergos, we sighted a squadron of Unisan planes that
were doubtless on reconnaissance. I tuned away in an effort to avoid them,
but they took after us.
The ship I was piloting was a very swift scouting plane lightly armed.
There was a bow gun which I could operate and one gun in an after cockpit,
which Morga Sagra could not have operated even had I wished her to. I had no
intention of firing on an Unisan plane under any circumstances, and so I
turned and ran.
They chased me out across the Mandan Ocean for nearly a thousand miles
before they gave up and turned back. I followed, keeping just within sight of
them, until they bore to the south with the evident intention of passing
around the southern end of the continent of Epris; then I opened the throttle
wide and streaked for Ergos.
When we ran down a ramp into the city, we were immediately surrounded by
men in green uniforms; and an officer gruffly demanded our credentials. I
told him that our instructions were to hand them to Gurrul and then he
bundled us into a car, and we were driven off, surrounded by green-clad
members of the Zabo, the secret police of Kapara.
Ergos is a large city, sprawling around deep underground. We passed first
through a considerable district in which there were indications of the direst
The buildings were principally flimsy shelters and sometimes only holes in
the ground, into which people scurried when they saw the green uniforms of
the Zabo. But presently we came to more substantial buildings, which were all
identical except in the matter of size. There was not the slightest
indication of ornamentation on any of them. The ride was most uninteresting,
just one monotonous mile after another until we approached the center of the
city where the buildings suddenly became rococo in their ornateness.
The car stopped before one of the more hideous these buildings, a
multi-colored atrocity, the facade of which was covered with carved figures
We were hustled out of the car and into the building, and a moment later
we were ushered into the office of Gurrul, Chief of the Zabo, the most feared
man in all Kapara.
Gurrul was a gross man with a cruel mouth and close-set eyes. He
scrutinized us in silence for a full minute, as though he were trying to read
our in-most thoughts. He was really fixing in his mind every detail of our
appearance, and he would know us again whenever or wherever he saw us and
only the cleverest of disguises could deceive him. It is said of him that
Gurrul knows a million people thus, but that seems to me like an
He took our credentials and examined them carefully; then he asked for the
military secrets I had brought from Orvis, and when I turned them over to him
he glanced through them hurriedly, giving no indication of any great interest
"You flew for the enemy?" he demanded of me.
"Yes," I replied.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because I knew no other country than Unis," I explained.
"Why did you turn against the country of your birth?" he asked.
"Unis is not the country of my birth."
"Where were you born?"
"On another planet in another solar system millions of miles from
He scowled at me fiercely and pounded his desk until everything on it
danced. "You dare stand there and tell me such a lie, you fool!" he cried;
"you, a filthy Unisan, dare insult my intelligence thus. Possibly you have
never heard of Gurrul, you idiot. If you had, you would have cut your own
throat before you came to him with such a story."
"Most high," said Morga Sagra timidly, "I believe that he speaks the truth
—everyone in Orvis believes him."
He wheeled on her angrily. "Who told you to speak?" he snapped.
"Forgive me, most high," she said. She was trembling all over, and I was
afraid that her knees were going to give away beneath her.
Gurrul turned to one of his lieutenants. "Have them searched and then lock
them up," he ordered, and that was the end of our reception in Kapara, where
they were going to receive us with open arms and load us with honors.
My gold and jewels were taken from me, and Morga Sagra and I were locked
up in a cell in the basement of the Zabo headquarters. Our cell was nothing
but an iron cage, and I could see corridor after corridor of them closely
packed together, and all of them appeared to have occupants, sometimes six or
eight people jammed into a cage scarcely large enough for two.
Most of our fellow prisoners whom I could see sat dejectedly on the stone
floor of their cages, their heads bowed upon their chests; but there were
others who gibbered and screamed, those whom torture and confinement had
driven mad. When the screaming annoyed a guard too much, he would come down
to the cage and turn a hose upon the screaming inmate. From the first hour
that we were there, for a solid hour, one of the poor creatures screamed
incessantly. One guard after another turned the hose on him, but still he
screamed. Finally the head keeper came in, an officer covered with gold
braid, medals, and brass buttons. He walked up to the maniac's cage and
deliberately shot him through the heart. He did it as casually as one might
swat a fly, and then he walked away without a backward glance.
"You must be very happy," I said to Morga Sagra.
"What do you mean?" she whispered.
"You are in your beloved Kapara at last, surrounded by your dear
"Hush," she cautioned, "someone will hear you."
"Why should I hush?" I asked. "Don't you want them to know how fond you
are of them?"
"I am fond of them," she said; "this is all a terrible mistake, but it is
your fault—you never should have told that story to Gurrul."
"You wouldn't want me to lie to the most high, would you?"
"You must not use that tone of voice when you speak of anyone here," she
whispered; "the first thing you know, you'll get us both beheaded."
We were kept in that vile hole for a week, and almost every waking hour we
expected to be taken out and destroyed. Morga Sagra was virtually a nervous
wreck when, at last, they did come for us.
Sagra was so weak from fright that the guards had to support her as we
were lead along a corridor. Finally one of them said to her, "You have
nothing to fear; you are going to be released."
At that Sagra collapsed completely and sat down on the stone floor. The
guards laughed and picked her up and practically carried her the rest of the
way. They were still carrying her when I was hustled off down another
They took me from the building through a rear doorway and put me into what
looked like a big green moving van. It was so filled with humanity that they
had to push me in and then slammed the doors on me quickly before I fell out.
There was an iron barred window in front, and a guard with a rifle in his
hand sat facing it.
As soon as the doors were closed and locked, the truck started off, the
human load swaying to and fro, trampling on each others toes and cursing
beneath its breath. That was a ride to be long remembered for its
The heat from the men's bodies became absolutely oppressive, and the air
so foul that one could scarcely breathe.
The vehicle moved at a high rate of speed. How long we were in it, I do
not know; but I should imagine about two hours, because it seemed like ten;
but at last it stopped and turned around and was backed up to stop again.
Then the doors were opened, and we were ordered out.
I saw before me a very large enclosure, surrounded by a high wire fence.
There were open sheds along two sides. There were several hundred men in the
enclosure, and they were all dressed alike in black clothes with big white
numbers across the front and back. I didn't have to be told that I was in a
There was sort of an office by the gate where we were taken from the
truck, and here our names were entered in a book and we were given prison
uniforms and numbers. Then we were ordered into the enclosure with the other
prisoners. They were a filthy, emaciated lot with the most hopeless
expressions I have ever seen on human faces. When I had been taken from my
cell, I had felt that I was going to be beheaded, but I could conceive that
this was infinitely worse.
I had asked the officer who had checked us in why I was being imprisoned
and for how long, but he had just told me to shut up and speak only when I
was spoken to.
This was a work camp, and when I say work that doesn't half describe it.
We were usually employed on the hardest kind of manual labour for sixteen
hours a day. There was one day of rest in every ten; it had been upon one of
the rest days that I had arrived. There were both men and women in the camp,
and they came from nearly every country of Poloda. We were treated just like
animals, the prison clothes they gave us had to last a year; and we only had
the one suit in which we worked and slept. Most of the men, and women too,
were in nothing but rags. The food that was given us was indescribable. It
was thrown into troughs twice a day just as food is given to hogs. Men and
women both were insulted, beaten, kicked, often killed. We were not allowed
to use names even among ourselves—just our numbers.
Day and night, guards patrolled just outside the wire fence; and if they
saw prisoners talking, they yelled at them to stop and sometimes they came
inside and beat them. Nevertheless we did talk, for it was hard to stop us
after dark; and finally I made a few friends.
There was one who said that he came from Orvis, with whom I became quite
friendly, although I knew it was dangerous, as the Kapars planted many spies
in these camps. Finally, however, I came to the conclusion that this Tunzo
Bor was all right, and so I asked him if he knew a man named Handon Gar.
Immediately he was all suspicion. "No," he said, "I don't know anyone by
that name. Why do you ask?"
"I have a message for him," I replied.
"From whom?" he asked.
"From a friend in Orvis."
"Well, I don't know any Handon Gar," he insisted, "and if he is here you
may rest assured he is not known by that name."
"I suppose not," I said, "but I certainly wish that I could find him, as I
should like to deliver my message."
I was sure that he was lying and that he did know Handon Gar and that it
was quite possible that the man might be in this very camp, but I saw that it
was useless to pursue the question further as it would only make Tunzo Bor
all the more suspicious of me.
We were worked very hard and were underfed. It seemed to me that the
Kapars were very stupid; they need labour, yet they treat the men in labour
camps so badly that the mortality rate is much higher than necessary. I
noticed that the Kapars are always pressed for food, but they are extremely
short-sighted to beat men to death for nothing or overwork them so they drop
in their tracks, when these same men might be producing more food for
The lot of the free workers is a little better, but not much; they are
serfs, but they are not locked up in prison camps. However, they are
overworked and treated cruelly, although many of them are native Kapars as
well as peoples of conquered countries. The soldiers fare much better than
the workers, and the members of the Zabo live well, for everyone is afraid of
them; even the army officers and those highly placed politically live little
better, though they live off the fat of the land, if there is any fat in
After a week of hard labour and poor food, I was given an easy job,
working in the garden of the officer in charge of the camp. An armed guard
always accompanied me and remained with me while I worked. He did not abuse
me, nor did any of the guards in the prison compound. I was even given good
food occasionally from the officer's kitchen. I could not understand it, but
I was afraid to ask any questions, but finally the guard himself volunteered
"Who are you, anyway?" he demanded.
"I am No. 267M9436," I replied.
"No," he said; "I mean what is your name?"
"I thought we weren't supposed to use any names," I reminded him.
"If I tell you to, you can," he said.
"Well, my name is Korvan Don," I replied.
"Where are you from?"
He shook his head. "I can't understand it," he said.
"Understand what?" I asked.
"Why orders have been given that you shall be treated so much better than
the other prisoners," he explained; "and they come straight from Gurrul,
"I'm sure I don't know," I replied, but I had an idea that it might be
because Gurrul was still investigating me and might be coming to the
conclusion that I could be of value to the Kapars. I knew perfectly well that
I wasn't being treated this way because of any humanitarian reasons.
When the sky is not overcast, the Polodan nights are gorgeous in the
extreme. There is a constant procession of planets passing across the
heavens, following each other in stately procession throughout the night; and
thus clear nights are quite well lighted, especially by the nearer
It was on such a clear night, about three weeks after I had been brought
to the prison camp, that a fellow prisoner came close to me and whispered, "I
am Handon Gar."
I scrutinized him very closely to see if I could recognize him from the
description given me by the Commissioner for War.
This man was terribly emaciated and looked like an old man, but gradually
I recognized him. He must have been subjected to the cruelest of treatment
during the two years that he had been here.
"Yes," I said presently, "I recognize you."
"How can you recognize me?" he demanded, instantly suspicious; "I do not
know you, and you never knew me. Who are you, and what do you want?"
"I recognized you from the description given me by the Commissioner for
War," I explained. "I know that you are Handon Gar, and that I can trust you.
My name is Tangor; I am know here as Korvan Don. I was sent here on a mission
by the Eljanhai and the Commissioner for War," I continued in a low whisper,
"and was instructed to ascertain what your fate had been."
He smiled sourly. "And now you are in the same boat as I; I'm afraid
they'll never learn what became of either of us."
"Is Tunzo Bor all right?" I asked.
"Yes, but he suspected you. However, I did too, but I couldn't see how I
could be any worse off if I told you my name. I do not recall ever having
heard yours. Where did you live in Unis, and what did you do?"
"I lived in Orvis and was a pilot in the fighting service."
"It is strange that I never met you," he said, and I could see that he was
becoming suspicious again.
"It is not so strange," I said; "I am sure that I know only a very few of
the thousands of pilots in the service; one could not know them all. Do you
know Harkas Don?"
"Yes, indeed, very well," he replied
"He is my best friend," I said.
He was silent for some time, and then he said, "How are Don's
"He hasn't any," I replied; "they have all been killed in the war."
"And his sisters?" he asked.
"He only has one sister," I replied; "Yamoda. I saw her the night before I
left. She had had an accident, but she is all right now."
"Well," he said, "if you know these people so intimately, you must be all
right. You know we have to be careful here."
"Yes, I understand," I replied.
Again he was silent for a few moments, and then he leaned closer to me and
whispered, "We are going to make a break in a few days; Tunzo Bor and I and a
couple of others. We have it all planned. Do you want to come along?"
"I can't," I replied; "I haven't fulfilled my mission yet."
"You can't fulfill it while you're in a work camp," he said, "and you'll
never get out. You might just as well make a break with us. If we get back to
Orvis, I'll explain to the Eljanhai that I advised you to escape while there
was a chance."
"No, thanks," I replied, "I shall get out of here."
"You seem very sure," he said, and I noticed that he looked at me
peculiarly, and I had a feeling that he already regretted telling me what he
had. I was about to try to reassure him, when a guard ordered us to stop
A couple of days later, which was a rest day, a guard called to me to come
over to the wire fence, and there I found Morga Sagra awaiting me. It was
quite unusual for prisoners to be allowed to have visitors, and I could see
that it aroused a great deal of interest and comment in the compound.
"I have been working hard for your release," she told me in a whisper,
"but Gurrul is still unconvinced. If you have heard of anything suspicious
here—anything the Zabo would like to know of you will report it, it
will prove that you are all right, and it will be much easier to get you
"I have heard nothing," I said; "we are not allowed to do much talking,
and anyway, everyone here is suspicious of everyone else."
"Well, keep your ears open, though I think that I'll soon have you out
anyway. The thing that has Gurrul guessing is your appearance; you know, you
don't look much like a native of any Polodan country; and so he is commencing
to think that your story of your origin may be true."
"How are you getting along?" I asked her.
"All right," she said. "I have a nice apartment, and they are treating me
all right, but I am always being watched; however, it is a grand place to
live; these are real people; they live for war—a great race, a noble
"And a very hospitable people," I said.
Her eyes narrowed. "Be careful, Korvan Don," she said. "You can go too far
even with me. Remember that I am a Kapar now."
I laughed. "You always insist on putting the wrong interpretation on
things I say, Sagra."
"I hope so," she snapped.
Shortly after she left, Handon Gar approached me. "You'll get out all
right, you damn cur," he whispered under his breath. "I know that woman, I
always thought that she was a traitor. I suppose that you told her all about
the plan Tunzo Bor and I have to escape."
Once again a guard interrupted and made us stop talking before I could
explain. But could I explain? I was sorry flat he believed as he did; but
there was nothing that I could do about it, for I could not tell even him all
the details of my mission.
And then, the very next day, his suspicions must have been definitely
confirmed, as a messenger came from Gurrul with an order for my immediate
release; and to make it appear all the worse, Morga Sagra accompanied the
messenger and threw her arms around me.
I was taken by underground railway to Ergos and immediately to Gurrul's
office in the headquarter's building of the Zabo. He talked to me for about
half an hour, asking me many questions concerning the other world and solar
system from which I said I came.
"You certainly are no Polodan," he said, "there never was a human being
like you, but I don't see how you could have been transported from another
"Neither do I," I admitted, "but there are many things in the universe
that none of us understand."
"Well, Morga Sagra has vouched for you, and I am taking her word for it,"
he said; then he told me that quarters had been reserved for me, and that he
would send a man with me to show me where they were located. "I think I can
use you later on," he said; "so hold yourself in readiness. Do not leave your
quarters without leaving word where you are going and never leave the city
without my permission;" then he called into the room the man who was to show
me to my quarters and dismissed me.
I knew that he was still suspicious of me, but that was not at all
surprising as the secret police are always suspicious of everybody and
everything. However, when I whispered to him some of the military secrets I
had been ordered by the Eljanhai to give him orally, his attitude changed a
little; and he was almost amiable as he bid me goodbye.
When I reached my new quarters, the door was opened by a rather nice
looking chap in the livery of a servant.
"This is your master, Korvan Don," said the green-uniformed Zabo agent who
The man bowed. "My name is Lotar Canl, sir," he said; "I hope that I shall
be able to satisfy you."
Morga Sagra's apartment was in the same building as mine; and almost
immediately we commenced to be invited out and entertained, but I had the
feeling that we were being constantly watched. Well, so is everyone in
Kapara. The entire nation lives in an atmosphere of intrigue and suspicion.
The army fears the Zabo, the Zabo hates the army; everyone fears the five top
men of the regime, each of whom fears the others. The head of the nation is
called the Pom Da, literally the Great I. The present Pom Da has ruled for
ten years. I suppose he had a name once, but it is never used; he is just the
Great I, a cruel and cunning monster who has ordered many of his best friends
and closest relatives destroyed.
Morga Sagra is a most sagacious girl; she was cut out by nature for
intrigue, treason, and espionage. She thinks far ahead and lays her plans
Everywhere that she went, she told people that I was from another world.
She did this not so much to attract attention to me, but to help convince the
Kapars that I had no ties in Unis and no reason to be loyal to that country.
She wanted them to understand that I would be no traitor to Kapara, and
eventually her plan bore fruit—the Great I sent for me.
Lotar Canl, my man, was evidently greatly impressed when he gave me the
message. "You can go very far in Kapara, sir," he said, "if the Pom Da
becomes interested in you; I am very proud to serve you, sir."
I already knew that I might go far if the Pom Da noticed me, but in what
direction I was not certain—the paths of glory sometimes lead but to
When i reached the ornate building which houses the head of Kapara, I was
first carefully searched for concealed weapons and then escorted by two
heavily armed guards to a room presided over by a grim, elaborately uniformed
and decorated official. Here I waited for about half an hour, my two guards
sticking close to me; then the door at the far end of the room opened, and
another officer appeared and called my name.
The guards arose with me and escorted me to the door of an enormous
chamber, at the far end of which a man sat behind a huge desk. The guards
were dismissed at the doorway and told to wait, and two officers took their
places and escorted me the length of the room into the presence of the Pom
He is not a large man, and I think that he appears even smaller than he is
because of his very evident nervousness, fear, and suspicion.
He just sat and eyed me for what must have been a full minute before he
spoke. His expression was venomous, seeming to reflect the deepest hatred;
but I was to learn later that this expression was not reserved for anyone in
particular; it was almost habitual with him, and this is understandable
because his whole ideology is based on hate.
"So you are Korvan Don, the traitor?" he shot at me.
"I am no traitor," I said.
One of the officers seized me roughly by the arm. "When you address the
Pom Da," he shouted angrily, "always refer to him as the Highest Most
"You are betraying Unis," said the Pom Da, ignoring the interruption.
"Unis is not my country, Highest Most High."
"You claim to be from another world—from another solar system. Is
"Yes, Highest Most High," I replied.
"One Highest Most High in a conversation is sufficient," snapped the
officer on my other side. I was learning Kapar high etiquette the hard
The Pom Da questioned me for some time about the Earth and our solar
system and how I could know how far away it was from Poloda. I explained
everything to him to the best of my ability, but I doubt very much that he
understood a great deal of what I said; the Kapars are not highly
intelligent, their first Pom Da having killed off a majority of the
intelligent people of his time and his successor destroying the remainder,
leaving only scum to breed.
"What were you in that strange world from which you say you came?" he
"I was a flyer in the fighting forces of my country and also something of
an inventor, having been at work on a ship in which I purposed traveling to
another planet of our solar system."
"How far from your Earth would this planet be?" he asked.
"About 48,000,000 miles," I replied.
"That is a long way," he said. "Do you think that you could have done
"I had high hopes; in fact, I was almost on the verge of perfecting my
ship when I was called away to war."
"Tonas is less than six hundred thousand miles from Poloda," he mused. I
could see that he had something on his mind, and I guessed what it was, or at
least I hoped. He talked to me for over a half an hour and then he dismissed
me, but before I left I asked him if he would order my gold and jewels
returned to me.
He turned to an officer standing at one end of his desk and instructed him
to see that all of my belongings were returned to me; then the two officers
and I backed out of the room. I had stood all during the interview, but that
was not at all surprising as there was only one chair in the room and that
was occupied by the Pom Da.
The green Zabo car took me back to my quarters, and the men who
accompanied me were most obsequious; and when Lotar Canl opened the door and
saw them bowing to me and calling me Most High, he beamed all over.
Morga Sagra came in from her apartment presently; and she was delighted
with the honor that had been done me, and she didn't let any grass grow under
her feet before she let it be known that I had been received by the Pom Da in
an interview that lasted over a half an hour.
Now we commenced to be invited into the homes of the highest; and when my
gold and jewels were returned, as they were the day after my interview with
the Pom Da, Sagra and I were able to splurge a little bit; so that we had a
gay time in the capital of Kapara, where only the very highest have a gay
time, or even enough to eat.
Among our acquaintances was a woman named Gimmel Gora, with whom Morga
Sagra had associated while I was in the prison camp; and she and her man,
Grunge, were with us a great deal. They were not married, but then no one in
Kapara is married; such silly, sentimental things as marriages were done away
with nearly a hundred years ago. I did not like either Gimmel Gora or Grunge;
in fact, I did not like any of the Kapars I had met so far, with the possible
exception of my man, Lotar Canl; and, of course, I even suspected him of
being an agent of the Zabo.
The Kapars are arrogant, supercilious, stupid, and rude; and Grunge was no
exception. I did not know what he did for a living; and, of course, I never
asked, as I never showed the slightest curiosity about anything. If a
stranger asks too many questions in Kapara, he is quite likely to find his
head rolling around on the floor—they don't waste ammunition in
We were making a lot of acquaintances, but I was not any place with my
mission. I was no nearer learning about the amplifier than I had been in
Orvis. I kept talking about the ship I had been inventing in my own world,
hoping in that way to get a hint from someone that would lead me on the right
trail; but after two months in Ergos, I hadn't been able to get the slightest
lead; it was just as though no such thing as a new powerful amplifier
existed, and I commenced to wonder if the Commissioner for War had been
One day a green car stopped before the building in which my apartment was
located. Lotar Canl, who had been at a front window saw it, and when a
summons came at our door, he looked at me apprehensively. "I hope that you
have not been indiscreet," he said as he went to open the door.
I, too, hoped that I hadn't, for these grim, green-uniformed men do not
call on one for the purpose of playing rummy or hopscotch.
"Korvan Don?" asked one of the men, looking at me.
I nodded, "Yes."
"Come with us."
That was all—just like that: "Come with us"—just, "Come
I came, and they whisked me away to that horrible building with the carved
facade, where I was ushered into Gurrul's office.
He gave me that venomous stare of his for about a half a minute before he
spoke. "Do you know what happens to People who have knowledge of crimes
against the state and do not report them to the authorities?" he
"I think I can guess," I replied.
"Well, four men have escaped from the prison camp in which you were
"I do not see how that concerns me," I said.
He had a large file of papers on the desk before him, and he thumbed
through them. "Here," he said, "I find that on several dates you were found
talking to Handon Gar and Tunzo Bor—in whispers!"
"That is the only way one may talk there," I replied.
He thumbed through the papers again. "It seems that you were extremely
familiar with Tunzo Bor from the time you entered camp; you were evidently
very familiar with both of these men, although I find no record that you were
particularly familiar with the other two who escaped. Now," he shouted, "what
were you whispering about?"
"I was questioning them," I said.
"Why?" he demanded.
"I question whomever I can for such information as I may get. You see, I
was in the Zabo in my own country; so it is natural for me to acquire all the
information I can from the enemy."
"Did you get any information?"
"I think I was about to when Morga Sagra came to see me; after that they
wouldn't talk to me."
"Before Handon Gar escaped he told several prisoners that you were a spy
As he growled this out, Gurrul looked as though he would like to chop my
head off himself.
I laughed. "I told him that myself," I said. "He evidently wanted to get
even with me for almost fooling him."
Gurrul nodded. "An intelligent agent would have done that very thing," he
said. "I am glad that you have been able to clear yourself, as this is the
first bad report I have had concerning you." then he dismissed me.
As I walked slowly toward my apartment, just about a half a mile from the
Zabo headquarters, I reviewed in my mind my interview with Gurrul; and I came
to realize that he had exonerated me altogether too willingly. It was not
like him. I had a feeling that he was still suspicious of me, and that he had
done this to throw me off my guard that I might be more easily trapped if I
were indeed disloyal. This conviction was definitely heightened before I
reached my apartment. I had occasion to stop in two shops on the way; and, on
each occasion, when I left the shop I saw the same man loitering nearby; I
was being shadowed, and in a very crude and amateurish way at that. I thought
that if the Zabo were no more efficient in other respects, I would have
little to fear from them; but I did not let this belief lessen my
Before I reached my apartment, I met Grunge, who was walking with a man I
did not know, and whom he introduced as Horthal Wend. Horthal was a
middle-aged man with a very kindly face, which certainly differentiated him
from most of the other Kapars I had met.
They invited me into a drinking place and because I believed Grunge to be
connected in some way with the Zabo, I accepted. Grunge had no visible means
of support, yet he was always well supplied with money; and, for that reason,
I suspected him of being either a member or a tool of the secret police. I
felt that if I associated with men of this stamp and was always careful of
what I said and did, only good reports of me could reach Gurrul. I also made
it a point to try to never be alone with anyone—and never to whisper;
there is nothing that makes a member of the Zabo more suspicious than a
Grunge and Horthal Wend ordered wine. Grunge had to show a wine card in
order to obtain it; and this strengthened my belief that he was connected
with the Zabo, for only those who stand well with the government are issued
When I ordered a non-alcoholic drink, Grunge urged me to take wine; but I
refused, as I never drink anything of the sort when I have an important duty
Grunge seemed quite put out to think that I would not drink wine with him,
and that convinced me that he had hoped that wine would loosen my tongue
—a very mouldy trick of secret police. I found Horthal Wend as kindly
in manner as in appearance, and I took quite a liking to him. Before I left
him, he had extracted a promise from me that I would come and see him and his
woman and bring Morga Sagra with me.
Little did I dream then what the death of this kindly man would mean to
The following evening, Sagra and I had dinner with Grunge and Gimmel Gora,
and during the course of the evening I mentioned Horthal Wend and remarked
that I had found him most intelligent and friendly.
"I guess that he is intelligent enough," said Grunge, "but I find him a
little too pleasant; that, to me, is an indication of sentimentality and
softness, neither of which have any place in Kapar manhood. However, he
stands very well with the Pom Da, and is, therefore, a safe man to know and
cultivate, for our beloved Pom Da is never wrong in his estimate of men
—in fact, he is never wrong in anything."
I could not help but think that if sentiment and intelligence had no place
in Kapar manhood, Grunge was an ideal Kapar.
Grunge's use of the word beloved might seem to belie my statement that he
was without sentiment, but it was really only the fawning expression of a
sycophant and connoted more of fear than love.
I was constantly mentally comparing Kapars with the Unisans. Here in
Kapara all is suspicion and fear—fear of unseen malign for forces
that are all powerful; fear of your next door neighbor; fear of your
servants; fear of your best friend, and suspicious of all.
All during the evening, Sagra had seemed distrait. Grunge, on the other
hand was quite talkative and almost affable. He directed most of his
conversation and elephantine wit at Sagra and was correspondingly
disagreeable and sarcastic when he spoke to Gimmel Gora.
He was meticulously polite to me, which was unusual; as Grunge was seldom
if ever polite to anyone of whom he was not afraid. "We have much to be
thankful for in the wonderful friendship that has developed between us," he
said to me; "It seems as though I had known you always, Korvan Don. It is not
often in this life that two men meet who may mutually trust each other on
"You are quite right," I said, "but I think one learns to know almost
instinctively who may be trusted and who may not. I wondered what he was
driving at, and I did not have to wait long to discover.
"You have been in Kapara for some time, now," he continued, "and I suppose
that some of your experiences could not have been entirely pleasant; for
instance the prison camp and the prison beneath the Zabo headquarters."
"Well, of course, freedom is always to be preferred to confinement," I
replied; "but I have sense enough to realize that every precaution must be
taken in a nation at war, and I admire the Kapars for their efficiency in
this respect. While I did not enjoy being confined, I have no complaint to
make, I was well-treated." If one may instinctively recognize a trustworthy
friend, one may also instinctively recognize an unscrupulous enemy; and this
I felt Grunge to be, for I was confident that he was attempting to cajole me
into making some criticism that would incriminate me in the eyes of the
He looked a little crestfallen, but he said, "I am glad to hear you say
that. Just between friends, tell me in confidence what you thought of
"A highly intelligent man, well fitted for the post he occupies," I
replied. "Although he must have to contend with all types of criminals,
scoundrels, and traitors, he appears to me to be fair and just, without being
soft or sentimental." I was learning to talk like a Kapar and to lie like one
As Sagra and I walked home that night, I asked her what had been troubling
her, for she had not seemed herself at all.
"I am worried and frightened," she replied; "Grunge has been making
advances to me, and Gimmel Gora knows it. I am afraid of both of them, for I
believe that both are agents of the Zabo."
"Neither one of us has anything to fear," I said. "Aren't we both good
"I sometimes wonder if you are," she said.
"At first I may have been a little critical," I said, "but that was before
I understood the strength and beauty of their system. Now I am as good a
Kapar as there is." From this speech it might be assumed that I was
suspicious of Morga Sagra, and the assumption would be wholly correct. I was
suspicious of Morga Sagra, of Grunge, of Gimmel Gora, of Lotar Canl, my man
—in fact, of everybody. In this respect, at least, I had become a good
When I got home that night, I found that my quarters had been thoroughly
ransacked. The contents of every drawer was scattered about on the floor; my
rugs had been torn up, and my mattress cut open.
While I was viewing the havoc, Lotar Canl came home. He looked around the
place, and then, with the faintest of smiles on his lips he said, "Burglars.
I hope that they got nothing of value, sir."
Most of my gold and jewels are deposited in a safe place; but in addition
to that which I carry on my person, I had left a handful of gold in one of
the drawers in my desk, and this I found scattered on the floor—all
"Well," I said, "they overlooked this gold, and there was nothing else in
the apartment anybody would wish."
"They must have been frightened away before they could gather this up,"
said Lotar Canl.
The little game that he and I were playing was almost laughable for
neither of us dared suggest the truth—that the apartment had been
searched by the police.
"I am glad," he said, "that you had nothing of value here other than this
When I met Sagra the next day, I said nothing about the matter to her, for
I had learned that no matter how often one's home is "burglarized" or even if
his grandmother is taken at midnight and beheaded, he does not mention the
occurrence to anyone; but Sagra was less reticent. She told me that she was
being constantly watched; that her room had been searched three times, and
that she was terrified. "I have a secret enemy," she said, "who is leaving no
stone unturned to get me destroyed."
"Have you any idea who it is?" I asked.
"Yes," she said, "I think I know."
She nodded, and then she whispered, "And you must be careful of Grunge. He
thinks that you are my man, and he would like to get rid of you."
There had never been any suggestion of any sentimental relationship
between Morga Sagra and me. She had used me in order to get to Kapara; and
because we had been two strangers in a strange land, we had been constantly
thrown together since. I know that she enjoyed my company, and I still found
her witty and entertaining when she was not entirely preoccupied with the
terror which now obsessed her. If ever a just retribution were being meted to
a person, this was the instance. I was confident that Morga Sagra would have
given her soul to have been back in Unis; and to her terror was added
hopelessness, for she knew that she could never return.
That evening we went to call on Horthal Wend and his woman, Haka Gera. She
was a heavy minded, rather stupid woman, but evidently a good housekeeper and
probably a good manager, which I judged Horthal Wend needed, for he was
evidently easy-going and careless.
We talked about art, literature, music, the weather, and the wonders of
Kapar ideology—about the only safe subject for discussion in Kapara;
and even then we had to be careful. If one should by mistake express
appreciation of some work of art or musical composition by a person in bad
odor with the heads of the state or with the Zabo, that was treason.
During the evening, their fourteen year old son, Horthal Gyl, joined us.
He was a precocious child, and I do not like precocious children. He was a
loudmouthed little egotist who knew it all, and he kept projecting himself
into the conversation until he practically monopolized it.
Horthal Wend was evidently very proud of him and very fond of him; but
once when he made a gesture as though to caress the lad, the boy struck his
"None of that!" he growled at his father; "such maudlin sentimentality is
not for Kapar men. I am ashamed of you."
"Now, now," said his mother gently; "it is not wrong for your father to
"I do not wish him to love me," snapped the boy. "I only wish that he
should admire me and be proud of me because I am hard. I do not want him or
anyone to be as ashamed of me as I am of him because of his sentimentality
Horthal Wend tried to smile as he shook his head. "You see, he is a good
Kapar," he said; and, I thought, a little sadly.
"I see," I said.
The boy shot me a quick suspicious look. Evidently I had not kept my
innermost feelings out of those two words.
We left shortly after this and as we walked home, I was conscious of a
feeling of great depression. I think it was caused by the attitude of that
son to his father. "Horthal Gyl will grow up to be a fine example of the
Kapar gentlemen," I said.
"I would rather not discuss him," replied Sagra.
I went to bed immediately after reaching my apartment. Lotar Canl had
asked for the entire night off; so when I was awakened shortly after midnight
by a summons at my door, I had to answer it myself. As I opened it, two
green-clad Zabo troopers stepped in with drawn pistols.
"Dress and come with us," said one of them.
"There must be some mistake," I said; "I am Korvan Don, you can't want
"Shut up and get dressed," said the one who had first spoken, "or we'll
take you along in your nightclothes."
While I was dressing, I racked my brains trying to think what I had done
to deserve arrest. Of course I knew it would be useless to ask these men.
Even if they knew, which they probably did not, they wouldn't tell me.
Naturally I thought of Grunge, because of what Morga Sagra had told me, but
the man could not possibly have had anything to report against me; although,
of course, he could have fabricated some story.
I was taken directly to Gurrul's office; and although it was well after
midnight, he was still there. He gave me one of his most terrible looks and
then screamed at me, "So you slipped at last, you filthy spy. I have always
suspected you, and I am always right."
"I don't know what you are talking about," I said. "You can have
absolutely no charge against me; because I have spoken no treasonable words
since I came to Kapara. I defy anyone to prove that I am not as good a Kapar
"Oh," he barked, "so you haven't said anything treasonable? Well, you
idiot, you have written it;" and he took a small red book from a drawer in
his desk and held it up in front of me and shook it in my face. "Your diary,
you fool." He turned the leaves and scanned the pages for a moment and then
he read, "'Gurrul is a fat idiot'; so I am a fat idiot, am I?" He turned a
few more pages, and read again. "'The Zabo is made up of moronic murderers;
and when our revolution succeeds, I shall have them all beheaded. I shall
behead Gurrul myself.' What do you say to that?"
"I say that I never saw that book before and that I never wrote any of the
things which you have read."
He turned over some more pages and read again, "The Pom Da is an
egotistical maniac and will be one of the first to be destroyed when J and I
rule Kapara. Who is J?" he bellowed at me.
"I haven't the slightest idea," I told him.
"Well, there are ways of making you find out," he said, and getting up and
coming around the end of his desk, he knocked me down before I had the
slightest idea what his intentions were.
I leaped to my feet with the intention of handing him what he had handed
me, but several troopers seized me. "Secure his hands," ordered Gurrul, and
they put them behind my back and snapped handcuffs about my wrists.
"You'd better tell me who J is," said Gurrul, "or you'll get a great deal
worse than what I just gave you. Who is this accomplice of yours? It will go
easier with you if you tell me."
"I do not know who J is," I said.
"Take him into the question box," ordered Gurrul, and they took me into an
adjoining room which I instantly saw was fitted up as a torture chamber. They
let me look around the room for a moment at the various instruments of
torture, and then Gurrul started demanding again that I tell him who J was.
He kept striking me repeatedly, and when I fell he kicked me.
When I still insisted that I didn't know, one of them burned me with a hot
"Your right eye goes next," said Gurrul; "who is J?"
They worked on me for about an hour, and I was pretty nearly dead when
they finally gave up.
"Well," said Gurrul, "I can't spend all the rest of the night with this
stubborn fool; take him downstairs and behead him—unless in the
meantime he tells you who J is."
Well, this was the end of my mission. I had learned absolutely nothing,
and now I was to be beheaded. As a spy I was evidently a total failure. A
couple of them jerked me roughly to my feet; for I could not rise by myself,
and just then the door opened and Lotar Canl entered the room. When I saw
him, my suspicions were confirmed, as I had always thought that he was
probably a Zabo agent; and now I thought that it was probably he who had
turned this forged diary over to them, probably in the hope of winning
preferment by discovering this plot against the nation.
He took in the scene in a quick glance and then he turned to Gurrul. "Why
is this man here?"
"He is a traitor who was conspiring against Kapara," replied Gurrul. "We
found the evidence of his guilt in this diary in his desk."
"I thought as much," said Lotar Canl, "when I came home earlier than I
expected tonight and found that the book had been removed from his desk."
"You knew about this book," demanded Gurrul.
"Of course," replied Lotar Canl. "I saw it planted there. Korvan Don knew
nothing about it. I have watched this man most carefully since he has been
here. He is as good a Kapar as any of us."
Gurrul looked a little sheepish, that is if a wolf can look sheepish. "Who
put the book in his desk?" he asked.
"The man who actually placed it there was an innocent tool," replied Lotar
Canl. "I have him under arrest. He is in the next room under guard. I wish
that you would question him yourself."
The man was brought in, and Gurrul showed him the diary and asked him if
he had placed it in my desk.
The poor fellow was trembling so that he could scarcely speak, but finally
he managed to say, "Yes, Most High."
"Why did you do it?" demanded Gurrul.
"The night before last, a man came into my room shortly after midnight. He
flashed a tiny light on a Zabo badge he wore, but he was careful not to shine
it on his face. He told me that I had been selected to place this book in
Korvan Don's desk. He said that it was a command from you, Most High."
Gurrul called Lotar Canl to the far end of the room, and they whispered
together for several minutes; then Gurrul came back. "You may go," he said to
the man, "but understand that nobody ever came to your room in the middle of
the night and asked you to put anything in anybody's desk; you were not
brought here tonight; you did not see me nor anyone else who is in this room.
Do you understand?"
"Yes, Most High," replied the man.
"Take him away and see that he is returned to his home," Gurrul directed
the two agents who had brought the fellow in; then he turned again to me.
"Mistakes are bound to occur occasionally," he said. "It is regrettable, but
it is so. Have you any idea who might have had that book placed in your
I thought that it was Grunge, but I said, "I haven't any idea; as far as I
know I haven't an enemy in Kapara. There is no reason why anyone should wish
to get me into trouble." I suspected that Grunge was a Zabo agent, and I knew
that if he were I would probably get myself into trouble by accusing him.
Gurrul turned to one of his officers. "Have this man taken to a hospital," he
said, "and see that he receives the best of treatment;" and then he turned to
me. "You are never to mention this unfortunate occurrence to anyone. While
returning home, you were knocked down and run over. Do you understand?"
I told him that I did; and then they sent for a stretcher, and I was
carried out and taken to a hospital.
The next day, Sagra came to see me. She said that she had found a note
under her door telling her that I had been in an accident and what hospital I
"Yes," I said, "I was hit by an automobile."
She looked frightened. "Do you think that you will be hit again?" she
"I hope not by the same automobile," I said.
"I am terribly frightened," she said; "I am afraid that it will be my turn
"Keep out of the way of automobiles," I advised her.
"Gimmel Gora won't speak to me any more, and Grunge won't leave me alone.
He told me not to be afraid, as he is a Zabo agent."
"Just as I thought," I said, "and a hit and run driver too."
"I wish I were back in Orvis," she said.
"Be careful what you say, Sagra," I advised.
She looked at me with wide, frightened eyes. "You, too?" she asked.
"No, not I," I assured her; "but the walls may have ears."
"I wish you could tell me what happened," she said.
I shook my head. "I have told you—I was hit by an automobile and
"I suppose you are right," she said; "and I also suppose that I have
talked altogether too much; but I am nearly crazy, and if I didn't have
someone to tell my fears too, I think I should go crazy."
Treason is a terrible thing, and its punishment must be terrible.
I was in the hospital for about two weeks; but at last I was discharged
and allowed to go home, although I had to remain in bed there most of the
time. I found a new man there to take Lotar Canl's place. He had brought a
note from Lotar Canl saying that he knew that I would need someone as soon as
I returned from the hospital and that he could highly recommend this man,
whose name was Danul.
Lotar Canl came to see me himself the day after I was returned from the
hospital. While we were talking, he wrote something on a piece of paper and
handed it to me. It read, "Danul is not connected with the Zabo, but he is a
good Kapar;" then, after I had read it, he took the paper from me and burned
it up; but he was very careful to see that Danul was not around to observe
what he did.
It is terrible to live under this constant strain of fear and suspicion,
and it shows in the faces of most of these people. Lotar Canl was peculiarly
free from it, and I always enjoyed talking with him; however, we were both
careful never to touch on any forbidden subjects.
While I was in Ergos, there was scarcely a day passed that I did not hear
the detonation of Unisan bombs; and I could visualize my comrades in arms
flying high over this buried city. The only reports that I ever heard of
these activities always related Kapar victories; or the great number of enemy
planes shot down, and the very small losses suffered by the Kapars, or they
would tell of the terrific bombing of Orvis or of other Unisan cities.
According to these official reports, Kapara was just on the verge of winning
Harkas Yamoda was much in my mind at this time, and thoughts of her and my
other friends in Orvis rather depressed me, because I felt that I couldn't
return until I had fulfilled my mission, and I seemed to be as far as ever
from that. No matter how often I brought up the subject of my invention, no
one ever indicated that he had heard of such a thing. It was very
disheartening, as the first step to acquiring any information about the new
amplifier was to learn who was working on it; and of course I didn't dare
suggest in the slightest way that I had knowledge that any such thing was
being considered in Kapara.
Sagra came to see me every day and spent a great deal of time with me, and
one day Grunge came. "I was very sorry to hear of your accident," he said;
"and I intended to come and see you sooner, but I have been very busy. There
are many careless drivers in Ergos; one cannot be too careful."
"Oh, well," I said, "perhaps it was my fault; I was probably careless in
crossing the street."
"One cannot be too careful," he said again.
"I have found that out," I replied; "even a friend might run over
He gave me a quick look. He did not stay very long, and it was evident
that he was nervous and ill at ease while he was there. I was glad when he
left, for the more I saw of the man the less I liked him.
Horthal Wend and his woman and son came on another day while Sagra was
there. Horthal Wend said that he had only just heard of my accident and was
greatly distressed to think that he had not known of it before and come to
see me earlier. He did not question me as to the cause of it, but Horthal Gyl
"I was hit by an automobile, knocked down and run over," I told him. He
gave a knowing look and started to say something, but his father interrupted
him. "Gyl has just made his mother and me very proud," he said; "he stood at
the head of his class for the year," and he looked adoringly at the boy.
"What are you studying?" I asked, in order to be polite and not that I
gave a continental hang what he was studying.
"What do you suppose a Kapar man studies?" he demanded impudently.
"How interesting," I commented.
"But that is not all I study," he continued. "However, what else I study
is the business only of my instructor and myself."
"And you expect to be a fighter when you grow up, I suppose," I said, for
I saw that it pleased Horthal Wend that I should be taking an interest in his
"When I grow up, I'm going to be a Zabo agent," said the boy; "I am always
"How do you practice for that?" I asked.
"Don't show too much curiosity about the Zabo," he warned; "it is not
I laughed at him and told him that I was only politely interested in the
"I have warned you," he said.
"Don't be impolite, son," Horthal Wend admonished him.
"If I were you," he retorted, "I wouldn't interfere with the Zabo; and you
should be more careful with whom you associate," and he cast a dark look at
Sagra. "The Zabo sees all; knows all." I should have liked to have choked the
impossible little brat. Sagra looked uncomfortable and Horthal Wend
Finally he said, "Oh, stop talking about the Zabo, son; it's bad enough to
have it without talking about it all the time."
The boy shot him a dirty look. "You are speaking treason," he said to his
"Now, Gyl," said his mother, "I wouldn't say things like that."
I could see that Horthal Wend was getting more and more nervous, and
presently he got up and they took their leave.
"Somebody ought to give that brat rat poison," I said to Sagra.
She nodded. "He is dangerous," she whispered. "He hangs around Grunge's
home a great deal and is very friendly with both Grunge and Gimmel Gora. I
think it is through Gimmel Gora that he has come to suspect me; did you see
how he looked at me when he told his father that he should be more careful
with whom he associated?"
"Yes," I said, "I noticed; but I wouldn't worry about him, he is only a
little boy practicing at being a detective."
"Nevertheless, he is a very dangerous little boy," she said. "A great deal
of the information that the Zabo receives comes from children."
A couple of days later I went out for my first walk; and as Horthal Wend
lived only a short distance from my apartment, I went over to call on
Haka Gera, his woman, opened the door for me. She was in tears, and the
boy was sitting, sullen and scowling, in the corner. I sensed that something
terrible had happened, but I was afraid to ask. At last, between sobs, Haka
Gera said, "You came to see Wend?"
"Yes," I replied; "is he at home?"
She shook her head and then burst into a violent spasm of sobbing. The boy
sat there and glowered at her. Finally she gained control of herself and
whispered, "They came last night and took him away." She looked over at the
boy, and there was fear in her eyes—fear and horror and reproach.
I did my best to comfort her; but it was hopeless, and finally I took my
departure. As far as I know, Horthal Wend was never seen nor heard of
I am not a drinking man; but as I walked back toward my apartment, I was
so depressed and almost nauseated by the whole affair that I went into a
drinking place and ordered a glass of wine. There were only two other
customers in the place as I seated myself at a little table. They had the
hard, cruel faces of Kapar fighting men or police. I could see that they were
scrutinizing me closely and whispering to one another. Finally they got up
and came over and stopped in front of me.
"Your credentials," barked one of them.
My wine permit was lying on the table in front of me, and I pushed it over
toward him. It bore my name and address and a brief description. He picked it
up and looked at it and then threw it down on the table angrily. "I said your
credentials," he snapped.
"Let me see yours," I said; "I have the right to know upon what authority
you question a law-abiding citizen." I was right in my demand, although
possibly a little foolish in insisting upon my rights. The fellow grumbled
and showed me a Zabo badge, and then I handed him my credentials.
He looked them over carefully and then handed them back. "So you're the
fellow who was run over by an automobile a few weeks ago," he said; "well, if
I were you, I'd be more respectful to Zabo officers, or you may be run over
again;" and then they turned and stamped out of the place. It was such things
as this that made life in Ergos what it was.
When I got home, Danul told me that two Zabo agents had been there and
searched my apartment. I don't know why he told me; because he really had no
business to, unless he had been given orders to do so for the purpose of
trapping me into some treasonable expression, for it is treason to express
any disapproval of an act of the Zabo; I could have been drawn and quartered
for what I was thinking of them though.
Now I commenced to be suspicious of Danul, and I wondered if Lotar Canl
had lied to me or if this man was an agent without Lotar Canl having any
knowledge of the fact. Insofar as suspicion was concerned, I was becoming a
true Kapar; I suspected everybody. I think the only man whom I had ever met
here that I had perfect confidence in was Horthal Wend, and they had come at
night and taken him away.
Morga Sagra came in shortly after I returned; and I sent Danul out on an
errand, so that I might tell her about Horthal Wend.
"That horrible child!" she exclaimed. "Oh, Tangor!" she cried, "can't we
get out of here?"
"Don't ever speak that name again," I said. "Do you want to get me into
"I'm sorry; it just came out. Couldn't we get away somehow?"
"And be shot as soon as we return to Orvis?" I said. "You got yourself
into this," I reminded her, "and now you've got to grin and bear it and so
have I; although I really enjoy it here," I lied. "I wouldn't go back to
Orvis under any circumstances."
She looked at me questioningly. "I'm sorry," she said. "You won't hold it
against me, will you? Oh, Korvan Don, you won't tell anybody that I said
"Of course not," I assured her.
"I can't help it," she said, "I can't help it. I am almost a nervous
wreck. I have a premonition that something terrible is going to happen," and
just then there came a pounding on the door, and I thought that Morga Sagra
was going to faint.
"Pull yourself together and buck up," I said, as I crossed to the door. As
I opened it, I was confronted by two high officers of the Kapar fighting
"You are Korvan Don?" inquired one of them.
"I am," I replied.
"You will come with us," he said.
Well, at least they were not agents of the Zabo; but what they wanted of
me I couldn't imagine; and, of course, I did not ask. Since I have been here
in Ergos, I have schooled myself to such an extent that I even hesitate to
ask the time of day. We were driven at high speed, through crowded streets,
to the building in which is the office of the Pom Da, and, after but a
moment's wait in an ante-room, I was ushered into the presence of the Great
The Pom Da came to the point immediately. "When you were here before," he
said, "you told me that before you left that other world from which you say
you came, you were working on a ship which you believed would have a radius
of something like 48,000,000 miles. One of our foremost inventors has been
working along similar lines, and had almost perfected a power amplifier which
would make it possible for a ship to fly from Poloda to other planets of our
solar system; but unfortunately he recently suffered an accident and
"Naturally this important work was carried on with the utmost secrecy. He
had no assistants; nobody but he could complete the experimental amplifier
upon which he was working. It must be completed."
"I have had excellent reports of your integrity and loyalty since you have
been here. I have sent for you because I believe you are the man best fitted
to carry on from where our late inventor left off. It is, naturally, a very
important piece of work, the details of which must be guarded carefully lest
they fall into the hands of our enemy, who treacherously maintains agents
among us. I have convinced myself that you are to be trusted, and I am never
wrong in my estimate of men. You will therefore proceed to the laboratory and
workshop where the amplifier was being built and complete it."
"Is it a command, Highest Most High?" I asked.
"It is," he replied.
"Then I shall do my best," I said, "but it is a responsibility I should
not have chosen voluntarily, and I cannot have but wished that you might have
found someone better fitted than I for so important a commission." I wished
to give him the impression that I was reluctant to work upon the amplifier,
for fear that I might otherwise reveal my elation. After weeks of failure and
disappointment, and without the faintest ray of hope of ever succeeding in my
mission, the solution of my problem was now being dumped into my lap by the
highest Kapar in the land.
The Great I, who was such a marvelous judge of men, gave me a few general
instructions and then ordered that I be taken at once to the laboratory, and
I backed out of his presence with the two officers who had brought me. I
thought that I understood now, why I had been watched so closely, and why my
apartment had been ransacked so frequently.
As I drove through the streets of Ergos, I was happy for the first time
since I had left Orvis; and I was rather pleased with myself too, for I felt
confident that my oft-repeated references to the imaginary ship that I had
been supposed to have been working on, on Earth had finally born fruit. Of
course, I had never been working on any such ship as I described; but I had
done considerable experimental work on airplane motors, and I hoped that this
would help me in my present undertaking.
I was driven to a neighborhood with which I was very familiar and was
taken to a laboratory behind a home in which I had been entertained—
the home of Horthal Wend.
I spent a full week studying the plans and examining the small model and
the experimental amplifier that was almost completed. Horthal Wend had kept
voluminous notes, and from these I discovered that he had eliminated all the
bugs but one. As I worked, I was occasionally aware of being watched; and a
couple of times I caught a fleeting glimpse of a face at the window. But
whether the Pom Da was having me watched or someone was awaiting an
opportunity to steal the plans, I did not know.
The trouble with Horthal Wend's amplifier was that it diffused instead of
concentrating the energy derived from the sun, so that, while I was confident
that it would propel a ship to either of the nearer planets, the speed would
diminish progressively as the distance from the central power station on
Poloda increased, with the result that the time consumed in covering the
600,000 miles between the two planets would be so great as to render the
invention useless from any practical standpoint.
On the day that I eliminated the last bug and felt sure that I had an
amplifier capable of powering the ship to almost any distance from Poloda, I
caught a glimpse of that face at the window again, and decided to try to find
out who it was who was so inquisitive about my work.
Pretending that I had noticed nothing, I busied myself about the room,
keeping my back toward the window as much as possible, until I finally
reached the door that was near the window; then I threw the door open and
stepped out. There was Horthal Gyl, very red in the face and looking very
"What are you doing here?" I demanded; "practicing again, or trying to pry
into government secrets?"
Horthal Gyl got hold of himself in a hurry; the brat had the brazen
effrontery of a skunk on a narrow trail. "What I am doing here is none of
your business," he said impudently. "There may be those who trust you, but I
"Whether you trust me or not, is of no interest to me," I said, "but if I
ever catch you here again, I am going to give you all of the beatings in one
that your father should have given you." He gave me one of his foul looks and
turned and walked away.
The next day I asked for an interview with the Pom Da, who granted it
immediately. The officers who came for me and those whom I encountered on my
way to the office of the Great I were most obsequious; I was getting places
in Kapara in a big way. Any man who spent a full week studying the plans and
examining the small model and could ask for an audience with the Pom Da and
get it immediately was a man to know.
"How is the work progressing?" he asked me as I stopped before his
"Excellently," I replied. "I am sure that I can perfect the amplifier if
you will place a plane at my disposal for experimental purposes."
"Certainly," he said. "What type of plane do you wish?"
"The fastest scout plane you have," I replied.
"Why do you want a fast plane," he demanded, instantly suspicious.
"Because it is the type of plane that will have to be used for the first
experimental flight to another planet," I replied.
He nodded and beckoned to one of his aides. "Have a fast scout plane
placed at Korvan Don's disposal," he ordered, "and issue instructions that he
is to be permitted to fly at any time at his discretion." I was so elated
that I could have hugged even the Pom Da; and then he added, "but give orders
that a flying officer must always accompany him." My bubble was burst.
I made several experimental flights; and I always took along all the
plans, drawings, and the model. I took them quite openly, and I kept
referring to Horthal Wend's notes, to the drawings, and to the model during
the flight, giving the impression that I had to have them all with me in
order to check the performance of the amplifier on the ship, as well as to
prevent theft of them while I was away from the laboratory.
The same officer never accompanied me twice, a fact which eventually had
considerable bearing upon the performance of my mission. If these fellows
could have known what was in my mind all the time they were sitting in the
ship beside me, they would have been surprised; I was trying to think of some
way in which I could kill them, for only by getting rid of them could I
escape from Kapara.
The amplifier was an unqualified success; I was positive that it would fly
the ship to any part of the solar system, but I didn't tell anybody so. I
still insisted that a few experimental changes would have to be made, and so
the time dragged on while I awaited an opportunity to kill the officer who
accompanied me. The fact that they had never given me any weapons made this
I had not dared to ask for weapons; one does not go at anything of that
kind directly, but I had tried to suggest that I should be armed by telling
the Pom Da that I had seen someone looking in my laboratory window on several
occasions. All that got me was a heavy guard of Zabo agents around the
Since I had been working on the amplifier, I had seen practically nothing
of Morga Sagra, as I had slept in the laboratory and had only returned to my
apartment occasionally for a change of clothing. After I commenced to fly, I
occasionally went directly to my apartment from the hangar, taking the plans
and the model with me; but I never went out on those nights as I did not dare
leave the things in my apartment unguarded.
Danul cooked and served my meals, and Morga Sagra ate with me
occasionally. She told me that she had seen Horthal Gyl with Gimmel Gora on
several occasions recently, and that Grunge had left his woman and was living
in another part of the city. Morga Sagra hadn't seen him for some time now,
and she was commencing to feel much safer.
Things seemed to be going along beautifully about this time and then the
blow fell—Morga Sagra was arrested.
Insofar as I was concerned, the worst feature of Morga Sagra's arrest was
that when they came for her, they found her in my apartment. Of course I
didn't have any idea what the charge against her might be; but, if she were
suspected of anything, those who associated closely with her, would be under
She was taken away at what would be about seven o'clock in the evening
Earth time, and about ten, Lotar Canl came. He was dressed in the uniform of
an officer of the flying force. It was the first time that I had ever seen
him in anything but civilian clothes; and I was a little, surprised, but I
asked no questions.
He came and sat down close to me. "Are you alone?" he asked in a
"Yes," I said; "I let Danul go out after dinner."
"I have some very bad news for you," he said. "I have just come from the
question box in Zabo headquarters. They had Morga Sagra there. That little
devil, Horthal Gyl, was there too; it was he who had accused her of being a
Unisan spy. A very close friend of mine, in the Zabo, told me that he had
also accused you, and he had reported that I was very intimate with you and
with Morga Sagra also. They tortured her to make her confess that she was a
Unisan spy and that you were also."
"She never admitted that she was anything but a good Kapar, but in order
to save herself from further torture, she told them that you were, just
before she died."
"So what?" I asked.
"You have access to a ship whenever you want one. You must escape and that
immediately for they will be here for you before midnight."
"But I can't take a ship out unless an officer accompanies me," I
"I know that," he replied; "that is the reason for this uniform. I am
going with you."
I was instantly suspicious that this might be a trap, for, if I acted on
his suggestion and tried to escape, I would be admitting my guilt. I knew
that Lotar Canl was an agent of the Zabo, but I had liked him and I had
always felt that I could trust him. He saw that I was hesitating.
"You can trust me," he said. "I am not a Kapar."
I looked at him in surprise. "Not a Kapar?" I demanded, "what are you
"The same thing you are, Tangor," he replied—"a Unisan secret
agent. I have been here for over ten years, but now that I am under
suspicion, my usefulness is at an end. I was advised of your coming and told
to look after you. I also knew that Morga Sagra was a traitor. She got what
she deserved, but it was a horrible thing to see."
The fact that he knew my name and that he knew that I was an agent and
Morga Sagra a traitor convinced me that he had spoken the truth.
"I'll be with you in just a moment," I said; then I got all the plans,
drawings, and notes covering the amplifier and burned them, and while they
were burning, I smashed the model so that not a single part of it was
"Why did you do that?" demanded Lotar Canl.
"I don't want these things to fall into Kapar hands if we are caught," I
said; "and I could reproduce that amplifier with my eyes shut; furthermore,
there is a perfectly good one on the ship we will fly away."
It was a good thing that I had insisted upon having a fast scout plane,
for while we were taxiing up the ramp to take off, an officer shouted at me
to return; and then the alarm sounded, rising above the rapid fire of a
machine gun, as bullets whistled about us.
Ships shot from half a dozen ramps in pursuit, but they never overtook
We flew first to Pud and got a change of clothing and the old Karisan
plane from Frink, and then on to Gorvas where my knowledge of Gompth's name
came in handy. Lotar Canl showed him his Zabo credentials, and we got a
change of clothing and my ship. I had taken the amplifier off the Kapar plane
at Pud, and when we reached Orvis, I took it immediately to the Eljanhai, who
congratulated me on having so successfully fulfilled a difficult mission.
Just as soon as I could get away from the Eljanhai and the Commissioner
for War, I made a bee-line for the Harkases. The prospect of seeing them
again made me even happier than had the successful fulfillment of my mission.
Don and Yamoda were in the garden when I entered, and when Yamoda saw me, she
jumped up and ran into the house. Don confronted me with a face.
I had been so filled with happiness at the prospect of seeing them, the
shock of this greeting stunned me and kept me speechless for a moment, and
then my pride prevented me from asking for an explanation. I turned on my
heel and left. Blue and despondent, I went back to my old quarters. What had
happened? What had I done to deserve such treatment from my best friends. I
couldn't understand it, but I had been so terribly hurt that I would not go
and ask for an explanation.
I took up my old duties in the flying corps immediately. Never in my life
had I flown so recklessly. I invited death on every possible occasion, but I
seemed to bear a charmed life; and then, one day, the Eljanhai sent for
"Would you like to give the amplifier a serious test?" he asked.
"I certainly would," I replied.
"What do you think would be the best plan?" he asked.
"I will fly to Tonos," I replied.
He did some figuring on a pad of paper and then said, "That will take
between thirty-five and forty days. It will be very dangerous. Do you realize
"I shall ask for volunteers to go with you," he said.
"I prefer to go alone, sir; there is no use in risking more than one life.
I have no ties here. It would not mean anything to anyone in a personal way,
if I never return."
"I thought that you had some very close friends here," he said.
"So did I, but I was mistaken. I'd really prefer to go alone."
"When do you wish to start?" he asked.
"As soon as I can provision my ship; I shall need a great quantity of food
and water; much more than enough for a round trip. There's no telling what
conditions are like on Tonos. I may not be able to obtain any food or even
water there as far as anyone knows."
"Requisition all that you require," he said, "and come and see me again
before you take off."
By the following night, I had everything that I needed carefully stowed in
my ship, which was equipped with a robot pilot, as were all the great radius
ships in Poloda. I could set the robot and sleep all the way to Tonos if I
wished; that is, if I could sleep that long.
I was so intrigued with the prospect of this adventure that I was almost
happy while I was actively employed, but when I returned to my quarters that
last night, possibly and probably my last night on Poloda, my depression
returned. I could think of nothing but the reception that Yamoda and Don had
given me. My best friends! I tell you, try as I would, I couldn't keep the
tears from coming to my eyes as I thought about it.
I was just about ready to peel off my uniform and turn in when there was a
knock at my door. "Come in!" I said.
The door opened, and an officer entered. At first I did not recognize him,
he had changed so since I had last seen him. It was Handon Gar.
"So you did escape," I said "I am glad."
He stood for a moment in silence looking at me. "I don't know what to
say," he said. "I did you a terrible wrong, and only today did I learn the
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I thought that you were a traitor, and so reported when I returned to
Orvis. When you came back and they didn't arrest you, I was dumbfounded; but
I figured that they were giving you more rope with which to hang
"Then it was you who told Harkas Yamoda?" I asked.
"Yes," he said, "and that was the worst wrong I committed, for I hurt her
and Don as much as I did you; but I have been to them and told them the
truth. I have just come from them, and they want you to come to their home
"How did you learn the truth?" I asked.
"The Commissioner for War told me today. He was surprised to know that you
had not told anyone."
"I had not received permission; I was still nominally a secret agent."
When I got to the Harkases, none of us could speak for several moments;
but finally Don and Yamoda controlled their emotions sufficiently to ask my
forgiveness, Yamoda with tears running down her cheeks.
We talked for some time, as they wanted to know all about my experiences
in Kapara, and then Don and Handon Gar went into the house, leaving Yamoda
and me alone.
We sat in silence for several moments, and then Yamoda said, "Morga Sagra;
was she very beautiful?"
"To be perfectly truthful, I couldn't say," I replied. "I suppose she was
good-looking enough, but my mind was usually filled with so many other things
that I didn't give much thought to Morga Sagra except as a fellow
conspirator. I knew she was a traitor, and no traitor could look beautiful to
me. Then too I carried with me the memory of someone far more beautiful."
She gave me a quick half-glance, a little questioning look, as though to
ask whom that might be; but I didn't have a chance to tell her, for just then
Handon Gar and Don came back into the garden and interrupted our
"What's this I hear of the expedition you're setting out on tomorrow?"
"What expedition?" asked Yamoda.
"He's going to try to fly to Tonos."
"You're joking," said Yamoda.
"Am I, Tangor?" demanded Don.
I shook my head. "He's not joking." Then I told them of the amplifier I
had perfected and that the Eljanhai had given me permission to make the
"Not alone, Tangor!" cried Yamoda.
"Yes, alone," I replied.
"Oh, please, if you must go, have somebody with you," she begged; "but
must you go?"
"My ship is outfitted, and I leave tomorrow morning," I replied.
Handon Gar begged to go with me. He said that he had permission from the
Commissioner for War, if I wished to take him along. Don said he'd like to
go, but couldn't as he had another assignment.
"I don't see any reason for risking more than one life," I said, but
Yamoda begged me to take Handon Gar along, and he pleaded so eloquently that
at last I consented.
That night as I left, I kissed little Yamoda goodbye. It was the first
time that we had ever kissed. Until then, she had seemed like a beloved
sister to me; now somehow, she seemed different.
Tomorrow Handon Gar and I take off for Tonos, over 570,000 miles away.
Editor's note: I wonder if Tangor ever reached that little planet winging
its way around a strange sun, 450,000 light years away. I wonder if I shall