A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows by Poul Anderson. Chapter 1, 2


Every planet in the story is cold–even Terra, though Flandry came home

on a warm evening of northern summer. There the chill was in the spirit.

He felt a breath of it as he neared. Somehow, talk between him and his

son had drifted to matters Imperial. They had avoided all such during

their holiday.

Terra itself had not likely reminded them. The globe hung beautiful in

starry darkness, revealed by a view-screen in the cabin where they sat.

It was almost full, because they were accelerating with the sun behind

them and were not yet close enough to start on an approach curve. At

this remove it shone white-swirled blue, unutterably pure, near dewdrop

Luna. Nothing was visible of the scars that man had made upon it.

And the saloon was good to be in, bulkheads nacreous gray, benches

padded in maroon velvyl, table of authentic teak whereon stood Scotch

whisky and everything needed for the use thereof, warm and flawlessly

recycled air through which gamboled a dance tune and drifted an odor of

lilacs. The Hooligan, private speedster of Captain Sir Dominic Flandry,

was faster, better armed, and generally more versatile than any vessel

of her class had a moral right to be; but her living quarters reflected

her owner’s philosophy that, if one is born into an era of decadence,

one may as well enjoy it while it lasts.

He leaned back, inhaled deeply of his cigarette, took more smokiness in

a sip from his glass, and regarded Dominic Hazeltine with some concern.

If the frontier was truly that close to exploding–and the boy must go

there again … “Are you sure?” he asked. “What proved facts have you

got–proved by yourself, not somebody else? Why wouldn’t I have heard


His companion returned a steady look. “I don’t want to make you feel

old,” he said; and the knowledge passed through Flandry that a

lieutenant commander of Naval Intelligence, twenty-seven standard years

of age, wasn’t really a boy, nor was his father any longer the boy who

had begotten him. Then Hazeltine smiled and took the curse off: “Well, I

might want to, just so I can hope that at your age I’ll have acquired,

let alone kept, your capacity for the three basic things in life.”

“Three?” Flandry raised his brows. “Feasting, fighting, and–Wait; of

course I haven’t been along when you were in a fight. But I’ve no doubt

you perform as well as ever in that department too. Still, you told me

for the last three years you’ve stayed in the Solar System, taking life

easy. If the whole word about Dennitza hasn’t reached the Emperor–and

apparently it’s barely starting to–why should it have come to a

pampered pet of his?”

“Hm. I’m not really. He pampers with a heavy hand. So I avoid the court

as much as politeness allows. This indefinite furlough I’m on–nobody

but him would dare call me back to duty, unless I grow bored and request

assignment–that’s the only important privilege I’ve taken. Aside from

the outrageous amount of talent, capability, and charm with which I was

born; and I do my best to share those chromosomes.”

Flandry had spoken lightly in half a hope of getting a similar response.

They had bantered throughout their month-long jaunt, whether on a

breakneck hike in the Great Rift of Mars or gambling in a miners’ dive

in Low Venusberg, running the rings of Saturn or dining in elegance

beneath its loveliness on Iapetus with two ladies expert and expensive.

Must they already return to realities? They’d been more friends than

father and son. The difference in age hardly showed. They bore

well-muscled height in common, supple movement, gray eyes, baritone

voice. Flandry’s face stood out in a perhaps overly handsome combination

of straight nose, high cheekbones, cleft chin–the result of a biosculp

job many years past, which he had never bothered to change again–and

trim mustache. His sleek seal-brown hair was frosted at the temples;

when Hazeltine accused him of bringing this about by artifice, he had

grinned and not denied it. Though both wore civilian garb, Flandry’s

iridescent puff-sleeved blouse, scarlet cummerbund, flared blue

trousers, and curly-toed beefleather slippers opposed the other’s plain

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