A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows by Poul Anderson. Chapter 9, 10, 11, 12

sent them, to keep the Imperium amused while we prepare a revolt of our


“You’ve denied it, I’m sure.”

“In a way. Nobody’s overtly charged me. I’ve sent the Emperor a

memorandum, deploring the affair and offering to cooperate in a

full-dress investigation. But guilty or not, I’d do that. How to prove

innocence? As thin as his corps is spread, we could mobilize–on desert

planets, for instance, without positive clues for them to find.”

The Gospodar gusted a sigh. “And appearances are against us. There is a

lot of sentiment for independence, for turning this sector into a

confederacy free of an Empire that failed us and wants to sap the

strength we survived by. Those could be Dennitzans yonder, working for a

faction who plot to get us committed–who’ll overthrow me if they


“I’m to go search out the truth if I can,” she knew. “Uncle, I’m

honored. But me alone? Won’t that be like trying to catch water in a


“Maybe. Though at the bare least, you can bring me back … um … a

feel of what’s going on, better than anybody else. And you may well do

more. I’ve watched you from babyhood. You’re abler than you think,


Miyatovich took her by the shoulders. Breath smoked white from his

mouth, leaving frost in his beard, as he spoke: “I’ve never had a harder

task than this, asking you to put your life on the line. You’re like a

daughter to me. I sorrowed nearly as much as you did when Mihail died,

but told myself you’d find another good man who’d give you sound

children. Now I can only say–go in Mihail’s name, that your next man

needn’t die in another war.”

“Than you think we should stay in the Empire?”

“Yes. I’ve made remarks that suggested different. But you know me, how I

talk rashly in anger but try to act in calm. The Empire would have to

get so bad that chaos was better, before Fd willingly break it. Terra,

the Troubles, or the tyranny of Merseia–and those racists wouldn’t just

subject us, they’d tame us–I don’t believe we have a fourth choice, and

I’ll pick Terra.”

She felt he was right.}

A part of the Hooligan’s hold had been converted to a gymnasium.

Outbound, and at first on the flight from Diomedes, Flandry and Kossara

used it at separate hours. Soon after her therapy commenced, she

proposed they exercise together. “Absolutely!” he caroled. “It’ll make

calisthenics themselves fun, whether or not that violates the second law

of thermodynamics.”

In truth, it wasn’t fun–when she was there in shorts and halter, sweat,

laughter, herself–it was glory.

Halfway to Dennitza, he told her: “Let’s end our psychosessions. You’ve

regained everything you need. The rest would be detail, not worth

further invasion of your privacy.”

“No invasion,” she said low. Her eyes dropped, her blood mounted. “You

were welcome.”

“Chives!” Flandry bellowed. “Get busy! Tonight we do not dine, we


“Very good, sir,” the Shalmuan replied, appearing in the saloon as if

his master had rubbed a lamp. “I suggest luncheon consist of a small

salad and tea to drink.”

“You’re the boss,” Flandry said. “Me, I can’t sit still. How about a

game of tennis, Kossara? Then after our rabbit repast we can snooze, in

preparation for sitting up the whole nightwatch popping champagne.”

She agreed eagerly. They changed into gym briefs and met below. The room

was elastic matting, sunlamp fluorescence, gray-painted metal sides. In

its bareness, she flamed.

The ball thudded back and forth, caromed, bounced, made them leap, for

half an hour. At last, panting, they called time out and sought a water


“Do you feel well?” She sounded anxious. “You missed an awful lot of

serves.” They were closely matched, her youth against his muscles.

“If I felt any better, you could turn off the ship’s powerplant and hook

me into the circuits,” he replied. “But why–?”

“I was distracted.” He wiped the back of a hand across the salt dampness

in his mustache, ran those fingers through his hair and recalled how it

was turning gray. Decision came. He prepared a light tone before going

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