place where you threw the ring away. Perhaps we can safely look for it
and take it to study.”
“Chances are he’s recovered it. But Eonan!” Kossara twisted around
toward him. “How are you doing here? How many survive? With what
strength, what plans? How can I help?”
Again the third lids blurred his gaze. “Best I keep still. I am just a
link. They will answer you in the nest where I have decided to take
The hideout was high in a mountainside. Approaching, Kossara felt her
eardrums twinge from pressure change and cold strike deep. Snowpeaks,
glaciers, ravines, cliffs, crags reached in monstrous confusion between
a cloud ocean which drowned the lower slopes, and a sky whose emptiness
the sun only seemed to darken. Silence dwelt here, save for ah- booming
over the windshield and a mutter of native language as Eonan radioed
Why am I not happy? she wondered. I am about to rejoin my comrades and
regain my past–my purpose. What makes me afraid?
Eonan finished. “Everything will be ready,” he informed her. Was he as
tense as he looked? She must have come to know Diomedeans well enough
during her stay that she could tell; but that had been robbed from her.
What had he to fear?
“I suppose,” she ventured, “this is headquarters for the entire mission.
They tucked it away here to make it undiscoverable.”
“Yes. They enlarged a cave.”
She recalled another cave, where she and Trohdwyr and a few more had
huddled. “Were we–those who died when I was captured–were we out in
the field–liaison with freedom fighters whose homes were below
timber-line? Maybe we were betrayed by one of them”–she
grimaced–“who’d been caught at sabotage or whatever, and interrogated.”
“That sounds plausible.”
“But then nobody except us was destroyed! Am I right? Is the liberation
movement still healthy?”
Puzzlement: “Why didn’t I tell the Impies about our main base when they
put me under hypnoprobe?”
“I do not know,” Eonan said impatiently. “Please be quiet. I must bring
us in on an exact course, or they will shoot.”
As the sled glided near, Kossara spied the defense, an energy cannon. It
was camouflaged, but military training had enhanced her natural ability
to notice things. A great steel door in the bluff behind it would go
unseen from above, should anyone fly across this lofty desert.
Instruments–infrared sensors, neutrino detectors, magnetometers,
gravitometers, atmosphere sniffers, a hundred kinds of robot
bloodhound–would expose the place at once. But who would think to come
The door swung aside. The sled passed through and landed in a garage
among several aircars. Here were warmth, echoes, a sudden brilliance of
light better suited for eyes human or Merseian. Kossara shed her parka
before she stepped off. Her pulse raced.
Four stood waiting. Three were men. She was not surprised to see the
last was a big green heavy-tailed person, though her heart said O
Trohdwyr–and for an instant tears stung and blurred.
She rallied herself and walked toward them. Her boots thudded on the
floor; Eonan’s claws clicked. Those in front of her were simply clad,
shirts, trousers, shoes on the men, a tunic on the zmay. She had
expected them to be armed, as they were.
It flashed: Why did I think zmay, not ychan? And: They aren’t
Dennitzans! None of them!
She slammed to a halt. The men differed widely, genes from every breed
of mankind scrambled in chance combinations. So they could be from
Terra–or a colony within the Empire–or–
Eonan left her side. The Merseian drew his pistol. “Hold,” he rapped.
“You are under arrest.”
He called himself Glydh of the Vach Rueth, nicknamed Far-Farer, an afal
of his navy’s Intelligence corps. His immediate assistant was a lanky,
sallow, long-nosed man, introduced as Muhammad Snell but addressed by
the superior officer as Kluwych. In the middle of wreck, Kossara could
flickeringly wonder if the Eriau name had been given him by his parents,
when he was born somewhere in the Roidhunate.
They took her to an office. On the way she passed through such space and
among such personnel that she estimated the latter numbered about
twenty, two or three of them Merseian by species, the rest human. That