Fred Saberhagen – The Golden People

He knew their eyes were probing him to see what he thought of the carnage he had wrought, but he had been looking down at his hands when he heard the words and he just kept looking at them. The fight seemed unreal to Adam now. At last he looked up. “Can’t say I’m especially sorry. I guess there are a lot of members of the human race I just don’t give a damn about any more.”

The two detectives had sat down facing him across the little waiting room, that was otherwise empty. One of them sighed. “Well, can’t say I’m sorry either. They were all professional strong-arm boys. Two just arrived on Golden last month, two have been here for a year. They worked a lot for gamblers.”

“We’re growing into a big city,” Adam said.

“Does Dr. Ling like to gamble a lot, do you know?”

“I couldn’t say. I just met him a couple of days ago. But he’s only been on Golden a couple of days. I doubt he’s had time yet to run up any giant debts and refuse to pay them.”

“Yeah.” The detective sighed again; it made him sound as if he were surprised and saddened by the kind of things he kept running into in his job. “Know any other reason why anyone would want to kill him?”

Maybe me, thought Adam. /want his wife . Or maybe there was something else. His imagination showed him the president of the Research Foundation on Earth, tired beyond endurance of Vito’s complaints, calling in the hired killers. He smiled (for Merit was safe, and he could smile) and said: “I have no idea, no.”

And something was still worrying Merit, something besides the mere fact of her husband’s being nearly killed. Well, he, Adam, intended to find out what it was.

“We understand Mrs. Ling is a Jovian, is that correct? One of those.”

“Yes. She’s one of those.”

“She’s a telepath, then, isn’t she? But she didn’t foresee the attack?”

Adam felt annoyed. “They don’t go around reading people’s minds right and left. And once the action started she must have been stunned before she knew there was anyone approaching. Any danger.”

“Stunned expertly,” said a detective. “Very expertly. The doctors say there’s no sign of any damage now.”

“Yes?” Well, there were ways in which that could be done. “Meaning what?”

“What do you think that fact means?”

“Someone wanted her husband dead, but not her. Is that all? I’m tired.”

Again the police looked at each other. “That’s all for now, Mr. Mann,” one said. “You’re not being charged with anything, of course. In my personal opinion it’ll smell a little sweeter here with those four gone.”

“There’ll be four more-or eight,” said Adam, moving wearily away. “Lots of opportunity on Golden.”

Chapter Fourteen

“It’s this damned Jovian business,” said General Lorsch. She was sitting behind her desk and looking at Boris Brazil through tired eyes. “Probably that fight episode on the slideway, with the Jovian woman involved, is somehow tied in with all the rest of it.” With one hand she pushed a carven wooden box across her desktop to the Colonel. To Brazil it looked like Grodsky’s old desk, but the Colonel wasn’t going to try perching on a corner of it today.

He silently accepted the invitation to smoke, and took a little time to get his chosen cigar fired up. Time in which he could also do some thinking.

He was glad to be back on Golden again after a seven year absence, even glad in a way that the Field was still unconquered. But not everyone was so happy, evidently, or he wouldn’t have been called back. He hadn’t met General Lorsch before today, but he doubted that she normally appeared as worn and harried as she did right now.

“Excuse me, General,” Brazil asked, “but is the problem really just these hundred Jovians?”

“Yes, it’s basically just the Jovians, even if there still are only a hundred of them.” The General, toying witha small cigar of her own but not lighting it, managed a smile. “From your viewpoint, Colonel, maybe I sound like a trifle like a monomaniac-but you don’t really know anything about these people, do you?”

“The Jovians? No ma’am.”

“I didn’t either, until very recently. Now I’ve been through one interview with Ray Kedro-he’s evidently their leader, to the extent that they have a leader-but I can’t communicate what happened during that interview as evidence. There are the intelligence reports.”

She could, thought Boris, at least have talked to him about that interview, since it sounded so important. Maybe later he would push to hear about it.

As for the intelligence reports, Boris had already read through some of the printouts that were now scattered about on the General’s desk. Now the Colonel glanced down again, skimming quickly over certain paragraphs:

“-Jovian organization has penetrated every branch of Earth society, probably including the Space Force. Their economic power like their political influence, is indirect but enormous-”

“-can they be considered subversive? If they would lead or coerce humanity, they have given no real evidence of what direction they would choose.”

Subversive. Boris frowned at the word. He knew that there were people, in the Space Force as elsewhere, who could see subversive plotters be-hind every rock. There were also a few very real people, real terrorists, who for one reason or another plotted violence and destruction of the government. Usually, as far as Boris could see, it was not really because of anything in particular that the government had done, but just because the government was there, and terrorists in love with violence and destruction had to have some target, and big important targets were more fun.

And some of the terrorists might, for all that Boris knew, be Jovians.

The most urgent-looking message on the table read:


The ship appeared to be a big one, and if the specifications given in the report were accurate, it mounted certain generators and other equipment generally reserved for exclusive use in weapon systems. It looked like the Jovians had built for combat.

“Neat trick, putting together a starship in secret,” Boris commented. “One like this, especially.”

“They’re pretty clever people,” said the General drily. “The authorities on Sol System didn’t realize that the Jovians were up to anything on Ganymede until all the Jovians known to be in the system began to head that way. By the time we really took notice that something was up, they were in their starship and gone.”

The situation was a complete dustcloud to Boris. He leaned back in his chair, puffed gently on his cigar, and said: “So, they’re all out joyriding in their outlaw bird. I take it you expect them to come here, to Golden, ma’am, since you pulled me off another job and had me brought here and are telling me all this.”

“I do expect them to show up at Golden, yes.”

“I see, ma’am. What’ll they do when they get here?”

“I wish I knew.” Lorsch shook her head, and threw her own tormented cigar away, still unlighted. “I have three ships.” The General let her words trail off, then added: “I’ve asked An tares for some reinforcement, just in case. Three more ships. Don’t know if I’ll get them.”

“You’re expecting a fight, then?”

“I want to be ready for one.”

“And just what am I here for, ma’am?”

“You’re here because you know something of the planet and the situation, Colonel. And according to the records, you also know this fellow Adam Mann.”

Aha. “Adam Mann. Yes ma’am, I remember him. He worked for me as a planeteer at one point. Right here on Golden.”

“So the records state. What did you think of him?” Brazil pondered. “A good man, basically. Not- well, not an ordinary man, even for planeteering, where we tend to get-an assortment.”

“Yes,” the General responded drily. The reputation enjoyed, or endured, by the planeteering profession was nothing new to her. But she was thinking now of something else, of Adam Mann specifically. “I don’t know if he’s working for the Jovians now, or just friendly with some of them, or what. In any case he probably knows them at least as well as any non-Jovian alive. I’d like to talk to him, find out if he’s disposed to be helpful to us, and, if he is, consult with him. If he isn’t-I’d like to know that too. And he’s not always an easy man to talk to, or so I’ve been told.”

“So you’d like me to try. All right. I’ll talk to him.” Boris got up out of his chair and took a quick nervous walk, the length of the office and back. Standing in front of the desk, he said: “It’s the Field, of course, that’s the special thing about Golden. If the Jovians, or anyone else, could control the Field, obviously they could control the whole planet. And any other planets where a Field could be established.”

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