offworld delegates, she had spared scarcely a moment to
think of her lover. She had been vaguely aware that he
had gone off somewhere, but had assumed without ques-
tion that he would be back for tonight’s major official
She slapped the old-fashioned communicator built into
her dressing-table and spoke to the air. “Has Justin Kolb
come home yet?”
“I am his valet, mistress,” a suave voice replied. “No,
he has not yet returned.”
“Where is he, then? Has there been a message?”
“No message, mistress. If you wish, I will attempt to
“Do you know where he is?” Belatedly, it struck
Quist as bad for her image not to know already, but she
could hardly recall the words once spoken.
“Approximately, mistress. He went wolfshark-hunting
at the extreme northern limit of the species’ range.”
Time seemed to stand still. Finally, her voice ragged,
she whispered, “Contact him and find outfind out
when he will be back.”
And when he does come home, she finished silently,
Pa teach him a lesson he’ll never forget for bis im-
pudence in disregarding my orders to be here tonight.
In fact, it might well be time to dispense with Justin
Kolbsend him back to the menial job. where but for her
he would now be slaving out his miserable existence, one
leg reduced to a stump by the freezing cold of space.
Cyclops had no slack in its economy to allow for the
luxury of unproductive cripples.
She was making alterations to the seating arrangements
for the banquet when the communicator sounded again.
Was it Justin calling? She closed her eyes for a second,
wondering how she could bring herself to get rid of this
man whose half-tamed spirit represented the second most
constant challenge of her life.
“Mistress, it is I once more,” the valet said. “I have bad
news, I regret to say.”
She could not speak, but waited passively. The girl
completed her toe-manicure and gathered her equipment
to move away.
“Justin Kolb is in hospital at the Corps Galactica base.
He was attacked by the wolfshark he was hunting and a
fisherman rescued him. He will live, they say, but” The
“Go on,” she said in a dead voice. The next of her at-
tendants, charged with fitting her shoes, came and knelt
at her feet.
“He has lost his right foot, and the lower part of his
leg, to the wolfshark’s bite.”
Does the madman want to be a cripple? The question
sped across her mind, and then was replaced by an
uncontrollable wave of pity and sympathy. But for
tonight’s banquet, she would have jumped up that mo-
ment and gone to his hospital bed, to hold his hand and
Oh, Justin, Justin! What’s the love of danger that you
draw your fire from? One day it will kill you, and I
shall instantly be made old . ..
Aloud, she spoke with determination. “Put me in
touch with him. At once!”
“I will try, mistress,” was the doubtful answer, and the
communicator went silent.
All thought of the recriminations she was going to
level at her lover had evaporated on this news. She could
visualise the way he would have brought her his trophy,
defiant because he knew it offended her when he courted
danger, yet in some ways shy, toolike a boy uncer-
tainly seeking the praise of his first girl. He would have
intended to return for the banquet, had the accident not
overtaken him, bringing his tribute, and she would have
been both angry and delighted, for knowledge that such
a man was her lover comforted her.
The communicator spoke once more. “Alura Quist?”
it said, and she recognised the voice.
“Commandant Langenschmidt,” she said coldly. “I did
not ask to speak to you.”
“No, but I thought you’d rather speak to me than no-
body at all. Justin Kolb won’t regain consciousness for
some whileat least a couple of hours. He was severely
shocked by his experience. But you can have him back
tomorrow or the day after, the doctors say.”
She tensed. “With his leg restored?”
There was a blank pause. Then Langenschmidt gave a