traces of the impetuous girl Langenschmidt had formerly
known began to peek through.
Unfortunately, it was his turn to become distracted
and stare for long silent periods into nowhere. It was
some while before Maddalena noticed the factshe had
been gossiping about her experiences on ZRP Thirteen
and when she did, she spoke teasingly to him.
“Why, Gus! Is this any way to treat a guest? I
thought you’d spent your time here learning all the cor-
rect social behaviour!”
“Hm?” He snapped back to the present with a start.
“Oh, I’m sorry. There’s something bothering me, and I
think I just figured out what it has to be. Please excuse
me for a few minutes. I have to check on it.”
Maddalena stared at him. Suddenly she leaned forward
and put her hand on his. “I’m sorry, Gus. I didn’t intend
to act this way on seeing you for the first time in so
many years. You do have problems to handle, and I
shouldn’t be disregarding them the way I have been.”
“No, this is nothing directly to do with you. At least I
don’t believe it is. Will you excuse me?”
“Is it something I’m not allowed to know about, or
may I come with you?”
“Sure, come if yon like. I’m not going far. To a com-
municator first, then to the hospital if my suspicions
“Something about this man Justin Kolb?”
“Very much so.”
She pushed back her chair and rose.
The network of communicator links knitted the base
together as intimately as the nerves in a living body, so
that none of the key personnel need ever be oat of reach
in the rare event of an emergency. Here, Maddalena
thought as she studied Langenschmidt’s strong profile
against the wall of the restaurant communicator booth,
emergencies would be even less common than on most
Corps bases. He must make a first-class commandant:;
thorough, patient, farsighted.
But he had been a first-class Patrol Major, too, and
would have been equally efficient as an on-planet agent
like herselfhad stood in as one during the Carrig crisis,
and proved that.
She sighed imperceptibly, envying his adaptability and
dedication. By comparison she felt herself pliable, weak
The signal indicating access to the base computer
memory shone out of the screen in the booththe Corps
was the only regular user of vision circuits on Cyclops
apart from the government.
“Justin Kolb, Cyclopean,” Langenschmidt said briskly.
“Circumstances attending his retirement from the Cy-
clops space service, please.”
The last word tickled Maddalena’s fancy. Imagine say-
ing “please” to a machine! But after a second it didn’t
seem fannyonly characteristic of the man who uttered
“Select auditory or visual presentation,” the machine
requested, and he selected sound, thinking it was more
convenient for Maddalena, – yho had to peer into the
booth from outside.
The machine spoke dates key-ed to an unfamiliar calen-
dar, and continued. “Kolb, Jusrin. Asteroid mining engi-
neer, spaceman. Second in command of local system
mine-ship Sigma. Awarded Medal of Cyclops for hero-
ism following accidental destruction of Sigma with loss
of captain and fifteen crew. Sustained space-gangrene of
right leg to mid-thigh, resulting in permanent retirement
from space service. More?”
The gently questioning tone of the last word was a
marvel of sophisticated engineering, if you thought
about it, Maddalena informed herself absently. What was
Gus driving at?
“Who was responsible for regenerating his leg?” Lan-
“No information specific to this question,” the
“Damn. Uhwhat doctor was in charge of his case
and supervised his eventual recovery?”
“Dr Aleazar Rimerley,” the machine said.
“Thought it might have been,” Langenschmidt mut-
tered, and made as though to turn away. He hesitated,
and at length voiced another question.
“What facilities exist on Cyclops for the major regen-
eration of human limbs?”
“The hospital at the Corps Galactica base is fully
equipped for limb-regeneration.”
“Are there no other facilities for the )ob here?”
“No information,” the machine said after a pause.
“Ve-ery interesting,” Langenschmidt said, and shut the
communicator off. “Come on!” he added to Maddalena.
“We’re going down to the hospital. Are you with me so
“His right legboth times, including today?”