Repairmen of Cyclops by John Brunner

screen, “we are the ones who are going to offer Quist a

bribe. A bribe she couldn’t possibly refuse, even if the

price were something very helpful to us, likelet’s say

ordering the Corps to abandon their base on Cyclops

with immediate effect. That should give them enough to

occupy their minds without worrying about Jusrin

Kolb’s leg!”

A spark gleamed in Heirndall’s eyes. He said, “If yon

can pull a trick like that to divert the storm, you’re clev-

erer than I thought you were. How will you organise


“Like this,” Rimerley said, and began to explain.

The banquet had passed tolerably swiftly, but the

speeches afterwards were dragging on to all eternity.

Alura Quist had given up listening to the actual words

a quarter-hour earlier, and was lost in a maze of private


Every now and again her eyes strayed to the seat on

her left, occupied by the senior representative of the par-

ticipants from Earth, which should have been Jusrin’s


/ feel horribly old, she told herself. And if anyone

cares to peer closely enough at me, more than likely I

look old. And when I die, what will stand to my

memory other than a weatherworn gravestone and some

dates in my career which no one off Cyclops will learn

in school?

Even the long-schemed-for plan to overset the Corps’s

prized principle of non-interference with ZRP’s was sour

to the taste now, as she contemplated the old man at her

right: Omar Haust, from ZRP One, honoured by being

seated next to her because he was the only person present

whose ancestors had had to endure the mud-grubbing

existence of a refugee planet.

And he was disgracing himself.

He had drunk too much, to start with. At the com-

mencement of the evening he had looked ascetic, almost

saintly, with his fierce white moustache fringing his up-

per lip, his halo-like white hair circling his shiny bald

pate. But he had continued to drink heavily; for the later

courses, he had insisted on waving aside cutlery and

eating with his fingers, as a sort of gesture of solidarity

with those on the ZRP’s who were denied any other im-

plements. Twice his hand, made greasy with the food, let

fall full goblets of liquor that splashed all over his seat-

neighbour-including Quist, whose prized Earth-made

gown was spattered with dark stains. And for the past

several minutes, during the speech by the senior Earth

delegate, he had been muttering insulting remarks in his

own mother-tongue, a divergent offshoot of the common

Galactic language which was still sufficiently close for

Quist to have flinched at what she half-understood.

Since letting herself drift off into her private worries,

however, she had paid no more attention.

Suddenly she was snatched out of a mingled kaleido-

scope of self-pity and optimism, in which Justin Kolb

figured very frequently, to realise that the old man’s pa-

tience was at an end. He was on his feet, hammering

with the base of his goblet on the table, and every blow

splashed fresh gouts of liquor far and wide. The delegate

delivering the current speech broke off in horror as

Haust bellowed in his thick accent.

“It makes me sick! It makes me want to vomit! Here’s

all this fine talk about our poor miserable brothers and

sisters out on the refugee planets, which we’re for-

bidden to liberate and bring back to the fold of civilisa-

tionand who’s spewing out these platitudes? Hm?

Who’s mouthing these pious nothings about what we

ought to do?”

Aghast, the assembled company of notables looked

elsewhere for some less embarrassing spectacle than the

aged drunkard, slobbering down his chin.

“I’ll tell you!” he roared. “A gang of dirty lying hypo-

crites! That’s what you all are! Look at you!” He

hurled his goblet in the general direction of the speaker

from Earth, a mild-mannered woman of ninety or a

hundred with a distinguished political record on her

home world; fortunately the missile sailed wide of her.

“Look at you!” Haust repeated. “With the rolls of

Earthside fat wobbling around your middle! And all the

rest of you, the same. As for you”

He rounded on Quist, who shrank back in her chair.

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Categories: John Brunner