scale; in a galaxy where the older worlds were so rich it
literally made no difference whether a given individual
worked or not, it required either accidental dedication or
a tempting bait to enlist volunteers for the necessary
drudgery of governmental service.
Not that you can really call it government, Maddalena
reminded herself listlessly. It’s more like herding cattle.
And lazy cattle, at that.
The other branches of government service paid at
lower rates; only the Patrol paid ten-for-one in the
unique currency of life.
She had served twenty years as an on-planet agent,
among stinking barbarians lost in a mud-wallow, and she
was entitledif she chose to take it here and nowto a
guaranteed two centuries of comfortable, healthy life,
anywhere she chose. She could even go clear back to
Earth, for she had been born there.
Wistfully, she looked at the black star-spangled back-
drop of space, wondering what had happened on the
mother world in the period she had been away.
She had been so optimistic . . . Right at the beginning
of her career, when she was making out so badly in the
Corps that she risked not even being promoted lieutenant
from her initial probationer statusand hence losing for-
ever her chance at longevity-paymentshe had saved ev-
erything and indeed acquired some small reputation by a
successful coup on a barbarian planet: one of the isolated
Zarathustra Refugee Planets where fugitives had survived
after fleeing the hell of the Zarathustra nova more than
seven centuries previous.
But when she was offered a post as an on-planet agent,
supervising and watching the progress of these stranded
outcasts of humanity, since she was not permitted to re-
turn to the world where she had stirred up such a to-do,
she had had to pick almost at random from the existing
four or five vacancies.
And she had realised quite shortly after being assigned
her post, in which the minimum stay was twenty years,
that she had chosen wrong.
It had seemed that something was going to happen on
the planet she selecteda transition from the typical
mud-grubbing peasant level where many of the refugees
had got stuck, .to an expanding phase of incipient civilisa-
tion, with some industrialisation and a great deal of
cross-cultural influence: fascinating material to study at
But that occurrence depended on the survival of an
organisational genius who had inherited the headship of a
strategically sited city-state. And within a month of her
arrival, one of his jealous rivals assassinated him and
seized power, condemning the planet to at least one more
generation of stagnancy.
She was absolutely forbidden to interfere. And, having
to sit helplessly- by and watch nothing happen, she had
grown so bored she hardly dared think about it.
Now was time for leave, and reassignment. Her
“death” had been arranged; her successor had been
briefed and was even now aboard the Patrol ship which
would land him with utter secrecy to take over his care-
fully prepared r61e in the local society. . . and she was
on her way to Cyclops, a planet she had never conceived
she might want to visit.
Yet she had welcomed the reasonless order to come
here before proceeding on leave. The delay gave her
time to arrive at the decision she had postponed so long:
stay on, ask for transfer to some lower-paying )ob, or
She thought enviously of Gus Langenschmidt, the Pa-
trol Major who had maintained the beat including her
assigned world when she first went there; he was aging,
greying, even running to fat when she last saw him, yet
because he could think of no better purpose to which to
devote his accrued longevity, he was continuing far be-
yond the maximum service-time which qualified for ten-
to-one pay. Five centuries was the limit of credit Fifty
years in the Patrol.
More than the total of years Fve yet lived, Maddalena
reflected. How is Gus? Where is he? It would have been
easier to endure my job if I’d .known he was still going
to call two or three times a yearbut they ‘pulled him off
his beat to do something else when he topped the limit,