The face vanished, and re-appeared, this time in the
context of a large conference hall, in which sat delegates
from worlds affecting over a dozen different styles of
dress. Quist was addressing them, and had clearly won
the approval of all those listening.
“You will recall,” she was saying, “that the respected
representative from ZRP Onewho is regrettably indis-
posed and cannot hear me make this public pronounce-
mentsuggested a lever to oust the Corps from its role
of policy-maker in this area. I have reflected on what
was suggested, and come to an inescapable conclusion: it
is not consistent with our professed ideals to tolerate the
Corps’s presence here while they are flouting our
Stunned silence, from the audience in the screen and
“I therefore wish to inform you that I am serving no-
tice today on the base’s commandant to withdraw all
Corps personnel from Cyclops and close the base. This
cannot presumably be done overnight, but it must be
done quickly, and in any case from this moment forward
the base will be quarantined, and all contact whatever
between Cyclops and the Corps Galactica will cease bar-
ring such official conversations as the evacuation may
call for. I-”
Stormy applause drowned out the remainder of the
statement. Langenschmidt snapped the switch to stop the
“Well?” he rapped.
Maddalena shook her head, dazed. “I thought you said
the planet couldn’t afford to lose the base!”
“It can’t. Which means the Quist woman has gone in-
sane. Insane or not, though, she’s legally the boss of Cy-
clops, and when I get word from Corps HQwhich I’ve
sent forI’m damned sure they’ll tell me I’ve got to do
as she orders.”
Langenschmidt’s gloomy assessment of the situation
was justified; his own computers assured him of that
even before a verdict came through from headquarters.
No inhabited world was compelled to provide facilities
for the Corps. To obtain those which it needed and
could not adequately arrange on the airless lumps of
rock where most of its bases were sited, the Corps wrote
treaties like an independent sovereign planet. But it
wasn’t one, and in the event of a planetary- government
deciding that it wished to withdraw leased territory, the
decision was unilateral and unarguable.
When the legal experts from HQ informed him of this
situation, Langenschmidt railed at them, demanding why
such a predicament had not been foreseen and guarded
against. There was a chilly tone in the voice of the man
he was talking to as he retorted that the circumstances
were unique and unprecedented, and after’ all hethe
base commandant on the spothad been in the ideal posi-
tion to do the foreseeing.
Sweating, Langenschmidt cut the connection.
But that crack was srill ringing in his memory the next
morning when he went out on the main pontoon of the
repair docks to meet the official Cyclopean representa-
tive he had been warned to expect. This was a very tall,
very thin, very bitter young man in immaculate white
uniform, who stepped down the gangway from the big
skimmer which had brought him and even before Lan-
genschmidt had a chance to speak waved a brisk hand at
the men who had gathered on the vessel’s deck as she ap-
proached the pontoon.
“My staff,” he said. “Empowered by the government
of Cyclops to supervise the evacuation of Corps person-
Langenschmidt looked them over. In all, they num-
bered at least two hundred. Like a good many worlds
whose economy was too precarious to support full em-
ployment and too poor to pass the leisure barrier beyond
which working became irrelevant for the individual, Cy-
clops made the worst of both worlds by maintaining a
government labour force analogous to the pregalactic
armed forces of Earthside nation-states. These would be
a detachment of picked men drawn from that pool.
They were armed, Langenschmidt saw sickly, with
obsolete but doubtless workable energy guns. Quist must
have lost her mind!
“And madriel!” he snapped.
The tall thin young man biinked at him. “My instruc-
tions are not definite on that point,” he replied. “I am
simply to see that this base is evacuated of all its person-