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Repairmen of Cyclops by John Brunner

nel and salvageable goods would begin.

Damned if I don’t think I made a mistake in running

such an efficient base, Langenschmidt told himself glum-

ly. If I hadn’t given strict orders to the contrary, I think

we could have done the whole job in two days flat.

Meantime, while he cast around for new ways of

stalling the Cyclopeans, two significant tasks were in

progress. A friendly executive of the Corps personnel

branch, back at headquarters, was tracing one Pavel

Brzeska, on promotion furlough following his tour as

commandant of the Patrol sector which included Lan-

genschmidt’s old beatnormally, Langenschmidt pre-

ferred not to have more truck with generals than he

could avoid, but this was a special caseand some highly

interesting work was going on at the dock, under the

rough wooden deck of Bracy’s trawler.

Already it had had enough trickery and gadgets

crammed into its small hull to make it the envy of the

richest fishing family in Grarignol. If there was room for

all the machinery Maddalena had specified as “poten-

tially handy”, it would wind up being the envy of the

richest private yachtsman this side of Earth.

Not that the said yachtsman would ever get to hear of

it.

By the evening of Day Two, as Langenschmidt was

now mentally labelling it, both these matters arrived at a

satisfactory conclusion. The trawler would have to make

its departure as openly as possible, so there was no ques-

tion of a night sailinga waste of several hours, but on

the other hand no matter how fast the ship could poten-

tially travel it would have to dawdle until it was beyond

the watchful ring of Cyclopean forces, which would

make the start of the trip very slow anyway. Maddalena

was closeted with Bracy, training him in some of the

techniques the rebuilt vessel would call on him to em-

ploy.

And the call came through from Pavel Brzeska. Lan-

genschmidt, having made quite certain that the Cy-

clopean inspectors would be kept away for an hour or

two, took it in his villa.

“Gus!” the new general exclaimed as the connection

came through. “I )ust got the news of the pickle you’re

in out on Cyclops! What possessed you to get backed

into a corner by that crowd? You’ve tangled with them

before, haven’t you? During the affair on Fourteen, I

seem to remember.”

“That’s right.” Langenschmidt nodded. “With Mad-

dalena Santoswho’s here, by the way; I sent for her be-

cause of the Conference on Non-Interference with

ZRP’s they’re holding.”

“Heard about it. The first time Cyclops has made the

news in the Old System since its original breakaway

from Dagon, I imagine. There’s a powerful lobby work-

ing on the subject, and a good deal of sentimental propa-

ganda being splashed around.” Brzeska scowled. “What

does it look like from the Cyclops end, anyway?”

“Much the same as those we’ve had beforepious and

empty. But listen, Pavel! What I need you for is some-

thing more or less related to the ZRP’s, and with your

background you can tell me a lot of things I daren’t ob-

tain conspicuously through normal channels. I’m going

on a. string of suspicions, and though I’m morally certain

I’m right I can’t call for full Corps support without more

solid evidence.”

“Explain!” Brzesica commanded.

Langenschmidt did so. He wound up, “It’s been very-

tricky trying to complete the calculations involved, of

coursewe have to keep taking the Cyclopean inspectors

in and out of the computing rooms to check on

manifests and personnel registers and so forth. But by

nha bit of dodging we’ve managed to narrow the

search area in which the missing ZRP must lie down to a

fifty-parsec sphere. Who do I ask to loan me some ships

to find it?”

Brzeska scowled again, this time ferociously. “Damna-

tion! What’s become of the Corps in your sector since I

came home? Time was, if a suspicion like yours blew up,

they’d assign you the entire Fourth Fleet and no ques-

tions asked!”

“If they hadn’t issued this ultimatum to me, I’d have

been in a position to make the request officially. As it

stands, the assumption is that I’m costing the Corps its

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