The Man Who Used The Universe by Alan Dean Foster

There was not much the captain could do except rave to any who would listen. His own subofficers wondered what all the fuss was over. The Nuel had paid for his passage. If he preferred to interrupt his journey to go off with his own people, why object? The ship was a cleaner place without the slimeskin oozing about anyway.

Besides which the Nuel who came on board the liner were armed. Lightly, it was true, but the human crew was not armed at all. And even if they had been, the captain could hardly precipitate a violent incident on behalf of an alien passenger who wished to depart of his own free will. So he fumed and broadcast a report toward Dumarl as he watched the Nuel ship wink out of normal space, taking the individual he’d been directed to keep watch on with it.

So it was that Chaheel was finally able to relax in the familiar confines of a family ship. He congratulated himself at having confounded Loo-Macklin’s hirelings. The man was not omnipotent, after all. The family starship was driving at high speed for the nearby empty region that lay between UTW and Family-dominated space. Interception by a private UTW vessel was now impossible. Interception by a military craft, should Loo-Macklin be able to arrange such a thing, would be impossible within minutes.

The commander of the vessel was new to Chaheel, and looked very young. _Or perhaps I have aged more rapidly than I like to believe,_ the psychologist mused. She sounded upset and confused. Well, that much was understandable, Chaheel knew.

“I was ordered to intercept the ship you were traveling on and take you off. I was empowered to use force as well as farce if necessary to accomplish it. I would very much like to know why this little shadow play was so important.”

“It is not necessary that you understand and perhaps better for you if you do not,” Chaheel said. He was not in the mood to debate possibilities with this youth. “The information I carry can be disbursed only to representatives of the Council itself.”

The commander seemed to accept that. “It was a lot of trouble and could have precipitated a potentially damaging incident.”

“The human vessel was purely commercial,” Chaheel reminded her. “There was no possibility of an armed confrontation, as you saw.”

“There can be violence without arms.”

“It happened too quickly for the humans to react, even had they been so inclined. Can you imagine a group of unarmed humans rioting on behalf of a slimeskin, and one leaving voluntarily at that?”

“The human captain was very distressed and appeared ready to fight,” the commander argued.

“I’m sure he was, but not by himself. The man was loyal, but starship captains are not fools. Are they, Commander?”

“I have no more questions,” said the commander with sudden alacrity. “Should you require anything, please let me know.”

“Truly, I will do so. Thank you very much, Commander. You and your crew have performed admirably.”

The commander acknowledged the compliment with a gesture of eyes and tentacles and left Chaheel to his thoughts.

They were busy, and pleased. Loo-Macklin had finally made a mistake. By acting quickly Chaheel had not given the humans time to plan. They’d been forced to react with comparable speed and in so reacting had provided Chaheel with the proof he’d been unable to find.

He’d been unable to prove that the mysterious Tremovan and the golden-scaled alien Loo-Macklin had conversed with were one and the same. More important, he’d been unable to find out why Loo-Macklin had kept knowledge of the Tremovan a personal secret for some twenty years.

In trying to forcibly stop Chaheel, Loo-Macklin’s operatives had thereby given him proof that there were more than reasons of commerce for keeping the Tremovan hidden. What those reasons were the psychologist could still only guess at.

But now Loo-Macklin would know that the Council of the Families, if not his own government, was aware of the existence of the Tremovan and his ties to them. It was going to be interesting to see how the human would react.

His questioning of the central computer in Cluria had set off all kinds of alarms. That implied that there was something worth becoming alarmed about.

Loo-Macklin could keep his silence still, of course, and wait to see what happened. What Chaheel intended should happen is that representatives of the Si should question the man under a truth machine. Between that and the _lehl_ they would learn what twenty years of secrecy concealed. If it was merely business, why then, that was fine.

If it was something else and Loo-Macklin somehow plotted against the Nuel, then he would achieve his martyrdom earlier than he planned.

Loo-Macklin, or Loo-Macklin’s subordinates, had tried to have Chaheel Riens killed, or at least to prevent him from leaving the UTW. To Chaheel that was confirmation enough that something nasty was going on.

He slumped into the warm mudbed, quite pleased with himself and only just realizing how tired he was. Right or wrong, at least he was going to have an answer. And perhaps the war department would gain its much-desired new deepspace transmission beam.

He fell into a deep sleep, which was not as undisturbed as he might have wished.



The reaction to his information was not exactly what he’d expected. If he didn’t know that the reply came from a personal representative of the Council of Eight he might have suspected that the individual was somehow in Loo-Macklin’s service.

They were resting in a comfortable room, which the university repository on Jurunquag had provided for its distinguished psychologist guest. Outside it was dark and wet, a lovely day. Inside, the bright sunshine of disbelief seemed to be burning Chaheel’s eyes.

“The Council simply doesn’t believe that there is anything sinister behind these revelations and suspicions of yours, Chaheel Riens.” The representative seemed bored and anxious to get away from the dour, moody scientist she’d been ordered to report on. She was a handsome female with eyes alive with iridescent green flecks and the flashes of purple light from her flesh were more frequent than most.

Though not mating season, Chaheel found her attractive. He would have been more than just professionally interested in her save for two preventatives: his hormone level would allow nothing beyond visual admiration and she was obviously uninterested in him.

Her attitude was making her rapidly less desirable anyway, even though she was only reporting the opinions of others.

“But don’t they see the connection?”

“They see no connection,” the representative replied coolly. “Lewmaklin the human remains a vital element in the overall Plan to subvert and control the sphere of worlds dominated by humankind. Perhaps, I was told, the most crucial element. No indication has he given us, truly, that there is any reason for us to doubt his sincerity.

“What you have given us,” she went on, forestalling Chaheel’s incipient protest, “is a tale founded on personal suspicions, an unhealthy position for a scientist to put himself in. It is known that you personally dislike and mistrust the man.”

Chaheel’s lids snapped half together. “Are you saying to me that I have been the subject of observation?”

“The Si are a prominent family because they have spent ten thousand years exemplifying the meaning of caution. Yes, you have been watched, Chaheel Riens.”

“And exactly what have my watchers decided?”

“That you are no less brilliant than ever, but that you have allowed your obsession with this particular human to cloud your judgments where he is involved. Your obsession has made you valuable because it has compelled you to work hard. Now, however, it has affected your professionalism.”

“Truly think they this?”

“Truly. Can you deny it?”

“I am obsessed by nothing and no one. Certainly not a mere human. This Lewmaklin is, as you say, vital to the future plans of the Families. He is an interesting specimen. I would hardly call my interest an obsession, and while I truly suspect the human’s motives, because I cannot puzzle out his motivations, I do not hold personal dislike for him.”

“That is not the opinion of others.” She seemed to soften slightly. “I am not privy to the details of the case, of course.

“We digress. The facts are these, as I am aware of them. Twenty years ago one of this human’s exploration vessels contacts an alien race of new type. Two years ago the commander of your support vessel intercepts and descrambles a communication between an alien and this Lewmaklin. The communication takes place on an unused frequency and via a beam also of new type.

“One: we have no proof the aliens of twenty years ago and those the human talked with two years ago are the same. Two: as long as the _lehl_ functions, and periodic checks indicate it is healthy and intact, we have no reason to suspect Lewmaklin’s intentions. We have only your word that his minions attempted to harm or restrain you.”

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Categories: Alan Dean Foster