Van Vogt, A. E. – The Barbarian


In his initial address to the Patronate, following his return from Venus, Tews said among other things, “It is difficult for us to realze, but Linn is now without formidable enemies anywhere. Our opponents on Mars and Venus having been decisively defeated by our forces in the past two decades, we are now in a unique historical position: the sole great power in the world of man. A period of unlimted peace and creative reconstruction seems inevitable.”

He retrned to the palace with the cheers of the Patronate ringing in his ears, his mood one of thoughtful jubilation. His spies had already reported that the patrons gave him a great deal of the credit for the victory on Venus. After all, the war had dragged on for a long time before his arrival. And then, abruptly, almost overnight, it had ended. The conclusion was that his brilliant leadership had made a decisive contribution. It required no astuteness for Tews to realize that, under such circumstances, he could generously bestow a triumph on Jerrin, and lose nothing by the other’s honors.

Despite his own words to the Patronate, he found himself, as the peaceful weeks went by, progressively amazed at the reality of what he had said: no enemies. Nothing to fear. Even yet, it seemed hard to believe that the universe belonged to Linn; and that, as the Lord Adviser, he was now in his own sphere in a position of power over more subjects than any man had ever been. So it seemed to the dazzled Tews.

He would be a devoted leader, of course – he reassured himself hastily, disowning the momentary pride. He visualized great works that would reflect the glory of Linn and the golden age of Tews. The vision was so noble and inspiring that for long he merely toyed with hazy, magnificent plans and took no concrete action of any kind.

He was informed presently that Clane had returned from Venus. Shortly thereafter he received a message from the mutation.

His Excellency,

Lord Adviser Tews

My most honored uncle: I should like to visit you and describe to you the result of several conversations between my brother Jerrin and myself concerning potential dangers for the empire. They do not seem severe, but we are both concerned about the preponderance of slaves as aganst citizens on Earth, and we are unhappy about our lack of knowledge of the present situation among the peoples of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Since these are the only dangers in sight, the sooner we examine every aspect of the problem the more certain we can be that the destiny of Linn will be under the control of intelligent action and not governed in future by the necessary opportunism that has been for so many generations the main element of government.

Your obedient nephew,


The letter irritated Tews. It seemed meddlesome, It reminded him that his control of Linn and of the glorious future he envisaged for the empire was not complete, that in fact these nephews might urge compromises that would dim the beauty that only he, apparently, could see. Nevertheless, his reply was diplomatic:

My dear Clane: It was a pleasure to hear from you, and as soon as I return from the mountans, I shall be happy to receive you and discuss all these matters in the most thoroughgoing fashion. I have instructed various departments to gather data so that when we do get together, we can talk on the basis of facts. Tews, Lord Adviser

He actually issued the instructions and actually listened to a brief account from an official who was an “expert” concerning conditions on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. They were all inhabited by tribes in various stages of barbaric culture. Recent reports gleaned from questioning of primitives who came from there and from the Linnan traders who visited certain ports of entry indicated that the old game of intrigue and murder ainong tribal chieftains seeking ascendancy was still going on.

Relieved in spite of his previous conviction that the situation was exactly as it was now described, Tews departed on his mountain vacation with a retinue of three hundred courtiers and five hundred slaves. He was still there a month later when a second message arrived from Clane.

Most gracious Lord Adviser Tews: Your response to my message was a great relief to me. I wonder if I could further impose upon your good offices and have your department heads determine how many are still here and where they are presently concentrated. The reason for this inquiry is that I have discovered that several of my agents on Europa, the great moon of Jupiter, were suddenly executed about a year ago and that actually my own information from that territory is based upon reports, all of which are not less than two years old, and those are extremely vague. It seems that about five years ago a new leader began to unify Europa; and my agents’ reports – when I now examine the data they furnished – grew less clear with each month after that. I suspect that I have been victimized by carefully prepared propaganda. If this be so, the fact that somebody was astute enough to seize my channels of information worries me.

These are only suspicions, of course but it would seem advisable to have your people make inquiries with the possibility in mind that our present information sources are unreliable.

Your faithful servant, and nephew,


The reference to the mutation’s “agents” reminded Tews unpleasantly that he lived in a world of spies. I suppose, he thought wearily, propaganda is even now being circulated against me because I am on a vacation. People cannot possibly realize what great plans my engineers and I are making for the State on this so-called pleasure trip.

He wondered if, by releasing a series of public statements about the grandiose future, he might successfully head off criticism.

That irritation lasted for a day, and then he read Clane’s letter again and decided that an unruffled and diplomatic approach was desirable. He must ever be in a position to say that he invariably took the most thorough precaution against any eventuality.

He gave the necessary instructions, advised Clone that he had done so – and then began to consider seriously the situation that would exist when Jerrin returued from Venus six or eight months hence to receive his triumph. It no longer seemed quite the satisfactory prospect that it had been when he himself had first returned from Venus. These nephews of his tended to interfere in State affairs, and indeed both had the legal right to be advisers of the government. Each, according to law, had a Council vote in Linnan affairs, although neither could directly interfere with administration.

I suppose, Tews grudgingly acknowledged to himself, Clane is within his rights; but what was it mother once said: “It is an unwise man who always exercises his rights.” He laughed, grimacing.

That night, just before he went to sleep, Tews had a flash of insight: I’in slipping back into suspicion – the same fears that disturbed me when I was on Venus. I’in being influenced by this damnable palace atmosphere.

He felt personally incapable of base thoughts, and accepted their presence in others – he told himself – with the greatest reluctance, and then only because of the possible effect on the State.

His sense of duty – that was the real pressure on him, he felt convinced. It compelled him to be aware of, and actually to look for, scheming and plotting, even though he was revolted by any indications of intrigue.

The realization of his own fundamental integrity reassured Tews. After all, he thought, I may occasonally be misled, but I cannot be wrong if I remain constantly on the alert for danger from all sources. And even a mutation with scientific knowledge and weapons is a matter about which I, as guardian of the State, must take cognizance.

He had already given considerable thought to the weapons he had seen Clane use on Venus. And during the days that followed he came to the conclusion that he must take action. He kept saying to himself how reluctant he was to do so, but finally he advised Clane:

My dear nephew:

Although you have evidently not felt free to ask for the protection to which your rank and the value of your work entitles you, I am sure you will be happy to hear that the State is prepared to undertake protection of the material that you have rescued from the pits of the gods and from other ancient sources.

The safest place for all this material is at your residence in Linn. Accordingly, I am authorizing funds to transport to the city any such equipment that you have at your country estate. A guards unit will arrive at the estate within the week with adequate transport, and another guards unit is this day taking up guard duty at your town residence.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Categories: Van Vogt, A. E.