Join Our Gang?

by: Douglas

Language: English
Published: 1 week ago
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ommander William Powers, subleader of Survey Group Sirian Combine—1027798 and hence first officer of its ship, the Benefactor, stared coldly out of his cabin port. The Benefactor was resting on the bedrock of Island Twenty-seven of the world called Mureess by its natives. Like all the other such names, it meant "the world," just as the natives' name for themselves, Falsethsa, meant "the people," or "us," or "the only race." To Commander Powers, fifty years old, with eleven of them in Survey work, the world was Planet Two of a star called something unpronounceable in the nebula of something else equally pointless. He had not bothered to learn the native name of Island Twenty-seven, because his ship had mapped one thousand three hundred and eighty-six islands, all small, and either rocky or swampy or both. Island Twenty-seven, to him, had only one importance, and that was its being the site of the largest city on the planet.

Around the island's seven square miles, a maze of docks, buildings, sheds, breakwaters, and artificial inlets made a maze stretching a mile out to sea in every direction. The gray sea, now covered with fog patches, rolled on the horizon under low-lying cloud. Numerous craft, some small, some large, moved busily about on the water, which in its components was identical with that of Terra, far distant in the Sirius Sector. Crude but workable atomic motors powered most of them, and there was a high proportion of submarines. Powers thought of Earth's oceans for a moment, but then dismissed the thought. Biological technical data were no specialty he needed. Terra might be suitable for the action formulating in his mind, but a thousand suns of Sirian Combine might prove more useful. The biologists of Grand Base would determine, assisted by data his ship provided, in their monster computers, what was called for. Powers had been trained for different purposes.

He was, as every survey commander was, a battle-hardened warrior. He had fought in two major fleet actions in his day, and had once, as a very junior ensign of the Sirian Grand Fleet, participated in the ultimate horror, the destruction by obliteration of an inhabited planet. For planetary destruction a unanimous vote of the Sirian Grand Council, representing over four thousand worlds, was necessary. It had been given only four times in the long history of the Confederacy. Every intelligent being in the great Union shuddered at the thought of its ever becoming necessary again. Powers stared moodily over the rocky ground toward a group of figures in the distance which were moving in his direction. The final delegation of the Mureess government, a world government, was coming for its last meeting before the Benefactor departed into the far reaches of space.

Powers braced himself mentally for a grand effort. He held equivalent rank to that of a Galactic admiral, and it was held for one reason only, because of his real work and its importance. He was a super-psychologist, a trend-analyzer, a salesman, a promoter, a viewer, an expert on alien symbology and the spearhead of the most ruthless intelligence service in the known universe. Long ago, he had transferred from the battle fleet to the inner school at Sirius Prime for the most intensive training ever devised. Now it would be put to the ultimate test.

He heard the air lock open and turned away from the window. He had a long way to walk to the neutral council chamber, for the Benefactor was a big ship, despite the fact that only twenty beings comprised the total complement. Down the echoing corridors he paced, brow furrowed in thought. Mazechazz would have his own ideas, he knew, but if they made no impression, he would have to put his oar in. Each being on board, whether he breathed halogen or oxygen, ate uranium or protein, had to be independent in thought and action under certain circumstances. The circumstances were here, here and now in his judgment....