“You did wonderfully, Edwy,” she answered.
“Well... I tried. I love you, Marin.”
She sighed with a great happiness. “That is enough.”
The walls trembled, and the air was filled with anger. A voice choked from the intercom: “Near miss at Seven, sir. Outer plates holed, radiation blast, no air loss yet.”
“Carry on,” said Valti.
Even a nuclear explosion had to be very close to do much damage in vacuum. But a single shell which did touch the ship before going off would make molten rain of her.
“Here comes Chanthavar,” said Valti. “I have an idea. He’ll be listening in on the radio, so—” He flipped the keys. “Hello, Thrymka. Hello, there. The Solarians are going to be on us in a minute. I like them even less than you, so let’s settle our own differences later, shall we?”
There was no reply. The Thrymans never wasted speech, and they must see through such a transparent fraud.
But two Solar cruisers were sweeping in, and they had heard. The nearest turned in a graceful arc which would have been impossible without the gravity drive, and opened fire on the Thryman ship. Valti whooped and sent his vessel surging forward. One craft could not withstand the assault of two.
The screens did not show that eye-searing detonation. They refused the load, went blank, and when they functioned again a few seconds later the Thrymans were a rapidly expanding cloud of gas.
The two Solar warcraft circled cautiously, probing at the nomad with a few shells and beams. A siren hooted, Valti laughed aloud. “The superdrive is ready. We can pull out of here now.”
“Wait,” said Langley. “Call them up. I want to speak to them.”
“But they may fall on us together while we parley and—”
“Man, Earth has got to know too! Call them!”
But it was Chanthavar who came in first. His voice snapped crisply from the communicator: “Hello, there, Society. Stand by to be boarded.”
“Not so fast, buster.” Langley leaned over Valti’s shoulder, seeking the microphone. “We can pull a switch and be ten light-years away, but I’ve got something to tell you.”
“Oh... you.” Chanthavar’s tone held something close to amusement. “You again! My respect for amateurs has gone up considerably tonight. I’d like to have you on my staff.”
“You won’t. Now listen.” Langley rattled off what he knew as fast as he could.
There was a humming stillness. Then Chanthavar said slowly: “Can you prove this?”
“You can prove it to yourself. Study the same documents I did. Pull in all the Centaurian agents you can find and question them—the Thrymans must have some humans in their pay. Put the facts and the hypothesis before the Technon, ask it for a re-evaluation. It must be capable of adding two and two!”
“You... may be right, Langley. You may be right.”
“You can bet I’m right. The Thrymans have no use for us. We’re as monstrous to them as they are to us, and the war they had to fight convinced them we’re dangerous to boot Their aim must be nothing more or less than the extermination of the entire human race. Perhaps I’m wrong—but can you afford to take a chance on it?”
“No,” said Chanthavar quietly. “It doesn’t look that way.”
“Get hold of Brannoch. He’s floating around somewhere in this vicinity. You and he and the Society—all the planets—are going to have to bury your little ambitions. If you don’t, you’re through. Together you can face anything.”
“We’ll need that nullifier effect.”
“No, you won’t. You can’t conquer a planet the size of Thrym, but you can drive its natives back and keep them there if you all combine forces. Afterward, it’ll be a healthy knowledge for you that somewhere in the galaxy is a planet of free men who have a weapon you can’t stop. It may even give you some ideas about freeing yourselves.
“Good-by, Chanthavar. Good luck!”
He switched off the radio and stood up, feeling a sudden enormous calm. “O. K.,” he said. “Let’s travel.”
Valti gave him a strange look; only later, remembering, did he recognize it as the look a man gives his leader. “Best to go to Cygni first and let the Society—the real Society—know.”
“Yes,” agreed Langley. “Then to Holat, to build defenses for them as we promised. You’re going home, Saris.”
The great dark head rubbed against his knees.
“And then?” asked Valti. His hands were setting up the control pattern for the jump.
“And then,” said Langley with an exuberant laugh, “Marin and I are off to find us a world where we can feel at home!”
“Do you mind if I come along?” whispered Valti.
Marin gripped Langley’s hand. They regarded each other, without eyes for anything else. And when they looked around them again, there was a new sun in the sky.