Digitally transcribed for the Gardner Francis Fox Adventure Library
Her lips were soft, yielding, as was her body against my own. But only for a brief few seconds. My arms had banded her, holding her close, even as my mind told me this girl had the power to stir me as no other woman ever had. Mine has been a lonely life as an archaeologist I have had no time for romance. This woman of the future had affected me, suddenly, like a blow to the heart. I held her and kissed her.
Then–she was a raging tigress.
She fought me furiously, panting, sobbing a little. Her face was contorted with fear and revulsion. When I let her go, she staggered backward a few feet and her hand came up to wipe her lips. Above her hand her eyes were enormous.
“You–animal!” she breathed.
There was disgust along with the fear in her eyes. I shrugged and spread my hands. “Look, lady–you’re cute and you were leaning against me, asking for a kiss.”
Her gasp of indignation was loud. “I was not!”
“Maybe you didn’t realize it.”
“You are a past-man! Chan Dahl could never have done that! He was too much of a gentleman.” She turned and leaped for the colored buttons on the control panel beside the door. Her hands swept up.
“Not even to save his life?” I asked.
I could not analyze my feelings. I wanted to go back to my own time and to my own life. And yet–I did not want to lose this nameless woman who had come so suddenly into that life. I was not Chan Dahl, but because of him I was being given an opportunity that as a scientist. I did not want to pass it up. An archaeologist is concerned only with past. Now, something deep inside me was even more fascinated by the future.
Her fingers hovered over the colored buttons. She turned her head, slowly, staring back at me with those telltale eyes. She made a lovely picture in her tight jacket and skin-taut breeches that looked so much like black opera stockings. Her tawny hair was a little disheveled from my embrace.
As I watched, her hand made a fist with which she hammered at the black control panel. “My mind tells me you are Chan Dahl. My heart tells me you aren’t. Which shall I believe? Which do I dare believe?”
“Which do you want to believe?” I asked.
“It isn’t a question of my personal wants. It’s a question of duty.” She turned more fully toward me, putting her back against the glassine wall. Her cheeks were flushed, and for the first time her eyes would no look at me fully.
“Hasn’t Chan Dahl ever kissed you? If you and he were engaged”–her glance came up at that, and locked with mine–“he must have made love to you.”
She shivered. “Not…like that!”
“The Red Line marks the point in time beyond which we dare not go for fear of upsetting the time-continuum process,” she said as if to herself. “Beyond it , in the past, men were governed in their actions by their animal natures. Reason had not yet come into its own. There were wars. Personal slayings. Violence of one sort or another. And–indiscriminate matings.”
“In your more enlightened time, there are no such things,” I finished for her, rather bitterly. She had the grace to flush, but her chin went high, defiantly.
“When a man and a woman marry, each must pass a physical and psychological test. It is very severe. Each must complement the other. Chan Dahl and I were to be mated when–when he ran away.”
“You were sent to bring him back.”
“I volunteered. I wanted to know what had frightened him to such an extent that he would dare to violate the Red Line. It must have been something very dreadful.”
Her eyes asked me a question. I grinned, “Don’t ask me; I’m only Kevin Cord. I don’t know what scared your boyfriend.”
Then I remembered the gibberish Chan Dahl had spouted before he died. I asked, “Does this mean anything to you? ‘When day is dark and night is bright…when Earth slides left and space slides right?'”
She stared at me in puzzlement. “Why do you ask?”
“It was something Chan Dahl said before he died.”
She shook her head. “I never heard anything like it before. But it may be a warning he gave–oh, stop it! You must be Chan Dahl.”
“Your–his wound! Only a stunner could have made it. They didn’t have stunners back in Kevin Cord’s time.
It was in her mind at least, the final argument. She flashed me a dazzling smile. “If you want to go on play-acting in an attempt to save you own life, all right. I’ll play-act with you.”
I moved toward the glassine wall. “Then tell me about the time through which we are moving right now, Carla.”
She came to stand beside me, but not as close as before. She said, “You know as well as I do that my name is Glynna.”
“Glynna. A pretty name for a pretty girl.”
Again her cheeks went crimson. My opinion of Chan Dahl as a lover sank to rock bottom. I was about to say something of this when the scene outside the wall attracted my attention. Through the fog of Time Flow I saw that beautiful buildings of a few minutes–or centuries–before were fallen into a state of ruin. The ocean surged against them, covering their lower sections. Everywhere I could see through the Time Fog, there was only water, except for the upper portions of the great skyscrapers protruding into the gray sky from what was now part of the ocean bottom.
“The year is 73,956,” Glynna said. “‘The Terrible Time’. The temperature on Earth increased just a few degrees–enough to melt the polar ice and submerge much of the continental land masses.”
“Did many people perish?”
“Oh, no. Men lived by reason in those days.” She threw a triumphant glance at me. “The heat increase was foreseen, the coastal cities were evacuated, whole populations were shifted–to New Earth in the Centauri system and to the three other star planets men were inhabiting by this time.
Excitement sent the blood surging through my veins. “Then man did make it to the stars?”
“From the gravity motor to learning of the existence of hyper spatial gravity was a step that took close to ten thousand years. Comerford was the man who, after a series of frightening experiments–queer and inexplicable things happened on Earth while he was questing into hyperspace–finally built an engine that could utilize hyper spatial gravity so man could travel in the null-space. Now man could go a light year in a matter of days.”
“Man must be spread out pretty far by–this time.”
“My time is–in your chronology, 121,345 years anno domini. In my own reckoning, it is 69,556 years above the Red Line.”
“And men have gone not only to the stars, but through time itself. Amazing! In my own day, time travel was thought to be a lot of nonsense.”
“Time is energy,” Glynna said. “A flow of radiation particles which the instruments of your day were too crude to find, just as electricity was unrecognized until Benjamin Franklin came along. It existed but it was undetected.”
“But man can’t travel along radiation frequencies,” I pointed out.
“Oh yes he can. Chronal radiation permits a motor geared to its frequencies to go up or down it like an elevator. We learned early that any interference back beyond the Red Line–your year 51,789–caused strange shifting of events in the ‘present’. After that time it did not take place because of certain guards could not function back beyond the Red Line for a reason our scientists have not discovered.”
Outside the glassine walls a gigantic something was moving through the sky above the rolling gray waters. I pressed closer to the wall, staring. It was immense, filling half the horizon. It possessed a flat base and a rounded dome, inside which I could see only vague, massive dark shapes.
“A flying city,” Glynna said. “The motors and working levels are in the black base, the living quarters above it. A million people to each city. There are perhaps two hundred such cities in the skies of Earth at his particular moment.”
“The temperature increase has melted all of the ice?”
“Yes, and uncovered remnants of what must have been a very, very ancient race of men. The ice around them kept their cities intact. They were of stone, and possessed a civilization roughly analogous to that of ancient Babylon. As close as our antiquarians and historians can decide, it was those polar cities–when they existed and were filled with life the polar region was a tropic zone, you understand–that caused the legend of Atlantis.”
My archaeological blood was up. “Atlantis? When Plato wrote of it, the, the truth was so distorted as to be almost unrecognizable.”
Outside the windows, the waters were receding faster and faster. Earth was settling back to what I would regard as normal, Glynna informed me. The heat increase was gradually lessening. Something like a fifth ice age was setting in. It made no difference to the men and women in the air cities, however, since they were immune to surface conditions. Only in the great spaceports, where the star ships landed and took off, was there any reaction to the ice that hemmed them in. since these cities were domed, here again the race itself was safe. Life went on as usual.
“The star ships land in deep tunnels underground. As they do, the domes retract to let them land and leave, then close in and lock. In this ear through which we’re traveling, Earth is a ‘mother’ to its star colonies, though the colonies themselves–on young, fertile planets–are growing stronger and more independent by the hour.”
Glynna smiled faintly as she looked up at me. “In the old days–before the Red Line, that is–there would have been wars between the star planets. Reason, however, has shown them that by giving up here and there, they can live in peace with one another. Trade agreements are settled over a council table, not on a battlefield. As a result, the Federation will be formed.
“In the next few thousand years–you’ll notice no change outside the Timeler, for a thousand years usually makes only minor changes in the structure of the land–the Federation will become the one solid power in the universe, which has taken place by my own time. It has existed for many thousands of years.”
I turned again to the wall, seeing the coast recede and expand as the years flew by while the Timeler hurtled along the Time Flow to the year from which Glynna had come. Once in a great while, I sighted another flying city.
Glynna busied herself at the controls. When I tired of staring out the wall, I turned and gave more attention to the interior of the Timeler. It was round inside, so that I felt I was standing within a glassine drum. The walls held instruments of one sort or another; I could understand none of them, probably because the sciences by which they worked had been invented long after what would normally have been my own lifetime. Glynna was familiar with them, however, she worked with a cool efficiency that showed her long experience inside a chronal traveler.
“We’ll land shortly,” she announced after awhile, turning her head to look at me over a shoulder. “We’re some distance from Operations Base, so I’ll have to travel in the air. We have a miniature gravity motor encased in our base, of the same sort that moved the flying cities. It will take us to New York.”
She gave a little exclamation of annoyance. “I don’t know how long you intend to keep up this masquerade, Chan Dahl. I don’t even know if you are Chan Dahl. If you aren’t, you ought to learn our language. As a Chronomad, I’ve learned hundreds of past-tongues, but only the Chronomads are so instructed. The people you’ll meet won’t be so well versed. You’ll be helpless unless you can understand them.”
“Teach me, then,” I told her.
She shrugged. “I haven’t the time nor the necessary equipment. Without and encephalometer, it would take months. Ours is a polyglot language taken from half a dozen star civilizations added to an Earth base.”
She smiled. “It’s one of the reasons why there is no war in the star worlds. We all speak the same tongue. It’s a Federation Law. Our people live by those laws. To disobey one is unthinkable.
“What about me?” I asked. “If your Council decides I really am Kevin Cord, you’ll have displaced a man from beyond the Red Line.”
Her face looked worried, but her lips thinned determinedly. “I would turn myself over for punishment.”
My face must have shown my surprise. Her lips curved wanly. “Our people are so used to obeying the Federation Law that any opposition to its regulations is unthinkable. From babyhood we’ve been indoctrinated to its universal good, as have our fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers before us.
Maybe that was why Chan Dahl had cracked up so badly when he’d found whatever it was that had driven him back beyond the Red Line, I thought. His ‘discovery’ had obeyed no set laws; this was new and unthinkable to the Chronomad. He hadn’t been prepared to face such a revolutionary concept, and he’d gone to pieces when face with it.
It sounded good, but I didn’t quite believe it. There was more to this mystery than that. Chan Dahl had been a Chronomad, as was Glynna. He’d been an educated man, physically perfect, and with a keenly inquiring mind. He wouldn’t have broken the brittle clay–he’d been of firmer stuff than that. Unless…
Unless the enormity of what he’d found had shattered his very pillars of reason! Unless it destroyed his very belief in himself, in man, in his correct universe. But…what in the name of God could such a contradiction be?
It made no sense. Or else–
It made sense in such an alien, monstrous way that a human brain could not accept it! Chan Dahl had sought refuge behind the Red Line just as a schizophrenic seeks refuge in another personality. The Red Line was his own personal escape-hatch from reality.
The Timeler bumped, then lifted.
In the brilliant sunshine outside I saw a paradise of trees and curving sand, blue waters and distant wooded areas. It was like a park below us, a gigantic park that stretched for miles and miles. I could see men and women walking here and there, and some of them were holding hands.
Glynna said, “My whole world is like this–oh, not all trees and water; there are deserts too, and great mountains and ice and rock. You see, we live underground now instead of on the Earth or in the air. Our cities honeycomb the continents and are connected by the old monorail tunnels utilized now by antigravity rods that hurl vehicles safely across a hundred thousand subterranean miles. Since we live below-ground, we’ve remade the surface into what Earth should be.”
“There are rough places, uncultivated, or course. We let nature work by itself there. But this close to a great underground city like Nyallar–New York to you–the surface is a gigantic parkland. A few animals roam here, protected by game laws. There is hunting, but only in the wilderness sections.”
“Sounds ideal,” I grinned. “Too ideal, almost.”
She frowned at me. “Nothing can be too ideal.”
“It can when you make everything so easy for a man he loses his fighting instincts, his–animal properties, if you will.”
She touched her lips with her fingertips and her eyes were stormy. “There is nothing the Federation has ever met it cannot overcome, if it proves a threat.”
“Chan Dahl probably felt the same way,” I growled.
Her foot stamped. “You are Chan Dahl!”
“Isn’t that for the Council to decide?”
She nodded. Her face looked miserable.
I said suddenly, “If it will save your neck, I’ll admit I’m Chan Dahl. If I do that, what will they do to me?”
“Find out what you know about the–the Mystery.”
Glynna gave me a look of cold contempt and turned on her heel to manipulate the colored buttons of the control panel. Underfoot I felt the hum of the gavitic motor lessen, and the gradual reduction of speed in the Timeler. I saw another such time traveler lift upwards some distance away and move westward. Then I swung my eyes back to Glynna.
It would be a simple matter to step up behind her, grip her and swing her away from those controls. Her head was bent in concentration, her blonde hair falling about her uniformed shoulders.
Sure! Abduct her and the time machine. Flee away to some remote place on Earth and land–maybe on some Pacific island in the year 101,000–where nobody would ever find us.
All I had to do–
My hands were on her upper arms, gripping them so tightly she cried out. I swung her away from the colored buttons with my arm about her slim body, holding her helpless. I put a hand out to touch the controls.
“No! Chan, you can’t! Have you really gone mad?”
I brushed the buttons with my fingertips. I looked down into her upturned face, so pretty and flushed, with the hazel eyes big and frightened. She was warm and soft against me; she would make a man a good wife, I thought, alone on a Pacific isle.
“Just the two of us,” I whispered. “Somewhere in the Pacific, maybe fifty thousand years before now. How does it sound? We could swim in the surf and eat fish and clams and–”
She just stared. Her mind simply could not fathom the fact that I was capable of doing what I suggested. To me, it made perfect sense. To her, it was a sacrilege would be to the Holy Father in Rome.
I kissed her for the second time. This time I really meant it. My right arm crushed her up to me and my mouth covered her lips. She was helpless. Once or twice she landed on my shin with the toe of her little boot, but I hardly felt it. I kissed her a long time, until she softened and went limp against me.
My lips on hers whispered, “If I were Chan Dahl, I’d do it. He was a scared man, was your Chan Dahl. Whatever your ‘mystery’ is, it knocked him right off his pinnacle of cold reason, He went completely off the deep end in his instinct for self-preservation.”
Her eyes stared up at me. Her full red mouth looked swollen where I had kissed it. I said softly, “Now me, I’m an archaeologist I want to see your underground cities and your world of a hundred-thousand-odd years. I want to read your books about what happened in 1965. I’m so anxious to learn all that–I’m even willing to say I’m Chan Dahl to save your pretty neck.”
She was not fighting me. Her body was close and soft. “They won’t kill you, you know,” she whispered. “They only want to learn what the Mystery is, why it’s so monstrous it would seduce a man like you from your duty to return and report it. You’d be put in a hospital for recovery. I-I could come and see you.”
Her cheeks were red with embarrassment.
“Of course, your Council won’t believe me,” I added.
“Because I really am Kevin Cord and if they can search my mind, as I’m sure they’ll be able to do in this day and age, they’ll learn I have no recollection of any mystery at all.”
She made a little sound, deep in her throat, and her eyes closed so that her lashes made tiny yellow fans against her cheeks. She seemed small and helpless to me, despite the fact that her futuristic brain held more knowledge than all of my world of 1965 put together. I stood her on her feet and held her shoulders.
“Go ahead. Take us down.”
She quivered, and ran her palm up and down her sleeved arm, staring at me. Indecision was in her face. She knew the truth, knew I was a past-man, knew I was not Chan Dahl, but Kevin Cord. The brilliance of her eyes as they went over me, wondering how I would conduct myself before the Council, told me the truth.
Glynna drew a deep breath. She touched the colored buttons and the Timeler began to lower.
A great rim of gray metal formed the lip of a mighty vertical tunnel. The Timeler motors died out; the little craft was gripped by forces that held it equidistant from the sides of the shaft. We went down into utter blackness, and the walls of our Timeler began to glow, illuminating its interior with soft light.
The wall opened. A lighted platform stood before us, with a uniformed man standing and saluting Glynna. his eyes turned toward me, vaguely surprised to see me out of uniform and wearing such antiquarian clothing.
He said crisply, “The way is ready, Chronomad.”
Glynna and I moved out onto the metal platform. The air was clean and fresh, faintly scented with pine. Men and women in the dark Chronomad uniforms strolled along the platform. Other Timelers were sitting in their berths, big glass and metal craft ready to move up or down the Time Flow. Mechanics were working on the motors of one of them.
I sensed the eyes that watched us. Chan Dahl was the most famous person on all Earth, right now. he had deserted, when men were trained for all their lives so that they could not desert. He had broken the Red Line Law when his every atom had been conditioned so that the Red Line was one rule that must not be disobeyed.
His motivations must have been very great.
No mind could imagine what such a motivation might have been, what awesome terror lurked out there where ever it was that Chan Dahl had been, in what distant future or remote past or even in what lost corner of star-space. I did not know where it was; neither did Glynna Sarn nor anyone else.
We walked between the eyes, Glynna in her military stride, I in my civilian shuffle. As had the girl, everyone who watched me assumed that I was acting.
A glass ball floated on empty air above another shaft. We stepped into it and the ball fell. There was no sensation of movement. Only dimly could I sense the floors past which we dropped. There was sideways momentum, then upward motion. These subterranean levels, I was to learn, were joined by shafts and tunnels of the same gray metal that formed the lip of the outside shaft way. Its radiations governed the gravitation that shifted the glass ball along swiftly or slowly, as the controls call on it to do.
An increase of power raised the gavitic pull of the metal just ahead of us, drawing us swiftly. As we reached that particular section, the metal went dead, as the metal ahead of it activated the proper amount of tug. Friction was reduced to a minimum. The glass balls could attain speeds of two hundred miles an hour, but, since gravity inside the ball was always at the same level, there was no reaction in the body to such swiftness.
The ball stopped. Its wall opened.
A red carpet stretched toward a pale white circular wall. Two great doors inset in the wall and graven with the Federation arms–a sword crossed with a pen and spangled with stars–were opening by automatic control. On either side of the doors, along the base of the walls and almost hiding them, were metal planters filled with lush, tropical blooms. Red flowers, blue flowers, yellow flowers, each with petals a foot wide, made an alien jungle to dazzle the eye sight. Glynna whispered that these plants had come across ten to a hundred light years to blossom here in an artificial environment.
We were in the doorway, the, walking forward into a vast room, the lower walls of which displayed the works of master artists. I saw planetaramas of worlds whose names I did not know, nor their location in space. The ceiling was a vast yellow sun in two dimensions, flooding the chamber with pale light, Ahead of us was a raised dais and on the dais a single curving desk of dark wood behind which thirty men and women sat.
This was the Federation Council.
I wondered why they were in session. It hadn’t occurred to me that they might be sitting as had the Congress of my own time and country, and that our arrival might have caught them between cases. The Timeler could pick and choose its moments to appear. Later I was to learn that Glynna Sarn had orders to deliver me to the Council immediately upon her arrival, and that her time of arrival was to be at one hour following midday.
We halted before an old man with a white beard and heavy white hair directly in the middle of the dais. Bellow him the Federation Arms were carved in solid mahogany. The room was rich, yet simple. It boasted of the wealth of the Federation, but it was genteel about its richness.
The old man spoke in a sonorous voice. I could not understand him. When Glynna made reply, there was a buzz of surprised conversation all along the curving bench. Glynna glanced at me with fright in her eyes.
“We made a mistake. You cannot speak our language. They will never believe you to be Chan Dahl.”
“Tell them the knowledge was erased from my mind by–what I met.”
Her eyes widened, filled with relief. She turned back to the Council and apparently made some of them believe her, for the men and women put their heads together for a little while, then drew apart so the man with the white hair cold order an apparatus brought forward.
Glynna said, “They will teach you the language with and electronic beam.”
My upraised eyebrow made her add, with a slight smile, “How do you think we learn what we must know in the short span of our formative years? Machines teach us by playing rays across the memory segments of our brains, impressing the knowledge we must have to fulfill our duties.”
The apparatus was all glistening metal and glass, on small wheels. They made me sit in a chair provided form my comfort and electrodes were attached to my skull. A technician came forward, lifting a small lens fitted by many wires to the machine. He pressed a button. The machine whined. An invisible ray came out of the lens which he touched to the back of my head.
There was no sense of pain or pleasure. It was as if nothing at all were happening to me. Then, suddenly–
I understood phrases and words. The technician was complaining about the machine. It was not working properly; it needed an adjustment. He shut off the machine.
“Can you understand me?” he asked.
“I understand you,” I replied in his own tongue. It was not strange to my mind, though my lips and tongue were inclined to stumble over the words here and there. In time, I realized, I would speak them as fluently and with as correct a pronunciation as any native Nyaller.
Glynna smiled radiantly, turning back to the Council.
“His language center has been restored, Highnesses. He can now converse with you himself.”
“Speak then, Chan Dahl,” ordered the old man. “Tell us why you ran away from the Mystery.”
I rose to my feet. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Glynna’s tense, frightened face. Would I plead ignorance because I was a past-man? Would I be believed, if I did? Her teeth were biting into her lower lip.
“I don’t recall anything before–before I landed in the year 1965.” There was a concerted gasp from the men and women on the dais. I had broken a fundamental law: I had violated the Red Line. I said, “Perhaps the same blow that stole my memory prevented me from operating my Timeler. I don’t know. I don’t remember. I do remember finding my double, an archaeologist named Kevin Cord. He put up a fight, and I hit him with a stunner…a little too hard. I–killed him.”
The old man closed his eyes. when he opened them, he said, “To kill is a crime, Chan Dahl, which is punishable by death.”
But they would not kill me, I knew…not until I had told them what the Mystery was.
“The same blow that stole my memory must have affected other parts of my brain,” I said. “I was in a daze. I acted as if I had no control over my body.”
A woman commented, “Possible amnesionalia. Its symptoms are memory loss and an accompanying lack of control over bodily functions. It could be. Possibly.”
A young man on the very end of the great bench said querulously, “All this from a simple blow?”
Glynna held her breath. I saw the members of the Council turn their heads to stare at one another in doubt and disbelief.
It was touch and go, here. If they did not believe me, if they ordered some sort of a brain test, they would realize, perhaps, that I was not Chan Dahl at all, but a true past-man. In that event, Glynna Sarn would be executed for what she had done. if they believed me Glynna would be safe, but…I did not know what they might do to me.
One of the Council members made a gesture with a hand. A technician came forward, rolling another kind of machine. Again he placed electrodes to my skull. Again switches were pushed and dials turned. There was a little silence, broken only by the hum of the machine. From time to time the technician lifted out punched cards and thrust others into slots provided for them in a glittering metal panel. His face was somber with puzzlement.
At length he turned off the machine.
He faced the men and women on the dais. “As near as I can ascertain, Your Honors, this man cannot possibly be Chan Dahl. His brain refuses to disclose information with which we can make a positive identification.”
“Could he do this with will power, Technician?”
“No, Your Honorship. At least, not as far as I know.”
There was a pause, then a woman leaned forward. “Is it possible for him to do so unwittingly? That is, if a part of him were shocked by some traumatic experience, could his brain, or that subconscious part of it which is not responsive to his will, refuse of itself to conform to the cards? In cases of split personality, the normal part of a man recedes to such a degree that does not consciously realize who he really is.”
The technician looked helpless. He flushed, then said slowly, “I cannot say with certainty. It is a facet of the encephaloran machine with which we are not too familiar. A medician must be called, and a proper psychon. They will have to work together with him and with the encephaloran. I myself do not possess the proper training. I am a technician, not a healer.”
The man with the white hair looked at Glynna. “Chronomad Sarn!”
Glynna rose to her feet, stood straight and attentive. Only because her arm touched mine could I feel the tremble that ran through her body.
“Yes, Your Honorship,” she whispered.
“You know the penalty with interfering with a past-man?”
The old man looked less stern as he sighed, “There are extenuating circumstances to this case, I must allow. If a technician with an encephaloran cannot determine whether this man is or is not Chan Dahl, we must take this into consideration before blaming you for violating the Red Line Law. However: we must uphold the law, or there is not law.
“I am sending the suspect to the laboratories on Luna, there to be examined and tested under the care of a medician and a psychon, with the use of any or all machines proper to the case, to determine whether or not this man is Chan Dahl or the man he claims to have killed and replaced, Kevin Cord.
“Until then, you yourself will be relieved of duty. This is not a suspension, I wish to make clear–you will receive your payments and your work credits as if you were on duty, since for the record you will be attached to this Tribunal for temporary duty here, and you will hold yourself in readiness to answer any further inquiries this Tribunal may seek to make.”
Glynna sighed. Though it might only be delaying the inevitable, it was a lot better than she had expected. It gave her another few days or weeks of life, at the very worst.
“I hear, I obey,” she murmured.
The old man looked at me, his features poised between a stony hardness and a gentle understanding. “You, Chan Dahl–or Kevin Cord–will be remanded into the custody of the Council troopers, to be taken under guard to Luna. From this moment on, you are under the aegis of the Federation of Star Worlds Council. Only the Council has jurisdiction over you. It will be ordered over the infovox, so that all citizens will hear and understand.”
A gavel fell. The men and women rose to their feet and filed out. As the last one disappeared behind an ornate screen, Glynna turned to me with a sigh, lifting and spreading her hands.
“It could have been much worse. What happens now depends on what they find out about you on Luna.” Her eyes were wide, vaguely frightened. “Do you still insist you’re Kevin Cord?”
“What difference does it make what I say, if they have instruments that will tell the truth? If I said I was Kevin Cord, would you run away?”
She shook her head, smiling faintly. “No, I’ve been too well-trained.”
“Maybe that’s the trouble.”
She looked tired. “Trouble?”
“With what happened to Chan Dahl. He was well-trained too. He knew what to do in all foreseeable emergencies. When he ran smack into an unorthodox one, he went to pieces. Maybe there wasn’t enough ‘animal’ in him.”
“The way there is in you,” she said, almost to herself.
I was startled by her frankness, and looked around us. A file of troopers in the gold and white colors of the Council was marching down the chamber toward us, but there was no one else within hearing distance. She smiled wanly at my concern.
“What difference does it make? A few days or weeks and the Tribunal will learn the truth. I’ll–be ready for what is to happen to me.”
“You could fight it,’ I said slowly.
“Fight the Council? Impossible!”
“Suppose we escaped, you and I. Suppose we got to a Timeler and went back behind the Red Line. Would the Chronomads come after us?”
She gaped at me. “You’re mad,” she gasped, recoiling a little. What I’d said had shocked her to the core. I had suggested something that was literally unthinkable to her. Yet it only made good sense. It was an out for both of us.
There might not be any other way to stay alive.