The pounding of the jets matched the pounding of the blood in Scott's temples. "When we land," he instructed, "get this crate out fast. Everything depends on how fast you can take the cats down to the pit. I want you to bury it as fast as you can. Understand?"
He glanced sharply about the group, feeling their eyes clinging to him.
"Get as much rubbish on the crate as possible. And then obey every order I give you as fast as possible no matter how foolish the order may seem."
The jet thundered down over the landing strip, rasped to a halt. "Out," roared Scott. "Fast. Make it fast."
The loading compartment swung open. But as the men lifted the crate toward the door, the jet's intercom burst into life. "Jerill. Jerill, this is Captain Elderburg. I order you to return at once."
Elderburg had freed himself too quickly.
"This is a criminal offense, Jerill. Come back at once."
"Get that crate out," Scott roared. "Hurry. Hurry!"
"Mister Jerill," blared the intercom. "You are under arrest, according to the Articles of Space, for conspiracy, armed assault...." Scott cut the voice off in mid-sentence. He leaped into the hold, threw his weight behind the box. "Quick. Get it to the pit."
The men lumbered off into the darkness. Even with the light gravity of the asteroid, it was difficult to handle the crate as the scrambling cats pitched it from side to side.
Scott scaled a boulder. The hulk of the Kastil loomed just beyond, dark and threatening. A thin square of light showed at their cargo entrance. They were still completing loading.
"Hurry," Scott muttered feverishly. "Hurry."
The men reached the pit. Carefully, slowly, they lowered the crate into the shadows.
Sweat streaming down his face, Scott tore his eyes from the Kastil hatch, grimly watched as his men scooped rubbish into the pit.
A motion in the darkness. Out where no motion should be. Movement among the sunless stones.
Scott's breathing stopped.
A group of men closing in toward the cargo jet. Men racing out of the shadows. Men of the Kastil.
"Stop," Scott shouted frantically into his radio. "Get that crate back to the jet. Get it out of the pit. Back to the jet. It's too late. Hurry. Hurry!"
For a single astounded moment the men paused. Then, sweeping the rubble from the crate, they fumbled it toward the surface of the pit.
Scott leaped down among them. Pushed. "They're going to trap us." The crate struck on the pit's edge. Scott seized one end, forced it up over. "Grab that other end, Masters. Move, man. Don't argue. Move!"
Staggering over the uneven ground, they lurched toward the jet.
"I think you ought to rest for a moment." It was the cool voice of Randell, who stepped from the darkness with a blaster turned full on them.
Crewmen from the Kastil poured from among the rocks. Their blasters swung a menacing ring about Scott and his men.
"Step back away from the crate." Randell stepped forward, tapped his blaster against the side of the box. "Now what do we have here."
"Keep away from that," Scott snarled. "That's property of the Bertha."
"Is it?" Randell turned carelessly to his men. "Property of the Bertha," he drawled. "Well, we'd better have a look at it now. To make sure you haven't accidentally salvaged some of the Kastil's equipment. Oh, quite by accident, I understand."
He began to loosen the screw-clamps of the lid.
"Stop!" Scott leaped forward, no longer conscious of the weapons swinging on him. He dropped his hand upon the box.
"This is mine," he said. "I forbid you to touch it."
"Have you ever seen a man die of a blaster bolt?" Randell asked. "Step back."
The men of the Bertha fell back. Their shoulders touched the toothed rim of stone about the pit.
Randell chuckled. "Perhaps it's just as well we didn't blast off when we were loaded. There was always a chance you'd found something else of value here."
He flicked the muzzle of the blaster about. "If you don't mind, we'll inspect this crate in a better light. Back at the Kastil."
Triumph leaped through Scott. "This is piracy," he said, and sounded sincere.
"Piracy is what is proven," Randell laughed. "Do you really think you have a case in our courts?" He sighed softly. "Now, thank you for this unexpected pleasure. And good-bye. We'll see each other again on Earth, perhaps."
Then they were gone and immediately afterward, the Kastil, balancing on a white line of flame, leaped away from the asteroid and flashed out past the stars.
Scott stared after it, a faint smile touching his lips. About him rang the triumphant laughter of the crew.
Someone gripped Scott's shoulder. "Captain Elderburg on the intercom, Mister Scott. I just told him. And--congratulations, sir."
Scott grinned. Entering the jet, he faced the intercom, said: "It's over now, Captain."
"Good work, Mister Scott." Elderburg's voice was unsteady. "How did you do it?"
"Pretended to be taking something of value," Scott said. He relaxed back against the seat. "I knew Randell couldn't resist making a clean sweep of everything we had. So I gave him the chance."
Elderburg's laugh filled the cabin. "And when they open the crate...."
"Good-bye uranium." Pale eyes smiling, Scott waved a knotted fist. "And now, sir, we're going to start mining ore. This is our claim now. And we'll be blasting out of here in forty hours with the biggest load of uranium ore Earth ever got its hands on."
By Charles Saphro
All the intricate, electronic witchery of the 21st century could not pin guilt on fabulous Lonnie Raichi, the irreproachable philanthropist. But Jason, the cop, was sweating it out ... searching for that fourth and final and all-knowing rule that would knock Lonnie's "triple ethic" for a gala loop.
Lonnie Raichi was small, heavily built, wet-eyed, dapper and successful. His success he attributed entirely to his philosophy.
Not knowing about Lonnie's philosophy, the whole twenty-odd years of Lonnie's success was the abiding crux of Jason's disgust. And this, in spite of the more and more men Jason came to control and the fitful stream of new techniques and equipment Gov-Pol and Gov-Mil Labs put at his disposal.
Jason was a cop. In fact, by this Friday the thirteenth in the fall of 2009, squirming on what had come to be his pet Gov-Park bench right across from the Tiara of Wold in the Fane, he was only one step short of being the Head Cop of Government City. He was good. Gathering in a lot of criminals was what had brought him up the steps.
But he hadn't gathered in Lonnie.
It wasn't for lack for trying. Way back, when Lonnie was known simply as "Lonnie," Jason managed to get a little help from his associates and superiors. Sometimes.
But as Lonnie came to be known as Lon Raichi, then Mr. Raichi, and finally as "THE Launcelot Raichi" (to Everyone Who Mattered), and as Jason's promotions kept pace with his widening experience and painstakingly acquired knowledge; peculiarly, there seemed to be fewer and fewer persons around who could be made interested in "Lonnie."
Inside Government and Gov-Pol-Anx as well as among the general Two-Worlds public.
So Jason got less and less help, or even passive cooperation, from his superiors. As a matter of fact, the more men he could command, the fewer he could use on anything that could be construed as concerning Lonnie.
Equipment, though, was a little different matter. There was usually enough so that one unit of a kind could be unobtrusively trained on Mr. Raichi under the care of Jason's own desk sergeant. In 1999, for example, Moglaut, that erratic and secretive genius in Physlab Nine, came out with a quantum analyzer and probability reproducer. The machine installed in Pol-Anx, reconstructed crimes and identified the probable criminals by their modus operandi and the physical traces they couldn't avoid leaving at the un-mercy of any of its portable data accumulators.
On Jason's first attempt it almost came close to Lonnie. It did gather in the hidden, dead, still twitching, completely uncommunicative carcasses of the five men who actually relieved the vault of the Citizen's Bank of Berlin of its clutch of millions. It even identified the body of the rocopilot found floating in the Potomac a few days later as being one of the group, and the killer. It did not locate the arsonized remnants of the plane, though, nor the currency; and only achieved the casting of a slight, or subsidiary, third-hand aspersion in the direction of THE Launcelot Raichi.
But Lonnie came up with an irrefutable alibi, somehow, and the hassle that followed made Jason's luck run out. And on Jason's stubborn, secret, subsequent tries, all the analyzer could produce was a report of zero data whenever Jason, reasonably or unreasonably, believed that Lonnie was involved.
Zero data when Schicklehitler's marshal's baton disappeared from the British Museum.
Zero data when Charlemagne's Crown lapsed unobtrusively from its shrine in Vienna during the Year 2000 Celebration.
Subsequently, Jason realized that the Berlin job in 1999 had marked Lonnie's last essay after money. Other things seemed to occupy Lonnie's mind after he'd sprouted publicly into the status of full-fledged, hyper-respectable, inter-planetary business tycoon; complete with a many-tentacled industrial organization in Moon Colony and a far-flung prospecting unit headquartering at Mars Equatorial.
Tycoonship was a status with which Everyone Who Mattered was always pleased.
Jason's next attempt on Lonnie had to wait until 2005 and was the result of two unconnected circumstances. The first was Physlab Nine's secretive genius, Moglaut, evolving another piece of equipment, a disarmer, which, subsequent to its first use, saved countless cops' lives. The second was the discovery in the Valley of Kings, of Amenhotep III's own personal official Uraeus. Positively identified beyond the shadow of doubt.
Jason, playing the hunch he'd built up about Lonnie, rushed a man, armed with the brand new disarmer, instantly to the scene.
The next morning, Amenhotep's Uraeus was gone and the corpse of Jason's man was found--part of it. The right hand, arm, shoulder, and most of the head were missing; burned away. And of the disarmer, only a fused hunk of mixed metals and silver helix remained.
And the analyzer reported zero data.
Lab Nine's taciturn and exasperating Moglaut failed to derive an explanation for either circumstance.
"I won't shut up," Jason said, standing on the carpet in front of his superior. "He did it. I don't know how, but he did."
Another spasm of frustration shook him and he slammed his fist down on the sacred desk. "I've known Lonnie all my life. I know he doesn't know phfut about anything scientific, and yet he makes a horse's--"
"Captain Jason, I insist that you stop referring to--"
"Makes a--" Jason raised his voice, "horse's--"
"Captain, Annex has been most forbearing all these years. We've overlooked your incomprehensible phobia--this--this confoundedly unfounded impossible bias against such an irreproachable philanthropist as Launcelot Raichi--because of the sterling quality of your ... ah ... other work. However--"
On the desk, the Commissioner's fingers took up a measured tattoo. "--should this fixed idea begin to encroach on--uh--uh--"
"All right ... Sir." Sullenly, Jason submitted. "I understand."
With a self-congratulatory smirk up at the ceiling that separated them from Executive Level, the bland face of the Commissioner smoothed out. "All right, Captain, as long as we understand each other ..."
Sourly, Jason got himself back to his own office. Drumming his own fingers on his own desk and glaring at his own desk sergeant, he purged his soul.
"--damned equipment would only work, I'd gather him in! They couldn't stop me, then! But--" Jason choked. When he could speak again, "He's never studied a lick in his life, I tell you! Yet he makes a he-cow's behind out of the best man and the best scientific equipment Annex can provide! How? How, I ask you! He doesn't know the first blasted thing about any blasted thing in any blasted science!"
That was true. Conversely, Jason didn't know about Lonnie's philosophy.
Nowadays, Lonnie called it a "philosophy." He told reporters it was "based on a triple ethic." (Inside his skull, a small boy jumped up and down in glee over the magnificent language he was able to use.) But he always replied only with a superior smile when asked by reporters to put the philosophy and the triple ethic into words. If pressed, he paraphrased an Ancient Man: "You know my works. Judge by them."
He was referring, of course, to his having branched out into patronizing the Arts. He'd even erected Raichi Museum just across the velvety green circle of Gov-Park from Government's own Fane of Artifacts.
The reporters would go away and write more articles about his modesty and the superlative treasures of Earth, Moon and Mars that were gathered in the Raichi Galleries; protected, the papers always boasted, by the same ultra-safety mechanisms that guarded the mile-long, one-gallery-wide, glass-fronted Fane itself. Government affably made up two of every anti-break-and-entry device nowadays. One for the Fane and the other for Raichi Museum.
Despite occasional grumbles in the letters-to-the-editor columns, the papers never seemed to inquire into why so many priceless trans-worlds artifacts got into Lonnie's private ownership instead of Government's public Fane. And while some artists and architects (unendowed by Lonnie) succeeded in publicly proclaiming Raichi Museum gaudy, such carpings were but to be expected, particularly from modernists.
Actually, Everyone Who Mattered felt Raichi Museum's granite walls were much more dignified than the narrow, glass-faced arcade that was the Fane, wide open to the most disrespectfully casual public inspection all the time. Why, even late at night gawking loiterers pressed their noses against the glass; black, clumsy images pinned to the blazing whiteness hurled by radionic tubes against the back wall of snowy marble from Mars' arctic quarries. Besides, that glass, proof though it was against anything but an atomic explosion, still made every true art lover feel disquietingly insecure.
No, on the whole, the papers and reporters and true art lovers who felt the Public's treasures should be more secure than visible, never questioned Lonnie's doing good to so much Art.
Thus, nowadays, nobody did anything but accept Lonnie. Except Jason. And he, perforce, took out his disgust not on hounding the sacrosanct Lonnie, but on that crackpot, mumchance, captive genius of Physlab Nine. With the result that, late in 2007, Pol-Anx had an electronic servo-tracer.
Pending construction of sufficient hundreds of thousands more for full Anx use, Jason swore Lab Nine to secrecy and installed the pilot model in his own office. He had enough authority for that.
It was a hellishly unbuildable and deceptively simple gadget, that tracer. Simply tune it in on the encephalo-aura, the brain wave pattern of any individual ... and monitor. It never let go until deliberately switched off by the operator. It tracked; pinpointed the subject accurately up to twenty thousand miles. It stopped humming and started panting in proportionately ascending decibels when the subject became tense, nervous, afraid. It also directed pocket-sized trackers of its own Damoclean beam. It made it a cinch to gather in known criminals in the very midst of their first subsequent flagrante delicto.
Jason latched the servo-tracer on Lonnie and settled down to wait.
At 10 p.m., local mean time, January 25, 2008, the tracer hiccupped and, all by itself, went to sleep!
Jason blinked. Jiggled the gadget. Swore. Either the gadget was haywire or Lonnie was up to something, and, as usual, was making a-- Jason bawled for four reliable squad men he'd mentally selected before. If he could find Lonnie--catch Lonnie in actual performance of an act--then Commissioner or no Commissioner, Executive Level or no Executive Level...!
He roared from Pol-Anx with the men, past the flank of Government Fane, across the Park and around the bulk of Raichi Museum to Lonnie's mansion in its shadow. Leaped from the gyro-van, sweeping his men out into a fan for the neighborhood.