Beyond the Farthest Star


Edgar Rice Burroughs

I WILL NOT bore you with what happened during the ensuing six weeks; suffice it to say that I learned a lot from Harkas Yen, the elderly man into whose keeping I had been placed. I learned, for instance, that he was a psychiatrist, and that I had been placed in his hands for observation. When the girl who had screamed had reported me, and the police had come and arrested me, they had all thought that I was a lunatic.

Harkas Yen taught me the language; and I learned it quickly, because I have always been something of a linguist. As a child, I traveled much in Europe, going to schools in France, Italy and Germany, while my father was the military attache at those legations; and so I imagine I developed an aptitude for languages.

He questioned me most carefully when he discovered that the language I spoke was wholly unknown in his world, and eventually he came to believe the strange story I told him of my transition from my own world to his.

I do not believe in transmigration, reincarnation or metempsychosis, and neither did Harkas Yen; but we found it very difficult to adjust our beliefs to the obvious facts of my case. I had been on Earth, a planet of which Harkas Yen had not the slightest knowledge; and now I was on Poloda, a planet of which I had never heard. I spoke a language that no man on Poloda had ever heard, and I could not understand one word of the five principal languages of Poloda.

After a few weeks Harkas Yen took me out of the cage and put me up in his own home. He obtained for me a brown sequin suit and a pair of brown boots; and I had the run of his house; but I was not permitted to leave it, either while it was sunk below ground or while it was raised to the surface.

That house went up and down at least once a day, and sometimes oftener. I could tell when it was going down by the screaming of sirens, and I could tell why it was down by the detonation of bursting bombs that shook everything in the place.

I asked Harkas Yen what it was all about, although I could pretty well guess by what I had left in the making on Earth; but all he said was: “The Kapars.”

After I had learned the language so that I could speak and understand it, Harkas Yen announced that I was to be tried.

“For what?” I asked.

“Well, Tangor,” he replied, “I guess it is to discover whether you are a spy, a lunatic, or a dangerous character who should be destroyed for the good of Unis.”

Tangor was the name he had given me. It means from nothing, and he said that it quite satisfactorily described my origin; because from my own testimony I came from a planet which did not exist. Unis is the name of the country to which I had been so miraculously transported. It was not heaven and it was certainly not hell, except when the Kapars came over with their bombs.

At my trial there were three judges and an audience; the only witnesses were the girl who had discovered me, the five policemen who had arrested me, Harkas Yen, his son Harkas Don, his daughter Harkas Yamoda, and his wife. At least I thought that those were all the witnesses, but I was mistaken. There were seven more, old gentlemen with sparse gray hairs on their chins—you’ve got to be an old man on Poloda before you can raise a beard, and even then it is nothing to brag about.

The judges were fine-looking men in gray sequin suits and gray boots; they were very dignified. Like all the judges in Unis, they are appointed by the government for life, on the recommendation of what corresponds to a bar association in America. They can be impeached, but otherwise they hold office until they are seventy years old, when they can be reappointed if they are again recommended by the association of lawyers.

The session opened with a simple little ritual; everyone rose when the judges entered the courtroom; and after they had taken their places, every one, including the judges said, “For the honor and glory of Unis,” in unison; then I was conducted to the prisoner’s dock—I guess you would call it—and one of the judges asked me my name.

“I am called Tangor,” I replied.

“From what country do you come?”

“From the United States of America.”

“Where is that?”

“On the planet Earth.”

“Where is that?”

“Now you have me stumped,” I said. “If I were on Mercury, Venus, Mars, or any other of the planets of our solar system, I could tell you; but not knowing where Poloda is, I can only say that I do not know.”

“Why did you appear naked in the limits of Orvis?” demanded one of the judges. Orvis is the name of the city into which I had been ruthlessly catapulted without clothes. “Is it possible that the inhabitants of this place you call America do not wear clothing?”

“They wear clothing, Most Honorable Judge,” I replied (Harkas Yen had coached me in the etiquette of the courtroom and the proper way to address the judges); “but it varies with the mood of the wearer, the temperature, styles, and personal idiosyncrasies. I have seen ancient males wandering around a place called Palm Springs with nothing but a pair of shorts to hide their hairy obesity; I have seen beautiful women clothed up to the curve of the breast in the evening, who had covered only about one per centum of their bodies at the beach in the afternoon; but, Most Honorable Judge, I have never seen any female costume more revealing than those worn by the beautiful girls of Orvis. To answer your first question: I appeared in Orvis naked, because I had no clothes when I arrived here.”

“You are excused for a moment,” said the judge who had questioned me; then he turned to the seven old men, and asked them to take the stand. After they had been sworn and he had asked their names, the chief judge asked them if they could locate any such world as the Earth.

“We have questioned Harkas Yen, who has questioned the defendant,” replied the oldest of the seven, “and we have come to this conclusion.” After which followed half an hour of astronomical data. “This person,” he finished, “apparently came from a solar system that is beyond the range of our most powerful telescopes, and is probably about twenty-two thousand light-years beyond Canapa.”

That was staggering; but what was more staggering was when Harkas Yen convinced me that Canapa was identical with the Globular Cluster, N. G. C. 7006, which is two hundred and twenty thousand light-years distant from the Earth and not just a measly twenty-two thousand; and then, to cap the climax, he explained that Poloda is two hundred and thirty thousand light-years from Canapa, which would locate me something like four hundred and fifty thousand light-years from Earth. As light travels 186,000 miles per second, I will let you figure how far Poloda is from Earth; but I may say that if a telescope on Poloda were powerful enough to see what was transpiring on Earth, they would see what was transpiring there four hundred and fifty thousand years ago.

After they had quizzed the seven astronomers, and learned nothing, one of the judges called Balzo Maro to the stand; and the girl I had seen that first day in the garden arose from her seat and came forward to the witness-stand.

After they had gone through the preliminaries, they questioned her about me. “He wore no clothes?” asked one of the judges.

“None,” said Balzo Maro.

“Did he attempt to—ah—annoy you in any way?”

“No,” said Balzo Maro.

“You know, don’t you,” asked one of the judges, “that for willfully annoying a woman, an alien can be sentenced to destruction?”

“Yes,” said Balzo Maro; “but he did not annoy me. I watched him because I thought he might be a dangerous character, perhaps a Kapar spy; but I am convinced that he is what he claims to be.”

I could have hugged Balzo Maro.

Now the judges said to me. “If you are convicted you may be destroyed or imprisoned for the duration; but as the war has now gone into its one hundred and first year, such a sentence would be equivalent to death. We wish to be fair, and really there is nothing more against you than that you are an alien who spoke no tongue known upon Poloda.”

“Then release me and let me serve Unis against her enemies,” I made answer.

Beyond the Farthest Star - Contents    |     Three

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