Beyond the Farthest Star


Edgar Rice Burroughs

THAT GENERAL ALARM certainly called us to a real battle. The Kapars sent over ten thousand planes, and we met them over the Bay of Hagar with fully twenty thousand. Perhaps a thousand of them got through our lines to drop their bombs over Orvis, those that our pursuit planes did not overtake and shoot down; but we drove the others out over the Karagan Ocean, into which ships plunged by the thousands.

At last they turned and fled for home, but we pursued them all the way to Ergos, flying low over the very city, strafing them as they taxied for their ramps; then we turned back, perhaps ten thousand ships out of the twenty thousand that had flown out to meet the Kapars. We had lost ten thousand ships and perhaps fifty thousand men, but we had practically annihilated the Kapar fleet and had saved Unis from terrific bombing; and on the way back, we met a few straggling Kapars returning, shooting down every last one of them.

Once more all three of my gunners were killed, while I came through without a scratch. Either I have a charmed life or else, having died once, I cannot die again.

I saw practically nothing of Harkas Yamoda while she was convalescing, as the doctors had ordered that she have perfect rest; but a flier has to have relaxation, and he has to have girl friends—he sees altogether too much of men while he is on duty, as about half of those he does see are firing rifles or machine guns or cannons at him. It is a nerve-racking business, and the majority of us are always on edge most of the time when we are on the ground. It is a strange thing; but that restlessness and nervousness seem to leave me when I am in the air; and of course when you are in battle, you haven’t time to think of such things.

There was a girl working in the office of the Commissioner for War, whom I had seen and talked to many times. She was always exceedingly pleasant to me and as she seemed a nice sort, intelligent and witty, I finally asked her to have dinner with me.

We had a mightily pleasant evening together, and after that I saw a great deal of her when I was off duty. She liked to get me to talk about my own world, way off there so far beyond Canapa.

Once, after we had been going together for some time, Morga Sagra said she couldn’t understand why it was I was so loyal to Unis when I hadn’t been born there and had no relations, even, on the planet.

“Suppose you had come down in Kapara,” she asked, “instead of in Unis?”

I shrugged. “I don’t like to think of it,” I said; “I am sure that I never could have fought for and been loyal to the Kapars.”

“What do you know about them,” she asked, “except what we Unisians have told you? and naturally, we are biased. As a matter of fact, I don’t think they are a bad sort at all, and their form of government is based upon a much more enduring concept than ours.”

“Just what do you mean?” I asked.

“It is based on war,” said Morga Sagra, “and war is the natural state of the human race. War is their way of life. They are not always thinking of peace as are we.”

“You wouldn’t like peace?” I asked.

“No!” she exclaimed, “I should hate it. Think of having to associate with men who never fought. It would be disgusting. If I were a man, I would join the Kapars, for they are going to win the war eventually.”

“That is a very dangerous thing to say, Morga Sagra,” I told her.

“I’m not afraid to tell you,” she said; “you are no Unisian, you owe no more allegiance to Unis than you do to Kapara. Listen, Tangor; don’t be stupid. You are an alien here; you have made a good record as a fighter, but what can it get you?—nothing. You will always be an alien, who can do no more than fight for Unis—and probably get killed in the long run.”

“Well, and what do you want me to do, stop fighting?”

“No,” she said, leaning close to me and whispering; “I want you to go to Kapara and take me with you. You and I could go far there with the Unisian military secrets we could take with us.”

I was immeasurably shocked, but I did not let her see it. The little fool was a traitor, and if she had thought that I was greatly shocked by what she had said, she would be afraid that I might turn her in to the authorities. If she would turn against Unis for no reason whatsoever other than a perverted admiration for the Kapars, she certainly wouldn’t hesitate to turn against me if she had reason to fear me. She was right, I am an alien here. Any lie that she could make up might be believed.

“You take me by surprise, Morga Sagra,” I said; “I had never thought of such a thing. I don’t believe that it could be done; the Kapars would never accept me.”

After that she evidently thought that I could be won over easily, for she told me that she had long been in touch with Kapar sympathizers in Orvis and knew two Kapar secret agents well.

“I have discussed this matter with them,” she said, “and they have promised me that you and I will be treated like kings of old if we can get to Ergos. That’s the capital of Kapara,” she added.

“Yes, I know,” I told her; “I have been there.”

“You have!” she exclaimed.

“Yes, to drop bombs on it. It would be amusing to go there now to live, and have my old comrades in arms dropping bombs on me.”

“Then you’ll go?” she asked.

“Let me think it over, Morga Sagra,” I said; “this is not something that a man can do without thought.”

So we left it that way, and the next day I went to the Commissioner for War and told him the whole story, and I didn’t have even a single qualm of conscience for betraying Morga Sagra; she was a traitor and she tried to make a traitor of me. While I am on Poloda, Unis will be as dear to me as my own United States of America. I wear the uniform of her fighting force; I have been well treated; my friends are here; they trust me, as do my superiors and my fellow fighters. I could never betray them.

The Commissioner for War is a crusty old fellow, and he almost blew up like one of his own bombs when he learned that a Kapar agent was employed in his department.

“She’ll be shot tomorrow!” he exploded, and then he thought a moment and calmed down. “Maybe itwould be better to let her live,” he said; “maybe we can use her. Come with me.”

He took me to the Eljanhai’s office and there he had me repeat what I had told him. “It is too bad,” said the Eljanhai; “I knew her father well; he was a brave officer. He was killed in battle when she was a little baby. I hate to think of ordering his daughter destroyed, but I suppose there is no other way.”

“I have another way,” said the Commissioner for War. “I suggest that if Tangor will accept the mission, we let him accede to Morga Sagra’s proposition. As you know, the Kapars are supposed to have perfected a power amplifier which will permit them to fly to great distances from Poloda, possibly to other planets. I have heard you say that you wished that we could get the drawings of this new amplifier.” He turned to me. “It would be a very dangerous mission, Tangor, and one in which you might not possibly be able to succeed, but there would be a chance, if you were there. What do you say to it?”

“I am in the service of Unis,” I said; “whatever you wish me to do, I will do to the best of my ability.”

“Excellent,” said the Eljanhai, “but do you realize that the chances are about a thousand to one that you will be unsuccessful and that you will never get out of Kapara alive.”

“I realize that, sir,” I said, “but I take similar chances almost every day of my life.”

“Then it is settled,” he said, “let us know when you are ready to go, and every arrangement will be made to facilitate your departure; and, by the way, when you get to Kapara, see if you can get any information as to the fate of one of our most valuable secret agents from whom we have not heard for two years; he is an officer named Handon Gar,” and then he described the man very minutely to me, as I could not, of course, inquire about him, and furthermore, he had unquestionably changed his name after he reached Kapara.

The two then gave me certain military information to report to the Kapars, information they were perfectly willing to trade for a chance to get the secret of the amplifier.

I wondered just why they were so anxious to obtain the secret of this power amplifier and so I made bold to ask.

“To be perfectly frank,” said the Eljanhai, “Unis is tired of war; and we wish to send an expedition to one of the nearer planets, either Tonos or Antos, to see what conditions are there; and if they are better, eventually to transport all Unisians to one of these planets.”

What an amazing and stupendous project, it was staggering even to contemplate—an heroic migration unparalleled in history.

“But if you get the secret,” warned the Eljanhai, “you must destroy all copies of the plans you do not bring away with you, and destroy also all those who could reproduce them, so that the Kapars cannot follow. Our sole desire is to find some world free from war, and no world would be free from war if there were Kapars there.”

I saw Morga Sagra again that evening. “Well,” she asked, “have you made up your mind?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I have come to the conclusion that you were right; I owe these people nothing, and if the Kapars are going to win this war, I might as well be on the winning side.”

“You are quite right,” she said; “you will never regret it. I have made all the necessary arrangements for our entry into Kapara, but the problem of getting out of Unis is for you to solve.”

“I will take care of everything,” I told her, “and in the meantime I think that we should not be seen together too much. Hold yourself in readiness to leave at any moment; I may call for you tomorrow or the next day.”

We parted then and I went out to the Harkases’ to bid them good-bye. Yamoda was stronger and had been moved out into the garden, where she lay on a couch in the artificial sunlight which illuminates this underground city. She seemed so genuinely happy to see me that I hated to tell her that I was going away for an indefinite period. We had become such excellent friends that it saddened us both to realize that we might not see one another again for a considerable time, and her lip trembled when I told her that I had come to say good-bye. She seemed to sense that this was more than an ordinary parting to which the women of Unis are so accustomed.

“How long will you be gone?” she asked.

“I have no idea,” I replied.

“Then I suppose that you can’t tell me where you are going, either.”

“No, I can’t,” I replied; “about all I can tell you is that it is a secret mission.”

She nodded and placed her hand on mine. “You will be careful of yourself, won’t you, Tangor?” she asked.

“Yes, Yamoda, I will be careful; and I will try to get back as quickly as possible, for I shall miss you very much.”

“You have been doing very well without me lately,” she said, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye; “is she such very good company?”

“She is better than nobody,” I replied, “and I get terribly lonesome when I can’t come out here.”

“I don’t believe I know her,” she said; “she does not go with the same people I do.”

I thought I noticed just a trace of contemptuousness in that speech, something quite unlike Yamoda. “I have never met any of her friends;” I said. Just then Yamoda’s mother came into the garden, and we talked of other things. They insisted on my staying to dinner.

When I left, later in the evening, it was very hard for me to say good-bye to them all, for the Harkases are my best friends in Unis, and Don and Yamoda are just like brother and sister to me; in fact their mother calls me her other son.

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