Beyond the Farthest Star


Edgar Rice Burroughs

EARLY the following morning, I called on the Commissioner for War, and told him that I planned on leaving that day. I explained in detail the procedure I wished to follow to get Morga Sagra out of Orvis, and he told me that everything would be arranged in accordance with my plans. He then gave me a sheaf of military documents which I was to turn over to the Kapars as proof of my good faith and of my potential value to them.

“You will need something to meet expenses while you are there,” he said, and he handed me a heavy leather pouch. “As there is no longer any monetary medium of international exchange,” he continued, “you will have to do the best you can with the contents of this pouch, which contains gold and precious stones. I shall immediately instruct your squadron commander that you have been ordered to make a reconnaissance flight alone and that the mission is a secret one, he is to see that no one is in the hangar between the third and fourth hours after noon, as it is my wish that no one sees you depart. During that time, you can smuggle in your co-conspirator; and now good-bye, my boy, and good luck. The chances are that I shall never see you again, but I shall remember you as one who died gloriously for the honor and glory of Unis.”

That sounded altogether too much like an obituary, and I went away thinking of the little white cross somewhere in the Rhine valley. If what I had been told about the Kapars were true, I would have no little white cross there, as my body would be shipped off to serve as food for some of their subjugated peoples working in slavery for them.

I called on Sagra at the third hour after noon. “Everything is arranged,” I told her, “and we shall be on our way within the hour.”

She had not smiled as she usually did when we met, and I noticed a certain constraint in her manner. Finally the cause of it came out, as she blurted, “What were you doing in conference with the Commissioner for War this morning?”

“How did you think I was going to get out of Orvis?” I demanded. “I had to work on the old chap a long time to get him to order me to make a reconnaissance flight alone.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, “but this is dangerous business; and when one’s life is constantly at stake, suspicion becomes almost an obsession.”

“I can well understand that,” I said; “but if our mission is to be successful, we must trust one another fully.”

“I shan’t doubt you again,” she said, “but right now my nerves are on edge. I am really terrified, for I don’t see how you are going to get me out of the city; and if you are caught trying it, we’ll both be shot.”

“Don’t worry,” I said; “just do as I tell you.”

We went out to my car then, and I had her get in the rear compartment, and when I was sure that no one was looking, I told her to lie down on the floor; then I threw an old robe over her.

I drove directly to the hangar, which I found entirely deserted. I drove as close to my ship as I could and then had Sagra crawl into the gunner’s compartment in the belly of the fuselage. A moment later I had taxied up the ramp and taken off.

“Which way?” I asked Sagra, over the communicating system.

“Northwest,” she replied. “When can I get out of here? I don’t like it down here.”

“In just a moment,” I replied.

By mutual agreement, Sagra had kept all of the plans covering our flight to Kapara and our entry into that country to herself. My job had been to simply get the military secrets and get us out of Orvis.

A small hatchway in the ceiling of the compartment in which sagra was led to the rear gunner’s cockpit, and when I told her to come up with me, she came through this hatchway and climbed over into the forward cockpit.

“Now,” I said, “you can tell me why we are flying northwest if we are going to Kapara, which lies southwest of Unis.”

“It’s a long way around, I know,” she said, “but it’s the only way in which we can eventually enter Kapaxa in a Kapar plane. In this plane and with that uniform of yours, we’d not get far in Kapara; so we are flying to Gorvas first.”

Gorvas is a city on the continent of Karis, the farthest removed from the continent of Epris on which Kapara is situated. It is a poor barren continent, and the one least affected by the war, for it possesses nothing that the Kapars want.

After an uneventful flight, we landed at Gorvas. No fighting planes had come up to meet us, and no anti-aircraft shells had burst around us, as we had circled above Gorvas before landing; for the people of Karis know they have nothing to fear from Unis, and we received a friendly greeting from some officers at the airport.

Morga Sagra had obtained forged credentials for us, and she had told me that my name hereafter would be Korvan Don, while she would keep her own name which was favorably known to her connections in Ergos, the capital of Kapara.

After leaving the airport, Sagra told the driver of the public conveyance we had hired, to drive to a certain house, the address of which had been given her by a Kapar agent in Orvis.

Gorvas is a poor city, but at least it is not underground, although, as I was told, every building has its bomb-proof cellar. Occasionally we saw bomb craters, indicating that the Kapars came even here to this far away, barren country, either because the Karisans were known to be friendly with Unis or just to satisfy their inordinate lust for destruction.

Our driver took us to a poor part of town and stopped before a mean little one-story stone house where we dismissed him. We stood there until he had driven away; then Sagra led the way along the street to the third house, after which she crossed the street to the house directly opposite. It was all quite mysterious, but it showed the care with which everything had been arranged to avoid leaving a well-marked trail.

Approaching the door of this house, which was a little more pretentious than the one before which we had first stopped, Sagra knocked three times in rapid succession, and then twice more at intervals; and after a moment the door was opened by a hard-faced, scowling man.

“What do you want?” he demanded gruffly.

“I am Morga Sagra,” replied my companion, “and this is Korvan Don.”

“Come in,” said the man; “I’ve been expecting you. Let me see your credentials.”

Sagra handed him a perfectly blank piece of paper. I was standing near the man, and when he opened it up, I saw that there was nothing on it.

“Sit down,” said the man, and then he went to a desk; and, seating himself there, took what appeared to be a pocket flashlight from one of the drawers and shone its light upon the paper.

The light must have made writing on the paper visible for I could see him passing it back and forth and that his eyes followed it. Presently he got up and handed the paper back to Sagra.

“You will remain here,” he said, “while I go and complete arrangements.” Then he left us.

“Do you know that fellow’s name?” I asked Sagra.

“Yes,” she said.

“What is it? Why didn’t you introduce me?”

“His name is none of your business,” said Sagra. “You must learn not to ask questions, Korvan Don; however, just to satisfy your curiosity, I don’t mind telling you that his name is Gompth.”

“What a beautiful name,” I said, “but as far as I am concerned you needn’t have told me what it was. His name doesn’t interest me any more than his face.”

“Don’t say things like that,” snapped Sagra. “He is a very important person, and it is not wise to make unpleasant remarks about important persons. Now be sure not to let him know that you know his name, for that is not the name that he goes by here.”

I was getting my introduction to the fear and suspicion which hangs like a pall over everything Kaparan. I had said that I did not care whether I knew this man’s name or not, for how could I know that one day I should be very glad that I did know it.

In about an hour, Gompth returned. He had brought with him civilian clothing such as is worn by the inhabitants of Karis, and after we had changed into it, he drove us out into the country, where he turned an old Karisan plane over to us.

It was not until Sagra and I were in the plane that he gave us our final instructions, and handed us credentials. He directed us to fly to a city called Pud, on the continent of Auris, and report to a man with the poetic name of Frink.

“What will become of my plane?” I asked him.

“What difference does it make to you?” he demanded.

“It makes a great deal of difference to me,” I snapped, for I was getting fed up with all this rudeness and secrecy. “I expect that, unquestionably, I shall be sent on missions to Unis; and if I am, I shall need my plane and my uniform.”

He eyed me suspiciously before he replied. “How could you ever return to Unis without being destroyed as a traitor?” he asked.

“Because I used my head before I left Orvis,” I replied; “I arranged to be sent out on a reconnaissance flight, and I can think of a hundred excuses to explain even a long absence.”

“If you ever need your plane or your uniform,” he said, “they will be here when you return.”

I breathed more freely when we rose into the clear air and left Mr. Gompth behind. His was a most depressing personality. His conversation gave the impression that he was snapping at you like an ill-natured dog, and not once while we were with him had he smiled. I wondered if all the Kapars were like that.

In Pud we found Frink by the same devious means that we had arrived at the house of Gompth, only here there was a slight difference; we were allowed to call Frink by name, because Frink was not his name.

We stayed overnight in Pud; and in the morning, Frink gave us Kapar clothes, and later furnished us with a Kapar plane, a very excellent plane too; and for that I was glad, as I had not been very happy crossing the Voldan Ocean from Karis to Auris in the ancient crate that Gompth had furnished us. Before us lay a flight of some two thousand miles across the Mandan Ocean from Auris to Kapara.

The crossing was monotonous and uneventful, but after we got over Kapara, and were winging toward Ergos, we sighted a squadron of Unisan planes that were doubtless on reconnaissance. I turned away in an effort to avoid them, but they took after us.

The ship I was piloting was a very swift scouting plane lightly armed. There was a bow gun which I could operate and one gun in an after cockpit, which Morga Sagra could not have operated even had I wished her to. I had no intention of firing on an Unisan plane under any circumstances, and so I turned and ran.

They chased me out across the Mandan Ocean for nearly a thousand miles before they gave up and turned back. I followed, keeping just within sight of them, until they bore to the south with the evident intention of passing around the southern end of the continent of Epris; then I opened the throttle wide and streaked for Ergos.

When we ran down a ramp into the city, we were immediately surrounded by men in green uniforms; and an officer gruffly demanded our credentials. I told him that our instructions were to hand them to Gurrul and then he bundled us into a car, and we were driven off, surrounded by green-clad members of the Zabo, the secret police of Kapara.

Ergos is a large city, sprawling around deep underground. We passed first through a considerable district in which there were indications of the direst poverty. The buildings were principally flimsy shelters, and sometimes only holes in the ground, into which people scurried when they saw the green uniforms of the Zabo. But presently we came to more substantial buildings, which were all identical except in the matter of size. There was not the slightest indication of ornamentation on any of them. The ride was most uninteresting, just one monotonous mile after another until we approached the center of the city where the buildings suddenly became rococo in their ornateness.

The car stopped before one of the more hideous of these buildings, a multi-colored atrocity, the facade of which was covered with carved figures and designs.

We were hustled out of the car and into the building, and a moment later we were ushered into the office of Gurrul, Chief of the Zabo, the most feared man in all Kapara.

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