Beyond the Farthest Star


Edgar Rice Burroughs

I WAS in the hospital for about two weeks; but at last I was discharged and allowed to go home, although I had to remain in bed there most of the time. I found a new man there to take Lotar Canl’s place. He had brought a note from Lotar Canl saying that he knew that I would need someone as soon as I returned from the hospital and that he could highly recommend this man, whose name was Danul.

Lotar Canl came to see me himself the day after I was returned from the hospital. While we were talking, he wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to me. It read, “Danul is not connected with the Zabo, but he is a good Kapar;” then, after I had read it, he took the paper from me and burned it up; but he was very careful to see that Danul was not around to observe what he did.

It is terrible to live under this constant strain of fear and suspicion, and it shows in the faces of most of these people. Lotar Canl was peculiarly free from it, and I always enjoyed talking with him; however, we were both careful never to touch on any forbidden subjects.

While I was in Ergos, there was scarcely a day passed that I did not hear the detonation of Unisan bombs; and I could visualize my comrades in arms flying high over this buried city. The only reports that I ever heard of these activities always related Kapar victories; or the great number of enemy planes shot down, and the very small losses suffered by the Kapars, or they would tell of the terrific bombing of Orvis or of other Unisan cities. According to these official reports, Kapara was just on the verge of winning the war.

Harkas Yamoda was much in my mind at this time, and thoughts of her and my other friends in Orvis rather depressed me, because I felt that I couldn’t return until I had fulfilled my mission, and I seemed to be as far as ever from that. No matter how often I brought up the subject of my invention, no one ever indicated that he had heard of such a thing. It was very disheartening, as the first step to acquiring any information about the new amplifier was to learn who was working on it; and of course I didn’t dare suggest in the slightest way that I had knowledge that any such thing was being considered in Kapara.

Sagra came to see me every day and spent a great deal of time with me, and one day Grunge came. “I was very sorry to hear of your accident,” he said; “and I intended to come and see you sooner, but I have been very busy. There are many careless drivers in Ergos; one cannot be too careful.”

“Oh, well,” I said, “perhaps it was my fault; I was probably careless in crossing the street.”

“One cannot be too careful,” he said again.

“I have found that out,” I replied; “even a friend might run over one.”

He gave me a quick look. He did not stay very long, and it was evident that he was nervous and ill at ease while he was there. I was glad when he left, for the more I saw of the man the less I liked him.

Horthal Wend and his woman and son came on another day while Sagra was there. Horthal Wend said that he had only just heard of my accident and was greatly distressed to think that he had not known of it before and come to see me earlier. He did not question me as to the cause of it, but Horthal Gyl did.

“I was hit by an automobile, knocked down and run over,” I told him. He gave a knowing look and started to say something, but his father interrupted him. “Gyl has just made his mother and me very proud,” he said; “he stood at the head of his class for the year,” and he looked adoringly at the boy.

“What are you studying’?” I asked, in order to be polite and not that I gave a continental hang what he was studying.

“What do you suppose a Kapar man studies?” he demanded impudently. “War.”

“How interesting,” I commented.

“But that is not all I study,” he continued. “However, what else I study is the business only of my instructor and myself.”

“And you expect to be a fighter when you grow up, I suppose,” I said, for I saw that it pleased Horthal Wend that I should be taking an interest in his son.

“When I grow up, I’m going to be a Zabo agent,” said the boy; “I am always practicing.”

“How do you practice for that?” I asked.

“Don’t show too much curiosity about the Zabo,” he warned; “it is not healthful.”

I laughed at him and told him that I was only politely interested in the subject.

“I have warned you,” he said.

“Don’t be impolite, son,” Horthal Wend admonished him.

“If I were you,” he retorted, “I wouldn’t interfere with the Zabo; and you should be more careful with whom you associate,” and he cast a dark look at Sagra. “The Zabo sees all; knows all.” I should have liked to have choked the impossible little brat. Sagra looked uncomfortable and Horthal Wend fidgeted.

Finally he said, “Oh, stop talking about the Zabo, son; it’s bad enough to have it without talking about it all the time.”

The boy shot him a dirty look. “You are speaking treason,” he said to his father.

“Now, Gyl,” said his mother, “I wouldn’t say things like that.”

I could see that Horthal Wend was getting more and more nervous, and presently he got up and they took their leave.

“Somebody ought to give that brat rat poison,” I said to Sagra.

She nodded. “He is dangerous,” she whispered. “He hangs around Grunge’s home a great deal and is very friendly with both Grunge and Gimmel Gora. I think it is through Gimmel Gora that he has come to suspect me; did you see how he looked at me when he told his father that he should be more careful with whom he associated?”

“Yes,” I said, “I noticed; but I wouldn’t worry about him, he is only a little boy practicing at being a detective.”

“Nevertheless, he is a very dangerous little boy,” she said. “A great deal of the information that the Zabo receives comes from children.”

A couple of days later I went out for my first walk; and as Horthal Wend lived only a short distance from my apartment, I went over to call on him.

Haka Gera, his woman, opened the door for me. She was in tears, and the boy was sitting, sullen and scowling, in the corner. I sensed that something terrible had happened, but I was afraid to ask. At last, between sobs, Haka Gera said, “You came to see Wend?”

“Yes,” I replied; “is he at home?”

She shook her head and then burst into a violent spasm of sobbing. The boy sat there and glowered at her. Finally she gained control of herself and whispered, “They came last night and took him away.” She looked over at the boy, and there was fear in her eyes—fear and horror and reproach.

I did my best to comfort her; but it was hopeless, and finally I took my departure. As far as I know, Horthal Wend was never seen nor heard of again.

I am not a drinking man; but as I walked back toward my apartment, I was so depressed and almost nauseated by the whole affair that I went into a drinking place and ordered a glass of wine. There were only two other customers in the place as I seated myself at a little table. They had the hard, cruel faces of Kapar fighting men or police. I could see that they were scrutinizing me closely and whispering to one another. Finally they got up and came over and stopped in front of me.

“Your credentials,” barked one of them.

My wine permit was lying on the table in front of me, and I pushed it over toward him. It bore my name and address and a brief description. He picked it up and looked at it and then threw it down on the table angrily. “I said your credentials,” he snapped.

“Let me see yours,” I said; “I have the right to know upon what authority you question a law-abiding citizen.” I was right in my demand, although possibly a little foolish in insisting upon my rights. The fellow grumbled and showed me a Zabo badge, and then I handed him my credentials.

He looked them over carefully and then handed them back. “So you’re the fellow who was run over by an automobile a few weeks ago,” he said; “well, if I were you, I’d be more respectful to Zabo officers, or you may be run over again;” and then they turned and stamped out of the place. It was such things as this that made life in Ergos what it was.

When I got home, Danul told me that two Zabo agents had been there and searched my apartment. I don’t know why he told me; because he really had no business to, unless he had been given orders to do so for the purpose of trapping me into some treasonable expression, for it is treason to express any disapproval of an act of the Zabo; I could have been drawn and quartered for what I was thinking of them though.

Now I commenced to be suspicious of Danul, and I wondered if Lotar Canl had lied to me or if this man was an agent without Lotar Canl having any knowledge of the fact. Insofar as suspicion was concerned, I was becoming a true Kapar; I suspected everybody. I think the only man whom I had ever met here that I had perfect confidence in was Horthal Wend, and they had come at night and taken him away.

Beyond the Farthest Star - Contents    |     Nine

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