Beyond the Farthest Star


Edgar Rice Burroughs

INSOFAR as I was concerned, the worst feature of Morga Sagra’s arrest was that when they came for her, they found her in my apartment. Of course I didn’t have any idea what the charge against her might be; but, if she were suspected of anything, those who associated closely with her, would be under suspicion too.

She was taken away at what would be about seven o’clock in the evening Earth time, and about ten, Lotar Canl came. He was dressed in the uniform of an officer of the flying force. It was the first time that I had ever seen him in anything but civilian clothes; and I was a little surprised, but I asked no questions.

He came and sat down close to me. “Are you alone?” he asked in a whisper.

“Yes,” I said; “I let Danul go out after dinner.”

“I have some very bad news for you,” he said. “I have just come from the question box in Zabo headquarters. They had Morga Sagra there. That little devil, Horthal Gyl, was there too; it was he who had accused her of being a Unisan spy. A very close friend of mine, in the Zabo, told me that he had also accused you, and he had reported that I was very intimate with you and with Morga Sagra also. They tortured her to make her confess that she was a Unisan spy and that you were also.

“She never admitted that she was anything but a good Kapar, but in order to save herself from further torture, she told them that you were, just before she died.”

“So what?” I asked.

“You have access to a ship whenever you want one. You must escape and that immediately for they will be here for you before mid-night.”

“But I can’t take a ship out unless an officer accompanies me,” I said.

“I know that,” he replied; “that is the reason for this uniform. I am going with you.”

I was instantly suspicious that this might be a trap, for, if I acted on his suggestion and tried to escape, I would be admitting my guilt. I knew that Lotar Canl was an agent of the Zabo, but I had liked him and I had always felt that I could trust him. He saw that I was hesitating.

“You can trust me,” he said. “I am not a Kapar.”

I looked at him in surprise. “Not a Kapar?” I demanded, “what are you then?”

“The same thing you are, Tangor,” he replied—“a Unisan secret agent. I have been here for over ten years, but now that I am under suspicion, my usefulness is at an end. I was advised of your coming and told to look after you. I also knew that Morga Sagra was a traitor. She got what she deserved, but it was a horrible thing to see.”

The fact that he knew my name and that he knew that I was an agent and Morga Sagra a traitor convinced me that he had spoken the truth.

“I’ll be with you in just a moment,” I said; then I got all the plans, drawings, and notes covering the amplifier and burned them, and while they were burning, I smashed the model so that not a single part of it was recognizable.

“Why did you do that?” demanded Lotar Canl.

“I don’t want these things to fall into Kapar hands if we are caught,” I said; “and I could reproduce that amplifier with my eyes shut; furthermore, there is a perfectly good one on the ship we will fly away.”

It was a good thing that I had insisted upon having a fast scout plane, for while we were taxing up the ramp to take off, an officer shouted at me to return; and then the alarm sounded, rising above the rapid fire of a machine gun, as bullets whistled about us.

Ships shot from half a dozen ramps in pursuit, but they never overtook us.

We flew first to Pud and got a change of clothing and the old Karisan plane from Frink, and then on to Gorvas where my knowledge of Gompth’s name came in handy. Lotar Canl showed him his Zabo credentials, and we got a change of clothing and my ship. I had taken the amplifier off the Kapar plane at Pud, and when we reached Orvis, I took it immediately to the Eljanhai, who congratulated me on having so successfully fulfilled a difficult mission.

Just as soon as I could get away from the Eljanhai and the Commissioner for War, I made a bee-line for the Harkases. The prospect of seeing them again made me even happier than had the successful fulfillment of my mission. Don and Yamoda were in the garden when I entered, and when Yamoda saw me, she jumped up and ran into the house. Don confronted me with a face. I had been so filled with happiness at the prospect of seeing them, the shock of this greeting stunned me and kept me speechless for a moment, and then my pride prevented me from asking for an explanation. I turned on my heel and left. Blue and despondent, I went back to my old quarters. What had happened? What had I done to deserve such treatment from my best friends? I couldn’t understand it, but I had been so terribly hurt that I would not go and ask for an explanation.

I took up my old duties in the flying corps immediately. Never in my life had I flown so recklessly. I invited death on every possible occasion, but I seemed to bear a charmed life; and then, one day, the Eljanhai sent for me.

“Would you like to give the amplifier a serious test?” he asked.

“I certainly would,” I replied.

“What do you think would be the best plan?” he asked.

“I will fly to Tonos,” I replied.

He did some figuring on a pad of paper and then said, “That will take between thirty-five and forty days. It will be very dangerous. Do you realize the risk?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I shall ask for volunteers to go with you,” he said.

“I prefer to go alone, sir: there is no zise in risking more than one life. I have no ties here. It would not mean anything to anyone in a personal way, if I never return.”

“I thought that you had some very close friends here,” he said.

“So did I, but I was mistaken. I’d really prefer to go alone.”

“When do you wish to start?” he asked.

“As soon as I can provision my ship; I shall need a great quantity of food and water; much more than enough for a round trip. There’s no telling what conditions are like on Tonos. I may not be able to obtain any food or even water there as far as anyone knows.”

“Requisition all that you require,” he said, “and come and see me again before you take off.”

By the following night, I had everything that I needed carefully stowed in my ship, which was equipped with a robot pilot, as were all the great radius ships in Poloda. I could set the robot and sleep all the way to Tonos if I wished; that is, if I could sleep that long.

I was so intrigued with the prospect of this adventure that I was almost happy while I was actively employed, but when I returned to my quarters that last night, possibly and probably my last night on Poloda, my depression returned. I could think of nothing but the reception that Yamoda and Don had given me. My best friends! I tell you, try as I would, I couldn’t keep the tears from coming to my eyes as I thought about it.

I was just about ready to peel off my uniform and turn in when there was a knock at my door. “Come in!” I said.

The door opened, and an officer entered. At first I did not recognize him, he had changed so since I had last seen him. It was Handon Gar.

“So you did escape,” I said. “I am glad.”

He stood for a moment in silence looking at me. “I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I did you a terrible wrong, and only today did I learn the truth.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I thought that you were a traitor, and so reported when I returned to Orvis. When you came back and they didn’t arrest you, I was dumbfounded; but I figured that they were giving you more rope with which to hang yourself.”

“Then it was you who told Harkas Yamoda?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, “and that was the worst wrong I committed, for I hurt her and Don as much as I did you; but I have been to them and told them the truth. I have just come from them, and they want you to come to their home tonight.”

“How did you learn the truth?” I asked.

“The Commissioner for War told me today. He was surprised to know that you had not told anyone.”

“I had not received permission; I was still nominally a secret agent.”

When I got to the Harkases, none of us could speak for several moments; but finally Don and Yamoda controlled their emotions sufficiently to ask my forgiveness, Yamoda with tears running down her cheeks.

We talked for some time, as they wanted to know all about my experiences in Kapara, and then Don and Handon Gar went into the house, leaving Yamoda and me alone.

We sat in silence for several moments, and then Yamoda said, “Morga Sagra; was she very beautiful?”

“To be perfectly truthful, I couldn’t say,” I replied. “I suppose she was good-looking enough. but my mind was usually filled with so many other things that I didn’t give much thought to Morga Sagra except as a fellow conspirator. I knew she was a traitor, and no traitor could look beautiful to me. Then too I carried with me the memory of someone far more beautiful.”

She gave me a quick half-glance, a little questioning look, as though to ask whom that might be; but I didn’t have a chance to tell her, for just then Handon Gar and Don came back into the garden and interrupted our conversation.

“What’s this I hear of the expedition you’re setting out on tomorrow?” demanded Don.

“What expedition?” asked Yamoda.

“He’s going to try to fly to Tonos.”

“You’re joking,” said Yamoda.

“Am I, Tangor?” demanded Don.

I shook my head. “He’s not joking.” Then I told them of the amplifier I had perfected and that the Eljanhai had given me permission to make the flight.

“Not alone, Tangor!” cried Yamoda.

“Yes, alone,” I replied.

“Oh, please, if you must go, have somebody with you,” she begged; “but must you go?”

“My ship is outfitted, and I leave tomorrow morning,” I replied. Handon Gar begged to go with me. He said that he had permission from the Commissioner for War, if I wished to take him along. Don said he’d like to go, but couldn’t as he had another assignment.

“I don’t see any reason for risking more than one life,” I said, but Yamoda begged me to take Handon Gar along, and he pleaded so eloquently that at last I consented.

That night as I left, I kissed little Yamoda good-bye. It was the first time that we had ever kissed. Until then, she had seemed like a beloved sister to me; now somehow, she seemed different.

Tomorrow Handon Gar and I take off for Tonos, over 570,000 miles away.


Editor’s note: I wonder if Tangor ever reached that little planet winging its way around a strange sun, 450,000 light years away. I wonder if I shall ever know.


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