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few minutes to do that."
Cully got up from the bed, took the stylus and tore out half a dozen sheets
from the notebook. He sat down at the writing table and made out a list of
several books of nonfiction and a pack of Kalestin-made playing cards. As an
afterthought, he scribbled a request for the most recent news printings. He
handed the sheet of paper and the notebook to the Sergeant without getting up.
"I made a note about it being a sixty-card pack of playing cards, the kind
they make on the Frontier," said Cully. "There used to be an import shop here
in New York Complex that sold them. If it isn't the Frontier set with the four
different-colored jokers, you can't play single-handed brush-bridge. Make sure
they don't give me one of your Earth packs."
"If it gets passed on downstairs, you'll get it, Mr. When whatever it is,"
said the Sergeant. He stepped back, bringing his rifle up, and one of the
other two Policemen pulled the door shut. Cully went back to his bed to sit
down and wait.
About twenty minutes later, he heard the door being opened again. The Sergeant
stepped inside, alone, no longer flanked by his two armed companions.
"Here you are, Mr. When," he said. "I'm sorry they said no news printings. If
it'd been up to me& " He passed over four spools, a book viewer and a
plastic-covered pack of playing cards.
"Thanks," said Cully. "Shut the door for a moment, will you? I'd like a word
with you."
The Sergeant hesitated, then reached out behind him and swung the door closed
until the click of its latch was heard.
"Thanks," said Cully quietly. "I just thought I'd take this chance to tell you
I don't hold it against you, personally, for any of this." The Sergeant's face
betrayed a flicker of gratitude. "For that matter, I don't hold it against
Amos Braight. I suppose you know I was practically adopted by him on Kalestin
when I was a boy? He was a great man then."
"He's still& a great man." There was the faintest of hesitations in the
Sergeant's voice.
"You believe that, don't you?" Cully peered sharply up at him.
"Of course& " Again, the faint hesitation. "After all, he's the one man who
knows both sides I mean, here and the Frontier. For that matter" the guard's
voice strengthened "he was the one man who could take the Frontier for a dozen
years and come back " He broke off, suddenly embarrassed.
"Still sane? Unchanged?" Cully suggested bluntly.
"Well& yes."
"That's interesting." Cully leaned back .on the couch and smiled, faintly.
"But what if he actually had been changed? What if he'd secretly gone to
pieces out there, the way he says everyone else does?"
"But he didn't!" The Sergeant's voice was firm.
"Strange," said Cully, "him alone out of all men and women wasn't changed a
bit by the Frontier. Out of all people, just him."
"That's what makes him a great man." The Sergeant took a step backward and
laid his hand on the door latch. "If you don't mind now, Mr. When, I have to
be getting back to my "
"But if the Frontier actually had got to him, only he'd hid the fact, and
people begin to find out about it now, a lot of them might be starting to
change their minds about him don't you think?" asked Cully thoughtfully.
The Sergeant shot him a sudden, startled glance. For a moment the man stood
without moving.
"You're saying& " he began, through stiffened lips, then stopped.
"What? Were you going to ask me something?" Cully raised his face innocently.
"No. Nothing." Sharply, the guard turned and went out.
Cully watched the door click shut, locked behind the uniformed figure; and
shook his head sadly, well aware that the spy cells hidden around the room
would be transmitting the picture of that gesture to the Sergeant, or others,
outside that door right now. Then he turned and began, casually, to examine
his new possessions, scattered on the blanket of his cot.
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He put the book spools, one by one, into the viewer, glanced through each of
them, then put them aside. Casually, he picked up the pack of playing cards
they had brought him.
The plastic wrapping was smooth under his fingers and transparent. Through it,
the words First Frontier 60 Cards stared at him from the label beneath: He
nodded. This was the spacelifter's deck the explosive tool he had described to
Mike Bourjoi and the other crewmen aboard the Nansh Rakh as they hunted the
Moldaug ship holding the human hostages.
Cully had gambled that the present owners of the import shop might still have
some of the old spacelifter's sixty-card decks on hand, without knowing the
true nature of such decks. Only a Frontiersman would be likely to order such
cards unless they were on display. And the sixty-card decks had always been
kept as back stock, their presence recorded in the memory bank of the store [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]