This trip was ordered by the great Elders of Nor themselves. I was to capture and bring to trial that unwise but accomplished fiend, Sathanas, Ruler of the planet Satana. Sathanas, though a younger member of the God Race, had started his own private revolt against all authority – and the dicta of the Elders are not so lightly flaunted by any upstarts a few score centuries old.
The pursuit needle indicated a dizzy succession of zigs and zags in front of my straining eyes. The huge dread-nor, the Darkome, slewed in sickening curves as my hand on the swivel-jet stick tried to follow the crazily dancing needle. Was it – or was it not – the erratic ion trail of a dodging ship?
”Are we following one ship or a dozen?” asked Lt. Tyron, tightening the straining straps of the co-pilot's chair beside me.
”I don't know – but sure as the God's vengeance we're following something with plenty of reason to want to escape. And we will follow as long as the fool's drivers leave us a trail.
”Too much trail right now. A few more of those sudden jerks and either the Darkome or me is going off in two directions at once – and the Darkome is tough.”
”There's no question we can catch the ship or ships on this trail, but, what I am wondering... what has me worried... is, will our quarry be a big enough fish to be important, or some expandable decoy of Sathanas?”
I turned from my inspection of the dials and looked at my first officer. Tyron was a good man, but too impatient for action and too continually worried that he wouldn't see any. But he was intelligent and, in the two centuries he'd been in my command, there had never been a question of his reliability. He had the familiar look of fearing action was going to get away from him again. I couldn't help laughing down at him.
”Well, Tyron, before this is over you'll have a chance to catch a lot of those devils – and when we do you may get those hands you're so proud of, singed. Carry on!”
I settled myself in my seat before the universal view screen, thinking, ”There's nothing to do now until we catch sight of whatever is making this trail.” I, myself, was as impatient for action as Tyron, but in the long years since I left the culture farms of Mother Mu, I had learned to restrain my desire for adventure until the opportunity came to unleash my energies into effective action.
The irritation I felt at being forced to stay on duty was just another score I had to settle with the fugitive fleeing through space somewhere ahead of us. Here, aboard ship, I have my duty, and when it is performed, the course checked and affirmed, the log set to rights, and my officers assigned to their special duties, my time is my own. And woe betide the unfortunate who unnecessarily disturbs my meditations and experiments in my own ship-board laboratory. It is a well equipped laboratory –befitting the ennobled station the Gods of Nor have seen fit to bestow upon their humble servant and brother. Only in the capital cities of the God race are there comparable laboratories. I have spent years and many a long voyage in some of the less frequented reaches of space to equip it for the work I do when I am not on the errands of the Gods. Full of apparatus picked up in the strange ports of a thousand far off planets – perhaps a little evil-smelling at times, but it is my life, and in it is life – little lives whose efforts are at times vastly more successful than man's own... poor doomed mankind whose glorious ancestors are the immortal gods themselves.
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