A SLAVE IS A SLAVE
BY H. BEAM PIPER
| Transcriber's Note |
| This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact--Science |
| Fiction April 1962. Extensive research
did not uncover
| evidence that the U.S. copyright
on this publication
| renewed. |
There has always been strong sympathy
for the poor, meek,
downtrodden slave--the kindly little man, oppressed by cruel and
overbearing masters. Could it possibly have been misplaced...?
Jurgen, Prince Trevannion, accepted the coffee cup and lifted it to his
lips, then lowered it. These Navy robots always poured coffee too hot;
spacemen must have collapsium-lined throats. With the other hand, he
punched a button
on the robot's keyboard and received a lighted
cigarette; turning, he placed the cup on the command-desk in front of
him and looked about. The tension
was relaxing in Battle-Control, the
purposeful pandemonium of the last three hours dying rapidly. Officers
of both sexes, in red and blue and yellow and green coveralls, were
rising from seats, leaving their stations, gathering
Laughter, a trifle
loud; he realized, suddenly, that they had been
worried, and wondered if he should not have been a little so himself.
No. There would have been nothing he could have done about anything, so
worry would not have been useful. He lifted the cup again and sipped
"That's everything we can do now," the man beside him said. "Now we just
sit and wait for the next move."
Like all the others, Line-Commodore Vann Shatrak wore shipboard
battle-dress; his coveralls were black, splashed on breast and between
shoulders with the gold insignia of his rank. His head was completely
bald, and almost spherical; a beaklike nose carried down the curve of
his brow, and the straight lines of mouth and chin chopped under it
enhanced rather than spoiled the effect. He was getting coffee; he
gulped it at once.
"It was very smart work, Commodore. I never saw a landing
"Too smooth," Shatrak said. "I don't trust it." He looked suspiciously
up at the row of viewscreens.
"It was absolutely
That was young Obray, Count Erskyll, seated on the commodore's left. He
was a generation
younger than Prince Trevannion, as Shatrak was a
generation older; they were both smooth-faced. It was odd, how beards
went in and out of fashion with alternate
generations. He had been
worried, too, during the landing, but for a different reason from the
others. Now he was reacting with anger.
"I told you, from the first, that it was unnecessary. You see? They
weren't even able to defend themselves, let alone...."
His personal communication-screen buzzed; he set down the coffee and
flicked the switch. It was Lanze Degbrend. On the books, Lanze was
carried as Assistant to the Ministerial Secretary. In practice, Lanze
was his chess-opponent, conversational foil, right hand, third eye and
ear, and, sometimes, trigger-finger. Lanze was now wearing the combat
coveralls of an officer of Navy Landing-Troops; he had a steel helmet
with a transpex visor shoved up, and there was a carbine slung over his
shoulder. He grinned and executed an exaggeratedly military salute. He
"Well, look at you; aren't you the perfect picture of correct diplomatic
"You know, sir, I'm afraid I am, for this planet," Degbrend said.
"Colonel Ravney insisted on it. He says the situation downstairs
still fluid, which I take to mean that everybody is shooting at
everybody. He says he has the main telecast station, in the big building
the locals call the Citadel."
"Oh, good. Get our announcement
out as quickly as you can. Number Five.
You and Colonel Ravney can decide what interpolations are needed to fit
"Number Five; the really tough one," Degbrend considered. "I take it
that by interpolations you do not mean dilutions?"
"Oh, no; don't water the drink. Spike it."
Lanze Degbrend grinned at him. Then he snapped down the visor of his
helmet, unslung his carbine, and presented it. He was still standing
present arms when Trevannion blanked the screen.
* * * * *
"That still doesn't excuse a wanton
and unprovoked aggression!" Erskyll
was telling Shatrak, his thin face flushed and his voice quivering with
indignation. "We came here to help these people, not to murder them."
"We didn't come here to do either, Obray," he said, turning to face the
younger man. "We came here to annex their planet
to the Galactic Empire,
whether they wish it annexed or not. Commodore Shatrak used the quickest
and most effective
method of doing that. It would have done no good to
attempt to parley with them from off-planet. You heard those telecasts
"Authoritarian," Shatrak said, then mimicked pompously: "'Everybody is
commanded to remain calm; the Mastership is taking
Convocation of the Lords-Master is in special session; they will decide
how to deal with the invaders. The administrators are directed to
reassure the supervisors; the overseers will keep the workers at their
tasks. Any person disobeying the orders of the Mastership will be dealt
with most severely.'"
"Static, too. No spaceships into this system
for the last five hundred
years; the Convocation--equals Parliament, I assume--hasn't been in
for two hundred and fifty."
"Yes. I've taken over planets with that kind of government before,"
Shatrak said. "You can't argue with them. You just grab them by the
center of authority, quick and hard."
Count Erskyll said nothing for a moment. He was opposed to the use of
force. Force, he believed, was the last resort
of incompetence; he had
said so frequently enough since this operation had begun. Of course, he
right, though not in the way he meant. Only the
incompetent wait until the last extremity
to use force, and by then, it
is usually too late to use anything, even prayer.
But, at the same time, he was opposed to authoritarianism, except, of
course, when necessary for the real good of the people. And he did not
like rulers who called themselves Lords-Master. Good democratic rulers
called themselves Servants of the People. So he relapsed into silence
and stared at the viewscreens.
One, from an outside pickup on the _Empress Eulalie_ herself, showed the
surface of the planet, a hundred miles down, the continent
curving away to a distant sun-reflecting sea; beyond the curved horizon,
the black sky was spangled with unwinking stars. Fifty miles down, the
sun glinted from the three thousand foot globes of the two
transport-cruisers, _Canopus_ and _Mizar_.
Another screen, from _Mizar_, gave a clearer if more circumscribed view
of the surface--green countryside, veined by rivers and wrinkled with
mountains; little towns that were mere dots; a scatter of white clouds.
Nothing that looked like roads. There had been no native sapient race on
this planet, and in the thirteen centuries since it had been colonized
the Terro-human population had never completely lost the use of
contragravity vehicles. In that screen, farther down, the four
destroyers, _Irma_, _Irene_, _Isobel_ and _Iris_, were tiny twinkles.
* * * * *
From _Irene_, they had a magnified view of the city. On the maps, none
later than eight hundred years old, it was called Zeggensburg; it had
been built at the time of the first colonization
under the old Terran
Federation. Tall buildings, rising from wide interspaces of lawns and
parks and gardens, and, at the very center, widely separated from
anything else, the mass of the Citadel, a huge cylindrical tower rising
from a cluster
of smaller cylinders, with a broad circularlanding
above, topped by the newly raised flag of the Galactic Empire.
There was a second city, a thick crescent, to the south and east. The
old maps placed the Zeggensburg spaceport there, but not a trace of that
remained. In its place was what was evidently
located where the prevailing
winds would carry away the dust and smoke.
There was quite a bit of both, but the surprising
thing was the streets,
long curved ones, and shorter ones crossing at regular intervals to form
blocks. He had never seen a city with streets before, and he doubted if
anybody else on the Empire ships had. Long boulevards to give
unobstructed passage to low-level air-traffic, of course, and short
winding walkways, but not things like these. Pictures, of course, of
native cities on planets colonized at the time of the Federation, and
even very ancient ones of cities on pre-Atomic Terra. But these people
had contragravity; the towering, wide-spaced city beside this
cross-gridded anachronism proved that.
They knew so little about this planet
which they had come to bring under
Imperial rule. It had been colonized thirteen centuries ago, during the
last burst of expansion
before the System States War and the
disintegration of the Terran Federation, and it had been named Aditya,
in the fashion of the times, for some forgotten deity of some obscure
and ancient polytheism. A century or so later, it had seceded from or
by the Federation, then breaking up. That much they had
gleaned from old Federation records still existing on Baldur. After
that, darkness, lighted only by a brief flicker
when more records had
turned up on Morglay.
Morglay was one of the Sword-Worlds, settled by refugee
rebels from the
System States planets. Mostly they had been soldiers and spacemen; there
had been many women with them, and many were skilled
engineers, scientists. They had managed to carry off considerable
equipment with them, and for three centuries they had lived in
isolation, spreading over a dozen hitherto
Excalibur, Tizona, Gram, Morglay, Durendal, Flamberge, Curtana,
Quernbiter; the names were a roll-call of fabulous
blades of Old Terran
Then they had erupted, suddenly and calamitously, into what was left of
the Terran Federation as the Space Vikings, carrying pillage and
destruction, until the newborn Empire rose to vanquish
them. In the
sixth Century Pre-Empire, one of their fleets had come from Morglay to
The Adityans of that time had been near-barbarians; the descendants of
the original settlers had been serfs of other barbarians who had come as
mercenaries in the service of one or another of the local chieftains and
had remained to loot and rule. Subjugating them had been easy; the Space
Vikings had taken Aditya and made it their home. For several centuries,
there had been communication
between them and their home planet. Then
Morglay had become involved in one of the interplanetary dynastic wars
that had begun the decadence of the Space Vikings, and again Aditya
dropped out of history.
Until this morning, when history returned in the black ships of the
* * * * *
He stubbed out the cigarette and summoned the robot to give him another.
Shatrak was speaking:
"You see, Count Erskyll, we really had to do it this way, for their own
good." He wouldn't have credited the commodore
with such guile; anything
was justified, according to Obray of Erskyll, if done for somebody
else's good. "What we did, we just landed suddenly, knocked out their
army, seized the center of government, before anybody could do anything.
If we'd landed the way you'd wanted us to, somebody would have resisted,
and the next thing, we'd have had to kill about five or six thousand of
them and blow down a couple of towns, and we'd have lost a lot of our
own people doing it. You might say, we had to do it to save them from
Obray of Erskyll seemed to have doubts, but before he could articulate
them, Shatrak's communication-screen was calling
attention to itself.
flicked the switch, and his executive
Patrique Morvill, appeared in it.
"We've just gotten
reports, sir, that some of Ravney's people have
captured a half-dozen missile-launching sites around the city. His
air-reconn tells him that that's the lot of them. I have an officer of
one of the parties that participated. You ought to hear what he has to
"Well, good!" Vann Shatrak whooshed out his breath. "I don't mind
admitting, I was a little on edge about that."
"Wait till you hear what Lieutenant Carmath has to say." Morvill seemed
to be strangling a laugh. "Ready for him, Commodore?"
Shatrak nodded; Morvill made a hand-signal and vanished in a flicker
rainbow colors; when the screen
cleared, a young Landing-Troop
lieutenant in battle-dress was looking out of it. He saluted and gave
his name, rank and unit.
"This missile-launching site I'm occupying, sir; it's twenty miles
north-west of the city. We took it thirty minutes ago; no resistance
whatever. There are four hundred or so people here. Of them, twelve, one
dozen, are soldiers. The rest are civilians. Ten enlisted men, a non-com
of some sort, and something that appears to be an officer. The officer
had a pistol, fully loaded. The non-com had a submachine gun, empty,
with two loaded clips on his belt. The privates had rifles, empty, and
no ammunition. The officer did not know where the rifle ammunition
Shatrak swore. The second lieutenant
nodded. "Exactly my comment
told me, sir. But this place is beautifully
kept up. Lawns all mowed,
trees neatly pruned, everything policed up like inspection
there is a headquarters
office building here adequate
for an army
"How about the armament, Lieutenant?" Shatrak asked with forced
"Ah, yes; the armament, sir. There are eight big launching cradles for
panplanetary or off-planet missiles. They are all polished up like the
Crown Jewels. But none, repeat none, of them is operative. And there is
not a single missile on the installation."
control didn't slip. It merely intensified, which
amounted to the same thing.
"Lieutenant Carmath, I am morally certain I heard you correctly, but
let's just check. You said...."
back, almost word for word. Carmath nodded.
"That was it, sir. The missile-crypts are stacked full of
old photoprints and recording and microfilm spools. The
sighting-and-guidance systems for all the launchers are completely
missing. The letoff mechanisms all lack major parts. There is an
elaborate set of detection equipment, which will detect
nothing. I saw a few pairs of binoculars about; I suspect
that that is
what we were first observed with."
"This office, now; I suppose all the paperwork is up to the minute in
quintulplicate, and initialed by everybody within sight or hearing?"
"I haven't checked on that yet, sir. If you're thinking of betting on
it, please don't expect me to cover you, though."
"Well, thank you, Lieutenant Carmath. Stick around; I'm sending down a
tech-intelligence crew to look at what's left of the place. While
you're waiting, you might sort out whoever
seems to be in charge
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