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The legion of lazarus, p.9
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       The Legion of Lazarus, p.9

           Edmond Hamilton
 
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  CHAPTER IX

  It was cold and dark and infinitely sad. Hyrst wandered through therooms, feeling like a ghost, thinking like one. Everything had beenremoved from the buildings. The living quarters were now mere cubiculartombs for a lot of memories, absolutely bare of any human or familiartouch. It felt very strange to Hyrst. He kept telling himself that fiftyyears had passed, but he could not believe it. It seemed only a fewmonths since MacDonald's death, months occupied by investigation andtrial and the raging, futile anguish of the unjustly accused. The longinterval of the pseudo-death was no more than a night's sleep, to a mindunconscious of passing time. Now it seemed that Saul and Landers shouldstill be here, and there should be lights and warmth and movement.

  There was nothing. He could not bring himself to stay in the livingquarters. He went into one of the storerooms and sat on a concretebuttress and waited. It was a long and dreadful wait. During it all theemotional storms occasioned by the murder and its aftermath passedthrough his mind. Scenes with Saul and Landers. Scenes with theinvestigators, with MacDonald's family, with lawyers and reporters.Scenes with Elena. The whole terrible nightmare, leading inevitably tothat culminating moment when the door of the airlock opened and hejoined the sleepers on the plain. When it was all over Hyrst felt shakenand exhausted, but calm. The face of Vernon burned brightly in hismind's eye.

  Without bothering to open the steel-shuttered windows, he watched thetwo young men force their way out of the hoist tower. He watched themrun to their ship and chatter excitedly over their radio. By the time,much later, that Bellaver's yacht came screaming down to the landingfield on a flaming burst of jets, he could watch it with almost the cooldetachment of a spectator. He was careful to keep his shields up tightagainst Vernon, and he did not think the other Lazarite would be likelyto look for him. Vernon seemed to be fully occupied with Bellaver.

  "_What else would they be stealing, you fool? You should have, killedHyrst before, when you had the chance._"

  "_Somebody had to take the blame for MacDonald. Anyway, you had himaboard the_ Happy Dream. _Why didn't you hang onto him?_"

  "_Don't get insolent with me, Vernon. I can turn you over to the policeanytime, for any one of a hundred things._"

  "_Not without tipping your hand, Bellaver._"

  "_It would be worth it._" A string of foul names, delivered in a furiousscream. "_You couldn't locate the Titanite, but they did, just as soonas they got hold of Hyrst._"

  "_All right, Mr. God Almighty Bellaver, turn me in. But if it was theTitanite they took, you haven't a chance of finding that starshipwithout me._"

  "_You haven't done very well at it so far._"

  "_In the excitement, they may get careless. But it's up to you._"

  More foul language, but Bellaver did not repeat his threat. He andVernon, with a couple of other men, got into vac-suits and lumberedacross the snow to the hoist tower. From inside the cold dark buriedbuilding, Hyrst watched them, and thought hard and fast, and smiled.Presently he left the building and circled cautiously through the snowygloom until he was in range of their helmet-communicators. He could hearthem aurally now, but he kept watching them, esper-fashion.

  * * * * *

  They inspected the empty lead box, and the young men told what hadhappened, and Bellaver turned his raging fury against them. There was nolonger any doubt that the Titanite had been found and taken away, andBellaver saw the stars and worlds and moons, the bright glowing plunderof a galaxy, slipping away from him. He threatened the two young menwith every punishment he could think of for not having stopped thethieves, and one of the young men turned white and anxious, and theother one flushed brick red and shook his fist close to Bellaver'shelmet.

  "You go to hell," he said. "I don't care who you are. You go to hell."

  He walked out of the hoist tower, with his companion stumbling at hisheels, and Bellaver screamed after them, and behind him the crewmenlooked shocked and contemptuous, and Vernon laughed openly, showing theedges of his teeth.

  The two young men got into their ship and went away. Bellaver turned andstood looking at the empty box. He seemed exhausted now, hopeless, likea child about to break down and cry. Vernon went over and kicked thebox.

  "Hyrst had the advantage," he said. "He knew MacDonald and he knew therefinery. Even so, it must have been pure guesswork. Nobody could probethrough that fog."

  "What are we going to do?" asked Bellaver. "Vernon, what are we going todo?"

  Hyrst spoke for the first time, his voice ringing loud and startling intheir ears.

  "Don't ask Vernon," he said. "Ask me."

  There was a moment of complete silence. Hyrst felt Vernon's mind brushhis, and he permitted himself one cruel flash of triumph. Then everybodyspoke at once, Vernon explaining why he hadn't spotted Hyrst--who couldhave figured he'd stay behind at a time like this?--the crew-membersnervously fingering their guns, and Bellaver crying,

  "Hyrst! Is that you, Hyrst? Where are you?"

  "Where I can get the first shot at anybody coming out of the tower, andwhere nobody from the yacht will ever reach me. Tell them all to stayput. Go ahead, Bellaver, you want to hear me out, don't you?"

  "What do you want to say?"

  "I can find you that starship. Tell them, Bellaver."

  He told them. And Vernon said to Bellaver, "If he's willing to betrayhis friends, why would he get them the Titanite?" He laughed. "It isn'teven a good trick."

  "Oh, yes, it is," said Hyrst softly. "It's a very good one. The best.You see, I don't care about the starship or the Titanite. All I careabout is the man who killed MacDonald. They were sort of bound uptogether. Ever hear of latent impressions, Vernon? I was unconscious,but my ears heard and my eyes saw, and my brain remembered, when it wasshown how."

  "That was fifty years ago," said Vernon. "People don't understand aboutus. Nobody would believe you if you told them."

  "They would if Bellaver told them. They would if Bellaver explained outloud about the Lazarites, about what happens to men when they go throughthe door. They'd listen to him. And there must be others who know, or atleast suspect." Hyrst paused, long enough to smile. "The beauty of thatis, Bellaver, that you're in the clear. You're not responsible for amurder your grandfather had done. You could swear you didn't even knowabout it until now."

  Vernon said to Bellaver, "If you do this to me, I'll blast you wideopen."

  "What can he do, Bellaver?" Hyrst shouted. "He can talk, but you havethe money, the position, the legal powers. You can talk louder. And whenthey know the truth, will anybody take the word of a Lazarite against ahuman man?"

  His voice rose higher and louder, drowning out Vernon's cry.

  "Are you afraid of him, Bellaver? Are you so afraid of him you'll letthe starship go?"

  "Hold him." Bellaver said, and the crewmen held Vernon fast. "Wait aminute, Hyrst," he said. "What's your angle? Is it just revenge? Are youselling out your friends for something over and done half a century ago?I don't believe it, Hyrst."

  Hyrst said slowly, "I can answer that, so even you will understand. Ihave children. They're getting old now. They've lived all their livesthinking their father killed a man, not for love or for justice or inself-defense, but for sheer cold-blooded greed. I want them to know itwasn't so."

  "Hold him!" Bellaver said. The crewmen struggled with Vernon, and Vernonsaid viciously to Bellaver,

  "He'll never lead you to the starship. I can read his mind. When you'veturned me in and blackened your grandfather's name to clear him, he'lllaugh in your face. What are you, Bellaver, a fool?"

  "Am I, Hyrst?"

  "That's for you to find out. I'm offering you the starship for Vernon,and that's fair enough, because I want him as bad as you want it. And Ican tell you, Bellaver, if you decide to play it smart and call in yourguards to hunt me down, it will do you no good. I won't be alive whenthey take me."

  Silence. In his mind's eye Hyrst could see the beads of sweat runningdown Bellaver's face behind his helm
et. He could see Vernon's face, too.It gave him pleasure.

  "It should be an easy decision, Bellaver," he said. "After all, supposeI am lying. What have you got to lose but Vernon? And with his record,that isn't much."

  "Hold him," said Bellaver. "All right, Hyrst. I'll do it. But I'll tellyou now. If you lie to me, there won't be any re-awakening in anotherfifty years. This will be for good."

  "Fair enough," said Hyrst. "I'm putting my gun away. I'm coming in."

  He walked quickly through the snow toward the tower.

  CHAPTER X

  On the bridge of his yacht, Bellaver turned to Hyrst and said,

  "I've done what you wanted. Now find me that starship."

  Hyrst nodded. "Take off."

  The rockets roared and thundered, and the swift yacht leaped quiveringinto the sky.

  Hyrst sat quietly in his recoil chair. He felt a different man, changedentirely in the last few days. Much had happened in those days.

  Bellaver had got busy on the radio even before his yacht left Titan, andthe story of the Lazarites had burst like a nova upon the Solar System.Already there were instances of suspected Lazarites being mobbed bytheir neighbors, and Government was frantically concerning itself withall the new, far-reaching implications of the Humane Penalty.

  Close on the heels of this bomb-shell had come Vernon's angryaccusations against Bellaver, delivered as soon as he was given to theauthorities on Mars. During the twenty Martian hours necessary forformal charge and the taking of depositions, and while Bellaver's yachtwas being refueled, Vernon's story of the starship went out on all theinterworld circuits. And it had been as Christina had said. The wholeSolar System was frantic to have the Lazarites caught and stopped, andevery man in space became a self-appointed searcher for the hiddenstarship. Bellaver, letting his lawyers worry about Vernon'saccusations, had already laid formal claim to that ship, based on thevalue of the stolen Titanite.

  "Where?" demanded Bellaver now, in a fury of impatience. "Where?"

  "Wait," said Hyrst. "There are too many watching, ready to follow you.They know what you're after. Wait till we're clear of Mars."

  He sat in his chair, looking into space. His drive was all gone, and theanger that had fed it. Somewhere his son and his two daughters weredrawing their first free breaths relieved of a burden they should neverhave had to carry. They knew now that he was innocent, and they couldthink of him now without bitterness, speak his name without hate. He haddone what he had set out to do, and he was finished. He knew what wasahead of him, but he was too tired to care.

  The yacht went fast, away from the old red weary planet. Hyrst thoughtof Shearing and Christina and the others, laboring over their ship onthe dark plain. He felt safe in doing this, because Vernon was gone andthe gray evil man who had helped to torture Shearing aboard the _HappyDream_ was still in an Earth hospital recovering from the blow Hyrst hadgiven him. They were out of reach, and Hyrst was the only LazariteBellaver had.

  He did not try to get through to Shearing because he knew that wasimpossible, and there was no reason for it anyway. He let his mindstretch out and rove through the nighted spaces beyond Saturn, beyondUranus and Neptune, beyond the black and frigid bulk of Pluto. He didnot see the ship nor touch a Lazarite mind, and so he knew that theywere still holding the cloak, still hiding from possible betrayal. Hewithdrew his mind, and wished them luck.

  "We're clear of Mars," said Bellaver. "Which way?"

  "That way," said Hyrst, and pointed. "Toward the Sun."

  The yacht swerved and steadied on a new course, toward the distant glareof Sol. And Bellaver said,

  "What's the exact location?"

  "Can you trust every man in this crew?" asked Hyrst. "Can you be surenot one of them would give it away, when we stop to refuel? You're notthe only one that knows about the starship now, remember."

  "You could tell _me_."

  "You're too impatient, Bellaver. You'd want to head straight there, andit won't be that easy. They have defenses. We have to be careful, orthey'll destroy the ship before we reach it."

  "Or finish their relays and go." Bellaver gave Hyrst a long look. "I'lltrust you because I have to. But I wasn't making an empty threat. AndI'll do it so there won't be any thought of murder. You'd better find methat ship, Hyrst."

  From then on, Bellaver hardly slept. He paced the corridors and hauntedthe control room and watched Hyrst with a gnawing, agonizing doubt.Hyrst began to feel for him a distant sort of pity, as he might havefelt for a man afflicted by some disease brought on by his own excesses.

  * * * * *

  The yacht passed the orbit of Earth, refueled at an obscure spacestation, and sped on. Hyrst continued to stall Bellaver, ordering achange of course from time to time to keep him happy. At intervals helet his mind rove through those dark spaces they were leaving fartherbehind with every passing second. Each time it was a greater effort, butstill there was no sign of the starship or its base, and so he knew thatthe labor still went on.

  By the time the yacht reached the orbit of Venus a fan-shaped cordon ofother ships had collected around and behind her drawn by the word thatBellaver was on his way to find the starship. Government patrols were inconstant touch.

  "They can't interfere," said Bellaver. "I've got a lien on that ship, aformal claim."

  "Sure," said Hyrst. "But you'd better be the first to find it.Possession, you know. Bear off a bit. Mislead them. They're sure nowthey know where you're going."

  "Don't they?" said Bellaver, looking ahead at the glittering spark thatwas Mercury. "There isn't anyplace else to go."

  "Isn't there?"

  Bellaver stared at him, narrow-eyed. "The legend of the Vulcan wasexploded by the first explorers. There is no intra-Mercurial world."

  Hyrst shot a swift stabbing mental glance toward Pluto. Still nothing.He sighed and said easily,

  "There wasn't then. There is now."

  He brazened out the look of incredulity on Bellaver's face.

  "These are Lazarites, remember, not men. They built a place forthemselves where nobody would ever think to look. Not a planet, ofcourse, just a floating workshop. A satellite. And now you know. So youcan let them beat you to Mercury."

  "All right," said Bellaver softly. "All right."

  They passed Mercury, lost in the blaze of the Sun, and only a few shipsfollowed them, far behind. The rest stopped to search the craggy valleysof the Twilight Belt, and the bleak icefields of the Dark Side.

  And now Hyrst had run his string out, and he knew it. When nointra-Mercurial satellite showed up, physically or on detector-screens,there was no further lie to tell. He drove his mind out and away, to thecold planets wheeling on the fringes of Sol's light, and he sweated, andprayed, and hoped that nothing had gone wrong. And suddenly the cloakwas dropped, and he saw a lonesome chip of rock beyond Pluto, allhollowed out for shops and living quarters, and the great ship standingin the mile-long plain, with the stars all drifted overhead. And theship lifted from the plain, circled upward, and suddenly was not.

  Hyrst was bitterly sorry that he was not aboard. But he told Bellaver,"You can stop looking now. They've got away."

  He watched Bellaver die, standing erect on his feet, still breathing,but dying inside with the last outgoing of hope.

  "I thought you were lying," he said, "but it was the only chance I had."He nodded, looking toward the shuttered port with the insufferable blazeoutside. He said, in a flat, dead voice, "If you were put out here,bound, in a lifeboat, headed toward the Sun--Yes. I could make up astory to fit that."

  In the same toneless voice, he called his men. And suddenly the yachtlurched over shuddering in the backwash of some tremendous energy. Hyrstand the others were flung scattering against the bulk-heads, and thelights went out, and the instruments went dead.

  Beyond the port, on the unshuttered side away from the Sun, a vast darkshape had materialized out of nothing, to hang close in space beside theyacht.

  Hyrst heard in his mi
nd, strong and clear, the voice of Shearing saying,"Didn't I tell you the brotherhood stands by its own? Besides, wecouldn't make a liar out of you, now could we?"

  Hyrst began to laugh, just a little bit hysterically. He told Bellaver,"There's your starship. And Shearing says if I'm not alive when he comesaboard to get me, that they won't be as careful about warping space whenthey go away as they were when they came."

  Bellaver did not say anything. He sat on the deck where the shock hadthrown him, not speaking. He was still sitting there when Hyrst passedthrough the airlock into the starship's boat, and he did not move evenwhen the great ship vanished silently into whatever mysteriousultra-space the minds of the Lazarites had unlocked, outbound for thelimitless freedom of the universe, where the wheeling galaxies thunderon forever across infinity and the stars burn bright, and there isnothing to stop the march of the Legion of Lazarus. And who knew, whocould tell, where that march would end?

  Aboard the starship, already a million miles away, Hyrst said toChristina. "When they brought me back from beyond the door, that wasre-awakening. But this--this is being born again."

  She did not answer that. But she took his hand and smiled.

 
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