Brain World

By Jerry Lawrence,2014-11-04 21:20
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They were the most advanced people in the galaxy--- they just weren't very smart! Published by Leisure Books on 1978/11/15

    Brain World Mack Reynolds (1978-1979) Original Scan: Highroller E-Book Design: MNQ Cover Blurb: "They were the most advanced people in the galaxy…they just weren't very smart!!"

    Chapter One

    Supervisor Ronald Bronston and Probationary Agent Willy de Rudder of Section G, of the Bureauof Investigation, of the Department of Justice, of the Commissariat of Interplanetary Affairs,snaked over the top of the mountain crest and slid and slipped through gravel a dozen meters towhere a rock overhang protected them from being spotted from above. They both wore insulatedcoveralls, and hoods of the same material, so that facial and physical characteristics couldn'tbe made out. Under the ledge, they both slid the straps from over their shoulders and workedthe cloth containers to their laps. The containers looked like the sheaths in which fishermencarry their rods.

    Ronny Bronston drew forth a plastic telescope. He said, "Winded?"

    "Yeah," Willy de Rudder said, and panted. "You know, I never thought we'd make it. Where'd youlearn to climb mountains?"

    "Back on Earth. Hobby. Mostly in the Swiss Alps, but some in northern India, and some in theSierra Nevadas, in what they used to call California."

    "Why would anybody pick mountain climbing for a hobby?" the other panted.

    "Nobody seems to know," Ronny muttered, adjusting the spyglass and leveling it.

    "The saying goes that you climb a mountain because it is there. Catch your breath, Willy. Theway this's been figured, we have twenty minutes to go. By that time, your breathing is going tohave to be down to normal if we're going to make the hit." It didn't take him long to find whathe was looking for. "There it is," Ronny said.

    "Almost exactly a kilometer." He handed the glass over. "Down there on the edge of that littlelake."

    Willy found the chalet without difficulty. "Holy Ultimate," he breathed in admiration. "Thatmust be the most beautiful setting on Neu Reich." Ronny Bronston nodded and reached for hiscontainer and began to draw objects from it. "They've got a regular fetish about this planet.The planetary engineers they used went all out to attempt to duplicate southern Bavaria. Evenimported Earthside flora and fauna."

    Willy put down the telescope and pointed. "Look," he said, excitement suppressed.


    "It's okay," Ronny told him, attaching a firing chamber to a plastic gun stock. "We figured onthem. There's at least two of them in the sky at all times when Number One is in residence athis retreat. But they can't spot us because we're under this ledge, and they can't detect ourbody heat because of these special outfits, and they can't detect any metal because we haven'tgot any metal on us, nothing but plastic, pseudo-rubber and cloth. Give me the first section ofthe barrel."

    Willy de Rudder fished into his container and came out with a section of gun barrel about ameter in length. It, too, was of plastic, a very hard plastic. He handed it over and Bronstonscrewed it into the firing chamber.

    "The other one," he said.

    Willy handed over another section, then he picked up the telescope and directed it at thechalet again. He said, "He's not out on the terrace yet, but there's a couple of men setting upa table. A table for one. I thought he was supposed to have guests."

    "According to our dope, he always eats breakfast alone. And our dope on Number One is accurate.We lost two agents, good men, friends of mine, getting it." Ronny Bronston screwed the secondsection of the rifle barrel into the first. He reached into his container and brought forth atelescopic sight and slipped it into its groove atop the rifle. "How's your breath coming?"

"Still a little hard. It's partly the altitude."

    "We have time. Give me the bipod."

    The other brought forth a small two-legged rest from the container beside him and handed itover. Ronny attached it to the end of the two-meter-long barrel and studied out a spot toemplace the weapon.

    Willy, at the telescope, said, with an edge of excitement in his voice, "I think this is him."

    "No hurry," Ronny said, setting up the odd, ultra-long-barreled gun. He stretched out behind itand peered through the scope. "That's him, all right. Even at this distance you can see howarrogant the funker is. Okay, Willy, it's all yours. How long did you say they checked you outon this product of the Department of Dirty Tricks?"

    "About three weeks. I could hit a fly at this range." Ronny rolled out of the way and took thetelescope from the other. "Zero in on him." He directed the plastic viewer on the chalet.

    Willy lay down on his belly and got into comfortable position. He got the cross-hairs of hissights onto the body of the man who was just sitting down to the table, far below on the chaletterrace. Three others hovered in the background, obviously flunkies. He brought a very smallscrewdriver from a pocket of the coveralls and began very delicately to adjust a screw on thescope's side.

    Ronny said quickly, "That's not metal, is it? Once we go on the run, they could pick up anyamount of metal at all and especially be suspicious of any that was in movement."

    "No. It's a plastic gismo they gave me back at the Octagon." Ronny grunted, peering through hisspyglass. "He's seated facing us. Try to hit him in the chest. It doesn't make too muchdifference. One hit, anywhere, and we've accomplished what we want. How's your breath?"

    "Much better."

    "Hold out your hand."

    Willy held out his right hand. It didn't tremble.

    "Wizard," Ronny said. "But we'll wait another ten minutes to be absolutely sure that you'resteady."

    For a time there was silence, then Willy said, his voice low, "When I was recruited intoSection G I didn't know that my activities would include political assassinations."

    "Neither did I, when I was recruited," Ronny Bronston said wryly. "By the way, you weren'trecruited, you were suckered in."

    The other looked over at him. "How do you mean? I've had the dream of going into space,participating in the expansion of mankind into the stars, since I was a kid. Everything I did,studied, worked at, was with that in mind. I applied for a position that would take me into


    "Ummm," Ronny said, still eyeing the scene on the chalet terrace below. "But Commissioner RossMetaxa has a few hundred men going around at all times, seeking out potential Section G agents.When they get a cross on one they move in on him and he soon finds out that the only chance

    that he'll get an appointment to get into space is by joining Section G. It usually takes aboutthree years to check you out satisfactorily." Willy de Rudder was staring at him.

    He said, "Why do you tell me that, especially at this time? What you're saying is that I'm notmy own man, that I've been maneuvered. And maneuvered into a position I never expected to findmyself in. I don't approve of political assassinations."

    "Neither do I," Ronny said wearily. "Neither does Section G…ordinarily. This is an exception.Usually, crisping a dictator doesn't do any good. You just get another dictator to take hisplace and the second one might be worse. I don't know how well you're acquainted with Earthhistory, but some time ago a radical named Lenin overthrew the government of Russia and becamea dictator…of sorts. A member of an opposition party, the Social Democrats, got near enough toshoot him. It took him several semi-invalid years to die from the wound. When he did, another

    dictator named Stalin took over. The thing is, no matter how mistaken he might have been, Leninwas an idealist. Stalin was a monster. How many millions of deaths can be laid to his hands,we'll never know. Ghengis Khan was a piker."

    "Then why is our mission to shoot Number One?"

    Ronny looked over at him. "I wasn't in on the decision making. I'm a supervisor in Section G.Policy is made by upper echelons in the Bureau of Investigation. I'm a field man." That didn'tsound like sufficient answer to a valid question on the part of a tyro agent, so he added, "Ihave the dream, the United Planets dream. I take the orders of those who are working it out indetail."

    Willy de Rudder said, "But why is Number One, of this planet Neu Reich, any different than theone you mentioned, Lenin? How do we know but that a worse one won't come to power?"

    Ronny said, still wearily, "It would seem that he's an exception. You see, Willy, mostdictatorships aren't really one man affairs. They're a team. Alexander the Great didn't destroythe Persian Empire and take everything all the way to India; his team did. A team recruited

    real military genius. Caesar too had alargely, by the way, by his father, Philip, who was a

    devoted team, a competent one. Certainly, Napoleon did. He rallied around him some of theoutstanding military, political and even scientific capabilities of his time."

    "But Number One?'

    "Is unique. It would seem that he alone carries the whole Neu Reich program on his shoulders.Finish him and their dreams of expanding into this section of the galaxy and absorbing otherplanets—planets now in the loose confederation we call United Planets—would probably gounder."

    "But not certainly?"

    "Few things are certain, Willy. How's your breathing?"

    "Almost normal. As an agent of Section G will I often find myself in a position such asthis—waiting to murder a man who is in no position to defend himself?"

    "I wouldn't know." Ronny Bronston put down the telescope he'd had trained on the dictatorbelow, and turned to his somewhat younger companion. He said definitely,

    "Willy, all the chips are down now. There's a very good chance that we won't get out of here.Once we hit Number One, the manure will be in the fan. So I might as well check you out now, inall decency, on the full story. If we do get out, you'll no longer be a probationary agent,you'll be a first grade agent—may the Holy Ultimate have mercy on your soul, assuming thatthere is any such thing as a Holy Ultimate, and I doubt it."

    "Go on," Willy said, his voice a little tight. He had taken his eye away from the scope sight,with its victim beyond.

    Ronny said, "Let's make it very basic. When underspace was discovered and it became practicalfor intergalactic expansion on the part of mankind, things became chaotic beyond belief. Manexploded into the stars like, well, Commissioner Metaxa once called it lemmings. They took offfrom the mother planet, Earth, in all directions and for every reason known to man nor beast.Political reasons—they wanted a true Utopian society, a true Socialist, Communist or perhapsAnarchist society. Or like the Pilgrims of American history, a planet where they could practicetheir religion without outside interference. In short, go to hell in their own way. Some wentfor crackpot reasons such as getting back to nature and giving up all technological progress.All right, so who cared? If a couple of thousand cloddies got together and went looking for anEarth-type world where they could revive ancient paganism, including witchcraft, what businesswas it of anybody else? A loose confederation, based on Mother Earth, was formed forinterplanetary cooperation. United Planets, in short. Willy, what are Articles One and Two ofthe United Planets Charter?"

    The other looked at him, his hood masking his frown. "Why, anybody knows that. Article One: The United Planets organization shall take no steps to interfere with the internal

political, socio-economic, or religious institutions of its member planets . Article Two: No

     planet of United Planets shall interfere with the internal political socio-economic ormember

     institutions of any other member planets." religious

    Ronny nodded. "Right. And those two articles are the very basis of United Planets. However,there came a new development. Over a century ago one of our Space Forces scouts picked up aderelict, drifting, blasted and burnt out alien spacecraft. It was obviously military innature, had been destroyed in some interplanetary conflict and it contained the charred remainsof a life form—obviously intelligent. It was about the size of a monkey but with a largerhead, and it had the equivalent of hands capable of handling delicate tools.

    "All of a sudden, the highest echelons of United Planets realized that mankind was in theclutch. No longer could we be philosophical about those segments of our race that were notadvancing scientifically, technologically. Sooner or later, man in his expansion into thegalaxy, would come up against this intelligent life form, or possibly the other life form withwhich it had waged interplanetary conflict.

    "When our engineers examined that burnt out one-man spacescout, they were scared silly. It wastoo far gone for them to be able to figure out any of the devices aboard, but they could learnenough to know that the little monkey-like creature was backed by a technology as far ahead ofus as we are of Neanderthal man." Willy said unhappily, "Well, maybe this intelligent alienlife form would prove friendly."

    "Wizard," Ronny said wryly. "And maybe not. Remember it was a military craft the critter was inand it had been destroyed in a fight. It was obvious that mankind could no longer refrain fromprogressing in science and technology as rapidly as possible. We could no longer tolerate, inUnited Planets, worlds with crackpot political, socioeconomic, or even religious systems thatprevented all-out development.

    "So Section G was secretly organized to subvert Articles One and Two of the Charter. By anymethod found necessary, we pushed the member worlds ahead, even in spite of themselves. Ifthere was a planet with a feudalistic social system, we undermined it and made efforts toestablish a capitalistic one, under which progress would be the faster. If there was adictatorship, where a self-proclaimed elite held up progress the better to milk the man in thestreet, we subverted it. It there was some religion that held up progress, we undermined it."

    Willy de Rudder said unhappily, "Why keep it all secret? Why not just come right out and informthe whole United Planets confederation about these aliens, and urge them to cooperate in all-out advance? The danger is a common one." Ronny peered through the telescope again, checkingthe terrace of the chalet. Number One was beginning to eat.

    "How's your breathing?" he said.

    "Just about normal."

    "We'll wait a few more minutes," Ronny decided. "To go on with it, we can't just come out andmake a plea for unity in the face of a common potential foe, because there is nothing that manhangs onto more fanatically than his religious, political and socio-economic beliefs. TheChristians died in the Roman arenas rather than give up their God. When the advent of theatomic bomb came along, did the United States and Soviet Russia, of those days, unite in theface of mutual destruction? Hell, no. They went into an arms race. Better dead than Red , the

    Americans said, and the Russians had similar slogans. Socioeconomics? You get an advocate ofcapitalism and one of socialism together and they'll argue till hell freezes over before onewill give in. No, Willy, we had to do it behind their backs. And that was, and still is, thebasic reason for the existence of Section G, though complications have come up recently." Hetook a deep breath. "At any rate, that's why we're here on the planet Neu Reich. Number Onestands in the way. This world isn't even a member of United Planets and he's rattling hisscabbard, threatening to take over some of the other humanity-settled worlds in this sector."

    He reached into a pocket of his coveralls and brought forth an odd looking cartridge. It wasquite long and even the case was of plastic. Ronny handed it over. "All right, Willy, this is

it," he told the other. Willy de Rudder took the bullet. He said, "Only one? Suppose I miss?"

    "In the first place, you'd never get a chance to get another shot at him. That gobblydygook gunis a single shot deal and he'll be away and into the chalet before you could reload. Butbesides that, this plastic weapon was designed with only one shot in mind. The barrel is ruined

     with it. No, we get only one chance." after only one. You'd be hard put to hit anything

    Ronny took up the telescope again and trained it on the dictator below. Willy snuggled upagainst the stock of the gawky rifle and brought his eye to the scope. Ronny said, "Okay. Hithim smack in the middle of the chest. Or, at least, aim for it. That cartridge will do thejob."

    The long barreled plastic rifle had two triggers. De Rudder pressed the first one, the settrigger, then very carefully brought his finger back to the hair trigger behind. He took a deepbreath, held it and gently squeezed. The gun hissed and, in spite of the manner in which thestock was padded, the marksman's shoulder was thrown back. Ronny snapped, "You missed! Come on,let's get the hell out of here!"

    Chapter Two

They scrambled to their feet.

    Ronny Bronston snorted, "I thought you could hit a fly at that distance. Come on, let's go! Thefat's in the fire now. It's estimated that he has a thousand security men in the vicinity."

    Willy, panting again, said, "The gun? We can't leave it here. Sooner or later they'll find itand possibly be able to trace it to Section G."

    "Screw the gun," Ronny said, scooping it up and tossing it out into the open, and the telescopeafter it. "That's why we were so careful to keep it in light-tight containers. Half an hour inthe sun and the plastic it's made of melts away. Same thing applies to the telescope. The onlything they could possibly find are the lenses and they'd have their work cut out tracing them.Bring your container, though. We'll ditch them, somewhere along the way."

    They scampered, slipping and sliding in the gravel, up to the crest. There they secured thebelaying ropes that they had left there earlier. Ronny snapped, "It'll take them a while to getorganized. No attempt has been made on Number One for years, and they've probably gotten lax.Besides, the gun was silenced. They'll have their jollies figuring out where the shot camefrom." Even as he talked, he was roping up, groaning inwardly that the other was a tyro.

    "Now, listen," he said urgently. "It's going to be tougher going down than coming up. On theway up, we could take our time and take the easier route. Now, we're in a hurry. It's better tohave three men, or even four, on the rope but there's nothing we can do about that. Follow myinstructions, no matter how drivel-happy they might seem to you."

    "Wizard," Willy, said, his voice sounding dry.

    "One thing to always remember," Ronny said. "Roped-up, like this, if a man falls and issuspended without foot or handhold, he dies within a few minutes. His organs are squeezed outof place. So, if I'm leading and I fall, get me up, or get me to some place where I can get ahold as soon as possible."

    Willy took a deep breath. "Right."

    Ronny started off, traversing down, along a ledge.

    He called over his shoulder, "Keep an eye open for their helio-jets. There'll be a dozen ofthem in the sky shortly. Yell if you spot one. We'll have to take cover. They can't heat-detectus, nor detect any metal on us, but they can see us."

    "Okay," the younger agent said.

    In mountain climbing, you seldom go straight up or straight down. Usually, it's a matter ofworking your way sideways, traversing, and up, or down, as hand and footholds allow. Ronny led,surefooted. His companion was less so, but largely managed to keep his feet.

    Ronny said, "Coming up, we took it the easy way. Going down, we're going to take the stickiestroute. For one thing, they probably number comparatively few mountain climbers among them, andthere's probably not overmuch equipment for even those, in the chalet and its servicebuildings. For another, the helio-jets will have their troubles to keep from crashing if theyget too low among these gullies, ridges and crests. There's too much air current, down-drafts,up-drafts and so forth."

    "All right," Willy said, already puffing at the pace his companion was setting. They came to achimney, possibly a meter and a half across and Ronny said, "Here is how you get down this. Youpress your back against one side, and your feet up against the other and kind of walk down."

    He started demonstrating.

    Willy de Rudder swallowed. The chimney was at least thirty meters deep. He started after, hisfingers mentally crossed. So far, there was no sound nor sight of the helio-jets that weretheir potential nemeses. Unbelievably, so far as Willy de Rudder was concerned, they got to the

    bottom of the chimney without a fall. Ronny tossed his container into a hole. "Ditch yours,too," he said. And, when the other did so, rolled a rock over the two.

    They started traversing on a down grade again.

    They came to a field of snow, up against the mountain. Willy looked at it in dismay. They'd beblack spots against the white as they waded and trudged through it. Ronny said, "Now watch.This is called glissading . It's a sliding and skating sort of thing similar to skiing, butwithout skis. With the exception of falling, it's the fastest method of descending snow slopes,without skis." He stepped off onto the snow and began sliding down, balancing himself withoutstretched arms. Willy brought up the rear, considerably less expertly, but he fell onlythrice in the passage. Ronny said, "Damn it, they'll probably spot our trail in that, sooner orlater, but there's nothing for it. Let's go!"

    They started down over the gravel again. For a time, the going was comparatively easy.

    Ronny said, "Oh, something I forgot to tell you earlier. If one of us is hit, or in danger forother reasons of being snagged, he's got to be finished off. We can't afford to fall into thehands of Number One's boys. You wouldn't want to anyway, but the thing is if they'd put youunder Scop, or whatever truth serum they use on Neu Reich, you'd spill it that you representedSection G. So if anything happens to me, finish me; I'll do the same for you. If both of us arein danger of being snagged, suicide. Damn it, we should have brought cyanide pills."

    "Suicide?" Willy said blankly. "How?"

    "Holy Ultimate," Ronny said in irritation. "Jump off a cliff or something. Improvise. Oh, oh."

    "What's the matter?" Willy panted.

    His superior pointed. Possibly three kilometers off, easily discernible in this clear mountainair, was a group of five or six uniformed men. They were roped together and all bore alpinesticks, with flak guns slung over their shoulders. They were ascending the mountain byapproximately the same route the two Section G operatives had earlier in the day.

    "They haven't spotted us yet," Ronny growled. "Double damn. I hadn't expected to be flushedthis early in the game."

    "What do we do?" Willy panted.

    "Head back this way. We'll get this ridge between them and us. With luck, they'll get all theway to the top before they head down again after us. See that dog?" For the first time, Willyde Rudder saw the dog. It looked half the size of a nearly grown calf, was unleashed and grayin color.

    "It's a kind of Weimaraner that they've bred up on this god-forsaken planet," Ronny growled."They're better bloodhounds than bloodhounds are. Come on, let's go. How are you making out?"

    Willy took a deep breath and got out, "The pace is a little heavy in this altitude, but okay."

    "Damn it," Ronny snorted. "That funker Sid Jakes should have given you some time at highaltitude and in mountain climbing before sending us on this assignment." Willy spotted a helio-jet. "Aircraft," he snapped. They took refuge in a small cave.

    Ronny Bronston, beginning to breathe somewhat deeply himself by this time, said,

    "We've got to get down faster. They're already beginning to swarm. I hope in the name of theHoly Ultimate that they don't have another party coming up by this route. If they have, we'vehad it. Have you ever done any roping-down?"

    "I don't even know what you're talking about," Willy panted.

    "All right. It's a little scary the first time you do it. Against all your instincts. But it'sthe fastest way of getting down a mountain."

    They came to a cliff. Ronny began untying the rope about his waist. Willy looked over,cautiously. "Holy Ultimate," he said. "It must be a hundred meters down." He stepped back adistance.

    "Not really," Ronny told him. "We don't have enough rope for that. Now here's what we do. They

    abseiling , or roping-down. I belay you from up here, you pass the other rope over onecall it

    thigh and over the opposite shoulder. You back down over the side of the cliff, your feetbraced against the cliff wall, and you walk backward, slipping the rope as needed all the wayto the bottom."

    "Are you kidding?"

    "No." Ronny roped him up, continuing directions. "You're in no particular danger. I'm up herebelaying you. I've got hold of you all the way down." Willy's pale face couldn't be seenthrough the hood, but he said, "I've got a fear of heights."

    "So has practically everybody else who's normal. Let's go." Ronny continued to rope the otherup in the prescribed manner.

    Willy said bitterly, "What do they pay a First Grade Section G agent?" And Ronny said,completing his servicing of the other, "Five hundred interplanetary credits amonth—particularly when he's so well trained that he can hit a fly at a kilometer's range.Come on!"

    Willy de Rudder said, "How do you get down? Who belays you from above?"

    "You'll see. Get going, Willy."

    The younger agent went to the side of the cliff, turned his back, closed his eyes and starteddown, walking backward, the comforting feel of the belaying rope holding him tight againstfalling.

    It took a million years for him to reach the canyon bottom below.

    "Untie," Ronny yelled down.

    He untied the rope from around his waist and looked up as Ronny retrieved it. Shortly, theother, the rope doubled, started down, bouncing down the cliff, kicking against it and jumpingso that his pace was three or four times that of Willy walking down.

    When he got to the bottom, next to his companion, he gave a jerk at one end of the doubledrope.

    "Slung over a rock projection," he explained.

    The other looked at him. "Suppose you got in trouble, with nobody, uh, belaying you fromabove?"

    "That's a good question," Ronny said. "Come on, let's go. We've got to find more sheer cliffs."

    For another period the going was easier again, though they had to duck under another ledge fora time as a helio-jet passed over.

    In the cave, the younger agent said, after looking at his companion from the side of his eyes,"Ronny."


    "I'm sorry about missing Number One. I fouled up the whole project and you said that two agentswere lost setting it up."

    Ronny Bronston grunted amusement. "Don't let it worry you. We accomplished what we were sent todo. It would have been more fun if you'd hit him dead center. It probably would have taken hima couple of days to get rid of the stench. But you hit the wall immediately behind him andabout ten centimeters to the right. That'll do it." The other came to an abrupt halt. "What areyou talking about?" Ronny chuckled and said, "Section G doesn't condone assassination, evenwhen called for. If it did, and the information ever got out, member worlds of United Planetswould drop out like dandruff. That was a special cartridge you fired. The head was filled withthe most nauseating odored fluid you ever smelled—especially whomped up in the laboratories ofour Department of Dirty Tricks. At impact it was meant to shatter and sprew the smell, a fewdozen times worse than a skunk's scent, all over the place. You'd need a gas mask to be on thatterrace now. The fluid was otherwise harmless."

    why!" "But…but

    Ronny left the sheltering ledge and led the way, resuming the bent kneed stride of themountaineer. "Come along," he said. "Because now he knows he's vulnerable. If somebody couldget in through his defenses to a point near enough to shoot a stink bomb shell right next tohim, then the next time they could make it something more deadly. He's going to think twice, atleast, before he makes any warlike moves. There's another angle too, from Section G'sviewpoint."

    They had arrived at another cliff and Ronny began ordering the ropes for abseiling .

    "What's that?" Willy said, no tremor in his voice at what was to come, this time.

    "He's got his people all keyed up for his military venture. They've been sacrificing, buildingmunitions plants, a space fleet and so forth, for years. The whole planet is on edge with thisscheme to subjugate some of the nearby worlds. If he calls it off, they'll be up in armsagainst him. And he probably will, since now he knows that if he makes an aggressive move,he'll be hit. No, I wouldn't be surprised to see an overthrow of Number One before the year isout."

    In all, during the next three hours, they roped-down four cliffs. Willy de Rudder got quitenonchalant about it, even attempting to duplicate his companion's method of bouncing his waydown. Several times they saw helio-jets, but Ronny had been right, the craft were afraid tocome too low due to the treacherous mountain air currents. Twice, they spotted groups ofuniformed men, obviously searching for them. However, Ronny seemed to be a more competentmountaineer than any of the foe. They were able to keep from being detected.

    They were nearly to the small green valley which was their immediate destination when they wereflushed by Number One's gray clad security men. The others, a group of four, were possibly ahundred meters away, but the two Section G men were clearly in sight.

    "Run for it," Ronny rasped and the two doubled over in that position men assume in combat whenunder fire, to present as small a target as possible, and dashed. Various weapon fire splashedoff the rocks about them.

    They zig-zagged in evasive action, got around an outcropping of rocks which afforded immediateprotection.

    Ronny got out, "They're at least as tired as we are. They've been coming up hill, while we'vebeen coming down. They're undoubtedly short of breath and they're overly excited about spottingus. So come on, let's get out of here, Willy." From the side of his eyes, the tyro agent couldsee that his superior was holding his side.

    "You're hit," he blurted, scrambling after the other.

    "Yeah," Ronny got out. "Come along. If we can make the valley and across it to the trees, we'recomparatively safe."

    They sped, as best they could, toward the valley. Behind them there were shouts and more weaponfire, though obviously the others were blasting away without target, possibly in an attempt tofrighten the quarry into surrender.

    "If this squad has one of those damned dogs, we've had it, even if we do make the trees," Ronnygasped.

    Their luck held and they managed to temporarily shake the pursuers. However, neither of themhad any illusions. The security men would be equipped with two way radio and in short orderevery search group in the vicinity, and every helio-jet, would be zeroing in on them.

    They got to the valley, dashed across at its narrowest point and ducked into the trees of theforest beyond. They stopped for breath, fifty meters into the woods, both leaning their backsagainst the trees.

    Ronny thought about it a deep breathing minute, then said, "Willy, you're going to have tofinish me. That hit I took removed enough of my side to construct Eve."

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