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"But he  failed. For when the Emperor's  Admiral approached the province atthe head of a fleet, Siwenna itself rebelled against its rebel viceroy." Hestopped, sadly.
Mallow found  himself tense  on the edge  of his seat,  and relaxed slowly,"Please continue, sir.""Thank you,"  said Barr,  wearily. "It's kind  of you to humor  an old man.
They rebelled;  or I  should say, we rebelled,  for I was one  of the minorleaders. Wiscard left Siwenna, barely ahead of us, and the planet, and withit  the province,  were thrown open  to the  admiral with every  gesture ofloyalty to the Emperor. Why we did this, 朓'm not sure. Maybe we felt loyalto  the symbol, if  not the person,  of the  Emperor, 朼 cruel  and viciouschild. Maybe we feared the horrors of a siege.""Well?" urged Mallow, gently.
"Well, came  the grim retort, "that didn't suit  the admiral. He wanted theglory of conquering a  rebellious province and his men wanted the loot suchconquest would  involve. So while  the people were still  gathered in everylarge city,  cheering the  Emperor and his  admiral, he occupied  all armedcenters,  and  then  ordered  the population  put  to  the nuclear  blast.""On what pretext?""On the pretext that they had rebelled against their viceroy, the Emperor'sanointed. And the admiral became the new viceroy, by virtue of one month ofmassacre,  pillage  and  complete  horror. I  had  six  sons.  Five died  ?
variously. I had a daughter. I hope she died, eventually. I escaped becauseI was old.  I came here, too old to cause even  our viceroy worry." He benthis  gray head, "They  left me nothing,  because I  had helped drive  out arebellious   governor   and   deprived    an   admiral   of   his   glory."Mallow sat  silent, and  waited. Then, "What  of your sixth  son?" he askedsoftly.

"Eh?" Barr  smiled acidly. "He is safe, for he has  joined the admiral as acommon  soldier under  an assumed  name. He  is a  gunner in  the viceroy'spersonal fleet.  Oh, no,  I see your eyes.  He is not an  unnatural son. Hevisits me when he can and gives me what he can. He keeps me alive. And someday, our  great and glorious viceroy will grovel to  his death, and it willbe my son who will be his executioner.""And   you   tell   this   to  a   stranger?   You   endanger  your   son.""No. I  help him, by  introducing a new enemy.  And were I a  friend of theviceroy, as  I am  his enemy, I would  tell him to string  outer space withships, clear to the rim of the Galaxy.""There are no ships there?""Did you find any? Did any space-guards question your entry? With ships fewenough, and the bordering provinces filled with their share of intrigue andiniquity, none  can be spared to guard the  barbarian outer suns. No dangerever threatened  us from the broken  edge of the Galaxy,  杣ntil you came.""I? I'm no danger."

"There will be more after you."Mallow  shook   his  head   slowly,  "I'm  not  sure   I  understand  you.""Listen!" There  was a  feverish edge to  the old man's voice.  "I knew youwhen you  entered. You have a  force-shield about your body,  or had when Ifirst saw you."Doubtful silence, then, "Yes, 朓 had.""Good. That  was a flaw, but you didn't know that.  There are some things Iknow. It's  out of fashion in these decaying times  to be a scholar.

Eventsrace and  flash past  and who cannot  fight the tide  with nuclear-blast inhand is swept away,  as I was. But I was a scholar,  and I know that in allthe  history of nucleics,  no portable  force-shield was ever  invented. Wehave force-shields ?huge,  lumbering powerhouses that will protect a city,or even a ship, but not one, single man.""Ah?" Mallow's  underlip thrust  out. "And what  do you deduce  from that?""There  have been  stories percolating  through space. They  travel strangepaths and  become distorted with every parsec, 朾ut  when I was young therewas a small ship of strange men, who did not know our customs and could nottell  where they came  from. They talked  of magicians  at the edge  of theGalaxy; , who flew unaided through theair, and whom weapons would not touch.
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