BY RANDALL GARRETT
Sometimes an organizational
setup grows, sets its ways, and
becomes so traditional that once-necessary
jobs become unnecessary.
But it is sometimes quite
hard to spot just which man is
the unnecessary one. In this
case ... not the one you think!
Illustrated by Martinez
"I recall," said the Businessman,
"that William Wrigley, Junior, once
said: 'When two men in a business
always agree, one of them is unnecessary.'
How true that is."
The Philosopher cast his eyes toward
Heaven. "O God! The Mercantile
Mind!" He looked back at the
Businessman. "When two men in a
business always agree, one of them
will come in handy as a scapegoat."
ord Barrick Sorban,
Ret., sipped gently at
his drink and looked
mildly at the sheaf of
newsfacsimile that he'd just bought
fresh from the reproducer in the lobby
of the Royal Hotel. Sorban did not
look like a man of action; he certainly
did not look like a retired colonel of
His Imperial Majesty's Own Guard.
The most likely reason for this was
that he was neither.
Not that he was incapable of action
on a physical level if it became necessary;
he was past forty, but his tough,
hard body was in as fine a shape as it
had been fifteen years before, and his
reflexes had slowed only slightly. The
only major change that had occurred
in his body during that time had been
the replacement of an irreparably
damaged left hand by a prosthetic.
But Lord Barrick Sorban preferred
to use his mind, to initiate action in
others rather than himself, and his
face showed it. His was a precision
mind, capable of fast, accurate computations,
and his eyes betrayed the fact,
but the rest of his face looked, if anything,
rather like that of a gentle,
persuasive schoolteacher—the type
whom children love and parents admire
and both obey.
Nor was he a retired colonel of the
Imperial bodyguard, except on paper.
According to the official records, he
had been retired for medical reasons—the
missing left hand. In reality, his
position in the Imperium was a great
deal higher than that of an ordinary
colonel, and he was still in the active
service of the Emperor. It was a secret
known only to a comparative few,
and one that was carefully guarded.
He was a fairly tall man, as an Imperial
Guardsman had to be, with a
finely-shaped head and dark hair that
was shot through with a single streak
of gray from an old burn wound. In
an officer's uniform, he looked impressive,
but in civilian dress he looked
like a competent businessman.
He held the newsfac in his prosthetic
left hand, which was indistinguishable
in appearance and in ordinary
usage from the flesh, bone, and
blood that it had replaced. Indeed, the
right hand, with its stiff little finger,
often appeared to be more useless
than the left. The hand, holding the
glass of rye-and-ginger, gave an impression
of over-daintiness because of
that stiff digit.
Lord Sorban paid little attention
to the other customers in the bar; customers
of the Green Room of the
Royal Hotel weren't the noisy kind,
anyway. He kept his attention on the
newsfac for the most part; only a
small amount of awareness was reserved
for the approach of the man
he was waiting for.
The banner line on the newsfac
BY IMPERIAL FORCES
He read through the article hurriedly,
absorbing what facts he didn't
know, and then flipped over to the
editorial page. If he knew the Globe,
there would sure as Space be an
At 0231 Greenwich Earth Time,
3/37/229, the forces of the Imperial Government
occupied the planet Bairnvell.
(See article, Page One.) The ships of the
Imperial Space Force landed, purportedly
at the request of Obar Del Pargon, rebel
leader of the anti-Presidential forces. That
such an action should be condoned by the
Imperial File is astounding enough; that
it should be ordered by the Prime Portfolio
himself is almost unbelievable.
The government of Bairnvell, under
the leadership of President Alverdan, was
not, by any means, up to the standards
of the Empire; the standard of living is
lower, and the political freedom of the
people is not at all what we are used to.
But that is no excuse for interfering with
the lawful government of any planet. If
the Imperium uses these methods for extending
its rule, the time must eventually
come when our own civil liberties will
be in peril.
Perhaps Lord Senesin's actions are not
so surprising, at that. This is the third
time during his tenure as Prime Portfolio
that he has arbitrarily exercised his power
to interfere in the affairs of governments
outside the Empire. Each such action has
precipitated a crisis in Galactic affairs, and
each has brought the Empire nearer to
conflict with the Gehan Federation. This
one may be the final act that will bring
on interstellar war.
Colonel Lord Sorban stopped reading
as he noticed the approach of the
man he'd been waiting for, but he
didn't look up until the voice said:
"I see you've been reading it, my
lord." The voice was bitter. "A real
fiasco this time, eh?"
Sorban looked up. "It looks like it
might mean trouble," he said carefully.
"Have you read all of it, Mr.
The young man nodded. The bitterness
in his voice was paralleled by
the bitterness reflected in his face.
"Oh, yes. I read it. The other newsfacs
pretty much agreed with the Globe.
I'm afraid my father seems to be
rather in the soup. Being Prime Portfolio
in the Terran Empire isn't the
easiest way to stay out of trouble.
They'll be screaming for a Special
Election next." He sat down next to
the colonel and lowered his voice just
enough to keep anyone else from
hearing it, but not enough to sound
conspiratorial. "I think I've got a line
on those tapes."
Colonel Sorban raised an eyebrow.
"Really? Well, I wish you luck. If you
can uncover them in time, you may be
able to save your father's career," he
said, in a voice that matched Senesin's.
"You don't sound very concerned,
my lord," said young Senesin.
"It's not that," said the colonel.
"I just find it difficult to believe
that—" He cut his words off as another
The second newcomer was a red-faced,
plumpish man with an almost
offensively hearty manner. "Well,
well! Good afternoon, Lord Sorban!
Haven't seen you in some time. A
pleasure to see you again, my lord, a
distinct pleasure! I don't get to Honolulu
often, you know. How long's it
been? Four years?"
"Two, I think," said the colonel.
"Really? Only two? It seems longer.
How've you been?"
"Well enough," said the colonel.
"Excuse me—Mr. Heywood, I'd like
to present you to the Honorable Jon
Senesin; Mr. Senesin, this is Robar
Heywood, of South African Metals."
While the two men shook hands
and mouthed the usual pleasantries,
Colonel Lord Sorban watched them
with an amusement that didn't show
on his placid face. Young Senesin was
rather angry that the tête-á-tête had
been interrupted, while Heywood
seemed flustered and a trifle stuffy.
"So you're the son of our Prime
Portfolio, eh?" he said. There was a
trace of hostility in his voice.
Colonel Sorban saw what was coming
and made no effort whatsoever to
stop it. Instead, he simply sat there
in straight-faced enjoyment.
"That's correct, Mr. Heywood,"
Senesin said, a little stiffly.
"I should have known," Heywood
said. "You look a great deal like him.
Although I don't know that I've ever
seen your picture in the newsfacs or
on the screens."
"Dad prefers to keep his family out
of the spotlight," said Senesin, "unless
we get publicity for something
other than the accidental fact that we
happen to be the family of the Prime."
"Yes, yes, of course. I see. May I
stand the three of us a drink?" Senesin
and the colonel were agreeable.
The drinks were brought. Heywood
took a swallow of his, and remarked
casually: "Do you agree with your
father's politics, sir?"
"I don't know," Senesin said flatly.
Heywood misunderstood completely.
"Yes, I suppose it is a bit disappointing.
Hard for a man's son to divide
his loyalty like that. You can't
support his actions, and yet you hesitate
to condemn your own father."
"You mistake my meaning, Mr.
Heywood," young Senesin said sharply.
"I said, 'I don't know' because I
honestly don't know what my father's
politics is any more."
But Heywood only compounded his
error. "Of course not. How could
you? Since he became Prime, his policies
have been erratic and unpredictable,
not to say foolish."
This is it, thought the colonel, wondering
what young Senesin's reaction
would be. He didn't have to wonder
longer than half a second.
"Mr. Heywood," said Senesin, his
voice oddly tight under the strain of
suppressed emotion, "a person should
learn to know what he's talking about
before he makes any attempt to talk.
If you must talk drivel about my father,
I'll thank you not to do it in my
presence." And before Heywood
could formulate an answer, Senesin
turned to the colonel. "If you'll pardon
me, my lord, I have another errand
to perform. I'll see you at
eleven." Then he turned and walked
Heywood stared at his receding
back. "Well," he said after a moment,
"I guess I spoke out of turn. But he
seemed ..." He turned back to his
drink, shrugged. "Oh, well. Tell me,
my lord, what do you think of Senesin's
policies? How long do you think
he'll last in office?"
The colonel adroitly avoided the
first question by answering the second.
"I dare say he won't last long. There'll
be a great fuss in the File, and most
of his own party will desert him—I
think. They hardly have any choice,
considering the reaction of the populace
to this Bairnvell thing."
"And I agree," said Heywood decisively.
"We've got no business interfering
with the lawful governments
of planets and systems outside the
Empire. The old days of Imperial expansion
are over. Why, the way Lord
Senesin acts, you'd think Emperor
Jerris the First was on the throne."
"Well, not quite," Colonel Lord
Sorban said dryly. "I can't imagine
any Prime Portfolio in the time of
Jerris I daring to act on his own initiative."
"Exactly," said Heywood, just as
though the colonel had agreed with
him. "That's why we have a constitutional
Empire today. One man can't
be allowed that much power without
the consent of the governed. The
people must have a right to depose
anyone who abuses the power they
give him." He swallowed the remainder
of his drink. "Can you imagine
what it would be like if the present
Emperor tried to pull that sort of
stuff? Not that he would, mind you;
he's too good an Emperor for that.
He sticks to his job. But these are
different times. And then, too, we
can't afford to antagonize the Gehan
Federation. After all, I mean,
war ..." He shook his head at the
Colonel Lord Sorban had listened
to Heywood's soliloquy with patience,
but he felt his irritation growing.
Much as he had enjoyed the play between
Heywood and young Senesin,
he had expected to get some information
out of the boy before he left.
And besides, Heywood's clichéd monologue
was beginning to pall.
Therefore, the colonel finished his
own drink, uttered some polite banalities
and got out.
He walked around the corner to the
restaurant, was bowed into a seat by
an ultrapolite android, and quietly
ordered his meal. While he waited, he
spread the newsfac on the table in
front of him, holding it with his right
hand while his left elbow rested on
the table and his left palm cradled his
left jaw. In that position, there was
nothing odd-looking about the fact
that his left thumbtip was in contact
with his larynx and his left middle
finger was pressed tightly against the
mastoid bone just behind his left ear.
His lips began to move slightly, and
anyone at a nearby table would have
assumed that he was one of those
readers who are habitual lip-movers.
"The Senesin boy says he has a lead
on the tapes. That's all I could get out
of him just now, but I have an appointment
with him at eleven tonight.
How far shall I let him go, Sire?"
The sensitive microphone in the tip
of his thumb picked up the nearly
inaudible sounds; the speaker in his
middle finger vibrated against his
skull and brought him the answer to
"For the moment, I'll leave that up
to you. But I wouldn't try to stop him
"Very well, Sire," murmured the
colonel. He had already made up his
mind to let the Senesin boy go as far
as he could. The lad was smart, and
his attack would at least provide a test
for the psycho-sociological defenses
that surrounded the Emperor.
"Do you think those tapes—if they
exist—are genuine?" the voice asked.
"According to young Senesin," the
colonel said carefully, "the tapes are
supposed to show that certain ... ah ...
persons' in the
Imperial hierarchy are influencing
members of the Government illegally.
You figure out what that might mean,
Sire; it's a little too ambiguous to
mean much to me."
"'Influencing,' eh? That could
mean anything from a broad hint,
through pressure and bribery, to actual
brainwashing," said the voice from
"Which one do you think it is,
Sire?" the colonel asked with mock
The voice chuckled, then said, "I
haven't tried brainwashing yet."
"No-o-o," agreed the colonel, "but
you might have to if Lord Evondering
gets in, and if you have to, you
"Colonel," said the voice gently,
"there are times when I believe you
don't have a very high opinion of your
Sovereign's moral outlook."
The colonel grinned, although he
knew the listener couldn't see it. But
he knew the other was grinning, too.
"I humbly beg your majesty's pardon."
"You'll have to wait a while, colonel;
Imperial pardons have to be by
the Portfolio for the Interior. Your
Sovereign is an impotent figurehead."
"Sure you are, Sire," said the colonel.
"Meanwhile, what about those
"Get them—or copies of them.
They can't be dangerous in themselves,
but if they're genuine, I want to know
who's bugging this place. I can't have
spies in the Palace itself. Otherwise,
keep your eyes on the Senesin boy."
The voice went on giving instructions,
but the colonel lifted the thumb
of his left hand from his larynx; the
waiter was approaching, and if he
wanted to speak to him, it would be
better not to have to interrupt the
flow of words from his finger.
The android put the dishes on the
table. "Coffee, sir?"
"Yes," said the colonel. "Cream, no
sugar. And bring a second cup as soon
as I've finished with the first." Only
a part of his attention was given to the
waiter; the rest was focused on the
instructions he was receiving. The instructions
kept coming until after the
coffee had been brought. Then the
"No, Sire," said the colonel, replacing
"Very well. I'll be expecting your
report sometime between eleven and
The colonel nodded, brought his
hand down from the side of his jaw
to pick up his fork and begin a concerted
attack on his lunch.
Hawaii, with its beauty and its perfect
climate, had been the obvious
choice for the center of the Terran
Empire. For centuries before the coming
of interstellar travel, the islands
had been used to a mixture of tongues
and races, and the coming of the Empire
had merely added to that mixture.
In the five centuries since Man had
begun his explosive spread to the
stars, more "races" had come into
being due to the genetic variations and
divisions that occurred as small groups
of isolated colonists were cut off from
Earth and from each other. The fact
that interstellar vessels incorporating
the contraspace drive were relatively
inexpensive to build, plus the fact that
nearly every G-type sun had an Earth-like
planet in Bode's Third Position,
had made scattering to the stars almost
an automatic reflex among men.
It had also shattered the cohesion
of Mankind that had been laboriously
built up over several millennia. The
old U.N. government had gradually
welded together the various nations
of Earth under one flag, and for nearly
two centuries it had run Earth like
a smoothly operating machine. But no
culture is immortal; even the U.N.
must fall, and fall it did.
And, during the chaos that followed,
a man named Jerris Danfors had
grabbed the loosened reins of government
just as Napoleon had done after
the French Revolution. Unlike Napoleon,
however, Jerris had been able
to hold his power without abusing it;
he was able to declare himself Emperor
of Earth and make it stick. The
people wanted a single central government,
and they were willing to go
back to the old idea of Empire just to
get such a government.
Jerris the First was neither a power-mad
dictator nor an altruist, although
he had been called both. He was,
purely and simply, a strong, wise, intelligent
man—which made him abnormal,
no matter how you look at
it. Or supernormal, if you will.
Like Napoleon, he realized that
wars of conquest were capable of
being used as a kind of cement to hold
the people together in support of their
Emperor. But, again, unlike Napoleon,
he found there was no need to sap the
strength of Earth to fight those wars.
The population and productive capacity
of Earth was greater than any
possible coalition among extra-Solar
planets and vastly greater than any
single planet alone.
Thus the Terran Empire had come
into being with only a fraction of the
internal disruption which normally
But Man can flee as well as fight.
Every invading army is preceded by
hordes of refugees. Ships left every
planet threatened by the Empire,
seeking new, uncharted planets to settle—planets
that would be safe from
the Imperial Fleet because they were
hidden among a thousand thousand
stars. Mankind spread through the
galaxy faster than the Empire could.
Not even Jerris the First could completely
consolidate the vast reaches of
the galaxy into a single unit; one lifetime
is simply not enough.
Nor are a dozen.
Slowly, the Empire had changed.
Over the next several generations, the
Emperors had yielded more and more
of the absolute power that had been
left to them by Jerris. While history
never exactly repeats itself, a parallel
could be drawn between the history
of the Empire and the history of England
between, say, 1550 and 1950.
But, while England's empire had begun
to recede with the coming of democratic
government, the Terran Empire
continued to spread—more slowly
than at first, but steadily.
Until, that is, the Empire had
touched the edges of the Gehan Federation.
For the hordes that had fled from
the Empire had not forgotten her;
they knew that one day the Empire
would find them, that one day they
would have to fight for their independence.
So they formed the Federation,
with its capital on the third
planet of Gehan's Sun.
It was a federation in name only.
Even after several generations, the
refugees had not been able to build
up enough population to fight the
Empire. There was only one other way
out, as they saw it. They formed a
In the Twentieth Century, the German
Third Reich, although outnumbered
by its neighbors and enemies,
populationwise, had concentrated all
its efforts on building an unbeatable
war machine. Japan, also outnumbered,
had done likewise. Between them,
they thought they could beat the rest
of Earth. And they came dangerously
close to succeeding.
The Gehan Federation had done
the same thing, building up fleets and
armies and material stockpiles as
though she were already at war.
And, in doing so, her citizens had
voluntarily forfeited the very thing
they thought they were fighting for—their
But they posed a greater threat to
the Terran Empire than that Empire
had ever faced before. Any nation so
totally prepared for defensive war
may, at any moment, decide that the
best defense is a good offense. Any
nation which subjects its people to
semislavery for the sake of war must
eventually fight that war or suffer
The Empire had to change tactics.
Instead of steady expansion, she was
forced into a deadly game of interstellar
chess, making her plays carefully,
so as not to touch off the explosive
temper of her opponent.
It was not a situation to be handled
by clumsy fools.
And Lord Senesin, the Prime Portfolio
of the Imperial File, the elected
leader of the Empire, the constitutional
head of the Imperial Government,
was accused, not only of being
a clumsy fool, but of being a dangerous
madman. The planet Bairnvell
was an independent, autonomic ally
of the Gehan Federation, and, although
not actually a member of the
Federation, was presumably under her
protection. For the Imperial Fleet to
go to the aid of rebels trying to overthrow
Bairnvell's lawful government
seemed to be the act of an insane
mind. The people of the Empire
wouldn't stand for it.
Colonel Lord Barrick Sorban was
well aware of the temper of the people
and of the situation that prevailed
politically in the Empire—more so, in
fact, than most men. He was also well
aware that internal strife of a very
serious nature could so dangerously
weaken the Empire that the Gehan
Federation would be able to attack
His job was to cut off that sort of
thing before it could gain momentum.
His job was to maintain the Empire;
his only superior was the Emperor
himself; his subordinates hand-picked,
well-trained, and, like himself, unobtrusive
to the public eye. And not
one of those subordinates knew who
the colonel's superior was.
The colonel strolled along the
streets of Honolulu with all the courteous
aplomb of a man who was both
an officer and a gentleman of leisure.
He dropped in at various respectable
clubs and did various respectable
things. He went into other places and
did other things not so respectable.
He gave certain orders to certain people
and made certain odd arrangements.
When everything had been set
up to his satisfaction, he ate a leisurely
dinner, topped it off with two
glasses of Velaskan wine, read the
tenth edition of the Globe, and strolled
out to the street again, looking
every inch the impeccable gentleman.
At ten minutes of eleven, he took
a skycab to the fashionable apartment
house where the Honorable Jon Senesin,
son of the Prime Portfolio, made
his home. The skycab deposited him
on the roof at two minutes of eleven.
The android doorman opened the
entrance for him, and he took the
drop chute down to the fifteenth
floor. At precisely eleven o'clock, he
was facing the announcer plate on
Jon Senesin's door.
Senesin opened the door. There was
a queer look—half jubilant, half
worried—on his face as he said:
"Come in, my lord, come in. Care
for a drink?"
"Don't mind if I do, Jon. Brandy,
if you have it."
Young Senesin poured the brandy,
speaking rapidly as he did. "I've made
an appointment to get those tapes, my
lord. I want you to go with me. If we
can get them, we can break this whole
fraud wide open. Wide open." He
handed the colonel a crystal goblet
half filled with the clear, red-brown
liquid. "Sorry I left so hurriedly this
morning, but if that Heywood character
had said another word I'd have
broken his nose for him."
The colonel took the goblet and
looked into its depths. "Jon, what do
you expect these tapes to prove?"
The young man's face darkened. He
walked across the spacious room,
brandy goblet in hand, and sat down
on the wall couch before he spoke.
"Just what I told you, my lord. I
expect to prove that my father's mind
has been tampered with—that he is
not responsible for the decisions that
have been made in his name—that he
is going to lose his position and his
reputation and his career for something
that he would never have done
in his right mind—that he has been
the duped pawn of someone else."
The colonel walked over toward the
couch and stood over the young man.
"Someone? You keep referring to
'someone.' Ever since you asked me to
help you, you've been mysterious
about this someone. Whom do you
Senesin looked up at the colonel for
a long moment before he answered.
Then: "I suspect the Emperor himself,"
he said, half defiantly.
The colonel raised his finely-drawn
brows just a fraction of an inch, as
though he hadn't known what the answer
would be. "The Emperor? Hannikar
IV? Isn't that a little far-fetched?"
Senesin shook his head vehemently.
"Don't you see? Legally, the Emperor
is powerless; the Throne hasn't had
any say-so in the Government for over
a century—except to sign state papers
and such. But suppose an Emperor
came along who wanted power—power
such as the old Emperors used to
have. How would he go about getting
it? By controlling the Government!
He could slowly force them to give
him back the powers that the people
of the Empire have taken so many
centuries to obtain."
The colonel shook his head. "Impossible.
Not even the Emperor could
control the votes of the whole File
for that purpose. It simply couldn't
"Not that way; of course not," the
young man said irritably. "But there
is a way. It's been used before. Are
you up on your history?"
"Reasonably well," the colonel said
"How did Julius Caesar get dictatorial
powers? And, after him, Augustus?
Rome was threatened by war,
and then actually engaged in it, and
the patricians were glad to give power
to a strong man."
"That was in a state ruled by the
few patricians," the colonel pointed
out, "not in a democracy."
"Very well, then; what about the
United States, during World War II?
Look at the extraordinary powers
granted to the President—first to stop
a depression, then to win a war. What
might have happened if he hadn't
died? Would he have gone on to a
fifth and a sixth term? How much
more power could he have usurped
from the hands of Congress?"
The colonel wondered vaguely what
history texts young Senesin had read,
but he didn't ask. "All right," he said,
"now tie your examples up with His
"It's very simple. By controlling the
mind of the Prime Portfolio, the Emperor
can plunge the Empire into war
with the Gehan Federation. Once that
has been done, he can begin to ask for
extraordinary powers from the File.
If he has a few key men under his
thumb, he can swing the majority of
the File any way he wants to. Don't
you see that?"
The colonel said: "It does make a
certain amount of sense." He paused,
looking at the young man speculatively.
"Tell me, son: why did you pick
me to tell this tale to?"
Senesin's sensitive face betrayed his
anxiety. "Because you have been my
father's best and oldest friend. If he's
really being made a puppet of, I
should think you'd want to help him.
Do you like to see him being destroyed
"No," said the colonel honestly.
"And if he is actually being controlled
illegally, if he is actually being blamed
for things he did not do of his own
free will, I'll do everything in my
power to expose the plot—that I
Jon Senesin's eyes lit up; his face
broke into a smile. "I knew I could
depend on you, my lord! I knew it!"
"Just how do you propose to go
about this?" asked Colonel Lord Sorban.
There was fire in young Senesin's
eyes now. "I'll turn the whole case
over to the people! I have some evidence,
of course; the queer changes
in behavior that Dad has exhibited
during the past few years, and such
things as that. The things that made
me suspect in the first place. But that
isn't acceptable evidence." He finished
his brandy and got up excitedly to
walk over and pour himself another.
He glanced at the colonel's goblet, but
the colonel had three-quarters of his
own drink left.
Senesin talked as he poured. "Did
you ever hear of a group called the
"Yes," said Colonel Sorban. "They
want to federalize the Empire and get
rid of the Imperial Family. Not a very
"No, but they're right! They're
right! Don't you see that? And nobody
pays any attention to them!"
"Calm down, son. What have the
Federalists got to do with this?"
"They have sympathizers in the
Palace," Senesin explained. "They've
been able to get proof that the Emperor
is illegally tampering with the
Government, that he's been brainwashing
my father. And they're going
to turn that proof over to me."
"I don't quite follow the reason
for that," the colonel lied easily.
"Why don't they use it themselves?"
"They can't. Nobody'd believe
them. Everyone would think that the
proof had been faked for political
"On the other hand, if I do it, all
I can be accused of is having a personal
motive. And if a man wants to
get his father out of a jam, most people
will agree that I have a perfect
right to do so. Besides, I have enough
influence to get people to listen to me,
to give the evidence a fair hearing. If
the newsies got this stuff from the
Federalists, they'd throw it away without
looking at it. But they'll listen
"The newsies?" asked the colonel
in a perfect imitation of mild astonishment.
"You intend to turn this stuff
over to news publishers?"
"Certainly! That's the only way.
Put the evidence before the people,
and they'll see what they're up
against. I personally don't care
whether we have an Emperor or not,
but at least we can force Hannikar IV
to abdicate in favor of Crown Prince
"I see." The colonel took another
sip at his brandy and appeared to
think it over. Wisely, young Senesin
"How are we to get this evidence?"
the colonel asked at last.
"We're to meet a man," Senesin
said, with an air of melodrama. "We
will get a call at fifteen of twelve, telling
us where to meet him. We have
to be there at midnight."
Oh, brother, thought the colonel,
they really picked their man. They've
got him thinking he's hip-deep in a
romantic spy story.
Was I that way at twenty-two? A
romantic? I suppose I must have been;
why else would I have joined the
Guards? Not for the pay, certainly.
Hell, I guess I'm still a romantic,
in a way. Being a secret agent isn't
all fun and games, but it has its compensations.
Aloud, he said, "Very well, son;
I'll go with you. Did you tell them
there'd be someone accompanying
"I told them I'd have a friend
along. I told them it would be you.
They said it was all right, that they
knew you were a friend of Dad's.
They even knew you've been a little
bitter at being retired from the Guards
so young." He looked embarrassed.
"Pardon me, my lord."
"That's all right," said the colonel
steadily. He managed to give the appearance
of a man who was doing his
best not to look bitter.
"You aren't carrying a gun, are
you?" Senesin asked suddenly. "They
said we weren't to be armed. They'll
probably search us."
"I haven't been in the habit of carrying
a gun lately," said the colonel.
"They won't find anything on
He finished his brandy while Senesin
finished his second one. While the
younger man refilled both goblets, the
colonel asked permission to use the
bathroom. He was gone less than three
minutes, which he had spent with
thumb and middle finger to larynx
and mastoid bone.
At eleven forty-five promptly, the
phone chimed. No face appeared on
the screen when young Senesin answered
it, but a voice gave an address
on Kalia Road.
Three minutes later, the two men
were on the roof, signaling for a skycab.
At ten o'clock the next morning, a
panel slid aside in a wall that had
previously seemed solid. Colonel Lord
Barrick Sorban stepped into the room,
thinking as he did so that he really
was a romantic. He actually rather enjoyed
the idea of using secret passages
and hidden panels to gain access to the
Emperor's private apartments in the
He gave a gentle nod to the man
in the blue lounging robe who sat in
a big easy-chair just across the room.
"Good morning, Sire."
"'Morning, colonel," said His Imperial
Majesty, Hannikar IV. "How
are things shaping up?"
The colonel chuckled. "Not a single
one of the newsies printed a word
of it, Sire."
These men were close friends, and
had been for years, yet they clung to
the formal titles, both from habit and
for self-protection. The accidental use
of a first name could mean a dead
giveaway at the wrong time.
The Emperor was a smaller man
than Colonel Sorban, but he was far
more impressive. While the colonel
seemed rather mild, the Emperor looked—well,
Imperial. He looked just as
an Emperor ought to look—handsome,
dark-haired, stern at times and
kindly at others. The square jaw gave
an impression of firmness of character,
while the sapphire-blue eyes were
penetrating without being harsh or
"What about the Senesin boy?" he
"He's in jail," said the colonel.
His Imperial Majesty raised an eyebrow.
"Oh?" It was a question and
"Not by my orders," said the colonel
quickly. "He got a little upset.
He'd taken those tapes and documents
around to four editors and had been
thrown out four times. The fifth time—at
the Globe, as a matter of fact—he
accused the editor of being in
your pay. A hassle started, and the
editor called the Honolulu police.
Don't worry, Sire; one of my boys got
the tapes and stuff."
"Is it genuine?"
"The evidence? Yes. The Federalists
had the goods on you, all right."
He grinned. "As you said, everything
"I'll take care of it," said the Emperor.
"Prince Jaimie's been going
through the family files, and I rather
want him to see this batch of stuff,
too. Meantime, get the Senesin boy
out of that cell; I want to see him.
He's got guts, if nothing else."
"He has sense, too, Sire; he's just
a little too young yet." He almost
added "and romantic," but he stopped
himself in time.
"How long will it take to get him
out?" His Majesty asked.
"I can have him here in half an
hour. The editor of the Globe will
drop the charges. I can put a little
pressure on in the right places."
The Emperor nodded. After a moment,
he thumbed a button on his
chair arm. "Inform Lord Senesin that
he is requested to appear for a Royal
Audience in forty-five minutes," he
"Yes, Sire," said a voice from a
The Emperor looked at the colonel.
"Get the boy."
Jon Senesin sat in a soft chair, his
hands gripping at the arms as though
it might at any time fall from under
him. He looked at the three other men
in the room. His father, Lord Senesin,
looking rather tired, but with a slight
smile on his lantern-jawed face, sat on
his son's left. One hand ran nervously
through his gray hair.
On Jon's right sat the colonel, looking
cool, unperturbed, and very gentle.
Between them sat the Emperor.
Jon's face looked pale, and there
was a slight nervous tic at the corner
of his mouth. "I ... I don't understand,"
he said. "I—" He swallowed
hard as his voice failed him.
"Nothing hard to understand, son,"
said the colonel mildly. "We've been
looking for evidence to break up the
Federalists for several years. Some of
them are honest men who are simply
against any kind of hereditary monarchy—we'll
let them go eventually.
Some of them are fanatics—the kind
that is against any form of government
that happens to be in power;
they'll get psychiatric treatment. But
the leaders of the group are agents
of the Gehan Federation. My men
are picking them up now. The man
that contacted you and me last night
was arrested within two minutes after
"But—the evidence! Those tapes.
The documents. They all seemed genuine.
They seemed so convincing."
"They should be convincing, Jon,"
said Lord Senesin in his smooth oratorical
baritone. "You see, they are
Jon Senesin looked at his father as
though the older man had suddenly
sprouted an extra set of ears. "Y ...
You've been brainwashed?"
The Prime Portfolio shook his
head. "No, son, not that. Did you
see anything like that on the tapes?"
"N-no. But the others. Fileman
Brenner, Portfolio for Defense Vane,
General Finster—all of them. I
"You thought wrong, son," said
Lord Senesin. "I am and always have
been working loyally with His Majesty.
He gives the orders, and I carry
Jon's voice became taut. "You mean
you're helping him? You're trying to
get the Empire into a war with the
Gehan Federation so that he can become
another dictator, like Jerris the
First?" He kept his eyes carefully
averted from the Emperor as he
Thus he didn't notice that His Majesty
looked at Colonel Sorban with
an expression that said, "You're right.
He does have guts."
Lord Senesin said: "No, son; I'm
not working toward that at all.
Neither is His Majesty. There would
be no point in it."
Then, for the first time, the Emperor
spoke. His voice was soft, but
commanding. "Mr. Senesin, let me
explain something to you."
Jon Senesin's head jerked around.
There was a confused mixture of fear
and determination on his face.
"Mr. Senesin, I no more want war
than you do. I am trying to avoid it
with every power at my command. I
have that duty to my people. But I
have another duty, too. A duty, not
just to the Empire, but to the human
race as a whole. And that duty is to
establish, not a Terran Empire, but a
Galactic Empire—a single, consolidated
government for every planet in
the galaxy. Man can't go on this way,
divided, split up, warring with himself.
Man can't live in isolation, cut
off from other worlds, other types
"We can't have a part of the
human race living in constant fear of
another part. We can't allow the conditions
that exist at this moment in the
Gehan Federation. To paraphrase
Lincoln, 'The galaxy cannot exist half
slave and half free.'
"Right now, there is evidence that
the Gehan Federation will collapse
internally within less than five years.
The only way for the President of the
Federation to avert that collapse will
be to declare war on the Empire. We
have had to take certain risks in order
to insure that when and if war does
come, we will win it.
"Bairnvell was one of those risks.
Not too great a one, as it turns out;
evidently the Federation government
doesn't see that our possession of that
base is a vital factor in our own defense.
Strategy in three dimensions
isn't easy to reason out.
"Mr. Senesin, I have no desire for
power in a personal way. Any power
I have is used for the good of my
people. I have no police system for
terrorizing the people; I don't suppress
the freedom of every man to say
or print what he wants. To call your
Sovereign a fatheaded slob in a newsfac
might be considered bad taste, but
it isn't illegal. I can't even bring a
civil suit against you, the way an ordinary
"Now, I'll grant that I sometimes
use illegal means to control the Empire.
But there are reasons for that.
He was interrupted by a soft chime.
He pressed a button on his armchair.
"You go on the interstellar hookup
in twenty minutes, Sire. The File has
assembled," said a voice from a
"I'll be right there." He stood up
and glanced apologetically at the other
three men. "Sorry. Political announcement,
you know. You two go ahead
and explain to Mr. Senesin." Then
he looked directly at the Prime Portfolio.
"I'll tell them you're slightly
ill." He reached out, took Lord Senesin's
hand, and grasped it firmly. "I'll
make it look good, old friend, don't
worry. I'll need your help with Lord
Evondering when he gets the Primacy."
The other men were on their feet
already. They watched in silence as
he walked out the door, then eased
themselves back into their chairs.
"I still don't understand," Jon said
softly. The bitterness and anger seemed
to have left him, leaving only puzzlement
in their wake. "If you take
orders from him, Dad, then this isn't
a democracy any more. It's become
another Imperial dictatorship."
"Son," said his father, "the Empire
never has been a democracy in the
sense you're thinking about. Ever since
Jerris the First, it has been ruled
solely by the Emperors. Always.
"The Imperial Family is a special
breed, son. It's a genetic strain in
which the quality of wise leadership is
dominant. It's a quality that's more
than just intelligence; wisdom is the
ability to make correct judgments,
not only for one's self, but for
"But, Dad!" There was almost a
wail in the boy's voice. "That makes
the whole democratic system in the
Empire a farce! It's totally unnecessary!
You're unnecessary! He could
run everything by himself!"
Lord Senesin started to say something,
but Colonel Sorban interrupted.
"No, you young fool, he is not
unnecessary! He is, in a very real
sense, the Emperor's shield. Our Emperors
have always given the people
of the Empire the kind of government
they need, not the kind of government
they want. There are certain things
that must be done, whether the people
like those things or not.
"How long do you think the Empire
would last without the Imperial
Line to guide it? Not ten years! The
thing is too big, too vast, for any ordinary
man to handle the job. The
voters are perfectly capable of electing
a man to the Primacy on the strength
of his likable personality alone—look
at Lord Evondering. A hell of a pleasant
guy, without a glimmering of real
"When the people don't like the
things the Government does, they
throw it out—even if the thing done
was actually for the best. The people
demand a new Government. We can't
allow them to throw the Emperor out,
so we need a scapegoat. This time, it
happened to be your father, here. He
happened to be Prime at a crucial
time, and he had to give orders that
made him unpopular. So he'll have to
get out, and let the Loyal Opposition
take over. But the Emperor will go
right on running things.
"Your father is far from unnecessary,
son. He's a hero, dammit, and
you'd better remember that! He's
taking the rap for another man because
he knows that he is expendable
and the other man isn't.
"Oh, your father could probably
ride this thing out and stay in the
Primacy for a couple more years. But
this mess with the Federation is going
to get a lot stickier than it is now.
The Emperor is going to have to do
things that the people will hate even
worse, and we might as well let that
fool Evondering take the rap. He'll
look so bad by the time he leaves the
Primacy that everyone will be screaming
for your father back again, to
clean up the mess."
Jon Senesin still looked dazed.
"But, if that's the case, why allow the
people to vote at all?"
"Because that's the only way you
can keep an Empire stable! As long
as the average man feels he has a
voice in his Government, he's forced
to admit that any failures are partly
his own fault. Nobody rebels against
a government he can vote against. As
long as he has ballots, he won't use
Lord Senesin said: "I know it's a
shock, coming this way. But look at it
"I am," said Jon slowly. "At least,
I think I am. But it doesn't really
seem right. Not yet." He looked at the
colonel. "One thing I don't understand,
my lord. Why did you let me
take all that evidence around to the
newsies? And why are you telling me
all this now? I'm still not fully convinced.
Aren't you afraid I'll tell the
But it was his father who answered.
"You tried that, son. It didn't work,
"No. But why? Why wouldn't they
believe me, even when I had all that
"Because they don't want to believe
you," said the colonel. "Ever hear of
a father-image? The Emperor is a
symbol, Jon. He's not a human being
in the eyes of the average man. He's
the kind All-Father, the godlike being
who dispenses mercy, but not justice.
"Haven't you ever noticed that orders
of judgment against criminals are
signed only by the courts and by the
Portfolio of the Interior? But pardons
and paroles are signed by the Emperor.
"It may not sound ethical to you,
but that's the way the Emperor has to
operate. He takes credit for all the
nice things he does, and lets others
take the blame for anything that's
"You could blat it around all over
fifty star systems that the Emperor
was a louse, and all you'd get is a
poke in the eye for your troubles.
"It's not easy for him, and don't
ever kid yourself that it is. He's going
out there now to tell the Empire that
your father and his Government have
resigned. He has to try to make his
best friend and most loyal subject look
a little less black than he has been
painted, and all the time it was the
Emperor who wielded the paint gun.
Do you think that's fun?"
"No," said Jon softly. "No, I guess
not." He paused. "Wouldn't it have
been easier to take the evidence away
from me, though?"
"No. That would have left you furious.
No amount of talking would
have convinced you. As it was, you
convinced yourself that there is no
way to attack the Emperor directly.
He's safe right where he is."
Jon shook his head slowly. "It all
seems so ... so tangled. It still seems
as though the whole deception is ...
well, wrong, somehow."
"If you look at it in a certain way,"
said Lord Senesin, "I suppose it does
seem wrong. But it's necessary. Absolutely
"Maybe," said Jon, still unconvinced.
"It certainly does look as
though His Majesty has himself in an
almost impregnable position. It's a
wonder he needs agents like you."
Colonel Lord Barrick Sorban
smiled a little. The boy would see the
thing straight eventually. He had what
it took, even if it didn't show much
at this stage. Actually, he was more
than halfway convinced now, but
wouldn't admit it to himself yet. At
least he'd been able to put a finger
on one thing.
Aloud, the colonel said: "You're
not altogether wrong there, son.
When you come right down to it, I'm
the unnecessary man."
Produced by Greg Weeks, Stephen Blundell and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
This etext was produced from Astounding Science Fiction November
1959. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and
typographical errors have been corrected without note.