that? Because of Vara Liso. She first detected this girl in a Dahlite market a week ago. A prime candidate, she thought. I should send Vara Liso with you on your rounds now, just to refine the hunt.”
The major said nothing, merely stood at parade rest, eyesfixed on the opposite wall. His Adam’s apple bobbed. Sinter could read the man well enough without seeing into his mind; the major did not much believe all this, and knew little or nothing of Vara Liso.
“Can you find her for me, without Vara Liso’s aid?”
“With sufficient numbers of officers, we can find her in two or three days. My small crew, by itself, would probably take two or three weeks. Dahl is not in a cooperative mood right now, sir.”
“No, I suppose not. Well, find her, but do not attempt to arrest her or attract her attention in any way. You would fail, as her kind has made so many others fail…”
“Tell me what she does, whom she sees. When I give you the order, you will shoot her with a large-bore kinetic-energy gun, from a distance, in the head. Understood?”
“As you have so faithfully done before.”
“Then you will bring her body to me. Not to the criminalists, but to me, my private chambers. Enough, Major.”
“Sir.” Major Namm departed.
Sinter did not much trust the competence of any police, in any Sector. They could be bribed easily enough, yet Sinter’s extended police patrols had not yet managed to bring down one robot; all of their targeted individuals had been humans, after all. The robots had deceived them very cleverly.
But Klia Asgar…a young girl, in form at least. How did a robot manage to appear to grow? There were so many mysteries Sinter looked forward to solving.
Brain fever’s effect on curiosity, and on civilization in general, was not the most interesting of those mysteries, not at all. No mystery at all. Sinter strongly suspected that robots had created the disease, perhaps millennia before, after their banishment from the worlds of humans—their goal to subtlyreduce intellectual capacity, creating an Empire that so seldom rebelled against the Center…
His mind whirled at the implications. So many suspicions, so many theories!
With a small, intent smile, Sinter lost himself in speculation for several minutes, then went to the desktop informer to look up the name of the largest world in the Galaxy.
Sinter had never had brain fever, himself; had somehow escaped it, despite having an above-normal intelligence. He was eternally curious.
And completely human. Farad Sinter had x-ray images taken at least twice a year to prove that fact to himself.
The largest inhabited world in the Galaxy was Nak, a gas-giant circling a star in the Hallidon Province. It was four million kilometers wide.
Now he had other matters to consider. He stood before his desk—he never sat while working—and scrolled through the briefs supplied to him by the informer. There was a stink rising over reassignment of ships to Sarossa, following the probable loss of the Spear of Glory . He could almost smell Linge Chen behind the growing public indignation. Yet that had actually been Klayus’s doing, almost entirely. Sinter had gone along to allow the boy some sense of purpose.
Chen was a very intelligent man.
Sinter wondered if Chen had ever had brain fever…
Lost in thought, he sat for five minutes as the briefs filed past, ignoring them. He had more than enough time to deal with Commissioner Chen.
Mors Planch, in his fifty years of service to the Empire (and to his own ends), had watched things go from bad to worse with grim calm. Not much upset him, on the surface; he was quietand soft-spoken and used to carrying out extraordinary missions, but he never thought he would be called upon—by Linge Chen, no less—to do something so mundane as go looking for a lost starship. And a survey vessel, at that!
He stood on the steel balcony suspended above the Central