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"Narvi," Thesa put in quickly. "The crash! He was lucky to get out of it
alive. Maybe he can't remember what went on. That right, Lors?"
Nick stared at them and foggy pictures swung vaguely into his mind.
Galaxies of stars whirled about, silver ships streaking in the sky and
tiny points of light whipping across ochre deserts. Men in blue uniforms
drilling beneath a violet sky in the heat of a solar wafer splotched
above them. It was real! The fears he had had, the crazy alternative
that the dreams presented to him ... it was all real.
"It wasn't a dream," Nick muttered, shaking his head like a punch-drunk
fighter. "I really am Firstspacer Lors! And I know you! I know you!"
"Take it easy, boy," Narvi said softly. "You've had a bad time. I might
have known you _couldn't_ report to us. Thesa, get some water! He looks
as though he's going to pass out!"
"I'm all right, I'm all right." He looked at Narvi and the memories, at
least a few of them, came fluttering into place. The temporary amnesia
slipped aside and the veil began to rise.
"You're sure you're all right, Lors?"
"Yes, Narvi. Things are beginning to make sense. Tell me about what I'm
Narvi cursed angrily. "Commander Imry, the stupid thistlebug! It's all
his fault! All this fouled up thing is his doing. It would have been bad
enough even without your ship crashing; that just added to it. Luckily,
Imry has been ordered back. Someone back home heard of his idiotic plan
and the government is yelling for his hide."
"What plan? I ... can't..."
Thesa came in with a glass of water and handed it to Lors, who sipped at
it slowly while the big blond explained things to him. While Narvi
talked, it all began to come into sharp focus in his mind.
"After you and I finished campaigning on Darkkan and Thista, we applied
for assignment in this galaxy. They wanted to split us up, at first,"
Narvi grinned, "but we got mad, so they left us together and we were
shipped here under old Commander Imry. After a couple of years, Terran
time, studying on Mars we became agents on this planet. I got an easy
one here with Thesa, but Imry had bigger plans for you. Damn him!"
"But why are we spying on these people, Narvi? For war?"
"I hope not. The Terrans are getting close to space travel, and you know
what that would do to our colonies in this galaxy. They're entering a
primitive Atomic civilization and they're like little children playing
with weapons. Oh, they're serious enough, but they're so damned careless
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