The novel is set in 1963, eighteen years following the end of the alternate World War II shown in the Worldwar series. Earl Warren is President of the United States, Vyacheslav Molotov is the Premier of the Soviet Union, and Heinrich Himmler leads Nazi Germany. At the start of the novel, the colonization fleet of the Race enters the Solar System, bringing with them, forty million colonists for settling on Earth. As the fleet enters Earth orbit, a human satellite unleashes a nuclear attack that kills millions. As Germany, the USSR, and the United States each have large-scale space capability, either nation may have been responsible for the attack. In addition, while there is peace between the independent human nations and the Race, Mao Zedong and Ruhollah Khomeini continue to lead popular resistance to the invaders in China and the Middle East, respectively. Meanwhile, the Race colonists, who expected to encounter an Earth that was already conquered with the natives still at medieval levels of advancement, have to deal with the consequences of the cold war with the humans. The fleet brings with it not only the first civilians, but also the first Race females, both of which cause tension among the male soldiers who formed the invasion force. To the Race males, ginger is a euphoric drug; to the females, it causes them to go into estrous, resulting in wide-scale social implications.

Harry Turtledove

Second Contact

(Colonization — 1)


Atvar, the commander of the Race’s conquest fleet, poked a control with a fingerclaw. A holographic image sprang into being above the projector in the fleetlord’s office. In the forty years since the conquest fleet came to Tosev 3 (half that many local years), he had grown all too intimately familiar with that particular image.

So had Kirel, shiplord of the 127th Emperor Hetto, the bannership of the conquest fleet. The body paint on his scaly, green-brown hide was more ornate than every other male’s save only Atvar’s. His mouth fell open in amusement, revealing a great many small, sharp teeth. A slight waggle to his lower jaw gave his laughter a sardonic twist.

“Once more we behold the mighty Tosevite warrior, eh, Exalted Fleetlord?” he said. He ended the sentence with an interrogative cough.

“Even so, Shiplord,” Atvar answered. “Even so. He does not look as if he would cause us much trouble, does he?”

“By the Emperor, no,” Kirel said. Both Atvar and he swiveled their turreted eyes so they looked down at the ground for a moment: a gesture of respect for the sovereign back on distant Home.

As Atvar had done so many times before, he walked around the hologram to view it from all sides. The Tosevite male was mounted on a hairy local quadruped. He wore a tunic of rather rusty chain armor, and over it a light cloth coat. A pointed iron helmet protected his braincase. Tufts of yellowish hair grew like dry grass on his scaleless, pinkish cheeks and jaw. For armament, he had a spear, a sword, a knife, and a shield with a cross painted in red on it.

A long, hissing sigh escaped Atvar. “If only it had been as easy as we thought it would be.”

“Truth, Exalted Fleetlord,” Kirel said. “Who would have thought the Big Uglies”-the nickname the Race used for its Tosevite subjects and neighbors-“could have changed so much in a mere sixteen hundred years?”

“No one,” Atvar said. “No one at all.” He used a different cough this time, one that emphasized the words preceding it. They deserved emphasis. The Race-and the Hallessi and Rabotevs, whose planets the Empire had ruled for thousands of years-changed only very slowly, only very cautiously. For the Race, one millennium was like another. After sending a probe to Tosev 3, everyone back on Home had blithely assumed the barbarians there would not have changed much by the time the conquest fleet arrived.

Never in its hundred thousand years of unified imperial history-and never in the chaotic times before, for that matter-had the Race got a larger and more unpleasant surprise. When the conquest fleet did reach Tosev 3, it found not sword-swinging savages but a highly industrialized world with several empires and not-empires battling one another for dominance.

“Even after all these years, there are times when I still feel rage that we did not completely conquer this planet,” Atvar said. “But, on the other fork of the tongue, there are also times when I feel nothing but relief that we still maintain control over any part of its surface.”

“I understand, Exalted Fleetlord,” Kirel said.

“I know you do, Shiplord. I am glad you do,” Atvar said. “But I do wonder if anyone back on Home truly understands. I have the dubious distinction of commanding the first interstellar conquest fleet in the history of the Race that did not conquer completely. That is not how I intended hatchlings to remember me.”

“Conditions here were not as we anticipated them,” Kirel said loyally. He’d had his chances to be disloyal, had them and not taken them. By now, Atvar was willing to believe he wouldn’t. He went on, “Do you not agree that there is a certain amount of irony in the profit we have made off the Tosevites by selling them this image and others from the probe? Their own scholars desire those photographs because they have none of their own from what seems to them to be a distant and uncivilized time.”

“Irony? Yes, that is one of the words I might apply to the situation-one of the politer words,” Atvar said. He went back to his desk and prodded the control again. The Tosevite warrior vanished. He wished he could make all the Tosevites vanish that easily, but no such luck. He replaced the warrior’s image with a map of the surface of Tosev 3.

By his standards, it was a chilly world, with too much water and not enough land. Of what land there was, the Race did not rule enough. Only the southern half of the lesser continental mass, the southwest and south of the main continental mass, and the island continent to the southeast of the main continental mass were reassuringly red on the map. The not-empires of the Americans, the Russkis, and the Deutsche all remained independent, and needed colors of their own. So did the island empires of Britain and Nippon, though both of them were shrunken remnants of what they had been when the conquest fleet came to Tosev 3.

Kirel also turned one eye toward the map, while keeping the other on Atvar. “Truly, Exalted Fleetlord, it could be worse.”

“So it could,” Atvar said with another sigh. “But it could also be a great deal better. It would be a great deal better if these areas here on the eastern part of the main continental mass, especially this one called China, acknowledged our rule as they should.”

“I have long since concluded that the Big Uglies never do things as they should,” Kirel said.

“I agree completely,” the fleetlord replied. His little tailstump twitched in agitation. “But how are we to convince the fleetlord of the colonization fleet that this is the case?”

Now Kirel sighed. “I do not know. He lacks our experience with this world. Once he acquires it, he will, I am sure, come round to our way of thinking. But we must expect him to be rigid for a time.”

Back on Home, rigid was a term of praise. It had been a term of praise when the conquest fleet came to Tosev 3, too. No more. Males of the Race who stayed too rigid stood not a chance of understanding the Big Uglies. By the standards of Home, the males of the conquest fleet-those who still survived-had grown dreadfully flighty.

Males… Atvar said, “It will be good to have females in range of the scent receptors on my tongue once more. When they come into season and I smell their pheromones, I will have an excuse for not thinking about this accursed world for a while. I look forward to having the excuse, you understand, not to the breeding itself.”

“Of course, Exalted Fleetlord,” Kirel said primly. “You are no Big Ugly, to have such matters always on your mind.”

“I should hope not!” Atvar exclaimed. Like any other member of the Race, he viewed Tosevite sexuality with a sort of horrified fascination. Intellectually, he grasped how the Big Uglies’ year-round interest in mating colored every aspect of their behavior. But he had no feel for the subtleties, or indeed for what the Big Uglies no doubt viewed as broad strokes. Despite intensive research, few males of the Race did, any more than the Tosevites could understand the Race’s dispassionate view of such matters.

Pshing, Atvar’s adjutant, came into the chamber. One side of his body was painted in a pattern that matched the fleetlord’s; the other showed his own, far lower, rank. He bent his forward-sloping torso into the posture of respect and waited to be noticed.

“Speak,” Atvar said. “Give forth.”

“I thank you, Exalted Fleetlord,” Pshing said. “I beg leave to report that the lead ships of the colonization fleet have passed within the orbit of Tosev 4, the planet the Big Uglies call Mars. Very soon now, those ships will seek to circle and land on this world.”

“I am aware of this, yes.” Atvar’s voice was even drier than the desert surrounding the riverside city-Cairo, the local name for it was-where he made his headquarters. “Is my distinguished colleague in the colonization fleet aware that the Tosevites, for all their protestations of peaceful intent, may seek to harm his ships when they do reach Tosev 3?”

“Fleetlord Reffet continues to assure me that he is,” Pshing replied. “He was quite taken aback to receive radio transmissions from the various Tosevite not-empires.”

“He should not have been,” Atvar said. “We have been warning him for some time of the Big Uglies’ ever-increasing capacities.”

Kirel said, “Exalted Fleetlord, he will have to learn by experience, as we also had to do. Let us hope his experience proves less painful than ours.”

“Indeed.” Atvar let out a worried hiss. His voice grew grim: “And let us hope all the Tosevites take seriously our warning to them that an attack on the colonization fleet by any of them will be construed as an attack by all of them, and that we shall do our utmost to punish all of them should any such attack occur.”

“I wish we had not had to issue such a warning,” Kirel said.

“So do I,” Atvar replied. “But at least four and perhaps five of their realms possess missile-firing undersea ships-who back on Home would have dreamt of such things?”

“Oh, I understand the problem,” Kirel said. “But the general warning all but invites the Tosevites to combine against us and to reduce their conflicts among themselves.”

“Diplomacy.” Atvar made the word into a curse. Manuals on the subject, their data gleaned from the Race’s ancient history and early conquests, suggested playing the locals against one another. But, to Atvar and his colleagues, such concerns were but theory, and musty theory at that. The Big Uglies, divided among themselves, were expert practitioners of the art. After a negotiating session with them, Atvar always wanted to count his fingers and toes to make sure he hadn’t inadvertently traded them away.

Pshing said, “When the colonists are revived from cold sleep, when they come down to Tosev 3, we will begin to turn this into a proper world of the Empire.”

“I admire your confidence, Adjutant,” Kirel said. Pshing crouched respectfully. Kirel went on, “I wonder what the colonists will make of us. We are hardly proper males of the Race ourselves any more-dealing with the Tosevites for so long has left us as addled as bad eggs.”

“We have changed,” Atvar agreed. Back on Home, that would have been a curse. Not here, though he had taken a long time to realize it. “Had we not changed, our war with the Big Uglies would have wrecked this planet, and what would the colonization fleet have done then?”

Not a single male on Tosev 3 had found an answer to that question. Atvar was sure Reffet would have no answer for it, either. But he was also sure the fleetlord of the colonization fleet would have questions of his own. Would he himself, would any male on Tosev 3, be able to find answers for them?

The pitcher windmilled into his delivery. The runner took off from first base. The batter hit a sharp ground ball to short. The shortstop gobbled it up and fired it over to first. The softball slapped Sam Yeager’s mitt, beating the runner to the bag by a step and a half. The umpire had hustled up from behind home plate. “You’re out!” he yelled, and threw his fist in the air.

“That’s the ballgame,” Yeager said happily. “Another win for the good guys.” He tacked on an emphatic cough for good measure.

“Nice game, Major,” the pitcher said. “A homer and a double-I guess we’ll take that.”

“Thanks, Eddie,” Yeager said, chuckling. “I can still get around on a softball.” He was in his mid-fifties, and in good shape for his mid-fifties, but he couldn’t hit a baseball for beans any more. It irked him; he’d been in his eighteenth season of minor-league ball when the Lizards came, and he’d kept playing as much and as long as he could after going into the Army.

He rolled the softball toward the chicken-wire dugout in back of first base. He’d been an outfielder when he played for money, but he couldn’t cover the ground out there any more, either, so nowadays he played first. He could still catch and he could still throw.

A couple of guys from the other team came over and shook his hand. They’d been playing just for the fun of playing. He’d had fun, too-he wouldn’t have put on spikes if he didn’t have fun-but he’d gone out there to win. Playing for money for all those years had ingrained that in him.

Up in the wooden bleachers behind the wire fence, Barbara clapped her hands along with the other wives and girlfriends. Sam doffed his cap and bowed. His wife made a face at him. That wasn’t why he put the cap back on in a hurry, though. He was getting thin on top, and Southern California summer sunshine was no joke. He’d sunburned his scalp a couple of times, but he intended never, ever, to do it again.

“Head for Jose’s!” Win or lose, that cry rang out after a game. Winning would make the tacos and beer even better. Sam and Barbara piled into their Buick and drove over to the restaurant. It was only a few blocks from the park.

The Buick ran smoothly and quietly. Like more and more cars every year, it burned hydrogen, not gasoline-technology borrowed from the Lizards. Sam coughed when he got stuck behind an old gas-burner that poured out great gray clouds of stinking exhaust. “Ought to be a law against those miserable things,” he complained.

Barbara nodded. “They’ve outlived their usefulness, that’s certain.” She spoke with the precision of someone who’d done graduate work in English. Yeager minded his p’s and q’s more closely than he would have had he not been married to someone like her.

At Jose’s, the team hashed over the game. Sam was ten years older than anybody else and the only one who’d ever played pro ball, so his opinions carried weight. His opinion in other areas carried weight, too; Eddie, the pitcher, said, “You deal with the Lizards all the time, Major. What’s it going to be like when that big fleet gets here?”

“Can’t know for sure till it does get here,” Yeager answered. “If you want to know what I think, I think it’ll be the biggest day since the conquest fleet came down. We’re all doing our best to make sure it isn’t the bloodiest day since the conquest fleet came down, too.”

Eddie nodded, accepting that. Barbara raised an eyebrow-just a little, so only Sam noticed. She saw the logical flaw the young pitcher missed. If all of mankind wanted the colonization fleet to land peacefully, that would happen. But no one on this side of the Atlantic could guess what Molotov or Himmler might do till he did it-if he did it. And the Nazis and the Reds-and the Lizards-would be worrying about President Warren, too.

After Sam finished his glass of Burgermeister, Barbara said, “I don’t want to rush you too much, but we did tell Jonathan we’d be home when he got back.”

“Okay.” Yeager got up, set a couple of bucks on the table to cover food and drink, and said his goodbyes. Everybody-including Jose from behind the counter-waved when he and Barbara took off.

They lived over in Gardena, one of the suburbs on the west side of L.A. that had burgeoned since the end of the fighting. When they got out of the car, Barbara remarked, as she often did, “Cooler here.”

“It’s the sea breeze,” Sam answered, as he often did. Then he plucked at his flannel uniform top. “It may be cooler, but it’s not that cool. I’m going to hop in the shower, is what I’m going to do.”

“That would be a very good idea, I think,” Barbara said. Yeager stuck out his tongue at her. They both laughed, comfortable with each other. Why not? Sam thought. They’d been together since late 1942, only a few months after the conquest fleet arrived. Had the Lizards not come, they never would have met. Sam didn’t like thinking about that; Barbara was the best thing that had ever happened to him.

To keep from dwelling on might-have-beens, he hurried into the house. Photographs in the hallway that led to the bathroom marked the highlights of his career: him in dress uniform just after being promoted from sergeant to lieutenant; him weightless, wearing olive-drab undershirt and trousers, aboard an orbiting Lizard spaceship-overheated by human standards-as he helped dicker a truce after a flare-up; him in a spacesuit on the pitted surface of the moon; him in captain’s uniform, standing between Robert Heinlein and Theodore Sturgeon.

He grinned at that last one, which he sometimes had to explain to guests. If he hadn’t been reading the science-fiction pulps, and especially Astounding, he never would have become a specialist in Lizard-human relations. Having been overrun by fact, science fiction wasn’t what it had been before the Lizards came, but it still had some readers and some writers, and he’d never been a man to renounce his roots.

He showered quickly, shaved even more quickly, and put on a pair of chinos and a yellow cotton short-sleeved sport shirt. When he got a beer from the refrigerator, Barbara gave him a piteous look, so he handed it to her and grabbed another one for himself.

He’d just taken his first sip when the door opened. “I’m home!” Jonathan called.

“We’re in the kitchen,” Yeager said.

Jonathan hurried in. At eighteen, he hurried everywhere. “I’m hungry,” he said, and added an emphatic cough.

“Make yourself a sandwich,” Barbara said crisply. “I’m your mother, not your waitress, even if you do have trouble remembering it.”

“Take your tongue out of the ginger jar, Mom. I will,” Jonathan said, a piece of slang that wouldn’t have meant a thing before the Lizards came. He wore only shorts that closely matched his suntanned hide. Across that hide were the bright stripes and patterns of Lizard-style body paint.

“You’ve promoted yourself,” Sam remarked. “Last week, you were a landcruiser driver, but now you’re an infantry small-unit group leader-a lieutenant, more or less.”

Jonathan paused with his salami sandwich half built. “The old pattern was getting worn,” he answered with a shrug. “The paints you can buy aren’t nearly as good as the ones the Lizards-”

“Nearly so good,” his mother broke in, precise as usual.

“Nearly so good, then,” Jonathan said, and shrugged again. “They aren’t, and so I washed them off and put on this new set. I like it better, I think-brighter.”

“Okay.” Sam shrugged, too. People his son’s age took the Lizards for granted in a way he never could. The youngsters didn’t know what the world had been like before the conquest fleet came. They didn’t care, either, and laughed at their elders for waxing nostalgic about it. Recalling his own youth, Sam did his best to be patient. It wasn’t always easy. Before he could stop himself, he asked, “Did you really have to shave your head?”

That flicked a nerve, where talk about body paint hadn’t. Jonathan turned, sliding a hand over the smooth and shining dome of his skull. “Why shouldn’t I?” he asked, the beginning of an angry rumble in his voice. “It’s the hot thing to do these days.”

Along with body paint, it made people look as much like Lizards as they could. Hot was a term of approval because the Lizards liked heat. The Lizards liked ginger, too, but that was a different story.

Sam ran a hand through his own thinning hair. “I’m going bald whether I want to or not, and I don’t. I guess I have trouble understanding why anybody who’s got hair would want to cut it all off.”

“It’s hot,” Jonathan repeated, as if that explained everything. To him, no doubt, it did. His voice lost some of that belligerent edge as he realized his father wasn’t insisting that he let his hair grow, only talking about it. When he didn’t feel challenged, he could be rational enough.

He took an enormous bite from his sandwich. He was three or four inches taller than Sam-over six feet instead of under-and broader through the shoulders. By the way he ate, he should have been eleven feet tall and seven feet wide.

His second bite was even bigger than the first. He was still chewing when the telephone rang. “That’s got to be Karen!” he said with his mouth full, and dashed away.

Barbara and Sam shared looks of mingled amusement and alarm. “In my day, girls didn’t call boys like that,” Barbara said. “In my day, girls didn’t shave their heads, either. Go on, call me a fuddy-duddy.”

“You’re my fuddy-duddy,” Sam said fondly. He slipped an arm around her waist and gave her a quick kiss.

“I’d better be,” Barbara said. “I’m glad I am, too, because there are so many more distractions now. In my day, even if there had been body paint, girls wouldn’t have been so thorough about wearing it as boys are-and if they had been, they’d have been arrested for indecent exposure.”

“Things aren’t the same as they used to be,” Sam allowed. His eyes twinkled. “I might call that a change for the better, though.”

Barbara elbowed him in the ribs. “Of course you might. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with you, though. And”-she lowered her voice so Jonathan wouldn’t hear-“I’m glad Karen isn’t one of the ones who do.”

“Well, so am I,” Sam said, although with a sigh that earned him another pointed elbow. “Jonathan and his pals are a lot more used to skin than I am. I’d stare like a fool if she came over dressed-or not dressed-that way.”

“And then you’d tell me you were just reading what her rank was,” Barbara said. “You’d think I love you enough to believe a whopper like that. And you know what?” She poked him again. “You might even be right.”

Felless had not expected to wake in weightlessness. For a moment, staring up at the fluorescent lights overhead, she wondered if something had gone wrong with the ship. Then, thinking more slowly than she should have because of the lingering effects of cold sleep, she realized how foolish that was. Had something gone wrong with the ship, she would never have awakened at all.

Two people floated into view. One, by her body paint, was a physician. The other… Weak and scatterbrained as Felless was, she gave a startled hiss. “Exalted Fleetlord!” she exclaimed. She heard her own voice as if from far away.

Fleetlord Reffet spoke not to her but to the physician: “She recognizes me, I see. Is she capable of real work?”

“We would not have summoned you here, Exalted Fleetlord, were she incapable,” the physician replied. “We understand the value of your time.”

“Good,” Reffet said. “That is a concept the males down on the surface of Tosev 3 seem to have a great deal of trouble grasping.” He swung one of his eye turrets to bear on Felless. “Senior Researcher, are you prepared to begin your duties at once?”

“Exalted Fleetlord, I am,” Felless replied. Now the voice her hearing diaphragms caught seemed more like her own. Antidotes and restoratives were routing the drugs that had kept her just this side of death on the journey from Home to Tosev 3. Curiosity grew along with bodily well-being. “May I ask why I have been awakened prematurely?”

“You may,” Reffet said, and then, in an aside to the physician, “You were right. Her wits are clear.” He gave his attention back to Felless. “You have been awakened because conditions on Tosev 3 are not as we anticipated they would be when we set out from Home.”

That was almost as great a surprise as waking prematurely. “In what way, Exalted Fleetlord?” Felless tried to make her wits work harder. “Does this planet harbor some bacterium or virus for which we have had difficulty in finding a cure?” Such a thing hadn’t happened on either Rabotev 2 or Halless 1, but remained a theoretical possibility.

“No,” Reffet replied. “The difficulty lies in the natives themselves. They are more technically advanced than our probe indicated. You being the colonization fleet’s leading expert on relations between the Race and other species, I judged it expedient to rouse you and put you to work before we make planetfall. If you need assistance, give us names, and we shall also wake as many of your subordinates and colleagues as you may require.”

Felless tried to lever herself off the table on which she lay. Straps restrained her: a sensible precaution on the physician’s part. As she fumbled with the catches, she asked, “How much more advanced were they than we expected? Enough to make the conquest significantly harder, I gather.”

“Indeed.” Reffet added an emphatic cough. “When the conquest fleet arrived, they were engaged in active research on jet aircraft, on guided missiles, and on nuclear fission.”

“That is impossible!” Felless blurted. Then, realizing what she’d said, she added, “I beg the Exalted Fleetlord’s pardon.”

“Senior Researcher, I freely give it to you,” Reffet replied. “When the colonization fleet began receiving data from Tosev 3, my first belief was that Atvar, the fleetlord on the conquest fleet, was playing an elaborate joke on us-jerking our tailstumps, as the saying has it. I have since been disabused of this belief. I wish I had not been, for it strikes me as far more palatable than the truth.”

“But-But-” Felless knew she was stuttering, and made herself pause to gather her thoughts. “If that is true, Exalted Fleetlord, I count it something of a marvel that… that the conquest did not fail.” Such a thought would have been unimaginable back on Home. It should have been unimaginable here, too. That she’d imagined it proved it wasn’t.

Reffet said, “In part, Senior Researcher, the conquest did fail. There are still unsubdued Tosevite empires-actually, the term the conquest fleet consistently uses is not-empires, which I do not altogether understand-on the surface of Tosev 3, along with areas the Race has in fact conquered. Nor have the Tosevites ceased their technical progress in the eyeblink of time since the conquest fleet arrived. I am warned that only a threat of retaliatory violence from the conquest fleet has kept them from mounting attacks on this colonization fleet.”

Felless felt far dizzier than she would have from weightlessness and sudden revival from cold sleep alone. She finally managed to free herself from the restraining straps and gently push off from the table. “Take me to a terminal at once, if you would be so kind. Have you an edited summary of the data thus far transmitted from the conquest fleet?”

“We have,” Reffet said. “I hope you will find it adequate, Senior Researcher. It was prepared by fleet officers who are not specialists in your area of expertise. We have, of course, provided links to the fuller documentation sent up from Tosev 3.”

“If you will come with me, superior female…” the physician said. She swung rapidly from one handhold to another. Felless followed.

She had to strap herself into the chair in front of the terminal to keep the ventilating current from blowing her off it. Getting back to work felt good. She wished she could have waited till reaching the surface of Tosev 3 for reawakening; that would have been as planned back on Home, and plans were made to be followed. But she would do the best she could here.

And, as she called up the summary, a curious blend of anticipation and dread coursed through her. Wild Tosevites… What would dealing with wild Tosevites be like? She’d expected the locals to be well on their way toward assimilation into the Empire by now. Even then, they would have been different from the Hallessi and the Rabotevs, who but for their looks were as much subjects of the Emperor (even thinking of her sovereign made Felless cast down her eyes) as were the males and females of the Race.

A male in body paint like Reffet’s appeared on the screen in front of her. “Welcome to Tosev 3,” he said in tones anything but welcoming. “This is a world of paradox. If you were expecting anything here to be as it was back on Home, you will be disappointed. You may very well be dead. The only thing you may safely expect on Tosev 3 is the unexpected. I daresay you who listen to this will not believe me. Were I new-come from Home, I would not believe such words, either. Before rejecting them out of claw, examine the evidence.”

A slowly spinning globe of Tosev 3 appeared on the screen. Something over half the land area was red, the rest a variety of other colors. The red, the legend by the globe explained, showed that area of the planet the Race controlled. The other colors, which dominated the northern hemisphere, showed areas where the natives still ruled themselves.

After Felless had just long enough to soak in the significance of that, the colors faded, leaving the land areas in more or less their natural colors. Glowing dots, some red, some blue, appeared here and there. “Red dots show explosive-metal weapons detonated by the Race, blue dots those detonated by the Tosevites,” a voice said.

Felless let out a slow, horrified hiss. About as many dots glowed blue as red. Atvar’s head and torso reappeared on the screen. “Judging that continuing the war for total conquest might well render this planet useless to the colonization fleet, we entered into negotiations with the Tosevite not-empires possessing explosive-metal weapons, conceding their independence in exchange for a cessation of hostilities,” the leader of the conquest fleet said. “On the whole-there have been certain unpleasant exceptions-peace between the Race and the Tosevites and among the Tosevite factions has prevailed for the past thirty-four years-seventeen of this planet’s revolutions, which are just over twice as long as ours. I freely admit it is not the sort of peace I would have desired. There were, however, many times when I thought it was more than I would ever get. See for yourself what we faced even at the beginning of our struggle against the Tosevites.”

His image faded, to be replaced by those of landcruisers of obviously alien manufacture. The tracked and armored fortresses were not a match for those of the Race, but the barbarous inhabitants of Tosev 3, by everything Felless knew, should not have been able to build landcruisers at all.

“Three years later, we were facing these,” Atvar said.

New landcruisers replaced those formerly on the screen. They looked more formidable. Their specifications said they were more formidable. They carried more armor and bigger guns and had more powerful engines. They still didn’t match the machines the Race used, but they were getting closer.

“Three years,” Felless said in almost disbelieving wonder-one and a half of Tosev 3’s years. The later-model landcruisers looked to be separated from the earlier ones by a couple of hundred years of slow development. On Home, they would have been.

Tosevite aircraft showed the same astonishing leap in technical prowess. The natives had gone from machines propelled by rotating airfoils to jets and rocket-powered killercraft in what amounted to the flick of a nictitating membrane across an eye.

“How?” Felless murmured. “How could they have done such a thing?”

As if answering her, Atvar said, “Explanations for the Tosevites’ extraordinary proficiency fall into two main areas, which may or may not be mutually exclusive: the geographical and the biological. Oceans and mountains break up Tosevite land masses in ways unknown on other worlds of the Empire, fostering the formation of small, competitive groups.” The globe reappeared, this time splotched in ways that struck Felless as absurdly complex. “These were the political divisions on Tosev 3 at the time the conquest fleet arrived.”

Atvar continued, “Reproductive biology among the Tosevites is unlike that of any other intelligent race we know, and has profound effects on their society. Females are, or can be, continually receptive; males are, or can be, continually active. This leads to pair-bondings and…” He went on for some time.

Long before he’d finished, Felless hissed out a single word: “Disgusting.” She wondered how so aberrant a species had ever developed intelligence, let alone a technology that let it challenge the Race.

At last, and very much to her relief, the fleetlord of the conquest fleet chose another topic. She listened until Atvar finished, “This conquest, if it is to be accomplished, will be a matter for generations, not days as was anticipated when we left Home. The landing of the colonization fleet and settlement of the colonists will greatly aid in integrating the independent not-empires into the larger structure of the Empire. Exposure to proper examples cannot help but lead the Big Uglies”-by then, Felless had gathered that was the conquest fleet’s nickname for the Tosevites-“to emulate the high example that will be placed before them.” His image vanished from the screen.

Felless turned to Reffet. “You were right to rouse me, Exalted Fleetlord. This will be a more challenging problem than anyone could have anticipated-and, no doubt, the conquest fleet has made its share of mistakes in dealing with these bizarre Tosevites.” She let out a hissing sigh. “I can see I shall have my work cut out for me.”

Without false modesty, Vyacheslav Molotov knew himself to be one of the three most powerful men on the face of the Earth. Without false self-aggrandizement, he knew Atvar, the Lizards’ fleetlord, was more powerful than he or Heinrich Himmler or Earl Warren. What had not been obvious over the past two crowded decades was whether Atvar was more powerful than the leaders of the USSR, the Greater German Reich, and the USA put together.

But soon, very soon, the Lizards’ colonization fleet would bring millions more of their kind, males and females both, to Earth. Even though the fleet was entirely civilian-the Lizards had not anticipated needing more military help when it left their home world-it would tilt the scales in their direction. It could hardly do anything else.

As he sat in his Kremlin office, Molotov did not show what he was thinking. He had reached the top of the Soviet hierarchy, succeeding Iosif Stalin as general secretary of the Communist Party, not least by never showing what he was thinking. His stone face-poker face was the American idiom, which he rather liked- had also served him well in dealing with foreigners and with the Lizards.

His own secretary stuck his head into the office. “Comrade General Secretary, the foreign commissar has arrived.”

“Very well, Pyotr Maksimovich, send him in,” Molotov answered. He glanced at his wristwatch as the secretary disappeared. Ten o’clock on the dot. Since no one could see him do it, Molotov nodded approval. Some people understood the virtue of punctuality, however un-Russian it was.

In strode Andrei Gromyko. “Good day, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich,” he said, extending his hand.

Molotov shook it. “And to you, Andrei Andreyevich,” he said, and gestured to the chair across the desk from his own. “Sit down.” Without any further small talk, Gromyko did. Molotov thought well of the foreign commissar not least because his craggy countenance revealed almost as little as Molotov’s own.

Gromyko went straight to business, another trait of which Molotov approved: “Is there any change in our position of which I should be aware before we meet with the Lizards’ ambassador to the Soviet Union?”

“I do not believe so, no,” Molotov replied. “We remain strongly opposed to their settling colonists in Persia or Afghanistan or Kashmir or any other land near our borders.”

One of Gromyko’s shaggy eyebrows twitched. “Any other, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich?” he asked.

Molotov grunted. Gromyko had caught him fair and square. “You are correct, of course. We have no objection whatever to their colonization of Poland, however extensive that may prove.”

While withdrawing from most of their European conquests, the Lizards had stayed in Poland: neither Germany nor the USSR was willing to see it in the other’s hands, and neither was willing to see a Polish state revive. With the Lizards administering the area, it made a splendid buffer between the Soviet Union and Nazi-dominated Western Europe. Molotov was delighted to have the Lizards there. He feared the Greater German Reich, and hoped with all his heart that Himmler likewise feared the USSR.

Gromyko said, “I remind you, Comrade General Secretary, that the Lizards have consistently maintained we have no right to dictate to them where they may settle on territory they rule.”

“We are not dictating. We are not in a position to dictate, however unfortunate that may be,” Molotov said. “We are making our views known to them. We are in a position to do that. If they choose to ignore us, they show themselves to be uncultured and give us grounds for ignoring them in appropriate circumstances.”

“They are of the opinion-the strong opinion-that we ignore their views by continuing to supply weapons to progressive forces in China and Afghanistan,” Gromyko said.

“I cannot imagine why they continue to hold such an opinion,” Molotov said. “We have repeatedly denied any such involvement.”

Gromyko did own an impressive stone face, for he failed to crack a smile at that. So did Molotov. Here, as so often, denials and truth bore little relation to each other. But the Lizards had never quite been able to prove Soviet denials were false, and so the denials continued.

“A thought,” Gromyko said, raising a forefinger.

“Go on.” Molotov nodded. His neck creaked a little as he did so. He was up past seventy, his face more wrinkled than it had been when the Lizards first came to Earth, his hair thinner and almost entirely gray. Aging mattered relatively little to him; he had never been a man who relied on creating an overwhelming physical impression.

Gromyko said, “Should the Yashcheritsi offer not to settle heavily along our southern border if we truly do stop arms shipments that annoy them, how ought we to respond?”

“Ah. That is interesting, Andrei Andreyevich,” Molotov said. “Do you think they would have the imagination to propose such a bargain?” Before Gromyko could answer, Molotov went on, “If they do not, should we propose it to them?” Now he did smile, unpleasantly. “How Mao would howl!”

“So he would. Seldom have I met a man who had so much arrogance,” Gromyko said. “Hitler came close, but Hitler actually led a state, where Mao has spent the last thirty years wishing he could.”

“Even so,” Molotov agreed. He pondered. Would he sell his Chinese ideological brethren down the river to gain advantage for the Soviet Union? He did not need to ponder long. “I hope Queek does propose it; if we do so, it may suggest weakness to the Lizards. But we can raise the issue if we must. Keeping the Lizards well away from us counts for more than keeping Mao happy.”

“I agree, Comrade General Secretary,” Gromyko said. “The Lizards will not settle China in any great numbers; it already has too many people. Mao’s chief value to us is keeping the countryside unsettled, and he will do that with or without our arms.”

“A very pretty solution indeed,” Molotov said, warming up all the way to tepid. “One way or another, we shall use it.”

Molotov’s secretary came in and announced, “The ambassador from the Race and his interpreter are here.” He did not call the Lizard a Lizard, not where the said Lizard or the interpreter could hear him.

Queek skittered into Molotov’s office. He was about the size of a ten-year-old, though he seemed smaller because of his forward-slung posture. One of his eye turrets, weirdly like a chameleon’s, swiveled toward Molotov, the other toward Gromyko. Molotov could not read his body paint, but its ornateness declared his high rank.

He addressed Molotov and Gromyko in his own hissing language. The interpreter, a tall, stolid, middle-aged human, spoke good Russian with a Polish accent: “The ambassador greets you in the name of the Emperor.”

“Tell him that we greet him in return, in the name of the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union,” Molotov answered. He smiled again, down where it did not show. At his very first meeting with the Lizards, not long after their invasion, he’d had the pleasure of letting them know that the Soviets had liquidated the Tsar and his family. Their own Emperors had ruled them for fifty thousand years; the news taught them, better than anything else could have done, that they were not dealing with creatures of a familiar sort.

The interpreter hissed and squeaked and popped and coughed. Queek made similar appalling noises. Again, the interpreter translated: “The ambassador says he is not certain this meeting has any point, as he has already made it clear to the foreign commissar that your views on the settlement of the Race are unacceptable.”

Even more than the Nazis, the Lizards were convinced they were the lords of creation and everyone else their natural subjects. As he had almost twenty years before, Molotov took pleasure in reminding them they might be wrong: “If we are sufficiently provoked, we will attack the colonization fleet in space.”

“If we are sufficiently provoked, we will serve the present rulers of the Soviet Union as you butchers served your emperor,” Queek retorted. The interpreter looked as if he enjoyed translating the Lizard’s reply; Molotov wondered what grievance he held against the Soviet Union.

No time to worry about that now. Molotov said, “Whatever sacrifices are required of us, we shall make them.”

He wondered how true that was. It had certainly been true a generation before, with the Soviet people mobilized to battle first the Nazis and then the Lizards. Now, after a time of comfort, who could be sure if it still was? But the Lizards might not-he hoped they did not-know that.

Queek said, “Even after so long, I cannot understand how you Tosevites can be such madmen. You are willing to destroy yourselves, so long as you can also harm your foes.”

“This often makes our foes less eager to attack us,” Andrei Gromyko pointed out. “Sometimes we must convince people we mean what we say. Your taste for aggression, for instance, is less than it was before you encountered the determination of the Soviet people.”

By studying motion pictures of prisoners, Molotov had gained a good working knowledge of what Lizards’ gestures and motions meant. Gromyko had succeeded in alarming Queek. Molotov added, “If you expect to get good treatment from us, you must show us good treatment in return.”

That was a lesson the Lizards had had a hard time learning. It was also an invitation to dicker. Would Queek see as much? Molotov wasn’t sure. The Lizards were better diplomats now than they had been when they first came-they had more practice at the art, too. They weren’t stupid. Anyone who thought otherwise quickly paid the price. But they were naive, even more naive than Americans.

“The converse should also apply,” Queek said. “Why should we even deal with you, when you keep sending weapons to those who would overthrow our rule?”

“We deny this,” Molotov said automatically. But did Queek offer an opening? Molotov was willing to trade hint for hint: “Why should we trust you, when you plainly plan on packing the borders with your kind?”

Queek paused before replying. Was he also trying to decide whether he heard the beginnings of a deal? At last, he said, “We should have less need to rely on the Race’s military might if you did not keep provoking your surrogates against us with hopes of a triumph surely impossible.”

“Have you not seen, Ambassador, how little is impossible on this world?” Molotov said.

“We have seen this, yes: seen it to our sorrow,” Queek replied. “Were it not so, I would not be here negotiating with you. But since I am, perhaps we can discuss this matter further.”

“Perhaps we can,” Molotov said. “I have doubts as to whether it will come to anything, but perhaps we can.” He watched Queek lean forward slightly. Yes, the Lizard was serious. Molotov did not smile. Getting down to business was a capitalist phrase, but in the privacy of his own mind he used it anyway.

Ttomalss politely inclined his head. “It is a pleasure to see a new face from Home, superior female,” he said to the researcher from the colonization fleet who had come to consult with him. On the whole, he was telling the truth; he had not always got on well with the colleagues who had accompanied him in the colonization fleet, or with the Big Uglies he studied.

“In this matter, I should call you ‘superior sir,’ ” the newcomer-her name was Felless-replied. “You have the expertise. You have the experience with these Tosevites.”

More than I ever wanted, Ttomalss thought, remembering captivity in China he’d expected to lead to his death. Aloud, he said, “You are gracious,” which was also true, for Felless’ body paint showed that she outranked him.

“You have had all the time since the arrival of the conquest fleet to assimilate the implausible nature of the natives of Tosev 3,” Felless said. “To me, having to try to understand it in a matter of days-a most hasty and inefficient procedure-it seems not merely implausible but impossible.”

“This was our reaction on reaching this world, too,” Ttomalss said. “We have since had to adapt to changing conditions.” He let his mouth fall open. “Anyone on Tosev 3 who fails to adapt is ruined. We have seen that demonstrated-and most often painfully demonstrated-time and again.”

“So I gather,” Felless said. “It must have been very difficult for you. Change, after all, is an unnatural condition.”

“So I thought before leaving Home,” Ttomalss replied. “So I still think, at times, for so I was trained to think all my life. But, had we not changed, the best we could have done would have been to destroy this planet-and where would that have left you and the colonization fleet, superior female?”

Felless did not take him seriously. He could tell at a glance; he barely needed one eye turret to see it, let alone two. That saddened him, but hardly surprised him. She had the beginnings of an intellectual understanding of what the Race had been through on Tosev 3. Ttomalss had been through every bit of it. The scars still marked his spirit. It would never be free of them till it met the spirits of Emperors past face to face.

“You are to be commended for your diligent efforts to gain understanding of the roots of Tosevite behavior,” Felless said.

“Nice to know someone thinks so,” Ttomalss said, remembering quarrels down through the years. “Some males, I think, would sooner stay ignorant. And some would sooner put their tongues in a ginger jar and forget their research and everything else.”

He waited. Sure enough, Felless asked a hesitant question: “Ginger? I have seen the name in the reports. It must refer to a drug native to Tosev 3, for it is certainly unknown back on Home.”

“Yes. It’s an herb that grows here,” Ttomalss said. “For the natives, it is just a spice, the way balj is back on Home. It is a drug for us, though, and a nasty one. It makes a male feel smart and bold and strong-and when it wears off, it makes him feel like having some more. Once it gets its claws in you, you will do almost anything for another taste.”

“With more enforcement personnel here now, we should be able to root it out without much trouble,” Felless said.

Ttomalss remembered that pristine confidence, that sense that things would keep going smoothly because they always had. He’d known it himself. Then he’d started dealing with the Big Uglies. Like so many males on Tosev 3, he’d lost it and never got it back. He didn’t try to explain that to Felless. The female would find out for herself.

“Why would anyone want a drug in the first place, especially an alien drug?” Felless asked him.

“At first because you are bored, or else because you see someone else having a good time and you want one, too,” he answered. “We shall have trouble with ginger when the colonists land, mark my words.”

“I shall record your prediction,” Felless said. “I tend to doubt its accuracy, but, as I said, you are the one with experience on Tosev 3, so perhaps you will prove correct in the end.”

Was she so serious all the time? A lot of people back on Home were. Ttomalss remembered as much. Contact with the Big Uglies-even contact with males who had contact with the Big Uglies-had a way of abrading such seriousness. And now a hundred million colonists, once revived, would look on the relative handful of males from the colonization fleet as slightly addled eggs. Ttomalss didn’t see what anyone could do about that, either.

Deep inside, he laughed to himself. Eventually, the colonists would have to start dealing with the Tosevites. Then they’d start getting addled, too. In spite of his best efforts to believe otherwise, Ttomalss could reach no other conclusion. Even if Tosev 3 at last came completely under the Emperor’s rule, it would be the odd world out in more ways than one for years, centuries, millennia to come.

Because he’d been mentally picking parasites out from under his scales, he missed a comment from Felless. “I am sorry, superior female?” he said, embarrassed.

“I said that of all the researchers with the conquest fleet, you seem to have gone furthest in your efforts to examine the integration of Tosevites and the Race.” Felless repeated the compliment with no sign of exasperation. She continued, “Some of your activities strike me as going above and beyond the call of duty.”

“You are generous, superior female,” Ttomalss said. “My view has always been that, if this world is to be successfully colonized, effecting such integration will be mandatory.”

“You doubt the possibility of successful colonization?” Now Felless sounded reproving, not complimentary.

“I doubt the certainty of successful colonization,” Ttomalss replied. “Anyone with experience of Tosev 3 doubts the certainty of anything pertaining to it.”

“And yet you have persisted,” Felless said. “In your reports, you indicate that your first experimental specimen was forcibly taken away from you, and that you yourself were kidnapped by Tosevite bandits while seeking to obtain a replacement for it.”

“Truth,” Ttomalss said. “We badly underestimated the importance of family bonds on Tosev 3, due not only to long-term sexual pairings but also to the absurdly helpless nature of Tosevite hatchlings, which need constant care if they are to survive. Because of these factors, my experiments have met with far more opposition from the Big Uglies than they would have from any other intelligent race with which we are familiar.”

“And yet, in the end, your work seems to have met with success,” Felless said. “I wonder if you would be so kind as to allow me to make the acquaintance of the specimen you finally succeeded in obtaining and rearing.”

“I thought you might ask that.” Ttomalss rose. “Kassquit is waiting in the next chamber. I shall return in a moment.”

“My first Tosevite, even if not quite a wild specimen,” Felless said in musing tones. “How interesting this will be!”

“Please do your best to treat the Big Ugly as you would a member of the Race,” Ttomalss warned. “Since the Tosevite gained speech-which Big Uglies do more quickly than our own hatchlings-all males have followed this course, which appears to have worked well.”

“It shall be done,” Felless promised.

Ttomalss went into the adjacent chamber, where Kassquit sat in front of a screen, engrossed in a game. “The researcher from Home wishes to speak with you,” Ttomalss said.

“It shall be done, superior sir,” Kassquit said obediently, and got up. The Big Ugly, though not large for a Tosevite, stood head and neck above Ttomalss. Kassquit followed him back to the chamber where Felless waited. Bending into the posture of respect, the Tosevite said to her, “I greet you, superior sir.”

“Superior female,” Ttomalss corrected. He turned to Felless. “You are the first female Kassquit has met.”

“I am very pleased to make your acquaintance, Kassquit,” Felless said.

“I thank you, superior female.” Kassquit used the correct title this time. The Big Ugly’s voice was slightly mushy; Tosevite mouthparts could not quite handle all the sounds of the language of the Race. “You are truly from Home?”

“I am,” Felless said.

“I would like to visit Home,” Kassquit said wistfully, “but cold sleep has not yet been adapted to my biochemistry.”

“Perhaps it will be one day,” Felless said. Ttomalss watched her try to hide surprise; Kassquit was young, but far from stupid. Felless went on, “Rabotevs and Hallessi travel between the stars-no reason Tosevites should not as well.”

“I hope you are right, superior female.” Kassquit turned small, immobile eyes toward Ttomalss. “May I be excused, superior sir?”

Was that shyness or a desire to return to the game? Whatever it was, Ttomalss yielded to it: “You may.”

“I thank you, superior sir. I am glad to have met you, superior female.” After another respectful bend, Kassquit left, tall and ridiculously erect.

“Brighter than I expected,” Felless remarked once the Big Ugly was gone. “Less alien-seeming, too; far less so than the Tosevites in the images I have seen.”

“That is by design, to aid in integration,” Ttomalss said. “The body paint, of course, designates Kassquit as my apprentice. The unsightly hair at the top of the Tosevite’s head is frequently clipped to the skin. When Kassquit reached sexual maturity, more hair grew at the armpits and around the genital area, though Kassquit’s race is less hairy than most Tosevites.”

“What is the function of these hairy patches that emerge at sexual maturity?” Felless asked. “I presume they pertain to reproduction in some way.”

“That is not yet fully understood,” Ttomalss admitted. “They may help spread pheromones from odorous glands in these areas, but Tosevite reproductive behavior is less closely tied to odor cues than our own.”

“Are these creatures truly accessible to one another at all seasons?” Felless asked. A wriggle said what she thought of the idea.

But Ttomalss had to answer, “Truly. And they find our way as strange and repugnant as we find theirs. I confess that, despite my scientific objectivity, I have a great deal of trouble grasping this. Surely our way is far more convenient. You are not in season; my scent receptors know as much; and so you are simply a colleague. No complications involved with mating need arise.”

“And a good thing, too,” Felless exclaimed. She and Ttomalss both laughed at the absurdities of the Big Uglies.

“Home.” Kassquit tasted the sound of the word. Home was more real in the Tosevite’s mind than Tosev 3, around which this ship had orbited longer than Kassquit had been alive.

Tosevite, Kassquit thought. That is what I call myself. And why not? That is what I am.

It didn’t seem right. It didn’t seem fair. Without this preposterously large, preposterously ugly body (Kassquit knew the nickname the males of the Race-and, no doubt, this new female, too-had for Tosevites), the good brain inside this strangely domed skull might have accomplished something worthwhile. Oh, it still might, but that was far less likely than it would have been otherwise.

“If I had been hatched on Home…” Kassquit said. And how many times had that thought echoed and reechoed? More than Kassquit could count. Did I ask for this body? Spirits of Emperors past, did I? The eyes that looked down at the metal floor could not slew in turrets. And is that my fault?

Every step Kassquit took was a reminder of alienness. This Tosevite body would not bend forward into a proper posture-or what would have been a proper posture for anyone else. And the lack of true claws on Kassquit’s fingertips was another inconvenience. Ttomalss had turned out prosthetics that made operating machinery much easier. A proper member of the Race, though, would not have needed prosthetics.

I am not a proper member of the Race. I am a Tosevite, brought up as if I were a proper member of the Race, or as close to a proper member of the Race as I can be, given my limitations. Oh, how I wish I had no such limitations. I am part person, part experimental animal.

Kassquit did not resent that. The Race needed experimental animals, to learn how to live with and eventually rule the tempestuous Tosevites. Ttomalss had said as little about the natives of Tosev 3 as he could. From the small things he had let fall now and then, Kassquit understood what an honor, what a privilege, it had been to be selected for this role. Life as a Tosevite peasant? Kassquit’s mouth dropped open in scornful amusement at the idea.

A small sound escaped Kassquit’s mouth along with the laugh. I should have better control, Kassquit thought. I usually do have better control, but I am upset. Ttomalss had said that Tosevites showed amusement with a noise rather than in the Race’s far more sophisticated, far more elegant fashion.

I do not want to act like a Tosevite! In no way do I want to act like a Tosevite! I am one, but I wish I were not!

Some things could not be helped. Posture was one. Skin was another. Kassquit ran one hand along the other arm. I should be a dark greenish brown like a proper male of the Race, or even, I discover, a proper female of the Race. Instead, I am a sort of pale yellowish tan color-a very disagreeable shade for a person to be.

“And my skin is smooth,” Kassquit said with a sad sigh. “It will never be anything but smooth, I fear.” Kassquit sighed again. When I was coming out of hatchlinghood, how I waited till it would be like the ones everybody else had. I did not really understand then how different I was. The Emperor surely knows I do try to fit in as best I can.

The skin under Kassquit’s palm was also faintly damp. Ttomalss had explained why that was so: instead of panting to cool the body, Tosevites used the evaporation of metabolic water. Tosev 3 was a wetter world than Home, which let the Big Uglies expend water so lavishly. Tosev 3 was also a colder world than Home, which meant the ship, whose climate was Homelike, seemed warm to Kassquit’s Tosevite body and prompted the activation of the cooling mechanism.

It all made good sense. Ttomalss had patiently explained it over and over to Kassquit. It was, for Tosevites, thoroughly normal. It was also thoroughly disgusting, as far as Kassquit was concerned.

Other things about the Tosevite body were even more disgusting: the business of passing liquid waste as well as solid, for instance. That also had to do with Tosev 3’s revolting wetness. Again, Ttomalss had been patience itself in explaining the reasons behind the differences.

“I do not care about the reasons,” Kassquit muttered. “I wish there were no differences.”

I am not usually like this, Kassquit thought. Usually, I can see what makes me more like the Race, not what separates me from it. I wish I had not met Felless. Seeing someone freshly come from Home reminds me that I am not and I cannot be. That hurts. It hurts worse than I expected.

An itch on top of the head made Kassquit scratch. Very, very short hair rasped under the not-quite-claws at the tips of Kassquit’s fingers. Hair was another nasty thing about the Tosevite body. I wish I did not have any, Kassquit thought. Smooth is bad. Hairy is even worse. Emperor be praised that I do get clipped regularly. I wished I could die when the hair started sprouting here and there on my body. Having to get my head clipped is humiliation enough. Add these other spots and it is almost too much to bear.

Ttomalss had been reassuring about that, too. The Race’s research proved it was normal among Tosevites of about Kassquit’s age. But it was not normal aboard the ship. It made Kassquit even more abnormal here.

What would I do without Ttomalss? Kassquit wondered. The male had been a guide, a teacher, a mentor, a hearing diaphragm to listen, for all of Kassquit’s life. A hearing diaphragm to listen? I will not think about the strange curls of flesh at the sides of my head, nor about the holes inside them with which I hear. I will not think about them. I will not.

Trying not to think about something worked as well as that usually did. Kassquit touched an ear, then gave it a painful yank. Maybe I should have these clipped. It would not be too hard, and it would make me look a little closer to the way I should.

Ttomalss had not wanted to put a mirror in Kassquit’s compartment. His argument had been that looking at such a different face would only lead to discontentment. “I will be more discontented if you do not treat me as if I were part of the Race,” Kassquit remembered saying. “If I were a member of the Race, I would have one.” Ttomalss had yielded; it was the first argument Kassquit had ever won from him.

The technician who had installed the mirror in the compartment had treated Kassquit like a member of the Race, all right. He had fastened it at a level that would have been perfect for a member of the Race. Kassquit had to stoop to see anything but the paint marking this unsatisfactory body’s unsatisfactory torso.

Stooping, Kassquit thought, This is how I look. I cannot do anything about it. Small eyes, white with dark center, folds of skin at their inner corners narrowing them further still, without nearly the angle of vision the Race enjoyed. Kassquit had had strips of hair above them, too-Tosevite signaling organs, Ttomalss called them-but those strips got clipped with the rest. A projection below and between the eyes that housed the nostrils. An absurdly small mouth with mobile soft tissue around it and a wildly variegated set of teeth inside.

Out came Kassquit’s tongue for a critical examination. It needed criticizing, all right, being short and blunt and unforked. Again, and not for the first time, Kassquit wondered whether surgery could correct that flaw.

“What is the use?” Kassquit said, straightening once more. “What is the use of any of it? They can cut this and clip those and maybe do some other things, too, but it will not help, not really. I will still look like-this.”

Maybe Ttomalss had been right. Maybe the mirror should have stayed out. In the end, though, how much would it have mattered? I am a Tosevite. I wish I were not, but I am. With or without a mirror, I know it.

Kassquit went over to the computer terminal, put on false fingerclaws, and returned to the earlier game. But it didn’t engross, as it had before going in to see Felless. Reality has a way of breaking in, Kassquit thought. The best thing about the computer is that it does not know-or if it does know, it does not care; it really does not care-I am a Tosevite. That is one of the reasons it is so much fun. As far as the computer is concerned, I am as good as anybody else. How can I go on believing that, even imagining that, after meeting a female straight from Home?

“Home,” Kassquit said again, making the word a drawn-out sigh of longing. I know what to do. If I am presented to the Emperor, I know how to bend, I know all the proper responses. I would make Ttomalss proud.

Another open-mouthed laugh, this one, at least, properly silent. As if anyone would present a Tosevite to the Emperor! Kassquit paused. A Tosevite might be presented to the Emperor, but as a curiosity, not as a person who reverenced him as the Race and the Hallessi and the Rabotevs did. That was not good enough. It made Kassquit angry. I deserve to reverence the Emperor like anyone else!

“Calm yourself. You are growing too excited,” Ttomalss would have said, had he been there and known what was in Kassquit’s mind. Calm did not come easily; as Ttomalss had explained it, the hormones that produced physical maturation in Tosevites were also liable to produce mood swings wilder than any the Race experienced outside the brief mating season.

Ttomalss told the truth there as elsewhere, Kassquit thought. All things considered, I would sooner not have gone through maturation.

Another reluctant trip to the mirror. This time, Kassquit did not stoop, but sighed after looking away at last. Sure enough, the twin bulges of tissue in the upper part of the torso made the lines of her body paint harder to read than they should have been.

And that was far from the worst of the changes she had undergone. Growing the new patches of hair had been very bad. And, had Ttomalss not warned her she would suffer a cyclic flow of blood from her genital opening, she would surely have thought she was ill from some dire disease when it began. The Race suffered no such grotesque inconveniences. Ttomalss had arranged to bring Tosevite sanitary pads up from the surface of the world below for her. They worked well enough, but that she needed such things galled her.

But more upsetting even than that were the feelings coursing through her for which the language of the Race seemed to have no names. With them, for once, Ttomalss had been little help. Dispassionate remarks about reproductive behavior did nothing to slow the thudding of Kassquit’s heart, the whistle of the breath through her, the feeling that the compartment was even warmer than normal.

She had found something that did. Her hand slid down along her painted belly. Of itself, her stance shifted so her feet were wider apart than usual. She looked up at the ceiling, not really seeing it, not really seeing anything. After a bit, she exhaled very hard and quivered a little. Her fingers were damp. She wiped them on a tissue. She knew she would be easier for a while now.


Peking brawled around Liu Han. She wore the long, dark blue tunic and trousers and the conical straw hat of a peasant woman. She had no trouble playing the role; she’d lived it till the little scaly devils came down from the sky and turned China-turned the whole world-upside down.

Her daughter, Liu Mei, who walked along the hutung — the alleyway-beside her, was proof of that. Turning to Liu Han, she said, “I hope we won’t be late.”

“Don’t worry,” Liu Han answered. “We’ve got plenty of time.”

Liu Mei nodded, her face serious. Her face was almost always serious, even when she laughed. The scaly devils had taken her from Liu Han right after she was born, and had kept her in one of their airplanes that never landed for her first year of life outside the womb-her second year of age, as the Chinese reckoned such things. When a baby, she should have learned to smile by watching people around her. But she’d had only little scaly devils around her, and they never smiled-they could not smile. Liu Mei hadn’t learned how.

“I should have liquidated that Ttomalss when I had the chance,” Liu Han said, her hands folding into fists. “Mercy has no place in the struggle against imperialism. I understand that now much better than I did when you were tiny.”

“Truly, Mother, too late to fret over it now,” Liu Mei replied- seriously. Liu Han walked on in grim silence. Her daughter was right, but that left her no happier.

She and Liu Mei both flattened themselves against the splintery front wall of a shop as a burly, sweating man with a load of bricks on a carrying pole edged past them going the other way. He leered at Liu Mei, showing a couple of broken teeth. “If you show me your body, I will show you silver,” he said.

“No,” Liu Mei answered.

Liu Han did not think that was rejection enough, or anywhere close to it. “Go on, get out of here, you stinking turtle,” she screeched at the laborer. “Just because your mother was a whore, you think all women are whores.”

“You would starve as a whore,” the man snarled. But he walked on.

The hutung opened out onto P’ing Tse Men Ta Chieh, the main street leading east into Peking from the P’ing Tse Gate. “Be careful,” Liu Han murmured to Liu Mei. “Scaly devils seldom come into hutungs, and they are often sorry when they do. But they do patrol the main streets.”

Sure enough, here came a squad of them, swaggering down the middle of the broad street and expecting everyone to get out of their way. When people didn’t move fast enough to suit them, they shouted either in their own language-which they expected humans to understand-or in bad Chinese.

Liu Han kept walking. Even after twenty years of practice, the scaly devils had trouble telling one person from another. Liu Mei bent her head so the brim of her hat helped hide her features. She did not look quite like a typical Chinese, and a bright little devil might notice as much.

“They are past us,” Liu Han said quietly, and her daughter straightened up once more. Liu Mei’s eyes were of the proper almond shape. Her nose, though, was almost as prominent as a foreign devil’s, and her face was narrower and more forward-thrusting than Liu Han’s. The black hair the hat concealed refused to lie straight, but had a springy wave to it.

She was a pretty girl-prettier than I was at that age, Liu Han thought-which worried her mother as much as or more than it pleased her. Liu Mei’s father, an American named Bobby Fiore, was dead; the scaly devils had shot him before she was born. Before that, he, like Liu Han, had been a captive on one of those airplanes that never landed. They’d been forced to couple-the little scaly devils had enormous trouble understanding matters of the pillow (hardly surprising, when they came into heat like barnyard animals)-and he’d got her with child.

Off to the east, toward or maybe past the Forbidden City, gunfire crackled. The sound was absurdly cheerful, like the fireworks used to celebrate the new year. Liu Mei said, “I didn’t know we were doing anything today.”

“We’re not,” Liu Han said shortly. The Communists were not the only ones carrying on a long guerrilla campaign against the scaly devils. The reactionaries of the Kuomintang had not abandoned the field. They and Mao’s followers fought each other as well as the little devils.

And the eastern dwarfs kept sending men across the Sea of Japan to raise trouble for the little scaly devils and the Chinese alike. Japan had had imperialist pretensions in China years before the little devils arrived, and resented being excluded from what had been her bowl of rice.

More scaly devils whizzed past, these in a vehicle mounting a machine gun. They headed in the direction of the firing. None of them turned so much as an eye turret in Liu Han’s direction. Liu Han decided to make a lesson of it. “This is why we are strong in the cities,” she said to Liu Mei. “In the cities, we swim unnoticed. In the countryside, where every family has known its neighbors forever and a day, staying hidden is harder.”

“I understand, Mother,” Liu Mei said. “But this also works for the Kuomintang, doesn’t it?”

“Oh, yes,” Liu Han agreed. “A knife will cut for whoever takes it in hand.” She nodded to her daughter. “You are quick. You need to be quick, the way the world is today.”

When she was Liu Mei’s age and even older, all she’d wanted to do was go on living as she and her ancestors always had. But the Japanese had come to her village, killing her husband and her little son. And then the little scaly devils had come, driving out the eastern dwarfs and capturing her. She, who had not even thought of going to the city, was uprooted from everything she’d ever known.

And she’d thrived. Oh, it hadn’t been easy, but she’d done it. She had abilities she hadn’t even suspected. Once in a while, when she was in an uncommonly kindly mood, she thought she owed the little scaly devils some gratitude for liberating her from her former, ever so limited, life.

She glanced over to Liu Mei. She owed the scaly devils something else for what they’d done to her daughter. And she’d been giving them what she owed them ever since. That debt might never be paid in full, but she intended to keep on trying.

Liu Mei’s face did not change much even when she laughed. She laughed now, laughed and pointed. “Look, Mother! More devil-boys!”

“I see them,” Liu Han said grimly. She did not find the young people-boys and shameless girls, too-in any way amusing. When foreign devils from Europe spread their imperialistic web through China, some Chinese had imitated them in dress and food and way of life because they were powerful. The same thing was happening now with respect to the scaly devils.

This particular pack of devil-boys took things further than most. Like most such bands, they wore tight shirts and trousers printed in patterns that mimicked body paint, but several had shaved not only their heads but also their eyebrows in an effort to make themselves look as much like scaly devils as they could. They larded their speech with affirmative and interrogative coughs and words from the little scaly devils’ language.

Many older people gave way before them, almost as they might have for real scaly devils. Liu Han did not. Stolid as if she were alone on the sidewalk, she strode straight through them, Liu Mei beside her. “Be careful, foolish female!” one of the devil-boys hissed in the scaly devils’ tongue. His friends giggled to hear him insult someone who would not understand.

But Liu Han did understand. That she was part of the revolutionary struggle against the little scaly devils did not mean she had not studied them-just the opposite, in fact. She whirled and hissed back: “Be silent, hatchling from an addled egg!”

How the devil-boys stared! Not all of them understood what she’d said. But they could hardly fail to understand that a plain, middle-aged woman spoke the little devils’ language at least as well as they did-and that she was not afraid of them. The ones who did understand giggled again, this time at their friend’s discomfiture.

The boy who had first mocked Liu Han spoke in Chinese now: “How did you learn that language?” He did not even add an interrogative cough.

“None of your business,” Liu Han snapped. She was already regretting her sharp answer. She and Liu Mei were not perfectly safe in Peking. Sometimes the little devils treated Chinese Communist Party officials like officials from the foreign devils’ governments they recognized. Sometimes they treated them like bandits, even if the Communists made them sorry when they did.

“What about you, good-looking one?” The devil-boy shifted back to the scaly devils’ speech to aim a question at Liu Mei. He showed ingenuity as well as brashness, for the little devils’ language was short on endearments. They did not need them among themselves, not when they had a mating season and no females to put them into it.

“I am none of your business, either,” Liu Mei answered in the little devils’ tongue. She’d begun to pick it up as her birth speech before Ttomalss had to return her to Liu Han. Maybe that had helped her reacquire it later, after she’d become fluent in Chinese. She threw in an emphatic cough to show how much she wasn’t the devil-boy’s business.

Instead of deflating, he laughed and folded himself into the scaly devils’ posture of respect. “It shall not be done, superior female!” he said, with an emphatic cough of his own.

That was when he began to interest Liu Han. “You speak the little scaly devils’ language well,” she said in Chinese. “What is your name?”

“I ought to say, ‘None of your business,’ ” the devil-boy replied. That was apt to be true in more ways than one; people who asked such questions could put those who answered them in danger. But the devil-boy went on, “It does not much matter, though, for everyone knows I am Tao Sheng-Ming.” He returned to the scaly devils’ tongue: “Is that not a foolish name for a male of the Race?”

Those of his friends who understood whooped with glee and slapped their thighs with the palms of their hands. In spite of herself, Liu Han smiled. Tao Sheng-Ming seemed to take nothing seriously, not his own Chinese blood and not the little devils he aped, either. But he was plainly bright; if he discovered the proper ideology, he might become very valuable.

Thoughtfully, Liu Han said, “Well, Tao Sheng-Ming, if you are ever on Nan Yang Shih K’uo — South Sheep Market Mouth-in the eastern part of the city, you might look for Ma’s brocade shop there.”

“And what would I find in it?” Tao asked.

“Why, brocade, of course,” Liu Han answered innocently. “Ask for Old Lin. He will show you everything you need.”

If Tao Sheng-Ming did ask for Old Lin, he would be recruited. Maybe he would pay attention. Maybe, being a devil-boy with an itch for trouble, he wouldn’t. Still, Liu Han judged the effort worth making.

Lieutenant Colonel Johannes Drucker was one of the lucky ones who went out into space: he enjoyed being weightless. Some of the men in the Reich Rocket Force had to nurse their stomachs through every tour in orbit. Not Drucker. His problem was working hard enough on the exercise bicycle to keep from coming home a couple of kilos heavier than when he’d gone up.

And the view from up here was beyond compare. Right now, his orbit was carrying him southeast across the United States, toward the Gulf of Mexico. Through swirling clouds, he could see plains and forests and, coming up swiftly, the deep blue of the sea. And, when he lifted his eyes to the stars blazing in the black sky of space, that was just as fine in a different way.

But he couldn’t gawp for too long. His eyes flicked to the instruments that monitored oxygen, CO2, the batteries-literally, the things that kept him breathing. Everything there was fine. And he’d used very little fuel from the maneuvering rockets so far this tour. He could change his orbit considerably if he had to.

Then he was looking out the window again, this time to the sides and rear. Like its smaller predecessors, the A-45 was an Army project, but the Focke-Wulf design bureau had given the manned upper stage a cockpit view a fighter pilot might have envied. He needed it; he depended far more on his own senses than did Lizard pilots, who had fancier electronics to help them.

Below and to either side were the bulges of his missile tubes, a thermonuclear sting in each of them. If he got the order, he could blow a couple of Lizards or Russians or Americans out of the sky-or, for that matter, aim the missiles at land targets.

Sun sparkled off the titanium wings on which he’d ride back to Earth. The swastikas on the wings were due for repainting; this upper stage had made several landings since the last time they’d been slapped on. He shrugged. That sort of stuff was for people down on the ground to worry about. Up here, as in any combat assignment, what you did counted. What you looked like didn’t.

Drucker lightly touched the control stick. “Just a damn driver,” he muttered. “That’s all I’ve ever been, just a damn driver.” He’d driven panzers against the French, against the Russians, and then against the Lizards before setting his sights higher both figuratively and literally. This upper stage-he’d named it Kathe, after his wife- responded far more smoothly and easily than the big grunting machines he’d formerly guided.

Of course, if a shell slammed into a panzer, he had some chance of bailing out. If anyone ever decided to expend a missile on him here, odds were a million to one he’d never know what hit him.

His wireless set crackled to life. “German pilot, this is the U.S. tracking facility in Hot Springs. Do you read me? Over.” A moment later, the American radioman switched from English to badly accented German.

Like most who flew into space, Drucker spoke some English and Russian-and some of the Lizards’ language-along with his German. “Hot Springs tracking, this is the German rocket,” he said. “How do I look? Over.”

It wasn’t an academic question. By his own navigation, he was in the orbit calculated for him. If American radar showed otherwise, though, things might get sticky. Unexpected changes in course from a spacecraft carrying nuclear weapons had a way of making people nervous.

But the American answered, “In the groove,” which let him relax. Then the fellow said, “How’s the weather up there, Hans? Over.”

“Very bad,” Drucker answered seriously. “Rain last night, and a snowstorm ahead. Is that you, Joe? Over.”

“Yeah, it’s me,” Joe said with a laugh at Drucker’s attempt at humor: weather was one thing-maybe the only thing-he didn’t have to worry about in space. “You’ll be coming down from your tour in another few orbits, won’t you? Over.”

“I do not answer this sort of question,” Drucker said. “You know I do not answer this sort of question. Your pilots do not answer this sort of question when we ask. Over.”

“You stay nosy, though, and so do we,” Joe answered, not in the least put out. “Have yourself a safe landing. I’ll talk to you some more when you come up for another turn. Over and out.”

“Thank you-over and out,” Drucker said. The American’s signal had started to break up before strengthening. Like the Reich and the Soviet Union, the USA had strings of ships that relayed transmissions to pilots wherever above the Earth they might be. The Lizards were the only ones who didn’t need to bother with that. For one thing, they had more communications satellites and other spacecraft in orbit than all the human powers put together. For another, they had ground stations around the world, which no human power did.

Drucker scowled. And now their colonization fleet was beginning to join the conquest fleet. The colonists had set out from Tau Ceti II about the time the conquest fleet reached Earth. They’d expected a world subdued and waiting for them. Hitler didn’t let that happen, Drucker thought proudly. Could he have done so without harming the Greater German Reich, he would have blasted every Lizard spacecraft out of the sky. He couldn’t. No human could. What would happen when the colonists started coming down to Earth was something he didn’t like to think about.

What would happen when he came back to Earth was less important to human history, but much more immediately urgent to him. Joe’s Have yourself a safe landing hadn’t been idle chatter. The upper stage Drucker rode, like all manmade spacecraft, was an uneasy blend of human and Lizard technology. The Wall of Heroes at Peenemunde had all too many names inscribed on it. Despite the handsome pension that would accrue to his widow, Drucker did not want his added to it.

He slid over the Atlantic in a matter of minutes, and then across Africa. The whole continent belonged to the Lizards. Some small rebellion still simmered in what had been the Union of South Africa, enough to keep the Lizards from exploiting the minerals there as fully as they might have. Other than that, the whole great land mass was theirs to do with as they would.

When his orbit swung north of the equator once more, he got a call from a Soviet radar station. The Russians also confirmed that he was where they expected him to be. His conversation with them, unlike the one with the American radioman, was coldly formal. He would have got rid of them, too, could he only have done it safely, and he knew they felt the same way about him. He scowled again. If only the Lizards hadn’t come along when they did, the Reich would have put paid to Bolshevism once for all.

He couldn’t do anything about that, either. The world, when you got down to it, could be a pretty unsatisfactory place.

An orbit and a half before he was supposed to land, he radioed a German relay ship and confirmed that he was coming back to Earth. He spoke in clear-code made listeners nervous, and the Lizards certainly were monitoring his transmissions, the Americans and Russians probably were, and the British and Japanese might be.

A touch of a button fired the retarding rockets in the nose of his spacecraft. As soon as they had burned long enough to slow the craft and take him out of orbit, he shut them down. The touch of another button slid covers over the openings to their motors. He breathed easier when sensors confirmed all three covers were in place. A motor opening left unsealed would have wrecked his aerodynamics, his spacecraft, and him.

As he slid back into the atmosphere, the nose of the craft and the leading edges of the wings glowed red. The ablative coating on them was a Lizard invention that all three human nations that put men into space had stolen. Little by little, the stick came alive in Drucker’s hands. Before long, he was flying the upper stage like a large, heavy glider.

Germany’s Baltic coastline was anything but interesting, especially after so many of the Earthly marvels he’d seen from space: nothing but low, flat land sloping ever so gradually downward toward the gray, shallow sea.

Another reassuring sound was that of the landing gear coming down. Drucker landed the upper stage on a long concrete runway. After two weeks of weightlessness, he felt as if he had someone-or maybe two or three someones-sitting on his chest. Moving like an old, old man, he climbed out of the hatch set into the side of the spacecraft and down a little ladder to the runway.

Having fire trucks standing by was normal. Having groundcrew men jogging up to take charge of the upper stage was also normal. So was having the base commandant, a major general with the silver-gray Waffenfarb of the Rocket Force coming up to greet him. Having a couple of SS men in long black coats accompanying the general, though, was anything but normal.

Drucker’s eyes narrowed. His dislike for the SS went back almost half a lifetime, to a day when he and other enlisted men of his panzer crew had cheated them of their chosen prey. No one he knew liked the SS. Everyone he knew feared the SS. He feared the SS himself, and feared the men in black the more because his past, if it ever came out, left him vulnerable to them even after all these years.

As they came up to him, their right arms shot out and up in perfect unison. “Heil Himmler!” they chorused.

“Heil!” Drucker returned the salute. He turned to Major General Dornberger, a decent enough fellow. “What’s up, sir?”

Before Dornberger could speak, one of the SS men said, “You are Drucker, Johannes, lieutenant colonel, pay number-” He rattled it off.

“I am.” Drucker would much sooner not have been standing there. His feet hurt, his back hurt, even his hair seemed to hurt. He wanted to go somewhere, sit down-or, better yet, lie down-and make his report. After riding a rocket into space, wasn’t he entitled to a little comfort? A bottle of schnapps would have been nice, too. “Who are you?” he asked, as cuttingly as he dared.

The SS man ignored him. “You are to consider yourself removed from the roster of approved Reich Rocket Force pilots, effective this date and pending investigation and interrogation,” he droned.

“What?” Drucker stared. “Why? What did I do? What in blazes could I have done? I’ve been out in space, in case you hadn’t noticed.” Inside, he shivered. Had his past risen up to bite him after all?

“You will come with us immediately for interrogation and evaluation,” the SS man said. “We have discovered reliable evidence that your wife’s paternal grandmother was a Jew.” Drucker’s jaw fell open. Kathe had never said a word about that, not in all the years he’d known her. He wondered if she’d known herself. “Come,” the SS man snapped. Numbly, Drucker came.

Mordechai Anielewicz whistled as he rode a bicycle along a road not far from the border between Lizard-occupied Poland and the Greater German Reich. A farmer was weeding not far from the side of the road. Anielewicz waved to him. “Have you stopped beating your wife, Boleslaw?” he called.

The Pole waved to him. “Devils will roast you in hell, you damned Jew.”

They both laughed. Anielewicz kept pedaling up the road toward Lodz. If Poland wasn’t the most peculiar country in the world, he couldn’t imagine what was. Just for starters, it was the only place he could think of where most of the inhabitants were happier to have the Lizards in charge than they would have been with human beings. Of course, given that the choices in human overlords were limited to the Reich and the Soviet Union, that made better sense in Poland than it did most other places.

Oh, some Poles went on and on about regaining their independence. They fondly imagined they could keep that independence more than about twenty minutes if the Lizards ever decided to leave. They’d managed to keep it for twenty years after World War I, but both their big neighbors had been weak then. The USSR and, to Mordechai’s regret, Germany weren’t weak now.

And the Jews who survived in Poland weren’t weak these days, either. Anielewicz had a submachine gun slung across his back. A lot of men and even women, both Poles and Jews, still went armed these days. Mordechai had seen a lot of Westerns from Hollywood, some dubbed into Polish, others into Yiddish. He understood them much better now than he had when he’d been a Warsaw engineering student before the Germans invaded in 1939. A gun was an equalizer.

Hidden away somewhere not too far from Lodz, the Jews had the ultimate equalizer: an explosive-metal bomb, captured from the Nazis who’d intended to turn the city and its large ghetto into a mushroom cloud. Anielewicz didn’t know whether the bomb would still work after all these years. His technicians had done their best to maintain it, but how good was that? The Poles couldn’t be sure. Neither could the Lizards. And neither could the Germans or the Russians.

He started whistling again, a loud, cheery tune. “Not being too certain is good for people,” he said to no one in particular. “It keeps them from going ahead and doing things they’re sorry for later.”

As he got closer to Lodz, his legs started aching. He was up into his forties now, not a young man as he had been during the war. He’d been riding a good long way, too, up from Belchatow. But whenever he got aches and pains he didn’t think he ought to have, he wondered if the nerve gas he’d breathed while keeping the Germans from blowing up Lodz was still having its way with him. He’d had the antidote; without it, he would have just quietly stopped breathing and died. Even so, his health had never been the same since.

That sort of doubt made him pedal harder than ever, to prove to himself that he did have something left. Sweat streamed down his face. The modern suburbs around Lodz whizzed past in a blur. So did a Lizard radar station, one dish scanning toward the west, toward Germany, the other toward the south, in the direction of German-dominated Hungary. If trouble came this way, it could get here in a hurry.

If trouble came this way and didn’t get knocked down, he would probably die before he knew it arrived. That was a consolation of sorts, but he declined to be consoled. Most of the people in the neighborhood around the radar station were Jews. They waved to Mordechai as he rode past. He waved back, and called out the same sort of insults he’d traded with Boleslaw the Pole. Along with most of the Jews in Poland, he switched back and forth between Yiddish and Polish, sometimes hardly noticing he was doing it.

Traffic got heavier as he rode up Franciszkanska Street into the city: horse-drawn wagons, lorries, motorcars-some old gasoline-burners, others hydrogen-powered-and swarms of bicycles. Anielewicz was glad to have an excuse to slow down.

New and old commingled inside Lodz. It had suffered in the German invasion, and again in the Lizards’ conquest of the area, and yet again when the Nazis started lobbing rockets at it. In the intervening years, fresh construction had replaced most of the buildings wrecked in one round or another of fighting. Some new structures were of brick or pale tan sandstone that harmonized with their older neighbors. Others, especially those the Lizards had run up for themselves, were so boxy and utilitarian, they might as well have been alien invaders-and so, in fact, they were.

Anielewicz still lived in what had been the Lodz ghetto, not far from the fire station that had housed the ghetto’s only motorized vehicle, a fire engine. He could have lived anywhere in the city- indeed, anywhere in Poland-he chose. His flat suited him well enough, and his wife, Bertha, had lived her whole life in Lodz. He sometimes thought about moving, but without great urgency.

An old friend waved as he rolled to a stop in front of the block of flats and put his feet down on the ground. Mordechai waved back. “How are you today, Ludmila?” he asked with real concern.

Ludmila Jager slowly walked up to him. “I am… not so bad,” she replied in Russian-accented Polish. “How are you?”

“I’m pretty well,” Anielewicz answered in Yiddish. Ludmila nodded; she spoke German, and could follow the Jews’ variation on it. He went on, “How are your legs? How are your arms?”

She shrugged. The motion made pain flow across her round, ruddy face. With what looked like a deliberate effort of will, she wiped it away. “I will never move fast again,” she said. “Nichevo.” That was a Russian word, and a useful one: it meant something like, It can’t be helped. Ludmila went on, “It could have been worse.” Pain filled her face again. This time, she let it stay. “For Heinrich, it was worse.”

“I know,” Anielewicz said quietly, and kicked at the cobblestones. A Jewish partisan leader, a German panzer officer who couldn’t stomach the incineration of Lodz, and a Red Air Force pilot, as Ludmila had been then-a strange trio to thwart the Reich after the atomic bomb got smuggled into the city. They’d done it, but they’d paid the price.

Mordechai Anielewicz knew how lucky he’d been. All he had to show for his brush with Otto Skorzeny’s nerve gas were pains if he exercised too hard for too long. Ludmila, though, was nearly a cripple. And Heinrich Jager… Mordechai shook his head. Jager, a German who proved his kind could be decent, had died young, and with few healthy days before he did.

After all these years, Anielewicz still wondered why. Was it because Jager had been twenty years older than his two comrades? Or had he breathed in more of the gas? Or had the antidote not been so effective on him? No way to tell, no way at all. Whatever the reason, it was too damn bad.

Ludmila might have been reading his thoughts. She said, “He did what he thought was right. If he hadn’t done it, the fascist jackals might have caused the destruction of the entire world. We had a cease-fire with the Lizards. If it had come apart then… Heinrich said to the end of his days that keeping that from happening was the best thing he ever did.”

“I wish he were still here to say it, your fascist jackal,” Anielewicz replied.

Ludmila smiled; she still sometimes used Communist jargon without even noticing she’d done it. She said, “So do I, but… nichevo.” Yes, that was a very useful word indeed. With another nod, she made her slow, painful way down the street, never once complaining.

Anielewicz carried the bicycle upstairs to his flat. Had he been so rash as to leave it on the sidewalk, even with a stout chain, it would have walked with Jesus. Even Jews used that saying about mysterious disappearances these days.

When he opened the door, familiar chaos surrounded him. His wife, Bertha, wearing a dress that would have been stylish in London a couple of years before and was still the height of fashion in Lodz, came up to give him a kiss. As always, a smile brought beauty to her plain face without the intermediate step of prettiness.

She said something. It was probably “How are you?” or “How are things?” but Anielewicz had trouble being sure. His daughter, Miriam, was practicing the violin. His son David, a couple of years younger, was practicing Hebrew for his bar mitzvah, which was only a little more than a month away. And his other son, Heinrich, who was eight, was working his way through a school lesson in the Lizards’ language. These days, Anielewicz hardly noticed the contrast between Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe and It shall be done, superior sir. He did notice the racket. He would have had to be deaf, or more likely dead, not to notice.

The racket changed only languages when his children spotted him. They all tried to tell him everything about their days at the same time. What he heard were bits and pieces that surely didn’t-couldn’t-have gone together. If a boy had in fact invited Miriam to go to a film about Lizard irregular verbs, the world was even stranger than Anielewicz suspected.

When his wife could get a word in edgewise, she said, “Bunim telephoned a couple of hours ago.”

“Did he?” That brought Mordechai to full alertness; Bunim was the most powerful Lizard stationed in Lodz. “What did he want?”

“He wouldn’t tell me,” Bertha answered. “He said leaving a message would not be proper protocol.”

“Sounds like a Lizard,” Anielewicz said, and Bertha nodded. He went on, “I’d better ring him up. Can you keep the menagerie down to low roars while I’m on the telephone?”

“I can try,” his wife said, and proceeded to lay down the law in a fashion Moses might have envied. In the brief respite thus afforded-and he knew it would be brief-Mordechai went into his bedroom to use the telephone.

He had no trouble getting through to Bunim; the regional subadministrator always accepted calls from his phone code. “I have for you a warning, Anielewicz,” he said without preamble. His German was fairly fluent. Hearing the Nazis’ language in his mouth never failed to set Anielewicz’s teeth on edge.

“Go ahead,” Anielewicz answered, not showing what he felt.

“A warning, yes,” the Lizard repeated. “If you Tosevites plan any interference against the anticipated arrival of colonists in this region, it will be suppressed without mercy.”

“Regional Subadministrator, I know of no such plans inside Poland,” Anielewicz answered, on the whole truthfully. As he’d thought before, most of the human inhabitants of Poland, Jews and Poles alike, preferred their alien overlords to any of the humans who aspired to the job.

“Perhaps you should know more,” Bunim said, and added an emphatic cough. “We have received a communication threatening that if a million males and females of the Race colonize Poland, that entire million shall die.”

“First I’ve heard of it,” Anielewicz said, which was completely true. “Probably a lunatic. In what language was this… communication? That may give you a clue.”

“It gives no clue,” Bunim said flatly. “It was in the language of the Race.”

Nesseref used her maneuvering thrusters to ease the shuttlecraft away from the outer skin of the 13th Emperor Makkakap. She checked the shuttlecraft’s instrument panel with special care. Like the ship with which it had come, it had just crossed a gulf of space even light would have needed more than twenty of the Race’s years to travel. Of course the revived engineers had already been over the shuttlecraft again and again: that was how the Race did things. But Nesseref was no more inclined than any other female or male to leave anything to chance.

Everything seemed normal till she got to the radar display. With a hiss of surprise, she swung both eye turrets toward it, turning what had been a routine glance to a shocked state.

A fingerclaw activated the radio link with the ship. “Shuttlecraft to Control,” Nesseref said. “Shuttlecraft to Control. I wish to report that the radar set is showing impossible clutter.”

“Control to Shuttlecraft,” a technician aboard the 13th Emperor Makkakap replied. “Control to Shuttlecraft. That clutter is not, repeat, is not, impossible. We have a crowded neighborhood around Tosev 3 right now: the ships of the colonization fleet, the ships and satellites of the conquest fleet, and the ships and satellites of the Tosevites-the Big Uglies, the males of the conquest fleet call them. Remember your briefing, Shuttlecraft Pilot.”

“I remember,” Nesseref answered. Things hadn’t been as anticipated for the Race, disorienting in and of itself. The conquest fleet had not conquered, or not completely. The Tosevites had proved improbably far advanced. Nesseref had believed what the briefing male said-he wouldn’t have lied to her. But she hadn’t begun to think about what it meant. Now she was seeing that with her own eyes.

As she scanned more instruments, she discovered that radar frequencies the Race did not use were striking the shuttlecraft. Any one of them might guide a missile on its way to her. “Shuttlecraft to Control,” she said. “You can confirm that we are at peace with these Tosevites?”

“That is correct, Shuttlecraft Pilot,” the controller said. “We are at peace with them-or, at least, no great fighting is going on right now. On advice from males of the conquest fleet, we have relayed the time of your burn and your anticipated trajectory to the Tosevites and assured them we have no hostile intentions. The ones with whom I spoke used our language oddly but understandably.”

“I thank you, Control.” Nesseref did not want to speak to touchy, possibly hostile aliens, no matter how well they used the language of the Race. As far as she was concerned, they had no business using radio and radar at all. That they had such things disrupted plans the Race had made centuries before. Nesseref took it almost as a personal affront.

Moments slid past. Nesseref spent them aligning the shuttlecraft with fussy precision. When the job was done, she waited till it was time to leave orbit. Her fingerclaw hovered above the manual-override control, in case the computer didn’t begin the burn at the right time. That was most unlikely, but training held. Never take anything for granted.

Deceleration slammed her back into her padded couch. It seemed to hit harder than she remembered, though all the instruments showed the burn to be completely normal. As the computer had begun it in the proper instant, so the machine shut it down when it should.

“Control to Shuttlecraft,” came the voice from the 13th Emperor Makkakap. “Your trajectory is as it should be. I am instructed to recommend that you acknowledge any radio signals the Tosevites may direct toward you while you are descending from orbit.”

“Acknowledged,” Nesseref said. “It shall be done.” She wondered what things were coming to, when the Race had to treat with these Tosevites as if they held true power. But, if they were out in space, they did hold some true power. And obedience had been drilled into her as thoroughly as into any other male or female of the Race.

Before long, that obedience paid off. The computer reported a signal on one of the Race’s standard communications frequencies. By its direction, it came from an island off the northwestern coast of the main continental mass. The computer indicated the Race did not control that part of Tosev 3. Nesseref tuned the receiver to the indicated frequency and listened.

“Shuttlecraft of the Race, this is Belfast Tracking,” a voice said. The accent was strange and mushy, unlike any she’d heard before. “Shuttlecraft of the Race, this is Belfast Tracking. Please acknowledge.”

“Acknowledging, Beffast Tracking.” Nesseref knew she’d made a hash of the Tosevite name, whatever it meant, but she couldn’t do anything about that. “Receiving you loud and clear.”

“Thank you, Shuttlecraft,” the Tosevite down on the ground said. “Be advised your trajectory matches the flight plan your shiplord sent us. The Nazis will have nothing to complain about when you pass over their territory.”

Nesseref neither knew nor cared what Nazis were. Whatever they were, they had a cursed lot of nerve presuming to complain about anything the Race did. The Big Ugly from this Beffast Tracking had his-she supposed it was a male-nerve, too, for talking with her as if they were equals. “Acknowledging,” she repeated, not wanting to give him anything more than that.

Another Tosevite hailed her. He identified himself not as a Nazi but as a tracker from the Greater German Reich. Nesseref wondered if the Tosevite back at Beffast had been trying to mislead her. As that first Big Ugly had predicted, though, this one did find her course acceptable.

“Do not deviate,” he warned, his accent still mushy but somehow different from that of the first Big Ugly with whom she’d spoken. “If you deviate, you will be destroyed without warning. Do you understand?”

“Acknowledged,” Nesseref said tightly. She was low in the atmosphere now, dropping down toward the speed of sound. If the Tosevites could build spacecraft, they could assuredly blow her out of the sky. But they would have no need. “I shall not deviate from my course.”

“You had better not.” This Big Ugly sounded even more arrogant than the one with whom she’d spoken before. He went on, “And you had better not pay any attention to the lies the English will try to feed you. In no way are they to be trusted.”

“Acknowledged,” Nesseref said yet again. Why were the Tosevites warning her about one another? The too-brief briefing had spoken of their intraspecies rivalries, but she’d paid little attention to those. She hadn’t imagined they could matter to her. Maybe she’d been wrong.

Then, to her vast relief, a familiar-sounding voice said, “Shuttlecraft of the 13th Emperor Makkakap, this is Warsaw Control. Your trajectory is as it should be. You will be on the ground here shortly.”

“Acknowledging, Warsaw Control,” Nesseref said. The male’s assessment agreed with that of her own computer. She brought the shuttlecraft toward the fully upright position, so she could land it with its jet. As she did so, she studied the monitor’s view of the world below: she’d descended enough to get a detailed view of it for the first time. “Warsaw Control, is it always so green here?”

“It is, Shuttlecraft Pilot,” the male on the ground answered, “except during winter, and then it is white with frozen water falling out of the sky in flakes like shed skin. You would not believe how cold it can get here.”

Nesseref wouldn’t have believed the male at all had the briefing officer not also spoken of how beastly Tosev 3’s climate could be. She still found the landscape strange and unnatural; she was used to rocks and dirt with occasional vegetation, not the other way round. Now she would see buildings, too, some the utilitarian cubes and blocks the Race favored, others absurdly ornate. Why would anyone want to build like that? she wondered. She also spied small buildings roofed not with metal or concrete or even stone, but with what looked like dry grass. How could a species that used such primitive building materials fare off the surface of its planet?

Being without a good answer, she eyed the instruments, once more ready to use manual override if the shuttlecraft’s landing legs did not extend or if the rocket failed to ignite at the proper moment. No such emergency developed. Again, she had not expected one. But preparedness was never wasted.

Flame splashed off the concrete of the landing area, then winked out as the computer cut off the rocket motor. The monitor showed people wheeling a landing ramp out toward the shuttlecraft so she could descend. No, they weren’t people; they were Tosevites. They looked like the videos she’d studied: too erect, too large, draped in cloths to conserve body heat even at what was evidently the warmer season of the year. Some of them had hair-it put her in mind of fungus-all over their blunt, round faces, others just on the top of the head. Next to the male of the Race trotting along beside them, they put her in mind of poorly articulated toys for hatchlings.

With a small clank, the top end of the ramp brushed the side of the shuttlecraft. Nesseref opened the outer door, then hissed as chilly air poured in. She hissed again when the air struck the scent receptors on her tongue; it stank of smoke and carried all sorts of other odors she’d never smelled before.

She skittered down the ramp. “I greet you, superior female,” the male waiting at the bottom said. With an emphatic cough, he added, “Strange to see a new face in these parts instead of the same gang of males.”

“Yes, I suppose it must be,” Nesseref said. Her eye turrets swiveled this way and that as she tried to take in as much of this part of this new world as she could. “But then, all of Tosev 3 is strange, isn’t it?”

“That it is.” The male used another emphatic cough. “A Big Ugly, now, a Big Ugly would have said, ‘Good to see a new face.’ By the Emperor”-he cast down his eyes-“they really think that way.”

Nesseref’s shiver had only a little to do with the unpleasant weather. “Aliens,” she said. “How can you bear to live among them?”

“It is not easy,” the male replied. “Some of us have even started thinking more the way they do than anybody straight from Home would be able to imagine, I expect. We have had to. A lot of the ones who could not are dead. But Tosev 3 does have its compensations. There is ginger, for instance.”

“What is ginger?” Nesseref asked. It hadn’t been in the briefing.

“Good stuff,” the male said. “I will give you a vial. You can take it back up with you when you fetch this intelligence data up into orbit. We do not want to transmit it, even encrypted, for fear the Big Uglies will break the encryption. They have done it before, and hurt us doing it.”

“Are they really that bad?” Nesseref asked.

“No,” the male told her. “Really, they are worse.”

David Goldfarb minded being stationed in Belfast less than a lot of people might have. From what he’d seen, even men brought over from England soon tended to divide along religious lines, Protestants going up against Catholics in long-running arguments that sometimes turned into brawls. Being a Jew, he was immune to that sort of pressure.

All things considered, Jews got on pretty well in Belfast. Each faction here despised the other so thoroughly, it had little energy to waste on any other hatreds. Neither Catholics nor Protestants gave Naomi and the kids a hard time when they left the married officers’ quarters to shop.

Goldfarb’s swivel chair creaked when he leaned back in it. “First shuttlecraft from the colonization fleet we’ve tracked,” he remarked.

“That’s right, Flight Lieutenant,” Sergeant Jack McDowell answered. If the Scot disliked serving under a Jew who singularly lacked a cultured accent, he was veteran enough to conceal the fact. “Won’t be the last, though.”

“No.” Goldfarb was a veteran himself, having spent his entire adult life in the RAF. “Not the world we thought it would be, is it?”

“Not half it’s not,” McDowell agreed sorrowfully. He pulled a packet of Chesterfields from his breast pocket, stuck one in his mouth, and lit it. Holding the packet out to Goldfarb, he asked, “Care for a fag, sir?”

“Thanks.” Goldfarb leaned forward to light the smoke from the one McDowell already had going. He took a drag, then blew a ragged smoke ring. After another drag, he sighed. “Doesn’t taste like much, does it?”

“Too right it don’t,” McDowell said, even more sorrowfully than before. He too sighed. “Not a Yank brand going that tastes like much. When you lit up a Players, by God, you knew you had a cigarette in your face.”

“That’s the truth.” Goldfarb coughed in fond reminiscence. “It’s the end of Empire, that’s what it is.” The phrase had taken on a mournful currency in Britain after the Lizards occupied most of what once was the largest empire on the face of the Earth. Cut off from much of the tobacco they’d used, British cigarette manufacturers had gone under one after another.

McDowell’s long, lean, ruddy face got even more sour than usual. “The end of Empire it is. And do you know what’s the worst of it?” He waited for Goldfarb to shake his head, then went on, “The worst of it, sir, is that the youngsters who’ve grown up since the bloody Lizards came, they don’t care. Doesn’t matter to them that we’re shoved back onto a couple of little islands. All they want to do is lay about and drink beer, you ask me.”

“They don’t know any better,” Goldfarb answered. “This is what they’re used to. They don’t remember how things were. They don’t remember how we kept the Nazis from invading us and how we beat the Lizards when they did.”

Savagely, McDowell stubbed out his bland American cigarette and said, “And now we’re on the dole from the Yanks and the Nazis both. Damned if I don’t half wish the Lizards had beaten us after all. Better to go down swinging than to slip into the muck an inch at a bloody time.”

“Something to that,” said Goldfarb, who despised the dependence on the Greater German Reich into which a Britain shorn of her colonies had been forced. “I warned that shuttlecraft pilot about the Nazis. Haven’t heard any squawks since, so I suppose he got down safe in Poland.”

McDowell leered. “That was a shuttlecraft from the colonization fleet. How do you know a lady Lizard wasn’t flying it?”

“I don’t,” Goldfarb admitted, blinking. “It never even occurred to me.” He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter much, not to me and not to the Lizards, either. If their females aren’t in season, the males don’t care about chasing skirt, poor buggers.”

“I’d pay five quid to see a lady Lizard in a skirt,” McDowell said.

“Come to think of it, so would I,” Goldfarb answered with a chuckle. He got to his feet and stretched. “Thanks for the smoke.”

“Any time, Flight Lieutenant,” McDowell said. “I’ve cadged more from you than you ever have from me.”

Goldfarb shrugged again. A Jew who got a reputation for stinginess found himself in even more hot water these days than he would have a generation before. Britain didn’t go in for the madnesses of the Reich over on the Continent, but some of the Nazis’ attitudes had rubbed off, especially down in England. That was another reason Goldfarb hadn’t minded being posted to Northern Ireland.

He walked out into watery sunshine. Belfast seldom got any other sort. Parabolic radar dishes scanned every direction. They were ever so much smaller and ever so much more powerful than the sets he’d served during the Battle of Britain and during the Lizards’ arrival-till the aliens knocked out those sets. Some of the improvement would surely have come over the course of time regardless of whether the Lizards landed on Earth. But captured equipment and training disks playable by what they called skelkwank light had kicked human technology far ahead of where it would have been otherwise.

A couple of RAF officers strode past Goldfarb. He stiffened to attention and saluted; they both outranked him. One of them was saying, “-ce they’re all down, we’ll pay back a lot of-”

After returning Goldfarb’s salute, the other spoke in an elegant Oxonian accent: “Now, now, old man, don’t you know?” His gaze flicked across Goldfarb as if the flight lieutenant were a speck of lint on his lapel.

Both officers fell silent till Goldfarb was out of earshot. He went on his way, quietly steaming. Far too many officers these days gave him the glove because he was Jewish. He couldn’t do anything about it, either-or rather, he could, but anything he did was likely to make matters worse. Anti-Semitism kept wafting across the Channel like a bad smell. That Heinrich Himmler seemed so calm and rational about it, rather than ranting as Hitler had done, only made it more appealing to the aristocratic Englishman of the stiff-upper-lip school.

“What do they think?” Goldfarb muttered. “I should get down on my knees and thank them for the privilege of saving their bacon”-an American phrase, to the point if not kosher-“from the Lizards? Not bloody likely!”

Trouble was, too many of them did think exactly that. He knew his chances of making squadron leader were about as good as Britain’s chances of retaking India from the Lizards. If he hadn’t had a record far better than those of his competitors-and if he hadn’t had some blokes on his side back in the days when being on a Jew’s side didn’t take extraordinary moral courage-he never would have become an officer at all.

He had become one, though. If those snooty brass hats didn’t like it, too bad for them. He wondered what sort of conversation they’d judged unsuitable for his tender ears. He’d never know. He also wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. Had he lost sleep over every slight, he’d have lain awake every night.

People on the streets of Belfast kept an eye on him as he headed for his home. He didn’t look like an Englishman or an Irishman or even a Scot; his hair was too curly, and the wrong shade of brown to boot, while his face bore a distinctly Judaic nose. Said nose itched. He scratched it. An itchy nose was supposed to be a sign he’d kiss a fool.

When he got home, he planted a big smack on Naomi. Maybe she’d been a fool for marrying him, all those years ago. Her family had got out of Germany while some Jews still could; his had fled Polish pogroms before World War I. But she hadn’t looked down her own charming nose at him, and they remained as happy as two people could reasonably expect in this uncertain world.

“What’s new?” she asked, her English still faintly accented though she’d been in Britain since her teens.

He told her about the shuttlecraft from the colonization fleet, and about the warning he’d been able to pass on. Then he sighed. “It won’t do any good. The Lizards in the colonization fleet don’t know Nazis from necklaces.”

“You did what you could,” Naomi said, and added an emphatic cough.

Goldfarb laughed. “You caught that from our children,” he said severely, “and they caught it from the wireless and the telly.”

“And the wireless and the telly caught it from the Lizards-maybe we are becoming a part of their Empire, one bit at a time,” his wife answered. “And speaking of such things, you have a letter from your cousin in Palestine.”

“From Moishe?” Goldfarb said in glad surprise. “Haven’t heard from him in a couple of months. What has he got to say?”

“I don’t know-I haven’t opened it,” Naomi said. That was standard practice in the Goldfarb household: no one ever opened mail addressed to someone else. “Here, I’ll get it for you.” He watched her go over to the sideboard-watched appreciatively, as skirts were short this year-and pluck the letter from a cut-glass dish there. She carried it back to him.

It bore no stamp, but an adhesive label covered with Lizard squiggles. Moishe Russie had written Goldfarb’s name and address in the Roman alphabet, but the letter inside the envelope was in Yiddish. Dear Cousin David, he wrote, I hope this finds you well, as all are here in Jerusalem. Reuven has just finished exams for this term of medical school. How much more he knows of how the body works than I did at his age! He would have known more if the Lizards had not come, of course, but he knows even more than he would have otherwise because they did. They understand life at a molecular level we were generations away from reaching.

So Naomi would understand, Goldfarb read the letter aloud. She had no trouble following spoken Yiddish, but could not fight her way through the Hebraic script in which it was written. “Good that your cousin’s son will be a doctor,” she said.

“Yes,” Goldfarb answered, thinking that the Lizards had given medicine the same sort of lift they had electronics. He read on: “ ‘The fleetlord, you know, sometimes uses me as a channel between the Race and people. This is one of those times. Something strange is going on in connection with the arrival of the colonization fleet. I do not know what it is. I do not know if he knows what it is. Whatever it is, it worries him.’ ”

Goldfarb and his wife stared at each other. Anything that worried the fleetlord was liable to mean trouble for the whole human race-and, incidentally, for the Lizards. Why hadn’t Moishe been more explicit? Because he didn’t know much more himself, evidently. “Finish,” Naomi said.

“ ‘Atvar likes back-channel contacts more than he did some years ago,’ ” Goldfarb read. “ ‘If you can put a flea in the ear of some of your officer friends, it might do some good. Your cousin, Moishe.’ ”

“What will you do?” Naomi asked.

“God knows,” Goldfarb answered. “I haven’t got that many officer friends any more, not with things like they are here. And I’m hardly the bloke to play at world politics.” Naomi looked at him. He let out a long sigh. He had no real choice, and knew it. “I’ll do what I can, of course.”

Straha spent a lot of time touching up his body paint. He kept the complex patterns as neat as they had been back in the days when he commanded the 206th Emperor Yower. He’d been the third-ranking male in the conquest fleet, behind only Atvar and Kirel. He’d come within the breadth of a fingerclaw of toppling Atvar from fleetlord’s rank. If he’d done it, if he’d taken charge of things in place of that boring plodder…

He hissed softly. “Had the fleet been mine, Tosev 3 would belong to the Race in its entirety,” he said. He believed that; from snout to tailstump he believed it. It didn’t matter. What might have been never mattered, save in the Big Uglies’ overactive imaginations. A good male of the Race, Straha kept his eye turrets aimed firmly at what had been and what was.

Exile, he thought. When he failed to overthrow Atvar, the fleetlord’s revenge had been as inevitable, as inexorable, as gravity. It had also been slow-typical of Atvar, Straha thought with a sneer. Instead of waiting for it, Straha had taken the 206th Emperor Yower ’s shuttlecraft and fled to the Big Uglies.

Exile. The word tolled mournfully in his head, just as if it were reverberating from his hearing diaphragms. In exchange for his intimate knowledge of the Race, the American Tosevites had treated him and continued to treat him as well as they knew how. Anything he asked for, they gave him. That was why he dwelt in Los Angeles these days: a climate not impossibly cold, not impossibly humid. Whenever he chose, he ate ham, which came close to a delicacy he’d known back on Home. He had video gear purchased from the Race, and electronic entertainments either purchased after the fighting or captured during it.

Exile. When he wanted it, he even had the company of other males. But they were captives, not defectors; no one could blame them for collaborating with the Big Uglies. People could blame him, could and did. However useful traitors were, no one loved them. That had proved as true among the Tosevites as it was among the Race.

Still, time had slipped past without too much unpleasantness till the colonization fleet came into Tosev’s solar system. Very soon now, in the lands that the Race ruled, it would set up a good facsimile of life on Home. And Straha would be-the Big Uglies had a phrase for it-on the outside looking in.

“I do not care,” he said. But that was a lie, and he knew it. If he hadn’t fled, he would have become a part of that life. Atvar would have degraded him, even arrested him, but would not have harmed him. Big Uglies sometimes enjoyed inflicting pain. The Race didn’t, and had had ever so much trouble understanding the difference.

Feeling pain, now, when it came to feeling pain, the Tosevites and the Race were very much alike. Straha opened the drawer of a wooden cabinet of a size to suit Big Uglies better than males of the Race, one with fixtures made for a Tosevite’s hands.

In the drawer, among other things, lay a well-sealed glass jar full of powdered ginger cured with lime, the Race’s favorite form of the herb. The American Big Uglies gave Straha all the ginger he wanted, too, though they were much less generous about letting their own leaders enjoy unlimited drugs.

He poured some ginger onto the fine scales covering the palm of his hand, then raised it toward his mouth. Of itself, his tongue shot out. In a couple of quick licks, the ginger disappeared.

“Ahhh!” he hissed: a long sigh of pleasure. When ginger first lifted him, he forgot he was all alone among barbarous aliens. No, that wasn’t quite true. He remembered, but he no longer cared. With ginger coursing through him, he felt taller and stronger than any Big Ugly, and more clever than all the Big Uglies and all the other males of the Race on Tosev 3. Ideas filled his long, narrow head, each of them so brilliant it dazzled him before he could fully grasp it.

He knew ginger only seemed to turn him tall and strong and brilliant. It didn’t actually make him any of those things. Males who acted as if what the ginger told them were true had a way of dying before their time. That was one reason he tried to keep his tasting within the bounds of moderation.

Descending from ecstasy was the other reason. He had not felt so low going down from the 206th Emperor Yower to the surface of Tosev 3 as he did when the drug’s exaltation began to leach out of him. The harder he tried to grasp it, the more readily it slipped through his fingers. At last it was all gone, leaving him lower than he had been before he tasted, and painfully aware of how low that was.

Sometimes, to hold the crushing depression at bay, he would taste again when the first one wore off, or even for a third time on the heels of the second. But the herb-fueled exhilaration ebbed from one taste to another right after it, while the post-tasting gloom only got worse. Unlimited ginger, however much a taster might crave such a thing, did not mean unlimited happiness.

And so, instead of taking a second taste, Straha put the ginger jar back in the drawer and slammed it shut. He picked up the telephone. Like the cabinet, it was of Tosevite manufacture, the handset made with the distance between a Big Ugly’s mouth and absurd external ear in mind, the holes in the dial designed for blunt, clawless Tosevite fingers.

Those holes served his fingerclaws well enough. The clicks and squawks of the electronics as the call went through were partly familiar, partly strange. The bell at the other end of the line was a purely Tosevite conceit; the Race would have used some sort of hiss instead.

“Hello?” The voice on the other end was Tosevite, too, the greeting the one the local Big Uglies used among themselves on the telephone. Straha had picked up some English during his long years of exile, but Big Uglies who wished to speak with him commonly used the language of the Race.

Straha used his own language now: “I greet you, Major Yeager.”

“I greet you, Shiplord,” Yeager replied, dropping English without the least hesitation. Of all the Tosevites Straha had met, he came closest to being able to think like a male of the Race. His question was very much to the point: “Feeling lonely tonight?”

“Yes.” Straha choked back an emphatic cough. His hands folded into fists, so that fingerclaws dug into his palms. Most Big Uglies would not have noticed what he hadn’t quite said. Yeager was different. Yeager heard what wasn’t said as well as what was.

“We have known each other a long time now, Shiplord,” the Tosevite said. “I remember thinking even in the early days, when your folk and mine were still fighting, how hard a road you had chosen for yourself.”

“You thought further ahead than I was thinking when I left the conquest fleet,” Straha said. “I get an itch under the scales admitting such a thing to a Tosevite, but it is truth.” The Race had got where it was by planning ahead, by always thinking of the long term. Straha hadn’t done that. He’d been paying ever since for not doing it. Exile.

As if to rub that in, Yeager said, “You always did think more like a Big Ugly than most other males of the Race I have known.” He used the Race’s slang name for his kind without taking it as an insult, the way some Tosevites did.

“I do not think like a Big Ugly,” Straha said with dignity. “I do not wish to think like a Big Ugly. I am a male of the Race. It is merely that I am not a reactionary male of the Race, as so many officers of the conquest fleet proved to be.” Venting his anger at Atvar and Kirel to a Big Ugly was demeaning-a telling measure of just how lonely he’d become-but he couldn’t help it.

Yeager let out a few barks of noisy Tosevite laughter. “I did not say you thought like a Tosevite, Shiplord. If you were one of us, you would be a hopeless reactionary. Even so, that makes you a radical among the Race.”

“Truth,” Straha said. “You understand us well. How did this happen? I know of your attachment to the wild literature your kind produced before the conquest fleet arrived, but others were attached to this literature, too, and they have not your skill in dealing with the Race.”

“In fact, Shiplord, some of our best males and females for dealing with your folk were science-fiction readers before the conquest fleet came,” Yeager replied, the key term necessarily being in English. “But I count myself lucky. I could not have stayed a paid athlete much longer, and I do not know what I would have done after that. When the conquest fleet came, it let me discover I was good at something I had not known I could do at all. Is that not strange?”

“For the Race, it would be surpassingly strange,” Straha answered. “For you Tosevites? I doubt it. So much of everything you do seems built around lucky accidents. But not all accidents are lucky. If we had come two hundred years later-a hundred of your years, I mean-we might have found this planet dead because of nuclear war.”

“It could be so, Shiplord,” Yeager said. “We can never know, but it could be so. But if you had waited a little longer than that, we might have come to Home before you ever got to Tosev 3.”

Straha hissed in horror. Big Uglies played the game of what-might-have-been far more naturally, far more fluidly, than did the Race. Straha tried to imagine a conquest fleet full of bloodthirsty Tosevites descending on calm, peaceful Home. Save for conquests of other species, the Race had not fought a war in more than a hundred thousand years. Except when a conquest fleet was abuilding, no military hardware above the level the police needed even existed. The Big Uglies would have had an easy time of it.

He did not say that, for fear of giving Yeager ideas-not that any Big Ugly needed help coming up with ideas. What the exiled shiplord did say was, “One day, Big Uglies will visit Home. One day, Big Uglies will bow before the Emperor.” In spite of having abandoned the Race, Straha cast down his eyes at speaking of his sovereign.

“I wish I could visit your planet,” Yeager said. “We Tosevites aren’t very good at bowing to anyone, though. You may have noticed that.”

“Snoutcounting,” Straha said disparagingly. “How you think to rule yourselves through snoutcounting…” Nictitating membranes slid across his eyes, a sure sign he was growing sleepy. “I thank you for your time, Major Yeager. I shall rest now.”

“Rest well, Shiplord,” the Tosevite said.

“I shall.” Straha hung up. But even if he did rest well, tomorrow would be another day alone.


Under the summer sun, Jerusalem glowed golden. The local sandstone from which so much of the city was built looked far more impressive than the world’s usual run of gray rocks-so Reuven Russie thought, at any rate. Even marble would only have been silver to sandstone’s gold. Jerusalem was Reuven’s city, and he loved it with the uncritical, unquestioning adoration he’d lavished-for a little while-on the first girl with whom he’d become infatuated.

His childhood memories of other towns-Warsaw, London-were filled with fear and hunger and cold. His eyes went to the Temple Mount, with the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall. When had snow last fallen there? Not for many years, nor was it likely to fall again for many more. He did not miss it. He had almost a Lizard’s love for heat.

But thinking of the Lizards made him think of the marvelous antiquities on the Temple Mount in a different light. The Dome of the Rock dated from the seventh century of the Common Era. The Western Wall, of course, was far older, having gone up before Jesus strode along the streets on which Reuven walked now.

Archaeologists would be working in Jerusalem for centuries to come, piecing together the distant past. But that past seemed less distant to Reuven Russie than it did to his father Moishe, and far less distant than it would have to the grandfather he did not remember. His grandfather had never known the Lizards. His father had been a grown man when they came, and thought of the earlier days as the normal state of mankind. To those Reuven’s age and younger, especially in lands where the Lizards ruled, they were simply part of the landscape.

One of them skittered past him, intent on some business of its own. “I greet you,” he called in its language.

“I greet you,” the male answered. By the Lizard’s body paint, he served with the radar unit on the hills outside of town. The Nazis had never tried lobbing a rocket in this direction. Russie wasn’t sure what would happen if they did. Having a little warning struck him as a good idea.

He glanced toward the Temple Mount again. Antiquities, he thought once more. So they were, by his father’s standards or his grandfather’s. Two thousand years was a long time, as the Earth had measured such things in the days before the Lizards came. Now…

Now two thousand years felt like merely the blink of an eye. The Lizards’ Empire had been a going concern for more than fifty thousand years, since the days when people lived in caves and quarreled with bears who wanted to do the same. The Lizards had added the Rabotevs and Hallessi to their Empire before people figured out how to read and how to grow crops. Two thousand years ago, they’d already been thinking for some time about conquering Earth.

Set against the vast sweep of Lizardly history, what were a couple of thousand years? Why had God decided to pay attention to Earth during a restricted stretch of time and ignored the worlds of the Empire? Those were questions to make rabbis tear their own hair and pull one another’s beards.

Reuven chuckled. “The Lizards should have moved faster, for once in their scaly lives,” he murmured. Had they simply sent out a conquest fleet without bothering to think and scout and plan, they would have smashed the Roman Empire flat, and Earth would have gone into the Empire without a fight.

But it hadn’t happened. And so, although the Lizards occupied Palestine, they had less control here than they would have liked. Freedom kept spreading almost under their snouts. Not enough males prowled the countryside for it to be otherwise. Jews intrigued with the Soviet Union. Arabs intrigued with the Soviet Union and the Reich. Both Jews and Arabs intrigued with the British and Americans. And, for good measure, Jews and Arabs intrigued with each other-and with the Lizards.

With more than a little pride, Reuven strode through the entranceway to the Russie Medical College, which sat in a square, Lizard-built building a little west of the base of the Temple Mount. The college was named for his father, the first human who’d asked the Lizards for the privilege of studying what they knew and what the finest Earthly physicians hadn’t begun to suspect.

For most of a generation now, bright medical students had flocked here from all over the world to learn what they could acquire in fullness nowhere else. Reuven also knew more than a little pride that he had been allowed to study here, for the Lizards played no favorites, picking those they would accept through grueling examinations. Jews and Arabs studied side by side, along with men and a few women from India, South America, South Africa, and other lands the Lizards ruled-and from the independent nations of the world as well.

As he slid into his seat in the genetics class, Reuven nodded to his fellow students. “Good morning, Thorkil,” he whispered. “Morning, Pablo. Good morning, Jane. Hullo, Ibrahim.” Among themselves, the students spoke English more than any other human language.

In came the instructor, a Lizard military physician named Shpaaka. Along with the rest of the humans, Reuven got to his feet, bent himself into as good an approximation of the Lizards’ posture of respect as his frame would permit, and chorused, “I greet you, superior sir.”

“I greet you,” Shpaaka said. He understood enough English to make sardonic comments when he caught his human students whispering in it. But the Lizards’ tongue was the language of instruction. It had the technical terms he needed to get his point across; English and other Earthly languages had borrowed a lot of them. His eye turrets swiveled back and forth. “Have you any questions on what we covered yesterday before we commence?” He pointed. “Jane Archibald?”

“I thank you, superior sir,” the Australian girl said. “When using a virus to bring an altered gene into a cell, what is the best way to suppress the body’s immune response to ensure that the gene does get to its intended destination?”

“This seems rather different in your species from mine,” the lecturer replied, “and it also leads into today’s subject. Perhaps it would be best if I simply went on.” He proceeded to do just that.

Back when Reuven’s father studied under the Lizards, they hadn’t wanted to stop for questions at all; that wasn’t their style among themselves. Over the years, they’d adapted to some degree, and so had people. No one had ever had the nerve to thank them for adapting; had they consciously realized they were doing so, they might have stopped. They did not approve of change of any sort.

Reuven scrawled notes. Shpaaka was a clear, well-organized lecturer; clarity and organization were Lizardly virtues. The male knew his material backwards and forwards. He also had, in the large vision screen behind him, a teaching tool that would have made any human instructor jealous. It showed what he was talking about in color and in three dimensions. Seeing wasn’t just believing. It was understanding, too.

Laboratory work meant shifting back and forth between the metric system and the one the Lizards used, which was also based on powers of ten but used different basic quantities for everything but temperature. More lectures followed, on pharmacology and biochemistry. The Lizards did not teach surgery, not having had enough experience with humans to be confident of the result.

By the end of the day, Reuven’s brain felt pounded flat, as it did by the end of almost every day. He shook his hand to work the writer’s cramp out of it. “Now I get to go home and study,” he said. “I’m so glad to live the exciting life of a student-a party every night.” He rolled his eyes to show how seriously he expected everyone to take that.

He got a few tired groans from his classmates. Jane Archibald rolled her eyes, too, and said, “At least you have a home to go to, Reuven. Better than the bleeding dormitory, and that’s a fact.”

“Come along and have supper with me, if you like,” Reuven said-a not altogether disinterested offer, as she was easily the best-looking girl at the medical college, being blond and pink and emphatically shaped. Had she come from the Reich, she would have been the perfect Aryan princess… and would, no doubt, have been horrified to get such an invitation from a Jew.

As things were, she shook her head, but said, “Maybe another time. I’ve got too much swotting tonight to spare even a minute.”

He nodded sympathetically; every student could sing that song almost every night. “See you in the morning,” he said, and turned to head back to his parents’ house. But then he paused-Jane was biting her lip. “Is something wrong?” he asked, hastily adding, “I don’t mean to pry.”

“You’re not,” she said. “It’s only that, every now and then, the idea of having a home where you’re comfortable strikes me as very strange. Over and above the dormitories, I mean.”

“I understood what you meant,” he said, his voice quiet. “Australia had a hard time of it.”

“A hard time of it? You might say so.” Jane’s nod sent golden curls bouncing up and down. “An atomic bomb on top of Sydney, another one on Melbourne-and we’d hardly even been in the fight against the Lizards till then. They just took us out and took us over.”

“That’s what happened here, too, more or less,” Russie said, “though without the bombs.”

He might as well have kept quiet. Jane Archibald went on as if he had, saying, “And now, with the colonization fleet here at last, they’re going to build cities from one end of the desert to the other. Bloody Lizards like it there-they say it’s almost as nice and warm as Home.” She shuddered. “They don’t care-they don’t care at all-that we were there first.”

Reuven wondered how much her ancestors had cared that the aborigines were there first. About as much as his own ancestors had cared that the Canaanites were in Palestine first, he supposed. Mentioning the subject struck him as unwise even so. Instead, he asked, “If you hate the Lizards so much, what are you doing here?”

Jane shrugged and grimaced. “Not a hope in hell of fighting them, not down in Australia there isn’t. Next best thing I can do is learn from them. The more I know, the more use I’ll be to the poor downtrodden human race.” Her grin was wry. “And now I’ll get down from my soapbox, thank you very much.”

“It’s all right,” Reuven said. He didn’t feel particularly downtrodden. Jews did better under the Lizards than anywhere in the independent lands except possibly the United States. That they did so well made them objects of suspicion to the rest of mankind-not that we weren’t objects of suspicion to the rest of mankind before the Lizards came, he thought.

“I didn’t intend to use your shoulder to cry on,” Jane Archibald said. “It’s not like you can do anything about the way things are.”

“It’s all right,” Reuven repeated. “Any time.” He made as if to grab her and forcibly pull her to the aforesaid shoulder. She made as if to clout him over the head with her notebook, which was thick enough to have lethal potential. They both laughed. Maybe the world wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t seem so bad, either.

Rance Auerbach awoke in pain. He’d awakened in pain every day for almost all the past twenty years, ever since a burst from a Lizard machine gun wrecked his leg and his chest and shoulder outside of Denver. The Lizards had captured him afterwards, and taken care of him as best they knew how. He had both legs, which proved as much. But he still woke in pain every morning.

He reached for his stick, which lay beside him on the bed like a lover and was far more faithful than any lover he’d ever had. Then, moving slowly and carefully-the only way he could move these days-he first sat and finally stood.

Limping into the kitchen of his small, grubby Fort Worth apartment, he poured water into a pot and spooned instant coffee and sugar into a cup. The coffee jar was getting close to empty. If he bought a new one the next time he went to the store, he’d have to figure out what else to do without. “Damn the Lizards anyway,” he muttered. His own voice held a Texas twang; he’d come home after the fighting stopped. “Damn them to hell and gone.” The Lizards ruled just about all the lands where coffee grew, and made sure it wasn’t cheap when it got to the free people who drank it.

He burned a couple of slices of toast, scraped some of the charcoal off them, and spread them with grape jelly. He left the knife, the plate, and the coffee cup in the sink. They had company from the day before, and some more from the day before that. He’d been neat as a pin in his Army days. He wasn’t neat as a pin any more.

Getting dressed meant going through another ordeal. It also meant looking at the scars that seamed his body. Not for the first time, he wished the Lizards had killed him outright instead of reminding him for the rest of his life how close they’d come. He dragged on khaki pants that had seen better days and slowly buttoned a chambray shirt he didn’t bother tucking in.

Slipping his feet into thong-style sandals was pretty easy. As he headed for the door, he passed the mirror on the dresser from which he hadn’t taken clean underwear. He hadn’t shaved, either, which meant graying stubble fuzzed his cheeks and jaw.

“You know what you look like?” he told his reflection. “You look like a goddamn wino.” Was that misery in his voice or a sort of twisted pride? For the life of him, he couldn’t tell.

He made sure the door was locked when he went outside, then turned the key in the dead bolt he’d installed himself. This wasn’t the best part of town. He didn’t have much to tempt a burglar, but what he did have, by God, was his.

His bad leg made him wish he could afford either a ground-floor apartment or a building that boasted an elevator. Going down two flights of stairs left him sweating and cursing. Going upstairs when he came home tonight would be worse. To celebrate making it to the sidewalk, he lit a cigarette.

Every doctor he’d ever met told him he didn’t have the lung capacity to keep smoking. “None of the sons of bitches ever told me how to quit, though,” he said, and took another deep drag on the coffin nail.

The sun beat down from a sky of enameled brass. Shadows were pale, as if apologizing for being there at all. The air he breathed was almost as hot and almost as wet as the coffee he’d drunk. Step by painful step, he made his way down to the bus stop on the corner. He sank down onto the bench with a sigh of relief, and celebrated with another Camel. Fine American tobaccos, the pack said. He remembered the days when it had said, Fine American and Turkish tobaccos. The Lizards ruled Turkey now, though the Reich next door kept things uncomfortable for them there. Turkish tobaccos stayed home.

A bus pulled to a stop in front of the bench. Auerbach regretted sitting, because that meant he had to stand up again. Putting most of his weight on the cane, he managed. He negotiated the couple of steps up to the fare box with only a couple of cuss words for each one. He tossed a dime in the box and kept standing not far from the door.

People pushed past him, getting on and off. He leered at a couple of pretty girls who went by; the clothes women wore these days offered a lot of flesh for leering. But when a bare-chested teenage boy with his head shaved and his chest painted to imitate a Lizard rank boarded the bus, Rance had everything he could do to keep from breaking his cane over the punk’s glistening, empty head.

That’s the enemy! he wanted to shout. It wouldn’t have done any good. He’d tried it a few times, and seen as much. To the kids who didn’t remember the war, the Lizards were as permanent a fixture as human beings, and they often seemed a lot more interesting.

His stop came only a couple of blocks later. The door opened with a hiss of compressed air. The driver, who carried Rance a couple of times a week, kept it open till he’d managed to descend. “Thanks,” he said over his shoulder.

“Any time, friend,” the colored man answered. With another hiss, the door closed. The bus roared away, leaving behind a cloud of noxious diesel fumes. Fort Worth wasn’t a rich town. It wouldn’t be buying any stink-free hydrogen-burning buses for quite a while yet.

Auerbach didn’t mind diesel exhaust. It was a human smell, which meant he was going to approve of it till forced to do otherwise. He shuffled along, faster than a tortoise but not much, till he got to the American Legion post halfway down the block.

The post didn’t have a lot of money, either: not enough for air-conditioning. A fan stirred the air without doing much to cool it. A tableful of men with poker chips in front of them waved to Rance when he came inside. “Always room for one more,” Charlie Thornton told him. “Your money spends as good as anybody else’s.”

“Hell of a lot you know about it, Charlie,” Auerbach said, pulling his wallet out of a hip pocket so he could buy his way into the game. “I win money off you, not the other way round.”

“Boy’s delirious,” Thornton declared, to general laughter. His white mustache showed he was a veteran of the First World War, the last time people had had the privacy to fight among themselves alone. Nobody knew it at the time, but the Lizards’ conquest fleet had headed for Earth a bare handful of years after what people had called the War to End War ended.

Auerbach didn’t like thinking about Lizard fleets heading toward Earth. He didn’t like thinking about the one that was just arriving, either. He examined the first hand he got dealt. The five cards might never have met before. Disgusted, he threw them down on the table. Even more disgusted, he said, “Before long, we’re going to be ass-deep in Lizards.”

“That’s a fact,” said Pete Bragan, who had dealt Rance the lousy hand. Pete wore a patch on his left eye and had a walk even funnier than Auerbach’s. He’d been inside a Sherman tank that had the misfortune of coming up against one of the Lizards’ machines outside of Chicago. As such things went, he’d been lucky: all of him but that one eye and the last few inches of his right leg had got out. “Damn shame, you ask me.”

One by one, the veterans around the table nodded. Except for Thornton, the old-timer, they were men the Lizards had wrecked, one way or another. Among them, they had enough chunks missing to make a pretty fair meat market. Mike Cohen, for instance, never had to shuffle and deal because he couldn’t with only one hand. None of them held down a regular job. Had they held regular jobs, they wouldn’t have been playing poker early on a Tuesday morning.

After dropping out of another hand, Auerbach won one with three nines and then, to his disgust, lost one with an ace-high straight. War stories went around with the cards. Rance had told his before. That didn’t stop him from telling them again. After a while, he lost with another straight. “Jesus Christ, I’m gonna quit coming here!” he exclaimed, staring at Pete Bragan’s full house. “My pension doesn’t stretch far enough to let me afford many of these.”

“Amen,” Mike Cohen said, for all the world as if he were Christian. “It was decent money when they set it up, but things haven’t gotten any cheaper since.”

Grousing about the pension was as much a ritual as swapping war stories. Auerbach shook his head when that thought crossed his mind. Stories about making ends meet were war stories, stories of a quiet war that never ended. He said, “They don’t give a damn about us. Oh, they talk pretty fine, but down deep they just don’t care.”

“That’s a fact,” Bragan said. “They got what they could from us, and now they don’t want to remember who saved the bacon.” He tossed a chip into the pot. “I’ll bump that up a quarter.”

“Way things are going nowadays, seems like some folks wish the Lizards had won,” Auerbach said, and described the teenager on the bus. He put in a couple of chips. “I’ll see that, and I’ll raise another quarter.”

“World’s going to hell in a handbasket,” Bragan said. When it came round to him again, he raised another quarter.

Auerbach studied his three jacks. He knew what kind of hand he held: one just good enough to lose. He wished he hadn’t raised before. But he had. Throw good money after bad — the best recipe he knew for losing the good money, too. With a grimace, he said, “Call,” and did his best to pretend the chip he flipped into the pot had got there of its own accord.

Bragan displayed three tens. “I’ll be a son of a bitch,” Auerbach said happily, and raked in the pot.

“Don’t reckon anybody’d notice any special change,” Bragan said, which drew a laugh. The other wounded veteran shook his head. “Yeah, world’s going to hell in a handbasket, all right. Whose deal is it?”

As it did every day, the game went on and on. Somebody limped out and bought hero sandwiches. Somebody else went out a little later and came back with beer. Occasionally, someone would get up and leave. The poker players never had any trouble finding someone else to sit in. Most of them didn’t have much else to do with their lives. Rance Auerbach knew he didn’t. He’d never married. He hadn’t had a steady woman friend for a long time. His poker buddies were in the same boat. They had their wounds and their stories and one another.

He hated the idea of going back to his apartment. But the American Legion hall didn’t have cots. He cashed in his chips, discovering he was a couple of dollars ahead on the day. If he’d had more he cared to buy, he would have felt better about that. As things were, he took it as skill’s due reward-and coffee next time he went shopping.

When he got back to the apartment building, he checked his mailbox. He had a sister married to a fellow who sold cars in Texarkana; she sometimes wrote. His brother in Dallas had probably forgotten he was alive. When his leg and his shoulder started kicking in, he wished he could forget, too.

Nothing from Kendall. Nothing from Mae, either: Rance owed her a letter. But, amid the drugstore circulars and get-rich-quick ads for suckers to sell “miracle Lizard gadgets” door-to-door, he did come across an envelope with a stamp bearing the picture of Queen Elizabeth and another showing a tough-looking fellow in a high-peaked cap and the legend GROSSDEUTSCHES REICH.

“Well, well,” he said, looking from one of them to the other before starting the long, painful business of going upstairs. He smiled. His face almost hurt as it shifted into the new and unfamiliar expression. He might spend some of his time wishing he were dead. With any luck at all, the Lizards would spend more of theirs wishing they were.

Monique Dutourd sometimes-often-wondered why she had studied anything as far removed from the modern world as Roman history. The best explanation she’d ever found was that the modern world had turned upside down too many times for her ever to trust it fully. She’d been eleven when the Germans overran northern France and turned her native Marseille into an appendage of Vichy, a town previously known, if it was known at all, for its water. Two years after that, the Lizards had swept the south of France into their clawed grip. And two years after that, as fighting finally ebbed, they’d withdrawn south of the Pyrenees, handing the part of France they’d held back to the Germans as casually as one neighbor might return a borrowed roasting pan to another.

No, Monique had had enough and to spare of disasters and betrayals and disappointments in her own life. She did not want to examine them in more detail than she’d known while she was living through them. And so…

“And so,” she said, running a brush through her thick, dark hair, “I examine the disasters and betrayals and disappointments of people two thousand years dead. Ah, this is truly an improvement.”

It would have been funny, if only it were funny. Not a human university in the world taught a course called ancient history any more. The headquarters of the Lizard fleetlord in Cairo looked across the Nile at the Pyramids. They’d gone up more than four thousand years ago-about the time the Lizards, having long, long since unified their planet, having conquered two other neighboring worlds, began to look with covetous eyes toward Earth. To them, the entire span of human recorded history wasn’t ancient-it was more like looking back at the year before last.

A glance at the clock on the mantel-a silent, modern electric, not the loudly ticking model she had known in her youth-made her mouth pucker into an O of dismay. If she didn’t hurry, she’d be late to the university. Were a male instructor late for his lecture, he would be assumed to have a lover-and forgiven. Were she late for hers, she would be assumed to have a lover-and liable to get the sack.

As always, she lugged her bicycle downstairs. She took modest pride in never having lost one to thieves. Having lived in Marseille all her life, she knew her fellow townsfolk were a light-fingered lot. Marseille had specialized in unofficial commerce since the Greeks founded the place more than five hundred years before the birth of Christ.

Gulls screeched overhead as she pedaled south along Rue Breteuil toward the campus, which had gone up on a couple of blocks wrecked during the fighting between the Lizards and troops from the Vichy government. Marseille was one of the few places where Vichy troops had fought, no doubt because they were at least as afraid of what the locals would do to them if they didn’t as they were of what the Lizards would do to them if they did.

A policeman in a kepi and a blue uniform waved her on across Rue Sylvabette. “Hello, sweetheart,” he called in the Provencalflavored local dialect he, like she, took for granted. “Nice legs!”

“I bet you say that to all the girls,” Monique answered with a derisive gesture. The policeman laughed uproariously. He knew bloody well he said that to all the girls. He wasn’t bad-looking. Maybe it got him laid once a year or so.

With unconscious skill, Monique threaded her way through the stream of bicycle, car, and lorry traffic. A sunburned blond fellow in a field-gray uniform pulled up alongside her on a motorcycle. Over the rumble of its engine, he spoke in German-accented Parisian French: “Are you going anywhere special?”

She thought about pretending she didn’t understand. With a true Parisian, she might have done that. With a German, she didn’t quite dare. If Germans wanted to badly enough, they could make unfortunate things happen. And so she answered with the truth: “I’m on my way to work.”

“Ach, so,” he said, and then, remembering his French, “Quel dommage.” Monique didn’t think it was a pity; she knew nothing but relief as the motorcycle zoomed away. A generation had resigned her to the Germans as masters of France, but hadn’t left her enthusiastic.

Then she rode past the synagogue on the east side of Rue Breteuil. Its windows were shuttered, its doorway boarded up, as it had been since the Lizards left and the Germans came in. Maybe a few Jews still survived here. If they did, it was not for lack of German effort. Monique shook her head, then had to brush hair back out of her eyes. No wonder so many Jews got on so well with the Lizards.

As if thinking of the aliens were enough to conjure them up, she saw one on the sidewalk in animated conversation with a Frenchman in a gray, collarless shirt. They might have been discussing legitimate business; some of that got done in Marseille, too. Monique wouldn’t have bet anything she didn’t care to lose on it, though.

She parked her bicycle at a stand on the edge of the campus (which looked more like a series of apartment blocks than a proper university), chained it in place, and tipped the guard so he wouldn’t steal it himself and say someone else had. Grabbing her briefcase off the jump seat, she hurried along to her classroom.

She had more students every semester. The large majority were Frenchmen and — women as disenchanted with the present as she was. The rest, who paid their fees to the bursar like everyone else, were Germans stationed around Marseille. Some of them had been stationed around the city long enough to learn to speak the local dialect with a guttural German accent rather than the standard French they would have been taught back in the Vaterland.

The students, French and Germans alike, were chattering among themselves when she walked into the hall. The Germans quieted down out of respect for her as a professor. The Frenchmen quieted down because they were eyeing her legs, as the flic had done. The Frenchwomen quieted down because they were pondering her culottes, a nice compromise between modesty and display for someone who rode a bicycle.

However she got quiet, she was glad enough to take advantage of it. “Today,” she said, “we shall continue to examine the consequences of Augustus’ failure to conquer Germania as Caesar had conquered Gallia.”

Using the Latin names for the areas in question made the event seem more distant than it would have had she called them Allemagne and France. She did that on purpose; she did not want to have the ancient world drawn into the sphere of modern politics. If her French students took especially careful notes on this material, was it her fault? If her handful of German students took especially careful notes… That, unlike the other, was something to worry about.

And, try as she would, she couldn’t leave out her own thoughts. “Augustus’ failure in Germania is one of those areas of history where inevitability is difficult if not impossible to discern,” she said. “Had the Roman Emperor’s abler commanders not died at inopportune times, had revolt not broken out elsewhere in the Empire, he would not have had to appoint Quinctilius Varus to head the German legions, and Arminius”-she would not say Hermann, the German equivalent of the name-“would not have been able to slaughter those legions in the forest of Teutoberg.”

A woman raised her hand. Monique pointed to her. She asked, “How would a Roman Germany”-she said Allemagne — “have changed the history of the world?”

It was a good, sensible question. Monique would have liked it even better had answering it not reminded her of walking through a thicket of thornbushes. Picking her words with care, she said, “A Roman Empire with its frontier on the Elbe, not the Rhine, would have had a shield against the nomads from out of the east. And Romanized Germans would surely have contributed as much to the Empire as Romanized Gauls did in the history with which we are familiar.”

That seemed to satisfy the woman. Other answers were possible. Monique knew it. The Goths and Vandals wouldn’t have sacked Rome. The Franks wouldn’t have invaded France and given it their name. There wouldn’t have been a Germany to invade our country in 1870 or 1914 or 1940. Because an answer was possible, though, did not mean it was safe to give.

She got through the rest of the lecture without treading on such dangerous ground. Watching the clock reach half past ten was something of a relief. “Dismissed,” she said, and put her notes back into the briefcase. She looked forward to going to her office. She finally had the references she needed to put the finishing touches on a paper tracing the growth of the cult of Isis in Gallia Narbonensis during the first couple of centuries of the Christian era. It would, she hoped, raise some eyebrows in the small circle that cared about such things.

A tanned fellow about her own age in an open-necked shirt and baggy pants a fisherman might have worn approached the lectern. “A very interesting lecture,” he said, nodding his approval. “Very interesting indeed.”

He looked like a local. Monique had assumed he was a local. In the class roster, his name was down as Laforce. He wrote French as well as a local would have. When he spoke, though, he proved he wasn’t a local. He was a German. His countrymen in the class wore Wehrmacht or Luftwaffe uniforms. She wondered what he did, and hoped she wouldn’t find out the hard way. “Thank you,” she said, as if to a viper that had suddenly revealed itself among the rocks.

He laughed, showing strong yellow teeth, and lit a Gauloise. He smoked like a local, too, letting the cigarette hang insouciantly from the corner of his mouth. “You could have been much more inflammatory than you were with your Germania and Gallia,” he remarked.

Wary still, she studied him. “And would I have vanished into night and fog, then?” she asked. That was what happened to people who made the Reich unhappy because of what they said or what they were.

“Maybe,” he answered, and laughed again. “Maybe not, too. You can get away with more in a lecture hall than you could on a soapbox. If you like, take some coffee with me this afternoon, and we’ll talk about it.”

His approach could have been a lot less subtle. As an occupier, he hardly needed to make an approach at all. Because he had, Monique was bold enough to reply, “Tell me your real name and your real rank and I’ll decide whether we talk about it.”

He dipped his head in half a bow. “Sturmbannfuhrer Dieter Kuhn, at your service, Professor Dutourd.”

“What sort of rank is-?” Monique stopped. Before she finished the question, she realized what sort of rank it was. Kuhn-if that was really his name-belonged to the SS.

“You can say no, if you like,” he said. “I don’t build dossiers on women who turn me down. I’d go through too many folders if I did.”

She thought he meant it. That was one of the reasons she smiled and nodded. The other reason, though, was the lingering fear he might be lying. She got very little research done after she did go back to her office.

Lieutenant Colonel Glen Johnson sat on top of a large cylinder filled with some of the most highly inflammable substances ingenious chemists could devise. If they exploded in any way but the one for which they were designed… He whistled softly. “If they do that, folks’ll be picking up pieces of me from Baltimore down to Key West,” he muttered.

“What’s that, Peregrine?” The radio speaker above his head in the cramped cockpit sounded tinny. Nobody’d bothered changing the design since the war. The old one worked, which was plenty good enough for military airand spacecraft. Johnson had a fancier, smoother speaker in his record player back home. That was fine, for play. When he heard squawks, he knew he was working.

“Nothing much, Control,” he answered. “Just woolgathering.” The blockhouse here at Kitty Hawk was a long way away from his rocket. If it blew up instead of going up, the bureaucrats and technicians would be fine. He, on the other hand… well, it would be over before he noticed he was dead.

“Cheer up, Peregrine,” the fellow on the distant other end of the microphone said. “You’ve been living on borrowed time the past twenty years anyhow.”

“You so relieve my mind,” Johnson said with a wry chuckle. He would have laughed louder and harder if the man back at the blockhouse had been joking. He’d flown fighters against the Lizards during the war, a job where pilots had life expectancies commonly measured in minutes. He’d been shot down twice, and managed to survive both times. One forearm had some nasty burn scars on it from his second forced landing. He wore long-sleeved shirts whenever he could.

If he hadn’t been on the shelf for a while with burns, he would have gone right back into action and probably been killed. As things were, he’d just returned to one of the last Marine air units still operating when the cease-fire came.

After the fighting ended, he’d tested a lot of the new planes that married human and Lizard technology-in some cases (luckily none of his) marriages smeared across heaven rather than made in it. Graduating to rockets when the USA went into space in the 1950s was a natural next step.

“One minute, Peregrine,” the blockhouse warned.

“One minute, roger,” Johnson said. Just a couple of miles from here, back when his dad was a boy, the Wright brothers had coaxed a motorized kite into the air. Johnson wondered what they would have thought of the craft he flew. Orville, like Johnson an Ohioan, had survived the Lizards’ occupation of his home state and lived on till 1948-only a handful of years too soon to see Americans going not only into the air but above it.

“Thirty seconds, Peregrine,” Control announced, and then the countdown the U.S. Air and Space Force had surely borrowed from the pulp magazines: “Ten… nine… eight…” When he’d proved he could count backwards on his fingers, the man in the blockhouse yelled, “Blastoff!” That also came straight out of the pulps. Johnson wished somebody somewhere would find a better name for it.

Then it seemed as if three very heavy men came in and sat on him. He stopped worrying about what people ought to call a rocket leaving Earth, for he was much too intimately involved in riding one. If anything went wrong that didn’t splatter him all over the landscape, he had some hope of getting back down in one piece; like the machines the Nazis flew, his upper stage doubled as an airplane. He pitied the poor Russians, who went into space in what weren’t much more than airtight boxes. Those were easier and cheaper to build, no doubt about it, but the Red Air Force used up a lot of pilots.

A fresh kick in the pants made him stop worrying about the Russians. “Second stage has ignited,” Control reported, as if he never would have known without the announcement. “Trajectory to planned orbit looks very good.”

“Roger that,” Johnson said. He could see it for himself from the instruments on the Peregrine ’s instrument panel, but he wasn’t allergic to reassurance.

“How does it feel, going from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli in just a few minutes?” Control asked.

“That’s what I get for coming out of the Marines,” Johnson said, laughing. “You never ride the real A and S boys this way.” Actually, he’d started a good deal northeast of the halls of Montezuma and he’d go over Africa even farther south of the shores of Tripoli, but who was he to trifle with a man’s poetic license?

Then another voice came over the speaker, one not using English: “U.S. spacecraft, this is the tracking station of the Race. Acknowledge.”

“I greet you, Dakar,” Johnson said in the Lizards’ lingo as the second-stage motor cut out and the one in the rear of his upper stage took over to finish the job of boosting him into orbit. He wasn’t over the radar or radio horizon for Dakar yet, but the Lizards’ orbital radar and satellite radio relays still beat the stuffing out of any merely human communications network. “Is that you, Hashshett?” As a Lizard would, he pronounced each sh and each t as a separate syllable.

“It is I. And you are Glen Johnson?” Hashshett turned the last syllable of Johnson’s name into a long hiss.

“I am. My trackers show me as good for my announced orbit. Do you confirm?” Johnson tacked on an interrogative cough.

“Confirming,” the Lizard answered after a pause that would have let him turn an eye turret toward his instruments. “Seeing a flight path in such conformity is good.”

As far as the Lizards were concerned, anything that conformed to the status quo ante was good. With four different powers owning orbiting nuclear weapons, people and the Lizards had grown far more punctilious than they’d once been about notifying one another of their launches. The Lizards had got very huffy very fast about wanting to be notified; persuading them that they needed to notify any mere humans of what they were up to had taken a lot more work.

Just then, on time to the second, the upper-stage motor cut out. Johnson went weightless. His stomach tried to climb up his windpipe hand over hand. He gulped and sternly told it to get back where it belonged. After a few nervous moments, it decided to listen to him. Puking while weightless did not win a pilot luckless enough to do it the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

Once he’d decided he wasn’t going to redecorate the inside of his cockpit, Johnson checked his own radar. He hadn’t really expected to see anything that would make him use his attitude jets to evade, but you never could tell. Space was a crowded place these days, loaded not only with manned (or Lizarded) spacecraft but also with all manner of unmanned satellites, some peaceful, some not, and with a lot of junk: discarded protective shrouds and upper stages that had reached orbit after delivering their cargo. The Lizards never stopped grumbling about the junk; not even their fancy radars and even fancier computing machines could tell the garbage from camouflaged weapons quietly floating and waiting for orders. The weapons that weren’t camouflaged maneuvered frequently, too; the longer they stayed in the same orbit, the more vulnerable they got.

Having made sure he didn’t need to evade, Johnson studied the radar screen again. He hadn’t been up since the colonization fleet came in from Tau Ceti II. The targets the radar showed were not only distant-in relatively high orbits-but big. They looked like Christmas-tree lights on the screen. They were so big, he knew he could spot them with his Mark I eyeball as well as with his electronic senses.

He peered in the direction the radar gave him. Sure as hell, there they were, some of them bright as Venus-brighter. Being in a lower, faster orbit, he passed them, but there were more ahead. All the way around the world, there were more ahead, with Lizards, millions upon millions of Lizards, lying in them in cold sleep like steaks in cardboard cartons on icebox shelves.

Seeing the ships of the colonization fleet filled him with awe. He’d come a couple of hundred miles into space. The USA, the Greater German Reich, and the USSR had bases on the moon. Americans and Germans had walked on Mars (bemusing the Lizards, who couldn’t figure out why they wanted to visit such a useless world). Americans and Germans were out in the asteroid belt, too, seeing if it held anything worthwhile (the very existence of the asteroid belt bemused the Lizards; the solar systems with which they had been familiar were much tidier places).

“Going out to see asteroids up close-that’s not bad,” Johnson muttered. But the ships he was looking at hadn’t crossed millions, or even tens of millions, of miles of space. They’d come better than ten light-years-say, sixty trillion miles. If that didn’t make you sit up and take notice, you were dead inside.

What would it be like, crossing ten light-years? I’d pay a lot to visit Home, Johnson thought, and wondered if he’d sooner go as a tourist or as part of a fleet that would smash the Lizards’ home planet so flat, even cockroaches (or whatever Home had instead of cockroaches) couldn’t live there.

He sighed. It didn’t matter. If the U.S. government, or any other human government, had plans for a starship, he didn’t know about them-and he kept his ear to the ground where such things were involved. He sighed again. Even if some human government did have plans for a ship that could cross interstellar space, odds were it wouldn’t be built till the turn of the century, if that soon. He’d had his fortieth birthday a couple of years before.

“Too old to go to the stars.” He shook his head, wondering what his life would have been like if the Lizards hadn’t come, if the world had just kept moving along its normal, expected course. “Christ!” he exclaimed. “I might have been too old to go into space at all.” That was a really frightening thought.

As long as he could come up here, as long as he was up here, he had work to do. He also had work he hoped he wouldn’t have to do. Again like its German equivalents, the Peregrine carried missiles and machine guns. The clumsy Russian spacecraft mounted machine guns, too. Even before the colonization fleet came, though, the Lizards had had far more in space than all of humankind put together. If push came to shove, they could probably knock people back inside the atmosphere. His job, and that of the other Americans in the Air and Space Force, and also that of their Nazi and Red opposite numbers, was to hurt them as much as he could before he got killed.

The radio crackled. “Peregrine, this is Osprey. Over.”

“Hello, Gus,” Johnson answered. “Peregrine here.” Most of the ships that flew out of Kitty Hawk were named for birds of prey. “You’ve been up here a while. Anything going on with the colonization fleet? Over.”

“They’ve made a few flights down,” Gus Wilhelm said. “More the past couple of days than earlier. They’re trying to figure out the lay of the land, you might say. It’s not what they expected when they left Home, not even close.”

Johnson laughed. “I’ll say it’s not. Have you listened to some of the first radio transmissions between the colonization fleet and the ones who’re already on Earth? Bob Hope couldn’t be half as funny if he tried for a year.”

“That’s the truth,” Gus agreed. “Yeah, I’ve heard some of those. And now they’ll know we listen in on ’em.”

“Like they didn’t already,” Glen Johnson said. He and Gus both laughed then. He settled back onto his couch, a man on a routine mission ready to turn back into a fighter pilot in a heartbeat if the mission stopped being routine. “Over and out.”

Through most of the long Tosevite year, Fotsev thought well of the city of Basra, where he was stationed. Oh, it got chilly in the winter, but he didn’t think there was any place on the surface of Tosev 3 that didn’t get chilly during the winter. Summers were quite pleasant; the hottest days would have been warm back on Home, too.

Males who’d fought farther north, up in the not-empire that called itself the SSSR, had horrifying tales to tell about Tosevite winters. Fotsev hadn’t hatched out of the egg yesterday; he knew how people lied to make stories sound better and themselves more heroic. He had stories of his own from the conquest of Argentina, and he wasn’t above inflating them when they needed inflating. But some of the males produced videos to prove they weren’t lying. The mere idea of trying to fight in drifts of frozen water taller than a male was enough to make him glad he’d never had to do it.

“Remember that Ussmak?” said a male named Gorppet, who wore a stripe of body paint on his left arm that showed he’d served in the SSSR. “I always figured it was the cold that drove him to mutiny, by the Emperor.”

After casting his eyes down in the ritual gesture of respect, Fotsev swiveled his eye turrets every which way to make sure nobody else had heard Gorppet. The other male was doing the same thing, aware he might have said too much even to a friend.

“I never knew much about the mutiny,” Fotsev said. Virtuously, he added, “I never wanted to know much about it, either.”

“I cannot blame you for that,” Gorppet said. Both infantrymales shuddered, as if from the chill of the SSSR, though the local weather was perfectly respectable even by the standards of Home. Mutiny-rebellion against superiors-was vanishingly rare among the Race; males interested in such things had had to look for examples in ancientest history, long before the Empire unified Home.

Belying his earlier words (there was a horrid fascination to the subject, after all), Fotsev said, “I wonder what happened to Ussmak after he yielded himself up to the Russkis. He is probably living as comfortably as anyone could in a not-empire full of Big Uglies, like that shiplord over on the lesser continental mass.”

But Gorppet made a negative hand gesture. “No-oh my, no,” he said, and added an emphatic cough. “I heard this from a male the Russkis ended up freeing from one of their captives’ camps-and he was nothing but scales and skeleton after that, too, let me tell you. He told me Ussmak died in one of those camps along with spirits of Emperors past only know how many other males. If we ever fight the Tosevites again, you do not want to let the Russkis or the Deutsche capture you-or the Nipponese, either, though we have knocked them down a good deal.”

Fotsev shuddered again. “I do not want any Big Uglies capturing me,” he said with an emphatic cough of his own. “They build factories to kill off their own-no wonder they kill us off, too, when they catch us.”

His eye turrets kept swiveling as he spoke. He and Gorppet were patrolling the market square of Basra. In the early days of the occupation, males had disappeared not far from here. The Race’s vengeance had been brutal enough to make that stop happening, but neither of the males wanted to give it a chance to start up again through lack of alertness.

In the square-an open area in a town of mud-brick buildings, most dun-colored, the fancier ones whitewashed-Big Uglies sold and bartered an enormous variety of goods, most of which Fotsev found distinctly unappetizing. Tosevite males wore robes and headpieces of cloth to shield themselves from the sun the males of the Race found so friendly, while the females swaddled themselves even more thoroughly. The Argentine Big Uglies, who lived in a harsher climate, wrapped fewer cloths around themselves. Fotsev had trouble understanding the reasons behind the difference.

When he remarked on that, Gorppet answered, “Religion,” and kept on walking, as if he’d said something wise.

Fotsev didn’t think he had. Religion and Emperor-worship were the same word in the language of the Race. They weren’t the same here on Tosev 3. The Big Uglies, not having had the benefit of tens of thousands of years of imperial rule, foolishly imagined powerful beings made in their own image, and then further imagined that those powerful beings had created them in their image rather than the other way around.

It would have been laughable, had the Big Uglies not taken it so seriously. As far as Fotsev was concerned, it remained laughable, but he did not laugh. As experience had taught the local Tosevites not to kidnap males of the Race, experience had also taught the Race not to try to alter the beliefs the local Tosevites held, no matter how absurd they were. If they thought they had to bow down five times a day to revere the Big Ugly they had writ large in the sky, easier to let them than to try to talk them out of it. Fotsev had come to Basra to reinforce the garrison here after riots from that very source.

Gorppet must have been thinking along related lines, for he said, “If they are going to have these absurd notions, why do they not all have the same ones, instead of arguing about who is right and who is wrong?”

“I do not think you can expect any two Big Uglies to have the same notion about anything,” Fotsev said. “They do not even have the same words for the same things. I had finally started learning some of the Espanol they speak in Argentina, and not a Big Ugly around these parts knows a word of it. Hardly seems fair.”

“Truth,” Gorppet said. “And some of the Tosevites here speak Arabic, some speak Farsi. Untidy, that is what this whole world is.”

“Having them all mixed together like this, you mean?” Fotsev said. “It certainly is. We ought to do something about it.”

“Like what?” Gorppet sounded interested.

I do not know,” Fotsev said in some exasperation. “I am just an infantrymale, same as you. I know what the Big Uglies would do: kill all the ones who spoke the language they did not want. Then they would not have to worry about them any more. Nice and neat and clean, isn’t it?”

“Very neat and clean-if you do not look at the blood,” Gorppet said.

Fotsev’s shrug wasn’t that different from the gesture a Tosevite would have used. The Big Uglies weren’t in the habit of looking at blood once they’d spilled it. Off to one side of the square, a crowd was gathering, mostly Tosevite males with a sprinkling of females. Fotsev pointed toward it. “Think we ought to have a look at that?”

“What? By ourselves, do you mean?” Gorppet made the gesture of negation again. “No, thank you. If that does turn into trouble, it will turn into more trouble than the two of us can handle.”

“Why should it turn into-?” Fotsev paused. A male Tosevite was clambering up onto some kind of platform. Fotsev was no better than most other males of the Race at telling one Big Ugly from another, but he did know the males were the ones who grew tufts of ugly hair on their faces. This one had long, gray tufts, which meant he was no longer young.

“I have always thought these Big Uglies look foolish with rags wrapped around their heads,” Gorppet said.

“Down in Argentina, the females wore lots funnier things than rags on their heads. Some of them looked like walking gardens.” Fotsev kept one eye turret on the old male Tosevite, who had begun haranguing the crowd. “What is he saying? That is Farsi, is it not? I cannot tell snout from tailstump in Farsi.”

“He is talking about the Race,” Gorppet said; he knew some of the language. “Whenever these males who preach start talking about the Race, it is usually trouble. And I think this is the one called Khomeini. He hates us worse than any of the other three put together. His egg was soaked in vinegar and brine before he hatched from it.”

“But what is he saying?” Fotsev persisted.

“It is trouble, may the purple itch get under his scales.” His friend cocked his head to listen. “He is saying the spirit these superstitious fools think created them did not create us. He is saying the other spirit they believe in, the evil one, created us. And-uh-oh-he is saying that if they get rid of all of us on Tosev 3 now, the males and females from the colonization fleet will not be able to land. He thinks they are evil spirits, too.”

Fotsev made sure he had a round in the chamber of his personal weapon, a full clip attached, and more magazines where he could grab them in a hurry. Even with Gorppet by his side, he suddenly felt very much alone. “I think we had better back away,” he said, swiveling his eyes so no Big Ugly could sneak up on him with a knife or a bomb.

“I think you are right.” Gorppet came with him. “I think we had better call for help, too-help and heavier weapons.” He spoke urgently into his radio.

From the crowd came a great roar. “Allahu akbar!” That cry was the same in Farsi and Arabic. It meant that the ridiculous spirit in whom the benighted Big Uglies believed was a great ridiculous spirit. It also meant that the batch of Tosevites shouting it was about to explode into riot. “Allahu akbar!”

“Here they come,” Gorppet said unnecessarily. Mouths open and screaming, the mob of Big Uglies surged toward the males of the Race. The preaching male named Khomeini stood on his platform, his hand outstretched toward those two lone males, urging his followers toward massacre.

Neither Fotsev nor Gorppet tried to talk the Tosevites into stopping or going back. They both opened up as soon as the closest Big Uglies got into range. At that range, against that crowd, they could hardly miss. Watching bullets chew comrades to rags made some of the Big Uglies hesitate. But others, a lot of others, kept coming.

“They think they will go to a happy afterlife if they die fighting us,” Gorppet said, reloading his weapon.

“The Emperors know their spirits not,” Fotsev answered, spraying more death into the mob. As he’d seen before, the Tosevites were recklessly brave. Soon one would get close enough to tear the weapon from his hands. Then it would be teeth and claws till the end. He hoped it would be quick.

But then, with a thuttering roar, a helicopter gunship zoomed up from the Race’s base outside Basra. It lashed the crowd of fanatical Tosevites with rockets and rounds from a rotating-barreled cannon. Not even the Big Uglies could stand up against that kind of firepower. They broke and ran, shrieking in fear where they had shrieked in fury.

The iron stink of blood filling the scent receptors on his tongue, Fotsev emptied a magazine at their fleeing backs. He hoped the gunship had put paid to that Khomeini, who’d stirred the mob as a male might stir a hot drink.

Before he could do more than hope, something rode a trail of fire from the ground and slammed into the gunship. It slewed sideways in the air, then crashed in the middle of the market square. Its rotors flew off and cut down a last few Big Uglies.

Fotsev stared in horror. “These Big Uglies do not know how to make antiaircraft missiles!” he burst out.

“No, but they know how to buy or beg or borrow them from the Tosevites who do.” Gorppet’s voice was thoroughly grim. “By the spirits of Emperors past, there will be an accounting for this. But now, while we can, we had better get out of here.” Side by side, they skittered away from the market square. Behind them, the helicopter gunship burned and burned.

“Allahu akbar!” A rock flew past Reuven Russie’s head. “Dog of a Jew, you suck the Lizards’ cocks. Your mother opens her legs for them. Your sister-aii! ” The Arab’s curses dissolved in a howl of pain. Reuven had found a rock of his own, and flung it with better effect than the scrawny youth who’d been abusing him.

Jerusalem seethed like a teapot left over the fire too long. Unlike a teapot, though, the city had nowhere the steam could escape. Lizard troopers and human police-mostly Jews-might come under fire from any house, any shop. So might any passerby.

For once, Reuven almost wished he lived in the dormitory with his fellow medical students. Getting to and from the college had seemed more like running the gauntlet every day since the Muslim riots broke out. So far, he hadn’t got hurt. He knew that was as much luck as anything else, though he never would have admitted as much to his parents.

A black swastika stared at him from a wall. Some of the Arabs who hated the Lizards but weren’t religious fanatics leaned toward the Reich, not least because Himmler loved Jews even less than they did. Along with swastikas, red stars also blossomed on the walls-some Jews, and some Arabs, too, looked to Moscow for deliverance from the Race. But the commonest graffiti were in the sinuous squiggles of Arabic script, the letters all looking as if Hebrew block characters had run in the rain. Allahu akbar! seemed to scream from every other wall.

Reuven peered round a corner. The next short block looked safe enough. He hurried along it. One more block and he was home. When he checked the last block, he spied a Jewish policeman carrying a British Sten gun, one of the countless weapons left over from the last big fight. This new round of turmoil wasn’t shaping up as anything so delightful, either.

The policeman saw him, too, and started to aim the submachine gun in his direction. Then the fellow lowered the barrel. “You’re no Arab,” he said in Hebrew.

“No.” Reuven sniffed. Smoke was in the air, more than could be accounted for from cookfires. “What a mess. We haven’t seen anything like this-ever, I don’t think.”

“Bloody balls-up,” the Jewish policeman muttered in English of a sort. He went back to Hebrew: “We’ll just have to go on knocking heads together till things simmer down, that’s all. We can do it.” As if to contradict him, something-a grenade? a bomb? — blew up not too far away.

“It’s the colonization fleet,” Reuven said. “Now that it’s finally here, people are realizing all over again that we can’t make the Lizards go away by holding our breath and wishing they would.”

“I don’t care what it is. It’s a bloody balls-up.” That was English again; Hebrew, for so long a liturgical language, was woefully short on curses. The policeman went on, “And it doesn’t matter what it is, anyhow. Whatever it is, we’ve got to put a stop to it-and we will.”

“I hope so,” Reuven said, and passed on.

When he got home, his mother and his twin sisters, Esther and Judith, fell on him with glad cries. Even he couldn’t always tell Esther and Judith apart, and he’d known them the entire twelve years of their lives. One of them said, “We heard the bomb a couple of minutes ago.”

“And the machine guns a little while before that,” the other one added.

“I don’t like machine guns,” they said together. They thought so much alike, Reuven sometimes wondered if they could tell each other apart, if each of them had to consider before deciding whether she was Judith or Esther.

To try to make them stop thinking about machine guns, he said, “I’m going to experiment on the two of you, to see if there really are two of you, or just one with a mirror.”

They pointed at each other. “She’s the mirror,” they chorused.

“Not funny,” Reuven said, although, when you got down to it, it was. He turned to his mother. “You didn’t send them out to school today, did you?”

“Do I look meshugge?” Rivka Russie asked. “You and your father are the crazy ones, to go out on the streets in times like these.” That held an unpleasant amount of truth, though Reuven didn’t want to admit it. His mother went on, “Houses aren’t safe, either, though. Bombs, bullets-” She made a face. “We saw too much of that during the war. We saw too much of everything during the war.”

Reuven had been very young then. He remembered the German invasion of Poland and the Lizard invasion of the world in scattered sharp, horrifying images, one not connected to the next: still photographs snipped almost at random from a motion picture full of terror. “Rome,” he murmured.

“What about Rome?” Esther and Judith asked together.

Neither their brother nor their mother answered. Rome was one of his memory snapshots; he’d been on the deck of a Greek freighter in the Tyrrhenian Sea when the Germans touched off an explosive-metal bomb they’d smuggled into the city. Now, with knowledge he hadn’t had then, he wondered how much radioactive fallout he’d been exposed to during the blast. He didn’t really want to know. He couldn’t do anything about it anyway.

Heavy booted feet pounded up the street past the house. The small windows that looked on the street were shuttered; like most houses in Jerusalem, this one preferred to peer inward onto its own courtyard than out at the wider world. Most of the time, Reuven took that for granted. He’d been used to it most of his life. This once, though, he wouldn’t have minded seeing what was going on.

All of a sudden, he changed his mind. After shouts in Hebrew and Arabic, guns started hammering. A bullet slammed through a side wall, cracked past his head, and was through the other wall before his jaw got done dropping.

His mother had a better idea of what to do under such circumstances than he did. “On the floor!” she shouted. “Get down! Lie flat! The bullets will pass over us.”

When Reuven’s sisters didn’t move fast enough to suit her, she pushed them down and lay on them, ignoring their squawks. Reuven had just got down on the floor himself when a burst of fire gave the front wall some ventilation it hadn’t had before. Esther and Judith stopped squawking.

Out on the street, someone started screaming and didn’t stop. Reuven couldn’t tell whether the shrieks were in Hebrew or Arabic. Pain had no separate tongue; pain was its own universal language.

He got to his feet. “What are you doing?” his mother demanded. “Lay down again!”

“I can’t,” he answered. “I’ve got to get my bag. Someone’s hurt bad out there. I’m not a doctor, not yet, but I’m closer to being one than anybody else around.”

He waited for his mother to scream at him. To his astonishment, she smiled instead: a strange, sweet, sad smile. “Your father did the same thing when the Lizards took Jerusalem away from the British. Go on, then. God watch over you.”

Reuven snatched his black leather bag out of his bedroom and hurried back to the front door. Predictably, his sisters wanted to do whatever he did. As predictably, his mother wouldn’t let them. He went out the door, certain his mother would lock and bar it after him.

Bullets still flew, though not so often now. An automobile burned at the end of the block, sending a pyre of stinking black smoke into the sky. All the flames were orange or yellow, none the almost invisible pale blue of burning hydrogen-an old motorcar, not one of the newer models on the Lizard pattern.

The screaming came from the other side of the motorcar. Feeling naked and exposed, Reuven came around the machine to do what he could for the wounded man. He’d just stopped beside him when, from behind, someone said, “What have we got here, son?”

“Hello, Father,” Reuven said as Moishe Russie got down on one knee beside him. The two of them looked very much alike there side by side-pale skin; dark hair; narrow, strong-cheekboned faces-save that Moishe was going bald. His son continued, “I haven’t even had a chance to look at him yet.”

“Don’t need any fancy Lizard tools for this diagnosis,” his father said. “A burst of three in the belly…” He pointed to the holes in the fighter’s shirt. They had some blood oozing from them, but the real flood of it came from the man’s back. Reuven gulped a little. Dissections in medical school were much neater than this, and the subjects didn’t scream. Moishe Russie spoke as if back in the classroom himself: “The entry wounds are fairly small. If you were heartless enough to turn him over, you’d see big chunks of meat blown out of the exit wounds. Prognosis, son?”

Reuven licked his lips. “He’ll keep hurting till he loses enough blood to lose consciousness, too. Then he’ll finally die.” He spoke without fear the wounded man would hear him; the fighter was lost in his private hell.

“I think you’re right.” His father rummaged in his own black bag, then pulled out a syringe. He injected the fallen fighter, then glanced over at Reuven. “Enough morphine to stop his pain. Enough to stop his heart and lungs in a couple of minutes, too.”

He waited for Reuven to say something about that. After some thought, Reuven remarked, “They don’t teach us when to do that in medical school.”

“No, they wouldn’t,” his father agreed. “For one thing, the Lizards take it for granted, much more than we do. And for another, it’s not something you can learn in school. When the time comes, you’ll know. If you’re ever wondering whether you should, the answer is simple: you shouldn’t. When you should, you don’t wonder.”

“How many times have you done it?” Reuven asked. As he spoke, the wounded fighter’s screams stopped. He stared up in dreamy surprise. Reuven wondered if he was seeing the men who knelt above him or only some interior vision. The man’s chest hitched a few more times, then respiration stopped, too.

“Morphine is a good friend and a dreadful master,” Moishe Russie murmured. Then he seemed to hear the question Reuven had asked. “How many times? I don’t know. A few. A man who does it too often isn’t wondering enough about whether he ought to. You aren’t God, son, and you never will be. Once in a while-but only once in a while-He’ll let you be His assistant.” He got to his feet. The knee of his trousers was wet with the fighter’s blood. “We’d better get back home. Your mother will be worried about us.”

“I know.”

Reuven wondered what he would have done had he come on the wounded fighter by himself. Would he have had the nerve to put the man out of his misery? He hoped so, but knew he couldn’t be sure. He also realized he’d never be sure now whether the ordinary-looking man had been a Muslim or Jew.


Suave as a Frenchman, the Gestapo officer smiled at Johannes Drucker. “You must understand, my dear Lieutenant Colonel, this is only an inquiry into your loyalty, not a denial that you are loyal,” he said.

“You have an easier time telling the difference than I do,” Drucker snapped. “All I know is, I’m grounded for no good reason. I want to go back into space, where I can best serve the Reich.” And where I can put hundreds-sometimes thousands-of kilometers between me and you.

“I would not call the security of the Reich ‘no good reason,’ ” the Gestapo man said, his voice silky. “We must always be on guard, lest the Volk be polluted by alien, inferior blood.”

“That’s my wife you’re talking about, you-” Drucker checked himself. Telling the son of a bitch he was a son of a bitch wouldn’t do him any good, and wouldn’t do Kathe any good, either.

“We have worked diligently to make and keep the Reich free of Jews,” the Gestapo man said with what he no doubt intended for a friendly smile. “We shall continue until the great task is complete.”

Drucker didn’t say anything. Nothing he could have said would have been any use. Anything he said would have got him into more trouble than he was in already. He had no great love for Jews. Back in the days when there were still a lot of Jews in the Greater German Reich, he hadn’t known many people with any great love for Jews.

Slaughtering them like cattle, though… He didn’t see how that had helped the Reich. If the Jews hadn’t risen up in Poland when the Lizards came, it might still belong to Germany. And, when the Lizards included in their propaganda details of what the Germans were doing, relations between the Reich and other human powers stayed delicate for a long time.

Would the Gestapo officer heed him if he pointed that out? It was to laugh. And then the sardonic laugh choked off. Most Germans had no great love for Jews. Kathe’s grandfather must have loved a Jewess, if what the Gestapo was saying held any truth. And, had he not loved that Jewess, Kathe would never have been born.

Think about it later, Drucker told himself. For now, he kept on hoping it wasn’t true. If it was true, his career wasn’t the only thing that would go up in smoke. So would dear, sweet Kathe, out through the stack of a crematorium. His stomach lurched, worse than it ever did when he went weightless out in space. He’d known for twenty years what the Reich did to Jews, known and not thought much about it. Now it hit home. It occurred to him that he should have thought more and sooner. Too late now.

As calmly as he could, he said, “I want to see her.”

He’d said that before, and been refused. He got refused again. “You must know it is impossible,” the Gestapo man said. “She is in detention, pending adjudication of the case. She is comfortable; please accept my personal assurances on that score. If the charges prove unfounded, all will be as it had been.”

He sounded as if he really meant it. Drucker had all he could do not to laugh in his face. Kathe was in detention-a polite word for jail or a camp. She was on trial for her life, and she couldn’t even defend herself. In the Reich, choosing the wrong grandparents could be a capital crime.

Drucker did dare hope she was comfortable. If they decided her grandmother hadn’t been a Jew after all, they would let her go. It did happen-not too often (Drucker wished he hadn’t chosen to remember that), but it did. And he, by virtue of his rank and his skill, was valuable in the machinery of the Reich. If they did let her go, they wouldn’t want him disaffected.

He wished he’d known her grandparents. All he’d seen of them were a few fading photographs in an old album. He didn’t remember ever thinking her grandmother looked Jewish. She’d had light hair and light eyes. When she was young, she’d been very pretty. She’d looked a lot like Kathe, in fact.

The officer, now, the officer had brown eyes and dark stubble he probably had to shave twice a day. Fixing him with a cold stare, Drucker said, “My wife’s grandmother was a better Aryan than you are.”

“I may not be pretty,” the Gestapo man said evenly, “but I have an impeccable German pedigree. If they started putting all the homely people in camps, we’d run out of laborers in a hurry.”

Damn, thought Drucker, who’d wanted to anger him. The Gestapo man probably had something, too. There were too many homely people to get rid of them; it would leave a great hole in the fabric of society. Getting rid of the Jews had left no such hole. They’d made perfect scapegoats: they were few, they’d stood out, and people had already disliked them.

The officer might have been thinking along with him. He said, “That’s why the Americans just hate their niggers and don’t really do anything about it. If they did, it would be inconvenient for them.”

“Inconvenient.” The word was sickly sweet in Drucker’s mouth, like the rotten horsemeat he’d eaten on the retreat from Moscow before the Lizards came. He’d been glad to have it, too. After muttering darkly under his breath, he said, “This business of not knowing is inconvenient for me, you know.”

“Yes, of course I do.” The Gestapo man kept right on being smooth. “Whatever happens, your children will not be severely affected. One Jewish great-grandparent is not a legal impediment.”

“You don’t think losing their mother might affect them?” Drucker snapped. And yet, in a horrid kind of way, his interrogator had a point. Severely affected was a euphemism for taken out and killed.

“We must have pure blood.” However smooth, however suave he was, the Gestapo man had not a gram of compromise in him. In that, he made a good representative for the state he served. Doing his best to seem conciliatory even when he wasn’t, he added, “You have permission to leave for the time being. Your actual knowledge of your wife’s grandmother appears small.”

“I’ve been telling anyone who would listen to me as much since you people took me away from Peenemunde,” Drucker said. “The only thing wrong with that is, nobody would listen to me.”

Had he expected the Gestapo officer to start listening to him, he would have been disappointed. Since he didn’t, he wasn’t-or not disappointed on account of that, anyhow. He stood to stiff attention, shot out his arm, did a smart about-turn, and stalked off to his own quarters.

Those weren’t much different from the ones he’d had back at the rocket base. The Gestapo wasn’t treating him badly, on the off chance he might be returning to duty after all. He hoped it was rather more than an off chance, but no one cared what he hoped. He understood that only too well.

He lay back on his bunk and scratched his head. His eye fell on the telephone. He couldn’t call his wife; he didn’t know where to call. He couldn’t call his children; he’d tried, but the operator hadn’t let him. After one impossibility and one failure, he hadn’t seen much point to using the phone. Maybe he’d been wrong, though, or at least shortsighted.

He picked up the instrument. Elsewhere in the Reich, he would have heard a tone that told him it was all right to dial. Here, as if he’d fallen back in time, an operator inquired, “Number, please?”

He gave the number of the commandant back at Peenemunde. He didn’t know if the operator would let that call go through, either. But it was, or might have been, in the line of duty, and the Gestapo was no more immune to that siren song than any other German organization. After some clicks and pops, Drucker heard the telephone ring.

Fear filled him, fear that the commandant would be out having a drink or in the sack with his girlfriend (Drucker didn’t know whether he had a girlfriend, but found imagining the worst only too easy) or just encamped on a porcelain throne with a book in his hand and his pants around his ankles. Anything that kept him from Drucker would be disaster enough.

But a brisk, no-nonsense voice said, “Dornberger here.”

“Will you speak with Lieutenant Colonel Drucker, sir?” the Gestapo operator asked. By his tone, he found it highly unlikely.

“Of course I will,” Major General Walter Dornberger said, his own voice sharp. “Hans, are you there?”

“I’m here, General,” Drucker answered gratefully. The operator would still listen to everything he said, but he couldn’t do anything about that. “I don’t known how long I’ll have to stay off duty. They’re still trying to decide whether Kathe had a Jewish grandmother.”

Dornberger was reasonably quick on the uptake. Once Drucker had given him his cue, he played along with it, booming, “Yes, I know about that-I was there, remember? They’re taking so stinking long, it sounds like a pack of nonsense to me. Maybe you made an enemy who’s telling lies about you. Whatever’s going on, we need you back here.”

Drucker hoped the operator was getting an earful. He said, “Thank you, sir. Till this mess clears up, though, I can’t go anywhere.”

“Good thing you called me,” Major General Dornberger said. “Should have done it sooner, even. A lot of times, as I said, these accusations get started because somebody’s jealous of you and hasn’t got the nerve to show it out in the open. So the Schweinhund starts a filthy rumor. We’ll get to the bottom of it, don’t you worry about that. And when we do, some big-mouthed bastard is going to be sorry he was ever born.”

“From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, sir,” Drucker said. “I want to be up and out again. With the colonization fleet here, I need to be up and out.”

“Damned right you do,” Dornberger agreed. “We’ll see what we can do from this end, Hans. I wish you all the best.” He hung up.

Drucker sat there, grinning at the telephone. Yes, he hoped the SS operator had got an earful. The Wehrmacht was also a power in the land. If Dornberger badly wanted him back, he would come back. Without the Reich Rocket Force, Europe lay open, defenseless, to whatever the Lizards might choose to do.

Not quite out of a clear blue sky, Drucker wondered how many cases high-ranking officers had taken care of, regardless of whether or not the wife in question truly did have a Jewish grandparent. He wondered how many cases they’d taken care of where a man they liked had a Jewish grandmother… or perhaps even a Jewish mother. Once he’d started wondering, he wondered how many out-and-out Jews, quietly protected, went on serving the Reich because they were too useful to do without.

Before the Gestapo arrested Kathe and grounded him, he would have pounded a fist on the nearest table and demanded-demanded at the top of his lungs, especially if he’d had a couple of steins of beer-that each Jew be rooted out. Now… Now, in a cell that was comfortable but remained a cell, he laughed out loud.

“I hope they do just fine,” he said. The Gestapo men surely listening to his every word would think he meant Major General Dornberger and his friends. And so, in a way, he did-but only in a way.

Felless looked around Cairo with something approaching horror. “This,” she said, “this is the capital from which the Race has ruled something like half of Tosev 3 since not long after the arrival of the conquest fleet?” She added an interrogative cough, wishing the Race had something stronger along those lines: a cough of incredulous disbelief, perhaps.

“Senior Researcher, it is,” Pshing replied.

“But-” Felless struggled to put her feelings into words. It wasn’t easy. For one thing, rank relationships were ambiguous here. Her body paint was fancier than half of Pshing’s, but the other half of the male’s matched that of Atvar, the fleetlord of the conquest fleet. Pshing surely made up in influence what he lacked in formal status. For another… Felless blurted, “But it is still a Tosevite city, not one of ours!”

“So it is,” Pshing answered. “You will have studied the conquests of Rabotev 2 and Halless 1, I take it?”

“Of course,” Felless said indignantly. “How else was I to prepare myself for this mission?”

“You had no better way, superior female; I am sure of that,” Pshing replied. “But have you not yet learned that what the Race experienced on the previous two planets we added to the Empire has very little to do with conditions here on Tosev 3?”

He’d granted her the title of superiority so he could rub her snout in the fact of her inadequate preparation without offending her. And, in fact, he hadn’t offended her… too much. Felless let one eye turret glide appraisingly in his direction. He was a clever male, no doubt about it. Any male who served as several digits of a fleetlord’s hand would have to be clever.

Felless took a deep breath before saying something. She regretted it, for it meant she sent a great lungful of air past her scent receptors. Cairo was full of an astounding cacophony of stinks. The odor of droppings was not quite the same as it would have been back on Home, but she had no trouble recognizing it. Piled on top of that solid foundation were other organic odors she had more trouble classifying. They probably came from the Big Uglies and their animals, who were certainly present in great profusion. A thin stream in the mix was odors of cookery, again different from but similar to those back on Home.

Pshing said, “All things considered, I think we have done reasonably well. We are spread far thinner than we expected to be. Not only have our casualties been much worse than anticipated, but this world was and is far more heavily populated than we had believed it would be. And we cannot be so hard on the Tosevites as we should prefer under other circumstances.”

“And why not?” Felless demanded indignantly. Too late, she realized she’d been foolish. “Oh. The autonomous not-empires.”

“They are not autonomous. They are independent. You must bear this in mind at all times, superior female.” Again, Pshing used the honorific to let her down easy after slapping her across the snout.

“I do try to bear it in mind,” she said, embarrassed. “But it is alien to everything the Race has known these past hundred thousand years.”

“Remember this, then: the USA, the SSSR, and the Reich can wreck this planet if they decide to do so,” Pshing said. “This is without our help in the process, you understand. I think any one of those not-empires could do it. With our help, Britain and Nippon might also manage. And is it not so that he who can destroy a thing holds great power over it?”

“Truth.” Felless heard the reluctance in her own voice.

If Atvar’s adjutant also heard it, he was too polite to give any sign. He said, “And so, when these not-empires exhort us to treat the Big Uglies of a certain area in a certain way, we are constrained to take such exhortations seriously.”

“Treating with those who know not the Emperor as equals…” Felless looked down at the grimy shingles, an automatic token of respect for her sovereign. “It knocks every standard of civilized conduct we have imbibed since hatchlinghood-since the hatchlinghood of the Race-onto its tailstump. How did things come to such a pass?”

She waved to show what she meant. From the roof of the building from which the Race administered the planet (it still kept its Tosevite name, Shepheard’s Hotel), she stared out at the swarming streets. Tosevites swaddled in their absurd mantlings-some white, some black, some various shades of brown and tan, with a few bright colors mixed in-went about their noisy business, crowding among beasts of burden and motorized vehicles that mostly belched smoke from burning petroleum distillates, not clean hydrogen, and so added one more note to the reek of the place.

And then, as if her outstretched arm were a cue, a shout began to rise in those narrow, winding, insanely crowded streets: “Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar!” It got louder at every repetition, as if more and more Tosevites were shouting it.

Felless turned to Pshing. “What does that mean?”

“It means trouble,” he answered in grim tones.

She did not fully grasp that grimness, not at first. “Why would a swarm of Big Uglies all start shouting ‘Trouble!’ at the same time?”

Pshing made an exasperated noise. “It means trouble for us, is what it means. Tosevites who shout that think we are evil spirits and have no business ruling them. They think that, if they die trying to kill us, they go straight to a happy afterlife.”

“That’s absurd,” Felless said. “How can their spirits rejoice when they are ignorant of the Emperors?”

“They have always been ignorant of the Emperors,” Pshing reminded her. “They are mistaken, of course, and misguided, but what they believe, they believe very strongly. This is true of most Tosevites most of the time. It is one of the things that makes them so delightful to administer.”

As she had not before, Felless did recognize sarcasm now. Before she could remark on it, gunfire broke out, somewhere not far enough away. Wincing, she said, “It sounds as if the war for the conquest of Tosev 3 is not yet over.”

“It is not,” Atvar’s adjutant replied. Then he said one of the saddest, gloomiest things Felless had ever heard: “It may never be over. Even after this world is colonized, it may never be over.”

“We are the Race,” she answered. “We have not failed yet. We shall not fail here. What would your fleetlord say if he heard you speak thus?”

“He would probably say I might be right,” Pshing answered. “We were lucky to gain a stalemate on this world. Had the conquest fleet delayed its departure another hundred years, the Tosevites would have been more than a match for us-unless they destroyed themselves before we arrived.”

Felless started to say that that was absurd, that the Race would surely have prevailed regardless of the fight the Big Uglies put up. A hundred thousand years of history and more argued that was true. Logic, though, argued against it. If the Big Uglies had come so far so fast, how far would they have advanced in another hundred years? Unpleasantly far, she thought.

A bullet cracked past her head. She needed a moment to realize what had happened. She was no soldier; she was a student of alien psychology. Save in those times when it chose to go conquering, the Race had no soldiers, only police. Till this moment, she had never heard gunfire.

Pshing said, “We would be wise to leave the roof now. This building is armored against small-arms fire. It is armored against a good deal more than small-arms fire, as a matter of fact. Almost any building the Race uses on Tosev 3 needs to be armored against more than small-arms fire.”

He spoke altogether matter-of-factly, though speaking of horror. Felless stared at him; his psychology was almost as alien to her as that of the Tosevites she’d been sent to study. Then another bullet zipped by, and another. Realization smote: she could die up here. She had all she could do to follow Pshing to the head of the stairs at a steady walk. She wanted to skitter as if pursued by a bagana or some other fearsome beast of prey.

Helicopters flew low, pouring gunfire into the Big Uglies. Above the racket, Pshing said, “I hope the Tosevites here have not managed to smuggle any rockets into Cairo, as they have in some other places. Helicopter crews are vulnerable to that kind of fire.”

Again, he spoke as he might have of a factory accident. Maybe that helped him deal with the dangers that accompanied his trade, dangers different from any Felless had ever known. Thoughtfully, she said, “I begin to understand why some of the males on this world turn to the local herb called ginger to escape its rigors.”

“Ginger will be a problem for the colonists, too,” Pshing said. “It creates too much pleasure for it to be anything else: so much, in fact, that it is severely destructive of order and discipline. We believe the worst mutinies on this planet were instigated by ginger-tasters.”

“Mutinies.” Felless shivered, though the stairwell, like the rest of the building, was comfortably warm. She had heard males from the conquest fleet complain endlessly about Tosev 3’s climate; much of the video she’d seen tended to bear them out. But Cairo seemed comfortable enough. She went on, “I cannot imagine males of the Race turning on duly constituted authority. I believe it happened- I have seen the records proving it happened-but I cannot imagine it.”

“You were not here to see for yourself the fighting that took place after the conquest fleet landed.” Pshing shivered, too, at bad memories Felless did not, could not, share. “We came closer than you can imagine to losing the war altogether. We almost had”-he swiveled his eye turrets, to make sure no one was close enough to overhear him-“we almost had our fleetlord cast down from his office as a result of shiplords’ dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war.”

“What?” Felless hadn’t seen anything about that-or had she? Pieces that hadn’t fit together now suddenly did. “That would explain why one of the shiplords defected to the Tosevites.” She’d seen that mentioned, but the data she’d seen made the shiplord out to be a treacherous idiot. Had he been a treacherous idiot, how had he managed to become a shiplord?

“Indeed it would.” Pshing sighed. “This world has had a corrosive effect on us, even after the fighting stopped. We have been too few, and have slowly begun to dissolve in the sea of Big Uglies all around us. Now that you folk have come, I hope we shall be able to reverse that trend, so that the Tosevites shall begin to be assimilated into the larger Empire, as should have begun from the outset. I hope we shall be able to do that.”

He did not sound sure the Race would be able to do that. “Of course they will be assimilated,” Felless declared. “That is why we have come. That is why I am here: to learn how best to integrate the Tosevites into the structure of the Empire. We did it with the Rabotevs and Hallessi. We shall do it here.”

“One difference, superior female,” Pshing said, which meant he was going to contradict her.

“And that is?” She gave him the chance.

“You must always remember that the Tosevites, unlike the Rabotevs or Hallessi, are also trying to learn how to integrate us into their structures,” Pshing said. “They are skilled at the art, having practiced it so much among themselves. We have more strength-we will have more still, now that the colonization fleet is here. They, however, may well have more skill.”

Felless shivered again. Maybe the building wasn’t so warm after all.

Atvar studied the latest set of reports scrolling across his computer screen. “This is not satisfactory,” he said, and paused a moment to wonder how many times he had said that since coming to Tosev 3. Too many was the answer that immediately sprang to mind.

“Exalted Fleetlord?” Pshing inquired.

“Unsatisfactory,” Atvar repeated. Saying it gave him a certain amount of pleasure. Doing something about it gave him more. He got that larger pleasure less often than he would have liked. “The Tosevites have been doing altogether too much maneuvering with their accursed satellites lately.”

“To which not-empire shall we protest, Exalted Fleetlord?” his adjutant asked.

“They are all doing it,” Atvar said peevishly. “I think they are doing it deliberately, to confuse us. Whether they are trying to confuse us or not, they have certainly succeeded. By now, we are not altogether certain whose satellites are in which orbits. This distresses me.”

“It could be worse,” Pshing said. “The more fuel they use up in these maneuvers, the sooner they will have none left.”

“Truth.” Atvar hissed sadly. “The other truth, worse luck, is that the Big Uglies will either refuel them or send new ones up to take their place. Maybe we would have been wiser to forbid them from going into space at all.” He hissed again. “They made it all too plain that they were ready to resume fighting if we enforced that prohibition. They meant it. Indeed, they meant it.”

“Yes, Exalted Fleetlord.” Pshing’s job was not to disagree with Atvar.

Before the fleetlord could say anything else, something hit the building a thunderous blow. The floor shook under Atvar’s feet; little bits of plaster and plaster dust floated down from the ceiling. Atvar snatched up a telephone and clawed in the code he needed.

“Security,” the male on the other end said.

“Not enough of it, evidently,” Atvar said, acid in his voice. “What was it that just impacted on us?”

The male in Security paused a moment, no doubt to check his caller’s code. When he realized to whom he was speaking, he got deferential in a hurry. “Exalted Fleetlord, that was a small, I would say locally made, rocket detonating against our armored facade here. No casualties, minimal damage. A lot of smoke, a lot of noise. Maybe the Big Uglies will think they really did something. They did not, and I will take an oath by the Emperor’s name on it.”

“Very well. Thank you.” Atvar broke the connection. He turned an eye turret toward Pshing. “The fanatics, as you could have guessed for yourself. I wonder which of the Deutsche or the Russkis or the British stirred them up to this latest round of madness.”

“Exalted Fleetlord, did anyone necessarily stir them up?” Pshing asked. “They are Tosevites, and so quite able to stir themselves up.”

“I wish I could say you were wrong,” Atvar said mournfully. “But you are correct, as we have seen again and again to our sorrow. And the male in Security believes it to have been a locally made rocket. Perhaps that is just as well. One of the independent not-empires might well have furnished the fanatics with something more lethal.”

He wished Tosev 3 had been as the Race fondly believed it would be. Had that been so, he would now have been turning over his duties to the fleetlord of the colonization fleet. He would have gone down in the records of four worlds as Atvar the Conqueror. For tens of thousands of years to come, hatchlings of four races would have learned of him in their lessons. Conquerors were rarer by far than Emperors, and more likely to stay in a student’s memory.

He hissed softly. He would go down in history, all right. He would go down as the first male the Emperor had designated a Conqueror to succeed incompletely. He hoped the landing of the colonization fleet would succeed in bringing Tosev 3 firmly within the Empire. On good days, he had some confidence that that would happen. On bad days, he wondered if the Big Uglies wouldn’t end up overwhelming the Race instead.

Today was a very bad day.

Pshing said, “Might it not perhaps be best to transfer our administrative center to the island continent called Australia, where the Tosevite survivors are relatively few and easy to control?”

“Security would be simpler,” Atvar admitted. “But to retreat from a long-established center like this one would be to confess weakness. The Tosevites have excellent scent receptors for weakness. They would only press us harder than ever. Firmness they grasp. Firmness they respect. Anything less, and you are theirs.”

“No doubt you are right, Exalted Fleetlord,” Pshing said, resignation in his voice. “Our experience on this world certainly suggests as much, at any rate.”

Somewhere in the broad, empty reaches of the Indian Ocean, far, far from any land, a long, lean shark shape drew very near the surface of the sea. But it was vaster than any shark, vaster than any whale-and neither sharks nor whales evolved with conning towers on their backs.

This conning tower never broke the surface. No satellite, no airplane that chanced to be peering down on that particular stretch of sea, could have found a name or a nation to attach to the submarine. All cats are gray in the dark. All submarines look very much alike, seen underwater from above.

A radio mast rose. Ever so briefly, it plowed a tiny white wake in warm, blue-green water. Then it slid down again, down into silence, down into anonymity. The submarine dove deep.

Glen Johnson was harassing one of his Soviet opposite numbers on the radio: something to pass the time on what he expected to be a long, boring mission. “Why did they even bother putting you in the craft, Yuri Alekseyevich?” he asked. “All you are good for is pressing a couple of buttons. They could get a machine to do that. Soon, they probably will.”

“I can do what I have to do,” the Russian answered stolidly. “I am less likely to go wrong than a machine.”

“Cheaper, too,” Johnson suggested. He added an emphatic cough, to show how much cheaper. They were both speaking the Lizards’ language. It was the only one they had in common, which Johnson thought amusing. He didn’t know what the Russian spaceman-cosmonauts, they called themselves-thought of it. Somebody down on the ground was monitoring every word the Russian said. Somebody was monitoring every word Johnson said, too, but he didn’t have to worry about a grilling from the NKVD when he got home.

He was about to rib Yuri some more when a flash of light off to one side of them drew his notice. “What was that?” the Russian asked-he’d seen it, too, then, though his craft had only a couple of little windows, not a canopy with better all-around vision than Johnson had enjoyed in his first fighter plane.

“I don’t know,” he said, and asked a question of his own: “Whose is it?”

Yuri was silent for a little while: probably getting permission from downstairs to talk. “I do not know, either,” he said at last. “Orbits have been confused lately, even worse than usual.”

Johnson gave another emphatic cough-barbarous jargon by Lizard standards, for it modified no previous words, but something humans often did and had no trouble understanding. Then he spoke in English, not for the Russian’s benefit but for his own: “Jesus H. Christ! Somebody’s launched something. Somebody’s launched something big!”

Orbiting fortresses these days could carry a dozen separate rockets and weapons, which could be aimed at either other targets in space or at the ground below. They made Johnson’s blood run cold-they made a lot of people’s blood run cold-because they could start a really big war with bare minutes of warning.

He changed frequencies and spoke urgently into his microphone: “Ground, this is Peregrine. Emergency. Someone has launched. Repeat: someone has launched. I am unable to identify whose satellite it is. Over.”

A voice came back up from a ship in the South Pacific: “Roger that. We are going to alert. Over.”

“Roger.” Johnson knew that meant he would have to run another check on all of his craft’s weapons. He scratched an itch on his scalp. Close-cropped, sandy brown hair rasped against his fingers. He’d had a lot of training. He’d flown a lot of routine missions. Now things counted again. If the fighting started way up here, odds were he wouldn’t make it back down again.

He checked the radar. “Ground, all launches appear to be outbound. Repeat: all launches appear to be outbound.” Intuition leapt. The man broke through the Marine lieutenant colonel for a moment: “Christ, somebody’s gone and launched at the colonization fleet!” After that one shocked sentence, the officer resumed command: “Over.”

“That appears to be correct, Peregrine, ” the inhumanly calm voice on the ground said. Then the fellow’s calm cracked, as Johnson’s had: “What in God’s name are the Lizards going to do about that? Over.”

“I hope they can knock down some of those rockets,” Johnson said. During the Lizards’ invasion, he’d never imagined rooting for them. But he was. The colonization fleet was unarmed; the Lizards had never imagined its ships would need to carry weapons. Attacking them was murder, nothing else but. They couldn’t shoot back. They couldn’t even run.

And, if those ships did go up, what would the Lizards do? That was the wild card, one that made his stubbly hair try to stand on end. During the war, they’d played tit for tat. Every time the humans had touched off a nuclear bomb in a city they controlled, a human-held city went up in smoke immediately afterwards. How much was a ship from the colonization fleet worth?

“Ground,” he said urgently, “whose launch is that?”

Peregrine, we don’t know,” replied the man at the other end of the radio link.

“Do the Lizards know?” Johnson demanded. “What will they do if they know? What will they do if they don’t know?”

“Those are good questions, Peregrine. If you’ve got any other good questions, please save them for after class.”

After class was coming fast. Johnson would have launched his own missiles, but they couldn’t match the acceleration of the ones already under way. And, had he launched, the Lizards might have thought he was aiming at them. They knew who he was. Would that make them drop the hammer on the USA?

He didn’t dare find out. All he could do was watch his radar. The Lizards, even counting the ones from the conquest fleet alone, had a lot more stuff in space than mankind did. Surely they would be able to do something. But, from what Johnson could read, none of their installations was close enough to have much chance of knocking out those missiles.

Sitting ducks, he thought. They weren’t sitting, of course; they were orbiting the Earth at several miles per second, as he was. But they had no chance of matching the acceleration of the missiles bearing down on them, and so they might as well have been sitting. A couple of them did start to change their orbits. Several, Johnson was convinced, hadn’t the faintest notion they were under attack.

One after another, fireballs blossomed in space. Johnson squeezed his eyes shut against the intolerable glare of atomic explosions. He wondered how much radiation he was picking up. Peregrine orbited a couple of hundred miles below the ships of the colonization fleet, but he had no atmosphere to shield him from whatever he got.

But, as those sunbursts swelled and faded and dropped behind him, his eyes filled with tears that had nothing to do with mere glare. He’d just watched mass murder committed, watched it without being able to do a thing about it. He checked the radar. If any of the missiles had failed, they would still be outward bound. Someone, Lizards or humans, might be able to track them down and find out who had made them. Whoever had made them, he deserved whatever the Lizards chose to dish out.

Discipline held. He had to report. No doubt the people back at Kitty Hawk already knew what had happened. No doubt the whole world, by now, knew what had happened. He had to report anyhow. “Ground,” he said, “the targets are destroyed. All the targets are destroyed.”

Vyacheslav Molotov did his best to calm the agitated Lizard who had been ushered into his presence. “I assure you, the missiles that destroyed your colonization ships were not of Soviet manufacture.”

Queek, the Lizards’ ambassador to the USSR, made a noise that reminded Molotov of lard sizzling in a hot pan. His translator turned the hisses and splutters into Polish-accented Russian: “Reich ’s Chancellor Himmler has assured the Race of the same thing. President Warren has assured the Race of the same thing. One of you is lying. If we find out who that is, we shall punish his not-empire and not the others. If we do not, we will punish all three not-empires, as we warned we would do. Do you understand?”

“I understand,” Molotov told the interpreter. “Please convey to Queek my sympathy at the Race’s tragic loss. Please also convey to him that any harm coming to our territory will be viewed as an act of war. We did not, we will not, begin the fight: the peasants and workers of the Soviet Union are and have always been peace-loving. But if war comes to us, we shall not shrink from it.”

The translator did his job. Queek made more hot-grease noises. He jumped up into the air. His mouth came open. His teeth were not very large, but they were sharp enough to remind Molotov that Lizards were descended from beasts that hunted for meat. “If you Big Uglies think you can confuse the issue of which of you is guilty and escape all punishment, you are mistaken,” Queek declared.

Molotov had read of an American carnival game where a pea was hidden under one of three nutshells, which were then interchanged rapidly. Anyone who could guess which shell hid the pea won his bet. No-he would have won his bet, save that the fellow with the shells commonly palmed the pea and put it wherever his own economic interests lay.

A typical capitalist system if ever there was one, Molotov thought. It was also one that applied to the present situation. “We did not begin maneuvering with our satellites,” he said. “We joined in to maintain our own security. You also joined in to maintain your security. You were as capable of launching an unprovoked attack as any human nation. You have already launched an unprovoked attack against this entire planet.”

He didn’t think Queek liked that. He didn’t care what Queek liked. Homegrown reactionaries and foreign imperialists had tried to strangle the infant Soviet Union in its cradle. A generation later, the Hitlerites had made peace and war in the space of two years. And, with the Lizards’ invasion piled on top of that of the Nazis, Molotov did not think he could be blamed for doubting their good intentions.

He did not care whether Queek blamed him or not. “In the name of the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union, I repeat to you that we are not responsible for the crime committed against your people,” he said. “I also repeat to you that we shall defend ourselves against any crimes committed against our people.”

“Punishing a crime is not committing a crime,” Queek said. “If you have evidence of who did commit the crime, I suggest you turn it over to us, to escape such punishment.”

Fabricate evidence against the Greater German Reich, was the first thought that went through Molotov’s mind. Fabricate evidence against the USA, was the second. Himmler, he was certain, would be fabricating evidence against the USSR and the USA. And Warren? Like so many Americans, he was self-righteous, but not, Molotov judged, too self-righteous to fabricate evidence against the Reich and the Soviet Union.

His face showed none of what he thought. His face never showed any of what he thought. What he thought was none of his face’s business.

Both of Queek’s eye turrets were aimed at him. The translator studied him, too. He did not worry that they would see behind his mask. The only one who had ever been able to do that was Stalin, and it hadn’t been easy for him.

Queek said, “When the conquest fleet came to Tosev 3, we reckoned you barbarians, fit only to be subdued. Since the fighting ended, have we not treated with the great Tosevite powers as if with equals?”

“More or less,” Molotov admitted. “We had the strength to require you to do this.” One of the reasons the USSR had had that strength was technical help from the USA. Molotov had never let gratitude interfere with doing what seemed most expedient for his own nation.

“Equals do not stage sneak attacks. They do not stage unprovoked massacres,” Queek declared. “These are the actions of barbarians, of savages.”

Now Molotov had to work hard to keep from laughing at the poor, naive Lizard. He thought of Pearl Harbor, of the German invasion of the USSR, of the Siberian divisions thrown into the fight in front of Moscow when the fascists thought his country on the ropes, of a thousand other surprise attacks in the blood-spattered history of the world. Every once in a while, the Lizards showed how alien they were.

“You do not respond,” Queek said.

“You have given me nothing to which to respond,” Molotov replied. “I have told you, we did not attack. If you try to punish us when we are innocent, we will fight back. I have nothing more to say.”

“This is unsatisfactory,” Queek said. “I shall tell the fleetlord it is unsatisfactory.”

“A great many things in life are unsatisfactory,” Molotov said. “The Race has not learned this lesson so well as it might have.”

“I did not come here to discuss philosophy with you,” Queek said. “You have been warned. You would do well to conduct yourself accordingly.” He skittered out of Molotov’s office, the translator in his wake.

Molotov waited till a guard outside reported that they had left the Kremlin. Then he went into a room behind his office and changed his suit. The Lizards were far more adept than humans at making and concealing tiny espionage devices. He had shaken hands with the interpreter. He did not believe in taking chances.

Once changed, he went into another room off the chamber where he kept spare clothes. Another secretary awaited him there. “Tell Lavrenti Pavlovich I wish to speak with him,” Molotov said.

“Of course, Comrade General Secretary.” The secretary made the connection, spoke briefly, and nodded to Molotov. “He will be here directly.”

Molotov nodded, as if he had expected nothing less. In truth, he hadn’t; small shows of insubordination were not Lavrenti Beria’s way of showing his own strength. The longtime head of the NKVD did nothing on a small scale.

Bald as a Lizard, Beria walked in about fifteen minutes later. “Good day, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich,” he said. His Mingrelian accent was close to the Georgian that had flavored Stalin’s Russian: one more thing to unsettle Molotov. But what Molotov would not show to Queek, he would not show to Beria, either.

“Did we do this, Lavrenti Pavlovich?” he asked quietly. “I did not order it. I think it most unwise. Did we do it?”

“Not on my order, Comrade General Secretary,” Beria answered.

“That is not responsive,” Molotov said. He did not think Beria could realistically aim for the top spot in the Soviet hierarchy; too many Russians would have resented having a second man from the Caucasus set above them. But the NKVD was a tail that could wag the dog. Without the name, without the formal position of power, Beria held the thing itself. He had held it for many years. If Molotov ever decided to purge him, state security would suffer. But if he ever decided he could not afford to or did not dare to purge Beria, then Beria had more power than he. “Answer the question.”

“If we did this, I do not know of it,” Beria said. Molotov was not sure that was responsive, either. Then the NKVD chief amplified it: “If we did this, no one in my ministry knows of it. Whether anyone in the Ministry of Defense knows of it, I cannot say with certainty.”

“They would not dare,” Molotov said. The Red Army, the Red Air and Space Forces, and the Red Navy were firmly subordinated to Communist Party control. The NKVD, being an arm of the Party, was less so. He scratched at his graying mustache. “I am sure they would not dare.”

“I think you are right.” Beria nodded; the golden gleam of the electric lights above him reflected from his bald pate. “Still… you want to be sure you are right, eh?”

“Oh, yes,” Molotov said. “I have to be sure I am right.” That sentence would eventually stir the armed forces the way a babushka stirred shchi, to make sure all the cabbage and sausage in the soup cooked evenly. Molotov went on, “Who is likelier to have done it, the Reich or the United States?”

Behind gold-rimmed spectacles, Beria’s eyes glinted. “The Reich is always more likely,” he replied. “The Americans are capitalist reactionaries, but they are, by their standards, sane. The Hitlerites?” He shook his head. “They are children, children with atomic bombs. Because they want a thing, they reach out and grab it, never worrying or caring what might happen because of that.”

“And Himmler is more sensible than Hitler was,” Molotov said.

“Indeed,” Beria said. Molotov suspected he was jealous of the German Fuhrer. Himmler was a master of secret policemen and spies, too, and he had reached the top in the Reich.

Molotov exhaled deeply, a sign of strong emotion in him. “Even for the Germans, this is madness. They struck one blow, but it would take a great many to destroy the colonization fleet. And the Lizards will not permit many blows to be struck against them. They can still strike harder than we, and they will.”

“Indeed,” Beria said again. His eyes glinted once more, this time in anticipation. “Shall I begin an investigation of the Ministry of Defense and the armed forces?”

“Not yet,” Molotov told him. “Soon, but not yet. The soldiers scream when the NKVD encroaches on them. I will tell you when I require your services. Until I tell such a thing, you are to keep your hands in your pockets. Do you understand me, Lavrenti Pavlovich? I mean this most particularly.”

“Very well,” Beria said in sulky tones. No, he did not like following orders. He would sooner have been giving them, as he did in the building on Dzerzhinsky Square.

“Another thing,” Molotov said, to make him attend: “Cut back on arms shipments to the People’s Liberation Army in China. We must soothe the Lizards wherever we can.”

“Yes, this is sensible,” Beria agreed, as if to say the other hadn’t been. He held up a forefinger. “But will it not make the Lizards think we have a guilty conscience?”

“Now that is an interesting question,” Molotov said. “Yes, a very interesting question.” He considered it. “I think we had better cut back, Lavrenti Pavlovich. We have always denied supplying the Chinese for their insurrection against the Lizards. How can we possibly cut back on what we have denied doing at all?”

Beria laughed. “A nice point. We shall do that, then. Shall we do it gradually, so that even the Chinese do not realize at once what is happening to them?”

“Yes, that would be very good.” Molotov nodded. “Very good indeed. Mao has complained from time to time that we are not Marxist-Leninist enough to suit him. Let us see how going without aid suits him, and how much he criticizes us after that.” Had he been another man, he might have chortled. Being the man he was, he allowed himself another nod, this one of anticipation.

Reffet’s furious face stared out of the screen at Atvar. “Destroy them!” the fleetlord of the colonization fleet shouted. “Destroy all the nasty Tosevites, that we may take this world for ourselves and do something worthwhile with it.”

“Could I have destroyed the Tosevites, or at least their capacity for making war, do you not think I would have done so?” Atvar returned. “In this case, the destruction would be mutual.”

“Incompetence,” Reffet hissed, careless of his opposite number’s feelings.

“Incompetence,” Atvar agreed, which startled Reffet into momentary silence. Atvar went on, “Incompetence reaching back more than sixteen hundred years. We misjudged what the probe told us, and we failed to send another one to see if the situation had changed in the interim before dispatching the conquest fleet. As a result, very little has gone as it should on Tosev 3.”

“As a result, twelve of my ships are blown to radioactive dust, and all the males and females in them,” Reffet replied. “And you have not yet punished the creatures responsible for this outrage.”

“We do not yet know which of the creatures are responsible for the outrage,” Atvar pointed out. “If we knew that, punishment would be swift and certain.”

“You told the Big Uglies that, if you could not find out which of their ridiculous groupings committed this crime, you would punish them all,” Reffet reminded him. “I have yet to see you do this, however eagerly I await it.”

“The Tosevites’ groupings would be more ridiculous were they not armed with nuclear weapons and poison gas,” Atvar said.

“Your warning will be more ridiculous if you issue it and then fail to carry it out,” Reffet retorted.

That was true; Atvar knew as much, and the knowledge pained him. “Much of the blame for this disaster is mine,” he said. “We have been at peace-or at an approximation of peace-with the leading Tosevite not-empires for too long. We examine what they do less minutely than we did in the days just after the fighting ended-and they are better able to conceal what they do, too. So many of their satellites were shifting orbit lately, we still cannot determine which not-empire activated one of its machines. For that matter, the machine might have been disguised as something other than what it was, and lain quietly in wait for a moment of opportunity-a moment of treachery.”

“That is why you said you would punish them all,” Reffet said.

“It is also why they all said they would consider punishment for deeds I could not prove they committed an act of war,” Atvar answered unhappily. “Big Uglies enjoy fighting to a degree we have trouble understanding. They are always fighting among themselves. I believe they would fight us.”

“I believe they are bluffing,” Reffet said. With his lack of experience with Tosevites, that was not helpful. His next comment was: “And one group of them is bound to be lying.”

“But which?” Atvar asked. “Mass punishment is something they would be more likely to use than we. We care more for justice.”

“Where is the justice for my colonists?” Reffet asked. “Where is the justice in making a threat and then forgetting it?”

“I was hasty,” Atvar said. “In my haste, I may have behaved like a Big Ugly-the Tosevites are hasty by nature.”

“This world has corrupted you,” Reffet said in the tones of a judge passing sentence. “Instead of the Tosevites’ becoming more like proper subjects of the Emperor, you act like a Big Ugly.”

“This world will change the colonists, too,” Atvar said, admitting most of Reffet’s charge without acknowledging the word corrupted. “If you think it will not, you live in a ginger-taster’s dream.”

Perhaps he should not have mentioned ginger. With a fine mocking waggle of the eye turrets, Reffet said, “One more delight Tosev 3 has produced. I tell you this, Atvar”-alone among males and females of the Race on Tosev 3, he addressed Atvar as an equal-“if you do not keep your promise to punish the Big Uglies, I shall report you to the Emperor.”

Fury and scorn ripped through Atvar. “Go ahead, Reffet,” he hissed, using the other fleetlord’s name with savage relish. “By the time your grumbling reaches him, and by the time he composes a reply and it gets back to us, as many years will have gone by as passed between your departure from Home and your arrival here. Have you forgotten where you are? For better or worse, we are the males on the spot. Whatever answers the Race finds for Tosev 3, we are the ones who will have to find them.”

Reffet looked as if he hated Atvar, hated Tosev 3, hated everything except the idea of tucking down his tailstump and fleeing back Home. He had probably been ready to refer any hard problems he found to bureaucrats back on Home, confident conditions would not have changed much while light sped from Tosev to Home and back again. Slow change, incremental change, was the hallmark of life in the Empire.

Atvar’s mouth fell open in a bitter laugh. Incessant, maddening change was the hallmark of life on Tosev 3. If Reffet couldn’t figure that out, couldn’t adapt to it as Atvar had had to adapt… too bad, Atvar thought. “Out,” he said aloud, and broke his connection with the other fleetlord.

Ttomalss looked on his summons from the fleetlord of the colonization fleet as an honor he could have done without. Not only did it take him away from his work, it also involved him in high-level controversies that might end up causing him trouble later. But Reffet had not asked his opinion: Reffet was a male new-come from Home, not a snoutcounting Big Ugly. Reffet had simply summoned him. What choice had he but to obey?

None, he thought as he folded himself into the posture of respect and said, “How may I serve you, Exalted Fleetlord?”

“Computer searches and a conversation with Senior Researcher Felless identify you as the leading expert from the conquest fleet on the natives of this chilly ball of mud,” Reffet said. “I presume this is accurate?”

“I am one of the leading students of the Tosevites, yes, Exalted Fleetlord,” Ttomalss said. He hid his amusement at that. His gains in knowledge had got under the scales of a good many of his colleagues. As far as he was concerned, they had no imagination. As far as they were concerned, he had too much. Maybe he was able to learn about the Big Uglies because he could come closer to thinking like them than other males of the Race could do.

“Explain to me, then, Senior Researcher, why any group of these Tosevites should have sought to perpetrate the atrocity my fleet has suffered,” Reffet said.

“First obvious point: for the purpose of doing us harm,” Ttomalss said. “Second obvious point: because the guilty Tosevites thought they could do us harm and at the same time escape punishment.”

“In that, they may even have been correct,” Reffet said discontentedly.

“As may be, Exalted Fleetlord.” Ttomalss was not a male in a position to set policy. “Third, less obvious point: because the guilty Tosevites may have sought revenge against us for wrongs suffered during the period of fighting. The Big Uglies are far more given to elaborate vengeance than we are.” He remembered the captivity he had endured at the hands of the Chinese female Liu Han after taking her hatchling to use in his researches-and he had suffered that captivity despite returning the hatchling.

“I see that this is true,” Reffet said. “Senior Researcher Felless confirms it and, as I noted, speaks well of your insight into the subject. I must confess, though, that I fail to grasp the reasons behind it.”

“In my view, they are related to the reproductive behavior of the Big Uglies, which, you will have gathered, is different from our own and different from that of any other intelligent race with which we are familiar.”

“I have gathered this, yes.” Reffet made a noise redolent of disgust. “They are sexually available to one another at all seasons of the year. They form pairs and nurture the hatchlings to which the female of each pair gives birth by a process that revolted me when I read of it and revolted me even more when I viewed a video of it. It strikes me as astounding that any survive.”

“It strikes me the same way, Exalted Fleetlord,” Ttomalss said. “The difficulty of the method, the helplessness of the hatchling over a startling period of time”-he recalled his own difficulties coping with the needs of first Liu Mei and then Kassquit-“and the sexual bond between specific males and females create emotional attachments among the Tosevites we can understand only intellectually. A Big Ugly whose sexual partner or hatchling has come to harm may well seek revenge for that harm without concern for its own survival.”

Reffet pondered that. “I have seen as much in the reports,” he said slowly. “It did not make sense to me before. Now it does, at least to a certain degree. But it also leaves me with an unanswered question, one on which I hope you will shed more light: which Tosevite not-empire do you reckon most likely to think it owes us such vicious, elaborate vengeance?”

“I fear I must disappoint you, Exalted Fleetlord, for I can offer no certain answer there,” Ttomalss said. “By the standards the Big Uglies use to judge such things, we have inflicted grievous harm on all their leading not-empires, and on the lesser ones as well. I wish I could be of more assistance.”

“So do I,” Reffet muttered. “All three of these leading notempires have said they will war against us if we punish them for the deed without proof of their guilt. One has had the effrontery to say this knowing it is in fact guilty, but never mind that. Do they speak the truth?”

“There, I fear they do,” Ttomalss replied, knowing he was again disappointing the fleetlord of the colonization fleet. “If a Big Ugly says he will not fight, he may well be lying. If he says he will fight, he is sure to be telling the truth.”

“These are not the answers I sought from you,” Reffet said.

“If you wanted answers that pleased you, Exalted Fleetlord, you could have had them from many others, and without interrupting me at my work,” Ttomalss said. “I thought you summoned me because you wanted the truth.”

“You sound rather like a Big Ugly yourself,” Reffet remarked.

He did not mean it as a compliment, but it was the first perceptive thing Ttomalss had heard him say. “Inevitably, that which is observed and the observer interact,” the researcher said. “Over these past years, we have influenced the Tosevites and they have influenced us.”

“Not for the better, in my view,” Reffet said. “Can you offer no advice on how to learn which group of Tosevites is lying?”

“Very little, I fear,” Ttomalss said. “The Big Uglies are far more practiced liars than we-as is natural, since they lie to one another so often.”

“I have heard you,” Reffet said heavily. “I have heard you and I dismiss you. Go back and learn more.”

“It shall be done, Exalted Fleetlord.” Inside, Ttomalss was laughing as he left Reffet’s presence. Reffet might despise Tosev 3 and all the Big Uglies on it, but they were influencing him, too, whether he wanted them to or not. Otherwise, he would have been more interested in hearing the truth and less in hearing only what he wanted to hear-a Tosevite characteristic if ever there was one.

“Sir,” Major Sam Yeager asked, “are you looking to hear the truth, or only what you want to hear?”

President Earl Warren blinked. With his long, jowly, wrinkled face, pink skin, and white hair, he looked like everyone’s favorite grandfather. “Major, the day I don’t want to hear the truth is the day I should no longer be president of the United States.”

Yeager wondered how sincere Warren was. Well, he’d find out in a minute. “Okay, Mr. President,” he said. “Truth is, I don’t know how we’re going to keep the Lizards from hitting us a lick. They said they would. By their way of thinking, that means they have to, whether they want to or not.”

“That is unjust,” Warren said unhappily. “If I permit it, I show cowardice in the face of the enemy.”

“Yes, sir,” Yeager agreed. “But if you go and hit them another lick afterwards-well, where does it stop?”

Warren eyed him. “A good question. The only question, as far as I can see: certainly the one on which a president earns his salary. Seeing that it is the question is not so hard. I mean no offense when I say any reasonably intelligent man could frame it. Answering it, though-ay, there’s the rub.”

Yeager wasn’t insulted when the president called him a reasonably intelligent man. He was, if anything, flattered. He wouldn’t have had a chance to meet a president if the Lizards hadn’t come. The most he could have hoped for was big-league coach, if one of his buddies got lucky and made manager. Part-time scout or high-school coach somewhere struck him as a lot more likely.

He said, “Mr. President, sir, if the Lizards wanted to blow up one of our cities, the way they kept doing during the fighting, they could have done it by now. Seems to me that Atvar wants to do something that would let him save face with his own people but doesn’t want to touch off a war with us.”

Earl Warren rubbed his chin as he pondered that. “You’re saying he might be satisfied with a symbolic act of destruction, Major, and would be willing to forgo something so brutal as to force us to respond in kind?”

“Yes, sir, that’s exactly what I’m saying.” Yeager didn’t try to hide the relief in his voice. Having a boss who understood what he was talking about was liable to make life easier for the whole planet.

On the other hand, it might not, too. Warren said, “I regret permitting even a symbolic act of destruction on our soil if we have done nothing to deserve it. It sets a dangerous precedent.”

“Right now, sir, the shiplords in the colonization fleet-and in the conquest fleet, too-will be screaming their heads off at Atvar to get him to blow a city here and one in the Reich and one in Russia to kingdom come,” Sam said. He didn’t try to hide his desperation, either. “If Atvar settles for something symbolic, they’ll all be shouting that he’s set a dangerous precedent-and the Lizards take precedent a lot more seriously than we do.”

“A point,” the president said, “and one I’m glad you reminded me of. I tend to think of the Lizards as always seeing things in the same light and speaking with a single voice. I have the same trouble with the Germans and the Russians, probably for the same reason: because their politics are less open than ours, I need to remind myself they have politics at all.”

“I don’t know about the Nazis and the Reds, sir, but the Lizards sure have politics,” Yeager answered. “They had ’em even before the colonization fleet came. Now they’re worse, because the ones who’ve been here for twenty years have started to understand a little bit about us, but the new ones don’t believe half of what the old-timers tell ’em and don’t want to believe any of it.”

“Is that last your opinion, Major, or have you got data to back it up?” Warren asked sharply. He’d been a politician a long time, and a lawyer for a long time before that; he understood the difference between evidence and hearsay.

“Sir, it’s the unanimous opinion of all the defectors and prisoners I’ve talked to, from Straha on down,” Sam said, “and some of the communications intercepts we’ve picked up show the same thing. We don’t have as many as we’d like; the Lizards are still ahead of us when it comes to keeping signals secure.”

Warren sighed and looked weary. His wits remained keen; his body, now and then, forcibly reminded him it was past seventy. And, from the days of FDR on, the presidency had grown into a job of man-killing importance and complexity. “I will consult with officials from the Departments of State and the Interior,” Warren said at last. “If they concur in your view, Major, perhaps we’ll dicker with the Lizards over a suitable symbolic act. If your good offices are required there, I will call on you.”

“That’s fine, Mr. President. That’s better than fine, in fact,” Yeager said enthusiastically. He also realized he’d just been dismissed. Saluting, he turned to go.

Before he could leave, though, President Warren said, “Wait.” Sam did as smart an about-face as he had in him. Warren asked, “Whom do the Lizards believe to be the responsible party?”

“Sir, the way they handicap it is, the Nazis first, the Reds second, and us trailing but not out of the running.” Yeager hesitated, then risked a question of his own: “How does it look to you?”

“I know about us, of course, which the Lizards would, too, if they had an ounce of sense,” Warren answered. Sam waited, not sure whether the president would tell him anything more. After a few seconds, Warren went on, “If I were a gambling man, I would bet on the Reich ahead of the Soviet Union, too. Molotov is a very cool customer-or a cold fish, whichever you like. He holds his cards so close to his chest, they’re inside his shirt. He would never dare anything so wild. The Nazis…” He shook his head. “No one can tell what the Nazis will do till they do it. Half the time, I don’t think they know themselves.”

“That’s what the Lizards say about all of us,” Yeager said.

“So I’ve heard. But it happens to be true of the Germans. Less so now than when Hitler ran them, maybe, but still true.” The president sighed again. “And I wish Britain hadn’t started cozying up to the Greater German Reich after the Lizards took away her empire. I don’t know how much we could have done about that-the Reich is on the other side of the Channel, and we’re on the other side of the Atlantic-but I wish it hadn’t happened.”

“You get no argument from me, sir,” Yeager said. “For that matter, I don’t like the idea of propping up the Japs. I remember Pearl Harbor too well.”

“So do I, Major,” Warren said. “I was attorney general of California at the time. I helped get the Japs off the West Coast and into camps. But if we don’t prop them up now, they’ll look to the Russians, which would be bad, or else to the Lizards in China, which would be worse. And so-” He made an unhappy face.

“By what I’ve heard, sir, the Lizards aren’t having a very happy time in China,” Sam said.

“They’ve got the same problem the Japanese did before them: too many Chinese to try to hold down with not enough soldiers.” Warren looked up at the ceiling. “In a quiet sort of way, we try to keep the Lizards from having too happy a time in China. It’s easier for the Russians to do that than it is for us, but we manage.” He glanced toward Yeager. “Unofficially, of course.”

“Oh, of course, sir.” Sam saluted again. This time, President Warren let him go.

Before the Lizards came, what people called the White House these days had been the governor’s residence, not far from the State Capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas. People kept talking about rebuilding on the site of Washington, D.C., but they were more willing to talk than they were to spend money. Some people also said the Lizards had known just what they were doing when they dropped an explosive-metal bomb on Washington. Sam had been known to say that a time or two himself.

He rather liked Little Rock, even the larger, more hectic city that had sprung up around and in the midst of the town he’d known during and right after the fighting. It was larger and more hectic than it had been, but still small and staid alongside Los Angeles. It was also much greener than Los Angeles, and full of trees. Both the Californian he was and the farm boy from the prairie he had been appreciated that.

Down the block, only a few embassies stood: that of the Lizards, biggest of all; those of Germany and the USSR, rival concrete cubes; smaller structures from Britain and Japan; those of Canada and Ireland and New Zealand and Germany’s vassals: Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria; and ones from the island nations of the Caribbean-Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. The Lizards had swallowed down the rest, with the exception of some the Germans had swallowed instead.

A man in a German uniform and a Lizard strolled down the street in earnest conversation. A colored fellow went past them the other way without even turning his head. Yeager chuckled to himself. Twenty years earlier, the local would either have tried to shoot both of them or run like hell. Sophistication had come to Little Rock, whether the Arkansans particularly wanted it or not.

Yeager stopped in a cafe for a hamburger. Endless years on the road had given him a connoisseur’s appreciation of the differences between burgers. This was a good one, better than he was likely to have found in his ballplaying days: meaty, on a fresh, tasty bun, with equally fresh pickle and lettuce and tomato. He enjoyed every bite.

He also enjoyed the beer with which he washed down the burger. It was a local brew, rich and hoppy. With their deliveries disrupted by the Lizard invasion, the national breweries had lost some of their hold on the country. When local beers were good, they made Schlitz and Miller High Life and the rest taste like dishwater. When they were bad, of course, they bore a strong resemblance to horse piss. Bad local beers didn’t last. Good ones seemed to be flourishing.

A lot of the signs on the table, Sam left air-conditioning and went out into the muggy heat again. His face was thoughtful. As far as he was concerned, whoever had attacked the ships of the colonization fleet was a cold-blooded murderer. Whatever the Lizards did when they found out who it was, he wouldn’t mind. He might have thought differently had there been any way to drive the Lizards out of the solar system and make sure they didn’t come back. Since there wasn’t…

“We’ve got to live with them,” he said, and then, more softly, “I hope to God they nail the bastards.” As far as he was concerned, Lizards were people, too.


Mordechai Anielewicz rattled east across Poland on a train. The steam engine threw a black plume of coal smoke into the air; undoubtedly, it had been built before the Germans invaded, let alone the Lizards. The Race seemed horrified that such stinking survivals persisted. But trains moved people and goods more cheaply than Poland’s inadequate road network, and so they kept on running.

Sharing the compartment with him were a farmer; a salesman who kept trying to sell his fellow passengers cheese graters, egg slicers, potato peelers, and other cheap metal goods; and a moderately pretty young woman who might have been either Polish or Jewish. Anielewicz kept trying to decide till she got out a couple of stops past Warsaw, but came to no conclusion.

He stayed aboard all the way to Pinsk. The border with the USSR lay just a few kilometers east of the city. The first thing Mordechai did when he got off the train was swat a mosquito. The Pripet Marshes surrounded Pinsk. He sometimes thought every mosquito in the world lived in the marshes. He might have been wrong, though; maybe only some of them lived there, with the rest coming to visit on holidays.

Swatting still, he made for the privies in the station. He’d eaten black bread and drunk tea all the way across Lizard-occupied Poland, and a man could do only so much of that without reaching the bursting point. The privies stank of stale piss. He didn’t care. He left them much relieved.

Lizard soldiers prowled the streets of Pinsk. They were not happy Lizards. Twenty years of learning more about Lizards than he’d ever thought he would want to know had taught Anielewicz as much. They stalked along with furious delicacy, like cats that had been soaked with a hose.

He understood their language pretty well, and had long since mastered the art of listening without seeming to. “If I don’t come down with the purple itch or one of these horrible local fungi, it’s not because I haven’t been squelching through the mud the past four days,” one of them said.

“Truth,” another agreed with an emphatic cough. “Impossible to do a proper job of patrolling that swamp. We’d need ten times the sensors and twenty times the males to have a chance of doing it right.”

“We have to try,” a third male said. “If we didn’t patrol the paths, who knows how much worse the smuggling would be?”

“Right now, I don’t much care,” the first male said. “I want to get back to the barracks and-” He lifted a claw-tipped hand to his face. His tongue shot out for a moment. The other males’ mouths dropped open in laughter. They probably wouldn’t have minded a taste of ginger, either.

A lot of the signs in Pinsk were in the Cyrillic alphabet Byelorussians used. Mordechai was less at home with it than he was with the Lizards’ script. Some of the signs were in Yiddish. Pinsk had been in the Nazis’ hands only a few months before the Lizards landed. The Jews here had had a hard time of it, but not so hard as the ones farther west, who’d lain under the German yoke for two and a half years.

ROZENZWEIG’S BAKERY. That sign was written in Yiddish, Byelorussian, and, as an afterthought, in Polish in letters half the size of those of the other two languages. Anielewicz went in. The good smell of baking bread and cakes and rolls and muffins almost made him fall over. Saliva gushed into his mouth. He reminded himself he hadn’t been too hungry before he came inside. Remembering that wasn’t easy.

A gray-haired man with a bushy mustache looked up from the bagels he was dusting with poppy seeds. “You want something?” he asked in Yiddish.

“Yes,” Mordechai said. “My name is Kaplan. You’ve got a special order for me in the back, don’t you?”

The code phrase wasn’t fancy, but it did the job. The baker eyed Anielewicz, then nodded. “Yeah, it’s here,” he said. “You want to come look it over before you take it home?”

“I think I’d better, don’t you?” Anielewicz said. He wondered what the Russians wanted, to have summoned him across Poland to handle it. If it wasn’t important, he’d give the NKVD man or whoever his contact was a piece of his mind. He’d dealt with a good many Russians. He knew this one wouldn’t care what he did or said. But it would make him feel better.

“Here,” Rozenzweig said. “Talk. I don’t want to know what you’re talking about.” He turned and went back to his poppy seeds.

“Nu?” Mordechai asked the fellow sitting in the baker’s back room: a nondescript, rather scrawny man not far from his own age, with a thin face and dark, intelligent eyes. Another Jew, Anielewicz thought. He’d dealt with a good many who worked for the Soviets. Every one, without exception, acted as a Soviet first and a Jew second if at all.

“Hello, Mordechai. Been a long time, hasn’t it?” the man from the USSR asked in Yiddish that sounded as if it came from western Poland, not any part of the Soviet Union.

“Am I supposed to know you?” Anielewicz asked. He did his best to keep track of all the agents he met, but he’d met a lot of them. Every once in a while, he slipped up. He’d stopped worrying about it. He wasn’t perfect, no matter how hard he tried to be.

The Soviet laughed and cocked his head to one side. He looked sly, like a man convinced he was smarter than everyone around him. And, where Anielewicz hadn’t recognized him before, he did now.

“My God! David Nussboym!” he exclaimed. “I might have known you’d turn up again.” His mouth hardened. “Bad pennies usually do.”

“You shipped me off to the gulags to die, you and your collaborationist pals,” Nussboym said. “I wouldn’t be a tukhus-lekher for the Nazis, so you got rid of me.”

“You were going to sell us out to the Lizards,” Anielewicz said. “They might have won the war if you had. Where would we be then?”

They stared at each other with a loathing apparently undimmed since the fighting ended. Nussboym said, “The camps chew you up and spit you out dead. Russians, Jews, Lizards… it doesn’t matter. Some people get by, though. The first denunciation I signed, I was sick for a week afterwards. The second left the taste of ashes in my mouth. But do you know what? After a while, you don’t care. If you get the better rations; if you get the other bastard’s job; if, after a while, you get out of the camp-you don’t care any more.”

“I believe you don’t,” Mordechai said, looking at him as he might have looked at a cockroach in his salad.

Nussboym looked back steadily, without showing he was insulted, with a small, superior smile, as if to say, You haven’t been where I have. You don’t know what you’re talking about. And that was true. Anielewicz thanked God it was true. But he still thought that, even in the gulag, he would have found some way to fight back. Some people must have managed it.

He shrugged. It didn’t really matter. “So what do you want?” he asked harshly.

“I want you to know”-by which Nussboym meant his Russian bosses wanted Anielewicz to know-“the Germans were the ones who blew up the ships from the Lizards’ colonization fleet.”

“You brought me all the way over here to tell me that?” Mordechai didn’t laugh at him, but that took an effort. “You sneaked over the border to tell me that?” He was sure Nussboym hadn’t crossed officially. Had Nussboym done so, they wouldn’t have met in Rozenzweig’s bakery. “Why would it matter to me, even if it’s true?”

“Oh, it’s true.” David Nussboym sounded very sure. Of course, his job was to sound sure. He would be nothing but a recording, mouthing the words his bosses-NKVD men, probably-had impressed on him.

“I have contacts with the Nazis, too,” Anielewicz said.

“Of course you do.” Now heat came into Nussboym’s voice-he was speaking for himself here, not for his bosses. “Why do you think I couldn’t stomach working with you twenty years ago?”

“So you work for Molotov, who got into bed with Hitler and blew out the light-on Poland,” Mordechai said, and had the dubious pleasure of watching Nussboym’s sallow features flush. He went on, “The Nazis say Russia did it.”

“And what would you expect?” Nussboym returned. “But we have the evidence. I could give it to you-”

“Why would you?” Anielewicz asked. “If you’ve got it, give it to the Lizards.”

Nussboym coughed a couple of times. “For some reason, the Lizards don’t always trust things they get straight from us.”

“Because you lie all the damned time, just like the Nazis?” Anielewicz suggested. David Nussboym did not dignify that with a reply; Mordechai hadn’t really expected that he would. The question he’d asked was a serious one, though, and Nussboym hadn’t answered it, either. That meant Anielewicz had to do some thinking on his own. “So you want the Lizards to get this from us, do you?”

“They would be likelier to believe you than us, yes,” Nussboym said.

“Well, what if they do?” Anielewicz knew he was thinking out loud; if his old rival didn’t like it, too bad. “That might embroil them against the Reich — probably would, as a matter of fact. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Without waiting for an answer, he went on, “And if they did go at it, the Nazis would do their best to wipe Poland off the face of the Earth. I thought Molotov liked having a buffer between him and the swastika.”

“I have not spoken with him about that,” Nussboym said.

Did that mean he had spoken with Molotov about other things? How important a cog in the machine had he become? How important a cog did he want Anielewicz to think he’d become? How much of a difference was there between those last two?

Those were interesting questions. They were also beside the point. Anielewicz had no trouble seeing what the point was: “You don’t care what the Reich does to Poland, because you want to make the Lizards jump on the Nazis with both feet. If they do, the Reich won’t be strong enough to worry you any more.”

He watched Nussboym closely. The skinny little man hadn’t given away much when Anielewicz knew him before. He gave away nothing whatever now; he might have been carved from stone. But his very immobility was an answer of sorts.

Nodding, Mordechai said, “I’m afraid you’re going to have to do your own dirty work on this one.”

Nussboym raised an eyebrow. “Do you mean to tell me you don’t believe the Nazis did it?”

Anielewicz shook his head. “As a matter of fact, I do believe it. Even with Hitler dead, they’re crazier than your bosses are. What I don’t believe is that you’ve got any evidence to prove they did it. If the Lizards haven’t been able to come up with any, how are you supposed to?”

“The Lizards are very good with science and machines and instruments,” Nussboym answered. “When it comes to people-no. We do that better.”

He was probably right. The Lizards had improved with people as time passed, but they weren’t good. They’d probably never be good. They weren’t people, after all. Even so… “You’ll have to do your own dirty work,” Anielewicz repeated. Nussboym studied him in turn, then got up and left the bakery without another word.

There were times when Straha wondered whether the Tosevites who lived in the not-empire called the United States and who, for a reason he’d never grasped, styled themselves Americans had any more sense when it came to larger matters. Reporters were a prime example. These days, his telephone rang constantly.

“Straha here,” the ex-shiplord would answer in his own language. He had, in fact, learned a fair amount of English. He used the language of Home as a testing gauge. His working assumption was that no one ignorant of it would be able to tell him anything worth hearing.

Some Big Uglies, hearing the Race’s hisses and pops, would hang up. That suited him fine. Some would try to go on in English. When they did, he would hang up. That also suited him fine.

But, even when reporters did know and used the language of the Race, they used it in a Tosevite fashion and for Tosevite purposes. “I greet you, Shiplord,” one of them said after Straha had announced himself. “I am Calvin Herter. I write for the New York Times. I would like to ask you a few questions, if I may.”

“Go ahead,” Straha said. Herter spoke his language fairly well-not so well as a real expert like Major Yeager, but well enough. “Ask. I will answer as best I can.” It would pass the time.

He regretted saying that a moment later, for the Big Ugly asked the same question all the others had: “Which not-empire do you think attacked the colonization fleet, and why?”

Having answered, How should I know, when I am not a Tosevite? any number of times already, Straha felt mischief stir in him. Had his character not had that streak, he wouldn’t have tried to overthrow Atvar and he likely wouldn’t have fled from the conquest fleet to the Tosevites. And I would be better off today, he thought, but not till after he had answered, “Why, this one, of course-the United States.”

“Really?” Herter said. “Why do you think that?”

“It stands to reason,” Straha answered. “Your not-empire could hurt the Race more easily than either the Reich or the Soviet Union, because fewer folk would expect you to try it.”

He heard faint scratching sounds as the reporter wrote that down; recorders were less common here than among the Race. “Really?” the Big Ugly repeated. “Well, that is something, by the Emperor! That will give me a front-page headline every other newspaper in the not-empire will envy. Let me ask you some more questions about this. Why-?”

“Wait,” Straha said. He did not care to hear the reporter swearing by the Emperor. The Tosevite cared nothing about the Emperor, and was probably using the only oath in the language of the Race he knew-and the Emperor assuredly cared nothing about the Tosevite. But that was only a detail. Straha asked, “You would print this in your newspaper?”

“Of course,” Herter answered. “This will be the biggest story since the attack on the fleet.”

“But I have accused the government of this not-empire of perpetrating that attack,” Straha said, wondering if the Big Ugly could speak the language of the Race himself but had trouble understanding what he heard in it. Straha’s English was sometimes like that.

But Herter did understand him. “Oh, yes,” the reporter said brightly. “That is what makes it such a big story. Now my next question is-”

“Wait,” Straha said again. “The government of this not-empire would never allow you to print such a story.”

“Of course they will,” Herter said. “This is not the Reich. This is not the Soviet Union. Here, we have freedom of the press.”

The phrase was in the language of the Race, but alien to it in spirit. Straha had heard it before, of course, but never in such a context as this: “Your not-emperor would allow you to print a story that criticizes him? I find it hard to believe.”

“It is truth,” Herter said with an emphatic cough. “We are a free not-empire. We are almost the only free not-empire left on the face of this planet. We have no censors telling us what goes in the newspapers and what does not.”

“None?” Straha had not really imagined the American passion for doing exactly as one pleased went so far as that.

“None,” the reporter answered. “We did during the fighting, but we got rid of them again after that.”

“Why would your government let ordinary males and females criticize it?” Straha asked in honest bewilderment. “What good does it do? What good do you imagine it does?” He could see none, not even turning both mental eye turrets in the direction of the problem.

But Calvin Herter could, and did: “How better to make sure the government does what the males and females of the United States want it to do than by giving them the right to criticize freely?”

“Governments do not do what males and females want them to do.” Straha spoke as if quoting a law of nature. As far as he was concerned, he was quoting a law of nature. “Governments do what governments want to do. How could it be otherwise, when they hold the power?”

“You have lived in America for a long time,” Herter said. “How have you lived here so long without getting a better idea of how the government of the United States works?”

“You count snouts,” Straha said. “Whichever side can persuade the most snouts to join it prevails. It does not have to be clever. It does not have to be wise. It only has to be popular.”

“There may be something to that,” Herter admitted. “But with any other way to run a government, a policy does not have to be clever or wise or popular. There is the drawback the Race faces-and the Nazis and Communists, too.”

Underestimating a Big Ugly’s wits rarely paid. The Tosevites were not stupid and, whatever else one said about them, were inspired argufiers. But Straha knew he was on solid ground in this dispute, and fired back: “Often policies that are clever or wise are not popular. A snoutcounting government cannot use them, because not enough snouts will line up behind them. This is the drawback the United States faces.”

“No system is perfect,” Herter said.

“Our system is perfect-for us,” Straha said. “I do not know that it would be perfect for Tosevites. But I do not know that it would not be, either. I am willing to believe-I am more than willing to believe-that Tosevites have yet to establish a social system perfect for themselves.” He let his mouth fall open at the neatness with which he had squelched Herter.

But, like so many other Big Uglies, Herter refused to stay squelched. “If we are so imperfect, Shiplord, how is it that we, with our short history, fought the Race to a standstill even though you have a long history?”

Straha started to slap him down for his insolence: his first, automatic, response, as it would have been for any self-respecting male of the Race. Before he spoke, though, he realized what most other males of the Race would not have-the Big Ugly had a point. With a sigh, he answered, “Scholars of the Race-and perhaps Tosevite scholars as well-will be studying that question for thousands of years to come. I do not believe it to be one with a simple answer.”

“You are probably right about that,” the reporter said. “Now, can we return to the question I asked you before: Why do you believe the United States was the not-empire that exploded the ships from the colonization fleet?”

He was serious. Straha would not have believed it, and still did not want to believe it. But he had no choice but to believe it. That being so, he said, “I do not really believe that. I find it highly unlikely. I wanted to place a biting pest on your tailstump, to watch you leap in the air when its proboscis pierced your skin. Do you understand what I am saying?”

“I think so,” Herter replied. “In English, we call that a practical joke.” The two key words were in his own language.

“A practical joke,” Straha repeated. Thinking back on it, he’d heard Sam Yeager use the phrase a couple of times. If anything, the Big Uglies seemed fonder of the thing than the Race was. He went on, “Yes, I suppose that is what it was. I did not imagine you would publish it, so I said it to see what you would do.”

“Not funny, Shiplord. Not funny at all,” Calvin Herter said with another emphatic cough. “You might have touched off a war between the United States and the Race. That goes too far for a practical joke.”

“I suppose so,” Straha said, at the same time wondering whether a war between the United States and the Race-one in which the Race wrecked the United States, of course-would be enough to allow him to return to the society of his own kind, assuming he survived it.

He had his doubts. As long as Atvar lived, nothing was likely to allow him to return to the society of his own kind. When the fleetlord got a grudge, he kept it.

Maybe Atvar would get killed in a war between the United States and the Race. As far as Straha was concerned, that would improve the Race’s chances of winning such a war. Atvar would have been the ideal fleetlord for the conquest of the Tosev 3 the Race thought it would find. He was careful, methodical, and probably could have completed the job without losing a male. As things were…

As things were, Straha realized Herter had said something, but he had no idea what it was. “Please repeat that,” he said. Speaking with another male of the Race, he would have been embarrassed. To a certain degree, he was embarrassed anyhow, but only to a certain degree.

“I asked whether, once the colonization fleet lands, you will be glad to have females with you once more,” the reporter said.

“In the sense that their arrival means we will be able to plant new generations of the Race on Tosev 3, yes,” Straha replied. “In the sense that we will be wild for mating, as you Tosevites might be, of course not. Our nature is different.” For which I am heartily glad, he added to himself.

“You of the Race miss a lot of the spark in life, or so it seems to me,” Herter said.

“You Tosevites let your mating habits drive you wild, or so it seems to me,” Straha replied. “I am content-more than content-to be as I am.”

“Me, too,” Herter said with an emphatic cough.

“I believe you,” Straha said. He wondered what sort of progress the Race’s scientists had made since his defection toward unraveling the connection between the Big Uglies’ sexual patterns and their society. Signals intercepts and conversations with other defectors and prisoners who had stayed in the USA did not tell him everything he wanted to know. He asked, “Have you any further questions?”

“Shiplord, I have not,” the reporter answered. “And if I did, how would I know you were telling the truth?”

Straha’s mouth fell open. “How would you know?” he echoed. “You would not. That is part of the risk you run when you speak with me.”

To his surprise, Calvin Herter let out several yips of barking Big Ugly laughter. “Shiplord, we will make a Tosevite of you yet,” he said. Straha hung up in some indignation. The reporter had no business insulting him that way.

Kassquit put on the artificial fingerclaws that made handling the Race’s equipment so much easier for her. She turned on the computer terminal in her chamber, then turned off the overhead light. Sitting there in the darkness, her own body hidden from her eyes, she could pretend for a while that she was a female of the Race like any other female of the Race.

News bulletins told her the Race still did not know which Tosevite faction had dared raise its hand against the ships of the colonization fleet. “Punish them all,” Kassquit whispered fiercely. “They all deserve it. Of course they deserve it. They are Big Uglies.”

Her hands folded into fists in her anger at the natives of Tosev 3. As they did so, the artificial fingerclaws poked the soft, smooth flesh of her palms. She let out a long, misery-filled sigh. Even in the darkness, she could not escape what she was. Her flesh was the flesh of the natives of the world below.

“I cannot help that,” she said in the language of the Race, the only language she knew. “I may be flesh of their flesh, but I am not spirit of their spirit. When they die, they will be gone. They will be gone forever. When I die, spirits of Emperors past will cherish me.”

She cast down her eyes in reverence for the Emperors who still watched over the Race, even though so many were tens of millennia dead. She also dared hope her spirit, when at last it was freed from the unfortunate form it bore, would resemble those of other females of the Race. Even if this flesh was not what it should be, surely no one and nothing could condemn her to be different forever.

She had sometimes thought of ending her life, to escape the prison of the body she was forced to wear. But she knew her existence helped the Race learn more about the perfidious Tosevites. If she ended it prematurely, she was all too likely to forfeit the good opinion of Emperors past. She dared not take the risk. If she were to be no more than a Big Ugly even after she was dead… how could she be expected to endure such a misfortune throughout eternity?

Of itself, her right hand strayed toward the joining of her legs. She noticed only when one of those fingerclaws scraped the skin of her inner thigh. She took the fingerclaws off that hand. The sole refuge she had from a difficult world was the sensation she could evoke from her Tosevite body.

But before she was well begun, the speaker beside her closed door emitted a hiss, the signal the Race used when someone wanted to enter. She jerked her hand away and flipped on the lights. “Who is it?” she asked, removing the fingerclaws from her left hand as well.

“Ttomalss,” came the answer, as she had expected. He did do his best to treat her as if she were a proper part of the Race, for which she respected and admired him hardly less than she did the Emperor back on Home. When she was a hatchling, he had come and gone as he pleased. Now that she approached adulthood, though, he used her with all due courtesy: “May I enter?”

“Of course,” she answered, and put one fingerclaw back on to touch the control that slid the door open. She folded herself into the posture of respect. “I greet you, superior sir.” As he did not usually do, Ttomalss had someone with him. Kassquit remained in the posture of respect. “And I greet you as well, superior female.”

“I greet you, Kassquit,” Felless said. “I greet you indeed. It is good to see you again. You will be very valuable to my investigations.”

“I am glad to hear it, Senior Researcher,” Kassquit replied. “Being useful to the Race is my goal and my purpose in life.”

Felless turned both eye turrets toward Ttomalss. “Truly, she speaks the language as well as one could expect a Tosevite to do,” she said, “and you have trained her well in the subordination due her superiors.”

Kassquit hid her anger. She did not like the way Felless talked about her as if she were not there, or as if she were too stupid to understand anything that was said about her. She glanced toward Ttomalss-he was not so far away from Felless that she had to embarrass herself by turning her whole head to do it-hoping he would reprove the researcher fresh from Home.

He said, “I thank you, Senior Researcher. The effort involved has been considerable, but I agree that the result has been worthwhile.”

That was praise for Kassquit, if she chose to take it the right way. She was not inclined to take it the right way, not now. She did not want Ttomalss, who had raised her from earliest hatchlinghood, to speak of her as if she were only an experimental animal. He had always been her buffer, the one who eased the strain between her and other members of the Race.

Was that what he was doing now? Or did he really think of her as nothing more than a creature he had taught to imitate some of the ways of the Race? Did that not betray the bond between superiors and subordinates, the bond on account of which superiors deserved deference?

Oblivious to her annoyance, oblivious to her worries, Ttomalss pointed to the computer screen and said to Felless, “As you see, she takes a keen interest in the events of the day.”

Kassquit coughed, trying to remind Ttomalss and Felless that she was there, that they were, in fact, standing in her chamber. Neither of them paid any attention to her. “And what is her perspective on these events?” Felless asked Ttomalss.

She might have asked Kassquit. She did not. Ttomalss might have let Kassquit speak for herself. He did not. He answered for her: “Why, the perspective of a female of the Race, of course.”

“Not the perspective of her own kind in any way?” Felless said. “How interesting. What an excellent job you have done.”

“I thank you, Senior Researcher,” Ttomalss said. Kassquit recognized the tones of a male seeking favor.

At last, Felless deigned to notice her again. “Since you have been studying the events of the day, what is your view on which band of Tosevites carried out this murderous attack against us?”

“My view, superior female, is that it matters very little, because all the Tosevite not-empires are bloodthirsty and murderous,” Kassquit replied. “My view is that they should all be chastised, no matter which of them actually did it. That would discourage them from doing such a thing again.” She eyed Felless with something less than warmth. “Only luck that your ship was not one of those targeted.” By her tone, she meant, Only bad luck.

Felless did not read that tone accurately. “Only luck, yes,” she agreed. “We are too vulnerable to these bloodthirsty maniacs, as you said; far too vulnerable.”

Thanks to his greater experience with her, Ttomalss did recognize the tone. After a series of splutters, he said, “Indeed. It is most fortunate.”

Still feeling irritable, Kassquit eyed Felless and asked, “Superior female, why did you seek my opinion of what the Tosevites have done, when I have never met a Big Ugly and so can have only limited knowledge of the differences, if any, among their various groups?”

Again, Felless was slower on the uptake than she might have been. She began, “But you are a-”

“I am as much a female of the Race as I can possibly be,” Kassquit broke in. “This is, I daresay, more than certain other individuals can claim.”

Now Felless could not ignore the insult. Neither could Ttomalss, who said, “Kassquit…” in warning tones he had not used since she was a hatchling.

“What?” she flung back at him. Mortifyingly, her eyes began to fill with moisture, an emotional response built into her Tosevite body but alien to the Race. Sometimes the water would even spill down her face. By blinking rapidly-all she could do, since she had no nictitating membranes-she managed to keep that from happening now, though her nasal passages began to fill with mucus. “If I cannot receive my due from this female, if I cannot receive my due from you, from whom shall I receive it? The fleetlord?”

She had not been guilty of such an outburst since she was a hatchling. Back then, her eruptions had been pure emotion. This one had logic behind it, too. Ttomalss and Felless both stared at her in astonishment. At last, Felless said, “I think I may have been guilty of several false assumptions here. I apologize, Kassquit. You are more one of us and less a Tosevite than I had believed.”

“Ah,” Ttomalss said, finally understanding. “Yes, Kassquit is indeed as much a female of the Race as she can be.”

“I wish you would have treated me as a female of the Race,” Kassquit said to both of them.

Felless quietly quivered, which meant she was angry at being criticized. Her anger bothered Kassquit not at all. Kassquit was angry, too, and felt she had every right to be. Felless had treated her as if she were somewhere between a half-wit and an animal. And Ttomalss had not done much better.

Had Ttomalss quivered in anger, too, Kassquit would have despaired. But the male who had raised her said, “The point of this long exercise is, after all, to learn how much like one of us she can become. Since she has become so very much like us, we would be mistaken to treat her as if she were an uncultured Tosevite.”

“Truth,” Felless said, and then, with as much good grace as she could muster, “I truly do apologize, Kassquit. You are indeed more nearly of the Race than I had imagined you could be, as I told you just now. In a way, this is good, for it says there is indeed a fine chance of accommodating Tosevites within the Empire. In another way, though, it makes matters more difficult for my research. You are not a good subject; you are too much like one of us to make a good subject.”

“I can only be what I am,” Kassquit said. “I wish I could be like a female of the Race in all things. Since I cannot, I can only strive to be as much like a female of the Race as this body permits.”

Before, Felless’ apologies had seemed grudging. Now the researcher said, “Your words do you great credit. Surely the Emperor would be proud if he could listen to them with his own hearing diaphragms.”

“I thank you, superior female,” Kassquit said softly, and cast down her eyes. They were small and absurdly immobile, but they were what she had. Everything she had was at the service of the Emperor, at the service of the Empire.

“And I thank you, Kassquit, for what you have taught me today,” Felless said. One of her eye turrets turned toward Ttomalss and then toward the doorway. Ttomalss took the hint. The two of them left together, discussing Tosevite psychology.

As soon as they were gone, Kassquit darkened the chamber again. She sat in front of the computer screen, listening to the male there talking about preparations for landing some of the ships of the colonization fleet. As long as she just listened to him and didn’t think about herself or look at her soft, scaleless body, she could pretend she was fully a part of the Race… until her right hand wandered toward her private parts once more.

Smoke rose from the Tosevite city outside of which Nesseref intended to land her shuttlecraft. From what she’d seen, smoke often rose from Tosevite cities. Instead of nuclear energy and clean-burning hydrogen, the Big Uglies used the combustion of an astonishing variety of noxious substances to provide energy.

But, even for a Tosevite city, this one showed an uncommon amount of smoke. The Big Uglies were not merely burning their usual nasty fuels. They were burning a large stretch of their city, too, doing their best to burn it down around the males of the Race who occupied it. The more Nesseref saw of Tosev 3 and the Big Uglies, the gladder she was that she hadn’t been part of the conquest fleet. They hadn’t had an easy time of it, hadn’t and still didn’t.

“Shuttlecraft, this is Cairo Ground Control,” a male said. “Your trajectory is on track for landing.”

“Acknowledged, Cairo Ground Control,” Nesseref said, and then, “Tell me, will the site where I land be safe?”

She meant the question sardonically, which only proved she was new to Tosev 3. The male on the ground answered in all seriousness: “It should be safe enough. We will have helicopter gunships patrolling at a radius to make small-arms or mortar attacks unlikely.”

“Thank you so much.” Nesseref meant that sardonically, too, but in an altogether different way. “How have you males on the ground managed to stay alive since you got here?”

She meant that to be sympathetic. She thought it was sympathetic. But it was not sympathetic enough to suit the male on the ground, who replied, “A lot of us have not,” and underlined with an emphatic cough how many hadn’t.

Then she stopped worrying about fine shades of meaning, for black puffs of smoke began appearing out of nowhere in the air around her. A couple of clangs and bangs announced metal fragments ricocheting from or piercing the skin of the shuttlecraft. “Ground Control, I am under attack!” she said urgently. She couldn’t maneuver. All she could do was hope none of those bursting projectiles hit the shuttlecraft squarely.

The male with whom she’d been speaking cursed. “The local Tosevites cannot build these weapons for themselves-they are too ignorant. But they are excellent smugglers, and the not-empires that can manufacture antiaircraft guns are more than happy to bring them in and make our lives more miserable than they were already.”

“I do not care about any of that,” Nesseref said furiously. “All I want is not to get shot down. Make them stop firing at me!”

“We are trying to do that.” The male sounded perfectly calm. Part of that calm doubtless came because no one was shooting at him. And part was that he had done this before. Nesseref wondered how many times he had done it before, and if the Big Uglies had ever succeeded in shooting down a shuttlecraft. No sooner had that thought occurred to her than she wished it hadn’t.

Regardless of whether the Big Uglies shot her down, she had to pay attention to what she was doing or she would end up killing herself. A fingerclaw stabbed a control. Her braking rockets lit, pressing her against her couch.

The Big Uglies had been tracking her descent by eye. When it slowed, they fired several rounds along the path she would have taken, then got her range again. She hissed something pungent. There she was, hanging in the sky like a fruit on a tree branch, all but shouting at the Tosevites to knock her down.

But the shellbursts stopped coming. She noticed new smoke rising from the edge of the city, smoke with flame at the base. She set the shuttlecraft down, as smoothly as if no one on Tosev 3 had ever heard of antiaircraft guns.

When I have time, she thought, I will have a case of the fidgets. I do not have time right now. She said that to herself over and over, till she eventually began to believe it.

As she descended from the shuttlecraft, a landcruiser pulled up alongside it. “Get in,” a male called from the turret. “We shall take you to the administration building. If you go in this, you’ll make it there.”

“By the Emperor!” she said, and was almost too angry to lower her eye turrets. “I thought the fighting was supposed to be over.” She scrambled down from the shuttlecraft and then up and into the landcruiser.

She was even more cramped inside the traveling fortress than she had been coming down from the 13th Emperor Makkakap. Once she was settled as well as she could be, the landcruiser commander said, “Everything was quiet-well, pretty quiet-till the colonization fleet got here. That addled the Big Uglies’ eggs good and proper.”

“Why?” Nesseref asked. “They must have known we were coming.”

“Oh, they did,” the landcruiser commander said. “They knew, but they did not fret or plan much. They are not forethoughtful, not the way we are.”

“I guess not,” Nesseref said. After a moment, she brightened. “Then we should not have much trouble figuring out which Big Uglies gave these Big Uglies the cannon they used to shoot at me.”

“No,” the male said regretfully. “That is not right. The Tosevites are not forethoughtful, but they have their own kind of cleverness. Each not-empire will often give away guns it does not manufacture, to make it harder for us to blame outrages on any one group.”

Before Nesseref could answer, something clanged off the metal-and-ceramic hide of the landcruiser. “What was that?” she asked nervously.

“Only a stone,” the male said. “I ignore those. The Tosevites really pitch fits when we shoot them up for anything as small as a thrown stone. These Egyptian Big Uglies are very touchy that way.”

Nesseref asked, “If this is what the Big Uglies give you, how did you stand the time between when you got here and when the colonization fleet finally came?”

“As I told you, we did not have too much to do after the fighting stopped, not until your fleet arrived.” The landcruiser commander paused to peer out through the periscopes mounted inside his cupola, then resumed: “Besides, we would have been even more bored if Tosev 3 had been the sort of place we thought it was when we came here. Then the Big Uglies would not have been able to do anything but throw stones at us.”

“You enjoy fighting?” Nesseref said in some surprise.

“I am a soldier. I was chosen in a Soldiers’ Time.” Sure enough, the voice of the male from the conquest fleet held pride. “I have the honor of serving the Emperor by adding a new world to those he rules.”

“So you do.” As far as Nesseref was concerned, the landcruiser commander and his comrades were welcome to that honor. The Race had no standing army, only documentation on how to create one in time of need. Everything had gone as planned when the Rabotevs were conquered, and then again when the Hallessi became part of the Empire. On Tosev 3, not everything had gone as planned. On Tosev 3, as far as Nesseref could see, nothing had gone as planned. As if to underscore that, another rock crashed against the landcruiser’s armored skin.

“It is a good thing we did not wait another few hundred years to start this conquest,” the landcruiser commander said, taking the conversation in a new direction, “or the Big Uglies might have come to Home instead. We talk about that a lot here. It would have been very bad. It would mean all the time would become a Soldiers’ Time.”

“That would be a change,” Nesseref said-to a male or female of the Race, sufficient condemnation in and of itself.

The landcruiser clanked to a halt. Over the intercom, the driver announced, “Superior sir, superior female, we are here.”

“Good.” The commander opened the turret hatch, turning one eye turret toward Nesseref as he did. “You should be fairly safe inside this compound. Once you are inside the building itself, you will be as safe as you can be in Cairo. I will await you and your passenger and return you to the shuttlecraft.”

“I thank you,” Nesseref said, and got out of the landcruiser. She hurried toward the building. If she had to be anywhere in Cairo, the safest place in the city struck her as a good choice. She was no soldier. She had no desire to make a Soldiers’ Time-by its very nature, a temporary part of the Race’s history-into a permanent condition. Idly, she wondered if the Big Uglies had permanent Soldiers’ Times. Could even they be so foolishly wasteful of resources?

When she got inside, a male at a desk read her body paint and asked, “What do you require, Shuttlecraft Pilot?”

“I seek Pshing, adjutant to Atvar, fleetlord of the conquest fleet,” she replied. “I am ordered to bring him into the presence of Reffet, fleetlord of the colonization fleet.” Her opinion was that Pshing and Reffet could have conferred perfectly well by radio or video link. No one, however, had asked her opinion.

“I will inform him that you have arrived,” the male said, and spoke into a microphone in front of his snout. He turned an eye in Nesseref’s direction. “He tells me to tell you he will be here directly.”

Maybe directly meant something different for Pshing from what it meant to Nesseref. In her view, he took his time. She could not tell him so, not when a word from him whispered onto Atvar or Reffet’s hearing diaphragm might blight her chances to advance. Such things were not supposed to happen, but they did. “Let us go,” she said crisply when he did arrive, “assuming, that is, that the shuttlecraft remains intact.”

She thought that might faze him, but it didn’t. “The odds favor us,” he said. “Even with smuggled weapons, the local Big Uglies are not outstanding soldiers. Some of them are suicidally courageous, which can make them difficult to defend against, but raw ferocity has its limits.”

“I suppose so,” she said, and then vented a little more exasperation: “Is this travel truly necessary, superior sir?”

“It is,” Pshing declared. “The Tosevites have grown altogether too good at intercepting and decrypting our communications.” Nesseref sighed silently; they’d used the same excuse in Warsaw. Pshing went on, “Details as to when and where ships from the colonization fleet are to land must for obvious reasons remain secure until the last possible moment.”

“Truth,” Nesseref said, however little she wanted to. “Very well, then-we had best be off, to take advantage of the next launch window.”

The landcruiser was even more crowded with two passengers than with one. The gunner kept bumping into Nesseref, which did nothing to improve her temper. More stones thudded into the machine as it made its slow way through Cairo.

Nothing had happened to the shuttlecraft while Nesseref was gone. Praising Emperors past, she lifted on schedule and delivered Pshing to his meeting with Reffet.

When she opened her belt pouch in her own quarters aboard the 13th Emperor Makkakap later that day, she found a small vial that hadn’t been in there before. It was half full of finely ground brownish powder, and had a tiny note stuck to it. A couple of tastes for when you get bored, the note said.

Ginger, Nesseref thought. It has to be more ginger. She supposed the landcruiser driver had slipped the Tosevite spice in there. It hadn’t got in there by itself, that was certain. It was, she knew, very much against regulations, even if males of the conquest fleet kept giving it to her. But she wasn’t bored right now. She thought about throwing it away, then didn’t. She hadn’t thrown away the first vial, either. She might get bored one of these days. Who could say?

Rance Auerbach wondered whether he hated the Lizards worse for wrecking his life or for patching him up after they’d shot him as full of holes as a colander. People said both shooting the enemy and caring for him if you captured him were the right ways to go about making war. He wondered if any of those people had ever gone through close to twenty years of continuous pain. Better he should have bled out on the Colorado prairie southeast of Denver than put up with this.

But he hadn’t bled out, which meant he still had the chance to pay the Lizards back for the unfavor they’d done by saving his life. “And I will get even with them, if it’s the last thing I ever do,” he muttered. Getting even with them as the last thing he ever did struck him as poetic justice. He would die happy if he could die knowing he’d hit them a good lick.

He sat down at the kitchen table, the closest thing to a desk his miserable little apartment boasted. His leg complained when he bent it to sit. It would complain again, a little louder, when he got up once more. He shifted on the chair a couple of times, and it half settled down.

He resumed the letter he’d begun the night before, writing, And so I say again that I hope the Lizards never do figure out who blew up their ships. Let them fear all of us. Let them know we are all dangerous. And if they retaliate, kick ’em in the balls again. He looked it over, nodded, and scrawled his signature. Then he put it in an envelope and stuck on an overseas airmail stamp.

“Let’s hear it for airmail,” he said, and clapped his hands together a couple of times. Telephones and telegrams and telexes were too easy to monitor. The mail, though, the mail went through. Nobody would bother opening one envelope among hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands.

He started another letter, this one in German. He’d learned the language at West Point, then promptly forgotten it. Over the years, though, he’d brought it out of mothballs again, at least as far as reading and writing went. He knew a lot of people-classmates, men with whom he’d served when he could serve-and they knew people, too, people all over the world.

“Krauts better not hear me tryin’ to talk their lingo, though,” he said with a raspy chuckle. German and a Texas twang hadn’t gone together back at the Military Academy. They still didn’t: even less so now.

But he understood how the grammar worked, and he knew what he wanted to say. He also knew his correspondent would agree with him when he said the same sorts of things he had to his English friend. Yeah, the Nazis were bastards, but they had the right idea about the Lizards.

“Kick ’em in the balls,” he said aloud. “They don’t even have balls to kick.”

The colonization fleet would be bringing lady Lizards. You couldn’t very well have a colony-even the Lizards couldn’t-without both sexes being there. Rance imagined a Lizard in a frilly bra and fishnet stockings held up by a garter belt. He laughed like a loon, so hard that he had trouble getting enough air into his poor, battered chest cavity. He knew the Lizards didn’t really work that way; when the females weren’t in season, the males didn’t care. But it made a hell of a funny picture just the same.

He was addressing the envelope to his German associate when the telephone rang. It was back in the bedroom; getting to it took a while. Sometimes it would stop ringing just before he made it to the nightstand. He hated that. Even more, though, he hated making the long, painful trip-any trip for him was long and painful-to have a salesman try to get him to buy a new electric razor or a set of encyclopedias. He cussed those bastards up one side and down the other.

This time, the phone kept ringing long enough for him to answer it. “Hello?”

“Rance?” A woman’s voice. He raised an eyebrow. He didn’t get that many calls from women. “That you, Rance?”

“Who is this?” Whoever she was, she didn’t come from Texas. Her voice held the flat, harsh tones of the Midwestern farm belt. And then, even though he hadn’t heard it in more than fifteen years, he recognized it, or thought he did. “Christ!” he said, and sweat sprang out on his forehead that had nothing to do with either heat or pain-not physical pain, anyhow. “Penny?”

“It’s not the Easter Bunny, Rance; I’ll tell you that right now,” she answered. Now that Auerbach heard more than four words from her, he wondered how he’d known who she was by her voice. It spoke of a lot of cigarettes, a lot of booze, and probably a lot of hard times. She asked, “How are you doing, Rance?”

“Not too goddamn well,” he answered. The telephone trembled in his hand. If it hadn’t been for Penny Summers, he might not have lived after the Lizards shot him up. They’d known each other before the Lizards’ last big push toward Denver. The Race had scooped her up in Lamar, Colorado, before they wounded and captured him. Along with helping to keep him alive, she’d found ways to improve his morale no male nurse could have used. They’d stayed together for a while after the fighting ended, and then… “How much trouble are you in, Penny?”

Her breath caught. “How in God’s name did you know I’m in trouble?”

He laughed again, pulling pain and mirth from his chest at the same time. “If you weren’t, darling, you sure as hell wouldn’t be calling me.”

That should have struck her funny, too, but it didn’t. “Well, I’d be a liar if I said you was wrong.” Every word she spoke seemed chiseled from stone. Auerbach had grown very used to the lazy sounds of Texas English. Hearing those Kansas r’s again made the hair prickle up at the back of his neck.

He knew he had to say something. “Where are you calling from?” he asked. The question was innocuous enough that he didn’t have to deal with the larger one of whether he hated her for helping to keep him alive.

“I’m in Fort Worth,” she answered.

“Thought so,” he said. “The connection’s too good for a longdistance call. What do you want me to do?”

“I don’t know.” She sounded harried and worn. “I don’t know if anybody can do anything. But I didn’t know who else to call.”

“That’s too bad,” Rance said. If, after so much time, she hadn’t been able to find anybody on whom she could rely… “You’re as big a loser as I am,” he blurted. He wouldn’t have said that to many people, no matter how down-and-out they might have seemed, not after he’d made the acquaintance of the Lizard machine gun. But the Lizards had blasted her father to red rags right before her eyes, and she didn’t sound as if she’d gone uphill since.

“Maybe I am,” she said. “Can I see you? I didn’t want to just knock on your door, but-” She broke off, then resumed: “Christ, I hate this.” She’d come a long way from the farm girl she’d been before the Lizards swept through western Kansas, and most of it down roads she wouldn’t have dreamt of traveling then.

More than anything else, that bitterness decided Auerbach. “Yeah, come on ahead,” he said: like called to like. “You know where I’m staying?”

“You’re in the phone book-if I found your number, I found your address, too,” Penny answered, which left him feeling foolish. “Thanks, Rance. I’ll be there in a little bit.” The line went dead.

Auerbach listened to the dial tone for a few seconds, then hung up the phone. “Jesus Christ,” he said, with more reverence than he was accustomed to using. In similar tones, he went on, “What the hell have I gone and done?”

He made his slow, creaky way out into the living room, where he stopped and looked around. The place wasn’t in the worst shape in the world. It wasn’t in the best, though, nor anywhere close. He shrugged. Penny didn’t sound as if she was in the best shape, either. And if she didn’t like the way he kept house, she could damn well leave.

Hobbling into the kitchen, he checked there, too. Bread on the counter, cold cuts in the refrigerator. He could make Penny sandwiches. If it meant he lived on oatmeal for a bit, till he had a hot day at the poker table or his next pension check came, then it did, that was all. And he had whiskey. He had plenty of whiskey. He didn’t need to check to be sure of that.

He waited. “Hurry up and wait,” he murmured, a phrase from his Army days. It still held truth. His heart thudded in his chest: more in the way of nerves than he’d known in years. He sat down. Maybe she wouldn’t come. Maybe she’d get lost. Maybe she’d change her mind, or maybe she was playing some sort of practical joke.

Footsteps in the hall: sharp, quick, authoritative. The whole building shook slightly; it had been run up after the fighting stopped, and run up as quickly and cheaply as possible. He doubted they were her footsteps. She hadn’t walked that way when he’d known her. But he hadn’t known her for a long time. The footsteps stopped in front of his door. The knock that followed had the same abrupt, staccato quality to it.

Auerbach heaved himself up and opened the door. Sure enough, Penny Summers stood in the hall, impatiently tapping her foot on the worn linoleum and sucking on a cigarette. He stared at her with a surprise that he realized was completely absurd. Of course she wouldn’t be the fresh-faced farm girl he’d more or less loved when he was young.

Her hair was cut short and dyed a brassy version of the blond it had been. Her skin stretched tight across her cheekbones and over her forehead. Powder didn’t hide crow’s-feet at the corners of her eyes and couldn’t cover the harsh lines that ran like gullies from beside her nose to the corners of her mouth. The flesh under her chin sagged. Her pale eyes were faded and wary.

She took a last drag on the cigarette, threw it down, and ground it out under the sole of her shoe. Then she leaned forward and pecked Rance on the lips. Her mouth tasted of smoke. “For God’s sake, darling, get me a drink,” she said.

“Water?” Auerbach asked as he limped back to the kitchen. She wasn’t young any more. She wasn’t sweet any more. Neither was he, but that had nothing to do with anything. He knew what he was. She’d just ruined some of his memories.

“Just ice,” she said. The couch creaked as she sat down. He carried the glass out to her, with one of his own in his other hand. Her skirt was short and tight and had ridden up quite a ways. She still had good legs, long and smooth and muscular.

“Mud in your eye,” he said, and drank. She knocked back her whiskey at a gulp. He looked at her. “What’s going on? And what do you think I can do about it? I can’t do much about anything.”

“You know people in the RAF.” It wasn’t a question; she spoke with assurance. “I got involved in a… business deal that didn’t quite turn out the way it was supposed to. Some folks are mad at me.” She gave an emphatic cough. Maybe some of the folks she meant had scales, not hair.

“What am I supposed to do about it?” But that wasn’t really what Auerbach wanted to ask. He wasn’t shy about coming out with it. He wasn’t shy about anything these days. “Come on, Penny-why should I give a damn? You walked out on me a long time ago, remember?”

“Maybe I wasn’t as smart as I should have been,” she said. Maybe she was buttering him up now, too, but he didn’t say anything. He just waited. She went on, “Once I did, though, I couldn’t make it like it never happened. So-will you let a couple of your friends over in England know I’m trying to make things right? And will you let me stay here for a little while, till the heat in Detroit dies down?”

He hadn’t known she’d been in Detroit. “You know who you want me to write to?” he asked, and wasn’t surprised when she nodded. She knew about him, whether he knew about her or not. “Okay, I can write the letters,” he said, “if you’re not lying to me, and you really will fix this up.” He stuck his tongue in the palm of his hand, as if he were a Lizard tasting ginger.

“Good guess,” Penny said. “All I need is a little time to straighten it out. I swear to God that’s the truth.”

Once upon a time, she’d read the Bible a lot. Now… now he judged she’d swear whatever was convenient, same as most people. He shrugged, which hurt a little, then came to the point again: “Only one bed in the bedroom.”

“That’s all right,” she said. “That’s what I’m paying for, isn’t it? — room and broad, I mean?” Her smile was a lot harder, a lot more knowing, than it had been in the old days. Auerbach laughed even so.

“I hate this,” Fotsev said. “How are we supposed to find one male Big Ugly among all the ones who live here? For all we know, the miserable fanatic does not live here any more. If he has any sense, he does not.”

“If he had any sense, he would not be a miserable fanatic,” his friend Gorppet pointed out, a point with which Fotsev could hardly disagree. “For that matter, if he had any sense, he would not be a Tosevite.”

Fotsev couldn’t disagree with that, either, and didn’t. His eye turrets swept the Basra street along which he and his small group were advancing-a narrow, stinking, muddy track between two rows of buildings, some whitewashed, more not, made from mud themselves. They showed only slits for windows, and had the look, though not really the strength, of fortresses.

“He is a crazy Big Ugly for preaching the way he does,” Fotsev said, “and the rest of the Big Uglies are just as crazy for listening to him. And I can tell you somebody else who is crazy, too.”

“Who is that?” Gorppet asked.

Before Fotsev could answer, sudden movement from around a corner made him swing the muzzle of his personal weapon to cover it. A moment later, he relaxed. It was only one of the four-legged hairy creatures, part scavenger, part companion, that the Big Uglies kept as symbionts. It sat back on its haunches and yapped at him and his comrades.

“Miserable creature,” Gorppet said. “I do not like dogs at all. Up in the SSSR, they used to train them to run under landcruisers with explosives on their backs. Nasty to use animals that way. They do not know what they are doing.” He paused. “But you were going to tell me who else is crazy. That is always worth hearing.”

“Truth,” one of their comrades said. “Who else is crazy, Fotsev?”

“The shiplord of the colonization fleet,” Fotsev answered. “With the Big Uglies on this part of the planet all stirred to a boil, why does he think he needs to bring any ships from the colonization fleet down here?”

“To keep the Big Uglies who know what they are doing from blowing up any more of them?” Gorppet suggested.

“Because the weather here is better than it is in most places on Tosev 3?” another male added.

Fotsev hissed in annoyance; those were both good answers. In his mind, though, they weren’t good enough. He said, “That madmale Khomeini is still stirring up the local Big Uglies. How much do you want to bet that they manage to wreck a colonization ship or two? They are so addled, a lot of them do not care whether they live or die.”

“It is that business of thinking they will get a happy afterlife if they die fighting us,” Gorppet said. “We have given enough of them the chance to find out whether they are right or wrong lately, and that is truth.”

A male Tosevite came out of his house. Speaking the language of the Race with a rasping, guttural accent, he said, “He is not here. Go away.”

“You do not tell us what to do,” Fotsev said. “We tell you what to do.” The Big Uglies had had many years to figure that out. That they hadn’t was, in Fotsev’s view, a telling proof of their stupidity.

“He is not here,” the Big Ugly repeated. Swathed in his robes, he looked as much like a ragpile as an intelligent being.

“If a Big Ugly says something is not so, that makes it more likely to be so,” Gorppet said.

“You are right, of course,” Fotsev said. “We had better search that house.”

The Big Ugly let out a howl of protest. Fotsev and the other males of the Race ignored it. Fotsev, as orders required, radioed back to the barracks that he and his comrades were entering a building. If they needed help, they would get it in a hurry. If they needed help, they would, very likely, get it too late no matter how fast it arrived. Fotsev chose not to dwell on that.

He pointed his personal weapon at the Tosevite. “Open the door and go in ahead of us,” he ordered-if the local spoke his language, he was going to take advantage of it. “If you have friends in there with guns, you had better tell them not to shoot, or they and we will surely shoot you.”

Against the Race, that would have been a perfect threat. Against a Big Ugly, it was a good one, but not, Fotsev knew, perfect. Too many Big Uglies all over Tosev 3 had proved themselves ready to die for what they reckoned important.

Without another word, the Tosevite turned and threw the door wide. Only after he had gone inside did he turn back and say, “Here, do you see? There is no danger. And the male you seek is not here, as I told you before.”

Fotsev’s mouth fell open in bitter laughter. No danger? He had been in danger every moment since coming down to the surface of Tosev 3-and he had not been in the worst of the fighting. But he never expected to know another instant in which he was not looking now this way, now that, always anxious lest trouble see him before he saw it. The Emperor had called for a Soldiers’ Time, and soldiers he had got. Fotsev did not think even the Emperor had the power to make soldiers back into ordinary males of the Race. He and his fellows had seen too much, done too much, had too much done to them, for that.

Such gloomy reflections did not keep him from doing his job. As he searched the house, he turned one eye turret back toward Gorppet and asked, “Can you imagine living like this?”

“I would rather not,” his friend replied.

No computers. No televisor screens. Not even a radio receiver. No electricity of any sort; the walls held brackets for torches, and were stained black with soot above them. Fotsev saw only one book, printed in the sinuous squiggles of the alphabet used hereabouts. He knew what that book would be, too: the instruction manual for the local superstition. Most of the Big Uglies in this part of Tosev 3 who could read at all had that book and no others.

A couple of female Tosevites-even more thoroughly muffled in cloth wrappings than the males-squealed as males of the Race came into the kitchen. Fotsev looked at the pot bubbling over the fire. He could see the marks of hammering on it; it had been made by hand. The stew inside smelled good. Whatever had gone into it, though, hadn’t been refrigerated beforehand, and Tosevite pests would have been free to walk over it and lay their eggs in it. No wonder so many Big Uglies die sooner than they might, he thought.

His scent receptors caught the tangy odor of ginger in the stew. It was just a cooking spice to the Big Uglies, not a drug. Fotsev pitied them for that, as for many other things. He was no fiend for ginger; he’d seen too many males endanger themselves and their comrades because they couldn’t keep their tongues out of the ginger jar. The herb and duty simply did not mix. But, when he didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything for a while…

He made himself ignore that temptingly delicious scent. A couple of other males seemed to be looking for excuses to get near the stew pot. One of the female Big Uglies hefted a large iron spoon in what was plainly a warning gesture; the Tosevites did not have so much food as to take lightly the idea of losing any.

Fotsev said, “We are not here to steal. We are not here to stick out our tongues. We are here to see if that miserable Khomeini male is anywhere close by. Remember it, or else you will have something else to remember.”

His small group did as thorough a job as it could of ransacking the house. He did not think a male of the Race could have hidden from them, let alone one of the larger Tosevites. They did not discover the hairy Big Ugly who had stirred up so much hatred and unrest against the Race.

“Do you see?” said the Big Ugly who had asserted Khomeini was not there. “I told the truth. And what did I get for it? You have torn my home to pieces.”

“You Tosevites have done plenty to us,” Fotsev replied. “You cannot blame us if we want to keep you from doing more.”

“Cannot blame you?” The Tosevite yipped out the laughter of his kind. “Of course we can blame you. We will blame you for a thousand years. We will blame you for ten thousand years.” He added an emphatic cough.

However emphatic he was, he spoke as if a thousand years were a very long time, ten thousand years an impossibly long time. Even if the years by which they reckoned were twice as long as those of the Race, Fotsev knew perfectly well that that was not so. “Twenty thousand years from now,” he said, “your descendants will be contented subjects of the Empire.”

The Big Ugly’s small, deeply set eyes went as wide as they could. He said several things in his own tongue that did not sound like compliments. Then he returned to the language of the Race: “You are as wrong as you were wrong when you thought the great Khomeini was here.”

“Our descendants will know.” Fotsev raised his voice: “The Big Ugly male who preaches is not in this house. Let us go and see if we can find him elsewhere.” He doubted they would. But they did have some hope of keeping order in Basra, which was also important.

When he and his small group went out into the street, helicopters rumbled overhead. Alarm ran through him-what had the Big Uglies gone and done now? Then he heard and saw killercraft, some roaring low over the city, others high enough to scribe vapor trails in the upper atmosphere.

“What now?” Gorppet demanded. “They have not needed killercraft in this part of Tosev 3 for a long time.”

Before Fotsev could answer, a new and different rumble filled his hearing diaphragms: a great endless roar of cloven air. He had not heard the like for many years. He looked into the sky. Sure enough: what he had thought he would see, he saw. At first, those specks were at the very edge of visibility, but they swelled rapidly. Before long, even if they never came too close to Basra, they swelled enough to let him gauge how truly huge they were.

“Ah,” Gorppet said.

“Yes.” Fotsev watched the globes descend toward bare ground south and west of the town. “Whether in wisdom or not, the colonization fleet begins to land.”


David Goldfarb studied the radar screen with something between admiration and horror. He’d known how immense the Lizards’ colonization fleet was, of course; he’d been seeing the echoes of those ships since they first began going into orbit around the Earth. But he’d grown used to them up in high orbit: they made a sort of background noise on his set. When they started dropping out of orbit, one detachment at a time, they actively impinged on his awareness once more.

“Will you look at the bloody things?” he exclaimed as yet another squadron, bound for Poland, passed over his station in Northern Ireland. “How many Lizards have they got packed in each of those ships? Enough so they’ll be stepping on each other’s toes, I shouldn’t wonder.”

“Aye, no doubt you’re right, sir,” Sergeant Jack McDowell answered. “And if they aren’t stepping on their own toes, then they will step on the Nazis’.”

“That breaks my heart,” Goldfarb said. The sergeant chuckled; no, he didn’t hold Goldfarb’s being a Jew against him. If only the same held true for Goldfarb’s superiors, he would have been a happier man. With Britain ever more closely aligned to the Reich, though, that wasn’t in the cards. At least he hadn’t been booted out of the RAF and into a concentration camp.

“They’ll be low over German territory before they land, too,” he said with a certain sardonic satisfaction. “Here’s hoping Heinrich Himmler’s hiding under the bed.”

McDowell nodded. He wasn’t too far from Goldfarb’s age: old enough to remember the Blitz, to remember the days when the Nazis were the worst enemies the British Empire had. To new recruits, the Greater German Reich might always have been the big, strong brother on the Continent. They had no sense of the past, or of what a nasty fellow the big, strong brother still was.

Of course, a fair number of the new recruits were as taken with the Lizards as they were with the Germans. Goldfarb let out a sigh. It hadn’t been that way when he was a kid joining the RAF. He sighed again. For how many generations had people been complaining about the younger set? Enough for formidable antiquity even by Lizard standards, no doubt.

McDowell said, “They’re right where they ought to be, right where they said they’d be. The Germans haven’t any excuse for throwing a rocket at them.”

“Except bloody-mindedness,” Goldfarb said. “Never forget about sheer bloody-mindedness, especially when you’re dealing with Germans.”

“They’ll pay dear if they get gay this time,” McDowell said. The Lizards had made that very plain to the Reich, the USSR, and the USA: any attack on the ships of the colonization fleet as they landed would start up the fighting that had lain dormant for eighteen years. Goldfarb didn’t think they were bluffing. His opinion counted for little. By all the signs, though, Himmler and Molotov and Warren agreed with him.

The Lizards hadn’t bothered publicly warning either Britain or Japan to leave their colonization fleet alone. They didn’t formally treat with either island nation as an equal, even if they had got their snouts bloodied when they invaded England.

Goldfarb followed the track of the ships from the colonization fleet till the curve of the Earth hid them from the prying eye of his radar. “Doesn’t look like the Reich will give this lot any trouble,” he said.

“Good, sir. That’s good,” McDowell said. “If the fighting starts up again, there won’t be anything left of any of us when it’s over.”

“Truth,” Goldfarb said in the Lizards’ language. McDowell nodded; he understood those hisses and pops and coughs. For him, as for Goldfarb, learning them meant being able to do his job better. A lot of people half their age liked the Lizards’ language for its own sake. No accounting for taste, Goldfarb thought.

After the alert caused by the descent of the detachment from the colonization fleet, the rest of Goldfarb’s tour at the radar screen was uneventful. He preferred days like that; he’d had enough excitement when he was younger to last him a lifetime. He made his report to the flight lieutenant who replaced him at the radar, then escaped with a sigh of relief.

A cigarette in the pale sunlight outside took the edge off his tension. A pint of bitter, he knew, would do an even better job, or maybe Guinness from the Irish Republic. He was heading for his bicycle so he could let a specialist administer the proper dose-and perhaps even repeat it-when a shout made him whip his head around: “Goldfarb!”

He stared in surprise. A good many years had gone by since he’d seen that handsome, ruddy face, but the only change in it he could see was that the handlebar mustache adorning the upper lip was streaked with gray. He stiffened to attention and saluted. “Yes, sir!” he said loudly.

“Oh, in the bloody name of heaven, as you were,” Basil Roundbush said, returning the salute. “I want to buy you a bloody pint, not put you on report.”

“Thank you, sir,” Goldfarb said, and extended his hand. Roundbush shook it; he still had a grip like a bear trap. Goldfarb eyed the four stripes on each sleeve of his gray-blue uniform. “Thank you very much, Group Captain.”

Roundbush waved airily, as if the rank-the RAF’s equivalent to colonel-meant nothing to him. Maybe it did mean nothing to him. He had the right accent; he’d gone to the right public school and the right university-Goldfarb couldn’t recall if it was Oxford or Cambridge, but which hardly mattered. And, smiling his film-star smile, he said, “You’ve done rather smashingly well yourself, Flight Lieutenant.” He didn’t add, For a Jew from the East End of London, as he might have done. He didn’t even look as if he thought it, which was rather remarkable. Instead, he went on, “That’s why I came over here to chat you up.”

Goldfarb’s eyes widened again. “You came to Belfast to… see me, sir?” he said slowly, wondering if he’d heard straight.

“I did indeed,” Roundbush answered, for all the world as if traveling to Northern Ireland to talk with a Jewish junior officer were the most normal thing in the world. “Now-I’ve got a motorcar laid on, and you know this town, which I bloody well don’t. Go fling your bicycle in the boot, and then tell me where we can get a pint.”

“Protestant pub or Catholic?” Goldfarb asked. “It doesn’t matter much to me, but…” He let his voice trail away. Maybe, after so long, Roundbush needed reminding about his faith.

He didn’t. “I know what you are,” he said. “If you weren’t, you’d not have caught that lovely lady of yours. I might have caught her myself, as a matter of fact.” He’d always had phenomenal luck with women. Goldfarb glanced at his left hand. He still wore no wedding band. Maybe that didn’t signify, but maybe it did, too: could a tomcat change his stripes? He grinned at Goldfarb. “I’m not fussy. Whichever you think is the best place.”

“There’s the Crown Liquor Saloon on Great Victoria, sir, not far from the university, or Robinsons next door. Robinsons has the finest Guinness in town, I think.”

“Robinsons it is, then.” Roundbush spoke with decision befitting a senior officer. “Guinness comes close to justifying the existence of Ireland, and I can’t think of many other things that do. Come on, old man.”

Once ensconced in a snug with a pint of stout in front of him, Goldfarb asked what he knew was the obvious question: “And now, sir, what’s all this in aid of?”

“Twisting the Lizards’ nasty little tails-what else?” Roundbush answered, sucking foam out of that perfectly waxed mustache. “One of the things we do on the sly, you know, is encourage them to stick their tongues in the ginger jar. A drugged Lizard is a long way from being a Lizard at his best.”

“No, I don’t suppose he would be,” Goldfarb agreed, “but-is it cricket?”

“Fine old tradition,” Basil Roundbush said. “Goes back to the Opium Wars, you might say. It worked then, and it’s working now. Oh, it’s not working perfectly; we’ve had a spot of trouble with someone over in the States, but I do think that’s being fixed. And we have hopes of getting some of our own back from Grand High Panjandrum Atvar and his scaly chums.”

Goldfarb didn’t say anything at all to that. As far as he was concerned, Britain’s survival was miracle enough. Dreams of resurrecting the old British Empire could only be just that: dreams. He did ask, “How do I fit into this, sir?” If he sounded cautious, it was because he felt cautious.

“You’ve got connections in Poland, and you’ve got connections in Palestine, too,” Roundbush replied. “We’ve had a couple of shipments go awry lately-this is apart from that business in the USA, mind you. Anything you can do to find out why would serve Queen and country, and might line your pockets quite nicely, too.” He made money-counting motions and then, as if suddenly noticing his glass was empty, signaled to the barmaid.

“Right away, dearie,” she said, and put something extra into her walk. Goldfarb shook his head in bemused amusement; whatever the group captain had had, he still retained it.

But that was beside the point. “Is this RAF business, sir, or is it private business?” he asked. “I’ve been happy enough here-more than happy enough. I’m not dead keen on turning my life upside down and inside out.”

“Of course you’re not, old man,” Roundbush said soothingly. “Of course you’re not. That’s why there’d be a little something special-or maybe more than a little something special-in it for you if you’d look into the matter for us. We do take care of our own; you needn’t fret about that.”

The barmaid brought back fresh pints. Goldfarb paid her; Roundbush had bought the first round. Goldfarb always tipped generously-he couldn’t afford a reputation for meanness. But despite scooping up his coins, the barmaid had eyes only for his companion.

“Cheers,” Roundbush said after she finally swayed away, and raised the new pint to his lips.

“Cheers,” Goldfarb echoed. He stared across the cramped little snug at the senior officer. “Who exactly is ‘we,’ sir?”

“My colleagues,” Roundbush said: an answer that was not an answer. “My notion was, a chap in your situation can use all the help”-he made that money-counting motion again-“and all the friends he can find.”

“Isn’t that interesting?” Goldfarb said. Oh, yes, Roundbush remembered he was a Jew, all right, and knew just how tenuous things were for Jews in Britain these days. “And what would you want me to do?” he asked.

“Nose about a bit, see if you can find out how those shipments went wrong,” Roundbush answered. “It’s safe as houses.”

Goldfarb hadn’t asked if it was safe as houses. Half a lifetime in the RAF convinced him that, if anyone told him it was safe as houses without his asking, it was most unlikely to be anything of the sort. If someone looked him up after some years to assure him it was safe as houses, it couldn’t possibly be.

He took a pull at his Guinness. “No, thank you, sir,” he said.

“Tut, tut,” Basil Roundbush said. “That’s the wrong answer. Believe you me, old man, whatever might happen to you if you say yes, something worse will happen to you if you say no. And you wouldn’t want it to happen to your lovely family, too, now would you? That would be very sad.”

A nasty chill of alarm ran through Goldfarb. Roundbush and whatever friends he had were ideally placed to wreck his career if they wanted to badly enough. And if they wanted to play other sorts of games, how much help from the authorities could Goldfarb count on? The answer seemed only too plain. He gulped down the rest of his stout in a couple of swallows. “I think I’ve changed my mind,” he said.

“Ah, capital.” Roundbush beamed. “You won’t regret it.”

“I regret it already,” Goldfarb said. The other RAF man laughed, just as if he’d been joking.

These days, Monique Dutourd was concentrating more on carved stones than on the Lizards’ colonization fleet. She couldn’t do anything about the fleet. If she pieced together enough interesting inscriptions, she could finally finish that paper on the cult of Isis hereabouts. She did look forward to reactions when it saw print. It was a more thorough synthesis than anyone had tried before, and might eventually lead to a promotion.

She was glad her field of specialization centered on the Mediterranean provinces in the early days of the Roman Empire rather than, for instance, the Germanic invasions. No matter what a French scholar had to say about the Germanic invasions, the modern Germanic invaders were only too likely to decide it was wrong. And the Germans were not in the habit of giving those with whom they disagreed a chance to revise their opinions.

Her mouth twisted in annoyance as she pulled out a photograph of an inscription from up near Arles. She’d taken the photograph herself, but it wasn’t so good as it might have been. Had she waited a couple of hours longer, the sun would have filled the letters with shadow instead of washing them out. She bent low over the photo, doing her best to make sure she’d correctly inscribed the inscription.

The telephone rang. She jumped. “Merde!” she said; she hated interruptions of any sort. Muttering, she went to the phone. “Allo?” Whoever it was, she intended to get rid of him as fast as she could.

That proved harder than she’d hoped. “Bonjour, Monique. Ici Dieter Kuhn,” the SS man in her Roman history class said in his good if formal French. “Comment ca va?”

“Assez bien, merci,” she answered. “Et vous?” He’d taken her out for coffee several times, to dinner and a film once. Had he been a Frenchman, she likely would have slipped into using tu with him by now. But she was not ready-she wondered if she would ever be ready-to use the intimate pronoun with a German.

“Things go well enough for me, too, thanks,” Kuhn said. “Would you care to drive down by the seaside with me for lunch?” He also used vous, not tu; he hadn’t tried to force intimacy on her. She hadn’t had to wrestle with him yet, as she almost surely would have after going out several times with one of her own countrymen. She wondered if he was normal, or if perhaps he squired her about to give the appearance of normality.

A lunch he bought-he always had plenty of cash-would be one she didn’t have to pay for. She liked the idea of soaking the SS. Still… “I am working,” she said, and cast a longing eye he couldn’t see back toward her desk.

She sounded halfhearted even to herself. She wasn’t a bit surprised when Dieter Kuhn laughed and said, “You sound like you could use a break. Come on. I will be there in half an hour.”

“All right,” she said. Kuhn laughed again and hung up. So did she, shaking her head. Did he know she was afraid to say no? If he did, he hadn’t used it to his advantage. That was another reason she wondered how normal he was.

He knocked on her front door exactly twenty-nine minutes after getting off the phone. His timing always lived up to every cliche about German efficiency. “Does Chez Fonfon suit you?” he asked.

It was one of the better seafood bistros in Marseille. Monique only knew of it; she couldn’t afford to eat there on her pay. “It will do,” she said, and smiled a little at the regal acquiescence in her tone.

Kuhn held the door open for her to get into the passenger side of his battered green Volkswagen. She’d known he drove one of the buggy little cars since she’d thought him a Frenchman named Laforce. She hadn’t thought anything of it; Volkswagens were the most common cars through the Reich and the territories it occupied.

The automobile rattled west toward the sea, past the basilica of St. Victor and Fort d’Entrecasteaux, which had helped guard the port back in the distant days when threats had to be visible to be dangerous. Kuhn drove with as much abandon as any Frenchman, and drove two wheels up onto the sidewalk when he parked near the restaurant. Seeing Monique’s bemused expression, he chuckled and said, “I follow the customs of the country where I am stationed.” He hopped out to open the door for her again.

At Chez Fonfon, she ordered bouillabaisse after a waiter fawned on them at hearing Kuhn’s German accent. The fellow gave them what had to be the best table in the place, one overlooking the blue water of the Mediterranean.

“Et pour moi aussi,” Kuhn said. “Et vin blanc.”

“It does have mullet?” Monique asked, and the waiter’s nod sent his forelock-alarmingly like Hitler’s-bouncing up and down on his forehead. He hurried away. Monique turned her attention back to the SS man. “The Romans would have approved. But for the tomatoes in the broth, people were eating bouillabaisse here-maybe on this very spot-in Roman days, too.”

“Some things change very slowly,” Kuhn said. “Some things, however, change more quickly.” He looked to be on the point of saying more, but the waiter came bustling up with a carafe of white wine. Monique was not used to such speedy service. The SS man took it for granted. Why not? she thought. He is one of the conquerors.

Some wine took the edge off her bitterness. She did her best to relax and enjoy the view and the meal-which also came with marvelous promptness-and the company in which she found herself. But the food claimed most of her attention, as it should have. “Very good,” she said, dabbing her lips with a napkin. “Thank you.”

“It is my pleasure,” Kuhn answered. “I do not suppose they would cook the mullet alive in a glass vessel here, to let us watch it change colors as it perished.”

She pointed an accusing finger at him. “You have been studying too much.”

“I believe it is impossible to study too much,” he said, serious as usual. “One never knows when a particular piece of information may be useful. Because of this, one should try to know everything.”

“I suppose this is a useful attitude in your profession,” Monique said. She did not really want to think about his profession. To keep from thinking about it, she emptied her wineglass. The waiter, who hovered around the table like a bee around a honey-filled flower, filled it again.

“It is a useful attitude in life,” Kuhn said. “Do you not find this to be so?”

“It could be,” Monique answered. Had anyone but the SS man suggested it, she would have agreed without hesitation. She drank more white wine. As she drank, she discovered the wine had taken the edge off her caution, too, for she heard herself saying, “One piece of information I would like to have is what you think you see in me.”

Kuhn could have evaded that. He could simply have refused to answer. The idea that she could force anything from him was absurd, and she knew as much. He sipped at his own wine and looked out at the Mediterranean for a few seconds before saying, “You have a brother.”

Now she stared at him in frank astonishment. “I may have a brother,” she said. “I don’t even know if I do or not. I haven’t seen Pierre in more than twenty years, not since he was called to the front in 1940. We heard he was captured, and then we never heard again.” Excitement flowed through her. “For a long time, I have thought he was dead. Is this not so?”

“No, it is not so,” Dieter Kuhn said. “He is not only alive, he is living here in Marseille. I was hoping-I admit I was hoping-you would be able to lead me to him. But everything I have learned about you makes me believe you are telling the truth, and have no contact with him.” He sighed. “C’est la vie.”

“And what has my brother done to make you want to find him?” Monique inquired, before she could ask herself whether she really wanted to know.

“This town-it is not an orderly town,” the SS officer said, his voice stern with disapproval. “Parts of this town might as well be thieves’ markets, such as they have in the Arab towns of Africa.”

“It is Marseille,” Monique said. Where Kuhn was stern, she was amused. “Marseille has always been like this, in France but not of it. The folk of Marseille have always traded where and in what they could get the best bargains.”

That had sometimes-often-included people. During and right after the fighting, Jews with money and connections had made it out of the Reich by the thousands from Marseille. Jews had a hard time of it nowadays, but other contraband still came in and went out. No one but the smugglers knew the details, but everybody had a notion of the broad outlines.

“You are familiar with the Porte d’Aix?” Kuhn asked.

“I don’t think anyone is truly familiar with the Porte d’Aix, not with all of it,” Monique answered. “It is a souk, a marketplace of sorts like those in Algeria, as you said. Everyone goes into the edges now and then. I have done that. Why?”

“Because your brother, my dear Professor Dutourd, is the uncrowned king of Porte d’Aix,” Kuhn told her. “It is my duty to attempt to arrange his abdication.”

“And why is that?” Monique asked. “Is it not that whoever takes his place will be no different? If you ask the opinion of anyone who has studied history, he will tell you the same, I think.”

“It could be,” Kuhn said. “But it could also be that whoever takes your brother’s place will be more inclined to remember he is a human being and less inclined to be so friendly to the Lizards.”

Monique’s first impulse was to drop everything she was doing and try to get hold of the brother she had not seen for so long, to warn him of his danger. Her second thought was that that was exactly what the SS man would want her to do. He would let her do the hunting, and then snatch Pierre once she’d guided him to his quarry. Doing nothing was not easy, but it was the best thing she could do if she wanted to go on having a brother, even one she did not know.

No. She could do one other thing, and she did it: “Please be polite enough to take me back to my apartment. Please also be polite enough not to call on me again. And please have the courtesy no longer to attend the class I offer at the university.”

“The first, of course,” Kuhn said. “I am not a barbarian.” Monique held her tongue, which was no doubt just as well. The SS man went on, “As for the second, it shall also be as you wish, although I have enjoyed your company aside from any, ah, professional considerations. The last-no. Even if I learn nothing about your brother, I do learn about the Roman world, which interests me. I shall continue to attend-without, of course, making a nuisance of myself.”

Monique could hardly order him to stay away. Recognizing as much, she shrugged and got to her feet. Kuhn slapped banknotes on the table-he was not such a boor as to make her pay for her own lunch. As they went back out to his illegally parked Volkswagen, she thought she knew what was in his mind: as long as he stayed close to her, he might get a line on her brother. You won’t, she thought fiercely, but at the same time she wondered how she would ever be able to keep from looking for Pierre now that she knew he dwelt in Marseille, too.

These days, the Communist Party hierarchy did not usually meet inside Peking, but out in the country. That lowered the risk of the little scaly devils wiping out the whole central committee at one stroke. The first time a meeting in a small town northwest of the city was called, Liu Han had eagerly looked forward to it, thinking it would take her back to the days of her youth and let Liu Mei see how she had lived then.

She’d ended up disappointed. Peasants hereabouts knew nothing of rice paddies like the ones she had tended near Hankow. They raised wheat and barley and millet, and ate noodles and porridge, not bowl after endless bowl of rice. The land was dry, not damp: a desert in summer, with yellow dust always in the breeze, and a frozen wasteland during the long winter.

Only one thing was the same among these peasants as among those with whom she’d grown up: their toil never ended.

Ducks and chickens and dogs and children made a racket in the narrow, dusty streets of Fengchen as Liu Han and Liu Mei came into the town in the foothills to talk with their comrades. “Eee, my feet are weary,” Liu Han said. “I feel I have walked ten thousand li.” She knew that would have taken her almost all the way across China, but wasn’t the least bit embarrassed to exaggerate.

“And mine, Mother,” Liu Mei said dutifully. She looked around. “I see no scaly devils here in Fengchen.”

“No, and I do not think you will,” Liu Han said. “There are not enough little devils for them to garrison every town. They have the same trouble the Japanese had before them, and they rule the same way: they hold down the cities and they control the roads from one city to the next. All they do-all they can do-in the countryside is raid and steal.”

“Now that they have ships landing, though, there will be more of them.” Liu Mei spoke seriously, as she usually did. When she spoke of the little scaly devils, she spoke even more seriously than usual. She rarely smiled, but her frown was fierce and stormy.

A middle-aged man came out of one of the buildings on the main street: a tavern, by the pair of drunks who snored in front of it. The man was not drunk. Though dressed in a peasant’s dark blue tunic and trousers, he carried himself with a soldier’s erectness. “Welcome,” he called. “Welcome to you both.”

“Thank you, Nieh Ho-T’ing,” Liu Han said. Liu Mei nodded a greeting.

“It is good to have you here,” Nieh said. “Mao has been asking after you. There are a couple of points on which he will be glad to have your views.” He hesitated, then went on, “And I am glad to see you, too.”

“I am always glad to see you,” Liu Han said, more or less truthfully. They had been lovers for several years, fighting the little scaly devils side by side till Mao sent Nieh Ho-T’ing to the south to command resistance against the imperialism of the scaly devils there and Liu Han stayed behind to help radicalize the proletarian women of Peking. They’d both found other partners since.

Nieh smiled at Liu Mei. “How lovely your daughter has become,” he said.

Liu Mei cast down her eyes in fitting modesty. Liu Han studied her. Her nose was too big, her face too long and narrow, her hair too wavy for her to conform to perfect Chinese standards of beauty: all tokens of her father. But Nieh was right-in her own way, she was lovely.

“So Mao is here?” Liu Han said, and Nieh Ho-T’ing nodded. “Who else?”

“Lin Piao and Chu Te from the People’s Liberation Army,” Nieh answered. “Chou Enlai has not been able to get out of the south; the little devils are being very difficult down there.” He paused, grimaced, and added, “And Hsia Shou-Tao is here with me.”

“Wherever you go, you have to bring your lapdog?” Liu Han asked, acid in her voice. Hsia Shou-Tao was a tireless and able revolutionary. He was also a tireless drinker and womanizer. He’d once tried to rape Liu Han; she still sometimes wished she’d cut his throat when she had the chance.

Nieh Ho-T’ing pointed. “We are staying at the inn yonder. They have a room waiting for the two of you.”

“Good,” Liu Han said. “When will we meet?”

Nieh chuckled. “You have not changed much, have you? Business first, everything else afterwards.” Liu Han did not answer; she stood there in the street, arms folded across her chest. Nieh shifted from foot to foot, then finally said, “We will meet tomorrow morning, early. Mao is always up early; he never sleeps well.”

“Yes, I know,” Liu Han said. She turned to her daughter. “Come on. Let’s see what kind of room it is.”

It turned out to be about what she’d expected: well away from the main hall of the lodging house (what better did women deserve?), small, dark, but with enough blankets and with plenty of fuel for the kang, the low, thick, clay hearth on which they could lie to take greatest advantage of its warmth.

“It will be good to see Mao again,” Liu Mei said. “It has been a few years.”

“He will be glad to see you, too,” Liu Han said. She wondered just how glad Mao would be to see her daughter. He had-and, she knew, deserved-a reputation for being attracted to young girls. He was especially fond of young, ignorant peasant girls, though: to them, as leader of China’s hopes, he was the next thing to a god, or maybe not the next thing. Liu Mei had had the best education Liu Han was able to give her. She might admire and respect Mao, but she did not and would not worship him.

Liu Han had gone through a spell of worshiping Mao. She was glad she’d got over it. Some never did, not even after Mao cast them aside. Liu Han hadn’t had the sort of education she’d got for her daughter, but her own hard core of common sense had never quite deserted her: or not for long, anyhow.

Next morning, she and Liu Mei came out to have breakfast. Sitting in the main hall, chatting up a serving girl, was Hsia Shou-Tao. He scowled when Liu Han came in. He’d been subjected to stiff self-criticism any number of times, but his habits never changed.

By the way he looked at Liu Mei, he was imagining her body under her clothes. By the way he looked at Liu Han, he realized she knew what he was doing. His smile was half embarrassed, half afraid. Liu Han wished it were all afraid, but it would have to do. With it still on his face, Hsia said, “Good morning, Comrade… er, Comrades.”

“Good morning,” Liu Han said before Liu Mei could reply-she did not want her daughter speaking to the lecher. “Take me to the meeting place.”

She spoke like one who had the right to give orders. Hsia Shou-Tao obeyed as if she had that right, too. Since Liu Mei would not be at the meeting, he couldn’t try to do anything with her-or to her-for a while. And he knew better than to bother Liu Han.

“Behold the palace of the proletariat,” he said sourly, pointing to a barn that had seen better days.

Inside, sitting on a mat on the dirt floor, were Mao Tse-tung, Chu Te, Nieh Ho-T’ing, and Lin Piao. After brief greetings, Mao came straight to the point: “We have not received most of the weapons our comrades in the Soviet Union have promised us. Molotov tells me this is because the little scaly devils have intercepted several caravans lately.”

“That is very bad,” Hsia Shou-Tao said: for once, a remark of his with which Liu Han could not disagree.

“It is worse than very bad,” Mao said, running his hand through his hair. He was close to seventy; it had receded in front, leaving his forehead looking high and domed. As if to make up for that, he let his hair grow fuller in the sides and back than most Chinese men wore it. He went on, “Molotov is lying to me. Most of those caravans were never sent.”

Liu Han exclaimed. That was news to her, and very bad news. By the horrified reactions of all her colleagues save Lin Piao, it was news to them, too. Lin said, “As Lenin asked, what is to be done?”

“We must have weapons,” Mao said, to which everyone nodded. Without weapons, the fight against the imperialist scaly devils would surely be lost. The Chinese revolutionary leader went on, “The USSR seeks to curry favor with the little devils so they will not punish the Soviet Union for the attack on the ships of the colonization fleet. In my view, the USSR should have attacked these ships regardless of the cost, but Molotov is too much a reactionary to agree.”

“He betrays the international solidarity of the workers and peasants,” Hsia Shou-Tao thundered.

“So he does.” Mao’s voice was dry. “And all we can do about it is… remember.” He shook his head. “No. That is all we can do to the USSR. But we must get weapons, whether Molotov supplies them to us or not.”

“That is the truth,” Chu Te said. He looked like an aging peasant, but he held the People’s Liberation Army together no less than Mao did the Communist Party. If he said something military was so, then it was.

“Where else can we get weapons now?” Nieh asked. “The Japanese?” He made a face to show what he thought of that. “I do not want to give the eastern dwarfs a toehold in China again.”

“Nor I,” Mao said. “They probably would not help us, though. They are not like the USSR or the USA or the Reich. They have no explosive-metal bombs. The scaly devils tolerate their independence, but do not admit they are equals. Dreadful things could happen to Japan very quickly, and the Japanese can do relatively little to resist.”

“In any case, if they helped anyone in China, they would help the Kuomintang,” Lin Piao said. “Reactionaries love reactionaries.” Everyone nodded. Along with battling the scaly devils, the Chinese kept fighting among themselves. Liu Han thought Chiang Kai-shek would sooner have surrendered to the little devils than to Mao.

“We must have weapons,” Mao repeated. “None of the three independent powers can truly want to see China altogether lost to the little scaly devils. The USSR will not help us for now. The Reich is not well placed, and is the most reactionary of the three; Hitler aided the Kuomintang during the 1930s. That leaves the United States.”

“America would sooner help the Kuomintang, too,” Hsia Shou-Tao said.

“Probably,” Mao said, “but that does not mean America will not also help us. We had U.S. help in the fight against Japan. We have had some quiet help in the fight against the little devils, too. Now we need more.”

“How are we to get it? Japan and the islands Japan rules block us off from the USA.” Liu Han was proud she knew that. Back in her days in the village near Hankow, she hadn’t even known the world was round.

“Not to put too fine a point on it, we must send an envoy to beg,” Mao said. “Against the Lizards’ imperialism, the U.S. capitalists will aid even revolutionaries-if we humble ourselves enough. In the cause of revolution, I have no pride.”

“A good example for us all,” Chu Te murmured.

Mao’s gaze swung toward Liu Han. “You, Comrade, not only are you a woman, and thus likely to appeal to bourgeois sentimentality, but you have an American connection none of the rest of us can match.”

For a moment, Liu Han did not understand what he was talking about. Then, all at once, she did. “My daughter!” she exclaimed.

“Yes, Liu Mei and her American father, now conveniently and heroically dead,” Mao agreed, as if Bobby Fiore had had no more importance in Liu Han’s life than his present convenience. “If I can arrange the ways and means, I will send both of you to the United States with begging bowls. Do you remember any English?”

“Not more than one or two words,” Liu Han answered. The scaly devils had taken her into space. She’d survived that. If Mao sent her to America, she would go. “I will see how much I can learn before I leave.”

Johannes Drucker was glad to be back in space, not only because that meant he’d managed to free his wife from the specter of a Jewish grandmother lurking in her family tree but also because he-unlike a good many-enjoyed weightlessness and because he could better serve the Greater German Reich here than anywhere else-certainly better than in Gestapo detention.

An abrupt signal came into his ship: “Spacecraft of the Reich! Spacecraft of the Reich! Acknowledge at once, spacecraft of the Reich!” That was a Lizard talking, and he wasn’t bothering to speak any human language.

“Acknowledging,” Drucker said. “Go ahead, male of the Race.”

“I have information for you, and a warning,” the Lizard said. “You will obey, or you will regret.” He gave an emphatic cough.

“Go on,” Drucker said. “I cannot say what I will do until I hear what you have to tell me.”

“Information: the Race is punishing the Reich for the murder of the males and females aboard the destroyed ships of the colonization fleet,” the Lizard said. “A warning: any attempt to interfere with the punishment will have the most severe consequences. Do you hear? Do you understand? Do you obey?”

“I hear. I understand,” Drucker answered. “I cannot say whether I obey until I speak to my superiors. I shall do that now.”

“If your superiors are wise, they will obey. If they are not wise, we shall teach them wisdom.” The Lizard broke the connection.

After checking his position, Drucker radioed a German ship in the southern Indian Ocean and relayed what the Lizard had told him. “I have not heard them sound so determined since we were fighting,” he finished. “What are my orders?”

He was as near certain as made no difference what the answer would be. The Reich could not keep its independence by knuckling under to the Lizards. He checked the radar screen for targets at which he could launch his missiles and aim his guns. He didn’t expect to last long, but he would-what was the phrase the Americans used? Go down swinging, that was it.

And then, to his astonishment, the reply came: “Take no action.”

“Repeat, please?” Drucker said, not sure he could believe his ears.

“Take no action,” came up again from the relay ship. “We are told this punishment will be only symbolic, and will also be inflicted on Russia and America. If we were misinformed, you will proceed to avenge the Vaterland on the liars.”

“Jawohl,” Drucker said. Not sure the Lizards had monitored his conversation with the ship, he switched to the frequency they had used and back to their language: “Spacecraft of the Reich calling the Race.”

“Go ahead.” The reply came back at once. “Do you hear? Do you understand? Do you obey?”

“I hear. I understand,” Drucker said, as he had before. “I will obey, unless the punishment you give is so severe, my superiors order me to fight. In that case, I will obey them, not you.”

“This does you credit as a warrior,” said the Lizard on the other end of the circuit. “It will not keep you from dying if you are foolish enough to fight.”

“I serve the Reich,” Drucker answered. “I serve the Fuhrer.” The Fuhrer, or at least Himmler’s fair-haired boys in the SS, had treated him shabbily of late, and Kathe even worse. That didn’t mean he was ready to give up on the Greater German Reich. Without the Reich, he thought, the Lizards would surely have overrun the whole world, not just around half of it.

“You would do better to serve the Emperor,” the Lizard said, adding another emphatic cough. Drucker had all he could do not to laugh out loud. The earnest alien sounded like nothing so much as a missionary trying to save a heathen savage’s soul. Lizards got offended when humans pointed such things out to them.

Drucker’s radar showed several Lizard spacecraft dropping out of orbit. He estimated their courses, not bothering to feed the numbers into his computing machine. He didn’t need precision, not when he’d been ordered to sit tight. But they were heading for the Reich.

He itched to change course and pursue them. He could knock down a couple, maybe more, before they wrecked him. The Lizards were technically proficient pilots, but they weren’t inspired. He was, or could be.

“These are the punishment ships,” the Lizard told him. “If you could see with your eyes and not with your sensors, you would see they have been painted to include the broad green bands that symbolize punishment.”

Drucker didn’t answer. He kept nervously watching the radar screen. The Lizards were using a lot of force for a purely symbolic punishment. Had they been lying? Were they seizing this excuse to throw a sucker punch at each of the three main human powers still standing? If they were… How they would pay if they were! He would be one of the men who made them pay.

Then he got a signal from another German relay ship, one of the many that kept spacecraft in touch with the territorially limited Reich: “They have destroyed an air base near the town of Flensburg. Many aircraft have been wrecked; there are casualities. They state they intend to take no further action.”

That sounded like more than a symbolic attack to Drucker. “What are my orders?” he asked. “Am I to retaliate?”

A long silence followed. Had the Lizards truly intended a strike on the Reich, he realized, one logical thing for them to do would have been to sink as many of the relay ships as they could. During the fighting, they hadn’t paid so much attention to ships as they might have; later, men had discovered that seas on their home planet were small and unimportant compared to the oceans of Earth. But thinking the Lizards could not learn from experience was a deadly dangerous mistake.

He was just starting to worry in earnest when the relay ship did respond: “No, no retaliation at this time, not unless the Lizards take some further action. The Fuhrer has warned them in the strongest terms against thinking our forbearance will extend past this one occasion.”

“Good,” Drucker said. “Even once is too often, if anyone cares what a pilot thinks.” He knew perfectly well that no one did. “Have they also struck at the Russians and the Americans, as they said they would?” Misery loves company, he thought.

“Reports are coming in from the United States,” was the reply. “They also hit an air base there. Radar indicates an attack was made on the USSR, but no comment from Radio Moscow.”

“Radio Moscow wouldn’t tell anyone the sun had risen if they couldn’t already see it for themselves,” Drucker said with a snort.

He sighed. He wasn’t the least bit sorry the Lizards had had a good many ships from the colonization fleet blown to hell and gone. He wished they’d lost more. They kept landing more and more ships all over the territory they controlled. More and more Lizards, male and female, would be thawing out every day. The more of them there were, the harder getting rid of them would be. They’d got no better than a draw in the fighting, but they were liable to win the peace.

When he got over the United States, the American radioman with whom he spoke was full of righteous indignation. “They had no business hitting us like that-none,” the fellow said. “We didn’t do anything to them. They didn’t even claim we did. They hit us anyhow.”

“They did the same to the Reich,” Drucker said. “They did the same to the Russians-I think. They got to do it because they are strong. The stronger always get to do what they like against the weaker.”

“That’s not fair,” the American said.

“I am sure your Indians would be the first to agree with you,” Drucker said.

“So would your Jews-if you had any left,” the American retorted. Most Germans would have laughed at that. They were just as well pleased to be Judenfrei — free of Jews. Drucker would have laughed at it himself, only a handful of weeks before. He wasn’t laughing now. Had he not figured out which strings to pull, and had he not been able to pull them, Kathe would have disappeared from his life forever. That changed the way he looked at things.

Drucker didn’t say anything. The American radio operator kept jeering at him till he passed out of range. He had seldom been so glad to listen to a signal break up and dissolve in static.

The Lizards who controlled Africa did not give him so hard a time as the Americans had done. Part of that was because they were more polite than Americans had ever imagined being. The other part was that they didn’t know how to get under his skin as well as a fellow human did.

American and German radio stations were full of reports of what the Lizards had done. All the German commentators said the same thing. Dr. Goebbels would never have permitted anything less. Some of the American broadcasters presented a generally similar line, but not all. Some even said the Lizards had the right to do what they’d done. In the Reich, anyone who dared utter such a disloyal sentiment in public-let alone on the radio-would have vanished into night and fog, very likely never to be seen again. Johannes Drucker approved. Americans, in his view, were disorderly to the point of anarchy, even to the point of insanity.

Radio Moscow played Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky. The Russian news report, when it finally came on the air, bragged of the overfulfillment of the steel quota set forth in the latest Five-Year Plan and of the anticipated bountiful harvest. As far as the broadcaster was concerned, the Lizards might as well not have existed. Drucker snorted. The Russians put him in mind of so many ostriches, burying their heads in the sand.

He squeezed meat paste out of a tinfoil tube onto a slice of dark bread. After he ate, a few crumbs floated in the air. Eventually, the blower pushed them into one filter or another. Drucker drank fruit juice from a bladder of synthetic rubber that left a harsh, chemical taste. He wished the powers that be would let pilots take beer into space, though he understood why they didn’t.

He sighed. “The beer would taste lousy, too, if I had to drink it out of one of those miserable squeeze toys,” he muttered. But even bad beer looked good to him now.

He sighed again. Times were changing. He knew the Lizards didn’t like that. Trouble was, he didn’t like it, either. He’d lived most of his adult life at wary peace with the Lizards. Now that the colonization fleet was finally here, how could the peace survive?

Rance Auerbach peered west from his bedroom window toward the great pillar of smoke rising from Carswell Air and Space Force Base, over past the outskirts of Fort Worth. “Son of a bitch,” he said. “Son of a bitch! The Lizards really went and did it, God damn them to hell and gone.”

Penny Summers put a hand on his arm. “They said they were going to. Did you think they were bluffing? You ought to know better than that, Rance. When they say they’re going to do something, they mean it.”

“Oh, I know that.” Auerbach shook his head, which sent pain shooting through his ruined shoulder. “What really riles me is that we didn’t fire a shot when they came down and shot up the field-just lay there with our legs in the air like a yellow dog and let ’em do it.” Talking hurt, too, but he didn’t much care. He was too full of rage to care. If he didn’t let it out, it would fester like an abscess at the base of a tooth. He sucked in another breath of air.

Before he could let it out again, the telephone rang. He limped over to the nightstand and picked it up. “Hello?”

“Cut the broad loose, Auerbach,” the voice on the other end of the line said. “Cut her loose, or else your place will end up looking just like that airstrip out there.” The man who’d called hung up. Auerbach listened to the click, and then to the dial tone that followed it. Slowly, he hung up, too.

“Who was that?” Penny asked.

“Friend of yours, I reckon,” he answered.

For a moment, she simply accepted that. Then alarm washed over her face, leaving her looking older and harder than she had. “I haven’t got any friends, except maybe you,” she said bleakly. “If anybody knows I’m here, I better get the hell out. What did they say they’d do if I didn’t?” She sounded very sure they’d said something along those lines.

And, of course, she was right. Auerbach said, “Burn the building down. You’ve gotten to know some really nice folks since you walked out on me the first time, haven’t you, Penny?”

“You might say so,” she answered. “Yeah, you just might say so. Okay, Rance. I don’t want to put you on the spot, not if they know I’m here. This isn’t turning out to be as easy to fix as I figured it would. I’ll be out of here in an hour’s time.” Her laugh came brittle. “It’s not like I’ve got a lot to pack.”

“You aren’t going anywhere.” Auerbach opened the nightstand drawer, took out a.45, and stuck it in the waistband of his trousers. Then he pulled out another one and offered it to Penny. “You know how to handle it?”

“I know how,” she said. “I don’t need it. I’ve got a.357 magnum in my handbag. But I still ought to leave. What can you do if they pour gasoline all over the downstairs and toss in a match?”

“Not much,” he admitted. “You really made some people like you a hell of a lot, didn’t you?” Without waiting for an answer, he went on, “If you leave, where will you go?”

“Somewhere,” Penny said. “Anywhere. Someplace where those bastards can’t find me. I’ve got plenty of money-not enough to make ’em happy, but plenty. You’ve seen that.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen that,” Rance agreed. “It doesn’t do a dead person much good, though. How long can you last on the run? You’ve got no place to run to, and you know it. You may as well stay here. You’ll have somebody to cover your back.”

Penny stared at him, then looked away. “God damn you, Rance Auerbach, you just made me want to cry, and I haven’t come close to doing that in more years than you can shake a stick at. The crowd I’ve been running with isn’t what you’d call chock full of gentlemen.”

“Gentleman, hell.” Auerbach felt himself flushing; he hadn’t been so embarrassed since the day he’d found out where babies came from. “All I am is a broken-down, busted-up cavalry captain who knows better than to let his troops get out of line.”

Penny Summers came to attention and saluted, which jerked startled laughter out of Rance. “Call it whatever you want to call it, then. I don’t care. But I don’t want to get you into trouble on account of me.”

“You won’t,” he answered. “Worst thing your pals can do is kill me, and two weeks out of every month I’d reckon they were doing me a favor if they did the job. I haven’t been afraid of anything since the night the Lizards shot me. Oh, I know how that sounds, but it’s the Lord’s truth.”

“I believe you,” Penny said. “I nursed you back then, remember? I changed your bandages. I looked underneath. I know what they did to you. It’s a miracle you aren’t pushing up a lily somewhere in Colorado.”

Cautiously, he touched his shattered leg. “If this here’s a miracle, God’s got a nasty sense of humor,” he said. He glanced toward her. “You gave me the bedpan, too.”

“When you needed it.”

He laughed his ruined laugh. “Every once in a while, you made like you were giving me the bedpan and then you did something else instead.”

“When you needed it,” Penny repeated in exactly the same tone of voice. Mischief sparked in her eyes. “You think you need it now?” This time, she was the one who didn’t wait for an answer. She set a hand on his chest and pushed. He didn’t have much in the way of balance, not with one wrecked leg he didn’t. In spite of flailing his arms, he went over on his back onto the bed.

Penny crouched above him. She undid his belt, she unzipped his fly, and she pulled down his chinos and his briefs. Then she took him in hand and bent her head low. “Jesus!” he said hoarsely as her mouth came down on him, hot and wet. “First time you did that, they set off an explosive-metal bomb outside of Denver just when I was shooting my load.”

“Sweetheart”-she looked up again for a moment-“when I’m through with you, you’re going to feel like they set off an explosive-metal bomb inside of you.” After that, she stopped talking for the next few minutes. And she turned out to be exactly right.

She went into the bathroom to wipe off her chin. Auerbach went in himself after she came out. When he emerged, he had a cigarette going. He took it out of his mouth and looked at it. “Damn things are hell on your wind,” he said, “but I don’t have much wind anyhow. And I like ’em.”

“You had enough wind there,” Penny said. “Let me have one of those, will you?” He tossed her the pack and a book of matches. After she lit her cigarette, she smoked it in quick, nervous puffs.

Auerbach sat down on the bed. His breath caught as his leg twinged when he shifted position, but he didn’t feel too bad once he’d stopped moving. He laughed a little. Maybe afterglow was good for aches and pains. He wished he were able to experiment more often. Had he been younger, he could have.

But afterglow lasted only so long and meant only so much. After he stubbed out his cigarette in an ashtray made from the casing of a five-inch shell, he said, “I didn’t want to pry too much before, but now that they know you’re here, I reckon I’ve earned the right to know: just who are they, anyway?”

By the way she nodded, Penny had been expecting the question. “Yeah, you’ve got the right to know,” she agreed. “Like I pretty much said, I was a go-between for some ginger smugglers. Ginger’s not illegal here-I don’t think it’s illegal anywhere people still run their own affairs.”

“It’s sure as hell illegal everywhere the Lizards run things, though,” Rance said.

“Oh, I know that,” Penny said. “I didn’t have any trouble. Lizards don’t know everything there is to know about searching people, especially women. So I delivered the goods, and the Lizards paid me off, and…” She laughed out loud. “And I decided to go into business for myself.”

“Did you?” Auerbach asked. “That’s not quite what you said when you showed up on my doorstep, you know. No wonder they aren’t very happy with you.”

“No wonder at all,” Penny agreed. “But I decided to take a chance. I didn’t know if I’d ever get another one, you know what I mean? So I kept the money. Those people can do without it a hell of a lot better than I can. The only thing I wish is that they never got wise to me.”

“I believe that.” Auerbach’s comment was completely matter-of-fact. Only after he’d spoken did he wonder how he’d come to take thieving and everything that went with it so much for granted. This wasn’t the life he’d had in mind when he went off to West Point. He’d always known he might die for his country. The idea had never fazed him. But getting shot up and discarded as useless, left to live out the rest of his days as best he could-that had never crossed his mind, not then. “God damn the Lizards,” he repeated, this time for a different reason.

“Amen,” Penny said, “I wish there had been some way for me to give ’em poison to taste instead of ginger.”

“Yeah.” But thinking of the Lizards one way made Rance think of them another way. “Christ! Those damn chameleon-faces aren’t going to come after you along with the real people you stiffed, are they?”

“I don’t know,” she answered. “I don’t think so, though. They’ve got enough trouble telling one person from another one, and they hadn’t seen me all that often.” She lit another cigarette. Rance watched her cheeks hollow as she sucked in smoke. They’d hollowed the same way while she’d been… She forced his mind back onto the Lizards, saying, “If they’d been after me, they’d have blown up this apartment house instead of the airfield outside of town.”

“Different batch of Lizards,” he said, before realizing she already knew that. He chuckled. “Okay. A.45’ll stop those bastards, too, believe you me it will-knock ’em ass over teakettle. Your gun’ll do the job on a Lizard, probably better than it would on a person.”

“I can take care of myself,” Penny said. He just looked at her and didn’t say anything. Under the rouge on her cheeks, she got redder still. If she’d been so sure she could take care of herself, she wouldn’t have come to him for help. She stubbed out the cigarette, a sharp, savage gesture. “Well, most of the time I can take care of myself, goddammit.”

“Sure, babe. Sure.” Auerbach didn’t want to argue with her. He hadn’t particularly wanted her here-she’d walked out on him, after all, and never looked back: never till she needed him again, anyhow. Now she’d walked back in without a backwards glance, too, and he’d discovered he was glad she had. In crassest terms, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d got so much.

“We’re all right, the two of us,” she said, as if she’d picked the thought out of his back pocket. “We’re both a couple of wrecks, and we deserve each other.”

“Yeah,” he said, one more time. But there was a difference, and he knew it even if she didn’t. He’d been wrecked. If the Lizards hadn’t done their best to kill him, he’d probably be a colonel by now, maybe even a brigadier general if he caught some breaks along the way. Penny, now, Penny had wrecked herself. Even after she’d left him, she could have settled down. He’d always figured she had. But no-and so she was here with him.

She said, “The Lizards didn’t do that much harm, not when you look at the whole country. Things’ll be all right. And when you look at you and me, things’ll be all right there, too, for as long as we want ’em to be.”

“If I had a drink, I’d drink to that,” Auerbach said. Penny ran out to the kitchen to fix him one. And if that didn’t prove she had a point, he was damned if he knew what did.

“Comrade General Secretary,” Vyacheslav Molotov’s secretary said, “the Lizards’ ambassador has arrived, along with his interpreter.”

“I quiver with delight,” Molotov said, his features expressionless as usual. His secretary gave him an odd look. Good, he thought. I am not entirely predictable. “Send him-send them-in, Pyotr Maksimovich.”

In came Queek. In with him came the Pole who did his translating. After the usual exchange of politely insincere greetings, the Lizard said, “We have struck at you, as we promised we would do. Remember, only our mercy and our uncertainty as to the degree of your guilt made the blow light. If we prove you were responsible for this outrage, we shall strike again, and heavily.”

“Since we were not responsible, you cannot possibly prove we were,” Molotov replied. He was, for once, telling the truth (unless Beria had lied to him). He delivered it exactly as he delivered lies he knew to be lies. Consistency was the key. He could have shouted and blustered and got the same results, so long as he shouted and blustered the same way every time.

“Your assertions have not always proved reliable,” Queek said: half a step short of calling Molotov a liar. The translator smiled as he turned the Lizard’s words into Russian. Sure as sure, he had some axe to grind against the Soviet Union.

“Here is an assertion that is altogether reliable,” Molotov said: “If you presume to violate our territory again, we shall move in our own interest. This may include combat with the Race. It may include rethinking our position on your imperialist aspirations in China. And it may include rethinking our relationship with the Greater German Reich.”

After the interpreter translated that, Queek spoke one word. Again, the interpreter smiled as he turned it into Russian: “Bluff.”

“You know better,” Molotov said, addressing the fellow directly. “Remind your principal that the USSR and the Reich enjoyed a nonaggression pact for almost two years before coming to blows. We cooperated to some degree against the Race during the fighting. If we both see ourselves threatened, we can cooperate again.”

Not smiling any more, the Pole spoke in the Lizards’ language. Queek listened intently, then said, “It is precisely the instability of your species that makes you so dangerous.”

“We are not unstable,” Molotov said. “We are progressive.”

“I cannot translate that,” the interpreter told him. “The language of the Race has no such word, no such concept.”

“I believe it,” Molotov said, and then regretted wasting his time on a cut the interpreter would feel but the Lizard, even were it translated for him, would not. Reactionary that he was, he would take it for praise. Sighing, Molotov went on, “I reiterate: we have tolerated one blow because we are a peace-loving nation and are, in the words of the old superstition, willing to turn our cheek. Once. We are willing once. If you also strike at the cheek we have turned, only the devil’s grandfather knows where things will end.”

Whenever Russians brought the devil’s kin into a conversation, they meant something had gone or would go dreadfully wrong somewhere. Molotov wondered how Queek’s interpreter was getting that across in the language of the Lizards. The ambassador said, “I have delivered my message. You have delivered yours, which I shall transmit to my superiors for their evaluation. Have we any further business?”

“I think not,” Molotov answered. “We have threatened each other enough for a summer afternoon.” The interpreter gave him an odd look. He stared back, imperturbable as always. With a shrug that said the Pole couldn’t believe what he’d heard, the fellow translated for Queek.

“Truth,” the ambassador said, one of the few words in his language Molotov understood. He and the interpreter left together.

Molotov went into the chamber behind the office and changed clothes, then went into the other office onto which that chamber opened, the one no Lizard was allowed to enter. He spoke to the secretary there: “Summon Lavrenti Pavlovich, Andrei Andreyevich, and Georgi Konstantinovich to meet me here in an hour’s time.”

“Yes, Comrade General Secretary,” the man said.

What will they be thinking? Molotov wondered. What will be going through Beria’s mind? Through Gromyko’s? Through Zhukov’s? Molotov had always trembled inside when Stalin summoned him to a meeting-often in the wee hours of the morning. Did his summons make his chief lieutenants shiver? He doubted it. He was as ruthless as Stalin had ever been, but less showy about it. And Stalin had enjoyed, and let people know he enjoyed, issuing death sentences. Molotov did it as routinely as Stalin ever had, but got no great pleasure from it. Maybe that made him less frightening than his great predecessor. So long as he held plots at bay, he didn’t care.

Marshal Zhukov arrived first, fifty-eight minutes after Molotov told the secretary to call him. Gromyko was a minute behind him. This time, Beria was late: he strolled into the office ten minutes after Gromyko. He did not excuse himself, but simply sat down. Molotov did not think he was making a display of his power-just an uncultured lout from the Caucasus with no sense of time.

He did not make an issue of it. It would keep. Heading the NKVD did make Beria immensely powerful. But no chief of the secret police was ever loved. If Molotov decided to get rid of him, he would have the Party and the Red Army behind him, and a faction within the NKVD as well. So he did not worry about Beria… too much.

Of course, no one in the Reich had worried about Himmler too much, either. Molotov wished he hadn’t had that thought.

Shoving it aside, he said, “Now that we are all here”-as much of a dig at Beria as he would take-“let us discuss latest developments with the Lizards.” He summarized his conversation with Queek.

“Comrade General Secretary, I want you to know we could have inflicted severe losses on the Lizards when they attacked our air base,” Zhukov said. “Only at your orders did we refrain from punishing the bandits.”

“It is as well you did,” Molotov said. He did not glance over to Zhukov. He did not need to see the man who looked like a peasant and fought the way Wehrmacht field marshals wished they could to worry about him. Like Beria, Zhukov was able. Unlike Beria, the marshal was also popular. But he had had many chances to stage a coup, and had taken none of them. Molotov trusted him as far as he trusted any man, which was not far. He went on, “I do not know how harshly the Lizards would have retaliated had we struck at them, and I did not wish to discover this by expensive experiment.”

“They are sons of bitches, nothing but sons of bitches,” said Zhukov, who could affect a peasant’s crudity to cloak his keen wits.

“They are powerful sons of bitches,” Gromyko said, another self-evident truth. “Powerful sons of bitches have to be handled carefully.” He did glance over at Beria.

Beria either did not notice or affected not to. He said, “The foreign commissar is right. And I can also tell you, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich, that the Lizards think we are powerful sons of bitches. Signals intercepts and reconnaissance satellite photos”-both provinces of the NKVD-“show their colonists are not settling close to the southern borders of the USSR. You told them they did not have our leave to do so, and they are taking your word seriously.”

“That is good news,” Molotov said, and Zhukov and Gromyko both nodded. Molotov continued, “That the colonists are continuing to land anywhere on the surface of the world is not good news, however.”

“From all I have learned, they will have a hard time making the colonists into soldiers,” Zhukov said, “a much harder time than we have in turning conscripts into fighting men. This works in our favor.”

“So it does, Georgi Konstantinovich, but only so far,” Molotov replied. “They are landing many workers and many machines. Their industrial output will increase with more factories and more workers who do not seek to sabotage production. What soldiers they have will be better equipped.”

“They will also be able to exploit the resources of the territory they control more effectively than has been true up till now,” Gromyko added. In many ways, he thought very much like Molotov. Unlike Molotov, though, he seemed content with a subordinate role in affairs.

Zhukov said, “If they train no more soldiers, they will run out sooner or later. How many weapons they make will not matter if they have no one who can fire them.”

“Interesting,” Molotov murmured. “Perhaps very interesting.” Now he glanced over at Beria. “Inquire among our prisoners as to how rapidly Lizards reproduce and how long they need to be trained to become proper parts of their society.”

“I will do that, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich,” the NKVD chief said. “This is not information we needed before, and so we never tried to pull it out. Now that we see it might be useful, I expect we can get it.”

“Good,” Molotov said. “Without the captives we took in the fighting, we would never have been able to move ahead in so many fields so fast. We have learned a great deal from them. And now that a new kind of knowledge becomes more valuable, as you say, we shall learn more.”

Beria nodded. “I shall have the precise details for you very soon, even if it means testing a couple of Lizards to destruction, as the engineers say.” The electric lights overhead glinted from his spectacles, and perhaps from his eyes as well. He was no simple sadist, as were some of the men who worked for him, but he was not immune to the pleasures inherent in his job, either. Molotov had heard stories about a couple of young girls who’d vanished without a trace. He’d never tried to find out if they were true. It didn’t matter. If he ever decided to topple Beria, he’d trot out the stories whether they were true or not.

“Comrade General Secretary, were you serious when you told Queek we might consider realigning ourselves with the Greater German Reich if pressure from the Lizards forced us in that direction?” Gromyko asked.

“I was not jocular,” Molotov replied. Gromyko gave him a reproachful look. Ignoring it, he elaborated: “I shall act as circumstances force me to. If I judge the Lizards are a more dangerous threat than the Nazis, how in good conscience can I avoid seeking a rapprochement with Nuremberg?” The Germans had not rebuilt Berlin after the Lizards struck it with an atomic bomb, but left the city in ruins as a monument to the enemy’s depravity-showing, in Molotov’s view, a curious delicacy given their own habits.

Nodding at his words, Gromyko said, “We have come through the first crisis since the arrival of the colonization fleet well enough-not perfectly, but well enough. May we likewise weather the storms ahead.”

“We shall not merely weather them. We shall prevail,” Molotov said. “The dialectic demands it.” His colleagues solemnly nodded.


Just watching the way some of the newly defrosted colonists strolled around Basra made Fotsev’s scales itch. “By the Emperor, they are asking to get killed,” he burst out. “Some of them will get what they are asking for, too.”

“Truth,” Gorppet said. “I do not know whether they think the Big Uglies are civilized, the way the Rabotevs and Hallessi are, or whether they just figure they are tame, like meat animals.”

“Whatever they think, they are wrong,” Fotsev said. “I am just glad this ‘Allahu akbar!’ business has died down for the time being. If it had not, you would need to be addled to let colonists into Basra at all.”

He watched and listened to a revived female dickering with a Tosevite over an ornately decorated but useless brass ornament. She had not the faintest idea how to bargain, and paid three times the going rate for such a trinket. Gorppet sighed and said, “Everything is going to get more expensive for all of us.”

“So it is,” Fotsev agreed unhappily. “They do not know anything, do they?” One eye turret turned toward a male who was wandering around photographing everything he saw. Fotsev couldn’t imagine why; Basra wasn’t much, even by the minimal standards of Tosev 3.

The male noticed him watching and called, “Is it always so chilly here?”

“Does not know anything,” Fotsev repeated in a low voice. Aloud, he answered, “For Tosev 3, this is good weather. You will never see frozen water falling out of the sky here, for instance.”

“They told us about that,” the colonist said. “I do not believe it.”

“Have you see the videos?” Fotsev demanded.

“I do not care about videos,” the newcomer said. “You can make a video look like anything. That does not mean it is true.” Off he went, camera in hand.

“Ought to send him up to the SSSR,” Gorppet muttered. “He would learn something there-or else he would freeze to death. Either way, he would shut up.”

“That is cruel.” Fotsev thought about it. His mouth fell open in a nasty laugh. “I do wonder how he would make out in that snow stuff up past his head, with the Big Uglies sliding along over it on boards. How would he like that? How much ginger do you suppose he would taste to keep himself from thinking about it?”

“Enough to make him mutiny, by the Emperor,” Gorppet exclaimed.

Fotsev eyed him warily. So did the other males in their small group. The last time he and Fotsev had spoken of mutiny, they’d been alone together. That was how males from the conquest fleet usually spoke of mutiny, when they spoke of it at all. Fotsev didn’t think there was a male who was ignorant of the mutinies some troops had raised against their superiors. Talking much about them was something else. Like a lot of things on Tosev 3-the death factories of the Deutsche sprang to mind-they were usually better ignored.

Gorppet looked defiantly at his comrades. “They happened. We all know they happened.” But he lowered his voice before going on, “Would not surprise me a bit if some of the officers deserved what they got, too.”

“Careful,” Fotsev said, and added an emphatic cough. “If you go around saying things like that, people will say you think like a Tosevite, and that will not do you any good.”

“I do not think like a stinking Big Ugly,” Gorppet said. “I am no snoutcounter. Nobody whose brains are not in his cloaca is a snoutcounter. But I will tell you this: when I have officers over me, I want them to know what they are doing. Is that too much to ask?”

“A lot of the ones who did not know what they were doing are dead now,” Fotsev said. “The Big Uglies took care of them. We did not need mutineers.” The word felt odd coming off his tongue. Back on Home, no one had used it in tens of thousands of years, not unless he was creating a drama about the distant times before the Empire was unified.

Gorppet refused to spit it out and walk away from it. “Truth-the ones who did not know what they were doing are dead now. But how many perfectly good males went to meet the spirits of Emperors past because of their bungling?”

Too many was the answer that hatched in Fotsev’s mind. He didn’t say it. He didn’t want to think about it. It, too, was better left unexamined.

Before Gorppet could say anything more, a male from the colonization fleet came running toward the small group. In the years since coming to Tosev 3, Fotsev had fallen out of practice in reading civilians’ body paint. He thought this fellow was a mid-senior cook, but wasn’t quite sure.

Whatever the male was, he was excited. “You soldiers!” he shouted. “To the rescue! I need you!”

“For what?” Fotsev asked. Turning an eye turret in the direction from which the cook had come, he saw no Tosevites pounding after him with knives and pistols in their hands. By local standards, that meant things couldn’t be too bad.

“For what?” the male from the colonization fleet cried. “For what? Why, back around that corner yonder, one of these native creatures, these untamed native creatures everyone keeps warning us about, is carrying a gun twice the size of the one you have there.”

“Did he shoot you with it?” Gorppet asked. “Does not look that way, on account of you are still here.”

“You do not understand!” the cook said. “A wild native is walking these filthy streets with a gun. Go take it away from him.”

“Did he try to shoot you?” Fotsev asked.

“No, but he could have,” the newly revived colonist answered. “What kind of world is this, anyhow?”

All the males in the small group began to laugh. “This is Tosev 3, that’s what,” Fotsev said. “This is the kind of world where that Big Ugly probably will not try to shoot you unless you give him some sort of reason to want you dead. It’s also the kind of world where, if we try to take his rifle away, everybody in this town will be shrieking ‘Allahu akbar!’ and trying to kill us faster than you can flick your nictitating membrane across your eyeball.”

“You are crazy,” the other male said. His eye turrets swung to look over the males who accompanied Fotsev. “You are all crazy. You have spent too much time with the horrible creatures that live here, and now you are as bad as they are.” Hissing in disgust, he stalked off, tailstump rigid with fury.

“Tell you what,” Gorppet said. “If I had a choice, I would sooner act like a Big Ugly than like him.”

No one argued with him. The patrol made its way through Basra. Fotsev turned at the corner around which the excitable cook had come. Sure enough, there stood a Big Ugly with a rifle on his back. He was eating some of the fruits that grew on the local trees that looked like dusting tools. When he saw the soldiers of the Race, he bobbed his head up and down in a Tosevite gesture of greeting. Fotsev showed his empty right hand, palm out. That motion, unlike most, meant about the same thing to the Big Uglies as it did to the Race.

As Fotsev walked on, he did turn an eye turret back toward the Big Ugly to make sure he didn’t have anything treacherous in mind. The Tosevite went on eating the small brown fruits-they looked rather like turds, but tasted sweet-and spitting the seeds into the dust of the street.

“Oh, he is dangerous, all right,” Gorppet said, and laughed again.

After the males of the Race rounded another corner, a Big Ugly approached them. It was a male, Fotsev saw: it had hair on its jaw and cheeks, and it exposed its entire face to the view of outsiders, which violated local custom for females. A moment later, he realized it was a prosperous male. The Big Ugly’s robes and headgear were fancier than those of most of his kind. That wasn’t so reliable an indicator as body paint, but nothing on Tosev 3 seemed as reliable as its equivalent back on Home.

Then, to his surprise, the Big Ugly spoke in the language of the Race, and spoke well for one of its kind: “You males, will you answer some questions of mine? I am an ignorant man, and I seek to learn.”

“Go ahead and ask,” Fotsev said, unused to such politeness from a Tosevite. The Big Ugly had given him more than the cook of his own species.

“I thank you,” the Tosevite said, polite still. “Is it true that, in the ships the Race is now landing, there are both males and females, as Noah, peace be upon him, took male and female beasts aboard the Ark?”

Fotsev didn’t know who Noah was, or anything about the Ark, a word the Big Ugly had of necessity put into his own language. Still, the question seemed straightforward enough. “Yes, the colonization fleet carries both males and females. How could we colonize this world if it did not?”

He waited for the Big Ugly to pitch a fit. Instead, the fellow asked, “And, of these new members of the Race we now see on the streets of Basra, some are males and some are females?”

“Yes,” Fotsev said. “How else?”

“And your females are allowed to walk the streets naked, shamelessly showing themselves for your males to gaze upon and admire and desire?” the Big Ugly persisted.

Gorppet pulled Fotsev aside for a moment to whisper, “What is this fool getting at?”

“How should I know? He is not making a fuss, and that is good enough for me,” Fotsev whispered back. To the Tosevite, he said, “We do not wrap ourselves in cloths, the way you people do.”

“But you must, when male and female are together,” the Big Ugly said earnestly. “Nakedness offends every custom.”

“Not our customs,” Fotsev said.

“But you will desire one another too much!” the Big Ugly cried in dismay.

Fotsev didn’t laugh at him, though that wasn’t easy. The Big Ugly was plainly intelligent, and as plainly ignorant, ever so ignorant. “We do not mate because of what we see,” Fotsev said. “We mate because of what we smell.”

“Nakedness is a crime against Allah,” the Tosevite said. “He will punish you for your wickedness.”

“Let us get moving,” Fotsev said to his comrades. Arguing with a Big Ugly caused nothing but trouble. Leaving him to his own foolishness seemed a better idea.

But he wouldn’t be left. He followed the males down the narrow, grimy, unpaved street, crying, “You must clothe your females. Allah teaches it. Do you dare act contrary to the word of Allah?”

“This Allah of yours never talked to me,” Fotsev said, and laughed at the foolish Big Ugly. “If he does, maybe I will listen to him. Until then, I am not going to worry about him. I will worry about things that are real instead.” He laughed again.

The Tosevite’s little eyes got as big as they could. “You say Allah is not real?” He turned and hurried away.

“You got rid of him,” Gorppet said. “Well done!” To emphasize how well done, he folded himself into the posture of respect, as if Fotsev were at least an officer and perhaps a shiplord. Fotsev laughed once more, and so did his comrades. They got through the rest of their patrol with no trouble at all.

A few days later, fresh rioting against the Race broke out in Basra. Three newly revived colonists got caught in the trouble and killed; a large number of Tosevites perished. Like his superiors, Fotsev hadn’t the faintest idea what might have touched it off.

Mordechai Anielewicz was heading back toward his flat in Lodz when two Lizards came up to him. “You are Anielewicz,” one of them said in Polish, looking from his face to a photograph and back again. Even with the photograph, he sounded unsure.

“I am Anielewicz,” Mordechai agreed, after briefly thinking about denying everything. It had worked for St. Peter, but he didn’t know how well it would work for him. “What do you want with me?”

“We are to bring you before the regional subadministrator,” the Lizard answered. He and his comrade both carried automatic weapons. They sounded nervous even so. They had reason to sound nervous. If Mordechai shouted, they’d last only moments in spite of the high-powered rifles. Jews with guns of their own were on the street and, no doubt, watching from windows, too.

But he did not shout. “I’ll come,” he said. “Do you know why the regional subadministrator wants to talk to me?”

“No,” both males said together. Anielewicz believed them. The Lizards’ bosses were in the habit of giving orders, not explanations.

“Well, I’ll find out,” Anielewicz said. “Let’s go.” He started off for Bunim’s headquarters near the square that housed the Bialut Market. The Lizards fell in on either side of him. He towered over them, but that didn’t make him feel important. Size mattered little, power a great deal. He had it, but so did Bunim. One of the Lizards spoke into a portable radio set or telephone to let the regional subadministrator know they were on their way.

When he got there, Bunim addressed him in German: “I have spoken to you of the threat against the colonists I received.”

“Regional Subadministrator, I remember,” Anielewicz replied. “Many ships have landed in Poland now. Many colonists have landed in Poland now. I know of nothing bad that has happened to them, though not many have landed near Lodz.” In their shoes, he wouldn’t have wanted to land near the border with the Greater German Reich, either.

“Nothing bad has happened-not yet,” Bunim said. “But I am concerned. Is it the right word-concerned?” He didn’t like to make mistakes. In that, he was a typical Lizard. Mistakes showed faulty planning, and the Lizards were much enamored of planning in general.

“Concerned is the right word, yes, Regional Subadministrator,” Anielewicz said, giving him what credit he could. “You have come to speak this language well.” That was a lie, but not an outrageous one. Bunim did work hard. Having delivered the compliments, Mordechai got down to business: “Why are you concerned? Have you received another threat?”

“No, no one has threatened,” Bunim told him. “That is one reason I am concerned. When you Tosevites strut and bluster, we of the Race at least know where you stand. When you are quiet, that is the time for worry. That is the time when you are hatching plots in secret. And-” He fell silent.

Anielewicz exhaled in some exasperation. “If no one had sent you the first message, you would not be worried now, even though everything was quiet. Since everything has been quiet since, why are you still worrying?”

Bunim’s eye turrets flicked this way and that. He was an unhappy Lizard, no doubt about it. “I have reason to be concerned,” he declared, and added an emphatic cough even though he was still speaking German.

“Well, if you do, you’d better show me why,” Mordechai said, his patience wearing thin. “Otherwise, I’ll just think you’ve been wasting my time.”

“Show you why? It shall be done,” Bunim said. Even in German, the phrase sounded odd, and seemed to imply Anielewicz was the regional subadministrator’s superior.

Bunim took out one of the skelkwank disks the Lizards used for just about all their recording. He stuck it in a player. Out came the threat he had mentioned before to Anielewicz. Mordechai was not tremendously fluent in the language of the Race, but he followed it well enough to understand what he heard here.

“Well?” he said when the brief recording was done. “I heard it. It was what you said it was, but so what?”

“You heard it, but you heard without full understanding,” Bunim said.

“You’d better explain, then,” Mordechai said. “I must be missing something here, but I don’t know what.”

“You heard the threat?” Bunim asked. Mordechai nodded. Bunim understood the human gesture. He went on, “That threat, Anielewicz, was not spoken by a Tosevite. Without the tiniest fragment of doubt, it came from the mouth of a male of the Race.”

Anielewicz thought about that for a few seconds. Then, very softly, he said, “Oy.” Bunim was right. People didn’t-couldn’t-sound quite right speaking the Lizards’ language. Sure as hell, that had been a Lizard. “What do you suppose it means?” Anielewicz asked the regional subadministrator.

“One of two things.” Bunim held up a clawed middle finger. “It could be some Tosevites holding a male of the Race prisoner. This is not good.” The Lizard held up his index finger. “Or it could be a male of the Race plotting with Tosevites: a criminal, I mean to say. This also is not good.”

“You are right,” Mordechai said. “Did any male go missing not long before you got this recording?”

“No, but this does not have to mean anything,” Bunim answered. “We know both the Reich and the Soviet Union still have prisoners they took during the fighting. So does the USA. So do Britain and Nippon. Those not-empires are less likely to threaten Poland, though. If you were wondering, the recording was posted to me here from Pinsk. How it got to Pinsk, I do not know.” His eye turrets swung toward Anielewicz. “You were in Pinsk not so long ago, nicht wahr?”

“Yes, it is so,” Anielewicz said, judging a lie there more dangerous than the truth. “I was meeting an old friend”-which stretched the point about David Nussboym as far as it would go, and then another ten centimeters-“I hadn’t seen since the fighting stopped.” That last clause, at least, was true.

Bunim looked to be on the point of saying something, but closed his mouth instead. Maybe he’d expected Mordechai to lie about going to Pinsk. After a moment, he started again: “You Jews could have captives, too. Do not think we do not know about this.”

“So could the Poles, more easily than we could,” Mordechai said. “Or it could be a ginger smuggler angry at the administration here and wanting to embarrass you.”

“All these things may be true,” Bunim said. “Only one of them is true, or perhaps truth lies in none of them, but in a place we have not yet found. But where is that place? I have males of the Race trying to learn. I have Poles trying to learn. And now I have Jews trying to learn, too.”

“Yes, we had better find out about that, hadn’t we?” Mordechai said abstractedly. “You are right, Regional Subadministrator. This could be trouble.”

“The colonization fleet has already had too much trouble,” Bunim said. “We had better not have any more. If we have any more, Tosevites will also have trouble. They will have more trouble than they ever imagined.”

“I understand,” Anielewicz said. “I tell you this, Regional Subadministrator: no humans like you any better than the Jews of Poland. If you will not find humans on your side among us, you will not find them anywhere.”

“Then it may be that we shall not find them anywhere,” Bunim said. “I know you have had dealings with the Reich when you thought our eye turrets were turned the other way. I know you are not the only one to do this, too.”

Anielewicz felt a dull embarrassment, rather as if he’d been caught in bed with a woman other than Bertha. But his marriage to the Lizards was one of convenience, not of love. And he’d been unfaithful not only with the Nazis but also with the Russians, as David Nussboym could attest. He shrugged. Like any adultery, his bouts of infidelity to the Race had seemed a good idea at the time.

He said, “When the Race came to Earth, we Jews here in Poland were slaves to the Reich. Men are not meant to be slaves.”

“And we set you free,” Bunim said. “And see the thanks we have had for it.”

Yes, he sounded like a woman betrayed. “You set us free of the Germans,” Mordechai said.

“That is what I told you,” Bunim said.

But Anielewicz shook his head. “No, it is not. You set us free of the Germans. You did not set us free. You aimed at becoming our masters yourselves. We do not care for that any more than we cared for having the Nazis enslave us.”

“And who would rule you if we left Poland?” Bunim inquired. Twenty years on Tosev 3 had taught him sarcasm.

He had also asked a question-the question-for which Anielewicz had no good answer, and indeed no answer of any sort. Instead of answering, he evaded: “This is why we will help you now. For your safety, and for our own, we need to find out who is making threats against the arriving colonists.”

“So you do,” Bunim said. “Any trouble that comes down on our heads-in the end, it comes down on your heads, too.”

Anielewicz sent him a stare of undisguised loathing. “It’s taken you all this time since you came to Earth, but you’ve finally figured out what being a Jew means, haven’t you?”

“I do not know what you are talking about,” Bunim said, which might have been true or might not. The Lizard went on, “I do know that my first duty is to preserve the Race, my next is to preserve the land on which the Race will dwell, and only after that do I concern myself with the welfare of Tosevites of any sort.”

From his perspective, that made perfectly good sense. Mordechai knew he himself put Jews ahead of Poles, Poles ahead-far ahead-of Germans, and humans ahead of Lizards. But Bunim had resources he couldn’t hope to match. If the Lizards decided the Jews deserved oppressing… if they decided that, how were they any different from the Nazis?

He shook his head. That wasn’t fair to the Lizards. When they’d discovered Treblinka, they’d destroyed it in horror. Anielewicz did not think they would ever build an extermination camp of their own. A generation on Earth could not have corrupted the males of the conquest fleet that far, and the males and females of the colonization fleet would not be corrupt at all, not by Earthly standards.

Bunim said, “Remember, our fates-is that the word? — our fates, yes, are tied together. If the Race fails on Tosev 3, your particular group of Tosevites is also likely to fail. The rest of the Tosevites, starting with the Poles, will make sure of this. Am I right or am I wrong?”

He was all too likely to be right. Anielewicz had no intention of admitting as much. In a stony voice, he replied, “Jews got by for three thousand years before the Race came to Earth. If every male and female of the Race disappeared tomorrow, Jews would go right on getting by.”

Bunim’s mouth fell open in Lizardly amusement. “What are three thousand years?” he asked. “Where will you be in three thousand more?”

“Dead,” Anielewicz answered, “the same as you.”

“You, yes,” Bunim agreed. “I, yes. The Tosevites? Possibly. The Race? No.” He spoke with absolute confidence.

“No, eh?” Anielewicz said. “What about that male who threatened the colonists, then?” He had the somber satisfaction of seeing that he’d made Bunim loathe him as much as he loathed the Lizard.

Beside the 13th Emperor Makkakap, the shuttlecraft seemed tiny. Beside the shuttlecraft, Nesseref seemed tiny. That surely made her seem infinitesimal alongside the enormous bulk of the starship now landed not far from the Tosevite town of Warsaw.

The logic was flawless. Nesseref, however, had other concerns besides logic. Turning to the male from the conquest fleet beside her, she asked, “Why would anybody want to live in this miserable, cold place?”

“You think it is cold now, wait another season,” the male answered. “Nobody from Home knows what cold is about. Winter here is like cold sleep without the drugs to make you unconscious.” He laughed. “Tosev 3 has different drugs, believe you me it does. Have you found out about ginger yet, superior female?”

“Yes,” Nesseref said, which was not quite the truth and not quite a lie. She still had the two vials males had given her on earlier visits to Tosev 3. That in itself was against regulations, which grew more strident on the subject with each passing day. But she hadn’t actually opened the vials and tasted the herb inside. As long as she didn’t do that, she felt no enormous guilt.

“Good stuff, isn’t it?” the male said enthusiastically. This time, Nesseref didn’t answer at all. Every male from the conquest fleet who talked about ginger talked about it enthusiastically. That was one reason she hadn’t tried it herself: she didn’t trust anything that evoked such fervent responses. Being a shuttlecraft pilot had made her rely more on her own opinion than was usual among the Race.

Her own opinion at the moment was that things looked more confused than they should have. Newly awakened males and females from the colonization fleet wandered here and there, none of them with any clear notion of where they ought to be going or what they ought to be doing. The males from the conquest fleet who moved among them were easy to pick out by eye. They strode with purpose, to some destination familiar to them. They’d had years to get used to the vagaries of life on Tosev 3. A couple of hasty briefings couldn’t possibly have the same effect.

Turning back to the male beside her, she asked, “When you do not taste ginger, how do you stand Tosev 3? How do you keep from being bored to death?”

The male laughed again. “Superior female, you can die a lot of ways on this planet, but being bored is not one of them. Of course, if you do get bored, one bunch of Big Uglies or another is liable to kill you, but I do not suppose that is what you were talking about.”

“No,” Nesseref said. Just how dangerous these natives could be hadn’t really sunk in, despite her getting shot at on the way down to Cairo. Some Tosevites were laboring in the shadow of the 13th Emperor Makkakap. “They certainly do look funny, do they not? — wrapping themselves in cloths even when they work hard.”

“They stay warm that way,” the male from the conquest fleet said. “But even the Tosevites who live where the weather is decent wear cloths, or most of them do. They use them for display-and for concealment, too, I think.”

“Why would they conceal with cloths?” Nesseref asked, puzzled. “They are not hiding from predators, are they? No, of course not.” She answered her own question. “They could not be.”

“No, no, no-concealment from one another.” The male from the conquest fleet gave a brief, highly colored account of Tosevite courtship and mating habits.

“That is revolting,” Nesseref said when he was through. “I think you are making it up. I am new to this miserable world, so you figure I will believe anything.”

“By the spirits of Emperors past, I swear it is the truth,” the male said, and looked down at the ground. “They are worse than animals, but they have a civilization. Nobody will ever figure them out.”

“Yes, we will, sooner or later.” The shuttlecraft pilot spoke with conviction. “We just have not given it enough time yet. In a few hundred years, or maybe a few thousand years, our descendants will look back on this time and laugh at how foolish and upset we were. And the Big Uglies will be loyal subjects of the Emperor, just like everyone else.” She paused and peered over toward a couple of them. “They will still be funny-looking, though.”

“That last is truth,” the male said. “The rest… I tell you, superior female, you are still new-come from Home. You do not really know what things are like here. On Tosev 3, time is different, somehow. You can see things happen over years; they do not take centuries, the way they did with us. I am not sure there was a televisor on this planet when we got here. There are millions of them now.”

“I do not know what that proves,” Nesseref said. “For all you know, they stole the idea from us. They seem to have stolen a lot of ideas from us.”

“Oh, they have,” the male from the conquest fleet said. “They have, though it is not as if they have not got plenty of ideas of their own. But they do not just steal. They use what they steal, and they use it right away. Imagine the Race had never heard of televisors, but stole the idea for them from someone else. How long would we need before every other flat-every flat, some places-had a televisor in it?”

Even the form of the question felt strange to Nesseref. Imagining the history of the Race as different from the way it really was took a distinct and uncomfortable mental effort. She handled it as she would have handled a simulator session for the shuttlecraft: not real, but to be taken as real. The answer she got was obvious and disturbing at the same time: “We would have needed thousands of years, because we would have to study the effects of televisors on a society that did not have them. We would have to be certain they were harmless before we began to use them.”

“Just so,” the male agreed. “The Tosevites are not like that. They just start using things and then see what happens. Since we came, they have added televisors and computers and atomic energy and spacecraft and hydrogen engines and any number of different things-they tossed them into the pot to see how they flavor the stew. That is how they do things-and somehow they have not destroyed themselves.”

“Not yet,” Nesseref said. “Slow and steady is better.”

“On Home, slow and steady is better,” the male said. “Here-who knows?”

Nesseref didn’t feel like arguing with him. “Can you arrange transportation to the west for me?” she asked. “I am supposed to visit a city called-Lodz, is it? — to examine the area for a possible shuttlecraft port site.”

“I can direct you to one who will make those arrangements for you,” the male replied. “I can also tell you I think it is a bad idea: too close to the border with the Greater German Reich. Why do you think the ships from the colonization fleet have been landing in this part of Poland and not over there?”

“My superior has ordered me to examine the area, and so it shall be done,” Nesseref said. “And I can also tell you that you seem to me to sound more like a Tosevite, or what I think a Tosevite would sound like from what I have heard, than a proper male of the Race.”

She thought that a crushing insult. The male from the conquest fleet only shrugged and answered, “I am alive. That lets me talk however I like. And a lot of the males who used to sound so prim and proper are dead these days, so they do not sound like anything at all.”

Having got the last word, he also got his revenge on Nesseref, or so she assumed, for the transportation to which another male from the conquest fleet assigned her was a Tosevite railroad train propelled by an engine-a steam engine, she discovered by asking-that stained the sky with its plume of black exhaust smoke. She had one compartment of her railroad car to herself, but that did not keep Big Uglies from walking by, staring in at her, and using their own gluey-sounding languages to make remarks she could not understand.

Her compartment had seats made to accommodate backsides with tailstumps, which was something, but not much. Despite the seats, she had an uncomfortable trip. Railroads back on Home used magnetic levitation and had a smooth ride; here, iron wheels kept clattering along rails and over rail junctions. Unpleasant, unfamiliar smells filled the car. When she opened a window to get some fresh air, she got soot from the engine’s exhaust instead. Finally deciding that was worse, she closed the window again and watched the countryside through its none-too-clean glass.

Before long, she was thinking of going to sleep. The land between Warsaw and Lodz was flat and boring. Aside from being unusually green, it had nothing to commend itself to the eye. True, she was startled the first time she saw a Tosevite animal drawing a wagon, but then she saw several more in quick succession, which killed the novelty. She was also briefly interested at the first stop the train made in a small town, but she couldn’t tell the Big Uglies who got on from the ones who got off. Also, every stop-and the train made a lot of them-meant she took even longer to get where she was going.

By the time she arrived, she was tempted to haul out a vial of ginger and have a taste, in the hope that the herb would make moments seem to move faster. But, unsure of what it would do to her common sense, she refrained. She wanted to be able to think clearly after she reached the town.

When, after what seemed like forever, she finally did leave the railroad car and go out into the train station, the officer who met her was energy personified. “Of course we can find you what you need,” he said as he led her through the station, which seemed gloomy and cramped on the one fork of the tongue and ridiculously high-ceilinged on the other (only after she recalled it was built for Tosevites did the latter make sense). “Wherever you want it, superior female, we will put it there. If you like, we will flatten out some ground specially for you. We can do it. We can do anything.” He gave her not one but two emphatic coughs.

“I do not even know if this is a suitable place yet,” Nesseref said, a little taken aback at such vigor. “Are the Big Uglies west of here not supposed to be dangerous?”

“Oh, we can take care of the Deutsche, too,” the officer said with another emphatic cough. “If they give us trouble, we will give them a good kick in the snout.”

But, over the next little while, his enthusiasm and his boasts faded away. He started looking all around, as if afraid someone might be following him. “Is something wrong?” Nesseref asked.

“No,” he said in a forlorn voice, but then added, “Wait here, superior female,” and skittered around a corner. When he returned a moment later, he was strutting again, up on top of the world. “Wrong?” he demanded. “What could possibly be wrong? Everything is just as right as it could be, and this is the perfect-the perfect, I tell you-place for a shuttlecraft port, or my name isn’t Emmitto.”

Before very long, Emmitto was subdued and worried again. Nesseref wondered what was wrong with him; such wild mood swings were most unusual in the Race. Only after he excused himself once more and once more returned full of exuberance did a warning light begin to glow on the instrument panel of her mind. She had everything she could do not to let her mouth fall open in sour laughter. I should have tasted ginger, too, she thought. Then Emmitto would have had some company.

Tosev blazed down out of a sky the wrong shade of blue, but with very respectable warmth all the same. Atvar smelled unfamiliar spicy odors far removed from the stinks of Cairo. “I should come to Australia more often, regardless of where I make my capital,” he told his adjutant.

“Whatever pleases the Exalted Fleetlord,” Pshing replied. “Since so many of the Race will be settling here, surely your duty might well be construed as requiring you to make frequent visits here.”

“It might indeed,” Atvar said, “although I expect I can find my own excuses for doing what I want to do anyhow. Most males can, at any rate.”

He looked around with considerable satisfaction. Here as in few places on Tosev 3, the Race would have the land to itself. The Big Uglies had made little use of the central part of the island continent. Now the Race would show them how foolish they had been to ignore it.

“Perhaps,” he said, “just perhaps, mind you, the colonization fleet could establish its administrative center here, a center that would, in time, become the Race’s chief administrative center, replacing Cairo. That would allow us to change capitals without confessing weakness to the Tosevites. If I spent my retirement here, I might yet come to think of Tosev 3 as a pleasant world.”

“A clever notion indeed, Exalted Fleetlord,” Pshing said. “Shall I relay it to Fleetlord Reffet for his views?”

“Not yet,” Atvar answered. “Let me study it for possible drawbacks first. We are males of the Race. I need not be hasty here, as I would when dealing with the Big Uglies. Returning to old habits feels good, after so long.” He paused, then let out an exasperated hiss. “Or perhaps not so good. If I return to the habit of slowness, the Tosevites will make me regret it before long.”

“If we succeed in bringing this world into the Empire, I wonder if we shall ever be able to slow the Big Uglies down to a pace that the other races find tolerable,” Pshing said.

“I hope so, for the Tosevites’ sake and ours,” Atvar said. “I also hope we can bring this world fully into the Empire, for their sake and ours.”

Though he would not say as much to his adjutant, he feared the result if the Race failed to bring the independent not-empires into the Empire in a fairly short time. That the Big Uglies had succeeded in building a technological civilization in the relatively brief period since the Race’s probe showed they had none warned of their prowess. What they had done since the colonization fleet made the warning even more urgent. Then, while astonishingly advanced, they had been behind the Race in every area. They’d hung on with an abundance of cunning and materiel. Now…

Some males brushed aside the Tosevites’ progress by noting how much they had borrowed-stolen, many said, and truthfully-from the Race. Atvar recognized the truth in that. But he also saw how the Tosevites did not blindly borrow, how they used machines and information taken from the Race to bring their own preexisting technology up to date, how they put their own slant on everything they stole.

His experts had run projections. He’d run secret projections of his own, too. They differed in detail, depending on just what assumptions went into them. The broad outlines, though, were startlingly, dismayingly, similar: before too long, the Big Uglies’ technology would be more advanced than that of the Race.

Most of the projections said the Race would still enjoy a breathing space after that: the Big Uglies would need a while to realize what they’d achieved. Sooner or later, though, they would. They couldn’t help it.

What would happen then? There too, the projections differed. Nothing good for the Race, though, was the theme that ran through them.

And I can’t even destroy those not-empires, Atvar thought, not without destroying the whole planet, which means destroying the colonization fleet. One of the ideas haunting him was that such destruction might be worthwhile in spite of the cost: it might mean saving the Race as a whole.

Pshing pointed at something moving across the barren countryside, for which distraction Atvar was thoroughly glad. “What are those things, Exalted Fleetlord?” his adjutant asked.

“Tosevite life of some sort, I suppose,” Atvar answered. “If you have a monocular, you will be able to tell more.”

“I do, Exalted Fleetlord.” Pshing took the magnifier from a belt pouch, turned one eye turret toward the distant creatures, and raised the magnifying lenses. He let out a startled hiss. “How peculiar! Are those Big Uglies? No, they cannot be. But still…” He gave Atvar the monocular. “See for yourself, Exalted Fleetlord.”

“I will.” Atvar brought the little tube up to one of his own eyes. The creatures on the plain seemed to leap much closer. “They are funny-looking.”

“They certainly are.” Pshing added an emphatic cough. “I thought almost all Tosevite life forms except the Big Uglies themselves were quadrupeds, not bipeds.”

“I seem to recall reading that this island continent had an ecosystem long isolated from others on Tosev 3,” Atvar said. “Maybe that accounts for these peculiar things. They look almost like a cross between the Big Uglies and ourselves, don’t they? — though their tails are long.”

Just then, something must have startled the Tosevite creatures, which went bounding off at a very respectable turn of speed. “Well!” Pshing said. “I did not think they could move like that.”

“A lot of Tosevite creatures are deceptive, all the way up to the Big Uglies,” Atvar said. Suddenly, one of the animals crashed to the ground and lay kicking. The fleetlord could not see why until a Big Ugly emerged from concealment and ran over to the downed creature. “Will you look at that!” Atvar exclaimed, and passed the monocular back to his adjutant.

“Yesss.” Pshing drew the word out into a hiss of his own. “Not all Tosevites have moved forward from where the probe found them, have they?”

“By no means,” Atvar answered. The Big Ugly he’d been watching was naked, his dark brown hide filthy and daubed here and there with mud of various colors.

“He is bashing in the animal’s head with a rock,” Pshing reported. “I think his knife is metal, though. Looking at him, I do not think he could have made it for himself.”

“Perhaps he got it in trade from the more advanced Australians,” Atvar said, “the ones whose principal cities we bombed so as to take possession of this continent.”

“It could be so,” Pshing agreed. “That strikes me as more likely than his having made it for himself.”

“Speak to the folk hereabout-I want him captured and brought before me,” Atvar said on sudden, almost Tosevite-like, impulse.

“It shall be done, Exalted Fleetlord.” Pshing got out his radio and spoke into it.

It was done, but only barely. When the Tosevite saw males and females of the Race approaching, he disappeared. That was how it seemed to Atvar, at any rate. One instant he was there in plain sight, running away; the next, he might have vanished off the face of Tosev 3.

His pursuers caught him nonetheless. Pshing, who was listening to their calls back and forth, said, “One of them has an infrared detector, Exalted Fleetlord. Without it, I do not think they could have found him.”

The Big Ugly kept struggling for all he was worth. The males and females of the Race had to tie him before they could bring him in to Atvar. By then, the fleetlord wished he hadn’t put them to so much trouble. To avoid disappointing them, he didn’t show it, but praised them extravagantly.

Shouts poured from the Tosevite’s throat, in whatever unintelligible language he spoke and then, to Atvar’s surprise, in English, a speech he recognized even if he’d never learned to use it. Pshing had no trouble finding a male from the conquest fleet who understood it. The fellow said, “Exalted Fleetlord, he says you mate with your own mother and also says you mate at an inappropriate orifice-the Big Uglies have more than we do, you know. He intends these as insults.”

“Ask him how he lives in this country,” Atvar said.

“It shall be done,” the male replied, and began speaking English. The dark-skinned Big Ugly kept yelling the same phrases he had used before. After a while, the male turned back to Atvar, saying, “Exalted Fleetlord, I do not think he knows any more of this language than these few words.”

“How strange,” Atvar murmured. “Why would anyone go to the trouble of learning insults in a language without learning any more in it? Having to try to understand more than one speech is bad enough as it is.” The language of the Race united three worlds, and had for time out of mind. Tosev 3 had even more languages than it had had empires and not-empires before the Race arrived.

“What shall we do with him, Exalted Fleetlord?” Pshing asked, pointing to the Tosevite. “He is not going to tell us anything, I don’t think.”

“He is also not going to harm us, for which spirits of Emperors past be praised,” Atvar said. “He cannot harm us, being too ignorant-and how I wish that were true of every member of his species.” He turned to the male who spoke English. “Take him well away from this starship. Give him a knife of ours, to make up for the one he no longer has, and let him go.”

“It shall be done, Exalted Fleetlord,” the male replied. “May I give him some food, too? We have had some of these savages come around begging before; they mostly know how to pull the lid off a tin.”

“Yes, do that,” Atvar said. “Otherwise, he might come back to rob rather than to beg. I want the Big Uglies to be dependent on us; I do not want them making worse nuisances of themselves than they have already.”

“Any Big Ugly is-or can be-a nuisance,” the male said. He and the ones who had brought the Tosevite to Atvar got him up on his feet in spite of his hoarse shouts and his efforts to bite and kick. As they led him away, he voided liquid waste.

“Disgusting,” said Pshing, who was fastidious even for a male of the Race.

“Big Uglies commonly are,” Atvar said. “Some, though, are disgusting and dangerous. This one, fortunately, is not.”

“Even with the colonization fleet, will we be able to do all we want on Tosev 3?” Pshing asked. “The natives will outnumber us to a far greater extent than anyone knew they would when we left Home.”

“I understand that, but we cannot expect more colonists for many years,” Atvar said. “And, with the Big Uglies so thick on the ground most places, too large a colonization might exceed the carrying capacity of the land.”

“Local agricultural methods are not the most efficient,” Pshing said. “And if a few, or more than a few, Big Uglies go hungry, there are many here among us who would not be overly disappointed.”

“I understand that,” the fleetlord said. “If we ruled this whole world, what you are suggesting would be easy to achieve. But I fear the independent not-empires would not take kindly to the notion of our starving their fellow Tosevites. The independent not-empires do not take kindly to many notions of ours, except those they can steal.” He looked around again. The landscape definitely reminded him of Home. Maybe I will retire here, he thought. If he did, it couldn’t come a day too soon.

Sam Yeager let out a sigh of relief. “Well, honey,” he said, “I could be wrong, but I think we’ve weathered another one.”

“Thank heaven,” Barbara said, carving another bite of lamb off her chop. “I didn’t know whether we would be able to manage it. We hadn’t come so close to big trouble since the fighting stopped.”

“How much help did you give, Dad?” Jonathan Yeager asked. That his father worked with the Race impressed him. Anything that could impress an eighteen-year-old about his father was good, as far as Sam was concerned.

“Not that much,” he answered honestly. “Mr. Lodge is a good ambassador. He let the Lizards know what we’d put up with and what we wouldn’t. All I did was sort through the ways we might compromise.”

“Compromise.” It was in Jonathan’s vocabulary, but he sounded about as keen on it as he was on lima beans.

“We need it,” Barbara said. “If you were old enough to remember the fighting, you’d know how much we need it.”

“A fight would be worse this time, too,” Sam said. “Nobody would wait very long before he started throwing atomic bombs around. And once that genie got out of the bottle, it’d be Katie bar the door.”

Barbara gave him a severe look. “The New Yorker runs a little feature called ‘Block That Metaphor.’ I think you just qualified, honey.”

“Did I?” Yeager mentally reviewed what he’d just said. With a sheepish grin, he admitted, “Well, okay, I guess I did.”

Around a mouthful of lamb chop, Jonathan said, “The Lizards should have stomped whoever did that to them into the mud.” He added an emphatic cough, to which his full mouth lent alarming authenticity.

“I won’t say you’re wrong,” Sam said slowly. “The trick is being able to do that without setting the whole planet on fire.” People had talked that way after Pearl Harbor. It had been a metaphor then. It wasn’t a metaphor any more. He went on, “Whoever did it was pretty sly. He got in a good lick”-Barbara stirred but did not rise to that-“and managed not to get hit back, or at least not very hard. Himmler or Molotov is laughing up his sleeve at Atvar.”

“They both say they didn’t do it,” Barbara said.

“What are they going to say?” Jonathan Yeager waved his fork in the air to emphasize the point.

“Maybe they really didn’t,” Barbara said. “Maybe the Japanese did, or even the British.”

But Sam shook his head. “No, hon, it couldn’t have happened that way. The Japs and the English fly rockets, yeah, but they haven’t got anything up in orbit, and it was an orbiting weapon that took out the Lizards’ ships. The Japanese don’t have nuclear weapons, either, though I know the British do.”

“One of the Big Three, then.” Barbara pursed her lips. “Not us. The Russians or the Germans? The Lady or the Tiger?”

“I’d bet on the Russians,” Jonathan said suddenly.

“How come?” Sam asked. “More people seem to think the Germans did it. More Lizards seem to think the Germans did it, too.”

“Because the Russians are better at keeping secrets,” his son answered. “You hardly ever hear about anything that happens over there. When the Germans do something, they brag about it before they do it, they go on bragging while they’re doing it, and then they brag that they’ve done it once they’re through.”

Yeager laughed. “You make ’em sound like a bunch of laying hens.” He paused and thought about it. “You may have something. But you may not, too. The Germans can keep things quiet when they want to badly enough. Look at the way they sucker-punched the Russians the year before the Lizards came.”

“Look at the way they kept quiet about what they were doing to the Jews,” Barbara added. “Nobody knew anything about that till the Lizards blew the whistle on them.”

“Nobody wanted to know anything about that,” Yeager said, at which Barbara nodded. He went on, “Even so-you could be right, Jonathan. The president was going on about how close to the chest Molotov plays his cards.”

Jonathan looked down at the body paint on his own bare chest. At the moment, he was painted as a killercraft maintenance technician. He said, “I wish you’d let me talk more with my friends about what you do. They’d think it was pretty hot.”

“No,” Sam said automatically. “Not unless you want me to get into big trouble with my superiors. I deal with the Lizards because that’s my job, not to let you impress your buddies.”

“I know,” Jonathan said, “but still…” His voice trailed away. Yeager hid a smile. Jonathan and his friends spent a lot of time and effort acting as much like Lizards as they could, but rarely had anything to do with an actual male of the Race. Sam didn’t paint his hide or shave his head or anything of the sort, but he knew as much about Lizards as any human being around. It probably didn’t seem fair to Jonathan. A lot of things hadn’t seemed fair to Sam at the same age: not least why people like Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby were in the big leagues while he himself had barely managed to hook on with a Class D team.

Because they were older than me and better than me. That seemed obvious now. It hadn’t seemed obvious when he was eighteen and fresh off the farm. Life was like that, though at eighteen you didn’t want to know it.

“It’s got to be that way, son,” Sam said. “As things are, I probably talk too much around here.”

“Huh!” Jonathan said. “If you tell me ‘Good morning,’ you think you’re talking too much. The only time you don’t think you’re talking too much is when you’re telling me to do stuff I don’t want to do.”

Spoken in a different tone of voice, that would have touched off a family brawl. Yeager knew a lot of people with kids his son’s age who couldn’t do anything with them and didn’t want to do anything with them but hit them over the head with a brick. But Jonathan was laughing, showing Sam and Barbara he wasn’t-altogether- serious. Shaved head and body paint aside, he was a pretty good kid. Whenever Sam got sick of looking at his son’s bare scalp and painted torso, he reminded himself of that. Sometimes he had to remind himself several times.

After supper, Jonathan went back to his room to study; he’d started his freshman year at UCLA. Barbara washed dishes. Sam dried. Tomorrow night, they’d do it the other way round. “We’ve got to buy a dishwasher,” Barbara said, as she did about once a week. “They get better and cheaper every year.”

Sam answered as he did about once a week: “We’ve already got two good dishwashers here: us. And we’ve got a spare in the back room. Where are you going to buy a dishwasher that can learn calculus and German?”

Before Barbara could make the next move in a sequence almost as formal as a chess opening, somebody rang the front doorbell. Sam was closer, so he went to open it. Standing on the porch was a pretty, freckle-faced, redheaded girl of Jonathan’s age. She wore sandals, denim shorts, and a tiny, flesh-colored halter top; her body paint most improbably proclaimed her an expert sniper.

“Hello, Mr. Yeager.” She held up a book she carried under her arm. “German test tomorrow.”

“Hi, Karen. Come on in.” Sam stood aside so she could. “Jonathan’s already hard at it, I think. Grab yourself a Coke from the icebox and you can give him a hand.”

“It shall be done, superior sir,” she said in the Lizards’ language as she headed for the kitchen. She knew the way; she and Jonathan had gone to Peary High School together, and dated on and off their last year there. Sam followed. If he watched her as he followed-well, then, he did, that was all.

After Karen got the Coke, she chatted with Barbara for a minute or two before heading for Jonathan’s room. There with his wife, Sam didn’t eye her at all. Out of the side of her mouth, Barbara murmured, “Oh, go ahead-enjoy yourself.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sam said virtuously.

“No, eh? A likely story.” Barbara stuck out her tongue at him. “Come on-let’s finish the dishes.”

As he dried the last couple of pots and pans, Yeager listened for the sounds of Teutonic gutturals coming out of Jonathan’s bedroom. He heard them, which meant he kept on drying. Studying with a girl with the door closed was against house rules. Remembering himself at Jonathan’s age, he knew he might have tried to get away with things even with the door open.

“You have an evil mind, Sam,” Barbara said, but he noticed she was cocking her head in the direction of Jonathan’s room every now and then, too.

“Takes one to know one,” he told her, and she stuck out her tongue at him again.

After the dishes were done and put away, he went into the study, turned on the radio, and tuned it to a band the Lizards used. The Race didn’t reveal the details of its plans on public programs, any more than human governments did. But attitudes mattered, too; what they were telling their own people gave some clues about how they would respond to humans.

This was a sort of Lizard-in-the-street program. The interviewer asked, “And what do you think of the Tosevites here in Mexico?”

“They are not so bad. They are not quite so big or so ugly as the males from the conquest fleet made me think they would be,” replied the Lizard he was interviewing, evidently a newly revived colonist. He went on, “They seem friendly enough, too.”

“I am glad to hear it,” said the interviewer, who was as gooey with a microphone in his hand as any human ever born. “And now-”

But the colonist interrupted: “It still seems pretty strange, though: waking up and finding out the Race only owns half this planet, I mean. We ought to do something about that. It is not the way things were supposed to be in the plan, and the plan has to work.”

“Well, of course it does,” the interviewer said, “and of course it will, even if it takes a while longer than we thought it would. Now I shall turn things over to Kekkefu in Australia, who will…”

Sam listened for a while longer, now and then jotting a note. He wondered if the notion that the plan from Home would work but needed more time, which was repeated several times, was intended to get the colonists used to the way things really were by easy stages, or if it reflected the Lizard brass’ true beliefs. If the former, well and good. If the latter, there’d be more trouble ahead. He scribbled a new note.

Karen stuck her head in the door. “Good night, Mr. Yeager.”

He looked up, then looked at his watch. How had it got so late? “Oh. Good night, Karen. I hope you and Jonathan ace that test.”

Had she acted as if she didn’t know what he was talking about, he would have figured she and Jonathan had been studying something other than German-biology, most likely. But she grinned and nodded and headed for the door, so he gave them the benefit of the doubt.

As the pilot opened the hatch to the shuttlecraft, Felless said, “I never imagined my dealings with Tosevites would include dealings with those who have not yet submitted to the Race.”

“If you want to get along with the Deutsche, you will not even think about that yet, superior female,” said the pilot, who was a veteran of the conquest fleet. “As far as they are concerned, they are the biggest and best around. They even call themselves the Master Race sometimes.”

Felless’ mouth opened in a great chortle of mirth. “The impudence!” she exclaimed. “The arrogance!”

But, after she got down out of the shuttlecraft, the Deutsche seemed less impudent, even if she still got a strong impression of how arrogant they were. Their males, wrapped in gray cloth, steel helmets on their heads, automatic rifles in their hands, towered over her, so much so that she wondered if they were specially chosen for height. A couple of Deutsch landcruisers aimed their weapons at the shuttlecraft. They were recognizably the descendants of the machines the Reich had used during the fighting. They were also recognizably more formidable. Not being a soldier, she could not tell if they were a match for those the Race built. If they weren’t, though, they couldn’t have missed by much.

A male in civilian costume-white and black cloth, with a cloth headgear-came up and spoke in the language of the Race: “You are Senior Researcher Felless?”

“I am,” she answered: her first words with a wild Big Ugly.

“I am Franz Eberlein, of the Foreign Ministry,” he said. “You are to present your credentials to me before you may be permitted to enter Nuremberg.”

She had been briefed to expect such a demand. “It shall be done,” she said, knowing it was for form’s sake only. The sheet she gave him was written in both the language of the Race and in the odd, angular characters the Deutsche used to write their language. “Is all in order?” Felless asked, also for form’s sake.

Eberlein seemed to have been reading the document in her tongue, not in his own. “Alles gut,” he said, and then, in the language of the Race, “Everything is good.” He nodded to the soldiers, who, without moving, contrived to look less menacing. Then he turned and waved to the edge of the great concrete slab on which the shuttlecraft had landed. A motor vehicle of Tosevite manufacture approached. “Here is your transport to the embassy of the Race.”

It had, she was glad to see, a male of the Race steering. The Big Ugly from the Foreign Ministry opened the rear door when the vehicle stopped. As Felless went past him, he clicked his heels together and bent at the waist. That was, she had learned, a Tosevite equivalent to the posture of respect.

“Welcome to Nuremberg, Senior Researcher,” the driver said. “I hope you will forgive me for a lack of conversation as we go. This vehicle has no automatic control, so I must pay attention to the road and to the Big Uglies using it. If I cause a crash, the Race is liable for damages.”

“Which Tosevites are liable for damages from the destruction of the ships from the colonization fleet?” Felless asked. The male did not answer, perhaps because he was minding the road, perhaps because the question, as yet, had no good answer.

Big Uglies stared at Felless and her driver as they went into the capital of the Greater German Reich. She stared, too, at what had to be the most bombastic architecture she’d ever seen. The Race, for the most part, built for reasons purely practical. It had not always been so, not quite, but even the very slow change the Empire knew had long since made other styles extinct.

Not here. When the Deutsche put up buildings, they seemed to want to boast about how splendid they were. The driver explained what some of the buildings were: “That is the congress hall of the leading political faction here, the Nazis. It can hold fifty thousand. That sports palace holds four hundred thousand, though few are close enough to see well. This open area with the stands on either side is for ritualistic rallies. The Nazis have turned their ideology almost into a sort of emperor-worship. And now, as we go farther north, we come to the grand avenue, where our embassy and those of other Tosevite not-empires are located.”

Felless was not sure what made the avenue so grand. It was much wider than it needed to be, which sparked a thought. “These Big Uglies seem to equate size and grandeur,” she said.

“Truth,” the driver agreed. Looking ahead, Felless saw a familiar, functional cube of a building in the middle of the absurdly ornate structures all around. The male pointed to it. “There is our embassy. By the Tosevites’ usages, it is reckoned part of the Empire. Our males guard it, not Big Uglies.”

“This is a surprisingly sophisticated concept,” Felless said.

“They insist on reciprocity, however,” the driver said in disparaging tones as he pulled to a halt in front of the building. “The soldiers of the independent not-empires protect their embassies in Cairo.”

As far as Felless was concerned, that showed almost intolerable arrogance on the Big Uglies’ part. She got out of the motorcar, which was heated to a level she found comfortable, and hurried inside the embassy. The males of the conquest fleet had dusted off a most archaic word there: the Race had had no need for embassies since the Empire unified Home.

Ambassador was a similarly obsolete term that turned out to be useful on Tosev 3. The Race’s ambassador to the Reich, a male named Veffani, soon summoned Felless to his office. “I greet you, Senior Researcher,” he said politely.

“I greet you.” Felless eyed him with no small curiosity. “Tell me, superior sir, if you will-is that the body paint ambassadors wore in ancient days, or were you compelled to devise something new?”

Pride rang in Veffani’s voice: “It is authentic. Research provided an image of an ambassador from long, long ago, and my body paint matches his in every particular.”

“Excellent! I am glad to hear it,” Felless said. With some reluctance, she pulled her mind away from the distant past of Home and toward here and now on Tosev 3. “My thanks for giving me this opportunity to sit in on your meeting with the not-emperor of the Deutsche tomorrow. The experience I gain should be valuable.”

“I hope that may be so, Senior Researcher,” Veffani said. “The interview will be at his residence, and conducted through a Tosevite interpreter. The one Himmler uses is reasonably fluent in our language; you should have no difficulty following what both sides say.”

“Again, I thank you, superior sir,” Felless said. “What should I look for in this-Hitler, was that the name?”

“No. Himmler. Hitler was his predecessor. Hitler was the most willful intelligent being I have ever met or, indeed, ever imagined. Himmler followed him after arcane political maneuverings no one of the Race fully understands. Before, he was in charge of the Deutsch secret police-and, in fact, he still is. He is less flamboyant, less strident, and also, I believe, less intelligent than Hitler. The one thing he is not is less stubborn. This, you will find, is a common factor among Tosevite leaders. The British Big Ugly named Churchill…” Veffani made distressed noises.

Felless shrugged. As far as she was concerned, one Big Ugly was very much like another. “Where will you quarter me in the meanwhile?” she asked, a not so subtle hint.

Veffani, fortunately, recognized it for what it was. “One of the secretaries will show you to a visitor’s chamber,” he replied. “You will, of course, want to settle in. The appointment with Himmler is at midmorning; I will see you then. As Tosevites go, the Deutsche are a punctual folk.”

“I shall not delay you,” Felless promised, and she didn’t. The same driver took her and Veffani to the Deutsch not-emperor’s residence so that they arrived just before the appointed time. A couple of tall Tosevites in long black mantlings and high-crowned caps that made them look even taller escorted the ambassador and the researcher into Himmler’s presence. The room in which the Deutsch not-emperor received them was, by Tosevite standards, bare, being ornamented only by a Deutsch hooked-cross banner and by a portrait of a Tosevite whom Felless recognized as Hitler by the peculiar little growth of hair under his snout.

Himmler had a growth of hair there, too, but one of a more common pattern for Big Ugly males. He looked at Veffani and Felless through corrective lenses, then spoke in his gargling language. As promised, the translator used the language of the Race well: “He greets you in a polite and cordial way.”

“Return similar greetings on behalf of my associate and myself,” Veffani said.

“It shall be done,” the translator said.

Himmler listened. Big Uglies had more mobile features than the Race, but he seemed schooled at holding his face still. Veffani said, “You know the SSSR and the United States both accuse the Reich of attacking the colonization fleet.”

“Of course they do,” Himmler said. He was an alien, but Felless thought she heard indifference in his voice. She could not imagine how he could be indifferent till he went on, “What else would they say? If they say anything else, they endanger themselves. I deny it. I have always denied it. What the Reich does, it does not deny. It proclaims.”

Felless knew that held some truth. The ideology of the Deutsche seemed to involve continual boasting. Master Race indeed, she thought scornfully.

Unruffled, Veffani said, “They have evidence for their claims.”

“The usual forgeries?” Yes, Himmler was indifferent, chillingly so. “I have seen this so-called evidence. The U.S. and Soviet claims contradict each other. They cannot both be true. They can both be lies. They are. We have given you much better evidence concerning the Soviet Union.” By better, Felless took him to mean more plausible, not necessarily true.

Veffani took him the same way. The ambassador said, “I have my own evidence that several Deutsch soldiers crossed the border into Poland the other day. They have no right to do this-Poland is still ours. I insist that they be punished.”

“They already have been,” Himmler said. “Details of the punishment will be furnished to you.”

“I also require an apology to the Race,” Veffani said.

“We would not have punished them if we thought they were right,” the Deutsch not-emperor said. “Since we have punished them, we must reckon them wrong. This makes any further apology unnecessary.”

He was logical. He was reasonable. Had he been a male of the Race, he might have been a schoolmaster. He also headed a notempire that specialized in killing off certain groups of Big Uglies living within it for no logical, rational reason the Race had ever been able to find. Even as Veffani conceded that, under the circumstances Himmler had outlined, no apology would be necessary, Felless studied the Tosevite not-emperor. For his kind, he seemed utterly ordinary. Somehow, that made him more alarming, not less.


Having composed the document about which she’d been thinking for some time, Kassquit was polishing it when the speaker by the door hissed, announcing that someone outside wanted to come in. “Who is it?” she asked, using her fingerclaw to make the document vanish from her computer screen.

“I: Ttomalss,” came the reply.

“Come in, superior sir,” she said. “You are welcome.” That last was not altogether true, but she couldn’t do anything about it. She intended to present the document to Ttomalss when she finished it, but she didn’t want him seeing it till she did. And how could she work on it while he was here?

“I greet you, Kassquit,” he said as the door slid open to reveal his familiar face and form.

“I greet you, superior sir,” she replied. As she bent into the posture of respect, she realized how glad she was that he did not have Felless with him. No matter how the other researcher might have apologized, she still looked on Kassquit as half alien, half animal. When she was with Ttomalss, he seemed to look on Kassquit the same way. When he visited her by himself, though, he came closer to treating her as if she were a female of the Race in all fashions.

Whatever Ttomalss wanted now, he looked to be having some difficulty coming to the point. He said, “I am glad you have grown out of hatchlinghood and into something approaching maturity.”

“I thank you, superior sir,” Kassquit said gravely. “I am also glad of this as it makes me less of a burden for you and more readily able to care for myself.”

“You are gracious, Kassquit,” Ttomalss said.

“I know I was more difficult to raise than a proper hatchling would have been, superior sir, and I applaud your patience in caring for me as you have,” Kassquit said. “I cannot help it if I was not so ready to begin life on my own as a hatchling of the Race would have been.”

Ttomalss shrugged. “Now that the experience is behind me, I can truthfully say not all of it was negative. You must know that, while you were more dependent than a hatchling of the Race, you also acquired language more readily than such a hatchling would be likely to do. Once I could communicate with you, matters did improve considerably.”

“I am glad to hear this,” Kassquit said, one of the larger understatements of her young life. Usually, comparisons between the way she looked or behaved and the standards of the Race were to her disadvantage. Praise fell on her like rain on a desert that rarely saw it: a figure applicable to large stretches of Home.

“It is the truth,” Ttomalss said. “And it is also the truth, as I mentioned before, that you are now mature, or nearly so.”

He was uncomfortable. Something was wrong. For the life of her, Kassquit couldn’t tell what. Sometimes the direct approach worked well. She tried it now: “What is troubling you, superior sir? If it is anything with which I can help, you know that is my privilege as well as my duty.”

It didn’t work, not this time. It only made Ttomalss even twitchier than before. He strode back and forth across the chamber, his toeclaws clicking off metal, his tailstump twitching in agitation. At last, with what looked like a distinct effort of will, he stopped and cautiously turned one eye turret toward her. He said, “Are you aware that this chamber can be illuminated with infrared light, light to which your eyes-and, to a lesser degree, mine as well-do not respond?”

Kassquit stared. She could not imagine a greater irrelevancy. Puzzled still, she said, “I did not know such a thing could be done in this chamber, no. I did know it could be done, speaking more generally. Landcruisers, for example, can see targets by these infrared rays even in complete darkness.”

“Yes, that is so,” Ttomalss agreed. He started pacing again. His tailstump twitched harder than ever. “That is precisely one of the purposes for which infrared rays are useful: seeing in what would otherwise be darkness, I mean.”

“Well, of course,” Kassquit said, still trying to understand why he was so agitated. Then she grew agitated herself, remembering the last time he and Felless had visited her together, and what she’d been doing when they visited her. “You have been observing me in the dark,” she whispered.

Blood rushed to her cheeks and ears and scalp, as it did when she was mortified. He had seen her when she evoked pleasure by stroking her private parts. Of course she was mortified. What else could she be? By pleasuring herself thus, she proved beyond any hope of contradiction that she was a Big Ugly and not anything even close to a proper female of the Race.

She looked up at the ceiling in shame. “I did not think you knew, superior sir,” she said, whispering still.

“I know,” Ttomalss said. “I have known for some time. I am not angry, Kassquit.” He used an emphatic cough to stress that. “I am not even disappointed in you. Please understand that. You are not only a product of your environment. You are also a product of your biology. If it were otherwise, you would now be a female of the Race, not… what you are.”

“Why do you tell me this?” Kassquit asked. “Could you not have observed in silence and discretion?”

“I could have, yes,” Ttomalss said. “I did, in fact. But now choices must be made: not this instant, you understand-we are not hasty, after all, as the wild Tosevites are-but consideration must nonetheless begin.”

“I suppose so,” Kassquit said reluctantly. “What you say makes good logical sense.” What she felt when she touched herself, though, was about as far removed from good logical sense as anything could be. The Race, as far as she knew, was logical all the time. She wished she could be. Except when she was touching herself, she wished she could be. Then… She didn’t know what she wished then, except that it could go on forever.

Ttomalss said, “I must tell you, Kassquit, this is not easy for me. Matters pertaining to Tosevite reproduction behavior are most alien to the Race, and lie at the heart of the differences between us and the Big Uglies.”

He is embarrassed, too, Kassquit realized. Had he not felt it to be his duty to bring this up with her, he would without a doubt have been happier saying nothing. She admired him for doing his duty despite embarrassment.

She said, “What are my possibilities, superior sir? The only ones I can see are continuing my present behavior and not continuing it… and not continuing it, at least occasionally, would be difficult for me.” Without some sort of release when the pressure of not quite belonging to the Race grew too great, what would she do? She had no idea. She did not want to have to find out.

“I understand,” Ttomalss said. “That is, I understand as well as our differences in biology permit me to understand. Tosevite females have the potential to be sexually available to males at all seasons of the year. From this, it follows that there would be interest in and desire for activities pertaining to mating throughout the year as well. Your behavior seems to affirm this.”

“I suppose you may be correct, superior sir,” Kassquit said, “although I have never thought of what I do as a mating behavior, only as something that gives me pleasure.”

“Mating behavior is designed to give pleasure, to ensure that organisms continue to pursue it,” Ttomalss said. Kassquit made an affirmative hand gesture; she had encountered that concept before. Ttomalss went on, “There are, or could be, other possibilities available to you besides those you mention, though they might require considerable discussion before they could be implemented.”

“What other possibilities?” Kassquit demanded. “If any other researchers have raised Big Uglies from hatchlinghood, I am not aware of it.”

“No, nothing of the sort,” Ttomalss said. “It might have been better-I daresay it would have been better-for researchers other than myself to have undertaken such a project, but none chose to. Other than myself, none had the patience for it.”

“I understand, superior sir,” Kassquit said. “You have spoken many times of the difficulties involved in rearing Tosevite hatchlings. This being so, what other alternatives are there for me?”

Ttomalss let out a hissing sigh. “If the urge to mate grows uncontrollable, I suppose it could be arranged to bring a male up from the surface of Tosev 3 to attend to the matter. I do not urge this course, mind you; I merely mention it as a possibility.”

“A-wild Tosevite?” Kassquit used the negative hand gesture. “I think not, superior sir. I want as little acquaintance with the Big Uglies as I may have; my destiny, for better or worse, is with the Race.”

“I agree, Kassquit,” Ttomalss said gravely. “But, however much your spirit may belong to the Race, it is housed in a Tosevite body with Tosevite hormonal urges. The strength of these we are still in the process of ascertaining, but everything we have learned proves they are not to be despised.”

Kassquit bent into the posture of respect again. “You are generous, superior sir, to show me so much consideration. But, first, I do not wish to meet any wild Tosevite males.” She used an emphatic cough. “And, second, you understand that I am as ignorant of proper Tosevite mating behavior as the Race was before coming to this world. I suppose there is such a thing as proper Tosevite mating behavior; however beastly they may act, Big Uglies are not beasts.”

“This is all truth.” Ttomalss sounded surprised, and soon showed why: “It is also truth that did not occur to me. If you wish to learn more of Tosevite mating behavior, you may consult our archives on the subject.” He gave her the code by which she could retrieve them from the data system.

“I thank you, superior sir,” Kassquit said. “I did not realize these archives existed. One cannot search for what one does not know is there.”

“Again, truth,” Ttomalss said. “Examine some of them, if you care to. It may help influence your decision. And now, having said what I came to say, I shall depart.” He did, with every sign of relief.

Kassquit went back to the computer. She intended to call up the document on which she had been working, the one in which she was requesting increased autonomy from Ttomalss. But here he had come to give her more autonomy of a different sort.

Curiosity overcame her. She supposed she had known it would. She used the access code Ttomalss had given her. The computer screen showed two wild, unshaven Tosevites coupling. Kassquit watched with fascination and horror mixed. The posture struck her as absurd, and what the male was doing as unlikely to cause pleasure. It looked, in fact, as if it ought to be acutely painful.

Evidently it was not, though. The female gave signs of the same pleasure Kassquit knew when stroking herself. The male’s deeper groans seemed to be of the same kind, even if different in degree. After the recording finished, the computer menu asked if she wanted to view another. She gave an affirmative response.

Again, fascination and disgust warred. Some of the practices in which the Big Uglies indulged looked most unsanitary. Finally, Kassquit turned off the computer. She was very, very glad she had not asked Ttomalss to supply her with a wild Tosevite male.

Monique Dutourd stopped her bicycle in front of a public telephone kiosk on her way home from the university. Before she slid off the bicycle, though, she shook her head and started pedaling again, this time up a side street. A phone on her regular route was too likely to be tapped. After a few blocks, she came to another kiosk, this one in front of a little market.

“Better,” she said, and let down the kickstand. Before she approached the telephone, she looked all around, making certain the coast was clear. She even stuck her head into the market, to make sure Sturmbannfuhrer Dieter Kuhn was not lurking there after outthinking her. The fellow inside washing squashes-rather a handsome young man, with a diabolical little chin beard-waved and blew her a kiss. She ignored him, as she ignored half a dozen casual invitations every day.

Rummaging in her purse, she found a twenty-five pfennig coin and put it in the telephone’s coin slot. She was glad to hear a dial tone; she would not have wanted to place the call through an operator. She still wondered if she ought to be placing it at all. But surely the brother from whom she’d been so long separated got other calls. What was one more?

Everything, Monique thought. Everything, or maybe nothing.

She dialed the number. Finding it had taken a long time, and meant dealing with people of a sort she’d had nothing to do with since the tense days just after the fighting stopped. She hadn’t trusted them then; she still did not. For all she knew, they’d taken her money and given her a number that would connect her with the city pound. And if they had, maybe that was just as well.

The telephone rang… and rang, and rang. Monique was about to hang up, get her quarter-mark back, and give up the whole thing as a bad job when someone answered: “Allo? Who’s there?”

Monique had not expected a woman with a sexy voice on the other end of the line. Flustered, she blurted, “Let me talk to Pierre.”

“And who the devil are you?” From sexy, the voice went to hard and suspicious in the blink of an eye.

“I’m his sister,” Monique said desperately.

“You’re a lying bitch, is what you are,” the other woman snapped. “He hasn’t got a sister. So he’s two-timing me again, is he? He’ll be sorry.”

“I am not. He has. And he isn’t,” Monique said. “Tell him I remember that the name of the dog we had when he went off to war was Alexandre.”

She waited to discover whether the woman would hang up on her. Silence stretched. At last, the woman said, “He has spoken of this dog to me. I do not think-I could be wrong, but I do not think-he would have spoken of it to any of his whores. You wait. I will see if he will speak to you.”

Wait Monique did. The operator frightened her out of a week’s growth by demanding another twenty-five pfennigs. She paid. The operator got off the line again.

Another man came onto it. “Tell me your name,” he said, his voice strange and familiar at the same time.

“Pierre? I am your sister Monique, Monique Dutourd,” she answered.

As she hadn’t expected a woman to answer the phone, so the sigh now also took her by surprise. “Well, I might have known you would catch up with me sooner or later,” he said. “Life at the university finally got boring, eh?”

“You know about me?” That struck her as the most unfair thing she’d ever heard.

He laughed. “My business is knowing things, little sister. The more things you know, the better, and the more you can do with them.”

“You sound just like the SS man who’s looking for you,” Monique said, angry enough to try to blast him out of his complacency.

But he laughed. “He can keep looking. Go on back home. Study your inscriptions. Forget all about it. I wish Kuhn had kept his damned mouth shut, that’s all.” If he knew the German’s name, maybe he did know everything about her.

“Be careful, Pierre,” she said. “Don’t do anything foolish.”

“Don’t you worry about me,” he said. “I-Ah, the bastards are trying to tap the line. So long.” He hung up. The phone rang. The operator demanded yet another quarter of a mark. Monique paid again. She got back on her bicycle and headed home.

How had Pierre known what the Germans were doing? Dieter Kuhn had said he was too cozy with the Lizards to suit the Reich. Maybe they’d given him a gadget that would tell him such things. People had gained on the Lizards since the days when the conquest fleet came, but the aliens’ electronics still outdid anything mere humans made.

Monique was struggling with an intractable inscription when the telephone in her flat rang. She guessed who it might be before she lifted the handset from its cradle. And sure enough, Dieter Kuhn spoke in precise, German-accented French: “Good afternoon, Monique. A very interesting lecture, as always, and a very interesting telephone call as well. It did not help me so much as I might have liked, but it was interesting nonetheless.”

How much of her conversation with her brother had he heard? Had he heard any? Were his gadgets better than Pierre thought they were? Or was he running a bluff, hoping Monique would tell him more than he already knew?

Automatic distrust for Germans made her suspect the latter. She said, “I told you I did not want you calling me any more.”

“My dear Professor Dutourd, I am not calling on a social occasion, I assure you,” Kuhn answered, still precise, still polite, but suddenly with iron in his voice that hadn’t been there before. “I am calling in regard to the security of the Greater German Reich.” French was not in the habit of capitalizing nouns, as German was. Monique heard, or imagined she heard, capital letters thudding into place just the same.

Picking her words with care, she said, “I don’t know anything more about the security of the Great German Reich than I did when you took me to Chez Fonfon, and I knew nothing then. You said as much yourself. The other thing I will tell you is that I do not desire to know anything more, either.”

“Ah, Monique,” he said, trying without much luck to sound playful, “you know at least one thing more than you did then: a certain telephone number.” Before she could do any more than begin to wonder whether he really had it, he rattled it off.

“If you already knew that number, why did you need me?” she demanded. “You could have done whatever you were going to do, and I would never have been the wiser.” Like so many in the lands the Reich occupied, she saw staying out of the eye of the authorities as the highest good.

“For one thing, I did not have that number until the day after you did,” Kuhn answered. “For another, as I already told you, it is not so useful. It does not lead me directly to your brother. He has some verdammte Lizard machinery that relays from that telephone to wherever he happens to be. We know of this machinery, but we cannot match it.”

“What a pity,” Monique murmured, all but hugging herself with glee at having her guess confirmed. She felt extraordinarily clever, as if she’d proved what had killed Augustus’ right-hand man Agrippa.

“Another ten years,” the SS officer said. “Maybe less.” That brought her up short. Humanity had been at least fifty years-maybe twice that far-behind the Lizards when the conquest fleet arrived. Had the gap really narrowed so much so fast? In another generation, would the Lizards fall behind? There was an alarmingly modern thought for a Roman historian.

But then it was gone, replaced by one more urgent at the moment: “Can’t you just leave me alone?”

“I’m sorry,” Dieter Kuhn told her, and he actually did sound sorry. How good an actor was he? Pretty good, by everything she’d seen. He went on, “When we deal with the Lizards here inside the Reich, we want it to be on our terms, not theirs. Your brother makes that harder.”

“When you deal with anyone anywhere, you want it to be on your terms.” Only after the words were out of her mouth did Monique wonder whether Kuhn would take that as politically irresponsible. To her, they’d seemed a self-evident truth, as much a given as tomorrow’s sunrise.

They seemed that way to him, too. With a chuckle, he said, “Aber naturlich,” and then went back to French: “That is the way of the strong with the weak.”

“And who is strong and who is weak, between the Reich and the Lizards?” Monique asked: almost but not quite a rhetorical question.

“Oh, they are stronger, no doubt about it,” Dieter Kuhn answered at once, for which she reluctantly gave him credit. “But we are-or we had better be-strong enough to make the rules on our own territory. Do you want the Lizards back again?”

“I am not a political person. It is not wise for anyone French to be a political person. And so I do not have to answer that question,” Monique said. “And now, if you will excuse me, I would like to go back to my work.”

She started to hang up the phone. Before she could move it more than a few centimeters, Kuhn said, “Wait.” His voice had the flat snap of command. Even as she obeyed, she wondered where he’d learned it. He couldn’t be old enough to have fought against the Lizards when the conquest fleet landed.

“What do you want with me?” she cried. She wished he’d only been trying to seduce her; that, she could have dealt with, even if he’d succeeded. Here she felt like a mouse trying not to let a rhinoceros trample it. No, two rhinoceri: Kuhn had made it plain the Lizards were in this up to their eye turrets, too.

“Your help, for the sake of mankind,” Kuhn answered.

Some Frenchmen wore field-gray uniforms with tricolor patches on the left sleeves and coal-scuttle helmets with tricolor shields painted on them. They thought they were serving for the sake of mankind. As far as she was concerned, they were serving for the sake of the Nazis. “Were you not listening when I said I cared nothing for politics?” she asked.

“I listened. I chose not to hear,” Kuhn said. “Monique, it would be unfortunate if you failed to cooperate with us. It would be both professionally and personally unfortunate. I would regret that. You would regret it more.”

“I will not betray my brother, damn you,” Monique whispered. This time, she managed to hang up before the Sturmbannfuhrer ordered her not to.

Afterwards, though, she stood by the phone, waiting for it to ring again, waiting for Dieter Kuhn to give her more orders in his calm, reasonable voice. No, she thought fiercely. I will not. Not for anything. You can do whatever you want to me.

She wondered how true that was. She’d never thought of herself as the stuff from which heroes were made. The Spartan boy had smiled when the fox under his cloak gnawed his belly. She was sure she would have screamed her head off. Who wouldn’t have? Who couldn’t have? A hero-and she wasn’t.

The telephone did not ring. Eventually, she went back to her desk and tried to get more work done. She accomplished very little. Looking back on it, she found it startling she’d accomplished anything at all. She kept glancing over toward the phone, and toward the front door. One day soon, she would hear a ring, or a knock. She was sure of that. She could feel it in her bones. Then she would have to find out just how much of a hero hid inside her.

As Reuven Russie came into the house, he announced, “Mother, I asked Jane Archibald if she’d have supper here with us tonight, and she said she would.”

“All right,” Rivka Russie answered. “I’m making beef-and-barley soup. I’ll put in some more barley and onions and carrots. There’ll be plenty.” She didn’t say anything about putting in more beef. Meat was harder to come by than produce. From what Reuven had learned from the Lizards, too much meat wasn’t good for the human organism. Fat clogged the arteries, leading to heart attacks and strokes. But it tastes so good, he thought, wishing he’d skipped a lesson.

“Esther, chop the onion,” his mother called to his twin sisters. “Judith, take care of the carrots.”

“Maybe you could throw them in the soup pot,” Reuven suggested. Before anyone could answer, he shook his head and went on, “No, don’t bother-I know they would spoil the taste of the soup.”

That got him a couple of almost inaudibly shrill squeals of rage, as he’d hoped it would. It also got him a dire threat: one of the twins-he couldn’t tell which-said, “Wait till you see what happens to your friend tonight. She’ll be sorry she ever came around here.”

They’d done that before. They could be holy terrors when they chose-and even more terrifying when they chose to show how smart they were. But Reuven said, “Good luck. It’s Jane tonight. You weren’t listening-and what else is new?”

As he’d hoped, his sisters shut up. Jane Archibald did intimidate them. For one thing, they had most of the height they’d have as adults, but almost none of the shapes they’d acquire. Jane was, most emphatically, a woman. And, for another, she was too good-natured to let them get her goat. They’d tried before, without any luck. Reuven hoped that didn’t mean they’d try especially hard tonight.

His father came in a few minutes later. From the kitchen, his mother called, “Moishe, you have a letter from your cousin in the RAF.”

“What’s in it?” Moishe Russie asked.

“How should I know?” Rivka answered. “It’s in English. David speaks Yiddish well enough, he reads it, but I’ve never yet known him to try and write it.”

“I’ll read it if you want, Father,” Reuven said. He saw the letter on the table by the sofa.

“Never mind,” his father said. He saw the sheet of paper, too. “My English can always use practice. It’s not perfect, but I can use it.”

“You’ll get some more practice in a little while,” Reuven said. “Jane is coming to supper, and then we’re going to study.”

Moishe Russie raised an eyebrow. “Is that what young people call it these days?” Reuven’s ears got hot. His father went on, “Should be interesting dinner-table conversation: Hebrew, English, and bits of the Lizards’ language to fill in the cracks. Arabic, too, I shouldn’t wonder. Jane has bits, doesn’t she?”

“Hard to live here without learning some.” Reuven made a sour face. “Allahu akbar, for instance.” He pointed to the letter, which his father had picked up. “What does your cousin have to say?”

“He’s your cousin, too,” Moishe pointed out, “only once further removed.” He read on; glum vertical lines filled his face. “It’s getting harder for his family to get by in Britain, even in Northern Ireland. Little by little, being next door to the Reich is turning the British into anti-Semites.”

“That’s not good,” Reuven said, and his father nodded. He went on, “He should take his family out while he still can and come here. If he can’t come here, he should go to the USA. From everything you’ve always told me, too many people stayed in Poland too long.” He wished he remembered even less of Poland than was the case.

We certainly stayed in Poland too long,” his father said, and tacked on an emphatic cough. “If the Lizards hadn’t come, we’d probably all be dead. If the Lizards hadn’t come, all the Jews in Poland would probably be dead.”

“Hitler and Himmler have certainly done their best, haven’t they?” Reuven said.

Moishe Russie shook his head. He couldn’t be flippant about it. “I can’t imagine England going the same way, but they’re starting down the path.” He lowered the letter for a moment, and in that moment looked older and tireder than Reuven ever remembered seeing him. Then he plainly made himself go back to reading. When he frowned a moment later, it was a different sort of frown, one of puzzlement rather than mourning.

“What is it, Father?” Reuven asked.

“He’s wondering if I know anything about a couple of shipments of ginger that went awry,” his father answered. “It seems an officer in a position to do him either a great deal of harm or a great deal of good is somehow involved in the ginger traffic, and wants to use him to use me to find out what happened to them and how to keep it from happening again.”

“And will you try to find out?” It was the obvious question, but still needed asking.

“Yes, I think so,” Moishe said. “Ginger smuggling does the Lizards a lot of harm, I know that. And the Lizards have done us a lot of good. But David is family, and things are looking dark in Britain these days, so I’ll find out what I can. If it does him some good… He broke into a Lizard prison to get me out, so how could I help doing everything I can for him?”

Reuven hadn’t heard that story for a long time, and had forgotten most of it. Before he could ask any questions, though, someone knocked on the front door. Whatever the questions had been, they went clean out of his head. “That will be Jane,” he said, and hurried to let her in.

She carried books and notebooks on her back in a khaki pack a British soldier might have used before the fighting stopped. Shrugging it off, she gave a sigh of relief. Then, in accented Hebrew, she said, “Good evening, Dr. Russie.”

“Hello, Jane,” Reuven’s father answered in English. “I will practice in your language. I do not get to speak it so often.”

“All right by me,” Jane said. “Better than all right by me, as a matter of fact.” Her smile was bemused. “I still find it hard to believe I’m taking supper with the man my school is named for.”

Moishe Russie shrugged. “I was in the right place at the right time-an English saying, isn’t it? But you had better be careful-you will make Reuven jealous.”

“Thanks a lot, Father,” Reuven muttered under his breath. He’d worried that Judith and Esther might embarrass him. Well, his father had taken care of that for the evening.

His sisters came out and stared at Jane, as if wondering what they would look like when they grew up. They wouldn’t look like her; they were both thin-faced and dark like Reuven, not pink and blond. If their figures came close to Jane’s, though, they’d need to carry clubs to hold boys at bay.

“Supper’s ready,” Rivka Russie called a few minutes later. She made sure Jane got a couple of marrow bones in her bowl. The Australian girl didn’t waste them; she worked the marrow free with her knife and spooned it up. “That’s good,” she said. “Takes me back, it does. My mum would make a soup not a whole lot different to this.” She frowned. “I do wonder, I truly do, if the Lizards will let me go home after I finish here.”

“Why wouldn’t they?” Esther asked-or maybe it was Judith.

“Because they want Australia all to themselves,” Jane answered. “It never did have very many people in it. They killed a lot of them, and they aren’t worrying very hard about whether the others are sick or well.”

Humanfrei, not Judenfrei,” Reuven murmured in Yiddish. His father winced. His mother scowled at him. His sisters and Jane, perhaps fortunately, didn’t get it.

After supper, Jane helped Rivka and Esther and Judith with the dishes. Moishe Russie lit a cigar. Reuven gave him a reproachful look. His father flushed, but didn’t stub it out. Between puffs, he said, “I got the tobacco habit before I knew-before anybody knew-how dangerous it was. Now people do know-but I still have the habit.”

With the ready intolerance of youth, Reuven remarked, “Well, now that you do know, why don’t you quit?”

“Ask a Lizard ginger-taster why he doesn’t quit, too,” Moishe answered. “He’ll tell you the same thing I do: he can’t.” Reuven raised an eyebrow. He was convinced anyone could do anything if only he applied enough willpower. He had never had to test this theory himself, which helped explain why he remained convinced of it. His father said, “Of course, one of the reasons we didn’t know how dangerous tobacco was is that most people used to die of something else before it killed them.”

“It’s a slow poison, certainly,” Reuven said. “That doesn’t mean it’s not a poison. If the Lizards made us use it, we’d scream bloody murder-and we’d have a right to.”

“Scream bloody murder about what?” Jane asked, returning from the kitchen.

“Tobacco,” Reuven answered.

“Oh, of course,” she agreed-she didn’t smoke, either. “Nasty stuff.” Only then did she notice Moishe’s cigar. A little defensively, she said, “Well, it is.”

“Do you hear me quarreling with you?” Reuven’s father asked. “I know what it is. I keep smoking anyhow.”

“Speaking of nasty stuff…” Reuven pulled out his biochemistry text. “Did you understand one word of today’s lecture? He might as well have been speaking Hindustani for all the sense it made to me.”

“I got some of it, anyhow,” Jane said. “Here, look…” From then on, most of the conversation was in the Lizards’ language. That effectively excluded Reuven’s mother, but she didn’t let it bother her. She sat down in the front room and embroidered for a while and then, blowing a kiss to Reuven and nodding to Jane, headed for the bedroom.

Judith and Esther were less philosophical about being left in the dark. “I think all those funny noises are just an excuse so they can talk mushy to each other,” one of them said to the other in Hebrew. They both giggled. Reuven hoped Jane hadn’t understood. By the way she raised an eyebrow, she had.

Reuven took a deep breath, preparatory to reading his little sisters the riot act. Before he could, his father looked up from the newspaper he was reading. “They aren’t doing anything of the sort,” Moishe Russie told the twins. “Kindly keep quiet and let them work, or you can go to bed right now.”

He rarely made such dire threats. When he did make them, he meant them. Esther and Judith got very quiet very fast. They didn’t stay quiet long, but they didn’t bother Reuven and Jane any more, either. After a while, Moishe did send them to bed. Jane looked at her watch and said, “I’d better get back to the dorm.”

“Do you want me to walk you back?” Reuven asked. “I know things have quieted down some, but still-” He waited to see what she would say. Last time, she’d turned him down, and she’d got back without trouble.

She thought it over. “All right,” she said at last. “Thanks.”

The night was cool, heading toward chilly. Next to no one was on the streets, for which Reuven was heartily glad. Talking about being a protector was one thing, actually having to do the job something else again. When they got to the dorm-about a fifteen-minute walk from the Russie house-Reuven put his arms around Jane and again waited to see what would happen. She moved toward him instead of away. They kissed for a long time. Then, looking back over her shoulder, she went inside.

Reuven didn’t remember a single step he took all the way home.

Glen Johnson walked into the bar at the Kitty Hawk officers’ club and said, “Scotch over ice, Julius.”

“Yes, suh, Lieutenant Colonel,” said the colored man behind the bar. He was about Johnson’s age, or maybe a few years older, and walked with a limp. He built the drink with casual skill-not that there was anything fancy about scotch on the rocks-and slid it across the polished bar to Johnson. He plied a rag to get rid of the little wet trail the glass left, and contrived to make a couple of quarters disappear as if they’d never been there.

“Mud in your eye,” Johnson said, and sipped the drink. He reached into his pocket, pulled out an FDR half dollar, and set it on the bar by his glass. “Go on, Julius-have one on me. Have a real one, not the phony drinks bartenders usually take. I’m wise to those tricks, I am.”

Julius looked at the big silver coin. He held out his white-jacketed arm to Johnson. “You got to give it a twist.” Chuckling, the Marine pilot did. The barkeep let out a mock yelp for mercy, and Johnson released him. He scooped up the half dollar, then made himself a bourbon and water. “Much obliged, suh.”

“You deserve it,” Johnson said. “Why the hell not? Besides”-he looked around the otherwise empty bar-“I don’t much feel like drinking by my lonesome.”

“You got troubles, suh?” Julius raised the drink-by its color, not a very strong one-to his lips. The liquid in the glass went down hardly at all. No doubt he had practice at nursing a drink all night long. A bartender who drank too much of what he dispensed wouldn’t last long in the business. One who asked sympathetic questions, on the other hand…

“Troubles?” Johnson said thoughtfully. “You know a man without ’em? Christ on His cross, Julius, do you know a Lizard without ’em?”

“Don’t know any man without troubles, no, suh,” the Negro said. “Lizards? I found out more’n I ever wanted to about Lizards during the fighting, and that there’s the God’s truth.” He took another small sip from his bourbon and water, then stared down into the glass, as if wondering whether to go on.

Johnson started to ask him what was on his mind. A glance at Julius told him that, if he ever wanted to find out, he had better keep his mouth shut. He took a few salted peanuts from the bowl on the bar and munched on those instead. Maybe a bartender needed to talk to somebody every once in a while, too.

At last, still not looking up from the glass in front of him, Julius quietly asked, “I ever tell you before, Lieutenant Colonel, that I was born and raised in Florida?”

“No, as a matter of fact, you never did,” Johnson said. If he’d let it go at that, he never would have found out anything more. But, as he put together Julius’ color, his age, his limp, and now his place of birth… The pilot’s eyes widened. “You don’t mean to tell me you were one of those-?” He stopped in some confusion. He didn’t know how to say it, not in a way that wouldn’t put the bartender’s back up.

“One o’ those colored boys that fought for the Lizards? Is that what you was gonna say, suh?” Julius asked.

“Well, yeah.” Johnson knocked back his drink. He laid more money on the bar. “Give me another one of those, would you? Christ, how did you end up doing something like that? I mean, I know your unit mutinied against the scaly bastards, but how did you get sucked in in the first place?”

“I was hungry,” Julius answered simply. “Everybody was hungry back then, you know-colored folks worse’n most, I reckon, an’ the fighting killed all my livestock and knocked my farm all to hell. So when the Lizards came around an’ promised they’d feed everybody who joined up good, I went.”

The pilot raised his glass. “That wasn’t the only thing they promised you, was it? The way I remember, they promised black men a chance to take it out on whites, too.” He grimaced. “I hate to say it, but that wasn’t the stupidest thing they ever did.”

Julius studied him. Here in North Carolina, things were still anything but easy for Negroes in spite of Martin Luther King and his preaching. Johnson saw him weighing how much he could say. After a long, long silence, the barman said, “Well, I’d be lyin’ if I told you there wasn’t some who wanted that. Like you said, suh, the Lizards sort of knew what they was doin’ there. But most o’ the fellas who signed up did it on account of their bellies was rubbin’ up against their backbones, same as me.”

He chuckled, looking back across a good many years. “They had this one drill sergeant, Lieutenant Colonel, he scare the shell off a snappin’ turtle. Lord, was that man mean! But he was a good sergeant, I reckon. He’d been in the Army in the First World War, so he knew what he was doin’. An’ anybody who wasn’t more scared o’ him than whoever we was gonna fight was a natural-born damn fool.”

“I’ve known drill sergeants like that,” Johnson said. “I have indeed. But was this fellow for the Lizards, or was he just in it for three squares a day like you?”

“I truly don’t know, on account of nobody ever had the nerve to find out,” Julius answered. “When the Lizards reckoned we was ready, they took some o’ their soldiers out of the line they was holdin’ against the U.S. Army and put us in. First time we went into action-Lord! You should have seen how fast we threw down them guns an’ threw up our hands.”

“All of you?” Johnson asked.

The bartender hesitated again. Johnson didn’t suppose he could blame him. He wouldn’t have wanted to admit anything that brought his race discredit, either. “Hell, it don’t matter none now,” Julius said, more than half to himself. He looked over at Johnson. “No, not all of us, God damn it. Like I said, some o’ those boys flat hated white folks, hated ’em worse’n they hated the Lizards. What they said was, the Lizards was honest-to them, everybody was a nigger. And they fought. They fought like sons of bitches. Don’t reckon there’s one of ’em came out of that battle alive. So what do you think of that, Lieutenant Colonel?”

Johnson shrugged. “It was a long time ago, and they’re all dead, like you say, so it doesn’t make a hell of a lot of difference what I think. Was that when you got wounded?”

“Noticed I ain’t so spry, did you?” Julius said. “Yeah, I was tryin’ to surrender and this damnfool kid-he couldn’t have been seventeen, even-shot me on account of he reckoned I was foolin’. Hurt like hell.”

“Oh, yes,” Johnson said. “It’s not a picnic out there, is it? And the crazy thing is, the politicians who send the soldiers out have fought in wars themselves, or a lot of them have. But they go ahead and give the orders that send out the kids every single time.”

“Sort of different with the Lizards,” Julius observed. “We didn’t have no choice when they went and hit us, and I don’t reckon their Emperor ever did any fighting hisself. From what folks say, the Lizards hadn’t done no fighting for a hell of a long time before they decided to come on over here and take away what’s ours.”

“That’s what I’ve heard, too,” Johnson agreed. “It’s what the Lizards say themselves, as a matter of fact. I don’t swear it’s true, mind you, but I don’t think they’d lie about something like that, something where it’s not to their advantage to lie, if you know what I mean.”

“Yes, suh, I do.” The bartender nodded. “From what I seen of ’em, they don’t lie as much as people any which way. Oh, they will-don’t get me wrong, they will-but they’re a little more honest than just plain people, I reckon. Don’t suppose that did ’em a whole lot o’ good when they come up against the likes of us.”

“We’re a sinful lot, all right,” Johnson said, and Julius nodded. The pilot went on, “Good thing we are, too. We tricked the Lizards as often as we beat ’em fair and square-more often than we beat ’em fair and square, I shouldn’t wonder.” He pointed to the black man. “That’s what your unit did, or most of them, anyway.”

“Yeah, most of ’em.” Julius took another small sip from the drink Johnson had bought him. “Some o’ those boys, they didn’t care how the Lizards treated them, long as they treated white folks the same way.”

Johnson thought it was a good time to finish his own drink. Negroes still didn’t get treated like white men in the United States. He said the most he could say: “It’s better than it used to be.” He didn’t know that from his own experience before the war; up till then, he’d seen only a handful of Negroes. He waited to see how the bartender would respond.

Julius chose his words with care; Johnson got the idea that Julius always chose his words with care. “Yeah, it’s better than it used to be,” the bartender said at last. “But it ain’t as good as it ought to be, you don’t mind my sayin’ so. Doctor King say that, too, an’ he’s right.”

“Nothing here is as good as it ought to be,” Glen Johnson said at once. “That’s what the USA is about-making things better, I mean. The Lizards think what they’ve got is perfect. We know better. We aren’t at the top, but we’re trying to get there.”

The bartender ran his rag over the already-gleaming surface of the bar. “I think you’re right, Lieutenant Colonel, suh, but you got to remember, some of us is closer to the top than the rest.”

Since he didn’t have a good comeback to that one, Johnson asked for another drink instead. He looked around at the empty stools and the empty chairs around the tables. “Slow tonight,” he remarked. “Real slow tonight, as a matter of fact.”

“Yes, suh,” Julius said, giving him another glass of scotch. “You’re about all that’s keepin’ me in business. Otherwise I’d just pack up and go home and see if there was anything good on the TV.”

“Yeah,” Johnson said. He got partway through his third drink before realizing a colored man who’d had some pointed things to say-and with justice-about the inequalities of life in the United States owned a television set. Ten years earlier, that would have been unlikely. Twenty years earlier, it would have been unimaginable, even if the Lizards hadn’t come.

Johnson was about to finish the scotch and head on over to the barracks when Captain Gus Wilhelm came in, spotted him, waved, and sat down beside him. “Looks like you’re ahead of me,” he remarked. “Have to do something about that. Martini might help.” He set coins on the bar. Julius made them disappear.

“I said things were slow tonight,” Johnson told his fellow pilot. “Now they just went and got slower.”

“Heh,” Wilhelm said, and then, remembering protocol, “Heh-sir.” He was in his mid-thirties, and had just got into the Army when the fighting stopped. He raised his glass in salute. “Confusion to the Lizards.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Johnson said, and did. “That’s what this whole planet is-confusion to the Lizards, I mean.”

“Good thing, too,” Wilhelm said. “If they understood us a little better, they would have kicked the crap out of us, and where would we be then? ‘It shall be done, superior sir’ ”-he used the Lizards’ language for the phrase-“that’s where. No way in hell we’d be out in space yet.”

“I won’t argue with that,” said Johnson, who wasn’t inclined to argue with much of anything. He lifted his own glass on high. “Confusion to the Lizards, yeah-and a big thank-you to ’em, too, for making us want to get ourselves off the ground.” Solemnly, both men drank.

“Sir,” Flight Lieutenant David Goldfarb said, “I’ve just had a letter back from my cousin in Palestine.”

“Ah, that’s first-rate, Goldfarb,” Basil Roundbush answered. “There. Do you see? I knew you could do it.” He waved to the Robinsons barmaid. “Another round here, darling.” She smiled and nodded and swayed away to draw two more pints of Guinness. The group captain watched her with the innocent pleasure of a tot in a toy shop.

“Yes, sir.” Goldfarb suppressed a sigh. He hadn’t wanted to get involved in this whole highly unofficial business. Not for the first time in his military career, no one had cared whether he wanted to get involved. “It appears-my cousin had to be careful with the questions he asked, so he’s not perfectly sure-it appears, I say, that things got disarranged in Marseille.”

“Disarranged, eh? That’s not bad.” Roundbush tugged at his mustache. “And Marseille? Why am I not surprised? Was it the bloody Frenchmen or the Nazis who made free with what doesn’t belong to them?”

Goldfarb would have said the Frenchmen or the bloody Nazis. In 1940, Basil Roundbush would have, too. Not now. He would no doubt have said he’d changed with the times. Goldfarb hadn’t. He was glad he hadn’t.

He said, “Moishe doesn’t know that, I’m afraid. Which means the Lizards he was talking to don’t know, either.”

“Well, if they don’t know, they can’t get too upset with us for not knowing,” Roundbush said. The barmaid returned and set their pints of stout in front of them. “Ah, thank you, sweetheart.” He beamed up at her, then turned his attention back to Goldfarb. “You’ve been a good deal of help, old man. You will not find us ungrateful.”

“Thank you, sir,” Goldfarb said, which was not at all what he was thinking. You won’t find us so ungrateful as to murder your wife, or maybe your children. You won’t find us so ungrateful as to trump up a charge to drum you out of the RAF and keep you from finding honest work anywhere else. Roundbush’s friends were generous men, all right. By the standards of today’s Britain, they were extraordinarily generous. Which says more about today’s Britain than it does about generosity.

“Marseille.” Roundbush spoke the name as if it were an off-color word in a language he didn’t speak well. “All sorts of things can go wrong there, no doubt about it. I wonder which one has. I shouldn’t have thought Pierre would play such a shabby trick, but one never can tell.”

“Pierre, sir?” Goldfarb asked. An instant later, he wished he’d kept his mouth shut. The less he knew about his former colleague’s business, the less risk he ran of being drawn into that business.

“Pierre moves things hither and yon,” Roundbush explained. That much, Goldfarb had gathered for himself. The senior RAF officer went on, “He has a finger in every pie in Marseille-and that’s a good many fingers. If he’s taken up thievery, we may have to whisper in the ears of some chums we have there.”

Some German chums we have there. Goldfarb had no trouble figuring out what he meant. He took a long pull at his Guinness to disguise what he was thinking. What had the world come to, if a couple of Jews were helping Englishmen turn Germans loose on Frenchmen?

No. What had come to the world? The Lizards had, and things would, could, never be the same.

“It’s a rum old world,” he said, a sentiment fueled both by his thoughts of a moment before and by the Guinness he’d drunk.

“Too right it is, old man,” Basil Roundbush agreed. Why he should agree, with his good looks, his rank, and his upper-crust accent, was beyond Goldfarb. He went on, “What we have to make sure of is that it’s even more of a rum old world for the Lizards than it is for us.”

“Right,” Goldfarb said tightly. He shouldn’t have gone through the latest pint so fast, for he burst out, “And if we have to get into bed with the Nazi bastards who murdered all my kin they could catch, we just turn out the bloody lights and do it, because we have to pay the Lizards back first.”

Well, that’s torn it, he thought. Whatever Roundbush and his friends decided to do, he hoped they’d do it to him and not to his family. If anything happened to his wife or his children, he didn’t know what he’d do. On second thought, that wasn’t true. He knew exactly what he’d do. He’d go hunting. He didn’t know how many he’d get, but it would be as many as he could.

To his surprise, Group Captain Roundbush nodded in evident sympathy. “I can see how you would feel that way,” he said. “Can’t say that I blame you, even, not sitting where you sit. But can you see there are others who might push the Lizards up to the front of the queue and leave the Jerries behind them?”

“Oh, yes, I can see that. I haven’t even got trouble with it,” Goldfarb answered. If he could speak his mind to Roundbush without the world’s ending, he damn well would: “But what I can’t see is the people who push the Lizards up to the front of the queue and then cozy up to the Jerries because they don’t like the Lizards, either. And there are too damned many of that lot.” He looked defiantly at Roundbush. If the other RAF officer wanted to make something of it, he was ready.

But Roundbush again kept his tone mild. “We haven’t got the empire any more,” he said, as if to a schoolchild. “We aren’t strong enough to pretend the Reich isn’t there, right across the Channel from us.”

“I know that, too.” The other thing Goldfarb knew was that he was floundering; he hadn’t expected these smooth answers. He fell back on an argument with which no one-no one decent-could disagree, or so he was convinced: “Too bloody many people too high up like the Nazis too bloody well.”

“You’ll never make a practical man,” Basil Roundbush said. “But that’s all right, too; you’ve already done the practical men who drive the Lizards crazy a good turn, and we shan’t forget. I’ve already said that, and I mean it.”

“One of the most practical things you and your practical friends could do would be to help my family and me emigrate to Canada or the United States,” Goldfarb said, his voice bitter. “My kin and my wife’s have been lucky to get out of places where the trouble was bad before it got as bad as it could. It’s looking more and more like things will just keep getting worse here.”

“I hope not,” Roundbush said. “I do hope not.” He even sounded as if he meant it. “But if that’s what you want, old boy, I daresay it could be arranged.”

He didn’t even blink. Goldfarb thought he might have deserved some token surprise, something like, Wouldn’t you sooner stay, in view of your service to the country? But no. If he wanted to go, Roundbush would wave bye-bye.

Or maybe he wouldn’t even do that. He said, “One thing you must bear in mind, though, wherever you turn up, is that people may still ask you to do things for them from time to time. You’ve helped once. Easier to unscramble an egg than to stop helping now.”

Goldfarb looked him straight in the eye. “I took the King’s shilling, sir. I never took yours.”

Roundbush rummaged in his pockets till he found a silver coin. He set it in front of David Goldfarb. “Now you have.”

And Goldfarb did not have the nerve to send the shilling flying across the pub. “Damn you,” he said quietly. He was trapped, and he knew it.

“Don’t fret about it,” Roundbush advised him. “We shall do our best not to make our requests”-he didn’t even say demands — “too onerous.” Oh, the trap had velvet jaws. That did not mean it bit any the less.

Tossing back the last of his Guinness, Goldfarb got to his feet. “I’d better head on home, sir. My wife will be wondering what’s become of me.” Naomi knew he was going to have this meeting with Roundbush, but Roundbush didn’t need to know she knew. Roundbush already knew altogether too much about Goldfarb’s affairs.

He didn’t argue now, saying, “Give her my best. You are a lucky dog; if you must stay with one woman, you couldn’t have picked a finer one. One of these days before too long, I may have another small bit of business on which you can lend a hand. Until then-” He gave Goldfarb an affable nod.

Goldfarb stalked out of Robinsons and retrieved his bicycle from the rack in front of the pub. He couldn’t even be properly angry at Roundbush; getting angry at him was like beating the air with your fists. It accomplished nothing.

He pedaled away from the pub at a slow, deliberate pace. With several pints of Guinness in him, it was the best pace he could manage. He didn’t particularly notice the pack of punks on bicycles till they’d surrounded him. “All right, buddy, which is it? Protestant or Catholic?” one of them snarled.

If he guessed wrong, they’d stomp him for the pleasure of putting down heresy. If he guessed right, they might stomp him even so, just for the hell of it. If he laughed in their faces-what would they do then? He tried it.

They looked astonished. That made him laugh harder than ever. “Sorry, boys,” he said when he got some of his breath back. “You can’t have me. The goddamn Nazis have first claim.”

“Bloody hebe,” one of the punks muttered. They all looked disgusted. He realized he wasn’t out of the woods yet. They might decide to stomp him for spoiling their fun. But they didn’t. They rode off. Some of them threw curses over their shoulders as they went, but he’d heard worse in London.

When he got home, he spoke of that first with Naomi. She laughed. “It is better here than in England,” she said. “In England, you would have got into trouble anyhow. Here, they let you go.”

“I wasn’t what they were after, that’s all,” he answered. “That doesn’t mean they weren’t after somebody. And besides, I’ve got more important people after me.” He told his wife of what had passed with Basil Roundbush.

“They will help us emigrate if we must?” Naomi asked. “This could be very important.” Her family had got out of Germany just before the Kristallnacht. She knew everything she needed to know about leaving and not looking back.

“They’ll help me if I keep helping them,” Goldfarb said. “If I keep helping them, the Nazis are going to give it to some poor Frenchman in the neck.”

Naomi spoke with ruthless practicality. “If he is a ginger smuggler, he is not a poor Frenchman. He is much more likely to be a rich Frenchman. No one who trades with the Lizards stays poor long.”

“Truth,” Goldfarb said in the language of the Race. He returned to English: “But I still don’t want to be the one who put the Gestapo on his tail.”

“I don’t want a lot of the things that have happened to have happened,” his wife answered. “That does not mean I can do anything about them.”

Goldfarb considered. “I’ll tell you what,” he said at last. “I’ll stay home and tend to things here, and you go on out into the world. You’re obviously better suited to it than I am.” Naomi laughed, just as if he’d been joking.

Ttomalss did not care to leave space, to come to the surface of Tosev 3. He especially did not care to visit the independent Tosevite not-empires. Having been kidnapped in China, he did not want to risk falling into the hands of hostile Big Uglies again.

But, when Felless asked him to assist her down in the Greater German Reich, he did not see how he could refuse. And the Reich, he noted after checking a map, was a long way from China.

He watched with more than a little interest as the shuttlecraft descended to the landing field outside Nuremberg, the capital of the Reich. He had landed but seldom since taking Kassquit up from China. The former capital of the Reich, he remembered, had been vaporized. Were Tosevites sensible beings, that would have taught the Deutsche respect for the Race. But very little taught the Big Uglies respect for anything, and the Deutsche, by all evidence, were among the more stubborn Big Uglies.

After disembarking from the shuttlecraft, he endured the formalities with the Tosevite male from the Deutsch Foreign Ministry on the broad expanse of concrete. The conversation, fortunately, was in the language of the Race. Ttomalss understood and still spoke some Chinese, but he very much doubted whether this Eberlein creature did. The language in which the official addressed the armed Big Uglies on the landing field sounded nothing like Chinese, at any rate.

Getting into a motorized vehicle of Tosevite manufacture also made Ttomalss nervous, although he was glad to see a male of the Race driving. “Have no great fear, superior sir,” the driver said. “For Big Uglies, the firm of Daimler-Benz is quite capable, and builds relatively reliable machines.”

“How long have they been building them?” Ttomalss asked.

“Longer than almost any other Tosevite firm engaged in such work,” the driver answered, “about seventy-five of the years of Tosev 3. Twice as many of ours,” he added helpfully.

“If it is all the same to you,” Ttomalss said with dignity, “I shall go right on being nervous.”

Having seen a great deal-more than he ever wanted-of the architecture of China, Ttomalss was struck by how different Nuremberg looked. That held true not only for the outsized Nazi ceremonial buildings the driver pointed out to him but also for the smaller structures that held businesses or Deutsch sexual groupings-families, the Big Uglies called them. What struck him was how unhomogenized a world Tosev 3 was. Home, after a hundred thousand years of Empire, had no real regional differences left. One city was much like another. That wasn’t so here.

“Ah, there it is,” he said with no small relief when he saw the familiar-looking cube of the Race’s embassy to the Reich. “A touch of Home on Tosev 3.”

“Only when you’re indoors, superior sir, only when you’re indoors,” the driver said. “And we’re coming into the cold season of the year, too. You’ll want to muffle yourself up good and snug when you stick your snout outdoors, that you will.”

“I will not want to muffle myself,” Ttomalss said. “I may do it, but I will not want to.”

“Better than freezing your scales off,” the driver told him, and with that Ttomalss could not disagree. The motorcar, which had run well enough-if more noisily than a vehicle manufactured back on Home-pulled to a halt in front of the embassy.

Veffani, the Race’s ambassador to the Deutsche, greeted Ttomalss just inside the entrance. Even the hallway that led back to the main chambers of the embassy was heated exactly to the temperature the Race found most comfortable. Ttomalss hissed with pleasure. “We shall try to make your stay here as pleasant as we can, Senior Researcher,” Veffani said. “Felless impressed me strongly with how important she thinks your contribution can be.”

“Of course, I will do everything in my power to serve the Race,” Ttomalss replied. “I am not quite certain about what sort of aid Felless seeks from me. Whatever it is, I shall do my best to give it.”

“Spoken like the sensible male you have proved yourself to be,” the ambassador said. “And, even though this is a city of Big Uglies, there are certain worthwhile aspects to life here. You must try the bratwurste, for instance.”

“Why must I?” Ttomalss asked suspiciously, and then, “What are they?”

“Little sausages,” Veffani answered, which seemed harmless enough. “They are quite flavorful, so much so that we send them to other embassies all over Tosev 3, and even to the fleetlord’s table in Cairo.”

“If the fleetlord enjoys them, I am sure I will, too,” Ttomalss said.

Veffani grew more enthusiastic still: “When commerce between Tosev 3 and Home begins, plans are to freeze some in liquid nitrogen for transport to the table of the Emperor himself.”

“They must truly be very fine, then,” Ttomalss said. Either that or, because you like them, you think every other male and female will, too. He didn’t say that. Instead, he remained polite to his superior: “I shall make a point of trying them.” He paused. “And here is Felless. I greet you, superior female.” He folded himself into the posture of respect, as he had for the ambassador.

Unlike Veffani, Felless returned the gesture. “I greet you, superior sir,” she said, “for while my formal rank may be somewhat higher, I want to draw once more on your superior expertise. Every meeting with these Tosevites, every analysis of what they do, brings only fresh confusion.”

“If you think I do not suffer from these same symptoms, I fear you run the risk of disappointment,” Ttomalss said. “Each day’s work with the Big Uglies only illuminates the width and breadth of our ignorance.”

“I see that,” Felless said. “I have arranged with Ambassador Veffani to quarter you in the chamber next to mine, that we may confer as conveniently as possible.” Her laugh was rueful. “Or, on the other fork of the tongue, I may simply scream in frustration. If I do, I hope it will not disturb your rest.”

“If you think I have not screamed on account of the Big Uglies-in frustration and in terror-you are mistaken, superior female,” Ttomalss said. “I shall find any screams of yours easy to forgive.”

His chamber proved more spacious and more comfortably appointed than the one aboard the ship from the conquest fleet: easier to find room in a building than in a starship, even an enormous starship. He telephoned Kassquit to make sure his Tosevite fosterling was all right and to let her know he was thinking about her even if his work called him away. He had discovered early on that she needed far more reassurance than a male or female of the Race would have.

Felless gave him a little while to settle in, then asked for admittance. When she entered the chamber, she was carrying a tray full of little sausages. “Try some of these while we work,” she said. “They are very tasty.”

“Bratwurste?” Ttomalss asked.

“Why, yes,” Felless said. “How did you know?”

Ttomalss laughed. “The ambassador already praised them.” He picked one up and popped it into his mouth. “Well, I will say he was not wrong. They are quite good.” He ate several, then turned an eye turret toward Felless. “And now, superior female, what troubles you about the Deutsche?”

“Everything!” Felless said with an emphatic cough. “They administer this not-empire on the basis of a whole series of false concepts. They assume they are superior to all other Tosevites, on the basis of no credible evidence whatever-”

“This is common among groups of Tosevites,” Ttomalss broke in. “The Chinese believe the same thing of themselves.”

“But the Deutsche go further, as you must know,” Felless said. “They maintain that certain other groups-some perhaps genetically differentiated, others simply following a relatively unpopular superstition-are so inferior as to deserve extermination, and they mete it out to these groups in immense numbers.”

“We have been pondering that since our arrival on Tosev 3,” Ttomalss said. “It has, if anything, worked to our advantage. One group they persecute, the Jews, has given us a good deal of aid.”

“So I am told,” Felless said. “That, it strikes me, is as it should be. What is not as it should be is the continued survival and scientific progressivism of the Greater German Reich. How can beings so dedicated to utterly irrational premises at the same time fly spacecraft and control missiles tipped with nuclear weapons?”

“I congratulate you,” Ttomalss said. “You have pierced with your fingerclaw a central perplexity of Tosev 3. Part of the answer, I think, is that they have so recently emerged from complete savagery that a good deal remains just under the scales, so to speak: far more than among us.”

“They drive me mad,” Felless said with another emphatic cough. “One moment, they will be as logical, as rational, and as intelligent in conversation as any member of the Race. The next moment, they will confidently assert the truth of a premise that is, to any eye but their own, at best ludicrous, at worst preposterous. And they will proceed to reason from that premise with the same rigor they use on other, more rational, ones. It is madness, and they cannot see it. And they continue to thrive even though it is madness, and aim to infect all of Tosev 3 with these mad doctrines. How is one to deal with what strikes the unbiased observer as a pathological condition?”

“Superior female, you do not strike me as an unbiased observer toward the Deutsche,” Ttomalss said with amusement.

“Very well, then. I shall revise that: with what strikes the non-Deutsch observer as a pathological condition,” Felless answered tartly. “There. Does that satisfy you? Will you now answer the question? How does one deal with Big Uglies whose ideology is nothing but a systematized delusion?”

“All Big Uglies sophisticated enough to have ideologies have them laced with delusions,” Ttomalss replied. “The Deutsche believe themselves to be biologically superior, as you have mentioned here. The Tosevites of the SSSR believe the workers will rule and then no one will rule, for perfect goodness and equity will come to all Big Uglies.”

“Looking for goodness and equity among the Big Uglies is indeed a systematized delusion,” Felless said.

“Truth,” Ttomalss said with a laugh. “And the Big Uglies of the United States believe that counting the snouts of the ignorant and clever together will somehow automatically create wise policy. Much as I have pondered this, I have never grasped its philosophical underpinnings, if there are any.”

“Madness. Utter madness,” Felless said with yet another emphatic cough. “As one researcher to another, I tell you I am near despair. There have been times when I have been tempted to withdraw to my spacecraft, and other times when I have been even more tempted to indulge in the Tosevite herb that has gained such popularity among the conquest fleet.”

“Ginger? I do not think that would be wise, superior female,” Ttomalss said. “Whatever the pleasures of the herb, it is without a doubt destructive of sound intellect and sensible habits. I have seen no exceptions to this rule.”

“Then it might make me better able to understand Big Uglies, don’t you think?” Felless said. “That in itself could make the herb valuable.” Ttomalss must have shown his alarm, for the female added, “I was but joking.”

“Superior female, I should hope so,” Ttomalss said primly.


“Where will it be today, superior sir?” Straha’s Tosevite driver asked him after closing the door to the motorcar. The ex-shiplord had learned to rely on the machine even though it broke down more often than the Race would have tolerated. Los Angeles was not a city wherein it was convenient for even a Big Ugly without a motorcar to travel, let alone a male of the Race.

He gave the driver the address. Like his own residence, it was in the district called the Valley-a place-name that, unlike a lot of the ones the Tosevites used, made perfect sense to him. This part of the city was warmer in summer than the rest, and so endeared itself to the Race. It was also colder in winter, but winter anywhere in Los Angeles was chilly enough to be unpleasant.

Even hereabouts, the air tasted wet and green to Straha on warm days and cold alike. That had amused Sam Yeager, who probably would have failed to be comfortable on the coolest, dampest days Home had to offer. The mere idea that Straha would consider the comfort of a Big Ugly was a telling measure of how far he had fallen since defecting from the conquest fleet.

“May I ask you something, superior sir?” the driver asked.

“Ask,” Straha said resignedly. The Big Uglies never stopped trying to learn this, that, and the other thing from him. He didn’t suppose he could blame them-were he still with the conquest fleet, he would have done the same with any prominent Tosevite defector-but it grew wearisome at times.

“You usually refuse invitations from other males of the Race to functions such as the one tonight,” the driver said. “Why did you choose to accept this one?”

The Tosevite spoke Straha’s language about as well as a Big Ugly could. In terms of grammar and pronunciation, he probably spoke it as well as Yeager, who was Straha’s touchstone in such matters. But he did not think like a male of the Race, as Yeager was able to do.

Straha tried to explain: “Why did I accept? First of all, because I usually decline: I have learned from you Tosevites that being too predictable does not pay. And, second, the males who sent me this invitation are old acquaintances. I have known them since not long after my arrival in the United States, when I was being concealed and interrogated at the place called Hot Springs.” That was another sensible, descriptive place-name, of the sort common back on Home.

“I understand now,” the driver said. “You are visiting old friends.”

“In a manner of speaking, yes,” Straha said. But he had recently found an English word that came closer to what he was doing tonight: slumming. During his days as shiplord, he would never have associated with ordinary males like these two, and they would never have presumed to ask him to associate with them. Association at Hot Springs was surely one of the reasons they did so presume now, but the pervasive and corrosive American doctrine of equality was as surely another.

He did not hold to the doctrine of equality. What was civilization itself, if not a graduated structure of inequalities? But many prisoners who had elected to stay among the American Tosevites had become infected by their foolish politics. That made sense to Straha. They had been low, so naturally they wanted to consider themselves on the same plane as those who had been above them.

“Here we are, superior sir,” the driver said as the motorcar squeaked to a stop just past a rather garish yellow house with a low hedge out in front of it. Decorative plants were used back on Home, too, but not in such profusion. The driver nodded to Straha. “I shall stay out here and keep an eye on things.” He was not just a driver, of course. He carried a considerable assortment of lethal hardware, and knew how to use all of it.

“If you must smoke cigarettes while you wait for me, have the courtesy to step out of the motorcar before you do so,” Straha said. He and the Big Ugly had had previous disagreements on that subject.

Now, though, the driver yipped out Tosevite laughter. “It shall be done, Shiplord,” he said. “And do enjoy the ginger I am sure a lot of the males there will be tasting.” He laughed again. Straha headed for the house, feeling oddly punctured.

One of the two males who shared the house folded himself into the posture of respect in the doorway. “I greet you, Shiplord,” he said. “You honor our home by your presence.”

“I greet you, Ristin,” Straha replied. Ristin wore red-white-and-blue body paint of no pattern authorized by the Race. Sam Yeager had devised it in Hot Springs to designate prisoners of the United States. It still scandalized Straha, even after so many years. To Ristin, though, it symbolized his abandonment of the Race and entrance into the world of the Tosevites.

“I trust all is well with you, Shiplord?” Ristin asked with perhaps a tenth of the deference an infantrymale should have given an officer of Straha’s rank.

“As well as it can be, yes,” Straha said.

“Come in, then, and use our house as your own,” Ristin told him. “We have food. We have alcohol, in several flavors. We have ginger, for those who care for it.” He and the male with whom he shared the house had never got the habit. Straha did not know whether to feel scorn or pity or envy at that.

“I thank you,” Straha said, and went inside. As in many houses built by Tosevites, he felt a little too small. The ceiling was too high, as were the counters in the kitchen. Even the light switches-aside from being a strange shape-were set higher in the wall than he would have had to reach back on Home.

Music blared out of a playing machine in the front room. It was not the music of the Race, but some Tosevite tune. When Straha turned an eye turret toward the player, he discovered it was also of Tosevite manufacture. Instead of using a skelkwank light to release the information digitally stored on a small disk, the player had a stylus that rode the grooves of a large platter-and, with every playing, degraded them a little, so the platter eventually became unusable. That was like the Big Uglies, Straha thought-they had no consideration for the long term.

Straha had no use for most Tosevite music, though the Big Ugly called Bach sometimes created patterns he found interesting. This was not Bach. It was, in his view, hardly music at all, even by Tosevite standards. It was full of crashes and horns-not the horns with which the Big Uglies made music, but the ones they used as warning devices on motorcars-and other absurdities.

Through the cacophonous din, a singer howled in English:

“When the fleetlord say, ‘We’ll rule this world from space,’

We-hiss, hiss-right in the fleetlord’s face.

The fleetlord thinks the Earth is for the Race.

We-hiss, hiss-right in the fleetlord’s face.”

The hisses did not come from a Big Ugly’s throat. They sounded more as if they were made by pouring water onto red-hot metal. That would have fit in well with the other strange noises coming out of the playing machine.

Several males stood in front of the player. Their mouths hung wide open. They thought the recording was the funniest thing they’d ever heard. Straha considered. It was barbaric, it was crude, it was rude-and it was aimed at Atvar. That made up Straha’s mind for him: he decided the recording was pretty funny, too.

“I greet you, Shiplord.” That was Ullhass, the male with whom Ristin shared his home. Like his comrade, he wore U.S. prisoner-of-war body paint. Maybe he found that funny, in the same sort of way the Tosevite song was funny. That was as close as Straha had ever come to understanding why these two males preferred U.S. body paint to that of the Race.

“I greet you, Ullhass.” Straha took pride in keeping his own ornate body paint touched up, even though he would never again command the 206th Emperor Yower or any other ship of the Race. He had made sure of that.

“Help yourself to anything that suits you, Shiplord,” Ullhass said, much as Ristin had at the entrance. “Plenty to eat, plenty to drink, plenty to taste. Plenty of gossip, too. I am glad you decided to join us. We are pleased to see you. You do not come among your own kind often enough.”

“I am here.” Straha let it go at that. These former captives who had happily settled into Tosevite society and who had one another for company were hardly more his own kind than were the Big Uglies. Because they had been captured, the Race readily forgave them. Many of them had traveled back and forth between the United States and areas of Tosev 3 the Race ruled.

Straha had not. He would not. He could not. The Race had made it very plain that he was liable to arrest if he ever left the USA. The leaders of the local not-empire had also made it very plain they did not want him to leave. Just as he knew too much about the Race, so he also knew too much about them.

He went into the kitchen, took some ham and some potato chips-as long as he was here, he would enjoy himself-and poured some clear spirits. The Big Uglies flavored a lot of their alcohol with things most males of the Race found highly unpleasant-burnt wood and tree berries were a couple of their favorites-but they also distilled it without flavorings. That Straha could drink without qualms, and he did.

A ginger jar sat on the high counter. Anyone who wanted a taste could have one, or more than one. Later, Straha told himself. Had he told himself no, he would have known he was lying. Later was easier to deal with.

Skittering in, a male almost bumped into Straha. “Sorry, friend,” he said as he spooned some ginger out into the palm of his hand. Then one of his eye turrets swung toward Straha, taking in his complex swirls of paint. The other male gave him respect. “Uh, sorry, Shiplord.”

“It is all right,” Straha said, and the other male tasted the ginger he’d taken. Seeing his pleasure made Straha abruptly decide later had become now. After a good-sized taste of his own, even exile seemed more palatable than it had. But, through the exaltation, he knew it would not last.

“Did I hear true, Shiplord?” the other male asked. “Did you tell one of those Big Uglies you thought this not-empire had shot up the colonization fleet?” Without waiting for an answer, he opened his mouth to laugh. “That is even funnier than Spike Jones.” Seeing Straha’s incomprehension, he added, “The Tosevite with the silly song.”

“Oh,” Straha said, and then, wary as usual, asked, “How did you hear of that? I know it never appeared in a newspaper.”

“That Big Ugly male who interviewed you-Herter, is that the name? — spoke with me a little later,” the other male replied. “He talked about the way you yanked his tailstump. He thought it was funny, too, once he realized you did not mean it.”

“What I did not realize was that he was ready to print it,” Straha said. “The Big Uglies in this not-empire carry freedom to the point of license.”

Several other males had heard the story of Straha’s misadventure with the reporter, too. That let him have a more entertaining time at the gathering than he’d expected. Even males who used English as readily as their own original speech would laugh at the follies of Tosevites.

But, when Straha related the tale to his driver on the way back to his own home, the Big Ugly was anything but amused. “Do not ever tell that story again, Shiplord,” he said with an emphatic cough. “The Reich and the USSR can gain too much benefit if you do.” He remained polite, even deferential, but he was giving an order just the same.

To this I have been reduced: to taking orders from Big Uglies. Straha sighed. He had been reduced to worse circumstances than that, but few more humiliating. He sighed again, a long, mournful hiss. “It shall be done.”

The Liberty Explorer had been a long time crossing the Pacific from Shanghai to San Pedro, with stops in Japanese-held Manila and in Honolulu. Even though the paperwork for her daughter and her was in good order, Liu Han had stayed in her cabin aboard the U.S. freighter all through the stop in Manila, and had made sure Liu Mei did the same. Liu Han still felt lucky to have survived the Japanese attack on her village north of Hankow. She did not want to give the eastern dwarfs a chance to finish the job, not when she had to put out a bowl for alms-and arms-in the USA.

Liu Mei had wanted at least to go out on deck and see more of Manila than she could from the cabin’s porthole. When Liu Han vetoed that, her daughter had protested, “The Japanese are not going to bomb this ship.”

“Not openly-they cannot afford to anger the USA,” Liu Han had answered. “But they do not want the progressive forces in China gaining strength in the United States. If they know we are aboard-and they have spies, and so does the Kuomintang-they may try to make us or the ship suffer a misfortune. Best take no chances.”

Neither the Liberty Explorer nor its handful of passengers had suffered any undue misfortune on the long passage across the ocean. Liu Han had taken advantage of the slow voyage to study English as best she could, and to work with Liu Mei on it. She would never be fluent. She hoped she would be able to make herself understood, and to understand some of what people said to her.

Now, standing at the bow of the old freighter, she looked ahead and spoke in Chinese to her daughter: “There it is. Now we will have to convince the Americans to give arms and money to us as well as to the Kuomintang.”

“We could have done this in Hawaii,” Liu Mei said.

Liu Han shook her head. “No. It is not part of the mainland, so what happens there does not always reach the rest of the country. And Honolulu is not the port it was before the little scaly devils dropped one of their big, horrid bombs on it. We had to finish this journey, to come to the province-no, the state-of California.”

She did not mention her biggest fear: that the Americans would have forgotten she was coming. All that was supposed to be arranged. Liu Han knew how often things that were supposed to be arranged went wrong in China, and the Chinese, it went without saying, were the best people in the world. Relying on these round-eyed foreign devils to do as they should tested her nerves.

San Pedro looked to be about as busy a port as Shanghai, though all the boats and ships, as far as she could tell, had engines. She saw no sail-powered junks hauling freight from one harbor to another, as she would have in Chinese waters. As the Liberty Explorer drew closer to land, she did spot a few tiny sailboats, too tiny for any use she could find.

She went up to a sailor and pointed at one. “That boat, what for?” she asked, learning and practicing her English at the same time.

“Ma’am, that’s a pleasure boat,” the American foreign devil answered. “Whoever’s in it is just sailing to have a good time, maybe do a little fishing, too.”

“Boat for good time?” Liu Han wasn’t sure she’d understood, but the sailor nodded, so she had. “Eee!” she said. “Fellow sail boat, he very rich.” In her mind, she pictured the unknown man ruthlessly exploiting foreign devils so he could gain the wealth he needed to buy his own boat.

But the sailor shook his head. “Don’t have to be all that rich, ma’am. My brother makes parts for clocks here in L.A, and he’s got himself a little sailboat. He likes it. I spend enough time on the water as is, so I don’t go out with him all that often, but he has a fine old time.”

Liu Han didn’t follow all of that, but she got most of it. Either boats here were much cheaper than she’d imagined, or American proletarians made far more money than she’d thought possible.

A tugboat came out to help nudge the Liberty Explorer up against a pier. Liu Han looked at the men working on the pier. They had no basic similarity, one to another, as Chinese did. Some of the white men she saw had yellow hair, some had black, and one, astonishingly, had hair the color of a newly minted copper coin. Along with the whites, there were also black men and brown men who did look a little like Chinese, save that they were stockier and hairier.

Liu Mei stared at the various workers. “So many different kinds, all together,” she murmured. She’d seen a few Russians, but not many others who were something besides Chinese. “How can they live together and make a nation?”

“It is a good question,” Liu Han said. “I do not know the answer.” Looking at the Americans, she kept trying to spot ones who looked like Bobby Fiore. In a way, that was foolishness, and she knew it. But, in another way, it made sense. Liu Mei’s father was the only American she’d ever known. What could be more natural than looking for others like him?

Liu Mei pointed. “And look! There is a man holding up a sign in Chinese. That must be for you, Mother.” She beamed with pride. “See. It says, ‘The American people welcome Liu Han.’ Oh!”

Before she could finish reading the sign, her mother did it for her. “It also says, ‘The American people welcome Liu Mei.’ And the last line reads, ‘Two heroes in the fight for freedom.’ ”

“I am not a hero,” Liu Mei said with becoming modesty. “I am only your comrade, your fellow traveler.”

“You are young yet,” Liu Han said. “With the world as it is, you will have your chances to become a hero.” She prayed to the gods and spirits in whom, as a good Communist, she was not supposed to believe to protect her daughter. Bobby Fiore had been a hero, giving his life in the revolutionary struggle against the imperialism of the little scaly devils. Liu Han hoped with all her heart that her daughter would never be called upon to make the same sacrifice.

Lines fore and aft moored the Liberty Explorer fast to the pier. The gangplank thudded down. “Come on, Mother,” Liu Mei said when Liu Han didn’t move right away. “We have to get the arms for the People’s Liberation Army.”

“You are right, of course,” Liu Han said. “Just let me make sure these stupid turtles don’t lose our baggage or run off with it.” Actually, she did not think the sailors would. They struck her as being unusually honest. Maybe they were just unusually well paid. She had heard that Americans were, but hadn’t taken it seriously till that one sailor spoke of his brother the factory worker owning a sailboat.

When she was satisfied the few belongings she and Liu Mei had brought from China would accompany them off the freighter, she went down the gangplank, her daughter following. The man holding the Chinese sign came up to them. “You are Miss Liu Han?” he asked, speaking Mandarin with an accent that said he was more at home in Cantonese.

“I am Comrade Liu Han, yes,” Liu Han answered in English. “This is my daughter, Comrade Liu Mei. Who are you?” She was wary of traps. She would be wary of traps as long as she lived.

The Chinese man grinned, set down the sign, and clapped his hands together. “Nobody told me you spoke English,” he said in that language, using it rapidly and slangily. “My name’s Frankie Wong. I’m supposed to be your helper-your driver, your translator, whatever you need. You follow me?”

“I understand most, yes,” Liu Han said, and took more than a little pleasure in disconcerting him. Still in English, she went on, “You with Kuomintang?”

“I’m not with anybody,” Frankie Wong said. He dropped back into Chinese: “Why would I want to be with any faction over there? My grandfather was a peasant when he came here to help build the railroads. All the round-eyes hated him and called him filthy names. But he was a laborer, and I am a lawyer. If he’d stayed in China, he would have stayed a peasant all his life, and I would be a peasant, too.”

“That does not have to be true,” Liu Mei said. “Look at my mother. She was born a peasant, and now she is on the Central Committee.”

Frankie Wong looked from mother to daughter and back again. “I think maybe Mao did a better job of picking people to come to the United States for him than anyone over here thought he did,” he said slowly. A sailor with a dolly brought a crate down the gangplank and rolled it toward the Chinese women. Wong eyed it. “Is that your stuff?” At Liu Han’s nod, he spoke to the sailor in rapid-fire English, now faster than she could keep up with. He turned back to her. “Okay. It’ll follow us to the hotel. Come on; I’ll take you to my car.”

That a lawyer would own an automobile did not surprise Liu Han. Lawyers were important people in China; she had no reason to believe they wouldn’t be important people here. But a lot of the people who drove automobiles here were plainly not important. Liu Han could judge that by the way they dressed, and by the battered, rusty cars some of them had. She could also judge it by how many automobiles were on the streets: hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, enough to clog them the way people on foot and on bicycles clogged the streets of Peking.

Liu Mei noticed that, and noticed something else as well. “Look how wide all the streets are, Mother,” she said. “They hold the automobiles so well, I think they were made to hold them.”

“You are right,” Frankie Wong said. “You are right, and you are clever. A hundred years ago, Los Angeles was only a village. These streets were made with cars in mind.”

Liu Han thought about that as he drove them past the buildings and houses of the city, which also seemed to her to be set very far apart from one another. A large city growing from a village in only a hundred years? All of China’s great cities had been great for many centuries. She laughed a little. Los Angeles struck her the same way Earth as a whole struck the little scaly devils: it had grown too great too fast to seem quite natural.

In front of the hotel, a crowd of people had gathered. Some waved U.S. flags. Some waved red flags. Some waved Kuomintang flags, too, with their twelve-pointed stars. “Don’t worry about that,” Frankie Wong said. “It just means they know you’re from China.”

Warily, Liu Han let herself be reassured. “When will we see officials who can help us?” she asked. “Will they come to this”-she read the letters slowly and carefully-“Biltmore Hotel, or will we have to travel to them?”

Now Wong looked at her with frank respect. “From what I heard, you didn’t have any English before you got ready to come to the USA.”

“A little. A very little, from a long time ago,” Liu Han answered with a glance over toward Liu Mei. “But I could not read it then. Learning this alphabet is easier than learning Chinese characters, I think. It would be easier still if the letters sounded the same way all the time.” Her daughter, who had studied with her, nodded agreement to that.

Frankie Wong laughed. “A lot of people who grow up speaking English would agree with you there. I’m one of them, as a matter of fact. But let’s get you settled in here first before we worry about reforming English. How does that sound?”

“It will have to do,” Liu Han said. Wong laughed again, though she didn’t think she’d been joking.

Sam Yeager knotted his khaki tie, then checked the result in the mirror on the sliding door to the bedroom closet. “You look very handsome, dear,” Barbara said.

“Take more than a uniform to do that for me,” Yeager answered. His wife snorted. He eyed her. “You now, babe, you look good.”

Barbara examined herself. Her azure dress played up her eyes. She tapped a curl back into place. “If you like middle-aged women, I may possibly do,” she said. “Possibly.”

He slid an arm around her waist and brushed her lips with his, not hard enough to disturb her lipstick. “I don’t know about middle-aged women in general, but I can think of one in particular I like.” His hand closed on her hipbone. “And I like what you do, too. I just wish I could do it more often. But I’m middle-aged, too.”

“Middle-aged going on seventeen, by the way you’re pawing me,” Barbara said as she twisted away. But she had a smile on her face and a smile in her voice. “Now-is our son ready?”

“He’d better be,” Sam said. Both as a ballplayer and as a soldier, his life had run by the clock. That was second nature to him. It wasn’t yet second nature to Jonathan, which produced friction every now and then, or sometimes more often than every now and then. Sam raised his voice: “You ready to go, Jonathan?”

“Just about,” Jonathan answered, something less than a smile in his voice. “Do I really have to come to this thing, Dad?”

“Yes, you do.” Yeager held on to his temper with both hands. “We’ve been over this before, you know. This is officially an informal reception, which means family and all. What would you do if we weren’t here-call Karen and see if she could come over?” He made it seem as if being alone in the house with her didn’t sound like fun.

“Well, yeah, I might do that.” Jonathan made it seem as if his father were the one who’d put that thought in his mind, as if he never would have had it without Sam’s help. They were both lying through their teeth, and they both knew it.

“You’ll have to find another time, that’s all,” Sam said. “But cheer up. I hear this emissary has a daughter about your age. Maybe she’ll be cute.”

“Fat chance,” Jonathan said.

Sam shook his head. He hadn’t been so cynical at that age. He was sure he hadn’t. And if anybody had offered him a chance to meet a girl who might be cute, he’d have been off like a shot. He was sure of that, too. After another glance at his watch, he said, “Come on, let’s have a look at you. We’ve got to get going, you know.”

“I’m coming, I’m coming.” When Jonathan came into the bedroom, he did pass muster. He couldn’t do anything about his shaved head, but that was far from unique among kids his age. His suit wasn’t of flashy cut or color, and, if his tie bore a pattern that looked like body paint, it wasn’t gaudy body paint.

“Let me grab my handbag, and we can go.” Barbara put the strap on her shoulder. “This should be fun.”

Jonathan muttered something, his voce just sotto enough to keep him out of trouble. Sam had his doubts, too, but kept them to himself. He’d been to enough official functions over the years to know that a few were interesting, most weren’t much of anything one way or the other, and a few made him wish he’d stayed far, far away. He even understood how he’d got ordered to attend this one: he was an expert on Lizards, this Liu Han came from a country oppressed by Lizards, and so… To the brass’ minds, no doubt it all seemed perfectly logical.

Barbara found one more inducement for her son as the three of them headed out to the Buick: “The food will probably be good.”

“Yeah?” Jonathan weighed that. He’d been to a few of these affairs himself. After a moment, he nodded. “Okay, that’s pretty hot.” To show how hot it was, he gave an emphatic cough.

“Some Lizards will be there, I expect-some of the ones living here, I mean,” Sam said, unlocking the driver’s-side door. “If you want to talk to them in their language, that’s fine. It’ll be good practice for you.” That proved an even better incentive than food. However much the Lizards fascinated Jonathan and his set, he didn’t find all that many chances to meet them.

Sam got on the Harbor Freeway at Rosecrans. The freeway had pushed that far south only a couple of years earlier; it made getting to downtown L.A. a snap-except when an accident addled things, as one did this evening. Yeager muttered and fumed till they were past it, then stepped on the gas as hard as he could.

“Good thing we left a little early,” Barbara remarked.

“Have to build in some extra time,” he answered, passing a car that wasn’t going fast enough to suit him. He laughed. “The Lizards think we’re out of our minds for driving without seat belts. But they’d never sell, never in a million years. The only thing people care about is going fast.” As if to prove his point, he zoomed past a gasoline-burning machine that couldn’t get out of its own way.

He left the freeway at Sixth and went east a few blocks to Olive, on which the Biltmore stood, across from Pershing Square. He parked in a lot north of the hotel. U.S. flags, the red banners of the People’s Liberation Army, and national flags of China-Kuomintang flags, in other words-all flew outside the twelve-story, E-shaped building. Pointing to those last, Barbara said, “She probably wishes they weren’t there.”

“You’re right. She probably does,” said Sam, who’d spent the couple of days he’d known about the reception boning up on China. He nodded toward the hotel as they came up to the entrance. “Pretty fancy place, eh, Jonathan?” He didn’t say hot; that wasn’t his slang, any more than swell was his son’s.

“It’s all right, I guess,” Jonathan answered, determined to be unimpressed.

Inside, Sam was asked to show identification. He did so without hesitation. He might have been a Lizard stooge, a Kuomintang supporter, or even a Japanese agent, none of whom had any reason to love the People’s Liberation Army. He might even have worked for the NKVD; Molotov wouldn’t want the Chinese Communists shopping anywhere but at his store. When he’d satisfied the guards that he was none of those things, they checked off his name and those of his wife and son and let them go into the reception hall.

Jonathan made a beeline for the buffet. As soon as he’d filled his plate, he stood around looking to see if any other fogies had brought along people-with luck, good-looking female people-his own age. Sam and Barbara looked at each other with identical amused expressions. At Jonathan’s age, Sam would have behaved the same way. At Jonathan’s age, though, barn dances were about the biggest social events Sam had ever seen. Even the small towns of Class D ball had seemed sophisticated to him. He shook his head. The world was a different place, a faster place, these days.

He looked around, too, not for pretty girls but to see what kind of crowd it was. When he spotted Straha, an eyebrow shot up. The shiplord raised a hand in greeting. Sam nodded back. If the chief Lizard defector was here, that put a seal of approval on the event, all right.

And there was the guest of honor, a Chinese woman who would have had to stand on her toes to make five feet. Her daughter was several inches taller-and if Jonathan hadn’t noticed her, he wasn’t paying attention, because she was a very pretty girl. Yeager got a drink, then drifted toward them to do his ceremonial duty.

Listening to Liu Han and Liu Mei, he realized they had only a little English. A Chinese man in a suit snappier than any civvies Sam owned was translating for them. Having done a good deal of translating himself, Yeager recognized its limits. The only Chinese he understood was chop suey. Still… Where there’s a will, there’s a lawyer, he thought.

When he came up to the two women, he nodded to them-he’d seen they didn’t shake hands as if they were used to doing it-and spoke in the language of the Race: “I greet you, females from a distant land.”

They both exclaimed in Chinese, then both started talking at the same time in the Lizards’ language. After a moment, Liu Mei fell silent and let her mother go ahead: “I greet you, Tosevite soldier, American soldier.” She was less fluent than Sam, but he had no trouble understanding her.

He gave her his name and his rank, and explained that his specialty was dealing with the Race. While he spoke, he noticed the Chinese man-he wore a button giving his name as Frank Wong-looking more and more unhappy. Liu Han noticed, too; Sam saw at once she had no flies on her. She spoke to Wong in Chinese. He relaxed and went off to get a drink.

Liu Han let out a sly chuckle. “I persuaded him that he was working too hard. Now he has a chance to recover.”

“Clever.” Yeager used an emphatic cough. He and Liu Han traded sly grins. He asked, “And what do you think of Americans, now that you are meeting us for the first time?”

“This is not my first meeting with Americans. Liu Mei’s father is an American,” Liu Han said. “He was a captive, as was I. We were part of the Race’s experiments on Tosevite mating habits. You know of these things?”

“I know of them, yes.” For a moment, Sam wondered why she was so openly admitting something so shameful. Then he gave himself a mental kick in the pants. She wanted to paint the Lizards black, so she could gain as much sympathy for her cause as she could.

She went on, “He was a good man. He was far and away the best man I met in these experiments. When I knew I would have a baby”-that came out as, When I knew I would lay an egg, but Sam understood-“he came down to China with me. He used to play your not-empire’s game, and he made money in China throwing and catching a ball as a show.”

“Baseball?” Sam said in English, and Liu Han nodded. Liu Mei turned away; Yeager wondered how often she’d heard this story. Laughing a little, he told Liu Han, “Before I was a soldier, I used to play baseball myself.”

“Truth?” she said, and he nodded. She cocked her head to one side. “Maybe you knew him.” He started to say it wasn’t likely, considering how many people played baseball in the United States. Before he could, she went on, “His name was Bobby Fiore.” She pronounced it very clearly.

“Jesus Christ!” He knocked back his scotch-and-soda at a gulp. “Bobby Fiore?” Liu Han’s head went up and down. Yeager stared. “Bobby Fiore? We played on the same team. We shared a room when we traveled. We were on the train together when the Race came down and shot it up. I got out before their helicopters landed. I never found out what happened to him.”

He stared over at Liu Mei. Now that he knew, he could see the Italian second baseman in her, in her chin, in her nose, in her hair. On her, though, it all looked good. Across twenty years, he could hear his old roomie laughing at the friendly insult.

Liu Han said, “He is dead. He died in Shanghai, fighting the Race. I was not there. But I have heard he died very bravely.”

“Bobby Fiore. My God.” Sam wished his glass weren’t empty. He wanted another slug of scotch, but he didn’t want to go away. “May I introduce my son”-he pointed toward Jonathan, and then waved for him to come over-“to your daughter, who is also the daughter of my old friend?”

“You may.” Liu Han looked in Jonathan’s direction. She must have fixed on his shaved head, for she asked, “Is he one of those who try to act like the Race?”

“He is.” Sam saw no point in beating around the bush or lying. “There are those who go further with it than he does.” That was also true, thank heaven.

“We have young males and young females like that in China, too,” Liu Han said. “I used to hate the very idea. I do not hate it so much now. The Race is here. We have to learn to live with its males and now its females. This is one way to do so.”

“I think you have good sense,” Yeager answered as Jonathan and Liu Mei exchanged polite greetings in the language of the Race. Ain’t that something? he thought. Barbara, could she have seen into his mind, would have disapproved of the grammar. He shrugged and went off to get that fresh drink after all. Ain’t that something? he thought again.

Vyacheslav Molotov examined the report from the Soviet consul in Los Angeles. He shoved the telexed sheet across his desk at Andrei Gromyko. “Have you seen this?” he asked the foreign commissar.

“I have, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich,” Gromyko answered. “Mao shows more imagination than we believed he had.”

“Mao shows himself a nationalist first and a Marxist-Leninist second,” Molotov said. “This is, of course, one of the sins for which he so noisily condemned Stalin.”

“He could afford to be noisy in condemning Stalin,” Gromyko said. “He lives well beyond the frontier.”

Both men warily looked around. Stalin had been dead for most of a decade, but his spirit lingered in the Kremlin. Molotov had to remind himself his predecessor could not harm him. Even after reminding himself, he said, “Living beyond the frontier did not always make a difference, Andrei Andreyevich. Remember what happened to Trotsky.”

“An ice axe in the brain?” Gromyko considered. “I can think of ways I would sooner leave the world, yes.” He glanced at Molotov. “Are you suggesting that Mao should worry about such a thing? If you are, you would do better to whisper it in Lavrenti Pavlovich’s ear than in mine.”

“No.” Not without some regret, Molotov shook his head. “Trotsky was an annoyance, a loose end. Mao leads a formidable force in the fight against the Lizards’ imperialism. I can think of no one else in the Chinese party who could take his place.”

“And we did provoke him, too,” Gromyko said musingly.

“What has that to do with anything?” Molotov asked in genuine curiosity. “He is useful to us, so we have to put up with him for the time being. But we do not want him getting too friendly with the Americans. Having their influence on the Siberian frontier would be even more of a nuisance than having the Lizards there, because the Americans are less likely to keep whatever agreements they make.”

Gromyko paused to light a cigarette: a Russian one, a little tobacco in a tube like a holder. After taking a puff, he said, “If we want to bring Mao back into the fold, we will have to start moving weapons into China again.”

“I think we can do that,” Molotov said. “The fuss the Lizards put up over the attack on the colonization fleet has died down. Whoever did that planned with great wisdom. My only qualm is that I do not care to believe either Himmler or Warren is so wise. But yes, I think we can safely resume shipments.”

“Very well,” Gromyko said. “I think you are right. If we are caught, the usual denials will serve in a case like that.”

Molotov looked at him with something as close to affection as he gave anyone but his wife. If Gromyko’s cynicism did not match his own, it came close. A man without cynicism had no business running a great country, as far as the General Secretary was concerned. That was one reason Earl Warren made him nervous.

Gromyko said, “I have also learned, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich, that there is some derangement in the networks of officials and other criminals who smuggle ginger into the Lizards’ territory. The Germans, the British, and the Americans are all in full cry. I hope their internal struggles do not disrupt the trade.”

“Indeed,” Molotov said indifferently. “I have heard something of this from Beria. He will be watching it, too.”

Gromyko did not flinch, for which Molotov admired him. Molotov had not actually heard anything from the NKVD chief. But keeping his followers eyeing each other was one way to keep them from eyeing the top spot in the hierarchy.

“I hope,” Gromyko said slowly, “that whatever ginger-smuggling channels the NKVD has set up will not be deranged by this fuss among the capitalists. We have made considerable profit from ginger.”

“And what could be more important to good Marxist-Leninists than profit?” Molotov returned. His wintry sense of humor was a good match for Gromyko’s. He went on, “Now that you know the line we are to take in regard to Mao, can I rely on Lavrenti Pavlovich and you to implement it?”

“One never knows how far one may rely on Beria,” Gromyko answered, which Molotov found most unfortunate, but which was also true. “On me, and on the Foreign Commissariat, you may of course rely.”

Beria, had he been there, would have claimed he was loyal and the Foreign Commissariat riddled with spies for the Nazis and the Americans and the Lizards. Beria was loyal to himself and the Soviet Union, in that order. He had been loyal to Stalin, a countryman of his, or as near as made no difference. Molotov eyed Gromyko. Was Gromyko loyal to him in particular? In a struggle against Beria, yes, he judged. Otherwise? Maybe, maybe not. But Gromyko was not the sort to head a coup d’etat. That would do. It would have to do.

“See to it, then,” Molotov said. Gromyko nodded and left. Molotov’s dismissals were brusque, but they weren’t brutal, as Stalin’s had been.

Molotov’s secretary stuck his head into the office. “Comrade General Secretary, your next appointment is here.”

“Send him in, Pyotr Maksimovich,” Molotov said. The secretary bobbed his head in a gesture of respect that went back to the days of the Tsars, then went out and murmured to the man in the waiting room.

The fellow came in a moment later. He was thin and middle-aged, with an intelligent face that clearly showed he was a Jew. He carried a topcoat and a fur hat against the nasty weather outside. Here in the Kremlin, sweat beaded his face. Also going back to the days of the Tsars, and to long before the days of the Tsars, was the Russian habit of heating buildings very warm to fight the winter cold. Molotov waved the man to the chair Gromyko had just vacated.

“Thank you, Comrade General Secretary,” the fellow said. His Polish accent put Molotov in mind of that of the Lizard ambassador’s interpreter.

“You are welcome, David Aronovich,” Molotov replied. “And what is the latest news from Poland?”

“Colonization by the Lizards is proceeding more rapidly than either the Poles or the Jews expected,” David Nussboym answered. “This suits the Jews better than the Poles. The Jews know they could not rule on their own. Many Poles still harbor nationalist fantasies.”

“Polish delusions, for the time being, are the Lizards’ problem and not mine,” Molotov said. “The Lizards are welcome to the Poles, too. If we cannot embroil the Lizards against the Reich, next best is to use them as a buffer against the Nazis and, as you say, as an object for the Poles’ nationalist desires. Russians have filled that role in the past; I am content to leave it to the Race now.”

“That strikes me as wise, Comrade General Secretary,” Nussboym said.

Molotov gave him a hooded stare. He had not asked for any such endorsement. Nussboym plainly had not grown to manhood in the USSR, else he would not have been so quick to speak his mind. Even years in the gulag, evidently, had not taught him that lesson. Then Molotov gave a mental shrug. If Nussboym proved a nuisance, he could go back to the gulag. He wasn’t so important that Beria would lift a finger to protect him.

“And I have another piece of information you need to know,” Nussboym said, doing his best to make himself out to be more important than he was.

“Tell me the information,” Molotov said icily. “Then I will tell you whether I need to know it. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Nussboym said, flinching: he understood some things, anyhow. “The information is, I have located the hiding place the Jews use for the atomic bomb they stole from the Nazis in Lodz.”

“Have you?” Molotov rubbed his chin. “I do not know yet whether that is information I need to know, but it is certainly interesting.” He eyed Nussboym. “You would sell out your coreligionists and former countrymen to tell me this?”

“Why not?” the Polish Jew now serving in the NKVD replied. “They sold me out. Why should I not repay them? I owe the Party more loyalty than I owe them, anyhow.”

He said that, and said it with evident sincerity, even though the first thing the Party had done when it got its hands on him was throw him in a gulag for some years. Molotov believed him. For one thing, he was far from the only man to come out of the gulag and serve the Soviet Union well. Every time Molotov flew in a Tupolev passenger plane, he remembered how Stalin had plucked the designer out of the camps and set him to work at his proper job when the Germans invaded. General Rokossovsky was another such case. Either of them was worth a hundred of the likes of David Nussboym.

But that did not make Nussboym worthless. Molotov considered how best to use him. Subtlety seemed wasted here. “Very well, then,” Molotov said. “Where is this bomb hidden away? Somewhere not far from Lodz, I am sure.”

“Yes.” Nussboym nodded. “In or near the town of Glowno, to the northeast.”

“In or near?” Molotov raised an eyebrow. “Can you not be more precise than that, David Aronovich? Those first bombs were huge things, weighing tonnes apiece. You cannot hide them under the mattress.”

“Up till now, the Jews have kept this one hidden for close to twenty years,” Nussboym retorted, which held enough truth to keep Molotov from getting angry at the sardonic relish the NKVD man took in saying it.

“Did you also find out whether the bomb could still function?” Molotov asked. “Scientists tell me these weapons must have periodic maintenance if they are to go off.”

“Comrade General Secretary, that I do not know,” Nussboym said. “The Jews have done their best to keep the bomb working, but I do not know how good their best is. From everything I have been able to learn, neither they nor the Poles nor the Lizards know whether the bomb would work.”

“And no one, I suppose, is anxious to find out,” Molotov said. Nussboym nodded. Molotov studied him. “And you have told Comrade Beria the same.”

“He will hear the same from me, yes,” Nussboym said.

Molotov studied him again. Would he report here before he went to Dzerzhinsky Square? Maybe. Molotov dared hope so, but dared not be sure.

What to do about the bomb? Let the Lizards know it was there? He shook his head. They were clever enough to sit tight. Let the nationalist Poles know it was there? That was a happy thought. The Poles were headstrong, foolish, and frustrated. They could almost be relied upon to do something everyone else around them would regret.

Mordechai Anielewicz chuckled as he rode his bicycle toward Glowno. His legs were behaving very well, almost as if he’d never breathed in too much nerve gas. That wasn’t why he chuckled, though. The name of the town never failed to remind him of gowno, the Polish word for shit.

No Lizard starships had landed close enough to Glowno to go up if the Jews ever had to set off their atomic bomb-if it could be set off, which Anielewicz did not know. He was a little sorry the Race hadn’t offered him such a hostage to fortune. Samson never would have made it into the Bible if he hadn’t had the Philistines’ temple to pull down.

“Now politicians can kill millions with their jawbones of asses, not just a thousand,” Anielewicz murmured. He grunted. That held true for him, too-if the bomb still worked.

Every now and then, he wished he’d been able to figure out a way to smuggle the bomb into the Reich and set it off there. It would have been fitting vengeance for everything the Nazis had done to the Jews. But it might have set the world afire-and the bomb wasn’t easy to smuggle, anyhow. He ordered it moved every so often to keep the Lizards from getting their hands on it, and that wasn’t easy, either, not when the damn thing weighed close to ten tonnes.

Cars and lorries zoomed past him as he pedaled along at the edge of the highway. A lot more of the lorries, these days, were Lizard models with Lizards driving them: males and females from the colonization fleet, no doubt. He wondered how they liked the weather. It was a bright, sunny day, with the temperature only a little below freezing-otherwise, Anielewicz would have taken a car himself instead of bicycling. For a Polish winter, it was good weather indeed. Once he’d gone far enough to warm himself up, Mordechai actively enjoyed it.

But the Lizards didn’t like the cold, not even a little. They didn’t have cold weather on their home planet, and they didn’t know how to deal with it. That thought had hardly crossed Anielewicz’s mind when he came upon a Lizard lorry in the ditch by the side of the road. The driver kept turning his eye turrets from the truck to the road and back again, as if he hadn’t the faintest notion of how he’d come to grief.

Mordechai applied the brake-with care, for the road was icy in places-and stopped alongside the lorry, which was canted at an odd angle in the mud. “What happened?” he asked in the language of the Race.

“I will tell you what happened,” the Lizard said angrily. “I will be glad to tell you what happened. A Big Ugly in a stinking motorcar cut in front of me. I do not think the stupid creature had the faintest notion I was there.” He had to be a newly revived colonist; he had no idea that one human being might find his comments about another offensive. “I hit the brake to keep from colliding with the worthless Tosevite, and the next thing I knew, I was here.”

“You must have hit a patch of ice and skidded,” Mordechai said. “That can happen to anybody. You have to be careful at this season of the year.”

“Ice?” the Lizard echoed, as if it had never heard the word in its own speech before. It was, no doubt, used far less often in the Lizards’ language than in Polish or Yiddish. “Why is ice permitted on the surface of a road?” The poor creature sounded bewildered, as if Anielewicz had started talking about a rain of frogs.

“Ice,” Mordechai repeated patiently. The sooner the Lizard learned the facts of life about weather here, the less likely it was to kill itself-and perhaps several people with it. “The temperature on this part of Tosev 3 is often below freezing, as it is now. Rain will freeze. So will dew. And ice, as you have discovered, is very slippery. Your tires cannot hold their grip on it.”

“Why isn’t it scraped off the road as soon as it forms?” the Lizard demanded. “Your practices here strike me as most unsafe. The Race has held this part of the planet for some time, and should have done a better job of preparing it for colonization.”

Anielewicz didn’t laugh out loud, though holding back wasn’t easy. But he didn’t want to make the poor, ignorant, indignant Lizard any more indignant than it already was. Patiently, he said, “Sometimes there are only patches of ice, as today. Sometimes all the roads are icy, and there is no equipment for all the scraping it would take to keep them clear. Sometimes, when…” He hesitated. He didn’t know how to say snow in the Lizards’ language. Circumlocution, then: “When powdery frozen water falls from the sky, it covers the roads higher than a male. In this season of the year, that could happen at any time.”

“When I was awakened, I was warned of this kind of frozen water,” the Lizard said. “I still find it hard to believe any planet could have such an absurd form of precipitation.”

“You will find out how absurd it is,” Mordechai said. “And now, I must be on my way.” Off he went, slowly building up speed.

The Lizard looked as if it wanted to order him to stop and help. But, as usual, he had a rifle on his back. Maybe the briefing the Lizard had got included the idea that it wasn’t a good idea to give orders to Tosevites who might open fire instead of obeying. For the colonists’ sake, Mordechai hoped it included that thought. If it didn’t, they’d learn some expensive lessons in a hurry.

When he got into Glowno, he was alarmed to discover a Lizard prowling the streets. He didn’t dare approach the shed where the bomb was kept till he found out why the alien was going around. Glowno wasn’t much more than a wide spot on the highway between Lodz and Warsaw. Lizards came through the place, but they rarely stopped.

He went up to the Lizard and asked his question straight out: “What are you doing here?”

“Freezing,” the Lizard answered, which wasn’t what he’d expected but was perfectly reasonable. As an afterthought, the Lizard went on, “And looking for a place to put a shuttlecraft port.”

“Ah,” Anielewicz said. “I heard you were in Lodz, my home city, not long ago. You did not find any place that suited you there?”

“Would I be here if I had?” the Lizard retorted, again catching him off guard.

He tried to rally: “You are the female Nesseref, not so? That is the name of the shuttlecraft pilot I heard.”

“Yes, I am Nesseref,” she answered. “Who are you, to know who I am?”

He found himself in a trap of his own making. If he admitted who he was and his status, she would wonder why such a prominent personage had come to such an unprominent town as Glowno. After a moment’s thought, he said, “I am Mordechai Anielewicz,” and let it go at that. If she realized who he was, she did; if not, not. To keep her from having much time to think, he went on, “To me, you look much as a male of the Race would. How can a Tosevite tell a female from a male?”

Nesseref’s mouth fell open. She found the question funny. “We have the same trouble with you Big Uglies, you know. You all look the same to us, and you do not even use body paint to help us tell you apart. Some of the males from the conquest fleet can tell your males and females apart, but I cannot, not yet.”

“But you have not answered my question,” Anielewicz said.

“It is easy enough, for anyone with eyes in his head,” the Lizard said with another laugh. “My stance is somewhat wider than a male’s; I am the one who lays the eggs, and so need wider hips. My tailstump is a little longer, my snout is a little more pointed than a male’s would be. Do you understand now?”

“I do, yes. I thank you.” Armed with his new knowledge, Mordechai tried to pick out the things she said made her distinct from males of the Race. For the life of him, he couldn’t. She looked like a Lizard, and that was that. He laughed. “Now I understand why the Race has trouble with us.”

“But our differences are so obvious!” Nesseref exclaimed. “They are not subtle, like the differences between male and female Tosevites.”

“Obvious differences are the differences one is used to,” Anielewicz said. “Subtle differences are the differences someone else is used to.”

Nesseref thought about that. After a moment, she laughed again. “Truth!” she said, and added an emphatic cough. She turned both eye turrets toward Mordechai. “You are different from most Big Uglies I have met. You do not bluster and swagger, as so many of your kind seem to do.”

“I thank you,” Anielewicz said again. It would have been a compliment of a different sort from a female of his own species. In an odd way, he valued it more from the Lizard, who was disinterested-or, at least, uninterested. And he returned it: “Nor do you seem like most males of the Race I know. You are not so certain you know everything there is to know.”

“And I thank you,” Nesseref returned. “Perhaps we shall be friends.”

“Perhaps we shall,” Mordechai said in some surprise. Having a Lizard as a friend had not occurred to him till that moment. He had always dealt with Lizards because he had to, not because he wanted to. The Lizards he’d known had always made it clear they were dealing with him for the same reason. “Are all females like you?”

“By the Emperor, no,” Nesseref said. “Are all Tosevite males-I presume you are a male-like you?”

“No,” Anielewicz said. “All right. We are a couple of individuals who happen to get on well. That will do, I think.”

“Yes, I also think so,” Nesseref said. “From much of what I had heard and seen on this planet, I wondered if having a Tosevite friend was even possible. We of the Race have friendships with Rabotevs and Hallessi, but they are more like us in temperament-not in appearance, necessarily, but in temperament-than you Big Uglies.”

“I have heard that from other members of the Race,” Anielewicz said. “I notice you have not brought any of these peoples to Tosev 3.”

“No: both these expeditions were fitted out from Home,” Nesseref answered. “Once this world is brought fully into the Empire, though, Hallessi and Rabotevs will come here, as they have gone to each other’s worlds and to Home as well.”

“You will find many Tosevites who do not think this world will ever be fully brought into the Empire,” Anielewicz said. “As a matter of fact, I am one of them. I hope this does not offend you.”

“Offend me? No. Why should it?” Nesseref said. “But that is not to say I believe you are right. By all appearances, you Tosevites are an impatient species. The Race is a great many things. Impatient it is not. Time is on our side. In a few thousand years, you Tosevites will be contented subjects of the Emperor.”

Bunim, the regional subadministrator in Lodz, had said much the same thing. Such confidence was unnerving. Were the Lizards right? The only thing Mordechai knew was that he wouldn’t live long enough to find out. Seeking to shake the female’s calm confidence a bit, he said, “I do wish you the best of luck finding a spot for your shuttlecraft port.”

“I thank you,” Nesseref replied. “You are well-spoken indeed, for a Tosevite.”

“And I thank you,” Mordechai said. “And now, if you will excuse me, I have to check on the security of my explosive-metal bomb.”

Nesseref’s mouth fell open. “You are a funny Big Ugly, Mordechai Anielewicz,” she said, “but you cannot fool me so easily as that.” Anielewicz shrugged. Just as well-better than just as well-she hadn’t believed him.

As much as Johannes Drucker relished going into space, he also treasured leave time with his family. He treasured it more than ever these days; he’d come too close to losing Kathe. He didn’t know what he would have done without her. He didn’t know what his children would have done, either. Heinrich was fifteen now, Claudia twelve, and Adolf ten: old enough to get through better than they would have a few years before, perhaps, but losing a mother could never be easy. And losing a mother for the reason the Gestapo had put forward…

“Go on, Father,” Heinrich said from the back seat of the Volkswagen. “The light is green. That means you can.” He would be eligible to learn to drive next year. The thought made Drucker cringe, or at least want to go back behind the steering controls of a Panther or some other panzer the next time he needed to hit the road.

He put the car into gear. It was a 1960 model, and burned hydrogen rather than gasoline. The engine was a lot quieter than those of the older buggy VWs that helped clog the streets of Greifswald. Christmas candles and lamps burned in the windows of shops and taverns and houses. They did only so much to relieve the grayness the town shared with so many others near the Baltic.

“Maybe it’s the weather,” Drucker muttered under his breath. In wintertime this far north, the sun rose late and set early and never climbed very far above the southern horizon. Mists from the sea often obscured it even during the brief hours when it condescended to appear at all. Most days from November to February, streetlights shone around the clock. But they could not make up for the sun, any more than a distant cousin could make up for a missing mother.

Drucker wished that particular figure of speech had not occurred to him. He wished he’d had no cause to think of it. He glanced over to Kathe, who sat in the front seat beside him, with the children crowded into the back. She smiled. For once, evidently, she hadn’t guessed what he was thinking.

“When we go into the shops, you will not come with me,” she said, as much at home with giving orders as Major General Dornberger. “I want your present to be a surprise.”

“All right,” he agreed, so mildly that she gave him a suspicious stare. He returned it as blandly as he had turned aside the Gestapo interrogation earlier in the year. “After all, I want to get you a surprise or two myself.”

“Hans-” She shook her head. Light brown curls flew. “Hans, I am here. That is your doing. What greater present could you give me?”

“Greater? I don’t know.” Drucker shrugged, and then, steering the Volkswagen as precisely as if it were the upper stage of an A-45, took for his own a parking space into which it barely fit. That done, he gave his wife his attention once more. “I can go on giving you things if I want to, I think. And I do want to.”

Kathe leaned across the gearshift and kissed him on the cheek. In the back seat, Claudia giggled. She was at the age where public displays of affection amused, horrified, and fascinated her all at the same time. Drucker supposed he ought to count his blessings. All too soon, she’d likely put on public displays of affection that would horrify him without amusing him in the slightest.

“Heinrich, for whom will you shop?” Kathe asked.

Drucker’s older son said, “Why, for you and Father, of course. And for-” He broke off, two words too late, and turned red.

“For Ilse,” Claudia said; she was becoming an accomplished tease. “When are you going to give her your Hitler Youth pin, Heinrich?” Her voice was sweet and sticky as treacle.

Heinrich turned redder still. “That’s none of your business, you little snoop. You’re not the Gestapo.”

“Nobody should be the Gestapo,” Adolf said fiercely. “The Gestapo doesn’t do anything but cause trouble for people.”

Privately, Drucker agreed with that. Privately, he’d said much worse than that. But Adolf was only ten. He couldn’t be relied upon to keep private what absolutely had to be kept private. Drucker said, “The Gestapo does do more than that. They hunt down traitors to the Reich and rebels and spies for the Lizards and the Bolsheviks and the Americans.”

“They tried to hunt down Mother,” Adolf said. “They can-” The phrase he used would have made a Feldwebel with thirty years’ experience as a noncom blush.

“Keep a civil tongue in your head, young man,” Drucker told him, hoping he sounded severe. He’d never said anything like that about the Gestapo, even if he agreed with the sentiment expressed. “You must always keep a civil tongue in your head, for your family may not be the only people listening to you. What would happen to you, do you suppose, if the Gestapo had planted a microphone in our auto?”

Adolf looked appalled. Drucker had hoped he would. Drucker also hoped-devoutly-that the Gestapo hadn’t planted a microphone in the VW. Such a thing was far from impossible. The snoops might have planted one to see if they could catch Kathe admitting her grandmother was a Jew. Or they might have planted it in the hope of hearing some other seditious statement.

Adults-adults with a gram of sense, anyhow-watched what they said as automatically as they breathed. Children had to learn they couldn’t shout out the first thing that came into their heads. If they didn’t learn fast, they didn’t last long.

“Just remember,” Drucker told his son-told all three of his children, actually, “no matter what you think, no matter how good your reasons for thinking it may be, what you say is a different business. Nobody can hear what you think. You never can tell who might hear what you say.” He paused a moment to let the lesson sink in, then went on, “Now let’s not say any more about it. Let’s go shopping and see what sorts of nice things the stores have in them.”

He remembered the war years and the ones right after the fighting. In those days, the stores had had next to nothing in them. They’d tried to trick out the nothing with tinsel and candles, but hadn’t had much luck. Now, though, the lean times were over. The German people could enjoy themselves again.

Kathe went off in one direction, with Claudia and Adolf in tow. Heinrich made his own way down the street. Maybe he was shopping for Ilse. Had Drucker been his son’s age, he would have gone shopping for her; he was sure of that.

As things were, he went shopping for his wife. He found an excellent buy on Limoges porcelain at a shop not far from the town council hall. The shop stocked a wide variety of goods imported from France, all at very reasonable prices. He remarked on that as he made his purchase. “Yes, sir,” the clerk said, nodding. “In Paris itself, you could not buy these things so cheap.”

“I believe it,” Drucker said. Why that might be so never entered his mind. He took it for granted that Germany was entitled to first claim on whatever France produced. Germany, after all, was the beating heart of the Reich.

“Would you like me to do that up in gift-wrapping, sir?” the clerk asked.

“Yes, please.” Drucker hated wrapping presents himself. “Thank you very much. And put it in a plain bag afterwards, if you’d be so kind.” He left the shop well pleased with himself. The plate, which reproduced an eighteenth-century painting of a shaded grotto, would look splendid on the mantel, or perhaps mounted on the wall.

He didn’t bother heading back toward the Volkswagen, not yet. He knew he shopped more efficiently than Kathe and the children. Instead, he window-shopped as he wandered through the streets of Greifswald. He paused thoughtfully in front of a shop that stocked goods imported not from France but from Italy. A slow smile stole across his face. He went inside and made a purchase. He had that one gift-wrapped, too. The clerk, a pretty young woman, was most obliging. By the way she smiled, she might have been obliging if he’d been interested in something other than the shop’s stock in trade. But he had no great interest in anyone but Kathe, and so did not experiment.

When he went back to the car, he found the rest of the family there ahead of him, and had to endure their teasing all the way home. “You’ll get coal for Christmas, every one of you,” he growled in mock anger, “brown coal that won’t even burn without stinking and smoking.”

On Christmas morning, before sunup, he took his family outside. They looked toward the east, not toward Bethlehem but toward Peenemunde, about thirty kilometers away. To his disappointment, the fog lay too thick to let them see the latest A-45 ascend to the heavens, but the roar of the rocket reverberated inside their bones.

“Maybe you’ll ride it one of these days, Heinrich, Adolf,” he said.

His sons’ faces glowed with pride. Claudia said, “And what about me?” The best he could do to answer her was change the subject.

They went inside and opened presents, which provided plenty of distraction. Kathe exclaimed in delight at the plate from Limoges. She’d got Drucker a fancy meerschaum, and some Turkish tobacco to smoke in it. He puffed away in delight. Heinrich got a fancy one-liter beer stein. He proceeded to fill and then empty it, after which he got sleepy and red in the face.

“Maybe we should have bought the half-liter stein after all,” Drucker said. Kathe laughed. Heinrich looked offended and woozy at the same time.

Adolf got a battery-powered Leopard panzer with a control on the end of a long wire. He blitzkrieged through the living room and around the Christmas tree, till he wrapped the wire around the tree and couldn’t undo things by reversing. Claudia squealed ecstatically when she opened her present, a blond plastic doll with a spectacular wardrobe and even more spectacular figure. That one hadn’t been cheap, since it was imported from the USA, but it made her so happy, Drucker judged it well worth the cost.

“All my friends will be jealous,” Claudia chortled, “especially Eva. She’s wanted one for weeks-practically forever.”

“Maybe she got one, too,” Drucker said. A little of Claudia’s joy evaporated; she hadn’t thought of that. But then, because it was Christmas, she brightened and made the best of it.

After a Christmas supper of fat roast goose, all her resentment went away, and, for the evening, all of Drucker’s, too. Heinrich went out to take Ilse to a party. Adolf kept destroying the Reich ’s enemies till bedtime, while Claudia played with the American doll.

Heinrich had a key. After the younger children went to sleep, there was nothing to keep Kathe and Drucker from climbing the stairs to their own bedroom. With the air of a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, Drucker took the second gift-wrapped package from under a spare pillow in the closet and handed it to her. She let out a small shriek of happy surprise. “Why didn’t you give this to me with everything else?” she asked.

“You’ll see,” he answered, and closed the bedroom door as she opened the package. She let out another small shriek: it held a pair of frilly garters and other bits of lace and near-transparency. He grinned. “Gift-wrapping for you.”

She looked at him sidelong. “And then, I suppose, you’ll expect to unwrap me.”

Before very long, he did just that. Some little while after she was unwrapped, they lay side by side, naked and happy. He toyed idly with her nipple. “Merry Christmas,” he said.

“I hope it was,” she told him, her voice arch.

“Jawohl!” he answered, as he might have to his commanding general. He wished he could have raised a different sort of salute, but that took longer in middle age.

She lay quiet for so long, he wondered if she’d fallen asleep. Then she said “Hans?” in tones altogether different from the ones she had been using. He made a wordless noise to show he was listening. She leaned over and whispered in his ear: “My father’s mother… I think she really was a Jew.”

He didn’t say anything right away. Whatever he said, he knew, would touch, would shape, the rest of their lives together. Silence, on the other hand, would only alarm her. He whispered back: “As long as the Gestapo doesn’t think so, who cares?” She hugged him, then burst into tears, and then, very quickly, did go to sleep. After a couple of hours, so did he.


“I do not understand,” Felless said. She had said that many, many times since coming to the Greater German Reich. Most of the time, as now, she did not mean she could not understand the translator who was rendering some official’s words into the language of the Race. For a Big Ugly, this translator spoke the language well enough. What he said, though, and what the official said, made no sense to her.

“I will repeat myself,” the security official said. He seemed patient enough, willing enough, to make himself clear. Because he had lost most of the hair on top of his head, he looked a little less alien to her than did a lot of Tosevites. Below a wide forehead, his face was narrow, with a pointed chin. He spoke in the guttural Deutsch language. The translator turned his words into those Felless could follow: “The Jews deserve extermination because they are an inferior race.”

“Yes, you have said that before, Gruppenfuhrer Eichmann,” Felless said. “But saying something and demonstrating it is true are not the same. Is it not so that the Jews have given the Tosevite notempire known as the United States many able scientists? Is it not true that the Jews under the rule of the Race are thriving in Poland and Palestine and… and elsewhere?” She had learned some Tosevite geography, but not much.

“These things are true, Senior Researcher, yes,” Eichmann said calmly. “In fact, they prove my point.”

Felless’ jaw muscles tensed. She wanted to bite him. The urge was atavistic, and she knew it. But maybe pain would make him come out with something she recognized as sense. “How does it prove your point?” she demanded. “Does it not seem to prove exactly the opposite?”

“By no means,” Eichmann said. “For the purpose and highest destiny of any race is to form a-” The interpreter hesitated. He said, “The term ‘volkisch’ has no exact translation in the language of the Race. What the Gruppenfuhrer means is that it is the destiny of each kind of Tosevite to form a not-empire made up of that particular kind and no other.”

A thousand questions occurred to Felless, starting with, Why? She suspected-indeed, she was certain-that one would not take her anywhere she wanted to go. She tried a different one instead: “How are the Jews in any way different from this?”

“They are incapable of forming a not-empire of their own,” Eichmann answered, still sounding unimpassioned, matter-of-fact. “Instead, they dwell within not-empires other, better races have created, as disease viruses dwell within a body. And, again like viruses, they poison and destroy the bodies in which they dwell.”

“Let us assume much of what you say is true,” Felless said. “Has this conclusion you draw from the data been proved experimentally? Has anyone given these Jews land on which to set up a not-empire? Have they tried and failed? What sort of experimental control could you devise?”

“They have not tried and failed,” Eichmann replied. “They have not tried at all, which demonstrates they are incapable.”

“Perhaps it only demonstrates they have not had an opportunity,” Felless said.

Eichmann shook his head back and forth, a Big Ugly gesture of negation. “There has been no independent Jewish not-empire for two thousand years.”

Felless laughed in his face. “First, this is an inadequate sample. Two thousand years-even two thousand of your long years-is no great time in terms of the history of a race or group, regardless of your opinion. Second, you are arguing in a circle. You say the Jews cannot form a not-empire because for this period of time they have had no opportunity to form a not-empire, and then you say they have had no opportunity because they cannot form a not-empire. You may have one fork of the tongue or the other on that argument; you may not have both.”

Gruppenfuhrer Eichmann stirred behind his desk. The translator murmured to Felless: “The Gruppenfuhrer is not used to such disrespect, even from a male of the Race.”

That made Felless laugh again. “For one thing, I am not a male of the Race. I am a female of the Race, as should be obvious to you. For another, when elementary logic is classed as disrespect, I am not sure rational discussion between the Gruppenfuhrer and me is possible.” I am not sure the Gruppenfuhrer is even an intelligent creature. But his kind controls explosive-metal weapons. One day soon, they may begin to try to build a starship. What do we do then?

“I have here a choice,” Eichmann said. “I can follow what you say, a female of an alien species who has no personal experience of Tosev 3 and its races and kinds. Or I can follow the words and teachings of Hitler in his famous book My Struggle. Hitler spent his whole life pondering these problems. I trust his solutions far more than I trust yours. If this makes me seem illogical in your eyes, I am willing to pay such a price.”

He was as impervious as landcruiser armor. From his perspective, what he said made a certain amount of sense-but only a certain amount, for his conclusions, as far as Felless could see, remained those of a lunatic. His notions-and, presumably, this Hitler’s notions-of the importance of an individual not-empire for every minutely different variety of Tosevite also struck her as absurd. Her own bias, she admitted to herself, was for the unity and simplicity of the Empire.

She tried again: “If every Tosevite faction should have its own not-empire, how do you justify the rule of the Reich over the Francais and the Belgians and the Danes and other such different groups of-of Tosevites?” Big Uglies, she recalled just in time, sometimes took offense at being called Big Uglies to their big, ugly faces.

“That, Senior Researcher, is very simple,” Eichmann answered. “We have defeated them on the battlefield. This proves our superiority over them and demonstrates our right to rule them.”

“Is it not so that they have also defeated you on the battlefield from time to time?” Felless asked. “Are these events not random fluctuations of strength rather than tests of competitive virtue in the evolutionary sense?”

“By no means,” the Deutsch male answered through the interpreter. “Truth, at one time the Francais defeated us. But that was a hundred fifty years ago, and since that time they have mongrelized themselves, thus weakening their race to the point where we were easily able to defeat them not once but three times-though in the middle conflict we were robbed of our victory by a stab in the back.”

Felless did laugh again. She couldn’t help it. “The absurdity of imagining that evolution proceeds in such a fashion, or can have profound results in so few generations, is almost beyond description.”

“What is beyond description is the arrogance of the Race in imagining it can come to our planet and presume to understand us in so short a time,” Eichmann said.

Understand the Tosevites? Especially the Deutsch Tosevites? Felless did not think she would ever do that. She said, “Even the Tosevite authorities in the other not-empires, and also those in areas ruled by the Race, disagree with the interpretation offered by the Reich.”

“And what would you expect?” Eichmann’s shoulders moved up and down in a Tosevite gesture of indifference similar to the one the Race used. “When Jews dominate these other not-empires-and also the areas of the planet that you administer-they will naturally try to conceal scientific fact that places them in a bad light.”

“Jews do not dominate the areas of this planet that the Race rules,” Felless said, and added an emphatic cough. “The Race dominates those areas.”

“So you think now,” the Deutsch security official said. “One day before too long, you will say something else-if you ever notice the puppet strings attached to your wrists and ankles. But perhaps you will not even realize you wear shackles.”

That did it. The idea of Big Uglies of any sort manipulating the Race without the Race’s knowledge was too absurd to contemplate. Felless rose from her chair-which, being made for Big Uglies, was none too comfortable anyhow-and said, “I see no point to further discussion along these lines. I must say, I find it strange that Tosevites who accept the Race’s superior knowledge in so many areas refuse to believe our knowledge superior in others.”

To her disappointment, Eichmann did not rise to the bait. “I agree: this is pointless,” he said. “I acceded to your request for an interview as a courtesy, nothing more. I have long been aware of the Race’s profound ignorance in matters having to do with the relations among groups of Tosevites and the menace of the Jews. Good day.”

“Good day.” Tailstump quivering with rage, Felless stalked out of Eichmann’s office, out of the bleak stone pile known as the Kaiserburg, and into the Tosevite-made vehicle waiting for her without even noticing the frozen water on the ground or the temperatures conducive to keeping water frozen. “Take me back to the embassy this instant,” she snarled to the driver. “This instant, do you hear me?”

“It shall be done, superior female,” the driver said. Wisely, he said not another word till he had delivered the researcher to the one Homelike place in all Nuremberg.

She went up to her quarters in the same high dudgeon in which she had departed from Eichmann’s workplace. Once there, she entered into the data system the conversation she’d had with the Big Ugly while it was still fresh-revoltingly fresh-in her memory. Even the acid commentary she entered along with the interview failed to relieve her temper.

I should have bitten him, she thought. By the Emperor, I really should have bitten him. Then she stopped and shuddered. By associating with Big Uglies, I am becoming as uncivilized as they are.

She went next door and asked for admittance to Ttomalss’ chamber. Instead of admittance, she got a recorded message saying he was doing field research of his own and would be back in the midafternoon.

Felless muttered and hissed discontentedly. She’d asked Ttomalss to assist her. She had not asked him to undertake autonomous research. Being around the Big Uglies, with their passion for individualism, had corrupted him, too.

Back to her own quarters she went. She remained anything but happy. Associating with Tosevites could not possibly leave anyone happy, or so she was convinced. But the depth of her own rage and frustration and despair appalled her. Ever since her premature revival, she had had nothing but bad news about Tosev 3 and its inhabitants.

Maybe she could find better news. Maybe the better news would come, in a way, from Tosev 3. The way she felt now, any change would be an improvement. Ttomalss would not approve, but, at the moment, she didn’t care what Ttomalss thought. Ttomalss had gone off to do something on his own. Felless laughed. She wondered if, when he returned-it wouldn’t be too long-he would know what she’d done. She laughed again. She doubted it. He knew plenty about Big Uglies, but that seemed to be all he knew.

She went over to her desk and opened one of the drawers. In it, after not so long on Tosev 3, she’d already stowed four or five vials of the herb called ginger. This male or that one, all of them longtimers on this dreadful, chilly world, had given the herb to her, saying it would improve the way the place looked. Up till now, she hadn’t experimented; the stuff was against regulations. After the meeting with the Deutsch male called Eichmann, she didn’t care. All she cared about was relief.

She poured some ginger into the palm of her hand. The odor hit her scent receptors: spicy, alien, alluring. Her tongue shot out, almost of itself. In moments, the ginger was gone. In only moments more, the herb reached Felless’ brain.

“Why did somebody not tell me?” she murmured through the ecstasy suffusing her. She had never imagined it could be so good. She was smarter, quicker, more powerful than she’d ever imagined being. The only sensation that compared to it was mating, which she suddenly recalled much more vividly than she had since the last time she came into her season.

Mirth and joy filled her. So did the desire for another taste. She poured more ginger onto her palm. Would Ttomalss notice? She’d find out soon.

Ttomalss did not like the Deutsche. He knew no one among the males of the Race who did like the Deutsche. Many of the males who had fought against them respected their military abilities. Some of the males who worked for the embassy also respected their ability to acquire and develop new technology. But no one liked them.

“They are arrogant,” Veffani, the Race’s ambassador, had told him, “as arrogant as if they had done something to justify such arrogance, as the Race has unquestionably done. They are murderous, and are not only unapologetic but proud of it.”

Understanding how and why that was so would have been useful for the Race. To try to gain some of that understanding, Ttomalss had spoken with a certain Rudolf Hoss, an officer in charge of one of the industrial murder facilities the Deutsche operated. His question had been the most basic one possible: “How can you stand to do what you do? Does it not oppress you?”

“Why should it?” Hoss had answered with a yawn. “It is my assignment. My duty is to obey the orders of my superiors and to carry out my assignment to the best of my ability.”

Had a male of the Race said that, it would have been laudable. But no male of the Race would have dreamt of getting an assignment like Hoss’. Rather desperately, Ttomalss had asked, “But did you not think of rejecting this assignment when it was given to you?”

“Why should I have done that?” Hoss had seemed genuinely puzzled. “My training suits me for the work. Besides, if I did not do it, someone else would have to, and I can do it better than most.”

“But the nature of the task-” Ttomalss began to wonder if his translator was doing a proper job. Could the Big Ugly across the desk from him be so oblivious to the kind of thing he did?

Evidently, Hoss could. He said, “It is an assignment, like any other.”

No matter how Ttomalss tried, he could not penetrate below that insistence on duty to the true feelings Hoss had about his work. Maybe he had no true feelings about it. Ttomalss would not have believed that possible, but it seemed to be so.

He had returned to the embassy with a mixture of relief at coming back to Homelike surroundings and frustration at failing to accomplish his object. The mixture of feelings made him hiss in annoyance when someone asked for admittance to his chamber. “Who is it?” he demanded irritably.

“I: Felless,” was the reply from outside the chamber.

The female’s voice sounded odd, but Ttomalss did not dwell on that. The unfortunate fact was that he could not refuse her entry, not when she had summoned him here to assist in her research. “Come in, superior female,” he said, and thumbed the control that opened the airtight door. Given the proficiency of the Deutsche with poisonous gases, that struck Ttomalss as a more than reasonable precaution.

“I greet you,” Felless said, skittering toward him.

“I greet you, superior female,” Ttomalss said resignedly. He swung his eye turrets toward Felless with a certain amount of curiosity. She did sound strange, and she moved strangely, too, almost as if she were going faster than she had any business doing.

“Do you know, Senior Researcher, that the Tosevites are very likely the most aggravating species evolved anywhere in the entire galaxy?” Felless said.

“Truth,” Ttomalss said with an emphatic cough. It didn’t matter if Felless’ voice wasn’t quite right, not when she said things like that. “As a matter of fact, the Big Uglies are…”

He took a deep breath, preparatory to cataloguing the Tosevites’ many iniquities. As the air went into his lung, it went past his scent receptors. The odor they caught was familiar but altogether unexpected. He stared at Felless. The long scales between his eye turrets stood up to form a sort of a crest, as they had not done since he came to Tosev 3.

Felless stared at him, too. The erection of his crest was only one response his body made on smelling that odor. Almost without conscious thought, he pushed his chair back and came around his desk toward Felless. With each stride, he grew more nearly upright, till at last he walked almost like a Big Ugly. The female bent into a position somewhat similar to the posture of respect, one which left her posterior high and swung her tailstump out of the way.

Ttomalss hurried to place himself behind her. His reproductive organ jutted from his cloaca. He thrust it into hers. A moment later, he let out a whistling hiss as pleasure shot through his body.

When he released her, he said, “I did not know you were coming into your season, superior female.”

“Neither did I,” Felless said. “My body usually gives me some warning. This time, I had none. I tasted ginger a little while ago, and-”

She got no further than that. The pheromones pouring from her still filled the air and still intoxicated Ttomalss. The visual cues he gave excited Felless once more, and she reassumed the mating posture. Ttomalss coupled with her again, just as he had observed male Big Uglies repeatedly joining with females.

After the second mating, he was as worn as she. He had trouble thinking straight. He could still smell the pheromones. He wanted to couple again, even if he was not sure his body would respond to his desire. Hoarsely, he said, “Maybe you had better go. The embassy will be a chaotic place for a while, if this is truly our females’ season on Tosev 3.”

“But it should not be.” Felless sounded as dazed as Ttomalss felt. “I did not think I was coming into season, as I said. I do not think I am due to come into season for some time. But I did. By the Emperor, I did.” She cast down her eyes, as she should have. Then, of itself, her head began to lower. Her hindquarters began to rise.

Ttomalss started to move behind her once more. Had he not already coupled twice in mere moments, he would have joined with her yet again. Instead, in a strangled voice, he said, “Get out.”

Felless, still half in the mating posture, scuttled for the door. She poked the recessed button beside it with a fingerclaw. The door slid open. She scurried out-and almost ran into Veffani, who had a hand raised to activate the intercom and ask for admittance.

“Your pardon, superior sir,” Felless gasped.

“No apology necessary, Senior Researcher,” the ambassador to the Reich replied. As Ttomalss had done, he took a breath so he could say something more. As Ttomalss had done, he stopped with the words unspoken. The long scales at the top of his head lifted up, as Ttomalss’ were still doing. He stood more nearly erect.

Felless began to assume the full mating posture once more. But to Ttomalss, Veffani’s visual cues were not a signal for mating. To him, millions of years of evolution made them scream, Rival! He stalked toward Veffani, fingerclaws spread, mouth open in what was anything but a laugh.

It was not rational. It was anything but rational. Some small part of his mind knew that perfectly well. It watched in horror as the larger, dominant, part commanded him to hunt down and slaughter the male who was his superior.

Veffani was locked in the grip of fury, too, now that he saw Ttomalss’ visual cues along with smelling Felless’ pheromones. With what must have taken great effort, he said, “This is madness. We have to stop.”

“Truth.” The remaining part of Ttomalss’ mind that could still think clearly seized on the excuse not to tear and snap at Veffani. Then the telephone hissed for his attention. That was a stimulus against which evolution had developed few defenses. He turned away to answer it. Veffani did not spring upon him.

The call turned out to be inconsequential. When Ttomalss disconnected, he saw that Veffani was just disconnecting from Felless. The ambassador had taken advantage of his distraction to mate.

“Superior female, please leave before we are all completely addled,” Ttomalss said. Felless straightened from the mating posture and scurried off up the hallway.

Her pheromones lingered in the air, but not at a level to send Ttomalss and Veffani wild. “Now that the season is here, it is sweet,” Veffani said. “Soon it will be over, and we can go back to being ourselves.”

“Truth,” Ttomalss said. “And that will be sweet, too. I am glad to have mated, but I did not miss it while going so long without.”

“Well, of course not,” Veffani said. “Are we Tosevites, to be thinking of mating every moment of the day and night?” He paused, then waggled his tongue in self-deprecation. “At the moment, we might as well be Big Uglies. I still feel the urge-and the urge to quarrel with you as well.”

“And I with you, superior sir.” Ttomalss’ wits, distracted by the mating urge, remained less sharp than they should have been. When something new occurred to him, he cursed himself for not having seen it sooner. “How the Tosevites will laugh at us now that we are interested in such matters once more.”

“As I said, soon it will be over,” Veffani replied. “And of one thing you may be sure: Tosevites have short memories. Very soon, they will forget their mockery and accept our behavior as normal for us, just as their behavior, however revolting we find it, is normal for them.”

“In one way, superior sir, that is a most perceptive observation on your part,” Ttomalss said, and explained to the ambassador to the Reich how Kassquit, even though raised as nearly as possible as a female of the Race, still sought physical relief at regular intervals. The researcher went on, “In a different way, though, I fear you may be too optimistic, for when have the Big Uglies ever proved accepting either of us or of other factions of their own kind?”

“Well, that is also a truth.” Veffani let out an annoyed hiss. “I cannot think straight, not with these pheromones still in the air. And every male in the place will have scent receptors tingling, looking for the female in her season.”

“And soon the rest of the females will be in heat, too-and so the mating season will go,” Ttomalss said. “And then it will be over for another year. We shall have a new crop of hatchlings to begin to civilize, which will afford the Big Uglies further chances for mirth, not that their own hatchlings are anything save risible.” He checked himself. “No, that is not strictly true. Their hatchlings are risible while they are raising them. When one of us attempts the task, it is, I assure you, no laughing matter.”

“That I believe. You have my admiration for your efforts along those lines,” Veffani said. “I should not have cared to try to emulate them. What I should care for is-” He broke off and made another self-mocking tongue waggle. “What I should care for is another mating. Being in the season makes us strange, does it not?”

Before Ttomalss could answer, a male came hurrying down the hall. The scales of his crest were raised; he had the determined stride of one who knew exactly what he wanted, though not exactly where it was. A moment later, another similarly intent male followed him. Ttomalss laughed. “It has begun.”

With his mouth open, he caught more of Felless’ pheromones. His crest stood higher, too.

Nesseref was fed up with Tosev 3: not with the Big Uglies-who, while their reproductive habits were revolting, had proved to have some interesting and even personable individuals among them-but with her own kind. She gave Bunim, the regional subadministrator headquartered in Lodz, a sour stare. “In my opinion, superior sir, you cannot have it both ways. You wanted the shuttlecraft port in this area, but now you keep raising objections to every site I propose.”

“That, Shuttlecraft Pilot, is because you continue to propose objectionable sites,” Bunim replied. “Things in this region are more complicated than you seem to understand.”

“Enlighten me, then,” Nesseref said, with more sarcasm than she should have aimed at a superior. At the moment, she would cheerfully have aimed a weapon at Bunim. Obstructionist, she thought.

Through the window of his office, she could see little clumps of frozen water twisting and swirling in the icy breeze. The stuff was interesting, perhaps even attractive in a bizarre way-when seen through a window. Nesseref had acquired more experience of snow than she’d ever wanted, trying to find a landing site that would satisfy her and Bunim both.

Despite the cold, despite the snow, Tosevites still met to buy and sell in the market square on which Bunim’s office faced. They put on more layers of muffling and went about their business. In a way, such determination was admirable. In another way, it made her reckon the Big Uglies addled.

Bunim said, “The situation is complicated in this way: the Race rules Poland, but not in the way we rule Rabotev 2 or even the way we rule most other parts of Tosev 3. The two groups of Tosevites here-the Poles and the Jews-are both heavily armed and could, should they rise up against us, cause us a great deal of difficulty. The Jews are even said to possess an explosive-metal device, though I do not know for certain if this is true.”

“I met a Tosevite who said he was checking the security for such a bomb,” Nesseref said.

“All Tosevites lie,” Bunim said dismissively. “But the point is, the only reason the locals tolerate us is that they loathe the not-empires to either side of them, the Greater German Reich and the SSSR, more than they loathe us. We do not want them to loathe us more than they loathe these not-empires, or they might succeed in expelling us. Thus we have to step carefully. We cannot simply move in and take whatever we want. This includes taking land we want, provided the Big Uglies now owning it do not care to give it up. Now do you begin to see?”

“I do, superior sir.” What Nesseref thought she saw was a confession of weakness, but saying so would not do. What she did say was, “You are telling me you are treating these Big Uglies as if, in property rights and such, they were males and females of the Race.”

“Essentially, yes,” Bunim said.

Nesseref’s opinion of that policy was not high. Bunim, however, would not care what her opinion was, and his superiors would support his opinion. Nesseref said what she could: “I do wish this policy had been communicated to me some time ago rather than now. Doing so would have prevented a great deal of friction between us.” I could have done my job properly and gone away, she thought savagely. This is not a garden spot. From what I have seen of Tosev 3, it has no garden spots.

“I suppose I assumed you understood what the situation was here,” Bunim said. “We of the conquest fleet take matters Tosevite so much for granted by now, we are liable to forget that you colonists are less familiar with them.”

“It would be better if you did not.” Nesseref got up. “And now, superior sir, if you will excuse me…” She turned and departed without looking back at Bunim, so she never found out whether he excused her or not.

Outside, the wind snapped at her as if it had teeth, blowing snow into her face and into the front of the building where Bunim had his office. She drew her own mufflings more tightly around her. Her eye turrets turned toward the guards around the building. She pitied them. They had to endure this brutal weather for far longer stretches than she.

They’d also had to endure Bunim for a far longer stretch than she had. She pitied them for that, too. Now she turned an eye turret back toward his office. He infuriated her. He knew things, didn’t bother to tell them to her, and then blamed her when her work had problems.

“Unconscionable,” she muttered. But his superiors would back him. She was very sure of that. They’d served with him since the conquest fleet arrived. She was only a newcomer, and a newcomer of lower rank at that. “Unfair.” That was a low mumble, too. It was also the way the world-any world-worked.

She hated it, hated Bunim, hated everything about Tosev 3 except, strangely, a Tosevite or two. Rummaging in her belt pouch, she pulled out one of the vials of ginger males had given her. Maybe that would make her feel better. Nice if something could, she thought.

The breeze threatened to blow the ginger out of the palm of her hand. It was so cold that she wondered if her tongue would freeze to her skin when she shot it out. The taste of the herb was like nothing she’d ever known, sharp and sweet at the same time. And its effect was everything the males of the conquest fleet had said it would be, everything and then some. The truth of that amazed her as much as the sensation itself; she knew perfectly well how much males were in the habit of exaggerating.

Bliss filled her. The sensation reminded her of how she felt during mating season. She hadn’t thought much about that since her last season ended. Like the rest of the Race, she kept the mating season and what went on then in a separate compartment of her mind from the rest of her life. Ginger seemed to make the walls around that compartment crumble.

She shivered in the breeze, a shiver that had very little to do with the wretched Tosevite weather. To be interested in mating when she was not in season frightened her; some severe hormonal disorders had symptoms like that. But, at the same time, she enjoyed-she couldn’t help enjoying-the delicious feeling of longing that stole over her.

She took another taste, bending her head low over the ginger still in the palm of her hand. Bending her head low was also the beginning of the mating posture. She did her best not to think about that. With the herb coursing through her, not thinking was easy.

Nesseref swung her eye turrets back toward the building in which Bunim had his headquarters, to make sure the sentries hadn’t noticed her tasting ginger. Despite the number of males from the conquest fleet who used the stuff, it remained against regulations. The penalties imposed for using it struck her as absurdly harsh. She did not want to get caught.

Whether she wanted to or not, though, she was about to get caught, for both sentries were approaching her. She started to move away, hoping for the chance to sidle round a corner and disappear. But they were advancing on her with quick and determined strides.

Then she saw that their erectile scales had risen, and that they were moving with a more nearly upright gait than the Race usually used. “By the Emperor,” she whispered, “I was not just thinking about mating after all.” The breeze blew her words away-the same breeze that had blown her pheromones to the two males standing outside Bunim’s building.

One of them gestured, motioning for her to stick her head down farther and her hindquarters in the air. It was a gesture only used, only seen, during the mating season. She obeyed it without thinking. That seemed easier than ever.

Sometimes, in the wildness of the season, males fought over females. Sometimes they simply took turns. That was what happened here. The male who had not gestured tugged at Nesseref’s wrappings, then at his own, so they could join. “Miserable, clumsy things,” he grumbled.

He thrust his reproductive organ into hers. The pleasure that gave, when added to the pleasure of the ginger, was almost more than Nesseref could bear. When the male finished, the other one took his place. She enjoyed his attentions as much as those of his predecessor.

Dimly, she noticed a crowd of Tosevites gathering around her and the two males she had aroused. The Big Uglies stared and pointed and said things in their incomprehensible language. Some of them made strange barking, yapping sounds. Nesseref had heard that was how they laughed. She didn’t care. She didn’t care about anything except the ginger and what the males were doing.

They’d switched again. A moment later, the one who’d gone first finished his new coupling. The other one took his place once more.

By the time he finished, the ginger was beginning the ebb from Nesseref’s system. She raised her head and lowered her rump, turning her eye turrets back toward the males. “Enough,” she said. Suddenly, what she’d just been doing disgusted her. She felt as low as she’d been filled with delight a moment before.

“No such thing as enough,” one of the guards said, and gave an emphatic cough. But he’d mated with her twice, so both the words and the cough sounded halfhearted.

“Funny a female should come into season in winter,” the male remarked. “Probably has something to do with the long Tosevite years.”

Sunk in depression as she was-something about which ginger-tasters had not warned her-Nesseref did not answer. But I wasn’t coming into season, she thought. I wasn’t. I would know if I were. I always know a few days before I do. Every female knows beforehand.

She hadn’t been close to coming into season till she tasted ginger. As soon as she’d tasted it, thoughts of mating started going through her head. That was very strange. She wondered if it would happen every time she tasted. Maybe she would find out, because she wanted to taste again. From these depths, the heights to which she’d ascended on the herb seemed all the more desirable.

Desirable… “Do you males go into season when you taste ginger?” she asked the guards, figuring one or both of them was likely to use the herb.

“No,” one answered. “That’s foolish. How can a male go into season without a female in heat to send him there?” The other sentry gestured to show he agreed.

I don’t know, Nesseref thought. How can a female go into season when it’s not her time? She didn’t know that, either, not for certain, but she’d just done it. Now she noticed the gaping, laughing Tosevites. By the Emperor, how am I any different from them? One more question for which she had no answer.

“I greet you, Exalted Fleetlord,” Kirel said. “I trust your stay in Australia proved enjoyable and restorative?”

“Oh, indeed, Shiplord, indeed,” Atvar said. “And I trust there are new crises and disasters awaiting me here.” His mouth opened in a wry laugh. “There always are.”

“No crises or disasters,” Kirel said, and Atvar felt a strange mixture of disappointment and relief. The shiplord of the bannership went on, “There is one thing, however, which has come up in the last few days that does appear worthy of your attention.”

“There always is,” Atvar said with a sigh. “Very well, Shiplord: enlighten me. You were on the point of doing so anyhow, I have no doubt.”

“As a matter of fact, I was,” Kirel agreed. “It appears that, here and there across Tosev 3, a certain number of females from the colonization fleet have come into season. Matings have taken place, and one male near Basra was badly bitten in a fight over a female.”

“That is curious,” the fleetlord said. “A certain number of females, you tell me? They should all enter their season at about the same time, not piecemeal. Did Reffet use some peculiar selection criteria for them? Are some from the worlds of the Rabotevs and Hallessi rather than Home?”

“I do not believe that to be the case,” Kirel replied. “Nevertheless, there does appear to be a common factor in these incidents.”

His tone warned that good news did not lie ahead. Atvar fixed him with a baleful stare. “I suppose you are going to tell me what this common factor is, too. Before you do, tell me whether I really want to know.”

“I do not know whether you do or not, Exalted Fleetlord,” Kirel said, “but I will tell you that you need to know.”

“Very well,” Atvar said, with the air of a male who expected the enemy to do his worst.

Kirel proceeded to do just that: “It appears that all the females who suddenly came into season had tasted ginger shortly before they did so. This is not certain, due to natural reluctance to admit to ginger-tasting, but it appears likely to be true.”

“I think I will go back to Australia now,” Atvar said. “No, on second thought, I believe I will go into cold sleep and have my miserable, frozen carcass shipped back to Home. When I am revived there, everything that has happened to me here will seem to be only a dream remembered from hibernation. Yes, I like the sound of that very much.”

“Exalted Fleetlord, you led us into battle against the Big Uglies,” Kirel said loyally. “You gained as satisfactory a peace as you could after conditions turned out to be different from those we anticipated. Do you now despair over an herb we have been fighting since not long after our landing on Tosev 3?”

“I am tempted to,” Atvar replied. “Are you not? Fight as we would, we could not keep a great many males from becoming regular ginger users. Do you think we shall have any better luck with the females from the colonization fleet?”

“Who can say, with any certainty?” Kirel replied. “We may yet find a way to overcome the craving the herb causes.”

“I hope you are right,” Atvar said. “But I wish I truly believed it.” He studied Kirel. The shiplord of the 127th Emperor Hetto truly did not seem too upset at the news he had given Atvar. Perhaps he did not understand its implications. Atvar did. Tosev 3 had given him practice in recognizing catastrophes while they were still hatching. He proceeded to spell this one out: “You say it is truth that females who taste ginger go into their season?”

“Some females, yes: this is truth,” Kirel said. “I do not know if it is truth for all females.”

“Spirits of Emperors past grant that it not be,” Atvar said, and cast his eyes down to the floor of his office in Shepheard’s Hotel. “Females going into season will mean males going into season, sure as night follows day.”

“That is also truth, Exalted Fleetlord,” Kirel admitted. “I have no doubt it will prove a nuisance, but-”

“A nuisance,” Atvar exclaimed. “A nuisance? Is that all you see?” Kirel was sound, conservative, reliable. He had as much imagination now as he’d had in his eggshell, when he’d had nothing to imagine. Atvar said, “Females will not taste ginger at only one season of the year, any more than males do.”

“No doubt you are right once more, Exalted Fleetlord.” No, Kirel really did not grasp the size of the disaster looming ahead.

Atvar made it unmistakably clear: “Shiplord, if we have females accessible to mating at any season of the year and males accessible to mating at any season of the year, how are we any different from Big Uglies?

“That is a… fascinating question, Exalted Fleetlord,” Kirel said slowly. “I must confess, I have no good answer for it at the moment.”

“I was hoping you might, because I have none, either,” Atvar said. “The accursed Tosevites have evolved to cope with their bizarre biology. If our biology on this world becomes bizarre, how are we to cope? Evolution has not prepared us to be in season the year around. Can you imagine anything more wearing? How are we to get done that which will assuredly need doing if our minds are constantly filled with thoughts of mating?”

Kirel’s eye turrets were rigid and still with horror as he stared at the fleetlord. “No analysis up to this time has suggested such a chain of events,” he said. “That does not necessarily mean they are improbable, however. Indeed, they strike me as all too probable.” He folded himself into the posture of respect. “How did you come to postulate them?”

“When dealing with matters on this planet, my standard method is to take the worst thing I can imagine, multiply it by ten, and then begin to suspect I have something a quarter of the way to the true level of misfortune,” Atvar said.

Kirel laughed. Atvar wished he had been joking. Kirel asked, “What is now to be done?”

“I do not know,” Atvar answered. His laugh, unlike Kirel’s, was bitter. “We have been studying the Tosevites’ sexuality since we arrived here. Who would have imagined our research might have practical applications to our own situation?”

“We must do everything we can to keep ginger out of the hands and off the tongues of females,” Kirel said. “That will not eliminate the problem, but it will help reduce it.”

“Draft the appropriate orders for my approval,” Atvar said. “As you say, that will not remove the problem, but it will make it smaller. And, like an army that has taken a heavy blow, we need to buy time and regroup.”

“Truth. It shall be done, Exalted Fleetlord.” Kirel hesitated, then went on, “If I may offer a suggestion?”

“Please do,” Atvar said. “The more suggestions we have now, the better.”

“Very well, then.” Kirel looked away from Atvar with both eye turrets for a moment. He was embarrassed at what he was about to say, then. Nevertheless, he said it: “In matters pertaining to year-round sexuality, we are the ignorant ones, the Big Uglies the experts. You could do worse than consult with them in regard to this problem. We shall not be able to keep it secret. In fact, if some of the reports reaching Cairo are true, it is no longer secret. Some very public matings have occurred.”

“Have they?” Atvar shrugged. Such things happened all the time during mating season. Still, Kirel’s point was well taken. Atvar said, “A good notion. I shall summon Moishe Russie. Not only is he a Big Ugly, but also a physician, or what passes for such among his kind. He will undoubtedly be able to tell us much that we do not yet know or suspect about what lies ahead for us.”

He wasted no time, but telephoned Russie at his practice in Jerusalem. Being the most powerful individual on the planet had its advantages: Russie did not refuse to speak to him. Atvar couched his orders in polite terms; he had seen over the years how touchy and stubborn Russie could be. But they were orders, and of that the fleetlord left no doubt.

Next morning, Russie presented himself at Shepheard’s Hotel. “I greet you, Exalted Fleetlord,” he said when Pshing escorted him into Atvar’s presence. “How may I assist you?” He spoke the language of the Race well if pedantically.

Atvar remembered there had been a time when Russie was unwilling to assist the Race in anything. He had, to some degree, mellowed. If he could help the Race without hurting his own kind, he would. The situation was not ideal from the fleetlord’s point of view, but it was acceptable. On Tosev 3, that ranked as something of a triumph.

“I shall explain,” Atvar said, and he did.

Russie listened intently. Atvar had studied Tosevite expressions-far more varied and less subtle than those of the Race-but saw nothing on the Big Ugly’s face save polite interest. When the fleetlord finished, Russie said, “I have already heard something of this. There was an incident in Jerusalem the other day that shocked both Jews and Muslims, but no one knew its likely cause till now.”

An incident that shocked the Muslims was the last thing the fleetlord wanted; that Tosevite faction was already far too restive. He said, “How are we to prevent further such incidents?”

“As you surely know, it is our strong custom to mate privately,” Russie said. “A ban on public mating by the Race would help keep order in areas of the planet you rule.”

“Our custom is the opposite,” Atvar said. “We are in the habit of mating wherever we chance to be when the urge strikes us. Still, for the sake of good order among the Tosevites, a ban such as you suggest might be worthwhile.” It would be a palliative, as would tighter controls on ginger-smuggling, but Tosev 3 had taught him palliatives were not always to be despised.

“If your females, or some of them, are to be in season all the time, you will also need rules about with whom they can mate, and perhaps about what happens when a male mates with a female against her will,” Russie said.

“If a female is in season, mating is not against her will,” Atvar answered.

Russie shrugged. “You know better than I.”

“Not necessarily,” Atvar said. “This is unfamiliar territory for the Race, as unfamiliar as Tosev 3 was before our probe landed here-and as unfamiliar as Tosev 3 was after the probe landed here, too.”

“Why exactly, then, have you summoned me?” the Tosevite asked.

Atvar turned both eye turrets toward him. “For your suggestions,” the fleetlord replied. “You have already given some. I hope you will give more. The Race will have to cope, as we have had to cope with so much on your world.”

“If you had thought of it as our world from the beginning, you would not have these problems now.” Moishe Russie’s face twisted into a peculiar grimace. “And I, very likely, would be dead. I will do what I can for you, Exalted Fleetlord.”

“I thank you.” Atvar sounded more sincere than he had expected. With luck, Russie would not notice.

Monique Dutourd kept noticing Lizards on the streets of Marseille as she bicycled to work. She hadn’t seen so many since the Race ruled the south of France back in the days when she was a girl. Normally, she would not have taken much notice of them. After learning how her brother made his living-after learning Pierre was alive to make a living-she paid more attention to them. She couldn’t help wondering whether they were here to smuggle things into and out of the city.

Semester break had come and gone. Now she was teaching about the later Roman Empire, all the way through the sixth-century era of Justinian. Sure as the devil-in more ways than one, she supposed-Dieter Kuhn was enrolled in the class, still under the name of Laforce.

She wished he weren’t. She wished he weren’t for a couple of reasons, in fact. For one thing, of course, he still wanted to use her to do something dreadful to Pierre. And, for another, she had to teach about the Germanic invasions of the Roman Empire in this part of the course. She knew by his examinations that he took meticulous notes. Having meticulous notes on a Frenchwoman’s opinions about the Germanic invasions of the Empire in Gestapo hands might not have been the last thing she wanted, but it came close.

On she pedaled, threading her way through the traffic with nearly automatic ease. She was glad trousers were more acceptable on women than they had been when she was a girl. They helped preserve modesty on a bicycle and, in winter, they also kept her legs warm-not that Marseille winter was all that cold.

Just south of Rue Grignan, traffic came to a halt. Even on a bicycle, Monique could barely squeeze forward. She tilted her left wrist to look at her watch. When she saw the time, she muttered a curse. She was liable to be late to her lecture, which meant she was liable to be in trouble with the university authorities.

Up ahead, someone in a motorcar blew his horn, and then someone else and someone else again. But, curiously, she heard none of the ripe oaths she would have expected motorists and bicyclists caught in a traffic jam to loose. Instead, what floated back to her ears was laughter, laughter and rude suggestions: “Turn a hose on them!” “In the name of God, find them a hotel room!” “Yes, for heaven’s sake-one with a bidet!” That brought more coarse laughter.

“What is going on up there?” Monique exclaimed, picking her way between a fat man on a bicycle too small for him and a German soldier in a field-gray Volkswagen utility vehicle. The soldier blew her a kiss. The fat man winked at her. She ignored them both. Standing on tiptoe while straddling the bicycle, she tried to see what was going on up ahead. People couldn’t have been so shameless as to prove their affection for each other in the middle of a crosswalk… could they?

A man who should have shaved the day before yesterday looked back over his shoulder and said, “There’s a couple of Lizards up ahead there, fucking their brains out.”

“No,” Monique said, not so much contradiction as simple disbelief.

But, as she edged up even with the man with the stubbled cheeks and chin, she discovered he was telling the truth. There in the middle of the road, a couple of Lizards were going at it for all they were worth. She’d never seen, never imagined seeing, such a thing. In an abstract way, she admired the male’s stamina and enthusiasm, though she wouldn’t have wanted to stand so long with her head down by her toes, as the female was doing.

Aesthetic considerations here were very much by the way. What mattered to her was that the Lizards, by blocking traffic, were going to make her late. “Yes, turn a fire hose on them!” she shouted.

After what seemed like forever but was about five minutes, she got past them. They were still mating as enthusiastically as ever. Half a block down, she spied a policeman. “Why don’t you arrest them?” she shouted, still furious at the delay.

With a shrug, the flic replied, “My dear mademoiselle, I do not know whether it is against the law for Lizards to fornicate in public. So far as I am aware, no statute covers such an eventuality.” He shrugged again and took a bite from a sandwich he carried in place of his billy club, which swung on his belt.

“Arrest them for blocking traffic if you can’t arrest them for screwing,” Monique snapped. The policeman only shrugged again. Monique had no time to argue with him. She pedaled furiously-in every sense of the word-toward the south.

When she strode into the lecture hall, sweat stained her blouse. But she was on time, with about fifteen seconds to spare. She began to talk about the Gothic incursions into the Roman Empire in the middle of the third century, incursions that had cost the Emperor Decius his life, as dispassionately-or so she hoped-as if no such people as the Germans had troubled the world in the seventeen hundred years since Decius’ unfortunate and untimely demise.

At least I don’t publish anything touching on this period, she thought. A lecture could be thought of as written on the wind. A scholarly article left a record as permanent as the inscriptions she pursued. The Gestapo could, if it so chose, do all sorts of unpleasant things with that.

The Gestapo, in the person of Sturmbannfuhrer Dieter Kuhn, came up to her after the lecture and said, “Another stimulating discussion of the issues. You have my compliments, for whatever you think they may be worth.”

“Thank you,” Monique said, and turned away to answer a genuine student’s question about where the Goths had landed along the coast of Asia Minor. It was the last real question she had. When she finished dealing with it, Dieter Kuhn still stood waiting. Her temper flared. “Damn you. What do you want?”

“If it is all right with you, we will ride back to your flat together,” Kuhn said.

“And if it is not all right with me?” Monique set her hands on her hips.

Kuhn shrugged, not quite as a Frenchman would have done. “Then we will ride back to your flat together anyhow.” He had never been anything but polite to her, but he made it very plain he did not intend to take no for an answer.

“Why?” she asked, playing for time.

She did not really expect an answer, but the SS officer gave her one: “Because something strange is happening in your brother’s dealings with the Lizards. It could be that, before too long, he will see us as friends, or at least as professional colleagues, rather than as foes.”

It did not sound like a lie. But then, if it was, it wouldn’t. Still, Monique started to dismiss it… till she remembered the morning traffic snarl. “Does it have to do with Lizards screwing?” she asked.

His eyes, brown as hers, widened slightly. “You are very clever,” he said, as if wondering whether she was too clever for her own good. “How did you figure that out? The situation has made itself plain only in the past few weeks. There has been no talk of it in the newspapers or on the wireless. We have made certain of that.”

“I wish I could take more credit for intelligence, but I saw a pair of them, ah, enjoying themselves as I rode down to the university this morning,” Monique answered.

“Ah,” Kuhn said. “I see. And now, shall we go?”

Monique considered. The only other choice she saw was screaming and hoping enough Frenchmen came running to give the SS man a good beating. But that would be dangerous not only for her but also for anyone who came to her aid. She sighed. “Very well,” she said, though it wasn’t.

Kuhn had, as usual, come prepared. The bicycle he rode was almost as old and disreputable as hers. She rode every day. So far as she knew, he didn’t. He had no trouble staying with her even so. She got the feeling he was, if anything, holding back. She sped up till she might have been racing. Kuhn stuck like a burr. He glanced over to her and nodded, plainly enjoying himself. Damn him, he wasn’t even breathing hard.

As she let him into her flat, she wished, not for the first time, that she only had to worry about him tearing off his trousers. She suspected she wouldn’t be able to stop him if he tried-and a Frenchwoman who dared lodge a complaint against the all-powerful SS would be lucky if she just got ignored. But Kuhn wasn’t interested in her body-or not interested enough to do anything along those lines. To him, she was a tool, a key, not an object of desire.

“Call your brother,” he said now. He must have seen the mulish resistance on her face, for he went on, “You may tell him I am forcing you to do it. You may, if you like, tell him I wish to speak with him, for I do.”

“Why don’t you just call him yourself, then, and leave me out of it?” Monique demanded. More than anything else, she wanted not to be stuck between the brother she didn’t know and the SS she knew too well.

“He is more likely to pay attention to his sister than to someone who has been hunting him for some time,” Dieter Kuhn answered.

“He hasn’t paid any attention to me for more than twenty years,” Monique said. Kuhn looked at her. The look said, Get on with it. Hating herself, she picked up the telephone and dialed the number she’d worked so hard to learn.

“Allo?” It was the woman with the sexy voice. Pierre’s wife? His mistress? Only his secretary? Did smugglers have secretaries? Monique didn’t know.

“Hello,” she said back. “This is Pierre’s sister. There is an SS man in my flat who needs to speak with him.”

That got her a few seconds of silence, and then Pierre’s voice, as full of suspicion as the woman’s had been the first time Monique spoke to her: “Hello, little sister. What nonsense is this about an SS man? Is it the fellow who wanted to be your boyfriend?”

“Yes.” Monique’s face heated. She thrust the handset at Kuhn. “Here.”

“Thank you.” He took it with complete aplomb. “Bonjour, Dutourd. I just thought you ought to know that ginger is a genuine aphrodisiac for female Lizards. They didn’t like the trade before. Now they have an even bigger reason to hate it. If they come after you-when they come after you-we won’t lift a finger to stop them, not unless we get some cooperation on your end.”

He played the game well. Monique already knew that. Now she saw it again. She wondered how much difference it would make to her brother. Not much, she hoped. If Pierre didn’t play this game well, he wouldn’t have been able to stay in business so long himself.

He said something. Monique could hear his voice coming out of the telephone, but not the words. Dieter Kuhn obviously heard the words. “I think you are being an optimist,” he replied. “I think, in fact, you are being a fool. As I said, if you do not cooperate with us, we shall not cooperate with you. Au revoir. ” He hung up, then turned to Monique. “Your brother is stubborn. He will live to regret it-for how long, I cannot say.”

Monique burst into tears. Through them, she pointed to the door. “Get out.” Rather to her surprise, Kuhn left. She cried for a long time even so.

Straha turned one eye up from the documents and photographs Major Sam Yeager had given him toward the Tosevite himself. “You are confirming what my sources in lands ruled by the Race have already reported to me,” he said. “I find it highly amusing. Would you not agree?”

“I just might, Shiplord,” Yeager answered. “For the past twenty years, the Race has been calling us sexually wild, and now your males and females are mating whenever they get the chance. Yes, that is pretty funny, all right.”

“Atvar will be shedding his skin in patches,” Straha said with a certain morbid relish. “Females coming into heat outside the proper mating season will be something new and unexpected. The Race is not at its best dealing with the new and unexpected.” He added an emphatic cough. “And Atvar is not good at dealing with the new and unexpected even for a male of the Race.”

Yeager said, “If you already knew this, Shiplord, I am sorry I had you come down to my house to look at these things.”

“Do not concern yourself,” Straha answered. “I know that one of the things I am is a Tosevite tool. I chose the role myself, if you will recall.” He laughed a small laugh. “How strange that the herb which gives males so much pleasure turns out to give females and males even more.”

“Shiplord, that is one of the things I wanted to ask you,” Yeager said. “There are a couple of females of the Race in Los Angeles now. If we were to arrange to give them some ginger while you were around… if you want us to do that, we can take care of it for you. You have done a lot for us over the years.”

Straha thought about it, then made the negative hand gesture. “You mean this generously, I have no doubt. I believe a Big Ugly who had gone without a female for as long as I have would be inclined to accept. But a male of the Race, you must understand, has no desire until his scent receptors catch the odor of a female in her season.”

“No, I do understand that,” Yeager answered. “If we gave one of these females ginger, you would smell that odor. I wondered if you wanted to, is all.”

“Again, I say thank you, but no,” Straha said. “I am cont