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Charles L. Fontenay.

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and exports and imports between Earth and all the colonized planets.

"Marscorp is against any development of human beings who can live under
natural extraterrestrial conditions, because that would end the
colonies' dependence on Marscorp for supplies. As it is, the colonies
literally can't live without Marscorp. Marscorp controls enough senators
and delegates in the World Congress to block other important projects if
the Earth government refuses to co-operate with it, so the
government - that is to say, Marscorp - put a ban on the experiments by
Hennessey and other scientists here."

"I remember the government ban on the projects, but I wasn't aware that
Marscorp had anything to do with it," said Dark. "Goat Hennessey was one
of a group of us who retired to the desert to continue work despite the
government ban."

"Goat sold out," said the Chief. "Perhaps your memory doesn't include
that important point, but Fancher remembers it well. It was a little
before my time. Goat sold out, and betrayed the others to the
government in return for assistance in carrying out more limited
experiments. Some of the group escaped and formed the nucleus of the
rebel movement which now is centered here at the Childress Barber
College. We call ourselves the Order of the Phoenix."

The Chief allowed himself the luxury of a very faint smile.

"Marscorp and the government call us the Desert Rats," he said. "Very
appropriate. They consider us in the same category as rats."

Dark had been standing, casually at ease, before the Chief's desk, with
the air of a man who does not tire from standing. Now he did something
Fancher would not have dared: without the Chief's invitation, Dark sat
down in a comfortable chair, leaned back and stretched out his legs in
relaxation.

"It's a little hard for me to realize there's a twenty-five-year gap in
my memory," he said. "It seems to me that it has been less than a month
ago that Goat and I were together, with other refugees from the
government edict, in the Icaria Desert. Why did you ask me about Goat?"

"Because the government brought him back to Mars City not three months
ago," answered the Chief. "None of us had any idea where he was, but it
turns out that the government has had him working under surveillance
some place in the Xanthe Desert north of Solis Lacus. Since it was not
far from Solis Lacus that you were picked up, I wondered if you had had
any contact with him."

"Not that I remember," said Dark. "Do you have another of those cigars?"

"Why, yes," answered the Chief, startled. He produced another Hadriacum
cigar and handed it to Dark. Dark lit it and puffed the fragrant smoke
with evident enjoyment.

"As I say, the last time I remember seeing Goat was in the Icaria
Desert, in a dome we had set up there," said Dark. "The next thing I
remember is waking up in the midst of some sort of cave in a different
part of Icaria, surrounded by Martians.

"I could communicate with them in a fashion - something I was never able
to do before - and they were able to write the name of the Childress
Barber College so I could read it. But they evidently don't
differentiate our dome cities by name. I had no idea the college was
here in Mars City until your men contacted me; I just assumed it was at
Solis Lacus."

"You'd have waged a merry search for it, clear on the other side of
Mars," remarked the Chief. "What was your purpose in finding it?"

"I don't know that I had any specific purpose," replied Dark easily. "I
gathered from the Martians that here I could find someone who concurred
with my philosophy of resisting the government edict against seeking
self-sufficiency on Mars, and this was more or less confirmed by your
two men who contacted me at Solis Lacus."

"I'll see to it that in the future they're not quite so frank until
they're sure of their man," said the Chief darkly. He looked quizzically
at Fancher, and Fancher nodded slightly. "But it's true. As a matter of
fact, the Phoenix follows the path toward self-sufficiency that you
recommended, rather than the one sought by Goat Hennessey."

"That's the wrong way to approach it," said Dark promptly. "Goat and the
other scientists were following a line offering valid possibilities in
their genetic research. The only reason the rest of us chose to attempt
the extrasensory powers - particularly teleportation - was that we were
not qualified in genetic research and this seemed a field in which we
stood a chance to contribute along alternate lines. The effort should be
followed along both lines."

"The government managed to capture all the scientists at the time of
your disappearance, and it was assumed that you had been captured, too,"
said the Chief. "We don't have any scientists in the Phoenix who are
capable of doing Goat Hennessey's type of research."

"You say he's in Mars City? I wonder if it would do any good for me to
contact him."

"I told you that he was the one who betrayed the whole thing to the
government, and he's been working under government supervision these
last twenty-five years. I wouldn't trust him."

The Chief surveyed Dark's strong face with speculative green eyes, then
added:

"As a matter of fact, we've made a certain amount of progress following
your line of research. Since there are probably a good many things you
discovered in this work that we haven't stumbled on yet, we could use
your help in developing it, if you're interested."

"Very definitely," answered Dark. "I'm interested in seeing what you've
done, and I'll be glad to help in any way I can."

"There's one thing," said the Chief, measuring his words. "I've held
this organization together despite some pretty severe reverses for more
than fifteen years now. The reason I've been able to do it is that I
expect and must insist on absolute obedience to my orders."

Dark smiled. "I said that I would be willing to help you," he replied
gently. "I follow no man's orders."

The green eyes fixed themselves unwinkingly on the pale-blue ones for a
long moment. The blue ones did not waver.

At last, to Fancher's utter amazement, the Chief nodded agreement.




5


Maya Cara Nome looked from her furnished room through cracked shutters
at the building across the street.

A barber college. The building at 49 Sage Avenue, Mars City, was a
barber college.

That surprised her. She didn't know exactly what she had expected: a
hospital, perhaps, or even a kindergarten. But a barber college!

But the source of the information she had received that 49 Sage Avenue
was the address she sought was unimpeachable. She had ferreted it out,
after a long time and through devious ways, and she was sure she could
trust it.

"The Childress Barber College" read the neatly lettered sign above the
door. Maya's landlady, moon-faced Mrs. Chan, had pointed out Oxvane
Childress to her as he left the building one day: a big man,
comfortably stomached, with a heavy brown beard which, even at that
distance, she could see was shot with gray.

As innocent as you please. Childress came out and went in, the students
went in and came out. Still, it was the address she had been given.

Maya had to gain entrance to the building. She could learn nothing
watching it from outside. She was established here as a tourist from
Earth; besides, the position and activities of women were prescribed
rigidly by Martian colonial convention, and women did not study to
become barbers on Mars.

She would have to have help. She, thought at once of Nuwell, and as
immediately rejected him.

"Maya, I don't see why you insist on working alone," he had complained.
"I can set the whole machinery of government in motion to help you,
whenever you need it."

"Primarily because you're well known and your activities are observed,"
she had answered. "Your whole government machinery hasn't been effective
in tracking down the rebel headquarters yet, and it's reasonable to
assume that the rebels have a fairly effective intelligence network. My
job is to find that headquarters, and if I were seen very often with you
or tried to utilize your government machinery, they'd have me pinpointed
pretty soon."

She left the window, filled a tiny basin with precious water, shrugged
out of her negligee and sponged her small, perfect body. She donned
form-fitting tunic, briefs and short skirt, pulled on knee-length socks
and laced up Martian walking shoes. She spent some time preparing her
hair and face.

Then she left the room and the house and walked uptown. The walk was
about a kilometer, along sidewalks bordered by cubical, functional
houses and trim lawns of terrestrial grass and small trees. Above the
city, its dome was opalescent in the morning sun.

The small houses gave way to larger business buildings, also cubical,
and the lawns dwindled and vanished. Farther down, the buildings were
even larger and the streets were wider and busier; but she was not
going into the heart of Mars City.

She turned into an office building, and studied the directory in the
lobby. The offices were those of doctors and lawyers. On the directory
she found "Charlworth Scion, Attorney-at-Law, Room 207."

There was no elevator. Maya walked up the stairs and down a corridor,
finding a door that had nothing on it but the number. She turned the
knob and went in.

The small outer office was uninhabited. It was carpeted and desked, with
two straight chairs against a wall, for clients. Through a door, she
could see part of the inner office, cluttered and stacked with papers
and books.

She stood there, hesitating. The outer door clicked shut behind her. At
the sound, a gray-haired, preoccupied man with spectacles and stooped
shoulders peered from the inner office.

"Oh!" he said. "I'm sorry, my secretary went to lunch a bit early today.
Can I help you, Miss?"

"I'm looking for Mr. Scion," she said.

"I'm Charlworth Scion."

"Terra outshines the Sun," said Maya.

Scion's eyes were suddenly wary behind the spectacles.

"Well, well," he murmured. "Come in, please."

She went into the cluttered inner office, and Scion closed and locked
the door.

"And you are ...?" said Scion behind his desk, his pale hands fumbling
aimlessly with papers.

"Maya Cara Nome," she said.

Scion found a paper and scanned it. He apparently found her name there.

"I'm surprised to see you here," he admitted. "Our information was that
you would be working entirely alone."

"I am," said Maya. "Or I was. I was told not to contact you unless I had
to, Mr. Scion, but it seems I'm going to need some help."

Scion inclined his head, but said nothing.

"As you may or may not know, my specific assignment is to locate the
nerve center of rebellious activity," said Maya. "It seems that the
rebels have an intelligence network about as effective as the
government's, and it was felt that a woman tourist from Earth might be
successful where any unusual probing by local agents might arouse
suspicion."

"That's true," conceded Scion. "I doubt that they're really sure of the
identity of more than a few of our agents, but sometimes I think they
have a card file on every person on Mars. We have to be very careful
that movements of our agents are consistent with their pretended
occupations."

"I have a reliable tip that their nerve center is the Childress Barber
College here," she said. "I can't find out anything, though, unless I
get into the building over a period of time. As a woman, I can't very
well apply to study barbering."

"No," said Scion. "I see your problem."

He turned to a filing cabinet, unlocked it and searched through it,
whistling tunelessly. He found a folder, pulled it out and studied it.

"If it is, they've certainly kept it well covered," he said. "There's
not a mark of suspicion entered against the Childress Barber College.
But here's a possibility for getting you in. The barber college employs
one secretary, female. Now, if you could take her place...."

Maya smiled.

"I might as well apply as a barber student," she said. "You propose to
remove a trusted member of their own group from their midst and replace
her with a complete unknown?"

"We don't know that she's a rebel," answered Scion. "If she isn't, she
can be lured away to another job at a much better salary. If she is, and
can't be lured ... well, there are other methods. The Mars City
Employment Agency is operated by one of our agents, and you'll be the
only secretary available when the barber college asks for a woman to
fill her place.

"Believe me, Miss Cara Nome, as easy as it is for a woman to get married
on Mars, it is difficult to find women to do any sort of business work.
It won't seem at all strange that you're the only one available."

"The only trouble is that I'm known in the neighborhood as a tourist
from Earth," objected Maya.

"Well," said Scion, "things have been more expensive than you planned
for on Mars. You've run short of money. You have to work for a while to
pay living expenses here until the next ship leaves for Earth."

"My account at the bank?"

"It will vanish quietly from the records," said Scion with a smile. "The
bank is a government institution."

"Very well," said Maya, taking her purse from his desk. "Let me know
when I'm to apply."

"You won't hear from me again," said Scion, shaking his head. "The
employment agency will notify you to appear at the barber college for an
interview."

Maya knew of Scion only as her emergency contact on Mars. She did not
know what position he held in that underground network of terrestrial
agents which was largely unknown even to Nuwell Eli, the government
prosecutor. But, whatever his position, he got things done in a hurry.

Within two weeks, Maya was typing up applications, examination reports
and supply orders in the Childress Barber College, joking and flirting
with barber students between classes, and naively declaiming to her
ostensible employer, phlegmatic Oxvane Childress, how lucky it was for
her that she was able to get a job right across the street from her
rooming house.

"The work's easy," rumbled Childress, explaining her tasks to her. "Any
time you want to take a coffee break with any of the young men, or go
uptown shopping, go ahead, as long as the work gets done. Just one
thing: you have to stay up here in the front of the building, and don't
ever go back in the classrooms. The instructors are mighty strict about
that, and that's one rule I won't stand to be violated."

This significant restriction convinced Maya she was on the right track.
But she needed to move cautiously, if she was not to arouse immediate
suspicion. So she adhered strictly to her role for nearly a month,
keeping her eyes open.

If it was a rebel operation, it was almost perfectly disguised.
Childress performed the duties of the administrative head of a barber
college, and nothing more. The students, about fifty of them, went in
and out at regular school hours, and she became casually acquainted with
a good many of them. The half-dozen instructors, whom she also came to
know, were less regular in their movements, but she could detect nothing
suspicious about them.

"We cut the hair of Mars," was the college's motto, and she learned that
it was the larger of only two barber colleges on the planet. Apparently,
it actually did supply graduate barbers to all the dome cities. It took
in customers for the students to practice on, and, although many of them
were strangers, some of them were prominent Mars City citizens whom she
knew by sight.

There was no question about it: partially, at least, it was a legitimate
barber college, whatever other activities it might mask. The only thing
noticeably unusual on the surface was that it was extremely selective in
its approval of students who applied for courses in barbering. She
discerned that through her processing of the applications.

If she was going to find out anything definite, she would have to get
into the forbidden rear portion of the building. But obviously there
were legitimate classrooms there, in addition to the activities she
suspected, and if she were caught nosing around the classrooms she would
be discharged at once for violation of the rules, without finding out
what she sought. She would have to hit it right the first time.

Biding her time and watching, she was able to learn, almost intuitively,
from the movements of students, customers and instructors, that the
classrooms in which barbering was actually taught were all concentrated
on the western side of the building. If there were any more sinister
activities, they occurred on the opposite side. Having determined this,
she planned her course of action.

Near the end of her first month at work, she chose her time one day
when Childress was downtown, leaving her alone in the business office.
The afternoon classes were in full swing.

Taking along a filled-out order form as an excuse, Maya walked quickly
down the corridor that stretched across the front of the building.
Carefully and quietly, she pushed open the door at the extreme end of
the corridor - a little surprised, as a matter of fact, to find it
unlocked.

She was in another corridor, that struck straight back to the rear of
the building.

She hesitated. There were doors spaced all along both sides of this
corridor. Did she dare attempt to open one, on the chance that the room
behind it was unoccupied?

Then she saw that one door, a little way down, stood half open. Quietly
she walked down the hall, not quite to the door, but near enough to it
to be able to see a large area of the room behind it.

There were people in there. In the part she was able to see, there were
half a dozen students seated, and one of the instructors standing among
them. Fortunately, their backs were to her.

Whatever they were studying, it was not barbering. There was an
occasional murmur of voices, but she could not make out the words.

Then she saw! On the table at the front of the room, which the students
faced, there was a big barber's basin.

As she watched, the basin slowly raised off the table and moved upward a
few inches. No one was near it, but it floated there, quivering and
tilting a little, in the air. And then, from it, slowly, the water
itself came up in a weird fountain, moved completely free of the basin
and hung above it in the air, gradually assuming the form of a globe.

Telekinesis! This was a class in telekinesis! The students were
concentrating on the basin and water, and lifting them into the air by
the power of their minds.

This was indeed the heart of the rebel movement. She had found what she
sought.

"Aren't you where you shouldn't be, young lady?" asked a calm masculine
voice behind her.

Shocked, terrified, she whirled. A tall, handsome, dark-haired man she
had never seen before was standing there, observing her quizzically. His
pale eyes seemed to look through her and beyond her.

She forced herself to casual composure.

"I don't believe I've met you," she said. "Are you one of the
instructors?"

"I'm Dark Kensington, one of the supervisors," he replied. "And you're
Miss Cara Nome, the secretary, who shouldn't be back here."

Had he noticed that she saw the telekinetic action? She glanced back at
the classroom. The basin was now comfortably ensconced back on the
table, full of water.

"I had this order, which I thought was of an emergency nature," she
said, offering it to him. "Mr. Childress wasn't in, and I thought I'd
better find one of the instructors so it could be approved and go out
right away."

Dark took it and glanced at it.

"I doubt that its emergency nature is as grave as you may have thought,"
he said soberly. "However, Mr. Childress would be better qualified to
judge that. You understand that I shall have to report this infraction
of the rules to him."

Suddenly, Maya was overwhelmed by an utterly terrifying sensation. It
seemed that these pale-blue eyes were looking into her mind, searching,
seeking to determine her thoughts and her true intention.

Instinctively, not knowing how she did it, she veiled her thoughts with
a psychic barrier. And, instinctively, she recognized that he detected
the barrier and could not penetrate it.

Telepathy? Why not, if they were experimenting successfully with
telekinesis?

"I'm sorry," she murmured hurriedly, and brushed past him. He did not
try to detain her.

She hurried back to the office. She hurried, but as she hurried down
first the one corridor and then the other, she discovered that her steps
were slowing involuntarily. A powerful force seemed to be detaining
her, attempting to draw her back.

Frightened but curious, she attempted to analyze this force even as she
struggled against it. She could not be sure - it was disturbing, either
way, but she could not be sure whether it was a telepathic thing or
merely the magnetic force of this man's powerful masculine personality
that pulled at her.

In a state of mental turmoil, she reached the office. Childress was not
yet back.

Should she wait for him?

Then, as suddenly as she had sensed Dark Kensington's telepathic
probing, she sensed something else. Somewhere in the back of the
building, he was talking to another man she had not seen before, and
within ten minutes Dark Kensington would be in this office. And the
prospect she faced was far more serious than mere discharge for
infringement of company rules.

She had to get in touch with Nuwell at once. She recognized that if she
could get out of this building and across the street to her rooming
house, she would be safe for a little while. She could telephone Nuwell
from there.

Grabbing her purse, she hastened out of the office.




6


The three men who stood by a table in the back lobby of the Childress
Barber College and checked off the departure of the men at regularly
spaced intervals were as different in appearance as they were in their
positions in the Order of the Phoenix.

Oxvane Childress, big and bearded, was the "front," and directed the
very necessary task of administering the Childress Barber College as a
genuine barber college. Childress was a prominent member of two of Mars
City's civic and social clubs, and careful examination of his activities
over a period of years would have thrown no suspicion on him.

The Chief, whose real name perhaps Childress knew but never spoke, was a
huge-headed midget who directed the far-flung activities of the Order of
the Phoenix as an underground rebel organization. He never left the
building, but reports were brought in to him from all over Mars. He knew
a great deal at any time about what the government and Marscorp were
doing, and he gave the orders for those moves aimed at maintaining the
secrecy of the Phoenix.

Dark Kensington, tall and pale-eyed, had moved at once into the natural
position of guiding the experimental work of the organization in
extrasensory perception and telekinesis. He was able to add his
knowledge of earlier work to the progress that had been made since his
disappearance, and co-ordinated the studies in the various dome cities.

A little behind the three stood Fancher Laddigan, doing the actual
checking with a pencil on a list in his hand.

"I think it's all unnecessary," rumbled Childress unhappily. "I watched
the girl carefully while she was here, and the usual checks were made
into her background. It's true she had some social contacts with Nuwell
Eli when she first came to Mars, but there's nothing sinister about that
association and it seems the last thing a Marscorp agent would do
openly. As far as I could determine, she just realized she'd violated a
rule and would be discharged for it, so she left before she could be
discharged."

"She hasn't returned to her rooming house," remarked the Chief in his
high, thin voice.

"Looking for another job, or maybe just on a trip," said Childress.
"After all, she's a terrestrial tourist. If this is all a false alarm,
how am I going to explain suspending operation of the college for a
period?"

"Remodeling," replied the Chief. "Work out the details and put a sign up
as soon as evacuation has progressed far enough."

"It may be unnecessary, Oxvane," said Dark, "but it's best not to take
chances. This telepathy is a very uncertain thing, and sometimes it's
hard to differentiate true telepathic communication from one's own hopes
or fears. But it seemed to me that I had the very definite sense that
Miss Cara Nome was seeking something with hostile intent, and it's
entirely possible that she saw part of one of the experiments through
that open door."


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