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Charles L. Fontenay.

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under his arm. Why would he be wearing a marsuit in a groundcar?

As she looked, he laid down the pen and turned. His face was darkly
tanned, strong, handsome. His hair was black as midnight, his eyes
startlingly pale in the dark face.

His gaze lifted to the balcony, and Maya ducked behind the big hat just
in time.

Dark Kensington!

Triumph swept through her. She had been right in coming here! This was
Dark Kensington, the man she had met once, just before the raid on the
college. This was one of the leaders!

The hat held casually to conceal her face, Maya walked on to her room.

The telephone was ringing as she entered. She dropped the hat on the
bed, and answered it.

"Miss Cara Nome, this is Quelman Gren, the manager," said the male voice
on the line. "You asked me to notify you about any new guests. One has
just registered."

"I saw him," she said. "What can you tell me about him?"

"He is registered as D. Kensington, from Hesperidum," answered Gren. "He
is just staying overnight. His groundcar dome was broken in an accident,
and he wants to have it replaced and the groundcar refueled."

"Thank you," said Maya. "Now, please put in a call for me to S. Nuwell
Eli in Mars City."

She had bathed and dressed for dinner by the time the call came through.

"Nuwell," she said, when he had identified himself on the other end of
the line, "I knew I was right in coming here. One of the rebel leaders
just registered."

"Are you sure?" he asked excitedly.

"Certainly I am. He was one of those who stayed hidden in the back of
the barber college, and I saw him for the first time the day of the
raid. He identified himself then as a supervisor. But he's just staying
overnight."

"That's long enough! I'll get a jet and be up in a few hours. Get the
police to take him in custody and hold him for me."

"Darling, there aren't any police at Solis Lacus," Maya reminded him.
"This is a private resort area. The nearest police are at Ophir."

There was a silence while Nuwell digested this.

"You say he's staying overnight?" Nuwell said then. "I can be there
before midnight with some men to take him in custody."

"I'm a trained agent," said Maya. "I can take him in custody for you."

"You'll do no such thing!" squawked Nuwell in alarm. "It's, too
dangerous! Now you listen to me, Maya. You stay out of sight of this man
and wait till I get there!"

"All right, darling, I'll use my own judgment," replied Maya demurely,
and hung up.

She sat and cogitated for a time. She was dressed for dinner, and she
had been looking forward to appearing in the dining room in the somewhat
sensational moulded, flame-red gown she had bought recently in Mars
City. She didn't relish the idea of having dinner sent to her room, and
sitting up here alone to eat it.

With sudden decision, she arose. She donned dark glasses and tossed a
powder-red veil over her dark hair. Kensington had only seen her once
and would not be expecting to see her here. If he saw her now, he
wouldn't recognize her.

Fifteen minutes later, she was sipping an extremely expensive martini in
the dining room when she raised her eyes to see Dark Kensington enter,
wearing a dark-red, form-fitting evening suit.

He paused just inside the door and stood there, slowly surveying the
room. His eyes fell on Maya and paused. Then he walked straight to her
table.

"May I join you, Miss Cara Nome?" he asked in a deep, controlled voice,
a rather sardonic smile on his lips.

She felt trapped, and irrationally angry at him for recognizing her.

"I'm afraid you've made a mistake," she said coldly. "That isn't my
name."

At this juncture, a helpful waiter appeared at Maya's elbow and asked in
an appallingly distinct tone:

"Would you care for another drink, Miss Cara Nome, or do you wish to eat
now?"

"An understandable mistake, since it's such a common name," said Dark,
sitting down opposite her. He turned pale-blue eyes, remote and filled
with light, on the waiter, and added: "She'll have another drink, and
bring me one of the same."

The waiter left, and Maya removed her dark glasses to level furious
black eyes at Dark.

"I could call the manager and complain that you're annoying me, you
know," she said.

"You could," he agreed somberly. "You seem to be a very efficient
tattletale. Or are you going to try to pretend that you weren't the one
responsible for the raid on the college?"

She recognized that she was well in for it. He was not going to play a
game of pretense. Well, she had tried - partly, anyway - to do as Nuwell
wanted.

Very deliberately, she opened her purse, realizing that Dark was
watching her closely, all his muscles tense. She took out a cigarette
case and a lighter, laying them side by side on the table, and he
relaxed visibly.

Maya extracted a cigarette and placed it between her lips casually. She
picked up the lighter and balanced it in her hand.

"I assume that you're not armed, Mr. Kensington," she said.

He shrugged and smiled, revealing strong white teeth.

"Hardly, in this suit," he replied. "I'm glad to see you've decided to
recognize me."

"I am," she said grimly. "Armed, I mean. This is not a cigarette
lighter, but a very efficient and deadly heatgun. You're under arrest,
Mr. Kensington, so I suppose you're having dinner with me whether you
like it or not. Now, do you mind being a gentleman and lighting my
cigarette, since this is not very good for the purpose?"

He looked at her face, then dropped his eyes to the lighter, still
smiling.

"You'd better take my word for it," she advised. "I don't want to kill
you, Mr. Kensington, but I won't hesitate. I'm an agent of the
terrestrial government."

Dark shrugged again. He produced a lighter and leaned forward to light
her cigarette, without a tremor.

The waiter returned with their drinks and an announcement.

"There's a telephone call for you from Mars City, Miss Cara Nome," he
said.

Maya kept her eyes on Dark.

"Can you bring a telephone to the table?" she asked the waiter.

"Certainly, Miss," he replied. He left, and returned a moment later with
a telephone. He set it before her and plugged it in under the table.

Juggling the lighter-gun gently in one hand, Maya picked up the phone.
As soon as she answered it, her ears were assailed by Nuwell's agonized
voice.

"Maya, I can't get up there tonight!" he said. "There aren't any jets
here, and these idiots refuse to bring one in from Hesperidum or Cynia
for me to use. I'll have to come up by groundcar."

Maya sat silent, stunned. It had not seemed too great a feat to her to
hold Dark captive with her disguised heatgun when she was anticipating
Nuwell's arrival within hours. But suddenly she felt like a hunter who
has snared a lion in a rabbit trap.

"Maya, are you there?" demanded Nuwell querulously. "We'll spell each
other at the wheel and drive up without stopping, but it will still take
two and a half days to get there."

Maya took a deep breath.

"Come ahead," she said in a steady voice. "I'll have your man waiting
for you when you get here."

"You'll what? But I thought you said he was only staying overnight!
Maya, don't you do anything rash!"

"I'm afraid I already have," she said, a little ruefully. "I have him
under arrest right now."

The noise at the other end of the line sounded like a dismayed shriek.

"You little fool!" he shrilled. "I told you not to do anything like
that! How can you hold a man like that for two days, single-handed? Call
in the police!"

"It seems to me that I already mentioned there aren't any around here,"
she reminded him patiently.

There was a long silence on the other end of the line. Then Nuwell said,
with forced calm:

"I'm leaving immediately. In the name of space, Maya, be careful!"

Maya put the telephone quietly back in its cradle and looked across the
table at the Tartar she had caught. Dark smiled at her, easily.

"So the reinforcements you were expecting won't get here tonight, after
all," he remarked softly.

"He didn't say that at all!" she retorted, too quickly.

"There's hardly any point in trying to deceive me about it is there?" he
pointed out. "I can tell a great deal from your conversation and the
expression on your face, and I'd estimate that your help is going to
have to come from Mars City by groundcar - a trip I've just made, so I
know exactly how long it takes. Do you plan for us to spend these two
nights in your room, or mine?"

She looked at him silently, stricken.

"I see our waiter returning," said Dark equably. "I trust you'll enjoy
your meal as much as I'm going to enjoy mine, Miss Cara Nome."




8


The waiter unplugged the telephone and lifted it from their table.

"We're ready to order now," Maya said to him. "And please ask Mr. Gren
to come in here."

A few moments after the waiter left, the manager came to their table.
Quelman Gren was dark and thin-faced, with sleek, oily hair.

"When I told you I was here in an official capacity for the government,
Mr. Gren, you said you would co-operate with me in every way possible,"
said Maya.

"Yes, Miss Cara Nome, I have made every effort to do so," replied Gren.
"Is there some way I can help you now?"

"Yes, there is," she said. "This man is my prisoner, and I'm going to
have to keep him in custody here for two days and a half, until help
arrives from Mars City. I'd like for you to arm a couple of dependable
men with heatguns and assign them to help me guard him."

Gren shook his head.

"I'm sorry, Miss Cara Nome, but none of the employees of the Chateau
Nectaris was employed for that sort of work, and I'm not going to ask
them to do it. What you should have is police help."

"As you know very well, there are no police nearer than Ophir," she
said in an exasperated tone. "Surely, you have some semi-official
officers employed in the chateau in case of trouble among the guests."

"I have a house detective, but his duties are to intervene only when
some crime has been committed against a guest or against the chateau.
You told me that you were seeking political rebels, and I assume that
that is your charge against Mr. Kensington. My house detective has no
authority to act in such cases, and I do not intend to get the chateau
mixed up in these affairs.

"I've co-operated with you to the extent of giving you information you
wanted, Miss Cara Nome, and I'll continue to co-operate insofar as I am
not asked to do something I have no authority to do. It occurs to me
that if you came here seeking rebels, you should have come equipped to
handle them if you found them."

"It occurs to me that you act very much as though you were in sympathy
with the rebel cause," retorted Maya angrily.

"My sympathies are not the government's affair, as long as I take no
illegal actions," said Gren. "Good evening, Miss Cara Nome."

Maya gazed after him furiously as he left the dining room. Dark, sitting
completely relaxed, smiled pleasantly at her.

"Please be assured," he said, "that I'm going to try to avoid injuring
you in any way when I escape your custody."

"I'm not worried, because you aren't going to escape," she said. "But I
appreciate the thought. You seem to be a very mild-mannered person,
for...."

She stopped.

"For a rebel?" he finished for her. "I really don't know what sort of
indoctrination you must have had, Maya - if I may call you Maya, and
there's no point in being formal under the circumstances. The students
at the barber college were all rebels, and the reports I received were
that you got along nicely with most of them."

"Yes, I did. I don't suppose it should surprise me to find that rebels
are human beings, too."

"Merely a matter of a difference in orientation. And a question for you
to consider is, which orientation actually is correct?"

Maya did not like the direction the conversation was taking. She was
relieved by the appearance of the waiter with their meals of thick,
steaming steaks, with all the necessary trimmings.

"It will be a long time before we can be served anything like this by
teleportation," she said, laughing. "But, Mr. Kensington - "

"Dark, if you don't mind."

"Very well. Dark, you say that you drove here from Mars City. How did
you avoid the copter patrols that were out trying to intercept the
escaping rebels?"

"As a matter of fact, I didn't, and that's a very peculiar thing," he
said thoughtfully. "One of them got me just outside Mars City and
blasted the dome of my groundcar."

"I noticed you were wearing a marsuit when you registered here, and Gren
said you were having the dome repaired."

"That's what's peculiar about it. I wasn't wearing the marsuit when the
copter broke my dome. I didn't have any protection at all. The groundcar
went off the road and overturned. I don't know how long I was
unconscious, but it was evidently long enough for the copter to look me
over, decide I was dead, and move on out of sight. What I can't
understand is why I didn't asphyxiate."

"You mean that you were protected by no oxygen equipment at all?"

"None. I returned to consciousness and I was lying there with the dome
broken wide open and my face bare to the Martian air. I got into my
marsuit right away, of course, but that took a few minutes in addition
to the time I was unconscious. And I didn't feel restricted by the lack
of air. I wasn't even breathing. And I felt that I didn't need to!"

"That is peculiar," she said meditatively. "Tell me, do you know a man
named Goat Hennessey?"

"You're the second person who's asked me that recently," said Dark. "I
knew him well, many years ago, but I haven't seen him in years. Why do
you ask?"

"Because the only case I've heard about of any human being able to live
without oxygen in the Martian atmosphere involved some genetic
experiments of Goat Hennessey, before the government made him stop them
and destroy the creatures he'd been experimenting with."

Dark laughed.

"I can assure you I'm not one of Goat's genetic experiments," he said.
"Goat and I were colleagues in this rebel movement twenty-five years
ago, before I was hit by a period of amnesia that I've just come out
of."

She stared at him.

"A twenty-five year period of amnesia? Impossible! You're not more than
twenty-five years old," she said positively.

"If what people tell me is correct, I'm nearer sixty," said Dark.
"Terrestrial years, of course."

"Of course. But I don't believe it."

Dark shrugged, and cut another bite of steak. He seemed to be enjoying
his meal quite as much as though he were not her prisoner and she his
captor - as, indeed, she was, too.

They chatted pleasantly throughout the meal and Maya found, somewhat to
her surprise, that she was talking about herself a great deal to this
pale-eyed man. She told him of her childhood on Mars, among the
Martians, and of going to Earth to live with her uncle, a World Senator
who had had close and profitable connections with Marscorp.

She went on to tell of her decision to become an agent of the
terrestrial government, despite her uncle's objections but as a result
of his often-expressed enthusiasm for the government's role in
developing the planetary colonies; and of her assignment to Mars to
ferret out a rebel headquarters which had eluded the best efforts of the
Martian government. She even told him how she had met Nuwell and fallen
in love with him.

Some time after the meal's conclusion, she suddenly stopped in
mid-sentence.

"What's the matter?" asked Dark.

"I just realized that you're my prisoner," she answered, smiling at him.
"Frankly, I'm not sure what to do with you. We can't just sit here in
the dining room all night."

"Why not go out and sit on the terrace?" he suggested. "They say that
Solis Lacus is a beautiful sight when Phobos is up and moving."

"And a shadowed terrace is a very convenient place from which to attempt
an escape," she countered.

"Look," he said, "there's no point in making the evening more difficult
than it is. I very definitely intend to get away from you and get out of
here during the next two days if I can, but I'm enjoying this
conversation. If I promise that I won't attempt an escape in the next
two hours, are you willing to go up on the terrace for a while?"

She studied his face carefully. It was a handsome, earnest face, full of
strength, full of wisdom, with a touch of weariness.

"All right," she said at last. "But I warn you that if my trust is
misplaced and you do attempt to escape, I'll burn you down without
compunction."

They went up together, quite as casually as might any two guests
relaxing at the resort, and found chairs in the semi-darkness
overlooking the moonlit lowland.

Deimos hung near the zenith, a tiny globe of light, virtually
stationary. Phobos, larger and brighter, was not long risen, and it
moved swiftly and smoothly across the sky, like the cold searchlight of
some giant aircraft. Touched and transformed by the shifting shadows,
Maya and Dark sat and chatted like old friends.

Dark talked now, and he told her of his past life, of his coming to
Mars, of his joining the rebel movement upon realizing how the
government was holding back man's progress toward Martian
self-sufficiency. He spoke soberly, with intense conviction, and Maya,
listening, began to realize that there was another side to this conflict
than the one she had been taught.

She began to waver and to wonder, for the grave voice of this man was
like a deep music she had never heard before but seemed to remember from
some time before there was hearing, a music that touched the depths of
her being.

Then his arm slid around her waist and he drew her gently toward him.
For an instant, she responded, turning her face upward.

And, on that instant, she remembered.

With a lightning twist, she was free, and on her feet before him. She
stepped back, and the lighter-gun was in her hand.

"I thought you said I could trust you," she said coldly. "Evidently, I
was foolish to do so."

He looked up at her, and there was nothing but surprise on his face.
Then, slowly, he smiled at her.

"It depends on your interpretation of the word," he said. "I was merely
attempting to kiss you, my dear."

She let her hand sag, feeling rather foolish.

"Well, don't," she said, her sharpness covering her confusion. "We
aren't lovers, Mr. Kensington."

"No," he said, quite seriously. "And I find that I rather regret that we
aren't."

She stood looking at him, fighting off a sneaking regret of her own that
he hadn't succeeded in his intention.

"I think this moonlight has had an unfortunate effect on us both," she
said. "We'd better go inside. Besides, if I'm to keep watch over you all
night, I want to get into something more practical than an evening
gown."

Without protest, Dark preceded her inside. They went to the manager's
office, and Maya issued instructions to Gren.

"Have a maid move my things from my third-floor room to a room on the
top floor," she ordered. "We'll wait here until it's done."

When the maid brought Maya the key to the new room, she and Dark took
the elevator to it. As soon as they were inside, she locked the door
behind them.

"I'm going into the bathroom to change clothes," she said precisely.
"The window to this room is six floors above a stone courtyard and I
don't think you can jump that far without being killed, even on Mars.
Since these windows don't open, I'll hear you if you break it to get
out, and I can burn you long before you can climb down the face of the
wall."

The lighter-gun in her hand, she went into the bathroom and closed the
door behind her.

She had just stripped off the evening gown when she heard the bathroom
door lock from the outside. A moment later, there was the crashing sound
of breaking glass.

Calmly, Maya burned off the lock of the bathroom door with the little
heatgun. She pushed it open and went out into the room in her underwear.
Dark was in the process of gingerly climbing through the broken window.

"It's a long fall, Dark," she said.

He looked back over his shoulder. He smiled ruefully, and came back into
the room.

"Well, it was worth a try," he said philosophically.

He surveyed her with frankly admiring eyes and added:

"And it was worth failing, for the view."

She turned pink. But, without taking her eyes off him, she reached back
into the bathroom, got the tunic and trousers she had laid out, and
slipped them on.

"I think it would be better if we go down and sit in the middle of the
lobby," she said, unlocking the door to the room. "That way, you'll have
farther to run if you try to get away."

They went down and found comfortable seats. They sat there, talking, to
all casual appearance two of the chateau's guests. Gradually, the
conversation moved back to its earlier informal and friendly terms.

How long they sat chatting, Maya did not know, for she was wrapped up in
her enjoyment of the things Dark said and his attitude toward life. But
after a time she realized that no more guests were sitting in the lobby
or moving through it. They were the only ones there, except for Gren,
sitting morosely behind the registration desk.

"Just how do you propose to get any sleep and watch me at the same
time?" asked Dark.

"I don't," she answered, smiling. "If you can stay awake for two nights,
so can I."

"You forget, young lady," he retorted. "I don't have to."

With that, he stretched out unceremoniously on the sofa on which he had
been sitting, clasped his hands behind his head and closed his eyes.
Within a very short time, he was obviously and genuinely sound asleep.

Maya sat and watched him, piqued and a little nonplussed. She could
hardly afford to go to sleep, too. Her only course was to stay awake, to
sit there and watch him sleeping comfortably and soundly. It was not a
pleasant prospect, for two nights.

She sat, heavy-eyed, and racked her brain for some solution, and
silently cursed Gren for refusing to give her the help she needed. Dark
slept on, and a faint smile touched his lips. Then Maya found herself
thinking pleasantly over the things they had talked about during the
long evening, and admiring this man and liking him....

She woke up.

With a start, she woke up, realizing that she had been asleep. She was
not sitting in the chair any more, but curled up comfortably on a sofa,
her head pillowed like a child's against - against what?

Against Dark's chest! He was awake, sitting up, smiling down at her, and
she was cradled in the curve of his arm. And the little lighter-gun was
no longer in her hand.

She did not react violently to the sudden realization. She sighed,
almost happily, and murmured to him:

"So you win, after all. I think I'm glad, Dark. Now you can go, if you
want to."

He shook his head.

"I'm glad you feel that way about it, Maya, but I'm afraid it's too
late. I really shouldn't have stayed around to serve as your pillow till
you awoke."

There was something in his face that caused her to sit up suddenly.

Two uniformed men stood there in the lobby before them, relaxed but
watchful, regulation heatguns dangling from their hands. As she sat up,
one of them touched his cap and spoke to her:

"We're police officers from Ophir, Miss Cara Nome. Mr. Eli called from
Mars City and directed us to drive over here and help you guard the
prisoner until his arrival."

She rose angrily.

"I didn't ask for your help, so you may go," she said, aware of Dark's
surprised gaze on her. "I made a mistake in identification."

The policeman who had spoken shook his head.

"I'm sorry," he said. "We're acting on Mr. Eli's orders, not yours.
We'll have to hold Mr. Kensington until Mr. Eli arrives."

She glared at them. The one who had spoken was big and burly and
efficient-looking. The other was sallow and silent, with a deadly cast
to his thin face.

Then she saw her lighter-gun, lying on the lobby floor beside the chair
in which she had gone to sleep.

She bent down, casually, and picked it up. She straightened, the little
instrument ready in her hand.

"This is not a cigaret lighter, but a heatgun," she said flatly. "I'm in
charge here, and I say Mr. Kensington is to be permitted to go free. If
any effort is made to stop him, I'll burn you down."

Both police heatguns swung up in short arcs and trained on her. The
burly policeman spoke gently.

"I'm sorry, Miss Cara Nome, but we're under orders from Mr. Eli, and we
intend to follow them," he said. "I'd hate to see you injured, but if
you blast either of us the other one will burn off your hand."


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