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Uller Uprising By H. Beam Piper Characters: 13782

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Rakkeed, Stalin, and the Rev. Keeluk

Von Schlichten, in a fresh uniform, sat at the end of the table in Sidney Harrington's office; Harrington and Eric Blount, the Lieutenant-Governor, faced each other across it, over the three-foot disc of an Ulleran chess-board. Harrington had the white, or center, position. Blount, sandy-haired and considerably younger, was playing black, and his pieces were closing in relentlessly from the outer rim.

"Well, then what?" Harrington asked.

Von Schlichten dropped ash from his cigarette into the tray that served all three of them.

"Nothing much," he replied. "Keeluk bugged out as soon as he saw my car let down. We picked up a few of his ragtag-and-bobtail, and they're being questioned now, but I doubt if they'll tell us anything we don't know already. The dog had been kept in a lean-to back of the house; it had been removed, probably as soon as Keeluk called in his goon-gang. At least one of the rabbits had been kept on the premises, too, some time ago. No trace of the goat."

He watched Blount move one of his pieces and nodded approvingly. "The riot's been put down," he continued, "but we're keeping two companies of Kragans in the city, and about a dozen airjeeps patrolling the section from Eightieth down to Sixty-fourth, and from the waterfront back to Eighth Avenue. There is also the equivalent of a regiment of King Jaikark's infantry-spearmen, crossbowmen, and a few riflemen-and two of those outsize cavalry companies of his, helping hold the lid down. They're making mass arrests, indiscriminately. More slaves for Jaikark's court favorite, of course."

"Or else Gurgurk wants them to use for patronage," Blount added. "He's been building quite a political organization, lately. Getting ready to shove Jaikark off the throne, I'd say."

Harrington pushed one of his pieces out along a radial line toward the rim. Blount promptly took a pawn, which, under Ulleran rules, entitled him to a second move. He shifted another piece, a sort of combination knight and bishop, to threaten the piece Harrington had moved.

"Oh, Gurgurk wouldn't dare try anything like that," the Governor-General said. "He knows we wouldn't let him get away with it. We have too much of an investment in King Jaikark."

"Then why's Gurgurk been supporting this damned Rakkeed?" Blount wanted to know, hastily interposing a piece. "Gurgurk can follow one of two lines of policy. He can undertake to heave Jaikark off the throne and seize power, or he has to support Jaikark on the throne. We're subsidizing Jaikark. Rakkeed has been preaching this crusade against the Terrans, and against Jaikark, whom we control. Gurgurk has been subsidizing Rakkeed...."

"You haven't any proof of that," Harrington protested.

"My Intelligence Section has," von Schlichten put in. "We can give sums of money, and dates, and the names of the intermediaries through whom they were paid to Rakkeed. Eric is absolutely correct in making that statement."

"Personally, I think Gurgurk's plan is something like this: Rakkeed will stir up anti-Terran sentiment here in Konkrook, and direct it against our puppet, Jaikark, as well as against us," Blount said. "When the outbreak comes, Jaikark will be killed, and then Gurgurk will step in, seize the Palace, and use the Royal army to put down the revolt that he's incited in the first place. That will put him in the position of the friend of the Company, and most of his dupes will be rounded up and sold as slaves, and King Gurgurk'll pocket the proceeds. The only question is, will Rakkeed let himself be used that way? I think Rakkeed's bigger than Gurgurk ever can be. And more of a threat to the Company. Everywhere we turn, Rakkeed's at the bottom of whatever happens to be wrong. This business, for instance; Keeluk's one of Rakkeed's followers."

"Eric, you have Rakkeed on the brain!" Harrington exclaimed impatiently, then moved the threatened piece counterclockwise on the circle where he had placed it. "He's just a barbarian caravan-driver."

Eric Blount moved the piece that had taken Harrington's pawn.

"Your king's in danger," he warned. "And Hitler was just a paper-hanger."

"Rakkeed has no following, except among the rabble." Harrington puffed furiously at his pipe, trying to figure the best protection for his king.

"You just think he hasn't," Blount retorted. "Here in Konkrook, he's always entertained by one or another of the big ship-owning nobles. They probably deprecate his table-manners, but they just love his politics. And the same thing at Keegark, and at the Free Cities along the Eastern Shore."

"The last time Rakkeed was in Konkrook, he was the guest of the Keegarkan Ambassador," von Schlichten stated. "Intelligence got that from a spy we'd planted among the embassy servants."

"You sure this spy wasn't just romancing?" Harrington asked. "You get so confounded many wild stories about Rakkeed. Three days after he was reported here at Konkrook, he was reported at Skilk, five thousand miles away, said to be having an audience with King Firkked."

"No mystery to that," von Schlichten said. "He travels on our ships, in disguise, coolie-class, on the geek-deck."

"Be a good idea if he could be caught at it, some time," Blount said, making another move. "One of the lower-deck loading ports could be left unlocked, by carelessness, and he could blunder overboard at about five thousand feet." He watched Harrington make a deceptively pointless-looking move. "Sid, this damn dog business worries me."

"Worries me, too. I'm fond of that mutt, and God only knows what sort of stuff he's been getting to eat. And I hate to think of why those geeks stole him, too."

"Well, at risk of seeming heartless, I'm not so much worried for Stalin as I am about why Keeluk was hiding him, and why he was willing to murder the only two Terrans in Konkrook who trust him, to prevent our finding out that he had him."

"A Mr. Keeluk, a clergyman," von Schlichten quoted. He chain-lit another cigarette and stubbed out the old one. "Maybe the Rev. Keeluk wanted Stalin for sacramental purposes."

Blount looked up sharply. "Ritual killing?" he asked. "Or sympathetic magic?"

Von Schlichten shrugged. "Take your choice. Maybe Rakkeed wanted the dog, to kill before a congregation of his followers, killing us by proxy, or in effigy. Or maybe they think we worship Stalin, and getting control of him would give them power over us. I wish we knew a little more about Ulleran psychology."

That wasn't the first time he'd made that wish. Even if sex weren't the paramount psychological factor the ancient Freudians believed, it was an extremely important one, and on Uller most of the fundamental terms of Terran psychology were meaningless. At the same time, the average Ulleran probably had complexes and neuroses that would have had Freud ta

lking to himself, and they certainly indulged in practices that would have even stood Krafft-Ebing's hair on end.

"One thing," Blount said. "It doesn't take any Ulleran psychologist to know that about eighty percent of them hate us poisonously."

"Oh, rubbish!" Harrington blew the exclamation out around his pipe-stem with a gush of smoke. "A few fanatics hate us, and a few merchants who lost money when we replaced this primitive barter economy of theirs, but nine-tenths of them have benefited enormously from us, and continue to benefit...."

"And hate us more deeply with each new benefit," Blount added. "They resent everything we've done for them."

"Yes, this spaceport proposition of King Orgzild of Keegark looks like it, now doesn't it?" Harrington retorted. "He hates and resents us so much that he's offered us a spaceport at his city...."

"What's it going to cost him?" Blount asked. "He furnishes the land-sequestered from the estate of some noble he executed for treason-and the labor-all forced. We furnish the structural steel, the machine-equipment, the engineering. We get a spaceport we don't really need, and he gets all the business it'll bring to Keegark. Considering the fact that Rakkeed is a welcome guest at his embassy here, and at the Royal Palace at Keegark, I'm beginning to wonder if he isn't fomenting trouble for us here at Konkrook to make us willing to move our main base to his city."

He made a move. Instantly, Harrington slashed out from the middle of the board with one of his heavy-duty, all-purpose pieces and took a piece, then moved again.

"Now look whose king's threatened!" he crowed.

"Yes, I see." Blount brought a piece clockwise around the board and took the threatening piece, then moved again. "I hope you see whose king's threatened, now."

Harrington swore, reached out to move a piece, and then jerked his hand back as though the piece were radioactive. For a while, he sat puffing his pipe and staring at the board.

"In fact, Orgzild's so sure that we're going to accept his offer that he's started building two new power-reactors, to handle the additional power-demand that'll result from the increased business," Blount continued.

"Where's he getting the plutonium?" von Schlichten asked.

"Where can he get it?" Harrington replied. "He just bought four tons of it from us, off the City of Pretoria."

"That's a hell of a lot of plutonium," Blount said. "I wonder if he mightn't have some idea of what else plutonium can be used for, beside generating power."

"Oh, God, I hope not!" Harrington exclaimed. "You're going to get me started seeing burglars under the bed, next...."

"Maybe there are burglars," Blount said, pointing with his cigarette-holder to Harrington's threatened king. "Can't you do something about that, Sid?" Then he turned to von Schlichten. "Before we get off the subject, how about those letters the Rev. Keeluk gave to the Quinton girl?"

"All addressed to Skilkans known to be Rakkeed disciples and rabidly anti-Terran," von Schlichten replied. "We radioed the list to Skilk; Colonel Cheng-Li, our intelligence man there, teleprinted us back a lot of material on them that looks like the Newgate Calendar. We turned the letters themselves over to Doc Petrie, the Ulleran philology sharp, who is a pretty fair cryptanalyst. He couldn't find any indications of cipher, but there was a lot of gossip about Keeluk's friends and parishioners which might have arbitrary code-meanings. I'm going to explain the situation to Miss Quinton, and advise her to have nothing to do with any of the people Keeluk gave her letters to."

Harrington had gotten his king temporarily out of danger, losing a piece doing it.

"Think she'll listen to you?" he asked. "These Extraterrestrials' Rights Association people are a lot of blasted fanatics, themselves. We're a gang of bloody-handed, flint-hearted, imperialistic sons of bitches in their book, and anything we say's sure to be a Hitler-sized lie."

"Oh, they're not as bad as all that. I never met the girl before today, but old Mohammed Ferriera's a decent bloke. And their association's really done a lot of good. For one thing, they put an end to the peonage system on Yggdrasill, and I know what conditions were like, there, before they did."

A calculating look came into Harrington's eye. He puffed slowly at his pipe and slid a piece from the center toward the sector of the board nearest him. Blount whistled softly and made a quick re-arrangement.

"Carlos, did you say she told you she was going to Skilk, in the near future?" Harrington asked. "Well, look here; you're going up that way, yourself, with that battalion of Kragans, on the Aldebaran. Why don't you invite her to make the trip with you? You can be quite attractive to young ladies, when you try, and she'll be grateful for that rescue this afternoon, which is always a good foundation. Maybe you can plant a couple of ideas where they'll do the most good. She's only been here for three months-since the Canberra got in from Niflheim. You know and I know and we all know that there are a lot of things up there at the polar mines that would look like hell to anybody who didn't understand local conditions...."

"Well, Miss Quinton's company won't be any particularly heavy cross for me to bear," von Schlichten replied. "I won't guarantee anything, of course...."

The intercom-speaker on the table whistled several times. Harrington swore, laid down his pipe, and got up, brushing ashes from the front of his coat. He flipped a switch and spoke into the box.

"Governor," a voice replied out of it, "there's a geek procession just landed from a water-barge in front, and is coming up the roadway to Company House. A platoon of Jaikark's Household Guards, with rifles; the Spear of State; a royal litter; about thirty geek nobles, on foot; a gift-litter; another platoon of riflemen, if you say the last syllable quick enough."

"That'll be Gurgurk, coming to tell us how unhappy his Sodden and Inebriated Geekship is about that fracas on Seventy-second Street," Harrington said. "The gift-litter will contain the customary indemnity, at the current market quotation. Have Gurgurk and party admitted, all but the rifle-platoons; give him an honor guard of our Kragans, and keep his own gun-toters outside. Take them to the Reception Hall, and hold them there till I signal from the Audience Hall, and then herd them in."

He came back and made a move. Immediately, Blount took one of his pieces, moved again, took another, and made the third move to which he was entitled.

"I'll mate you in four moves," he predicted. "Want to play it out, before we go down?"

"Sure; what's time to a geek? Gurgurk'd think we were worried about something if we didn't keep him waiting.... Good Lord! You do have me over a barrel, Eric!"

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