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Tangor 2004

Ras Thavas:
The Murderess

David Bruce Bozarth

Cover: Tangor

Ras Thavas frowned. His patient repeated the phrase which caused that expression:

"I murdered him."

The master mind of Barsoom looked upon the girl speaking under the influence of drugs and hypnotic suggestion, the girl someone had paid dearly to have him investigate the cause of her nightmares and insomnia. She was very young.

The cold walls of Xodar's Omean palace echoed his next question. "And what did you do next?" Ras Thavas glanced at the massive ten-legged calot which had risen from the floor at the girl's startling statement.

The girl's voice was slurred. "I went to the window and threw the bottle of poison into the Omean and then called the guards."

"What happened then?"

"The doctor was called."

Ras Thavas observed the struggle on the girl's face. Maintaining his soft voice he asked. "And then?"

"Holsan Par was pronounced dead by coronary failure."

Ras Thavas noticed the injections were wearing off and, as the girl's mind moved toward consciousness, her expression became troubled. Rather than have the girl go through an uncomfortable transition the master mind gave her the antidote. Within minutes Hanara's eyes opened—narrowed and guarded.

"What did I say, Ras Thavas?" Hanara asked. Ras Thavas assisted the First Born woman from the couch into the chair next to his desk. She accepted a drink of water before repeating her question. "What did I say, Ras Thavas?"

Before Ras Thavas could reply, his wife's voice filled his mind through the telepathic link that they, of all the telepaths of Barsoom, shared alone. "Do not say, husband. Something is not right."

In reply Ras Thavas laid his hand on the nape of the calot's neck, for his wife's brain resided within that animal's body. To the attractive black-skinned woman the master mind said: "It will take time to determine which is dream and reality, but there is no doubt that something is troubling you. I would like to do this again tomorrow, after you have rested."

The woman did not try to conceal her confusion. "That is the very reason why I have sought your help! I cannot sleep, or if I do fall asleep I wake with nightmares I cannot remember."

"Yes, I understand that, Hanara. But we must proceed carefully. More than one session will be required before we uncover the root of your insomnia. Meanwhile, I have a sedative that will insure a dreamless sleep. I need your mind fully refreshed to continue."

For a long moment the woman stared at Ras Thavas, then lowered her eyes. Her hands moved restlessly in her lap. With a slight shudder in her voice Hanara voiced a half-question: "It is something terrible. I'm sure of it. I have known that for months—but what could it be? Will you not tell me, Ras Thavas?"

"My findings are inconclusive at this time, Hanara. Please, go to your apartment and rest. I want you to take this pill at the Eighth Zode. Return here tomorrow after lunch. Will you do this?"

"Yes," the woman replied. "I must know what is wrong with me."

Ras Thavas escorted the First Born woman to the door of his quarters, gripping her hand reassuringly. He received a trusting smile, then Hanara walked down the corridor to the first ramp leading upward into the heart of Xodar's underground residence.

The wife of Ras Thavas waited until her husband closed the door to their apartment then remarked: "Murder is common on Barsoom, and poison is one of the many methods, but I do not believe that young woman murdered anyone."

The master mind returned to his desk and glanced at the notes he had written down—the words uttered by Hanara which were a confession of murder. "I tend to agree with you, my love, but for different reasons. What am I to do with this?" He lifted the notes and glanced at the brasier providing smokeless heat to the apartment carved into the side of the monstrous cavern's rock . He strode to the window that looked upon the vast body of water within that cavern—an ocean—hidden below the surface of Barsoom's south pole. Twenty ads below the window the Oeman's black, liquid surface rippled around a dozen swift-appearing aquatic-aero vessels.

Thasa Ras intercepted her husband's intent. "I do not think you should do that, darling. But I also do not think you should leave them laying about where a slave or someone else might find them."

Ras Thavas folded the notes and stuffed them into his belt pouch. "What have we got ourselves into, my princess? This was supposed to be a routine examination for a sleep disorder, but even now I am not sure why I was consulted because there is a royal psychologist in Dator Xodar's court."

The calot shook her mane and attended a paw with tongue. "Xodar himself asked. We have never been here. Those two reasons were enough to get us here. What we must find out why you were asked."

Ras Thavas quietly listened to the conversation at the dator's table, an official dinner held in his honor. The master mind of Barsoom had endured many such banquets over the years but never in a sunless venue. The food was delicious and the company was the best of First Born society. The great hall was filled with a hundred or more people, each attended by one or more slaves, resulting in a loud buzz of voices at all times.

At his left was Xodar, leader of the black nation at the south pole and tied by treaty to Helium. Xodar wore a standard leather harness—the only ostentation upon which was the emblem of his house and rank. The First Born leader was a robust and striking figure, even seated at the table. Ras Thavas had met Xodar several times in Helium and other royal courts and had found him to be likable, even engaging. A confident man, Xodar led his people with a minimum of fuss. If one fussed, one was sent to the water pumps and thus, though he could be charming, Xodar was an absolute authoritarian and expected obedience.

To Xodar's left was his wife Teda. She was a regal woman who wore only the best silks and ornaments of gold and platinum. Her hair was a raven cloud decorated with diamonds. Around her graceful throat lay a nation's wealth of emeralds and rubies. Her figure was superb, but all in all, Ras Thavas thought she talked too loud and too often. Then again, the master mind was more used to the solitude of his laboratories and the quiet of his apartment.

Seban the teedwar—the highest military rank—was seated on the other side of Ras Thavas. He was a large and brutish-looking man who had features more coarse than the average First Born. Ras Thavas suspected a mixed birth, though he could not say what mixture of human races the teedwar might be. Seban was, however, polite and gracious in speech and manner. He was Xodar's second in command.

Under the table, stretched across Ras Thavas' feet, Thasa Ras gnawed a leg bone from a thoat. From time to time she would make a remark about the table conversation, but for the most part she remained silent and attentive. Ras Thavas was comforted by her presence and her sharp and brilliant mind.

Dator Xodar captured the master mind's attention with a salute using a jewel encrusted goblet. "So, Master Thavas, how did your session with Hanara go?"

Ras Thavas placed his eating utensil on the plate and blotted his mouth. "I believe a less public venue would be more appropriate, Dator Xodar. I do have a number of questions I need to ask, but those can wait until after dinner."

Xodar nodded his head agreeably and turned when another at the table called for his attention.

Ras Thavas looked across the table and down two seats to where the royal psychologist sat. Jazek was a slim handsome man who talked with his hands—he gestured constantly. The master mind had spoken to Jazek before his examination of Hanara and at that time he had reserved his opinion of the man. He continued to reserve it.

The meal eventually ended. Xodar rose and handed Teda to her feet which commenced a general exodus from the great hall. Ras Thavas reached under the table to stroke the calot's short mane then stood. Seban walked at Ras Thavas' side while the great calot stationed herself just behind and to the side of her master. Ras Thavas noted the time was just after the Eighth Zode. He wondered if Hanara would take the sedative then mentally shrugged his shoulders. The girl would do as instructed or not and there was nothing he could do to force her compliance.

Seban looked at Thasa Ras with admiration. "The keeping of calots is not part of our culture, but I must say I am very impressed with yours, Ras Thavas."

"Thank you, Teedwar Seban. Thasa Ras has been a wonderful companion and protector these many years. You will not find a more intelligent calot on Barsoom."

Thasa Ras chuckled. "And that is because I was a bad girl after we married and you put my brain in this body rather than rightfully killing me."

"Be quiet, dear." To Seban the master mind said, "I have never been to the Omean before. What an extraordinary place."

Seban nodded, directing Ras Thavas to a balcony overlooking the Omean. A phosphorous fungus provided a faint but general illumination. Artificial lights flooded the building's facade and the dock area. "It is said that 98% of Barsoom's free water is located here. Above us in Valley Dor is the no longer Lost Sea of Korus." Seban laughed at his little joke. Ras Thavas smiled in return.

"I love this place," Seban continued. The First Born perched on the balcony's stone railing and looked at the Omean. "My birthplace is over there," he pointed to the opposite cavern wall. "My mother was a slave of Issus, they say, and was forced to mate with a white ape. She had me and I was not killed because of the novelty of my birth. I never knew her, my mother. Issus ate her less than a year after I was born."

Ras Thavas chuckled. "A story for the tourists?"

Seban leveled his eyes on the master mind's. Though his lips smiled there was no humor in the man's response. "No. Just what I was told as a child. Each time I look into the mirror I wonder how much of that tale is true." The teedwar turned his back on the water and faced Ras Thavas. "The girl, what have you learned?"

"Alas, Seban, I cannot speak of my patient except to her family, and I am told she has none."

Seban scowled for a moment, then shrugged his shoulders with a smile. "You are correct, Ras Thavas. I apologize for asking. It is just that I have a small interest in Hanara, one that my princess has asked of me."

"What is her relation to Hanara?"

"None, actually, Hanara is my wife's protege."

Ras Thavas crossed his arms and asked, pointedly: "Protege?"

Seban rose, menacing in his full height and brute strength.

Ras Thavas sensed the calot at his side and knew how horrific was her bite, but the creature only advanced slightly, ready. The master mind stepped forward with a placating wave of his hand. Rapidly, but sincerely, Ras Thavas said, "My apologies, Seban. I did not mean to question you."

The teedwar tensed, then abruptly turned away, gripping the railing. "What do you know, Ras Thavas?"

"I know only what Dator Xodar relayed, Seban. Hanara is a woman of Omean and reportedly came to work from the common labor pool as one to attend Teda, who provided Hanara as a night nurse for Holsan Par, the Duhorian. That is all I know."

"You know more than that," Seban said. "What did Hanara say under your examination?"

"Tell him," Thasa Ras nudged her husband's leg.

"She revealed under drugs that she had murdered Holsan Par."

Seban narrowed his eyes. "That's impossible. Holsan Par died of complications from old age. He had a heart attack." The teedwar ground a fist into the palm of his hand. "Hanara could never do such a thing."

Ras Thavas watched the man's agitation and asked the question his actions prompted. "Who is Hanara to you? It is obvious she is more than your wife's protege."

Seban stiffened. He glanced toward the doorway opening onto the balcony. "I'm sure I don't know what you mean, Ras Thavas."

"I believe you do," the master mind replied. "I want to help Hanara. I have no other agenda, Seban. How did Hanara come to be your wife's protege, and why did Teda instruct Harana to take a position with Holsan Par?"

The teedwar glanced at the doorway into the great hall and bright lights and crowd of people within. "Let us walk a bit, Ras Thavas."

Seban did not wait for the master mind's reply. He started down the switch-backed ramp that led to the docks below. Ras Thavas and the calot followed the First Born and were not surprised when the teedwar entered one of the smaller ships. Ras Thavas himself helped loose the moorings then joined Seban, who stood at the controls. The ship backed under aquatic propeller until clear of the harbor, then lifted above the surface with hardly a sound when Seban engaged the Eighth Ray's buoyancy tanks. Once air borne, Seban advanced the controls until the vessel moved away from the palace of Xodar. Seban said nothing until more than two haads passed under the ship's keel.

"It is difficult, Ras Thavas."

"What is difficult, Teedwar Seban?"

"The admission. The unveiling of secrets. The trouble that will ensue. Hanara is my child but my wife is not her mother."

The master mind said nothing. He waited until Seban was ready to continue.

"Hanara does not know. She believes she was orphaned, that her parents were killed when the Therns last raided. But in truth she is my daughter and her mother is alive, but could never acknowledge the child because she is married to another."

"Who is her mother?"

Seban placed a hand on the pilot's wind screen and shook his head. "That I cannot reveal. But I can tell you that Hanara did not murder Holsan Par."

"It is unlikely she did," Ras Thavas replied. "It appears Holsan Par was examined by a doctor and the cause of death was determined."

"Perhaps, but there are those who benefitted by Holsan Par's pre-mature death."

"Odd choice of words, Seban."

"Holsan Par was a munitions expert with many contacts with the red nations. Through him the First Born gained access to modern weapons such as used by Helium and Gathol. He was not well liked by John Carter for having done this, even though there are treaties between him and Xodar. Carter does not mind having the First Born as allies, but is not happy to have allies with the same military capabilities. Carter may have exposed the First Born to the rest of Barsoom as inhabitants of this world rather than pirates from the moons and the religion of Issus as a falsehood, but he cannot eradicate the thousands of years that we preyed upon the peoples of Barsoom—nor should he."

"That was your people's way of life, Seban. We are in a new age of understanding."

"There may be a new age, Ras Thavas, but there is little understanding. Do not attempt to tell me you have not experienced the hatred the red men has toward the black pirates. Before we can ever live together in harmony nearly as many years of peace must pass as did the years of terror we visited upon them."

"Did you place Hanara with Holsan Par?"

"No," Seban said. "As I said, Hanara entered my house as a servant to my wife and that was the best that I could do for her. For five years she served my wife. For two years I was on campaign to bring peace and order to the Valley of Lost Souls and when I returned, I learned Hanara had been sent to Holsan Par."

"What did your wife say?"

"Phaila thought it was a good placement for Hanara. Holsan Par, after all, was a wealthy man in our society and Hanara was a bright girl who might do well." Seban turned the airship in a large arc to begin a return to the distant palace which appeared to be a cluster of stars on the horizon. "I would be speaking a great falsehood if I did not admit that what you have told me is very disturbing. Nor would I be truthful if I did not also admit concern that my dear Phaila might have learned of Hanara's origin and begged Teba to send Hanara to Holsan Par who many, including myself, knew to be a crude and ruthless man. But once the match had been made anything I could say would only have made Hanara's placement worse."

The teedwar stood like a block of basalt behind the controls. Thasa Ras, at the rail with her large head and jaws leaning into the rush of atmosphere, spoke to Ras Thavas. "Ask him about Jazek."

"Did Jazek have any part in Hanara's placement?"

Seban shrugged his broad shoulders. "To my knowledge he never examined Hanara, who always had good health." The teedwar skillfully docked the small vessel and shut down the engines. He looked up to the array of lights on the balustrades and balconies of the palace. "She is a good girl, with no mean bone in her body." Turning, glowering, then relenting with a sigh Seban added. "I know this. I raised her."

Thasa Ras, the calot, moved forward and rubbed her shoulders against the First Born's legs. "Ask him who is the mother."

Ras Thavas frowned. He had intended that question, but how to ask it? "Is there anything in Hanara's parentage of which I should be aware?"

"You want to know who is her mother?"

The master mind did not miss the man's initial reach for the radium pistol at his side. At the same moment he saw the teedwar's despair as that hand fell loose. "I ask only from a pathological interest, Seban. I do not..."

"She is high placed," Seban choked. He gripped the rail of the ship, shoulders hunched with shame. "I cannot say more. Anything else?"

Thasa Ras rapidly telepathed: "A burst of unguarded thought, husband! Xodar and Seban vied for the same woman during the consolidation of Omean after the first Issus uprising. Both are possible fathers, having been with the woman during her fertile period at the same time. Xodar won the woman's heart but not before she passed her impregnated egg which she begged Seban to hide and shield because she believed it was his and she did not want Xodar and Seban to fight and other things such as Phaila who truly won Seban's heart a year later and hosted the odd egg her husband introduced in the incubator. And shame and remorse and love and rage and honor and ... all this in an instant!"

"I trust your animal instincts, dear."

Ras Thavas motioned the calot over the vessel's side and stepped down. "Nothing else, Seban. You have been most helpful."

Seban parted from Ras Thavas and the calot as soon as the palace's mezzanine level was reached. His departure so sudden that even the calot gaped, but then again, her heavy jaw gaped most of the time.

"A nerve was hit, husband."

"Agreed, darling, but which nerve was it?" Ras Thavas entered the group of people still in the banquet hall, his mind pre-occupied with the revelations from Seban.

"Master Ras Thavas?"

The master mind paused in stride, facing the narrow visage of the royal psychologist. "Master Jazek."

"May I have a moment of your time?"

"Certainly," Ras Thavas replied, following the First Born's gesture to one of the quiet corners of the hall. "No thank you," he said when Jazek attempted to retrieve two glasses of wine from a passing slave. "How may I help you, sir?"

"What did the girl say? I must confess that I completely failed in my duties with Hanara."

"What were your conclusions?"

"I wish that I could say I had one. Hanara's mind shield was so tight that I could not penetrate it. But what I could determine is she is very troubled over the death of Holsan Par."

"Yes, I discovered the same thing, that is to say that she is concerned in that regard. However, as you say, her mind shield is tight. Did you make any other observations?"

Jazek shrugged his shoulders. "Nothing to report, sir. The girl is in otherwise good health, her sleep disorder notwithstanding."

"I understand you were involved in her placement with Holsan Par."

"Where did you hear that?" Jazek frowned. "I certainly was not. Moreover, Holsan Par had a reputation for abusing his staff and that fact alone would... What I mean to say is I knew of the girl in Seban's household, but had never examined or dealt with her until after Holsan Par's death."

"I see. My apologies, Jazek. I had assumed that since Hanara had also been placed in the royal household under Teba that you might have examined her as I am sure you do for the family and staff."

The royal psychologist eased his stance and ceased tugging at his lower lip. "Of course. Hanara was not with Teba long enough to have a scheduled check up." The man's eye shifted, drawn to something behind Ras Thavas. "Pardon me, sir. Teba calls. One does not keep the wife of the dator waiting."

Ras Thavas nodded, remaining silent as the royal psychologist navigated through the small groups of people still in the hall. To his wife, the calot, Ras Thavas said: "I do not like that man."

"He does seem to lack charm or other redeeming characteristics. May I eat him?"

The master mind smiled, gripping the calot's short mane with amusement. "You just ate. Let us speak to Xodar then retire."

Xodar was not difficult to find. The dator of Omean was in after dinner conference in his offices not far from the banquet hall. Two others were in Xodar's chamber when Ras Thavas was let in by the majordomo. Xodar looked up from a set of building plans spread on a large table. "Ras Thavas, I think you might find this interesting, knowing your part in the building of New City of Thavas."

Ras Thavas approached the planning table as the calot settled before the oil-fueled fireplace in the corner. Thasa Ras stretched out and closed one eye. "Blueprints have no interest for me,"

"Be quiet, darling, there are introductions being made."

"This is Nabat, our master designer," a tall, thin, nervous-mannered First Born. "He spent some time in New City studying architecture."

Nabat exchanged salutes with the master mind and said, "I learned many things while I was in your beautiful city. I hope that borrowing ideas learned there will be accepted as flattery."

"The New City of Thavas is a place of learning, Master Nabat. I would be disappointed if you had not obtained something to share with others. This appears to be a tunnel extension with forced air, power leads, and sanitation facilities."

"Correct," Xodar said. "But with a difference...look at the scale."

Ras Thavas looked at the legend and arched an eyebrow. "Is this accurate? If so, this is immense!" After further examination, the master mind looked up, shaking his head. "An excavation of this size would require extraordinary reinforcement–-I doubt that the surface crust could support itself over such a span."

"True," the other man said, a striking youth with broad shoulders. "No such cavity could be created if not for this–-"

Ras Thavas looked with interest as another blueprint was pulled from beneath the tunnel drawing. The overall shape was that of an ovoid, lined with pipes and power leads. There was a radium power source at one end, and the rest of the unit was a vacant cavity. It took only an instant for the master mind to recognize the purpose. "An Eighth Ray buoyancy tank. It appears similar to those found on most large liners and battleships."

"Exactly, but look at the scale and you will see something different."

Startled, Ras Thavas said, "With a tank that size you could lift the nearer moon to the sun!"

"Yes," Xodar said. "This is my son, Podar, who spent too many years in Helium designing airships and engines with Carthoris, the Warlord's son. It was his idea to put airship technology to work in underground architecture. To support the tunnel roof's enormous expanse Podar suggested we use a half dozen of these lift units–any one of which could bear the weight of the room alone. Having six is a redundancy at first glance, but there is a secondary use as power units to supply energy to various parts of the tunnel's mechanicals."

"I must say I am quite impressed, but to what purpose? A tunnel this size would house all of The New City of Thavas, and we are no longer a small city!"

Xodar looked to a map of Barsoom on the wall of his office. "Our world is dying, Ras Thavas. The only things that keep us going is water and the atmosphere plant. Should we lose either the end will come rapidly. I do not foresee the end as imminent, but there is no reason why we should wait for disaster before building shelters. If we are successful with this project we will share our plans and technology." Xodar smiled. "Podar has assured me we will have to create any number of machines to accomplish this gargantuan task."

"A self-contained city. Intriguing!"

A period of time passed as the men discussed the tunnel city project, then Podar glanced at his chronometer and said, "I should go. I promised to meet—well, I must go."

Xodar grinned, embarrassing his son with clap of hand to Podar's shoulder. "A girl, no doubt. Thank you, Podar. And you as well, Nabat. We'll continue this tomorrow. Master Ras Thavas and I have a few things to discuss."

Xodar closed the door after the two men left. He gestured toward a pair of chairs near the fireplace, pausing only long enough to fill two small goblets with wine. "Amhorian," Xodar said, extending the goblet. The dator sat, sipped, and sighed. "Hanara?"

"I have no news to report at this time. We have an appointment after lunch tomorrow–er, today."

"I love my son. He is a credit to his people. He is also in love—and the girl he loves is Hanara. I'm not supposed to know."

The question why Xodar was interested in Hanara was answered. Ras Thavas waited to see if the dator would reveal why Ras Thavas had been summoned. The answer came swiftly.

"When Jazek could not help Hanara, and when other psychologists in our community could not help—or would not since few seemed willing to cross Jazek—I had no choice but to seek outside aid. My son's happiness is important to me, but so is the happiness of every First Born in the Omean. Seban and I have worked too many years to bring peace and order to this part of the world. Those plans we looked at are to make sure my children and their children have a future."

"I believe I understand."

Xodar closed his eyes for a moment, rubbing his forehead. "Please keep me advised. Thank you, Ras Thavas."

Ras Thavas rose. "Good night, Dator Xodar. Come, Thasa Ras."

Hanara did not seem as nervous when she arrived at Ras Thavas' apartment, though her eyes were filled with concern. The first thing she said was a thank you. "I do not know what was in that pill, but I slept nearly all night." Then she added, "But I cannot live my life that way."

"Please, Hanara, recline on the couch and I will begin."

Ras Thavas administered drugs to induce a semi-conscious state, then began probing with his mind as well as his voice. The longer the session progressed, the more apparent it became the girl's memory had been tampered with. Checking the girl's pulse, Ras Thavas spoke to his wife.

"Join your mind with mine, darling. Perhaps those things you have learned as a calot will be of help."

The calot approached the divan and lay her jaw next to Hanara's foot. "I will observe, husband."

Ras Thavas tested the girl's mind shield and noted an imperfection, something which resisted his vast mental powers. Adjusting the drug to keep the girl under, the master mind rapidly considered his next course. Thasa Ras supplied the answer.

"You must enter her mind, husband. Her shield is unnatural, it is not hers. And I sense something else, though I cannot say what. I suspect her mind has been tampered with."

"No sentient being would ever invade the mind of a living being. I am not sure I-–"

Thasa Ras moved to the head of the divan and gently touched her tooth-filled snout to the girl's cheek. "You do not have to, dear. I–-I—am in. Link to me."

Ras Thavas reserved his moral judgement toward his wife's invasion of Hanara's mind, but as soon as he followed her mental link he was more outraged toward the person who had placed false memories, inhibitions, and overlaid an secondary mind shield.

"Here, here, and–-here." Ras Thavas repaired the implanted and muddied memories. Though he looked, he could find no evidence of who had done this to Hanara. "Sniff around with those mental skills you possess and those you have learned since becoming a calot. I want the name of the scoundrel who harmed this child."

The master mind remained silent as his wife's thoughts penetrated every corner of Hanara's mind, and while she did so, Ras Thavas repaired a very subtle memory which he had initially missed. He shared Thasa Ras' disappointment when she failed her task.

"Whoever tampered with Hanara's mind is a very skilled mentalist. Hanara went to bed the night Holsan Par died and woke that morning believing-–or would come to believe-–that she had murdered her patron. Wake her, Ras Thavas. Let us see if we have given her peace."

Hanara came out of the trance-like state with a sigh. Before her eyes opened she raised her arms overhead and stretched her slim body, as might anyone waking from a long, refreshing sleep. Her hand touched the calot's rough skin and Hanara's eyes opened with surprise, then immediately relaxed.

"You are a sweet thing," Hanara said to the calot. She startled Ras Thavas by hugging the fearsome beast. Abruptly, the girl sat up and gripped the master mind's hand. "What did I say?"

"We made good progress today, Hanara. How do you feel?"

The girl considered the question for a long moment, brow furrowed, then slowly smiled with relief. "I feel good! I don't feel like there's something I should remember and never could remember."

"I believe you might have unconciously assumed guilt for the death of Holsan Par, but I assure you, Hanara, you had nothing to do with his death. Would you like to rest here for awhile? I must leave now, but you are welcome to stay."

"I should go," Hanara started to stand up, then realized her limbs were shaky.

Ras Thavas explained. "I kept you under the drugs for longer than yesterday. The effects should wear off in a half zode. Please. Stay."

He waited until the girl lay back and closed her eyes. Ras Thavas went to the small case he took on travels—his miniature laboratory—and gathered several small objects which he put into his belt pouch. Signaling to the calot, Ras Thavas exited the apartment and locked the door.

"You know something," Thasa Ras said, walking at her husband's side. "Your stride is angry."

Ras Thavas altered his stride. "Thank you for the warning. I must see several people before I may reach a conclusion."

The master mind located and spoke to Seban, Xodar, Teba, Phalia, Jazek and Podar. Thasa Ras observed her husband ask each several questions then shake hands before finding the next. The outing was less than a quarter zode before the pair headed back to the apartment. Thasa Ras asked:

"What was that about? You learned nothing new."

Ras Thavas touched his belt pouch and replied. "True, but I have now collected that which might supply the necessary answer."

Hanara was still asleep when Ras Thavas and the calot entered the apartment. The master mind briefly touched the girl's hand to see if she would wake. When Hanara continued her slumber, Ras Thavas went to his traveling laboratory and sat down. He extracted a number of items from his belt pouch and placed them on the table. Thasa Ras knew that bent, stiff posture from old. When her husband was intent on his work nothing mattered, and any interruption was unwelcome. She found a comfortable spot on a rug and lay down.

Thasa Ras woke when Hanara sat up with a yawn. The calot saw her husband sitting in a chair observing the girl with unusual intensity. Hanara apologized for having slept so long, as determined by glancing at the wall chronometer. She made ready to leave.

"I cannot let you go, Hanara."

"Why? I feel fine."

"I have reason to believe your life is in danger."

Stunned, Hanara sat down on the divan. "I fear no one. I have no enemies!"

"None that you know of. Trust me, Hanara. You are safe as long as you are with me."

"I don't understand."

"I will explain as soon as the others arrive."


"Do not worry. You have done nothing wrong."

There was a knock at the door. Ras Thavas rose and let Seban and Phalia into the apartment. Before the master mind could offer refreshments Xodar, Teba, and Podar arrived. Last to gather was Jazek, who entered with an irritated question. "What can be so important? I had to cancel patients to be here."

"I won't be long," Ras Thavas said. "I believe we all have an interest in Hanara's well-being. Master Jazek, I, too, have other things to do besides expose a murderer."

The calot rose, watching the array of emotions exhibited by the gathering. Xodar leaned against balcony window, his wife at his side. Seban sat at the table where the master mind's closed travel case rested. Phalia gripped his shoulder. Podar crossed the room and took Hanara's hand in his. The calot noted the frowns on the women's faces as Podar sat next to the confused girl.

Ras Thavas rose to get their attention. "I had three mysteries to solve. I shall deal with them in order.

"I have many years experience in medicine and human anatomy," the master mind said, displaying a tiny device. "When I shook hands with each of you I collected a tissue sample then returned here to make comparisons. Teba, Phalia—Podar is not Hanara's half-brother. Seban, Hanara is not your daughter. Hold, Xodar! Remain seated, Seban!" The master mind glared at both men until they obeyed. He continued. "There is great love between the four of you. For two there has been great angst over the thought these two young people might marry. For two there has been great guilt where none should exist. Who Hanara's mother and father might be I cannot say, but there is no genetic impediment against their marriage." Ras Thavas smiled at Hanara and Podar. "If that is what they wish."

Seban and Xodar looked toward each other, faces grim. They made no effort to speak. Phalia and Teba drew closer to each other, relieved and frightened at the same time. Hanara's frown deepened as she gripped Podar's hand.

Ras Thavas paced for a moment then asked the two women: "Which of you enlisted the aid of Jazek?"

Teba looked wretched. "I did."

"And what did you ask of him? Jazek, if you move my calot will kill you." Ras Thavas glared at the royal psychologist, who looked at the stiff mane and jaws of the large calot. The master mind turned to Teba. "Please go on."

"It is as you said. Seban and I, well I thought the egg which came after we..." for a moment she covered her face then turned to her husband. "I did not know if I would ever see you again! And when you returned I feared what might happen between you and Seban and hid the egg. When Seban and Phalia married he took in the egg as an orphan, just as we took in eggs after the Therns raided the above ground city."

Ras Thavas had waited with patience, but interjected. "Lady Teba, now is not the time to speak to your husband. I asked you what you commanded of Jazek."

"Phalia and I did all we could do to discourage..."

Seban roared, glaring at his wife. "You knew?"

"Ras Thavas is correct, dear Seban. This is not the time or place. Teba and I decided that since nothing we did would stop these two from falling in love," she gestured at Podar and Hanara, "that Hanara would have to go. Jazek eventually suggested Holsan Par. Teba—and I—placed her there but even that did not stop Hanara and Podar."

Teba took Phalia's hand. "I asked Jazek what else we might do because we feared they were brother and sister. He said he could implant a suggestion in Hanara's mind that she was not in love with Podar."

Ras Thavas looked at Jazek, as did all in the room. "So, two of the three mysteries are solved—though Jazek's mental implant was not as Teba and Phalia desired. The third mystery is why, Jazek? You made this girl think she murdered Holsan Par and then you killed Holsan Par."

Jazek shook his head. His left fist clenched with nervous anger. "You cannot prove that, Ras Thavas! Holsan Par died a natural death."

"I can give the damning testimony myself, Jazek. What I know I removed from Hanara's brain a zode ago. She remembered waking to a peculiar smell, which I know to be a rather rare sleeping gas. You then penetrated her mind, but you did not give enough to keep her eyes closed. You left the door of her room open as you crossed the living area and entered Holsan Par's chamber. You left that door open as well. You woke Holsan Par, had words the girl could not hear, then gassed him and continued to gas him until he died of a heart attack. This was the memory that kept Hanara awake at nights—the memory she could not remember and troubled her so." The master mind's voice became sharp: "Why did you kill Holsan Par?"

Jazek looked at the hard faces surrounding him and suddenly grabbed the butt of his radium pistol. Just as the deadly weapon cleared the holster the calot's powerful jaws clamped on Jazek's arm, shoulder and side. The animal's heavy body drove the screaming man backwards to the floor.

"Don't kill him, Thasa Ras."

The calot released Jazek when the royal psychologist passed out. The master mind retrieved the radium pistol that had slid across the ersite floor to his feet. Ras Thavas looked at the man's wounds. "Jazek needs medical attention. Do you have doctors?" he asked Seban. "If not, I'll perform the surgery."

Xodar spoke as a half dozen guards quickly filled the room, weapons at the ready. "Seban, escort Jazek to the hospital."

At Seban's direction two men picked up the wounded man. As the teedwar turned to follow the guards, Xodar called his name. "Yes, dator?"

"Don't drop him into the Omean. I believe we both have many questions for Jazek."

Seban nodded, understanding the words said and what else those words conveyed. "I'm sure we do, dator. Thank you." The teedwar quickly left the apartment.

Xodar looked at the two women standing with linked arms. He smiled. "Don't look so remorseful. Go to my office. When Seban and I are done we'll meet you there." As Teba passed, Xodar took her hand and kissed it. "I love you." The dator of Omean turned to the young couple sitting close together on the divan. His voice contained a gruff kindness. "Get out of here. Go do whatever young lovers do."

"Thank you, father!" Podar exclaimed. The young man hauled Hanara erect and the pair ran from the room.

Ras Thavas knelt when the calot approached. He examined her jaw and saw that one tooth had been knocked loose. Thasa Ras opened her jaw and waited motionless as the master mind removed it. The tooth would grow back in a month. "Radium pistols are too tough to chew, Thasa Ras." He affectionately ruffled the calot's short mane.

Xodar nodded. "Your calot saved one or more lives this day, Ras Thavas."

"I can always depend on her." Rising, Ras Thavas lowered his voice. "I don't mean to get in your business, but please think carefully on what comes next. It would be tragic to lose a wife and good friends over a past mistake that probably tortured all concerned for as many years as Hanara is old."

Xodar looked out the window to the dark waters of the Omean, his regal black form deep in thought. "I love my wife. Seban and I have been friends..." The expression on the First Born's face softened. The dator extended his hand to Ras Thavas. "You have my thanks."

"Keep me posted on your tunnel project."

"I will, Ras Thavas. Now, shall we go?"

"To see Jazek?" the master mind shook his head. "You and Seban can handle him. Thasa Ras is missing the sunlight. I think we'll go home, but should you need my testimony I will return."

"As you wish. Again, thank you."

Ras Thavas started packing as soon as Xodar closed the door. Thasa Ras snorted with amusement.

"I am impressed. But why the hurry to leave?"

"I am afraid that if I they have enough time somebody will think to ask me about Hanara's origin."


"The girl is half-Thern. Hanara has had enough trouble in her life without having to deal with that."

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