Book: Man-Kzin Wars X : The Wunder War (Man-Kzin Wars)

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Chapter 5

"This redoubt," Henrietta said, "was begun by Chuut-Riit shortly before the ramscoop raid. Initially he feared a coup against him by an alliance of other kzin, particularly followers of Kfrashaka-Admiral and Ktrodni-Stkaa, much more than he feared humans.

"He kept it secret from all but a few of his own pride, and me, Executive Secretary and most senior and trusted of his slaves. Very shortly before his murder he began to have other thoughts, which he entrusted, posthumously, to me alone.

"Traat-Admiral was of course one who knew of the original project, though not his very deepest thoughts, and after Chuut-Riit's murder Traat-Admiral carried it on. He and nearly all his pride perished in space. By the time of the human landings it was unfinished, much as you see this section now. But enough had been done to enable it to support a few of us. As well that more Heroes did not know of it, or they would have raided its stockpiles of weapons for the last battles."

"Who built it, if it was secret?" asked Vaemar. His Wunderlander was correct, much better than Raargh's, though with a nonhuman accent. Raargh had procured sleep tapes for him to learn from.

"Slaves, Noble Prince. They were killed before the surrender. Then the Heroes who had supervised them went out to die heroically."

"I was at my post at the Governor's Palace in Munchen when the end came. On the day of the cease-fire the mob stormed the palace. Zroght–Guard-Captain and some of the others made a last stand there. I escaped with Andre and a few other loyal humans of Chuut-Riit's household. And with Emma, my eldest daughter. Save for her I could not get my family away. Many humans who had obeyed and served the Heroes, who had interceded with them for humans and kept order and production on this world, were lynched by people who owed their lives to them. The mob seized my man and fed him alive to kzinrretti in the zoo cages. I think a priest intervened to save the children. Or perhaps not. I do not remember those days well.

"In the chaos we made our way here, mingling as need be with the hordes of refugees," she went on. "Ensign here and other Heroes who had been informed in time got here as well. Chuut-Riit had given me this shortly before his murder, warning me that he had a premonition of doom, and that this was his last ktzirrarourght in case doom fell." She fished at a chain around her neck and drew forth an antique gold and silver locket, a human thing, perhaps made in Neue Dresden. "It contained four things: a map and the keys to this fortress, a tuft of his fur, and a hologram recording.

"While you slept, Noble One, I already tested your nucleonic acid against his. I know the reports that you are his son are true."

"This was built, all in a few weeks?" asked Vaemar, looking about him again.

"Indeed, Noble One. You come of the greatest race in the Universe."

"Truly, I come of a great people .  .  . Great works."

"Yes, there is nothing the kzinti cannot accomplish, though all the fates turn against them. But I have no secrets from your blood. We had an advantage. ARM suppressed the knowledge of Sinclair fields on Earth, but they had been used to enhance the reaction-drives of the first interstellar slowboats. There were still plans of them in the old archives here."

"Sinclair fields?"

"Time precesses faster inside them. They would have had major military and weapons applications for both sides—war-winning weapons if we had got them in time—but we only rediscovered the plans late in the day, and used them here to speed up production. Inside the fields, much could be built while little time passed outside. We used them also, to grow and age the trees we planted above to conceal the work, even, with high-pressure pumps, to grow stalactites to conceal disturbances at cave entrances. And to grow some stray kzin kittens quickly to adulthood, increasing our strength. We have young Heroes here, thoroughly trained, who know only this place and its discipline.

"As for the major rooms and excavations, the God had done much of that already. These chambers link to the great caves of the Hohe Kalkstein, are indeed an extension of them. But still, it was a mighty feat. .  .  . Come with me now. Noble Prince, do you remember your Honored Sire Chuut-Riit?"

"A little," said Vaemar. "Images."

"You will see your Honored Sire once more."

Henrietta, accompanied by Andre, Emma and Ensign, led them to another chamber. Human chairs and Kzin-sized stone fooches surrounded what looked like an auditorium. There was an instrument console and racks of sidearms on the walls as well as a few stuffed humans, a battle-drum, and other trophies that emphasized its kzinti, and in particular its military kzinti, appearance. There was even a gonfalon of Old Kzin, and some of the artificial lights shone from cressets of antique appearance.

At a gesture from Henrietta, Raargh and Vaemar reclined on two of the fooches. Emma at the console touched a keypad. There was a faint hissing as concealed ducts pumped out odors. A hologram of a mighty kzin appeared. It spoke in the Heroes' Tongue, in the Ultimate Imperative Tense of Royalty:

"This is the Testament of Chuut-Riit, Planetary Governor of Ka'ashi, of the blood of the Patriarch, to my slave and friend Henrietta-human.

"Henrietta, if you are watching this I shall be dead. One attempt by the human Arrum to assassinate me has been thwarted. There will be others, and by kzinti as well as humans.

"This I have always accepted. We Kzinti have long had proverbs like your human 'Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,' and I chose to wear the crown and accept what goes with it. Yet it was a surprise for me to discover that the humans of Sol System knew so much of us as to know to strike at me personally.

"How did this happen? I thought on it. The humans who fled from Ka'ashi to Sol System left long before I arrived. There must have been secret comings and goings between the two systems since. Light-messages, perhaps.

"We had, I suppose, known this was possible, yet had had no interest in it. If the Sol Humans knew the terror of our Names, so much the worse for them! And in that lack of interest I detect a deep-seated military weakness in our kind. I long ago realized, Henrietta, that your kind have talents we lack. We are curious if mysteries are presented to us, we enjoy showing our talents for solving puzzles and conundrums, and we are always eager to stick our noses into caves that may hide secrets or prey, but we lack your degree of curiosity for its own sake. Sometimes I think the deadliest blow the Jotok ever struck against us was to give us knowledge so that we never came to love the hunt for it.

"I summoned the telepaths who have examined human prisoners, and forced myself to interrogate them. That was perhaps prodigal of me—by then all telepaths were urgently needed for war security. But I uncovered many things which I had not suspected, not least about the telepaths themselves.

"However my main discovery was this: When we first met humans and our telepaths reported a race given over wholly to peace and as weaponless as the Kdatlyno and others we have encountered, even as the human laser-cannon slashed at our fleets, some speculated that monkey pacifism was not natural but had been conditioned in them by another race. Perhaps some race had sought to use them as the Jotok sought to use us when they recruited us as mercenaries and gave us technology.

"Some even speculated that those conditioners of monkeys were the Jotok—the fabled free Jotok fleet that had escaped us. We searched for those conditioners, whoever they might be, without result.

"So I discovered, putting together one piece and another, that humans had indeed been conditioned: first by the Arrum . But second by something behind the Arrum that has no name. I am a kzintosh of the Blood Royal, brought up in palaces, now a Planetary Governor with enemies and rivals. I am used to dominance-ploys and Konspirrissy. Most Konspirrissies have inbuilt limitations to their growth and fall apart, are betrayed or fission after they pass a certain size. But this was Konspirrissy beyond Konspirrissy .

"By human standards very old, very large. So old and large that the normal fission of Konspirrissy , even exposure, would not be fatal to it. It had grown and changed through many human lifetimes. We Kzin nobles have studied Konspirrissy , yes, we have made a science of it—I shall say we of the Riit clan most of all. We did not come to rule the kzinti by the speed of our fangs and claws alone. We know that Konspirrissy may grow in such a way that the Konspirritors hardly need to conceal their aims. They need only manipulate a few appearances and emphases. Humans are so inconstant that even one who tells the truth about his plans is not believed: Look at your Hitler, your Lenin, your Sunday. But we kzinti have had some equivalents.

"And I discovered that even some Heroes were being drawn into it: some unknowingly, some merely unknowingly at first . Yes, Arrum and what is behind Arrum has its plans for the human species—and now I find it has plans for the kzinti species too!

"Sol humans have defeated our fleets. I intend to overwhelm them, with the Fifth Fleet or if need be the Sixth. I regret that much of Earth may have to be destroyed. I will try to keep Africa, Yucatán where the Jaguar-gods dwell, the Rocky Mountains and the Russian steppes for the hunting. An easy victory would have been better for both humans and kzinti, though I cannot blame humans for their stubbornness. After many easy conquests we wanted to find enemies in space who would test our fighting skills and courage, and then the Fanged God in His great bounty granted our wish.

"And yet, I think the Konspirrissy may strike back at me, yes, even here in the Governor's Palace on Ka'ashi. Humans adapt with great speed. That is both their strength and their weakness. You have a legend, The Jungle Book , of a human cub raised by pack-raiding beasts who yet became a leader of a whole ecosystem, enemy of one of the great kattz I look to meet on Earth, friend to another of the dark pelt! How amazed I was, each time I reread that legend, that such a thing could have happened! On Kzin it would have been not possible. Kzinti are hard as iron and stone, and do not change or adapt. That is our strength and our weakness. If the pride of that great kat Bagheera still live, I will speak with them when I conquer Earth."

Something changed in the great face. Its regal impassivity wavered.

"I say that if you see this message I shall be dead. I believed that, with culling, over a few generations humans would become the most useful species the Patriarchy has ever acquired. Now I wonder if the Konspirritorrs do not see the Kzin in the same light! Or if they see Kzin and Human together as but malleable material for some other end.

"Henrietta, I have a foreboding that these Konspirritorrs may destroy me. I think they are a greater threat than Ktrodni-Stkaa and his pride. These Konspirritorrs threaten both our kinds.

"If I am dead, Traat-Admiral is my chosen successor. I think he will assert his dominance successfully, though he is but the Son of Third Gunner. I think he will see my youngest kits through the nursery. The elder will find their own way. I have told him you are decorous and he will listen to your advice as I have. I sometimes almost envy your kind their intelligent females, for I have no one but Conserver and you to whom I may open my mind.

"You, my most trusted slave, must guide Traat-Admiral in his dealings with humans as I know you have guided me. Prepare the path so that Traat also discovers what I have discovered. He is the cleverest of my pride, but he must make discoveries for himself and learn to think as I do, but without me.

"Do not mourn for me overmuch. I shall be with the Fanged God. Traat is brave and loyal, but he may fail. If he does, the task may devolve upon you . Destroy the Konspirritorrs that threaten both our kinds.

"My sons are clever. Do not forget them. Guide them too if you can. You have served me well and faithfully. Your presence has brought me pleasure, and because of you I was able to be a better master to the humans of Ka'ashi.

"I hope that you may prosper and have many cubs."

The holo vanished. Henrietta bowed her head to the place where it had been.

"That, Noble Prince, was your Sire. That, Noble Hero, was the Kin of the Patriarch."

Raargh growled in his throat. He had seen the living Chuut-Riit, had been lectured by him as an NCO, and indeed had been presented to him and marked by a few drops of his honored urine after he had received his Name. The holo brought back many memories. As the odors were also meant to, he thought.

He said nothing yet. He and Vaemar had given their Words not to attack their human captors that day. Those Words held them. Even if they did not, he had seen the snouts of automatic guns in various corners. Henrietta had spoken of "Ensign and other Heroes." He had seen a few in these chambers, more near the entrances when, paralyzed and half-unconscious, he and Vaemar had been brought here. He had disciplined his mind to try to count them and take note of the defensive works, but there must be others he had not seen. At one point he had smelled Kzinrretti. Anyway, there were too many to fight.

His ziirgah sense made it plain that they were being watched, though it also hinted—it could hardly do more than that and he was using it to its limit—that the gestalt of interest in him was fluctuating, and tending to drop as he continued to remain calm and made no furious or rampant movements. The kzinti here were presumably used to regarding all kzin as allies, and the field-grown ones would know nothing different. Who knows how many this place holds? He thought. And I must find out more. Then: I must think very carefully. A ghostly hologram could lay no charge on him; he knew it was but a collection of electronic impulses, perhaps even faked. Yet the testament of Chuut-Riit was not something to be set aside lightly.

* * *

Raargh and Vaemar had passed this way. On Earth the orange fur of a kzin would have blazed out, but on this part of Wunderland the vegetation was still largely native, reddish, and better camouflage for them. Infrared surveys, difficult enough in daylight, showed body-heat patterns of what could be several large animals, but not, disturbingly, the almost unmistakable signatures of kzinti.

Still, it was limestone country. The great caves of the Hohe Kalkstein were only a couple of score miles to the south. Raargh and Vaemar might well have found some deep hole to rest in or explore. He climbed to two thousand meters, then higher, and surveyed the country visually. A pattern of southward-flowing streams, appearing and disappearing, the sudden sharp hollows of roof collapses, and other indications of cave country became obvious. There was also another pattern—a regularity of disturbance in the ground that did not look natural. He tried deep radar. His car's set was not powerful but it showed a jumble underground of passages, streams, hollows, and again, sharp-edged regularities. The UNSN had learned that the Kzin, when they condescended to put their minds to it, could be masters of camouflage, and some of this had a kzinti military look to it, though it was on a far larger scale than the ambushes the UNSN had experienced. But if large-scale excavations had been going on here, where was the spoil? The forest and woodland were old Wunderland growth.

The telltale indicated Raargh and Vaemar were in the vicinity but not close. Cumpston landed the car. He was in a shallow gully, filled with vegetation. Brown and pale-gray limestone outcrops rose about, and even sitting in the car's cockpit he could see the dark apertures of three or four caves, partly screened by tall trees.

He tasted the air as he could, trying for a gestalt feeling of the place. A native Wunderlander would be better at this, he thought. The clouds of flutterbys created an impression of tranquillity that was not necessarily reliable. But there was a small stream flowing with a good population of amphibians, froggolinas and the even odder kermitoids that were looking at him curiously and making no effort to hide. There were other animals in the vegetation. If anything violent had happened recently, or if the kzin were hunting, the local wildlife would, he was sure, be silent and invisible. A small mechanical sniffer confirmed his own suspicion of kzin pheromones, but in the breezy glade they were much dispersed.

A more sophisticated sniffer would have been useful, he thought, pinching his lip. Or a dog. Dogs' reaction to the faintest smell of kzin was unmistakable, but there were few dogs on Wunderland now. Kzinti had not liked them. Well, Early had mechanical sniffers and a great many other things. Was it time to call Early? Cumpston had lights and weapons, not all of the latter obvious. He decided to check the nearest caves first.

The first he looked at was plainly undisturbed. Not far within, delicate straw stalactites hung unbroken from the roof almost to the ground. Another time he would have enjoyed exploring this cave for its own sake, but it was obvious that nothing the bulk of a Kzin had passed this way. The next cave showed some disturbances in the mud at its entrance. Looking closely, he was not surprised to make out the print of a kzin foot, though even in Wunderland gravity it seemed curiously light for such heavy creatures. In the still air a molecular analysis confirmed the presence of kzin breath-particles as well as pheromones. He identified the signatures of Raargh and Vaemar, but also others. There were human breath-particles, too. He started into the cave, then hesitated.

Dangerous? Going alone into a cave on an alien world seeking a pair of large carnivores, evidently with unknown companions, was not an entirely safe thing to do, even if the carnivores in question were his chess partners. But in the event of trouble his failure to report would trigger an alarm at Early's headquarters. Normally, the failsafe would trigger every five days, and at present it had four days to run. That was much too long an interval for safety in these circumstances, he thought. He would readjust the car's brain to send a signal after two hours. That was, he thought, the best compromise he could make between recklessness and an excessive caution that would accomplish nothing. A movement caught his attention and there was a peculiar droning sound as he turned back to the car. He never reached it.

 

"We'll have some lunch here and then have a look around the science department and laboratories," Professor Meinertzhagen said. The party had left their cars and were walking through one of the pleasanter parts of the campus. The steel spire of St. Joachim's glittered in the distance.

"This is the Cafe Lindenbaum, quite a historic place. One of the first sidewalk cafés in Munchen. Some say the day it opened we stopped being a village. Mark you, it's famous among the more cynical on the staff as the 'Failure Factory.' Students drinking coffee, chattering and flirting on sunny days when they should be bent over their screens."

"I suppose students are students everywhere," said one of the Crashlanders.

"The Chess Club's always met here, too. You know we're organizing an Interstellar Tournament—the ICF has approved a new title of Interstellar Master, now that we don't have to wait years between reports of each move! The restaurant section we're eating in is too expensive for most students, though. It's always had human service. It was a gimmick before the Invasion. Later," he went on, "human service in restaurants—or anywhere else—was no novelty. As the economy collapsed machines broke down. More significantly, humans would work for less—do things for a crust or a pittance that machines had always done—do anything not to starve. Now, I'm pleased to say, human service is becoming a rare and fancy gimmick again. We might have a look at Harold's Terran Bar this evening. There's a lot of history there, too."

"But there's still human service here, I see," said Patrick, as they settled themselves around a couple of sidewalk tables. Several of the Crashlanders were fascinated by the flutterbys.

"Oh yes, Old Stanley. But he's the proprietor nowadays. Very grand!" Professor Meinertzhagen waved to the aproned old man.

He shuffled over, clutching an antique paper notepad and tray. The tray fell from his hands, clattered and rolled away.

"Professor Carmody!" he cried.

"No!" Paddy Quickenden jumped to his feet.

"I think it's too late," she said. "How do you know me?"

"But .  .  . you used to come here with Professor Rykermann in the old days  .  .  .  before the Invasion."

"That's a long time ago."

"How could I forget? The last time I saw you there was rioting over the new defense taxes and conscription orders. There had been reports of trouble in space. Old Otto had told me to pile sandbags round the walls, and that's what I was doing. You and Professor Rykermann left together. Then, a few nights later, the bombardment started.  .  .  .  But  .  .  .  you look the same!"

"That's all right!" Meinertzhagen said sharply and loudly. To look far younger than one's years on Wunderland implied access to geriatric treatments during the Occupation. With relatively few exceptions, that implied a Government position or at least a prosperous and politically acceptable life during the Occupation. It was not a passport to approval on post-Liberation Wunderland. "This lady came from We Made It today in one of the new hyperdrive ships. You must be mistaken. Now we are attempting to offer her and her distinguished colleagues some hospitality!"

"Oh! No, no of course, it couldn't be, could it?  .  .  .  but .  .  . well, everything is on the House for any Crashlander! We haven't forgotten what we owe them. I'm sorry, I'm getting old.  .  .  .  I'm getting very old. I survived, you know  .  .  .  So many didn't."

"This is an official party. Gratuitous service won't be necessary," Patrick Quickenden interjected. "We would simply like to give our orders now!"

"Yes, sir, of course."

"Well," said Dimity, as the old man shuffled off mumbling, "It seems the secret's out, such as it is. We can't silence him.  .  .  .  But this is all so  .  .  .  I've been feeling strange ever since I came here."

"We can silence him, actually!" Patrick Quickenden said. She shook her head. "I appear to be remembered. Well, it was partly to find my past that I wanted to come back. Paddy  .  .  . look!"

"That's the annex to the new physics block," said Meinertzhagen, following her pointing finger to the building across the street.

With .61 Earth gravity Wunderland buildings tend to be tall. Many, of course, had been leveled in the war. This one was large and new. High on its portico was the legend:

 

THIS CENTER IS DEDICATED

TO THE MEMORY OF

DIMITY CARMODY,

DISCOVERER OF CARMODY'S TRANSFORM.

DAUGHTER OF

PROFESSORS LARRY AND MOIRA CARMODY,

BORN: 2344

FIRST PAPER PUBLISHED: 2354

SPECIAL PROFESSOR OF

MATHEMATICS AND ASTROMETAPHYSICS: 2360

MURDERED BY THE KZIN: 2367

 

"I knew I'd been a professor," said Dimity. "That is one thing I did remember. I even remembered the title of the chair. They said I looked too young, but somehow I was sure of it."

"Too young!" Patrick was still gazing at the dates on the inscription. "This explains the strength of your alpha-wave when we found you. It also explains .  .  . begins to explain, rather, how you did what you did."

He crossed the street to read the inscription more closely. In smaller letters below the main wording was a rhymed couplet. It was an adaptation from a limerick once quoted to Nils Rykermann in the Cafe Lindenbaum.

 

There was a young mind blazed so bright,  

Dreamed of traveling faster than light .  .  .    

—N.R., 2423

"Does the expression "can of worms" mean anything to you?" asked Patrick as he returned to the group. "I think we may have just opened one."

"I think," said Meinertzhagen, "we had better enjoy our meal. I hope you like Wunderland cuisine. It's got a strong North European background, of course, but many of the dishes are local. There are some intriguing blends."

"Like the vegetation," said Patrick. "Look at those colors! Where else, on any world, could you see a blend like that! And under such a sky!" He had conquered his agoraphobia and was feeling rather pleased with the fact.

The university gardens were well tended and a thing of pride and prestige. There were a variety of green, red and orange plants, blended and landscaped into a contrast of hot and cold colors. For the Crashlanders it was a Wonderland indeed.

"Yes, they make quite a pleasing mixture, don't they? said Meinertzhagen. "The green plants are from Earth, of course, and the red are native. Poems have been written about how well they go together. There's a lot of symbolism there."

"The orange plants too," said Dimity. "It's almost like a spectrum. I seem to know the others, but I don't remember them. Are they Wunderland too?"

"I think," said Meinertzhagen, not knowing fully what she meant, "that the orange plants may have come originally from the sixth planet of 61 Ursa Majoris .  .  . also known as Kzin. It's had a lot of effects here."

 

 

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