To make a hero

By Randall Garrett

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Title: To make a hero

Author: Randall Garrett

Release date: September 16, 2023 [eBook #71660]

Language: English

Original publication: New York, NY: Royal Publications, Inc, 1957

Credits: Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


                            TO MAKE A HERO

                          By RANDALL GARRETT

                          Illustrated by EMSH

              _Fraud? Larceny? Murder? All in a days work
           to Leland Hale--the savior of Cardigan's Green!_

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                        Infinity October 1957.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

    RANDALL GARRETT _got to wondering, recently, what kind of stories
    the "true adventure" magazines of the future would publish_. To
    Make a Hero _is his own answer to the question. It's science
    fiction told from a historian's viewpoint--an attempt to set the
    "record" straight on one Leland Hale, a hero who is guaranteed to
    fascinate you, even if you hate him!

    "_One murder makes a villain; millions, a hero; numbers sanctify
    the crime._"

                               CHAPTER I

History, by any reckoning, is a fluid thing. Once a thing has happened,
no instrument yet devised by man can show exactly what it was in minute
detail. _All_ of the data simply cannot be recovered.

In spite of this, if Man were an intellectually honest animal, it
wouldn't be too difficult to get a reasonably accurate picture of the
past. At least the data that could be recovered and retained would
show a reasonably distinct picture of long gone events and their
relationship to the present.

But Man isn't that kind of creature. Once men discovered the fact
that the events of tomorrow are based on what is happening today, it
didn't take them long to reach the conclusion that changing the past
could change the present. Words are magic, and the more cleverly and
powerfully they are connected together, the more magic they become.
The ancient "historians" of Babylon, Egypt, Israel, Sumeria, Judea,
and Rome did not conceive of themselves as liars when they distorted
history to conform to their own beliefs; they were convinced that if
what they wrote were accepted as true, then it _was_ true. Word magic
had changed the past to conform to the present.

Now, one would suppose that, as methods of recording and verifying the
contemporary happenings of a culture became more and more efficient and
more easily correlated, the ability to change the past would become
more difficult. Not true. The actual records of the past are not read
by the average man; he is normally exposed only to biased, carefully
selected excerpts from the past.

Granted, with a few thousand civilized and tens of thousands
semi-civilized planets in the occupied galaxy, the correlation of data
is difficult. But, nonetheless, errors of the magnitude of the one made
in the history of Cardigan's Green shouldn't be committed.

The average man doesn't give two hoots in hell about historical truth;
he would much rather have romantic legends and historic myths. The
story of Cardigan's Green is a case in point.

Call this a debunking spree if you wish, but the facts can be found
in the archives of the Interstellar Police and the Interstellar
Health Commission; and the news recordings on several nearby planets
uphold the story to a certain extent, although the beginnings of the
distortion were already visible.

Time and space have a tendency to dilute truth, and it is the job of
the honest historian to distill the essence from the mixture.

The story proper begins nearly a century ago, just before Leland Hale
landed on Cardigan's Green, but in order to understand exactly what
happened, it is necessary to go back even farther in time--a full three
centuries. It was at that time that the race of Man first came to
Cardigan's Green.

Exactly what happened is difficult to determine. It is likely that the
captain of the ship that brought the colonists to the planet actually
was named Cardigan, but there is no record of the man, nor, indeed, of
the ship itself. At any rate, there _was_ a ship, and it carried five
hundred colonists, if the ship was representative of the colonial
ships of the time. Evidently, they tore the ship down to make various
other equipment they needed, which, of course, marooned them on the
planet. But that was what they wanted, anyway; it is usual among

And then the Plague struck.

The colonists had no resistance whatever to the disease. Every one of
them caught it, bar none. And ninety per cent of them died while the
rest recovered. Fifty people, alone on a strange planet. And, as human
beings always do, they went on living.

The next generation was on its way to adulthood when the Plague struck
again. Seventy-five per cent of them died.

It was over a hundred years before the people of Cardigan's Green
received another visit from the Plague, and this time less than twenty
per cent died.

But, even so, they had a terrible, deep-seated fear of the Plague. Even
another century couldn't completely wipe it out.

And that was more or less the way things stood when Leland Hale
snapped his ship out of infraspace near the bright G-2 sun that was
Cardigan's Green's primary.

       *       *       *       *       *

Leland Hale looked at the planet that loomed large in his visiscreen
and his eyes narrowed automatically, as they always did when he was in
deep thought. The planet wasn't registered in the _Navigator's Manual_
or on the stellographic charts. The sun itself had a number, but the
planet wasn't mentioned.

Hale was a big man; his shoulders were much wider than they had any
right to be, his arms were thick and cabled with muscle, and his
chest was broad and deep. Most men who stand six-feet-six look lean
and lanky, but Hale actually looked broad and somewhat squat. At one
standard gee of acceleration--1000 cm/sec^2--he topped three hundred
pounds. There was just enough fat on his body to smooth the outlines
a little; his bones were big, as they had to be to anchor tendons
solidly; and he had the normal complement of glands and nerves to
keep the body functioning well. All the rest of him seemed to be
muscle--pounds and pounds of hard, powerful muscle.

His head was large in proportion; a size 8 hat would have suited him
perfectly--if he'd ever troubled to buy a hat. His face was regular
enough to be considered handsome, and too blocky and hard to be
considered pretty. His dark hair, brown eyes, and tanned skin marked
him as most likely being of late-migration Earth stock.

He looked from the visiscreen to the detector plate. There wasn't a
trace on it. There hadn't been for days. The skewed, almost random
orbit he had taken from Bargell IV had lifted him well above the
galactic plane, and he was a long way, now, from where he had started.

If the yellow light from Bargell's Sun could have penetrated the
heavy clouds of dust and gas that congregated at the galactic center,
it would have taken it more than seventy thousand years to reach
Cardigan's Green.

No trace on the detector. Good. There was one advantage in stealing a
fully equipped Interstellar Police ship; if his pursuers couldn't be
detected on their own equipment, they couldn't detect him either--they
were out of range of each other.

There were certain disadvantages in stealing an IP vessel, too. If he
hadn't done it, the IP wouldn't be after him; his crime on Bargell IV
hadn't come under their jurisdiction. Unfortunately, stealing the ship
had been the only way to leave Bargell IV. Hale shrugged mentally; it
was too late to worry about such trivialities now.

The empty detector plate meant something else. If there were no
interstellar ships at all in the area, it was likely that the planet
below was an isolated planet. There were plenty of them in the galaxy;
when the infraspace drive had combined with Terrestrial overcrowding
to produce the great migration, many of the pioneers had simply found
themselves a planet, settled themselves into a community, dismantled
their ship, and forgotten about the rest of mankind.

Well, that was all to the good. At top magnification, the view-screen
showed what appeared to be small villages and plowed lands, which
indicated colonization. At least there would be someone around to talk
to, and--maybe--a little profit to be made.

But the first thing he'd have to look for was a place to hide his ship.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Peniyan Range is a bleak, windswept series of serrated peaks that
crosses the northern tip of the largest continent on Cardigan's Green.
Geologically young, craggy, and with poor soil, they are uninhabited,
for there is too little there to support life in any great numbers; the
valleys and low hills to the south are more inviting and comfortable
for humanity. Until the press of numbers forces it, there will be no
need for the inhabitants of Cardigan's Green to live in the mountainous

Finding a place of concealment in those jagged mountains ought to be
fairly easy, Hale decided. He settled the spherical vessel gently to
the ground at the bottom of a narrow gorge which had been cut out by a
mountain freshet for a first look-around.

Grand larceny, fraud, and murder are first-magnitude crimes, but
they are far more common than police statistics would lead one to
believe. The galaxy is unbelievably vast, and the universe as a whole
unthinkably vaster. The really adept criminal can easily lose himself
in the tremendous whirlpool of stars that forms the Milky Way. Hale
knew he had eluded the IP ships; therefore, unless he were found by the
sheerest accident, he would be perfectly safe from the police for a
long time to come.

Not that he intended to stay on Cardigan's Green for the rest of
his life; far from it. He had five and a half million stellors in
negotiable notes in the hold of his ship, and he would eventually want
to get back to one of the civilized worlds where he could spend it. But
that meant waiting until the scream for Leland Hale's blood had become
submerged again in the general, galaxy-wide cry against a thousand
million other marauders. Eventually, there would be other crimes, more
recent, and therefore more important because they were still fresh in
the public mind.

Leland Hale would wait.

For the first two weeks, he had plenty to do. He had to hide the ship
well enough to keep it from being spotted from the air. It wasn't
likely that the IP would find him, but if the colonists of this world
had aircraft, they might wonder what a globe of metal was doing in
their mountains.

He finally found a place under an overhanging monolith--a huge, solid
slab of granite that would have taken an atomic disruptor to dislodge.
Then he began piling rocks and gravel around it, working steadily from
dawn until daylight--a goodly stretch of labor, since it was summer in
the northern hemisphere and the planet made a complete rotation in a
little less than twenty-eight hours.

It didn't bother Hale. His powerful body was more than a match for
ordinary physical labor, and he liked to have something to do to stave
off boredom.

That was Hale's big trouble--boredom. Inactivity and monotony made him
frantic. So it wasn't surprising that after the first two weeks, when
the ship was finally well hidden, he strapped a pack on his back and
went exploring.

He had a good reason for it. Leland Hale never did anything without a
good, logical reason. He could never say to himself: "I'm bored; I'll
just go out and look over the countryside to have something to do." He
could not say it, even to himself, because it would be admitting to
himself that he actually did not like his own company. And Hale was
convinced that he was, in all respects, a thoroughly likable fellow.

His reason for exploration was a need for food. He had plenty in the
ship, of course, and the synthesizer could use almost any organic
material to make food as long as it had an energy source. But Hale
didn't like synthetics, and he didn't want to draw on his power
reserves, so he decided to see what kind of menu the local countryside
had to offer.

The plant life he found in the mountains wasn't much. There were a few
dry, hard bristly bushes, and a tough, gray-green growth that clung
to the rocks--a mosslike lichen or a lichenlike moss, take your pick.
Neither looked in the least edible.

So Hale headed down the mountains toward the south.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some days later, as he approached the foothills, he found queer-looking
bushes that bore purple berrylike things on their branches. He opened
one, and, to his disgust, a white, wormlike thing writhed and squirmed
in his hand until he crushed it and wiped his palms on a rock. Every
berry he opened behaved the same way. He decided they were none too
savory a fare.

He came at last to a warm sea near the foothills of the mountain range.
The crags almost seemed to rise out of the water. Hale couldn't see
across the body of water, but he knew what its shape was, having seen
it from high altitude when he came in for a landing. It was actually a
wide channel that cut off a large island from the mainland on which he
stood. He narrowed his eyes at the horizon and fancied he could see a
shadow of the island, but common sense told him it was an illusion; the
island was at least forty miles away.

The water of the channel was quite warm--Hale estimated it at about
seventy degrees--and filled with life. Each wave that surged up to
the shore left wriggling things behind it as it retreated, and ugly,
many-legged things scuttled across the pale blue sand.

It was the blue sand that decided Hale against trying any of the larger
sea animals as a meal. The sand was coral sand, and the color indicated
a possibility of copper or cobalt. If the animals themselves had an
excess of either element in their metabolic processes, they might not
be too good for Hale's system.

He shrugged, shouldered his pack, and headed south along the beach. He
was in no hurry to find food. He had plenty of concentrate on his back;
when exactly half of it was gone, he would head back towards his ship.

Cardigan's Green has no moons, and the relatively mild tides caused by
the planet's sun are almost imperceptible, but Hale could see that the
broad beach had been built by some sort of regular change in the level
of the water--probably a seasonal wind shift of some kind. At any rate,
he decided that, soft as it was, the sand was no place to spend the

Instead, he slept on a high cliff overlooking the sea. In the
mountains, he had slept in his insulation jacket for warmth, but here
the heat of the sea and the warm breeze that came from it precluded any
need for the jacket, so he used it for a pillow.

Sometime near midnight, the wind changed. The chill wind from the
mountains swept downward, and, meeting with the warm, moisture-laden
air from the sea, blanketed the coast with a chilling fog.

Leland Hale, untroubled by anything so prosaic as a conscience, and
justifiably tired from his long journey on foot, didn't notice the
dropping temperature until the fog had actually become a light drizzle.
He awoke to find himself shivering and wet and stiff. He put on the
insulation jacket immediately, but it took time for his body to warm
up and generate enough heat inside the jacket to make him reasonably
comfortable. There was absolutely nothing on that rocky coast that
could be induced to burn, especially since the rain had begun, so Hale
had to forego the primitive comfort of a fire.

Just before dawn, the wind changed direction again, and the fog slowly
dissipated under the influence of the sea breeze and the heat of the
rising sun. Hale stripped off his clammy clothing and put it on a rock
to dry, but he already had the sniffles and sneezes.

       *       *       *       *       *

Leland Hale was nothing if not determined; his record shows that. Once
he had decided on a course of action, only the gravest of obstacles
could block his path. Most of them could be surmounted, flanked, or, in
case of necessity, smashed through by pure brute strength.

Once, on Viyellan, he set up a scheme for selling a piece of bogus
artwork to a wealthy collector. He had spent months of loving care in
constructing an almost indetectable phony, and his preliminary contacts
with the collector had been beautifully successful.

Hale insisted on cash for the artwork, which was to be delivered on a
certain date. But the day before the appointed time, Hale's accomplice,
thinking he could make a better profit elsewhere, absconded with the

Hale, knowing that the collector had drawn half a million stellors in
cash, burgled his home that night. Then he had the temerity to show
up the next morning to complete the agreement. When the collector
discovered that there was no cash on hand to pay for the "artwork,"
Hale indignantly refused to sell, on the grounds that the collector had
reneged, was unethical, and not to be trusted in any way.

A week or so later, Hale finally traced his errant accomplice to the
small hotel where he was hiding. The next day, the accomplice was found
mysteriously dead. On that same day, the wealthy collector, having
pleaded with Hale to be given another chance, was forgiven, and he
gratefully parted with another half million stellors for Hale's bogus
tidbit. Hale was never seen again on Viyellan.

Leland Hale, therefore, was not the kind of man to let a little thing
like a runny nose or a slight cough stop him. He put on his clothes
when they had dried, adjusted his pack and headed on southwards.

                              CHAPTER II

Human beings are notoriously rapid breeders. Give a group of men and
women a chance, and, with plenty of room to spread, they will nearly
triple their population in each generation. Many will die, if the
circumstances are adverse, but many more will live. Thus, in spite of
the depredations of the Plague, the population of Cardigan's Green
when Hale landed was well over thirty thousand souls, scattered thinly
across the rich farmland near the coast of the channel.

On the coast itself, near the edge of a rocky outcropping which
sheltered a tiny harbor, was the fishing village of Taun. The colonists
of Cardigan's Green had learned quickly enough which of the local fauna
and flora were edible and which were not; it was a case of learn or
die. Those sea denizens which could be eaten were in great demand, and
commanded a fairly large price; those who were successful in catching
them were affluent men of position in Taun.

Such a one was Yon the Fisher.

The Fisher was well thought of in Taun; he was a hard worker and a hard
dealer in business, but one had to be in order to live on Cardigan's
Green. Yon the Fisher had lived in Taun all his life; his father and
his father's father had been Fishers before him. He possessed great
wealth, as was attested by his ownership of a great many Crystals,
which had, in twelve short years, become the medium of exchange on
Cardigan's Green. He was the owner of five magnificent twenty-foot
fishing smacks and a large, two-story house. The house was of stone,
but this, in itself was not a sign of affluence; large trees were rare
on Cardigan's Green, and had to be used to build ships, not houses.

But, in spite of his wealth, Yon the Fisher did not have enough. He
wanted more. He dreamed of the stars.

Twelve years before, an interstellar ship--the _Morris_--had cracked
up near the farm of Dornis the Fat. It had not been a bad accident;
the crewmen had been able to repair it, and were almost ready to leave
before the Plague had killed them all. Now, no one would go near the
ship, in fear of the Plague. It was a shunned and taboo place--to
all except Yon the Fisher. Yon simply didn't believe the Plague
stayed around places where people had died of it--and, in a manner of
speaking, he was perfectly right.

There had been a period when the crew of the downed ship had needed
help in repairing their vessel, the like of which had not been seen
on Cardigan's Green for two centuries. The crewmen had paid off in
Crystals and in small machines that did various things. After the crew
had died of the Plague, Yon the Fisher had waited for fifteen days;
then, in the dead of night, he had entered the ship. The hold had been
almost entirely full of Crystals.

Yon the Fisher was not an uneducated man; the books which had been
brought with Cardigan's ship, two hundred years before, had been
carefully preserved and used in spite of the heavy death toll of the
Plague. The Crystals alone meant nothing to him; what he wanted was
the _Morris_ itself. But the Crystals could be used--they represented

The Commander, the elected head of Cardigan's Green, liked jewels, and
the beauty of the Crystals had caught his eyes, as they had everyone
else's, and that made them valuable. If Yon played his cards right, he
could become one of the wealthiest men on Cardigan's Green.

Eventually, the old Commander would die, and Yon intended to get
himself elected in the Commander's place. Then he would finish
repairing the spaceship.

He had dreams--big ones. He would rule Cardigan's Green. He would have
a spaceship, all his own. He would have....

There would be no limit to the things he would have.

That was Yon the Fisher--intelligent, shrewd, and an excellent
politician. He had a knack for making people like and respect him. He
was wealthy, but he was not greedy for anything material. He wanted
only one thing--power.

He, then, was a part of the second factor that entered into this phase
of the history of Cardigan's Green.

       *       *       *       *       *

The third factor was a hospital ship of the Interstellar Health
Commission, the _IHCS Caduceus_.

The ship was _en route_ from Praxilies to Aldebaran, but she had to go
off course to avoid an ion storm. A star went supernova in the Skull
Nebula, and for six months or so the whole area was full of cosmic ray
particles and mesons, which blocked the regular route.

Lieutenant Riggs Blair, the sub-radio operator, picked up a very weak
distress call as they were making the loop around the Skull Nebula.
He listened to it as it was repeated twice and then called the ship's
commander, Captain Doctor Latimer Wills.

"Captain, I've got a distress signal. The freighter _Morris_ developed
generator trouble four weeks ago, when they got caught in that
storm. Ruined their infraspace drive and fouled up their subspace
radio--almost no power left."

"Put a call through to the police," the captain replied. "Just relay it
through, that's all. Why bother me with something as simple as that?"

"There's more to it, sir; the men are dying. They're sick with some
sort of disease."

"What are the symptoms?" the captain asked. There was a marked change
in the tone of his voice. This was his meat.

Lieutenant Blair tried to raise the _Morris_ again, but got no

"Very well," said Captain Doctor Wills, "call Health Central, tell 'em
what's happened. We're going down."

"I can't call Central, sir," the lieutenant objected. "That ion storm
is between us. I'll try to relay it around."

"Good. We're going down, anyway."

It is a matter of record that the call never reached Health Central.
Exactly where it got lost on the way isn't known, but a century ago
such losses were by no means unusual.

Lieutenant Blair had pinpointed the spot where the _Morris_ had landed
within a hundred miles. The _Caduceus_ hovered over the area and then
settled slowly towards a fairly large offshore island, some forty miles
from the mainland.

"There's a level area there," the captain said. "It would be the
logical place for them to come down. If they didn't, we'll use the air
ambulances to look the place over."

It had taken them twenty days to reach Cardigan's Green since they had
heard the distress call.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yon the Fisher saw the ship in the air. It was only a dot, fifty miles
away, but it seemed to be dropping too slowly and too regularly to be
anything natural. He was standing on the deck of one of his fishing
vessels, looking toward the east, when the ship gleamed suddenly in the
rays of the setting sun. Yon watched it for a moment, then he grabbed a
small brass telescope. It was a ship--no doubt about it!

Were they coming to rescue the other ship? Whatever it was, they were
up to no good, and Yon didn't like to see the vision of his future
power go glimmering. He didn't know exactly what he could do, but he
knew he'd have to do something.

He turned and bellowed to his first officer: "Prepare to cast off!
We're heading for Stone Island!"

Precisely what happened in the next ten days isn't too clear. The crew
of the _Caduceus_ was in no condition to record it, and their memories
were evidently not too good.

This much has been established: Yon the Fisher visited the ship and
offered his help. It took the doctors a little time--an hour or so--to
decipher his strange dialect, but they finally found that the help
offered was worthless. Yon professed no knowledge of the wrecked
_Morris_. He was dismissed, and he returned to the mainland. Within
the next week, every man jack aboard the _Caduceus_ was down with the

Yon returned, in force, to try to capture the ship. He nearly
succeeded, but the crew of the hospital ship fought him off, weak as
they were. Yon had not counted on their being ill, evidently, or he
would never have gone near them. It was lucky for him they were, or his
whole force would have been wiped out.

Yon and his men managed to gain entrance into the ship, and the
fighting raged for twenty minutes or so before he and the sailors with
him were driven off.

The physicians aboard the _Caduceus_ were not in the unfortunate
position that the men on the _Morris_ had been. They were able to use
the medical supplies they had aboard, and came through with less than
ten per cent dead, in spite of the Plague.

But the battle between the crew and Yon's men had done irreparable
damage to the ship. It could neither leave nor communicate with the
outside. The crew of the _Caduceus_ was stranded.

They could hold off any attacks; they had plenty of power. But they
couldn't, they didn't dare, leave the island. If the Plague struck
again--and they had no way of knowing whether it would or not--they
would not have enough medicine to be effective.


And thus it remained for twelve long years, until the day that Leland
Hale came plodding along the beach toward the little village of Taun.

                              CHAPTER III

Hale did not feel well at all. He kept putting one foot in front of the
other, pushing himself through the blue sand, but he would much rather
have crawled into the shade and gone to sleep. His brow was feverish,
and his arms and legs and neck felt stiff. It had been two days since
he had been caught in the rain, and his sniffles and sneezes had
developed into congested lungs and a stopped-up nose. He felt like hell.

The sun was low in the evening sky, but the air was warm and soothing.
He was quite a distance from the mountains now, and there was no longer
much of a fog at night.

Hale squinted his eyes at the sun.

"Dab it," he said aloud, "I'm dot godda walk eddybore today! I'b godda
sit dowd ad relax."

Fever, plus loneliness, plus acute boredom, had started him in the
relatively harmless pastime of talking to himself. He had come a long
way on the hard-packed blue sand--which was easier to travel over than
the rocky shelf above it--and his food had almost reached the halfway

He sat down in the shelter of the cliff, unstrapped his pack, and
rummaged inside. Where the hell was the blasted aspirin? There. He took
out the bottle and gave himself a massive fifteen-grain dose. Maybe it
would make him feel better. He didn't like to use medicine; it made him
seem weak in his own eyes. But there are times when necessity is the
mother of prevention.

He ate, although he wasn't hungry. He was grateful for only one thing:
the synthetics were absolutely tasteless. The head congestion had taken
care of that.

Afterwards, he impatiently took another ten grains of aspirin, and,
still feeling terrible, he curled up to sleep.

He woke up when something prodded him. He was instantly awake, but he
didn't move except to open his eyes.

Standing over him were two men dressed in long gray-brown robes which
were tied at the waist with braided ropes. One of them was pointing a
tube at him that looked suspiciously like a missile weapon.

They were heavily bearded, but the beards were neatly trimmed, and
their hair was brushed back and cropped reasonably short.

The man with the gun said something in a commanding tone of voice and
gestured with his free hand. Hale didn't understand the command, but
the gesture plainly meant "Get up!"

Leland Hale was never a man to argue with a gun. He stood up slowly.

As he did, the expressions on the faces of the two men altered
slightly. Hale couldn't understand the new expressions at first, hidden
as they were by the beards. Then, as they backed away a little, he
understood. The men were no more than five eight; he towered a good ten
inches above them.

The armed man spoke again, waving the gun. Hale interpreted this as
"All right, let's go." He complied. He didn't know where they were
taking him, but almost anything was better than being alone. He wasn't
too worried; he'd been in plenty of tight spots before. Jailbreaking
was nothing new to Leland Hale.

It was just barely dawn. The sky was light, but the edge of the sun had
not quite shown itself over the eastern horizon, far out to sea.

The trio walked along silently for a couple of miles, then they topped
a little rise and went up a long slope to the top of the cliff. Below
him, Hale saw a village. Taun. He realized that if he had been walking
along the ridge instead of on the shore, he would have seen the town
the night before.

Down the slope they went, heading for the little cluster of houses
surrounding the small bay.

       *       *       *       *       *

There weren't many people in the streets of the small town, although
there seemed to be plenty of activity around the docks. Hale could see
tilled fields to the west of the settlement, where there were people
already at work.

A third man in a gray-brown robe met them in the middle of one of the
cobblestone streets and asked something of Hale's guards. They stopped,
and a long conversation followed. Hale strained his ears to catch the

At first, it was complete gibberish, but Hale knew what key words to
listen for, and gradually he picked up more and more.

As on every inhabited planet of the galaxy, the language of Cardigan's
Green was derived from Terran--basically English, with large additions
of Russian, Chinese, and Spanish. Hale had traveled a great deal in his
life--partly by choice and partly because often he had no choice. He
had heard and spoken a hundred different dialects of Terran, and the
assimilation of a new derivation was almost automatic.

The two guards were telling the new man that they had found a stranger
on the beach, and describing in detail how it had come about. They
were, it seemed, going to take him to the Village Officer--whoever that
might be.

The third man told them that the Officer was away somewhere--Hale
didn't catch it.

The guard who carried the gun said that Hale would be taken to "the
brig" to await the Officer's pleasure.

The third man nodded and hurried off, while Hale was prodded onward.

"The brig" proved to be a small building with a heavy iron door and
thick iron bars at the windows. Hale didn't like the looks of the
place, but he didn't like the feel of the missile weapon at his back,
either. In he went.

He took his pack off and submitted to search. Then the guards went
outside, taking the pack with them. The heavy door rang like a bell
when they slammed it. A second clang indicated a bar across the door.

"I'll be damned," said Hale softly. "I run seventy thousand light years
to stay out of one jail and walk right into another."

He listened to his own voice and noted with satisfaction that his
congestion was clearing up.

There were voices outside. Hale strolled over to the window to listen.

"What is he? An Islander?" asked a voice. Hale hadn't heard it before;
obviously another seeker after knowledge--a local busybody.

"He's an Islander, all right," said one of the guards. "He wears their
clothing." Hale was wearing a standard spaceman's zipsuit and his
insulation jacket.

"But what would an Islander want to come here for? None of them have
left the Island since their ship landed, twelve years ago."

"Isn't that obvious? Their Captain Doctor wants to make a deal with the

Hale listened patiently, and gradually the situation became clearer.

Out on the island across the channel was a ship. From the title
"Captain Doctor," he gathered that it was an IHC ship. It had been
there for twelve years.

Hale kept his ears open as more information trickled in. Several more
of the townspeople joined the discussion group, and the conversation
became livelier. Hale drank it all in, filing and indexing it in his
mind. Some of the words used weren't clear at times, but the context

Now, a confidence man is an opportunist; no successful con man can
afford to be anything else. He must, above all, be able to talk
his way out of, or into, anything. Leland Hale's record speaks for
itself; killer, thief, yes--but he was also a damned good con man. As
Interstellar Police Commander Desmon Shelley remarked some years later:
"Leland Hale could have sold antigravity belts to the crew of a ship
in free fall at double price--and even then he would have cheated by
leaving out the energy units."

Slowly, an idea began to form in his mind. Someone called the Fisher
wanted to make a deal with the people on the island. If he played his
cards right, Hale might be able to make a little profit, one way or

       *       *       *       *       *

It was several hours before the Village Officer showed up, and by then
Hale had the set-up pretty well in mind. His information was far from
complete, but he knew enough to enable him to run a bluff.

The Village Officer was a taller man than the other villagers, though
nowhere near as big a man as Hale. His full beard was slightly touched
with gray, and there was a streak of silver at each temple. His
eyes were dark, and a hawkish nose protruded from his face, almost
overshadowing the beard.

"I am Yon the Fisher," he announced. "And you?"

He stood outside the iron door, looking in through the open grillwork.

"Leland Hale. I've come here to hear your terms."

"They are the same," said Yon. "Repair my spaceship. Use replacement
parts from your own, if necessary. In return, I and my men will take
you to a planet where there is a space-port."

"_Your_ spaceship?" Hale asked pointedly.

Yon's bearded visage smiled a little. "Mine. I bought it legally from
Dornis the Fat ten years ago. It fell on his land, therefore, by law,
it was his to sell."

"What about the crew?" Hale asked. "It was their ship."

"True. Unfortunately, they died--ah--intestate. The property therefore
reverted to our legal government. But our aged Commander would have
nothing to do with it, so he ruled that it was the lawful property of
Dornis the Fat."

"Very neatly done," said Hale in honest admiration. "All legally sewed
up." He knew the claim wouldn't stand up in a court of interstellar
law, but he recognized the machinations of a fellow con man when he saw

"Thank you," said Yon the Fisher. "Now let's get down to business. You
came here for a reason, I assume. Is it a deal, or isn't it? I can be
patient; I am on my own home planet. You, on the other hand, have been
virtually prisoners for twelve years."

"True," agreed Hale. "I think we can make some sort of agreement along
those lines. I was sent to look at your ship."

Yon the Fisher pondered this for a moment, then countered with: "Why?"

"We have to know how badly it's damaged. If it can't be repaired,
there's no sense in making any kind of deal, is there?"

"I see. Very well. We will go to my ship. However, we will have to take
precautions. You understand, I'm sure."

"Naturally," Hale said.

Hale's hands were bound behind him, and the guard with the gun followed
directly behind him.

There are no animals fit for riding purposes which are native to
Cardigan's Green, and eking out a bare living from the planet left the
colonists no time to develop mechanical aids to transportation. They

Several hours later, Leland Hale was inside the hull of the freighter
_Morris_. Under the watchful eye of Yon and his myrmidons, Hale went
over the whole vessel, saying as little as possible, and evading the
questions that were put to him. When he was finished, his face wore
a speculative look, but inside he was feeling positively gleeful. In
an hour, at the very most, he, alone, could put the vessel in working
order! The original crew of the _Morris_ had almost finished their work
when they succumbed to the Plague.

Surely there must be some way he could turn this to his advantage!

"I think it can be done," he said judiciously. "There's not a lot
of work to be done, but there are parts missing and so forth....
Hmmmm...." He looked around the control room in which they were
standing. It looked like a mess. All the paneling had been taken off
the circuit housings to work on the control systems. In the engine
section, the refractor domes were still off. The ship didn't look in
tip-top shape, but all that would have to be done was a half hour's
work on the generators and another half hour to close everything up.

"I don't know how long it will take, though," said Hale.

"I've kept it sealed and kept it clean," said Yon. "I'm no engineer, so
I kept my hands off of everything."

"Can you pilot her?" Hale asked.

"Easily. I have the piloting instructions that were left in Cardigan's
ship, and I have the astrogation charts from this one." He smiled. "I
have had twelve years to study."

Hale had to agree that Yon was probably right. A spaceship practically
guides and runs itself when it's in working order. An elementary
knowledge of astrogation and a good ship can get a man almost anywhere
in the galaxy.

"In that case, Yon," said Hale, smiling his best smile, "I think we can
get along. Let bygones be bygones."

"Excellent." Yon was trying hard to conceal his excitement and almost
succeeding. "Come; let's go back to Taun and I'll buy you a dinner."

                              CHAPTER IV

Yon the Fisher felt expansive. At last, after twelve long years of
waiting, he would have his spaceship! Of course, he had no intention
of taking the crew of the _Caduceus_ anywhere; he wanted no spaceship
but his own on Cardigan's Green. But now that a part of his dream was
about to come true, he felt like making a grand gesture. He would throw
a party. He was the second most important man on Cardigan's Green now,
and eventually the old Commander would die, and Yon the Fisher would be

He would _really_ throw a party then, but now he would do a good job.
He would entertain this Islander in the grand manner.

The entertainment was held in a large stone hall. It was poorly lighted
and almost bare of ornamentation. By the time everything was ready, the
sun had set, and the hall was illuminated by oil torches set in sconces
along the walls.

It was strictly a stag affair, which, as far as Hale was concerned,
made it a very dull party indeed. There were speeches galore, and Yon
the Fisher made about every third one.

Hungry as he was, it took a little time for Hale to work up enough
courage to try the food placed before him. He had eaten foods on half
a thousand different planets, but a thing like a pickled centipede had
never been set before him before, and its pale blue-green color and
translucent body did nothing to endear it to him. He finally tried one,
after closing his eyes seraphically, as though he wanted to enjoy it to
the fullest. It was delicious.

The beverage was a purplish, sour-tasting ferment that produced a nice
glow. Hale drank three cups of it before he thought to wonder if it
were made from the purple berry with the white worms inside. He wisely
refrained from asking, and, after a few more cups, it ceased to worry
him at all.

As the night went on, the party became more and more boisterous.
Everyone had plenty of the purple ferment, and the conversation became
more and more interesting as it made less and less sense.

It must have been rather early in the morning when the incident
occurred that both shocked Hale back into sobriety and gave him a new
zest for life.

As is usual in parties of that sort, the host somehow managed to
underestimate the amount of liquor that would be consumed. The supply
ran out, and Yon the Fisher had to send out for more.

"La!" he cried as he turned up the last earthenware jug, only to find
a bare half-cupful within. "Out of juice! Are we all out? No more?"
He gazed around, as though he expected any full jugs to stand up and
announce themselves. None did. "Look around!" he bawled. "There must be

The whole group of thirty-odd men began turning jugs upside down. One
of them had a little in it, but the man who turned it had failed to
provide a receptacle, and it splashed on the floor. There were no full

"Ferek! You, Ferek!" Yon called loudly. One of the men stood up and
came toward him. "Ferek, go get us some more. Wake up Lan the Brewer.
Here--take this." He opened a leather bag that hung at the cincture of
his robe and spilled out a handful of sparkling, blue-white stones. He
selected one and handed it over. "And mind you make it snappy, Ferek;
we're all thirsty!"

Ferek turned on his heel and fled, but Leland Hale did not watch
his departure. Hale was staring at the handful of stones in Yon the
Fisher's palm.

Diamonds! Perfect, blue-white octahedrons! He knew what they were; the
vital tuning crystals for the subspace radio. So _that_ was what the
_Morris_ had been carrying! The little crystals that were worth more
than all the rest of a subspace radio, including installation. And they
were using them as a medium of exchange!

Hale mentally rubbed his hands together, and the glitter of promised
profit gleamed in his eyes.

When Ferek came back with the purple juice, fourteen jugs of it, Hale
was ready for the fun to begin.

       *       *       *       *       *

He woke up the next morning with a head that felt the way it deserved
to feel. He vaguely remembered being courteously escorted back to "the
brig" and ceremoniously locked in with the best of good wishes. He'd
felt fine then; he didn't now.

He sat up, wishing he had his pack back so that he could get a couple
of aspirin tablets.

Then the noise came to his ears--an excited muttering outside the
window. He got to his feet carefully and walked over to the barred

Outside, a group of men were standing across the narrow street from his
cell. They seemed to be staring at the window, and when Hale's face
appeared, they moved back a little, almost as though he'd struck at
them. At the same time, the muttering ceased.

"What's going on out there?" he asked in his heavy baritone voice.

"It's the Plague," said one of them. Hale recognized him as the
gun-wielding guard of the day before.

"The Plague?"

"That's right. Yon the Fisher has it. Seven others. I think you may
have it."

"Don't be silly!" Hale snapped. "I feel fine. What kind of a plague is

"Why--it's just the Plague."

"I mean, what are the symptoms?"

"Cough. Watery eyes. Nose runs. Then a fever and you die."

"And you say Yon the Fisher has it?" Hale felt things were going even
better than he had expected. But if the Fisher were to die, the whole
deal might fall through. "Look here," he said, "I've got some stuff
in my pack that will fix those boys up in no time. Just let me out of
here, and I'll--"

The muttering in the crowd began again, and the guard said: "I can't
let you out without permission from Yon the Fisher."

"Now, look here," Hale began.

Hale had a persuasive tongue. Even in a strange dialect, he could,
given time enough, work men around to his way of thinking. Some years
before, according to the court records of the Supreme People's Court
of Vega VII, one Leland Hale had been indicted for kidnap-murder, a
crime which can only be tried on Vega VII by the SPC. Five learned
judges, wise in the law, heard the case. At the same time, a full tape
transcript was made. The prosecution presented its case and amply
proved motive, opportunity, and identity. Hale defended himself, using
the charts and evidence presented by the prosecution.

No logic robot would have accepted the defendant's testimony for
more than the first paragraph, but the five learned judges listened
carefully, believing that they were weighing both sides impartially.

When it was over, the vote was three-two in favor of acquittal. The
majority opinion apologized to Mr. Hale for inconveniencing him by
bringing him to trial. There was no minority opinion; the other two
judges merely abstained from voting.

When Hale's defense was subjected to semantic analysis, it was
discovered that his statements, taken at face value without the
emotional content, were a confession and admission of guilt!

The press had a field day. The three judges of the majority were
forced to resign by public opinion, and the other two left the bench
soon after. The entire judicial system of Vega VII was revamped in a
frenzied flurry of legislative activity.

But it was too late to do anything about Leland Hale--he was three
sectors away by that time, and the law couldn't touch him anyway.

Hale was glib, clever, and persuasive. Within fifteen minutes, he was
heading towards the home of Yon the Fisher with his pack on his back
and a goodly crowd following well behind.

Hale rapped on the door and announced himself. A feminine voice from
within said: "Go away! The Plague is here!"

"Never mind! I've had it! I'm immune! Let me in!" He tried the door
and found it unlocked. He stepped in--and stopped.

Before him, staring wide-eyed, was the most beautiful honey-blonde he
had ever seen.

_If all their women look like this_, Hale thought, _it's no wonder they
keep them at home!_

"Where is Yon the Fisher?" he asked aloud.

"In--in the bedroom," she said softly, pointing.

Hale strode in. Yon was lying on a pallet of the same rough gray-brown
material that his robe was made of, his breath heavy and rasping. "You
should not have come here, Leland Hale," he said. "You'll get the
Plague and die."

"Rot," said Leland Hale. "Here, take these." He gave Yon twenty-five
grains of aspirin, two hundred milligrams of thiamine hydrochloride,
and five hundred milligrams of ascorbic acid. He made the Village
Officer swallow them with a good slug of the purple ferment and told
him to relax. For good measure, he put two capsules of a powerful
laxative on a dish beside the bed. "Take one of those in two hours,
and the other one four hours later." He turned to the woman, who had
followed him into the room. "Don't give him any solid food for two
days--just soup."

He looked the girl up and down again, then turned back towards the
pallet. "I forgot one pill," he said. He gave Yon the Fisher half a
grain of narcolene.

"What about Caryl?" asked Yon, indicating his wife. "Will she catch the

"Don't worry, Yon," Hale assured him. "I'm going to fix her right up."

He gave her ten grains of aspirin and made her wash it down with a full
cup of the purple liquor. Then he gave her ten more, which also had
to be followed by a full cup of juice. After that came ascorbic acid,
chased with a third cup of liquor.

"Now just sit down a minute while that takes effect," he said
ambiguously. She sat down on a stone bench near a big slab of stone
which served as a table.

"Will Yon really be all right?" she asked. "Really?"

"I guarantee it," Hale said. Over on the pallet, Yon slowly closed his

"And I won't catch it?" There was a note of fear in her voice.

"If you do, it will be mild," Hale said. From the pallet came the sound
of soft snoring. The narcolene had taken effect.

And something else was taking effect. Caryl looked up at him and
blinked. "I feel queer," she said. As Hale had suspected, drinking was
strictly For Men Only on Cardigan's Green.

"It's just the medicine," Hale told her.

"Mr. Hale," she said softly, "you're a very brave and very wonderful
man. I don't know how I can ever repay you for what you've done for us."

Succinctly, Hale told her.

She looked at him, wide-eyed. "But--"

"Precisely," said Leland Hale.

                               CHAPTER V

There were others in Taun to be cured. When Yon the Fisher awoke later
in the day, he was still a little weak, but his pains were gone, and he
declared that he was much better. As soon as word got around, the other
seven men who had been stricken begged him to come.

Hale came, but he explained that--naturally--the medicine cost money.
Crystals would do.

Had Yon the Fisher paid?

Yon the Fisher had paid a very great price, indeed, Hale assured them.
But, of course, Yon was a very wealthy man. Those who had less would be
charged less. It would balance out.

Hale charged just a fraction less than the traffic would bear.

When Yon the Fisher heard of this, he was even more grateful to the
"Islander." He knew perfectly well he hadn't given Hale a single

By the end of the second day, Hale's supply of drugs was running
dangerously low, although his collection of diamonds was becoming
pleasingly large. He decided to take the whole planet in hand.

The grateful Yon was very happy to lend Hale a boat and crew to get him
back to the Island whence he was presumed to have come.

"I'll have to get more medicine," Hale explained. "I'll come back,
never fear."

"But will your people let one of my boats land? How will they know
you're aboard?" Yon propped himself up on his pallet. "Several boats
which have tried to land--peacefully, of course--have been blown out of
the water."

"Don't worry, Yon, old friend. All that is over, now that we have come
to terms."

Yon lay back again, a smile beneath his beard. "Good. Take the boat,

Hale strode out. Caryl held the door open for him. She kept her head
bowed and didn't look at him, but there was the faintest trace of a
smile on her lips. Hale ignored her.

       *       *       *       *       *

The trip across the channel, even with a good breeze, took nearly half
a day because of the adverse currents. Hale spent the time thinking.

The IHC ship evidently still had plenty of power, even after twelve
years, if they could blow a fishing smack out of the water. It took
power to use a space gun in an atmosphere.

But why did they want to keep the people of Cardigan's Green away?
Surely they weren't afraid of a raid--or were they? There must be some
way to contact them, or Yon the Fisher could not have made the offer
that Hale had so cavalierly accepted.

Two of the crew developed the sniffles on the trip, and Hale, with
great magnanimity, dosed them for free.

At last, the Island loomed out of the sea. It was a continuation of the
mainland mountains, and looked it.

The Peniyan Range, half a million or so years ago, was a solid chain,
connecting the offshore island with the mainland. Indeed, what is now
the Island was once merely the tip of the old Peniyan Peninsula. But,
between earthquake and sea action, a lower section vanished beneath the
sea, leaving the jagged cliffs of the Island.

There is only one decent landing place, a beach near the flat plateau
of the Island's top. All the rest of the perimeter is composed of
sheer cliffs that drop straight into the surf. The lower cliffs at
the southern end of the Island have since been blasted away to make a
harbor, but at that time only the small beach afforded an approach.

The sailors of the fishing smack dropped anchor a good hundred yards
offshore. Above them, on the flat of the plateau, loomed the huge,
weatherstained bulk of the _IHCS Caduceus_.

"This is the prescribed distance," said Yon's First Officer, who was
now in charge of the little vessel. "I wouldn't want to go in any
farther, even with you aboard."

"I wouldn't want you to," Hale assured him honestly.

"You will row in by yourself?" asked the First Officer.

"Naturally," said Hale, although the thought hadn't crossed his mind.
He climbed into a little rowboat, was lowered over the side, and
propelled himself toward the blue sand of the beach.

Suddenly, a voice boomed out from a loudspeaker in the big hospital
ship. "Don't beach that boat! Who is it?"

Hale let the boat drift a few yards from the shore and stood up in it.
They must have a directional pickup on him, or they wouldn't be asking
questions; he was too far away from the ship for a shout to carry

"Lieutenant Doctor Leland Hale, Interstellar Health Commission!" he
called out. "What ship are you?"

Although they had challenged him in the dialect of Cardigan's Green,
Hale answered in Standard Terran.

There was a choking sound from the loudspeaker. Then, for a full half
minute there was only silence. Finally: "_My God--we're saved!_"
Another short silence ensued before the voice said, "Lieutenant Hale,
this is the IHC Ship _Caduceus_."

Hale put surprise into his voice. "The _Caduceus_? Good heavens! Why,
you were wiped off the slate ten years ago!"

"We--we know." The voice was choked with emotion. "Just a minute,
Lieutenant Hale; Captain Doctor Latimer Wills wants to talk to you."
Another silence.

"Lieutenant Hale," said a different voice from the speaker, "this is
Captain Wills."

"A pleasure, sir. I've heard a great deal about you. I--I hardly know
what to say. Imagine--meeting a man who has practically become a legend
in the IHC."

Leland Hale had never heard of Wills before; he didn't know if the man
had ever done anything in his life. But it's a good bet that a man
doesn't become the commander of an IHC hospital ship without doing
_something_ noteworthy--or at least something that he, himself, thinks
is noteworthy.

"Lieutenant," said the captain doctor, in a tone that was strangely
husky, "we have been marooned on this planet for twelve years, fighting
for our very existence. It is you, not I, who are a hero."

       *       *       *       *       *

Leland Hale had said nothing about heroism, but he let it pass. "May
I come into the ship, sir? I have something important to talk to you

"Well--ah--" This time, the silence was strained. "Ah--Lieutenant
Hale--ah--do you know anything about the Plague?"

"The Plague? I don't understand, sir."

"That's what the natives call it. They're deathly afraid of it,
although they have no need to be. It killed off great numbers of them
at first, but the survivors are descendants of those who were immune.
The present population is not susceptible to it; they are carriers.
It's a virus of some sort; we haven't been able to do much research
on it with our limited facilities here, but we've established that in
the body of an immune it just lives in semi-symbiosis, like _Herpes

"I see, sir." Hale had no idea what _Herpes simplex_ was, but he got
the general idea.

"It strikes within twenty-four hours after exposure, and kills
eighty-five to ninety per cent of a normal population." Pause.
"Ah--Lieutenant, how long have you been here?"

"Just forty-eight hours, sir. But there's nothing to worry about. I'm
immune." He knew he must be. If he hadn't caught it yet, he never would.

"Immune? Good heavens, man! How do you know?"

"Lagerglocke's serum, sir. Developed seven years ago. Confers universal
immunity to any foreign protein substance." Hale hoped it sounded

There was a stunned silence. "But--but what about the allergy reaction?"

Hale took a breath. "I'm not sure exactly how it works, sir; I'm not an
immunologist. I believe that the suppressor is one of the Gimel-type

"Oh." The captain doctor's voice sounded sad and tired and old. "I'm
afraid medical technology has passed me by in the last twelve years,
Lieutenant. I imagine all of us will have a great deal to learn."

"Yes, sir." Hale sat down again in the boat. Standing up in a rocking
skiff is tiring, even if one has excellent balance. "May I ask, sir,
why you haven't been sending out distress signals?"

Wills explained in detail what had happened twelve years before. "So
you see," he finished, "we've been holding them off all this time. Yon
the Fisher has been trying to get us to repair the _Morris_, but we've
refused steadily. In the first place, if we exposed ourselves, we'd be
dead before we reached another planet. In the second place, we wouldn't
dare give these people interstellar ships; if the Plague ever began to
spread through the galaxy, it would mean the end of civilization as we
know it. Every planet would be like Cardigan's Green. Mankind would
have to start all over again from the lowest barbarian stage."

"You mean your sub-radio is wrecked, sir? Completely inoperative?"

"Completely," said the captain doctor. "Oh, it's not wrecked, but we
lack a diamond tuning crystal."

_Well, well, well_, said Hale to himself. _Well, well, well, well,

"Of course," said Captain Wills, with more heartiness in his voice,
"now that you're here, we can call Health Central and--and get off
this--this--" His voice choked.

Hale took a deep breath. This was it. "I'm afraid it's not as simple
as that, sir. You see, I landed my ship here not knowing that
the--ah--natives were hostile. I landed near their village. They
pretended to be friendly, so I went out to meet them. They overpowered
me and went into my ship. They smashed my sub-radio and took away parts
of my drive unit." He paused for effect. "I'm afraid, sir, that their
ship will be ready to go shortly, and we have no way to contact Health

The sudden tumbling of a gigantic house of cards was marked by an awful
roar of silence.

Hale waited. He had plenty of time.

       *       *       *       *       *

When it finally came, the voice of Captain Doctor Latimer Wills was
distorted with frustration, anger, fear, and despair. "Then that's the
end. It--it isn't your fault, of course, Lieutenant Hale. You couldn't
have known." It was obvious that his first emotional reaction had been
violently against "Lieutenant" Hale, and he had suppressed it with

"Nevertheless, sir, I feel that it's my responsibility," Hale said
nobly. "And I think I see a way out."

"What? What? A way out? How?" Wills didn't dare let himself hope again.

"Well, sir, the Plague seems to have broken out again on the mainland.
There are more than fifty down with it in the village now, and it
seems to be spreading."

"What? Ridiculous!" The captain doctor was almost sputtering.
"Lieutenant, I assure you that they're immune! The population of
Cardigan's Green _can't_ have an epidemic of the Plague! Oh, I'll admit
that an individual might be conceived now and then without the immunity
gene intact, but the foetus would never come to term! An epidemic is

"Nevertheless, sir," said Hale complacently, "we have a major epidemic
on our hands." He knew he was treading on thin ice at that point, so
he turned and called loudly to the boat in the local dialect. "Tell
Captain Doctor Wills why we are here!" Then, to Wills: "Will your
directional pickup reach that man, sir?"

"I think so. Yes."

The first officer of the fishing smack was shouting: "The Plague is
here, good sir! Please help us! Give us the medicine!"

Hale snarled under his breath. He wasn't ready to say anything about
the medicine yet. Oh, well--water over the dam, spilt milk and all that.

"I'm afraid I don't understand, Lieutenant Hale," said the captain
doctor. "How will this help us get off Cardigan's Green? And what's all
this about medicine? We don't have any medicine that will cure the

"Let me ask you a question, sir. What size frequency crystal do you
need for your sub-radio?"

There was a murmured consultation from the speaker. Evidently, the
ship's commander was conferring with his communications officer.

"We need a point oh nine seven five," Wills said at last. "Why? What's
that got to do with--"

"Just as I thought, sir!" Hale interrupted. "The crystal in my radio
happens to be a point oh nine seven five!" It wasn't, but he had
several of them in his pack. "Now, my ship is guarded by several armed
natives, and they won't let me in again. They think I have a weapon
hidden inside. However, my crystal is intact; it was the modulator
section they smashed.

"Now; we can do one of two things. We can wait until the Plague has
thoroughly decimated the population and they give up guarding my ship,
or we can cure them of the Plague and earn their gratitude."

Wills thought that one over. "I'm afraid it will have to be the former,
Hale; we have nothing on board to cure that disease. As a physician, I
hate to do it, but we'll simply have to let those people die."

"I think not, sir. How much acetylsalicylic acid do you have aboard?"

"Aspirin? Oh, a hundred thousand five-grain tablets, I should imagine,

"How about vitamin C--ascorbic acid?"

"In the pure form? Why, our food synthesizer could be adjusted for
almost unlimited amounts of that, but--"

"And you could adjust for thiamine, too?" Hale persisted.

"Of course, but--"

"Excellent, sir. Then we can whip this thing!"

"Now, see here, Hale! Don't tell me you're going to cure the Plague
with aspirin and vitamins!" Wills was almost angry.

"Of course not, sir! That's merely to relieve the patient and build
up resistance. I happen to have on hand a fairly good supply of
Doppeltreden's vaccine."

"Doppeltreden's vaccine?"

"I'm sorry, sir; I keep forgetting you've been away for so long.
That's the vaccine that gave Lagerglocke the basis for developing his
universal immunity serum. The vaccine works on the E-37 linkage, which
is found in every virus; it temporarily suspends the life processes
of the virus--any virus--and during that period, the natural body
functions take over."

"I see. It seems to me I read something about that back in--But that's
neither here nor there, Lieutenant. I'll see that you get what you
need." There were more mutterings from the speaker. Wills was giving
the orders. "We're giving you a good supply of the other vitamins, too,
Lieutenant. Might as well do the job right."

"Very good, sir," said Hale gratefully.

"And--ah--Hale--would you like to come on in? I'd like to talk to you
about the newer advances in the field."

"I don't think it would be wise, sir," Hale said promptly. "Although
I'm immune to the Plague, I still might be a carrier. I have two very
sick men on board the ship; I really ought to be out there taking care
of them."

"You're right, of course. Very well, Lieutenant Hale; carry on. We'll
do our part."

"Thank you, sir. Just put the stuff on the beach; the fishing crew and
I will pick it up." And with that, he began pulling at the oars, rowing
back out to the boat. He had no desire to talk any longer with Captain
Doctor Wills; the next slip might be his last.

                              CHAPTER VI

The next several weeks Hale spent in going from village to village
on the mainland, dispensing the drugs he had received from the
_Caduceus_. There were seven major villages, including the capital,
where the Commander of Cardigan's Green lived, and twelve smaller ones
which were not much more than little clots of houses scattered over the
countryside. He had to walk every foot of it, but he didn't mind; it
was worth it.

The disease spread like ink on a blotter as Hale tramped from town to
town. He took with him three men who had recovered from the epidemic;
they carried the drugs while Hale strolled along unburdened. But they
didn't mind; it was an honor to help the man who fearlessly helped to
stem the tide of the awful Plague.

But in spite of his best efforts, three thousand people, nearly a tenth
of the total population, succumbed to the terror. Hale, perhaps, could
have sent others around to administer the panacea, but he insisted that
only he knew how to do it.

And only he--but of _course_--collected the diamonds for his services.
Those who were really poor were treated for nothing, but those who had
Crystals were soaked--but good.

And then, at last, it was over; it had burned itself out. The people of
Cardigan's Green could relax once again.

Hale wended his way back to Taun, which had become the new capital.
The old Commander had died, and Yon the Fisher, backed by Hale's
word-of-mouth propaganda and his own reputation, had been elected to
the position.

"Yon, old friend," said Hale when he had been admitted to that worthy's
august presence, "we are, I think, ready to do business."

"Business?" asked the new Commander.

"In the matter of your spaceship," Hale reminded him.

They were sitting in the same modest stone house that Yon had always
lived in; he had not yet had time to build a larger, more sumptuous
home--a home fit for a Commander.

Caryl, her eyes demurely lowered, served them cups of the purple
ferment as they sat at the stone table.

"Oh, yes; the spaceship. Are your people ready to go back to the stars,
then?" Yon asked shrewdly.

"As a matter of fact, no," Hale said. "Actually, we've grown used to
Cardigan's Green in the past twelve years. We've decided to stay. Now
that we have medicines which will stop the Plague, we feel we should
move to the mainland--under your benevolent Commandership, of course."

Yon looked pleased for a moment, then his eyes narrowed. "But what
about the spaceship?"

"Oh, you'll get that, naturally. But it will have to be paid for in
Crystals." He named a figure.

Yon's eyes grew wide. "But that's almost half of my total wealth!"

"That's true. But there are so many of us aboard the _Caduceus_, and
none of us has any of the new coin of the realm. Oh, a little, perhaps,
from the sale of our drugs, but we asked so little. And of you, we
asked nothing at all to save your life."

"He's perfectly right, Yon," Caryl said suddenly. "We both owe him our

"Besides," persisted Hale, "you have Crystals coming from the estate of
the previous Commander. _He_ certainly had plenty." Hale didn't mention
that the previous Commander had given him almost all of his diamonds in
return for Hale's futile attempt to save his life.

"That's true," Yon agreed, brightening perceptibly.

"Furthermore," Hale continued inexorably, "my people will, of course,
spend this money, which will be divided evenly among us. I think a man
of your proven ability will be able to get most of it back in a short

In the end, the bargain was sealed. Hale walked out to the ship and
spent two days doing nothing while Yon looked on. Finally, Yon got
bored and went home to Caryl, and Hale wrapped up the repair job in
short order--plus one little addition of his own.

Then he lifted the ship on its antigravs and flew to Taun to collect
his bill.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yon paid promptly. He was overjoyed. He positively bubbled. He learned
to control it in the atmosphere very quickly, and Leland Hale decided
to end the whole job as rapidly as possible.

"I suggest we fly out to the Island," he said. "I'll tell my people
that they can move to the mainland, and give them their share of the

It was Yon who did the piloting. He did a very creditable job of
settling down to the plateau near the _Caduceus_. Hale asked him to
remain with the ship while he went to the hospital ship.

Hale stepped out of the ship, and he hadn't gone more than ten paces
when the speaker called: "Halt! Stop or we fire!"

Hale identified himself. "You can let me in now," he called. "The
Plague has been completely whipped."

Captain Doctor Wills met him at the airlock of the _Caduceus_ and wrung
his hand. "I'm glad to see you carried it off!" He had once been a
tall, strong, lean man; now he was merely lean and bent.

"I haven't much time to talk, sit," Hale said rapidly. "I've got the
diamond--here. Call the Health Center as soon as I leave and tell them
what's happened."

"Why--why--What's the matter?"

"Can't you see? That ship is the _Morris_--they've repaired it!"

"But I thought you said the Plague had been eliminated!"

Hale shook his head. "Not completely, sir. They're still carriers. I'm
not a carrier, myself; I checked that on my own instruments. But these
people are; only the virulent phase has been stopped."

"What are you going to do, Lieutenant?"

Hale drew himself up. "The only thing I can do, sir. I'll have to blow
up that ship before it reaches an inhabited planet. They insist that I
go with them, but they'll leave without me if I stay here too long."

"But you! If you're aboard--"

"I can't see any other way, sir," Hale said bravely. "It's my life
against hundreds of thousand--perhaps millions." He stopped and a look
of wild hope came into his eyes. "Of course, if you've got enough power
to shoot it down now, sir--"

The captain doctor, visibly shaken, said: "No. Not after twelve years.
If we were in space, perhaps, but the atmospheric ionization--"

"I understand, sir. Goodbye, sir." He grasped the captain doctor's hand
warmly, then turned and ran back to the _Morris_.

"Take her up, Yon. Head toward the mountains."

"The mountains? The Peniyan Range?" Yon looked puzzled.

"That's right. I want to see how she'll do at higher altitudes."

They flew back and forth over the range until Hale had spotted the
place where his own ship was hidden. Then he turned to the new
Commander of Cardigan's Green.

"Yon, old friend, I think you're ready to fly her solo. All by

Yon the Fisher beamed. "Really? Well, perhaps I am."

"Set her down on that level space there." Hale pointed below.

When the ship was grounded, he opened the airlock and climbed out.
"Now here's what you do, Yon. Take her up to thirty thousand feet and
fly level, due south. Now, don't try to leave the atmosphere; you're
not ready for that yet. Go south for fifteen minutes, then make a
one-eighty degree turn and come back. Got it? Fine. Now, be careful;
don't get yourself hurt."

He stepped out and watched the ship lift and head south. Ten minutes
later, he heard a muffled sound, like distant thunder. Smiling with
satisfaction, he headed for his own ship with a fortune in diamonds in
his pack.

       *       *       *       *       *

Captain Doctor Wills sent out the full story as he knew it. Health
Center received it and so did most of the galactic news services. Hale
was a hero who had sacrificed his life for medicine and humanity. When
Health Center found they had no Leland Hale on their register, there
was an investigation and an attempt to quash the story, but it was too

The fact that Hale himself had knowingly spread influenza across the
face of Cardigan's Green meant nothing to anyone; no one even suspected
it. Blowing up the _Morris_ with his "old friend" Yon the Fisher inside
was not an act of altruism; Hale didn't care what happened to the rest
of the galaxy, but he could not make a fortune from empty planets, and
he couldn't have spent it on worlds decimated by disease.

He didn't care for people in general, but he thought Leland Hale was a
nice guy.

And the people of Cardigan's Green agreed with him. He had given his
all for them and died with their Commander in trying to free them from
their planet.

Even today, standing in the central square of the city of Taun on
Cardigan's Green, the populace (long since rid of the virus that caused
the actual Plague) can see a heroic statue of a nobly visaged man in a
zipsuit and insulation jacket, hands on hips, staring at the sky with
narrowed eyes.

On the base of the statue, the inscription reads:

                              LELAND HALE
                       Who Risked His Life That
                           Others Might Live



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