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History Repeats   By: (1911-1981)

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Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Astounding Science Fiction May 1959. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical errors have been corrected without note.



Illustrated by Martinez



There are and very probably will always be some Terrestrials who can't, and for that matter don't want, to call their souls their own....

Xanabar lays across the Spiral Arm, a sprawling sphere of influence vast, mighty, solid at the core. Only the far flung boundary shows the slight ebb and flow of contingent cultures that may win a system or two today and lose them back tomorrow or a hundred years from now. Xanabar is the trading post of the galaxy, for only Xanabar is strong enough to stand over the trading table when belligerents meet and offer to take them both at once if they do not sheathe their swords. For this service Xanabar assesses her percentage, therefore Xanabar is rich. Her riches buy her mercenaries to enforce her doctrines. Therefore Xanabar is rotten at the under core, for mercenaries have no god but gold.

The clatter of a hundred tongues mingled with the clink of glasses and floated through strata of smoke from the burning weeds of a hundred planets. From one of the tables, voices rise in mild disagreement. There is a jeering laugh from one side and a roar of anger from the other. Two men rise and face one another ready to follow their insults with violence. Before the eruption can start, a mercenary steps forward on lithe feet and lightly catches the back swung arm, a quick hand removes the poised glass before it can be thrown into the adversary's face.

"Sit!" says the mercenary in a cold voice, and they sit still glaring at one another.

"Now," says the mercenary, "settle your differences by talk. Or depart in opposite directions. This is Xanabar!"

"He lies! He brags!"

"I do not lie. They are barbarians. I do not brag. I can bring you one."

"You "

"A wager," said the mercenary. "A wager. Xanabar can take no tax in blood." He faces one. "You claim you can do that which he says you can not." Then not waiting for a reply he faces the other, "And if he does, how much are you willing to pay?"

"How much is his life worth?"

"How much are you willing to pay?" demands the mercenary coldly.

"Five hundredweight in crystal cut."

"An honorable sum. Do you agree?"

"Not enough "

"For a task as easy as you claim it to be," said the mercenary, "Five hundredweight of crystal cut seems honorable."

"But it means "

"We in Xanabar are not interested in the details. Only in the tax. An honest wager contract, outlanders. Otherwise I rule that your eruption here disturbed the peace."

The two outlanders look at one another; schoolboys caught fighting in the alley by a monitor who demands a bite of their apple in lieu of a visit to the principal. As if loath to touch one another they reach forward hesitantly and handshake in a quick light grip.

"Good!" glows the mercenary. He waves a hand and his fellows converge with contract platen and etching stylus. "Now, gentlemen, please state the terms for Xanabar."

Peter Hawley strolled down a side street with a dog at his heel. It was a dog of many breeds, but not a mixture of careless parentage. Peter paused at a cross street and looked uncertainly to left and right. "What do you make, Buregarde?"

"The noble dog says right," replied Buregarde.

"Right," said Peter turning up the street. "And stop this 'Noble dog' routine."

"Man is dog's best friend," said Buregarde. "If you'd called me something sensible, I wouldn't have looked it up. There is a statue to me in the Okeefenokee back on Earth. I am the noble dog. Pogo says so."

"I "

"Easy Peter!" said the dog in a near whisper.

"All right. Do we play down the chatter?"

Buregarde sat, lifted his nose and sniffed... Continue reading book >>

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