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«Time Traders», Andre Norton

1

Ross Murdock wouldnミイミや┐t have seemed formidable to any one glancing casually at him as he sat within the detention cell. He was a little above average height, but not enough to make him noticeable. His brown hair was cropped conservatively and there was nothing remarkable about his unlined boyミイミや┐s faceミイミや掎nless one noted those light-gray eyes and caught the chilling, measuring expression that showed now and then for an instant in their depths.

He was neatly and inconspicuously dressed. In this first quarter of the twenty-first century his like was to be found on any street of the city ten floors belowミイミや掖o all outward appearances. But under the protective coloration Ross so assiduously cultivated was another person who could touch heights of encased and controlled fury which Ross himself did not understand. He was only just learning to use it as a weapon against a world he had always found hostile.

Ross was aware, though he gave no sign of it, that a guard was watching him. The cop on duty was an old handミイミや拮e probably expected some reaction other than passive acceptance from the prisoner, but he was not going to get it.

The law had Ross sewed up tight this time. Why didnミイミや┐t they get about the business of shipping him off? Why had he had that afternoon session with the psychologist? Ross had been on the defensive then, and he hadnミイミや┐t liked it. He had given to the otherミイミや┐s questions all the attention his shrewd mind could muster, but a faint, very faint, apprehension still clung to the memory of that meeting.

The door of the detention room opened. Ross did not turn his head, but the guard cleared his throat as if their hour of mutual silence had dried his vocal cords. ミイミび唹n your feet, Murdock! The judge wants to see you.ミイミび

Ross rose smoothly, with every muscle under fluid control. It never paid to talk back, to allow any sign of defiance to show. He would go through the motions as if he were a bad little boy who had realized his errors. The meek-and-mild act had paid off fine in Rossミイミや┐s checkered past. So he faced the man seated behind the desk in the other room with an uncertain, diffident smile, standing with boyish awkwardness, respectfully waiting for the other to speak first. Judge Ord Rawle. It was his rotten luck to pull old Eagle Beak on his case. Well, he would simply have to take it when the old boy dished it out. Not that he had to remain stuck with it laterミ陳.ミ陳.ミ陳.

ミイミび唳ou have a bad record, young man.ミイミび

Ross allowed his smile to fade; his shoulders slumped. But under concealing lids his eyes showed an instant of cold defiance.

ミイミび唳es, sir,ミイミび he agreed in a voice carefully cultivated to shake convincingly about the edges. Then suddenly all Rossミイミや┐s pleasure in the skill of his act was wiped away. Judge Rawle was not alone; that blasted skull thumper was sitting there, watching the prisoner with the same keenness he had shown the other day.

ミイミび哂 very bad record for the few years you have had to make it.ミイミび Eagle Beak was staring at him, too, but without the same look of penetration, luckily for Ross. ミイミび咤y rights, you should be turned over to the new Rehabilitation Serviceミ陳.ミ陳.ミ陳.ミイミび

Ross froze inside. That was the ミイミび嗾reatment,ミイミび icy rumors of which had spread throughout his particular world. For the second time since he had entered the room his self-confidence was jarred. Then he clung with a degree of hope to the phrasing of that last sentence.

ミイミび唔nstead, I have been directed to offer you a choice, Murdock. One which I shall stateミイミや拌nd on recordミイミや扞 do not in the least approve.ミイミび

Rossミイミや┐s twinge of fear faded. If the judge didnミイミや┐t like it, there must be something in it to the advantage of Ross Murdock. Heミイミや┐d grab it for sure!

ミイミび啜here is a government project in need of volunteers. It seems that you have tested out as possible material for this assignment. If you sign for it, the law will consider the time spent on it as part of your sentence. Thus you may aid the country which you have heretofore disgracedミイミや斷イミび

ミイミび哂nd if I refuse, I go to this rehabilitation. Is that right, sir?ミイミび

ミイミび唔 certainly consider you a fit candidate for rehabilitation. Your recordミイミや斷イミび He shuffled through the papers on his desk.

ミイミび唔 choose to volunteer for the project, sir.ミイミび

The judge snorted and pushed all the papers into a folder. He spoke to a third man whoミイミや┐d been waiting in the shadows. ミイミび唏ere then is your volunteer, Major.ミイミび

Ross bottled in his relief. He was over the first hump. And since his luck had held so far, he might be about to win all the wayミ陳.ミ陳.ミ陳.

The man Judge Rawle called ミイミび哺ajorミイミび moved into the light. At first glance Ross, to his hidden annoyance, found himself uneasy. To face up to Eagle Beak was all part of the game. But somehow he sensed one did not play such games with this man.


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