“Two Only for Tase”
“What you next must know is that Kimball Kinnison has decided not to go.”
Not going! Cloudd now really was confused.
“Damn it,” Kinnison said, aloud, more to himself than to the other three. “Everybody is right — and if I wasn’t so pig-headed I wouldn’t have questioned my friends’ advice — in fact, I would have probably made the suggestion first myself. I can’t go, and I’d smell like a hunk of Limburger if I didn’t honestly feel that my Red Lensman must come ahead of a good time. Damn it, Tregonsee! You know I’d go if I was convinced you absolutely need me! But I must look after my family — I’d have Mentor burning my tail if I didn’t!”
Tregonsee waved some tentacles. “I know that, Kim. Everyone knows that. Your disappointment hurts me, too, as a friend, but you’re not essential.”
“Now, if I really believed — ” Kinnison started to weaken. “ — that I was needed . . .”
“Don’t worry about it, Kim. Your decision is correct. I don’t really need you.”
For a long moment Kinnison had no reply. Into the look of disappointment on his face there came an uncomfortable and singular touch of mortification. Then he said, quietly, simply, humbly, “You are right, of course, Trig, old friend. My place is here. But to think of you going alone — I have serious doubts — you’re not a fighter, physically, I mean. It’s just not, well, the — ah — the Rigellian way.”
“Do you forget, Kim, my most dangerous assignment? On that hellish planet Trenco, where we first met? Did I stay inside? Or did I venture out into the wild storms in which other Lensmen died? Do you remember that when the President of Medon gave you the name ‘Keen,’ he gave me the name ‘Strong’? Don’t worry for me, friend Kinnison, for my Rigellian cautiousness will not allow me to jeopardize my life recklessly. There’s great danger, yes, but I’m not foolhardy. I’ll retreat if I have to. But a Second Stage Lensman is needed on the scene — this cannot be handled at long distance.” Kinnison was reluctantly nodding in agreement.
“Also, there’s a selfish reason I’m going, Kim, one you’ll easily understand — it’s for my own joy and pleasure. Mental puzzles and unknown challenges are there for me to face, the intriguing things I look for in my secret service work. Other Rigellians can’t understand my curiosity, but you do, and you know it makes me a true successor to the first Rigellian Lensman, Dronvire. Going to Tanse is right for me to do.”
Kinnison smiled understandingly, in his mind as well as on his unseen lips.
“Remember, too, that I won’t be alone, for you’ll be Lensing me as much as possible and Cloudd will be with me. I may suffer humiliation, but it is Cloudd who may suffer death.”
Even before Tregonsee spoke these words, Cloudd had been seeing the whole situation in terms of himself and the fate of Civilization.
“Only the two of us?” he said, awe in his voice, his eyes shifting back and forth between Kinnison and Tregonsee. “Can you really believe me to be good enough to be your only partner?”
“But I do think that, Cloudd, precisely that. Worsel’s too big. Nadreck’s psychology is wrong for a bunch of barbarians. One Class XIX High-Tension Thinker, like me, and a top Tellurian intellect with muscle, like you, will do the job. In fact, Cloudd, it really is for the best. You and I will be the perfect team!”
Within two hours, the head of the Galactic Patrol’s secret services and his tyro were in Tregonsee’s tiny speedster en route to the planet of Tanse toward the edge of the galaxy.
What no one knew, except himself and the other two Rigellians of his three-unit-cluster, was that Tregonsee was in mental fusion. He had locked mind-souls with his bristers, “Two” and “Three.” Across the immensity of distance from galaxy to galaxy, Tregonsee had the unshakable mental anchor of his two other empathetic psyches. Never before had he used them in his work nor would he ever use them that way again. He was prepared for the vast and mighty forces of the alien minds, fully as deadly, calamitous, and fateful as anything expected from the ghostly Eichwoor.
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