Lone Star Planet
The death-watch outside had grown to about fifteen or twenty. They were all waiting in happy anticipation as I came out of the Secretary’s office.
“What did he do to you, Silk?” Courtlant Staynes asked, amusedly.
“Demoted me. Kicked me off the Hooligan Diplomats,” I said glumly.
“Demoted you from the Consular Service?” Staynes asked scornfully. “Impossible!”
“Yes. He demoted me to the Cookie Pushers. Clear down to Ambassador.”
They got a terrific laugh. I went out, wondering what sort of noises they’d make, the next morning, when the appointments sheet was posted.
I gathered a few things together, mostly small personal items, and all the microfilms that I could find on New Texas, then got aboard the Space Navy cutter that was waiting to take me to the ship. It was a four-hour trip and I put in the time going over my hastily-assembled microfilm library and using a stenophone to dictate a reading list for the spacetrip.
As I rolled up the stenophone-tape, I wondered what sort of secretary they had given me; and, in passing, why Natalenko’s department had furnished him.
Queer name, but in a galactic civilization, you find all sorts of names and all sorts of people bearing them, so I was prepared for anything.
And I found it.
I found him standing with the ship’s captain, inside the airlock, when I boarded the big, spherical space-liner. A tubby little man, with shoulders and arms he had never developed doing secretarial work, and a good-natured, not particularly intelligent face.
See the happy moron, he doesn’t give a damn, I thought.
Then I took a second look at him. He might be happy, but he wasn’t a moron. He just looked like one. Natalenko’s people often did, as one of their professional assets.
I also noticed that he had a bulge under his left armpit the size of an eleven-mm army automatic.
He was, I’d been told, a native of New Texas. I gathered, after talking with him for a while, that he had been away from his home planet for over five years, was glad to be going back, and especially glad that he was going back under the protection of Solar League diplomatic immunity.
In fact, I rather got the impression that, without such protection, he wouldn’t have been going back at all.
I made another discovery. My personal secretary, it seemed, couldn’t read stenotype. I found that out when I gave him the tape I’d dictated aboard the cutter, to transcribe for me.
“Gosh, boss. I can’t make anything out of this stuff,” he confessed, looking at the combination shorthand-Braille that my voice had put onto the tape.
“Well, then, put it in a player and transcribe it by ear,” I told him.
He didn’t seem to realize that that could be done.
“How did you come to be sent as my secretary, if you can’t do secretarial work?” I wanted to know.
He got out a bag of tobacco and a book of papers and began rolling a cigarette, with one hand.
“Why, shucks, boss, nobody seemed to think I’d have to do this kinda work,” he said. “I was just sent along to show you the way around New Texas, and see you don’t get inta no trouble.”
He got his handmade cigarette drawing, and hitched the strap that went across his back and looped under his right arm. “A guy that don’t know the way around can get inta a lotta trouble on New Texas. If you call gettin’ killed trouble.”
So he was a bodyguard ... and I wondered what else he was. One thing, it would take him forty-two years to send a radio message back to Luna, and I could keep track of any other messages he sent, in letters or on tape, by ships. In the end, I transcribed my own tape, and settled down to laying out my three weeks’ study-course on my new post.
I found, however, that the whole thing could be learned in a few hours. The rest of what I had was duplication, some of it contradictory, and it all boiled down to this:
Capella IV had been settled during the first wave of extrasolar colonization, after the Fourth World--or First Interplanetary--War. Some time around 2100. The settlers had come from a place in North America called Texas, one of the old United States. They had a lengthy history--independent republic, admission to the United States, secession from the United States, reconquest by the United States, and general intransigence under the United States, the United Nations and the Solar League. When the laws of non-Einsteinian physics were discovered and the hyperspace-drive was developed, practically the entire population of Texas had taken to space to find a new home and independence from everybody.
They had found Capella IV, a Terra-type planet, with a slightly higher mean temperature, a lower mass and lower gravitational field, about one-quarter water and three-quarters land-surface, at a stage of evolutionary development approximately that of Terra during the late Pliocene. They also found supercow, a big mammal looking like the unsuccessful attempt of a hippopotamus to impersonate a dachshund and about the size of a nuclear-steam locomotive. On New Texas’ plains, there were billions of them; their meat was fit for the gods of Olympus. So New Texas had become the meat-supplier to the galaxy.
There was very little in any of the microfilm-books about the politics of New Texas and such as it was, it was very scornful. There were such expressions as ‘anarchy tempered by assassination, ‘ and ‘grotesque parody of democracy.’
There would, I assumed, be more exact information in the material which had been shoved into my hand just before boarding the cutter from Luna, in a package labeled TOP SECRET: TO BE OPENED ONLY IN SPACE, AFTER THE FIRST HYPERJUMP. There was also a big trunk that had been placed in my suite, sealed and bearing the same instructions.
I got Hoddy out of the suite as soon as the ship had passed out of the normal space-time continuum, locked the door of my cabin and opened the parcel.
It contained only two loose-leaf notebooks, both labeled with the Solar League and Department seals, both adorned with the customary bloodthirsty threats against the unauthorized and the indiscreet. They were numbered ONE and TWO.
ONE contained four pages. On the first, I read:
FINAL MESSAGE OF THE FIRST SOLAR LEAGUE AMBASSADOR TO NEW TEXAS ANDREW JACKSON HICKOCK
I agree with none of the so-called information about this planet on file with the State Department on Luna. The people of New Texas are certainly not uncouth barbarians. Their manners and customs, while lively and unconventional, are most charming. Their dress is graceful and practical, not grotesque; their soft speech is pleasing to the ear. Their flag is the original flag of the Republic of Texas; it is definitely not a barbaric travesty of our own emblem. And the underlying premises of their political system should, as far as possible, be incorporated into the organization of the Solar League. Here politics is an exciting and exacting game, in which only the true representative of all the people can survive.
After five years on New Texas, Andrew Jackson Hickock resigned, married a daughter of a local rancher and became a naturalized citizen of that planet. He is still active in politics there, often in opposition to Solar League policies.
That didn’t sound like too bad an advertisement for the planet. I was even feeling cheerful when I turned to the next page, and:
FINAL MESSAGE OF THE SECOND SOLAR LEAGUE AMBASSADOR TO NEW TEXAS CYRIL GODWINSON
Yes and no; perhaps and perhaps not; pardon me; I agree with everything you say. Yes and no; perhaps and perhaps not; pardon me; I agree...
After seven years on New Texas, Ambassador Godwinson was recalled; adjudged hopelessly insane.
FINAL MESSAGE OF THE THIRD SOLAR LEAGUE AMBASSADOR TO NEW TEXAS R. F. GULLIS
I find it very pleasant to inform you that when you are reading this, I will be dead.
Committed suicide after six months on New Texas.
I turned to the last page cautiously, found:
FINAL MESSAGE OF THE FOURTH SOLAR LEAGUE AMBASSADOR TO NEW TEXAS SILAS CUMSHAW
I came to this planet ten years ago as a man of pronounced and outspoken convictions. I have managed to keep myself alive here by becoming an inoffensive nonentity. If I continue in this course, it will be only at the cost of my self-respect. Beginning tonight, I am going to state and maintain positive opinions on the relation between this planet and the Solar League.
Murdered at the home of Andrew J. Hickcock. (see p. 1.)
And that was the end of the first notebook. Nice, cheerful reading; complete, solid briefing.
I was, frankly, almost afraid to open the second notebook. I hefted it cautiously at first, saw that it contained only about as many pages as the first and that those pages were sealed with a band around them.
I took a quick peek, read the words on the band:
Before reading, open the sealed trunk which has been included with your luggage.
So I laid aside the book and dragged out the sealed trunk, hesitated, then opened it.
Nothing shocked me more than to find the trunk ... full of clothes.
There were four pairs of trousers, light blue, dark blue, gray and black, with wide cuffs at the bottoms. There were six or eight shirts, their colors running the entire spectrum in the most violent shades. There were a couple of vests. There were two pairs of short boots with high heels and fancy leather-working, and a couple of hats with four-inch brims.
And there was a wide leather belt, practically a leather corset.
I stared at the belt, wondering if I was really seeing what was in front of me.
Attached to the belt were a pair of pistols in right- and left-hand holsters. The pistols were seven-mm Krupp-Tatta Ultraspeed automatics, and the holsters were the spring-ejection, quick-draw holsters which were the secret of the State Department Special Services.
This must be a mistake, I thought. I’m an Ambassador now and Ambassadors never carry weapons.
The sanctity of an Ambassador’s person not only made the carrying of weapons unnecessary, so that an armed Ambassador was a contradiction of diplomatic terms, but it would be an outrageous insult to the nation to which he had been accredited.
Like taking a poison-taster to a friendly dinner.
Maybe I was supposed to give the belt and the holsters to Hoddy Ringo...
So I tore the sealed band off the second notebook and read through it.
I was to wear the local costume on New Texas. That was something unusual; even in the Hooligan Diplomats, we leaned over backward in wearing Terran costume to distinguish ourselves from the people among whom we worked.
I was further advised to start wearing the high boots immediately, on shipboard, to accustom myself to the heels. These, I was informed, were traditional. They had served a useful purpose, in the early days on Terran Texas, when all travel had been on horseback. On horseless and mechanized New Texas, they were a useless but venerated part of the cultural heritage.
There were bits of advice about the hat, and the trousers, which for some obscure reason were known as Levis. And I was informed, as an order, that I was to wear the belt and the pistols at all times outside the Embassy itself.
That was all of the second notebook.