Grand Master Fulbak
bon Jaldwin stood at the exact center of the
mother Temple on Terranova.
The dais on which he stood rotated
slowly so that none
of his circular audience would be favored. His
reverberated in a calculated, complex acoustic
pattern about the
room as he spoke the ritual words.
"Does anyone present
hold that any of these men and women should not
be admitted to the
Order of Poor Fellows of the Temple of Solomon? ...
If so, speak their
But silence reigned
in the Centrum, the rotunda sancta sanctora of
All movement of those present had ceased after the
question was asked....
Lighted only by candles, as of yore, the domed
a planetarium without stars. Against an inverted
bowl of marble were
cast, instead, the shadows of the Priors, Knights,
Esquires, and Brothers
who stood on concrete steps, ranked from the
outer wall to the
initiation circle. Some of those of the higher ranks
had traveled here
from their outworld temples. The ceremony was an
annual one-ring circus
without horses, trapeze, or clowns.
"The initiates will
step forth and kiss the cross, which symbolizes
our history and traditions
-- and Baphomet, who symbolizes the wisdom
we have acquired from
foreign lands and far worlds."
Fergus Sinclair was
the last in the long line of initiates to step
forward, but he soon-enough
kissed the engraved golden cross and the
Of whom the latter was the remains, he had not been
told. He was
curious, but he knew his place in the Order; he would
be told what he had
to know. More than that would come as a gift of
his own quiet resourcefulness....
He moved back into the line of
The Grand Master outthrust
his arms. The ample sleeves of his symbol-
patterned white robe
slid to his bony elbows. The master of masters
looked like an ancient
alchemist about to announce the successful
transmutation of base
metals into gold. He lacked only a conical hat
to impersonate Merlin,
the fabled court sorcerer of Camelot.
"Welcome to the Order,
novice Brothers and Sisters Templar."
These were the words
Fergus had been waiting years to hear -- for
most of his youth,
plus three hard years of study in the Templar
was now a full-fledged Templar, if not yet a Knight.
"Go forth and perform
only good works. Gather unto yourselves and to
your Temple the acclaim
of humble accomplishment. Never put aside
the wisdom of the
ages for transitory popular belief. Support your
Brothers and Sisters.
And, above all, protect those who have sought
The Grand Master pressed
his palms together and bowed respectfully
as the new Brothers
and Sisters turned and strode from the Centrum,
This was the only time they would be the first allowed
to leave a room of
of the lofty atmosphere of the Centrum's initiation
ceremony and the following
formal banquet in the Refectory were
the next day when he was summoned to the office of
the Precentor to be
assigned to an Esquire for his apprenticeship.
Sitting in one of
the two chairs before the Precentor's desk was a
man he had heard gossiped
about. Fergus felt a keen disappointment.
"Brother Fergus, this
is your journeyman, Esquire Yosi Minaker."
The Esquire remained
seated, but offered his hand to Fergus. "Glad to
Welcome aboard. You're on the first team, now."
This pompous greeting
brought about an expression of disapproval on
the Precentor's aged,
lined face. Fergus maintained his accustomed
appearance of apprentice
enthusiasm, and kept his own remarks to a
"Thank you, sir.
It's a pleasure to serve with you."
"Esquire Yosi will
explain the nature of your assignment, Brother.
Go forth and learn
from him the craft of your duty. I wish you a safe
journey and good luck."
* * *
Yosi Minaker was
an overage Esquire. He felt he would never gain
a promotion to Knight,
and he had ceased caring. His record in the
field was well-known
among the members of the Order; it wasn't exactly
was smart, shrewd -- but self-centered. His record
of early accomplishments
had quickly changed to a pattern of survival
skills which kept
him on the margin of good odor with his bosses.
Minaker was a large
man, who smoked cigars when he could get away
with it. He
seemed perpetually rumpled, even in his formal uniform:
a plain, dark-gray
suit of heavy military fabric, which consisted
of trousers and a
jacket with a choke-collar. Even his rank-marking
Templar breast pin
-- a white shield with a large red cross below his
Esquire's symbol --
seemed to be pinned off-center, almost as if he
were showing disdain
for the Order to which he belonged.
His homely, oft-scowling
face made him seem more like a suspicious
policeman than a private
security consultant. It often intimidated
those clients who
had contracted for Templar services, and gave them
a false assurance
that Minaker's recommendations for security upgrade
would make them and
their property safe.
griped about their experiences with Yosi
even those gained from their apprenticeship, and became
skilled in their work.
They often received promotion quickly to and
beyond the rank of
their journeyman instructor, who was never able
to sacrifice opportunism
and self-aggrandizement to the general good
of the Order.
Fergus had heard his
journeyman's attitude characterized as "don't-
he decided to keep an open mind during his own
he'd been told by a wise older Brother that
much of Minaker's
outward attitude was a put-on by a disappointed man
seeking a persona
appropriate to his years of experience and lack of
* * *
Fergus and Minaker
sat on a stone bench in the lovely Garden of
surrounded the golden-domed Centrum and separated
it from the rest of
Temple Jerusalem's foursquare mass. Only a few
lingered on under the cloudy sky and cool air,
Fergus awaited the
facts of his new situation from the man who was
now in charge of him.
Minaker took a used
cigar from his jacket pocket. It was rolled up
in a sheet of paper
that looked to Fergus like an official memorandum
of some kind.
("How typical,") he thought. Minaker stuffed the paper
back into his pocket
and lit the cigar with a butane lighter.
Flourishing the lighter,
he remarked enigmatically to Fergus, "Also
good for setting fires,
if you have to." He puffed and blew a big,
blue smoke-ring which
was noticed with distaste by an elderly Knight
sitting on a nearby
being sent to Tristia. Whadda ya know about it, kid?"
"Well ..." Fergus
tried to recall his galactography. There were so
many inhabited worlds
that most could carry knowledge of only a few.
"Uh..." He couldn't
remember anything about the planet. "I can look
it up; I got good
marks in Information Retrieval at the Academy."
He smiled wanly at
the hulking journeyman, who made a wry gesture
with his mouth.
"Yeah, sure ...
How did you get into this chicken outfit, anyway?"
The question seemed
irrelevant to Fergus, but he spoke frankly of his
"I had an advantage,
I guess. My ancient terran ancestors assisted
the Templars who escaped
from the French persecution to Scotland in
the fourteenth century.
The St. Clairs were liege to Robert the Bruce.
The King of the Scots
had been excommunicated by the Pope, so he was
able to use the Templar
Knights in his war with the English, even
though Rome had dissolved
and banned the Order ..."
"I know the history....
So you got into the Order by favoritism.
Is that about the
size of it?"
"Well, not exactly,
but I guess my ancestry didn't hurt my chances."
His ancestry hadn't helped him into the Order. He
had come to the attention
of the Templars by virtue of his academic
record in the study
of criminology, and for his thesis, "Building
Utility Connections and Sewers".... He returned
to the subject of
"Tristia is the personal
property of the Autarch Kameroni. He changed
the aboriginal name
of the planet after he took it over and his wife
died there of some
local disease.... Ever heard of him?"
"Oh yeah. He's
a ..." Fergus paused to chose his words.
"He's a cruel tyrant
and a bloody butcher of the first rank. He's
hated by both the
aboriginals and colonials of his benighted world.
I'd say his chances
of living to old age and dying of natural causes
are almost nil," opined
"I see," remarked Fergus.
"Quite a challenge for us, then."
Minaker snorted and
took another puff on his smelly cigar. He blasted
the smoke into the
chill air, without artistry.
"That's why the Precentor
assigned his contract to us."
Fergus knew that Minaker
really meant, "to me." But Minaker was quite
willing to share the
predicament of this unfavorable assignment
equally with his apprentice.
"So pray that old Kameroni
doesn't get assassinated 'til we write our
report and get the
hell out of there."
Arrival and Departure
Esquire Yosi and
Brother Fergus trudged across the concrete of the
spaceport from the
jumpliner "Excelsioris" to the passenger terminal,
as their luggage,
previously unloaded, was being probed and sniffed
by the Autarch's customs
men and security techs.... They were the
only passengers to
leave the ship for this infamous world, and the
being turned around for rejump as quickly as her
Captain could prod
the ground crew.
The spaceport was located
near the capital city of Inoremak in the
north temperate zone
of Tristia. The planet's GO-class sun benignly
warmed the morning
air as it blushed spectrally through the greater
thickness at the horizon.
I expected this world to be a dark, gloomy place --
like something out
of a horror video. It's as nice here as the best
parts of Terranova.
This assignment may not be so bad after all."
Ignoring his apprentice's
sanguine remarks, Minaker grumbled, "Did you
notice how they didn't
extend a passenger tube to the jumpliner? How
they're making us
walk to the terminal? ... Kameroni's sec-thugs don't
They're watching us as we walk, and they're probing our
luggage now, before
we can get there."
in a way," remarked Fergus. "I guess there are
precedents for the
Autarch's mistrust of strangers -- don't you think?
hired by locals to kill him?"
And we shouldn't trust that damned tyrant, either."
Fergus had learned,
by now, that Esquire Yosi was short on trust and
long on suspicion.
* * *
The Tristian customs
men were, nonetheless, quite accommodating to the
They ignored Minaker's purposely lighted cigar, despite
the many posted NO
SMOKING signs. They politely invited the Templars
into a VIP lounge
for the formality of document clearance.
"I'll take care of
the red tape, kid. You stay here and check the
bags and equipment boxes had been loaded onto an
A redcap driver awaited the order to move them to the
sleek, armored groundcar
that was standing by to transport them along
the forest-girt guideway
away from the capital to Castle Kameroni.
Fergus, glad to be
free of documentary matters, began checking their
luggage against a
list he kept in his personal pocketcomp. He looked
at the electrocart's
built-in scale to see if the total weight was
less than it should
be.... The redcap driver took careful notice
of the visitor's inspection.
He would report it to the terminal's
security chief, and
this report would rapidly work its way up the
line to the Autarch,
who would be impressed with his new consultants'
"Well, well ... a Knight
Templar -- as I live and breathe."
Fergus turned to find
himself facing someone he'd been briefed about
-- briefly -- Crown
Prince Mollis. He was a foppish dandy, standing
before his hefty bodyguards
in an embroidered Nehru jacket and gold-
A large medallion depicting a horned, flame-shrouded
diablo dangled from
his neck. He thus sought to be viewed as devilish
"I presume so by your
shoulder patch: the white of purity and the red
of blood." The
soft voice contained a note of cynicism, as if its
owner were unconsciously
declaring himself to be free of any such
subservience as that
to an order of functionaries.
Fergus bowed. "I'm Brother Fergus Sinclair. Esquire
Yosi Minaker is in
document clearance. We're here in the service of
His Majesty, the Autarch."
"Is there anything
to those rumors about you Templar fellows....
You know: that medallion
depicting two men on one horse."
"In ancient times,
perhaps, Your Highness. Now, we have a commercial
image to maintain."
He smiled at the dandy. Mollis closed his eyelids
and waved his hands
in the air in a gesture of mute acceptance.
Fergus added, "The
two-men-on-a-horse symbol has often been
Highness. It was about comradeship on the field
of battle. Rescuing
a fallen brother. That sort of thing."
Prince Mollis shrugged,
"Oh. Too bad," then changed the subject to
something closer to
his heart. "So you're here to keep my father on
his throne for a bit
longer -- to protect him from his many enemies?
... A most unenviable
assignment, I judge."
"We've been contracted
to inspect the security at Castle Kameroni and
present a report of
our recommendations. We won't take an active role
in the Autarch's personal
Mollis considered this
with half-lidded eyes, as if he really couldn't
care about his father's
"Well then, help to
keep him alive until I graduate from the ghastly
he's sending me to." He sniffed and waved a many-
ringed hand airily.
"It's supposed to make a man of me.... How droll.
Pater is so foolishly
idealistic in some ways. But he's not trying to
turn my sister into
a lady.... Bah!"
Fergus kept his face
a mask of serious purpose while listening to the
When the young man stopped his tirade, Fergus shook his
in lieu of comment.
Mollis glanced at the
loaded luggage cart. "You have almost as many
bags as I have," he
stated. He returned his gaze to Fergus, who seemed
to be about the same
age as he.
"Well then, good luck
in your mission-impossible, Brother Templar,"
he said, and turned
toward a passenger tube, now extended to the
which was being held for the Crown Prince's
As Fergus watched the
Crown Prince depart, Yosi Minaker appeared at
his side. His
comment on the scene was unexpected, but prophetic.
"Sonny Boy should hang
around for awhile. I have a feeling that his
daddy might get offed
while we're here."
Fergus reacted to his
journeyman's pessimism with shock.
It won't be the first time that's happened to me,"
"I point out unnoticed security failures, and then
-- before they get
corrected -- one of those failures proves a handy
means for somebody
to do his dirty work. Our clients rarely keep our
like they should."
Brother Fergus felt
a lump in his throat. "They didn't mention this
at the Academy," he
declared, lamely. He didn't want such a failure
as the assassination
of a client during his first assignment.
"There're a lot of
things you don't learn in the Academy, kid."
The groundcar rounded
a curve in the guideway, and the forest that
had contained them
for kilometers from the spaceport fell away to
reveal a vast, sunlit
meadow. In its center was a hill that seemed
too broad and flat
to be natural.
On it was Castle Kameroni....
"Wow," exclaimed Fergus.
Even Minaker was impressed.
"Looks like it was transplanted intact
from your ancestors'
cold and drizzly land. It's a classic, I'll
admit, but a dumb
idea.... I wonder how many slaves died piling up
hill it's on?"
With its crenelated
turrets, battlements, and embrasures, Castle
Kameroni was, indeed,
a terran classic -- an ivy-splotched pile of
stone, which every
Templar who had learned his Order's history could
"I'm gonna have to
gig 'em for that ivy, though. Look. In some places,
a dwarf-ninja could
use it to climb right up to the crest of the damn
The winding road up
the hill circled the castle three times before
it reached the drawbridge
over the moat. Fergus searched his memory
for some significance,
but could find none. ("Superstition, perhaps.")
As the groundcar sat
waiting for the wooden bridge to be lowered,
the loudspeaker of
the driver's radio crackled, "Who goes there?"
As the man answered
the challenge, Minaker commented, "Ancient.
I have a feeling we'll have lots of sec-upgrade to
"That challenge was
probably just ceremonial," said Fergus.
"In the security business,
ceremony is crap," sneered Esquire Yosi.
* * *
The groundcar moved
across the drawbridge, under the raised
the outer yard, and into the interior bailey
of the castle -- where
it was surrounded by armed, uniformed dogmen.
"Watch it, kid.
"I can't help it.
I've heard about them, but I've never met a human-
animal genetic mix."
"Way out here in the
rimworlds, you'll see a lot of things that're
frowned on by the
moralists and know-it-alls on Terranova."
The door to the groundcar's
passenger compartment was opened, and a
stuck his head inside. From the splendor of his
uniform, the Templars
guessed he must be the Captain of the Guard.
had a silver ultrasonic whistle at its tip.
"Welcome to Castle
Kameroni, noble knights. I'm Capt. Caneena. I'll
escort you to your
quarters. The Autarch will meet you at supper,
Are you armed?" Like a bulldog, his lower fangs showed,
even when his mouth
We're unarmed," said Minaker. ("You know we wouldn't
come in here armed,
Cap'n Dogface.... More damn ceremony.")
As the Templars were
led into the castle's keep by Caneena, Fergus
at his journeyman. Esquire Yosi knew what his
He held up his hand
in an unmistakable gesture. "Never mind, kid," he
doesn't need to know we haven't been knighted yet."
With his keen hearing,
the Captain heard every word. He made a mental
note to check the
background report on these Templars for their actual
in his earliest days as a pupman in the kennels, he'd
learned the importance
of rank and position.
At the Table of the Autarch
"Have some more
venison, son. There's no shortage; my forests are
overrun with imported
terranovan roe deer.... Try some of those
candied yams, too.
They're a delicacy out here in the rimworlds."
Autarch Kameroni had
apparently eaten many a course set before him.
He was quite overweight,
from a security point of view. But he was
not a helpless flabbo.
Despite his age and poundage, he was still
capable of taking
swift personal action against his enemies -- and
some of those who
mistakenly believed themselves to be his friends.
The bearded baron of
Castle Kameroni seemed a Falstaffian figure only
to those who hadn't
yet felt the lash of his anger. He was dressed in
a loose black robe
that lacked the cowl that would have made him
resemble the abbot
of a monastery. He even had a large ring to be
kissed by his liege
lords. (Minaker guessed it probably contained
poison for the kind
of extreme emergency he had never faced.) The
Autarch Kameroni was
nothing like a monk, though. His appetites for
what life had to offer
were legendary, as was the gossip about how
he satisfied them.
Fergus couldn't eat
any more of the rich food on the trencherman's
banquet table in the
commonroom of the castle keep below the hanging
banners of the planet's
noble houses, but he took some more meat and
Minaker didn't need any urging to partake of the
Templars weren't fed like this in their regional
where discipline and self-control were expected.
"Thank you, Your Majesty,"
said Fergus. He decided to divert the
benevolence with a new table subject. "I was
today at the spaceport terminal by Crown Prince
Mollis before he left
The Autarch rolled
his eyes heavenward. "I hope he didn't give you his
of our security here. He's never had to lift a
finger in the defense
of his family.... He probably won't crack a
bookchip at that fancy
school, either.... It's so disappointing to
have a son turn out
bad. I hope you'll have better luck with your
children than I did."
"Thank you father!"
A brittle voice rang out from the second-floor
loggia which surrounded
the commonroom. "Your confidence is so
Fergus and Minaker
stared upward at the young woman in black leather
who leaned over the
railing. Her pretty face was contrasted by her
blonde hair and the long dagger at her waist.
Although it was pleasantly
warm, she wore black action-gloves, the
kind favored by sportswomen
and combatants. The blood-red ruby pin
at her neck seemed
the one out-of-place touch of feminine decoration
in an otherwise dark
and ominous configuration.
"This is my daughter,
the Princess Enola. I invited her to our table,
but she disrespectfully
declined," grumbled the Autarch.
"I was busy....
Welcome to our house, Templars. I feel safer now,"
she snarled sweetly,
as she turned and strode from their sight.
"Enola lacks the social
graces of her sainted mother, but I'll say
this for her: she
can handle herself in a tricky situation almost as
well as I can," double-boasted
("I'll bet she can,")
thought Minaker. ("I'd like to see how she
handles herself in
a clinch with me. Maybe ...") The Esquire began
planning a sexual
conquest -- far-fetched though this might seem at
"She's quite attractive,
sir," remarked Fergus, diplomatically.
"Yes, quite attractive,"
added Minaker, hastily. ("But not as 'pretty'
as that brother of
* * *
"I think we've got
good security here, Esquire Yosi. It's the result
of many years of experience....
Of course, I'm receptive to any
improvements you may
The feast had reached
the brandy-and-cigars stage. Fergus had politely
declined to light
up, but Minaker and the Autarch were engaged in a
puffing contest that
enveloped the area around the table in a blue
brandy snifters had added to the negative situation of
They were in no condition, right then, to contribute
much to the improved
security of Castle Kameroni. This was obvious
to its sly master,
whose wolfish smile betokened a forthcoming ploy
he'd used before on
"I'd like to show you
gentlemen what I've already accomplished in my
many years of security
consciousness.... Would you like to visit my
The Templars stared
at each other through the haze. ("He's up to
suspected -- something they dared not reject for
fear of offending
"Yes, Your Majesty,"
replied Minaker. "We would."
The Autarch leaped
to his feet, thrusting his chair backward noisily.
The harsh scraping
sound against the stone floor echoed throughout the
huge room and jarred
the stuffed, logy visitors to attention.
"Come along, then."
The Templars followed
in the wake of the Autarch down a gray granite
corridor lined with
exhibits of body armor, from the elaborate suits
of ancient times to
the sleek partial-polyarmor of the present. The
corridor was straight
and, in the visitors' opinion, too long and
"When I built the museum,
I connected it to the keep by this corridor.
With these armor displays
added, it's become an exhibit-hall annex."
The Templars kept their
opinions to themselves as they hastened
after their client. They would have to deal with
this place in their
final report. No guards were stationed here, and
apparently there were
no intrusion sensors. It was a natural trap.
Finally, they passed
through the arched entrance to the museum....
Before them lay a
modern complex of plastiglass exhibit cases above
a terrazzo floor.
Spotlights artfully illuminated the exhibits within
the darkened hall.
The Templars were stopped
in their tracks by the first exhibit,
centered just beyond the entrance.
It was a plastiglass
man-container, shaped to fit its occupant. On
the side, electrodes
were mounted. At the bottom were a tube and
were connected to an apparatus with controls and dials
on top and casters
below, like some garage's automotive diagnostic
In the container was
a mummy. Its mouth was frozen open in a scream.
The Autarch detected
their cessation and turned back to begin his
the prime exhibit which had captivated his visitors
-- as he knew it would.
It always did.
"Not bad, eh?
I waited years to capture that fellow, a famous rebel
forgotten his name -- some colonial who didn't know
expression told his reaction, before he quickly
changed it to a wan
smile. "It's quite a ... unique ... exhibit, Your
What do you think, Brother?" he inquired mischievously.
"Yes. Quite unique,
sir," echoed Brother Fergus as he stared in horror
at the container and
The Autarch began pointing
out the exhibit's details. "Minnigerode---
that was his name."
He chuckled. "On Terranova that's some kind of
pudding, I understand....
Well, I made a pudding out of him, I'll tell
you. I connected
his extremities to the neural generator. Then I sat
down and jumped the
current around on his body at random. The fellow
went mad guessing
what would hurt next.
"But, of course, all
good things must come to an end. So I activated
all the electrodes
to a more-or-less tolerable level, and while he
screamed, I slowly
pumped the air from his container -- his coffin.
"He's remarkably preserved,
don't you think? ... It must be the high
vacuum he ended up
Minaker, who removed his cigar to gape at the
erstwhile rebel in
the container. "Excellent preservation, sir,"
seconded Fergus, who
suddenly wanted to return to his guest room.
come this way." He turned and proceeded farther into
"Down this aisle is my historical exhibit of torture
of them are millennia-old -- but still useful. There's
really no such thing
as an obsolete method for extracting information,
The Templars hesitated....
The Autarch turned to face them.
"Or would you prefer
to see the exhibit of body parts taken from my
used some rather innovative preservation techniques
for them, too."
Minaker was temporarily
speechless. It was Fergus who replied to the
in a respectful and hopeful manner.
"Uh... Do you
have any stuffed animals, or anything like that?"
"No animals, but I've
got some stuffed traitors.... Follow me."
As the Templars reluctantly
followed their guide, Minaker recovered
his poise long enough
to inform his younger colleague, sotto voce,
"He's testing us.
He wants to see how tough we are."
"You don't say?" replied
(Continued on next page)