Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/53

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51
RAIDER OF THE SPACEWAYS

man appeared in the portal, beckoning. Kenworth hesitated. It would not do to cause suspicion—better to behave as though he suspected nothing. He moved toward the ship.

The warm, sticky rain was unpleasant after the brief respite of the air-cooled house. Anger was mounting within Kenworth. Jene—the poor kid—shot down without a chance! Well, the Raider would meet with a different reception here.

"Got your stuff?" the man in the portal hailed.

Kenworth nodded, scrutinizing him as he approached. He saw a clean-shaven face, strong-jawed, twinkling-eyed, burned almost black by the direct rays of sun in airless space where even polaroid glass was insufficient protection. The full lips, twisted in a smile, betrayed a certain sardonic amusement. But this was not the Raider, not the hawk-faced, cold-eyed man whose portrait was on the newsboards of a thousand space-ships.

Kenworth decided to play a bold hand. This man would be as anxious to avoid suspicion as was Kenworth. The pirate stood blocking the doorway with his huge bulk, his hand extended. His voice was low, deep.

"Let's have it," he said.

Kenworth took a small flask from his pocket, and then, hesitating, thrust it back. "Let's get the other matter cleared up first," he said.

The pirate's cold eyes flickered.

Kenworth looked surprized. "Didn't Lanna tell you?" he asked. "Isn't Lanna here?"

"No. He—was called to N'yok on urgent business.

Kenworth nodded. "I see. Well, it's about that unreported elysia farm. I've located it."

He saw the other hesitate, and pressed his advantage swiftly. "Let me come in—I'll show you the spot on your chart. And you can give me the receipt for my elysia."

Taking his host's assent for granted, he moved forward. The other stepped aside. Kenworth knew that his gas-pistol was hidden from view beneath his jacket, but he took pains to let his hands swing in plain sight. He had been in the ship before, knew the way to the control room. He went there swiftly, conscious of sharp eyes on his back.

Seated at a desk was a slender man, his hair iron-gray, dressed in the conventional flexible black leather of the spaceways. He stood up quickly as Kenworth entered.

Kenworth held himself rigidly in check, knowing that he dared not give the Raider a hint of anything amiss. He stared at the other briefly, and then nodded.

"I'm Dal Kenworth," he said, and tossed his elysia vial on the desk. "I can show you where that lost elysia farm is—I spoke to Lanna about it."

The other did not answer. His eyes probed into Kenworth's, black and cold as glacial ice. His face was austerely handsome, tanned as black as his companion's, and seamed with harsh lines. Kenworth had never seen a face so impassive, so capable of concealing all emotion.

At last he spoke. "Good. Lanna told me of it." His voice was flat, toneless, yet with a curious crispness. He clipped his words oddly.

Kenworth nodded, turned to the chart table. He ran his finger over it as though searching.

"You may have a fight on your hands," he said casually. "The chap's been trying to smuggle his elysia off Venus. Only two men this trip? I'll come along if you want."

He examined the chart, his heart in his mouth. Behind him came the flat, cold voice of the Raider.