“Are you sure?” Ethan asked once more.
“He needs to do his job without depending on us,” Jill answered, as she always did.
“Lars.” Ethan called through the projector without sending his image. “The senior judge is in his office. The collar is still present. Godspeed.” He closed down the communicator having borrowed Doctor Augustus’ word, and opened the door.
Lars stepped out on to the wooden courthouse floor. He put his belt and six-shooter in a comfortable position and pulled the gun part of the way up from the holster twice, only to let it fall again into its cradle. He looked at the door, like he considered knocking; but then he turned and waved to the air and showed a big grin across his face. He knew the others were watching. At once, the big man turned his shoulder to the door, and with a roar, he burst into the office. The senior judge looked up, but only in time to see Lars’ big hand grab his collar.
Lars hauled the man to his feet as the collar began to disintegrate. “Who gave this to you?” Lars demanded an answer. “Who do you work for?”
The Judge appeared to choke, hardly able to speak. When Lars loosened his grip, the man sank back into his seat and looked as if all of the energy drained from his body. He shook his head several times while Lars continued to repeat his question.
Jill interrupted the action by speaking to all who were watching from the control room. “Those collars were made by a people on the verge of breaking into the Worlds. They were made to interrogate people accused of some crime so those people could either convict themselves or clear themselves. It was what you might call the ultimate lie-detector.” She added that last for Ethan before she spoke again to everyone. “The Sorvee picked them up at one point, and now they are in the hands of a half-dozen groups or more that travel through the Worlds. They are so common these days, even the Elders pay them no attention.”
“Veek.” The judge whispered at last in a barely audible voice. Jill replayed the name so everyone in the control room could hear, even as Lars turned and left the man to his own troubles. The courthouse guards were in the doorway and for a moment it looked like they might try to block Lars’ way, but they honestly looked uncertain about what to do.
“Lars Veek.” Ethan mused during that tense moment. “Wonder what’s up for Next Veek.”
“Hush.” Jill slapped his hand for old time’s sake.
“Sjoren.” Lars snapped at one of the men in the doorway. “Raise the militia on the double. Hans.” He turned on the other man. “Get lieutenants Yohanson and Svensen here. Move it, soldier!”
Both men snapped to attention and saluted. “Captain!” They took off, while Lars went to find the other judges.
“Militia Captain.” The comment came from Colonel deMartin, and he did not sound surprised.
“I don’t know what he expects to find at the Veek farm, though.” Peter Alexander voiced his curiosity.
“Probably things he has seen which did not make sense before his guardianship,” Ali Pasha suggested, and the others agreed that that was probably it.
“What’s up, Lars, er, Captain?” A younger man, almost as big as Lars came bounding into the room. A smaller man who was more Lars’ age followed, but he walked more slowly as if to suggest that whatever was up did not concern him.
“Trouble at the Veek farm,” Lars said. “And my drinking buddy, Bjorn, the Recording Judge is missing.”
“Treason, Yohanson,” Lars said and put his hand reassuringly on the young man’s shoulder before he paused. He took a whiff of air, let his nose draw in the smell, like a Nelkorian, and he slapped the smaller man, Svensen and sent him sprawling across the floor.
“What did you do that for?” Yohanson looked shocked by Lars’ sudden violence, but then Svensen hardly looked dazed apart from a small drop of blood on his lip. He had a look in his eye which suggested he was going to kill Lars, but Lars had already pulled a weapon from an inside pocket of his jacket. He fired.
“Why that sneak!” Ethan said with a smile.
Half of Svensen’s face melted to reveal a skull of metal. One arm and one leg from the thigh down were also metal, finely made, and apparently impervious to pulse microwave weapons. The microwave also did not affect the man’s natural flesh—the parts that remained metal free. Probably a screen strong enough to repel the microwaves. Svensen was a cyborg of some kind, and the microwave weapon was not strong enough or sophisticated enough to do any real damage.
“I told Veek it was too risky letting a humanoid command the militia.” Svensen said. He looked ready to leap, but Lars was too quick on the draw and three bullets sent Svensen clattering back against the wall. Maybe the cyborg had screens against energy weapons, but they were not impervious to old-fashioned bullets. There were a few sparks in Svensen’s arm and from the metallic side of his head, and at least one bullet appeared to hit around the heart. Svensen passed out and if he was still alive, it looked like he might not live long.
Lars pointed at the man crumpled against the wall. “That is Svensen. He has been fooling us all along.”
“Veek?” Yohanson put his thoughts together. Lars nodded.
“And who knows how many others, but now we know that bullets can take them out.”
“But Captain—” Lars hushed the younger man and led him outside where the motley group of militiamen were hastily forming ranks.
“Lars Hjorth!” Veek shouted from his doorway as Lars approached. Veek took about twenty steps out to meet Lars, but stopped about ten feet away.
“Lars Veek.” Lars returned the name with the addition, “Or whatever your real name is.” He watched as Bjorn the judge, his sickly green collar still intact, came out holding Angelica by the elbow. Yon Veek had Kirsten in his grip, though he did not look to be hurting her and she did not appear to be struggling.
“Cut it, cyborg,” Lars said.
Veek’s eyes widened a little. “So, you know a little something. I would not have expected anyone in this world would even know the concept.” He spoke with a bit of a sly grin. “But why should we be enemies?” Lars made no response, so Veek continued. “With our help, it will be an easy thing to overcome the Anglish. The Dutch in New Amsterdam and the other small outposts down to the Venetians in Florida pose no threat. The Danish in Vineland are few, it being a cold and harsh country. Why, in not many years, New Sweden could control the whole continent, and our children could rule like Kings and Queens of old.” He pointed back at Yon and Kirsten. “Consider what is best for your daughter, friend Hjorth. With our help, we can soon turn this primitive world into a futuristic wonder.”
Jill grabbed Ethan’s arm. This was a delicate moment. Temptation could be hard to resist.
Lars shook his head. “I have seen what future wars can do to destroy the whole world. That might also be called a futuristic wonder. I believe the time to live in peace is now, before it is too late.”
“And the children?”
“The children will have grandchildren in peace and security. You will take your cyborgs and leave my Earth. You have unlawfully intruded into my world, and I have seen what our primitive bullets can do, so I suggest you leave while you can.”
“Lars.” The man sounded disappointed. “And I really liked you. I was looking forward to having you as an in-law.”
“Get your metal armpits off my world.” Lars responded sharply. He always knew there was something he did not like about the man, and now he knew what it was. “In my world we will rise or fall on our own merit, and that is that.”
“Your world?” Veek grew angry. “I would say it is my world.” There was a sudden burst of energy from one of Veek’s eyes, and it struck Lars dead center. Jill interrupted while the others had their eyes glued to the screen and they heard Angelica and Kirsten cry out, “Lars!” and “Papa!”