Grauffis excused himself to make a screen call and then returned to excuse himself again. Evidently Duke Angus had dropped whatever he was doing as soon as he heard what his henchman had to tell him. Harkaman was silent until after he was out of the room, then said:

“Lord Trask, this is a wonderful thing for me. It’s not been pleasant to be a shipless captain living on strangers’ bounty. I’d hate, though, to have you think, some time, that I’d advanced my own fortunes at the expense of yours.”

“Don’t worry about that. If anybody’s being taken advantage of, you are. I need a space-captain, and your misfortune is my own good luck.”

Harkaman started to pack tobacco into his pipe. “Have you ever been off Gram, at all?” he asked.

“A few years at the University of Camelot, on Excalibur. Otherwise, no.”

“Well, have you any conception of the sort of thing you’re setting yourself to?” The Space Viking snapped his lighter and puffed. “You know, of course, how big the Old Federation is. You know the figures, that is, but do they mean anything to you? I know they don’t to a good many spacemen, even. We talk glibly about ten to the hundredth power, but emotionally we still count, ‘One, Two, Three, Many.’ A ship in hyperspace logs about a light-year an hour. You can go from here to Excalibur in thirty hours. But you could send a radio message announcing the birth of a son, and he’d be a father before it was received. The Old Federation, where you’re going to hunt Dunnan, occupies a space-volume of two hundred billion cubic light-years. And you’re hunting for one ship and one man in that. How are you going to do it, Lord Trask?”

“I haven’t started thinking about how; all I know is that I have to do it. There are planets in the Old Federation where Space Vikings come and go; raid-and-trade bases, like the one Duke Angus planned to establish on Tanith. At one or another of them, I’ll pick up word of Dunnan, sooner or later.”

“We’ll hear where he was a year ago, and by the time we get there, he’ll be gone for a year and a half to two years. We’ve been raiding the Old Federation for over three hundred years, Lord Trask. At present, I’d say there are at least two hundred Space Viking ships in operation. Why haven’t we raided it bare long ago? Well, that’s the answer: distance and voyage-time. You know, Dunnan could die of old age⁠—which is not a usual cause of death among Space Vikings⁠—before you caught up with him. And your youngest ship’s-boy could die of old age before he found out about it.”

“Well, I can go on hunting for him till I die, then. There’s nothing else that means anything to me.”

“I thought it was something like that. I won’t be with you, all your life. I want a ship of my own, like the Corisande, that I lost on Durendal. Some day, I’ll have one. But till you can command your own ship, I’ll command her for you. That’s a promise.”

Some note of ceremony seemed indicated. Summoning a robot, he had it pour wine for them, and they pledged each other.

Rovard Grauffis had recovered his aplomb by the time he returned accompanied by the Duke. If Angus had ever lost his, he gave no indication of it. The effect on everybody else was literally seismic. The generally accepted view was that Lord Trask’s reason had been unhinged by his tragic loss; there might, he conceded, be more than a crumb of truth in that. At first, his cousin Nikkolay raged at him for alienating the barony from the family, and then he learned that Duke Angus was appointing him vicar-baron and giving him Traskon New House for his residence. Immediately he began acting like one at the deathbed of a rich grandmother. The Wardshaven financial and industrial barons, whom he had known only distantly, on the other hand, came flocking around him, offering assistance and hailing him as the savior of the duchy. Duke Angus’ credit, almost obliterated by the loss of the Enterprise, was firmly reestablished, and theirs with it.

There were conferences at which lawyers and bankers argued interminably; he attended a few at first, found himself completely uninterested, and told everybody so. All he wanted was a ship; the best ship possible, as soon as possible. Alex Gorram had been the first to be notified; he had commenced work on the unfinished sister-ship of the Enterprise immediately. Until he was strong enough to go to the shipyard himself, he watched the work on the two-thousand-foot globular skeleton by screen, and conferred either in person or by screen with engineers and shipyard executives. His rooms at the ducal palace were converted, almost overnight, from sickrooms to offices. The doctors, who had recently been urging him to find new interests and activities, were now warning of the dangers of overexertion. Harkaman finally added his voice to theirs.

“You take it easy, Lucas.” They had dropped formality and were on a first-name basis now. “You got hulled pretty badly; you let damage-control work on you, and don’t strain the machinery till it’s fixed. We have plenty of time. We’re not going to get anywhere chasing Dunnan. The only way we can catch him is by interception. The longer he moves around in the Old Federation before he hears we’re after him, the more of a trail he’ll leave. Once we can establish a predictable pattern, we’ll have a chance. Then, some time, he’ll come out of hyperspace somewhere and find us waiting for him.”

“Do you think he went to Tanith?”

Harkaman heaved himself out of his chair and prowled about the room for a few minutes, then came back and sat down again.

“No. That was Duke Angus’ idea, not his. He couldn’t put in a base on Tanith, anyhow. You know the kind of a crew he has.”

There had been an extensive inquiry into Dunnan’s associates and accomplices; Duke Angus was still hoping for positive proof to implicate Omfray of Glaspyth in the piracy. Dunnan had with him a dozen and a half employees of the Gorram shipyards whom he had corrupted. There was some technical ability among them, but for the most part they were agitators and troublemakers and incompetent workmen. Even under the circumstances, Alex Gorram was glad to see the last of them. As for Dunnan’s own mercenary company, there were about a score of former spacemen among them; the rest graded down from bandits through thugs and sneak-thieves to barroom bums. Dunnan himself was an astrogator, not an engineer.

“That gang aren’t even good enough for routine raiding,” Harkaman said. “They’d never under any circumstances be able to put in a base on Tanith. Unless Dunnan’s completely crazy, which I doubt, he’s gone to some regular Viking base planet, like Hoth or Nergal or Dagon or Xochitl, to recruit officers and engineers and able spacemen.”

“All that machinery and robotic equipment and so on that was going to Tanith⁠—was that aboard when he took the ship?”

“Yes, and that’s another reason why he’d go to some planet like Hoth or Nergal or Xochitl. On a Viking-occupied planet in the Old Federation, that stuff’s almost worth its weight in gold.”

“What’s Tanith like?”

“Almost completely Terra-type, third of a Class-G sun. Very much like Haulteclere or Flamberge. It was one of the last planets the Federation colonized before the Big War. Nobody knows what happened, exactly. There wasn’t any interstellar war; at least, you don’t find any big slag-puddles where cities used to be. They probably did a lot of fighting among themselves, after they got out of the Federation. There’s still some traces of combat-damage around. Then they started to decivilize, down to the pre-mechanical level⁠—wind and water power and animal power. They have draft-animals that look like introduced Terran carabaos, and a few small sailboats and big canoes and bateaux on the rivers. They have gunpowder, which seems to be the last thing any people lose.”

“I was there, five years ago. I liked Tanith for a base. There’s one moon, almost solid nickel iron, and fissionable-ore deposits. Then, like a fool, I hired out to the Elmersans on Durendal and lost my ship. When I came here, your Duke was thinking about Xipototec. I convinced him that Tanith was a better planet for his purpose.”

“Dunnan might go there, at that. He might think he was scoring one on Duke Angus. After all, he has all that equipment.”

“And nobody to use it. If I were Dunnan, I’d go to Nergal, or Xochitl. There are always a couple of thousand Space Vikings on either, spending their loot and taking it easy between raids. He could sign on a full crew on either. I suggest we go to Xochitl, first. We might pick up news of him, if nothing else.”

All right, they’d try Xochitl first. Harkaman knew the planet, and was friendly with the Haulteclere noble who ruled it.

The work went on at the Gorram shipyard; it had taken a year to build the Enterprise, but the steel-mills and engine-works were over the preparatory work of tooling up, and material and equipment was flowing in a steady stream. Lucas let them persuade him to take more rest, and day by day grew stronger. Soon he was spending most of his time at the shipyard, watching the engines go in⁠—Abbot lift-and-drive for normal space, Dillingham hyperdrive, power-converters, pseudograv, all at the center of the globular ship. Living quarters and workshops went in next, all armored in collapsium-plated steel. Then the ship lifted out to an orbit a thousand miles off-planet, followed by swarms of armored work-craft and cargo-lighters; the rest of the work was more easily done in space. At the same time, the four two-hundred-foot pinnaces that would be carried aboard were being finished. Each of them had its own hyperdrive engines, and could travel as far and as fast as the ship herself.

Otto Harkaman was beginning to be distressed because the ship still lacked a name. He didn’t like having to speak of her as “her,” or “the ship,” and there were many things soon to go on that should be name-marked. Elaine, Trask thought, at once, and almost at once rejected it. He didn’t want her name associated with the things that ship would do in the Old Federation. Revenge, Avenger, Retribution, Vendetta; none appealed to him. A news-commentator, turgidly eloquent about the nemesis which the criminal Dunnan had invoked against himself, supplied it, Nemesis it was.

Now he was studying his new profession of interstellar robbery and murder against which he had once inveighed. Otto Harkaman’s handful of followers became his teachers. Vann Larch, guns-and-missiles, who was also a painter; Guatt Kirbey, sour and pessimistic, the hyperspatial astrogator who tried to express his science in music; Sharll Renner, the normal-space astrogator. Alvyn Karffard, the exec, who had been with Harkaman longest of all. And Sir Paytrik Morland, a local recruit, formerly guard-captain to Count Lionel of Newhaven, who commanded the ground-fighters and the combat contragravity. They were using the farms and villages of Traskon for drill and practice, and he noticed that while the Nemesis would carry only five hundred ground and air fighters, over a thousand were being trained.

He commented to Rovard Grauffis.

“Yes. Don’t mention it outside,” the Duke’s henchman said. “You and Sir Paytrik and Captain Harkaman will pick the five hundred best. The Duke will take the rest into his service. Some of these days, Omfray of Glaspyth will find out what a Space Viking raid is really like.”

And Duke Angus would tax his new subjects of Glaspyth to redeem the pledges on his new barony of Traskon. Some old Pre-Atomic writer Harkaman was fond of quoting had said, “Gold will not always get you good soldiers, but good soldiers can get you gold.”

The Nemesis came back to the Gorram yards and settled onto her curved landing legs like a monstrous spider. The Enterprise had borne the Ward sword and atom-symbol; the Nemesis should bear his own badge, but the bisonoid head, tawny on green, of Traskon, was no longer his. He chose a skull impaled on an upright sword, and it was blazoned on the ship when he and Harkaman took her out for her shakedown cruise.

When they landed again at the Gorram yards, two hundred hours later, they learned that a tramp freighter from Morglay had come into Bigglersport in their absence with news of Andray Dunnan. Her captain had come to Wardshaven at Duke Angus’ urgent invitation and was waiting for them at the Ducal Palace.

They sat, a dozen of them, around a table in the Duke’s private apartments. The freighter captain, a small, precise man with a graying beard, alternately puffed at a cigarette and sipped from a beaker of brandy.

“I spaced out from Morglay two hundred hours ago,” he was saying. “I’d been there twelve local days, three hundred Galactic Standard hours, and the run from Curtana was three hundred and twenty. This ship, the Enterprise, spaced out from there several days before I did. I’d say she’s twelve hundred hours out of Windsor, on Curtana, now.”

The room was still. The breeze fluttered curtains at the open windows; from the garden below, winged night-things twittered.

“I never expected it,” Harkaman said. “I thought he’d take the ship out to the Old Federation at once.” He poured wine for himself. “Of course, Dunnan’s crazy. A crazy man has an advantage, sometimes, like a left-handed knife-fighter. He does unexpected things.”

“That wasn’t such a crazy move,” Rovard Grauffis said. “We have very little direct trade with Curtana. It’s only an accident we heard about this when we did.”

The freighter captain’s beaker was half empty. He filled it to the brim from the decanter.

“She was the first Gram ship there for years,” he agreed. “That attracted notice, of course. And his having the blazonry changed, from the sword and atom-symbol to the blue crescent. And the ill-feeling on the part of other captains and planet-side employers about the men he’d lured away from them.”

“How many men and what kind?”

The man with the gray beard shrugged. “I was too busy getting a cargo together for Morglay, to pay much attention. Almost a full spaceship complement, officers and spacemen of every kind. And a lot of industrial engineers and technicians.”

“Then he is going to use that equipment that was aboard, and put in a base somewhere,” somebody said.

“If he left Curtana twelve hundred hours ago, he’s still in hyperspace,” Guatt Kirbey said. “It’s over two thousand from Curtana to the nearest Old Federation planet.”

“How far to Tanith?” Duke Angus asked. “I’m sure that’s where he’s gone. He’d expect me to finish the other ship and equip her like the Enterprise and send her out; he’d want to get there first.”

“I’d thought that Tanith would be the last place he’d go,” Harkaman said, “but this changes the whole outlook. He could have gone to Tanith.”

“He’s crazy, and you’re trying to apply sane logic to him,” Guatt Kirbey said. “You’re figuring what you’d do, and you aren’t crazy. Of course, I’ve had my doubts, at times, but⁠—”

“Yes, he’s crazy, and Captain Harkaman’s allowing for that,” Rovard Grauffis said. “Dunnan hates all of us. He hates his Grace, here. He hates Lord Lucas, and Sesar Karvall; of course, he may think he killed both of them. He hates Captain Harkaman. So how could he score all of us off at once? By taking Tanith.”

“You say he was buying supplies and ammunition?”

“That’s right. Gun ammunition, ship’s missiles, and a lot of ground-defense missiles.”

“What was he buying them with? Trading machinery?”

“No. Gold.”

“Yes. Lothar Ffayle found out that a lot of gold was transferred to Dunnan from banks in Glaspyth and Didreksburg,” Grauffis said. “He got that aboard when he took the ship, evidently.”

“All right,” Trask said. “We can’t be sure of anything, but we have some reasons for thinking he went to Tanith, and that’s more than we have for any other planet in the Old Federation. I won’t try to estimate the odds against our finding him there, but they’re a good deal bigger anywhere else. We’ll go there, first.”