"That's all—just two, Arn and I. But we can handle it. Gas him out if necessary, or use the ship's ray-tube. Thanks anyway."
About to answer, Kenworth felt something touch his leg. He glanced down—and jumped back, suppressing a cry. The Raider chuckled, and the other man echoed him with a gusty laugh.
"Never seen an octan before? Guess you've never been on Mars."
Kenworth grinned, although he felt a little thrill of repugnance go through him as he stared down at the octan—that strange hybrid of Mars, where so many originally submarine creatures had evolved to land-dwellers as the oceans shrank. Once, millions of years ago, the octan's ancestors had dwelt in the Martian seas. Emerging on land, they had eventually becoming dwarfed to the size of small terriers. The thing's round body was covered with a growth of short, reddish fur, and perched atop it was a globe of a head, with two unwinking, baleful eyes set above a parrot-like beak. Its limbs were tentacles—eight of them, furred, and lined with the atrophied remnants of suckers. Although Kenworth knew that the octan was tamed, not dangerous, he could not suppress an involuntary shudder.
The octan moved toward him, scuttling like a spider on its tentacle-limbs, and then paused, as though sensing his dislike. It gave a shrill whistling cry and ran back, climbing a leg of the desk and crouching atop it.
Kenworth saw that the two men were watching the octan. His chance, then, had come, and if the Raider had spoken the truth, there were only two on the ship—besides the girl, who no doubt was a captive. He snatched the ray-tube from his jacket, drew the gas-pistol with his other hand.
"Up!" His voice cracked like a whiplash, peremptory, challenging.
The big man snarled a surprized oath, made a hasty gesture—and paused, lifting his hands. The Raider's hands were already in the air. Frightened, the octan leaped from the desk and scuttled from the room. A little feeling of apprehension went through Kenworth. But what harm could the repulsive creature do?
The larger man said, "What's this? You can't——"
The Raider interrupted him. "Don't, bother, Arn. He knows who we are." Yet Kenworth sensed puzzlement in the Raider's eyes.
Kenworth said, "Where's the girl? Thona Trenton?"
The Raider smiled slightly. "She's safe, in a compartment aft. I took her because of Arn. He's a faithful lieutenant, and deserves some reward—and he said that he wanted her."
Kenworth felt rage rising within him, fought it down. He said coldly, "You'll take——"
The Raider interrupted. "You should not have let the octan go," he smiled, amusement in his eyes. "Ruthlessness and logic are the only laws by which one can live. And it was not logical to let the octan go—the creatures are more intelligent than most people think. Surely you did not think I'd fall into your trap and tell you how many I had on this ship! Vakko—use half-strength only. There are things we must learn from our guest."
And the Raider, his hands still held high, nodded, his eyes intent on some object beyond Kenworth!
Kenworth was in a quandary. He dared not turn, for the Raider might be waiting for just that opportunity. On the other hand, if there was an enemy behind him——