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Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/56

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54
WEIRD TALES

Thona was staring at Kenworth. "You're—President Kenworth's son?"

He nodded, flushing. "I—yes, Thona. I didn't tell you—I thought it might—make a difference."

"But—why? The son of President Kenworth on an elysia farm!" There was amazement in her eyes.

"As a matter of fact, it was a wager. A chap and I got into an argument—a commander of the Interplanetary Patrol, an old friend of my father's—and he bet me that I was too soft to raise a crop of elysia. Lord knows it's no easy job!" He lowered his voice. "I don't think I could have stuck it out, Thona, if I hadn't met you. Now don't worry. The Raider won't dare——"

"I won't dare?" The Raider stood over them, his eyes glittering in his mask-like face. "I won't kill you—no. Neither of you. I'm tempted, I confess—but if worst comes to worst I can always bargain. And the son of President Kenworth——"

He paused, while Kenworth cursed himself for revealing his identity.

Arn came forward, frowning. He gestured to the controls, said something under his breath. The Raider nodded impatiently.

Arn said, amazement on his dark face, "You're going to do it?"

"Yes. They'll expect me to leave Venus to escape. We can't take the chance of going back to our own ship—and I won't go into space in this leaky boat. Nobody will expect us to go to the Night Side."

Thona gasped, and her hands flew up to her cheeks. Even Kenworth paled.

Arn said unbelievingly, "We're going—to the Night Side?"

Kenworth understood his apprehension, shared it. Ships stayed on the sunward side of Venus. There was a mystery about the Night Side—the half of Venus turned perpetually away from the sun, blanketed by thick clouds and shunned by the wanderers of the spaceways. There had been a time, long ago, when expeditions had set out to explore the Night Side. They had never returned. They had gone into the enigmatic blackness armed with huge ray-tubes and gas-projectors—and had vanished.

Of the Night Side only one thing was known—no one had ever returned from it. And it was to this hidden land of eternal blackness that the Raider was guiding his ship!

Kenworth revised his opinion of the Raider as he saw Arn turn away without another word. The Martian, watching Kenworth with ray-tube in hand, said nothing. The octan scurried into the room and rubbed against Vakko's legs, and he reached down absently to stroke it. It shrilled its pleasure. Kenworth felt Thona shudder against him.

"Keep an eye out for ships," the Raider commanded, and Arn nodded, went to the control board.

Ignoring Kenworth, the Raider picked up the little vial of elysia from the desk. He unbuckled his leather jacket, fumbled with a thick, tubular belt he wore about his waist. It was transparent, filled with the pale elysia fluid, Kenworth saw. The Raider added Kenworth's gill of the liquid to his own stock.

"It's a fabulous fortune," he said pleasantly in his toneless voice, meeting Kenworth's gaze. "Curious that people are willing to pay so much for—emotion. That's what it is." He eyed the belt ruminatively. "Pure emotion. A scientist once explained its action to me, but I couldn't understand him, except that it seems to step up the emotions—the pleasurable sensations.

"Elysia!" he went on almost dreamily. "It's well named. Back in the Twentieth