The Chessmen of Mars HTML version

Chapter 8. Close Work
GHEK, in his happier days third foreman of the fields of Luud, sat nursing his anger and
his humiliation. Recently something had awakened within him the existence of which he
had never before even dreamed. Had the influence of the strange captive woman aught to
do with this unrest and dissatisfaction? He did not know. He missed the soothing
influence of the noise she called singing. Could it be that there were other things more
desirable than cold logic and undefiled brain power? Was well balanced imperfection
more to be sought after then, than the high development of a single characteristic? He
thought of the great, ultimate brain toward which all kaldanes were striving. It would be
deaf, and dumb, and blind. A thousand beautiful strangers might sing and dance about it,
but it could derive no pleasure from the singing or the dancing since it would possess no
perceptive faculties. Already had the kaldanes shut themselves off from most of the
gratifications of the senses. Ghek wondered if much was to be gained by denying
themselves still further, and with the thought came a question as to the whole fabric of
their theory. After all perhaps the girl was right; what purpose could a great brain serve
sealed in the bowels of the earth?
And he, Ghek, was to die for this theory. Luud had decreed it. The injustice of it
overwhelmed him with rage. But he was helpless. There was no escape. Beyond the
enclosure the banths awaited him; within, his own kind, equally as merciless and
ferocious. Among them there was no such thing as love, or loyalty, or friendship--they
were just brains. He might kill Luud; but what would that profit him? Another king
would be loosed from his sealed chamber and Ghek would be killed. He did not know it
but he would not even have the poor satisfaction of satisfied revenge, since he was not
capable of feeling so abstruse a sentiment.
Ghek, mounted upon his rykor, paced the floor of the tower chamber in which he had
been ordered to remain. Ordinarily he would have accepted the sentence of Luud with
perfect equanimity, since it was but the logical result of reason; but now it seemed
different. The stranger woman had bewitched him. Life appeared a pleasant thing--there
were great possibilities in it. The dream of the ultimate brain had receded into a tenuous
haze far in the background of his thoughts.
At that moment there appeared in the doorway of the chamber a red warrior with naked
sword. He was a male counterpart of the prisoner whose sweet voice had undermined the
cold, calculating reason of the kaldane.
"Silence!" admonished the newcomer, his straight brows gathered in an ominous frown
and the point of his longsword playing menacingly before the eyes of the kaldane. "I seek
the woman, Tara of Helium. Where is she? If you value your life speak quickly and speak
the truth."