Bad force the Good into facing unknown forces, experience
has shown that it always backfires on the Bad.
Encyclopedia, Volume Seven
Jeb Johnston was having trouble seeing out of
his remaining eye. The medunits clustered over his body
could no longer damp the pain without knocking him out.
He needed to stay awake very much.
No one had ever escaped from the Syndicate's
torturers. It didn't look like Jeb would be the first.
But Jeb was as stubborn as a New Texas mule.
The Albert Sidney Johnston could fly itself.
It now needed to. Jeb took pride in being a hotshot
pilot, the best on New Texas. With only one arm and leg
left, he wasn't much of a pilot now.
But he could still make decisions for his ship. The
computer input behind his left ear, thank Houston they'd
started on his right side, fed orders to the ship as fast
as Jeb could think. The viewscreens in front of him
showed the Sidney Johnston's course.
And the three Syndicate ships behind him.
Jeb blinked, then snarled. They were herding
him too close to Corum, the proscribed planet. But maybe
they had been too clever.
The Albert Sidney Johnston dropped out of
hyperspace. Jeb almost blacked out. There was a yowl from
the ship's cat.
The armored bulk of one of the Hellhammer
class ships guarding Corum swelled before him. The Albert
Sidney Johnston sent a complicated series of recognition
signals and hurtled by the aroused Hellhammer ship.
Jeb's plan to get some of the living silver
from the planet below was working. But he hadn't intended
to be dying when he went down.
His mouth twisted in a wolfish grin as the three
Syndicate ships tried to follow him. What looked like
three solid bars of incandescent light came from the
Hellhammer batteries. The three Syndicate ships instantly
One of the recognition codes wasn't quite right. He dived
toward the planet taking wild evasive action. There was
another indignate yowl. Jeb blacked out as the guard ship
Due to the Albert Sidney Johnston's closeness to the
planet, the guard ship was forced to use it's secondary
batteries instead of the dreaded Hellhammers. So the
Albert Sidney Johnston wasn't vaporized. But badly
damaged and smoking, she entered the atmosphere. And
The robot brain of the massive guardship had orders never
to interfer on the surface of Corum. The human component,
once awakened, agreed.
Jeb awoke to hellish pain. Weird gnomes were huddled over
his body. Vast golden eyes at the top of long wedge
shaped faces regarded him emotionlessly.
The gnomes toiled on.
Jeb awoke. He was lying flat on his back in his bunk
aboard the Albert Sidney Johnston. Tom, the ship's cat,
was curled up by his side purring.
Jeb looked at the ceiling. And his gaze went through to
the storage area above.
He gasped. His heart beat faster. He levered himself up
with both hands.
Jeb almost fainted.
Then he looked at his right side. A silver arm and leg
seemed to have grown out of the stumps left by the
ministrations of the Syndicate.
Jeb reached out his left hand and touched his right hand.
The metal was warm. He touched his right ear. It too was
He got up effortlessly. He realized that the pain was
gone. No medunits were in sight.
Jeb walked into the refresher and looked at his face in
mirror. He closed both eyes. But he could still see
through the right one.
Jeb opened his eyes. He hardly recognized himself. One
eye was still blue. The other was silver. Then the silver
eye dialated to show something burning blackly within.
Jeb felt ill. His right eye became a ball of silver
Two silvery fangs met on either side of his mouth. Even
hair was silver.
He abruptly realized that he couldn't hear the ship's
engines. He ran toward the bridge.
He barely recognized the bridge of the Albert Sidney
Johnston. The mad dwarfs of Corum had rebuilt it with
living silver too.
Jeb realized that he and his ship were now a prize that
any crook in the galaxy would kill for. A fortune in
He consulted the computer input. The Albert Sidney
Johnston was in orbit around New Texas. He went through
the data banks. Somehow no person or computer on New
Texas had noticed him or his ship.
Jeb unsteadily went back to his room. He fell on his bunk
and began to shake.
Responding to his distress, a medunit scurried in and
touched his left arm. Jeb felt his cares vanish.
He went to the refresher and stared at his new face and
body expressionlessly. Tom hopped up on the sink and gave
a soft mrrrrew.
Jeb looked at his cat. The orange tom cat looked back at
him with one green eye. And one silver one. Silvery claws
came out of silver toes on all four of Tom's feet, then
retracted out of sight.
Silver fangs to match Jeb's showed as Tom yawned.
His right ear, torn in some long ago battle, was now
whole and silver. So was the sharp tip of his tail.
Tom rubbed his head against Jeb, then hopped down and
went about his business.
Tom went to the bridge and sat down to think. Even the
little patch of Astro-turf he kept in one corner to
remind him of home didn't make him feel better.
What had been done to him, his ship, and his cat? And how
the hell did he get here, apparently undetected?
And what was he going to do next?
Jeb linked with the ship's computer and began to check
out his ship. The dwarfs had improved the computer, too.
The he went over the ship from nose to tail checking
He opened the armory just off his bunkroom and marveled
at the new silvery weapons there.
Jeb sat in the control room gazing off into the space
revealed by the ship's viewscreens. He became aware that
Tom was on the arm f the chair beside him, rubbing
He ruffled Tom's fur. Tom purred in a rasping rumble.
At least that was unchanged.
"Tom, despite being in orbit over New Texas, we
really can't go home."
"I'm no longer Jeb. A dark star burns in my right
eye shell. My right hand is a deadly weapon. I can hear
and see more with my new eye and ear."
Tom began washing himself. He didn't lick his silvery
toes and tail tip.
"Jeb is dead. He died back on Corum. Now I'm
Silverarm. I think the Syndicate will have plenty of
reasons to regret my transformation."
He gave Tom another pat and headed for the bridge.
Darkstar Silverarm brought the Albert Sidney Johnston
down just above the surface of New Texas.
The Syndicate members had not expected him to escape. So
he knew where their hideout on West Texarcana was. It was
buried under the Black Mesa. But not far enough under.
One moment Syndicate members were watching empty
detectors and viewscreens. The next moment, the Albert
Sidney Johnston was hanging in front of the mesa.
Columns of energy scarely less potent than Hellhammers
shot out. Most of the mesa in front of the ship
vaporized. Stubborn walls melted and flowed.
Only two defensive batteries were left to the Syndicate
base. Their energy blasts died before reaching the Albert
Then return fire from the Albert Sidney Johnston took
The Albert Sidney Johnston landed within what had been
the Syndicate base. The port in the side opened.
Something silver and orange shot out. A silver-haired
figure wrapped in a silvery cloak carrying a silver wand
in his left hand followed.
Two men, blasters in hand, rose to face him. Their eyes
met his. One fainted. The other screamed and ran. He
didn't get far. Like an archiac windup toy, he moved
slower and slower until he fell.
Darkstar Silverarm raised his wand. Lances of fire
dropped two other gunmen.
A third almost behind him, centered his weapon on the
back of Darkstar's head. Hearing a faint sound, Darkstar
moved with lightning speed and the shot completely
Before the gunman could change his aim, a silvery and
orange shape blurred toward him.
A silvery tail tip battered the blaster aside. Silver
slashed the gunman's throat. He choked and died.
Darkstar Silverarm proceeded more cautiously. Tom shot
out of sight. But Darkstar knew where he was. With a
little effort, Darkstar could even see through Tom's
He could also see into the base through durasteel walls.
He stopped and gazed at his feet. Something down in the
ground. It looked like a bomb. He moved rapidly and
thought into his computer implant.
It too had been improved by the dwarfs of Corum.
The Albert Sidney Johnston unleased a lance of fire into
ground. In moments, the bomb was gone.
Tom found the computer room and slipped through the metal
door that had been warped by the forces unleashed on the
base by the Albert Sidney Johnston.
Two men were working on the computer. Three men with
blasters were guarding them. But they never expected an
orange and silver cat that moved like he was approaching
Darkstar saw a small ship hidden within a fold in the
mesa wall. His weapon shot a narrow beam into the walls
surrounding the ship.
He brought out a silvery device from within his robe with
other hand. It shot out a dart of silvery metal that
melted into the wall of the ship.
Darkstar hurried on his way.
When Darkstar reached the computer room, he took the edge
of the door in his right hand. And pulled. Metal tore
apart with a screech.
Three guards lay dead on the floor. None had gotten off a
Two men sat in front of the computer viewscreen, their
eyes fixed on an orange and silver cat that sat gazing
with slanted eyes at them.
Darkstar walked up to them, his right eye nearly closed.
"I am Darkstar Silverarm. I want access to the
His right eye opened briefly. One man gasped. The other
"What in Klono's name, are you?"
"An enemy of the Syndicate. Now give me access. Or I
shall destroy your mind and take what I need from
The men yielded.
Darkstar became a conduit between the Syndicate's
computer and the Albert Sidney Johnston's augmented
computer. As he transferred information, he felt and
heard a rumble.
The Albert Sidney Johnston's detectors showed the small
spaceship taking off. It stayed low and quickly
disappeared from view. The Albert Sidney Johnston got in
three shots at it, none the less. Carefully missing all
Soon Darkstar had all the information from the computer.
Some had undoubtedly been destroyed. His ship's computer
had outwitted and dismantled all the blocks hiding
So Darkstar had a decent idea of the Syndicate. But only
on New Texas. The Syndicate was too clever to leave many
traces to other worlds.
Tom stretched. The two men's eyes flicked over to him.
Darkstar touched both with the wand, then caught them as
The Albert Sidney Johnston's detectors showed several New
Texas Ranger ships approaching. They could handle the
rest of the Syndicate on New Texas.
Darkstar and Tom left the computer room. Darkstar could
now move faster than any man. But Tom steaked away from
Darkstar reached the Albert Sidney Johnston and wedged
himself in the airlock. The outer door closed as the ship
went straight up.
He entered the control room to find Tom asleep on the
Darkstar watched as New Texas shrank behind them. The
Albert Sidney Johnston entered hyperspace with scarely a
A spy device was now part of the hull of the Syndicate
ship that had fled. And Darkstar was following it. He
would give the Syndicate more reason to regret what had
been done to him.