Eric’s hand holding the pistol didn’t move. “How much are you prepared to pay for these documents?” he asked.
“So we are finally talking business, aren’t we?” inquired Alec sarcastically. “We’ve made a deal, don’t you recollect? You’ll get your money when I get the papers.”
“That’s not enough,” insisted Eric. “What about Deltan nationality you promised me? An opportunity to start a new life and all that sort of things?”
Randall shrugged his shoulders. “It’s not for me to decide,” he said. “But I can present the matter to the government.”
“So you were lying yet again,” stated Eric.
“I wasn’t, as a matter of fact. I was talking about an existing possibility, that’s all. Don’t make it more difficult for yourself, Eric. You know you have no choice but to hand the documents over to me. If you shoot me now, you’ll have the whole of our intelligence on Aargh after you.”
“Are you so sure, Alec?” asked Eric quietly. “Nobody knows that I’m alive and back on Aargh. Nobody in this building has any idea who I am. Your body probably won’t be discovered for a couple of days at least. What will you say to that?”
There was some quick trace of emotion in Randall’s face, not fear but something very close to irritation. “Don’t be a bloody idiot, Ericsson,” he said tiredly. “You won’t be able to get away with this, in any case not for long. Those who helped you on Tarna keep in touch with us. It’s just a matter of time before it all comes out. I offered you a reasonable price, but we can discuss it further, if you wish.”
“I want a Deltan passport,” insisted Eric.
“I can’t give it to you right now, but I’ll tell you something else instead. Something that will probably interest you. How would you like to go back to Dakstra?”
The hand with the ray gun dropped down and Eric pulled a chair standing by the wall and seated himself.
“If that’s another one of your jokes, Alec…” he began but Randall only smiled.
“I knew you’d be interested. While you were away, the amnesty was announced, on the occasion of the coming coronation of Michael. All political exiles are allowed to return. That includes you, of course. Coincidentally, I have some business to do with His Highness Prince Haakon, and it just came to my mind…”
“No,” Eric interrupted him. “Never. Just arrange the Deltan residence permit for me and you can have the bloody papers for free.”
“And what are you planning to do on Delta?” inquired Randall. “To work as an architect? You haven’t ever graduated so you don’t even have the necessary qualifications for a work permit. I offer you a diplomatic position at His Highness’s court, as my representative.”
Eric looked at him closely. “What you mean is that Delta isn’t satisfied with the way Michael is carrying on lately and wants to encourage His Highness to try for the crown again. And you choose me to negotiate the terms. Am I right?”
“You have a lot of insight,” remarked Alec Randall coolly. “I’d think that as a patriot, you…”
“There is no way, do you hear me, no way in Hell I’ll fight on Haakon’s side again!” said Eric vehemently.
“I’m not asking you to fight, just to talk. Why do you hate him so much anyway?” wondered Alec. “He did what anyone would have done in his place. It wasn’t his fault you were stationed across the border. He saved the greatest part of his army when he signed the peace treaty offered by Michael. It was a small price to pay, you know. His Highness is ambitious and I believe he has a great potential.”
Eric didn’t answer; he was staring at the wall in front of him.
“And there is something else you’d be interested to know, too, I presume,” continued Alec cheerfully. “Since Haakon is still officially a bachelor, his sister who has recently become a widow returned home to stay with him and play the role of the lady of the house.”
“What did you say?” asked Eric incredulously.
“I said that Lady Fraser whose husband General Fraser McAngus died three months ago is currently residing with her brother. As you have probably heard, their marriage was childless and since it’s common knowledge that she could never really get accustomed to living in the North it’s only logical that she would come back. Now you see that this mission will give you an opportunity to meet old friends. What do you say to this?”
“What exactly do you want me to do?” inquired Eric and Alec Randall smiled again. He’d won yet another game, and that knowledge was immensely satisfying.