The Interstellar Patrol
THE CLAW AND THE CLOCK
Iadrubel Vire glanced over the descriptive documents thoughtfully.
A promising world. However, considering the extent of the Earthmen's possessions, and the size of their
Space Force, one hesitates to start trouble.
Margash Grele bowed deferentially.
Understood, Excellency. But there is a significant point that we have just discovered. We have always
supposed this planet was a part of their Federation. It is not. It isindependent.
Vire got his two hind ripping claws up onto their rest.
Hm-m-m . . . How did we come by this information?
One of their merchant ships got off-course, and Admiral Arvast Nade answered the distress signal.
Grele gave a bone-popping sound, signifying wry humor. Needless to say, the Earthmen were more
distressed after the rescue than before.
Vire sat up.
So, contrary to my specific instructions, Nade has given the Earthmen pretext to strike at us?
Excellency, restraint of the kill-instinct requires high moral development when dealing with something as
helpless as these Earthmen. Nade, himself, did not take part in the orgy, of course, but he was unable to
restrain his men. It was the Earthlings' fault, because they were not armed. If they had been in full battle
armor, with their tools of war—Well, who wants to crack his claws on a thing like that? But they
presented themselves as defenseless offerings. The temptation was too great.
Were the Earthmen aware of the identity of the rescue craft?
Grele looked uneasy.
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Admiral Nade feared some trap, and . . . ah . . . undertook to forestall treachery by using an Ursoid
Vire could feel the scales across his back twitch. This fool, Nade, had created out of nothing the
possibility of war with both Earthand Ursa.
Vire said shortly, Having given the Ursoid recognition signal, the Earthmen naturally would not be
prepared. Therefore Nade would naturally be unable to restrain his men. So, what—