Earth humanoids kept each other prisoner all the time. They were constantly fighting and revolting and repressing each other effectively and enthusiastically. They were used to dealing with such things. The Master might very well learn from them. They were more practiced at it than he was, which was why, he supposed, the alarm sounded to signal Superman's escape. The Kryptonian was raised among the wolves and so took on their talents.
Superman would be conscious now, and sentient. It was fortunate that the Master was in his study at the tip of the pyramid. The escaped hero would not be able to see him from wherever he was through the lead sheeting that expensively but unostentatiously lined an inner layer of the study walls.
The Master ordered the reconnaissance satellites operational. All of them. The Tripedal guards began an exhaustive search of every corner and object in the pyramid large enough to hold a humanoid. It was probably Tripedals who were responsible for the escape, the dullwitted creatures. The individuals responsible would be singled out when the emergency was over and requested to offer the Master a gift of satisfaction, doubtless some standard form of self-torture.
The Master tuned one of his study monitors to the launch deck. His enforcement detail was already there.
Six Ceruleans presented the hybrid Algren Eighteen with their emergency traveling orders. They would each occupy one interstellar jaunter and have separate destinations. Their mission would be to find Superman, at any of the six Galactic locations where he might cause the Master the most trouble.
"Will this be in addition to the chase undertaken by . . ." Algren Eighteen jumbled through his mind for the names, for the record in his computer terminal had been mysteriously misplaced, "Lex Luthor and Abraham Lincoln?"
"Who?" the chief of the Cerulean unit asked.
"The hairless humanoid and his aide who took the new vehicle as the alarm was sounding."
"We have no time for explanations," the Cerulean barked
—as the row of teleporters along the wall activated themselves one by one and drew up everything in the huge hangar like powerful suction cleaners sweeping across a sandy shore.
The Master saw it all. He ordered every Gorgan in the pyramid to teleport immediately to the launch deck. These were very massive beings who would be able to function in that environment of high deadly winds. They were to salvage all valuable equipment not already destroyed and pull the six Ceruleans and seven guards on the launch deck out of there so the room could be sealed off until the teleporters were brought under control. That would take time. It would also take personnel, which seemed suddenly to be at a premium.
The Master got an order, via computer linkup, out to each of the offices of his real estate operations on Oric. "This is to alert you that our Major Plan is to go into effect immediately, ahead of schedule. Chief Operational Officers at each facility are to consult their computer terminals for hitherto secret information about their respective functions in the coming extraordinary period. Code to obtain your orders is as follows: 'Landfill heliotrope.' You may obtain such information now."
The Master ended this message as his own terminal flashed its red light on and off several times for no apparent reason. He thought nothing of it, had no time to think anything of it, had more on his mind.
In eighteen office facilities on Oric the same thing happened to eighteen computer terminals. Eighteen Chief Operational Officers said, in eighteen different languages, "Landfill heliotrope," to their respective terminals. Eighteen terminals answered:
"Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow, and everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go."
Before any of the officers had the chance to wonder if this was some sort of code, every real estate office belonging to the Master filled up with life-supporting, business-stopping foam.
The Master did not know what had happened in his real estate offices. It would not much matter, actually. Not now. These underlings would do no more than administer his operations on Oric while the Master was fulfilling his destiny across the sky.
A tremor rocked the planet. And another. A tidal wave lapped over the side of the pyramid and nearly reached its peak. The Master looked upward, out the open tip of his study, and saw a pair of what looked to be moons. Oric had no moons. The Master knew what they were, and now he knew where Superman was. The Kryptonian was doing something worse than wasting his own time, he was fate's tool, prodding the Master on to where the prophet Sonnabend said he must go these eons past. It was time to leave.
He had laid in his course long ago. Today was the beginning. A new age was born here and now. The few most trusted and obedient of his attendants were here; they were on their way.
A set of four triangular walls poked up from the open tip of the pyramid and met in a point, sealing the structure closed. The upper forty feet of the pyramid rose as if with a great piano hinge on one side until the tip pointed into the sky at a 60-degree angle with the ground. Then with a great soundless lurch it lifted off the surface of the rest of the structure and soared at the heavens.
The pyramid-shaped spacecraft gained speed and finally ignited as it passed out of Oric's atmosphere. There, ahead somewhere, hidden by the fiery mass of blue Vega, was the device that was causing a spate of worlds to materialize around Orie. Dead husks, duplicates of Oric itself. Oric could die today for all the Master cared, and it well might.
A hundred kilometers from Oric the pyramidal spacecraft shimmered and swirled in a rainbow of smoky colors and seemed to vanish. It made the rest of the, trip disguised in an illusion of an infrared wave.
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