The shimmering atmosphere, hostile to man, which sealed the red desert was a lens that distorted and concealed by its intervention. The groundcar was a mechanical bug, an alienness with which timorous man had allied himself; allied with it against reality, she and Nuwell were hastened by it through reality, unseeing, toward the goal of a more comfortable unreality.

In spite of the patrols, you know they haven't picked up all of the rebels who escaped Mars City by groundcar. Any of them who headed for Solis Lacus will be arriving there within the next two or three days. Then I'll make a swing around and spend as much time as necessary at each of the dome cities before coming back here." The angry, stubborn expression swept across Nuwell's face again.

His groundcar dome was broken in an accident, and he wants to have it replaced and the groundcar refueled." "Thank you," said Maya. "Now, please put in a call for me to S. Nuwell Eli in Mars City." She had bathed and dressed for dinner by the time the call came through. "Nuwell," she said, when he had identified himself on the other end of the line, "I knew I was right in coming here.

The groundcar passed through a gate. It stopped before a lighted door. The armed men hanging to its outside dropped off. They watched Calhoun closely as he stepped out with Murgatroyd riding on his shoulder. Minutes later they faced a hastily summoned group of officials of the Darian government. For a ship to land on Dara was so remarkable an event that it called practically for a cabinet meeting.

"Maya!" exclaimed Nuwell suddenly. "Look! We're going to be rescued!" She sat up and looked in the direction of his pointing finger. On the horizon to the northeast was a cloud of dust, too placid and stationary to be a sandstorm. They stood up, and Nuwell spoke hastily into his helmet radio on the conventional emergency band. "Attention, groundcar! Attention, groundcar!

"There's hardly any point in trying to deceive me about it is there?" he pointed out. "I can tell a great deal from your conversation and the expression on your face, and I'd estimate that your help is going to have to come from Mars City by groundcar a trip I've just made, so I know exactly how long it takes. Do you plan for us to spend these two nights in your room, or mine?"

I have a specific mission here, to locate the rebel headquarters, and as soon as I've done that I'll be more than happy to become just a contented housewife and leave the rest of it to you." Nuwell shrugged, a little disconsolately, and turned his attention to the task of negotiating the groundcar up the ascending slope. She was a strange creature, this little Maya of his.

There were no police at the airlock, and the maintenance employee stationed there did not even look up as Dark's approach activated the inner door. He drove the groundcar into the airlock. The inner door closed behind him. The outer door opened, and Dark drove out onto the highway that struck straight across the Syrtis Major Lowland toward the Aeria Desert and Edom. It was as simple as that.

He could take the highway, turning out into the desert to go around Edom, Aram and Ophir. He put the groundcar in drive again, and made a U-turn in the highway. He entered the cloverleaf and was halfway through it when he saw the copter. It was a red-and-white government copter, and it was descending at a shallow angle toward him from the direction of Mars City.

With an audible gasp, the woman disentangled herself, in dangerous haste, from the groundcar engine and faced Dark. They stared at each other, in mutual shocked recognition. There was Dark Kensington, bearded, his arms full of marsuits, and there was Maya Cara Nome, sleeves rolled up, her lovely face streaked with grease. Dark's jaw dropped. Maya's lips formed a round, astonished O.