“What I need is some good healthy vice, is that what you mean?”
Manning sat forward. “That puts it pretty clearly. Yeah, that’s about it. Lee, you’re building up some strong tensions on this job, and don’t think I’m not aware of it. Telepathing with that horseface is getting rough, judging from what you’ve told me. I think you should go get good and drunk and kick up hell tonight. And take one of the town women; they’re always available. Do you good, I mean it.”
Rynason stood up. “Maybe tomorrow night,” he said. “Tonight I’m busy. With Mara.” He turned and walked toward the door.
“I’d suggest you get busy with someone else,” Manning said quietly behind him. “I’m really telling you this for your own good, believe it or not.”
Rynason turned at the door and regarded the man coldly. “She’s not interested in you, Manning,” he said. He went out and shut the door calmly behind him.
Manning could be irritating with his conceited posing, but his veiled threats didn’t bother Rynason. In any case, he had something else on his mind just now. He had finally remembered what it had been about the carvings over the Hirlaji building in the photo that had touched a memory within him: there was a strong similarity to the carvings that he had seen, through Tebron’s eyes, outside the Temple of Kor. The symbols of Kor, Tebron had called them ... copied from the works of the Old Ones.
They had some trouble getting cooperation from Horng on any further mind-probing. The Hirlaji lived among some of the ruins out on the Flat, where the winds threw dust and sand against the weathered stone walls, leaving them worn smooth and rounded. The aliens kept these buildings in some state of repair, and there was a communal garden of the planet’s dark, fungoid plant life. As Rynason and Mara strode between the massive buildings they passed several of the huge creatures; one or two of them turned and regarded the couple with dull eyes, and went on slowly through the grey shadows.
They found Horng sitting motionlessly at the edge of the cluster of buildings, gazing out over the Flat toward the low hills which stood black against the deep blue of the horizon sky. Rynason lowered the telepather from his shoulder and approached him.
The alien made no motion of protest when Rynason hooked up the interpreter, but when the Earthman raised the mike to speak, Horng’s dry voice spoke in the silence of the thin air and the machine’s stylus traced out, THERE IS NO PURPOSE.
Rynason paused a moment, then said, “We’re almost finished with our reports. We should finish today.”
THERE IS NO PURPOSE MEANING QUEST.
“No purpose to the report?” Rynason said after a moment. “It’s important to us, and we’re almost finished. There would be even less purpose in stopping now, when so much has been done.”