Dan Dannerman has been through hell. Caught in the middle of an interstellar war that will end only with the death of the universe, he's been captured by aliens who call themselves the Beloved Leaders, cloned repeatedly, torn from his wife, and brutally tortured.
Sitting in a prison cell on an alien world, slowly going mad, Dan is finally freed by the Horch, the sword enemies of the Beloved Leaders. The time has finally come for Dannerman to strike backbut at whom?
Trusting neither side, Dannerman must somehow convince the Horch to send him back to Earth so he can warn humanity of the approaching alien menace. But when he finally returns he finds an Earth far stranger than he can possibly imagine, an Earth that already has two Dan Dannermansan Earth already under seige by the Beloved Leaders...
About the Author
Frederik Pohl has won all the major awards in the field of science fiction, including three Hugo Awards, two Nebula Awards, both for Best Novel; the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, also for Best Novel; he was accorded the accolade of Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America. He's also won three Hugo awards as editor of the best magazine. He edited the groundbreaking Star Science Fiction series of original-story anthologies. He and his wife, educator and political activist Elizabeth Anne Hull, live in Palatine, Illinois.
Read an Excerpt
We were actually on our way home when it happened. We didn't have any doubt that that was where we were going, and we were, boy, ready. We had been months and months in the captivity of a weird alien creature from another world, the one we called Dopey. He was alien, all right. He looked sort of like a large chicken with a kitten's face and a peacock's tail, and he had kidnapped the lot of ussnatched us right out of the old Starlab astronomical satellite and thrown us into some kind of space-traveling machine that whisked us from here to some unbelievably distant there in no time at all. And there was where Dopey kept us, in one damn miserably uncomfortable prison or another, on this unpleasant planet we had never heard of before.
That was a truly nasty experience, but, the way it looked to us at the time, it was over! Against the odds, we had escaped! Our chance to get away came when some rival gang of nonhumans, these ones called the "Horch," invaded our prison planet. In the confusion we fought our way to the matter-transmitter thing, and jumped in, and were on our way home. I was the last to climb into the machine.…
And I saw the pale lavender flash that meant it was working.…
And I came our again.…
But I wasn't home at all. The place I was in didn't look at all like Starlab. A pair of those silvery-spidery Horch wheeled fighting machines that had been trying to kill us were standing there, not half a dozen meters away. This time they weren't shooting at me, though. If they had been, I couldn't have shot back, because something I couldn't see grabbed me behindno, enveloped
me, in an all-points hug that didn't let me move a muscleas I heard the machine's door open again.
Dopey spilled out on top of me, plume all ruffled, little cat eyes glaring around in terror. He took one look at the machines and began to shake. Something hard and painful was pressing behind my right ear. I managed to yell a question at Dopey; and just before the lights went out he sobbed in answer: "Agent Dannerman, we are in the hands of the Horch."
And that was the nastiest, the very nastiest, moment of all.
Copyright © 1996 by Frederik Pohl
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