His name—at the moment—is Conrad Nomikos, and the Earth he calls home is an insignificant member of a vast galactive civilization. An Earth still struggling to overcome the effects of the Three Days of nuclear war that destroyed much of the planet. An Earth that feels itself trivialized by the dominant Vegans who, never before having seen a completely devastated world, are so fascinated by the place that they've made it a prime tourist attraction.
Conrad has seen it all—literally. Owning to a radiation-induced mutation, he has lived for centuries, and there's every possibility that he'll live for centuries more. He is, at present, Commissioner of the Department of Arts, Monuments and Archives, and in this capacity he has been co-opted to guide one Cort Myshtigo, a visiting Vegan journalist, on a global tour.
Like so many of his people, Myshtigo is arrogant and condescending, but that's the least of Conrad's problems. For he soon realizes that there's a plot afoot to kill the Vegan. And, to keep Conrad from getting in the way, the plotters are quite willing to kill him, too.
Will Earth's interests be better served by Myshtigo's survival or his death? That is the question. An in either case, what can Conrad do about it?Ace - Nov 1982 - 10th Printing
Call Me Conrad... This time around
Rumors abound, but the records that should tell the truth about the man called Conrad Nimikos are mysteriously incomplete. Some say that he once had a different name—that he is the hero who fought the Vegan empire to a standoff. Some even whisper that he has had other names, through time out of mind. But for the moment he is Canrad Nimikos, Commissioner of the Earthoffice Department of Arts, Monuments, and Archives, and incidentally the one man who may have a chance to spare the now-helpless Earth a return engagement with the Vegans...Ace - 1966
The life history of Conrad Nimikos was an enigma that faded out in lost records and obscurity a few decades back. Some said he had once had a different name, that of the man who had fought the Vegan empire to a standoff. Some even said that he had other names, stretching back through the centuries...
But this was no time to talk about the past; the future was at stake. For the Vegans were returning on a mission of conquest—and soon the place of Earth among the stars would be decided.
"What do you see?"
"A pretty white flower. That's why I picked it and put it in my hair.
"But it is not a pretty white flower. Not to me, anyhow. Your eyes perceive light with wavelenghts between about 4000 and 7200 angstrom units. The eyes of a Vegan look deeper into the ultraviolet, for one thing, down to around 3000. We are blind to what you refer to as "'red,' but in this 'white' flower I see two colors for which there are no words in your language. My body is covered with patterns you cannot see, but they are close enough to those of the others in my family so that another Vegan, familiar with the Shtigogens, could tell my family and province on our first meeting. Some of our paintings look garish to Earth eyes, or even seem to be all of one color—blue, usually—because the subtleties are invisible to them. Much of our music would seem to you to contain big gaps of silence, gaps which are actually filled with melody. Our cities are clean and logically disposed. They catch the light of day and hold it long into the night. They are places of slow movement, pleasant sounds. This means much to me, but I do not know how to describe it to a—human."
He is a cultured man, the ambassador from Vega. Yet he must die, to preserve the sovreignty of Earth—or so Conrad Nikomos has been told. The truth is less simple.Ace - 1966
As we climbed to the top of the hill Rameses Smith said, "Behold!"
Hasan the Assassin grunted. Red Wig turned toward me quickly, then turned away; I couldn't read her expression. Cort Myshtigo, the Vegan tourist-who-was-not-really-just-a-tourist, asked, "What are they doing?"
"Why, they're dismantling the great pyramid of Cheop," I said. "They're short on building materials here, the stuff from Old Cairo being radioactive—so they're obtaining it by knocking apart the pyramid."
"They are desecrating a monument to the past glories of the human race!" Red Wig exclaimed.
"Nothing is cheaper than past glories," I observed. "It's the present that we're concerned with, and Earth is an impoverished planet."
But Earth's situation was even more serious than that. Earth was facing the challenge of destruction from the stars—from Vega, whose ambassador stood beside me, staring enigmatically at the cannibalization of a planet. And I hadn't yet decided whether or not to kill him.
The Hugo winning novel