Conspiracy seems to be as much a part of our times as it
was in the times of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. Hence it finds
frequent reflection in all branches of fiction, including science
fiction. Yet, as in life, something new has been added, the most
gigantic conspiracy of all, the human conspiracy against conspirators.
Which makes for a fine stirring story in this short novel of the
future by Mr. Anderson, one of our best young authors.
by ... Poul Anderson
One man stood between a power-hungry cabal
mastery—but a man of unusual talents.
The Mermaid Tavern had been elaborately decorated. Great blocks of
hewn coral for pillars and booths, tarpon and barracuda on the walls,
murals of Neptune and his court—including an outsize animated picture
of a mermaid ballet, quite an eye-catcher. But the broad quartz
windows showed merely a shifting greenish-blue of seawater, and the
only live fish visible were in an aquarium across from the bar.
Pacific Colony lacked the grotesque loveliness of the Florida and Cuba
settlements. Here they were somehow a working city, even in their
The sensitive man paused for a moment in the foyer, sweeping the big
circular room with a hurried glance. Less than half the tables were
filled. This was an hour of interregnum, while the twelve to eighteen
hundred shift was still at work and the others had long finished their
more expensive amusements. There would always be a few around, of
course—Dalgetty typed them as he watched.
A party of engineers, probably arguing about the compression strength
of the latest submarine tank to judge from the bored expressions of
the three or four rec girls who had joined them. A biochemist, who
seemed to have forgotten his plankton and seaweed for the time being
and to have focussed his mind on the pretty young clerk with him. A
couple of hard-handed caissoniers, settling down to some serious
A maintenance man, a computerman, a tank pilot, a diver, a sea
rancher, a bevy of stenographers, a bunch of very obvious tourists,
more chemists and metallurgists—the sensitive man dismissed them all.
There were others he couldn't classify with any decent probability but
after a second's hesitation he decided to ignore them too. That left
only the group with Thomas Bancroft.
They were sitting in one of the coral grottos, a cave of darkness to
ordinary vision. Dalgetty had to squint to see in and the muted light
of the tavern was a harsh glare when his pupils were so distended.
But, yes—it was Bancroft all right and there was an empty booth
Dalgetty relaxed his eyes to normal perception. Even in the short
moment of dilation the fluoros had given him a headache. He blocked it
off from consciousness and started across the floor.
A hostess stopped him with a touch on the arm as he was about to enter
the vacant cavern. She was young, an iridescent mantrap in her brief
uniform. With all the money flowing into Pacific Colony they could
afford decorative help here.
"I'm sorry, sir," she said. "Those are kept for parties. Would you
like a table?"
"I'm a party," he answered, "or can soon become one." He moved aside a
trifle so that none of the Bancroft group should happen to look out
and see him. "If you could arrange some company for me...." He fumbled
out a C-note, wondering just how such things could be done gracefully.
"Why, of course, sir." She took it with a smoothness he envied and
handed him a stunning smile in return. "Just make yourself
Dalgetty stepped into the grotto with a fast movement. This wasn't
going to be simple. The rough red walls closed in on top of him,
forming a space big enough for twenty people or so. A few
strategically placed fluoros gave an eerie undersea light, just enough
to see by—but no one could look in. A heavy curtain could be drawn if
one wanted to be absolutely secluded. Privacy—uh-huh!
He sat down at the driftwood table and leaned back against the coral.
Closing his eyes he made an effort of will. His nerves were already
keyed up to such a tautness that it seemed they must break and it took
only seconds to twist his mind along the paths required.
The noise of the tavern rose from a tiny mumble to a clattering surf,
to a huge and saw-edged wave. Voices dinned in his head, shrill and
deep, hard and soft, a senseless stream of talking, jumbled together
into words, words, words. Somebody dropped a glass and it was like a
bomb going off.
Dalgetty winced, straining his ear against the grotto side. Surely
enough of their speech would come to him, even through all that rock!
The noise level was high but the human mind, if trained in
concentration, is an efficient filter. The outside racket receded from
Dalgetty's awareness and slowly he gathered in the trickle of sound.
First man: "—no matter. What can they do?"
Second man: "Complain to the government. Do you want the FBI on our
trail? I don't."
First man: "Take it easy. They haven't yet done so and it's been a
good week now since—"
Second man: "How do you know they haven't?"
Third man—heavy, authoritative voice. Yes, Dalgetty remembered it now
from TV speeches—it was Bancroft himself: "I know. I've got enough
connections to be sure of that."
Second man: "Okay, so they haven't reported it. But why not?"
Bancroft: "You know why. They don't want the government mixing into
this any more than we do."
Woman: "Well, then, are they just going to sit and take it? No,
they'll find some way to—"
"HELLO, THERE, MISTER!!!"
Dalgetty jumped and whirled around. His heart began to race, until he
felt his ribs tremble and he cursed his own tension.
"WHY, WHAT'S THE MATTER, MISTER? YOU LOOK—"
Effort again, forcing the volume down, grasping the thunderous heart
in fingers of command and dragging it toward rest. He focussed his
eyes on the girl who had entered. It was the rec girl, the one he had
asked for because he had to sit in this booth.
Her voice was speaking on an endurable level now. Another pretty
little bit of fluff. He smiled shakily. "Sit down, sweet. I'm sorry.
My nerves are shot. What'll you have?"
"A daiquiri, please." She smiled and placed herself beside him. He
dialed on the dispenser—the cocktail for her, a scotch and soda for
"You're new here," she said. "Have you just been hired or are you a
visitor?" Again the smile. "My name's Glenna."
"Call me Joe," said Dalgetty. His first name was actually Simon. "No,
I'll only be here a short while."
"Where you from?" she asked. "I'm clear from New Jersey myself."
"Proving that nobody is ever born in California." He grinned. The
control was asserting itself, his racing emotions were checked and he
could think clearly again. "I'm—uh—just a floater. Don't have any
real address right now."
The dispenser ejected the drinks on a tray and flashed the
charge—$20. Not bad, considering everything. He gave the machine a
fifty and it made change, a five-buck coin and a bill.
"Well," said Glenna, "here's to you."
"And you." He touched glasses, wondering how to say what he had to
say. Damn it, he couldn't sit here just talking or necking, he'd come
to listen but.... A sardonic montage of all the detective shows he had
ever seen winked through his mind. The amateur who rushes in and
solves the case, heigh-ho. He had never appreciated all the detail
involved till now.
There was hesitation in him. He decided that a straightforward
approach was his best bet. Deliberately then he created a cool
confidence. Subconsciously he feared this girl, alien as she was to
his class. All right, force the reaction to the surface, recognize it,
suppress it. Under the table his hands moved in the intricate symbolic
pattern which aided such emotion-harnessing.
"Glenna," he said, "I'm afraid I'll be rather dull company. The fact
is I'm doing some research in psychology, learning how to concentrate
under different conditions. I wanted to try it in a place like this,
you understand." He slipped out a 2-C bill and laid it before her. "If
you'd just sit here quietly it won't be for more than an hour I
"Huh?" Her brows lifted. Then, with a shrug and a wry smile, "Okay,
you're paying for it." She took a cigarette from the flat case at her
sash, lit it and relaxed. Dalgetty leaned against the wall and closed
his eyes again.
The girl watched him curiously. He was of medium height, stockily
built, inconspicuously dressed in a blue short-sleeved tunic, gray
slacks and sandals. His square snub-nosed face was lightly freckled,
with hazel eyes and a rather pleasant shy smile. The rusty hair was
close-cropped. A young man, she guessed, about twenty-five, quite
ordinary and uninteresting except for the wrestler's muscles and, of
course, his behavior.
Oh, well, it took all kinds.
Dalgetty had a moment of worry. Not because the yarn he had handed her
was thin but because it brushed too close to the truth. He thrust the
unsureness out of him. Chances were she hadn't understood any of it,
wouldn't even mention it. At least not to the people he was hunting.
Or who were hunting him?
Concentration, and the voices slowly came again: "—maybe. But I think
they'll be more stubborn than that."
Bancroft: "Yes. The issues are too large for a few lives to matter.
Still, Michael Tighe is only human. He'll talk."
The woman: "He can be made to talk, you mean?" She had one of the
coldest voices Dalgetty had ever heard.
Bancroft: "Yes. Though I hate to use extreme measures."
Man: "What other possibilities have we got? He won't say anything
unless he's forced to. And meanwhile his people will be scouring the
planet to find him. They're a shrewd bunch."
Bancroft, sardonically: "What can they do, please? It takes more than
an amateur to locate a missing man. It calls for all the resources of
a large police organization. And the last thing they want, as I've
said before, is to bring the government in on this."
The woman: "I'm not so sure of that, Tom. After all, the Institute is
a legal group. It's government sponsored and its influence is
something tremendous. Its graduates—"
Bancroft: "It educates a dozen different kinds of psychotechnicians,
yes. It does research. It gives advice. It publishes findings and
theories. But believe me the Psychotechnic Institute is like an
iceberg. Its real nature and purpose are hidden way under water. No,
it isn't doing anything illegal that I know of. Its aims are so large
that they transcend law altogether."
Man: "What aims?"
Bancroft: "I wish I knew. We've only got hints and guesses, you know.
One of the reasons we've snatched Tighe is to find out more. I suspect
that their real work requires secrecy."
The woman, thoughtfully: "Y-y-yes, I can see how that might be. If the
world at large were aware of being—manipulated—then manipulation
might become impossible. But just where does Tighe's group want to
Bancroft: "I don't know, I tell you. I'm not even sure that they do
want to—take over. Something even bigger than that." A sigh. "Let's
face it, Tighe is a crusader too. In his own way he's a very sincere
idealist. He just happens to have the wrong ideals. That's one reason
why I'd hate to see him harmed."
Man: "But if it turns out that we've got to—"
Bancroft: "Why, then we've got to, that's all. But I won't enjoy it."
Man: "Okay, you're the leader, you say when. But I warn you not to
wait too long. I tell you the Institute is more than a collection of
unworldly scientists. They've got someone out searching for Tighe
and if they should locate him there could be real trouble."
Bancroft, mildly: "Well, these are troubled times, or will be shortly.
We might as well get used to that."
The conversation drifted away into idle chatter. Dalgetty groaned to
himself. Not once had they spoken of the place where their prisoner
All right, little man, what next? Thomas Bancroft was big game. His
law firm was famous. He had been in Congress and the Cabinet. Even
with the Labor Party in power he was a respected elder statesman. He
had friends in government, business, unions, guilds and clubs and
leagues from Maine to Hawaii. He had only to say the word and
Dalgetty's teeth would be kicked in some dark night. Or, if he proved
squeamish, Dalgetty might find himself arrested on a charge like
conspiracy and tied up in court for the next six months.
By listening in he had confirmed the suspicion of Ulrich at the
Institute that Thomas Bancroft was Tighe's kidnapper—but that was no
help. If he went to the police with that story they would (a) laugh,
long and loud—(b) lock him up for psychiatric investigation—(c)
worst of all, pass the story on to Bancroft, who would thereby know
what the Institute's children could do and would take appropriate
Of course, this was just the beginning. The trail was long. But time
was hideously short before they began turning Tighe's brain inside
out. And there were wolves along the trail.
For a shivering instant, Simon Dalgetty realized what he had let
himself in for.
It seemed like forever before the Bancroft crowd left. Dalgetty's eyes
followed them out of the bar—four men and the woman. They were all
quiet, mannerly, distinguished-looking, in rich dark slack suits. Even
the hulking bodyguard was probably a college graduate, Third Class.
You wouldn't take them for murderers and kidnappers and the servants
of those who would bring back political gangsterism. But then,
reflected Dalgetty, they probably didn't think of themselves in that
The enemy—the old and protean enemy, who had been fought down as
Fascist, Nazi, Shintoist, Communist, Atomist, Americanist and God knew
what else for a bloody century—had grown craftier with time. Now he
could fool even himself.
Dalgetty's senses went back to normal. It was a sudden immense relief
to be merely sitting in a dimly-lit booth with a pretty girl, to be no
more than human for a while. But his sense of mission was still dark
"Sorry I was so long," he said. "Have another drink."
"I just had one." She smiled.
He noticed the $10-figure glowing on the dispenser and fed it two
coins. Then, his nerves still vibrating, he dialed another whiskey for
"You know those people in the next grotto?" asked Glenna. "I saw you
watching them leave."
"Well, I know Mr. Bancroft by reputation," he said. "He lives here,
"He's got a place over on Gull Station," she said, "but he's not here
very much, mostly on the mainland, I guess."
Dalgetty nodded. He had come to Pacific Colony two days before, had
been hanging around in the hope of getting close enough to Bancroft to
pick up a clue. Now he had done so and his findings were worth little.
He had merely confirmed what the Institute already considered highly
probable without getting any new information.
He needed to think over his next move. He drained his drink. "I'd
better jet off," he said.
"We can have dinner in here if you want," said Glenna.
"Thanks, I'm not hungry." That was true enough. The nervous tension
incidental to the use of his powers raised the devil with appetite.
Nor could he be too lavish with his funds. "Maybe later."
"Okay, Joe, I might be seeing you." She smiled. "You're a funny one.
But kind of nice." Her lips brushed his and then she got up and left.
Dalgetty went out the door and punched for a top-side elevator.
It took him past many levels. The tavern was under the station's
caissons near the main anchor cable, looking out into deep water.
Above it were store-houses, machine rooms, kitchens, all the
paraphernalia of modern existence. He stepped out of a kiosk onto an
upper deck, thirty feet above the surface. Nobody else was there and
he walked over to the railing and leaned on it, looking across the
water and savoring loneliness.
Below him the tiers dropped away to the main deck, flowing lines and
curves, broad sheets of clear plastic, animated signs, the grass and
flowerbeds of a small park, people walking swiftly or idly. The huge
gyro-stabilized bulk did not move noticeably to the long Pacific
swell. Pelican Station was the colony's "downtown," its shops and
theaters and restaurants, service and entertainment.
Around it the water was indigo blue in the evening light, streaked
with arabesques of foam, and he could hear waves rumble against the
sheer walls. Overhead the sky was tall with a few clouds in the west
turning aureate. The hovering gulls seemed cast in gold. A haziness in
the darkened east betokened the southern California coastline. He
breathed deeply, letting nerves and muscles and viscera relax,
shutting off his mind and turning for a while into an organism that
merely lived and was glad to live.
Dalgetty's view in all directions was cut off by the other stations,
the rising streamlined hulks which were Pacific Colony. A few airy
flex-strung bridges had been completed to link them, but there was
still an extensive boat traffic. To the south he could see a blackness
on the water that was a sea ranch. His trained memory told him, in
answer to a fleeting question, that according to the latest figures
eighteen-point-three percent of the world's food supply was now being
derived from modified strains of seaweed. The percentage would
increase rapidly, he knew.
Elsewhere were mineral-extracting plants, fishery bases, experimental
and pure-research stations. Below the floating city, digging into the
continental shelf, was the underwater settlement—oil wells to
supplement the industrial synthesizing process, mining, exploration in
tanks to find new resources, a slow growth outward as men learned how
to go deeper into cold and darkness and pressure. It was expensive but
an over-crowded world had little choice.
Venus was already visible, low and pure on the dusking horizon.
Dalgetty breathed the wet pungent sea-air into his lungs and thought
with some pity of the men out there—and on the Moon, on Mars, between
worlds. They were doing a huge and heart-breaking job—but he wondered
if it were bigger and more meaningful than this work here in Earth's
Or a few pages of scribbled equations, tossed into a desk drawer at
the Institute. Enough. Dalgetty brought his mind to heel like a
harshly trained dog. He was also here to work.
The forces he must encounter seemed monstrous. He was one man, alone
against he knew not what kind of organization. He had to rescue one
other man before—well, before history was changed and spun off on the
wrong course, the long downward path. He had his knowledge and
abilities but they wouldn't stop a bullet. Nor did they include
education for this kind of warfare. War that was not war, politics
that were not politics but a handful of scrawled equations and a
bookful of slowly gathered data and a brainful of dreams.
Bancroft had Tighe—somewhere. The Institute could not ask the
government for help, even if to a large degree the Institute was the
government. It could, perhaps, send Dalgetty a few men but it had no
goon squads. And time was like a hound on his heels.
The sensitive man turned, suddenly aware of someone else. This was a
middle-aged fellow, gaunt and gray-haired, with an intellectual cast
of feature. He leaned on the rail and said quietly, "Nice evening,
"Yes," said Dalgetty. "Very nice."
"It gives me a feeling of real accomplishment, this place," said the
"How so?" asked Dalgetty, not unwilling to make conversation.
The man looked out over the sea and spoke softly as if to himself.
"I'm fifty years old. I was born during World War Three and grew up
with the famines and the mass insanities that followed. I saw
fighting myself in Asia. I worried about a senselessly expanding
population pressing on senselessly diminished resources. I saw an
America that seemed equally divided between decadence and madness.
"And yet I can stand now and watch a world where we've got a
functioning United Nations, where population increase is leveling off
and democratic government spreading to country after country, where
we're conquering the seas and even going out to other planets. Things
have changed since I was a boy but on the whole it's been for the
"Ah," said Dalgetty, "a kindred spirit. Though I'm afraid it's not
quite that simple."
The man arched his brows. "So you vote conservative?"
"The Labor Party is conservative," said Dalgetty. "As proof of which
it's in coalition with the Republicans and the Neofederalists as well
as some splinter groups. No, I don't care if it stays in, or if the
Conservatives prosper or the Liberals take over. The question is—who
shall control the group in power?"
"Its membership, I suppose," said the man.
"But just who is its membership? You know as well as I do that the
great failing of the American people has always been their lack of
interest in politics."
"What? Why, they vote, don't they? What was the last percentage?"
"Eight-eight-point-three-seven. Sure they vote—once the ticket has
been presented to them. But how many of them have anything to do with
nominating the candidates or writing the platforms? How many will
actually take time out to work at it—or even to write their
Congressmen? 'Ward heeler' is still a term of contempt.
"All too often in our history the vote has been simply a matter of
choosing between two well-oiled machines. A sufficiently clever and
determined group can take over a party, keep the name and the slogans
and in a few years do a complete behind-the-scenes volte-face."
Dalgetty's words came fast, this was one facet of a task to which he
had given his life.
"Two machines," said the stranger, "or four or five as we've got now,
are at least better than one."
"Not if the same crowd controls all of them," Dalgetty said grimly.
"'If you can't lick 'em, join 'em.' Better yet, join all sides. Then
you can't lose."
"I don't think that's happened yet," said the man.
"No it hasn't," said Dalgetty, "not in the United States, though in
some other countries—never mind. It's still in process of happening,
that's all. The lines today are drawn not by nations or parties, but
by—philosophies, if you wish. Two views of man's destiny, cutting
across all national, political, racial and religious lines."
"And what are those two views?" asked the stranger quietly.
"You might call them libertarian and totalitarian, though the latter
don't necessarily think of themselves as such. The peak of rampant
individualism was reached in the nineteenth century, legally speaking.
Though in point of fact social pressure and custom were more
strait-jacketing than most people today realize.
"In the twentieth century that social rigidity—in manners, morals,
habits of thought—broke down. The emancipation of women, for
instance, or the easy divorce or the laws about privacy. But at the
same time legal control began tightening up again. Government took
over more and more functions, taxes got steeper, the individual's life
got more and more bound by regulations saying 'thou shalt' and 'thou
"Well, it looks as if war is going out as an institution. That takes
off a lot of pressure. Such hampering restrictions as conscription to
fight or work, or rationing, have been removed. What we're slowly
attaining is a society where the individual has maximum freedom, both
from law and custom. It's perhaps farthest advanced in America,
Canada, and Brazil, but it's growing the world over.
"But there are elements which don't like the consequences of genuine
libertarianism. And the new science of human behavior, mass and
individual, is achieving rigorous formulation. It's becoming the most
powerful tool man has ever had—for whoever controls the human mind
will also control all that man can do. That science can be used by
anyone, mind you. If you'll read between the lines you'll see what a
hidden struggle is shaping up for control of it as soon as it reaches
maturity and empirical useability."
"Ah, yes," said the man. "The Psychotechnic Institute."
Dalgetty nodded, wondering why he had jumped into such a lecture.
Well, the more people who had some idea of the truth the
better—though it wouldn't do for them to know the whole truth either.
"The Institute trains so many for governmental posts and does so much
advisory work," said the man, "that sometimes it looks almost as if it
were quietly taking over the whole show."
Dalgetty shivered a little in the sunset breeze and wished he'd
brought his cloak. He thought wearily, Here it is again. Here is the
story they are spreading, not in blatant accusations, not all at once,
but slowly and subtly, a whisper here, a hint there, a slanted news
story, a supposedly dispassionate article.... Oh, yes, they know their
"Too many people fear such an outcome," he declared. "It just isn't
true. The Institute is a private research organization with a Federal
grant. Its records are open to anyone."
"All the records?" The man's face was vague in the gathering twilight.
Dalgetty thought he could make out a skeptically lifted brow. He
didn't reply directly but said, "There's a foggy notion in the public
mind that a group equipped with a complete science of man—which the
Institute hasn't got by a long shot—could 'take over' at once and, by
manipulations of some unspecified but frightfully subtle sort, rule
the world. The theory is that if you know just what buttons to push
and so on, men will do precisely as you wish without knowing that
they're being guided. The theory happens to be pure jetwash."
"Oh, I don't know," said the man. "In general terms it sounds pretty
Dalgetty shook his head. "Suppose I were an engineer," he said, "and
suppose I saw an avalanche coming down on me. I might know exactly
what to do to stop it—where to plant my dynamite, where to build my
concrete wall and so on. Only the knowledge wouldn't help me. I'd have
neither the time nor the strength to use it.
"The situation is similar with regard to human dynamics, both mass and
individual. It takes months or years to change a man's convictions and
when you have hundreds of millions of men...." He shrugged. "Social
currents are too large for all but the slightest, most gradual
control. In fact perhaps the most valuable results obtained to date
are not those which show what can be done but what cannot."
"You speak with the voice of authority," said the man.
"I'm a psychologist," said Dalgetty truthfully enough. He didn't add
that he was also a subject, observer and guinea pig in one. "And I'm
afraid I talk too much. Go from bad to voice."
"Ouch," said the man. He leaned his back against the rail and his
shadowy hand extended a pack. "Smoke?"
"No, thanks, I don't."
"You're a rarity." The brief lighter-flare etched the stranger's face
against the dusk.
"I've found other ways of relaxing."
"Good for you. By the way I'm a professor myself. English Litt at
"Afraid I'm rather a roughneck in that respect," said Dalgetty. For a
moment he had a sense of loss. His thought processes had become too
far removed from the ordinary human for him to find much in fiction or
poetry. But music, sculpture, painting—there was something else. He
looked over the broad glimmering water, at the stations dark against
the first stars, and savored the many symmetries and harmonies with a
real pleasure. You needed senses like his before you could know what a
lovely world this was.
"I'm on vacation now," said the man. Dalgetty did not reply in kind.
After a moment—"You are too, I suppose?"
Dalgetty felt a slight shock. A personal question from a
stranger—well, you didn't expect otherwise from someone like the girl
Glenna but a professor should be better conditioned to privacy
"Yes," he said shortly. "Just visiting."
"By the way, my name is Tyler, Harmon Tyler."
"Joe Thomson." Dalgetty shook hands with him.
"We might continue our conversation if you're going to be around for
awhile," said Tyler. "You raised some interesting points."
Dalgetty considered. It would be worthwhile staying as long as
Bancroft did, in the hope of learning some more. "I may be here a
couple of days yet," he said.
"Good," said Tyler. He looked up at the sky. It was beginning to fill
with stars. The deck was still empty. It ran around the dim
upthrusting bulk of a weather-observation tower which was turned over
to its automatics for the night and there was no one else to be seen.
A few fluoros cast wan puddles of luminance on the plastic flooring.
Glancing at his watch, Tyler said casually, "It's about
nineteen-thirty hours now. If you don't mind waiting till twenty
hundred I can show you something interesting."
"Ah, you'll be surprised." Tyler chuckled. "Not many people know about
it. Now, getting back to that point you raised earlier...."
The half hour passed swiftly. Dalgetty did most of the talking.
"—and mass action. Look, to a rather crude first approximation a
state of semantic equilibrium on a world-wide scale, which of course
has never existed, would be represented by an equation of the form—"
"Excuse me." Tyler consulted the shining dial again. "If you don't
mind stopping for a few minutes I'll show you that odd sight I was
"Eh? Oh-oh, sure."
Tyler threw away his cigarette. It was a tiny meteor in the gloom. He
took Dalgetty's arm. They walked slowly around the weather tower.
The men came from the opposite side and met them halfway. Dalgetty had
hardly seen them before he felt the sting in his chest.
A needle gun!
The world roared about him. He took a step forward, trying to scream,
but his throat locked. The deck lifted up and hit him and his mind
whirled toward darkness.
From somewhere will rose within him, trained reflexes worked, he
summoned all that was left of his draining strength and fought the
anesthetic. His wrestling with it was a groping in fog. Again and
again he spiraled into unconsciousness and rose strangling. Dimly,
through nightmare, he was aware of being carried. Once someone stopped
the group in a corridor and asked what was wrong. The answer seemed to
come from immensely far away. "I dunno. He passed out—just like that.
We're taking him to a doctor."
There was a century spent going down some elevator. The boat-house
walls trembled liquidly around him. He was carried aboard a large
vessel, it was not visible through the gray mist. Some dulled portion
of himself thought that this was obviously a private boat-house, since
no one was trying to stop—trying to stop—trying to stop....
Then the night came.
He woke slowly, with a dry retch, and blinked his eyes open. Noise of
air, he was flying, it must have been a triphibian they took him onto.
He tried to force recovery but his mind was still too paralyzed.
"Here. Drink this."
Dalgetty took the glass and gulped thirstily. It was coolness and
steadiness spreading through him. The vibratto within him faded, and
the headache dulled enough to be endurable. Slowly he looked around,
and felt the first crawl of panic.
No! He suppressed the emotion with an almost physical thrust. Now
was the time for calm and quick wit and—
A big man near him nodded and stuck his head out the door. "He's okay
now, I guess," he called. "Want to talk to him?"
Dalgetty's eyes roved the compartment. It was a rear cabin in a large
airboat, luxuriously furnished with reclining seats and an inlaid
table. A broad window looked out on the stairs.
Caught! It was pure bitterness, an impotent rage at himself. Walked
right into their arms!
Tyler came into the room, followed by a pair of burly stone-faced men.
He smiled. "Sorry," he murmured, "but you're playing out of your
league, you know."
"Yeah." Dalgetty shook his head. Wryness twisted his mouth. "I don't
league it much either."
Tyler grinned. It was a sympathetic expression. "You punsters are
incurable," he said. "I'm glad you're taking it so well. We don't
intend any harm to you."
Skepticism was dark in Dalgetty but he managed to relax. "How'd you
get onto me?" he asked.
"Oh, various ways. You were pretty clumsy, I'm afraid." Tyler sat down
across the table. The guards remained standing. "We were sure the
Institute would attempt a counterblow and we've studied it and its
personnel thoroughly. You were recognized, Dalgetty—and you're known
to be very close to Tighe. So you walked after us without even a
"At any rate, you were noticed hanging around the colony. We checked
back on your movements. One of the rec girls had some interesting
things to tell of you. We decided you'd better be questioned. I
sounded you out as much as a casual acquaintance could and then took
you to the rendezvous." Tyler spread his hands. "That's all."
Dalgetty sighed and his shoulders slumped under a sudden enormous
burden of discouragement. Yes, they were right. He was out of his
orbit. "Well," he said, "what now?"
"Now we have you and Tighe," said the other. He took out a
cigarette. "I hope you're somewhat more willing to talk than he is."
"Suppose I'm not?"
"Understand this." Tyler frowned. "There are reasons for going slow
with Tighe. He has hostage value, for one thing. But you're nobody.
And while we aren't monsters I for one have little sympathy to spare
for your kind of fanatic."
"Now there," said Dalgetty with a lift of sardonicism, "is an
interesting example of semantic evolution. This being, on the whole,
an easy-going tolerant period, the word 'fanatic' has come to be
simply an epithet—a fellow on the other side."
"That will do," snapped Tyler. "You won't be allowed to stall. There
are questions we want answered." He ticked the points off on his
fingers. "What are the Institute's ultimate aims? How is it going
about attaining them? How far has it gotten? Precisely what has it
learned, in a scientific way, that it hasn't published? How much does
it know about us?" He smiled thinly. "You've always been close to
Tighe. He raised you, didn't he? You should know just as much as he."
Yes, thought Dalgetty, Tighe raised me. He was all the father I
ever had, really. I was an orphan and he took me in and he was good.
Sharp in his mind rose the image of the old house. It had lain on
broad wooded grounds in the fair hills of Maine, with a little river
running down to a bay winged with sailboats. There had been
neighbors—quiet-spoken folk with something more real about them than
most of today's rootless world knew. And there had been many
visitors—men and women with minds like flickering sword-blades.
He had grown up among intellects aimed at the future. He and Tighe had
traveled a lot. They had often been in the huge pylon of the main
Institute building. They had gone over to Tighe's native England once
a year at least. But always the old house had been dear to them.
It stood on a ridge, long and low and weathered gray like a part of
the earth. By day it had rested in a green sun-dazzle of trees or a
glistering purity of snow. By night you heard the boards creaking and
the lonesome sound of wind talking down the chimney. Yes, it had been
And there had been the wonder of it. He loved his training. The
horizonless world within himself was a glorious thing to explore. And
that had oriented him outward to the real world—he had felt wind and
rain and sunlight, the pride of high buildings and the surge of a
galloping horse, thresh of waves and laughter of women and smooth
mysterious purr of great machines, with a fullness that made him pity
those deaf and dumb and blind around him.
Oh yes, he loved those things. He was in love with the whole turning
planet and the big skies overhead. It was a world of light and
strength and swift winds and it would be bitter to leave it. But Tighe
was locked in darkness.
He said slowly, "All we ever were was a research and educational
center, a sort of informal university specializing in the scientific
study of man. We're not any kind of political organization. You'd be
surprised how much we differ in our individual opinions."
"What of it?" shrugged Tyler. "This is something larger than politics.
Your work, if fully developed, would change our whole society, perhaps
the whole nature of man. We know you've learned more things than
you've made public. Therefore you're reserving that information for
uses of your own."
"And you want it for your purposes?"
"Yes," said Tyler. After a moment, "I despise melodrama but if you
don't cooperate you're going to get the works. And we've got Tighe
too, never forget that. One of you ought to break down if he watches
the other being questioned."
We're going to the same place! We're going to Tighe!
The effort to hold face and voice steady was monstrous. "Just where
are we bound?"
"An island. We should be there soon. I'll be going back again myself
but Mr. Bancroft is coming shortly. That should convince you just how
important this is to us."
Dalgetty nodded. "Can I think it over for awhile? It isn't an easy
decision for me."
"Sure. I hope you decide right."
Tyler got up and left with his guards. The big man who had handed him
the drink earlier sat where he had been all the time. Slowly the
psychologist began to tighten himself. The faint drone of turbines and
whistle of jets and sundered air began to enlarge.
"Where are we going?" he asked.
"CAN'T TELL YOU THAT. SHUDDUP, WILL YOU?"
The guard didn't answer. But he was thinking.
Ree-villa-ghee-gay-doe—never would p'rnounce that damn Spig name ...
cripes, what a God-forsaken hole!... Mebbe I can work a trip over to
Mexico.... That little gal in Guada....
Dalgetty concentrated. Revilla—he had it now. Islas de Revillagigedo
a small group some 350 or 400 miles off the Mexican coast, little
visited with very few inhabitants. His eidetic memory went to work,
conjuring an image of a large-scale map he had once studied. Closing
his eyes he laid off the exact distance, latitude and longitude,
Wait, there was one a little further west, a speck on the map, not
properly belonging to the group. And—he riffled through all the facts
he had ever learned pertaining to Bancroft. Wait now, Bertrand Meade,
who seemed to be the kingpin of the whole movement—yes, Meade owned
that tiny island.
So that's where we're going! He sank back, letting weariness overrun
him. It would be awhile yet before they arrived.
Dalgetty sighed and looked out at the stars. Why had men arranged such
clumsy constellations when the total pattern of the sky was a big and
lovely harmony? He knew his personal danger would be enormous once he
was on the ground. Torture, mutilation, even death.
Dalgetty closed his eyes again. Almost at once he was asleep.
They landed on a small field while it was still dark. Hustled out into
a glare of lights Dalgetty did not have much chance to study his
surroundings. There were men standing on guard with magnum rifles,
tough-looking professional goons in loose gray uniforms. Dalgetty
followed obediently across the concrete, along a walk and through a
garden to the looming curved bulk of a house.
He paused just a second as the door opened for them and stood looking
out into darkness. The sea rolled and hissed there on a wide beach. He
caught the clean salt smell of it and filled his lungs. It might be
the last time he ever breathed such air.
"Get along with you." An arm jerked him into motion again.
Down a bare coldly-lit hallway, down an escalator, into the guts of
the island. Another door, a room beyond it, an ungentle shove. The
door clashed to behind him.
Dalgetty looked around. The cell was small, bleakly furnished with
bunk, toilet and washstand, had a ventilator grille in one wall.
Nothing else. He tried listening with maximum sensitivity but there
were only remote confused murmurs.
Dad! he thought. You're here somewhere too.
He flopped on the bunk and spent a moment analyzing the aesthetics of
the layout. It had a certain pleasing severity, the unconscious
balance of complete functionalism. Soon Dalgetty went back to sleep.
A guard with a breakfast tray woke him. Dalgetty tried to read the
man's thoughts but there weren't any to speak of. He ate ravenously
under a gun muzzle, gave the tray back and returned to sleep. It was
the same at lunch time.
His time-sense told him that it was 1435 hours when he was roused
again. There were three men this time, husky specimens. "Come on,"
said one of them. "Never saw such a guy for pounding his ear."
Dalgetty stood up, running a hand through his hair. The red bristles
were scratchy on his palm. It was a cover-up, a substitute symbol to
bring his nervous system back under full control. The process felt as
if he were being tumbled through a huge gulf.
"Just how many of your fellows are there here?" he asked.
"Enough. Now get going!"
He caught the whisper of thought—fifty of us guards, is it? Yeah,
fifty, I guess.
Fifty! Dalgetty felt taut as he walked out between two of them. Fifty
goons. And they were trained, he knew that. The Institute had learned
that Bertrand Meade's private army was well-drilled. Nothing obtrusive
about it—officially they were only servants and bodyguards—but they
knew how to shoot.
And he was alone in mid-ocean with them. He was alone and no one knew
where he was and anything could be done to him. He felt cold, walking
down the corridor.
There was a room beyond with benches and a desk. One of the guards
gestured to a chair at one end. "Sit," he grunted.
Dalgetty submitted. The straps went around his wrists and ankles,
holding him to the arms and legs of the heavy chair. Another buckled
about his waist. He looked down and saw that the chair was bolted to
the floor. One of the guards crossed to the desk and started up a tape
A door opened in the far end of the room. Thomas Bancroft came in. He
was a big man, fleshy but in well-scrubbed health, his clothes
designed with quiet good taste. The head was white-maned, leonine,
with handsome florid features and sharp blue eyes. He smiled ever so
faintly and sat down behind the desk.
The woman was with him—Dalgetty looked harder at her. She was new to
him. She was medium tall, a little on the compact side, her blond hair
cut too short, no makeup on her broad Slavic features. Young, in hard
condition, moving with a firm masculine stride. With those tilted gray
eyes, that delicately curved nose and wide sullen mouth, she could
have been a beauty had she wanted to be.
One of the modern type, thought Dalgetty. A flesh-and-blood
machine, trying to outmale men, frustrated and unhappy without knowing
it and all the more bitter for that.
Briefly there was sorrow in him, an enormous pity for the millions of
mankind. They did not know themselves, they fought themselves like
wild beasts, tied up in knots, locked in nightmare. Man could be so
much if he had the chance.
He glanced at Bancroft. "I know you," he said, "but I'm afraid the
lady has the advantage of me."
"My secretary and general assistant, Miss Casimir." The politician's
voice was sonorous, a beautifully controlled instrument. He leaned
across the desk. The recorder by his elbow whirred in the flat
"Mr. Dalgetty," he said, "I want you to understand that we aren't
fiends. There are things too important for ordinary rules though. Wars
have been fought over them in the past and may well be fought again.
It will be easier for all concerned if you cooperate with us now. No
one need ever know that you have done so."
"Suppose I answer your questions," said Dalgetty. "How do you know
I'll be telling the truth?"
"Neoscopolamine, of course. I don't think you've been immunized. It
confuses the mind too much for us to interrogate you about these
complex matters under its influence but we will surely find out if you
have been answering our present questions correctly."
"And what then? Do you just let me go?"
Bancroft shrugged. "Why shouldn't we? We may have to keep you here for
awhile but soon you will have ceased to matter and can safely be
Dalgetty considered. Not even he could do much against truth drugs.
And there were still more radical procedures, prefrontal lobotomy for
instance. He shivered. The leatherite straps felt damp against his
He looked at Bancroft. "What do you really want?" he asked. "Why are
you working for Bertrand Meade?"
Bancroft's heavy mouth lifted in a smile. "I thought you were supposed
to answer the questions," he said.
"Whether I do or not depends on whose questions they are," said
Dalgetty. Stall for time! Put it off, the moment of terror, put it
off! "Frankly, what I know of Meade doesn't make me friendly. But I
could be wrong."
"Mr. Meade is a distinguished executive."
"Uh-huh. He's also the power behind a hell of a lot of political
figures, including you. He's the real boss of the Actionist movement."
"What do you know of that?" asked the woman sharply.
"It's a complicated story," said Dalgetty, "but essentially Actionism
is a—a Weltanschauung. We're still recovering from the World Wars
and their aftermath. People everywhere are swinging away from great
vague capitalized causes toward a cooler and clearer view of life.
"It's analogous to the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, which also
followed a period of turmoil between conflicting fanaticisms. A belief
in reason is growing up even in the popular mind, a spirit of
moderation and tolerance. There's a wait-and-see attitude toward
everything, including the sciences and particularly the new
half-finished science of psychodynamics. The world wants to rest for
"Well, such a state of mind has its own drawbacks. It produces
wonderful structures of thought but there's something cold about them.
There is so little real passion, so much caution—the arts, for
instance, are becoming ever more stylized. Old symbols like religion
and the sovereign state and a particular form of government, for which
men once died, are openly jeered at. We can formulate the semantic
condition at the Institute in a very neat equation.
"And you don't like it. Your kind of man needs something big. And mere
concrete bigness isn't enough. You could give your lives to the
sciences or to inter-planetary colonization or to social correction,
as many people are cheerfully doing—but those aren't for you. Down
underneath you miss the universal father-image.
"You want an almighty Church or an almighty State or an almighty
anything, a huge misty symbol which demands everything you've got
and gives in return only a feeling of belonging." Dalgetty's voice was
harsh. "In short, you can't stand on your own psychic feet. You can't
face the truth that man is a lonely creature and that his purpose must
come from within himself."
Bancroft scowled. "I didn't come here to be lectured," he said.
"Have it your way," answered Dalgetty. "I thought you wanted to know
what I knew of Actionism. That's it in unprecise verbal language.
Essentially you want to be a Leader in a Cause. Your men, such as
aren't merely hired, want to be Followers. Only there isn't a Cause
around, these days, except the common-sense one of improving human
The woman, Casimir, leaned over the desk. There was a curious
intensity in her eyes. "You just pointed out the drawbacks yourself,"
she said. "This is a decadent period."
"No," said Dalgetty. "Unless you insist on loaded connotations. It's a
necessary period of rest. Recoil time for a whole society—well, it
all works out neatly in Tighe's formulation. The present state of
affairs should continue for about seventy-five years, we feel at the
Institute. In that time, reason can—we hope—be so firmly implanted
in the basic structure of society that when the next great wave of
passion comes it won't turn men against each other.
"The present is, well, analytic. While we catch our breath we can
begin to understand ourselves. When the next synthetic—or creative or
crusading period, if you wish—comes, it will be saner than all which
have gone before. And man can't afford to go insane again. Not in the
same world with the lithium bomb."
Bancroft nodded. "And you in the Institute are trying to control this
process," he said. "You're trying to stretch out the period of—damn
it, of decadence! Oh, I've studied the modern school system too,
Dalgetty. I know how subtly the rising generation is being
indoctrinated—through policies formulated by your men in the
"Indoctrinated? Trained, I would say. Trained in self-restraint and
critical thinking." Dalgetty grinned with one side of his mouth.
"Well, we aren't here to argue generalities. Specifically Meade feels
he has a mission. He is the natural leader of America—ultimately,
through the U.N., in which we are still powerful, the world. He wants
to restore what he calls 'ancestral virtues'—you see, I've listened
to his speeches and yours, Bancroft.
"These virtues consist of obedience, physical and mental, to
'constituted authority'—of 'dynamism,' which operationally speaking
means people ought to jump when he gives an order—of .... Oh, why go
on? It's the old story. Power hunger, the recreation of the Absolute
State, this time on a planetary scale.
"With psychological appeals to some and with promises of reward to
others he's built up quite a following. But he's shrewd enough to know
that he can't just stage a revolution. He has to make people want him.
He has to reverse the social current until it swings back to
authoritarianism—with him riding the crest.
"And that of course is where the Institute comes in. Yes, we have
developed theories which make at least a beginning at explaining the
facts of history. It was a matter not so much of gathering data as of
inventing a rigorous self-correcting symbology and our paramathematics
seems to be just that. We haven't published all of our findings
because of the uses to which they could be put. If you know exactly
how to go about it you can shape world society into almost any image
you want—in fifty years or less! You want that knowledge of ours for
Dalgetty fell silent. There was a long quietness. His own breathing
seemed unnaturally loud.
"All right." Bancroft nodded again, slowly. "You haven't told us
anything we don't know."
"I'm well aware of that," said Dalgetty.
"Your phrasing was rather unfriendly," said Bancroft. "What you don't
appreciate is the revolting stagnation and cynicism of this age."
"Now you're using the loaded words," said Dalgetty. "Facts just are.
There's no use passing moral judgments on reality, the only thing you
can do is try to change it."
"Yes," said Bancroft. "All right then, we're trying. Do you want to
"You could beat the hell out of me," said Dalgetty, "but it wouldn't
teach you a science that it takes years to learn."
"No, but we'd know just what you have and where to find it. We have
some good brains on our side. Given your data and equations they can
figure it out." The pale eyes grew wholly chill. "You don't seem to
appreciate your situation. You're a prisoner, understand?"
Dalgetty braced his muscles. He didn't reply.
Bancroft sighed. "Bring him in," he said.
One of the guards went out. Dalgetty's heart stumbled. Dad, he
thought. It was anguish in him. Casimir walked over to stand in front
of him. Her eyes searched his.
"Don't be a fool," she said. "It hurts worse than you know. Tell us."
He looked up at her. I'm afraid, he thought. God knows I'm afraid.
His own sweat was acrid in his nostrils. "No," he said.
"I tell you they'll do everything!" She had a nice voice, low and
soft, but it roughened now. Her face was colorless with strain. "Go on
man, don't condemn yourself to—mindlessness!"
There was something strange here. Dalgetty's senses began to reach
out. She was leaning close and he knew the signs of horror even if she
tried to hide them. She's not so hard as she makes out—but then why
is she with them?
He threw a bluff. "I know who you are," he said. "Shall I tell your
"No, you don't!" She stepped back, rigid, and his whetted senses
caught the fear-smell. In a moment there was control and she said,
"All right then, have it your way."
And underneath, the thought, slowed by the gluiness of panic, Does he
know I'm FBI?
FBI! He jerked against the straps. Ye gods!
Calmness returned to him as she walked to her chief but his mind
whirred. Yes, why not? Institute men had little connection with the
Federal detectives, who, since the abolition of a discredited
Security, had resumed a broad function. They might easily have become
dubious about Bertrand Meade on their own, have planted operatives
with him. They had women among them too and a woman was always less
conspicuous than a man.
He felt a chill. The last thing he wanted was a Federal agent here.
The door opened again. A quartet of guards brought in Michael Tighe.
The Briton halted, staring before him. "Simon!" It was a harsh
sound, full of pain.
"Have they hurt you, Dad?" asked Dalgetty very gently.
"No, no—not till now." The gray head shook. "But you...."
"Take it easy, Dad," said Dalgetty.
The guards hustled Tighe over to a front-row bench and sat him down.
Old man and young locked eyes across the bare space.
Tighe spoke to him in the hidden way. What are you going to do? I
can't sit and let them—
Dalgetty could not reply unheard but he shook his head. "I'll be
okay," he answered aloud.
Do you think you can make a break? I'll try to help you.
"No," said Dalgetty. "Whatever happens you lie low. That's an order."
He blocked off sensitivity as Bancroft snapped, "Enough. One of you is
going to yield. If Dr. Tighe won't, then we'll work on him and see if
Mr. Dalgetty can hold out."
He waved his hand as he took out a cigar. Two of the goons stepped up
to the chair. They had rubberite hoses in their hands.
The first blow thudded against Dalgetty's ribs. He didn't feel it—he
had thrown up a nerve bloc—but it rattled his teeth together. And
while he was insensitive he'd be unable to listen in on....
Another thud, and another. Dalgetty clenched his fists. What to do,
what to do? He looked over to the desk. Bancroft was smoking and
watching as dispassionately as if it were some mildly interesting
experiment. Casimir had turned her back.
"Something funny here, chief." One of the goons straightened. "I don't
think he's feeling nothing."
"Doped?" Bancroft frowned. "No, that's hardly possible." He rubbed his
chin, regarding Dalgetty with wondering eyes. Casimir wheeled around
to stare. Sweat filmed Michael Tighe's face, glistening in the chill
"He can still be hurt," said the guard.
Bancroft winced. "I don't like outright mutilation," he said. "But
still—I've warned you, Dalgetty."
"Get out, Simon," whispered Tighe. "Get out of here."
Dalgetty's red head lifted. Decision crystalized within him. He would
be no use to anyone with a broken leg, a crushed foot, an eye knocked
out, seared lungs—and Casimir was FBI, she might be able to do
something at this end in spite of all.
He tested the straps. A quarter inch of leatherite—he could snap them
but would he break his bones doing it?
Only one way to find out, he thought bleakly.
"I'll get a blowtorch," said one of the guards in the rear of the
room. His face was wholly impassive. Most of these goons must be
moronic, thought Dalgetty. Most of the guards in the twentieth-century
extermination camps had been. No inconvenient empathy with the human
flesh they broke and flayed and burned.
He gathered himself. This time it was rage, a cloud of fury rising in
his mind, a ragged red haze across his vision. That they would dare!
He snarled as the strength surged up in him. He didn't even feel the
straps as they popped across. The same movement hurtled him across the
room toward the door.
Someone yelled. A guard leaped in his path, a giant of a man.
Dalgetty's fist sprang before him, there was a cracking sound and the
goon's head snapped back against his own spine. Dalgetty was already
past him. The door was shut in his face. Wood crashed as he went
A bullet wailed after him. He dodged down the corridor, up the nearest
steps, the walls blurred with his own speed. Another slug smacked into
the paneling beside him. He rounded a corner, saw a window and covered
his eyes with an arm as he leaped.
The plastic was tough but a hundred and seventy pounds hit it at
fifteen feet per second. Dalgetty went through!
Sunlight flamed in his eyes as he hit the ground. Rolling over and
bouncing to his feet he set out across lawn and garden. As he ran his
vision swept the landscape. In that state of fear and wrath he could
not command much thought but his memory stored the data for
The house was a rambling two-story affair, all curves and planes
between palm trees, the island sloping swiftly from its front to a
beach and dock. On one side was the airfield, on another the guard
barracks. To the rear, in the direction of Dalgetty's movement, the
ground became rough and wild, stones and sand and saw-grass and clumps
of palmettos, climbing upward for a good two miles. On every side, he
could see the infinite blue sparkle of ocean. Where could he hide?
He didn't notice the slashing blades through which he raced and the
dry gulping of his lungs was something dreadfully remote. But when a
bullet went past one ear, he heard that and drew more speed from some
unknown depth. A glance behind revealed his pursuers boiling out of
the house, men in gray with the hot sunlight blinking off their guns.
He ducked around a thicket, flopped and belly-crawled over a rise of
land. On the farther side he straightened again and ran up the long
slope. Another slug and another. They were almost a mile behind now
but their guns had a long reach. He bent low, zigzagging as he ran.
The bullets kicked up spurts of sand around him.
A six-foot bluff loomed in his path, black volcanic rock shining like
wet glass. He hit it at full speed. He almost walked up its face and
in the instant when his momentum was gone caught a root and yanked
himself to the top. Again he was out of their sight. He sprang around
another hulk of stone and skidded to a halt. At his feet, a sheer
cliff dropped nearly a hundred feet to a white smother of surf.
Dalgetty gulped air, working his lungs like a bellows. A long jump
down, he thought dizzily. If he didn't crack his skull open on a reef
he might well be clawed under by the sea. But there was no other place
for him to go.
He made a swift estimate. He had run the upward two miles in a little
over nine minutes, surely a record for such terrain. It would take the
pursuit another ten or fifteen to reach him. But he couldn't double
back without being seen and this time they'd be close enough to fill
him with lead.
Okay, son, he told himself. You're going to duck now, in more than
His light waterproof clothes, tattered by the island growth, would be
no hindrance down there, but he took off his sandals and stuck them in
his belt pouch. Praise all gods, the physical side of his training had
included water sports. He moved along the cliff edge, looking for a
place to dive. The wind whined at his feet.
There—down there. No visible rocks though the surf boiled and smoked.
He willed full energy back into himself, bent his knees, jack-knifed
into the air.
The sea was a hammer blow against his body. He came up threshing and
tumbling, gasped a mouthful of air that was half salt spray, was
pulled under again. A rock scraped his ribs. He took long strokes,
always upward to the blind white shimmer of light. He got to the crest
of one wave and rode it in, surfing over a razorback reef.
Shallow water. Blinded by the steady rain of salt mist, deafened by
the roar and crash of the sea, he groped toward shore. A narrow pebbly
beach ran along the foot of the cliff. He moved along it, hunting a
place to hide.
There—a sea-worn cave, some ten feet inward, with a yard or so of
fairly quiet water covering its bottom. He splashed inside and lay
down, exhaustion clamping a hand on him.
It was noisy. The hollow resonance of sound filled the cave like the
inside of a drum but he didn't notice. He lay on the rocks and sand,
his mind spiraling toward unconsciousness, and let his body make its
Presently he regained awareness and looked about him. The cave was
dim, with only a filtered greenish light to pick out black wall's and
slowly swirling water. Nobody could see much below the surface—good.
He studied himself. Lacerated clothes, bruised flesh and a long
bleeding gash in one side. That was not good. A stain of blood on the
water would give him away like a shout.
Grimacing, he pressed the edges of the wound together and willed that
the bleeding stop. By the time a good enough clot was formed for him
to relax his concentration the guards were scrambling down to find
him. He didn't have many minutes left. Now he had to do the opposite
of energizing. He had to slow metabolism down, ease his heartbeat,
lower his body temperature, dull his racing brain.
He began to move his hands, swaying back and forth, muttering the
autohypnotic formulas. His incantations, Tighe had called them. But
they were only stylized gestures leading to conditioned reflexes deep
in the medulla. Now I lay me down to sleep....
Heavy, heavy—his eyelids were drooping; the wet walls receding into a
great darkness, a hand cradling his head. The noise of surf dimmed,
became a rustle, the skirts of the mother he had never known, come in
to bid him goodnight. Coolness stole over him like veils dropping one
by one inside his head. There was winter outside and his bed was snug.
When Dalgetty heard the nearing rattle of boots—just barely through
the ocean and his own drowsiness—he almost forgot what he had to do.
No, yes, now he knew. Take several long, deep breaths, oxygenate the
bloodstream, then fill the lungs once and slide down under the
He lay there in darkness hardly conscious of the voices, dimly
"A cave here—a place for him to hide."
"Nah, I don't see nothing."
Scrunch of feet on stone. "Ouch! Stubbed my damn toe. Nah, it's a
closed cave. He ain't in here."
"Hm? Look at this, then. Bloodstains on this rock, right? He's been
here, at least."
"Under water?" Rifle butts probed but could not sound the inlet.
The woman's voice. "If he is hiding down below he'll have to come up
"When? We gotta search this whole damn beach. Here, I'll just give the
water a burst."
Casimir, sharply—"Don't be a fool. You won't even know if you hit
him. Nobody can hold his breath more than three minutes."
"Yeah, that's right, Joe. How long we been in here?"
"One minute, I guess. Give him a couple more. Cripes! D'ja see how he
ran? He ain't human!"
"He's killable, though. Me, I think he's just rolling around in the
surf out there. This could be fish blood. A 'cuda chased another fish
in here and bit it."
Casimir: "Or if his body drifted in, it's safely under. Got a
"Here y'are, Miss. But say, I never thought to ask. How come you come
Casimir: "I'm as good a shot as you are, buster, and I want to be sure
this job's done right."
Casimir: "Almost five minutes. If he can come up now he's a seal.
Especially with his body oxygen-starved after all that running."
In the slowness of Dalgetty's brain there was a chill wonder about the
woman. He had read her thought, she was FBI, but she seemed strangely
eager to hunt him down.
"Okay, le's get outta here."
Casimir: "You go on. I'll wait here just in case and come up to the
house pretty soon. I'm tired of following you around."
"Okay. Le's go, Joe."
It was another four minutes or so before the pain and tension in his
lungs became unendurable. Dalgetty knew he would be helpless as he
rose, still in his semi-hibernating state, but his body was shrieking
for air. Slowly he broke the surface.
The woman gasped. Then the automatic jumped into her hand and leveled
between his eyes. "All right, friend. Come on out." Her voice was very
low and shook a trifle but there was grimness in it.
Dalgetty climbed onto the ledge beside her and sat with his legs
dangling, hunched in the misery of returning strength. When full
wakefulness was achieved he looked at her and found she had moved to
the farther end of the cave.
"Don't try to jump," she said. Her eyes caught the vague light in a
wide glimmer, half frightened. "I don't know what to make of you."
Dalgetty drew a long breath and sat upright, bracing himself on the
cold slippery stone. "I know who you are," he said.
"Who, then?" she challenged.
"You're an FBI agent planted on Bancroft."
Her gaze narrowed, her lips compressed. "What makes you think so?"
"Never mind—you are. That gives me a certain hold on you, whatever
The blond head nodded. "I wondered about that. That remark you made to
me down in the cell suggested—well, I couldn't take chances.
Especially when you showed you were something extraordinary by
snapping those straps and bursting the door open. I came along with
the search party in hope of finding you."
He had to admire the quick mind behind the wide smooth brow. "You damn
near did—for them," he accused her.
"I couldn't do anything suspicious," she answered. "But I figured you
hadn't leaped off the cliff in sheer desperation. You must have had
some hiding place in mind and under water seemed the most probable.
In view of what you'd already done I was pretty sure you could hold
your breath abnormally long." Her smile was a little shaky. "Though I
didn't think it would be inhumanly long."
"You've got brains," he said, "but how much heart?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, are you going to throw Dr. Tighe and me to the wolves now? Or
will you help us?"
"That depends," she answered slowly. "What are you here for?"
His mouth twisted ruefully. "I'm not here on purpose at all," Dalgetty
confessed. "I was just trying to get a clue to Dr. Tighe's
whereabouts. They outsmarted me and brought me here. Now I have to
rescue him." His eyes held hers. "Kidnapping is a Federal offense.
It's your duty to help me."
"I may have higher duties," she countered. Leaning forward, tautly,
"But how do you expect to do this?"
"I'm damned if I know." Dalgetty locked moodily out at the beach and
the waves and the smoking spindrift. "But that gun of yours would be a
She stood for a moment, scowling with thought. "If I don't come back
soon they'll be out hunting for me."
"We've got to find another hiding place," he agreed. "Then they will
assume I survived after all and grabbed you. They'll be scouring the
whole island for us. If we haven't been located before dark they'll be
spread thin enough to give us a chance."
"It makes more sense for me to go back now," she said. "Then I can be
on the inside to help you."
He shook his head. "Uh-uh. Quit making like a stereoshow detective. If
you leave me your gun, claiming you lost it, that's sure to bring
suspicion on you the way they're excited right now. If you don't I'll
still be on the outside and unarmed—and what could you do, one woman
alone in that nest? Now we're two with a shooting iron between us. I
think that's a better bet."
After a while, she nodded. "Okay, you win. Assuming"—the half-lowered
gun was raised again with a jerking motion—"that I will aid you. Who
are you? What are you, Dalgetty?"
He shrugged. "Let's say I'm Dr. Tighe's assistant and have some
unusual powers. You know the Institute well enough to realize this
isn't just a feud between two gangster groups."
"I wonder...." Suddenly she clanked the automatic back into its
holster. "All right. For the time being only though!"
Relief was a wave rushing through him. "Thank you," he whispered.
Then, "Where can we go?"
"I've been swimming around here in the quieter spots," she said. "I
know a place. Wait here."
She stepped across the cave and peered out its mouth. Someone must
have hailed her, for she waved back. She stood leaning against the
rock and Dalgetty saw how the sea-spray gleamed in her hair. After a
long five minutes she turned to him again.
"All right," she said. "The last one just went up the path. Let's go."
They walked along the beach. It trembled underfoot with the rage of
the sea. There was a grinding under the snort and roar of surf as if
the world's teeth ate rock.
The beach curved inward, forming a small bay sheltered by outlying
skerries. A narrow path ran upward from it but it was toward the sea
that the woman gestured. "Out there," she said. "Follow me." She took
off her shoes as he had done and checked her holster: the gun was
waterproof, but it wouldn't do to have it fall out. She waded into the
sea and struck out with a powerful crawl.
They climbed up on one of the hogback rocks some ten yards from shore.
This one rose a good dozen feet above the surface. It was cleft in the
middle, forming a little hollow hidden from land and water alike. They
crawled into this and sat down, breathing hard. The sea was loud at
their backs and the air felt cold on their wet skins.
Dalgetty leaned back against the smooth stone, looking at the woman,
who was unemotionally counting how many clips she had in her pouch.
The thin drenched tunic and slacks showed a very nice figure. "What's
your name?" he asked.
"Casimir," she answered, without looking up.
"First name, I mean. Mine is Simon."
"Elena, if you must know. Four packs, a hundred rounds plus ten in the
chamber now. If we have to shoot them all, we'd better be good. These
aren't magnums, so you have to hit a man just right to put him out of
"Well," shrugged Dalgetty, "we'll just have to lumber along as best we
can. I oak we don't make ashes of ourselves."
"Oh, no!" He couldn't tell whether it was appreciation or dismay.
"At a time like this too."
"It doesn't make me very popular," he agreed. "Everybody says to elm
with me. But, as they say in France, ve are alo-o-one now, mon cherry,
and tree's a crowd."
"Don't get ideas," she snapped.
"Oh, I'll get plenty of ideas, though I admit this isn't the place to
carry them out." Dalgetty folded his arms behind his head and blinked
up at the sky. "Man, could I use a nice tall mint julep right now."
Elena frowned. "If you're trying to convince me you're just a simple
American boy you might as well quit," she said thinly. "That sort
of—of emotional control, in a situation like this, only makes you
Dalgetty swore at himself. She was too damn quick, that was all. And
her intelligence might be enough for her to learn....
Will I have to kill her?
He drove the thought from him. He could overcome his own conditioning
about anything, including murder, if he wanted to, but he'd never want
to. No, that was out. "How did you get here?" he asked. "How much does
the FBI know?"
"Why should I tell you?"
"Well, it'd be nice to know if we can expect reinforcements."
"We can't." Her voice was bleak. "I might as well let you know. The
Institute could find out anyway through its government connections—the
damned octopus!" he looked into the sky. Dalgetty's gaze followed the
curve of her high cheekbones. Unusual face—you didn't often see such an
oddly pleasing arrangement. The slight departure from symmetry....
"We've wondered about Bertrand Meade for some time, as every thinking
person has," she began tonelessly. "It's too bad there are so few
thinking people in the country."
"Something the Institute is trying to correct," Dalgetty put in.
Elena ignored him. "It was finally decided to work agents into his
various organizations. I've been with Thomas Bancroft for about two
years now. My background was carefully faked and I'm a useful
assistant. But even so it was only a short while back that I got
sufficiently into his confidence to be given some inkling of what's
going on. As far as I know no other FBI operative has learned as
"And what have you found out?"
"Essentially the same things you were describing in the cell, plus
more details on the actual work they're doing. Apparently the
Institute was onto Meade's plans long before we were. It doesn't speak
well for your purposes, whatever they are, that you haven't asked us
for help before this.
"The decision to kidnap Dr. Tighe was taken only a couple of weeks
ago. I haven't had a chance to communicate with my associates in the
force. There's always someone around, watching. The set-up's well
arranged, so that even those not under suspicion don't have much
chance to work unobserved, once they've gotten high enough to know
anything important. Everybody spies on everybody else and submits
She gave him a harsh look. "So here I am. No official person knows my
whereabouts and if I should disappear it would be called a deplorable
accident. Nothing could be proved and I doubt if the FBI would ever
get another chance to do any effective spying."
"But you have proof enough for a raid," he ventured.
"No, we haven't. Up till the time I was told Dr. Tighe was going to be
snatched I didn't know for certain that anything illegal was going on.
There's nothing in the law against like-minded people knowing each
other and having a sort of club. Even if they hire tough characters
and arm them the law can't protest. The Act of Nineteen Ninety-nine
effectively forbids private armies but it would be hard to prove Meade
"He doesn't really," said Dalgetty. "Those goons aren't much more than
what they claim to be—bodyguards. This whole fight is primarily on
a—a mental level."
"So I gather. And can a free country forbid debate or propaganda? Not
to mention that Meade's people include some powerful men in the
government itself. If I could get away from here alive we'd be able to
hang a kidnapping charge on Thomas Bancroft, with assorted charges of
threat, mayhem and conspiracy, but it wouldn't touch the main group."
Her fists clenched. "It's like fighting shadows."
"You war against the sunset-glow. The judgment follows fast my lord!"
quoted Dalgetty. Heriots' Ford was one of the few poems he liked.
"Getting Bancroft out of the way would be something," he added. "The
way to fight Meade is not to attack him physically but to change the
conditions under which he must work."
"Change them to what?" Her eyes challenged his. He noticed that there
were small gold flecks in the gray. "What does the Institute want?"
"A sane world," he replied.
"I've wondered," she said. "Maybe Bancroft is more nearly right than
you. Maybe I should be on his side after all."
"I take it you favor libertarian government," he said. "In the past
it's always broken down sooner or later and the main reason has been
that there aren't enough people with the intelligence, alertness and
toughness to resist the inevitable encroachments of power on liberty.
"The Institute is trying to do two things—create such a citizenry and
simultaneously to build up a society which itself produces men of that
kind and reinforces those traits in them. It can be done, given time.
Under ideal conditions we estimate it would take about three hundred
years for the whole world. Actually it'll take longer."
"But just what kind of person is needed?" Elena asked coldly. "Who
decides it? You do. You're just the same as all other reformers,
including Meade—hell bent to change the whole human race over to your
particular ideal, whether they like it or not."
"Oh, they'll like it," he smiled. "That's part of the process."
"It's a worse tyranny than whips and barbed wire," she snapped.
"You've never experienced those then."
"You have got that knowledge," she accused. "You have the data and
the equations to be—sociological engineers."
"In theory," he said. "In practice it isn't that easy. The social
forces are so great that—well, we could be overwhelmed before
accomplishing anything. And there are plenty of things we still don't
know. It will take decades, perhaps centuries, to work out a complete
dynamics of man. We're one step beyond the politician's rule of thumb
but not up to the point where we can use slide rules. We have to feel
"Nevertheless," she said, "you've got the beginnings of a knowledge
which reveals the true structure of society and the processes that
make it. Given that knowledge man could in time build his own
world-order the way he desired it, a stable culture that wouldn't know
the horrors of oppression or collapse. But you've hidden away the very
fact that such information exists. You're using it in secret."
"Because we have to," Dalgetty said. "If it were generally known that
we're putting pressure on here and there and giving advice slanted
just the way we desire, the whole thing would blow up in our faces.
People don't like being shoved around."
"And still you're doing it!" One hand dropped to her gun. "You, a
clique of maybe a hundred men...."
"More than that. You'd be surprised how many are with us."
"You've decided you are the almighty arbiters. Your superior wisdom
is going to lead poor blind mankind up the road to heaven. I say it's
down the road to hell! The last century saw the dictatorship of the
elite and the dictatorship of the proletariat. This one seems to be
birthing the dictatorship of the intellectuals. I don't like any of
"Look, Elena." Dalgetty leaned on one elbow and faced her. "It isn't
that simple. All right, we've got some special knowledge. When we
first realized we were getting somewhere in our research we had to
decide whether to make our results public or merely give out selected
less important findings. Don't you see, no matter what we did it would
have been us, the few men, who decided? Even destroying all our
information would have been a decision."
His voice grew more urgent. "So we made what I think was the right
choice. History shows as conclusively as our own equations that
freedom is not a 'natural' condition of man. It's a metastable state
at best, all too likely to collapse into tyranny. The tyranny can be
imposed from outside by the better-organized armies of a conqueror, or
it can come from within—through the will of the people themselves,
surrendering their rights to the father-image, the almighty leader,
the absolute state.
"What use does Bertrand Meade want to make of our findings if he can
get them? To bring about the end of freedom by working on the people
till they themselves desire it. And the damnable part of it is that
Meade's goal is much more easily attained than ours.
"So suppose we made our knowledge public. Suppose we educated anyone
who desired it in our techniques. Can't you see what would happen?
Can't you see the struggle that would be waged for control of the
human mind? It could start as innocuously as a businessman planning a
more effective advertising campaign. It would end in a welter of
propaganda, counter-propaganda, social and economic manipulations,
corruption, competition for the key offices—and so, ultimately, there
would be violence.
"All the psychodynamic tensors ever written down won't stop a
machine-gun. Violence riding over a society thrown into chaos,
enforced peace—and the peace-makers, perhaps with the best will in
the world, using the Institute techniques to restore order. Then one
step leads to another, power gets more and more centralized and it
isn't long before you have the total state back again. Only this total
state could never be overthrown!"
Elena Casimir bit her lip. A stray breeze slid down the rock wall and
rumpled her bright hair. After a long while she said, "Maybe you're
right. But America today has, on the whole, a good government. You
could let them know."
"Too risky. Sooner or later someone, probably with very idealistic
motives, would force the whole thing into the open. So we're keeping
hidden the very fact that our most important equations exist—which is
why we didn't ask for help when Meade's detectives finally learned
that they know."
"How do you know your precious Institute won't become just such an
oligarchy as you describe?"
"I don't," Simon said, "but it's improbable. You see, the recruits who
are eventually taught everything we know are pretty thoroughly
indoctrinated with our own present-day beliefs. And we've learned
enough individual psych to do some real indoctrinating! They'll pass
it on to the next generation and so on.
"Meanwhile we hope the social structure and the mental climate is
being modified in such a way that eventually it would be very
difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to impose absolute control by
any means. For as I said before, even an ultimately developed
psychodynamics can't do everything. Ordinary propaganda, for instance,
is quite ineffective on people trained in critical thinking.
"When enough people the world over are sane we can make the knowledge
general. Meanwhile we've got to keep it under wraps and quietly
prevent anyone else from learning the same things independently. Most
such prevention, by the way, consists merely of recruiting promising
researchers into our own ranks."
"The world's too big," she said very softly. "You can't foresee all
that'll happen. Too many things could go wrong."
"Maybe. It's a chance we've got to take." His own gaze was somber.
They sat for awhile in stillness. Then she said, "It all sounds very
pretty. But—what are you, Dalgetty?"
"Simon," he corrected.
"What are you?" she repeated. "You've done things I wouldn't have
believed were possible. Are you human?"
"I'm told so." He smiled.
"Yes? I wonder! How is it possible that you—"
He wagged a finger. "Ah-ah! Right of privacy." And with swift
seriousness, "You know too much already. I have to assume you can keep
it secret all your life."
"That remains to be seen," Elena said, not looking at him.
Sundown burned across the waters and the island rose like a mountain
of night against the darkening sky. Dalgetty stretched cramped muscles
and peered over the bay.
In the hours of waiting there had not been much said between him and
the woman. He had dropped a few questions, with the careful casualness
of the skilled analyst, and gotten the expected reactions. He knew a
little more about her—a child of the strangling dying cities and
shadowy family life of the 1980's, forced to armor herself in
harshness, finding in the long training for her work and now in the
job itself an ideal to substitute for the tenderness she had never
He felt pity for her but there was little he could do to help just
now. To her own queries he gave guarded replies. It occurred to him
briefly that he was, in his way, as lonesome as she. But of course I
don't mind—or do I?
Mostly they tried to plan their next move. For the time, at least,
they were of one purpose. She described the layout of house and
grounds and indicated the cell where Michael Tighe was ordinarily
kept. But there was not much they could do to think out tactics. "If
Bancroft gets alarmed enough," she said, "he'll have Dr. Tighe flown
He agreed. "That's why we'd better hit tonight, before he can get that
worried." The thought was pain within him. Dad, what are they doing
to you now?
"There's also the matter of food and drink." Her voice was husky with
thirst and dull with the discouragement of hunger. "We can't stay out
here like this much longer." She gave him a strange glance. "Don't you
"Not now," he said. He had blocked off the sensations.
"They—Simon!" She grabbed his arm. "A boat—hear?"
The murmur of jets drifted to him through the beating waves. "Yeah.
They scrambled over the hogback and slid down its farther side. The
sea clawed at Dalgetty's feet and foam exploded over his head. He
hunched low, throwing one arm about her as she slipped. The airboat
murmured overhead, hot gold in the sunset light. Dalgetty crouched,
letting the breakers run coldly around him. The ledge where they clung
was worn smooth, offered little to hold onto.
The boat circled, its jets thunderous at low speed. They're worried
about her now. They must be sure I'm still alive.
White water roared above his head. He breathed a hasty gasp of air
before the next comber hit him. Their bodies were wholly submerged,
their faces shouldn't show in that haze of foam—but the jet was
soaring down and there would be machine-guns on it.
Dalgetty's belly muscles stiffened, waiting for the tracers to burn
Elena's body slipped from his grasp and went under. He hung there, not
daring to follow. A stolen glance upward—yes, the jet was out of
sight again, moving back toward the field. He dove off the ledge and
struck into the waves. The girl's head rose over them as he neared.
She twisted from him and made her own way back to the rock. But when
they were in the hollow again her teeth rattled with chill and she
pressed against him for warmth.
"Okay," he said shakily. "Okay, we're all right now. You are hereby
entitled to join our Pacific wet-erans' club."
Her laugh was small under the boom of breakers and hiss of scud.
"You're trying hard, aren't you?"
"I—oh, oh! Get down!"
Peering over the edge Dalgetty saw the men descending the path. There
were half a dozen, armed and wary. One had a WT radio unit on his
back. In the shadow of the cliff they were almost invisible as they
began prowling the beach.
"Still hunting us!" Her voice was a groan.
"You didn't expect otherwise, did you? I'm just hoping they don't come
out here. Does anybody else know of this spot?" He held his lips close
to her ear.
"No, I don't believe so," she breathed. "I was the only one who cared
to go swimming at this end of the island. But...."
Dalgetty waited, grimly. The sun was down at last, the twilight
thickening. A few stars twinkled to life in the east. The goons
finished their search and settled in a line along the beach.
"Oh-oh," muttered Dalgetty. "I get the idea. Bancroft's had the land
beaten for me so thoroughly he's sure I must be somewhere out to sea.
If I were he I'd guess I'd swum far out to be picked up by a
waterboat. So—he's guarding every possible approach against a landing
"What can we do?" whispered Elena. "Even if we can swim around their
radius of sight we can't land just anywhere. Most of the island is
vertical cliff. Or can you...?"
"No," he said. "Regardless of what you may think I don't have vacuum
cups on my feet. But how far does that gun of yours carry?"
She stole a glance over the edge. Night was sweeping in. The island
was a wall of blackness and the men at its foot were hidden. "You
can't see!" she protested.
He squeezed her shoulder. "Oh yes I can, honey. But whether I'm a good
enough shot to.... We'll have to try it, that's all."
Her face was a white blur and fear of the unknown put metal in her
voice. "Part seal, part cat, part deer, part what else? I don't think
you're human, Simon Dalgetty."
He didn't answer. The abnormal voluntary dilation of pupils hurt his
"What else has Dr. Tighe done?" Her tone was chill in the dark. "You
can't study the human mind without studying the body too. What's he
done? Are you the mutant they're always speculating about? Did Dr.
Tighe create or find homo superior?"
"If I don't plug that radio com-set before they can use it," he said,
"I'll be homo-genized."
"You can't laugh it off," she said through taut lips. "If you aren't
of our species I have to assume you're our enemy—till you prove
otherwise!" Her fingers closed hard on his arm. "Is that what your
little gang at the Institute is doing? Have they decided that mere
humanity isn't good enough to be civilized? Are they preparing the way
for your kind to take over?"
"Listen," he said wearily. "Right now we're two people, very mortal
indeed, being hunted. So shut up!"
He took the pistol from her holster and slipped a full clip into its
magazine. His vision was at high sensitivity now, her face showed
white against the wet rock with gray highlights along its strong
cheekbones beneath the wide frightened eyes. Beyond the reefs the sea
was gunmetal under the stars, streaked with foam and shadow.
Ahead of him, as he rose to his feet, the line of guards stood out as
paler darknesses against the vertiginous island face. They had mounted
a heavy machine-gun to point seaward and a self-powered spotlight,
not turned on, rested nearby. Those two things could be dangerous but
first he had to find the radio set that could call the whole garrison
down on them.
There! It was a small hump on the back of one man, near the middle
of the beach. He was pacing restlessly up and down with a tommy-gun in
his hands. Dalgetty raised the pistol with slow hard-held
concentration, wishing it were a rifle. Remember your target practice
now, arm loose, fingers extended, don't pull the trigger but
squeeze—because you've got to be right the first time!
He shot. The weapon was a military model, semi-noiseless and with no
betraying streak of light. The first bullet spun the goon on his heels
and sent him lurching across sand and rock. Dalgetty worked the
trigger, spraying around his victim, a storm of lead that must ruin
Chaos on the beach! If that spotlight went on with his eyes at their
present sensitivity, he'd be blind for hours. He fired carefully,
smashing lens and bulb. The machine-gun opened up, stuttering, wildly
into the dark. If someone elsewhere on the island heard that
noise—Dalgetty shot again, dropping the gunner over his weapon.
Bullets spanged around him, probing the darkness. One down, two down,
three down. A fourth was running along the upward path. Dalgetty fired
and missed, fired and missed, fired and missed. He was getting out of
range, carrying the alarm—there! He fell slowly, like a jointed
doll, rolling down the trail. The two others were dashing for the
shelter of a cave, offering no chance to nail them.
Dalgetty scrambled over the rock, splashed into the bay and struck out
for the shore. Shots raked the water. He wondered if they could hear
his approach through the sea-noise. Soon he'd be close enough for
normal night vision. He gave himself wholly to swimming.
His feet touched sand and he waded ashore, the water dragging at him.
Crouching, he answered the shots coming from the cave. The shriek and
yowl were everywhere around him now. It seemed impossible that they
should not hear up above. He tensed his jaws and crawled toward the
machine-gun. A cold part of him noticed that the fire was in a random
pattern. They couldn't see him then.
The man lying by the gun was still alive but unconscious. That was
enough. Dalgetty crouched over the trigger. He had never handled a
weapon like this but it must be ready for action—only minutes ago it
had tried to kill him. He sighted on the cave mouth and cut loose.
Recoil made the gun dance till he caught onto the trick of using it.
He couldn't see anyone in the cave but he could bounce lead off its
walls. He shot for a full minute before stopping. Then he crawled away
at an angle till he reached the cliff. Sliding along this he
approached the entrance and waited. No sound came from inside.
He risked a quick glance. Yes, it had done the job. He felt a little
Elena was climbing out of the water when he returned. There was a
strangeness in the look she gave him. "All taken care of?" she asked
He nodded, remembered she could hardly see the movement, said aloud,
"Yes, I think so. Grab some of this hardware and let's get moving."
With his nerves already keyed for night vision it was not difficult to
heighten other perceptions and catch her thinking ... not human.
Why should he mind if he kills human beings when he isn't one
"But I do mind," he said gently. "I've never killed a man before and I
don't like it."
She jerked away from him. It had been a mistake, he realized. "Come
on," he said. "Here's your pistol. Better take a tommy-gun too if you
can handle it."
"Yes," she said. He had lowered his reception again, her voice fell
quiet and hard. "Yes, I can use one."
On whom? he wondered. He picked up an automatic rifle from one of
the sprawled figures. "Let's go," he said. Turning, he led the way up
the path. His spine prickled with the thought of her at his back,
keyed to a pitch of near-hysteria.
"We're out to rescue Michael Tighe, remember," he whispered over his
shoulder. "I've had no military experience and I doubt that you've
ever done anything like this either, so we'll probably make every
mistake in the books. But we've got to get Dr. Tighe."
She didn't answer.
At the top of the path Dalgetty went down on his stomach again and
slithered up over the crest. Slowly he raised his head to peer in
front of him. Nothing moved, nothing stirred. He stooped low as he
The thickets fenced off vision a few yards ahead. Beyond them, at the
end of the slope, he could glimpse lights. Bancroft's place must be
one glare of radiance. How to get in there without being seen? He drew
Elena close to him. For a moment she stiffened at his touch, then she
yielded. "Any ideas?" he asked.
"No," she replied.
"I could play dead," he began tentatively. "You could claim to have
been caught by me, to have gotten your gun back and killed me. They
might lose suspicion then and carry me inside."
"You think you could fake that?" She pulled away from him again.
"Sure. Make a small cut and force it to bleed enough to look like a
bullet wound—which doesn't usually bleed much, anyway. Slow down
heartbeat and respiration till their ordinary senses couldn't detect
them. Near-total muscular relaxation, including even those unromantic
aspects of death which are so rarely mentioned. Oh yes."
"Now I know you aren't human," she said. There was a shudder in her
voice. "Are you a synthetic thing? Did they make you in the
"I just want your opinion of the idea," he muttered with a flicker of
It must have taken an effort for Elena to wrench clear of her fear of
him. But then she shook her head. "Too risky. If I were one of those
fellows, with all you've already done to make me wonder about you, the
first thing I'd do on finding your supposed corpse would be to put a
bullet through its brain—and maybe a stake through its heart. Or can
you survive that too?"
"No," he admitted. "All right, it was just a thought. Let's work a bit
closer to the house."
They went through brush and grass. It seemed to him that an army would
make less noise. Once his straining ears caught a sound of boots and
he yanked Elena into the gloom under a palmetto. Two guards tramped
by, circling the land on patrol. Their forms loomed huge and black
against the stars.
Near the edge of the grounds Dalgetty and Elena crouched in the long
stiff grass and looked at the place they must enter. The man had had
to lower his visual sensitivity as they approached the light. There
were floodlights harsh on dock, airfield, barracks and lawn, with
parties of guards moving around each section. Light showed in only one
window of the house, on the second story. Bancroft must be there,
pacing and peering out into the night where his enemy stirred. Had he
called by radio for reinforcements?
At least no airboat had arrived or left. Dalgetty knew he would have
seen one in the sky. Dr. Tighe was here yet—if he lived.
Decision grew in the man. There was a wild chance. "Are you much of an
actress, Elena?" he whispered.
"After two years as a spy I'd better be." Her face bore a hint of
puzzlement under the tension as she looked at him. He could guess her
thought—For a superman, he asks some simple-minded questions. But
then what is he? Or is he only dissembling?
He explained his idea. She scowled. "I know it's crazy," he told her,
"but have you anything better to offer?"
"No. If you can handle your part...."
"And you yours." He gave her a bleak look, but there was an appeal in
it. Suddenly his half-glimpsed face looked strangely young and
helpless. "I'll be putting my life in your hands. If you don't trust
me you can shoot. But you'll be killing a lot more than me."
"Tell me what you are," she said. "How can I know what the ends of the
Institute are when they're using such means as you? Mutant or android
or"—she caught her breath—"or actually a creature from outer space,
the stars. Simon Dalgetty, what are you?"
"If I answered that," he said with desolation in his voice, "I'd
probably be lying anyway. You've got to trust me this far."
She sighed. "All right." He didn't know if she was lying too.
He laid the rifle down and folded his hands on top of his head. She
walked behind him, down the slope toward the light, her submachine-gun
at his back.
As he walked he was building up a strength and speed no human ought to
One of the sentries pacing through the garden came to a halt. His
rifle swung up, and the voice was a hysterical yammer: "Who goes?"
"It's me, Buck," cried Elena. "Don't get trigger-happy. I'm bringing
in the prisoner."
Dalgetty shuffled into the light and stood slumped, letting his jaw
hang slack as if he were near falling with weariness.
"You got him!" The goon sprang forward.
"Don't holler," said Elena. "I got this one, all right, but there are
others. You keep on your beat. I got his weapons from him. He's
harmless now. Is Mr. Bancroft in the house?"
"Yeah, yeah—sure." The heavy face peered at Dalgetty with more than a
tinge of fear. "But lemme go along. Yuh know what he done last time."
"Stay on your post!" she snapped. "You've got your orders. I can
It might not have worked on most men but these goons were not very
bright. The guard nodded, gulped and resumed his pacing. Dalgetty
walked on up the path toward the house.
A man at the door lifted his rifle. "Halt, there! I'll have to call
Mr. Bancroft first." The sentry went inside and thumbed an intercom
Dalgetty, poised in a nervous tautness that could explode into
physical strength, felt a clutch of fear. The whole thing was so
fiendishly uncertain—anything could happen.
Bancroft's voice drifted out. "That you, Elena? Good work, girl! How'd
you do it?" The warmth in his tone, under the excitement, made
Dalgetty wonder briefly just what the relationship between those two
"I'll tell you upstairs, Tom," she answered. "This is too big for
anyone else to hear. But keep the patrols going. There are more like
this creature around the island."
Dalgetty could imagine the primitive shudder in Thomas Bancroft,
instinct from ages when the night was prowling terror about a tiny
circle of fire. "All right. If you're sure he won't—"
"I've got him well covered."
"I'll send over half a dozen guards just the same. Hold it."
The men came running from barracks, where they must have been waiting
for a call to arms, and closed in. It was a ring of tight faces and
wary eyes and pointing guns. They feared him and the fear made them
deadly. Elena's countenance was wholly blank.
"Let's go," she said.
A man walked some feet ahead of the prisoner, casting glances behind
him all the time. There was one on either side, the rest were at the
rear. Elena walked among them, her weapon never wavering from his
back. They went down the long handsome corridor and stood on the
purring escalator. Dalgetty's eyes roved with a yearning in them—how
much longer, he wondered, would he be able to see anything at all?
The door to Bancroft's study was ajar and Tighe's voice drifted out.
It was a quiet drawl, unshaken despite the blow it must have been to
hear of Dalgetty's recapture. Apparently he was continuing a
conversation begun earlier:
"... science goes back a long way, actually. Francis Bacon speculated
about a genuine science of man. Poole did some work along those lines
as well as inventing the symbolic logic which was to be such a major
tool in solving the problem.
"In the last century a number of lines of attack were developed. There
was already the psychology of Freud and his successors, of course,
which gave the first real notion of human semantics. There were the
biological, chemical and physical approaches to man as a mechanism.
Comparative historians like Spengler, Pareto and Toynbee realized that
history did not merely happen but had some kind of pattern.
"Cybernetics developed such concepts as homeostasis and feedback,
concepts which were applicable to individual man and to society as a
whole. Games theory, the principle of least effort and Haeml's
generalized epistemology pointed toward basic laws and the analytical
"The new symbologies in logic and mathematics suggested
formulations—for the problem was no longer one of gathering data so
much as of finding a rigorous symbolism to handle them and indicate
new data. A great deal of the Institute's work has lain simply in
collecting and synthesizing all these earlier findings."
Dalgetty felt a rush of admiration. Trapped and helpless among enemies
made ruthless by ambition and fear, Michael Tighe could still play
with them. He must have been stalling for hours, staving off drugs
and torture by revealing first one thing and then another—but subtly,
so that his captors probably didn't realize he was only telling them
what they could find in any library.
The party entered a large room, furnished with wealth and taste, lined
with bookshelves. Dalgetty noticed an intricate Chinese chess set on
the desk. So Bancroft or Meade played chess—that was something they
had in common, at least, on this night of murder.
Tighe looked up from the armchair. A couple of guards stood behind
him, their arms folded, but he ignored them. "Hello, son," he
murmured. There was pain in his eyes. "Are you all right?"
Dalgetty nodded mutely. There was no way to signal the Englishman, no
way to let him hope.
Bancroft stepped over to the door and locked it. He gestured at the
guards, who spread themselves around the walls, their guns aimed
inward. He was shaking ever so faintly and his eyes glittered as with
fever. "Sit down," he said. "There!"
Dalgetty took the indicated armchair. It was deep and soft. It would
be hard to spring out of quickly. Elena took a seat opposite him,
poised on its edge, the tommy-gun in her lap. It was suddenly very
still in the room.
Bancroft went over to the desk and fumbled with a humidor. He didn't
look up. "So you caught him," he said.
"Yes," replied Elena. "After he caught me first."
"How did you—turn the tables?" Bancroft took out a cigar and bit the
end off savagely. "What happened?"
"I was in a cave, resting," she said tonelessly. "He rose out of the
water and grabbed me. He'd been hiding underneath longer than anybody
would have thought possible. He forced me out to a rock in the bay
there—you know it? We hid till sundown, when he opened up on your men
on that beach. He killed them all.
"I'd been tied but I'd managed to rub the strips loose. It was just a
piece off his shirt he tied me with. While he was shooting I grabbed a
stone and clipped him behind the ear. I dragged him to shore while he
was still out, took one of the guns lying there and marched him here."
"Good work." Bancroft inhaled raggedly. "I'll see that you get a
proper bonus for this, Elena. But what else? You said...."
"Yes." Her gaze was steady on him. "We talked, out there in the bay.
He wanted to convince me I should help him. Tom—he isn't human."
"Eh?" Bancroft's heavy form jerked. With an effort he steadied
himself. "What do you mean?"
"That muscular strength and speed, and telepathy. He can see in the
dark and hold his breath longer than any man. No, he isn't human."
Bancroft looked at Dalgetty's motionless form. The prisoner's eyes
clashed with his and it was he who looked away again. "A telepath, did
"Yes," she answered. "Do you want to prove it, Dalgetty?"
There was stillness in the room. After a moment Dalgetty spoke. "You
were thinking, Bancroft, 'All right, damn you, can you read my mind?
Go ahead and try it and you'll know what I'm thinking about you.' The
rest was obscenities."
"A guess," said Bancroft. There was sweat on his cheeks. "Just a good
guess. Try again."
Another pause, then, "'Ten, nine, seven, A, B, M, Z, Z ...' Shall I
keep on?" Dalgetty asked quietly.
"No," muttered Bancroft. "No, that's enough. What are you?"
"He told me," put in Elena. "You're going to have trouble believing
it. I'm not sure if I believe it myself. But he's from another star."
Bancroft opened his lips and shut them again. The massive head shook
"He is—from Tau Ceti," said Elena. "They're way beyond us. It's the
thing people have been speculating about for the last hundred years."
"Longer, my girl," said Tighe. There was no emotion in his face or
voice save a dry humor, but Dalgetty knew what a flame must suddenly
be leaping up inside him. "Read Voltaire's Micromegas."
"I've read such fiction," said Bancroft harshly. "Who hasn't? All
right, why are they here, what do they want?"
"You could say," spoke Dalgetty, "that we favor the Institute."
"But you've been raised from childhood...."
"Oh yes. My people have been on Earth a long time. Many of them are
born here. Our first spaceship arrived in Nineteen Sixty-five." He
leaned forward in the chair. "I expected Casimir to be reasonable and
help me rescue Dr. Tighe. Since she hasn't done so I must appeal to
your own common sense. We have crews on Earth. We know where all our
people are at any given time. If necessary I can die to preserve the
secret of our presence but in that case you will die too, Bancroft.
The island will be bombed."
"I...." The chief looked out the window into the enormity of night.
"You can't expect me to—to accept this as if...."
"I've some things to tell you which may change your mind," said
Dalgetty. "They will certainly prove my story. Send your men out
though. This is only for your ears."
"And have you jump me!" snapped Bancroft.
"Casimir can stay," said Dalgetty, "and anyone else you are absolutely
certain can keep a secret and control his own greed."
Bancroft paced once around the room. His eyes flickered back and forth
over the watching men. Frightened faces, bewildered faces, ambitious
faces—it was a hard decision and Dalgetty knew grimly that his life
rested on his and Elena's estimate of Thomas Bancroft's character.
"All right! Humphrey, Zimmermann, O'Brien, stay in here. If that bird
moves shoot him. The rest of you wait just outside." They filed out.
The door closed behind them. The three guards left posted themselves
with smooth efficiency, one at the window and one at either adjoining
wall. There was a long quiet.
Elena had to improvise the scheme and think it at Dalgetty. He nodded.
Bancroft planted himself before the chair, legs spread wide as if
braced for a blow, fists on hips.
"All right," he said. "What do you want to tell me?"
"You've caught me," said Dalgetty, "so I'm prepared to bargain for my
life and Dr. Tighe's freedom. Let me show you—" He made a move as if
"Stay where you are!" snapped Bancroft, and three guns swiveled around
to point at the prisoner. Elena backed away until she stood beside the
one near the desk.
"As you will." Dalgetty leaned back again, casually shoving his chair
a couple of feet. He was now facing the window and, as far as he could
tell, sitting exactly on a line between the man there and the man at
the farther wall. "The Union of Tau Ceti is interested in seeing that
the right kind of civilizations develop on other planets. You could be
of value to us, Thomas Bancroft, if you can be persuaded to our side,
and the rewards are considerable." His glance went for a moment to the
girl and she nodded imperceptibly. "For example...."
The power rushed up in him. Elena clubbed her gun butt and struck the
man next to her behind the ear. In the fractional second before the
others could understand and react Dalgetty was moving.
The impetus which launched him from the chair sent that heavy padded
piece of furniture sliding across the floor to hit the man behind him
with a muffled thud. His left fist took Bancroft on the jaw as he went
by. The guard at the window had no time to swing his gun back from
Elena and squeeze trigger before Dalgetty's hand was on his throat.
His neck snapped.
Elena stood over her victim even as he toppled and aimed at the man
across the room. The armchair had knocked his rifle aside. "Drop that
or I shoot," she said.
Dalgetty snatched up a gun for himself, leveling it at the door. He
more than half expected those outside to come rushing in, expected
hell would explode. But the thick oak panels must have choked off
Slowly, the man behind the chair let his rifle fall to the floor. His
mouth was stretched wide with supernatural fear.
"My God!" Dr. Tighe's long form was erect, shaking, his calm broken
into horror. "Simon, the risk...."
"We didn't have anything to lose, did we?" Dalgetty's voice was thick
but the abnormal energy was receding from him. He felt a surge of
weariness and knew that soon the payment must be made for the way he
had abused his body. He looked down at the corpse before him. "I
didn't mean to do that," he whispered.
Tighe collected himself with an effort of disciplined will and stepped
over to Bancroft. "He's alive, at least," he said. "Oh my God, Simon!
You could have been killed so easily."
"I may yet. We aren't out of the woods by any means. Find something to
tie these two others up with, will you, Dad?"
The Englishman nodded. Elena's slugged guard was stirring and
groaning. Tighe bound and gagged him with strips torn from his tunic.
Under the submachine-gun the other submitted meekly enough. Dalgetty
rolled them behind a sofa with the one he had slain.
Bancroft was wakening too. Dalgetty located a flask of bourbon and
gave it to him. Clearing eyes looked up with the same terror. "Now
what?" mumbled Bancroft. "You can't get away—"
"We can damn well try. If it had come to fighting with the rest of
your gang we'd have used you as a hostage but now there's a neater
way. On your feet! Here, straighten your tunic, comb your hair. Okay,
you'll do just as you're told, because if anything goes wrong we'll
have nothing at all to lose by shooting you." Dalgetty rapped out his
Bancroft looked at Elena and there was more than physical hurt in his
eyes. "Why did you do it?"
"FBI," she said.
He shook his head, still stunned, and shuffled over to the desk
visiphone and called the hangar. "I've got to get to the mainland in a
hurry. Have the speedster ready in ten minutes. No, just the regular
pilot, nobody else. I'll have Dalgetty with me but it's okay. He's on
our side now."
They went out the door. Elena cradled her tommy-gun under one arm.
"You can go back to the barracks, boys," said Bancroft wearily to the
men outside. "It's all been settled."
A quarter hour later Bancroft's private jet was in the air. Five
minutes after that he and the pilot were bound and locked in a rear
compartment. Michael Tighe took the controls. "This boat has legs," he
said. "Nothing can catch us between here and California."
"All right." Dalgetty's tones were flat with exhaustion. "I'm going
back to rest, Dad." Briefly his hand rested on the older man's
shoulder. "It's good to have you back," he said.
"Thank you, son," said Michael Tighe. "I can't tell you how wonderful
it is to be free again."
Dalgetty found a reclining seat and eased himself into it. One by one
he began releasing the controls over himself—sensitivities, nerve
blocs, glandular stimulation. Fatigue and pain mounted within him. He
looked out at the stars and listened to the dark whistle of air with
merely human senses.
Elena Casimir came to sit beside him and he realized that his job
wasn't done. He studied the strong lines of her face. She could be a
hard foe but just as stubborn a friend.
"What do you have in mind for Bancroft?" he asked.
"Kidnapping charges for him and that whole gang," she said. "He won't
wriggle out of it, I can guarantee you." Her eyes rested on him,
unsure, a little frightened. "Federal prison psychiatrists have
Institute training," she murmured. "You'll see that his personality is
reshaped your way, won't you?"
"As far as possible," Simon said. "Though it doesn't matter much.
Bancroft is finished as a factor to be reckoned with. There's still
Bertrand Meade himself, of course. Even if Bancroft made a full
confession I doubt that we could touch him. But the Institute has now
learned to take precautions against extra-legal methods—and within
the framework of the law we can give him cards and spades and still
"With some help from my department," Elena said. There was a touch of
steel in her voice. "But the whole story of this rescue will have to
be played down. It wouldn't do to have too many ideas floating around
in the public mind, would it?"
"That's right," he admitted. His head felt heavy, he wanted to rest it
on her shoulder and sleep for a century. "It's up to you really. If
you submit the right kind of report to your superiors it can all be
worked out. Everything else will just be detail. But otherwise you'll
"I don't know." She looked at him for a long while. "I don't know if I
should or not. You may be correct about the Institute and the justice
of its aims and methods. But how can I be sure, when I don't know
what's behind it? How do I know there wasn't more truth than fiction
in that Tau Ceti story, that you aren't really the agent of some
non-human power quietly taking over all our race?"
At another time Dalgetty might have argued, tried to veil it from her,
tried to trick her once again. But now he was too weary. There was a
great surrender in him. "I'll tell you if you wish," he said, "and
after that it's in your hands. You can make us or break us."
"Go on then." Her tone withdrew into wariness.
"I'm human," he said. "I'm as human as you are. Only I've had rather
special training, that's all. It's another discovery of the Institute
for which we don't feel the world is ready. It'd be too big a
temptation for too many people, to create followers like me." He
looked away, into the windy dark. "The scientist is also a member of
society and has a responsibility toward it. This—restraint—of ours
is one way in which we meet that obligation."
She didn't speak, but suddenly one hand reached over and rested on
his. The impulsive gesture brought warmth flooding through him.
"Dad's work was mostly in mass-action psych," he said, making his tone
try to cover what he felt, "but he has plenty of associates trying to
understand the individual human being as a functioning mechanism. A
lot's been learned since Freud, both from the psychiatric and the
neurological angle. Ultimately, those two are interchangeable.
"Some thirty years ago one of the teams which founded the Institute
learned enough about the relationship between the conscious,
subconscious and involuntary minds to begin practical tests. Along
with a few others I was a guinea pig. And their theories worked.
"I needn't go into the details of my training. It involved physical
exercises, mental practice, some hypnotism, diet and so on. It went
considerably beyond the important Synthesis education which is the
most advanced thing known to the general public. But its aim—only
partially realized as yet—its aim was simply to produce the
completely integrated human being."
Dalgetty paused. The wind flowed and muttered beyond the wall.
"There is no sharp division between conscious and subconscious or even
between those and the centers controlling involuntary functions," he
said. "The brain is a continuous structure. Suppose, for instance,
that you become aware of a runaway car bearing down on you.
"Your heartbeat speeds up, your adrenalin output increases, your sight
sharpens, your sensitivity to pain drops—it's all preparation for
fight or flight. Even without obvious physical necessity the same
thing can happen on a lesser scale—for example when you read an
exciting story. And psychotics, especially hysterics, can produce some
of the damnedest physiological symptoms you ever saw."
"I begin to understand," she whispered.
"Rage or fear brings abnormal strength and fast reaction. But the
psychotic can do more than that. He can show physical symptoms like
burns, stigmata or—if female—false pregnancy. Sometimes he becomes
wholly insensitive in some part of his body via a nerve bloc.
Bleeding can start or stop without apparent cause. He can go into a
coma or he can stay awake for days without getting sleepy. He can—"
"Read minds?" It was a defiance.
"Not that I know of." Simon chuckled. "But human sense organs are
amazingly good. It only takes three or four quanta to stimulate the
visual purple—a little more actually because of absorption by the
eyeball itself. There have been hysterics who could hear a watch
ticking twenty feet away that the normal person could not hear at one
foot. And so on.
"There are excellent reasons why the threshold of perception is
relatively high in ordinary people—the stimuli of usual conditions
would be blinding and deafening, unendurable, if there weren't a
defense." He grimaced. "I know!"
"But the telepathy?" Elena persisted.
"It's been done before," he said. "Some apparent cases of mindreading
in the last century were shown to be due to extremely acute hearing.
Most people sub-vocalize their surface thoughts. With a little
practice a person who can hear those vibrations can learn to interpret
them. That's all." He smiled with one side of his mouth. "If you want
to hide your thoughts from me just break that habit, Elena."
She looked at him with an emotion he could not quite recognize. "I
see," she breathed. "And your memory must be perfect too, if you can
pull any datum out of the subconscious. And you can—do everything,
"No," he said. "I'm only a test case. They've learned a great deal by
observing me but the only thing that makes me unusual is that I have
conscious control of certain normally subconscious and involuntary
functions. Not all of them by a long shot. And I don't use that
control any more than necessary.
"There are sound biological reasons why man's mind is so divided and
plenty of penalties attached to a case like mine. It'll take me a
couple of months to get back in shape after this bout. I'm due for a
good old-fashioned nervous breakdown and while it won't last long it
won't be much fun while it does last."
The appeal rose in his eyes as he watched Elena. "All right," he said.
"Now you have the story. What are you going to do about it?"
For the first time she gave him a real smile. "Don't worry," she said,
"Don't worry, Simon."
"Will you come hold my hand while I'm recuperating?" he asked
"I'm holding it now, you fool," Elena answered.
Dalgetty chuckled happily. Then he went to sleep.
This etext was produced from Fantastic Universe January 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.