The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Ii Part 119
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The newspaper stories made heroes out of both of us. They said it was miraculous that Larry, who had fallen right on top of the grenade, had managed to get it away from himself and so placed that when it exploded no one was hurt.
For it did go off--and the flying steel touched n.o.body. The papers mentioned that Larry had been knocked unconscious by the blast. He was unconscious, all right.
He didn't come to for six hours and when he woke up, he spent the next whole day in a stupor.
I called on him the next night. He was glad to see me.
"That was a close one, d.i.c.k," he said. "Take me back to Tarawa."
I said, "I guess you saved my life, Larry."
"Nonsense, d.i.c.k! I just jumped. Lucky, that's all."
"The papers said you were terrific. They said you moved so fast, n.o.body could see exactly what happened."
He made a deprecating gesture, but his wet little eyes were wary. "n.o.body was really watching, I suppose."
"I was watching," I told him flatly.
He looked at me silently for a moment.
"I was between you and the grenade," I said. "You didn't go past me, over me, or through me. But you were on top of the grenade."
He started to shake his head.
I said, "Also, Larry, you fell on the grenade. It exploded underneath you. I know, because I was almost on top of you, and it blew you clear off the floor of the gallery. Did you have a bulletproof vest on?"
He cleared his throat. "Well, as a matter of--"
"Cut it out, Larry! What's the answer?"
He took off his gla.s.ses and rubbed his watery eyes. He grumbled, "Don't you read the papers? It went off a yard away."
"Larry," I said gently, "I was there."
He slumped back in his chair, staring at me. Larry Connaught was a small man, but he never looked smaller than he did in that big chair, looking at me as though I were Mr. Nemesis himself.
Then he laughed. He surprised me; he sounded almost happy. He said, "Well, h.e.l.l, d.i.c.k--I had to tell somebody about it sooner or later. Why not you?"
I can't tell you all of what he said. I'll tell most of it--but not the part that matters.
I'll never tell that part to anybody.
Larry said, "I should have known you'd remember." He smiled at me ruefully, affectionately. "Those bull sessions in the cafeterias, eh? Talking all night about everything. But you remembered."
"You claimed that the human mind possessed powers of psychokinesis," I said. "You argued that just by the mind, without moving a finger or using a machine, a man could move his body anywhere, instantly. You said that nothing was impossible to the mind."
I felt like an absolute fool saying those things; they were ridiculous notions. Imagine a man thinking himself from one place to another! But--I had been on that gallery.
I licked my lips and looked to Larry Connaught for confirmation.
"I was all wet," Larry laughed. "Imagine!"
I suppose I showed surprise, because he patted my shoulder.
He said, becoming sober, "Sure, d.i.c.k, you're wrong, but you're right all the same. The mind alone can't do anything of the sort--that was just a silly kid notion. But," he went on, "but there are--well, techniques--linking the mind to physical forces--simple physical forces that we all use every day--that can do it all. Everything! Everything I ever thought of and things I haven't found out yet.
"Fly across the ocean? In a second, d.i.c.k! Wall off an exploding bomb? Easily! You saw me do it. Oh, it's work. It takes energy--you can't escape natural law. That was what knocked me out for a whole day. But that was a hard one; it's a lot easier, for instance, to make a bullet miss its target. It's even easier to lift the cartridge out of the chamber and put it in my pocket, so that the bullet can't even be fired. Want the Crown Jewels of England? I could get them, d.i.c.k!"
I asked, "Can you see the future?"
He frowned. "That's silly. This isn't supersti--"
"How about reading minds?"
Larry's expression cleared. "Oh, you're remembering some of the things I said years ago. No, I can't do that either, d.i.c.k. Maybe, some day, if I keep working at this thing-- Well, I can't right now. There are things I can do, though, that are just as good."
"Show me something you can do," I asked.
He smiled. Larry was enjoying himself; I didn't begrudge it to him. He had hugged this to himself for years, from the day he found his first clue, through the decade of proving and experimenting, almost always being wrong, but always getting closer.... He needed to talk about it. I think he was really glad that, at last, someone had found him out.
He said, "Show you something? Why, let's see, d.i.c.k." He looked around the room, then winked. "See that window?"
I looked. It opened with a slither of wood and a rumble of sash weights. It closed again.
"The radio," said Larry. There was a click and his little set turned itself on. "Watch it."
It disappeared and reappeared.
"It was on top of Mount Everest," Larry said, panting a little.
The plug on the radio's electric cord picked itself up and stretched toward the baseboard socket, then dropped to the floor again.
"No," said Larry, and his voice was trembling, "I'll show you a hard one. Watch the radio, d.i.c.k. I'll run it without plugging it in! The electrons themselves--"
He was staring intently at the little set. I saw the dial light go on, flicker, and hold steady; the speaker began to make scratching noises. I stood up, right behind Larry, right over him.
I used the telephone on the table beside him. I caught him right beside the ear and he folded over without a murmur. Methodically, I hit him twice more, and then I was sure he wouldn't wake up for at least an hour. I rolled him over and put the telephone back in its cradle.
I ransacked his apartment. I found it in his desk: All his notes. All the information. The secret of how to do the things he could do.
I picked up the telephone and called the Was.h.i.+ngton police. When I heard the siren outside, I took out my service revolver and shot him in the throat. He was dead before they came in.
For, you see, I knew Laurence Connaught. We were friends. I would have trusted him with my life. But this was more than just a life.
Twenty-three words told how to do the things that Laurence Connaught did. Anyone who could read could do them. Criminals, traitors, lunatics--the formula would work for anyone.
Laurence Connaught was an honest man and an idealist, I think. But what would happen to any man when he became G.o.d? Suppose you were told twenty-three words that would let you reach into any bank vault, peer inside any closed room, walk through any wall? Suppose pistols could not kill you?
They say power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And there can be no more absolute power than the twenty-three words that can free a man of any jail or give him anything he wants. Larry was my friend. But I killed him in cold blood, knowing what I did, because he could not be trusted with the secret that could make him king of the world.
But I can.
By Joseph Samachson
To all who didn't know him, Curt George was a mighty hunter and actor. But this time he was up against others who could really act, and whose business was the hunting of whole worlds.
There were thirty or more of the little girls, their ages ranging apparently from nine to eleven, all of them chirping away like a flock of chicks as they followed the old mother hen past the line of cages. "Now, now, girls," called Miss Burton cheerily. "Don't scatter. I can't keep my eye on you if you get too far away from me. You, Hilda, give me that water pistol. No, don't fill it up first at that fountain. And Frances, stop bouncing your ball. You'll lose it through the bars, and a polar bear may get it and not want to give it back."
Frances giggled. "Oh, Miss Burton, do you think the polar bear would want to play catch?"
The two men who were looking on wore pleased smiles. "Charming," said Manto. "But somewhat unpredictable, despite all our experiences, muy amigo."
"No attempts at Spanish, Manto, not here. It calls attention to us. And you are not sure of the grammar anyway. You may find yourself saying things you do not intend."
"Sorry, Palit. It wasn't an attempt to show my skill, I a.s.sure you. It's that by now I have a tendency to confuse one language with another."
"I know. You were never a linguist. But about these interesting creatures-"
"I suggest that they could stand investigation. It would be good to know how they think."
"Whatever you say, Manto. If you wish, we shall join the little ladies."
"We must have our story prepared first."
Palit nodded, and the two men stepped under the shade of a tree whose long, drooping, leaf-covered branches formed a convenient screen. For a moment, the tree hid silence. Then there came from beneath the branches the chatter of girlish voices, and two little girls skipped merrily away. Miss Burton did not at first notice that now she had an additional two children in her charge.
"Do you think you will be able to keep your English straight?" asked one of the new little girls.
The other one smiled with amus.e.m.e.nt and at first did not answer. Then she began to skip around her companion and chant, "I know a secret, I know a secret."
There was no better way to make herself inconspicuous. For some time, Miss Burton did not notice her.
The polar bears, the grizzlies, the penguins, the reptiles, all were left behind. At times the children scattered, but Miss Burton knew how to get them together again, and not one was lost.
"Here, children, is the building where the kangaroos live. Who knows where kangaroos come from?"
"Australia!" clanged the shrill chorus.
"That's right. And what other animals come from Australia?"
"I know, Miss Burton!" cried Frances, a dark-haired nine-year-old with a pair of glittering eyes that stared like a pair of critics from a small heart-shaped face. "I've been here before. Wallabies and wombats!"
"Very good, Frances."
Frances smirked at the approbation. "I've been to the zoo lots of times," she said to the girl next to her. "My father takes me."
"I wish my father would take me too," replied the other little girl, with an air of wistfulness.
"Why don't you ask him to?" Before the other little girl could answer, Frances paused, c.o.c.ked her head slightly, and demanded, "Who are you? You aren't in our cla.s.s."
"I'm in Miss Ha.s.sel's cla.s.s."
"Miss Ha.s.sel? Who is she? Is she in our school?"
"I don't know," said the other little girl uncertainly. "I go to P. S. 77-"
"Oh, Miss Burton," screamed Frances. "Here's a girl who isn't in our cla.s.s! She got lost from her own cla.s.s!"
"Really?" Miss Burton seemed rather pleased at the idea that some other teacher had been so careless as to lose one of her charges. "What's your name, child?"
"Carolyn Manto. Please, Miss Burton, I had to go to the bathroom, and then when I came out-"
"Yes, yes, I know."
A shrill cry came from another section of her cla.s.s. "Oh, Miss Burton, here's another one who's lost!"
The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Ii Part 119
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The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol Ii Part 119 summary
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