The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol I Part 30
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Thornwald was easier to deal with, since he knew both Duckworth and Turnbull. Turnbull showed him Duckworth's letter on the screen. "I know he's on Mendez; I just don't want to have to look all over the planet for him."
"I know, Dave. I'm sure it's all right. The address is Landing City, Hotel Byron, Mendez."
"Thanks, Thorn; I'll do you a favor some day."
"Sure. See you."
Turnbull cut off, dialed Interstellar Communications, sent his message, and relaxed. He was ready to make a night of it. He was going to make his first night back on Earth a night to remember.
The next morning, he was feeling almost flighty. He buzzed and flitted around his apartment as though he'd hit a high point on a manic cycle, happily burbling utter nonsense in the form of a perfectly ridiculous popular song.
My dear, the merest touch of you Has opened up my eyes; And if I get too much of you, You really paralyze! Donna, Donna, bella Donna, Clad in crimson bright, Though I'm near you, I don't wanna See the falling shades of night!
Even when the phone chimed in its urgent message, it didn't disturb his frothy mood. But three minutes later he had dropped down to earth with a heavy clunk.
His message to Mendez had not been delivered. There was not now, and never had been a Scholar James Duckworth registered at the Hotel Byron in Landing City. Neither was his name on the incoming pa.s.senger lists at the s.p.a.ceport at Landing City.
He forced himself to forget about it; he had a date with Dee again that night, and he was not going to let something silly like this bother him. But bother him it did. Unlike the night before, the date was an utter fiasco, a complete flop. Dee sensed his mood, misinterpreted it, complained of a headache, and went home early. Turnbull slept badly that night.
Next morning, he had an appointment with one of the executives of U.C.L.I.--University of Columbia in Long Island--and, on the way back he stopped at the s.p.a.ceport to see what he could find out. But all he got was purely negative information.
On his way back to Manhattan, he sat in the autocab and fumed.
When he reached home, he stalked around the apartment for an hour, smoking half a dozen cigarettes, chain fas.h.i.+on, and polis.h.i.+ng off three gla.s.ses of Bristol Cream without even tasting it.
Dave Turnbull, like any really top-flight investigator, had developed intuitive thinking to a fine art. Ever since the Lancaster Method had shown the natural laws applying to intuitive reasoning, no scientist worthy of the name failed to apply it consistently in making his investigations. Only when exact measurement became both possible and necessary was there any need to apply logic to a given problem.
A logician adds two and two and gets four; an intuitionist multiplies them and gets the same answer. But a logician, faced with three twos, gets six--an intuitionist gets eight. Intuition will get higher orders of answers from a given set of facts than logic will.
Turnbull applied intuition to the facts he knew and came up with an answer. Then he phoned the New York Public Library, had his phone connected with the stacks, and spent an hour checking for data that would either prove or disprove his theory. He found plenty of the former and none of the latter.
Then he called his superiors at Columbia.
He had to write up his report on the Lobon explorations. Would it be possible for him to take a six-month leave of absence for the purpose?
The following Sat.u.r.day, Dr. Dave F. Turnbull was on the interstellar liner Oriona, bound for Sirius.
If ever there was a Gold Mine In The Sky, it was Centaurus City. To the cultural xenologists who worked on its mysterious riches, it seemed to present an almost inexhaustible supply of new data. The former inhabitants had left everything behind, as though it were no longer of any value whatever. No other trace of them had as yet been found anywhere in the known galaxy, but they had left enough material in Centaurus City to satisfy the curiosity of Mankind for years to come, and enough mystery and complexity to whet that curiosity to an even sharper degree.
It's difficult for the average person to grasp just how much information can be packed into a city covering ten thousand square miles with a population density equal to that of Manhattan. How long would it take the hypothetical Man From Mars to investigate New York or London if he had only the City to work with, if he found them just as they stand except that the inhabitants had vanished?
The technological level of the aliens could not be said to be either "above" or "below" that of Man: it could only be said to be "different." It was as if the two cultures complemented each other; the areas of knowledge which the aliens had explored seemed to be those which Mankind had not yet touched, while, at the same time, there appeared to be many levels of common human knowledge which the aliens had never approached.
From the combination of the two, whole new fields of human thought and endeavor had been opened.
No trace of the alien s.p.a.ces.h.i.+ps had been uncovered, but the anti-gravitational devices in their aircraft, plus the basic principles of Man's own near-light-velocity drive had given Man the ultralight drive.
Their knowledge of social organization and function far exceeded that of Man, and the hints taken from the deciphered writings of the aliens had radically changed Man's notions of government. Now humanity could build a Galactic Civilization--a unity that was neither a pure democracy nor an absolute dictators.h.i.+p, but resulted in optimum governmental control combined with optimum individual freedom. It was e pluribus unum plus. Their technological writings were few, insofar as physics and chemistry were concerned. What there were turned out to be elementary texts rather than advanced studies--which was fortunate, because it had been through these that the cultural xenologists had been able to decipher the language of the aliens, a language that was no more alien to the modern mind than, say, ancient Egyptian or Cretan.
But without any advanced texts, deciphering the workings of the thousands of devices that the aliens had left behind was a tedious job. The elementary textbooks seemed to deal with the same sort of science that human beings were used to, but, at some point beyond, the aliens had taken a slightly different course, and, at first, only the very simplest of their mechanisms could be a.n.a.lyzed. But the investigators learned from the simpler mechanisms, and found themselves able to take the next step forward to more complex ones. However, it still remained a fact that the majority of the devices were as incomprehensible to the investigators as would the function of a transistor have been to James Clerk Maxwell.
In the areas of the social sciences, data was deciphered at a fairly rapid rate; the aliens seemed to have concentrated all their efforts on that. Psionics, on the other hand, seemed never to have occurred to them, much less to have been investigated. And yet, there were devices in Centaurus City that bore queer generic resemblances to common Terrestrial psionic machines. But there was no hint of such things in the alien literature.
And the physical sciences were deciphered only slowly, by a process of cut-and-try and cut-and-try again.
The investigations would take time. There were only a relatively small handful of men working on the problems that the City posed. Not because there weren't plenty of men who would have sacrificed their time and efforts to further the work, but because the planet, being hostile to Man, simply would not support very many investigators. It was not economically feasible to pour more men and material into the project after the point of diminis.h.i.+ng returns had been reached. Theoretically, it would have been possible to re-seal the City's dome and pump in an atmosphere that human beings could live with, but, aside from every other consideration, it was likely that such an atmosphere would ruin many of the artifacts within the City.
Besides, the work in the City was heady stuff. Investigation of the City took a particular type of high-level mind, and that kind of mind did not occur in vast numbers.
It was not, Turnbull thought, his particular dish of tea. The physical sciences were not his realm, and the work of translating the alien writings could be done on Earth, from 'stat copies, if he'd cared to do that kind of work.
Sirius VI was a busy planet--a planet that was as Earthlike as a planet could be without being Earth itself. It had a single moon, smaller than Earth's and somewhat nearer to the planet itself. The Oriona landed there, and Dave Turnbull took a shuttle s.h.i.+p to Sirius VI, dropping down at the s.p.a.ceport near Noiberlin, the capital.
It took less than an hour to find that Scholar Duckworth had gone no farther on his journey to Mendez than Sirius VI. He hadn't cashed in his ticket; if he had, they'd have known about it on Earth. But he certainly hadn't taken a s.h.i.+p toward the Central Stars, either.
Turnbull got himself a hotel room and began checking through the Noiberlin city directory. There it was, big as life and fifteen times as significant. Rawlings Scientific Corporation.
Turnbull decided he might as well tackle them right off the bat; there was nothing to be gained by p.u.s.s.yfooting around.
He used the phone, and, after browbeating several of the employees and pulling his position on a couple of executives, he managed to get an appointment with the a.s.sistant Director, Lawrence Drawford. The Director, Scholar Jason Rawlings, was not on Sirius VI at the time.
The appointment was scheduled for oh nine hundred the following morning, and Turnbull showed up promptly. He entered through the big main door and walked to the reception desk.
"Yes?" said the girl at the desk.
"How do you do," Turnbull said. "My name is Turnbull; I think I'm expected."
"Just a moment." She checked with the information panel on her desk, then said: "Go right on up, Dr. Turnbull. Take Number Four Lift Chute to the eighteenth floor and turn left. Dr. Drawford's office is at the end of the hall."
Turnbull followed directions.
Drawford was a heavy-set, florid-faced man with an easy smile and a rather too hearty voice.
"Come in, Dr. Turnbull; it's a pleasure to meet you. What can I do for you?" He waved Turnbull to a chair and sat down behind his desk.
Turnbull said carefully: "I'd just like to get a little information, Dr. Drawford."
Drawford selected a cigar from the humidor on his desk and offered one to Turnbull. "Cigar? No? Well, if I can be of any help to you, I'll certainly do the best I can." But there was a puzzled look on his face as he lit his cigar.
"First," said Turnbull, "am I correct in saying that Rawlings Scientific is in charge of the research program at Centaurus City?"
Drawford exhaled a cloud of blue-gray smoke. "Not precisely. We work as a liaison between the Advanced Study Board and the Centaurus group, and we supply the equipment that's needed for the work there. We build instruments to order--that sort of thing. Scholar Rawlings is a member of the Board, of course, which admits of a somewhat closer liaison than might otherwise be possible.
"But I'd hardly say we were in charge of the research. That's handled entirely by the Group leaders at the City itself."
Turnbull lit a cigarette. "What happened to Scholar Duckworth?" he said suddenly.
Drawford blinked. "I beg your pardon?"
Again Turnbull's intuitive reasoning leaped far ahead of logic; he knew that Drawford was honestly innocent of any knowledge of the whereabouts of Scholar James Duckworth.
"I was under the impression," Turnbull said easily, "that Scholar Duckworth was engaged in some sort of work with Scholar Rawlings."
Drawford smiled and spread his hands. "Well, now, that may be. Dr. Turnbull. If so, then they're engaged in something that's above my level."
Drawford pursed his lips for a moment, frowning. Then he said: "I must admit that I'm not a good intuitive thinker, Dr. Turnbull. I have not the capacity for it, I suppose. That's why I'm an engineer instead of a basic research man; that's why I'll never get a Scholar's degree." Again he paused before continuing. "For that reason, Scholar Rawlings leaves the logic to me and doesn't burden me with his own business. Nominally, he is the head of the Corporation; actually, we operate in different areas--areas which, naturally, overlap in places, but which are not congruent by any means."
"In other words," said Turnbull, "if Duckworth and Rawlings were working together, you wouldn't be told about it."
"Not unless Scholar Rawlings thought it was necessary to tell me," Drawford said. He put his cigar carefully in the ashdrop. "Of course, if I asked him, I'm sure he'd give me the information, but it's hardly any of my business."
Turnbull nodded and switched his tack. "Scholar Rawlings is off-planet, I believe?"
"That's right. I'm not at liberty to disclose his whereabouts, however," Drawford said.
"I realize that. But I'd like to get a message to him, if possible."
Drawford picked up his cigar again and puffed at it a moment before saying anything. Then, "Dr. Turnbull, please don't think I'm being stuffy, but may I ask the purpose of this inquiry?"
"A fair question," said Turnbull, smiling. "I really shouldn't have come barging in here like this without explaining myself first." He had his lie already formulated in his mind. "I'm engaged in writing up a report on the cultural significance of the artifacts on the planet Lobon--you may have heard something of it?"
"I've heard the name," Drawford admitted. "That's in the Sagittarius Sector somewhere, as I recall."
"That's right. Well, as you know, the theory for the existence of Centaurus City a.s.sumes that it was, at one time, the focal point of a complex of trade routes through the galaxy, established by a race that has pa.s.sed from the galactic scene."
Drawford was nodding slowly, waiting to hear what Turnbull had to say.
"I trust that you'll keep this to yourself, doctor," Turnbull said, extinguis.h.i.+ng his cigarette. "But I am of the opinion that the artifacts on Lobon bear a distinct resemblance to those of the City." It was a bald, out-and-out lie, but he knew Drawford would have no way of knowing that it was. "I think that Lobon was actually one of the colonies of that race--one of their food-growing planets. If so, there is certainly a necessity for correlation between the data uncovered on Lobon and those which have been found in the City."
Drawford's face betrayed his excitement. "Why ... why, that's amazing! I can see why you wanted to get in touch with Scholar Rawlings, certainly! Do you really think there's something in this idea?"
"I do," said Turnbull firmly. "Will it be possible for me to send a message to him?"
"Certainly," Drawford said quickly. "I'll see that he gets it as soon as possible. What did you wish to say?"
Turnbull reached into his belt pouch, pulled out a pad and stylus, and began to write.
I have reason to believe that I have solved the connection between the two sources of data concerned in the Centaurus City problem. I would also like to discuss the Duckworth theory with you.
When he had finished, he signed his name at the bottom and handed it to Drawford.
Drawford looked at it, frowned, and looked up at Turnbull questioningly.
"He'll know what I mean," Turnbull said. "Scholar Duckworth had an idea that Lobon was a data source on the problem even before we did our digging there. Frankly, that's why I thought Duckworth might be working with Scholar Rawlings."
Drawford's face cleared. "Very well. I'll put this on the company transmitters immediately, Dr. Turnbull. And--don't worry, I won't say anything about this to anyone until Scholar Rawlings or you, yourself, give me the go-ahead."
"I'd certainly appreciate that," Turnbull said, rising from his seat. "I'll leave you to your work now, Dr. Drawford. I can be reached at the Mayfair Hotel."
The two men shook hands, and Turnbull left quickly.
Turnbull felt intuitively that he knew where Rawlings was. On the Centaurus planet--the planet of the City. But where was Duckworth? Reason said that he, too, was at the City, but under what circ.u.mstances? Was he a prisoner? Had he been killed outright?
Surely not. That didn't jibe with his leaving Earth the way he had. If someone had wanted him killed, they'd have done it on Earth; they wouldn't have left a trail to Sirius IV that anyone who was interested could have followed.
On the other hand, how could they account for Duckworth's disappearance, since the trail was so broad? If the police-- No. He was wrong. The trouble with intuitive thinking is that it tends to leave out whole sections of what, to a logical thinker, are pieces of absolutely necessary data.
Duckworth actually had no connection with Rawlings--no logical connection. The only thing the police would have to work with was the fact that Scholar Duckworth had started on a trip to Mendez and never made it any farther than Sirius IV. There, he had vanished. Why? How could they prove anything?
On the other hand, Turnbull was safe. The letters from Duckworth, plus his visit to Drawford, plus his acknowledged destination of Sirius IV, would be enough to connect up both cases if Turnbull vanished. Rawlings should know he couldn't afford to do anything to Turnbull.
Dave Turnbull felt perfectly safe.
He was in his hotel room at the Mayfair when the announcer chimed, five hours later. He glanced up from his book to look at the screen. It showed a young man in an ordinary business jumper, looking rather boredly at the screen.
"What is it?" Turnbull asked.
"Message for Dr. Turnbull from Rawlings Scientific Corporation," said the young man, in a voice that sounded even more bored than his face looked.
Turnbull sighed and got up to open the door. When it sectioned, he had only a fraction of a second to see what the message was.
It was a stungun in the hand of the young man.
It went off, and Turnbull's mind spiraled into blankness before he could react.
Out of a confused blur of color, a face sprang suddenly into focus, swam away again, and came back. The lips of the face moved.
"How do you feel, son?"
Turnbull looked at the face. It was that of a fairly old man who still retained the vitality of youth. It was lined, but still firm.
The Golden Age Of Science Fiction Vol I Part 30
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