J hunter holly a trilogy
+ 3 râ€™s with a capital P + paranoid
J Hunter Holly A Trilogy
A FEW WORDS My first adult read as a kid aged 11, was The Gray Aliens by J. Hunter Holly. I remember my Mom buying it for me from the local Co-op and I stayed up late that night reading to page 54 until I dropped asleep with the book still open. I played truant the next day and finished the book in the local park. Many years later, while surfing the net, for what in particular I can‟t remember, I saw this comment on a book blog: „I bet you always thought J. Hunter Holly was a man, wrong - actually Joan Carol Holly!‟ The next day I ordered a used paperback copy of the Gray Aliens on E bay which I read instantly on arrival. I‟m a compulsive collector of things, so once I have one of something, then I want the lot. Joan‟s works are widely scattered inside books, magazines, compilations and even in comic book form and not always easy to find, so putting together the complete collection was quite a challenge, ongoing for several years. Finally, I needed one last book, The Mind Traders in hardback form and one appeared on E bay. I lost the auction but decided by chance to write to the seller who replied by asking me if I was interested in the book or the author, I replied stating the latter primarily. The seller was Ken Biggle, whose father and Joan was fellow sci-fi writers and friends. Ken not only owned a second copy of The Mind Traders, but 4 cardboard boxes stuffed full of Joan‟s writing, scribbling and books - the mother lode! At this point in time I was also communicating with Chad Hunter who is a distant relative of Joan‟s and we‟d started to piece together Joan‟s life and background. Chad purchased the bulk of what was available from Ken and I‟m happy it‟s now back in the family‟s possession. I myself managed to obtain three drafts of unpublished stories, including corrections and publishing house rejection slips. So, my obsession continues with the self publication of these „lost‟ novelettes dating from December 1966 to January 1977. This is my small personal tribute to Joan and I publish with no expectation or wish for financial gain. I have only made grammatical changes to the unfinished drafts and cut the odd word where necessary, otherwise the stories are exactly as Joan typed them. A full listing of known published works by Joan, in her own name and as J. Hunter Holly, can be found at the end of the book. RON TUFFT
Joan Carol Holly (1932 â€“ 1982) was a science fiction author who wrote under the pseudonym J. Hunter Holly in the late 1950s until the mid-1970s. Holly lived and wrote in Lansing, Michigan and from her various book dedications, had a strong love of cats. The author's profile notes, in her 1961 paperback book Encounter, states that Joan Holly graduated from Michigan State University during 1954 with a B.A. in psychology. Her affiliations at the University were Phi Kappa, Tau Sigma & Psi Chi. She was the recipient of the Hinman superior student scholarship. Her first book, Encounter, was released in hardback in 1959. Holly also contributed to the Man from UNCLE series of original novels, writing #10 - "The Assassination Affair". Joan Holly also contributed stories for Roger Elwood's series of books and Sci-Fi magazines, under both her real name and her pseudonym. Some of these, 'The Chronicles of a Comer' in particular, have a religious theme.
VOGELER J Hunter Holly Shael left the apartment immediately after supper, carrying the eight by eight inch box gently under his left arm. It was white and had air holes punched into the sides. Tonight, he dangled a sack from his other hand, holding it well away from himself in distaste. When he reached the street mingling with the crowd, he sent his thoughts towards the box and asked without speaking. “Are you comfortable?” “I'm hungry.” The complaint had came back to Shael‟s mind, also unspoken. “That's natural for you.” Shael laughed mentally, keeping his face expressionless for the people on the street to see. “Be patient, Vogly. I have your supper with me, but we need to be alone before I can give it to you.” “Why? Your parents are never there when you feed me flies.” “This supper isn't flies, I‟ve got you a rat." He hated to even think about the word. “A rodent control team gassed them in a warehouse this afternoon and I stole one of the bodies. Believe me, it wasn't easy and it wasn't fun.” The bag containing the dead rat suddenly felt heavier and dirtier.“But you did it for me in spite of that. You're a true friend and I thank you. A whole rat! Is it big?” “Big enough." Shael shivered, remembering how he‟d picked it up by its tail and stuffed it under his shorts to carry home. “We'll go to the mini park so no one can see what we're doing. If I'm caught with a rat, I'll be in trouble.” The Vogeler sent back a feeling instead of a true thought, it was a sense of mouth watering excitement. Shael increased his pace, pushing on through the crowds. He didn't want to keep the Vogeler waiting. He called the creature Vogly because he was the first real friend Shael had ever had, and Shael loved him. Just plain loved him. But Vogly wasn't really a pet at all. He was an intelligent member of an alien race of beings called Vogelers. He and Shael had been together for two months now, ever since the day Shael had first noticed the tiny thing huddled in the alley, up against the wall of the towering library building. The events of that special day were still in his mind. The thing had looked odd, squatting there, odd enough to make him sure it wasn't anything ordinary. Curious, he had gone to investigate. What he found was a formless hump of grey, six inches across that looked like synthetic rubber, except for a thin shell like crust on the top of its back. As he stood there looking at it, his mind was suddenly invaded by cries of fear. They were silent cries that had no voice behind them and zoomed in telepathically. “Don't destroy me!” the silent cry pleaded, it came directly from the grey, rubbery lump. “I mean you no harm. I'm lost. Don't destroy me!” Startled, Shael began to back away. He wanted to run. The thing sensed his fear and huddled closer to the wall. “Don't leave me all alone,” it pleaded again.“Don't hurt me whatever you are. I am a Vogeler, what are you?” Shael halted. Since the little thing was afraid of him, he didn't think it could be dangerous. “I'm a human being,” he said speaking out loud. “A boy human being.” “Think your replies. Do not make sounds. I am afraid and I must know your intentions. Do you want to kill me?” 2
“Why would I do that? I don‟t even know what you‟re talking about.” Shael thought these last words one at a time, surprised that it worked. “If you are peaceful toward me, I will explain. But tell me first, are we safe here? I was afraid all by myself and I‟m still afraid.” Not sure of what was going on, Shael answered the creature, “I don‟t know what you mean by safe.” “Are there others of your kind nearby?” “Not in the alley. But someone's going to notice me standing here doing nothing pretty soon. What difference does it make?” “It will draw their attention to me, too! Take me where I can be safe, young human being. A secret place. I will be destroyed if discovered.” Shael wondered about this talk of destruction. He wanted to touch the shell of the thing but it began to cry and he couldn't ignore its whimpers. That had always been his biggest trouble, he could never ignore anyone's need for help. Holding his breath against the idea of physical contact, he scooped the thing up into his hands and hid it under his shirt. It clung to him softly, its body warm and pulsing gently against his stomach. He carried it hidden that way down the street and into the mini park, to a private spot where he sat down and tried to calm himself. It was hard to do, because of what he was carrying around? What was a Vogeler, anyway? “I will explain,” the Vogeler thought aloud. “I can only hope that once you know, you won‟t despise me.” Nestled against Shael's body, the grey creature told him a fantastic story of how it had come through space from another planet searching for intelligent life to contact. It had traveled to Earth alone while its fellows went to other different planets in the solar system. The Vogelers were a great and glorious race, it assured him. “You're an alien? From space?” Sahel trembled with awe. “I am.” The Vogeler then continued his story. He had expected to land on the soft surface of a green and grassy planet but, instead he had come down on the hard surface of the giant city. From that moment on, he was terrified because he was stranded in the traffic that could crush him under its wheels, and after he saw the native creatures of Earth and realized their size and form, he‟d lost all hope. All he could think to do was struggle his way into the alley and hide against the wall where Shael had found him. “If I had known, I wouldn't have come to your world,” the Vogeler said. “Our races are too different. I'll receive no respect from your kind. There can be no friendly contact because I will either be heartlessly destroyed, or dissected as a curiosity. Worse yet, I might be put on exhibition. Do you understand what I'm thinking?” Dumbfounded or not, Shael understood. “And do you fear me for what I am?” the Vogeler asked. Feeling the warmth of the creature against his own body and all of a sudden liking for the thing, Shael answered honestly, "No, but I can't see how I can help you. Do you want me to take you to the officials of our city? For protection?” “Never… I want you to hide me. To save me.” “I can‟t hide a creature who comes from another world. I just can't. Our own space ships have searched for alien life but never found any. That makes your coming here a great event in our history. The government has to know about you.” “Do I look like the kind of alien your government wants to find? Do I look worthy of their respect? They won't give me honours or parades, they‟ll only kill me. I know this, do you want that?” “Of course not. But keeping a secret like this is impossible.”
“You won't have to do it for very long, and you will have no trouble,” the Vogeler insisted. "More of my kind will come and take me away with them. Landing on your planet was a terrible mistake and they will rescue me." “But how?" Shael didn‟t believe it. “You„re so little that they couldn‟t possibly find you. Earth is so big, and you don't have any way to signal them.” “I need no machines to make signals. They can find me by picking up my thoughts, just as you do. Vogeler‟s communicate entirely by telepathy. They will know where I am and they will come. In the meantime, young human, I have something to give you in return for your kindness. I offer you companionship, and I do it gladly because I sense a deep loneliness in you. You yearn to have a friend, don't you?” The Vogeler had hit upon Shael‟s greatest wish. Yes, he wanted a friend. His classmates were always mocking him because he was overly gentle, quiet, and didn„t like to play their rough games. He was the odd one out who preferred to sit in mini parks and enjoy nature, or what was left of it on this overcrowded earth, spending his vacations reading and thinking his own thoughts. He was an emotional throw back to the time when boys had animal companions called dogs and cats and roamed free. It made him a sober and thoughtful boy. Even although he was often teased, he couldn't change himself. To have a real friend was tempting, but what kind of friend? Could this shapeless little hump that communicated in mental whispers really be his friend? In the first place, he could never hide the Vogeler. His parents were certain to find it since there was no way to disguise what it was. “I am able to change my shape slightly,” the Vogeler broke in on his thoughts. It had heard every one of them "Perhaps I could disguise myself as a small Earth creature.” “There aren't any Earth creatures except human beings. Not in the city.” Shael told it. “There are only parasites, like rats and mice, and you could never look like one of those.” “Please think hard, or I will be destroyed. Is there nothing else?” Shael‟s mind leapt about for an idea and finally hit on an obvious comparison. “There is one other animal. The turtle.” Once in a while, someone finds a turtle in the water that flows through the city. Turtles managed to survive there, but were so rare they were now carefully protected by the government. Still, it was a chance. The Vogeler had a thin shell on its back already. “If I made a fake shell for you and put you inside it, could you stick part of yourself out through the holes and make it look like a head and four feet?” Shael asked. “I can, you have found a way. You have saved me and I will always be grateful.” Shoal backed down, “I'm not really sure about any of this.” “I will not be hard to feed,” the Vogeler interrupted, picking up doubts and answering them before Shael thought of them himself. “I can eat anything you eat, and I am small. You could even give me insects. surely you have those on this Earth.” “Only flies and spiders. They„re not fit food. Especially not for a space traveler.” “Whatever they are, I will eat them. I won‟t qbe a burden.” The Vogeler‟s voice grew serious as he said, "You are worried and this troubles me. But I can understand it, it's because you're young. I am not, I‟m much older than you, so I can be sure of what is best. Unless you would rather see me stamped upon and squashed.” “No. I couldn‟t bear to see that. Especially not after I've befriended you.” “As I thought,” the Vogeler thought aloud. “You are a very gentle young human. Just do not worry, I won't be a trouble to you forever.” There was a moment's silence as Shael searched for a question, but it was the Vogeler who spoke again. "It‟s settled then, you will feed and protect me and in return, I will be your friend. I‟ll listen to your problems, your dreams, and be true and faithful. I promise". Since he didn't know what also to do, Shael accepted the Voleger‟s proposal for the time being. The creature was warm and alive lying against him, after all, and if it didn„t work 4
out, fine. That was an answer only time could give. So they settled in together. Shael found the box that was to be the Vogeler's home, fabricated a thick shell from clay, and let his parents look at the supposed turtle he‟d found. His father was angry. “Turtles belong to the government and Shael has no right to them,” he said - but his mother took his side, saying, “Let the boy keep it for the rest of his vacation, at least he won't hurt it, and he does need something of his own. Just see to it, Shael, that you don't give it too much of your own food ration.” The boys promise that dead flies and spiders, plus a tiny bit of his own supper would support the „turtle‟ had satisfied her worries. Now two months had passed and they had been together constantly, talking silently back and forth until Vogly had become a treasure and part of Shael's world. For the first time in his life, he wasn't lonely. He realized this as he carried the strange little creature through the streets and it made him clutch the Vogeler‟s box even tighter. The idea of the dead rat he had in the sack didn't seem to be so terrible anymore. The rat was important. During the two months, Shael had discovered that Vogly's main drawback was his huge appetite. Finding enough dead flies and spiders wasn't all that easy, and Shael had reached the limit of sneaking food from his own plate. But tonight Vogly would have a whole rat. Although the thought of him eating it was sickening, it pleased Shoal to think of Vogly's stomach being full and contented. Stepping off the street into the mini park, Shael went straight to the tall rocks that stood in the center . He squeezed between two of them and was inside a private circle of stone. He and Vogly had spent many happy hours here, speaking only with their thoughts as Vogly told him stories of the stars and outer space. But for once the Voleger didn‟t have his mind on stories. As soon as Shael squeezed through the rocks, the alien sighed, “At last! Now, I want to eat?” Shael set the box on the ground and lifted off the lid staring fondly at his funny little friend. In the fake shell, Vogly looked enough like a turtle to fool anyone who only saw him for a moment. Right now he was sticking his head out as far as it would come. His mouth was open and his teeth showed as he waited impatiently for his dinner. Shael reached for the sack, then hesitated. “How do you want me to give it to you, Vogly? Please don't say you need it chopped into small pieces. I don't think I could cut it up without getting sick.” “There is no need for that. Give it to me whole, I have strong teeth and I won't leave any bones for you to hide. Please hurry. You cannot imagine how hungry I am.” “But you'll never managed to eat it all at one time! It's as big as you are. I picked the heaviest one I could find.” “Please!” Vogly was at the end of his patience. “I've never told you before, but I am existing on the edge of starvation with the bits and pieces you give me“ To stay really healthy, I should eat fifty times my own weight every day.” Shael couldn't believe it. “That would be two hundred pounds of meat every day! I couldn‟t possibly find that much.” “Don't worry about it. I am getting by and I am grateful for every morsel you supply. Only, do not make me wait any longer for the rat. Can't you see that I'm suffering?” Feeling guilty, Shael hurried with the sack. He knew he should lift the corpse out by the tail and place it gently inside the box, but he couldn‟t bring himself to touch it again, so he just dumped it into the box with distaste. Vogly moved out of the way, then immediately dashed at the rat's stomach, tearing through the hair and skin. Before he tore the first piece loose, Shael closed the lid. He couldn't stand to watch this process. He stayed beside the box, wishing he dare hum or whistle to drown out the crunching sounds going on inside, but he didn‟t want to draw attention to their hiding place. After a time, the awful crunching stopped and so did the gluttonous thoughts that had radiated while the Vogeler was eating. “Are you through?” Shael asked him mentally. “Yes. And more contented than I've been in weeks.” 5
Shael risked a look into the box and found that nothing remained but the Vogeler. “Why do you feel such revulsion?” Vogly asked. “Because that was pretty gruesome if you want to know. At least it was to me. I‟d like to get out of this place for a while and wash it all out of my mind. Maybe a walk down by the river would be good, would you care if we did?” “A river?” Vogly shot out a ray of excitement that was new for him. “You've never taken me there before. I will be happy to go. No-one could ask for a better friend than you are, Shael, you proved that tonight.” Shael made his way through the maze of the public transport system to the place on the fringe of the city that he called the river. It wasn‟t really a river. Man made, it was an irrigation channel that sprang from a deep underground well. Part of its water quenched the city's thirst and the rest was held in the canal to be let out through retractable barriers to irrigate the farm fields beyond ﬁhe city‟s borders. Those fields provided the rare luxury of fresh vegetables and fruit and was carefully rationed. River or not, it was water and Shael enjoyed the serene feeling it gave him. it was also a deserted place since meet people saw it as a huge septic tank and had no desire to sit by it and dream. He walked right to the edge of the channel and looked down. The water was quiet and shut in, rising high inside the concrete bay. He enjoyed seeing the water rippling and flowing because, this way, it seemed less like a river and more like a long, twenty five foot wide bathtub. But it was still his river, and he could lie beside it and imagine that it was as full of living creatures as Earth's water had once been long ago. He‟d seen pictures of fishes and frogs in the books he‟d read. Placing Vogly‟s box close to his knee, he sprawled with his back against one of the few trees that dotted the bank. The day was drifting on towards twilight so it was a good time for imagining that the water still teemed with life. Vogly seemed to enjoy the thoughts too, as Shael recalled the events of this strange vacation. The Vogeler's presence had changed from a worry to something truly special, and he was happy about it. A small sound disturbed him but he didn‟t open his eyes to investigate. His contented thoughts were too good to interrupt as they flowed from him to Vogly and returned with the addition of the Vogeler„s own contentment. The only worry he had anymore was the chance that Vogly might soon contact his own race and be carried away back into the stars. He didn't let himself think about that because it spelt loneliness for him again in big capital letters. The breeze rose in force as it made its last stab at becoming a wind before the sunset stilled it, as something hit against Shael's knee. He opened his eyes lazily and discovered Vog1y's box softly bumping against him. It was empty! The lid flapped and three feet away the fake turtle shell lay in the grass, its holes vacant. “Vogly!” Shael yelled in fright, then remembered to call the name out in his mind. There was no answer. He circled the tree frantically, searching, but Vogly wasn't there. Carefully watching where he stepped, he hurried toward the water. He grabbed it up, crying, “Vogly, answer me! Where are you?” He then saw the little grey blob that was the Vogeler undulating across the grass at a faster pace than Shael had known he could manage. Vogly was heading straight for the water. “No, Vogly. Not that way.” But the alien rushed onwards, ignoring his warning. Shael ran full out and overtook him, then lifted him up and hugged him safe against his chest. His heart was still pounding in panic as he cried, “I thought I„d lost you” I thought you'd gone back to the stars! What happened, Vogly? Did someone try to steal you?” “Put me down,” the Vogeler commanded. “I want to move about. That box is too small and confining.” Shael barely understood as his relief blotted out everything else. “You were going straight for the water and you might have fallen in and drowned. Oh, Vogly, I'm so glad I caught 6
you.” “Put me down,” the Vogeler ordered again. Shael didn‟t obey because at that exact moment he sensed movement out of the corner of his eye. There was a woman walking further down the bank. A stranger. A threat…“There's someone else here, Vogly,” Shael whispered mentally. “Get back into the shell before she sees you.” He held the shell forward so the Vogeler could wriggle inside, but instead, Vogly turned his head, saw the woman for himself, and screamed at her mentally, “Go away! You„re ugly and have no right to be here.” The woman‟s brain heard. She whirled around and her eyes zoomed in on the alien. As she started toward them, Shael forcibly stuffed Vogly back into the turtle shell, then ran to the tree and dumped him into the box. He had barely shut the lid when the woman was upon him. “What do you mean by talking to me that way, boy?” she demanded. “What?” Shael played dumb., “I didn't say anything.” “Are you going to make it worse by lying? I heard you." She broke off as the box in Shael‟s hands jerked and thumped. “What have you got in there, boy?” “Nothing.” Shael backed away. “ I saw something in your hands. You put it into that box, didn't you?" “It's only a toy,” Shael lied. “I don„t think so. I think it‟s some kind of animal.” Her eyes squinted with suspicion. "Have you been trapping turtles? Let me see that box.” “Please, ma‟am, you were too far away to see. It‟s only a mechanical toy and it hasn't run down yet so it‟s still moving around, that„s all.” Her hands grabbed for the box. Shael moved away and the woman caught hold of his sleeve. “All right, young man, this is your last chance. If you don‟t obey me, I‟ll have to call 23; trapping turtles is against the law. Now, what‟s your name?” Shael trembled in dread. He didn„t want to tell her, yet he couldn‟t refuse to mind an adult. There was no sense in trying to run because she would yell for the Guardians at 23 and he‟d never outdistance them from here. He mumbled his name, hoping she wouldn„t hear it clearly. Then, silently begging Vogly to behave he took a great chance. “I‟m sorry,” he told her. "If I let you look, will you forgive me for being so rude? Because, you see, it is a turtle, only, I don't ever hurt them. I just catch them once in a while and keep them for a few days. To watch, you know? I always let them go again. I know how valuable they are.” “A real turtle?” She was suddenly interested. “I've never seen a live one, only in pictures.” “I‟ll let you see this one. If you‟ll forgive the way I acted, I'll even let you touch it.” She nodded excitedly and when Shael raised the lid she stared at the creature within, fascinated. Her one brief touch on the shell was hesitant and she pulled her hand back as though it was hot. After Shael told her again that he always let the turtles go, she agreed to let Shael go too. He walked away, wanting to run but afraid to chance it. And all the while he walked, he scolded the Vogeler for not being able to understand why the little alien had caused any of the bother in the first place.” “I'm sorry,” Vogly apologized. “I didn't mean to make trouble. It was foolish of me because I could have drowned in the water. I cannot survive in water, but I didn„t know that I was heading in that direction. I'm too short to see very far in front of myself. Thank you for saving my life, Shael. That‟s the second time you've done that.” The boy clutched at the box . Two days later, Shael‟s happy world fell apart. The blow was delivered simply and with a tone of sympathy by his mother as she told him?” A man from the Natural Resources Bureau is coming to see you tonight, I‟m afraid your turtle has been discovered. It has to do 7
with some lady or another, I don‟t quite understand it, but you'll have to talk to the man and give him the turtle. I‟m sorry, Shael, but at least you had it for most of the summer.” Shael didn„t want to believe any of it. When his mother left, he told Vogly and the tiny alien went wild with fright. “Now they going to destroy me,“ the thoughts were so powerful that it made an actual pain in Shael‟s head. “I‟m lost and it‟s my own fault.” “No, Vogly, I won‟t let them touch you!” Shael cried. “I‟ll take you and run away.” “You can‟t hide. Your society is too well ordered and you are digitally numbered. I have been aware of this all along.” “But I can‟t let them hurt you, if they do I‟ll hate them all forever more,” he cursed. “I am doomed already, so forget about me. But you must never hate your own world or people. Listen to one who knows more than you. It„s not your fault. Make yourself believe that.” “I don‟t care whose fault it is,” leapt from Shael‟s mind in a flash. “I only know that you can't die and leave me all alone again.” “But I will die, young friend, and you have to accept that fact. My only choice now is how? Destruction, dissection, or shamefully as a freak put on display.” “Vogly, don‟t say those things,” Shael shuddered. “Or,” the alien continued, “by our own hands, gently, and with honour.” His strange little eyes came up to meet Shael‟s “Could you do that much for me? Could you kill me gently?” Shael turned away and his “No” was a vibrating telepathic echo that tore through the walls. He heard the Vogeler‟s sigh, “I thought not.” Suddenly he sensed a decision radiate from the little alien. “I must do it myself then. I know how, but I still need your help. Do not refuse me, Shael. I am only asking that you carry me back to the river.” “You intend to drown yourself,” Shael felt numb. “It will be gentle and quick, and it‟s the best choice I have.” “But if I do what you want, then every step I take towards the river will be a step towards your death” How can you even ask me?” “…because of our friendship. Things did not work out for me and this was bound to happen. I need you now more than I ever have, and if you refuse me I cannot find the river alone. I could walk to the water by myself once you set me nearby, but if you won‟t take me there, the only alternative is your bathtub and that means you will have to lift me into the water.” Shael couldn‟t answer. The whole thing was unthinkable, friends didn‟t help each other to commit suicide. “Think of yourself, too," Vogly insisted. “You can tell people that I was just a turtle, after all, and that you set me free. If you're found with me you will be in for all sorts of trouble.” “I don„t care about that,” Shael said adamantly. “But I do, you have saved my life twice. Now let me save yours. What is your answer, young friend? Will you help me? Or will you see me dissected?” He grabbed up the box and ran headlong out of the apartment. He rushed through the streets, staying away from people, until he felt too tired to cry anymore. When he was sure he was brave enough, he boarded a bus to the river, holding the box tightly and trying to send Vogly courageous and encouraging thoughts.” The water bank was deserted. By the dreaming tree, he wanted to postpone the moment when he‟d have to let the alien leave him. This little space traveler meant more to him than anything else in the world. Vogly was as close to him as his own heart and mind as they shared each thought and each emotion. It was like having a twin, only more than a twin. “I sense that we're near the water, Shael. Are you delaying for some reason? Please don't. It makes it harder for me. Let me reach the water quickly now that I'm here.” 8
Shael stopped. He held the box away from himself for an agonizing moment, then set it down He knelt beside the box and lifted the lid. He saw the alien resting inside, little Vogly in his turtle shell. Shael drew him out and set him on the grass. "Let me help you out of the shell,” he said softly. When Vogly was free, Shael asked, “May I pick you up? Just once more?” “Yes. I would like that. But do not prolong the moment for your sake and mine.” Shael picked up the creature, feeling the soft skin of his underside and the crackly thin covering on his back. Pressing the little alien against his chest, he whispered mentally, “Goodbye, Vogly.” He quickly bent down and put the Vogeler on the grass, then turned away as the alien started on its way to the water. Shael wanted to run away from what was coming, but waited in the terrible silence, dreading to hear the tiny splash. It came. In spite of himself, he murmured another "Goodbye, Vogly." He was thankful that he didn't have to speak out loud because his voice would have broken into sobs. “That's what you think,” came Vogly‟s answer, followed by a laugh - a triumphant, vicious laugh. Shael turned to face the water. Vogly was way out in the middle, but he wasn't sinking or flailing. He was swimming. Shael stumbled to the bank. “What …” The Vogeler stopped its undulating swimming movement and spoke telepathically, “Now you will truly learn what Vogelers are, young, stupid human being. You have finally done what I intended all along and have given me what I needed most. Water! Water to create more of myself. Water to be the fountain of life for my entire race!” Shael was totally bewildered. "But… but you said you'd drown!” “I said many things and you believed them all. Listen well, young Shael, so you can understand the greatness of my tale. When I landed here, I was in trouble. I came down in your city instead of an open space and there was no flowing water to be found. Water is necessary to me. I need it to reproduce. Then, of all the ones who could have discovered me, you did. You with your loneliness and oddness. Well, I made good use of both of those characteristics. I put up with you and suffered near starvation, but that will no longer be true because I have what I need. And within me, I have the power to create more of my kind.” “What are you saying?” Shael demanded. "If you're not what you said you were, then what are you?” “Eaters.” The word spun in Shael's mind as he tried to understand, “Eaters?” Vogly had said that he needed to eat fifty times his own weight every day. The explanation hit Shael hard. “Scavengers? Do you mean you're scavengers?” “That word is not quite adequate, but it will do.” Anger flared up inside the youth. “Then you still have the wrong planet. Scavengers feed on dead things and the Earth isn't dead.” “I did not say dead things. Vogelers feed on anything that is available. Fifty times my weight every day. You told me that I weigh four pounds, so I will eat two hundred pounds of meat a day. A whole man, Shael, or a woman… a child would only be a snack.” The Vogeler laughed again, a nasty rasping sound that Shael had never heard before. "Do you want me to come out and show you?” the Vogeler threatened. “Keep away.” Shael backed up, trembling. “Your father would have made a good feasting day for me. Two hundred, thirty pounds. My teeth ached at the thought of him.” “I said to keep away!” Shael shouted. “Anyhow, you can't touch any of us. You're too little. I could stamp on you before you did.” 9
“Alone yes, but I will not be alone much longer. Come and watch me, Earth boy. See what I can do with water.” The Vogeler suddenly sank to a position just beneath the surface, still visible. From where Shael stood, it seemed that the creature's shape was changing. Catching his breath, Shael crept closer to the bank, then watched in horror as the Vogeler pulled itself together in the middle to form a figure eight that stretched and stretched until the two round parts broke away from each other. “Now there are two of us,” the Vogeler laughed. “Watch me create more!” It happened again and again until, counting the original, there were eight of the things in the water, all the same size. It was simple cell division, but done this way it was horrible to see. “Look what I have made,” the Vogeler called. “Eight of us in no time at all. In forty eight of your hours, I will be able to do it again and my new brethren will be ready to do it also.” Shael multiplied frantically and the results were terrible. Eight Vogelers now and in two days there would be sixty four, then five hundred and twelve, then four thousand and ninety six! In just six days there would be over four thousand of them. Beyond that, the figures staggered him. In six months time, the Earth would be teeming with Vogelers and their voracious appetites. By force of numbers alone, they‟d be able to bring down every living thing and eat their way across the planet until all life was destroyed. In such numbers, nothing could stop them. Shael retreated again, Suddenly afraid for his own safety. The Vogeler sensed his fear and taunted, "Do not worry. I‟m not coming out of the water. My brothers and I are going to flow with the current and by morning we„ll be miles away. Say goodbye to your little Vogly, Earth boy. And don„t be too heartbroken, because it will not be goodbye forever. You will meet me again one day, or others just like me.” It was a threat; and the Vogeler‟s taunting was compounded seven times as the other Vogelers joined in. Their eight ugly forms began to move downstream, swimming in unison, while Shael stood still, betrayed and sick. He had selfishly taken the alien boast to his heart, and through that action, he had probably destroyed the world. The river would carry them, breed them, distribute them, and … he stopped short. The river! The irrigation channel wasn‟t a river, but the Vogelers didn‟t know this. All they could really do was to swim to the barrier in the canal. Shael ran far out into the empty field, determined to keep his thoughts secret from the Vogeler. Since the water was just a dammed channel; maybe he could find a way to stop this invasion, but how? He kept pace with the aliens, keeping behind their undulating forms as he hunted for an idea. The first barrier would turn them back and make them angry. He was afraid to go near the water, but he was sure as he could be that he could outdistance them if they came over the bank after him. Dangerous to himself or not, that barrier just had to stop them. There was a sudden churning moment of horror as one genuine turtle, a green shelled creature waded into the Vogeler‟s path and was instantly clutched and devoured. Everything on Earth would go that way if the barrier didn't stop them before they reached the grain fields. Once there, they could hide away while they searched out a true river. He followed them on, eager for the moment when the first barrier would block their way. Shael scanned the banks and finally saw the open water gates which meant the flow was being used to irrigate the fields. He hadn't noticed that the still water had started to move. So now they were through the first barrier and on their way to eating the world alive. He stopped by the water gates and forced himself to think clearly enough to remember the exact map of the water route. He had walked it many times, so he knew its formation. For the next mile, the barriers were spaced close together, forming holding areas that could also open out from the sides to let water into the different sections of the fields. It was an intricate system and never used all at once because the supply of water wasn‟t enough for that. His heart thumped faster as he saw a possibility of hope. If he got it wrong, he'd have the entire Irrigation Squad down on his head as well as 23. Without a hope of explaining 10
the truth to them, he had to take that chance, he was the only human being who had a option to search the bank for the metal box that contained the device to control the next barrier. Once found, he broke it open with a rock, pounding and pounding until the cover bent and twisted away. Then he quickly pulled down the lever to close the gates. They slowly began to move shut and the Vogelers were now cut off from the grain fields. Running, he raced along the bank, passing the swimming aliens, and beat them to the first place where the channel could be opened to the side. Here was another barrier but closed. An empty channel loomed beside him, waiting for water. He broke this control box open, and let the water from the main channel rush sideways to the fields, effectively emptying the main one. Once the water was flowing freely, he whirled around, panting. The Vogelers were coming. The eight grey blobs were visible on the top of the fast running water, but they were getting closer to the fields as the water level ebbed. If he only had the time he needed… Water gushed in from the main avenue, pushing the Vogelers along with it, until finally they were too close to the side opening for safety. Shael slammed his hand on the lever and the side gates swung shut and the Vogelers were trapped in the side channel, cut off from the fields. As the stream settled, it left them in water barely six inches deep, their backs above the surface as they crawled along the bottom. He heard the one he‟d known as Vogly command the others. “Turn back. Something is wrong, rivers do not behave this way. Turn back!” The eight aliens reversed direction, but Shael knew he had them cornered. He could fight them now, if only he had the courage to do what must be done. He heaved a big rock into the shallow canal, watching the splash, then thrust his feet over the side and jumped down into the water. The water rose above the tops of his shoes and squished inside as he waded after the rock he‟d thrown. He grappled it up, and taking great leaps forward, chased after by the Vogelers. They turned in unison to challenge him. “This is your doing," came their combined telepathic cry. “One betrayal bequeaths another,” Shael shouted. The eight forms cowered slightly, uncertain, “What are you going to do?” “Watch and see!” Shael threatened, holding the truth firmly in his mind so he wouldn't falter. “Please do not destroy me!” It was Vogly, trying his original trick of playing on Shael„s conscience. "Do not hurt me, young human being. I am small and you are so large.” “Close your eyes so you can‟t see me then,” Shael returned Vogly's own nastiness, he didn't care to be this way, but it was the only hope he had of handling the situation. “You cannot do this thing, Shael,” The Vogeler was pleading. “Your heart is too tender. You are one who lives, so you cannot destroy. A friend does not hurt his friend.” “No, he doesn't - but you forgot that first, Vogeler,” the boy replied, sloshing onward. “Now I'm coming to say goodbye again, only for good this time.” The Vogelers suddenly spread out in different directions so that Shael would be forced to run inside their circle. Their eyes glinted and their teeth appeared sharp and cutting, but he didn't stop moving forward.” Be pushed on past the first two, angrily heading for the one he thought was Vogly. His feet splashed noisily for a few seconds, then a terrible, crunching pain bit into his left ankle and he stopped short and doubled over. He looked down groaning, and saw a Vogeler attached to his ankle, its teeth deep into his flesh. Screaming at the sight, he shook his leg, kicking and stamping, but the creature wouldn't let go. Another alien came rushing up to snap at his other ankle. The water around Shael was red with blood and he hobbled away, carrying the biting Vogeler along with him, the pain so ferocious that he started to retch. Dizzy and off balance, he fell forward, flopping into the water. At this moment he was helpless, the aliens raced for him. He clenched his teeth against another scream and scrambled upright, 11
grabbing at the biting Vogeler and forcing it off his ankle. It came loose with a mouthful of flesh. Shael slung it away in horror then saw the other seven closing in, all teeth and hate filled eyes. He leapt up and down in a frantic dance, trying to keep his feet out of their reach, then made a side swipe for the rock. With it held tight in his hands, he waded forward after the Vogeler who was swallowing the raw flesh that had been part of his ankle just a minute age. Raising the rock high above his head, he gave a maddening shout and dropped it with full force onto the Vogeler's back. The thin shell cracked and the alien crumpled under the impact, squashed. Forgetting his searing pain, Shael picked up the rock again and inched towards the next alien, daring it to bite him. He dropped the rock on that one, too. Another bite into his right foot but he left the Vogeler hanging there and went about his grisly duty of crushing the rest as they came into range. The water was red from his own blood when he‟d finally killed seven of them. The last one, was hanging from his ankle. It suddenly let go and started for the bank. “You‟ll never be able to climb it,” Shael hissed, taking up his rock, both legs on fire with pain. “I‟m right behind you.” The Vogeler turned and its mental voice threatened back, “Then aim well, Shael, because with one more bite, you won't be able to walk. I promise to take your whole foot…" “Vogly?” Shael halted, facing the ugly little alien, the rock raised above his head for the final plunge. “Are you the first one? The one I called Vogly?” “Do not repeat that stupid name. It‟s suitable only for a pet animal, and I‟m from the stars! I overcame the vastness of space to come here. Think how truly wonderful and great I am, Earth boy. Think of what a being you had for a friend.” They stood as frozen, staring at each other, Shael‟s arms raised high with the rock, the Vogeler squatting in the shallow water. Neither mind echoed with any message, then Shael came to his senses. “I„ve already thought about it, Vogly, and I know what you really are, so now I have to say my final goodbye.” As he dropped the rock the alien leapt for his ankle.
Richard Curtis Agency 156 East 52nd Street New York, New York 10022
Three r's with a Capital P J HUNTER HOLLY The make-shift laboratory was quiet except for the tiny hum of the translator recorders and the finger tapping of note-takers. The students were fascinated at the spectacle before them and Nik Caynon gloated in his chair, stretching his lean legs out before him and nodding his red-topped head contentedly. This could mean promotion to full Professor. From the rapt expressions of his class, it most certainly meant a promotion of some kind. The students sat forward in their chairs, peering through the one-way glass at the children playing in the improvised area. What other instructor would have thought of it? This was so much better than lectures on the „impact of psychology on child behavior‟. The Progressive University encouraged innovative thinking and he felt he was their man. Now, perhaps, they would feel it too. Watching the twentieth-century children playing on the grass, bouncing huge rubber balls and pulling each other's hair, looking almost alien in their old-fashioned clothes, he wondered if they realized what had happened to them. They seemed completely disinterested in their surroundings except that it offered them a chance for a lark. Nik had seen to it that the experiment was carefully executed. Each and every toy he had uncovered in his twentieth century research had been duplicated before the children had been brought to the area to be observed, hence discovering what the early dictates of child psychology had done to their personalities. So far, the thing most apparent in their behavior was a curious lack of restraint. They did what they pleased, when they pleased and with little regard for rules. He pointed this out to his students. "It is the result of the twentieth century belief in free expression," he stated. "They believed that restraint would inhibit, therefore they did away with restraint. Of course, they were wrong." The students nodded and wrote on their note-takers as the children played on. Nik was about to make another remark when one special child caught his eye. It was a boy of about ten, sloppy and dirty from rolling in the sand. His blond hair was matted and his face grimy. Nik had noticed him before and noted his name, Bobby. He was one of the more belligerent children in the group, but now he‟d suddenly changed. He was no longer a bully, he was sly. The child sidled across the play area, approaching the one-way glass which shielded his students from view. There was a curious look on his face as he tilted his head sideways to the glass that was a mirror on his side. He came within two feet, put his thumbs in his ears, wriggled his fingers, and stuck out his tongue. It was a horrible sight and several of the girl students turned away in disgust. Then his eyes crossed and he pulled the corners of his mouth wide with his fingers. Of course, the child can't see us, Nik thought. He's making faces at himself, but it was strange to him that anyone would want to make such horrible gestures at himself, even this unpleasant child. It was rather obscene. As quickly as he‟d come, Bobby backed off, smiling. When he stood ten feet away, he reached to the ground with a quick motion and grabbed something in his hand. The students voluntarily moved backward. He thrust his arm back, then flung it forward with all of his might, sending the stone hurtling towards the glass. It hit with a spitting, sharp blow near the bottom of the pane. Horrified, Nik saw the hole appear almost in slow motion before the entire pane fell, shattering into bits on the floor. 13
It was impossible. The glass had been manufactured to withstand enormous pressures but the tiny stone produced pin-point force and had smashed through it, crashing together the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in a way that was never intended. The students were no longer observers, but the observed. The clink of the mirror brought every eye round in unison. For the first time, the children in the play area realized that they weren't back home. At the same moment, the students realized they were exposed. Nik saw the ruin of his new progressive method but he hadn't counted on the boy making things worse. Fright spread on the child's face at the sight of the strangers in queer clothes instead of what he'd thought was a mirror. He shouted something incoherent and reached for another stone. The students panicked. Violence had been erased from their memories and this was horror to them. They pushed and shoved against Nik, a mob of hands and elbows, running for the safety of the University buildings. But their way was cut off as the next stone flew from Bobby's hand bringing an entire glass wall down in front of them. They fled in another direction, like a swarm of insects in the wind. Behind them, the children were wailing, their mouths wide, sending up an enormous noise. Nik pushed his way toward them. They were his responsibility after all, and even in this crisis, he must not commit the unforgivable and allow a time traveler to be frightened of the new world. He jumped over the broken glass and headed for the cluster of screams. A short figure dashed past him, leaping the glass in the opposite direction. It was Bobbyâ€Ś "Come back!" Nik yelled, chasing after him. "Come back here, you!" The child didn't understand the new international language and didn't stop to try. He darted around the desks with their humming recorders and scurried through an open door into the main building. Nik's feet wanted to run two ways at once. Then decision turned hum back to the bulk of the children. There were ten of them and only one of the boy, they had to come first. He gathered them into a group, ran back to the lab for a translator, and with its help, had them join hands in a long snake. The wails and cries continued as he led them off, trailing their grimy socks in the dust. He rushed them through the halls into the time span room, pushed them under the cone of the grey machine and turned the switch. Let their mothers worry about the crying, he thought to himself. When the machine registered the fact that the children were safely returned home to their own time and space, he hurried in search of the missing child. He strode down the corridors, passing classrooms where other students listened to guest speakers, scanning each room as he passed. He just had to find that boy. His eyes skimmed over the lecture podiums, taking in the figures behind them, Plato, Julius Caesar, Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, Pasteur, Shakespeare - all giving lectures on their specialties. Progressive education and time span. If the students were studying the Bible, time span went back through the years, picked up Moses for example, and brought him forward to lecture in person before returning him home with his memory erased. The old three R's of reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic which had come down from the past had been changed to reason, research, results. Time span added the spice. It made education exact without the distortions of years of handing down. This was truly progressive education with a capital P. Everything was first hand. First hand information, first hand history, theory, philosophy. First hand demonstration. And that was where Nik had slipped up. He cursed himself for not sticking to Freud and Jung as he had in the past. These intellectuals were predictable; even if the results of their intellect were not. When Nik had made a complete round he returned to the front entrance out of breath and disgusted. The boy was not to be found. Nik hailed a student and asked if he had seen anything of the child. The student hadn't. Three more tries later, he found someone whoâ€&#x;d seen him. "He came whizzing down the hall about fifteen minutes ago, Dr. Caynon," the girl said. "He went out the front door and into the city." 14
"Oh, no," Nik wiped at his forehead. Beyond the door he could see the crystal outline of the city. Glass! Glass buildings and glass houses. One-way glass for privacy, two-way glass for viewing. And somewhere out there, a frantic child with a stone in his hand. "Why didn't you stop him?" Nik knew it was a foolish question. "I was too surprised when I saw him," the girl answered. "Besides, he was rather repulsive, I didn't especially want to touch him." Nik left her and went doggedly to the Dean's office. They had to send out a general alarm for the boy, however this was to be done. There hadn't been a general alarm in Nik's lifetime, thereâ€&#x;d been no need. Anyways, the child couldn't go far. He would tire, and there was nowhere for him to hide. Dean Kent needed no further explanation. The commotion had been reported and heâ€&#x;d already inspected the damage to his building. He was incredulous that a child could have created so much havoc, and furious with Nik for allowing it to happen. "I appreciate the motive behind your novel idea, Caynon," he said in his own pompous way, "but you might have tempered your imagination with common sense. Twentieth-century children are no more than animals. You apparently disregarded the time lapse and expected them to behave as our children would behave. You may as well have let loose a herd of wildebeest upon us." "But how was I to know they would throw stones? It's unthinkable." Nik was certain of his position. Children never threw stones. They might hurt someone that way. The Dean was just as certain of his position. "Time span requires that you know your subject thoroughly before initiating anything new. If you had studied the basics, the maxims of those days, you would have known." He cleared his throat, reciting with venom, "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." He waited precisely ten seconds for the meaning to have its full effect. "When a people even incorporate such a nasty habit into their maxims, you can be sure the habit is common. You should have known it could happen." "Very well, I was wrong," Nik wouldn't humble himself. "But what are we going to do about it? The boy's in the city. He's frightened, alone, and he doesn't understand the language. How do we set about finding him?" "That isn't difficult. His trail is all too clear. Caynon, when this is over, I'm going to go the limit with you. If this incident could have been kept quiet, it would have been one thing, but it's already out. I just had a call from a woman in the city. She saw the boy and called to him out of friendliness because he looked frightened and in return, he heaved a stone. Fortunately, it missed her, but it shattered the front wall of her house. She knew where to call, all right. She was smart enough to put two and two together. You've marred the reputation of time span with your antics." "He's moved to the residential section, then," Nik muttered, ignoring the abuse. "Did you notify anyone? Is there anyone out there after him?" "Of course. I'm not exactly an idiot. The Peace Squad are on his trail. If I were you, I wouldn't leave it up to them. Since it's a crisis of your making, you should help it to bed." "I intend to. Where is the place? I'll give them all the help I can." The Dean handed over a prepared slip of paper with a Newville address. Before another word of damnation could be said, Nik was out of the office. He hired a scoot mobile and steered out towards Newville. At the indicated address, he found chaos. The whole neighborhood was crowded onto the street, surveying the shattered damage to the glass house in front of them. The perfect mirror walls of the other houses only made the damage look worse. Splintered glass reflected from all sides, and the offending stone was mirrored also as the housewife held it up for public view. The Peace Squad had already left and someone pointed the way for Nik. He went down the street, straining for some sight of them. The thing that bothered him more than the actual damage was the fact that the 15
children within the group of irate people had been eyeing the ground, noticing the stones there in a new light. Drastic measures would have to be taken with them. Nik scooted around block after block, trying to locate the Peace Squad. It must be an exciting day for them. They had few duties in this New Society. Once in a while someone got drunk, or there was the inevitable family argument or neighborhood squabble to disturb the peace, but now they had something real on their hands. Nik sped through a crossing, and out of the corner of his eye, saw the retreating blue color of a Peace Squad Tri-Wheel, far down on a side street. Maneuvering a quick U turn, he took off after it. When his little scooter screeched to a stop, he found the Tri-Wheel empty. The men were spread out through the area on foot, searching for the child. Nik pivoted, but saw nothing. All he could do was wait for some news of the direction of the chase. Then the harsh jangle of glass echoed throughout the houses from two blocks East. Shouts blasted out and the high, incoherent cries of a young voice. Nik ran. With one block behind him, he could see what had happened. Another house had gone the way of the previous one, only more so. Two of its outer walls were gone. Peace Men were leaping back and forth over the glass, running in circles around the house and its neighbors, while one man stood still, shouting directions. As Nik came up to him, the shouted direction was, "Reform, men. He's given us the slip again." "Didn't you catch him?" Nik panted. "Can't," was the answer. "He darts and runs right out of our grasp. It's easy for him because no one wants to hurt him. Then somehow, he manages to disappear. Don't ask me where he hides. The only way we know where he is is by the glass." "How many so far?" Nik was afraid of the answer. "Five houses and two neighborhood stores. He's a little monster." "You could circle him and close in." "We've tried that. All we get is a barrage of stones. He's cut three of my men and damaged two of the houses that way." "Well, maybe I can help you," Nik offered. "I'm from the University and I brought a translator with me. If you can corner him long enough for me to talk to him in his own language, maybe he'll see reason." "It's worth a try," the Peace Man nodded, "but I don't think that child has any reason. He's just a bundle of instinct. Why, my dog is more civilized than he is." The Peace Squad moved off slowly, searching under every bush, into every hole, anywhere big enough to hold a ten year old boy. Nik crept with them, cradling the translator in his hand. They covered two blocks, creeping and aâ€&#x; hunting, when three blocks to their left, a new crash of glass punctured the silence of the neighborhood. Another Peace Squad was contacted and ordered to move in from the North. Nik's squad went in from South and West. A second jangle of glass told them they had the boy in the circle and they moved faster, narrowing the gaps between each man as they narrowed the circle in the middle. They came upon him and forced him into the open at the worst possible place. Theyâ€&#x;d squeezed the circle down close to the intersection of two streets, when, suddenly, the child screamed in a voice that was clearly a threat, and scurried into some bushes. He darted back and forth until realizing he was surrounded, and then took his stand in the open - smack in the middle of the intersection. From that point, he had clear aim at a minimum of four houses, and a clear aim at anyone who tried to rush him. The Peace Squad wasn't likely to chance being hit by stones. The boy stood stiff-legged, fists clenched tightly about a large supply of stones. His hair was wild and damp from running and hiding in dewy places. He looked scared to death and Nik admired him for his courage, no matter how uncivilized he was. Nik jammed the translator into action, and summoning some courage of his own, he stepped out of the line toward the boy. The boy whirled on him instantly, focusing his attention, but casting wary 16
glances to his rear. Nik proceeded, walking slowly. He called, "You know me, Bobby. I'm Doctor Caynon. I brought you here. There's nothing to be afraid of, lad." The boy scowled and shot a stone toward Nik. He ducked and it whizzed above his head. Behind him, glass cascaded onto cement as another mirrored wall collapsed. A woman screamed and fled to another room, clutching a bedraggled housecoat about her with one hand, trying to cover her hair with the other. Nik made his voice firm. "No more, young man. You're going to come with me and I'm going to take you home." Bobby lifted his arm again and Nik shouted, "Put that down!" The stone hit Nik on the side of the head, bringing blood. The pain was sharp for a second, then subsided into a throb. "You little demon," Nik cursed, and went forward. "I'm going to get you even if you throw a house at me." Bobby screamed in defiance and began a systematic barrage. The first stone bit into Nik‟s shin, and he hopped on one foot to subdue the sting, a second cut the bone on his other leg. The glass of another house fell in the background and Nik made a running dash for the boy. He caught him by one sleeve and they thrashed around, the boy wriggled free, leaving tooth marks in his wake. He scrambled three feet off and launched a good sized rock at Nik's stomach. The impact doubled him into a ball and ended the chase. With a rain of stones going before him, Bobby zigzagged away and broke through the lines of Peace Men, splintering walls and windows, nicking cheeks and ears. His trail led through a maze of astonished cries and sudden pain. The circle split and the ordered movement became a wild chase. When things quieted down , Bobby was gone… Nik relaxed under the helping hands of a Peace Man and allowed himself to be disinfected. With each sting of antiseptic, he got angrier. "This is ridiculous," he growled. "There has to be a way to catch that boy." "You‟ll have to think of it," the Peace Man shook his head. "I've got twenty men nicked up, now. One is serious. The kid hit him in the eye." Nik pulled a cigarette from his pocket and stuck it in his mouth. After a moment, he said, "Keep him in view and I'll see what I can do." The Peace Squad pulled away, following the boy, and Nik headed back for his scoot mobile and the University. It would be dark in five hours. The child couldn't be allowed to wander about alone in the dark, no matter how abominable he was. Back in the quiet of the University, Nik paced about aimlessly, his muddled thoughts forcing his feet to move. He had never seen anything like that boy. He had never seen anything so wild and frightened in his orderly, peaceful world. The boy was almost mad. No one could reason with him. He was panic stricken and his only thought was to defend himself. Nik remembered the one time in his life that he had seen a dog go wild. The animal had been much like this boy, frenzied, panting with fear and confusion. He was almost shot. But one person had been able to calm him; his owner. His father! Nik stopped pacing and strode down the corridor, a determined ring in his step. He checked his records, went into the time span room, stepped under the overturned cone, and pressed the switch. Everything went black. There was nothing. No sensation, no sight, nothing. Then the nothingness began to blur and then become transparent, a room took shape before him. Nik had had the experience many times, but it never failed to remind him of looking at the world through a mass of jolly. When quivering stopped, he stepped out to face two very startled twentieth-century people. "Are you Mr. Evans?" Nik asked the man. The only response was a sickened nod of the head. "Then, come with me. I'll explain on the way." The man didn't move, and Nik took advantage of his shock to pull him limply into the bright spot. Before Evans could protest, the blackness descended again, and they were on their way to the University. When the machine hummed off and the time span room came into view, the man had overcome his apathy and was growing disturbed. Nik shouted him down, explaining the 17
situation as he dragged him outside and hired a double scooter. The man's anger quickly subsided into anxiousness. They buzzed through the streets to the site of the last battle, following a trail of broken houses until they found the Peace Squad. Nik raced up to his former confederate. "Do you have him within reach?" "We've got him in a circle," came the answer, "but a big one. He doesn't know it yet." "Then, close in," Nik ordered. “Wait a minute. I'm not going to expose my men to another one of those rock fights. I've ordered a paralyzer brought out from the museum. It's still in working order." "You won't need that," Nik said. "I've brought the boy's father. He can talk to him." The Peace Man noticed Nik's companion for the first time and stepped back, expecting the father to be twice the menace of the son. "Where's my little boy?" Evans demanded. "You get my son back to me or you're going to be sorry you …” The Peace officer yelled into his speaker system for an answer. "Close the circle. Get him into the open, men." The creeping began all over again, Nik and Evans creeping with the others. It continued for five blocks. Then the other end of the circle came into sight. But no boy... "Did you lose him?" Nik was worried. His question was unnecessary, for the crunch of foot on gravel revealed the boy running for the middle of the street. Evans left the ranks and leaped forward. "Bobby, Bobby, son. Here I am. Come to Daddy." Bobby crouched, afraid of a trick, his face grim. Then his eyes picked out the familiar shape of his father and he straightened, only to crumple into a sobbing, helpless mass of little boy. Stones fell from his hands and he threw his arms about his father‟s neck, burying his face deep into the protecting shoulder. Evans faced Nik, cradling the boy in his arms. He wanted to go home, and demanded that they waste no time in getting them there. Nik led the way, trying to explain that the day's events would leave no scar on the boy's personality. Once in the machine, all memory of today‟s events would be erased, down to the sub-conscious. Evans didn't care about that. He only wanted to get his son home. Nik set the dials and saw them off. He wished it would be so simple for him. He would have wanted nothing, nothing better than to forget the events of the day. But he had to face them. His only consolation was the fact that he‟d discovered the remedy for his own mistake, and the Dean was a fair man. He wouldn't get his promotion, but he was sure he wouldn't lose his position. As Nik walked toward the Dean's office, he made a mental note to cancel next week's demonstration. He had planned to bring the children back as adults, to see what manner of person each had become. Now he remembered another maxim he‟d read in his studies long ago. "As the twig is bent, so grows the tree." He didn't want to go through such a thing again. Next time he‟d just summon up his old friend, Sigmund Freud, and let him explain it all.
Paranoid J Hunter Holly The sun was warm relief from the chill of the cabin, so Bennet avoided the trees and stretched his long body out in its full glare. He lay there for a long time, feeling the pressure of the heat on his skin, and listening. It sounded good here in the hills. It was quiet, but an altogether different quiet from the city. There were no eyes to watch him, no ears straining for his step, and nothing fleeing from him. He pressed his palms deep into the soft grass and thought, „Funny. It used to be that the man who went into the hills to give up human company was the crazy one.‟ He knew with a glow of relief that he would never have to face the city streets again, nor the maniacs who walked them. He was as safe as though he had a hundred foot wall of oiled steel round him, for not a single one of them would venture up here alone. After two months, the crisis of loneliness had passed. He learned how to let little things break the monotony of the day. Little things like listening for the flutter and whirr of a bird, or the rustle of furry feet under the trees. „Someday maybe I'll make friends with those feet and wings,‟ he thought. But that would come later, after the trust. And it was good just to know that there was any trust left in the world - to give or to be given. Like a boom in the quiet, his peace was shattered by a sound. Startled, he jumped to his feet and took cover behind a tree, a stone in his hand ready to throw. Someone else had found his way from the city. Footsteps played over the leaves as he watched nervously, trying to quiet down his noisy breathing. He was ready to kill, but in a surprised second he paused, and stared at the man who‟d stepped into the clearing. The stranger seemed too relaxed. The rational part of his mind caught the relaxed look of the newcomer; the casual clothes, glasses and most of all, a smoldering pipe hung from between his lips. Every part of the man screamed, „I‟m like you, I‟m like you,‟ and he couldn't throw the stone. The stranger stopped short of the cabin door and called out, “Hello. Anybody around?” Bennet shouted. “Over here,” and stepped out from the shelter of the tree, feeling as foolish as a child caught hiding away from some figment of imagination. The stranger eyed him casually. “Thought I'd find somebody up here.”He stood directly in front of him, chewed on his pipe for a moment, then said, “You're Ryorson, aren‟t you?” Bennet nodded in surprise, his face reddened. “How did you find me? How did you ever find the trail of one sane man amongst so many lunatics?” Korvin looked across at the cabin. “Secluded yourself away up here, huh? Good idea, if there was any profit in it. I've seen a lot of this sort of thing lately. All the good men going to the hills.” He paused, “My name's Korvin. Henry Korvin, PhD in Psychology. Glad to know you. I certainly looked hard enough for you.” Out of almost forgotten courtesy, and the fact that Korvin was someone to talk to, Bennet asked, “Want to go inside?” “No, I'll just sit here in the sun if you don't mind.” Korvin lowered himself to the ground, his legs stretched in front of him. Bennet sat beside him, suddenly wanting conversation, but Korvin was engrossed in the peace of the place, only a flicker of his eyelashes showed up any life. Bennet let him sit it out, he understood. Finally Korvin mumbled, “Yes, a good idea a place like this. If there was any profit in it.” 19
“You've said that twice now, what do you mean profit? If it did anyone any good I never knew it.” “It does me a lot of good, and I'm all I've got to worry about anymore.” Korvin raised his eyebrows a little. “Just how long do you think you can keep all this going?” Suddenly Bennet was on the defensive. He hadn't thought of that, and he didn't want to start. “Nobody's going to come up here.” “I came,” Korvin said bluntly. Bennet let his mind absorb the thought. Korvin started. “You're different, and you know it. I'm sane, if that's what you‟re worried about. But it's not going to be sane men that will take this place from you, it will be bigger than that. Look, I didn't come to waste time.” His voice was hard and his words came fast, crashing through Bennet's defenses. He stared into the blue sky for the first time since he‟d left the city. He couldn't see it, of course. It was probably on the other side of the earth, glaring down at some other place with firing ramps just waiting for the button to be pressed. And inside the little room, a man would be sitting in front of the panel watching for a red light to flash, ready to follow through by pressing his own red button in retaliation. Watching, praying that the light wouldn't flash, cold shadows played behind him as the Earth displayed itself big on the screen, he felt his loneliness return to haunt him all over again. Bennet felt sick, because the man he saw in front of that panel was himself, some short weeks ago. He‟d have to be there again in a short while if he hadn't retreated to the hills. Out in space there was another room, a duplicate, but flying in another direction and speaking another language, ready to blast its missiles away at whatever there was left to blast away at. The whole thing had become insanity… Korvin's voice penetrated into the picture, “I'm glad you came around. Now maybe we can get down to business.” Reality kicked back in. “I don't want any part of it. I stuck it out as long as I could. Somebody else can go up and rot in that hole. Somebody else can push the button.” “And destroy you? And this place of yours?” Bennet forced his gaze back to the trees. He said nothing. His jaw chewed at nothing under his tanned skin, but there was only blank determination in his dark eyes. Korvin continued with sarcasm. “King Ryorson sits in the middle of his kingdom with an army of lunatics crowding at the walls and two war chariots flying in the sky. The king says I don't want any part of it and buries his head in the sand so no one can see him. But, King Ryorson forgets that there is a great deal more of him sticking out than his head.” Bennet was mad clear through, a tingling in his bones. “What the hell am I supposed to do about it? Stick my fingers in the silo‟s and stop the missiles popping out?” The man opposite made no response except to stare at him from under his glasses. Bennet got to his feet and shouted down, “I'm going into the cabin. I‟m not listening anymore.” As he reached the door, he heard Korvin say, “I'll be around. Just whistle.” Bennet slammed the door hard to shut the rag doll of a stranger out of the cabin and lit the burner under the scorched coffee pot, trying to decide why the man had made him so angry. In less than five minutes, Korvin had smashed through the calm and brought back the sights of the crazy city and of the metal monsters drifting through space. Once let loose, the memories rolled in, and Bennet knew that making coffee wouldn't clear them away. Korvin had said, „It would be a good idea if there was any profit in it.‟ So, maybe there wasn't. But was there any profit in anything? Bennet cringed away from the picture of his hills blowing up in churning purple, but he couldn't stop it any more than he had been able to stop the suspicious glint in Karen's eyes when he came back from his last whirl around the world in that bare, metal room in space. He remembered how he had gone into the streets from the 20
depot, and within five minutes knew things had got much worse. People didn't walk anymore, they crept along, ready to run. Eyes followed him everywhere. Even the kids peered from the tops of their eyes, always with a secret look as if they were hiding from him. The tension crept around him, rocking and jostling, and when he felt like running away himself, he knew something had to be done. Karen was the only stable thing left in the world. If he could see her, it would be all right. He could stay with her until his time to go back, and, they could forget the contagion and the madness. That was the first time the cabin had entered his mind. He had an idea that they could go there together, then maybe come back when it was time to come back. The only thing that mattered was to get away from the city and the people now. He strode along the streets keening his mind on Karen to push the gnawing fear away. It reminded him of a field trip through a mental hospital when he was in college. The sensation was the same, standing in an open ward among all those twisted, hallucinating minds. There had been something about those people, the feeling that emanated from them, all wound up tight and unpredictable. That same feeling flooded the streets and sidewalks of the city. Maniacs everywhere. Karen's place was comfortingly familiar; plush-carpeted halls, and big white doors with gold knobs. He stopped in front of the one marked thirty-two. Light reflected from under the door, but after he knocked, it went out. He called, “Karen.” A small voice asked, “Who is it?” She sounded frightened, but why shouldn't she be frightened? “I'm back.”He waited a moment. “Aren't you going to open the door?” “What do you want?” “For heaven‟s sake, Karen, open the door. It's me, Ben”. The key turned, the light went on again and the door opened. She stood with the light behind her, glowing through her yellow hair, and Bennet stared long and gratefully. Then she moved away, her back to him. As he closed the door, she said, “Lock it, tight.” “This is ridiculous,” but obediently he turned the key, stepping up behind Karen he put his hands on her arms. She twisted away from him and he had his first good look at her eyes. Right then he knew that he couldn't stay with her, either. Their soft blue had changed to the color of ice and there were lines around them from suspicion and peering. He wanted to shake her and make her see what she was doing, but he didn't have the strength or the will. He didn't stay long; only long enough to listen to her repeated questioning, “Why did you come? What do you want?” Then to hear her accuse, “you're just like all the rest, you frighten me. I know what you want from me. All you ever think of...” He couldn't help feeling that she had failed him. He didn't mention the Cabin in the hills, it was all too late, he only knew that he had to get out, and get out fast. Bennet headed towards the center of town with a half an idea about finding a hotel. The streets were dark, and the few people who were about kept close to the shadows. A sense of being alone crept over him, of being all alone without anyone to trust and with no-one trusting him. He hadn't expected much, but he had expected to have Karen. Now that was gone too. He let the feeling take him and walked with it, sullen and disgruntled. As he passed under a street light he saw a frightened face lurking in the grey gloom. He imagined the expression on the other man's face as being similar to his own. He stopped in the light, a need to be lit up, wanting to see clearly. He heard the stranger break into a run. His hands were cold and his face hot as he searched back through his thinking and realized how close he was to becoming one of them. From feeling alone, it was only a short step to feeling hated, to feeling persecuted and then, being afraid. He let the street light cleanse away the emotion, then strode for the depot and took the first train out of town, towards the cabin in the mountains. 21
The coffee boiled over and Bennet came back to reality and the moment with a start. He could see Korvin though the window, still relaxed on the grass. If the man had something to say, maybe he should listen. There was nothing to lose. He walked to the door and shouted, “Okay Korvin, you win. Come on in.” The stranger came, an odd smile on his face. For the first few minutes, they drank coffee in silence. At last Korvin asked, “You made up your mind up about me then?” “I called you in, didn't I?” “But you must understand that once you decide, you have to stick by it. It's the last chance.” “Stick by what?” Bennet‟s brown eyes were probing. “My plan.” The way he said it sounded sure and familiar, as though he‟d known it for a long time. “I can't promise you anything until I know what you're talking about,” Bennet said, adding peevishly, “I suppose you've got something in mind.” “I hope so.” Korvin's tone was matter of fact. “Nothing that that will save the world though, things have gone too far.” “Maybe I'll change your mind. Will you listen? And with an open mind?” Bennet nodded. “I have nothing but time, so shoot.” Korvin's voice was quiet, explaining. “I'm a psychologist. But that doesn't really matter. You know what's happened without being a psychologist. The cold war was just the beginning. It started building up tensions and a fear that should have led to open warfare. If it had… well, anyway, it didn't. It just went on and on, and people got more suspicious and afraid. They started to search their governments for infiltrators, then their defenses, their cities and schools, their neighbors, and finally their own families. Do you remember those days?”He didn't wait for an answer. “Everybody knew there would be another war, but it never came. The frustrations never found an outlet. People turned on each other and then on themselves. Riots, murders that were witnessed but not stopped, froze people into inaction. I don't know how long that could have lasted, but it didn't have to last because it was cut off when both sides put up the satellites and armed them with atomic warheads.” Bennet cut in. “I was just a kid, but I remember how everybody was scared because of the warheads. Even when we got ours, it didn't help. I looked up at the sky, trying to see. I looked, I never saw them but I always watched. That's why I enlisted to man one of the things, I wanted to get near it once and for all, to lay the ghost so to speak.” “You did. Other people couldn't, and the realization that we are not safe anywhere came fast. There was always a constant danger, a constant threat - but now they couldn't touch the ones who threatened them. Now it was something out in space that they couldn't even see. All that anxiety had to come out somewhere and they took the natural, human road. They said, who cares, and started pushing others down to get ahead themselves, until the fear of the space stations was replaced by a fear of each other, a struggle to survive down on the ground. Now they said, everybody's against me, and it was true. Everybody was, and they turned away. That's my theory. Look, however it went, it developed into a case of mass paranoia. Everyone felt persecuted, everyone was afraid and there was no release or relief, no bursting of the dam, so to speak.” “They weren't only afraid of the other's government.” Bennet said, “but of their own. You know how those things in space work. If one goes off, the other is automatically triggered. That's all that has kept them quiet this long. If one of our men pushes that button, he's pushing the whole civilized world out of existence.” “That's why it's important that we do something now.” Korvin underlined each word. “The men who go there to man those things aren't sane anymore. You've been away, you wouldn't know. It‟s contagious, it spreads from one mind to another. If you walk down the street and see everyone creeping about, you soon start creeping about yourself.” 22
“I know,” Bennet said with a shudder. “The only test left is to see whether or not you're one of them. It finally got to the Directors of the manning squad, and they're scared to death that someone will go there who's not of their kind and blow them all to hell.” “It's a crazy kind of insanity, if you're not one of them, they don't let you go up.” “Precisely. That‟s just it…” Korvin was too calm. “I'll tell you what I think we can do about it. Are you willing to try?” “I'll try,” Bennet answered. “That's right. Frightened or not, that's right.” “I don't even feel like a part of the human race anymore. I don't care about your motives. I just want your help. What's your plan?” “First, let me say that you're not alone. I've found the three other necessary parts, men like you.” Korvin paused, then faced Bennet squarely. “You'll have to kill. Can you do that?” “Probably. I've never thought about it, but I probably can, for this.” “Good. I like you, Bennet. You're honest - and sane.” Korvin lit his pipe, speaking around the stem. “Do you know a man named Davidson? He's an operator in your class. He took the tour right after you.” “I've never met him.” “That doesn't matter. You will. The important thing about Davidson is that he's also sane, and he wants to help. He's one of us. The other two, you wouldn't know personally, they're Russian satellite operators, also sane surprisingly, and willing.” “How do you know?” Bennet was amazed. “It's not hard to travel between borders anymore. Borders aren't important, agencies are. I've met these men, and together I think we can do it. It's just a matter of disarming. They‟re bluffing about their sanity to stay in place but we must act quick.” “You mean you've got to prove you're insane now to be able to man the missile stations?” Bennet couldn't believe it. It was the end. No sane man would press the button and destroy the world, therefore the operators had to be insane. The agencies had to know that the men who controlled these monsters were abnormal. The man opposite nodded solemnly, “… and one of them is liable to push the button soon for his own reasons, but you don't have to worry about the Russians. They will disarm at the same time you do. However, it required eliminating a lot of men who come before you and Davidson, but it's done, bar one.” Korvin leaned forward. “You come up for a new tour in two weeks, so go the city and report in. They won't wonder where you've been, you've been living it up and that's all right by them. You'll stick around for two weeks, letting everybody know you're still on board. Then you'll take on your tour with a man named Adams. They're planning to send new teams up now.” “What about Adams?” Bennet asked. “Is he all right, one of us?” “No, he is not. He‟s the man you‟re going to have to kill.” Korvin waited for the to shock settle and subside. “You'll wait until you reach the station, then you'll kill him. I'm being blunt because it has to be done and there‟s no point in pretty language. You'll make it look like an accident, you can figure that out for yourself, then report his death to Earth. Tell them you‟ve sent his body into space and that you need a new partner, then Davidson will be sent as next in line. When Davidson gets there, together you will disarm the missiles. Don't try it alone, do it together. The other satellites will be disarmed at the same time. Above all, if you should get a red signal from Earth to push that button to get the warheads off, don't do it.” “Are you crazy? Why tell me that?” “Because you've built up a conditioned response to push the button on a red signal. And you'll have to concentrate on not pushing it if one shows up. You could be alone up there.” Bennet nodded. “How does this help the situation down here? Nobody will know the stations are gone, the maniacs will be maniacs still.” 23
“No. After disarming the warheads, you‟ll arrange a time bomb that will go off when you're out of range and blow the station to bits. The explosion will be seen and the shock will start the ball rolling in our direction. People will have their fears grounded and they will begin to recuperate. It‟ll take a long time, but I think it will work. It‟s a false paranoia remember, and it can leave as it came. It‟s like being terrified of a shadow until you turn on the light and see that there‟s nothing really there. There won‟t be another station put up, and if a real war has to follow at least there‟s a chance to survive that.” Korvin sighed. “So, that's the whole thing in a nutshell. Simple, complete, and depending on four men only. Now what do you say?” Bennet walked to the window and his eyes lifted automatically to the sky where the station should be due to pass. “I'll do it. Adams and all.” After reporting in to Central and signing on for another tour, Bennet walked a few blocks to Ecksies, the old favorite where he could always meet a friend over a beer. Ecksies had been the last to go, and it had turned from a haven into a dimly lit, quiet, nervous hide away. He recognized some faces, but none that he knew well. The tables were gone, leaving the center floor bare. Only the booths remained, and he knew this was because they were closed on three sides and could be used to hide behind. He crossed to the self-serve bar and pushed for a whiskey and soda, taking it to a corner booth. He tried to walk softly, to be sly and unobtrusive, to blend in. He didn't know how he could last two weeks like this. The first two days had been full of mistakes. If he let his thoughts roam he walked too confidently, looked too bold, saw too many hostile eyes turned towards him. If people stared, that helped prove that they thought he was different. But it wasn't good, he couldn't be too different. He took on paranoiac thoughts as he glanced around the room, shooting his eyes person to person, advancing and retreating but always watching. There were enough examples to follow, and he had to learn. He let his thoughts run. That man over there in the wrinkled jacket, he looked at me, watch him. He knows you're different and he's in with the rest of them. After two days of this, his thoughts made him sick to his stomach, but he had to keep on. He'd noticed that when he pushed along in line, people stopped looking, he became one of them again. Bennet remembered Korvins warning, „The hardest part of this job won't be killing Adams. It‟ll take all of your wits to keep from falling into the paranoid habit. You must be careful. It can swallow you as easily as it swallows everyone else.‟ I know that already, Bennet had assured him. I'll be careful. He had to be, but he had to be convincing also, he kept watching the man in the wrinkled jacket and made up stories about him. During the next week, Bennet got used to creeping down alleys to avoid strangers that he saw on the street, it wasn't difficult to pretend that everyone was out to get him. He kept a sharp eye out for Adams. He should be around somewhere, and if anyone had anything against him, Adams would be the one. The acting had been good. They had swallowed it whole at Central. They‟d asked, „why have you been hiding?‟ as though hiding wasn‟t second nature now, synonymous with Man, himself. “Because they're out to get me. They know I'm not like them. They know I'm different and they want to kill me.”He‟d been believed and signed up and relieved when he saw Adams' name scribbled down next to his own. Bennet laughed to himself at the complete idiocy of Central, then caught himself and brought his mind back to the nastiness of following his part. He didn't reprimand himself, he‟d been doing much better. The panic crept in less and less often now. The time passed and the days remaining dwindled down to two. This was something so important he couldn't fluff it, but he was afraid. He spent his time at home or Ecksies,, sitting in the corner and noting the others come and go. He had to be careful. Central probably had men watching him, wanting to be sure that he was still one of them. Then there was Adams. He didn't want to see Adams until they 24
were in the ship together. He had never killed, but he would have to kill Adams. Adams would know that he was different and spoil the whole plan. And that man in the wrinkled jacket? He was still there. Always there. What did he want? Every time Bennet looked up, he turned away, or diverted his eyes. Bennet thought he had seen him before, but where? He couldn't remember and he had tried all too often. Tonight the man was openly staring at him. Bennet had an impulse to get up and run when the man came toward him. Their eyes met; his were bright blue and hard. He moved easily, he wasn't afraid. When he arrived, he set his glass on the table and said, “hello.” Bennet pushed against the rear of the booth, every muscle in his back tense. He didn't answer. The stranger went on, “I've been watching you and I'm getting a little worried. This all looks too good to me.” The realization that he knew shot through Bennett‟s mind. He felt his body leap forward and he ran for the back door, out into the alley. He looked back and the man was following, shouting his name. Bennet ran. There were only two days to go and nobody must upset the plan now. He stopped in front of a row of trash cans and turned around sharply, waiting for the man to catch up. He sized him over, not too big, but hard and muscular. Bennet felt life in his arms, the power in his fists that had come from work in the hills. The man caught up and panted, “I'm glad you finally came to your senses, what's the matter with you, anyway?” “What do you mean, what's the matter with me?” His voice was nasty and he flicked his eyes over the stranger, seeing with contempt and disgust. If the man noticed, it wasn't apparent in his voice. “I mean, simply, have you gone the way of the rest? Are you going to upset everything? You aren't acting normal, Ryorson. I've been watching you.” “Not another word, mister. I know you. You've given yourself away.”It was clear now. He was from Central and had caught on to the act. Bennet crouched slightly, carefully, so the other man wouldn't see.”„If you'd had any sense you wouldn't have walked up to me and laid yourself wide open.” The man stared back, bewildered. “You're all wrong.” He swallowed the last word on the end of a fist, swaying backwards. Bennet followed up, catching him by the collar and pounding his face. The smaller man struck back, twisting free and hitting out. A fist landed in his mouth, but Bennet, both arms beating out, pushed until the mystery man he fell against the trash cans. Then he was on top of him, wedging him between the heavy cans, a knee on his stomach, hitting him back and forth across the face. The wrinkled-suited arms flailed, but couldn't halt the blows. Bennet hit until the body beneath him relaxed, then he stood up with a sense of triumph. The man peered up at him with a peculiar sadness, and Bennet was compelled to add one more touch. He pressed the inside of his mouth with his tongue and said, “Here's a souvenir for you, mister. Don't bother me again,” and spat a broken tooth on the strangers chest. The man shouted, but as he closed his mind to the words, one got through to him as he turned out of the alley. It came after him loud and sharp, “Davidson!” He‟d remembered. He‟d seen the man before and now could place him. That had been Davidson back there, not Adams, and not a Central man. He was supposed to save the world with Davidson… Davidson would hold this inside him and be mad. Davidson would get back at him. Early next morning, Bennet went to Central and tried to get out of the tour but couldn't tell them why, it sounded weak. He couldn't tell them that he was afraid of Davidson, besides Davidson wasn't even scheduled to go with up him. He went back to his shabby room and waited out the hours until he could meet Adams and take off for the station. He‟d figure it out somehow. He simply had too… 25
When the day came, he walked into the grey dawn of the field and climbed aboard the rocket, keeping a silent wall around himself. Adams was already there, strapping down in his acceleration suit. They didn't speak to each other, but Adams' eyes peered sideways too often. They were estimating, suspicious eyes. Adams was afraid. Bennet wondered if he knew, or sensed, that something was going to happen. Maybe it wouldn't happen. He had half decided to leave Adams alone, that was the only way he could be sure of steering clear of Davidson by not giving any reason for him to come to the station. However, Adams was too sly, too wary. “You're a nasty little man, Adams,” he whispered to himself. “You know I'm sane and you're afraid of me.”The start of the count-down hurried his fingers onto the last buckle, and then the motion of acceleration blocked his mind. As the pressure eased its grip, Bennet's gaze moved to the radar screen. They were in orbit and the beam of the station was drawing them in for contact. He unfastened his straps and threw the switch that opened the viewer. The station floated before him, expanding in all directions as they approached. Another ship lay at her side, ready to the return journey to Earth. Adams edged out of his and with a sharp sideways glance, took his place at the control panel. “What's the matter with you?” Bennet asked loudly. Sweat broke out on Adam‟s forehead, but he didn't answer. “Don't you like the company?” he pushed. “Nobody said I did, either.” Adams stammered, “I don't like the close quarters. I don't have to trust you just because we're forced to work together. Keep your distance. Okay..” Korvin had been right, Adams had to die, so he would take the only opportunity he had. The time between the ship and the station was the only possible moment for murder. The station swung up beside them, guiding the ship in with its invisible beams. There was a shock as metal touched metal and clunked together magnetically. Two men climbed into the other rocket and closed the hatch, there was no sound as the rocket glided away into space. Adams walked ahead of him as planned. When the lock opened, Bennet picked up a heavy wrench from the toolkit. At the precise moment when Adams stepped onto the station platform, Bennet clenched his teeth and brought the steel down hard onto Adam‟s helmet. Adams staggered and fell on his face, but the blow hadn't cracked his helmet and he struggled to regain his footing. Bennet jumped on him and grabbed for his airline. He ripped the hose from the oxygen supply and pinioned Adam‟s thin body under his, relishing every squirm, every gasp for breath. It didn't take long. The air rushed out of the disconnected hose and Adam‟s life rushed away with it. When all quivering had stopped in Adam‟s body, Bennet shoved it away. Activating one of the suit jets gave Adams a good start into an orbit of his own, far away from the station. He breathed a sigh of relief and proceeded inside. Everything was the same as before, he might not ever have left. He peeled off his suit and kept his mind away from the impending problem of Davidson while he radioed in the news of Adams 'accident‟ back to Central. They accepted the fabricated details easily enough and said they would dispatch a new partner, but it could be at least two days since something had happened to the stand-by. Therefore, he had two days to decide what to do about Davidson. He sat staring at the red button in a jumbled stupor, or watching the remote radar with its bloated blip that echoed back in the shape of the Russian station. He wished it would disappear, but it never did. The blip went on and on, revolving around the Earth just as he was revolving. How had he gone wrong? How had they found out about him? He had made a mistake with Davidson, but how had Adams known he was different? He remained before the board, automatically waiting for the flashing light, while his mind wandered within paths of its own. They were awkward, twisting paths that wound around a man named Korvin who had wanted him to endanger himself, a girl named Karen who could no longer be trusted, and Davidson. The Earth passed beneath him and he didn't notice. He ate and slept fitfully, afraid to close his eyes. Once out of bed, he was certain he‟d heard a thump on the outer skin of the station. But there was nothing. He put it down to a small meteor impact, and left 26
the worrying to the automatic sealing devices. The next eighteen hour watch passed in the same, unchanging monotony. Twice he went to the back, ready to rush outside at almost imperceptible sounds. Was something in here? Bennet knew that was impossible. There was nothing alive outside the station. He had one bad moment when he thought that Adams' body might have come back and was banging against the walls, but he knew that couldn‟t be. When the dreaded minute finally came, he had no plan. The radio squealed and Central announced through the station speakers that the rocket containing his new partner had taken off. He glanced at the radar and saw the blip. He only had minutes. Davidson was on his way and nothing could stop him. When he reached the station they would be alone, more alone than two men had ever been before. He had beaten Davidson once, but that may have been a fluke. Another time, he might not come out so well. The blip drew nearer and sweat dribbled across Bennet's face. He saw his death coming to meet him and he was helpless. Davidson knew he was different. Davidson hated him as all the paranoids hated him. But what could he do? He ground his fists together in frustration, and when he drew them apart, there, framed between them, was the button. The button! It was all he had and there were only seconds left. His mind fought to reason with speed, direction, and distance, to tell him that warhead missiles from the station wouldn't stop the rocket approaching but would fall and destroy the Earth. But he ignored it. He had to destroy Davidson, and his only weapon was the that red button. He straightened as he heard another clanking noise, closer and louder than the others, but his eyes remained on the radar and the button. He reached out. It was a case of survival. He had no choice. His finger touched the smooth, cool surface and hesitated for an instant - and then he pushed. Silence hung thick and heavy. He pushed again. Nothing… He slammed his fist onto the button over and over again, but nothing happened. The release bell didn't ring. It didn't work and the blip was rushing closer. Then a whisper roared out of the silence. “I'm here, It's no use.” Bennet whirled up from the chair. The space-suited figure of a man stood before him, clumsily reaching to remove his helmet, Davidson. Bennet drew himself inward, trying to shrink, to take up less room, but Davidson was calm. Relief over his haggard face. “I just made it in time,” he uttered, “I was afraid you'd do something like this.” “What do you mean?” Bennet spat. “What are you doing here? You're not supposed to be here.” “There's no time to explain now. Get into a suit. I've set the time bomb and we have to get out.” “Explain yourself ” Bennet commanded. He couldn't let Davidson have the upper hand now. Davidson talked fast, skipping details. “I stole a rocket, the stand-by. I was afraid you had gone too far with your pretense and gone paranoiac yourself. I came up here yesterday and I've worked eighteen hours straight disarming the warheads.” “Then it was you making the noises,” Bennet half-smiled, seeing the plan now, realizing Davidson's figure stalking, creeping about on the metal skin of the station. Waiting for the right moment, for the moment when Bennet was preoccupied, waiting to take his revenge. “You haven't won yet.” “Listen to me.”Davidson advanced. “We have to get out. I've turned the beam so the other ship can't reset the bomb. There are only ten minutes left. Get into a suit, NOW!” “Don't come near me,” Bennet edged back. “I‟ve killed one man. I'll do it again.” “For God's sake, wake up, man.” Davidson shouted. “We'll both die if you don't get into a suit.” Davidson came on, determination set in his eyes. Bennet knew he was lying. It was just a ruse to get him outside where the odds would be a greater handicap to him. He threw himself at Davidson, clutching and hitting with his arms and fists, but he wouldn't fall. The lead boots gave him added leverage and he stood before the attack like a 27
weighted rubber toy. Bennet turned that leverage to his advantage, using his free movement slyly, cutting in from all sides. He dashed in behind, and with a brutal kick to Davidson's knees that sent him crashing forward, he hit the back of his hand across the exposed neck. Davidson drooped and tried to crawl away. Bennet fell on top of him. He pounded and slapped, the clock crazily loud in his ears, ticking away the minutes they had left. He had to finish Davidson in time to disconnect the bomb. Finally Davidson slumped against the floor, limp. His eyes were glazed and his mouth hung open. Bennet grabbed a suit and started to work. The clock showed seven minutes left, he would take Davidson outside and push him from the station into an orbit of his own and then he could find the bomb. It would be close but he had to hurry and the suit was heavy. New life was showing in Davidson's eyes. His mouth moved and his hands raised upwards, grasping for Bennet. The jangling scream of the alarm jerked them both straight. They froze, staring at the red button, light pulsing in a maddened halo. The bell pounded their eardrums and pierced their skulls. “They've shot their missiles!” Terrified, he screamed and fought to move, caught in the tangle of his suit. Years of training told him to push the button and retaliate, but Davidson had said there were no weapons left. He turned on Davidson, accusing. “You dismantled the warheads. You‟ve left us open to attack. Theirs should have been dismantled, too.” Davidson shouted back, fear crawling on his face. “If they betrayed us…” He struggled toward the button, but Bennet pushed him roughly back. This was his moment. He staggered to the control panel, his mind churning, fighting through his paranoid ideas for clarity. The button was useless to him. Beside it sat the remote radar. His eyes caught it, struggling to recognize what it was that was odd. Then it struck home ... There was no buzzing blip. There was no sign of the circling Russian satellite. It had disappeared, as he had always prayed it would. He went back to Davidson, his face contorted. “The Russian station is gone, the alarm wasn't a signal from the warheads. It was their station blowing to bits.” “You're right,” Davidson smiled. “The Russian station is gone. There's no more threat.”Bennet stared at him, his mind whirling, pulling itself back from madness. Then he laughed, loud and hard. Davidson grabbed his shoulders and shook him, shaking sanity back into his head. When the laughter stopped, Bennet's eyes were clear. Korvin had been right. Once the threat left, the madness would leave. “Let‟s get out of here,” Davidson scowled, taking no time listening for apologies. “Our own fireworks come next.” Bennet scrambled the rest of the way into his suit and followed Davidson to the rocket. Four minutes more, and they were at a safe distance. They watched as the station turned into a blazing sun. Soon the station turned to dust, and the world could start on its road back to normality. It would take longer for those whose madness had hung on for years, but they too would recover in time. He turned to Davidson and smiled ruefully and thrust out his hand, his eyes bright and triumphant.
Scott Meredith Literary Agency 530 Fifth Avenue New York 36, New York
BIBLIOGRAPHY of J HUNTER HOLLY
Encounter, was released in both hardback (1959) and paperback (1961).
Other titles : The Green Planet (1960, hardback) (1962, paperback) The Flying Eyes (1963) The Running Man (1963) The Gray Aliens (1963, hardback); paperback title 'The Grey Aliens'. The Time Twisters (1964) The Dark Enemy (1965) - (in hardback only) The Mind Traders (1967) The Dark Planet (1971) Keeper (1976) Death Dolls of Lyra (1977) Shepherd (1977)
Joan Holly also contributed to the Man from UNCLE series of original novels, writing #10 – „The Assassination Affair‟ plus a further unpublished work entitled „The Wolves and Lambs Affair.‟
Joan Holly also contributed stories for Roger Elwood's series of books and Sci-Fi magazines, under both her real name and as J. Hunter Holly.
For a full listing and cover photographs visit < facebook.com/JHunterHolly>
All rights reserved. This trilogy was written by typewriter by Joan Carol Holly for use as short magazine stories under the pseudonym of J. Hunter Holly. Grammar correction and other slight alterations, when deemed necessary, were enacted by Ron Tufft, who professes to be no more than an admirer of Joan‟s writings. Any claim to the rights of these works, or any future publications using these works, are available to any member of Joan‟s immediate family without question. Issued in co-operation with: MERKURIUSZ POLSKI, "Wieczorna.pl", spółka z o.o. ul. Dolina Zielona 24 A 65-154 Zielona Góra
Type font: Bell MT.
ISBN 978-83-64326-07-3 30
Vogeler Shael befriends an alien he finds cowering in an alley, feeding him a diet of dead rats and insects. The boy and the alien communicate telepathically and all seems well, until suddenly the Vogeler becomes more demanding.
This trilogy of stories from the esteemed sci-fi authoress, J Hunter Holly, is the result of the chance discovery of unpublished novelettes which lay unread inside a cardboard box for over 40 years. 31
Vogeler, 3 r's with a capital P, Paranoid