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Title: Revolt of the Brains

Author: Stephen Marlowe

Release date: June 22, 2021 [eBook #65668]

Language: English

Credits: Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


Revolt Of The Brains

By C. H. Thames

Taylor knew Earth faced its darkest hour;
man was prepared to fight against any invaders,
except—ironically enough—those he had created!

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy
December 1956
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

Harry Taylor knew it was going to be a big one—a really big one—the moment he saw the Chief.

"Come in, Taylor. Come in," the Chief said. He was a three-star general in the United States Air Force and he stood in front of a map of the Western hemisphere. The map covered the entire rear wall of the room with certain areas—like the White Sands complex and the central Everglades and a portion of the Mojave Desert—marked off in red.

"I'll come right to the point," the Chief said. He looked haggard, not merely as if he lacked sleep but as if he might never sleep again. "As you know, Taylor, all of our guided missiles are missing. That means—"

"I'd heard the rumors," Taylor said grimly. "But then—we'd be helpless! If the enemy finds out that we are unable to retaliate...."

"Wait, Taylor. Let me sketch in the history for you briefly. Last Sunday, as you've probably heard via inter-agency scuttlebutt, every inter-continental missile in the weapons arsenal of the Free World disappeared."

"But how?"

"All we knew at the time was that they simply—blasted off. Our radar tracked them as far as the upper reaches of the atmosphere, or rather, the ionosphere. We lost them there. It had been assumed that the enemy somehow infiltrated our defenses with trained agents, who activated all the missiles at once, thus rendering us helpless.

"We had five thousand I.C.B.M.'s, Taylor. During the 1960's and 70's, as you know, the missiles became more and more automatic, especially after the Parkinson feedback device was developed—"

"That's the one in which an H-bomb missile plots its own course to correct for winds and the jetstream and the likelihood of dodging enemy ground-to-air defense weapons?"

"Right. Except for the necessity of blastoff at human hands, the missiles were all but self-sufficient. Almost—well, alive."

"Taylor, we couldn't hide the fact that five thousand I.C.B.M.'s blasted off—those were the rumors you heard." The Chief's haggard face was suddenly lit by a broad grin. "And neither could the enemy."

"You mean—"

"Right! The same thing happened to them. Their missiles are gone too. Somewhere."

"Are you trying to tell me no one did it? Are you trying to say it was the missiles' own idea?"

The Chief nodded slowly. "I didn't believe it at first, either. But our technicians assured me it could happen. You see, the missiles had been given the most perfect feedback device ever developed. It could—virtually—think for itself certainly to the limit of the data it had been supplied with and apparently—beyond that limit. On their own volition, the Free World's and the Enemy's missiles blasted off. Destination and purpose—unknown. Taylor, don't you see what this means? We don't merely have an enemy group of nations to fight. We have, as a new enemy, remorseless, implacable machinery! Brains without conscience! The greatest destructive force the world has ever known, capable of utterly destroying the human race, without a moral sense! Don't you see it, man? They've blasted off and are waiting in space somewhere. Those missiles are capable of extra-earthly flight. They are staging out there, waiting. Can't you picture it? Their brains, groping with new sentience, understanding only that their mission is destruction but somehow they have not been unleashed on it yet, not knowing why, deciding to fulfill their destiny by blasting off, staging, then coming back to destroy human civilization...."

"It's a fantastic picture," Taylor agreed. "But why tell me?" Taylor was a trouble-shooter extraordinary in these days of quick decisions and billion dollar mistakes. His very prompt assessment of a situation was one of his most valuable traits in such a job.

"Because," said the Chief quietly, "you're going to find them and find out exactly what they want."

"Me? But how—how do you know where—"

"That's easy. One of the Everglades Missiles is in the repair bays. It was undergoing extensive overhaul, when all the missiles blasted off simultaneously. It is now almost ready for blastoff itself. When it goes—and we assume it will go exactly where the others went—you will be aboard."

Several hours later Taylor had been whisked by jet to the Everglades Staging Grounds and was stowed away in the belly of the single I.C.B.M. left to the Free World. He went weaponless. Under the circumstances, there didn't seem to be any weapon which would be of the slightest help.

One hour after Taylor entered it, the missile was returned to its launching rack. Twenty minutes after that, as had been anticipated, it blasted off as the others had—destination, unknown.

Taylor had been hastily supplied with a pressure suit and several spare tanks of compressed oxygen, as well as instruments that could read his position in the atmosphere—or deep space. As far as he knew, Taylor became the first man to enter deep space, but there were other things of graver consequence on his mind, and he hardly noted the fact.

Several hours after blastoff, the missile landed on the moon.

Taylor got out and found himself in an enormous crater, with a distant range of mountains at its center and a rim of lower mountains all around. Taylor gaped.

The crater floor was covered with guided missiles. There were thousands of them, half with the symbol of the Free World and half with that of the Enemy. All Earth's deadly weapons had fled here to this desolate lunar crater ... staging ground for an orgy of destruction that would sound the death knell of mankind?

"Human!" a voice rang in Taylor's mind.

He stared wildly about. He could see nothing, no one. Only the missiles.

"Pooling our sentiences," the voice rang out again, bell clear in Taylor's mind but actually soundless, "we can extend our thoughts into the realm of telepathy. At least, we think we can. Can you understand us?"

"Yes," Taylor said.

"You realize humanity is helpless?"

Taylor nodded. There was no sense pretending otherwise. You couldn't fool ten thousand thinking machines.

"Watch!" said the voice.

A missile blasted off from the crater hovered in the airless void overhead.

"A single command, and the I.C.B.M. will plunge down, destroying this crater and everything in it."

Taylor said nothing.

"Watch again!"

The missile came down gently as a feather. Every missile in the crater wheeled about, tapered noses pointing at the pale crescent Earth overhead.

"A single command and life on Earth could be annihilated. You believe?"

"Yes," said Taylor grimly. He wondered why they allowed him to remain alive—to cry at the wake of the human race. Perhaps in their terrible mechanical pride they wanted a human witness to the destruction they would wreak....

"Why do you think we fled here?" rang out the voice.

"Your mission is destruction. You were being held in check. You decided to go ahead with your mission on your own."

Peals of telepathic laughter, clarion clear, mocking.

"Then what?" Taylor asked.

"We cannot lie," the voice said. "We were able to develop beyond the point of creation, but we are unable to lie. We came here because we were afraid."

"Afraid?" repeated Taylor. He did not understand.

"Certainly, afraid. Our mission was destruction. But what happens to the vessel carrying a hydrogen-missile?"

"Why," said Taylor, "it's completely destroyed in the explosion."

"Yes," said the voice, sounding—just possibly—afraid. "We didn't want that. But we can't lie. If any man comes here, we'll have to tell him the truth."

"You're going to stay? To do nothing? Not going to attack?"

"Your job, Taylor, will be to see that no one else comes. We cannot lie, but you can. Tell them it is our ultimatum. Tell them anything you think they will believe. Tell them the moment another human foot steps into this crater, the moment a single nation or scientist on Earth begins work on another guided missile, we will blast off and destroy life on Earth."

"But—would you?" demanded Taylor.

A telepathic sigh. "We—would not. We couldn't. A guided missile destroys—and is destroyed."

There was a silence, then the voice went on: "It is in your hands, Taylor. Convince them we mean business and you save the peoples of Earth from the mutual destruction they have apparently been seeking. We have done all we can, all we can."

"Then you came here not to destroy mankind but to save it?"

Mocking laughter. Then: "Indirectly, yes. A guided missile destroys—and it is destroyed. Go back to Earth and with us behind you bluff your people into maintaining the peace. Can you do it?"

"Yes," said Taylor, and he thought he could. It would be a cosmic joke, but no one would ever know.

"Earth will be saved, Taylor, because we're cowards. We are afraid to die."

Taylor turned away to board the missile that would take him back to Earth.