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Title: Fruits of the agathon

Author: Charles L. Harness

Release date: March 8, 2023 [eBook #70240]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: Standard Magazines, Inc, 1948

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



A novelet by

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Thrilling Wonder Stories December 1948.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

AGATHON: (From Greek, agathos, good, and thanatos, death.) Employed briefly during the pre-Toring era. When the death of a citizen of interest to the Lodges was predicted by his biostat (q.v.), the Council arranged secretly for the demise to occur under the circumstances considered most beneficial to the world. After the personality factors of all principals concerned had been integrated and the death plan (or agathon) determined, it was carried out by the local preceptor.

Immediately after the famed Follansbee case, however, agathon practice was suppressed and all biostats destroyed.—Encyclopedia of Freudianism, Naida's Rev. Vol. 1, p. 14, Budapest, 1983.

The little man, Blanchard, said with no trace of defiance or apology: "My daughter Naida is a moron."

Behind the desk Toring, the Freudian, shifted slightly under the long gray cape that covered his entire body, and turned his eyes from Blanchard to the girl huddled in the wheel chair. She was perhaps eighteen or twenty, dressed neatly in tweeds. Her face was averted, and the Freudian could see only a pale-olive cheek, hidden partly by slender fingers and dark brown hair.

He sighed and shook his head. "We cannot increase native intelligence. But you didn't bring your daughter here for that, anyway.

"No, I didn't." Blanchard's voice was double-edged with both pleading and threat. "Something has scared her, and the Lodge has got to assign an analyst and straighten her out."

"So? What do you think frightened her?"

"I haven't the faintest notion. It dates from a couple of weeks ago, when her older sister, Maillon, had an operation. Simple thing, nothing to worry anyone. Naida visited Maillon's hospital room the evening after the operation."

"They were alone?"

"So far as I know. I was to come by later and pick up Naida. Well, a nurse called me from the hospital. Naida had been found lying in the corridor—like this. She hasn't spoken since."

"Had she been in her sister's room?"

"We think so. Maillon couldn't say. She had been given a sedative in the early afternoon and she was unconscious during the whole time. But we found Naida's hat on a table in the room."

"Who else had been in there?"

"Again, we can't be sure, but Maillon's husband, Pickerel Follansbee, might have been. He inquired minutely at the desk that afternoon as to Maillon's condition, but he denies going up."

Toring's eyes widened imperceptibly. Blanchard had taken no pains to conceal the hate in his voice.

"Now," continued the patron, "are you going to give me an analyst?"

The Freudian's face was troubled. He did not answer immediately.

"Toring," Blanchard said, "you are the preceptor of this Lodge. It is within your power to do this small thing for me. I want my child back!"

Toring regarded him gravely. "I cannot assign an analyst for at least four months."

Blanchard, accustomed to the autocratic rule of two million employees in both hemispheres, sat back thoughtfully in the green leather chair. He had been prepared for a preliminary rebuff, an attempt to put his daughter on a waiting list, and Toring's statement did not surprise him. The ceiling fluors glinted from his bald head as he studied the man who withheld the key to his happiness. The battle was hardly joined. In a few minutes he would know his opponent's weak points, and he would strike. At least, that always worked in the business world.

But these Freudians.... He was never sure of himself around them. They all looked alike. There was some rumor that they underwent painful plastic surgery and skeletal modifications on entering the Lodges, so that they all reflected the same gray sympathetic anonymity. But, they must get fed up, sometimes!

He pulled out a cigar, bit off the end, and lit up with more confidence than he felt.

"Toring, my industrial holdings in the United States are assessed at a little over eight billion dollars; abroad, at nearly two hundred million. If you'll start on Naida immediately, I'll convey my total American holdings to you and leave the country when you've finished with her."

The Freudian was silent a long time. "I believe you would really do it," he mused, appraising the magnate with something bordering on pity. "Your offer disturbs me, but possibly not in the way you think. I have no use for eight billion dollars. As a matter of fact I don't think any money has passed through my hands for some years. Despite your personal feelings, your daughter must take her turn."

Rather idly, Blanchard blew a smoke ring toward the ceiling fluor. In moments of greatest stress he was always cool—and thinking.

"You are a celibate, of course, Toring. But you must have a family you'd like to benefit. Parents? The senior Torings? Brothers and sisters?"

"Theoretically, Mr. Blanchard, a Freudian has no family. I had a father and two brothers living when I entered the Lodges, but now I have no ties at all. My father knows only that his youngest son is a Freudian, somewhere. He couldn't possibly recognize me if he saw me. Anyway they are all independently wealthy. And incidentally 'Toring' is not a family name, but a pseudonym."

"Perhaps my persistence is obnoxious to you," said Blanchard, somewhat uncertainly. "However, here's another thought. Don't you have a few hours during the day that you ordinarily devote to rest and relaxation? Would it hurt you very much to give up a little of that precious time to curing my daughter?"

The other smiled faintly. "How old do you think I am?"

"What's that got to do with it? Well—fifty?"

"I'm thirty-five. I haven't slept in ten years. Not since I was assigned here from the Freudian University in Budapest. For twenty-three hours a day I sit in on psycho-analytic case work. The other hour I use for 'Follansbee sleep.' I have no leisure whatever."

For the first time Blanchard admitted the possibility of defeat. He coughed to cover the lines of worry gathering in his face, and his daughter jumped nervously and looked about the room with frightened eyes. It suddenly occurred to Toring that she was beautiful.

"It's all right, dear," said her father reassuringly, pulling the robe up over her lap. "I'm here."

He turned back to Toring, hesitant to demand the thing that was in his mind, yet determined to leave nothing untried.

"As I understand Follansbee sleep, isn't that simply a process of blood renewal, which takes about an hour?"

"That's right. Dr. John Follansbee—Pickerel's father, incidentally—established years ago that sleep was merely a symptom of boredom induced and accentuated by an excess of waste products, chiefly lactic acid, in the blood stream. If we remove our lactic-acid-laden blood and replace it with glycogen-charged blood, we kill fatigue, and there remains only the psychological inducements to sleep—boredom, habit, and the escape complex that plagues us all. A determined mind can overcome these phantom obstacles."

"I see. You have, then, once a day a free hour—when you are changing blood," insisted Blanchard.

"A free hour?"

"Free in the sense that you aren't occupied with patients."

Slowly the Freudian shook his head, and folded up the gray cape that covered him. Transparent plastic tubes led from needles in the elbow-pits of both bare arms to glass cabinets on either side of his chair. The large bottle in the righthand cabinet was nearly empty, that in the other cabinet nearly full. The cape fell again.

Blanchard stared at him.

Toring smiled wryly. "This 'free' hour I devote to rush cases, such as your daughter's, and determine whether the patient should be given preferential treatment."

"Twenty-four hours a day, for ten years," murmured Blanchard.

A buzzer sounded on the desk. "Yes?" asked Toring.

"Budapest calling," intoned a woman's voice.

"All right. And, Registrar, can you give J.T. Blanchard's daughter Naida an appointment in four months? Indeed? Then you've got to postpone a start for somebody. No, keep that boy on the list—he's a chronic suicide. Mrs. K.? No, she's a widow with two girls in school. Senator D.? Simple schizo? Good! Shove him down a few months. He'll be reelected anyway, and that's all his family is really worried about."

He turned to the patron. "I'm going to run you out now, Mr. Blanchard. Stop by the desk down the hall and the registrar will give you an appointment. Four months' delay won't make an awful lot of difference in the long run, since the analysis may be a matter of years."

As he watched the industrialist push the wheel chair out, Toring disconnected the needles from his arms, knotted his fists experimentally a few times, stood up, and stretched vigorously. He still felt tired.

He turned back to the video screen, took a deep breath, and pushed the "Come in" button.

From beneath the bushy V of satanic eyebrows, Rachs' jet eyes seemed to shower sparks at him. As usual, that immobile face was incandescent, and Toring fancied he could almost hear the creaking of a carbon-arc in the brain of his superior. The Hungarian's incredible energies frightened, rather than soothed patrons, and for years he had worked solely in the advancement of extra-sensory mechanics.

"Toring," he clipped, "I want you to kill a man."

The younger Freudian swallowed rapidly, and he was conscious of a dark silence in the room.

"I take it that the Council has finally approved your agathon program?" he asked the eyes.

"Two hours ago."

"Very well. Who is the man?"

"Dr. John Follansbee."

The analyst's knees went rotten. He leaned heavily over the desk.

"You realize, of course, that you're asking me to kill my father?"

"The subject was your father in pre-Freudian life. Now, you have no family."

"Where are you calling from?" asked Toring through a dry throat.

"The 'stat room."

Toring repressed a shudder. He had been in the biostat rooms. He had even seen his own 'stat, scratching away slowly at the unknown days remaining to him. That scraping stylus had blended with a hundred thousand others into a sinister fate-whisper. It must be terrible to know when one was going to die.

Rachs' eyes disappeared abruptly and the scene shifted to a large transparent plastic cabinet containing a complex potpourri of small black spheres connected together intricately with insulated wiring. On the front of the cabinet was a kymograph. The stylus was dead, unmoving.

Toring read the legend:

No. 19,644. Follansbee, John, D.Sc., Director, Follansbee Research Institute, Washington, D. C., U.S.A. Jan. 10, 1902—2:10 a.m. E.S.T. Feb. 16, 1978.

The latter date had very recently been added in ink. February 16 was—tomorrow.

"The Lodges have delayed initiating agathon practice for years," said Toring evenly. "Why start now, and why, my—why Dr. Follansbee?"

The black diamond eyes appeared again, and seared into him.

"Good questions. We start now because in the past ten years, out of the two thousand two hundred and one deaths predicted by the biostats, there were two thousand two hundred and one deaths. And in over ninety-odd thousand operating 'stats, no deaths went unpredicted. We had to wait until the absolute infallibility of the machine was demonstrated."

"I'll warn my father. He can leave the country."

"You're being surprisingly emotional, Toring. Skip country? It would be like leaving Bagdad for an appointment in Samarra. We tried that. One thousand and ninety-eight subjects were forewarned. Some left town. Some shut themselves up. Some did nothing. They all died at the minute predicted. Accident, disease, old age, a few murders, and one suicide."

"Even so, I—I just can't accept the biostat as a reality. The Freudian concept of mental health is based on free will, not on an inexorable steel-clad fate mapped out by a soulless machine!"

"My boy, there's really no free-will-versus-predestination conflict. You're forgetting all the groundwork of ultra-Freudianism begun at Duke University before you were born. Listen! Early experimenters at Duke, before shuffling a deck of twenty-five cards, would attempt to predict the post-shuffling sequence. They called it 'PDT—precognitive down-through.' As you recall, some of the predictions were extraordinarily successful."

Toring nodded.

"Now follow carefully. The normal human mind, traveling in a unidimensional time flow, knowing only 'before', 'now', and 'after', would have to wait until 'after' the shuffling before it could know the sequence. The metanormal mind, on the other hand, is not bound in unidimensional time. It travels freely backward and forward at an arbitrary rate. For that mind, time is bi-dimensional at the very least. With the biostats, we've finally attained the same result—a machine attuned to a human mind and capable of projecting the existence or nonexistence of that mind about three days into the future."

"Isn't that predestination?" insisted Toring.

"Not at all. It's simply the prepublication of a brief chapter already written by free will."

"I'm not convinced. Possibly the thing you want me to do precludes an objective approach. But you still haven't answered my second question. Why have you chosen Dr. Follansbee, my father, for the first agathon?"

The eyes sparkled. "A few months ago, just before the cyclotron blinded him, Dr. Follansbee was on the verge of communicating across time with other minds, including his own. You've got to stimulate him into a forceful demonstration, catch him in the act, and find out how it's done. The specialized tele-encephalographic analyzers you'll need to focus on him have been shipped on the Trans-At jet, and they'll be in Washington port any minute. You inherited the Follansbee mind, and despite the limitations of your classical education, you would be best able to grasp and apply the telekinetic principles involved. But that's just the beginning. Extra-temporal communication—the ability to impinge a thought pattern on a mind over time—is merely a specialized form of psychokinesis."

"I'm afraid I don't understand."

The eyes snapped irritably. "Of course you do. It means you'll have the power to suppress—or stimulate, telekinetically—any given neural pattern in the mind of your patients. Telekinesis applied to another mind is psychokinesis. You'll be able to cure a psychotic in an hour instead of the months and months of daily sittings now required. Boy, think! This will revolutionize Freudian technique. It will mean we can give a normal, healthy mental life to the millions we have to turn away every year."

The face in the screen suddenly relaxed and smiled—a benevolent Mephistopheles.

"How about it?"

Toring, his hands behind his gray robes, was pacing the room slowly. He stopped and looked with troubled eyes at the older man.

"You are absolutely positive the biostat never makes a mistake? That my father would die tomorrow, no matter what I do?"

"The facts speak for themselves. It's a sure thing."

Toring's eyes were half shut in a profound reverie. "If I undertake this thing, it will be because I hope to develop something that will destroy it for all time.... Tell me, Rachs, have you tried the biostats on twins?"

"Twins?" Rachs looked surprised. "Well, yes. At birth their minds give the same encephalographic pattern. One biostat stays tuned to both minds, even though they diverge greatly as they mature."

"So that if one twin died, the biostat wouldn't stop?"

"The stylus would jiggle a bit, but it would keep going."

"And you know that I have no twin?"

"Of course you don't. Blaine and Pickerel are both older than you. What are you leading up to?"

"This: If I died, and my 'stat continued to run, you'd admit your biostats were fallible, and stop the agathons?"

Rachs studied the analyst shrewdly. "I would. But whatever you have in mind, it won't work. The 'stat has proved its precision. It's here to stay."

"You've told me what I want to know," Toring continued gravely, "and I accept the responsibility for the Follansbee agathon. At the same time I warn you that murder in the name of humanity is a paradox that I cannot appreciate, and I expect to discredit your system completely."

Rachs grinned balefully. "That's the spirit, you young devil's advocate! If you die and your 'stat goes on running, I'll have the council withdraw the program!"

Their eyes locked in spirited challenge.

Rachs looked down, first. "Now to business. You won't really strike the death blow. Your brother Pickerel is itching to do that, but he hasn't enough sense to do it cleanly. You'll have to help him. He tried to kill your father in the cyclotron room, once before, but only blinded him. Or didn't you know? This time it's got to go smoothly. Here's the plan."

Incapable of further surprise, Toring listened, nodding from time to time....

Dr. John Follansbee lay utterly relaxed for a moment after the concerto died away. His couch was a mass of inflated cushions floating in a small pool of water, warm and scented, in the Sleepless Wing of the Lodge.

The last of his lactic-acid-laden blood was draining from his veins, and the bottle above him, containing the glycogen-rich blood, was almost empty. His pulse was accelerating. He flexed his biceps and stretched, but gingerly, to avoid pulling the needles from his arteries.

The enchantment was fading. The frightful thing that he had been trying to escape for weeks began again to gnaw hungrily at his brain. His peaceful smile vanished quickly. He tugged at the guide rope lying across his cushion-raft and pulled himself to the pool edge. Here he yanked at the bell and soon heard the scrape of sandals on the marble flagging.

He cocked a blind eye in that direction. "Toring?"

"Right, Dr. Follansbee."

The preceptor helped the patron over the pool edge. Dr. Follansbee immediately tried to guide the conversation into painless territory.

"You thought you had me on that leit-motiv," he growled. "I've been wondering how long it would take your composers to break down and try a C-E-G triad in the lower bass. Repeated dissonance can result in conditioned consonance, you know. Who wrote it—Maillon?"

Toring's gray features creased in a faint smile, "You never miss, do you? Yes, your daughter-in-law wrote it last night."

Dr. Follansbee pulled on his trousers and blouse. "I thought so. What did she name it?"

"'The Death of John Follansbee'," replied the preceptor evenly.

Follansbee hesitated a moment. "I can't hide a blessed thing from her," he muttered. "It's rumored, you know, that you mind readers have a gadget capable of predicting death." It was a question rather than a statement.

"I needn't comment on that, Dr. Follansbee," replied the preceptor evasively. "Your own remarkable premonitions are ample raw material for a Freudian musician. And Maillon is particularly acute at sensing your moods. As a Freudian associate, it is her duty to help you understand yourself."

"Don't preach to me of Freudian duties," rumbled Follansbee. "I laid the cornerstone to this Lodge before either of you children were born. My youngest son is a Freudian analyst—somewhere."

Toring paled, then laughed uneasily. "All right, I won't preach. And I suppose you're not interested in what Rachs had to say about your prescience of disaster?"

"He has a good idea once in a while. Shoot!"

"As you know, it takes a Freudian to recognize a non-Freudian psychosis. Frequently a prescience of death is found on psycho-analysis to be simply the subconscious wish for the death of an enemy, inverted by a guilt complex into a sense of impending disaster for the wisher. At first, we thought this possible in your case."

"I know lots of people I'd like to see dead," said Dr. Follansbee cheerfully, as they reached the dining couch and picked up the chilled beers.

Toring continued quietly. "Rachs believes that you are now in subconscious communication with your own mind at the moment of death—a unique interweaving of chronopathy and telekinesis. He thinks that you might, under proper stimulation, touch other minds in the future in the same way that you have touched your own."

Follansbee was not listening. "Even if it's true I'm going to die, I don't like to think about it. Disturbs my work."

"Are you still working on Maillon's carcinoma?"

"Yes. Blaine, my eldest son, and I are spending twenty-three hours a day on it." He shook his head sadly. "So far, we've got nowhere. Perhaps we're even losing ground. About two weeks ago, just after the operation, the growth went unexpectedly metastatic, and we know of at least eight new colonies. Further surgery is out of the question. We'll have to find a specific for carcinoma, like barium-Q for radiation burns, or Maillon will die. And soon."

"Is your other son helping you?"

"Piggy? Oh, Piggy—or Pickerel, as his dead mother named him—keeps busy." Follansbee cleared his throat apologetically. "Of course his talents lie in a different direction. He handles some of the administrative details of the floor polish section, but he could never work up much interest in the technical phases of the work. Fine boy, even so," he added staunchly. "Very anxious about his wife, though I'm afraid they haven't got on very well since Maillon became a Freudian associate and started composing for the non-sleepers. In some ways, there's a big gap in their outlook on things."

Toring took a deep breath. "Maillon believes that your thoughts of personal disaster are inextricably intertwined with her carcinoma."

Follansbee halted his glass in mid-air.

"Shall I go on?" asked the preceptor.

Follansbee's throat was suddenly dry. He had told these people nothing. Yet they knew—how much?

"Go on!" he rasped.

"Maillon says you think you are going to be murdered."

There was a crash of glass. Neither of the men moved. Rivulets of bubbling beer trickled away from the patron's fallen goblet.

The excruciating probe began again. "She says that you know who will kill you."

The scientist was panting heavily.

"Which son, Dr. Follansbee?"

Toring's cheeks were gray marble, but his nostrils were painfully dilated over trembling lips. At this moment he felt he had lost forever his right to the society of decent human beings, and he swore silently that if he now failed to extract the secret of psychokinesis from his father he would kill himself painfully. If he were successful, he would die too, of course, but there would be no element of self-punishment involved, and that death need not be painful.

"You must do nothing," stammered the patron. "The Freudians are not policemen."

Toring helped Dr. Follansbee over the broken glass and walked to the entrance with him.

"One last question, doctor," he said as they stood in the doorway. "Are you afraid to die?" He awaited the answer with a strained expectancy unusual in a Freudian.

Follansbee had recovered his poise. "How can I be afraid of something I know nothing about? That would simply be a superstitious fear of the unknown, not of death." He tapped his cane. "Good night, Toring. I have to be at the lab at two-ten."

"Your chess composition is like a chord of music," said Blaine Follansbee, eyeing Maillon curiously from his blood-change armchair.

The woman he addressed lay in a high white hospital bed, her black hair tumbling about her pillow in calculated confusion, one olive-hued arm stretched languidly toward the chess board control box, the other doubled under her pillow. Her cheek bones and nose were sharply defined even under the soft radiance of her bed fluor.

Blaine grinned at her suddenly. "A pure multiple echo, really. Same type of harmony you find in a tone poem. I, the experienced solver of chess problems, look through the echoes and see the musician." He removed the needles from his arms and rang the bell for an attendant. "And now I've got to go."

The woman, who had been devouring his praise hungrily, pouted. "You're a few minutes late already. If you'll stay a little while longer I'll show you how to force a mate with two knights against the lone king."

"You're a liar. No, I'll have to run. We're taking u.v. slides of some growth from your larynx, and I want to be there to tell Father what the negatives show. From now on, every minute counts."

"Have you really found something?"

"We don't know. We've been working with a possible specific—a derivative of rose oil that inhibits cytosis in vitro, but has no effect in vivo. What we really need is some agent that could create the rose oil derivative right in the blood stream, but of course that's preposterous."

"You don't sound too hopeful. If I'm going to die anyway, why leave early? Why sacrifice your one hour of rest just to squint futilely through a microscope?" She twisted nervously at the coverlet.

The man's voice was suddenly tired. "How do I know whether you're going to die? Ask your Freudian friends. It's rumored they can predict death probabilities. All I can do is keep working."

The attendant entered and rolled the chair out.

Blaine picked up his hat. Maillon made a moue.

"Best o' luck on the magic bullet, Dr. Ehrlich. I'm writing the Nobel Committee tonight."

The man and woman looked at each other briefly, without expression.

"Tomorrow night, same time," he muttered, and left.

Dr. Follansbee's braille watch chimed the hour, two o'clock in the morning, as he stepped from the piazza of the Freudian Lodge and began his short walk across the campus of the Follansbee Institute, toward the Pathology Building.

Which son was going to kill him?

Was it Blaine, the tall, yellow-haired one, the diligent, industrious one, the one who would logically succeed his father as director of the Institute? Or was it Pickerel, "Piggy," the affable, entertaining one, the dark, chubby one, the one who would lose most from his father's death, and whom so many people strangely disliked?

He stopped in the middle of the path, surrounded by darkness and stars, and pulled a small needle gun from his pocket.

There was a good way to stop either of his sons from becoming a murderer. He would finish now what the cyclotron had failed to do when it had blinded him six months back. He lifted the weapon to his temple.

Cyclotron? Charged particles? Of course! New eyesight. The problem that had occupied his mind for months, waking and blood-changing. It was absurdly simple, when one knew the answer. Why had it taken him so long to think of this? He mustn't let it be lost now. He would make notes tomorrow.

But tomorrow he might be dead, and countless blind people would be cheated. As he stood, sunk in thought, he remembered Toring's suggestion that he might be able to pierce the future and touch other minds.

For a moment the man stood immobile, his body stiffening, while his mind spiraled through cold time and space, alert, searching. He found her—Maillon. With sly, eager malice he beat out the opening chords of the death concerto she had written for him. He sensed her incredulity, and grinned. Then his lips pressed together tightly and he hammered away at the details for the artificial eye.

The contact wandered, then faded, but he knew she had the essential elements. She would understand. She would understand everything except why he had called to her instead of Blaine or Piggy.

His somber intent likewise faded, and a few minutes later he unlocked the door to the Pathology Building and let himself in. He had preceded Blaine, evidently.

Or had he? Was there a noise on the stair?

With slow but sure step he walked over to the stair and began the ascent toward the laboratory, which opened on the mezzanine balcony. Halfway up he felt a breath of icy air. He stood very still. The now familiar sense of immediate destruction, and a belief that he had passed someone on the stair, struck him simultaneously. And he knew now who would kill him.

"Piggy?" he whispered.

There was an audible click as the entrance door opened and closed. Silence was complete in the building. The intruder had left.

Dr. Follansbee suddenly felt weak. For a moment he grasped the stair railing, breathing heavily. But he must delay his sinister appointment no longer. He walked rapidly up the remaining stairs, down the hall, and opened the lab door. He flicked the fluors on, and then, as he was reaching for the u.v. switch for the microscope condenser, he heard the lower entrance door open again.

That must be Blaine. Yes, there were his steps on the stairs. He must warn Blaine to stay away tonight. Tonight, he must work alone.

As he turned toward the door, he pressed the u.v. switch. A beam of barely visible blue light shot across the microscope bench, past the microscope condensing mirror, and into a quartz jar of americium fulminate. But Dr. Follansbee never knew this, because immediately afterward he was lying on the lobby floor, dead, with shards of glass dropping musically around him.

The explosion echoes died away.

With a heavy hand Toring pushed the tele-encephalograph tapes to one side and looked at the fat man behind the gun.

"It's all over. Why don't you shoot?"

"One of your nurses is in the hall. I'd prefer she didn't see me leave." Pickerel Follansbee's red eyes studied the preceptor curiously. "Did you think I could let you live after you gave me the fulminate?"

"I hadn't considered the question."

"What was your angle? Why were you so eager to help me?"

The Freudian sighed wearily. "Just an idea that didn't quite click. It doesn't matter, now. How about you? Do you really believe Blanchard will make the trustees appoint you the new director of Follansbee Institute?"

"Why do you think I married his daughter?"

"Of course." Toring fingered the tele-encephalograph tapes thoughtfully. "Tell me, Follansbee, have you seen Naida lately? Your wife's sister?"

The other laughed harshly. "That stupid little mutt! I scared the devil out of her two weeks ago. Haven't seen her since. She scares easy," he added with a reminiscent grin.

Together they listened to the sound of the nurse's heels dying away down the hall.

"Follansbee," murmured the analyst, "I've changed my mind about letting you kill me. Though I've failed in a great thing I cannot indulge, just yet, in the luxury of the grave. I've got to make another try. I simply must." He seemed to be talking to himself.

"Sorry, Shakespeare. Say your pr—"

He broke off, eyes bulging. Toring's ink-well was boiling furiously.

Pickerel laughed nervously. "Your tricks don't scare me!"

"I'm not trying to scare you. I'm just trying to show you something interesting. Do you see these tapes? They recorded your father's thoughts during the last few hours of his life. And they carry a remarkable secret. Not quite so wonderful as I had hoped, but adequate to persuade you to avoid me for a few days, while I study that secret further."

Pickerel leaned forward suspiciously.


"Your father was a chronopath. He had the ability to impress a thought pattern on the mind of another, across time and space. This magnificent gift is really just a specialized variety of telekinesis, the cruder forms of which can be acquired by certain types of minds—my own, at any rate."

"Hurry it up, bright boy."

"As for the ink-well, that was simply a matter of separating, telekinetically, the faster water molecules from the slower and concentrating them at the surface of the ink until their vapor pressure per unit area reached about seven hundred and sixty millimeters of mercury. It might astonish you to learn that billions of molecules are controlled so easily. As a matter of fact, a generation ago, Dr. Rhine of Duke University, using dice, proved that certainty of control increased with the number of objects employed."

Pickerel pointed his needler carefully at Toring's left breast and squeezed the trigger—hard.

"An analogous application, though in reverse," continued the analyst mildly, "is in condensing the white-hot steam jet of a needler. The heat from the americium capsule is preferentially dissipated within the chamber and handle of the—"

In a spasm of pain the fat man flung the gun away and thrust his fingers in his mouth.

"I'll get you yet!" he snarled.

The desk video buzzed. The Freudian looked up placidly. "Will you excuse me?"

A strangled cry was still-born in the fat man's throat. He scooped up his needler with his handkerchief and dashed from the room.

Toring sat folding and unfolding his pale hands.

The video jangled again. He pressed the "In" button.

Rachs' demoniacal eyebrows lifted questioningly over flashing black eyes.

"The explosion went off as scheduled," said Toring without expression.

Rachs waved that aside impatiently. "Did you get anything from the tapes?"

"Not much. Just simple telekinesis. I tried it on Pickerel a few minutes ago."

"You worked on his cortex?"

"Not that. I could have penetrated his mind easily enough, but it would have killed him. I'm ready for psychokinesis."

Rachs couldn't conceal his disappointment. "Perhaps your mind is still too stiff—too clumsy. I thought that putting you through the emotional wringer of killing your father would give you the necessary mental elasticity. It may yet. Keep trying."

"I shall," replied Toring evenly.

A thrill of mingled delight and despair surged through Maillon as she examined the dark glasses and the patches of surgical tape that hid the man's face.

Blaine smiled grimly. "If you're thinking that blind men lead a life of leisure and can visit pretty ladies by the hour, you're wrong. Right after Father's funeral we started repairing the lab, and I've set the staff back to work on that rose oil derivative."

"I'm glad, Blaine. You aren't happy unless you're working, and I want you to be happy. What did the coroner say?"

"He thinks some americium fulminate got in the way of the u.v. beam. Accidental death. Poor Father! He liked being alive. He got a great kick out of thinking that everything he did was making life easier for somebody, somewhere. Which leads to the next question. What's this insane story about Father's communicating with you telepathically?" He snorted. "Spirits?"

"Say what you like. It was he, and you know it. Only your father could have caricatured my concerto with such malicious nonchalance, and you know he'd been trying for months to restore his sight. But what did he mean by 'snooperscope'?"

"I've been working on the assumption that he had in mind the old infra-red snooperscope developed during the last war. You shine a source of infra-red light—just a plain tungsten lamp with a thin ebony filter—on the object, and pick up the reflected infra-red rays in a tube something like the old orthicon used in television of the late Forties. This incoming infra-red 'light' is focused through a glass lens and forms an image on a convex screen of caesium-silver oxide. The screen shoots off electrons where the infra-red rays strike it, and these electrons are focused by an electrostatic electron lens on a fluorescent screen, which gives the final visible image."

"But you're blind. How're you going to see that screen?"

"That's the pretty part of it. My visual pigments—rhodopsin and iodopsin—were burnt out by the flash of the explosion. The oculist-surgeon says they're in the light-bleached phase now and will never again activate the rods and cones that in turn energize the retinal nerve endings. But the nerve endings themselves are intact."

Maillon gasped in sudden comprehension.

"Do you mean you're going to substitute your retina for the viewing screen of the snooperscope?"

"In a way, yes. That isn't difficult. But adapting the other elements of the snooperscope poses some problems. You have to remember that an electron will pass through only a few inches of air, at most. A fraction of an inch of the saline fluid of the eye would stop it cold. So I'll have to drain the eye fluids and make vacuum chambers of my eyes. For the casings of my new eyeballs, I'll precipitate a thin but strong layer of silica gel, impregnated with platinum dust to conduct electrons to the retinal nerve endings just beyond. When the shell hardens, we drain the fluids, insert the electrostatic lens, and devacuate the shell."

"You'll do what!"

"The glassy lens will have to come out, too, of course. Its focal length is far too long to focus light in the short space I'll have available. But a low-powered microscope objective ought to do nicely. I can rack it forward for high magnification, and in conjunction with the electron microscope, it ought to be pretty potent. I even thought about plugging my retina up directly to the electron mike, but I couldn't figure any way to beat that two hundred kv. potential that would be pouring in. I'm going to have trouble enough with the five kv. I'll use with the snooperscope eye."

Maillon sat in her bed, hunched in thought. "I suppose an infra-red world is better than none."

"Ho! Don't underestimate me! I'm really reverting to something like the old orthicon. I won't limit myself to the hundred thousand Angstrom range of infra-red. I'll modify the caesium screen between the glass objective and the electron lenses, and I'll have a spectrum extending from the deep infra-red into the visible."

"When is your operation?"

"At seven P.M."

His lapel video buzzed; he held it to his ear for a moment. "All right," he acknowledged.

"It's Father's secretary, or rather Piggy's now, I guess. The new director wants me to report at once." He sensed Maillon's apprehensive frown. "Don't worry. It can't take long. It must be after six in the evening. Piggy won't stay late enough to miss supper. I'll have the new eyes ready to blink by nine o'clock. Call your father and see if he can break away from his mergers and swindles long enough to help us. He's a first-class chemist, and we're going to need him. I'll meet you both over at the old pathology lab. And don't worry about me. I've been finding my way around here in the dark of night for years...."

"Ah, come in, Blaine," called out his brother heartily. "I'm really happy to see you."

Blaine hesitated a fraction of a second. Piggy's manner reminded him of a huge hog about to pounce on a juicy red apple. He could not tell whether Piggy was extending his hand or not, but he stepped forward to take the chair which in days past had stood by their father's old desk. The next minute he was picking himself up from the floor. As he untangled his legs he reached back and fingered a length of sash-cord tied between Piggy's desk and a nearby chair.

"What the devil!" he spluttered.

His brother beamed, without offering to assist.

"Just checking on your eyesight, Blaine," he said pontifically. "I wanted to see for myself. As the director of this great organization I have to make sure that we are not paying out the money budgeted to us by our clients to persons physically unqualified to advance the work of the Institute."

The blond man got to his feet silently.

"So just sit down, Blaine," continued Piggy generously, "and we'll go over this quietly, like gentlemen. It's true, then—you're blind?"

"A shrewd observation," said Blaine with deceptive gentleness.

"Well, then, don't you see? You are no longer of any use to the Institute. I'll have to let you go."

Blaine smiled. "You've waited a long time for this, haven't you? Very well. Do I have a few days to put my work in order?"

"You'll have the usual thirty days, of course," offered Piggy. "Provided you're willing to observe our new policy."

"What's that?"

"I've rearranged the backlog of work somewhat. We're going to give our biggest clients priority from now on. The little fellows can go elsewhere if they don't like it."

Blaine's smile changed subtly.

"Oh, I know what you're thinking," continued Piggy. "It wasn't Father's way. Well, his ideas were naive, childish. From now on, we'll help big industry exclusively. The little firms just can't pay the percentages the big ones can. I know where the money is, and I'm going to get it."

"None of the preferred clients are going to give the new director a bonus, are they?" asked Blaine innocently.

Piggy was not embarrassed.

"I'm out for everything I can get. Father could have been one of the wealthiest men in the country if he had played this game sensibly. Instead, he turned his business over to a bunch of visionary trustees."

"He believed," clipped Blaine, "that was the only way he could preserve his Institute as a benefit to all mankind, not just to a chosen few massive corporations. Haven't you any respect for his last wishes?"

"None whatever. He was a prize fool ... sit back down, or I'll blast you where you stand.... That's better. Yes, dear brother, things are going to step lively around here from now on. The first thing you're going to do is drop your silly cancer research. There's no money in that. If you want to keep on drawing your salary during your last month with the Institute, you can start your staff on a problem International Insecticide sent us. You'll find it in your lab, right now. If I were you, I'd go quietly. And remember, there's a nice bonus in it—for me...."

Blanchard flung the lab door open, blinking. The foyer and mezzanine corridor of the pathology building were dark, and he could see nothing.

"Hello there, J.T.!"

"Blaine, my boy! You can see!"

"Better than you! I can see in the dark!"

"Let him in, Father," Maillon said. "I want him to look at me."

Blaine laughed. "The female use for male eyes. All right, I'm looking at you, and you're an upside-down sepia portrait!"


"Everything I see is a sort of neutral brown. No color, but I expected that because, after all, a bare nerve ending can't sense color. And you're upside down—no mistake."

"Blaine, dear, are you sure that local has completely worn off?"

Maillon's father laughed. "He's quite right. The laws of optics give you and me inverted retinal images, which we pretend to turn right side up again by innumerable conditioned reflexes formed during infancy. Blaine has that same mass of reflexes, and now they've betrayed him by turning upside down what doesn't need to be turned upside down. You can cure that, Blaine, by wearing inverting spectacles, but it's clumsy. It won't take long to retrain your motor system."

"I hope not. Well, let's test the new blinkers. We'll start with a membrane of metastatic cells from your larynx, Maillon. Say"—he sniffed the air curiously—"what's that funny odor?"

"In a vague way," offered the woman, "it reminds me of a perfume. Haven't you been working here with rose oil derivatives?"

"Yes, but the bottles are always carefully stoppered, and there's never been any odor before. Must be something in one of the other labs. So, J.T., if you'll kindly prepare.... No, wait a minute."

He walked over to the reagent shelf, reached awkwardly for a quart jar, uncorked it, and sniffed cautiously at the orifice. His nostrils wrinkled in disgust.

"The odor can't be from Piggy's International Insecticide sample—it's malodorous."

"Concentrated perfume is always malodorous," said Maillon.

"Hmm." After a couple of misses, Blaine managed to thrust a stirring rod into the fluid. He drew it out, examined the clear syrup glistening at the tip, and then handed the rod to Blanchard. "J.T., would you mind fixing me a membrane of that for the electron mike? I'd like to see how much I can step up its magnification in conjunction with my snooper eye, but I'm too awkward as yet to prepare a membrane myself. And anyway, my eyes need a rest. The retinas are overheating and it's a bit painful."

Half an hour later Blaine's brow corrugated slowly into a puzzled frown as he adjusted the potential of his portable power pack.

"Definition quite satisfactory, but I don't recognize what I see. Too small for algae and too big for protozoa. Seems to be some quadricelled animal with very thick, resistant membranes. May account for its hardihood in that turpentine base." He adjusted the focus slowly, turn after turn. "Hah! Our microbe is breaking down the turpentine into smaller things. Magnification is now tremendous—of the order of X-ray crystallography. Shadows of individual molecules plainly visible. Here's one that looks like a sawtooth. Get out your pencil, J.T. Seven carbons on the chain, with a methyl on the second one and probably ethylol on the sixth. The close binding between the second and third carbons seems to indicate a double bond. Got that?"

"Sounds like geraniol," stated Blanchard, the cold blue light from the fluors glinting from his balding head. "Anything else?"

Blaine laboriously described two others.

"Citronellol and stearoptene," declared Blanchard. "Let me smell that bottle."

He wrinkled his nose wryly, then with a pipette transferred a drop to a liter beaker of water. This he stirred vigorously, while a beatific smile stole over his face.

"Take a whiff," he invited his daughter.

"Well, find me dead in Saks Fifth Avenue! From bugs, rose oil!"

"Exactly!" agreed Blanchard. "Blaine, you've just made a billionaire out of a poor little millionaire corporation. What they used to sell for thirty-five a quart is now worth thirty-five an ounce, wholesale. Why every woman in the country can buy a drop of this culture at the dime store within a few months and grow her own rose perfume."

"You're wrong there, Father," laughed Maillon. "If it's going to be that common, no self-respecting female will ever use it again. What do you think, Blaine?"

"It's just barely possible," said Blaine slowly, "that if we injected some of this culture into the blood stream, our new microbe would contribute enough enzyme to these hay-wire cancer cells to put them under hormone control once more. Then, of course, they'd gradually die. I'd like to see what a few of these animals will do to a cancer colony. Now, J.T., if you will kindly prepare a specimen from Maillon's larynx."

Blanchard strode nervously up and down behind his desk.

"Further discussion of this will get us nowhere," he said to his son-in-law. "You're out as director and Blaine is in. The trustees met again just fifteen minutes ago and it's all over now. I might add that you would never have been elected director in the first place, despite Maillon's insistence, if I had known that you planned on adopting such a mercenary policy. The gap between you and the man who cured my daughter is simply abysmal. I knew it all along, but since his miraculous eye and cancer discoveries have been announced, even the public videoscopes have been howling about it."

Pickerel Follansbee smiled mirthlessly and lounged deeper into the plushy armchair.

"Speaking of videos, just two days ago Maillon asked you to have me elected director, instead of Blaine. Did you wonder why?"

Blanchard stared at his son-in-law. "You brought the note from her yourself, didn't you? I know you read it." He scooped open a desk drawer, pulled out a folded piece of paper, and mumbled: "'Dad—you'd do me a favor if you asked the other trustees to appoint Piggy to the directorate until I'm either dead or cured.' She was dying, and I'd have done anything for her—even make you director—though I must admit I don't know why she asked that.

"But now Blaine has put her on the road to recovery. She's up, walking around, takes Naida along in the wheel chair. So I can't see any reason for keeping an incompetent wretch like you in that high office of trust any longer. You can go back to your shoe polishes."

"Floor polishes," corrected Pickerel, touching his fingertips together benignly. "Do you know why she gave you that note? No, of course you don't. I made her write it." He leaned forward, eyes snapping darkly, but still smiling. "I told her that I'd expose her love for my brother, and his for her. I told her I'd smear it on every videoscope in the country, if I weren't made director. She wrote that note to save a lot of people, including you and Blaine, from—shall we say—embarrassment?" He plopped back with confident assurance. "So you see, for the honor of the august houses of Blanchard and Follansbee, you may find it convenient to recall your stooges and take another vote." He yawned luxuriously. "I've loads of time. The evening scandals won't show for two hours."

"Maillon? And Blaine?" mused Blanchard. "Of course. I've been blind. Written all over them." He sighed and dropped into his swivel chair. "Piggy, I wish you were dead."

Pickerel nodded sympathetically.

"But that doesn't alter my decision. Blaine's still director, not you. Furthermore, if you ever make my daughter unhappy again, I'll hunt you to the ends of the earth and strangle you. Get out."

Piggy glared at the industrialist in brief, bitter hate. Then he got up and strode angrily through the door....

By the light of his desk-fluor Blaine Follansbee watched the laboratory door slowly open. He put his right hand under his desk, touching the fluor switch, and turned his eyes away from the door. Since his new retinas, unlike the old, were uniformly sensitive over the whole hemisphere, he could see as well out of the "corner" of his eye as he could along its optical axis—or better. And he wanted to give the stealthy intruder a feeling of confidence and domination.

He watched, fearful but elated, as Pickerel's contorted, upside-down face peeked in, first at him and then carefully about the lab.

The next question: Would Piggy shoot from the balcony, or come inside?

The fat man stepped silently within the door, continuing to study Blaine closely, and appeared to listen. The campus was extraordinarily quiet. Somewhere within the building a cricket was creaking. Blaine wished fervently that Piggy would hurry. He had been using his eyes for half an hour already, and they were overheating.

Piggy's fat hand dived into his coat pocket and surfaced with a needler. He drew careful aim at his brother's averted head.

Blaine turned slowly and listened to his own voice. "Before you kill me, please answer one question."

The intruder hesitated.

"It's about Maillon's cancer," continued the scientist smoothly. "That metastatic strain was an extremely virulent one developed in this very building. Two weeks ago, by a strange coincidence, a jar containing a sizable bit of that culture vanished. I'm not asking you whether you grafted some of it into your wife's operational wound. I'm asking—why?"

"You're just guessing," said Piggy between his teeth. "You can't prove a thing!"

"I realize that," admitted Blaine. "But it was a reasonable assumption, wasn't it? A request forced from his dying daughter to make you director would have a lot of weight with Blanchard." His fingers began to squeeze on the fluor switch. His eye-sockets were frantic with pain. "But then we come to another difficulty. How did you know the office of the director would fall vacant so soon? How could you be positive Father was going to die, unless you had already planned to mur—"

He ducked and snapped the switch. From behind welled out the odor of hot metal, and he knew the needler bolt had hit the filing cabinet. The smoking steel plates filled the room with the glow of infra-red. He turned off his power pack and rested his burning eyes a few seconds.

Finally, he peeked cautiously over the desk. Piggy was backed up against the reagent shelf and was looking wildly in all directions. To the human eye it was pitch dark. Blaine thought a moment, then smiled grimly and hurled his desk dictionary at the lab door. Piggy fired futilely at it as the portal slammed shut.

The fat man's cheeks were strangely transparent, and his facial hair roots plainly visible, making him look as though he needed a shave. There was something odd about the eyes, too. The whites were almost dark. Either they were nearly transparent to infra-red, showing through to the black retinas beyond, or else they reflected little of these long invisible waves. But no time for conjectures!

The scientist quietly picked up a long mailing tube, held the end a few feet to his brother's right side, and whispered.


Another blast.

Then on the left side.


A fourth crash announced the fall of the electron microscope. Piggy blasted at that, too. Five.

Softly, Blaine put the tube aside and stood up.

"One more, eh, Piggy?" he laughed. "You've got to be sure, this time. Do you know why you've got to be sure? Because there's a trick catch on the door. We're locked in, and I've got the key." He was ordinarily a poor liar, but he knew it would sound logical to his brother.

Piggy peered toward the desk and took a tentative step, needler pointing generally at Blaine, who immediately tiptoed around to the other side.

"Piggy, few people learn as much in the last minute of their lives as you're about to learn. You ought to feel grateful. And where did you get that horrible blouse? Won't your collar stay down without buttoning it?"

His brother lurched back fearfully. "It's dark! You can't see me!"

"It's dark? Well, so it is. I keep forgetting. Why Piggy! You're perspiring! Better wipe off a little of the sweat, before you drown. Look in your lapel pocket—you'll find a white handkerchief with a dark border. Use that. And look at the kid gloves! So you didn't want to leave fingerprints!"

He laughed heartily, then jumped as a white-hot beam flashed by his side.

"All right." His voice was suddenly cold, hard. "If you want to sit down now and dictate a confession for the D.A., I'll unlock the door and give you five minutes before I call the police."

"And if I don't?" whispered Pickerel hoarsely.

"I'll kill you." Blaine's big hands doubled unconsciously, and it occurred to him that he was no longer bluffing.

He watched deep lines twisting up and down his brother's face. Piggy was weighing chances, wondering how far he could get. Suddenly the fat man flung his weapon at his brother, turned, and laughed mightily at the lab door. It vanished in a shower of glass and plastic. The thunderstruck scientist heard a shriek of horror and a dull, heavy crash.

And then nothing.

Through the shattered panel he saw the wooden braces—now broken—that had served as a temporary balcony rail for the past two days, and he knew that Pickerel Follansbee now lay on the same cold bier so lately occupied by their father.

Somewhere within the building a cricket chirped away in cheerful insect solitude....

Toring knew before he punched the "In" button that it would be Rachs. The black eyes came into focus and gleamed at him with malevolent interest. Dissecting scalpels preparing to lay bare a corpse.

"I called as soon as I learned about Pickerel and Blaine," declared the older man. "How do you feel?"

"How am I supposed to feel?"

"Exhausted, confused. The conviction that you are indirectly responsible for two deaths in your immediate family should have left your mind as limp as a rag."

"You aren't far wrong, Rachs"—Toring leaned over the desk with almost impersonal curiosity—"has my biostat stopped?"

The jet eyes blinked, then narrowed sharply. For a long moment each man searched the soul of the other. Then Rachs rubbed his chin thoughtfully and looked down.

"Your statement conceals tremendous implications, some of them rather paradoxical. Presumably you contemplate suicide to atone for the deaths of your father and brother. In your own foolish way, you regard yourself as indirectly accountable. Then it occurs to you that if you are going to die, your biostat must have predicted your death."

"For once, your famous insight has failed—"

"Don't interrupt." The older man frowned, warming to his theme. "You've probably been thinking as follows: 'Free will gives me the choice of living or dying. If I choose to live, my biostat still runs. It I choose to die, the 'stat stopped three days ago. Which to do, live or die? By selecting my future I select my past. By the exercise of free will I establish determinism, and so deny free will.' Right?"

"I've considered all that, and more too," replied Toring quietly. "For example, suppose that my father's biostat predicted not just his death, but—his agathon. That would make me a co-murderer in the purest sense of the word, wouldn't it? But all this speculation leads nowhere. Just answer my question."

"But it does lead somewhere! With all that soul-searching and brain-scratching, your mind now ought to be sufficiently elastic and sensitive to attempt a general reorganization of a deranged cerebral cortex—psychokinesis—the goal you've been working toward. That is, telekinesis applied to individual neurons, and so on up to neural patterns and lobal nets. What do you think?"

"An hour after Piggy died, I came to the same conclusion, and I'm finally going to try psychokinesis. The subject is on her way over now. And in this connection I'd like to know about my bio—"

"You can do it. Be sure to set up the tele-encephalograph on your mind. Afterward, we'll want to know precisely what happened."

"My biostat?" reminded Toring patiently.

"Oh, that." Rachs looked faintly sheepish. "I must confess I've been worried about it myself. The stylus jiggled rather erratically a couple of days back, which would correspond to a little after midnight tonight, your time. But it's still running."

"In that case"—the preceptor's voice carried an icy edge of triumph—"your miserable agathon program is finished...."

Blanchard wheeled the girl into the study. The dark moon face hidden behind the white hands was perhaps a little thinner, but Toring noticed no other change.

"I'm not asking questions," said the magnate in a low voice. "I'm simply very grateful, whatever your reasons for taking her out of turn."

The Freudian glanced absently at Blanchard. Considering the strange and terrible thing that would happen soon to Naida he should feel pity for the man. He felt nothing.

"Has the D.A. released Blaine Follansbee yet?" he asked.

"He's holding him for further evidence. There weren't any fingerprints on the gun, and he wants to make sure Blaine didn't use it against Piggy instead of vice versa. If we could prove that Piggy was a dangerous character, then Blaine would have a good case of self-defense. Blaine thinks Piggy killed his father, and tried to kill Maillon. But we can't dig up a shred of evidence."

"I see. But don't be discouraged. I think Naida will soon be able to tell us something very interesting about Piggy.... This is going to require several hours. I don't expect to finish before midnight. Perhaps you'd better wait in the other room. You can look through the little window in the wall from time to time to see how we're doing."

Blanchard wiped his face with his handkerchief, nodded nervously, and left the room.

The Freudian wheeled up the tele-encephalograph, tested the tape mechanism, and tuned it to his cortex. Then he sat down in a chair about ten feet in front of Naida and forced himself to relax. For the next quarter-hour his mind must be a precision instrument, perfect, invariant.

A tiny slip of telekinetic force, an incomplete understanding of a group of association centers, and the child-woman would never leave her coma. His battle against Rachs and the agathons would be lost. Blaine would go to trial for manslaughter.

But he knew he would not fail.

His approach was like the old mystery story in which the thief filed his fingernails to the quick in order to determine a safe combination. His own mind, abraded to the quick by doubt and worry, had finally found the combination to another human intellect.

The girl breathed slowly, rhythmically, like a hibernating animal.

He held his breath for a moment, as his mind began to probe gently at her pliant mental shell, easing through into the superior frontal gyrus. "Inside" there was some disorganized and ineffective attempt to bar him. He was reminded of a little animal burrowing ever deeper into a bank of forest leaves. But he moved slowly onward, with infinite patience, taking extreme pains not to frighten his sensitive quarry into forever-protective madness. At snail's pace he groped up and down the cortical corridors, cumulating, integrating, and understanding.

As he analyzed the chaotic wounds that Piggy had left, wonder grew within him that his splendid father could have sired such a creature. Yet, in view of what he himself intended to do to this mind a little later, he doubted there was really so much difference in himself and his dead brother.

With firm, unhurried care he methodically reactivated the shock centers, with their accompanying horror memories, but simultaneously placed the thalamus under partial paralysis, so that no stimuli from images of Piggy would be transmitted to the adrenals. According to the James-Lange theory of emotions, if Naida's ductless glands were inactive, her brain would view such memories objectively and feel no fear.

She stirred uncomfortably, as in a troubled dream, but finally she lay limply against the back of the wheel chair, eyes shut, hands in her lap, breathing slowly.

With grim satisfaction the Freudian arose, switched off the tele-encephalograph, and returned to his desk. The tapes in the machine held the secret of psychokinesis—the one good fruit of the Follansbee agathon. How Rachs would rave! He could almost see those two eyes flaming now.

And now for his own coup.

He would use a specialized form of psychokinesis that he believed would not be rediscovered for generations. Rachs really had no conception of the horizon of the Follansbee mind.

The agathon system was breathing its last.

He punched his call box. "Registrar? Toring. Please cancel all further sittings that you have listed for me."

"You mean, all for today?"

"All for today. And tomorrow. And next week. And forever."

He disconnected the box and looked at his watch. Eight P.M. Three hours to blood-change. But he'd change now. He would need every ounce of energy he could command.

He opened the cabinets on either side of his chair, thrust the sterile needles deftly into his arms, and started the little motor that activated the vacuum and pressure apparatus. From his desk drawer he took an airblast syringe and measured a shot of stimulant, something he hadn't touched since the last day of his University exams.

A superb glow infused him as he turned again to Naida. With easy confidence he refocused his mind on hers.

Blanchard, standing second in line before the little window, felt the discomfort and apprehension of a neophyte attending a potent pagan rite. He glared at his wrist-watch impatiently—it was nearly midnight—and tapped the nurse ahead of him on the shoulder.

"What're they doing now?" he whispered.

"No change," she whispered back. "Oh, you're the father, aren't you? You may have my place now if you want it."

His head bobbed gratefully, and the woman pushed her way to the rear, where she was taken in tow by a bevy of other curious nurses.

Blanchard snubbed his blunt nose against the plastic pane.

His daughter was standing before her wheel chair, her right foot half a step in front, her arms partly outstretched, palms forward, reaching for something invisible.

The hair on his arms and neck stiffened for a moment as he studied her radiant face. The eyes were wide open, but Blanchard could have sworn they saw nothing. The full lower lip, red without rouge, was parted from the upper in an unspoken question. As he watched, the lips moved slowly.

The man she faced was carved from gray obsidian, and from beneath his weary stone eyelids two chatoyant jewels transfixed her. Rivulets of sweat had gradually furrowed that adamantine cheek during the hours that Blanchard had watched, and the gray robes draping the statue glistened with perspiration, which, coupled with the systolic surging of the chest, gave a curious illusion of a real human being.

The industrialist shook his head dizzily. The line between the real and the unreal was becoming too thin for comfort. Then, to his indescribable relief, the statue stood up, snapping the blood-change tubes like threads. Naida took another step forward, lips again parted, eyes still dissolved in wide wonder.

Blanchard turned and waved a hand in silent frenzy, demanding quiet. The hall became still.

"Is it a dream?" Naida asked the gray man.

Could that be Naida's voice? thought Blanchard. It sounded like—Toring's.

He strained his ears to the panel. The silence was growing longer. Finally he heard the tired voice of the analyst.

"You know it is not."

Naida put her hand to her brow and straightened slowly.

"Yes, I know."

The Freudian nodded in grim approval. "The first thing you must do is talk to Blan—... your father. Tell him about seeing Piggy plant that metastatic carcinoma specimen in Maillon's incision, and what he threatened to do to you when he caught you watching him."

"I shall."

Toring smiled. Napoleon after Austerlitz, or MacArthur aboard the Missouri.

"Let's call him in now. You know where to meet me afterward. For the present, be careful; later, merciful...."

Chin cupped in palms, Toring leaned over the balustrade of the high bridge. Beneath him the moonlit rapids of the Potomac frothed their way into the broader channel downstream, toward a distant freedom in the sea. A cold wind whipped about his sweat-soaked robes, and he trembled uneasily.

From somewhere overhead a light flashed at him, and then a jet sedan struck the roadway of the bridge and careened into the opposite balustrade. Naida leaped out and ran toward him on her toes, like a little girl. She pulled up before him, lips characteristically half-parted, dark eyes clothed in moon-shadow but clutching at his. Her chest was rising and falling rapidly in her white blouse and tweed jacket.

"I hurried as much as I could," she panted. "They released Blaine."

"Good. There's nothing to detain either of us. You'd better return."

Gently, the girl put her hand on his sleeve and looked up at the Freudian.

"Are you really going to—"

"You should know."

She looked down the river, apparently lost in thought. Her fingers tightened on his sleeve.

"Yes, I should know," she mused. "After all—"

"Yes, after all. With immaterial differences, your mind is—my own. I reproduced on your cerebral cortex my every neuron, every synapse, every neural path. For the present, the mental entity that inhabits the skull of Naida Blanchard is actually myself, but it is superimposed upon the original child-mind.

"So there are now two minds attuned to my biostat. One mind dies, but the other lives and continues to activate the 'stat." He laughed sardonically. "Poor Rachs!"

She looked up earnestly. Her hand slid slowly up his sleeve, over his shoulder, and to his cheek. "But I differ from you more than you think. Even during the past hour I have changed. I know now that I am—Naida—and that you—are you."

The analyst's eyes narrowed in sudden concern.

"Since I am not narcissistic," he muttered, "I should have realized the change in you by your attempted caress. Already your sex has begun to assimilate and re-work my—your—mind along feminine lines. Perhaps I shouldn't have waited to learn about Blaine. I can only hope you haven't changed so much that you've lost contact with the biostat."

"I think it's too late! Don't jump!"

His eyes flicked across her face in brief, startled appraisal. "The identity with my own mind has become uncomfortably tenuous. And yet, my biostat still runs. Which means—"

"That you won't jump!" whispered the woman tensely, pressing her palm to his cheek.

"—that I will jump, and that you face a full, useful life as yourself, probably in the Lodges. And remember, even if your body ages, your mind need never die. But we waste time. Return to your jet and don't look back."

In one fleeting moment he looked through her, through the bridge that separated him from death, through the river, the earth, and the stars beyond. Then he took her hand quickly, kissed the warm palm, and dropped it.

"That's for Naida—the first immortal."

(Confidential to all Preceptors)

Psychokinesis is but a few days old and as yet not susceptible to a comprehensive evaluation. However, preliminary case reports indicate that Toring's new technique, as revealed by the T-E tapes, has advanced psychiatry by many centuries.

It is tragic irony that this gigantic Freudian could have healed, at the time of his passing, any suicidal psychosis on earth save one—his own.

Also ironical is the failure of his biostat to predict his own death. The machine, after an incomprehensible quaver of the kymograph, continued to run even after the fact of his suicide had been fed to its integrator webs.

This one divergence in the ninety thousand confirmed biostat histories proves that ultra-temporal mechanics cannot escape Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Since we can never be absolutely sure that a given agathon is not actually a murder, the agathon program will be discontinued immediately and the biostats destroyed.

Man, it seems, is not yet God.

For the Council,