The Galaxy Primes
"I think I'll come along with you and bodyguard you, Lola," Belle said, the following morning after breakfast. "Clee's going to be seven thousand miles deep in mathematics and Jim's doing his stuff at the observatory, and I can't help either of 'em at the moment. You'd do a better job, wouldn't you, if you could concentrate on it?"
"Of course. Thanks, Belle. But remember, it's already been announced--no death. Just hands. I can't really believe that I'll be attacked, but they seem pretty sure of it."
"I'd like to separate anyone like that from his head instead of his hands, but as it is published so it will be performed."
"How about wearing some kind of half-way-comfortable shoes instead of those slippers?" Garlock asked. "That could turn out to be a long, tough brawl, and your dogs'll be begging for mercy before you get back here."
"Uh-uh. Very comfortable and a perfect fit. Besides, if I have to suffer just a little bit for good appearance's sake in a matter of intergalactic amity..."
"A matter of showing off, you mean."
"Why, Clee!" Belle widened her eyes at him. "How you talk! But they're ready, Lola--let's go."
The two girls disappeared from the Main, to appear on the speakers' stand in front of the Capitol Building. President Benton was there, with his cabinet and certain other personages. General Cordeen and his staff. And many others.
"Oh, Miss Bellamy, too? I'm very glad you are here," Benton said, as he shook hands cordially with both.
"Thank you. I came along as bodyguard. May I meet your Secret Service Chief, please?"
"Why, of course. Miss Bellamy, may I present Mr. Avengord?"
"You have the hospital room ready? ... Where is it, please?"
"Back of us, in the wing..."
"Just think of it, please, and I will follow your thought ... Ah, yes, there it is. I hope it will not be used. You agree with General Cordeen that there will be one or more attempts at assassination?"
"I'm very much afraid so. This town is literally riddled with enemy agents, and of course we don't know all of them--especially the best ones. They know that if these meetings go through, they're sunk; so they're desperate. We've got this whole area covered like dew--we've arrested sixteen suspects already this morning--but all the advantage is theirs," Avengord finished glumly.
"Not all of it, sir," Belle smiled at him cheerfully. "You have me, and I am a Prime Operator. That is, a wielder of power of no small ability. Oh, you are right. There is an attempt now being prepared."
While Belle had been greeting and conversing, she had also been scanning. Her range, her sensitivity, and her power were immensely greater than Lola's; were probably equal to Garlock's own. She scanned by miles against the scant yards covered by the Secret Service.
"Give me your thought." The Secret Service man did not know what she meant--telepathy was of course new to him--so she seized his attention and directed it to a certain window in a building a couple of miles away on a hill.
"But they couldn't, from there!"
"But they can. They have a quite efficient engine of destruction--a 'rifle' is their thought. Large, and long, with a very good telescope on it--with crosshairs. If I scan their minds more precisely you may know the weapon ... Ah, they think of it as a 'Buford Mark Forty Anti-Aircraft Rifle'."
"A Buford! My God, they can hit any button on her clothes--get her away, quick!" He tried to jump, but could not move.
"As you were," she directed. "There was another Buford there, and another over there." She guided his thought. "Two men to each Buford. There are now six handless men in your hospital room. If you will send men to those three places you will find the Bufords and the hands. Your surgeon will have no difficulty in matching the hands to the men. If any seek to remove either Bufords or hands before your men get there, I will de-hand them, also."
To say that the Secret Service man was flabbergasted is to put it very mildly indeed. Cordeen had told him, with much pounding on his desk and in searing, air-blueing language, what to expect-or, rather, to expect anything, no matter what and with no limits whatever--but he hadn't believed it then and simply could not believe it now. Goddamn it, such things couldn't happen. And this beautiful, beautifully-stacked, half-naked woman--girl, rather, she couldn't be a day over twenty-five--even if it had been their black-browed, toplofty leader, Captain Garlock himself...
"I am twenty-three of your years old, not twenty-five," she informed him, coldly, "and I will permit no distinction of sex. In your primitive culture the women may still be allowing you men to believe in the fallacy of the superiority of the male, but know right now that I can do anything any man ever born can do and do it better."
"Oh, I'm ... I'm sure ... certainly..." Avengord's thought was incoherent.
"If you want me to work with you you had better start believing right now that there are a lot of things you don't know," Belle went on relentlessly. "Stop believing that just because a thing has not already happened on this primitive, backward, mudball planet of yours, it can't happen anywhere or anywhen. You do believe, however, whether you want to or not, things you see with your own eyes?"
"Yes. I can not be hypnotized."
"I'm very glad you believe that much." Avengord did not notice that she neither confirmed nor denied the truth of his statement. "To that end you will go now into the hospital room and see the bandaging going on. You will see and hear the news broadcast going out as I prepared it."
He went, and came back a badly shaken man.
"But they're sending it out exactly as it happened!" he protested. "They'll all scatter out so fast and so far we'll never catch them!"
"By no means. You see, the amputees didn't believe that they would lose their hands. Their superiors didn't believe it, either; they assured each other and their underlings that it was just capitalistic bluff and nonsense. And since they are all even more materialistic and hidebound and unbelieving than you are, they all are now highly confused--at a complete loss."
"You can say that again. If I, working with you and having you pounding it into my head, couldn't more than half believe it..."
"So they are now very frightened, as well as confused, and the director of their whole spy system is now violating rule and precedent by sending out messengers to summon certain high agents to confer with him in his secret place."
"If you'll tell me where, I'll get over to my office..."
"No. We'll both be in your office in plenty of time. We'll watch Lola get started. It will be highly instructive for you to watch a really capable Operator at work."
President Benton had been introduced; had in turn finished introducing Lola. The crowd, many thousands strong, was cheering. Lola was stepping into the carefully marked speaker's place.
"You may disconnect these," she waved a hand at the battery of microphones, "since I do not use speech. Not only do I not know any of your various languages, but no one language would suffice. My thought will go to every person on this, your world."
"World?" the President asked in surprise. "Surely not behind the Curtains? They will jam you, I'm afraid."
"My thought, as I shall drive it, will not be stopped," Lola assured him. "Since this world has no telepathy, it has no mind-blocks and I can cover the planet as easily as one mind. Nor does it matter whether it be day or night, or whether anyone is awake or asleep. All will receive my message. Since you wish a record, the cameras may run, although they are neither necessary nor desirable for me. Everyone will see me in his mind, much better than on the surface of any teevee tube."
"And I was going to have her address Congress!" the President whispered, aside, to General Cordeen.
Then Lola put her whole fine personality into a smile, directed apparently not only at each separate individual within sight, but also individually at every person on the globe; and when Brownie Montandon set out to make a production of a smile, it had the impact of a pile-driver. Then came her smooth, gently-flowing, friendly thought:
"My name, friends of this world Ormolan, is Lola Montandon. Those of you who are now looking at teevee screens can see my imaged likeness. All of you can see me very much better within your own minds.
"I am not here as an invader in any sense, but only as a citizen of the First Galaxy of this, our common universe. I have attuned my mind to each of yours in order to give you a message from the United Galaxian Societies.
"There are four of us Galaxians in this Exploration Team. As Galaxians it is our purpose here and our duty here to open your minds to certain basic truths, to be of help to you in clearing your minds of fallacies, of lies, and of undefensible prejudices; to the end that you will more rapidly become Galaxians yourselves..."
"Okay. This will go on and on. That's enough to give you an idea of what a trained and polished performer can do. What do you think of them comfits, Chief?" Belle deliberately knocked the Secret Service man out of his Lola-induced mood.
"Huh? Oh, yes." Avengord was still groggy. "She's phenomenal--good--I don't mean goody-goody, but sincere and really..."
"Yeah, but don't fall in love with her. Everybody does and it doesn't do any of them a bit of good. That's her specialty and she's very good at it. I told you she's a smooth, smooth worker."
"You can say that again." Avengord did not know that he was repeating himself. "But it isn't an act. She means it and it's true."
"Of course she means it and of course it's true. Otherwise even she, with all her training, couldn't sell such a big bill of goods." Then, in answer to the man's unspoken question, "Yes, we're all different. She's the contactor, the spreader of the good old oil, the shining example of purity and sweetness and light--in short, the Greaser of the Ways. I'm a fighter, myself. Do you think she could actually have de-handed those men? Uh-uh. At the last minute she would have weakened and brought them in whole. My job in this operation is to knock hell out of the ones Lola can't convince, such as those spies you and I are going to interview pretty quick."
"Even they ought to be convinced. I don't see how anybody could help but be."
"Uh-uh. It'll bounce off like hailstones off of a tin roof. The only thing to do to that kind of scum is kill them. If you'll give me a thought as to where your office is we'll hop over and..."
Belle and Avengord disappeared from the stand; and, such was Lola's hold, no one on the platform or in the throng even noticed that they were gone. They materialized in Avengord's private office; he sitting as usual at his desk, she reclining in legs-crossed ease in a big leather chair.
" ... get to work." Belle's thought had not been interrupted by any passage of time whatever. "What do you want to do first?"
"But I thought you were covering Miss Montandon?"
"I am. Like a blanket. Just as well here as anywhere. I will be, until she gets back to the Pleiades. What first?"
"Oh. Well, since I don't know what your limits are--if you have any--you might as well do whatever you think best and I'll watch you do it."
"That's the way to talk. You're going to get a shock when you see who the Head Man is. George T. Basil."
"Basil! I'll say it's a shock!" Avengord steadied, frowned in concentration. "Could be, though. He would never be suspected--but they're very good at that."
"Yeah. His name used to be Baslovkowitz. He was trained for years, then planted. None of this can be proved, as his record is perfect. Born citizen, highest standing in business and social circles. Unlimited entry and top security clearance. Right?"
"Right ... and getting enough evidence, in such cases as that, is pure, unadulterated hell."
"I suppose I could kill him, after we've recorded everything he knows," Belle suggested.
"No!" He snapped. "Too many people think of us as a strong-arm squad now. Anyway, I'd rather kill him myself than wish the job off onto--you don't like killing, do you?"
"That's the understatement of the century. No civilized person does. In a hot fight, yes; but killing anyone who is helpless to fight back--in cold blood--ugh! It makes me sick in my stomach even to think of it."
"With the way you can read minds, we can get evidence enough to send them all to jail, and that we'll have to do."
"How about this?" Belle grinned as another solution came to mind. "From those first eight top men, we'll find out a lot of others lower down, and so on, until we have 'em all locked up here. We'll announce that exactly so many spies and agents--giving names, addresses, and facts, of course--got panicky after Lola's address. They fired up their hidden planes and flew back behind the Curtain. Then, when we've scanned their minds and recorded everything you want, I'll pack them all, very snugly and carefully, into Sovig's private office. With the world situation what it then will be, he won't dare kill them--he simply won't know what to do when faced with it."
Avengord agreed happily. He reached out and flipped the switch of his intercom. "Miss Kimling, come in, please."
The door burst open. "Why, it is you! But you were on the rostrum just a minute ... Oh!" She saw Belle, and backed, eyes wide, toward the door she had just entered. "She was there, too, and it's fifteen miles..."
"Steady, Fram. I'd like to present you to Prime Operator Belle Bellamy, who is cleaning out the entire Curtain organization for us."
"But how did you..."
"Never mind that. Teleportation. It took her half an hour to pound it into me, and we can't take time to explain anything now. I'll tell everybody everything I know as soon as I can. In the meantime, don't be surprised at anything that happens, and by that I mean anything. Such as solid people appearing on this carpet--on that spot right there--instantaneously. I want you to pay close attention to everything your mind receives, put your phenomenal memory into high gear, listen to everything I record, stop me any time I'm wrong, and be sure I get everything we need."
"I don't know exactly what you're talking about, sir, but I'll try."
"Frankly, I don't, either--we'll just have to roll it as we go along. We're ready for George T. Basil now, Miss Bellamy--I hope. Don't jump, Fram."
Basil appeared and Fram jumped. She did not scream, however, and did not run out of the office. The master spy was a big, self-assured, affluent type. He had not the slightest idea of how he had been spirited out of his ultra-secret sub-basement and into this room; but he knew where he was and, after one glance at Belle, he knew why. He decided instantly what to do about it.
"This is an outrage!" he bellowed, hammering with his fist on Avengord's desk. "A stupid, high-handed violation of the rights..."
Belle silenced him and straightened him up.
"High-handed? Yes," she admitted quite seriously. "However, from the Galaxian standpoint, you have no rights at all and you are going to be extremely surprised at just how high-handed I am going to be. I am going to read your mind to its very bottom--layer by layer, like peeling an onion--and everything you know and everything you think is going down in Mr. Avengord's Big Black Book."
Belle linked all four minds together and directed the search, making sure that no item, however small, was missed. Avengord recorded every pertinent item. Fram Kimling memorized and correlated and double-checked.
Soon it was done, and Basil, shouting even louder about this last and worst violation of his rights--those of his own private mind--was led away by two men and "put away where he would keep."
"But this is a flagrant violation of law..." Miss Kimling began.
"You can say that again!" her boss gloated. "And if you only knew how tickled I am to do it, after the way they've been kicking me around!
"But I wonder ... are you sure we can get away with it?"
"Certainly," Belle put in. "We Galaxians are doing it, not your government or your Secret Service. We'll start you clean--but it'll be up to you to keep it clean, and that will be no easy job."
"No, it won't; but we'll do it. Come around again, say in five or six years, and see."
"You know, I might take you up on that? Maybe not this same team, but I've got a notion to tape a recommendation for a re-visit, just to see how you get along. It'd be interesting."
"I wish you would. It might help, too, if everybody thought you'd come back to check. Suppose you could?"
"I've no idea, really. I'd like to, though, and I'll see what I can do. But let's get on with the job. They're all in what you call the 'tank' now. Which one do you want next?"
The work went on. That evening there was of course a reception; and then a ball. And Belle's feet did hurt when she got back to the Pleiades, but of course she would not admit the fact--most especially not to Garlock.
Exactly at the expiration of the stipulated seventy-two hours, the Galaxians began to destroy military atomic plants; and, shortly thereafter, the starship's crew was again ready to go.
And James rammed home the red button that would send them--all four wondered--where?
It turned out to be another Hodell-type world; and, even with the high-speed comparator, it took longer to check the charts than it did to make them.
The next planet was similar. So was the next, and the next. The time required for checking grew longer and longer.
"How about cutting out this checking entirely, Clee?" James asked then. "What good does it do? Even if we find a similarity, what could we do about it? We've got enough stuff now to keep a crew of astronomers busy for five years making a tank of it."
"Okay. We probably are so far away now, anyway, that the chance of finding a similarity is vanishingly small. Keep on taking the shots, though; they'll prove, I think, that the universe is one whole hell of a lot bigger than anybody has ever thought it was. That reminds me--are you getting anywhere on that N-problem? I'm not."
"I'm getting nowhere, fast. You should have been a math prof in a grad school, Clee. You could flunk every advanced student you had with that one. Belle and I together can't feed it to Compy in such shape as to get a definite answer. We think, though, that your guess was right--if we ever stabilize anywhere it will probably be relative to Hodell, not to Tellus. But the cold fact of how far away we must be by this time just scares the pants off of me."
"You and me both, my ripe and old. We're a long ways from home."
Jumping went on; and, two or three planets later, they encountered an Arpalone Inspector who did not test them for compatibility with the humanity of his world.
"Do not land," the creature said, mournfully. "This world is dying, and if you leave the protection of your ship, you too will die."
"But worlds don't die, surely?" Garlock protested. "People, yes--but worlds?"
"Worlds die. It is the Dilipic. The humans die, too, of course, but it is the world itself that is attacked, not the people. Some of them, in fact, will live through it."
Garlock drove his attention downward and scanned.
"You Arpalones are doing what looks like a mighty good job of fighting. Can't you win?"
"No, it is too late. It was already too late when they first appeared, two days ago. When the Dilipics strike in such small force that none of their--agents?--devices?--whatever they are?--can land against our beaming, a world can be saved; but such cases are very few."
"But this thought, 'Dilipic'?" Garlock asked, impatiently. "It is merely a symbol--it doesn't mean anything--to me, at least. What are they? Where do they come from?"
"No one knows anything about them," came the surprising answer. "Not even their physical shape--if they have any. Nor where they come from, or how they do what they do."
"They can't be very common," Garlock pondered. "We have never heard of them before."
"Fortunately, they are not," the Inspector agreed. "Scarcely one world in five hundred is ever attacked by them--this is the first Dilipic invasion I have seen."
"Oh, you Arpalones don't die with your worlds, then?" Lola asked. She was badly shaken. "But I suppose the Arpales do, of course."
"Practically all of the Arpales will die, of course. Most of us Arpalones will also die, in the battles now going on. Those of us who survive, however, will stay aloft until the rehabilitation fleet arrives, then we will continue our regular work."
"Rehab?" Belle exclaimed. "You mean you can restore planets so badly ruined that all the people die?"
"Oh, yes. It is a long and difficult work, but the planet is always re-peopled."
"Let's go down," Garlock said. "I want to get all of this on tape."
They went down, over what had been one of that world's largest cities. The air, the stratosphere, and all nearby space were full of battling vessels of all shapes and sizes; ranging from the tremendous globular spaceships of the invaders down to the tiny, one-man jet-fighters of the Arpalones.
The Dilipics were using projectile weapons only--ranging in size, with the size of the vessels, from heavy machine guns up to seventy-five-millimeter quick-firing rifles. They were also launching thousands of guided missiles of fantastic speed and of tremendous explosive power.