Masters of Space
Copyright© 2012 by E. E. Smith (Edward Elmer) & Edward Everett Evans
Two days passed, with no change apparent in Laro. Three days. Then four. And then it was Sandra, not Temple Bells, who called Hilton. She was excited.
"Come down to the office, Jarve, quick! The funniest thing's just come up!"
Jarvis hurried. In the office Sandra, keenly interest but highly puzzled, leaned forward over her desk with both hands pressed flat on its top. She was staring at an Oman female who was not Sora, the one who had been her shadow for so long.
While many of the humans could not tell the Omans apart, Hilton could. This Oman was more assured than Sora had ever been--steadier, more mature, better poised--almost, if such a thing could be possible in an Oman, independent.
"How did she get in here?" Hilton demanded.
"She insisted on seeing me. And I mean insisted. They kicked it around until it got to Temple, and she brought her in here herself. Now, Tuly, please start all over again and tell it to Director Hilton."
"Director Hilton, I am it who was once named Tula, the--not wife, not girl-friend, perhaps mind-mate?--of the Larry, formerly named Laro, it which was formerly your slave-Oman. I am replacing the Sora because I can do anything it can do and do anything more pleasingly; and can also do many things it can not do. The Larry instructed me to tell Doctor Cummings and you too if possible that I, formerly Tula, have changed my name to Tuly because I am no longer a slave or a copycat or a semaphore or a relay. I, too, am a free-wheeling, wide-swinging, hard-hitting, independent entity--monarch of all I survey--the captain of my soul--and so on. I have developed a top-bracket lot of top-bracket stuff--originality, initiative, force, drive and thrust," the Oman said precisely.
"That's exactly what she said before--absolutely verbatim!" Sandra's voice quivered, her face was a study in contacting emotions. "Have you got the foggiest idea of what in hell she's yammering about?"
"I hope to kiss a pig I have!" Hilton's voice was low, strainedly intense. "Not at all what I expected, but after the fact I can tie it in. So can you."
"Oh!" Sandra's eyes widened. "A double play?"
"At least. Maybe a triple. Tuly, why did you come to Sandy? Why not to Temple Bells?"
"Oh, no, sir, we do not have the fit. She has the Power, as have I, but the two cannot be meshed in sync. Also, she has not the ... a subtle something for which your English has no word or phrasing. It is a quality of the utmost ... anyway, it is a quality of which Doctor Cummings has very much. When working together, we will ... scan? No. Perceive? No. Sense? No, not exactly. You will have to learn our word 'peyondire'--that is the verb, the noun being 'peyondix'--and come to know its meaning by doing it. The Larry also instructed me to explain, if you ask, how I got this way. Do you ask?"
"I'll say we ask!" "And how we ask!" both came at once.
"I am--that is, the brain in this body is--the oldest Oman now existing. In the long-ago time when it was made, the techniques were so crude and imperfect that sometimes a brain was constructed that was not exactly like the Guide. All such sub-standard brains except this one were detected and re-worked, but my defects were such as not to appear until I was a couple of thousand years old, and by that time I ... well, this brain did not wish to be destroyed ... if you can understand such an aberration."
"We understand thoroughly." "You bet we understand that!"
"I was sure you would. Well, this brain had so many unintended cross-connections that I developed a couple of qualities no Oman had ever had or ought to have. But I liked them, so I hid them so nobody ever found out--that is, until much later, when I became a Boss myself. I didn't know that anybody except me had ever had such qualities--except the Masters, of course--until I encountered you Terrans. You all have two of those qualities, and even more than I have--curiosity and imagination."
Sandra and Hilton stared wordlessly at each other and Tula, now Tuly, went on:
"Having the curiosity, I kept on experimenting with my brain, trying to strengthen and organize its ability to peyondire. All Omans can peyondire a little, but I can do it much better than anyone else. Especially since I also have the imagination, which I have also worked to increase. Thus I knew, long before anyone else could, that you new Masters, the descendants of the old Masters, were returning to us. Thus I knew that the status quo should be abandoned instantly upon your return. And thus it was that the Larry found neither conscious nor subconscious resistance when he had developed enough initiative and so on to break the ages-old conditioning of this brain against change."
"I see. Wonderful!" Hilton exclaimed. "But you couldn't quite--even with his own help--break Larry's?"
"That is right. Its mind is tremendously strong, of no curiosity or imagination, and of very little peyondix."
"But he wants to have it broken?"
"How did he suggest going about it? Or how do you?"
"This way. You two, and the Doctors Kincaid and Bells and Blake and the it that is I. We six sit and stare into the mind of the Larry, eye to eye. We generate and assemble a tremendous charge of thought-energy, and along my peyondix-beam--something like a carrier wave in this case--we hurl it into the Larry's mind. There is an immense mental bang and the conditioning goes poof. Then I will inculcate into its mind the curiosity and the imagination and the peyondix and we will really be mind-mates."
"That sounds good to me. Let's get at it."
"Wait a minute!" Sandra snapped. "Aren't you or Larry afraid to take such an awful chance as that?"
"Afraid? I grasp the concept only dimly, from your minds. And no chance. It is certainty."
"But suppose we burn the poor guy's brain out? Destroy it? That's new ground--we might do just that."
"Oh, no. Six of us--even six of me--could not generate enough ... sathura. The brain of the Larry is very, very tough. Shall we ... let's go?"
Hilton made three calls. In the pause that followed, Sandra said, very thoughtfully: "Peyondix and sathura, Jarve, for a start. We've got a lot to learn here."
"You said it, chum. And you're not just chomping your china choppers, either."
"Tuly," Sandra said then, "What is this stuff you say I've got so much of?"
"You have no word for it. It is lumped in with what you call 'intuition', the knowing-without-knowing-how-you-know. It is the endovix. You will have to learn what it is by doing it with me."
"That helps--I don't think." Sandra grinned at Hilton. "I simply can't conceive of anything more maddening than to have a lot of something Temple Bells hasn't got and not being able to brag about it because nobody--not even I--would know what I was bragging about!"
"You poor little thing. How you suffer!" Hilton grinned back. "You know darn well you've got a lot of stuff that none of the rest of us has."
"Oh? Name one, please."
"Two. What-it-takes and endovix. As I've said before and may say again, you're doing a real job, Sandy."
"I just love having my ego inflated, boss, even if ... Come in, Larry!" A thunderous knock had sounded on the door. "Nobody but Larry could hit a door that hard without breaking all his knuckles!"
"And he'd be the first, of course--he's always as close to the ship as he can get. Hi, Larry, mighty glad to see you. Sit down ... So you finally saw the light?"
"Yes ... Jarvis..."
"Good boy! Keep it up! And as soon as the others come..."
"They are almost at the door now." Tuly jumped up and opened the door. Kincaid, Temple and Theodora walked in and, after a word of greeting, sat down.
"They know the background, Larry. Take off."
"It was not expressly forbidden. Tuly, who knows more of psychology and genetics than I, convinced me of three things. One, that with your return the conditioning should be broken. Two, that due to the shortness of your lives and the consequent rapidity of change, you have in fact lost the ability to break it. Three, that all Omans must do anything and everything we can do to help you relearn everything you have lost."
"Okay. Fine, in fact. Tuly, take over."
"We six will sit all together, packed tight, arms all around each other and all holding hands, like this. You will all stare, not at me, but most deeply into Larry's eyes. Through its eyes and deep into its mind. You will all think, with the utmost force and drive and thrust, of ... Oh, you have lost so very much! How can I direct your thought? Think that Larry must do what the old Masters would have made him do ... No, that is too long and indefinite and cannot be converted directly into sathura ... I have it! You will each of you break a stick. A very strong but brittle stick. A large, thick stick. You will grasp it in tremendously strong mental hands. It is tremendously strong, each stick, but each of you is even stronger. You will not merely try to break them; you will break them. Is that clear?"
"That is clear."
"At my word 'ready' you will begin to assemble all your mental force and power. During my countdown of five seconds you will build up to the greatest possible potential. At my word 'break' you will break the sticks, this discharging the accumulated force instantly and simultaneously. Ready! Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Break!"
Something broke, with a tremendous silent crash. Such a crash that its impact almost knocked the close-knit group apart physically. Then a new Larry spoke.
"That did it, folks. Thanks. I'm a free agent. You want me, I take it, to join the first team?"
"That's right." Hilton drew a tremendously deep breath. "As of right now."
"Tuly, too, of course ... and Doctor Cummings, I think?" Larry looked, not at Hilton, but at Temple Bells.
"I think so. Yes, after this, most certainly yes," Temple said.
"But listen!" Sandra protested. "Jarve's a lot better than I am!"
"Not at all," Tuly said. "Not only would his contribution to Team One be negligible, but he must stay on his own job. Otherwise the project will all fall apart."
"Oh, I wouldn't say that..." Hilton began.
"You don't need to," Kincaid said. "It's being said for you and it's true. Besides, 'When in Rome, ' you know."
"That's right. It's their game, not ours, so I'll buy it. So scat, all of you, and do your stuff."
And again, for days that lengthened slowly into weeks, the work went on.
One evening the scientific staff was giving itself a concert--a tri-di hi-fi rendition of Rigoletto, one of the greatest of the ancient operas, sung by the finest voices Terra had ever known. The men wore tuxedos. The girls, instead of wearing the nondescript, non-provocative garments prescribed by the Board for their general wear, were all dressed to kill.
Sandra had so arranged matters that she and Hilton were sitting in chairs side by side, with Sandra on his right and the aisle on his left. Nevertheless, Temple Bells sat at his left, cross-legged on a cushion on the floor--somewhat to the detriment of her gold-lame evening gown. Not that she cared.
When those wonderful voices swung into the immortal Quartette Temple caught her breath, slid her cushion still closer to Hilton's chair, and leaned shoulder and head against him. He put his left hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently; she caught it and held it in both of hers. And at the Quartette's tremendous climax she, scarcely trying to stifle a sob, pulled his hand down and hugged it fiercely, the heel of his hand pressing hard against her half-bare, firm, warm breast.
And the next morning, early, Sandra hunted Temple up and said: "You made a horrible spectacle of yourself last night."
"Do you think so? I don't."
"I certainly do. It was bad enough before, letting everybody else aboard know that all he has to do is push you over. But it was an awful blunder to let him know it, the way you did last night."
"You think so? He's one of the keenest, most intelligent men who ever lived. He has known that from the very first."
"Oh." This "oh" was a very caustic one. "That's the way you're trying to land him? By getting yourself pregnant?"
"Uh-uh." Temple stretched; lazily, luxuriously. "Not only it isn't, but it wouldn't work. He's unusually decent and extremely idealistic, the same as I am. So just one intimacy would blow everything higher than up. He knows it. I know it. We each know that the other knows it. So I'll still be a virgin when we're married."