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Title: Badge of Infamy
Author: Del Rey, Lester, 1915-1993
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Badge of Infamy" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

                     Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from an Ace Books paperback, 1973. Extensive
research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this
publication was renewed.

[Illustration: BADGE OF INFAMY



     The computer seemed to work as it should. The speed was
     within acceptable limits. He gave up trying to see the
     ground and was forced to trust the machinery designed
     for amateur pilots. The flare bloomed, and he yanked
     down on the little lever.

     It could have been worse. They hit the ground, bounced
     twice, and turned over. The ship was a mess when
     Feldman freed himself from the elastic straps of the
     seat. Chris had shrieked as they hit, but she was
     unbuckling herself now.

     He threw her her spacesuit and one of the emergency
     bottles of oxygen from the rack. "Hurry up with that.
     We've sprung a leak and the pressure's dropping."

       *       *       *       *       *

Turn this book over for a second complete novel.

[Transcriber's Note:
The second novel is not present in this etext.]

       *       *       *       *       *



       *       *       *       *       *

ace books
A Division of Charter Communications Inc.
1120 Avenue of the Americas
New York, N.Y. 10036


Copyright © 1963 by Galaxy Publishing Corp.
Copyright © 1957 by Renown Publications, Inc.

A shorter and earlier version of this story appeared in _Satellite
Science Fiction_ for June, 1957.

       *       *       *       *       *

_First Ace printing: January, 1973_

       *       *       *       *       *

Copyright © 1954, 1963 by Galaxy Publishing Corp.

       *       *       *       *       *

Printed in U.S.A.



The air of the city's cheapest flophouse was thick with the smells of
harsh antiseptic and unwashed bodies. The early Christmas snowstorm had
driven in every bum who could steal or beg the price of admission, and
the long rows of cots were filled with fully clothed figures. Those who
could afford the extra dime were huddled under thin, grimy blankets.

The pariah who had been Dr. Daniel Feldman enjoyed no such luxury. He
tossed fitfully on a bare cot, bringing his face into the dim light. It
had been a handsome face, but now the black stubble of beard lay over
gaunt features and sunken cheeks. He looked ten years older than his
scant thirty-two, and there were the beginnings of a snarl at the
corners of his mouth. Clothes that had once been expensive were wrinkled
and covered with grime that no amount of cleaning could remove. His
tall, thin body was awkwardly curled up in a vain effort to conserve
heat and one of his hands instinctively clutched at his tiny bag of

He stirred again, and suddenly jerked upright with a protest already
forming on his lips. The ugly surroundings registered on his eyes, and
he stared suspiciously at the other cots. But there was no sign that
anyone had been trying to rob him of his bindle or the precious bag of
cheap tobacco.

He started to relax back onto the couch when a sound caught his
attention, even over the snoring of the others. It was a low wail, the
sound of a man who can no longer control himself.

Feldman swung to the cot on his left as the moan hacked off. The man
there was well fed and clean-shaven, but his face was gray with
sickness. He was writhing and clutching his stomach, arching his back
against the misery inside him.

"Space-stomach?" Feldman diagnosed.

He had no need of the weak answering nod. He'd treated such cases
several times in the past. The disease was usually caused by the absence
of gravity out in space, but it could be brought on later from abuse of
the weakened internal organs, such as the intake of too much bad liquor.
The man must have been frequenting the wrong space-front bars.

Now he was obviously dying. Violent peristaltic contractions seemed to
be tearing the intestines out of him, and the paroxysms were coming
faster. His eyes darted to Feldman's tobacco sack and there was animal
appeal in them.

Feldman hesitated, then reluctantly rolled a smoke. He held the
cigarette while the spaceman took a long, gasping drag on it. He smoked
the remainder himself, letting the harsh tobacco burn against his lungs
and sicken his empty stomach. Then he shrugged and threaded his way
through the narrow aisles toward the attendant.

"Better get a doctor," he said bitterly, when the young punk looked up
at him. "You've got a man dying of space-stomach on 214."

The sneer on the kid's face deepened. "Yeah? We don't pay for doctors
every time some wino wants to throw up. Forget it and get back where you
belong, bo."

"You'll have a corpse on your hands in an hour," Feldman insisted. "I
know space-stomach, damn it."

The kid turned back to his lottery sheet. "Go treat yourself if you
wanta play doctor. Go on, scram--before I toss you out in the snow!"

One of Feldman's white-knuckled hands reached for the attendant. Then he
caught himself. He started to turn back, hesitated, and finally faced
the kid again. "I'm not fooling. And I _was_ a doctor," he stated. "My
name is Daniel Feldman."

The attendant nodded absently, until the words finally penetrated. He
looked up, studied Feldman with surprised curiosity and growing
contempt, and reached for the phone. "Gimme Medical Directory," he

Feldman felt the kid's eyes on his back as he stumbled through the
aisles to his cot again. He slumped down, rolling another cigarette in
hands that shook. The sick man was approaching delirium now, and the
moans were mixed with weak whining sounds of fear. Other men had wakened
and were watching, but nobody made a move to help.

The retching and writhing of the sick man had begun to weaken, but it
was still not too late to save him. Hot water and skillful massage could
interrupt the paroxysms. In fifteen minutes, Feldman could have stopped
the attack completely.

He found his feet on the floor and his hands already reaching out.
Savagely he pulled himself back. Sure, he could save the man--and wind
up in the gas chamber! There'd be no mercy for his second offense
against Lobby laws. If the spaceman lived, Feldman might get off with a
flogging--that was standard punishment for a pariah who stepped out of
line. But with his luck, there would be a heart arrest and another juicy
story for the papers.

Idealism! The Medical Lobby made a lot out of the word. But it wasn't
for him. A pariah had no business thinking of others.

As Feldman sat there staring, the spaceman grew quieter. Sometimes, even
at this stage, massage could help. It was harder without liberal
supplies of hot water, but the massage was the really important
treatment. It was the trembling of Feldman's hands that stopped him. He
no longer had the strength or the certainty to make the massage

He was glaring at his hands in self-disgust when the legal doctor
arrived. The man was old and tired. Probably he had been another
idealist who had wound up defeated, content to leave things up to the
established procedures of the Medical Lobby. He looked it as he bent
over the dying man.

The doctor turned back at last to the attendant. "Too late. The best I
can do is ease his pain. The call should have been made half an hour

He had obviously never handled space-stomach before. He administered a
hypo that probably held narconal. Feldman watched, his guts tightening
sympathetically for the shock that would be to the sick man. But at
least it would shorten his sufferings. The final seizure lasted only a
minute or so.

"Hopeless," the doctor said. His eyes were clouded for a moment, and
then he shrugged. "Well, I'll make out a death certificate. Anyone here
know his name?"

His eyes swung about the cots until they came to rest on Feldman. He
frowned, and a twisted smile curved his lips.

"Feldman, isn't it? You still look something like your pictures. Do you
know the deceased?"

Feldman shook his head bitterly. "No. I don't know his name. I don't
even know why he wasn't cyanotic at the end, _if_ it was space-stomach.
Do you, doctor?"

The old man threw a startled glance at the corpse. Then he shrugged and
nodded to the attendant. "Well, go through his things. If he still has a
space ticket, I can get his name from that."

The kid began pawing through the bag that had fallen from the cot. He
dragged out a pair of shoes, half a bottle of cheap rum, a wallet and a
bronze space ticket. He wasn't quick enough with the wallet, and the
doctor took it from him.

"Medical Lobby authorization. If he has any money, it covers my fee and
the rest goes to his own Lobby." There were several bills, all of large
denominations. He turned the ticket over and began filling in the death
certificate. "Arthur Billings. Space Lobby. Crewman. Cause of death,
idiopathic gastroenteritis _and_ delirium tremens."

There had been no evidence of delirium tremens, but apparently the
doctor felt he had scored a point. He tossed the space ticket toward the
shoes, closed his bag, and prepared to leave.

"Hey, doc!" The attendant's voice was indignant. "Hey, what about my
reporting fee?"

The doctor stopped. He glanced at the kid, then toward Feldman, his face
a mixture of speculation and dislike. He took a dollar bill from the
wallet. "That's right," he admitted. "The fee for reporting a solvent
case. Medical Lobby rules apply--even to a man who breaks them."

The kid's hand was out, but the doctor dropped the dollar onto Feldman's
cot. "There's your fee, pariah." He left, forcing the protesting
attendant to precede him.

Feldman reached for the bill. It was blood money for letting a man
die--but it meant cigarettes and food--or shelter for another night, if
he could get a mission meal. He no longer could afford pride. Grimly, he
pocketed the bill, staring at the face of the dead man. It looked back
sightlessly, now showing a faint speckling of tiny dots. They caught
Feldman's eyes, and he bent closer. There should be no black dots on the
skin of a man who died of space-stomach. And there should have been

He swore and bent down to find the wrecks of his shoes. He couldn't
worry about anything now but getting away from here before the attendant
made trouble. His eyes rested on the shoes of the dead man--sturdy boots
that would last for another year. They could do the corpse no good;
someone else would steal them if he didn't. But he hesitated, cursing

The right boot fitted better than he could have expected, but something
got in the way as he tried to put the left one on. His fingers found the
bronze ticket. He turned it over, considering it. He wasn't ready to
fraud his identity for what he'd heard of life on the spaceships, yet.
But he shoved it into his pocket and finished lacing the boots.

Outside, the snow was still falling, but it had turned to slush, and the
sidewalk was soggy underfoot. There was going to be no work shoveling
snow, he realized. This would melt before the day was over. Feldman
hunched the suitcoat up, shivering as the cold bit into him. The boots
felt good, though; if he'd had socks, they would have been completely

He passed a cheap restaurant, and the smell of the synthetics set his
stomach churning. It had been two days since his last real meal, and the
dollar burned in his pocket. But he had to wait. There was a fair
chance this early that he could scavenge something edible.

He shuffled on. After a while, the cold bothered him less, and he passed
through the hunger spell. He rolled another smoke and sucked at it,
hardly thinking. It was better that way.

It was much later when the big caduceus set into the sidewalk snapped
him back to awareness of where he'd traveled. His undirected feet had
led him much too far uptown, following old habits. This was the Medical
Lobby building, where he'd spent more than enough time, including three
weeks in custody before they stripped him of all rank and status.

His eyes wandered to the ornate entrance where he'd first emerged as a
pariah. He'd meant to walk down those steps as if he were still a man.
But each step had drained his resolution, until he'd finally covered his
face and slunk off, knowing himself for what the world had branded him.

He stood there now, staring at the smug young medical politicians and
the tired old general practitioners filing in and out. One of the latter
halted, fumbled in his pocket and drew out a quarter.

"Merry Christmas!" he said dully.

Feldman fingered the coin. Then he saw a gray Medical policeman watching
him, and he knew it was time to move on. Sooner or later, someone would
recognize him here.

He clutched the quarter and turned to look for a coffee shop that sold
the synthetics to which his metabolism had been switched. No shop would
serve him here, but he could buy coffee and a piece of cake to take out.

A flurry of motion registered from the corner of his eye, and he glanced

"Taxi! Taxi!"

The girl rushing down the steps had a clear soprano voice, cultured and
commanding. The gray Medical uniform seemed molded to her shapely figure
and her red hair glistened in the lights of the street. Her snub nose
and determined mouth weren't the current fashion, but nobody stopped to
think of fashions when they saw her. She didn't have to be the daughter
of the president of Medical Lobby to rule.

It was Chris--Chris Feldman once, and now Chris Ryan again.

Feldman swung toward a cab. For a moment, his attitude was automatic and
assured, and the cab stopped before the driver noticed his clothes. He
picked up the bag Chris dropped and swung it onto the front seat. She
was fumbling in her change purse as he turned back to shut the door.

"Thank you, my good man," she said. She could be gracious, even to a
pariah, when his homage suited her. She dropped two quarters into his
hand, raising her eyes.

Recognition flowed into them, followed by icy shock. She yanked the cab
door shut and shouted something to the driver. The cab took off with a
rush that left Feldman in a backwash of slush and mud.

He glanced down at the coins in his hand. It was his lucky day, he
thought bitterly.

He moved across the street and away, not bothering about the squeal of
brakes and the honking horns. He looked back only once, toward the
glowing sign that topped the building. _Your health is our business!_
Then the great symbol of the health business faded behind him, and he
stumbled on, sucking incessantly at the cigarettes he rolled. One hand
clutched the bronze badge belonging to the dead man and his stolen
boots drove onward through the melting snow.

It was Christmas in the year 2100 on the protectorate of Earth.



Feldman had set his legs the problem of heading for the great spaceport
and escape from Earth, and he let them take him without further
guidance. His mind was wrapped up in a whirl of the past--his past and
that of the whole planet. Both pasts had in common the growth and sudden
ruin of idealism.

Idealism! Throughout history, some men had sought the ideal, and most
had called it freedom. Only fools expected absolute freedom, but wise
men dreamed up many systems of relative freedom, including democracy.
They had tried that in America, as the last fling of the dream. It had
been a good attempt, too.

The men who drew the Constitution had been pretty practical dreamers.
They came to their task after a bitter war and a worse period of wild
chaos, and they had learned where idealism stopped and idiocy began.
They set up a republic with all the elements of democracy that they
considered safe. It had worked well enough to make America the number
one power of the world. But the men who followed the framers of the new
plan were a different sort, without the knowledge of practical limits.

The privileges their ancestors had earned in blood and care became
automatic rights. Practical men tried to explain that there were no such
rights--that each generation had to pay for its rights with
responsibility. That kind of talk didn't get far. People wanted to hear
about rights, not about duties.

They took the phrase that all men were created equal and left out the
implied kicker that equality was in the sight of God and before the law.
They wanted an equality with the greatest men without giving up their
drive toward mediocrity, and they meant to have it. In a way, they got

They got the vote extended to everyone. The man on subsidy or public
dole could vote to demand more. The man who read of nothing beyond sex
crimes could vote on the great political issues of the world. No ability
was needed for his vote. In fact, he was assured that voting alone was
enough to make him a fine and noble citizen. He loved that, if he
bothered to vote at all that year. He became a great man by listing his
unthought, hungry desire for someone to take care of him without
responsibility. So he went out and voted for the man who promised him
most, or who looked most like what his limited dreams felt to be a
father image or son image or hero image. He never bothered later to see
how the men he'd elected had handled the jobs he had given them.

Someone had to look, of course, and someone did. Organized special
interests stepped in where the mob had failed. Lobbies grew up. There
had always been pressure groups, but now they developed into a third arm
of the government.

The old Farm Lobby was unbeatable. The big farmers shaped the laws they
wanted. They convinced the little farmers it was for the good of all,
and they made the story stick well enough to swing the farm vote. They
made the laws when it came to food and crops.

The last of the great lobbies was Space, probably. It was an accident
that grew up so fast it never even knew it wasn't a real part of the
government. It developed during a period of chaos when another country
called Russia got the first hunk of metal above the atmosphere and when
the representatives who had been picked for everything but their grasp
of science and government went into panic over a myth of national

The space effort was turned over to the aircraft industry, which had
never been able to manage itself successfully except under the stimulus
of war or a threat of war. The failing airplane industry became the
space combine overnight, and nobody kept track of how big it was, except
a few sharp operators.

They worked out a system of subcontracts that spread the profits so wide
that hardly a company of any size in the country wasn't getting a share.
Thus a lot of patriotic, noble voters got their pay from companies in
the lobby block and could be panicked by the lobby at the first mention
of recession.

So Space Lobby took over completely in its own field. It developed
enough pressure to get whatever appropriations it wanted, even over
Presidential veto. It created the only space experts, which meant that
the men placed in government agencies to regulate it came from its own

The other lobbies learned a lot from Space.

There had been a medical lobby long before, but it had been a
conservative group, mostly concerned with protecting medical autonomy
and ethics. It also tried to prevent government control of treatment and
payment, feeling that it couldn't trust the people to know where to
stop. But its history was a long series of retreats.

It fought what it called socialized medicine. But the people wanted
their troubles handled free--which meant by government spending, since
that could be added to the national debt, and thus didn't seem to cost
anything. It lost, and eventually the government paid most medical
costs, with doctors working on a fixed fee. Then quantity of treatment
paid, rather than quality. Competence no longer mattered so much. The
Lobby lost, but didn't know it--because the lowered standards of
competence in the profession lowered the caliber of men running the
political aspects of that profession as exemplified by the Lobby.

It took a world-wide plague to turn the tide. The plague began in old
China; anything could start there, with more than a billion people
huddled in one area and a few madmen planning to conquer the world. It
might have been a laboratory mutation, but nobody could ever prove it.

It wiped out two billion people, depopulated Africa and most of Asia,
and wrecked Europe, leaving only America comparatively safe to take
over. An obscure scientist in one of the laboratories run by the Medical
Lobby found a cure before the first waves of the epidemic hit America.
Rutherford Ryan, then head of the Lobby, made sure that Medical Lobby
got all the credit.

By the time the world recovered, America ran it and the Medical Lobby
was untouchable. Ryan made a deal with Space Lobby, and the two
effectively ran the world. None of the smaller lobbies could buck them,
and neither could the government.

There was still a president and a congress, as there had been a Senate
under the Roman Caesars. But the two Lobbies ran themselves as they
chose. The real government had become a kind of oligarchy, as it always
did after too much false democracy ruined the ideals of real and
practical self-rule. A man belonged to his Lobby, just as a serf had
belonged to his feudal landlord.

It was a safe world now. Maybe progress had been halted at about the
level of 1980, but so long as the citizens didn't break the rules of
their lobbies, they had very little to worry about. For that, for
security and the right not to think, most people were willing to leave
well enough alone.

Some rules seemed harsh, of course, such as the law that all operations
had to be performed in Lobby hospitals. But that could be justified; it
was the only safe kind of surgery and the only way to make sure there
was no unsupervised experimentation, such as that which supposedly
caused the plague. The rule was now an absolute ethic of medicine. It
also made for better fees.

Feldman's father had stuck by the rule but had questioned it. Feldman
learned not to question in medical school. He scored second in Medical
Ethics only to Christina Ryan.

He had never figured why she singled him out for her attentions, but he
gloried in both those attentions and the results. He became
automatically a rising young man, the favorite of the daughter of the
Lobby president. He went through internship without a sign of trouble.
Chris humored him in his desire to spend three years of practice in a
poor section loaded with disease, and her father approved; such selfless
dedication was the perfect image projection for a future son-in-law. In
return, he agreed to follow that period by becoming an administrator. A
doctor's doctor, as they put it.

They were married in April and his office was ready in May, complete
with a staff of eighty. The publicity releases had gone out, and the
Public Relations Lobby that handled news and education was paid to begin
the greatest build-up any young genius ever had.

They celebrated that, with a little party of some four hundred people
and reporters at Ryan's lodge in Canada. It was to be a gala weekend.

It was then that Baxter shot himself.

Baxter had been Feldman's closest friend in the Lobby. He'd come along
to handle press relations and had gotten romantic about the countryside,
never having been out of a city before. He hired a guide and went
hunting, eighty miles beyond the last outpost of civilization. Somehow,
he got his hand on a gun, though only guides were supposed to touch
them, managed to overcome its safety devices, and then pulled the
trigger with the gun pointed the wrong way.

Chris, Feldman and Harnett from Public Relations had accompanied him on
the trip. They were sitting in a nearby car while Feldman enjoyed the
scenery, Chris made further plans, and Harnett gathered material. There
was also a photographer and writer, but they hadn't been introduced by

Feldman reached Baxter first. The man was moaning and scared, and he was
bleeding profusely. Only a miracle had saved him from instant death. The
bullet had struck a rib, been deflected and robbed of some of its
energy, and had barely reached the heart. But it had pierced the
pericardium, as best Feldman could guess, and it could be fatal at any

He'd reached for a probe without thinking. Chris knocked his hand aside.

She was right, of course. He couldn't operate outside a hospital. But
they had no phone in the lodge where the guide lived and no way to
summon an ambulance. They'd have to drive Baxter back in the car, which
would almost certainly result in his death.

When Feldman seemed uncertain, Harnett had given his warning in a low
but vehement voice. "You touch him, Dan, and I'll spread it in every one
of our media. I'll have to. It's the only way to retain public
confidence. There'd be a leak, with all the guides and others here, and
we can't afford that. I like you--you have color. But touch that wound
and I'll crucify you."

Chris added her own threats. She'd spent years making him the outlet for
all her ambitions, denied because women were still only second-rate
members of Medical Lobby. She couldn't let it go now. And she was
probably genuinely shocked.

Baxter groaned again and started to bleed more profusely.

There wasn't much equipment. Feldman operated with a pocketknife
sterilized in a bottle of expensive Scotch and only anodyne tablets in
place of anesthesia. He got the bullet out and sewed up the wound with a
bit of surgical thread he'd been using to tie up a torn good-luck
emblem. The photographer and writer recorded the whole thing. Chris
swore harshly and beat her fists against the bole of a tree. But Baxter
lived. He recovered completely, and was shocked at the heinous thing
that had been done to him.

They crucified Feldman.



Most crewmen lived rough, ugly lives--and usually, short ones.
Passengers and officers on the big tubs were given the equivalent of
gravity in spinning compartments, but the crews rode "free". The lucky
crewmen lived through their accidents, got space-stomach now and then,
and recovered. Nobody cared about the others.

Feldman's ticket was work-stamped for the _Navaho_, and nobody
questioned his identity. He suffered through the agony of acceleration
on the shuttle up to the orbital station, then was sick as acceleration
stopped. But he was able to control himself enough to follow other
crewmen down a hall of the station toward the _Navaho_. The big ships
never touched a planet, always docking at the stations.

A checker met the crew and reached for their badges. He barely glanced
at them, punched a mark for each on his checkoff sheet, and handed them
back. "Deckmen forward, tubemen to the rear," he ordered. "_Navaho_
blasts in fifteen minutes. Hey, you! You're tubes."

Feldman grunted. He should have expected it. Tubemen had the lowest lot
of all the crew. Between the killing work, the heat of the tubes, and
occasional doses of radiation, their lives weren't worth the metal value
of their tickets.

He began pulling himself clumsily along a shaft, dodging freight the
loaders were tossing from hand to hand. A bag hit his head, drawing
blood, and another caught him in the groin.

"Watch it, bo," a loader yelled at him. "You dent that bag and they'll
brig you. Cantcha see it's got a special courtesy stripe?"

It had a brilliant green stripe, he saw. It also had a name, printed in
block letters that shouted their identity before he could read the
words. _Dr. Christina Ryan, Southport, Mars._

And he'd had to choose this time to leave Earth!

Suddenly he was glad he was assigned to the tubes. It was the one place
on the ship where he'd be least likely to run into her. As a doctor and
a courtesy passenger, she'd have complete run of the ship, but she'd
hardly bother with the dangerous and unpleasant tube section.

He dragged his way back, beginning to sweat with the effort. The
_Navaho_ was an old ship. A lot of the handholds were missing, and he
had to throw himself along by erratic leaps. He was gaining proficiency,
but not enough to handle himself if the ship blasted off. Time was
growing short when he reached the aft bunkroom where the other tubemen
were waiting.

"Ben," one husky introduced himself. "Tube chief. Know how to work

Feldman could see that they were assembling a small still. He'd heard of
the phenomenal quantities of beer spacemen drank, and now he realized
what really happened to it. Hard liquor was supposed to be forbidden,
but they made their own. "I can work it," he decided. "I'm--uh--Dan."

"Okay, Dan." Ben glanced at the clock. "Hit the sacks, boys."

By the time Feldman could settle into the sacklike hammock, the
_Navaho_ began to shake faintly, and weight piled up. It was mild
compared to that on the shuttle, since the big ships couldn't take high
acceleration. Space had been conquered for more than a century, but the
ships were still flimsy tubs that took months to reach Mars, using
immense amounts of fuel. Only the valuable plant hormones from Mars made
commerce possible at the ridiculously high freight rate.

Three hours later he began to find out why spacemen didn't seem to fear
dying or turning pariah. The tube quarters had grown insufferably hot
during the long blast, but the main tube-room was blistering as Ben led
the men into it. The chief handed out spacesuits and motioned for Dan.

"Greenhorn, aincha? Okay, I'll take you with me. We go out in the tubes
and pull the lining. I pry up the stuff, you carry it back here and
stack it."

They sealed off the tube-room, pumped out the air, and went into the
steaming, mildly radioactive tubes, just big enough for a man on hands
and knees. Beyond the tube mouth was empty space, waiting for the man
who slipped. Ben began ripping out the eroded blocks with a special
tool. Feldman carried them back and stacked them along with others. A
plasma furnace melted them down into new blocks. The work grew
progressively worse as the distance to the tube-room increased. The tube
mouth yawned closer and closer. There were no handholds there--only the
friction of a man's body in the tube.

Life settled into a dull routine of labor, sleep, and the brief relief
of the crude white mule from the still.

They were six weeks out and almost finished with the tube cleaning when
Number Two tube blew. Bits of the remaining radioactive fuel must have
collected slowly until they reached blow-point. Feldman in Number One
would have gone sailing out into space, but Ben reacted at once. As the
ship leaped slightly, Feldman brought up sharply against the chief's
braced body. For a second their fate hung in the balance. Then it was
over, and Ben shoved him back, grinning faintly.

He jerked his thumb and touched helmets briefly. "There they go, Dan."

The two men who had been working in Number Two were charred lumps,
drifting out into space.

No further comment was made on it, except that they'd have to work
harder from now on, since they were shorthanded.

That rest period Feldman came down with a mild attack of
space-stomach--which meant no more drinking for him--and was off work
for a day. Then the pace picked up. The tubes were cleared and they
began laying the new lining for the landing blasts. There was no time
for thought after that. Mars' orbital station lay close when the work
was finished.

Ben slapped Feldman on the back. "Ya ain't bad for a greenie, Dan. We
all get six-day passes on Mars. Hit the sack now so you won't waste time
sleeping then. We'll hear it when the ship berths."

Feldman didn't hear it, but the others did. He felt Ben shaking his
shoulder, trying to drag him out of the sack. "Grab your junk, Dan."

Ben picked up Feldman's nearly empty bag and tossed it toward him,
before his eyes were fully open. He grabbed for it and missed. He
grabbed again, with Ben's laughter in his ears. The bag hit the wall and
fell open, spilling its contents.

Feldman began gathering it up, but the chief was no longer laughing. A
big hand grabbed up the space ticket suddenly, and there was no
friendliness now on Ben's face.

"Art Billing's card!" Ben told the other tubemen. "Five trips I made
with Art. He was saving his money, going to buy a farm on Mars. Five
trips and one more to go before he had enough. Now you show up with his

The tubemen moved forward toward Feldman. There was no indecision. To
them, apparently, trial had been held and sentence passed.

"Wait a minute," Feldman began. "Billings died of--"

A fist snaked past his raised hand and connected with his jaw. He
bounced off a wall. A wrench sailed toward him, glanced off his arm, and
ripped at his muscles. Another heavy fist struck.

Abruptly, Ben's voice cut through their yells. "Hold it!" He shoved
through the group, tossing men backwards. "Stow it! We can take care of
him later. Right now, this is captain's business. You fools want to lose
your leave?" He indicated two of the others. "You two bring him
along--and keep him quiet!"

The two grabbed Feldman's arms and dragged him along as the chief began
pulling his way forward through the tubes up towards the control section
of the ship. Feldman took a quick glance at their faces and made no
effort to resist; they obviously would have enjoyed any chance to subdue

They were stopped twice by minor officers, then sent on. They finally
found the captain near the exit lock, apparently assisting the
passengers to leave. Most of them went on into the shuttle, but Chris
Ryan remained behind as the captain listened to Ben's report and
inspected the false ticket.

Finally the captain turned to Feldman. "You. What's your name?"

Chris' eyes were squarely on Feldman, cold and furious. "He _was_ Doctor
Daniel Feldman, Captain Marker," she stated.

Feldman stood paralyzed. He'd been unwilling to face Chris. He wanted to
avoid all the past. But the idea that she would denounce him had never
entered his head. There was no Medical rule involved. She knew that as a
pariah he was forbidden to board a passenger ship, of course. But she'd
been his wife once!

Marker bowed slightly to her. "Thank you, Dr. Ryan. I should take this
criminal back to Earth in chains, I suppose. But he's hardly worth the
freightage. You men. Want to take him down to Mars and ground him

Ben grinned and touched his forelock. "Thank you, sir. We'd enjoy that."

"Good. His pay reverts to the ship's fund. That's all, men."

Feldman started to protest, but a fist lashed savagely against his

He made no other protests as they dragged him into the crew shuttle that
took off for Southport. He avoided their eyes and sat hunched over. It
was Ben who finally broke the silence.

"What happened to Art's money? He had a pile on him."

"Go to hell!"

"Give, I said!" Ben twisted his arm back toward his shoulder, applying
increasing pressure.

"A doctor took it for his fee when Billings died of space-stomach. Damn
you, I couldn't help him!"

Ben looked at the others. "Med Lobby fee, eh? All the market will take.
Umm. It could be, maybe." He shrugged. "Okay, reasonable doubt. We
won't kill you, bo. Not quite, we won't."

The shuttle landed and Ben handed out the little helmets and aspirators
that made life possible in Mars' thin air. Outside, the tubemen took
turns holding Feldman and beating him while the passengers disembarked
from their shuttle. As he slumped into unconsciousness, he had a picture
of Chris Ryan's frozen face as she moved steadily toward the port



It was night when Feldman came to, and the temperature was dropping
rapidly. He struggled to sit up through a fog of pain. Somewhere in his
bag, he should have an anodyne tablet that would kill any ache. He
finally found the pill and swallowed it, fumbling with the aspirator lip

The aspirator meant life to him now, he suddenly realized. He twisted to
stare at the tiny charge-indicator for the battery. It showed
half-charge. Then he saw that someone had attached another battery
beside it. He puzzled briefly over it, but his immediate concern was for

Apparently he was still where he had been knocked out. There was a light
coming from the little station, and he headed toward that, fumbling for
the few quarters that represented his entire fortune.

Maybe it would have been better if the tubemen had killed him. Batteries
were an absolute necessity here, food and shelter would be expensive,
and he had no skills to earn his way. At most, he had only a day or so
left. But meantime, he had to find warmth before the cold killed him.

The tiny restaurant in the station was still open, and the air was warm
inside. He pulled off the aspirator, shutting off the battery.

The counterman didn't even glance up as he entered. Feldman gazed at the
printed menu and flinched.

"Soup," he ordered. It was the cheapest item he could find.

The counterman stared at him, obviously spotting his Earth origin. "You
adjusted to synthetics?"

Feldman nodded. Earth operated on a mixed diet, with synthetics for all
who couldn't afford the natural foods there. But Mars was all synthetic.
Many of the chemicals in food could exist in either of two forms, or
isomers; they were chemically alike, but differently crystallized.
Sometimes either form was digestible, but frequently the body could use
only the isomer to which it was adjusted.

Martian plants produced different isomers from those on Earth. Since the
synthetic foods turned out to be Mars-normal, that was probably the more
natural form. Research designed to let the early colonists live off
native food here had turned up an enzyme that enabled the body to handle
either isomer. In a few weeks of eating Martian or synthetic food, the
body adapted; without more enzyme, it lost its power to handle
Earth-normal food.

The cheapness of synthetics and the discovery that many diseases common
to Earth would not attack Mars-normal bodies led to the wide use of
synthetics on Earth. No pariah could have been expected to afford

Feldman finished the soup, and found a cigarette that was smokable. "Any
objections if I sit in the waiting room?"

He'd expected a rejection, but the counterman only shrugged. The waiting
room was almost dark and the air was chilly, but there was normal
pressure. He found a bench and slumped onto it, lighting his cigarette.
He'd miss the smokes--but probably not for long. He finished the
cigarette reluctantly and sat huddled on the bench, waiting for morning.

The airlock opened later, and feet sounded on the boards of the
waiting-room floor, but he didn't look up until a thin beam of light hit
him. Then he sighed and nodded. The shoes, made of some odd fiber,
didn't look like those of a cop, but this was Mars. He could see only a
hulking shadow behind the light.

"You the man who was a medical doctor?" The voice was dry and old.

"Yeah," Feldman answered. "Once."

"Good. Thought that space crewman was just lying drunk at first. Come
along, Doc."

"Why?" It didn't matter, but if they wanted him to move on, they'd have
to push a little harder.

The light swung up to show the other. He was the shade of old leather
with a bleached patch of sandy hair and the deepest gray eyes Feldman
had ever seen. It was a face that could have belonged to a country
storekeeper in New England, with the same hint of dry humor. The man was
dressed in padded levis and a leather jacket of unguessable age. His
aspirator seemed worn and patched, and one big hand fumbled with it.

"Because we're friends, Doc," the voice drawled at him. "Because you
might as well come with us as sit here. Maybe we have a job for you."

Feldman shrugged and stood up. If the man was a Lobby policeman, he was
different from the usual kind. Nothing could be worse than the present

They went out through the doors of the waiting room toward a rattletrap
vehicle. It looked something like a cross between a schoolboy's jalopy
and a scaled-down army tank of former times. The treads were caterpillar
style, and the stubby body was completely enclosed. A tiny airlock
stuck out from the rear.

Two men were inside, both bearded. The old man grinned at them. "Mark,
Lou, meet Doc Feldman. Sit, Doc. I'm Jake Mullens, and you might say we
were farmers."

The motor started with a wheeze. The tractor swung about and began
heading away from Southport toward the desert dunes. It shook and
rattled, but it seemed to make good time.

"I don't know anything about farming," Feldman protested.

Jake shrugged. "No, of course not. Couple of our friends heard about you
where a spaceman was getting drunk and tipped us off. We know who you
are. Here, try a bracky?"

Feldman took what seemed to be a cigarette and studied it doubtfully. It
was coarse and fibrous inside, with a thin, hard shell that seemed to be
a natural growth, as if it had been chopped from some vine. He lighted
it, not knowing what to expect. Then he coughed as the bitter, rancid
smoke burned at his throat. He started to throw it down, and hesitated.
Jake was smoking one, and it had killed the craving for tobacco almost

"Some like 'em, most don't," Jake said. "They won't hurt you. Look--see
that? Old Martian ruins. Built by some race a million years ago. Only
half a dozen on Mars."

It was only a clump of weathered stone buildings in the light from the
tractor, and Feldman had seen better in the stereo shots. It was
interesting only because it connected with the legendary Martian race,
like the canals that showed from space but could not be seen on the
surface of the planet.

Feldman waited for the other to go on, but Jake was silent. Finally, he
ground out the butt of the weed. "Okay, Jake. What do you want with me?"

"Consultation, maybe. Ever hear of herb doctors? I'm one of them."

Feldman knew that the Lobby permitted some leniency here, due to the
scarcity of real medical help. There was only one decent hospital at
Northport, on the opposite side of the planet.

Jake sighed and reached for another bracky weed. "Yeah, I'm pretty good
with herbs. But I got a sick village on my hands and I can't handle it.
We can't all mortgage our work to pay for a trip to Northport.
Southport's all messed up while the new she-doctor gets her metabolism
changed. Maybe the old guy there would have helped, but he died a couple
months ago. So it looks like you're our only hope."

"Then you have no hope," Feldman told him sickly. "I'm a pariah, Jake. I
can't do a thing for you."

"We heard about your argument with the Lobby. News reaches Mars. But
these are mighty sick people, Doc."

Feldman shook his head. "Better take me back. I'm not allowed to
practice medicine. The charge would be first-degree murder if anything

Lou leaned forward. "Shall I talk to him, Jake?"

The old man grimaced. "Time enough. Let him see what we got first."

Sand howled against the windshield and the tractor bumped and surged
along. Feldman took another of the weeds and tried to estimate their
course. But he had no idea where they were when the tractor finally
stopped. There was a village of small huts that seemed to be merely
entrances to living quarters dug under the surface. They led him into
one and through a tunnel into a large room filled with simple cots and
the unhappy sounds of sick people.

Two women were disconsolately trying to attend to the half-dozen
sick--four children and two adults. Their faces brightened as they saw
Jake, then fell. "Eb and Tilda died," they reported.

Feldman looked at the two figures under the sheets and whistled. The
same black specks he had seen on the face of Billings covered the skins
of the two old people who had died.

"Funny," Jake said slowly. "They didn't quite act like the others and
they sure died mighty fast. Darn it, I had it figured for that stuff in
the book. Infantile paralysis. How about it, Doc? Sort of like a cold,
stiff sore neck."

It was clearly polio--one of the diseases that could attack Mars-normal
flesh. Feldman nodded at the symptoms, staring at the sick kids. He
shrugged, finally. "There's a cure for it, but I don't have the serum.
Neither do you, or you wouldn't have brought me here. I couldn't help if
I wanted to."

"That old book didn't list a cure," Jake told him. "But it said the kids
didn't have to be crippled. There was something about a Kenny treatment.
Doc, does the stuff really cripple for life?"

Feldman saw one of the boys flinch. He dropped his eyes, remembering the
Lobby's efficient spy service on Earth and wondering what it was like
here. But he knew the outcome.

"Damn you, Jake!"

Jake chuckled. "Thought you would. We sure appreciate it. Just tell us
what to do, Doc."

Feldman began writing down his requirements, trying to remember the
details of the treatment. Exercise, hot compresses, massage. It was
coming back to him. He'd have to do it himself, of course, to get the
feel of it. He couldn't explain it well enough. But he couldn't turn his
back on the kids, either.

"Maybe I can help," he said doubtfully as he moved toward a cot.

"No, Doc." Jake's voice wasn't amused any longer, and he held the
younger man back. "You're doing us a favor, and I'll be darned if I'll
let you stick your neck out too far. You can't treat 'em yourself. Mars
is tougher than Earth. You should live under Space Lobby _and_ Medical
Lobby here a while. Oh, maybe they don't mind a few fools like me being
herb doctors, but they'd sure hate to have a man who can do real
medicine outside their hands. You let me do it, or get in the tractor
and I'll have Lou drive you back. Once you start in here, there'll be no
stopping. Believe me."

Feldman looked at him, seeing the colonials around him for the first
time as people. It had been a long time since he'd been treated as a
fellow human by anyone.

Jake was right, he knew. Once he put his hand to the bandage, eventually
there'd be no turning back from the scalpel. These people needed medical
help too desperately. Eventually, the news would spread, and the Lobby
police would come for him. Chris couldn't afford to shield him. In fact,
he was sure now that she'd hunt him night and day.

"Don't be a fool, Jake," he ordered brusquely. He handed his list to one
of the women. "You'll have to learn to do what I do," he told the people
there. "You'll have to work like fools for weeks. But there won't be
many crippled children. I can promise that much!"

He blinked sharply at the sudden hope in their eyes. But his mind went
on wondering how long it would be before the inevitable would catch up
with him. With luck, maybe a few months. But he hadn't been blessed with
any superabundance of luck. It would probably be less time than he



Doc Feldman's luck was better than he had expected. For an Earth year,
he was a doctor again, moving about from village to village as he was
needed and doing what he could.

The village had been isolated during the early colonization when Mars
made a feeble attempt to break free of Space Lobby. Their supplies had
been cut off and they had been forced to do for themselves. Now they
were largely self-sufficient. They grew native plants and extracted
hormones in crude little chemical plants. The hormones were traded to
the big chemical plants for a pittance to buy what had to come from
Earth. Other jury-rigged affairs synthesized much of their food. But
mostly they learned to get along on what Mars provided.

Doc Feldman learned from them. Money was no longer part of his life. He
ate with whatever family needed him and slipped into the life around

He was learning Martian medicine and finding that his Earth courses were
mostly useless. No wonder the villagers distrusted Lobby doctors. Doc
had his own little laboratory where he had managed to start making
Mars-normal penicillin--a primitive antibiotic, but better than nothing.

Jake had come to remind him that it was his first anniversary, and now
they were smoking bracky together.

"Sheer luck, Jake," Doc repeated. "You Martians are tough. But some day
someone is going to die under my care, with the little equipment I have.

Jake nodded slowly. "Maybe, Doc. And maybe some day Mars will break free
of the Lobbies. You'd better pray for that."

"I've been--" Doc stopped, realizing what he'd started to say. The old
man chuckled.

"You've been talking rebellion for months, Doc. I hear rumors. Whenever
you get mad, you want us to secede. But you don't really mean it yet.
You can't picture any government but the one you're used to."

Doc grinned. Jake had a point, but it was not as strong as it would have
been a few months before. The towns under the Lobby were cheap
imitations of Earth, but here, divorced to a large extent from the
lobbies, the villages were making Mars their own. Their ways might be
strange; but they worked.

Jake shifted his body in the weak sunlight. "Newton village forgot to
report a death on time. I hear Ryan is sweating them out, trying to
prove it was your fault."

There was no evidence against him yet, Doc was sure. But Chris was out
to prove something, and to get a reputation as a top-flight
administrator. It must have hurt when they shipped her here as head of
the lesser hemisphere of Mars. She'd expected to use Feldman as a front
while she became the actual ruler of the whole Lobby. Now she wanted to
strike back.

"She's using blackmail," he said, and some of his old bitterness was in
his voice. "Anyone taking treatment from an herb doctor in this section
is cut off from Medical Lobby service. Damn it, Jake, that could mean
letting people die!"

"Yeah." Jake sighed softly. "It could mean letting people begin to
think about getting rid of the Lobby, too. Well, I gotta help harvest
the bracky. Take it easy on operating for a while, will you, Doc?"

"All right, Jake. But stop keeping the serious cases a secret. Two men
died last month because you wouldn't call me for surgery. I've broken
all my oaths already. It doesn't matter anymore."

"It matters, boy. We've been lucky, but some day one case will go to the
hospital and they'll find your former work. Then they'll really be after
you. The less you do the better."

Doc watched Jake slump off, then turned down into the little root cellar
and back toward the room concealed behind it, where his crude laboratory
lay. For the moment, he was free to work on the mystery of the black

He kept running into them--always on the body of someone who died of
something that seemed like a normal disease. Without a microscope, he
was almost helpless, but he had taken specimens and tried to culture
them. Some of his cultures had grown, though they might be nothing but
unknown Martian fungi or bacteria. Mars was dry and almost devoid of
air, but plants and a few smaller insects had survived and adapted. It
wasn't by any means lifeless.

Without a microscope, he could do little but depend on his files of
cases. But today there was new evidence. A villager had filched an Earth
_Medical Journal_ from the tractor driven by Chris Ryan and forwarded it
to him. He found the black specks mentioned in a single paragraph, under
skin diseases. Investigation of the diet was being made, since all cases
were among people eating synthetics.

There was another article on aberrant cases--a few strange little
misbehaviors in classical syndromes. He studied that, wondering. It had
to be the same thing. Diet didn't account for the fact that the specks
appeared only when the patient was near death.

Nor did it account for the hard lump at the base of the neck which he
found in every case he could check. That might be coincidence, but he
doubted it.

Whatever it was, it aggravated any other disease the patient had and
made seemingly simple diseases turn out to be completely and rapidly
fatal. Once syphilis had been called "The Great Imitator". This gave
promise of being worse.

He shook his head, cursing his lack of equipment. Each month more people
were dying with these specks--and he was helpless.

The concealed door broke open suddenly and a boy thrust his head in.
"Doc, there's a man here from Einstein. Says his wife's dying."

The man was already coming into the room.

"She's powerful sick, Doc. Had a bellyache, fever, began throwing up.
Pains under her belly, like she's had before. But this time it's awful."

Doc shot a few questions at him, frowning at what he heard. Then he
began packing the few things that might help. There should be no
appendicitis on Mars. The bugs responsible for that shouldn't have
adapted to Mars-normal. But more and more infections found ways to cross
the border. Gangrene had been able to get by without change, it seemed.
So far, none of the contagious infections except polio and the common
cold had made the jump.

This sounded like an advanced case, perhaps already involving

So far, he'd been lucky with penicillin, but each time he used it with
grave doubts of its action on the Mars-adapted patients. If the appendix
had burst, however, it was the only possible treatment.

He riffled through his stores; There was ether enough, fortunately. The
villagers had made that for him out of Martian plants, using their
complicated fermentation processes. He yelled for Jake, and the boy
brought the old man back a moment later.

"Jake, I'll need more of that narcotic stuff. I don't want the woman
writhing and tearing her stitches after the ether wears off."

"Can't get it, Doc." Jake's eyes seemed to cloud as he said it.
"Distilling plant broke down. Doc, I don't like this case. That woman's
been to the hospital three times. I hear she just got out recently. This
might be a plant, or they figure they can't help her."

"They're afraid to try anything on Mars-normal flesh. They can't be
proved wrong if they do nothing." Doc finished packing his bag and got
ready to go out. "Jake, either I'm a doctor or I'm not. I can't worry
when a woman may be dying."

For a second, Jake's expression was stubborn. Then the little crow's
feet around his eyes deepened and the dry chuckle was back in his voice.
"Right, Dr. Feldman." He flipped up his thumb and went off at a
shuffling run toward the tractor. Lou and the man from Einstein followed
Doc into the machine.

It was a silent ride, except for Doc's questions about the sick woman.
Her husband, George Lynn, was evasive and probably ignorant. He admitted
that Harriet had been to the dispensary and small infirmary that
Southport called a hospital.

It was the only place in the entire Southern hemisphere where an
operation could be performed legally. Most cases had to go to
Northport, but Chris had been trying to expand. Apparently, she was
determined to make Southport into another major center before she was
called back to Earth.

Doc wondered why the villagers went there. They had no medical insurance
with the Lobby; they couldn't afford it. Most villagers didn't have the
cash, either. They were forced to mortgage their future work and that of
their families to the drug plants that were run by the Lobby.

"And they just turned your wife away?" Doc asked. He couldn't quite
believe that of Chris.

"Well, I dunno. She wouldn't talk much. Twice she went and they gave her
something. Cost every cent I could borrow. Then this last time, they
kept her a couple days before they let me come and get her. But now
she's a lot worse."

Jake spun about, suddenly tense. "How'd you pay them last time, George?"

"Why, they didn't ask. I told her she could put up six months from me
and the kids, but nobody said nothing about it. Just gave her back to
me." He frowned slowly, his dull voice uncertain. "They told me they'd
done all they could, not to bring her back. That's why she was so strong
on getting Doc."

"I don't like it," Jake said flatly. "It stinks. They always charge.
George, did they suggest she get in touch with Doc here?"

"Maybe they did, maybe not. Harriet did all the talking with them. I
just do what she tells me, and she said to get Doc."

Jake swore. "It smells like a trap. Are you sure she's sick, George?"

"I felt her head and she sure had a fever." George Lynn was torn
between his loyalties. "You know me, Doc. You fixed me up that time I
had the red pip. I wouldn't pull nothing on you."

Doc had a feeling that Jake was probably right, but he vetoed the
suggestion that they stop to look for spies. He had no time for that. If
the woman was really sick, he had to get to her at once, and even that
might be too late.

He remembered the woman, sickly from other treatment. He'd been forced
to remove her inflamed tonsils a few months before. She'd whined and
complained because he couldn't spend all his time attending her. She was
a nag, a shrew, and a totally selfish woman. But that was her husband's
worry, not his.

He dashed into the little house when they reached Einstein, and his
first glance confirmed what George Lynn had said. The woman was sick,
all right. She was running a high fever. Much too high.

She began whining and protesting at his having taken so long, but the
pain soon forced her to stop.

"There may still be a chance," Doc told her husband brusquely. He threw
the cleanest sheet onto a table and shoved it under the single light.
"Keep out of the way--in the other room, if you can all pile in there.
This isn't exactly aseptic, anyhow. You can boil a lot of water, if you
want to help."

It would give them something to do and he could use the water to clean
up. There was no time to wait for it, however. He had to sterilize with
alcohol and carbolic acid, and hope. He bent over the woman, ripping her
thin gown across to make room for the operation.

Then he swore.

Across her abdomen was the unhealed wound of a previous operation.
They'd worked on her at Southport. They must have removed the appendix
and then been shocked by the signs of infection. They weren't supposed
to release a sick patient, but there was an easy out for them; they
could remove her from the danger of spreading an unknown infection. Some
doctors must have doped her up on sedatives and painkillers and sent her
home, knowing that she would call him. For that matter, they might have
noticed her unrecorded tonsillectomy and considered her fair bait.

He grabbed the ether and slapped a cone over her nose. She tried to
protest; she never cooperated in anything. But the fumes of the ether he
dipped onto the packing of the cone soon overcame that.

It was peritonitis, of course. The only thing to do was to go in and
scrape and clean as best he could. It was a rotten job to have to do,
and he should have had help. But he gritted his teeth and began. He
couldn't trust anyone else to hold the instruments, even.

He cleaned the infection as best he could, knowing there was almost no
chance. He used all the penicillin he dared. Then he began sewing up the
incision. It was all he could do, except for dressing the wound with a
sterile bandage. He reached for one, and stopped.

While he'd been working, the woman had died, far more quietly than she
had ever lived.

It was probably the only gracious act of her life. But it was damning to
Doc. They couldn't hide her death, and any investigation would show that
someone had worked on her. To the Lobby, he would be the one who had
murdered her.

Jake was waiting in the tractor. He took one look at Doc's face and made
no inquiries.

They were more than a mile away when Jake pointed back. Small in the
distance, but distinct against the sands, a gray Medical Corps tractor
was coming. Either they'd had a spy in the village or they'd guessed the
rate of her infection very closely. They must have hoped to catch Doc in
the act, and they'd barely missed.

It wouldn't matter. Their pictures and what testimony they could force
from the village should be enough to hang Doc.



There had been a council the night following the death of Harriet Lynn.
Somehow the word had spread through the villages and the chiefs had
assembled in Jake's village. But they had brought no solution, and in
the long run had been forced to accept Doc's decision.

"I'm not going to retire and hide," he'd told them, surprised at his own
decision, but grimly determined. "You need me and I need you. I'll move
every day in hopes the Lobby police won't find me, but I won't quit."

Now he was packing the things he most needed and getting ready to move.
The small bottles in which he was trying to grow his cultures would need
warmth. He shoved them into an inner pocket, and began surveying what
must be left.

He was heading for his tractor when another battered machine drove up.
It had a girl of about fourteen, with tears streaming down her face. She
held out a pleading hand, and her voice was scared. "It's--it's mama!"



Leibnitz was near enough. Doc started his tractor, motioning for the
girl to lead the way. The little dwelling she led him to was at the edge
of the village, looking more poverty-stricken than most.

Chris Ryan, and three of the Medical Lobby police were inside, waiting.
The girl's mother was tied to the bed, with a collection of medical
instruments laid out, but apparently the threat had been enough. No
actual injury had been inflicted. Probably none had been intended

"I knew you'd answer that kind of call," Chris said coldly.

He grinned sickly. They'd wasted no time. "I hear it's more than you'll
do, Chris. Congratulations! My patient died. You're lucky."

"She was certainly dead when my men took her picture. The print shows
the death grimace clearly."

"Pretty. Frame it and keep it to comfort you when you feel lonely," he

She struck him across the mouth with the handle of her gun. Then she
twisted out through the door quickly, heading for the tractor that had
been camouflaged to look like those used by the villagers. The three
police led him behind her.

A shout went up, and people began to rush onto the village street. But
they were too late. By the time they reached Southport, Doc could see a
trail of battered tractors behind, but there was nothing more the people
could do. Chris had her evidence and her prisoner.

       *       *       *       *       *

Judge Ben Wilson might have been Jake's brother. He was older and
grayer, but the same expression lay on his face. He must have been the
family black sheep, since his father had been president of Space Lobby.
Instead of inheriting the position, Wilson had remained on Mars, safely
out of the family's way.

He dropped the paper he was reading to frown at Chris. "This the

She began formal charges, but he cut them off. "Your lawyer already had
all that drawn up. I've been expecting you, Doctor. Doctor! Hnnf! You'd
do a lot better home somewhere raising a flock of babies. Well, young
fellow--so you're Feldman. Okay, your trial comes up day after tomorrow.
Be a shame to lock you in Southport jail, a man of your importance.
We'll just keep you here in the pending-trial room. It's a lot more

Chris had been boiling slowly, and now she seemed to blow her safety
valve. "Judge Wilson, your methods are your own business in local
affairs. But this involves Earth Medical Lobby. I demand--"

"Tch, _tch_!" The judge stared at her reprovingly. "Young woman, you
don't demand anything. This is Mars. If Space Lobby can stand me, I
guess our friends over at Medical will have to. Or should I hold trial
right now and find Feldman innocent for lack of evidence?"

"You wouldn't!" Chris cried. Then her face sobered suddenly. "I
apologize. Medical is pleased to leave things in your hands, of course."

Wilson smiled. "Court's closed for today. Doc, I'll show you your cell.
It's right next to my study, so I'm heading there anyhow."

He began shucking his robe while Chris went out with the police, her
voice sharp and continual.

The cell was both reasonably escape-proof and comfortable, Doc saw, and
he tried to thank the judge.

But the old man waved it aside. "Forget it. I just like to see that
little termagant taken down. But don't count on my being soft. My
methods may be a bit unusual--I always did like the courtroom scenes in
the old books by that fellow Smith--but Space Lobby never had any
reason to reverse my decisions. Anything you need?"

"Sure," Doc told him, grinning in spite of his bitterness. "A good
biology lab and an electron microscope."

"Umm. How about a good optical mike and some stains? Just got them in on
the last shipment. Figure they were meant for you anyhow, since Jake
Mullens asked me to order them."

He went out and came back with the box almost at once. He snorted at
Doc's incredulous thanks and moved off, his bedroom slippers slapping
against the hard floor.

Doc stared after him. If he were a friend of Jake, willing to invent
some excuse to get a microscope here ... but it didn't matter. Friend or
foe, his death sentence would be equally fatal. And there were other
things to be thought of now. The little microscope was an excellent one,
though only a monocular.

Doc's hands trembled as he drew his cultures out and began making up a
slide. The sun offered the best source of light near the window, and he
adjusted the instrument. Something began to come into view, but too
faintly to be really visible.

He remembered the stains, trying to recall his biology courses. More by
luck than skill, his fourth try gave him results.

Under two thousand powers, he could just see details. There were dozens
of cells in his impure culture, but only one seemed unfamiliar. It was a
long, worm-like thing, sharpened at both ends, with the three separate
nuclei that were typical of Martian life forms. Nearby were a host of
little rodlike squiggles just too small to see clearly.

Martian life! No Martian bug had ever proved harmful to men. Yet this
was no mutated cell or virus from Earth; it was a new disease,
completely different from all others. It was one where all Earth's
centuries of experience with bacteria would be valueless--the first
Martian disease. Unless this was simply some accidental contamination of
his culture, not common to the other samples. He worked on until the
light was too faint before putting the microscope aside.

By the time the trial commenced, however, he was sure of the cause of
the disease. It _was_ Martian. Crude as his cultures were, they had
proved that.

The little courtroom was filled, mostly from the villages. Lou was
there, along with others he had come to know. Then the sight of Jake
caught Doc's eyes. The darned fool had no business there; he could get
too closely mixed into the whole mess.

"Court's in session," Wilson announced. "Doc, you represented by

Jake's voice answered. "Your Honor, I represent the defendant. I think
you'll find my credentials in order."

Chris started to protest, but Wilson grinned. "Never lost your standing
in spite of that little fracas thirty years ago, so far as I know. But
the police thought you were a witness when you came walking in. Figured
you were giving up."

"I never said so," Jake answered.

Chris was squirming angrily, but the florid man acting as counsel for
Medical Lobby shook his head, bending over to whisper in her ear. He
straightened. "No objection to counsel for the defense. We recognize his

"You're a fool, Matthews," the judge told him. "Jake was smarter than
half the rest of Legal Lobby before he went native. Still can tie your
tail to a can. Okay, let's start things. I'm too old to dawdle."

Doc lost track of most of what happened. This was totally unlike
anything on Earth, though it might have been in keeping with the general
casualness of the villages. Maybe the ritualistic routine of the Lobbies
was driving those who could resist to the opposite extreme.

Chris was the final witness. Matthews drew comment of Feldman's former
crime from her, and Jake made no protest, though Wilson seemed to expect
one. Then she began sewing his shroud. There wasn't a fact that managed
to emerge without slanting, though technically correct. Jake sat
quietly, smiling faintly, and making no protests.

He got up lazily to cross-examine Chris. "Dr. Ryan, when Daniel Feldman
was examined by the Captain of the _Navaho_ after arriving at Mars
station, did you identify him then as having been Dr. Daniel Feldman?"

She glanced at Matthews, who seemed puzzled but unconcerned. "That's
correct," she admitted. "But--"

"And you later saw him delivered to the surface of Mars. Is that also
correct?" When she assented, Jake hesitated. Then he frowned. "What did
you do then? Did you report him or send anyone to look after him or
anything like that?"

"Certainly not," she answered. "He was no--"

"You did absolutely nothing about him after you identified him and saw
him delivered here? You're quite sure of that?"

"I did nothing."

Jake stood quietly for a moment, then shrugged. "No more questions."

Matthews finished things in a plea for the salvation of all humanity
from the danger of such men as Daniel Feldman. He was looking smug, as
was Chris.

Wilson turned to Jake. "Has the defense anything to say?"

"A few things, Your Honor." Jake stood up, suddenly looking certain and
pleased. "We are happy to admit everything factual the Lobby had
testified. Daniel Feldman performed a surgical operation on Harriet Lynn
in the village of Einstein. But when has it been illegal for a member of
the Medical profession to perform an operation, even with small chance
of success, within an accepted area for such operation? There has been
no evidence adduced that any crime or act of even unethical conduct was

That brought Chris and Matthews to their feet. Wilson was relaxed again,
looking as if he'd swallowed a whole cage of canaries. He banged his
gavel down.

Jake picked up two ragged and dog-eared volumes from his table. "Case of
Harding vs. Southport, 2043, establishes that a Lobby is responsible for
any member on Mars. It is also responsible for informing the authorities
of any criminal conduct on the part of its members or any former member
known to it. Failure to report shall be considered an admission that the
Lobby recognizes the member as one in good standing and accepts
responsibility for that member's conduct.

"At the time Daniel Feldman arrived, Dr. Christina Ryan was the highest
appointed representative of Medical Lobby in Southport, with full
authority. She identified Feldman as having been a doctor, without
stipulating any change in status. She made no further report to any
authority concerning Daniel Feldman's presence here. It seems obvious
that Medical Lobby at Southport thereby accepted Daniel Feldman as a
doctor in good standing for whose conduct the Lobby accepted full

Wilson studied the book Jake held out, and nodded. "Seems pretty
clear-cut to me," he agreed, passing the book on to Matthews. "There's
still the charge that Dr. Feldman operated outside a hospital."

"No reason he shouldn't," Jake said. He handed over the other volume.
"This is the charter for Medical Lobby on Mars. Medical Lobby agrees to
perform all necessary surgical and medical services for the planet,
though at the signing of this charter there was no hospital on Mars.
Necessarily, Medical Lobby agreed to perform surgery outside of any
hospital, then. But to make it plainer, there's a later paragraph--page
181--that defines each hospital zone as extending not less than three
nor more than one hundred miles. Einstein is about one hundred and ten
miles from the nearest hospital at Southport, so Einstein comes under
the original charter provisions. Dr. Feldman was forced by charter
provisions to protect the good name of his Lobby by undertaking any
necessary surgery in Einstein."

He waited until Matthews had scanned that book, then took it back and
began packing a big bag. Doc saw that his possessions and the microscope
were already in the bag. The old man paid no attention to the arguments
of Matthews before the bench.

Abruptly Wilson pounded his gavel. "This court finds that Dr. Daniel
Feldman is qualified to practice all the arts and skills of the medical
profession on Mars and that he acted ethically in the performance of his
duties in the case of the deceased Harriet Lynn," he ruled. "The costs
of the case shall be billed to Medical Lobby of Southport."

He took off his robe and moved rapidly toward his private quarters.
Court was closed.

Doc got up shakily, not daring to believe fully what he had heard. He
started toward Jake, trying to avoid bumping into Chris. But she would
not be avoided. She stood in front of him, screaming accusations and
threats that reminded him of the only fight they'd ever had during their
brief marriage.

When she ran down, he finally met her eyes. "You're a helluva doctor,"
he told her harshly. "You spend all your time fighting me when there's a
plague out there that may be worse than any disease we've ever known.
Take a look at what lies under the black specks on your corpses. You'll
find the first Martian disease. And maybe if you begin working on that
now, you can learn to be a real doctor in time to do something about it.
But I doubt it."

She fell back from him then. "Research! You've been doing unauthorized

"Prove it," he suggested. "But you'd be a lot smarter to try some
yourself, and to hell with your precious rules."

He followed Jake out to the tractor.

Surprisingly, the old man was sweating now. He shook his head at Doc's
look, and his grin was uncertain.

"Matthews is an incompetent," he said. "They could have had you, Doc.
That charter is so sloppy a man can prove anything by it, and building a
hospital here did bring in Earth rules. Wilson went out on a limb in
letting you go. But I guess we got away with it. Let's get out of here."

Doc climbed into the tractor more soberly. They had escaped this time.
But there would be another time, and he was pretty sure that would be
Chris' round. He had no intention of giving up his research.



Dr. Feldman leaned back from his microscope and lighted another bracky
weed. He glanced about the room and sighed wearily. Maybe he'd been
better off when he had no friends and couldn't risk the safety of others
in an effort to do research that was the highest crime on two worlds.

The evidence of his work was hidden thirty feet beyond his former
laboratory in Jake's village, with a tunnel that led from another
root-cellar. The theory was the old one that the best place to avoid
discovery was where you had already been discovered. If their spies had
identified his former hangout, they'd never expect to have him set up
research nearby. It was a nice theory, but he wasn't sure of it.

Jake looked up from a cot where he'd been watching the improvised
culture incubator. "Stop tearing yourself to bits, Doc. We know the
danger and we're still darned glad to have you here working on this."

"I'm trying to put myself together into a whole man," Doc told him. "But
I seem to come out wholly a fool."

"Yeah, sure. Sometimes it takes a fool to get things done; wise men wait
too long for the right time. How's the bug hunt?"

Doc grunted in disgust and swung back to the microscope. Then he gave up
as his tired eyes refused to focus. "Why don't you people revolt?"

"They tried it twice. But they were just a bunch of pariahs shipped here
to live in peonage. They couldn't do much. The first time Earth cut off
shipments and starved them. Next time the villages had the answer to
that but the cities had to fight for Earth or starve, so they whipped
us. And there's always the threat that Earth could send over unmanned
war rockets loaded with fissionables."

"So it's hopeless?"

"So nothing! The Lobbies are poisoning themselves, like cutting off
Medical service until they cut themselves out of a job. It's just a
matter of time. Go back to the bugs, Doc."

Doc sighed and reached for his notes. "I wish I knew more Martian
history. I've been wondering whether this bug may not have been what
killed off the old Martians. Something had to do it, the way they
disappeared. I wish I knew enough to make an investigation of those
ruins out there."

"Durwood!" Jake had propped himself on an elbow, staring at Doc in

Doc scowled. "Clive Durwood, you mean? The archeologist who dug up what
little we know about the ruins?"

"Yeah, before he went back to Earth and started living off his lectures.
He came here again three years ago and dropped dead in Edison on the way
to some other ruins. Heart failure, they called it, though it was more
like the two old farmers who ran themselves to death last month. I saw
him when they buried him. His face looked funny, and I think he had
those little specks, though I may remember wrong." He grimaced. "Mars is
tough, Doc; it has to be. Some of the plant seeds Durwood found in the
ruins grew! Maybe your bugs waited a million years till we came along."

"What about the farmers? Did they meet Durwood?"

Jake nodded. "Must have. He lived in their village most of the time."

Doc went through his notes. He'd asked for reports on all deaths, and he
finally found the account. The two old men had been nervous and fidgety
for weeks. They were twins, living by themselves, and nobody paid much
attention. Then one morning both were seen running wildly in circles.
The village managed to tie them up, but they died of exhaustion shortly

It wasn't a pretty picture. The disease might have an incubation period
of nearly fifteen years, judging by the length of time it had taken to
hit Durwood. It must spread from person to person during an early
contagious stage, leaving widening circles behind Durwood and those
first infected. When matured, any other sickness would set it off, with
few symptoms of its own. But without help, it still killed its victims,
apparently driving them madly toward frenzied physical effort.

He studied the culture on a slide again. He'd tried Koch's method to get
a pure strain, splattering the bugs onto a native starchy root and
plucking off individual colonies. About twenty specimens had been
treated with every chemical he could find. So far he'd found a few
things that seemed to stop their growth, but nothing that killed them,
except stuff far too harsh to use in living tissue.

He had nearly forty cases of deaths that showed symptoms now, and he
went back over them, looking for anything in common that went back ten
to twenty years before death. There were no rashes nor blisters. A few
had had apparent colds, but such were too common to mean anything.

Only one thing appeared, about fourteen years before their deaths. The
people interviewed about the victims might be vague about most things,
but they remembered the time when "Jim had the jumping headache."

"Jake," Doc called, "what's jumping headache? Most people seem to have
it some time or other, but I haven't run across a case of it."

"Sure you have, Doc. Mamie Brander's little girl a few weeks ago. Feels
like your pulse is going to rip your skull off, right here. Can't eat
because chewing drives you crazy. Back of your head, neck and shoulders
swell up for about a week. Then it goes away."

Then it goes away--for fourteen years, until it comes back to kill!

Doc stared at his charts in sudden horror. It was a new disease--thought
to be some virus, but not considered dangerous. Selznik's migraine,
according to medical usage; you treated it with hot pads and anodyne,
and it went away easily enough.

He'd seen hundreds of such cases on Earth. There must be millions who
had been hit by it. The patent-medicine branch of the Lobby had even
brought out something called Nograine to use for self-treatment.

"Something important?" Jake wanted to know.

Feldman nodded. "How much weight do you swing in other villages, Jake?"

"People sort of do me favors when I ask," Jake admitted. "Like swiping
those medical journals from Northport for you, or like Molly Badger
getting that job as maid to spy on Chris Ryan. Name it and I'll do my

Doc had a vague idea of village politics, but he had more important
things to think of. Most of his foul mood had disappeared with the clue
he'd stumbled on, and his chief worry now was to clinch the facts.

Feldman considered the problem. "I want a report on every case of
jumping headache in every village--who had it, when, and how old they
were. This place first, but every village you can reach. And I'll want
someone to take a letter to Chris Ryan."

Jake frowned at that, but went out to issue instructions. Doc sat down
at a battered old typewriter. Writing Chris might do no good, but some
warning had to be gotten through to Earth, where the vast resources of
Medical Lobby could be thrown into the task of finding the cause and
cure of the disease. The connection with Selznik's migraine had to be
reported. If something could blast the Lobby into action, it wouldn't
matter quite so much what they did to him. He wasn't foolish enough to
expect gratitude from them, but he was getting used to the idea that his
days were numbered. The plague was more important than what happened to

The letter had been dispatched by the time Jake returned. "Here's the
dope for this village. Everybody accounted for except you."

"Never had it, Jake." Feldman went down the list. "Most of it fourteen
years ago. That fits. About the only exceptions are the kids who seem to
get it between the ages of two and three. Eighty-seven out of

He stared at the figures sickly. Most of the village not only had the
plague but must be near the end of the incubation period. It looked as
if most of the village would be dead before another year passed.

"Bad?" Jake asked.

"The first symptom of Martian fever."

The old man whistled, the lines around his eyes tightening. "Must be
me," he decided. "I'm the guy who must have brought it here, then. I
used to spend a lot of time with Durwood at his diggings!"

There was a constant commotion all that day and the next as runners went
out to the villages and came back with reports. The variation from
village to village was only slight. Most of Mars seemed to have advanced
cases of Martian fever.

Without animals for investigation and study, real research was
difficult. Doc also needed an electron microscope. He was reasonably
sure that the disease must travel through the nerves, but he had found
no proof beyond the hard lump at the base of the neck. There it was a
fair-sized organism. Elsewhere he could find nothing, until the black
specks developed.

His eyes ached from trying to see more than was visible in the
microscope. The tantalizing suggestions of filaments around the nuclei
might be the form of plague that was contagious. They might even be the
true form of the bug, with the bigger cell only a transition stage.
There were a number of diseases that involved complicated changes in the
organisms that caused them. But he couldn't be sure.

He finally buried his head in his hands, trying to do by pure thought
what he couldn't do in any other way. And even there, he lacked
training. He was a doctor, not a xenobiologist. Research training had
been taboo in school, except for a favored few.

The reports continued to come in, confirming the danger. They seemed to
have the worst plague on their hands in all human history; and nobody
who could do anything about it even knew of it.

"Molly reports that your letter got some results," Jake reported. "Chris
Ryan brought home one of the electron microscopes and a bunch of
equipment from the hospital pathology room. Think she'll get anywhere?"

Doc doubted it. Damn it, he hadn't meant for her to try it, though she
might have authority for routine experiments. But it was like her to
refuse to pass on the word without trying to prove her own suspicion of
him first.

He tried to comfort himself with the fact that some men were immune, or
seemed so; about three out of a hundred showed no signs. If that
immunity was hereditary, it might save the race. If not....

Jake came in at twilight with a grim face. "More news from Molly. The
Lobby is starting out to comb every village with a fault-finder,
starting here. And this hole will show up like a sore thumb. Better
start packing. We gotta be out of here in less than an hour!"



Three days later, Doc saw his first runner.

The tractor was churning through the sand just before sundown, heading
toward another one-night stand at a new village. Lou was driving, while
Doc and Jake brooded silently in the back, paying no attention to the
colors that were blazoned over the dunes. The cat-and-mouse game was
getting to Doc. There was no real assurance that the village they were
approaching might not be the target the Lobby had chosen for the next

Lou braked the tractor to a sudden halt, and pointed.

A figure was running frantically over one of the low dunes with the
little red sun behind him. He seemed headed toward them, but as he drew
nearer they could see that he had no definite direction. He simply ran,
pumping his legs frantically as if all the devils of hell were after
him. His body swayed from side to side in exhaustion, but his arms and
legs pumped on.

"Stop him!" Jake ordered, and Lou swung the tractor. It halted squarely
in the runner's path, and the figure struck against it and toppled.

The legs went on pumping, digging into the dirt and gravel, but the man
was too far gone to rise. Jake and Lou shoved him through the doors into
the tractor and Doc yanked off his aspirator.

The man was giving vent to a kind of ululating cry, weakened now almost
to a whine that rose and fell with the motion of his legs. Sweat had
once streaked his haggard face, but it was dry and blanched to a pasty

Doc injected enough narcotic to quiet a maddened bull. It had no effect,
except to upset the rhythm of the arms and legs. It took five more
minutes for the man to die.

The specks were larger this time--the size of periods in twelve-point
type. The lump at the base of the skull was as big as a small hen's egg.

"From Edison, like the others so far. Jack Kooley," Jake answered Doc's
question. "Durwood spent a lot of time here on his first expedition, so
it's getting the worst of it."

Doc pulled the aspirator mask back over the man's face and they carried
him out and laid him on a low dune. They couldn't risk returning the
corpse to its people.

This was only the primary circle of infection, direct from Durwood. The
second circle could be ten times as large, as the infection spread from
one to a few to many. So far it was localized. But it wouldn't stay that

Doc climbed slowly out of the tractor, lugging his small supplies of
equipment, while Jake made arrangements for them to spend the night in a
deserted house. But the figure of the runner and his own failures to
find more about the disease kept haunting Doc. He began setting up his
equipment grimly.

"Better get some sleep," Jake suggested. "You're a mite more tired than
you think. Anyhow, I thought you told me you couldn't do any more with
what you've got."

Feldman looked at the supplies he had spread out, and shook his head
wearily. He'd been over every chemical and combination a dozen times,
without results that showed in the limited magnification of the optical

He snapped the case shut and hit the rude table with the heel of his
hand. "There are other supplies. Jake, do you have any signal to get in
touch with Molly at the Ryan house?"

"Three raps on the rear left window. I'll get Lou."

"No!" Doc came to his feet, reaching for his jacket. "They're looking
for three men now. It's safer if I go alone--and I'm the only one who
knows what supplies are needed. With luck, I may even get the electron
mike. Got a gun I can borrow?"

Jake found one somewhere, an old revolver with a few loads. He began
protesting, but Doc overruled him sharply. Three men could no more fight
off the police than one, if they were spotted. He swung toward the

"You'd better start spreading the word on everything we know. If people
realize they're already safe or doomed it'll be better than having them
going crazy to avoid contagion."

"Most of the villages know already," Jake told him. "And damn it, get
back here, Doc. If you can't make it, turn tail quick, and we'll think
of something else."

Southport seemed normal enough as Doc drove through its streets. The
stereo house was open, and the little shops were brightly lighted. He
stopped once to pull a copy of Southport's little newspaper from a
dispenser. All was quiet on its front page, too.

As usual, though, the facts were buried inside. The editorial was
pouring too much oil on the waters in its lauding of the role of
Medical Lobby on Mars for no apparent reason. The death notices no
longer listed the cause of death. Medical knew something was up, at
least, and was worried.

He parked the tractor behind Chris' house and slipped to the proper
window. Everything was seemingly quiet there. At his knock, the shade
was drawn back, and he caught a brief glimpse of Molly looking out. A
moment later she opened the rear lock to let him into the kitchen.

"Shh. She's still up, I think. What can I do, Doc?"

He tried to smile at her. "Hide me until it's safe to get into her
laboratory. I've got to--"

The inner kitchen was kicked open and Chris stood beyond it, holding a
cocked gun in her hand.

"It took longer than I expected, Dan," she said quietly. "But after your
letter, I knew you'd swallow the bait. You bloody fool! Did you really
believe I'd start doing research here just because of your imaginings?"

He slumped slowly back against the sink. "So this is a fool's errand,
then? There never was any equipment here?"

"The equipment's here--in my office. I guessed your spies would report
it, so it had to be here. But it won't help you now, pariah Feldman!"

He came from his braced position against the sink like a spring
uncoiling. He expected her to shoot, but hoped the surprise would ruin
her aim. Then it was too late, and his boot hit the gun savagely,
knocking it from her hand. Life in the villages had hardened him
surprisingly. She was comparatively helpless in his hands. A few minutes
later, he had her bound securely with surgical tape Molly brought him.
She raged furiously in the chair where he'd dumped her, then gave up.

"They'll get you, Daniel Feldman!" Surprisingly, there was no rage in
her voice now. "You won't get away from us. The planet isn't big

"I got away from your trial," he reminded her. "And I got away and lived
when you left me without a chance on the ground of the spaceport."

She laughed harshly. "_You_ got away then? You fool, who do you think
gave you the extra battery so you could live long enough to be helped at
the spaceport? Who hired a fool like Matthews so you wouldn't get the
death sentence you deserved? Who let you get away as an herb doctor for
months before you set yourself up as God and a traitor to mankind

It shook him, as it was probably intended to do. How had she known about
the extra battery? He'd always assumed that Ben had returned to give it
to him. But in that case, Chris couldn't know of it. Then he hardened
himself again. In the old days, she'd always had one trump card he
couldn't beat and hadn't expected. But too much was involved for games

"Any police around, Molly?" he asked.

Molly came back a minute later to report that everything looked clear
and to show him where the equipment had been set up in Chris' office. It
was all there, including the electron mike--a beautiful little portable
model. There was even a small incubator with its own heat source into
which he immediately transferred the little bottles he'd been keeping
warm against his skin. Most of the equipment had never been unpacked,
which made loading it onto his tractor ridiculously easy.

"Better come with me now, Molly," he suggested at last. Then he turned
to Chris, who was watching him with almost no expression. "You can
wriggle your chair to the phone in half an hour, I guess. Knock the
phone off and yell for help. It's better than you deserve, unless you
really did leave me that battery."

"You won't get away with it," she told him again, calmly this time.

"No," he admitted. "Probably not. But maybe the human race will, if I
have time to find an answer to the plague you won't see under your nose.
But you won't get away with it, either. In the long run, your kind never

Molly was sniffling as they drove away. It had probably been the best
life she'd known, Doc supposed. Chris could be kind to menials. But now
Molly's work was done, and she'd have to disappear into the villages. He
let her off at the first village and drove on alone. He was itching to
get to the microscope now, hardly able to wait through the long journey
back to Jake. His impatience grew with each mile.

Finally he gave up. He swung the tractor into a small gulley between
sand dunes, left the motor idling and pulled down the shades the
villagers used for blackout traveling. There was power enough for the
mike here, and the cab was big enough for what he had to do.

He mounted the mike on the tractor seat and began laying out the
collection of smears and cultures he had brought. It had been years
since he'd made a film for the electron mike, but he found it all came
back to him as he worked.

His hands were sweating with tension as he inserted the first film into
the chamber. He had the magnetic "lenses" set for twenty thousand power,
but a quick glance showed it was too weak. He raised the power to fifty

The filaments were there, clear and distinct.

He turned on the little tape recorder that had been part of Chris'
equipment and set the microphone where he could dictate into it without
stopping to make clumsy notes. He readjusted the focus carefully,
carrying on a running commentary.

Then he gasped. Each of the little filaments carried three tiny darker
sections; each was a cell, complete in itself, with the typical Martian
triple nucleus.

He put a film with a tiny section of the nerve tissue from a corpse into
the chamber next, and again a quick glance at the screen was enough. The
filaments were there, thickly crowded among nerve cells. They _did_
travel along the nerves to reach the base of the brain before the larger
lump could form.

A specimen from one of the black specks was even more interesting. The
filaments were there, but some were changed or changing into tiny, round
cells, also with the triple dark spots of nuclei. Those must be the
final form that was released to infect others. Probably at first these
multiplied directly in epithelial tissue, so that there was a rapid
contagion of infection. Eventually, they must form the filaments that
invaded the nerves and caused the brief bodily reaction that was
Selznik's migraine. Then the body adapted to them and they began to
incubate slowly, developing into the large cells he had first seen. When
"ripe", the big cells broke apart into millions of the tiny round ones
that went back to the nerve endings, causing the black spots and killing
the host.

He knew his enemy now, at least.

He reached for the controls, increasing the magnification. He would lose
resolution, but he might find something more at the extreme limits of
the mike.

Something wet and cold gushed into his face. He jerked back, trying to
wipe it off, but it was already evaporating, and there was a thick,
acrid odor in the cab. He grabbed for his aspirator, then tried to reach
the airlock. But paralysis was already spreading through him, and he
toppled to the floor before he could escape.

When he came to, it was morning outside, and Chris was waiting inside
the cab with two big Lobby policemen. A hypo in her hand must have been
what revived him.

She touched the electron microscope with something like affection. "The
Lobby technicians did a good job on this, don't you think, Dan? I warned
you, but you wouldn't listen. And now we've even got your own taped
words to prove you were doing forbidden research. Fool!"

She shook her head pityingly as the tractor began moving with two others
toward Southport.

"You and your phony diseases. A little skin disorder, Selznik's
migraine, and a few cases of psychosis to make a new disease. Do you
think Medical Lobby can't check on such simple things? Or didn't you
expect us to hear of your open talk of revolt and realize you were
planning to create some new germ to wipe out the Earth forces. Maybe
those runners of yours were real, mass murderer!"

She drew out another hypo and shoved the needle into his arm.
Necrosynth--enough to keep him unconscious for twenty-four hours. He
started to curse her, but the drug acted before he could complete the



Doc woke to see sunlight shining through a heavily barred window that
must be in the official Southport jail. He waited a few minutes for his
head to clear and then sat up; necrosynth left no hangover, at least.

The sound of steps outside was followed by the squeak of a key in the
lock. "Fifteen minutes, Judge Wilson," a voice said.

"Thank you, officer." Wilson came into the cell, carrying a tray of
breakfast and a copy of the Northport _Gazette_. He began unloading
bracky weeds from his pocket while Doc attacked the breakfast.

"They tossed the book at you, Doc," he said. "You haven't got a chance,
and there's nothing the villages can do. Trial's set for tomorrow at
Northport, and it's in closed session. We can't get you off this time."

Doc nodded. "Thanks for coming, even if there's nothing you can do. I've
been living on borrowed time for a year, anyhow, so I have no right to
kick. But who's 'we'?"

"The villages. I've been part of their organization for years." The old
man sighed heavily. "You might say a revolution has been going on since
I can remember, though most villagers don't know it. We've just been
waiting our time. Now we've stopped waiting and the rifles will be
coming out--rifles made in village shops. The villages are going to
rebel, even if we're all dead of plague in a month."

Doc Feldman nodded and reached for the bracky. He knew that this was
their way of trying to make him feel his work hadn't been for nothing,
and he was grateful for Wilson's visit. "It was a good year for me.
Damned good. But time's running short. I'd better brief you on the
latest on the plague."

Wilson began making notes until Doc was finished. Finally he got up as
steps sounded from the hall. "Anything else?"

"Just a guess. A lot of Earth germs can't live in Mars-normal flesh;
maybe this can't live in Earth-normal. Tell them so long for me."

"So long, Doc." He shook hands briefly and was waiting at the door when
the guard opened it.

An hour later, the Lobby police took Feldman to the Northport shuttle
rocket. They had some trouble on the way; a runner cut down the street,
with the crowds frantically rushing out of his way. Terror was reaching
the cities already.

Doc flashed a look at Chris. "Mob hysteria. Like flying saucers and
wriggly tops, I suppose?" he asked, before the guard could stop him.

They locked his legs, but left his hands free in the rocket. He unfolded
the paper Wilson had brought and buried his face in it. Then he swore.
They _were_ explaining the runners as a case of mob hysteria!

Northport was calmer. Apparently they had yet to have first-hand
experience with the plague. But now nothing seemed quite real to Doc,
even when they locked him into the big Northport jail. The whole ritual
of the Lobbies seemed like a fantasy after the villages.

It snapped back into focus, however, when they led him into the trial
room of the Medical Lobby building. It was a smaller version of his
trial on Earth. Fear washed in by association. The complete lack of
humanity in the procedure was something from a half-remembered and
horrible past.

The presiding officer asked the routine question: "Is the prisoner
represented by counsel?"

Blane, the dapper little prosecutor, arose quickly. "The prisoner is a
pariah, Sir Magistrate."

"Very well. The court will accept the protective function for the
prisoner. You may proceed."

_I'll be judge, I'll be jury._ And prosecution and defense. It made for
a lot less trouble. Of course, if Space Lobby had asserted interest, it
would have gone to a supposedly neutral court. But as usual, Space was
happy to leave it in the hands of Medical.

The tape was played as evidence. Doc frowned. The words were his, but
there had been a lot of editing that subtly changed the import of his

"I protest," he challenged. "It's not an accurate version."

The Lobby magistrate turned a wooden face to him. "Does the prisoner
have a different version to introduce?"

"No, but--"

"The evidence is accepted. One of the prisoner's six protests will be
charged against him."

Blane smiled smoothly and held up a small package. "We wish to introduce
this drug as evidence that the prisoner is a confirmed addict, morally
irresponsible under addiction. This is a package of so-called bracky
weed, a vile and noxious substance found in his possession."

"It has alkaloids no more harmful than nicotine," Feldman stated

"Do you contend that you find the taste pleasing?" Blane asked.

"It's bitter, but I've gotten used to it."

"I've tasted it," the magistrate said. "Evidence accepted. Two
deductions, one for irregularity of presentation."

Doc shrugged and sat back. He'd tested his rights and found what he
expected. It was hard to see now how he had ever accepted such
procedure. Jake must be right; they'd been in power too long, and were
making the mistake of taking the velvet glove off the iron fist and
flailing about for the sheer pleasure of power.

It dragged on, while he became a greater and greater monster on the
record. But finally it was over, and the magistrate turned to Feldman.
"You may present your defense."

"I ask complete freedom of expression," Doc said formally.

The magistrate nodded. "This is a closed court. Permission granted. The
recording will be scrambled."

The last bit ruined most of the purpose Doc had in mind. But it was too
late to change. He could only hope that some one of the Medical men
present would remember something of what he said.

"I have nothing to say for myself," he began. "It would be useless. But
I had to do what I did. There's a plague outside. I've studied that
plague, and I have knowledge which must be used against it...."

He sat down in three minutes. It had been useless.

Blane arose, with a smile still plastered on his face. "We, of course,
recognize the existence of a new contagion, but I believe we have
established that this is one disseminated by the prisoner himself, and
probably not directly contagious. There have been many cases of fanatics
ready to destroy humanity to eliminate those they hate. Now, surely, the
prisoner has himself left no question of his attitude. He asserts he has
knowledge and skill greater than the entire Medical Research staff. He
has attempted to intimidate us by threats. He is clearly psychopathic,
and dangerously so. The prosecution rests."

The guards took Doc into the anteroom, where he was supposed to hear
nothing that went on. But their curiosity was stronger than their
discretion, and the door remained a trifle ajar.

The magistrate began the discussion. "The case seems firm enough. It's
fortunate Dr. Ryan acted so quickly, with some of the people getting
nervous. Perhaps it might be wise to publicize our verdict."

"My thought exactly," Blane agreed. "If we show Feldman is responsible
and that Medical is eliminating the source of the infection, it may have
a stabilizing effect."

"Let's hope so. The sentence will have to be death, of course. We can't
let such a rebellious psychopath live. But this needs something more, it
seems. You've prepared a recommendation, I suppose."

"There was the case of Albrecht Delier," Blane suggested. "Something
like that should have good publicity impact."

It struck Doc that they sounded as if they believed themselves--as the
witch-burners had believed in witches. He was sweating when the guards
led him before the bench.

The magistrate rolled a pen slowly across his fingers as his eyes raked
Feldman. "Pariah Daniel Feldman, you have been found guilty on all
counts. Furthermore, your guilt must be shared by that entire section of
Mars known as the villages. Therefore the entire section shall be banned
and forbidden any and all services of the Medical Lobby for a period of
one year."

"Sir Magistrate!" One of the members of Southport Hospital staff was on
his feet. "Sir Magistrate, we can't cut them off completely."

"We must, Dr. Harkness. I appreciate the fine humanitarian tradition of
our Lobby which lies behind your protest, but at such a time as this the
good of the body politic requires drastic measures. Why not see me after
court, and we can discuss it then?"

He turned back to Feldman, and his face was severe.

"The same education which has produced such fine young men as Dr.
Harkness was wasted on you and perverted to endanger the whole race. No
punishment can equal your crimes, but there is one previously invoked
for a particularly horrible case, and it seems fitting that you should
be the fourth so sentenced.

"Daniel Feldman, you are sentenced to be taken in to space beyond
planetary limits, together with all material used by you in the
furtherance of your criminal acts. There you shall be placed into a
spacesuit containing sufficient oxygen for one hour of life, and no
more. You and your contaminated possessions shall then be released into
space, to drift there through all eternity as a warning to other men.

"This sentence shall be executed at the earliest possible moment, and
Dr. Christina Ryan is hereby commissioned to observe such execution. And
may God have mercy on your soul!"



The hours of waiting were blurred for Doc. There were periods when fear
clogged his throat and left him gasping with the need to scream and beat
his cell walls. There were also times when it didn't seem to matter, and
when his only thoughts were for the villages and the plague.

They brought him the papers, where he was painted as a monster beside
whom Jack the Ripper and Albrecht Delier were gentle amateurs. They were
trying to focus all fear and resentment on him. Maybe it was working.
There were screaming crowds outside the jail, and the noise of their
hatred was strong enough to carry through even the atmosphere of Mars.
But there were also signs that the Lobby was worried, as if afraid that
some attempt might still be made to rescue him.

He'd looked forward to the trip to the airport as a way of judging
public reaction. But apparently the Lobby had no desire to test that.
The guards led him up to the roof of the jail, where a rocket was
waiting. The landing space was too small for one of the station
shuttles, but a little Northport-Southport shuttle was parked there
after what must have been a difficult set-down. The guards tested Doc's
manacles and forced him into the shuttle.

Inside, Chris was waiting, carrying an official automatic. There was
also a young pilot, looking nervous and unhappy. He was muttering under
his breath as the guards locked Doc's legs to a seat and left.

"All right," Chris ordered. "Up ship!"

"I tell you we're overweight with you. I wasn't counting on three for
the trip," the pilot protested. "The only thing that will get this into
orbit with the station is faith. I'm loaded with every drop of fuel
she'll hold and it still isn't enough."

"That's your problem," Chris told him firmly. "You've got your orders,
and so have I. Up ship!"

If she had her own worries about the shuttle, she didn't show it. Chris
had never been afraid to do what she felt she should. The pilot stared
at her doubtfully and finally turned back to his controls, still

The shuttle lifted sluggishly, but there was no great difficulty. Doc
could see that there was even some fuel remaining when they slipped into
the tube at the orbital station. Chris went out, and other guards came
in to free him.

"So long, Dr. Feldman," the pilot called softly as they led him out.
Then the guards shoved him through the airlock into the station. Fifteen
minutes later he was locked into one of the cabins of the _Iroquois_,
with all his possessions stacked beside him.

He grinned wryly. As an honest worker on the _Navaho_ he'd been treated
like an animal. Now, as a human fiend, he was installed in a luxury
cabin of the finest ship of the fleet, with constant spin to give a
feeling of weight and more room than the entire tube crew had known.

He roamed the cabin until he found a little collapsible table. He set
the electron microscope up on that and plugged it in. It seemed a shame
that good equipment should be wasted along with his life. He wondered
if they would really throw it out into space with him. Probably they

He pushed a button on the call board over the table and asked for the
steward. There was a long wait, as if the procedure were being checked
with some authority, but finally he received a surly acknowledgement.
"Steward. Whatcha want?"

"How's the chance of getting some food?"

"You're on first-class."

They could afford it, Doc decided. He wouldn't cost them much,
considering the distance he was going. "Bring me two complete
dinners--one Earth-normal and one Mars-normal."

"Okay, Feldman. But if you think you can suicide that way, you're wrong.
You may be sick, but you'll be alive when they dump you."

A sharp click interrupted him. "That's enough, Steward. Captain Everts
speaking. Dr. Feldman, you have my apologies. Until you reach your
destination, you are my passenger and entitled to every consideration of
any other passenger except freedom of movement through the ship. I am
always available for legitimate complaints."

Feldman shook his head. He'd heard of such men. But he'd thought the
species extinct.

The steward brought his food in a thoroughly chastened manner. He
managed to find space for it and came to attention. "Is that all--sir?"

For a moment, as the smell of real steak reached him, Doc regretted the
fact that his metabolism had been switched. Then he shrugged. A little
wouldn't hurt him, though there was no proper nourishment in it. He
squeezed some of the gravy and bits of meat into one of his bottles,
sticking to his purpose; then he fell to on the rest. But after a few
bites, it was queerly unsatisfactory. The seemingly unappealing
Mars-normal ragout suited his current tastes better, after all.

Once the steward had cleared away the dishes, Doc went to work. It was
better than wasting his time in dread. He might even be able to leave
some notes behind.

A gong sounded, and a red light warned him that acceleration was due. He
finished with his bottles, put them into the incubator, and piled into
his bunk, swallowing one of the tablets of morphetal the ship furnished.

Acceleration had ended, and a simple breakfast was waiting when he
awoke. There was also a red flashing light over the call board. He
flipped the switch while reaching for the coffee.

"Captain Everts," the speaker said. "May I join you in your cabin?"

"Come ahead," Feldman invited. He cut off the switch and glanced at the
clock on the wall. There were less than eleven hours left to him.

Everts was a trim man of forty, erect but not rigid. There was neither
friendliness nor hostility in his glance. His words were courteous as
Doc motioned toward the tray of breakfast. "I've already eaten, thank

He accepted a chair. His voice was apologetic when he began. "This is a
personal matter which I perhaps have no right to bring up. But my wife
is greatly worried about this plague. I violate no confidence in telling
you there is considerable unease, even on Earth, according to messages I
have received. The ship physician believes Mrs. Everts may have the
plague, but isn't sure of the symptoms. I understand you are quite

Doc wondered about the physician. Apparently there was another man who
placed his patients above anything else, though he was probably
meticulous about obeying all actual rules. There was no law against
listening to a pariah, at least.

"When did she have Selznik's migraine?" he asked.

"About thirteen years ago. We went through it together, shortly after
having our metabolism switched during the food shortage of '88."

Doc felt carefully at the base of the Captain's skull; the swelling was
there. He asked a few questions, but there could be no doubt.

"Both of you must have it, Captain, though it won't mature for another
year. I'm sorry."

"There's no hope, then?"

Doc studied the man. But Everts wasn't the sort to dicker even for his
life. "Nothing that I've found, Captain. I have a clue, but I'm still
working on it. Perhaps if I could leave a few notes for your

It was Everts' turn to shake his head. "I'm sorry, Dr. Feldman. I have
orders to burn out your cabin when you leave. But thank you." He got to
his feet and left as quietly and erectly as he had entered.

Doc tore up his notes bitterly. He paced his cabin slowly, reading out
the hours while his eyes lingered on the little bottle of cultures. At
times the fear grew in him, but he mastered it. There was half an hour
left when he began opening the little bottles and making his films.

He was still not finished when steps echoed down the hall, but he was
reasonably sure of his results. The bug could not grow in Earth-normal

Three men entered the room. One of them, dressed in a spacesuit, held
out another suit to him. The other two began gathering up everything in
the cabin and stowing it neatly into a sack designed to protect freight
for a limited time in a vacuum.

Doc forced his hands to steadiness with foolish pride and began climbing
into the suit. He reached for the helmet, but the man shook his head,
pointing to the oxygen gauge. There would be exactly one hour's supply
of oxygen when he was thrown out and it still lacked five minutes of the

They marched him down the hallway, to meet Everts coming toward them.
There were still three minutes left when they reached the airlock, with
its inner door already open. The spacesuited man climbed into it and
began strapping down so that the rush of air would not sweep him outward
when the other seal was released.

Doc had saved one bracky weed. Now he raised it to his lips, fumbling
for a light.

Everts stepped forward and flipped a lighter. Doc inhaled deeply. Fear
was thick in every muscle, and he needed the smoke desperately. Then he
caught himself.

"Better change your metabolism back to Earth-normal, Captain Everts," he
said, and his voice was so normal that he hardly recognized it.

Everts' eyes widened briefly. The man bowed faintly. "Thank you, Dr.

It was ridiculous, impossible, and yet there was a curious relief at the
formality of it. It was like something from a play, too unreal to affect
his life.

Everts nodded to the man holding the helmet. Doc dropped his bracky weed
and felt the helmet snap down. A hiss of oxygen reached him and the suit
ballooned out. There was no gravity; the two men handed him up easily to
the one in the airlock while the inner seal began to close.

There was still ten seconds to go, according to the big chronometer that
had been installed in the lock. The spaceman used it in tying the sack
of possessions firmly to Doc's suit.

A red light went on. The man caught Doc and held him against the outer
seal. The red light blinked. Four seconds ... three ... two....

There was a sudden heavy thudding sound, and the _Iroquois_ seemed to
jerk sideways slightly. The spaceman's face swung around in surprise.

The red light blinked and stayed on. Zero!

The outer seal snapped open and the spaceman heaved. Air exploded
outwards, and Doc went with it. He was alone in space, gliding away from
the ship, with oxygen hissing softly through the valve and ticking away
his life.



Feldman fought for control of himself, forced himself to think, to hold
onto his sanity. It was sheer stupidity, since nothing could have been
more merciful than to lose this reality. But the will to be himself was
stronger than logic. And bit by bit, he forced the fear and horror away
from him until he could examine his situation.

He was spinning slowly, so that stars ahead of him seemed to crawl
across his view. The ship was retreating from him already hundreds of
yards away. Mars was a shrunken pill far away.

Then something blinked to one side. He turned his head to stare.

A little ship was less than three hundred yards away. He recognized it
as a life raft. Now his spin brought him around to face it, and he saw
it was parallelling his course. The ejection of the life raft must have
caused the thump he'd heard before he was cast adrift.

It meant someone was trying to save him. It meant _life_!

He flailed his arms and beat his legs together, senselessly trying to
force himself closer, while trying to guess who could have taken the
chance. No one he could think of could have booked passage on the
_Iroquois_. There wasn't that much free money in the villages.

Something flashed a hot blue, and the little ship leaped forward.
Whoever was handling it knew nothing about piloting. It picked up too
much speed at too great an angle.

Again blue spurts came, but this time matters were even worse. Then
there was a long wait before a third try was made. He estimated the
course. It would miss him by a good hundred feet, but it was probably
the best the amateur pilot could do. The ship drifted closer, but to one
side. It would soon pass him completely.

A spacesuited figure suddenly appeared in the tiny airlock, holding a
coil of rope. The rope shot out, well thrown. But it was too short. It
would pass within ten feet--and might as well have been ten miles for
all the good it would do him.

Every film he had seen on space seemed to form a mad jumble in his mind,
but he seized on the first idea he could remember. He inhaled deeply and
yanked the oxygen tank free. An automatic seal on the suit cut off the
connection. He aimed the hissing bottle, fumbling for the manual valve.

It almost worked. It kicked him toward the rope slightly, but most of
the energy was wasted in setting him into a wilder spin. He blinked,
trying to spot the rope. It was within five feet now.

Again he waited, until he seemed to be in position. This time he threw
the bottle away from it. It added spin to his vertical axis, but the
rope came into view within arm's reach.

He grasped it, just as his lungs seemed about to burst. He couldn't hold
on long enough to tie the rope....

His lungs gave up suddenly, collapsing and then sucking in greedily.
Clean air rushed in, letting his head clear. He'd forgotten that the
inflated suit held enough oxygen for several minutes.

His body struck the edge of the airlock and a hand jerked him inside.
The outer seal was slammed shut and locked, and there was a hiss of air

He threw back his helmet just as Chris Ryan jerked hers off.

Her voice shook almost hysterically. "Thank God. Dan, I almost gave up!"

"I liked the air out there better," he told her bitterly. "If you'll
open the lock again, I'll leave. Or am I supposed to believe this is
rescue and that you came along just to save me?"

"I came along to see you killed, as you know very well. Saving you
wasn't in my orders."

He grunted and reached for the handle that would release the outer lock.
"Better get back inside if you don't want to blow out with me."

"It's up to you, Dan," she told him, and there was all the sincerity in
the world in her blue eyes. "I'm on your side now."

He began counting on his fingers. "Let's see. The spare battery, the
delay in arresting me, the choice of Matthews--"

"It was all true." Anger began to grow in her eyes. "Dan Feldman, you
get inside this raft! If you don't care about me, you might consider the
people dying of the plague who need you!"

She'd played her trump, and it took the round. He followed her.

"All right," he said grudgingly. "Spill your story."

She held out a copy of a space radiogram, addressed to Mrs. D. E.
Everts, and signed by one of the best doctors on the Lobby Board of

     Regret confirm diagnosis. Topsecret. Repeat topsecret.
     Martian fever incubates fourteen years, believed highly
     fatal. No cure, research beginning immediately. Penalty
     violation topsecret, death all concerned.

"Mrs. Everts rates a topsecret break?" Doc commented dryly. "Come off
it, Chris!"

"She's the daughter of Elmers of Space Lobby!" Chris answered. She
pointed to the message, underlining words with her finger. "_Fourteen
years._ You couldn't have caused it. _Highly fatal._ And people are
being told it's only a skin disease. _Research beginning._ But you've
already done most of the research. I can see that now. I can see a lot
of things."

"You've got me beat then," he said. "I can't see how such a reformed
young noblewoman calmly walked over and stole a life raft. I can't see
how your brilliant mind concocted this whole scheme in almost no time.
And to be honest, I can't even see why Medical Lobby decided to save me
at the last minute and sent you to do the job. You didn't have to spy
out knowledge from me. I've been trying all along to get it to your
Research division."

She sighed and dropped onto a little seat.

"I can't prove my motives. You'll just have to believe me. But it wasn't
hard to do what I've done. That shuttle pilot was found in a routine
check, stowed away on the life raft. I was with Captain Everts when he
was found, so I discovered how to get into the raft. And I heard his
whole confession. He wasn't the real pilot. He'd come from the villages
to save you. The whole scheme was his. I just used it, hoping I could
reach you."

As always her story had a convincing element she shouldn't have known.
The pilot's farewell, addressing him as Dr. Feldman, had been too low
for her to hear, but it was something that fitted her story. It was
probably a deliberate clue to give him hope, to assure him the villages
were still trying. It shook his confidence.

"And your motive--your real motive?" he insisted.

She swore at him, then began ripping off the spacesuit. She turned her
back, pulling a thin blouse down from her neck. He stared, then reached
out to touch the lump there.

"So you've had Selznik's migraine and know you're carrying plague. And
you've decided your precious Lobby won't save you?"

She dropped her eyes, then raised them to meet his defiantly. "I'm not
just scared and selfish. Dad caught it, too, and it must be close to the
time for him. He switched to Mars-normal when he was a liaison agent and
never changed back. Dan, are we all going to have to die? Can't you save

Feldman was out of his suit and at the control panel. There was a manual
lever, which Chris must have used before. It might work out here where
there was room to maneuver and nothing to hit. But trying to make a
landing was going to be different.

"Dan?" she repeated.

He shrugged. "I don't know. They've started research too late and
they'll be under so much pressure that the real brains won't have a
chance. The topsecret stuff looks bad for research. Maybe there's a
cure. It works in culture bottles, but it may fail in person. When I'm
convinced I'm safe with you, I may tell you about it."

"Oh." Her voice was low. Then she sighed. "I suppose I can understand
why you hate me, Dan."

"I don't hate you. I'm too mixed up. Tomorrow maybe, but not now. Shut
up and let me see if I can figure out how to land this thing."

He found that the fuel tanks were nearly full, but that still didn't
leave much margin. Mars must have been notified by Everts and be ready
to pick the raft up. He had to reach the wastelands away from any of the
shuttle ports. They had no aspirators, however, and they couldn't cover
much territory in the spacesuits they would have to use. It meant he'd
have to land close to a village where he was known.

He jockeyed the ship around by trial and error, studying the manual that
was lying prominently on the control panel. According to the booklet,
the ship was simple to operate. It was self-leveling in an atmosphere,
and automatic flare computers were supposed to make it possible for an
amateur to judge the rate of descent near the surface. It looked
reassuring--and was probably written with that in mind.

Finally he reached for the control, hoping he'd figured his landing
orbit reasonably well by simple logic. He smoothed it out in the
following hours as he watched the markings on Mars. When they were near
turnover point, he began cranking the little gyroscope to swing the
ship. It saved fuel to turn without power, and he wasn't sure he could
have turned accurately by blasting.

He was gaining some proficiency, however, he felt. But now he had to
waste fuel and ruin his orbit again. There was no way to practice
maneuvering without actually doing so.

In the end, he compromised, leaving a small margin for a bad landing
that would require a second attempt, but with less practice than he

He had located Jake's village through the little telescope when he
finally reached for the main blast control. The thin haze of Mars'
atmosphere came rushing up, while the blast lashed out. Then they were
in the outer fringes of the sky and the blast was beginning to show a
corona that ruined visibility.

He turned to the flare computer and back to what he could see through
the quartz viewport. He was going to land about half a mile from the
village, as nearly as he could judge.

The computer seemed to work as it should. The speed was within
acceptable limits. He gave up trying to see the ground and was forced to
trust the machinery designed for amateur pilots. The flare bloomed, and
he yanked down on the little lever.

It could have been worse. They hit the ground, bounced twice, and turned
over. The ship was a mess when Feldman freed himself from the elastic
straps of the seat. Chris had shrieked as they hit, but she was
unbuckling herself now.

He threw her her spacesuit and one of the emergency bottles of oxygen
from the rack. "Hurry up with that. We've sprung a leak and the
pressure's dropping."

They were halfway to the village when a dozen tractors came racing up
and Jake piled out of the lead one to drag the two in with him.

"Heard about it from the broadcasts and figured you might land around
here. Good to see you, Doc." He started the tractor off at full speed,
back to the wastelands, while Doc stared at the armed men who were
riding the tractors.

Jake caught his look and nodded. "You're in enemy territory, Doc.
There's a war going on!"



Sometimes it seemed to Doc that war was nothing but an endurance race to
see how many times they could run before they were bombed. He was just
beginning to drop off to sleep after a long trip for the sixth
consecutive day when the little alarm shrilled. He sighed and shook
Chris awake.

"Again?" she protested. But she got up and began helping him pack.

Jake came in, his eyes weary, pulling on the old jacket with the big
star on its sleeve. Doc hadn't been too surprised to learn that Jake was
the actual leader of the rebels. "Shuttles spotted taking off this way.
And I still can't find where the leak is. They haven't missed our
location once this week. Here, give me that."

He took the electron mike that had been among Doc's' possessions, but
Chris recaptured it. "I can manage," she told him, and headed out for
the tractor where Lou was waiting.

Doc scowled after her. He and Jake had been watching her. She was too
useful to Doc's research to be turned away, but they didn't trust her
yet. So far, however, they had found nothing wrong with her conduct.

He swung suddenly into Jake's tractor. "Just remembered something. How'd
they find me that time I stopped in the tractor to use the mike? I was
pretty well hidden, and no tracks last in the sand long enough for them
to have followed. But they were there when I came to. Somehow, they must
have put a radio tracer on me."

Jake waited while they lighted up, his eyes suddenly bright. "You mean
something you got from her house was bugged? It figures."

"And I've still got all the stuff. Now they find wherever we set up
headquarters, though they've always managed to miss my laboratory, even
when they've hit the troops around us. Jake, I think it's the
microscope." Doc managed to push enough junk off one of the seats to
make a cramped bed, and stretched out. "Sure, we figured they sent her
because they want to keep tabs on what I discover. They've finally
gotten scared of the plague, and she's the perfect Judas goat. But they
have to have some way to get in touch with her. I'll bet there's a
tracer in the mike and a switch so she can modulate it or key it to send
out Morse."

"Yeah," Jake nodded. "Well, she does her own dirty work. I might get to
like her if she was on our side. Okay, Doc. If they've put things into
the mike, I've got a boy who'll find and fix it so she won't guess it's
been touched."

Doc relaxed. For the moment, there would be no power in the instrument,
nor any excuse for her to use it. But she must have handled some secret
arrangement during the work periods. She used the mike more than he did.
The switch could be camouflaged easily enough. If anyone detected the
signal, they'd probably only think it was some leak in the electrical

Far away, the shuttle rockets had appeared as tiny dots in the sky. They
were standing on their tails a second later, just off the ground,
letting the full force of their blasts bake the area where headquarters
had been.

Jake watched grimly, driving by something close to instinct. Then he
looked back. "Know anything about a Dr. Harkness?"

"Not much, except that he protested sealing off the villages. Why?"

"He and five other doctors were picked up, trying to get through to us.
Claimed they wanted to give us medical help. We can use them, God knows.
I guess I'll have to chance it."

They stopped at a halfway village and hid the tractors before looking
for a place to rest. Doc found Chris curled up asleep against the
microscope. He had a hard time getting her to leave it in the tractor,
but she was too genuinely tired to put up any real argument.

Jake reported in the morning before they set out again. "You were right,
Doc. It was a nice job of work. Must have taken the best guys in
Southport to hide the circuit so well. But it's safe now. It just makes
a kind of meaningless static nobody can trace. Maybe we can get you a
permanent lab now."

Doc debated again having Chris left behind and decided against it. The
Lobby was determined to let him find a cure for them if he could. That
meant Chris would work herself to exhaustion trying to help. Let her
think she was doing it for the Lobby! It was time she was on the
receiving end of a double cross.

"It's a stinking way to run a war," he decided.

Jake chuckled without much humor. "It's the war you wanted, remember?
They forced our hand, but it had to come sometime. Right now the Lobby's
fighting to get their hands on your work before we can use it; they're
just using holding tactics, which helps our side. And we're hoping you
get the cure so we can win. With that, maybe we'll whip them."

It was a crazy war, with each side killing more of its own men than of
the enemy. The runners were increasing, and Jake's army was learning to
shoot the poor devils mercifully and go on. They knew, at least, that
there was no current danger of infection. In the Lobby towns, more were
dying of panic in their efforts to escape the runners.

Desert towns had joined the villages, reluctantly but inevitably, to
give the rebels nearly three-quarters of the total population. But the
Lobby forces and the few cities held most of the real fighting equipment
and they were ready to wait until Earth could send out unmanned rockets,
loaded with atomics, which could cut through space at ten times normal

There were vague lines of battle, but time was the vital factor. The
Lobbies waited to steal a cure for the plague and the villages waited
until they could announce it and demand surrender as its price.

It looked as if both sides were doomed to disappointment, however. He
and Chris had put in every spare minute between moving and the minimum
of sleep in searching for something that would check the disease. It
couldn't grow in an Earth-normal body, but it didn't die, either. And
there wasn't enough normal food available to permit the switch-over for
more than a handful of people. Even Earth was out of luck, since eighty
percent of her population ate synthetics. There were ways to synthesize
Earth-normal food, but they were still hopelessly inefficient.

Jake had ordered one of the villages to rebuild their plant for such a
purpose, while another was producing the enzyme that would permit
switching. But it looked hopeless for more than a few of the most
valuable men.

"No progress?" Jake asked for the hundredth time.

Doc grinned wryly. "A lot, but no help. We've found a fine accelerator
for the bug. We can speed up its incubation or even make someone already
infected catch it all over again. But we can't slow it down or stop it."

The new laboratory was still being fitted when they arrived. It had been
dug into one of the few real cliffs in this section of Mars. The power
plant had been installed, complete with a steam plant that would operate
off sunlight in the daytime through a series of heat valves that took in
a lot of warm air and produced smaller amounts hot enough to boil water.

"I'll see you whenever I can," Jake said. "But mostly, you're going to
be somewhat isolated so they won't trace you. Let them think they goofed
with the shuttles and hit you and Chris. Anything you need?"

"Guinea pigs," Doc told him sarcastically. It was meant as a joke,
though a highly bitter one. Jake nodded and left them.

Doc opened the cots as Chris came in, not bothering to unpack the
equipment. "Hit the sack, Chris," he told her.

She looked at him doubtfully. "You almost said that the way you'd
address a human being, Dan. You're slipping. One of these days you'll
like me again."

"Maybe." He was too tired to argue. "I doubt it, though. Forget it and
get some sleep."

She watched him silently until he got up to turn out the light. Then she
sighed heavily. "Dan?"


"I never got a divorce. The publicity would have been bad. But anyway,
we're still married."

"That's nice." He swung to face her briefly. "And they found the radio
in the microscope. Better get to sleep, Chris."

"Oh." It was a quiet exclamation, barely audible. There was a sound that
might have been a sniffle if it had come from anyone else. Then she
rolled over. "All right, Dan. I still want to help you."

He cursed himself for a stupid fool for telling her. Fatigue was ruining
what judgment he had. From now on, he'd have to watch her every minute.
Or had she really seen the value of the research by now? She wasn't a
fool. It should have registered on even her stubborn mind. But he was
too sleepy to think about it.

She had breakfast ready in the morning. She made no comment on what had
been said during the night. Instead, she began discussing a way to keep
one of the organic antibiotics from splitting into simpler compounds
when they tried to switch it over to Mars-normal. They were both
hopelessly bad chemists and biologists, but there was no one else to do
the work.

Chris worked harder than ever during the day.

Just after sundown, Jake came in with a heavy box. He dropped it onto
the floor. "Mice!"

Doc ripped off the cover, exposing fine screening. There were at least
six dozen mice inside!

"Harkness found them," Jake explained. "A hormone extraction plant used
them for testing some of the products. Had them sent by regular
shipments from Earth. Getting them cost a couple of men, but Harkness
claims it's worth it. He's a good man on a raid. Here!"

He'd gone to the doorway again and came back with another box, this one
crammed with bottles and boxes. "They had quite a laboratory, and
Harkness picked out whatever he thought you could use."

Chris and Doc were going through it. The labels were engineering ones,
but the chemical formulae were identification enough. There were dozens
of chemicals they hadn't hoped to get.

"Anything else?" Doc finally asked as they began arranging the supplies.

"More runners. A lot more. We're still holding things down, but it's
reaching a limit. Panic will start in the camps if this keeps on. But
that's my worry. You stick to yours."

Several of the new chemicals showed promise in the tubes. But two of
them proved fatal to the mice and the others were completely innocuous
in the little animal's bodies, both to mouse and to germ. The plague was
much hardier in contact with living cells than in the artificial
environment of the culture jars.

They lost seven mice in two days, but that seemed unimportant; the
females were already living up to their reputations, nearly all
pregnant. Doc didn't know the gestation period, but he remembered that
it was short.

"Funny they all started at the same time," he commented. "Must have been
shipped out separately or else been kept apart while they were switched
over to Mars-normal. Something interrupted their habits, anyhow."

A few nights later they learned what it was. There was a horrible
squealing that woke him out of the depths of his sleep. Chris was
already at the light switch. As light came on, they turned to the mouse

All the animals were charging about in their limited space, their little
legs driving madly and their mouths open. What they lacked in size they
made up in numbers, and the din was terrific.

But it didn't last. One by one, the mice began dropping to the floor of
the cage. In fifteen minutes, they were all dead!

It was obviously the plague, contracted after having their metabolism
switched. Women were sterile for some time after Selznik's migraine
struck, and the same must have been true of the mice. They must have
contracted the plague at about the same time and reached fertility
together. Somehow, the plague incubation period had been shortened to
fit their life span; the disease was nothing if not adaptive.

Chris prepared a slide in dull silence. The familiar cell was there when
Doc looked through the microscope. He picked up one of the little
creatures and cut it open, removing one of the foetuses.

"Make a film of that," he suggested.

She worked rapidly, scraping out the almost microscopic brain,
dissolving out the fatty substance, and transferring the result to a
film. This time, even at full magnification, there was no sign of the
filaments that were always present in diseased flesh. The results were
the same for the other samples they made.

"Something about the very young animal or a secretion from the mother's
organs keeps the bug from working." Doc reached for a bracky weed and
accepted a light from Chris without thinking of it. "Every kid I've
heard about contracted the plague between the second and third year.
None are born with it, none get it earlier. I've suspected this, but now
here's confirmation."

Chris began preparing specimens, while Doc got busy with tubes of the
culture. They'd have to test various fluids from the tiny bodies, but
there were enough cultures prepared. Then, if the substance only
inhibited growth, there would be a long, slow test; if it killed the
bugs, they might know more quickly.

Jake came in before the final tests, but waited on them. Doc was
studying a film in the microscope. He suddenly motioned excitedly for

"See the filaments? They're completely disintegrated. And there's one of
the big cells broken open. We've got it! It's in the blood of the
foetus. And it must be in the blood of newborn children, too!"

Jake looked at the slide, but his face was doubtful.

"Maybe you've got something, Doc. I hope so. And I hope you can use it."
He shook his head wearily. "We need good news right now. A couple of big
rockets just reached the station and they've been sending shuttles back
and forth a mile a minute. Nobody can figure how they got here so fast
or what they're for. But it doesn't look good for us!"



Doc could feel the tension in the village where GHQ was temporarily
located long before they were close enough for details to register. The
people were gathered in clusters, staring at the sky where the station
must be. A few were pacing up and down, gesticulating with tight sweeps
of their arms.

One woman suddenly went into even more violent action. She leaped into
the air and then took off at a rapid trot, then a run. Her hands were
tearing at her clothes and her mouth seemed to be working violently. She
was halfway to the top of the nearest dune before a rifle cracked. She
dropped, to twitch once and lie still.

Almost with her death, another figure leaped from one of the houses, his
face bare of the necessary aspirator. He took off at a violent run, but
he was falling from lack of air before the bullet ended his struggles.

The people suddenly began to move apart, as if trying to get away from
each other. For weeks they had faced the horror with courage; now it was
finally too much for them.

Tension mounted as no news came from the cities. Doc noticed that it
seemed to aggravate or speed up the disease. He saw three men shot in
the next half-hour.

He was trying to calm them with word of a possible cure for the plague,
but their reactions were as curiously dull as those of Jake had been. As
he spoke, they faced him with set expressions. At his mention of the
need for the blood of young children, they turned from him, sullenly

Jake came over, nodding unhappily. "It's what I was afraid might happen,
Doc. George Lynn! Tell Doc what's wrong."

Lynn was reluctant, but he finally stumbled out his explanation. "It
ain't like you, Doc. Comes from that Lobby woman you got. It's her dirty
idea. We've seen the Lobby doctors cutting open our kids, poisoning
their blood, and bleeding them dry. That ain't gonna happen again, Doc.
You tell her it ain't!"

Doc swore as he realized their ignorance. An unexplained vaccination
looked like poisoning of the blood. But he couldn't understand the
bleeding part until Jake filled him in.

"Northport infant's wing. Each department has its own blood bank and
donation is compulsory. Southport started it a couple months ago, too."

The long arm of the Lobby had reached out again. Now if he ever got them
to try the treatment, it would be only after long sessions of preparing
them with the facts, and there was hardly enough time for the crucial

By afternoon, Judge Ben Wilson reached them. His voice shook with
fatigue as he climbed up to address the crowd through a power megaphone.
"Southport's going crazy." He had to pause for breath between each
sentence. "Earth's pulling back all the important people. They're
packing them into the ships. They're leaving only colonials with no
Earth rights. Those ships left when they decided the plague was coming
from here. They won't let anybody back until the plague is licked. There
won't be an Earth technician on Mars tomorrow."

"No bombs?" someone called.

"No bombs. The ships must have started before you rebelled, maybe meant
honestly to save their own kind. But now it's a military action, and
don't think it won't mean trouble. The poor devils in the city bet on
the wrong horse. Now they can't run their food factories or anything
else for long. Not without technicians. They've got to whip you now. Up
to this time, they've been fighting for the Lobbies. Now they'll fight
you for their own bellies to get your supplies. And they've still got
shuttle rockets and fuel for them. Now beat it. I gotta confer with

Doc started after the judge, but Dr. Harkness caught his arm and drew
him aside. Chris followed.

"I've found another epidemic," Harkness told them. "Over at Marconi.
It's kept me on the run all night, and now half the village is down with
it. Starts like a common cold, runs a fair fever, and the skin breaks
out all over with bright red dots...."

He went on describing it. Chris began asking him about what medical
supplies he had brought with him, pilfered from Northport hospital. She
seemed to know what it was, but refused to say until she saw the cases.
Doc also preferred to wait. Sometimes things weren't as bad as they
seemed, though usually they were worse.

Marconi was dead to all outward appearances, with nobody on the streets.
It had been a village of great hopes a week before, since this was where
they had decided to experiment with switching the people back to
Earth-normal. They'd had the best chance of survival of anyone on Mars
until this came up.

Three people lay on the beds in the first house Harkness led them to.
The room was darkened, and a man was stumbling around, trying to tend
the others, though the little spots showed on his skin. He grinned
weakly. "Hi, Doc. I guess we're making a lot of trouble, ain't we?"

Chris gave Doc no chance to answer. "Just as I thought. Measles! Plain
old-fashioned measles."

"Figured so," the sick man said. "Like my brother back on Earth."

The others looked doubtful, but Doc reassured them. Chris should know;
she'd worked in a swanky hospital where the patients were mostly
Earth-normal. Measles was one of the diseases which was foiled by the
metabolism switch. Well, at least they wouldn't have to be quarantined

Chris finished treating the family with impersonal efficiency,
discussing the symptoms loudly with Harkness. "It's a good thing it
isn't serious!"

"No," Harkness answered bitterly. "Not serious. It's only killed five
children and three adults so far!"

"It would, here," Doc agreed unhappily. He led Chris out of the room on
the pretext of washing his hands. "It's serious enough to force us to
abandon the whole idea of going back to Earth-normal. Measles today,
smallpox, tuberculosis, scarlet fever and everything else tomorrow.
These people have lived Mars-normal so long their natural immunity has
been destroyed. On Earth where the disease was everywhere, kids used to
pick up some immunity with constant exposure, even without what might be
called a case of the disease. Here, the blood has no reason to build
antibodies. They can be killed by things people used to laugh at. How
the disease got here, I don't know. But it's here. So we'll have to
give up the idea of switching back to Earth-normal."

He gathered up one of the kits and started toward the other houses. "And
Lord knows how long it will take to get the blood for the other
treatment, even if it works."

They worked as a team for a while, with Harkness frowning as he watched
Chris. Finally the young doctor stopped Chris outside the fifth house.
"These are my patients, Dr. Ryan. I left the Lobby because I didn't
believe colonials were mere livestock. I still feel the same. I
appreciate your help in diagnosis and methods of treatment. But I can't
let you handle my patients this way."

"Dan!" She swung around with eyes glazing. "Dan, are you going to stand
for that?"

"I think you'd better wait in the tractor, Chris."

He was lucky enough to catch the kit she threw at him before its
precious contents spilled. But it wasn't luck that guided his hand to
the back of her skirt hard enough to leave it stinging.

Her face froze and she stormed out. A moment later they heard the
tractor start off.

But Doc had no time to think of her. He and Harkness split up and began
covering the streets, house by house, while he passed on the word to
abandon the metabolism switch and go back to Mars-normal.

Jake sent two other doctors to relieve them late in the evening. Things
were somewhat quieter at GHQ as Doc reported the events at Marconi.

"Where's Dr. Ryan?" Jake asked at last.

Doc exchanged glances with Harkness. "She isn't in the lab?"

"Wasn't there an hour ago."

Doc cursed himself for letting her go. With the knowledge that the radio
in the mike was disabled, she'd obviously grabbed the first chance to
report back. And with her had gone news of the only cure they had found.

Jake took it as philosophically as he could, though it was a heavy blow
to his hopes. They spent half the night looking for her tractor, on the
chance that she might have gotten lost or broken down, but there was no
sign of it.

She was waiting in the laboratory when he returned at dawn. Her face was
dirty and her uniform was a mess. But she was smiling. She got up to
greet him, holding out two large bottles.

"Infant plasma--straight from Southport. And if you think I had it easy
lying my way in and out of the hospital, you're a fool, Dan Feldman. If
the man who took my place there hadn't been a native idiot, I never
would have gotten away with it."

The things he had suspected could still be right, he realized. She could
have reported everything to the Lobby. It was a better explanation than
her vague account of bullying her way in and out. But she'd had a rough
drive, and he wanted the plasma. Curiously, he was glad to have her back
with him. He reached out a hand for the bottles.

She put the bottle on the table and grabbed up a short-bladed knife.
"Not so fast," she cried. Her eyes were blazing now. "Dan Feldman, if
you touch those bottles until you've crawled across the floor on your
face and apologized for the way you treated me the last few days, I'll
cut your damned heart out."

He shook his head, chuckling at the picture she made. There were times
when he could almost see why he'd married her.

"All right, Chris," he gave in. "I'll be darned if I'll crawl, but
you've earned an apology. Okay?"

She sighed uncertainly. Then she nodded and began changing for work.



They worked through the day in what seemed to be armed truce. There was
no coffee waiting for him when he awoke next, as he'd come to expect,
but he didn't comment. He went to where she was already working,
checking on the results of the plasma on the cultures.

The response had been slower than with the mouse blood, but now the bugs
seemed to be dead. The filaments were destroyed, and there were no signs
of the big cells. It seemed to be a cure, at least in the culture

"We'll need volunteers," he decided. "There should be animals, but we
don't have any. At least this stuff isn't toxic. We need a natural
immune and someone infected. Two of each, so one can be treated and the
other used for a control. Makes four. Not enough to be sure, but it will
have to do."

"Two," Chris corrected. "You're not infected, I am."

"Two others," he agreed. "I'll get them from Jake."

Most of GHQ was out on the street, but Doc found Jake inside the big
schoolroom where he enjoyed his early morning bracky and coffee. The
chief listened and agreed at once, turning to the others in the room.

"Who's had the jumping headache? Okay, Swanee. Who never had it?" He
blinked in surprise as three men nodded out of the eight present. "I
guess you go, Tom."

The two men stood up, tamping out their weeds, and went out with Doc.

Chris had everything set up. They matched coins to decide who would be
treated. Doc noticed that Chris would get no plasma, while he was
scheduled for everything. He watched her prepare the culture and add the
accelerator that would speed development and make certain he and Tom
were infected, then let her inject it.

That was all, except for the waiting. To keep conditions more closely
alike, they were to stay there until the tests were finished, not even
eating for fear of upsetting the conditions. Swanee dug out a pack of
worn cards and began to deal while Doc dug out some large pills to use
as chips.

It was an hour later when the pain began. Doc had just won the pot of
fifty pills and opened his mouth for the expected gloating. He yelled as
an explosion seemed to go off inside his head. Even closing his mouth
was agony.

A moment later, Tom began to sweat. It got worse, spreading to the whole
area of the back of the head and neck. Doc lay on the cot, envying Chris
and Swanee who had already been infected naturally. He longed
desperately for bracky, and had to keep reminding himself that no drugs
must upset the tests. It was the longest day he had ever spent, and he
began to doubt that he could get through it. He watched the little clock
move from one minute to nine over to half a minute and hung breathless
until it hit the nine. There was no question about whether the infection
had taken. Now they could dull the agony.

Chris had the anodyne tablets already dissolved in water, and Swanee was
passing out three lighted bracky weeds. It took a few minutes for the
relief of the anodyne, and even that couldn't kill all the pain. But it
didn't matter by comparison. He sucked the weed, mashed it out and began
dealing the cards again.

They had a plentiful supply of the anodyne and used it liberally during
the night. The test was a speeded-up simulation of the natural course of
the disease, where painkiller would take time to get for most people
here, but would then be used generously.

Precisely at nine in the morning, Chris began to inject Swanee and Doc
with plasma.

Now there was no thought of cards. They waited, trying to talk, but with
most of their attention on the clock. Doc had estimated that an hour
should be enough to show results, but it was hard to remember that an
hour was the guess as to the minimum time.

He winced as Chris took a tiny bit of flesh from his neck. She went to
the other men, and then submitted to his work on herself. Then she began
preparing the slides.

"Feldman," she read the name of the slide as she inserted it into the
microscope. Then her breath caught sharply. "Only dead cells!"

It was the same for Swanee and Tom. Each had to look at his own slide
and have it explained before the results could be believed. But at last
Chris bent over her own slide. A minute later she glanced up, nodding.
"What it should be. It checks."

Tom whooped and went out the door to notify Jake. There was only plasma
for some two hundred injections, but that should yield sufficient proof.
Once salvation was offered, there should be no trouble convincing the
people that blood donations from their children were worthwhile.

Later, when the last of the plasma had been used, they could finally
relax. Chris slipped off her smock and dropped onto the cot. A tired
smile came onto her lips. "You're forgiven, Dan," she said. A moment
later she was obviously asleep. Doc meant to join her, but it was too
much effort. He leaned his head forward onto his arms, vaguely wondering
why she was calling off the feud.

It was night outside when he awoke, and he was lying on the cot, though
he still felt cramped and strained. He stirred, groaning, and finally
realized that a hand was on his shoulder shaking him. He looked up to
see Jake above him. Chris was busy with the coffee maker.

Jake slumped onto the cot beside Doc. "We took Southport," he announced.

That knocked the sleep out of Doc's system. "You what?"

"We took it, lock, stock and barrel. I figured the news of your cure
would put guts into the men, and it did. But we'd probably have taken it
anyhow. There wasn't anything to fight for there after Earth pulled out
and the plague really hit. Wilson mistook last-minute panic for fighting
spirit. The poor devils didn't have anything to fight about, once the
Lobby stopped goading them."

Doc tried to assimilate the news. But once the surprise was gone, he
found it meant very little. Maybe his revolutionary zeal had cooled,
once the Lobby men had pulled out. "We'll need a lot more plasma than
there is in Southport," he said.

"Not so much, maybe," Jake denied. "Doc, three of the men you injected
were shot down as runners. Your plasma's no good."

"It takes time to work, Jake. I told you there might be a case or two
that would be too close to the edge. Three is more than I expected; but
it's not impossible."

"There was plenty of time. They blew after we got back from Southport."
Jack dropped his hand on Doc's shoulder, and his face softened.
"Harkness tested every man you injected. He finished half an hour ago.
Five showed dead bugs. The rest of them weren't helped at all."

Doc fumbled for a weed, trying to think. But his thoughts refused to
focus. "Five!"

"Five out of two hundred. That's about average. And what about Tom? He
was jumping around after the test last night, telling how you'd cured
him, how he'd seen the dead bugs; but he never had the jumping headache,
and you never gave him the plasma! He's got dead bugs, though. Harkness
tested him."

Doc let his realization of his own idiocy sink in until he could believe
it. Jake was right. Tom had never been treated, yet Chris had reported
dead bugs. They'd all been so ready to believe in miracles that no one
had been able to think straight after the long wait.

"There was a bump on his neck--a small one," he said slowly. "Jake, he
must have caught it, even if he seemed immune. If he was taking anodyne
anyway for something--or unconscious--"

"He was up in Northport six years ago for a kidney operation," Jake
admitted doubtfully. "We had to chip in to pay for it. But you still
didn't treat him, and he's cured. Face it, Doc, that plasma is no good
inside the body."

His hand tightened on Doc's shoulder again. "We're not blaming you. We
don't judge a man here except by what he is. Maybe the stuff helps a
little. We'll go on using it when we get it; tell everybody you were a
mite optimistic, so they'll figure it's a gamble, but have a little hope
left. And you keep trying. Something cured it in Tom. Now you find out

Doc watched him go out numbly, and turned to Chris.

"It can't be right," she said shakily. "You and Swanee were cured. Maybe
it was the accelerator. It had to be something."

"You didn't have the accelerator," he accused.

"No, and I've still got live bugs. I was never supposed to be cured, so
I expected to see just what I saw. How I missed the fact that Tom should
have been like me, I don't know. Damn it, oh, damn it!"

He's never seen her cry before, except in fury. But she mastered it
almost at once, shaking tears out of her eyes. "All right. Plasma works
in a bottle but not in an adult body. Maybe something works in the body
but not in a bottle."

"Maybe. And maybe some people are just naturally immune after it reaches
a certain stage. Maybe we ran into coincidence."

But he didn't believe that, any more than she did. The answer had to be
in the room. He'd taken a massive dose of the disease and been cured in
a few hours.

Outside the room, the war went on, drawing toward a close. The supposed
partial cure was good propaganda, if nothing else, and Jake was widening
his territory steadily. There was only token resistance against him. He
had the Southport shuttles now to cover huge areas in a hurry. But
inside the room, the battle was less successful. It wasn't the
accelerator. It wasn't the tablets of anodyne. They even tried sweeping
the floor and using the dust without results.

Then another test in the room, made with four volunteers Jake selected,
yielded complete cures after injections with plain salt water in place
of plasma.

The plague speeded up again. About four people out of a hundred now
seemed to have caught the disease and cured themselves. They accounted
for what faith was left in Doc's plasma and gave some unfounded hope to
the others.

Northport fell a week later, putting the whole planet in rebel hands.

Jake returned, wearier than ever. He'd proved to be one of the natural
immunes, but the weight of the campaign that could only end in a defeat
by the plague left him no room to rejoice in his personal fortune.

This time he looked completely defeated. And a moment later, Doc saw why
as Jake flipped a flimsy sheet onto the table. It bore the seals of
Space and Medical Lobbies.

Jake pointed upwards. "The war rockets are there, all right. We knew
they'd come. Now all they want for calling them off is our surrender and
your cure. If they don't get both, they'll blow the planet to bits. We
have two days."

The rockets could be seen clearly with binoculars. There were more than
enough to destroy all life on the planet. Maybe they'd be used
eventually, anyhow, since the Lobbies wanted no more rebellion. But with
a cure for the plague, he might have bought them off.

Chris stood beside him, looking as if it were a bitter pill for her,
too. She'd risked herself in the hands of the enemy, had cooperated with
him in everything she'd been taught to oppose, and had worked like a
dog. Now the Lobbies seemed to forget her as a useless tool. They were
falling back on a raw power play and forgetting any earlier schemes.

"Maybe they'd hold off for a while if I agreed to go to them and share
all my ideas, specimens and notes," he said at last. "Do you think your
Lobby would settle for that, Chris?"

"I don't know, Dan. I've stopped thinking their way." She seemed almost
apologetic for the admission.

He dropped an arm over her shoulder and turned with her back to the
laboratory. "Okay, then we've got to find a miracle. We've got two days
ahead of us. At least we can try."

But he knew he was lying to himself. There wasn't anything he could
think of to try.



Two days was never enough time for a miracle. Doc decided as he packed
his notes into a small bag and put it beside his bundle of personal
belongings. He glanced around the room for the last time, and managed a
grin at Jake's gloomy expression.

"Maybe I can bluff them, or maybe they'll string along for a while," he
said. "Anyhow, now that they've agreed to take me and my notes in place
of the cure we're fresh out of, I've got to be on that shuttle when it
goes back to their men at orbital station."

Jake nodded. "I don't like selling friends down the river, Doc. But it
wouldn't do you any more good to blow up with the planet, I reckon. They
won't call off the war rockets when they do get you, of course. But
maybe they won't use them, except as a threat to put the Lobbies back
in, stronger than ever."

He stuck out one of his awkwardly shaped hands, clapped the aspirator
over his face and hurried out. Doc picked up his bags and went toward
the little tractor where Lou was waiting to drive him and Chris back
toward Southport and the shuttle rocket that would be landing for them.
They hadn't mentioned Chris in their demands, but her father must expect
her to return.

After they had him, he'd be on his own. His best course was probably to
insist on talking only to Ryan at Medical Lobby, and then being
completely honest. The room here would be kept sealed, in case the
Lobby wanted to investigate where he had failed. And his notes were
honest, which was something that could usually be determined. Chris
could testify to that, anyhow, since she'd kept a lot of them for him.

At best, there would be a chance for some compromise and perhaps some
clue for them that might eventually end the plague. They had enough men
to work on it, and billions in equipment. At worst, he should gain a
little time.

"Cheer up, Chris," he told her as he climbed through the little airlock.
"Maybe Harkness will turn up the cure before our negotiations break
down. He has the whole of Northport Hospital to play with. They haven't
tried to chase him out of there yet. After all, we almost found
something with no equipment except wild imaginations."

She shook her head as the tractor began moving. "Shut up! I've got
enough trouble without your coming down with logorrhea. Don't be a

"Why change now?" he asked her. "Everything I've done has been because I
am a fool. I guess my luck lasted longer than I could expect. And I'm
still fool enough to think that the solution has to turn up eventually.
We know it has to be in that room. Damn it, we must know it--if we could
only think straight now."

She reached over and touched his hand, but made no comment. They had
been over that statement of desperation too many times already. But it
kept nagging at him--something in the room, something in the room!
Something so common that nobody noticed it!

They passed a crowd chasing down a runner. Something in that room could
have saved the unlucky man. It could have saved Mars, perhaps.

He growled for the hundredth time, cursing his fatigue-numbed mind. Too
little sleep, too much coffee and bracky....

He reached for the package of weed, realizing that he would miss it on
Earth, if he ever got there. Like everything here on the planet, he'd
begun by detesting it and wound up finding it the thing he wanted to
keep forever. He lighted the bracky and sat smoking, watching Lou drive.
When the first was finished, he lighted another from the butt.

She put out a hand and took it away. "Please, Dan. I can stand the
stuff, but I'll never like it, and the tractor's stuffy enough already.
I've taken enough of it. And it keeps reminding me of our test--the
three of you stinking up the place, puffing and blowing that out, while
I couldn't even get a breath of air...."

She was getting logorrhea herself now and--

The answer finally hit him! He jerked around, making a grab for Lou's
shoulder, motioning for the man to head back.

"Bracky--it has to be! Chris, that's it. Jake picked out the second
group of men from his friends--and they are all cronies because they
hang around so much in their so-called smoking room. The first time, it
killed the bugs for all of us who smoked--and it didn't work for you
because you never learned the habit."

Lou had the tractor turned and the rheostat all the way to the floor.

She was sitting up now, but she wasn't fully satisfied. "The percentage
of immunes seems about right. But why do some of the smokers get the
disease while some don't?"

"Why not? It depends on whether they pick up the habit before or after
the disease gets started. Tom must have got his while he was in
Northport. They wouldn't let him smoke there--if he had the habit
before, for that matter."

She found no fault with that. He twisted it back and forth in his mind,
trying to find a fault. There seemed to be none. The only trouble was
that they couldn't send a message that bracky was the cure and hope that
Earth would prove it true. No polite note of apology would do after
that. They had to be sure. Too many other ideas had proved wrong

Jake saw them coming and came running toward the laboratory, but Lou
stopped the tractor before it reached the building and let the older man

"Get me a dozen men who have the plague. I want the worst cases you
have, and ones that Harkness tested himself," Doc ordered. "And then
start praying that the cure we've got works fast."

Chris was at the electron mike at once, but one of her hands reached out
for the weed. She began puffing valiantly, making sick faces. Now other
men began coming in, their faces struggling to find hope, but not daring
to believe yet. Jake followed them.

"We'll test at ten-minute intervals. That will be about two hours for
the last from the group," Doc decided. One of the doctors Harkness had
brought to the villages was busy cutting tiny sections from the lumps on
the men's necks, while Chris ran them through the microscope to make
sure the bugs were still alive. The regular optical mike was strong
enough for that.

Doc handed each man a bracky weed, with instructions to keep smoking, no
matter how sick it made him.

There were no results at the end of ten minutes when the first test was
made. The second, at the end of twenty minutes, was still infected with
live bugs. At the half-hour, Chris frowned.

"I can't be sure--take a look, Dan."

He bent over, moving the slide to examine another spot. "I think so. The
next one should tell."

There was no doubt about the fourth test. The bugs were dead, without a
single exception that they could find.

One by one, the men were tested and went storming out, shouting the
news. For a minute, the gathering crowd was skeptical, remembering the
other failures. Then, abruptly, men were screaming, crying and fighting
for the precious bracky, like the legions of the damned grabbing for
lottery tickets when the prize was a passport to paradise.

Jake swore as he moved toward the door. "We're low on bracky here. Have
to get a supply from Edison, I guess, and cart it to the shuttle. Enough
for a sample, and to make them want more. It'll be tough, but we'll get
it there in time--by the time the shuttle should be picking you up. Doc,
you've won our war! From now on, if Earth wants to keep her population
up, we'll be a free planet!"

Chris turned slowly from the microscope, holding a slide in her hands.
"My bugs," she said unbelievingly. "Dan, they're dead!"

Jake patted her shoulder. "That makes it perfect, girl. Now come on.
We've got to start celebrating a victory!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the general feeling of most of the heads of the villages when
they met the next day in Southport, using the courtroom that had been
presided over so long by Judge Ben Wilson. It was victory, and to the
victor belonged the spoils. The bracky had gone out to Earth on a
converted war rocket that could make the trip in less than two weeks,
and one packet had been specially labeled for Captain Everts. But Earth
had already confirmed the cure. The small amounts of the herb found in
the botanical collections had been enough to satisfy all doubts.

Harkness, Chris and Doc had been fighting against the desire to rob
Earth blind that filled most of the men here for hours now. Now they had
the backing of Jake and Ben Wilson. And now finally they leaned back,
sensing that the argument had been won.

Bargaining was all right in its place, but it had no place in affairs of
life and death such as this. They had to see that Earth received all the
bracky she needed. It was only right to charge a fair price for it, but
they couldn't restrict it by withholding or overcharging. And they could
still gain their ends without blackmail.

Martian alkaloids were tricky things, and bracky smoke contained a
number of them. It would take Earth at least ten years to discover and
synthesize the right one--and it would still probably cost more than it
would to import the weed from Mars. As long as the source of that weed
was here, and in the hands of the colonials, there would be no danger of
Earth's bombing the planet.

Harkness got up to underscore a point Wilson had made. "The plague lived
a million years, and it won't disappear now. The jumping headache, or
Selznick's migraine, is unpleasant enough to make us reasonably sure
that there will be a steady consumption of the weed. Our problem will be
to keep the children from using too much of it, probably." He pulled a
weed out and lighted it, puckering his face as the smoke bit his
tongue. "I'm told that this gets to be an enjoyable habit. If I can
believe that, surely you can believe me when I say we don't have to
bargain with lives."

The village men were human, and most of them could remember the strain
they had been under when they expected those they loved to die at any
hour. It had made them crave vengeance, but now as they had a chance to
reexamine it, they began to find it harder to impose the horror of any
such threat on others. The final vote was almost unanimous.

Doc listened as they wrangled over the wording of the message to Earth,
feeling disconnected from it. He passed Chris a bracky and lighted it
for her. She took it automatically, smiling as the smoke hit her lungs.
It was one thing they had in common now, at least.

Ben Wilson finally read the message.

"To the people of Earth, greetings!

"On behalf of the free people of Mars, I have the honor to announce that
this planet hereby declares itself a sovereign and independent world. We
shall continue to regard Earth as our mother, and to consider the health
and welfare of her people in no way second to our own in matters which
affect both planets. We trust that Earth will share this feeling of
mutual friendship. We trust that all strains of hostility will be ended.
The advantages to each from peaceful commerce make any course other than
the most cordial of relations unthinkable.

"We shall consider proof of such friendship an order by Earth to all
rockets circling this planet that they shall deliver themselves safely
into our hands, in order that we may begin converting them to peaceful
purposes for the trade that is to come. In turn, we pledge that all
efforts will be made to ensure a prompt delivery of those products most
in demand, including the curative bracky plant."

He turned to Doc then. "You want to sign it, Dr. Feldman? Make it as
acting president or something, until we can get around to voting you
into permanent office."

"You and Jake fight over the job," Doc told him. "No, Ben, I mean it."

He got up and moved out into the outer room, where he could avoid the
stares of amazement that were turned to him. He'd never asked for the
honor, and he didn't want it.

Chris came with him. Her face was shocked and something was slowly
draining out of it as he looked at her.

"Forget it, Chris," he said. "You're going back to Earth. There is
nothing for you here."

She hadn't quite given up. "There could be, Dan. You know that."

"No. No, Chris, I don't think there ever can be. You can't find a man
strong enough to rule who'll be weak enough to let you rule in his
place. It didn't work on Earth, and it won't work here. Forget the
dreams you had of what could be done with a new planet. Those are the
dreams that made a mess of the old one."

"I'll be back," she told him. "Some day I'll be back."

He shook his head again. "No. You wouldn't like what you find here.
Freedom is heady stuff, but you have to have a taste for it. You can't
acquire a fondness for it secondhand. And for a while, there's going to
be freedom here. Besides, once you get back to Earth, you'll forget what
happened here."

She sighed at last. For the first time since he had known her, she
seemed to give in completely. And for that brief moment, he loved what
she could have been, but never would be.

"All right, Dan," she said quietly. "I can't fight you. I never could, I
see now. I'll take the rocket back. What are you going to do?"

He hadn't bothered to think, but he knew the answer. "Research. What

There would be a lot of research done here. It had been suppressed too
long, and had piled up a back-pressure that would have to be relieved.
And from that research, he suspected, would come the end of the stable
oligarchy of Earth. It could never stand against the changes that would
be pouring out of Mars.

She put her hands on his shoulders and moved forward to kiss him. He
bent down to meet her, and found her eyes were wet. Maybe his were, too.
Then she broke free.

"You're a fool, Dan Feldman," she whispered, and began moving down the
hallway and out of the council hall of Mars.

Doc Feldman nodded slowly as he let her go. He was a fool. He had always
been a fool, and always would be. And that was why he could never take
over leadership here. Fools and idealists should never govern a world.
It took practical men such as Jake to do that.

But the practical men needed the foolish idealists, too. And maybe for a
time here on Mars their kind of men and his kind of fools could make one
more stab at the ancient puzzle of freedom.

Outside the war rockets of Earth began landing quietly on the free soil
of Mars.

[Transcriber's Note: The following errors in the original have been
corrected in this version:

Page 5: 'and there was' to 'and there were'

Page 9: 'ideopathic gastroentiritis' to 'idiopathic gastroenteritis'

Page 29: 'The cheapness of snythetics' to 'The cheapness of synthetics'

Page 42: 'huband's' to 'husband's'

Page 43: 'Southpost' to 'Southport'

Page 47: 'laywer' to 'lawyer'

Page 50: 'in a can' to 'to a can'

Page 118: 'Selnick's' to 'Selznick's'


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029363 #Armageddon 2419 A.D.# Nowlan 75c

061770 #The Big Show# Laumer 75c

067017 #The Black Star Passes# Campbell 75c

371005 #Interplanetary Hunter# Barnes 95c

516559 #Falling Astronauts# Malzberg 75c

531517 #The Mightiest Machine# Campbell 95c

535708 #The Missionaries# Compton 75c

623801 #The Omega Point# Zebrowski 75c

642405 #Other Days, Other Eyes# Shaw 95c

734384 #Roller Coaster World# Bulmer 75c

951467 #You're All Alone# Leiber 95c

_#Available wherever paperbacks are sold or use this coupon.#_

       *       *       *       *       *

#ace books#, (Dept. MM) Box 576, Times Square Station
New York, N.Y. 10036

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Please allow 4 weeks for delivery.        11-72-14C


Two books back-to-back

Just 95c each

009902 #Against Arcturus# Putney
#Time Thieves# Koontz

066126 #Blackman's Burden# Reynolds
#Border, Breed Nor Birth# Reynolds

102939 #The Chariots of Ra# Bulmer
#Earth Strings# Rackham

114512 #In the Alternate Universe# Chandler
#Into the Coils of Time# Chandler

775254 #Son of the Tree# Vance
#House of Iszm# Vance

156976 #The Unteleported Man# Dick
#Dr. Futurity# Dick

158907 #Door Through Space# Bradley
#Rendezvous on a Lost World# Chandler

166405 #Dragon Master#
#Five Gold Bands# Vance

317552 #The Hard Way Up# Chandler
#Veiled World# Lory

337105 #Highwood# Barrett
#Annihilation Factor# Bayley

370627 #The Inheritors# Chandler
#The Gateway to Never# Chandler

665257 #Pirates of Zan# Leinster
#Mutant Weapon# Leinster

799759 #Technos#
#A Scatter of Sardust# Tubb

_#Available wherever paperbacks are sold or use this coupon.#_

       *       *       *       *       *

#ace books#, (Dept. MM) Box 576, Times Square Station
New York, N.Y. 10036

Please send me titles checked above.

I enclose $__________________Add 15¢ handling fee per copy.




Please allow 4 weeks for delivery.         12-72-8C

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