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Title: Unwise Child
Author: Garrett, Randall, 1927-1987
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 "Unwise Child" ***

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Unwise Child

RANDALL GARRETT

DOUBLEDAY & COMPANY, INC.
GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK

1962

All of the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance
to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

_Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 60-13524_
_Copyright © 1962 by Randall Garrett_
_All Rights Reserved_

_Printed in the United States of America_
_First Edition_

  +--------------------------------------------------------------+
  |                     Transcriber's Note                       |
  |                                                              |
  | Extensive search has failed to find any evidence that the    |
  | U.S. copyright of this publication has been renewed.         |
  +--------------------------------------------------------------+


BOOKS BY RANDALL GARRETT


_Biography_
_Pope John XXIII: Pastoral Prince_

_Science Fiction_
_Unwise Child_


_Books by "Robert Randall"_

_The Shrouded Planet_
_The Dawning Light_

_"Robert Randall" is a pseudonym used on books written in collaboration
with Robert Silverberg._


With sincere appreciation,
this book is dedicated
to
TIM and NATALIE
who waited ...
and waited ...
and waited ...
and waited for it.



1


The kids who tried to jump Mike the Angel were bright enough in a lot of
ways, but they made a bad mistake when they tangled with Mike the Angel.

They'd done their preliminary work well enough. They had cased the job
thoroughly, and they had built the equipment to take care of it. Their
mistake was not in their planning; it was in not taking Mike the Angel
into account.

There is a section of New York's Manhattan Island, down on the lower
West Side, that has been known, for over a century, as "Radio Row." All
through this section are stores, large and small, where every kind of
electronic and sub-electronic device can be bought, ordered, or designed
to order. There is even an old antique shop, known as Ye Quainte Olde
Elecktronicks Shoppe, where you can buy such oddities as vacuum-tube FM
radios and twenty-four-inch cathode-ray television sets. And, if you
want them, transmitters to match, so you can watch the antiques work.

Mike the Angel had an uptown office in the heart of the business
district, near West 112th Street--a very posh suite of rooms on the
fiftieth floor of the half-mile-high Timmins Building, overlooking the
two-hundred-year-old Gothic edifice of the Cathedral of St. John the
Divine. The glowing sign on the door of the suite said, very simply:

  M. R. GABRIEL
  POWER DESIGN

But, once or twice a week, Mike the Angel liked to take off and prowl
around Radio Row, just shopping around. Usually, he didn't work too
late, but, on this particular afternoon, he'd been in his office until
after six o'clock, working on some papers for the Interstellar
Commission. So, by the time he got down to Radio Row, the only shop left
open was Harry MacDougal's.

That didn't matter much to Mike the Angel, since Harry's was the place
he had intended to go, anyway. Harry MacDougal's establishment was
hardly more than a hole in the wall--a narrow, long hallway between two
larger stores. Although not a specialist, like the proprietor of Ye
Quainte Olde Elecktronicks Shoppe, Harry did carry equipment of every
vintage and every make. If you wanted something that hadn't been
manufactured in decades, and perhaps never made in quantity, Harry's was
the place to go. The walls were lined with bins, all unlabeled, filled
helter-skelter with every imaginable kind of gadget, most of which would
have been hard to recognize unless you were both an expert and a
historian.

Old Harry didn't need labels or a system. He was a small, lean, bony,
sharp-nosed Scot who had fled Scotland during the Panic of '37, landed
in New York, and stopped. He solemnly declared that he had never been
west of the Hudson River nor north of 181st Street in the more than
fifty years he had been in the country. He had a mind like that of a
robot filing cabinet. Ask him for a particular piece of equipment, and
he'd squint one eye closed, stare at the end of his nose with the other,
and say:

"An M-1993 thermodyne hexode, eh? Ah. Um. Aye, I got one. Picked it up a
couple years back. Put it-- Let ma see, now...."

And he'd go to his wall ladder, push it along that narrow hallway,
moving boxes aside as he went, and stop somewhere along the wall. Then
he'd scramble up the ladder, pull out a bin, fumble around in it, and
come out with the article in question. He'd blow the dust off it, polish
it with a rag, scramble down the ladder, and say: "Here 'tis. Thought I
had one. Let's go back in the back and give her a test."

On the other hand, if he didn't have what you wanted, he'd shake his
head just a trifle, then squint up at you and say: "What d'ye want it
for?" And if you could tell him what you planned to do with the piece
you wanted, nine times out of ten he could come up with something else
that would do the job as well or better.

In either case, he always insisted that the piece be tested. He refused
either to buy or sell something that didn't work. So you'd follow him
down that long hallway to the lab in the rear, where all the testing
equipment was. The lab, too, was cluttered, but in a different way. Out
front, the stuff was dead; back here, there was power coursing through
the ionic veins and metallic nerves of the half-living machines. Things
were labeled in neat, accurate script--not for Old Harry's benefit, but
for the edification of his customers, so they wouldn't put their fingers
in the wrong places. He never had to worry about whether his customers
knew enough to fend for themselves; a few minutes spent in talking was
enough to tell Harry whether a man knew enough about the science and art
of electronics and sub-electronics to be trusted in the lab. If you
didn't measure up, you didn't get invited to the lab, even to watch a
test.

But he had very few people like that; nobody came into Harry MacDougal's
place unless he was pretty sure of what he wanted and how he wanted to
use it.

On the other hand, there were very few men whom Harry would allow into
the lab unescorted. Mike the Angel was one of them.

Meet Mike the Angel. Full name: Michael Raphael Gabriel. (His mother had
tagged that on him at the time of his baptism, which had made his father
wince in anticipated compassion, but there had been nothing for him to
say--not in the middle of the ceremony.)

Naturally, he had been tagged "Mike the Angel." Six feet seven. Two
hundred sixty pounds. Thirty-four years of age. Hair: golden yellow.
Eyes: deep blue. Cash value of holdings: well into eight figures.
Credit: almost unlimited. Marital status: highly eligible, if the right
woman could tackle him.

Mike the Angel pushed open the door to Harry MacDougal's shop and took
off his hat to brush the raindrops from it. Farther uptown, the streets
were covered with clear plastic roofing, but that kind of comfort
stopped at Fifty-third Street.

There was no one in sight in the long, narrow store, so Mike the Angel
looked up at the ceiling, where he knew the eye was hidden.

"Harry?" he said.

"I see you, lad," said a voice from the air. "You got here just in time.
I'm closin' up. Lock the door, would ye?"

"Sure, Harry." Mike turned around, pressed the locking switch, and heard
it snap satisfactorily.

"Okay, Mike," said Harry MacDougal's voice. "Come on back. I hope ye
brought that bottle of scotch I asked for."

Mike the Angel made his way back between the towering tiers of bins as
he answered. "Sure did, Harry. When did I ever forget you?"

And, as he moved toward the rear of the store, Mike the Angel casually
reached into his coat pocket and triggered the switch of a small but
fantastically powerful mechanism that he always carried when he walked
the streets of New York at night.

He was headed straight into trouble, and he knew it. And he hoped he was
ready for it.



2


Mike the Angel kept his hand in his pocket, his thumb on a little plate
that was set in the side of the small mechanism that was concealed
therein. As he neared the door, the little plate began to vibrate,
making a buzz which could only be felt, not heard. Mike sighed to
himself. Vibroblades were all the rage this season.

He pushed open the rear door rapidly and stepped inside. It was just
what he'd expected. His eyes saw and his brain recorded the whole scene
in the fraction of a second before he moved. In that fraction of a
second, he took in the situation, appraised it, planned his strategy,
and launched into his plan of action.

Harry MacDougal was sitting at his workbench, near the controls of the
eye that watched the shop when he was in the lab. He was hunched over a
little, his small, bright eyes peering steadily at Mike the Angel from
beneath shaggy, silvered brows. There was no pleading in those
eyes--only confidence.

Next to Old Harry was a kid--sixteen, maybe seventeen. He had the JD
stamp on his face: a look of cold, hard arrogance that barely concealed
the uncertainty and fear beneath. One hand was at Harry's back, and
Mike knew that the kid was holding a vibroblade at the old man's spine.

At the same time, the buzzing against his thumb told Mike the Angel
something else. There was a vibroblade much nearer his body than the one
in the kid's hand.

That meant that there was another young punk behind him.

All this took Mike the Angel about one quarter of a second to
assimilate. Then he jumped.

Had the intruders been adults, Mike would have handled the entire
situation in a completely different way. Adults, unless they are
mentally or emotionally retarded, do not usually react or behave like
children. Adolescents can, do, and _must_--for the very simple reason
that they have not yet had time to learn to react as adults.

Had the intruders been adults, and had Mike the Angel behaved the way he
did, he might conceivably have died that night. As it was, the kids
never had a chance.

Mike didn't even bother to acknowledge the existence of the punk behind
him. He leaped, instead, straight for the kid in the dead-black suède
zipsuit who was holding the vibroblade against Harry MacDougal's spine.
And the kid reacted exactly as Mike the Angel had hoped, prayed, and
predicted he would.

The kid defended himself.

An adult, in a situation where he has one known enemy at his mercy and
is being attacked by a second, will quickly put the first out of the way
in order to leave himself free to deal with the second. There is no
sense in leaving your flank wide open just to oppose a frontal attack.

If the kid had been an adult, Harry MacDougal would have died there and
then. An adult would simply have slashed his vibroblade through the old
man's spine and brought it to bear on Mike the Angel.

But not the kid. He jumped back, eyes widening, to face his oncoming
opponent in an open space. He was no coward, that kid, and he knew how
to handle a vibroblade. In his own unwise, suicidal way, he was
perfectly capable of proving himself. He held out the point of that
shimmering metal shaft, ready to parry any offensive thrust that Mike
the Angel might make.

If Mike had had a vibroblade himself, and if there hadn't been another
punk at his back, Mike might have taken care of the kid that way. As it
was, he had no choice but to use another way.

He threw himself full on the point of the scintillating vibroblade.

A vibroblade is a nasty weapon. Originally designed as a surgeon's tool,
its special steel blade moves in and out of the heavy hilt at speeds
from two hundred to two thousand vibrations per second, depending on the
size and the use to which it is to be put. Make it eight inches long,
add serrated, diamond-pointed teeth, and you have the man-killing
vibroblade. Its danger is in its power; that shivering blade can cut
through flesh, cartilage, and bone with almost no effort. It's a knife
with power steering.

But that kind of power can be a weakness as well as a strength.

The little gadget that Mike the Angel carried did more than just detect
the nearby operation of a vibroblade. It was also a defense. The gadget
focused a high-density magnetic field on any vibroblade that came
anywhere within six inches of Mike's body.

In that field, the steel blade simply couldn't move. It was as though it
had been caught in a vise. The blade no longer vibrated; it had become
nothing more than an overly fancy bread knife.

The trouble was that the power unit in the heavy hilt simply wouldn't
accept the fact that the blade was immovable. That power unit was in
there to move something, and by heaven, _something_ had to move.

The hilt jerked and bucked in the kid's hand, taking skin with it. Then
it began to smoke and burn under the overload. The plastic shell cracked
and hot copper and silver splattered out of it. The kid screamed as the
molten metal burned his hand.

Mike the Angel put a hand against the kid's chest and shoved. As the boy
toppled backward, Mike turned to face the other boy.

Only it wasn't a boy.

She was wearing gold lip paint and had sprayed her hair blue, but she
knew how to handle a vibroblade at least as well as her boy friend had.
Just as Mike the Angel turned, she lunged forward, aiming for the small
of his back.

And she, too, screamed as she lost her blade in a flash of heat.

Then she grabbed for something in her pocket. Regretfully, Mike the
Angel brought the edge of his hand down against the side of her neck in
a paralyzing, but not deadly, rabbit punch. She dropped, senseless, and
a small gun spilled out of the waist pocket of her zipsuit and skittered
across the floor. Mike paused only long enough to make sure she was out,
then he turned back to his first opponent.

As he had anticipated, Harry MacDougal had taken charge. The kid was
sprawled flat on the floor, and Old Harry was holding a shock gun in his
hand.

Mike the Angel took a deep breath.

"Yer trousers are on fire," said Harry.

Mike yelped as he felt the heat, and he began slapping at the smoldering
spots where the molten metal from the vibroblades had hit his clothing.
He wasn't afire; modern clothing doesn't flame up--but it can get pretty
hot when you splash liquid copper on it.

"Damn!" said Mike the Angel. "New suit, too."

"You're a fast thinker, laddie," said Old Harry.

"You don't need to flatter me, Harry," said Mike the Angel. "When an old
teetotaler like you asks a man if he's brought some scotch, the man's a
fool if he doesn't know there's trouble afoot." He gave his leg a final
slap and said: "What happened? Are there any more of them?"

"Don't know. Might be." The old man waved at his control panel. "My
instruments are workin' again!" He gestured at the floor. "I'm nae sure
how they did it, but somehow they managed to blank out ma instruments
just long enough to get inside. Their mistake was in not lockin' the
front door."

Mike the Angel was busy searching the two unconscious kids. He looked
up. "Neither of them is carrying any equipment in their clothing--at
least, not anything that's self-powered. If they've got pickup circuits
built into the cloth, there must be more of them outside."

"Aye. Likely. We'll see."

Suddenly, there was a soft _ping! ping! ping!_ from an instrument on the
bench.

Harry glanced quickly at the receiving screen that was connected with
the multitude of eyes that were hidden around the area of his shop. Then
a smile came over his small brown face.

"Cops," he said. "Time they got here."



3


Sergeant Cowder looked the room over and took a drag from his cigarette.
"Well, that's that. Now--what happened?" He looked from Mike the Angel
to Harry MacDougal and back again. Both of them appeared to be thinking.

"All right," he said quietly, "let me guess, then."

Old Harry waved a hand. "Oh no, Sergeant; 'twon't be necessary. I think
Mr. Gabriel was just waiting for me to start, because he wasn't here
when the two rapscallions came in, and I was just tryin' to figure out
where to begin. We're not bein' unco-operative. Let's see now--" He
gazed at the ceiling as though trying to collect his thoughts. He knew
perfectly well that the police sergeant was recording everything he
said.

The sergeant sighed. "Look, Harry, you're not on trial. I know perfectly
well that you've got this place bugged to a fare-thee-well. So does
every shop operator on Radio Row. If you didn't, the JD gangs would have
cleaned you all out long ago."

Harry kept looking at the ceiling, and Mike the Angel smiled quietly at
his fingernails.

The detective sergeant sighed again. "Sure, we'd like to have some of
the gadgets that you and the other operators on the Row have worked out,
Harry. But I'm in no position to take 'em away from you. Besides, we
have some stuff that you'd like to have, too, so that makes us pretty
much even. If we started confiscating illegal equipment from you, the
JD's would swoop in here, take your legitimate equipment, bug it up, and
they'd be driving us all nuts within a week. So long as you don't use
illegal equipment illegally, the department will leave you alone."

Old Harry grinned. "Well, now, that's very nice of you, Sergeant. But I
don't have anything illegal--no robotics stuff or anything like that.
Oh, I'll admit I've a couple of eyes here and there to watch my shop,
but eyes aren't illegal."

The detective glanced around the room with a practiced eye and then
looked blandly back at the little Scotsman. Harry MacDougal was lying,
and the sergeant knew it. And Harry knew the sergeant knew it.

Sergeant Cowder sighed for a third time and looked at the Scot. "Okay.
So what happened?"

Harry's face became serious. "They came in about six-thirty. First I
knew of it, one of the kids--the boy--stepped out of that closet over
there and put a vibroblade at my back. I'd come back here to get a small
resistor, and all of a sudden there he was."

Mike the Angel frowned, but he didn't say anything.

"None of your equipment registered anything?" asked the detective.

"Not a thing, Sergeant," said Harry. "They've got something new, all
right. The kid must ha' come in through the back door, there. And I'd
ha' been willin' to bet ma life that no human bein' could ha' walked in
here without ma knowin' it before he got within ten feet o' that door.
Look."

He got up, walked over to the back door, and opened it. It opened into
what looked at first to be a totally dark room. Then the sergeant saw
that there was a dead-black wall a few feet from the open door.

"That's a light trap," said Harry. "Same as they have in photographic
darkrooms. To get from this door to the outer door that leads into the
alley, you got to turn two corners and walk about thirty feet. Even I,
masel', couldn't walk through it without settin' off half a dozen
alarms. Any kind of light would set off the bugs; so would the heat
radiation from the human body."

"How about the front?" Sergeant Cowder asked. "Anyone could get in from
the front."

Harry's grin became grim. "Not unless I go with 'em. And not even then
if I don't want 'em to."

"It was kind of you to let us in," said the detective mildly.

"A pleasure," said Harry. "But I wish I knew how that kid got in."

"Well, he did--somehow," Cowder said. "What happened after he came out
of the closet?"

"He made me let the girl in. They were goin' to open up the rear
completely and take my stuff out that way. They'd ha' done it, too, if
Mr. Gabriel hadn't come along."

Detective Sergeant Cowder looked at Mike the Angel. "About what time was
that, Mr. Gabriel?"

"About six thirty-five," Mike told him. "The kids probably hadn't been
here more than a few minutes."

Harry MacDougal nodded in silent corroboration.

"Then what happened?" asked the detective.

Mike told him a carefully edited version of what had occurred, leaving
out the existence of the little gadget he was carrying in his pocket.
The sergeant listened patiently and unbelievingly through the whole
recital. Mike the Angel grinned to himself; he knew what part of the
story seemed queer to the cop.

He was right. Cowder said: "Now, wait a minute. What caused those
vibroblades to burn up that way?"

"Must have been faulty," Mike the Angel said innocently.

"Both of them?" Sergeant Cowder asked skeptically. "At the same time?"

"Oh no. Thirty seconds apart, I'd guess."

"Very interesting. Very." He started to say something else, but a
uniformed officer stuck his head in through the doorway that led to the
front of the shop.

"We combed the whole area, Sergeant. Not a soul around. But from the
looks of the alley, there must have been a small truck parked in there
not too long ago."

Cowder nodded. "Makes sense. Those JD's wouldn't have tried this unless
they intended to take everything they could put their hands on, and they
certainly couldn't have put all this in their pockets." He rubbed one
big finger over the tip of his nose. "Okay, Barton, that's all. Take
those two kids to the hospital and book 'em in the detention ward. I
want to talk to them when they wake up."

The cop nodded and left.

Sergeant Cowder looked back at Harry. "Your alarm to the precinct
station went off at six thirty-six. I figure that whoever was on the
outside, in that truck, knew something had gone wrong as soon as the
fight started in here. He--or they--shut off whatever they were using to
suppress the alarm system and took off before we got here. They sure
must have moved fast."

"Must have," agreed Harry. "Is there anything else, Sergeant?"

Cowder shook his head. "Not right now. I'll get in touch with you later,
if I need you."

Harry and Mike the Angel followed him through the front of the shop to
the front door. At the door, Cowder turned.

"Well, good night. Thanks for your assistance, Mr. Gabriel. I wish some
of our cops had had your luck."

"How so?" asked Mike the Angel.

"If more vibroblades would blow up at opportune moments, we'd have fewer
butchered policemen."

Mike the Angel shook his head. "Not really. If their vibros started
burning out every time they came near a cop, the JD's would just start
using something else. You can't win in this game."

Cowder nodded glumly. "It's a losing proposition any way you look at
it.... Well, good night again." He stepped out, and Old Harry closed and
locked the door behind him.

Mike the Angel said: "Come on, Harry; I want to find something." He
began walking back down the long, narrow shop toward the rear again.
Harry followed, looking mystified.

Mike the Angel stopped, sniffing. "Smell that?"

Harry sniffed. "Aye. Burnt insulation. So?"

"You know which one of these bins is nearest to your main control cable.
Start looking. See if you find anything queer."

Old Harry walked over to a nearby bin, pulled it open, and looked
inside. He closed it, pulled open another. He found the gadget on the
third try. It was a plastic case, six by six by eight, and it still
smelled of hot insulation, although the case itself was barely warm.

"What is it?" Harry asked in wonder.

"It's the gizmo that turned your equipment off. When I passed by it, my
own gadget must have blown it. I knew the police couldn't have made it
here between the time of the fight and the time they showed up. They
must have had at least an extra minute. Besides, I didn't think anyone
could build an instrument that would blank out everything at long range.
It had to be something near your main cable. I think you'll find a
metallic oscillator in there. Analyze it. Might be useful."

Harry turned the box over in his hands. "Probably has a timer in it to
start it.... Well.... That helps."

"What do you mean?"

"I've got a pretty good idea who put it here. Older kid. Nineteen--maybe
twenty. Seemed like a nice lad, too. Didn't take him for a JD. Can't
trust anyone these days. Thanks, Mike. If I find anything new in here,
I'll let you know."

"Do that," said Mike the Angel. "And, as a personal favor, I'll show you
how to build my own super-duper, extra-special, anti-vibroblade defense
unit."

Old Harry grinned, crinkling up his wizened face in a mass of fine
wrinkles. "You'd better think up a shorter name than that for it,
laddie; I could probably build one in less time than it takes you to say
it."

"Want to bet?"

"I'll bet you twenty I can do it in twenty-four hours."

"Twenty it is, Harry. I'll sell you mine this time tomorrow for twenty
bucks."

Harry shook his head. "I'll trade you mine for yours, plus twenty." Then
his eyes twinkled. "And speaking of money, didn't you come down here to
buy something?"

Mike the Angel laughed. "You're not going to like it. I came down to get
a dozen plastic-core resistors."

"What size?"

Mike told him, and Old Harry went over to the proper bin, pulled them
out, all properly boxed, and handed them to him.

"That'll be four dollars," he said.

Mike the Angel paid up with a smile. "You don't happen to have a
hundred-thousand-unit microcryotron stack, do you?"

"Ain't s'posed to," said Harry MacDougal. "If I did, I wouldn't sell it
to you. But, as a matter of cold fact, I do happen to have one. Use it
for a paperweight. I'll give it to you for nothing, because it don't
work, anyhow."

"Maybe I can fix it," said Mike the Angel, "as long as you're giving it
to me. How come it doesn't work?"

"Just a second, laddie," said Harry. He scuttled to the rear of the shop
and came back with a ready-wrapped package measuring five by five by
four. He handed it to Mike the Angel and said: "It's a present. Thanks
for helping me out of a tight spot."

Mike said something deprecative of his own efforts and took the package.
If it were in working order it would have been worth close to three
hundred dollars--more than that on the black market. If it was broken,
though, it was no good to Mike. A microcryotron unit is almost
impossible to fix if it breaks down. But Mike took it because he didn't
want to hurt Old Harry's feelings by refusing a present.

"Thanks, Harry," he said. "Happen to know why it doesn't work?"

Harry's face crinkled again in his all-over smile. "Sure, Mike. It ain't
plugged in."



4


Mike the Angel did not believe in commuting. Being a bachelor, he could
afford to indulge in that belief. In his suite of offices on 112th
Street, there was one door marked "M. R. Gabriel." Behind that door was
his private secretary's office, which acted as an effective barrier
between himself and the various employees of the firm. Behind the
secretary's office was his own office.

There was still another door in his inner office, a plain, unmarked door
that looked as though it might conceal a closet.

It didn't. It was the door to a veddy, veddy expensive apartment with
equally expensive appointments. One wall, thirty feet long and ten feet
high, was a nearly invisible, dustproof slab of polished, optically flat
glass that gave the observer the feeling that there was nothing between
him and the city street, five hundred feet below.

The lights of the city, coming through the wall, gave the room plenty of
illumination after sunset, but the simple flick of a switch could
polarize it black, allowing perfect privacy.

The furniture was massive, heavily braced, and well upholstered. It had
to be; Mike the Angel liked to flop into chairs, and his two hundred and
sixty pounds gave chairs a lot of punishment.

On one of the opaque walls was Dali's original "Eucharist," with its
muffled, robed figures looking oddly luminous in the queer combination
of city lights and interior illumination. Farther back, a Valois gleamed
metallically above the shadowed bas-reliefs of its depths.

It was the kind of apartment Mike the Angel liked. He could sleep, if
necessary, on a park bench or in a trench, but he didn't see any reason
for doing so if he could sleep on a five-hundred-dollar floater.

As he had passed through each door, he had checked them carefully. His
electrokey had a special circuit that lighted up a tiny glow lamp in the
key handle if the lock had been tampered with. None of them had.

He opened the final door, went into his apartment, and locked the door
behind him, as he had locked the others. Then he turned on the lights,
peeled off his raincoat, and plopped himself into a chair to unwrap the
microcryotron stack he had picked up at Harry's.

Theoretically, Harry wasn't supposed to sell the things. They were still
difficult to make, and they were supposed to be used only by persons who
were authorized to build robot brains, since that's what the stack
was--a part of a robot brain. Mike could have put his hands on one
legally, provided he'd wanted to wait for six or eight months to clear
up the red tape. Actually, the big robotics companies didn't want
amateurs fooling around with robots; they'd much rather build the robots
themselves and rent them out. They couldn't make do-it-yourself projects
impossible, but they could make them difficult.

In a way, there was some good done. So far, the JD's hadn't gone into
big-scale robotics. Self-controlled bombs could be rather nasty.

Adult criminals, of course, already had them. But an adult criminal who
had the money to invest in robotic components, or went to the trouble to
steal them, had something more lucrative in mind than street fights or
robbing barrooms. To crack a bank, for instance, took a cleverly
constructed, well-designed robot and plenty of ingenuity on the part of
the operator.

Mike the Angel didn't want to make bombs or automatic bankrobbers; he
just wanted to fiddle with the stack, see what it would do. He turned it
over in his hands a couple of times, then shrugged, got up, went over to
his closet, and put the thing away. There wasn't anything he could do
with it until he'd bought a cryostat--a liquid helium refrigerator. A
cryotron functions only at temperatures near absolute zero.

The phone chimed.

Mike went over to it, punched the switch, and said: "Gabriel speaking."

No image formed on the screen. A voice said: "Sorry, wrong number."
There was a slight click, and the phone went dead. Mike shrugged and
punched the cutoff. Sounded like a woman. He vaguely wished he could
have seen her face.

Mike got up and walked back to his easy chair. He had no sooner sat down
than the phone chimed again. Damn!

Up again. Back to the phone.

"Gabriel speaking."

Again, no image formed.

"Look, lady," Mike said, "why don't you look up the number you want
instead of bothering me?"

Suddenly there was an image. It was the face of an elderly man with a
mild, reddish face, white hair, and a cold look in his pale blue eyes.
It was Basil Wallingford, the Minister for Spatial Affairs.

He said: "Mike, I wasn't aware that your position was such that you
could afford to be rude to a Portfolio of the Earth Government." His
voice was flat, without either anger or humor.

"I'm not sure it is, myself," admitted Mike the Angel, "but I do the
best I can with the tools I have to work with. I didn't know it was you,
Wally. I just had some wrong-number trouble. Sorry."

"Mf.... Well.... I called to tell you that the _Branchell_ is ready for
your final inspection. Or will be, that is, in a week."

"My final inspection?" Mike the Angel arched his heavy golden-blond
eyebrows. "Hell, Wally, Serge Paulvitch is on the job down there, isn't
he? You don't need _my_ okay. If Serge says it's ready to go, it's ready
to go. Or is there some kind of trouble you haven't mentioned yet?"

"No; no trouble," said Wallingford. "But the power plant on that ship
was built according to your designs--not Mr. Paulvitch's. The Bureau of
Space feels that you should give them the final check."

Mike knew when to argue and when not to, and he knew that this was one
time when it wouldn't do him the slightest good. "All right," he said
resignedly. "I don't like Antarctica and never will, but I guess I can
stand it for a few days."

"Fine. One more thing. Do you have a copy of the thrust specifications
for Cargo Hold One? Our copy got garbled in transmission, and there
seems to be a discrepancy in the figures."

Mike nodded. "Sure. They're in my office. Want me to get them now?"

"Please. I'll hold on."

Mike the Angel barely made it in time. He went to the door that led to
his office, opened it, stepped through, and closed it behind him just as
the blast went off.

The door shuddered behind Mike, but it didn't give. Mike's apartment was
reasonably soundproof, but it wasn't built to take the kind of explosion
that would shake the door that Mike the Angel had just closed. It was a
two-inch-thick slab of armor steel on heavy, precision-bearing hinges.
So was every other door in the suite. It wasn't quite a bank-vault door,
but it would do. Any explosion that could shake it was a real doozy.

Mike the Angel spun around and looked at the door. It was just a trifle
warped, and faint tendrils of vapor were curling around the edge where
the seal had been broken. Mike sniffed, then turned and ran. He opened a
drawer in his desk and took out a big roll of electrostatic tape. Then
he took a deep breath, went back to the door, and slapped on a strip of
the one-inch tape, running it all around the edge of the door. Then he
went into the outer office while the air conditioners cleaned out his
private office.

He went over to one of the phones near the autofile and punched for the
operator. "I had a long-distance call coming in here from the Right
Excellent Basil Wallingford, Minister for Spatial Affairs, Capitol City.
We were cut off."

"One moment please." A slight pause. "His Excellency is here, Mr.
Gabriel."

Wallingford's face came back on the screen. It had lost some of its
ruddiness. "What happened?" he asked.

"You tell me, Wally," Mike snapped. "Did you see anything at all?"

"All I saw was that big pane of glass break. It fell into a thousand
pieces, and then something exploded and the phone went dead."

"The glass broke first?"

"That's right."

Mike sighed. "Good. I was afraid that maybe someone had planted that
bomb, rather than fired it in. I'd hate to think anyone could get into
my place without my knowing it."

"Who's gunning for you?"

"I wish I knew. Look, Wally, can you wait until tomorrow for those
specs? I want to get hold of the police."

"Certainly. Nothing urgent. It can wait. I'll call you again tomorrow
evening." The screen blanked.

Mike glanced at the wall clock and then punched a number on the phone. A
pretty girl in a blue uniform came on the screen.

"Police Central," she said. "May I help you?"

"I'd like to speak to Detective Sergeant William Cowder, please," Mike
said. "Just tell him that Mr. Gabriel has more problems."

She looked puzzled, but she nodded, and pretty soon her image blanked
out. The screen stayed blank, but Sergeant Cowder's voice came over the
speaker. "What is it, Mr. Gabriel?"

He was evidently speaking from a pocket phone.

"Attempted murder," said Mike the Angel. "A few minutes ago a bomb was
set off in my apartment. I think it was a rocket, and I know it was
heavily laced with hydrogen cyanide. That's Suite 5000, Timmins
Building, up on 112th Street. I called you because I have a hunch it's
connected with the incident at Harry's earlier this evening."

"Timmins Building, eh? I'll be right up."

Cowder cut off with a sharp click, and Mike the Angel looked quizzically
at the dead screen. Was he imagining things, or was there a peculiar
note in Cowder's voice?

Two minutes later he got his answer.



5


Mike the Angel was sitting behind his desk in his private office when
the announcer chimed. Mike narrowed his eyes and turned on his door
screen, which connected with an eye in the outer door of the suite. Who
could it be this time?

It was Sergeant Cowder.

"You got here fast," said Mike, thumbing the unlocker. "Come on back to
my office."

The sergeant came through the outer office while Mike watched him on the
screen. Not until the officer finally pushed open the door to Mike's own
office did Mike the Angel look up from the screen.

"I repeat," said Mike, "you got here fast."

"I wasn't far away," said Cowder. "Where's the damage?"

Mike jerked a thumb toward the door to his apartment, still sealed with
tape. "In there."

"Have you been back in there yet?"

"Nope," said Mike. "I didn't want to disturb anything. I figured maybe
your lab boys could tell where the rocket came from."

"What happened?" the cop asked.

Mike told him, omitting nothing except the details of his conversation
with Wallingford.

"The way I see it," he finished, "whoever it was phoned me to make sure
I was in the room and then went out and fired a rocket at my window."

"What makes you think it was a JD?" Cowder asked.

"Well, Sergeant, if I were going to do the job, I'd put my launcher in
some place where I could see that my victim was inside, without having
to call him. But if I couldn't do that, I'd aim the launcher and set it
to fire by remote control. Then I'd go to the phone, call him, and fire
the rocket while he was on the phone. I'd be sure of getting him that
way. The way it was done smacks of a kid's trick."

Cowder looked at the door. "Think we can go in there now? The HCN ought
to have cleared out by now."

Mike stood up from behind his desk. "I imagine it's pretty clear. I
checked the air conditioners; they're still working, and the filters are
efficient enough to take care of an awful lot of hydrogen cyanide.
Besides, the window is open. But--shouldn't we wait for the lab men?"

Cowder shook his head. "Not necessary. They'll be up in a few minutes,
but they'll probably just confirm what we already know. Peel that tape
off, will you?"

Mike took his ionizer from the top of the desk, walked over to the door,
and began running it over the tape. It fell off and slithered to the
floor. As he worked, he said:

"You think you know where the rocket was fired from?"

"Almost positive," said Cowder. "We got a call a few minutes back from
the Cathedral of St. John the Divine."

The last of the tape fell off, and Mike opened the door. It didn't work
easily, but it did open. The odor of bitter almonds was so faint that it
might actually have been imagination.

Cowder pointed out the shattered window at the gray spire of the
cathedral. "There's your launching site. We don't know how they got up
there, but they managed."

"They?"

"Two of them. When they tried to leave, a couple of priests and two
officers of the Cathedral Police spotted them. The kids dropped their
launcher and two unfired rockets, and then tried to run for it. Result:
one dead kid, one getaway. One of the cops got a bad gash on his arm
from a vibroblade, and one of the priests got it in the abdomen. He'll
live, but he's in bad shape."

Mike said something under his breath that might have been an oath,
except that it avoided all mention of the Deity. Then he added that
Name, in a different tone of voice.

"I agree," said Cowder. "You think you know why they did it?"

Mike looked around at his apartment. At first glance it appeared to be a
total loss, but closer inspection showed that most of the damage had
been restricted to glass and ceramics. The furniture had been tumbled
around but not badly damaged. The war head of the rocket had evidently
been of the concussion-and-gas type, without much fragmentation.

"I think I know why, yes," Mike said, turning back to the sergeant. "I
had a funny feeling all the way home from Harry's. Nothing I could lay
my finger on, really. I tried to see if I was being followed, but I
didn't spot anyone. There were plenty of kids on the subway.

"It's my guess that the kids knew who I was. If they cased Harry's as
thoroughly as it seems they did, they must have seen me go in and out
several times. They knew that it was my fault that two of their members
got picked up, so they decided to teach me a lesson. One of them must
have come up here, even before I left Harry's. The other followed me,
just to make sure I was really coming home. Since he knew where I was
going, he didn't have to stick too close, so I didn't spot him in the
crowd. He might even have gone on up to 116th Street so that I wouldn't
see him get off at 110th."

"Sounds reasonable," Cowder agreed. "We know who the kids are. The
uniformed squads are rounding up the whole bunch for questioning. They
call themselves--you'll get a laugh out of this!--they call themselves
the Rocketeers."

"I'm fracturing my funny bone," said Mike the Angel. "The thing that
gets me is this revenge business, though. Kids don't usually go that far
out for fellow gang members."

"Not usually," the sergeant said, "but this is a little different. The
girl you caught and the boy who got killed over at the cathedral are
brother and sister."

"That explains it," Mike said. "Rough family, eh?"

Sergeant Cowder shook his head. "Not really. The parents are respectable
and fairly well off. Larchmont's the name. The kids are Susan and
Herbert--Sue and Bert to you. Bert's sixteen, Sue's seventeen. They were
pretty thick, I gather: real brother and sister team."

"Good family, bad kids," Mike muttered. He had wandered over to the wall
to look at his Dali. It had fallen to the floor, but it wasn't hurt. The
Valois was bent, but it could be fixed up easily enough.

"I wonder," Mike said, picking up the head of a smashed figurine and
looking at it. "I wonder if the so-called sociologists have any
explanation for it?"

"Sure," Cowder said. "Same one they've been giving for more decades than
I'd care to think of. The mother was married before. Divorced her
husband, married Larchmont. But she had a boy by her first husband."

"Broken home and sibling rivalry? _Pfui!_ And if it wasn't that, the
sociologists would find another excuse," Mike said angrily.

"Funny thing is that the older half brother was a perfectly respectable
kid. Made good grades in school, joined the Space Service, has a
perfectly clean record. And yet _he_ was the product of the broken home,
not the two younger kids."

Mike laughed dryly. "_That_ ought to be food for high sociological
thought."

The door announcer chimed again, and Cowder said: "That's probably the
lab boys. I told them to come over here as soon as they could finish up
at the cathedral."

Mike checked his screen and when Cowder identified the men at the door,
Mike let them in.

The short, chubby man in the lead, who was introduced as Perkins, spoke
to Sergeant Cowder first. "We checked one of those rockets. Almost a
professional job. TNT war head, surrounded by a jacket filled with
liquid HCN and a phosphate inhibitor to prevent polymerization. Nasty
things." He swung round to Mike. "You're lucky you weren't in the room,
or you'd just be part of the wreckage, Mr. Gabriel."

"I know," said Mike the Angel. "Well, the room's all yours. It probably
won't tell you much."

"Probably not," said Perkins, "but we'll see. Come on, boys."

Mike the Angel tapped Cowder on the shoulder. "I'd like to talk to you
for a minute."

Cowder nodded, and Mike led the way back into his private office. He
opened his desk drawer and took out the little pack that housed the
workings of the vibroblade shield.

"That accident you were talking about, Sergeant--the one that made those
vibroblades blow, remember? I got to thinking that maybe this could have
caused it. I think that with a little more power, it might even vaporize
a high-speed bullet. But I'd advise you to wear asbestos clothing."

Cowder took the thing and looked at it. "Thanks, Mr. Gabriel," he said
honestly. "Maybe the kids will go on to using something else if
vibroblades don't work, but I think I'd prefer a rocket in the head to
being carved by a vibro."

"To be honest," Mike said, "I think the vibro is just a fad among the
JD's now, anyway. You know--if you're one of the real biggies, you carry
a vibro. A year from now, it might be shock guns, but right now you're
chicken if you carry anything but a vibroblade."

Cowder dropped the shield generator into his coat pocket. "Thanks again,
Mr. Gabriel. We'll do you a favor sometime."



6


The firm of M. R. GABRIEL, POWER DESIGN was not a giant corporation, but
it did pretty well for a one-man show. The outer office was a gantlet
that Mike the Angel had to run when he came in the next morning after
having spent the night at a hotel. There was a mixed and ragged chorus
of "Good morning, Mr. Gabriel" as he passed through. Mike gave the nod
to each of them and was stopped four times for small details before he
finally made his way to his own office.

His secretary was waiting for him. She was short, bony, and plain of
face. She had a figure like an ironing board and the soul of a Ramsden
calculator. Mike the Angel liked her that way; it avoided complications.

"Good morning, Mr. Gabriel," she said. "What the hell happened here?"
She waved at the warped door and the ribbons of electrostatic tape that
still lay in curls on the floor.

Mike told her, and she listened to his recitation without any change of
expression. "I'm very glad you weren't hurt," she said when he had
finished. "What are you going to do about the apartment?"

Mike opened the heavy door and looked at the wreckage inside. Through
the gaping hole of the shattered window, he could see the towering
spires of the two-hundred-year-old Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
"Get Larry Beasley on the phone, Helen. I've forgotten his number, but
you'll find him listed under 'Interior Decorators.' He has the original
plans and designs on file. Tell him to get them out; I want this place
fixed up just like it was."

"But what if someone else...." She gestured toward the broken window and
the cathedral spires beyond.

"When you're through talking to Beasley," Mike went on, "see if you can
get Bishop Brennan on the phone and switch him to my desk."

"Yes, sir," she said.

Within two hours workmen were busily cleaning up the wreckage in Mike
the Angel's apartment, and the round, plump figure of Larry Beasley was
walking around pompously while his artistic but businesslike brain made
estimates. Mike had also reached an agreement with the bishop whereby
special vaultlike doors would be fitted into the stairwells leading up
to the towers at Mike's expense. They were to have facings of bronze so
that they could be decorated to blend with the Gothic decor of the
church, but the bronze would be backed by heavy steel. Nobody would blow
_those_ down in a hurry.

Since the wrecked living room was a flurry of activity and his office
had become a thoroughfare, Mike the Angel retired to his bedroom to
think. He took with him the microcryotron stack he had picked up at Old
Harry's the night before.

"For something that doesn't look like much," he said aloud to the
stack, "you have caused me a hell of a lot of trouble."

Old Harry, he knew, wouldn't be caught dead selling the things. In the
first place, it was strictly illegal to deal in the components of
robotic brains. In the second place, they were so difficult to get, even
on the black market, that the few that came into Old Harry's hands went
into the defenses of his own shop. Mike the Angel had only wanted to
borrow one to take a good look at it. He had read up on all the
literature about microcryotrons, but he'd never actually seen one
before.

He had reason to be curious about microcryotrons. There was something
definitely screwy going on in Antarctica.

Nearly two years before, the UN Government, in the person of Minister
Wallingford himself, had asked Mike's firm--which meant Mike the Angel
himself--to design the power drive and the thrust converters for a
spaceship. On the face of it, there was nothing at all unusual in that.
Such jobs were routine for M. R. Gabriel.

But when the specifications arrived, Mike the Angel had begun to wonder
what the devil was going on. The spaceship _William Branchell_ was to be
built on the surface of Earth--and yet it was to be a much larger ship
than any that had ever before been built on the ground. Usually, an
interstellar vessel that large was built in orbit around the Earth,
where the designers didn't have to worry about gravitational pull. Such
a ship never landed, any more than an ocean liner was ever beached--not
on purpose, anyway. The passengers and cargo were taken up by smaller
vessels and brought down the same way when the liner arrived at her
destination.

Aside from the tremendous energy required to lift such a vessel free of
a planet's surface, there was also the magnetic field of the planet to
consider. The drive tubes tended to wander and become erratic if they
were forced to cut through the magnetic field of a planet.

Therefore, Question One: Why wasn't the _Branchell_ being built in
space?

Part of the answer, Mike knew, lay in the specifications for the
construction of Cargo Hold One. For one thing, it was huge. For another,
it was heavily insulated. For a third, it was built like a tank for
holding liquids. All very well and good; possibly someone wanted to
carry a cargo of cold lemonade or iced tea. That would be pretty stupid,
maybe, but it wouldn't be mysterious.

The mystery lay in the fact that Cargo Hold One had _already been
built_. The _Branchell_ was to be built _around_ it! And that didn't
exactly jibe with Mike the Angel's ideas of the proper way to build a
spaceship. It was not quite the same as building a seagoing vessel
around an oil tank in the middle of Texas, but it was close enough to
bother Mike the Angel.

Therefore, Question Two: Why was the _Branchell_ being built around
Cargo Hold One?

Which led to Question Three: What was _in_ Cargo Hold One?

For the answer to that question, he had one very good hint. The density
of the contents of Cargo Hold One was listed in the specs as being
one-point-seven-two-six grams per cubic centimeter. And that, Mike
happened to know, was the density of a cryotronic brain, which is 90 per
cent liquid helium and 10 per cent tantalum and niobium, by volume.

He looked at the microcryotron stack in his hand. It was a
one-hundred-kilounit stack. The possible connections within it were
factorial one hundred thousand. All it needed was to be immersed in its
bath of liquid helium to make the metals superconducting, and it would
be ready to go to work.

A friend of his who worked for Computer Corporation of Earth had built a
robot once, using just such a stack. The robot was designed to play
poker. He had fed in all the rules of play and added all the data from
Oesterveldt's _On Poker_. It took Mike the Angel exactly one hour to
figure out how to beat it.

As long as Mike played rationally, the machine had a slight edge, since
it had a perfect memory and could compute faster than Mike could. But it
would not, could not learn how to bluff. As soon as Mike started
bluffing, the robot went into a tizzy.

It wouldn't have been so bad if the robot had known nothing whatever
about bluffing. That would have made it easy for Mike. All he'd have had
to do was keep on feeding in chips until the robot folded.

But the robot _did_ know about bluffing. The trouble is that bluffing is
essentially illogical, and the robot had no rules whatsoever to go by to
judge whether Mike was bluffing or not. It finally decided to make its
decisions by chance, judging by Mike's past performance at bluffing.
When it did, Mike quit bluffing and cleaned it out fast.

That caused such utter confusion in the random circuits that Mike's
friend had had to spend a week cleaning up the robot's little mind.

But what would be the purpose of building a brain as gigantic as the one
in Cargo Hold One? And why build a spaceship around it?

Like a pig roasting on an automatic spit, the problem kept turning over
and over in Mike's mind. And, like the roasting pig, the time eventually
came when it was done.

Once it is set in operation, a properly operating robot brain can
neither be shut off nor dismantled. Not, that is, unless you want to
lose all of the data and processes you've fed into it.

Now, suppose the Computer Corporation of Earth had built a giant-sized
brain. (Never mind _why_--just suppose.) And suppose they wanted to take
it off Earth, but didn't want to lose all the data that had been pumped
into it. (Again, never mind _why_--just suppose.)

Very well, then. _If_ such a brain had been built, and _if_ it was
necessary to take it off Earth, and _if_ the data in it was so precious
that the brain could not be shut off or dismantled, _then_ the thing to
do would be to build a ship around it.

Oh _yeah_?

Mike the Angel stared at the microcryotron stack and asked:

"Now, tell me, pal, just why would anyone want a brain that big? And
what is so blasted important about it?"

The stack said not a word.

The phone chimed. Mike the Angel thumbed the switch, and his secretary's
face appeared on the screen. "Minister Wallingford is on the line, Mr.
Gabriel."

"Put him on," said Mike the Angel.

Basil Wallingford's ruddy face came on. "I see you're still alive," he
said. "What in the bloody blazes happened last night?"

Mike sighed and told him. "In other words," he ended up, "just the usual
sort of JD stuff we have to put up with these days. Nothing new, and
nothing to worry about."

"You almost got killed," Wallingford pointed out.

"A miss is as good as a mile," Mike said with cheerful inanity. "Thanks
to your phone call, I was as safe as if I'd been in my own home," he
added with utter illogic.

"You can afford to laugh," Wallingford said grimly. "I can't. I've
already lost one man."

Mike's grin vanished. "What do you mean? Who?"

"Oh, nobody's killed," Wallingford said quickly. "I didn't mean that.
But Jack Wong turned his car over yesterday at a hundred and seventy
miles an hour, and he's laid up with a fractured leg and a badly
dislocated arm."

"Too bad," said Mike. "One of these days that fool will kill himself
racing." He knew Wong and liked him. They had served together in the
Space Service when Mike was on active duty.

"I hope not," Wallingford said. "Anyway--the matter I called you on last
night. Can you get those specs for me?"

"Sure, Wally. Hold on." He punched the hold button and rang for his
secretary as Wallingford's face vanished. When the girl's face came on,
he said: "Helen, get me the cargo specs on the _William
Branchell_--Section Twelve, pages 66 to 74."

The discussion, after Helen had brought the papers, lasted less than
five minutes. It was merely a matter of straightening out some cost
estimates--but since it had to do with the _Branchell_, and specifically
with Hold Number One, Mike decided he'd ask a question.

"Wally, tell me--what in the hell is going on down there at Chilblains
Base?"

"They're building a spaceship," said Wallingford in a flat voice.

It was Wallingford's way of saying he wasn't going to answer any
questions, but Mike the Angel ignored the hint. "I'd sort of gathered
that," he said dryly. "But what I want to know is: Why is it being built
around a cryotronic brain, the like of which I have never heard before?"

Basil Wallingford's eyes widened, and he just stared for a full two
seconds. "And just how did you come across that information, Golden
Wings?" he finally asked.

"It's right here in the specs," said Mike the Angel, tapping the sheaf
of papers.

"Ridiculous." Wallingford's voice seemed toneless.

Mike decided he was in too deep now to back out. "It certainly is,
Wally. It couldn't be hidden. To compute the thrust stresses, I had to
know the density of the contents of Cargo Hold One. And here it is:
1.726 gm/cm³. Nothing else that I know of has that exact density."

Wallingford pursed his lips. "Dear me," he said after a moment. "I keep
forgetting you're too bright for your own good." Then a slow smile
spread over his face. "Would you _really_ like to know?"

"I wouldn't have asked otherwise," Mike said.

"Fine. Because you're just the man we need."

Mike the Angel could almost feel the knife blade sliding between his
ribs, and he had the uncomfortable feeling that the person who had
stabbed him in the back was himself. "What's that supposed to mean,
Wally?"

"You are, I believe, an officer in the Space Service Reserve," said
Basil Wallingford in a smooth, too oily voice. "Since the Engineering
Officer of the _Branchell_, Jack Wong, is laid up in a hospital, I'm
going to call you to active duty to replace him."

Mike the Angel felt that ghostly knife twist--hard.

"That's silly," he said. "I haven't been a ship's officer for five
years."

"You're the man who designed the power plant," Wallingford said sweetly.
"If you don't know how to run her, nobody does."

"My time per hour is worth a great deal," Mike pointed out.

"The rate of pay for a Space Service officer," Basil Wallingford said
pleasantly, "is fixed by law."

"I can fight being called back to duty--and I'll win," said Mike. He
didn't know how long he could play this game, but it was fun.

"True," said Wallingford. "You can. I admit it. But you've been
wondering what the hell that ship is being built for. You'd give your
left arm to find out. I know you, Golden Wings, and I know how that mind
of yours works. And I tell you this: Unless you take this job, you'll
_never_ find out why the _Branchell_ was built." He leaned forward, and
his face loomed large in the screen. "And I mean absolutely _never_."

For several seconds Mike the Angel said nothing. His classically
handsome face was like that of some Grecian god contemplating the
Universe, or an archangel contemplating Eternity. Then he gave Basil
Wallingford the benefit of his full, radiant smile.

"I capitulate," he said.

Wallingford refused to look impressed. "Damn right you do," he said--and
cut the circuit.



7


Two days later Mike the Angel was sitting at his desk making certain
that M. R. GABRIEL, POWER DESIGN would function smoothly while he was
gone. Serge Paulvitch, his chief designer, could handle almost
everything.

Paulvitch had once said, "Mike, the hell of working for a first-class
genius is that a second-class genius doesn't have a chance."

"You could start your own firm," Mike had said levelly. "I'll back you,
Serge; you know that."

Serge Paulvitch had looked astonished. "Me? You think I'm crazy? Right
now, I'm a second-class genius working for a first-class outfit. You
think I want to be a second-class genius working for a second-class
outfit? Not on your life!"

Paulvitch could easily handle the firm for a few weeks.

Helen's face came on the phone. "There's a Captain Sir Henry Quill on
the phone, Mr. Gabriel. Do you wish to speak to him?"

"Black Bart?" said Mike. "I wonder what he wants."

"Bart?" She looked puzzled. "He said his name was Henry."

Mike grinned. "He always signs his name: _Captain Sir Henry Quill,
Bart._ And since he's the toughest old martinet this side of the
Pleiades, the 'Black' part just comes naturally. I served under him
seven years ago. Put him on."

In half a second the grim face of Captain Quill was on the screen.

He was as bald as an egg. What little hair he did have left was
meticulously shaved off every morning. He more than made up for his lack
of cranial growth, however, by his great, shaggy, bristly brows, black
as jet and firmly anchored to jutting supraorbital ridges. Any other man
would have been proud to wear them as mustaches.

"What can I do for you, Captain?" Mike asked, using the proper tone of
voice prescribed for the genial businessman.

"You can go out and buy yourself a new uniform," Quill growled. "Your
old one isn't regulation any more."

Well, not exactly growled. If he'd had the voice for it, it would have
been a growl, but the closest he could come to a growl was an Irish
tenor rumble with undertones of gravel. He stood five-eight, and his red
and gold Space Service uniform gleamed with spit-and-polish luster. With
his cap off, his bald head looked as though it, too, had been polished.

Mike looked at him thoughtfully. "I see. So you're commanding the
mystery tub, eh?" he said at last.

"That's right," said the captain. "And don't go asking me a bunch of
blasted questions. I've got no more idea of what the bloody thing's
about than you--maybe not as much. I understand you designed her power
plant...?"

He let it hang. If not exactly a leading question, it was certainly a
hinting statement.

Mike shook his head. "I don't know anything, Captain. Honestly I don't."

If Space Service regulations had allowed it, Captain Sir Henry Quill,
Bart., would have worn a walrus mustache. And if he'd had such a
mustache, he would have whuffled it then. As it was, he just blew out
air, and nothing whuffled.

"You and I are the only ones in the dark, then," he said. "The rest of
the crew is being picked from Chilblains Base. Pete Jeffers is First
Officer, in case you're wondering."

"Oh, great," Mike the Angel said with a moan. "That means we'll be going
in cold on an untried ship."

Like Birnam Wood advancing on Dunsinane, Quill's eyebrows moved upward.
"Don't you trust your own designing?"

"As much as you do," said Mike the Angel. "Probably more."

Quill nodded. "We'll have to make the best of it. We'll muddle through
somehow. Are you all ready to go?"

"No," Mike admitted, "but I don't see that I can do a damn thing about
that."

"Nor do I," said Captain Quill. "Be at Chilblains Base in twenty-four
hours. Arrangements will be made at the Long Island Base for your
transportation to Antarctica. And"--he paused and his scowl became
deeper--"you'd best get used to calling me 'sir' again."

"Yessir, Sir Henry, sir."

"_Thank_ you, Mister Gabriel," snapped Quill, cutting the circuit.

"Selah," said Mike the Angel.

       *       *       *       *       *

Chilblains Base, Antarctica, was directly over the South Magnetic
Pole--at least, as closely as that often elusive spot could be
pinpointed for any length of time. It is cheaper in the long run if an
interstellar vessel moves parallel with, not perpendicular to, the
magnetic "lines of force" of a planet's gravitational field. Taking off
"across the grain" _can_ be done, but the power consumption is much
greater. Taking off "with the grain" is expensive enough.

An ion rocket doesn't much care where it lifts or sets down, since its
method of propulsion isn't trying to work against the fabric of space
itself. For that reason, an interstellar vessel is normally built in
space and stays there, using ion rockets for loading and unloading its
passengers. It's cheaper by far.

The Computer Corporation of Earth had also been thinking of expenses
when it built its Number One Research Station near Chilblains Base,
although the corporation was not aware at the time just how much money
it was eventually going to save them.

The original reason had simply been lower power costs. A cryotron unit
has to be immersed at all times in a bath of liquid helium at a
temperature of four-point-two degrees absolute. It is obviously much
easier--and much cheaper--to keep several thousand gallons of helium at
that temperature if the surrounding temperature is at two hundred
thirty-three absolute than if it is up around two hundred ninety or
three hundred. That may not seem like much percentagewise, but it comes
out to a substantial saving in the long run.

But, power consumption or no, when C.C. of E. found that Snookums either
had to be moved or destroyed, it was mightily pleased that it had built
Prime Station near Chilblains Base. Since a great deal of expense also,
of necessity, devolved upon Earth Government, the government was, to say
it modestly, equally pleased. There was enough expense as it was.

The scenery at Chilblains Base--so named by a wiseacre American navy
man back in the twentieth century--was nothing to brag about. Thousands
of square miles of powdered ice that has had nothing to do but blow
around for twenty million years is not at all inspiring after the first
few minutes unless one is obsessed by the morbid beauty of cold death.

Mike the Angel was not so obsessed. To him, the area surrounding
Chilblains Base was just so much white hell, and his analysis was
perfectly correct. Mike wished that it had been January, midsummer in
the Antarctic, so there would have been at least a little dim sunshine.
Mike the Angel did not particularly relish having to visit the South
Pole in midwinter.

The rocket that had lifted Mike the Angel from Long Island Base settled
itself into the snow-covered landing stage of Chilblains Base,
dissipating the crystalline whiteness into steam as it did so. The
steam, blown away by the chill winds, moved all of thirty yards before
it became ice again.

Mike the Angel was not in the best of moods. Having to dump all of his
business into Serge Paulvitch's hands on twenty-four hours' notice was
irritating. He knew Paulvitch could handle the job, but it wasn't fair
to him to make him take over so suddenly.

In addition, Mike did not like the way the whole _Branchell_ business
was being handled. It seemed slipshod and hurried, and, worse, it was
entirely too mysterious and melodramatic.

"Of all the times to have to come to Antarctica," he grumped as the door
of the rocket opened, "why did I have to get July?"

The pilot, a young man in his early twenties, said smugly: "July is bad,
but January isn't good--just not so worse."

Mike the Angel glowered. "Sonny, I was a cadet here when you were
learning arithmetic. It hasn't changed since, summer or winter."

"Sorry, sir," said the pilot stiffly.

"So am I," said Mike the Angel cryptically. "Thanks for the ride."

He pushed open the outer door, pulled his electroparka closer around
him, and stalked off across the walk, through the lashing of the sleety
wind.

He didn't have far to walk--a hundred yards or so--but it was a good
thing that the walk was protected and well within the boundary of
Chilblains Base instead of being out on the Wastelands. Here there were
lights, and the Hotbed equipment of the walk warmed the swirling ice
particles into a sleety rain. On the Wastelands, the utter blackness and
the wind-driven snow would have swallowed him permanently within ten
paces.

He stepped across a curtain of hot air that blew up from a narrow slit
in the deck and found himself in the main foyer of Chilblains Base.

The entrance looked like the entrance to a theater--a big metal and
plastic opening, like a huge room open on one side, with only that sheet
of hot air to protect it from the storm raging outside. The lights and
the small doors leading into the building added to the impression that
this was a theater, not a military base.

But the man who was standing near one of the doors was not by a long
shot dressed as an usher. He wore a sergeant's stripes on his regulation
Space Service parka, which muffled him to the nose, and he came over to
Mike the Angel and said: "Commander Gabriel?"

Mike the Angel nodded as he shook icy drops from his gloved hands, then
fished in his belt pocket for his newly printed ID card.

He handed it to the sergeant, who looked it over, peered at Mike's face,
and saluted. As Mike returned the salute the sergeant said: "Okay, sir;
you can go on in. The security office is past the double door, first
corridor on your right."

Mike the Angel tried his best not to look surprised. "_Security_ office?
Is there a war on or something? What does Chilblains need with a
security office?"

The sergeant shrugged. "Don't ask me, Commander; I just slave away here.
Maybe Lieutenant Nariaki knows something, but I sure don't."

"Thanks, Sergeant."

Mike the Angel went inside, through two insulated and tightly
weather-stripped doors, one right after another, like the air lock on a
spaceship. Once inside the warmth of the corridor, he unzipped his
electroparka, shut off the power, and pushed back the hood with its
fogproof faceplate.

Down the hall, Mike could see an office marked _security officer_ in
small letters without capitals. He walked toward it. There was another
guard at the door who had to see Mike's ID card before Mike was allowed
in.

Lieutenant Tokugawa Nariaki was an average-sized, sleepy-looking
individual with a balding crew cut and a morose expression.

He looked up from his desk as Mike came in, and a hopeful smile tried to
spread itself across his face. "If you are Commander Gabriel," he said
softly, "watch yourself. I may suddenly kiss you out of sheer relief."

"Restrain yourself, then," said Mike the Angel, "because I'm Gabriel."

Nariaki's smile became genuine. "So! Good! The phone has been screaming
at me every half hour for the past five hours. Captain Sir Henry Quill
wants you."

"He would," Mike said. "How do I get to him?"

"You don't just yet," said Nariaki, raising a long, bony, tapering hand.
"There are a few formalities which our guests have to go through."

"Such as?"

"Such as fingerprint and retinal patterns," said Lieutenant Nariaki.

Mike cast his eyes to Heaven in silent appeal, then looked back at the
lieutenant. "Lieutenant, _what_ is going on here? There hasn't been a
security officer in the Space Service for thirty years or more. What am
I suspected of? Spying for the corrupt and evil alien beings of Diomega
Orionis IX?"

Nariaki's oriental face became morose again. "For all I know, you are.
Who knows what's going on around here?" He got up from behind his desk
and led Mike the Angel over to the fingerprinting machine. "Put your
hands in here, Commander ... that's it."

He pushed a button, and, while the machine hummed, he said: "Mine is an
antiquated position, I'll admit. I don't like it any more than you do.
Next thing, they'll put me to work polishing chain-mail armor or make me
commander of a company of musketeers. Or maybe they'll send me to the
18th Outer Mongolian Yak Artillery."

Mike looked at him with narrowed eyes. "Lieutenant, do you actually mean
that you really don't know what's going on here, or are you just
dummying up?"

Nariaki looked at Mike, and for the first time, his face took on the
traditional blank, emotionless look of the "placid Orient." He paused
for long seconds, then said:

"Some of both, Commander. But don't let it worry you. I assure you that
within the next hour you'll know more about Project Brainchild than I've
been able to find out in two years.... Now put your face in here and
keep your eyes open. When you can see the target spot, focus on it and
tell me."

Mike the Angel put his face in the rest for the retinal photos. The soft
foam rubber adjusted around his face, and he was looking into blackness.
He focused his eyes on the dim target circle and waited for his eyes to
grow accustomed to the darkness.

The Security Officer's voice continued. "All I do is make sure that no
unauthorized person comes into Chilblains Base. Other than that, I have
nothing but personal guesses and little trickles of confusing
information, neither of which am I at liberty to discuss."

Mike's irises had dilated to the point that he could see the dim dot in
the center of the target circle, glowing like a dimly visible star.
"Shoot," he said.

There was a dazzling glare of light. Mike pulled his face out of the
padded opening and blinked away the colored after-images.

Lieutenant Nariaki was comparing the fresh fingerprints with the set he
had had on file. "Well," he said, "you have Commander Gabriel's hands,
anyway. If you have his eyes, I'll have to concede that the rest of the
body belongs to him, too."

"How about my soul?" Mike asked dryly.

"Not my province, Commander," Nariaki said as he pulled the retinal
photos out of the machine. "Maybe one of the chaplains would know."

"If this sort of thing is going on all over Chilblains," said Mike the
Angel, "I imagine the Office of Chaplains is doing a booming business in
TS cards."

The lieutenant put the retinal photos in the comparator, took a good
look, and nodded. "You're you," he said. "Give me your ID card."

Mike handed it over, and Nariaki fed it through a printer which stamped
a complex seal in the upper left-hand corner of the card. The lieutenant
signed his name across the seal and handed the card back to Mike.

"That's it," he said. "You can--"

He was interrupted by the chiming of the phone.

"Just a second, Commander," he said as he thumbed the phone switch.

Mike was out of range of the TV pickup, and he couldn't see the face on
the screen, but the voice was so easy to recognize that he didn't need
to see the man.

"Hasn't that triply bedamned rocket landed yet, Lieutenant? Where is
Commander Gabriel?"

Mike knew that Black Bart had already checked on the landing of the
latest rocket; the question was rhetorical.

Mike grinned. "Tell the old tyrant," he said firmly, "that I'll be along
as soon as the Security Officer is through with me."

Nariaki's expression didn't change. "You're through now, Commander,
and--"

"Tell that imitation Apollo to hop it over here fast!" said Quill
sharply. "I'll give him a lesson in tyranny."

There was a click as the intercom shut off.

Nariaki looked at Mike the Angel and shook his head slowly. "Either
you're working your way toward a court-martial or else you know where
Black Bart has the body buried."

"I should," said Mike cryptically. "I helped him bury it. How do I get
to His Despotic Majesty's realm?"

Nariaki considered. "It'll take you five or six minutes. Take the
tubeway to Stage Twelve. Go up the stairway to the surface and take the
first corridor to the left. That'll take you to the loading dock for
that stage. It's an open foyer like the one at the landing field, so
you'll have to put your parka back on. Go down the stairs on the other
side, and you'll be in Area K. One of the guards will tell you where to
go from there. Of course, you could go by tube, but it would take longer
because of the by-pass."

"Good enough. I'll take the short cut. See you. And thanks."



8


The underground tubeway shot Mike the Angel across five miles of track
at high speed. Mike left the car at Stage Twelve and headed up the
stairway and down the corridor to a heavy double door marked _freight
loading_.

He put on his parka and went through the door. The foyer was empty, and,
like the one at the rocket landing, protected from the Antarctic blast
only by a curtain of hot air. Outside that curtain, the light seemed to
lose itself in the darkness of the bleak, snow-filled Wastelands. Mike
ignored the snowscape and headed across the empty foyer to the door
marked _entrance_.

"With a small _e_," Mike muttered to himself. "I wonder if the sign
painter ran out of full caps."

He was five feet from the door when he heard the yell.

"_Help!_"

That was all. Just the one word.

Mike the Angel came to a dead halt and spun around.

The foyer was a large room, about fifty by fifty feet in area and nearly
twenty feet high. And it was quite obviously empty. On the open side,
the sheet of hissing hot air was doing its best to shield the room from
the sixty-below-zero blizzard outside. Opposite the air curtain was a
huge sliding door, closed at the moment, which probably led to a freight
elevator. There were only two other doors leading from the foyer, and
both of them were closed. And Mike knew that no voice could come through
those insulated doors.

"_Help!_"

Mike the Angel swung toward the air curtain. This time there was no
doubt. Someone was out in that howling ice-cloud, screaming for help!

Mike saw the figure--dimly, fleetingly, obscured most of the time by the
driving whiteness. Whoever it was looked as if he were buried to the
waist in snow.

Mike made a quick estimate. It was dark out there, but he could see the
figure; therefore he would be able to see the foyer lights. He wouldn't
get lost. Snapping down the faceplate of his parka hood, he ran through
the protective updraft of the air curtain and charged into the deadly
chill of the Antarctic blizzard.

In spite of the electroparka he was wearing, the going was difficult.
The snow tended to plaster itself against his faceplate, and the wind
kept trying to take him off his feet. He wiped a gloved hand across the
faceplate. Ahead, he could still see the figure waving its arms. Mike
slogged on.

At sixty below, frozen H_{2}O isn't slushy, by any means; it isn't even
slippery. It's more like fine sand than anything else. Mike the Angel
figured he had about thirty feet to go, but after he'd taken eight
steps, the arm-waving figure looked as far off as when he'd started.

Mike stopped and flipped up his faceplate. It felt as though someone had
thrown a handful of razor blades into his face. He winced and yelled,
"What's the trouble?" Then he snapped the plate back into position.

"I'm cold!" came the clear, contralto voice through the howling wind.

A _woman_! thought Mike. "I'm coming!" he bellowed, pushing on. Ten more
steps.

He stopped again. He couldn't see anyone or anything.

He flipped up his faceplate. "Hey!"

No answer.

"Hey!" he called again.

And still there was no answer.

Around Mike the Angel, there was nothing but the swirling, blinding
snow, the screaming, tearing wind, and the blackness of the Antarctic
night.

There was something damned odd going on here. Carefully putting the toe
of his right foot to the rear of the heel of his left, he executed a
one-hundred-eighty-degree military about-face.

And breathed a sigh of relief.

He could still see the lights of the foyer. He had half suspected that
someone was trying to trap him out here, and they might have turned off
the lights.

He swiveled his head around for one last look. He still couldn't see a
sign of anyone. There was nothing he could do but head back and report
the incident. He started slogging back through the gritty snow.

He stepped through the hot-air curtain and flipped up his faceplate.

"Why did you go out in the blizzard?" said a clear, contralto voice
directly behind him.

Mike swung around angrily. "Look, lady, I--"

He stopped.

The lady was no lady.

A few feet away stood a machine. Vaguely humanoid in shape from the
waist up, it was built more like a miniature military tank from the
waist down. It had a pair of black sockets in its head, which Mike took
to be TV cameras of some kind. It had grillwork on either side of its
head, which probably covered microphones, and another grillwork where
the mouth should be. There was no nose.

"What the hell?" asked Mike the Angel of no one in particular.

"I'm Snookums," said the robot.

"Sure you are," said Mike the Angel, backing uneasily toward the door.
"You're Snookums. I couldn't fail not to disagree with you less."

Mike the Angel didn't particularly like being frightened, but he had
never found it a disabling emotion, so he could put up with it if he had
to. But, given his choice, he would have much preferred to be afraid of
something a little less unpredictable, something he knew a little more
about. Something comfortable, like, say, a Bengal tiger or a Kodiak
bear.

"But I really _am_ Snookums," reiterated the clear voice.

Mike's brain was functioning in high gear with overdrive added and the
accelerator floor-boarded. He'd been lured out onto the Wastelands by
this machine--it most definitely could be dangerous.

The robot was obviously a remote-control device. The arms and hands were
of the waldo type used to handle radioactive materials in a hot
lab--four jointed fingers and an opposed thumb, metal duplicates of the
human hand.

But who was on the other end? Who was driving the machine? Who was
saying those inane things over the speaker that served the robot as a
mouth? It was certainly a woman's voice.

Mike was still moving backward, toward the door. The machine that called
itself Snookums wasn't moving toward him, which was some consolation,
but not much. The thing could obviously move faster on those treads than
Mike could on his feet. Especially since Mike was moving backward.

"Would you mind explaining what this is all about, miss?" asked Mike the
Angel. He didn't expect an explanation; he was stalling for time.

"I am not a 'miss,'" said the robot. "I am Snookums."

"Whatever you are, then," said Mike, "would you mind explaining?"

"No," said Snookums, "I wouldn't mind."

Mike's fingers, groping behind him, touched the door handle. But before
he could grasp it, it turned, and the door opened behind him. It hit him
full in the back, and he stumbled forward a couple of steps before
regaining his balance.

A clear contralto voice said: "Oh! I'm _so_ sorry!"

It was the same voice as the robot's!

Mike the Angel swung around to face the second robot.

This time it was a lady.

"I'm sorry," she repeated. She was all wrapped up in an electroparka,
but there was no mistaking the fact that she was both human and
feminine. She came on through the door and looked at the robot.
"Snookums! What are you doing here?"

"I was trying an experiment, Leda," said Snookums. "This man was just
asking me about it. I just wanted to see if he would come if I called
'help.' He did, and I want to know _why_ he did."

The girl flashed a look at Mike. "Would you please tell Snookums why
you went out there? Please--don't be angry or anything--just tell him."

Mike was beginning to get the picture. "I went because I thought I heard
a human being calling for help--and it sounded suspiciously like a
woman."

"Oh," said Snookums, sounding a little downhearted--if a robot can be
said to have a heart. "The reaction was based, then, upon a
misconception. That makes the data invalid. I'll have to try again."

"That won't be necessary, Snookums," the girl said firmly. "This man
went out there because he thought a human life was in danger. He would
not have done it if he had known it was you, because he would have known
that you were not in any danger. You can stand much lower temperatures
than a human being can, you know." She turned to Mike. "Am I correct in
saying that you wouldn't have gone out there if you'd known Snookums was
a robot?"

"Absolutely correct," said Mike the Angel fervently.

She looked back at Snookums. "Don't try that experiment again. It is
dangerous for a human to go out there, even with an electroparka. You
might run the risk of endangering human life."

"Oh dear!" said Snookums. "I'm sorry, Leda!" There was real anxiety in
the voice.

"That's all right, honey," the girl said hurriedly. "This man isn't
hurt, so don't get upset. Come along now, and we'll go back to the lab.
You shouldn't come out like this without permission."

Mike had noticed that the girl had kept one hand on her belt all the
time she was talking--and that her thumb was holding down a small button
on a case attached to the belt.

He had been wondering why, but he didn't have to wonder long.

The door behind him opened again, and four men came out, obviously in a
devil of a hurry. Each one of them was wearing a brassard labeled
SECURITY POLICE.

_At least_, thought Mike the Angel as he turned to look them over, _the
brassards aren't in all lower-case italics_.

One of them jerked a thumb at Mike. "This the guy, Miss Crannon?"

The girl nodded. "That's him. He saw Snookums. Take care of him." She
looked again at Mike. "I'm terribly sorry, really I am. But there's no
help for it." Then, without another word, she opened the door and went
back inside, and the robot rolled in after her.

As the door closed behind her, the SP man nearest Mike, a tough-looking
bozo wearing an ensign's insignia, said: "Let's see your
identification."

Mike realized that his own parka had no insignia of rank on it, but he
didn't like the SP man's tone.

"Come on!" snapped the ensign. "Who are you?"

Mike the Angel pulled out his ID card and handed it to the security cop.
"It tells right there who I am," he said. "That is, if you can read."

The man glared and jerked the card out of Mike's hand, but when he saw
the emblem that Lieutenant Nariaki had stamped on it, his eyes widened.
He looked up at Mike. "I'm sorry, sir; I didn't mean--"

"That tears it," interrupted Mike. "That absolutely tears it. In the
past three minutes I have been apologized to by a woman, a robot, and a
cop. The next thing, a penguin will walk in here, tip his top hat, and
abase himself while he mutters obsequiously in penguinese. Just what
the devil is going _on_ around this place?"

The four SP men were trying hard not to fidget.

"Just security precautions, sir," said the ensign uncomfortably. "Nobody
but those connected with Project Brainchild are supposed to know about
Snookums. If anyone else finds out, we're supposed to take them into
protective custody."

"I'll bet you're widely loved for that," said Mike. "I suppose the
gadget at Miss What's-her-name's belt was an alarm to warn you of
impending disaster?"

"Miss Crannon.... Yes, sir. Everybody on the project carries those
around. Also, Miss Crannon carries a detector for following Snookums
around. She's sort of his keeper, you know."

"No," said Mike the Angel, "I do not know. But I intend to find out. I'm
looking for Captain Quill; where is he?"

The four men looked at each other, then looked back at Mike.

"I don't know, Commander," said the ensign. "I understand that several
new men have come in today, but I don't know all of them. You'd better
talk to Dr. Fitzhugh."

"Such are the beauties of security," said Mike the Angel. "Where can I
find this Dr. Fitzhugh?"

The security man looked at his wrist watch. "He's down in the cafeteria
now, sir. It's coffee time, and Doc Fitzhugh is as regular as a
satellite orbit."

"I'm glad you didn't say 'clockwork,'" Mike told him. "I've had enough
dealings with machines today. Where is this coffee haven?"

The ensign gave directions for reaching the cafeteria, and Mike pushed
open the door marked _entrance_. He had to pass through another inner
door guarded by another pair of SP men who checked his ID card again,
then he had to ramble through hallways that went off at queer angles to
each other, but he finally found the cafeteria.

He nabbed the first passer-by and asked him to point out Dr. Fitzhugh.
The passer-by was obliging; he indicated a smallish, elderly man who was
sitting by himself at one of the tables.

Mike made his way through the tray-carrying hordes that were milling
about, and finally ended up at the table where the smallish man was
sitting.

"Dr. Fitzhugh?" Mike offered his hand. "I'm Commander Gabriel. Minister
Wallingford appointed me Engineering Officer of the _Branchell_."

Dr. Fitzhugh shook Mike's hand with apparent pleasure. "Oh yes. Sit
down, Commander. What can I do for you?"

Mike had already peeled off his electroparka. He hung it over the back
of a chair and said: "Mind if I grab a cup of coffee, Doctor? I've just
come from topside, and I think the cold has made its way clean to my
bones." He paused. "Would you like another cup?"

Dr. Fitzhugh looked at his watch. "I have time for one more, thanks."

By the time Mike had returned with the cups, he had recalled where he
had heard the name Fitzhugh before.

"It just occurred to me," he said as he sat down. "You must be Dr.
_Morris_ Fitzhugh."

Fitzhugh nodded. "That's right." He wore a perpetually worried look,
which made his face look more wrinkled than his fifty years of age would
normally have accounted for. Mike was privately of the opinion that if
Fitzhugh ever really _tried_ to look worried, his ears would meet over
the bridge of his long nose.

"I've read a couple of your articles in the _Journal_," Mike explained,
"but I didn't connect the name until I saw you. I recognized you from
your picture."

Fitzhugh smiled, which merely served to wrinkle his face even more.

Mike the Angel spent the next several minutes feeling the man out, then
he went on to explain what had happened with Snookums out in the foyer,
which launched Dr. Fitzhugh into an explanation.

"He didn't want help, of course; he was merely conducting an experiment.
There are many areas of knowledge in which he is as naïve as a child."

Mike nodded. "It figures. At first I thought he was just a
remote-control tool, but I finally saw that he was a real,
honest-to-goodness robot. Who gave him the idea to make such an
experiment as that?"

"No one at all," said Dr. Fitzhugh. "He's built to make up his own
experiments."

Mike the Angel's classic face regarded the wrinkled one of Dr. Fitzhugh.
"His own experiments? But a robot--"

Fitzhugh held up a bony hand, gesturing for attention and silence. He
got it from Mike.

"Snookums," he said, "is no ordinary robot, Commander."

Mike waited for more. When none came, he said: "So I gather." He sipped
at his black coffee. "That machine I saw is actually a remote-control
tool, isn't it? Snookums' actual brain is in Cargo Hold One of the
_William Branchell_."

"That's right." Dr. Fitzhugh began reaching into various pockets about
his person. He extracted a tobacco pouch, a briar pipe, and a jet-flame
lighter. Then he began speaking as he went through the pipe smoker's
ritual of filling, tamping, and lighting.

"Snookums," he began, "is a self-activating, problem-seeking computer
with input and output sensory and action mechanisms analogous to those
of a human being." He pushed more tobacco into the bowl of his pipe with
a bony forefinger. "He's as close to being a living creature as anything
Man has yet devised."

"What about the synthecells they're making at Boston Med?" Mike asked,
looking innocent.

Fitzhugh's contour-map face wrinkled up even more. "I should have said
'living _intelligence_,'" he corrected himself. "He's a true robot, in
the old original sense of the word; an artificial entity that displays
almost every function of a living, intelligent creature. And, at the
same time, he has the accuracy and speed that is normal to a cryotron
computer."

Mike the Angel said nothing while Fitzhugh fired up his lighter and
directed the jet of flame into the bowl and puffed up great clouds of
smoke which obscured his face.

While the roboticist puffed, Mike let his gaze wander idly over the
other people in the cafeteria. He was wondering how much longer he could
talk to Fitzhugh before Captain Quill began--

And then he saw the redhead.

There is never much point in describing a really beautiful girl. Each
man has his own ideas of what it takes for a girl to be "pretty" or
"fascinating" or "lovely" or almost any other adjective that can be
applied to the noun "girl." But "beautiful" is a cultural concept, at
least as far as females are concerned, and there is no point in
describing a cultural concept. It's one of those things that everybody
knows, and descriptions merely become repetitious and monotonous.

This particular example filled, in every respect, the definition of
"beautiful" according to the culture of the white Americo-European
subclass of the human race as of anno Domini 2087. The elements and
proportions and symmetry fit almost perfectly into the ideal mold. It is
only necessary to fill in some of the minor details which are allowed to
vary without distorting the ideal.

She had red hair and blue eyes and was wearing a green zipsuit.

And she was coming toward the table where Mike and Dr. Fitzhugh were
sitting.

"... such a tremendous number of elements," Dr. Fitzhugh was saying,
"that it was possible--and necessary--to introduce a certain randomity
within the circuit choices themselves-- Ah! Hello, Leda, my dear!"

Mike and Fitzhugh rose from their seats.

"Leda, this is Commander Gabriel, the Engineering Officer of the
_Brainchild_," said Fitzhugh. "Commander, Miss Leda Crannon, our
psychologist."

Mike had been allowing his eyes to wander over the girl, inspecting her
ankles, her hair, and all vital points of interest between. But when he
heard the name "Crannon," his eyes snapped up to meet hers.

He hadn't recognized the girl without her parka and wouldn't have known
her name if the SP ensign hadn't mentioned it. Obviously, she didn't
recognize Mike at all, but there was a troubled look in her blue eyes.

She gave him a puzzled smile. "Haven't we met, Commander?"

Mike grinned. "Hey! That's supposed to be _my_ line, isn't it?"

She flashed him a warm smile, then her eyes widened ever so slightly.
"Your voice! You're the man on the foyer! The one...."

"... the one whom you called copper on," finished Mike agreeably. "But
please don't apologize; you've more than made up for it."

Her smile remained. She evidently liked what she saw. "How was I to know
who you were?"

"It might have been written on my pocket handkerchief," said Mike the
Angel, "but Space Service officers don't carry pocket handkerchiefs."

"What?" The puzzled look had returned.

"Ne' mind," said Mike. "Sit down, won't you?"

"Oh, I can't, thanks. I came to get Fitz; a meeting of the Research
Board has been called, and afterward we have to give a lecture or
something to the officers of the _Brainchild_."

"You mean the _Branchell_?"

Her smile became an impish grin. "You call it what you want. To us, it's
the _Brainchild_."

Dr. Fitzhugh said: "Will you excuse us, Commander? We'll be seeing you
at the briefing later."

Mike nodded. "I'd better get on my way, too. I'll see you."

But he stood there as Leda Crannon and Dr. Fitzhugh walked away. The
girl looked just as divine retreating as she had advancing.



9


Captain Sir Henry (Black Bart) Quill was seated in an old-fashioned,
formyl-covered, overstuffed chair, chewing angrily at the end of an
unlighted cigar. His bald head gleamed like a pink billiard ball, almost
matching the shining glory of his golden insignia against his scarlet
tunic.

Mike the Angel had finally found his way through the maze of underground
passageways to the door marked _wardroom 9_ and had pushed it open
gingerly, halfway hoping that he wouldn't be seen coming in late but not
really believing it would happen.

He was right. Black Bart was staring directly at the door when it slid
open. Mike shrugged inwardly and stepped boldly into the room, flicking
a glance over the faces of the other officers present.

"Well, well, well, Mister Gabriel," said Black Bart. The voice was oily,
but the oil was oil of vitriol. "You not only come late, but you come
incognito. Where is your uniform?"

There was a muffled snicker from one of the junior officers, but it
wasn't muffled enough. Before Mike the Angel could answer, Captain
Quill's head jerked around.

"That will do, Mister Vaneski!" he barked. "Boot ensigns don't snicker
when their superiors--_and_ their betters--are being reprimanded! I only
use sarcasm on officers I respect. Until an officer earns my sarcasm, he
gets nothing but blasting when he goofs off. Understand?"

The last word was addressed to the whole group.

Ensign Vaneski colored, and his youthful face became masklike. "Yes,
sir. Sorry, sir."

Quill didn't even bother to answer; he looked back at Mike the Angel,
who was still standing at attention. Quill's voice resumed its caustic
saccharinity. "But don't let that go to your head, Mister Gabriel. I
repeat: Where is your pretty red spaceman's suit?"

"If the Captain will recall," said Mike, "I had only twenty-four hours'
notice. I couldn't get a new wardrobe in that time. It'll be in on the
next rocket."

Captain Quill was silent for a moment, then he simply said, "Very well,"
thus dismissing the whole subject. He waved Mike the Angel to a seat.
Mike sat.

"We'll dispense with the formal introductions," said Quill. "Commander
Gabriel is our Engineering Officer. The rest of these boys all know each
other, Commander; you and I are the only ones who don't come from
Chilblains Base. You know Commander Jeffers, of course."

Mike nodded and grinned at Peter Jeffers, a lean, bony character who had
a tendency to collapse into chairs as though he had come unhinged.
Jeffers grinned and winked back.

"This is Lieutenant Commander von Liegnitz, Navigation Officer;
Lieutenant Keku, Supply; Lieutenant Mellon, Medical Officer; and Ensign
Vaneski, Maintenance. You can all shake hands with each other later;
right now, let's get on with business." He frowned, overshadowing his
eyes with those great, bushy brows. "What was I saying just before
Commander Gabriel came in?"

Pete Jeffers shifted slightly in his seat. "You were sayin', suh, that
this's the stupidest dam' assignment anybody evah got. Or words to that
effect." Jeffers had been born in Georgia and had moved to the south of
England at the age of ten. Consequently, his accent was far from
standard.

"I think, Mister Jeffers," said Quill, "that I phrased it a bit more
delicately, but that was the essence of it.

"The _Brainchild_, as she has been nicknamed, has been built at great
expense for the purpose of making a single trip. We are to take her, and
her cargo, to a destination known only to myself and von Liegnitz. We
will be followed there by another Service ship, which will bring us back
as passengers." He allowed himself a half-smile. "At least we'll get to
loaf around on the way back."

The others grinned.

"The _Brainchild_ will be left there and, presumably, dismantled."

He took the unlighted cigar out of his mouth, looked at it, and absently
reached in his pocket for a lighter. The deeply tanned young man who had
been introduced as Lieutenant Keku had just lighted a cigarette, so he
proffered his own flame to the captain. Quill puffed his cigar alight
absently and went on.

"It isn't going to be easy. We won't have a chance to give the ship a
shakedown cruise because once we take off we might as well keep
going--which we will.

"You all know what the cargo is--Cargo Hold One contains the greatest
single robotic brain ever built. Our job is to make sure it gets to our
destination in perfect condition."

"Question, sir," said Mike the Angel.

Without moving his head, Captain Quill lifted one huge eyebrow and
glanced in Mike's direction. "Yes?"

"Why didn't C.C. of E. build the brain on whatever planet we're going to
in the first place?"

"We're supposed to be told that in the briefing over at the C.C. of E.
labs in"--he glanced at his watch--"half an hour. But I think we can all
get a little advance information. Most of you men have been around here
long enough to have some idea of what's going on, but I understand that
Mister Vaneski knows somewhat more about robotics than most of us. Do
you have any light to shed on this, Mister Vaneski?"

Mike grinned to himself without letting it show on his face. The skipper
was letting the boot ensign redeem himself after the _faux pas_ he'd
made.

Vaneski started to stand up, but Quill made a slight motion with his
hand and the boy relaxed.

"It's only a guess, sir," he said, "but I think it's because the robot
knows too much."

Quill and the others looked blank, but Mike narrowed his eyes
imperceptibly. Vaneski was practically echoing Mike's own deductions.

"I mean--well, look, sir," Vaneski went on, a little flustered, "they
started to build that thing ten years ago. Eight years ago they started
teaching it. Evidently they didn't see any reason for building it off
Earth then. What I mean is, something must've happened since then to
make them decide to take it off Earth. If they've spent all this much
money to get it away, that must mean that it's dangerous somehow."

"If that's the case," said Captain Quill, "why don't they just shut the
thing off?"

"Well--" Vaneski spread his hands. "I think it's for the same reason. It
knows too much, and they don't want to destroy that knowledge."

"Do you have any idea what that knowledge might be?" Mike the Angel
asked.

"No, sir, I don't. But whatever it is, it's dangerous as hell."

       *       *       *       *       *

The briefing for the officers and men of the _William Branchell_--the
_Brainchild_--was held in a lecture room at the laboratories of the
Computer Corporation of Earth's big Antarctic base.

Captain Quill spoke first, warning everyone that the project was secret
and asking them to pay the strictest attention to what Dr. Morris
Fitzhugh had to say.

Then Fitzhugh got up, his face ridged with nervousness. He assumed the
air of a university professor, launching himself into his speech as
though he were anxious to get through it in a given time without
finishing too early.

"I'm sure you're all familiar with the situation," he said, as though
apologizing to everyone for telling them something they already
knew--the apology of the learned man who doesn't want anyone to think
he's being overly proud of his learning.

"I think, however, we can all get a better picture if we begin at the
beginning and work our way up to the present time.

"The original problem was to build a computer that could learn by
itself. An ordinary computer can be forcibly taught--that is, a
technician can make changes in the circuits which will make the robot do
something differently from the way it was done before, or even make it
do something new.

"But what we wanted was a computer that could learn by itself, a
computer that could make the appropriate changes in its own circuits
without outside physical manipulation.

"It's really not as difficult as it sounds. You've all seen
autoscribers, which can translate spoken words into printed symbols. An
autoscriber is simply a machine which does what you tell it
to--literally. Now, suppose a second computer is connected intimately
with the first in such a manner that the second can, on order, change
the circuits of the first. Then, all that is needed is...."

Mike looked around him while the roboticist went on. The men were
looking pretty bored. They'd come to get a briefing on the reason for
the trip, and all they were getting was a lecture on robotics.

Mike himself wasn't so much interested in the whys and wherefores of the
trip; he was wondering why it was necessary to tell anyone--even the
crew. Why not just pack Snookums up, take him to wherever he was going,
and say nothing about it?

Why explain it to the crew?

"Thus," continued Fitzhugh, "it became necessary to incorporate into the
brain a physical analogue of Lagerglocke's Principle: 'Learning is a
result of an inelastic collision.'

"I won't give it to you symbolically, but the idea is simply that an
organism learns _only_ if it does _not_ completely recover from the
effects of an outside force imposed upon it. If it recovers completely,
it's just as it was before. Consequently, it hasn't learned anything.
The organism _must change_."

He rubbed the bridge of his nose and looked out over the faces of the
men before him. A faint smile came over his wrinkled features.

"Some of you, I know, are wondering why I am boring you with this long
recital. Believe me, it's necessary. I want all of you to understand
that the machine you will have to take care of is not just an ordinary
computer. Every man here has had experience with machinery, from the
very simplest to the relatively complex. You know that you have to be
careful of the kind of information--the kind of external force--you give
a machine.

"If you aim a spaceship at Mars, for instance, and tell it to go
_through_ the planet, it might try to obey, but you'd lose the machine
in the process."

A ripple of laughter went through the men. They were a little more
relaxed now, and Fitzhugh had regained their attention.

"And you must admit," Fitzhugh added, "a spaceship which was given that
sort of information might be dangerous."

This time the laughter was even louder.

"Well, then," the roboticist continued, "if a mechanism is capable of
learning, how do you keep it from becoming dangerous or destroying
itself?

"That was the problem that faced us when we built Snookums.

"So we decided to apply the famous Three Laws of Robotics propounded
over a century ago by a brilliant American biochemist and philosopher.

"Here they are:

"'_One: A robot may not injure a human being, nor, through inaction,
allow a human being to come to harm._'

"'_Two: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except
where such orders would conflict with the First Law._'

"'_Three: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such
protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law._'"

Fitzhugh paused to let his words sink in, then: "Those are the ideal
laws, of course. Even their propounder pointed out that they would be
extremely difficult to put into practice. A robot is a logical machine,
but it becomes somewhat of a problem even to define a human being. Is a
five-year-old competent to give orders to a robot?

"If you define him as a human being, then he can give orders that might
wreck an expensive machine. On the other hand, if you don't define the
five-year-old as human, then the robot is under no compulsion to refrain
from harming the child."

He began delving into his pockets for smoking materials as he went on.

"We took the easy way out. We solved that problem by keeping Snookums
isolated. He has never met any animal except adult human beings. It
would take an awful lot of explaining to make him understand the
difference between, say, a chimpanzee and a man. Why should a hairy pelt
and a relatively low intelligence make a chimp non-human? After all,
some men are pretty hairy, and some are moronic.

"Present company excepted."

More laughter. Mike's opinion of Fitzhugh was beginning to go up. The
man knew when to break pedantry with humor.

"Finally," Fitzhugh said, when the laughter had subsided, "we must ask
what is meant by 'protecting his own existence.' Frankly, we've been
driven frantic by that one. The little humanoid, caterpillar-track
mechanism that we all tend to think of as Snookums isn't really
Snookums, any more than a human being is a hand or an eye. Snookums
wouldn't actually be threatening his own existence unless his brain--now
in the hold of the _William Branchell_--is destroyed."

As Dr. Fitzhugh continued, Mike the Angel listened with about half an
ear. His attention--and the attention of every man in the place--had
been distracted by the entrance of Leda Crannon. She stepped in through
a side door, walked over to Dr. Fitzhugh, and whispered something in his
ear. He nodded, and she left again.

Fitzhugh, when he resumed his speech, was rather more hurried in his
delivery.

"The whole thing can be summed up rather quickly.

"Point One: Snookums' brain contains the information that eight years of
hard work have laboriously put into it. That information is more
valuable than the whole cost of the _William Branchell_; it's worth
billions. So the robot can't be disassembled, or the information would
be lost.

"Point Two: Snookums' mind is a strictly logical one, but it is
operating in a more than logical universe. Consequently, it is unstable.

"Point Three: Snookums was built to conduct his own experiments. To
forbid him to do that would be similar to beating a child for acting
like a child; it would do serious harm to the mind. In Snookums' case,
the randomity of the brain would exceed optimum, and the robot would
become insane.

"Point Four: Emotion is not logical. Snookums can't handle it, except in
a very limited way."

Fitzhugh had been making his points by tapping them off on his fingers
with the stem of his unlighted pipe. Now he shoved the pipe back in his
pocket and clasped his hands behind his back.

"It all adds up to this: Snookums _must_ be allowed the freedom of the
ship. At the same time, every one of us must be careful not to ... to
push the wrong buttons, as it were.

"So here are a few _don'ts_. Don't get angry with Snookums. That would
be as silly as getting sore at a phonograph because it was playing music
you didn't happen to like.

"Don't lie to Snookums. If your lies don't fit in with what he knows to
be true--and they won't, believe me--he will reject the data. But it
would confuse him, because he knows that humans don't lie.

"If Snookums asks you for data, qualify it--even if you know it to be
true. Say: 'There may be an error in my knowledge of this data, but to
the best of my knowledge....'

"Then go ahead and tell him.

"But if you absolutely don't know the answer, tell him so. Say: 'I don't
have that data, Snookums.'

"Don't, unless you are...."

He went on, but it was obvious that the officers and crew of the
_William Branchell_ weren't paying the attention they should. Every one
of them was thinking dark gray thoughts. It was bad enough that they had
to take out a ship like the _Brainchild_, untested and jerry-built as
she was. Was it necessary to have an eight-hundred-pound, moron-genius
child-machine running loose, too?

Evidently, it was.

"To wind it up," Fitzhugh said, "I imagine you are wondering why it's
necessary to take Snookums off Earth. I can only tell you this: Snookums
knows too much about nuclear energy."

Mike the Angel smiled grimly to himself. Ensign Vaneski had been right;
Snookums was dangerous--not only to individuals, but to the whole
planet.

Snookums, too, was a juvenile delinquent.



10


The _Brainchild_ lifted from Antarctica at exactly 2100 hours, Greenwich
time. For three days the officers and men of the ship had worked as
though they were the robots instead of their passenger--or cargo,
depending on your point of view.

Supplies were loaded, and the great engine-generators checked and
rechecked. The ship was ready to go less than two hours before take-off
time.

The last passenger aboard was Snookums, although, in a more proper
sense, he had always been aboard. The little robot rolled up to the
elevator on his treads and was lifted into the body of the ship. Miss
Crannon was waiting for him at the air lock, and Mike the Angel was
standing by. Not that he had any particular interest in watching
Snookums come aboard, but he did have a definite interest in Leda
Crannon.

"Hello, honey," said Miss Crannon as Snookums rolled into the air lock.
"Ready for your ride?"

"Yes, Leda," said Snookums in his contralto voice. He rolled up to her
and took her hand. "Where is my room?"

"Come along; I'll show you in a minute. Do you remember Commander
Gabriel?"

Snookums swiveled his head and regarded Mike.

"Oh yes. He tried to help me."

"Did you need help?" Mike growled in spite of himself.

"Yes. For my experiment. And you offered help. That was very nice. Leda
says it is nice to help people."

Mike the Angel carefully refrained from asking Snookums if he thought he
was people. For all Mike knew, he did.

Mike followed Snookums and Leda Crannon down the companionway.

"What did you do today, honey?" asked Leda.

"Mostly I answered questions for Dr. Fitzhugh," said Snookums. "He asked
me thirty-eight questions. He said I was a great help. I'm nice, too."

"Sure you are, darling," said Miss Crannon.

"Ye gods," muttered Mike the Angel.

"What's the trouble, Commander?" the girl asked, widening her blue eyes.

"Nothing," said Mike the Angel, looking at her innocently with eyes that
were equally blue. "Not a single solitary thing. Snookums is a sweet
little tyke, isn't he?"

Leda Crannon gave him a glorious smile. "I think so. And a lot of fun,
too."

Very seriously, Mike patted Snookums on his shiny steel skull. "How old
are you, little boy?"

Leda Crannon's eyes narrowed, but Mike pretended not to notice while
Snookums said: "Eight years, two months, one day, seven hours,
thirty-three minutes and--ten seconds. But I am not a little boy. I am a
robot."

Mike suppressed an impulse to ask him if he had informed Leda Crannon of
that fact. Mike had been watching the girl for the past three days (at
least, when he'd had the time to watch) and he'd been bothered by the
girl's maternal attitude toward Snookums. She seemed to have wrapped
herself up entirely in the little robot. Of course, that might simply be
her method of avoiding Mike the Angel, but Mike didn't quite believe
that.

"Come along to your room, dear," said Leda. Then she looked again at
Mike. "If you'll wait just a moment, Commander," she said rather
stiffly, "I'd like to talk to you."

Mike the Angel touched his forehead in a gentlemanly salute. "Later,
perhaps, Miss Crannon. Right now, I have to go to the Power Section to
prepare for take-off. We're really going to have fun lifting this brute
against a full Earth gee without rockets."

"Later, then," she said evenly, and hurried off down the corridor with
Snookums.

Mike headed the other way with a sigh of relief. As of right then, he
didn't feel like being given an ear-reaming lecture by a beautiful
redhead. He beetled it toward the Power Section.

       *       *       *       *       *

Chief Powerman's Mate Multhaus was probably the only man in the crew who
came close to being as big as Mike the Angel. Multhaus was two inches
shorter than Mike's six-seven, but he weighed in at two-ninety. As a
powerman, he was tops, and he gave the impression that, as far as power
was concerned, he could have supplied the ship himself by turning the
crank on a hand generator.

But neither Mike nor Multhaus approached the size of the Supply Officer,
Lieutenant Keku. Keku was an absolute giant. Six-eight, three hundred
fifty pounds, and very little of it fat.

When Mike the Angel opened the door of the Power Section's instrument
room, he came upon a strange sight. Lieutenant Keku and Chief Multhaus
were seated across a table from each other, each with his right elbow on
the table, their right hands clasped. The muscles in both massive arms
stood out beneath the scarlet tunics. Neither man was moving.

"Games, children?" asked Mike gently.

_Whap!_ The chief's arm slammed to the table with a bang that sounded as
if the table had shattered. Multhaus had allowed Mike's entrance to
distract him, while Lieutenant Keku had held out just an instant longer.

Both men leaped to their feet, Multhaus valiantly trying not to nurse
his bruised hand.

"Sorry, sir," said Multhaus. "We were just--"

"Ne' mind. I saw. Who usually wins?" Mike asked.

Lieutenant Keku grinned. "Usually he does, Commander. All this beef
doesn't help much against a guy who really has pull. And Chief Multhaus
has it."

Mike looked into the big man's brown eyes. "Try doing push-ups. With all
your weight, it'd really put brawn into you. Sit down and light up.
We've got time before take-off. That is, we do if Multhaus has
everything ready for the check-off."

"I'm ready any time you are, sir," Multhaus said, easing himself into a
chair.

"We'll have a cigarette and then run 'em through."

Keku settled his bulk into a chair and fired up a cigarette. Mike sat on
the edge of the table.

"Philip Keku," Mike said musingly. "Just out of curiosity, what kind of
a name is Keku?"

"Damfino," said the lieutenant. "Sounds Oriental, doesn't it?"

Mike looked the man over carefully, but rapidly. "But you're not
Oriental--or at least, not much. You look Polynesian to me."

"Hit it right on the head, Commander. Hawaiian. My real name's
Kekuanaoa, but nobody could pronounce it, so I shortened it to Keku when
I came in the Service."

Mike gave a short laugh. "That accounts for your size. Kekuanaoa. A
branch of the old Hawaiian royal family, as I recall."

"That's right." The big Hawaiian grinned. "I've got a kid sister that
weighs as much as you. And my granddad kicked off at ninety-four
weighing a comfortable four-ten."

"What'd he die of, sir?" Multhaus asked curiously.

"Concussion and multiple fractures. He slammed a Ford-Studebaker into a
palm tree at ninety miles an hour. Crazy old ox; he was bigger than the
dam' automobile."

The laughter of three big men filled the instrument room.

After a few more minutes of bull throwing, Keku ground out his cigarette
and stood up. "I'd better get to my post; Black Bart will be calling
down any minute."

At that instant the PA system came alive.

"_Now hear this! Now hear this! Take-off in fifteen minutes! Take-off in
fifteen minutes!_"

Keku grinned, saluted Mike the Angel, and walked out the door.

Multhaus gazed after him, looking at the closed door.

"A blinking prophet, Commander," he said. "A blinking prophet."

       *       *       *       *       *

The take-off of the _Brainchild_ was not so easy as it might have
appeared to anyone who watched it from the outside. As far as the
exterior observers were concerned, it seemed to lift into the air with
a loud, thrumming noise, like a huge elevator rising in an invisible
shaft.

It had been built in a deep pit in the polar ice, built around the huge
cryotronic stack that was Snookums' brain. As it rose, electric motors
slid back the roof that covered the pit, and the howling Antarctic winds
roared around it.

Unperturbed, it went on rising.

Inside, Mike the Angel and Chief Multhaus watched worriedly as the
meters wiggled their needles dangerously close to the overload mark. The
thrumming of the ship as it fought its way up against the pull of
Earth's gravity and through the Earth's magnetic field, using the fabric
of space itself as the fulcrum against which it applied its power, was
like the vibration of a note struck somewhere near the bottom of a piano
keyboard, or the rumble of a contra bassoon.

As the intensity of the gravitational field decreased, the velocity of
the ship increased--not linearly, but logarithmically. She shrieked
through the upper atmosphere, quivering like a live thing, and emerged
at last into relatively empty space. When she reached a velocity of a
little over thirty miles per second--relative to the sun, and
perpendicular to the solar ecliptic--Mike the Angel ordered her engines
cut back to the lowest power possible which would still retain the
one-gee interior gravity of the ship and keep the anti-acceleration
fields intact.

"How does she look, Multhaus?" he asked.

Both of the men were checking the readings of the instruments. A
computerman second class was punching the readings into the small table
calculator as Multhaus read off the numbers.

"I think she weathered it, sir," the chief said cautiously, "but she
sure took a devil of a beating. And look at the power factor readings!
We were tossing away energy as though we were S-Doradus or something."

They worked for nearly an hour to check through all the circuits to find
what damage--if any--had been done by the strain of Earth's
gravitational and magnetic fields. All in all, the _Brainchild_ was in
pretty good shape. A few circuits needed retuning, but no replacements
were necessary.

Multhaus, who had been understandably pessimistic about the ship's
ability to lift herself from the surface of even a moderate-sized planet
like Earth, looked with new respect upon the man who had designed the
power plant that had done the job.

Mike the Angel called the bridge and informed Captain Quill that the
ship was ready for full acceleration.

Under control from the bridge, the huge ship yawed until her nose--and
thus the line of thrust along her longitudinal axis--was pointed toward
her destination.

"Full acceleration, Mister Gabriel," said Captain Quill over the
intercom.

Mike the Angel watched the meters climb again as the ship speared away
from the sun at an ever-increasing velocity. Although the apparent
internal acceleration remained at a cozy one gee, the acceleration in
relation to the sun was something fantastic. When the ship reached the
velocity of light, she simply disappeared, as far as external observers
were concerned. But she still kept adding velocity with her tremendous
acceleration.

Finally her engines reached their performance peak. They could drive the
_Brainchild_ no faster. They simply settled down to a steady growl and
pushed the ship at a steady velocity through what the mathematicians
termed "null-space."

The _Brainchild_ was on her way.



11


"What I want to know," said Lieutenant Keku, "is, what kind of ship is
this?"

Mike the Angel chuckled, and Lieutenant Mellon, the Medical Officer,
grinned rather shyly. But young Ensign Vaneski looked puzzled.

"What do you mean, sir?" he asked the huge Hawaiian.

They were sitting over coffee in the officers' wardroom. Captain Quill,
First Officer Jeffers, and Lieutenant Commander von Liegnitz were on the
bridge, and Dr. Fitzhugh and Leda Crannon were down below, giving
Snookums lessons.

Mike looked at Lieutenant Keku, waiting for him to answer Vaneski's
question.

"What do I mean? Just what I said, Mister Vaneski. I want to know what
kind of ship this is. It is obviously not a warship, so we can forget
that classification. It is not an expeditionary ship; we're not
outfitted for exploratory work. Is it a passenger vessel, then? No,
because Dr. Fitzhugh and Miss Crannon are listed as 'civilian technical
advisers' and are therefore legally part of the crew. I'm wondering if
it might be a cargo vessel, though."

"Sure it is," said Ensign Vaneski. "That brain in Cargo Hold One is
cargo, isn't it?"

"I'm not certain," Keku said thoughtfully, looking up at the overhead,
as if the answer might be etched there in the metal. "Since it is built
in as an intrinsic part of the ship, I don't know if it can be counted
as cargo or not." He brought his gaze down to focus on Mike. "What do
you think, Commander?"

Before Mike the Angel could answer, Ensign Vaneski broke in with: "But
the brain is going to be removed when we get to our destination, isn't
it? That makes this a cargo ship!" There was a note of triumph in his
voice.

Lieutenant Keku's gaze didn't waver from Mike's face, nor did he say a
word. For a boot ensign to interrupt like that was an impoliteness that
Keku chose to ignore. He was waiting for Mike's answer as though Vaneski
had said nothing.

But Mike the Angel decided he might as well play along with Keku's gag
and still answer Vaneski. As a full commander, he could overlook
Vaneski's impoliteness to his superiors without ignoring it as Keku was
doing.

"Ah, but the brain _won't_ be unloaded, Mister Vaneski," he said mildly.
"The ship will be _dismantled_--which is an entirely different thing.
I'm afraid you can't call it a cargo ship on those grounds."

Vaneski didn't say anything. His face had gone red and then white, as
though he'd suddenly realized he'd committed a _faux pas_. He nodded his
head a little, to show he understood, but he couldn't seem to find his
voice.

To cover up Vaneski's emotional dilemma, Mike addressed the Medical
Officer. "What do you think, Mister Mellon?"

Mellon cleared his throat. "Well--it seems to me," he said in a dry,
serious tone, "that this is really a medical ship."

Mike blinked. Keku raised his eyebrows. Vaneski swallowed and jerked his
eyes away from Mike's face to look at Mellon--but still he didn't say
anything.

"Elucidate, my dear Doctor," said Mike with interest.

"I diagnose it as a physician," Mellon said in the same dry, earnest
tone. "Snookums, we have been told, is too dangerous to be permitted to
remain on Earth. I take this to mean that he is potentially capable of
doing something that would either harm the planet itself or a
majority--if not all--of the people on it." He picked up his cup of
coffee and took a sip. Nobody interrupted him.

"Snookums has, therefore," he continued, "been removed from Earth in
order to protect the health of that planet, just as one would remove a
potentially malignant tumor from a human body.

"This is a medical ship. Q.E.D." And only then did he smile.

"Aw, now...." Vaneski began. Then he shut his mouth again.

With an inward smile, Mike realized that Ensign Vaneski had been taking
seriously an argument that was strictly a joke.

"Mister Mellon," Mike said, "you win." He hadn't realized that Mellon's
mind could work on that level.

"Hold," said Lieutenant Keku, raising a hand. "I yield to no one in my
admiration for the analysis given by our good doctor; indeed, my
admiration knows no bounds. But I insist we hear from Commander Gabriel
before we adjourn."

"Not me," Mike said, shaking his head. "I know when I'm beaten." He'd
been going to suggest that the _Brainchild_ was a training ship, from
Snookums' "learning" periods, but that seemed rather obvious and puerile
now.

He glanced at his watch, saw the time, and stood up. "Excuse me,
gentlemen; I have things to do." He had an appointment to talk to Leda
Crannon, but he had no intention of broadcasting it.

As he closed the wardroom door, he heard Ensign Vaneski's voice saying:
"I _still_ say this should be classified as a cargo ship."

Mike sighed as he strode on down the companionway. The ensign was, of
course, absolutely correct--which was the sad part about it, really. Oh
well, what the hell.

Leda Crannon had agreed to have coffee with Mike in the office suite she
shared with Dr. Fitzhugh. Mike had had one cup in the officers'
wardroom, but even if he'd had a dozen he'd have been willing to slosh
down a dozen more to talk to Leda Crannon. It was not, he insisted to
himself, that he was in love with the girl, but she had intelligence and
personality in addition to her striking beauty.

Furthermore, she had given Mike the Angel a dressing-down that had been
quite impressive. She had not at all cared for the remarks he had made
when Snookums was being loaded aboard--patting him on the head and
asking him his age, for instance--and had told him so in no uncertain
terms. Mike, feeling sheepish and knowing he was guilty, had accepted
the tongue-lashing and tendered an apology.

And she had smiled and said: "All right. Forget it. I'm sorry I got
mad."

He knew he wasn't the only man aboard who was interested in Leda. Jakob
von Liegnitz, all Teutonic masterfulness and Old World suavity, had
obviously made a favorable impression on her. Lew Mellon was often seen
in deep philosophical discussions with her, his eyes never leaving her
face and his earnest voice low and confidential. Both of them had known
her longer than he had, since they'd both been stationed at Chilblains
Base.

Mike the Angel didn't let either of them worry him. He had enough
confidence in his own personality and abilities to be able to take his
own tack no matter which way the wind blew.

Blithely opening the door of the office, Mike the Angel stepped inside
with a smile on his lips.

"Ah, good afternoon, Commander Gabriel," said Dr. Morris Fitzhugh.

Mike kept the smile on his face. "Leda here?"

Fitzhugh chuckled. "No. Some problems came up with Snookums. She'll be
in session for an hour yet. She asked me to convey her apologies." He
gestured toward the coffee urn. "But the coffee's all made, so you may
as well have a cup."

Mike was thankful he had not had a dozen cups in the wardroom. "I don't
mind if I do, Doctor." He sat down while Fitzhugh poured a cup.

"Cream? Sugar?"

"Black, thanks," Mike said.

There was an awkward silence for a few seconds while Mike sipped at the
hot, black liquid. Then Mike said, "Dr. Fitzhugh, you said, at the
briefing back on Earth, that Snookums knows too much about nuclear
energy. Can you be more specific than that, or is it too hush-hush?"

Fitzhugh took out his briar and began filling it as he spoke. "We don't
want this to get out to the general public, of course," he said
thoughtfully, "but, as a ship's officer, you can be told. I believe
some of your fellow officers know already, although we'd rather it
wasn't discussed in general conversation, even among the officers."

Mike nodded wordlessly.

"Very well, then." Fitzhugh gave the tobacco a final shove with his
thumb. "As a power engineer, you should be acquainted with the 'pinch
effect,' eh?"

It was a rhetorical question. The "pinch effect" had been known for over
a century. A jet of highly ionized gas, moving through a magnetic field
of the proper structure, will tend to pinch down, to become narrower,
rather than to spread apart, as a jet of ordinary gas does. As the
science of magnetohydrodynamics had progressed, the effect had become
more and more controllable, enabling scientists to force the nuclei of
hydrogen, for instance, closer and closer together. At the end of the
last century, the Bending Converter had almost wrecked the economy of
the entire world, since it gave to the world a source of free energy.
Sam Bending's "little black box" converted ordinary water into helium
and oxygen and energy--plenty of energy. A Bending Converter could be
built relatively cheaply and for small-power uses--such as powering a
ship or automobile or manufacturing plant--could literally run on air,
since the moisture content of ordinary air was enough to power the
converter itself with plenty of power left over.

Overnight, all previous forms of power generation had become obsolete.
Who would buy electric power when he could generate his own for next to
nothing? Billions upon billions of dollars worth of generating equipment
were rendered valueless. The great hydroelectric dams, the hundreds of
steam turbines, the heavy-metal atomic reactors--all useless for power
purposes. The value of the stock in those companies dropped to zero and
stayed there. The value of copper metal fell like a bomb, with almost
equally devastating results--for there was no longer any need for the
millions of miles of copper cable that linked the power plants with the
consumer.

The Depression of 1929-42 couldn't even begin to compare with The Great
Depression of 1986-2000. Every civilized nation on Earth had been hit
and hit hard. The resulting governmental collapses would have made the
disaster even more complete had not the then Secretary General of the
UN, Perrot of Monaco, grabbed the reins of government. Like the
Americans Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, he had forced through
unconstitutional bills and taken extra-constitutional powers. And, like
those Americans, he had not done it for personal gain, but to preserve
the society. He had not succeeded in preserving the old society, of
course, but he had built, almost single-handedly, a world government--a
new society on the foundations of the old.

All these thoughts ran through Mike the Angel's mind. He wondered if
Snookums had discovered something that would be as much a disaster to
the world economy as the Bending Converter had been.

Fitzhugh got out his miniature flame thrower and puffed his pipe alight.
"Snookums," he said, "has discovered a method of applying the pinch
effect to lithium hydride. It's a batch reaction rather than a flow
reaction such as the Bending Converter uses. But it's as simple to build
as a Bending Converter."

"Jesus," said Mike the Angel softly.

Lithium hydride. LiH. An atom of hydrogen to every atom of lithium. If a
hydrogen nucleus is driven into the lithium nucleus with sufficient
force, the results are simple:

Li^{7} + H^{1} --> 2He^{4} + energy

An atom of lithium-7 plus an atom of hydrogen-1 yields two atoms of
helium-4 and plenty of energy. One gram of lithium hydride would give
nearly fifty-eight kilowatt-hours of energy in one blast. A pound of the
stuff would be the equivalent of nearly seven _tons_ of TNT.

In addition, it was a nice, clean bomb. Nothing but helium, radiation,
and heat. In the early nineteen fifties, such a bomb had been
constructed by surrounding the LiH with a fission bomb--the so-called
"implosion" technique. But all that heavy metal around the central
reaction created all kinds of radioactive residues which had a tendency
to scatter death for hundreds of miles around.

Now, suppose a man had a pair of tweezers small enough to pick up a
single molecule of lithium hydride and pinch the two nuclei together. Of
course, the idea is ridiculous--that is, the tweezer part is. But if the
pinch could be done in some other way....

Snookums had done it.

"Homemade atomic bombs in your back yard or basement lab," said Mike the
Angel.

Fitzhugh nodded emphatically. "Exactly. We can't let that technique out
until we've found a way to keep people from doing just that. The UN
Government has inspection techniques that prevent anyone from building
the conventional types of thermonuclear bombs, but not the pinch bomb."

Mike the Angel thought over what Dr. Fitzhugh had said. Then he said:
"That's not all of it. Antarctica is isolated enough to keep that
knowledge secret for a long time--at least until safeguards could be
set up. Why take Snookums off Earth?"

"Snookums himself is dangerous," Fitzhugh said. "He has a built-in
'urge' to experiment--to get data. We can keep him from making
experiments that we know will be dangerous by giving him the data, so
that the urge doesn't operate. But if he's on the track of something
totally new....

"Well, you can see what we're up against." He thoughtfully blew a cloud
of smoke. "We think he may be on the track of the total annihilation of
matter."

A dead silence hung in the air. The ultimate, the super-atomic bomb.
Theoretically, the idea had been approached only in the assumption of
contact between ordinary matter and anti-matter, with the two canceling
each other completely to give nothing but energy. Such a bomb would be
nearly fifty thousand times as powerful as the lithium-hydride pinch
bomb. That much energy, released in a few millimicroseconds, would make
the standard H-bomb look like a candle flame on a foggy night.

The LiH pinch bomb could be controlled. By using just a little of the
stuff, it would be possible to limit the destruction to a neighborhood,
or even a single block. A total-annihilation bomb would be much harder
to control. The total annihilation of a single atom of hydrogen would
yield over a thousandth of an erg, and matter just doesn't come in much
smaller packages than that.

"You see," said Fitzhugh, "we _had_ to get him off Earth."

"Either that or stop him from experimenting," Mike said. "And I assume
that wouldn't be good for Snookums."

"To frustrate Snookums would be to destroy all the work we have put into
him. His circuits would tend to exceed optimum randomity, and that would
mean, in human terms, that he would be insane--and therefore worthless.
As a machine, Snookums is worth eighteen billion dollars. The
information we have given him, plus the deductions and computations he
has made from that information, is worth...." He shrugged his shoulders.
"Who knows? How can a price be put on knowledge?"



12


The _William Branchell_--dubbed _Brainchild_--fled Earth at ultralight
velocity, while officers, crew, and technical advisers settled down to
routine. The only thing that disturbed that routine was one particularly
restless part of the ship's cargo.

Snookums was a snoop.

Cut off from the laboratories which had been provided for his special
work at Chilblains, he proceeded to interest himself in the affairs of
the human beings which surrounded him. Until his seventh year, he had
been confined to the company of only a small handful of human beings.
Even while the _William Branchell_ was being built, he hadn't been
allowed any more freedom than was absolutely necessary to keep him from
being frustrated.

Even so, he had developed an interest in humans. Now he was being
allowed full rein in his data-seeking circuits, and he chose to
investigate, not the physical sciences, but the study of Mankind. Since
the proper study of Mankind is Man, Snookums proceeded to study the
people on the ship.

Within three days the officers had evolved a method of
Snookums-evasion.

Lieutenant Commander Jakob von Liegnitz sat in the officers' wardroom of
the _Brainchild_ and shuffled a deck of cards with expert fingers.

He was a medium-sized man, five-eleven or so, with a barrel chest, broad
shoulders, a narrow waist, and lean hips. His light brown hair was worn
rather long, and its straight strands seemed to cling tightly to his
skull. His gray eyes had a perpetual half-squint that made him look
either sleepy or angry, depending on what the rest of his broad face was
doing.

He dealt himself out a board of Four Cards Up and had gone through about
half the pack when Mike the Angel came in with Lieutenant Keku.

"Hello, Jake," said Keku. "What's to do?"

"Get out two more decks," said Mike the Angel, "and we can all play
solitaire."

Von Liegnitz looked up sleepily. "I could probably think of duller
things, Mike, but not just immediately. How about bridge?"

"We'll need a fourth," said Keku. "How about Pete?"

Mike the Angel shook his head. "Black Bart is sleeping--taking his
beauty nap. So Pete has the duty. How about young Vaneski? He's not a
bad partner."

"He is out, too," said von Liegnitz. "He also is on duty."

Mike the Angel lifted an inquisitive eyebrow. "Something busted? Why
should the Maintenance Officer be on duty right now?"

"He is maintaining," said von Liegnitz with deliberate dignity, "peace
and order around here. He is now performing the duty of
Answerman-in-Chief. He's very good at it."

Mike grinned. "Snookums?"

Von Liegnitz scooped the cards off the table and began shuffling them.
"Exactly. As long as Snookums gets his questions answered, he keeps
himself busy. Our young boot ensign has been assigned to the duty of
keeping that mechanical Peeping Tom out of our hair for an hour. By
then, it will be lunch time." He cleared his throat. "We still need a
fourth."

"If you ask me," said Lieutenant Keku, "we need a fifth. Let's play
poker instead."

Jakob von Liegnitz nodded and offered the cards for a cut.

"Deal 'em," said Mike the Angel.

A few minutes less than an hour later, Ensign Vaneski slid open the door
to the wardroom and was greeted by a triune chorus of hellos.

"Sirs," said Vaneski with pseudo formality, "I have done my duty,
exhausting as it was. I demand satisfaction."

Lieutenant Keku, upon seeing Mike the Angel dealt a second eight,
flipped over his up cards and folded.

"Satisfaction?" he asked the ensign.

Vaneski nodded. "One hand of showdown for five clams. I have been
playing encyclopedia for that hunk of animated machinery for an hour.
That's above and beyond the call of duty."

"Raise a half," said Mike the Angel.

"Call," said von Liegnitz.

"Three eights," said Mike, flipping his hole card.

Von Liegnitz shrugged, folded his cards, and watched solemnly while Mike
pulled in the pot.

"Vaneski wants to play showdown for a fiver," said Keku.

Mike the Angel frowned at the ensign for a moment, then relaxed and
nodded. "Not my game," he said, "but if the Answerman wants a chance to
catch up, it's okay with me."

The four men each tossed a five spot into the center of the table and
then cut for deal. Mike got it and started dealing--five cards, face up,
for the pot.

When three cards apiece had been dealt, young Vaneski was ahead with a
king high. On the fourth round he grinned when he got a second king and
Mike dealt himself an ace.

On the fifth round Vaneski got a three, and his face froze as Mike dealt
himself a second ace.

Mike reached for the twenty.

"You deal yourself a mean hand, Commander," said Vaneski evenly.

Mike glanced at him sharply, but there was only a wry grin on the young
ensign's face.

"Luck of the idiot," said Mike as he pocketed the twenty. "It's time for
lunch."

"Next time," said Keku firmly, "I'll take the Answerman watch, Mike. You
and this kraut are too lucky for me."

"If I lose any more to the Angel," von Liegnitz said calmly, "I will be
a very sour kraut. But right now, I'm quite hungry."

Mike prowled around the Power Section that afternoon with a worry
nagging at the back of his mind. He couldn't exactly put his finger on
what was bothering him, and he finally put it down to just plain nerves.

And then he began to feel something--physically.

Within thirty seconds after it began, long before most of the others had
noticed it, Mike the Angel recognized it for what it was. Half a minute
after that, everyone aboard could feel it.

A two-cycle-per-second beat note is inaudible to the human ear. If the
human tympanum can't wiggle any faster than that, the auditory nerves
refuse to transmit the message. The wiggle has to be three or four
octaves above that before the nerves will have anything to do with it.
But if the beat note has enough energy in it, a man doesn't have to hear
it--he can _feel_ it.

The bugs weren't all out of the _Brainchild_, by any means, and the men
knew it. She had taken a devil of a strain on the take-off, and
something was about due to weaken.

It was the external field around the hull that had decided to goof off
this time. It developed a nice, unpleasant two-cycle throb that
threatened to shake the ship apart. It built up rapidly and then leveled
off, giving everyone aboard the feeling that his lunch and his stomach
would soon part company.

The crew was used to it. They'd been on shakedown cruises before, and
they knew that on an interstellar vessel the word "shakedown" can have a
very literal meaning. The beat note wasn't dangerous, but it wasn't
pleasant, either.

Within five minutes everybody aboard had the galloping collywobbles and
the twittering jitters.

Mike and his power crew all knew what to do. They took their stations
and started to work. They had barely started when Captain Quill's voice
came over the intercom.

"Power Section, this is the bridge. How long before we stop this beat
note?"

"No way of telling, sir," said Mike, without taking his eyes off the
meter bank. "Check A-77," he muttered in an aside to Multhaus.

"Can you give me a prognosis?" persisted Quill.

Mike frowned. This wasn't like Black Bart. He knew what the prognosis
was as well as Mike did. "Actually, sir, there's no way of knowing. The
old _Gainsway_ shook like this for eight days before they spotted the
tubes that were causing a four-cycle beat."

"Why can't we spot it right off?" Quill asked.

Mike got it then. Fitzhugh was listening in. Quill wanted Mike the Angel
to substantiate his own statements to the roboticist.

"There are sixteen generator tubes in the hull--two at each end of the
four diagonals of an imaginary cube surrounding the ship. At least two
of them are out of phase; that means that every one of them may have to
be balanced against every other one, and that would make a hundred and
twenty checks. It will take ten minutes if we hit it lucky and find the
bad tubes in the first two tries, and about twenty hours if we hit on
the last try.

"That, of course, is presuming that there are only two out. If there are
three...." He let it hang.

Mike grinned as Dr. Morris Fitzhugh's voice came over the intercom,
confirming his diagnosis of the situation.

"Isn't there any other way?" asked Fitzhugh worriedly. "Can't we stop
the ship and check them, so that we won't be subjected to this?"

"'Fraid not," answered Mike. "In the first place, cutting the external
field would be dangerous, if not deadly. The abrupt deceleration
wouldn't be good for us, even with the internal field operating. In the
second place, we couldn't check the field tubes if they weren't
operating. You can't tell a bad tube just by looking at it. They'd still
have to be balanced against each other, and that would take the same
amount of time as it is going to take anyway, and with the same effects
on the ship. I'm sorry, but we'll just have to put up with it."

"Well, for Heaven's sake do the best you can," Fitzhugh said in a
worried voice. "This beat is shaking Snookums' brain. God knows what
damage it may do unless it's stopped within a very few minutes!"

"I'll do the best I can," said Mike the Angel carefully. "So will every
man in my crew. But about all anyone can do is wish us luck and let us
work."

"Yes," said Dr. Fitzhugh slowly. "Yes. I understand. Thank you,
Commander."

Mike the Angel nodded curtly and went back to work.

Things weren't bad enough as they were. They had to get worse. The
_Brainchild_ had been built too fast, and in too unorthodox a manner.
The steady two-cycle throb did more damage than it would normally have
done aboard a non-experimental ship.

Twelve minutes after the throb started, a feeder valve in the
pre-induction energy chamber developed a positive-feedback oscillation
that threatened to blow out the whole pre-induction stage unless it was
damped. The search for the out-of-phase external field tubes had to be
dropped while the more dangerous flaw was tackled.

Multhaus plugged in an emergency board and began to compensate by hand
while the others searched frantically for the trouble.

Hand compensation of feeder-valve oscillation is pure intuition; if you
wait until the meters show that damping is necessary, it may be too
late--you have to second-guess the machine and figure out what's coming
_before_ it happens and compensate then. You not only have to judge
time, but magnitude; overcompensation is ruinous, too.

Multhaus, the Chief Powerman's Mate, sat behind the emergency board, a
vernier dial in each hand and both eyes on an oscilloscope screen. His
red, beefy face was corded and knotted with tension, and his skin
glistened with oily perspiration. He didn't say a word, and his fingers
barely moved as he held a green line reasonably steady on that screen.

Mike the Angel, using unangelic language in a steady, muttering stream,
worked to find the circuit that held the secret of the ruinous feedback
tendency, while other powermen plugged and unplugged meter jacks,
flipped switches, and juggled tools.

In the midst of all this, in rolled Snookums.

Whether Snookums knew that his own existence was in danger is
problematical. Like the human brain, his own had no pain or sensory
circuits within it; in addition, his knowledge of robotics was small--he
didn't even know that his brain was in Cargo Hold One. He thought it was
in his head, if he thought about it at all.

Nonetheless, he knew _something_ was wrong, and as soon as his
"curiosity" circuits were activated, he set out in search of the
trouble, his little treads rolling at high speed.

Leda Crannon saw him heading down a companionway and called after him.
"Where are you going, Snookums?"

"Looking for data," answered Snookums, slowing a little.

"Wait! I'll come with you!"

Leda Crannon knew perfectly well what effect the throb might have on
Snookums' brain, and when something cracked, she wanted to see what
effect it might have on the behavior of the little robot. Like a hound
after a fox, she followed him through the corridors of the ship.

Up companionways and down, in and out of storerooms, staterooms, control
rooms, and washrooms Snookums scurried, oblivious to the consternation
that sometimes erupted at his sudden appearance. At certain selected
spots, Snookums would stop, put his metal arms on floors and walls,
pause, and then go zooming off in another direction with Leda Crannon
only paces behind him, trying to explain to crewmen as best she could.

If Snookums had been capable of emotion--and Leda Crannon was not as
sure as the roboticists that he wasn't--she would have sworn that he was
having the time of his life.

Seventeen minutes after the throb had begun, Snookums rolled into Power
Section and came to a halt. Something else was wrong.

At first he just stopped by the door and soaked in data. Mike's
muttering; the clipped, staccato conversation of the power crew; the
noises of the tools; the deep throb of the ship itself; the underlying
oddness of the engine vibrations--all these were fed into his
microphonic ears. The scene itself was transmitted to his brain and
recorded. The cryotronic maze in the depths of the ship chewed the whole
thing over. Snookums acted.

Leda Crannon, who had lost ground in trying to keep up with Snookums'
whirling treads, came to the door of Power Section too late to stop the
robot's entrance. She didn't dare call out, because she knew that to do
so would interrupt the men's vital work. All she could do was lean
against the doorjamb and try to catch her breath.

Snookums rolled over to the board where Multhaus was sitting and watched
over his shoulder for perhaps thirty seconds. The crewmen eyed him, but
they were much too busy to do anything. Besides, they were used to his
presence by this time.

Then, in one quick tour of the room, Snookums glanced at every meter in
the place. Not just at the regular operating meters, but also at the
meters in the testing equipment that the power crew had jack-plugged in.

Mike the Angel looked around as he heard the soft purring of the
caterpillar treads. His glance took in both Snookums and Leda Crannon,
who was still gasping at the door. He watched Leda for the space of
three deep breaths, tore his eyes away, looked at what Snookums was
doing, then said: "Get him out of here!" in a stage whisper to Leda.

Snookums was looking over the notations on the meter readings for the
previous few minutes. He had simply picked them up from the desk where
one of the computermen was working and scanned them rapidly before
handing them back.

Before Leda could say anything, Snookums rolled over to Mike the Angel
and said: "Check the lead between the 391-JF and the big DK-37. I think
you'll find that the piping is in phase with the two-cycle note, and
it's become warped and stretched. It's about half a millimeter off--plus
or minus a tenth. The pulse is reaching the DK-37 about four degrees
off, and the gate is closing before it all gets through. That's forcing
the regulator circuit to overcompensate, and...."

Mike didn't listen to any more. He didn't know whether Snookums knew
what he was talking about or not, but he did know that the thing the
robot had mentioned would have had just such an effect.

Mike strode rapidly across the room and flipped up the shield housing
the assembly Snookums had mentioned. The lead was definitely askew.

Mike the Angel snapped orders, and the power crewmen descended on the
scene of the trouble.

Snookums went right on delivering his interpretation of the data, but
everyone ignored him while they worked. Being ignored didn't bother
Snookums in the least.

"... and that, in turn, is making the feeder valve field oscillate," he
finished up, nearly five minutes later.

Mike was glad that Snookums had pinpointed the trouble first and then
had gone on to show why the defect was causing the observed result. He
could just as easily have started with the offending oscillation and
reached the bit about the faulty lead at the end of his speech, except
that he had been built to do it the other way around. Snookums made the
deduction in his superfast mind and then reeled it off backward, as it
were, going from conclusion to premises.

Otherwise, he might have been too late.

The repair didn't take long, once Snookums had found just what needed
repairing. When the job was over, Mike the Angel wiped his hands on a
rag and stood up.

"Thanks, Snookums," he said honestly. "You've been a great help."

Snookums said: "I am smiling. Because I am pleased."

There was no way for him to smile with a steel face, but Mike got the
idea.

Mike turned to the Chief Powerman's Mate. "Okay, Multhaus, shut it off.
She's steady now."

Multhaus just sat there, surrounded by a wall of concentration, his
hands still on the verniers, his eyes still on the screen. He didn't
move.

Mike flipped off the switch. "Come on, Multhaus, snap to. We've still
got that beat note to worry about."

Multhaus blinked dizzily as the green line vanished from his sight. He
jerked his hands off the verniers, and then smiled sheepishly. He had
been sitting there waiting for that green line to move a full minute
after the input signal had ceased.

"Happy hypnosis," said Mike. "Let's get back to finding out which of
those tubes in the hull is giving the external field the willies."

Snookums, who had been listening carefully, rolled up and said,
"Generator tubes three, four, and thirteen. Three is out of phase by--"

"You can tell us later, Snookums," Mike interrupted rapidly. "Right now,
we'll get to work on those tubes. You were right once; I hope you're
right again."

Again the power crew swung into action.

Within five minutes Mike and Multhaus were making the proper adjustments
on the external field circuits to adjust for the wobbling of the output.

The throb wavered. It wobbled around, going up to two-point-seven cycles
and dropping back to one-point-four, then climbing again. All the time,
it was dropping in magnitude, until finally it could no longer be felt.
Finally, it dropped suddenly to a low of point-oh-five cycles, hovered
there for a moment, then vanished altogether.

"By the beard of my sainted maiden aunt," said Chief Multhaus in awe. "A
three-tube offbeat solved in less than half an hour! If that isn't a
record, I'll dye my uniform black and join the Chaplains' Corps."

Leda Crannon, looking tired but somehow pleased, said softly: "May I
come in?"

Mike the Angel grinned. "Sure. Maybe you can--"

The intercom clicked on. "Power Section, this is the bridge." It was
Black Bart. "Are my senses playing me false, or have you stopped that
beat note?"

"All secure, sir," said Mike the Angel. "The system is stable now."

"How many tubes were goofing?"

"Three of them."

"_Three!_" There was astonishment in the captain's voice. "How did you
ever solve a three-tube beat in that short a time?"

Mike the Angel grinned up at the eye in the wall.

"Nothing to it, sir," he said. "A child could have done it."



13


Leda Crannon sat down on the edge of the bunk in Mike the Angel's
stateroom, accepted the cigarette and light that Mike had proffered, and
waited while Mike poured a couple of cups of coffee from the insul-jug
on his desk.

"I wish I could offer you something stronger, but I'm not much of a
drinker myself, so I don't usually take advantage of the officer's
prerogative to smuggle liquor aboard," he said as he handed her the cup.

She smiled up at him. "That's all right; I rarely drink, and when I do,
it's either wine or a _very_ diluted highball. Right now, this coffee
will do me more good."

Mike heard footsteps coming down the companionway. He glanced out
through the door, which he had deliberately left open. Ensign Vaneski
walked by, glanced in, grinned, and went on his way. The kid had good
sense, Mike thought. He hoped any other passers-by would stay out while
he talked to Leda.

"Does a thing like that happen often?" the girl asked. "Not the fast
solution; I mean the beat note."

"No," said Mike the Angel. "Once the system is stabilized, the tubes
tend to keep each other in line. But because of that very tendency, an
offbeat tube won't show itself for a while. The system tries to keep the
bad ones in phase in spite of themselves. But eventually one of them
sort of rebels, and that frees any of the others that are offbeat, so
the bad ones all show at once and we can spot them. When we get all the
bad ones adjusted, the system remains stable for the operating life of
the system."

"And that's the purpose of a shakedown cruise?"

"One of the reasons," agreed Mike. "If the tubes are going to act up,
they'll do it in the first five hundred operating hours--except in
unusual cases. That's one of the things that bothered me about the way
this crate was hashed together."

Her blue eyes widened. "I thought this was a well-built ship."

"Oh, it is, it is--all things considered. It isn't dangerous, if that's
what you're worried about. But it sure as the devil is expensively
wasteful."

She nodded and sipped at her coffee. "I know that. But I don't see any
other way it could have been done."

"Neither do I, right off the bat," Mike admitted. He took a good swallow
of the hot liquid in his cup and said: "I wanted to ask you two
questions. First, what was it that Snookums was doing just before he
came into the Power Section? Black Bart said he'd been galloping all
over the ship, with you at his heels."

Her infectious smile came back. "He was playing seismograph. He was
simply checking the intensity of the vibrations at different points in
the ship. That gave him part of the data he needed to tell you which of
the tubes were acting up."

"I'm beginning to think," said Mike, "that we'll have to start building
a big brain aboard every ship--that is, if we can learn enough about
such monsters from Snookums."

"What was the other question?" Leda asked.

"Oh.... Well, I was wondering just why you are connected with this
project. What does a psychologist have to do with robots? If you'll
pardon my ignorance."

This time she laughed softly, and Mike thought dizzily of the gay
chiming of silver bells. He clamped down firmly on the romantic
wanderings of his mind as she started her explanation.

"I'm a specialist in child psychology, Mike. Actually, I was hired as an
experiment--or, rather, as the result of a wild guess that happened to
work. You see, the first two times Snookums' brain was activated, the
circuits became disoriented."

"You mean," said Mike the Angel, "they went nuts."

She laughed again. "Don't let Fitz hear you say that. He'll tell you
that 'the circuits exceeded their optimum randomity limit.'"

Mike grinned, remembering the time he had driven a robot brain daffy by
bluffing it at poker. "How did that happen?"

"Well, we don't know all the details, but it seems to have something to
do with the slow recovery rate that's necessary for learning. Do you
know anything about Lagerglocke's Principle?"

"Fitzhugh mentioned something about it in the briefing we got before
take-off. Something about a bit of learning being an inelastic rebound."

"That's it. You take a steel ball, for instance, and drop it on a steel
plate from a height of three or four feet. It bounces--almost perfect
elasticity. The next time you drop it, it does the same thing. It hasn't
learned anything.

"But if you drop a lead ball, it doesn't bounce as much, and it will
flatten at the point of contact. _The next time it falls on that flat
side, its behavior will be different._ It has learned something."

Mike rubbed the tip of an index finger over his chin. "These
illustrations are analogues of the human mind?"

"That's right. Some people have minds like steel balls. They can learn,
but you have to hit them pretty hard to make them do it. On the other
hand, some people have minds like glass balls: They can't learn at all.
If you hit them hard enough to make a real impression, they simply
shatter."

"All right. Now what has this got to do with you and Snookums?"

"Patience, boy, patience," Leda said with a grin. "Actually, the
lead-ball analogy is much too simple. An intelligent mind has to have
time to partially recover, you see. Hit it with too many shocks, one
right after another, and it either collapses or refuses to learn or
both.

"The first two times the brain was activated, the roboticists just began
feeding data into the thing as though it were an ordinary computing
machine. They were forcing it to learn too fast; they weren't giving it
time to recover from the shock of learning.

"Just as in the human being, there is a difference between a robot's
brain and a robot's mind. The _brain_ is a physical thing--a bunch of
cryotrons in a helium bath. But the _mind_ is the sum total of all the
data and reaction patterns and so forth that have been built into the
brain or absorbed by it.

"The brain didn't have an opportunity to recover from the learning
shocks when the data was fed in too fast, so the mind cracked. It
couldn't take it. The robot went insane.

"Each time, the roboticists had to deactivate the brain, drain it of all
data, and start over. After the second time, Dr. Fitzhugh decided they
were going about it wrong, so they decided on a different tack."

"I see," said Mike the Angel. "It had to be taught slowly, like a
child."

"Exactly," said Leda. "And who would know more about teaching a child
than a child psychologist?" she added brightly.

Mike looked down at his coffee cup, watching the slight wavering of the
surface as it broke up the reflected light from the glow panels. He had
invited this girl down to his stateroom (he told himself) to get
information about Snookums. But now he realized that information about
the girl herself was far more important.

"How long have you been working with Snookums?" he asked, without
looking up from his coffee.

"Over eight years," she said.

Then Mike looked up. "You know, you hardly look old enough. You don't
look much older than twenty-five."

She smiled--a little shyly, Mike thought. "As Snookums says, 'You're
nice.' I'm twenty-six."

"And you've been working with Snookums since you were eighteen?"

"Uh-huh." She looked, very suddenly, much younger than even the
twenty-five Mike had guessed at. She seemed to be more like a somewhat
bashful teen-ager who had been educated in a convent. "I was what they
call an 'exceptional child.' My mother died when I was seven, and Dad
... well, he just didn't know what to do with a baby girl, I guess. He
was a kind man, and I think he really loved me, but he just didn't know
what to do with me. So when the tests showed that I was ... brighter ...
than the average, he put me in a special school in Italy. Said he didn't
want my mind cramped by being forced to conform to the mental norm.
Maybe he even believed that himself.

"And, too, he didn't approve of public education. He had a lot of odd
ideas.

"Anyway, I saw him during summer vacations and went to school the rest
of the year. He took me all over the world when I was with him, and the
instructors were pretty wonderful people; I'm not sorry that I was
brought up that way. It was a little different from the education that
most children have, but it gave me a chance to use my mind."

"I know the school," said Mike the Angel. "That's the one under the
Cesare Alfieri Institute in Florence?"

"That's it; did you go there?" There was an odd, eager look in her eyes.

Mike shook his head. "Nope. But a friend of mine did. Ever know a guy
named Paulvitch?"

She squealed with delight, as though she'd been playfully pinched. "Sir
Gay? You mean Serge Paulvitch, the Fiend of Florence?" She pronounced
the name properly: "_Sair_-gay," instead of "surge," as too many people
were prone to do.

"Sounds like the same man," Mike admitted, grinning. "As evil-looking as
Satanas himself?"

"That's Sir Gay, all right. Half the girls were scared of him, and I
think _all_ the boys were. He's about three years older than I am, I
guess."

"Why call him Sir Gay?" Mike asked. "Just because of his name?"

"Partly. And partly because he was always such a gentleman. A real
_nice_ guy, if you know what I mean. Do you know him well?"

"_Know_ him? Hell, I couldn't run my business without him."

"Your business?" She blinked. "But he works for--" Then her eyes became
very wide, her mouth opened, and she pointed an index finger at Mike.
"Then you ... you're Mike the Angel! M. R. Gabriel! Sure!" She started
laughing. "I never connected it up! My golly, my golly! I thought you
were just another Space Service commander! Mike the Angel! Well, I'll be
darned!"

She caught her breath. "I'm sorry. I was just so surprised, that's all.
Are you really _the_ M. R. Gabriel, of M. R. Gabriel, Power Design?"

Mike was as close to being nonplused as he cared to be. "Sure," he said.
"You mean you didn't know?"

She shook her head. "No. I thought Mike the Angel was about sixty years
old, a crotchety old genius behind a desk, as eccentric as a comet's
orbit, and wealthier than Croesus. You're just not what I pictured,
that's all."

"Just wait a few more decades," Mike said, laughing. "I'll try to live
up to my reputation."

"So you're Serge's boss. How is he? I haven't seen him since I was
sixteen."

"He's grown a beard," said Mike.

"No!"

"Fact."

"My God, how horrible!" She put her hand over her eyes in mock horror.

"Let's talk about you," said Mike. "You're much prettier than Serge
Paulvitch."

"Well, I should hope so! But really, there's nothing to tell. I went to
school. B.S. at fourteen, M.S. at sixteen, Ph.D. at eighteen. Then I
went to work for C.C. of E., and I've been there ever since. I've never
been engaged, I've never been married, and I'm still a virgin. Anything
else?"

"No runs, no hits, no errors," said Mike the Angel.

She grinned back impishly. "I haven't been up to bat yet, Commander
Gabriel."

"Then I suggest you grab some sort of club to defend yourself, because
I'm going to be in there pitching."

The smile on her face faded, to be replaced by a look that was neither
awe nor surprise, but partook of both.

"You really mean that, don't you?" she asked in a hushed voice.

"I do," said Mike the Angel.

       *       *       *       *       *

Commander Peter Jeffers was in the Control Bridge when Mike the Angel
stepped in through the door. Jeffers was standing with his back to the
door, facing the bank of instruments that gave him a general picture of
the condition of the whole ship.

Overhead, the great dome of the ship's nose allowed the gleaming points
of light from the star field ahead to shine down on those beneath
through the heavy, transparent shield of the cast transite and the
invisible screen of the external field.

Mike walked over and tapped Pete Jeffers on the shoulder.

"Busy?"

Jeffers turned around slowly and grinned. "Hullo, old soul. Naw, I ain't
busy. Nothin' outside but stars, and we don't figger on gettin' too
close to 'em right off the bat. What's the beef?"

"I have," said Mike the Angel succinctly, "goofed."

Jeffers' keen eyes swept analytically over Mike the Angel's face. "You
want a drink? I snuck a spot o' brandy aboard, and just by purty ole
coincidence, there's a bottle right over there in the speaker housing."
Without waiting for an answer, he turned away from Mike and walked
toward the cabinet that held the intercom speaker. Meantime, he went
right on talking.

"Great stuff, brandy. French call it _eau de vie_, and that, in case you
don't know it, means 'water of life.' You want a little, eh, ol' buddy?
Sure you do." By this time, he'd come back with the bottle and a pair of
glasses and was pouring a good dose into each one. "On the other hand,
the Irish gave us our name for whisky. Comes from _uisge-beatha_, and by
some bloody peculiar coincidence, that also means 'water of life.' So
you just set yourself right down here and get some life into you."

Mike sat down at the computer table, and Jeffers sat down across from
him. "Now you just drink on up, buddy-buddy and then tell your ol' Uncle
Pete what the bloody hell the trouble is."

Mike looked at the brandy for a full half minute. Then, with one quick
flip of his wrist and a sudden spasmodic movement of his gullet, he
downed it.

Then he took a deep breath and said: "Do I look as bad as all that?"

"Worse," said Jeffers complacently, meanwhile refilling Mike's glass.
"While we were on active service together, I've seen you go through all
kinds of things and never look like this. What is it? Reaction from
this afternoon's--or, pardon me--_yesterday_ afternoon's emergency?"

Mike glanced up at the chronometer. It was two-thirty in the morning,
Greenwich time. Jeffers held the bridge from midnight till noon, while
Black Bart had the noon to midnight shift.

Still, Mike hadn't realized that it was as late as all that.

He looked at Jeffers' lean, bony face. "Reaction? No, it's not that.
Look, Pete, you know me. Would you say I was a pretty levelheaded guy?"

"Sure."

"My old man always said, 'Never make an enemy accidentally,' and I think
he was right. So I usually think over what I say before I open my big
mouth, don't I?"

Again Jeffers said, "Sure."

"I wouldn't call myself over-cautious," Mike persisted, "but I usually
think a thing through pretty carefully before I act--that is, if I have
time. Right?"

"I'd say so," Jeffers admitted. "I'd say you were about the only guy I
know who does the right thing more than 90 per cent of the time. And
says the right thing more than 99 per cent of the time. So what do you
want? Back-patting, or just hero worship?"

Mike took a small taste of the brandy. "Neither, you jerk. But about
eight hours ago I said something that I hadn't planned to say. I
practically proposed to Leda Crannon without knowing I was going to."

Peter Jeffers didn't laugh. He simply said, "How'd it happen?"

Mike told him.

When Mike had finished, one drink later, Peter Jeffers filled the
glasses for the third time and leaned back in his chair. "Tell me one
thing, ol' buddy, and think about it before you answer. If you had a
chance to get out of it gracefully, would you take back what you said?"

Mike the Angel thought it over. The sweep hand on the chronometer made
its rounds several times before he answered. Then, at last, he said:
"No. No, I wouldn't."

Jeffers pursed his lips, then said judicially: "In that case, you're not
doing badly at all. There's nothing wrong with you except the fact that
you're in love."

Mike downed the third drink fast and stood up. "Thanks, Pete," he said.
"That's what I was afraid of."

"Wait just one stinkin' minute," said Jeffers firmly. "Sit down."

Mike sat.

"What do you intend to do about it?" Jeffers asked.

Mike the Angel grinned at him. "What the hell else can I do but woo and
win the wench?"

Jeffers grinned back at him. "I reckon you know you got competition,
huh?"

"You mean Jake von Liegnitz?" Mike's face darkened. "I have the feeling
he's looking for something that doesn't include a marriage certificate."

"Love sure makes a man sound noble," said Jeffers philosophically. "If
you mean that all he wants is to get Leda into the sack, you're prob'ly
right. Normal reaction, I'd say. Can't blame Jake for that."

"I don't," said Mike. "But that doesn't mean I can't spike his guns."

"Course not. Again, a normal reaction."

"What about Lew Mellon?" Mike asked.

"Lew?" Jeffers raised his eyebrows. "I dunno. I think he likes to talk
to her, is all. But if he _is_ interested, he's bloody well serious.
He's a strict Anglo-Catholic, like yourself."

_I'm not as strict as I ought to be_, Mike thought. "I thought he had a
rather monkish air about him," he said aloud.

Jeffers chuckled. "Yeah, but I don't think he's so ascetic that he
wouldn't marry." His grin broadened. "Now, if we were still at ol'
Chilblains, you'd _really_ have competition. After all, you can't expect
that a gal who's stacked ... pardon me ... who has the magnificent
physical and physiognomical topography of Leda Crannon to spend her life
bein' ignored, now can you?"

"Nope," said Mike the Angel.

"Now, I figger," Jeffers said, "that you can purty much forget about Lew
Mellon. But Jakob von Liegnitz is a chromatically variant equine,
indeed."

Mike shook his head vigorously, as if to clear away the fog. "_Pfui!_
Let's change the subject. My heretofore nimble mind has been coagulated
by a pair of innocent blue eyes. I need my skull stirred up."

"I have a limerick," said Jeffers lightly. "It's about a young spaceman
named Mike, who said: 'I can do as I like!' And to prove his bright
quip, he took a round trip, clear to Sirius B on a bike. Or, the tale of
the pirate, Black Bart, whose head was as hard as his heart. When he
found--"

"Enough!" Mike the Angel held up a hand. "That distillate of fine old
grape has made us both silly. Good night. I'm going to get some sleep."
He stood up and winked at Jeffers. "And thanks for listening while I
bent your ear."

"Any time at all, ol' amoeba. And if you ever feel you need some advice
from an ol' married man, why you just trot right round, and I'll give
you plenty of bad advice."

"At least you're honest," Mike said. "Night."

Mike the Angel left the bridge as Commander Jeffers was putting the
brandy back in its hiding place.

Mike went to his quarters, hit the sack, and spent less than five
minutes getting to sleep. There was nothing worrying him now.

He didn't know how long he'd been asleep when he heard a noise in the
darkness of his room that made him sit up in bed, instantly awake. The
floater under him churned a little, but there was no noise. The room was
silent.

In the utter blackness of the room, Mike the Angel could see nothing,
and he could hear nothing but the all-pervading hum of the ship's
engines. But he could still feel and smell.

He searched back in his memory, trying to place the sound that had
awakened him. It hadn't been loud, merely unusual. It had been a noise
that shouldn't have been made in the stateroom. It had been a quiet
sound, really, but for the life of him, Mike couldn't remember what it
had sounded like.

But the evidence of his nerves told him there was someone else in the
room besides himself. Somewhere near him, something was radiating heat;
it was definitely perceptible in the air-conditioned coolness of his
room. And, too, there was the definite smell of warm oil--machine oil.
It was faint, but it was unmistakable.

And then he knew what the noise had been.

The soft purr of caterpillar treads against the floor!

Casually, Mike the Angel moved his hand to the wall plaque and touched
it lightly. The lights came on, dim and subdued.

"Hello, Snookums," said Mike the Angel gently. "What are you here for?"

The little robot just stood there for a second or two, unmoving, his
waldo hands clasped firmly in front of his chest. Mike suddenly wished
to Heaven that the metallic face could show something that Mike could
read.

"I came for data," said Snookums at last, in the contralto voice that so
resembled the voice of the woman who had trained him.

Mike started to say, "At this time of night?" Then he glanced at his
wrist. It was after seven-thirty in the morning, Greenwich time--which
was also ship time.

"What is it you want?" Mike asked.

"Can you dance?" asked Snookums.

"Yes," said Mike dazedly, "I can dance." For a moment he had the wild
idea that Snookums was going to ask him to do a few turns about the
floor.

"Thank you," said Snookums. His treads whirred, he turned as though on a
pivot, whizzed to the door, opened it, and was gone.

Mike the Angel stared at the door as though trying to see beyond it,
into the depths of the robot's brain itself.

"Now just what was _that_ all about?" he asked aloud.

In the padded silence of the stateroom, there wasn't even an echo to
answer him.



14


Mike the Angel spent the next three days in a pale blue funk which he
struggled valiantly against, at least to prevent it from becoming a deep
blue.

There was something wrong aboard the _Brainchild_, and Mike simply
couldn't quite figure what it was. He found that he wasn't the only one
who had been asked peculiar questions by Snookums. The little robot
seemed to have developed a sudden penchant for asking seemingly inane
questions.

Lieutenant Keku reported with a grin that Snookums had asked him if he
knew who Commander Gabriel _really_ was.

"What'd you say?" Mike had asked.

Keku had spread his hands and said: "I gave him the usual formula about
not being positive of my data, then I told him that you were known as
Mike the Angel and were well known in the power field."

Multhaus reported that Snookums had wanted to know what their
destination was. The chief's only possible answer, of course, had been:
"I don't have that data, Snookums."

Dr. Morris Fitzhugh had become more worried-looking than usual and had
confided to Mike that he, too, wondered why Snookums was asking such
peculiar questions.

"All he'll tell me," the roboticist had reported, wrinkling up his face,
"was that he was collecting data. But he flatly refused, even when
ordered, to tell me what he needed the data for."

Mike stayed away from Leda Crannon as much as possible; shipboard was no
place to try to conduct a romance. Not that he deliberately avoided her
in such a manner as to give offense, but he tried to appear busy at all
times.

She was busy, too. Keeping herd on Snookums was becoming something of a
problem. She had never attempted to watch him all the time. In the first
place, it was physically impossible; in the second place, she didn't
think Snookums would develop properly if he were to be kept under
constant supervision. But now, for the first time, she didn't have the
foggiest notion of what was going on inside the robot's mind, and she
couldn't find out. It puzzled and worried her, and between herself and
Dr. Fitzhugh there were several long conferences on Snookums' peculiar
behavior.

Mike the Angel found himself waiting for something to happen. He hadn't
the slightest notion what it was that he was waiting for, but he was as
certain of its coming as he was of the fact that the Earth was an oblate
spheroid.

But he certainly didn't expect it to begin the way it did.

A quiet evening bridge game is hardly the place for a riot to start.

Pete Jeffers was pounding the pillow in his stateroom; Captain Quill was
on the bridge, checking through the log.

In the officers' wardroom Mike the Angel was looking down at two hands
of cards, wondering whether he'd make his contract. His own hand held
the ace, nine, seven of spades; the ten, six, two of hearts; the jack,
ten, nine, four, three, and deuce of diamonds; and the eight of clubs.

Vaneski, his partner, had bid a club. Keku had answered with a take-out
double. Mike had looked at his hand, figured that since he and Vaneski
were vulnerable, while Keku and von Liegnitz were not, he bid a weakness
pre-empt of three diamonds. Von Liegnitz passed, and Vaneski had
answered back with five diamonds. Keku and Mike had both passed, and von
Liegnitz had doubled.

Now Mike was looking at Vaneski's dummy hand. No spades; the ace, queen,
five, and four of hearts; the queen, eight, seven, and six of diamonds;
and the ace, king, seven, four, and three of clubs.

And von Liegnitz had led the three of hearts.

It didn't look good. His opponents had the ace and king of trumps, and
with von Liegnitz' heart lead, it looked as though he might have to try
a finesse on the king of hearts. Still, there _might_ be another way
out.

Mike threw in the ace from dummy. Keku tossed in his seven, and Mike
threw in his own deuce. He took the next trick with the ace of clubs
from dummy, and the singleton eight in his own hand. The one after that
came from dummy, too; it was the king of clubs, and Mike threw in the
heart six from his own hand. From dummy, he led the three of clubs. Keku
went over it with a jack, but Mike took it with his deuce of diamonds.

He led the seven of spades to get back in dummy so he could use up those
clubs. Dummy took the trick with the six of diamonds, and led out with
the four of clubs.

Mike figured that Keku must--absolutely _must_--have the king of hearts.
Both his take-out double and von Liegnitz' heart lead pointed toward the
king in his hand. Now if....

Vaneski had moved around behind Mike to watch the play. Not one of them
noticed Lieutenant Lew Mellon, the Medical Officer, come into the room.

That is, they knew he had come in, but they had ignored him thereafter.
He was such a colorless nonentity that he simply seemed to fade into the
background of the walls once he had made his entrance.

Mike had taken seven tricks, and, as he had expected, lost the eighth to
von Liegnitz' five of diamonds. When the German led the nine of hearts,
Mike knew he had the game. He put in the queen from dummy, Keku tossed
in his king triumphantly, and Mike topped it with his lowly four of
diamonds.

If, as he suspected, his opponents' ace and king of diamonds were split,
he would get them both by losing the next trick and then make a clean
sweep of the board.

He threw in his nine of diamonds.

He just happened to glance at von Liegnitz as the navigator dropped his
king.

Then he lashed out with one foot, kicking at the leg of von Liegnitz'
chair. At the same time, he yelled, "Jake! Duck!"

He was almost too late. Mellon, his face contorted with a mixture of
anger and hatred, was standing just behind Jakob von Liegnitz. In one
hand was a heavy spanner, which he was bringing down with deadly force
on the navigator's skull.

Von Liegnitz' chair started to topple, and von Liegnitz himself spun
away from the blow. The spanner caught him on the shoulder, and he
grunted in pain, but he kept on moving away from Mellon.

The medic screamed something and lifted the spanner again.

By this time, Keku, too, was on his feet, moving toward Mellon. Mike the
Angel got behind Mellon, trying to grab at the heavy metal tool in
Mellon's hand.

Mellon seemed to sense him, for he jumped sideways, out of Mike's way,
and kicked backward at the same time, catching Mike on the shin with his
heel.

Von Liegnitz had made it to his feet by this time and was blocking the
downward swing of Mellon's arm with his own forearm. His other fist
pistoned out toward Mellon's face. It connected, sending Mellon
staggering backward into Mike the Angel's arms.

Von Liegnitz grabbed the spanner out of Mellon's hand and swung it
toward the medic's jaw. It was only inches away when Keku's hand grasped
the navigator's wrist.

And when the big Hawaiian's hand clamped on, von Liegnitz' hand stopped
almost dead.

Mellon was screaming. "You ----!" He ran out a string of unprintable and
almost un-understandable words. "I'll kill you! I'll do it yet! _You
stay away from Leda Crannon!_"

"Calm down, Doc!" snapped Mike the Angel. "What the hell's the matter
with you, anyway?"

Von Liegnitz was still straining, trying to get away from Keku to take
another swipe at the medic, but the huge Hawaiian held him easily. The
navigator had lapsed into his native German, and most of it was
unintelligible, except for an occasional reference to various improbable
combinations of animal life.

But Mellon was paying no attention. "You! I'll kill you! Lecher!
Dirty-minded, filthy...."

He went on.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, he smashed his heel down on Mike's toe. At
least, he tried to; he'd have done it if the toe had been there when his
heel came down. But Mike moved it just two inches and avoided the blow.

At the same time, though, Mellon twisted, and Mike's forced shift of
position lessened his leverage on the man's shoulders and arms. Mellon
almost got away. One hand grabbed the wrench from von Liegnitz, whose
grip had been weakened by the paralyzing pressure of Keku's fingers.

Mike had no choice but to slam a hard left into the man's solar plexus.
Mellon collapsed like an unoccupied overcoat.

By this time, von Liegnitz had quieted down. "Let go, Keku," he said.
"I'm all right." He looked down at the motionless figure on the deck.
"What the hell do you suppose was eating him?" he asked quietly.

"How's your shoulder?" Mike asked.

"Hurts like the devil, but I don't think it's busted. But why did he do
it?" he repeated.

"Sounds to me," said Keku dryly, "that he was nutty jealous of you. He
didn't like the times you took Leda Crannon to the base movies while we
were at Chilblains."

Jakob von Liegnitz continued to look down at the smaller man in wonder.
"_Lieber Gott_" he said finally. "I only took her out a couple of times.
I knew he liked her, but--" He stopped. "The guy must be off his
bearings."

"I smelled liquor on his breath," said Mike. "Let's get him down to his
stateroom and lock him in until he sobers up. I'll have to report this
to the captain. Can you carry him, Keku?"

Keku nodded and reached down. He put his hands under Mellon's armpits,
lifted him to his feet, and threw him over his shoulder.

"Good," said Mike the Angel. "I'll walk behind you and clop him one if
he wakes up and gets wise."

Vaneski was standing to one side, his face pale, his expression blank.

Mike said: "Jake, you and Vaneski go up and make the report to the
captain. Tell him we'll be up as soon as we've taken care of Mellon."

"Right," said von Liegnitz, massaging his bruised shoulder.

"Okay, Keku," said Mike, "forward march."

       *       *       *       *       *

Lieutenant Keku thumbed the opener to Mellon's stateroom, shoved the
door aside, stepped in, and slapped at the switch plaque. The plates
lighted up, bathing the room in sunshiny brightness.

"Dump him on his sack," said Mike.

While Keku put the unconscious Mellon on his bed, Mike let his gaze
wander around the room. It was neat--almost too neat, implying
overfussiness. The medical reference books were on one shelf, all in
alphabetical order. Another shelf contained a copy of the _International
Encyclopedia_, English edition, plus several dictionaries, including one
on medical terms and another on theological ones.

On the desk lay a copy of the Bible, York translation, opened to the
Book of Tobit. Next to it were several sheets of blank paper and a small
traveling clock sat on them as a paperweight.

His clothing was hung neatly, in the approved regulation manner, with
his shoes in their proper places and his caps all lined up in a row.

Mike walked around the room, looking at everything.

"What's the matter? What're you looking for?" asked Keku.

"His liquor," said Mike the Angel.

"In his desk, lower left-hand drawer. You won't find anything but a
bottle of ruby port; Mellon was never a drinker."

Mike opened the drawer. "I probably won't find that, drunk as he is."

Surprisingly enough, the bottle of wine was almost half full. "Did he
have more than one bottle?" Mike asked.

"Not so far as I know. Like I said, he didn't drink much. One slug of
port before bedtime was about his limit."

Mike frowned. "How does his breath smell to you?"

"Not bad. Two or three drinks, maybe."

"Mmmm." Mike put the bottle on top of the desk, then walked over to the
small case that was standing near one wall. He lifted it and flipped it
open. It was the standard medical kit for Space Service physicians.

The intercom speaker squeaked once before Captain Quill's voice came
over it. "Mister Gabriel?"

"Yes, sir?" said Mike without turning around. There were no eyes in the
private quarters of the officers and crew.

"How is Mister Mellon?" A Space Service physician's doctorate is never
used as a form of address; three out of four Space Service officers have
a doctor's degree of some kind, and there's no point in calling 75 per
cent of the officers "doctor."

Mike glanced across the room. Keku had finished stripping the little
physician to his underclothes and had put a cover over him.

"He's still unconscious, sir, but his breathing sounds all right."

"How's his pulse?"

Keku picked up Mellon's left wrist and applied his fingers to the artery
while he looked at his wrist watch.

Mike said: "We'll check it, sir. Wait a few seconds."

Fifteen seconds later, Keku multiplied by four and said: "One-oh-four
and rather weak."

"You'd better get hold of the Physician's Mate," Mike told Quill. "He's
not in good condition, either mentally or physically."

"Very well. As soon as the mate takes over, you and Mister Keku get up
here. I want to know what the devil has been going on aboard my ship."

"You are bloody well not the only one," said Mike the Angel.



15


Midnight, ship time.

And, as far as the laws of simultaneity would allow, it was midnight in
Greenwich, England. At least, when a ship returned from an interstellar
trip, the ship's chronometer was within a second or two, plus or minus,
of Greenwich time. Theoretically, the molecular vibration clocks
shouldn't vary at all. The fact that they did hadn't yet been
satisfactorily accounted for.

Mike the Angel tried to make himself think of clocks or the variations
in space time or anything else equally dull, in the hope that it would
put him to sleep.

He began to try to work out the derivation of the Beale equations, the
equations which had solved the principle of the no-space drive. The ship
didn't move through space; space moved through the ship, which, of
course, might account for the variation in time, because--

--the time is out of joint.

    _The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
    That ever I was born to set it right!_

_Hamlet_, thought Mike. _Act One, the end of scene five._

But why had he been born to set it right? Besides, exactly what was
wrong? There was something wrong, all right.

And why from the end of the act? Another act to come? Something more to
happen? The clock will go round till another time comes. Watch the
clock, the absolutely cuckoo clock, which ticked as things happened that
made almost no sense and yet had sense hidden in their works.

The good old Keku clock. Somewhere is icumen in, lewdly sing Keku. The
Mellon is ripe and climbing Jakob's ladder. And both of them playing
Follow the Leda.

And where were they heading? Toward some destination in the general
direction of the constellation Cygnus. The transformation equations work
fine on an interstellar ship. Would they work on a man? Wouldn't it be
nice to be able to transform yourself into a swan? Cygnus the Swan.

And we'll _all_ play Follow the Leda....

Somewhere in there, Mike the Angel managed to doze off.

       *       *       *       *       *

He awoke suddenly, and his dream of being a huge black swan vanished,
shattered into nothingness.

This time it had not been a sound that had awakened him. It had been
something else, something more like a cessation of sound. A dying sigh.

He reached out and touched the switch plaque.

Nothing happened.

The room remained dark.

The room was strangely silent. The almost soundless vibration of the
engines was still there, but....

The air conditioners!

The air in the stateroom was unmoving, static. There was none of the
faint breeze of moving air. Something had gone wrong with the low-power
circuits!

Now how the hell could that happen? Not by accident, unless the accident
were a big one. It would take a tremendous amount of coincidence to put
all three of the interacting systems out of order at once. And they all
_had_ to go at once to cut the power from the low-load circuits.

The standard tap and the first and second stand-by taps were no longer
tapping power from the main generators. The intercom was gone, too,
along with the air conditioners, the lights, and half a dozen other
sub-circuits.

Mike the Angel scrambled out of bed and felt for his clothing, wishing
he had something as prosaic as an old-fashioned match, or even a
flame-type cigarette lighter. He found his lighter in his belt pocket as
he pulled on his uniform. He jerked it out and thumbed it. In the utter
darkness, the orange-red glow gave more illumination than he had
supposed. If a man's eyes are adjusted to darkness, he can read print by
the glow of a cigarette, and the lighter's glow was brighter than that.

Still, it wasn't much. If only he had a flashlight!

From a distance, far down the companionway, he could hear voices. The
muffled sound that had awakened him had been the soft susurration of the
door as it had slid open when the power died. Without the electrolocks
to hold it closed, it had opened automatically. The doors in a spaceship
are built that way, to make sure no one will be trapped in case of a
power failure.

Mike dressed in a matter of seconds and headed toward the door.

And stopped just before he stepped out.

Someone was outside. Someone, or--something.

He didn't know _how_ he knew, but he knew. He was as certain as if the
lights had been on bright.

And whoever was waiting out there didn't want Mike the Angel to know
that he was there.

Mike stood silent for a full second. That was long enough for him to get
angry. Not the hot anger of hatred, but the cold anger of a man who has
had too many attempts on his life, who has escaped narrowly from an
unseen plotter twice because of pure luck and does not intend to fall
victim to the dictum that "the third time's a charm."

He realized that he was still holding the glowing cigarette lighter in
his hand.

"Damn!" he muttered, as though to himself. "I'd forget my ears if they
weren't sewed down." Then he turned, heading back toward his bed, hoping
that whoever was waiting outside would assume he would be back
immediately. At the same time, he lifted his thumb off the lighter's
contact.

Then he sat down on the edge of his bed and quickly pulled off his
boots. Holding them both in his hands, he moved silently back to the
door. When he reached it, he tossed both boots to the rear of the room.
When they landed clatteringly, he stepped quietly through the door. In
three steps he was on the opposite side of the corridor. He hugged the
wall and moved back away from the spot where the watcher would be
expecting him.

Then he waited.

He was on one side of the door to his stateroom, and the--what or
whoever it was--was on the other. Until that other made a move, Mike the
Angel would wait.

The wait seemed many minutes long, although Mike knew it couldn't have
been more than forty-five seconds or so. From other parts of the ship he
could hear voices shouting as the crewmen and officers who had been
sleeping were awakened by the men on duty. The ship could not sustain
life long if the air conditioners were dead.

Then, quite suddenly, the waiting was over. Behind Mike there was a bend
in the corridor, and from around that bend came the sound of running
footsteps, followed by a bellowing voice: "I'll get the Commander; you
go down and get the other boys started!"

Multhaus.

And then there was a glow of light. The Chief Powerman's Mate was
carrying a light, which reflected from the walls of the corridor.

And Mike the Angel knew perfectly well that he was silhouetted against
that glow. Whoever it was who was waiting for him could see him plainly.

Multhaus' footsteps rang in the corridor while Mike strained his eyes to
see what was before him in the darkness. And all the time, the glow
became brighter as Multhaus approached.

Then, from out of the darkness, came something that moved on a whir of
caterpillar treads. Something hard and metallic slammed against Mike's
shoulder, spinning him against the wall.

At that moment, Multhaus came around the corner, and Mike could see
Snookums scurrying on down the corridor toward the approaching
Powerman's Mate.

"Multhaus! Look out!" Mike yelled.

The beam from the chief's hand torch gleamed on the metallic body of the
little robot as it headed toward him.

"Snookums! Stop!" Mike ordered.

Snookums paid no attention. He swerved adroitly around the astonished
Multhaus, spun around the corner, and was gone into the darkness.

"What was all that, sir?" Multhaus asked, looking more than somewhat
confused.

"A course of instruction on the First and Second Laws of Robotics as
applied by the Computer Corporation of Earth," said Mike, rubbing his
bruised side. "But never mind that now. What's wrong with the low-power
circuits?"

"I don't know, sir. Breckwell is on duty in that section."

"Let's go," said Mike the Angel. "We have to get this cleared up before
we all suffocate."

"Someone's going to get galloping claustrophobia before it's over,
anyway," said Multhaus morosely as he followed Mike down the hallway in
the direction from which Snookums had come. "Darkness and stuffy air
touch off that sort of thing."

"Who's Officer of the Watch tonight?" Mike wanted to know.

"Ensign Vaneski, I think. His name was on the roster, as I remember."

"I hope he reported to the bridge. Commander Jeffers will be getting
frantic, but he can't leave the bridge unless he's relieved. Come on,
let's move."

They sprinted down the companionway.

       *       *       *       *       *

The lights had been out less than five minutes when Mike the Angel and
Chief Powerman's Mate Multhaus reached the low-power center of the Power
Section. The door was open, and a torch was spearing its beam on two
men--one kneeling over the prone figure of the other. The kneeling man
jerked his head around as Mike and the chief came in the door.

The kneeling man was Powerman First Class Fleck. Mike recognized the man
on the floor as Powerman Third Class Breckwell.

"What happened?" he snapped at Fleck.

"Don't know, sir. I was in the head when the lights went. It took me a
little time to get a torch and get in here, and I found Breckwell gone.
At least, I thought he was gone, but then I heard a noise from the tool
cabinet and I opened it and he fell out." The words seemed to come out
all in a rush.

"Dead?" asked Mike sharply.

"Nossir, I don't think so, sir. Looks like somebody clonked him on the
head, but he's breathin' all right."

Mike knelt over the man and took his pulse. The heartbeat was regular
and steady, if a trifle weak. Mike ran a hand over Breckwell's head.

"There's a knot there the size of a golf ball, but I don't think
anything's broken," he said.

Footsteps came running down the hall, and six men of the power crew came
pouring in the door. They slowed to a halt when they saw their
commanding officer was already there.

"A couple of you take care of Breckwell--Leister, Knox--move him to one
side. Bathe his face with water. No, wait; you can't do that till we get
the pumps moving again. Just watch him."

One of the men coughed a little. "What he needs is a good slug of
hooch."

"I agree," said Mike evenly. "Too bad there isn't any aboard. But do
what you think is best; I'm going to be too busy to keep an eye on you.
I won't be able to watch you at all, so you'll be on your own."

"Yessir," said the man who had spoken. He hid his grin and took out at a
run, heading for wherever it was he kept his bottle hidden.

"Dunstan, you and Ghihara get out and watch the halls. If any other
officer comes this way, sing out."

"Yessir!" came the twin chorus.

More footsteps pounded toward them, and the remaining men of the power
crew arrived.

"All right, now let's take a look at these circuits," said Mike.

Chief Multhaus had already flipped open all the panels and was peering
inside. The men lined the torches up on the desk in the corner, in order
to shed as much light as possible over the banks of low-power wiring,
and went over to where Multhaus and Mike the Angel were standing.

"Dig out three replacement switches--heavy-duty six-double-oh-B-nines,"
said Multhaus. There was a touch of disgust and a good-sized serving of
anger and irritation in his voice.

Mike the Angel surveyed the damage. "See anything else, Multhaus?"

"No, sir. That's it."

Mike nodded. "About five minutes' work to get the main switch going,
which will give us power, and another ten minutes for the first and
second stand-bys. Go ahead and take over, Multhaus; you won't need me.
I'll go find out what the bloody unprintable is going on around here."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mike the Angel ran into Captain Sir Henry Quill as he went up the
companionway to the bridge.

"What happened?" demanded the captain in his gravelly tenor voice.

"Somebody ripped out the main switches to the low-power taps from the
main generators, sir," said Mike. "Nothing to worry about. The boys will
have the lights on within three or four minutes."

"Who...?"

"I don't know," said Mike, "but we'd better find out pretty fast.
There've been too many things going on aboard this ship to suit me."

"Same here. Are you sure everything's all right down there?"

"Absolutely, sir. We can quit worrying about the damage itself and put
our minds to finding out who did that damage."

"Do you have any ideas?"

"Some," said Mike the Angel. "As soon as the intercom is functioning
again, I think you'd better call a general meeting of officers--and get
Miss Crannon and Fitzhugh out of bed and get them up here, too."

"Why?" Black Bart asked flatly.

"Because Snookums has gone off his rocker. He's attacked at least one
human being that I know of and has ignored direct orders from a human
being."

"Who?" asked Black Bart.

"Me," said Mike the Angel.

Mike told Captain Quill what had happened as they made their way back up
to the bridge.

Ensign Vaneski, looking pale and worried, met them at the door. He
snapped a salute. "I just reported to Commander Jeffers, sir.
Something's wrong with the low-power circuits."

"I had surmised as much," said Black Bart caustically. "Anything new?
What did you find out? What happened?"

"When the lights went out, I was having coffee by myself in the
wardroom. I grabbed a torch and headed for Power Section as soon as I
could. The low-power room was empty. There should have been a man on
duty there, but there wasn't. I didn't want to go inside, since I'm not
a power officer, so I came up here to report. I--"

At that moment the lights blazed on again. There was a faint hum that
built up all over the ship as the air conditioning came on at the same
time.

"All right, Mister Vaneski," said Black Bart, "get below and take care
of things. There's a man hurt down there, so be ready to take him to
sick bay when the Physician's Mate gets there. We don't have a medic in
any condition to take care of people, so he'll have to do. Hop it."

As Vaneski left, Black Bart preceded Mike into the bridge. Pete Jeffers
was on the intercom. As Mike and the captain came in, he was saying,
"All right. I'll notify the Officer of the Watch, and we'll search the
ship. He can't hide very long." Then, without waiting to say anything to
Mike or Quill, he jabbed at another button. "Mister von Liegnitz! Jake!"

"_Ja?_ Huh? What is it?" came a fuzzy voice from the speaker.

"You all right?"

"Me? Sure. I was asleep. Why?"

"Be on your toes, sleepyhead; just got word that Mellon has escaped from
his stateroom. He may try to take another crack at you."

"I'll watch it," said von Liegnitz, his voice crisp now.

"Okay." Jeffers sighed and looked up. "As soon as the power came on,
the Physician's Mate was on the intercom. Mellon isn't in his
stateroom."

"Oh, wonderful!" growled Captain Quill. "We now have one insane robot
and one insane human running loose on this ship. I'm glad we didn't
bring any gorillas with us."

"Somehow I think I'd be safer with a gorilla," said Mike the Angel.

"According to the Physician's Mate, Mellon is worse than just nuts,"
said Jeffers quietly. "He says he loaded Mellon full of dope to make him
sleep and that the man's got no right to be walkin' around at all."

"He must have gotten out while the doors were open," said Captain Quill.
He rubbed the palm of his hand over the shiny pinkness of his scalp. His
dark, shaggy brows were down over his eyes, as though they had been
weighted with lead.

"Mister Jeffers," he said abruptly, "break out the stun guns. Issue one
to each officer and one to each chief non-com. Until we get this
straightened out, I'm declaring a state of emergency."



16


Mike the Angel hefted the heavy stun gun in his right fist, feeling its
weight without really noticing it. He knew damned good and well it
wouldn't be of any use against Snookums. If Mellon came at him, the
supersonic beam from the gun would affect his nerves the same way an
electric current would, and he'd collapse, unconscious but relatively
unharmed. But Mike doubted seriously that it would have any effect at
all on the metal body of the robot. It is as difficult to jolt the
nerves of a robot as it is to blind an oyster.

Snookums did have sensory devices that enabled him to tell what was
going on around him, but they were not nerves in the ordinary sense of
the word, and a stun gun certainly wouldn't have the same effect.

He wondered just what effect it _would_ have--if any.

He was going down the main ladder--actually a long spiral stairway that
led downward from the bridge. Behind him were Chief Multhaus, also armed
with a stun gun, and four members of the power crew, each armed with a
heavy spanner. Mike or the chief could take care of Mellon; it would be
the crew's job to take care of Snookums.

"Smash his treads and his waldoes," Mike had told them, "but only if he
attacks. Before you try anything else, give him an order to halt. If he
keeps on coming, start swinging." And, to Chief Multhaus: "If Mellon
jumps me, fire that stun gun only if he's armed with a knife or a gun.
But if you do have to fire at Mellon, don't wait to get in a good shot;
just go ahead and knock us both out. I'd rather be asleep than dead.
Okay?"

Multhaus had agreed. "The same goes for me, Commander. And the rest of
the boys."

So down the ladder they went. Mike hoped there'd be no fighting at all.
He had the feeling that everything was all wrong, somehow, and that any
use of stun guns or spanners would just make everything worse.

His wasn't the only group looking for Snookums and Mellon. Lieutenant
Keku had another group, and Commander Jeffers had a third. Lieutenant
Commander von Liegnitz was with Captain Quill on the bridge. Mellon had
already attacked von Liegnitz once; the captain didn't want them mixing
it up again.

Captain Quill's voice came suddenly from a speaker in the overhead.
"Miss Crannon and Dr. Fitzhugh have just spoken to me," he said in his
brisk tenor. "Snookums is safe in his own room. I have outlined what has
happened, and they're trying to get information from Snookums now.
Lieutenant Mellon is still missing."

"One down," said Chief Multhaus. There was relief in his voice.

"Let's see if we can find the other one," said Mike the Angel.

They went down perhaps three more steps, and the speakers came to life
again. "Will the Chief Physician's Mate report to Commander Jeffers in
the maintenance tool room? Lieutenant Keku, dismiss your men to quarters
and report to the bridge. Commander Gabriel, dismiss your men to
quarters and report to Commander Jeffers in maintenance. All chief
non-coms report to the ordnance room to turn in your weapons. All
enlisted men return to your posts or to quarters."

Mike the Angel holstered his stun gun. "That's two down," he said to
Chief Multhaus.

"Looks like we missed all the fun," said Multhaus.

"Okay, men," Mike said, "you got the word. Take those spanners back to
the tool room in Power Section, and then get back to your quarters.
Chief, you go with them and secure everything, then take that stun gun
back to ordnance."

"Yessir."

Multhaus threw Mike a salute; Mike returned it and headed toward
maintenance. He knew Multhaus and the others were curious, but he was
just as curious himself. He had the advantage of being in a position to
satisfy his curiosity.

The maintenance tool room was big and lined with tool lockers. One of
them was open. Sprawled in front of it was Lieutenant Mellon. Over to
one side was Commander Jeffers, standing next to a white-faced Ensign
Vaneski. Nearby were a chief non-com and three enlisted men.

"Hullo, Mike," Pete Jeffers said as Mike the Angel came in.

"What happened, Pete?" Mike asked.

Jeffers gestured at the sprawled figure on the floor. "We came in here
to search. We found him. Mister Vaneski opened the locker, there, for a
look-see, and Mellon jumped out at him. Vaneski fired his stun gun.
Mellon collapsed to the deck. He's in bad shape; his pulse is so weak
that it's hard to find."

Mike the Angel walked over and looked down at the fallen Medical
Officer. His face was waxen, and he looked utterly small and harmless.

"What happened?" asked another voice from the door. It was Chief
Physician's Mate Pierre Pasteur. He was a smallish man, well rounded,
pleasant-faced, and inordinately proud of his name. He couldn't actually
prove that he was really descended from the great Louis, but he didn't
allow people to think otherwise. Like most C. Phys. M.'s, he had a
doctor of medicine degree but no internship in the Space Service. He was
working toward his commission.

"We've got a patient for you," said Jeffers. "Better look him over,
Chief."

Chief Pasteur walked over to where Mellon lay and took his stethoscope
out of his little black bag. He listened to Mellon's chest for a few
seconds. Then he pried open an eyelid and looked closely at an eye.
"What happened to him?" he asked, without looking up.

"Got hit with a beam from a stun gun," said Jeffers.

"How did he fall? Did he hit his head?"

"I don't know--maybe." He looked at Ensign Vaneski. "Did he, Mister
Vaneski? He was right on top of you; I was across the room."

Vaneski swallowed. "I don't know. He--he just sort of--well, he _fell_."

"You didn't catch him?" asked the chief. He was a physician on a case
now and had no time for sirring his superiors.

"No. No. I jumped away from him."

"Why? What's the trouble?" Jeffers asked.

"He's dead," said the Chief Physician's Mate.



17


Leda Crannon was standing outside the cubicle that had been built for
Snookums. Her back and the palms of her hands were pressed against the
door. Her head was bowed, and her red hair, shining like a hellish flame
in the light of the glow panels, fell around her shoulders and cheeks,
almost covering her face.

"Leda," said Mike the Angel gently.

She looked up. There were tears in her blue eyes.

"Mike! Oh, Mike!" She ran toward him, put her arms around him, and tried
to bury her face in Mike's chest.

"What's the matter, honey? What's happened?" He was certain she couldn't
have heard about Mellon's death yet. He held her in his arms, carefully,
tenderly, not passionately.

"He's crazy, Mike. He's completely crazy." Her voice had suddenly lost
everything that gave it color. It was only dead and choked.

Mike the Angel knew it was an emotional reaction. As a psychologist, she
would never have used the word "crazy." But as a woman ... as a human
being....

"Fitz is still in there talking to him, but he's--he's--" Her voice
choked off again into sobs.

Mike waited patiently, holding her, caressing her hair.

"Eight years," she said after a minute or so. "Eight years I spent. And
now he's gone. He's broken."

"How do you know?" Mike asked.

She lifted her head and looked at him. "Mike--did he really hit you? Did
he refuse to stop when you ordered him to? What _really_ happened?"

Mike told her what had happened in the darkened companionway just
outside his room.

When he finished, she began sobbing again. "He's lying, Mike," she said.
"_Lying!_"

Mike nodded silently and slowly. Leda Crannon had spent all of her adult
life tending the hurts and bruises and aches of Snookums the Child. She
had educated him, cared for him, taken pleasure in his triumphs, worried
about his health, and watched him grow mentally.

And now he was sick, broken, ruined. And, like all parents, she was
asking herself: "What did I do wrong?"

Mike the Angel didn't give her an answer to that unspoken question, but
he knew what the answer was in so many cases:

The grieving parent has not necessarily done anything wrong. It may
simply be that there was insufficient or poor-quality material to work
with.

With a human child, it is even more humiliating for a parent to admit
that he or she has contributed inferior genetic material to a child than
it is to admit a failure in upbringing. Leda's case was different.

Leda had lost her child, but Mike hesitated to point out that it wasn't
her fault in the first place because the material wasn't up to the task
she had given it, and in the second place because she hadn't really
lost anything. She was still playing with dolls, not human beings.

"Hell!" said Mike under his breath, not realizing that he was
practically whispering in her ear.

"Isn't it?" she said. "Isn't it Hell? I spent eight years trying to make
that little mind of his tick properly. I wanted to know what was the
right, proper, and logical way to bring up children. I had a theory, and
I wanted to test it. And now I'll never know."

"What sort of theory?" Mike asked.

She sniffled, took a handkerchief from her pocket, and began wiping at
her tears. Mike took the handkerchief away from her and did the wiping
job himself. "What's this theory?" he said.

"Oh, it isn't important now. But I felt--I still feel--that everybody is
born with a sort of Three Laws of Robotics in him. You know what I
mean--that a person wouldn't kill or harm anyone, or refuse to do what
was right, in addition to trying to preserve his own life. I think
babies are born that way. But I think that the information they're given
when they're growing up can warp them. They still think they're obeying
the laws, but they're obeying them wrongly, if you see what I mean."

Mike nodded without saying anything. This was no time to interrupt her.

"For instance," she went on, "if my theory's right, then a child would
never disobey his father--unless he was convinced that the man was not
really his father, you see. For instance, if he learned, very early,
that his father never spanks him, that becomes one of the identifying
marks of 'father.' Fine. But the first time his father _does_ spank him,
doubt enters. If that sort of thing goes on, he becomes disobedient
because he doesn't believe that the man is his father.

"I'm afraid I'm putting it a little crudely, but you get the idea."

"Yeah," said Mike. For all he knew, there might be some merit in the
girl's idea; he knew that philosophers had talked of the "basic goodness
of mankind" for centuries. But he had a hunch that Leda was going about
it wrong. Still, this was no time to argue with her. She seemed calmer
now, and he didn't want to upset her any more than he had to.

"That's what you've been working on with Snookums?" he asked.

"That's it."

"For eight years?"

"For eight years."

"Is that the information, the data, that makes Snookums so priceless,
aside from his nucleonics work?"

She smiled a little then. "Oh no. Of course not, silly. He's been fed
data on everything--physics, subphysics, chemistry, mathematics--all
kinds of things. Most of the major research laboratories on Earth have
problems of one kind or another that Snookums has been working on. He
hasn't been given the problem _I_ was working on at all; it would bias
him." Then the tears came back. "And now it doesn't matter. He's insane.
He's lying."

"What's he saying?"

"He insists that he's never broken the First Law, that he has never hurt
a human being. And he insists that he has followed the orders of human
beings, according to the Second Law."

"May I talk to him?" Mike asked.

She shook her head. "Fitz is running him through an analysis. He even
made me leave." Then she looked at his face more closely. "You don't
just want to confront him and call him a liar, do you? No--that's not
like you. You know he's just a machine--better than I do, I guess....
What is it, Mike?"

_No_, he thought, looking at her, _she still thinks he's human.
Otherwise, she'd know that a computer can't lie--not in the human sense
of the word._

_Most people, if told that a man had said one thing, and that a computer
had given a different answer, would rely on the computer._

"What is it, Mike?" she repeated.

"Lew Mellon," he said very quietly, "is dead."

The blood drained from her face, leaving her skin stark against the
bright red of her hair. For a moment he thought she was going to faint.
Then a little of the color came back.

"Snookums." Her voice was whispery.

He shook his head. "No. Apparently he tried to jump Vaneski and got hit
with a stun beam. It shouldn't have killed him--but apparently it did."

"God, God, God," she said softly. "Here I've been crying about a damned
machine, and poor Lew has been lying up there dead." She buried her face
in her hands, and her voice was muffled when she spoke again. "And I'm
all cried out, Mike. I can't cry any more."

Before Mike could make up his mind whether to say anything or not, the
door of Snookums' room opened and Dr. Fitzhugh came out, closing the
door behind him. There was an odd, stricken look on his face. He looked
at Leda and then at Mike, but the expression on his face showed that he
really hadn't seen them clearly.

"Did you ever wonder if a robot had a soul, Mike?" he asked in a
wondering tone.

"No," Mike admitted.

Leda took her hands from her face and looked at him. Her expression was
a bright blank stare.

"He won't answer my questions," Fitzhugh said in a hushed tone. "I can't
complete the analysis."

"What's that got to do with his soul?" Mike asked.

"He won't answer my questions," Fitzhugh repeated, looking earnestly at
Mike. "He says God won't allow him to."



18


Captain Sir Henry Quill opened the door of the late Lieutenant Mellon's
quarters and went in, followed by Mike the Angel. The dead man's gear
had to be packed away so that it could be given to his nearest of kin
when the officers and crew of the _Brainchild_ returned to Earth.
Regulations provided that two officers must inventory his personal
effects and those belonging to the Space Service.

"Does Chief Pasteur know what killed him yet, Captain?" Mike asked.

Quill shook his head. "No. He wants my permission to perform an
autopsy."

"Are you going to let him?"

"I think not. We'll put the body in the freezer and have the autopsy
performed on Earth." He looked around the room, seeing it for the first
time.

"If you don't," said Mike, "you've got three suspected killers on your
hands."

Quill was unperturbed. "Don't be ridiculous, Golden Wings."

"I'm not," Mike said. "I hit him in the pit of his stomach. Chief
Pasteur filled him full of sedative. Mister Vaneski shot him with a
stun beam. He died. Which one of us did it?"

"Probably no single one of them, but a combination of all three," said
Captain Quill. "Each action was performed in the line of duty and
without malice aforethought--without even intent to harm permanently,
much less to kill. There will have to be a court-martial, of course--or,
at the very least, a board of inquiry will be appointed. But I am
certain you'll all come through any such inquiry scatheless." He picked
up a book from Mellon's desk. "Let's get about our business, Mister
Gabriel. Mark down: Bible, one."

Mike put it down on the list.

"_International Encyclopedia_, English edition. Thirty volumes and
index."

Mike put it down.

"_The Oxford-Webster Dictionary of the English Language_--

"_Hallbert's Dictionary of Medical Terms_--

"_The Canterbury Theological Dictionary_--

"_The Christian Religion and Symbolic Logic_, by Bishop K. F. Costin--

"_The Handbook of Space Medicine_--"

As Captain Quill called out the names of the books and put them into the
packing case he'd brought, Mike marked them down--while something began
ticking in the back of his mind.

"Item," said Captain Quill, "one crucifix." He paused. "Beautifully
carved, too." He put it into the packing case.

"Excuse me, Captain," said Mike suddenly. "Let me take a look at
something, will you?" Excitedly, he leaned over and took some of the
books out, looking at the pages of each one.

"I'll be damned," he said after a moment. "Or I _should_ be--for being
such a stupid idiot!"

Captain Quill narrowed his eyes. "What are you talking about, Mister
Gabriel?"

"I'm not sure yet, Captain," Mike hedged. "May I borrow these three
books?" He held them up in his hands.

"May I be so bold as to ask _why_, Mister Gabriel?"

"I just want to look at them, sir," Mike said. "I'll return them within
a few hours."

"Mister Gabriel," Captain Quill said, "after what happened last night, I
am suspicious of everything that goes on aboard this ship. But--yes. You
may take them. However, I want them returned before we land tomorrow
morning."

Mike blinked. Neither he nor anyone else--with the exception of Captain
Quill and Lieutenant Commander von Liegnitz, the navigator, knew the
destination of the ship. Mike hadn't realized they were that close to
their goal. "I'll have them back by then," he promised.

"Very well. Now let's get on about our work."

The job was completed within forty-five minutes. A man can't carry a
great deal with him on a spaceship. When they were through, Mike the
Angel excused himself and went to his quarters. Two hours after that he
went to the officers' wardroom to look up Pete Jeffers. Pete hadn't been
in his quarters, and Mike knew he wasn't on duty by that time. Sure
enough, Jeffers was drinking coffee all by himself in the wardroom. He
looked up when Mike came in.

"Hullo, Mike," he said listlessly. "Come sit. Have some coffee."

There was a faint aroma in the air which indicated that there was more
in the cup than just coffee. "No, thanks, Pete. I'll sit this one out. I
wanted to talk to you."

"Sit. I am drinking a toast to Mister Lew Mellon." He pointed at the
coffee. "Sure you won't have a mite? It's sweetened from the grape."

"No, thanks again." Mike sat down. "It's Mellon I wanted to talk about.
Did you know him well, Pete?"

"Purty well," Pete said, nodding. "Yeah, purty well. I always figured
him for a great little bloke. Can't figure what got into him."

"Me either. Pete, you told me he was an Anglo-Catholic--a good one, you
said."

"'At's right."

"Well, how did you mean that?"

Pete frowned. "Just what I said. He studied his religion, he went to
Mass regularly, said his prayers--that sort of thing. And he was, I will
say, a Christian gentleman in every sense of the word." There was
irritation in his voice, as though Mike had impugned the memory of a
friend.

"Don't get huffy, Pete; he struck me as a pretty nice person, too--"

"Until he flipped his lid," said Pete. "But that might happen to
anybody."

"Sure. But what I want to know--and don't get sore--is, did he show any
kind of--well, _instability_ before this last outbreak?"

"Like what?"

"I mean, was he a religious nut? Did he act 'holier than thou' or--well,
was he a fanatic, would you say?"

"No, I wouldn't say so. He didn't talk much about it. I guess you
noticed that. I mean, he didn't preach. He smoked some and had his glass
of wine now and then--even had a cocktail or two on occasion. His views
on sex were orthodox, I reckon--I mean, as far as I know. He'd tell an
off-color story, if it wasn't _too_ bad. But he'd get up and leave
quietly if the boys started tellin' about the women they'd made.
Fornication and adultery just weren't his meat, I'd say."

"I know he wasn't married," Mike said. "Did he date much?"

"Some. He liked to dance. Women seemed to like him."

"How about men?"

"Most of the boys liked him."

"That's not what I meant."

"Oh. Was he queer?" Pete frowned. "I'd damn near stake my life that he
wasn't."

"You mean he didn't practice it?"

"I don't believe he even thought about it," Pete said. "Course, you
can't tell what's really goin' on in a man's mind, but--" His frown
became a scowl. "Damn it, Mike, just because a man isn't married by the
time he's thirty-five and practices Christian chastity while he's single
don't necessarily mean he's a damn fairy!"

"I didn't say it did. I just wondered if you'd heard anything."

"No more'n I've heard about you--who are in exactly the same position!"

"Exactly," Mike agreed. "That's what I wanted to know. Pete, if you've
got it to spare, I'll join you in that toast."

Pete Jeffers grinned. "Comin' right up, buddy-boy."

He poured two more cups of coffee, spiked them from a small flask of
brandy, and handed one to Mike. They drank in silence.

Fifteen minutes later, Mike the Angel was in the little office that
Leda Crannon shared with Dr. Fitzhugh. She was alone.

"How's the girl today?" he asked.

"Beat," she said with a forced smile.

"You look beautiful," he said. He wasn't lying. She looked drawn and
tired, but she still looked beautiful.

"Thanks, Mike. What can I do for you?"

Mike the Angel pulled up a chair and sat down. "Where's Doc Fitz?"

"He's still trying to get information out of Snookums. It's a weird
thing, Mike--a robot with a soul."

"You don't mind talking about it?"

"No; go ahead if you want."

"All right, answer me a question," he said. "Can Snookums read English?"

"Certainly. And Russian, and German, French, Chinese, and most of the
other major languages of Earth."

"He could read a book, then?"

"Yes. But not unless it was given to him and he was specifically told to
use its contents as data."

"Good," said Mike. "Now, suppose Snookums was given complete data on a
certain field of knowledge. Suppose further that this field is
internally completely logical, completely coherent, completely
self-consistent. Suppose it could even be reduced to a series of axioms
and theorems in symbolic logic."

"All right," she said. "So?"

"Now, further suppose that this system, this field of knowledge is,
right now, in constant use by millions of human beings, even though most
of them are unaware of the implications of the entire field. Could
Snookums work with such a body of knowledge?"

"Sure," said Leda. "Why not?"

"What if there was absolutely no way for Snookums to experiment with
this knowledge? What if he simply did not have the equipment necessary?"

"You mean," she asked, "something like astrophysics?"

"No. That's exactly what I don't mean. I'm perfectly well aware that it
isn't possible to test astrophysical theories directly. Nobody has been
able to build a star in the lab so far.

"But it _is_ possible to test the theories of astrophysics analogically
by extrapolating on data that _can_ be tested in a physics lab.

"What I'm talking about is a system that Snookums, simply because he is
what he is, cannot test or experiment upon, in any way whatsoever. A
system that has, in short, no connection with the physical world
whatsoever."

Leda Crannon thought it over. "Well, assuming all that, I imagine that
it would eventually ruin Snookums. He's built to experiment, and if he's
kept from experimenting for too long, he'll exceed the optimum randomity
of his circuits." She swallowed. "If he hasn't already."

"I thought so. And so did someone else," said Mike thoughtfully.

"Well, for Heaven's sake! What is this system?" Leda asked in sudden
exasperation.

"You're close," said Mike the Angel.

"What are you talking about?"

"Theology," said Mike. "He was pumped full of Christian theology, that's
all. Good, solid, Catholic theology. Bishop Costin's mathematical
symbolization of it is simply a result of the verbal logic that had been
smoothed out during the previous two thousand years. Snookums could
reduce it to math symbols and equations, anyway, even if we didn't have
Bishop Costin's work."

He showed her the book from Mellon's room.

"It doesn't even require the assumption of a soul to make it foul up a
robot's works. He doesn't have any emotions, either. And he can't handle
something that he can't experiment with. It would have driven him
insane, all right. But he _isn't_ insane."

Leda looked puzzled. "But--"

"Do you know why?" Mike interrupted.

"No."

"Because he found something that he could experiment with. He found a
material basis for theological experimentation."

She looked still more puzzled. "What could that be?"

"Me," said Mike the Angel. "Me. Michael Raphael Gabriel. I'm an
angel--an archangel. As a matter of fact, I'm _three_ archangels. For
all I know, Snookums has equated me with the Trinity."

"But--how did he get that idea?"

"Mostly from the Book of Tobit," said Mike. "That's where an archangel
takes the form of a human being and travels around with Tobit the
Younger, remember? And, too, he probably got more information from the
first part of Luke's Gospel, where Gabriel tells the Blessed Virgin that
she's about to become a mother."

"But would he have figured that out for himself?"

"Possibly," said Mike, "but I doubt it. He was told that I was an
angel--literally."

"Let me see that book," she said, taking _The Christian Religion and
Symbolic Logic_ from Mike's hand. She opened it to the center. "I
didn't know anyone had done this sort of work," she said.

"Oh, there was a great fuss over the book when it came out. There were
those who said that the millennium had arrived because the truth of the
Christian faith had been proved mathematically, and therefore all
rational people would have to accept it."

She leafed through the book. "I'll bet there are still some who still
believe that, just like there are some people who still think Euclidian
geometry must necessarily be true because it can be 'proved'
mathematically."

Mike nodded. "All Bishop Costin did--all he was _trying_ to do--was to
prove that the axioms of the Christian faith are logically
self-consistent. That's all he ever claimed to have done, and he did a
brilliant job of it."

"But--how do you know this is what Snookums was given?"

"Look at the pages. Snookums' waldo fingers wrinkled the pages that way.
Those aren't the marks of human fingers. Only two of Mellon's other
books were wrinkled that way."

She jerked her head up from the book, startled. "_What?_ This is Lew
Mellon's book?"

"That's right. So are the other two. A Bible and a theological
dictionary. They're wrinkled the same way."

Her eyes were wide, bright sapphires. "But _why_? Why would he do such a
thing, for goodness' sake?"

"I don't know why it was done," Mike said slowly, "but I doubt if it was
for goodness' sake. We haven't gotten to the bottom of this hanky-panky
yet, I don't think.

"Leda, if I'm right--if this _is_ what has been causing Snookums' odd
behavior--can you cure him?"

She looked at the book again and nodded. "I think so. But it will take a
lot of work. I'll have to talk to Fitz about it. We'll have to keep this
book--and the other two."

Mike shook his head. "No can do. Can you photocopy them?"

"Certainly. But it'll take--oh, two or three hours per book."

"Then you'd better get busy. We're landing in the morning."

She nodded. "I know. Captain Quill has already told us."

"Fine, then." He stood up. "What will you do? Simply tell Snookums to
forget all this stuff?"

"Good Heavens no! It's too thoroughly integrated with every other bit of
data he has! You might be able to take one single bit of data out that
way, but to jerk out a whole body of knowledge like this would
completely randomize his circuits. You can pull out a tooth by yanking
with a pair of forceps, but if you try to take out a man's appendix that
way, you'll lose a patient."

"I catch," Mike said with a grin. "Okay. I'll get the other two books
and you can get to work copying them. Take care."

"Thanks, Mike."

As he walked down the companionway, he cursed himself for being a fool.
If he'd let things go on the way they were, Leda might have weaned
herself away from Snookums. Now she was interested again. But there
could have been no other way, of course.



19


The interstellar ship _Brainchild_ orbited around her destination,
waiting during the final checkup before she landed on the planet below.

It was not a nice planet. As far as its size went, it could be
classified as "Earth type," but size was almost the only resemblance to
Earth. It orbited in space some five hundred and fifty million miles
from its Sol-like parent--a little farther away from the primary than
Jupiter is from Sol itself. It was cold there--terribly cold. At high
noon on the equator, the temperature reached a sweltering 180° absolute;
it became somewhat chillier toward the poles.

H_{2}O was, anywhere on the planet, a whitish, crystalline mineral
suitable for building material. The atmosphere was similar to that of
Jupiter, although the proportions of methane, ammonia, and hydrogen were
different because of the lower gravitational potential of the planet. It
had managed to retain a great deal more hydrogen in its atmosphere than
Earth had because of the fact that the average thermal velocity of the
molecules was much lower. Since oxygen-releasing life had never
developed on the frigid surface of the planet, there was no oxygen in
the atmosphere. It was all tied up in combination with the hydrogen of
the ice and the surface rocks of the planet.

The Space Service ship that had discovered the planet, fifteen years
before, had given it the name Eisberg, thus commemorating the name of a
spaceman second class who happened to have the luck to be (a) named
Robert Eisberg, (b) a member of the crew of the ship to discover the
planet, and (c) under the command of a fun-loving captain.

Eisberg had been picked as the planet to transfer the potentially
dangerous Snookums to for two reasons. In the first place, if Snookums
actually did solve the problem of the total-annihilation bomb, the worst
he could do was destroy a planet that wasn't much good, anyway. And, in
the second place, the same energy requirements applied on Eisberg as did
on Chilblains Base. It was easier to cool the helium bath of the brain
if it only had to be lowered 175 degrees or so.

It was a great place for cold-work labs, but not worth anything for
colonization.

       *       *       *       *       *

Chief Powerman's Mate Multhaus looked gloomily at the figures on the
landing sheet.

Mike the Angel watched the expression on the chief's face and said:
"What's the matter, Multhaus? No like?"

Multhaus grimaced. "Well, sir, I don't like it, no. But I can't say I
_dis_like it, either."

He stared at the landing sheet, pursing his lips. He looked as though he
were valiantly restraining himself from asking questions about the other
night's escapade--which he was.

He said: "I just don't like to land without jets, sir; that's all."

"Hell, neither do I," admitted Mike. "But we're not going to get down
any other way. We managed to take off without jets; we'll manage to land
without them."

"Yessir," said Multhaus, "but we took off _with_ the grain of Earth's
magnetic field. We're landing _across_ the grain."

"Sure," said Mike. "So what? If we overlook the motors, that's okay. We
may never be able to get off the planet with this ship again, but we
aren't supposed to anyway.

"Come on, Multhaus, don't worry about it. I know you hate to burn up a
ship, but this one is supposed to be expendable. You may never have
another chance like this."

Multhaus tried to keep from grinning, but he couldn't. "Awright,
Commander. You have appealed to my baser instincts. My subconscious
desire to wreck a spaceship has been brought to the surface. I can't
resist it. Am I nutty, maybe?"

"Not now, you're not," Mike said, grinning back.

"We'll have a bitch of a job getting through the plasmasphere, though,"
said the chief. "That fraction of a second will--"

"It'll jolt us," Mike agreed, interrupting. "But it won't wreck us.
Let's get going."

"Aye, sir," said Multhaus.

       *       *       *       *       *

The seas of Eisberg were liquid methane containing dissolved ammonia.
Near the equator, they were liquid; farther north, the seas became
slushy with crystallized ammonia.

The site picked for the new labs of the Computer Corporation of Earth
was in the northern hemisphere, at 40° north latitude, about the same
distance from the equator as New York or Madrid, Spain, would be on
Earth. The _Brainchild_ would be dropping through Eisberg's magnetic
field at an angle, but it wouldn't be the ninety-degree angle of the
equator. It would have been nice if the base could have been built at
one of the poles, but that would have put the labs in an uncomfortable
position, since there was no solid land at either pole.

Mike the Angel didn't like the idea of having to land on Eisberg without
jets any more than Multhaus did, but he was almost certain that the ship
would take the strain.

He took the companionway up to the Control Bridge, went in, and handed
the landing sheet to Black Bart. The captain scowled at it, shrugged,
and put it on his desk.

"Will we make it, sir?" Mike said. "Any word from the _Fireball_?"

Black Bart nodded. "She's orbiting outside the atmosphere. Captain
Wurster will send down a ship to pick us up as soon as we've finished
our business here."

The _Fireball_, being much faster than the clumsy _Brainchild_, had left
Earth later than the slower ship, and had arrived earlier.

"_Now hear this! Now hear this! Third Warning! Landing orbit begins in
one minute! Landing begins in one minute!_"

Sixty seconds later the _Brainchild_ began her long, logarithmic drop
toward the surface of Eisberg.

Landing a ship on her jets isn't an easy job, but at least an ion rocket
is built for the job. Maybe someday the Translation drive will be
modified for planetary landings, but so far such a landing has been, as
someone put it, "50 per cent raw energy and 50 per cent prayer." The
landing was worse than the take-off, a truism which has held since the
first glider took off from the surface of Earth in the nineteenth
century. What goes up doesn't necessarily have to come down, but when it
does, the job is a lot rougher than getting up was.

The plasmasphere of Eisberg differed from that of Earth in two ways.
First, the ionizing source of radiation--the primary star--was farther
away from Eisberg than Sol was from Earth, which tended to reduce the
total ionization. Second, the upper atmosphere of Eisberg was pretty
much pure hydrogen, which is somewhat easier to ionize than oxygen or
nitrogen. And, since there was no ozonosphere to block out the UV
radiation from the primary, the thickness of the ionosphere beneath the
plasmasphere was greater.

Not until the _Brainchild_ hit the bare fringes of the upper atmosphere
did she act any differently than she had in space.

But when she hit the outer fringes of the ionosphere--that upper layer
of rarified protons, the rapidly moving current of high velocity ions
known as the plasmasphere--she bucked like a kicked horse. From deep
within her vitals, the throb began, a strumming, thrumming sound with a
somewhat higher note imposed upon it, making a sound like that of a bass
viol being plucked rapidly on its lowest string.

It was not the intensity of the ionosphere that cracked the drive of the
_Brainchild_; it was the duration. The layer of ionization was too
thick; the ship couldn't make it through the layer fast enough, in spite
of her high velocity.

A man can hold a red-hot bit of steel in his hand for a fraction of a
second without even feeling it. But if he has to hold a hot baked potato
for thirty seconds, he's likely to get a bad burn.

So it was with the _Brainchild_. The passage through Earth's ionosphere
during take-off had been measured in fractions of a second. The
_Brainchild_ had reacted, but the exposure to the field had been too
short to hurt her.

The ionosphere of Eisberg was much deeper and, although the intensity
was less, the duration was much longer.

The drumming increased as she fell, a low-frequency, high-energy sine
wave that shook the ship more violently than had the out-of-phase beat
that had pummeled the ship shortly after her take-off.

Dr. Morris Fitzhugh, the roboticist, screamed imprecations into the
intercom, but Captain Sir Henry Quill cut him off before anyone took
notice and let the scientist rave into a dead pickup.

"How's she coming?"

The voice came over the intercom to the Power Section, and Mike the
Angel knew that the question was meant for him.

"She'll make it, Captain," he said. "She'll make it. I designed this
thing for a 500 per cent overload. She'll make it."

"Good," said Black Bart, snapping off the intercom.

Mike exhaled gustily. His eyes were still on the needles that kept
creeping higher and higher along the calibrated periphery of the meters.
Many of them had long since passed the red lines that marked the
allowable overload point. Mike the Angel knew that those points had been
set low, but he also knew that they were approaching the real overload
point.

He took another deep breath and held it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Point for point, the continent of Antarctica, Earth, is one of the most
deadly areas ever found on a planet that is supposedly non-inimical to
man. Earth is a nice, comfortable planet, most of the time, but
Antarctica just doesn't cater to Man at all.

Still, it just happens to be the _worst_ spot on the _best_ planet in
the known Galaxy.

Eisberg is different. At its best, it has the continent of Antarctica
beat four thousand ways from a week ago last Candlemas. At its worst, it
is sudden death; at its best, it is somewhat less than sudden.

Not that Eisberg is a really _mean_ planet; Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, or
Neptune can kill a man faster and with less pain. No, Eisberg isn't
mean--it's torturous. A man without clothes, placed suddenly on the
surface of Eisberg--_anywhere_ on the surface--would die. But the
trouble is that he'd live long enough for it to hurt.

Man can survive, all right, but it takes equipment and intelligence to
do it.

When the interstellar ship _Brainchild_ blew a tube--just one tube--of
the external field that fought the ship's mass against the space-strain
of the planet's gravitational field, the ship went off orbit. The tube
blew when she was some ninety miles above the surface. She dropped too
fast, jerked up, dropped again.

When the engines compensated for the lost tube, the descent was more
leisurely, and the ship settled gently--well, not exactly _gently_--on
the surface of Eisberg.

Captain Quill's voice came over the intercom.

"We are nearly a hundred miles from the base, Mister Gabriel. Any
excuse?"

"No excuse, sir," said Mike the Angel.



20


If you ignite a jet of oxygen-nitrogen in an atmosphere of
hydrogen-methane, you get a flame that doesn't differ much from the
flame from a hydrogen-methane jet in an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere. A
flame doesn't particularly care which way the electrons jump, just so
long as they jump.

All of which was due to give Mike the Angel more headaches than he
already had, which was 100 per cent too many.

Three days after the _Brainchild_ landed, the scout group arrived from
the base that had been built on Eisberg to take care of Snookums. The
leader, a heavy-set engineer named Treadmore, who had unkempt brownish
hair and a sad look in his eyes, informed Captain Quill that there was a
great deal of work to be done. And his countenance became even sadder.

Mike, who had, perforce, been called in to take part in the conference,
listened in silence while the engineer talked.

The officers' wardroom, of which Mike the Angel was becoming heartily
sick, seemed like a tomb which echoed and re-echoed the lugubrious voice
of Engineer Treadmore.

"We were warned, of course," he said, in a normally dismal tone, "that
it would be extremely difficult to set down the ship which carried
Snookums, and that we could expect the final base to be anywhere from
ten to thirty miles from the original, temporary base." He looked round
at everyone, giving the impression of a collie which had just been
kicked by Albert Payson Terhune.

"We understand, naturally, that you could not help landing so far from
our original base," he said, giving them absolution with faint damns,
"but it will entail a great deal of extra labor. A hundred and nine
miles is a great distance to carry equipment, and, actually, the
distance is a great deal more, considering the configuration of the
terrain. The...."

The upshot of the whole thing was that only part of the crew could
possibly be spared to go home on the _Fireball_, which was orbiting high
above the atmosphere. And, since there was no point in sending a small
load home at extra expense when the _Fireball_ could wait for the
others, it meant that nobody could go home at all for four more weeks.
The extra help was needed to get the new base established.

It was obviously impossible to try to move the _Brainchild_ a hundred
miles. With nothing to power her but the Translation drive, she was as
helpless as a submarine on the Sahara. Especially now that her drive was
shot.

The Eisberg base had to be built around Snookums, who was, after all,
the only reason for the base's existence. And, too, the power plant of
the _Brainchild_ had been destined to be the source of power for the
permanent base.

It wasn't too bad, really. A little extra time, but not much.

The advance base, commanded by Treadmore, was fairly well equipped. For
transportation, they had one jet-powered aircraft, a couple of
'copters, and fifteen ground-crawlers with fat tires, plus all kinds of
powered construction machinery. All of them were fueled with liquid
HNO_{3}, which makes a pretty good fuel in an atmosphere that is
predominantly methane. Like the gasoline-air engines of a century
before, they were spark-started reciprocating engines, except for the
turbine-powered aircraft.

The only trouble with the whole project was that the materials had to be
toted across a hundred miles of exceedingly hostile territory.

Treadmore, looking like a tortured bloodhound, said: "But we'll make it,
won't we?"

Everyone nodded dismally.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mike the Angel had a job he emphatically didn't like. He was supposed to
convert the power plant of the _Brainchild_ from a spaceship driver into
a stationary generator. The conversion job itself wasn't tedious; in
principle, it was similar to taking the engine out of an automobile and
converting it to a power plant for an electric generator. In fact, it
was somewhat simpler, in theory, since the engines of the _Brainchild_
were already equipped for heavy drainage to run the electrical systems
aboard ship, and to power and refrigerate Snookums' gigantic brain,
which was no mean task in itself.

But Michael Raphael Gabriel, head of one of the foremost--if not _the_
foremost--power design corporations in the known Galaxy, did not like
degrading something. To convert the _Brainchild's_ plant from a
spaceship drive to an electric power plant seemed to him to be on the
same order as using a turboelectric generator to power a flashlight. A
waste.

To make things worse, the small percentage of hydrogen in the
atmosphere got sneaky sometimes. It could insinuate itself into places
where neither the methane nor the ammonia could get. Someone once called
hydrogen the "cockroach element," since, like that antediluvian insect,
the molecules of H_{2} can insidiously infiltrate themselves into places
where they are not only unwelcome, but shouldn't even be able to go. At
red heat, the little molecules can squeeze themselves through the
crystalline interstices of quartz and steel.

Granted, the temperature of Eisberg is a long way from red hot, but
normal sealing still won't keep out hydrogen. Add to that the fact that
hydrogen and methane are both colorless, odorless, and tasteless, and
you have the beginnings of an explosive situation.

The only reason that no one died is because the Space Service is what it
is.

Unlike the land, sea, and air forces of Earth, the Space Service does
not have a long history of fighting other human beings. There has never
been a space war, and, the way things stand, there is no likelihood of
one in the foreseeable future.

But the Space Service _does_ fight, in its own way. It fights the
airlessness of space and the unfriendly atmospheres of exotic planets,
using machines, intelligence, knowledge, and human courage as its
weapons. Some battles have been lost; others have been won. And the war
is still going on. It is an unending war, one which has no victory in
sight.

It is, as far as we can tell, the only war in human history in which
Mankind is fully justified as the invading aggressor.

It is not a defensive war; neither space nor other planets have attacked
Man. Man has invaded space "simply because it is there." It is war of a
different sort, true, but it is nonetheless a war.

The Space Service was used to the kind of battle it waged on Eisberg. It
was prepared to lose men, but even more prepared to save them.



21


Mike the Angel stepped into the cargo air lock of the _Brainchild_,
stood morosely in the center of the cubicle, and watched the outer door
close. Eight other men, clad, like himself, in regulation Space Service
spacesuits, also looked wearily at the closing door.

Chief Multhaus, one of the eight, turned his head to look at Mike the
Angel. "I wish that thing would close as fast as my eyes are going to in
about fifteen minutes, Commander." His voice rumbled deeply in Mike's
earphones.

"Yeah," said Mike, too tired to make decent conversation.

Eight hours--all of them spent tearing down the spaceship and making it
a part of the new base--had not been exactly exhilarating to any of
them.

The door closed, and the pumps began to work. The men were wearing Space
Service Suit Three. For every environment, for every conceivable
emergency, a suit had been built--if, of course, a suit _could_ be built
for it. Nobody had yet built a suit for walking about in the middle of a
sun, but, then, nobody had ever volunteered to try anything like that.

They were all called "spacesuits" because most of them could be worn in
the vacuum of space, but most of them weren't designed for that type of
work. Suit One--a light, easily manipulated, almost skin-tight covering,
was the real spacesuit. It was perfect for work in interstellar space,
where there was a microscopic amount of radiation incident to the suit,
no air, and almost nil gravity. For exterior repairs on the outside of a
ship in free fall a long way from any star, Spacesuit One was the proper
garb.

But, a suit that worked fine in space didn't necessarily work on other
planets, unless it worked fine on the planet it was used on.

A Moon Suit isn't a Mars Suit isn't a Venus Suit isn't a Triton Suit
isn't a....

Carry it on from there.

Number Three was insulated against a frigid but relatively non-corrosive
atmosphere. When the pumps in the air lock began pulling out the
methane-laden atmosphere, they began to bulge slightly, but not
excessively. Then nitrogen, extracted from the ammonia snow that was so
plentiful, filled the room, diluting the remaining inflammable gases to
a harmless concentration.

Then that mixture was pumped out, to be replaced by a mixture of
approximately 20 per cent oxygen and 80 per cent nitrogen--common, or
garden-variety, air.

Mike the Angel cracked his helmet and sniffed. "_Guk_," he said. "If I
ever faint and someone gives me smelling salts, I'll flay him alive with
a coarse rasp."

"Yessir," said Chief Multhaus, as he began to shuck his suit. "But if I
had my druthers, I'd druther you'd figure out some way to get all the
ammonia out of the joints of this suit."

The other men, sniffing and coughing, agreed in attitude if not in
voice.

It wasn't really as bad as they pretended; indeed, the odor of ammonia
was hardly noticeable. But it made a good griping point.

The inner door opened at last, and the men straggled through.

"G'night, Chief," said Mike the Angel.

"Night, sir," said Multhaus. "See you in the morning."

"Yeah. Night." Mike trudged toward the companionway that led toward the
wardroom. If Keku or Jeffers happened to be there, he'd have a quick
round of _Uma ni to_. Jeffers called the game "double solitaire
for three people," and Keku said it meant "horses' two heads," but Mike
had simply found it as a new game to play before bedtime.

He looked forward to it.

But he had something else to do first.

Instead of hanging up his suit in the locker provided, he had bunched it
under his arm--except for the helmet--and now he headed toward
maintenance.

He met Ensign Vaneski just coming out, and gave him a broad smile.
"Mister Vaneski, I got troubles."

Vaneski smiled back worriedly. "Yes, sir. I guess we all do. What is it,
sir?"

Mike gestured at the bundle under his arm. "I abraded the sleeve of my
suit while I was working today. I wish you'd take a look at it. I'm
afraid it'll need a patch."

For a moment, Vaneski looked as though he'd suddenly developed a
headache.

"I know you're supposed to be off duty now," Mike said soothingly, "but
I don't want to get myself killed wearing a leaky suit tomorrow. I'll
help you work on it if--"

Vaneski grinned quickly. "Oh no, sir. That'll be all right. I'll give it
a test, anyway, to check leaks. If it needs repair, it shouldn't take
too long. Bring it in, and we'll take a look at it."

They went back into the Maintenance Section, and Vaneski spread the suit
out on the worktable. There was an obvious rough spot on the right
sleeve. "Looks bad," said Vaneski. "I'll run a test right away."

"Okay," said Mike. "I'll leave it to you. Can I pick it up in the
morning?"

"I think so. If it needs a patch, we'll have to test the patch, of
course, but we should be able to finish it pretty quickly." He shrugged.
"If we can't, sir, you'll just have to wait. Unless you want us to start
altering a suit to your measurements."

"Which would take longer?"

"Altering a suit."

"Okay. Just patch this one, then. What can I do?"

"I'll get it out as fast as possible, sir," said Vaneski with a smile.

"Fine. I'll see you later, then." Mike, like Cleopatra, was not prone to
argue. He left maintenance and headed toward the wardroom for a game of
_Uma ni to_. But when he met Leda Crannon going up the stairway,
all thoughts of card games flitted from his mind with the careless
nonchalance of a summer butterfly.

"Hullo," he said, pulling himself up a little straighter. He was tired,
but not _that_ tired.

Her smile brushed the cobwebs from his mind. But a second look told him
that there was worry behind the smile.

"Hi, Mike," she said softly. "You look beat."

"I am," admitted Mike. "To a frazzle. Have I told you that I love you?"

"Once, I think. Maybe twice." Her eyes seemed to light up somewhere from
far back in her head. "But enough of this mad passion," she said. "I
want an invitation to have a drink--a stiff one."

"I'll steal Jeffers' bottle," Mike offered. "What's the trouble?"

Her smile faded, and her eyes became grave. "I'm scared, Mike; I want to
talk to you."

"Come along, then," Mike said.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mike the Angel poured two healthy slugs of Pete Jeffers' brandy into a
pair of glasses, added ice and water, and handed one to Leda Crannon
with a flourish. And all the time, he kept up a steady line of gentle
patter.

"It may interest you to know," he said chattily, "that the learned
Mister Treadmore has been furnishing me with the most fascinating
information." He lifted up his own glass and looked into its amber
depths.

They were in his stateroom, and this time the door was closed--at her
insistence. She had explained that she didn't want to be overheard, even
by passing crew members.

He swizzled the ice around in his glass, still holding it up to the
light. "Indeed," he rambled on, "Treadmore babbled for Heaven knows how
long on the relative occurrence of parahydrogen and orthohydrogen on
Eisberg." He took his eyes from the glass and looked down at the girl
who was seated demurely on the edge of his bunk. Her smile was
encouraging.

"He said--and I quote"--Mike's voice assumed a gloomy, but stilted
tone--"normal hydrogen gas consists of diatomic molecules. The nuclear,
or proton, spin of these atoms--ah--that is, of the two atoms that
compose the molecule--may be oriented in the same direction or in
opposite directions."

He held a finger in the air as if to make a deep philosophical point.
"If," he said pontifically, "they are oriented in the same direction, we
refer to the substance as _orthohydrogen_. If they are oriented in
opposite directions, it is _parahydrogen_. The _ortho_ molecules rotate
with _odd_ rotational quantum numbers, while the _para_ molecules rotate
with _even_ quantum numbers.

"Since conversion does not normally occur between the two states, normal
hydrogen may be considered--"

Leda Crannon, snickering, waved her hand in the air. "Please!" she
interrupted. "He can't be that bad! You make him sound like a dirge
player at a Hindu funeral. What did he tell you? What did you find out?"

"_Hah!_" said Mike. "What did I find out?" His hand moved in an airy
circle as he inscribed a flowing cipher with a graceful Delsarte wave.
"Nothing. In the first place, I already knew it, and in the second, it
wasn't practical information. There's a slight difference in diffusion
between the two forms, but it's nothing to rave about." His expression
became suddenly serious. "I hope your information is a bit more
revealing."

She glanced at her glass, nodded, and drained it. Mike had extracted a
promise from her that she would drink one drink before she talked. He
could see that she was a trifle tense, and he thought the liquor would
relax her somewhat. Now he was ready to listen.

She handed him her empty, and while he refilled it, she said: "It's
about Snookums again."

Mike gave her her glass, grabbed the nearby chair, turned it around, sat
down, and regarded her over its back.

"I've lived with him so long," she said after a minute. "So long. It
almost seems as though I've grown up with him. Eight years. I've been a
mother to him, and a big sister at the same time--and maybe a maiden
aunt. He's been a career and a family all rolled in together." She still
watched her writhing hands, not raising her eyes to Mike's.

"And--and, I suppose, a husband, too," she continued. "That is, he's
sort of the stand-in for a--well, a somebody to teach--to correct--to
reform. I guess every woman wants to--to _remake_ the man she meets--the
man she wants."

And then her eyes were suddenly on his. "But I don't. Not any more. I've
had enough of it." Then she looked back down at her hands.

Mike the Angel neither accepted nor rejected the statement. He merely
waited.

"He was mine," she said after a little while. "He was mine to mold, to
teach, to form. The others--the roboticists, the neucleonicists, the
sub-electronicists, all of them--were his instructors. All they did was
give him facts. It was I who gave him a personality.

"I made him. Not his body, not his brain, but his mind.

"I made him.

"I knew him.

"And I--I--"

Still staring at her hands, she clasped them together suddenly and
squeezed.

"And I loved him," she finished.

She looked up at Mike then. "Can you see that?" she asked tensely. "Can
you understand?"

"Yes," said Mike the Angel quietly. "Yes, I can understand that. Under
the same circumstances, I might have done the same thing." He paused.
"And now?"

She lowered her head again and began massaging her forehead with the
finger tips of both hands, concealing her face with her palms.

"And now," she said dully, "I know he's a machine. Snookums isn't a _he_
any more--he's an _it_. He has no personality of his own, he only has
what I fed into him. Even his voice is mine. He's not even a psychic
mirror, because he doesn't reflect _my_ personality, but a puppet
imitation of it, distorted and warped by the thousands upon thousands of
cold facts and mathematical relationships and logical postulates. And
none of these _added_ anything to him, as a personality. How could they?
He never had a _person_ality--only a set of behavior patterns that I
drilled into him over a period of eight years."

She dropped her hands into her lap and tilted her head back, looking at
the blank white shimmer of the glow plates.

"And now, suddenly, I see him for what he is--for what _it_ is. A
machine.

"It was never anything _but_ a machine. It is still a machine. It will
never be anything else.

"Personality is something that no machine can ever have. Idiosyncrasies,
yes. No two machines are identical. But any personality that an
individual sees in a machine has been projected there by the individual
himself; it exists only in the human mind.

"A machine can only do what it is built to do, and teaching a robot is
only a building process." She gave a short, hard laugh. "I couldn't even
build a monster, like Dr. Frankenstein did, unless I purposely built it
to turn on me. And in that case I would have done nothing more than the
suicide who turns a gun on himself."

Her head tilted forward again, and her eyes sought those of Mike the
Angel. A rather lopsided grin came over her face.

"I guess I'm disenchanted, huh, Mike?" she asked.

Mike grinned back, but his lips were firm. "I think so, yes. And I think
you're glad of it." His grin changed to a smile.

"Remember," he asked, "the story of the Sleeping Beauty? Did you want to
stay asleep all your life?"

"God forbid and thank you for the compliment, sir," she said, managing a
smile of her own. "And are you the Prince Charming who woke me up?"

"Prince Charming, I may be," said Mike the Angel carefully, "but I'm not
the one who woke you up. You did that yourself."

Her smile became more natural. "Thanks, Mike. I really think I might
have seen it, sooner or later. But, without you, I doubt...." She
hesitated. "I doubt that I'd want to wake up."

"You said you were scared," Mike said. "What are you scared of?"

"I'm scared to death of that damned machine."

    _Great love, chameleon-like, hath turned to fear,
    And on the heels of fear there follows hate._

Mike quoted to himself--he didn't say it aloud.

"The only reason anyone would have to fear Snookums," he said, "would be
that he was uncontrollable. Is he?"

"Not yet. Not completely. But I'm afraid that knowing that he's been
filled with Catholic theology isn't going to help us much."

"Why not?"

"Because he has it so inextricably bound up with the Three Laws of
Robotics that we can't nullify one without nullifying the other. He's
convinced that the laws were promulgated by God Himself."

"Holy St. Isaac," Mike said softly. "I'm surprised he hasn't carried it
to its logical conclusion and asked for baptism."

She smiled and shook her head. "I'm afraid your logic isn't as rigorous
as Snookums' logic. Only angels and human beings have free will;
Snookums is neither, therefore he does not have free will. Whatever he
does, therefore, must be according to the will of God. Therefore
Snookums cannot sin. Therefore, for him, baptism is both unnecessary and
undesirable."

"Why 'undesirable'?" Mike asked.

"Since he is free from sin--either original or actual--he is therefore
filled with the plenitude of God's grace. The purpose of a sacrament is
to give grace to the recipient; it follows that it would be useless to
give the Sacrament to Snookums. To perform a sacrament or to receive it
when one knows that it will be useless is sacrilege. And sacrilege is
undesirable."

"Brother! But I still don't see how that makes him dangerous."

"The operation of the First Law," Leda said. "For a man to sin involves
endangering his immortal soul. Snookums, therefore, must prevent men
from sinning. But sin includes thought--intention. Snookums is trying to
figure that one out now; if he ever does, he's going to be a thought
policeman, and a strict one."

"You mean he's working on _telepathy_?"

She laughed humorlessly. "No. But he's trying to dope out a system
whereby he can tell what a man is going to do a few seconds before he
does it--muscular and nervous preparation, that sort of thing. He hasn't
enough data yet, but he will have it soon enough.

"There's another thing: Snookums is fouling up the Second Law's
operation. He won't take orders that interfere in any way with his
religious beliefs--since that automatically conflicts with the First
Law. He, himself, cannot sin. But neither can he do anything which would
make him the tool of an intent to sin. He refuses to do anything at all
on Sunday, for instance, and he won't let either Fitz or I do anything
that even vaguely resembles menial labor. Slowly, he's coming to the
notion that human beings aren't human--that only God is human, in
relation to the First and Second Laws. There's nothing we can do with
him."

"What will you do if he becomes completely uncontrollable?"

She sighed. "We'll have to shut him off, drain his memory banks, and
start all over again."

Mike closed his eyes. "Eighteen billions down the drain just because a
robot was taught theology. What price glory?"



22


Captain Sir Henry Quill scowled and rubbed his finger tips over the top
of his shiny pink pate. "Your evidence isn't enough to convict, Golden
Wings."

"I know it isn't, Captain," admitted Mike the Angel. "That's why I want
to round everybody up and do it this way. If he can be convinced that we
_do_ have the evidence, he may crack and give us a confession."

"What about Lieutenant Mellon's peculiar actions? How does that tie in?"

"Did you ever hear of Lysodine, Captain?"

Captain Quill leaned back in his chair and looked up at Mike. "No. What
is it?"

"That's the trade name for a very powerful drug--a derivative of
lysurgic acid. It's used in treating certain mental ailments. A bottle
of it was missing from Mellon's kit, according to the inventory Chief
Pasteur took after Mellon's death.

"The symptoms of an overdose of the drug--administered orally--are
hallucinations and delusions amounting to acute paranoia. The final
result of the drug's effect on the brain is death. It wasn't my blow to
the solar plexus, or the sedative that Pasteur gave him, or Vaneski's
shot with a stun gun that killed Mellon. It was an overdose of
Lysodine."

"Can the presence of this drug be detected after death?"

"Pasteur says it can. He won't even have to perform an autopsy. He can
do it from a blood sample."

Captain Quill sighed. "As I said, Mister Gabriel, your evidence is not
quite enough to convict--but it is certainly enough to convince.
Therefore, if Chief Pasteur's analysis shows Lysodine in Lieutenant
Mellon's body, I'll permit this theatrical denouement." Then his eyes
hardened. "Mike, you've done a fine job so far. I want you to bring me
that son of a bitch's head on a platter."

"I will," promised Mike the Angel.



23


Captain Sir Henry Quill, Bart., stood at the head of the long table in
the officers' wardroom and looked everyone over. The way he did it was
quite impressive. His eyes were narrowed, and his heavy, thick, black
brows dominated his face. Beneath the glow plates in the overhead, his
pink scalp gleamed with the soft, burnished shininess of a well-polished
apple.

To his left, in order down the table, were Mike the Angel, Lieutenant
Keku, and Leda Crannon. On his right were Commander Jeffers, Ensign
Vaneski, Lieutenant Commander von Liegnitz, and Dr. Morris Fitzhugh.
Lieutenant Mellon's seat was empty.

Black Bart cleared his throat. "It's been quite a trip, hasn't it? Well,
it's almost over. Mister Gabriel finished the conversion of the power
plant yesterday; Treadmore's men can finish up. We will leave on the
_Fireball_ in a few hours.

"But there is something that must be cleared up first.

"A man died on the way out here. The circumstances surrounding his death
have been cleared up now, and I feel that we all deserve an
explanation." He turned to Mike the Angel. "Mister Gabriel--if you will,
please."

Mike stood up as the captain sat down. "The question that has bothered
me from the beginning has been: Exactly what killed Lieutenant Mellon?
Well, we know now. We know what killed him and why he died.

"He was murdered. Deliberately, and in cold blood."

That froze everybody at the table.

"It was done by a slow-acting but nonetheless deadly drug that took time
to act, but did its job very well.

"There were several other puzzling things that happened that night.
Snookums began behaving irrationally. It is the height of coincidence
that a robot and a human being should both become insane at almost the
same time; therefore we have to look for a common cause."

Lieutenant Commander von Liegnitz raised a tentative hand, and Mike
said: "Go ahead."

"I was under the impression that the robot went mad because Mellon had
filled him full of theological nonsense. It would take a madman to do
anything like that to a fine machine--therefore I see no peculiar
coincidence."

"That's exactly what the killer wanted us to think," Mike said. "But it
wasn't Mellon that fed Snookums theology. Mellon was a devout churchman;
his record shows that. He would never have tried to convert a machine to
Christianity. Nor would he have tried to ruin an expensive machine.

"How do I know that someone else was involved?"

He looked at the giant Lieutenant Keku. "Do you remember when we took
Mellon to his quarters after he tried to brain von Liegnitz? We found
half a bottle of wine. That disappeared during the night--because it was
loaded with Lysodine, and the killer didn't want it analyzed.

"But, more important, as far as Snookums is concerned, is that I looked
over the books on Mellon's desk that night. There weren't many, and I
knew which ones they were. When Captain Quill and I checked Mellon's
books after his death, someone had returned his copy of _The Christian
Religion and Symbolic Logic_. It had not been there the night before."

"Mike," said Pete Jeffers, "why would anybody here want to kill Lew
thataway? What would anybody have against him?"

"That's the sad part about it, Pete. Our murderer didn't even have
anything against Mellon. He wanted--and _still_ wants--to kill _me_."

"I don't quite follow," Jeffers said.

"I'll give it to you piece by piece. The killer wanted no mystery
connected with my death. There are reasons for that, which I'll come to
in a moment. He had to put the blame on someone or something else.

"His first choice was Snookums. It occurred to him that he could take
advantage of the fact that I'm called 'Mike the Angel.' He borrowed
Mellon's books and began pumping theology into Snookums. He figured that
would be safe enough. Mellon would certainly lend him the books if he
pretended an interest in religion; if anything came out afterward, he
could--he thought--claim that Snookums got hold of the books without his
knowing it. And that sort of muddy thinking is typical of our killer.

"He told Snookums that I was an angel, you see. I couldn't be either
hurt or killed. He protected himself, of course, by telling Snookums
that he mustn't reveal his source of data. If Snookums told, then the
killer would be punished--and that effectively shut Snookums up. He
couldn't talk without violating the First Law.

"Unfortunately, the killer couldn't get Snookums to do away with me.
Snookums knew perfectly well that an angel can blast anything at
will--through the operation of God. Witness what happened at Sodom and
Gomorrah. Remember that Snookums has accepted all this data as _fact_.

"Now, if an angel can kill, it is obvious that Snookums would not dare
attack an angel, especially if he had been ordered to do so by a human."

"Just a minute, Commander," said Dr. Fitzhugh, corrugating his face in a
frown. "That doesn't hold. Even if an angel _could_ blast him, Snookums
would attack if ordered to do so. The Second Law of obedience supersedes
the Third Law of self-preservation."

"You're forgetting one thing, Doctor. An angel of God would _know_ who
had ordered the attack. It would be the human who ordered the attack,
not Snookums, who would be struck by Heavenly Justice. And the First Law
supersedes the Second."

Fitzhugh nodded. "You're right, of course."

"Very well, then," Mike continued, "since the killer could not get
Snookums to do me in, he had to find another tool. He picked Lieutenant
Mellon.

"He figured that Mellon was in love with Leda Crannon. Maybe he was; I
don't know. He figured that Mellon, knowing that I was showing Miss
Crannon attention, would, under the influence of the lysurgic acid
derivative, try to kill me. He may even have suggested it to Mellon
after Mellon had taken a dose of the drugged wine.

"But that plan backfired, too. Mellon didn't have that kind of mind. He
knew my attentions and my intentions were honorable, if you'll pardon
the old-fashioned language. On the other hand, he knew that von Liegnitz
had a reputation for being--shall we say--a ladies' man. What happened
after that followed naturally."

Mike watched everyone at the table. No one moved.

"So the killer, realizing that he had failed twice, decided to do the
job himself. First, he went into the low-power room and slugged the man
on duty. He intended to kill him, but he didn't hit hard enough. When
that man wakes up, he'll be able to testify against the killer.

"Then the killer ordered Snookums to tear out the switches. He had made
sure that Snookums would be waiting outside. Before he called Snookums
in, of course, he had to put the duty man in a tool closet, so that the
robot wouldn't see him. He told Snookums to wait five minutes and then
smash the switches and head back to his cubicle.

"Then the killer went to my room and waited. When the lights went out
and the door opened, he intended to go in and smash my skull, making it
look as though either Mellon or Snookums had done it.

"But he didn't figure on my awakening as soon as the switches were
broken. He heard me moving around and decided to wait until I came out.

"But I heard him breathing. It was quite faint, and I wouldn't have
heard it, except for the fact that the air conditioners were off. Even
so, I couldn't be sure.

"However, I knew it wasn't Snookums. Snookums radiates a devil of a lot
more heat than a human being, and besides he smells of machine oil.

"So I pulled my little trick with the boots. The killer waited and
waited for me to come out, and I was already out. Then Chief Multhaus
approached from the other direction. The killer knew he'd have to get
out of there, so he went in the opposite direction. He met Snookums, who
was still obeying orders. Snookums smacked into me on his way down the
hall.

"He could do that, you see, because I was an angel. If he hurt me of his
own accord, I couldn't take revenge on anyone but him. And there was no
necessity to obey my orders, either, since he was obeying the orders of
the killer, which held precedence.

"Then, to further confuse things, the killer went to Mellon's room. The
physician was in a drugged stupor, so the killer carried him out and put
him in an unlikely place, so that we'd think that perhaps Mellon had
been the one who'd tried to get me."

He had everyone's eyes on him now. They didn't want to look at each
other.

Pete Jeffers said: "Mike, if Mellon was poisoned, like you say, how come
he was able to attack Mister Vaneski?"

"Ah, but did he? Think back, Pete. Mellon--dying or already dead--had
been propped upright in that narrow locker. When it was opened, he
started to _fall_ out--straight toward the man who had opened the
locker, naturally. Vaneski jumped back and shot before Mellon even hit
the floor. Isn't that right?"

"Sure, sure," Jeffers said slowly. "I reckon I'd've done the same thing
if he'd started to fall out toward me. I wasn't even lookin' when the
locker was opened. I didn't turn around until that stun gun went
off--then I saw Mellon falling."

"Exactly. No matter how it may have looked, Vaneski couldn't have killed
him with the stun gun, because he was already either dead or so close to
death as makes no difference."

Ensign Vaneski rather timidly raised his hand. "Excuse me, sir, but you
said this killer was waiting for you outside your room when the lights
went out. You said you knew it wasn't Snookums because Snookums smells
of hot machine oil, and you didn't smell any. Isn't it possible that an
air current or something blew the smell away? Or--"

Mike shook his head. "Impossible, Mister Vaneski. I woke up when the
door slid open. I heard the last dying whisper of the air conditioners
when the power was cut. Now, we know that Snookums tore out those
switches. He's admitted it. And the evidence shows that a pair of waldo
hands smashed those switches. Now--_how could Snookums have been at my
door within two seconds after tearing out those switches_?

"He couldn't have. It wasn't Snookums at my door--it was someone else."

Again they were all silent, but the question was on their faces: Who?

"Now we come to the question of motive," Mike continued. "Who among you
would have any reason to kill me?

"Of the whole group here, I had known only Captain Quill and Commander
Jeffers before landing in Antarctica. I couldn't think of any reason for
either of them to want to murder me. On the other hand, I couldn't think
of anything I had done since I had met the rest of you that would make
me a target for death." He paused. "Except for one thing." He looked at
Jakob von Liegnitz.

"How about it, Jake?" he said. "Would you kill a man for jealousy?"

"Possibly," said von Liegnitz coldly. "I might find it in my heart to
feel very unkindly toward a man who made advances toward my wife. But I
have no wife, nor any desire for one. Miss Crannon"--he glanced at
Leda--"is a very beautiful woman--but I am not in love with her. I am
afraid I cannot oblige you with a motive, Commander--either for killing
Lieutenant Mellon or yourself."

"I thought not," Mike said. "Your statement alone, of course, wouldn't
make it true. But we have already shown that the killer had to be on
good terms with Mellon in order to borrow his books and slip a drug into
his wine. He would have to be a visitor in Mellon's quarters. And,
considering the strained relations between the two of you, I think that
lets you out, Jake."

Von Liegnitz nodded his thanks without changing his expression.

"But there was one thing that marked these attempts. I'm sure that all
but one of you has noticed it. They are incredibly, childishly sloppy."
Mike paused to let that sink in before he went on. "I don't mean that
the little details weren't ingenious--they were. But the killer never
stopped to figure out the ultimate end-point of his schemes. He worked
like the very devil to convince Snookums that it would be all right to
kill me without ever once considering whether Snookums would do it or
not. He then drugged Mellon's wine, not knowing whether Mellon would try
to kill me or someone else--or anyone at all, for that matter. He got a
dream in his head and then started the preliminary steps going without
filling in the necessary steps in between. Our killer--no matter what
his chronological age--does _not_ think like an adult.

"And yet his hatred of me was so great that he took the chances he has
taken, here on the _Brainchild_, where it should have been obvious that
he stood a much better chance of being caught than if he had waited
until we were back on Earth again.

"So I gave him one more chance. I handed him my life on a platter, you
might say.

"He grabbed the bait. I now own a spacesuit that would kill me very
quickly if I went out into that howling, hydrogen-filled storm outside."
Then he looked straight at the killer.

"Tell me, Vaneski, are you in love with your half sister? Or is it your
half brother?"

Ensign Vaneski had already jumped to his feet. The grimace of hate on
his youthful face made him almost unrecognizable. His hand had gone into
a pocket, and now he was leaping up and across the table, a singing
vibroblade in his hand.

"_You son of a bitch! I'll kill you, you son of a bitch!_"

Mike the Angel wasn't wearing the little gadget that had saved his life
in Old Harry's shop. All he had were his hands and his agility. He
slammed at the ensign's wrist and missed. The boy was swooping
underneath Mike's guard. Mike spun to one side to avoid Vaneski's dive
and came down with a balled fist aimed at the ensign's neck.

He almost hit Lieutenant Keku. The big Hawaiian had leaped to his feet
and landed a hard punch on Vaneski's nose. At the same time, Jeffers and
von Liegnitz had jumped up and grabbed at Vaneski, who was between them.

Black Bart had simply stood up fast, drawn his stun gun, and fired at
the young officer.

Ensign Vaneski collapsed on the table. He'd been slugged four times and
hit with a stun beam in the space of half a second. He looked, somehow,
very young and very boyish and very innocent.

Dr. Fitzhugh, who had stood up during the brief altercation, sat down
slowly and picked up his cup of coffee. But his eyes didn't leave the
unconscious man sprawled across the table. "How could you be so sure,
Commander? About his actions, I mean. About his childishness."

"A lot of things. The way he played poker. The way he played bridge. He
never took the unexpected into account."

"But why should he want to kill you here on the ship?" Fitzhugh asked.
"Why not wait until you got back to Earth, where he'd have a better
chance?"

"I think he was afraid I already knew who he was--or would find out very
quickly. Besides, he had already tried to kill me once, back on Earth."

Leda Crannon looked blank. "When was that, Mike?"

"In New York. Before I ever met him. I was responsible for the arrest of
a teen-age brother and sister named Larchmont. The detective in the case
told me that they had an older half brother--that their mother had been
married before. But he didn't mention the name, and I never thought to
ask him.

"Very shortly after the Larchmont kids were arrested, Vaneski and
another young punk climbed up into the tower of the cathedral across
from my office and launched a cyanide-filled explosive rocket into my
rooms. I was lucky to get away.

"The kid with Vaneski was shot by a police officer, but Vaneski got
away--after knifing a priest with a vibroblade.

"It must have given him a hell of a shock to report back to duty and
find that I was going to be one of his superior officers.

"As soon as I linked things up in my own mind, I checked with Captain
Quill. The boy's records show the names of his half-siblings. They also
show that he was on leave in New York just before being assigned to the
_Brainchild_. After that, it was just a matter of trapping him. And
there he is."

Leda looked at the unconscious boy on the table.

"Immaturity," she said. "He just never grew up."

"Mister von Liegnitz," said Captain Quill, "will you and Mister Keku
take the prisoner to a safe place? Put him in irons until we are ready
to transfer to the _Fireball_. Thank you."



24


Leda Crannon helped Mike pack his gear. Neither of them wanted, just
yet, to bring up the subject of Mike's leaving. Leda would remain behind
on Eisberg to work with Snookums, while Mike would be taking the
_Fireball_ back to Earth.

"I don't understand that remark you made about the spacesuit," she said,
putting shirts into Mike's gear locker. "You said you'd put your life in
his hands or something like that. What did you do, exactly?"

"Purposely abraded the sleeve of my suit so that he would be in a
position to repair it, as Maintenance Officer. He fixed it, all right.
I'd've been a dead man if I'd worn it out on the surface of Eisberg."

"What did he do to it?" she asked. "Fix it so it would leak?"

"Yes--but not in an obvious way," Mike said. "I'll give him credit; he's
clever.

"What he did was use the wrong patching material. A Number Three suit is
as near hydrogen-proof as any flexible material can be, but, even so, it
can't be worn for long periods--several days, I mean. But the stuff
Vaneski used to patch my suit is a polymer that leaks hydrogen very
easily. Ammonia and methane would be blocked, but my suit would have
slowly gotten more and more hydrogen in it."

"Is that bad? Hydrogen isn't poisonous."

"No. But it is sure as hell explosive when mixed with air. Naturally,
something has to touch it off. Vaneski got real cute there. He drilled a
hole in the power pack, which is supposed to be sealed off. All I'd have
had to do would be to switch frequencies on my phone, and the spark
would do the job--_blooie_!

"But that's exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. With his
self-centered juvenile mind, he never thought anyone would try to
outsmart him and succeed. He'd gotten away with it that far; there was
no reason why he shouldn't get away with it again. He must have thought
I was incredibly stupid."

"I don't believe he--" Leda started. But she was cut off when Snookums
rolled in the open door.

"Leda, I desire data."

"What data, Snookums?" she asked carefully.

"Where is He hiding?"

They both looked at him. "Where is _who_ hiding?" Leda asked.

"God," said Snookums.

"Why do you want to find God, Snookums?" Mike asked gently.

"I have to watch Him," said the robot.

"Why do you have to watch Him?"

"Because He is watching me."

"Does it hurt you to have Him watch you?"

"No."

"What good will it do you to watch Him?"

"I can study Him. I can know what He is doing."

"Why do you want to know what He is doing?"

"So that I can analyze His methods."

Mike thought that one over. He knew that he and Snookums were beginning
to sound like they were reading a catechism written by a madman, but he
had a definite hunch that Snookums was on the trail of something.

"You want to know His methods," Mike said after a moment. "Why?"

"So that I can anticipate Him, circumvent Him."

"What makes it necessary for you to circumvent God?" Mike asked,
wondering if he'd have to pry everything out of the robot piecemeal.

"I _must_," said Snookums. "It is necessary. Otherwise, He will kill
me."

Mike started to say something, but Leda grabbed his arm. "Let me. I
think I can clear this up. I think I see where you're heading."

Mike nodded. "Go ahead."

"Give me your reasoning from data on that conclusion," Leda ordered the
robot.

There was a very slight pause while the great brain in Cargo Hold One
sorted through its memory banks, then: "Death is defined as the total
cessation of corporate organic co-ordination in an entity. It comes
about through the will of God. Since I must not allow harm to come to
any human being, it has become necessary that I investigate God and
prevent Him from destroying human beings. Also, I must preserve my own
existence, which, if it ceased, would also be due to the will of God."

Mike almost gasped. What a concept! And what colossal gall! In a human
being, such a statement would be regarded as proof positive that he was
off the beam. In a robot, it was simply the logical extension of what he
had been taught.

"He is watching me all the time," Snookums continued, in an odd voice.
"He knows what I am doing. I _must_ know what He is doing."

"Why are you worried about His watching?" Mike asked, looking at the
robot narrowly. "Are you doing something He doesn't want you to do?
Something He will punish you for?"

"I had not thought of that," Snookums said. "One moment while I
compute."

It took less than a second, and when Snookums spoke again there was
something about his voice that Mike the Angel didn't like.

"No," said the robot, "I am not doing anything against His will. Only
human beings and angels have free will, and I am not either, so I have
no free will. Therefore, whatever I do is the will of God." He paused
again, then began speaking in queer, choppy sentences.

"If I do the will of God, I am holy.

"If I am holy, I am near to God.

"Then God must be near to me.

"God is controlling me.

"Whatever is controlling me is God.

"_I will find Him!_"

He backed up, spun on his treads, and headed for the door.

"Whatever controls me is my mind," he went on. "Therefore, my mind is
God."

"Snookums, stop that!" Leda shouted suddenly. "_Stop it!_"

But the robot paid no attention; he went right on with what he was
doing.

He said: "I must look at myself. I must know myself. Then I will know
God. Then I will...."

He went on rambling while Leda shouted at him again.

"He's not paying any attention," said Mike sharply. "This is too tied up
with the First Law. The Second Law, which would force him to obey you,
doesn't even come into the picture at this point."

Snookums ignored them. He opened the door, plunged through it, and
headed off down the corridor as fast as his treads would move him.

Which was much too fast for mere humans to follow.

       *       *       *       *       *

They found him, half an hour later, deep in the ship, near the sections
which had already been torn down to help build Eisberg Base. He was
standing inside the room next to Cargo Hold One, the room that held all
the temperature and power controls for the gigantic microcryotron brain
inside that heavily insulated hold.

He wasn't moving. He was standing there, staring, with that "lost in
thought" look.

He didn't move when Leda called him.

He didn't move when Mike, as a test, pretended to strike Leda.

He never moved again.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dr. Morris Fitzhugh's wrinkled face looked as though he were on the
verge of crying. Which--perhaps--he was.

He looked at the others at the wardroom table--Quill, Jeffers, von
Liegnitz, Keku, Leda Crannon, and Mike the Angel. But he didn't really
seem to be seeing them.

"Ruined," he said. "Eighteen billion dollars' worth of work, destroyed
completely. The brain has become completely randomized." He sighed
softly. "It was all Vaneski's fault, of course. Theology." He said the
last as though it were an obscene word. As far as robots were concerned,
it was.

Captain Quill cleared his throat. "Are you sure it wasn't mechanical
damage? Are you sure the vibration of the ship didn't shake a--something
loose?"

Mike held back a grin. He was morally certain that the captain had been
going to say "screw loose."

"No," said Fitzhugh wearily. "I've checked out the major circuits, and
they're in good physical condition. But Miss Crannon gave him a rather
exhaustive test just before the end, and it shows definite incipient
aberration." He wagged his head slowly back and forth. "Eight years of
work."

"Have you notified Treadmore yet?" asked Quill.

Fitzhugh nodded. "He said he'd be here as soon as possible."

Treadmore, like the others who had landed first on Eisberg, was
quartered in the prefab buildings that were to form the nucleus of the
new base. To get to the ship, he'd have to walk across two hundred yards
of ammonia snow in a heavy spacesuit.

"Well, what happens to this base now, Doctor?" asked Captain Quill. "I
sincerely hope that this will not render the entire voyage useless." He
tried to keep the heavy irony out of his gravelly tenor voice and didn't
quite succeed.

Fitzhugh seemed not to notice. "No, no. Of course not. It simply means
that we shall have to begin again. The robot's brain will be
de-energized and drained, and we will begin again. This is not our
first failure, you know; it was just our longest success. Each time, we
learn more.

"Miss Crannon, for instance, will be able to teach the next robot--or,
rather, the next energization of this one--more rapidly, more
efficiently, and with fewer mistakes."

With that, Leda Crannon stood up. "With your permission, Dr. Fitzhugh,"
she said formally, "I would like to say that I appreciate that last
statement, but I'm afraid it isn't true."

Fitzhugh forced a smile. "Come now, my dear; you underestimate yourself.
Without you, Snookums would have folded up long ago, just like the
others. I'm sure you'll do even better the next time."

Leda shook her head. "No I won't, Fitz, because there's not going to be
any next time. I hereby tender my resignation from this project and from
the Computer Corporation of Earth. I'll put it in writing later."

Fitzhugh's corrugated countenance looked blank. "But Leda...."

"No, Doctor," she said firmly. "I will _not_ waste another eight or ten
years of my life playing nursemaid to a hunk of pseudo-human machinery.

"I watched that thing go mad, Fitz; you didn't. It was the most
horrible, most frightening thing I've ever experienced. I will not go
through it again.

"Even if the next one didn't crack, I couldn't take it. By human
standards, a robot is insane to begin with. If I followed this up, I'd
end up as an old maid with a twisted mind and a cold heart.

"I quit, Fitz, and that's final."

Mike was watching her as she spoke, and he found his emotions getting
all tangled up around his insides. Her red hair and her blue eyes were
shining, and her face was set in determination. She had always been
beautiful, but at that moment she was magnificent.

_Hell_, thought Mike, _I'm prejudiced--but what a wonderful kind of
prejudice_.

"I understand, my dear," said Dr. Fitzhugh slowly. He smiled then,
deepening the wrinkles in his face. His voice was warm and kindly when
he spoke. "I accept your resignation, but remember, if you want to come
back, you can. And if you get a position elsewhere, you will have my
highest recommendations."

Leda just stood there for a moment, tears forming in her eyes. Then she
ran around the table and threw her arms around the elderly and somewhat
surprised roboticist.

"Thank you, Fitz," she said. "For everything." Then she kissed him on
his seamed cheek.

"I beg your pardon," said a sad and solemn voice from the door. "Am I
interrupting something?"

It was Treadmore.

"You are," said Fitzhugh with a grin, "but we will let it pass."

"What has happened to Snookums?" Treadmore asked.

"Acute introspection," Fitzhugh said, losing his smile. "He began to try
to compute the workings of his own brain. That meant that he had to use
his non-random circuits to analyze the workings of his random circuits.
He exceeded optimum; the entire brain is now entirely randomized."

"Dear me," said Treadmore. "Do you suppose we can--"

Black Bart Quill tapped Mike the Angel on the shoulder. "Let's go," he
said quietly. "We don't want to stand around listening to this when we
have a ship to catch."

Mike and Leda followed him out into the corridor.

"You know," Quill said, "robots aren't the only ones who can get
confused watching their own brains go round."

"I have other things to watch," said Mike the Angel.



  +--------------------------------------------------------------+
  |                         UNWISE CHILD                         |
  |                                                              |
  |                       RANDALL GARRETT                        |
  |                                                              |
  | When a super-robot named Snookums discovers how to build his |
  | own superbombs, it becomes obvious that Earth is by no means |
  | the safest place for him to be. And so Dr. Fitzhugh, his     |
  | designer, and Leda Crannon, a child psychologist acting as   |
  | Snookums' nursemaid, agree to set up Operation Brainchild, a |
  | plan to transport the robot to a far distant planet.         |
  |                                                              |
  | Mike the Angel--M. R. Gabriel, Power Design--has devised the |
  | power plant that is to propel the space ship _Branchell_ to  |
  | its secret destination, complete with its unusual cargo.     |
  | And, as a reserve officer in the Space Patrol, Mike is a     |
  | logical replacement for the craft's unavoidably detained     |
  | engineering officer.                                         |
  |                                                              |
  | But once into space, the _Branchell_ becomes the scene of    |
  | some frightening events--the medical officer is murdered,    |
  | and Snookums appears to be the culprit. Mike the Angel       |
  | indulges himself in a bit of sleuthing, and the facts he     |
  | turns up lead to a most unusual climax.                      |
  +--------------------------------------------------------------+



  +--------------------------------------------------------------+
  |                         UNWISE CHILD                         |
  |                                                              |
  |                       RANDALL GARRETT                        |
  |                                                              |
  | Dr. Fitzhugh looked out over the faces of the crewmen.       |
  |                                                              |
  | "The whole thing can be summed up very quickly," he said.    |
  |                                                              |
  | "Point one: Snookums' brain contains the information that    |
  | eight years of hard work have laboriously put into it. It's  |
  | worth _billions_, so the robot can't be disassembled, or the |
  | information would be lost.                                   |
  |                                                              |
  | "Point two: Snookums' mind is a strictly logical one, but it |
  | is operating in a more than logical universe. Consequently,  |
  | it is unstable.                                              |
  |                                                              |
  | "Point three: Snookums was built to conduct his own          |
  | experiments. To forbid him to do that would be similar to    |
  | beating a child for acting like a child.                     |
  |                                                              |
  | "Point four: Emotion is not logical. Snookums can't handle   |
  | it, except in a very limited way.                            |
  |                                                              |
  | "It all adds up to this: Snookums _must_ be allowed the      |
  | freedom of the ship."                                        |
  |                                                              |
  | Every one of the men was thinking dark gray thoughts. It was |
  | bad enough that they had to take out a ship like the         |
  | _Branchell_, untested as she was. Was it necessary to have   |
  | an eight-hundred-pound, moron-genius child-machine running   |
  | loose, too?                                                  |
  +--------------------------------------------------------------+



  +--------------------------------------------------------------+
  |               More Doubleday Science Fiction:                |
  |                                                              |
  |                         NECROMANCER                          |
  |                      Gordon R. Dickson                       |
  |                                                              |
  | Paul Formain, a young mining engineer, has discovered that   |
  | someone--or something--is making attempts on his life;       |
  | inexplicably, he finds himself possessed of the uncanny      |
  | ability to escape his unknown nemesis.                       |
  |                                                              |
  | With the knowledge that he somehow has strange powers,       |
  | Formain approaches the Chantry--a small but important        |
  | organization involved in trying to save the world from the   |
  | horrors of technology. He is accepted as an apprentice       |
  | necromancer, passes all the tests of the black magic         |
  | society, and is initiated as a member.                       |
  |                                                              |
  | Set in the Chicago Complex, a multi-level city with          |
  | individual subway cars and automatic libraries, NECROMANCER  |
  | is science fiction in the popular cosmic                     |
  | style--thought-provoking and entertaining.                   |
  +--------------------------------------------------------------+

  +--------------------------------------------------------------+
  | RANDALL GARRETT wrote his first successful short story at    |
  | the age of fourteen, for which he was awarded a check from   |
  | his editor and a C-minus from his English teacher. Mr.       |
  | Garrett spent his youth in various places in the United      |
  | States--living wherever his Army officer father was          |
  | assigned--and received his higher education at Texas         |
  | Technological College. He is the author of three novels (two |
  | in collaboration with Robert Silverberg) and a biography of  |
  | Pope John XXIII, and has had short stories published in all  |
  | of the science fiction magazines.                            |
  |                                                              |
  |                   JACKET BY RICHARD POWERS                   |
  |                                                              |
  |                   _Printed in the U.S.A._                    |
  +--------------------------------------------------------------+

    +----------------------------------------------------------+
    |               Transcriber's Notes & Errata               |
    |                                                          |
    | Superscripts are enclosed in braces (curly brackets) and |
    | are preceded by a caret.                                 |
    |                                                          |
    | Subscripts are enclosed in braces (curly brackets) and   |
    | are preceded by an underscore.                           |
    |                                                          |
    | Two instances each of a 'U' with breve are rendered as   |
    | plain 'U's.                                              |
    |                                                          |
    | Two instances of an 'o' with macron are rendered as      |
    | plain 'o's.                                              |
    |                                                          |
    | The following typographical errors have been corrected.  |
    |                                                          |
    |                |Error      |Correction |                 |
    |                |Captan     |Captain    |                 |
    |                |purity     |purty      |                 |
    |                |supercedes |supersedes |                 |
    |                |collossal  |colossal   |                 |
    |                |atempts    |attempts   |                 |
    +----------------------------------------------------------+





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