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´╗┐Title: Circus
Author: Nourse, Alan Edward, 1928-1992
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 "Circus" ***

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



Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _The Counterfeit Man More Science
    Fiction Stories by Alan E. Nourse_ published in 1963. Extensive
    research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on
    this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical
    errors have been corrected without note.



Circus



"Just suppose," said Morgan, "that I _did_ believe you. Just for
argument." He glanced up at the man across the restaurant table. "Where
would we go from here?"

The man shifted uneasily in his seat. He was silent, staring down at his
plate. Not a strange-looking man, Morgan thought. Rather ordinary, in
fact. A plain face, nose a little too long, fingers a little too dainty,
a suit that doesn't quite seem to fit, but all in all, a perfectly
ordinary looking man.

Maybe _too_ ordinary, Morgan thought.

Finally the man looked up. His eyes were dark, with a hunted look in
their depths that chilled Morgan a little. "Where do we go? I don't
know. I've tried to think it out, and I get nowhere. But you've _got_ to
believe me, Morgan. I'm lost, I mean it. If I can't get help, I don't
know where it's going to end."

"I'll tell you where it's going to end," said Morgan. "It's going to end
in a hospital. A mental hospital. They'll lock you up and they'll lose
the key somewhere." He poured himself another cup of coffee and sipped
it, scalding hot. "And that," he added, "will be that."

       *       *       *       *       *

The place was dark and almost empty. Overhead, a rotary fan swished
patiently. The man across from Morgan ran a hand through his dark hair.
"There must be some other way," he said. "There has to be."

"All right, let's start from the beginning again," Morgan said. "Maybe
we can pin something down a little better. You say your name is
Parks--right?"

The man nodded. "Jefferson Haldeman Parks, if that helps any. Haldeman
was my mother's maiden name."

"All right. And you got into town on Friday--right?"

Parks nodded.

"Fine. Now go through the whole story again. What happened first?"

The man thought for a minute. "As I said, first there was a fall. About
twenty feet. I didn't break any bones, but I was shaken up and limping.
The fall was near the highway going to the George Washington Bridge. I
got over to the highway and tried to flag down a ride."

"How did you feel? I mean, was there anything strange that you noticed?"

"_Strange!_" Parks' eyes widened. "I--I was speechless. At first I
hadn't noticed too much--I was concerned with the fall, and whether I
was hurt or not. I didn't really think about much else until I hobbled
up to that highway and saw those cars coming. Then I could hardly
believe my eyes. I thought I was crazy. But a car stopped and asked me
if I was going into the city, and I knew I wasn't crazy."

Morgan's mouth took a grim line. "You understood the language?"

"Oh, yes. I don't see how I could have, but I did. We talked all the way
into New York--nothing very important, but we understood each other. His
speech had an odd sound, but--"

Morgan nodded. "I know, I noticed. What did you do when you got to New
York?"

"Well, obviously, I needed money. I had gold coin. There had been no way
of knowing if it would be useful, but I'd taken it on chance. I tried to
use it at a newsstand first, and the man wouldn't touch it. Asked me if
I thought I was the U.S. Treasury or something. When he saw that I was
serious, he sent me to a money lender, a hock shop, I think he called
it. So I found a place--"

"Let me see the coins."

Parks dropped two small gold discs on the table. They were perfectly
smooth and perfectly round, tapered by wear to a thin blunt edge. There
was no design on them, and no printing. Morgan looked up at the man
sharply. "What did you get for these?"

Parks shrugged. "Too little, I suspect. Two dollars for the small one,
five for the larger."

"You should have gone to a bank."

"I know that now. I didn't then. Naturally, I assumed that with
everything else so similar, principles of business would also be
similar."

Morgan sighed and leaned back in his chair. "Well, then what?"

Parks poured some more coffee. His face was very pale, Morgan thought,
and his hands trembled as he raised the cup to his lips. Fright? Maybe.
Hard to tell. The man put down the cup and rubbed his forehead with the
back of his hand. "First, I went to the mayor's office," he said. "I
kept trying to think what anyone at home would do in my place. That
seemed a good bet. I asked a policeman where it was, and then I went
there."

"But you didn't get to see him."

"No. I saw a secretary. She said the mayor was in conference, and that I
would have to have an appointment. She let me speak to another man, one
of the mayor's assistants."

"And you told him?"

"No. I wanted to see the mayor himself. I thought that was the best
thing to do. I waited for a couple of hours, until another assistant
came along and told me flatly that the mayor wouldn't see me unless I
stated my business first." He drew in a deep breath. "So I stated it.
And then I was gently but firmly ushered back into the street again."

"They didn't believe you," said Morgan.

"Not for a minute. They laughed in my face."

Morgan nodded. "I'm beginning to get the pattern. So what did you do
next?"

"Next I tried the police. I got the same treatment there, only they
weren't so gentle. They wouldn't listen either. They muttered something
about cranks and their crazy notions, and when they asked me where I
lived, they thought I was--what did they call it?--a wise guy! Told me
to get out and not come back with any more wild stories."

"I see," said Morgan.

Jefferson Parks finished his last bite of pie and pushed the plate away.
"By then I didn't know quite what to do. I'd been prepared for almost
anything excepting this. It was frightening. I tried to rationalize it,
and then I quit trying. It wasn't that I attracted attention, or
anything like that, quite the contrary. Nobody even looked at me, unless
I said something to them. I began to look for things that were
_different_, things that I could show them, and say, see, this proves
that I'm telling the truth, look at it--" He looked up helplessly.

"And what did you find?"

"Nothing. Oh, little things, insignificant little things. Your
calendars, for instance. Naturally, I couldn't understand your frame of
reference. And the coinage, you stamp your coins; we don't. And
cigarettes. We don't have any such thing as tobacco." The man gave a
short laugh. "And your house dogs! We have little animals that look more
like rabbits than poodles. But there was nothing any more significant
than that. Absolutely nothing."

"Except yourself," Morgan said.

"Ah, yes. I thought that over carefully. I looked for differences,
obvious ones. I couldn't find any. You can see that, just looking at me.
So I searched for more subtle things. Skin texture, fingerprints, bone
structure, body proportion. I still couldn't find anything. Then I went
to a doctor."

Morgan's eyebrows lifted. "Good," he said.

Parks shrugged tiredly. "Not really. He examined me. He practically took
me apart. I carefully refrained from saying anything about who I was or
where I came from; just said I wanted a complete physical examination,
and let him go to it. He was thorough, and when he finished he patted me
on the back and said, 'Parks, you've got nothing to worry about. You're
as fine, strapping a specimen of a healthy human being as I've ever
seen.' And that was that." Parks laughed bitterly. "I guess I was
supposed to be happy with the verdict, and instead I was ready to knock
him down. It was idiotic, it defied reason, it was infuriating."

Morgan nodded sourly. "Because you're not a human being," he said.

"That's right. I'm not a human being at all."

       *       *       *       *       *

"How did you happen to pick this planet, or this sun?" Morgan asked
curiously. "There must have been a million others to choose from."

Parks unbuttoned his collar and rubbed his stubbled chin unhappily. "I
didn't make the choice. Neither did anyone else. Travel by warp is a
little different from travel by the rocket you fiction writers make so
much of. With a rocket vehicle you pick your destination, make your
calculations, and off you go. The warp is blind flying, strictly blind.
We send an unmanned scanner ahead. It probes around more or less
hit-or-miss until it locates something, somewhere, that looks habitable.
When it spots a likely looking place, we keep a tight beam on it and
send through a manned scout." He grinned sourly. "Like me. If it looks
good to the scout, he signals back, and they leave the warp anchored for
a sort of permanent gateway until we can get a transport beam built. But
we can't control the directional and dimensional scope of the warp.
There are an infinity of ways it can go, until we have a guide beam
transmitting from the other side. Then we can just scan a segment of
space with the warp, and the scanner picks up the beam."

He shook his head wearily. "We're new at it, Morgan. We've only tried a
few dozen runs. We're not too far ahead of you in technology. We've been
using rocket vehicles just like yours for over a century. That's fine
for a solar system, but it's not much good for the stars. When the warp
principle was discovered, it looked like the answer. But something went
wrong, the scanner picked up this planet, and I was coming through, and
then something blew. Next thing I knew I was falling. When I tried to
make contact again, the scanner was gone!"

"And you found things here the same as back home," said Morgan.

"The same! Your planet and mine are practically twins. Similar cities,
similar technology, everything. The people are the same, with precisely
the same anatomy and physiology, the same sort of laws, the same
institutions, even compatible languages. Can't you see the importance of
it? This planet is on the other side of the universe from mine, with the
first intelligent life we've yet encountered anywhere. But when I try to
tell your people that I'm a native of another star system, _they won't
believe me_!"

"Why should they?" asked Morgan. "You look like a human being. You talk
like one. You eat like one. You act like one. What you're asking them to
believe is utterly incredible."

"_But it's true._"

Morgan shrugged. "So it's true. I won't argue with you. But as I asked
before, even if I _did_ believe you, what do you expect _me_ to do about
it? Why pick _me_, of all the people you've seen?"

There was a desperate light in Parks' eyes. "I was tired, tired of being
laughed at, tired of having people looking at me as though I'd lost my
wits when I tried to tell them the truth. You were here, you were alone,
so I started talking. And then I found out you wrote stories." He looked
up eagerly. "I've got to get back, Morgan, somehow. My life is there,
my family. And think what it would mean to both of our worlds--contact
with another intelligent race! Combine our knowledges, our technologies,
and we could explore the galaxy!"

He leaned forward, his thin face intense. "I need money and I need help.
I know some of the mathematics of the warp principle, know some of the
design, some of the power and wiring principles. You have engineers
here, technologists, physicists. They could fill in what I don't know
and build a guide beam. But they won't do it if they don't believe me.
Your government won't listen to me, they won't appropriate any money."

"Of course they won't. They've got a war or two on their hands, they
have public welfare, and atomic bombs, and rockets to the moon to sink
their money into." Morgan stared at the man. "But what can _I_ do?"

"You can _write_! That's what you can do. You can tell the world about
me, you can tell exactly what has happened. I know how public interest
can be aroused in my world. It must be the same in yours."

Morgan didn't move. He just stared. "How many people have you talked
to?" he asked.

"A dozen, a hundred, maybe a thousand."

"And how many believed you?"

"None."

"You mean _nobody_ would believe you?"

"_Not one soul._ Until I talked to you."

And then Morgan was laughing, laughing bitterly, tears rolling down his
cheeks. "And I'm the one man who couldn't help you if my life depended
on it," he gasped.

"You believe me?"

Morgan nodded sadly. "I believe you. Yes. I think your warp brought you
through to a parallel universe of your own planet, not to another star,
but I think you're telling the truth."

"Then you _can_ help me."

"I'm afraid not."

"Why not?"

"Because I'd be worse than no help at all."

Jefferson Parks gripped the table, his knuckles white. "Why?" he cried
hoarsely. "If you believe me, why can't you help me?"

Morgan pointed to the magazine lying on the table. "I write, yes," he
said sadly. "Ever read stories like this before?"

Parks picked up the magazine, glanced at the bright cover. "I barely
looked at it."

"You should look more closely. I have a story in this issue. The readers
thought it was very interesting," Morgan grinned. "Go ahead, look at
it."

The stranger from the stars leafed through the magazine, stopped at a
page that carried Roger Morgan's name. His eyes caught the first
paragraph and he turned white. He set the magazine down with a trembling
hand. "I see," he said, and the life was gone out of his voice. He
spread the pages viciously, read the lines again.

The paragraph said:

    "Just suppose," said Martin, "that I _did_ believe you. Just for
    argument." He glanced up at the man across the table. "Where do we
    go from here?"





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