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´╗┐Title: Irresistible Weapon
Author: Fyfe, Horace Brown, 1918-1997
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 "Irresistible Weapon" ***

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 _There's no such thing as a weapon too horrible
 to use; weapons will continue to become bigger,
 and deadlier. Like other things that can't be


By H. B. Fyfe

Illustrated by ED EMSH

In the special observation dome of the colossal command ship just beyond
Pluto, every nervous clearing of a throat rasped through the silence.
Telescopes were available but most of the scientists and high officials
preferred the view on the huge telescreen.

This showed, from a distance of several million miles, one of the small
moons of the frigid planet, so insignificant that it had not been
discovered until man had pushed the boundaries of space exploration past
the asteroids. The satellite was about to become spectacularly
significant, however, as the first target of man's newest, most
destructive weapon.

"I need not remind you, gentlemen," white-haired Co-ordinator Evora of
Mars had said, "that if we have actually succeeded in this race against
our former Centaurian colonies, it may well prevent the imminent
conflict entirely. In a few moments we shall know whether our scientists
have developed a truly irresistible weapon."

Of all the officials, soldiers, and scientists present, Arnold Gibson
was perhaps the least excited. For one thing, he had labored hard to
make the new horror succeed and felt reasonably confident that it would.
The project had been given the attention of every first-class scientific
mind in the Solar System; for the great fear was that the new states on
the Centaurian planets might win the race of discovery and ...

_And bring a little order into this old-fashioned, inefficient fumbling
toward progress_, Gibson thought contemptuously. _Look at them--fools
for all their degrees and titles! They've stumbled on something with
possibilities beyond their confused powers of application._

A gasp rustled through the chamber, followed by an even more awed
silence than had preceded the unbelievable, ultra-rapid action on the
telescreen. Gibson permitted himself a tight smile of satisfaction.

_Now my work really begins_, he reflected.

A few quick steps brought him to Dr. Haas, director of the project, just
before the less stunned observers surrounded that gentleman, babbling

"I'll start collecting the Number Three string of recorders," he

"All right, Arnold," agreed Haas. "Tell the others to get their ships
out too. I'll be busy here."

_Not half as busy as you will be in about a day_, thought Gibson,
heading for the spaceship berths.

       *       *       *       *       *

He had arranged to be assigned the recording machines drifting in space
at the greatest distance from the command ship. The others would assume
that he needed more time to locate and retrieve the apparatus--which
would give him a head start toward Alpha Centauri.

His ship was not large, but it was powerful and versatile to cope with
any emergency that may have been encountered during the dangerous tests.
Gibson watched his instruments carefully for signs of pursuit until he
had put a few million miles between himself and the command ship. Then
he eased his craft into subspace drive and relaxed his vigilance.

He returned to normal space many "days" later in the vicinity of Alpha
Centauri. They may have attempted to follow him for all he knew, but it
hardly mattered by then. He broadcast the recognition signal he had been
given to memorize long ago, when he had volunteered his services to the
new states. Then he headed for the capital planet, Nessus. Long before
reaching it, he acquired a lowering escort of warcraft, but he was
permitted to land.

"Well, well, it's young Gibson!" the Chairman of Nessus greeted him,
after the newcomer had passed through the exhaustive screening designed
to protect the elaborate underground headquarters. "I trust you have
news for us, my boy. Watch outside the door, Colonel!"

One of the ostentatiously armed guards stepped outside and closed the
door as Gibson greeted the obese man sitting across the button-studded
expanse of desk. The scientist was under no illusion as to the vagueness
of the title "Chairman." He was facing the absolute power of the
Centaurian planets--which, in a few months' time, would be the same as
saying the ruler of all the human race in both systems. Gibson's file
must have been available on the Chairman's desk telescreen within
minutes of the reception of his recognition signal. He felt a thrill of
admiration for the efficiency of the new states and their system of

He made it his business to report briefly and accurately, trusting that
the plain facts of his feat would attract suitable recognition. They
did. Chairman Diamond's sharp blue eyes glinted out of the fat mask of
his features.

"Well done, my boy!" he grunted, with a joviality he did not bother
trying to make sound overly sincere. "So _they_ have it! You must see
our men immediately, and point out where they have gone wrong. You may
leave it to me to decide _who_ has gone wrong!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Arnold Gibson shivered involuntarily before reminding himself that _he_
had seen the correct answer proved before his eyes. He had stood there
and watched--more, he had worked with them all his adult life--and he
was the last whom the muddled fools would have suspected.

The officer outside the door, Colonel Korman, was recalled and given
orders to escort Gibson to the secret state laboratories. He glanced
briefly at the scientist when they had been let out through the
complicated system of safeguards.

"We have to go to the second moon," he said expressionlessly. "Better
sleep all you can on the way. Once you're there, the Chairman will be
impatient for results!"

Gibson was glad, after they had landed on the satellite, that he had
taken the advice. He was led from one underground lab to another, to
compare Centaurian developments with Solarian. Finally, Colonel Korman
appeared to extricate him, giving curt answers to such researchers as
still had questions.

"Whew! Glad you got me out!" Gibson thanked him. "They've been picking
my brain for two days straight!"

"I hope you can stay awake," retorted Korman with no outward sign of
sympathy. "If you think you can't, say so now. I'll have them give you
another shot. The Chairman is calling on the telescreen."

Gibson straightened.

_Jealous snob!_ he thought. _Typical military fathead, and he knows I
amount to more than any little colonel now. I was smart enough to fool
all the so-called brains of the Solar System._

"I'll stay awake," he said shortly.

Chairman Diamond's shiny features appeared on the screen soon after
Korman reported his charge ready.

"Speak freely," he ordered Gibson. "This beam is so tight and scrambled
that no prying jackass could even tell that it is communication. Have
you set us straight?"

"Yes, Your Excellency," replied Gibson. "I merely pointed out which of
several methods the Solarians got to yield results. Your--our scientists
were working on all possibilities, so it would have been only a matter
of time."

"Which you have saved us," said Chairman Diamond. His ice-blue eyes
glinted again. "I wish I could have seen the faces of Haas and
Co-ordinator Evora, and the rest. You fooled them completely!"

Gibson glowed at the rare praise.

"I dislike bragging, Your Excellency," he said, "but they _are_ fools. I
might very well have found the answer without them, once they had
collected the data. My success shows what intelligence, well-directed
after the manner of the new states of Centauri, can accomplish against

The Chairman's expression, masked by the fat of his face, nevertheless
approached a smile.

"So you would say that you--one of _our_ sympathizers--were actually the
most intelligent worker _they_ had?"

_He'll have his little joke_, thought Gibson, _and I'll let him put it
over. Then, even that sour colonel will laugh with us, and the Chairman
will hint about what post I'll get as a reward. I wouldn't mind being in
charge--old Haas' opposite number at this end._

"I think I might indeed be permitted to boast of that much ability, Your
Excellency," he answered, putting on what he hoped was an expectant
smile. "Although, considering the Solarians, that is not saying much."

The little joke did not develop precisely as anticipated.

"Unfortunately," Chairman Diamond said, maintaining his smile
throughout, "wisdom should never be confused with intelligence."

       *       *       *       *       *

Gibson waited, feeling his own smile stiffen as he wondered what could
be going wrong. Surely, they could not doubt _his_ loyalty! A hasty
glance at Colonel Korman revealed no expression on the military facade
affected by that gentleman.

"For if wisdom _were_ completely synonymous with intelligence," the
obese Chairman continued, relishing his exposition, "you would be a
rival to myself, and consequently would be--disposed of--anyway!"

Such a tingle shot up Gibson's spine that he was sure he must have

"_Anyway?_" he repeated huskily. His mouth suddenly seemed dry.

Chairman Diamond smiled out of the telescreen, so broadly that Gibson
was unpleasantly affected by the sight of his small, gleaming, white

"Put it this way," he suggested suavely. "Your highly trained mind
observed, correlated, and memorized the most intricate data and
mathematics, meanwhile guiding your social relations with your former
colleagues so as to remain unsuspected while stealing their most
cherished secret. Such a feat demonstrates ability and intelligence."

Gibson tried to lick his lips, and could not, despite the seeming
fairness of the words. He sensed a pulsing undercurrent of cruelty and

"On the other hand," the mellow voice flowed on, "having received the
information, being able to use it effectively now without you, and
knowing that you betrayed _once_--I shall simply discard you like an old
message blank. _That_ is an act of wisdom.

"Had you chosen your course more wisely," he added, "your position might
be stronger."

By the time Arnold Gibson regained his voice, the Centaurian autocrat
was already giving instructions to Colonel Korman. The scientist strove
to interrupt, to attract the ruler's attention even momentarily.

Neither paid him any heed, until he shouted and tried frenziedly to
shove the soldier from in front of the telescreen. Korman backhanded him
across the throat without looking around, with such force that Gibson
staggered back and fell.

He lay, half-choking, grasping his throat with both hands until he could
breathe. The colonel continued discussing his extinction without

"... so if Your Excellency agrees, I would prefer taking him back to
Nessus first, for the sake of the morale factor here. Some of them are
so addled now at having been caught chasing up wrong alleys that they
can hardly work."

Apparently the Chairman agreed, for the screen was blank when the
colonel reached down and hauled Gibson to his feet.

"Now, listen to me carefully!" he said, emphasizing his order with a
ringing slap across Gibson's face. "I shall walk behind you with my
blaster drawn. If you make a false move, I shall not kill you."

Gibson stared at him, holding his bleeding mouth.

"It will be much worse," Korman went on woodenly. "Imagine what it will
be like to have both feet charred to the bone. You would have to crawl
the rest of the way to the ship; _I_ certainly would not consider
carrying you!"

In a nightmarish daze, Gibson obeyed the cold directions, and walked
slowly along the underground corridors of the Centaurian research
laboratories. He prayed desperately that someone--anyone--might come
along. _Anybody_ who could possibly be used to create a diversion, or to
be pushed into Korman and his deadly blaster.

The halls remained deserted, possibly by arrangement.

_Maybe I'd better wait till we reach his ship_, Gibson thought. _I ought
to be able to figure a way before we reach Nessus. I had the brains to
fool Haas and ..._

He winced, recalling Chairman Diamond's theory of the difference between
intelligence and wisdom.

_The obscene swine!_ he screamed silently.

Colonel Korman grunted warningly, and Gibson took the indicated turn.

They entered the spaceship from an underground chamber, and Gibson
learned the reason for his executioner's assurance when the latter
chained him to one of the pneumatic acceleration seats. The chain was
fragile in appearance, but he knew he would not be free to move until
Korman so desired.

_More of their insane brand of cleverness!_ he reflected. _That's the
sort of thing they do succeed in thinking of. They're all crazy! Why did
I ever ..._

But he shrank from the question he feared to answer. To drag out into
the open his petty, selfish reasons, shorn of the tinsel glamor of
so-called "service" and "progress," would be too painful.

       *       *       *       *       *

After the first series of accelerations, he roused himself from his
beaten stupor enough to note that Korman was taking a strange course for
reaching Nessus. Then, entirely too close to the planet and its
satellites to ensure accuracy, the colonel put the ship into subspace

Korman leaned back at the conclusion of the brief activity on his
control board, and met Gibson's pop-eyed stare.

"Interesting, the things worth knowing," he commented. "How to make a
weapon, for instance, or whether your enemy has it yet."

He almost smiled at his prisoner's expression.

"Or even better: knowing exactly how far your enemy has progressed and
how fast he can continue, whether to stop him immediately or whether you
can remain a step ahead."

"B-but--if both sides are irresistible ..." Gibson stammered.

Korman examined him contemptuously.

"No irresistible weapon exists, or ever will!" he declared. "Only an
irresistible _process_--the transmission of secrets! You are living
proof that no safeguards can defend against _that_."

He savored Gibson's silent discomfort.

"I am sure you know how far and how fast the Centaurian scientists will
go, Gibson, since I guided you to every laboratory in that plant. Your
memory may require some painful jogging when we reach the Solar System;
_but remember you shall_!"

"But you--you were ordered to ..."

"You didn't think I was a Centaurian, did you?" sneered Korman. "After I
just explained to you _what_ is really irresistible?"


Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from _If Worlds of Science Fiction_ July
    1953. 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.

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