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´╗┐Title: Sonny
Author: Raphael, Rick, 1919-1994
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 "Sonny" ***

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                         Transcriber's Note:

  This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact & Fiction April 1963.
  Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright
  on this publication was renewed.


                                SONNY


     Of course, no one actually knows the power of a thought.
     That is, the milli--or megawatts type of power ...


                           by RICK RAPHAEL


                    ILLUSTRATED BY JOHN SCHOENHERR


                            [Illustration]

       *       *       *       *       *



Private Jediah Cromwell was homesick for the first time since his
induction into the Army. If he had gotten homesick on any of at least
a dozen other occasions during his first two weeks in the service, he
might never have gotten beyond the induction center. But the wonders
and delights of his first venture beyond the almost inaccessible West
Virginia hills of his birth had kept him too awed and interested to
think about home.

When Cletus Miller headed up the trail to Bluebird Gulch, Ma felt him
coming around the bend below the waterfall a mile across the gorge.
She laid down her skinning knife and wiped her hands clean of the
blood of the rabbits Jed had brought in earlier in the morning.

"Sonny," she called to Jed, "trouble's acoming."

Jediah crossed the corn patch to her side. "What kinda trouble, Ma?"

"Cletus Miller's comin'," Ma Cromwell said. "He ain't been up here
since the week afore your Pa died. I don't know what it is but it's
bound to be trouble."

A few minutes later Miller hallooed from the bottom of the garden
patch, then trudged up to the cabin.

"Set and rest, Cletus," Ma said. "Sonny, fetch Cletus a coolin' dip."
Jed ambled down to the spring sluice and dippered out a pint of clear,
mountain water.

"Got mail fer you," Cletus said, waving an envelope. "Guvermint mail.
Fer Sonny."

Two weeks later, Jediah swung down the mountain to Owl Creek, carrying
a small sack with his good clothes and shoes in it. The draft notice
was stuffed into his overall pockets along with biscuits and meat Ma
had insisted he take.

"Go along now, Sonny," she had directed him, "and don't you fret none
about me. The corn's 'most ready. You got a good supply of firewood
in, more'n enought to last me all winter. If your guvermint need us
Cromwells to fight, then I reckon its our bounden duty. Your grandsire
and greatgrandsire both wuz soldiers and if'n your Pa hadn't gone and
gotten his leg busted and twisted afore the guvermint called him I
reckon he'd have been one, too. I've learned you all I can and you can
read 'n write 'n do sums. Just mind your manners and come on home when
they don't need you no more."

In Owl Creek the first real part of the excitement hit Jed. He had
been as far as Paulsburg, twenty miles farther and that was almost as
big as the county seat at Madison. Now he was going to go even beyond
Madison--right to the city. And then maybe the Army would send him
more places.

The Army did.

Everything had been wonderful, almost overwhelming, from the moment he
boarded a bus for the first time in his life until he arrived at Fort
McGruder. He could hardly believe the wealth of the government in
issuing him so many clothes and giving him so much personal gear. And
while the food wasn't what Ma would have cooked, there was lots of it.
He liked the other recruits who had ridden down to McGruder with him,
even though a couple of the city fellows had been kind of teasing.

He liked the barracks although his bunk mattress wasn't as soft as
Ma's eiderdown comforts. He liked everything--until the sergeant had
cussed at him this afternoon.

Now Jed lay on his bunk and counted the springs on the upper bunk
occupied by Private Harry Fisher. It was close to eight o'clock and
the barracks were full of scores of young soldiers. A crap game was
going on three bunks away and across the aisle; another country boy
was picking at a guitar. The bunk above sagged with the weight of
Harry Fisher, who was reading a book.

Jed's mind kept coming back to the cussin' out he had gotten, just for
not knowing the Army insisted on a body wearing shoes no matter what
he was doing. Jed had never been cussed at before in his entire life.
True, Ma never hesitated about taking a willow switch to him when he
was a young 'un, or a stob of kindling when he got older. But she
always whupped him in a gentle fashion, never losing her temper and
always explaining with each whistling swing of switch or club, just
what he'd done wrong and why this was for the good of his immortal
soul.

Thinking about Ma, Jed got homesick. He closed his eyes and looked
around for Ma. She was stirring a pot of lye ashes over the fireplace
and when she felt Jed in the cabin she closed her eyes. "Sonny," she
said, "you in trouble?"

Lying on his bunk at Fort McGruder, Jed smiled happily and thought
back an answer. "Nope, Ma. Jest got to wonderin' what you wuz doing."

Whatever Ma was going to say was lost amid the yells and growls of the
men in the barracks as the electricity went off. "Who turned the
lights off?" Fisher cried from the top bunk. "It's not 'lights out'
time yet."

       *       *       *       *       *

The noise jerked Jed back to the present and his eyes opened. The
lights came on.

"Where are the dice," one of the crapshooters barked. "I rolled a
seven just when the lights went out."

The noise died down and the game resumed. Fisher lay back on his bunk
and went back to his book. Jed's mind reached out for home again.
"Ma," he called out, "you say something?"

The lights went out and the yells went up throughout the two-story
barracks.

Jed opened his eyes and the lights came on.

At the end of the barracks, Corporal Weisbaum came out of his sacredly
private room and surveyed the recruits. "Awright," he roared, "so
which one of you is the wise guy making with the lights?"

"So nobody, corporal," a recruit sitting on the end bunk answered. "So
the lights went out. Then they come back on. So who knows? Maybe the
Army ain't paying its light bills. I had a landlady back in Brooklyn
who usta do the same thing anytime I got late with her rent mon...."

"Shaddup," Weisbaum snarled. "Maybe it was power trouble. But if it
happens again and I find out one of you monkeys is bein' smart, the
whole platoon falls out and we'll get a little night air exercising."
He stalked back into his room and slammed the door.

The barracks buzzed angrily for a few moments. Jed sat up and peered
up at Fisher.

"That there officer shorely don't talk very nice, you know that
Harry," Jed said.

Fisher laid down the book and peered under his thick-rimmed glasses at
the lanky mountain boy.

"How old are you, Jed," he asked.

"Nineteen."

"Lived up in the hills all those years?" Fisher inquired.

"Yup," Jed replied. "This is the furthinest I've ever been." His
normally cheerful face fell slightly. "Kinda makes me lonesome in a
way, though. Folks back home jest plain don't talk thataway one to the
other."

Fisher leaned over the edge of his bunk. "Let me tell you something,
Jed. Don't let talk like that worry you. First of all, he's no
officer. And second, he doesn't really mean it and it's just a way the
Army has of making men of us. You'll hear lots more and lots worse
before you get back to those West Virginia hills of yours."

Jed lay back down on the bunk. "Mebbe so," he admitted. "Don't mean I
gotta like it much, though. Ma never talked thataway to me, no matter
how bad a thing I done."

Jed closed his eyes and thought of home. Ought to say goodnight to Ma.
He let his mind reach out to the cabin almost two states distant.

The lights went out in the barracks, two of the crapshooters started
swinging at each other in the dark and the commotion drifted upwind to
the platoon sergeant's room in another barracks two buildings away.

In the confused yells and the shouting of Corporal Weisbaum, Jed gave
up trying to say goodnight to Ma and opened his eyes again.

The lights in the barracks came back on just as Platoon Sergeant
Mitchell walked in the front door.

The two crapshooters were tangled in a heap in the center aisle of the
barracks, still swinging. Corporal Weisbaum had the Brooklyn recruit
by the front of his T-shirt, waving a massive fist under the boy's
nose.

"AT EASE!" Mitchell boomed. The barracks shook and suddenly there was
quiet. "Now just what is going on here?" he demanded.

Weisbaum released his grip on the recruit and the two brawlers
scrambled to their feet. The corporal glared at the forty-odd recruits
in the barracks. "I warned you mush heads what would happen the next
time one of you fiddled with them lights. Now I'm gonna give you just
five minutes to fall out in front in fatigues and combat boots. MOVE!"

"Lay off," one of the recruits muttered, "nobody touched the lights.
They just went off."

Weisbaum turned a cold stare on the youngster. "Just went out, eh?
O.K. Let's see. Sergeant Mitchell, did the lights go out in your
building?"

The sergeant shook his head.

"Did you notice if the lights were out in any other buildings when you
came up?" Again Mitchell shook his head.

"Just this barracks, huh?"

Mitchell nodded.

There was a moment of silence. "Five minutes, you jugheads," Weisbaum
roared. "Five minutes or I'll have your flabby hides hung like
wallpaper in my room."

By the time the platoon got back in the barracks after a five-mile
walk around the perimeter of the post, Taps were sounding and the
lights went out as soon as the men hit their bunks. The talking was
over. Jed felt better after the pleasant walk in the night air. He
decided Ma would be asleep anyway by this time. He turned his head
into his pillow and was snoring in ten seconds.

       *       *       *       *       *

Once Jed began getting the feel of what was wanted of him, his
training improved and the wrath of the platoon sergeants and corporals
was directed elsewhere. The recruits moved rapidly through the
hardening period and with each day, Jed found the going easier. By the
time the platoon was ready for the rifle range, Jed hadn't had time to
give more than a brief occasional thought about home.

When the supply sergeant issued him his M-14 rifle, Jed carried it
back to the barracks like a young bridegroom carrying his beloved
across their first threshold.

"Harry," he said in an awed voice to his bunkmate, "ain't that jest
about the most bee-ootiful thing you ever did see?"

Fisher was sitting on the lower bunk beside Jed, working the action on
his own rifle. "It's a lovely weapon, allright. I just hope I can hit
the side of a barn with it."

"Hit a barn with it," Jed said in amazement, "why, Harry, with this
here gun I could hit a squirrel in the eye two ridges away and let you
pick which eye."

Fisher grinned. "I've heard you mountain boys are pretty good with a
rifle. We'll see just how good you are next week when we go out on the
range."

The following Monday morning on the range, the platoon gathered around
Corporal Weisbaum.

"Awright, you bums," the corporal sneered, "here's where we separate
the men from the boys. Don't let the noise shake you too bad and if it
kicks you in the shoulder a little, don't flinch. Remember what you
learned in dry fire practice--hold 'em and squeeze 'em off. This is
just familiarization fire, so don't worry if you don't hit the first
few shots."

He gestured. "Awright. First order on the firing line."

Twenty men of the platoon, Jed included, moved up the embankment to
the firing positions. Two hundred yards away the big targets were
lined up like billboards along the line of pits.

From the range control tower in the middle of the firing line, the
bullhorn speakers blared. "Familiarization fire. Prone position."
Twenty riflemen dropped to their knees and then forward onto their
bellies, their cheeks cuddling the stocks of the rifles.

"Twenty rounds. With ball ammunition, load and lock." Twenty bolts
snapped shut.

"Ready on the right? Ready on the left?"

The flank safety officer signaled. "Ready on the firing line," the
speakers blared. "Commence firing."

Jed squinted down the sights and carefully squeezed off a shot. A
ragged volley followed down the line. Jed was in position Number
Eighteen and down range, his target atop a large painted sign bearing
the same number, dropped. Jed rolled over and yelled at Corporal
Weisbaum. "Hey, corporal. I must have done shot 'n broke that there
target. It just fell down."

Weisbaum grinned. "You didn't break nothing, hillbilly. You just got
lucky and hit somewhere on the target. Every time you hit it, they
pull it down and mark where your shot hit so you can correct your
sights. See, here it comes back up again."

Target Number Eighteen rose above the pits. In the dead center of the
small black bull's-eye was a small white dot. Weisbaum stared at the
target, then swung a pair of binoculars to his eyes. "Man, talk about
luck. You hit it smack in the center of the black."

The target dropped again for a pasted patch over the hole. Then it
came up.

Jed grinned happily and rolled back to the prone position, looked
briefly down the sight and squeezed off another round. The target
dropped again. In a moment it was back up, the same white marker disk
showing in the black. Weisbaum put the glasses to his eyes again. "I
knew it was luck. You musta missed it, hillbilly, cause that's the
same mark you had last shot."

Jed frowned and waited for the target to be pulled and pasted, then
fired again. Once more it came up with the identical white marker in
the center. It was Weisbaum's turn to frown. "Better check that sight,
Cromwell. You can't shoot on luck forever. Them last two rounds never
touched the target."

The range radio safety operator came up to the corporal and handed him
the walkie talkie. "Pit wants to talk to you, corporal."

Weisbaum took the handset and held it to his ear. "This is Corporal
Weisbaum. Yeah. He WHAT! You sure? Yeah, pull it and paste it. This I
want to see."

He handed the handset to the radioman and glared at Jed. "So now
you're some kinda wise guy, huh, hillbilly? You think you can keep
shootin' on luck? The pits say you been hitting the same spot every
time. Nobody can do that. Now, go ahead, hillbilly. I want to see you
do it again."

Jed rolled over on his belly, looked and fired. Down went the target
to come up again with another dead-center marker.

"He did it again," the radioman declared to the corporal.

Weisbaum was beginning to get an awed look on his face. "Go on,
hillbilly, keep firing."

Behind the corporal and the recruit, the radioman was talking softly
to the pits. "He's in position ... he's aiming ... he's holdin--" The
operator stopped talking and shook his handset and held it again to
his ear. Jed fired. A split second later the radio burst into voice.
"... Did it again," the pit operator yelled excitedly.

Jed fired all twenty rounds into the exact same hole and the range
firing came to a screeching halt. By the time he was on the final
round, all other firing had stopped and range officers and safety
NCO's were gathered in a semicircle around the prone mountain boy.

Weisbaum pounded Jed on the back as the young recruit scrambled to his
feet and dusted his fatigues. "Man, what an eye. Wait 'til the old man
sees this. Look," he took Jed by the arm, "you shoot like this all the
time back in them hills you come from?" Jed nodded. "I thought so,"
Weisbaum cried happily. "Go sit down and take it easy. I want the old
man to come out and see this."

       *       *       *       *       *

Jed smiled happily and walked off the firing line amidst the admiring
stares of his fellow recruits. He flung himself on the ground in the
shade of a stack of ammunition boxes and grinned to himself. Shucks,
all that excitement over a little shooting. Back home he did it all
the time. But it'd make Ma proud to know he could do something real
good. He let his mind travel for the first time in weeks.

On the range road a few feet away, a convoy of trucks carrying another
recruit company to the ranges farther down the line, suddenly
spluttered and came to a stop as their engines died.

"Ma," Jed thought, "you busy?"

Behind the cabin in Bluebird Gulch, Ma Cromwell laid down the axe she
had been splitting firewood with and closed her eyes. "'Bout time you
remembered your maw," she replied. "You all right, Sonny?"

"I'm jest fine, Ma. An' I did somethin' good, too, Ma. I just showed
these Army fellers what us Cromwells kin do with a rifle gun."

Jed lay in the warm sun and let the light filter through his closed
eyelids. He paid no attention to the clanging of truck hoods and the
muttered curses of a half dozen truck driver as they clambered over
the front of their vehicles trying to figure out what was causing them
to have engine trouble.

"What did you do, Sonny?" Ma asked.

"Tweren't really nothing, Ma," Jed replied. "I shot this here
newfangled gun they gave me at a big ol' target 'n hit it, Ma. Honest,
Ma, that black circle they got in that thing is jest 'bout as big as
the hind end of a black bear and it ain't no further away than the
bottom of the cornfield from the cabin door."

In the range control tower, Corporal Weisbaum was getting madder every
second.

"What's the matter with that switchboard operator," he screamed.
"Don't he hear the buzzer?" He shook the phone and roared again.
Finally, he slapped it down on the hook. "Gimme that radio," he said,
reaching for the handset. The operator shook his head sadly. "No use,
corp. It's deader'n doornail. Don't know what's the matter. It just
quit."

Weisbaum looked around and spotted one of the regular jeep drivers
standing at the foot of the tower. "Mahoney," he yelled. "Get in your
jeep and go back and get the old man. Tell him he's gotta see Cromwell
shoot. You can tell him what happened."

The jeep driver started towards his vehicle. "And Mahoney," Weisbaum
yelled after him, "while you're there, bring back another radio and
tell that idiot on the switchboard we got wire trouble." Mahoney
nodded and went to his jeep.

Back at the cabin, Ma Cromwell wiped her face with her apron skirt.
"Shore hot today," she thought. "You hot there, too, Sonny?"

"Kinda hot, Ma," Jed thought back. "Shore ain't like home. Not bad
though."

"You gettin' enough to eat, child?" Ma asked.

Jed frowned slightly and stepped up his mental output. A half mile
down range and a thousand feet up, an Army helicopter heading for a
maneuver area, coughed and quit. The blades went into autogyro as it
sank quickly to earth.

Vehicles all over the post came to a spluttering stop and office
lights and refrigerators went off.

"What did you say, Ma?" Jed asked. "Seemed like you got sorta weak."

"'Tain't me." Ma snorted. "Jest that nosy Miz Hawkins. She's gotta
listen in on everybody's private talk up in these hills, seems like."
There was the feeling of an indignant gasp and then Ma's thoughts came
booming through. Jed relaxed and grinned. The chopper was almost on
the ground when its engine caught fire once again and went surging up
and forward. The surprised pilot fought to get control before he
slammed into a low hill. Lights came back on and electrical equipment
began running other than close to the range.

"Shouldn't ought to talk like that, Ma," Jed grinned. "She's jest
bein' friendly like."

"Hm-m-m," Ma sniffed, "gettin' so's a body cain't even talk with her
own kinfolk without everybody in these parts listenin' in."

Mahoney got out of his jeep and walked back to the tower. "Jeep won't
start," he called up to Weisbaum.

The corporal turned purple and leaned over the edge of the tower. "Ta
hell with it then," he roared. "Now get those bums back on the line.
We got a whole platoon to shoot out and I want to see that hillbilly
do the same thing in the standing position.

"Cromwell," he bellowed, "get up on that line."

Jed opened his eyes quickly and then shut them for another moment.

"Got to go, Ma," he thought quickly, "that corporal feller's yellin'
again. You take care, Ma."

"I will, Sonny," Ma thought back. "Mind your manners."

Jed got up and hurried to the firing line. In the tower, the phone
began ringing and the radio and telephone operators began reporting
the equipment trouble they'd been having. On the road, one of the
truck drivers half-heartedly stepped on the starter for the tenth
time. The engine roared to life. The other drivers stopped and stared,
then climbed down from fenders and front bumpers and tried their own
starters. The trucks and their puzzled drivers left. Firing resumed.

That evening in the barracks, Harry Fisher complimented the mountain
boy. "Nice shooting today, Jed," he said, "I was on the radio in the
pits while you were shooting. I don't think anyone ever saw anything
like that before."

Jed smiled at his friend and bunkmate. "It's easy to do, real easy
Harry," he said. "I reckon everyone could do it once they get the hang
of it."

Fisher smiled ruefully. "You're looking at one guy who'll never get
the hang of it," he said, "whatever the 'hang of it' might be."

"Honest, Harry," Jed said earnestly, "all you gotta do is jest think
them bullets into that big black spot."

Fisher laughed. "I could think like Socrates and never come close
to...." He stopped and stared at Jed with a half-smile. "You know,
Jed, you're kind of weird sometimes. 'Think the bullets.' Come to
think of it, though, that's not the only weird thing. Did you know
that everytime you were getting ready to shoot our radios went dead
today?"

Jed frowned thoughtfully. "That's funny. I ain't never heard of that
happenin' afore. O' course, we never had radios in Bluebird Gulch.
Only thing we ever had trouble with wuz the 'lectric light bulbs in
Paulsburg the one-two times our folks went down there. Seems like them
lights wuz goin' out everytime one of us wuz mind-talkin' with some
homefolks."

Harry stared puzzledly at the mountain boy.

"You know," Jed tried to explain, "like when you might of fergot
somethin' someone wanted real bad from the store. Or mebbe like one
time when Ma'n me wuz in the big store in Paulsburg and she wuz
gettin' some fancy cloth fer Miz Culpepper. Store didn't have no fancy
cloth like Miz Culpepper wanted, with big red flowers. Only had blue
flowers. So Ma, she mind-asked Miz Culpepper if the blue ones would be
all right. Every durned 'lectric light bulb in that store went out."

Fisher was beginning to get a dazed look on his face. "'Mind-asked.'
'Mind-talk.' You mean what I think you mean, Jediah?" he asked.

"Reckon I do," Jed said emphatically. "Just like I mind-talked with Ma
this afternoon an' tole her what all the hurrah was about jest 'cause
I flung them bullets through that big ol' black spot."

"You talked with your mother back in West Virginia this afternoon?"
Harry pressed. "From the rifle range?"

"Shore did," Jed said happily. "Most plumb forgot fer a couple o'
weeks now, what with us bein' so consarned busy. It wuz purely fine to
talk with Ma."

Fisher's brain was spinning. "Can you contact her anytime you want
to?"

"Shore kin," Jed said proudly. "It takes a mite more power though, the
furthern I git from home. Or if Miz Hawkins is listenin' in."

"Let's see you do it now," Fisher demanded.

Jed shut his eyes. "Ma," he thought, "you got time fer a chat?"

The lights went out all over the barracks. Harry Fisher fainted.

When he came to, he was lying on Jed's bunk with the mountain boy
leaning over him solicitously. "You all right, Harry?" Jed asked
anxiously. "Ma's worried 'bout you."

Harry fainted again.

When he came to the second time, Jed had gone running down the
barracks aisle to Corporal Weisbaum's room. Harry sat up and swung his
feet over the edge of the bunk. He was light-headed and his brain was
still whirling.

A minute later Jed came back leading Weisbaum. The corporal peered
down at Fisher. "You sick 'er somethin' Fisher?" he asked. "Get too
much sun today?"

Harry shook his head. "No. I'm O.K. now, corporal. Must have been
something I ate. I'll be all right."

Weisbaum reached down and felt Harry's forehead. "You look kinda
peaked to me. You hit the sack and if you don't feel O.K. in the
morning, I'll put you on sick call."

Harry shook his head again. "No need for that. I'll be all right. I'm
going outside and get some fresh air. Jed, will you give me a hand,
please?"

He stood up shakily and Jed took his arm. "O.K.," Weisbaum said, "but
if you don't feel so good, you're going to the dispensary, you hear."
He went back to his room.

       *       *       *       *       *

Harry and Jed walked out of the barracks into the night air. Fisher
paused and breathed deeply, then turned to face Jed. "You always been
able to mind-talk with you mother?" he asked.

"Why, shore," Jed replied. "Most folks back home kin. Shore saves a
heap o' walkin' over them hills."

"And did the lights go out when you talked that way?" Harry inquired.

"Well now, I don't rightly know," Jed said. "Only place what has them
lights close by is Paulsburg and that's thutty miles from Owl Creek
and us folks ain't got much truck fer them big cities. Don't reckon
any of us ever been there more 'n three-four times in our whole lives.
But it shore happens in Paulsburg whenever we gossip thataway. Never
thought nothin' of it afore, though. Reckon, now that I study on it a
mite, it's 'cause we got to use more of the power to reach across them
hills. Ma once said she reckoned us Cromwells could mind-talk with the
Empereer of all Roosha if'n we had to. 'Course, we'd be straining our
heads a mite fer all that distance 'cause Ma says Roosha and England
is a heap further from Bluebird Gulch 'n even Madison. Or Fore
McGruder, I reckon."

Harry though quietly for a moment.

"When was the last time you talked with your mother that way?" he
asked.

"Don't rightly know or remember jest when it wuz," Jed replied. "Seems
like it wuz 'bout the fust week we wuz here. One night, in the
barracks, I kinda got homesick I reckon, 'cause that wuz the day I got
cussed out for the first time in my whole, entire life."

Harry smacked his clenched fist into his hand. "That's it," he cried.
"That's it. That was the night the lights went out three time in the
barracks. The night Weisbaum made us take the five-mile moonlight hike
because he thought someone was fooling with the lights."

He grabbed Jed by the arm. "That was the night, wasn't it, Jed?"

"Come to think of it," Jed replied, "I reckon it wuz. There wuz such a
hurrah when the lights keep a-goin' out, I never did get to hear what
Ma had to say. 'N by the time we got back from that little walk, I
plumb fergot to ask her.

"You know somethin' Harry, I plumb fergot what would happen to them
lights. By gosh, I reckon I wuz the one what got us all in trouble. I
jest reckon I better go 'n tell the fellers I'm sorry 'bout that."

Fisher grabbed his sleeve. "Oh no you don't," he snapped. "You're
coming with me."

Ten minutes later, two slightly scared recruits stood on the steps
leading to the post commander's quarters. Jed started back down the
steps. Harry held tightly to his arm. "Come on," he whispered
savagely, "we're going to talk with the colonel, Jed. Now don't you go
getting chicken on me, you hear."

"Harry, I ain't never even see'd no colonel, much less 'n talk to
one," Jed said, "and I reckon I jest as soon not, if'n you don't
mind."

"I do mind," Harry snapped and pulled Jed up to the door.

Their ring was answered by a pretty, teenaged girl. She smiled
inquiringly at the two young soldiers.

"Miss," Harry stammered, "we'd like to talk with Colonel Cartwright,
please."

The girl turned into the house. "Dad," she called, "someone to see
you."

Colonel William Cartwright came to the door. The light from the room
glinted off the silver eagle on his collar. He looked at the two young
soldiers. "What can I do for you men?" he asked.

"Sir," Harry answered with a stiff salute and a quavering voice, "I'm
Private Harry Fisher and this is Private Jediah Cromwell, sir."

The colonel returned the salute. "All right, at ease. What do you
want?"

Harry gulped and took a firm grip on his courage. "Sir," he barked
out, "are your house lights all in good working order?"

"What?" Cartwright exploded. "What the devil are you talking about,
soldier?"

"Sir, we've got to show you something right now," Harry stammered.
"It's urgent, colonel."

"Now see here Fisher," the colonel said, "we've got proper channels
for any problems you might have and I don't take care of those things
at my quarters. I have an office in post headquarters and with the
permission of your company commander, you can see my adjutant during
duty hours. Or the chaplain."

"Please, sir," Harry gulped. "It's awfully important."

"Well," the colonel hesitated, "this is most unusual."

"Yes, sir, it is most unusual," Harry agreed.

"All right," the post commander sighed, "what is it?"

"Sir, are your house lights all working?" Harry repeated.

"Now look here, Fisher, if this is some sort of a gag, I'll see
that...."

"No, sir," Harry repeated strenuously, "I really mean the question."

The colonel glanced back over his shoulder into the house. He turned
back to the pair. "Yes, the lights appear to be all functioning."

Harry turned to Jed. "Talk to your mother, Jed," he whispered.

Jed shut his eyes. "Ma," he thought, "it's me agin!"

The lights went out all over the colonel's quarters.

Colonel Cartwright gasped and stared at the mountain boy standing with
his eyes closed.

"All right, Jed," Harry said, "break it off."

"Jest a minute, Ma," Jed thought, "Harry wants me." He opened his eyes
and the lights came on.

"How did he do it?" the colonel breathed.

"He thought them out, sir," Harry said.

"He ... WHAT?" Cartwright spluttered.

"That's right, sir," Harry repeated. "He 'thought' them out. Jed, get
Ma on the line again."

Jed shut his eyes. The lights went out again.

Colonel Cartwright sagged against the door jamb. He moaned, "How long
has this one been running around loose?"

"Colonel," Harry said cautiously, "he does the same thing with radios,
telephones, cars, anything requiring electrical power. He just shuts
it off."

The post commander looked stunned.

"That's not all either, sir," Harry continued. "He can 'think' bullets
to a target."

"Come in the house," the colonel said weakly. "That's an order,
soldiers."

       *       *       *       *       *

Three weeks later, Sergeants First Class Harold Fisher and Jediah
Cromwell were putting the finishing touches to their own private room.
Jed sank down onto the soft mattress on the big bed. "Glory be, Harry,
I jest can't seem to catch my breath, we've been movin' so fast 'n
doin' so much. All them there tests with them tanks and them
airyplanes in Californy and that other funny place. Ma thought it was
kinda funny I had so much time fer jest a-sittin' 'n chattin' with
her. Now we're here 'n I ain't allowed to say nothing to her."

He stole a proud glance at the new chevrons on the sleeve of his
fancy, blue dress uniform. "Gosh but Ma would be proud to hear about
all what's happened to us. I purely wish I could tell her."

Harry snapped up from the bureau drawer where he had been placing his
clothing.

"Watch it, Jed. You know what the general said. Now don't you go and
queer this deal for us just because you're getting a little homesick,"
Harry warned. "We're the only Army GI's in this outfit and this is
pretty plush. You know what the general said, 'no talking with Ma
until you get permission.' Remember?"

Jed sighed. "Oh, I remember, rightly enough. Only I shore wish they'd
let me just think 'hello' to her. I ain't never been so far from her
afore and its gonna take a heap of powerful mind-talk to get to her."

"Never you mind, now Jed," Harry said, "you'll get all the chances you
want to talk with her. Just be patient."

He turned back to his clothing. The was a knock at the door and then
it opened to admit a small, conservatively-dressed civilian. Both
sergeants jumped to their feet.

"Good morning, gentlemen," the civilian said. "I'm George Wadsworth,
first secretary at the Embassy here." He looked around the room and
smiled. "Your quarters satisfactory, men?" Both soldiers nodded
happily.

"Good," Wadsworth said. "Oh, by the way Sergeant Cromwell," he turned
to Jed, "we've just learned that our hosts plan to launch their manned
Moon rocket within the next hour or so. Isn't that interesting?"

Jed nodded vigorously.

"I though so, too," Wadsworth continued. "I should imagine that your
mother would find this quite interesting as well, don't you think,
Sergeant Cromwell?"

"'Deed she would, sir," Jed said enthusiastically.

"Quite so," Wadsworth said mildly. "Why don't you just take the rest
of the day off and tell her about it. While you're at it, you might
bring her up to date on your trip. And there's a wonderful view of the
Kremlin from this window. I'm sure she'll be interested in all this.
Just have a nice long chat. Take all day. Take two days if you like.
No hurry, you know."

He smiled and turned to leave the room. "Don't forget to tell her
about your airplane ride, too," he added and then walked to the door.

"Thank you, sir," Jed called out after him.

Jed grinned happily and lay down on the nice, soft mattress.

"Ma," he thought, concentrating harder than he ever did before, "it's
me agin."

All electrical power went off over the western dominions of the Union
of Soviet Socialist Republics.

       *       *       *       *       *





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