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´╗┐Title: Heavenly Gifts
Author: Kolom, Aaron L.
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 "Heavenly Gifts" ***

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



                            HEAVENLY GIFTS

                           BY AARON L. KOLOM

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
                     Worlds of Tomorrow April 1963
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]



                       Heartfelt prayers deserve
                       an answer--but it may be
                          in a peculiar way!


A blur of silent motion tugged suddenly at the corner of Mrs. Frisbee's
eye. She looked up from her knitting. An electric blanket, deep blue
with satiny edges, was materializing, neatly folded, in the center of
her tiny kitchen table.

She closed her eyes briefly for a silent prayer of thanks. At midnight
she would send out those thanks, followed by a request for a bicycle
for the paper boy.

Contentedly she raised herself from her chair. She weighed mentally
whether there was time to wrap the blanket as a gift before she had
to leave for work. She decided against it. It wasn't as if it were an
anniversary or birthday present. It was just something she knew her
nice landlady, Mrs. Upjohn, needed but couldn't afford.

Mrs. Upjohn was in her room. With an embarrassed dismissal of thanks
Mrs. Frisbee presented the blanket to her, then hurried to catch the
bus at the corner.

The corridor clock showed a few minutes to midnight as Mrs. Frisbee,
carrying her mop and pail, entered the control room. At the slight
noise Dr. Morrow looked up from his paper-littered desk. A vague smile
and wave were directed generally in her direction. With a glance at his
watch he sighed and returned to his work. Mrs. Frisbee waited patiently
and quietly. A few minutes later Dr. Morrow looked up again, then
yawned and stretched luxuriously.

"Time for lunch, I guess." He stood up, setting a few dials on the
glistening control panel before him. "See you in forty-five minutes,"
he called cheerily.

With the sound of his heels echoing down the hall, Mrs. Frisbee
gingerly sat down in his chair. Taking a sheet of paper from her apron,
she meticulously marked down the dial settings, exactly as he had left
them.

Except for the diminishing sound of footsteps, the laboratory building
was silent, with the unique quiet of a deserted structure. Through the
window she could see the gigantic antenna aiming toward the stars. As
always she experienced a momentary thrill of combined excitement and
reverential awe.

She waited till she heard the closing of the front door of the
building. Then with practiced fingers she flicked some switches. The
equipment hummed quietly. She swung toward the keyboard and began
picking out letters with her forefingers. Finally she took a page
from a mail-order catalogue from her purse and slowly typed out the
catalogue numbers. She didn't hurry. Dr. Morrow would now be finishing
his lunch in his car. Afterwards he would take a stroll around the
laboratory grounds. He was a man of regular, dependable habit.

       *       *       *       *       *

It had all begun one evening about five months before, when Mrs.
Frisbee had attended a revivalist meeting. Simple soul that she was,
with her increasing years and the passing of many of her friends, Mrs.
Frisbee had begun to experience a desire to make peace with her maker.

"You are all sinners," the preacher had thundered, "and you need the
most powerful voice in the world to speak for you!"

It made quite an impression!

It seemed the hand of providence when Mrs. Frisbee learned that a newly
completed astronomical-radio station was seeking janitorial personnel.
She quickly applied and was hired.

It was at first only a vague germ of an idea. Slowly the idea
crystallized as she inquired of the technicians just how it was
operated.

It wasn't really difficult, she learned. An electronic typewriter was
used, converting letters and words into mathematical language, then
automatically beaming the data out into the vastness of space. It took
time, but she even learned what dials and switches to operate so there
would be no record of her messages.

The station had been established to try to contact intelligences
on other planets or star systems. An idiotic waste, the critics
complained. Mrs. Frisbee agreed. Except for occasional space static
nothing had ever been received. Mrs. Frisbee knew this from hearing
the men talk. Still they kept trying, constantly listening, and at
regular intervals transmitting basic mathematics, recognizable by any
civilization.

She had arranged her work so that her midnight break came when she
was cleaning the control room. There was only a single scientist on
night duty, currently Dr. Morrow, who left the equipment on automatic
reception while on his lunch break. Mrs. Frisbee never needed but half
the time he was gone.

Her first prayer had been a brief one. Gripped with religious fervor
Mrs. Frisbee had typed awkwardly, one finger at a time. The whirring
of the equipment as it transmitted her words of devotion out to the
farthest reaches of space was as balm to her soul.

It was a month later that she decided to test her contact with the
divine with a simple request, an apron she had seen in a catalogue. It
would be an ideal birthday present for Mrs. Upjohn, she thought. Days
and weeks passed and Mrs. Frisbee had almost lost faith, when suddenly
one evening, as she was quietly sewing, the apron appeared, bright and
gay on her small table. She rubbed her eyes. It was truly wondrous. The
thanks she gave in that evening's message were profuse.

As time passed she asked for other items from the catalogue for gifts
for other friends. All were delivered miraculously after a few days.

Mrs. Frisbee was at peace--with the world, with herself, and with her
maker. Her simple life was full. She had a proven faith, with miracles
occurring as she desired them. There was no end to the people she met
who needed things, and seemingly no difficulty in having her requests
fulfilled. Quite often she was tempted to explain it all to her good
friend, Mrs. Upjohn. But something always kept her from telling, a
feeling that it might be sacrilegious somehow to discuss it.

Only one thing occasionally puzzled Mrs. Frisbee. Though she always
ordered the presents from the mail-order catalogue, they seemed
superior in quality and workmanship to any purchased articles....

       *       *       *       *       *

The barracks-room language coming from General Collin's office caused
his aide to raise his eyebrows. He hadn't heard the General use such
terms since Korea.

General Collin was even more incredulous than the colonel, the major
and the captain had been before him, as each was told.

"It's impossible," he exploded into the telephone. "When did you
blankety idiots first discover it?" After a brief pause he barked,
"Double the guard!" A moment later he barked again, "Damn it, then
triple it!"

He sat back stunned. What would the chief say? He shuddered at the
thought.

His eyes narrowed reflectively, and after a moment he reached again for
the phone.

"Have you contacted any other bases?" His voice was now quiet and low.
After a brief pause he added, "Come to my office as soon as possible
with everything you have on the situation."

He steeled himself for the next call, reluctantly reaching for the
special red telephone. His orderly mind presented the facts he had
learned as clearly as possible.

"I don't know," he answered a question. "No sir, I haven't contacted
AEC or State yet. I'd like to check on it further." Then finally,
"Complete secrecy, yes, sir. I'm making a thorough security check."

An undercurrent of frantic excitement quickly engulfed Washington's top
councils, involving even the President. The National Security Council
and Chiefs of Staff were called into emergency session. Grim-visaged
star-shouldered officers hurried through Pentagon corridors. Newsmen
knew only that something quite serious was taking place, something that
vitally affected the national security. Whispers of a "secret Russian
weapon" began to be heard. From the Pentagon, orders went out to
every military base. CIA agents and military scientists were hurriedly
called, were asked enigmatic questions and were given grim instructions.

A few days later, a call came again to General Collin. He had
half-expected it. He reached again for the red phone.

"It's happened again!" He bit off his words in his exasperation. "Yes!
Right in front of a television monitor. The film is being rushed to
Washington." He listened a moment, then nodded. "That's right, just
disappeared! Completely dematerialized!"

He received a bit of a shock in turn. "Two other bases also? Good God!"
Then, "Yes, sir, I'll fly in to-night."

At the top level meeting the next morning the Under-Secretary of State
interrupted the discussion. "We have just received a peculiar message
from the British Embassy," he said. "They are asking about the security
of--" He lowered his voice even though the room was sound-proof.

Everyone about the table looked soberly at each other.

Security Council meetings became continuous around-the-clock sessions.
The top civilian scientists of the country were brought in and the
situation explained to them. As one they shook their heads.

A Nobel prize winner in Physics put it flatly. "It is beyond our
comprehension, far beyond the state of our knowledge!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Central intelligence reported daily on the political and scientific
activities in key spots of the world. A spurt of high-level meetings in
Moscow was noticed and duly reported.

This ominous news was received with a depression bordering on hysteria.

"We have underestimated their technological advancement again," said
the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "We must increase our
production efforts. We must solve this puzzle--" he spoke slowly, in
measured tones of the utmost gravity--"even at the expense of all other
research efforts! This must have the highest possible priority!"

Orders to this effect were quickly issued.

"I don't understand the Soviet mind," puzzled the Secretary of State.
"At the diplomatic level they are seemingly going farther than ever
before in making concessions and overtures toward peace!"

"And while they try to lull us politically," fumed the Secretary of
Defense, "they are leaving us practically defenseless with their
scientific thievery!"

He slammed the table with his fist. "We must be on our guard! We must
increase our research efforts! And SAC must be placed on an emergency
alert, ready for instant retaliation!"

And each day, despite the frenzied increase in mining and refining
activity, a report on the dwindling military capabilities of the
United States was given the President. The day finally arrived when he
gravely addressed the Security Council.

"As of today," the President said, "we are unable adequately to defend
our country! Our production capabilities cannot keep up with what we
are losing. We are left only with our conventional weapons." He paused.
"God help us, we are at their mercy!"

A worried-looking Under-Secretary rushed into the Council chamber and
whispered something into the President's ear. The President's face grew
white. He rose slowly.

"Gentlemen." His quiet voice reflected a rigid control. "Mr. Khrushchev
is placing a personal call to me on a matter, which he says, is of the
utmost urgency." He paused. "Please wait until I return."

The group of men, carrying on their shoulders the responsibility of the
defense of the United States of America and all the free world, sat in
quiet dejection, heads bowed. Long minutes passed. No one felt up to
meeting the eyes of anyone else about the table.

As the President re-entered the chamber, the members of the Security
Council rose. The atmosphere was heavy with foreboding.

He spoke slowly and clearly, his face expressionless. "Mr. Khrushchev
says he desires to establish a true peace with us. He will agree to all
our terms: complete inspection, atomic test ban, disarmament, anything
of a reasonable nature!"

He looked around the shocked room. Relief, puzzlement, suspicion, were
mirrored on various faces.

"I'm sure I don't understand all this," the President continued. "I
doubt if any of you do. But if the Soviet Union is sincere in desiring
a true peace--!" His voice became very quiet. "We shall certainly meet
them halfway!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Veux looked up from the account book with a grunt of approval, then
reached for the drink his partner held out.

"Well," Tai said. "Didn't I tell you business would be good this
period?"

Veux nodded and downed his drink. "Excellent, but I see that most
of our profit came from native trade!" His eyes narrowed. "It looks
illegal! Are you supplying arms for a revolution somewhere?"

Tai's smile became contemptuous. "No, it's just local products,
native trivia. We drop-chuted survey robots, then called them back
and installed a delivery system. The robot picks up samples by
dematerialization and I synthesize them."

"But so much profit! Aren't there any complaints?"

Tai laughed. "On the contrary, I get thanked after each delivery, plus
a request for something else. Natives are the same everywhere. Just
suckers, waiting to be trimmed!"

"I don't want to get into any trouble over this!" Veux looked dubious.

Tai refilled the glasses. "Well, our business charter says we must
fill and deliver any legitimate order we get!"

"If it's legitimate!" Veux studied the deep ruby of his drink. "Which
of our colonies is it?"

Tai hesitated slightly. "It's not one of our colonies. The orders are
from subsystem CQ!"

"What!" Veux's eyes flashed. "You know we're not supposed to have any
contact at all with them! They're under official observation!"

"Don't worry, don't worry." Tai's voice exuded confidence. "No one can
prove we've broken a single law."

"I don't understand."

Tai's expression was one of exaggerated innocence. "Everything is
automatic. Radio orders for goods are received, translated and filled,
with robot delivery." He winked at his partner. "How can anyone prove I
ever bothered to check the source?"

"But the profit? What do you trade?"

"Aha! I was waiting for you to ask that. I set the robot to detect and
take a unit of energy metal each trip!"

"Energy metal?" Veux jerked upright.

"Yes, but they're running out." Tai sighed. "The robot reports he has
had to go clear to the other side of the planet to fill his quota.
There's only enough scattered around for a few more trips!"

"I guess we can't complain," Veux said.

They clinked their glasses.





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