Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Project Hi-Psi
Author: Riley, Frank
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 "Project Hi-Psi" ***

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



                            Project Hi-Psi

                            BY FRANK RILEY

                    _The aliens were conducting an
                experiment under laboratory conditions.
                  So, how could they guess that their
                guinea pigs held the ultimate weapon?_

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
              Worlds of If Science Fiction, August 1956.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


Dr. Lucifer Brill stepped briskly down the corridor of the Federal
Building. The taps on his leather heels clicked a precise rhythm on the
marble floor.

He ignored the door that offered "Information", passed up office after
office until he came to the glass paneled door which informed him that
behind it functioned the Director of FBI operations in the Los Angeles
area.

The door was locked.

Lucifer Brill rubbed the knuckles of his left hand over the bristles
of his sand-colored, neatly trimmed bit of mustache. It was a gesture
known to all graduate students, Department of Parapsychology, Western
University, as an indication of annoyance.

The possibility of this office being closed had definitely not been
part of Lucifer Brill's prospectus.

A movement behind the opaque glass panel caught his attention. He
rattled the knob. When this produced no results, he tapped with his
immaculate fingernails on the glass.

A shadow moved inside the office. The lock clicked. The door opened.

An overweight young woman, obviously interrupted in the act of painting
a lush mouth over thin lips, glared at him through a veneer of
politeness.

"Yes?"

"I have an appointment with the Director." Lucifer Brill's voice still
carried the twang of boyhood in Chelmsford, Mass.

The young woman's plucked eyebrows arched.

"This office is closed. If there is an emergency, you may...."

Lucifer handed her his card. The eyebrows arched still higher.

"Dr. Brill! Your appointment was for 3:45!"

"I am aware of that," he told her, severely, "but the other drivers
were not, and there were an incredible number of them on the road. Now,
if you please...."

"Would you care to make another appointment for tomorrow?"

"I would not. You may inform the Director that I have arrived, that I
regret my tardiness and that the purpose of my visit involves a matter
of extreme urgency."

Lucifer hadn't raised the level of his voice, but behind the rimless
spectacles, his mild blue eyes became very cold and direct. The
secretary unpursed her lips and flounced toward the inner office.

She was back in a moment, and said with disapproval,

"This way, please--Sir."

The Director greeted Lucifer Brill with a courtesy that was somewhat
strained. His briefcase was on his desk. So was his hat.

Lucifer went peremptorily to the point.

"I must report a most serious case."

From long training, the Director ignored the tone and inquired with
careful politeness.

"What sort of a case, Dr. Brill?"

"I believe you would call it a case of kidnapping--multiple kidnapping."

"Kid--kidnapping!"

The Director's large hands hit the desk top with a cracking sound. His
knee touched a button to flip on the tape recorder.

"When?--Where?--Who?"

Lucifer considered the questions, methodically organized his answers.

"As to when, I would say over the last eight years."

"What?"

"As to where, I would say all over the United States."

"Now, one moment ... please!"

"As to who.... Well, that would require a rather lengthy answer."

The Director's voice shook with an effort to keep calm.

"Dr. Brill, I would appreciate an answer to my question."

"Very well."

Lucifer took a small, brown leather notebook from the inside pocket of
his beautifully pressed gabardine.

"It will take a little time. You see, I believe that over 3,000 persons
have been kidnapped."

The Director's thick neck turned prime-rib red, and swelled over the
collar of his shirt. Lucifer began to read:

"Anthell, Ruth ... Atwater, Horace ... Borsook, George...."

"That's enough, Dr. Brill!"

"Thank you. Time really is of the essence, you know. I learned this
morning that two of the missing persons disappeared as recently as four
days ago."

The Director breathed heavily.

"Just who are these people, Dr. Brill?"

"They are all positives. Some of them are positive positives."

The Director made a small, strangling sound.

"If you don't mind, Dr. Brill--just what in the hell are positive
positives?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. I had presumed you were familiar with my work."

"I'm a little vague about it."

"I see." Lucifer's expression showed intolerance for this cultural
lag, but he condescended to explain. "For several years I have been
re-evaluating psi card tests at Western University, with the project
goal of answering criticism that Rhine and other researchers ended
scoring runs at so-called convenient points. While one cannot approach
the statistical ideal of infinity in any series, it is nevertheless
mathematically possible, through multitudinous repetitions...."

There was an expression on the Director's face of a man trying to plod
doggedly against a strong gale.

"Positives ..." he reminded, a little desperately.

"... to amass statistics that are conclusively beyond the bounds of
chance. In this rechecking, I have received excellent cooperation from
researchers at other universities, and consequently have compiled what
may well be the largest list of psi cases on record, whereby...."

"Positives," grated the Director. "Kidnapping ... remember, Dr.
Brill...?"

"... I have been able to establish categories--in my own
terminology--of non-positives, positives and positive-positives. Do you
follow me, Sir?"

"Absolutely." The FBI Director removed sweat from his forehead with the
back of his hand. "Now, shall we get on with this kidnapping...."

"I am convinced that my positives and positive positives are either
being kidnapped, or otherwise caused to disappear involuntarily."

"3,000 of them?"

"3,116."

The Director, in this crisis, took refuge in routine. He picked up
Lucifer's card.

"Do you have any other identification with you, Dr. Brill."

The routine was a mistake. Lucifer produced an expired driver's
license, an unpaid gas bill, a membership card in the American Society
for Psychic Research, a faculty football ticket, a credit slip from the
May Company, six traffic citations....

The Director held up his hand in weary surrender.

"O.K.," he said. "Tell me all about it."

Lucifer told his story with an admirable lack of detail, and a certain
intensity that compelled attention.

At a certain phase of his project, it was necessary to start
re-evaluating cases he had previously re-evaluated. That phase had
been reached two months ago. He had selected five hundred names from
his card file, and had sent them form letters preparatory to arranging
for tests.

When 480 came back marked "Address Unknown", or "No Forwarding
Address", he was disturbed, but not unduly so. In an era of great
population shifts, people could be lost and forgotten.

He mailed out another 500 forms. Four hundred and sixty-three came back
unopened.

A third mailing brought similar results. Subsequent mailings added
up to the startling statistic that some 3,000 people apparently had
vanished.

Lucifer personally checked a score of names in the greater Los Angeles
area. Five could not be located; seven seemed to have moved without
leaving a forwarding address; one was reported drowned in the surf off
Point Fermin; six were listed with the Missing Persons Bureau. Of the
latter, two had briefly made headlines. They had kissed their wives
goodby, driven off to work and had never been seen again.

Against his will, the FBI Director was impressed by Lucifer Brill's
calm recital of these facts.

"But 3,000 people," he demurred. "Isn't it simply incredible that 3,000
people could disappear without causing a commotion?"

"Do you know the number of missing persons listed annually by the Los
Angeles Police Department?"

The Director admitted he did not.

"Nearly 4,000 juveniles and adults. The number in other cities is
roughly proportionate to the population ... New York, for example, had
about eight...."

The FBI Director made his decision.

"Dr. Brill," he said, "Give me that list of names and addresses."

       *       *       *       *       *

Within twenty-four hours, teletypes began pouring in from the District
Offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Individually, the
reports meant nothing. Obscure people who simply were missing. Many of
them were not even missed enough to be listed as missing persons.

The final tabulation showed that 3,223 men and women were missing out
of 4,775 people who had registered significantly above-chance in the
psi re-evaluation tests conducted by Western University.

Lucifer Brill pointed out something else.

"The missing positives were my stronger positives. Most of those who
have not disappeared were closer to borderline cases."

At this point, to the infinite relief of the Los Angeles office, prime
responsibility for the case shifted to Washington, D.C.

A tight lid of security was clamped over the whole affair. FBI analysts
went to work on the facts and figures. Mathematically, they proved that
the percentage of missing psi test cases was fantastically above the
probability of coincidence.

One by one, the people had dropped from sight, lost in the swirling
undercurrents of a vast, shifting population. A school teacher in
Little Rock, a side-show freak in Chattanooga, a TV salesman in
Milwaukee, an artist in Philadelphia--all had disappeared, obscurely
but definitely.

And the disappearances were continuing.

Only two days before an inquiring FBI agent called on a pharmacist
in Dubuque, the man had closed up the drugstore, started for home
and had never been seen again. He was listed as an amnesia victim at
the local police department. In his psi test, four years earlier,
he had consistently averaged seventeen out of twenty-five calls.
Remorselessly, the accrual of new facts added to the Bureau's
bewilderment.

One of the FBI statisticians pointed out that almost an identical
number of men and women were missing: 1,596 men; 1,627 women.

Another perceptive young researcher ran cards on the missing positives
through an IBM machine, and came up with this statistic: The women
were between the ages of 17 and 35; the men between 19 and 45. Eighty
percent of both sexes were in their late twenties.

When all possible data had been assembled, the FBI gingerly submitted
its report to a super-secret meeting of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The reaction was not flattering.

Navy's slightly profane comment was that someone in the Bureau had
flipped his wig.

Army looked disgusted.

State Department was pained.

White House was silent.

The Chairman smiled, and waited for someone else to laugh.

No one laughed.

Red-faced but unyielding, FBI insisted that its report merited serious
consideration.

"We've kept this thing quiet," FBI said, "but you know what the
reporters could do with it."

State looked less pained. Even Army and Navy gave reluctant attention.
White House asked tentatively,

"What about the Russian angle? If even a fraction of this nonsense we
hear about psi is true, these people might serve an espionage purpose.
Could Soviet agents have smuggled them out of the country?"

"A few, maybe," admitted FBI. "But not 3,223. Not by any known method
of transportation."

"Any subversives among them?" asked Army.

"One hard-shelled Commie, a few fuzzy-minded joiners ... about par for
the course."

"Then why in the hell is this important, anyway?" demanded Navy.

A large hassle ensued, but all eventually agreed that if more than
3,000 people actually had been caused to vanish, it was at least
potentially a cause for security concern. Army pointed out:

"Next time, they might not waste the effort on these crackpots. They
might bag some important people."

White House asked:

"What are we going to do about it?"

There was an outburst of silence.

Finally, State spoke up:

"By all means, keep the matter quiet. It could be deucedly
embarrassing."

But something, of course, had to be done.

And while something was being debated, at top level, in top secrecy, in
eyes-only, Q-clearance sanctums, Lucifer Brill took matters into his
own hands.

He felt a compelling personal responsibility to the missing people.
Their names had been compiled together in his files; he had made no
effort to protect the lists. Anyone who wanted to make the attempt
could have found a way to copy the cards.

Lucifer also felt a sense of responsibility to science. And by science,
he meant his own branch of parapsychology. All other science existed
for him in a vague limbo into which no serious psychological student
would venture. "Nuts and bolts," was the way Lucifer customarily
dismissed the shadow-world of science outside his own laboratory.

But what use was it to go on confirming and re-confirming the existence
of positives and positive positives if they just up and disappeared?

The answer was discouraging.

So Lucifer Brill took stock of himself.

He was forty-four years old. He had no dependents, and was dependent
on no one. Except for chronic nearsightedness, and hay fever in the
months of July and August, he was sound of limb and body.

Lucifer withdrew from the bank the balance of his inheritance and
life savings. He placed the money in a trust fund to be given to
Western University for continuance of psi research, five years after
his death or disappearance. He drew up a holographic will bequeathing
and bequesting his library and papers to the University. He prepared
a sealed envelope containing three hundred dollars in cash and
instructions for the care of his two parrots for the balance of their
natural lives.

And then Lucifer Brill released to the profession the news that after
testing thousands of people for the psi talent, he had finally tested
himself--and had scored an average of 19 out of 25 in 4,000 PT tests,
all conducted under strict laboratory conditions.

Parapsychological circles reacted with an affectionate blend of awe and
amusement. Fellow professors wrote him congratulatory notes, some with
postscripts that jibed at him goodnaturedly. The editors of two psychic
journals called to ask for articles. One Eastern university wanted
to test him for PC and PK, but Lucifer stalled for time, waiting for
something or someone to cause him to vanish from the face of the earth.

On the evening of August 23, about eight-thirty, there was a knock on
the screen door of his bachelor apartment. Lucifer called, "Come in,
please," but he continued to work at a statistical tabulation.

The door opened; footsteps approached his desk.

"Sit down," said Lucifer. He had been expecting a summer school
graduate student to come by for a book. "I'll be through with this
column in just a moment."

"There is no hurry, Dr. Brill."

The voice was strange. It had almost a metallic ring.

Lucifer's fingers turned white where they gripped the pencil. But he
carefully totalled up the column and rechecked the answer, ferreting
out an error in the addition of 29 plus 8.

Only then did he swivel around to face the tall, thin, dark-faced
stranger. Lucifer said quietly,

"Good evening. I am sorry to have kept you waiting."

The stranger nodded, and took a small blue phial from his pocket. Long,
lean-muscled fingers squeezed the phial.

Lucifer's apartment faded gently away in the sweet, cloying odor of
hyacinth.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Lucifer Brill opened his eyes, his face was half buried in a white
pillow. A damp breeze blew across the back of his neck. The breeze was
heavy with tropical odors. Yet there was something curious about them.
Lucifer sniffed, and sniffed again. He discovered that his hay fever
wasn't bothering him.

Through one probing eye, Lucifer could see his glasses on a
nightstand. Beyond them was a window down which drops of rain were
beginning to streak.

Memories of the blue phial and the strange visitor flooded back. His
right arm was numb, but he decided he had been sleeping on it. He
experimented with his toes and legs.

They moved.

His right knee bumped against an object on the other side of the
bed. The object felt alien to anything in Lucifer Brill's previous
experience. He pushed firmly with his knee, and felt something that was
both firm and soft, yielding and unyielding, warm and slightly cold.

There was a sleepy murmur of protest, and the alien object moved away.

Lucifer Brill obeyed habit. He reached for his glasses. Then he raised
himself on his tingling right elbow and peered cautiously toward the
other side of the bed.

By many standards, Lucifer could have been adjudged a brave man. But
what he saw had a curiously frightening effect on him.

He saw the back of a woman's head, and a tangle of dark hair, a bare,
sun-brown arm, a bare shoulder.

Lucifer took off his glasses, breathed upon them, polished them
thoughtfully on a corner of the sheet, and looked again.

The apparition was still there. Only now the head was turned. The eyes
that were watching him were wide and startled. The lips moved in sort
of a gasping sound. They framed the words:

"Get out of my bed!"

In spite of a certain paralysis, Lucifer bridled at the words. He was a
rational man, and believed that words should originate in a context of
rationality.

"I can assure you," he stated, "that I am not voluntarily in your bed,
and that I have no intention of remaining here."

There was another gasping sound. The eyes widened still more. The lips
exclaimed. "Dr. Brill! Dr. Lucifer Brill!"

Lucifer made a sound that was as close to a gurgle as he had come since
infancy.

When he had collated his emotions, he asked in his customary tone,

"Have we met?"

The lips smiled wryly.

"It looks that way."

"Ah ... Yes, of course. But, I mean ... under social or professional
circumstances?"

"You're the odd little man who gave me those card tests in San Diego
last winter."

Lucifer Brill digested this information in dignified silence. He
considered the woman gravely, then took the white sheet and covered her
up to her chin.

She gasped again.

"There are certain proprieties," he reminded her severely.

He considered her again, trying to place her face and its personality
among the thousands of people he had psi-tested. It was what he would
term a Type III face, although he had never been able to establish
any defineable connection between bone structure and psi positive
characteristics. This was a strong face on the pillow beside him.
Strong and at the same time possessed of certain female qualities,
principally in the fullness of the rather large lips and in the throat
lines. The cheek bones were fairly high. The skin texture indicated a
chronological age of about thirty.

Having thus appraised and catalogued the woman, Lucifer asked, "May I
have the privilege of making your acquaintance?"

"Wh ... what?"

"Your name," he said impatiently. "Do you mind telling me your name?"

"Nina ... Nina Poteil. They call me Nina ... professionally."

"Professionally ...." Lucifer rolled the word on his tongue as though
he relished its flavor. "May I inquire as to the nature of your
profession?"

"You don't remember? Oh, well, I guess you'd call me a psychologist."

"A psychologist!" Lucifer's eyes glowed with relief and approval. If he
had to awake to find himself in these distressing circumstances, it was
good to know that he was with a confrere.

"Really!" he said. "I had no idea! It astonishes me that I do not
remember you. What is your specialization?"

"I'm called an entertainment psychologist."

"How extraordinary! Where do you practice?"

"At the Blue Grotto on Fifth Street. I'm billed for character readings.
Cards are my medium, but I don't need them, of course."

"Oh."

Lucifer adjusted his glasses. He said, "Now, if you will kindly face
toward the opposite wall, I will get out of this bed."

As Lucifer climbed out of bed, he was painfully conscious of a short
kimono that scarcely reached to his white, bony knees. Panic-stricken,
he looked around for something else to wear, and found some neatly
folded garments on a chair behind his side of the bed. With a shock, he
realized this was exactly the way he had always left his own clothes
overnight.

Only these were not his own clothes. They appeared to be made of a
light, semi-transparent plastic material. There was a pair of trousers
that fit rather like jodhpurs, a loose, practical tunic, and boots of
the same thin material. When he had dressed, he still felt like a man
in a goldfish bowl.

Looking out the window, he saw that they were near the center of a
very large compound, comprising hundreds of small dwellings, all
constructed of a slate-like grey metal. Each dwelling was surrounded
with a neat area of what appeared at first glance to be a lawn. On
closer observation, it was a lush, mossy growth, deep green in color.
At one end of the compound was a much larger building, sprawling into
many wings and substructures. Behind it rose a tremendous, yet somehow
slender and graceful, silhouette of a shining projectile, aimed toward
the clouds. Around the compound, at intervals of about two hundred
yards, were tall guard towers. The compound itself seemed to be located
in a vast, towering forest that rolled away in all directions until it
disappeared in the low-hanging mists. Through a break in the clouds,
Lucifer saw a giant, orange wheel, many times the size of the sun he
had known all his life.

"Amazing," Lucifer murmured.

Averting his eyes from the bed, he walked across the room and opened
a door. It led to a large, bright room, artificially lighted from a
source he could not determine. At the far end of the room were a door
and glass casement windows that opened on a small, mossy clearing. The
forest curved in behind the clearing, and walled it off. In the room
itself, a large screen occupied most of one wall. The furniture was
extremely functional. Everything, even the cushions on a low couch,
appeared to be made of a tinted metal. But when Lucifer touched one of
the cushions, it yielded resiliently.

"Amazing," he repeated.

In his astonishment, Lucifer forgot himself and looked toward the bed.

"Miss Poteil, have you any idea where we are?"

"I woke up after you did," she reminded him.

"I see." He regarded her sternly. "What is your last recollection prior
to awakening?"

"I don't know.... Yes, I do!" She sat up, then sank back and covered
herself again as he glared disapproval. "I was in the Blue Grotto--It
was getting late, and I had just left my card--like I always do--at a
table where two men were drinking. One of them said, 'Sure, we want a
reading.' Then I sat down, and that's all I remember."

"All?" he insisted, as if questioning a reluctant student.

"There was kind of a strange odor...."

"I know."

"You do!" She bolted upright, forgetting the sheet. She looked
accusingly at him.

"Naturally, I recall the same odor. How else do you suppose I happened
to wake up in this bed?"

"I wondered."

Lucifer turned back to the window in time to see two men, in the same
plastic tunic and leggings he was wearing, approaching the front of
their bungalow.

"We have visitors," he said. "Perhaps we shall also have some answers.
While I greet them, I suggest that you make an effort to acquire some
kind of apparel."

       *       *       *       *       *

One of the visitors was a gaunt, heavy-boned man, exceedingly tall.
Lucifer guessed his height at close to seven feet. The bone structure
of his face was harsh and massive. His head was shaved; the flesh
deeply bronzed. The second visitor was nearly as tall, but he was
older, and his shoulders sagged. Bronze skin hung loosely over the
bones of his face.

After a cautious glance over his shoulder indicated that Nina had
stepped into the semi-transparent leggings and tunic that appeared to
be standard garb, Lucifer opened the door and faced the men coming up
the path.

The younger of the two nodded.

"Good morning, Dr. Brill."

His voice had the same metallic timbre that Lucifer had first heard
from the tall visitor in his own study.

The older man stepped close to Lucifer and gazed intently into his eyes.

"He has emerged," he said.

"Good. In that case, we must introduce ourselves all over again." The
large man bowed slightly, then drew himself stiffly erect. "Dr. Brill,
in your language, my name would approximate the phonetic sounds: Huth
Glaspac. You may call me Huth. I am the Administrative Director of
this project." He indicated his older companion. "This is our medical
director. For simplicity, you may call him Dr. Thame."

Lucifer studied them gravely.

"Come in, Gentlemen," he said.

Awkwardly, he went through the motions of introducing them to Nina. Dr.
Thame examined Nina's eyes, and nodded.

"Our laboratory calculations were correct," he pronounced in a brittle
voice that reflected satisfaction. To Nina and Lucifer he explained.
"Due to the differing metabolisms of your bodies, it required a rather
delicate calculation to bring you both out of the drug at the same
time. It was estimated to occur about four cintros ... that is,
hours ... ago, during your sleep...."

"Gentlemen," Lucifer interrupted impatiently, "do you mind telling us
where we are and what this is all about?"

Huth's massive bronze features lightened with the shadow of a smile.

"It is doubtful that the answer to either question will be helpful at
this time. However, in response to the first, may I inquire: Have you
studied astronomy?"

Lucifer drew himself up with dignity. "I am a Parapsychologist."

Again there was the shadow of a smile on Huth's bronze features.

"The extreme specialization of your science will never cease to amaze
me. At any rate, you are on the planet Melus, one of the outer planets
of the star which your Earth astronomers call Capella, and which they
place in the constellation of Auriga."

Lucifer blinked rapidly and rubbed the bristles of his mustache with
more than ordinary vigor. Some of his colleagues at Western University
had worked on rocket projects. He had always suspected they were fools;
now he was sure of it. Why else would they be wasting their time with
rockets, while another race was running around the universe, kidnapping
positives?

It was Nina who spoke up first, her dark, deep-set eyes burning with
excitement.

"Capella ... I know!" she exclaimed. "Sometimes I work with the medium
of astrology. It doesn't mean anything, really, no more than the cards.
I could do just as well without either. But the customers.... Say,
unless you're not telling the truth, Mr. Huth, we're quite a ways from
San Diego!"

"The distance is not important," said Huth. "Melus is now your home,
and will be for the rest of your lives."

As the import of his words reached them, Lucifer blinked again. Nina
sat down on the edge of the steel-grey couch.

"For the rest of our lives," she repeated wonderingly. "That's a long
time."

"It is to be hoped," said Dr. Thame.

Lucifer had to speak with more than usual severity in order to keep the
tremor out of his voice. "I asked two questions," he reminded Huth.

Huth nodded.

"Your second question will be answered during your orientation period."

"And how long does that last?"

"It varies. For you, Dr. Brill, it could be much longer than for your
wife."

"My--" This time, Lucifer's dry New England twang definitely broke.

"Oh, yes. We learned that by observing the rituals of your culture
we can minimize emotional trauma and thereby hasten orientation." He
turned to Nina. "I can assure you that the proper Earth rituals were
performed in the prescribed manner. Since neither of you were married,
we could dispense with the Earth divorce ritual and perform only the
marriage ritual. Does that ease your mind?"

She stared at him without answering.

Lucifer's temper bristled.

"I refuse to recognize such mockery. It is immoral, illegal and
definitely unethical."

Huth dismissed the matter with a slight shake of his massive head, and
proceeded to explain some of the objective facts of their situation.

During orientation period, they would be required to remain on their
own premises, except for their educational sessions at Center. They
would be taken to Center once or twice each day, depending on their
progress. Food preparation was handled at the Project commissary.
Huth opened a small pantry. Meals, cooked by molecular agitation in
the commissary, would be delivered to the pantry via the commissary
tubicular. He showed them how to turn on the visagraph screen.

"This is used for communication, education and also entertainment.
You will find it very pleasant to read micro-filmed books off the
screen. We also have a rather complete repertory of Earth music. After
orientation, you will be assigned duties, and, of course, can become
acquainted with fellow members of this project."

Dr. Thame added briefly that Melus had been chosen for the project
because it was a hydrogen-oxygen planet similar to Earth, although
almost uniformly tropical. The inner planets of the system were not
inhabitable, since Capella, with three times the mass of Sol, produced
one hundred times more heat.

"You'll discover that members of your Project have given this planet
another name," he concluded. "But don't let it disturb you."

Nina spoke up suddenly.

"The name is--It's Mendel's Planet!"

A muscle twitched in Huth's bronze cheek. "How did you know that?"

She shook her head.

"I never know how. Things just come to me. Sometimes I say--said things
to my customers at the Blue Grotto, and they would ask me the same
thing. How do I know?" She shrugged her strong shoulders. "How does
anyone know they know anything?"

Huth and Dr. Thame exchanged quick glances.

"Very interesting," said Huth. He moved toward the door. "We will send
for you in two hours for your basic family record test."

"Basic fam--." Lucifer choked on the word. He asked bleakly. "What
might that be?"

"It will be elementary to you, Dr. Brill. Just a basic psi-card test.
We have your record, of course, but for purposes of standardization, we
always start a new family's record in this manner. You undoubtedly will
score rather close to your high test score on Earth."

Lucifer hoped his apprehension did not show. He had not expected having
to meet this challenge so soon.

Nina had been pursing her lips, frowning and thoughtful. Now she asked.

"Mr. Huth, how long have we, Dr. Brill and I, been here on Melus?"

A hint of humor flickered in Huth's somber eyes.

"Two Earth months."

       *       *       *       *       *

For several moments after their departure, Lucifer stalked silently
around the room. Nina remained on the couch. Her eyes were closed; her
hands folded on her legs. There was a click in the pantry. Nina got up
and looked inside. Breakfast had arrived.

"We'd better eat something," she told Lucifer.

"I am not hungry, Miss Poteil."

She brought a plate, and stood resolutely before him.

"This is going to be a hard day. You will need the food."

He tried to stare her down, but couldn't. He accepted the plate,
feeling like a chided school boy.

Lucifer ate in silence, and when he had finished, he wandered out into
the mossy patio behind the bungalow. There was a milky opaqueness,
without obvious form or solidity, that walled the area off from the
bungalow on either side. The rear of the patio, facing the forest, was
clear, but when he walked too far in that direction, an invisible force
shocked him warningly, and he leaped back.

The trees were incredibly high; their canopy of branches and leaves
was tightly interwoven. The rain had stopped momentarily, but water
dripped unceasingly from the canopy to the mat of leaves on the forest
floor. Spidery root tendrils crawled upward to mesh with tree boles and
hanging vines. There was a smell of eternal dampness. Somewhere back in
the shadows, an animal cried out. It sounded like a woman in pain.

Lucifer shivered. He wished forlornly that he had left matters up to
the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency. He reviewed his prospects,
and did not find them good. In a narrow sense, he had succeeded. He had
found his positives and positive positives, but he did not yet know why
they had been kidnapped. Nor was it likely that the knowledge would do
him much good. He was on a strange planet, in the system of a distant
star, apparently destined to spend the rest of his life with a woman
who had been a nightclub fortune teller.

As a doctor of parapsychology, Lucifer was appalled. As a confirmed
bachelor, he was horrified.

But a more immediate problem clamored for consideration. What happened
to non-positives on Melus?

He would soon know.

The two attendants who came to take them to Center were much younger
than Huth. They carried themselves with military stiffness. Nina and
Lucifer were led to what vaguely resembled a motorboat, covered with a
transparent bubble. The conveyance hovered in the air, about two feet
above a narrow pathway that was surfaced with a dark, burnished metal.
Lucifer accepted the vehicle without surprise. Physical scientists
had always reminded him of boys playing with erector sets, and their
accomplishments bored him.

Center was a series of low slate-metal buildings scattered over several
acres. Some were inter-connected; some were separated by mossy areas.
The outer walls were broken by tall casement windows that extended from
just above the ground to just below the eaves.

As they circled among the buildings, the casement windows began to
swing shut. Lucifer thought at first that this had something to do with
their coming, but then he saw the thunder clouds tumbling in over the
forest roof and heard the approaching rain.

The hot wind swept open a gate as they were rounding one of the
opaquely enclosed areas. Lucifer caught a nerve-shocking glimpse of
many grotesquely malformed creatures stumbling, sprawling and hopping
into the building, under the supervision of several bronzed, statuesque
attendants. One creature, with a huge bulging head that flopped
uncontrollably from shoulder to shoulder, was bounding along on a
single leg. Its twisted features were grimacing horribly.

Lucifer did not raise his eyes to Nina's face, but through the
transparent sleeves of her tunic, he saw the muscles in her arms grow
rigid.

The conveyance stopped in front of the entrance to one of the larger
buildings. An attendant met them as they stepped out of the vehicle. He
led them down a long, glass-roofed corridor. The rain was now drumming
dismally against the glass.

A blindfolded girl of about six passed them in the corridor. She
stepped politely to one side, then continued surely and unconcernedly
on her way.

Huth received them in a large room equipped with two rows of facing
desks.

"As I told you," he explained to Lucifer, "these tests will be very
elementary. Together with your Earth records, they will form part of
your basic family file. And," he added, harshness edging into his
voice, "it will be wise for you to give us your complete cooperation."

One of the attendants led Nina to a seat in front of a desk. The other
attendant beckoned to Lucifer.

"If you please," Lucifer said to Huth, "I would like to observe your
technique. Being a professional man, you know...."

Huth assented.

"May I compliment you on your attitude, Dr. Brill. Such an interest
can shorten your period of orientation, and it raises my already
considerable expectations for you. But we do not pretend to any
originality of technique."

After watching the attendant run through twenty-five cards with Nina,
Lucifer was quite ready to agree with Huth. The technique was crude,
far below minimal laboratory standards.

Nina's attention wandered about the room, but she called off the cards
without hesitation. The attendant took her through three runs, checked
his file record and stood up with a shrug. He said something to Huth in
a language that blurred and rasped.

"Dr. Brill," said Huth, "will you oblige us now?"

Lucifer stepped resolutely to the desk, but the palms of his hands were
moist. Over the past two decades he had taken many tests, enough to
know that he could never score above chance save for an occasional run
of coincidence.

And this was not one of those runs. He saw it in the attendant's manner
before five cards had been turned. Desperately, he fumbled ahead,
guessing blindly.

At the end of the first run, the attendant spoke rapidly to Huth.

Lucifer saw Nina watching him with surprise.

"This technique is incredible!" he snapped at Huth. "With all the
distractions in this room, not to mention the emotional stress of our
situation, a true score would have to depend on chance!"

"That is not necessarily so," Huth answered calmly. "The stronger a psi
sense may be, the more easily it is brought into use, regardless of
external circumstances. You Earth scientists go to incredible lengths
to test under laboratory conditions an ability that does not belong in
the laboratory."

"Ridiculous! Laboratory standards were necessary to prove the existence
of psi."

"Therefore, Earth scientists will go on proving it to each other for
the next hundred years."

"What are you proving by this inferior duplication of our psi tests?"
Lucifer challenged, hoping to divert attention from another disastrous
run of the cards.

"More than you suspect, Dr. Brill. For one thing, by checking this
first test with your Earth record, and later with additional tests, we
can obtain an indication of your response to orientation. This could
be important to you, vitally important, I might add. Now, shall we
proceed."

It was an order, not a question.

Lucifer saw Nina nod at him, and try to smile encouragingly. This fed
his anger with the fuel of humiliation.

The attendant took a new deck of cards, began to turn them.

Brill felt his eyes drawn again to Nina. He called out his answer,
unthinkingly. "Circle ... circle ... star ... rectangle ... circle...."

When the run was completed, the attendant instantly started another.

A third and a fourth run, then the attendant turned to Huth with a
rapid burst of language.

"Excellent," said Huth. "Excellent, Dr. Brill. All you needed to do was
relax! Excepting the first run, you averaged very close to your Earth
score."

Since awakening that morning, Lucifer had found his professional
equanimity tried sorely on several occasions. But never more so than
at this moment. To have scored so significantly above chance on three
consecutive card runs was a greater shock than awakening to find
himself with a strange wife on a strange planet. The law of probability
was the unchallengeable bastion of his private world.

He caught Nina's glance again. Her dark eyes were watching him in a way
he could not understand.

Huth said, "This has been a most satisfactory prelude to orientation.
We can proceed immediately." He touched a button. In a moment, Dr.
Thame entered. "You will go with Dr. Thame," Huth told Nina. "Your
husband will remain here."

Nina looked at Lucifer again, hesitated, then turned away without
comment and followed Dr. Thame out of the room. Huth led Lucifer into a
smaller office.

"This procedure is somewhat unusual," Huth commented. "Ordinarily, new
arrivals are assigned directly to units of the Orientation Staff. But
we have special hopes and plans for both of you. In particular, Dr.
Brill, you can be of great service to us."

It was difficult for Lucifer to be anything but forthright, but he
tried. "Psi is my work," he said. "I suppose it matters little enough
where I work at it. But it would help to know the purpose of all this."

"Undoubtedly. But it will not be easy for you."

"I am not a child."

"No, but you are an Earth scientist."

Lucifer felt his anger rising again.

"I'm afraid I don't follow you."

"I intended no invidious comparison, Dr. Brill. But, as orientation
progresses, you will better understand what I mean. Have you ever
thought how your science would appear to an extra-terrestrial mind?"

"The concept has never occurred to me," Lucifer snapped, thinking of
the grotesque creatures running out of the rain, and the blindfolded
child walking alone down the corridor. "We see your science as a great
number of cubicles, all operating within one structure, with a minimum
amount of inter-communication. Each cubicle is engrossed in a process
of infinite abstraction from a body of potential knowledge self-doomed
to be finite. It studies every new idea chiefly in terms of concepts
fundamental to its own specialized body of knowledge."

Huth waved a large hand to cut off a protest from Lucifer.

"And what of the phenomena an individual scientist observes and
evaluates? He shapes the facts into an hypothesis that may be valid
only within his own cubicle. He does not venture outside. A most
glaring example is that of your medical diagnostician. He uses the
tools of his science brilliantly, then lays them down and becomes a
therapeutic nihilist!"

"Specialization has meant progress," Lucifer protested.

"Progress, yes, but progress only to the frontiers of infinity. Will
you dare venture into that frontier, Dr. Brill?"

"Of course."

"Be careful! The price of that venture is very high. Consider for a
moment your Earth biologist: The very nature of the subject on which
he has founded his science eventually dooms him to technological
unemployment! If he follows the living cells to their ultimate sequence
of interactions between ions and molecules, biology ends as it
began--as applied chemistry and physics!"

Lucifer shifted uneasily.

"From another value judgement," Huth continued, "the orthodoxy of
Earth science is a product of its fragmentation. Within each cubicle,
isolated from the fertilization of new concepts, the unorthodox all too
often and too soon can become rigidly orthodox. This is the circle
around which each science seems forever to travel!"

Lucifer felt himself being moved skillfully toward an unknown
objective. It was like being a Knight on a chessboard in the hands of
an expert player.

Huth moved in closer to his objective. "And so it is with psi, Dr.
Brill. Or so it appears to an extra-terrestrial viewpoint, which is now
necessarily your own! Parapsychology had to depart from the physiology
of orthodox psychology in order to get a look at itself. It became
unorthodox avant guarde! It established a scientific case for psi,
and for two decades thereafter established little else. What have you
proved that Rhine did not prove twenty years ago?"

"It is necess--"

"Already we see forming a dogma of psychic research, a cult
of psychologizers that may match in exclusivity the cult of
physiologizers--each declining to draw upon the resources of the other!
We see a tendency to look backward instead of forward, a bemusement
with the historical concepts of association theories, psychon systems
and continuums of cosmic consciousness--all of which suggests a turning
away from the frontiers of infinity to an interminable abstraction of
possibilities from your own finite knowledge.

"Do you follow me, Dr. Brill?"

Lucifer removed his glasses, breathed on them, polished them carefully
on the sleeve of his tunic. He looked beyond Huth to the window and
the steaming tropical rain. When his thoughts were composed again, he
answered, "I follow you--with reservations."

"Naturally. Now consider this question: Have you looked into other
cubicles of science for answers to psi?"

"We welcome all viewpoints."

"Do you now? I wonder! From our extra-terrestrial viewpoint, it is
evident that biology, chemistry and physics all have within their
present finite bodies of knowledge the fragments of concepts that
could propel psi, and hence all of science, into the very frontier of
infinity."

Huth paused, looked searchingly at Lucifer.

"Dr. Brill, are you ready to share your primacy in psi research with
the physicial scientist?"

"The physical scientist scoffs at us."

"He also is reluctant to leave his cubicle. However, by using the
mathematical tools of logic to enclose psi research in a framework of
anti-logic, built on the principle that man cannot know, your psychic
theorist has alienated the handyman physical scientist who has so much
to contribute--but who insists that man must know."

Huth raised himself to his magnificent seven feet of height.

"Let the thoughts germinate, Dr. Brill. This is only your first
orientation session. On the whole, we have made good progress."

He handed Lucifer a printed card.

"This will instruct you how to tune in your visagraph to a closed
circuit orientation program after the dinner hour. Do not fail to
follow instructions."

With the briefest of nods, Huth stalked toward the door, where he
turned, as if in response to an afterthought.

"Your motivations to progress in orientation will be several, Dr.
Brill, but it may be well for you to know that you already have a
hostage to the future success of our program."

"Hostage?"

"Your first child, Dr. Brill. It will be born in approximately seven
Earth months, according to the calculations of Dr. Thame.

"Meditate on this while you await the attendant who will return you to
your quarters."

       *       *       *       *       *

Lucifer tried to square his thin shoulders against the straight-backed
chair. He ran the tips of his fingers over his upper lip, and out
of the numbness that gripped his brain came a vagrant thought: His
mustache really did need trimming; it wouldn't do at all to let down
about such things.

The door clicked open. He turned, expecting to see one of Huth's
attendants, instead he faced Nina. Her cheekbones made two spots of
white against her olive skin.

"Hello, Lucifer," she said. Her voice was even deeper, huskier than
usual.

Her tone and the way she used his first name told him she knew about
the child. But he pretended not to notice. He couldn't discuss the
child until he had time to evaluate the meaning of it all.

"Miss Poteil," he began firmly. His voice shook a little, and he
started again, "Miss Poteil, I trust your first orientation session was
not too unhappy an experience."

Her dark eyes were thoughtful, troubled.

"What is unhappiness?" She shrugged in reply to her own question. "I am
never sure about crossing the line between happiness and unhappiness.
Are you?"

She sat down facing him.

"Is your question philosophical or psychological, Miss Poteil?"

She smiled faintly, and shook her head.

There was silence between them. Finally she spoke again, "I saw the
little girl as I came in."

"The girl with the blindfold?"

"Yes. She stepped right past me, and went into a room just down the
corridor. The room seemed to be full of children."

Lucifer stood up with sudden decision. "I believe I will try to look
around."

The white spots grew in her cheeks. Her full, expressive lips tightened.

"Be careful, Lucifer," she said quietly.

The long corridor was frighteningly deserted. With so many doors
opening off it, the odds seemed overwhelming that someone would step
out one of them at any moment and challenge his right to be there.

Lucifer's plastic boots scraped on the metallic composition floor.

A subdued tinkle of children's voices drew him to a door some thirty
steps down the corridor. The door appeared to be of a glass-like
material, but it was opaqued. He pushed against it, and it moved. He
drew a long breath, then inched the door open.

A tall, bronzed women of Huth's racial characteristics was grouping
a dozen or so youngsters into an activity pattern. The children were
all around five or six years old. Their fair skin and bone structure
indicated they were offspring of Earth parents.

The woman blindfolded one of the youngsters, a square-shouldered, blond
little fellow. The she tossed a ball to one of the other boys, and gave
a short command in her own language.

The children scattered about the large room. The boy with the ball ran
and stood against the window, which was blurred from the driving rain.

After chanting what appeared to be a number count, the blindfolded
boy began to move around the room. As he approached one child after
another, he would hesitate while still three or four steps away, shake
his head and move on to someone else.

Finally, when still some ten feet from the window, he swerved abruptly
toward the boy holding the ball. He ran directly to him, grabbed him by
the arm, then fumbled for the ball and clutched it triumphantly.

The other children broke into an excited babble, and everyone seemed to
be clamoring for the next chance to be blindfolded. The woman looked
disconsolately at the rain-streaked window, and began to blindfold
another child.

Lucifer eased the door shut. He moved on down the corridor, past room
after room that seemed deserted. A tentative testing of several doors
proved they were locked.

Near the end of the corridor, where it turned at right angles and
headed down an equally long wing of the building, Lucifer found another
room that sounded occupied.

Again he inched the door open.

This room was occupied by smaller children, mostly of prenursery school
age. They were playing a version of a game Lucifer recognized from his
own childhood: Tail on the donkey. Only this donkey was a sinister
looking creature with tiny ears and formidable jaws.

One by one the children toddled up to pin a stubby tail on his
derriere. Three of them hit the target with biological exactitude. The
fourth missed badly. It was a little girl. When the others laughed, she
tore off her blindfold, stamped her tiny foot.

A bench sailed across the room, thudded flatly against the opposite
wall.

The children's derisive laugh changed to one of excitement, and the
girl felt encouraged to expand her tantrum. The bench caromed from wall
to wall to ceiling and off, with a crash, into a corner. The woman
attendant picked up the child by the shoulders and shook her.

For an instant, wild defiance flared on the childish features. Then the
girl pouted, and two tears trickled down her soft cheeks.

Lucifer didn't try to analyze his impressions. There would be time
for that later. Now it was important only to gather as many facts as
possible before he was detected.

The second corridor contained many rooms. From the sound of the voices
coming through the doors, and from spot-checking several rooms, Lucifer
judged they were all occupied by children engaged in some form of play
activity that required psionic ability.

At the end of the corridor, Lucifer opened a door and found himself
staring out into the rain.

Urged on by a growing eagerness to learn as much as he could before
he was stopped, he ducked outside and ran across a mossy stretch of
courtyard toward a second building.

Rain plastered his hair, and trickled down his neck, but his tunic and
leggings seemed waterproof.

The rain was hot and stinging, and the wind surged out of the forest
with lashing force. Half-blinded, Lucifer stumbled over some unseen
object. He sprawled to his knees. He got up, slipped again, and skidded
into the partial shelter of a doorway.

The door couldn't be moved. Lucifer moved out into the rain again, and
groped his way along the side of the building.

He stumbled over something else, fell heavily.

A hoarse outcry, lifting above the wind and the rain, brought him to
his knees. Shielding his eyes, he saw that he had stumbled over a
figure huddled in a corner of the building. The figure straightened
above him. Its movements were jerky, like a carpenter's rule unfolding.

It was one of the grotesque, misshapen creatures Lucifer had glimpsed
on first approaching Center. Through the slanting rain, Lucifer could
make out a gigantic head that bulged sickeningly and was utterly devoid
of hair. The head sagged forward, flopped back again until it struck
the wall of the building, then snapped forward. It had two blank eyes,
a flattened horror of a nose, a mouth that sagged and twitched.

The mouth was trying to say something, but the words dissolved in a
bubble of red saliva and a merciful wash of rain.

The head flopped back and forth. The figure jerked toward Lucifer,
lunged and fell on top of him.

For the first time in his adult life, Lucifer lost control of himself.

He screamed, and screamed again.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hands clawed him down, smashed his face into a choking puddle of water
and wet moss. The hands and arms beat against his back and ribs. Each
blow was a flailing, uncoordinated effort, but the impact was crushing.

Water bubbled into Lucifer's mouth and nostrils. He raised his head to
breath, and a random blow smashed it back down. He gulped air and water
together. He choked, strangled.

And then the weight was gone from his back. The hands and arms stopped
smashing against his flesh and bones. Lucifer raised himself on his
elbows, retched chokingly.

A powerful pair of hands picked him up and half carried him out of the
rain. Someone brushed back his hair, wiped his eyes. He opened them.
A tall attendant held him up. Nina dried a trickle of water from his
cheek. Her dark features showed shock and concern. Huth watched him
sardonically.

"It was fortunate your wife sensed your danger and helped us find you,"
Huth said. "Your zeal for orientation is commendable, Dr. Brill, but I
suggest you proceed less rigorously."

Lucifer took the handkerchief from Nina, wiped his mouth. It tasted
salty. He attempted to stand with some measure of dignity.

"Who or what was that creature?" he demanded.

"I think you have had quite enough orientation for the time being,"
Huth replied.

The strange conveyance whisked them back to their bungalow. Lucifer
soaked himself in a hot bath, and it was a long time before his
trembling muscles relaxed. Dinner, via the tubicular, consisted of
a meat dish, more strongly flavored than venison, two rather salty
green vegetables and a flagon of warm, spicy amber liquid. They ate in
silence.

Soon after dinner, Huth appeared on the visagraph screen, for what he
called their second orientation session. This was largely a development
of the first, and so were those that followed on succeeding days. Each
left Lucifer feeling more unsure of himself, tense, mentally adrift.
The distance between Melus and his safe, secure little laboratory at
Western University was becoming greater than could be measured in light
years.

Ranging from geology to biochemistry, from physio-psychical sources of
neurosis to what he called the "molecular site of understanding", Huth
hammered incessantly with semantics and logic against the carefully
mortared bricks of Lucifer's own scientific cubicle. Sometimes he
spoke with almost mystical fervor of a frontier beyond a frontier, a
science beyond a science. One evening, during a visagraph session, Nina
suddenly interrupted:

"Your words speak about the infinite," she murmured, "but your mind
does not sing with the music of infinity."

Now, for the first time, Lucifer saw uncertainty on Huth's face.

Uncertainty, and a look of indescribable sadness.

Then the visagraphs screen went dark.

Nina was on the couch beside Lucifer. Her eyes were half-closed; her
strong fingers were clasped around her knees and she rocked back and
forth gently.

"What a strange man," she said. "What a strange and strong and lonely
man. For a moment, I saw all the loneliness of the universe in his
eyes...."

Lucifer regarded her uneasily. "You see many things, Miss Poteil."

"No, Lucifer, I see so very little. But what little I do see makes me
feel like a blind person the rest of the time. Isn't it terrible to
look at shadows?"

"Really, Miss Poteil--"

"Hush!"

She put her finger to his lips.

He started.

"Wha--?"

"Please, Lucifer--Oh, be quiet--Please!"

Her breasts rose and fell sharply beneath the thin tunic. He saw the
tendons stand out in her throat. Finally she whispered: "I think
someone is coming to see us! Tonight. I'm not sure.... Oh, this damned
blindness!"

She beat her fists furiously on her knees.

Lucifer tried to speak casually: "If someone comes, we'll know about it
soon enough. Meanwhile, I suggest we try to get some sleep."

There was a strange weariness in her as she got up from the couch and
started toward the bedroom, which Lucifer had sternly assigned to
her after the first morning of awakening. But after a few steps, she
stopped and turned back to him.

"Lucifer, they say you are the father of my baby. If that is so, I am
grateful."

It was the first time they had mentioned the child. Lucifer felt
shocked, and very humble. This was another new feeling. He decided it
would be wisest not to speak.

"You are a man, Lucifer," she went on, in her husky voice. "I knew it
when you tried to take that test, knowing you would fail."

She brushed her lips across his forehead.

"Goodnight, Lucifer. I have known many males, but very few men. There
is a great difference...."

He lay awake on the couch for a long time, his body aching for sleep,
his mind spinning with strange thoughts, stranger concepts. He was
just beginning to slip into the twilight zone between wakefulness and
troubled sleep when a foreign sound in the room jarred him awake.

Forcing himself to lie completely still, to continue his even
breathing, he strained to catch a repetition of the sound; his eyes
turned toward the rear window. The latest rain squall had swept by,
and the window was now a luminous rectangle against a brilliant,
star-filled sky.

As his vision cleared and focused, he saw that the casement window was
partly open. A fresh breeze, warm and fragrant with the odors of the
rain forest, swept across the couch.

Lucifer heard a definite, sharp click from the visagraph. It was as
though a switch had been snapped. But there was no shadow of a physical
presence in the room.

The bedroom door opened suddenly. Nina stood there for an instant,
silhouetted in her short, white nightgown. Then she moved quickly
across the room, knelt beside his couch. Her lips, warm and dry,
pressed close to his ear; her long hair tumbled over his cheek and
throat. She whispered:

"Can I stay here a little while?"

He nodded, and felt her body crowd against him on the narrow couch.

They lay there together, breathing quietly, watching the open window.

And then there was a shadow there, a darker something against the
darkness. Nina's body stiffened. With an unconscious gesture older than
remembered time, Lucifer put his arm over her.

A voice spoke out quietly from the window.

"It's O.K. now, Dr. Brill."

       *       *       *       *       *

A figure stepped through the window, stumbled over the hassock and sat
on the edge of it.

"You both there?" a man's voice asked, then, without waiting for an
answer, continued: "... Good!.... Fetzer's my name. Albert Fetzer.
Remember me, Dr. Brill?"

"I regret to say--"

"That's O.K. It was a long time ago--when I was GI-ing my way through
electrical engineering at Western. You gave me a lot of card tests. I
did pretty well, too--damm-it!"

"I'm sorry."

"None of us blames you anymore. We were kind of bitter at first--now
we're glad you're here."

"Glad?"

"Sure. We've got a lot of things figured out, but there's still a lot
more we don't get. You could be a big help to us."

"I sincerely hope so, but--"

"But, nothing, Doc. It looks like they're really giving you the
orientation business--like they need you and are going all the way this
time!"

Lucifer's tongue felt dry, and difficult to maneuver. He was grateful
that Fetzer didn't seem to expect an answer.

"They've been cozy with some of us before, but always cooled off. You
just play it smart, learn all you can! But be careful, or you'll end up
with the _Goolies_."

Fetzer listened intently, then chuckled.

"I guess they're still kind of fouled up! We had to warp the force
field behind your place--shorted their magnetic track, too! But
before they get here there's something else I've got to warn you
about--'specially you, Mrs. Brill."

He hesitated.

"What is it?" Nina prompted.

"Well, when you think you get a message from us don't bust out with it
like you did a while ago. They pick up everything you say on that damn
visagraph--I had to short the magnetic track in order to get at the
control wire to block it off--"

"Just a moment, Albert," Lucifer interrupted. "How did you know what
was said in this room?"

Fetzer sounded embarrassed:

"Well, it's a funny thing, Doc, but back on Earth we were all kind
of ashamed of this psi thing. We tried to keep it hid from other
people. Here, it's different. We're all the same way, more or less.
So we try to use psi instead of hide it. Doesn't work on Huth's gang,
though. They got minds like machines--It's like trying to psi into a
quarter-horse motor!"

There was a pounding of footsteps outside the front door.

"Gotta go!" said Fetzer.

He twisted lithely through the window, closed it behind him and
vanished into the sultry night.

Nina slipped from the couch and hurried into the bedroom.

The front door banged open. The room light flared on, blinding Lucifer.

Huth was there, with two of his men. The men ranged about the place
with giant strides, going through the living room, the bedroom and out
into the rear enclosure. One of the men worked on the visagraph, trying
to light it up. He had no success.

Huth stood over Lucifer's couch. "Has anyone been here?" he demanded
sternly.

"If there was, he was more quiet and courteous than you have been,"
snapped Lucifer. "Need I remind you that this has been a most
exhausting day, and that to be awakened in this manner--"

"Mrs. Brill received a message, and informed you of it."

"Miss Poteil talks a great deal of nonsense, which you must also have
overheard. However, I assure you, Sir, that I am not interested in her
hallucinations, and if you are, I suggest you discuss them with her in
the morning."

"What happened to the visagraph."

"If I knew, I wouldn't care. Your electronic gadgets impress me as
being rather juvenile."

Huth bowed.

"Perhaps because you do not understand them, Dr. Brill."

The warning in his voice was clear. He turned sharply on his heel,
motioned his men out of the room and left, shutting the door quietly.

       *       *       *       *       *

With breakfast, the tubicular delivered a metal-backed manuscript that
bore the scholarly title: "Genetics and Psi, with an Evaluation of
Three Case Histories as Compiled from Earth Records."

Nina glanced at the title across the breakfast tray, then shifted her
chair beside Lucifer's.

"I'd better read that, too," she said. "Maybe it will tell us something
about our own genetics experiment."

Lucifer pursed his lips in disapproval at her frankness, but he held
the manuscript so that both could study it. The introduction began:

"After studying the incidence of psi on Earth, we felt that the
genetics approach should receive considerable concentration of effort.
Our chemists, biochemists and physicists are naturally continuing
their experimentation, but the geneticists seem to promise the maximum
results in the minimum amount of time. If psi can be explained,
understood and propagated through genetics, it can no longer be
mis-nomered 'extra-sensory'. It will become no more 'extra-sensory'
than sense of direction, sense of time and, in the case of musical
aptitude, such component primary senses as sense of absolute pitch,
sense of intensity, sense of harmony, sense of rhythm and sense of
tonal memory. Thousands of tests have indicated that these musical
senses may have an hereditary base."

"Physiologizers!" Lucifer exclaimed, contemptuously.

"Let's keep our windows clean," Nina murmured.

He stared at her in surprise.

"My father used to say that," she explained. "He told us to keep our
windows clean--so truth can look in and out."

Lucifer turned back the manuscript. He felt somehow chastened.

After several paragraphs of further discussion on the hereditary
aspects of the various senses, even including the inheritance through a
dominant gene of the ability to taste, the manuscript went into a long
analysis of the family trees of Arturo Toscanini, Kirsten Flagstad and
the 19th century mystic, Daniel Dunglas Home.

"Please note," the manuscript emphasized, "that in all three family
trees a favorable heredity and a favorable environment were perfectly
blended."

Nina gasped excitedly.

"Oh, Lucifer--if this project can bring the right parents together...."

"Human beings are not white mice!" Lucifer snapped!

"They are on Mendel's Planet!"

Nina seized his hand.

"Think, Lucifer! Our child may be able to see things we have never
dreamed of seeing! We will teach him to use his eyes from the very
moment of birth--even before!"

Deep anger and resentment stirred within Lucifer, but before he could
answer her, a click from the visagraph screen told them they were not
alone.

Huth's usually calm voice betrayed his excitement. His dark eyes glowed.

"Mrs. Brill--how would you propose to train a child so early?"

"By encouraging him to use his own true senses rather than his
superficial senses for his very first needs! My father raised all six
of us and he used to say I was a good baby, because I never cried to be
fed or changed. But maybe it was because he knew what I wanted and took
care of me before I cried!"

Huth insisted on sending for them immediately. There was a
three-day-old Earth child at Center. Huth had the baby's records before
him when they arrived. Nina, flushed with eagerness, asked:

"How is the baby fed?"

Huth consulted a chart.

"Both formula and breast. But it doesn't appear that the mother will be
able to nurse much longer."

"When is the next feeding time?"

"In approximately one hour."

Huth took them to the nursery. Through the window, they could see that
the baby was still asleep.

The young mother was sitting up in her room. A tiny, thin-faced woman,
she looked at them with alarm.

"Is something wrong with my baby?"

Nina knelt beside her chair.

"Don't you know your baby is all right?" she asked gently.

"I--I thought so. But when you all walked in like this, I wasn't sure."

Lucifer didn't recognize this young woman; nor did she appear to
recognize him. Her eyes, still dilated, roved apprehensively from face
to face.

"You're not going to do something to my baby?"

Lucifer felt a great pity for this young woman, snatched away from
Earth to bear a child with an unknown mate on this strange planet.

"I wouldn't harm your child," Nina told her. "I'm from San Diego--how
about you?"

"Masselon, Ohio."

"Now tell me," Nina asked, "is your baby awake yet?"

The dilated eyes stared at Nina.

"I'm ... I'm not sure, but I don't think so."

"That's fine. Now, please don't be scared. I want to help you and your
baby. Do you trust me?"

The young mother studied Nina unblinkingly. After an instant of
hesitation, she nodded.

"Thank you. Now, are you going to feed your baby yourself this next
time?"

"I'll try again; but I haven't been doing so well."

"Can you tell when your baby is starting to wake up?"

"I thought I could the first day or so. But then I didn't try--I guess
I got used to having my baby brought to me every four hours."

"Is the baby usually crying when it is brought into the room?"

The young mother smiled.

"Oh, yes! She's got a strong, healthy cry!"

"Will you try to feed her this time before she cries, when she first
tells you that she is hungry?"

"What--what do you mean?"

Nina took the young mother's thin hand between her strong, brown
fingers. "You know what I mean! Don't be afraid to use what God has
given you! Let's stop talking now so you can keep your thoughts with
your child!"

Under the dominance of Nina's personality, the woman settled back in
her chair.

Outside, the first rain of the morning swept over the forest and
steamed up the windows. Huth stood statuesquely by the door, arms
folded. The tall nurse remained watchfully beside him.

Lucifer struggled with an unaccustomed inner turmoil. Dissecting the
tangle of his emotions, he was astonished to realize that his pulse was
thumping with excitement.

Abruptly, the young mother spoke up. "My baby is hungry. She wants to
be fed."

"Go feed her then!" commanded Nina.

She helped the young woman from the chair. Together they led the way
down the corridor. As they neared the nursery, Lucifer edged closer to
them. He saw that the child was still asleep. The mother saw it, too.

"But she's still asleep!" she said, bewildered. "I thought--"

"Does a child have to be awake to tell of its hunger?" Nina asked
gently.

The young mother went ahead of them into the nursery. She took the
child from the crib and cradled it in her arms.

The baby stirred, grimaced. Its lips groped in small, sucking motions.

The young mother hesitated, then opened her robe and brought the baby's
lips to her breast. The child began to feed contentedly.

At a gesture from Nina, the others left the mother and child alone in
the nursery.

When they were well down the corridor, Nina burst out triumphantly,

"The first contact! Child has communicated to mother. Message received
and answered. Child has used primary sense of communication, rather
than learning to rely on secondary!" Nina squared her shoulders
proudly. "My baby won't have to cry to tell me that it's hungry or cold
or wet and miserable!"

Lucifer's New England conscience prodded him. If indeed there was
anything to this psi heredity business, then he had again hurt someone
else, unknowingly, but deeply. What would Nina say and feel when she
learned that he had no psi talent to pass on to their child?

But this uneasy remorse conflicted with another emotion in Lucifer: The
sense of excitement that he suddenly realized had been lost somewhere
back in the early years of his psi testing. Somewhere, sometime along
the way the sense of wonder had gone out of his work and his life. The
constant repetition of the same basic testing technique had made a
familiar backyard out of--what had Huth called it?--the very frontier
of science.

Huth was speaking to him.

"What do you think now, Dr. Brill? Could it be possible after all that
the unorthodoxy of Earth's parapsychology might have to be shaken from
its own orthodoxy?"

Lucifer frowned. "I do not want to split definitions with you. But it
should be obvious to any scientific mind that Miss Poteil's experiment,
although interesting, was painfully inadequate in methodology. In the
first place, can we determine whether the child was communicating a
need, or whether a psi-positive mother had some precognition of her
child's need? In the second place, would a large number of children
born of psi-positive parents react with significant difference from a
similar number of children born of psi negatives?"

"A flash of lightning can be duplicated in the laboratory," said Huth,
"but it is still a flash of lightning. We recognize lightning, we admit
its existence, but we do not wish to go on proving forever in the
laboratory that lightning is in fact lightning. If some of your earlier
scientists had been content to do that, your cities would still be
illuminated by oil lamps."

"A fallacious comparison!"

"Not entirely so! I merely wished to make a point. It is all a matter
of objective. You have seen how older children are developing their
psi talents in our classes. Your wife may have shown us how to begin
training at a much earlier age, when training is most important."

"Still, I should think you would require more substantiation, some
further testing, to support Miss Poteil's little experiment."

"Of course. Do you have any suggestions, Dr. Brill?"

Once more Lucifer found himself backed toward a corner. Only this time
he did not try to escape. The challenge intrigued him, in spite of his
determination not to become involved with this nonsense. A controlled
experiment was quite a different thing....

"I might have," he replied, with an effort to be casual. He plucked
at his mustache. "But you must grant that a valid basis for
experimentation cannot be improvised on the spur of the moment."

"Improvise at your leisure, Dr. Brill."

Nina was sent off to continue orientation work with Dr. Thame. Lucifer
was given a small cubicle near Huth's office. It consisted of little
more than a desk, a stool, three bare walls and a floor to ceiling
window through which an orange rim of the planet's great sun was now
shining mistily.

Lucifer scribbled notes, drew crude diagrams, tore them up and started
all over again. Spots of color flushed his cheeks. Though he would not
have made the admission, he hadn't enjoyed himself so much in fifteen
years. He didn't even notice when a new squall rustled across the wet
jungle, blotting out the sun and drumming against the window.

Huth came in with the attendant who brought lunch.

"How many children are there here now?" Lucifer asked crisply.

"I believe we have about thirty under the age of nine months."

"Do you have another nursery room, like the one we visited this
morning?"

"We have three more in the Maternity Division."

Lucifer explained his immediate needs. Huth issued orders that three
more babies be brought to the Maternity Division. Each was installed
alone in a nursery. Two were placed in cribs, and soon fell asleep. The
third, a boy of about eight months, refused to nap. He wasn't happy
until allowed to crawl around the floor, exploring the strange wonders
of the nursery. Lucifer made a quick procedural adjustment, and hoped
the youngster would stay awake until feeding time.

He tried to tell himself, whenever he thought about it, that he was
doing all this only to point up the absurdity of Huth's theories.

As feeding time neared, three bottles of heated formula were brought
in warmers and placed at Lucifer's direction in rooms immediately
adjacent to each of the nurseries. Two of the children were still
asleep; the third had discovered a pack of disposable diapers and was
systematically tearing it apart. Dr. Thame joined them to watch the
experiment, and he brought Nina along. Her eyes sparkled with interest
and understanding as she watched Lucifer's preparations. After one
quick nod, he did not look her way again, and he stifled the thought
that Nina would be watching the experiment with their own child in mind.

One of the babies stirred in its sleep, and whimpered a little.

"Normally," explained Dr. Thame, "a child of this age would awaken
shortly and begin to cry."

The baby squirmed again, then turned toward the room in which one of
the bottles had been placed. Its tiny lips worked in a sucking motion.

"How wonderful!" whispered Nina.

Lucifer picked up the bottle, moved slowly into the corridor.

The child appeared confused. Its eyes screwed up tightly, and its face
reddened. Then it jerked its head toward the new position of the bottle
and repeated the sucking motion.

Nina, who had followed Lucifer, squeezed his arm in excitement. He gave
her the bottle, and she hurried into the nursery to reward the child.
Its lips groped eagerly for the nipple.

By this time, the second child was stirring. Its reactions were much
slower, and more uncertain, than those of the first baby, but they
followed the same pattern.

Nina went on to the third child, which had been left playing on the
floor of the nursery.

"Lucifer! Come quickly!" she called.

The child had crept over to the wall nearest the room in which its
bottle had been placed. It was pawing, bewildered, at the rough surface.

Ducking below the window edge, Lucifer picked up the bottle and moved
it to the other side of the room.

For a moment the child looked like it was about to cry. But it hitched
around on its knees, sprawled flat, raised up again and crawled across
the floor. When it was midway to the other side of the nursery, Lucifer
switched the bottle back to its original position.

The child continued its forward progress for a few feet, faltered and
stopped. Its red button of a nose wrinkled, and two big tears squeezed
down its round cheeks.

Nina rushed into the nursery, picked up the youngster, cooed over it
and thrust the nipple of the bottle between its anxious lips.

"My compliments, Dr. Brill," said Huth. "Does this begin to satisfy
your laws of probability?"

Lucifer was determined not to show his excitement. He shrugged. "Five
thousand more tests might prove something--providing you counterposed
5,000 tests on children whose ancestry was psi negative."

"We're not interested in psi negative children, Dr. Brill."

Lucifer faced him squarely.

"Just what are you interested in? I think we are entitled to an
explanation."

Huth hesitated, then nodded.

"Perhaps you are."

       *       *       *       *       *

When they were settled in Huth's office, he stood by the window and
folded his huge, bronzed arms.

"My home planet," he began, "is also in the system of Capella. We
are an old race, but neither decadent nor degenerative. Our physical
sciences--as you can judge from your presence here--are at least 500
orbits beyond the outermost probings of science on Earth."

He paced across to the door, and back to the window again.

"But in our obsession and fascination with the ever new horizons
of physical science, we neglected that which was potentially of
far greater significance. We ignored the possibilities of psionic
evolution--we ignored them until it was almost too late!"

"Too late," breathed Nina. "Is that why your mind feels like a machine?"

Huth inclined his massive head in her direction.

"That could be why, Mrs. Brill. What society--or our bodies--neglect
will eventually die. It is true even of psi, Dr. Brill."

"Can you be specific?" Lucifer challenged.

"I can. If you had taken your eyes out of the laboratory long enough
to look at your world as it is and has been, you would have learned
that psi manifestations were quite customary on Earth during the 13th
and 14th centuries. But your industrial age did not have much room for
psionics. With Daniel Dunglas Home went the last of your great psi
talents!"

"Our card tests have discovered many psi positives," Lucifer
interjected heatedly. "You ought to know--you have many of them here
now!"

"Psi positives with thwarted, arrested or frustrated talents," replied
Huth. "Psi positives who wanted to be 'normal', because that is what
society demanded.... Psi positives who were ashamed of their talent and
quite willing to have it overlooked! Yes, we have them here ... and,
what is more important, we have their less inhibited children!"

"Your logic escapes me."

"It wouldn't if you had emerged from your cubicle and looked around you
among the physical sciences. Some of your more venturesome geneticists
believe that man will soon be the master of his heredity and that the
next five million years of evolution on Earth will be the controlled
evolution of the human mind. That could mean controlled evolution
toward psi, Dr. Brill--if Earth science can ever escape the terrible
drag of orthodoxy and if the unorthodox can ever learn to avoid the
trap of its own dogma."

Nina had been watching Huth with the unblinking intensity that was so
characteristic of her in moments of total concentration.

"So we are your nursery!" she exclaimed. "We produce the plants that
will bring life back to your own soil!"

Huth came close to one of his rare smiles. "You have admirably reduced
the milleniums and mathematics of evolution to a single sentence!" He
turned to Lucifer. "Is this a laboratory big enough to challenge you?"

Lucifer took refuge in a question of his own. "What about your
_Goolies_?"

From the shadow on Huth's face, and the faint gasp from Nina's parted
lips, Lucifer knew he had made a mistake.

"Where did you learn that name?" Huth asked him coldly.

Lucifer was not a good liar, but he tried. "I--I don't really know.
Perhaps--from one of your nurses or drivers...."

"We will accept that explanation, for the moment. Later, I trust you
will volunteer another."

Huth's emphasis on "volunteer" was almost imperceptible, yet it had the
effect of two pieces of steel striking together.

"You have already met one of these--_Goolies_. Let us go and meet some
more."

Nina put out her hand. "Is this necessary?"

Huth regarded her thoughtfully.

"Yes, I believe it is. If we are going to work together, you should
know everything."

"And if we're not?" Lucifer snapped. Huth shrugged. "Then it won't make
any difference, I assure you."

Outside, the wet moss of the courtyard was springy underfoot. Lucifer
flinched with the remembered horror of trying to breath through that
moss and water.

Nina took his hand. Her fingers were strong and warm.

A tall attendant let them into the building. Lucifer looked down a
long, sterile-white corridor, flanked by small, seemingly transparent
doors.

"The doors are transparent only from this side, and then only when
subjected to the proper wave frequency to make them so," Huth explained.

"Like the rooms we live in!" Nina burst out.

Huth blinked, and assented, "Like the rooms you live in."

Before Lucifer could assimilate this bit of information, Huth had
stopped before the first door.

Inside was a shrunken monstrosity of a creature. It had the torso of a
grown woman, but its legs were bone thin, twisted and scarcely eighteen
inches long. It was hairless; its face was one ovular blob of flesh, in
which the eyes, mouth and nostrils were knife-edge slits. It seemed to
be watching the rain-streaked window.

There were two beings in the next room, apparently male and female.
Both were naked, and seated cross-legged on a thick mat. They were
playing a complicated game with marked and colored blocks. The woman's
body was covered with a fine, brown hair. Her breasts were tiny for the
dimensions of her body. Her head was also small out of all proportion,
as was the male's. Lucifer saw that though both were eyeless they were
playing their game rapidly and skillfully. Their hands were lumps of
flesh, with just rudimentary fingers.

"They are quite sentient," Huth observed. And he added with pride, "You
would classify them as definite psi positives--altogether our most
successful experiment of this type!"

As they neared the next door, it suddenly became opaque. Huth led
them past it without comment. Nina winced, and her fingers tightened
convulsively.

They were led quickly down the rest of the corridor. Some of the doors
were opaque. Through others, they caught glimpses of more grotesquely
distorted creatures, some asleep, some lurching or crawling about their
rooms.

The corridor ended in a large multi-purpose type of room in which
semi-human creatures of all shapes and sizes were milling about.

Huth opened the door. "Go on in," he said.

It took all of Lucifer's will to control his revulsion and trembling
and step through that door. Nina followed. Her fingers rigid in his
hand.

One of the creatures nearest them turned nimbly around on one leg and
hopped closer. It reached out a long arm, touched Nina's forehead. A
harsh, croaking sound came from its mouth. Nina's lips quivered, but
she smiled and patted the leathery hand.

Others bounded and crept around them, jibbering, feeling their faces
and hair, probing at their bodies with stumps of arms or with hands
that seemed all fingers.

"All of these people show some traces of psi," Huth explained. Again
there was quiet pride in his voice.

A wracking cry came from one corner of the room. A huge shape hurtled
into the group around them, knocking others out of its way. Lucifer saw
the wildly flopping head, then long arms reached for him and a crushing
weight bore him to the floor. There was a choking odor of hot, oily
flesh.

And then the weight was gone. Two attendants led the creature, still
mouthing angry cries, out of the room.

Huth helped Lucifer to his feet. "You must forgive Tetla. He shows up
well in some basic psi tests, but certain other faculties were lost in
the manipulation of his chromosomes. We never quite know what he will
do."

The other beings had fallen back in silence during the assault. Now
they began to babble in wild disharmony, each gesticulating in its own
way.

Lucifer's cheeks were grey, but his lips were compressed into a thin
line under the stubble of his mustache. He took Nina's arm and strode
out of the room. Huth followed, without comment.

Out in the corridor, Lucifer confronted him. A sweep of his arm
encompassed the long corridor, the room they had just left.

"This--this is a monstrous inhumanity--a terrible perversion of
science!"

His voice was flinty with rage. Deep within him, the conscience of his
puritan ancestry was revolted.

Huth raised an admonishing hand. "Don't forget your scientific
training, Dr. Brill. You can't impose the value judgements of one
culture upon the framework of another."

"There must be certain principles basic to all cultures!"

"A true Aristotelian fallacy! Form is actual reality, matter is
potential reality and the form is ever in the matter! Surely, Dr. Bill,
you can rise above such ontology!"

"Can you justify what you have done to these people even from your own
value judgement basis?"

"You treat justification as a valid entity, which leads you deeper
into the morass of attempting to substantialize abstracta. We do not
justify, we do! Let me clarify:

"With the future of our evolution in the balance, with the unbounded
horizons of the universe that will be opened by psi, we have taken
certain measures. Once we postulated the genetic characteristics of
psi, there was no limit to possible methodology. You have seen only two
of many methods we are exploring: One, of course, is the Earth project;
the second is an attempt to induce psi mutations in the offspring of
certain of our own people. Naturally, since the external results of
such experiments are often unpleasant, we bring the newly born infants
directly to our laboratory on Melus."

Nina's eyes were still wide with horror.

"How do you do this thing?"

"Really, Mrs. Brill, it's nothing to be so shocked about. As a matter
of fact, it's only a further step in what your own experimenters do
by exposing Drosophilae to X-rays and plants to colchicine. We are
endeavoring by many methods not only to mutate a gene by re-arranging
the atoms in its molecules, but also to increase the quota of
chromosomes in certain cells. The difficulty, as yet, is to single out
the right string of chromosomes or to hit the right gene and influence
it toward the desired psi mutation. We are still groping in the dark,
simply increasing the chances that one or another gene, at random, will
psi mutate."

As Huth spoke, he had been leading them toward a side exit. A vehicle
was waiting. Huth put his hand on Lucifer's shoulder.

"We did not bring you to Melus, Dr. Brill, merely to reproduce your own
psi characteristics. We feel that your background will enable you to
make many notable contributions, once you become oriented. Already you
have justified this feeling. Your people will do things for you and
Mrs. Brill that they would not willingly do for us."

"I want nothing more to do with this project."

"I am sure you will recognize your present reaction as purely
emotional, and come quickly to realize that here you have the answer to
a true scientist's dream--a laboratory on the scale of life itself! For
twenty years you have taken timid steps around the periphery of your
science. Now you are at the heart of it!"

       *       *       *       *       *

What should he think?

What should he believe?

What should he do?

Lucifer walked slowly around the small clearing behind their quarters.
He stared, for the most part unseeingly, through the force field and
into the shadows of the forest.

His shoulder brushed the invisible barricade, and the shock broke the
rhythm of his stride.

What should he believe?

This question bubbled most frequently to the roiled surface of his
thoughts. With belief would come the mental framework, the pattern
for action. It was disturbing and confusing that credo should be so
important to a scientific mind. Couldn't facts take form without credo?
Did facts shape the framework, or were they molded to conform to it?
Einstein made truth relative to its own framework, but which came
first--the framework or the truth? And if the answer was framework,
could there be truth? Perhaps the childhood riddle of the chicken
and the egg could have cosmic implications. A vagrant phrase from a
long-ago literature class came back to prod him now: To an egg the
chicken is merely the means of producing another egg. Samuel Butler.

A shaft of sunlight speared down through the whispering canopy of
branches high above him. It kindled to life a spot of riotous color in
the perpetual shadow world at the base of the great trees. Blossoms of
delicate blue, petals flecked with orange and gold. Leaves so green
they brought an ache of loneliness for a forgotten spring morning of
youth.

What should he believe?

With sudden percipience, Lucifer knew that he had moved in the shadows
for a long time. The riotous dreams of youth, the exciting sense of
being a pioneer among pioneers, had become like a bit of stop-motion
film. It preserved the form, without the life or action. A dream cannot
be framed and kept behind glass. It cannot be static. To remain, it
must change.

Parapsychology had been the high road. The glorious adventure. It had
made the son of a New England minister an explorer on a new frontier.
But does a frontier of science have purpose other than to lead to an
infinite succession of new frontiers? Had he remained too long on one
frontier?

The unorthodox becomes the orthodox. The theory crustifies into the
dogma. The method becomes methodology. Was this forever to be the
entrapment of science? There were an infinite number of exploratory
possibilities on this frontier of today; and, for all their challenge,
they could be a soporific. The frontier itself was finite. But what
about the next frontier? And the next? And the next?

Huth could be right, in this at least: Perhaps parapsychology had been
too long exploring the unknown of its present frontier. Some must
remain behind to develop and consolidate. But others must keep moving
on!

To look forever beyond the next horizon! There was the challenge. There
was the dream forever bright.

Lucifer thought of his crude experiment with the psi positive children,
and he admitted now what he had denied at the time: Not for a decade
had he been so excited by any experiment; it had brought back the
wonder of the moment when an aimless undergraduate had first come upon
the Rhine card tests. Lord, that was more than twenty years ago! For
twenty years he had been walking in Rhine's shadow. And his personal,
private dreams had never lived to see sunlight.

When would science learn to use genius without being smothered by
it? Freud and Einstein had left a vision to their sciences, not a
citadel. They had tried to cast a light, not a shadow. Rhine had
brought psi into his laboratory to demonstrate its scientific validity.
Now, the physicist, the biochemist, the mathematician and, yes,
the geneticist--all of them, must take this validity into their own
laboratories. The parapsychologist must become the physical scientist;
the physical scientist must become the parapsychologist. Only from the
total crucible of science could psi emerge in a useful form.

But what of Huth, and Mendel's Planet?

However it had been brought together, whatever one thought of it, this
living laboratory was now a fact. Psi was being mated to psi; children
were being born, children with a psi potential that could be trained
into a power of unknown magnitude. Huth had described it well: A
laboratory on the scale of life itself!

Huth knew his semantics, all right. The barbs of his words got under
the skin, hooked and held fast. How pallid an Earth laboratory would
seem after Mendel's Planet. The symbol cards seemed to have lost their
meaning.

A dozen projects clamored to reach the surface of Lucifer's thinking.
Each cried out its siren challenge; each demanded experimentation. How
much there was to do here on Mendel's Planet!

Now, Nina was at his side, and she said gently, "It's raining again,
Lucifer. Won't you come in?"

The rain had returned, and the big, splashing drops hadn't fallen
into his thoughts. But they were coursing in streams down his cheeks,
dripping from his eyebrows. He brushed them away, and stared at the
forest. The shadows had merged. The flowering beauty was like a mirage
that had never been, and never could be. There was only the wash of the
rain on the forest roof, the drip-drop-drip on the molding carpet of
dead leaves.

       *       *       *       *       *

Albert Fetzer came back that night. The click in the visagraph, the
deeper blackness of the walls, the silent opening of the casement
window--these were the now recognizable signs of his coming.

Lucifer hadn't been able to sleep. Nina had already gone to bed, after
pressing her lips to his cheek in a swift gesture that left him more
unsettled than ever.

When he realized that Fetzer was coming, Lucifer sat up on the couch
and drew the sheet around his shoulders. In a moment the stocky figure
squeezed through the window.

"Hi, there," Fetzer called softly. "You awake, Dr. Brill?"

"I haven't slept."

"How'd things go today?"

How had things gone?

"I'm not sure," Lucifer evaded.

"You got it all figured out?"

"Well--not exactly."

Lucifer was stunned at his own reluctance to discuss matters with
Fetzer. Anything less than total frankness was a new facet of himself.
It was one he didn't like. But how could he share his indecision?

"We had an organization meeting after I left here last night," Fetzer
said. "All the section leaders made it this time. We're set to pull the
plug any time you say?"

"Pull.... Oh, I hadn't realized.... What do you think you can do?"

"Plenty. We've learned to short-circuit the force fields in a hurry,
and we can spring over a thousand men inside of two minutes. Within
five minutes more, we'd be able to hit Center and the landing field."

Lucifer felt himself withdrawing even more. He could see the whole
psi project swept away in turmoil. Then he thought of Huth's men, so
towering in their stature, so well organized, so completely equipped
by a fantastically advanced technology. The revolt would be brutally
crushed.

"You can't do it!" he told Fetzer.

"Huh?" The stocky figure tensed. "Spell it out, Doc."

"You wouldn't have a chance!"

"We've got a few tricks. There's a lot of vets in this bunch."

"It would be suicide."

Fetzer hunched closer to the couch.

"Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't. But a man can't always stop to
think of things like that. You do what you got to do."

The words triggered a release, and Lucifer started to talk.

With an eloquence that would have astounded his graduate students at
Western University, Lucifer drew a word picture of the psi project and
the theory behind it. As he talked, Nina came in quietly and sat on the
couch beside him, drawing up her knees inside her short gown.

Lucifer spoke of their own experiments with the babies, and of the
sweep of five million years of evolution foreshortened through
understanding and application of Hardy's Law. Only when he came to
the radiation and chemical phases of the psi project, to the pitiable
_Goolies_, did his flow of words falter. He tried to pick up quickly
with analysis of what training would do for their own children. But the
nagging awareness of this second dishonesty, the knowledge that Nina
knew what he had done and was watching him in the darkness, broke the
flow of thought and his explanation trailed off into awkward silence.

Albert Fetzer didn't say anything. He squatted on his heels, a humped
blur in the darkness of the room. Lucifer could feel the probe of his
eyes and darting mind.

"So that's it," Fetzer said at last. "We guessed some of it, but we
couldn't fill in the missing pieces. You learned a lot, Doc."

"There's so much I haven't yet learned."

"You learned enough."

"Enough for what?"

"We're going to pull that plug, remember?"

"No!" Lucifer stood up in his agitation. "There must be another way--a
better way."

"You name it."

"Well--naturally I'd have to think more about it. Everything here is so
new to me."

Fetzer stepped closer to him. His shadow was shorter even than
Lucifer's, but it bulked with unseen strength.

"Anything else, Doc?"

"I don't understand."

"You've gone for this stuff, haven't you."

Lucifer recoiled from the bluntness of the question.

"I am a scientist," he replied. "Or at least I have always assumed
that. These ideas are as strange to me as they are to you, but I'm
trying to understand and evaluate them. Isn't that important?"

"Not to me it isn't--not right now. I think the other boys will feel
the same."

"You don't care what all this may mean?"

"Nope. Not yet, anyway. I'm not a scientist, Dr. Brill. Maybe I'm not
even a very smart guy and maybe I'm just as glad of it, because my feet
are on the ground and I know where I want them to go. Sure, this psi
stuff could be big, mighty big. Our kids could go a long way with it.
I can see that. But I'm a man, not a guinea pig. I happen to go for
the woman they teamed me up with, and she feels the same way about me.
That's true of most of the folks here. But we're not breeding kids for
someone else. We'd rather run our own show. Guess you professors have
been away from ordinary people too long to realize that. You should
listen to some of our boys who fought with the underground in the last
war. Makes you feel kind of good about people."

"Don't you realize that Huth can destroy all of you?"

"I'm not the hero type, Dr. Brill. In the war, I always kept my head
down and squeezed as deep in the mud as I could. But there's some
things you have to do, no matter how cold your stomach feels about it."

"When do you plan to do this?"

From the forest came a wild, plaintive cry. Fetzer took a quick step
toward the window, then paused.

"You better come with me--both of you."

Lucifer drew back.

"Where? Why?"

"I don't like to do this, Doc. But I don't like the way you sound,
either. We can't take any chances."

"You don't think ..."

"I don't know. I'm sorry, but I don't know enough about your kind.
Hurry up, now."

Lucifer still held back, but Nina stood up and moved wordlessly toward
the window. Fetzer's voice toughened.

"Make it easy on yourself, Doc. You're coming along, one way or the
other."

His legs shaking, Lucifer followed Nina through the window.

       *       *       *       *       *

The warp in the force field was at the far corner of the enclosure. At
a command from Fetzer, they dropped to their knees and crawled through.
A voice whispered a challenge. Fetzer answered, and they proceeded,
single file, deeper into the forest. The leader guided them with a
pinpoint of light escaping from his cupped hand.

They followed a winding course around the root structures of the trees.
Lucifer tripped once and fell sprawling into the wet, leathery leaves.
As he got up, the spider loop of a vine caught him around the throat
and flipped him again.

"Pick up your feet and keep your head down," Fetzer warned impatiently.

Their direction took them to a shallow stream, and they splashed
up the middle of it for a hundred yards. The cacophony of night
sounds retreated before them, closed in behind them. The rooftop of
intermeshed branches and leaves dripped endlessly. Some alien creature
followed them through the branches, yapping in a strident monotone.

They emerged from the stream to crawl into a semi-cave formed by the
enjoining roots of two great trees. Vegetation had webbed over the
roots until even the dropping of water was cut off.

The light of a guttering torch showed several men waiting for them. A
few carried strange weapons stolen from Huth's men. Others were armed
with vicious looking clubs, and long, needle-pointed stakes.

It's fantastic, thought Lucifer. Cavemen prepared to challenge a
mechanized force. Cavemen forty light years from home.

When they saw Nina, the men stood up, surprised, uneasy. Fetzer went
into some detail on what Lucifer had told him. One of the men swore,
and smashed the head of his club on the sodden floor of the cave.

A balding man seated Nina on a hummock in one corner of the cave.
Ignoring Lucifer, they plunged into discussion of their plans. None
could see any reason for further delay. The supply ship had been gone
for some time, and might return soon. Its crew would add strength
to Huth's base force, which numbered around eight hundred, including
nurses, doctors and various technical personnel.

To Lucifer, the plan sounded bold. Pathetically bold. A sizeable group
would break out of their quarters and flee into the forest, drawing a
portion of Huth's men in pursuit. Another group would attack Center,
making it appear that this was the chief point of concentration. After
delaying as long as possible, the main force would hit the landing
field and try to capture the auxiliary spaceship. The men knew they
couldn't handle the ship, but their work around the field had taught
them enough about it to know that its armament could give them control
of the base.

As Lucifer listened, a sense of familiarity kept tugging at him. It
was a strange sensation that he had been through something like this
before. But that was ridiculous. He'd never been any closer to military
action than rejection by his draftboard, which had stupidly considered
parapsychology non-essential.

The feeling persisted, and suddenly he identified it: Hempstead House,
New London, Conn. The stories he had been told in childhood about the
underground railroad and the abolitionist meetings held by the few who
believed men should be free and were willing to do something about it!

The memory came to him across thirty-five years of his life, and half
the span of the galaxy. It came with an impact that snapped something
inside him, to bring the entity, the changing personality that was
himself, into focus again. But it wasn't the same focus as before. It
would never be. Yet he felt more a whole person than ever before, and
within him there was a surging current that could not be held back.

Hempstead House had been a verity that could not be fitted into any
neat cubicle of orthodoxy. New England ministers and spinsters,
businessmen and farmers--all of them motivated by a life force that
couldn't be duplicated in any laboratory. The same life force was in
this tree cave tonight, far away from Earth. It would go with men
forever, through all space and time.

It would go with Lucifer Brill, too--to the end of this experience,
to whatever new frontiers of science he might live to reach. It would
prevent the vision from becoming the still-life picture, the theory
from crystalizing into dogma. As long as the force lived in any man,
it had the potential of leading all men to freedom. Psi was an unknown
part of that life force. It could not always remain in the laboratory.
It must bring freedom from blindness, freedom from the cubicles that
restricted each man, each science. It was a weapon ...

A weapon!

Good Lord, why not?

Lucifer stepped into the center of the group before he knew what he
was going to say. But the words came: "Wait ... there may be a better
way--if you have the courage to try it!"

Fetzer eyed him sceptically.

"We don't have much time, Doc."

"Then you must make time! It's your only chance--our only chance!"

The men were silent, uncertain.

"Go ahead," Fetzer said. "But make it fast."

"Would you fight with a knife if you had a machine gun? Would you
attack on horseback if you had a jet loaded with atom bombs?"

"Keep talking," said Fetzer.

"The answer is obvious. You would use the best weapon available.
Yet here you sit with clubs and wooden spears, ignoring a weapon so
potentially powerful that it makes our H-Bomb, or some undoubtedly
greater weapon of Huth's, seem like an old crossbow!"

He had their attention now. He felt the force of concentration on his
words. He sensed the awareness in Nina, though her eyes were hidden in
the shadows beyond the wavering circle of torchlight.

"Think of what I learned from Huth--what Albert Fetzer has told
you. Every person was brought here because they were psi positives,
because they possessed some individual psi talent. Some of you have
been ashamed of that talent. Perhaps you tried to hide it back on
Earth--because it made you different from other people. But you
know something about it. You may have learned more about it--even
experimented with it--during your months and years on this planet.
You may know what even limited talents have done in perception,
clairvoyance and the moving of objects through telekinesis.

"These things were done by individual people, operating, as we might
say, on single generators.

"But now for the first time in history we have more than three thousand
psi talents grouped together in one small area.

"What if all the psi power here could be focused on one objective? All
the men and women of Mendel's Planet--all the children--especially the
children! ... focusing their combined power!

"Wouldn't that give us the force of three thousand generators--fused
into one unit? Instead of moving a chair across the room, making a
table jump, levitating a person--why couldn't a building be moved? A
spaceship crushed? An attacking force cut down like grass under an
invisible mower?

"Gentlemen, is there any limit to the power of a psi focus?

"If a psi focus is possible, we have our own world to win--the
frontiers of infinity to explore....

"Are you willing to try?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The silence within the tree-cave lasted for an eternity.

Even the breathing of the men was hushed as each struggled with this
new concept.

His emotional fire spent in the greatest effort of his life, Lucifer
stood limp and awkward in the center of the circle, looking around at
the set faces. Their eyes were fixed on the humus beneath their crossed
legs.

Faintly, high above the tree-cave, the wind moaned over the forest
canopy, and a new wash of rain approached. It was a cold sound, though
the night was steaming hot.

There was a stir in the shadows, and Nina stepped between two men to
join him in the circle. Her fists were clenched.

"What's the matter," she cried, "don't you have faith in yourselves?
Are you afraid to fight with a new weapon?"

The faces turned up toward her.

"Look at that torch!" she commanded. "Now, put it out! All of us
together put it out!"

She turned toward the torch, which had been thrust into a fibrous root
structure. She half-closed her eyes. Her lips stretched taut; her
fingers knotted and unknotted in an agony of concentration.

The flame flickered violently in the still air of the cave, but it did
not go out.

"You're not helping me!" Nina cried: "I'm not strong enough alone--none
of us are! Please!"

Abruptly, the torch twisted in its base, the wood snapped with the
crack of a rifle shot.

The tree-cave was dark.

Nina's voice was spent, triumphant.

"See! Now do you have faith in yourselves? Didn't you feel what Dr.
Brill meant by a psi focus? Think of what it will be like to be in a
focus of three thousand minds! Are you still afraid?"

A man groped his way to the broken remnant of the torch. He re-lit the
upper portion.

"I'm thinking of my own kid," he said. "I've seen what he can do all by
himself."

Fetzer spoke up.

"I've tried it myself. I can't do it always, but sometimes it happens.
I don't know why, but it happens."

One after another the men spoke out, digging into hidden memories for
some personal or observed experience.

"My wife was a kick," recalled a scrawny little man with a huge nose.
"Not the woman I got me now, but the one I had back in Portland. She
never would read no cards, but when she got mad, all hell would bust
loose! Once we both got mad the same time, and you never saw so much
stuff zinging around! The neighbors called the cops."

They fell silent again, thinking.

Nina slipped her hand into Lucifer's. It was icy cold.

"You'd better sit down," he told her.

She shook her head.

Then Fetzer spoke up.

"How could we try this thing, Doc?"

It was the question Lucifer had been hoping for, and fearing. The
problems ahead were piling up. He was a teacher, a scientist, not a
leader. But he couldn't let his doubts show now.

"We can test it tomorrow night--if you can get word to all the people
by that time."

"We can."

Once committed, the men plunged quickly into new plans. The guard
tower on the hill behind the compound was picked for the first target.
Almost everyone could see it from their own quarters. And it was large
enough to provide a valid test for Lucifer's psi focus theory. The
searchlight that always blazed on with the coming of dusk would be the
signal.

"If it works," said Fetzer, "we've got to be ready to go all the way.
They might not know what happened exactly, but you can be sure they'll
move in and clamp down fast."

It was decided that a modified version of the original attack plan
would be followed if the experiment succeeded. Only this time the
diversionary forces would hit the Center and the small spaceport, while
the main effort would be concentrated on getting the rest of the people
into a clearing just outside the compound. From there they would try to
function as a psi unit.

The wail of a forest animal drifted through the night.

"The boys are getting ready to short the field again," Fetzer
explained. "We'd better get back."

He held out his hand to Lucifer. "Sorry, Doc."

They made good time back to the compound, and the group split up as
they approached it. Fetzer took Nina and Lucifer to their quarters and
showed them how to locate the warp.

"So long," he said. "Good luck to us all."

Nina and Lucifer ducked through the warp, but did not go immediately
inside. They watched the clouds shred apart, and the incredibly
brilliant stars light up the night.

"I wonder where Earth is?" Nina whispered.

"We couldn't see it if we knew."

"Do you think we'll ever get back, Lucifer?"

"I don't know."

She slipped her arm through his.

"Maybe I shouldn't say this, but I have a feeling that we won't. That
we will never see our own sun rise again."

He was silent, feeling the weight of her words, the unknown to come,
the burden of his responsibility.

"It was hard for me to say that," she continued quietly. "I loved
Earth. I loved its beauty and its ugliness. I loved its poor blind
people. I loved them all, for I was part of them, and my eyes belonged
to them. I could never hate anyone."

She put her cheek against his, and her breath was warmer than the
warmth of the night.

Lucifer did not draw away. He asked, "Do you have a sense of what may
happen tomorrow?"

"Only a sense of much pain. Beyond that, I can't see. It may be just as
well. Are you afraid, Lucifer?"

"A little."

"It is good to be a little afraid, always."

"What about you--are you ever afraid, Nina?"

It was the first time he had spoken the name of this strange woman who
bore his child.

"I am afraid, but I am at peace, too. If we do not come through this,
there will be nothing more to the end of time. But if we do, we will
have a child who can see, and its life will belong to us. Isn't that a
wonderful thought?"

Lucifer trembled under the added burden, but he thrust it from his
mind, lest she perceive it there. Time enough for her to know the
truth when they knew the future.

"We'd better go in," he said.

Her cheek turned. Her mouth found his.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Huth called them shortly after breakfast, Lucifer was already
at work in front of the visagraph screen. He held up a sheet of
scribbling, and forced himself to speak with animation.

"Here are some further possibilities based on our findings of
yesterday. Can we work on them here today?"

Huth looked interested. "Along what lines are you proceeding, Dr.
Brill?"

"All the primary needs and functions of a child could be related to
psi, just as well as the feeding. I am intrigued by the possibility
of stimulus and response in the prenatal stage. Mrs. Brill believes
she has heard or read that thumb-sucking begins within the womb.
Could you verify this with Dr. Thame? If it is indeed the case, the
need expressed by the foetus in sucking its thumb might be answered
psionically by a perceptive mother, thus strengthening the psi sense
and building reliance on it at an even earlier stage of development."

"Splendid, Dr. Brill!"

Lucifer pointed to the stack of books beside him on the couch.

"Earlier this morning, I asked for some works on the infant brain,
and several books on electroencephalography were delivered by the
tubicular. In scanning them, I find several items that may be fruitful
for future research. For example, electrodes attached to the belly of
a pregnant woman in the eighth month of gestation record an irregular
pattern of delta waves. It also appears that both delta and theta
are typically infantile rhythms, and that theta activity is early
associated with such non-visual stimulation as pleasure, pain and
frustration. The pathways on this frontier go in many directions."

"Follow them where you will!" There was deep satisfaction in Huth's
voice. "May I say, Dr. Brill, that I have misjudged the potential
adaptability of the Earth scientific mind, when it is given proper
stimulus and motivation. Your progress has been remarkable, truly
remarkable! Would you be content to return to your old cubicle?"

"No," Lucifer answered steadily. "I would not."

The day dragged endlessly, even with the research to occupy his
attention. It might have been easier if he could have talked with
Nina about what lay ahead, but he dared not risk a chance word being
monitored. They could only try to talk casually about themselves and
the research.

As the minutes crawled by, new doubts tormented him. Would Fetzer and
his men be able to contact everyone? Would the people believe enough in
their own power to make a serious attempt at focusing it on the guard
tower? If the test failed, he had no doubts that the men would go ahead
with their original plan.

Nina smiled whenever their eyes met, but for all its strength her dark
face showed the strain of waiting. Near the end of the day, she sat
beside him, brushed her lips against the edge of his mustache, and let
them creep up to his ear.

"I love you," she whispered. "I want to say it now, and then think only
of what we must try to do."

Rain came with the first of dusk. It had been holding back since
mid-day, building up rolling black thunderheads. Now it came with such
fury that it blotted out the view of the compound and the guard tower.
Nina looked stricken.

"The signal!" she whispered. "What will we do?"

Lucifer could only stare through the rain-washed window and repeat to
himself the fragment of a prayer he had learned from his father.

With deepening of dusk, the rain lifted a little, but they still
couldn't know whether the light would be visible. A sudden gust could
blot it out.

Huth called on the visagraph. "I will send a car for you," he said. "I
thought it might be pleasant to dine together and pass this miserable
evening in stimulating conversation!"

"Thank you," said Lucifer. He hoped his concern didn't show. From the
corner of his eye he could see Nina by the window, straining to catch
the first glimpse of the signal light.

He must delay Huth in sending for them!

Lucifer picked up a book.

"I will bring this along," he said. "This afternoon I encountered
another concept that may help...."

As he had hoped, Huth could not resist the bait.

"That's most interesting, Dr. Brill."

"It has to do with what might be called the relationship between the
anatomical maturing of the brain and the changing of rhythm patterns as
the child grows older. This has not been applied to psi patterns--"

"By all means, let's discuss it, Dr. Brill! Now--"

"Another factor," Lucifer continued desperately, "may be the alpha
rhythm patterns in a child. While these emerge very infrequently below
the age of three, and do not appear with regularity until around
the age of eleven, there is evidence to indicate that alpha rhythm
characteristics are hereditary, and that...."

As Lucifer talked, he saw that Nina's body had become rigid, that her
fingers were extended and shaking, with the frenzy of a drowning person
trying to reach something just beyond his grasp.

"... and that environmental factors may affect the frequency of alpha
rhythms during the period of childhood. For example, two uniovular
twins--"

A cry of pain escaped from Nina's lips. Huth showed he had heard it.

"Is something wrong, Dr. Brill?"

"Mrs. Brill may have fallen--I will--"

And then it came, more a rending than an explosion. It was like a
gigantic steel beam snapping apart from an irresistible pressure within
its molecules.

Their dwelling and the ground beneath it shuddered.

Nina cried out again, a cry in which agony and triumph were one.

Huth leaped back from the screen. A terrible rage was stamped on his
bronze features.

"Dr. Brill, if you are responsible for whatever has happened...."

The screen went dark.

Lucifer rushed to the window, tore Nina away from it. He caught a
glimpse of white flames in the darkness.

"Hurry! Through the warp!" he shouted.

She followed woodenly, in a state of psychic shock. Her head struck the
edge of the warp. Lucifer had to make her bend in order to get through.

The drenching rain revived her a little.

"Oh, Lucifer.... It hurt me so.... I tried so hard...."

She was sobbing, and her tears became part of the rain on her cheeks.

"It was like trying to swim against the tide of all the oceans in the
universe. And the tide was pushing me back--and then, all of a sudden,
the tide was with me--and I was tumbled and choked--in breakers as high
as the stars."

She pressed hard against him, her strong body contorting in a spasm
that was more than muscular. Words tore themselves from lips that
quivered and twisted:

"Dear God! We've never lived before! A new world, and we're not strong
enough to live there, Lucifer--Not strong enough yet! I can't go back
to it--but I want to--I want to so much."

       *       *       *       *       *

They skirted the compound, just within the fringe of the forest. As
they ran, other shadow forms joined them in the scramble toward the
meeting place. Children, awed momentarily to silence, ran nimbly ahead
of their parents. A baby wailed.

Seachlights probed through the rain, thrusting at the forest. Blocks
of light and shadow flickered between the trees. It was like a film
running wild in its projector.

The light in the bow of the spaceship blazed on, and the misty twilight
became a phosphorescent glow, a great dome of brilliance that arched up
to the churning black clouds.

A shouting came from the direction of Center. The first attack group
had struck.

Sounds of the second attack came from the area of the spaceship. The
dome of light shimmered, then steadied, with eye-aching brightness. The
second diversionary group, the one led by the little man with the huge
nose, was now engaged.

The clearing opened ahead. It already teemed with activity. Fetzer and
his sector leaders were channeling all comers into groups of about
fifty, each under one of the leaders. The groups were fanned out along
the edge of the clearing, facing toward the compound. Except for the
muted crying of the very young, and the low-voiced commands from the
sector leaders, the groups were quiet.

Fetzer ran to Lucifer.

"Better stay with me. This is your show from now on! Just tell me what
you want us to do, and I'll pass the signal along. My God! Did you see
what happened to the guard tower?"

"Some of it."

"Do you think we can do anything like that again?"

Lucifer looked over the nearest group. Many of the adults showed the
same shock he had seen in Nina. The children were no longer so awed,
and their eyes were strangely bright.

"I don't know what we can do again," he answered. "And I'm not sure I
want to know."

The clearing filled rapidly. Each sector leader's group was separated
by about ten yards from the next, and all formed an uneven, convex line
some four hundred yards from end to end.

"All set, Doc," said Fetzer. He fired a cylindrical weapon, and a
streak of orange light curved over the compound.

"That's to give our boys a chance to get back into the woods--those
that still can. They'll be ready to hit again--if this other thing
doesn't work."

He waited for orders.

Lucifer stared across the compound. The fear in his stomach made
him feel like retching. These people were waiting for him to lead!
Incredible.

"You have to go on now," Nina said.

His stomach was still sick, but he managed to smile at her. Through
the slackening downpour he saw the bare walls and flat roof of Center.

"The Center," he told Fetzer.

Word leaped from group to group. Center. Center. Children picked it up
excitedly.

"Now," said Lucifer.

Fetzer brought his arm down sharply. Lucifer saw the people around him
pull themselves together for another effort. Nina looked faint.

Nothing happened.

Most of the children were bouncing with excitement. They still hadn't
joined the psi focus. Lucifer ran up to a freckle-faced boy of about
five.

"Let's have some fun," he said. "Blow up Center just like you did the
guard tower!"

The words rippled from child to child, spoken and unspoken. Now it
was a game instead of an awesome duty. Hey, Tommy, this is going to
be neat. Blow up Center! Wow! Watch me. Aw, you aren't so hot! Quit
shovin', will ya'? I can't see. Center. Blow up Center! Oh, boy!

Lucifer gripped the freckled boy by the shoulders.

"All right," he said, "you show them all.... Now!"

The boy's eyes glowed brighter. He'd show 'em. Right here in front of
Mom and Dad. You bet he would! Just watch.

As child after child joined the psi focus, each grew quiet.

In some deep center of his being, Lucifer had the sense of a dark,
rushing wind, a nightmare sense of falling into a void, and screaming,
though you knew you would never reach the bottom.

Once again came that rending crack. Center disintegrated. There were no
flying fragments. Just disintegration. A white light that was whiter
than light.

The children buzzed ecstatically. Their parents were numb and silent.

Lucifer knew that if Huth still lived, he must be reorganizing his
concept of what had originally happened. His reasoning would soon bring
him to the truth.

There was a period of quiet. It strengthened in Lucifer the belief that
Huth was alive and calmly directing the operation. He found himself
hoping that Huth, indeed, was alive. He had a respect for the man that
bordered on a sense of kinship.

The quiet was broken as Huth's men fanned in small groups through the
compound. They moved with great, leaping strides. One squad probed
toward the clearing. When its leader realized how many Earth people
were assembled there, he signalled for a quick retreat toward the
spaceship.

Again there was stillness.

"What now, Doc?" asked Fetzer. He looked five years older. "Shall we
blast that ship before it opens up on us?"

Lucifer shook his head.

"I don't think it will open up--not just yet. This project means too
much to Huth. He'll try to save as much of it as possible."

Once more groups of Huth's men scattered through the compound. This
time the groups were larger. They followed converging courses that
would end at the clearing.

"They're rushing us!" cried Fetzer.

"Stop them!"

The command leaped from sector leader to sector leader. Lucifer picked
up the freckled boy so that he could see across the compound.

"Now we'll have some more fun," he said. "Those men are trying to get
here. Let's see if you can stop them."

"Betcha we can!"

Stop 'em! Stop 'em!

Word of the new game spread psionically from child to child, and was
repeated vocally. One tiny girl bounced up and down in glee, dancing,
first on one foot and then the other, as if she were skipping rope.

A shrill whistle launched the attack. Five squads converged on the
clearing. The bronze faces of Huth's men were impassive. Their long
legs covered nearly three yards at a stride. Each man carried a short,
silver-colored tube.

Once again the adults were first to project themselves into psi focus.
But this time the children were not so slow to join and reinforce them.

The rain had stopped. The hot, humid air was motionless.

And it was a motionless wind that seemed to strike Huth's men. They
were swept off their feet and spun around as if caught in a tornado.
The huge leader of the squad bearing down on Lucifer's sector shot
backward in a rising trajectory that cleared the compound. He screamed
once. A hoarse, wild scream.

The freckled boy in Lucifer's arms clapped his chubby hands.

Some of Huth's men smashed into dwellings and fell in broken heaps.
Others landed in open spaces and rolled like tumbleweeds. The survivors
crawled or ran, screaming and sobbing, toward the spaceship.

"We'd better get that ship now!" Fetzer urged.

"Perhaps Huth will try to talk to us first."

Five minutes passed. No sign came from Huth.

"They're up to something," said Fetzer. "Let's not wait anymore."

The gates of one of the administration training buildings swung open,
and the _Goolies_ poured out, driven and prodded by their attendants.
They came straight toward the clearing, running in weird, disjointed
strides or bounding along on footless stumps of legs. Monstrous heads
rolled loosely, snapping from shoulder to shoulder, from chest to back.
Tiny, hairless, eyeless heads were fixed and rigid. Slack mouths gaped
and drooled. Lipless mouths bared perpetual smiles. Dwarfed, naked
creatures bumped against the knees of eight-foot giants.

It was an unbelievable synthesis of every nightmare since time began.

The freckled boy wrapped his arms around Lucifer's neck. His small body
shuddered.

Lucifer felt his own stomach twist with the remembered horror, but he
held fast to reason. The _Goolies_ were in themselves no danger. It was
only their psychological effect. Huth was shrewd. He knew well the
Earth framework of prejudice. If they could break up the psi focus, his
own men could crash in behind them.

Confirming this line of reason, Huth's men were forming again on the
outskirts of the compound.

"Don't let them reach the clearing!" he told Fetzer.

Fetzer waved his signal. Though shaken, the adults, too, responded
to reason. They tried to focus. Children pressed against their legs,
sobbing.

A focus seemed to form, but weakly. It was like an exhausted,
distraught athlete trying to pull himself together.

The _Goolies_ faltered, appeared to lose some momentum and balance.
The attendants drove them forward again. They came on as though wading
against a strong current.

"Don't be afraid," Lucifer told the boy. "They really can't hurt you."

The small body continued to tremble.

"Try to stop them ... try!"

"I want my Mommy...."

Nina took the boy into her own arms. She cradled his face against her
breasts, pressed her lips to his cheek.

"Just keep your eyes closed," she cooed gently. "Everything is all
right now."

She stroked the wiry red hair, and murmured.

"You don't have to look to stop them, do you? Why, you can stop them
any time you want to! Let's tell all the other boys and girls to keep
their eyes closed--and stop those people so they can't hurt Mommy and
Daddy! Here, I'll help you--we'll do it together."

Nina pressed her cheek tightly to the child's, and closed her eyes. The
boy stopped trembling.

The _Goolies_ slowed. It became harder and harder for them to move
against the invisible current. An attendant picked up one of the
smaller creatures and hurled it forward. In midair, the _Goolie_
rebounded and knocked the attendant off his feet.

The psi current broke loose. Clusters of bodies flew in all directions,
like the exploding fragments of a grenade, crashing in and through the
metal walls of the compound buildings.

And then all was still, except for a few broken moans. They were the
loneliest sounds Lucifer had ever heard.

He saw Huth, palms outstretched, walking steadily toward the clearing.

"Let him come," said Lucifer. "I will talk to him."

They met about thirty yards in front of the clearing. Huth's bronze
features were chiseled deep with new lines.

"Dr. Brill," he said, "I am shocked and disappointed. I thought you had
come to believe in this great experiment."

"There is no longer a question of belief--its success to this point is
very obvious."

"Then why do you destroy it?"

"I am trying to save it."

"I don't understand," said Huth. But there was hope in his eyes.

"You have learned much about Earth and its people, but there is one
thing you failed to learn: Man may be blind, warped and prejudiced, but
his frameworks can be changed, and he must--above all--he must control
his own destiny. This law has been proved so often through our history
that I am surprised you missed it."

Huth bowed his head to acknowledge the rebuke.

"Then what do you see in the future of this project?"

"I see great problems, almost insurmountable obstacles; and the
threshold of a vast unknown. I see our people slowly approaching that
threshold--to find their own future."

Huth looked silently over the compound, over the shell of the project
to which he had dedicated his life, and not even his tremendous will
could keep his shoulders from sagging.

"I cannot say that I truly disagree with you, Dr. Brill. But my own
culture views this project from its own framework. I, too, had to fight
with prejudice to keep it going. We are a mighty race, in control of
a great section of the galaxy, and I doubt that you could hold out
against our full power, as you have done tonight against a fragment of
it on this isolated outpost."

"There seems to be a new power on this tiny planet. A power greater
than any of us can yet conceive," Lucifer answered calmly.

"That may be; but there is the extreme likelihood of its total
destruction before you can find out how to use it. I could not prevent
this destruction if I tried--once it is known what happened here
tonight. My people, too, have a destiny, and they are determined to
pursue it."

A great rumble, a mighty rush of air, swept them off their feet. The
spaceship rose in a straight vertical line and leveled off some five
hundred feet above the clearing. Its prow swung toward the Earth
people. A finger of blue flame probed downward.

Huth heaved himself to his feet.

"No! No!" he shouted. "Oh, you fools...."

The blue flame broadened at its extremity, until it resembled a long,
inverted funnel. When it touched the ground, it reduced to grey ash a
fifty foot area of buildings and trees. There was no burning, no odor,
no smoke. Just a sifting of ashes that fell like snowflakes.

Huth cried out in agony at this destruction of his dream. He ran toward
the path of the flame, waving his arms.

In the instant before the flame reached him, Huth stood motionless,
arms outstretched, face straining upward, the great muscles of his neck
standing out in rigid cords.

And then his statuesque body was a sifting handful of grey ash, falling
gently to the damp ground. The flame leaped forward.

Lucifer got to his feet. He could think only one thought: That he must
try to stand upright with as much dignity as possible.

He heard Nina's voice, but couldn't make out the words.

They were followed by a shrill, whistling sound. Surprisingly, the
sound grew fainter, like a siren fading into the distance.

Lucifer realized he had closed his eyes. He opened them and saw the
spaceship streaking upward. It tumbled end over end, out of control.
The blue funnel of flame whipped in wild circles, hissing against the
clouds. The ship disappeared momentarily behind a cloud bank, then
could be seen again, glowing with an incandescent brilliance.

Suddenly it burst into a shower of sparks that flared like a dying
meteor, and fell away into nothingness.

In the clearing behind Lucifer, children chattered gleefully.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lucifer stood by the window and listened in silence as Albert Fetzer
made his report.

The Earth people had returned to their quarters. Those whose dwellings
had been destroyed or badly damaged were sheltered with friends for the
night. Fifty-three of Huth's men and thirty of the women had survived.
A score of _Goolies_ had come crawling and whimpering out of the
forest. All were put under guard in one of the training buildings. Dr.
Thame, his own shoulder smashed, was helping with the injured.

A twenty-four hour guard was set up to watch for return of the supply
ship, or any other that might come.

"What about the children?" Lucifer asked.

"Mostly asleep. Some of them got a little frisky and started knocking
over things--until their mothers marched them off to bed."

Lucifer shivered, and he was not cold.

"You'd better get some sleep," he told Fetzer. "We'll meet with the
section leaders early in the morning."

When Fetzer was gone, Lucifer remained by the window. Nina came out of
the bedroom to join him. Together they watched the clouds close out the
stars, listened to the sweep of the rising wind and the drumbeat of the
returning rain. The eternal rain.

"Our world," said Nina. "Our new world."

Lucifer started to answer, then could not speak. The weight of his
thoughts was too great a burden to ease with words.

Nina put her arm around him.

"A frontier must always be like this," she said.

But what a frontier! There were the physical problems of existence,
with Huth's administration and most of his technology gone. There was
the moment when the supply ship would return, when a great fleet of
ships might come to see what had happened to the project.

Yet those problems seemed like foothills to the towering peaks ahead,
rising in range after range, beyond the outermost perimeter of thought.

As Lucifer stared into this unknown, he felt his mental stature shrivel
to microscopic size. How could he, or any combination of men, offer
leadership into such a future? If the project could survive against
the return of Huth's people, what would keep it from disintegrating
and destroying itself? How could a psi focus be channeled and used
constructively? How could a professor of parapsychology, a professor
who knew less about his subject than the youngest child on this planet,
assail such peaks?

And the children! A freckled boy whimpering in his arms. A boy with a
potential power that was as yet beyond the imagination. Lucifer thought
of a tiny child behind the wheel of a great diesel truck, speeding
through the crowded streets of a city. Or a child toying with the fuse
of a hydrogen bomb. Raise that capacity for destruction to the nth
power, and then....

God!

Tonight, for the first time, the children had glimpsed how great their
power could be. Tomorrow they would begin to play new games. Quickly
they would realize that they were stronger than their parents and other
adult authorities. How could such children be controlled, educated,
guided to maturity? If there were problem adolescents on Earth, what
problems lay ahead with adolescents who could hotrod among the stars?

"But there are more than problems," Nina said, in a hushed voice. "A
frontier means so much more!"

His thoughts, so recently liberated from their cubicle, drew back with
conditioned reluctance, then leaped toward those towering peaks. A free
thought could surmount any pinnacle, and look beyond the problems to
the grandeur of the infinite.

The view was of a magnitude and beauty beyond his capacity to absorb.
But small, incredibly wonderful details focused before him.

Now he saw knowledge and knowing from all the universe pour into this
steaming jungle planet through communication channels opened by a psi
focus that could leap time and space.

He saw knowledge and love and understanding transmitted outward again
to fall like rain wherever there was parched earth.

His mind drew back from the summit. It was enough to see, for an
evanescent moment of wonder, just a fragment of what lay beyond the
wild mountains. It was madness to look too long.

The future receded; the present returned.

"I was there with you," Nina said, breathlessly.

He buried his face in the softness of her hair and the warm curve of
her throat and shoulder.

He told her about himself, and their child.

She was silent and still for a long time.

"I must have known," she said. "I must have known all the time, without
admitting it to myself."

"I'm sorry, Nina."

Her strong arm tightened around him. Her answer was steady:

"We must have hope, because there is so much to learn. But if our child
cannot see...."

Her voice shook a little, then went on firmly,

"... If our child cannot see, we must find a Braille for the psi-blind!
And we will walk together ... as long as we can ... on our frontier ...
of infinity."





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Project Hi-Psi" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home