"The young one," she said, "the blond one."
"It isn't even addressed to me," Alhamid said with a note of puzzled speculation in his voice.
"No. I noticed that. I told him he could send it straight to the school, but he said you would know how to handle it."
Alhamid looked at the envelope again, and his eyes narrowed a little. "Call Captain St. Simon, will you? Tell him I would like to have him come to my office. Don't mention this letter; I don't want it breezed all over Pallas."
It was nearly twenty minutes before St. Simon showed up. Alhamid handed him the envelope. "You have a message from your star pupil. For some reason, he wanted me to deliver it to you. I have a hunch you'll know what that reason is after you read it." He grinned. "I'd appreciate it if you'd tell me when you find out. This Mr. Danley has worried me all along."
St. Simon scowled at the envelope, then ripped off one end and took out the typed sheets. He read them carefully, then handed them over to Alhamid. "You'd better read this yourself, George."
Georges Alhamid took the pages and began to read.
Dear Captain St. Simon: I am addressing this to you rather than anyone else because I think you will understand more than anyone else. Captain Brand is a fine person, but I have never felt very much at ease with him. (I won't go into the psychological reasons that may exist, other than admit that my reasons are purely emotional. I don't honestly know how much they are based on his disfigurement.) Mr. Alhamid is almost a stranger to me. You are the only Belt man I feel I know well.
First, I want to say that I honestly enjoyed our three months together. There were times when I could have cheerfully bashed your head in, I'll admit, but the experience has left me feeling more like a real human being, more like a person in my own right, than I have ever felt before in my life. Believe me, I appreciate it deeply. I know now that I can do things on my own without being dependent on the support of a team or a committee, and for that I am grateful.
Tarnhorst has heard my report and accepted it. His report to the People's Congress will lay the entire blame for the death rate rise on individual carelessness rather than on any fault of management.
I think, in the main, I am justified in making such a report to Tarnhorst, although I am fully aware that it is incomplete. I know that if I had told him the whole truth there would be a ruckus kicked up on Earth that would cause more trouble in the Belt than I'd care to think about. I'm sure you're as aware of the political situation as I am.
You see, I know that anchor-setting could be made a great deal safer. I know that machines could be developed which would make the job so nearly automatic that the operator would never be exposed to any more danger than he would be in a ship on the Earth-Luna run. Perhaps that's a little exaggerated, but not much.
What puzzled me was: Why? Why shouldn't the Companies build these machines if they were more efficient? Why should every Belt man defend the system as it was? Why should men risk their necks when they could demand better equipment? (I don't mean that the equipment presently used is poor; I just mean that full mechanization would do away with the present type of equipment and replace it with a different type.) Going through your course of instruction gave me the answer to that, even though I didn't take the full treatment.
All my life, I've belonged to an organization of some kind--the team, the crew, whatever it might be. But the Team was everything, and I was recognized only as a member of the Team. I was a replaceable plug-in unit, not an individual in my own right. I don't know that I can explain the difference exactly, but it seems to me that the Team is something outside of which the individual has no existence, while the men of the Belt can form a team because they know that each member is self-sufficient in his own right.
On Earth, we all depend on the Team, and, in the long run, that means that we are depending on each other--but none of us feels he can depend on himself. Every man hopes that, as a member of the Team, he will be saved from his own errors, his own failures. But he knows that everyone else is doing the same thing, and, deep down inside, he knows that they are not deserving of his reliance. So he puts his reliance in the Team, as if that were some sort of separate entity in itself, and had magical, infallible powers that were greater than the aggregate of the individuals that composed it.
In a way, this is certainly so, since teamwork can accomplish things that mobs cannot do. But the Team is a failure if each member assumes that he, himself, is helpless and can do nothing, but that the Team will do it for him.
Men who have gone through the Belt training program, men who have "space experience," as you so euphemistically put it, are men who can form a real team, one that will get things done because each man knows he can rely on the others, not only as a team, but as individuals. But to mechanize the anchor-setting phase would destroy all that completely.
I don't want to see that destroyed, because I have felt what it is to be a part of the Belt team, even though only a small and unreliable part. Actually, I know I was not and could never be a real member of that team, but I was and am proud to have scrimmaged with the team, and I'm glad to be able to sit on the side-lines and cheer even if I can't carry the ball. (It just occurred to me that those metaphors might be a little cloudy to you, since you don't have football in the Belt, but I think you see what I mean.) I imagine that most of the men who have no "space experience" feel the same way. They know they'd never make a go of it out in space, but they're happy to be water boys.
I wish I could stay in the Belt. I'm enough of a spaceman to appreciate what it really is to be a member of a space society. But I also know that I'd never last. I'm not fitted for it, really. I've had a small taste of it, but I know I couldn't take a full dose. I've worked hard for the influence and security I have in my job, and I couldn't give it up. Maybe this brands me as a coward in your eyes, and maybe I am a coward, but that's the way I'm built. I hope you'll take that into account when you think of me.
At any rate, I have done what I have done. On Earth, there are men who envy you and hate you, and there will be others who will try to destroy you, but I have done what I could to give you a chance to gain the strength you need to resist the encroachment of Earth's sickness.
I have a feeling that Tarnhorst saw your greatness, too, although he'd never admit it, even to himself. Certainly something changed him during the last months, even though he doesn't realize it. He came out wanting to help--and by that, he meant help the common people against the "tyranny" of the Companies. He still wants to help the common people, but now he wants to do it through the Companies. The change is so subtle that he doesn't think he's changed at all, but I can see it.
I don't deserve any thanks for what I have done. All I have done is repay you in the only way I knew how for what you have done for me. I may never see you again, captain, but I will always remember you. Please convey my warmest regards to Captain Brand and to Mr. Alhamid.
Sincerely, Peter Danley * * * * *
Georges Alhamid handed the letter back to St. Simon. "There's your star pupil," he said gently.
St. Simon nodded. "The wise fool. The guy who's got sense enough to know that he isn't competent to do the job."
"Did you notice that he waltzed all around the real reason for the anchor-setting program without quite hitting it?"
St. Simon smiled humorlessly. "Sure. Notice the wording of the letter. He still thinks in terms of the Team, even when he's trying not to. He thinks we do this just to train men to have a real good Team Spirit. He can't see that that is only a very useful by-product."
"How could he think otherwise?" Alhamid asked. "To him, or to Tarnhorst, the notion of deliberately tailoring a program so that it would kill off the fools and the incompetents, setting up a program that will deliberately destroy the men who are dangerous to society, would be horrifying. They would accuse us of being soulless butchers who had no respect for the dignity of the human soul."
"We're not butchering anybody," St. Simon objected. "Nobody is forced to go through two years of anchor setting. Nobody is forced to die. We're not running people into gas chambers or anything like that."
"No; of course not. But would you expect an Earthman like Tarnhorst to see the difference? How could we explain to him that we have no objection to fools other than that we object to putting them in positions where they can harm others by their foolishness? Would you expect him to understand that we must have a method of eliminating those who are neither competent enough to be trusted with the lives of others nor wise enough to see that they are not competent? How would you tell him that the reason we send men out alone is so that if he destroys anyone by his foolishness--after we have taught him everything we know in the best way we know how--he will only destroy himself?"
"I wouldn't even try," St. Simon said. "There's an old saying that neither money, education, liquor, nor women ever made a fool of a man, they just give a born fool a chance to display his foolishness. Space ought to be added to that list."
"Did you notice something else about that letter?" Alhamid asked. "I mean, the very fact that he wrote a letter instead of telling you personally?"
"Sure. He didn't trust me. He was afraid I, or someone else, would dispose of him if we knew he knew our secret."
"I think that's it," Alhamid agreed. "He wanted to be safely away first."
"Killing him would have brought down the biggest investigation the Earth Congress has launched since the crack-up of the Earth-Luna ship thirty years ago. Does he think we are fools?"
"You can't blame him. He's been brought up that way, and three months of training isn't going to change him."
St. Simon frowned. "Suppose he changes his mind? Suppose he tells Tarnhorst what he thinks?"
"He won't. He's told his lie, and now he'll have to stick by it or lose his precious security. If he couldn't trade that for freedom, he sure isn't going to throw it away." Alhamid grinned. "But can you imagine a guy thinking that anchor setting could be completely mechanized?"
St. Simon grinned back. "I guess I'm not a very good teacher after all. I told him and told him and told him for three solid months that the job required judgment, but it evidently didn't sink in. He's got the heart of a romantic and the soul of an Earthman--a very bad combination."
"He has my sympathy," Alhamid said with feeling. "Now, about you. Your blue ticket still has three months to run, but I can't give you a class if you're only going to run through the first half of the course with them, and I don't have any more Earthmen for you to give special tutoring to. You have three choices: You can loaf with pay for three months; you can go back to space and get double pay for three months; or you can take a regular six-month class and get double pay for the last three months. Which'll it be?"
St. Simon grinned widely. "I'm going to loaf until I get sick of it, then I'll go back to space and collect double pay for what's left of the three months. First off, I'm going to take a run over to Vesta. After that, who knows?"
"I thought so. Most of you guys would stay out there forever if you didn't have to come back for supplies."
St. Simon shook his head. "Nope. Not true. A man's got to come back every so often and get his feet on the ground. If you stay out there too long, you get to talking to yourself."
An hour later, the spaceboat Nancy Bell lifted from the surface of Pallas and shot toward Vesta.
"Jules, old cobblestone, we have just saved civilization."
"Jawohl, Herr Hassenpfefferesser! Und now ve go to find das Madchen, nicht war?"
"Herr Professor Hassenpfefferesser to you, my boy."
And then, all alone in his spaceboat, Captain Jules St. Simon burst into song: "Oh, I'm the cook and the captain, too, And the men of the Nancy's brig; The bosun tight, and the midshipmite, And the crew of the captain's gig!"
And the Nancy Bell_ sped on toward Vesta and a rendevous with Eros.
THE AFFAIR OF THE BRAINS.
By Anthony Gilmore
Off to the Rendezvous Though it is seldom nowadays that Earthmen hear mention of Hawk Carse, there are still places in the universe where his name retains all its old magic. These are the lonely outposts of the farthest planets, and here when the outlanders gather to yarn the idle hours away their tales conjure up from the past that raw, lusty period before the patrol-ships came, and the slender adventurer, gray-eyed and with queer bangs of hair obscuring his forehead, whose steely will, phenomenal ray-gun draw and reckless space-ship maneuverings combined to make him the period's most colorful figure. These qualities of his live again in the outlanders' reminiscences and also of course his score of blood-feuds and the one great feud that shook whole worlds in its final terrible settling--the feud of Hawk Carse and Dr. Ku Sui.
Again and again the paths of the adventurer and the sinister, brilliant Eurasian crossed, and each crossing makes a rich tale. Time after time Ku Sui, through his several bands of space-pirates, his individual agents and his ambitious web of power insidiously weaving over the universe, whipped his tentacles after the Hawk, and always the tentacles coiled back, repulsed and bloody. An almost typical episode is in the affair which followed what has been called the Exploit of the Hawk and the Kite.
It will be remembered--as related in "Hawk Carse"--that Dr. Ku laid a most ingenious trap for Carse on the latter's ranch on Iapetus, eighth satellite of Saturn. Judd the Kite, pirate and scavenger, was the Eurasian's tool in this plot, which started with a raid on the ranch. The fracas which followed the Hawk's escape from the trap was bloody and grim enough, and resulted in the erasure of Judd and all his men save one; but the important thing to the following affair was that Judd's ship, the Scorpion, fell into Carse's hands with one prisoner and the ship's log, containing the space coordinates for a prearranged assignation of Judd with Ku Sui.
 See the November, 1931, issue of Astounding Stories.
All other projects were postponed by the Hawk at this opportunity to meet Dr. Ku face to face. The trail of the Eurasian was the guiding trail of his life, and swiftly he moved along it.
There was work to be done before he could set out. Three men had emerged alive from the clash between the Hawk and the Kite: Carse himself, Friday, his gigantic negro companion in adventure, and a bearded half-caste called Sako, sole survivor of Judd's crew. Aided sullenly by this man, they first cleaned up the ravaged ranch, burying the bodies of the dead, repairing fences and generally bringing order out of confusion. Then, under Carse's instructions, Friday and the captive brigand tooled the adventurer's own ship, the Star Devil, well into the near-by jungle, while the Hawk returned to the Scorpion.
He went into her control cabin, opened her log book and once more scanned what interested him there. The notation ran: "E.D. (Earth Date) 16 January, E.T. (Earth Time) 2:40 P.M. Meeting ordered by Ku Sui, for purpose of delivering the skeleton and clothing of Carse to him, at N.S. (New System) X-33.7; Y-241.3; Z-92.8 on E.D. 24 January, E.T. 10:20 P.M. Note: the ship is to stand by at complete stop, the radio's receiver open to Ku Sui's private wave (D37, X1293, R3) for further instructions."
He mulled over it, slowly stroking his flaxen bangs. It was a chance, and a good one. Judd's ship would keep that rendezvous, but it would sheathe the talons of the Hawk. This time a trap would be laid for Ku Sui.
The plan was simple enough, on the face of it, but the Eurasian was a master of cunning as well as a master of science, and high peril attended any matching of wits with him. Carse closed the log, his face bleak, his mind made up. A shuffle of feet brought his gaze up to the port-lock entrance.
Friday, stripped to shorts, a sweat-glistening ebony giant, stood there. Shaking the drops of steaming perspiration from his face, he reported: "All finished, suh--got the Star Devil in the jungle where you said to hide her. An' now what? You still figurin' on keepin' that date with Dr. Ku in this ship?"
Carse nodded, absently.
"Then where'll we pick up a crew, suh? Porno? It's the nearest port, I reckon."
"I'm not taking any crew, Eclipse."
Friday gaped in surprise at his master, then found words: "No crew, suh? Against Ku Sui? We'll be throwin' our lives----"
"I've lost enough men in the last two days," Carse cut in shortly. "And this meeting with Dr. Ku is a highly personal affair. You and I and Sako can run the ship; we've got to." One of the man's rare smiles relaxed his face. "Of course," he murmured, "I'm risking your life, Eclipse. Perhaps I'd better leave you somewhere?"
"Say!" bellowed the negro indignantly.
The Hawk's smile broadened at the spontaneous exclamation of loyalty.
"Very well, then," he said. "Now send Sako to me, and prepare ship for casting off."
But as Friday went aft on a final thorough inspection of all mechanisms, he muttered over and over, "Two of us--against Ku Sui! Two of us!" and he was still very much disturbed when, after Carse had had a few crisp words with the captive Sako, telling him that he would be free but watched and that it would be wise if he confined himself to his duties, the order came through to the engine room: "Break ground!"
Gently the brigand ship Scorpion stirred. Then, in response to the delicate incline of her space-stick, she lifted sweetly from the crust of Iapetus and at ever-increasing speed burned through the satellite's atmosphere toward the limitless dark leagues beyond.
The Hawk was on the trail!
Carse took the first watch himself. Except for occasional glances at the banks of instruments, the screens and celestial charts, he spent his time in deep thought, turning over in his mind the several variations of situation his dangerous rendezvous might take.
First, how would Ku Sui contact the Scorpion? Any of three ways, he reasoned: come aboard from his own craft accompanied by some of his men; stay behind and send some men over to receive the remains of the Hawk--for either of which variations he was prepared; or, a third, and more dangerous, direct that the remains of Carse be brought over to his ship, without showing himself or any of his crew.
Whatever variations their contacting took, there was another consideration, Carse's celestial charts revealed, and that was the proximity of the rendezvous to Jupiter's Satellite III, less than three hundred thousand miles. Satellite III harbored Port o' Porno, main refuge and home of the scavengers, the hi-jackers, and out-and-out pirates of space, so many of whom were under Ku Sui's thumb. Several brigand ships were sure to be somewhere in the vicinity, and one might easily intrude, destroying the hairbreadth balance in Carse's favor....
There was peril on every side. The Hawk considered that it would be wise to make provision against the odds proving too great. So, his gray eyes reflective, he strode to the Scorpion's radio panel and a moment later was saying over and over in a toneless voice: "XX-1 calling XX-2--XX-1 calling XX-2--XX-1 calling XX-2...."
After a full two minutes there was still no answer from the loudspeaker. He kept calling: "XX-1 calling XX-2--XX-1 calling XX-2--XX-1 calling----"
He broke off as words in English came softly from the loudspeaker: "XX-2 answering XX-1. Do you hear me?"
"Yes. Give me protected connection. Highly important no outsider overhears."
"All right," the gentle voice answered. "Protected. Go ahead, old man."
The Hawk relaxed and his face softened. "How are you, Eliot?" he asked almost tenderly.
"Just fine, Carse," came in the clear, cultured voice of Master Scientist Eliot Leithgow, probably the greatest scientific mind in the solar system, Ku Sui being the only possible exception. He spoke now from his secret laboratory on Jupiter's Satellite III, near Porno, this transcendent genius who, with Friday, was one of Carse's two trusted comrades-in-arms. "I've been expecting you," he went on. "Has something happened?"
"I'm concerned with Ku Sui again," the Hawk told him swiftly. "Please excuse me; I have to be brief. I can't take any chances of his hearing any of this." He related the events of the last two days: Judd's attack on the Iapetus ranch, the subsequent fight and outcome, and finally his present position and intention of keeping the rendezvous. "The odds are pretty heavily against me, M. S.," he went on. "It would be stupid not to admit that I may not come out of this affair alive--and that's why I'm calling. My affairs, of course, are in your hands. You know where my storerooms and papers are. Sell my trading posts and ranches; Hartz of Newark-on-Venus is the best man to deal through. But I'd advise you to keep for yourself that information on the Pool of Radium. Look into it sometime. I'm in Judd's ship, the Scorpion; our Star Devil's on Iapetus, hidden in the jungle near the ranch. That's all, I think."
"Carse, I should be with you!"
"No, M. S.--couldn't risk it. You're too valuable a man. But don't worry, you know my luck. I'll very likely be down to see you after this meeting, and perhaps with a visitor who will enable you once again to return to an honorable position on Earth. Where will you be?"
"In eight Earth days? Let's make it Porno, at the house you know. I'll come in for some supplies and wait for you."
"Good," the Hawk said shortly. "Good-by, M. S."
He paused, his hand on the switch. There came a parting wish: "Good luck, old fellow. Get him! Get him!"
The Master Scientist's voice trembled at the end. Through Ku Sui he had lost honor, position, home--all good things a man on Earth may have; through Ku Sui he, the gentlest of men, was regarded by Earthlings as a black murderer and there was a price on his head. Hawk Carse did not miss the trembling in his voice. As he switched off, the adventurer's eyes went bleak as the loneliest deeps of space....