COUNSELOR (frowns; it was not the answer he wanted): Very well, then. Dr. Trstensky ... would you come forward, please? Dr. Trstensky ... you are head of the Department of Advanced Cybernetics at Cal Tech. You have had opportunity to study these graphs and charts in minutest detail-- TRSTENSKY: Oh, yes-s. Fascinating!
COUNSELOR: I put the question: would it be possible for you to duplicate the grotesque feat that Beardsley performed on ECAIAC?
TRSTENSKY: Yes-s, possibly. No, I will say definitely. You mean, of course, cold, from the beginning? Yes-s ... but it would take me approximately three-to-four years.
COUNSELOR: Yes, Mr. Beardsley? What is it? You would like to make a pertinent statement?
BEARDSLEY (abashed): Oh. It--I only wanted to say it took me longer. Four-to-five years.
COUNSELOR (wearily--just waits for laughter to subside): Gentlemen, I think we may safely wrap it up now. Our function here is Disposition. Our choice is two-fold. One: the subject is sane, in which case he will pay the supreme penalty for murder which he has freely admitted. Or two: he is obviously insane, in which case he will be subjected to Psychic Probe as provided by law, thus restoring a measure of normalcy sufficient to place him again in society--restricted, of course-- DR. DOEBLER: Sir, one moment, if you please! I simply do not understand your language, and even less can I condone your haste! Safely wrap it up, you said. What do you mean by that? Safe for whom? And "obviously" insane--was that a slip of the tongue, sir, or are you trying to force an issue here?
COUNSELOR (coldly): I must remind you that we already have competent reports on subject's status. Add to that the facts presented here; they are overwhelming; the man's own admission and attitude are substantiation. It is my considered opinion, and I'm sure the opinion of Council, that the man is insane. Subjection to Psychic Probe will restore him to-- DOEBLER: Oh, yes, the Psychic Probe. I have no quarrel there. But suppose you were wrong? Have you ever considered the effects of Probe on the sane mind? Have you ever seen it? Once I saw it, only once. It is worse than disaster--it is horrible--it results in a sort of psychic tearing that heals and then tears and then heals in continuous perpetuation. It--is indescribable. It is sub-human. Compared to that, death or even insanity is a blessed relief. Now, gentlemen, listen! I implore you not to be in error! True, it was my opinion that Beardsley acted in fulfillment of the self-destructive impulse, but the man is sane--sane, I tell you, and entitled to a humanitarian death! My professional judgment-- COUNSELOR (again coldly, glancing around): Is welcome, but does not bear final weight, sir.
Silence closed down like a pall. Doebler's plea by its very impassioned nature had gotten through. It was a moment of embarrassment and indecision in which each man weighed his conscience, and found it wanting ... in which every member of Council looked to his neighbor for solution or solace, and finding neither, turned back to himself, aghast.
Only one person looked to the true source and saw the solution as it would be, as it had to be. Pederson. Heartsick with the knowing, he observed Raoul Beardsley and remembered! This funny little man ... this ridiculous man ... this proud man who had seized his fate and shoved it through because it had to be done, because he obeyed the dictates, because he had reached his Time of Assertion. Oh, Pederson remembered! And most of all he remembered Beardsley there at the last, in that final moment when ECAIAC had reached the wailing heights of sentience and grief ... and how could he ever forget Beardsley's soundless whisper that seemed to say, "No, no ... don't you understand? ... we're friends now!"
Pederson remembered. He remembered, and looking up saw that Council had reached equitable agreement, and his heart was sick and his soul was sick as he realized this was final, there could be no appeal. For the last time he looked upon Beardsley's face and saw that the man was fully cognizant.... Beardsley also knew.... Deobler had been right. Pederson turned his face away.
COUNSELOR: Now we are agreed, gentlemen? (waits for general approval.) Be it pronounced, then. Inasmuch as there exists a general area of doubt as to Disposition; and inasmuch as it is agreed that further deliberation would be prolonged and pointless; and inasmuch as our faith in the ultimate function of ECAIAC remains inestimable, despite recent vagaries which shall never occur again: be it therefore resolved, that the problem pending shall be taped in all its detail and submitted to ECAIAC for Final Disposition.
CHARLEY de MILO By Laurence Mark Janifer
It isn't at all obvious--at first thought--that having two perfectly good, usable arms could be a real handicap to a man....
"To be, or not to be--that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms ..." Hamlet, Act III, Scene I The rocket was on the way up, but Professor Lightning didn't seem to care. Outside the cooktent Wrout flapped his arms and, on that signal, Seaman started up the big electric band, whooping it up with John Philip Sousa for openers, while all over the midway the lights snapped on, big whites and yellows, reds, greens, purples and dusky violets framing, in a titillating dimness, the front flap of the girlie tent. The outside talkers were busy outside the spectacle tents like Wicks' Hell Drivers, Biggest Auto Show in Fifty States--outside the grind shows, the eats, the rides: "Here and now, for the fourth part of one single dollar bill, the most amazing ..." "... Terrifying and strange beings from the farthest reaches of the Earth who will exhibit ..." "... Dances learned at the Court of the Sultan, Ay-rab dances right here, right on the inside, for only--"
And the crowd, filing in, laughed and chattered and shrieked on swooping rides, the Great Crane, the Space Race, the Merry-Go-Round and the Horses, threw down money to win a kewpie doll, a Hawaiian lei, a real life-size imitation scale model of Luna in three real dimensions ... living it up on the first show, while the rocket climbed on and out, and bubbled excitement in the blood.
The rocket was up: the carnival was open. But Professor Lightning didn't seem to care. He sat in the cooktent with his eyes hooded and hidden under the unshaded glow of a hundred-and-fifty-watt Forever bulb, while Charley de Milo fidgeted his feet, and listened, and tried to cut the old man off.
"Look, professor," he said nervously, "why don't we talk about it later? Table it, till after the show?" He scratched the side of his head with his left foot. "I got to go on in a couple of minutes," he said. "I can hear the talker going now. I got to--"
"Forget the show," Professor Lightning said. His voice was flatter and harsher, and his face more tense, than Charley ever remembered seeing it. "The show isn't important."
Charley blinked, trying to understand. "But, Professor--"
"Listen to me," Professor Lightning said. "The world is at the beginning of a new cultural revolution. Since the Cold War melted, and freedom of inquiry and research began to live again on both sides of the old Iron Curtain, science has begun a new Renaissance. The cultural interflow has--"
"Please, professor," Charley said miserably, rubbing his toes together. "There isn't much time before I got to go on. And you ought to be inside the Science tent, too, because any minute--"
"If I am not in the tent," Professor Lightning said calmly, "I will not appear in the show. It does not matter."
"But they'll fire you," Charley said. He grabbed for a cigarette with his right foot and got it into his mouth. Striking a match with his left foot, he lit the cigarette and blew out a long, ragged plume of smoke. "If you're not there on time," he said in strained tones, "they'll fire you. And what about me?"
Professor Lightning gestured with both big hands. It was the same movement he used every night, when he showed the crowd there were no wires or batteries secreted on his person. Charley half-expected him to grab hold of a couple of light bulbs and show them glowing in his fists. But the gesture was meant, this time, as an aid to relaxation. "Don't worry," Professor Lightning said, in a grating sort of caricature of a soothing tone. "If they fire me ... well, then, they save me the trouble of quitting. And as for you, my boy, a carnival job should be the furthest thing from your thoughts."
"Well, it isn't," Charley said sourly. "And if you'll excuse me, professor, I care how I get the money to eat, even if you don't. I got a good job--"
"You won't need your job," Professor Lightning said, "if you'll listen to me."
Charley made up his mind. Much as he hated to be impolite, there were some things more important than social forms, he decided. He stood up. "After the show, professor," he said with firmness, and went out of the cooktent, heading at a rapid dogtrot for the big tent at the other side of the midway. As he reached it he could see Dave Lungs, the outside talker, climb up on the front platform to begin his spiel.
"Marvels of the world!" Dave announced without preliminary. "Wonders of the natural universe! Surprises and startling sights for every member of the family!" By the time he had got that far, a crowd was beginning to collect in front of the platform. "For the fourth part of a single dollar bill--" Dave went on, but Charley didn't have the time to listen; he was in the bally.
He lifted the backflap of the tent with one foot, and wriggled inside.
As he made his way to the cluster of people near the front flap, past the booths and stands, he felt an enormous sense of relief. He had made it--with all of fifty seconds to spare.
Ned and Ed stood next to him. "Where you been?" Ed said in a nasal whisper.
"I got held up," Charley explained. "Professor Lightning, he was talking to me, and--"
"Later," Ned said. His voice was lower and throatier than Ed's; it was the only way Charley could tell them apart, but then, he thought, nobody ever had to tell them apart. They were, like all Siamese twins, always together. "We're going on," Ned said, and he and his twin moved forward.
Charley moved into place behind them, and came out blinking in the glare of the front platform.
"Siamese twins," Dave was shouting. "A contemporary marvel of science, ladies and gentlemen--and here we have ..."
Charley stepped forward as Ned and Ed stepped back into the shadows again.
"... Charley de Milo! Ladies and gentlemen, the world-wide fame of this brave and talented boy is stupendous! His feats of skill will amaze you! Watch him thread a needle! Watch him comb his hair! And all for one thin quarter, ladies and gentlemen, only the fourth part--"
The electronic band choked on Sousa, coughed and began again with Kabalevsky. Charley watched the audience below, staring up at him, hundreds of faces. He heard their gasp as he flexed his shoulders and turned. He grinned down, taking a second longer than usual, and then stepped back, still grinning.
"Charley de Milo, the Armless Wonder!" Dave said. "And many more sights inside, ladies and gentlemen, sights to amaze you, sights to chill your very blood, sights ..."
One-thirty, and the last show over. The rocket had come down for the night; all over the midway lights were blinking off and silence was creeping, like a stain, over the ground. Professor Lightning was sitting on his bunk, in the small tent he shared with Erma the Fish Girl. Erma was out drinking with Dave Lungs and some of the others, and only the professor and Charley de Milo were in the room. Charley was sitting on Erma's bunk, looking resigned.
"Well, if you still want to talk to me," he said, "now's your chance. O.K.?"
"I certainly want to talk to you," Professor Lightning said firmly. "I want to tell you of the most important moment of your life."
Charley tried to think of something to say to this, but there wasn't anything. He shifted on the bunk, scratched at his nose with his left foot, and grinned spastically. "Sure," he said at random. "And, by the way, I'm sorry about before, professor. But the show was going on, and--"
"The show," Professor Lightning said, in tones of the utmost contempt. "Forget about the show--now, and tomorrow, and forever."
"No words," Professor Lightning said, raising a hand delicately. "Please. Allow me to tell you of my invention."
Charley sighed and lay back on the bed. "Invention, professor?" he said. "You mean sort of a machine?"
For some reason, Professor Lightning looked irritated. "It's not a machine," he said flatly. Then he sighed and his tone changed. "Charley, my boy," he said, "do you remember what I was telling you before? About how the world has entered a new Age of Science? How new inventions, new discoveries, are coming along every day?"
"Well, sure," Charley said. "The papers talk about it every once in a while. You know, I see the papers, or the Chicago American, anyhow. My mother sends it to me. She likes the columns."
"Why," Professor Lightning went on, as if he hadn't been listening at all, "right here in Wrout's Carnival Shows, we have things that just didn't exist ten or fifteen years ago. The electronic band. The Forever bulb."
"That's right," Charley put in. "And look at Joe Wicks. Why, he can do tricks with all those new things they got on cars, tricks nobody ever did before or even thought about in the old days."
"And more fundamental discoveries," the professor said. "Chadwick's Law of Dimensionality, Dvedkin and the Ontological Mean ... oh, I keep up with the literature. No matter what's happened to me, I keep up with the literature."
Charley sighed, very softly so as not to injure the professor's feelings. But he did hope the old man wasn't going to start on all those stories about his lost career again. Charley knew--everybody in the Wrout show did--that Professor Lightning had been a real professor once, at some college or other. Biology, or Biological Physics, or something else--he'd taught classes about it, and done research. And then there had been something about a girl, a student the professor had got himself involved with. Though it was pretty hard to imagine the professor, white-haired and thin the way he was now, chasing after a girl.
He'd been fired, or something, and he'd drifted for a while and then got himself an act and come with a Carnival. Charley knew the whole story. He didn't want to hear it again.
But the professor said: "I'm as good as I ever was--better than I ever was, my boy. I've been keeping up, doing experiments. I've been quiet about it."
Everybody, Charley thought, knew about Professor Lightning and his experiments. If they kept the old man happy, kept him contented and doing shows, why not? After all, the old guy didn't drink or anything really serious; if he wanted to play around with test tubes and even Bunsen burners, people figured, why, let him.
But Professor Lightning thought nobody knew. Well, he had been a real professor once, which is to say a square. Some people never really adjusted to carny life--where everybody knows everything.
Charley figured maybe it was better to act surprised. "Really?" he said. "Experiments?"
Professor Lightning looked pleased, which satisfied Charley. "I've been on the track of something big," he said. He seemed to be talking more to himself than to Charley. "Something new," he said. "And at last ... at last, my boy, I've found it. I'll be famous, Charley, famous--and so will you!"
"That's nice," Charley said politely. Then he blinked. "But what do you mean," he added, "me?"
"I want you to help me," the professor said. He leaned forward, and in the dim light of the tent's single lamp, his eyes glittered. "I want you to come with me."
"Come with you?" Charley said, and swallowed hard. He'd never thought, the way some did, that the old man was crazy. But it did look as if he'd slipped a couple of cogs for sure and for real. "Where?" Charley said.
"Washington," the professor said instantly. "New York. London, Paris. Rome. The world, Charley. The world that's going to do us homage."
Charley shifted a little in the bed. "Look, professor," he said, "I've got a job, right here in the carny. I couldn't leave here. So suppose we just--"
"Your job?" the professor said. "Your job's gone, my boy. Wait. Let me tell you what I've discovered. Let me tell you what has happened--happened to you, my boy. To you, and to me."
Charley sat upright, slowly. "Well," he said, "all right, professor."
Professor Lightning beamed, and his eyes glittered brighter and brighter. "Limb regeneration," he said, and his voice was as soft and quiet as if he'd been talking about the most beautiful woman in the world. "Limb regeneration."
Charley waited a long minute before he admitted to himself that he didn't have the faintest idea what the professor was talking about. "What?" he said at last.
Professor Lightning shook his head slightly. "Charley," he said softly, "you're an Armless Wonder. That's right, isn't it?"
"Sure it is, professor," Charley said. "You know that. I was born that way. Made a pretty good thing out of it, too."
"Well," Professor Lightning said, "you don't have to be one. Can you realize that?"
Charley nodded slowly. "Sure I don't," he said. "Only it's pretty good money, you know? And there's no sense in sitting around back home and feeling sorry for myself, is there? I mean, this way I can make money and have a job and--"
"No," Professor Lightning said emphatically.
Charley blinked. "No?" he said.
Professor Lightning shook his head, meaningfully. "Charley, my boy," he said, "I don't mean that you should go home and mope. But think about this: suppose you had your arms? Suppose you had two arms, just like everybody else."
"Why think about anything like that?" Charley said. "I mean, I am what I am. That's the way things are. Right?"
"Wrong," Professor Lightning said. "I can give you arms, Charley. I can make you normal. Just like everybody else."
"Well," Charley said. After a few seconds he said: "Gee." Then he said: "You're kidding me, professor."
"I'm perfectly serious," Professor Lightning said.
"Let me show you," Professor Lightning said. He stood up and went to the flap of the tent. "Come with me," he said, and Charley got up, dumbly, and followed him out into the cool darkness outside.
Later, Charley couldn't remember all that Professor Lightning had showed him or told him. There were some strange-looking animals called salamanders; Professor Lightning had cut their tails off and they'd grown new tails. That, he said, happened in nature. But he had gone a step farther. He had isolated the particular factor that made such regrowth possible.
Charley remembered something about a molecular lattice, but it didn't make any sense to him, and was only a puzzle. But the professor told him all about the technique, in a very earnest and scientific voice that was convincing to listen to, and showed him mice that he'd cut the tails off of, and the mice had brand-new tails, and even feet in one or two cases. There were a whole lot of small animals in cages, all together in back of the professor's tent, and Charley looked at all of them. The professor had a flashlight, and everything was very clear and bright.
When the demonstration was over, Charley had no doubts at all. It was obvious to him that the professor could do just what he said he could do: grow limbs on things. Charley scratched his head with his left foot, nervously.
"That's why I came to you," the professor said. "I need a human being--just to show the scientific world that my technique works on human beings. And I've worked with you for a number of years now, Charley."
"Five," Charley said. "Five since you came with Wrout."
"I like you," the professor said. "I want to make you the first, the very first, person to be helped by my technique."
Charley shifted his feet. "You mean you want to give me arms," he said.
"That's right," the professor said.
"No," Charley said.