And this is the man who is Kyle the First, Ruler of Terra at the age of thirty-seven! I wonder what he is like now....
January 1, 1 New San Francisco There is no longer any need to wonder. Surprisingly few heads have rolled, but apparently Jonesy chooses to exhibit his power in other ways.
Thanksgiving Day, a custom preserved in certain portions of the Directorate of North America, is three weeks away--even though it is January.
The Year One. There used to be some childish joke about the Year One. Don't remember it just now.
Thanksgiving harvest in January. Christmas celebration in February. Spring planting in July! To say nothing of the inconvenience this has caused in my bookkeeping department! I suppose the man will now try to change the weather to suit his new calendar!
January 8, 1 New San Francisco He can't last! He can't! A dictator is one thing. A monarch is another. But Kyle is something else!
Naturally he had to remove certain persons from his way. And his summer palace in the plains region of America--that's all right, that's all right! An authority of Kyle's stature is expected to remove undesirables, and to have a summer palace, and a winter palace, and anything else he wants! Of course!
But why this? Why this of all things!
No newspapers! Just like that! He waves an edict, and just like that, no newspapers! The Beacon-Sentinel has been a great paper for the last twenty-five years! It was nothing, and I was nothing, and together we became a Voice! And now again, we are nothing!
Oh, I see what's behind it! It's revenge, that's what it is! Because he once couldn't become a "noospaper" man, he's taking his vengeance this way.
A man as petty as that shall be overthrown! Mark my words! And the clumsiness of it!
I see what he is! I know him! He's still that pup of seventeen, playing king with the world, twisting his hands in glee over his childish triumph.
No subtlety! Just a direct pushing over an applecart he couldn't steer! Doesn't matter whose apples you destroy, does it, Jonesy? Just push it over--push it over!
January 16, 1 New San Francisco Closed the Beacon-Sentinel yesterday. My savings are enough to take care of me for a few years. After that--ah, well, I am no longer a young man. I am glad that Elsa is not here to see this.
February 12, 1 New San Francisco Received a letter this morning, requesting me to appear at the chambers of His Most Imperial Majesty, Kyle the First, on Tuesday of next week. His Most Imperial Majesty can see me between 10:15 and 10:25 on that morning.
Ten minutes--rather a brief spell in which to roll another head.
I find myself amazed, though. Is this man so truly powerful that he needs no police to make his arrests for him? Can he really send messages via jetmail and be certain his enemies will not try to escape?
I don't want to attempt flight. Life without my work is no longer life.
February 17, 1 Kyleton Palace, North America I don't understand. I've gone over it twice, and I don't understand. If only Elsa were still with me! I could talk to her. She would help me decipher what it's all about.
This morning, at 10:15 sharp, I was taken to the public audience chamber in the palace.
His Majesty was seated behind a desk facing the doors. Behind him, on the wall, was His Coat of Arms.
He stood up and walked toward me, waving away the guards. "How are you, Mr. Booth?" he said. And offered me His Hand!
I recovered my presence of mind, of course, and replied as was fitting.
And then He said it! "I shall be at liberty later this week to discuss more fully the details of these past years." (Shades of "ain't got no!") "Meanwhile, my secretary will give you a complete dossier on my planned Official Bulletin." He lighted a cigarette after offering me one. "I should deem it an honor," he continued, "to have a man of your literary versatility and--I must add--your vast practical experience become Chief Editor of that Bulletin. The publication, which I should enjoy christening The Terran Beacon-Sentinel--with your permission, sir--shall be more than my official organ. It shall set the standards for the coming newspaper world."
He cocked an eyebrow at me and smiled. "I believe we are in perfect accord about certain standards, are we not, Mr. Booth? The deplorable grammatical practices of some newspapers! Well, really, Mr. Booth! I feel assured of your agreement!"
He led me around the desk and pointed to the Coat of Arms. As He stood silent, I felt obliged to look more closely. I had seen it before, of course, but seeing it now, greatly enlarged, I was able to make out its detail.
What I had thought was a mere decorative border, I now realized was a motif I have seen all my life! A tiny lighthouse sending forth a beam! The trademark of my paper!
As I stood there, gaping, His Majesty laughed softly and said, "That, Mr. Booth, I felt impelled to include. For, without your most fortuitous termination of my apprenticeship in your organization, I should not have risen to my present position."
Again He took my hand and shook it, warmly. His hair is just a bit gray at the temples, and there are signs of strain on His finely featured face. Those awkward hands are now strong and purposeful.
He apologized that He must return to His duties, and went with me to the door. "My secretary will fill in further details about your new position. Newspapers shall once again be published. No--don't say a word, Mr. Booth! I know what you are thinking.
"Your salary," he continued as we stood at the open door, "shall, of course, be commensurate to your high authority in this new field. Allow me, now, to thank you most deeply and sincerely for your unwitting aid in my youth. I assure you, Mr. Booth, I have often thought of that day we talked. And I hope to repay you, in some measure, for what you did."
He said more, mostly polite phrases of good-by. And then I was outside after being handed a folder by some man.
An official jetmobile took me to my residence--which turned out to be in the East Wing. Here I am, and I don't understand. I came prepared to suffer heaven only knows what as part of Kilmer Jones's childish pattern for revenge.
Instead, here I am, head of the Official Bulletin, titular ruler and ruler-in-fact of the future journalism of the world!
There is something behind this--I keep feeling there is. But what? What? Or is he truly generous, to a degree never before known among absolute monarchs?
February 13, 1 Kyleton Palace, North America I am a suspicious and most humble old man. I see now that Kyle's generosity amazed me only because I myself would have been incapable of such an action.
Just now, I fear for His Majesty. I was right, before, when I said there was no subtlety in the man. He is too open, too fair, too forgiving. A ruler with such greatness of heart might easily allow some small insignificant person in too far, too close. I fear for him!
February 14, 1 Kyleton Palace, North America Tomorrow we begin publication! The pressroom is magnificent! I can hardly wait. It's been a long time since I've felt such exuberance.
This afternoon I am to conduct a conference of some eight hundred editors! His Majesty's secretary has sent me an outline on Journalistic Standards, which I shall study after lunch.
There was a note attached, in His Majesty's handwriting--such beautiful penmanship, too. "A mere formality," it said, "for, of course, you and I know full well what the future of journalism shall be, Mr. Booth."
Later-- How wrong can one man be in one lifetime?
I wonder now why he changed the calendar. I wonder now what poor devil he destroyed then. But I'll cheat him!
I'll cheat him yet!
Obituary, Trran Bacon-Sntinl, Fbruary 16, 1 Th unfortunat and untimly dmis of Gorg W. Booth is hrby notd with sorrow by thos who knw and lovd him.
Mr. Booth, formr ditor and publishr of th Bacon-Sntinl of Nw San Francisco, Dirctorat of North Amrica, had apparntly bn in poor helth for som tim. It is blivd that worry ovr th succss of his nw policy-stting Trran Bacon-Sntinl was a contributing factor in his suicid lat in th aftrnoon of Fbruary 14.
His Most Imprial Majsty Kyl th First has ordrd a fitting monumnt to his lat lamntd frind. A simpl shaft of granit shall b rctd in th gardn facing th Ast Wing of Kylton Palac, whr Mr. Booth mad his residnc. On th shaft shall b inscribd th lgnd: "How bautous mankind is! Oh brav nw world, That has much peepl in't!"
Th quotation is from Th Tmpst. Mr. Booth was a grat admirr of Shakspar.
An vn mor fitting and long-livd mmorial is xprssd in th dict rlasd through th offics of His Majsty on th vry day of Mr. Booth's dath. It reeds in part: "Th nw linguistic policy on Trra, as dmonstratd in th Trran Bacon-Sntinl, shall hncforth b known as Boothtalk."
Mr. Booth bfrindd Our Imprial Rulr in His youngr days, and, as w all know, His Majsty nvr forgts a frind.
THE DEATH TRAPS OF FX-31.
By Sewell Peaslee Wright
I do not wish to appear prejudiced against scientists. I am not prejudiced, but I have observed the scientific mind in action, on a great many occasions, and I find it rather incomprehensible.
It is true that there are men with a scientific turn of mind who, at the same time, you can feel safe to stand with shoulder to shoulder, in an emergency. Young Hendricks, who was my junior officer on the Ertak, back in those early days of the Special Patrol Service, about which I have written so much, was one of these.
Nor, now that I come to think of the matter in the cool and impartial manner which is typical of me, was young Hendricks the only one. There was a chap--let's see, now. I remember his face very well; he was one of those dark, wiry, alert men, a native of Earth, and his name was--Inverness! Carlos Inverness. Old John Hanson's memory isn't quite as tricky as some of these smart young officers of the Service, so newly commissioned that the silver braid is not yet fitted to the curve of their sleeves, would lead one to believe.
I met Inverness in the ante-room of the Chief of Command. The Chief was tied up in one of the long-winded meetings which the Silver-sleeves devoted largely to the making of new rules and regulations for the confusion of both men and officers of the Service, but he came out long enough to give me the Ertak's orders in person.
"Glad to see you here at Base again, Commander," he said, in his crisp, business-like way. "Hear some good reports of your work; keep it up!"
"Thank you, sir," I said, wondering what was in the air. Any time the Chief was complimentary, it was well to look out for squalls--which is an old Earth term for unexpected trouble.
"Not at all, Commander, not at all. And now, let me present Carlos Inverness, the scientist, of whom you have undoubtedly heard."
I bowed and said nothing, but we shook hands after the fashion of Earth, and Inverness smiled quite humanly.
"I imagine the good captain has been too busy to follow the activities of such as myself," he said, sensibly enough.
"A commander"--and I laid enough emphasis on the title to point out to him his error in terminology--"in the Special Patrol Service usually finds plenty to occupy his mind," I commented, wondering more than ever what was up.
[Illustration: At the same instant two other trap-doors swung up.]
"True," said the Chief briskly. "You'll pardon me if I'm exceedingly brief, Commander, but there's a sizeable group in there waiting my return.
"I have a special mission for you; a welcome relief from routine patrol. I believe you have made special requests, in the past, for assignments other than the routine work of the Service, Commander?"
He was boxing me up in a corner, and I knew it, but I couldn't deny what he said, so I admitted it as gracefully as I could.
"Very well," nodded the Chief, and it seemed to me his eyes twinkled for an instant. "Inverness, here, is head of a party of scientists bent upon a certain exploration. They have interested the Council in the work, and the Council has requested the cooperation of this Service."
He glanced at me to make sure I understood. I certainly did; when the Supreme Council requested something, that thing was done.
"Very well, sir," I said. "What are your orders?"
The Chief shrugged.
"Simply that you are to cooperate with Inverness and his party, assisting them in every possible way, including the use of your ship for transporting them and a reasonable amount of equipment, to the field of their activities. The command of the ship remains, of course, in you and your officers, but in every reasonable way the Ertak and her crew are to be at the disposal of Inverness and his group. Is that clear, Commander?"
"Perfectly, sir." Nothing could have been clearer. I was to run the ship, and Inverness and his crew were to run me. I could just imagine how Correy, my fighting first officer, would take this bit of news. The mental picture almost made me laugh, disgusted as I was.
"Written orders will, of course, be given you before departure. I believe that's all. Good luck, Commander!" The Chief offered his hand briefly, and then hurried back to the other room where the Silver-sleeves had gathered to make more rulings for the confusion of the Service.
"Since when," asked Correy bitterly, "are we running excursions for civilians? We'll be personally conducting elderly ladies next thing."
"Or put on Attached Police Service," growled Hendricks, referring to the poor devils who, in those days, policed the air-lanes of the populated worlds, cruising over the same pitiful routes day after day, never rising beyond the fringe of the stratosphere.
"Perhaps," suggested the level-headed Kincaide, "it isn't as bad as it sounds. Didn't you, say, sir, that this Inverness was rather a decent sort of chap?"
"Very much so. You'd scarcely take him for a scientist."
"And our destination is--what?" asked Kincaide.
"That I don't know. Inverness is to give us that information when he arrives, which will be very shortly, if he is on time."
"Our destination," said Correy, "will probably be some little ball of mud with a tricky atmosphere or some freak vegetation they want to study. I'd rather--"
A sharp rap on the door of the navigating room, where we had gathered for an informal council of war, interrupted.
"Party of three civilians at the main exit port, Port Number One, sir," reported the sub-officer of the guard. "One sent his name: Carlos Inverness."
"Very good. Admit them at once, and recall the outer guards. We are leaving immediately."
As the guard saluted and hurried away, I nodded to Correy. "Have the operating room crew report for duty at once," I ordered, "and ask Sub-officer Scholey to superintend the sealing of the ports. Mr. Kincaide, will you take the first watch as navigating officer? Lift her easily until we determine our objective and can set a course; this is like shoving off with sealed orders."
"Worse," said Hendricks unhappily. "Sealed orders promise something interesting, and--"