"Sure. Water hasn't any shape, has it? Or has it? What's basic?"
With an effort, Harrison tried to focus on Cercy's words. "Molecular pattern? The matrix?"
"Matrix," Cercy repeated, yawning himself. "Pattern. Must be something like that. A pattern is abstract, isn't it?"
"Sure. A pattern can be impressed on anything. What did I say?"
"Let's see," Cercy said. "Pattern. Matrix. Everything about the Ambassador is capable of change. There must be some unifying force that retains his personality. Something that doesn't change, no matter what contortions he goes through."
"Like a piece of string," Harrison murmured with his eyes closed.
"Sure. Tie it in knots, weave a rope out of it, wind it around your finger; it's still string."
"But how do you attack a pattern?" Cercy asked. And why couldn't he get some sleep? To hell with the Ambassador and his hordes of colonists, he was going to close his eyes for a moment....
"Wake up, Colonel!"
Cercy pried his eyes open and looked up at Malley. Besides him, Harrison was snoring deeply. "Did you get anything?"
"Not a thing," Malley confessed. "The philosophy must've had quite an effect on him. But it didn't work all the way. Darrig knew that he had wanted to kill the Ambassador, and for good and sufficient reasons. Although he felt differently now, he still had the feeling that he was betraying us. On the one hand, he couldn't hurt the Ambassador; on the other, he wouldn't hurt us."
"Won't he tell anything?"
"I'm afraid it's not that simple," Malley said. "You know, if you have an insurmountable obstacle that must be surmounted ... and also, I think the philosophy had an injurious effect on his mind."
"What are you trying to say?" Cercy got to his feet.
"I'm sorry," Malley apologized, "there wasn't a damned thing I could do. Darrig fought the whole thing out in his mind, and when he couldn't fight any longer, he--retreated. I'm afraid he's hopelessly insane."
"Let's see him."
They walked down the corridor to Malley's laboratory. Darrig was relaxed on a couch, his eyes glazed and staring.
"Is there any way of curing him?" Cercy asked.
"Shock therapy, maybe." Malley was dubious. "It'll take a long time. And he'll probably block out everything that had to do with producing this."
Cercy turned away, feeling sick. Even if Darrig could be cured, it would be too late. The aliens must have picked up the Ambassador's message by now and were undoubtedly heading for Earth.
"What's this?" Cercy asked, picking up a piece of paper that lay by Darrig's hand.
"Oh, he was doodling," Malley said. "Is there anything written on it?"
Cercy read aloud: "'Upon further consideration I can see that Chaos and the Gorgon Medusa are closely related.'"
"What does that mean?" Malley asked.
"I don't know," Cercy puzzled. "He was always interested in folklore."
"Sounds schizophrenic," the psychiatrist said.
Cercy read it again. "'Upon further consideration, I can see that Chaos and the Gorgon Medusa are closely related.'" He stared at it. "Isn't it possible," he asked Malley, "that he was trying to give us a clue? Trying to trick himself into giving and not giving at the same time?"
"It's possible," Malley agreed. "An unsuccessful compromise--But what could it mean?"
"Chaos." Cercy remembered Darrig's mentioning that word in his telephone call. "That was the original state of the Universe in Greek myth, wasn't it? The formlessness out of which everything came?"
"Something like that," Malley said. "And Medusa was one of those three sisters with the horrible faces."
Cercy stood for a moment, staring at the paper. Chaos ... Medusa ... and the organizing principle! Of course!
"I think--" He turned and ran from the room. Malley looked at him; then loaded a hypodermic and followed.
In the control room, Cercy shouted Harrison into consciousness.
"Listen," he said, "I want you to build something, quick. Do you hear me?"
"Sure." Harrison blinked and sat up. "What's the rush?"
"I know what Darrig wanted to tell us," Cercy said. "Come on, I'll tell you what I want. And Malley, put down that hypodermic. I haven't cracked. I want you to get me a book on Greek mythology. And hurry it up."
Finding a Greek mythology isn't an easy task at two o'clock in the morning. With the aid of FBI men, Malley routed a book dealer out of bed. He got his book and hurried back.
Cercy was red-eyed and excited, and Harrison and his helpers were working away at three crazy looking rigs. Cercy snatched the book from Malley, looked up one item, and put it down.
"Great work," he said. "We're all set now. Finished, Harrison?"
"Just about." Harrison and ten helpers were screwing in the last parts. "Will you tell me what this is?"
"Me too," Malley put in.
"I don't mean to be secretive," Cercy said. "I'm just in a hurry. I'll explain as we go along." He stood up. "Okay, let's wake up the Ambassador."
They watched the screen as a bolt of electricity leaped from the ceiling to the Ambassador's bed. Immediately, the Ambassador vanished.
"Now he's a part of that stream of electrons, right?" Cercy asked.
"That's what he told us," Malley said.
"But still keeping his pattern, within the stream," Cercy continued. "He has to, in order to get back into his own shape. Now we start the first disrupter."
Harrison hooked the machine into circuit, and sent his helpers away.
"Here's a running graph of the electron stream," Cercy said. "See the difference?" On the graph there was an irregular series of peaks and valleys, constantly shifting and leveling. "Do you remember when you hypnotized the Ambassador? He talked about his friend who'd been killed in space."
"That's right," Malley nodded. "His friend had been killed by something that had just popped up."
"He said something else," Cercy went on. "He told us that the basic organizing force of the Universe usually stopped things like that. What does that mean to you?"
"The organizing force," Malley repeated slowly. "Didn't Darrig say that that was a new natural law?"
"He did. But think of the implications, as Darrig did. If an organizing principle is engaged in some work, there must be something that opposes it. That which opposes organization is--"
"That's what Darrig thought, and what we should have seen. The chaos is underlying, and out of it there arose an organizing principle. This principle, if I've got it right, sought to suppress the fundamental chaos, to make all things regular.
"But the chaos still boils out in spots, as Alfern found out. Perhaps the organizational pattern is weaker in space. Anyhow, those spots are dangerous, until the organizing principle gets to work on them."
He turned to the panel. "Okay, Harrison. Throw in the second disrupter." The peaks and valleys altered on the graph. They started to mount in crazy, meaningless configurations.
"Take Darrig's message in the light of that. Chaos, we know, is underlying. Everything was formed out of it. The Gorgon Medusa was something that couldn't be looked upon. She turned men into stone, you recall, destroyed them. So, Darrig found a relationship between chaos and that which can't be looked upon. All with regard to the Ambassador, of course."
"The Ambassador can't look upon chaos!" Malley cried.
"That's it. The Ambassador is capable of an infinite number of alterations and permutations. But something--the matrix--can't change, because then there would be nothing left. To destroy something as abstract as a pattern, we need a state in which no pattern is possible. A state of chaos."
The third disrupter was thrown into circuit. The graph looked as if a drunken caterpillar had been sketching on it.
"Those disrupters are Harrison's idea," Cercy said. "I told him I wanted an electrical current with absolutely no coherent pattern. The disrupters are an extension of radio jamming. The first alters the electrical pattern. That's its purpose: to produce a state of patternlessness. The second tries to destroy the pattern left by the first; the third tries to destroy the pattern made by the first two. They're fed back then, and any remaining pattern is systematically destroyed in circuit ... I hope."
"This is supposed to produce a state of chaos?" Malley asked, looking into the screen.
For a while there was only the whining of the machines and the crazy doodling of the graph. Then, in the middle of the Ambassador's room, a spot appeared. It wavered, shrunk, expanded-- What happened was indescribable. All they knew was that everything within the spot had disappeared.
"Switch it off" Cercy shouted. Harrison cut the switch.
The spot continued to grow.
"How is it we're able to look at it?" Malley asked, staring at the screen.
"The shield of Perseus, remember?" Cercy said. "Using it as a mirror, he could look at Medusa."
"It's still growing!" Malley shouted.
"There was a calculated risk in all this," Cercy said. "There's always the possibility that the chaos may go on, unchecked. If that happens, it won't matter much what--"
The spot stopped growing. Its edges wavered and rippled, and then it started to shrink.
"The organizing principle," Cercy said, and collapsed into a chair.
"Any sign of the Ambassador?" he asked, in a few minutes.
The spot was still wavering. Then it was gone. Instantly there was an explosion. The steel walls buckled inward, but held. The screen went dead.
"The spot removed all the air from the room," Cercy explained, "as well as the furniture and the Ambassador."
"He couldn't take it," Malley said. "No pattern can cohere, in a state of patternlessness. He's gone to join Alfern."
Malley started to giggle. Cercy felt like joining him, but pulled himself together.
"Take it easy," he said. "We're not through yet."
"Sure we are! The Ambassador--"
"Is out of the way. But there's still an alien fleet homing in on this region of space. A fleet so strong we couldn't scratch it with an H-bomb. They'll be looking for us."
He stood up.
"Go home and get some sleep. Something tells me that tomorrow we're going to have to start figuring out some way of camouflaging a planet."
THE WORLD THAT COULDN'T BE.
By Clifford D. Simak
The tracks went up one row and down another, and in those rows the vua plants had been sheared off an inch or two above the ground. The raider had been methodical; it had not wandered about haphazardly, but had done an efficient job of harvesting the first ten rows on the west side of the field. Then, having eaten its fill, it had angled off into the bush--and that had not been long ago, for the soil still trickled down into the great pug marks, sunk deep into the finely cultivated loam.
Somewhere a sawmill bird was whirring through a log, and down in one of the thorn-choked ravines, a choir of chatterers was clicking through a ghastly morning song. It was going to be a scorcher of a day. Already the smell of desiccated dust was rising from the ground and the glare of the newly risen sun was dancing off the bright leaves of the hula-trees, making it appear as if the bush were filled with a million flashing mirrors.
Gavin Duncan hauled a red bandanna from his pocket and mopped his face.
"No, mister," pleaded Zikkara, the native foreman of the farm. "You cannot do it, mister. You do not hunt a Cytha."
"The hell I don't," said Duncan, but he spoke in English and not the native tongue.
He stared out across the bush, a flat expanse of sun-cured grass interspersed with thickets of hula-scrub and thorn and occasional groves of trees, criss-crossed by treacherous ravines and spotted with infrequent waterholes.
It would be murderous out there, he told himself, but it shouldn't take too long. The beast probably would lay up shortly after its pre-dawn feeding and he'd overhaul it in an hour or two. But if he failed to overhaul it, then he must keep on.