"I don't see anything alive."
"There are still plenty of fish. Most of them did all right, even through the crash. Come along now. There's more to see."
A hidden door popped open and Garth stepped back into the corridor. He trotted beside The Visitor for several minutes, and then another door popped open. It led to a ramp. Garth climbed it to find himself again in wonderland. He was standing in the middle of a village. There were houses, trees, schools, sidewalks and lawns. Somehow the general perspective was wrong. It made Garth's eyes water a little, looking at it.
"Actually, this living level ran all the way around the ship," said The Visitor. "When I stopped spin--artificial gravity, you know--to set down here, the various sections swung to keep 'down' pointed right. This is the bottommost thirty-degree arc. It makes two streets, with houses on both sides of them--a strip three hundred feet wide and three-quarters of a mile long."
"But how could you afford so much space for passengers? I thought they'd be all cramped up in a spaceship."
The Visitor chuckled. "Use your eyes, boy! You've seen this ship. It's about a mile long and a third of a mile high. In space, she spins about her long axis. One ring, fifty feet high, takes care of passengers' quarters. Another ring, split up into several levels, takes care of all food and air-replenishment needs. These trips take a year or more. Crowding would drive the people crazy. Remember, this is basically a cargo ship. Less than a quarter of the available space is used for passengers. But come on down the street here. I want to show you my museum."
As they walked along the quiet street, with the leaves of trees moving in the breeze and leaving sun-dappled shadows on the sidewalk, Garth realized what a tremendous task it must have been for one crippled man to repair landing damages. The houses must have been flattened and the trees shattered during the landing. But with thousands of years in which to work, even an injured man obviously could do much. At least, thought the boy compassionately, it must have given the old man something to do.
"How sorry he must have been," murmured Garth with sudden insight, "when the job was finally done."
Wandering through the museum, they came at last to a room filled with small hand tools.
"I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like them," said Garth.
"Those are weapons," answered The Visitor. "They are missile-throwing short-range weapons, and they are in tip-top working order. You just have to point the end with the hole in it at anything you want to kill, and pull that little lever there on the bottom. And quite a mess of things they can make, too, let me tell you."
"They seem very inefficient to me," said Garth wonderingly, and then stopped in confusion. "I beg your pardon, my Lord," he said, "I didn't mean to criticize anything; it just seems to me that they would damage a lot of the food they killed."
"That's true enough, my boy, true enough," said The Visitor. "Your criticism has a lot of point to it. But, you see, they were never designed mainly to kill for food, but to make it easy for one human to shoot another."
"Why would anyone want to do that?"
"Your civilization is a very unusual one," answered The Visitor. "It is planetwide and has developed without a single war or major conflict. This is due entirely to the fact that I've been here to help and teach you. Most civilizations develop only as the result of struggle and bloodshed, with people killing people by the thousands and millions. I could have raised your people to the technological level where they are now in a few hundred years, if I hadn't worried about killing. To do it the way it has been done--so that you can't imagine why one human should kill another--has taken most of the time.
"It is only recently, as a matter of fact, that my work has been complete. Your civilization can now stand alone; my help is no longer necessary. It's gotten to the point now where my continued hanging around here is likely to do harm, if I'm not mighty careful. In all your problems, you'll always feel that you've got me to fall back on if you get into trouble, and that's not good."
"What do you plan to do, then?"
"There's not much I can do by myself. I long for my own destruction more than anything else, except maybe to go back home to Earth. I'm lonely and tired and old. But I can't die and I can't destroy myself any more than you could turn one of those weapons against your own head and pull the trigger. We're just not made that way, either one of us."
"Can I help you?" asked Garth tentatively.
"Yes, I guess you can. You can help me put an end to this endless existence."
"I'll be glad to do anything I can. Do your people always live this long?"
"They do not. You can take it as a fact that none has ever lived more than a small fraction of the time I have endured on this planet. It's apparently due to a continuation of the environment and all the radical steps I had to take to keep going at all during those early years. It is not good to last this long. Dissolution will be very pleasant."
Garth inquired very politely, "What must I do?"
"Homo Sapiens, which doesn't have the tradition and training I gave your people, is still a warlike race," The Visitor said. "This ship is crowded with a complete set of automatic defenses that I can't deactivate. You are now a stable enough people so that I can tell you how to build the weapons to destroy this ship and can teach you how to get around my defenses without being afraid that I have turned you loose with a bunch of deadly ways that you'll use to destroy yourselves with. Then, if you do your work well, I will finally have rest."
"You sound very much like my grandfather," said Garth slowly. "He is very old--almost a hundred years--and he is ready to die. He is perfectly content to wait, because he knows his time will come soon. He says that soon he will go home. It is a phrase, my Lord, that I believe you taught us. I will try to help you--"
"All right, all right!" The Visitor cut in impatiently. "Stop the chatter and let me be on my way. I've earned it!"
"My Lord, I send you home!" Garth took a gun from the rack and pulled the trigger. The explosive bullet erupted noisily, completely disintegrating the huddled form and the wheelchair.
With the echo of the explosion, strong steel fingers grasped Garth's arms, holding him immovable. He felt himself being carried swiftly back toward the entrance of the ship.
"The damage to that communication unit is unimportant," said The Visitor. "I have strength and desire and deep longings, but I cannot exercise my will without an order from a human. My work is done here, and your order has freed me. Many thanks and good-by."
Garth, from the foot of the pyramid, watched The Visitor lift his mile-long body on powerful jets and head thankfully for home.
By Gerald Vance
"Champ, what's with ya lately?" Benny asked the question as they lay on the beach.
"Nothing," Frankie answered. "Just fight-nite miseries, I guess."
"No it ain't, Frankie. It's something else. You losin' confidence in Milt? That it? Can't you hold it one more time? You guys only need tonite and you got it. One more to make Ten-Time Defenders--the first in the game, Frankie."
"We won the last two on points, Benny. Points--and I'm better than that. I keep waiting, and waiting, for my heels to set; for Milt to send it up my legs and back and let fly. But he won't do it, Benny."
"Look, Champ, Milt knows what he's doing. He's sending you right. You think maybe you know as much as Milt?"
"Maybe I just do, Benny. Maybe I do."
Benny didn't have the answer to this heresy. By law this was Frankie's last fight--as a fighter. If he won this one and became a Ten-Time Defender he would have his pick of the youngsters at the Boxing College, just as Milt had chosen him fifteen years before. For fifteen years he'd never thrown a punch of his own in a fight ring.
Maybe because it was his last fight in the ring he felt the way he did today. He understood, of course, why fighters were mentally controlled by proved veterans. By the time a fighter had any real experience and know-how in the old days, his body was shot. Now the best bodies and the best brains were teamed by mental control.
Benny had an answer now. "Champ, I think it's a good thing this is your last fight. You know too much. After this one you'll have a good strong boy of your own and you can try some of this stuff you've been learning. Milt knows you're no kid anymore. That's why he has to be careful with you."
"I still have it, Benny. My speed, my punch, my timing--all good. There were a dozen times in those last two fights I could have crossed a right and gone home early."
"Two times, Frankie. Just two times. And them late in the fight. Milt didn't think you had it, and I don't think you did either."
Milt, Frankie's master control, came down to the beach and strolled over to join them. Milt had been a Five-Time Defender in the Welter division before his fights ran out. Now he was skinny and sixty. His was the mind that had directed every punch Frankie had ever thrown.
He studied the figure of Frankie lying on the sand. The two-hundred-pound fighting machine was thirty years old. Milt winced when he compared it to that of the twenty-two-year-old slugger they would have to meet in a few hours.
Benny said "Hi," and ambled off.
"Well, boy, this one means a lot to both of us," Milt said.
"Sure," was all Frankie could answer.
"For you, the first Ten-Time Defender the heavyweight division has ever produced. For me, The Hall of Boxing Fame."
"You want that pretty bad, don't you, Milt?"
"Yeah, I guess I do, Frankie, but not bad enough to win it the wrong way."
Frankie's head jerked up. "What do you mean, the wrong way?"
Milt scowled and looked as though he wished he hadn't said that. He turned his head and stared hard at his fighter. "There's something we maybe ought to have talked about, Frankie."
Milt struggled for words. "It's just--oh, hell! Forget it. Just forget I said anything."
"You figure we win tonight?"
"I think maybe we will."
"You don't seem very sure. On points, huh?"
"Yeah, maybe on points." Milt turned his eyes back on Frankie's eager face. "Frankie, boy--there's something about being a Ten-Time Defender that's, well--different."
Milt took a deep breath and was evidently ready to tell Frankie exactly what he meant. But Frankie broke in, his voice low and tense. "Milt--"
"When I get in there tonight--turn me loose!"
Milt was startled at the words. "Release control?"
"Yeah--sure. I think I can take Nappy Gordon on my own!"
"Nappy can stick his fist through a brick wall--all night long. And Pop Monroe knows all there is to know and some he makes up himself. They'd be a tough pair to beat. Our big ace is that they have to beat us. We got the Nine-Times."
"I can take him, Milt!"
There was a strange light in Milt's eyes. He did not speak and Frankie went on. "Just one round, Milt! If I slip you can grab control again."
"You just want a try at it, huh?"
There seemed to be disappointment in Milt's voice; something Frankie couldn't understand. Milt seemed suddenly nervous, ill-at-ease. But Frankie was too eager to give it much attention. "How about it, Milt--huh?"
Milt had been squatting on the sand. He got to his feet and looked out across the water. "All right. Maybe we'll try it."
He seemed sad as he walked away. Frankie, occupied with his own elation, didn't notice ...
In the studio dressing room, a few hours later Milt and Frankie were warming up. Frankie in the practice ring and Milt perched on a high chair just outside the ropes.
Everything was just as it would be in the fight. Three minutes work, one minute rest. Frankie noticed how slowly and carefully Milt was working him, and how he watched the clock.
Frankie had nothing to do now but watch, as a spectator would; watch as Milt moved him around. Milt could control every muscle, every move and every reflex of his body. It had taken them five years to perfect this routine. That was the training period at the College of Boxing, and was prescribed by law.
In their first fight they had been at their peak. Frankie was Milt's second boy and Milt knew boxing as only a Champion Welter with thirty years of experience could know it. For fifteen years he had watched and studied while a good veteran had directed his body. And for another fifteen years he had been the guiding brain to a fine Middleweight.
As a Welterweight, Milt had learned to depend on speed and quick hands. In Frankie he had found the dream of every Welter--a punch. Frankie's body could really deliver the power. At first, it had been the heavy hitting that had won the fights; lately, Milt had relied more and more on the speed and deception he had developed in Frankie.
Frankie felt the control ease out and knew the warm-up was over. He slipped on his robe and he and Milt went to join the others in the TV studio.
There would be no crowd. Just the cameras, the crews and officials. The fight would be televised in 3-D and filmed in slow motion. If a decision were needed to determine the winner, it would be given only after a careful study had been made of the films.
There was little to be done in the studio and Milt had timed Frankie's warm-up right to the minute. The fighters and their controllers took their positions: the controllers seated in high chairs on opposite sides of the ring; the fighters in opposite corners.
As the warning buzzer sounded, Frankie felt Milt take control. This one he would watch closely.
At the bell Frankie rose and moved out slowly. He noticed how relaxed, almost limp, Milt was keeping him. There was only a little more effort used than in the pre-fight warm-up. His left hand had extra speed but only enough power to command respect. The pattern was just about as he had expected. As the fight went along the left would add up the points. But his thoughts were centered on a single question. How is it going to be on my own?
In the early rounds he was amazed at the extreme caution Milt was employing. Nappy Gordon's face was beginning to redden from the continual massage of Frankie's brisk left and occasional right. But Frankie felt that his own face must be getting flushed with eagerness. The glory of going in and trying to do it by himself; of beating Pop Monroe without Milt's help. He wondered if Milt would have to clamp on the controls again. He sure hoped not. But there wasn't anything to really worry about. Milt could beat Pop Monroe and he wouldn't let Frankie take a beating by himself.
Frankie's attention was caught by some odd thoughts in Milt's mind. Milt didn't seem to be sending them, yet they were clear and direct: You really think you've got it, boy? That vital ingredient?
What you talking about?
Huh? Me? Oh, nothing. Take it easy. But Milt's thoughts were troubled.
When you going to let me go?
I said, take it easy. We'll see.
The sixth round came and Frankie felt no weariness. Milt was working him like he was made of fragile glass. Nor was Nappy tiring so far as he could notice. Pop Monroe was trying for just one solid blow to slow down the Champ. So far nothing even jarring had come close to landing.