"Can you stand the pressure of a whole world angered because you've denied them their right to an education?"
"I suppose not." He looked at Brennan, at Professor White and at Jack Cowling. "If I've got to trust somebody," he said reluctantly, "I suppose it might as well be you."
THE NEW MATURITY.
It is the campus of Holden Preparatory Academy.
It is spring, but many another spring must pass before the ambitious ivy climbs to smother the gray granite walls, before the stripling trees grow stately, before the lawn is sturdy enough to withstand the crab grass and the students. Anecdote and apocrypha have yet to evolve into hallowed tradition. The walks ways are bare of bronze plaques because there are no illustrious alumni to honor; Holden Preparatory has yet to graduate its first class.
It is youth, a lusty infant whose latent power is already great enough to move the world. As it rises, the world rises with it for the whole consists of all its parts; no man moves alone.
The movement has its supporters and its enemies, and between them lies a vast apathy of folks who simply don't give a damn. It supporters deplore the dolts and the sluggards who either cannot or will not be educated. Its enemies see it as a danger to their comfortable position of eminence and claim bitterly that the honored degree of doctor is being degraded. They refuse to see that it is not the degradation of the standard but rather the exaltation of the norm. Comfortable, they lazily object to the necessity of rising with the norm to keep their position. Nor do they realize that the ones who will be assaulting their fortress will themselves be fighting still stronger youth one day when the mistakes are corrected and the program streamlined through experience.
On the virgin lawn, in a spot that will someday lie in the shade of a great oak, a group of students sit, sprawl, lie. The oldest of them is sixteen, and it is true that not one of them has any reverence for college degrees, because the entrance requirements demand the scholastic level of bachelor in the arts, the sciences, in language and literature. The mark of their progress is not stated in grades, but rather in the number of supplementary degrees for which they qualify. The honors of their graduation are noted by the number of doctorates they acquire. Their goal is the title of Scholar, without which they may not attend college for their ultimate education.
But they do not have the "look of eagles" nor do they act as if they felt some divine purpose fill their lives. They do not lead the pack in an easy lope, for who holds rank when admirals meet? They are not dedicated nor single-minded; if their jokes and pranks start on a higher or lower plane, it is just because they have better minds than their forebears at the same time.
On the fringe of this group, an olive-skinned Brazilian co-ed asks: "Where's Martha?"
John Philips looks up from a diagram of fieldmatrics he's been using to lay out a football play. "She's lending moral support to Holden. He's sweating out his scholar's impromptu this afternoon."
"Why should he be stewing?"
John Philips smiles knowingly. "Tony Dirk put the triple-whammy on him. Gimmicked up the random-choice selector in the Regent's office. Herr von James is discoursing on the subjects of Medicine, Astronomy, and Psychology--that is if Dirk knows his stuff."
Tony Dirk looks down from his study of a fluffy cloud. "Anybody care to hazard some loose change on my ability?"
"Oh," replies Philips, "we figure that the first graduating class could use a professional Astrologer! We'll be the first in history to have one--if M'sieu Holden can tie Medicine, Astronomy, and Psychology into something cogent in his impromptu."
It is a strange tongue they are using, probably the first birth-pains of a truly universal language. By some tacit agreement, personal questions are voiced in French, the reply in Spanish. Impersonal questions are Italian and the response in Portuguese. Anything of a scientific nature must be in German; law, language, or literature in English; art in Japanese; music in Greek; medicine in Latin; agriculture in Czech. Anything laudatory in Mandarin, derogatory in Sanskrit--and ad libitum at any point for any subject.
Anita Lowes has been trying to attract the attention of John Philips from his diagram long enough to invite her to the Spring Festival by reciting a low-voiced string of nuclear equations carefully compounded to make them sound naughty unless they're properly identified with full attention. She looks up and says, "What if he doesn't make the connection?"
Philips replies, "Well, if he can prove to that tough bunch that there is no possible advance in learning through a combination of Astronomy, Medicine, and Psychology, he'll make it on that basis. It's just as important to close a door as it is to open one, you know. But it's one rough deal to prove negation. Maybe we'll have James the Holden on our hands for another semester. Martha will like that."
"Talking about me?"
There is a rolling motion, sort of like a bushel of fish trying to leap back into the sea. The newcomer is Martha Fisher. At fifteen, her eyes are bright, and her features are beginning to soften into the beginning of a beauty that will deepen with maturity.
"James," says Tony Dirk. "We figured you'd like to have him around another four months. So we gimmicked him."
"You mean that test-trio?" chuckles Martha.
"How's he doing?"
"When I left, he was wriggling his way through probability math, showing the relationship between his three subjects and the solution for random choice figures which may or may not be shaded by known or not-known agency. He's covered Mason's History of Superstition and--"
"Superstition?" asks a Japanese.
Martha nods. "He claimed superstition is based upon fear and faith, and he feared that someone had tampered with his random choice of subjects, and he had faith that it was one of his buddies. So--"
Martha is interrupted by a shout. The years have done well by James Holden, too. He is a lithe sixteen. It is a long time since he formed his little theory of human pair-production and it is almost as long since he thought of it last. If he reconsiders it now, he does not recognize his part in it because everything looks different from within the circle. His world, like the organization of the Universe, is made up of schools containing classes of groups of clusters of sets of associations created by combinations and permutations of individuals.
"I made it!" he says.
James has his problems. Big ones. Shall he go to Harvard alone, or shall he go to coeducational California with the hope that Martha will follow him? Then there was the fun awaiting him at Heidelberg, the historic background of Pisa, the vigorous routine at Tokyo. As a Scholar, he has contributed original research in four or five fields to attain doctorates, now he is to pick a few allied fields, combine certain phases of them, and work for his Specific. It is James Holden's determination to prove that the son is worthy of the parents for which his school is named.
But there is high competition. At Carter tech-prep, a girl is struggling to arrange a Periodic Chart of the Nucleons. At Maxwell, one of his contemporaries will contend that the human spleen acts as an ion-exchange organ to rid the human body of radioactive minerals, and he will someday die trying to prove it. His own classmate Tony Dirk will organize a weather-control program, and John Philips will write six lines of odd symbols that will be called the Inertiogravitic Equations.
Their children will reach the distant stars, and their children's children will, humanlike, cross the vast chasm that lies between one swirl of matter and the other before they have barely touched their home galaxy.
No man is an island, near or far on Earth as it is across the glowing clusters of galaxies--nay, as it may be in Heaven itself.
The motto is cut deep in the granite over the doorway to Holden Hall: YOU YOURSELF MUST LIGHT THE FAGGOTS THAT YOU HAVE BROUGHT.
THE ULTROOM ERROR.
By Jerry Sohl
Smith admitted he had made an error involving a few murders--and a few thousand years. He was entitled to a sense of humor, though, even in the Ultroom!
HB73782. Ultroom error. Tendal 13. Arvid 6. Kanad transfer out of 1609 complete, intact, but too near limit of 1,000 days. Next Kanad transfer ready. 1951. Reginald, son of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Laughton, 3495 Orland Drive, Marionville, Illinois, U. S. A. Arrive his 378th day. TB73782.
Nancy Laughton sat on the blanket she had spread on the lawn in her front yard, knitting a pair of booties for the PTA bazaar. Occasionally she glanced at her son in the play pen, who was getting his daily dose of sunshine. He was gurgling happily, examining a ball, a cheese grater and a linen baby book, all with perfunctory interest.
When she looked up again she noticed a man walking by--except he turned up the walk and crossed the lawn to her.
He was a little taller than her husband, had piercing blue eyes and a rather amused set to his lips.
"Hello, Nancy," he said.
"Hello, Joe," she answered. It was her brother who lived in Kankakee.
"I'm going to take the baby for a while," he said.
"All right, Joe."
He reached into the pen, picked up the baby. As he did so the baby's knees hit the side of the play pen and young Laughton let out a scream--half from hurt and half from sudden lack of confidence in his new handler. But this did not deter Joe. He started off with the child.
Around the corner and after the man came a snarling mongrel dog, eyes bright, teeth glinting in the sunlight. The man did not turn as the dog threw himself at him, burying his teeth in his leg. Surprised, the man dropped the screaming child on the lawn and turned to the dog. Joe seemed off balance and he backed up confusedly in the face of the snapping jaws. Then he suddenly turned and walked away, the dog at his heels.
"I tell you, the man said he was my brother and he made me think he was," Nancy told her husband for the tenth time. "I don't even have a brother."
Martin Laughton sighed. "I can't understand why you believed him. It's just--just plain nuts, Nancy!"
"Don't you think I know it?" Nancy said tearfully. "I feel like I'm going crazy. I can't say I dreamt it because there was Reggie with his bleeding knees, squalling for all he was worth on the grass--Oh, I don't even want to think about it."
"We haven't lost Reggie, Nancy, remember that. Now why don't you try to get some rest?"
"You--you don't believe me at all, do you, Martin?"
When her husband did not answer, her head sank to her arms on the table and she sobbed.
"Nancy, for heaven's sake, of course I believe you. I'm trying to think it out, that's all. We should have called the police."
Nancy shook her head in her arms. "They'd--never--believe me either," she moaned.
"I'd better go and make sure Reggie's all right." Martin got up out of his chair and went to the stairs.
"I'm going with you," Nancy said, hurriedly rising and coming over to him.
"We'll go up and look at him together."
They found Reggie peacefully asleep in his crib in his room upstairs. They checked the windows and tucked in the blankets. They paused in the room for a moment and then Martin stole his arm around his wife and led her to the door.
"As I've said, sergeant, this fellow hypnotized my wife. He made her think he was her brother. She doesn't even have a brother. Then he tried to get away with the baby." Martin leaned down and patted the dog. "It was Tiger here who scared him off."
The police sergeant looked at the father, at Nancy and then at the dog. He scribbled notes in his book.
"Are you a rich man, Mr. Laughton?" he asked.
"Not at all. The bank still owns most of the house. I have a few hundred dollars, that's all."
"What do you do?"
"Office work, mostly. I'm a junior executive in an insurance company."
"No ... Oh, I suppose I have a few people I don't get along with, like anybody else. Nobody who'd do anything like this, though."
The sergeant flipped his notebook closed. "You'd better keep your dog inside and around the kid as much as possible. Keep your doors and windows locked. I'll see that the prowl car keeps an eye on the house. Call us if anything seems unusual or out of the way."
Nancy had taken a sedative and was asleep by the time Martin finished cleaning the .30-.30 rifle he used for deer hunting. He put it by the stairs, ready for use, fully loaded, leaning it against the wall next to the telephone stand.
The front door bell rang. He answered it. It was Dr. Stuart and another man.
"I came as soon as I could, Martin," the young doctor said, stepping inside with the other man. "This is my new assistant, Dr. Tompkins."
Martin and Tompkins shook hands.
"The baby--?" Dr. Stuart asked.
"Upstairs," Martin said.
"You'd better get him, Dr. Tompkins, if we're to take him to the hospital. I'll stay here with Mr. Laughton. How've you been, Martin?"
"How's everything at the office?"
"And your wife?"
"She's fine, too."
"Glad to hear it, Martin. Mighty glad. Say, by the way, there's that bill you owe me. I think it's $32, isn't that right?"
"Yes, I'd almost forgotten about it."
"Why don't you be a good fellow and write a check for it? It's been over a year, you know."
"That's right. I'll get right at it." Martin went over to his desk, opened it and started looking for his checkbook. Dr. Stuart stood by him, making idle comment until Dr. Tompkins came down the stairs with the sleeping baby cuddled against his shoulder.
"Never mind the check, now, Martin. I see we're ready to go." He went over to his assistant and took the baby. Together they walked out the front door.
"Good-bye," Martin said, going to the door.
Then he was nearly bowled over by the discharge of the .30-.30. Dr. Stuart crumpled to the ground, the baby falling to the lawn. Dr. Tompkins whirled and there was a second shot. Dr. Tompkins pitched forward on his face.