"Exactly. Is that too much to ask after all you've done?"
"I guess I have made mistakes. From now on you be the boss. I'll do whatever you say."
"I hope I can count on that." Tendal 13 rang the jail buzzer.
The jailer unlocked the cell door.
"You remember the chief said it's all right to take him with me, Matthews," Tendal 13 told the jailer.
"Yes, I remember," the jailer said mechanically, letting them both out of the cell.
They walked together down the jail corridor. When they came to another barred door the jailer fumbled with the keys and clumsily tried several with no luck.
Arvid 6, an amused set to his mouth and devilment in his eyes, watched the jailer's expression as he walked through the bars of the door. He laughed as he saw the jailer's eyes bulge.
Tendal 13 walked briskly through the door, snatched Arvid 6 by the shoulders and shook him.
The jailer watched stupified as the two men vanished in the middle of a violent argument.
THE PSILENT PARTNER.
By Edward S. Staub and John Victor Peterson
A pstrange probing mind that crossed pstate lines, the pseas, even high in the psky--to bring psomething new to Wall Pstreet.
He had never cast his consciousness so far before. It floated high above New York, perceiving in the noonday sky the thin, faint crescent of a waning moon. He wondered if one day he might cast his mind even to the moon, knew with a mounting exultation that his powers were already great enough.
Yet he was as afraid to launch it on that awesome transit as he still was to send it delving into the tight subway tunnels in the rock of Manhattan. Phobias were too real now. Perhaps it would be different later....
He was young, as a man, younger as a recognized developing psi. As his consciousness floated there above the bustling city, exultant, free, it sensed that back where his body lay a bell was ringing. And the bell meant it--his consciousness--must return now to that body....
Dale V. Lawrence needed a lawyer urgently. Not that he hadn't a score of legal minds at his disposal; a corporation president must maintain a sizable legal staff. You can't build an industrial empire without treading on people's toes. And you need lawyers when you tread.
He sat behind his massive mahogany desk, a stocky, slightly-balding, stern-looking man of middle age who was psychosomatically creating another ulcer as he worried about the business transaction which he could not handle personally because of the ulcer operation he was about to have. Neither the business transaction nor the operation could be delayed.
He needed a particularly clever lawyer, one not connected with the corporation. Not that he had committed or that he contemplated committing a crime. But the eyes of the law and the minds of the psis of the government's Business Ethics Bureau were equally keen. Anyone in the business of commercially applied atomics was automatically and immediately investigated in any proposed transaction as soon as BEB had knowledge thereof. There was still the fear that someone somewhere might attempt, secretly, to build a war weapon again.
Lawrence had an idea, a great, burning, impossible-to-discard idea. Lawrence Applied Atomics, Inc., had been his first great idea--the idea that had made him a multi-millionaire. But through some devious financing he had lost control of the corporation. And although his ideas invariably realized millions, the other major stockholders were becoming cautious about risking their profits. Overly cautious, he thought. And on this new idea he knew they would never support him. They'd consider it a wild risk. He could blame BEB with its psis for that. BEB was too inquisitive. A business man just couldn't take a decent gamble any longer.
The real estate firm in Los Angeles was secretly securing options from individual landowners. Fortunately the firm employed a psi, one of the few known psis not in government service. Lawrence had wondered why this psi was not working for the government, but decided the 'why' didn't matter if there were positive results.
Lawrence knew a little about psis. He knew, of course, what was commonly known--that they possessed wide and very varied talents, that they were categorized as plain psis, psi-espers, esper-psis, telepaths and other things. They weren't numerous; the Business Ethics Bureau which employed at least sixty percent of the known psis showed thirty on the payroll for this fiscal year.
Despite their rumored emotional instability, he knew that they were clever and he would steer clear of them in the present stages of his transaction. Although his idea wasn't unethical, the so far closely kept secret would be out if BEB investigated. Then anybody could cut in. BEB advertised whatever it did on its video show, "Your Developing Earth."
So, he needed a lawyer who could act for him personally, now, and steer his project clear of the government service psis. But where to find a psis....
Of course! Bob Standskill! Standskill had helped him once years before when he had had that trouble with the Corporation Stock Control Board over a doubtful issue of securities he had floated to build Mojave City out of desert wastes. Without Standskill's techniques he never would have put that issue across. Standskill could handle this if anyone could.
Lawrence reached to the visiphone, punched the button sequence of Standskill's office number. The bell rang interminably before a rather bored young voice said, "Offices of Standskill and Rich, Attorneys-at-Law."
"I know," Lawrence said harshly. "I don't button wrong numbers. Is Standskill there? And where's your courtesy? There's no visual."
The picture came in then. Lawrence caught a flash of long, skinny legs going down behind the desk at the other end of the circuit; then he saw a most remarkable thing--the open collar of the young man's shirt seemed suddenly to button itself and the knot of the gaudy tie to tighten and all the while the fellow's hands were lying immobile on the desk!
Impossible! Lawrence thought. I'm cracking up! Too many worries about the psis ... I think I see them everywhere!
As the youth gulped as though the tie was knotted too tightly, Lawrence was sure that he saw the knot relax itself!
"I'm sorry, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Standskill's on vacation and Mr. Rich is in court. May I help you, sir, or take a message?"
Undoubtedly the fellow had recognized him from news fotos.
"Well, who are you, the office boy?"
A frown of annoyance crossed the young man's thin, dark features. He snapped, "Are corporation presidents exempt from common courtesy? My name is Black--Martin J. Black. I'm not connected with this firm. I answered as a courtesy. Shall we disconnect?"
Lawrence was silent for a moment. He thought of the shirt-tie business and said, "You're a trainee psi, aren't you? A prospective service psi?"
"I'm afraid so. I wish I weren't. It's not a pleasant prospect."
"What do you mean?"
"Would you like to probe minds for a living? And it has its other drawbacks. You can't live normally and you'll have very few friends. Unfortunately no two psis are alike, which makes the job more complicated. I'm un-normal, abnormal, subnormal or some other normal they haven't prefixed yet."
"Any special talents?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Rather young," Lawrence mused. Then said, "Are you economically stable?"
The young man hesitated, then said hastily, "Oh, yes, of course. Economically, yes. Somewhat more stable than most, I think. I'm in final training now. The legal phase comes last, you know."
"Then you're not committed yet? You've not taken the Oath of Anterhine?"
"No. I won't until the training is done. Wish I didn't have to then."
"And your training?"
"Complete except for criminal psychology."
"Would you like to make a hundred thousand dollars?"
Black said, "Your firm bought out Black Controlled Atomics, remember? That was my dad, and that was the end for him." He hesitated. "Let's say I'm vaguely interested. What's your proposition?"
Lawrence was silent for a moment. At length he said, "Being a psi your ultimate destiny is to aid in the development of the world whether you like to look forward to it or not. But would you not like to see desert areas developed through applied atomics as Mojave City, Sanup Plateau City and Quijotoa City were?"
"Certainly," Black said quickly. "It's in my blood. The old man did well at such developments; in fact, he started Quijotoa. Sometimes I wish Standskill hadn't liquidated our estate, but my mother's will made it mandatory."
"How much do you know about Standskill's techniques?"
"I'm a psi," Black said. "I can find out anything I want to know."
"Where is Standskill?"
"Paris. His first vacation in years. Going to be away quite a while."
"Will you come to my office?"
"I'd like to discuss a business proposition."
"What's wrong with doing it over the visiphone?"
"This is confidential," Lawrence said.
"Something not exactly legal?" Black asked. "Big deal, eh? The Control Board again--oh, oh! You'd better see Standskill!"
Lawrence felt uneasy. "Are you--are you reading my mind?" he stammered.
"Sorry," the young man said, smiling faintly. "It's easier that way. I dislike physical movement on such warm days as this. And it's easier for me to pick up your proposal this way than to go through that beastly traffic."
"Then you know?"
"Certainly. I'm a psi so I can read your mind."
"Do you accept the job?"
"Well, people in that area and the country in general would certainly benefit from the development. I don't know about that lawyer from Los Angeles though. They teach us in Service Psi School that non-service psis are not to be trusted. In fact, service psis are forbidden to associate with non-service psis. They're considered unethical."
"You're not in service yet, Black, and you must realize that the psi-ethics as taught in your school are much more strict than business ethics. If Standskill were here he'd certainly help me, and you know he has a fine code of ethics. It's desperate, Black. I need your services urgently. Won't you please accept the job?"
"I suppose so," the young man said wearily, resignedly. "Standskill would agree, I'm sure. But, as a trainee, I'm not supposed to meddle in business transactions. However, I'd hate to see you lose out on this because I know Standskill would unhesitatingly help you if he were here. Also, I'm curious to meet that psi from Los Angeles." His sharp chin grew resolute. "I'll try, Mr. Lawrence. And my conscience will be clear; I haven't yet taken the Oath."
"Will you need anything--any physical help, any tangible thing?"
"I'll need your power-of-attorney."
"You'll have it before I go to the hospital."
"And, Mr. Lawrence," Black said softly. "About the surgery--don't worry, you'll be okay. It's chiefly psychosomatic, you know. In a couple of weeks you'll be fine. You couldn't have picked a better doctor than Summers."
Lawrence felt better already, a result of his talk with this brash young man.
"Thank you, Black," he said. "Thank you very much. But, look--as a psi, can you assure me that my idea is not slightly lunatic? I've begun to doubt that it will work."
Lunatic.... Mentally unsound.... Luna.... Moon.... The crescent of the moon in the noonday sky. Yes, he could go now.... The transit was brief.... No! He must go back, must bear the consciousness that was Martin Black back from this airless, cratered sphere! Panic seized him. He fled.
Lawrence was astounded to see the young man at the other end of the visiphone seemingly fall into a deep sleep, his head down suddenly on the desk.
"Black," he cried, "are you all right? Shall I send a doctor to--"
The young man raised his head. "I'm quite all right, Mr. Lawrence, though slightly exhausted. Didn't sleep well last night. Sorry! I'll ring you after I contact Dick Joyce."
"No names, please," Lawrence said. "I go into the hospital this afternoon, Black. You'd better not contact me there. The doctor said no business while I'm there. From now on you're on your own."
Your own! He was drifting! He fought it....
"Right, Mr. Lawrence. Goodbye!"
Martin Black was tired. His consciousness had almost drifted off to home again, back to that old mansion on the Hudson River which Standskill had sold as directed under Black's mother's will. The old house in which he was born, where he had first found that he could sit in his room and send his consciousness questing down the hall to meet his father when he came home, pry into what his father had brought for him and surprise his parents later by invariably guessing correctly.
Sometimes now he wished that he hadn't "guessed" correctly so often in those days. Then his uncle Ralph wouldn't have mentioned his unusual ability to the Business Ethics Bureau and the psis wouldn't have investigated him. Once they found that he had such mental qualifications he had been sent to the Service Psi School, a virtual prison despite his family's social status.
Anger suddenly choked him at the thought of what his uncle Ralph had brought upon him. The psi training had been so rigid, so harsh at times.
Well, of course they have to be sure that psis develop into useful members of society. But couldn't they treat you more normally, more humanly?
Now, perhaps he'd show them, repay them for the cruel years of a lonely, bitter youth. He hadn't taken the Oath yet, and if he were clever enough he'd never have to! The real estate lawyer in Los Angeles with whom Lawrence was making a deal had evaded service somehow, apparently. So it was possible.
He had learned long ago that money wouldn't buy him out of service. He'd tried also to purchase certain liberties at school. Some of the less scrupulous teachers had taken his allowance, but only one of them had ever given him anything in return. And of course he couldn't protest when he had violated Ethics to give the bribes. In any event, no one would take the word of an untrained psi over the word of a stable, normal human being.