Black psionically cut in the outer office visiphone connection. The bell rang almost immediately. He switched on the inner office instrument and a familiar face came in sync on the screen--that of Peter Dodson, the principal administrative officer of the BEB psis.
Dodson's blondly handsome face showed concern. He said, "I wanted visiphone contact, Black, because of an unfavorable report I've received on you. I'll get to that in a minute. First, I'd like to explain the background. As you may have learned from the news this morning, we're investigating Lawrence Applied Atomics because of a tip we'd received from Los Angeles that Lawrence is engaged in a venture which will eventually affect corporation funds without proper advance authorization.
"Finding that Lawrence had some dealings with Standskill in the past, we thought that Standskill might be able to shed some light on the new venture. When we were unable to contact Standskill, we sought to contact you psionically last night, but found that your mind was a completely unreadable jumble of nightmares, filled with phobias and instabilities. We stopped probing then, realizing that you might be seriously ill."
Apparently visual examination had convinced Dodson that Black wasn't as ill as had been thought. Black felt the feather touch of a probe coming now and he blocked, his thin face expressionless.
"I did have a rather bad night," Black said. "Association. Semantic instability." He felt the tentacle of thought that was sweeping across his mind.
"Well," Dodson said, his eyes probing from the screen, "it's obvious you know nothing of the Lawrence deal. Strange, though, since there's a record of a call placed to that office by Lawrence yesterday, and as far as we have been able to determine only you were there and only you could have answered. How do you explain that?"
Easy now! The block is most difficult to maintain when you're lying. Easy....
"There was a call," Black admitted, "from someone I don't know, a fellow who wanted Standskill. Wouldn't say why or give his name. The moment I told him Standskill was in Paris he said with some reluctance that he would have to contact another law firm. The caller was probably Lawrence. If you could describe him--"
"So Standskill's in Paris! The answering service didn't know that. Well, that rules him out. Thank you, Black. Are you sure you're all right?"
"Rather tired," Black said. "Overwork, I expect. The training is rather strenuous, and I do wish you wouldn't probe. As you found in psi school, my powers have a very delicate balance."
The probe withdrew hastily.
"Sorry, Black. Very sorry. Perhaps you need a rest. I'll be only too glad to send through an order--"
"Oh, thank you, sir," Black said, trying to make it sound fervent and properly subservient. He sent a thought of thankfulness after his words, a weak one. He must not appear too strong.
Dodson rang off.
The coast was clear! They would not probe again soon!
Black immediately called Charles Wythe, found his broker's cadaverous face puzzled.
"Marty, the market's crazy! I managed to pick up four thousand shares within ten minutes after the market opened. One purchase. The broker from whom I obtained them represented Dan Redgrave--"
"Redgrave!" Black almost shouted.
"Yes, Redgrave. He said Redgrave is plain cuckoo. Ordered him to sell at one hundred fifty. Said he'd bought them at that and would sell them at that. No profit wanted. Glad to get out in time to recoup his original investment. What's cuckoo about it is that, except for the momentary flurry when we picked up the Redgrave shares, the stock has been rising all morning. It's up to two twenty-five as of this moment.
"Lawrence must have someone else buying regardless of the price. Three concerns are still trying to buy at the present price. Ethics forbids me to ask who their clients are. Not that they'd tell me anyway! Now, look, Marty, do you want me to buy at that price, if I can, that is?"
"Well, I must have six thousand, unless Lawrence is buying and I'm quite sure he isn't. See if you can find out who the buyer is, won't you?"
"Everybody's crazy today," the broker said. "I'll call you back."
Wythe did, a few minutes later.
"I'm afraid it's no use, Marty. There's not another share to be had. There's been news from the hospital. Lawrence has rallied. Although he's still in a coma, his chances are good for recovery. Not only that, but the Business Ethics Bureau has issued a statement to the effect that the tip they'd received about Lawrence and a deal has not been proved to have a foundation in fact. Those things have put the stock way up. Everybody wants to buy Lawrence but nobody wants to sell--except me! Let's sell, Marty!"
"Not on your life," Black said decisively. "And, look, we must get two thousand more shares! Get them, Charlie!"
He clicked off again.
So Dan Redgrave had sold at a ridiculously low price! Had his consciousness wandered in those dreams? Had he psionically persuaded Redgrave to sell? That wouldn't be ethical. But do ethics apply to involuntary acts?
His mind was in turmoil. He dared not exercise his psi powers again just now. He feared above all the wrath of Dodson and the other service psis. If they came to suspect that he had persuaded Redgrave--that he had, according to Ethics, misused his powers ... he knew only too well that there are ways of banishing psi powers, insulin shock and other treatments.
And for all his present aloneness he was beginning to realize his latent powers--powers which, when fully developed, would doubtlessly bring him into contact with others like himself, with someone who could share the fierce ecstasy of probing with the consciousness to the moon, or even farther, at the speed of light at which thought moved. No, perhaps he need not always be alone....
He went out to lunch, returned, called his broker. Wythe told him there was no activity in Lawrence. The afternoon wore. A few minutes before the exchange closed the broker called.
"It's hopeless, Marty," said Wythe. "Let's sell. The price is still two twenty-five and nothing for sale. How about it? Three hundred thousand profit in one day."
It sounded attractive. Black hesitated, then thought of Lawrence, good, old would-be humanitarian and philanthropist D. V. Lawrence lying in coma. Lawrence, whose dreams were in his hands now. He had come to like Lawrence, the trail-blazer where there were so few trails to be blazed. He had to help him. If worse came to worse he would cast Ethics to the winds. He'd have to! His conscience couldn't permit him to do anything else. He would psionically persuade at least one of the other stockholders to vote Lawrence's way.
Well, at least his mind was made up. Lawrence would have his options. And with forty-nine percent of the stock between them they could gamble on getting a favorable vote.
"What about it, Marty?" the broker asked impatiently.
"Sorry," Black said. "The answer is no, Charlie! I want that stock."
He rang off.
Moments later his consciousness was on its way to keep the rendezvous with Joyce high in the evening sky over Oklahoma, up where the blue of the atmosphere turned to the black of infinity.
And moments later lights blazed over a table in a realty office in Los Angeles where no one sat. But pens lifted and wrote....
"D. V. Lawrence by Martin J. Black, his attorney-in-fact."
"J. F. Cadigan Realty Corporation by Richard Joyce, Vice-President."
Another pen lifted with the invisible but delicate twist of a feminine psi-touch.
"Before me this ninth day of September in the year Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-six Anno Domini psionically appeared...."
The options were psigned, come what may!
An oak-panelled conference room. Lawrence's first vice-president reading the proposal. The board of directors. The major stockholders. Smaller ones. Attorneys-in-fact for both Lawrence and Black.
And Bob Standskill!
What was Standskill doing here?
But the first vice-president had finished reading the proposal and was asking for a vote.
Lawrence--forty-five thousand shares--yes!
Maryk--twenty thousand shares--no!
Carrese--nine thousand shares--no!
Tonemont--seven thousand shares--no!
Black--four thousand shares--yes!
Turitz--five thousand shares--no!
And the smaller stockholders, one by one--no, no, no!
Forty-nine thousand shares--no! Forty-nine thousand shares--yes!
Black felt ill. His hovering consciousness almost fled from its invisible vantage point above the conference table back to the mansion on Riverside Drive, back where the memories of Martha Black remained.... But it wavered, stabilized....
Standskill rising, so implacable, so sure and saying, "Two thousand shares--yes!"
Black probed Standskill's mind almost involuntarily then, realizing instantly that he should have disregarded Ethics and probed before. Standskill was a psi, a non-service psi! And Black knew then that when his consciousness had flitted through association to Le Cheval Fatigue in Montmarte, Paris, and had fixed there for a brief unstable moment it had yielded to Standskill all knowledge of the Lawrence deal, persuading Standskill to order his brokers to buy the corporation's stock for the trust....
Black's consciousness sped to join Joyce's in a law office in Oklahoma. It watched the landowners signing the deeds even as it signed psionically the checks which represented the good and valuable considerations.
The deal was closed.
Joyce, tell me--did you, to your knowledge, tip off the BEB psis?
Yes. Inadvertently, of course. I had a nightmare. I'm afraid I'm sometimes unstable, anonymously so, when asleep. Only then, though, thank Heaven!
And, Joyce, why aren't you in service?
For the same reason you can't be.
What do you mean?
Your mother knew.
Yes, Marty, don't you realize that only unstable psis are taken into service? Stability is the mark of the superman. Do the majority of men want the minority--the supermen--running their world even though the supermen are their brothers, sisters and children? And they must surely realize that all mankind will evolve to psis one day. Marty, you were in psi school. So was I. Did you complete Stabilization?... I see you didn't. No psi does! They let you think you're getting away with something when you skip classes, but you're not!
Fortunately, if you are strong enough, you stabilize on your own. Perhaps you'll realize now that your mother gave you the incentive: the thirty percent angle, realizing that an uncle you definitely did not like would inherit if you didn't strive to the utmost. It worked.
They can't touch me, Marty, and they can't touch you! We can elude them mentally and physically. They know they can't touch us; so they just have to tolerate us! I can read in your mind that you've stabilized. You can fit physically now. Why don't you try? Lawrence is waiting....
Black's consciousness sped back to his body. His body lifted and sped to a hospital room.
Lawrence was awake. He viewed Black's materialization with incredulity.
"The deal is closed," Black said.
"But--you--" Lawrence stammered. "Closed?"
"Yes. And, considering the shares I hold, I guess that makes me something of a psilent partner of yours!"
A brash young man, Lawrence thought. A very brash young man!
Black grinned. Thirty percent? He couldn't miss!
They shook hands.
It was a deal. Psigned, sealed and delivered!
By Charles A. Stearns
Wordsley and Captain DeCastros crossed half a universe--suffered hardship--faced unknown dangers; and all this for what--a breath of rare perfume?
Steadily they smashed the mensurate battlements, in blackness beyond night and darkness without stars. Yet Mr. Wordsley, the engineer, who was slight, balding and ingenious, was able to watch the firmament from his engine room as it drifted from bow to beam to rocket's end. This was by virtue of banked rows of photon collectors which he had invented and installed in the nose of the ship.
And Mr. Wordsley, at three minutes of the hour of seventeen over four, tuned in a white, new star of eye-blinking magnitude and surpassing brilliance. Discovering new stars was a kind of perpetual game with Mr. Wordsley. Perhaps more than a game.
"I wish I may, I wish I might ..." Mr. Wordsley said.
The fiddly hatch clanged. DeCastros, that gross, terrifying clown of a man, clumped down the ladder from the bridge to defeat the enchantment of the moment. DeCastros held sway. He was captain. He did not want Mr. Wordsley to forget that he was captain.
The worst of Captain DeCastros was that he had moods. Just now he was being a sly leprechaun, if one can imagine a double-chinned, three-hundred pound leprechaun. He came over and dug his fingers into Mr. Wordsley's shoulder. A wracking pain in the trapezius muscle.
"The ertholaters are plugged," he said gently. "The vi-lines are giving out a horrible stink."
"I'll attend to it right away," Mr. Wordsley said, wincing a little as he wriggled free.