"I represent that nonentity called the government, Captain."
"A nonentity wouldn't make you what you are, Dawn."
"My name, Captain--" She drew a long breath. "My name is Dawn Farren. The rest of my family is dying out as the Von Rausches are. Unlimited power has a way of poisoning the human mind. If wealth is our only ethical goal, what do we really have when we possess it all? Madness. Both cartels are shams, Captain Hunter, just as your frontier wars are shams.
"Yes, you may as well know that, too. Neither fleet has actually fought the other for a good many years. The planets you blast are hulks already long dead. It's all a sham, but we have to keep it alive. We have to make it seem real--until we're sure we've found something better and more workable for all of us."
The tension in Ann Saymer's muscles started to relax. Very slowly her body began to slump, in the secondary stage of paralysis.
"What about her?" Hunter asked. "She can still make another Exorciser--"
"The dream of enslaving mankind is always insanity. We'll put her in a public clinic, of course. We may have to use her own machine once more to erase the memory of its structure from her mind. After that the patent drawings will be destroyed. It's not a superficial cure for maladjustment that we're after, Captain Hunter, but the cause. All of Ann's research was up a blind alley--a brilliant waste."
Suddenly Dawn screamed a warning and leveled her blaster at Eric Young. Hunter sprang back as Dawn fired. But her timing was a second too late. In a last, blazing agony of life-before-death Young had regained consciousness long enough to hurl the scalpel at Hunter's back. Ebbing strength distorted his aim. The blade plunged into Ann's heart as she slumped against the wall.
After a long pause, Max Hunter moved toward Dawn and took her arm. He clenched his jaw tight and drew her quickly into the hall. "I want out, Dawn. There's no healing here. I won't feel free again until I can look up at the stars."
"The stars. Then you're going back to the service, Captain? You're running away?"
He didn't answer her until they stood in Eric Young's garden.
"Sham battles for shadow cartels," he said. "That's a child's subterfuge for the Tri-D space heroes. No, Dawn, the real war is here in the struggle for information about ourselves so that we can build a new world of freedom and human dignity. You say you need me. All right, Dawn, you've enrolled a recruit."
"It will be a long, slow war, Captain," she said, her eyes shining. "We may never see a victory, and--we can never make a truce. But at least we've learned how to go about solving the problem--after ten millennia of trial and error."
THE WHITE INVADERS.
by Raymond King Cummings
A White Shape in the Moonlight
The colored boy gazed at Don and me with a look of terror.
"But I tell you I seen it!" he insisted. "An' it's down there now. A ghost! It's all white an' shinin'!"
"Nonsense, Willie," Don turned to me. "I say, Bob, what do you make of this?"
"I seen it, I tell you," the boy broke in. "It ain't a mile from here if you want to go look at it."
Don gripped the colored boy whose coffee complexion had taken on a greenish cast with his terror.
"Stop saying that, Willie. That's absolute rot. There's no such thing as a ghost."
"But I seen--"
"Over on the north shore. Not far."
"What did you see?" Don shook him. "Tell us exactly."
"A man! I seen a man. He was up on a cliff just by the golf course when I first seen him. I was comin' along the path down by the Fort Beach an' I looked up an' there he was, shinin' all white in the moonlight. An' then before I could run, he came floatin' down at me."
"Yes. He didn't walk. He came down through the rocks. I could see the rocks of the cliff right through him."
Don laughed at that. But neither he nor I could set this down as utter nonsense, for within the past week there had been many wild stories of ghosts among the colored people of Bermuda. The Negroes of Bermuda are not unduly superstitious, and certainly they are more intelligent, better educated than most of their race. But the little islands, this past week, were echoing with whispered tales of strange things seen at night. It had been mostly down at the lower end of the comparatively inaccessible Somerset; but now here it was in our own neighborhood.
"You've got the fever, Willie," Don laughed. "I say, who told you you saw a man walking through rock?"
"Nobody told me. I seen him. It ain't far if you--"
"You think he's still there?"
"Maybe so. Mr. Don, he was standin' still, with his arms folded. I ran, an'--"
"Let's go see if he's there," I suggested. "I'd like to have a look at one of these ghosts."
But even as I lightly said it, a queer thrill of fear shot through me. No one can contemplate an encounter with the supernatural without a shudder.
"Right you are," Don exclaimed. "What's the use of theory? Can you lead us to where you saw him, Willie?"
"Ye-es, of course."
The sixteen-year-old Willie was shaking again. "W-what's that for, Mr. Don?"
Don had picked up a shotgun which was standing in a corner of the room.
"Ain't no--no use of that, Mr. Don."
"We'll take it anyway, Willie. Ready, Bob?"
A step sounded behind us. "Where are you going?"
It was Jane Dorrance, Don's cousin. She stood in the doorway. Her long, filmy white summer dress fell nearly to her ankles. Her black hair was coiled on her head. In her bodice was a single red poinsettia blossom. As she stood motionless, her small slight figure framed against the dark background of the hall, she could have been a painting of an English beauty save for the black hair suggesting the tropics. Her blue-eyed gaze went from Don to me, and then to the gun.
"Where are you going?"
"Willie saw a ghost." Don grinned. "They've come from Somerset, Jane. I say, one of them seems to be right here."
"Willie saw it down by the Fort Beach."
"Yes. Just now. So he says, though it's all rot, of course."
"Oh," said Jane, and she became silent.
She appeared to be barring our way. It seemed to me, too, that the color had left her face, and I wondered vaguely why she was taking it so seriously. That was not like Jane: she was a level-headed girl, not at all the sort to be frightened by Negroes talking of ghosts.
She turned suddenly on Willie. The colored boy had been employed in the Dorrance household since childhood. Jane herself was only seventeen, and she had known Willie here in this same big white stone house, almost from infancy.
"Willie, what you saw, was it a--a man?"
"Yes," said the boy eagerly. "A man. A great big man. All white an' shinin'."
"A man with a hood? Or a helmet? Something like a queer-looking hat on his head, Willie?"
"Jane!" expostulated Don. "What do you mean?"
"I saw him--saw it," said Jane nervously.
"Good Lord!" I exclaimed. "You did? When? Why didn't you tell us?"
"I saw it last night." She smiled faintly. "I didn't want to add to these wild tales. I thought it was my imagination. I had been asleep--I fancy I was dreaming of ghosts anyway."
"You saw it--" Don prompted.
"Outside my bedroom window. Some time in the middle of the night. The moon was out and the--the man was all white and shining, just as Willie says."
"But your bedroom," I protested. "Good Lord, your bedroom is on the upper floor."
But Jane continued soberly, with a sudden queer hush to her voice, "It was standing in the air outside my window. I think it had been looking in. When I sat up--I think I had cried out, though none of you heard me evidently--when I sat up, it moved away; walked away. When I got to the window, there was nothing to see." She smiled again. "I decided it was all part of my dream. This morning--well, I was afraid to tell you because I knew you'd laugh at me. So many girls down in Somerset have been imagining things like that."
To me, this was certainly a new light on the matter. I think that both Don and I, and certainly the police, had vaguely been of the opinion that some very human trickster was at the bottom of all this. Someone, criminal or otherwise, against whom our shotgun would be efficacious. But here was level-headed Jane telling us of a man standing in mid-air peering into her second-floor bedroom, and then walking away. No trickster could accomplish that.
"Ain't we goin'?" Willie demanded. "I seen it, but it'll be gone."
"Right enough," Don exclaimed grimly. "Come on, Willie."
He disregarded Jane as he walked to the door, but she clung to him.
"I'm coming," she said obstinately, and snatched a white lace scarf from the hall rack and flung it over her head like a mantilla. "Don, may I come?" she added coaxingly.
He gazed at me dubiously. "Why, I suppose so," he said finally. Then he grinned. "Certainly no harm is going to come to us from a ghost. Might frighten us to death, but that's about all a ghost can do, isn't it?"
We left the house. The only other member of the Dorrance household was Jane's father--the Hon. Arthur Dorrance, M.P. He had been in Hamilton all day, and had not yet returned. It was about nine o'clock of an evening in mid-May. The huge moon rode high in a fleecy sky, illumining the island with a light so bright one could almost read by it.
"We'll walk," said Don. "No use riding, Willie."
"No. It's shorter over the hill. It ain't far."
We left our bicycles standing against the front veranda, and, with Willie and Don leading us, we plunged off along the little dirt road of the Dorrance estate. The poinsettia blooms were thick on both sides of us. A lily field, which a month before had been solid white with blossoms, still added its redolence to the perfumed night air. Through the branches of the squat cedar trees, in almost every direction there was water visible--deep purple this night, with a rippled sheen of silver upon it.
We reached the main road, a twisting white ribbon in the moonlight. We followed it for a little distance, around a corkscrew turn, across a tiny causeway where the moonlit water of an inlet lapped against the base of the road and the sea-breeze fanned us. A carriage, heading into the nearby town of St. Georges, passed us with the thud of horses' hoofs pounding on the hard smooth stone of the road. Under its jaunty canopy an American man reclined with a girl on each side of him. He waved us a jovial greeting as they passed.
Then Willie turned us off the road. We climbed the ramp of an open grassy field, with a little cedar woods to one side, and up ahead, half a mile to the right, the dark crumbling ramparts of a little ancient fort which once was for the defense of the island.
Jane and I were together, with Willie and Don in advance of us, and Don carrying the shotgun.
"You really saw it, Jane?"
"Oh, I don't know. I thought I did. Then I thought that I didn't."
"Well, I hope we see it now. And if it's human--which it must be if there's anything to it at all--we'll march it back to St. Georges and lock it up."
She turned and smiled at me, but it was a queer smile, and I must admit my own feelings were queer.
"Don't you think you're talking nonsense, Bob?"
"Yes, I do," I admitted. "I guess maybe the whole thing is nonsense. But it's got the police quite worried. You knew that, didn't you? All this wild talk--there must be some basis for it."
Don was saying, "Take the lower path, Willie. Take the same route you were taking when you saw it."
We climbed down a steep declivity, shadowed by cedar trees, and reached the edge of a tiny, almost landlocked, lagoon. It was no more than a few hundred feet in diameter. The jagged, porous gray-black rocks rose like an upstanding crater rim to mark its ten-foot entrance to the sea. A little white house stood here with its back against the fifty-foot cliff. It was dark, its colored occupants probably already asleep. Two rowboats floated in the lagoon, moored near the shore. And on the narrow strip of stony beach, nets were spread to dry.
"This way, Mister Don. I was comin' along here, toward the Fort." Willie was again shaking with excitement. "Just past that bend."