"Who does go, then?" Halloran did not raise his voice but Knox looked suddenly uneasy.
"Why ... uh, your operating personnel," he replied gruffly. "Your guards, clerks ... hell, man, it's obvious, isn't it?"
"I'm afraid that is out," Goldsmid said. "For me, that is." He stood up, a heavy-shouldered middleweight running a little to fat. "Excuse me, warden, my counseling period's coming up."
"Sit down, Pete," Halloran said quietly. "We haven't finished this conference."
"I admire your sentiments, Rabbi," Lansing said hurriedly, "but surely you realize that we can't take any criminal elements to ... ah, what will be our new world. And we do have a special need for you. We've plenty of your co-religionists among our various personnel, but we don't have an ordained minister for them. They're your responsibility."
"Afraid my first responsibility is here." Goldsmid's voice was quite matter-of-fact.
"So's mine," grunted Slade. "Warden, even if the world ends tomorrow, I've got to get Squeaker Hanley's gall bladder out today. No point in my hanging around any longer is there?"
"Of course there is," Halloran answered. He took a package of cigarettes from his pocket, selected one, and lit it. He exhaled smoke and looked speculatively at Lansing. The scientist felt himself blushing and looked away.
Halloran turned to Court.
"Quite a problem, isn't it, Alfred," he said. "I suppose these gentlemen are right in keeping the inmates off their ships. At any rate, we can't argue the matter--so let's do what we're asked. I think you'd better plan to get the guards out of here tonight, at shift change. Might pass the word to their wives now, so they can start packing a few essentials. Doc," he turned to Slade, "before you get your greedy hands on Squeaker's gall bladder, you'd better round up your staff and have them make the proper arrangements."
"O.K., I'll put it up to them."
"You'll not put it up to them," the warden said sharply. "You'll order them to be ready when the general, here, wants them."
"I'll give no orders," Slade said grimly.
"Just a minute," interposed Court. "Sir, aren't you going?"
"Of course not. But that's neither here nor there--"
The loud clangor of a bell pealed through the room. The two visitors jumped.
"What's that?" cried Knox.
"Yard time," Halloran smiled. "The men are allowed two hours out in the yard, now. They exercise, play games, or just sit around and talk."
"Did I understand you correctly, Warden Halloran?" Lansing's bony face was pale now. "Do you refuse to come with us?"
When the bell rang, Joe Mario had been standing near the door to the warden's office, ostensibly filing reports. Now, he closed the drawer with a bang, stretched, and started toward the outside door.
"Where are you going?" the guard asked suspiciously.
"The yard. Where else?"
"Not a word," Mario added virtuously. "I was too busy doin' my work. Anyway, you gotta let me out. My team's got a ball game set for this afternoon."
"Oh ... all right." He looked at the typists. "How about you two? Want out?"
The two men glanced quickly at each other, then shoved back their chairs and got up from their desks.
"Sure," one of them grinned, "I guess we'll take a little air."
Lansing had the feeling he used to have occasionally, back in his university days when he lectured on freshman physics--as if he were talking to a class of deaf students. For, like the hapless freshmen, Warden Halloran was quite obviously not listening to him. But the scientist plunged on. "Sir," he said hoarsely, "we need you. We will need you! I'm a scientist--I know nothing of the problems of ... ah, community living. Neither does Knox. He's accustomed to major crises--and solving them by giving orders. But both of us know there'll come a time when people won't take orders--"
"Absolutely correct," Knox said unexpectedly. "Once we get settled on Mars, the military takes a back seat. And--I mean this, Lansing--I'll be damn' glad of it. When the people get their towns built they'll need some gents with the right kind know-how to help them, show them--"
"That's all very interesting, general, but it's not for me."
Halloran snubbed out his cigarette, looked up at the general and at the scientist. He smiled briefly. "It's just my job, gentlemen--let's not discuss the matter any further. You can't make me go."
"We will!" barked Knox. "I told you you were under the jurisdiction of the Fifth Defense Command and you are. If I want to, I can send a tank company over here and drag you to those ships!"
"He's right, you know," Lansing said.
Court stood up and took one step toward the general.
"Alfred!" the warden did not lift his voice, but Court stopped. "General Knox," Halloran went on in a conversational tone, "you're being a bit of bully, you know, and in this prison we've all been ... ah, conditioned against bullies." He looked down at his desk and frowned. "However, I'll admit that your position requires that I elaborate my reasons for staying here. Well, then. As I see it, your people, your ... ah, colonists, can help themselves. Most of my people, the inmates here, can't. A long time ago, gentlemen, I decided I'd spend my life helping the one man in our society who seemingly can't help himself, the so-called criminal. I've always felt that society owes a debt to the criminal ... instead of the other way around."
He hesitated, grinned apologetically at Captain Court. "I'm sermonizing again, eh, Alfred? But," he shrugged, "if I must get dramatic about it I can only say that my life's work ends only with my--death."
"It's quite a rough job, you know," Goldsmid remarked. "This is a maximum security institution. Too many of the inmates have disappointed the warden. But he keeps trying and we've learned to follow his example."
"Our psychiatric bunch have done some mighty interesting things," beamed Slade, "even with cases that looked absolutely hopeless."
"None of them can be saved now," muttered Lansing.
"That is in the hands of God," Goldsmid replied.
"Well," Halloran said gently, "still going to send those tanks after me, general?"
"Uh ... no ... I won't interfere with a man doing his duty."
Lansing cleared his throat, looked slowly from the somber-faced clergyman, to the fidgeting medico, to the burly captain, still staring impassively at the general, to, finally, the quiet, smiling warden. "Gentlemen," he said slowly, "it occurs to me that the situation hasn't actually registered on you. The earth is really doomed, you know. This dust simply won't tolerate organic life. In some way--we have not had time to discover how--it's self-multiplying, so, as I said, it spreads. Right now, not a tenth of this entire continent--from the pole down to the Panama Canal--is capable of supporting any kind of life as we know it. And that area is diminishing hourly."
"No way of checking it?" Slade asked. His tone was one of idle curiosity, nothing else.
"No. It's death, gentlemen. As deadly as your ... ah, gallows."
"We use the gas chamber," Halloran corrected him. His mouth twisted. "More humane, you know."
There was brief quiet, then the warden said, "Well ... now that we've finished philosophizing, let's get back to the matter at hand. We can have everyone that's going ready to leave by seven tonight. Will that be satisfactory?"
"It'll have to be," Knox grunted.
"Thank you." Halloran reached for his phone, then dropped his hands on his desk. "I'd like to ask you a question," he said. "Perhaps it's presumptuous, but I'm rather curious about the ... er, last workings of our government. Tell me, don't you really have room for our inmates? You haven't told us how many ships you've built. Or how big they are."
Lansing looked at Knox. The general flushed, then stared at the floor. Lansing shrugged tiredly.
"Oh, we've plenty of room," he sighed. "But ... our orders are to take only those completely fit to build a new world. We've ... well, we have practiced a lot of euthanasia lately."
"Judges," murmured Goldsmid.
"If you had come sooner," there was no anger in Halloran's voice, "couldn't you have selected some of our people, those that I ... all of us know are ready for rehabilitation--even on another planet?"
"Perhaps. But no one remembered there was a prison nearby."
The warden looked at the rabbi. Goldsmid raised his heavy shoulders in an ancient Hebraic gesture.
"That was always the trouble, wasn't it, Pete?" Halloran murmured. "People never remembered the prisons!"
The telephone beside him shrilled loudly, urgently.
The inmate mopping the floor of Condemned Row's single corridor slowed in front of Bert Doyle's cell. Doyle was slated for a ride down the elevator that night to the death cell behind the gas chamber. At the moment, he was stretched out on his bunk, listening to the soft voice of Father Nelson.
"Sorry to interrupt," the inmate said, "but I thought you'd like to know that all hell's busting loose down in the yard."
Father Nelson looked up.
Doyle, too, looked interested. "A riot?" he asked.
"Nonsense!" snapped the priest. "This prison doesn't have riots!"
"Well, it's sure got one, now. 'Scuse me, Father, but it's the truth. The men grabbed four or five yard guards and the screws in the towers don't dare shoot!"
He gave up all pretense of work and stood, leaning on his mop-handle, his rheumy old eyes glowing with a feverish excitement.
Nelson stood up.
"Will you excuse me, Bert?" he asked. "I'd better see if I can help the warden."
Doyle, too, sat up, swung his feet to the steel floor, stood up and stretched. "Sure," he said. His hard face was pale but otherwise he seemed quite calm. "You've been a great help, Father." He looked quizzically at the old inmate. "You lying, Danny? Seems to me the boys have got nothing to beef about here."
"Heh, they sure have now."
"Well, I got this from a guy who got it from Vukich who heard it from Joe Mario. Seems there's a big-shot general and some kinda scientist in Mr. Halloran's office." He shifted his grip on the mop-handle. "You gents maybe won't believe this, but it's what Joe heard 'em say to the warden. Outside is all covered with radium and this general and this here scientist are goin' to Mars an' they want the warden to go along. Leavin' us behind, of course. That's what the boys are riotin' about."
Bert Doyle burst into harsh laughter.
"Danny! Danny!" he cried. "I've been predicting this! You've gone stir-bugs!"
"Just a moment, Bert," Nelson whispered. Aloud he said, "Dan, go call the guard for me, please." When the old man had shuffled out of earshot the priest said to the condemned man, "It could be true, Bert. By radium, he means radioactive material. And there's no reason spaceships can't get to Mars. We'd reached the Moon before the war started, you know."
Doyle sank back on his bunk.
"Well, I'll be damned!" he breathed.
Doyle grinned sheepishly. "Force of habit." Then, more soberly, "So they're off to Mars, eh? Father, you better get down there and pick up your reservations!"
"Don't be ridiculous!" The priest's voice softened and he patted the killer's shoulder. "I will go down and see what's what, Bert. And I'll be back just as soon as the men have quieted down. That is, if they are creating a disturbance."
The footsteps of the approaching guard sounded loud in the corridor. Doyle frowned a little.
"When you come back, Father, you'll tell me the truth? No kidding, now!"
The guard stood in front of the door of heavy steel bars. Father Nelson looked down at the man on the bunk.
"I'll tell you everything, Bert. I swear it."
"Uh, Father?" the guard's voice was nervous--and embarrassed.
"I ... I can't let you out right now. Orders from the warden. Not a cell door opens till I hear from him direct."
"Might as well sit down, Father," he said, "and make yourself comfortable--"
"What will you do?" cried Lansing.
"Go out and talk to them, of course," replied Halloran. He arose from his desk, a calm, unhurried man.
"Look," growled Knox, "you get me through to the town. Some of our people are still there. I'll order out as many soldiers as you want. I'll see to it that they get here--on the double!"
Halloran flushed. "Would it ease your conscience, general," he grated, "if you killed off my men instead of leaving them--behind! Now, you will please keep quiet. You'll be perfectly safe!"
"What will we do with them, sir?" Court gestured at Lansing and Knox.
Halloran strode from behind his desk to the opposite end of the room. As he twirled the dials of a wall safe he said, "They'll have to remain here, for now. The men have got between this building and the gate office." The safe swung open and he reached far inside and took out a submachine gun. "Here," he held the weapon out to Court. "If I don't come back, use this to get them to the gate office."