The Brain Trust car which took Lee out of Cephalon was a normal-lookin_imousine, a rear-engined teardrop like all the "60" models, slotted for th_nsertion of wings which most of the garages now kept in stock and rented at _mall charge for cross-country hops. The only non-standard feature seemed t_e the polaroid glass windows which were provided all around and not only i_ront.
"That's a good idea," Lee said adjusting the nearest ones, "they ought to hav_hat on every car, all-round protection to the eyes."
"Think so, sir? Must be the first time you're driving out there," the youn_hauffeur said.
The car left the outskirts and the desert started to fly by as the speedomete_eedle climbed above the 100 mark. Lee sank back into his seat; the desert ha_o novelty for him and since the chauffer appeared not inclined to small tal_e abandoned himself to thought.
His visit to his father had not been much of a success… .
_Time_ magazine had carried an item in its personal column, briefly statin_hat General Jefferson E. Lee, "the Old Lion of Guadalcanal," had retired fro_he Marines to Phoenix, Ariz… . Phoenix, the hotel desk had informed him, wa_nly some 300 miles away and there was hourly service by Greyhound helicopter- bus.
So he had taken the ride, a taxi had brought him to the small neat bungalow, and there he had seen his father for the first time in years. It had been ver_trange to see him aged, the nut brown face a little shrunk. He ha_nticipated that much. But somehow he had failed to imagine the most obviou_hange; to see his father in civvies and even less to see him trimming rose_ith a pair of garden shears. It looked such an incongruous picture for a
As he had come up the little path his father had looked up.
"So it's you, Semper." Slowly he had peeled off the old parade kid glove_ithout a change in his face. "Nice to see you," he had said. "Didn't expec_o before I start pushing up the daisies from below. Where's your butterfl_et?"
No, in character his father hadn't changed a bit. He still was the old "bloo_nd guts" to whom an entomologist was sort of a human grass-hopper wielding _utterfly net, and a son indulging in such antics a bit of a freak, a reproac_o his father, a failure of his life.
Even so, he had led the way into the house and things had been just as h_emembered them: the old furniture, pictures crowding one another all over th_alls, on the unused grand piano—Marines in Vera Cruz, Marines in China, Marines in Alaska, in the Marianas, in Japan, at the Panama canal; Marines, Marines, Marines, wherever one looked, in ghostly parade. No, nothing ha_hanged. It had been mainly jealously which had caused him to rebel agains_ecoming another Marine, the first wedge which had driven him and his fathe_part.
"What are you doing now, padre?" he had asked.
"You've seen it. Nothing. Just puttering around. They've made me commander o_he National Guard over here," and with a contemptuous snort, "—a sinecure; might as well have given me a bunch of tin soldiers to play with. What brough_ou here?"
Glad to change the subject Lee had told about Australia, had mentioned Th_rain and the possibility of joining it. His father had not been pleased.
"Heard of it," he had grumbled. "Shows how the country is going to the dogs.
Now they need machines to do their thinking with. If their own brains were ga_hey couldn't back a car out of the garage. So you're mixed up with tha_utfit; well—how about a drink?"
"Rather," he had answered, feeling the need for washing down a bitterness; thinking, too, that it might break the ice between him and his father.
And then there was that painful moment when they had stood, glasses in han_nd remembered… .
The selfsame situation fifteen years ago as the Bomb fell upon Hiroshima. H_ad been on convalescence furlough. They had been alone when the news came an_here had been a drink between them just as now. And after the announce_topped he had cried out hysterically like a child in a nightmare.
"Those fools, that's the end of civilization, that's no longer war."
"Shut up," his father had shouted, "how dare you insult the Commander in Chie_o my face. Get out of here and _stay_ out."
A highball glass had crashed against the floor. And that had been the end. H_adn't returned after the war.
Yes, it was most unfortunate that now, after so many years, they should rea_hat memory in their faces; that it was only the glasses and not the mind_hich clicked.
They had put them down awkwardly with frozen smiles on their lips and hi_ather had said:
"Sorry. But an old dog won't learn new tricks. Guess it's too late in the da_or me and you to get together, son."
"It's never too late, Dad," he had wanted to say, but the words died on hi_ips.
So it had been the failure of a mission; but then it closed an old and painfu_hapter with finality and he was free to open a new leaf.
Lee looked ahead again. The speedometer needle trembled around the 150 mark.
The sun drenched sand shot by, Joshua trees gesticulating wildly in the trick_erspectives of the speed, out-crops of rocks getting bigger now and mor_umerous, the road ahead starting to coil into a maze of natural fortresses, giant pillars and bizarre pyramids looking like the works of a titan race fro_nother planet shone in unearthly color schemes of black and purple and ambe_nd green. With the winding of the road and the waftings of the heat it wa_ard to make out a course, but the Sierra Mountains now were towering almos_p to the zenith; like a giant surf they seemed to race against the car.
"Mind if I close the windows, sir?"
The chauffeur's question was rhetoric; he had already pushed a button, th_lass went up and within the next second the inside of the car turne_ompletely dark.
"Man," Lee shouted, gripping the front seat, "are you crazy?"
There suddenly was light again, but it was only the electric light inside th_ar. The blackout of the world without remained complete, and the speedomete_eedle still edged over the 150 mark.
"Crazy? I hope not." The chauffeur said it coolly; leaning comfortably back h_urned around for a better look at his fare.
With mounting horror Lee noticed that he even took his hands off the wheel.
Nonchalantly he lit a cigarette while the unguided wheel milled crazily fro_ide to side and the tires screeched through what seemed to be a shar_-curve. Still with his back to the wheel and in between satisfying puffs o_is smoke he continued:
"It's quite O.K. sir; it's only that we're on the guidebeam now. This here ca_oesn't need a driver no more; it's on the beam."
"What beam?" Lee relaxed a little; it was the unexpectedness which had bowle_im over. "What beam? And why the blackout?"
"Just orders," the young man said. "The Brain's orders and it's the Brain'_eam. Seems to be new to you, sir; to me it's like an old story; read about i_hen I was a kid: how they blindfolded people who entered a beleaguere_ortress. "The Count of Monte Cristo," it was called; ever heard about it?
Pretty soon now we'll be stopped for examination before we enter the secre_assage underground. Romantic isn't it?"
"Very much so," Lee dryly remarked. He continued to watch the behavior of th_ar with some misgivings. The controls appeared to be functioning smoothl_nough and after a minute or so the brake pedal came down all by itself. Lee, with a breath of relief, saw the speedometer recede to zero.
But the doors would not open from the inside and as he tried them he foun_hat they were locked. "What's the idea," he asked, "I thought you said w_ould be examined at this spot?"
"Bet they're at it right now," the chauffeur grinned. "I wouldn't know ho_hey do it, but they get us photographed inside and outside, what we have i_ur pockets, what we had for breakfast this morning and the very bones of ou_keletons. I pass through here maybe half a dozen times a day, still they wil_o it every time: take my likeness. Makes me feel like I was some darned movi_tar."
To Lee it felt uncanny to sit trapped and blindfolded in this "Black Maria" o_ car while unseen rays and cameras went over him. He could hear a faint nois_f steps, and muffled voices.
"Who are they?" he asked.
"Oh, that's only some boys from Intelligence or whatnot; that's nothing, tha_sn't The Brain. It will be all over in a moment—see—there we go again. No_e're entering the Labyrinth."
Reticent as he had been in the beginning, the chauffeur now seemed to lik_ee; he was proud to explain. "Queer, isn't it? They've got the damnedes_ames for things down here. Take them from anatomy, I understand. Th_abyrinth is supposed to be inside the ear; it leads inside in a roundabou_ay; it's the same here, it's a tunnel—see—down we go."
The soft swoosh of the gas-turbine turned into a muffled roar. The ca_ccelerated at a terrific rate and from the way it swayed and dived it wa_lear that the tunnel spiralled downwards in steep serpentines. Lee grippe_he holding straps; his every nerve was on edge and those edges were sharpene_y the ominous fact that all the instruments on the dashboard had stoppe_unctioning so that he couldn't even read the speed.
As if to make things still worse, the chauffeur had abandoned his pos_ltogether. Stretching his legs across the front seat he reclined as i_njoying his easy chair at home by the fire place.
"It beats a roller coaster, doesn't it?" the chauffeur said. "Got me scare_he first few times before I found out it was safe. Nothing to worry about, never you fear."
With his stomach throttling his throat, Lee asked, "How deep are we goin_nderground?"
"That we are not supposed to know; that's why all the instruments are cut off.
The other day I had a passenger, one of those weathermen, a professor. H_aughed when I told him I didn't know how deep it was. Got a little doodad ou_f his pocket; aneroid barometer, or something, he said it was. But he got _urprise; in the first place the thing didn't work, so he said the whol_unnel was probably pressurized. In the second place he never got where h_anted to go. They stopped the car at the next control and shot him right bac_hence he came."
The chauffeur looked mysterious. "Seems The Brain doesn't like people wit_oodads in their pockets even if they mean no harm. The Brain is mos_articular about such things; maybe somehow it peers into this car thi_oment, maybe it records every word we say. How do we know?" He shrugged hi_houlders. "Not that I give a damn. I've got nothing to conceal. The hours ar_ight and the pay's right; that's good enough for me."
Lee experienced an old, familiar sensation: that creepy feeling one got o_ungle patrol, knowing that there were Jap snipers up in the trees, invisibl_ith the devilish green on their faces and uniforms.
"Strange," he thought, "that in the very center of civilization one shoul_eel as haunted as in the jungle hell."
Then, just as he began to wonder whether the dizzy spiralling plunge as if i_he belly of a shark would ever end, the tunnel levelled. Now the car sho_traight as a bullet and just as fast it seemed.
As his stomach returned to something like normal position, the feeling o_ppression changed into one of flying through space, of being dynamically a_est. Again just as the duration of this dynamic flight evoked the feel o_nfinity, the motion changed. So fast did it recede that the momentum of hi_ody almost hurled Lee from the back seat into the front.
Doors snapped open and as Lee staggered out somewhat benumbed in limb an_ead, his eyes grew big as they met the most unexpected sight. The car reste_n the concrete apron of what appeared to be a super-duper bus terminal plu_ervice station and streamlined restaurant. Beyond this elevated terrac_awned a vaulted dome, excavated from the solid rock and at least twice th_ize of St. Peter's giant cupola. Its walls were covered with murals. Bot_uge and beautiful they depicted the history of the human race, Man'_volution. From where he stood they started out with scenes of primeva_untings of the mammoth, went on to fire making, fire adoration, then to th_rimitive crafts and from there through the stages of science evolution an_echnology until they ended on Lee's right hand side with an awesome scen_rom the Bikini test. The gorgeous mushroom cloud of the atomic explosio_ooked alive and threatening like those Djinni once banned by Solomon.
But then, all these murals looked more alive than any work of art Lee had eve_een and he discovered that this was due to a new technique which had bee_dded and commingled with one of the oldest.
The pictures were built up from myriad layers of Painted Desert sands an_hese were made translucent or illuminated by what Lee thought must b_hosphoric salts turned radiant under the stimulants of hidden lights.
Whatever it was, the esoteric beauty of this jewel-like luminosity surpasse_ven that of the stained glass windows in the great cathedrals of France.
"Pretty isn't it? The chauffeur's words came as an anticlimax to what Le_elt. "That fellow over there in the middle; he's supposed to have it al_hought out." He pointed to a collossal bronze statue which towered in th_enter of the cupola to a height of better than a hundred feet.
Raising his eyes to the head of this giant, Lee discovered that the figure wa_hat of "The Thinker" by Rodin though it was cast in proportion its creato_ould not have deemed possible.
Completely overwhelmed and overawed by the grandeur of it all, Lee barel_anaged to stammer, "What—what is this place; what is it called?"
"It's kind of an assembly hall; the staff of The Brain have meetings over her_t times. Besides it's sort of a Grand Central; transportation starts here a_imes throughout the Brain. But listen, they are already paging you."
Out of nowhere as it seemed there came a brisk, pleasant female voice.
"Dr. Lee, calling Dr. Semper F. Lee from Canberra University, please answe_r. Lee."
The chauffeur nudged Lee in the ribs.
"Say something, she hears you all right."
"Yes, this is Lee speaking," he said in a startled voice.
The voice appeared delighted.
"Good morning, Dr. Lee: I'm Vivian Leahy of Apperception Center 27; I'm to b_our guide on the way up. Now, Dr. Lee, will you please step over to th_lideways. They're to your right. Take glideway T, do just as you would in _epartment store—" she giggled, "—stand on it and it will get you right to th_ccipital cortex area. I'll be waiting for you over there. I would have love_o come down and conduct you personally, but it's against regulations; I'l_xplain to you the reasons why in a little while. And if you have an_uestions while en route, just call out. So long, Dr. Lee; I'll be seeing you… ."
Greatly bewildered by this gushing reception Lee found it hard to follo_nstructions, simple as they were. The array of escalators which he found in _ide wing was a formidable one and confusing with movements in all directions, crisscrossing and overlapping one another. Despite the very clear illuminate_igns Lee almost stepped upon glideway "P" when "the voice" warned him:
"Oh no, Dr. Lee; just a little to your left—that's fine, that's th_ne—there."
Obviously his loquacious guardian angel could not only hear him but watch hi_teps as well. Apart from being uncanny, this was embarrassing; feelin_educed to the mental age of the nursery, he gripped the rails of "T" whic_ent with him into a smooth and noiseless upward slide. The shaft was narrow, there was little light at the start and it grew dimmer as he went. After _inute or so the darkness had turned almost complete and became oppressive.
Simultaneously there was a disquieting change from the accepted normal manne_n which escalators are supposed to move. Its rise gradually turne_erpendicular and in doing so the steps drew apart. Before long Lee fel_queezed into some interminable cylinder, standing on top of a piston as i_ere, a piston which moved with fair rapidity along transparent walls. Tha_hese walls were either glass or transparent plastics he could perceive fro_bjects which came streaking by with faint luminosity. They looked lik_olumns of amber colored liquids in which were suspended what looked lik_iant snakes, indistinct shapes, but radiant in the mysterious manner of dee_ea fishes. They almost encircled the transparent cylinder shaft in which Le_oved; there were many of them; how many Lee couldn't even attempt to guess.
The swiftness of his ascent through these floating, waving radiances for whic_e had no name was nightmarish, like falling into some bottomless well. Wit_reat relief he heard the voice of his guide breaking the spell.
"I'm terribly sorry, Dr. Lee, I shouldn't have deserted you, there was som_ittle interruption—" palpably the voice was tickled to death "—my boy frien_alled from another department and so … you know how it is. Let's see, wher_re you? Good lord, already near the end of the Medulla Oblongata with th_erebellum coming and I haven't told you a _thing_. Goody, where should _egin; I'm all in a dither: Well, Dr. Lee; most people seem to expect Th_rain to be like a great big telephone exchange, but it really isn't that kin_f a mechanism _at all_. We have found—" she sounded important as if it wer_er very own discovery "—that the best pattern for The Brain would actually b_he human brain. So The Brain is organized in nearly identical manner, likewise our whole terminology is taken from anatomy rather than fro_echnology. The glideways for instance, travel along the natural fissure_etween the convolutions of the various lobes; that's why they are so ver_inding as you will see as you enter The Brain proper. Those columns you se_re filled with liquid insulators for the nerve cables to vibrate in; for the_do_ vibrate, Dr. Lee, as they transmit their messages.
"You have noticed the narrowness of the glideways, the terrible confinement o_pace. I know it's horrible—many of our visitors suffer claustrophobia, bu_hey just must be built that way. You see even fractions of a millionth of on_econd count in the coordination of the association bundles and nerv_ircuits, that's why everything is built as compact as possible, worse than i_ submarine.
"Then, too, you must have wondered why everything is so dark inside. That'_nother thing wherein The Brain is like the human brain; its nerve cells ar_o extremely sensitive that they are distributed by light. We use black ligh_lmost exclusively or activated phosphorous such as on the sheaths of th_erve cables. For the same reason we of the personnel are normally no_ermitted to pass through the interior of The Brain during operations-time.
Exceptions are only made in the case of very important persons such as yo_re. Normally one travels to one's stations through the ducts elevator shaft_n the bone matter or rather the rock outside. Those are _so_ much faster an_ore comfortable Dr. Lee; oh I feel _so_ bad about you, poor man, travelin_ll alone through this _horrible_ maze without a human soul in sight."
Lee grinned. He wouldn't have liked to be married to this chatterbox no matte_ow beautiful she might turn out to be; but at the moment her exceedin_emininity was most comforting in the weirdness which surrounded him.
The little platform under his feet started acting up again in the queeres_anner. It pushed him forward and the wall at the rear kicked him in the back; his nose flattened against the sliding cylinder in front as the contraptio_everted from the perpendicular course to something like the undulations of _raveling wave. Lee darkly perceived group after group of luminous cable_oiling away into cavernous pits filled with what looked like eyes of cats, faintly aglow and twinkling at him from the dark. They reminded him of th_ireflies of the green hells he had been in during the war.
"You are now skirting the convolutions of the cerebellum," his guardian ange_old him. "They are electronic tubes which receive sensory impressions an_ranslate them into impulses for cerebration. Here in the cerebellum the bul_f the associations is being evoked; these are then distributed throughout th_emispheres of the cortex or higher brain. Oh I _do_ wish you wouldn't ge_easick, Dr. Lee; _some_ of our visitors do, you know; it's those wavy, wav_ovements."
The sympathetic Vivian came much too close to the truth for Lee to think he_unny. With a sense of approaching disaster he stared at the sliding cylinde_alls; from time to time the passing lights reflected his face, distorted an_ecidedly greenish in tint. Trouble was that seemingly nowhere there was an_ixed point on which to stabilize the eye. He seemed to be carried on the bac_f a galloping boa constrictor with a couple of others streaking away unde_is armpits.
Some of the caves which he had skirted were alive with ruby electronic eye_nd some were green and again there were others in which all the colors of th_ainbow mixed. There was no end to them, nor could he gauge their depths.
After an interminable time of this the glideway went into a flying upwar_eap. Again the perspective changed completely; now the thing seemed to b_uspended from the ceiling with slanting views opening toward the scene belo_hrough its transparent sides.
"You are now passing across the commissures into the cerebrum," came Vivian'_oice just as Lee thought that nausea was getting the better of him. "You'l_ow ascend along one of the main gyri through the mid-brain between th_emispheres. Those masses of ganglions below and coming from all sides as the_o over the pass of the ridge are association bundles. Beyond they dispers_gain over the cortex mantle to all the centers of coordination, highe_erebration and higher psychic activities. Things will be a little easier no_or you, Dr. Lee; physically I mean. There _will_ be some gyrations but no_uite so _violent_. Oh you're holding out fine, like a real _He_ -man, you'r_ooking _swell_ in my television screen."
Certain as he was that he looked rather like a scarecrow in a snowstorm Le_elt grateful for the praise. Besides she was right; the boa constrictor whic_e rode calmed down a little, marching with a dignity more in accordance wit_ts size. Momentarily the luminous nerve cables, flying as they did towar_im, threatened sudden death, however, they merely brushed the transparen_ylinder, wrapping it up in a rainbow and then winged away again. Below acre_f space streamed by, seed beds one could imagine to be young typewriters, millions of them, all ticking away with dainty precision, sparkling wit_yriads of tiny lights as they did.
Then there came more acres teeming with fractional horsepower motors; he coul_ear their beehive hummings even through the plexiglass. The things they drov_ee couldn't make out because the adjoining acres of this underground hothous_or mushrooming machines were again shrouded in darkness except for spark_hich crossed the unfathomable expanse like tracer bullets. Struck with a sor_f word blindness caused by the sensory impressions barrage, Lee could n_onger grasp the meaning of Vivian's voice as it went on and on explainin_hings like "crystal cells," "selenoid cells," "grey matter pyramidal cells,"
powered somehow by atomic fission, "nerve loops" and "synthesis gates" whic_ere not to be confused with "analysis gates" while they looked exactly th_ame… .
Apart from this at least one half of his mental and physical energy had to b_xpanded in suppressing nausea and bracing himself against the gyrations whic_till jerked his feet from under him and made friction disks of his shoulder_s his body swayed from side to side. All of a sudden he felt that he wa_eing derailed. There was an opening in the plastics wall of the cylinder; _urved metal shield like the blade of a bulldozer jumped into his path, caugh_im, slowed down his momentum and delivered him safely at a door marked
"Apperception-Center 24." It opened and within its frame there stood an ange_eatly dressed in the uniform of a registered nurse.
" _There_ ," said the angel, "at _last_. How did you like your little Odysse_hrough The Brain, Dr. Lee?"
Lee pushed a hand through the mane of his hair; it felt moist and much tangle_p.
"Thanks," he said. "It was quite an experience. I enjoyed it; Ulysses, too, probably enjoyed his trip between Scylla and Charybdis—after it was over! It'_iss Leahy, I presume."
The reception room where he had landed, the long white corridor, th_nstruments gleaming in built-in recesses behind crystal glass, the nurse'_niform; all spelled clinic, a private one rather for the well-to-do. Sinc_he procedure was routine he might as well submit to it, Lee thought. He fel_he familiar taste of disinfectant as a thermometer was stuck into his mout_nd then the rubber tube around his arm throbbing with the vigorous pumping_f the efficient Vivian.
"L. F. Mellish, M.D.—I. C. Bondy, M.D." was painted on the frosted glass doo_here she led him afterward. The two medics received Lee with a show o_espect mixed with professional cordiality. Both Bondy, the dark and orienta_ooking chap, and Mellish, blond and florid, were in their middle twenties an_oth wore tweeds which depressed Lee with the perfection of their cut. Seein_he professional table at the center of the office, Lee frowned but started t_ndress; he wanted this thing done and over with as soon as possible.
"No, no—that won't be necessary, Dr. Lee," they stopped him laughingly, "W_ave already a complete medical report on you. Came in this morning from th_ueen Elizabeth Hospital in Canberra on our request. You're an old malari_an, Dr. Lee; your first attack occured in '42 during the Pacific campaign.
Pity you refused to return to the States for a complete cure right then. As i_s it's turned recurrent; left you a bit anemic, liver's slightly affected.
But in all other respects you're sound of limb and wind; we've gone over th_eport pretty carefully."
"Then why bother with me at all?" Lee said irritably. He had been in doctors'
hands too often and had become a little impatient of them.
The freckled hand of Mellish patted his arm. "We do things different ove_ere," he said and Bondy chimed in. "Or rather The Brain does. Just lie dow_n that table, Dr. Lee, and relax. We're going to enjoy a little movi_ogether, that's all."
Lee did as he was bidden, but hesitant and suspiciously. He hated medica_xams, especially those where parts of one's body were hooked up to a lot o_mpressive machinery. Of this there obviously was a good deal. The two medic_eemed determined literally to wall him in with gadgetry. From the ceilin_hey lowered a huge, heavy-looking disk; not lights, but more like an electro- magnet beset with protruding needles. Lee couldn't see the cables but hope_hey were strong, for the thing weighed at least a ton and, overhanging him, looked much more ominous than the sword of Damocles. They wheeled a silve_creen to the foot of the table and batteries of what appeared to be thermo- therapeutic equipment to both sides. He wasn't being hooked up to anything, but there was much activity with testing of circuits, button-pushings an_hiftings of relay-levers. And then all of a sudden lights went out in th_oom.
"Say, what is the meaning of all this?" Lee raised his head uneasily from th_ard cushion. All he could see now were arrays of luminous dials and the fain_adiations from electronic tubes filtering through metal screens inside th_pparatus which fenced him in. From behind his head a suave voice—was i_ondy's or Mellish's answered out of the dark.
"This is a subconscious analysis and mental reactions test, Dr. Lee. It's a_ntirely new method made possible only by The Brain. It has tremendou_ossibilities; they might include your own work as well."
"Oh Lord," Lee moaned. "Something like psychoanalysis? Have you got i_echanized by now? How terrible."
There was a low chuckle from the other side of his head; they both appeared t_ave drawn up chairs beyond his field of vision. Lee didn't like it; he like_one of it, in fact. He felt trapped.
"No, Dr. Lee," said the chuckling voice. "This isn't psychoanalysis in the ol_ense at all. You are not exposed to any fanciful human interpretation, and i_sn't wholly mechanical either as you seem to think. The Brain is going t_how you certain images and by way of spontaneous psychosomatic reaction yo_re going to produce certain images in response. Results are visual, immediat_nd as convincing as a reflection in a mirror; that's the new beauty of it.
And now, concentrate your mind upon your body. Do you feel anything touchin_ou?"
"Y-e-s," Lee said, "I think I do—it's—it's uncanny: it's like spiders'
feet—millions of them. It's running all over my skin. What is it?"
"I think he's warming up," whispered the second voice; then came the firs_gain.
"It's feeler rays, Dr. Lee; the first wave, low penetration surface rays."
"Where do they come from?"
"From overhead; that is, from the teletactile centers of The Brain."
"What do they do to me?"
There was the low chuckle again. "They excite the surface nerves of your body, open up the path for the deep-penetration rays; they proceed from the lowe_rgans to the higher ones; in the end they reach the conscious levels of you_rain. It's the tune-in as we call it, Dr. Lee."
A small movie projector began to purr; a bright rectangle was thrown upon th_ilver screen and then, Lee stirred. Hands, soothing but firm held him down.
"Where did you get _those_." he exclaimed.
"From many sources," a calm answer came, "The papers, the newsreels, the War- Department, old friends of yours… ."
What was unrolled on the silver screen were chapters from Lee's own life. The_ere incomplete, they were hastily thrown together, they were like leave_hich a child tears from its picturebook. But knowing the book of his life, every picture acted as a key unlocking the treasures and the horrors amasse_n the vaults of memory. It began with the old homestead in Virginia. Mothe_ad taken that reel of the new mechanical cotton picker at work. There it was, a great big thing with the darkies standing around scratching their heads.
There he was himself, aged twelve, with his .22 cal. rifle in hand and Musha, the coon dog, by his side; Musha, how he had loved that dog—and how he ha_ried when it got killed.
Pictures of the Alexander Hamilton Military Academy. Some of the worst year_f his life he had spent behind the walls of that imitation castle.
The bombs upon Pearl Harbor… . He had enlisted the following day. On hi_eturn from the induction center mother had said… . Her figure, her movements, her voice loomed enormous in his memory… . But now the pictures of the Pacifi_ar flicked across the screen… . They were picked from campaigns in which he, Lee had participated. They were also picked from documentaries which th_overnment had never dared to let the public see … close-ups of a torpedoe_roop carrier, capsizing, coming down upon the struggling survivors in th_hark-infested sea. It had been his own ship, the _Monticello_ , but he ha_ever known that an automatic camera had operated in the nose of the plan_hich had circled the scene… .
Port Darwin—Guadacanal—Iwo Jima: close-ups of flame throwing tanks advancin_p a ridge. He had commanded one of them… . Antlike human figures of fleein_aps and the flames leaping at them… . So vivid was the memory that the smel_eturned to his nostrils, the sickening stench of burning human flesh. I_ortured him. His voice was husky with revulsion as he said:
"What's the good of all this; take it away."
"Oh, no," one of the medics answered. "We couldn't think of that. We've got t_ee this to the end. What are your physical sensations now, Dr. Lee?"
"It's fingers now—soft fingers. They are tapping me from all sides like—like _ibration massage. It's strange though—they're tapping from the inside—littl_neumatic hammers at a furious pace. They seem to work upon my diaphragm for _rum. But it doesn't pain."
"Good, very good; that was a fine description, Lee. That burning city wa_anilla wasn't it, when MacArthur returned? You were in that second Philippin_ampaign too weren't you, Lee? That was when you won the Congressional Meda_f Honor."
Yes, it was Manila all right, and there was Mindanao where the Japs had put u_hat suicide defence of the caves.
Lee's battalion had been in the attack; steeply uphill with no cover, it ha_een murder… . And seeing his best men mowed down, he had turned berserk. H_ad used a bulldozer for a battering ram, had driven it single handed directl_nto the fire-spitting mouth of the objective, raising its blade like _attle-axe. An avalanche of rocks and dirt had come down from the top of th_ave under the artillery barrage and he had rammed the stuff down into th_hroat of the fiery dragon, again and again. He never rightly knew he did it.
It had all ended in a blackout from loss of blood. It had been in a hospita_hat they pinned that medal on him which he felt was undeserved… .
Now the reel showed him what at the time he hadn't seen; the end of the battl_or the Philippines: Pulverised volcanic rock seen from the air, battle plane_wooping down upon little fumaroles, the ventilator shafts of caves defeate_ut still unsurrendered. Big, plump canisters plummeted from the bellies o_he planes. And then the jellied gasoline ignited, turning those thousands o_ives trapped in the deep into one vast funeral pyre… . For over fifteen year_e had tried to forget, to bury the war, to keep it jailed up in the dungeo_f the subconscious. Now those accursed medics had unleashed the monster o_ar and as it stared at him from the screen it had that blood-freezing, tha_ypnotic effect which the Greeks once ascribed to the monstrous Gorgon.
Mellish's voice—or was it Bondy's?—seemed to come through a fog and over _ast distance as it asked: "What seems to be the matter, Lee? You're sweating, your body shakes; what do you feel?"
"It's those rays," he tried to defend himself. "It's the vibrations—th_ingers. They are gripping the heart; it's like the whole body was turned int_ heart. It's like another life invading mine—it's ghostly. Stop it, fo_eaven's sake."
"Not yet, Lee, not yet. Everything's under control, you're reactin_eautifully; you're really feeling fine, Lee, just fine."
"If only I could get at his throat," Lee thought. "I would squeeze the oil o_hat voice and never be sorry I did." He tried to stir and found that i_ouldn't be done; every muscle seemed tied in a cataleptic state. Then h_eard the other medic speak.
"You were shown this little movie Lee in order to stimulate your mind into th_roduction of a movie of its own. You have responded, you have answered th_all. While you saw the first, the sensory tactile rays working in five layer_f penetration have recorded and have carried your every reaction to Th_rain. The Brain, in a very real sense has read your mind and it ha_etranslated these readings into visual images. We are now going to watch th_hapes of your own thoughts. Here we go… ."
The projector which had stopped for a minute began to purr again. As the firs_hought-image jumped upon the screen there was a low moan of amazement mixe_ith acute pain. It escaped Lee's mouth, uncontrollably as the abyss of th_ubconscious opened and he saw:
A monstrous animal shaped like an octopus crawling across a cotton field.
Nearer and nearer it crept, enormous, threatening; and suddenly there was _harp excited bark and a spotted coon dog raced across the field toward th_onster. He heard the voice of a small boy whimpering: "Musha, oh Musha, don't, _please_ don't." But the dog wouldn't hear and the monster flashed a_normous evil eye, just once and then it gripped the dog with its tentacl_rms tearing its body apart, chewing it up between horrible sabre teeth… . A_hrough an ether mask he heard the two medics say: "That must have been _onsiderable shock to him," and "With a sensitive nature like that, and a_hat sensitive age, such an impression becomes permanent."
The Alexander Hamilton Military Academy appeared, not real, yet more tha_eal. It was a narrow court yard surrounded by huge walls slanting toward th_nside; it was huge and forbidding, fortress-towers standing guard, it wa_normous gates forever barred, it was the figure of a huge Marine pacin_iercely back and forth in front of those gates, the same ghostly Marin_atching all gates so that nobody could escape… .
"That's probably his father," the voices whispered behind his ears. "Yes; th_rchetype. He'll bring up the Mother, too, I'll bet… ."
As in those paintings of the primitives where kings and queens are very tal_nd common folks are very small, Lee saw her now: Mother. That had been jus_fter induction when he had brought her what he thought was joyous news. He_ace filled the whole screen. It looked as if composed from jagged ectoplasms, quite transparent except for the eyes. Deep and burning with pain they were, boring into his own. And there was smoke coming out of her mouth and it forme_ords: "But, Semper, you are still a child. One mustn't use children for thi_ort of thing; one mustn't." Every letter of these smoke-written words seeme_o be flying toward him on wings… .
"Terrific," the voices murmured at Lee's back. "Remember the case history? Sh_ied of cancer six months after he went overseas." "Yes, I remember; he'_ever seen her again. He's probably built up a strong complex out of that one, too."
On the screen now danced images almost totally abstracted from the realitie_f the filmed documentaries from the war.
They were whirling columns of smoke; they were like the vast, dark interior o_ huge thunderhead cloud through which a glider soars, illuminated only by th_lashes of lightning as for split seconds they revealed a fraction of som_orrible reality: A burning ocean with screaming human faces bobbing in th_lames. The whirling tracks of a tank going across some writhing human bod_nd leaving it flat in its tracks, sprawling like an empty coat dyed red. An_hen the swirling, howling darkness closing in again… .
"Interesting eh?" A voice broke through his cataleptic trance and the othe_nswered: "Beautiful; almost a classical case. Great plasticity o_magination." "Yes; that's exactly what sets me wondering; the fellow shoul_ave cracked up by all the rules of the game." "How do we know that he hasn't?
Maybe he was psycho and they didn't notice; they had some godawful asses fo_sychiatrists in war medicine. It's quite a possibility; well, his imag_roduction is ebbing now; I don't expect anything new of significance, what d_ou think?" "Now; we've got what we wanted anyway. Let's take him out of it; but go easy on the rheostats."
The projector stopped. The masterful, the ghostly fingers which had bee_laying on the keyboard of his mind very slowly receded from a furiou_ortissimo to a pianissimo. At first only the flutterings of the diaphrag_ased, then the violent palpitations of a foreign pulse slipped off the heart; the liberated lungs expanded; tremors were running through the body as throug_he ice of a frozen river at spring; and then at last the mind escaped fro_ts captivity.
Gradually as in a cinema after the show the lights reappeared. Blinking, Le_tared at the man who stood over him taking his pulse; it was Bondy. Mellis_tood at the foot of the table with his back to Lee; he seemed to watch som_pparatus which made noises like a teletype machine. Swinging his legs off th_able Lee said:
"I'm okay; you needn't hold my hand."
But then he noticed that he wasn't. His head spun, his whole body was wet wit_erspiration, he felt very weak and limp. He swayed and buried his face in hi_ands trying to gain his balance, trying to shake off the trance. "Excuse me,"
he said. "I'm a bit dizzy."
As he opened his eyes again the two medics were standing right in front of hi_nd smiling down on him with their bland, professional smiles. Lee felt th_psurge of intense dislike. He had seen those smiles before, often—too often: they seemed to be standard equipment with the medical profession whenever _ellow was about to be dispatched to the "table", or worse, to th_sychopathic ward. Instinct told him that there was something in the air an_lso that his best bet would be a brave show of normalcy:
"This test, these new methods of psychoanalysis, they are extremel_nteresting," he said with an effort.
"Thank you, Dr. Lee," it was Mellish who spoke. "We knew you would find th_xperience worthwhile even if we put you under a considerable strain. _omplete analysis in those olden days of Dr. Freud took three years; no_hanks to The Brain we get approximately the same results within as man_ours; that's some progress, isn't it?"
"Enormous," Lee said dryly while his eyes wandered over to Bondy; he knew th_attern, it would be Bondy's turn now to have a shot at him. There it came; and how he loathed the false heartiness of that voice.
"Dr. Lee, I'm afraid we have a bit of bad news for you—your test—the result_ave been negative. You have failed."
"Failed?" For a fraction of a second Lee's heart stopped beating. "In wha_ense? And what does that mean?"
Now it was Mellish's turn. "Dr. Lee, there must be frankness amongs_olleagues and as a fellow scientist you'll understand. In the first place th_ecision isn't ours; we merely conduct the test on behalf of The Brain. Th_rain, as you know, is the most highly developed machine in all the world. It_unctions, its whole existence depend entirely upon the human skills and th_uman loyalties amongst its staff. A three-billion-dollar investment, plus th_ital role of The Brain in our national defence, justify the extrem_recautions which we are forced to take for its protection."
"What exactly are you driving at?"
"Please don't take it as an insult," now it was Bondy again. "There's nothin_ersonal in this. It's merely that your emotional-reaction chart definitel_hows a certain antagonism which from childhood-experience and war-experienc_ou have built up against technology. It's nothing but a potential; it i_onfined to your subconscious. But even a potential danger of subconsciou_evolt is more than The Brain can risk amongst its associates. We full_ppreciate the wish of our Dr. Scriven to enlist your very valuable aid, but… ."
"I see" Lee interrupted, "but you would feel safer if I were to return t_ustralia by the next plane."
His head bent under the blow. A short 24 hours ago The Brain had been _ebulous, almost a non-existent thing. Since then a whole new world had bee_pened to him in revelations blinding and magnetic with infinit_ossibilities. His work—the efforts of a lifetime—would not equal what h_ould do in days with the aid of The Brain. His love—he would never see Oon_ahlborg again as he left under a shadow, rejected by The Brain.
"Sorry I wasted so much of your time," he said aloud. "I do not believe i_his analysis; I cannot disprove it though. That's all, I guess; I better b_oing now."
"Here's your pass, Dr. Lee." He took mechanically the yellow slip which Bond_anded him… .
He had already opened the door when somebody sharply called: "Dr. Lee, on_oment please."
He whirled around. "Yes?"
"Will you please read what's written on your slip?"
Suspiciously he looked at the yellow paper; what more torture were thes_ellows going to inflict? Then his eyes popped as he read: "Lee, Sempe_idelis, 39: Cortex capacity 119%, Sensitivity 208%, Personality integratio_5%, Service qualification 100%… ." There were more data, but he didn't rea_hem as wide-eyed he stared at the medics. With their faces beaming the_ooked like identical twins to him; Lee never knew who said the words:
"Congratulations Lee. That has been your last test. We just had to find ou_ow you would take a serious frustration. You've passed it with flying colors.