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Chapter 15

  • The  _Harriet Barne_  settled comfortably at the dock, the bunting-swathe_ugs lifting away from her. They had the outside sound pickups turned as lo_s possible, and still the noise was deafening. The spaceport was jammed, people on the ground and contragravity vehicles swarming above, with polic_ars vainly trying to keep them in order. All the bands in Storisende seeme_o have been combined; they were blaring the "Planetary Hymn";
  • _Genji Gartner's body lies a-moldering in the tomb,_ _But his soul goes marching on!_
  • When they opened the airlock, there was a hastily improvised ceremonial barge, actually a farm-scow completely draped in red and white, the Planetary colors.
  • They all stopped, briefly, as they came out, to enjoy the novelty of outdoo_ir which could actually be breathed. Conn saw his father in the scow, an_eside him Sylvie Jacquemont, trying, almost successfully, to keep fro_umping up and down in excitement. Morgan Gatworth to meet his son, and Leste_awes to meet his. Kurt Fawzi, Dolf Kellton, Colonel Zareff, Tom Brangwyn. H_idn't see his mother, or his sister. Flora he had hardly counted on, but h_as disappointed that his mother wasn't there to meet him.
  • Sylvie was embracing her father as he shook hands with his; then she threw he_rms around his neck.
  • "Oh, Conn, I'm so happy! I was watching everything I could on-screen, everything you saw, and all the places you were, and everything you wer_oing… ."
  • The scow—pardon, ceremonial barge—gave a slight lurch, throwing them together.
  • Over her shoulder, he saw his father and Yves Jacquemont exchanging grins.
  • Then they had to break it up while he shook hands with Fawzi and Judge Ledu_nd the others, and by the time that was over, the barge was letting down i_ront of the stand at the end of the dock, and the band was still deafenin_eaven with "Genji Gartner's Body," and they all started up the stairs to b_reeted by Planetary President Vyckhoven; he looked like an elderly bear wh_as been too well fed for too long in a zoo. And by Minister-Genera_urchison, who represented the Terran Federation on Poictesme. He was thin an_alding, and he looked as though he had just mistaken the vinegar cruet fo_he wine decanter. Genji Gartner's soul stopped marching on, but the speeche_tarted, and that was worse. And after the speeches, there was the parade, everybody riding in transparent-bodied aircars, and the _Lester Dawes_  an_he two ships of the new Planetary Air Navy and a swarm of gunboats in colum_ive hundred feet above, all firing salutes.
  • In spite of what wasn't, but might just as well have been, a concerte_onspiracy to keep them apart, he managed to get a few words privately wit_ylvie.
  • "My mother; she didn't get here. Is anything wrong?"
  • "Is anything anything else? I've been in the middle of it ever since you wen_way. Your mother's still moaning about all these companies your father'_romoting—he never used to do anything like that, and it's all too big, an_t's going to end in a big smash. And then she gets onto Merlin. You know, sh_on't say Merlin, she always calls it, 'that thing.'"
  • "I've noticed that."
  • "Then she begins talking about all the horrible things that'll happen whe_t's found, and that sets Flora off. Flora says Merlin's a big fake, and yo_nd your father are using it to rob thousands of widows and orphans of thei_ife savings, and that sets your mother off again. Self-sustaining cycli_eaction, like the Bethe solar-phoenix. And every time I try to pour a littl_il on the troubled waters, I find I've gotten it on the fire instead. An_hen, Flora had this fight with Wade Lucas, and of course, she blames you fo_hat."
  • "Good heavens, why?"
  • "Well, she couldn't blame it on herself, could she? Oh, you mean why th_ight? Lucas is in business with your father now, and she can't convince hi_hat you and your father are a pair of quadruple-dyed villains, I suppose.
  • Anyhow, the engagement is  _phttt_! Conn, is my father going back t_oshchei?"
  • "As soon as we can round up some people to help us on the ship."
  • "Then I'm going along. I've had it, Conn. I'm a combat-fatigue case."
  • "But, Sylvie; that isn't any place for a girl."
  • "Oh, poo! This is Sylvie. We're old war buddies. We soldiered together o_arathrum; remember?"
  • "Well, you'd be the only girl, and… ."
  • "That's what you think. If you expect to get any kind of a gang together, a_east a third of them will be girls. A lot of technicians are girls, and whe_ork gets slack, they're always the first ones to get shoved out of jobs. I'l_et there are a thousand girl technicians out of work here—any line of wor_ou want to name. I know what I'll do; I'll make a telecast appearance. _till have some news value, from the Barathrum business. Want to bet that _on't be the working girl's Joan of Arc by this time next week?"
  • That cheered him. A girl can punch any kind of a button a man can, and a lo_f them knew what buttons to punch, and why. Say she could find fifty girls… .
  • He had a slightly better chance to talk to his father before the banquet a_he Executive Palace that evening. They shared the same suite at the Ritz- Gartner, and even welcoming committees seldom chase their victims from bedroo_o bath.
  • "Yes, I know all about it," Rodney Maxwell said bitterly. "I was home, _ouple of weeks ago. Flora simply will not speak to me, and your mother begge_e, in tears, to quit everything we're doing here. I tried to give her som_dea of what would happen if I dropped this, even supposing I could; sh_ouldn't listen to me." He finished putting the studs in his shirt. "You stil_hink this is worth what it's costing us?"
  • "You saw the views we sent back. There's work on Koshchei for a millio_eople, at least. Why, even these two makeshift ships they're putting togethe_ere at Storisende are giving work, one way or another, to almost a thousand.
  • Think what things will be like a year from now, if this keeps on."
  • Rodney Maxwell gave a wry laugh. "Didn't know I had a real Simon-pure altruis_or a son."
  • "Pardner, when you call me that, smile."
  • "I am smiling. With some slight difficulty."
  • He didn't think well of the banquet. Back in Litchfield, Senta would hav_ired half her human help and taken a sledgehammer to her robo-chef for a mea_ike that. Even his father's camp cook would have been ashamed of it. An_here were more speeches.
  • President Vyckhoven managed to get hold of him and Yves Jacquemont afterward, and steered them into his private study.
  • "Have you any real reason for thinking that Merlin might be on Koshchei?" th_lanetary President asked.
  • "Great Ghu, no! We weren't looking for Merlin, Mr. President. We were lookin_or a hypership. We have one, too. Calling her  _Ouroboros II_. Twenty-five- hundred-footer. We expect to have her to space in a few months. I surely don'_eed to tell you what that will do toward restoring planetary prosperity."
  • "No, of course not; a hypership of our own. But… ." He looked from one to th_ther of them. "But I understood… . That is, Mr. Kurt Fawzi was saying… ."
  • "Mr. Fawzi is looking for Merlin here on Poictesme. If anybody finds it, that's where it'll be found. I'm interested in getting business started again.
  • If Merlin is found, it would help, of course." He shrugged.
  • "Don't look at me," Jacquemont said. "Mr. Maxwell—both of them, father an_on—want some spaceships. They hired me to help build them. That's all I hav_n it." Then he relit the cigar the President had given him and leaned back i_is chair, staring at the stuffed alcesoid head with the seven-foot hornsprea_bove the fireplace.
  • Conn described the interview to his father after they were back at the hotel.
  • "I hope you convinced him. You know, he's afraid of Merlin. A lot of peopl_ave been saying that if Merlin's found, it should be used to determin_overnment policy. A few extremists are beginning to say that Merlin ought t_be_  the Government, and Jake Vyckhoven and his cronies ought to be dumped.
  • Into the handiest mass-energy converter, preferably. You know, if anybod_ound Merlin and started it auditing the Planetary Treasury, Jake Vyckhoven'_e the one who'd be wanting a hypership."
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  • Tom Brangwyn ran him down the next morning in the dining room.
  • "Conn, I wish you'd come along with me," he said. "Some of us are up in Kurt'_uite; we'd all like to talk to you."
  • Somehow, he was acting as though he were making an arrest. That might hav_een nothing but professional habit. Conn went up to Fawzi's suite, and foun_awzi and Judge Ledue and Dolf Kellton and close to a dozen others there.
  • "I'm glad you could come, Conn," the Judge greeted him. Now that the defendan_ad arrived, the trial could begin. "I wish your father could have gotte_ere. I asked him to come, but he had a prior engagement. A meeting with som_f the financial people here, about some company he's interested in."
  • "That's right; Trisystem & Interstellar Spacelines."
  • "Interstellar!" Kurt Fawzi almost howled. "Great Ghu! Now it isn't enough t_o out to Koshchei; he wants to go clear out of the Trisystem. That's what w_anted to talk about; all this nonsense you and your father are in. Merlin'_ight here on Poictesme. It's right at Force Command, and if your fathe_adn't robbed us of all our best men, like Jerry Rivas and Anse Dawes, we'_ave found it by now. I don't think you and your father care a hoot if we eve_ind Merlin or not!"
  • "Kurt, that's a dreadful thing to say," Dolf Kellton objected in a shocke_oice.
  • "It's a dreadful thing to have to say," Fawzi replied, "but you tell me wha_onn Maxwell or Rodney Maxwell are doing to help find it."
  • "Who showed you where Force Command was?" Klem Zareff asked.
  • Nobody could think of any good quick comeback to that.
  • Conn took advantage of the pause to ask, "Why do you want to find Merlin?"
  • "Why do we … " Fawzi spluttered indignantly. "If you don't know… ."
  • "I know why I do. I want to see if you do. Do you?"
  • "Merlin would answer so many questions," Dolf Kellton told him gently.
  • "Questions I can't answer for myself."
  • "With Merlin, we could set up a legal code and a system of jurisprudence tha_ould give everybody absolute justice," Judge Ledue said.
  • As if absolute justice wasn't the last thing anybody in his right senses woul_ant; a robot-judge would have the whole planet in jail inside a month.
  • "We have a man who joined us after you went off to Koshchei, Conn," Fran_eltrin said. "A Mr. Carl Leibert. He's some kind of a clergyman, from ove_orven way. He says that Merlin could formulate an entirely new religion, which would regenerate humanity."
  • "Well, I don't have any such lofty ideas," Fawzi said. "I just want Merlin t_how us how to get some prosperity here; bring things back to what they wer_efore Poictesme went broke."
  • "And that's what Father and I are trying to do. You're going into the wood_ith a book on how to chop down a tree, and no ax." Fawzi looked at him i_urprise, started to say something, and thought better of it. "If we wan_rosperity, we need tools. Our problem is loss of markets. If we find Merlin, and tape it with everything that's happened in the forty years since it wa_hut down, Merlin will tell us where to find new markets. But the market_on't come to us. We'll have to do our own exporting, and we'll need ships.
  • Now, you men have been studying about Merlin, and hunting for Merlin, all you_ives. I can't add anything to what you know, and neither can my father. Yo_ind Merlin, and we'll have the ships ready when you do find it."
  • "Kurt, I think he has a point," somebody said.
  • "You're blasted well right he has," Klem Zareff put in. "If it wasn't for Con_axwell, you know where we'd be? Back in Litchfield, sitting around in Kurt'_ffice, talking about how wonderful things'll be when we find Merlin, an_oing nothing to find it."
  • "Kurt, I believe Conn is entitled to an apology," Judge Ledue ruled. "Ho_lose we are to finding Merlin I don't know, but it is due to him that we hav_ny hope of finding it at all."
  • "Conn, I'm sorry," Fawzi said. "I oughtn't to have said some of the things _id. But we're all on edge; we've been having so much trouble… . Conn, it'_ight there at Force Command; I know it is. We've been all over the place. W_ave shafts sunk at each of the corners; we've used scanners, and put off ech_hots. Nothing. We looked for additional passages out of the headquarters; there aren't any. But it has to be somewhere around. It just  _has_  to be!"
  • "Maybe if I go out to Force Command with you, I might see something you'v_verlooked. And if I can't, I'll try to scrape up some stuff on Koshchei fo_ou. Deep-vein scanners, that sort of thing, from the mines."
  • They took the  _Lester Dawes_  out at a little past noon and turned south an_ast. Everybody aboard was happy—except Conn Maxwell. He was thinking of th_ears and years ahead of these trusting, hopeful old men, each year the grav_f another expectation. Two hundred miles from Force Command, the  _Goblin_et them, her sides still spalled and dented from the hits she had taken i_arathrum Spaceport. When they came in sight of it, the mesa-top was deserted.
  • Fawzi began wondering where in Nifflheim all the drilling rigs, and th_eismo-trucks, were. Somebody with a pair of binoculars called attention t_ctivity on the side of the high butte on top of which the relay station wa_ocated. Fawzi began swearing exasperatedly.
  • "Might be something Mr. Leibert thought of," Franz Veltrin suggested.
  • "Then why in blazes didn't he screen us about it?"
  • "Who is this Leibert?" Conn asked. "Somebody mentioned him this morning, _hink."
  • "He joined us after you left, Conn," Dolf Kellton said. "He's a clergyman fro_orven. No regular denomination; he has a sect of his own."
  • "Yah, he would!" Klem Zareff rumbled. "Pious fraud!"
  • "He's really a good man, Conn; Klem's prejudiced. He says we ought to us_erlin to show us the true nature of God, and how to live in accordance wit_he Divine Will. He says Merlin can teach us a new religion."
  • A new religion, based on Merlin; that would be good. And then the fanatics wh_hought Merlin was the Devil would start a holy war to wipe out the servant_f Satan, and with all the combat equipment that was lying around on thi_lanet… . For the first time since this business started, he began to fee_eally frightened.
  • An aircar came bulleting away from the butte and landed on the mesa as th_Lester Dawes_  set down. The man who met them at the head of the vertica_haft wore Federation fatigues—baggy trousers, ankle boots and long smock, dyed black. He was bareheaded, and his white hair was almost shoulder-long. H_ad a white beard.
  • "Welcome, Brothers," he greeted, a hand raised in benediction. "And who i_his with you?"
  • His voice was high and quavery; not a good pulpit voice, Conn thought.
  • Kurt Fawzi introduced Conn, and Leibert grasped his hand with a grip that wa_onsiderably stronger than his voice.
  • "Bless you, young man! It is to you alone that we owe our thanks that we ar_bout to find the Great Computer. Every sapient being in the Galaxy will hono_our name for a thousand years."
  • "Well, I hadn't counted on quite that much, Mr. Leibert. If it'll only help _ew of these people to make a decent living I'll be satisfied."
  • Leibert shook his head sadly. "You think entirely in material terms, youn_an," he reproved. "Forget these things; acquire the higher spiritual values.
  • The Great Computer must not be degraded to such uses; we should let it show u_ow to lift ourselves to a high spiritual plane… ."
  • It went on like that, after they went down to Foxx Travis's—no_awzi's—office, where there were silver-stoppered decanters instead of the ol_reen-glass pitcher, and gold-plated ashtrays, and thick carpets on the floor.
  • The man was a lunatic; he made Fawzi's office gang look frigidly sane.
  • Furthermore, he was an ignoramus. He had no idea what a computer could o_ouldn't do. Anybody who could build a computer of the sort he thought Merli_as wouldn't need it, he  _would_  be God.
  • As he talked, Conn began to be nagged by an odd sense of recognition. He'_een this Carl Leibert before, somewhere, and somehow he was sure that th_ong white hair and the untrimmed beard weren't part of the picture. Tha_uzzled him. He doubted if he'd have remembered Leibert from six years ago, almost seven, now, though a lot of itinerant evangelists showed up i_itchfield. That might have been it.
  • "I tell you, the Great Computer is there, in the heart of the butte," Leiber_as insisting, now. "It has been revealed to me in a dream. It is completel_uried. After it was made, no human touched it. The men who were here and use_t in the War communicated with it only by radio."
  • That could be so. There were fully robotic computers, intended for use i_laces where no human could go and live. There was a big one on Nifflheim, armored against the fluorine atmosphere and the hydrofluoric-acid rains. Bu_here was no point in that here, the things were enormously complicated, an_ilitary engineering of any sort emphasized simplicity— _Aaaagh!_  Was h_eginning to believe this balderdash himself?
  • Klem Zareff fell in with him as they were going to dinner. "Revealed in _ream!" the old Rebel snorted. "One thing you can always get away with lyin_bout is what you dream."
  • "You think he's lying? I think he's just crazy."
  • "That's what he wants you to think. Look, Conn, he knows Merlin is here; he'_rying to keep us from it. That's why he shifted all that equipment over o_he butte. He's working for Sam Murchison."
  • "I thought your theory was that the Federation had lost Merlin."
  • "It was, at first. It doesn't look that way to me now. It's right here a_orce Command, somewhere. They don't want it found, and they're going to d_verything they can to stop us. I oughtn't to have left this fellow Leiber_ere alone; well, I won't do that again. Get Tom Brangwyn to help me."