The Complete Stories (Page 119)

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Brand said, "Well?"

Kristow nodded. "Most agree. Some are doubtful even yet, but most agree."

"How about you? Are you sure?"

"I’m far from sure, but let me put it this way. It’s easier to believe that the Soviets are working on a gamma-ray shield than to believe that all the data we’ve uncovered has no interconnection."

"Has it been decided that we’re to go on shield research, too?"

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"Yes." Kristow’s hand went back over his short, bristly hair, making a dry, whispery sound. "We’re going to give it everything we’ve got. Knowing the papers written by the men who disappeared, we can get right on their heels. We may even beat them to it. -Of course, they’ll find out we’re working on it."

"Let them," said Brand. "Let them. It will keep them from attacking. I don’t see any percentage in selling ten of our cities just to get ten of theirs- if we’re both protected and they’re too dumb to know that."

"But not too soon. We don’t want them finding out too soon. What about the American Zebatinsky-Sebatinsky?"

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Brand looked solemn and shook his head. "There’s nothing to connect him with any of this even yet. Hell, we’ve looked. I agree with you, of course. He’s in a sensitive spot where he is now and we can’t afford to keep him there even if he’s in the clear."

"We can’t kick him out just like that, either, or the Russians will start wondering."

"Do you have any suggestions?"

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They were walking down the long corridor toward the distant elevator in the emptiness of four in the morning.

Dr. Kristow said, "I’ve looked into his work. He’s a good man, better than most, and not happy in his job, either. He hasn’t the temperament for teamwork."

"So?"

"But he is the type for an academic job. If we can arrange to have a large university offer him a chair in physics, I think he would take it gladly. There would be enough nonsensitive areas to keep him occupied; we would be able to keep him in close view; and it would be a natural development. The Russians might not start scratching their heads. What do you think?"

Brand nodded. "It’s an idea. Even sounds good. I’ll put it up to the chief."

They stepped into the elevator and Brand allowed himself to wonder about it all. What an ending to what had started with one letter of a name.

Marshall Sebatinsky could hardly talk. He said to his wife, "I swear I don’t see how this happened. I wouldn’t have thought they knew me from a meson detector. -Good Lord, Sophie, Associate Professor of Physics at Princeton. Think of it."

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Sophie said, "Do you suppose it was your talk at the A.P.S. meetings?" "1 don’t see how. It was a thoroughly uninspired paper once everyone in the division was done hacking at it." He snapped his fingers. "It must have been Princeton that was investigating me. That’s it. You know all those forms I’ve been filling out in the last six months; those interviews they wouldn’t explain. Honestly, 1 was beginning to think I was under suspicion as a subversive. -It was Princeton investigating me. They’re thorough." "Maybe it was your name," said Sophie. "I mean the change." "Watch me now. My professional life will be my own finally. I’ll make my mark. Once I have a chance to do my work without-" He stopped and turned to look at his wife. "My name! You mean the 5." "You didn’t get the offer till after you changed your name, did you?" "Not till long after. No, that part’s just coincidence. I’ve told you before Sophie, it was just a case of throwing out fifty dollars to please you. Lord, what a fool I’ve felt all these months insisting on that stupid 5."

Sophie was instantly on the defensive. "I didn’t make you do it, Marshall. I suggested it but I didn’t nag you about it. Don’t say I did. Besides, it did turn out well. I’m sure it was the name that did this." Sebatinsky smiled indulgently. "Now that’s superstition." "I don’t care what you call it, but you’re not changing your name back." "Well, no, I suppose not. I’ve had so much trouble getting them to spell my name with an S, that the thought of making everyone move back is more than I want to face. Maybe I ought to change my name to Jones, eh?" He laughed almost hysterically.

But Sophie didn’t. "You leave it alone."

"Oh, all right, I’m just joking. -Tell you what. I’ll step down to that old fellow’s place one of these days and tell him everything worked out and slip him another tenner. Will that satisfy you?"

He was exuberant enough to do so the next week. He assumed no disguise this time. He wore his glasses and his ordinary suit and was minus a hat.

He was even humming as he approached the store front and stepped to one side to allow a weary, sour-faced woman to maneuver her twin baby carriage past.

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He put his hand on the door handle and his thumb on the iron latch. The latch didn’t give to his thumb’s downward pressure. The door was locked.

The dusty, dim card with "Numerologist" on it was gone, now that he looked. Another sign, printed and beginning to yellow and curl with the sunlight, said "To let."

Sebatinslcy shrugged. That was that. He had tried to do the right thing.

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Haround, happily divested of corporeal excrescence, capered happily and his energy vortices glowed a dim purple over cubic hypermiles. He said, "Have I won? Have I won?"

Mestack was withdrawn, his vortices almost a sphere of light in hyper-space. "1 haven’t calculated it yet."

"Well, go ahead. You won’t change the results any by taking a long time. -Wowf, it’s a relief to get back into clean energy. It took me a microcycle of time as a corporeal body; a nearly used-up one, too. But it was worth it to show you."

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