The Complete Stories (Page 184)
Blaustein said, "Ralson is dead." i, "What’"
"Can you leave these people for a time?"
"Yes . . . yes- Gentlemen, you will excuse me for a few minutes?"
He hurried off with Blaustein.
The Federal men had already taken over. Unobtrusively, they barred the doorway to Ross’s office. Outside there were the milling crowd discussing the answer to Alamogordo that they had just witnessed. Inside, unknown to them, was the death of the answerer. The G-man barrier divided to allow Grant and Blaustein to enter. It closed behind them again.
For a moment, Grant raised the sheet. He said, "He looks peaceful."
"I would say-happy," said Blaustein.
Darrity said, colorlessly, "The suicide weapon was my own knife. It was !my negligence; it will be reported as such."
"No, no," said Blaustein, "that would be useless. He was my patient and I am responsible. In any case, he would not have lived another week. Since he invented the projector, he was a dying man."
Grant said, "How much of this has to be placed in the Federal files? Can’t we forget all about his madness?"
"I’m afraid not, Dr. Grant," said Darrity.
"I have told him the whole story," said Blaustein, sadly.
Grant looked from one to the other. "I’ll speak to the Director. I’ll go to the President, if necessary. I don’t see that there need be any mention of suicide or of madness. He’ll get full publicity as inventor of the field projector. It’s the least we can do for him." His teeth were gritting.
Blaustein said, "He left a note."
Darrity handed him a sheet of paper and said, "Suicides almost always do. This is one reason the doctor told me about what really killed Ralson."
The note was addressed to Blaustein and it went:
"The projector works; I knew it would. The bargain is done. You’ve got it and you don’t need me any more. So I’ll go. You needn’t worry about the human race, Doc. You were right. They’ve bred us too long; they’ve taken too many chances. We’re out of the culture now and they won’t be able to stop us. I know. That’s all I can say. I know."
He had signed his name quickly and then underneath there was one scrawled line, and it said:
"Provided enough men are penicillin-resistant."
Grant made a motion to crumple the paper, but Darrity held out a quick hand.
"For the record, Doctor," he said.
Grant gave it to him and said, "Poor Ralson! He died believing all that trash."
Blaustein nodded. "So he did. Ralson will be given a great funeral, I suppose, and the fact of his invention will be publicized without the madness and the suicide. But the government men will remain interested in his mad theories. They may not be so mad, no, Mr. Darrity?"
"That’s ridiculous, Doctor," said Grant. "There isn’t a scientist on the job who has shown the least uneasiness about it at all."
"Tell him, Mr. Darrity," said Blaustein.
Darrity said, "There has been another suicide. No, no, none of the scientists. No one with a degree. It happened this morning, and we investigated because we thought it might have some connection with today’s test. There didn’t seem any, and we were going to keep it quiet till the test was over. Only now there seems to be a connection.
"The man who died was just a guy with a wife and three kids. No reason to die. No history of mental illness. He threw himself under a car. We have witnesses, and it’s certain he did it on purpose. He didn’t die right away and they got a doctor to him. He was horribly mangled, but his last words were ‘I feel much better now’ and he died."
"But who was he?" cried Grant.
"Hal Ross. The guy who actually built the projector. The guy whose office this is."
Blaustein walked to the window. The evening sky was darkening into starriness.
He said, "The man knew nothing about Ralson’s views. He had never spoken to Ralson, Mr. Darrity tells me. Scientists are probably resistant as a whole. They must be or they are quickly driven out of the profession. Ralson was an exception, a penicillin-sensitive who insisted on remaining. You see what happened to him. But what about the others; those who have remained in walks of life where there is no constant weeding out of the sensitive ones. How much of humanity is penicillin-resistant?"
"You believe Ralson?" asked Grant in horror.
"I don’t really know."
Blaustein looked at the stars.
Even from the cabin into which he and the other passengers had been herded, Colonel Anthony Windham could still catch the essence of the battle’s progress. For a while, there was silence, no jolting, which meant the spaceships were fighting at astronomical distance in a duel of energy blasts and powerful force-field defenses.
He knew that could have only one end. Their Earth ship was only an armed merchantman and his glimpse of the Kloro enemy just before he had been cleared off deck by the crew was sufficient to show it to be a light cruiser.
And in less than half an hour, there came those hard little shocks he was waiting for. The passengers swayed back and forth as the ship pitched and veered, as though it were an ocean liner in a storm. But space was calm and silent as ever. It was their pilot sending desperate bursts of steam through the steam-tubes, so that by reaction the ship would be sent rolling and tumbling. It could only mean that the inevitable had occurred. The Earth ship’s screens had been drained and it no longer dared withstand a direct hit.
Colonel Windham tried to steady himself with his aluminum cane. He was thinking that he was an old man; that he had spent his life in the militia and had never seen a battle; that now, with a battle going on around him, he was old and fat and lame and had no men under his command.