The Complete Stories (Page 215)

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He shrugged. "Well, then, goodbye."

I said, "Mrs. Hester will see you off the property. Make that goodbye permanent."

But it wasn’t permanent. I saw him again two days later. Two and a half days, rather, because it was about noon when I saw him first and a little after midnight when I saw him again.

I sat up in bed when he turned the light on, blinking blindly till I made out what was happening. Once I could see, it didn’t take much explaining. In fact, it took none at all. He had a gun in his right fist, the nasty little needle barrel just visible between two fingers. I knew that all he had to do was to increase the pressure of his hand and I would be torn apart. , He said, "Put on your clothes, Jake."

I didn’t move. I just watched him.

He said, "Look, Jake, I know the situation. I visited you two days ago, remember. You have no guards on this place, no electrified fences, no warning signals. Nothing."

I said, "I don’t need any. Meanwhile there’s nothing to stop you from leaving, Mr. Gellhorn. I would if I were you. This place can be very dangerous."

He laughed a little. "It is, for anyone on the wrong side of a fist gun."

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"I see it," I said. "I know you’ve got one."

"Then get a move on. My men are waiting."

"No, sir, Mr. Gellhorn. Not unless you tell me what you want, and probably not then."

"I made you a proposition day before yesterday."

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"The answer’s still no."

"There’s more to the proposition now. I’ve come here with some men and an automatobus. You have your chance to come with me and disconnect twenty-five of the positronic motors. I don’t care which twenty-five you choose. We’ll load them on the bus and take them away. Once they’re disposed of, I’ll see to it that you get your fair share of the money."

"I have your word on that, I suppose."

He didn’t act as if he thought I was being sarcastic. He said, "You have."

I said, "No."

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"If you insist on saying no, we’ll go about it in our own way. I’ll disconnect the motors myself, only I’ll disconnect all fifty-one. Every one of them."

"It isn’t easy to disconnect positronic motors, Mr. Gellhom. Are you a robotics expert? Even if you are, you know, these motors have been modified by me."

"I know that, Jake. And to be truthful, I’m not an expert. I may ruin quite a few motors trying to get them out. That’s why I’ll have to work over all fifty-one if you don’t cooperate. You see, I may only end up with twenty-five when I’m through. The first few I’ll tackle will probably suffer the most. Till I get the hang of it, you see. And if I go it myself, I think I’ll put Sally first in line."

I said, "I can’t believe you’re serious, Mr. Gellhorn."

He said, "I’m serious, Jake." He let it all dribble in. "If you want to help, you can keep Sally. Otherwise, she’s liable to be hurt very badly. Sorry."

I said, "111 come with you, but I’ll give you one more warning. You’ll be in trouble, Mr. Gellhorn."

He thought that was very funny. He was laughing very quietly as we went down the stairs together.

There was an automatobus waiting outside the driveway to the garage apartments. The shadows of three men waited beside it, and their flash beams went on as we approached.

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Gellhorn said in a low voice, "I’ve got the old fellow. Come on. Move the truck up the drive and let’s get started."

One of the others leaned in and punched the proper instructions on the control panel. We moved up the driveway with the bus following submissively.

"It won’t go inside the garage," I said. "The door won’t take it. We don’t have buses here. Only private cars."

"All right," said Gellhorn. "Pull it over onto the grass and keep it out of sight."

I could hear the thrumming of the cars when we were still ten yards from the garage.

Usually they quieted down if I entered the garage. This time they didn’t. I think they knew that strangers were about, and once the faces of Gellhorn and the others were visible they got noisier. Each motor was a warm rumble, and each motor was knocking irregularly until the place rattled.

The lights went up automatically as we stepped inside. Gellhorn didn’t seem bothered by the car noise, but the three men with him looked surprised and uncomfortable. They had the look of the hired thug about them, a look that was not compounded of physical features so much as of a certain wariness of eye and hang-dogness of face. I knew the type and I wasn’t worried.

it One of them said, "Damn it, they’re burning gas."

"My cars always do," I replied stiffly.

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"Not tonight," said Gellhorn. "Turn them off."

"It’s not that easy, Mr. Gellhorn," I said.

"Get started!" he said.

I stood there. He had his fist gun pointed at me steadily. I said, "I told you, Mr. Gellhom, that my cars have been well-treated while they’ve been at the Farm. They’re used to being treated that way, and they resent anything else."

"You have one minute," he said. "Lecture me some other time."

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"I’m trying to explain something. I’m trying to explain that my cars can understand what I say to them. A positronic motor will learn to do that with time and patience. My cars have learned. Sally understood your proposition two days ago. You’ll remember she laughed when I asked her opinion. She also knows what you did to her and so do the two sedans you scattered. And the rest know what to do about trespassers in general."

"Look, you crazy old fool-"

"All I have to say is-" I raised my voice. "Get them!"

One of the men turned pasty and yelled, but his voice was drowned completely in the sound of fifty-one horns turned loose at once. They held their notes, and within the four walls of the garage the echoes rose to a wild, metallic call. Two cars rolled forward, not hurriedly, but with no possible mistake as to their target. Two cars fell in line behind the first two. All the cars were stirring in their separate stalls.

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