The Complete Stories (Page 9)
"Hey, there, don’t bark. I’m not doing anything. My guess would be-"
Foster was exasperated. "Don’t you know?"
"Hmp. I’ll tell you what I know about neutrinics. It concerns the applications of neutrino movements and the forces involved-"
"Sure. Sure. Just as electronics deals with the applications of electron movements and the forces involved, and pseudo-gravities deals with the applications of artificial gravitational fields. I didn’t come to you for that. Is that all you know?"
"And," said Nimmo with equanimity, "neutrinics is the basis of time viewing and that is all I know."
Foster slouched back in his chair and massaged one lean cheek with great intensity. He felt angrily dissatisfied. Without formulating it explicitly in his own mind, he had felt sure, somehow, that Nimmo would come up with some late reports, bring up interesting facets of modern neutrinics, send him back to Potterley able to say that the elderly historian was mistaken, that his data was misleading, his deductions mistaken.
Then he could have returned to his proper work.
But now . . .
He told himself angrily: So they’re not doing much work in the field. Does that make it deliberate suppression? What if neutrinics is a sterile discipline? Maybe it is. I don’t know. Potterley doesn’t. Why waste the intellectual resources of humanity on nothing? Or the work might be secret for some legitimate reason. It might be …
The trouble was, he had to know. He couldn’t leave things as they were now. He couldn ‘t!
He said, "Is there a text on neutrinics, Uncle Ralph? I mean a clear and simple one. An elementary one."
Nimmo thought, his plump cheeks puffing out with a series of sighs. "You ask the damnedest questions. The only one I ever heard of was Sterbinski and somebody. I’ve never seen it, but I viewed something about it once. . . . Sterbinski and LaMarr, that’s it."
"Is that the Sterbinski who invented the chronoscope?" i "I think so. Proves the book ought to be good." "Is there a recent edition? Sterbinski died thirty years ago."
Nimmo shrugged and said nothing.
"Can you find out?"
They sat in silence for a moment, while Nimmo shifted his bulk to the creaking tune of the chair he sat on. Then the science writer said, "Are you going to tell me what this is all about?"
"I can’t. Will you help me anyway, Uncle Ralph? Will you get me a copy of the text?"
"Well, you’ve taught me all I know on pseudo-gravities. I should be grateful. Tell you what-I’ll help you on one condition."
The older man was suddenly very grave. "That you be careful, Jonas. You’re obviously way out of line whatever you’re doing. Don’t blow up your career just because you’re curious about something you haven’t been assigned to and which is none of your business. Understand?"
Foster nodded, but he hardly heard. He was thinking furiously.
A full week later, Ralph Nimmo eased his rotund figure into Jonas Foster’s on-campus two-room combination and said, in a hoarse whisper, "I’ve got something."
"What?" Foster was immediately eager.
"A copy of Sterbinski and LaMarr." He produced it, or rather a corner of it, from his ample topcoat.
Foster almost automatically eyed door and windows to make sure they were closed and shaded respectively, then held out his hand.
The film case was flaking with age, and when he cracked it the film was faded and growing brittle. He said sharply, "Is this all?"
"Gratitude, my boy, gratitude!" Nimmo sat down with a grunt, and reached into a pocket for an apple.
"Oh, I’m grateful, but it’s so old."
"And lucky to get it at that. 1 tried to get a film run from the Congressional Library. No go. The book was restricted."
"Then how did you get this?"
"Stole it." He was biting crunchingly around the core. "New York Public."
"Simple enough. I had access to the stacks, naturally. So I stepped over a chained railing when no one was around, dug this up, and walked out with it. They’re very trusting out there. Meanwhile, they won’t miss it in years. . . . Only you’d better not let anyone see it on you, nephew."
Foster stared at the film as though it were literally hot.
Nimmo discarded the core and reached for a second apple. "Funny thing, now. There’s nothing more recent in the whole field of neutrinics. Not a monograph, not a paper, not a progress note. Nothing since the chrono-scope."
"Uh-huh," said Foster absently.
Foster worked evenings in the Potterley home. He could not trust his own on-campus rooms for the purpose. The evening work grew more real to him than his own grant applications. Sometimes he worried about it but then that stopped, too.
His work consisted, at first, simply in viewing and reviewing the text film. Later it consisted in thinking (sometimes while a section of the book ran itself off through the pocket projector, disregarded).
Sometimes Potterley would come down to watch, to sit with prim, eager eyes, as though he expected thought processes to solidify and become visible in all their convolutions. He interfered in only two ways. He did not allow Foster to smoke and sometimes he talked.
It wasn’t conversation talk, never that. Rather it was a low-voiced monologue with which, it seemed, he scarcely expected to command attention. It was much more as though he were relieving a pressure within himself.
Carthage! Always Carthage!
Carthage, the New York of the ancient Mediterranean. Carthage, commercial empire and queen of the seas. Carthage, all that Syracuse and Alexandria pretended to be. Carthage, maligned by her enemies and inarticulate in her own defense.