The Currents of Space (Page 10)

"I don’t know."

Terens put his thumb on the round aluminum disk which, five minutes before, had been sensitized to his thumbprint. The clear glass door swnng open and, as they stepped within, it closed silently and, as though a blind had been drawn, became opaque.

The room was six feet in each direction, without window or adornment. It was lit by the diffuse ceiling glow and ventilated by a forced-air draft. The only contents were a desk that stretched from wall to wall and an upholstered backless bench between it and the door. On the desk were three "readers." Their frosted-glass fronts slanted backward at an angle of thirty degrees. Before each were the various control-dials.

"Do you know what this is?" Terens sat down and placed his soft, plump hand upon one of the readers.

Rik sat down too.

"Books?" he asked eagerly.

"Well." Terens seemed uncertain. "This is a library, so your guess doesn’t mean much. Do you know how to work the reader?"

"No. I don’t think so, Townman."

"You’re sure? Think about it a little."

Rik tried valiantly. "I’m sorry, Townman."

"Then I’ll show you. Look! First, you see, there’s this knob, labeled ‘Catalog’ with the alphabet printed about it. Since we want the encyclopedia first, we’ll turn the knob to E and press downward."

He did so and several things happened at once. The frosted glass flared into life and printing appeared upon it. It stood out black on yellow as the ceiling light dimmed. Three smooth panels moved out like so many tongues, one before each reader, and each was centered by a tight light-beam.

Tereus snapped a toggle switch and the panels moved back into their recesses.

He said, "We won’t be taking notes."

Then he went on, "Now we can go down the list of E’s by turning this knob."

The long line of alphabetized materials, titles, authors, catalog numbers flipped upward, then stopped at the packed column listing the numerous volumes of the encyclopedia.

Rik said suddenly, "You press the numbers and letters after the book you want on these little buttons and it shows on the screen."

Terens turned on him. "How do you know? Do you remember that?"

"Maybe I do. I’m not sure. It just seems the right thing."

"Well, call it an intelligent guess."

He punched a letter-number combination. The light on the glass faded, then brightened again. It said: "Encyclopedia of Sark, Volume 54, Sol-Spec."

Terens said, "Now look, 131k, I don’t want to put any ideas in your head, so I won’t tell you what’s in my mind. I just want you to look through this volume and stop at anything that seems f amiliar. Do you understand?"


"Good. Now take your time."

The minutes passed. Suddenly Rik gasped and sent the dials spinning backward.

When he stopped, Terens read the heading and looked pleased. "You remember now? This isn’t a guess? You remember?"

Elk nodded vigorously. "It came to me, Townman. Very suddenly."

It was the article on Spatio-analysis.

"I know what it says," Elk said. "You’ll see, you’ll see." He was having difficulty breathing normally and Terens, for his part, was almost equally excited.

"See," said Rik, "they always have this part."

He read aloud haltingly, but in a manner far more proficient than could be accounted for by the sketchy lessons in reading he had received from Valona. The article said:

"It is not surprising that the Spatio-analyst is by temperament an introverted and, often enough, maladjusted individual. To devote the greater part of one’s adult life to the lonely recording of the terrible emptiness between the stars is more than can be asked of someone entirely normal. It is perhaps with some realization of this that the Spatio-analytic Institute has adopted as its official slogan the somewhat wry statement, "We Analyze Nothing."

Rik finished with what was almost a shriek.

Terens said, "Do you understand what you’ve read?"

The smaller man looked up with blazing eyes. "It said, ‘We Analyze Nothing.’ That’s what I remembered. I was one of them."

"You were a Spatio-analyst?"

"Yes," cried uk. Then, in a lower voice, "My head hurts."

"Because you’re remembering?"

"I suppose so." He looked up, forehead furrowed. "I’ve got to remember more. There’s danger. Tremendous danger! I don’t know what to do."

"The library’s at our disposal, Elk." Terens was watching carefully, weighing his words. "Use the catalog yourself and look up some texts on Spatio-analysis. See where that leads you."

Rik flung himself upon the reader. He was shaking visibly. Terens moved aside to give him room.

"How about Wrijt’s Treatise of Spatio-analytic Instrumentation?" asked Rik. "Doesn’t that sound right?"

"It’s all up to you, Rik."

Rik punched the catalog number and the screen burned brightly and steadily. It said, "Please Consult Librarian for Book in Question."

Terens reached out a quick hand and neutralized the screen. "Better try another book, Rik."

"But…" Rik hesitated, then followed orders. Another search through the catalog and then he chose Enning’s Composition of Space.

The screen filled itself once more with a request to consult the librarian. Terens said, "Damn!" and deadened the screen again.

Rik said, "What’s the matter?"

Terens said, "Nothing. Nothing. Now don’t get panicky, Rik. I just don’t quite see-"

There was a little speaker behind the grillwork on the side of the reading mechanism. The librarian’s thin, dry voice emerged therefrom and froze them both.