The Currents of Space (Page 59)

"And if I did?" asked Fife.

"Then ask him how he could get the records from the office of a doctor who was dead and buried for months unless he had them all along. Really!"

Fife said, "This is foolish. We can waste time indefinitely this way. Another doctor took over the dead man’s practice and his records as well. Do any of you think medical records are destroyed along with a physician?"

Abel said, "No, of course not."

Steen stuttered, then sat down. –

Fife said, "What’s next? Have any of you more to say? More accusations? More anything?" His voice was low. Bitterness showed through.

Abel said, "Why, that was Steen’s say, and we’ll let it pass. Now Junz and I, we’re here on another kind of business. We would like to see the Spatio-analyst."

Fife’s hands had been resting upon the desk top. They lifted now and came down to clutch the edge of the desk. His black eyebrows drew together.

He said, "We have in custody a man of subnormal mentality who claims to be a Spatio-analyst. I’ll have him brought in!"

Valona March had never, never in her life dreamed such impossibilities could exist. For over a day now, ever since she had landed on this planet of Sark, there had been a touch of wonder about everything. Even the prison cells in which she and Bik

had been separately placed seemed to have an unreal quality of magnificence about them. Water came out of a hole in a pipe when you pressed a button. Heat came out of the wall, although the air outside had been colder than she had thought air could possibly get. And everyone who spoke to her wore such beautiful clothes.

She had been in rooms in which were all sorts of things she had never seen before. This one now was larger than any yet but it was almost bare. It had more people in it, though. There was a stern-looking man behind a desk, and a much older, very wrinkled man in a chair, and three others.

One was the Townrnan!

She jumped up and ran to him. "Townman! Townman!"

But he wasn’t there!

He had gotten up and waved at her. "Stay back, Lona. Stay back!"

And she passed right through him. She had reached out to seize his sleeve, he moved it away. She lunged, half stumbling, and passed right through him. For a moment the breath went out of her body. The Townman had turned, was facing her again, but she could only stare down at her legs.

Both of them were thrusting through the heavy arm of the chair in which the Townman had been sitting. She could see it plainly, in all its color and solidity. It encircled her legs but she did not feel it. She put out a trembling hand and her fingers sank an inch deep into upholstery they could not feel either. Her fingers remained visible.

She shrieked and fell, her last sensation being that of the Townman’s arms reaching automatically for her and herself f ailing through their circle as though they were pieces of flesh-tinted air.

She was in a chair again, Rik holding one hand tightly and the old, wrinkled man leaning over her.

He was saying, "Don’t be frightened, my dear. It’s just a picture. A photograph, you know."

Valona looked about. The Townman was still sitting there. He wasn’t looking at her.

She pointed a finger. "Isn’t he there?"

Rik said suddenly, "It’s a trimensic personification, Lona. He’s somewhere else, but we can see him from here."

Valona shook her head. If Rik said so, it was all right. But she lowered her eyes. She dared not look at people who were there and not there at the same time.

Abel said to Rik, "So you know what trimensic personification is, young man?"

"Yes, sir." It had been a tremendous day for uk, too, but where Valona was increasingly dazzled, he had found things increasingly familiar and comprehensible.

"Where did you learn that?"

"I don’t know. I knew it before-before I forgot."

Fife had not moved from his seat behind the desk during the wild plunge of Valona March toward the Townman.

He said acidly, "I am sorry to have to disturb this meeting by bringing in a hysterical native woman. The so-called Spatioanalyst required her presence."

"It’s all right," said Abel. "But I notice that your Florinian of subnormal mentality seems to be acquainted with trimensic personification."

"He has been well drilled, I imagine," said Fife. –

Abel said, "Has he been questioned since arriving on Sark?"

"He certainly has."

"With what result?"

"No new information."

Abel turned to Bik. "What’s your name?"

"Rik is the only name I remember," said Elk calmly.

"Do you know anyone here?"

Rik looked from face to face without fear. He said, "Only the Towriman. And Lona, of course."

"This," said Abel, gesturing toward Fife, "is the greatest Squire that ever lived. He owns the whole world. What do you think of him?"

Bik said boldly, "rm an Earthman. He doesn’t own me."

Abel said in an aside to Fife, "I don’t think an adult native Florinian could be trained into that sort of defiance."

"Even with a psycho-probe?" returned Fife scornfully.

"Do you know this gentleman?" asked Abel, returning to Elk.

"No, sir."

"This is Dr. Selim Junz. He’s an important official at the Interstellar Spatio-analytic Bureau."

Elk looked at him intently. "Then he’d be one of my chiefs. But," with disappointment, "I don’t know him. Or maybe I just don’t remember."

Junz shook his head gloomily. "I’ve never seen him, Abel."

"That’s something for the record," muttered Fife.

"Now listen, Elk," said Abel. "rm going to tell you a story. I want you to listen with all your mind and think. Think and think! Do you understand me?"