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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAnything You Can Do ... - Chapter 20
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Anything You Can Do ... - Chapter 20 Post by :Arun_Pal_Singh Category :Long Stories Author :Randall Garrett Date :May 2012 Read :1189

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Anything You Can Do ... - Chapter 20

The arrival of the great Stanley Martin was a three-day wonder in the public news channels. His previous exploits were recounted, with embellishments, several times during the next seventy-two hours. The "arrival" itself was very carefully staged. A special ship belonging to the World Police brought him in, and he was met by four Government officials in civilian clothes. The entire affair was covered live by news cameras. No one on Earth suspected that he had been on Earth for weeks before; a few _knew it, but it never even occurred to the rest.

Later, a special interview was arranged. Philip Quinn, a news interviewer who was noted for his deferential attitude toward those whom he had the privilege of interviewing, was chosen for the job.

Stanley Martin's dynamic, forceful personality completely overshadowed Quinn.

But in spite of all the publicity, not one word, not one hint about the method by which Stanley Martin intended to bring the Nipe in was released. There were all kinds of speculations, ranging from the mystically sublime to the broadly comical. One self-styled archbishop of a California nut cult declared that Martin was a saint appointed by God to exorcise the Demon Nipe that had been plaguing Mankind and that the Millennium was therefore due at any moment. He was, he said, sending Stanley Martin a sealed letter which contained a special exorcism prayer that would do the job very nicely. Why hadn't he used it himself? Because if anyone other than a saint or an angel used it, it would backfire on the user and destroy him. Naturally the archbishop did not claim himself to be a saint, but he knew that Martin was because he had plainly seen the halo around the detective's head when he saw him on TV.

An inventor in Palermo, Sicily, solemnly declared that he had sent Stanley Martin the plans for a device that would render him invisible to the Nipe and therefore make the Nipe easy to conquer. No, there was no danger that the device might fall into the wrong hands and be used by human criminals, since it did not render a person invisible to human eyes, only to Nipe eyes.

The first item was played up big in the newscasts. The second was quashed--fast!--for the very simple reason that the Nipe just might have believed it.

One note throbbed in the background of every interview with responsible persons. It was the unobtrusive note of a soft clarinet played in a great symphony, all the more telling because it was never played loudly or insistently, but it was there all the same. Whenever the question of the Nipe's actual whereabouts came up, the note seemed to ring a trifle more clearly, but never more loudly. That single throbbing note was the impression given by everyone who was interviewed, or who expressed any views on the subject, that the Nipe was hiding somewhere in the Amazonian jungles of South America. It was the last place on Earth that had still not been thoroughly explored, and it seemed to be the only place that the Nipe could hide.

Only a small handful of the vast array of people who were dispensing this carefully tailored propaganda knew what was going on. More than ninety-nine percent of the newsmen involved in the affair thought they were honestly giving the news as they saw it, and none of them saw the invisible but very powerful hand of Stanley Martin shifting the news just enough to give it the bias he wanted.

The comedians on the entertainment programs let the whole story alone for the most part. There were no clever skits, no farcical takeoffs on the subject of Stanley Martin and the Nipe. One comedian, who was playing the part of a henpecked husband, did remark: "If my wife gets any meaner, I'm going to send Stan Martin after _her_!" But it didn't get much of a laugh. And the Government organization had nothing to do with that kind of censorship; it was self-imposed. Every one of the really great comics recognized, either consciously or subconsciously, that the Nipe was not a subject for humor. Such jokes would have made them about as popular as the Borscht Circuit comedian who told a funny story about Dachau in 1946.

Aside from the subtle coloring given it by the small, Mannheim-trained group of propaganda experts, the news went out straight.

The detective himself, after that one single interview, vanished from sight. No one knew where he was, though, again, there were all kinds of speculations, all of them erroneous. Actually, he was a carefully guarded and willing prisoner in a suite in one of the big hotels in Government City.

On the fourth day, the big operation began without fanfare. The actual maneuvering to capture the alien that had terrorized a planet began shortly after noon.

At a few minutes before three that afternoon, the man whom the world knew as Stanley Martin suddenly suffered a dizzy spell and nearly fainted.

Then, almost like a child, he began to weep.


_FINAL INTERLUDE


Colonel Walther Mannheim said: "It will take five years, Stanton."

He was looking at the young man seated in one of the three chairs in the small, comfortable room. There was a clublike atmosphere about the room, but none of the three men were relaxed.

"Five years?" said the young man. He looked at the third man.

Dr. Farnsworth nodded. "More or less. More if it's a partial failure--less if it's a complete failure."

"Then there _is a chance of failure?" the young man asked.

"There is always a chance of failure in any major surgical undertaking," Dr. Farnsworth said. "Even in the most routine cases, things can go wrong. We're only men, Mr. Stanton. We're neither magicians nor gods."

"I know that, Doctor," the young man said. "Nobody's perfect, and I don't expect perfection. Can you give me a--an estimate on the chances?"

"I can't even give you any kind of guess," said Farnsworth. He smiled rather grimly. "So far, we have had no failures. Our mortality rate is a flat zero. We have never lost a patient because we've never had one. As I told you, this will be the first time the operation has ever been performed on a human being. Or, rather," he corrected himself, "I should say series of operations. This is not one single--er--cut-and-suture job, like an appendectomy."

"All right, then, call it a series of operations," the young man said. "I assume each of them has been performed individually?"

"Not exactly. Some of them have never been performed on any human being simply because they require not only special conditions, but they require that the steps leading up to them have already been performed."

"You don't make things sound very rosy, Doctor."

"I'm not trying to. I'm trying to give you the facts. Personally, I think we have a better than ninety percent chance of success. I wouldn't try it if I thought otherwise. With modern mathematical methods of analyzing medical theory, we can predict success for such an intricate series of operations. We can predict what will happen when massive doses of hormones and enzymes and such are used. But medicine still remains largely an art in spite of all that.

"In parallel operations, performed on primates, our results were largely successful. But remember that not even every human being has the genetic structure necessary to undergo this particular treatment, and a monkey's gene structure is quite different from yours or mine."

"I'll just ask you one question," the young man said firmly. "If _you were being asked to undergo this treatment, would you do it?"

Dr. Farnsworth didn't hesitate. "All things considered, yes, I would."

"What do you mean, 'All things considered'?"

"The very fact that the Nipe exists, and that this is the only method of dealing with him that is even remotely possible would certainly influence my opinion," Farnsworth said. "I might not be so quick to go through it, frankly, if it were not for the fact that the future of the entire human race would depend upon my decision." He paused, then added: "I would hesitate to go through with it if there were no Nipe threat, not because I would be afraid that the operations might fail, but because of what I would be afterward."

"Um. Yes." The young man caught his lower lip between his teeth and thought for a moment. "Yes, I see what you mean. Being a lone superman in a world of ordinary people mightn't be so pleasant."

Colonel Mannheim, who had been sitting silently during the discussion between the two men, said: "Look, Stanton, I know this is tough. Actually, it's a lot tougher on you than it is on your brother, because _you have to make the decision. _He can't. But I want you to keep it in mind that there's nothing compulsory in this. Nobody's trying to force you to do anything."

There was a touch of bitterness in the young man's smile as he looked at the colonel. "No. You merely remind me of the fact and leave the rest to my sense of duty."

Colonel Mannheim, recognizing the slightly altered quotation, returned his smile and gave him the next line. "'Your sense of duty!'"

The bitterness vanished, and the young man's smile became a grin. "'Don't put it on that footing!'" he quoted back in a melodramatic voice. "'As I was merciful to you just now, be merciful to me! I implore you not to insist on the letter of your bond just as the cup of happiness is at my lips!'"

"'We insist on nothing,'" returned the colonel; "'we content ourselves with pointing out _your duty_.'"

Dr. Farnsworth had no notion of what the two of them were talking about, but he kept silent as he noticed the tension fading.

"'Well, you have appealed to my sense of duty,'" the young man continued, "'and my duty is all too clear. I abhor your infamous calling; I shudder at the thought that I have ever been mixed up with it; but duty is before all--at any price I will do my duty.'"

"'Bravely spoken!'" said the colonel. "'Come, you are one of us once more.'"

"'Lead on. I follow.'"

And the two of them broke out in laughter while Farnsworth looked on in total incomprehension. His was not the kind of mind that could face a grim situation with a laugh.

Even after he quit laughing, the smile remained on the young man's face. "All right, Colonel, you win. We'll go through with it, Martin and I."

"Good!" Mannheim said warmly. "Do you have the papers, Dr. Farnsworth?"

"Right here," Farnsworth said, opening a briefcase that was lying on the table. He was glad to be back in the conversation again. He took out a thick sheaf of papers and spread them on the table. Then he handed the young man a pen. "You'll have to sign at the bottom of each sheet," he said.

The young man picked up the papers and read through them carefully. Then he looked up at Farnsworth. "They seem to be in order. Uh--about Martin. You know what's the matter with him--I mean, aside from the radiation. Do you think he'll be able to handle his part of the job after--after the operations?"

"I'm quite sure he will. The operations, plus the therapy we'll give him afterward should put him in fine shape."

"Well." He looked thoughtful. "Five more years. And then I'll have the twin brother that I never really had at all. Somehow that part of it just doesn't really register, I guess."

"Don't worry about it, Stanton," said Dr. Farnsworth. "We have a complex enough job ahead of us without your worrying in the bargain. We'll want your mind perfectly relaxed. You have your own ordeal to undergo."

"Thanks for reminding me," the young man said, but there was a smile on his face when he said it. He looked at the release forms again. "All nice and legal, huh? Well ..." He hesitated for a moment, then he took the pen and wrote _Bartholomew Stanton in a firm, clear hand.

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