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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAnything You Can Do ... - Chapter 23
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Anything You Can Do ... - Chapter 23 Post by :Arun_Pal_Singh Category :Long Stories Author :Randall Garrett Date :May 2012 Read :2600

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Anything You Can Do ... - Chapter 23

Stanton sat in his hotel room, smoking a cigarette, staring at the wall, and thinking.

He was alone again. All the fuss and feathers and foofaraw were over. Dr. Farnsworth was in another room of the suite, making his plans for a complete physical examination of the Nipe. Dr. George Yoritomo was having the time of his life, holding a conversation with the Nipe, drawing the alien out, and getting him to talk about his own race and their history.

And Stanley Martin was plotting the next phase of the capture--the cover-up.

Stanton smiled a little. Colonel Mannheim had been a great one for planning, all right. Every little detail was taken care of. It had sometimes made his plans more complex than necessary, Stanton suspected. Mannheim had tended to try to account for every possible eventuality, and, after he had done that, he had set aside a few reserves here and there, just in case they might be useful if something unforeseen happened.

All things considered, the Government had certainly done the right thing. And, in picking Mannheim, they had picked the right man.

Stanton got up, walked over to the window, and looked down at the streets of Government City, eight floors below.

What would those people down there think if they were told the true story of the Nipe? What would the average citizen say if he discovered that, at this very moment, the Nipe was being treated almost as an honored guest of the Government? More, what would he say if he suspected that the Nipe--the horrible, murderous, man-eating Nipe--could have been killed easily at any time during the past six years?

Would it be possible for anyone to explain to the common average man that, in the long run, the knowledge possessed by the Nipe was tremendously more valuable to the race of Man than the lives of a few individuals?

Could those people down there, and the others like them all over the world, be made to understand that, by his own lights, the Nipe had been behaving in the most civilized and gentlemanly fashion he knew? Could they ever be made to understand that, because of the tremendous wealth of priceless information stored in that alien brain, the Nipe's life had to be preserved at any cost?

Or would they scream for blood?

Dr. Farnsworth assumed that Stanley Martin was going to spread a story about the Nipe's death--a carefully concocted story about how Stanley Martin had found the beast and the police had killed it. There might, Farnsworth assumed, be a carefully made "corpse" for the mob to hiss at. Maybe Farnsworth was right. But Stanton had the feeling that Martin and George Yoritomo had something else up their collective sleeve.

The phone hummed. Stanton walked over, thumbed the answer button, and watched George Yoritomo's face take shape on the screen.

"Bart! I have just had the privilege of viewing the tapes of your fight with our friend, the Nipe. Incredible! I watched the original on the screen, of course, but I had to run the tapes. I wanted to slow it down, so that I could see what actually happened. Magnificent, that right of yours! _So!_" He jabbed a fist out, shadowboxing with Stanton over the phone circuit.

"Awww, it weren't nuthin', Maw," Stanton drawled. "I jes' sorta flang out a fist an' he got in the way."

"Of course! But such a fling! Seriously, Bart, I want to run those tapes over again, and I want you to tell me, as best you can, just what went on in your mind at each stage of the fight. It will be most informative."

"You mean right now? I have an appointment--"

Yoritomo waved a hand. "No, no. Later. Take your time. But I am honestly amazed that you won so easily. I knew you were good, and I was certain you'd win, but I must admit that I honestly expected you to be injured."

Stanton looked down at his bandaged hands and felt the ache of his broken rib and the pain of the blue bruise on his thigh. In spite of the way it looked, he had actually been hurt worse than the Nipe had. That boy was _tough_!

"The trouble was that he couldn't adapt himself to fighting in a new way, just as you predicted," he told Yoritomo. "He fought me, I assume, in just the way he would have fought another Nipe. And that didn't work. I had the reach on him, and I could maneuver faster. Besides, he can't throw a straight punch with those shoulders of his."

"It appeared to me," Yoritomo said with a broad grin, "that you were fighting him as you would fight another human being. Eh?"

Stanton grinned back. "I was, in a modified way. But I wasn't confined to a pattern. Besides, I won--the Nipe didn't. And that's all that counts."

"It is, indeed. Well, I'll let you know when I'm ready for your impressions of the fight. Probably tomorrow some time--say, in the afternoon?"

"Fine."

George Yoritomo nodded his thanks, and his image collapsed and faded from the screen.

Stanton walked back over to the window, but this time he looked at the horizon, not the street.

George Yoritomo had called him "Bart". It's funny, Stanton thought, how habit can get the best of a man. Yoritomo had known the truth all along. And now he knew that his pupil--or patient--whichever it was--was aware of the truth. And still, he had called him "Bart".

_And I still think of myself as Bart_, he thought. _I probably always will.

And why not? Why shouldn't he? Martin Stanton no longer existed--in a sense, he had never existed. And in actual fact, he had never had much of a real existence. He was only a bad dream. He had always been a bad dream. And now that the dream was over, only "Bart" was real.

He thought back, remembering George Yoritomo's explanation.

"Take two people," he had said. "Two people genetically identical. Damage one of them so badly that he is helpless and useless--to himself and to others. Damage him so badly that he is always only a step away from death.

"The vague telepathic bond that always links identical twins (they 'think alike', they say) becomes unbalanced under such conditions.

"Normally, there is a give-and-take. One mind is as strong as the other, and each preserves the sense of his own identity, since the two different sets of sense receptors give different viewpoints. But if one of the twins is damaged badly enough, then something must happen to that telepathic linkage.

"Usually it is broken.

"But the link between you and your brother was not broken. Instead, it became a one-way channel.

"What happens in such a case? The damaged brother, in order to escape the intolerable prison of his own body, becomes a receptor for the stronger brother's thoughts. The weaker feels as the stronger feels. The experience of the one becomes the experience of the other--the thrill of running after a baseball, the pride of doing something clever with the hands, the touch of a girl's kiss upon the lips--all these become the property of the weaker, since he is receiving the thoughts of the stronger. There is, of course, no flow in the other direction. The stronger brother has no way of knowing that his every thought is being duplicated in his brother's mind.

"In effect, the damaged brother ceases to think. The thoughts in his mind are those of the healthy brother. The feeling of identity becomes almost complete.

"To the outside observer, the damaged brother appears to be a cataleptic schizophrenic, completely cut off from reality. And, in a sense, he is."

Stanton walked over to the nightstand by the bed, took another cigarette from the pack, lit it, and looked at the smoke curling up from the tip.

_So Martin became a cataleptic schizophrenic_, he thought.

The mind of Martin had ceased to think at all. The "Bart" part of him had not wanted to be disturbed by the garbled, feeble sensory impressions that "Mart's" body provided. Like many another schizophrenic, Martin had been living in a little world cut off from the actual physical world around his body.

The difference between Martin's condition and that of the ordinary schizophrenic had been that Martin's little dream world had actually existed. It had been an almost exact counterpart of the world that had existed in the perfectly sane, rational mind of his brother, Bart. It had grown and developed as Bart had, fed by the one-way telepathic flow from the stronger mind to the weaker.

There had been two Barts--and no Mart at all.

But there had been only one human being between them. Bart Stanton had been a strong, capable, intelligent, active human being. The duplicate of his mind was just a recording in the mind of a useless, radiation-blasted hulk.

And then the Neurophysical Institute had come into the picture. A new process had been developed by Dr. Farnsworth and his crew, by which a human being could be reconstructed--made, literally, into a superman. All the techniques had been worked out in careful and minute detail. But there was one major drawback. Any normal human body would resist the process--to the death, if necessary--just as a normal human body will resist a skin graft from an alien donor or the injection of an alien protein.

But the radiation-damaged body of Martin Stanton had had no resistance of that kind. It had long been known that deep-penetrating ionizing radiation had that effect on an organism. The ability to resist was weakened, almost destroyed.

With Martin Stanton's body--perhaps--the process might work.

So Bartholomew Stanton, who had become Martin's legal guardian after the death of their mother, had given permission for the series of operations that would rebuild his crippled brother.

The telepathic link, of course, had to be shut off--for a time, at least. If it remained intact, Martin would never be able to think for himself, no matter what was done to his body. Part of that cutting-off process could be done during the treatment of Martin--but only if Bartholomew would co-operate. He had done his part. He had submitted to deep hypnosis, and had allowed himself to be convinced that his name was Stanley Martin, to think of himself as Stanley Martin. The Martin name was one that the real Martin's mind would reject utterly. That mind wanted nothing to do with anything named Martin.

"Stanley Martin," then, had gone out to the asteroids. In his mind had been implanted the further instructions that he was not to return to Earth nor to attempt to investigate the Nipe under any circumstances. The simple change of name and environment had been just enough to snap the link during a time when Martin's brain had been inactivated by cold therapy and anesthetics.

Only the sense of identity had remained. The patient was still "Bart"--but now he was being forced to think for himself.

Mannheim had used them both, naturally. Colonel Mannheim had the ability to use anyone at hand, including himself, to get a job done.

Stanton looked at his watch. It was almost time.

Mannheim had sent for "Stanley Martin" when the time had come for him to return in order to give the Nipe data that he would be sure to misinterpret. A special series of code phrases in the message had released "Stanley Martin" from the hypnotic suggestions that had held him for so long. He knew now that he was Bartholomew Stanton.

_And so do I_, thought the man by the window. _We have a lot to straighten out, we two.

There was a knock at the door.

Stanton walked over and opened it, trying not to think.

It was like looking into a mirror.

"Hello, Bart," he said.

"Hello, Bart," said the other.

In that instant, complete telepathic linkage was restored. In that instant, they both knew what only one of them had known before--that, for a time, the telepathic flow had been one-way again, but this time in the opposite direction--that "Stanley Martin" had been shaken that afternoon when his own mind had become the receptor for the other's thoughts, and he had experienced completely the entire battle with the Nipe. His release from the posthypnotic suggestion had made it possible.

There was no need for further words.

_E duobus unum.

There was unity without loss of identity.


(THE END)
Randall Garrett's Novel: Anything You Can Do ...

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