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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOut Like A Light - Chapter 13
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Out Like A Light - Chapter 13 Post by :PlayersGolf Category :Long Stories Author :Randall Garrett Date :May 2012 Read :431

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Out Like A Light - Chapter 13

CHAPTER XIII

By the time Malone reached the Statler Hilton Hotel it was six-twenty. Malone hadn't reckoned with New York's rush-hour traffic, and, after seeing it, he still didn't believe it. Finding a cab had been impossible, and he had started for the subway, hoping that he wouldn't get lost and end up somewhere in Brooklyn.

But one look at the shrieking mob trying to sardine itself into the Seventh Avenue subway entrance had convinced him it was better to walk. Bucking the street crowds was bad enough. Bucking the subway crowds was something Malone didn't even want to think about.

He let himself into his room, and was taking off his shoes with a grateful sigh when there was a rap on the door of the bathroom that connected his room with Boyd's. Malone padded over to the door, his shoes in one hand. "Tom?" he said.

"You were expecting maybe Titus Moody?" Boyd called.

"O.K.," Malone said. "Come on in."

Boyd pushed open the door. He was stripped to the waist, a state of dress which showed the largest expanse of chest Malone had ever seen, and he was carrying the small scissors which he used to trim his Henry VIII beard. He stabbed the scissors toward Malone, who shuffled back hurriedly.

"Listen," Boyd said, "did you call the office after you left this afternoon?"

"No," Malone admitted. "Why? What happened?"

"There was a call for you," Boyd said. "Long Distance, just before I left at five. I came on back to the hotel and waited until I heard you come in. Thought you might want to know about it."

"I do, I guess," Malone said. "Who from?" Looking at Boyd, a modern-day Henry VIII, the association was too obvious to be missed. Malone thought of Good Queen Bess, and wondered why she was calling him again.

And--more surprising--why she'd called him at FBI headquarters, when she must have known that he wasn't there.

"Dr. O'Connor," Boyd said.

"Oh," Malone said, somewhat relieved. "At Yucca Flats."

Boyd nodded. "Right," he said. "You're to call Operator Nine."

"Thanks." Malone went over to the phone, remembered his shoes and put them down carefully on the floor. "Anything else of importance?" he asked.

"On the Cadillacs," Boyd said. "We've got a final report now. Leibowitz and Hardin finally finished checking the last of them--there weren't quite as many as we were afraid there were going to be. Red isn't a very popular color around here."

"Good," Malone said.

"And there isn't a doggone thing on any of 'em," Boyd said. "Oh, we cleared up a lot of small-time crime, one thing and another, but that's about all. No such thing as an electro-psionic brain to be found anywhere in the lot. Leibowitz says he's willing to swear to it."

Malone sighed. "I didn't think he'd find one," he said.

"You didn't?"

"No," Malone said.

Boyd stabbed at him with the scissors again. "Then why did you cause all that trouble?" he said.

"Because I thought we might find electro-psionic brains," Malone said wearily. "Or one, anyhow."

"But you just said--"

Malone picked up the phone, got Long Distance and motioned Boyd to silence in one sweeping series of moves. The Long Distance Operator said: "Yes, sir? May we help you?"

"Give me Operator Nine," Malone said.

There was a buzz, a click and a new voice which said: "Operator Ni-yun. May we help you?"

"All nine of you?" Malone muttered. "Never mind. This is Kenneth Malone. I've got a call from Dr. Thomas O'Connor at Yucca Flats. Please connect me."

There was another buzz, a click and an ungodly howl which was followed by the voice of Operator Ni-yun saying: "We are connecting you. There will be a slight delay. We are sor-ree."

Malone waited. At last there was another small howl, and the screen lit up. Dr. O'Connor's face, as stern and ascetic as ever, stared through at Malone.

"I understand you called me," Malone said.

"Ah, yes," Dr. O'Connor said. "It's very good to see you again, Mr. Malone." He gave Malone a smile good for exchange at your corner grocery: worth, one icicle.

"It's good to see you, too," Malone lied.

"Mr. Burris explained to me what it was that you wanted to talk to me about," O'Connor said. "Am I to understand that you have actually found a teleport?"

"Unless my theories are away off," Malone said, "I've done a lot better than that. I've found eight of them."

"Eight!" Dr. O'Connor's smile grew perceptibly warmed. It now stood at about thirty-four degrees Fahrenheit. "That is really excellent, Mr. Malone. You have done a fine job."

"Thanks," Malone muttered. He wished that O'Connor didn't make him feel quite so much like a first-year law student talking to an egomaniacal professor.

"When can you deliver them?" O'Connor said.

"Well," Malone said carefully, "that depends." O'Connor seemed to view the teleports as pieces of equipment, he thought. "I can't deliver them until I catch them," he said. "And that's why I wanted to talk to you."

"Some slight delay," Dr. O'Connor said, "will be quite understandable." His face left no doubt that he didn't like the necessity of understanding anything that was going to keep him and the eight teleports apart for even thirty seconds longer, now that he knew about them.

"You see," Malone said, "they're kids. Juvenile delinquents, or something like that. But they are teleports, that's for sure."

"I see," Dr. O'Connor said.

"So we've got to nab them," Malone said. "And for that I need all the information I can get."

Dr. O'Connor nodded slowly. "I'll be happy," he said, "to give you any information I can provide."

* * * * *

Malone took a deep breath, and plunged. "How does this teleportation bit work, anyhow?" he said.

"You've asked a very delicate question," Dr. O'Connor said. "Actually, we can't be quite positive." His expression showed just how little he wanted to make this admission. "However," he went on, brightening, "there is some evidence which seems to show that it is basically the same process as psychokinesis. And we do have quite a bit of empirical data on psychokinesis." He scribbled something on a sheet of paper and said: "For instance, there's this." He held the paper up to the screen so that Malone could read it.

It said:


md
----- = K
ft2

Malone looked at it for some seconds. At last he said: "It's very pretty. What is it?"

"This," Dr. O'Connor said, in the tone of voice that meant You Should Have Known All Along, But You're Just Hopeless, "is the basic formula for the phenomenon, where _m is the mass in grams, _d is the distance in centimeters, _f is the force in dynes and _t is the time in seconds. _K is a constant whose value is not yet known."

Malone said: "Hm-m-m," and stared at the equation again. Somehow, the explanation was not very helpful. The value of _K was unknown. He understood that much, all right but it didn't seem to do him any good.

"As you can see," Dr. O'Connor went on, "the greater the force, and the longer time it is applied, the greater distance any mass can be moved. Or, contrariwise, the more mass, the greater mass, that is, the easier it is to move it any given distance. This is, as you undoubtedly understand, not at all in contradistinction to physical phenomena."

"Ah," Malone said, feeling that something was expected of him, but not being quite sure what.

Dr. O'Connor frowned. "I must admit," he said, "that the uncertainty as to the constant _k_, and the lack of any real knowledge as to just what kind of force is being applied, have held up our work so far." Then his face smoothed out. "Of course, when we have the teleports to work with, we may derive a full set of laws which--"

"Never mind that now," Malone said.

"But our work is most important, Mr. Malone," Dr. O'Connor said with a motion of his eyebrows. "As I'm sure you must understand."

"Oh," Malone said, feeling as if he'd been caught without his homework, "of course. But if you don't mind--"

"Yes, Mr. Malone?" Dr. O'Connor said smoothly.

"What I want to know," Malone said, "is this: what are the limitations of this ... uh ... phenomenon?"

Dr. O'Connor brightened visibly. "The limitations are several," he said. "In the first place, there is the force represented by _f in the equation. This seems to be entirely dependent on the ... ah ... strength of the subject's personality. That is if we assume that the process is at all parallel with the phenomena of psychokinesis and levitation. And there are excellent theoretical reasons for so believing."

"In other words," Malone said, "a man with a strong will would be able to exert more force than a weaker-willed man?"

"Correct," Dr. O'Connor said. "And another factor is the time, _t_. What we are measuring here is the span of attention of the individual--the ability of the subject's mind to concentrate on a given thing for a span of time. Many people, for example, cannot keep their attention focused on a single thought for more than a few milliseconds, it seems. They are ... ah ... 'scatter-brained,' as the saying is."

His expression left no doubt that he included Malone in that group. Malone tried not to look nervous.

Then Dr. O'Connor scowled. "There is another factor which we feel should be in the equation," he said, "but we have not yet found a precise way to express it mathematically. You must realize that the mathematical treatment of psionics is, as yet, in a relatively primitive stage."

"Oh," Malone said. "Of course. Sure. But this other factor--"

"It is what might be called the ... ah ... _volume of attention," Dr. O'Connor said. "That is, the actual amount of space that can be conceived of and held by the subject, during the time he is concentrating."

Malone blinked.

"For most people," Dr. O'Connor said, "the awareness of the space surrounding them is limited to a few inches of moving space, no more. To put this in a purely physical matrix: one might say that the 'teleportation field' doesn't extend more than a few inches beyond the skin of the subject. Thus, it would be difficult to teleport anything really large unless one were able to increase the volume of attention, or awareness. However, it is difficult to express this notion mathematically."

"I'll bet," Malone said.

* * * * *

Dr. O'Connor shot him a frozen glance. "One of our early attempts," he said, "was simply to put this in as a volume factor, so that the left-hand side of the equation, below the line, would read--" He scribbled again on the paper and held it up:


m d
---- = K
d3ft2

"Unfortunately, as you can perhaps see," Dr. O'Connor said, "the equation would not stand up under dimensional analysis."

"Oh, sure," Malone said, adding sympathetically: "That's too bad. But does that put a limit on how much a man could carry with him? I mean, he couldn't take a whole building along, or anything like that, could he?"

"I doubt it," Dr. O'Connor said gravely. "That would require a tremendous volume of space for one to focus his entire attention on, as a whole, for any useful length of time. It would require a type of mind that I am not even sure exists."

"In the case of a young, inexperienced boy," Malone said stubbornly, "would you say that he could carry off anything heavy?"

"Of course not," Dr. O'Connor said. "Nor, as a matter of fact, could he carry off anything that was securely bolted down; I hope you follow me?"

"I think so," Malone said. "But look here: suppose you handcuffed him to, say, a radiator or a jail cell bar."

"Yes?"

"Could he get away?"

Dr. O'Connor appeared to consider this with some care. "Well," he said at last, "he certainly couldn't take the radiator with him, or the cell bar. If that's what you mean." He hesitated, looked slightly shamefaced, and then went on: "But you must realize that we lack any really extensive data on this phenomenon."

"Of course," Malone said.

"That's why I'm so very anxious to get those subjects," Dr. O'Connor said.

"Dr. O'Connor," Malone said earnestly, "that's just what I had in mind from the start. I've been going to a lot of extra trouble to make sure that those kids don't get killed or end up in reform schools or something, just so you could work with them."

"I appreciate that, Mr. Malone," O'Connor said gravely.

Malone felt as if someone had given him a gold star. Fighting down the emotion, he went on: "I know right now that I can catch one or two of them. But I don't know for sure that I can hold one for more than a fraction of a second."

"I see your problem," Dr. O'Connor said. "Believe me, Mr. Malone. I do see your problem."

"And is there a way out?" Malone said. "I mean a way I can hold on to them for--"

"At present," Dr. O'Connor said heavily, "I have no suggestions. I lack data."

"Oh, fine," Malone said. "We need the kids to get the data, and we need the data to get the kids." He sighed. "Hooray for our side," he added.

"There does appear to be something of a dilemma here," Dr. O'Connor admitted sadly.

"Dilemma is putting it mildly," Malone said.

Dr. O'Connor opened his mouth, shut it, opened it again and said: "I agree."

"Well," Malone said, "maybe one of us will think of something. If anything does occur to you, let me know at once."

"I certainly will," Dr. O'Connor said. "Believe me, Mr. Malone, I want you to capture those--kids--just as badly as you want to capture them yourself."

"I'll try," Malone said at random. He flipped off and turned with a sense of relief back to Boyd. But it looked as if Henry VIII had been hit on the head with a cow, or something equally weighty. Boyd looked glassy-eyed and slightly stunned.

* * * * *

"What's the matter with you?" Malone said. "Sick?"

"I'm not sick," Boyd said carefully. "At least I don't think I'm sick. It's hard to tell."

"What's wrong?"

"Teleporting?" Boyd said. "Juvenile delinquents?"

Malone felt a sudden twinge in the area of his conscience. He realized that he had told Boyd nothing at all about what had been going on since the discovery of the notebook two nights ago. He filled his partner in rapidly while Boyd stood in front of the mirror and rather shakily attempted to trim his beard.

"That's why I had the car search continue," Malone said. "I was fairly sure the fault wasn't in the cars, but the boys. But I had to make absolutely sure."

Boyd said: "Oh," chopped a small section out of the center of his beard and added: "My hand's shaky."

"Well," Malone said, "that's the story."

"It sure is quite a story," Boyd said. "And I don't want you to think I don't believe it. Because I don't."

"It's true," Malone said.

"That doesn't affect me," Boyd said. "I'll go along with the gag. But enough is enough. Vanishing teen-agers. Ridiculous."

"Just so you go along with me," Malone said.

"Oh, I'll go along," Boyd said. "This is my vacation, too, isn't it? What's the next move, Mastermind?"

"We're going down to that warehouse," Malone said decisively. "I've got a hunch the kids have been hiding there ever since they left their homes yesterday."

"Malone," Boyd said.

"What?"

"You mean we're going down to the warehouse _tonight_?" Boyd said.

Malone nodded.

"I might have known," Boyd said. "I might have known."

"Tom," Malone said. "What's wrong?"

"Oh, nothing," Boyd said. "Nothing at all. Everything's fine and dandy. I think I'm going to commit suicide, but don't let that bother you."

"What happened?" Malone said.

Boyd stared at him. "You happened," he said. "You and the teen-agers and the warehouse happened. Three days' work--ruined."

Malone scratched his head, found out that his head still hurt and put his hand down again. "What work?" he said.

"For three days," Boyd said, "I've been taking this blond chick all over New York. Wining her. Dining her. Spending money as if I were Burris himself, instead of the common or garden variety of FBI agent. Night clubs. Theaters. Bars. The works. Malone, we were getting along famously. It was wonderful."

"And tonight--" Malone said.

"Tonight," Boyd said, "was supposed to be the night. The big night. The payoff. We've got a date for dinner--T-bone steak, two inches thick, with mushrooms. At her apartment, Malone."

"You'll have to break it," Malone said sympathetically. "Too bad, but it can't be helped now. You can pick up a sandwich before you go."

"A sandwich," Boyd said with great dignity, "is not my idea of something to eat."

"Look, Tom--" Malone began.

"All right, all right," Boyd said tiredly. "Duty is duty. I'll go call her."

"Fine," Malone said. "And meanwhile, I'll get us a little insurance."

"Insurance?"

"John Henry Fernack," Malone Malone said, "and his Safe and Loft Squad."

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CHAPTER XBy three o'clock, he was again among the living. Maybe his occupations had had something to do with it; he'd spent about four hours supervising Operation Dismemberment, and then listening to the reports on the dismantled Cadillacs. It was nice, peaceful, unimportant work, but there just wasn't anything else to do. FBI work was ninety-five per cent marking time, anyway; Malone felt grateful that there was any action at all in what he was doing. Dr. Leibowitz had found all sorts of things in the commandeered Caddies--everything from guns and narcotics to pornographic pictures in lots of three hundred, for
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