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Unwise Child - Chapter 18 Post by :traffic-tart Category :Long Stories Author :Randall Garrett Date :May 2012 Read :1940

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Unwise Child - Chapter 18

Captain Sir Henry Quill opened the door of the late Lieutenant Mellon's quarters and went in, followed by Mike the Angel. The dead man's gear had to be packed away so that it could be given to his nearest of kin when the officers and crew of the _Brainchild returned to Earth. Regulations provided that two officers must inventory his personal effects and those belonging to the Space Service.

"Does Chief Pasteur know what killed him yet, Captain?" Mike asked.

Quill shook his head. "No. He wants my permission to perform an autopsy."

"Are you going to let him?"

"I think not. We'll put the body in the freezer and have the autopsy performed on Earth." He looked around the room, seeing it for the first time.

"If you don't," said Mike, "you've got three suspected killers on your hands."

Quill was unperturbed. "Don't be ridiculous, Golden Wings."

"I'm not," Mike said. "I hit him in the pit of his stomach. Chief Pasteur filled him full of sedative. Mister Vaneski shot him with a stun beam. He died. Which one of us did it?"

"Probably no single one of them, but a combination of all three," said Captain Quill. "Each action was performed in the line of duty and without malice aforethought--without even intent to harm permanently, much less to kill. There will have to be a court-martial, of course--or, at the very least, a board of inquiry will be appointed. But I am certain you'll all come through any such inquiry scatheless." He picked up a book from Mellon's desk. "Let's get about our business, Mister Gabriel. Mark down: Bible, one."

Mike put it down on the list.

"_International Encyclopedia_, English edition. Thirty volumes and index."

Mike put it down.

"_The Oxford-Webster Dictionary of the English Language_--

"_Hallbert's Dictionary of Medical Terms_--

"_The Canterbury Theological Dictionary_--

"_The Christian Religion and Symbolic Logic_, by Bishop K. F. Costin--

"_The Handbook of Space Medicine_--"

As Captain Quill called out the names of the books and put them into the packing case he'd brought, Mike marked them down--while something began ticking in the back of his mind.

"Item," said Captain Quill, "one crucifix." He paused. "Beautifully carved, too." He put it into the packing case.

"Excuse me, Captain," said Mike suddenly. "Let me take a look at something, will you?" Excitedly, he leaned over and took some of the books out, looking at the pages of each one.

"I'll be damned," he said after a moment. "Or I _should be--for being such a stupid idiot!"

Captain Quill narrowed his eyes. "What are you talking about, Mister Gabriel?"

"I'm not sure yet, Captain," Mike hedged. "May I borrow these three books?" He held them up in his hands.

"May I be so bold as to ask _why_, Mister Gabriel?"

"I just want to look at them, sir," Mike said. "I'll return them within a few hours."

"Mister Gabriel," Captain Quill said, "after what happened last night, I am suspicious of everything that goes on aboard this ship. But--yes. You may take them. However, I want them returned before we land tomorrow morning."

Mike blinked. Neither he nor anyone else--with the exception of Captain Quill and Lieutenant Commander von Liegnitz, the navigator, knew the destination of the ship. Mike hadn't realized they were that close to their goal. "I'll have them back by then," he promised.

"Very well. Now let's get on about our work."

The job was completed within forty-five minutes. A man can't carry a great deal with him on a spaceship. When they were through, Mike the Angel excused himself and went to his quarters. Two hours after that he went to the officers' wardroom to look up Pete Jeffers. Pete hadn't been in his quarters, and Mike knew he wasn't on duty by that time. Sure enough, Jeffers was drinking coffee all by himself in the wardroom. He looked up when Mike came in.

"Hullo, Mike," he said listlessly. "Come sit. Have some coffee."

There was a faint aroma in the air which indicated that there was more in the cup than just coffee. "No, thanks, Pete. I'll sit this one out. I wanted to talk to you."

"Sit. I am drinking a toast to Mister Lew Mellon." He pointed at the coffee. "Sure you won't have a mite? It's sweetened from the grape."

"No, thanks again." Mike sat down. "It's Mellon I wanted to talk about. Did you know him well, Pete?"

"Purty well," Pete said, nodding. "Yeah, purty well. I always figured him for a great little bloke. Can't figure what got into him."

"Me either. Pete, you told me he was an Anglo-Catholic--a good one, you said."

"'At's right."

"Well, how did you mean that?"

Pete frowned. "Just what I said. He studied his religion, he went to Mass regularly, said his prayers--that sort of thing. And he was, I will say, a Christian gentleman in every sense of the word." There was irritation in his voice, as though Mike had impugned the memory of a friend.

"Don't get huffy, Pete; he struck me as a pretty nice person, too--"

"Until he flipped his lid," said Pete. "But that might happen to anybody."

"Sure. But what I want to know--and don't get sore--is, did he show any kind of--well, _instability before this last outbreak?"

"Like what?"

"I mean, was he a religious nut? Did he act 'holier than thou' or--well, was he a fanatic, would you say?"

"No, I wouldn't say so. He didn't talk much about it. I guess you noticed that. I mean, he didn't preach. He smoked some and had his glass of wine now and then--even had a cocktail or two on occasion. His views on sex were orthodox, I reckon--I mean, as far as I know. He'd tell an off-color story, if it wasn't _too bad. But he'd get up and leave quietly if the boys started tellin' about the women they'd made. Fornication and adultery just weren't his meat, I'd say."

"I know he wasn't married," Mike said. "Did he date much?"

"Some. He liked to dance. Women seemed to like him."

"How about men?"

"Most of the boys liked him."

"That's not what I meant."

"Oh. Was he queer?" Pete frowned. "I'd damn near stake my life that he wasn't."

"You mean he didn't practice it?"

"I don't believe he even thought about it," Pete said. "Course, you can't tell what's really goin' on in a man's mind, but--" His frown became a scowl. "Damn it, Mike, just because a man isn't married by the time he's thirty-five and practices Christian chastity while he's single don't necessarily mean he's a damn fairy!"

"I didn't say it did. I just wondered if you'd heard anything."

"No more'n I've heard about you--who are in exactly the same position!"

"Exactly," Mike agreed. "That's what I wanted to know. Pete, if you've got it to spare, I'll join you in that toast."

Pete Jeffers grinned. "Comin' right up, buddy-boy."

He poured two more cups of coffee, spiked them from a small flask of brandy, and handed one to Mike. They drank in silence.

Fifteen minutes later, Mike the Angel was in the little office that Leda Crannon shared with Dr. Fitzhugh. She was alone.

"How's the girl today?" he asked.

"Beat," she said with a forced smile.

"You look beautiful," he said. He wasn't lying. She looked drawn and tired, but she still looked beautiful.

"Thanks, Mike. What can I do for you?"

Mike the Angel pulled up a chair and sat down. "Where's Doc Fitz?"

"He's still trying to get information out of Snookums. It's a weird thing, Mike--a robot with a soul."

"You don't mind talking about it?"

"No; go ahead if you want."

"All right, answer me a question," he said. "Can Snookums read English?"

"Certainly. And Russian, and German, French, Chinese, and most of the other major languages of Earth."

"He could read a book, then?"

"Yes. But not unless it was given to him and he was specifically told to use its contents as data."

"Good," said Mike. "Now, suppose Snookums was given complete data on a certain field of knowledge. Suppose further that this field is internally completely logical, completely coherent, completely self-consistent. Suppose it could even be reduced to a series of axioms and theorems in symbolic logic."

"All right," she said. "So?"

"Now, further suppose that this system, this field of knowledge is, right now, in constant use by millions of human beings, even though most of them are unaware of the implications of the entire field. Could Snookums work with such a body of knowledge?"

"Sure," said Leda. "Why not?"

"What if there was absolutely no way for Snookums to experiment with this knowledge? What if he simply did not have the equipment necessary?"

"You mean," she asked, "something like astrophysics?"

"No. That's exactly what I don't mean. I'm perfectly well aware that it isn't possible to test astrophysical theories directly. Nobody has been able to build a star in the lab so far.

"But it _is possible to test the theories of astrophysics analogically by extrapolating on data that _can be tested in a physics lab.

"What I'm talking about is a system that Snookums, simply because he is what he is, cannot test or experiment upon, in any way whatsoever. A system that has, in short, no connection with the physical world whatsoever."

Leda Crannon thought it over. "Well, assuming all that, I imagine that it would eventually ruin Snookums. He's built to experiment, and if he's kept from experimenting for too long, he'll exceed the optimum randomity of his circuits." She swallowed. "If he hasn't already."

"I thought so. And so did someone else," said Mike thoughtfully.

"Well, for Heaven's sake! What is this system?" Leda asked in sudden exasperation.

"You're close," said Mike the Angel.

"What are you talking about?"

"Theology," said Mike. "He was pumped full of Christian theology, that's all. Good, solid, Catholic theology. Bishop Costin's mathematical symbolization of it is simply a result of the verbal logic that had been smoothed out during the previous two thousand years. Snookums could reduce it to math symbols and equations, anyway, even if we didn't have Bishop Costin's work."

He showed her the book from Mellon's room.

"It doesn't even require the assumption of a soul to make it foul up a robot's works. He doesn't have any emotions, either. And he can't handle something that he can't experiment with. It would have driven him insane, all right. But he _isn't insane."

Leda looked puzzled. "But--"

"Do you know why?" Mike interrupted.


"Because he found something that he could experiment with. He found a material basis for theological experimentation."

She looked still more puzzled. "What could that be?"

"Me," said Mike the Angel. "Me. Michael Raphael Gabriel. I'm an angel--an archangel. As a matter of fact, I'm _three archangels. For all I know, Snookums has equated me with the Trinity."

"But--how did he get that idea?"

"Mostly from the Book of Tobit," said Mike. "That's where an archangel takes the form of a human being and travels around with Tobit the Younger, remember? And, too, he probably got more information from the first part of Luke's Gospel, where Gabriel tells the Blessed Virgin that she's about to become a mother."

"But would he have figured that out for himself?"

"Possibly," said Mike, "but I doubt it. He was told that I was an angel--literally."

"Let me see that book," she said, taking _The Christian Religion and Symbolic Logic from Mike's hand. She opened it to the center. "I didn't know anyone had done this sort of work," she said.

"Oh, there was a great fuss over the book when it came out. There were those who said that the millennium had arrived because the truth of the Christian faith had been proved mathematically, and therefore all rational people would have to accept it."

She leafed through the book. "I'll bet there are still some who still believe that, just like there are some people who still think Euclidian geometry must necessarily be true because it can be 'proved' mathematically."

Mike nodded. "All Bishop Costin did--all he was _trying to do--was to prove that the axioms of the Christian faith are logically self-consistent. That's all he ever claimed to have done, and he did a brilliant job of it."

"But--how do you know this is what Snookums was given?"

"Look at the pages. Snookums' waldo fingers wrinkled the pages that way. Those aren't the marks of human fingers. Only two of Mellon's other books were wrinkled that way."

She jerked her head up from the book, startled. "_What? This is Lew Mellon's book?"

"That's right. So are the other two. A Bible and a theological dictionary. They're wrinkled the same way."

Her eyes were wide, bright sapphires. "But _why_? Why would he do such a thing, for goodness' sake?"

"I don't know why it was done," Mike said slowly, "but I doubt if it was for goodness' sake. We haven't gotten to the bottom of this hanky-panky yet, I don't think.

"Leda, if I'm right--if this _is what has been causing Snookums' odd behavior--can you cure him?"

She looked at the book again and nodded. "I think so. But it will take a lot of work. I'll have to talk to Fitz about it. We'll have to keep this book--and the other two."

Mike shook his head. "No can do. Can you photocopy them?"

"Certainly. But it'll take--oh, two or three hours per book."

"Then you'd better get busy. We're landing in the morning."

She nodded. "I know. Captain Quill has already told us."

"Fine, then." He stood up. "What will you do? Simply tell Snookums to forget all this stuff?"

"Good Heavens no! It's too thoroughly integrated with every other bit of data he has! You might be able to take one single bit of data out that way, but to jerk out a whole body of knowledge like this would completely randomize his circuits. You can pull out a tooth by yanking with a pair of forceps, but if you try to take out a man's appendix that way, you'll lose a patient."

"I catch," Mike said with a grin. "Okay. I'll get the other two books and you can get to work copying them. Take care."

"Thanks, Mike."

As he walked down the companionway, he cursed himself for being a fool. If he'd let things go on the way they were, Leda might have weaned herself away from Snookums. Now she was interested again. But there could have been no other way, of course.

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Unwise Child - Chapter 19 Unwise Child - Chapter 19

Unwise Child - Chapter 19
The interstellar ship _Brainchild orbited around her destination, waiting during the final checkup before she landed on the planet below. It was not a nice planet. As far as its size went, it could be classified as "Earth type," but size was almost the only resemblance to Earth. It orbited in space some five hundred and fifty million miles from its Sol-like parent--a little farther away from the primary than Jupiter is from Sol itself. It was cold there--terribly cold. At high noon on the equator, the temperature reached a sweltering 180 deg. absolute; it became somewhat chillier toward the poles.

Unwise Child - Chapter 15 Unwise Child - Chapter 15

Unwise Child - Chapter 15
Midnight, ship time. And, as far as the laws of simultaneity would allow, it was midnight in Greenwich, England. At least, when a ship returned from an interstellar trip, the ship's chronometer was within a second or two, plus or minus, of Greenwich time. Theoretically, the molecular vibration clocks shouldn't vary at all. The fact that they did hadn't yet been satisfactorily accounted for. Mike the Angel tried to make himself think of clocks or the variations in space time or anything else equally dull, in the hope that it would put him to sleep. He began to try to work