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After every battle, even a victory, there are the wounded.
Injured flesh can heal. A hand can be replaced, perhaps. An eye can be bandaged; even a damaged brain can to some extent be repaired. But there are wounds too deep for any surgeon's knife to probe. There are doors that will not open from the outside.
I found a mind divided.
My first awareness is of location. I am in a large conical room inside some vast vehicle, hurtling through space. The world is familiar to me, though I am new.
"He's awake!" says a black-haired young woman, watching me with frightened eyes. Half a dozen people in disheveled clothing, the three men, long unshaven, gather slowly in my field of vision.
My field of vision? My left hand comes up to feel about my face, and its fingers find my left eye covered with a patch.
"Don't disturb that!" says the tallest of the men. Probably he was once a distinguished figure. He speaks sharply, yet there is still a certain diffidence in his manner, as if I am a person of importance. But I am only . . . who?
"What's happened?" I ask. My tongue has trouble finding even the simplest words. My right arm lies at my side as if forgotten, but it stirs at my thought, and with its help I raise myself to a sitting position, provoking an onrush of pain through my head, and dizziness.
Two of the women back away from me. A stout young man puts a protective arm around each of them. These people are familiar to me, but I cannot find their names.
"You'd better take it easy," says the tallest man. His hands, a doctor's, touch my head and my pulse, and ease me back onto the padded table.
Now I see that two tall humanoid robots stand flanking me. I expect that at any moment the doctor will order them to wheel me away to my hospital room. Still, I know better. This is no hospital. The truth will be terrible when I remember it.
"How do you feel?" asks the third man, an oldster, coming forward to bend over me.
"All right, I guess." My speech comes only in poor fragments. "What's happened?"
"There was a battle," says the doctor. "You were hurt, but I've saved your life."
"Well. Good." My pain and dizziness are subsiding.
In a satisfied tone the doctor says: "It's to be expected that you'll have difficulty speaking. Here, try to read this."
He holds up a card, marked with neat rows of what I suppose are letters or numerals. I see plainly the shapes of the symbols, but they mean nothing to me, nothing at all.
"No," I say finally, closing my eye and lying back. I feel plainly that everyone here is hostile to me. Why?
I persist: "What's happened?"
"We're all prisoners, here inside the machine," says the old man's voice. "Do you remember that much?"
"Yes." I nod, remembering. But details are very hazy. I ask: "My name?"
The old man chuckles drily, sounding relieved. "Why not Thadfor Thaddeus?"
"Thad?" questions the doctor. I open my eye again. Power and confidence are growing in the doctor; because of something I have done, or have not done? "Your name is Thad," he tells me.
"We're prisoners?" I question him. "Of a machine?"
"Of a berserker machine." He sighs. "Does that mean anything to you?"
Deep in my mind, it means something that will not bear looking at. I am spared; I sleep.
When I awake again, I feel stronger. The table is gone, and I recline on the soft floor of this cabin or cell, this white cone-shaped place of imprisonment. The two robots still stand by me, why I do not know.
"Atsog!" I cry aloud, suddenly remembering more. I had happened to be on the planet Atsog when the berserkers attacked. The seven of us here were carried out of a deep shelter, with others, by the raiding machines. The memory is vague and jumbled, but totally horrible.
"He's awake!" says someone again. Again the women shrink from me. The old man raises his quivering head to look, from where he and the doctor seem to be in conference. The stout young man jumps to his feet, facing me, fists clenched, as if I had threatened him.
"How are you, Thad?" the doctor calls. After a moment's glance my way, he answers himself: "He's all right. One of you girls help him with some food. Or you, Halsted."
"Help him? God!" The black-haired girl flattens herself against the wall, as far from me as possible. The other two women crouch washing someone's garment in our prison sink. They only look at me and turn back to their washing.
My head is not bandaged for nothing. I must be truly hideous, my face must be monstrously deformed, for three women to look so pitilessly at me.
The doctor is impatient. "Someone feed him, it must be done."
"He'll get no help from me," says the stout young man. "There are limits."
The black-haired girl begins to move across the chamber toward me, everyone watching her.
"You would?" the young man marvels to her, and shakes his head.
She moves slowly, as if she finds walking painful. Doubtless she too was injured in the battle; there are old healing bruises on her face. She kneels beside me, and guides my left hand to help me eat, and gives me water. My right side is not paralyzed, but somehow unresponsive.
When the doctor comes close again, I say: "My eye. Can it see?"
He is quick to push my fingers away from the eyepatch. "For the present, you must use only your left eye. You've undergone brain surgery. If you take off that patch now, the consequences could be disastrous, let me warn you."
I think he is being deceptive about the eyepatch. Why?
The black-haired girl asks me: "Have you remembered anything more?"
"Yes. Before Atsog fell, we heard that Johann Karlsen was leading out a fleet, to defend Sol."
All of them stare at me, hanging on my words. But they must know better than I what happened.
"Did Karlsen win the battle?" I plead. Then I realize we are prisoners still. I weep.
"There've been no new prisoners brought in here," says the doctor, watching me carefully. "I think Karlsen has beaten the berserkers. I think this machine is now fleeing from the human fleet. How does that make you feel?"
"How?" Has my understanding failed with my verbal skills? "Good."
They all relax slightly.
"Your skull was cracked when we bounced around in the battle," the old man tells me. "You're lucky a famous surgeon was here." He nods his head. "The machine wants all of us kept alive, so it can study us. It gave the doctor what he needed to operate, and if he'd let you die, or remain paralyzed, things would've been bad for him. Yessir, it made that plain."
"Mirror?" I ask. I gesture at my face. "I must see. How bad."
"We don't have a mirror," says one of the women at the sink, as if blaming me for the lack.
"Your face? It's not disfigured," says the doctor. His tone is convincing, or would be if I were not certain of my deformity.
I regret that these good people must put up with my monster-presence, compounding all their other troubles. "I'm sorry," I say, and turn from them, trying to conceal my face.
"You really don't know," says the black-haired girl, who has watched me silently for a long time. "He doesn't know!" Her voice chokes. "OhThad. Your face is all right."
True enough, the skin of my face feels smooth and normal when my fingers touch it. The black-haired girl watches me with pity. Rounding her shoulder, from inside her dress, are half-healed marks like the scars of a lash.
"Someone's hurt you," I say, frightened. One of the women at the sink laughs nervously. The young man mutters something. I raise my left hand to hide my hideous face. My right comes up and crosses over to finger the edges of the eyepatch.
Suddenly the young man swears aloud, and points at where a door has opened in the wall.
"The machine must want your advice on something," he tells me harshly. His manner is that of a man who wants to be angry but does not dare. Who am I, what am I, that these people hate me so?
I get to my feet, strong enough to walk. I remember that I am the one who goes to speak alone with the machine.
In a lonely passage it offers me two scanners and a speaker as its visible face. I know that the cubic miles of the great berserker machine surround me, carrying me through space, and I remember standing in this spot before the battle, talking with it, but I have no idea what was said. In fact, I cannot recall the words of any conversation I have ever held.
"The plan you suggested has failed, and Karlsen still functions," says the cracked machine voice, hissing and scraping in the tones of a stage villain.
What could I have ever suggested, to this horrible thing?
"I remember very little," I say. "My brain has been hurt."
"If you are lying about your memory, understand that I am not deceived," says the machine. "Punishing you for your plan's failure will not advance my purpose. I know that you live outside the laws of human organization, that you even refused to use a full human name. Knowing you, I trust you to help me against the organization of intelligent life. You will remain in command of the other prisoners. See that your damaged tissues are repaired as fully as possible. Soon we will attack life in a new way."
There is a pause, but I have nothing to say. Then the noisy speaker scrapes into silence, and the scanner-eyes dim. Does it watch me still, in secret? But it said it trusted me, this nightmare enemy said it trusted in my evil to make me its ally.
Now I have enough memory to know it speaks the truth about me. My despair is so great I feel sure that Karlsen did not win the battle. Everything is hopeless, because of the horror inside me. I have betrayed all life. To what bottom of evil have I not descended?
As I turn from the lifeless scanners, my eye catches a movementmy own reflection, in polished metal. I face the flat skinny bulkhead, staring at myself.
My scalp is bandaged, and my left eye. That I knew already. There is some discoloration around my right eye, but nothing shockingly repulsive. What I can see of my hair is light brown, matching my two months' unkempt beard. Nose and mouth and jaw are normal enough. There is no horror in my face.
The horror lies inside me. I have willingly served a berserker.
Like the skin around my right eye, that bordering my left eye's patch is tinged with blue and greenish yellow, hemoglobin spilled under the skin and breaking down, some result of the surgeon's work inside my head.
I remember his warning, but the eyepatch has the fascination for my fingers that a sore tooth has for the tongue, only far stronger. The horror is centered in my evil left eye, and I cannot keep from probing after it. My right hand flies eagerly into action, pulling the patch away.
I blink, and the world is blurred. I see with two eyes, and then I die.
T staggered in the passage, growling and groaning his rage, the black eyepatch gripped in his fingers. He had language now, he had a foul torrent of words, and he used them until his weak breath failed. He stumbled, hurrying through the passage toward the prison chamber, wild to get at the wise punks who had tried such smooth trickery to get rid of him. Hypnotism, or whatever. Re-name him, would they? He'd show them Thaddeus.
T reached the door and threw it open, gasping in his weakness, and walked out into the prison chamber. The doctor's shocked face showed that he realized T was back in control.
"Where's my whip?" T glared around him. "What wise punk hid it?"
The women screamed. Young Halsted realized that the Thaddeus scheme had failed; he gave a kind of hopeless yell and charged, swinging like a crazy man. Of course, T's robot bodyguards were too fast for any human. One of them blocked Halsted's punch with a metal fist, so the stout man yelped and folded up, nursing his hand.
"Get me my whip!" A robot went immediately to reach behind the sink, pull out the knotted plastic cord, and bring it to the master.
T thumped the robot jovially, and smiled at the cringing lot of his fellow prisoners. He ran the whip through his fingers, and the fingers of his left hand felt numb. He flexed them impatiently. "What'sa matter, there, Mr. Halsted? Somethin' wrong with your hand? Don't wanna give me a handshake, welcome me back? C'mon let's shake!"
The way Halsted squirmed around on the floor was so funny T had to pause and give himself up to laughing.
"Listen, you people," he said when he got his breath. "My fine friends. The machine says I'm still in charge, see? That little information I gave it about Karlsen did the trick. Boom! Haw haw haw! So you better try to keep me happy, 'cause the machine's still backing me a hunnerd per cent. You, Doc." T's left hand began trembling uncontrollably, and he waved it. "You were gonna change me, huh? You did somethin' nice to fix me up?"
Doc held his surgeon's hands behind him, as if he hoped to protect them. "I couldn't have made a new pattern for your character if I had triedunless I went all the way, and turned you into a vegetable. That I might have done."
"Now you wish you had. But you were scared of what the machine would do to you. Still, you tried somethin', huh?"
"Yes, to save your life." Doc stood up straight. "Your injury precipitated a severe and almost continuous epileptoid seizure, which the removal of the blood clot from your brain did not relieve. So, I divided the corpus callosum."
T flicked his whip. "What's that mean?"
"You seethe right hemisphere of the brain chiefly controls the left side of the body. While the left hemisphere, the dominant one in most people, controls the right side, and handles most judgments involving symbols."
"I know. When you get a stroke, the clot is on the opposite side from the paralysis."
"Correct." Doc raised his chin. "T, I split your brain, right side from left. That's as simply as I can put it. It's an old but effective procedure for treating severe epilepsy, and the best I could do for you here. I'll take an oath on that, or a lie test"
"Shuddup! I'll give you a lie test!" T strode shakily forward. "What's gonna happen to me?"
"As a surgeon, I can say only that you may reasonably expect many years of practically normal life."
"Normal!" T took another step, raising his whip. "Why'd you patch my good eye, and start calling me Thaddeus?"
"That was my idea," interrupted the old man, in a quavery voice. "I thoughtin a man like yourself, there had to be someone, some component, like Thad. With the psychological pressure we're under here, I thought Thad just might come out, if we gave him a chance in your right hemisphere. It was my idea. If it hurt you any, blame me."
"I will." But T seemed, for the moment, more interested than enraged. "Who is this Thaddeus?"
"You are," said the doctor. "We couldn't put anyone else into your skull."
"Jude Thaddeus," said the old man, "was a contemporary of Judas Iscariot. A similarity of names, but" He shrugged.
T made a snorting sound, a single laugh. "You figured there was good in me, huh? It just had to come out sometime? Why, I'd say you were crazybut you're not. Thaddeus was real. He was here in my head for a while. Maybe he's still there, hiding. How do I get at him, huh?" T raised his right hand and jabbed a finger gently at the corner of his right eye. "Ow. I don't like to be hurt. I got a delicate nervous system. Doc, how come his eye is on the right side if everything crosses over? And if it's his eye, how come I feel what happens to it?"
"His eye is on the right because I divided the optic chiasm, too. It's a somewhat complicated"
"Never mind. We'll show Thaddeus who's boss. He can watch with the rest of you. Hey, Blacky, c'mere. We haven't played together for a while, have we?"
"No," the girl whispered. She hugged her arms around herself, nearly fainting. But she walked toward T. Two months as his slaves had taught them all that obedience was easiest.
"You like this punk Thad, huh?" T whispered, when she halted before him. "You think his face is all right, do you? How about my face? Look at me!"
T saw his own left hand reach out and touch the girl's cheek, gently and lovingly. He could see in her startled face that she felt Thaddeus in the hand; never had her eyes looked this way at T before. T cried out and raised his whip to strike her, and his left hand flew across his body to seize his own right wrist, like a terrier clamping jaws on a snake.
T's right hand still gripped the whip, but he thought the bones of his wrist were cracking. His legs tangled each other and he fell. He tried to shout for help, and could utter only a roaring noise. His robots stood watching. It seemed a long time before the doctor's face loomed over him, and a black patch descended gently upon his left eye.
Now I understand more deeply, and I accept. At first I wanted the doctor to remove my left eye, and the old man agreed, quoting some ancient Believers' book to the effect that an offending eye should be plucked out. An eye would be a small price to rid myself of T.
But after some thought, the doctor refused. "T is yourself," he said at last. "I can't point to him with my scalpel and cut him out, although it seems I helped to separate the two of you. Now you control both sides of the body; once he did." The doctor smiled wearily. "Imagine a committee of three, a troika inside your skull. Thaddeus is one, T anotherand the third is the person, the force, that casts the deciding vote. You. That's best I can tell you."
And the old man nodded.
Mostly, I do without the eyepatch now. Reading and speaking are easier when I use my long-dominant left brain, and I am still Thaddeusperhaps because I choose to be Thaddeus. Could it be that terribly simple?
Periodically I talk with the berserker, which still trusts in T's greedy outlawry. It means to counterfeit much money, coins and notes, for me to take in a launch to a highly civilized planet, relying on my evil to weaken men there and set them against each other.
But the berserker is too badly damaged to watch its prisoners steadily, or it does not bother. With my freedom to move about I have welded some of the silver coins into a ring, and chilled this ring to superconductivity in a chamber near the berserker's unliving heart. Halsted tells me we can use this ring, carrying a permanent electric current, to trigger the C-plus drive of the launch that is our prison, and tear our berserker open from inside. We may damage it enough to save ourselves. Or we may all be killed.
But while I live, I Thaddeus, rule myself; and both my hands are gentle, touching long black hair.
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