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Chapter One


A man sat at a small desk beside an open window, writing with an old-fashioned steel-nib pen which he dipped at intervals into a pot of blue-black ink. A soft sea-wind moved the curtain, bringing an odor of salt and kelp. Far away, a bell chimed out the hour of six P.M.

The man wrote a line, crossed it out, sat looking across the view of lawns and gardens. His face was strong-featured, square-jawed. His gray hair lay close to a finely formed skull. His fingers were thick, square-tipped; powerful fingers.

"Writing pomes again, Mr. Grayle?" A voice spoke suddenly from the doorway behind the man. He turned with a faint smile.

"That's right, Ted." His voice was deep, soft, with a faint trace of accent.

"You like to write pomes, don't you, Mr. Grayle?" Ted grinned in mild conspiracy.


"Hey, game time, Mr. Grayle. Guess you maybe didn't hear the bell."

"I guess not, Ted." Grayle rose.

"Boy oh boy, the Blues are going to mop up on the Reds tonight, hey, Mr. Grayle?" Ted stood aside as Grayle stepped out into the wide, well-lit corridor.

"Sure we will, Ted."

They walked along the passage, where other men were emerging from rooms.

"Well, tonight's the night, eh, Mr. Grayle?" Ted said.

"Tonight?" Grayle inquired mildly.

"You know. The new power system goes on. Just pick it out of the air. Nifty, huh?"

"I didn't know."

"You don't read the papers much, do you, Mr. Grayle?"

"Not much, Ted."

"Boy oh boy." Ted waggled his head. "What will they come up with next?"

They crossed an airy court, passed through an arcade, and emerged onto a wide, grassy meadow. Men dressed in simple, well-made, one-piece garments, some bearing a red armband, others a blue, stood in groups talking, tossing a baseball back and forth.

"Go get 'em, Mr. Grayle," Ted said. "Show 'em the old stuff."

"That's right, Ted."

The man called Ted leaned against a column, arms folded, watched as Grayle walked across to join his team.

"Hey, that's the guy, hah?" A voice spoke beside Ted. He turned and gave an up-and-down frown to the young fellow who had come up beside him.

"What guy?"

"The mystery man. I been hearing about him. Nobody knows how long he's been here. I heard he killed a guy with an ax. He does-n't look like so much to me."

"Mr. Grayle is an all-right guy, greenhorn," Ted said. "That's a lot of jetwash about nobody knows how long he's been here. They got records. They know, O.K."

"How long you been here, Ted?"

"Me? Five years, why?"

"I talked to Stengel; he's been here nineteen years. He says the guy was here then."


"He doesn't look old enough to be an old con."

"What's he supposed to look, old? So he's maybe thirty-five, maybe forty-five. So what?"

"I'm curious, is all."

"Hah," Ted said. "You college-trained guys. You got too many theories."

The young fellow shrugged. The two guards stood watching as the teams formed up for the nightly ball game played by the inmates of the Caine Island Federal Penitentiary.


It was a long, narrow room, dim, age-grimed, smelling of the spilled beers of generations. Weak late-afternoon sunshine filtered through the bleary plate-glass window where garish blue glow-letters spelled out FANGIO'S in reverse. A man with four chins and a bald skull bulked behind the bar, talking to a small, quick-eyed man who hunched on a stool next to a defunct jukebox loaded with curled records five years out of date. In the corner booth, a man with a badly scarred face sat talking to himself. He was dressed in an expensive gray suit which was dusty and stained. A gold watch gleamed on one wrist, visible under a black-edged cuff as he gesticulated.

"The bum is dough-heavy," the small man said, watching the lone drinker in the tarnished mirror through a gap in the clutter of blended-whiskey bottles on the backbar. "Did you eyeball that bundle?"

Fangio's eyes moved left, right, left as he scraped slops into a chipped plate.

"Seen Soup around?" he murmured.

The small man's eyelids flickered an affirmative.

Fangio laid the plate aside and wiped his hands on his vest.

"I got to go out back," he said. "Keep an eye on the place." He walked away, eased sideways through a narrow door. The small man went to the phone booth at the end of the bar and punched keys; he talked, watching the scarred man.

A woman came in through the black-glass doors. She was middle-aged, a trifle plump, heavily made up. She took a stool at the bar, looked around, and called, "O.K., snap it up. The lady's waiting."

The small man kicked open the door of the booth.

"Beat it, Wilma," he said in a low, urgent voice. "Fangio ain't in."

"What're you, the night watchman?"

"Go on, dust."

The woman twisted her mouth at him. "I'll get my own." She started around behind the bar. The small man jumped to her, caught her bracelet-heavy arm, twisted savagely. She yelped and kicked at him.

The doors banged as a squat man in a shapeless gray coverall came in. He stopped dead, looking at the two. He had a wide, dark face, bristly black hair; acne scars pitted his jaw and hairline.

"What the—" he started.

"Yeah, Soup," the small man said. "I was calling ya." He stepped clear of the woman, who snorted and yanked at her dress. The small man tipped his head, indicating the occupied booth.

Soup gave Wilma a deadly look. "Beat it," he said. She scuttled behind him and out the door.

In the booth, the scarred man was opening and closing his fist.

". . . golden bird of Ahuriel," he said. "Once flown, never to be recaptured . . ."

"What's he talking about?" Soup asked.

The small man shook his head. "He's scrambled." They walked back, stopped beside the table. The scarred man ignored them.

"Try the left hip."

Soup reached out, with a practiced motion took the drunk's arm up behind him, forcing his face down onto the table. A glass fell over. Soup reached across behind the seated man, patted his back pocket, brought out a sheaf of currency, folded once across the middle. The bill on the outside was a fifty. Holding the owner's arm, he spread the bills.

"Hey," he said. "New shoes for baby."

He released the seated man's arm and stepped back. The victim sprawled, unmoving, with his cheek against the table.

They had taken two steps when the scarred man came up out of the booth in a lunge, locked his arm across the squat man's throat, and bent him backward.

"Stay, hagseed!" he hissed. His face was mottled, blurred, contorted. "Art his emissaries? Lurks he yonder?"

The small man made a grab for the money still in his partner's hand, missed, turned, and ran for the door.

"Find thy tongue, wretch, ere my dirk rips thy weasand!"

Soup's hand, clutching the money, waved near the scarred man's face; he plucked the bills away, as with a desperate plunge the squat man broke free.

"Stay, whelp, I'll have report o' thy master!" the scarred man snarled, making a grab at the man. He missed, staggered against a booth. The squat man disappeared via the rear door. The scarred man looked at the money in his hand as though noticing it for the first time.

"Nay . . . 'twere but a mere cutpurse," he muttered. "Naught more . . ." He looked around as the door opened cautiously. The woman called Wilma looked in, came through.

"Hey," she said. "What gives?"

The scarred man blinked at her, weaving.

"Fetch ale, wench," he muttered, and turned, half-fell into the nearest seat.

The rear door burst open; Fangio appeared, goggling.

"Hey, what—"

"Draw two," the woman barked. She sat down across from the scarred man, who was leaning back, eyes shut, mouth open. She stared curiously at his disfigurements.

"You know him?" Fangio asked tersely.

"Sure. Him and me are old pals." She transferred her gaze to the money in the drunken man's hand.

"Varför?" the scarred man mumbled. "Varför har du gjört det, du som var min vän och brör?"

"Why does he talk funny?" Fangio was frowning darkly.

"He's some kind of a Dane," the woman said quickly. "My first husband was a Dane. I heard plenty that kind of jabber."

"He looks like some kind of Jew," Fangio said.

"Get the beers," the woman said. "You ain't no Jew, are you, honey?" She patted the big-knuckled hand that lay on the table.

"Geez, will you look at them scars?" Fangio said.

"Used to be a fighter," the woman said. "What is this, a quiz show?"

" 'Twere but a dream," the scarred man said suddenly. He opened his eyes, looked vaguely at the woman.

"Just . . . dream," he said. "That's all. Bad dream. Forget it."

The woman patted his hand again. "Sure, honey. Forget it. Wilma will take care of you. Wilma's got a room, honey. We better get you there while you can still navigate . . ."


At the Upper Pasmaquoddie Generating Station (Experimental), a dozen senators and representatives, the state governor, assorted lesser political lights, and a selected cadre of reporters were grouped around the Secretary of the Interior as he stood chatting with the chief engineer and his top aides before the forty-foot-wide, twelve-foot-high panel clustered thick with instrument dials and aflash with reassuring amber, red, and green lights, indicating that all was in readiness for the first commercial transmission of beamed power in the history of the Republic.

"It's impressive, Mr. Hunnicut," the Secretary said, nodding. "A great achievement."

"If it works," a saintly-looking senator said sharply.

"The technical people assure us that it will, Cy," the Secretary said tolerantly.

"I'm familiar with the inverse square law," the senator retorted. "You go pouring power out into the air, not one percent of it will get where it's supposed to go. It's a boondoggle! A waste of the taxpayers' money."

The chief engineer frowned as the reporters jotted briskly.

"Senator, I don't think you quite understand. We aren't broadcasting power, as you call it—not directly. We erect a carrier field— somewhat similar to the transmission of a Three-V broadcast. When the field impinges on a demand point—an energy-consuming device, that is, of the type responsive to the signal—there's a return impulse—an echo—"

"The senator knows all that, Mr. Hunnicut," the Secretary said, smiling indulgently. "He's speaking for publication."

A man in an oil-spotted smock came up, showed the chief engineer a clipboard. He nodded, looked at the clock on the antiseptically white wall.

"Two minutes to zero hour," the Secretary said. "Everything is still proceeding normally?"

"Yes, sir, Mr. Secretary," the technician said, then retreated under the blank look this netted him from the dignitary.

"All systems are functioning," Hunnicut said, making it official. "I see no reason that we shouldn't switch over on schedule."

"Think of it, gentlemen." The Secretary turned to the legislators, and, incidentally, to the reporters. "Raw power, torn from the heart of the atom, harnessed here, waiting the call that will send it pouring into the homes and factories of America—"

"At this point, we're only powering a few government-operated facilities and public-utilities systems," Hunnicut interjected. "It's still a pilot operation."

". . . freeing man from his age-old drudgery, ushering in a new era of self-realization and boundless promise—"

"Sixty seconds," a voice spoke sharply from a ceiling grill. "Automatic hold."

"Proceed," Hunnicut said.

In silence the men stood watching as the second hand of the big clock scythed away the final minute of an era.


The scarred man lay on his back on the narrow bed, sleeping with his mouth open. His face, in the slack repose of profound drunkenness, was a ravaged field where battles had been fought and lost, long ago.

The woman called Wilma stood beside the bed, watching him by the glow of a shadeless table lamp. She tensed as the light faltered, dimmed; shadows closed in on the shabby room; then the lamp winked back to full brightness. The woman let out the breath she had been holding, her momentary panic dissipating.

"Sure, it said on the tube about switching over onto the new radio power tonight," she murmured half-aloud. On the bed, the scarred man stiffened; he grimaced, moving his head from side to side. He groaned, sighed, grew still again.

Wilma leaned over him; her hands moved deftly, searching out his pockets. They were empty, but she found the roll of bills wadded under the folded blanket that served as pillow. As she withdrew it, she glanced at his face. His eyes were wide open, locked on hers.

"I . . . I was just fixing your pillers," she said.

He sat up with an abruptness that sent her stumbling away, clutching the money in her hand.

"I . . . was going to take care of it for you." Even in her own ears, her voice sounded as false as brass jewelry.

He looked away, shaking his head vaguely. Instantly, her boldness returned.

"Go on, go back to sleep, sleep it off," she said.

He threw aside the mottled blanket and came to his feet in a single motion. The woman made a show of recoiling from his nakedness.

"Lookit here, you!" she said. "I didn't come up here to—"

He went past her to the enameled sink hanging crookedly on the wall, sluiced his face with cold water, filled his mouth and spat, stared at himself in the discolored mirror. He picked up the smeared jelly glass from its clotted niche, but it shattered in his hand. He stared narrow-eyed at the cut on his palm, at the black-red droplets forming there. He made a strange sound deep in his throat, whirled to look around the room as if he had never seen it before.

"Xix," he said. "Where are you?"

Wilma made a move for the door, recoiling as he approached her. He reached out, with a precise motion plucked the money from her hand. He peeled off a ten-dollar bill, thrust it at her.

"You'd better go," he said.

"Yeah," she said. Something in his voice frightened her. "Sure, I was just looking in . . ."

After she had gone, he stood in the near-darkness, his head cocked as if listening to distant voices. He opened his cut hand, studied it. The wound was an almost invisible line. He brushed the congealed droplets away impatiently.

His clothes lay across the foot of the bed. He began to dress himself with swift, sure fingers.


In the prison dining hall, the guard Ted sat looking worriedly across the wide, softly lit room at the small corner table where, by long custom, Grayle dined alone. He had glanced that way a few moments after the lights had momentarily dimmed down, on an impulse to share the moment with the prisoner, grinning a satisfied grin that said, "See, we did it," but Grayle had been slumped back, gripping the chair arms, his usually impassive features set in a tight-mouthed grimace. This had given way to a look of utter bafflement. Now Grayle sat rigid, looking fixedly at nothing.

Ted rose and hurried across. Close, he saw the sweat beaded on the prisoner's face.

"Mr. Grayle—you O.K.?"

Grayle raised his head slowly.

"You sick, Mr. Grayle?" Ted persisted. "Should I call the doc?"

Grayle nodded curtly. "Yes," he said in a ragged voice. "Get him."

Ted fumbled for the communicator clipped to his belt. Grayle put out a hand. "No," he said sharply. "Don't call. Go get him, Ted."

"Yeah, but—"

"Go and fetch him, Ted. Quieter that way," he added. "You understand."

"Uh, yeah, O.K., Mr. Grayle." Ted hurried away.

Grayle waited for a full minute; then he rose, lifted the table, spilling dishes to the floor. With a bellow that rang in the peaceful room like a lion's roar, he hurled the table from him, and leaping after it, began overturning the unoccupied tables left and right.

* * *

Giant trees stand in blue shadow against the wide sweep of the virgin snowfield. A heatless sun hangs almost unmoving in the ice-blue sky. A fitful wind drives plumes of ice crystals across the slope.

A man moves slowly across the white slope. He is tall, deep-chested, massive-shouldered, dressed in a form-fitting suit of a glossy blue-black material ornamented by bright bits of metal and enamel. There are raw burn scars on the right side of his jaw and neck, and his dark-red hair is singed at the temple. He staggers as he walks, making his way doggedly downslope.

He reaches the center of the snow-covered meadow, where a swift stream flows under a thin skim of ice. Kneeling, he drinks, swallows a pellet from a pouch at his waist before he goes on. At dusk he reaches the sea.

It is wide, blue-black, laced with the white foam of breakers; the rocky shore slopes steeply down to the watery edge. The wind blows an odor of iodine and salt spray into his face. When he wades out, the cold numbs his feet through the waterproof boots.

Small creatures dart in the shallows. In a tidal pool among the rocks, a fish flops in water too shallow for swimming. He picks it up, looks curiously at the small life squirming against his fingers as he carries it back down to the sea.

Darkness falls. The man makes camp by trampling a hollow in the snow in the lee of a craggy boulder. He lies looking up at a sky strangely impoverished of stars. A glow grows in the east; a vivid orange disk appears, brightening to a pure white as it rises above the treetops. It is a dead world, fantastically cratered, hanging so close it seems to ride just above the distant mountain ridges. The man watches it for a long time before he falls asleep.

The surf murmurs; the wind makes soft sounds fluting among the rocks. There are other sounds, too; soft rustlings and scrapings, stealthy crunchings . . .

He sits upright, and by the bright light of the full moon sees a giant, bearded figure robed in furs leaping down at him from the rock ledge above; he throws himself aside, feels a smashing blow against the side of his head that sends him hurtling headlong into emptiness.

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