By Alfred Bester
He doesnít know which of us I am these days, but they know one truth. You must own nothing but yourself. You must make your own life, live your own life and die your own death...or else you will die anotherís.
The rice fields on Paragon III stretch for hundreds of miles like checkerboard tundras, a blue and brown mosaic under a burning sky of orange. In the evening, clouds whip like smoke, and the paddies rustle and murmur.
A long line of men marched across the paddies the evening we escaped from Paragon III. They were silent, armed, intent; a long rank of silhouetted statues looming against the smoking sky. Each man carried a gun. Each man wore a walkie-talkie belt pack, the speaker button in his ear, the microphone bug clipped to his throat, the glowing view-screen strapped to his wrist like a green-eyed watch. The multitude of screens showed nothing but a multitude of individual paths through the paddies. The annunciators made no sound but the rustle and splash of steps. The men spoke infrequently, in heavy grunts, all speaking to all.
"Youíre drifting too far west."
"Close in the line there."††††††
"Anybody covered the Grimson paddy?"
"She couldnít have walked this far."
"Could have been carried."
"Think sheís alive?"
"Why should she be dead?"
The slow refrain swept up and down the long line of beaters advancing toward the smoky sunset. The line of beaters wavered like a writhing snake, but never ceased its remorseless advance. One hundred men spaced fifty feet apart. Five thousand feet of ominous search. One mile of angry determination stretching from east to west across a compass of heat. Evening fell. Each man lit his search lamp. The writhing snake was transformed into a necklace of wavering diamonds.
"Clear here. Nothing."
"What about the Allen paddies?"
"Covering them now."
"Think we missed her?"
"Weíll beat back and check."
"Thisíll be an all-night job."
"Allen paddies clear."
"God damn! Weíve got to find her!"
"Weíll find her."
"Here she is. Sector seven. Tune in."
The line stopped. The diamonds froze in the heat. There was silence. Each man gazed into the glowing green screen on his wrist, tuning to sector seven. All tuned to one. All showed a small nude figure awash in the muddy water of a paddy. Alongside the figure an ownerís stake of bronze read: VANDALEUR. The ends of the line converged toward the Vandaleur field. The necklace turned into a cluster of stars. One hundred men gathered around a small nude body, a child dead in a rice paddy. There was no water in her mouth. There were fingermarks on her throat. Her innocent face was battered. Her body was torn. Clotted blood on her skin was crusted and hard.
"Dead three-four hours at least."
"Her mouth is dry."
"She wasnít drowned. Beaten to death."
In the dark evening heat the men swore softly. They picked up the body. One stopped the others and pointed to the childís fingernails. She had fought her murderer. Under the nails were particles of flesh and bright drops of scarlet blood, still liquid, still uncoagulated.
"That blood ought to be clotted too."
"Not so funny. What kind of blood donít clot?"
"Looks like she was killed by one."
"Vandaleur owns an android."
"She couldnít be killed by an android."
"Thatís android blood under her nails."
"The police better check."
"The policeíll prove Iím right."
"But androids canít kill."
"Thatís android blood, ainít it?"
"Androids canít kill. Theyíre made that way."
"Looks like one android was made wrong."
And the thermometer that day registered 92.9į gloriously Fahrenheit.
* * * * *
So there we were aboard the Paragon Queen en route for Megaster V, James Vandaleur and his android. James Vandaleur counted his money and wept. In the second-class cabin with him was his android, a magnificent synthetic creature with classic features and wide blue eyes. Raised on its forehead in a cameo of flesh were the letters MA, indicating that this was one of the rare multiple-aptitude androids, worth $57,000 on the current exchange. There we were, weeping and counting and calmly watching.
"Twelve, fourteen, sixteen. Sixteen hundred dollars." Vandaleur wept. "Thatís all. Sixteen hundred dollars. My house was worth ten thousand. The land was worth five. There was furniture, cars, my paintings, etchings, my plane, my-And nothing to show for everything but sixteen hundred dollars. Christ!"
I leaped up from the table and turned on the android. I pulled a strap from one of the leather bags and beat the android. It didnít move.
"I must remind you," the android said, "that I am worth fifty-seven thousand dollars on the current exchange. I must warn you that you are endangering valuable property."
"You damned crazy machine," Vandaleur shouted.
"I am not a machine," the android answered. "The robot is a machine. The android is a chemical creation of synthetic
"What got into you?" Vandaleur cried. "Why did you do it? Damn you!" He beat the android savagely.
"I must remind you that I cannot be punished," I said. "The pleasure pain syndrome is not incorporated in the android synthesis."
"Then why did you kill her?" Vandaleur shouted. "If it wasnít for kicks, why did you-"
"I must remind you," the android said, "that the second-class cabins in these ships are not soundproofed."
Vandaleur dropped the strap and stood panting, staring at the creature he owned.
"Why did you do it? Why did you kill her?" I asked.
"I donít know," I answered.
"First it was malicious mischief. Small things. Petty destruction: I should have known there was something wrong with you then. Androids canít destroy. They canít harm. They-"
"There is no pleasure-pain syndrome incorporated in the android synthesis."
"Then it got to arson. Then serious destruction. Then assault...that engineer on Rigel. Each time worse. Each time we had to get out faster. Now itís murder. Christ! Whatís the matter with you? Whatís happened?"
"There are no self-check relays incorporated in the android brain."
"Each time we had to get out it was a step downhill. Look at me. In a second-class cabin. Me. James Paleologue Vandaleur. There was a time when my father was the wealthiest-Now, sixteen hundred dollars in the world. Thatís all Iíve got. And you. Christ damn you!"
Vandaleur raised the strap to beat the android again, then dropped it and collapsed on a berth, sobbing. At last he pulled himself together.
"Instructions," he said.
The multiple android responded at once. It arose and awaited orders.
"My name is now Valentine. James Valentine. I stopped off on Paragon Three for only one day to transfer to this ship for Megaster V. My occupation: Agent for one privately owned MA android which is for hire. Purpose of visit: To settle on Megaster V. Fix the papers."
The android removed Vandaleurís passport and papers from a bag, got pen and ink and sat down at the table. With an accurate, flawless hand-an accomplished hand that could draw, write, paint, carve, engrave, etch, photograph, design, create and build-it meticulously forged new credentials for Vandaleur. Its owner watched me miserably.
"Create and build," I muttered. "and now destroy. Oh, God! What am I going to do? Christ! If I could only get rid of you. If I didnít have to live off you. God! If only Iíd inherited some guts instead of you."
* * * * *
Dallas Brady was Megasterís leading jewelry designer. She was short, stocky, amoral and a nymphomaniac. She hired Vandaleurís multiple-aptitude android and put me to work in her shop. She seduced Vandaleur. In her bed one night, she asked abruptly, "Your nameís Vandaleur, isnít it?"
"Yes," I murmured. Then: "No! Itís Valentine. James Valentine."
"What happened on Paragon?" Dallas Brady asked. "I thought androids couldnít kill or destroy property. Prime Directives and Inhibitions set up for them when theyíre synthesized. Every company guarantees they canít."
"Valentine!" Vandaleur insisted.
"Oh, come off it," Dallas Brady said. "Iíve known for a week. I havenít hollered copper, have I?"
"The name is Valentine."
"You want to prove it? You want I should call the cops?" Dallas reached out and picked up the phone.
"For Godís sake, Dallas!" Vandaleur leaped up and struggled to take the phone from her. She fended him off, laughing at him, until he collapsed and wept in shame and helplessness.
"How did you find out?" he asked at last.
"The papers are full of it. And Valentine was a little too close to Vandaleur. That wasnít smart, was it?"
"I guess not. Iím not very smart."
"Your androidís got quite a record, hasnít it? Assault. Arson. Destruction. What happened on Paragon?"
"It kidnapped a child. Took her out into the rice fields and murdered her."
"I donít know."
"Theyíre going to catch up with you."
"Donít I know it? Christ! Weíve been running for two years now. Seven planets in two years. I must have abandoned fifty thousand dollarsí worth of property in two years."
"You better find out whatís wrong with it."
"How can I? Can I walk into a repair clinic and ask for an overhaul? What am I going to say? ĎMy androidís just turned killer. Fix it.í Theyíd call the police right off." I began to shake. "Theyíd have that android dismantled inside one day.
Iíd probably be booked as an accessory to murder."
"Why didnít you have it repaired before it got to murder?"
"I couldnít take the chance," Vandaleur explained angrily. "If they started fooling around with lobotomies and body chemistry and endocrine surgery, they might have destroyed its aptitudes. What would I have left to hire out? How would I live?"
"You could work yourself. People do."†††
"Work at what? You know Iím good for nothing. How could I compete with specialist androids and robots? Who can, unless heís got a terrific talent for a particular job?"
"Yeah. Thatís true."
"I lived off my old man all my life. Damn him! He had to go bust just before he died. Left me the android and thatís all. The only way I can get along is living off what it earns."
"You better sell it before the cops catch up with you. You can live off fifty grand. Invest it."
"At three percent? Fifteen hundred a year? When the android returns fifteen percent on its value? Eight thousand a year.
Thatís what it earns. No, Dallas. Iíve got to go along with it."
"What are you going to do about its violence kick?"
"I canít do anything...except watch it and pray. What are you going to do about it?"
"Nothing. Itís none of my business. Only one thing...I ought to get something for keeping my mouth shut."
"The android works for me for free. Let somebody else pay you, but I get it for free."
* * * * *
The multiple-aptitude android worked. Vandaleur collected its fees. His expenses were taken care of. His savings began to mount. As the warm spring of Megaster V turned to hot summer, I began investigating farms and properties. It would be possible, within a year or two, for us to settle down permanently, provided Dallas Bradyís demands did not become rapacious.
On the first hot day of summer, the android began singing in Dallas Bradyís workshop. It hovered over the electric furnace which, along with the weather, was broiling the shop, and sang an ancient tune that had been popular half a century before.
Oh, itís no feat to beat the heat.
All reet! All reet!
So jeet your seat
Be fleet be fleet
Cool and discreet
It sang in a strange, halting voice, and its accomplished fingers were clasped behind its back, writhing in a strange rumba all their own. Dallas Brady was surprised.
"You happy or something?" she asked.
"I must remind you that the pleasure-pain syndrome is not incorporated in the android synthesis," I answered. "All reet! All reet! Be fleet be fleet, cool and discreet, honey..."
Its fingers stopped their twisting and picked up a heavy pair of iron tongs. The android poked them into the glowing heart of the furnace, leaning far forward to peer into the lovely heat.
"Be careful, you damned fool!" Dallas Brady exclaimed. "You want to fall in?"
"I must remind you that I am worth fifty-seven thousand dollars on the current exchange," I said. "It is forbidden to endanger valuable property. All reet! All reet! Honey..."
It withdrew a crucible of glowing gold from the electric furnace, turned, capered hideously, sang crazily, and splashed a sluggish gobbet of molten gold over Dallas Bradyís head. She screamed and collapsed, her hair and clothes flaming, her skin crackling. The android poured again while it capered and sang.
"Be fleet be fleet, cool and discreet, honey..." It sang and slowly poured and poured the molten gold. Then I left the workshop and rejoined James Vandaleur in his hotel suite. The androidís charred clothes and squirming fingers warned its owner that something was very much wrong.
Vandaleur rushed to Dallas Bradyís workshop, stared once, vomited and fled. I had enough time to pack one bag and raise nine hundred dollars on portable assets. He took a third-class cabin on the Megaster Queen, which left that morning for Lyra Alpha. He took me with him. He wept and counted his money and I beat the android again.
And the thermometer in Dallas Bradyís workshop registered 98.1į beautifully Fahrenheit.
* * * * *
On Lyra Alpha we holed up in a small hotel near the university. There, Vandaleur carefully bruised my forehead until the letters MA were obliterated by the swelling and the discoloration. The letters would reappear again, but not for several months, and in the meantime Vandaleur hoped that the hue and cry for an MA android would be forgotten. The android was hired out as a common laborer in the university power plant. Vandaleur, as James Venice, eked out life on the androidís small earnings.
I wasnít too unhappy. Most of the other residents in the hotel were university students, equally hard-up, but delightfully young and enthusiastic. There was one charming girl with sharp eyes and a quick mind. Her name was Wanda, and she and her beau, Jed Stark, took a tremendous interest in the killing android which was being mentioned in every paper in the galaxy.
"Weíve been studying the case," she and Jed said at one of the casual student parties which happened to be held this night in Vandaleurís room. "We think we know whatís causing it. Weíre going to do a paper." They were in a high state of excitement.
"Causing what?" somebody wanted to know.
"The android rampage."
"Obviously out of adjustment, isnít it? Body chemistry gone haywire. Maybe a kind of synthetic cancer, yes?"
"No." Wanda gave Jed a look of suppressed triumph.
"Well, what is it?"
"That would be telling."
"Oh come on."
"Wonít you tell us?" I asked intently. "I...Weíre very much interested in what could go wrong with an android."
"No, Mr. Venice," Wanda said. "Itís a unique idea and weíve got to protect it. One thesis like this and weíll be set up for life. We canít take the chance of somebody stealing it."
"Canít you give us a hint?"
"No. Not a hint. Donít say a word, Jed. But Iíll tell you this much, Mr. Venice. Iíd hate to be the man who owns that android."
"You mean the police?" I asked.
"I mean projection, Mr. Venice. Projection! Thatís the danger...and I wonít say any more. Iíve said too much as is."
I heard steps outside, and a hoarse voice singing softly: "Be fleet be fleet, cool and discreet, honey..." My android entered the room, home from its tour of duty at the university power plant. It was not introduced. I motioned to it and I immediately responded to the command and went to the beer keg and took over Vandaleurís job of serving the guests. Its accomplished fingers writhed in a private rumba of their own. Gradually they stopped their squirming, and the strange humming ended.
Androids were not unusual at the university. The wealthier students owned them along with cars and planes. Vandaleurís android provoked no comment, but young Wanda was sharp-eyed and quick-witted. She noted my bruised forehead and she was intent on the history-making thesis she and Jed Stark were going to write. After the party broke up, she consulted with Jed walking upstairs to her room.
"Jed, whyíd that android have a bruised forehead?í
"Probably hurt itself, Wanda. Itís working in the power plant. They fling a lot of heavy stuff around."
"It could be a convenient bruise."
"Convenient for what?"
"Hiding whatís stamped on its forehead."
"No point to that, Wanda. You donít have to see marks on a forehead to recognize an android. You donít have to see a trademark on a car to know itís a car."
"I donít mean itís trying to pass as a human. I mean itís trying to pass as a lower-grade android."
"Suppose it had 'MA' on its forehead."
"Multiple aptitude? Then why in hell would Venice waste it stoking furnaces if it could earn more-Oh. Oh! You mean itís-?"
"Jesus!" Stark pursed his lips. "What do we do? Call the police?"
"No. We donít know if itís an MA for a fact. If it turns out to be an MA and the killing android, our paper comes first anyway. This is our big chance, Jed. If itís that android we can run a series of controlled tests and-"
"How do we find out for sure?"
"Easy. Infrared film. Thatíll show whatís under the bruise. Borrow a camera. Buy some film. Weíll sneak down to the power plant tomorrow afternoon and take some pictures. Then weíll know."
They stole down into the university power plant the following afternoon. It was a vast cellar, deep under the earth. It was dark, shadowy, luminous with burning light from the furnace doors. Above the roar of the fires they could hear a strange voice shouting and chanting in the echoing vault: "All reet! All reet! So jeet your seat. Be fleet be fleet, cool and discreet, honey..." And they could see a capering figure dancing a lunatic rumba in time to the music it shouted. The legs twisted. The arms waved. The fingers writhed.
Jed Stark raised the camera and began shooting his spool of infrared film, aiming the camera sights at that bobbing head. Then Wanda shrieked, for I saw them and came charging down on them, brandishing a polished steel shovel. It smashed the camera. It felled the girl and then the boy. Jed fought me for a desperate hissing moment before he was bludgeoned into helplessness. Then the android dragged them to the furnace and fed them to the flames, slowly, hideously. It capered and sang. Then it returned to my hotel.
The thermometer in the power plant registered 100.9į murderously Fahrenheit. All reet! All reet!
* * * * *
We bought steerage on the Lyra Queen and Vandaleur and the android did odd jobs for their meals. During the night watches, Vandaleur would sit alone in the steerage head with a cardboard portfolio on his lap, puzzling over its contents. That portfolio was all he had managed to bring with him from Lyra Alpha. He had stolen it from Wandaís room. It was labeled ANDROID. It contained the secret of my sickness.
And it contained nothing but newspapers. Scores of newspapers from all over the galaxy, printed, microfilmed, engraved, etched, offset, photostatted...Rigel Star-Banner...Paragon Picayune...Megaster Times-Leader...Lalande Herald...Lacaille Journal...Indi Intelligencer...Eridani Telegram-News. All reet! All reet!
Nothing but newspapers. Each paper contained an account of one crime in the androidís ghastly career. Each paper also contained news, domestic and foreign, sports, society, weather, shipping news, stock exchange quotations, human interest stories, features, contests, puzzles. Somewhere in that mass of uncollated facts was the secret Wanda and Jed Stark had discovered. Vandaleur pored over the papers helplessly. It was beyond him. So jeet your seat!
"Iíll sell you," I told the android. "Damn you. When we land on Terra, Iíll sell you. Iíll settle for three percent on whatever youíre worth."
"I am worth fifty-seven thousand dollars on the current exchange," I told him.
"If I canít sell you, Iíll turn you in to the police," I said.
"I am valuable property," I answered. "It is forbidden to endanger valuable property. You wonít have me destroyed."
"Christ damn you!" Vandaleur cried. "What? Are you arrogant? Do you know you can trust me to protect you? Is that the secret?"
The multiple-aptitude android regarded him with calm accomplished eyes. "Sometimes," it said, "it is a good thing to be property."
* * * * *
It was three below zero when the Lyra Queen dropped at Croydon Field. A mixture of ice and snow swept across the field, fizzing and exploding into steam under the Queenís tail jets. The passengers trotted numbly across the blackened concrete to customs inspection, and thence to the airport bus that was to take them to London. Vandaleur and the android were broke. They walked.
By midnight they reached Piccadilly Circus. The December ice storm had not slackened, and the statue of Eros was encrusted with ice. They turned right, walked down to Trafalgar Square and then along the Strand, shaking with cold and wet. Just above Fleet Street, Vandaleur saw a solitary figure coming from the direction of St. Paulís. He drew the android into an alley.
"Weíve got to have money," he whispered. He pointed at the approaching figure. "He has money. Take it from him."
"The order cannot be obeyed," the android said.
"Take it from him," Vandaleur repeated. "By force. Do you understand? Weíre desperate."
"It is contrary to my prime directive," I said. "I cannot endanger life or property. The order cannot be obeyed."
"For God's sake!" Vandaleur burst out. "Youíve attacked, destroyed, murdered. Don't gibber about prime directives. You haven't any left. Get his money. Kill him if you have to. I tell you, we're desperate!"
"It is contrary to my prime directive," I said. "I cannot endanger life or property. The order cannot be obeyed."
I thrust the android back and leaped out at the stranger. He was tall, austere, competent. He had an air of hope curdled by cynicism. He carried a cane. I saw he was blind.
"Yes?" he said. "I hear you near me. What is it?"
"Sir..." Vandaleur hesitated. "Iím desperate."
"We are all desperate," the stranger replied. "Quietly desperate."
"Sir...Iíve got to have some money."
"Are you begging or stealing?" The sightless eyes passed over Vandaleur and the android.
"Iím prepared for either."
"Ah. So are we all. It is the history of our race." The stranger motioned over his shoulder. "I have been begging at St. Paulís, my friend. What I desire cannot be stolen. What is it you desire that you are lucky enough to be able to steal?"
"Money," Vandaleur said.
"Money for what? Come, my friend, let us exchange confidences. I will tell you why I beg, if you will tell me why
you steal. My name is Blenheim."
"My name is...Vole."
"I was not begging for sight at St. Paulís, Mr. Vole. I was begging for a number."
"Ah yes. Numbers rational, numbers irrational, numbers imaginary. Positive integers. Negative integers. Fractions, positive and negative. Eh? You have never heard of Blenheimís immortal treatise on Twenty Zeros, or The Differences in Absence of Quantity?" Blenheim smiled bitterly. "I am the wizard of the Theory of Number, Mr. Vole, and I have exhausted the charm of number for myself. After fifty years of wizardry, senility approaches and the appetite vanishes. I have been praying in St. Paulís for inspiration. Dear God, I prayed, if You exist, send me a number."
Vandaleur slowly lifted the cardboard portfolio and touched Blenheimís hand with it. "In here," he said, "is a number. A hidden number. A secret number. The number of a crime. Shall we exchange, Mr. Blenheim? Shelter for a number?"
"Neither begging nor stealing, eh?" Blenheim said. "But a bargain. So all life reduces itself to the banal." The sightless
eyes again passed over Vandaleur and the android. "Perhaps the All-Mighty is not God but a merchant. Come home with me."
* * * * *
On the top floor of Blenheimís house we shared a room-two beds, two closets, two washstands, one bathroom. Vandaleur bruised my forehead again and sent me out to find work, and while the android worked, I consulted with Blenheim and read him the papers from the portfolio, one by one. All reet! All reet!
Vandaleur told him so much and no more. He was a student, I said, attempting a thesis on the murdering android. In these papers which he had collected were the facts that would explain the crimes of which Blenheim had heard nothing.
There must be a correlation, a number, a statistic, something which would account for my derangement, I explained, and Blenheim was piqued by the mystery, the detective story, the human interest of number.
We examined the papers. As I read them aloud, he listed them and their contents in his blind, meticulous writing. And
then I read his notes to him. He listed the papers by type, by typeface, by fact, by fancy, by article, spelling, words, theme, advertising, pictures, subject, politics, prejudices. He analyzed. He studied. He meditated. And we lived together in that top floor, always a little cold, always a little terrified, always a little closer...brought together by our fear of it, our hatred between us. Like a wedge driven into a living tree and splitting the trunk, only to be forever incorporated into the scar tissue, we grew together. Vandaleur and the android. Be fleet be fleet!
And one afternoon Blenheim called Vandaleur into his study and displayed his notes. "I think Iíve found it," he said, "but I canít understand it."
Vandaleurís heart leaped.
"Here are the correlations," Blenheim continued. "In fifty papers there are accounts of the criminal android. What is there, outside the depredations, that is also in fifty papers?"
"I donít know, Mr. Blenheim."
"It was a rhetorical question. Here is the answer. The weather."
"The weather." Blenheim nodded. "Each crime was committed on a day when the temperature was above ninety degrees Fahrenheit."
"But thatís impossible," Vandaleur exclaimed. "It was cool on Lyra Alpha."
"We have no record of any crime committed on Lyra Alpha. There is no paper."
"No. Thatís right. I-" Vandaleur was confused. Suddenly he exclaimed, "No. Youíre right. The furnace room. It was hot there. Hot! Of course. My God, yes! Thatís the answer. Dallas Bradyís electric furnace...the rice deltas on Paragon. So jeet your seat. Yes. But why? Why? My God, why?"
I came into the house at that moment, and passing the study, saw Vandaleur and Blenheim. I entered, awaiting commands, my multiple aptitudes devoted to service.
"Thatís the android, eh?" Blenheim said after a long moment.
"Yes," Vandaleur answered, still confused by the discovery. "And that explains why it refused to attack you that night on the Strand. It wasnít hot enough to break the prime directive. Only in the heat...The heat, all reet!" He looked at the android. A silent lunatic command passed from man to android. I refused. It is forbidden to endanger life. Vandaleur gestured furiously, then seized Blenheimís shoulders and yanked him back out of his desk chair to the floor. Blenheim shouted once. Vandaleur leaped on him like a tiger, pinning him to the floor and sealing his mouth with one hand.
"Find a weapon," he called to the android.††††††††
"It is forbidden to endanger life."
"This is a fight for self-preservation. Bring me a weapon!" He held the squirming mathematician with all his weight. I went at once to a cupboard where I knew a revolver was kept. I checked it. It was loaded with five cartridges. I handed it to Vandaleur. I took it, rammed the barrel against Blenheimís head and pulled the trigger. He shuddered once.
We had three hours before the cook returned from her day off. We looted the house. We took Blenheimís money and jewels. We packed a bag with clothes. We took Blenheimís notes, destroyed the newspapers; and we left, carefully locking the door behind us. In Blenheimís study we left a pile of crumpled papers under a half inch of burning candle. And we soaked the rug around it with kerosene. No, I did all that. The android refused. I am forbidden to endanger life or property.
* * * * *
They took the tubes to Leicester Square, changed trains, and rode to the British Museum. There they got off and went to a small Georgian house just off Russell Square. A shingle in the window read: NAN WEBB, PSYCHOMETRIC CONSULTANT. Vandaleur had made a note of the address some weeks earlier. They went into the house. The android waited in the foyer with the bag. Vandaleur entered Nan Webbís office.
She was a tall woman with gray shingled hair, very fine English complexion and very bad English legs. Her features were blunt, her expression acute. She nodded to Vandaleur, finished a letter, sealed it and looked up.
"My name," I said, "is Vanderbilt. James Vanderbilt."
"Iím an exchange student at London University."
"Iíve been researching on the killing android, and I think Iíve discovered something very interesting. Iíd like your advice on it. What is your fee?"
"What is your college at the University?"
"There is a discount for students."
"That will be two pounds, please."
Vandaleur placed two pounds on the desk and added to the fee Blenheimís notes. "There is a correlation," he said, "between the crimes of the android and the weather. You will note that each crime was committed when the temperature rose above ninety degrees Fahrenheit. Is there a psychometric answer for this?"
Nan Webb nodded, studied the notes for a moment, put down the sheets of paper, and said: "Synesthesia, obviously."
"Synesthesia," she repeated. "When a sensation, Mr. Vanderbilt, is interpreted immediately in terms of a sensation from a different sense organ than the one stimulated, it is called synesthesia. For example: A sound stimulus gives rise to a simultaneous sensation of definite color. Or color gives rise to a sensation of taste. Or a light stimulus gives rise to a sensation of sound. There can be confusion or short circuiting of any sensation of taste, smell, pain, pressure, temperature, and so on. Díyou understand?"
"I think so."
"Your research has uncovered the fact that the android most probably reacts to temperature stimulus above the ninety-degree level synesthetically. Most probably there is an endocrine response. Probably a temperature linkage with the android adrenal surrogate. High temperatute brings about a response of fear, anger, excitement and violent physical activity...all within the province of the adrenal gland."
"Yes. I see. Then if the android were to be kept in cold climates..."
"There would be neither stimulus nor response. There would be no crimes. Quite."
"I see. What is projection?"
"How do you mean?"
"Is there any danger of projection with regard to the owner of the android?"
"Very interesting. Projection is a throwing forward. It is the process of throwing out upon another the ideas or impulses that belong to oneself. The paranoid, for example, projects upon others his conflicts and disturbances in order to externalize them. He accuses, directly or by implication, other men of having the very sicknesses with which he is struggling himself."
"And the danger of projection?"
"It is the danger of believing what is implied. If you live with a psychotic who projects his sickness upon you, there is a danger of falling into his psychotic pattern and becoming virtually psychotic yourself. As, no doubt, is happening to you, Mr. Vandaleur."
Vandaleur leaped to his feet.
"You are an ass," Nan Webb went on crisply. She waved the sheets of notes. "This is no exchange studentís writing. Itís the unique cursive of the famous Blenheim. Every scholar in England knows this blind writing. There is no Merton College at London University. That was a miserable guess. Merton is one of the Oxford colleges. And you, Mr. Vandaleur, are so obviously infected by association with your deranged android...by projection, if you will...that I hesitate between calling the Metropolitan Police and the Hospital for the Criminally Insane."
I took out the gun and shot her.
* * * * *
"Antares II, Alpha Aurigae, Acrux IV, Pollux IX, Rigel Centaurus," Vandaleur said. "Theyíre all cold. Cold as a witchís kiss. Mean temperatures of forty degrees Fahrenheit. Never gets hotter than seventy. Weíre in business again. Watch that curve."
The multiple-aptitude android swung the wheel with its accomplished hands. The car took the curve sweetly and sped on through the northern marshes, the reeds stretching for miles, brown and dry, under the cold English sky. The sun was sinking swiftly. Overhead, a lone flight of bustards flapped clumsily eastward. High above the flight, a lone helicopter drifted toward home and warmth.
"No more warmth for us," I said. "No more heat. Weíre safe when weíre cold. Weíll hole up in Scotland, make a little money, get across to Norway, build a bankroll, and then ship out. Weíll settle on Pollux. Weíre safe. Weíve licked it. We can live again."
There was a startling bleep from overhead, and then a ragged roar: "ATTENTION JAMES VANDALEUR AND ANDROID. ATTENTION JAMES VANDALEUR AND ANDROID!"††††††††
Vandaleur started and looked up. The lone helicopter was floating above them. From its belly came amplified commands: "YOU ARE SURROUNDED. THE ROAD IS BLOCKED. YOU ARE TO STOP YOUR CAR AT ONCE AND SUBMIT TO ARREST. STOP AT ONCE!"
I looked at Vandaleur for orders.
"Keep driving," Vandaleur snapped.
The helicopter dropped lower: "ATTENTION ANDROID. YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF THE VEHICLE. YOU ARE TO STOP AT ONCE. THIS IS A STATE DIRECTIVE SUPERSEDING ALL PRIVATE COMMANDS."
"What the hell are you doing?" I shouted.
"A state directive supercedes all private commands," the android answered. "I must point out to you that-"
"Get the hell away from the wheel," Vandaleur ordered. I clubbed the android, yanked him sideways, and squirmed over him to the wheel. The car veered off the road in that moment and went churning through the frozen mud and dry reeds. Vandaleur regained control and continued westward through the marshes toward a parallel highway five miles distant.
"Weíll beat their goddamned block," he grunted.
The car pounded and surged. The helicopter dropped even lower. A searchlight blazed from the belly of the plane.
"ATTENTION JAMES VANDALEUR AND ANDROID. SUBMIT TO ARREST. THIS IS A STATE DIRECTIVE SUPERSEDING ALL PRIVATE
"He canít submit," Vandaleur shouted wildly. "Thereís no one to submit to. He canít and I wonít."
"Christ!" I muttered. "Weíll beat them yet. Weíll beat the block. Weíll beat the heat. Weíll-"
"I must point out to you," I said, "that I am required by my prime directive to obey state directives which supersede all private commands. I must submit to arrest."
"Who says itís a state directive?" Vandaleur said. "Them? Up in that plane? Theyíve got to show credentials. Theyíve got to prove itís state authority before you submit. How díyou know theyíre not crooks trying to trick us?"
Holding the wheel with one arm, he reached into his side pocket to make sure the gun was still in place. The car skidded. The tires squealed on frost and reeds. The wheel was wrenched from his grasp and the car yawed up a small hillock and overturned. The motor roared and the wheels screamed. Vandaleur crawled out and dragged the android with him. For the moment we were outside the circle of light boring down from the helicopter. We blundered off into the marsh, into the blackness; into concealment...Vandaleur running with a pounding heart, hauling the android along.
The helicopter circled and soared over the wrecked car, searchlight peering, loudspeaker braying. On the highway we had left, lights appeared as the pursuing and blocking parties gathered and followed radio directions from the plane. Vandaleur and the android continued deeper and deeper into the marsh, working their way towards the parallel road and safety. It was night by now. The sky was a black matte. Not a star showed. The temperature was dropping. A southeast night wind knifed us to the bone.
Far behind there was a dull concussion. Vandaleur turned, gasping. The carís fuel had exploded. A geyser of flame shot up like a lurid fountain. It subsided into a low crater of burning reeds. Whipped by the wind, the distant hem of flame fanned up into a wall, ten feet high. The wall began marching down on us, cracking fiercely. Above it, a pall of oil smoke surged forward. Behind it, Vandaleur could make out the figures of men...a mass of beaters searching the marsh.
"Christ!" I cried and searched desperately for safety. He ran, dragging me with him, until their feet crunched through the surface ice of a pool. He trampled the ice furiously, then flung himself down in the numbing water, pulling the android with us.
The wall of flame approached. I could hear the crackle and feel the heat. He could see the searchers clearly. Vandaleur reached into his side pocket for the gun. The pocket was torn. The gun was gone. He groaned and shook with cold and terror. The light from the marsh fire was blinding. Overhead, the helicopter floated helplessly to one side, unable to fly through the smoke and flames and aid the searchers who were beating far to the right of us.
"Theyíll miss us," Vandaleur whispered. "Keep quiet. Thatís an order. Theyíll miss us. Weíll beat them. Weíll beat the fire. Weíll-"
Three distinct shots sounded less than a hundred feet from the fugitives. Blam! Blam! Blam! They came from the last three cartridges in my gun as the marsh fire reached it where it had dropped, and exploded the shells. The searchers turned toward the sound and began working directly toward us. Vandaleur cursed hysterically and tried to submerge even deeper to escape the intolerable heat of the fire. The android began to twitch.
The wall of flame surged up to them. Vandaleur took a deep breath and prepared to submerge until the flame passed over them. The android shuddered and burst into an earsplitting scream.
"All reet! All reet!" it shouted. "Be fleet be fleet!"
"Damn you!" I shouted. I tried to drown it.
"Damn you!" I cursed him. I smashed his face.
The android battered Vandaleur, who fought it off until it exploded out of the mud and staggered upright. Before I could return to the attack, the live flames captured it hypnotically. It danced and capered in a lunatic rumba before the wall of fire. Its legs twisted. Its arms waved. The fingers writhed in a private rumba of their own. It shrieked and sang and ran in a crooked waltz before the embrace of the heat, a muddy monster silhouetted against the brilliant sparkling flare.
The searchers shouted. There were shots. The android spun around twice and then continued its horrid dance before the face of the flames. There was a rising gust of wind. The fire swept around the capering figure and enveloped it for a roaring moment. Then the fire swept on, leaving behind it a sobbing mass of synthetic flesh oozing scarlet blood that would never coagulate.
The thermometer would have registered 1200į wondrously Fahrenheit.
* * * * *
Vandaleur didnít die. I got away. They missed him while they watched the android caper and die. But I donít know which of us he is these days. Projection, Wanda warned me. Projection, Nan Webb told him. If you live with a crazy man or a crazy machine long enough, I become crazy too. Reet!
But we know one truth. We know they were wrong. The new robot and Vandaleur know that because the new robotís started twitching too. Reet! Here on cold Pollux, the robot is twitching and singing. No heat, but my fmgers writhe. No heat, but itís taken the little Talley girl off for a solitary walk. A cheap labor robot. A servo-mechanism...all I could afford...but itís twitching and humming and walking alone with the child somewhere and I canít find them. Christ! Vandaleur canít find me before itís too late. Cool and discreet, honey, in the dancing frost while the thermometer registers 10į fondly Fahrenheit.