I was watching her and I saw it happen. The eyes first, sliding out of focus, then a swift hiss as she sucked in breath through locked together teeth and the fear and the pain rolled across her face like a wave. Because my eyes had been on her I had had some warning and I was already sliding out of my seat when she said, "Tim. This time it's for real." Those were the words, the signal, and even though I knew already I felt a thrill of cold, unholy joy. Her hand clawed for mine and I grabbed it and pulled her out into the aisle. She couldn't see at all and kept stumbling drunkenly over the other passengers. An interested little murmur arose in the air.
Tatsuo had heard the signal too; from behind I heard his best Concerned Citizen voice:
"If the young lady is ill I will ring for the hostess."
"It's alright - she sometimes has these... I'll just take her to the washroom. She'll be fine."
Her grasp on my hand suddenly tightened. I looked back to see her collapse onto her knees. She kept a desperate hold on me as she fell; so that her inner arm was extended and twisted upwards, and along its whole white length the network of puncture marks joined by throbbing purple veins exposed.
"Addict," mouthed one passenger after another as they craned forward in their seats to get a better view. I hated them for thinking that about Sally, even if it were true. She was on the floor and I was kneeling over her in real fear as I felt her pulse. I looked up wildly and made a circling gesture with one hand. Tatsuo and Carl moved in to cluster protectively round her inert form; whoever she'd called would be willing to kill if he guessed what was about to happen. I didn't suppose any of the bystanders would protect her. They were doubtless patriotic Cinquanta Mila citizens. Perhaps he wouldn't need to kill, she seemed near death.
I whispered, "Sally, Sally, it doesn't matter, lose him, but don't go under." Useless. She was alone with her victim in the darkness, her body contracted into the foetal position. Someone pushed his way past the panic-stricken hostess. He produced a Red Cross card with his photograph.
"You must tell me: what drug is that?" His voice was blessedly free from condemnation.
He gently applied pressure to the tranquilizing point on her shoulder... and her eyes opened very wide and she screamed like an animal cut by the trap, screaming so inhumanly high-pitched that the words were only just distinguishable: "Too close, too close, it's him, too close..."
Carl had the doctor on the floor, one knee dug into his ribs, shouting, "What did you do to her?"
"Nothing," he answered as if in a daze, "just a tranquilizer." His face was entirely uncomprehending and innocent but, with horrible inevitability, I saw the `Liberta' badge on his lapel.
I almost cried with self-hatred; we'd let her die through some atavistic trust in a doctor's oath. With terrible self-control Tatsuo said "Please do not think that you have saved yourself. If she dies we still have older methods." But she didn't die, he spoke the truth, he hadn't harmed her. She said in a remote, slurred voice:
"You are Doctor Graham Collett... You are a member of the New Troy cell of the CLF along with Miriam Sehu and Martin Reeves. You are going to Earth to remake the face of a man concerned in causing the explosion at the emigration office in Hiroshima." She looked up at me like a child confirming she'd got her lesson right. I smiled reassurance. Carl, too, was grinning in relief and even Tatsuo looked as if the pain of his exile was less. I put the microphone to her lips.
Over the next two hours, lying with her eyes closed and speaking in a monotone, she spilled it all; every name, every safe house, every unregistered esper that the good Dr Collett had ever suspected. They must brag and hint a lot in the CLF, because he knew plenty. Tatsuo sat next to Collett with one arm round his shoulders in spurious brotherhood. The other hand jammed the VP70 hard against his side. Once, when Sally rasped out the name of some woman, he choked quietly on his tears and Tatsuo seemed almost to be supporting him. Perhaps I felt pity but it was drowned by a tide of exultation; I thought: as old men in bars rejoice in the humiliation of Earth, as intellectuals smilingly `regret the necessity for violence', even now, we are preparing such a blow against them as will make their present satisfaction agony to remember.
You only get one chance to read a man's mind so you have to get all you can when you can. Before they discovered that, our people used to make space voyages doped and hypnotised. Only when the captain warned that the passengers' impatience to land (and their resentment of us, though he didn't mention that) was distorting their perceptions of Earth to an extent that would endanger the image making process did Tatsuo permit Sally's trance to be broken and Maplin Five to solidify around us. Even then he allowed no-one to leave until Carl had been put on the next military transport back to Cinquanta. He would organise the arrests. We left the ship and emerged into the soft English rain. I was handcuffed to Collett and felt a tug on my wrist as he looked upwards - but Cinquanta Mila's star has never been located in normal space and there's no reason to suppose it would be visible from Earth even if the muslin layers of cloud were swept back. I wondered what he thought of Earth, of the barbed wire surrounding the glittering expanse of wet, black tarmac, the armed guards converging on us like flies on rotten fruit. Two of them loaded Sally onto the car. Between those two large men she seemed vulnerable, a tiny, wasted figure. All this was burning her out. Two years ago she had looked like a normal fifteen year old but since then her talent had decreased (four out of five scans were now abortive) and her dosage increased until she became emaciated, weary, patient as a refugee.
Few men would desire the dying child, yet eugenically she was hot property. The government had already found someone genetically suitable so that her precious talent would be passed on. That was the way it was going to be for her. I thought, she must never read my mind. She must never know.
We climbed into the car, awkwardly because of the handcuffs, and the doors were locked behind us. The driver had to go slowly to avoid the cyclists, a churning, nightmarish sea through which the car swam like a whale. Collett looked out with bleak contempt at the jerry-built housing estates dotted about the rainswept Essex hills.
"So this is what you would do to my homeland."
I felt a rush of defiant affection for this crowded country, even though my own California is as different from this as is the island city of New Troy.
"We have too many people, Dr Collett. They have to live somewhere. At one time we thought a new world would welcome them, but no, unfortunately they are not up to the high racial standard of the exalted descendants of the fifty thousand." My tone of light banter thickened into hate. "Not Aryan enough, maybe?"
There are answers to that on its own level. However he replied in a chastened voice.
"I spoke carelessly." Was he afraid of my anger? After all he was in our power, the courts couldn't reach him for another five days. "By `you' I meant the United Nations, which you represent. May God forbid that I should claim that the people of Earth are inferior, for we are all one people. No, it is not they but their lives which are inferior - overpopulation, unemployment, poverty. Men should not live like this when the stars are within reach."
There are plenty of racists in the CLF; I've seen the back row at their rallies, but he wasn't one of them. There was real humility in his voice. Also, paradoxically, arrogance, the unselfconscious arrogance of one who believes himself merely an instrument. He went on, fervently:
"Innumerable new worlds are waiting for us. Yet rather than try to call them, Earth concentrates on reducing the one world she has found to her own level of misery. And while you waste your time in short term palliatives to your population problem something irrevocable is being lost."
I tried to remain unmoved. They do murder under these fine words.
"I wanted Cinquanta to become a nation. Instead she is fast becoming a suburb of Earth. We are losing the unique culture that came from the first people ever to settle another planet, it's being drowned in the mass-culture of the immigrants..."
He loosened his shirt collar with his free hand. No immigrant would have a finely sewn shirt like that. Mao suits are good enough for us.
"And so you perpetuate the very evil you are trying to end. Cinquanta is absorbed into the Western, materialistic, mainstream society of Earth and becomes useless for calling further worlds. In one generation we will be as crowded as Earth. In two, Earth will be back where she started, only this time with no way out.
"It is hard to believe you want that, but when you open an emigration office in the Shogunate itself..."
I struggled not to feel defeated. For him there certainly was no way out, it would be life imprisonment at least; only three hours before he had been forced to betray his cause - yet he still maintained sufficient self-respect to speak powerfully in its defence.
According to the old pattern of interrogation Sally was the `soft' partner, if someone's been inside your mind it's hard not to rely on their understanding or even their complicity. I was the `hard' partner and it was time I acted like it. I tapped out a combination and the handcuffs clicked open, dissolving the link between us.
"You had better believe it, Dr Collett. Because that's exactly what we do want to do. Share the squalor round. Only mistake you've made is thinking there ever was any way out." I forced my face into a grin. Our people never smile for any innocent reason; I was thinking of how it must look to have this blond young thug laugh at you as he delivers his message of despair.
"There are no `innumerable new worlds'. So far as man is concerned the stars are an illusion."
He looked at me as if I were the sort of imbecile that used to be produced in inbred English villages. Fair enough, a village idiot is a fitting herald for this medieval doctrine of a fixed and limited firmament.
"It's the scientific truth. From now on the stars are denied us. Cinquanta and Earth are the only planets man will ever have. For us they are the whole universe."
The retreat in which the honourable service to which I belong questions its prisoners is a decent place. There are no cells, no electrodes. Somehow the agonies inflicted by drugs and subtle psychology leave the house undefiled. So the upper room set apart for our use was cheerful and homelike despite the opaque, bullet-proof windows. The room was split into two; in the half furthest from the door there was a camp bed for the prisoner and a chair for the watcher. On the other side of a sliding paper partition were our own sleeping quarters. It was so arranged, using theories of `defensive space', that he would be reluctant to cross our territory. Without bars to arouse his resistance, he would be imprisoned all the same. Seeing no-one but us, never getting quite enough sleep, never being alone; in that intense atmosphere he would cease to believe in worlds or loyalties beyond these walls, let alone beyond the skies.
The Stockholm syndrome would do its work. He would come to identify with us. And vice versa.
Tatsuo was on first watch. I listened through the paper. Collett avoided talking about what I'd just told him. A fanatic doesn't want the whole truth. But he did want to talk, he must have thought that after having his mind sucked dry it could scarcely matter what else he told us. More fool him; this conflict is still new so both sides are still naive. We let a terrorist through to Sally because he was a doctor, and the terrorist healed her instead of killing her while he had the chance.
"I have heard tell of the young lady there," Collett said. "One of our young men was taken from his studies to be interviewed by SecPol. They got nothing from him even after five hours. At the end of that time a girl was brought in. She looked tired and ill, and her eyes watered from the cigarette smoke. She stared at him for several minutes. My friend thought she was merely a witness but even so he was struck by some wrongness about her. This telepathy doesn't always work, does it?"
"Success is more likely in hyperspace. However we cannot wait until every suspect makes a space journey and to force one would reveal the method."
"This will not matter in a year or so when you no longer possess a telepath."
I grabbed a piece of skin on my wrist to keep from crying out. Thank God Sally still slept.
They talked some more about medicine. He'd been using organic plastics to replace damaged human tissue. The process was relatively easy to perform; you didn't need any surgical delicacy, which was why he was `Dr' not `Mr'. If made public, this technique could have healed millions but they preferred using it in secret to give fugitives new faces. All the same, they weren't the only ones guilty of concealing scientific discoveries.
"Could you explain what you said earlier, Mr Onslow?"
"Alright." I knew every weary detail by heart. "A big thing like a planet leaks some of its mass into hyperspace. So a planet always has a real counterpart there. A small thing like a spaceship doesn't, unless you turn on its warp generator. When you do that, from the point of view of an observer in hyperspace mass has appeared from nowhere."
"Spontaneously created mass can only exist for the time allowed by the uncertainty principle, and in that time it can only go so far. It can't go any faster than the analogue of light in that universe. It doesn't matter that Planck's constant and the speed of light both have much larger values and a different ratio there - the principle still applies. We tried building stripped-down, almost massless plastic ships to extend the range. But you can't dispense with the masses of several hundred people needed to produce a big enough psi-burst to put the ship into hyperspace at all. So the Japs will never get anywhere. If they have called a world, it's too far away for the virtual particle associated with the ship to reach."
"Is that all you meant?"
I was taken aback - why was this colonial so familiar with facts only just discovered by the massed battalions of Earth's scientists?
He said, "Don't you understand that other planets can be brought into range?"
"Move a whole planet? Go on, I'm fascinated."
"Why are you pretending to be stupider than you are? The correlation between this space and hyperspace isn't simple or even one-to-one. It's perfectly possible to have two worlds linked by a local, attractive force there but only by a non-local quantum connection here. That's what `calling' is, that's what quantum interconnectedness is - the `hidden variable' is information transfer that is only FTL in this universe."
"No. What you say is the truth - but not the whole truth. It won't work."
"Well, what is the whole truth, then?"
"Classified." There was a bleak pause. "How come you know so much physics? Have they been doing unauthorized research at Illyria State?"
He said deliberately, "Classified."
I pulled off my headphones. I envied Collett; it was deemed psychologically necessary for him to be isolated from the news.
Did those women know the rest of the world also mourned? Probably not, only the very highest daimyos were permitted to know anything of the outside world. To ordinary people it would seem like a bolt of motiveless evil. It would be very effective in cutting the last lifeline to those who couldn't adapt to the Closure.
"What was he like, the man whose face you were going to alter, the one who planted the bomb?"
"I have already told you that. The one whose face I was going to alter was an ex-Japanese Pure Communist. His main motive was to embarass the Soviets, but even so it shows that there are just men even on Earth. The man who pressed the button was a Cinquantan, and he died at his end of the hyperspace relay. Your press called him a coward."
"No, not a coward exactly. But I know what they're trying to say. It wasn't... it wasn't honourable. Hiroshima had already suffered enough."
"At your American hands."
That hurt. I don't know whether or not they were justified, but the events of that August day have always hung heavily over me. If he'd seen my face maybe he would have stopped, but he was too concerned in his own argument. In the exhilaration of pressing his point he went further than he really believed. "Our few dozen little deaths seem rather trivial by comparison, don't you think?"
"At least it had some point. At least it stopped the war. But as for your killing... you don't know yet just how futile all your murders of decent, innocent, trivial people were. Funny how you got that `calling' is a force but didn't go one step further."
His mouth sagged with an expression of horrible anticipation. He guessed before I told him.
"Forces are mediated by virtual particles, Doctor. Particles like ships, Doctor. If we stopped sending you ships full of emigrants your whole damn world would float off into the never-never. No more oil. No more fertilizer for that alien soil. No more plastics, medicines, technology. Your children would be starving savages."
"You could send -"
"Empty ships? Not at eighty million dollars a trip we couldn't. If you stopped taking our surplus population it wouldn't be long before you'd be abandoned anyway. Don't look away, there's more. This exchange force saturates, like the strong nuclear force. Know what that means? If a third particle came into the Earth-Cinquanta system, the system would cease to be stable. The average distance of separation would increase and the exchange force would weaken, and you'd be abandoned that way too. So just hope and pray that the Japs never get their world."
My face was obscenely close to his; I could see him flinch as I spat out my words. Righteous and unrighteous anger fused together into one avenging sword. I didn't even hear the panel scrape back or Tatsuo shout as I knocked Collett to the ground with my open hand.
I thought, Christ, he's going to have a heart attack. He sat on the floor gaping and blinking. One of his contact lenses had slipped and he had his hand to his eye. The indignity of it shamed me. I went to help, but Tatsuo was there first. With a stiff, tight bow he said, "He has shamed us all... On behalf of the Government of Earth, my most sincere apologies."
Sally was a witness to it all. Very gently, she helped him up. The imprint of my hand on his cheek gave him authority; sometimes it is the victim who gains power by violence. I stammered apologies but, astonishingly, he didn't seem interested in them.
"You really believed you were trying to protect us? If only there had been more trust. It's too late to bring back the dead, but we can stop this conflict once and for all. As you guessed, we have been doing research. When the CLF first asked me for help I asked them what made them think they could win this war, outnumbered and dependent as they were. They showed me. It was a prototype single-seater faster-than-light craft. I saw it make a jump from one horizon to another."
Sally asked, "How could one person put it into hyperspace? And even if its low mass does extend the range, maybe there are no livable worlds even in the extended range?"
"It had an artificial warp generator that took energy from hyperspace and didn't need human agents. It could operate continuously. We hadn't duplicated your theory, but if it's true what it must do is create real particles in hyperspace without violating any conservation laws. A real particle has unlimited range."
"He's telling the truth," said Sally. "This was in his mind. I didn't focus on it because I was only interested in CLF names, but the feel of it is familiar."
Tatsuo asked, "Could you tell an engineer enough about this generator for him to build one?"
"Then we will go to Japan and tell them how to get to their world."
We went to a place where they had once experimented on Russian prisoners. Now a temple of more benevolent science, it retained its isolation. There would be no cultural contamination. Tatsuo explained what was needed as the younger generation spoke no English.
While they built it we idled in isolation and Tatsuo Tanigawa went back to the streets of his childhood. He found that all eyes were upon him. A man approached.
"Forgive me for troubling you, but how has it been these last twenty years?" Tatsuo protested that he did not know. Too polite to persist, the man bowed and retreated. There had been great pain in his eyes.
It was evident that Tatsuo had become a gaijin.
On the day that Collett was released without charge the chief scientist, Shojiri, announced to the UN that a reconaissance ship had made contact with a world suitable for human life and congenial to Japanese ideas of beauty. Amid a universal feeling of liberation all links with the islands of Japan were reopened. India was told that among her thousand million people were enough geologists and biologists to make the extrapolation and visualization of a world attuned to their culture feasible.
A thousand pairs of oriental eyes tracked the camera around John F. Kennedy Spaceport. If they paid sufficient attention to the film they would get there. No-one had jumped with so little knowledge since the first interstellar jump, but the new ships weren't yet available and they were in a hurry to see their relatives who had emigrated to America twenty years before. I was in a hurry to go home.
On the screen at the front I could see New York, to the sides Osaka in reality.
The Earth was without form and void... Hyperspace was palpable; the black primeval chaos brushing against the surface of the ship... and darkness was on the face of the deep... This was what men had always feared. This was why they had needed a God to give them light, but here there was neither God nor light nor even existence...
The ten-million year battle between two continents had forced the land into great crystalline folds, then the valleys had been scoured still deeper by the slow manoeuvres of the ice, just like the Alpine valley into which Enrico Leardi had been gazing when he made first contact with this world.
I was on my way to the mountain hideout where I had tended our fighters' wounds and met my lover. I had come a long way, from involuntary betrayal to voluntary co-operation and the strange task of telling the CLF that UN security were now our allies. Carl, the one they had sent back to Cinquanta had been at the Spaceport and had smiled at me quite openly.
Ahead was the entrance to the cave. She was there alone. I went to meet her.
She stepped back. "Hello, Graham," she said. "You have made a mistake."
Then I knew why they had let me leave, and I understood why Carl had smiled. Among us and among our enemies - two tight-knit groups whose shared agonies no-one else knew - those words had become emotionally charged with special meaning. "You have made a mistake" meant "You have betrayed and are condemned."
She had two wires in her hands.
I dropped the case and staggered forward.
"Traitor," she said, and touched the wires together.
"No! I was betrayed-" I had a last glimpse of her dark, wild face surmounted by a halo of fire, then the sky cracked and the blackness that lay behind it broke free, and its shards blinded my eyes. Let there be light, even if it is that light brighter than a thousand suns. I could bear this; the hot ashes and the blood, if only I could see the mountains again.
Now the only sound is my breathing - not hers. It was a very small bomb not to kill me outright, but enough to raise a cloud of radioactive dust and pollen grains. Time goes slowly; I feel the impact of every particle as it settles over me. I cannot see the layer of grey but I can smell the fragrant pollen, feel the heat of the risen sun and hear my slow, unhurried breathing continue for just a little while longer.
"Collett is dead. I espered it."
"It must have looked like he was collaborating. They'll be pretty angry when they find out."
"Sally - you expected this to happen?"
"Yes, of course. Look, Tim, it's three in the morning here. Why are you bothering us?"
"We could have protected him! He practically saved mankind!"
"Use your bloody head, Tim! We can't suddenly take back the millions we've dumped on Cinquanta. The CLF aren't going to go all soft and constitutional just because there's light at the end of the tunnel. Just the reverse. We're in for more and bloodier violence than ever. Collett knew all our procedures. It's good he's dead. Sure, he did us some good but not out of pure bloody altruism. Why are you so forgiving all of a sudden, anyway? Forgotten all those corpses in Hiroshima?"
Sally was the only person I never analysed. I just put her down as `innocent' and left it at that. But she had left the screen blank, she had said "Why are you bothering us?". How could Tatsuo do that to a child...
She wasn't a child. She knew the evil in men's minds. Once I had got over the shock it didn't matter, much.
"Go back to sleep, Tim. It was me who betrayed him not you, so you get back to the sleep of the just. Only don't forget that while you sleep people get killed. I didn't cause that, I didn't want that but it's the way it is, so you can stop bothering me just because I did something about it. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to get angry but - Goodnight."
Nothing mattered compared to the fact that I had shared her life for two years and not seen how hard and bitter she had become. They would go on, she and Tatsuo, rising in the service of their austere religion. Saddled with empathy rather than telepathy I could not follow.
I went to the late-night store and bought marijuana cigarettes. When my sister and her beach-boy husband came back I was high. These health freaks are puritans and he said "Hey, man, why are you doing this to yourself?" I was angry and ashamed and mocked him saying, "Why don't you leave me some space, man? I'm sorry. Something bad has happened." That was the truth. The something wasn't just Collett being killed. I understood the reasons for that. They would have to try and eliminate Sally. She might be inured but she needed my protection. Even if they failed she was slowly dying anyway. She needed my loyalty and would get it, but - however momentous the events of the day, life is mostly incidents like this - I ceased to love, that's all.