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."Try, Eric.We have nothing to lose."Paul Avery stared from one to the other of them and then to the red lights that were ships.Abruptly he sank down on the edge of his bunk and dropped his broad, fair head in his hands.Falken saw the cords like drawn harp-strings on the backs of them."I.can't," whispered Falken.The command to sleep was once more a vast shout in his brain."I can't think.""You must!" said Sheila."If you sleep, we'll be taken.You won't be able to kill yourself.They'll pick your brain empty.Then they'll Hiltonize you with the Psycho-Adjuster."They'll blank your brain with electric impulses and then transmit a whole new memory-pattern, even shifting the thought-circuits so that you won't think the same way.They'll change your metabolism, your glandular balance, your pigmentation, your face, and your fingerprints." He knew she was recounting these things deliberately, to force him to fight.But still the weak darkness shrouded him."Even your name will be gone," she said."You'll be placid and lifeless, lazing your life away, just one of Hilton's cattle." She took a deep breath and added, "Like Kitty."He caught her shoulders, then, grinding the thin bone of them."How did you know?""That night, when you saw me, you said her name.Perhaps I made you think of her.I know how it feels, Eric.They took the boy I loved away from me." He clung to her, the blue distant fire in his eyes taking life from the hot, green blaze of hers.There was iron in her.He could feel the spark and clash of it against his mind."Talk to me," he whispered."Keep me awake.I'll try." Waves of sleep clutched Falken with physical hands.But he turned to the control panel.The bitter blaze of Mercury stabbed his bloodshot eyes.Red lights hemmed him in.He couldn't think.And then Sheila Moore began to talk.Standing behind him, her thin vital hands on his shoulders, telling him the story of Hiltonism."Gantry Hilton's Psycho-Adjuster was a good thing at first.Through the mapping and artificial blanking of brain-waves and the use of electro-hypnotism—the transmission of thought-patterns directly to the brain—it cured non-lesional insanity, neuroses, and criminal tendencies.Then, at the end of the Interplanetary War."Red lights closing in.How could he get past the Spaceguard battery? Sheila's voice fought back the darkness.Speed, that was what he needed.And more guts than he'd ever had to use in his life before.And luck."Keep talking, Sheila.Keep me awake."".Hilton boomed his discovery.The people were worn out with six years of struggle.They wanted Hiltonism, Peace and Happiness.The passion for escape from life drove them like lunatics."He found the emergency lever and thrust it down.The last ounce of hoarded power slammed into the rocket tubes.The Falcon reared and staggered.Then she shot straight for Mercury, with the thin high scream of tortured metal shivering along the cabin walls.Spaceshells burst.They shook the Falcon, but they were far behind.The ring of red lights was falling away.Acceleration tore at Falken's body, but the web of sleep was loosening.Sheila's voice cried to him, the story of man's slavery.The naked, hungry peaks of Mercury snarled at Falken.And then the guns of the Spaceguard post woke up."Talk, Sheila!" he cried."Keep talking!""So Gantry Hilton made himself a sort of God, regulating the thoughts and emotions of his people.There is no opposition now, except for the Unregenerates, and we have no power.Humanity walks in a placid stupor.It cannot feel dissatisfaction, disloyalty, or the will to grow and change.It cannot fight, even morally."Gantry Hilton is a god.His son after him will be a god.And humanity is dying."There was a strange, almost audible snap in Falken's brain.He felt a quick, terrible stab of hate that startled him because it seemed no part of himself.Then it was gone, and his mind was clear.He was tired to exhaustion, but he could think, and fight.Livid, flaming stars leaped and died around him.Racked plates screamed in agony.Falken's lean hands raced across the controls.He knew now what he was going to do.Down, down, straight into the black, belching mouths of the guns, gambling that his sudden burst of speed would confuse the gunners, that the tiny speck of his ship hurtling bow-on would be hard to see against the star-flecked depths of space.Falken's lips were white.Sheila's thin hands were a sharp unnoticed pain on his shoulders.Down, down.The peaks of Mercury almost grazed his hull.A shell burst searingly, dead ahead.Blinded, dazed, Falken held his ship by sheer instinct.Thundering rockets fought the gravitational pull for a moment.Then he was through, and across.Across Mercury, in free space, a speeding mote lost against the titanic fires of the Sun.* * *Falken turned.Paul Avery lay still in his bunk, but his golden eyes were wide, staring at Falken.They dropped to Sheila Moore, who had slipped exhausted to the floor, and came back to Falken and stared and stared with a queer, stark look that Falken couldn't read.Falken cut the rockets and locked the controls.Heat was already seeping through the hull.He looked through shaded ports at the vast and swollen Sun.No man in the history of space travel had ventured so close before.He wondered how long they could stand the heat, and whether the hull could screen off the powerful radiations.His brain, with all its knowledge of the Unregenerate camps, was safe for a time [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]