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1

In the morning, at a quarter to nine, the phone rang in the laboratory. Sam Latourette took it from the technician whod picked it up. He said, Well, if hes like that, dont take any crap from him, Tom. Tell him to wait. Ill notify Ed Hawks. He hung up and padded in his old shoes across the floor, to where Hawks was with the crew of Navy dressers laying out the equipment Barker would wear.

The suit lay open on its long, adjustable table like a sectioned lobster, trailing disconnected air hoses from its sides, its crenelated joints bulging arthritically because of the embedded electric motors and hydraulic pistons that would move them. Hawks had run leads from a test power supply into the joints; the suit flexed and twitched, scraping its legs ponderously on the tables plastic facing, writhing the tool and pincer clusters at the ends of its arms. One of the Navy men wheeled up a compressed air cylinder and snapped the air hoses to it. At Hawks nod, the helmet, crested with reinforcing ridges, its faceplate barred by a crosshatch of steel rods, hissed shrilly through its intakes while the table surface groaned.

Leave it, Ed, Sam Latourette said. These men can handle that.

Hawks looked apologetically at the Navy men, who had all turned their eyes on Latourette. I know that, Sam.

Are you going to wear it? Leave it alone! Latourette burst out. Nothing ever goes wrong with any of the equipment!

Hawks said patiently, I want to do it. The boys, here he gestured toward the dressers the boys dont mind my playing with their Erector set.

Well, this fellow Barkers down at the gate. Give me his pass and stuff, and Ill go down and get him. He sounds like a real prize.

No, Ill do that, Sam. Hawks stepped back from the table and nodded toward the dressers. Its in fine shape. Thank you. He left the laboratory and went up the stairs to the ground floor, preoccupied.

Outside, he walked along the fog-wet, black asphalt driveway toward the gate, which was at first barely visible through the acrid mist. He looked at his wrist watch, and smiled faintly.

Barker had left his car in the outer parking lot and was standing on the other side of the small pedestrian gate, staring coldly through it at the guard, who ignored him stiffly. Barkers cheekbones were flushed red, and his poplin windbreaker was curled over his left forearm as though he expected to begin a knife fight.

Morning, Dr. Hawks, the guard said as Hawks came up. This mans been tryin to talk me into lettin him in without a pass. And hes been tryin to pump me about what youre doin.

Hawks nodded and looked thoughtfully at Barker. Im not surprised. He reached into his suit pocket, under his smock, and banded over the company pass and security O.K. slip from the FBI. The guard took them into his cubicle to record the numbers on his log sheet.

Barker looked defiantly at Hawks. Whats in this place? Another atom bomb project?

Theres no need to fish for information, Hawks said quietly. And no purpose in doing it with a man who lacks it. Stop wasting your energy. Id be happier if I hadnt guessed exactly how youd act here. Hawks said, Thank you, Tom, as the guard came out and unlocked the gate. He turned back to Barker. Youll always be told everything you need to know.

Barker said, Sometimes its better for me if Im allowed to judge what I need, or dont. But He bowed deeply from the hips. At your service. He straightened and glanced up at the length of heavy-gauge pipe forming the lintel of the gate in the Cyclone fencing. He twisted his pinched lips into a smile. Well, morituri te salutamus, Doctor, he said as he stepped through. We signify your status at the point of our death.

Hawks face twitched. Ive also read a book, he said softly, and turned away. Put on your badge and come with me.

Barker took it from the guard, who was holding it out patiently, and clipped it to his Basque shirt pocket. And thank you, Tom, he said over his shoulder, falling into step with Hawks.

Claire didnt want me to come, he said, cocking his head up to glance significantly at Hawks. Shes afraid.

Of what I might do to you, or of what might happen to her because of it? Hawks answered, keeping his eyes on the buildings.

I dont know, Doctor. There was wariness in Barkers tension. But, he said slowly, his voice hard and sharp, Im the only other man that ever frightens her.

Hawks said nothing. He continued to walk back toward the laboratory, and after a while Barker smiled once again, thinly and crookedly, and also walked with his eyes only on where his feet were taking him.

The stairway down into the laboratory from the main floor, where the passenger elevators stopped, was clad with plates of non-skid sheet steel. The green paint on the plates was fresh at the edges, worn off the tops of the die-stamped diamonds closer in. Nearer the center, the diamonds had been worn down to the underlying angled parallel ridges. In the center itself, a freehand pattern of electric welds had been imposed over the thinned, flat metal. Hawks and Barkers footsteps slurred and rang in the battleship-gray stairwell.

Shuffle your victims up and down in long, shackled lines, do you? Barker said.

Im glad to see youve found a new line of talk, Hawks answered.

Manys the agonized scream thats echoed up this shaft, Ill wager. Whats beyond those doors? The torture chamber?

The laboratory. He held open the swinging door. Come in.,,

Pleasure. Barker straightened his shoulders into perfect symmetry, threw the folded windbreaker half across his back, and stepped past Hawks. He walked out a few feet into the main aisle between the cabinets holding the voltage regulator series and put his hands in his pockets, stopping to look around. Hawks stopped with him.

All the work lights were on. Barker turned his body slowly from the hips, studying the galleries of signalmodulating equipment, watching the staff assistants running off component checks.

Busy, he said, looking at the white-coated men, who were consulting check-off sheets on their clipboards, setting switches, cutting in signal generators from the service racks above each gallery, switching off, resetting, retesting. His glance fell on the nearest of a linked array of differential amplifier racks on the laboratory floor. Lots of wiring. I like that. Marvels of science. That sort of thing.

Its part of a man, Hawks said.

Oh? Hawks lifted one eyebrow. His eyes were dancing mockingly. Plugs and wires and little ceramic widgets, he challenged.

I told you, Hawks said calmly. You dont have to try to get a rise out of us. Well tell you. Thats part of a man. The amplifier next to it is set up to be another part.

That entire bank of amplifiers is set up to contain an exact electronic description of a man: his physical structure, down to the last moving particle of the last atom in the last molecule in the last cell at the end of his little toes nail. It knows, thereby, his nervous reaction time and volume, the range and nature of his reflexes, the electrical capacity of each cell in his brain. It knows everything it needs to know so it can tell another machine how to build that man.

It happens to be a man named Sam Latourette, but it could be anyone. Its our standard man. When the matter transmitters scanner converts you into a series of similar electron flows, the information goes on a tape to be filed. It also goes in here, so we can read out the differences between you and the standard. That gives us a cross-check when we need accurate signal modulation. Thats what were going to do today. Take our initial scan, so we can have a control tape and a differential reading to use when we transmit tomorrow.

Transmit what?

You.

Where?

I told you that, too. The Moon.

Just like that? No rockets, no countdowns? Just a bunch of tubes sputtering and squish! Im on the Moon, like a three-D radiophoto. Barker smiled. Aint science great?

Hawks looked at him woodenly. Were not conducting any manhood contests here, Barker. Were working at a job. Its not necessary to keep your guard up all the time.

Would you know a contest if you saw one, Doctor?

Sam Latourette, who had come up behind them, growled, Shut up, Barker!

Barker turned casually. Jesus, fellow, I didnt eat your baby.

Its all right, Sam, Hawks said patiently. Al Barker, this is Sam Latourette. Doctor Samuel Latourette.

Barker glanced at the amplifiers and back. Weve met, he said to Latourette, extending his hand.

Youre not very funny, Barker.

Barker lowered his hand. Im not a comedian by trade. Whatre you the house mother?

Ive been looking over the file Personnel sent down on you, Latourette said with heavy persistence. I wanted to see what your chances were of being any use to us here. And I just want you to remember one thing. Latourette had lowered his head until his neck was almost buried between his massive shoulders, and his face was broadened by parallel rows of yellowish flesh that sprang into thick furrows down the sides of his jaw. When you talk to Dr. Hawks, youre talking to the only man in the world who could have built this. His pawing gesture took in the galleries, the catwalks, the amplifier bank, the transmitter hulking at the far wall. Youre talking to a man whos as far removed from muddleheadedness from what you and I think of as normal human error as you are from a chimp. Youre not fit to judge his work or make smart cracks about it. Your little personality twists arent fit for his concern. Youve been hired to do a job here, just like the rest of us. If you cant do it without making more trouble for him than youre worth, get out dont add to his burden. Hes got enough on his mind already. Latourette flashed a deep-eyed look at Hawks. More than enough. His shoulders arched forward. His forearms dangled loosely and warily. Got it straight, now?

Barkers expression was attentive and dispassionate as he looked at Latourette. His weight had shifted almost entirely away from his artificial leg, but there was no other sign of tension in him. He was deathly calm.

Sam, Hawks said, I want you to supervise the tests on the lab receiver. It needs doing now. Then I need a check on the telemeter data from the relay tower and the Moon receiver. Let me know as soon as youve done that.

Barker watched Latourette turn and stride soundlessly away down along the amplifier bank toward the receiving stage. There a group of technicians was fluoroscoping a series of test objects being transmitted to it by another team.

Come with me, please, Hawks said to Barker and walked slowly toward the table where the suit lay.

So they talk about you like that around here, Barker said, still turning his head from side to side as they walked. No wonder you get impatient when youre outside dealing with the big world.

Barker, its important that you concern yourself only with what youre here to do. Its removed from all human experience, and if youre to go through it successfully, there are a number of things you must absorb. Lets try to keep personalities out of this.

How about your boy, over there? Latourette?

Sams a very good man, Hawks said.

And thats his excuse.

Its his reason for being here. Ordinarily, hed be in a sanatorium under sedation for his pain. He has an inoperable cancer. Hell be dead next year.

They had passed the low wall of linked gray steel cabinets. Barkers head jerked back around. Oh, he said. Thats why hes the standard man in there. Nothing eating at the flesh. Eternal life.

No usual man wants to die, Hawks said, touching Barkers shoulder and moving him gently toward the suit. The men of the Navy crew were darting covert glances at Barker only after looking around to see if any of their teammates were watching them at that particular instant Otherwise, the world would be swept by suicides.


CHAPTER TWO | Rogue Moon | c