It was always a great day for me when my tiny office was graced by the presence of a paying client, so when I got two jobs in the same day it was cause for a quiet celebration. Riding up the thirty floors between my office and apartment I decided to splurge and cook myself the steak I'd tucked away in the freezer for a special occasion. It was a shame I couldn't have a bottle of wine with it as well, but that was one of the ironies of this job: the only times I could afford to buy good liquor I couldn't afford to drink it. I learned long ago what alcohol did to my performance.
I had just finished changing into more comfortable clothes and was hunting for that steak when the doorbell buzzed. Frowning a bit—I wasn't expecting anyone—I glanced through the peephole. The woman I saw was short, dark, rather plain-looking, and a complete stranger to me. I opened the door.
"Mr. Jefferson Morgan?" she asked without preamble. "The Dreamsender?"
"Yes," I admitted. "What can I do for you, Miss, ah—"
"May I come in?" I stood aside and she brushed past me, moving quickly as if afraid someone would happen by and see her here. I motioned her toward the couch and closed the door.
"My name is Louise Holst," she said as we sat down. "Please forgive me for bothering you at home like this, but I was afraid to come to your office. I didn't want your secretary to hear what I have to tell you."
"As it happens, Miss—ah, Mrs. Holst," I amended, noticing her rings for the first time, "I don't have a secretary. I prefer to meet my clients personally." I didn't add that I couldn't afford a secretary even if I'd wanted one. "What seems to be the trouble?"
She took a deep breath. "Let me start at the beginning. My husband, Captain Lawrence Holst, is in the middle of a six-month tour of duty at the army's base in Krieger Crater, on the moon. The day before yesterday was our anniversary, and he had promised he would call me then. He's never broken a promise like that before, so I waited until this morning and then called him. Or, rather, I tried to. The operator at Krieger said he couldn't put me through to Larry, that he was off the base for a few weeks on special duty. When I asked what kind of duty, he got vague and mumbled something about surface mining operations." I shrugged. "They do a lot of that at Krieger, or so I hear. Lots of heavy metals up there."
"Yes, but Larry isn't a miner. He's in the Signal Corps. But the thing that really worries me is this. I'm afraid I made something of a scene over the phone, ending up threatening to call every hour until he got in. About a half hour later someone else—a lieutenant colonel, I think—called me back. He said he was in charge of Larry's expedition and that they were patching him through from some Farside mining area. He told me that Larry was okay and that I should stop worrying, that they would be back at Krieger in a month or so and Larry could call me then."
"And you don't believe him?" That much was obvious.
"No. He sounded—well, stiff, as if he was watching every word. And he sounded worried and tense. And that was no patch; I've talked over those before, and the reception is terrible. This wasn't like that."
She ran out of words, or breath, or both. I said, "So you think something is wrong with your husband? What?"
"That's what I want you to find out. I'd like to hire you to—to contact him tonight."
Much as I wanted another job, I knew I had to be honest with her. "Mrs. Holst, I'm afraid you have a slight misconception of just what a Dreamsender can do. Basically, dreamsending is—"
"I know all that," she interrupted my standard lecture. "Dreamsending is a limited form of telepathy where the sender appears in a dream of the recipient and delivers a short message. But surely the communication is two-way, isn't it?"
"Of course, but how do I know whether what I'm seeing is truth or fiction?" She looked rather blank, so I went on, "Look, from all I've ever been able to tell, dreams are largely made up of random bits from the memory, perhaps focusing on some current problem or wish. People aren't trained to—well, to think in a dream. Sure, I can tell whether a person I've contacted has gotten the message, and usually whether he really believes that I wasn't just a normal dream. But that's more of an emotional response than a rational one. If I asked a specific question I wouldn't have any idea how much of the answer I could believe. If any of it."
She was silent for a long minute. "I'd like you to try anyway," she said at last. "If you will."
I shrugged. "I'd be happy to."
She reached into her purse and withdrew a photo and an envelope. "Here's your hundred-dollar fee, and this is a picture of Larry."
Captain Holst was young and serious-looking, with wavy hair and large ears. "May I keep this for tonight? I may have to refer to it again later."
"Certainly." She stood up, looking maybe a shade less worried. "When can I find out the results?"
"Come in any time tomorrow or phone. You know where my office is?"
"Yes. But so soon? What if you can't catch Larry in one of his dreaming stages tonight?"
"I don't have to. As long as he's asleep he'll start dreaming when I contact him."
"Oh. Then I'll be in tomorrow, Mr. Morgan. Good night, and thank you."
She left, and I tossed my steak into the micro to cook. Then I sprawled on the couch and mulled over my new job. I myself doubted that there was anything seriously wrong with Hoist, though it might be a problem convincing his wife of that. But at least this job made a change from my usual missing persons or runaway assignments. I picked up Hoists picture and studied it. The unique advantage of dreamsending over other communications was that the Dreamsender didn't need anything but the recipient's name and a fairly recent picture of him. Approximate location was useful, but by no means necessary, and even a wrong location didn't seem to hurt too much. No one knew why; but then again, no one had the slightest idea how any aspect of dreamsending worked. Even though I was having trouble making a living with my talent, it gave me a certain kick to know how thoroughly a score of Dreamsenders were confounding the entire scientific community.
In the kitchen the micro pinged. Tossing the photo onto the couch, I headed for the kitchen, feeling better than I had in weeks. Three clients in one day! Maybe this business was finally going to start paying off.
Joanna Smith was dreaming about an apartment that was somehow attached to—and a part of—an elevator. Only one of the other people in the elevator had a distinct face; probably one of her real-life friends, I decided. Stepping up to Joanna, I said, "Miss Smith?"
"My name is Jefferson Morgan. I'm a Dreamsender in New York. I have a message for you from your parents."
There's always an emotional tremor as the recipient realizes this isn't the way dreams normally go. Joanna decided to be scared, and she started running. But people don't really go anywhere in dreams and I had no trouble staying alongside her as the scenery flew past us. "Don't be afraid, Miss Smith. I won't hurt you, but I have a very important message to give you." Curiosity was beginning to overcome her fear. I waited, knowing better than to try and deliver my message before she was ready to hear it. Finally she gave in. "What is it?"
"Your uncle Glenn has had a stroke. The doctors aren't sure whether he'll live or not. Your parents knew you would want to see him, but you didn't leave an itinerary for your camping trip and they couldn't find you."
She was wavering now, unsure whether to believe me or to defend herself against emotional shock by declaring this dream to be an ordinary nightmare. Images, emotional bursts, and random words were starting to pop up all over the place. "Please believe me," I said quickly. "Your uncle very much wants to see you. Call your parents to confirm this message or, if you prefer, call the toll-free Dreamsenders number in the phone book. I won't even be offended if you want to consider this some sort of occult clairvoyance—which it isn't—and me some figment of your imagination—which I'm not. But do believe my message. Your parents paid a great deal of money for it and I would hate to see that money wasted."
It was a long speech for a dreaming person to hear, but it did the trick. She was finally convinced. I said good-bye and broke the contact, knowing that as I did so she would wake up.
I awoke myself with the slightly disoriented feeling that I always get after sending a dream. Turning on my bedside light, I blinked at the ceiling for a minute, and then reached to the nightstand for Larry Holst's picture. Two down, one to go. As I marshaled my thoughts concerning this message, it occurred to me that I was about to make Dreamsender history: to the best of my knowledge no one had ever before tried dreamsending to the moon. Maybe I would rate a footnote in a history book someday. Snapping off the light, I rolled over and went back to sleep.
Sometime—probably about an hour later—I was in the half-conscious, half- dreaming state that I need to make contact. With a slight effort I formed an image of Captain Holst in my mind. Slowly, an unfamiliar scene appeared around me, and from a mist at the edge of my vision a figure emerged. It was Larry Holst.
I moved toward him with a strange buoyancy I'd never felt before, almost as if I were myself in the moon's lower gravity. "Captain Holst?" I said. "My name is Jefferson Morgan—"
"It won't work," he interrupted wildly. "He can't get away with it."
"Sir, I'm here to help you," I said. "I'm Jefferson Morgan, a Dreamsender."
Images were flashing by, and I realized he wasn't really paying any attention to me. I opened my mouth to try again, then thought better of it. Maybe he would settle down in a few minutes; surely he couldn't maintain this emotional level for long. Meanwhile, I'd watch his dream images and try to figure out why he was so upset. It was something like trying to simultaneously watch five movies, all of which are on high-speed settings. Pictures popped up all over the place, sometimes out of nowhere, sometimes generated by preceding thoughts. Often a given image would start its own series, as well. Some of the images and thoughts were familiar—a series of craters, for example: Tycho, Krieger, Mairan, Foucault, Aristoteles, and more—while others I could only guess at. Circuit diagrams, sunlit lunar landscapes, scenes that must have been from science-fiction movies—all of it snarling together into an absolute mess of image, sound, and emotional coloring.
Enough was enough. This wasn't getting me anywhere. "Captain Holst!" I shouted over the din. "You must listen to me. Your wife is worried about you."
Everything slowed down as he realized I was still there. "Who are you?"
"I'm Jefferson Morgan, a Dreamsender. Your wife asked me to contact you, to see if you were all right."
Holst's emotional tremor was much gentler than Joanna Smiths had been. Maybe the idea of receiving a dream didn't scare him much, or maybe he was just running out of emotional energy. "Where are you, sir? Are you all right?" I asked when he was listening again.
"Krieger D barracks," he said and suddenly there were bars around us.
"Are you in jail there?" I asked, startled by the image.
"All of us were sequestered by the Colonel." I got a picture of Holst tinkering with a machine—circuit diagrams flashed again—near something that looked like surface-mining equipment. Several other men appeared nearby, and the cage around us expanded to include them.
"A mine?" I guessed, trying to make sense out of the images that were going by. "Where? What kind?"
"New one, north. Iridium vein, very rich."
"And you were all sequestered? Why?"
His answer, if he gave one, was lost in a new explosion of pictures: more movielike scenes in the background, while nearby a colonel was struggling to stuff something into a sack. A group of snakes appeared and Holst began to argue with them for permission to reassure his wife. Thoughts of her seemed to agitate him; the bars around us turned thicker and darker, and again his dream began to resemble a high-speed kaleidoscope. For the first time in my experience I felt myself being caught up in the emotional current. "I'll talk to you later. Good-bye," I said hurriedly and broke the contact.
I woke up covered with sweat. Rolling out of bed, I went into the kitchen to make myself some hot chocolate. Never before had a contact hit me that hard. I still didn't know what was going on up at Krieger, but something sure as taxes was worrying the stuffing out of Captain Lawrence Holst.
It was another two hours before I felt calm enough to go back to sleep. I spent most of that time going over that last contact, trying to recall as much detail as possible, and as I did so several elements of the dream began to stand out. The imagery was going to be tricky, though, and before trying to decipher it I decided to wait until I could consult with the local expert on Larry Holst's mind.
Louise Holst was at my office door at nine sharp. I sat her down, gave her a cup of coffee, and took a seat across from her. She was obviously eager for my report, but had the self-control to wait until we were settled.
"Did you contact my husband last night, Mr. Morgan?" she asked.
"Yes, I did." I hesitated. "I'm afraid your suspicions were correct. Something is definitely going on up there. Nothing obviously harmful to your husband," I added, seeing her stricken look.
"Then what is it?"
I shook my head. "I don't know for sure. There were a lot of images in his dream that made no sense at all to me. I hoped you could help me interpret them."
I proceeded to describe the contact to her. She asked occasional questions, but generally listened quietly to my account.
"I wish I could help you," she said when I had finished, "but I don't understand most of those symbols myself. All I can suggest is that Larry often refers to sneaky people as 'snakes.' I guess I don't know him as well as I thought I did."
"Don't let it worry you. I doubt that he understands much of his dream imagery himself," I told her. "I've been thinking about your husband's dream, Mrs. Holst, and I think I can take at least a stab at what he was trying to say. The outstanding elements are the new iridium mine, his own presence there, and the sequestering of everyone there by the colonel. Do you know this colonel, by the way?"
She nodded quickly. "Colonel Avram Stark is the commander of Krieger Base. He reports directly to General Blaine at the Pentagon."
"So Stark is completely in charge on the moon, eh?" I drummed my fingers on the chair arm. "Can you think of any reason he'd lock up everyone who had been at a new mine?"
"A bad accident, maybe? Something they didn't want publicity about?"
"I wonder. Stark was trying to put something in a sack in your husband's dream. Do you happen to know if he gets a percentage or bonus on new mineral wealth?" She looked astonished. "In the army?"
"I didn't think so. This is a wild idea, but do you suppose Stark is trying to take the iridium in that mine for himself?"
"How would he get it off the moon?"
"I haven't the foggiest. I've never given much thought to interplanetary smuggling. I imagine it's possible, though." We both considered this.
"If you're right," she said slowly, "then Larry is in real danger. Stark couldn't let word of the mine leak out, and he can't hold those men forever. He'd have to— to kill them." She turned suddenly widened eyes on me. "You have to help me, Mr. Morgan."
"How? I doubt if I can get any more information than I already have from here."
"You could go to the moon and get proof. You could get it to the newsmen, or the Pentagon, or someone—"
"Just a second, Mrs. Holst. I'm afraid you've got the wrong guy for this job. First of all, I can't get to the moon—I haven't got the money for a commercial flight, and there's an eight-month waiting list, anyway. Secondly, this isn't my field. You'd be better off hiring a private eye. And thirdly, our theory may be completely wrong, and if it is I'd be sticking my nose deeply into army business, a practice the Pentagon takes a very dim view of. I'm a Dreamsender, not a professional kamikaze. I've done my part here."
She looked at me with an expression that was scared, tired, and cold, all at once. "All right, Mr. Morgan. Thank you for your help in contacting my husband. I'll do the rest alone."
"I have a military pass that entitles me to get an immediate seat on a commercial lunar flight. I think our savings can cover a round-trip ticket." She stood up. "I'll get to Larry somehow."
"Sit down, Louise." She did so, not batting an eye at my use of her first name, and waited. I stared out the window for a half minute or so, wishing I weren't so softheaded. But I had little choice. It was a cinch she could never get close enough to find out anything—she was probably known on the base, and Stark knew she had tried to talk to her husband. He'd be watching for her to show up. And if he was up to something illegal, he might decide that he couldn't let her live, either. She'd just be saving him the trouble of coming down here and getting her. "All right, Louise. If you can pay for the ticket and if we can figure out a way to get me aboard a flight with your pass, I'll take a crack at it."
She didn't throw her arms around me or roll her eyes heavenward or do any of the standard grade-B-movie things. She just sat there with melting eyes and said, "Thank you, Mr. Morgan."
"Call me Jeff," I said. "Let's get to work."
Besides, I'd always wanted to visit the moon.
"Last call, Flight 126 for Collins Space Station and Prinz Crater, Luna."
That was my cue. Picking up my carry-on bag, I trotted around a corner and went to the check-in desk. "Larry Holst," I told the man, handing him the ticket Louise had purchased a few hours previously with her priority pass. I hoped he wouldn't look carefully at it.
He did. "Uh, sir? This ticket is made out to Ms. L. Holst."
I craned my neck to look. "You're right," I agreed with what I hoped was the proper touch of amused surprise in my voice. "I never even noticed."
"I'm sorry, but I'll have to see some identification, sir."
"Sure." This was the touchy part, but Louise and I had planned for this and if I'd timed it correctly it should work. Pulling out a thick wallet, I began rummaging through it. Tossing a couple of Larry Holst's credit cards on the desk, I commented, "My driver's license is in here somewhere."
The clerk glanced at the name on the credit cards, then at his watch. "Never mind, Mr. Holst, this will do. You'll have to hurry now, they'll be sealing the ship in two minutes. Right through that door there, sir, and have a good flight."
I made it with a minute to spare and sank into my seat thankfully. So far, so good, and for the next few days I was in the clear. Louise had given me the code numbers that went with Larry's credit cards, so I could charge my room and meals on Collins without raising any suspicions anywhere. But Collins and Prinz Crater were purely civilian stations, after all, and as long as I wasn't using stolen cards no one really cared whether I was Larry Holst or not. The real problem would be trying to get in touch with Larry at Krieger without getting caught.
Well, one crisis at a time. Right now I needed to give my attention to the stewardess as she explained how to use the emergency oxygen masks. Fastening my seat belts, I decided to sit back and try to make myself relax.
Prinz Crater, located at the south of the Harbinger Mountain range, was fairly unusual in that it was only a partial crater, its rim forming a semicircle that opened to the south. The colony had been built just outside the crater, nestled into the shadow of the northern rim, and consisted of a half-dozen domed buildings connected by underground passages. My room at the Prinz Hilton seemed rather Spartan—especially considering the price—but a careful look at the clientele suggested that luxury would have been wasted anyway. Prinz seemed to be the major spaceport for both civilian traffic to Krieger Base and scientific parties bound for the diggings in the Schroter's Valley region, and I doubted whether either group cared much what the Hilton's rooms looked like. Ordinary tourists seemed a little scarce, but there were enough around to keep me from feeling too conspicuous.
I spent my first day on the moon in and near the hotel, learning about the spacesuits and other rental gear, and studying maps of the region. After dinner that evening I discovered that the Hilton had a colorful pamphlet on lunar history. Taking a copy back to my room, I sprawled across the bed and read it through carefully. Of special interest was a section on the army's military bases, a section that included a sketch of the nonclassified areas of Krieger Base, Krieger "D" barracks, Larry had said; only there was no "D" barracks listed on the map.
I stared at the page for several minutes, pondering this unexpected problem. Louise and I had worked out a way for me to get in touch with Larry, but I needed to know at least approximately where he was being kept. Obviously, I had misread the information during that first confused contact; just as obviously, there was nothing for me to do except try it again. I wasn't crazy about the idea, but it was that or catch a flight back to Earth. Besides, he was bound to have calmed down somewhat by now.
My first attempt that night failed—Larry was apparently not yet asleep—but I made it on the second try. The scenery around Larry this time seemed relatively quiet, though there were rumblings like thunder in the distance. "Captain Holst?" I called. "This is Jefferson Morgan again."
He turned from the circuit he had been working on and faced me. "What do you want?"
"I'm here to help you," I told him, trying to ignore the unfriendly look he was giving me. "Where are you?"
"Special Duty Barracks, Krieger D. Why are you here?"
"Your wife asked me to help you, remember? She—"
"You leave Louise out of this!" he shouted, unfriendliness turning to outright hostility in an instant. The whole dream reflected the change; thunder crashed nearby and a strong wind began to blow. Louise appeared to one side and Larry sprang over to stand between us. Protecting her from me? "Go away!" he yelled, shaking his fists at me. "Leave me alone, do you hear? Leave both of us alone!"
"Okay, okay, I'm leaving," I said. Struck by a thought, I added, "Don't worry, Stark won't hear about this from me."
That got me a reaction, all right, but it was so fast and multifaceted that I couldn't read anything at all from it. I gave up and broke the contact.
I lay in bed for a few minutes afterwards, thinking about what I'd seen and felt. At least I now knew where he was, more or less: not Krieger "D" barracks but a barracks in Krieger D. The latter, I remembered from the maps, was a small crater about twenty kilometers from the main base. It was only about three kilometers across, so I should have no trouble finding the barracks itself.
And I was going to find it. Larry had been angry, hostile, and threatening, but behind all of that I had been able to sense another emotion: fear. Larry Holst was still afraid of something, and more than ever I wanted to know what. I had undertaken this job mainly from a lopsided sense of duty, but my own native curiosity was starting to take a keen interest in things.
There was still one chore to do before I could close shop for the night. I contacted Louise, assured her Larry was all right, and told her I would try to contact him directly the next afternoon. It still bothered my scientific intuition that dreamsending from the moon felt no different than if Louise was across the street, but I had too many other things on my mind to worry about it. Later, maybe, when all this was over, I'd write a letter to some journal somewhere. For the moment, I was just glad that this time all I had to do was send information, and not try to receive any.
Finally, message complete, I set the alarm for seven o'clock and settled down for a good night's sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day.
"Good morning," I said briskly to the clerk at the rental counter. "I'd like to check out a suit and buggy for the day."
"For a long trip, sir?"
"Probably. I want to go exploring a little around the Aristarchus Rille area. Pick up some rocks, get a few pictures, that sort of thing."
He consulted his list, confirmed I'd been checked out on the equipment yesterday by one of the staff. "I can let you have one of the Selenes, Mr. Holst; number eight. Is that satisfactory?"
"Fine." The solar-augmented batteries of a Selene, I had been told, gave the buggy an almost unlimited range. Even with the decoy run I would have to make, the round trip to Krieger should be easily less than three hundred kilometers.
The suit and Selene were delivered in ten minutes, one of the hotel staff then taking another thirty to help me double-check everything, but within an hour I was tooling northwest along the sun-lit lunar landscape at the rip-roaring speed of forty kilometers an hour. The terrain was pretty hilly for a while, until I had crossed Prinz Rille I, but then it generally settled down, and I was able to devote less of my already busy mind to the chore of driving. It took me a bit over an hour to reach Aristarchus Rille V. Finding a close-set pair of hills, I parked the Selene between them and set to work with the buggy's toolkit. What I was doing now was not only illegal but was the act of a suicidal idiot as well, and I could feel sweat gathering on my forehead. Carefully removing the self-contained radio beacon from its hiding place under the seat, I took it outside and left it beside a recognizable rock formation. The beacon was, naturally, designed so that it couldn't be turned off and was continually monitored from Prinz. To those observers, I would simply have left my vehicle parked while I went exploring on foot, and my side trip north to Krieger would go completely unnoticed. But, by the same token, if something happened to me, I couldn't be found by a rescue team. That one I tried not to think about.
It was only another fifty kilometers to Krieger D, but I took the time to give the entire Krieger crater system a wide berth. Swinging east, I circled Krieger D at a distance of about ten kilometers and made my cautious approach from the northeast. I reached the rim without incident and, after parking the Selene in a convenient depression, I began setting up my apparatus.
Among its equipment the Selene carried a very fine tripod-mounted monocular adapted for spacesuit use. Setting this up, I scanned the shadows at the south end of the crater, the likeliest place for the barracks to be. I wasn't disappointed. There it was, a squat building with a row of porthole-type windows near the ground, looking sort of like a cross between a cliff dwelling and a Quonset hut. Jumping the monoculars power, I took a look through all the windows I could see from my position, hoping fervently Larry was in an outside room. If he wasn't, the plan Louise and I had cooked up would be useless. But again I was lucky: neatly framed in the third porthole from the end was Larry Holst, writing busily at a foldaway desk.
So far, so good. Now came the hard part. I obviously couldn't use a radio to contact him, even if he had a transceiver, which I doubted. No sentries were in sight, but there had to be some security measures in force around the building, so going up and knocking on Larry's window was out, too.
A few years ago the number of scientific parties poking around remote areas of the moon had grown so great that some method of good communication had become essential. A series of satellites had been the answer, satellites that would accept modulated laser beams from the surface and relay such messages to a central switching station. Austere though the Hilton's rooms had been, the management knew better than to scrimp on any safety equipment, and my Selene was equipped with a beautiful laser transmitter. It would make a bright red spot on Larry's wall, a spot I could flick on and off in Morse code. Larry should be able to come up with something to make his own dots and dashes with, and with the monocular I would be able to see whatever he used.
I was just about to go get the laser when a motion in the room caught my eye. Another soldier had entered and was talking with Larry. The conversation was brief, though. Larry stood up and disappeared from my view; he returned a moment later buckling a gunbelt around his waist. Then, together, they left the room.
I thought about that for all of three seconds. Then I got up, stowed the monocular, and took off just as fast as the Selene would take me. Granted all I don't know about military procedure, I do know prisoners are not issued weapons. Larry was very clearly no longer a prisoner, and the obvious conclusion followed immediately: He had thrown in with Colonel Stark.
The trip back to Prinz was uneventful, which was a good thing as I wasn't paying much attention to my driving. Over and over again I shuffled the facts, lined them up, and added them together, and each time I came up with the same answer. Somehow Stark had gotten to Larry, either through bribes or threats—the latter, perhaps, directed at Louise. That would explain Larry's protectiveness toward her last night, as well as the fear I had sensed. If Stark got caught now, Larry would be run through the percolator along with the colonel, and he knew it. No wonder he had tried to throw me out of his dream.
For me, it all boiled down to the fact that my sole information source had dried up. I had counted heavily on a direct contact with Larry, on the solid data that he would have provided; without it I was effectively stalemated.
I lost an extra hour getting home by nearly forgetting to go back for the radio beacon I'd left at Aristarchus Rille V. I finally made it in around seven-thirty, itching all over from eleven hours in a spacesuit. First on my priority list was a bath, after which I had a late dinner. Returning then to my room, I stood in front of the porthole and glowered at the landscape.
There had to be a way to figure out what was going on at Krieger D. I couldn't go back to Louise and tell her she'd used half of her savings to send me to the moon for nothing. Larry might not yet be in so deeply that he couldn't be saved, especially if Stark was using threats to keep him in line. The right facts in the right hands might do it, but I needed facts first.
The really aggravating thing was that, down deep, I knew everything I needed had been in that first confused contact with Larry. I still remembered most of the images and words from that dream, but a good ninety percent of them had to be extraneous, and there was no way for me to separate the facts from the garbage.
Unless I could correlate Larry's dream images with someone else's, someone who also knew what was going on. I leaped over to my nightstand—very literally; I'd forgotten about lunar gravity—and picked up the pamphlet I'd studied earlier, turning to the first page of the military-history section. Sure enough, right below the picture of General Conrad Blaine was a photo of Colonel Avram Stark. I took the time to memorize both faces, even though I just needed Stark's at the moment. Blaine, as Pentagon honcho in charge of the moon, would be the man to contact once I had some facts.
With one last look at Stark's photo, I snapped off the light and slid into bed.
The overall tone of Stark's dream was a curious mixture of anxiety, frantic activity, and icy calmness. I stayed near the edge of the scenery for several minutes, watching for anything that looked familiar, but either Stark didn't use any of the same symbols as Larry or else he just wasn't dreaming about the mine tonight.
Perhaps a nudge would help. "Colonel," I called, "where are you?"
Stark turned at the sound of my voice as a burst of symbols, including several sets of latitude and longitude, went by too fast to catch completely. Two words— Krieger and Mairan—were visible for just a second. Between the two craters? Or was one name superfluous? I gambled and tried one more question. "Where is your iridium mine?"
"Forty, due east," he said, his eyes boring into mine with an intensity I didn't at all care for. I was just thinking about making a graceful exit when all hell broke loose.
"You're a Dreamsender!" Stark shouted as weapons appeared beside him and began blasting ineffectually at me. "How much do you know, damn you? Who else have you told?"
I should have stayed and tried to bluff my way out, to convince him I was only a dream image. But I panicked. I backed away and got out of there, knowing even as I did so that he would wake up with a vivid memory of the dream.
But at least I now had some idea where the iridium mine was. The name of Mairan Crater, some four hundred twenty kilometers north of Krieger, had showed up in both Larry's and Stark's dreams, in the latter case as an answer to a direct question. "Forty due east," Stark had said: forty kilometers east of Mairan? Larry had said the mine was "north," which would be approximately the right direction from Krieger D.
It was finally time, I decided, for me to blow the whistle. Stark's violent reaction, combined with Larry's earlier comment that "he can't get away with it," left me no further doubt that something illegal was going on at that mine. Admittedly, nothing I had so far could be considered hard evidence, but I should at least be able to spark an investigation by the Pentagon. And the sooner I started, the better.
Rolling over, I went back to sleep. An hour or so later I stepped through a misty barrier and came within sight of General Conrad Blaine himself.
His dream seemed to be a replay of some military crisis from his past. Shells and rockets whizzed about us, and he was dressed in full combat garb. I made my way toward him easily, but somewhere in the back of my mind something felt wrong, and for a moment I hesitated. Something in the scene around me? I couldn't tell. Nuts to it, though. I had a job to do.
"General Blaine? I'm Jefferson Morgan, a Dreamsender. I'm speaking to you from the moon with an urgent message."
Blaine's emotional tremor nearly knocked me off the map. I hung on and waited for it to subside before continuing. "There is something going on at your Krieger Crater Base that you should know about. Colonel Stark is up to something regarding a secret iridium mine near Mairan Crater—"
Blaine had been settling down, but the mention of Mairan set him off again. I waited for the emotional swirl to die down, but more than ever I felt something was wrong with this contact.
"Who are you?" Blaine asked. "How do you know this?"
"My name is Jefferson Morgan. I've been in contact with Captain Lawrence Holst, one of Stark's men at Krieger Base."
"What did he tell you?" Blaine took a step toward me, bouncing slightly.
My thoughts froze in midsentence as the reason for my uneasiness hit me like a sledgehammer. I felt light—the same feeling I'd had when sending dreams to Larry, but not when I'd contacted Louise, even when I myself was here. It was a feeling that seemed to go with the recipient's location.
General Blaine was here on the moon.
I didn't even bother to say good-bye, but broke the contact just as fast as I could, and was pulling on my clothes almost before I was completely awake. Blaine on the moon and reacting violently to the name of Mairan could mean only one thing: He was in this thing with Stark, in it up to his neck. And speaking of necks, mine was now in serious trouble. I'd given Blaine both my name and Larry's and told him I was on the moon, and it would be trivial for him to track me down. I had to get out of here, and fast, or I would end up in the Krieger Base stockade. Or worse.
I needed a new plan of action, and one possibility began to take shape in my mind as I finished dressing. I would have to go to the mine now and get hard, photographic evidence of the plot. Once I had that, I could hole up somewhere and send dreams to every reporter and government official I could find. Lunar spacesuits were designed for long-term use, I knew, and with a Selene's supply of emergency oxygen tanks I could survive for a week or so away from civilization, long enough for someone to check on my story and blow the whistle on Stark and Blaine. I would have the photos to exchange for a government guarantee of safe
conduct back to Earth. It wasn't the best plan in the world, but it was all I could come up with. Whatever I did, I at least had the considerable advantage that no one could cut off my communication with the outside world.
Taking my camera and a few other things, I headed for the Hilton's lobby and rental counter, forcing myself to walk casually. This was no time to look like a fugitive. Blaine couldn't have gotten the word out this fast.
"I'd like to take a Selene out for a few hours," I said through dry lips.
The clerk looked at his list. "You're up pretty early, Mr. Holst," he commented. "You came in yesterday at 1930, and it's only 0400 now. We like our guests to rest at least twelve hours between trips outside, sir. It's safer that way."
"But I don't sleep much anyway," I told him, "and I can loaf around back on Earth. I came here to see the moon, not sit around a hotel."
He peered at me carefully. I don't know how I looked, but God knows I felt alert enough to drive that buggy all the way to Tycho. I was just wondering if I should offer him a bribe when he nodded. "All right, I guess it'll be okay. Suit fourteen, Selene five; sign here, please."
The usual procedure included a half-hour equipment check, but I had no intention of hanging around that long. I gave everything a cursory once-over, made sure oxygen, power, and ration indicators showed full, and was rolling eastward within fifteen minutes. Ten minutes later I was out of sight of the Prinz Crater colony. Pausing only long enough to pull the radio beacon out of the buggy, I turned north and headed for Mairan.
Four hundred twenty kilometers north of Krieger D, the map said. That put it about five hundred from my present position, and at forty kilometers per hour it would take over twelve hours to get there, not counting any cautious skulking I might have to do. The adrenaline-fed energy I had felt back at the hotel was ebbing fast, and my current lack of sleep was making itself felt throughout my entire body. For a moment I was tempted to find a convenient hiding place about halfway to Mairan where I could take a nap. But only for a moment. The sooner I got to the mine, the better chance I'd have of getting through whatever security Stark had set up there. Given enough time, they could button the place up so tight I'd never get near it. So I gritted my teeth, kept my foot on the accelerator, and kept myself awake by making a mental list of the newsmen I was going to send dreams to as soon as I was safely holed up.
My eyelids felt like lead by the time I completed my wide circle of the Mairan region and parked the Selene a few kilometers north of where I estimated the mine to be. The subterfuge was probably so much wasted effort—they were bound to be guarding the northern edge as well as they did the southern part—but somehow I felt safer approaching from this direction. I had spent a lot of my trip here trying to recall the latitude and longitude figures I'd seen in Stark's dream, figures that seemed to match with the rough idea I had of the mine's location. If I was right, I knew to within a kilometer or so where my target was. If not, it could be a very long search.
I don't know how long I walked. The whole area was hilly and littered with rocks, and I was feeling pretty groggy as well, but I didn't fall over too often, and I always had the energy to get back up again. Still, my reflexes weren't as bad off as I feared, because when I topped that last rise and saw the spacesuited figures not more than half a kilometer away, I managed to crouch down into a shadow without standing in plain sight for more than a couple of seconds.
There were four of them that I could see from my position. They didn't seem to have any mining equipment, but rather were poking at the ground with spades and long probes. I frowned to myself. Stark's men looking for new veins of ore? Or had I stumbled onto the wrong party completely?
There was no point in taking chances. I edged off to the left, intending to circle the group. With most of my attention on the others, it was not particularly surprising that I never saw the metal plate sticking out of the ground until I had tripped over it.
It says a lot for my mental state that I had rolled over and levered myself into a sitting position before it occurred to me to wonder what a metal plate was doing half-buried on the moon. Looking closer, I saw that the corner I had stumbled over was smooth-faced and was coppery silver in color. Only about thirty centimeters of the plate was visible, the rest being under the loose soil, and the edges I could see were ragged, as if the plate had been torn away from something else. Just at the corner was a mark of some kind etched into the surface. An identifying mark, perhaps, except it was like no letter or symbol I had ever seen.
Curiosity overcame my caution. Getting a good grip on the plate, I pried it upwards. It was a good four or five square meters in area, but the gravelly soil was loose and offered little resistance. I never got a real look at the underside of the plate, though, because something underneath it caught my eye. Something light yellow in color, about a meter long; with four arms, two legs, and an incredibly alien face...
"Okay, buddy, lift 'em."
I was halfway through my backward jump before I realized the voice had come through my headphones and not from the alien figure in front of me. Raising my arms, I slowly turned to face the figure striding toward me. His spacesuit held the insignia of a Marine sergeant major, and his gun was holding very steadily on my middle. He gave me an appraising look, glanced at the alien I had uncovered, and nodded inside his helmet. "This is Conlin," his voice said in my ears. "I've got a snooper up on Hill Ten; I'm bringing him in. And we've got another body up here, too."
The major at field HQ decided to wait for higher authority to arrive before questioning me, and so I had to sit for an hour in a tiny office with two taciturn guards. They very obviously considered me a spy—my single attempt to ask a question made that quite clear—and I was almost relieved when my interrogators finally came. There were two of them: General Blaine and a grim-looking Colonel Stark. The latter nodded to the guards and waited until they were gone before speaking.
"Well, Morgan, just what in hell are you doing here?"
"What was that thing I saw on the hill?" I asked, ignoring his question.
"Look, mister, you're in enough trouble already," Stark gritted. "Answer my question."
I was too tired to fight him. "I thought you were trying to pull a fast one with the new iridium mine. I was trying to stop you."
"Iridium mine?" Blaine spoke up.
"There was a vein of ore opened up just before we found the wreckage, sir, but we haven't had time to work it at all. It's in my report."
"Oh, yes. Go on, Mr. Morgan."
I told them the whole story, from Louise Holst's first visit, through my contacts with Larry and Stark, to my panicky trip to the Mairan area. When I finished, Blaine turned to Stark.
"I think we'd better get Mrs. Holst up here as soon as possible," he said. "No telling who else she might go to with her fears."
Stark nodded. "I agree, sir." He glared at me. "No telling what kind of nut might listen to her, either."
"That's unfair, Colonel," I complained. "I told you the facts I had. What sort of conclusion did you expect me to come to?"
"No one asked you to draw any conclusions, as I recall," he snapped back. "But you just had to play private eye and stick your nose where it didn't belong. Now we've got to figure out what to do with you."
I didn't like the implications behind that, but curiosity was overriding all considerations of good sense. "You could start maybe by telling me what's going on out there."
"Forget it," Stark said darkly. "You know too much already."
"Look, Colonel, you can't leave me with half an answer like this. Lock me up, threaten me, shoot me if you have to, but tell me what the hell that thing was."
"It was part of the wreckage of an alien spaceship," Blaine said quietly. Stark looked at him in astonishment, but the general shrugged. "He's right, Avram. He has to know the whole story now. It's not like we can lock him away from everyone." To me he continued, "Colonel Stark's men ran across part of the ship and one of the alien bodies near the iridium vein you mentioned. Everyone who was near the site, whether he had actually seen it or not, was immediately sequestered and a security seal was slapped over everything and everyone involved. So far all we've found are bits and pieces that seem to be from the ship's hull and very small chunks of machinery and maybe electronics. Plus some bodies, as you already know."
"So why was Captain Holst so upset when I first contacted him?" I asked. "I remember distinctly the phrase 'he can't get away with it.' "
"Holst was violently opposed to the security measures we were taking," Stark said, clearly not happy at telling me all this but apparently willing to follow Blame's lead. "He thought more damage would be caused by a cover-up than by spilling all of it right away."
"I think he's right," I told him.
"Then think again," Stark shot back. Suddenly, through all his anger, I saw how worried he was. "You don't seem to realize how big a bomb we're sitting on here. If we don't announce this properly we could rip civilization apart. The whole world system has been balanced on a knife edge for the last century, and this is more than enough to bring it down. We simply cannot afford to let even a hint of this get out. Not yet."
"Nuts," I said. "Civilization isn't all that fragile. People aren't going to curl up and die just because you've found some chunks of metal and alien bodies...." I trailed off as an uncomfortable thought struck me. "You did say that's all you found, didn't you?"
Blaine nodded. "You see our problem now. The cultural effects will be bad enough, but the political ones will be even worse. So far we've found nothing that even looks like an alien weapon, let alone one that might still work. But will everyone believe that? I don't think so. And all it would take would be a single doubter, a single preemptive attack, to spark off a major war. Coupled with an unpredictable reaction from the general public over the discovery, that war might become this civilizations last."
It was an overly dramatic speech, but I hardly noticed. What he said made uncomfortable sense.
Blaine continued, "This is why we're asking for your cooperation. We have no idea yet where this ship came from, what it was doing here, or even how it crashed, and we need those answers long before we can start preparing the public—and foreign governments—for this shock. I might point out that Captain Holst came to this same conclusion once he had thought things through."
"We'll have your cooperation, too," Stark added. "Willing or otherwise." "Avram, your threats aren't going to work this time," Blaine said, looking suddenly tired and very old. "Mr. Morgan is a Dreamsender. You can't lock him away in Leavenworth and keep him from talking to anyone. If he won't go along, we've lost the war."
"Not necessarily, sir. There are many ways of destroying a man's memory. Or we could put him into a long-term coma if necessary."
"Save your breath, Colonel," I said. "I do have a working conscience, you know. No one will ever hear about this from me." The last statement was only probably true, of course. I still wasn't really happy with the whole idea of a cover- up, but there didn't seem to be a better alternative at this point and I was willing to go along with it for now. Whether the army would be a responsible guardian of the secret, though, was something else again, especially if they turned up anything of real military value. But now that I knew how much useful information could be gleaned from another's dreams, I felt sure I could keep tabs on major developments up here, and if someone got too far out of line I could always blow the whistle. But I obviously couldn't even hint at such threats. As long as I was a prisoner my bargaining power was just a fraction above absolute zero.
Either Stark read something in my face or he was just naturally distrustful. "I don't think we can afford to believe him, General. Once he's out of here there's nothing to stop him from calling anyone on Earth and spilling the whole story." He squared his shoulders. "I'm willing to take responsibility for his treatment, sir."
"Not so fast, Avram. Mr. Morgan could be of considerable service to us." Blaine was giving me a very speculative look. "Mr. Morgan, you said you sent a dream from here back to Earth, correct? Was there anything unusual about that contact?"
I shrugged, wondering what he was getting at. "No, not really. It wasn't harder to make or maintain contact, if that's what you mean."
"Any unusual time delay between question and answer?"
"No. Not that I noticed, anyway."
Stark frowned. "But Earth's one and a quarter light-seconds away from here. That means a two-and-a-half-second delay, round trip."
"It wasn't there," I told him.
"Which means dreamsending is very possibly instantaneous," Blaine said. "And distance didn't seem to affect it."
Stark and I both stared at him. Then slowly, Stark nodded. "I think I understand, sir. But we'd need a name and face, wouldn't we?"
"I don't know. We're talking about a whole race, not a specific individual. It may be possible to get someone at random just by knowing what they look like generally."
"It's worth a try, certainly," Stark agreed.
"If it's not too much trouble," I cut in irritably, "would one of you mind telling me what you're talking about?"
They just looked at me... and suddenly I understood. "Oh, no. No. Forget it. I won't do it."
"Come now, Mr. Morgan," the general said soothingly, "we can at least discuss it, can't we?"
And in the end I gave in.
It's been nearly a year now, and I really have no complaints. I would have preferred being on Earth, but Blaine wanted everyone involved with the project kept isolated at the new base in Mairan Crater, himself the single exception. Still, my quarters are quite comfortable and I'm treated with the courtesy due me as the chief—and only member, so far—of the new Office of Alien Communication, so I suppose I'm doing pretty well.
My Seipaic contact, Garun'Sutt, has finally gotten over her original terror at my alien presence in her dreams and is beginning to consider our relationship something of an adventure. I suspect this is partly due to her governments interest in her communication with me and the resulting attention she gets from her people. It's not everyone, after all, who can talk to an alien who's at least—we estimate— fifty light-years away. But whatever the reason, I'm not complaining. I'm still not sure why I always get her when I send out these dreams, though I suspect her face is just very similar to that of the first dead Seipai I saw. Since she seems to be my only contact I'm glad she's calming down. We've started exchanging factual data about our respective races, and are trying to figure out a way to locate each others planet. Blaine isn't absolutely sure that's a good idea, but I think that by the time we solve the problem I'll know Garun'Sutt and her people well enough to know if we can trust them. In fact, I'm secretly hoping the Seipai can get a ship here to visit us within my lifetime. The way Stark and his PR men are pussyfooting around the whole issue, I figure there's an even chance Earth won't hear about the Seipai until they actually drop anchor here.
And I'd love to be around to see the headlines that day.
To answer the standard question "Where do you get your ideas?" I got this one, appropriately enough, from a dream. Visiting my sister in California, I dreamed of a friend back home and tried to
ask her a question. I woke up before she could answer, and dreamsending as a profession was born.
"The Dreamsender" was a bittersweet turning point in my life. It was my second sale and therefore proof that I wasn't just a single- shot writer; but the word of its acceptance came the same July 1979 day that I learned my thesis adviser had suddenly died. The combination of these two events led, five months later, to my leaving physics entirely and striking out toward the quixotic goal of becoming a professional, living-wage-earning writer.
How much the fields of physics and science fiction have benefited from that decision I can't say. I do know, however, that I've certainly gained from the deal.