The Legion of Lazarus, p.1Edmond Hamilton
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The Legion Of Lazarus
By Edmond Hamilton
[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Imagination April 1956.Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyrighton this publication was renewed.]
[Sidenote: Being expelled from an air lock into deep space was the legalmethod of execution. But it was also the only way a man could qualifyfor--The Legion Of Lazarus]
_It isn't the dying itself. It's what comes before. The waiting, alonein a room without windows, trying to think. The opening of the door, thevoices of the men who are going with you but not all the way, the walkdown the corridor to the airlock room, the faces of the men, closed andimpersonal. They do not enjoy this. Neither do they shrink from it. It'stheir job._
_This is the room. It is small and it has a window. Outside there is nofriendly sky, no clouds. There is space, and there is the huge redcircle of Mars filling the sky, looking down like an enormous eye uponthis tiny moon. But you do not look up. You look out._
_There are men out there. They are quite naked. They sleep upon thebarren plain, drowsing in a timeless ocean. Their bodies are white asivory and their hair is loose across their faces. Some of them seem tosmile. They lie, and sleep, and the great red eye looks at them foreveras they are borne around it._
"_It isn't so bad," says one of the men who are with you inside thisultimate room. "Fifty years from now, the rest of us will all be old, ordead._"
_It is small comfort._
_The one garment you have worn is taken from you and the lock dooropens, and the fear that cannot possibly become greater does becomegreater, and then suddenly that terrible crescendo is past. There is nolonger any hope, and you learn that without hope there is little to beafraid of. You want now only to get it over with._
_You step forward into the lock._
_The door behind you shuts. You sense that the one before you isopening, but there is not much time. The burst of air carries youforward. Perhaps you scream, but you are now beyond sound, beyond sight,beyond everything. You do not even feel that it is cold._
There is a time for sleep, and a time for waking. But Hyrst had sleptheavily, and the waking was hard. He had slept long, and the waking wasslow. _Fifty years_, said the dim voice of remembrance. But another partof his mind said, No, it is only tomorrow morning.
Another part of his mind. That was strange. There seemed to be moreparts to his mind than he remembered having had before, but they wereall confused and hidden behind a veil of mist. Perhaps they were notreally there at all. Perhaps--
_Fifty years. I have been dead_, he thought, _and now I live again.Half a century. Strange._
Hyrst lay on a narrow bed, in a place of subdued light andantiseptic-smelling air. There was no one else in the room. There was nosound.
_Fifty years_, he thought. _What is it like now, the house where I livedonce, the country, the planet? Where are my children, where are myfriends, my enemies, the people I loved, the people I hated?_
_Where is Elena? Where is my wife?_
A whisper out of nowhere, sad, remote. _Your wife is dead and yourchildren are old. Forget them. Forget the friends and the enemies._
_But I can't forget!_ cried Hyrst silently in the spaces of his ownmind. It was only yesterday--
_Fifty years_, said the whisper. _And you must forget._
_MacDonald_, said Hyrst suddenly. _I didn't kill him. I was innocent. Ican't forget that._
_Careful_, said the whisper. _Watch out._
_I didn't kill MacDonald. Somebody did. Somebody let me pay for it. Who?Was it Landers? Was it Saul? We four were together out there on Titan,when he died._
_Careful_, Hyrst. _They're coming. Listen to me. You think this is yourown mind speaking, question-and-answer. But it isn't._
Hyrst sprang upright on the narrow bed, his heart pounding, the sweatrunning cold on his skin. _Who are you? Where are you? How--_
_They're here_, said the whisper calmly. _Be quiet._
Two men came into the ward. "I am Dr. Merridew," said the one in thewhite coverall, smiling at Hyrst with a brisk professional smile. "Thisis Warden Meister. We didn't mean to startle you. There are a fewquestions, before we release you--"
_Merridew_, said the whisper in Hyrst's mind, _is a psychiatrist. Letme handle this._
Hyrst sat still, his hands lax between his knees, his eyes wide andfixed in astonishment. He heard the psychiatrist's questions, and heheard the answers he gave to them, but he was merely an instrument, withno conscious volition, it was the whisperer in his mind who wasanswering. Then the warden shuffled some papers he held in his hand andasked questions of his own.
"You underwent the Humane Penalty without admitting your guilt. For therecord, now that the penalty has been paid, do you wish to change yourfinal statements?"
The voice in Hyrst's mind, the secret voice, said swiftly to him. _Don'targue with them, don't get angry, or they'll keep you on and on here._
"But--" thought Hyrst.
_I know you're innocent, but they'll never believe it. They'll keep youon for further psychiatric tests. They might get near the truth,Hyrst--the truth about us._
Suddenly Hyrst began to understand, not all and not clearly, somethingof what had happened to him. The obscuring mists began to lift from theborders of his mind.
"What is the truth," he asked in that inner quiet, "about us?"
_You've spent fifty years in the Valley of the Shadow. You're changed,Hyrst. You're not quite human any more. No one is, who goes through thefreeze. But they don't know that._
"Then you too--"
_Yes. And I too changed. And that is why our minds can speak, eventhough I am on Mars and you are on its moon. But they must not knowthat. So don't argue, don't show emotion!_
The warden was waiting. Hyrst said aloud to him, slowly. "I have nostatement to make."
The warden did not seem surprised. He went on, "According to your papershere you also denied knowing the location of the Titanite for whichMacDonald was presumably murdered. Do you still deny that?"
Hyrst was honestly surprised. "But surely, by now--"
The warden shrugged. "According to this data, it never came to light."
"I never knew," said Hyrst, "where it was."
"Well," said the warden, "I've asked the question and that's as far asmy responsibility goes. But there's a visitor who has permission to seeyou."
* * * * *
He and the doctor went out. Hyrst watched them go. He thought, So I'mnot quite human. Not quite human any more. Does that make me more, orless, than a man?
_Both_, said the secret voice. _Their minds are still closed to you.Only our minds--we who have changed too--are open._
"Who are you?" asked Hyrst.
_My name is Shearing. Now listen. When you are released, they'll bringyou down here to Mars. I'll be waiting for you. I'll help you._
"Why? What do you care about me, or a murder fifty years old?"
_I'll tell you why later_, said the whisper of Shearing. _But you mustfollow my guidance. There's danger for you, Hyrst, from the momentyou're released! There are those who have been waiting for you._
The door opened, and Hyrst's visitor came in. He was a man somethingover sixty but the deep lines in his face made him look older. His facewas gray and drawn and twitching, but it became perfectly rigid andwhite when he came to the foot of the bed and looked at Hyrst. There wasrage in his eyes, a rage so old and weary that it brought tears to them.
"You should have stayed dead," he said to Hyrst. "Why couldn't they l
Hyrst was shocked and startled. "Who are you? And why--"
The other man was not even listening. His eyelids had closed, and whenthey opened again they looked on naked agony. "It isn't right," he said."A murderer should die, and stay dead. Not come back."
"I didn't murder MacDonald," Hyrst said, with the beginnings of anger."And I don't know why you--"
He stopped. The white, aging face, the tear-filled, furious eyes, he didnot quite know what there was about them but it was there, like an oldremembered face peeping up through a blur of water for a moment, andthen withdrawing again.
After a moment, Hyrst said hoarsely, "What's your name?"
"You wouldn't know it," said the other. "I changed it, long ago."
Hyrst felt a cold, and it seemed that he could not breathe. He said,"But you were only eleven--"
He could not go on. There was a terrible silence between them. He mustbreak it, he could not let it go on. He must speak. But all he could saywas to whisper, "I'm not a murderer. You must believe it. I'm going toprove it--"
"You murdered MacDonald. And you murdered my mother. I watched her ageand die, spending every penny, spending every drop of her blood andours, to get you back again. I pretended for fifty years that I toobelieved you were innocent, when all the time I knew."
Hyrst said, "I'm innocent." He tried to say a name, too, but he couldnot speak the word.
"No. You're lying, as you lied then. We found out. Mother hireddetectives, experts. Over and over, for decades--and always they foundthe same thing. Landers and Saul could not possibly have killedMacDonald, and you were the only other human being there. Proof? I canshow you barrels of it. And all of it proof that my father was amurderer."
He leaned a little toward Hyrst, and the tears ran down his lined,careworn face. He said, "All right, you've come back. Alive, stillyoung. But I'm warning you. If you try again to get that Titanite, ifyou shame us all again after all this time, if you even come near us,I'll kill you."
He went out. Hyrst sat, looking after him, and he thought that no manbefore him had ever felt what tore him now.
Inside his mind came Shearing's whisper, with a totally unexpected noteof compassion. _But some of us have, Hyrst. Welcome to the brotherhood.Welcome to the Legion of Lazarus._
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