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The legion of lazarus, p.3
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       The Legion of Lazarus, p.3

           Edmond Hamilton
 
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  CHAPTER III

  All space was before him, hung with the many-colored lights of thestars, intensely brilliant in the black nothing. It was incrediblysplendid, but it was too much like what he had looked at with his coldunseeing eyes for fifty years. He looked down--down being relative towhere he was standing in the blister-window--and saw the whole Beltswarming by under him like a drift of fireflies. He quivered inwardlywith a chill vertigo, and turned away.

  Vernon was talking aloud. He had been talking for some time. He wasstretched out on a soft, deep lounge, smoking, pretending to sip from atall glass.

  "So you see, Mr. Hyrst, we can help you a lot. It's not easy for aLazarite--for one of us--to get a job. I know. People have a--well, a_feeling_. Now Mr. Bellaver--"

  "Where is Shearing?" asked Hyrst. He came and stood in the center of theroom, with the soft lights in his eyes and the soft carpets under hisfeet. His mind reached out, uneasy and restless, but it seemed to besurrounded by a zone of fog that tangled and confused and deflected it.He could not find Shearing.

  "We've been here for hours," he said. "Where is he?"

  "Probably talking a deal with Mr. Bellaver. I wouldn't worry. As I wassaying, Bellaver Incorporated is interested in men like you. We're thelargest builders of spacecraft in the System, and we can afford--"

  "I know all about it," said Hyrst impatiently. "Old Quentin Bellaverwas busy swallowing up his rivals when I went through the door."

  "Then," said Vernon imperturbably, "you should realize how much we cando for you. Electronics is a vital branch--"

  Hyrst moved erratically around the room, looking at things and notreally seeing them, hearing Vernon's voice but not understanding what itsaid. He was growing more and more uneasy. It was as though someone wascalling to him, urgently, but just out of earshot. He kept straining,with his ears and his mind, and Vernon's voice babbled on, and thebarrier was like a wall around his thoughts.

  They had been aboard this ship for a long time now, and he had not seenShearing since they came through the hatch. It was not really a ship, ofcourse. It had no power of its own, depending on powerful tugs to towit. It was Walter Bellaver's floating pleasure-palace, and the damnedestthing Hyrst had ever seen. Vernon said it could and often did accommodatethree or four hundred guests in the utmost luxury. There was nobodyaboard it now but Bellaver, Vernon, Hyrst and Shearing, the three veryaccurate men, and perhaps a dozen others including stewards and thecrews of the tugs and Bellaver's yacht. It was named the _Happy Dream_,and it was presently drifting in an excessively lonely orbit high abovethe ecliptic, between nothing and nowhere.

  Vernon had been with him almost constantly. He was getting tired ofVernon. Vernon talked too much.

  "Listen," he said. "You can stop selling Bellaver. I'm not looking for ajob. Where's Shearing?"

  "Oh, forget Shearing," said Vernon, impatient in his turn. "You neverheard of him until a few days ago."

  "He helped me."

  "For reasons of his own."

  "What's _your_ reason? And Bellaver's?"

  "Mr. Bellaver is interested in all social problems. And I'm a Lazaritemyself, so naturally I have a sympathy for others like me." Vernon satup, putting his glass aside on a low table. He had drunk hardly any ofthe contents.

  "Shearing," he said, "is a member of a gang who some time ago stole aparticular property of Bellaver Incorporated. You're not involved in thequarrel, Mr. Hyrst. I'd advise you, as a friend, to stay not involved."

  Hyrst's mind and his ears were stretched and quivering, straining tohear a cry for help just a little too far away.

  "What kind of a property?" asked Hyrst.

  Vernon shrugged. "The Bellavers have never said what kind, for fairlyobvious reasons."

  "Something to do with ships?"

  "I suppose so. It isn't important to me. Nor to you, Mr. Hyrst."

  "Will you pour me a drink?" said Hyrst, pointing to the cellaret closebeside Vernon. "Yes, that's fine. How long ago?"

  "What?" asked Vernon, measuring whisky into a glass.

  "The theft," said Hyrst, and threw his mind suddenly against thebarrier. For one fleeting second he forced a crack in it. "Somethingover fifty--", said Vernon, and let the glass fall. He spun around fromthe cellaret and was halfway to his feet when Hyrst hit him. He hit himthree or four times before he would stay down, and three or four morebefore he would lie quiet. Hyrst straightened up, breathing hard. Hislip was bleeding and he wiped it with the back of his hand. "That was alittle too big a job for _you_, Mr. Vernon," he said viciously. "Tryingto keep my mind blanked and under control for hours." He stuffed ahandkerchief into Vernon's mouth, and tied him up with his owncummerbund, and shoved him out of sight behind an enormous bed. Then heopened the door carefully, and went out.

  * * * * *

  There was nobody in the corridor. This was wide and ornate, with doorsopening off it, and nothing to show what was behind them or which way togo. Hyrst stood still a minute, getting control of himself. The barrierno longer obscured his mind. He let it rove, finding that every time hedid that it was easier, and the images clearer. He heard Shearing again,as he had heard him in that one second when Vernon's guard had faltered.His face became set and ugly. He began to move toward the stern of the_Happy Dream_.

  Heavy metal-cloth curtains closed this end of the corridor. Beyond themwas a ballroom in which only one dim light now burned, a vastness ofblack polished floors and crystal windows looking upon space. Hyrst'sfootsteps were hushed and swallowed up in whispering echoes. He made hisway across to another set of curtains, edged between them with infinitecaution, and found himself in the upper aisle of an amphitheater.

  It was pitch dark where he was, and he stood perfectly still, exploringwith his mind. He could not see any guards. The rows of empty seats werearranged in circles around a central pit, large enough for anyentertainment Mr. Bellaver might decide to give. The pit was brilliantlylighted, and from somewhere lower down came the intermittent sound ofvoices.

  Also from the pit came Shearing's cries. Hyrst began to tremble withoutrage and anger, and his still-uncertain mental control faltereddangerously. Then from out of nowhere, a voice spoke in his mind, and hesaw the face of the woman he had seen twice before, the woman Shearingserved.

  "Careful," she said. "There is a Lazarite with Bellaver. His attentionis all on Shearing, but you must keep your mind shielded. I'll helpyou."

  Hyrst whispered. "Thanks." He felt calm now, alert and capable. He creptalong the dark aisle, toward the pit.

  Mr. Bellaver's theater lacked nothing. The large circular stage area wasfitted with upper and lower electro-magnets for the use of acrobats anddancers with null-grav specialties. They could perform withoutdisturbing the regular grav-field of the _Happy Dream_, thus keeping theguests comfortable, and by skillful manipulation of the magnetic fieldsmore spectacular stunts were possible than in ordinary no-gravity.

  Shearing was in the pit, between the upper and lower magnets. He wore anacrobat's metal attraction-harness, strapped on over his clothes. WhenHyrst looked over the rail he was hanging at the central point ofweightlessness, where everything in a man floats free and his senses arelost in a dreadful vertigo unless he has been conditioned over a longperiod of time to get used to it. Shearing had not been conditioned.

  "Careful," said the woman's warning voice in his mind. "His life dependson you. No, don't try to make contact with him! The Lazarite would senseyou--"

  Shearing began a slow ascension toward the upper magnet as the currentwas increased, from some unseen control board. He moved convulsivelyturning horizontally around the axis of his own middle like a toy spunon a string. His back was uppermost, and Hyrst could not see his face.

  "Bellaver and the Lazarite," said the woman quietly, "are trying tolearn from Shearing where our ship is. He has been able so far to keephis mind shielded. He is--a very brave man. But you'll have to hurry.He's near the breaking point."

  Shearing was now almost level
with Hyrst, suspended over that open pit,looking down, a long way.

  "You'll have to be quick, Hyrst. Please. Please get him out of therebefore we have to kill him."

  The current in the magnet was cut and Shearing fell, with a longneighing scream.

  * * * * *

  Hyrst looked down. The repelling force of the lower magnet cushioned thefall, and the upper magnet took hold, hard. Shearing stopped about threefeet above the stage floor and started slowly to rise again. He seemedto be crying. Hyrst turned and ran back to the top of the aisle. Halfwayaround the circle he found steps and went tearing down them. On the nextlevel--there were three--he saw two men leaning over the broad rail,watching Shearing.

  "Yes, there they are. You must find a weapon--"

  Hyrst looked around, blinking like a mole in the dark. Seats, nothingbut seats. Ornamentation, but all solid. Small metal cylinder, set in awall niche. Chemical extinguisher. Yes. Compact and heavy. He took it.

  "Hurry. He's almost through--"

  The two men were tense and hungry, eager as wolves. One was theLazarite, a grey man, old and seamed with living and none of it good.The other was Bellaver, and he was young. He was tall and fresh-faced,impeccably shaven, impeccably dressed, the keen, clean, public-spiritedexecutive.

  "I can give you more if you want it, Shearing," Bellaver said, hisfingers ready on a control-plate set into the broad rail. "How aboutit?"

  "Shut up, Bellaver," whispered the Lazarite aloud. "I've almost got it.Almost--" His face was agonized with concentration.

  "_Now!_"

  The woman's voiceless cry in his mind sent Hyrst forward. His hand swungup and then down in a crashing arc, elongated by the heavy cylinder. TheLazarite fell without a sound. He fell across Bellaver, pushing him backfrom the control-plate, and lay over his feet, bleeding gently into thethick pile of the carpet. Bellaver's mouth and eyes opened wide. Helooked at the Lazarite and then at Hyrst. He leaped backward, away fromthe encumbrance at his ankles, making the first hoarse effort at a shoutfor help. Hyrst did not give him time to finish it. The first row ofseats caught Bellaver and threw him, and Hyrst swung the cylinder again.Bellaver collapsed.

  "Was I in time?" Hyrst asked of the woman, in his mind. He thought shewas crying when she answered, "Yes." He smiled. He stepped over theLazarite and went to the control-plate and began to work with it untilhe had Shearing safely on the floor of the stage. Then he cut the powerand ran down another flight of steps to the bottom level. His mind wasable to range free now. He could not sense anyone close at hand.Bellaver seemed to have sent underlings elsewhere in the _Happy Dream_while he worked on Shearing. It was nothing for which a man would seekwitnesses. Hyrst vaulted the rail onto the stage and dragged Shearingaway from the magnet. He felt uncomfortable in all that glare of light.He hauled and grunted until he got Shearing over the rail into the dark.Then he wrestled the harness off him. Shearing sobbed feebly, andretched.

  "Can you stand up?" said Hyrst. "Hey. Shearing." He shook him, hard."Stand up."

  He got Shearing up, a one-hundred-and-ninety pound rag doll draped overhis shoulders. He began to walk him out of the theater. "Are you stillthere?" he asked of the woman.

  The answer came into his mind swiftly. "Yes. I'll help you watch. Do yousee where the skiff is?"

  It was in a pod under the belly of the _Happy Dream_. "I see it," saidHyrst.

  "Take that. Bellaver's yacht is faster, but you'd need the crew. Theskiff you can handle yourself."

  * * * * *

  He walked Shearing into a fore-and-aft corridor. Shearing's feet werebeginning to move of their own accord, and he had stopped retching. Buthis eyes were still blank and he staggered aimlessly. Hyrst's nerveswere prickling with a mixture of fierce satisfaction and fear. Far abovein the lush suite he felt Vernon stir and come to. There were mensomewhere closer, quite close. He forced his mind to see. Two of thevery accurate men who had been with Vernon were playing cards with twoothers who were apparently stewards. The third one lolled in a chair,smoking. All five were in a lounge just around the corner of atransverse corridor. The door was open.

  Without realizing that he had done so, Hyrst took control of Shearing'smind. "Steady, now. We're going past that corner without a sound. Youhear me, Shearing? Not a sound."

  Shearing's eyes flickered vaguely. He frowned, and his step becamesteadier. The floor of the corridor was covered in a tough resilientplastic that deadened footsteps. They passed the corner. The mencontinued to play cards. Hyrst sent up a derisive insult to Vernon andtold Shearing to hurry a little. The stair leading down into the pod wasjust ahead, ten yards, five--

  A man appeared in the corridor ahead, coming from some storeroom with arack of plastic bottles in his hand.

  "You'll have to run now," came the woman's thought, coolly. "Don'tpanic. You can still make it."

  The man with the bottles yelled. He began to run toward Hyrst andShearing, dropping the rack to leave his hands free. In the loungeroombehind them the card-party broke up. Hyrst took Shearing by the arm andclamped down even tighter on his mind, giving him a single command. Theyran together, fast.

  The men from the lounge poured out into the main corridor. Their voiceswere confused and very loud. Ahead, the man who had been bringing thebottles was now between Hyrst and the stair. He was a brown, hard manwho looked like a pilot. He said, "You better stop," and then hegrappled with Hyrst and Shearing. The three of them spun around in aclumsy dance, Shearing moving like an automaton. Hyrst and the pilotflailing away with their fists, and then the pilot fell back hard on theseat of his pants, with the blood bursting out of his nose and his eyesglazing. Hyrst raced for the stair, propelling Shearing. They tumbleddown it with a shot from a bee-gun buzzing over their heads. It was ashort stair with a double-hatch door at the bottom. They fell throughit, and Hyrst slammed it shut almost on the toes of a man coming downthe stair behind them. The automatic lock took hold. Hyrst toldShearing, "You can stop now."

  A few minutes later, from the great swag belly of the _Happy Dream_, asmall space-skiff shot away and was quickly lost in the star-shotimmensity above the Belt.

 
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