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       Suzy, p.1

           Watson Parker
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  Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at



  [Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Amazing Stories March1960. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.copyright on this publication was renewed.]

  [Sidenote: Her voice was his only link with sanity. It was a beautifulvoice. He never really thought what she might be.]

  "Suzy, Suzy, Suzy!"

  Whit Clayborne looked at the luminous face of the bulkhead clock for thehundredth time that day. Sweat started out on his forehead, and hegripped his face with a convulsed hand, moaning in helpless anguish.

  "Suzy, Suzy, Suzy!"

  The clock clicked impersonally in the darkness, and Whit moaned again.

  The cold. The darkness. The quiet. And the solitude. But there wasalways Suzy, linking him to the earth so many miles away.

  "One hundred and forty-three days out, four hundred and seven to go."The ritual of the report, designed to keep him thinking, day after day.

  "Nothing to report, sir, all equipment functioning. All graphs tracking.No abnormality of any kind. My health is good...."

  In four hundred and seven days they would bring him down, nearly mad,nearly dead, but his records well made on earth, and the record was whatcounted.

  Five hundred and fifty days in an observation capsule, the economicalhuman machine that did the work of fifty tons of unprojectableelectronic equipment. Five hundred and fifty days of cold and quiet andsolitude. The first eight men had died in the cold and loneliness ofspace, until they thought of Suzy, there in the WAC manned offices atPoint Magu.

  "Suzy! My God, Suzy, where are you?" Whit could stand the waiting untilthe time came close, then his mind would give away until her voice,bridging the space void came to him and brought him peace.

  "Whit? Whit, wake up, in case you're asleep. It's me, it's Suzy."

  "Asleep! You know I'm not asleep! You know I stay awake for you! I'llalways be awake, Suzy. I wouldn't miss a minute with you, not a second."

  "Gee, Whit, you're nice. You're awful nice."

  "Suzy, for the hundredth time, will you marry me?"

  "Aw, Whit, you know I can't. You know they made me promise that before Itook the job."

  "Promise to be a talking floozy to fifty men in space, to hold 'em allat arm's length, let 'em love you, then leave 'em in the cold when theycame back down to earth. They made you promise to keep us stringingalong, until we got back home safe and sound, then turn us loose withour love for you burning a hole in our hearts! They made you promise athing like that, Suzy?

  "You can't handle the merchandise, Whit. When you come down, then we'lltalk over things together."

  "Suzy, I love you, I love you!"

  "I mustn't say that I love you too, Whit. They made me promise that Iwouldn't say that. But Whit, you're awful nice."

  * * * * *

  Whit sat silent, and Suzy kept on talking. She could always talk. Nomatter what you said to her, no matter how you felt, no matter where youwere, Suzy could always talk to you and make your life seem brighter,and the trip back home again worth fighting to make. You fell in lovewith Suzy, they all did, but as she always said, they made her promisenot to say she loved you back. Not until you got back home, safe andsound and sane.

  That was Suzy's job on earth, in a drab little office with an engineerwho controlled her channels, and sometimes blushed at what he heard goout over them. She spoke, sometimes gaily, sometimes gently, sometimeswith all the frail strength of her body, into a microphone beamed toeach capsule in turn, and in those capsules were men, who, but for her,would go mad before their time was up.

  And Suzy never cheated, and she never lied, and she never changed. Shewas the love light of outer space, she and a dozen others at Point Magu.She kept men sane, and she brought them home, and she kept her promisenever to love and never to marry until they came back again.

  "Whit? What we were talking about yesterday. Did you think about that?"

  "You mean about the gardenias?"

  "Umhummm. My gardenias, to pin on my blouse."

  "Suzy, I'll bring you a thousand, one each day, until you say you loveme. I'm drawing them now, on paper, one every day, for you."

  "Aw, Whit, you're awful nice."

  Then, after frantic good-byes, shouting, screaming, pounding on themicrophone, hoping that the dead metal would somehow speak once more,Whit would settle back for another day's dreaming of Suzy, while he kepthis tiny house-in-space, read his little gauges, and kept his dreamsalive. It was only in the afternoon that madness came too close, and inthe power-saving darkness he raged and cursed and pled and begged, untilSuzy's voice came winging out of space to comfort him for another day,when they talked of all the beautiful things that people talk about whenthere is love between them.

  * * * * *

  For Suzy loved her men, all seven of them. To know them well, to listentime and again to their recorded conversations, to pick out points thatwere worth repeating, to avoid the subjects that depressed them, to saywhat would bring them home in love with her was a pleasure to her, andshe worked hard at the job. All alone, late into the night, Suzy wouldsit in her little office, listening to her records, and planning thenext day's battle for the sanity of her men.

  "Now Al," she'd muse, "he'll want to know how that recipe came out, theone with the mushrooms. Poor guy, he does like to eat. I'll tell himabout the party I went to with Sheila, and how she ate up all the rumcakes and could hardly find her way home again. He'll like that."

  "And Jim. He'd like to have another problem, like the twelve coin one. Iwish I had a mind like his. Maybe Miss Graham can find me a book on mathproblems that a man can do in his head. And I'll tell him how nice itwould be to be a professor's wife, and a little college in the north.He doesn't want _me_ yet, but he wants somebody...."

  "I guess I'll have to talk sex to Crazy Cat, too. It's about the onlything he likes to think about, and that's my job. I hope he doesn'trealize I'm not the hellcat he seems to think I am. Maybe some of thegirls could give me some ideas he'd like to think about; my dates arepretty dull. They really should have given Crazy Cat to somebody else.Some psychiatrist slipped up there, I guess. But I'll bring him down!I'll bring him down sane if I have to wade in filth up to my eyeballs!That's a joke."

  "Whit's hopeless, he loves me so. I hope he doesn't go off the deep end,and end up whacky. Maybe we'll have to relay him some instrument checks,to keep him busy. Or maybe, if I told him I'd marry him it would keephim leveled for a while. Can't say that too soon, though, or he'd gonuts from jealousy. I guess I'll just have to keep on letting him loveme, just being me, just showing him I care about him as much as I can.He's a dear, really."

  That was the way Suzy mused, in her drab little office, after hours,doing her job for her men, her hopes up in the sky where only her voiceand her love could reach them.

  * * * * *

  Miss Graham was stiff, and stood tall in her prim tailored suit. Herdark man's necktie clashed with her hair and her complexion, but herface was kind and her voice, although firm, was soft and understanding.

  "Suzy, I want to talk to you. Don't get up."

  "Yes, Miss Graham?"

  "I've been listening to some of your records. Some of this stuff you'vebeen putting out is going to make us trouble, you know."

  "I'm sorry, Miss Graham. I try to do what I think is best, and you knowI spend a lot of time planning. It's too late to shift poor Crazy Cat toanybody else, and it's the only thing that seems...."

  "I'm not talking about Crazy Cat Tompkins, Suzy," interrupted MissGraham. "I'm talking about Whit Clayborne."

I see. I know I shouldn't have said that I'd marry him, but gosh, hewas just about to go to pieces, right while I was talking to him. Icould hear him grit his teeth, and I could hear the mike squeak with thegrip he had on it. It was awful, Miss Graham."

  "Couldn't you have waited? You could have asked me what to do, youknow. Men ask our girls to marry them every day; it isn't as if it was anew problem that we hadn't handled before."

  "But he needed me, right then. I didn't think he could wait. I _had_ tosay I'd marry him, or he'd have been biting pieces out of his mattress."

  "I know you did your
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