Read CHAPTER VI of Martyr , free online book, by Alan Edward Nourse, on

Early evening, as the plane dropped him off in New York Crater, and picked up another charter.  Two cold eggs and some scalding coffee, eaten standing up at the airport counter.  Great for the stomach, but there wasn’t time to stop.  Anyway, Dan’s stomach wasn’t in the mood for dim lights and pale wine, not just this minute.  Questions howling through his mind.  The knowledge that he had made the one Class A colossal blunder of his thirty years in politics, this last half-day.  A miscalculation of a man!  He should have known about McKenzie-at least suspected.  McKenzie was getting old, he wanted a Retread, and wanted it badly.  Before, he had planned to get it through Dan.  Then something changed his mind, and he decided Rinehart would end up on top.


Armstrong’s suicide, of course.  Pretty good proof that even Rinehart hadn’t known it was a suicide.  If Carl had brought back evidence of murder, Dan would win, McKenzie thought.  But evidence of suicide-it was shaky.  Walt Rinehart has his hooks in too deep.

They piped down the fifteen minute warning for the Washington Jet.  Dan gulped the last of his coffee, and found a visi-phone booth with a scrambler in working order.  Two calls.  The first one to Jean, to line up round-the-clock guards for Peter Golden’s widow on Long Island.  Jean couldn’t keep surprise out of her voice.  Dan grunted and didn’t elaborate-just get them out there.

Then a call to locate Carl.  He chewed his cigar nervously.

Two minutes of waiting while they called Carl from wherever he was.  Then:  “I just saw McKenzie.  I found him hiding in Rhinehart’s hip pocket.”

“Jesus, Dan.  We’ve got to have time.”

“We’ve got it-but the price was very steep, son.”

Silence then as Carl peered at him.  Finally:  “I see.”

“If I hadn’t been in such a hurry, if I’d only thought it out,” Dan said miserably.  “It was an awful error-and all mine, too.”

“Well, don’t go out and shoot yourself.  I suppose it had to happen sooner or later.  What about Mother?”

“She’ll be perfectly safe.  They won’t get within a mile of her.  Look, son-is Fisher doing all right?”

Carl nodded.  “I talked to him an hour ago.  He’ll be ready for you by tomorrow night, he thinks.”


“Sober.  And mad.  He’s the right guy for the job.”  Worried lines deepened on Golden’s forehead.  “Everything’s O.K.?  Rinehart won’t dare-”

“I scared him.  He’d almost forgotten.  Everything’s fine.”  Dan rang off, scowling.  He wished he was as sure as he sounded.  Rinehart’s back was to the wall, now.  Dan wasn’t too sure he liked it that way.

An hour later he was in Washington, and Jean was dragging him into the Volta.  “If you don’t sleep now, I’ll have you put to sleep.  Now shut up while I drive you home.”

A soft bed, darkness, escape.  When had he slept last?  It was heaven.

He slept the clock around, which he had not intended, and caught the next night-jet to Las Vegas, which he had intended.  There was some delay with the passenger list after he had gone aboard, a fight of some sort, and the jet took off four minutes late.  Dan slept again, fitfully.

Somebody slid into the adjoining seat.  “Well!  Good old Dan Fowler!”

A gaunt, frantic-looking man, with skin like cracked parchment across his high cheekbones, and a pair of Carradine eyes looking down at Dan.  If Death should walk in human flesh, Dan thought, it would look like John Tyndall.

“What do you want, ’Moses’?”

“Just dropped by to chat,” said Tyndall.  “You’re heading for Las Vegas, eh?  Why?”

Dan jerked, fumbled for the upright-button.  “I like the climate out there.  If you want to talk, talk and get it over with.”

Tyndall lifted a narrow foot and gave the recline-button a sharp jab, dumping the Senator back against the seat.  “You’re onto something.  I can smell it cooking, and I want my share, right now.”

Dan stared into the gaunt face, and burst out laughing.  He had never actually been so close to John Tyndall before, and he did not like the smell, which had brought on the laugh, but he knew all about Tyndall.  More than Tyndall himself knew, probably.  He could even remember the early rallies Tyndall had led, feeding on the fears and suspicions and nasty rumors grown up in the early days.  It was evil, they had said.  This was not God’s way, this was Man’s way, as evil as Man was evil.  If God had wanted Man to live a thousand years, he would have given him such a body-


They’ll use it for a tool!  Political football.  They’ll buy and sell with it.  They’ll make a cult of it, they’re doing it right now!  Look at Walter Rinehart.  Did you hear about his scheme?  To keep it down to five hundred a year?  They’ll make themselves a ruling class, an immortal elite, with Rinehart for their Black Pope.  Better that nobody should have it-


Immortality, huh?  But what kind?  You hear what happened to Harvey Tatum?  That’s right, the jet-car man, big business.  He was one of their ‘Noble Ten’ they’re always bragging about.  But they say he had to have special drugs every night, that he had changed.  That’s right, if he didn’t get these drugs, see, he’d go mad and try to suck blood and butcher up children-oh, they didn’t dare publish it, had to put him out of the way quietly, but my brother-in-law was down in Lancaster one night when-

All it really needed was the man, and one day there was ‘Moses’ Tyndall.  Leader of the New Crusade for God.  Small, at first.  But the ad-men began supporting him, broadcasting his rallies, playing him up big.  Abolish rejuvenation, it’s a blot against Man’s immortal soul.  Amen.  Then the insurance people came along, with money. (The ad-men and the insurance people weren’t too concerned about Man’s immortal soul-they’d take their share now, thanks-but this didn’t bother Tyndall too much.  Misguided, but they were on God’s side.  He prayed for them.) So they gave Tyndall the first Abolitionist seat in the Senate, in 2124, just nine years ago, and the fight between Rinehart and Dan Fowler that was brewing even then had turned into a three-cornered fight-

Dan grinned up at Tyndall and said, “Go away, John.  Don’t bother me.”

“You’ve got something,” Tyndall snarled.  “What is that damn shadow of yours nosing around Tenner’s for?  Why the sudden leaping interest in Nevada?  Two trips in three days-what are you trying to track down?”

“Why on Earth should I tell you anything, Holy Man?”

The parchment face wrinkled unpleasantly.  “Because it would be very smart, that’s why.  Rinehart’s out of it, now.  Washed up, finished, thanks to you.  Now it’s just you or me, one or the other.  You’re in the way, and you’re going to be gotten out of the way when you’ve finished up Rinehart, because I’m going to start rolling them.  Go along with me now and you won’t get smashed, Dan.”

“Get out of here,” Dan snarled, sitting bolt upright.  “You gave it to Carl Golden, a long time ago when he was with you, remember?  Carl’s my boy now-do you think I’ll swallow the same bait?”

“You’d be smart if you did.”  The man leaned forward.  “I’ll let you in on a secret.  I’ve just recently had a-vision, you might say.  There are going to be riots and fires and shouting, around the time of the Hearings.  People will be killed.  Lots of people-spontaneous outbursts of passion, of course, the great voice of the people rising against the Abomination.  And against you, Dan.  A few Repeaters may be taken out and hanged, and then when you have won against Rinehart, you’ll find people thinking that you’re really a traitor-”

“Nobody will swallow that,” Dan snapped.

“Just watch and see.  I can still call it off, if you say so.”  He stood up quickly as Dan’s face went purple.  “New Chicago,” he said smoothly.  “Have to see a man here, and then get back to the Capitol.  Happy hunting, Dan.  You know where to reach me.”

He strode down the aisle of the ship, leaving Dan staring bleakly at an empty seat.

Paul, Paul-

He met Terry Fisher at the landing field in Las Vegas.  A firm handshake, clear brown eyes looking at him the way a four-year-old looks at Santa Claus.  “Glad you could come tonight, Senator.  I’ve had a busy couple of days.  I think you’ll be interested.”  Remarkable restraint in the man’s voice.  His face was full of things unsaid.  Dan caught it; he knew faces, read them like typescript.  “What is it, son?”

“Wait until you see.”  Fisher laughed nervously.  “I thought for a while that I was back on Mars.”


“No thanks.  I never use them.”

The car broke through darkness across bumpy pavement.  The men sat silently.  Then a barbed-wire enclosure loomed up, and a guard walked over, peered at their credentials, and waved them through.  Ahead lay a long, low row of buildings, and a tall something spearing up into the clear desert night.  They stopped at the first building, and hurried up the steps.

Small, red-faced Lijinsky greeted them, all warm handshake and enthusiasm and unmistakable happiness and surprise.  “A real pleasure, Senator!  We haven’t had a direct governmental look-see in quite a while.  I’m glad I’m here to show you around.”

“Everything is going right along, eh?”

“Oh, yes!  She’ll be a ship to be proud of.  Now, I think we can arrange some quarters for you for the night, and in the morning we can sit down and have a nice, long talk.”

Terry Fisher was shaking his head.  “I think the Senator would like to see the ship now-isn’t that right, Senator?”

Lijinsky’s eyes opened wide, his head bobbed in surprise.  Young-old creases on his face flickered.  “Tonight?  Oh, you can’t really be serious.  Why, it’s almost two in the morning!  We only have a skeleton crew working at night.  Tomorrow you can see-”

“Tonight, if you don’t mind.”  Dan tried to keep the sharp edge out of his voice.  “Unless you have some specific objection, of course.”

“Objection?  None whatsoever.”  Lijinsky seemed puzzled, and a little hurt.  But he bounced back:  “Tonight it is, then.  Let’s go.”  There was no doubting the little man’s honesty.  He wasn’t hiding anything, just surprised.  But a moment later there was concern on his face as he led them out toward the factory compounds.  “There’s no question of appropriations, I hope, Senator?”

“No, no.  Nothing of the sort.”

“Well, I’m certainly glad to hear that.  Sometimes our contacts from Washington are a little disappointed in the Ship, of course.”

Dan’s throat tightened.  “Why?”

“No reason, really.  We’re making fine progress, it isn’t that.  Yes, things really buzz around here; just ask Mr. Fisher about that-he was here all day watching the workers.  But there are always minor changes in plans, of course, as we recognize more of the problems.”

Terry Fisher grimaced silently, and followed them into a small Whirlwind groundcar.  The little gyro-car bumped down the road on its single wheel, down into a gorge, then out onto the flats.  Dan strained his eyes, peering ahead at the spear of Starship gleaming in the distant night-lights.  Pictures from the last Starship Progress Report flickered through his mind, and a frown gathered as they came closer to the ship.  Then the car halted on the edge of the building-pit and they blinked down and up at the scaffolded monster.

Dan didn’t even move from the car.  He just stared.  The report had featured photos, projected testing dates-even ventured a possible date for launching, with the building of the Starship so near to completion.  That had been a month ago.  Now Dan stared at the ship and shook his head, uncomprehending.

The hull-plates were off again, lying in heaps on the ground in a mammoth circle.  The ship was a skeleton, a long, gawky structure of naked metal beams.  Even now a dozen men were scampering around the scaffolding, before Dan’s incredulous eyes, and he saw some of the beaming coming off the body of the ship, being dropped onto the crane, moving slowly to the ground.

Ten years ago the ship had looked the same.  As he watched, he felt a wave of hopelessness sweep through him, a sense of desolate, empty bitterness.  Ten years-

His eyes met Terry Fisher’s in the gloom of the car, begging to be told it wasn’t so.  Fisher shook his head.

Then Dan said:  “I think I’ve seen enough.  Take me back to the air field.”

“It was the same thing on Mars,” Fisher was telling him as the return jet speared East into the dawn.  “The refining and super-refining, the slowing down, the changes in viewpoint and planning.  I went up there ready to beat the world barehanded, to work on the frontier, to build that colony, and maybe lead another one.  I even worked out the plans for a break-away colony-we would need colony-builders when we went to the stars, I thought.”  He shrugged sadly.  “Carl told you, I guess.  They considered the break-away colony, carefully, and then Barness decided it was really too early.  Too much work already, with just one colony.  And there was, in a sense:  frantic activity, noise, hubbub, hard work, fancy plans-all going nowhere.  No drive, no real direction.”  He shrugged again.  “I did a lot of drinking before they threw me off Mars.”

“Nobody saw it happening?”

“It wasn’t the sort of thing you see.  You could only feel it.  It started when Armstrong came to the colony, rejuvenated, to take over its development.  And eventually, I think Armstrong did see it.  That’s why he suicided.”

“But the Starship,” Dan cried.  “It was almost built, and they were tearing it down.  I saw it with my own eyes.”

“Ah, yes.  For the twenty-seventh time, I think.  A change in the engineering thinking, that’s all.  Keller and Lijinsky suddenly came to the conclusion that the whole thing might fall apart in midair at the launching.  Can you imagine it?  When rockets have been built for years, running to Mars every two months?  But they could prove it on paper, and by the time they got through explaining it every damned soul on the project was saying yes, it might fall apart at the launching.  Why, it’s a standing joke with the workers.  They call Keller “Old Jet Propulsion” and always have a good laugh.  But then, Keller and Stark and Lijinsky should know what’s what.  They’ve all been rejuvenated, and working on the ship for years.”  Fisher’s voice was heavy with anger.

Dan didn’t answer.  There didn’t seem to be much to answer, and he just couldn’t tell Fisher how it felt to have a cold blanket of fear wrapping around his heart, so dreadful and cold that he hardly dared look five minutes ahead right now. We have a Monster on our hands-