If matter transference really worksneanderthalers can pop up anywhere. And that’s
very hard on politicians!
Some say scientists should keep their
noses out of politics. Benson says it’s
to prevent damage to their olfactory senses. Benson’s
I’ve known Allan Benson for
a long time. In fact I’ve bodyguarded him
for years and think I understand him better than he
does himself. And when he shook security at White
Sands, my boss didn’t hesitate to tell me that
knowing Benson as I do I certainly shouldn’t
have let him skip off. Or crisp words to that
The pressure was on. Benson was
seeking a new fuel or a way of compressing
a known fuel to carry a torchship to Mars.
His loss could mean a delay of decades. We knew
he’d been close, but not how close.
My nickname’s Monk. I’ve
fought it, certainly, but what can you do when a well-wishing
mother names you after a wealthy uncle and your birth
certificate says Neander Thalberg? As early as
high school some bright pundit noted the name’s
similarity to that of a certain prehistoric man.
Unfortunately the similarity is not in name alone:
I’m muscular, stooped, and, I must admit, not
handsome hero model material.
Well, maybe the nickname’s justified,
but still, Al Benson didn’t have to give the
crowning insult. And yet, if he hadn’t,
there probably wouldn’t be a torchship stern-ending
on Mars just about now.
C. I. (Central Intelligence, that
is) at the Sands figured Benson would head for New
York. Which is why the boss sent me here.
I registered in a hotel in the 50’s and, figuring
that whatever Benson intended to do would have spectacular
results, I kept the stereo on News.
Benson’s wife hadn’t yielded
much info. Sure she described the clothes he
was wearing and said he’d taken nothing else
except an artist’s case. What was in that
was anybody’s guess; his private lab is such
a jumble nobody could tell what, if anything, was
C. I. knew his political feelings.
Seems he’d been talking wild about the upcoming
presidential election and had sworn he’d nip
the draft-Cadigan movement in the bud. Cadigan’s
Mayor of New York City. He’s anti-space.
In fact, Cadigan’s anti just about everything
in science except intercontinental missiles.
Strictly for defense, of course. Cadigan says.
A weathercaster was making rash promises
on the stereo when the potray dinged. The potray?
I certainly wasn’t expecting mail. Only
C. I. knew where I was and they’d have closed-circuited
me on visio if they wanted contact.
The potray dinged and there was a package in it.
Now matter transference I knew.
It put mailmen out of business. There’s
a potray in every domicile and you can put things in
it, dial the destination and they come out there.
They come out the same size and weight and in the
same condition as they went in, provided they didn’t
go in alive. Life loses, as many a shade of a
hopeful guinea pig could relate.
So the potray dinged and here was
this package. At first glance it looked like
one of those cereal samples manufacturers have been
everlastingly sending through since postal rates dropped
after cost of the potrays had been amortized.
But cereal samples don’t come through at midday;
they’re night traffic stuff.
The package was light, its wrapping
curiously smooth. There was an envelope attached
with my correct name and potray number. Whoever
had mailed it must be in C. I. or must know someone
in C. I. who knew where I was.
The postmark was blurred but I could
make out that it had been cast from Grand Central.
Time didn’t matter. It couldn’t have
been cast more than a microsecond earlier.
The envelope contained a card upon which was typed:
“Caution! Site on cylinder
of 2 ft. radius and 6 ft. height. Unwrap at armslength.”
Now what? A practical joke?
If so, it must be Benson’s work. He’s
played plenty, from pumping hydrogen sulphide (that’s
rotten egg gas, as you know) into the air-conditioning
system at high school to calling a gynecologist to
the launching stage at the Sands to sever an umbilical
cord which he neglected to say was on a Viking rocket.
I followed the instructions.
As I bent back the first fold of the strange wrapping
it came alive, unfolding itself with incredible swiftness.
Something burst forth like a freed
djinn almost instantaneously lengthening,
spreading a thing with beetling brows, low,
broad forehead, prognathous jaw, and a hunched, brutally
muscular body, with a great club over its swollen
I went precipitously backward over a coffee table.
It stabilized, a dead mockery, replica of a Neanderthal.
A placard hung on its chest. I read this:
“Even some of the early huntsmen
weren’t successful. Abandon the chase,
Monk. I’ve things to do and this your
blood brother, no doubt couldn’t
catch me any more than you can!”
Which positively infuriated me.
Do you blame me?
A few cussing, cussed minutes later
I realized what Al Benson had apparently done:
solved the torchship’s fuel problem.
Oh, I’d seen Klein bottles and
Mobius strips and other things that twist in on themselves
and into other dimensions, twisting into microcosms
and macrocosms into elsewhere, in any event.
And here I had visual evidence that Benson had had
something nearly six feet tall and certainly two feet
in breadth enclosed in a nearly weightless carton
less than eight inches on the side!
Sufficient fuel for a Marstrip? Just wrap it
The stereo’s audio was saying:
“... from the Museum of Natural History.
Curators are compiling a list of the missing exhibits
which we will reveal to you on this channel as soon
as it’s available. Now we switch to Dick
Joy at City Hall with news of the latest exhibit found.
Come in, Dick!”
On the steps of City Hall was a full
size replica of a mastodon over whose massive back
was draped a banner bearing the slogan: “The
Universal Party is for you! Don’t return
to prehistory with Cadigan! Re-elect President
Ollie James and go to the stars!”
And there was a closeup of Mayor Cadigan
standing pompous and wrathful and looking
very diminutive behind the emblem of his
Dick Joy was saying, “Eyewitnesses
claim that this replica obviously one of
the items stolen from the Museum of Natural History suddenly
materialized here. Immediately prior to the alleged
materialization a man whose photograph
we show now ostensibly bent down to tie
a shoelace, setting a shoebox beside him. He
left the box, walking off into the gathering crowd,
and this mastodon seemed to spring into being
where the shoebox had been.
“The mastodon replica has been
examined. A report just handed me says it is
definitely that from the Museum and that it could not
conceivably have been contained in a shoebox.
It’s obviously a case of mass hypnotism.
The replica must have been trucked here. There’s
no other possible explanation. Excuse me!”
Dick Joy turned away, then back.
“I have just been handed a notice
that Mayor Cadigan wishes to say a few words and I
hereby introduce him, His Honor the Mayor, Joseph F.
His balding, fragmentarily curly-haired Honor glared.
“Friends,” he said chokingly,
“whatever madman is responsible for this outrageous
act will not go unpunished. I call upon the City’s
Finest to track him down and bring him to justice.
“I am for justice, for equality and peace.
His Honor was apparently determined
to use all the time he could. Being a newscast,
it was for free.
I killed the stereo. And the
visio rang. It was Phil Pollini, the C.
“Monk,” he said, “guess
you’ve seen the stereo. Al’s out to
fix the Mayor’s wagon.”
“Say that again,” I said, having a brainstorm.
“Now, look ” he started.
“Maybe you’ve got something
there, Chief,” I cut in. “Cadigan’s
got the superduper of all wagons a seven
passenger luxury limousine with bulletproof glass,
stereo, a bar, venetian blinds and heaven knows what
else. Hot and cold running androids, maybe.
He prowls the elevated highways with an ‘In
Conference’ sign flashing over the windshield.
So’s he can’t be wire-tapped or miked,
I guess. It’d be a natch for Al Benson
to go for.”
“So if you were Benson what’d you do to
fix the Mayor’s wagon?”
“Hitch it to a star,”
I said, “and the closest spot to a star would
be the observation platform of the Greater Empire
“You’re probably right,” the Chief
said. “Get going!”
Ten minutes later I walked out onto
the observation platform on the 150th floor of the
Greater Empire State Building and found
an incredulous crowd gathered around the mayor’s
limousine. I felt good. I’d predicted.
I asked a guard, “How’d it get here?”
His eyebrows were threatening a back somersault.
“Don’t know,” he
said. “I was looking over the side; then
turned around and here it was! You have any ideas?”
Which is when I spotted Al Benson.
I settled for shoving Benson toward
the elevator, being careful since he had a box under
each arm. We made the elevator and went down and
it stopped on the 120th floor and the operator said,
“Change here for all lower floors and the street ”
As we waited on the 120th for the
down elevator, the P. A. system barked:
“Attention all building occupants.
By order of the Mayor no one will be permitted to
leave the building until further notice. Please
remain where you are. We will try not to inconvenience
you for any great time.”
There was no one close to us.
“Al,” I said, “look,
stinker, you’ve had your fun but this is it.
I don’t know what you’ve got in those
boxes but you’ve got to turn them over and
yourself to the next copper who shows.
This is a civil matter, strictly local, and not C.
Benson grinned. “Got to
make a delivery first, Monk. Look, there’s
a potray over there. Can I use it?”
His grin was infectious. “So
what are you going to send where?” I asked as
sternly as I could.
“The Mayor’s personal
files,” he said. “I managed to carry
them out of City Hall once they’d
been suitably wrapped, of course! I’m sending
them to the Senate Investigation Committee. Don’t
worry, Monk, His Honor won’t be President this
or any year!”
I helped him dial the Sic number.
“What about the other package?” I asked
“Insurance,” he said. “Come
out on the setback.”
He placed the last package on the
mosaic tile of the terrace, untied its string, flipped
open the edge of the Benson wrapping and jumped back.
It was an NYC police helicopter.
We potrayed it back from the Sands. Suitably
wrapped, of course.
That was a month ago. Most of
it never came out in the papers. Nothing of Benson’s
invention. C. I. thought it should be squelched,
at least until Benson and the boys get back from Mars.
Which would be the end except for
the packages. Yes, Benson left a gross of them
with me and I’ve been mailing them one a day
to the leaders of the opposition party. I don’t
truly know what’s in them, of course. But
it’s very curious that the day before the torchship
left exactly one hundred and forty-four cylinders
of hydrogen sulphide were missing from quartermaster
stores. Coincidentally one of my C. I. friends
tells me Benson had him rig up a gross of automatic
releases for gas cylinders.
Adding it up, it could be a good lesson
for politicians to keep their noses out of science.