Fred Saberhagen – The Golden People

Adam had a premonition of fear. “What?”

“Just that they hate us, Adam.” Ray’s voice had fallen almost to a whisper. “I can see the sickness in them. I become gradually more and more aware of what they are capable of doing. I admit it’s a touch frightening. more than a touch,I must confess. They try to bury the sickness and hatred deep in their minds but there it is. I don’t think Merit is able to make contact with them at all, which is perhaps just as well.”

“Frightening, yes,” Adam muttered. He remembered Merit’s scream in the medicine man’s lodge. “And the Field-builders are still right here, on this planet? You’re really sure of that? I mean if you can contact them at the distance of Earth.”

Ray nodded. “They’re here, all right.”

“But where?”

“That question was not so easy to answer.” Ray had another arrow drawn now, as if automatically getting ready to shoot again, but once drawn the shaft rested in his hand ignored. “By the end of my first day on Golden I had determined that they were somewhere in the other hemisphere. And I was also sure that Alexander Golden does not exist any longer. Not as a human being, anyway.”


“No, he’s not human any longer. I can sense what they’re like, Adam, the Field-builders, I can tell it by the things they do. To people here and elsewhere. And by what they’d like to do to us. But they’re a little cautious. We’re quite strong.”

“Ray. Gods of all space, Ray.”

“I know, I know. Most likely all that’s left of Golden by now is a sort of telepathic frequency converter, a bridge over which messages can be forced from their minds to those of ordinary Earth-descended humans, or to the Tenoka.”

Adam was listening in horror.

It was as if Ray were reluctant to speak, to reveal the horrifying things, but was able to see no other choice. “I’ve seen. sensed. the Field-builders’ dungeons, Adam. The torture chambers, where Alexander Golden still exists-I can’t really say that he still lives-along with other prisoners. By now I’ve determined more precisely where they are, over on the other side of the world from here. Not stone walls with chains hanging from them, no. And not physical torture, or not that particularly. They-the ones you call the Field-builders- have solved somehow the old problem. How does a being, determinedly evil, use parapsych talents to inflict pain? And how can one maim and kill. with the mind alone.”

Ray’s voice had grown grim, and now it almost quivered. His expression had darkened. Adam had never seen or heard him this way before. Now the huge man paused, staring into space. Suddenly Adam saw him as tired and strained, living under a burden that would have been too great for any ordinary human.

“Alex Golden was an Earthman,” Ray said suddenly. “As I am.” He looked at Adam suddenly. “Those who have done what has been done to him are on this planet. And I intend to call them to account.”


Ray smiled at Adam. “General Lorsch thinks that we Jovians considerher our enemy.”

“If you don’t-and if you have some definite knowledge of the Field-builders-why not tell her the truth?”

“I’ve tried to do so, Adam. She and I once enjoyed a very private chat. More private than the lady realized, because I turned off the spy devices in her office. And then I even used what we call projection to present our case. That method gives me very considerable powers of persuasion.” Ray grinned faintly, and Adam had no trouble believing him. “But she’s a tough lady, Adam, and a stubborn one-and even if she could be persuaded to come to terms with us, she could not for very long deceive or disobey her superiors, and we would still have to deal with them.”

“Look, Ray-even if she doesn’t like you, I don’t see why you can’t tell her what you’ve found out about the Field-builders. About your contact with them. Did you try to tell her that? And why shouldn’t we tell her about this message that purports to be from Golden?”

“No, Adam. I didn’t try to tell her that.” For the moment Ray sounded less like an old friend, and more like a patient schoolmaster. “Because there is nothing that she or the Space Force can do about Alexander Golden, or about the Field-builders either-at least not while the Field still covers the Ringwall, over on the other side of the planet.”

“That’s where they are, then.” Adam almost whispered it.

“That’s where they are. what we must do with General Lorsch is get her to prepare for a fight-let her think, if necessary, that we are the ones who must be fought. Then we shall convincingly uncover the real enemy.”

“Uncover them how?” Adam paused. “You mean you can control the Field?” If it were anyone else talking to him. but it was not anyone else. He found himself ready to believe anything of Ray.

“Not yet,” said Ray calmly. I don’t expect to be able to control it from this side of the planet.”

“From the other side, then. the Ringwall again?”

“That’s right.”

“But how are you going to get there?”

It was as if Ray had been waiting for that question, as if everything he had said up to now had been calculated to lead up to it.

“Watch,” the huge man said.

A moment later, Ray’s heavy bow dropped to the muddy ground; the hand that had held it was gone, had winked out of sight along with the rest of Ray. Ray Kedro had vanished completely, as if he had never been.

Teleportation. It had to be that. One parapsych effect that Adam had never seen before, that no one he had heard of had ever seen. He had heard or read somewhere that not even the Jovians were capable of it. Some authorities went so far as to say that there was not a single properly authenticated case of teleportation in all of human history.

But what else could it be? Now teleportation. Adam looked to his left and right, and behind him, and he was still utterly alone.

He turned around. He called out, tentatively: “Ray?”

“I was slightly off target,” said Ray’s voice from-behind him. Adam spun round again. The big man was standing near the far edge of the clearing, grinning wryly at his own condition. Ray’s feet and legs were plastered with wet mud, up to above his knees.

Ray picked up a piece of dead bark and with a faint grimace began to scrape away some of the goo; there were still some human situations, it appeared, that no amount of intelligence, parapsych talent, or superb co-ordination were capable of dealing with gracefully.

Pointing with the defiled bark, Ray explained: “I was aiming for the top of that little hill over there; I was sort of curious about what was on the other side, which may be why I came down beyond it, in a mudhole.” He raised his eyes to Adam’s. “But the point is that the parapsych talent is not adversely affected by the Field.”

Adam sat down on a handy log. After all that he had learned in the past few minutes, he felt he needed to sit down. “I thought the story was that all the Jovian parapsych talents were disappearing. That they’ve been fading steadily since you all passed adolescence.”

“You’re absolutely right, Ad. That’s the story.”

Ray’s grin was, as of old, infectious. “You don’t still believe all the stories you hear, do you?”

“You mean.” Adam let it trail off.

All he could think of for the moment was that Merit hadn’t seen fit to enlighten him about the powerful talents that she, too, must still have at her disposal. But all he said was: “You’re lucky you didn’t land on one of those jagged stumps over there where I did my logging, for the cabin. Or come down right on top of a poison lizard in the swamp.”

Ray shook his head. “That would be physical harm caused directly by the use of parapsych talent, within the meaning of the law-and that, leaving out minor bruises and such, is still a practical impossibility. Remember?”

“Still an impossibility for you. Not for the Field-builders. You were just telling me how they.”

“Yes. well, they may no longer enjoy a total monopoly on the ability to use parapsych as a weapon. We must develop, are developing, means of self defense. I can put it more precisely: violent harm from parapsych causes doesn’t happen to us, to Jovians, by accident. teleportation is probably the safest form of transportation yet invented.”

“If you say so. Ray, what’s your plan? You said you were going to call the Field-builders to account.”

“I am indeed,” said Ray with calm confidence. He had now finished scraping most of the mud away, and he threw down the piece of bark and came to sit on the log beside Adam. “Our siblings have finished constructing a starship, at the old base on Ganymede where Doc-“

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