Fred Saberhagen – The Golden People

“About me?”


And those were the only words the two of them had yet exchanged on the subject. There had been little chance for them to be alone, with Vito now out of the hospital. But ever since that moment Merit had looked at Adam in a different way. Exactly what the difference was he could not analyze.

At the moment, Adam was sitting with his back against a tree, feeling comfortably tired and at peace in a way that he had never really known before. Since the day of Ray’s revelations, Adam had been spending the mornings trying to develop his latent parapsych talents, under Ray’s tutelage, and the afternoons in teaching Ray, Merit, and Vito his own hard-won skills of the primitive life. Ray had warned Adam that probably he would never be able to teleport unaided, but he had already learned to achieve some intermittent telepathic contacts.

And now, relaxed, Adam felt a sudden quick touch against his mind. It came like a glimpse of monstrous black wings overhead, foreshadowing some danger.

If Merit perceived the dark passage, she gave no sign; she and Vito were now horseplaying like happy newly weds beside the fire. But Ray stood up, and with a beckoning motion of his head got Adam to walk away from the fire with him.

Once out of sight of the clearing where the four of them had camped, on a supposed vacation, Ray stopped, looking Adam in the eye. “By this time tomorrow, we must be ready to move.”

“As soon as that.”

“As soon as that.” Ray was brisk and businesslike. “Are you with me?”

Adam shook his head. “I’m keeping up so far.” His tone was almost plaintive.

Ray grinned and clapped him on the shoulder.Like the old days, playing some game at Doc’s . The message came through plainly, without spoken words. “Good enough. Right now, jump with me into Stem City, okay? Let me guide.”

Adam nodded and turned his back on Ray, who was standing just out of physical reach. They had taught him teleportation theory; they had held him back, so far, from the brink of actual movement. This would be the first time-if it worked-

Adam let the wall of trees before him slide out of focus in his eyes. His vision, his attention, came to be centered somewhere else-

-he felt the premonitory aura, stronger than it had ever been in practice-

-and then before his eyes there was a different wall, the interior surface of some building. They had arrived.

“A hotel room I use,” said Ray. It was a cheap hotel, Adam decided; the small room was piled with loaded camping packs, canteens, axes, knives, arrows, enough to set up a small wilderness outfitting company. “Help me decide what to take to the Ringwall, Ad. We might be several days there, though I doubt it’s going to take that long. something wrong?”

Adam drew a deep breath. “Just that your confidence strikes me as a touch overwhelming-you know, if it was anyone else suggesting this kind of an expedition to me, what I would tell them?”

“It’s not anyone else.”

“Right. so who’s going on this expedition? The two of us, and. ?”

“And Merit. I want every Jovian to be there, in the action. All one hundred and one.” Ray winked lightly. “There’ll be ninety-eight of our siblings aboard the ship above us. I’ve had confirmation of the number.”

“And what about Vito?”

“What about him? Oh, I think I see what you mean. Well, he can find his way from here back to Stem City, he’s essentially recovered now. Or, we can carry him along if he insists, and Merit insists, as they both probably will.”

“You think they will?”

“I’m reasonably sure. Don’t you think so?”

Adam sighed. “All right. Three of us, or four. And when we get there?”

“Yes? What about when we get there?”

Adam picked up a pack, and tossed it down again. Knowing that he himself was equipped with the genes for Jovian intelligence seemed to make no difference in the difficulty of understanding Ray, when Ray started explaining his plans, or rather started actively not explaining them. Adam said: “I don’t know what I’m supposed todo when I get there, Ray. That’s what about it. I won’t know a Field-builder from a fencepost if I bump into one.”

But Ray was not perturbed. “You’ll know. And you’ll know what to do, when the time comes.”


Chapter Sixteen

“If she does go on any such expedition, I’m going too,” said Vito Ling, speaking very firmly. There was in Vito’s attitude a strong mixture of you’re-all-crazy-but-I’m-going-to-humor-you, along with a good measure of grudging respect: some of the three of you at leastmight be smarter than I am, you Jovians have been right before, and you could be right about this too. This was not Vito’s very first reaction. Merit had only kept her husband from immediately informing the authorities of the plan to teleport to the Ringwall, by not telling him about it until the party of four were out in the wilderness, with no possibility of quick communication with anyone back in the Stem. Still, when Vito was finally informed, it had required all the persuasive abilities of the other three to keep him from starting a solo hike back to Stem City immediately.

For perhaps the fourth time in the last few minutes, Vito looked at his wife and asked her: “Why are you going, Merit? Maybe these two guys have lost their minds. but why you?”

She gave him a strange smile. ” Jovians together, against the world.”

“If the ninety-nine others all walked off a cliff. all right, Adam, the hundred others.” One more item had been revealed.

“Ray might be wrong about the Field-builders,” Merit admitted suddenly, and looked suddenly at Ray, who gazed back at her calmly and did not appear particularly upset by the suggestion.

Merit went on: “If he is. there’s only one way to prove it.” She looked at her husband again. “And, if he’s not.”

“That’s about the way I see it,” Adam said. Not that he really thought Ray might be wrong, but it was a good way of putting the situation to Vito. And the fact that Adam was convinced and was going along with Ray’s plan had from the start made Vito stop and think; he had considerable respect for Adam.

But the argument wasn’t won yet. “Then the only basis you have for this whole thing,” said Vito, “is Ray’s word.”

“That’s right,” said Adam. Merit nodded.

Vito and Ray looked at each other.

“I’d be skeptical too, in your place,” Ray said to him mildly.

Vito looked at his wife again. “Then you’ve never seen these Field-builders, except, as I understand it, in Ray’s mind.”

“No,” she answered. “I never have. There are a number of parapsych things I’m not strong enough, or skilled enough, to do without Ray’s help.” Adam, listening, couldn’t tell whether she was getting angry with her husband or not.

“But you’re convinced you have to do this.” There was a new finality in Vito’s voice.

“I am.”

“To teleport,” said Vito, as if to himself, and Adam could see how fascinated he was, as a scientist doubtless, but not only in that way.

“That’s what we’re talking about, yes.” Ray’s voice was quiet, but held a certain challenge.

“If you go,” said Vito to his wife again, “I’m going with you.”

Darkness was falling now at their camp, in the archery-practice clearing only a hundred meters or so from Adam’s cabin. Ray had announced that they should be ready to start within about twenty-four hours. He explained that it would take them about an hour, with several rest stops included, to teleport halfway around the world, and he wanted to arrive in the vicinity of the Ringwall soon after dawn there.

“I’ve explained the dangers,” said Ray to Vito calmly now. “If you insist on going, we can take you.” Then Ray looked at Merit, as if the final decision in this matter should be hers.

“My husband makes his own decisions,” she told Ray firmly, before the angered Vito could speak for himself. “He has said that he accepts the risks, on your word that they are necessary. I accept them on the same basis.”

“I thank you. All of you.” Ray glanced up briefly toward the stars. “Obviously our ninety-eight siblings have already agreed with me. If not unanimously-near enough.”

“Not unanimously?” Adam asked.

Ray looked at him, as if fearing to be disappointed by what he saw. “Near enough. They’ll have the ship in place over the Ringwall tomorrow.”

Merit closed her eyes, and nodded. “So be it, then.”

When the next day’s sun dipped out of sight behind the trees just to the west of their campsite, the four from Earth stood in a circle, packs, weapons, and other equipment strapped to their bodies. They faced each other across a close circle, not quite touching each other.

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