Fred Saberhagen – The Golden People

Adam lay back. “You lanky ape,” he said. “Looks like you had a fight and won.”

“You looked like you had one and lost, when that robot flew you in. In Golden’s scoutship, yet. yeah, we had quite a scrap here. We took about fifty people alive out of that hundred. We might even have come out on the short end, but they started fighting among themselves. About someone being burned, whether it was right or not- maybe you can enlighten us on that.”

“Yeah-but it’s a long story.”

“That fellow we took out of the alien room of that scoutship-he’s Kedro?”


“Some of the other people were pretty sick, in the same way. I wonder what got into them? All we wanted to do here was hand ’em a parking ticket, so to speak. And they opened up on us with everything at once. And they kept talking about burning this fellow Ling. And a couple of my people got burned to death too, in a most peculiar way.”

Maybe this is my first official interrogation, Adam realized suddenly. Just Boris sitting there in his bathrobe, talking things over. He thought about the question.

“It started a long time ago,” Adam answered after a while. “They had a plan-Ray Kedro had a plan-that didn’t work. As I say, it’s a long story.”

“Yeah. Well, not all of ’em thought that way.”

Adam looked at him.

“I mean your girl Merit, among others.”

“If you think that she-”

“At ease! Calm down. Nobody wants to hang her. Unless some evidence comes up that I don’t know about yet. It’s no crime to have had your chromosomes manipulated. I merely remarked that she seems like a nice kid.”

Adam let out a long sigh. “One part of the long story I’ll tell you now. Ray Kedro told me that I was one of them too. Maybe he was lying; maybe not. I don’t think he was, about that.”

Brazil thought that over with raised eyebrows. Then he shrugged. “Well, I can stand it if you can. I expect it’ll be a long time before Raymond Kedro can tell us a straight story now, assuming that he wants to. The medics have him in a deep freeze. Do you know what shape he was in when they took him out of that scout?”

“I know what shape he was in when we left the planet,” said Adam. /can stand it if you can , Brazil had said. To hell with it. I’m a man whether or not I came out of Doc Nowell’s lab. I am what I am.

And another voice, remembered but already fading:You have a small idea of what being human means .

“I assume I’m not under arrest for anything?” he asked. “Unauthorized exploration, maybe?”

Boris shrugged. “We asked your help in the situation, if you remember. I assume you were doing what you could to help. We’ve got enough prisoners, what do we need with one more?”

“And Merit?”

“I told you, no. Be reasonable, what would we charge her with? Teasing the geryons? Unless something new shows up when we get your stories in detail. Hey, now, about that scoutship-”

“Later.” Adam relaxed, closing his eyes in peaceful weariness. He opened them again to see Brazil wheeling away. Adam called after him: “Hey. When we’re both in one piece again, I just may be calling on you. To look for a job.”

Boris nodded, his long craggy face solemn, and turned away again. He wheeled a little distance, suddenly roared with laughter, and turned back. “I don’t know-look what we started the last time we worked together.”

Adam groped with his good hand for something suitable to throw, but could find nothing. Never mind. He began to doze off, smiling. He could hear Boris’s muttering, receding into the distance: “The sleeping beauty sleepeth again, and where in all the realm can be found a maiden of such courage as to-oh. Beg your pardon, ma’am.”

Then there followed a silence. It took no exercise of parapsych talent for Adam to feel her approaching his bed. The aura of her mind was subtle and sweet as fine perfume. He opened his eyes and stretched out his good left arm.


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Categories: Saberhagen, Fred