Repairmen of Cyclops by John Brunner

raised patch in its centre the panel slid back into the

wall, revealing an empty corridor beyond.

After cautious listening for footsteps or hushing

wheels such as he had heard earlier, when he was being

brought in, he darted down the passage and around the

first corner.

Here the nature of his surroundings changed com-

pletely. Instead of barely delineated doors, there were

large oblong windows, and not giving on to the outside,

either, like any windows he had seen before. They re-

vealed the interior of the adjacent rooms.

He crept to the first one and peered through. All he

could see was a tangle of equipment like the interior of

his fish-finder, but much more complicated. He tried to

discern its function, and failed; then it moved of its own

accord, some shining arm making a connection, and

alarmed at this he moved on.

Here what he found was far more interesting. There

was a naked woman.

She was tall, and very beautiful even though her skin

was darker than Bracy’s owna sign, according to his

standards, that she was of his own low class, too poor to

sit in the shade when the sun was hot. She lay supine on

a padded trolley, eyes closed. Around her, the whole

room was filled with mechanisms that moved slowly,

slowly, on incomprehensible tasks.

His eyes traced the curves of her shapely body: left

arm here, folded over her breast, right armwhere?

With sudden shock he realised that her right arm was

in the maw of one of the machines, which was moving

up it in precisely the same way as a suckermouth lam-

prey engulfed its unfortunate prey.

Like all poverty-line children on Cyclops, he had been

threatened with the vengeance of the Corps when he

misbehaved as a youngster. To see what he mistook for

some terrible torture unnerved him, and he uttered a cry

nf terror.

“What was that?” a voice said, distant but distinct, and

he realised abruptly that had he not been so fascinated

by what he had discovered he would have heard foot-

steps approaching. Gasping, he spun, and caught sight of

a man and a woman at the intersection of corridors be-

hind him.

“Who in the-?” the man said. “Hey, you!”

Bracy took to his heels, fleeing randomly down the

blank-walled passages. Behind him came the fearful pur-

suers, shouting, until the superior speed which terror lent

enabled him to outstrip them, and he came to a dark tun-

nel-like tube down which he dived, thinking to find


“That must be the fisherboy who rescued Kolb,” Lan-

genschmidt told Maddalena. “No one else with hair like

that would be in the hospital. And where the hell he’s

managed to disappear to, I don’t know. But one thing’s

surehe was heading for master operations control, and

we’ve got to winkle him out before he breaks something.

See a communicator anywhere? Whatever Nole has

found it will just have to wait.”

Overnight rain had made the track into a muddy

swamp. The patient, immensely strong yorb floundered

many times, its broad pads sliding on the greasy ground

as it strove to drag the laden cart past a particularly

treacherous patch. On each occasion, however, Firdausi

got down without complaint to break branches from the

surrounding undergrowth and spread them in front of

the wheels.

The reins limp and slippery in her hands, Soraya

found herself stirred to dim gratitude for the boy’s

silence. Almost, she was minded to go back on her deci-

sion that if the Receivers of the Sick accepted her

mother she would leave home forever. Perhaps Firdausi

did indeed have her best interests at heart. . .

The old woman lay uncomplaining on the heap of soft

skins with which they had padded the crude wooden

cart. Occasionally her hands twitched in her sleep. It was

better that she should sleep, Soraya thought. Even

though she had had a long lucid period since her near-fa-

tal attack of the quakes, the disease had weakened her

dreadfully; she could hardly walk more than a dozen

steps without a fit of fainting, and her skin was shrunken

over her wasted flesh.

She had said she was pleased at Soraya’s decision to try

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