Infomotions, Inc.The Edge of the Knife / Piper, H. Beam, 1904-1964



Author: Piper, H. Beam, 1904-1964
Title: The Edge of the Knife
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): whitburn; chalmers; weill; pottgeiter; khalid; khalid ib'n; blanley; doctor whitburn; fitch; ib'n hussein; dacre; doctor chalmers; doctor; desk; faculty; college
Contributor(s): Hawthorne, Paul [Illustrator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 18,969 words (really short) Grade range: 8-11 (high school) Readability score: 60 (average)
Identifier: etext18584
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Title: The Edge of the Knife

Author: Henry Beam Piper

Release Date: June 14, 2006 [EBook #18584]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE EDGE OF THE KNIFE ***




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                         Transcriber's note:

  This etext was produced from Amazing Stories, May 1957. Extensive
  research did not uncover any evidence that the copyright on this
  publication was renewed.




                               THE EDGE

                                OF THE

                                KNIFE



                           By H. BEAM PIPER



       *       *       *       *       *

_This story was rejected by two top-flight science-fiction editors for
the same reason: "Too hot to handle." "Too dangerous for our book."
We'd like to know whether or not the readers of_ Amazing Stories
_agree. Drop us a line after you've read it._

       *       *       *       *       *


Chalmers stopped talking abruptly, warned by the sudden attentiveness
of the class in front of him. They were all staring; even Guellick, in
the fourth row, was almost half awake. Then one of them, taking his
silence as an invitation to questions found his voice.

"You say Khalid ib'n Hussein's been assassinated?" he asked
incredulously. "When did that happen?"

[Illustration: There was no past--no future--only a great chaotic
NOW.]

"In 1973, at Basra." There was a touch of impatience in his voice;
surely they ought to know that much. "He was shot, while leaving the
Parliament Building, by an Egyptian  Arab named Mohammed Noureed,
with an old U. S. Army M3 submachine-gun. Noureed killed two of
Khalid's guards and wounded another before he was overpowered. He was
lynched on the spot by the crowd; stoned to death. Ostensibly, he and
his accomplices were religious fanatics; however, there can be no
doubt whatever that the murder was inspired, at least indirectly, by
the Eastern Axis."

The class stirred like a grain-field in the wind. Some looked at him
in blank amazement; some were hastily averting faces red with poorly
suppressed laughter. For a moment he was puzzled, and then realization
hit him like a blow in the stomach-pit. He'd forgotten, again.

"I didn't see anything in the papers about it," one boy was saying.

"The newscast, last evening, said Khalid was in Ankara, talking to the
President of Turkey," another offered.

"Professor Chalmers, would you tell us just what effect Khalid's death
had upon the Islamic Caliphate and the Middle Eastern situation in
general?" a third voice asked with exaggerated solemnity. That was
Kendrick, the class humorist; the question was pure baiting.

"Well, Mr. Kendrick, I'm afraid it's a little too early to assess the
full results of a thing like that, if they can ever be fully assessed.
For instance, who, in 1911, could have predicted all the consequences
of the pistol-shot at Sarajevo? Who, even today, can guess what the
history of the world would have been had Zangarra not missed Franklin
Roosevelt in 1932? There's always that if."

He went on talking safe generalities as he glanced covertly at his
watch. Only five minutes to the end of the period; thank heaven he
hadn't made that slip at the beginning of the class. "For instance,
tomorrow, when we take up the events in India from the First World War
to the end of British rule, we will be largely concerned with another
victim of the assassin's bullet, Mohandas K. Gandhi. You may ask
yourselves, then, by how much that bullet altered the history of the
Indian sub-continent. A word of warning, however: The events we will
be discussing will be either contemporary with or prior to what was
discussed today. I hope that you're all keeping your notes properly
dated. It's always easy to become confused in matters of chronology."

He wished, too late, that he hadn't said that. It pointed up the very
thing he was trying to play down, and raised a general laugh.

As soon as the room was empty, he hastened to his desk, snatched
pencil and notepad. This had been a bad one, the worst yet; he hadn't
heard the end of it by any means. He couldn't waste thought on that
now, though. This was all new and important; it had welled up suddenly
and without warning into his conscious mind, and he must get it down
in notes before the "memory"--even mentally, he always put that word
into quotes--was lost. He was still scribbling furiously when the
instructor who would use the room for the next period entered,
followed by a few of his students. Chalmers finished, crammed the
notes into his pocket, and went out into the hall.

Most of his own Modern History IV class had left the building and were
on their way across the campus for science classes. A few, however,
were joining groups for other classes here in Prescott Hall, and in
every group, they were the center of interest. Sometimes, when they
saw him, they would fall silent until he had passed; sometimes they
didn't, and he caught snatches of conversation.

"Oh, brother! Did Chalmers really blow his jets this time!" one voice
was saying.

"Bet he won't be around next year."

Another quartet, with their heads together, were talking more
seriously.

"Well, I'm not majoring in History, myself, but I think it's an
outrage that some people's diplomas are going to depend on grades
given by a lunatic!"

"Mine will, and I'm not going to stand for it. My old man's president
of the Alumni Association, and...."

       *       *       *       *       *

That was something he had not thought of, before. It gave him an ugly
start. He was still thinking about it as he turned into the side hall
to the History Department offices and entered the cubicle he shared
with a colleague. The colleague, old Pottgeiter, Medieval History, was
emerging in a rush; short, rotund, gray-bearded, his arms full of
books and papers, oblivious, as usual, to anything that had happened
since the Battle of Bosworth or the Fall of Constantinople. Chalmers
stepped quickly out of his way and entered behind him. Marjorie
Fenner, the secretary they also shared, was tidying up the old man's
desk.

"Good morning, Doctor Chalmers." She looked at him keenly for a
moment. "They give you a bad time again in Modern Four?"

Good Lord, did he show it that plainly? In any case, it was no use
trying to kid Marjorie. She'd hear the whole story before the end of
the day.

"Gave myself a bad time."

Marjorie, still fussing with Pottgeiter's desk, was about to say
something in reply. Instead, she exclaimed in exasperation.

"Ohhh! That man! He's forgotten his notes again!" She gathered some
papers from Pottgeiter's desk, rushing across the room and out the
door with them.

For a while, he sat motionless, the books and notes for General
European History II untouched in front of him. This was going to raise
hell. It hadn't been the first slip he'd made, either; that thought
kept recurring to him. There had been the time when he had alluded to
the colonies on Mars and Venus. There had been the time he'd mentioned
the secession of Canada from the British Commonwealth, and the time
he'd called the U. N. the Terran Federation. And the time he'd tried
to get a copy of Franchard's _Rise and Decline of the System States_,
which wouldn't be published until the Twenty-eighth Century, out of
the college library. None of those had drawn much comment, beyond a
few student jokes about the history professor who lived in the future
instead of the past. Now, however, they'd all be remembered, raked up,
exaggerated, and added to what had happened this morning.

He sighed and sat down at Marjorie's typewriter and began transcribing
his notes. Assassination of Khalid ib'n Hussein, the pro-Western
leader of the newly formed Islamic Caliphate; period of anarchy in the
Middle East; interfactional power-struggles; Turkish intervention. He
wondered how long that would last; Khalid's son, Tallal ib'n Khalid,
was at school in England when his father was--would be--killed. He
would return, and eventually take his father's place, in time to bring
the Caliphate into the Terran Federation when the general war came.
There were some notes on that already; the war would result from an
attempt by the Indian Communists to seize East Pakistan. The trouble
was that he so seldom "remembered" an exact date. His "memory" of the
year of Khalid's assassination was an exception.

Nineteen seventy-three--why, that was this year. He looked at the
calendar. October 16, 1973. At very most, the Arab statesman had two
and a half months to live. Would there be any possible way in which he
could give a credible warning? He doubted it. Even if there were, he
questioned whether he should--for that matter, whether he
_could_--interfere....

       *       *       *       *       *

He always lunched at the Faculty Club; today was no time to call
attention to himself by breaking an established routine. As he
entered, trying to avoid either a furtive slink or a chip-on-shoulder
swagger, the crowd in the lobby stopped talking abruptly, then began
again on an obviously changed subject. The word had gotten around,
apparently. Handley, the head of the Latin Department, greeted him
with a distantly polite nod. Pompous old owl; regarded himself, for
some reason, as a sort of unofficial Dean of the Faculty. Probably
didn't want to be seen fraternizing with controversial characters.
One of the younger men, with a thin face and a mop of unruly hair,
advanced to meet him as he came in, as cordial as Handley was remote.

"Oh, hello, Ed!" he greeted, clapping a hand on Chalmers' shoulder. "I
was hoping I'd run into you. Can you have dinner with us this
evening?" He was sincere.

"Well, thanks, Leonard. I'd like to, but I have a lot of work. Could
you give me a rain-check?"

"Oh, surely. My wife was wishing you'd come around, but I know how it
is. Some other evening?"

"Yes, indeed." He guided Fitch toward the dining-room door and nodded
toward a table. "This doesn't look too crowded; let's sit here."

After lunch, he stopped in at his office. Marjorie Fenner was there,
taking dictation from Pottgeiter; she nodded to him as he entered, but
she had no summons to the president's office.

       *       *       *       *       *

The summons was waiting for him, the next morning, when he entered the
office after Modern History IV, a few minutes past ten.

"Doctor Whitburn just phoned," Marjorie said. "He'd like to see you,
as soon as you have a vacant period."

"Which means right away. I shan't keep him waiting."

She started to say something, swallowed it, and then asked if he
needed anything typed up for General European II.

"No, I have everything ready." He pocketed the pipe he had filled on
entering, and went out.

       *       *       *       *       *

The president of Blanley College sat hunched forward at his desk; he
had rounded shoulders and round, pudgy fists and a round, bald head.
He seemed to be expecting his visitor to stand at attention in front
of him. Chalmers got the pipe out of his pocket, sat down in the
desk-side chair, and snapped his lighter.

"Good morning, Doctor Whitburn," he said very pleasantly.

Whitburn's scowl deepened. "I hope I don't have to tell you why I
wanted to see you," he began.

"I have an idea." Chalmers puffed until the pipe was drawing
satisfactorily. "It might help you get started if you did, though."

"I don't suppose, at that, that you realize the full effect of your
performance, yesterday morning, in Modern History Four," Whitburn
replied. "I don't suppose you know, for instance, that I had to
intervene at the last moment and suppress an editorial in the _Black
and Green_, derisively critical of you and your teaching methods, and,
by implication, of the administration of this college. You didn't hear
about that, did you? No, living as you do in the future, you
wouldn't."

"If the students who edit the _Black and Green_ are dissatisfied with
anything here, I'd imagine they ought to say so," Chalmers commented.
"Isn't that what they teach in the journalism classes, that the
purpose of journalism is to speak for the dissatisfied? Why make
exception?"

"I should think you'd be grateful to me for trying to keep your
behavior from being made a subject of public ridicule among your
students. Why, this editorial which I suppressed actually went so far
as to question your sanity!"

"I should suppose it might have sounded a good deal like that, to
them. Of course, I have been preoccupied, lately, with an imaginative
projection of present trends into the future. I'll quite freely admit
that I should have kept my extracurricular work separate from my
class and lecture work, but...."

"That's no excuse, even if I were sure it were true! What you did,
while engaged in the serious teaching of history, was to indulge in a
farrago of nonsense, obvious as such to any child, and damage not only
your own standing with your class but the standing of Blanley College
as well. Doctor Chalmers, if this were the first incident of the kind
it would be bad enough, but it isn't. You've done things like this
before, and I've warned you before. I assumed, then, that you were
merely showing the effects of overwork, and I offered you a vacation,
which you refused to take. Well, this is the limit. I'm compelled to
request your immediate resignation."

Chalmers laughed. "A moment ago, you accused me of living in the
future. It seems you're living in the past. Evidently you haven't
heard about the Higher Education Faculty Tenure Act of 1963, or such
things as tenure-contracts. Well, for your information, I have one;
you signed it yourself, in case you've forgotten. If you want my
resignation, you'll have to show cause, in a court of law, why my
contract should be voided, and I don't think a slip of the tongue is
a reason for voiding a contract that any court would accept."

Whitburn's face reddened. "You don't, don't you? Well, maybe it isn't,
but insanity is. It's a very good reason for voiding a contract
voidable on grounds of unfitness or incapacity to teach."

He had been expecting, and mentally shrinking from, just that. Now
that it was out, however, he felt relieved. He gave another short
laugh.

"You're willing to go into open court, covered by reporters from
papers you can't control as you do this student sheet here, and
testify that for the past twelve years you've had an insane professor
on your faculty?"

"You're.... You're trying to blackmail me?" Whitburn demanded, half
rising.

"It isn't blackmail to tell a man that a bomb he's going to throw will
blow up in his hand." Chalmers glanced quickly at his watch. "Now,
Doctor Whitburn, if you have nothing further to discuss, I have a
class in a few minutes. If you'll excuse me...."

He rose. For a moment, he stood facing Whitburn; when the college
president said nothing, he inclined his head politely and turned,
going out.

Whitburn's secretary gave the impression of having seated herself
hastily at her desk the second before he opened the door. She watched
him, round-eyed, as he went out into the hall.

He reached his own office ten minutes before time for the next class.
Marjorie was typing something for Pottgeiter; he merely nodded to her,
and picked up the phone. The call would have to go through the school
exchange, and he had a suspicion that Whitburn kept a check on outside
calls. That might not hurt any, he thought, dialing a number.

"Attorney Weill's office," the girl who answered said.

"Edward Chalmers. Is Mr. Weill in?"

She'd find out. He was; he answered in a few seconds.

"Hello, Stanly; Ed Chalmers. I think I'm going to need a little help.
I'm having some trouble with President Whitburn, here at the college.
A matter involving the validity of my tenure-contract. I don't want to
go into it over this line. Have you anything on for lunch?"

"No, I haven't. When and where?" the lawyer asked.

He thought for a moment. Nowhere too close the campus, but not too far
away.

"How about the Continental; Fontainbleu Room? Say twelve-fifteen."

"That'll be all right. Be seeing you."

Marjorie looked at him curiously as he gathered up the things he
needed for the next class.

       *       *       *       *       *

Stanly Weill had a thin dark-eyed face. He was frowning as he set down
his coffee-cup.

"Ed, you ought to know better than to try to kid your lawyer," he
said. "You say Whitburn's trying to force you to resign. With your
contract, he can't do that, not without good and sufficient cause, and
under the Faculty Tenure Law, that means something just an inch short
of murder in the first degree. Now, what's Whitburn got on you?"

Beat around the bush and try to build a background, or come out with
it at once and fill in the details afterward? He debated mentally for
a moment, then decided upon the latter course.

"Well, it happens that I have the ability to prehend future events. I
can, by concentrating, bring into my mind the history of the world, at
least in general outline, for the next five thousand years. Whitburn
thinks I'm crazy, mainly because I get confused at times and forget
that something I know about hasn't happened yet."

Weill snatched the cigarette from his mouth to keep from swallowing
it. As it was, he choked on a mouthful of smoke and coughed violently,
then sat back in the booth-seat, staring speechlessly.

"It started a little over three years ago," Chalmers continued. "Just
after New Year's, 1970. I was getting up a series of seminars for some
of my postgraduate students on extrapolation of present social and
political trends to the middle of the next century, and I began to
find that I was getting some very fixed and definite ideas of what the
world of 2050 to 2070 would be like. Completely unified world,
abolition of all national states under a single world sovereignty,
colonies on Mars and Venus, that sort of thing. Some of these ideas
didn't seem quite logical; a number of them were complete reversals of
present trends, and a lot seemed to depend on arbitrary and
unpredictable factors. Mind, this was before the first rocket landed
on the Moon, when the whole moon-rocket and lunar-base project was a
triple-top secret. But I knew, in the spring of 1970, that the first
unmanned rocket would be called the _Kilroy_, and that it would be
launched some time in 1971. You remember, when the news was released,
it was stated that the rocket hadn't been christened until the day
before it was launched, when somebody remembered that old
'Kilroy-was-here' thing from the Second World War. Well, I knew about
it over a year in advance."

Weill had been listening in silence. He had a naturally skeptical
face; his present expression mightn't really mean that he didn't
believe what he was hearing.

"How'd you get all this stuff? In dreams?"

Chalmers shook his head. "It just came to me. I'd be sitting reading,
or eating dinner, or talking to one of my classes, and the first thing
I'd know, something out of the future would come bubbling up in me. It
just kept pushing up into my conscious mind. I wouldn't have an idea
of something one minute, and the next it would just be part of my
general historical knowledge; I'd know it as positively as I know that
Columbus discovered America in. 1492. The only difference is that I
can usually remember where I've read something in past history, but my
future history I know without knowing how I know it."

"Ah, that's the question!" Weill pounced. "You don't know how you know
it. Look, Ed, we've both studied psychology, elementary psychology at
least. Anybody who has to work with people, these days, has to know
some psychology. What makes you sure that these prophetic impressions
of yours aren't manufactured in your own subconscious mind?"

"That's what I thought, at first. I thought my subconscious was just
building up this stuff to fill the gaps in what I'd produced from
logical extrapolation. I've always been a stickler for detail," he
added, parenthetically. "It would be natural for me to supply details
for the future. But, as I said, a lot of this stuff is based on
unpredictable and arbitrary factors that can't be inferred from
anything in the present. That left me with the alternatives of
delusion or precognition, and if I ever came near going crazy, it was
before the _Kilroy_ landed and the news was released. After that, I
knew which it was."

"And yet, you can't explain how you can have real knowledge of a
thing before it happens. Before it exists," Weill said.

"I really don't need to. I'm satisfied with knowing that I know. But
if you want me to furnish a theory, let's say that all these things
really do exist, in the past or in the future, and that the present is
just a moving knife-edge that separates the two. You can't even
indicate the present. By the time you make up your mind to say, 'Now!'
and transmit the impulse to your vocal organs, and utter the word, the
original present moment is part of the past. The knife-edge has gone
over it. Most people think they know only the present; what they know
is the past, which they have already experienced, or read about. The
difference with me is that I can see what's on both sides of the
knife-edge."

Weill put another cigarette in his mouth and bent his head to the
flame of his lighter. For a moment, he sat motionless, his thin face
rigid.

"What do you want me to do?" he asked. "I'm a lawyer, not a
psychiatrist."

"I want a lawyer. This is a legal matter. Whitburn's talking about
voiding my tenure contract. You helped draw it; I have a right to
expect you to help defend it."

"Ed, have you been talking about this to anybody else?" Weill asked.

"You're the first person I've mentioned it to. It's not the sort of
thing you'd bring up casually, in a conversation."

"Then how'd Whitburn get hold of it?"

"He didn't, not the way I've given it to you. But I made a couple of
slips, now and then. I made a bad one yesterday morning."

He told Weill about it, and about his session with the president of
the college that morning. The lawyer nodded.

"That was a bad one, but you handled Whitburn the right way," Weill
said. "What he's most afraid of is publicity, getting the college
mixed up in anything controversial, and above all, the reactions of
the trustees and people like that. If Dacre or anybody else makes any
trouble, he'll do his best to cover for you. Not willingly, of course,
but because he'll know that that's the only way he can cover for
himself. I don't think you'll have any more trouble with him. If you
can keep your own nose clean, that is. Can you do that?"

"I believe so. Yesterday I got careless. I'll not do that again."

"You'd better not." Weill hesitated for a moment. "I said I was a
lawyer, not a psychiatrist. I'm going to give you some psychiatrist's
advice, though. Forget this whole thing. You say you can bring these
impressions into your conscious mind by concentrating?" He waited
briefly; Chalmers nodded, and he continued: "Well, stop it. Stop
trying to harbor this stuff. It's dangerous, Ed. Stop playing around
with it."

"You think I'm crazy, too?"

Weill shook his head impatiently. "I didn't say that. But I'll say,
now, that you're losing your grip on reality. You are constructing a
system of fantasies, and the first thing you know, they will become
your reality, and the world around you will be unreal and illusory.
And that's a state of mental incompetence that I can recognize, as a
lawyer."

"How about the _Kilroy_?"

Weill looked at him intently. "Ed, are you sure you did have that
experience?" he asked. "I'm not trying to imply that you're
consciously lying to me about that. I am suggesting that you
manufactured a memory of that incident in your subconscious mind, and
are deluding yourself into thinking that you knew about it in advance.
False memory is a fairly common thing, in cases like this. Even the
little psychology I know, I've heard about that. There's been talk
about rockets to the Moon for years. You included something about that
in your future-history fantasy, and then, after the event, you
convinced yourself that you'd known all about it, including the
impromptu christening of the rocket, all along."

A hot retort rose to his lips; he swallowed it hastily. Instead, he
nodded amicably.

"That's a point worth thinking of. But right now, what I want to know
is, will you represent me in case Whitburn does take this to court and
does try to void my contract?"

"Oh, yes; as you said, I have an obligation to defend the contracts I
draw up. But you'll have to avoid giving him any further reason for
trying to void it. Don't make any more of these slips. Watch what you
say, in class or out of it. And above all, don't talk about this to
anybody. Don't tell anybody that you can foresee the future, or even
talk about future probabilities. Your business is with the past;
stick to it."

       *       *       *       *       *

The afternoon passed quietly enough. Word of his defiance of Whitburn
had gotten around among the faculty--Whitburn might have his secretary
scared witless in his office, but not gossipless outside it--though it
hadn't seemed to have leaked down to the students yet. Handley, the
Latin professor, managed to waylay him in a hallway, a hallway Handley
didn't normally use.

"The tenure-contract system under which we hold our positions here is
one of our most valuable safeguards," he said, after exchanging
greetings. "It was only won after a struggle, in a time of public
animosity toward all intellectuals, and even now, our professional
position would be most insecure without it."

"Yes. I found that out today, if I hadn't known it when I took part in
the struggle you speak of."

"It should not be jeopardized," Handley declared.

"You think I'm jeopardizing it?"

Handley frowned. He didn't like being pushed out of the safety of
generalization into specific cases.

"Well, now that you make that point, yes. I do. If Doctor Whitburn
tries to make an issue of ... of what happened yesterday ... and if
the court decides against you, you can see the position all of us will
be in."

"What do you think I should have done? Given him my resignation when
he demanded it? We have our tenure-contracts, and the system was
instituted to prevent just the sort of arbitrary action Whitburn tried
to take with me today. If he wants to go to court, he'll find that
out."

"And if he wins, he'll establish a precedent that will threaten the
security of every college and university faculty member in the state.
In any state where there's a tenure law."

Leonard Fitch, the psychologist, took an opposite attitude. As
Chalmers was leaving the college at the end of the afternoon, Fitch
cut across the campus to intercept him.

"I heard about the way you stood up to Whitburn this morning, Ed," he
said. "Glad you did it. I only wish I'd done something like that three
years ago.... Think he's going to give you any real trouble?"

"I doubt it."

"Well, I'm on your side if he does. I won't be the only one, either."

"Well, thank you, Leonard. It always helps to know that. I don't think
there'll be any more trouble, though."

       *       *       *       *       *

He dined alone at his apartment, and sat over his coffee, outlining
his work for the next day. When both were finished, he dallied
indecisively, Weill's words echoing through his mind and raising
doubts. It was possible that he had been manufacturing the whole thing
in his subconscious mind. That was, at least, a more plausible theory
than any he had constructed to explain an ability to produce real
knowledge of the future. Of course, there was that business about the
_Kilroy_. That had been too close on too many points to be dismissed
as coincidence. Then, again, Weill's words came back to disquiet him.
Had he really gotten that before the event, as he believed, or had he
only imagined, later, that he had?

There was one way to settle that. He rose quickly and went to the
filing-cabinet where he kept his future-history notes and began
pulling out envelopes. There was nothing about the _Kilroy_ in the
Twentieth Century file, where it should be, although he examined each
sheet of notes carefully. The possibility that his notes on that might
have been filed out of place by mistake occurred to him; he looked in
every other envelope. The notes, as far as they went, were all filed
in order, and each one bore, beside the future date of occurrence, the
date on which the knowledge--or must he call it delusion?--had come to
him. But there was no note on the landing of the first unmanned rocket
on Luna.

He put the notes away and went back to his desk, rummaging through the
drawers, and finding nothing. He searched everywhere in the apartment
where a sheet of paper could have been mislaid, taking all his
books, one by one, from the shelves and leafing through them, even
books he knew he had not touched for more than three years. In the
end, he sat down again at his desk, defeated. The note on the _Kilroy_
simply did not exist.

Of course, that didn't settle it, as finding the note would have. He
remembered--or believed he remembered--having gotten that item of
knowledge--or delusion--in 1970, shortly before the end of the school
term. It hadn't been until after the fall opening of school that he
had begun making notes. He could have had the knowledge of the robot
rocket in his mind then, and neglected putting it on paper.

He undressed, put on his pajamas, poured himself a drink, and went to
bed. Three hours later, still awake, he got up, and poured himself
another, bigger, drink. Somehow, eventually, he fell asleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning, he searched his desk and book-case in the office at
school. He had never kept a diary; now he was wishing that he had.
That might have contained something that would be evidence, one way or
the other. All day, he vacillated between conviction of the reality of
his future knowledge and resolution to have no more to do with it.
Once he decided to destroy all the notes he had made, and thought of
making a special study of some facet of history, and writing another
book, to occupy his mind.

After lunch, he found that more data on the period immediately before
the Thirty Days' War was coming into his consciousness. He resolutely
suppressed it, knowing as he did that it might never come to him
again. That evening, too, he cooked dinner for himself at his
apartment, and laid out his class-work for the next day. He'd better
not stay in, that evening; too much temptation to settle himself by
the living-room fire with his pipe and his notepad and indulge in the
vice he had determined to renounce. After a little debate, he decided
upon a movie; he put on again the suit he had taken off on coming
home, and went out.

       *       *       *       *       *

The picture, a random choice among the three shows in the
neighborhood, was about Seventeenth Century buccaneers; exciting
action and a sound-track loud with shots and cutlass-clashing. He let
himself be drawn into it completely, and, until it was finished, he
was able to forget both the college and the history of the future.
But, as he walked home, he was struck by the parallel between the
buccaneers of the West Indies and the space-pirates in the days of the
dissolution of the First Galactic Empire, in the Tenth Century of the
Interstellar Era. He hadn't been too clear on that period, and he
found new data rising in his mind; he hurried his steps, almost
running upstairs to his room. It was long after midnight before he had
finished the notes he had begun on his return home.

Well, that had been a mistake, but he wouldn't make it again. He
determined again to destroy his notes, and began casting about for a
subject which would occupy his mind to the exclusion of the future.
Not the Spanish Conquistadores; that was too much like the early
period of interstellar expansion. He thought for a time of the Sepoy
Mutiny, and then rejected it--he could "remember" something much like
that on one of the planets of the Beta Hydrae system, in the Fourth
Century of the Atomic Era. There were so few things, in the history of
the past, which did not have their counter-parts in the future. That
evening, too, he stayed at home, preparing for his various classes for
the rest of the week and making copious notes on what he would talk
about to each. He needed more whiskey to get to sleep that night.

Whitburn gave him no more trouble, and if any of the trustees or
influential alumni made any protest about what had happened in Modern
History IV, he heard nothing about it. He managed to conduct his
classes without further incidents, and spent his evenings trying, not
always successfully, to avoid drifting into "memories" of the
future....

       *       *       *       *       *

He came into his office that morning tired and unrefreshed by the few
hours' sleep he had gotten the night before, edgy from the strain, of
trying to adjust his mind to the world of Blanley College in mid-April
of 1973. Pottgeiter hadn't arrived yet, but Marjorie Fenner was
waiting for him; a newspaper in her hand, almost bursting with
excitement.

"Here; have you seen it, Doctor Chalmers?" she asked as he entered.

He shook his head. He ought to read the papers more, to keep track of
the advancing knife-edge that divided what he might talk about from
what he wasn't supposed to know, but each morning he seemed to have
less and less time to get ready for work.

"Well, look! Look at that!"

She thrust the paper into his hands, still folded, the big, black
headline where he could see it.

    KHALID IB'N HUSSEIN ASSASSINATED

He glanced over the leading paragraphs. Leader of Islamic Caliphate
shot to death in Basra ... leaving Parliament Building for his palace
outside the city ... fanatic, identified as an Egyptian named Mohammed
Noureed ... old American submachine-gun ... two guards killed and a
third seriously wounded ... seized by infuriated mob and stoned to
death on the spot....

For a moment, he felt guilt, until he realized that nothing he could
have done could have altered the event. The death of Khalid ib'n
Hussein, and all the millions of other deaths that would follow it,
were fixed in the matrix of the space-time continuum. Including,
maybe, the death of an obscure professor of Modern History named
Edward Chalmers.

"At least, this'll be the end of that silly flap about what happened a
month ago in Modern Four. This is modern history, now; I can talk
about it without a lot of fools yelling their heads off."

She was staring at him wide-eyed. No doubt horrified at his
cold-blooded attitude toward what was really a shocking and senseless
crime.

"Yes, of course; the man's dead. So's Julius Caesar, but we've gotten
over being shocked at his murder."

He would have to talk about it in Modern History IV, he supposed;
explain why Khalid's death was necessary to the policies of the
Eastern Axis, and what the consequences would be. How it would hasten
the complete dissolution of the old U. N., already weakened by the
crisis over the Eastern demands for the demilitarization and
internationalization of the United Stales Lunar Base, and necessitate
the formation of the Terran Federation, and how it would lead,
eventually, to the Thirty Days' War. No, he couldn't talk about that;
that was on the wrong side of the knife-edge. Have to be careful about
the knife-edge; too easy to cut himself on it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nobody in Modern History IV was seated when he entered the room; they
were all crowded between the door and his desk. He stood blinking,
wondering why they were giving him an ovation, and why Kendrick and
Dacre were so abjectly apologetic. Great heavens, did it take the
murder of the greatest Moslem since Saladin to convince people that he
wasn't crazy?

Before the period was over, Whitburn's secretary entered with a note
in the college president's hand and over his signature; requesting
Chalmers to come to his office immediately and without delay. Just
like that; expected him to walk right out of his class. He was
protesting as he entered the president's office. Whitburn cut him off
short.

"Doctor Chalmers,"--Whitburn had risen behind his desk as the door
opened--"I certainly hope that you can realize that there was nothing
but the most purely coincidental connection between the event featured
in this morning's newspapers and your performance, a month ago, in
Modern History Four," he began.

"I realize nothing of the sort. The death of Khalid ib'n Hussein is a
fact of history, unalterably set in its proper place in time-sequence.
It was a fact of history a month ago no less than today."

"So that's going to be your attitude; that your wild utterances of a
month ago have now been vindicated as fulfilled prophesies? And I
suppose you intend to exploit this--this coincidence--to the utmost.
The involvement of Blanley College in a mess of sensational publicity
means nothing to you, I presume."

"I haven't any idea what you're talking about."

"You mean to tell me that you didn't give this story to the local
newspaper, the _Valley Times_?" Whitburn demanded.

"I did not. I haven't mentioned the subject to anybody connected with
the _Times_, or anybody else, for that matter. Except my attorney, a
month ago, when you were threatening to repudiate the contract you
signed with me."

"I suppose I'm expected to take your word for that?"

"Yes, you are. Unless you care to call me a liar in so many words." He
moved a step closer. Lloyd Whitburn outweighed him by fifty pounds,
but most of the difference was fat. Whitburn must have realized that,
too.

"No, no; if you say you haven't talked about it to the _Valley Times_,
that's enough," he said hastily. "But somebody did. A reporter was
here not twenty minutes ago; he refused to say who had given him the
story, but he wanted to question me about it."

"What did you tell him?"

"I refused to make any statement whatever. I also called Colonel
Tighlman, the owner of the paper, and asked him, very reasonably, to
suppress the story. I thought that my own position and the importance
of Blanley College to this town entitled me to that much
consideration." Whitburn's face became almost purple. "He ... he
laughed at me!"

"Newspaper people don't like to be told to kill stories. Not even by
college presidents. That's only made things worse. Personally, I don't
relish the prospect of having this publicized, any more than you do. I
can assure you that I shall be most guarded if any of the _Times_
reporters talk to me about it, and if I have time to get back to my
class before the end of the period, I shall ask them, as a personal
favor, not to discuss the matter outside."

Whitburn didn't take the hint. Instead, he paced back and forth,
storming about the reporter, the newspaper owner, whoever had given
the story to the paper, and finally Chalmers himself. He was livid
with rage.

"You certainly can't imagine that when you made those remarks in class
you actually possessed any knowledge of a thing that was still a month
in the future," he spluttered. "Why, it's ridiculous! Utterly
preposterous!"

"Unusual, I'll admit. But the fact remains that I did. I should, of
course, have been more careful, and not confused future with past
events. The students didn't understand...."

Whitburn half-turned, stopping short.

"My God, man! You _are_ crazy!" he cried, horrified.

The period-bell was ringing as he left Whitburn's office; that meant
that the twenty-three students were scattering over the campus,
talking like mad. He shrugged. Keeping them quiet about a thing like
this wouldn't have been possible in any case. When he entered his
office, Stanly Weill was waiting for him. The lawyer drew him out into
the hallway quickly.

"For God's sake, have you been talking to the papers?" he demanded.
"After what I told you...."

"No, but somebody has." He told about the call to Whitburn's office,
and the latter's behavior. Weill cursed the college president
bitterly.

"Any time you want to get a story in the _Valley Times_, just order
Frank Tighlman not to print it. Well, if you haven't talked, don't."

"Suppose somebody asks me?"

"A reporter, no comment. Anybody else, none of his damn business. And
above all, don't let anybody finagle you into making any claims about
knowing the future. I thought we had this under control; now that
it's out in the open, what that fool Whitburn'll do is anybody's
guess."

Leonard Fitch met him as he entered the Faculty Club, sizzling with
excitement.

"Ed, this has done it!" he began, jubilantly. "This is one nobody can
laugh off. It's direct proof of precognition, and because of the
prominence of the event, everybody will hear about it. And it simply
can't be dismissed as coincidence...."

"Whitburn's trying to do that."

"Whitburn's a fool if he is," another man said calmly. Turning, he saw
that the speaker was Tom Smith, one of the math professors. "I figured
the odds against that being chance. There are a lot of variables that
might affect it one way or another, but ten to the fifteenth power is
what I get for a sort of median figure."

"Did you give that story to the _Valley Times?_" he asked Fitch,
suspicion rising and dragging anger up after it.

"Of course, I did," Fitch said. "I'll admit, I had to go behind your
back and have some of my postgrads get statements from the boys in
your history class, but you wouldn't talk about it yourself...."

Tom Smith was standing beside him. He was twenty years younger than
Chalmers, he was an amateur boxer, and he had good reflexes. He caught
Chalmers' arm as it was traveling back for an uppercut, and held it.

"Take it easy, Ed; you don't want to start a slugfest in here. This is
the Faculty Club; remember?"

"I won't, Tom; it wouldn't prove anything if I did." He turned to
Fitch. "I won't talk about sending your students to pump mine, but at
least you could have told me before you gave that story out."

"I don't know what you're sore about," Fitch defended himself. "I
believed in you when everybody else thought you were crazy, and if I
hadn't collected signed and dated statements from your boys, there'd
have been no substantiation. It happens that extrasensory perception
means as much to me as history does to you. I've believed in it ever
since I read about Rhine's work, when I was a kid. I worked in ESP for
a long time. Then I had a chance to get a full professorship by coming
here, and after I did, I found that I couldn't go on with it, because
Whitburn's president here, and he's a stupid old bigot with an
air-locked mind...."

"Yes." His anger died down as Fitch spoke. "I'm glad Tom stopped me
from making an ass of myself. I can see your side of it." Maybe that
was the curse of the professional intellectual, an ability to see
everybody's side of everything. He thought for a moment. "What else
did you do, beside hand this story to the _Valley Times?_ I'd better
hear all about it."

"I phoned the secretary of the American Institute of Psionics and
Parapsychology, as soon as I saw this morning's paper. With the
time-difference to the East Coast, I got him just as he reached his
office. He advised me to give the thing the widest possible publicity;
he thought that would advance the recognition and study of
parapsychology. A case like this can't be ignored; it will demand
serious study...."

"Well, you got your publicity, all right. I'm up to my neck in it."

There was an uproar outside. The doorman was saying, firmly:

"This is the Faculty Club, gentlemen; it's for members only. I don't
care if you gentlemen are the press, you simply cannot come in here."

"We're all up to our necks in it," Smith said. "Leonard, I don't care
what your motives were, you ought to have considered the effect on the
rest of us first."

"This place will be a madhouse," Handley complained. "How we're going
to get any of these students to keep their minds on their work...."

"I tell you, I don't know a confounded thing about it," Max
Pottgeiter's voice rose petulantly at the door. "Are you trying to
tell me that Professor Chalmers murdered some Arab? Ridiculous!"

       *       *       *       *       *

He ate hastily and without enjoyment, and slipped through the kitchen
and out the back door, cutting between two frat-houses and circling
back to Prescott Hall. On the way, he paused momentarily and chuckled.
The reporters, unable to storm the Faculty Club, had gone off in chase
of other game and had cornered Lloyd Whitburn in front of
Administration Center. They had a jeep with a sound-camera mounted on
it, and were trying to get something for telecast. After gesticulating
angrily, Whitburn broke away from them and dashed up the steps and
into the building. A campus policeman stopped those who tried to
follow.

His only afternoon class was American History III. He got through it
somehow, though the class wasn't able to concentrate on the
Reconstruction and the first election of Grover Cleveland. The halls
were free of reporters, at least, and when it was over he hurried to
the Library, going to the faculty reading-room in the rear, where he
could smoke. There was nobody there but old Max Pottgeiter, smoking a
cigar, his head bent over a book. The Medieval History professor
looked up.

"Oh, hello, Chalmers. What the deuce is going on around here? Has
everybody gone suddenly crazy?" he asked.

"Well, they seem to think I have," he said bitterly.

"They do? Stupid of them. What's all this about some Arab being shot?
I didn't know there were any Arabs around here."

"Not here. At Basra." He told Pottgeiter what had happened.

"Well! I'm sorry to hear about that," the old man said. "I have a
friend at Southern California, Bellingham, who knew Khalid very well.
Was in the Middle East doing some research on the Byzantine Empire;
Khalid was most helpful. Bellingham was quite impressed by him; said
he was a wonderful man, and a fine scholar. Why would anybody want to
kill a man like that?"

He explained in general terms. Pottgeiter nodded understandingly:
assassination was a familiar feature of the medieval political
landscape, too. Chalmers went on to elaborate. It was a relief to talk
to somebody like Pottgeiter, who wasn't bothered by the present
moment, but simply boycotted it. Eventually, the period-bell rang.
Pottgeiter looked at his watch, as from conditioned reflex, and then
rose, saying that he had a class and excusing himself. He would have
carried his cigar with him if Chalmers hadn't taken it away from him.

After Pottgeiter had gone Chalmers opened a book--he didn't notice
what it was--and sat staring unseeing at the pages. So the moving
knife-edge had come down on the end of Khalid ib'n Hussein's life;
what were the events in the next segment of time, and the segments to
follow? There would be bloody fighting all over the Middle East--with
consternation, he remembered that he had been talking about that to
Pottgeiter. The Turkish army would move in and try to restore order.
There would be more trouble in northern Iran, the Indian Communists
would invade Eastern Pakistan, and then the general war, so long
dreaded, would come. How far in the future that was he could not
"remember," nor how the nuclear-weapons stalemate that had so far
prevented it would be broken. He knew that today, and for years
before, nobody had dared start an all-out atomic war. Wars, now, were
marginal skirmishes, like the one in Indonesia, or the steady
underground conflict of subversion and sabotage that had come to be
called the Subwar. And with the United States already in possession of
a powerful Lunar base.... He wished he could "remember" how events
between the murder of Khalid and the Thirty Day's War had been spaced
chronologically. Something of that had come to him, after the incident
in Modern History IV, and he had driven it from his consciousness.

       *       *       *       *       *

He didn't dare go home where the reporters would be sure to find him.
He simply left the college, at the end of the school-day, and walked
without conscious direction until darkness gathered. This morning,
when he had seen the paper, he had said, and had actually believed,
that the news of the murder in Basra would put an end to the trouble
that had started a month ago in the Modern History class. It hadn't:
the trouble, it seemed, was only beginning. And with the newspapers,
and Whitburn, and Fitch, it could go on forever....

It was fully dark, now; his shadow fell ahead of him on the sidewalk,
lengthening as he passed under and beyond a street-light, vanishing as
he entered the stronger light of the one ahead. The windows of a cheap
cafe reminded him that he was hungry, and he entered, going to a table
and ordering something absently. There was a television screen over
the combination bar and lunch-counter. Some kind of a comedy
programme, at which an invisible studio-audience was laughing
immoderately and without apparent cause. The roughly dressed customers
along the counter didn't seem to see any more humor in it than he did.
Then his food arrived on the table and he began to eat without really
tasting it.

After a while, an alteration in the noises from the television
penetrated his consciousness; a news-program had come on, and he
raised his head. The screen showed a square in an Eastern city; the
voice was saying:

"... Basra, where Khalid ib'n Hussein was assassinated early this
morning--early afternoon, local time. This is the scene of the crime;
the body of the murderer has been removed, but you can still see the
stones with which he was pelted to death by the mob...."

A close-up of the square, still littered with torn-up paving-stones. A
Caliphate army officer, displaying the weapon--it was an old M3, all
right; Chalmers had used one of those things, himself, thirty years
before, and he and his contemporaries had called it a "grease-gun."
There were some recent pictures of Khalid, including one taken as he
left the plane on his return from Ankara. He watched, absorbed; it
was all exactly as he had "remembered" a month ago. It gratified him
to see that his future "memories" were reliable in detail as well as
generality.

"But the most amazing part of the story comes, not from Basra, but
from Blanley College, in California," the commentator was saying,
"where, it is revealed, the murder of Khalid was foretold, with
uncanny accuracy, a month ago, by a history professor, Doctor Edward
Chalmers...."

There was a picture of himself, in hat and overcoat, perfectly
motionless, as though a brief moving glimpse were being prolonged. A
glance at the background told him when and where it had been taken--a
year and a half ago, at a convention at Harvard. These telecast people
must save up every inch of old news-film they ever took. There were
views of Blanley campus, and interviews with some of the Modern
History IV boys, including Dacre and Kendrick. That was one of the
things they'd been doing with that jeep-mounted sound-camera, this
afternoon, then. The boys, some brashly, some embarrassedly, were
substantiating the fact that he had, a month ago, described
yesterday's event in detail. There was an interview with Leonard
Fitch; the psychology professor was trying to explain the phenomenon
of precognition in layman's terms, and making heavy going of it. And
there was the mobbing of Whitburn in front of Administration Center.
The college president was shouting denials of every question asked
him, and as he turned and fled, the guffaws of the reporters were
plainly audible.

An argument broke out along the counter.

"I don't believe it! How could anybody know all that about something
before it happened?"

"Well, you heard that-there professor, what was his name. An' you
heard all them boys...."

"Ah, college-boys; they'll do anything for a joke!"

"After refusing to be interviewed for telecast, the president of
Blanley College finally consented to hold a press conference in his
office, from which telecast cameras were barred. He denied the whole
story categorically and stated that the boys in Professor Chalmers'
class had concocted the whole thing as a hoax...."

"There! See what I told you!"

"... stating that Professor Chalmers is mentally unsound, and that
he has been trying for years to oust him from his position on the
Blanley faculty but has been unable to do so because of the provisions
of the Faculty Tenure Act of 1963. Most of his remarks were in the
nature of a polemic against this law, generally regarded as the
college professors' bill of rights. It is to be stated here that other
members of the Blanley faculty have unconditionally confirmed the fact
that Doctor Chalmers did make the statements attributed to him a month
ago, long before the death of Khalid ib'n Hussein...."

"Yah! How about _that_, now? How'ya gonna get around _that_?"

Beckoning the waitress, he paid his check and hurried out. Before he
reached the door, he heard a voice, almost stuttering with excitement:

"Hey! Look! That's _him_!"

He began to run. He was two blocks from the cafe before he slowed to a
walk again.

That night, he needed three shots of whiskey before he could get to
sleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

A delegation from the American Institute of Psionics and
Parapsychology reached Blanley that morning, having taken a
strato-plane from the East Coast. They had academic titles and degrees
that even Lloyd Whitburn couldn't ignore. They talked with Leonard
Fitch, and with the students from Modern History IV, and took
statements. It wasn't until after General European History II that
they caught up with Chalmers--an elderly man, with white hair and a
ruddy face; a young man who looked like a heavy-weight boxer; a
middle-aged man in tweeds who smoked a pipe and looked as though he
ought to be more interested in grouse-shooting and flower-gardening
than in clairvoyance and telepathy. The names of the first two meant
nothing to Chalmers. They were important names in their own field, but
it was not his field. The name of the third, who listened silently, he
did not catch.

"You understand, gentlemen, that I'm having some difficulties with the
college administration about this," he told them. "President Whitburn
has even gone so far as to challenge my fitness to hold a position
here."

"We've talked to him," the elderly man said. "It was not a very
satisfactory discussion."

"President Whitburn's fitness to hold his own position could very
easily be challenged," the young man added pugnaciously.

"Well, then, you see what my position is. I've consulted my attorney,
Mr. Weill and he has advised me to make absolutely no statements of
any sort about the matter."

"I understand," the eldest of the trio said. "But we're not the press,
or anything like that. We can assure you that anything you tell us
will be absolutely confidential." He looked inquiringly at the
middle-aged man in tweeds, who nodded silently. "We can understand
that the students in your modern history class are telling what is
substantially the truth?"

"If you're thinking about that hoax statement of Whitburn's, that's a
lot of idiotic drivel!" he said angrily. "I heard some of those boys
on the telecast, last night; except for a few details in which they
were confused, they all stated exactly what they heard me say in class
a month ago."

"And we assume,"--again he glanced at the man in tweeds--"that you had
no opportunity of knowing anything, at the time, about any actual
plot against Khalid's life?"

The man in tweeds broke silence for the first time. "You can assume
that. I don't even think this fellow Noureed knew anything about it,
then."

"Well, we'd like to know, as nearly as you're able to tell us, just
how you became the percipient of this knowledge of the future event of
the death of Khalid ib'n Hussein," the young man began. "Was it
through a dream, or a waking experience; did you visualize, or have an
auditory impression, or did it simply come into your mind...."

"I'm sorry, gentlemen." He looked at his watch. "I have to be going
somewhere, at once. In any case, I simply can't discuss the matter
with you. I appreciate your position; I know how I'd feel if data of
historical importance were being withheld from me. However, I trust
that you will appreciate my position and spare me any further
questioning."

That was all he allowed them to get out of him. They spent another few
minutes being polite to one another; he invited them to lunch at the
Faculty Club, and learned that they were lunching there as Fitch's
guests. They went away trying to hide their disappointment.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Psionics and Parapsychology people weren't the only delegation to
reach Blanley that day. Enough of the trustees of the college lived in
the San Francisco area to muster a quorum for a meeting the evening
before; a committee, including James Dacre, the father of the boy in
Modern History IV, was appointed to get the facts at first hand; they
arrived about noon. They talked to some of the students, spent some
time closeted with Whitburn, and were seen crossing the campus with
the Parapsychology people. They didn't talk to Chalmers or Fitch. In
the afternoon, Marjorie Fenner told Chalmers that his presence at a
meeting, to be held that evening in Whitburn's office, was requested.
The request, she said, had come from the trustees' committee, not from
Whitburn; she also told him that Fitch would be there. Chalmers
promptly phoned Stanly Weill.

"I'll be there along with you," the lawyer said. "If this trustees'
committee is running it, they'll realize that this is a matter in
which you're entitled to legal advice. I'll stop by your place and
pick you up.... You haven't been doing any talking, have you?"

He described the interview with the Psionics and Parapsychology
people.

"That was all right.... Was there a man with a mustache, in a brown
tweed suit, with them?"

"Yes. I didn't catch his name...."

"It's Cutler. He's an Army major; Central Intelligence. His crowd's
interested in whether you had any real advance information on this. He
was in to see me, just a while ago. I have the impression he'd like to
see this whole thing played down, so he'll be on our side, more or
less and for the time being. I'll be around to your place about eight;
in the meantime, don't do any more talking than you have to. I hope we
can get this straightened out, this evening. I'll have to go to Reno
in a day or so to see a client there...."

       *       *       *       *       *

The meeting in Whitburn's office had been set for eight-thirty; Weill
saw to it that they arrived exactly on time. As they got out of his
car at Administration Center and crossed to the steps, Chalmers had
the feeling of going to a duel, accompanied by his second. The
briefcase Weill was carrying may have given him the idea; it was flat
and square-cornered, the size and shape of an old case of dueling
pistols. He commented on it.

"Sound recorder," Weill said. "Loaded with a four-hour spool. No
matter how long this thing lasts, I'll have a record of it, if I want
to produce one in court."

Another party was arriving at the same time--the two Psionics and
Parapsychology people and the Intelligence major, who seemed to have
formed a working partnership. They all entered together, after a brief
and guardedly polite exchange of greetings. There were voices raised
in argument inside when they came to Whitburn's office. The college
president was trying to keep Handley, Tom Smith, and Max Pottgeiter
from entering his private room in the rear.

"It certainly is!" Handley was saying. "As faculty members, any
controversy involving establishment of standards of fitness to teach
under a tenure-contract concerns all of us, because any action taken
in this case may establish a precedent which could affect the validity
of our own contracts."

A big man with iron-gray hair appeared in the doorway of the private
office behind Whitburn; James Dacre.

"These gentlemen have a substantial interest in this, Doctor
Whitburn," he said. "If they're here as representatives of the college
faculty, they have every right to be present."

Whitburn stood aside. Handley, Smith and Pottgeiter went through the
door; the others followed. The other three members of the trustees'
committee were already in the room. A few minutes later, Leonard Fitch
arrived, also carrying a briefcase.

"Well, everybody seems to be here," Whitburn said, starting toward his
chair behind the desk. "We might as well get this started."

"Yes. If you'll excuse me, Doctor." Dacre stepped in front of him and
sat down at the desk. "I've been selected as chairman of this
committee; I believe I'm presiding here. Start the recorder,
somebody."

One of the other trustees went to the sound recorder beside the
desk--a larger but probably not more efficient instrument than the one
Weill had concealed in his briefcase--and flipped a switch. Then he
and his companions dragged up chairs to flank Dacre's, and the rest
seated themselves around the room. Old Pottgeiter took a seat next to
Chalmers. Weill opened the case on his lap, reached inside, and closed
it again.

"What are they trying to do, Ed?" Pottgeiter asked, in a loud whisper.
"Throw you off the faculty? They can't do that, can they?"

"I don't know, Max. We'll see...."

"This isn't any formal hearing, and nobody's on trial here," Dacre was
saying. "Any action will have to be taken by the board of trustees as
a whole, at a regularly scheduled meeting. All we're trying to do is
find out just what's happened here, and who, if anybody, is
responsible...."

"Well, there's the man who's responsible!" Whitburn cried, pointing at
Chalmers. "This whole thing grew out of his behavior in class a month
ago, and I'll remind you that at the time I demanded his resignation!"

"I thought it was Doctor Fitch, here, who gave the story to the
newspapers," one of the trustees, a man with red hair and a thin,
eyeglassed face, objected.

"Doctor Fitch acted as any scientist should, in making public what he
believed to be an important scientific discovery," the elder of the
two Parapsychology men said. "He believed, and so do we, that he had
discovered a significant instance of precognition--a case of real
prior knowledge of a future event. He made a careful and systematic
record of Professor Chalmers' statements, at least two weeks before
the occurrence of the event to which they referred. It is entirely due
to him that we know exactly what Professor Chalmers said and when he
said it."

"Yes," his younger colleague added, "and in all my experience I've
never heard anything more preposterous than this man Whitburn's
attempt, yesterday, to deny the fact."

"Well, we're convinced that Doctor Chalmers did in fact say what he's
alleged to have said, last month," Dacre began.

"Jim, I think we ought to get that established, for the record,"
another of the trustees put in. "Doctor Chalmers, is it true that you
spoke, in the past tense, about the death of Khalid ib'n Hussein in
one of your classes on the sixteenth of last month?"

Chalmers rose. "Yes, it is. And the next day, I was called into this
room by Doctor Whitburn, who demanded my resignation from the faculty
of this college because of it. Now, what I'd like to know is, why did
Doctor Whitburn, in this same room, deny, yesterday, that I'd said
anything of the sort, and accuse my students of concocting the story
after the event as a hoax."

"One of them being my son," Dacre added. "I'd like to hear an answer
to that, myself."

"So would I," Stanly Weill chimed in. "You know, my client has a good
case against Doctor Whitburn for libel."

Chalmers looked around the room. Of the thirteen men around him, only
Whitburn was an enemy. Some of the others were on his side, for one
reason or another, but none of them were friends. Weill was his
lawyer, obeying an obligation to a client which, at bottom, was an
obligation to his own conscience. Handley was afraid of the
possibility that a precedent might be established which would impair
his own tenure-contract. Fitch, and the two men from the Institute of
Psionics and Parapsychology were interested in him as a source of
study-material. Dacre resented a slur upon his son; he and the others
were interested in Blanley College as an institution, almost an
abstraction. And the major in mufti was probably worrying about the
consequences to military security of having a prophet at large. Then a
hand gripped his shoulder, and a voice whispered in his ear:

"That's good, Ed; don't let them scare you!"

Old Max Pottgeiter, at least, was a friend.

"Doctor Whitburn, I'm asking you, and I expect an answer, why did you
make such statements to the press, when you knew perfectly well that
they were false?" Dacre demanded sharply.

"I knew nothing of the kind!" Whitburn blustered, showing, under the
bluster, fear. "Yes, I demanded this man's resignation on the morning
of October Seventeenth, the day after this incident occurred. It had
come to my attention on several occasions that he was making wild and
unreasonable assertions in class, and subjecting himself, and with
himself the whole faculty of this college, to student ridicule. Why,
there was actually an editorial about it written by the student editor
of the campus paper, the _Black and Green_. I managed to prevent its
publication...." He went on at some length about that. "If I might be
permitted access to the drawers of my own desk," he added with
elephantine sarcasm, "I could show you the editorial in question."

"You needn't bother; I have a carbon copy," Dacre told him. "We've all
read it. If you did, at the time you suppressed it, you should have
known what Doctor Chalmers said in class."

"I knew he'd talked a lot of poppycock about a man who was still
living having been shot to death," Whitburn retorted. "And if
something of the sort actually happened, what of it? Somebody's always
taking a shot at one or another of these foreign dictators, and they
can't miss all the time."

"You claim this was pure coincidence?" Fitch demanded. "A ten-point
coincidence: Event of assassination, year of the event, place,
circumstances, name of assassin, nationality of assassin, manner of
killing, exact type of weapon used, guards killed and wounded along
with Khalid, and fate of the assassin. If that's a simple and
plausible coincidence, so's dealing ten royal flushes in succession in
a poker game. Tom, you figured that out; what did you say the odds
against it were?"

"Was all that actually stated by Doctor Chalmers a month ago?" one of
the trustees asked, incredulously.

"It absolutely was. Look here, Mr. Dacre, gentlemen." Fitch came
forward, unzipping his briefcase and pulling out papers. "Here are the
signed statements of each of Doctor Chalmers' twenty-three Modern
History Four students, all made and dated before the assassination.
You can refer to them as you please; they're in alphabetical order.
And here." He unfolded a sheet of graph paper a yard long and almost
as wide. "Here's a tabulated summary of the boys' statements. All
agreed on the first point, the fact of the assassination. All agreed
that the time was sometime this year. Twenty out of twenty-three
agreed on Basra as the place. Why, seven of them even remembered the
name of the assassin. That in itself is remarkable; Doctor Chalmers
has an extremely intelligent and attentive class."

"They're attentive because they know he's always likely to do
something crazy and make a circus out of himself," Whitburn
interjected.

"And this isn't the only instance of Doctor Chalmers' precognitive
ability," Fitch continued. "There have been a number of other cases...."

Chalmers jumped to his feet; Stanly Weill rose beside him, shoved the
cased sound-recorder into his hands, and pushed him back into his
seat.

"Gentlemen," the lawyer began, quietly but firmly and clearly. "This
is all getting pretty badly out of hand. After all, this isn't an
investigation of the actuality of precognition as a psychic
phenomenon. What I'd like to hear, and what I haven't heard yet, is
Doctor Whitburn's explanation of his contradictory statements that he
knew about my client's alleged remarks on the evening after they were
supposed to have been made and that, at the same time, the whole thing
was a hoax concocted by his students."

"Are you implying that I'm a liar?" Whitburn bristled.

"I'm pointing out that you made a pair of contradictory statements,
and I'm asking how you could do that knowingly and honestly," Weill
retorted.

"What I meant," Whitburn began, with exaggerated slowness, as though
speaking to an idiot, "was that yesterday, when those infernal
reporters were badgering me, I really thought that some of Professor
Chalmers' students had gotten together and given the _Valley Times_ an
exaggerated story about his insane maunderings a month ago. I hadn't
imagined that a member of the faculty had been so lacking in loyalty
to the college...."

"You couldn't imagine anybody with any more intellectual integrity
than you have!" Fitch fairly yelled at him.

"You're as crazy as Chalmers!" Whitburn yelled back. He turned to the
trustees. "You see the position I'm in, here, with this infernal
Higher Education Faculty Tenure Act? I have a madman on my faculty,
and can I get rid of him? No! I demand his resignation, and he laughs
at me and goes running for his lawyer! And he is a madman! Nobody but
a madman would talk the way he does. You think this Khalid ib'n
Hussein business is the only time he's done anything like this? Why, I
have a list of a dozen occasions when he's done something just as bad,
only he didn't have a lucky coincidence to back him up. Trying to get
books that don't exist out of the library, and then insisting that
they're standard textbooks. Talking about the revolt of the colonies
on Mars and Venus. Talking about something he calls the Terran
Federation, some kind of a world empire. Or something he calls
Operation Triple Cross, that saved the country during some fantastic
war he imagined...."

"_What did you say?_"

The question cracked out like a string of pistol shots. Everybody
turned. The quiet man in the brown tweed suit had spoken; now he
looked as though he were very much regretting it.

"Is there such a thing as Operation Triple Cross?" Fitch was asking.

"No, no. I never heard anything about that; that wasn't what I meant.
It was this Terran Federation thing," the major said, a trifle too
quickly and too smoothly. He turned to Chalmers. "You never did any
work for PSPB; did you ever talk to anybody who did?" he asked.

"I don't even know what the letters mean," Chalmers replied.

"Politico-Strategic Planning Board. It's all pretty hush-hush, but
this term Terran Federation is a tentative name for a proposed
organization to take the place of the U. N. if that organization
breaks up. It's nothing particularly important, and it only exists on
paper."

It won't exist only on paper very long, Chalmers thought. He was
wondering what Operation Triple Cross was; he had some notes on it,
but he had forgotten what they were.

"Maybe he did pick that up from somebody who'd talked indiscreetly,"
Whitburn conceded. "But the rest of this tommyrot! Why, he was talking
about how the city of Reno had been destroyed by an explosion and
fire, literally wiped off the map. There's an example for you!"

He'd forgotten about that, too. It had been a relatively minor
incident in the secret struggle of the Subwar; now he remembered
having made a note about it. He was sure that it followed closely
after the assassination of Khalid ib'n Hussein. He turned quickly to
Weill.

"Didn't you say you had to go to Reno in a day or so?" he asked.

Weill hushed him urgently, pointing with his free hand to the
recorder. The exchange prevented him from noticing that Max Pottgeiter
had risen, until the old man was speaking.

"Are you trying to tell these people that Professor Chalmers is
crazy?" he was demanding. "Why, he has one of the best minds on the
campus. I was talking to him only yesterday, in the back room at the
Library. You know," he went on apologetically, "my subject is Medieval
History; I don't pay much attention to what's going on in the
contemporary world, and I didn't understand, really, what all this
excitement was about. But he explained the whole thing to me, and did
it in terms that I could grasp, drawing some excellent parallels with
the Byzantine Empire and the Crusades. All about the revolt at
Damascus, and the sack of Beirut, and the war between Jordan and Saudi
Arabia, and how the Turkish army intervened, and the invasion of
Pakistan...."

"When did all this happen?" one of the trustees demanded.

Pottgeiter started to explain; Chalmers realized, sickly, how much of
his future history he had poured into the trusting ear of the old
medievalist, the day before.

"Good Lord, man; don't you read the papers at all?" another of the
trustees asked.

"No! And I don't read inside-dope magazines, or science fiction. I
read carefully substantiated facts. And I know when I'm talking to a
sane and reasonable man. It isn't a common experience, around here."

Dacre passed a hand over his face. "Doctor Whitburn," he said, "I must
admit that I came to this meeting strongly prejudiced against you, and
I'll further admit that your own behavior here has done very little to
dispel that prejudice. But I'm beginning to get some idea of what you
have to contend with, here at Blanley, and I find that I must make a
lot of allowances. I had no idea.... Simply no idea at all."

"Look, you're getting a completely distorted picture of this, Mr.
Dacre," Fitch broke in. "It's precisely as I believed; Doctor Chalmers
is an unusually gifted precognitive percipient. You've seen,
gentlemen, how his complicated chain of precognitions about the death
of Khalid has been proven veridical; I'd stake my life that every one
of these precognitions will be similarly verified. And I'll stake my
professional reputation that the man is perfectly sane. Of course,
abnormal psychology and psychopathology aren't my subjects, but...."

"They're not my subjects, either," Whitburn retorted, "but I know a
lunatic by his ravings."

"Doctor Fitch is taking an entirely proper attitude," Pottgeiter said,
"in pointing out that abnormal psychology is a specialized branch,
outside his own field. I wouldn't dream, myself, of trying to offer a
decisive opinion on some point of Roman, or Babylonian, history. Well,
if the question of Doctor Chalmers' sanity is at issue here, let's
consult somebody who specializes in insanity. I don't believe that
anybody here is qualified even to express an opinion on that subject,
Doctor Whitburn least of all."

Whitburn turned on him angrily. "Oh, shut up, you doddering old fool!"
he shouted. "Look; there's another of them!" he told the trustees.
"Another deadhead on the faculty that this Tenure Law keeps me from
getting rid of. He's as bad as Chalmers, himself. You just heard that
string of nonsense he was spouting. Why, his courses have been noted
among the students for years as snap courses in which nobody ever has
to do any work...."

Chalmers was on his feet again, thoroughly angry. Abuse of himself he
could take; talking that way about gentle, learned, old Pottgeiter
was something else.

"I think Doctor Pottgeiter's said the most reasonable thing I've heard
since I came in here," he declared. "If my sanity is to be questioned,
I insist that it be questioned by somebody qualified to do so."

[Illustration: Had the sane restrained the insane, or was it the other
way around?]

Weill set his recorder on the floor and jumped up beside him, trying
to haul him back into his seat.

"For God's sake, man! Sit down and shut up!" he hissed.

Chalmers shook off his hand. "No, I won't shut up! This is the only
way to settle this, once and for all. And when my sanity's been
vindicated, I'm going to sue this fellow...."

Whitburn started to make some retort, then stopped short. After a
moment, he smiled nastily.

"Do I understand, Doctor Chalmers, that you would be willing to submit
to psychiatric examination?" he asked.

"Don't agree; you're putting your foot in a trap!" Weill told him
urgently.

"Of course, I agree, as long as the examination is conducted by a
properly qualified psychiatrist."

"How about Doctor Hauserman at Northern State Mental Hospital?"
Whitburn asked quickly. "Would you agree to an examination by him?"

"Excellent!" Fitch exclaimed. "One of the best men in the field. I'd
accept his opinion unreservedly."

Weill started to object again; Chalmers cut him off. "Doctor Hauserman
will be quite satisfactory to me. The only question is, would he be
available?"

"I think he would," Dacre said, glancing at his watch. "I wonder if he
could be reached now." He got to his feet. "Telephone in your outer
office, Doctor Whitburn? Fine. If you gentlemen will excuse me...."

It was a good fifteen minutes before he returned, smiling.

"Well, gentlemen, it's all arranged," he said. "Doctor Hauserman is
quite willing to examine Doctor Chalmers--with the latter's consent,
of course."

"He'll have it. In writing, if he wishes."

"Yes, I assured him on that point. He'll be here about noon
tomorrow--it's a hundred and fifty miles from the hospital, but the
doctor flies his own plane--and the examination can start at two in
the afternoon. He seems familiar with the facilities of the
psychology department, here; I assured him that they were at his
disposal. Will that be satisfactory to you, Doctor Chalmers?"

"I have a class at that time, but one of the instructors can take it
over--if holding classes will be possible around here tomorrow," he
said. "Now, if you gentlemen will pardon me, I think I'll go home and
get some sleep."

       *       *       *       *       *

Weill came up to the apartment with him. He mixed a couple of drinks
and they went into the living room with them.

"Just in case you don't know what you've gotten yourself into," Weill
said, "this Hauserman isn't any ordinary couch-pilot; he's the state
psychiatrist. If he gets the idea you aren't sane, he can commit you
to a hospital, and I'll bet that's exactly what Whitburn had in mind
when he suggested him. And I don't trust this man Dacre. I thought he
was on our side, at the start, but that was before your friends got
into the act." He frowned into his drink. "And I don't like the way
that Intelligence major was acting, toward the last. If he thinks you
know something you are not supposed to, a mental hospital may be his
idea of a good place to put you away."

"You don't think this man Hauserman would allow himself to be
influenced ...? No. You just don't think I'm sane. Do you?"

"I know what Hauserman'll think. He'll think this future history
business is a classical case of systematized schizoid delusion. I wish
I'd never gotten into this case. I wish I'd never even heard of you!
And another thing; in case you get past Hauserman all right, you can
forget about that damage-suit bluff of mine. You would not stand a
chance with it in court."

"In spite of what happened to Khalid?"

"After tomorrow, I won't stay in the same room with anybody who even
mentions that name to me. Well, win or lose, it'll be over tomorrow
and then I can leave here."

"Did you tell me you were going to Reno?" Chalmers asked. "Don't do
it. You remember Whitburn mentioning how I spoke about an explosion
there? It happened just a couple of days after the murder of Khalid.
There was--will be--a trainload of high explosives in the railroad
yard; it'll be the biggest non-nuclear explosion since the _Mont
Blanc_ blew up in Halifax harbor in World War One...."

Weill threw his drink into the fire; he must have avoided throwing the
glass in with it by a last-second exercise of self-control.

"Well," he said, after a brief struggle to master himself. "One thing
about the legal profession; you do hear the damnedest things!... Good
night, Professor. And try--please try, for the sake of your poor
harried lawyer--to keep your mouth shut about things like that, at
least till after you get through with Hauserman. And when you're
talking to him, don't, don't, for heaven's sake, _don't_, volunteer
anything!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The room was a pleasant, warmly-colored, place. There was a desk, much
like the ones in the classrooms, and six or seven wicker armchairs. A
lot of apparatus had been pushed back along the walls; the dust-covers
were gay cretonne. There was a couch, with more apparatus, similarly
covered, beside it. Hauserman was seated at the desk when Chalmers
entered.

He rose, and they shook hands. A man of about his own age,
smooth-faced, partially bald. Chalmers tried to guess something of the
man's nature from his face, but could read nothing. A face well
trained to keep its owner's secrets.

"Something to smoke, Professor," he began, offering his cigarette
case.

"My pipe, if you don't mind." He got it out and filled it.

"Any of those chairs," Hauserman said, gesturing toward them.

They were all arranged to face the desk. He sat down, lighting his
pipe. Hauserman nodded approvingly; he was behaving calmly, and didn't
need being put at ease. They talked at random--at least, Hauserman
tried to make it seem so--for some time about his work, his book about
the French Revolution, current events. He picked his way carefully
through the conversation, alert for traps which the psychiatrist might
be laying for him. Finally, Hauserman said:

"Would you mind telling me just why you felt it advisable to request a
psychiatric examination, Professor?"

"I didn't request it. But when the suggestion was made, by one of my
friends, in reply to some aspersions of my sanity, I agreed to it."

"Good distinction. And why was your sanity questioned? I won't deny
that I had heard of this affair, here, before Mr. Dacre called me,
last evening, but I'd like to hear your version of it."

He went into that, from the original incident in Modern History IV,
choosing every word carefully, trying to concentrate on making a good
impression upon Hauserman, and at the same time finding that more
"memories" of the future were beginning to seep past the barrier of
his consciousness. He tried to dam them back; when he could not, he
spoke with greater and greater care lest they leak into his speech.

"I can't recall the exact manner in which I blundered into it. The
fact that I did make such a blunder was because I was talking
extemporaneously and had wandered ahead of my text. I was trying to
show the results of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the First
World War, and the partition of the Middle East into a loose
collection of Arab states, and the passing of British and other
European spheres of influence following the Second. You know, when you
consider it, the Islamic Caliphate was inevitable; the surprising
thing is that it was created by a man like Khalid...."

He was talking to gain time, and he suspected that Hauserman knew it.
The "memories" were coming into his mind more and more strongly; it
was impossible to suppress them. The period of anarchy following
Khalid's death would be much briefer, and much more violent, than he
had previously thought. Tallal ib'n Khalid would be flying from
England even now; perhaps he had already left the plane to take refuge
among the black tents of his father's Bedouins. The revolt at Damascus
would break out before the end of the month; before the end of the
year, the whole of Syria and Lebanon would be in bloody chaos, and the
Turkish army would be on the march.

"Yes. And you allowed yourself to be carried a little beyond the
present moment, into the future, without realizing it? Is that it?"

"Something like that," he replied, wide awake to the trap Hauserman
had set, and fearful that it might be a blind, to disguise the real
trap. "History follows certain patterns. I'm not a Toynbean, by any
manner of means, but any historian can see that certain forces
generally tend to produce similar effects. For instance, space travel
is now a fact; our government has at present a military base on Luna.
Within our lifetimes--certainly within the lifetimes of my
students--there will be explorations and attempts at colonization on
Mars and Venus. You believe that, Doctor?"

"Oh, unreservedly. I'm not supposed to talk about it, but I did some
work on the Philadelphia Project, myself. I'd say that every major
problem of interplanetary flight had been solved before the first
robot rocket was landed on Luna."

"Yes. And when Mars and Venus are colonized, there will be the same
historic situations, at least in general shape, as arose when the
European powers were colonizing the New World, or, for that matter,
when the Greek city-states were throwing out colonies across the
Aegean. That's the sort of thing we call projecting the past into the
future through the present."

Hauserman nodded. "But how about the details? Things like the
assassination of a specific personage. How can you extrapolate to a
thing like that?"

"Well...." More "memories" were coming to the surface; he tried to
crowd them back. "I do my projecting in what you might call
fictionalized form; try to fill in the details from imagination. In
the case of Khalid, I was trying to imagine what would happen if his
influence were suddenly removed from Near Eastern and Middle Eastern,
affairs. I suppose I constructed an imaginary scene of his
assassination...."

He went on at length. Mohammed and Noureed were common enough names.
The Middle East was full of old U. S. weapons. Stoning was the
traditional method of execution; it diffused responsibility so that no
individual could be singled out for blood-feud vengeance.

"You have no idea how disturbed I was when the whole thing happened,
exactly as I had described it," he continued. "And worst of all, to
me, was this Intelligence officer showing up; I thought I was really
in for it!"

"Then you've never really believed that you had real knowledge of the
future?"

"I'm beginning to, since I've been talking to these Psionics and
Parapsychology people," he laughed. It sounded, he hoped, like a
natural and unaffected laugh. "They seem to be convinced that I
have."

There would be an Eastern-inspired uprising in Azerbaijan by the
middle of the next year; before autumn, the Indian Communists would
make their fatal attempt to seize East Pakistan. The Thirty Days' War
would be the immediate result. By that time, the Lunar Base would be
completed and ready; the enemy missiles would be aimed primarily at
the rocketports from which it was supplied. Delivered without warning,
it should have succeeded--except that every rocketport had its secret
duplicate and triplicate. That was Operation Triple Cross; no wonder
Major Cutler had been so startled at the words, last evening. The
enemy would be utterly overwhelmed under the rain of missiles from
across space, but until the moon-rockets began to fall, the United
States would suffer grievously.

"Honestly, though, I feel sorry for my friend Fitch," he added. "He's
going to be frightfully let down when some more of my alleged
prophecies misfire on him. But I really haven't been deliberately
deceiving him."

And Blanley College was at the center of one of the areas which would
receive the worst of the thermonuclear hell to come. And it would be a
little under a year....

"And that's all there is to it!" Hauserman exclaimed, annoyance in his
voice. "I'm amazed that this man Whitburn allowed a thing like this to
assume the proportions it did. I must say that I seem to have gotten
the story about this business in a very garbled form indeed." He
laughed shortly. "I came here convinced that you were mentally
unbalanced. I hope you won't take that the wrong way, Professor," he
hastened to add. "In my profession, anything can be expected. A good
psychiatrist can never afford to forget how sharp and fine is the
knife-edge."

"The knife-edge!" The words startled him. He had been thinking, at
that moment, of the knife-edge, slicing moment after moment
relentlessly away from the future, into the past, at each slice coming
closer and closer to the moment when the missiles of the Eastern Axis
would fall. "I didn't know they still resorted to surgery, in mental
cases," he added, trying to cover his break.

"Oh, no; all that sort of thing is as irrevocably discarded as the
whips and shackles of Bedlam. I meant another kind of knife-edge; the
thin, almost invisible, line which separates sanity from non-sanity.
From madness, to use a deplorable lay expression." Hauserman lit
another cigarette. "Most minds are a lot closer to it than their
owners suspect, too. In fact, Professor, I was so convinced that yours
had passed over it that I brought with me a commitment form, made out
all but my signature, for you." He took it from his pocket and laid it
on the desk. "The modern equivalent of the _lettre-de-cachet_, I
suppose the author of a book on the French Revolution would call it. I
was all ready to certify you as mentally unsound, and commit you to
Northern State Mental Hospital."

Chalmers sat erect in his chair. He knew where that was; on the other
side of the mountains, in the one part of the state completely
untouched by the H-bombs of the Thirty Days' War. Why, the town
outside which the hospital stood had been a military headquarters
during the period immediately after the bombings, and the center from
which all the rescue work in the state had been directed.

"And you thought you could commit me to Northern State!" he demanded,
laughing scornfully, and this time he didn't try to make the laugh
sound natural and unaffected. "You--confine _me_, anywhere? Confine a
poor old history professor's body, yes, but that isn't me. I'm
universal; I exist in all space-time. When this old body I'm wearing
now was writing that book on the French Revolution, I was in Paris,
watching it happen, from the fall of the Bastile to the Ninth
Thermidor. I was in Basra, and saw that crazed tool of the Axis shoot
down Khalid ib'n Hussein--and the professor talked about it a month
before it happened. I have seen empires rise and stretch from star to
star across the Galaxy, and crumble and fall. I have seen...."

Doctor Hauserman had gotten his pen out of his pocket and was signing
the commitment form with one hand; with the other, he pressed a button
on the desk. A door at the rear opened, and a large young man in a
white jacket entered.

"You'll have to go away for a while, Professor," Hauserman was telling
him, much later, after he had allowed himself to become calm again.
"For how long, I don't know. Maybe a year or so."

"You mean to Northern State Mental?"

"Well.... Yes, Professor. You've had a bad crack-up. I don't suppose
you realize how bad. You've been working too hard; harder than your
nervous system could stand. It's been too much for you."

"You mean, I'm nuts?"

"Please, Professor. I deplore that sort of terminology. You've had a
severe psychological breakdown...."

"Will I be able to have books, and papers, and work a little? I
couldn't bear the prospect of complete idleness."

"That would be all right, if you didn't work too hard."

"And could I say good-bye to some of my friends?"

Hauserman nodded and asked, "Who?"

"Well, Professor Pottgeiter...."

"He's outside now. He was inquiring about you."

"And Stanly Weill, my attorney. Not business; just to say good-bye."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Professor. He's not in town, now. He left almost
immediately after.... After...."

"After he found out I was crazy for sure? Where'd he go?"

"To Reno; he took the plane at five o'clock."

Weill wouldn't have believed, anyhow; no use trying to blame himself
for that. But he was as sure that he would never see Stanly Weill
alive again as he was that the next morning the sun would rise. He
nodded impassively.

"Sorry he couldn't stay. Can I see Max Pottgeiter alone?"

"Yes, of course, Professor."

Old Pottgeiter came in, his face anguished. "Ed! It isn't true," he
stammered. "I won't believe that it's true."

"What, Max?"

"That you're crazy. Nobody can make me believe that."

He put his hand on the old man's shoulder. "Confidentially, Max,
neither do I. But don't tell anybody I'm not. It's a secret."

Pottgeiter looked troubled. For a moment, he seemed to be wondering if
he mightn't be wrong and Hauserman and Whitburn and the others right.

"Max, do you believe in me?" he asked. "Do you believe that I knew
about Khalid's assassination a month before it happened?"

"It's a horribly hard thing to believe," Pottgeiter admitted. "But,
dammit, Ed, you did! I know, medieval history is full of stories
about prophecies being fulfilled. I always thought those stories were
just legends that grew up after the event. And, of course, he's about
a century late for me, but there was Nostradamus. Maybe those old
prophecies weren't just _ex post facto_ legends, after all. Yes. After
Khalid, I'll believe that."

"All right. I'm saying, now, that in a few days there'll be a bad
explosion at Reno, Nevada. Watch the papers and the telecast for it.
If it happens, that ought to prove it. And you remember what I told
you about the Turks annexing Syria and Lebanon?" The old man nodded.
"When that happens, get away from Blanley. Come up to the town where
Northern State Mental Hospital is, and get yourself a place to live,
and stay there. And try to bring Marjorie Fenner along with you. Will
you do that, Max?"

"If you say so." His eyes widened. "Something bad's going to happen
here?"

"Yes, Max. Something very bad. You promise me you will?"

"Of course, Ed. You know, you're the only friend I have around here.
You and Marjorie. I'll come, and bring her along."

"Here's the key to my apartment." He got it from his pocket and gave
it to Pottgeiter, with instructions. "Everything in the filing cabinet
on the left of my desk. And don't let anybody else see any of it. Keep
it safe for me."

The large young man in the white coat entered.


THE END






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