The small elevator took him noiselessly upstairs

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At dusk Joel Locke came home from the university where he held the chair of psychonamics. He came quietly into the house, by a side door, and stood listening, a tall, tight-lipped man of forty with a faintly sardonic mouth and cool gray eyes. He could hear the precipitron hum­ming. That meant that Abigail Schuler, the housekeeper, was busy with her duties. Locke smiled slightly and turned toward a panel in the wall that opened at his approach.

The small elevator took him noiselessly upstairs.

There, he moved with curious stealth. He went directly to a door at the end of the hall and paused before it, his head bent, his eyes unfocused. He heard nothing. Presently he opened the door and stepped into the room.

Instantly the feeling of unsureness jolted back, freezing him where he stood. He made no sign, though his mouth tightened. He forced him­self to remain quiet as he glanced around.

It could have been the room of a normal twenty-year-old, not a boy of eight. Tennis racquets were heaped in a disorderly fashion against a pile of book records. The thiaminizer was turned on, and Locke auto­matically clicked the switch over. Abruptly he turned. The televisor screen was blank, yet he could have sworn that eyes had been watching him from it.

This wasn’t the first time it had happened.

After a while Locke turned again and squatted to examine the book reels. He picked out one labeled BRIAFF ON ENTROPIC LOGIC and turned the cylinder over in his hands, scowling. Then he replaced it and went out of the room, with a last, considering look at the tele­visor.

Downstairs Abigail Schuler was fingering the Mastermaid switchboard. Her prim mouth was as tight as the severe bun of gray-shot hair at the back of her neck.

“Good evening,” Locke said. “Where’s Absalom?”

“Out playing, Brother Locke,” the housekeeper said formally. “You’re home early. I haven’t finished the living room yet.”

‘Well, turn on the ions and let ‘em play,” Locke said. “It won’t take long. I’ve got some papers to correct, anyway.”

He started out, but Abigail coughed significantly.


“He’s looking peaked.”

“Then outdoor exercise is what he needs,” Locke said shortly. “I’m going to send him to a summer camp.”

“Brother Locke,” Abigail said, “I don’t see why you don’t let him go to Baja California. He’s set his heart on it. You let him study all the hard subjects he wanted before. Now you put your foot down. It’s none of my affair, but I can tell he’s pining.”

“He’d pine worse if I said yes. I’ve my reasons for not wanting him to study entropic logic. Do you know what it involves?”

“I don’t—you know I don’t. I’m not an educated woman Brother Locke. But Absalom is bright as a button.”

Locke made an impatient gesture.

“You have a genius for understatement,” he said. “Bright as a button!” Then he shrugged and moved to the window, looking down at the play court below where his eight-year-old son played handball. Absalom did not look up. He seemed engrossed in his game. But Locke, watch­ing. felt a cool, stealthy terror steal through his mind, and behind his back his hands clenched together.

A boy who looked ten, whose maturity level was twenty, and yet who was still a child of eight. Not easy to handle. There were many parents just now with the same problem—something was happening to the graph curve that charts the percentage of child geniuses born in recent times. Something had begun to stir lazily far back in the brains of the coming generations and a new species, of a sort, was coming slowly into being. Locke knew that well. In his own time he, too, had been a child genius.

Other parents might meet the problem in other ways, he thought stubbornly. Not himself. He knew what was best for Absalom. Other parents might send their genius children to one of the crèches where they could develop among their own kind. Not Locke.

“Absalom’s place is here,” he said aloud. ‘With me, where I can—” He caught the housekeeper’s eye and shrugged again, irritably, going back to the conversation that had broken off. “Of course he’s bright. But not bright enough yet to go to Baja California and study entropic logic. Entropic logic! It’s too advanced for the boy. Even you ought to realize that. It isn’t like a lollypop you can hand the kid—first making sure there’s castor oil in the bathroom closet. Absalom’s immature. It would actually be dangerous to send him to the Baja California University now to study with men three times his age. It would involve mental strain he isn’t fit for yet. I don’t want him turned into a psychopath.” Abigail’s prim mouth pursed up sourly.

“You let him take calculus.”

“Oh, leave me alone.” Locke glanced down again at the small boy on the play court. “I think,” he said slowly, “that it’s time for another rapport with Absalom.”

The housekeeper looked at him sharply, opened her thin lips to speak, and then closed them with an almost audible snap of disapproval. She didn’t understand entirely, of course, how a rapport worked or what it accomplished. She only knew that in these days there were ways in which it was possible to enforce hypnosis, to pry open a mind willy­nilly and search it for contraband thoughts. She shook her head, lips pressed tight.

“Don’t try to interfere in things you don’t understand,” Locke said. “I tell you, I know what’s best for Absalom. He’s in the same place I was thirty-odd years ago. Who could know better? Call him in, will you? I’ll be in my study.”

Abigail watched his retreating back, a pucker between her brows. It was hard to know what was best. The mores of the day demanded rigid good conduct, but sometimes a person had trouble deciding in her own mind what was the right thing to do. In the old days, now, after the atomic wars, when license ran riot and anybody could do anything he pleased, life must have been easier. Nowadays, in the violent back­swing to a Puritan culture, you were expected to think twice and search your soul before you did a doubtful thing.

Well, Abigail had no choice this time. She clicked over the wall microphone and spoke into it. “Absalom?”

“Yes, Sister Schuler?”

“Come in. Your father wants you.”

In his study Locke stood quiet for a moment, considering. Then he reached for the house microphone.

“Sister Schuler, I’m using the televisor. Ask Absalom to wait.”

He sat down before his private visor. His hands moved deftly.

“Get me Dr. Ryan, the Wyoming Quizkid Crèche. Joel Locke calling.”

Idly as he waited he reached out to take an old-fashioned cloth-bound book from a shelf of antique curiosa. He read:

But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Ab­salom reigneth in Hebron. . .

“Brother Locke?” the televisor asked.

The face of a white-haired, pleasant-featured man showed on the screen. Locke replaced the book and raised his hand in greeting.

“Dr. Ryan. I’m sorry to keep bothering you.”

“That’s all right,” Ryan said. “I’ve plenty of time. I’m supposed to be supervisor at the Crèche, but the kids are running it to suit them­selves.” He chuckled. “How’s Absalom?”

“There’s a limit,” Locke said sourly. “I’ve given the kid his head, out­lined a broad curriculum, and now he wants to study entropic logic. There are only two universities that handle the subject, and the near­est’s in Baja California.”

“He could commute by copter, couldn’t he?” Ryan asked, but Locke grunted disapproval.

“Take too long. Besides, one of the requirements is inboarding, under a strict regime. The discipline, mental and physical, is supposed to be necessary in order to master entropic logic. Which is spinach. I got the rudiments at home, though I had to use the tri-disney to visualize it.”

Ryan laughed.

“The kids here are taking it up. Uh—are you sure you understood it?”

“Enough, yeah. Enough to realize it’s nothing for a kid to study until his horizons have expanded.”

“We’re having no trouble with it,” the doctor said. “Don’t forget that Absalom’s a genius, not an ordinary youngster.”

“I know. I know my responsibility, too. A normal home environment has to be maintained to give Absalom some sense of security—which is one reason I don’t want the boy to live in Baja California just now. I want to be able to protect him.”

“We’ve disagreed on that point before. All the quizkids are pretty self-sufficient, Locke.”

“Absalom’s a genius, and a child. Therefore he’s lacking in a sense of proportion. There are more dangers for him to avoid. I think it’s a grave mistake to give the quizkids their heads and let them do what they like. I refused to send Absalom to a Crèche for an excellent reason. Putting all the boy geniuses in a batch and letting them fight it out. Completely artificial environment.”

“I’m not arguing,” Ryan said. “It’s your business. Apparently you’ll never admit that there’s a sine curve of geniuses these days. A steady increase. In another generation—”

“I was a child genius myself, but I got over it,” Locke said irritably. “I had enough trouble with my father. He was a tyrant, and if I hadn’t been lucky, he’d have managed to warp me psychologically way out of line. I adjusted, but I had trouble. I don’t want Absalom to have that trouble. That’s why I’m using psychonamics.”

“Narcosynthesis? Enforced hypnotism?”

“It’s not enforced,” Locke snapped. “It’s a valuable mental catharsis. Under hypnosis, he tells me everything that’s on his mind, and I can help him.”

“I didn’t know you were doing that,” Ryan said slowly. “I’m not at all sure it’s a good idea.”

“I don’t tell you how to run your Crèche.”

“No. But the kids do. A lot of them are smarter than I am.”

“Immature intelligence is dangerous. A kid will skate on thin ice without making a test first. Don’t think I’m holding Absalom back. I’m just running tests for him first. I make sure the ice will hold him. Entropic logic 1 can understand, but he can’t, yet. So he’ll have to wait on that.”


Locke hesitated. “Uh—do you know if your boys have been commu­nicating with Absalom?”

“I don’t know,” Ryan said. “I don’t interfere with their lives.”

“All right, I don’t want them interfering with mine, or with Absa­lom’s. I wish you’d find out if they’re getting in touch with him.”

There was a long pause. Then Ryan said slowly:

“I’ll try. But if I were you, Brother Locke, I’d let Absalam go to Baja California if he wants to.”

“I know what I’m doing,” Locke said, and broke the beam. His gaze went toward the Bible again.

Entropic logic!

Once the boy reached maturity, his somatic and physiological symp­toms would settle toward the norm, but meanwhile the pendulum still swung wildly. Absalom needed strict control, for his own good.

And, for some reason, the boy had been trying to evade the hypnotic rapports lately. There was something going on.

Thoughts moved chaotically through Locke’s mind. He forgot that Absalom was waiting for him, and remembered only when Abigail’s voice, on the wall transmitter, announced the evening meal.

At dinner Abigail Schuler sat like Atropos between father and son, ready to clip the conversation whenever it did not suit her. Locke felt the beginnings of a long-standing irritation at Abigail’s attitude that she had to protect Absalom against his father. Perhaps conscious of that, Locke himself finally brought up the subject of Baja California.

“You’ve apparently been studying the entropic logic thesis.” Absalom did not seem startled. “Are you convinced yet that it’s too advanced for you?”

“No, Dad,” Absalom said. “I’m not convinced of that.”

“The rudiments of calculus might seem easy to a youngster. But when he got far enough into it . . . I went over that entropic logic, son, through the entire book, and it was difficult enough for me. And I’ve a mature mind.”

“I know you have. And I know I haven’t, yet. But I still don’t think it would be beyond me.”

“Here’s the thing,” Locke said. “You might develop psychotic symp­toms if you studied that thing, and you might not be able to recognize them in time. If we could have a rapport every night, or every other night, while you were studying—”

“But it’s in Baja California!”

“That’s the trouble. If you want to wait for my Sabbatical, I can go there with you. Or one of the nearer universities may start the course. I don’t want to be unreasonable. Logic should show you my motive.”

“It does,” Absalom said. “That part’s all right. The only difficulty’s an intangible, isn’t it? I mean, you think my mind couldn’t assimilate entropic logic safely, and I’m convinced that it could.”

“Exactly,” Locke said. “You’ve the advantage of knowing yourself bet­ter than I could know you. You’re handicapped by immaturity, lack of a sense of proportion. And I’ve had the advantage of more experience.”

“Your own, though, Dad. How much would such values apply to me?”

“You must let me be the judge of that, son.”

“Maybe,” Absalom said. “I wish I’d gone to a quizkid crèche, though.”

“Aren’t you happy here?” Abigail asked, hurt, and the boy gave her a quick, warm look of affection.

“Sure I am, Abbie. You know that.”

“You’d be a lot less happy with dementia praecox,” Locke said sar­donically. “Entropic logic, for instance, presupposes a grasp of temporal variations being assumed for problems involving relativity.”

“Oh, that gives me a headache,” Abigail said. “And if you’re so wor­ried about Absalom’s overtraining his mind, you shouldn’t talk to him like that.” She pressed buttons and slid the cloisonné metal dishes into the compartment. “Coffee Brother Locke. . . milk, Absalom. . . and I’ll take tea.”

Locke winked at his son, who merely looked solemn. Abigail rose with her teacup and headed toward the fireplace. Seizing the little hearth broom, she whisked away a few ashes, relaxed amid cushions,

and warmed her skinny ankles by the wood fire. Locke patted back a yawn.

“Until we settle this argument, son, matters must stand. Don’t tackle that book on entropic logic again. Or anything else on the subject. Right?”

There was no answer.

“Right?” Locke insisted.

“I’m not sure,” Absalom said after a pause. “As a matter of fact, the book’s already given me a few ideas.”

Looking across the table, Locke was struck by the incongruity of that incredibly developed mind in the childish body.

“You’re still young,” he said. “A few days won’t matter. Don’t forget that legally I exercise control over you, though I’ll never do that without your agreement that I’m acting justly.”

“Justice for you may not be justice for me,” Absalom said, drawing designs on the tablecloth with his fingernail.

Locke stood up and laid his hand on the boy’s shoulder.

“We’ll discuss it again, until we’ve thrashed it out right. Now I’ve some papers to correct.”

He went out.

“He’s acting for the best, Absalom,” Abigail said.

“Of course he is, Abbie,” the boy agreed. But he remained thought­ful.

The next day Locke went through his classes in an absent-minded fashion and, at noon, he televised Dr. Ryan at the Wyoming Quizkid Crèche. Ryan seemed entirely too casual and noncommittal. He said he had asked the quizkids if they had been communicating with Absa­lom, and they had said no.

“But they’ll lie at the drop of a hat, of course, if they think it ad­visable,” Ryan added, with inexplicable amusement.

“What’s so funny?” Locke inquired.

“I don’t know,” Ryan said. “The way the kids tolerate me. I’m useful to them at times, but—originally I was supposed to be supervisor here. Now the boys supervise me.”

“Are you serious?”

Ryan sobered.

“I’ve a tremendous respect for the quizldds. And I think you’re mak­ing a very grave mistake in the way you’re handling your son. I was in your house once, a year ago. It’s your house. Only one room belongs to Absalom. He can’t leave any of his possessions around anywhere else. You’re dominating him tremendously.”

“I’m trying to help him.”

“Are you sure you know the right way?”

“Certainly,” Locke snapped. “Even if I’m wrong, does that mean committing fil—filio—”

“That’s an interesting point,” Ryan said casually. “You could have thought of the right words for matricide, parricide, or fratricide easily enough. But it’s seldom one kills his son. The word doesn’t come to the tongue quite as instantly.”

Locke glared at the screen. “What the devil do you mean?”

“Just be careful,” Ryan said. “I believe in the mutant theory, after running this Crèche for fifteen years.”

“I was a child genius myself,” Locke repeated.

“Uh-huh,” Ryan said, his eyes intent. “I wonder if you know that the mutation’s supposed to be cumulative? Three generations ago, two percent of the population were child geniuses. Two generations ago, five percent. One generation—a sine curve, Brother Locke. And the I.Q. mounts proportionately. Wasn’t your father a genius too?”

“He was,” Locke admitted. “But a maladjusted one.”

“I thought so. Mutations take time. The theory is that the transition is taking place right now, from homo sapiens to homo superior.”

“I know. It’s logical enough. Each generation of mutations—this domi­nant mutation at least—taking another step forward till homo superior is reached. What that will be—”

“I don’t think we’ll ever know,” Ryan said quietly. “I don’t think we’d understand. How long will it take, I wonder? The next generation? I don’t think so. Five more generations, or ten or twenty? And each one taking another step, realizing another buried potentiality of homo, until the summit is reached. Superman, Joel.”

“Absalom isn’t a superman,” Locke said practically. “Or a superchild, for that matter.”

“Are you sure?”

“Good Lord! Don’t you suppose I know my own son?”

“I won’t answer that,” Ryan said. “I’m certain that I don’t know all there is to know about the quizkids in my Crèche. Beltram, the Denver Crèche supervisor, tells me the same thing. These quizkids are the next step in the mutation. You and I are members of a dying species, Brother Locke.”

Locke’s face changed. Without a word he clicked off the televisor.

The bell was ringing for his next class. But Locke stayed motionless, his cheeks and forehead slightly damp.

Presently, his mouth twisted in a curiously unpleasant smile, he nodded and turned from the televisor. .

He got home at five. He came in quietly, by the side entrance, and took the elevator upstairs. Absalom’s door was dosed, but voices were coming through it faintly. Locke listened for a time. Then he rapped sharply on the panel.

“Absalom. Come downstairs. I want to talk to you.”

In the living room he told Abigail to stay out for a while. With his back to the fireplace, he waited until Absalom came.

The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is. .
The boy entered without obvious embarrassment. He came forward and he faced his father, the boy-face calm and untroubled. He had poise, Locke saw, no doubt of that.

“I overheard some of your conversation, Absalom,” Locke said. “It’s just as well,” Absalom said coolly. “I’d have told you tonight any­way. I’ve got to go on with that entropic course.”

Locke ignored that. “Who were you vising?”

“A boy I know. Malcolm Roberts, in the Denver quizldd Crèche.”

“Discussing entropic logic with him, eh? After what I’d told you?”

“You’ll remember that I didn’t agree.”

Locke put his hands behind him and interlaced his fingers. “Then you’ll also remember that I mentioned I had legal control over you.”

“Legal,” Absalom said, “yes. Moral, no.”

“This has nothing to do with morals.”

“It has, though. And with ethics. Many of the youngsters—younger than I—at the quizkid crèches are studying entropic logic. It hasn’t harmed them. I must go to a crèche, or to Baja California. I must.”

Locke bent his head thoughtfully.

“Wait a minute,” he said. “Sorry, son. I got emotionally tangled for a moment. Let’s go back on the plane of pure logic.”

“All right,” Absalom said, with a quiet, imperceptible withdrawal.

“I’m convinced that that particular study might be dangerous for you. I don’t want you to be hurt. I want you to have every possible oppor­tunity, especially the ones I never had.”

“No,” Absalom said, a curious note of maturity in his high voice. “It wasn’t lack of opportunity. It was incapability.”

“What?” Locke said.

“You could never allow yourself to be convinced I could safely study entropic logic. I’ve learned that. I’ve talked to other quizkids.”

“Of private matters?”

“They’re of my race,” Absalom said. “You’re not. And please don’t talk about filial love. You broke that law yourself long ago.”

“Keep talking,” Locke said quietly, his mouth tight. “But make sure it’s logical.”

“It is. I didn’t think I’d ever have to do this for a long time, but I’ve got to now. You’re holding me back from what I’ve got to do.”

“The step mutation. Cumulative. I see.”

The fire was too hot. Locke took a step forward from the hearth. Ab­salom made a slight movement of withdrawal. Locke looked at him intently.

“It is a mutation,” the boy said. “Not the complete one, but Grand­father was one of the first steps. You, too—further along than he did. And I’m further than you. My children will be closer toward the ulti­mate mutation. The only psychonamic experts worth anything are the child geniuses of your generation.”


“You’re afraid of me,” Absalom said. “You’re afraid of me and jealous of me.”

Locke started to laugh. “What about logic now?”

The boy swallowed. “It is logic. Once you were convinced that the mutation was cumulative, you couldn’t bear to think I’d displace you. It’s a basic psychological warp in you. You had the same thing with Grandfather, in a different way. That’s why you turned to psycho­namics, where you were a small god, dragging out the secret minds of your students, molding their brains as Adam was molded. You’re afraid that I’ll outstrip you. And I will.”

“That’s why I let you study anything you wanted, I suppose?” Locke asked. ‘With this exception?”

“Yes, it is. A lot of child geniuses work so hard they burn themselves out and lose their mental capacities entirely. You wouldn’t have talked so much about the danger if—under these circumstances—it hadn’t been the one thing paramount in your mind. Sure you gave me my head. And, subconsciously, you were hoping I would burn myself out, so I wouldn’t be a possible rival any more.”

“I see.”

“You let me study math, plane geometry, calculus, non-Euclidean, but you kept pace with me. If you didn’t know the subject already, you were careful to bone up on it, to assure yourself that it was some­thing you could grasp. You made sure I couldn’t outstrip you, that I wouldn’t get any knowledge you couldn’t get. And that’s why you wouldn’t let me take entropic logic.”

There was no expression on Locke’s face.

“Why?” he asked coldly.

“You couldn’t understand it yourself,” Absalom said. “You tried it, and it was beyond you. You’re not flexible. Your logic isn’t flexible. It’s founded on the fact that a second-hand registers sixty seconds. You’ve lost the sense of wonder. You’ve translated too much from ab­stract to concrete. I can understand entropic logic. I can understand it!”

“You’ve picked this up in the last week,” Locke said.

“No. You mean the rapports. A long time ago I learned to keep part of my mind blanked off under your probing.”

“That’s impossible!” Locke said, startled.

“It is for you. I’m a further step in the mutation. I have a lot of talents you don’t know anything about. And I know this—I’m not far enough advanced for my age. The boys in the crèches are ahead of me. Their parents followed natural laws—it’s the role of any parent to protect its young. Only the immature parents are Out of step—like you.”

Locke was still quite impassive.

“I’m immature? And I hate you? I’m jealous of you? You’ve quite settled on that?”

“Is it true or not?”

Locke didn’t answer. “You’re still inferior to me mentally,” he said, “and you will be for some years to come. Let’s say, if you want it that way, that your superiority lies in your—flexibility—and your homo su­perior talents. Whatever they are. Against that, balance the fact that I’m a physically mature adult and you weigh less than half of what I do. I’m legally your guardian. And I’m stronger than you are.”

Absalom swallowed again, but said nothing. Locke rose a little higher, looking down at the boy. His hand went to his middle, but found only a lightweight zipper.

He walked to the door. He turned.

“I’m going to prove to you that you’re my inferior,” he said coldly and quietly. “You’re going to admit it to me.”

Absalom said nothing.

Locke went upstairs. He touched the switch on his bureau, reached into the drawer, and withdrew an elastic lucite belt. He drew its cool, smooth length through his fingers once. Then he turned to the dropper again.

His lips were white and bloodless by now.

At the door of the living room he stopped, holding the belt. Absalom had not moved, but Abigail Schuler was standing beside the boy.

“Get out, Sister Schuler,” Locke said.

“You’re not going to whip him,” Abigail said, her head held high, her lips purse-string tight.

“Get out.”

“I won’t. I heard every word. And it’s true, all of it.”

“Get out, I tell you!” Locke screamed.

He ran forward, the belt uncoiled in his hand. Absalom’s nerve broke at last. He gasped with panic and dashed away, blindly seeking escape where there was none.

Locke plunged after him.

Abigail snatched up the little hearth broom and thrust it at Locke’s legs. The man yelled something inarticulate as he lost his balance. He came down heavily, trying to brace himself against the fall with stiff arms.

His head struck the edge of a chair seat. He lay motionless.

Over his still body, Abigail and Absalom looked at each other. Sud­denly the woman dropped to her knees and began sobbing.

“I’ve killed him,” she forced out painfully. “I’ve killed him—but I couldn’t let him whip you, Absalom! I couldn’t!”

The boy caught his lower lip between his teeth. He came forward slowly to examine his father.

“He’s not dead.”

Abigail’s breath came out in a long, shuddering sigh.

“Go on upstairs, Abbie,” Absalom said, frowning a little. “I’ll give him first aid. I know how.”

“I can’t let you—”

“Please, Abbie,” he coaxed. “You’ll faint or something. Lie down for a bit. It’s all right, really.”

At last she took the dropper upstairs. Absalom, with a thoughtful glance at his father, went to the televisor.

He called the Denver Crèche. Briefly he outlined the situation.

“What had I better do, Malcolm?”

“Wait a minute.” There was a pause. Another young face showed on the screen. “Do this,” an assured, high-pitched voice said, and there followed certain intricate instructions. “Got that straight, Absalom?”

“I have it. It won’t hurt him?”

“He’ll live. He’s psychotically warped already. This will just give it a different twist, one that’s safe for you. It’s projection. He’ll externalize all his wishes, feelings, and so forth. On you. He’ll get his pleasure only Out of what you do, but he won’t be able to control you. You know the psychonamic key of his brain. Work with the frontal lobe chiefly. Be careful of Broca’s area. We don’t want aphasia. He must be made

harmless to you, that’s all. Any killing would be awkward to handle. Besides, I suppose you wouldn’t want that.”

“No,” Absalom said. “H-he’s my father.”

“All right,” the young voice said. “Leave the screen on. I’ll watch and help.”

Absalom turned toward the unconscious figure on the floor.
For a long time the world had been shadowy now. Locke was used to it. He could still fulfill his ordinary functions, so he was not insane, in any sense of the word.

Nor could he tell the truth to anyone. They had created a psychic block. Day after day he went to the university and taught psychonamics and came home and ate and waited in hopes that Absalom would call him on the televisor.

And when Absalom called, he might condescend to tell something of what he was doing in Baja California. What he had accomplished. What he had achieved. For those things mattered now. They were the only things that mattered. The projection was complete.

Absalom was seldom forgetful. He was a good son. He called daily, though sometimes, when work was pressing, he had to make the call short. But Joel Locke could always work at his immense scrapbooks, filled with clippings and photographs about Absalom. He was writing Absalom’s biography, too.

He walked otherwise through a shadow world, existing in flesh and blood, in realized happiness, only when Absalom’s face appeared on the televisor screen. But he had not forgotten anything. He hated Absalom, and hated the horrible, unbreakable bond that would forever chain him to his own flesh—the flesh that was not quite his own, but one step further up the ladder of the new mutation.

Sitting there in the twilight of unreality, his scrapbooks spread before him, the televisor set never used except when Absalom called, but stand­ing ready before his chair, Joel Locke nursed his hatred and a quiet, secret satisfaction that had come to him.

Some day Absalom would have a son. Some day. Some day.

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