This process of continued retrenchment might have gone on indefinitely, except the alien had other plans, which crystalized in yet another Man of the Hour, this one at least twice as remarkable and thorough-going as the one the red star first fingered in ANNO 1918.
Gardeners, no longer able to hold back, complained to their supervisor of the dead animals they found on the grounds--pets, it appeared, of young Master Chillingsworth. The problem quickly came to a head two days later. McFie the head gardener caught Master Chillingsworth dunking a baby rabbit at the poolside.
"You wouldn't be meanin' to snuff it, now would you, laddie?" said the Scotsman.
Master Chillingsworth turned abruptly, the struggling animal in his clenched hand. His eyes shone hard and round, like pieces of glassy stone. "Leave me alone! It's for a scientific experiment!"
"Oh, no, you don't. You're no scientific. It takes a deal of schoolin' and trainin' first. And that's not the way you treat little critters."
"You can't stop me!" cried the boy. "I'll snuff you too if you get in my way!"
The well-meaning gardener took the screaming brat in hand and with some trouble got him to the mansion. The butler, as starched up in appearance as V. R. Cuthbertson's had been, looked at them both with great disapproval.
"Let him go, McFie! How dare you mistreat the child!" he reprimanded the head gardener.
"But, man, he was a'murtherin' the poor rabbit he has and he's nabbed in the act!"
"I don't believe it! And a rabbit is no cause to make the little master so upset."
The door slammed in McFie's face. A moment later it opened a crack and a boy's tongue protruded. "I'll get you for this, McFie!" Master Chillingsworth hissed. "Just you wait!"
As it happened, there was no long waiting period. Swift vengeance fell on the most helpless. Gardening and maintenance staff continued to find pet animals, many mangled apparently while alive, by the looks of agonized contortions. Mr. McFie gritted his teeth and said nothing, so they too said nothing. Master Chillingsworth, whenever he passed the head gardener, smirked, made rude noises, and repeated his threat to "get him."
Lady Chillingsworth came to know of the problem afresh when she was having a January garden party while a blizzard beat against the dome. A kitten tied to a rock sinker came free of the pink ribbon and floated up among some swimming duchesses.
The butler finally divulged what he knew to the lord and lady. The head gardener was summoned immediately. Master Chillingsworth was nowhere in sight. "Why were we not informed?" they demanded.
A gleam in his eye, the head gardener explained. He had tried but was blocked by the butler. "But Madame! You could hardly expect me to take a gardener's word over your own boy's!"
The mother ignored the butler, who looked daggers at Mr. McFie. "He's always been so kind and gentle toward his pets!" she protested to the father. "I just can't believe he's turned so malicious."
"Yes, Marcus has been a gentle, kind chap as you say, " observed the scion of the Chillingsworths. "I'll never forget how on our country place at Mousehole--or was it Edzell?--anyway, he wept rivers when he saw that hawk snatch a vole off the grounds in its talons. He also nursed that half-grown wild hare back to health after it got its ears clipped by the robo-mower. But he's certainly not so sweet and tender now. I have a mind to call for professional counseling, but I feel, if we don't make an issue of it, it will soon pass of its own--like melting ice in Mock-spring."
"It's only a childish phase, you mean?" said the wife hopefully, as if temperaments could change as facilely as British weather, from iron-fisted winter to the thawing of “Spring” and back again to winter.
"Exactly. What else could it be? He's only ten. His character can't possibly be set yet."
McFie, on leaving, heard a familiar hissing behind his back and turned round. Mud smacked against his face. Master Chillingsworth was behind a bush, about to throw some more when the gardener chased him out. The boy ran toward the house, stopping to pipe back. "You can't stop me! I'll get you turned out yet!"
So there the matter came to rest. It was one dirty trick after another against McFie. The head gardener still found dead and mutilated pet animals on the grounds, but he gave them quiet burials from then on, thinking of his job and hopes of paid retirement. After all, the family policy was clear: if let alone, the boy's problem would pass of it own.
A maid was not so wise. She started to move some things in a collection of certain rocks and stones and a scroll that Master Marcus had found at Castle Edzell, to dust them better. Master Marcus, seeing her, let out a howl that brought the whole household. And he kept at it until his parents had to reprimand the young woman.
"Madame, I was only trying to dust up his things a bit!" wept the maid. "I've got to do my job, don't I!"
"No, she was filching them! I caught the dirty little thief in the act!"
The young lord and future first world president would not be satisfied and stop screaming, however, until further action was taken. The still protesting maid was let go. Later, informed of her rights, she sued and won a good piece of compensation. The family, of course, was mortified and tried to put a good face on things.
After a fire started in his quarters on the estate and destroyed all his belongings, the head gardener saw the handwriting on the wall. Like thousands had already done, he signed a long-term contract and emigrated to an orbiting food factory--the ultimate escape from Earth’s various ills.
"Here I run down to the boat shed for some paint for the porch," reported a maintenance man to the horrified parents, "and done found Master Chillingsworth doin' the Airedale bitch's pup somthin' tar'ble with my laser torch! Why, he had the po' scared critta in a champagne ice bucket, half-frozen, to keep it steady, I suppose, while he carved up the po' little beastie with the laser!"
Understandably, the man lacked education and thought he saw a laser torch rather than Master Chillingsworth's clever adaptation networked with several other maintenance tools.
The boy had tried to explain his wonderful device to the man. It was no torch but a "flaw detector" that could work on animals instead of pipes for lawn sprinkler systems. "See this?" he had said as he pushed a button on the portable rig. His childish voice seemed to carry itself with an authority and intelligence beyond his years.
A ray shot out of the helium-neon laser and struck a sample piece of sprinkler plumbing. The tiny dish captured whatever was reflected back.
"You see only part of the ray. I've split it, and the part you don't see is directed by little mirrors inside to a holographic glass plate with special properties. I had to order the plate, of course. Waves of light form a pattern on the plate which is recorded and becomes the hologram. The image, normally, would be applied to the bonding in question, so that you might find the exact spots to cut away and replace with new pipe and bonding. Well, connected to a simple video camera and a pre-arranged hologram, I can even identify flawed things at a distance and--"
Master Chillingsworth was about to demonstrate another part--the one that had shortly before shot out another laser ray and badly scorched the "flawed" puppy in the champagne bucket--when the maintenance man grabbed the flaw detector away before the puppy could be done even worse than it was. Despite Master Chillingsworth's best attempts to stop him--kicks, even several wolfish bites--the maintenance man got the invention to the house as proof of the " inhooman deviltry" he was up to.
Despite the boy's protests that it was yet another scientific experiment and the animal's life was not being taken irresponsibly or cruelly, he was actually jailed. A terrific blot on the Chillingworth escrutcheon, the affair was settled out of court because of extreme youth, though animal rights groups wanted him tried as an adult after receiving information that he had sadistically maimed and slaughtered dozens of animals in the recent past--one activist going so far to douse her clothes with petrol and ignite herself before cameras in a public mall.
His parents, at their wits end, committed him to counseling services, which got nowhere with him. He somehow always slipped from their control and went back to mistreating animals with his "hologram-camera flaw detector," as he called his invention.
Loch Lyman Military Academy, a rough, rural Scottish school for "Disfunctional, Disoriented Youth of Means" finally provided the answer. Like the geosynchronous food factories, it too provided a last resort for both victim and victimizer. Domeless, set on a treeless island in a deep, very cold tarn, it could not be easily escaped. There was only one launch for the thirty young detainees "enrolled at school," and it was kept locked up in a maximum-security-walled boathouse night and day.
Typical establishment of that type, rules and “privileges” were strictly enforced. Stripped of all personal possessions except toothbrush and a couple changes of underwear and stockings, he was stuffed in a brown and orange jumper-style uniform and made to run laps and plunge afterwards in near freezing, brownish, loch water. That was just a start. Yet he calmed down immediately as a result of this and other disciplines and began to obey superiors.
Six months in the juvenile rehab slammer took twenty city-bred pounds off the over-indulged boy--during which, as agreed with the parents, he could not write home and complain of icy baths and the unheated sleeping quarters of the dormitory. Armed with significant data, the headmaster met with the nervous and anxious parents. He gave them the full treatment. First, he had them seated properly in his dark Tudor-style office with the huge portraits of former deceased headmasters set amidst Kansas moose and Faroe Island polar bears.
"Care for a pick-me-up?" he inquired. "Tea? Coffee? Mineral water? Hot cocoa?"
"No, thank you," said Mrs. Chillingsworth, nervously plucking a Flemish lace handkerchief to pieces.
His face flushed and a little too hot, Lord Chillingsworth moved uncomfortably in his chair. "Yes, I would like something,” he rasped, his hand going to his throat. “And perhaps something stronger--brandy and water and a little ice, if you have any."
The headmaster, after going to secure the door, went to a sideboard, removed the covering, pious-looking cloth and a stack of fiery temperance books for juveniles and quickly came out with a stiffish looking liquid in a chipped shot glass that looked like it had done considerable service in pubs.
“You never know when a boy will slip into the tarn and require some radical expedient like this for thawing out,” he explained, blinking hard. “Naturally, I always keep some restorative for that express purpose.”
Himself settling for bottle water and no local ice, the headmaster sat down at his high-back, ornately-carved chair and turned to the matter at hand. He leaned forward with folded hands that looked more like a goalie’s than a reverend minister turned headmaster. "I have good news for you. Master Marcus never so much as sneezed on a dog, cat, squirrel or rabbit the last half term training--though, to be honest with you, he sees precious few beasties on this barren rock. He shows no abnormal interest in science, while doing assigned tasks. He appears utterly changed for the better--reformed by the solid, manly training we go in for here."
"You mean--" the father hesitated, setting down the glass and glancing again at the hideous brown blocks in it. "You mean he hasn't asked for his things back--that beastly holo-something-or-other he was working on and his precious collections of skulls, animal parts, and rocks?"
"Hasn't mentioned them once!"
"Do you still have it?" ventured the mother, twisting the remnants of her handkerchief back and forth in her hands. "I refer to the invention, of course. It worried me that somehow it might get back into his clutches--”
Lord Chillingsworth looked pained. “‘Hands,’ I think you mean, dear.”
“Hands? Of course, that’s what I said! Anyway, one cannot know what he'd try to do with it after--after--"
Lord Chillingsworth touched his wife's writhing fingers, and she glanced up and shook her head.
“How did he ever think up such a cruel thing anyway?” she said, her desperation overcoming her reserve. She turned directly to the headmaster. “Do you have any idea formed, sir, now that you’ve had him under your charge and observed him these many days?”
The headmaster paused, gazing at her for a moment. He tapped his right temple. “He is bright, I can’t but admit, but really this invention is a bit advanced in theory and technology, so that I had to ponder the same question you just now put to me. And my answer is, he found help.”
“‘Help’”? the father echoed. “You mean his scientific studies gave him the ideas he needed?”
The headmaster looked grim. “No, I don’t think so, though he reviewed the entire literature on the subject, believe me, including the work of a certain American, Tom Mitchell, of Carnegie Mellon University's Machine Learning Department, who devised something called "functional magnetic resonance imaging," which amounted to a real-brain scan that could read brain activity involving words and phrases. That was foundational work, of course, for all the others who followed him up. But I have in mind something else may have helped him develop the weapon substantially--something developed beyond even our present technological and scientific ability.”
“Preposterous!” exploded the father, looking toward the door as if he wished the interview ended.
The headmaster smiled. “Maybe! But he had a scroll in his possession once, did he not? A certain, very old artifact--”
“Oh, yes!” the mother interposed. “He found it on the estate in Wales, and we so no harm in letting him keep it. I didn’t think it could be valuable, being written upon in strange script no one could read.”
The headmaster’s smile faded. “Oh, but we musn’t assume no one could read it. Your son obviously read it, proving he’s a linquistic genius or gained access to the best translation computers in the country. That scroll’s the prime source, you see, for--”
His face ashen, the father rose. “Where is it? I’ll destroy it at once! At once!”
The headmaster sighed. “I regret to tell you, it’s not possible. The scroll has vanished, or I would have destroyed it myself when I first realized what use it had been put to.”
“But the weapon, you still have it?” the mother broke in, her eyes showing something close to hysteria and terror.
The headmaster smiled. "You need not worry about it! It's locked up in a room in the boat shed--walls are three feet of reinforced Ferro-titanium composite, and no windows! We'll turn it over to you when you want his things."
"Oh, we won't be wanting it, at least not right away!" the mother said hurriedly, composing herself. “You wouldn’t see me in the same house with--with--well, not while I’m alive!”
"What my wife means, " added Lord Chillingsworth, "is that you may keep it safer than we can at the moment. When he comes on holiday I don't want anything like that around, you see. Then when he reaches legal majority age he can have it back--long as he is sane beyond question. I don't care about his utterly harmless rock collections but they might as well be kept together with his invention until his majority. By that time, when he reaches majority age of twenty three, surely he will be reformed and in his right mind, with no danger of repeating--"
"Oh, absolutely, he will be altogether a different fellow. I’ve never seen anything yet Loch Lyman cannot handle! No, he’s on his way to reformation, total reformation!”
H-M’ers, Hyper-music majors and graduate research students, served as guides and interpreters to the public. It might have been tedious, handling the continual stream of visitors, except that in off moments they had free rein with the facilities and could do anything they pleased, provided they did not change the original programming of Machover’s brainchildren.
How in the world could a couple of jaded H-M museum guides have guessed they would stumble on the means for mankind to reach the stars, in other words, catch its second wind just as the planet was falling into a zone of greatest jeopardy?
Chong Vizant--or “Chi Chi” to his fellow guides because he affected a poodle-type haircut--was deep into A DAY TO REMEMBER, the original epic-holographic version of the Shuttle explosion--on the big screen in the staff lounge, his feet up on the coffee table, when his beeper chimed and soothingly intoned: “Graduate research assistant Chi Chi wanted immediately in Zone 1, please.”
Programmed to sound like Chip of the classic old Chip and Dale cartoon series, the beeper was in Chi Chi’s hand and on its way to the waste basket when the door opened.
“How many have I scrubbed for you, Old Buddy?” Chi Chi protested. “I don’t count, but, obviously, you do.”
Trimble, with a double major in physics and music, looked shocked as if he could not believe his ears.
“But this latest group is just your thing--working housewives from Newark, New Jersey!” he cried in injured tones. “They’re the artistic type too, and absolutely rabid about the cultural history of hyperinstrumentation. Only you can do them justice, Chi Chi! You have such a way with the common man, or I should say, ordinary, unacademic folk. That’s why I should step aside and let the better man handle it.”
“I’ll see you pay for this!” vowed Chi Chi, rising from the comfortable chair. “I’ll think of something while I’m out there, so don’t--”
“No, you’ll forget all about it as you’re extolling the great Machover’s immortal achievements,” laughed Trimble, throwing himself into Chi Chi’s chair. “You’re just too nice a guy to hold grudges. They don’t make ‘em like you anymore!”
Seeing it was useless to argue, Chi Chi went out, pasting a guide’s smile on his face that soon turned to the real thing as he introduced thirty or so aging but appreciative housewives from Newark to the world of early hyperinstrumentation. Forty minutes later, they had all gone out, raving, with words like “fantastic” and “real nice young man” echoing behind them in the hall.
The last station on his tour held the sprawled form of the exhausted guide as he relaxed for a moment. Thanks to him, the ladies had been introduced to the Music Man himself.
“...equipped to initiate a musical revolution, already exposed to rock, classical music, and computers in the home, Dr. Tod Machover, played cello in Italy, transferred to Manhattan’s Julliard School for a degree in composing but soon found the atmosphere there too conservative and confining to his genius...”
“But what did he look like?” one lady interrupted. “I heard he was quite--”
In response, Machover flashed on the screen, authentic down to his button-down shirt and head of curly brown hair. The ladies, impressed, could not get enough of Machover, so he let the screen drop to Machover’s ankles and shoewear before went on with his remarks.
“ ...he left Julliard and moved to IRCAM, an experimental music institute in Paris in the late 1970s. There he constructed his first hyperinstruments, by which computers took the sounds from ordinary instruments and instantaneously altered them...”
Then he was interrupted again, but by the group’s leader, someone who considered herself a reasonably good drummer after taking a crash three week course at a music trade school.
“But we came here to play the instruments! Now show me which one does drums! That’s what I came for, Fuzz-Head!”
“We’ll get to that,” he told her curtly, thinking to stop a messy stampede she was determined to head up.
First on the program, he showed them BYTE OVERTURE in F Major, Machover’s famed “computer opera” that employed then living opera stars, acoustic instruments, and computerized hyperinstruments he had invented.
The ladies liked the opera. Of course, everybody did, but they would not be put off any longer from taking their turns on the instruments--particularly, the drummer lady, who drummed her fingers maddeningly on her notebook as he discoursed on the mechanics of Machover’s HEX DUMP OPERA, a musical voyage for an entire audience in which they become performer and audience at the same time.
To demonstrate the HEX DUMP OPERA, they followed him into the giant ear divided into three rooms, where they would learn to play the simplest hyperinstruments before graduating to playing complex musical games. That portion of the repertoire did not pull off so well. Wannabe impresario drummer lady wasn’t interested in creating her part of the opera or playing “Fuzz-Head” games, so the result was somewhat discouraging and sounded at the end like Tchaikovsky’s worst nightmare. The gesture organ, the hyper-cello, and all the rest might have been tin toy whistles and Jews’ harps for the combined sound they made. In despair, for Chi Chi’s good heart could not bear what was happening to his tour, he let the wannabe hyper-drummer do her thing while everybody else listened. He gave her some basic preliminary instructions and let her sit down before the operating “command window.” The “on-button” was the seat itself, and since she happened to be a large woman the circuit overloaded and he had to do some hasty, highly illegal programming to keep it from shutting down permanently.
“Place your hands in the air inside the composer’s frame, Madame,” he told her, “and you automatically become a part of the instrument. As you move your hands and fingers in the window, you activate up to a thousand zones, each of which produces a tone or variety of tones. If you touch in-between two zones, you get a blend, and if you want a special mood superimposed, merely speak the word or words--like “hot and jazzy beach umbrellas on the French Cote d’Azur” or “gentle, rolling, pastel hills and cottages of the Cotswold country” and any other mood-transforming terms or scenes--”
That was as far as he got. The woman took over from there and the hyper-drum, under her somewhat hard-handed direction, nearly exploded. At one point, he thought he actually saw her using her feet to kick out the window completely.
After a while, Chi Chi, recovering from the experience, started to rise from the on-button. Then, without anything particular in mind, he stuck his hand in the window and began playing a rhythm. In a nanosecond it grabbed him, and he couldn’t stop playing. He knew he was creating an entire new opera with the hyper-drum, it evolved with such complexity of theme and nuance. Captivated, he finished and hit the record zone, preserving it for his own reference later. Excited, he thought he might even submit it for his master’s thesis if it he checked it out and it was good enough.
“So you’re in here, you jerk! You know perfectly well I can’t close shop without you!”
Trimble’s voice nearly swung Chi Chi’s head off at the neck, he was so surprised.
“Yes, I’ve been improvising on this old thing,” he explained, getting up, and feeling immediately that he had lost all sense in his feet and lower legs. Stumbling away, he followed Trimble back to the lounge, but he couldn’t put his new opera out of his mind and mentioned it to his fellow guide.
“All right, I’ll see it, since you think so much of it,” grumbled Trimble. “I have to cut a lecture for this, but here goes nothing!”
Since they were the last guides of the day, they closed the museum and ran the opera. The moment it concluded, Chi Chi turned expectantly to his friend. Trimble, however, avoided his eyes.
“Well?” prompted Chi Chi. “Tell me it’s garbage then. I want the truth!”
Trimble threw himself up on his feet from his chair and went to the coffee and got himself some dregs--very black, very cold and stiff--and threw it down with a gasp for a chaser. Then he faced Chi Chi with a strange smile. “I know very well you didn’t study exo-astronomy--but this thing you just did is full of it.”
Chi Chi was aghast and Trimble went on. “Full of it!” he laughed. “And physics too! I can tell by the patterns, they’re all algorithms and symbolic logic, and the equations I derive are highly interesting--” He broke off and went to a monitor and keyboard, and without saying more he ran some of the opera into the system for analysis and confirmation. “What is this?” he burst out to the befuddled Chi Chi. “See, I told you, it really isn’t an opera, you’re actually writing the manual for some kind of proto-starship!”
Chi Chi stared at the equations and took his friend’s word for it, since Trimble was known to be the current darling of the physics department.
“Where did you get this stuff, monkey brain?” Trimble demanded. “Things like this just don’t happen everyday!”
Chi Chi shook his weary head. He was also feeling light-headed with the possibilities of what he had done. “Beats me. I thought if I showed it to you, you might tell me.”
Trimble began humming, then with a twinkle in his eye actually began to sing as he headed to the door.
Fetch a clinging quark, oh plug it in a socket,
With Q.U.I.P.--Quark Unit Interstellar Propulsion--all research on R. Bussard’s interstellar ramjet, the photon rocket, and pulsed nuclear fission/fusion systems ground to a sudden halt and ended up as hoary exhibits at the Smithsonian.
Oddly enough, the secret nuclear rocket program, killed in the Seventies, was revived. Shielding problems were no longer an insurmountable problem. But of the two technologies, Q.U.I.P. would ultimately take the lead in the race to achieve true interstellar craft, while the nuclear rockets would remain, for the most part, Earth-bound.
At last the means to both intragalactic and intergalactic travel had been found, with an unbelievable economy of apparatus that made other propulsion systems look not only obsolete but foolishly elaborate. Instead of straining to create “ideal space habitats” within immense spacecraft that would probably prove unendurable anyway during generations-long flights, Earth’s space agencies could now concentrate on new methods of guidance and navigation for small but enormously efficient quarkships.
With quark power, starships could reach almost any point in the Universe in fractional time, complete their missions, then return to base before crews aged to hump-backed Methusalahs.
He knew, if the world did not, that Trimble was mistaken on one point. The monkey on the typewriter had struck, right there in the music department, composing a magnum opus that seemingly surpassed Machover’s musical revolution with its possibilities. And, bye and bye, there was a ripple effect, at least, with second thoughts.
In the years ahead, Chong often wondered if the wheel hadn’t been rounded from a square and Einstein’s theories formulated in much the same fashion--proving, for one thing, genius was far more a happy accident than the experts would ever give it credit.