Edward S. Staub.

The Psilent Partner online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online LibraryEdward S. StaubThe Psilent Partner → online text (page 1 of 2)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Greg Weeks, and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net







Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Fantastic Universe March 1954. Extensive
research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this
publication was renewed.


[_Without stressing the technological aspects of the strange
powers of the widely-talented ones - the psis, espers, telepaths which
have been so painstakingly forecast by Stapledon, van Vogt, Weinbaum,
Vance and others - Messieurs Peterson and Staub have whipped fantasy,
forecasts and facts into a stirring and mentally titillating story of
a too-imaginative mind._]


the psilent partner


by ... Edward S. Staub and John Victor Peterson


A pstrange probing mind that crossed pstate lines, the
pseas, even high in the psky - to bring psomething new to
Wall Pstreet.

* * * * *




_He had never cast his consciousness so far before. It floated high
above New York, perceiving in the noonday sky the thin, faint crescent
of a waning moon. He wondered if one day he might cast his mind even
to the moon, knew with a mounting exultation that his powers were
already great enough._

_Yet he was as afraid to launch it on that awesome transit as he still
was to send it delving into the tight subway tunnels in the rock of
Manhattan. Phobias were too real now. Perhaps it would be different
later...._

_He was young, as a man, younger as a recognized developing psi. As
his consciousness floated there above the bustling city, exultant,
free, it sensed that back where his body lay a bell was ringing. And
the bell meant it - his consciousness - must return now to that
body...._

* * * * *

Dale V. Lawrence needed a lawyer urgently. Not that he hadn't a score
of legal minds at his disposal; a corporation president must maintain
a sizable legal staff. You can't build an industrial empire without
treading on people's toes. And you need lawyers when you tread.

He sat behind his massive mahogany desk, a stocky, slightly-balding,
stern-looking man of middle age who was psychosomatically creating
another ulcer as he worried about the business transaction which he
could not handle personally because of the ulcer operation he was
about to have. Neither the business transaction nor the operation
could be delayed.

He needed a particularly clever lawyer, one not connected with the
corporation. Not that he had committed or that he contemplated
committing a crime. But the eyes of the law and the minds of the psis
of the government's Business Ethics Bureau were equally keen. Anyone
in the business of commercially applied atomics was automatically and
immediately investigated in any proposed transaction as soon as BEB
had knowledge thereof. There was still the fear that someone somewhere
might attempt, secretly, to build a war weapon again.

Lawrence had an idea, a great, burning, impossible-to-discard idea.
Lawrence Applied Atomics, Inc., had been his first great idea - the
idea that had made him a multi-millionaire. But through some devious
financing he had lost control of the corporation. And although his
ideas invariably realized millions, the other major stockholders were
becoming cautious about risking their profits. Overly cautious, he
thought. And on this new idea he knew they would never support him.
They'd consider it a wild risk. He could blame BEB with its psis for
that. BEB was too inquisitive. A business man just couldn't take a
decent gamble any longer.

The real estate firm in Los Angeles was secretly securing options from
individual landowners. Fortunately the firm employed a psi, one of the
few known psis not in government service. Lawrence had wondered why
this psi was not working for the government, but decided the 'why'
didn't matter if there were positive results.

Lawrence knew a little about psis. He knew, of course, what was
commonly known - that they possessed wide and very varied talents, that
they were categorized as plain psis, psi-espers, esper-psis, telepaths
and other things. They weren't numerous; the Business Ethics Bureau
which employed at least sixty percent of the known psis showed thirty
on the payroll for this fiscal year.

Despite their rumored emotional instability, he knew that they were
clever and he would steer clear of them in the present stages of his
transaction. Although his idea wasn't unethical, the so far closely
kept secret would be out if BEB investigated. Then anybody could cut
in. BEB advertised whatever it did on its video show, "Your
Developing Earth."

So, he needed a lawyer who could act for him personally, now, and
steer his project clear of the government service psis. But where to
find a psis....

* * * * *

Of course! Bob Standskill! Standskill had helped him once years before
when he had had that trouble with the Corporation Stock Control Board
over a doubtful issue of securities he had floated to build Mojave
City out of desert wastes. Without Standskill's techniques he never
would have put that issue across. Standskill could handle this if
anyone could.

Lawrence reached to the visiphone, punched the button sequence of
Standskill's office number. The bell rang interminably before a rather
bored young voice said, "Offices of Standskill and Rich,
Attorneys-at-Law."

"I know," Lawrence said harshly. "I don't button wrong numbers. Is
Standskill there? And where's your courtesy? There's no visual."

The picture came in then. Lawrence caught a flash of long, skinny legs
going down behind the desk at the other end of the circuit; then he
saw a most remarkable thing - the open collar of the young man's shirt
seemed suddenly to button itself and the knot of the gaudy tie to
tighten and all the while the fellow's hands were lying immobile on
the desk!

_Impossible!_ Lawrence thought. _I'm cracking up! Too many worries
about the psis ... I think I see them everywhere!_

As the youth gulped as though the tie was knotted too tightly,
Lawrence was sure that he saw the knot relax itself!

"I'm sorry, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Standskill's on vacation and Mr. Rich is
in court. May I help you, sir, or take a message?"

Undoubtedly the fellow had recognized him from news fotos.

"Well, who are you, the office boy?"

A frown of annoyance crossed the young man's thin, dark features. He
snapped, "Are corporation presidents exempt from common courtesy? My
name is Black - Martin J. Black. I'm not connected with this firm. I
answered as a courtesy. Shall we disconnect?"

Lawrence was silent for a moment. He thought of the shirt-tie business
and said, "You're a trainee psi, aren't you? A prospective service
psi?"

"I'm afraid so. I wish I weren't. It's not a pleasant prospect."

"What do you mean?"

"Would you like to probe minds for a living? And it has its other
drawbacks. You can't live normally and you'll have very few friends.
Unfortunately no two psis are alike, which makes the job more
complicated. I'm un-normal, abnormal, subnormal or some other normal
they haven't prefixed yet."

"Any special talents?"

"I'm afraid so."

"Rather young," Lawrence mused. Then said, "Are you economically
stable?"

The young man hesitated, then said hastily, "Oh, yes, of course.
Economically, yes. Somewhat more stable than most, I think. I'm in
final training now. The legal phase comes last, you know."

"Then you're not committed yet? You've not taken the Oath of
Anterhine?"

"No. I won't until the training is done. Wish I didn't have to then."

"And your training?"

"Complete except for criminal psychology."

"Would you like to make a hundred thousand dollars?"

Black said, "Your firm bought out Black Controlled Atomics, remember?
That was my dad, and that was the end for him." He hesitated. "Let's
say I'm vaguely interested. What's your proposition?"

Lawrence was silent for a moment. At length he said, "Being a psi your
ultimate destiny is to aid in the development of the world whether you
like to look forward to it or not. But would you not like to see
desert areas developed through applied atomics as Mojave City, Sanup
Plateau City and Quijotoa City were?"

"Certainly," Black said quickly. "It's in my blood. The old man did
well at such developments; in fact, he started Quijotoa. Sometimes I
wish Standskill hadn't liquidated our estate, but my mother's will
made it mandatory."

"How much do you know about Standskill's techniques?"

"I'm a psi," Black said. "I can find out anything I want to know."

"Where _is_ Standskill?"

"Paris. His first vacation in years. Going to be away quite a while."

"Will you come to my office?"

"Why?"

"I'd like to discuss a business proposition."

"What's wrong with doing it over the visiphone?"

"This is confidential," Lawrence said.

"Something not exactly legal?" Black asked. "Big deal, eh? The Control
Board again - oh, oh! You'd better see Standskill!"

Lawrence felt uneasy. "Are you - are you reading my mind?" he
stammered.

"Sorry," the young man said, smiling faintly. "It's easier that way. I
dislike physical movement on such warm days as this. And it's easier
for me to pick up your proposal this way than to go through that
beastly traffic."

"Then you know?"

"Certainly. I'm a psi so I can read your mind."

"Do you accept the job?"

"Well, people in that area and the country in general would certainly
benefit from the development. I don't know about that lawyer from Los
Angeles though. They teach us in Service Psi School that non-service
psis are not to be trusted. In fact, service psis are forbidden to
associate with non-service psis. They're considered unethical."

"You're not in service yet, Black, and you must realize that the
psi-ethics as taught in your school are much more strict than business
ethics. If Standskill were here he'd certainly help me, and you know
he has a fine code of ethics. It's desperate, Black. I need your
services urgently. Won't you please accept the job?"

* * * * *

"I suppose so," the young man said wearily, resignedly. "Standskill
would agree, I'm sure. But, as a trainee, I'm not supposed to meddle
in business transactions. However, I'd hate to see you lose out on
this because I know Standskill would unhesitatingly help you if he
were here. Also, I'm curious to meet that psi from Los Angeles." His
sharp chin grew resolute. "I'll try, Mr. Lawrence. And my conscience
will be clear; I haven't yet taken the Oath."

"Will you need anything - any physical help, any tangible thing?"

"I'll need your power-of-attorney."

"You'll have it before I go to the hospital."

"And, Mr. Lawrence," Black said softly. "About the surgery - don't
worry, you'll be okay. It's chiefly psychosomatic, you know. In a
couple of weeks you'll be fine. You couldn't have picked a better
doctor than Summers."

Lawrence felt better already, a result of his talk with this brash
young man.

"Thank you, Black," he said. "Thank you very much. But, look - as a
psi, can you assure me that my idea is not slightly lunatic? I've
begun to doubt that it will work."

_Lunatic.... Mentally unsound.... Luna.... Moon.... The crescent of
the moon in the noonday sky. Yes, he could go now.... The transit was
brief.... No! He must go back, must bear the consciousness that was
Martin Black back from this airless, cratered sphere! Panic seized
him. He fled._

Lawrence was astounded to see the young man at the other end of the
visiphone seemingly fall into a deep sleep, his head down suddenly on
the desk.

"Black," he cried, "are you all right? Shall I send a doctor to - "

"_No!_"

The young man raised his head. "I'm quite all right, Mr. Lawrence,
though slightly exhausted. Didn't sleep well last night. Sorry! I'll
ring you after I contact Dick Joyce."

"No names, please," Lawrence said. "I go into the hospital this
afternoon, Black. You'd better not contact me there. The doctor said
no business while I'm there. From now on you're on your own."

_Your own! He was drifting! He fought it...._

"Right, Mr. Lawrence. Goodbye!"


II

Martin Black _was_ tired. His consciousness had almost drifted off to
home again, back to that old mansion on the Hudson River which
Standskill had sold as directed under Black's mother's will. The old
house in which he was born, where he had first found that he could sit
in his room and send his consciousness questing down the hall to meet
his father when he came home, pry into what his father had brought for
him and surprise his parents later by invariably guessing correctly.

Sometimes now he wished that he hadn't "guessed" correctly so often in
those days. Then his uncle Ralph wouldn't have mentioned his unusual
ability to the Business Ethics Bureau and the psis wouldn't have
investigated him. Once they found that he had such mental
qualifications he had been sent to the Service Psi School, a virtual
prison despite his family's social status.

Anger suddenly choked him at the thought of what his uncle Ralph had
brought upon him. The psi training had been so rigid, so harsh at
times.

Well, of course they have to be sure that psis develop into useful
members of society. But couldn't they treat you more normally, more
humanly?

Now, perhaps he'd show them, repay them for the cruel years of a
lonely, bitter youth. He hadn't taken the Oath yet, and if he were
clever enough he'd never have to! The real estate lawyer in Los
Angeles with whom Lawrence was making a deal had evaded service
somehow, apparently. So it was possible.

He had learned long ago that money wouldn't buy him out of service.
He'd tried also to purchase certain liberties at school. Some of the
less scrupulous teachers had taken his allowance, but only one of them
had ever given him anything in return. And of course he couldn't
protest when he had violated Ethics to give the bribes. In any event,
no one would take the word of an untrained psi over the word of a
stable, normal human being.

During the stabilization course one professor had permitted him to
skip some classes. Now he wished that he hadn't missed them; he
probably wouldn't have this semantic instability to contend with now.
Oh, well....

He _was_ tired. He'd spent the previous night, or most of it, worrying
about the miserable state of his finances. He needed money, a lot of
money. But he wouldn't, of course, admit that to Lawrence.

Lawrence would have understood why he needed money - even more than the
hundred thousand he had offered. But then Lawrence might mistrust his
motives in accepting the proposal so readily if he knew.

A year before Black had invested too much of his own money in a "sure
thing" upon the advice of a fellow psi trainee who, he subsequently
and sadly found out, had _economic_ instability. Semantic instability
was bad enough!

Not that Martin Black didn't have a hundred thousand dollars. He was,
indeed, a rather wealthy young man, thanks to his mother who had been,
to her son's knowledge - and to his alone - a psi with definite powers
of pre-vision and persuasion.

He recalled the tale Mom had told him of her first meeting with Dad,
of how she'd lingered over Dad's well groomed nails three times longer
than desire for a good tip made necessary, while she'd gently
insinuated into his mind an idea that was next day translated into
action on the stock market, with a modest investment from a modest
purse that brought the young man a small fortune. After the wedding
Martha Black dedicated herself to further improvements in the same
direction.

As for Martin's father, his chief business assets had been an
unswerving adoration of his wife and complete willingness to do with
his money as she saw fit. The combination had been unbeatable.

When Martin's father was laid to rest, Martha Black, concerned over
the future of her somewhat unusual son and fearing that economic
instability might beset him, continued to improve the fortune he would
some day inherit.

Long before the death of his mother five years before, Black
Controlled Atomics, Inc., had grown sufficiently important to command
the services of a lawyer of Standskill's caliber. Gradually Standskill
had become general counsel to the Black enterprises and at the same
time a close friend of Martha Black and her son.

It was chiefly in the latter capacity that the widow consulted
Standskill as she approached the end of her life. Her Last Will and
Testament, duly signed, sealed, published and declared, left one-half
of the immediately-to-be-liquidated estate to her son outright. The
other half was put in trust.

Under the trust Martin was to receive the income until he was thirty.
If then an audit showed that his net worth, exclusive of the trust,
had increased by thirty percent the trust was to end and Martin was to
receive the principal. If not, the trust would end and the full amount
thereof would go to his uncle Ralph, a prospect which caused Martin
completely to lose his stability whenever he allowed himself to think
of it. He just _had_ to make the thirty percent!

R. W. Standskill was trustee, and the will gave him full power to
invest the trust estate as he saw fit and without liability if his
investments went bad and without any bond or security required of him
whatsoever. More in token of appreciation of his services than
anything else, Standskill was to receive one percent of the trust as
long as he was trustee.

Martin Black's mind dwelled on the thought of the thirty percent
increase. After five years of conservative investing he had taken some
bad advice in the past year. And now he had to make some money fast in
order to catch up to the quota which was necessary if he were to
achieve his goal.

The Lawrence deal would give him his chance. But not if Standskill
knew about it. The Lawrence deal seemed a good thing, but perhaps it
was only a _sure_ thing if he kept to himself, for the time being at
least.

He was so tired.... _Fatigué._ The French for tired. Funny, he did
remember some of the French from school. Standskill was in Paris.
Association. _Fatigué._ The word stuck. That club - Bob Standskill's
favorite - _Le Cheval Fatigué_ in Montmartre. The Tired Horse.
Tired....

Sleep closed in.... He drifted ... and came to with a sudden start as
a hand roughly shook his shoulder. It seemed as though he had been
hovering mentally in a dimly-lighted cellar cafe, where there was a
babel of voices speaking continental languages, and Standskill was
there.

But, _no!_ he couldn't have been in Paris any more than he had been on
the meteor-pounded wastes of the moon! It was ridiculous. As far as he
knew, no psi had ever been known consciously to flit to the moon - or
unconsciously, for that matter - or to the other side of an ocean!

Standskill's partner, G. D. Rich, was shaking his shoulder. "What's
the matter, Marty? Big night?"

"Big day," Black said. "Why don't you fellows stick around and take
care of your business? I'm not even supposed to answer the telephone,
you know, but someone has to!"

"Can I help it that the Legal Secretaries Guild has called a
three-day convention? There's not a secretary present in any law
office in New York right now! I personally cut the phone in to the
answering service before I left for court."

"Inadvertence, I guess," Black said thoughtfully.

"Inadvertence?" Rich said quickly.

"Mine. I must have cut it back."

He didn't tell Rich that he hadn't stirred from the desk since Rich
had left. The switch was in the outer office. Had he with his
consciousness floating high over New York sensed subconsciously that
Lawrence was about to call and so cut in the switch? Had he built into
himself something of the pattern of his mother, something of
pre-vision or prescience, or call it what you will? Was a latent hunch
power coming out in him now, something that would manifest itself by
acts not consciously controlled? He hoped not! Semantic instability
was bad enough!


III

Sleep evaded Martin Black again that night.... There was no doubt that
Lawrence had a great idea.

Lawrence held forty-five percent of the company's stock. He wanted
control. In fact, he wanted outright ownership, but this was not
possible because the other major stockholders, holding forty-five
percent, seemed to be perfectly satisfied with their lucrative
investment. Cautious inquiries had failed to disclose any inclination
on their respective parts to sell.

There were, however, enough independent shares outstanding to give
Lawrence control if they were added to his own. The thing to do was to
figure a way to buy them. The problem was that no matter how secret
his operations, news or rumors of them would certainly leak out. The
shares would then undoubtedly jump to outrageous highs. Lawrence
couldn't risk that. He'd not be able to buy sufficient shares if the
price rose.

His corporation had completed Quijotoa City and had built Mojave City
and Sanup Plateau City, had through applied atomics created verdant
and lovely places out of wasteland and desert. It still owned the
atomic piles that provided power for the cities and the profits
therefrom were enormous.

Lawrence was progressive. He was at heart a humanitarian. He wanted to
develop other areas more from the humanitarian view than the profit
motive. He had learned long ago that the profits would take care of
themselves.

In probing the man's mind, Black sensed Lawrence's great desire for
adulation, his great desire to be remembered as a public benefactor.

Now if only he, Martin J. Black, could benefit financially from this
new deal - if he could corner enough of those independent shares, he
could and certainly would vote them Lawrence's way. Then, perhaps the
possibility of making the thirty percent he needed would approach
probability, would reach it. With Lawrence's Midas touch the
corporation would also realize millions in profits if the deal went
through.

Figures revolved in Black's mind. If Lawrence - or if he - could corner
six percent of the stock.... Could some of the independents be
persuaded to sell, _psionically persuaded_? Or one of the other major
stockholders? No, that would be unethical and the strongest part of a
psi's training was a fine code of ethics.

Black began to doze - and felt something ever so softly probing at his
mind. _A probe!_ Probably a service psi checking on him. _Why?_ Just
the usual check? No, it wasn't due.

He knew what to do. He had been probed before. Probing was part of the
training at psi school but he had never revealed - and his tutors had
never guessed - that he could create a block that could not be sensed
by the prober. A block which could close off whatever thoughts he
wished to conceal.

He blocked his thoughts of Lawrence and the deal now, and opened
freely that part of his mind which held the routine thoughts of the
law offices. He felt that feather of thought brushing lightly through
his brain, then it was gone as quickly as it had come.

There was a cold sweat over him but he knew that he had passed the
test. Why the probe? Perhaps a BEB psi had wind of Lawrence's deal and
by probing Lawrence's mind - or the mind of someone in the West Coast
realty outfit - had somehow learned of Black's association with the
industrialist. If that were the case there would be more probes. One
time or another a probe might come at a moment of nervous tension or
stress and the information would be gleaned from his mind before he
could block!

He must work fast.

He arose and went to the visiphone, placed a person-to-person call to
Los Angeles.

"Dick Joyce?" he asked before the visual contact was complete, and
only his voice went out.

The face that came in sync on the screen was round, jovial. "Well,
hello, Marty!"

_Lawrence must have called him, or else he plucked the name from my
mind. But he didn't probe - or did he?_

"Dick, do you register?" _With the mind now - cautiously!_

"Yes, Marty."

_Pretend you're my personal friend, Dick. There's no psi on us but we
may be wiretapped by BEB - lots of law offices are and trainees
connected with them. Can a definite date be set for the picking-up of
the options?_

"It's good to see you again, Marty! When will you be coming out for
another visit?" _Yes, the options are in the bag. My agents have them
all lined up. Confidentially, they couldn't miss. The only trouble
they ran into was that some of the landowners thought they were insane


1

Online LibraryEdward S. StaubThe Psilent Partner → online text (page 1 of 2)