Wednesday, June 22, 2011

QuasarDragon Presents "Double Dome"

double dome

Planning to have an adaptokid? Check into it thoroughly first —no home is complete with one!

Illustrated by FINLAY

ONE morning, I walked into the factory and he was there, our newest employee — James Warwick, the two-brained, four-armed adaptoman.

There was an ominous silence in the factory control room. Usually there's plenty of noise— banter, horseplay, gossip, sometimes even a little work — but today the boys were silent, heads hunched defiantly over control panels. Miss Berkland, the office sweetheart, was the only one who seemed undisturbed as she fed her bank of automatic dictation-to-typing machines. Even Dr. Kirby, the plant physician, was glaring at the adaptoman through the glass wall of his partitioned office.

The atmosphere bothered me.

That's my job. You have to understand that the people who run an automated factory are a small, select group, more like a family than a business. Even the yardmen are much closer than in the older factories. There are only fifteen of us upstairs in the office and a mere eighty-two in the yard. With this group of less than a hundred workers, we turn out an amazing number of assemblies that go into spaceships. SRA, Space Rocket Assembly. That's our name, and we're the principal industry of this small town of Worthington, California.

I studied the adaptoman and his setup. He had an odd desk, what they call an adaptodesk, with an additional working surface built out and around the conventional desk.

He looked quite human as he worked — because he was human, of course. Only, while his upper arms shuffled through orders on the outer desk, his lower arms calmly typed a report on a typewriter in front of him. His head was normal in appearance, except that it was large, almost — I hesitate to use the word — magnificent. It had to be. He had two brains.

And the third eye. I could see his shirt open at the collar and the third eye nested between his clavicles.

I shuddered.

The rest of him was normal. In fact, the half-hidden third eye and the second brain, really a sub-brain, were fairly well concealed. It was only the extra pair of arms that made him obviously different.

He worked with poise and concentration, paying no attention to the strained atmosphere in the room.

I slipped into my office — All hell broke loose.

CORTLAND, head of the Automated Engineers, and Simms, head of the Office Technicians, stormed in.

"All right, Bob," said Cortland. "You're Employment. You do the hiring and firing. Get him out of here!"

"It's all a surprise to me," I leveled with them. "I didn't even know he was coming."

"A monster that does the work of two men," said the stoop-shouldered Simms. "The boys want to know what next!"

"An adaptoman may go in San Francisco or Los Angeles," added Cortland. "But this is Worthington, Bob. A small town. We don't want any adaptomen around here."

"Thanks for the lecture," I said drily. "As spokesmen for your unions, you're making this an official protest?"

"It damn well is," said Cort. Simms nodded.

"On what grounds?" I asked. "He, uh, he's doing an extra man out of a job."

"Now hold on! As far as I can see, he's only doing one job — Production Scheduler, no more, no less. We lost a man yesterday. We hired one today."

"Sure — today," said Simms. "And what has Management got up its sleeve for the future?"

"Like I told you—"

Cortland leaned over my desk, his face red. "No, let me tell you something, Mr. Hunter. Adaptoman goes out of here in twenty-four hours or else they'll carry him out. Remember that!"

Simms nodded energetic approval and the two of them strode out. My buzzer rang. The Chief wanted to see me. I wanted to see him, too, because I knew he was leaving town that morning for an extended trip. But before I could hit the button, Perch, the Yard Master, lumbered in,

"Look, Bob," he said. "Somebody told the yard crew that there was an adaptoman up here. Now the people in skilled labor have taken a lot of pushing around since automation and they don't like the idea. They see adaptomen used in spaceships. Now they see them coming into the office. Next it'll be the yard. Can't you get that laboratory nightmare out of here before trouble starts?"

"I didn't even know he was on the premises until ten min —"

"This is a small town, Bob. It ain't in the cards. Get the word up front fast. I won't be responsible beyond today."

Perch laboriously waddled out of the office. I knew he had only told me informally what his yard-men would be telling me at boring length in a very short while.

I sighed and turned to the now dead buzzer for the Chief. Then Dr. Kirby came in.

Kirby is a special figure in Worthington. He's the Plant Doctor. In the afternoon, he has a private practice. He's also on the Board of Education, the Red Cross and the City Council. He almost never speaks for himself. He speaks for the town.

"Something new has been added," he said wryly.

"Yes," I said.

"Won't get a medical clearance. Man can't work for SRA without a medical clearance. And I won't give it."


HE SAID glibly: "Adaptomen might carry contagious dis-eases. A bug they never worked out when they invented the conception gun. Can't have him on the premises. Half the staff will be sick all the time. Might even start an epidemic to spread over Worthington."

That's a myth, of course. And Kirby, a good doctor, knew it. He also knew that he couldn't drive the adaptoman out as easily with his political and social influence as with his medical influence. Kirby heads the Medical Association. If he said our adaptoman was a health menace, the Association said it.

I sighed. "I'll take it up with the Chief. But look, Frank, I've always been curious about adaptomen. In fact, Marion and I were even thinking .. . maybe . . . our next child —"

Kirby is red-headed and has a flat face with a big, wide grin. Not too humorous. He grinned and shook his head. "It isn't practical, Bob. Adaptomen are just a fad. They were needed to get space travel going. Ships had to be small, pilots and crewmen highly efficient. A man with two sets of arms, an extra eye and an extra brain can manipulate more dials, fix more wiring, think faster, stay awake longer. But that was pioneer stuff, like the early spaceships. Adaptomen are just as useless today. Within five years, they'll be extinct. As far as Worthington goes, we don't even want to bother with 'em."

He peered out of the glass at the adaptoman, whose desk-sign gave his name as James Warwick.

"Can you imagine your daughter in the arms of that four-armed monster?"

"I don't have a daughter," I said. I was getting a little peeved. I hated to see our small town act like a small town.

He tapped me on the shoulder. "You always were too forward-thinking, Bob, You don't belong in Worthington. You belong in a big city."

"I wanted to belong to space," I snapped. "I wanted to go out there. I've often wished I were adapto myself."

"Well, you're not. Don't go out on a limb for them. It's going to be no sale."

And Kirby left me. I climbed the stairs to the Inner Sanctum, but found only old Miss Peabody, the Chief's secretary.

"Mr. Eakins had to leave, Mr. Hunter. He had hoped to talk to you for a few minutes, but he is going east for his meeting. He left this message."

She handed me a piece of paper. The chief had scribbled a hasty note on it:

"Have hired an adaptoman, James Warwick, for Decker's job. He's your baby. See that all goes well."

Then: "P.S. In the interests of progress, Space Rocket Assembly Board of Directors has decided to place adaptomen in all factories as a test. Our quota is one. I think he'd better work out. As our Industrial-Public Relations Exec, you've got to carry the ball. Don't drop it. Eakins."

That was like old Eakins. He hated small towns; he hated Worthington. He spent as much time away as possible. He had made political enemies at the Detroit home plant of SRA and was merely passing his exile time at our small branch plant until things grew easier. It was typical for him to sidestep.

I WENT back down the stairs slowly. I'd done a lot of thinking about adaptomen. I had wanted to go out in space — the space travel that adaptomen pioneered. I hadn't been able to. Now Marion and I had seriously discussed whether our next child shouldn't be adapto. This was going to be a good way to collect information.

"Jimmy," I said to the adaptoman, "we've got problems."

"I know it, Mr. Hunter."

He was blond with green eyes flecked with brown. When I learned that he was only seventeen years old, I doubly cursed old Eakins. A kid! And you could tell from his small build and his fair complexion that he was no rough-and-tumbler. The least they could have done —

"First, the Engineers' Group," I said.

"Could I — could I talk to them, Mr, Hunter?"

"Sure," I said gloomily. "We'll both talk to them. I'm not afraid of their threats of personal violence —"

He squirmed in his chair.

"— but the yardmen are something else again," I finished.

"It seems to me the yardmen don't count in this. I'm an office worker, not a yard worker."

"Let's face it," I said. "The more sophisticated people, like Cortland and his engineers and Simms and his office technicians, are not so afraid of the unknown, which you represent. But the yardmen aren't that sophisticated. They wouldn't mind punching you on the nose."

"Do me a personal favor, Mr. Hunter. Let me handle them in my own way,"

"Furthermore, there's Dr. Kirby."

"He's already spoken to me," said Jimmy, dropping his eyes as if the interview had been painful.

"Well, those are the hurdles," I said. "Not to mention the townspeople. So far, adaptomen are something you find only in outer space and the Sunday supplements. Where are you staying?"

The poor lad scratched his head. "Well, nowhere yet. Mr. Eakins didn't have any ideas. I've got my suitcase in my car out on the lot. I just arrived this morning and Mr. Eakins brought me right here with my adaptodesk and told me you'd take over."

"Ye gods! Well, you can stay at my house for a few days until we see —"

I didn't complete the sentence.

CORTLAND and Simms protested loudly and at length. It was all words. Jimmy turned pale at Cortland's vehemence, but pointed out in a small, determined voice that ( 1 ) he was human, born of human parents, (2) a citizen entitled to work for his living, and (3) didn't Cortland and the rest believe in free enterprise and the four freedoms?

At that point, I thought Cort was coming over the desk at Jimmy. I made a signal for Jimmy to duck out and let me handle the situation, but he walked straight into the lion's mouth.

"Besides," he said, "you've wired the scheduling control panel all wrong. Your pre-amplifiers are underrated for the job they're doing and some of your servo-motors have too much backlash. The least I can do is straighten your system out for you."

That was a beautiful non sequitur. It left Cortland with his mouth hanging open. He was always fiddling with the circuits of the massive controller and was very proud of his work.

He drew himself up with precisely the look of a woman whose honor has been questioned, demanding to know where the hell Jimmy got his information on ratings and circuits for controllers.

After that, the conference was over for me. It degenerated into a hot theoretical argument about gating and damping and time constants. Simms, whose people are almost as engineering-minded as the engineers, stayed with it and they called in a couple of boys and presently the argument moved over to the main office and the controller itself.

That shot the afternoon.

I'm afraid there wasn't much work done, but at the end of the day, Cortland came in grinning. "Well, so much for your lousy superman," he jeered. "We backed him to the wall. He was wrong all the way. That stupid kid has a lot to learn."

I was about to point out that he couldn't learn if he was run out of the office, when Simms peered in and asked Cortland: "Which of the circuit textbooks did you want me to requisition for jimmy tomorrow?"

Cortland reeled off a long list of books. His eyes were shining. He was the missionary out to con-vert the heathen.

"That crazy Adaptoman Insti-tute," he told me. "Like any college— long on theory, short on practice. The kid needs background."

I clamped my mouth shut. I didn't bring up the original objections to Jimmy from Cortland and Simms, and neither did they.

"NOW look, sir," said Jimmy. "I have your address. I'll find my way to your house. Would you mind going off and leaving me?"

I pointed out the window. A dozen yardmen stood near Jimmy's beat-up old car, waiting.

"And leave you with that reception committee? Not on your life, Jimmy."

"You'll only make it worse," he said. "It's got to be faced."

I looked at the eager young face. It was pale, but I thought I detected an urgency that couldn't be ignored.

I said: "Okay. I'll gamble."

I called the head of Plant Protection, told him that if Jimmy was seriously hurt, it was the penitentiary for him, breathed a prayer and went home.

Jimmy was a long time in coming. Marion had supper on the table and had heard all about my day three times over before the old car pulled up outside and the adaptoman got out.

Marion gave a cry and almost fainted. They had beaten the kid horribly. He dragged himself into the house. His head was a mass of blood and cuts, his nose was obviously broken, and he was holding what I figured had to be a broken rib.

"It took three of them," he said, and passed out.

I called the Plant Protection chief. He cursed me hotly. "The young jerk asked for it. He wanted to jump the whole lot of 'em. After that, what could I do? Besides," he added thoughtfully, "it was a damn good fight."

Jimmy came to while Marion washed his cuts.

"Don't look so white, Hunt," he said. "I've been through it a million times at school." Then he turned his face to the wall and went to sleep.

I called Kirby and he came right over. I suspect he'd been waiting by the phone. Kirby may be an egotist and a nuisance, but he does have a healthy scientific curiosity — and he'd never laid a stethoscope on an adaptoman.

He allowed himself only one small "I told you so." Then he hustled into the bedroom with the biggest suitcase of junk I'd ever seen and began to examine the patient. It took him an hour and a half, which seemed overlong to me, even for the beating Jimmy had taken.

Afterward, he rushed out, muttered, "Keep him home for three days," threw some prescriptions at me and took off with an inward, absorbed look on his face.

I went in to see Jimmy. He was all bandaged up, but sitting up in bed and smoking a cigarette — grinning.

"What's got into Old Kirby?" I growled.

"There's the possibility of a bone-chip on my second brain," he said. "Maybe this fight, maybe some old fight — I've had lots of them. It looks like I'll have to have an exploratory operation."

"You're going to let Dr. Kirby operate on your second brain?"

He nodded, blowing smoke up-ward. "That's the way we left it. Only it'll be about a month before I'll be built up enough for it."

"But Kirby is only a general practitioner."

"Oh, he's done a little brain work. Not as many as he'd like —"

I sat down weakly. "All right, Adoptoman, I spot your methods. You're doing great. Already got the town licked. Cortland and Simms because they think you're all wet and they can have the fun of retraining you. The yardmen because they admire a guy who can use his fists — never mind the extra pair. Now Kirby. He knows if he kicks you out, he loses the chance of a lifetime to tamper on the operating table with an adaptoman sub-brain. So the struggle for acceptance is over."

"Hardly that, Hunt. An adaptoman is the result of a few radioactive jolts with the conception gun shortly after pregnancy is established. And pregnancy is a woman's job. We won't win the battle until we win the women. That's going to be hard."

"I know already you're going to win that one, kid."

There was something almost sad in his look. "Let's wait and see.

JIMMY was acepted by Worthington. Have you ever lived in a small town? Every one of them has its town "character," usually a moron or cripple that sells newspapers on the main corner, or works around the barbershop. He is accepted — as a freak.

That was the acceptance Jimmy had in the next few weeks.

Life seemed to settle back into a normal routine and I was lulled into thinking that Jimmy would slowly work his way up in esteem over the months and years. I couldn't have been more wrong. The next situation was — special.

It began innocently enough when the Reverend Dolson preached a pointed sermon in church one Sunday on adaptomen and what they boded in the way of destruction for the human race. Tampering with men's genes and chromosomes!

But Jimmy had a pretty fair voice and the choir was a little short on tenors. Later, in church with the Sunday sun soft through the leaded glass window, shining on his young, innocent face as he lifted his head in praise of God —

Dolson gave him a Sunday school class to teach.

And Aggie Burkes from our office also had a class, so it was only natural that she should break him in as to his duties . . .

One night, Marion came home and said: "Jimmy seems to be doing all right. I went to see Aggie Burkes — she had gone out on a date with him."

I chuckled. "That won't last. Cortland will stop it in a hurry, and if he doesn't, plenty of other fellows will."

I was wrong. Jimmy began to date Aggie and the other fellows didn't stop him.

I couldn't understand it. Aggie was the best deal in town. Her father was vice-president of the bank. She worked only because she preferred it that way. She had the clean-washed blonde looks that you associate with magazine ads, and a warm personality with a twist of daring to it . . .

"And that's the point," said Marion. "She doesn't care about Jimmy. It's a bid for attention."

I guess it was, at first. But Jimmy-boy was pretty good on the ski slopes and swimming in the ocean — those extra arms — and when he slid behind the wheel of her convertible and drove her up into the Worthington Hills . . .

I don't know what went on up in the hills, but I doubt if it was what some people said. After all, Jimmy was only seventeen and she was at least nineteen, and they were both very mild and well controlled.

It was Cortland's letting him get away with it that I didn't understand.

"A bachelor," explained Marion to me patiently, "is really two men — an eager one, but also a frightened one. He would really rather see somebody else take the cold plunge."

"Oh, brother!" I said. "TV psychoanalysis!"

Marion grinned and rubbed her wedding ring on her blouse. The expert!

AND then it happened. A small white envelope in the mail. "Mr. and Mrs. Burkes invite you to —"

I remember quietly laying down the card and going into the kitchen where Marion was cooking fish.

"If Jimmy makes it," I said, "it proves one thing — adaptomen can live entirely normal lives. Even marry the richest, prettiest girl in town."

Marion frowned. "Maybe. But — please, Hunt, I want to think some more about our next child."

I had been pushing her. Seeing Jimmy's success had made me all the more anxious to have our next child adapto. I mean it made sense to me, the way Jimmy explained it after his operation.

Dr. Kirby had had very little to operate on. Jimmy had worked the bone chip to the surface of his brain. He told me that the Adaptoman Institute taught a course in psychodynamics -- there weren't many doctors in space.

"We're quite a lot different, Hunt," he said, "but so is all of Man's world. Look how Man has changed it from the time he left the trees. Cities, clothes, food — you name it. He's changed everything except himself."

Now Man was ready to change himself, Jimmy explained. Man had built his instruments so well that they had to wait for him to catch up. To grow extra arms to handle the dials of his automated world. An extra brain to coordinate the mass of data his machines accumulated. An extra eye, even, to be able to watch and read and study and supply his extra brain.

I had watched Jimmy work and there was no doubt about it. His second hand-eye-brain loop could operate as a totally separate unit — or he could read a book while doing a normal job, or paint a picture or rest his normal vision and normal arms. He was more than twice as flexible.

"It's got to come, Hunt," he would say. "After all, adaptomen have been out of the laboratory for over fifty years now. We're proving to be the only kind of supermen that mankind will accept — the kind of superman that is his own flesh and blood — that anyone can parent.

"The operation on the mother is routine. Atomic controlled radiation shortly after conception. By that time, the embryo is set and you can still tamper with its unspecialized parts. There've been no mistakes.

"And think of this. If an Arab considers a fat woman beautiful — or an African tribesman cherishes a bride with plate-sized lips —"

He smiled his modest smile and gave me a double shrug.

But there was a lot of sober thinking done in Worthington that night, when those wedding invitations were delivered.

Before, Jimmy was only a temporary fixture. Rootless. Now he was going to become a part of us. A father, a home-owner, a full-fledged citizen.

And his children . . .

I think I hated Jimmy myself for the next week. Of course, adaptomen seldom bred true. But the idea of one of our girls lying in those double arms, and the third eye sharing marriage-bed secrets . . .

The strain mounted. I felt myself being sharp with the lad, even though he'd become one of us. Marion seemed to turn cold, as if he'd committed some crime. The men who'd been conned into accepting him were frustrated, the women openly hostile. The backyard buzz must have been terrific.

Aggie herself seemed restrained, defiant. I think she really cared for Jimmy, but this was the same girl who once took her father's car through the Old Jantzen river bed on a dare.

Nor could Cortland help. He'd waited too long.

I REMEMBER the night before the wedding. Jimmy got drunk that night, a callow kid, barely eighteen and old enough to be married, yet, with his extra arms and brain, the equivalent of a mature man of thirty.

"Look," I said to him. "This is no go. Aggie isn't right for you. Even I feel that and I'm usually on your side. But you're making too much of an issue of it. A — thrill thing."

I felt like a character in a confession story.

Jimmy picked up his glass and weaved across the living room. His face was pale and sweaty and he kept passing his glass between his upper and lower hands in an unearthly and horrible fashion.

"Listen, Marion, old bird," he told my wife. "Go 'head, have your little adaptokid. 'Sgreat! Look at me. Self-s'porting at seventeen. Cump'ney president at thirty. Marry the prettiest girl in town. Super, thass what we are — supermen!"

"You're drunk!" said Marion, standing up, her face strained.

"She don't love me and I don' give a damn!" shouted Jimmy. "Proved it anyway. Proved can marry best this bushy town has to offer!"

Marion's hand shot out and she slapped his face. "Monster!"

He grabbed her with his extra arm. Maybe it was only to steady himself, but my flesh crawled and I jumped across the room. I hit him straight on the mouth.

"Get your goddam hands —"

He went down on the floor and cut his hand on his broken glass. He began to weep softly. "m no monshter. 'm no monshter." He lifted his young, earnest face. "No monshter," he whispered, and blanked out.

A WEDDING is like a stage play; once the curtain goes up, there's no way to stop it short of a fire.

There we sat, practically the whole of Worthington in Dolson's church. The flowers were banked high. The Sun shone through the leaded windows. The altar looked very solemn and important. The organist did her duty and the soloist sang the old, true songs. But an air of horror prevailed. Men and women looked at one another, amazed at being there.

I had to stand up for Jimmy, which I did, feeling miserable, like an accomplice in a crime. Jimmy came in, trying to de-emphasize his extra arms by keeping them unnaturally still. This only made them more prominent. His extra eye was safely out of sight under his white shirt and tie. It would have been better if he'd peered with it, for it was a merry, soft eye, proud of its uniqueness, in the protected hollow of his throat.

A last-minute delegation of the women to Aggie's the night before had failed

And now the wedding march began. Jimmy turned to welcome his bride. She looked very white, almost unreal in her lacy gown. The men in the church looked drawn. But the women were staring with almost open horror.

I saw Aggie's eyes flick over at Cortland as she came to the altar.

Then she and Jimmy joined hands and it began.

It will never be easy to forget the moment when Jimmy turned for the ring. I gave it to him. He fumbled it. Maybe it was my fault.

He dropped the ring.

Then he was down on all fours, his hands darting desperately in all directions.

Aggie stared down and her eyes seemed to glaze. "No — not you — spider!" she cried. She picked up her train and ran, crying, out the side exit.

Then, in the pin-dropping silence, we all stared at Jimmy and he stared back at us.

I can still hear that high tenor voice: "But I'm not a monster!"

Then he covered his face with his hands—four hands—and went quietly weeping down the aisle and out of the church.

We never saw him again.

Bless the Reverend Dolson, he stood there like a captain on a sinking ship and said calmly: "Since the attendance today is better than I usually get on Sunday, I will now preach the sermon I was saving for that day." And he slid into a sermon on tolerance with a great deal of spark and fervor.

It felt warm and cosy there, all closer together, at one with each other, as if we had come to the brink of a tragedy and had been saved.

PICTURE my astonishment when, a few days later, Marion made an appointment to visit the San Francisco Adaptoman Institute.

"Poor Jimmy," she said. "He wasn't really a monster, you know. That horrible Aggie simply led him on."

"But — but —"

"The way he said it," she breathed. "'But I'm not a monster!'"

"But our child — an adaptoman — he'll be run out of town."

"Betty Guard is going to have an adapto," said Marion firmly. "So's Nelly Price, maybe. Don't but me any buts."

That's about all to tell. Except for one thing. Jimmy had rushed back to our house and cleared out of town by the time we returned. He had packed hurriedly and left.

But there was one piece of paper on my desk, left careless like, and yet — Well, here it is. You judge:


Subject: Worthington Assignment To: Agent James Warwick

(1) You will win acceptance with the men of Worthington by the usual procedures. (2) You will win acceptance of the women of Worthington by the usual procedures. (3) In no case is an agent permitted to marry the girl, as this raises hostility in a new territory. (4) As a last resort, the ring-drop has been found effective. (5) Upon completion of your assignment, you will depart Worthington for your next assignment in Oregon. Do not linger after the ring-drop, since the church routine as you go weeping down the aisle is the best final impression that an agent can possibly leave. It cannot be improved upon. Good luck.

I wonder if Jimmy really forgot that piece of paper.

Or if he figured a poor, confused Employment Manager could be saved one bit of torture as to the devious motives and methods of the human and adapto races.

From Galaxy Science Fiction (May 1957). Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

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