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Baldy
 


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Baldy


  Copyright © 1945, 1953 by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore

  This edition published in 2012 by eStar Books, LLC.

  www.estarbooks.com

  ISBN 9781612105925

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  The publishers at eStar Books are proud to provide this quality title for your reading pleasure. At eStar Books, we specialize in the unique and unusual. To find more titles in the genres you love most, including sci-fi, fantasy and speculative fiction, visit us at www.estarbooks.com.

  eBooks are NOT transferable. They cannot be sold, shared or given away. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

  Editors note:

  The first four books in the Baldy series were published in 1945 as by Lewis Padgett, which was a pseudonym for Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore. Later in 1953 Humpty Dumpty was published. At that time they composed a short introduction and endings to tie the story better together and published the compilation as Mutant. The first part of this edition, contains the original stories, without the additions that were added in Mutant, the second part contains the additions. So it is not the same exact book twice, just a variation. We hope that you enjoy the Baldy series!

  Amelia St. John

  Nov. 2012

  The Piper's Son

  Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore

  The Green Man was climbing the glass mountains, and hairy, gnomish faces peered at him from crevices. This was only another step in the Green Man's endless, exciting odyssey. He'd had a great many adventures already-in the Flame Country, among the Dimension Changers, with the City Apes who sneered endlessly while their blunt, clumsy fingers fumbled at deathrays. The trolls, however, were masters of magic, and were trying to stop the Green Man with spells. Little whirlwinds of force spun underfoot, trying to trip the Green Man, a figure of marvelous muscular development, handsome as a god, and hairless from head to foot, glistening pale green. The whirlwinds formed a fascinating pattern. If you could thread a precarious path among them-avoiding the pale yellow ones especially-you could get through.

  And the hairy gnomes watched malignantly, jealously, from their crannies in the glass crags.

  Al Burkhalter, having recently achieved the mature status of eight full years, lounged under a tree and masticated a grass blade. He was so immersed in his daydreams that his father had to nudge his side gently to bring comprehension into the half-closed eyes. It was a good day for dreaming, anyway-a hot sun and a cool wind blowing down from the white Sierra peaks to the east. Timothy grass sent its faintly musty fragrance along the channels of air, and Ed Burkhalter was glad that his son was second-generation since the Blowup. He himself had been born ten years after the last bomb had been dropped, but second-hand memories can be pretty bad too.

  "Hello, Al," he said, and the youth vouchsafed a half-lidded glance of tolerant acceptance.

  "Hi, Dad."

  "Want to come downtown with me?"

  "Nope," Al said, relaxing instantly into his stupor.

  Burkhalter raised a figurative eyebrow and half turned. On an impulse, then, he did something he rarely did without the tacit permission of the other party; he used his telepathic power to reach into Al's mind. There was, he admitted to himself, a certain hesitancy, a subconscious unwillingness on his part, to do this, even though Al had pretty well outgrown the nasty, inhuman formlessness of mental babyhood. There had been a time when Al's mind had been quite shocking in its alienage. Burkhalter remembered a few abortive experiments he had made before Al's birth; few fathers-to-be could resist the temptation to experiment with embryonic brains, and that had brought back nightmares Burkhalter had not had since his youth. There had been enormous rolling masses, and an appalling vastness, and other things. Prenatal memories were ticklish, and should be left to qualified mnemonic psychologists.

  But now Al was maturing, and daydreaming, as usual, in bright colors. Burkhalter, reassured, felt that he had fulfilled his duty as a monitor and left his son still eating grass and ruminating.

  Just the same there was a sudden softness inside of him, and the aching, futile pity he was apt to feel for helpless things that were as yet unqualified for conflict with that extraordinarily complicated business of living. Conflict, competition, had not died out when war abolished itself; the business of adjustment even to one's surroundings was a conflict, and conversation a duel. With Al, too, there was a double problem. Yes, language was in effect a tariff wall, and a Baldy could appreciate that thoroughly, since the wall didn't exist between Baldies.

  Walking down the rubbery walk that led to town center, Burkhalter grinned wryly and ran lean fingers through his well-kept wig. Strangers were very often surprised to know that he was a Baldy, a telepath. They looked at him with wondering eyes, too courteous to ask how it felt to be a freak, but obviously avid. Burkhalter, who knew diplomacy, would be quite willing to lead the conversation.

  "My folks lived near Chicago after the Blowup. That was why."

  "Oh." Stare. "I'd heard that was why so many--" Startled pause.

  "Freaks or mutations. There were both. I still don't know which class I belong to," he'd add disarmingly.

  "You're no freak!" They did protest too much.

  "Well, some mighty queer specimens came out of the radioactive-affected areas around the bomb-targets. Funny things happened to the germ plasm. Most of 'em died out; they couldn't reproduce; but you'll still find a few creatures in sanitariums-two heads, you know. And so on."

  Nevertheless they were always ill-at-ease. "You mean you can read my mind-now?"

  "I could, but I'm not. It's hard work, except with another telepath. And we Baldies-well, we don't, that's all." A man with abnormal muscle development wouldn't go around knocking people down. Not unless he wanted to be mobbed. Baldies were always sneakingly conscious of a hidden peril: lynch law. And wise Baldies didn't even imply that they had an... extra sense. They just said they were different, and let it go at that.

  But one question was always implied, though not always mentioned. "If I were a telepath, I'd... how much do you make a year?"

  They were surprised at the answer. A mindreader certainly could make a fortune, if he wanted. So why did Ed Burkhalter stay a semantics expert in Modoc Publishing Town, when a trip to one of the science towns would enable him to get hold of secrets that would get him a fortune?

  There was a good reason. Self-preservation was part of it. For which reason Burkhalter, and many like him, wore toupees. Though there were many Baldies who did not.

  Modoc was a twin town with Pueblo, across the mountain barrier south of the waste that had been Denver. Pueblo held the presses, photolinotypes, and the machines that turned scripts into books, after Modoc had dealt with them. There was a helicopter distribution fleet at Pueblo, and for the last week Oldfield, the manager, had been demanding the manuscript of Psychohistory, turned out by a New Yale man who had got tremendously involved in past emotional problems, to the detriment of literary clarity. The truth was that he distrusted Burkhalter. And Burkhalter, neither a priest nor a psychologist, had to become both without admitting it to the confused author of Psychohistory.

  The sprawling buildings of the publishing house lay ahead and below, more like a resort than anything more utilitarian. That had been necessary. Authors were peculiar people, and often it was necessary to induce them to take hydrotherapic treatments before they were in shape to work out their books with the semantic experts. Nobody was going to bite them, but they didn't realize tha
t, and either cowered in corners, terrified, or else blustered their way around, using language few could understand. Jem Quayle, author of Psychohistory, fitted into neither group; he was simply baffled by the intensity of his own research. His personal history had qualified him too well for emotional involvements with the past-and that was a serious matter when a thesis of this particular type was in progress.

  Dr. Moon, who was on the Board, sat near the south entrance, eating an apple which he peeled carefully with his silver-hilted dagger. Moon was fat, short, and shapeless; he didn't have much hair, but he wasn't a telepath; Baldies were entirely hairless. He gulped and waved at Burkhalter.

  "Ed ... urp... want to talk to you."

  "Sure," Burkhalter said, agreeably coming to a standstill and rocking on his heels. Ingrained habit made him sit down beside the Boardman; Baldies, for obvious reasons, never stood up when nontelepaths were sitting. Their eyes met now on the same level. Burkhalter said, "What's up?"

  "The store got some Shasta apples flown in yesterday. Better tell Ethel to get some before they're sold out. Here." Moon watched his companion eat a chunk, and nod.

  "Good. I'll have her get some. The copter's laid up for today, though; Ethel pulled the wrong gadget."

  "Foolproof," Moon said bitterly. "Huron's turning out some sweet models these days; I'm getting my new one from Michigan. Listen, Pueblo called me this morning on Quayle's book."

  "Oldfield?"

  "Our boy," Moon nodded. "He says can't you send over even a few chapters."

  Burkhalter shook his head. "I don't think so. There are some abstracts right in the beginning that just have to be clarified, and Quayle is--" He hesitated.

  "What?"

  Burkhalter thought about the Oedipus complex he'd uncovered in Quayle's mind, but that was sacrosanct, even though it kept Quayle from interpreting Darius with cold logic. "He's got muddy thinking in there. I can't pass it; I tried it on three readers yesterday, and got different reactions from all of them. So far Psychohistory is all things to all men. The critics would lambaste us if we released the book as is. Can't you string Oldfield along for a while longer?"

  "Maybe," Moon said doubtfully. "I've got a subjective novella I could rush over. It's light vicarious eroticism, and that's harmless; besides, it's semantically O.K.'d. We've been holding it up for an artist, but I can put Duman on it. I'll do that, yeah. I'll shoot the script over to Pueblo and he can make the plates later. A merry life we lead, Ed."

  "A little too merry sometimes," Burkhalter said. He got up, nodded, and went in search of Quayle, who was relaxing on one of the sun decks.

  Quayle was a thin, tall man with a worried face and the abstract air of an unshelled tortoise. He lay on his flexiglass couch, direct sunlight toasting him from above, while the reflected rays sneaked up on him from below, through the transparent crystal. Burkhalter pulled off his shirt and dropped on a sunner beside Quayle. The author glanced at Burkhalter's hairless chest and half-formed revulsion rose in him: A Baldy ... no privacy ... none of his business ... fake eyebrows and lashes; he's still a--

  Something ugly, at that point.

  Diplomatically Burkhalter touched a button, and on a screen overhead a page of Psychohistory appeared, enlarged and easily readable. Quayle scanned the sheet. It had code notations on it, made by the readers, recognized by Burkhalter as varied reactions to what should have been straight-line explanations. If three readers had got three different meanings out of that paragraph-well, what did Quayle mean? He reached delicately into the mind, conscious of useless guards erected against intrusion, mud barricades over which his mental eye stole like a searching, quiet wind. No ordinary man could guard his mind against a Baldy. But Baldies could guard their privacy against intrusion by other telepaths-adults, that is. There was a psychic selector band, a--

  Here it came. But muddled a bit. Darius: that wasn't simply a word; it wasn't a picture, either; it was really a second life. But scattered, fragmentary. Scraps of scent and sound, and memories, and emotional reactions. Admiration and hatred. A burning impotence. A black tornado, smelling of pine, roaring across a map of Europe and Asia. Pine scent stronger now, and horrible humiliation, and remembered pain ... eyes ... Get out!

  Burkhalter put down the dictograph mouthpiece and lay looking up through the darkened eye-shells he had donned. "I got out as soon as you wanted me to," he said. "I'm still out."

  Quayle lay there, breathing hard. "Thanks," he said. "Apologies. Why you don't ask a duello--"

  "I don't want to duel with you," Burkhalter said. "I've never put blood on my dagger in my life. Besides, I can see your side of it. Remember, this is my job, Mr. Quayle, and I've learned a lot of things--that I've forgotten again."

  "It's intrusion, I suppose. I tell myself that it doesn't matter, but my privacy--is important."

  Burkhalter said patiently, "We can keep trying it from different angles until we find one that isn't too private. Suppose, for example, I asked you if you admired Darius."

  Admiration ... and pine scent... and Burkhalter said quickly, "I'm out. O.K.?"

  "Thanks," Quayle muttered. He turned on his side, away from the other man. After a moment he said, "That's silly-- turning over, I mean. You don't have to see my face to know what I'm thinking."

  "You have to put out the welcome mat before I walk in," Burkhalter told him.

  "I guess I believe that. I've met some Baldies, though, that were... that I didn't like."

  "There's a lot on that order, sure. I know the type. The ones who don't wear wigs."

  Quayle said, "They'll read your mind and embarrass you just for the fun of it. They ought to be-taught better."

  Burkhalter blinked in the sunlight. "Well, Mr. Quayle, it's this way. A Baldy's got his problems, too. He's got to orient himself to a world that isn't telepathic; and I suppose a lot of Baldies rather feel that they're letting their specialization go to waste. There are jobs a man like me is suited for--"

  Man! He caught the scrap of thought from Quayle. He ignored it, his face as always a mobile mask, and went on.

  "Semantics have always been a problem, even in countries speaking only one tongue. A qualified Baldy is a swell interpreter. And, though there aren't any Baldies on the detective forces, they often work with the police. It's rather like being a machine that can do only a few things."

  "A few things more than humans can," Quayle said.

  Sure, Burkhalter thought, if we could compete on equal footing with nontelepathic humanity. But would blind men trust one who could see? Would they play poker with him? A sudden, deep bitterness put an unpleasant taste in Burkhalter's mouth. What was the answer? Reservations for Baldies? Isolation? And would a nation of blind men trust those with vision enough for that? Or would they be dusted off-the sure cure, the check-and-balance system that made war an impossibility.

  He remembered when Red Bank had been dusted off, and maybe that had been justified. The town was getting too big for its boots, and personal dignity was a vital factor; you weren't willing to lose face as long as a dagger swung at your belt. Similarly, the thousands upon thousands of little towns that covered America, each with its peculiar specialty--helicopter manufacture for Huron and Michigan, vegetable farming for Conoy and Diego, textiles and education and art and machines-each little town had a wary eye on all the others. The science and research centers were a little larger; nobody objected to that, for technicians never made war except under pressure; but few of the towns held more than a few hundred families. It was check-and-balance in most efficient degree; whenever a town showed signs of wanting to become a city-thence, a capital, thence, an imperialistic empire--it was dusted off. Though that had not-- happened for a long while. And Red Bank might have been a mistake.

  Geopolitically it was a fine set-up; sociologically it was acceptable, but brought necessary changes. There was subconscious swashbuckling. The rights of the individual had become more highly regarded as decentralization took place. And men learned.

  Th
ey learned a monetary system based primarily upon barter. They learned to fly; nobody drove surface cars. They learned new things, but they did not forget the Blowup, and in secret places near every town were hidden the bombs that could utterly and fantastically exterminate a town, as such bombs had exterminated the cities during the Blowup.

  And everybody knew how to make those bombs. They were beautifully, terribly simple. You could find the ingredients anywhere and prepare them easily. Then you could take your helicopter over a town, drop an egg overside-and perform an erasure.

  Outside of the wilderness malcontents, the maladjusted people found in every race, nobody kicked. And the roaming tribes never raided and never banded together in large groups-for fear of an erasure.

  The artisans were maladjusted too, to some degree, but they weren't antisocial, so they lived where they wanted and painted, wrote, composed, and retreated into their own private worlds. The scientists, equally maladjusted in other lines, retreated to their slightly larger towns, banding together in small universes, and turned out remarkable technical achievements.

  And the Baldies--found jobs where they could.

  No nontelepath would have viewed the world environment quite as Burkhalter did: He was abnormally conscious of the human element, attaching a deeper, more profound significance to those human values, undoubtedly because he saw men in more than the ordinary dimensions. And also, in a way--and inevitably--he looked at humanity from outside.

  Yet he was human. The barrier that telepathy had raised made men suspicious of him, more so than if he had had two heads-then they could have pitied. As it was--

  As it was, he adjusted the scanner until new pages of the typescript came flickering into view above. "Say when," he told Quayle.

  Quayle brushed back his gray hair. "I feel sensitive all over," he objected. "After all, I've been under a considerable strain correlating my material."

 
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