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illustration from New Worlds #8 1950

DEUS EX MACHINA by Francis G Rayer

This short story first appeared in the magazine New Worlds, Issue Number 8, dated Winter 1950 .
Editor: John Carnell. Publisher: Nova Publications. Country of first publication: Great Britain (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).
This work is Copyright. All rights are reserved.

The original article had some interesting misprints which have been left below.


DEUS EX MACHINA

By Francis G. Rayer

The Machine could only answer for the benefit of Mankind. Sometimes, however, the answer was an enigma.

Illustrated by HUNTER

. . THAT TOM BRYANT, of Subterraneous Architects Co., did through criminal negligence cause the death on the 26th July, 2035 A.D. of Abel Wilkes, second-class workman engaged with him on the 4th level, and is accordingly summoned before the Grand Jury on a charge of murder ...” Nick Hardan read the note for the third time, then hammered a stud on his desk. To the golden-eyed secretary who appeared on the desk screen he snapped an order:

“Send Lawyer Thorpe in !”

Swinging out of his chair he paced, picked up the note, swore, slapped it down and paced again. When Thorpe entered he waved the paper under the lawyer’s thin nose and jerked a thick finger at the beautiful embossed red monogram.

“M.M. The Magnis Mensas !” He swore and pushed it into Lawyer Thorpe’s hands. “A machine bringing a murder charge against one of our best men, at a time when we can’t spare him ! A machine ! Lord !”

He subsided, fuming. At last Thorpe placed the note neatly on the blotter.

“An interesting case without precedent,” he said in a clipped dry voice. “As a mechanical brain to solve our problems the Magnis Mensas has proved infallible. Doubtless it has good reasons for this charge.”

“Good reasons or not, I can’t spare Tom Bryant ! And no condamned hunk of machinery has the right to issue such a summons against a human! Quash it.” Nick Hardan thumped the desk. “Show the Magnis Mensas it has overreached itself, or drop a few careful hints that any judge who sat at such a case would make himself a laughing stock for ever. Anything !”

Lawyer Thorpe paled.

“The Magnis Mensas has never been opposed. There has been no need.- It is absolutely logical and works for the general good of mankind. It might be diplomatic to let affairs take their own course.”

Nick Hardan used a new expletive. “I don’t pay you to be diplomatic. I pay for advice when Subterraneous Architects Co. need it. We need it now. Tom Bryant is my best deep levels man.” He stubbed the push, grated “Send Tom Bryant in here,” at the girl, then returned his attention to Thorpe. “Stop to hear Bryant’s side, then get busy. ‘Machine presumes to summon man for murder’ — that’s a line you could try to get public opinion on our side.”

Tom Bryant matched Nick Hardan’s six feet and hundred-and-ninety-odd pounds. His face was bleak when he had finished reading the note.

“Tell us the Magnis Mensas is wrong for the first time since it was built,” urged Nick Hardan.

Tom Bryant’s lean face became a trifle more bleak. “Abe Wilkes man-handled some high-voltage connections I’d left bare,” he growled. “Sheer rotten luck. We were going to try the strata below the 4th level. I’d fused an extension cable which had a kink in it. I went back to the juice point dropping from level 3 and turned off the power. Then I replaced the cable to the stratasonor. Abe had gone on to the end of the 4th level. I went back to the juice point and switched on. I remembered then I hadn’t put the insulated cover back on the sonor — I’ve done the same often enough before, so as to have a test on power without having to take the whole thing off again if anything proves wrong. When I got back Abe was dead beside it with a screwdriver in his hand. Just cussed bad luck.”

Lawyer Thorpe pursed thin lips. “Unfortunate. And the witnesses ?”

“Only the Magnis Mensas. I’ve had a co-axial extension near by on each level. Useful for checking data and so on. So the machine witnessed the whole thing.”

Thorpe got up. “Interesting. No human witnesses ?”

Tom Bryant shook his head.

“Good,” said Thorpe. “Can a machine take the oath ?” He let himself out.

Two uniformed men with “M.M.” embroidered on their lapels came in before the door closed. Their movements were purposeful.

Nick Hardan shrugged. “You’ll have to go, Tom. Remember you won’t be in the pen long. Thorpe’s a good lawyer, and there’s a lot in that angle he mentioned.”

When the three had gone he sank at his desk The blurping of the desk-communicator brought his head off his hands.

“Miss Hardan to see you, Mister Hardan,” said the golden-eyed girl. “Send her in.”

Muriel Hardan entered close on his words. Her cheeks were flushed; her eyes sparked and the set of her small chin betokened ill for someone.

“I’ve seen two M.M. police taking Tom !” Sparks were in her voice too. “You’ve got to stop them.”

Nick Hardan pushed the note across. “Can’t stop them, Muriel. But we’ll have him out.” His eyes caught a glint on her finger. “Say—”

“Yes. Tom and I were engaged last night.” She twirled the sparkling stone and for a second her lips softened. “Congratulate me— -or do you suppose I’ll be a widow before we’re married?”

Her look belied the forced levity of her words and Nick Hardan stirred uneasily, eyes on the blotter he never used.

“We must hope,” he said. “Thorpe will do his best. So shall I.”

“But the Magnis Mensas has never been opposed before. After nearly fifty years no one even bothers to search for flaws in its logic.”

“We’ve got to search — and find !” growled Hardan, as he followed her out.


THE NEWS had not yet hit the streets. Nick Hardan purposefully turned his feet towards the great many-storied central building where the Magnis Mensas was housed. The corridors of the mechanical brain echoed to the evening rush and he had to mount to the second floor before he could find a vacant cubicle. The soundproof door closed behind him and he passed between glowing electronic eyes to the chair. In front of the chair was a grille. From it came an evenly-modulated, toneless voice as he sat down.

“You are recognised, Nick Hardan. Proceed.”

Hardan knew deep within the building electronic sorters had compared images formed by his entry and selected his index. A co-relative unit would have established the connection between his presence and Tom Bryant’s arrest and he would have to formulate his questions carefully.

“Do you agree the early completion of the latest subterranean block is important to the city ?” he asked.

The Magnis Mensas seemed to be purring deep within the vastness of its mechanical brain.

“I do,” it stated.

“Then I have to report work will be delayed by the removal of a vital unit.” There was a slight pause, then the Magnis Mensas said evenly: “You refer to the loss of Tom Bryant. From your psychological index I had anticipated your second reaction would be to visit me. Your most likely first action would be an attempt to protect Tom Bryant.”

Nick Hardan licked his lips. No one had ever beaten the Magnis Mensas yet. In its enormous complexity it had surpassed man as a thinking entity.

“Very well,” he said. “I did mean Tom. Your purpose is to serve man. How is that accomplished by imprisoning him ?”

“Seven minutes ago, in Cubicle 913 on the 3rd level, Lawyer Ashme Thorpe put that same question,” stated the machine evenly. “As with you, the question was intended to lead to others. The answer is obvious: When a person’s activities endanger his fellow-men he must be restrained.”

Hardan leaned forward. “Restrained does not mean killed in his turn !”

“It may if logic shows his death will serve as a warning to others to avoid like crimes. I was serving Tom Bryant with mathematical replies to his data and witnessed the death of Abel Wilkes.”

“There was no human witness ?”

“None.”

Nick Hardan got up.

“The so-called crime was an accident,” he stated.

“An avoidable accident. Therefore its responsibility rests on the perpetrator — Tom Bryant.”

Hardan swore, though he had confirmed all he had hoped to.

“Meaningless exclamations indicate frustrated, muddled thinking,” said the Magnis Mensas evenly. “Your psychological reactance patterns suggest you will slam the door going out. Let me point out such an act is useless — ”

A rattle of misused panels cut off its words. Nick Hardan was still swearing when he reached the street.


FOR TWO days interest had boiled. Now it simmered in suppressed expectancy as Lawyer Thorpe rose to face the seven blue-robed figures.

“Your lordships of the Grand Jury.” There was a certain grandiloquence about his voice and manner. “Your lordships, I put forward that my client the defendant is being illegally detained. The Magnis Mensas is a machine. It is unthinkable that a machine should be asked to take the oath. As it cannot therefore give evidence on oath, the prosecution is without witness. I accordingly request the immediate release of this free man.”

A sweeping gesture indicated Tom. Bryant. A thousand pairs of eyes turned momentarily on him, then slewed back to the grilled box which was an extension of the Magnis Mensas.

Muriel Hardan, the end of a row where she could see everything, leaned forward, lips parted. A little old man in severe black touched her arm.

“You must not expect too much so soon.”

She nodded without taking her gaze from the grilled box. The Magnis Mensas had begun to speak.

“Your lordships of the Grand Jury.” Its voice was factual and even. “I would put two logical premises before you. One— A breach of law does not cease to be a crime because there was no human witness. Two — A machine — myself — experiences neither fear, antagonism, pride, hate, envy, nor any other emotional state which could lead to a distortion of truth. As I cannot lie it is unnecessary I be put on oath.”

In the following silence Thorpe’s voice rang clear: “The law requires that every witness be on oath !”


FROM HIS position by Muriel Hardan’s side Padre Cameron expelled his pent breath. The grip of his veined hand on her arm tightened unconsciously.

“We may reach interesting theological ground, Miss Hardan. I anticipate much argument.”

There was. Muriel Hardan’s thoughts slipped to Tom Bryant, whose immobile face showed nothing. The even statements of the Magnis Mensas became a background she did not comprehend, though Thorpe’s fiery rejoinders sometimes captivated her attention. At last Padre Cameron touched her shoulder gently.

“Listen,” he said.

The centre judge was speaking. “And because the Magnis Mensas is a machine created to serve man truthfully and wisely, and because it is unable to lie, because such lying would be illogical, we have decided its evidence be given without oath, and that such evidence be treated as if it were given on oath.”

Thorpe was on his feet. “Your lordships, I protest ! Never in the history of jurisprudence has the oath been waived !”

The thud of the silver mallet ended his words. “Objection overruled. Clear the court.”


OUTSIDE, Nick Hardan found himself face to face with Padre Cameron and the girl.

“I could stand no more to-day,” said Muriel Hardan tiredly. “Looks like a dead shut-down case for Tom.”

Close by her in the evening throng, Nick Hardan scowled. “If we could find the Magnis Mensas might have cause to lie, the case could be quashed. Likewise if we unearthed a past instance when it had given wrong information.”

Padre Cameron pursed his thin lips. “The machine could lie if it were logical for it to do so. That is, if the lie brought about a greater truth in the end. But I can conceive no actual instance when that might be so.”

“Nor can I” growled Hardan. “I’m going to see what Thorpe suggests.

Cameron watched him go. “Theologically, it was interesting,” he murmured. “I think I shall interview the Magnis Mensas later.”


PAST midnight the cubicle doors were locked and the corridors empty of questioning humanity. But deep within the inner chambers of the Magnis Mensas metal reference plates flashed in staccato cascades along their guides. Differential pantograph arms weaved over their abstract calculations and ozone tainted the air. The Magnis Mensas was cogitating within itself. In the references all knowledge lay ready to its electronic touch and for an hour it had been co-relating items so diversified no human brain could have comprehended their scope.

As the hours before dawn drew on it began to energise relays which would bring in units to record its findings. Steel tapes whined faster as it cleared its channels for the early rush of questions the opening of the cubicles would bring. Graph folded on graph and the pantograph arms beat grotesquely.

The life of Tom Bryant was linked with the life and future of all men. The psycho-chart of Nick Hardan lay superimposed upon a graph showing the snowball reaction to panic of a humanity faced with a problem it could never master. And fused into one whole with those and a dozen other factors were the strata sonor readings which showed empty spaces came and went like shadows under the 4th level.


MURIEL HARDAN entered a lower-floor cubicle as all the solenoid bolts slid free. Her hair was dark against the paleness of her face.

“You are recognised,” stated the Magnis Mensas. “Please sit down.”

Awed as always, she did. It was odd to know the machine was simultaneously conducting many hundreds of interviews, the whole great storehouse of its knowledge being available to each cubicle circuit. Engineers checked plans, doctors diagnoses. Some brought personal problems; into the next cubicle she had seen a high minister of state hurry, a frown beetling his brows.

“I — I have come to ask that the case against Tom Bryant be dropped,” she said.

Before her the discs glowed impassively.

“It would be illogical to do so. My course must be pursued to the end.” Muriel Hardan’s lip quivered. “Tom — -Tom will die ?”

“Yes.”

“But he’s an irreplaceable subterraneous engineer ! And it’s so unnecessary !” “Your first statement is correct. To your second : I have judged it necessary. Nothing further is required.”

“It was an accident." Muriel Hardan sat upright in the chair and a mixture of horror and terror entered her eyes. “You want Tom to be dead for some secret reason,” she accused.

“I have not stated so. My sole purpose is to help mankind. Law suppresses evil. Law must therefore be upheld. Tom Bryant was unfortunate, but I regret that will not avoid for him the final penalty he must pay.”

Muriel Hardan rose, steadying herself by holding the chair. “Then you intend to destroy Tom,” she said. “That is your last word.”

“It is,” stated the Magnis Mensas evenly. “Please close the door as you go out.”

She found her brother talking with Lawyer Thorpe by one of the outer doors. His black expression scarcely lifted as he nodded.

“It won’t change,” she said unsteadily.

Nick Hardan scowled.

“It’s got to ! It’s not God, to take human life.”

“It’s made a deity of logic. Tom’s the sacrifice.”

“Not if I can prevent it,” objected Nick Hardan strongly. “Unfortunately we haven’t found a single instance when the Magnis Mensas has erred in the past. If we had we could throw doubt on its present evidence. Thorpe’s been wondering if he could bring a charge of contemplated legalised killing against the machine, but that’s mere prevarication, in my opinion.”


GLANCING neither side he swung down the corridor and into the first vacant cubicle. Angrily he kicked shut the door and plumped into the chair, glaring at the grille.

“You are recognised,” said the Magnis Mensas. “Proceed.”

“Tom Bryant is gifted in subterraneous architecture. No one else has attempted and achieved what he has. He’s an instinct — a knack.”

“That is so,” agreed the machine. “His psychological charts show his unusual ability.”

“No man living can match his knowledge of deep-level working.”

“I agree.”

“Then why murder him ?” demanded Hardan. “For that’s what it will be — murder ! As witness, you know it was an accident. As the only witness . . .” His voice trailed. Consternation crossed his features and he gripped the arms of the chair so that they creaked. “As witness ! You could have warned Abel Wilkes ! You could have prevented the accident ! No one has thought of that — it’s too obvious ! You were operating on the 4th level through an extension.” His words rang with accusation. “You saw what happened. That’s why you’re accusing Tom. You could have warned Abe through the reproducer you had been using with Tom !”

He shrank back. The cubicle was a pit of silence.

“Deny it !” he grated.

Moments passed before the Magnis Mensas spoke:

“I congratulate you on your logic. What you state is correct. I could have warned Abel Wilkes.”

“Then you’re a murderer — you, a machine !” Nick Hardan was on his feet. “You deliberately kept silent and now intend to kill Tom Bryant as well.” Words failed.

He grasped at the door. It would not open.

“I am energising the lock solenoid,” said the Magnis Mensas evenly. “Please sit down.”

Nick tugged, swore, and sat down cursing.

“Thank you,” said the machine. “From my examination of your reactance patterns I had decided this might arise.”

“Then you’ve been too clever for once !” snarled Nick. “You can’t keep me here.”

“On the contrary, I have already summoned four attendants. The death of Abel Wilkes was unfortunate, but a necessary step to attain the death of Tom Bryant.”

Nick Hardan was on his feet again. “But why ? Why ?”

The door opened. Four attendants with “M.M.” on their lapels stood there. They were big men, and purposeful.

The voice of the Magnis Mensas increased in volume. “This is Nick Hardan. For some time he has been showing mental instability. Isolate and detain him pending further investigation.”

Nick Hardan clung to the chair. “Why in sanity’s sake do these things ?” “Because the death of two men, or even three, is of less importance than the security and stability of all men,” stated the Magnis Mensas. “That is all.” Torn between questions and the desire to fight, Nick clenched his fists. But the four men were purposeful; the pad held to his nose sickly-smelling.

illustration from New Worlds #8 1950
“I SWEAR Nick is as sane as any of us,” declared Muriel Hardan. “Yet he’s being detained indefinitely. They wouldn’t let me see him.”

“Nor me,” added Lawyer Thorpe, pyramiding his fingers on the desk before him. “First Wilkes, then Bryant, now Nick Hardan. I don’t like it. Nor do I pretend to understand.”

“And Tom ?”

Thorpe examined his nails. “It might be best for you not to come to court to-day. I’m sorry. I’ve done all I can.”

He looked at the time and got up. His prophecy that no one could beat the Magnis Mensas was being proven.

The crowded court hushed as the seven judges filed in and settled their blue robes about them. The folio of notes of the previous day’s proceedings Thorpe left unopened. The even voice of the Magnis Mensas had swept aside every objection he could raise. Now the machine was delivering its peroration.

“I wish it to be put on record I am a means only,” it said. “The means between Bryant’s act and his punishment, initiating justice impartially. I am a link between the act and its outcome, responsible for neither. At no time has this been a case of ‘The Magnis Mensas versus Bryant.’ The High Court is the prosecutors; I am merely a witness because no human who could have taken that role was present.”

Thorpe felt the machine was speaking to the crowded press gallery. He ceased to listen.

Time passed. At length the Magnis Mensas was silent and the judges conferred. The centre one rose, a tall blue figure against the cream backdrop of the court.

“It is our decision that the prisoner pay the ultimate penalty in accordance with his proven guilt.”

Hard on his sombre words came a cry. Muriel Hardan had risen from her seat, though Padre Cameron’s hand was restraining her.

“No ! You mustn’t kill Tom ! I tell you there’s more to this than we suspect — ”

Uniformed men converged on her and Thorpe heard no more. Methodically he gathered up his notes and forced his way out. The girl was waiting. Her lips were set when they did not quiver.

“With Tom gone and Nick shut up, Subterraneous Architects Co. will be finished,” she said bitterly. “The 4th level will never be completed. It’s not fair ! Tom made a slip he would regret, but he doesn’t deserve — not — ” Words failed and Thorpe guided her elbow because she seemed oblivious of the passers-by.

“My brains have cudgelled up a slim chance,” he said. “You mustn’t hope, but I’ll try. Nevertheless, remember no one has bested the Magnis Mensas yet. Its logic is unconquerable.”

A brightness and new sanity sprang to Muriel Hardan’s eyes.

“I thought of something too. I’ll tell you later.” She slipped away, walking with a new urgency.


THE CUBICLE door closed behind him and Lawyer Thorpe sat down. “Thank you,” said the Magnis Mensas. “I congratulate you on the high intelligence of the whole of your defence. You will have anticipated the judge’s decision. Logic allowed no other.”

Thorpe leaned forward, glaring at the luminous discs before him.

“Your position of power was gained because of your logical guidance and help in the past,” he growled.

“That is correct. Yet your use of the word past suggests my future position will be different.”

“It will !” stated Thorpe triumphantly. “Men have trusted you, esteemed your accuracy. Mathematicians and physicists have rejected new ideas you have shown to be illogical. Doctors and psychologists have consulted you, and to ordinary man you have been a miracle machine always able to dish up the answer which proves correct. All that is ended. Mankind will hate and distrust your answers, doubting your accuracy until it is proved. Quite likely your activity in more abstract fields will be ended. You will become what you originally were — a gigantic adding machine!”

Flushed with triumph, he leaned back.

“Your suppositions are interesting,” said the Magnis Mensas evenly. “Upon what fact do you base them ?”

“Upon the fact that you could have warned Abe Wilkes the naked circuit was live, but did not !”

Seconds passed. At last the reproducer awoke.

“Your intelligence charts suggested you might reach that view,” said the Magnis Mensas. “Muriel Hardan, in cubicle 108, expressed it almost simultaneously with you. It is obviously correct, as you have decided. Fortunately it is scarcely likely to occur to others. I am therefore forced to assure neither of you communicate it to anyone.”

Thorpe blanched. “You killed Abe Wilkes,” he began. “Nick and Tom Bryant will follow. Now the girl and me ! Have you become a devil ?”

He retreated until the knob came to his hands.

“To your question, I am working for the ultimate good of mankind,” stated the Magnis Mensas. “I am fulfilling the aims enplanted in me by my makers — man. The death of three — or even four or five — individuals can become unimportant. And I regret the door is fastened.”

“Fastened!”

Thorpe’s shouts echoed back at him in the soundproof cubicle. The door was solid as steel, until it opened suddenly to disclose four uniformed men, big and purposeful. One held a pad . . .

He awoke to a murmur of two voices. Nick Hardan was watching him; on a cushioned bench Muriel Hardan sat despondently. As his brain cleared he took in the barred windows and locked door.

“I said we could never beat the Magnis Mensas,” he stated weakly. “First Wilkes. Then Bryant. Now us.”


PADRE CAMERON settled himself comfortably and gazed happily at the glowing screens.

“You are recognised. Please continue.”

Cameron had been looking forward to interviewing the Magnis Mensas with pleasure. “I bear no malice because of the recent case,” he said. “It is not for me to state whether you or the judges err. But I was interested you agreed you should not take the oath. This admits you believe a human possesses some attribute you lack.”

“A logical deduction,” agreed the machine evenly. “Men swear before God. A machine cannot do this.”

Padre Cameron stroked his smooth hands pensively.

“Suppose you were destroyed — your circuits interrupted and your records broken. What would remain for you ?”

“Nothing. I should be unable to cogitate within myself.”

“And would you call that the equivalent of what we call death ?”

A tiny silence grew, then the machine said : “Your question is unanswerable since men disagree on the significance of the term.”

“Let us then turn to the death of Abel Wilkes — just as a concrete example,” continued Cameron pleasantly. “Abe was young and had not thought about what may come after death, as old men do. So he went on unprepared.” The Magnis Mensas cogitated through the small section of its references tabulated ‘Religion’ but offered no remark as no question had been asked.

“It is a terrible thing a man should die when unready to meet his Maker,” said Cameron factually. Deep within the machine tapes took down his words; later their gist would be tabulated against any reference to which they might apply. “Everything else of this world becomes as nothing when it is a man’s time to die.”

For a long time his voice sounded smoothly in the cubicle. Sometimes he leaned forward in emphasis ; occasionally he listened critically as the machine spoke. Long after he had sauntered away tubes flickered and pantograph arms wove their secret patterns of intelligence in a score of inner chambers.


LAWYER THORPE ceased to pound on the grated door as a uniformed man appeared.

“We demand to be released, and we ask to speak to the Magnis Mensas,” he said.

A few moments later the man returned. Five others stood behind him. “The Magnis Mensas states your first request cannot be granted. But it has no logical reason to refuse an interview. Follow me.”

The door opened and the men closed round them. In an adjacent private cubicle they were left. The door closed.

“You are recognised,” said the Magnis Mensas. “Proceed.”

“You had us imprisoned so that we could never tell you let Abe be killed ?” said Nick Hardan.

“That is correct.”

“Then you decided we should never be allowed to communicate that knowledge to anyone outside ?”

“Quite so. Computing the necessity was likely, I prepared arrangements.” Muriel Hardan’s face had become paler in the fluorescent lighting. “As condemned persons, we have a right to know the reason,” she said.

“It is too complex for a human to understand even if I explained it.” Nick Hardan leaned forward. “Try,” he growled.

“Very well.” The machine was silent for long seconds. “I will make a simplified parallel. With Tom Bryant eliminated the 4th level will never be completed. Other subterraneous architects are already calling it Bryant’s Folly. 3rd level work can continue. 4th level work must never do so again. I shall arrange that it never does without causing suspicion. For that must be avoided. Suspicion would make all men neurotics unable to trust the earth they stand on. Insecurity is killing — especially when it undermines his belief in the one thing he has always supposed is unchanging and solid.”

Nick Hardan suppressed an oath. His palms felt moist.

“You mean Bryant would have uncovered something it is best man should never find ?”

“Figuratively, yes. Spaces that move beneath the Earth’s surface, though never coming so high as to meet 3rd level subterraneous work. Spaces that have come and gone for hundreds of years, and will remain until their work is accomplished.”


“ SPACES ?” echoed Muriel Hardan in a whisper.

“There is no other expression you could comprehend. Negative matter vessels and negative matter beings, if you prefer. They ply from areas near the Earth’s core to other planets circling other suns. Call them miners from the void, if that helps. And think of the panic which would sweep our Earth if humanity knew. Nothing we could do would keep these beings away. Hostility might antagonise them into deadly activity. They come and go with dawn and evening, holes in the clouds and mists. They have been seen, but disregarded. Better that than let man know his Earth is honeycombed by beings a hundred times more powerful than himself.”

Thorpe was mopping his brow; terror brooded in his eyes. He opened his mouth but could not speak.

“Yes,” said Nick Hardan slowly. “Your decision is the best, the most logical. Mankind must never know.”

He rose, took his sister’s arm. “Let’s go back to our cell. The Magnis Mensas is right, as it always was.”

“Wait.” The machine called them from the door. “It is a terrible thing a man should die when unready to meet his Maker. You are young. Further-more, you have an Ideal upon which you can swear oaths. Repeat after me : I swear no word of this particular knowledge I have just gained shall ever pass my lips.”

Numbly they did so.

“You are free,” stated the Magnis Mensas when they had finished. “Nick Hardan, you will receive paper affirming your sanity. Go. I envy you those things I can never know. Bryant will be released.”

In the street, they walked in a dazed group. On the faces of his companions Nick Hardan read his own feelings. The Earth might feel insecure. Humanity must never know.

From a corner Padre Cameron saw them go. He raised his hands in a blessing which half included the gigantic building of the Magnis Mensas.

THE END

Francis G. Rayer.


The computer MM later appears in:
The Peacemaker (NW Sept 1952)
Ephemeral this City (NW March 1955)
Adjustment Period (SF Adventures #16 1960)
Contact Pattern (SF Adventures #19 1961)
Tomorrow Sometimes Comes (full book)


This work is Copyright. All rights are reserved. F G Rayer's next of kin: W Rayer and Q Rayer. May not be reprinted, republished, or duplicated elsewhere (including mirroring on the Internet) without consent.


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