The first task at hand, William Barris decided, was to dear the remaining hostile guards and officials from the Unity Control Building. He did so, posting men he could trust in each of the departments and offices. Gradually those loyal to Vulcan 3 or Father Fields were dismissed and pushed outside.
By evening, the great building had been organized for defense.
Outside on the streets, the mobs surged back and forth. Occasional rocks smashed against the windows. A few frenzied persons tried to rush the doors, and were driven back. Those inside had the advantage of weapons.
A systematic check of the eleven divisions of the Unity system showed that seven were in the hands of the Healers and the remaining four were loyal to Vulcan 3.
A development in North America filled him with ironic amusement. There was now no "North America." Taubmann had proclaimed an end to the administrative bifurcation between his region and Barris'; it was now all simply " America," from bottom to top.
Standing by a window, he watched a mob of Healers struggling with a flock of hammers. Again and again the hammers dipped, striking and retreating; the mob fought them with stones and pipe. Finally the hammers were driven off. They disappeared into the evening darkness.
"I can't understand how Vulcan 3 came to have such things," Daily said. "Where did it get them?"
"It made them," Barris said. "They're adaptations of mobile repair instruments. We supplied it with materials, but it did the actual repair work. It must have perceived the possibilities in the situation a long time ago, and started turning them out."
"I wonder how many of them he has," Daily said. "It, I mean. I find myself thinking of Vulcan3 as he, now. ..it's hard not to."
"As far as I can see," Barris said, "there's no difference. I hardly see how our situation would be affected if it were an actual he." Remaining at the window, he continued to watch. An hour later more hammers returned; this time they had equipped themselves with pencil beams. The mob scattered in panic, screaming wildly as the hammers bore down on them.
At ten that night he saw the first flashes of bomb-blasts, and felt the concussions. Somewhere in the city a searchlight came on; in its glowing trail he saw objects passing overhead, larger by far than any hammers they had been up against so far. Evidently now that real warfare had broken out between Vulcan 3 's mobile extensions and the Healers, Vulcan 3 was rapidly stepping-up its output. Or had these larger extensions, these bomb carriers, already existed, and been held back? Had Vulcan 3 anticipated such large scale engagement?
Why not? It had known about the Healers for some time, despite Jason Dill's efforts. It had had plenty of time to prepare.
Turning from the window, Barris said to Chai and Daily, "This is serious. Tell the roof gunners to get ready."
On the roof of the Unity Control Building, the banks of heavy-duty blasters turned to meet the attack. The hammers had finished with the mob; now they were approaching the Unity Building, fanning out in an arc as they gained altitude for the attack.
"Here they come," Chai muttered.
"We had better get down in the basement shelters." Daily moved nervously toward the descent ramp. The guns were beginning to open up now -- dull muffled roars hesitant at first, as the gunners operated unfamiliar controls. Most of them had been Dill's personal guards, but some had been merely clerks and desk men.
A hammer dived for the window. A pencil beam stabbed briefly into the room, disintegrating a narrow path. The hammer swooped off and rose to strike again. A bolt from one of the roof guns caught it. It burst apart; bits rained down, white-hot metallic particles.
"We're in a bad spot," Daily said. "We're completely surrounded by the Healers. And it's obvious that the fortress is directing operations against the Healers-look at the extent of the activity going on out there. Those are no random attacks; those damn metal birds are coordinated."
Chai said, "Interesting to see them using the traditional weapon of Unity: the pencil beam."
Yes, Barris thought. It isn't T-class men in gray suits, black shiny shoes, and white shirts, carrying briefcases, who are using the symbolic pencil beams. It's mechanical flying objects, controlled by a machine buried beneath the earth. But let's be realistic. How different is it really? Hasn't the true structure come out? Isn't this what always really existed, but no one could see it until now?
Vulcan 3 has eliminated the middlemen. Us.
"I wonder which will eventually win," Pegler said. "The Healers have the greater number; Vulcan 3 can't get all of them."
"But Unity has the weapons and the organization," Daily said. "The Healers will never be able to take the fortress; they don't even know where it is. Vulcan 3 will be able to construct gradually more elaborate and effective weapons, now that it can work in the open."
Pondering, Barris started away from them.
"Where are you going?" Chai asked, apprehensively.
"Down to the third subsurface level," Barris said.
Barris said, "There's someone I want to talk to."
Marion Fields listened intently, huddled up in a ball, her chin resting against her knees. Around her, the heaps of educational comic books reminded Barris that this was only a little girl that he was talking to. He would not have thought that, from the expression on her face; she listened to everything with grave, poised maturity, not interrupting nor tiring. Her attention did not wander, and he found himself going on and on, relieving himself of the pent-up anxieties that had descended over him during the last weeks.
At last, a little embarrassed, he broke off. "I didn't mean to talk to you so long," he said. He had never been around children very much, and his reaction to the child surprised him. He had felt at once an intuitive bond. A strong but unexpressed sympathy on her part, even though she did not know him. He guessed that she had an extraordinarily high level of intelligence. But it was more than that. She was a fully formed person, with her own ideas, her own viewpoint. And she was not afraid to challenge anything she did not believe; she did not seem to have any veneration for institutions or authority.
"The Healers will win," she said quietly, when he had finished.
"Perhaps," he said. "But remember, Vulcan 3 has a number of highly skilled experts working for it now. Reynolds and his group evidently managed to reach the fortress, from what we can learn."
"How could they obey a wicked mechanical thing like that? " Marion Fields said. "They must be crazy."
Barris said, "All their lives they've been used to the idea of obeying Vulcan 3. Why should they change their minds now? Their whole lives have been oriented around Unity. It's the only existence they know. "The really striking part, he thought, is that so many people have flocked away from Unity, to this girl's father.
"But he kills people," Marion Fields said. "You said so; you said he has those hammer things he sends out."
"The Healers kill people too," Barris said.
"That's different." Her young, smooth face had on it an absolute certitude. "It's because they have to. He wants to. Don't you see the difference?"
Barris thought, I was wrong. There is one thing, one institution, that she accepts without question. Her father. She had been doing for years what great numbers of people are now learning to do: follow Father Fields blindly, wherever he leads them.
"Where is your father?" he asked the girl. "I talked to him once; I'd like to talk to him again. You're in touch with him, aren't you?"
"No," she said.
"But you know where he could be found. You could get to him, if you wanted. For instance, if I let you go, you'd find your way to him. Isn't that so? " He could see by her evasive restlessness that he was right. He was making her very uncomfortable.
"What do you want to see him for?" Marion said.
"I have a proposal to make to him."
Her eyes widened, and then shone with slyness. "You're going to join the Movement, is that it? And you want him to promise that you'll be somebody important in it. Like he did --" She clapped her hand over her mouth and stared at him stricken. "Like he did," she finished, "with that other Director."
"Taubmann," Barris said. He lit a cigarette and sat smoking, facing the girl. It was peaceful down here beneath the ground, away from the frenzy and destruction going on above. And yet, he thought, I have to go back to it, as soon as possible. I'm here so I can do that. A sort of paradox. In this peaceful child's room I expect to find the solution to the most arduous task of all.
"You'll let me go if I take you to him?" Marion asked. "I can go free? I won't even have to go back to that school?"
"Of course. There's no reason to keep you."
"Mr. Dill kept me here."
Barris said, "Mr. Dill is dead."
"Oh," she said. She nodded slowly, somberly. "I see. That's too bad."
"I had the same feeling about him," Barris said. "At first I had no trust in what he said. He seemed to be making up a story to fool everyone. But oddly --" He broke off. Oddly, the man's story had not been spurious. Truthfulness did not seem to go naturally with a man like Jason Dill; he seemed to be created to tell -- as Marion said -- long public lies, while smiling constantly. Involved dogmatic accounts for the purpose of concealing the actual situation. And yet, when everything was out in the open, Jason Dill did not look so bad; he had not been so dishonest an official. Certainly, he had been trying to do his job. He had been loyal to the theoretical ideals of Unity. ..perhaps more so than anyone else.
Marion Fields said, "Those awful metal birds he's been making -- those things he sends out that he kills people with. Can he make a lot of them? " She eyed him uneasily.
"Evidently there's no particular limit to what Vulcan 3 can produce. There's no restriction on raw materials available to him." Him. He, too, was saying that now." And he has the technical know-how. He has more information available to him than any purely human agency in the world. And he's not limited by any ethical considerations."
In fact, he realized, Vulcan 3 is in an ideal position; his goal is dictated by logic, by relentless correct reasoning. It is no emotional bias or projection that motivates him to act as he does. So he will never suffer a change of heart, a conversion; he will never turn from a conqueror into a benevolent ruler.
"The techniques that Vulcan 3 will employ," Barris said to the child gazing up at him, "will be brought into play according to the need. They'll vary in direct proportion to the problem facing him; if he has ten people opposed to him, he "Till probably employ some minor weapon, such as the original hammers equipped with heat beams. We've seen him use hammers of greater magnitude, equipped with chemical bombs; that's because the magnitude of his opposition has turned out to be that much greater. He meets whatever challenge exists."
Marion said, "So the stronger the Movement gets, the larger he'll grow. The stronger he'll become."
"Yes," Barris said. "And there's no point at which he'll have to stop; there's no known limit to his theoretical power and size."
"If the whole world was against him --"
"Then he'd have to grow and produce and organize to com bat the whole world."
"Why?" she demanded.
"Because that's his job."
"He wants to?"
"No," Barris said. "He has to."
All at once, without any warning, the girl said, "I'll take you to him, Mr. Barris. My father, I mean."
Silently, Barris breathed a prayer of relief.
"But you have to come alone," she added instantly. "No guards or anybody with guns." Studying him she said, "You promise? On your word of honor?"
"I promise," Barris said.
Uncertainly, she said, "How'll we get there? He's in North America."
"By police cruiser. We have three of them up on the roof of the building. They used to belong to Jason Dill. When there's a lull in the attack, we'll take off."
"Can we get by the hammer birds?" she said, with a mixture of doubt and excitement.
"I hope so, " Barris said.
Much of the outlying business ring was in ruins. His own building was gone; only a heap of smoking rubble remained. Fires still burned out of control in the vast, sprawling rabbit warren that was -- or had been -- the residential section. Most of the streets were hopelessly blocked. Stores, he observed, had been broken into and looted.
But the fighting was over. The city was quiet. People roamed vaguely through the debris, picking about for valuables. Here and there brown-clad Healers organized repair and reclamation. At the sound of the jets of his police cruiser, the people below scattered for shelter. On the roof of an undestroyed factory building a blaster boomed at them inexpertly.
"Which way?" Barris said to the solemn child beside him.
"Keep going straight. We can land soon. They'll take us to him on foot." Frowning with worry, she murmured, "I hope they haven't changed it too much. I was at that school so long, and he was in that awful place, that Atlanta ..."
Barris flew on. The open countryside did not show the same extensive injury that the big cities did; below him, the farms and even the small rural towns seemed about as they always had. In fact, there was more order in the hinterlands now than there had been before; the collapse of the rural Unity offices had brought about stability, rather than chaos. Local people, already committed to support of the Movement, had eagerly assumed the tasks of leadership.
"That big river," Marion said, straining to see. "There's a bridge. I see it." She shivered triumphantly. "Go by the bridge, and you'll see a road. When there's a junction with another road, put your ship down there." She gave him a radiant smile.
Several minutes later he was landing the police cruiser in an open field at the edge of a small Pennsylvania town. Before the jets were off, a truck had come rattling across the dirt and weeds, directly toward them.
This is it, Barris said to himself. It's too late to back out now.
The truck halted. Four men in overalls jumped down and came cautiously up to the cruiser. One of them waved a pellet rifle. "Who are you?"
"Let me get out," Marion said to Barris. "Let me talk to them."
He touched the stud on the instrument panel which released the port; it slid open, and Marion at once scrambled out and hopped down to the dusty ground.
Barris, still in the ship, waited tensely while she conferred with the four men. Far up in the sky, to the north, a flock of hammers rushed inland, intent on business of their own. A few moments later bright fission flashes lit up the horizon. Vulcan 3 had apparently begun equipping his extensions with atomic tactical bombs.
One of the four men came up to the cruiser and cupped his hands to his mouth. "I'm Joe Potter. You're Barris?"
"That's right." Sitting in the ship, Barris kept his hand on his pencil beam. But, he realized, it was nothing more than a ritualistic gesture now; it had no practical importance.
"Say," Joe Potter said. "I'll take you to Father. If that's what you want, and she says it is. Come alone."
With the four men, Barris and Marion climbed aboard the ancient, dented truck. At once it started up; he was pitched from side to side as it swung around and started back the way it had come.
"By God," one of the men said, scrutinizing him. "You used to be North American Director. Didn't you?"
"Yes," Barris said.
The men mumbled among one another, and at last one of them slid over to Bariis and said, "Listen, Mr. Barris." He shoved an envelope and a pencil at him. "Could I have your autograph?"
For an hour the truck headed along minor country roads, in the general direction of New York City. A few miles outside the demolished business ring, Potter halted the truck at a gasoline station. To the right of the station was a roadside cafe, a decrepit, weatherbeaten place. A few cars were pulled up in front of it. Some children were playing in the dirt by the steps, and a dog was tied up in the yard in the rear.
"Get out," Potter said. All four men seemed somewhat cross and taciturn from the long drive.
Barris got out slowly. "Where --"
"Inside." Potter started up the truck again. Marion hopped out to join Barris. The truck pulled away, made a turn, and dis- appeared back down the road in the direction from which they had just come.
Her eyes shining, Marion called, "Come on! " She scampered up on the porch of the cafe and tugged the door open. Barris fol- lowed after her, with caution.
In the dingy cafe, at a table littered with maps and papers, sat a man wearing a blue denim shirt and grease-stained work pants. An ancient audio-telephone was propped up beside him, next to a plate on which were the remains of a hamburger and fried potatoes. The man glanced up irritably, and Barris saw heavy ridged eyebrows, the irregular teeth, the penetrating glance that had so chilled him before, and which chilled him again now.
"I'll be darned," Father Fields said, pushing away his papers. "Look who's here."
"Daddy!" Marion cried; she leaped forward and threw her arms around him. "I'm so glad to see you --" Her words were cut off, smothered by the man's shirt as she pressed her face into it. Fields patted her on the back, oblivious to Barris.
Walking over to the counter, Barris seated himself alone. He remained there, meditating, until all at once he realized that Father Fields was addressing him. Glancing up, he saw the man's hand held out. Grinning, Fields shook hands with him.
"I thought you were in Geneva," Fields said. "It's nice seeing you again." His eyes traveled up and down Barris. "The one decent Director out of eleven. And we don't get you; we get practically the worst-barring Reynolds. We get that opportunist Taubmann." He shook his head ironically.
Barris said, "Revolutionary movements always draw opportunists."
"That's very charitable of you," Fields said. Reaching back, he drew up a chair and seated himself, tipping the chair until he was comfortable.
"Mr. Barris is fighting Vulcan 3, " Marion declared, holding on tightly to her father's arm. "He's on our side."
"Oh, is that right?" Fields said, patting her. "Are you sure about that?"
She colored and stammered, "Well, anyhow, he's against Vulcan 3."
"Congratulations," Fields said to Barris. "You've made a wise choice. Assuming it's so."
Settling back against the counter, propping himself up on one elbow so that he, too, was comfortable, Barris said, "I came here to talk business with you."
In a leisurely, drawling voice, Fields said, "As you can see, I'm a pretty busy man. Maybe I don't have time to talk business."
"Find time," Barris said.
Fields said, "I'm not much interested in business. I'm more interested in work. You could have joined us back when it mattered, but you turned tail and walked out. Now --" He shrugged. "What the heck does it matter? Having you with us doesn't make any particular difference one way or another. We've pretty well won, now. I imagine that's why you've finally made up your mind which way you want to jump. Now you can see who's the winning side." He grinned once more, this time with a knowing, insinuating twinkle. "Isn't that so? You'd like to be on the winning side." He waggled his finger slyly at Barris.
"If I did," Barris said, "I wouldn't be here."
For a moment, Fields did not appear to understand. Then, by degrees, his face lost all humor; the bantering familiarity vanished. He became hard-eyed. "The hell you say," he said slowly. "Unity is gone, man. In a couple of days we swept the old monster system aside. What's there left? Those tricky businesses flap- ping around up there." He jerked his thumb, pointing upward. "Like the one I got, that day in the hotel, the one that came in the window looking for me. Did you ever get that? I patched it up pretty good and sent it on to you and your girl, for a --" He laughed. "A wedding present."
Barris said, "You've got nothing. You've destroyed nothing."
"Everything," Fields said in a grating whisper. "We've got everything there is, mister."
"You don't have Vulcan 3," Barris said. "You've got a lot of land; you blew up a lot of office buildings and recruited a lot of clerks and stenographers -- that's all."
"We'll get him," Fields said, evenly.
"Not without your founder," Barris said. "Not now that he's dead."
Staring at Barris, Fields said, "My --" He shook his head slowly; his poise was obviously completely shattered. "What do you mean? I founded the Movement. I've headed it from the start."
Barris said, "I know that's a lie."
For a time there was silence.
"What does he mean?" Marion demanded, plucking anxiously at her father's arm.
"He's out of his mind," Fields said, still staring at Barris. The color had not returned to his face.
"You're an expert electrician," Barris said. "That was your trade. I saw your work on that hammer, your reconstruction. You're very good; in fact there probably isn't an electrician in the world today superior to you. You kept Vulcan 2 going all this time, didn't you?"
Fields' mouth opened and then shut. He said nothing.
"Vulcan 2 founded the Healers' Movement," Barris said.
"No," Fields said.
"You were only the fake leader. A puppet. Vulcan 2 created the Movement as an instrument to destroy Vulcan 3. That's why he gave Jason Dill instructions not to reveal the existence of the Movement to Vulcan 3; he wanted to give it time to grow."