The Complete Stories (Page 167)
"You seemed so interested in the Inhibition Death, for one thing. And Dr. Tholan made those statements about the incidence increasing since interstellar travel, and being the highest on the planet nearest Earth." She paused.
"And your reading?" he prompted. "What about your reading, Rose?" c
She said, "It backs him up. All I could do was to skim hastily into the direction of their research in recent decades. It seems obvious to me, though, that at least some of the Hawkinsites are considering the possibility the Inhibition Death originates on Earth."
"Do they say so outright?"
"No. Or, if they have, I haven’t seen it." She gazed at him in surprise. In a matter like this, certainly the government would have investigated Hawkinsite research on the matter. She said, gently, "Don’t you know about Hawkinsite research in the matter, Drake? The government-"
"Never mind about that." Drake had moved away from her and now he turned again. His eyes were bright. He said, as though making a wonderful discovery, "Why, you’re an expert in this!"
Was she? Did he find that out only now that he needed her? Her nostrils flared and she said flatly, "I am a biologist."
He said, "Yes, I know that, but I mean your particular specialty is growth. Didn’t you once tell me you had done work on growth?"
"You might call it that. I’ve had twenty papers published on the relationship of nucleic acid fine structure and embryonic development on my Cancer Society grant."
"Good. I should have thought of that." He was choked with a new excitement. "Tell me, Rose- Look, I’m sorry if I lost my temper with you a moment ago. You’d be as competent as anyone to understand the direction of their researches if you read about it, wouldn’t you?"
"Fairly competent, yes."
"Then tell me how they think the disease is spread. The details, I mean."
"Oh, now look, that’s asking a little too much. 1 spent a few hours in the Academy, that’s all. I’d need much more time than that to be able to answer your question."
"An intelligent guess, at least. You can’t imagine how important it is."
She said, doubtfully, "Of course, ‘Studies on Inhibition’ is a major treatise in the field. It would summarize all of the available research data."
"Yes? And how recent is it?"
"It’s one of those periodic things. The last volume is about a year old."
"Does it have any account of his work in it?" His finger jabbed in the direction of Harg Tholan’s bedroom.
"More than anyone else’s. He’s an outstanding worker in the field. I looked over his papers especially."
"And what are his theories about the origin of the disease? Try to remember, Rose."
She shook her head at him. "I could swear he blames Earth, but he admits they know nothing about how the disease is spread. I could swear to that, too."
He stood stiffly before her. His strong hands were clenched into fists at his side and his words were scarcely more than a mutter. "It could be a matter of complete overestimation. Who knows-"
He whirled away. "I’ll find out about this right now, Rose. Thank you for your help."
She ran after him. "What are you going to do?"
"Ask him a few questions." He was rummaging through the drawers of his desk and now his right hand withdrew. It held a needle-gun.
She cried, "No, Drake!"
He shook her off roughly, and turned down the corridor toward the Hawkinsite’s bedroom.
Drake threw the door open and entered. Rose was at his heels, still trying to grasp his arm, but now he stopped and looked at Harg Tholan.
The Hawkinsite was standing there motionless, eyes unfocused, his four standing limbs sprawled out in four directions as far as they would go. Rose felt ashamed of intruding, as though she were violating an intimate rite. But Drake, apparently unconcerned, walked to within four feet of the creature and stood there. They were face to face, Drake holding the needle-gun easily at a level of about the center of the Hawkinsite’s torso.
Drake said, "Now keep quiet. He’ll gradually become aware of me."
‘ "How do you know?"
‘The answer was flat. "I know. Now get out of here."
But she did not move and Drake was too absorbed to pay her further attention.
Portions of the skin on the Hawkinsite’s face were beginning to quiver slightly. It was rather repulsive and Rose found herself preferring not to watch.
Drake suddenly, "That’s about all, Dr. Tholan. Don’t throw in connection with any of the limbs. Your sense organs and voice box will be quite enough."
The Hawkinsite’s voice was dim. "Why do you invade my disconnection chamber?" Then, more strongly, "And why are you armed?"
His head wobbled slightly atop a still frozen torso. He had, apparently, followed Drake’s suggestion against limb connection. Rose wondered how Drake knew such partial reconnection to be possible. She herself had not known of it.
The Hawkinsite spoke again. "What do you want?"
And this time Drake answered. He said, "The answer to certain questions."
"With a gun in your hand? I would not humor your discourtesy so far."
"You would not merely be humoring me. You might be saving your own life."
"That would be a matter of considerable indifference to me, under the circumstances. I am sorry, Mr. Smollett, that the duties toward a guest are so badly understood on Earth."
"You are no guest of mine, Dr. Tholan," said Drake. "You entered my house on false pretenses. You had some reason for it, some way you had planned of using me to further your own purposes. I have no compunction in reversing the process."