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The Last Gentleman   By:

The Last Gentleman by Rory Magill

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The LAST Gentleman

By Rory Magill

Illustrated by TED SPEICHER

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from IF Worlds of Science Fiction January 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: No one knew, no one cared. For a great lethargy was overcoming the people and their only salvation was ]

The explosion brought Jim Peters upright in bed. He sat there, leaning back on the heels of his hands, blinking stupidly at the wall. His vision cleared and he looked down at Myra, just stirring beside him. Myra opened her eyes.

Jim said, "Did you feel that?"

Myra yawned. "I thought I was dreaming. It was an explosion or something, wasn't it?"

Jim's lips set grimly. After ten years of cold war, there was only one appropriate observation, and he made it. "I guess maybe this is it."

As by common agreement, they got out of bed and pulled on their robes. They went downstairs and out into the warm summer night. Other people had come out of their homes also. Shadowy figures moved and collected in the darkness.

"Sounded right on top of us."

"I was looking out the window. Didn't see no flash."

"Must have been further away than it seemed."

This last was spoken hopefully, and reflected the mood of all the people. Maybe it wasn't the bomb after all.

Oddly, no one had thought to consult a radio. The thought struck them as a group and they broke into single and double units again hurrying back into the houses. Lights began coming on here and there.

Jim Peters took Myra's hand, unconsciously, as they hurried up the porch steps. "Hugh would know," Jim said. "I kind of wish Hugh was here."

Myra laughed lightly a calculated laugh, meant to disguise the gravity of this terrible thing. "That's not very patriotic, Jim. If that was the bomb, Hugh will be kept busy making other bombs to send back to them."

"But he'd know. I'll bet he could tell just by the sound of it." Jim smiled quietly in the darkness proudly. It wasn't everybody who had a genius for a brother. A nuclear scientist didn't happen in every family. Hugh was somebody to be proud of.

They turned on the radio and sat huddled in front of it. The tubes warmed with maddening slowness. Then there came the deliberately impersonal voice of the announcer:

" on the strength of reports now in, it appears the enemy bungled badly. Instead of crippling the nation, they succeeded only in alerting it. The bombs at this time there appear to have been five of them dropped formed a straight north south line across western United States. One detonated close to the Idaho Utah line. The other four were placed at almost equi distant points to the south the fifth bomb, according to first reports, exploding in a Mexican desert. We have been informed that Calas, Utah, a town of nine hundred persons, has been completely annihilated. For further reports, keep tuned to this station."

[Illustration: The fifth "one" exploded in the Mexican desert. ]

A dance band cut in. Jim got up from his chair. "They certainly did bungle," he said. "Imagine wasting four atom bombs like that."

Myra got up also. "Would you like some coffee?"

"That'd be a good idea. I don't feel like going back to bed. I want to listen for more reports."

But there were no more reports. An hour passed. Another and another. Jim spun the dials and got either silence or the cheerful blatherings of some inane disc jockey who prattled on as though nothing had happened.

Finally Jim snapped the set off. "Censorship," he said. "Now we're going to see what it's really like."

In the morning they gathered again in groups the villagers in this little community of five hundred, and discussed the shape of things to come, as they visualized them.

"It'll take a little time to get into action," old Sam Bennett said. "Even expecting it, and with how fast things move these days it'll take time... Continue reading book >>

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