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Millennium   By: (1918-1977)

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Transcriber note.

This etext was produced from Astounding Science Fiction May 1955. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

MILLENNIUM

BY EVERETT B. COLE

There are devices a high level culture could produce that simply don't belong in the hands of incompetents of lower cultural evolution. The finest, and most civilized of tools can be made a menace ...

[Illustration]

Illustrated by Freas

Liewen Konar smiled wryly as he put a battered object on the bench. "Well, here's another piece recovered. Not worth much, I'd say, but here it is."

Obviously, it had once been a precisely fabricated piece of equipment. But its identity was almost lost. A hole was torn in the side of the metal box. Knobs were broken away from their shafts. The engraved legends were scored and worn to illegibility, and the meter was merely a black void in the panel. Whatever had been mounted at the top had been broken away, to leave ragged shards. Inside the gaping hole in the case, tiny, blackened components hung at odd angles.

Klion Meinora looked at the wreckage and shook his head.

"I know it's supposed to be what's left of a medium range communicator," he said, "but I'd never believe it." He poked a finger inside the hole in the case, pushing a few components aside. Beyond them, a corroded wheel hung loosely in what had once been precision bearings.

"Where's the power unit?"

Konar shook his head. "No trace. Not much left of the viewsphere, either."

"Well." Meinora shook his head resignedly. "It's salvage. But we got it back." He stood back to look at the communicator. "Someone's been keeping the outside clean, I see."

Konar nodded. "It was a religious relic," he said. "Found it in an abbey." He reached into the bag he had placed on the floor.

"And here's a mental amplifier communicator, personnel, heavy duty. Slightly used and somewhat out of adjustment, but complete and repairable." He withdrew a golden circlet, held it up for a moment, and carefully laid it on the bench beside the wrecked communicator. Its metal was dented, but untarnished.

"Don't want to get rough with it," he explained. "Something might be loose inside."

He reached again into the bag. "And a body shield, protector type, model GS/NO 10C. Again, somewhat used, but repairable. Even has its nomenclature label."

"Good enough." Meinora held a hand out and accepted the heavy belt. He turned it about in his hands, examining the workmanship. Finally, he looked closely at the long, narrow case mounted on the leather.

"See they counted this unit fairly well. Must have been using it."

"Yes, sir. It's operative. The Earl wore it all the time. Guess he kept up his reputation as a fighter that way. Be pretty hard to nick anyone with a sword if he had one of these running. And almost any clumsy leatherhead could slash the other guy up if he didn't have to worry about self protection."

"I know." Meinora nodded quickly. "Seen it done. Anything more turned up?"

"One more thing. This hand weapon came from the same abbey I got the communicator from. I'd say it was pretty hopeless, too." Konar picked a flame scarred frame from his bag, then reached in again, to scoop up a few odd bits of metal.

"It was in pieces when we picked it up," he explained. "They kept it clean, but they couldn't get the flame pits out and reassembly was a little beyond them."

"Beyond us too, by now." Meinora looked curiously at the object. "Looks as though a couple of the boys shot it out."

"Guess they did, sir. Not once, but several times." Konar shrugged. "Malendes tells me he picked up several like this." He cocked his head to one side.

"Say, chief, how many of these things were kicking around on this unlucky planet?"

Meinora grimaced. "As far as we can determine, there were ninety two operative sets originally issued. Each of the original native operatives was equipped with a mentacom and a body shield... Continue reading book >>




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