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No Shield from the Dead   By: (1923-2001)

No Shield from the Dead by Gordon R. Dickson

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Transcriber's 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.

NO SHIELD FROM THE DEAD

By Gordon R. Dickson

No conceivable force could penetrate Terri's shield. Yet he was defenseless.

It was a nice little party, but a bit obvious. Terri Mac saw through it before he had taken half a dozen steps into the apartment. A light flush staining his high cheek bones. "This is ridiculous," he said.

The light chatter ceased. Cocktail glasses were set down on various handy tables and ledges; and all faces in the room turned toward a man in his late fifties who sat propped up invalid wise on pillows in a chair in a corner of the room.

"The Comptroller is perspicacious," said the old man, agreeably, waving one hand in a casual manner. "On your way, children."

And the people present smiled and nodded. Quite as if it were an ordinary leave taking, they pushed past Terri Mac and filed out the door. Even the blonde, Terri had picked up at the embassy ball and who had brought him here, strolled off casually, but in a decidedly less drunken fashion than she had exhibited earlier in the evening.

"Sit down," said the old man. Terri Mac did so, gazing searchingly at the skinny frame and white eyebrows in an unsuccessful effort to connect him with something in memory. "This is ridiculous," he repeated.

"Really?" The old man smiled benignly. "And why so?"

"Why " the situation was so obvious that Terri fumbled a little at a loss for words. "Obviously you intend some form of coercion, or else you would have come to me along recognized channels. And any thought of coercion is obviously well, ridiculous."

"Why?"

"Why? You senile old fool, don't you know that I'm shielded? Don't you know all government officials from the fifth class up wear complete personal shields that are not only crack proof but contain all the necessary elements to support life independently within the shield for more than twenty hours? Don't you know that I'll be missed in two hours at the most and tracked down in less than sixty minutes more? Are you crazy?"

The old man chuckled, rubbing dry hands together. He said, "I'm shielded too. You can't get at me. And now the room's shielded. You can't get out of it."

Terri stared at him. The initial shock was passing. His own statements anent the completeness of his protection had brought back confidence, and his natural coolness was returning. "What do you want?" he asked, eyeing the other narrowly.

"Pleasure of your company," said the old man. "There are some very strong connections between us. Yes, very strong. We must get to know each other personally."

It occurred to Terri that he had misinterpreted the situation. Relief came, mixed with a certain amount of chagrin at the way in which he allowed himself to show alarm. He had looked ridiculous. He leaned back in the chair and allowed a note of official hauteur and annoyance to creep into his voice. "I see," he said. "You want something?"

The old man nodded energetically.

"I do. Indeed I do."

"And you think you have some kind of a bargaining tool that is useful but might not be so if it became known to official channels."

"Well " said the old man cautiously.

"Don't waste my time," interrupted Terri, harshly. "I'm not an ordinary politician. No man who works his way up to the fifth level of the government is. I didn't get to where I am today by pussy footing around and I haven't the leisure to spend on people who do. Now what do you want?"

The other cackled. "Now, what do you think?" he said, putting one finger to his nose cunningly.

"You are old," Terri said. "And therefore cautious. Consequently you would not risk trying to force something from me, but are almost certainly trying to sell me something... Continue reading book >>




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