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Page 5

"Then trust me," he said. "And please understand that there's no place I'd rather be right now than home with you."

She nodded. "Of course, dear."

"Oh, yes," he aid, "tell Phil he's under house arrest for deliberate disobedience to the Code. I'll deal with him, personally, later." He closed the switch before she could reply.

Now for General Pchak, he thought. Let's see if he can give us a hint on how to deal with Leader Adams.

The room was vaguely egg-shaped for acoustical reasons, cut at one end by the flat surface of a screen and with space in the center for a realized image. The wall opposite the screen was occupied by a curved couch split by drop arms in which control instruments were set.

Pchak was sprawled on the couch, a brown blob against the gray plastic, watching two Krigellian gladiators spill each other's blood in an arena which had a shifting floor. As Coogan entered, Pchak turned the screen to a book page in the Zosma language of Krigellia, scanned a few lines. He looked up at Coogan with an expression of irritation.

"Director Coogan," said Pchak, "have you chosen a successor yet?" He slid his feet to the floor. "I find semantics most interesting, Director Coogan. The art of using words as weapons appeals to me. I'm particularly interested in psychological warfare."

Coogan stared thoughtfully at the figure in the brown toga, an idea racing through his mind. If I get this barbarian started on a study of psychological warfare, he'll never leave. He pulled out a section of the curved couch, sat down facing Pchak. "What's the most important thing to know about a weapon?" he asked.

The general's forehead creased. "How to use it effectively, of course."

Coogan shook his head. "That's an overgeneralization. The most important thing is to know your weapon's limitations."

Pchak's eyes widened. "What it cannot do. Very clever." "Psychological warfare is an extensive subject," said Coogan. "According to some, it's a two-edged sword with no handle. If you grasp it strongly enough to strike down your enemy, you render yourself hors de combat before your blow is delivered."

Pchak leaned against an arm of the couch. "I don't believe I understand you."

Coogan said, "Well, the whole argument is specious, anyway. You'd first have to apply the methods of psychology to yourself. As you measured more and more of your own sanity, you'd be more and more incapable of using the weapon against another."

In a cold voice, Pchak said, "Are you suggesting that I'm insane?"

"Of course not," said Coogan. "I'm giving you a summary of one of the arguments about psychological warfare. Some people believe any warfare is insanity. But sanity is a matter of degree. Degree implies measurement. To measure, we must use some absolute referent. Unless we could agree on the measuring device, we couldn't say anyone was sane or insane. Nor could we tell what opponent might be vulnerable to our weapon."

Pchak jerked forward, a hard light in his slitted eyes.

Coogan hesitated, wondered, Have I gone too far? He said, "I'll give you another example." He hooked a thumb toward the viewscreen. "You just watched two gladiators settle an issue for their cities. That particular action occurred twenty centuries ago. You weren't interested in the issue they settled. You were examining their method of combat. Twenty centuries from now, who will examine your methods? Will they be interested in the issues you settled?"

Pchak turned his head to one side, keeping his eyes on Coogan. "I think you're using clever words in a way to confuse me," he said.

"No, general," Coogan shook his head. "We're not here to confuse people. We believe in our Code and live by it. That Code says we must obey the government. And that doesn't mean we obey when we feel like it or when we happen to agree with you. We obey. Your orders will be carried out. It doesn't pay us to lead you into confusion."

In a strangely flat voice, Pchak said, "Knowledge is a blind alley leading only to unhappiness."

Coogan suddenly realized that the man was quoting Leader Adams. He said, "We don't put out knowledge, general. We store information. That's our first job."

"But you blat that information all over the universe!" stormed the general. "Then it becomes knowledge!"

"That is under the Charter, not the Code," said Coogan.

Pchak pursed his lips, leaned toward Coogan. "Do you mean if I ordered you to shut down your broadcasts, you'd just do it? We understood you were prepared to resist us at every turn."

"Then your information was incorrect," said Coogan.

The general leaned back, rubbed his chin. "All right, shut them down," he said. "I'll give you a half hour. I want all five thousand of them quiet and your special channels, too."

Coogan bowed, got to his feet. "We obey," he said.

In the director's office Coogan sat at the desk, staring at the opposite wall. The screens were silent. It was almost as though there was some interspatial hole in the room, a lack. The door opened and Sil-Chan entered. "You sent for me?" he asked.

Coogan looked at the man for a moment before speaking, then said, "Why didn't you return to Pchak's viewing room as I ordered?"

"Because Pchak dismissed me," said Sil-Chan curtly.

"Come in and sit down," said Coogan. He turned on his desk visor, called records. "What's the parentage and upbringing of the new Grand Regent?" he asked.

After a brief pause, a voice came from the visor: "Leader Adams, also known as Adam Yoo. Mother, Simila Yoo, native of Mundial Group" -- Coogan glanced at Sil-Chan -- "planet Sextus C III. Father Princeps Adams, native of Hercules Group. Father was killed in accident with subspace translator on University Planet of Hercules XII when son age nine. Young Adams raised with mother's family on Sextus C II until age eighteen when sent to Shandu for training as a Mundial religious leader. While on Shandu --"

Coogan interrupted, "Send me a transcript on it." He broke the connection, looked at Sil-Chan. "Still angry, Toris?"

Sil-Chan's lips tightened.

As though he had not noticed, Coogan said, "Adams' father was killed in an accident on a university planet. That could be the unconscious origin of his hatred of knowledge." He looked speculatively at Sil-Chan. "You're a Mundial native. What's the group like?"

"If Adams was raised there, he's a mystic," said Sil-Chan. He shrugged. "All of our people are mystics. No Mundial family would permit otherwise. That's why he was taken to the home planet to be raised." Sil-Chan suddenly put a hand to his chin. "Father killed in an accident --" He looked at Coogan, through him. "That could have been an arranged accident." He leaned forward, tapped the desk. "Let's say the father objected to the son being raised in the Mundial Group --"

"Are you suggesting that the mother could have arranged the accident?"

"Either she or some of her kinsmen," said Sil-Chan. "It's been known to happen. The Mundials are jealous of their own. I had the glax of a time getting permission to come to the Library staff."

"This happiness through ignorance cult," said Coogan. "How would mysticism bear on that?"

Sil-Chan looked at the desk surface, forehead creased. "He'll believe absolutely in his own destiny. If he thinks he has to destroy the Library to fulfill that destiny, there'll be no stopping him."

Coogan clasped his hands together on the desk top, gripped them until they hurt. Obey! he thought. What a weapon to use against a fanatic! "If we could prove the mother or the Yoo Clan had the father killed, that might be a valuable piece of knowledge," said Sil-Chan.

"A wise man depends upon his friends for information and upon himself for decisions," said Coogan.

"That's a Mundial axiom," said Sil-Chan.

"I read it somewhere," said Coogan. "You're a Mundial native, Toris. Explain this mysticism."

"It's mostly rubbed off of me," said Sil-Chan, "but I'll try. It revolves around an ancient form of ancestor worship. Mysticism, you see, is the art of looking backward while convincing yourself that you're looking forward. The ancient Terran god Janus was a mystic. He looked forward and backward at the same time. Everything a mystic does in the present must find its interpretation in the past. Now, the interpretation --"

"That's a subtle one," said Coogan. "It almost slipped past me. Interpretation. Substitute explanation for interpretation-"

"And you have a librarian," said Sil-Chan.

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