Bob Bibleman had the impression that robots wouldn't look you in the eye. And when one had been in the vicinity small valuable objects disappeared. A robot's idea of order was to stack everything into one pile. Nonetheless, Bibleman had to order lunch from robots, since vending ranked too low on the wage scale to attract humans.
"A hamburger, fries, strawberry shake, and --" Bibleman paused, reading the printout. "Make that a supreme double cheeseburger, fries, a chocolate malt --"
"Wait a minute," the robot said. "I'm already working on the burger. You want to buy into this week's contest while you're waiting?"
"I don't get the royal cheeseburger," Bibleman said.
It was hell living in the twenty-first century. Information transfer had reached the velocity of light. Bibleman's older brother had once fed a ten-word plot outline into a robot fiction machine, changed his mind as to the outcome, and found that the novel was already in print. He had had to program a sequel in order to make his correction.
"What's the prize structure in the contest?" Bibleman asked.
At once the printout posted all the odds, from first prize down to last. Naturally, the robot blanked out the display before Bibleman could read it.
"What is first prize?" Bibleman said.
"I can't tell you that," the robot said. From its slot came a hamburger, french fries, and a strawberry shake. "That'll be one thousand dollars in cash."
"Give me a hint," Bibleman said as he paid.
"It's everywhere and nowhere. It's existed since the seventeenth century. Originally it was invisible. Then it became royal. You can't get it unless you're smart, although cheating helps and so does being rich. What does the word 'heavy' suggest to you?"
"No, the literal meaning."
"Mass." Bibleman pondered. "What is this, a contest to see who can figure out what the prize is? I give up."
"Pay the six dollars," the robot said, "to cover our costs, and you'll receive an --"
"Gravity," Bibleman broke in. "Sir Isaac Newton. The Royal College of England. Am I right?"
"Right," the robot said. "Six dollars entitles you to a chance to go to college -- a statistical chance, at the posted odds. What's six dollars? Prat-fare."
Bibleman handed over a six-dollar coin.
"You win," the robot said. "You get to go to college. You beat the odds, which were two trillion to one against. Let me be the first to congratulate you. If I had a hand, I'd shake hands with you. This will change your life. This has been your lucky day."
"It's a setup," Bibleman said, feeling a rush of anxiety.
"You're right," the robot said, and it looked Bibleman right in the eye. "It's also mandatory that you accept your prize. The college is a military college located in Buttfuck, Egypt, so to speak. But that's no problem; you'll be taken there. Go home and start packing."
"Can't I eat my hamburger and drink --"
"I'd suggest you start packing right away."
Behind Bibleman a man and woman had lined up; reflexively he got out of their way, trying to hold on to his tray of food, feeling dizzy.
"A charbroiled steak sandwich," the man said, "onion rings, root beer, and that's it."
The robot said, "Care to buy into the contest? Terrific prizes." It flashed the odds on its display panel.
When Bob Bibleman unlocked the door of his one-room apartment, his telephone was on. It was looking for him.
"There you are," the telephone said.
"I'm not going to do it," Bibleman said.
"Sure you are," the phone said. "Do you know who this is? Read over your certificate, your first-prize legal form. You hold the rank of shavetail. I'm Major Casals. You're under my jurisdiction. If I tell you to piss purple, you'll piss purple. How soon can you be on a transplan rocket? Do you have friends you want to say goodbye to? A sweetheart, perhaps? Your mother?"
"Am I coming back?" Bibleman said with anger. "I mean, who are we fighting, this college? For that matter, what college is it? Who is on the faculty? Is it a liberal arts college or does it specialize in the hard sciences? Is it government-sponsored? Does it offer --"
"Just calm down," Major Casals said quietly.
Bibleman seated himself. He discovered that his hands were shaking. To himself he thought, I was born in the wrong century. A hundred years ago this wouldn't have happened and a hundred years from now it will be illegal. What I need is a lawyer.
His life had been a quiet one. He had, over the years, advanced to the modest position of floating-home salesman. For a man twenty-two years old, that wasn't bad. He almost owned his one-room apartment; that is, he rented with an option to buy. It was a small life, as lives went; he did not ask too much and he did not complain -- normally -- at what he received. Although he did not understand the tax structure that cut through his income, he accepted it; he accepted a modified state of penury the same way he accepted it when a girl would not go to bed with him. In a sense this defined him; this was his measure. He submitted to what he did not like, and he regarded this attitude as a virtue. Most people in authority over him considered him a good person. As to those over whom he had authority, that was a class with zero members. His boss at Cloud Nine Homes told him what to do and his customers, really, told him what to do. The government told everyone what to do, or so he assumed. He had very few dealings with the government. That was neither a virtue nor a vice; it was simply good luck.
Once he had experienced vague dreams. They had to do with giving to the poor. In high school he had read Charles Dickens and a vivid idea of the oppressed had fixed itself in his mind to the point where he could see them: all those who did not have a one-room apartment and a job and a high school education. Certain vague place names had floated through his head, gleaned from TV, places like India, where heavy-duty machinery swept up the dying. Once a teaching machine had told him, You have a good heart. That amazed him -- not that a machine would say so, but that it would say it to him. A girl had told him the same thing. He marveled at this. Vast forces colluding to tell him that he was not a bad person! It was a mystery and a delight.
But those days had passed. He no longer read novels, and the girl had been transferred to Frankfurt. Now he had been set up by a robot, a cheap machine, to shovel shit in the boonies, dragooned by a mechanical scam that was probably pulling citizens off the streets in record numbers. This was not a college he was going to; he had won nothing. He had won a stint at some kind of forced-labor camp, most likely. The exit door leads in, he thought to himself. Which is to say, when they want you they already have you; all they need is the paperwork. And a computer can process the forms at the touch of a key. The H key for hell and the S key for slave, he thought. And the Y key for you.
Don't forget your toothbrush, he thought. You may need it.
On the phone screen Major Casals regarded him, as if silently estimating the chances that Bob Bibleman might bolt. Two trillion to one I will, Bibleman thought. But the one will win, as in the contest; I'll do what I'm told.
"Please," Bibleman said, "let me ask you one thing, and give me an honest answer."
"Of course," Major Casals said.
"If I hadn't gone up to that Earl's Senior robot and --"
"We'd have gotten you anyhow," Major Casals said.
"Okay," Bibleman said, nodding. "Thanks. It makes me feel better. I don't have to tell myself stupid stuff like, If only I hadn't felt like a hamburger and fries. If only --" He broke off. "I'd better pack."
Major Casals said, "We've been running an evaluation on you for several months. You're overly endowed for the kind of work you do. And undereducated. You need more education. You're entitled to more education."
Astonished, Bibleman said, "You're talking about it as if it's a genuine college!"
"It is. It's the finest in the system. It isn't advertised; something like this can't be. No one selects it; the college selects you. Those were not joke odds that you saw posted. You can't really imagine being admitted to the finest college in the system by this method, can you, Mr. Bibleman? You have a lot to learn."
"How long will I be at the college?" Bibleman said.
Major Casals said, "Until you have learned."
They gave him a physical, a haircut, a uniform, and a place to bunk down, and many psychological tests. Bibleman suspected that the true purpose of the tests was to determine if he were a latent homosexual, and then he suspected that his suspicions indicated that he was a latent homosexual, so he abandoned the suspicions and supposed instead that they were sly intelligence and aptitude tests, and he informed himself that he was showing both: intelligence and aptitude. He also informed himself that he looked great in his uniform, even though it was the same uniform that everyone else wore. That is why they call it a uniform, he reminded himself as he sat on the edge of his bunk reading his orientation pamphlets.
The first pamphlet pointed out that it was a great honor to be admitted to the College. That was its name -- the one word. How strange, he thought, puzzled. It's like naming your cat Cat and your dog Dog. This is my mother, Mrs. Mother, and my father, Mr. Father. Are these people working right? he wondered. It had been a phobia of his for years that someday he would fall into the hands of madmen -- in particular, madmen who seemed sane up until the last moment. To Bibleman this was the essence of horror.
As he sat scrutinizing the pamphlets, a red-haired girl, wearing the College uniform, came over and seated herself beside him. She seemed perplexed.
"Maybe you can help me," she said. "What is a syllabus? It says here that we'll be given a syllabus. This place is screwing up my head."
Bibleman said, "We've been dragooned off the streets to shovel shit."
"You think so?"
"I know so."
"Can't we just leave?"
"You leave first," Bibleman said. "And I'll wait and see what happens to you."
The girl laughed. "I guess you don't know what a syllabus is."
"Sure I do. It's an abstract of courses or topics."
"Yes, and pigs can whistle."
He regarded her. The girl regarded him.
"We're going to be here forever," the girl said.
Her name, she told him, was Mary Lorne. She was, he decided, pretty, wistful, afraid, and putting up a good front. Together they joined the other new students for a showing of a recent Herbie the Hyena cartoon which Bibleman had seen; it was the episode in which Herbie attempted to assassinate the Russian monk Rasputin. In his usual fashion, Herbie the Hyena poisoned his victim, shot him, blew him up six times, stabbed him, tied him up with chains and sank him in the Volga, tore him apart with wild horses, and finally shot him to the moon strapped to a rocket. The cartoon bored Bibleman. He did not give a damn about Herbie the Hyena or Russian history and he wondered if this was a sample of the College's level of pedagogy. He could imagine Herbie the Hyena illustrating Heisenberg's indeterminacy principle. Herbie -- in Bibleman's mind -- chased after by a subatomic particle fruitlessly, the particle bobbing up at random here and there. . . Herbie making wild swings at it with a hammer; then a whole flock of subatomic particles jeering at Herbie, who was doomed as always to fuck up.
"What are you thinking about?" Mary whispered to him.
The cartoon ended; the hall lights came on. There stood Major Casals on the stage, larger than on the phone. The fun is over, Bibleman said to himself. He could not imagine Major Casals chasing subatomic particles fruitlessly with wild swings of a sledgehammer. He felt himself grow cold and grim and a little afraid.
The lecture had to do with classified information. Behind Major Casals a giant hologram lit up with a schematic diagram of a homeostatic drilling rig. Within the hologram the rig rotated so that they could see it from all angles. Different stages of the rig's interior glowed in various colors.
"I asked what you were thinking," Mary whispered.
"We have to listen," Bibleman said quietly.
Mary said, equally quietly, "It finds titanium ore on its own. Big deal. Titanium is the ninth most abundant element in the crust of the planet. I'd be impressed if it could seek out and mine pure wurtzite, which is found only at Potosi, Bolivia; Butte, Montana; and Goldfield, Nevada."
"Why is that?" Bibleman said.
"Because," Mary said, "wurtzite is unstable at temperatures below one thousand degrees centigrade. And further --" She broke off. Major Casals had ceased talking and was looking at her.
"Would you repeat that for all of us, young woman?" Major Casals said.
Standing, Mary said, "Wurtzite is unstable at temperatures below one thousand degrees centigrade." Her voice was steady.
Immediately the hologram behind Major Casals switched to a readout of data on zinc-sulfide minerals.
"I don't see 'wurtzite' listed," Major Casals said.
"It's given on the chart in its inverted form," Mary said, her arms folded. "Which is sphalerite. Correctly, it is ZnS, of the sulfide group of the AX type. It's related to greenockite."
"Sit down," Major Casals said. The readout within the hologram now showed the characteristics of greenockite.
As she seated herself, Mary said, "I'm right. They don't have a homeostatic drilling rig for wurtzite because there is no --"
"Your name is?" Major Casals said, pen and pad poised.
"Mary Wurtz." Her voice was totally without emotion. "My father was Charles-Adolphe Wurtz."
"The discoverer of wurtzite?" Major Casals said uncertainly; his pen wavered.
"That's right," Mary said. Turning toward Bibleman, she winked.
"Thank you for the information," Major Casals said. He made a motion and the hologram now showed a flying buttress and, in comparison to it, a normal buttress.
"My point," Major Casals said, "is simply that certain information such as architectural principles of long-standing --"
"Most architectural principles are long-standing," Mary said.
Major Casals paused.
"Otherwise they'd serve no purpose," Mary said.
"Why not?" Major Casals said, and then he colored.
Several uniformed students laughed.
"Information of that type," Major Casals continued, "is not classified. But a good deal of what you will be learning is classified. This is why the college is under military charter. To reveal or transmit or make public classified information given you during your schooling here falls under the jurisdiction of the military. For a breech of these statues you would be tried by a military tribunal."
The students murmured. To himself Bibleman thought, Banged, ganged, and then some. No one spoke. Even the girl beside him was silent. A complicated expression had crossed her face, however; a deeply introverted look, somber and -- he thought -- unusually mature. It made her seem older, no longer a girl. It made him wonder just how old she really was. It was as if in her features a thousand years had surfaced before him as he scrutinized her and pondered the officer on the stage and the great information hologram behind him. What is she thinking? he wondered. Is she going to say something more? How can she be not afraid to speak up? We've been told we are under military law.
Major Casals said, "I am going to give you an instance of a strictly classified cluster of data. It deals with the Panther Engine." Behind him the hologram, surprisingly, became blank.
"Sir," one of the students said, "the hologram isn't showing anything."
"This is not an area that will be dealt with in your studies here," Major Casals said. "The Panther Engine is a two-rotor system, opposed rotors serving a common main shaft. Its main advantage is a total lack of centrifugal torque in the housing. A cam chain is thrown between the opposed rotors, which permits the main shaft to reverse itself without hysteresis."
Behind him the big hologram remained blank. Strange, Bibleman thought. An eerie sensation: information without information, as if the computer had gone blind.
Major Casals said, "The College is forbidden to release any information about the Panther Engine. It cannot be programmed to do otherwise. In fact, it knows nothing about the Panther Engine; it is programmed to destroy any information it receives in that sector."
Raising his hand, a student said, "So even if someone fed information into the College about the Panther --"
"It would eject the data," Major Casals said.
"Is this a unique situation?" another student asked.
"No," Major Casals said.
"Then there're a number of areas we can't get printouts for," a student murmured.
"Nothing of importance," Major Casals said. "At least as far as your studies are concerned."
The students were silent.
"The subjects which you will study," Major Casals said, "will be assigned to you, based on your aptitude and personality profiles. I'll call off your names and you will come forward for your allocation of topic assignment. The College itself has made the final decision for each of you, so you can be sure no error has been made."
What if I get proctology? Bibleman asked himself. In panic he thought, Or podiatry. Or herpetology. Or suppose the College in its infinite computeroid wisdom decides to ram into me all the information in the universe pertaining to or resembling herpes labialis. . . or things even worse. If there is anything worse.
"What you want," Mary said, as the names were read alphabetically, "is a program that'll earn you a living. You have to be practical. I know what I'll get; I know where my strong point lies. It'll be chemistry."
His name was called; rising, he walked up the aisle to Major Casals. They looked at each other, and then Casals handed him an unsealed envelope.
Stiffly, Bibleman returned to his seat.
"You want me to open it?" Mary said.
Wordlessly, Bibleman passed the envelope to her. She opened it and studied the printout.
"Can I earn a living with it?" he said.
She smiled. "Yes, it's a high-paying field. Almost as good as -- well, let's just say that the colony planets are really in need of this. You could go to work anywhere."
Looking over her shoulder, he saw the words on the page.
COSMOLOGY COSMOGONY PRE-SOCRATICS
"Pre-Socratic philosophy," Mary said. "Almost as good as structural engineering." She passed him the paper. "I shouldn't kid you. No, it's not really something you can make a living at, unless you teach. . . but maybe it interests you. Does it interest you?"
"No," he said shortly.
"I wonder why the college picked it, then," Mary said.
"What the hell," he said, "is cosmogony?"
"How the universe came into being. Aren't you interested in how the universe --" She paused, eyeing him. "You certainly won't be asking for printouts of any classified material," she said meditatively. "Maybe that's it," she murmured, to herself. "They won't have to watchdog you."
"I can be trusted with classified material," he said.
"Can you? Do you know yourself? But you'll be getting into that when the College bombards you with early Greek thought. 'Know thyself.' Apollo's motto at Delphi. It sums up half of Greek philosophy."
Bibleman said, "I'm not going up before a military tribunal for making public classified military material." He thought, then, about the Panther Engine and he realized, fully realized, that a really grim message had been spelled out in that little lecture by Major Casals. "I wonder what Herbie the Hyena's motto is," he said.
" 'I am determined to prove a villain,' " Mary said. " 'And hate the idle pleasures of these days. Plots have I laid.' " She reached out to touch him on the arm. "Remember? The Herbie the Hyena cartoon version of Richard the Third."
"Mary Lorne," Major Casals said, reading off the list.
"Excuse me." She went up, returned with her envelope, smiling. "Leprology," she said to Bibleman. "The study and treatment of leprosy. I'm kidding; it's chemistry."
"You'll be studying classified material." Bibleman said.
"Yes," she said. "I know."
On the first day of his study program, Bob Bibleman set his College input-output terminal on AUDIO and punched the proper key for his coded course.
"Thales of Miletus," the terminal said. "The founder of the Ionian school of natural philosophy."
"What did he teach?" Bibleman said.
"That the world floated on water, was sustained by water, and originated in water."
"That's really stupid," Bibleman said.
The College terminal said, "Thales based this on the discovery of fossil fish far inland, even at high altitudes. So it is not as stupid as it sounds." It showed on its holoscreen a great deal of written information, no part of which struck Bibleman as very interesting. Anyhow, he had requested AUDIO. "It is generally considered that Thales was the first rational man in history," the terminal said.
"What about Ikhnaton?" Bibleman said.
"He was strange."
"How do you spell that?"
"I'm not sure. I've just heard the name."
"Then we will discuss Anaximander," the College terminal said. "And, in a cursory initial survey, Anaximenes, Xenophanes, Paramenides, Melissus -- wait a minute; I forgot Heraclitus and Cratylus. And we will study Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Zeno --"
"Christ," Bibleman said.
"That's another program," the College terminal said.
"Just continue," Bibleman said.
"Are you taking notes?"
"That's none of your business."
"You seem to be in a state of conflict."
Bibleman said, "What happens to me if I flunk out of the College?"
"You go to jail."
"I'll take notes."
"Since you are so driven --"
"Since you are so full of conflict, you should find Empedocles interesting. He was the first dialectical philosopher. Empedocles believed that the basis of reality was an antithetical conflict between the forces of Love and Strife. Under Love the whole cosmos is a duly proportioned mixture, called a krasis. This krasis is a spherical deity, a single perfect mind which spends all its time --"
"Is there any practical application to any of this?" Bibleman interrupted.
"The two antithetical forces of Love and Strife resemble the Taoist elements of Yang and Yin with their perpetual interaction from which all change takes place."
"Twin mutually opposed constituents." On the holoscreen a schematic diagram, very complex, formed. "The two-rotor Panther Engine."
"What?" Bibleman said, sitting upright in his seat. He made out the large words PANTHER HYDRODRIVE SYSTEM TOP SECRET above the schematic comprising the readout. Instantly he pressed the PRINT key; the machinery of the terminal whirred and three sheets of paper slid down into the RETRIEVE slot.
They overlooked it, Bibleman realized, this entry in the College's memory banks relating to the Panther Engine. Somehow the cross-referencing got lost. No one thought of pre-Socratic philosophy -- who would expect an entry on an engine, a modern-day top-secret engine, under the category PHILOSOPHY, PRE-SOCRATIC, subheading EMPEDOCLES?
I've got it in my hands, he said to himself as he swiftly lifted out the three sheets of paper. He folded them up and stuck them into the notebook the College had provided.
I've hit it, he thought. Right off the bat. Where the hell am I going to put these schematics? Can't hide them in my locker. And then he thought, Have I committed a crime already, by asking for a written printout?
"Empedocles," the terminal was saying, "believed in four elements as being perpetually rearranged: earth, water, air, and fire. These elements eternally --"
Click. Bibleman had shut the terminal down. The holoscreen faded to opaque gray.
Too much learning doth make a man slow, he thought as he got to his feet and started from the cubicle. Fast of wit but slow of foot. Where the hell am I going to hide the schematics? he asked himself again as he walked rapidly down the hall toward the ascent tube. Well, he realized, they don't know I have them; I can take my time. The thing to do is hide them at a random place, he decided, as the tube carried him to the surface. And even if they find them they won't be able to trace them back to me, not unless they go to the trouble of dusting for fingerprints.
This could be worth billions of dollars, he said to himself. A great joy filled him and then came the fear. He discovered that he was trembling. Will they ever be pissed, he said to himself. When they find out, I won't be pissing purple, they'll be pissing purple. The College itself will, when it discovers its error.
And the error, he thought, is on its part, not mine. The College fucked up and that's too bad.
In the dorm where his bunk was located, he found a laundry room maintained by a silent robot staff, and when no robot was watching he hid the three pages of schematics near the bottom of a huge pile of bed sheets. As high as the ceiling, this pile. They won't get down to the schematics this year. I have plenty of time to decide what to do.
Looking at his watch, he saw that the afternoon had almost come to an end. At five o'clock he would be seated in the cafeteria, eating dinner with Mary.
She met him a little after five o'clock; her face showed signs of fatigue.
"How'd it go?" she asked him as they stood in line with their trays.
"Fine," Bibleman said.
"Did you get to Zeno? I always like Zeno; he proved that motion is impossible. So I guess I'm still in my mother's womb. You look strange." She eyed him.
"Just sick of listening to how the earth rests on the back of a giant turtle."
"Or is suspended on a long string," Mary said. Together they made their way among the other students to an empty table. "You're not eating much."
"Feeling like eating," Bibleman said as he drank his cup of coffee, "is what got me here in the first place."
"You could flunk out."
"And go to jail."
Mary said, "The College is programmed to say that. Much of it is probably just threats. Talk loudly and carry a small stick, so to speak."
"I have it," Bibleman said.
"You have what?" She ceased eating and regarded him.
He said, "The Panther Engine."
Gazing at him, the girl was silent.
"The schematics," he said.
"Lower your goddam voice."
"They missed a citation in the memory storage. Now that I have them I don't know what to do. Just start walking, probably. And hope no one stops me.
"They don't know? The College didn't self-monitor?"
"I have no reason to think it's aware of what it did."
"Jesus Christ," Mary said softly. "On your first day. You had better do a lot of slow, careful thinking."
"I can destroy them," he said. "Or sell them."
He said, "I looked them over. There's an analysis on the final page. The Panther --"
"Just say it," Mary said.
"It can be used as a hydroelectric turbine and cut costs in half. I couldn't understand the technical language, but I did figure out that. Cheap power source. Very cheap."
"So everyone would benefit."
"They really screwed up," Mary said. "What was it Casals told us? 'Even if someone fed data into the College about the -- about it, the College would eject the data.' " She began eating slowly, meditatively. "And they're withholding it from the public. It must be industry pressure. Nice."
"What should I do?" Bibleman said.
"I can't tell you that."
"What I was thinking is that I could take the schematics to one of the colony planets where the authorities have less control. I could find an independent firm and make a deal with them. The government wouldn't know how --"
"They'd figure out where the schematics came from," Mary said. "They'd trace it back to you."
"Then I better burn them."
Mary said, "You have a very difficult decision to make. On the one hand, you have classified information in your possession which you obtained illegally. On the other --"
"I didn't obtain it illegally. The College screwed up."
Calmly, she continued, "You broke the law, military law, when you asked for a written transcript. You should have reported the breach of security as soon as you discovered it. They would have rewarded you. Major Casals would have said nice things to you."
"I'm scared," Bibleman said, and he felt the fear moving around inside him, shifting about and growing; as he held his plastic coffee cup it shook, and some of the coffee spilled onto his uniform.
Mary, with a paper napkin, dabbed at the coffee stain.
"I won't come off," she said.
"Symbolism," Bibleman said. "Lady Macbeth. I always wanted to have a dog named Spot so I could say, 'Out, out, damned Spot.' "
"I am not going to tell you what to do," Mary said. "This is a decision that you will make alone. It isn't ethical for you even to discuss it with me; that could be considered conspiracy and put us both in prison."
"Prison," he echoed.
"You have it within your -- Christ, I was going to say, 'You have it within your power to provide a cheap power source to human civilization.' " She laughed and shook her head. "I guess this scares me, too. Do what you think is right. If you think it's right to publish the schematics --"
"I never thought of that. Just publish them. Some magazine or newspaper. A slave printing construct could print it and distribute it all over the solar system in fifteen minutes." All I have to do, he realized, is pay the fee and then feed in the three pages of schematics. As simple as that. And then spend the rest of my life in jail or anyhow in court. Maybe the adjudication would go in my favor. There are precedents in history where vital classified material -- military classified material -- was stolen and published, and not only was the person found innocent but we now realize that he was a hero; he served the welfare of the human race itself, and risked his life.
Approaching their table, two armed military security guards closed in on Bob Bibleman; he stared at them, not believing what he saw but thinking, Believe it.
"Student Bibleman?" one of them said.
"It's on my uniform," Bibleman said.
"Hold out your hands, Student Bibleman." The larger of the two security guards snapped handcuffs on him.
Mary said nothing; she continued slowly eating.
In Major Casal's office Bibleman waited, grasping the fact that he was being -- as the technical term had it -- "detained." He felt glum. He wondered what they would do. He wondered if he had been set up. He wondered what he would do if he were charged. He wondered why it was taking so long. And then he wondered what it was all about really and he wondered whether he would understand the grand issues if he continued with his courses in COSMOLOGY COSMOGONY PRE-SOCRATICS.
Entering the office, Major Casals said briskly, "Sorry to keep you waiting."
"Can these handcuffs be removed?" Bibleman said. They hurt his wrists; they had been clapped on to him as tightly as possible. His bone structure ached.
"We couldn't find the schematics," Casals said, seating himself behind his desk.
"For the Panther Engine."
"There aren't supposed to be any schematics for the Panther Engine. You told us that in orientation."
"Did you program your terminal for that deliberately? Or did it just happen to come up?"
"My terminal programmed itself to talk about water," Bibleman said. "The universe is composed of water."
"It automatically notified security when you asked for a written transcript. All written transcripts are monitored."
"Fuck you," Bibleman said.
Major Casals said, "I tell you what. We're only interested in getting the schematics back; we're not interested in putting you in the slam. Return them and you won't be tried."
"Return what?" Bibleman said, but he knew it was a waste of time. "Can I think it over?"
"Can I go? I feel like going to sleep. I'm tired. I feel like having these cuffs off."
Removing the cuffs, Major Casals said, "We made an agreement, with all of you, an agreement between the College and the students, about classified material. You entered into that agreement."
"Freely?" Bibleman said.
"Well, no. But the agreement was known to you. When you discovered the schematics for the Panther Engine encoded in the College's memory and available to anyone who happened for any reason, any reason whatsoever, to ask for a practical application of pre-Socratic --"
"I was as surprised as hell," Bibleman said. "I still am."
"Loyalty is an ethical principle. I'll tell you what; I'll waive the punishment factor and put it on the basis of loyalty to the College. A responsible person obeys laws and agreements entered into. Return the schematics and you can continue your courses here at the College. In fact, we'll give you permission to select what subjects you want; they won't be assigned to you. I think you're good college material. Think it over and report back to me tomorrow morning, between eight and nine, here in my office. Don't talk to anyone; don't try to discuss it. You'll be watched. Don't try to leave the grounds. Okay?"
"Okay," Bibleman said woodenly.
He dreamed that night that he had died. In his dream vast spaces stretched out, and his father was coming toward him, very slowly, out of a dark glade and into the sunlight. His father seemed glad to see him, and Bibleman felt his father's love.
When he awoke, the feeling of being loved by his father remained. As he put on his uniform, he thought about his father and how rarely, in actual life, he had gotten that love. It made him feel lonely, now, his father being dead and his mother as well. Killed in a nuclear-power accident, along with a whole lot of other people
They say someone important to you waits for you on the other side, he thought. Maybe by the time I die Major Casals will be dead and he will be waiting for me, to greet me gladly. Major Casals and my father combined as one.
What am I going to do? he asked himself. They have waived the punitive aspects; it's reduced to essentials, a matter of loyalty. Am I a loyal person? Do I qualify?
The hell with it, he said to himself. He looked at his watch. Eight-thirty. My father would be proud of me, he thought. For what I am going to do.
Going into the laundry room, he scoped out the situation. No robots in sight. He dug down in the pile of bed sheets, found the pages of schematics, took them out, looked them over, and headed for the tube that would take him to Major Casal's office.
"You have them," Casals said as Bibleman entered. Bibleman handed the three sheets of paper over to him.
"And you made no other copies?" Casals asked.
"You give me your word of honor?"
"Yes," Bibleman said.
"You are herewith expelled from the College," Major Casals said.
"What?" Bibleman said.
Casals pressed a button on his desk. "Come in."
The door opened and Mary Lorne stood there.
"I do not represent the College," Major Casals said to Bibleman. "You were set up."
"I am the College," Mary said.
Major Casals said, "Sit down, Bibleman. She will explain it to you before you leave."
"I failed?" Bibleman said.
"You failed me," Mary said. "The purpose of the test was to teach you to stand on your own feet, even if it meant challenging authority. The covert message of institutions is: 'Submit to that which you psychologically construe as an authority.' A good school trains the whole person; it isn't a matter of data and information; I was trying to make you morally and psychologically complete. But a person can't be commanded to disobey. You can't order someone to rebel. All I could do was give you a model, an example."
Bibleman thought, When she talked back to Casals at the initial orientation. He felt numb.
"The Panther Engine is worthless," Mary said, "as a technological artifact. This is a standard test we use on each student, no matter what study course he is assigned."
"They all got a readout on the Panther Engine?" Bibleman said with disbelief. He stared at the girl.
"They will, one by one. Yours came very quickly. First you are told that it is classified; you are told the penalty for releasing classified information; then you are leaked the information. It is hoped that you will make it public or at least try to make it public."
Major Casals said, "You saw on the third page of the printout that the engine supplied an economical source of hydroelectric power. That was important. You knew that the public would benefit if the engine design was released."
"And legal penalties were waived," Mary said. "So what you did was not done out of fear."
"Loyalty," Bibleman said. "I did it out of loyalty."
"To what?" Mary said.
He was silent; he could not think.
"To a holoscreen?" Major Casals said.
"To you," Bibleman said.
Major Casals said, "I am someone who insulted you and derided you. Someone who treated you like dirt. I told you that if I ordered you to piss purple, you --"
"Okay," Bibleman said. "Enough."
"Goodbye," Mary said.
"What?" Bibleman said, startled.
"You're leaving. You're going back to your life and job, what you had before we picked you."
Bibleman said, "I'd like another chance."
"But," Mary said, "you know how the test works now. So it can never be given to you again. You know what is really wanted from you by the College. I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry, too," Major Casals said.
Bibleman said nothing.
Holding out her hand, Mary said, "Shake?"
Blindly, Bibleman shook hands with her. Major Casals only stared at him blankly; he did not offer his hand. He seemed to be engrossed in some other topic, perhaps some other person. Another student was on his mind, perhaps. Bibleman could not tell.
Three nights later, as he wandered aimlessly through the mixture of lights and darkness of the city, Bob Bibleman saw ahead of him a robot food vendor at its eternal post. A teenage boy was in the process of buying a taco and an apple turnover. Bob Bibleman lined up behind the boy and stood waiting, his hands in his pockets, no thoughts coming to him, only a dull feeling, a sense of emptiness. As if the inattention which he had seen on Casal's face had taken him over, he thought to himself. He felt like an object, an object among objects, like the robot vendor. Something which, as he well knew, did not look you directly in the eye.
"What'll it be, sir?" the robot asked.
Bibleman said, "Fries, a cheeseburger, and a strawberry shake. Are there any contests?"
After a pause the robot said, "Not for you, Mr. Bibleman."
"Okay," he said, and stood waiting.
The food came, on its little throwaway plastic tray, in its little throwaway cartons.
"I'm not paying," Bibleman said, and walked away.
The robot called after him, "Eleven hundred dollars. Mr. Bibleman. You're breaking the law!"
He turned, got out his wallet.
"Thank you, Mr. Bibleman," the robot said. "I am very proud of you."