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The Jupiter Weapon



The Jupiter Weapon







From: The Jupiter Weapon

He was a living weapon of
destruction--immeasurably
powerful, utterly invulnerable.
There was only one
question: Was he human?


Trella feared she was in for trouble even before Motwick's head dropped
forward on his arms in a drunken stupor. The two evil-looking men at the
table nearby had been watching her surreptitiously, and now they shifted
restlessly in their chairs.

Trella had not wanted to come to the Golden Satellite. It was a squalid
saloon in the rougher section of Jupiter's View, the terrestrial
dome-colony on Ganymede. Motwick, already drunk, had insisted.

A woman could not possibly make her way through these streets alone to
the better section of town, especially one clad in a silvery evening
dress. Her only hope was that this place had a telephone. Perhaps she
could call one of Motwick's friends; she had no one on Ganymede she
could call a real friend herself.

Tentatively, she pushed her chair back from the table and arose. She had
to brush close by the other table to get to the bar. As she did, the
dark, slick-haired man reached out and grabbed her around the waist with
a steely arm.

Trella swung with her whole body, and slapped him so hard he nearly fell
from his chair. As she walked swiftly toward the bar, he leaped up to
follow her.

There were only two other people in the Golden Satellite: the fat,
mustached bartender and a short, square-built man at the bar. The latter
swung around at the pistol-like report of her slap, and she saw that,
though no more than four and a half feet tall, he was as heavily muscled
as a lion.

His face was clean and open, with close-cropped blond hair and honest
blue eyes. She ran to him.

"Help me!" she cried. "Please help me!"

He began to back away from her.

"I can't," he muttered in a deep voice. "I can't help you. I can't do
anything."

* * * * *

The dark man was at her heels. In desperation, she dodged around the
short man and took refuge behind him. Her protector was obviously
unwilling, but the dark man, faced with his massiveness, took no
chances. He stopped and shouted:

"Kregg!"

The other man at the table arose, ponderously, and lumbered toward them.
He was immense, at least six and a half feet tall, with a brutal, vacant
face.

Evading her attempts to stay behind him, the squat man began to move
down the bar away from the approaching Kregg. The dark man moved in on
Trella again as Kregg overtook his quarry and swung a huge fist like a
sledgehammer.

Exactly what happened, Trella wasn't sure. She had the impression that
Kregg's fist connected squarely with the short man's chin before he
dodged to one side in a movement so fast it was a blur. But that
couldn't have been, because the short man wasn't moved by that blow that
would have felled a steer, and Kregg roared in pain, grabbing his
injured fist.

"The bar!" yelled Kregg. "I hit the damn bar!"

At this juncture, the bartender took a hand. Leaning far over the bar,
he swung a full bottle in a complete arc. It smashed on Kregg's head,
splashing the floor with liquor, and Kregg sank stunned to his knees.
The dark man, who had grabbed Trella's arm, released her and ran for the
door.

Moving agilely around the end of the bar, the bartender stood over
Kregg, holding the jagged-edged bottleneck in his hand menacingly.

"Get out!" rumbled the bartender. "I'll have no coppers raiding my place
for the likes of you!"

Kregg stumbled to his feet and staggered out. Trella ran to the
unconscious Motwick's side.

"That means you, too, lady," said the bartender beside her. "You and
your boy friend get out of here. You oughtn't to have come here in the
first place."

"May I help you, Miss?" asked a deep, resonant voice behind her.

She straightened from her anxious examination of Motwick. The squat man
was standing there, an apologetic look on his face.

She looked contemptuously at the massive muscles whose help had been
denied her. Her arm ached where the dark man had grasped it. The broad
face before her was not unhandsome, and the blue eyes were
disconcertingly direct, but she despised him for a coward.

"I'm sorry I couldn't fight those men for you, Miss, but I just
couldn't," he said miserably, as though reading her thoughts. "But no
one will bother you on the street if I'm with you."

"A lot of protection you'd be if they did!" she snapped. "But I'm
desperate. You can carry him to the Stellar Hotel for me."

* * * * *

The gravity of Ganymede was hardly more than that of Earth's moon, but
the way the man picked up the limp Motwick with one hand and tossed him
over a shoulder was startling: as though he lifted a feather pillow. He
followed Trella out the door of the Golden Satellite and fell in step
beside her. Immediately she was grateful for his presence. The dimly
lighted street was not crowded, but she didn't like the looks of the men
she saw.

The transparent dome of Jupiter's View was faintly visible in the
reflected night lights of the colonial city, but the lights were
overwhelmed by the giant, vari-colored disc of Jupiter itself, riding
high in the sky.

"I'm Quest Mansard, Miss," said her companion. "I'm just in from
Jupiter."

"I'm Trella Nuspar," she said, favoring him with a green-eyed glance.
"You mean Io, don't you--or Moon Five?"

"No," he said, grinning at her. He had an engaging grin, with even white
teeth. "I meant Jupiter."

"You're lying," she said flatly. "No one has ever landed on Jupiter. It
would be impossible to blast off again."

"My parents landed on Jupiter, and I blasted off from it," he said
soberly. "I was born there. Have you ever heard of Dr. Eriklund
Mansard?"

"I certainly have," she said, her interest taking a sudden upward turn.
"He developed the surgiscope, didn't he? But his ship was drawn into
Jupiter and lost."

"It was drawn into Jupiter, but he landed it successfully," said Quest.
"He and my mother lived on Jupiter until the oxygen equipment wore out
at last. I was born and brought up there, and I was finally able to
build a small rocket with a powerful enough drive to clear the planet."

She looked at him. He was short, half a head shorter than she, but broad
and powerful as a man might be who had grown up in heavy gravity. He
trod the street with a light, controlled step, seeming to deliberately
hold himself down.

"If Dr. Mansard succeeded in landing on Jupiter, why didn't anyone ever
hear from him again?" she demanded.

"Because," said Quest, "his radio was sabotaged, just as his ship's
drive was."

"Jupiter strength," she murmured, looking him over coolly. "You wear
Motwick on your shoulder like a scarf. But you couldn't bring yourself
to help a woman against two thugs."

He flushed.

"I'm sorry," he said. "That's something I couldn't help."

"Why not?"

"I don't know. It's not that I'm afraid, but there's something in me
that makes me back away from the prospect of fighting anyone."

Trella sighed. Cowardice was a state of mind. It was peculiarly
inappropriate, but not unbelievable, that the strongest and most agile
man on Ganymede should be a coward. Well, she thought with a rush of
sympathy, he couldn't help being what he was.

* * * * *

They had reached the more brightly lighted section of the city now.
Trella could get a cab from here, but the Stellar Hotel wasn't far. They
walked on.

Trella had the desk clerk call a cab to deliver the unconscious Motwick
to his home. She and Quest had a late sandwich in the coffee shop.

"I landed here only a week ago," he told her, his eyes frankly admiring
her honey-colored hair and comely face. "I'm heading for Earth on the
next spaceship."

"We'll be traveling companions, then," she said. "I'm going back on that
ship, too."

For some reason she decided against telling him that the assignment on
which she had come to the Jupiter system was to gather his own father's
notebooks and take them back to Earth.

* * * * *

Motwick was an irresponsible playboy whom Trella had known briefly on
Earth, and Trella was glad to dispense with his company for the
remaining three weeks before the spaceship blasted off. She found
herself enjoying the steadier companionship of Quest.

As a matter of fact, she found herself enjoying his companionship more
than she intended to. She found herself falling in love with him.

Now this did not suit her at all. Trella had always liked her men tall
and dark. She had determined that when she married it would be to a
curly-haired six-footer.

She was not at all happy about being so strongly attracted to a man
several inches shorter than she. She was particularly unhappy about
feeling drawn to a man who was a coward.

The ship that they boarded on Moon Nine was one of the newer ships that
could attain a hundred-mile-per-second velocity and take a hyperbolic
path to Earth, but it would still require fifty-four days to make the
trip. So Trella was delighted to find that the ship was the Cometfire
and its skipper was her old friend, dark-eyed, curly-haired Jakdane
Gille.

"Jakdane," she said, flirting with him with her eyes as in days gone
by, "I need a chaperon this trip, and you're ideal for the job."

"I never thought of myself in quite that light, but maybe I'm getting
old," he answered, laughing. "What's your trouble, Trella?"

"I'm in love with that huge chunk of man who came aboard with me, and
I'm not sure I ought to be," she confessed. "I may need protection
against myself till we get to Earth."

"If it's to keep you out of another fellow's clutches, I'm your man,"
agreed Jakdane heartily. "I always had a mind to save you for myself.
I'll guarantee you won't have a moment alone with him the whole trip."

"You don't have to be that thorough about it," she protested hastily. "I
want to get a little enjoyment out of being in love. But if I feel
myself weakening too much, I'll holler for help."

The Cometfire swung around great Jupiter in an opening arc and
plummeted ever more swiftly toward the tight circles of the inner
planets. There were four crew members and three passengers aboard the
ship's tiny personnel sphere, and Trella was thrown with Quest almost
constantly. She enjoyed every minute of it.

She told him only that she was a messenger, sent out to Ganymede to pick
up some important papers and take them back to Earth. She was tempted to
tell him what the papers were. Her employer had impressed upon her that
her mission was confidential, but surely Dom Blessing could not object
to Dr. Mansard's son knowing about it.

All these things had happened before she was born, and she did not know
what Dom Blessing's relation to Dr. Mansard had been, but it must have
been very close. She knew that Dr. Mansard had invented the surgiscope.

This was an instrument with a three-dimensional screen as its heart. The
screen was a cubical frame in which an apparently solid image was built
up of an object under an electron microscope.

* * * * *

The actual cutting instrument of the surgiscope was an ion stream. By
operating a tool in the three-dimensional screen, corresponding
movements were made by the ion stream on the object under the
microscope. The principle was the same as that used in operation of
remote control "hands" in atomic laboratories to handle hot material,
and with the surgiscope very delicate operations could be performed at
the cellular level.

Dr. Mansard and his wife had disappeared into the turbulent atmosphere
of Jupiter just after his invention of the surgiscope, and it had been
developed by Dom Blessing. Its success had built Spaceway Instruments,
Incorporated, which Blessing headed.

Through all these years since Dr. Mansard's disappearance, Blessing had
been searching the Jovian moons for a second, hidden laboratory of Dr.
Mansard. When it was found at last, he sent Trella, his most trusted
secretary, to Ganymede to bring back to him the notebooks found there.

Blessing would, of course, be happy to learn that a son of Dr. Mansard
lived, and would see that he received his rightful share of the
inheritance. Because of this, Trella was tempted to tell Quest the good
news herself; but she decided against it. It was Blessing's privilege to
do this his own way, and he might not appreciate her meddling.

* * * * *

At midtrip, Trella made a rueful confession to Jakdane.

"It seems I was taking unnecessary precautions when I asked you to be a
chaperon," she said. "I kept waiting for Quest to do something, and when
he didn't I told him I loved him."

"What did he say?"

"It's very peculiar," she said unhappily. "He said he can't love me.
He said he wants to love me and he feels that he should, but there's
something in him that refuses to permit it."

She expected Jakdane to salve her wounded feelings with a sympathetic
pleasantry, but he did not. Instead, he just looked at her very
thoughtfully and said no more about the matter.

He explained his attitude after Asrange ran amuck.

Asrange was the third passenger. He was a lean, saturnine individual who
said little and kept to himself as much as possible. He was distantly
polite in his relations with both crew and other passengers, and never
showed the slightest spark of emotion ... until the day Quest squirted
coffee on him.

It was one of those accidents that can occur easily in space. The
passengers and the two crewmen on that particular waking shift
(including Jakdane) were eating lunch on the center-deck. Quest picked
up his bulb of coffee, but inadvertently pressed it before he got it to
his lips. The coffee squirted all over the front of Asrange's clean
white tunic.

"I'm sorry!" exclaimed Quest in distress.

The man's eyes went wide and he snarled. So quickly it seemed
impossible, he had unbuckled himself from his seat and hurled himself
backward from the table with an incoherent cry. He seized the first
object his hand touched--it happened to be a heavy wooden cane leaning
against Jakdane's bunk--propelled himself like a projectile at Quest.

Quest rose from the table in a sudden uncoiling of movement. He did not
unbuckle his safety belt--he rose and it snapped like a string.

For a moment Trella thought he was going to meet Asrange's assault. But
he fled in a long leap toward the companionway leading to the
astrogation deck above. Landing feet-first in the middle of the table
and rebounding, Asrange pursued with the stick upraised.

In his haste, Quest missed the companionway in his leap and was cornered
against one of the bunks. Asrange descended on him like an avenging
angel and, holding onto the bunk with one hand, rained savage blows on
his head and shoulders with the heavy stick.

Quest made no effort to retaliate. He cowered under the attack, holding
his hands in front of him as if to ward it off. In a moment, Jakdane and
the other crewman had reached Asrange and pulled him off.

* * * * *

When they had Asrange in irons, Jakdane turned to Quest, who was now
sitting unhappily at the table.

"Take it easy," he advised. "I'll wake the psychosurgeon and have him
look you over. Just stay there."

Quest shook his head.

"Don't bother him," he said. "It's nothing but a few bruises."

"Bruises? Man, that club could have broken your skull! Or a couple of
ribs, at the very least."

"I'm all right," insisted Quest; and when the skeptical Jakdane insisted
on examining him carefully, he had to admit it. There was hardly a mark
on him from the blows.

"If it didn't hurt you any more than that, why didn't you take that
stick away from him?" demanded Jakdane. "You could have, easily."

"I couldn't," said Quest miserably, and turned his face away.

Later, alone with Trella on the control deck, Jakdane gave her some
sober advice.

"If you think you're in love with Quest, forget it," he said.

"Why? Because he's a coward? I know that ought to make me despise him,
but it doesn't any more."

"Not because he's a coward. Because he's an android!"

"What? Jakdane, you can't be serious!"

"I am. I say he's an android, an artificial imitation of a man. It all
figures.

"Look, Trella, he said he was born on Jupiter. A human could stand the
gravity of Jupiter, inside a dome or a ship, but what human could stand
the rocket acceleration necessary to break free of Jupiter? Here's a man
strong enough to break a spaceship safety belt just by getting up out of
his chair against it, tough enough to take a beating with a heavy stick
without being injured. How can you believe he's really human?"

Trella remembered the thug Kregg striking Quest in the face and then
crying that he had injured his hand on the bar.

"But he said Dr. Mansard was his father," protested Trella.

"Robots and androids frequently look on their makers as their parents,"
said Jakdane. "Quest may not even know he's artificial. Do you know how
Mansard died?"

"The oxygen equipment failed, Quest said."

"Yes. Do you know when?"

"No. Quest never did tell me, that I remember."

"He told me: a year before Quest made his rocket flight to Ganymede! If
the oxygen equipment failed, how do you think Quest lived in the
poisonous atmosphere of Jupiter, if he's human?"

Trella was silent.

"For the protection of humans, there are two psychological traits built
into every robot and android," said Jakdane gently. "The first is that
they can never, under any circumstances, attack a human being, even in
self defense. The second is that, while they may understand sexual
desire objectively, they can never experience it themselves.

"Those characteristics fit your man Quest to a T, Trella. There is no
other explanation for him: he must be an android."

* * * * *

Trella did not want to believe Jakdane was right, but his reasoning
was unassailable. Looking upon Quest as an android, many things were
explained: his great strength, his short, broad build, his immunity to
injury, his refusal to defend himself against a human, his inability
to return Trella's love for him.

It was not inconceivable that she should have unknowingly fallen in love
with an android. Humans could love androids, with real affection, even
knowing that they were artificial. There were instances of android
nursemaids who were virtually members of the families owning them.

She was glad now that she had not told Quest of her mission to Ganymede.
He thought he was Dr. Mansard's son, but an android had no legal right
of inheritance from his owner. She would leave it to Dom Blessing to
decide what to do about Quest.

Thus she did not, as she had intended originally, speak to Quest about
seeing him again after she had completed her assignment. Even if Jakdane
was wrong and Quest was human--as now seemed unlikely--Quest had told
her he could not love her. Her best course was to try to forget him.

Nor did Quest try to arrange with her for a later meeting.

"It has been pleasant knowing you, Trella," he said when they left the
G-boat at White Sands. A faraway look came into his blue eyes, and he
added: "I'm sorry things couldn't have been different, somehow."

"Let's don't be sorry for what we can't help," she said gently, taking
his hand in farewell.

Trella took a fast plane from White Sands, and twenty-four hours later
walked up the front steps of the familiar brownstone house on the
outskirts of Washington.

Dom Blessing himself met her at the door, a stooped, graying man who
peered at her over his spectacles.

"You have the papers, eh?" he said, spying the brief case. "Good, good.
Come in and we'll see what we have, eh?"

She accompanied him through the bare, windowless anteroom which had
always seemed to her such a strange feature of this luxurious house,
and they entered the big living room. They sat before a fire in the
old-fashioned fireplace and Blessing opened the brief case with
trembling hands.

"There are things here," he said, his eyes sparkling as he glanced
through the notebooks. "Yes, there are things here. We shall make
something of these, Miss Trella, eh?"

"I'm glad they're something you can use, Mr. Blessing," she said.
"There's something else I found on my trip, that I think I should tell
you about."

She told him about Quest.

"He thinks he's the son of Dr. Mansard," she finished, "but apparently
he is, without knowing it, an android Dr. Mansard built on Jupiter."

"He came back to Earth with you, eh?" asked Blessing intently.

"Yes. I'm afraid it's your decision whether to let him go on living as a
man or to tell him he's an android and claim ownership as Dr. Mansard's
heir."

Trella planned to spend a few days resting in her employer's spacious
home, and then to take a short vacation before resuming her duties as
his confidential secretary. The next morning when she came down from her
room, a change had been made.

Two armed men were with Dom Blessing at breakfast and accompanied him
wherever he went. She discovered that two more men with guns were
stationed in the bare anteroom and a guard was stationed at every
entrance to the house.

"Why all the protection?" she asked Blessing.

"A wealthy man must be careful," said Blessing cheerfully. "When we
don't understand all the implications of new circumstances, we must be
prepared for anything, eh?"

There was only one new circumstance Trella could think of. Without
actually intending to, she exclaimed:

"You aren't afraid of Quest? Why, an android can't hurt a human!"

Blessing peered at her over his spectacles.

"And what if he isn't an android, eh? And if he is--what if old Mansard
didn't build in the prohibition against harming humans that's required
by law? What about that, eh?"

Trella was silent, shocked. There was something here she hadn't known
about, hadn't even suspected. For some reason, Dom Blessing feared Dr.
Eriklund Mansard ... or his heir ... or his mechanical servant.

* * * * *

She was sure that Blessing was wrong, that Quest, whether man or android,
intended no harm to him. Surely, Quest would have said something of
such bitterness during their long time together on Ganymede and aspace,
since he did not know of Trella's connection with Blessing. But, since
this was to be the atmosphere of Blessing's house, she was glad that he
decided to assign her to take the Mansard papers to the New York
laboratory.

Quest came the day before she was scheduled to leave.

Trella was in the living room with Blessing, discussing the instructions
she was to give to the laboratory officials in New York. The two
bodyguards were with them. The other guards were at their posts.

Trella heard the doorbell ring. The heavy oaken front door was kept
locked now, and the guards in the anteroom examined callers through a
tiny window.

Suddenly alarm bells rang all over the house. There was a terrific crash
outside the room as the front door splintered. There were shouts and the
sound of a shot.

"The steel doors!" cried Blessing, turning white. "Let's get out of
here."

He and his bodyguards ran through the back of the house out of the
garage.

Blessing, ahead of the rest, leaped into one of the cars and started the
engine.

The door from the house shattered and Quest burst through. The two
guards turned and fired together.

He could be hurt by bullets. He was staggered momentarily.

Then, in a blur of motion, he sprang forward and swept the guards aside
with one hand with such force that they skidded across the floor and lay
in an unconscious heap against the rear of the garage. Trella had opened
the door of the car, but it was wrenched from her hand as Blessing
stepped on the accelerator and it leaped into the driveway with spinning
wheels.

Quest was after it, like a chunky deer, running faster than Trella had
ever seen a man run before.

Blessing slowed for the turn at the end of the driveway and glanced back
over his shoulder. Seeing Quest almost upon him, he slammed down the
accelerator and twisted the wheel hard.

The car whipped into the street, careened, and rolled over and over,
bringing up against a tree on the other side in a twisted tangle of
wreckage.

With a horrified gasp, Trella ran down the driveway toward the smoking
heap of metal. Quest was already beside it, probing it. As she reached
his side, he lifted the torn body of Dom Blessing. Blessing was dead.

"I'm lucky," said Quest soberly. "I would have murdered him."

"But why, Quest? I knew he was afraid of you, but he didn't tell me
why."

"It was conditioned into me," answered Quest "I didn't know it until
just now, when it ended, but my father conditioned me psychologically
from my birth to the task of hunting down Dom Blessing and killing him.
It was an unconscious drive in me that wouldn't release me until the
task was finished.

"You see, Blessing was my father's assistant on Ganymede. Right after my
father completed development of the surgiscope, he and my mother blasted
off for Io. Blessing wanted the valuable rights to the surgiscope, and
he sabotaged the ship's drive so it would fall into Jupiter.

"But my father was able to control it in the heavy atmosphere of Jupiter,
and landed it successfully. I was born there, and he conditioned me to
come to Earth and track down Blessing. I know now that it was part of
the conditioning that I was unable to fight any other man until my task
was finished: it might have gotten me in trouble and diverted me from
that purpose."

More gently than Trella would have believed possible for his
Jupiter-strong muscles, Quest took her in his arms.

"Now I can say I love you," he said. "That was part of the conditioning
too: I couldn't love any woman until my job was done."

Trella disengaged herself.

"I'm sorry," she said. "Don't you know this, too, now: that you're not a
man, but an android?"

He looked at her in astonishment, stunned by her words.

"What in space makes you think that?" he demanded.

"Why, Quest, it's obvious," she cried, tears in her eyes. "Everything
about you ... your build, suited for Jupiter's gravity ... your strength
... the fact that you were able to live in Jupiter's atmosphere after
the oxygen equipment failed. I know you think Dr. Mansard was your
father, but androids often believe that."

He grinned at her.

"I'm no android," he said confidently. "Do you forget my father was
inventor of the surgiscope? He knew I'd have to grow up on Jupiter, and
he operated on the genes before I was born. He altered my inherited
characteristics to adapt me to the climate of Jupiter ... even to being
able to breathe a chlorine atmosphere as well as an oxygen atmosphere."

Trella looked at him. He was not badly hurt, any more than an elephant
would have been, but his tunic was stained with red blood where the
bullets had struck him. Normal android blood was green.

"How can you be sure?" she asked doubtfully.

"Androids are made," he answered with a laugh. "They don't grow up. And
I remember my boyhood on Jupiter very well."

He took her in his arms again, and this time she did not resist. His
lips were very human.





Next: A Transmutation Of Muddles

Previous: The Gift Bearer



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