dollars. You'd need a truckload to buy a steak. «Help me, friends,» he pleaded. «Don't let me starve because I serve our God.» There was one dollar bill, more coins. He sighed. Not even enough for a bottle of Soul Lifter. Then two Fares carried a man into the park. He was bleeding. Blood dripped and splattered onto the sidewalk and soaked the sick grass at Luke's feet when they placed him there. It was the big Fare who had first challenged the smartaleck Techs. He was holding his stomach. His eyes were glazed. «Got a blade in the gut,» one of the bearers said. «Can you do anything for him, you'd better do it fast. Brother. He was helping you, making those bastards keep quiet so's you could preach.» «He will have his reward in heaven.» Luke said, recognizing the glaze of death in the Fare's eyes. «That don't cut it, man,» the bearer said. «He needs help here. He's got a wife and a new baby and with him gone the Fare checks drop fifty percent.» «I'll do my best,» Luke said, kneeling. He took the dying man's hands. When he lifted them, obscene things tumbled out of the vast slit in cloth and flesh, pulpy, purple things with pulsing veins and an overwhelming carnal smell. «Oh, God,» Luke said. «Brother,» the dying man whispered. «Brother.» «Oh, God,» Luke prayed, hopelessly, his face upturned to the glare of reflected light on the blanket of smog. «Oh, God, help this poor brother. Make him whole. Mend his wounds. Heal him.» But his voice was soft, hopeless. It trailed off. He felt the man spasm under his hands. He looked mindlessly at the lighted white curtain over the city. And a mindless anger filled him. The man was dying. Pain was making his face white. His breath was coming in hard, choking gasps. And for what? Mindless, blithering bastards of Techs going around making asses of themselves because they thought they were better than anyone, proud of their mindless little jobs where they sat or stood beside belts and tightened screws on endless moving pieces of new cars or refrigerators. Mindless everyone to let the world be so fouled up that a fight to the death in Old Town didn't even bring the Brotherfuzz. Mindless, bleeding man with his guts hanging out expecting him to do something, expecting the impossible. As if he could undo the vast, bleeding slit in the gut. As if he could put the intestines back in place. He was a healer, but he wasn't Jesus Christ. He could, sometimes, feel the cause of pain and, sometimes, when all things were right, he could remedy the cause. Sometimes it was as if he actually did have the divine power and could look into the vitals of a suffering fellow human and know, instinctively, what to do and be able to send something, a thought, a force, into the heart of the area and heal and now they all stood and looked and expected him to work a miracle and he was no miracle man, just a healer who could do it sometimes and the man. was dying, gasping. «Bro—» His voice weak. Begging for help. Luke felt tears trickle warmly down his cheeks. They cleaned white paths through the accumulation of soot on his skin. «Oh, God,» he said, his

voice choked. «Help him.» And, to himself, bitterly, praying sincerely, give me the power! Give it to me! Goddamn you, if you're up there, you mindless, spastic sonofabitch, don't let this poor bastard die! Do you hear, you bloody, cruel, heartless prick? And, lo, the heavens were alight! A blaze of glory. Gutting through the eternal smog, lighting the sky. A vast, blooming, flowering explosion of awesome dimension, covering the sky, making the lights of Old Town dim. And it was God, speaking to him, warning him of his blasphemy. But he didn't care. If the goddamned yokel could light up the whole sky in indignation because some sod of a faith healer cursed him, then he could make that gut go back in and close that slit and— «Do it, you bastard,» Luke was screaming, floods of adrenal fluid glowing, bursting in him. «Help him, you prick. Give me the power. Don't just light up the friggin' sky. Save some of it for this poor bastard who needs you.» And the glandular action, the result of awed fear, anger, all the tumult of emotions, made Luke's hands tremble. «Heal!» he screamed. And he felt it. He looked down and he knew the workings, the pipings, the convolutions of the ruptured guts. He knew their place and he was pushing, shoving while the man jerked in terminal agony and the crowd, screaming, running, terrified by the vast blaze of light, ignored the maddened faith healer and the dead man and Luke was punching guts back into the slit, cursing, crying saying, «Heal, heal,» and then things were there. He felt it in his mind. «Heal,» he moaned, expecting the Lord to strike him down, knowing that his blasphemy had evoked the blaze of light, knowing bitterness that He would go to such lengths to punish one errant servant and not move a pinkie to heal a dying man who had fought so that Luke could preach. «Heal,» he screamed, and his eyes widened as

he felt the pull of cellular action, saw the slit gradually close, saw the flow of blood cease, and then, racing heart in his throat, putting his hand down to wipe away the blood and gore from the taut stomach to feel undamaged skin there and the gradual rise and fall of the diaphragm in normal breathing. «My, God,» Luke said. He looked up. The sky was a soft glow, a blanket of smog lit by the lights from below. «Whatchu doing?» the dead man asked, sitting up. «Why you got my shirt off?» Then, «Hey!» His hand in the blood. «I was cut!» «Yes,» Luke whispered, feeling weak, feeling very, very small. «I was cut from here to here,» the man said, feeling the undamaged surface of his stomach. «How—» «I don't know,» Luke said. «I don't know at all, brother.» CHAPTER THREE Colonel Ed Baxley cursed himself as a sentimental fool. He paced the deep carpet of the observation room atop his quarters, a huge, Neo-Victorian house on the south end of the campus. Through the vast span of glass he could see the parade grounds. Trim ranks of crew-cut young Brothers in gleaming white uniforms stood there, waiting. He would have to go out. After all, the review was in honor of his son. His son! The worst of it was that there wasn't even a body to mourn, not a particle of the bright-eyed boy who had been his life. Not even a body. Somewhere out in near space Ronnie might be floating. Baxley passed a hand over his eyes to wipe away a sudden vision of his son's mutilated body wheeling, wheeling, wheeling toward the cold, distant stars. Colonel Ed Baxley could not afford to become a public weeper. Therefore, since his eyes would not stay dry, he could not go to stand before his cadets. He could not stand before that group of the Second Republic's finest and let the tears run down his cheeks, not Ed Baxley. Baxley was too much man to cry in public. Baxley, who had saved the Republic, could not face his superbly disciplined student body, his hand-picked group of outstanding minds, and weep. The man who was still called The Colonel a full thirty years after the two-day revolution which threw the Socialistic bastards out would not, could not weep. Baxley waded the deep carpet. He thought about his son with wet eyes. And he thought about Skeerzy. If Skeerzy were only here, he told himself, he could handle things. Skeerzy had a natural line of patter. He always knew the problem instinctively and could think of the right things to say. Yes, he mourned Skeerzy, too. And that cute little bride of his. Old Skeerzy, full of commonsense and solid, old-fashioned morals. Skeerzy, who gave the practical young scientists of University One, The Brothers, a God-sent gift of religious logic, who taught the Golden Rule. Skeerzy, who was almost a second father to Ronnie. Skeerzy was dead. There was a low, musical gong. Baxley turned to the videophone. He pushed a button. «Baxley here,» he said, as his image was transmitted back to the image-making machine which showed him a nurse in a smart, off-white uniform. He noted the black armband on the nurse's uniform and, once again, reminded, he felt the sting of tears. He was a big man,

thick in the shoulders, narrowing only slightly at the waist, but without an ounce of surplus. His kinky hair was cut tightly to his scalp. His eyebrows were full, his nose strong, his teeth perfect. He looked the part. And he looked not much older than he had looked on the day, thirty years ago, when he'd led his small contingent of Brothers into Washington, armed with a half dozen hurriedly handmade fire guns. The nurse smiled pleasantly. «Your wife is in the delivery room, sir. The doctor says that it will be only a matter of minutes now.» He had almost forgotten. His life, which had ended at the North American Gate, could begin again in the delivery room of the University Hospital. He thanked the nurse. He pushed a code into the phone.

«Express my appreciation to the cadets,» he told his executive office. «Tell them I regret not being able to address them personally. Tell them,» and

he smiled for the first time since the news from space, «that my wife is, at this moment, giving birth to a son.» But the matter of minutes became hours. Baxley paced in traditional fashion. His joy faded in the face of delay. He felt a sharp edge of pain, thinking of Ronnie. It seemed as if it were only yesterday when he was pacing the halls of another hospital awaiting the birth of his first son. Ronald Edward Baxley, Jr. A fine name. He had shouted his news to the entire Republic by way of a nationwide network. The people had not forgotten the man who gave them peace, who delivered them from the red-tape corruption of the decadent First Republic. They remembered The Colonel. He had, with one technological breakthrough, presented them with security. No longer were they threatened by nuclear war. The ultimate weapon, the fire gun, had never been duplicated. Because the Second Republic was run securely by the Brothers, there had been no danger of anyone leaking the secret of the ultimate weapon to the Godless Commies. Yes, the world, especially the Republic, owed much to Colonel Ed Baxley. So when the best of modern medicine and admirable genetics allowed Baxley to start a family at an age when most men were dying, the world rejoiced. And it seemed fitting, somehow, that the colonel should look so unchanged. Seeing him on the screens, the Republic shared his youth. Little did it matter to the Tireds with their putrid lungs, to the Fares with their life expectancy of less than forty years, that Baxley upon

the birth of his first child, had already loved and lived longer than any of them could hope to do. Baxley had saved the world. Thus it was fitting for him to receive the care, the medicines, the treatments which would keep

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