Monday, January 30, 2017

Mr. Spaceship by Philip K. Dick


This is the original image with the story - public domain

A human brain-controlled spacecraft would mean mechanical
perfection. This was accomplished, and something unforeseen: a
strange entity called–

Mr. Spaceship by Philip K. Dick

Kramer leaned back. “You can see the situation. How can we deal with a
factor like this? The perfect variable.”

“Perfect? Prediction should still be possible. A living thing still
acts from necessity, the same as inanimate material. But the
cause-effect chain is more subtle; there are more factors to be
considered. The difference is quantitative, I think. The reaction of
the living organism parallels natural causation, but with greater

Gross and Kramer looked up at the board plates, suspended on the wall,
still dripping, the images hardening into place. Kramer traced a line
with his pencil.

“See that? It’s a pseudopodium. They’re alive, and so far, a weapon we
can’t beat. No mechanical system can compete with that, simple or
intricate. We’ll have to scrap the Johnson Control and find something

“Meanwhile the war continues as it is. Stalemate. Checkmate. They
can’t get to us, and we can’t get through their living minefield.”

Kramer nodded. “It’s a perfect defense, for them. But there still
might be one answer.”

“What’s that?”

“Wait a minute.” Kramer turned to his rocket expert, sitting with the
charts and files. “The heavy cruiser that returned this week. It
didn’t actually touch, did it? It came close but there was no

“Correct.” The expert nodded. “The mine was twenty miles off. The
cruiser was in space-drive, moving directly toward Proxima,
line-straight, using the Johnson Control, of course. It had deflected
a quarter of an hour earlier for reasons unknown. Later it resumed its
course. That was when they got it.”

“It shifted,” Kramer said. “But not enough. The mine was coming along
after it, trailing it. It’s the same old story, but I wonder about the

“Here’s our theory,” the expert said. “We keep looking for contact, a
trigger in the pseudopodium. But more likely we’re witnessing a
psychological phenomena, a decision without any physical correlative.
We’re watching for something that isn’t there. The mine decides to
blow up. It sees our ship, approaches, and then decides.”

“Thanks.” Kramer turned to Gross. “Well, that confirms what I’m
saying. How can a ship guided by automatic relays escape a mine that
decides to explode? The whole theory of mine penetration is that you
must avoid tripping the trigger. But here the trigger is a state of
mind in a complicated, developed life-form.”

“The belt is fifty thousand miles deep,” Gross added. “It solves
another problem for them, repair and maintenance. The damn things
reproduce, fill up the spaces by spawning into them. I wonder what
they feed on?”

“Probably the remains of our first-line. The big cruisers must be a
delicacy. It’s a game of wits, between a living creature and a ship
piloted by automatic relays. The ship always loses.” Kramer opened a
folder. “I’ll tell you what I suggest.”

“Go on,” Gross said. “I’ve already heard ten solutions today. What’s

“Mine is very simple. These creatures are superior to any mechanical
system, but only because they’re alive. Almost any other life-form
could compete with them, any higher life-form. If the yuks can put out
living mines to protect their planets, we ought to be able to harness
some of our own life-forms in a similar way. Let’s make use of the
same weapon ourselves.”

“Which life-form do you propose to use?”

“I think the human brain is the most agile of known living forms. Do
you know of any better?”

“But no human being can withstand outspace travel. A human pilot would
be dead of heart failure long before the ship got anywhere near

“But we don’t need the whole body,” Kramer said. “We need only the


“The problem is to find a person of high intelligence who would
contribute, in the same manner that eyes and arms are volunteered.”

“But a brain….”

“Technically, it could be done. Brains have been transferred several
times, when body destruction made it necessary. Of course, to a
spaceship, to a heavy outspace cruiser, instead of an artificial body,
that’s new.”

The room was silent.

“It’s quite an idea,” Gross said slowly. His heavy square face
twisted. “But even supposing it might work, the big question is
whose brain?”

* * * * *

It was all very confusing, the reasons for the war, the nature of the
enemy. The Yucconae had been contacted on one of the outlying planets
of Proxima Centauri. At the approach of the Terran ship, a host of
dark slim pencils had lifted abruptly and shot off into the distance.
The first real encounter came between three of the yuk pencils and a
single exploration ship from Terra. No Terrans survived. After that it
was all out war, with no holds barred.

Both sides feverishly constructed defense rings around their systems.
Of the two, the Yucconae belt was the better. The ring around Proxima
was a living ring, superior to anything Terra could throw against it.
The standard equipment by which Terran ships were guided in outspace,
the Johnson Control, was not adequate. Something more was needed.
Automatic relays were not good enough.

–Not good at all, Kramer thought to himself, as he stood looking down
the hillside at the work going on below him. A warm wind blew along
the hill, rustling the weeds and grass. At the bottom, in the valley,
the mechanics had almost finished; the last elements of the reflex
system had been removed from the ship and crated up.

All that was needed now was the new core, the new central key that
would take the place of the mechanical system. A human brain, the
brain of an intelligent, wary human being. But would the human being
part with it? That was the problem.

Kramer turned. Two people were approaching him along the road, a man
and a woman. The man was Gross, expressionless, heavy-set, walking
with dignity. The woman was–He stared in surprise and growing
annoyance. It was Dolores, his wife. Since they’d separated he had
seen little of her….

“Kramer,” Gross said. “Look who I ran into. Come back down with us.
We’re going into town.”

“Hello, Phil,” Dolores said. “Well, aren’t you glad to see me?”

He nodded. “How have you been? You’re looking fine.” She was still
pretty and slender in her uniform, the blue-grey of Internal Security,
Gross’ organization.

“Thanks.” She smiled. “You seem to be doing all right, too. Commander
Gross tells me that you’re responsible for this project, Operation
Head, as they call it. Whose head have you decided on?”

“That’s the problem.” Kramer lit a cigarette. “This ship is to be
equipped with a human brain instead of the Johnson system. We’ve
constructed special draining baths for the brain, electronic relays to
catch the impulses and magnify them, a continual feeding duct that
supplies the living cells with everything they need. But–”

“But we still haven’t got the brain itself,” Gross finished. They
began to walk back toward the car. “If we can get that we’ll be ready
for the tests.”

“Will the brain remain alive?” Dolores asked. “Is it actually going to
live as part of the ship?”

“It will be alive, but not conscious. Very little life is actually
conscious. Animals, trees, insects are quick in their responses, but
they aren’t conscious. In this process of ours the individual
personality, the ego, will cease. We only need the response ability,
nothing more.”

Dolores shuddered. “How terrible!”

“In time of war everything must be tried,” Kramer said absently. “If
one life sacrificed will end the war it’s worth it. This ship might
get through. A couple more like it and there wouldn’t be any more

* * * * *

They got into the car. As they drove down the road, Gross said, “Have
you thought of anyone yet?”

Kramer shook his head. “That’s out of my line.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m an engineer. It’s not in my department.”

“But all this was your idea.”

“My work ends there.”

Gross was staring at him oddly. Kramer shifted uneasily.

“Then who is supposed to do it?” Gross said. “I can have my
organization prepare examinations of various kinds, to determine
fitness, that kind of thing–”

“Listen, Phil,” Dolores said suddenly.


She turned toward him. “I have an idea. Do you remember that professor
we had in college. Michael Thomas?”

Kramer nodded.

“I wonder if he’s still alive.” Dolores frowned. “If he is he must be
awfully old.”

“Why, Dolores?” Gross asked.

“Perhaps an old person who didn’t have much time left, but whose mind
was still clear and sharp–”

“Professor Thomas.” Kramer rubbed his jaw. “He certainly was a wise
old duck. But could he still be alive? He must have been seventy,

“We could find that out,” Gross said. “I could make a routine check.”

“What do you think?” Dolores said. “If any human mind could outwit
those creatures–”

“I don’t like the idea,” Kramer said. In his mind an image had
appeared, the image of an old man sitting behind a desk, his bright
gentle eyes moving about the classroom. The old man leaning forward, a
thin hand raised–

“Keep him out of this,” Kramer said.

“What’s wrong?” Gross looked at him curiously.

“It’s because I suggested it,” Dolores said.

“No.” Kramer shook his head. “It’s not that. I didn’t expect anything
like this, somebody I knew, a man I studied under. I remember him very
clearly. He was a very distinct personality.”

“Good,” Gross said. “He sounds fine.”

“We can’t do it. We’re asking his death!”

“This is war,” Gross said, “and war doesn’t wait on the needs of the
individual. You said that yourself. Surely he’ll volunteer; we can
keep it on that basis.”

“He may already be dead,” Dolores murmured.

“We’ll find that out,” Gross said speeding up the car. They drove the
rest of the way in silence.

* * * * *

For a long time the two of them stood studying the small wood house,
overgrown with ivy, set back on the lot behind an enormous oak. The
little town was silent and sleepy; once in awhile a car moved slowly
along the distant highway, but that was all.

“This is the place,” Gross said to Kramer. He folded his arms. “Quite
a quaint little house.”

Kramer said nothing. The two Security Agents behind them were

Gross started toward the gate. “Let’s go. According to the check he’s
still alive, but very sick. His mind is agile, however. That seems to
be certain. It’s said he doesn’t leave the house. A woman takes care
of his needs. He’s very frail.”

They went down the stone walk and up onto the porch. Gross rang the
bell. They waited. After a time they heard slow footsteps. The door
opened. An elderly woman in a shapeless wrapper studied them

“Security,” Gross said, showing his card. “We wish to see Professor


“Government business.” He glanced at Kramer.

Kramer stepped forward. “I was a pupil of the Professor’s,” he said.
“I’m sure he won’t mind seeing us.”

The woman hesitated uncertainly. Gross stepped into the doorway. “All
right, mother. This is war time. We can’t stand out here.”

The two Security agents followed him, and Kramer came reluctantly
behind, closing the door. Gross stalked down the hall until he came to
an open door. He stopped, looking in. Kramer could see the white
corner of a bed, a wooden post and the edge of a dresser.

He joined Gross.

In the dark room a withered old man lay, propped up on endless
pillows. At first it seemed as if he were asleep; there was no motion
or sign of life. But after a time Kramer saw with a faint shock that
the old man was watching them intently, his eyes fixed on them,
unmoving, unwinking.

“Professor Thomas?” Gross said. “I’m Commander Gross of Security. This
man with me is perhaps known to you–”

The faded eyes fixed on Kramer.

“I know him. Philip Kramer…. You’ve grown heavier, boy.” The voice
was feeble, the rustle of dry ashes. “Is it true you’re married now?”

“Yes. I married Dolores French. You remember her.” Kramer came toward
the bed. “But we’re separated. It didn’t work out very well. Our

“What we came here about, Professor,” Gross began, but Kramer cut him
off with an impatient wave.

“Let me talk. Can’t you and your men get out of here long enough to
let me talk to him?”

Gross swallowed. “All right, Kramer.” He nodded to the two men. The
three of them left the room, going out into the hall and closing the
door after them.

The old man in the bed watched Kramer silently. “I don’t think much of
him,” he said at last. “I’ve seen his type before. What’s he want?”

“Nothing. He just came along. Can I sit down?” Kramer found a stiff
upright chair beside the bed. “If I’m bothering you–”

“No. I’m glad to see you again, Philip. After so long. I’m sorry your
marriage didn’t work out.”

“How have you been?”

“I’ve been very ill. I’m afraid that my moment on the world’s stage
has almost ended.” The ancient eyes studied the younger man
reflectively. “You look as if you have been doing well. Like everyone
else I thought highly of. You’ve gone to the top in this society.”

Kramer smiled. Then he became serious. “Professor, there’s a project
we’re working on that I want to talk to you about. It’s the first ray
of hope we’ve had in this whole war. If it works, we may be able to
crack the yuk defenses, get some ships into their system. If we can do
that the war might be brought to an end.”

“Go on. Tell me about it, if you wish.”

“It’s a long shot, this project. It may not work at all, but we have
to give it a try.”

“It’s obvious that you came here because of it,” Professor Thomas
murmured. “I’m becoming curious. Go on.”

* * * * *

After Kramer finished the old man lay back in the bed without
speaking. At last he sighed.

“I understand. A human mind, taken out of a human body.” He sat up a
little, looking at Kramer. “I suppose you’re thinking of me.”

Kramer said nothing.

“Before I make my decision I want to see the papers on this, the
theory and outline of construction. I’m not sure I like it.–For
reasons of my own, I mean. But I want to look at the material. If
you’ll do that–”

“Certainly.” Kramer stood up and went to the door. Gross and the two
Security Agents were standing outside, waiting tensely. “Gross, come

They filed into the room.

“Give the Professor the papers,” Kramer said. “He wants to study them
before deciding.”

Gross brought the file out of his coat pocket, a manila envelope. He
handed it to the old man on the bed. “Here it is, Professor. You’re
welcome to examine it. Will you give us your answer as soon as
possible? We’re very anxious to begin, of course.”

“I’ll give you my answer when I’ve decided.” He took the envelope with
a thin, trembling hand. “My decision depends on what I find out from
these papers. If I don’t like what I find, then I will not become
involved with this work in any shape or form.” He opened the envelope
with shaking hands. “I’m looking for one thing.”

“What is it?” Gross said.

“That’s my affair. Leave me a number by which I can reach you when
I’ve decided.”

Silently, Gross put his card down on the dresser. As they went out
Professor Thomas was already reading the first of the papers, the
outline of the theory.

* * * * *

Kramer sat across from Dale Winter, his second in line. “What then?”
Winter said.

“He’s going to contact us.” Kramer scratched with a drawing pen on
some paper. “I don’t know what to think.”

“What do you mean?” Winter’s good-natured face was puzzled.

“Look.” Kramer stood up, pacing back and forth, his hands in his
uniform pockets. “He was my teacher in college. I respected him as a
man, as well as a teacher. He was more than a voice, a talking book.
He was a person, a calm, kindly person I could look up to. I always
wanted to be like him, someday. Now look at me.”


“Look at what I’m asking. I’m asking for his life, as if he were some
kind of laboratory animal kept around in a cage, not a man, a teacher
at all.”

“Do you think he’ll do it?”

“I don’t know.” Kramer went to the window. He stood looking out. “In a
way, I hope not.”

“But if he doesn’t–”

“Then we’ll have to find somebody else. I know. There would be
somebody else. Why did Dolores have to–”

The vidphone rang. Kramer pressed the button.

“This is Gross.” The heavy features formed. “The old man called me.
Professor Thomas.”

“What did he say?” He knew; he could tell already, by the sound of
Gross’ voice.

“He said he’d do it. I was a little surprised myself, but apparently
he means it. We’ve already made arrangements for his admission to the
hospital. His lawyer is drawing up the statement of liability.”

Kramer only half heard. He nodded wearily. “All right. I’m glad. I
suppose we can go ahead, then.”

“You don’t sound very glad.”

“I wonder why he decided to go ahead with it.”

“He was very certain about it.” Gross sounded pleased. “He called me
quite early. I was still in bed. You know, this calls for a

“Sure,” Kramer said. “It sure does.”

* * * * *

Toward the middle of August the project neared completion. They stood
outside in the hot autumn heat, looking up at the sleek metal sides of
the ship.

Gross thumped the metal with his hand. “Well, it won’t be long. We can
begin the test any time.”

“Tell us more about this,” an officer in gold braid said. “It’s such
an unusual concept.”

“Is there really a human brain inside the ship?” a dignitary asked, a
small man in a rumpled suit. “And the brain is actually alive?”

“Gentlemen, this ship is guided by a living brain instead of the usual
Johnson relay-control system. But the brain is not conscious. It will
function by reflex only. The practical difference between it and the
Johnson system is this: a human brain is far more intricate than any
man-made structure, and its ability to adapt itself to a situation, to
respond to danger, is far beyond anything that could be artificially

Gross paused, cocking his ear. The turbines of the ship were beginning
to rumble, shaking the ground under them with a deep vibration. Kramer
was standing a short distance away from the others, his arms folded,
watching silently. At the sound of the turbines he walked quickly
around the ship to the other side. A few workmen were clearing away
the last of the waste, the scraps of wiring and scaffolding. They
glanced up at him and went on hurriedly with their work. Kramer
mounted the ramp and entered the control cabin of the ship. Winter was
sitting at the controls with a Pilot from Space-transport.

“How’s it look?” Kramer asked.

“All right.” Winter got up. “He tells me that it would be best to take
off manually. The robot controls–” Winter hesitated. “I mean, the
built-in controls, can take over later on in space.”

“That’s right,” the Pilot said. “It’s customary with the Johnson
system, and so in this case we should–”

“Can you tell anything yet?” Kramer asked.

“No,” the Pilot said slowly. “I don’t think so. I’ve been going over
everything. It seems to be in good order. There’s only one thing I
wanted to ask you about.” He put his hand on the control board. “There
are some changes here I don’t understand.”


“Alterations from the original design. I wonder what the purpose is.”

Kramer took a set of the plans from his coat. “Let me look.” He turned
the pages over. The Pilot watched carefully over his shoulder.

“The changes aren’t indicated on your copy,” the Pilot said. “I
wonder–” He stopped. Commander Gross had entered the control cabin.

“Gross, who authorized alterations?” Kramer said. “Some of the wiring
has been changed.”

“Why, your old friend.” Gross signaled to the field tower through the

“My old friend?”

“The Professor. He took quite an active interest.” Gross turned to the
Pilot. “Let’s get going. We have to take this out past gravity for the
test they tell me. Well, perhaps it’s for the best. Are you ready?”

“Sure.” The Pilot sat down and moved some of the controls around.

“Go ahead, then,” Gross said.

“The Professor–” Kramer began, but at that moment there was a
tremendous roar and the ship leaped under him. He grasped one of the
wall holds and hung on as best he could. The cabin was filling with a
steady throbbing, the raging of the jet turbines underneath them.

The ship leaped. Kramer closed his eyes and held his breath. They were
moving out into space, gaining speed each moment.

* * * * *

“Well, what do you think?” Winter said nervously. “Is it time yet?”

“A little longer,” Kramer said. He was sitting on the floor of the
cabin, down by the control wiring. He had removed the metal
covering-plate, exposing the complicated maze of relay wiring. He was
studying it, comparing it to the wiring diagrams.

“What’s the matter?” Gross said.

“These changes. I can’t figure out what they’re for. The only pattern
I can make out is that for some reason–”

“Let me look,” the Pilot said. He squatted down beside Kramer. “You
were saying?”

“See this lead here? Originally it was switch controlled. It closed
and opened automatically, according to temperature change. Now it’s
wired so that the central control system operates it. The same with
the others. A lot of this was still mechanical, worked by pressure,
temperature, stress. Now it’s under the central master.”

“The brain?” Gross said. “You mean it’s been altered so that the brain
manipulates it?”

Kramer nodded. “Maybe Professor Thomas felt that no mechanical relays
could be trusted. Maybe he thought that things would be happening too
fast. But some of these could close in a split second. The brake
rockets could go on as quickly as–”

“Hey,” Winter said from the control seat. “We’re getting near the moon
stations. What’ll I do?”

They looked out the port. The corroded surface of the moon gleamed up
at them, a corrupt and sickening sight. They were moving swiftly toward

“I’ll take it,” the Pilot said. He eased Winter out of the way and
strapped himself in place. The ship began to move away from the moon
as he manipulated the controls. Down below them they could see the
observation stations dotting the surface, and the tiny squares that
were the openings of the underground factories and hangars. A red
blinker winked up at them and the Pilot’s fingers moved on the board
in answer.

“We’re past the moon,” the Pilot said, after a time. The moon had
fallen behind them; the ship was heading into outer space. “Well, we
can go ahead with it.”

Kramer did not answer.

“Mr. Kramer, we can go ahead any time.”

Kramer started. “Sorry. I was thinking. All right, thanks.” He
frowned, deep in thought.

“What is it?” Gross asked.

“The wiring changes. Did you understand the reason for them when you
gave the okay to the workmen?”

Gross flushed. “You know I know nothing about technical material. I’m
in Security.”

“Then you should have consulted me.”

“What does it matter?” Gross grinned wryly. “We’re going to have to
start putting our faith in the old man sooner or later.”

The Pilot stepped back from the board. His face was pale and set.
“Well, it’s done,” he said. “That’s it.”

“What’s done?” Kramer said.

“We’re on automatic. The brain. I turned the board over to it–to him,
I mean. The Old Man.” The Pilot lit a cigarette and puffed nervously.
“Let’s keep our fingers crossed.”

* * * * *

The ship was coasting evenly, in the hands of its invisible pilot. Far
down inside the ship, carefully armoured and protected, a soft human
brain lay in a tank of liquid, a thousand minute electric charges
playing over its surface. As the charges rose they were picked up and
amplified, fed into relay systems, advanced, carried on through the
entire ship–

Gross wiped his forehead nervously. “So he is running it, now. I
hope he knows what he’s doing.”

Kramer nodded enigmatically. “I think he does.”

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing.” Kramer walked to the port. “I see we’re still moving in a
straight line.” He picked up the microphone. “We can instruct the
brain orally, through this.” He blew against the microphone

“Go on,” Winter said.

“Bring the ship around half-right,” Kramer said. “Decrease speed.”

They waited. Time passed. Gross looked at Kramer. “No change.


Slowly, the ship was beginning to turn. The turbines missed, reducing
their steady beat. The ship was taking up its new course, adjusting
itself. Nearby some space debris rushed past, incinerating in the
blasts of the turbine jets.

“So far so good,” Gross said.

They began to breathe more easily. The invisible pilot had taken
control smoothly, calmly. The ship was in good hands. Kramer spoke a
few more words into the microphone, and they swung again. Now they
were moving back the way they had come, toward the moon.

“Let’s see what he does when we enter the moon’s pull,” Kramer said.
“He was a good mathematician, the old man. He could handle any kind of

The ship veered, turning away from the moon. The great eaten-away
globe fell behind them.

Gross breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s that.”

“One more thing.” Kramer picked up the microphone. “Return to the moon
and land the ship at the first space field,” he said into it.

“Good Lord,” Winter murmured. “Why are you–”

“Be quiet.” Kramer stood, listening. The turbines gasped and roared as
the ship swung full around, gaining speed. They were moving back, back
toward the moon again. The ship dipped down, heading toward the great
globe below.

“We’re going a little fast,” the Pilot said. “I don’t see how he can
put down at this velocity.”

* * * * *

The port filled up, as the globe swelled rapidly. The Pilot hurried
toward the board, reaching for the controls. All at once the ship
jerked. The nose lifted and the ship shot out into space, away from
the moon, turning at an oblique angle. The men were thrown to the
floor by the sudden change in course. They got to their feet again,
speechless, staring at each other.

The Pilot gazed down at the board. “It wasn’t me! I didn’t touch a
thing. I didn’t even get to it.”

The ship was gaining speed each moment. Kramer hesitated. “Maybe you
better switch it back to manual.”

The Pilot closed the switch. He took hold of the steering controls and
moved them experimentally. “Nothing.” He turned around. “Nothing. It
doesn’t respond.”

No one spoke.

“You can see what has happened,” Kramer said calmly. “The old man
won’t let go of it, now that he has it. I was afraid of this when I
saw the wiring changes. Everything in this ship is centrally
controlled, even the cooling system, the hatches, the garbage release.
We’re helpless.”

“Nonsense.” Gross strode to the board. He took hold of the wheel and
turned it. The ship continued on its course, moving away from the
moon, leaving it behind.

“Release!” Kramer said into the microphone. “Let go of the controls!
We’ll take it back. Release.”

“No good,” the Pilot said. “Nothing.” He spun the useless wheel. “It’s
dead, completely dead.”

“And we’re still heading out,” Winter said, grinning foolishly. “We’ll
be going through the first-line defense belt in a few minutes. If they
don’t shoot us down–”

“We better radio back.” The Pilot clicked the radio to send. “I’ll
contact the main bases, one of the observation stations.”

“Better get the defense belt, at the speed we’re going. We’ll be into
it in a minute.”

“And after that,” Kramer said, “we’ll be in outer space. He’s moving
us toward outspace velocity. Is this ship equipped with baths?”

“Baths?” Gross said.

“The sleep tanks. For space-drive. We may need them if we go much

“But good God, where are we going?” Gross said. “Where–where’s he
taking us?”

* * * * *

The Pilot obtained contact. “This is Dwight, on ship,” he said. “We’re
entering the defense zone at high velocity. Don’t fire on us.”

“Turn back,” the impersonal voice came through the speaker. “You’re
not allowed in the defense zone.”

“We can’t. We’ve lost control.”

“Lost control?”

“This is an experimental ship.”

Gross took the radio. “This is Commander Gross, Security. We’re being
carried into outer space. There’s nothing we can do. Is there any way
that we can be removed from this ship?”

A hesitation. “We have some fast pursuit ships that could pick you up
if you wanted to jump. The chances are good they’d find you. Do you
have space flares?”

“We do,” the Pilot said. “Let’s try it.”

“Abandon ship?” Kramer said. “If we leave now we’ll never see it

“What else can we do? We’re gaining speed all the time. Do you propose
that we stay here?”

“No.” Kramer shook his head. “Damn it, there ought to be a better

“Could you contact him?” Winter asked. “The Old Man? Try to reason
with him?”

“It’s worth a chance,” Gross said. “Try it.”

“All right.” Kramer took the microphone. He paused a moment. “Listen!
Can you hear me? This is Phil Kramer. Can you hear me, Professor. Can
you hear me? I want you to release the controls.”

There was silence.

“This is Kramer, Professor. Can you hear me? Do you remember who I am?
Do you understand who this is?”

Above the control panel the wall speaker made a sound, a sputtering
static. They looked up.

“Can you hear me, Professor. This is Philip Kramer. I want you to give
the ship back to us. If you can hear me, release the controls! Let go,
Professor. Let go!”

Static. A rushing sound, like the wind. They gazed at each other.
There was silence for a moment.

“It’s a waste of time,” Gross said.


The sputter came again. Then, mixed with the sputter, almost lost in
it, a voice came, toneless, without inflection, a mechanical, lifeless
voice from the metal speaker in the wall, above their heads.

“… Is it you, Philip? I can’t make you out. Darkness…. Who’s
there? With you….”

“It’s me, Kramer.” His fingers tightened against the microphone
handle. “You must release the controls, Professor. We have to get back
to Terra. You must.”

Silence. Then the faint, faltering voice came again, a little stronger
than before. “Kramer. Everything so strange. I was right, though.
Consciousness result of thinking. Necessary result. Cognito ergo sum.
Retain conceptual ability. Can you hear me?”

“Yes, Professor–”

“I altered the wiring. Control. I was fairly certain…. I wonder if I
can do it. Try….”

Suddenly the air-conditioning snapped into operation. It snapped
abruptly off again. Down the corridor a door slammed. Something
thudded. The men stood listening. Sounds came from all sides of them,
switches shutting, opening. The lights blinked off; they were in
darkness. The lights came back on, and at the same time the heating
coils dimmed and faded.

“Good God!” Winter said.

Water poured down on them, the emergency fire-fighting system. There
was a screaming rush of air. One of the escape hatches had slid back,
and the air was roaring frantically out into space.

The hatch banged closed. The ship subsided into silence. The heating
coils glowed into life. As suddenly as it had begun the weird
exhibition ceased.

“I can do–everything,” the dry, toneless voice came from the wall
speaker. “It is all controlled. Kramer, I wish to talk to you. I’ve
been–been thinking. I haven’t seen you in many years. A lot to
discuss. You’ve changed, boy. We have much to discuss. Your wife–”

The Pilot grabbed Kramer’s arm. “There’s a ship standing off our bow.

* * * * *

They ran to the port. A slender pale craft was moving along with them,
keeping pace with them. It was signal-blinking.

“A Terran pursuit ship,” the Pilot said. “Let’s jump. They’ll pick us
up. Suits–”

He ran to a supply cupboard and turned the handle. The door opened and
he pulled the suits out onto the floor.

“Hurry,” Gross said. A panic seized them. They dressed frantically,
pulling the heavy garments over them. Winter staggered to the escape
hatch and stood by it, waiting for the others. They joined him, one by

“Let’s go!” Gross said. “Open the hatch.”

Winter tugged at the hatch. “Help me.”

They grabbed hold, tugging together. Nothing happened. The hatch
refused to budge.

“Get a crowbar,” the Pilot said.

“Hasn’t anyone got a blaster?” Gross looked frantically around. “Damn
it, blast it open!”

“Pull,” Kramer grated. “Pull together.”

“Are you at the hatch?” the toneless voice came, drifting and eddying
through the corridors of the ship. They looked up, staring around
them. “I sense something nearby, outside. A ship? You are leaving, all
of you? Kramer, you are leaving, too? Very unfortunate. I had hoped we
could talk. Perhaps at some other time you might be induced to

“Open the hatch!” Kramer said, staring up at the impersonal walls of
the ship. “For God’s sake, open it!”

There was silence, an endless pause. Then, very slowly, the hatch slid
back. The air screamed out, rushing past them into space.

One by one they leaped, one after the other, propelled away by the
repulsive material of the suits. A few minutes later they were being
hauled aboard the pursuit ship. As the last one of them was lifted
through the port, their own ship pointed itself suddenly upward and
shot off at tremendous speed. It disappeared.

Kramer removed his helmet, gasping. Two sailors held onto him and
began to wrap him in blankets. Gross sipped a mug of coffee,

“It’s gone,” Kramer murmured.

“I’ll have an alarm sent out,” Gross said.

“What’s happened to your ship?” a sailor asked curiously. “It sure
took off in a hurry. Who’s on it?”

“We’ll have to have it destroyed,” Gross went on, his face grim. “It’s
got to be destroyed. There’s no telling what it–what he has in
mind.” Gross sat down weakly on a metal bench. “What a close call for
us. We were so damn trusting.”

“What could he be planning,” Kramer said, half to himself. “It doesn’t
make sense. I don’t get it.”

* * * * *

As the ship sped back toward the moon base they sat around the table
in the dining room, sipping hot coffee and thinking, not saying very

“Look here,” Gross said at last. “What kind of man was Professor
Thomas? What do you remember about him?”

Kramer put his coffee mug down. “It was ten years ago. I don’t
remember much. It’s vague.”

He let his mind run back over the years. He and Dolores had been at
Hunt College together, in physics and the life sciences. The College
was small and set back away from the momentum of modern life. He had
gone there because it was his home town, and his father had gone there
before him.

Professor Thomas had been at the College a long time, as long as
anyone could remember. He was a strange old man, keeping to himself
most of the time. There were many things that he disapproved of, but
he seldom said what they were.

“Do you recall anything that might help us?” Gross asked. “Anything
that would give us a clue as to what he might have in mind?”

Kramer nodded slowly. “I remember one thing….”

One day he and the Professor had been sitting together in the school
chapel, talking leisurely.

“Well, you’ll be out of school, soon,” the Professor had said. “What
are you going to do?”

“Do? Work at one of the Government Research Projects, I suppose.”

“And eventually? What’s your ultimate goal?”

Kramer had smiled. “The question is unscientific. It presupposes such
things as ultimate ends.”

“Suppose instead along these lines, then: What if there were no war
and no Government Research Projects? What would you do, then?”

“I don’t know. But how can I imagine a hypothetical situation like
that? There’s been war as long as I can remember. We’re geared for
war. I don’t know what I’d do. I suppose I’d adjust, get used to it.”

The Professor had stared at him. “Oh, you do think you’d get
accustomed to it, eh? Well, I’m glad of that. And you think you could
find something to do?”

Gross listened intently. “What do you infer from this, Kramer?”

“Not much. Except that he was against war.”

“We’re all against war,” Gross pointed out.

“True. But he was withdrawn, set apart. He lived very simply, cooking
his own meals. His wife died many years ago. He was born in Europe, in
Italy. He changed his name when he came to the United States. He used
to read Dante and Milton. He even had a Bible.”

“Very anachronistic, don’t you think?”

“Yes, he lived quite a lot in the past. He found an old phonograph and
records, and he listened to the old music. You saw his house, how
old-fashioned it was.”

“Did he have a file?” Winter asked Gross.

“With Security? No, none at all. As far as we could tell he never
engaged in political work, never joined anything or even seemed to
have strong political convictions.”

“No,” Kramer, agreed. “About all he ever did was walk through the
hills. He liked nature.”

“Nature can be of great use to a scientist,” Gross said. “There
wouldn’t be any science without it.”

“Kramer, what do you think his plan is, taking control of the ship and
disappearing?” Winter said.

“Maybe the transfer made him insane,” the Pilot said. “Maybe there’s
no plan, nothing rational at all.”

“But he had the ship rewired, and he had made sure that he would
retain consciousness and memory before he even agreed to the
operation. He must have had something planned from the start. But

“Perhaps he just wanted to stay alive longer,” Kramer said. “He was
old and about to die. Or–”

“Or what?”

“Nothing.” Kramer stood up. “I think as soon as we get to the moon
base I’ll make a vidcall to earth. I want to talk to somebody about

“Who’s that?” Gross asked.

“Dolores. Maybe she remembers something.”

“That’s a good idea,” Gross said.

* * * * *

“Where are you calling from?” Dolores asked, when he succeeded in
reaching her.

“From the moon base.”

“All kinds of rumors are running around. Why didn’t the ship come
back? What happened?”

“I’m afraid he ran off with it.”


“The Old Man. Professor Thomas.” Kramer explained what had happened.

Dolores listened intently. “How strange. And you think he planned it
all in advance, from the start?”

“I’m certain. He asked for the plans of construction and the
theoretical diagrams at once.”

“But why? What for?”

“I don’t know. Look, Dolores. What do you remember about him? Is there
anything that might give a clue to all this?”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. That’s the trouble.”

On the vidscreen Dolores knitted her brow. “I remember he raised
chickens in his back yard, and once he had a goat.” She smiled. “Do
you remember the day the goat got loose and wandered down the main
street of town? Nobody could figure out where it came from.”

“Anything else?”

“No.” He watched her struggling, trying to remember. “He wanted to
have a farm, sometime, I know.”

“All right. Thanks.” Kramer touched the switch. “When I get back to
Terra maybe I’ll stop and see you.”

“Let me know how it works out.”

He cut the line and the picture dimmed and faded. He walked slowly
back to where Gross and some officers of the Military were sitting at
a chart table, talking.

“Any luck?” Gross said, looking up.

“No. All she remembers is that he kept a goat.”

“Come over and look at this detail chart.” Gross motioned him around
to his side. “Watch!”

Kramer saw the record tabs moving furiously, the little white dots
racing back and forth.

“What’s happening?” he asked.

“A squadron outside the defense zone has finally managed to contact
the ship. They’re maneuvering now, for position. Watch.”

The white counters were forming a barrel formation around a black dot
that was moving steadily across the board, away from the central
position. As they watched, the white dots constricted around it.

“They’re ready to open fire,” a technician at the board said.
“Commander, what shall we tell them to do?”

Gross hesitated. “I hate to be the one who makes the decision. When it
comes right down to it–”

“It’s not just a ship,” Kramer said. “It’s a man, a living person. A
human being is up there, moving through space. I wish we knew what–”

“But the order has to be given. We can’t take any chances. Suppose he
went over to them, to the yuks.”

Kramer’s jaw dropped. “My God, he wouldn’t do that.”

“Are you sure? Do you know what he’ll do?”

“He wouldn’t do that.”

Gross turned to the technician. “Tell them to go ahead.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but now the ship has gotten away. Look down at the

* * * * *

Gross stared down, Kramer over his shoulder. The black dot had slipped
through the white dots and had moved off at an abrupt angle. The white
dots were broken up, dispersing in confusion.

“He’s an unusual strategist,” one of the officers said. He traced the
line. “It’s an ancient maneuver, an old Prussian device, but it

The white dots were turning back. “Too many yuk ships out that far,”
Gross said. “Well, that’s what you get when you don’t act quickly.” He
looked up coldly at Kramer. “We should have done it when we had him.
Look at him go!” He jabbed a finger at the rapidly moving black dot.
The dot came to the edge of the board and stopped. It had reached the
limit of the chartered area. “See?”

–Now what? Kramer thought, watching. So the Old Man had escaped the
cruisers and gotten away. He was alert, all right; there was nothing
wrong with his mind. Or with his ability to control his new body.

Body–The ship was a new body for him. He had traded in the old dying
body, withered and frail, for this hulking frame of metal and plastic,
turbines and rocket jets. He was strong, now. Strong and big. The new
body was more powerful than a thousand human bodies. But how long
would it last him? The average life of a cruiser was only ten years.
With careful handling he might get twenty out of it, before some
essential part failed and there was no way to replace it.

And then, what then? What would he do, when something failed and there
was no one to fix it for him? That would be the end. Someplace, far
out in the cold darkness of space, the ship would slow down, silent
and lifeless, to exhaust its last heat into the eternal timelessness
of outer space. Or perhaps it would crash on some barren asteroid,
burst into a million fragments.

It was only a question of time.

“Your wife didn’t remember anything?” Gross said.

“I told you. Only that he kept a goat, once.”

“A hell of a lot of help that is.”

Kramer shrugged. “It’s not my fault.”

“I wonder if we’ll ever see him again.” Gross stared down at the
indicator dot, still hanging at the edge of the board. “I wonder if
he’ll ever move back this way.”

“I wonder, too,” Kramer said.

* * * * *

That night Kramer lay in bed, tossing from side to side, unable to
sleep. The moon gravity, even artificially increased, was unfamiliar
to him and it made him uncomfortable. A thousand thoughts wandered
loose in his head as he lay, fully awake.

What did it all mean? What was the Professor’s plan? Maybe they would
never know. Maybe the ship was gone for good; the Old Man had left
forever, shooting into outer space. They might never find out why he
had done it, what purpose–if any–had been in his mind.

Kramer sat up in bed. He turned on the light and lit a cigarette. His
quarters were small, a metal-lined bunk room, part of the moon station

The Old Man had wanted to talk to him. He had wanted to discuss
things, hold a conversation, but in the hysteria and confusion all
they had been able to think of was getting away. The ship was rushing
off with them, carrying them into outer space. Kramer set his jaw.
Could they be blamed for jumping? They had no idea where they were
being taken, or why. They were helpless, caught in their own ship, and
the pursuit ship standing by waiting to pick them up was their only
chance. Another half hour and it would have been too late.

But what had the Old Man wanted to say? What had he intended to tell
him, in those first confusing moments when the ship around them had
come alive, each metal strut and wire suddenly animate, the body of a
living creature, a vast metal organism?

It was weird, unnerving. He could not forget it, even now. He looked
around the small room uneasily. What did it signify, the coming to
life of metal and plastic? All at once they had found themselves
inside a living creature, in its stomach, like Jonah inside the

It had been alive, and it had talked to them, talked calmly and
rationally, as it rushed them off, faster and faster into outer space.
The wall speaker and circuit had become the vocal cords and mouth, the
wiring the spinal cord and nerves, the hatches and relays and circuit
breakers the muscles.

They had been helpless, completely helpless. The ship had, in a brief
second, stolen their power away from them and left them defenseless,
practically at its mercy. It was not right; it made him uneasy. All
his life he had controlled machines, bent nature and the forces of
nature to man and man’s needs. The human race had slowly evolved until
it was in a position to operate things, run them as it saw fit. Now
all at once it had been plunged back down the ladder again, prostrate
before a Power against which they were children.

Kramer got out of bed. He put on his bathrobe and began to search for
a cigarette. While he was searching, the vidphone rang.

He snapped the vidphone on.


The face of the immediate monitor appeared. “A call from Terra, Mr.
Kramer. An emergency call.”

“Emergency call? For me? Put it through.” Kramer came awake, brushing
his hair back out of his eyes. Alarm plucked at him.

From the speaker a strange voice came. “Philip Kramer? Is this

“Yes. Go on.”

“This is General Hospital, New York City, Terra. Mr. Kramer, your wife
is here. She has been critically injured in an accident. Your name was
given to us to call. Is it possible for you to–”

“How badly?” Kramer gripped the vidphone stand. “Is it serious?”

“Yes, it’s serious, Mr. Kramer. Are you able to come here? The quicker
you can come the better.”

“Yes.” Kramer nodded. “I’ll come. Thanks.”

* * * * *

The screen died as the connection was broken. Kramer waited a moment.
Then he tapped the button. The screen relit again. “Yes, sir,” the
monitor said.

“Can I get a ship to Terra at once? It’s an emergency. My wife–”

“There’s no ship leaving the moon for eight hours. You’ll have to wait
until the next period.”

“Isn’t there anything I can do?”

“We can broadcast a general request to all ships passing through this
area. Sometimes cruisers pass by here returning to Terra for repairs.”

“Will you broadcast that for me? I’ll come down to the field.”

“Yes sir. But there may be no ship in the area for awhile. It’s a
gamble.” The screen died.

Kramer dressed quickly. He put on his coat and hurried to the lift. A
moment later he was running across the general receiving lobby, past
the rows of vacant desks and conference tables. At the door the
sentries stepped aside and he went outside, onto the great concrete

The face of the moon was in shadow. Below him the field stretched out
in total darkness, a black void, endless, without form. He made his
way carefully down the steps and along the ramp along the side of the
field, to the control tower. A faint row of red lights showed him the

Two soldiers challenged him at the foot of the tower, standing in the
shadows, their guns ready.


“Yes.” A light was flashed in his face.

“Your call has been sent out already.”

“Any luck?” Kramer asked.

“There’s a cruiser nearby that has made contact with us. It has an
injured jet and is moving slowly back toward Terra, away from the

“Good.” Kramer nodded, a flood of relief rushing through him. He lit a
cigarette and gave one to each of the soldiers. The soldiers lit up.

“Sir,” one of them asked, “is it true about the experimental ship?”

“What do you mean?”

“It came to life and ran off?”

“No, not exactly,” Kramer said. “It had a new type of control system
instead of the Johnson units. It wasn’t properly tested.”

“But sir, one of the cruisers that was there got up close to it, and a
buddy of mine says this ship acted funny. He never saw anything like
it. It was like when he was fishing once on Terra, in Washington
State, fishing for bass. The fish were smart, going this way and

“Here’s your cruiser,” the other soldier said. “Look!”

An enormous vague shape was setting slowly down onto the field. They
could make nothing out but its row of tiny green blinkers. Kramer
stared at the shape.

“Better hurry, sir,” the soldiers said. “They don’t stick around here
very long.”

“Thanks.” Kramer loped across the field, toward the black shape that
rose up above him, extended across the width of the field. The ramp
was down from the side of the cruiser and he caught hold of it. The
ramp rose, and a moment later Kramer was inside the hold of the ship.
The hatch slid shut behind him.

As he made his way up the stairs to the main deck the turbines roared
up from the moon, out into space.

Kramer opened the door to the main deck. He stopped suddenly, staring
around him in surprise. There was nobody in sight. The ship was

“Good God,” he said. Realization swept over him, numbing him. He sat
down on a bench, his head swimming. “Good God.”

The ship roared out into space leaving the moon and Terra farther
behind each moment.

And there was nothing he could do.

* * * * *

“So it was you who put the call through,” he said at last. “It was you
who called me on the vidphone, not any hospital on Terra. It was all
part of the plan.” He looked up and around him. “And Dolores is

“Your wife is fine,” the wall speaker above him said tonelessly. “It
was a fraud. I am sorry to trick you that way, Philip, but it was all
I could think of. Another day and you would have been back on Terra. I
don’t want to remain in this area any longer than necessary. They have
been so certain of finding me out in deep space that I have been able
to stay here without too much danger. But even the purloined letter
was found eventually.”

Kramer smoked his cigarette nervously. “What are you going to do?
Where are we going?”

“First, I want to talk to you. I have many things to discuss. I was
very disappointed when you left me, along with the others. I had hoped
that you would remain.” The dry voice chuckled. “Remember how we used
to talk in the old days, you and I? That was a long time ago.”

The ship was gaining speed. It plunged through space at tremendous
speed, rushing through the last of the defense zone and out beyond. A
rush of nausea made Kramer bend over for a moment.

When he straightened up the voice from the wall went on, “I’m sorry to
step it up so quickly, but we are still in danger. Another few moments
and we’ll be free.”

“How about yuk ships? Aren’t they out here?”

“I’ve already slipped away from several of them. They’re quite curious
about me.”


“They sense that I’m different, more like their own organic mines.
They don’t like it. I believe they will begin to withdraw from this
area, soon. Apparently they don’t want to get involved with me.
They’re an odd race, Philip. I would have liked to study them closely,
try to learn something about them. I’m of the opinion that they use no
inert material. All their equipment and instruments are alive, in some
form or other. They don’t construct or build at all. The idea of
making is foreign to them. They utilize existing forms. Even their

“Where are we going?” Kramer said. “I want to know where you are
taking me.”

“Frankly, I’m not certain.”

“You’re not certain?”

“I haven’t worked some details out. There are a few vague spots in my
program, still. But I think that in a short while I’ll have them
ironed out.”

“What is your program?” Kramer said.

“It’s really very simple. But don’t you want to come into the control
room and sit? The seats are much more comfortable than that metal

Kramer went into the control room and sat down at the control board.
Looking at the useless apparatus made him feel strange.

“What’s the matter?” the speaker above the board rasped.

* * * * *

Kramer gestured helplessly. “I’m–powerless. I can’t do anything. And
I don’t like it. Do you blame me?”

“No. No, I don’t blame you. But you’ll get your control back, soon.
Don’t worry. This is only a temporary expedient, taking you off this
way. It was something I didn’t contemplate. I forgot that orders would
be given out to shoot me on sight.”

“It was Gross’ idea.”

“I don’t doubt that. My conception, my plan, came to me as soon as you
began to describe your project, that day at my house. I saw at once
that you were wrong; you people have no understanding of the mind at
all. I realized that the transfer of a human brain from an organic
body to a complex artificial space ship would not involve the loss of
the intellectualization faculty of the mind. When a man thinks, he

“When I realized that, I saw the possibility of an age-old dream
becoming real. I was quite elderly when I first met you, Philip. Even
then my life-span had come pretty much to its end. I could look ahead
to nothing but death, and with it the extinction of all my ideas. I
had made no mark on the world, none at all. My students, one by one,
passed from me into the world, to take up jobs in the great Research
Project, the search for better and bigger weapons of war.

“The world has been fighting for a long time, first with itself, then
with the Martians, then with these beings from Proxima Centauri, whom
we know nothing about. The human society has evolved war as a cultural
institution, like the science of astronomy, or mathematics. War is a
part of our lives, a career, a respected vocation. Bright, alert young
men and women move into it, putting their shoulders to the wheel as
they did in the time of Nebuchadnezzar. It has always been so.

“But is it innate in mankind? I don’t think so. No social custom is
innate. There were many human groups that did not go to war; the
Eskimos never grasped the idea at all, and the American Indians never
took to it well.

“But these dissenters were wiped out, and a cultural pattern was
established that became the standard for the whole planet. Now it has
become ingrained in us.

“But if someplace along the line some other way of settling problems
had arisen and taken hold, something different than the massing of men
and material to–”

“What’s your plan?” Kramer said. “I know the theory. It was part of
one of your lectures.”

“Yes, buried in a lecture on plant selection, as I recall. When you
came to me with this proposition I realized that perhaps my conception
could be brought to life, after all. If my theory were right that war
is only a habit, not an instinct, a society built up apart from Terra
with a minimum of cultural roots might develop differently. If it
failed to absorb our outlook, if it could start out on another foot,
it might not arrive at the same point to which we have come: a dead
end, with nothing but greater and greater wars in sight, until nothing
is left but ruin and destruction everywhere.

“Of course, there would have to be a Watcher to guide the experiment,
at first. A crisis would undoubtedly come very quickly, probably in
the second generation. Cain would arise almost at once.

“You see, Kramer, I estimate that if I remain at rest most of the
time, on some small planet or moon, I may be able to keep functioning
for almost a hundred years. That would be time enough, sufficient to
see the direction of the new colony. After that–Well, after that it
would be up to the colony itself.

“Which is just as well, of course. Man must take control eventually,
on his own. One hundred years, and after that they will have control
of their own destiny. Perhaps I am wrong, perhaps war is more than a
habit. Perhaps it is a law of the universe, that things can only
survive as groups by group violence.

“But I’m going ahead and taking the chance that it is only a habit,
that I’m right, that war is something we’re so accustomed to that we
don’t realize it is a very unnatural thing. Now as to the place! I’m
still a little vague about that. We must find the place, still.

“That’s what we’re doing now. You and I are going to inspect a few
systems off the beaten path, planets where the trading prospects are
low enough to keep Terran ships away. I know of one planet that might
be a good place. It was reported by the Fairchild Expedition in their
original manual. We may look into that, for a start.”

The ship was silent.

* * * * *

Kramer sat for a time, staring down at the metal floor under him. The
floor throbbed dully with the motion of the turbines. At last he
looked up.

“You might be right. Maybe our outlook is only a habit.” Kramer got to
his feet. “But I wonder if something has occurred to you?”

“What is that?”

“If it’s such a deeply ingrained habit, going back thousands of years,
how are you going to get your colonists to make the break, leave Terra
and Terran customs? How about this generation, the first ones, the
people who found the colony? I think you’re right that the next
generation would be free of all this, if there were an–” He grinned.
“–An Old Man Above to teach them something else instead.”

Kramer looked up at the wall speaker. “How are you going to get the
people to leave Terra and come with you, if by your own theory, this
generation can’t be saved, it all has to start with the next?”

The wall speaker was silent. Then it made a sound, the faint dry

“I’m surprised at you, Philip. Settlers can be found. We won’t need
many, just a few.” The speaker chuckled again. “I’ll acquaint you with
my solution.”

At the far end of the corridor a door slid open. There was sound, a
hesitant sound. Kramer turned.


Dolores Kramer stood uncertainly, looking into the control room. She
blinked in amazement. “Phil! What are you doing here? What’s going

They stared at each other.

“What’s happening?” Dolores said. “I received a vidcall that you had
been hurt in a lunar explosion–”

The wall speaker rasped into life. “You see, Philip, that problem is
already solved. We don’t really need so many people; even a single
couple might do.”

Kramer nodded slowly. “I see,” he murmured thickly. “Just one couple.
One man and woman.”

“They might make it all right, if there were someone to watch and see
that things went as they should. There will be quite a few things I
can help you with, Philip. Quite a few. We’ll get along very well, I

Kramer grinned wryly. “You could even help us name the animals,” he
said. “I understand that’s the first step.”

“I’ll be glad to,” the toneless, impersonal voice said. “As I recall,
my part will be to bring them to you, one by one. Then you can do the
actual naming.”

“I don’t understand,” Dolores faltered. “What does he mean, Phil?
Naming animals. What kind of animals? Where are we going?”

Kramer walked slowly over to the port and stood staring silently out,
his arms folded. Beyond the ship a myriad fragments of light gleamed,
countless coals glowing in the dark void. Stars, suns, systems.
Endless, without number. A universe of worlds. An infinity of planets,
waiting for them, gleaming and winking from the darkness.

He turned back, away from the port. “Where are we going?” He smiled at
his wife, standing nervous and frightened, her large eyes full of
alarm. “I don’t know where we are going,” he said. “But somehow that
doesn’t seem too important right now…. I’m beginning to see the
Professor’s point, it’s the result that counts.”

And for the first time in many months he put his arm around Dolores.
At first she stiffened, the fright and nervousness still in her eyes.
But then suddenly she relaxed against him and there were tears wetting
her cheeks.

“Phil … do you really think we can start over again–you and I?”

He kissed her tenderly, then passionately.

And the spaceship shot swiftly through the endless, trackless eternity
of the void….

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Mr. Spaceship, by Philip K. Dick

Produced by Greg Weeks, Barbara Tozier and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at

This etext was produced from Imagination Stories of Science
and Fantasy January 1953. Extensive research did not uncover
any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was