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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SORDMAN THE PROTECTOR *** Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


Illustrated by WOOD

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Galaxy Magazine August 1960.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

He was the most powerful man in the world.
He could make anybody do anythingβ€”and yet
he was the slave of a mad criminal's mind!

In a beer hall on the eighty-first floor of the Hotel Mark Twain fourteen men held an adolescent girl prisoner.

"I'll go up there by myself," Sordman said.

He was a big young man with sloppy black hair and a red beard. His fashionably ornate clothes covered the body of a first class Talent. Disciplined training, plus drugs and his natural gift, had made him one of the four truly developed psionic adepts in the world. With drugs and preparation, he could command the entire range of psi powers. Without drugs, he could sense the emotions and sometimes the general thought patterns of the people near him.

"We'd better go with you," Lee Shawn said. "There's an awful lot of fear up there. They'll kill you as soon as they learn you're a Talent."

She was a lean, handsome woman in her early forties. A lawyer-politician, she was the Guggenheim Foundation's lobbyist. For years she had fought against laws to outlaw the development of Talent.

"Thanks, Mama, but I think I'd better go alone."

Sordman, though he didn't tell her, knew that symbolically Lee saw him as the tree and herself as the rain and the earth.

"Go ahead and laugh," George Aaron said. "But you'll need big medicine to fight that fear. Lee's symbolic place in your psyche is important."

"I've thought it over," Sordman said. "I'll depend on God and nothing else."

He felt George's mind squirm. As a psychologist, George accepted Sordman's Zen-Christian faith because Sordman needed it to control the powers of his Talent.

But George himself was a confirmed skeptic.

The men up there were scared. Sordman knew he would die if he lost control. But Lee and George were scared, too. Even now, standing in the park in early morning, their fear battered at his mind.

He thought about swimming in the ocean. He made his skin remember salted wind. The real Atlantic, a mile away, helped the illusion.

It was the right symbol. He felt his friends calm.

"Let him go," George said.

"He's manipulating us," Lee said.

"I know. But let him go."

Sordman laughed. Lee bent and tore a clump of grass from the earth. "Take this, Andy."

"Thank you."

It was wet with dew. He held it to his nose and smelled the dirt and grass. Two things kept him from destruction by his own Talent. He loved the physical world and he believed in God.

"I'll call you if I need you," he said.

"Be careful," George said. "Many people need you."

"You've got status," Lee said. "Use it. You're dealing with the kind of people it impresses."

The hotel stood three hundred stories tall. Surrounded by a five-mile-square park, connected to the major coastal cities by high speed vacuum tubes, the building was a small town. Eighty-five thousand people lived within its walls.

Sordman rode an empty elevator. Through the glass sides he studied the deserted halls and shops.

They were frightened here. Murder had been done. A Talent had destroyed two men. Lord, protect us from the malice of a witch.

The eighty-first was a commercial floor. He got off the vator and walked down the main corridor. A man watched him through the door of a bar. A girl in a blue kimono froze behind the counter of a pastry shop.

He stopped before the doors of the beer hall. He dropped to his knees and prayed.

Once the brave leader walked into a panicky group and it was enough to look calm. Now he had to be calm. It was not enough to square the shoulders, walk erect, speak in a confident tone. Sordman's true emotions radiated from him every moment. Those within range felt them as their own.

He drove thoughts like knives into the deepest corners of his mind. He begged release from fear. He prayed his God to grant him love for the frightened men within.

He stood erect and squared his shoulders. His bulb-shouldered morning coat was grey as dawn. He thought a well loved formula, a Buddhist prayer from the Book of Universal Worship. All life is transitory. All people must suffer and die. Let us forgive one another.

He roared his name and titles at the door.

"I am Talent Andrew Sordman, Fellow for Life of the Guggenheim Foundation, by Senate Act Protector of the People! By the laws of our country, I ask the right to enter."


"I am Talent Andrew Sordman, Fellowβ€”"

"Go away, witch!"

Without drugs and preparation, Sordman needed visual contact to sense emotions. But he didn't need Talent to sense the hatred in that voice.

He pictured a rough block of stone.

Using a basic skill, he kept the picture in his mind as he opened the door and planned his words.

"I have taken no drugs and made no preparation. You have nothing to fear. I'm your Protector and I've come to talk."

The beer hall was large and gloomy. The butts and ashes of the night's smoking filled its trays. Fourteen men watched him come. Half a dozen had hunting rifles.

Hunched over, weeping, a thin, dark-haired girl sat beneath an unshaded light. A shiver of anger crossed his brain.

"Kill the witch!" a young man shouted.

Lord, grant me love....

His eyes focused on the rifle bearers. One of them half-raised his gun. Then the butt clumped on the floor.

"You're bewitched!" the young man said. "I told you not to let him in."

"I've come to talk," Sordman said. "Who's the leader of your group?"

The young man said, "We don't have a leader. Here we're all equals."

Sordman studied the young man's emotions. He was frightened, but only a little more than the others. There was something else there, too. Something very strong. Sex frustration! The young man had an athletic body and a handsome, chiselled face. On his yellow vest he wore the emblem of a Second Class Technician. But even a young man with adequate finances could be frustrated. Keeping the stone in his mind, he undressed a certain actress.

He loved women and engaged in sex with lusty, triumphant joy. To him it was a celebration of the sacred mystery of life. He hoped some of this emotion reached its target.

He started talking without asking for a parley.

"Two men died yesterday. I've come to hunt out the murderer and put him away. What's the evidence against this girl?"

"We found drugs and a divining rod in her room."

"She's had a reputation for a long time."

"The school kids say she's a daydreamer."

Sordman understood their fear. Psi was a new and dangerous force. Its use demanded moral and intellectual discipline. Only a rare and carefully developed personality could encounter the anger, hostility and fear in other minds and still retain compassion and reasonable respect for human beings. An undisciplined person panicked and went into a mental state approaching paranoia. Sordman fought panic every day. He fought it with a total acceptance of human motivations, cultivated tenderness and compassion, and a healthy ego which could accept and enjoy its own self-love.

Those things, Sordman would have said, and also the necessary grace of God.

But the most undisciplined personality could practice psi destructively. Hostile minds roamed the world. Death could strike you in a clear field beneath an open sky while your murderer lay home in his bed. No wonder they dragged a girl from her parents and bullied her till dawn.

They talked. Sordman picked his way through fourteen minds. As always, he found what he wanted.

A fat, redheaded man sat a little apart from the group. He radiated a special kind of concern. He was concerned for the girl and for his own children. He believed the actions of the night had been necessary, but he felt the girl's pain and he wasn't sure he was doing the right thing.

Above all, he was a man who wanted to do the right thingβ€”the really right thing.

"You all have children," Sordman said. "Would you like to see them dragged out at night and treated the way you've treated this girl?"

"We've got to protect ourselves!" the young man said.

"Let him talk!" the fat man growled. He stared at the thick hands he spread on the table. "The girl has said all night she's innocent. Maybe she is. Maybe the Protector can do what we haven't done and find the real killer."

"I'm a master Talent," Sordman said. "If the killer is in the hotel, I can track him down before midnight. Will you give me that long?"

"How do we know you'll bring in the right man?"

"If he's the right man, he'll make it plain enough."

"You'll make him confess," the young man said. "You'll manipulate him like a puppet."

"What good will that do?" Sordman said. "Do you think I could control a man all the time he's in prison and on trial? If I use my Talent more than a few hours, I collapse."

"Can we hold the girl here?" asked the redheaded fat man.

"Feed her and treat her right," Sordman said. "What's your name?"

"John Dyer. My friends were about to use their belts on her."

A rifleman shuffled uneasily. "It's the only way. Mind killers use their Talent to tie their tongues and confuse us. Only pain can break their control."

"That's a fairy tale," Sordman said. "Without drugs a Talent is helpless."

"We've got the girl," John Dyer said. "She can't hurt us while we're waiting."

"He can!" the young man screamed. "Are you a plain fool? He can go outside and kill us all."

Sordman laughed. "Sure I could. And tomorrow I'd have to fight off an army. That I couldn't do if I was fool enough to try. You're frightened, boy. Use your head."

"You are excited, Leonard," said an armed man. He wore a blue morning coat with Manager's stars and the emblem of a transportation company. "We can wait a day. If we've got the killer, then we're safe. If we don't, then we've failed and the Protector should try."

"I'm not frightened. I just don't like Talent."

Most of the men frowned. They didn't share the prejudice. A few nodded and mumbled and shot dark glances at Sordman.

He let them talk. He stood there and thought apple pies and the brotherhood of man and the time he and his second wife spent three days in bed. And the big block of stone.

He was a high-powered transmitter broadcasting joy, good will toward men and tranquility.

In the end they listened to Dyer.

"But don't think you'll get a minute past midnight," said the young man.

"Technician, your Protector will remember."

Clarke Esponito had been a hard, quick little man in his early fifties. On the day of his death, the hotel newspaper had published his picture and announced his promotion to Director of Vocational Testing for the entire Atlantic Region. He had lived with his wife and his nineteen-year-old son, and his wife had been a lifetime wife. Esponito had been a Catholic, and that faith still called short-term marriages a mortal sin.

For a moment Sordman wondered what it would be like to know only one woman your entire life. He loved the infinite variety of God's creation and wanted to sample as much of it as he could.

"Mylady Widow, our apologies." Lee bowed, hands before her chest, and Sordman and George Aaron bowed with her. "We intrude on you," Lee said, "only because we have to find the real killer. Other people may be in danger."

The Widow Esponito bowed in return.

"I understand, Politician Shawn."

Even with her face scarred by tears she looked lovely. From the earliest years of their marriage, her husband had been high in the Civil Service and able to buy her beauty treatments.

"Mylady," Sordman said, "I need your help for two things. We want to know who you think wanted to kill your husband. And we need your want."

"Our want?" her son asked. He stood rigidly beside his mother's chair. His clothes were rich and formal tweed.

"Do you want to find the killer?"

The boy nodded soberly. "The moment I heard of his murder, I promised to avenge him."

"John!" His mother trembled. "You were raised to be a Christian!"

Sordman said, "I want to locate the image I think was used to kill him. For that I want to hook your strong desires into my thoughts. You won't know I'm doing it. But if you're near me, I'll use your emotions."

"Your husband was a

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