which plunged even as he watched to release a fountain of ruby, a stream of blood from severed arteries which splashed on the wall and dappled the floor with a crimson rain.
‘Seven injured,’ reported Claire. ‘Five in shock; two catatonics. And one dead.’
Maddox frowned, ‘Dead?’
‘Gordon Kent. He killed himself with a broken boule. Ted saw him do it. Of the injured two are hospitalised; one caught his hand in a drill press, the other was burned. The other injuries are superficial and caused by collisions.’ She added, unnecessarily, ‘Their panic caused them to run.’
And one to run further than most — right into the security of the grave. Maddox remembered the man, a fine crewman who would be missed. Not the type he would have taken for wanting nerve, but when true panic struck who could guarantee their reactions?
Remembering he said, ‘How is Ted now?’
‘He is a doctor and a good one.’
‘A doctor gets used to the sight of blood, Carl. He has to.’
And Bain was a good doctor — which said nothing about his potential human weakness and, doctor or not, he could have succumbed to the general panic as had the rest. Maddox drew in his breath, remembering a time of nightmare when fear had clogged his veins and he had cringed with the desire to run, to escape, to hide.
If he had been weak and worried and afraid of personal hurt would he have yielded as Kent had done?
Or was it that the man had owned a far more intense imagination?
Questions, always questions, and still there were no answers. Bleakly he looked at the screens in Mission Control again seeing nothing but the cold burn of distant stars.
‘Nothing, Commander.’ She knew the implication of his call. ‘Space, as far as all instrumentation is concerned, is totally empty ahead of us.’
‘Saha, as far as the Computer is concerned, what are the extrapolations?’
‘None, Commander. There is insufficient data on which the Computer can work.’
Maddox felt the fingers of his left hand beginning to close. It was useless to blame a machine for not having the intuitive faculty of a man — but how much data did the damn thing need?
‘Try again,’ he ordered. ‘Feed it all the information we have and, if nothing else, obtain an intelligent guess.’ An inconsistency, no machine could be intelligent despite the claims of those who served them, but Saha might find some factor he had previously overlooked. With relief he saw Manton enter Mission Control. ‘Eric! Anything?’
‘Yes, but all negative.’ Manton cleared his throat. ‘At least we can eliminate all thought of internal causes for the recent wave of panic. All equipment in the theatre was out of operation. I’ve checked all sources of electronic usage and none show any surge or loss which means we can eliminate all packets of energy-source such as spatial vortexes which could have created a high-order energy flow.’
‘Which could mean that nothing happened and we have one dead man and several others injured for no reason at all.’
Maddox was being sarcastic and Manton knew it. Quietly he said, ‘There has to be a reason, Carl. All we’ve done so far is to eliminate sources of familiar energy, but there are others and they may be the cause.’
‘Eric is thinking of the paraphysical, Carl,’ said Claire. ‘We know that some people possess the talent to move objects without physical contact but as yet we have no means of discovering what type of energy they use. Telepathy, also, requires a form of energy and that is equally unexplained even though we know that telepathy exists. The warning —’
‘It has to be that,’ she insisted. ‘Twice now we have known panic and the desire to run. The first time we heard, or thought we heard, an actual voice giving us instructions. Perhaps that was because of the unusual conditions in which we received the message.’
And a man lay dead to show it should not be