"It wasn't until I was past forty that it bacame clear that I was going to be quote, successful, unquote."
- Isaac Asimov
Jim looked at Clee wonderingly as he took out his pipe and stuck it in the crack of the door, allowing him to remove his foot. Clee explained to him what Xantra had told him with the thought-sending helmets; reminded him of what they had learned from Vivian about the lumps on their necks. After he had finished he said quietly but decisively:
"Now, we're going to try and remove whatever is under these lumps. Have you got anything sharp? Your knife? Something with an edge on it?"
It would mean escape from the domination of Xantra's will!—from his terrible stabbing punishment!—if they could remove them! Jim breathed a little quicker.
"You know what will happen to Vivian if we delay the attempt." Clee reminded him levelly: and Jim knew that Clee was right—that their break for freedom must start right then and there....
He looked through his pockets and produced some cigarettes, matches, a pipe, a nailfile and some utterly useless odds and ends. Clee's hands came out of his pockets empty. "I've got nothing at all," he said—and picked up the nailfile and looked at it questioningly. "We'll have to use this, I guess.... Well, I'm first."
He lay face down on the floor and loosened his collar. Quietly, he made several suggestions. "Light a match and heat the tip in the flame," he said. "The point's pretty dull, but cut as deep and quick and clean as you can. If I yell, pay no attention; I'll try to hold still. Unless it bleeds very much, best not make a bandage; we've nothing clean enough."
That was all he said; and Jim, his heart beating like mad, and a lump in his throat, could find no words at all. He sterilized the tip of the file as directed, studied the lump a moment, then, after a rough, affectionate shake of his friend's shoulder, he knelt close to his task. One quick hard cut; a sharp gasp from Clee; a repetition; then two more times crossways—and a firm, spongelike metallic disc lay revealed. Then the worst—raising it a little, and breaking the several fine wires that led from it through the flesh within....
|From The Slave Ship From Space,
by A.R. Holmes.
Published by Astounding Stories in 1931
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