AE Van Vogt - Asylum


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ASYLUM by A. E. VAN VOCT I INDECISION WAS dark in the man’s thoughts as he walked across the spaceship control room to the cot where the woman lay so taut and so still. He bent over her; he said in his deep voice: “We’re slowing down, Merla.” No answer, no movement, not a quiver in her delicate, abnormally blanched cheeks. Her fine nostrils dilated ever so slightly with each measured breath. That was all. The Dreegh lifted her arm, then let it go. It dropped to her lap like a piece of lifeless wood, and her body remained rigid and unnatural. Carefully, he put his fingers to one eye, raised the lid, peered into it. It stared back at him, a clouded, sightless blue. He straightened, and stood very still there in the utter silence of the hurtling ship. For a moment, then, in the intensity of his posture and in the dark ruthlessness of his lean, hard features, he seemed the veritable embodiment of grim, icy calculation.
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He thought grayly: “If I revived her now, she’d have more time to attack me, and more strength. If I waited, she’d be weaker-” Slowly, he relaxed. Some of the weariness of the years he and this woman had spent together in the dark vastness of space came to shatter his abnormal logic. Bleak sympathy touched him-and the decision was made. He prepared an injection, and fed it into her arm. His gray eyes held a steely brightness as he put his lips near the woman’s ear; in a ringing, resonant voice he said: “We’re near a star system. There’ll be blood, Merla! And life!” The woman stirred; momentarily, she seemed like a golden-haired doll come alive. No color touched her perfectly formed cheeks, but alertness crept into her eyes. She stared up at him with a hardening hostility, half questioning. “I’ve been chemical,” she said-and abruptly the doll-like effect was gone. Her gaze tightened on him, and some of the prettiness vanished from her face. Her lips twisted into words:~ “It’s damned funny, Jeel, that you’re still 0. K. If I thought-” He was cold, watchful. “Forget it,” he said curtly. “You’re an energy waster, and you know it. Anyway, we’re going to land.” The flamelike tenseness of her faded. She sat up painfully, but there was a thoughtful look on her face as she said: “I’m interested in the risks. This is not a Galactic planet, is it?” “There are no Galactics out here. But there is an Observer. I’ve been catching the secret ultra signals for the last two hours”-a sardonic note entered his voice-”warning all ships to stay clear because the system isn’t ready for any kind of contact with Galactic planets.” Some of the diabolic glee that was in his thoughts must have communicated through his tone. The woman stared at him, and slowly her eyes widened. She half whispered: “You mean-” He shrugged. “The signals ought to be registering full blast now. We’ll see what degree system this is. But you can start hoping hard right now.”
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This note was uploaded on 02/20/2010 for the course WRITING 220.200 taught by Professor Julie during the Spring '10 term at Johns Hopkins.

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