The Pirates of Ersatz-Eleven-Special trick

The Pirates of Ersatz-Eleven-Special trick

He delicately disassembled the set in his room and began to put some of the parts together in a novel but wholly rational fashion. The science of electronics, like the science of mathematics, had progressed away beyond the point where all of it had practical applications. One could spend a lifetime learning things that research had discovered in the past, and industry had never found a use for. On Zan, industriously reading pirated books, Hoddan hadn’t known where utility stopped. He’d kept on learning long after a practical man would have stopped studying to get a paying job.

Any electronic engineer could have made the device he now assembled. It only needed to be wanted–and apparently he was the first person to want it. In this respect it was like the receptor that had gotten him into trouble. But as he put the small parts together, he felt a certain loneliness. A man Hoddan’s age needs to have some girl admire him from time to time. If Nedda had been sitting cross-legged before him, listening raptly while he explained, Hoddan would probably have been perfectly happy. But she wasn’t. It wasn’t likely she ever would be. Hoddan scowled.

Inside of an hour he’d made a hand-sized, five-watt, wave-guide projector of waves of eccentric form. In the beam of that projector, air became ionized. Air became a high-resistance conductor comparable to nichrome wire, when and where the projector sent its microwaves.He was wrapping tape about the pistol grip when a servant brought him a scribbled note. It had been handed in at the Embassy gate by a woman who fled after leaving it. It looked like Nedda’s handwriting. It read like Nedda’s phrasing. It appeared to have been written by somebody in a highly emotional state. But it wasn’t quite–not absolutely–convincing.

He went to find the ambassador. He handed over the note. The ambassador read it and raised his eyebrows.
“It could be authentic,” admitted Hoddan.
“In other words,” said the ambassador, “you are not sure that it is a booby trap–an invitation to a date with the police?”

“I’m not sure,” said Hoddan. “I think I’d better bite. If I have any illusions left after this morning, I’d better find it out. I thought Nedda liked me quite a lot.”

“I make no comment,” observed the ambassador. “Can I help you in any way?”

“I have to leave the Embassy,” said Hoddan, “and there’s a practically solid line of police outside the walls. Could I borrow some old clothes, a few pillows, and a length of rope?”

The rope remained hanging from the wall. No light reached the ground there. The tiny crescent of Walden’s farthest moon cast an insufficient glow. Nothing could be seen by it.The rope went up, as if it had been lowered merely to make sure that it was long enough for its purpose. Then it descended again. This time a figure dangled at its end. It came down, swaying a little. It reached the blackest part of the shadow at the wall’s base. It stayed there.

Nothing happened. The figure rose swiftly, hauled up in rapid pullings of the rope. Then the line came down again and again a figure descended. But this figure moved. The rope swayed and oscillated. The figure came down a good halfway to the ground. It paused, and then descended with much movement to two-thirds of the way from the top.
There something seemed to alarm it. It began to rise with violent writhings of the rope. It climbed–

There was a crackling noise. A stun-pistol. The figure seemed to climb more frantically. More cracklings. Half a dozen–a dozen sharp, snapping noises. They were stun-pistol charges and there were tiny sparks where they hit. The dangling figure seemed convulsed. It went limp, but it did not fall. More charges poured into it. It hung motionless halfway up the wall of the Embassy.

Movements began in the darkness. Men appeared, talking in low tones and straining their eyes toward the now motionless figure. They gathered underneath it. One went off at a run, carrying a message. Someone of authority arrived, panting. There was more low-toned argument. More and still more men appeared. There were forty or fifty figures at the base of the wall.

One of those figures began to climb the rope hand over hand. He reached the motionless object. He swore in a shocked voice. He was shushed from below. He let the figure drop. It made next to no sound when it landed.Then there was a rushing, as the guards about the Embassy went furiously back to their proper posts to keep anybody from slipping out Two men remained swearing bitterly over a dummy made of old clothes and pillows. But their profanity was in vain.

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