The Project Gutenberg eBook of The warriors

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Title: The warriors

Author: Tom Purdom

Illustrator: Dan Adkins

Release date: December 1, 2023 [eBook #72278]

Language: English

Original publication: New York, NY: Ziff-Davis Publishing Company, 1962

Credits: Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at




Illustrated by ADKINS

Non-violent resistance: a paradox in terms. Yet
all mankind knows that, with another war sure
to sound the death-knell of the race, that an
effective non-violent means of settling disputes
must be found. Here is an original approach to
what may be the most important problem of our time.

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Amazing Stories June 1962.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

Lights out, the convoy crept away from the Institute. MacFarland rode in the lead car with a driver and his chief psych technician, Crawford Bell. Three flat decked personnel carriers, flying the colors of a mercenary band, Sabo's Own Highland Regiment, patrolled their flanks. The scientists rode in the third and fourth cars in the line.

Crawford Bell had hooked a computer and a full communications set to the rear of the front seat. Now he pressed a button on the commo unit.

"Fourteen," a voice said over the loudspeaker.

"What's happening in town?" Crawford Bell asked. He spoke with the slow, gentle accents of Tennessee.

"They're turning everybody out. There must be fifty guys stirring everybody up, telling them their country's in danger and they'd better fight. There's a mob coming your way."

MacFarland looked across the plain to the city. He could see thousands of hand lights and a dark shape sprawled across the plain. The sound of the crowd was so faint he decided it was still a couple of miles away.

His hands tingled with excitement. This was only his third raid. He still hadn't lost his zest for modern warfare. War was a contest played for high stakes, the fortunes of nations, and it used every aptitude a man could have. Moving into battle under an African sky, he felt glad he didn't live in an earlier age. War was so interesting it would be a shame to spoil it with the agony and guilt of killing.

His objective was the airport. He was supposed to put Doctor Warren's team of biochemists on the midnight plane to Israel. An agent of the Department of Commerce, he had been sent to Belderkan to talk Doctor Warren into becoming a US citizen. It had been a tricky job. Doctor Warren hadn't been anxious to change countries. Only the offer of a lab on the star ship being built by the United States had tempted him. "I'll accept your offer, Mr. MacFarland—if the other members of my team accept it. Talk to them. I won't leave without them."

Harassed by the Belderkan Department of Trade using every weapon in the Twenty-First Century arsenal of persuasion, MacFarland had wrested a grudging decision from the other four scientists. Now all he had to do was get them out of the country. But Doctor Warren's wife had warned the Belderkan government her husband was switching his allegiance.

MacFarland studied the crowd through his glasses. They must have half the city out there. He knew the scientists weren't deeply committed to leaving. If the Belderkans managed to keep them off the plane, they would probably change their minds.

"We're in for a night's work," Crawford Bell said.

To reach the airport, they had to make a half circle around the city. "We haven't lost yet," MacFarland said. "We're going fast enough to cut in front of them before they get between us and the airport."

Standing up in the moving car, he comforted himself by looking at his troops. Crawford Bell was a first-rate technician. His psych team was one of the best in the world. Sabo's mercenary "Regiment" had a global reputation, too. So did the band of mercenaries hiding in ambush. If the quality of an army counted for anything, they had a fighting chance. The position was bad but the men were superb.

He was a soldier. He thought of himself as a soldier and he planned to conduct himself like a soldier and win a victory for his country. But he couldn't use physical violence.

Thirty-eight years before, the governments of the world had finally realized international violence could no longer be tolerated. Any violence between nations, even a fist fight between private citizens from different countries, could trigger Earth's destruction.

He knew the consequences to all mankind of any physical violence. He knew it like he knew he had two legs. He also knew that if he twisted the little finger of a Belderkan citizen, the UN Inspector Corps would arrest him within hours. The World Court would sentence him to five years in prison and fine the United States far more than it could possibly gain from Albert Warren's work.

A helicopter whined above them. A spotlight pinned them from the air.

"Masks," MacFarland yelled. Seconds later he peered at the night from inside a plastic hood. His mustache, rubbing against the inside of the mask, tickled his upper lip.

The helicopter didn't drop psycho-active gas. Instead, it marked them with its light so that far off the crowd would know where its quarry was. A loudspeaker begged the scientists to remember the humble people of Belderkan.

We taxed the labor of our people to give you luxury. We built you beautiful homes. We gave you women, if you wanted them, and all the laboratory equipment you desired. We gave you old age pensions. Remember the labors of our people!

A line of automobile headlights raced across the plain. MacFarland gave an order. The lights of the convoy jumped on.

The line of enemy cars was long and moving fast. He couldn't go around their rear and they were moving fast enough to head him off and hold him for as long as the crowd needed to surround the convoy.

He switched on his mike. "Sabo, can you break their line?"

"Right. Allenby, attack the cars!"

A personnel carrier, sixty men standing on its deck, charged the enemy vehicles. MacFarland grinned when he heard the bagpipes wail.

The carrier headed toward the tiny space between the fourth and fifth vehicles in the enemy line. It swerved suddenly and half a dozen kilted troopers jumped from the deck and landed among the enemy vehicles. Fans screamed as drivers maneuvered to avoid running them over. A second squad jumped off. A third squad landed on their heels. Soon only the piper stood on the deck of the carrier, proudly erect as his mess mates risked their lives among rampaging machines.

The enemy line disintegrated. MacFarland picked out a hole eighty yards wide and led the convoy forward. As they passed the carrier, he threw the piper a salute.

"Well done," he told the mike.

"Thank you," Sabo said.

"It was a good job," Crawford Bell said, "but we had all the advantages. Wait until it's them on foot and us mounted."

The crowd had grown bigger. Now its roar could be heard for miles. A helicopter hovered over it, probably broadcasting the same kind of propaganda as the helicopter over the convoy.

Aiming for the airport, the convoy had left the Institute on a Northeast tack. In trying to outrun the line of cars, they had turned until they were moving due north. The mob was running north, too, and had almost placed itself between the convoy and the airport.

"Cut right," MacFarland told his driver. "Full speed ahead. See if you can cross in front of the crowd."

The helicopter's spotlight irritated him. He didn't like bright lights. Turning around, he checked to see how the scientists were doing. They were all wearing masks and their positions told him nothing about their feelings. He waved and one of them waved back.

Now he could hear the helicopter over the crowd. It was describing the loss that threatened Belderkan. The situation didn't demand sophisticated propaganda.

In a world of unrestricted international trade, with a hundred and ten countries fighting to maintain high living standards, a nation had to maintain a good balance between its exports and imports. The new products talented brains could create were the key to survival. Albert Warren, inventor of several valuable life forms, creator of the currently accepted unified theory of the life process, was one of the world's most valuable natural resources. He and his colleagues were worth several battles.

Three helicopters swooped over the convoy. MacFarland ducked and looked for signs of gas. The helicopters held a position about twenty yards in front of his car and a few feet off the ground.

"Here it comes," Crawford Bell mumbled.

Men jumped out of the helicopters. MacFarland's driver reversed his engine. The convoy screamed to a halt. The men jumping from the copters hit the ground and threw themselves prostrate. In the tall grass they could be anywhere. The helicopter overhead switched off its light.

Another helicopter landed on their left flank. A dozen Belderkans climbed out and ran toward the scientists. "Don't leave us. Great men that you are, think of our needs."

From Sabo's second personnel carrier, a squad ran to intercept the pleaders before they made it impossible for the scientists to move. The drivers of the threatened cars pulled out of the line. Arms linked, Sabo's men managed to keep the pleaders away from the scientists.

The two cars carrying the scientists parked next to MacFarland. "No wonder you like your work," Lauchstein, the genetic engineer shouted. The other scientists didn't act so enthusiastic.

MacFarland switched on his mike. "Sabo, clear us a path through that gang up ahead. If you work fast, we can still outrun the crowd."

"We're moving out," Sabo said.

The bagpipes screamed. Sabo's men leaped from their carriers and moved out at a trot, the whole "regiment" of one hundred eighty men in the formation invented by Sabo himself and used by non-violent fighters all over the world. Half the regiment formed two parallel lines. The other half broke into three-man squads which hunted for a path through the Belderkan squads.

The Belderkans stood up in the grass. There were about fifty of them. They tried to form a line in front of the convoy, but Sabo's men jumping and blocking among them thwarted that maneuver. A leader shouted an order and the Belderkans converged on the convoy, obviously trying to place one or two men so close to each vehicle movement would be impossible.

The Belderkans were as disciplined and agile as Sabo's troops. Men danced and jumped in the tall grass. Sabo maneuvered to break a hole in the Belderkan lines and send his two files through it, forming a corridor for the convoy. The Belderkans maneuvered to obstruct the double file and place men among the vehicles. Since they only had to hold the convoy until the crowd arrived, the Belderkans had the advantage.

"Look at it," Crawford Bell said. "It's the second time I've seen it. Look at it."

It was a spectacle, all right. The polite dancing men, the wailing bagpipes, the bodies that never touched, never even brushed lightly. But MacFarland wasn't enjoying it. He knew how close he was to defeat. He didn't like the danger created when heated men from different nations faced each other on the battle field. So far no one had forgotten the discipline of the non-violent fighter, but the old beast still lived in the human psyche. One shove by a Belderkan or a mercenary and the tiger would roar on the plain.

His hand gripped the side of the car. Beside him Lauchstein said something. Then he heard Doctor Umbana.

"Childish," Doctor Umbana snorted. "Ridiculous. When are people going to outgrow these silly games?"

"Probably never," Lauchstein said. "You can't change human nature."

The bagpipes screamed triumph. Sabo had outmaneuvered the Belderkans. MacFarland's driver switched on the fans and the car leaped between the lines of running men. Outside the double line, Belderkan soldiers ran to block the exit from the human alley. They were too late. When the car shot out the front of the line, the Belderkans were yards behind.

"The crowd's got us blocked," Crawford Bell said. "It took too long."

Sabo's men were climbing onto the decks of their carriers. The crowd stretched between the convoy and the airport. Moving on a short radius, it could block them no matter how widely they circled.

MacFarland glanced at his watch. Eleven o'clock. "What have you got, Crawford?"

"Psycho gas'll break them up."

"No. Use psycho gas on a crowd like that and they may go berserk. It's been a long time since a human being died in a battle. I'd hate to be the man responsible for ending a winning streak."

Crawford Bell tapped the keys of his computer. His eyes studied the crowd. The night before he had programmed the computer with data on Belderkan culture. Now he turned his immediate observations and trained hunches into mathematical quantities and fed them into the machine.

"You said you had some girls."

"I'm calling them now," MacFarland said.

The crowd was about five hundred yards away. The people were singing the national anthem of the Belderkan Republic. He could barely hear the loudspeaker above his head.

"Eagle nine here," a voice said on his radio.

"Eagle One. Can you see the crowd?"

"We're watching them."

"Attack. Hit them on my left."

He put the mike down. Crawford Bell was reciting a string of figures into the mike.

"Sound," the psych technician said. "Tell Sabo to keep his pipes quiet."

The helicopter still marked them with its spotlight. Its loudspeaker pleaded with the scientists. By straining his ears, he could hear some of what it said. The pleas made him a little uncomfortable.

What had he said to Doctor Umbana? "It's starship time, Doctor. We've abolished international violence. We've conquered poverty and disease. We've explored the Solar System out to Saturn and if we haven't gone further, it's because nobody thinks it's worth the effort. Where do we go now? We can't stand still. We've developed psychological techniques that turn men into brainless slaves and the pressures of international competition are forcing us to use them. To stay free, the human race has to expand. It's star ship time and we need you."

That was still true. Doctor Warren's team belonged on a starship project, and it might as well be the United States project. But even having them on the Common Market or the Soviet Republic starship would be better than letting them stay in Belderkan. Or would it? They were doing important research here. They were the foundation of Belderkan's prosperity.

There was no way to reason out which was better. Settle it on the battle field and hope the right side won. If that helicopter's propaganda was bothering him, what was it doing to the scientists?

"Sabo, muffle the pipes."

The convoy slowed down. The crowd had stopped running and started walking. Their togas, mostly emerald green and pearl white, were made from a hard fabric that gleamed in the light from the helicopter. Through his binoculars he tried to estimate the percentage of men and the percentage of young people. The section right in front of him looked young and predominantly male. By now many of the women and the older men had fallen behind. That was something to be glad about.

In the crowd several voices screamed a war cry. Then the whole crowd shouted and started running toward the convoy.

Three personnel carriers skimmed into view on his left. He raised his binoculars and studied their passengers. It was hard to look at them with the detachment of a commander inspecting his troops. He was a young man and the girls standing on the decks of the carriers were pretty.

The carriers crossed the front of the crowd and the girls jumped off. They started undressing as soon as they hit. Running into the crowd, they offered themselves to the men.

Mike in hand, Crawford Bell leaned forward. "It's all in the timing." Tension choked his voice.

"Get it right," MacFarland growled.

There was only one girl for every dozen men, but that was enough to cause trouble. At least two men per girl forgot their patriotic fervor and yielded to opportunity. Other men forgot the invaders and tried to drag their comrades back to duty. Women, probably jealous, screamed curses at MacFarland's shock troops.

The personnel carriers, all their girls dropped, turned and swept along the rear of the crowd. On each deck a man tossed coins and bills at the Belderkans.

The loudspeaker above the crowd exhorted them to remember their country. The loudspeaker above the convoy shamed the scientists for using such tactics.

"Now!" Crawford Bell shouted at his mike.

MacFarland covered his ears too late. Even through his mask he heard the sound that rose from the sixth vehicle in the convoy.

It was sound mathematically calculated to shatter the nerves of the crowd. Pitch, rhythm, intensity, had been computed by Crawford Bell's machine. Even MacFarland felt hysteria creep up his back.

Its emotions shattered by the women, the money and the sound, the crowd lost its slight discipline and its great motivation. The people staggered under the triple psychological punch.

Sabo's personnel carriers swept forward and threw a cordon of men around the left of the crowd. The convoy raced toward the airport.

MacFarland could see the airport through his binoculars. The helicopter still marked them with its light, but the crowd was a long way behind.

"Cigarette?" Crawford Bell asked.

"No thanks. I'm keeping my mask on."

The psych technician started to take off his own mask, then changed his mind. "They're probably feeling desperate. This is when I'd start using gas."

"It's eleven fifteen. We'll be at the airport in ten minutes." His eyes narrowed. "They must have something left."

The night wind made him shiver. He adjusted the heating unit in his tweed jacket. When he looked up, he saw the lights of the runway. Then he saw the white dome of the terminal building. Before the airport fence and the airport gate, a line of men stood shoulder to shoulder.

Crawford Bell glanced at his watch. "Here's where I earn my money." His fingers tapped the computer keys.

MacFarland's stomach tingled. He wanted to jump out of the car and push the toga clad men aside with his bare hands. Days of frustration were reaching a climax.

He switched on the mike. "Sabo, we'll have to stand toe to toe with those boys and slug it out. I want you to guard our rear. Have your men put a tight line behind us. Don't let the crowd get near the convoy."

They halted in front of the airport gate, less than twenty feet from the enemy line. The other vehicles pulled up beside them.

The scientists parked on his left. "You've done a good job," Doctor Warren said, "but it looks like we're not going any further."

"Did you bring machine guns and clubs?" Doctor Umbana asked. "If you didn't let's go home and get some sleep."

MacFarland stood up. "Gentlemen, we've got half an hour and a good crew of technicians." The line of Belderkans looked grim and unmoving. Their black faces gleamed in the light from the helicopter.

"Now," Crawford Bell said.

Again, the awful sound rose from the noisemaker. MacFarland tried to look indifferent but after the first seconds he grabbed his ears with his hands. It was the scream of pain and madness and the evil thing beyond the campfire. The faces of the Belderkans distorted with anguish.

Using noise was tricky. How hard did the air molecules have to strike the ears or how painful did the noise have to be, before sound became physical violence? The noise selected by the computer was supposed to be psychologically, but not physically, uncomfortable.

The noise ended abruptly. On MacFarland's right, one of Crawford Bell's technicians aimed a battery of lights at the enemy line. Flickering colors made shifting patterns on the faces of the Belderkan troops. The colors were supposed to create mental confusion and weaken motivation.

"Look at their faces," Doctor Warren said. "Wouldn't a club be more humane?"

Two Belderkan trucks were parked behind the line. Technicians came out of them and set up lights which neutralized the lights of the invaders.

A jet screamed into a runway at the far end of the airport. MacFarland watched it taxi to the terminal building. It was the flight the scientists were supposed to leave on. He glanced at his watch. Twenty minutes.

This was where the human imagination met its test. The mind struggled to invent alternatives to violence. There could be no appeal to the enemy's reason. Conflicting interests clashed head on. Only maneuver and cunning could win the day.

He stepped out of the car and walked up to the Belderkan line. "How much do you want? My government'll give thousands to the man that lets us through. We can give you things money can't buy. Our loveliest women. A palace. Pleasure for the rest of your life. Don't you like money? Wouldn't you like to be rich?"

No one answered. Walking down the line, he repeated his offer. He stopped in front of a thin, spectacled youth who couldn't possibly be older than nineteen.

"You can make your fortune in a minute. The rest of your life, you can do what you please." He named a famous beauty. "Wouldn't you like her? She's on our payroll."

The youth avoided MacFarland's eyes. "I won't be tempted. I can't be tempted."

Doctor Umbana jumped out of his car. "Oafs. Peasants. What right have you got to stop us? I'm a free man. Get out of my way."

MacFarland stepped in front of the angry biochemist. "Get back," he hissed. "Do you want to go to jail? I'll handle this."

"You're the man that brought us here. Kick them aside and drive through. Won't you go to jail for your country?"

Lauchstein bellowed with laughter. "Let MacFarland handle this," Doctor Warren said. "Pete, come on back to the car."

Doctor Umbana glared at his colleagues. "I won't stand for this. We're free scientists. We have the right to travel where we please."

MacFarland swore to himself. Already passengers were leaving the terminal and walking toward the airliner.

The crowd, sounding even noisier than it had before, was bearing down on the airport. Sabo would hold them, of course, but their pleas to the scientists would be impossible to silence.

Crawford Bell jerked his thumb at the enemy lines. "They're carrying masks. We can't use gas on them."

MacFarland could see the future as plainly as if it were already a memory. The situation had a logic which could lead to only one solution. It was a solution he had been dreading since his first day in Belderkan.

"This is no place for psych tricks." He dropped a weary hand on Crawford Bell's shoulder. "Keep working, but psych tricks won't budge those boys. They're disciplined and they're in a good position."

"You aren't giving up?"

He turned to face the Belderkans. "So you won't be moved?" he shouted. "Well, I'm not moving either. I'm staying here until I rot. You'd better have full stomachs and big bladders if you want to keep me out of that airport."

"A fine speech," the helicopter answered, "but we don't care if you stay or not, aggressor. Only the five doctors count. You're of no importance."

Doctor Umbana raised his fist. "I won't be forced."

"Doctor Umbana," the helicopter said, "no one is forcing you to stay. How can one force a creative mind to work? We only want you to consider what you are doing. We only want you to see how much we are willing to suffer."

The jets of the airliner whined. MacFarland glanced at his watch. Five minutes.

"You've done a good job," Doctor Warren said, "and I'm certain you'll be commended by your superiors, but you've failed. I suggest we go home and sleep." His two sons were sleeping on his shoulders. They had been drugged, at their father's request, so they wouldn't see the attack on the crowd.

"Are you going to submit to this bullying?" Doctor Umbana demanded.

"I never was very interested in this project," Doctor Forbes said. "I'm only here because the rest of you want to go. And I've been listening to that helicopter. Some of that's true, you know. They must want us an awful lot to do all this."

"They don't want us," Doctor Umbana said. "They're greedy. Those people out there are only your employers. Are you going to let them treat you like a slave who doesn't have the right to change jobs? Don't you have any pride?"

"He has a point," Doctor Sani said.

"Suppose you go back now," MacFarland argued. "They'll know they can make you stay and they may not give you such good terms next time your contract is renewed."

"True," Forbes said, "but academic. You can't break their line. You might win a starvation match, but I'm not going to stay here that long. It isn't worth it to me."

"Is it worth a few more hours?" MacFarland asked. "You want to work on the starship. You know you meant it when you told me you want a chance to be on the ship. It's the biggest opportunity offered any group of scientists in history. And you admit you can't give in to this coercion without hurting your own self interest. So why not give me until dawn? There's another plane at six a.m. give me till then."

"What can you do?" Doctor Warren asked.

"I can challenge them to a duel. They won't refuse. No one ever refuses a duel."

All night the two sides harassed each other. Crawford Bell's technicians went up and down the enemy line, waking up any Belderkan who was sleeping on his feet. Sirens wailed. The crowd pleaded with the scientists, insulted the invaders and sang to itself. The girls, not yet battle fatigued, tried to tempt the Belderkan troops. The helicopters continued their sermons and denunciations.

MacFarland tried to sleep on a cot beside the command car. Crawford Bell gave him a mild sedative but it didn't do much good.

"Have you ever fought a duel?" Crawford Bell asked.

"No. This is only my third raid."

"What's happened up to now is a boy's game compared to that. That's for real."

"You don't have to tell me. It makes me sick to think about it."

"You don't have to do it. It's something no government can ask you to do."

"No, but the UN Secretariat approves of it and every honest psychologist approves of it, too. Let me rest. You get the junk ready."

He wondered if anything was worth a duel. The star ship wasn't. His career wasn't. So why bother? But he knew the answer and so did every soldier on the planet. Every duel fought made killing a little less likely; every duel decreased the danger modern knowledge, which hadn't been destroyed with the weapons it had made possible, would wipe out human life. It wasn't something you did for your own country. You did it for the whole human race and all the generations to come.

At five he arose from his cot. He felt groggy but that couldn't be helped.

In the chilly dawn he took off his jacket and shirt. Bare chested, he stepped into the space between his vehicles and the enemy line.

Crawford Bell handed him a public address system. "Good morning," his voice boomed. "I hope you've had a better sleep than I got. It's easy to be brave when you know your opponent won't kill you. It's easy to stand in line and look heroic and patriotic when you know I don't dare run you over with my vehicles. But how brave are you? Are you really willing to suffer for your country? I think the men of Belderkan are cowards. I think you would still be running if we had fought an old fashioned war last night."

He paused and stroked his mustache. Then he gestured and Crawford Bell rolled the instrument forward. It was a pole on a wheeled platform. Four handles stuck out from the pole; above each handle was a set of four dials.

"Do you know what a duel is?" He made himself look at the instrument. "Have you heard in this primitive country of the great duels fought all over the world these last few years? Have you heard of the champions produced by nations like Ghana, Israel, Costa Rica? Wouldn't you like to pretend you haven't?"

The youth he had tried to tempt the night before stepped out of the line. "I accept your challenge."

He doesn't know what he's doing, MacFarland thought. "We've got room for four at the pole. Who else accepts my challenge?"

Another man stepped forward. "I'm not afraid. I'll die if I have to."

The struggle on the faces of the men left in line was painful to watch. Three of them stepped forward at the same time. They looked at each other until, with a puzzled expression on his face, one of them waved the other two back.

MacFarland stepped up to the pole and grabbed a handle. Trying hard to keep their faces blank, the three Belderkans grabbed the other handles. One of them trembled.

Behind him the crowd murmured. He squeezed the handle. Pain shot up his arms and thudded through his body. His eyes closed. His face twisted. Holding back a scream, he made himself open his eyes and watch the dials over his handle. The dial marked by a red light was his. The other dials told him how much pain his opponents were enduring. Each man could end his agony by releasing his handle. Each man squeezed harder. Even as they screamed, they squeezed and made the needle move a little further right.

No job, no promotion, no scientific enterprise or national need, could have made him do this. Feeling the pain hammer through his bones, he knew how weak all those motivations were.

Through slitted eyelids he saw two of his opponents fall away from the post. His dial said he was enduring more than either of them.

He turned his face toward the other man. Clenching their handles, they grimaced at each other. MacFarland's grip tightened. His needle moved. The other needle edged past it. They hung there moaning and shaking.

Oh God, he thought. Oh God. He made himself squeeze.

Twin shrieks cut the air. Both men released their handles and fell away from the pole. MacFarland staggered in circles, bent over, clutching his stomach, trying to turn off the pain.

"Are you all right?" Crawford Bell asked.

"Look after him," he answered, still fighting the duel.

"Look after him," he heard the other man moan.

Hands grabbed him and he straightened up. When he saw the pole, he flinched. He couldn't do that again.

He grabbed the mike. "You saw that," he mumbled. "Who's next? Who wants to do that next?"

An aging man walked out of the line and took his position at the pole.

MacFarland stared at the old man's disciplined face. He had been thinking no one would dare come forward now that they had seen a duel. The old man looked tougher than any of the last group.

He stepped up to the pole and grabbed a handle.

"Relax," the Belderkan said. "This time you'll lose or the good thing will happen, but whichever it is, this will be the last time. Good luck."

Have you done this before? MacFarland squeezed to equal him. The old man squeezed his handle and his needle jumped a quarter of the way across the dial. MacFarland squeezed to equal him. Again pain hammered his bones. Again his face twisted and he moaned over his tortured body.

But it was necessary. It had to be done. This odd form of duelling had started twenty years before, when two groups of non-violent soldiers faced each other in the streets of Rio and tension mounted on both sides. Neither side could accept defeat. Neither side could return home and admit it had surrendered to unarmed men because it lacked patience. In wars fought with violence, men could lose with honor. There was no honor for the loser in a non-violent battle.

Then a man had slashed his wrists and let his blood drip onto the street. "I'll die before I'll leave here," he had said.

"I'll die before I'll give in to you," a man from the opposing group had said, slashing his own wrists.

According to the UN psychologists who had studied the phenomenon, duelling was a form of therapy for the people of the world, a necessary transition from the days when men had earned their manhood by fighting wars or belonging to groups which could be proud of their warriors. The pride of nations demanded some sacrifice.

The needle was halfway around the dial. Still the old man hung on. MacFarland squeezed harder. He was staying ahead. How much could he take? Why didn't he die of shock? He hoped for that release and fought to keep conscious and endure a little more.

His personal pride, the good of his country, and the safety of the world, demanded that he drive the contest beyond the limit of his endurance; that he lose, if he lost, not because he had been afraid but because his flesh could endure no more.

He screamed and moaned and squeezed. The men in the enemy line moaned with him. He heard Crawford Bell shouting to him to let go. Was that Doctor Umbana he heard? Wasn't that the calm Doctor Warren shouting and pleading?

And the strangest of all sounds was his own voice mingling with the voice of his opponent, two screams with exactly the same pitch and intensity, the same rise and fall.

He was going to die. He wouldn't be the first. Sometimes the honor of the nation demanded that and it was necessary nations not be shamed by their citizens. Shamed nations were dangerous nations. And after all, he was only one soldier and in previous generations the sacrifice had been millions.

He lay on the cot. Crawford Bell and a medic worked on him with hypos. Vaguely, he realized the aging Belderkan lay beside him.

"It's about time you opened your eyes," Crawford Bell said. "Can you hear me?"

He nodded.

"We put you into therapeutic shock. You've been out an hour. You'll be all right."

"How's my friend there?"

"He's coming around."

A jet screamed. Lifting his head, he watched it rise into the morning.

"Doctor Warren's on it," Crawford Bell said. "So's Doctor Umbana. The Belderkans agreed to let any two of them through the line and Doctor Warren decided he didn't need all the rest of them after all. Your technique of persuasion isn't one I'd like to use, but it's effective."

He didn't have the strength to answer. It always worked out that way. After a duel, what had seemed beyond compromise suddenly became negotiable. That was the good thing the old man had spoken of. That was the knowledge which had given him that strength to endure.