Bewildering Stories

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Non Cogito

by John Thiel

“It’s the master plan for getting rid of the so-inquisitive agent,” Strayley said. “Oh, it’s got a few flaws, but without those it wouldn’t send.”

“And who’s the master involved? You are, boss!” said Unterzuyder. “I don’t see how it can go wrong.”

“But don’t you see — it does go wrong. And that’s when the agent disappears!” Strayley’s correction was definitive. “It’s the beauty of it.”

“I prefer to consider it an ugly disaster.”

“Well, it takes all kinds to make a world, and the world is definitely made, so it has all kinds in it,” Strayley said. “For you gentlemen — “ and he turned to a large conclave met to see how an agent could be disposed of — “I will explain the plan. It seems that our scientists have discovered that when in space, under gravity-less conditions, matter takes on different qualities. Although it retains its form, especially when held in a field, it becomes tenebrous and apt to identify with other matter. Under these conditions, the first kick of a powerful rocket engine will start a disintegration process in the vessel. At the same time, its original force is amplified. Moreover, it’s diverted by the transformed circumstances so force beams encounter one another and crash. The ship really should be powered by something other than rockets once in space. So although the rocket ship meets every other criterion, those rockets will destroy it and everyone aboard.”

“Stands to reason it would destroy everyone aboard, if it totalled the ship,” a colleague from Westminster said. “Why hasn’t NASA heard about the principle you state?”

“For all we know they have heard of it. Our information from NASA is not first-rate. At any rate, our scientists know what they’re talking about: the rocket that’s being boarded now hasn’t a chance of survival.”

* * *

Charles Kingsley Bill, secret agent for something or other — nobody knew who he worked for, a top secret man; but his superiors seemed to have the eastern idea about money — was aware that the staff weren’t considering the flight a desirable one. Nevertheless he showed no overt objection to boarding the ship. What he knew that gave him his confidence was that he was lucky, had been born with good luck as a twin — somehow planned mishaps involving him didn’t happen, or if they did, they were not altogether fatal to him. When the ship — quaint obsolete nautical comparison, he thought crustily — departed the Earth, he was safely strapped in and smiling.

The trip out of the stratosphere was an uneventful one; all were strapped in by good stout secure seat-belts, and at any rate no clunkings such as the ground crew had anticipated were occurring. It was as smooth as a good advertisement. Soon they were in space, with the powerful rocket engines making merry music. A fellow leaned over to Bill. “You don’t seem at all worried about the trip,” he said. “What keeps you so calm?”

“I’m insured with Lloyd’s of London and the policy covers all my enterprises.”

“Well, I wish I could feel so great. Not that I’m experiencing space sickness. Not a trace of that, anyway, but apprehensions aplenty.”

They continued travelling. They travelled for a thousand miles, then a million. Space became celestial. And with high probability for that, too, for they were in Heaven.

Theory correct or not, that ship had gone up so fast none of them had noticed it. As for Heaven, Bill’s luck had taken him and all his acquaintances there, somewhat displaced from the expectations for the passengers. Heaven works in mysterious ways.

Copyright © 2003 by John Thiel