You said that yourself. They drove the rest of the way in silence.
For a long time the two of them stood studying the small wood house, overgrown with ivy, set back on the lot behind an enormous oak. The little town was silent and sleepy; once in awhile a car moved slowly along the distant highway, but that was all. Gross started toward the gate. His mind is agile, however. That seems to be certain. A woman takes care of his needs.
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They went down the stone walk and up onto the porch. Gross rang the bell. They waited. After a time they heard slow footsteps.
The door opened. An elderly woman in a shapeless wrapper studied them impassively. Kramer stepped forward. The woman hesitated uncertainly. Gross stepped into the doorway. This is war time. The two Security agents followed him, and Kramer came reluctantly behind, closing the door.
Gross stalked down the hall until he came to an open door. He stopped, looking in. Kramer could see the white corner of a bed, a wooden post and the edge of a dresser. In the dark room a withered old man lay, propped up on endless pillows. At first it seemed as if he were asleep; there was no motion or sign of life. But after a time Kramer saw with a faint shock that the old man was watching them intently, his eyes fixed on them, unmoving, unwinking. Philip Kramer…. I married Dolores French. You remember her. Gross swallowed. The three of them left the room, going out into the hall and closing the door after them.
The old man in the bed watched Kramer silently. He just came along. Can I sit down? After so long. Like everyone else I thought highly of. Kramer smiled. Then he became serious. If it works, we may be able to crack the yuk defenses, get some ships into their system. If we can do that the war might be brought to an end.
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Go on. After Kramer finished the old man lay back in the bed without speaking. At last he sighed. A human mind, taken out of a human body. But I want to look at the material.
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Gross and the two Security Agents were standing outside, waiting tensely. Gross brought the file out of his coat pocket, a manila envelope. He handed it to the old man on the bed. Will you give us your answer as soon as possible?
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Silently, Gross put his card down on the dresser. As they went out Professor Thomas was already reading the first of the papers, the outline of the theory. Kramer sat across from Dale Winter, his second in line.
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I respected him as a man, as well as a teacher. He was more than a voice, a talking book. He was a person, a calm, kindly person I could look up to. I always wanted to be like him, someday. Now look at me. I know. There would be somebody else. I was a little surprised myself, but apparently he means it. His lawyer is drawing up the statement of liability.
Kramer only half heard. He nodded wearily. I suppose we can go ahead, then. I was still in bed. You know, this calls for a celebration. Toward the middle of August the project neared completion. They stood outside in the hot autumn heat, looking up at the sleek metal sides of the ship. Gross thumped the metal with his hand. We can begin the test any time. But the brain is not conscious. It will function by reflex only. The practical difference between it and the Johnson system is this: a human brain is far more intricate than any man-made structure, and its ability to adapt itself to a situation, to respond to danger, is far beyond anything that could be artificially built.
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Gross paused, cocking his ear. The turbines of the ship were beginning to rumble, shaking the ground under them with a deep vibration. Kramer was standing a short distance away from the others, his arms folded, watching silently. At the sound of the turbines he walked quickly around the ship to the other side.
A few workmen were clearing away the last of the waste, the scraps of wiring and scaffolding. They glanced up at him and went on hurriedly with their work. Kramer mounted the ramp and entered the control cabin of the ship. Winter was sitting at the controls with a Pilot from Space-transport. It seems to be in good order. The Pilot watched carefully over his shoulder. Commander Gross had entered the control cabin.
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He took quite an active interest. We have to take this out past gravity for the test they tell me. Are you ready? He grasped one of the wall holds and hung on as best he could.
Mr. Spaceship: Short Story
The cabin was filling with a steady throbbing, the raging of the jet turbines underneath them. The ship leaped. Kramer closed his eyes and held his breath. They were moving out into space, gaining speed each moment. He was sitting on the floor of the cabin, down by the control wiring. He had removed the metal covering-plate, exposing the complicated maze of relay wiring. He was studying it, comparing it to the wiring diagrams.
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