Read Like A Writer

There are two ways to learn how to write fiction: by reading it and by writing it. Yes, you can learn lots about writing stories in workshops, in writing classes and writing groups, at writers' conferences. You can learn technique and process by reading the dozens of books like this one on fiction writing and by reading articles in writers' magazines. But the best teachers of fiction are the great works of fiction themselves. You can learn more about the structure of a short story by reading Anton Chekhov's 'Heartache' than you can in a semester of Creative Writing 101. If you read like a writer, that is, which means you have to read everything twice, at least. When you read a story or novel the first time, just let it happen. Enjoy the journey. When you've finished, you know where the story took you, and now you can go back and reread, and this time notice how the writer reached that destination. Notice the choices he made at each chapter, each sentence, each word. (Every word is a choice.) You see now how the transitions work, how a character gets across a room. All this time you're learning. You loved the central character in the story, and now you can see how the writer presented the character and rendered her worthy of your love and attention. The first reading is creative—you collaborate with the writer in making the story. The second reading is critical.

John Dufresne, from his book, The Lie That Tells A Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction


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Thursday, March 3, 2016

What is Posat? by Phyllis Sterling Smith

What is POSAT?


Illustrated by ED ALEXANDER

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Galaxy Science Fiction September 1951.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

Of course coming events cast their shadows
before, but this shadow was 400 years long!

The following advertisement appeared in the July 1953 issue of several magazines:


What is the secret source of those profound
principles that can solve the problems of life?
Send for our FREE booklet of explanation.

Do not be a leaf in the wind! YOU
can alter the course of your life!

Tap the treasury of Wisdom through the ages!

The Perpetual Order of Seekers After Truth


an ancient secret society

Most readers passed it by with scarcely a glance. It was, after all, similar to the many that had appeared through the years under the name of that same society. Other readers, as their eyes slid over the familiar format of the ad, speculated idly about the persistent and mildly mysterious organization behind it. A few even resolved to clip the attached coupon and send for the booklet—sometime—when a pen or pencil was nearer at hand.

Bill Evans, an unemployed pharmacist, saw the ad in a copy of Your Life and Psychology that had been abandoned on his seat in the bus. He filled out the blanks on the coupon with a scrap of stubby pencil. "You can alter the course of your life!" he read again. He particularly liked that thought, even though he had long since ceased to believe it. He actually took the trouble to mail the coupon. After all, he had, literally, nothing to lose, and nothing else to occupy his time.

Miss Elizabeth Arnable was one of the few to whom the advertisement was unfamiliar. As a matter of fact, she very seldom read a magazine. The radio in her room took the place of reading matter, and she always liked to think that it amused her cats as well as herself. Reading would be so selfish under the circumstances, wouldn't it? Not but what the cats weren't almost smart enough to read, she always said.

It just so happened, however, that she had bought a copy of the Antivivisectionist Gazette the day before. She pounced upon the POSAT ad as a trout might snap at a particularly attractive fly. Having filled out the coupon with violet ink, she invented an errand that would take her past the neighborhood post office so that she could post it as soon as possible.

Donald Alford, research physicist, came across the POSAT ad tucked at the bottom of a column in The Bulletin of Physical Research. He was engrossed in the latest paper by Dr. Crandon, a man whom he admired from the point of view of both a former student and a fellow research worker. Consequently, he was one of the many who passed over the POSAT ad with the disregard accorded to any common object.

He read with interest to the end of the article before he realized that some component of the advertisement had been noted by a region of his brain just beyond consciousness. It teased at him like a tickle that couldn't be scratched until he turned back to the page.

It was the symbol or emblem of POSAT, he realized, that had caught his attention. The perpendicularly crossed ellipses centered with a small black circle might almost be a conventionalized version of the Bohr atom of helium. He smiled with mild skepticism as he read through the printed matter that accompanied it.

"I wonder what their racket is," he mused. Then, because his typewriter was conveniently at hand, he carefully tore out the coupon and inserted it in the machine. The spacing of the typewriter didn't fit the dotted lines on the coupon, of course, but he didn't bother to correct it. He addressed an envelope, laid it with other mail to be posted, and promptly forgot all about it. Since he was a methodical man, it was entrusted to the U.S. mail early the next morning, together with his other letters.

Three identical forms accompanied the booklet which POSAT sent in response to the three inquiries. The booklet gave no more information than had the original advertisement, but with considerable more volubility. It promised the recipient the secrets of the Cosmos and the key that would unlock the hidden knowledge within himself—if he would merely fill out the enclosed form.

Bill Evans, the unemployed pharmacist, let the paper lie unanswered for several days. To be quite honest, he was disappointed. Although he had mentally disclaimed all belief in anything that POSAT might offer, he had watched the return mails with anticipation. His own resources were almost at an end, and he had reached the point where intervention by something supernatural, or at least superhuman, seemed the only hope.

He had hoped, unreasonably, that POSAT had an answer. But time lay heavily upon him, and he used it one evening to write the requested information—about his employment (ha!), his religious beliefs, his reason for inquiring about POSAT, his financial situation. Without quite knowing that he did so, he communicated in his terse answers some of his desperation and sense of futility.

Miss Arnable was delighted with the opportunity for autobiographical composition. It required five extra sheets of paper to convey all the information that she wished to give—all about her poor, dear father who had been a missionary to China, and the kinship that she felt toward the mystic cults of the East, her belief that her cats were reincarnations of her loved ones (which, she stated, derived from a religion of the Persians; or was it the Egyptians?) and in her complete and absolute acceptance of everything that POSAT had stated in their booklet. And what would the dues be? She wished to join immediately. Fortunately, dear father had left her in a comfortable financial situation.

To Donald Alford, the booklet seemed to confirm his suspicion that POSAT was a racket of some sort. Why else would they be interested in his employment or financial position? It also served to increase his curiosity.

"What do you suppose they're driving at?" he asked his wife Betty, handing her the booklet and questionnaire.

"I don't really know what to say," she answered, squinting a little as she usually did when puzzled. "I know one thing, though, and that's that you won't stop until you find out!"

"The scientific attitude," he acknowledged with a grin.

"Why don't you fill out this questionnaire incognito, though?" she suggested. "Pretend that we're wealthy and see if they try to get our money. Do they have anything yet except your name and address?"

Don was shocked. "If I send this back to them, it will have to be with correct answers!"

"The scientific attitude again," Betty sighed. "Don't you ever let your imagination run away with the facts a bit? What are you going to give for your reasons for asking about POSAT?"

"Curiosity," he replied, and, pulling his fountain pen from his vest pocket, he wrote exactly that, in small, neat script.

It was unfortunate for his curiosity that Don could not see the contents of the three envelopes that were mailed from the offices of POSAT the following week. For this time they differed.

Bill Evans was once again disappointed. The pamphlet that was enclosed gave what apparently meant to be final answers to life's problems. They were couched in vaguely metaphysical terms and offered absolutely no help to him.

His disappointment was tempered, however, by the knowledge that he had unexpectedly found a job. Or, rather, it had fallen into his lap. When he had thought that every avenue of employment had been tried, a position had been offered him in a wholesale pharmacy in the older industrial part of the city. It was not a particularly attractive place to work, located as it was next to a large warehouse, but to him it was hope for the future.

It amused him to discover that the offices of POSAT were located on the other side of the same warehouse, at the end of a blind alley. Blind alley indeed! He felt vaguely ashamed for having placed any confidence in them.

Miss Arnable was thrilled to discover that her envelope contained not only several pamphlets, (she scanned the titles rapidly and found that one of them concerned the sacred cats of ancient Egypt), but that it contained also a small pin with the symbol of POSAT wrought in gold and black enamel. The covering letter said that she had been accepted as an active member of POSAT and that the dues were five dollars per month; please remit by return mail. She wrote a check immediately, and settled contentedly into a chair to peruse the article on sacred cats.

After a while she began to read aloud so that her own cats could enjoy it, too.

Don Alford would not have been surprised if his envelope had shown contents similar to the ones that the others received. The folded sheets of paper that he pulled forth, however, made him stiffen with sharp surprise.

"Come here a minute, Betty," he called, spreading them out carefully on the dining room table. "What do you make of these?"

She came, dish cloth in hand, and thoughtfully examined them, one by one. "Multiple choice questions! It looks like a psychological test of some sort."

"This isn't the kind of thing I expected them to send me," worried Don. "Look at the type of thing they ask. 'If you had discovered a new and virulent poison that could be compounded from common household ingredients, would you (1) publish the information in a daily newspaper, (2) manufacture it secretly and sell it as rodent exterminator, (3) give the information to the armed forces for use as a secret weapon, or (4) withhold the information entirely as too dangerous to be passed on?'"

"Could they be a spy ring?" asked Betty. "Subversive agents? Anxious to find out your scientific secrets like that classified stuff that you're so careful of when you bring it home from the lab?"

Don scanned the papers quickly. "There's nothing here that looks like an attempt to get information. Besides, I've told them nothing about my work except that I do research in physics. They don't even know what company I work for. If this is a psychological test, it measures attitudes, nothing else. Why should they want to know my attitudes?"

"Do you suppose that POSAT is really what it claims to be—a secret society—and that they actually screen their applicants?"

He smiled wryly. "Wouldn't it be interesting if I didn't make the grade after starting out to expose their racket?"

He pulled out his pen and sat down to the task of resolving the dilemmas before him.

His next communication from POSAT came to his business address and, paradoxically, was more personal than its forerunners.

Dear Doctor Alford:

We have examined with interest the information that you have sent to us. We are happy to inform you that, thus far, you have satisfied the requirements for membership in the Perpetual Order of Seekers After Truth. Before accepting new members into this ancient and honorable secret society, we find it desirable that they have a personal interview with the Grand Chairman of POSAT.

Accordingly, you are cordially invited to an audience with our Grand Chairman on Tuesday, July 10, at 2:30 P.M. Please let us know if this arrangement is acceptable to you. If not, we will attempt to make another appointment for you.

The time specified for the appointment was hardly a convenient one for Don. At 2:30 P.M. on most Tuesdays, he would be at work in the laboratory. And while his employers made no complaint if he took his research problems home with him and worried over them half the night, they were not equally enthusiastic when he used working hours for pursuing unrelated interests. Moreover, the headquarters of POSAT was in a town almost a hundred miles distant. Could he afford to take a whole day off for chasing will-o-wisps?

It hardly seemed worth the trouble. He wondered if Betty would be disappointed if he dropped the whole matter. Since the letter had been sent to the laboratory instead of his home, he couldn't consult her about it without telephoning.

Since the letter had been sent to the laboratory instead of his home! But it was impossible!

He searched feverishly through his pile of daily mail for the envelope in which the letter had come. The address stared up at him, unmistakably and fearfully legible. The name of his company. The number of the room he worked in. In short, the address that he had never given them!

"Get hold of yourself," he commanded his frightened mind. "There's some perfectly logical, easy explanation for this. They looked it up in the directory of the Institute of Physics. Or in the alumni directory of the university. Or—or—"

But the more he thought about it, the more sinister it seemed. His laboratory address was available, but why should POSAT take the trouble of looking it up? Some prudent impulse had led him to withhold that particular bit of information, yet now, for some reason of their own, POSAT had unearthed the information.

His wife's words echoed in his mind, "Could they be a spy ring? Subversive agents?"

Don shook his head as though to clear away the confusion. His conservative habit of thought made him reject that explanation as too melodramatic.

At least one decision was easier to reach because of his doubts. Now he knew he had to keep his appointment with the Grand Chairman of POSAT.

He scribbled a memo to the department office stating that he would not be at work on Tuesday.

At first Don Alford had some trouble locating the POSAT headquarters. It seemed to him that the block in which the street number would fall was occupied entirely by a huge sprawling warehouse, of concrete construction, and almost entirely windowless. It was recessed from the street in several places to make room for the small, shabby buildings of a wholesale pharmacy, a printer's plant, an upholstering shop, and was also indented by alleys lined with loading platforms.

It was at the back of one of the alleys that he finally found a door marked with the now familiar emblem of POSAT.

He opened the frosted glass door with a feeling of misgiving, and faced a dark flight of stairs leading to the upper floor. Somewhere above him a buzzer sounded, evidently indicating his arrival. He picked his way up through the murky stairwell.

The reception room was hardly a cheerful place, with its battered desk facing the view of the empty alley, and a film of dust obscuring the pattern of the gray-looking wallpaper and worn rug. But the light of the summer afternoon filtering through the window scattered the gloom somewhat, enough to help Don doubt that he would find the menace here that he had come to expect.

The girl addressing envelopes at the desk looked very ordinary. Not the Mata-Hari type, thought Don, with an inward chuckle at his own suspicions. He handed her the letter.

She smiled. "We've been expecting you, Dr. Alford. If you'll just step into the next room—"

She opened a door opposite the stairwell, and Don stepped through it.

The sight of the luxurious room before him struck his eyes with the shock of a dentist's drill, so great was the contrast between it and the shabby reception room. For a moment Don had difficulty breathing. The rug—Don had seen one like it before, but it had been in a museum. The paintings on the walls, ornately framed in gilt carving, were surely old masters—of the Renaissance period, he guessed. Although he recognized none of the pictures, he felt that he could almost name the artists. That glowing one near the corner would probably be a Titian. Or was it Tintorretto? He regretted for a moment the lost opportunities of his college days, when he had passed up Art History in favor of Operational Circuit Analysis.

The girl opened a filing cabinet, the front of which was set flush with the wall, and, selecting a folder from it, disappeared through another door.

Don sprang to examine the picture near the corner. It was hung at eye level—that is, at the eye level of the average person. Don had to bend over a bit to see it properly. He searched for a signature. Apparently there was none. But did artists sign their pictures back in those days? He wished he knew more about such things.

Each of the paintings was individually lighted by a fluorescent tube held on brackets directly above it. As Don straightened up from his scrutiny of the picture, he inadvertently hit his head against the light. The tube, dislodged from its brackets, fell to the rug with a muffled thud.

Now I've done it! thought Don with dismay. But at least the tube hadn't shattered.

In fact—it was still glowing brightly! His eyes registered the fact, even while his mind refused to believe it. He raised his eyes to the brackets. They were simple pieces of solid hardware designed to support the tube.

There were no wires!

Don picked up the slender, glowing cylinder and held it between trembling fingers. Although it was delivering as much light as a two or three hundred watt bulb, it was cool to the touch. He examined it minutely. There was no possibility of concealed batteries.

The thumping of his heart was caused not by the fact that he had never seen a similar tube before, but because he had. He had never held one in his hands, though. The ones which his company had produced as experimental models had been unsuccessful at converting all of the radioactivity into light, and had, of necessity, been heavily shielded.

Right now, two of his colleagues back in the laboratory would still be searching for the right combination of fluorescent material and radioactive salts with which to make the simple, efficient, self-contained lighting unit that he was holding in his hand at this moment!

But this is impossible! he thought. We're the only company that's working on this, and it's secret. There can't be any in actual production!

And even if one had actually been successfully produced, how would it have fallen into the possession of POSAT, an Ancient Secret Society, The Perpetual Order of Seekers After Truth?

The conviction grew in Don's mind that here was something much deeper and more sinister than he would be able to cope with. He should have asked for help, should have stated his suspicions to the police or the F.B.I. Even now—

With sudden decision, he thrust the lighting tube into his pocket and stepped swiftly to the outer door. He grasped the knob and shook it impatiently when it stuck and refused to turn. He yanked at it. His impatience changed to panic. It was locked!

A soft sound behind him made him whirl about. The secretary had entered again through the inner door. She glanced at the vacant light bracket, then significantly at his bulging pocket. Her gaze was still as bland and innocent as when he had entered, but to Don she no longer seemed ordinary. Her very calmness in the face of his odd actions was distressingly ominous.

"Our Grand Chairman will see you now," she said in a quiet voice.

Don realized that he was half crouched in the position of an animal expecting attack. He straightened up with what dignity he could manage to find.

She opened the inner door again and Don followed her into what he supposed to be the office of the Grand Chairman of POSAT.

Instead he found himself on a balcony along the side of a vast room, which must have been the interior of the warehouse that he had noted outside. The girl motioned him toward the far end of the balcony, where a frosted glass door marked the office of the Grand Chairman.

But Don could not will his legs to move. His heart beat at the sight of the room below him. It was a laboratory, but a laboratory the like of which he had never seen before. Most of the equipment was unfamiliar to him. Whatever he did recognize was of a different design than he had ever used, and there was something about it that convinced him that this was more advanced. The men who bent busily over their instruments did not raise their eyes to the figures on the balcony.

"Good Lord!" Don gasped. "That's an atomic reactor down there!" There could be no doubt about it, even though he could see it only obscurely through the bluish-green plastic shielding it.

His thoughts were so clamorous that he hardly realized that he had spoken aloud, or that the door at the end of the balcony had opened.

He was only dimly aware of the approaching footsteps as he speculated wildly on the nature of the shielding material. What could be so dense that only an inch would provide adequate shielding and yet remain semitransparent?

His scientist's mind applauded the genius who had developed it, even as the alarming conviction grew that he wouldn't—couldn't—be allowed to leave here any more. Surely no man would be allowed to leave this place alive to tell the fantastic story to the world!

"Hello, Don," said a quiet voice beside him. "It's good to see you again."

"Dr. Crandon!" he heard his own voice reply. "You're the Grand Chairman of POSAT?"

He felt betrayed and sick at heart. The very voice with which Crandon had spoken conjured up visions of quiet lecture halls and his own youthful excitement at the masterful and orderly disclosure of scientific facts. To find him here in this mad and treacherous place—didn't anything make sense any longer?

"I think we have rather abused you, Don," Dr. Crandon continued. His voice sounded so gentle that Don found it hard to think there was any evil in it. "I can see that you are suspicious of us, and—yes—afraid."

Don stared at the scene below him. After his initial glance to confirm his identification of Crandon, Don could not bear to look at him.

Crandon's voice suddenly hardened, became abrupt. "You're partly right about us, of course. I hate to think how many laws this organization has broken. Don't condemn us yet, though. You'll be a member yourself before the day is over."

Don was shocked by such confidence in his corruptibility.

"What do you use?" he asked bitterly. "Drugs? Hypnosis?"

Crandon sighed. "I forgot how little you know, Don. I have a long story to tell you. You'll find it hard to believe at first. But try to trust me. Try to believe me, as you once did. When I say that much of what POSAT does is illegal, I do not mean immoral. We're probably the most moral organization in the world. Get over the idea that you have stumbled into a den of thieves."

Crandon paused as though searching for words with which to continue.

"Did you notice the paintings in the waiting room as you entered?"

Don nodded, too bewildered to speak.

"They were donated by the founder of our Organization. They were part of his personal collection—which, incidentally, he bought from the artists themselves. He also designed the atomic reactor we use for power here in the laboratory."

"Then the pictures are modern," said Don, aware that his mouth was hanging open foolishly. "I thought one was a Titian—"

"It is," said Crandon. "We have several original Titians, although I really don't know too much about them."

"But how could a man alive today buy paintings from an artist of the Renaissance?"

"He is not alive today. POSAT is actually what our advertisements claim—an ancient secret society. Our founder has been dead for over four centuries."

"But you said that he designed your atomic reactor."

"Yes. This particular one has been in use for only twenty years, however."

Don's confusion was complete. Crandon looked at him kindly. "Let's start at the beginning," he said, and Don was back again in the classroom with the deep voice of Professor Crandon unfolding the pages of knowledge in clear and logical manner. "Four hundred years ago, in the time of the Italian Renaissance, a man lived who was a super-genius. His was the kind of incredible mentality that appears not in every generation, or even every century, but once in thousands of years.

"Probably the man who invented what we call the phonetic alphabet was one like him. That man lived seven thousand years ago in Mesopotamia, and his discovery was so original, so far from the natural course of man's thinking, that not once in the intervening seven thousand years has that device been rediscovered. It still exists only in the civilizations to which it has been passed on directly.

"The super-genius who was our founder was not a semanticist. He was a physical scientist and mathematician. Starting with the meager heritage that existed in these fields in his time, he began tackling physical puzzles one by one. Sitting in his study, using as his principal tool his own great mind, he invented calculus, developed the quantum theory of light, moved on to electromagnetic radiation and what we call Maxwell's equations—although, of course, he antedated Maxwell by centuries—developed the special and general theories of relativity, the tool of wave mechanics, and finally, toward the end of his life, he mathematically derived the packing fraction that describes the binding energy of nuclei—"

"But it can't be done," Don objected. "It's an observed phenomenon. It hasn't been derived." Every conservative instinct that he possessed cried out against this impossible fantasy. And yet—there sat the reactor, sheathed in its strange shield. Crandon watched the direction of Don's glance.

"Yes, the reactor," said Crandon. "He built one like it. It confirmed his theories. His calculations showed him something else too. He saw the destructive potentialities of an atomic explosion. He himself could not have built an atomic bomb; he didn't have the facilities. But his knowledge would have enabled other men to do so. He looked about him. He saw a political setup of warring principalities, rival states, intrigue, and squabbles over political power. Giving the men of his time atomic energy would have been like handing a baby a firecracker with a lighted fuse.

"What should he have done? Let his secrets die with him? He didn't think so. No one else in his age could have derived the knowledge that he did. But it was an age of brilliant men. Leonardo. Michelangelo. There were men capable of learning his science, even as men can learn it today. He gathered some of them together and founded this society. It served two purposes. It perpetuated his discoveries and at the same time it maintained the greatest secrecy about them. He urged that the secrets be kept until the time when men could use them safely. The other purpose was to make that time come about as soon as possible."

Crandon looked at Don's unbelieving face. "How can I make you see that it is the truth? Think of the eons that man or manlike creatures have walked the Earth. Think what a small fraction of that time is four hundred years. Is it so strange that atomic energy was discovered a little early, by this displacement in time that is so tiny after all?"

"But by one man," Don argued.

Crandon shrugged. "Compared with him, Don, you and I are stupid men. So are the scientists who slowly plodded down the same road he had come, stumbling first on one truth and then the succeeding one. We know that inventions and discoveries do not occur at random. Each is based on the one that preceded it. We are all aware of the phenomenon of simultaneous invention. The path to truth is a straight one. It is only our own stupidity that makes it seem slow and tortuous.

"He merely followed the straight path," Crandon finished simply.

Don's incredulity thawed a little. It was not entirely beyond the realm of possibility.

But if it were true! A vast panorama of possible achievements spread before him.

"Four hundred years!" he murmured with awe. "You've had four hundred years head-start on the rest of the world! What wonders you must have uncovered in that time!"

"Our technical achievements may disappoint you," warned Crandon. "Oh, they're way beyond anything that you are familiar with. You've undoubtedly noticed the shielding material on the reactor. That's a fairly recent development of our metallurgical department. There are other things in the laboratory that I can't even explain to you until you have caught up on the technical basis for understanding them.

"Our emphasis has not been on physical sciences, however, except as they contribute to our central project. We want to change civilization so that it can use physical science without disaster."

For a moment Don had been fired with enthusiasm. But at these words his heart sank.

"Then you've failed," he said bitterly. "In spite of centuries of advance warning, you've failed to change the rest of us enough to prevent us from trying to blow ourselves off the Earth. Here we are, still snarling and snapping at our neighbors' throats—and we've caught up with you. We have the atomic bomb. What's POSAT been doing all that time? Or have you found that human nature really can't be changed?"

"Come with me," said Crandon.

He led the way along the narrow balcony to another door, then down a steep flight of stairs. He opened a door at the bottom, and Don saw what must have been the world's largest computing machine.

"This is our answer," said Crandon. "Oh, rather, it's the tool by which we find our answer. For two centuries we have been working on the newest of the sciences—that of human motivation. Soon we will be ready to put some of our new knowledge to work. But you are right in one respect, we are working now against time. We must hurry if we are to save our civilization. That's why you are here. We have work for you to do. Will you join us, Don?"

"But why the hocus-pocus?" asked Don. "Why do you hide behind such a weird front as POSAT? Why do you advertise in magazines and invite just anyone to join? Why didn't you approach me directly, if you have work for me to do? And if you really have the answers to our problems, why haven't you gathered together all the scientists in the world to work on this project—before it's too late?"

Crandon took a sighing breath. "How I wish that we could do just that! But you forget that one of the prime purposes of our organization is to maintain the secrecy of our discoveries until they can be safely disclosed. We must be absolutely certain that anyone who enters this building will have joined POSAT before he leaves. What if we approached the wrong scientist? Centuries of accomplishment might be wasted if they attempted either to reveal it or to exploit it!

"Do you recall the questionnaires that you answered before you were invited here? We fed the answers to this machine and, as a result, we know more about how you will react in any given situation than you do yourself. Even if you should fail to join us, our secrets would be safe with you. Of course, we miss a few of the scientists who might be perfect material for our organization. You'd be surprised, though, at how clever our advertisements are at attracting exactly the men we want. With the help of our new science, we have baited our ads well, and we know how to maintain interest. Curiosity is, to the men we want, a powerful motivator."

"But what about the others?" asked Don. "There must be hundreds of applicants who would be of no use to you at all."

"Oh, yes," replied Crandon. "There are the mild religious fanatics. We enroll them as members and keep them interested by sending pamphlets in line with their interests. We even let them contribute to our upkeep, if they seem to want to. They never get beyond the reception room if they come to call on us. But they are additional people through whom we can act when the time finally comes.

"There are also the desperate people who try POSAT as a last resort—lost ones who can't find their direction in life. For them we put into practice some of our newly won knowledge. We rehabilitate them—anonymously, of course. Even find jobs or patch up homes. It's good practice for us.

"I think I've answered most of your questions, Don. But you haven't answered mine. Will you join us?"

Don looked solemnly at the orderly array of the computer before him. He had one more question.

"Will it really work? Can it actually tell you how to motivate the stubborn, quarrelsome, opinionated people one finds on this Earth?"

Crandon smiled. "You're here, aren't you?"

Don nodded, his tense features relaxing.

"Enroll me as a member," he said.

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