The Second Science Fiction Megapack: 25 Modern and Classic Tales by Masters by SILVERBERG Robert

The Second Science Fiction Megapack: 25 Modern and Classic Tales by Masters by SILVERBERG Robert

Author:SILVERBERG, Robert [SILVERBERG, Robert]
Language: eng
Format: mobi
Tags: short stories, anthology
Publisher: Ingram Distribution
Published: 2011-09-08T16:00:00+00:00


“Yes, Mr. Martin,” said Tolliver Watt’s butler to the telephone. “Miss Ashby is here. She is with Mr. Watt and Mr. St. Cyr at the moment, but I will give her your message. You are detained. And she is to call for you—where?”

“The broom-closet on the second floor of the Writers’ Building,” Martin said in a quavering voice. “It’s the only one near a telephone with a long enough cord so I could take the phone in here with me. But I’m not at all certain that I’m safe. I don’t like the looks of that broom on my left.”

“Sir?”

“Are you sure you’re Tolliver Watt’s butler?” Martin demanded nervously.

“Quite sure, Mr.—eh—Mr. Martin.”

“I am Mr. Martin,” cried Martin with terrified defiance. “By all the laws of God and man, Mr. Martin I am and Mr. Martin I will remain, in spite of all attempts by rebellious dogs to depose me from my rightful place.”

“Yes, sir. The broom-closet, you say, sir?”

“The broom-closet. Immediately. But swear not to tell another soul, no matter how much you’re threatened. I’ll protect you.”

“Very well, sir. Is that all?”

“Yes. Tell Miss Ashby to hurry. Hang up now. The line may be tapped. I have enemies.”

There was a click. Martin replaced his own receiver and furtively surveyed the broom-closet. He told himself that this was ridiculous. There was nothing to be afraid of, was there? True, the broom-closet’s narrow walls were closing in upon him alarmingly, while the ceiling descended.…

Panic-stricken, Martin emerged from the closet, took a long breath, and threw back his shoulders. “N-not a thing to be afraid of,” he said. “Who’s afraid?” Whistling, he began to stroll down the hall toward the staircase, but midway agoraphobia overcame him, and his nerve broke.

He ducked into his own office and sweated quietly in the dark until he had mustered up enough courage to turn on a lamp.

The Encyclopedia Britannica, in its glass-fronted cabinet, caught his eye. With noiseless haste, Martin secured ITALY to LORD and opened the volume at his desk. Something, obviously, was very, very wrong. The robot had said that Martin wasn’t going to like being Ivan the Terrible, come to think of it. But was Martin wearing Ivan’s character-matrix? Perhaps he’d got somebody else’s matrix by mistake—that of some arrant coward. Or maybe the Mad Tsar of Russia had really been called Ivan the Terrified. Martin flipped the rustling pages nervously. Ivan, Ivan—here it was.

Son of Helena Glinska…married Anastasia Zakharina-Koshkina…private life unspeakably abominable…memory astonishing, energy indefatigable, ungovernable fury—great natural ability, political foresight, anticipated the ideals of Peter the Great—Martin shook his head.

Then he caught his breath at the next line.

Ivan had lived in an atmosphere of apprehension, imagining that every man’s hand was against him.

“Just like me,” Martin murmured. “But—but there was more to Ivan than just cowardice. I don’t understand.”

“Differential,” the robot had said, “depends on environment as much as on heredity. Though naturally Ivan wouldn’t have had the Tsardom environment without his particular heredity.”

Martin sucked in his breath sharply. Environment does make a difference.



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