This World Must Die!

Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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Lou Phillips sat on the cold metal deck of the control room, seething with a growing dislike for the old man.

"What you are here for," the other had told him when the guards had brought Phillips in, "is a simple crime of violence. You'll do, I'm sure."

The old man paced the deck impatiently, while a pair of armed guards maintained a watchful silence by the door. Two more men in plain gray shirts and trousers sat beside Phillips, leaning back sullenly against the bulkhead. He guessed that they were waiting for a fourth, remembering that three other figures had been hustled aboard with him at the Lunar spaceport.

The door slid open, allowing another youth in gray uniform to stumble inside. One of the guards in the corridor beyond shoved the newcomer forward, and Phillips' eyebrows twitched as he had a closer look. This last prisoner was a girl.

He thought she might have been pretty, with a touch of lipstick and a kinder arrangement of her short, ash-blonde hair; but he lowered his eyes as her hard, wary stare flickered past him. She walked over to the bulkhead and took a seat at the other end of the little group.

The old man turned, scanning their faces critically. "I am in charge of a peculiar project," he announced abruptly. "The director of the Lunar Detention Colony claims that you four are the best he has—for our purposes!"

Long habit kept the seated ones guardedly silent. Seeing, apparently, that they would not relax, he continued.

"You were chosen because each of you has received a sentence of detention for life because of tendencies toward violence in one form or another. In our twenty-second century civilization such homicidal inclinations are quite rare, due to the law-abiding habits of generations under the Interplanetary Council."

He had been pacing the cramped space left free by the equipment, the guards, and the four seated prisoners. Now he paused, as if mildly astonished at what he was about to say.

"In fact, now that we are faced by a situation demanding illegal violence, it appears that no normal citizen is capable of committing such an act. Using you may eliminate costly screening processes ... and save time. Incidentally, I am Anthony Varret, Undersecretary for Security in the Council."

None of the four showed any overt sign of being impressed. Phillips knew that the others, like himself, were scrutinizing the old man with cold, secretive stares. They had learned through harsh experience to keep their own counsels. Varret shrugged. "Well, then," he said dryly, "I might as well call the roll. I have been supplied with accurate records."

He drew a notebook from his pocket, consulted it briefly, then nodded at the man next to the girl. "Robert Brecken," he recited, "age thirty-one, six feet, one hundred eighty-five pounds, hair reddish brown, eyes green, complexion ruddy. Convicted of unjustified homicide by personal assault while resisting arrest for embezzlement. Detention record unsatisfactory. Implicated in two minor mutinies."

He glanced next at the youth beside Phillips. "Raymond Truesdale, age twenty-two, five-feet-five, one-thirty....