The Celestial Steam Locomotive (The Song of Earth)

The Celestial Steam Locomotive (The Song of Earth) by Michael G. Coney

Book: The Celestial Steam Locomotive (The Song of Earth) by Michael G. Coney Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael G. Coney
end the facts will win, because we have the Rainbow. Public sentiment is powerless if it is wrong-headed. What I’m doing at the institute is neither right nor wrong, neither good nor evil. It is expedient. And if in the process it results in a little more excitement and beauty around this dull old Earth, what’s wrong with that?  
    “I couldn’t do without you, Vix,” he said.  
    “I wouldn’t be here without you. And I’d like you to know just how much we all appreciate what you and Raccoona are doing, Dads. If it gets too much, you can stop it at any time. Nobody will blame you.”  
    “We’re going through with it. Even if I wanted to stop now, Raccoona wouldn’t agree. You’ve no idea how determined she is.” There was a touch of pride in his voice. They were all his children. “She’s going to be a heroine, in years to come. It’s... it’s unfair that she won’t be alive to enjoy it.”  
     
    Raccoona was frightened. Anyone would be frightened, sitting there unable to run while the hunters closed in. In time the Specialists would speak of her bravery, of how she sat there proudly staring her captors in the eye—and of how the prosecutor was unable to meet her gaze. And of her steady hands and calm voice. And even, in the end, of the way she walked steadily to her death, scorning the sedative. Raccoona the Martyr was the stuff of which such legends are built.  
    But Raccoona the girl was terrified as she sat there and shook and cried and lied, and her gaze darted this way and that as though seeking escape, and she had to be escorted to the toilet frequently. Such details as these do not find their way into legends. Raccoona the girl became a trapped animal and looked like one—a fact the media were quick to point out.  
    “So after all this,” said the prosecutor, “after all these lies and evasions and histrionics, we are left with the following inescapable facts: The victim, the opera singer known as La Rialta, visited the Whirst Institute on the evening of February ninth. She was admitted by Raccoona Two, the accused’s mother, and shown to the study of Professor Whirst for the purpose of a business discussion, so we are told. She may or may not have been seen in there by one Vixena—but that creature’s evidence cannot, I think, be relied upon. La Rialta was certainly seen ten minutes later by her chauffeur, running from the build-ing—insofar as a woman of her build could run—pursued by the accused. She never made it to the vehicle. She was attacked by the accused and most foully done to death with a knife. The police were radioed instantly by the chauffeur, who also apprehended the accused. When the police arrived, the accused was found to be drenched in blood and her prints were on the knife. It is an open-and-shut case.” The prosecutor gazed around the court. “I have nothing more to say.”  
    “Let’s stop this farce, right now,” whispered Schot to Whirst.  
    “Only if you can disprove their case,” said Whirst. “I will not have it dismissed on a technicality.”  
    “There’s something else—new evidence. I found out last night.” He regarded Whirst expressionlessly. “You knew all the time, of course. You must have known.”  
    “Known what?” Was there a trace of alarm in Whirst’s voice?  
    Abel Schot leaned across and whispered something in Whirst’s ear. Video recordings showed him doing this, and attempts were made to lip-read the words, but unsuccessfully. It remained one of the big mysteries of a somewhat mystifying trial. At a later date, in possession of all the evidence, the Rainbow was able to piece together a probable approximation of the eight syllables recorded on video, but they were never made public.  
    Meanwhile, Mordecai N. Whirst was known to reply, “I can only instruct you to keep your mouth shut—and I am Raccoona’s legal guardian and therefore your legal client.”  
    It was at that moment that the Great Datachimp

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