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5


"I am trying to be logical, Dr. Ross."

"I understand, Harry."

"I think it's important to be logical and rational when we discuss these things, don't you?"

"Yes, I do."

She sat in the room and watched the reels of the tape recorder spin. Across from her, Ellis sat back in a chair, eyes closed, cigarette burning in his fingers. Morris drank another cup of coffee as he listened. She was making a list of what they knew, trying to decide what their next step should be.

The tape spun on.

"I classify things according to what I call trends to be opposed," Benson said. "There are four important trends to be opposed. Do you want to hear them?"

"Yes, of course."

"Do you really?"

"Yes, really."

"Well, trend number one is the generality of the computer. The computer is a machine but it's not like any machine in human history. Other machines have a specific function - like cars, or refrigerators, or dishwashers. We expect machines to have specific functions. But computers don't. They can do all sorts of things."

"Surely computers are- "

"Please let me finish. Trend number two is the autonomy of the computer. In the old days, computers weren't autonomous. They were like adding machines; you had to be there all the time, punching buttons, to make them work. Like cars: cars won't drive without drivers. But now things are different.

Computers are becoming autonomous. You can build in all sorts of instructions about what to do next - and you can walk away and let the computer handle things."

"Harry, I- "

"Please don't interrupt me. This is very serious. Trend number three is miniaturization. You know all about that. A computer that took up a whole room in 1950 is now about the size of a carton of cigarettes. Pretty soon it'll be smaller than that."

There was a pause on the tape.

"Trend number four- " Benson began, and she clicked the tape off. She looked at Ellis and Morris. "This isn't getting us anywhere," she said.

They didn't reply, just stared with a kind of blank fatigue. She looked at her list of information.

Benson home at 12:30. Picked up? blueprints,? gun, and tool kit.

Benson not seen in Jackrabbit Club recently.

Benson upset by UH computer, installed 7/69.

"Suggest anything to you?" Ellis asked.

"No," Ross said. "But I think one of us should talk to McPherson." She looked at Ellis, who nodded without energy. Morris shrugged slightly. "All right," she said. "I'll do it."

It was 4:30 a.m.

"The fact is," Ross said, "we've exhausted all our options. Time is running out."

McPherson stared at her across his desk. His eyes were dark and tired. "What do you expect me to do?" he said.

"Notify the police."

"The police are already notified. They've been notified from the beginning by one of their own people. I understand the seventh floor is swarming with cops now."

"The police don't know about the operation."

"For Christ's sake, the police brought him here for the operation. Of course they know about it."

"But they don't really know what it involves."

"They haven't asked."

"And they don't know about the computer projection for 6 a.m."

"What about it?" he said.

She was becoming angry with him. He was so damned stubborn. He knew perfectly well what she was saying.

"I think their attitude might be different if they knew that Benson was going to have a seizure at six a.m."

"I think you're right," McPherson said. He shifted his weight heavily in his chair. "I think they might stop thinking about him as an escaped man wanted on a charge of assault. And they would begin thinking of him as a crazy murderer with wires in his brain." He sighed. "Right now, their objective is to apprehend him. If we tell them more, they'll try to kill him."

"But innocent lives may be involved. If the projection- "

"The projection," McPherson said, "is just that. A computer projection. It is only as good as its input and that input consists of three timed stimulations. You can draw a lot of curves through three graph points. You can extrapolate it a lot of ways. We have no positive reason to believe he'll tip over at six a.m. In actual fact, he may not tip over at all."

She glanced around the room, at the charts on his walls. McPherson plotted the future of the NPS in this room, and he kept a record of it on his walls, in the form of elaborate, multicolored charts. She knew what those charts meant to him; she knew what the NPS meant to him; she knew what Benson meant to him. But even so, his position was unreasonable and irresponsible.

Now how was she going to say that?

"Look, Jan," McPherson said, "you began by saying that we've exhausted all our options. I disagree. I think we have the option of waiting. I think there is a possibility he will return to the hospital, return to our care. And as long as that is possible, I prefer to wait."

"You're not going to tell the police?"

"No."

"If he doesn't come back," she said, "and if he attacks someone during a seizure, do you really want that on your head?"

"It's already on my head," McPherson said, and smiled sadly.

It was 5 a.m.



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