First Lensman

First Lensman by E. E. (Doc) Smith Read Free Book Online

Book: First Lensman by E. E. (Doc) Smith Read Free Book Online
Authors: E. E. (Doc) Smith
could scarcely think. "But listen—not that I want to cross you up deliberately, but I'll tell you now that a man doesn't like to get sliced by a barber, even such a little nick as that. I'll remember that address—and the cat—and I'll never go into the place!"
    "Every event does affect the succession of events," Mentor acknowledged, equably enough. "Except for this interview, you would have been in New Orleans at that time, instead of in Spokane. I have considered every pertinent factor. You will be a busy man. Hence, while you will think of this matter frequently and seriously during the near future, you will have forgotten it in less than five years. You will remember it only at the touch of the astringent, whereupon you will give voice to certain self-derogatory and profane remarks."
    "I ought to," Samms grinned; a not-too-pleasant grin. He had been appalled by the quality of mind able to do what Mentor had just done; be was now more than appalled by the Arisian's calm certainty that what he had foretold in such detail would in every detail come to pass. "If, after all this Spokane—let a tiger-striped kitten jump into my lap—let a left-handed Tony Carbonero nick me—uh-uh, Mentor, UH-UH! If I do, I'll deserve to be called everything I can think of!"
    "These that I have mentioned, the gross occurrences, are problems only for inexperienced thinkers." Mentor paid no attention to Samms' determination never to enter that shop. "The real difficulties lie in the fine detail, such as the length, mass, and exact place and position of landing, upon apron or floor, of each of your hairs as it is severed. Many factors are involved. Other clients passing by—opening and shutting doors—air currents—sunshine—wind—pressure, temperature, humidity. The exact fashion in which the barber will flick his shears, which in turn depends upon many other factors—what he will have been doing previously, what he will have eaten and drunk, whether or not his home life will have been happy ... you little realize, youth, what a priceless opportunity this will be for me to check the accuracy of my visualization. I shall spend many periods upon the problem. I cannot attain perfect accuracy, of course. Ninety nine point nine nines percent, let us say … or perhaps ten nines … is all that I can reasonably expect …"
    "But, Mentor!" Samms protested. "I can't help you on a thing like that! How can I know or report the exact mass, length, and orientation of single hairs?"
    "You cannot; but, since you will be wearing your Lens, I myself can and will compare minutely my visualization with the actuality. For know, youth, that wherever any Lens is, there can any Arisian be if he so desires. Arid now, knowing that fact, and from your own knowledge of the satisfactions to be obtained from chess and other such mental activities, and from the glimpses you have had into my own mind, do you retain any doubts that we Arisians will be fully compensated for the trifling effort involved in furnishing whatever number of Lenses may be required?"
    "I have no more doubts. But this Lens … I'm getting more afraid of it every minute. I see that it is a perfect identification; I can understand that it can be a perfect telepath. But is it something else, as well? If it has other powers … what are they?"
    "I cannot tell you; or, rather, I will not. It is best for your own development that I do not, except in the most general terms. It has additional qualities, it is true; but, since no two entities ever have the same abilities, no two Lenses will ever be of identical qualities. Strictly speaking, a Lens has no real power of its own; it merely concentrates, intensifies, and renders available whatever powers are already possessed by its wearer. You must develop your own powers and your own abilities; we of Arisia, in furnishing the Lens, will have done everything that we should do."
    "Of course, sir; and much more than we have any right to expect. You have

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