The Fellowship of the Hand

The Fellowship of the Hand by Edward D. Hoch Read Free Book Online

Book: The Fellowship of the Hand by Edward D. Hoch Read Free Book Online
Authors: Edward D. Hoch
deep-set eyes. Jazine recognized him at once from a hologram he’d seen once in the Washington files.
    “Euler Frost, isn’t it?” he said, holding out his hand. “I guess I owe you my life.”

    P ERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT and formative event in Euler Frost’s thirty years on earth and Venus had been the death of his father, cut down by a rocket-copter’s exhaust blast as he attempted to prevent a mineral survey of Indian land in Manitoba. That event, when Euler was only fourteen, had turned him into a revolutionary. A passive revolutionary at first, but a revolutionary nonetheless. His father had taught him a fear and distrust of all machines, and had punctuated the lesson by the manner of his death.
    Exiled to the Venus Colony for membership in a nameless, leaderless group opposed to the dehumanization of the individual in an increasingly machine-dominated society, Euler Frost had escaped from the domed city to live with outcasts like himself in the Free Zone between the USAC and Russo-Chinese sectors. There he encountered tragedy for the second time when raiding troops killed Fergana, a girl he’d grown to love. Frost had slain one of the soldiers in return, and been sentenced to a maximum-security prison on the planet.
    His escape from the prison and his arrival back on earth at a time when the Computer Cops were investigating the murder of a cabinet member had made him a prime suspect in that killing. Alone and friendless, hunted by the police, he’d found a home with HAND, the revitalized organization to which he’d belonged in his youth. HAND’s leader, Graham Axman, wasted no talk on slogans or demonstrations. His goal was the utter destruction of the machine-oriented society, by whatever means possible.
    The first blow struck by HAND had been a raid on the Federal Medical Center and the destruction of the nation’s largest known computer complex. Though Crader and Jazine blunted the force of the attack and captured Graham Axman, Frost and a few others made good their escape. Frost knew it was Carl Crader who allowed him to escape, and now as he reached out to shake the hand of Crader’s assistant he wondered if the director of the CIB might consider the debt paid.
    “We’d better get out of here,” he told Earl Jazine. “The place is loaded with radioactivity.”
    “How did you find me?”
    “It wasn’t easy,” Frost said, shining his light on an emergency stairway that ran along the chute. “I followed them when they kidnapped you, but I lost them for a time out here at the mines.”
    “Then it wasn’t HAND that tried to kill me?”
    “No more than it was the first time, at the zooitorium.”
    “You seem to know everything.”
    “I know a great deal. Come on now—up these stairs.”
    There was no time for further talk until they’d made the climb and regained their breath. Then, in Frost’s car, Jazine said, “I was with a woman—Milly Norris. We have to find her.”
    “They released her on a country road, unharmed. You’re the one they were after.”
    “Why me?”
    “Because you stumbled onto the election computer and the names of Blunt and Ambrose. Let me tell you a story. It may sound fantastic, but I can assure you every word is true.”
    “I’m listening.”
    “After HAND’S raid on the Federal Medical Center I went into hiding. There were still a few of us left, but with Graham Axman sentenced to a long prison term we were like a body without its brain. I tried to take over, holding the group together, and before many months I discovered we had a foe every bit as deadly as the federal government and the Computer Cops.”
    “Who would that be?” Jazine asked, his curiosity obviously aroused.
    “There exists in this country a well-financed conspiracy to overthrow the government of President McCurdy or his successor, and to replace it with a super-government run by computers.”
    “Of course. But the men behind the plan really believe in

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