Copyright 1956 by Carl L. Biemiller

Illustrated by Kathleen Voute

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
Starboy's Home C.L. Biemiller's Home

Chapter Eight

It was quiet in the boys' bedroom, except for Johnny's breathing and that was almost unnoticeable so aptly was it blended with the night noises that drifted through the open windows. But Remo noticed it. He was restless. He couldn't sleep. He felt strange, and more homesick than he had felt since he had been with the Jenks. He didn't know that he was homesick, or even that he felt strange. He just knew that somehow, at this very moment, he didn't really belong on earth, that Terra was not his home.

He wasn't, at this moment, even sure that Johnny Jenks was his friend. Not since that fight anyhow. Remo had never known anger in quite the same manner as he had glimpsed its meaning in Johnny's mind when that temper fit had flared. People didn't get angry that way where Remo lived. Not unless they were sick, and if they were sick in that way, they were sent away to be cured. He knew, of course, that Johnny had been sorry about losing his temper. And there wasn't a kinder family anywhere than the Jenks, or a nicer, more friendly person that Mr. Murphy, or old Mr. Applegate.

Nevertheless Remo didn't feel right.

Remo, like many a boy before him, was thought-heavy tonight. He was thinking more like an adult than a boy. It was uncomfortable. He was thinking that he'd learned a lot about Terra since the flying saucer lifted and left him there. The daily lessons with Mr. Murphy were adding up to a strange, scattered picture of a teeming planet only a little like his own, and one a bit more backward in many ways. Those lessons, for instance, were sort of silly. At home lessons were played from recording tapes, with each thought and meaning carefully tailored for the person hearing them, and usually at night while the student slept, so that both the sections of the mind which absorbed learning were relaxed and undisturbed and ready to add to their store.

He kicked the sheet away from his legs and tried to stop thinking for a while. It was easy enough to do. Except he found that he didn't want to stop. Those dishes, for instance. The dishes that he and Johnny washed and dried for Mrs. Jenks, and all the work Mrs. Jenks did around the house. At home the houses worked! Houses kept themselves clean with little, moving vacuum cleaners that scurried out of the walls while people slept and gathered dust and dirt. Houses beamed ultraviolet light around the rooms to make sure that there were no germs. And when it came time to eat, why, Mother pushed synthesizer buttons which could blend just the right amounts of the right things everybody's body needed. And the dishes came hot or cold, sweet or tart, and the tasting just right. Dishes! The dishes were part of the food. You ate them! Nobody saved them to wash and dry and use again.

And beds! Well, they weren't like this. Beds were friends. He remembered when he was real little. The bed talked to him. It told stories and winked little lights and hummed snatches of songs. When he was thirsty the bed reached out a straw and gave him a drink. It rocked him to sleep. It did many other things for him too. He knew now that his bed was really a robot, a manufactured thing just for him. But it was a friend too.

Suddenly Remo couldn't stand lying there any longer. If he and Johnny could sneak out and go 'coon hunting with Mr. Applegate, then certainly he could take a quiet walk. He dressed quickly and without noise, crept down the dark stairway and out the side door. He did not go unnoticed. Minstrel heaved beside him out of the darkness and stuck a wet nose in his hand. There wasn't much that that Airedale missed.

It was a soft night, full of stars and summer murmurs. Remo walked down the driveway to the road with Minstrel trotting beside him. He didn't know where he was going. He didn't care. It felt good to be moving. Far away an owl hooted and from far, far away a train whistle sobbed. Remo, for some reason, didn't feel half so lonely all alone in the big night as he had lying there in the room with Johnny asleep. Somehow he felt sort of sizable, larger than boy-size, a person.

He never knew where he walked. The road went on and on toward a horizon that seemed lighter than the darkness around him with a soft glow all its own. He saw what that glow was when he reached it quite a bit later. It was a main highway and the traffic lanes which comprised it were well lighted. Now and then a car whisked by stabbing at the night with its headlamps.

Remo crossed a little bridge, skidded down an embankment, and walked along the edge of the main highway. He wondered where it led. To a city , he guessed. Like the New York he heard about, where the Yankees played baseball.

A huge truck roared up behind him, its motor blasting the silence and startling Minstrel well off the highway into the shadows of the road shoulder. This world was noisy even when it was still, he thought. He guessed he ought to be heading back to the farm. Back to the bridge, to the road, along the road to the farm. Well, Minstrel knew the way home anyhow. He was a smart dog.

That's when the car pulled up behind Remo, its headlights on him clear and steady. It slowed and stopped.

"Hey, son," cried a voice, "where are you headed?"

Remo glanced over at the car. It was white. Black letters stood out against the white. "State Police" they read.

"Pretty late for small fellows to be walking the highway," continued the voice. "What are you doing, running away from home?"

There were two men in uniform in the car. One of them got out as the car stopped and walked over Remo. "Cat got your tongue, boy? Where are you going?"

Minstrel growled.

"Nobody's talking to you," said the policeman, undisturbed.

Remo hesitated. He didn't know what to do. Mr Jenks and Mr. Murphy had warned him about talking to strangers. But these men seemed interested.

"I'm just talking a walk," he answered slowly. "I was just about to go home."

"Fine," said the man. "Jump in the car and we'll take you. Where do you live?"

"I'm visiting the Jenks," said Remo reluctantly.

"The Jenks, eh? Well, we know where they live all right. Do they know you're out?"

Remo licked his lips cautiously. It wouldn't be right for him to go back in a car with two uniformed men. It might worry Mrs. Jenks and upset Mr. Jenks and Mr. Murphy.

"It's all right, son. We're policemen," said the officer patiently.

Remo wondered what would happen if he ran. He was sure he could be out of sight in less time than any policeman would believe. But what good would that do. He'd already told the man where he lived. They'd get in touch with the Jenks and then. Remo was discovering that even boys from he stars could upset people, could make them unhappy by thoughtless actions. That walk idea of his didn't look so good now.

"Come on sonny. We can't have children roaming around main highways at three o'clock in the morning, you know. Put your dog in the car too."

"All right," said Remo. He concentrated for a moment. He reached for the minds of these men as hard as he could, caught only a grave sense of impatience. "All right," he said. "Jump in, Minstrel."

Minstrel jumped and Remo clambered into the back seat with him.

"H'ya, son," greeted the driver. "Worried about being spanked when we take you home? Well, you ought to be. We have to report this, you know. What got into you? With the crazy drivers we have along this highway you could have been killed. Bad stuff."

The police car pulled out from the edge of the road . It made a U-turn and headed back in the direction from which Remo had come.

Remo was silent. Minstrel laid a heavy head on his lap.

"You're not kidding about crazy drivers," said the officer in the front seat beside the driver. "Look at this one."

A car was coming toward them. Its headlights wavered from one side of the road to the other. It swayed and rocked with speed. It moved from one lane to another. The police car pulled over to the far edge of the road and slowed.

"Something wrong there," muttered the driver. "We'd better stop him right now. Guess you'll have to wait a few more minutes, son."

It was longer than that.

Almost as the state police driver spoke, the oncoming car left the road. It wavered on the edge of the shoulder and, with a shrieking crash of metal, it smashed headlong into the electric light pole half hidden in the gloom of the roadside. There was a crystal-sharp tinkling of glass, then a shuddering silence and a sudden burst of flame from the wrecked car.

"Come on," yelled one of the officers. He left the waiting police car and ran for the crash scene, diagonally across the road. His companion pulled a flashlight from the car seat and sprinted after him.

Remo shrank back in the seat a brief second. He was frightened, then without thinking he slid out of the seat and ran after the policemen with Minstrel on his heels.

The wrecked car was battered and bent and its engine, jammed into the scarred pole, was blazing with fire. The driver of the car could be seen huddled over the wheel, unconscious. The door on his side of the car was folded too. One of the policemen grabbed its handle and tried to pull the door open. The other officer tried from the opposite side. The doors refused to give.

"We'll never get him out in time," cried one of the officers. "Go back to our car and see if we have a crowbar in the trunk and radio headquarters for an ambulance. You radio and I'll get the fire extinguisher. Maybe we can stop the fire in time."

The officers sprinted again.

Remo, sobbing with excitement and the shocked knowledge of disaster, peered into the smashed car. He knew suddenly that if the man within it were not removed at once he would die. He knew something else too, surely and certainly, and something that he had to do before the policemen got back.

The side of the wreck was hot to the touch. Remo managed to get his hand along the jammed door. He got both hands on the buckled door, down low, near the bottom of the car. He stooped ever so slightly. He pulled. He put those high-gravity outer-space muscles into one creaking heave. His boy-shoulders bent with strain.

There was a squeal of metal. The door snapped off its hinges.

An astonished state trooper, running back across the road to the wreck, saw, in the beam of his flashlight and the wan glow of the highway, a small boy reach into the car and heave the body of a man out, away from the flames and the crumpled metal to safety.

Before he reached the car, the boy was gone.

Remo, shocked at the senseless accident he could not understand, fled up the highway embankment with Minstrel at his heels, and ran.

The policeman made not attempt to stop him. He had work to do, swift, efficient, merciful work to do before the ambulance came. He and his partner did it. And when it was done there was time for amazement and wonder.

"That kid pulled that jammed door off with brute strength," marveled the driver of the state police car. "We tried and couldn't."

"Maybe it just buckled loose when it got hot," speculated his companion.

"You know better."

We'll each know better when we check the Jenks' farm," said the other. "Let's report in to headquarters."

"I'm a bit leery of telling the lieutenant what we think we saw," muttered the first.

"We can tell him we saw a man's life saved!"

Remo ran until he tired and then settled into a steady walk. He was no longer restless. He was worried. What would happen when those men called at the Jenks farm? He knew they would. He knew that they had seen him pull that poor man from the wrecked car. And he knew that he had been conspicuous just the thing that his own father had warned him about and that Mr. Jenks had tried to tell him. But he had learned something else about Terra too, that these people protected and watched over each other, that there were those who cared about others abroad in the night and that here, too, mechanical products, when not used properly, could harm the people who built them. The lesson was of no comfort. What would the Jenks and Mr. Murphy say?

What they said was short and to the point.

"Get to bed, young man," said Mr. Jenks. "We'll talk later in the morning."

Mr. Murphy was a little more talkative. "Scare us to death with calls from policemen, will you, Remo, my boy. And me a man in need of sleep standing here barefooted. Into bed with you!"

Johnny was more comforting. He whispered to Remo after the house quieted again. "I heard the telephone and found your bed empty," he said. "Mr. Murphy talked quite a while to the state police. I could hear him from the second-floor landing. He told them not to bother with calling out here personally. Did you really save a man's life?"

"Yes," said Remo simply.

"Good then," whispered Johnny. "How can anybody be angry?" Remo didn't know. How could people build things they couldn't control?

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
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