"No! You can't! You lie! Lie! Why? Why?" It was a roar - a roar of childish indignation, filling the ancient court-room from the varnished floors to the oaken rafters, swelling through the open windows to stop the startled crowds in the streets outside. It was loud, unexpected, halting in its anguish, but fiercer still it roared from the unlocked mind. Like a volcanic flare it surged outwards, glaring, burning into the brains of the listeners, as brilliant to the mind as blast-glare to the eye.
The court listener, for a startled moment, knew his error. He shrieked, and grasped his head, but his pain was like a whisper to the scream that followed, for now anguish was changing to partial understanding, to a knowledge of treachery and injustice, and welling with it came hate. Hate that spewed from the pulsing brain like a roaring thunderclap. Hate that seared and locked the nerves. While the non-sensitives gazed in confusion and horror, the listener's shriek rose until his gaping mouth had expended all his breath, but hate was in his brain, locking his nerves in shorted knots, and his ribs could not open; his heart was seized, his living stopped. He toppled forward, slowly, bending reluctantly. Then he crashed, unhinged, dead.
Still the hate flared out, swelling, a wave travelling faster than light. A million listeners heard it, screaming in agony, clasping heads in useless protest. On, over the lighted earth, on, into the world of night where hapless sleepers jerked upright from nightmare beds, and fell back screaming, moaning, or blankly silent.
Now a second wave followed the first, hundreds of minds sweeping the world with fearful inquiry, "Who? Why?"
They acted quickly in the courtroom. While eyes and cameras focused yet uncomprehendingly on the listener, police moved in on the struggling prisoner. He was hustled out. Five men it took, despite the chains, and two of those fell out, and had to be replaced, but they were quick. A closed truck was waiting. Space Port was close. A weather hitch that was holding up the count-down of Star-bird III suddenly came clear, and, before the cries of mistrial reached the court, the rockets blasted, the spacer stood for a moment on a gush of fire, then rent the heavens in a violent clawing for the void. She was gone on her pencil of flame, trailing thunder, pulsing back hate. All day the earth was bathed in it. All night the listeners crouched, and moaned, and whimpered under its battering. The old died, the very young went still and staring, their minds blasted into endless night. The strong survived. For almost forty-eight hours they cringed under the onslaught of that savage hate, and then, like a light switched off, it was gone, and they rested, knowing that the source slept, was unconscious, or was dead.
For four days they felt his waking moments, while the Star-bird ate space, building speed on SACQ drive, swallowing a million miles in a single breathing. Incredibly, some of the greatest listeners felt him like a deep depression for another two days, though Star-bird III was lost to the solar system, a tiny mote, for all her speed, creeping through the vast and stately sweep of the stars.
He was gone, but long they pondered on him. Mistrial it had been, and scapegoats were available to bear the blame, but the questions lingered. How had they not known him? How had there been a sender of such power, and no listener knew of him? Had he merely been a listener until the trauma of injustice and exile had broken the bonds of sending? Had he been a listener/sender shielded? That was the question. If he had been, then Earth had sent the most valuable product of five hundred years of breeding and research to High America, where no sensitive could survive.
Useless to try to call him back. The Star-bird was lost to Earth for four years, and it would be another two, after that, for a messenger to ride it back to High America. No sensitive had ever survived on High America more than a dozen weeks. He had no chance of surviving six years. He was lost. But why?