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Edmond Hamilton’s classic Sci-Fi thriller, The Legion of Lazarus. Being expelled from an air lock into deep space was the legal method of execution. But it was also the only way a man could qualify for—The Legion of Lazarus
21,169 words, with a reading time of ~ 1.3 hours (~ 84 pages), and first published in 1956. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2014.
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There is a time for sleep, and a time for waking. But Hyrst had slept heavily, and the waking was hard. He had slept long, and the waking was slow. Fifty years, said the dim voice of remembrance. But another part of his mind said, No, it is only tomorrow morning.
Another part of his mind. That was strange. There seemed to be more parts to his mind than he remembered having had before, but they were all confused and hidden behind a veil of mist. Perhaps they were not really there at all. Perhaps–
Fifty years. I have been dead, he thought, and now I live again. Half a century. Strange.
Hyrst lay on a narrow bed, in a place of subdued light and antiseptic-smelling air. There was no one else in the room. There was no sound.
Fifty years, he thought. What is it like now, the house where I lived once, the country, the planet? Where are my children, where are my friends, my enemies, the people I loved, the people I hated?
Where is Elena? Where is my wife?
A whisper out of nowhere, sad, remote. Your wife is dead and your children are old. Forget them. Forget the friends and the enemies.
But I can’t forget! cried Hyrst silently in the spaces of his own mind. It was only yesterday–
Fifty years, said the whisper. And you must forget.
MacDonald, said Hyrst suddenly. I didn’t kill him. I was innocent. I can’t forget that.
Careful, said the whisper. Watch out.
I didn’t kill MacDonald. Somebody did. Somebody let me pay for it. Who? Was it Landers? Was it Saul? We four were together out there on Titan, when he died.
Careful, Hyrst. They’re coming. Listen to me. You think this is your own mind speaking, question-and-answer. But it isn’t.
Hyrst sprang upright on the narrow bed, his heart pounding, the sweat running cold on his skin. Who are you? Where are you? How–
They’re here, said the whisper calmly. Be quiet.
Two men came into the ward. “I am Dr. Merridew,” said the one in the white coverall, smiling at Hyrst with a brisk professional smile. “This is Warden Meister. We didn’t mean to startle you. There are a few questions, before we release you–”
Merridew, said the whisper in Hyrst’s mind, is a psychiatrist. Let me handle this.
Hyrst sat still, his hands lax between his knees, his eyes wide and fixed in astonishment. He heard the psychiatrist’s questions, and he heard the answers he gave to them, but he was merely an instrument, with no conscious volition, it was the whisperer in his mind who was answering. Then the warden shuffled some papers he held in his hand and asked questions of his own.
“You underwent the Humane Penalty without admitting your guilt. For the record, now that the penalty has been paid, do you wish to change your final statements?”
The voice in Hyrst’s mind, the secret voice, said swiftly to him. Don’t argue with them, don’t get angry, or they’ll keep you on and on here.
“But–” thought Hyrst.
I know you’re innocent, but they’ll never believe it. They’ll keep you on for further psychiatric tests. They might get near the truth, Hyrst–the truth about us.
Suddenly Hyrst began to understand, not all and not clearly, something of what had happened to him. The obscuring mists began to lift from the borders of his mind.
“What is the truth,” he asked in that inner quiet, “about us?”
You’ve spent fifty years in the Valley of the Shadow. You’re changed, Hyrst. You’re not quite human any more. No one is, who goes through the freeze. But they don’t know that.
“Then you too–”
Yes. And I too changed. And that is why our minds can speak, even though I am on Mars and you are on its moon. But they must not know that. So don’t argue, don’t show emotion!
The warden was waiting. Hyrst said aloud to him, slowly. “I have no statement to make.”
The warden did not seem surprised. He went on, “According to your papers here you also denied knowing the location of the Titanite for which MacDonald was presumably murdered. Do you still deny that?”
Hyrst was honestly surprised. “But surely, by now–”
The warden shrugged. “According to this data, it never came to light.”
“I never knew,” said Hyrst, “where it was.”
“Well,” said the warden, “I’ve asked the question and that’s as far as my responsibility goes. But there’s a visitor who has permission to see you.”