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CHILDREN OF THE ATOM by Wilmar Shiras
"Opening Doors"

The doctors went on to Welles’ home without a word, except that Dr. Foxwell shook his head and muttered to himself occasionally.

“Well?” said Mark Foxwell, when his pipe was alight. “You’ve chosen, yourself, to go into this thing, if it can be done?”

“There is no choice,” said Welles. “I have found my life work. These kids, barely into their teens, need all kinds of help and they need it the worst way. Somehow or other, within the next few years, they have to come out of hiding and get into the adult world. I’m going to do what I can to see that they have the chance to do it right. And Tim has given us the opportunity — laid the chance of a lifetime in our laps.”

Foxwell shook his head slowly.

“That’s true. Most kids with IQ’s of over 160 have to adjust on a lower level in order to live in this world at all. It always seemed to me a great waste. And these — what will they be like when they grow up?”

“That’s more or less up to us, now,” said Peter Welles. “They need each other, they need us. Tim’s right — Elsie shows us.”

“You mean the others may be warped in all kinds of ways!” cried the big doctor.

“They may be. Some of them must be. The bright child has all too often grown up to be a queer, maladjusted, unhappy adult. Or else he has thrown away half of his intelligence in order to adjust and be happy and get along as a social being. These children are bright beyond anything the world has ever known — if Tim is at all a fair sample, and Elsie is full as well endowed. Think of such intelligence combined with a lust for power, a selfish greed, or an overwhelming sense of superiority so that all other people, of average intelligence or a little more, would seem as worthless as . . . as Yahoos.”

“Elsie — ” began Dr. Foxwell in horror.

“Elsie is all right. She adores you, she obeys you and she follows the advice that you and I and Tim give her. She only needed to be set free. But the others — ”

“It’s an awful responsibility,” said Foxwell. “And did you hear those kids talking about heredity, last week?”

“Yes,” said Peter.

“They’ll be so far above us when they are adult,” moaned Dr. Foxwell, “I swear I’m afraid of it.”

“Timothy Paul has the answer, I think. A school, where they can work together under our direction, and have as much freedom as they can stand, combined with the psychotherapy that you and I can give them where it is needed. They are much like normal children in many ways, I think — looking to adults for help, emotionally still children. But Tim has solved his own problems fairly well up to now, and I think he can help us with the school. I don’t doubt that he has all his plans made, as to how the school is to be run, but he looks to us for the adult supervision and for the psychological guidance that the young people must have.”

Foxwell rubbed his chin and shook his head, puffed at his pipe, found it had gone out, and relighted it.

“I’m beginning to believe all this at last,” he said.

“It does take time to grasp the possibilities.”

“Lectures by television,” mused Mark Foxwell. “A private laboratory for each child. The students contribute to the upkeep of the place — invest their own money in it, money they earned in competition with the whole adult world, and . . . Pete, tell me, do you honestly think you can find enough of these kids to make a school?”

“You have met two of them. Timothy and I are in correspondence with at least half a dozen more, and Mrs. Davis gives us the school and guarantees all expenses.”

“Where’s your phone?”

“In the hall.”

The big doctor lumbered out of the room. He returned in a few minutes and held a match to his pipe again.

Welles waited.

“I phoned the fellow that wants my hospital,” Foxwell said.

“It’s sold. I can leave it in a month or so. Come on now Pete and let’s do some practical planning! The kid is miles ahead of us already. Most likely he always will be, but I’d like to pretend we’re the bosses for a few months yet.”

Exerpt from "Children of the Atom" Copyright 1953, 1981, by Wilmar H. Shiras. Used by permission of the Estate and its agent, Barry N. Malzberg.