CONTENTS INTRODUCTION by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E.

Dikty FIREWATER by William Tenn CATEGORY PHOENIX by Boyd Ellanby SURFACE TENSION by James Blish THE GADGET HAD A GHOST by Murray Leinster CONDITIONALLY HUMAN by Walter M. Miller, Jr. SCIENCE-FICTION ANTHOLOGIES BY BLEILER AND DIKTY The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1949 The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1950 The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1951 The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1952 . The Science-Fiction Omnibus Imagination Unlimited Year's Best Science-Fiction Novels: 1952 Year's Best Science-Fiction Novels: 1953 IN PREPARATION The Best Science-Fiction Stories: 1953 Year's Best Science-Fiction Novels: 1954 TO Frederick V. Fell IN FRIENDSHIP YEAR'S BEST SCIENCE-FICTION NOVELS : 1953
COPYRIGHT 1953 BY EVERETT F. BLEILER AND T. E. DIKTY All rights in this book are reserved. It may not be used for dramatic, motion-, or talking-picture purposes without written authorization from the holder of these rights. Nor may the book or any part thereof be reproduced in any manner whatever without permission in writing, except for brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, address: Frederick Fell, Inc., 386 Fourth Avenue, New York 16, N. Y. Manufactured in the United States of America by H. Wolff, New York. Designed by SIDNEY SOLOMON. PUBLISHED SIMULTANEOUSLY IN CANADA BY GEORGE J. MCLEOD, LTD., TORONTO FIRST PRINTING MARCH 1953

INTRODUCTION This is the second annual collection of short science-fiction novels, the best published in magazine form during the past year. We use the term short novel interchangeably with novelette, novella, or even "long short story" because current American usage has not decided the point. There are

definitions, of course, and we could probably set up a few of our own. The only relevant fact is that science-fiction pieces averaging 20,000 words in length, when they were good, had no heaven to look forward to. The anthologist gave haloes to the good short story, the book publisher had a supply of hard-cover wings for the outstanding serial, but none of these literary St. Peters would admit in-between lengths. In our other annual series, The Best Science-Fiction Stories, begun in 1949 (Frederick Fell, New York), we ourselves must confess to the same arbitrariness. The reasoning was that a short novel would displace three or four of the regular stories and, quality being equal, our readers preferred the greater number. But from year to year we saw too many excellent longer stories go unrecognized in the science-fiction procession, and finally we broached the subject to our publisher. He being a merciful man, as well as an enlightened risk-taker, agreed to establish a new and special Hereafter for neglected story lengths. And it has been his pleasure, as well as ours, to see this idea a success in the marketplace. The marketplace is a theme which has received a growing amount of attention from science-fiction writers in recent years, and the first story in this collection, Firewater by William Tenn, is a fine example of this trend. It could be called a kind of study or exploration of the role of businessmen in the future. Not in this or that administration, or a set number of years from now, but in any tomorrow, near or far, when science has noticeably altered social environment. Concern with the businessman is a significant development in the science-fiction field because until recently most writers in the genre would not readily have conceded that businessmen deserved a role in the future. For convenience, let us refer to the 1952 presidential election. Perhaps it is a mistake to link any form of entertainment with the mental state of society at a given time, but there is no question that Business (with a capital B) has recently undergone a profound reevaluation in the public mind, a resurgence of prestige which science-fiction has foreshadowed as well as reflected. In the Depression Era, when the businessman was largely discredited in his relationship to government, science-fiction may be said to have reflected that widespread attitude in the nearly total absence of merchants and industry from its story content. Any mention of traders and commerce was usually unfavorable mention. The truth of the matter is that most science-fiction writers of the period were implicitly Technocratic. They upheld the Authority of Science. Efficiency, Impartiality, Logic, Machine-likeness, were ultimate social goals, conducive to inevitable personal happiness. And where in this orderly scientific pattern was there room for the businessman, with his function as middleman or dealer rendered superfluous? (Overlooking, of course, his uncleanly taint of profit.) Certain accusatory political words will leap to the minds of many readers, but those science-fiction writers were neither socialist, communist, nor fascist. They were simply sciencefictionists, attempting to read human nature in dispassionate "purely scientific" terms. In practical terms, perhaps most of them were inexperienced with the world . . . this world. Their minds were on too many other planets, so they got their political ideas thirdor fourth-hand. In literary terms, few of them are worth considering, but as a group which supplied the contents of three or four newsstand science-fiction periodicals, month after month for eight or nine years, they showed scant respect for the commerce mentality. Possibly the historical turning point in this attitude came early the nineteen-forties, with the appearance in Astounding Science Fiction of The Stolen Dormouse by L. Sprague de Camp, later reprinted in Divide and Rule (Fantasy Press, Reading, Pa., 1948).

In this story, Mr. de Camp focuses his attention on business as such, and it becomes a matter of interest. No pun intended here, but speaking of interest, we are suddenly reminded of a droll imaginative tale by Harry Stephen Keeler which appeared back in 1927 in Amazing Stories, called John Jones's Dollar. It showed how a man's posterity could ultimately inherit the Earth on the compounded interest of a single-dollar bank deposit. But to return to Mr. de Camp, this popular author has since written a number of other stories on futuristic business themes, notably some of the stories included in his most recent book, The Continent Makers (Twayne, New York, 1953). And still another excellent example of "business science-fiction" is Alfred Bester's Demolished Man, which appeared as a serial last car in Galaxy and has just been published in book form (Shasta, Chicago, 1953). But it is Robert A. Heinlein who deserves wide credit for reversing the attitude of science-fiction towards businessmen as a breed, in a memorable short novel, The Man Who Sold the Moon (Shasta, Chicago, 195o). The implication of this story is, to quote from Mark Reinsberg's Introduction, "Society must keep open a place for the entrepreneur, the brilliant risk-taker. For, in the examples of the author, it is only by combining the motive of intellectual curiosity (the scientist) with the motive of personal economic gain (the businessman) that we make our progress." Mr. Heinlein has been able to implant this idea even in his juvenile science-fiction books, e.g., The Rolling Stones (Scribners, New York, 1952). So it is that in the present collection, William Tenn's Firewater admirably partakes of the new business-recognition trend in imaginative writing as well as American political life. If we are not able to discuss the other four stories in this volume at similar length, it is not because they are less worthy or less entertaining. Certainly, Category Phoenix, by Boyd Ellanby, partakes of one of the most basic of all science-fiction themes, that of immortality. To live forever, or at least to extend longevity by hundreds of years, gaining in wisdom and experience while remaining physically young, is probably the dearest of all human wishes. But to many science-fiction writers has fallen the task of examining this wish more closely, and finding in it the seeds of great potential unhappiness, both for those who achieve the wish and for those who are "left behind." Mr. Ellanby couples the immortality theme with the concept of a scientific despotism, brutally rigid in its social organization, where the reward for unusual service to the State is an occasional Free Choice, and longer life may only mean longer enslavement. Surface Tension, by James Blish, offers the inspiring picture of Man overcoming all handicaps of environment to reach the stars. In this case, the struggle for survival demands adaptation to a world of water and shrinkage to microscopic size. But it is accomplished in a very unique manner and the story portrays a triumph for the human spirit. Perhaps no science-fiction anthology would be complete without a time-travel story. This is essentially what we have in The Gadget Had a Ghost by Murray Leinster. Mr. Leinster (pen name of Will F. Jenkins) is actually the inventor of one of the basic timetravel concepts, since used by scores of authors. This is the "parallel-time-track" idea, of a multi-dimensional universe in which everything that possibly could happen, somewhere did, and everything that could have happened, had . . . first used in Sidewise in Time, in 1934, and later reprinted in book form (Shasta, Chicago, 195o). The present story shows us time-travel with a difference, however. It might almost be called "hands across time." The setting is in modern Istanbul, with excellent local color and a style tinged with sly

humor. Mr. Leinster is probably the senior and most durably productive of all of sciencefiction's old-time Masters, having appeared with his first science-fiction story as early as 1919; which is to say, his career antedates the field of modem science-fiction itself. Walter M. Miller, Jr. is the only author in this year's collection of short novels who was also represented in the 1952 collection, and that gives us a feeling of continuity for our part, and consistency of performance for his. In Conditionally Human he has delved deep into what constitutes a definition of humanity. The attempt to limit Earth's overpopulation is rendered personal and poignant through the applications of genetic science, eugenic control, and the emotional dynamite of pseudo-parturition. One of the incidental virtues of anthologies—from the author's point of view, to say nothing of the editor's—is that re-publication gives an author an opportunity to make minor or even major revisions in his original story text. Most of the pieces in this collection have undergone slight "perfections" at the voluntary hands of their creators, and one has been made even more effective by the addition of a substantial new episode. We take the view that these improved versions are a kind of bonus to the reader. This year we would like to thank the following people for their aid and encouragement in the preparation of this volume: O. James Butler, E. J. Carnell, Oscar J. Friend, Melvin Korshak, Dr. Joseph McNamara, Ned Melman, Frederik Pohl, Mark Reinsberg, Frank M. Robinson, Jule M. Simmons, Sidney Solomon, and Edward Wood. And most particular thanks to the ladies (God bless 'em): Judy Dikty, Irene Korshak, and Diane Reinsberg. EVERETT F. BLEILER T. E. Dikty Chicago, Illinois 20 February, 1953

Firewater By William Tenn The hairiest, dirtiest and oldest of the three visitors from Arizona scratched his back against the plastic of the webfoam chair. "Insinuations are lavender nearly," he remarked by way of opening the conversation. His two companions—the thin young man with dripping eyes, and the woman whose good looks were marred chiefly by incredibly decayed teeth—giggled and relaxed. The thin young man said "Gabble, gabble, honk!" under his breath, and the other two nodded emphatically. Greta Seidenheim looked up from the tiny stenographic machine resting on a pair of the most exciting knees her employer had been able to find in Greater New York. She swiveled her blonde beauty at him. "That too, Mr. Hebster?" The president of Hebster Securities, Inc., waited until the memory of her voice ceased to tickle his ears; he had much clear thinking to do. Then he nodded and said resonantly, "That too, Miss Seidenheim. Close phonetic approximations of the gabble-honk and remember to indicate when it sounds like a question and when like an exclamation." He rubbed his recently manicured fingernails across the desk drawer containing his fully loaded Parabellum. Check. The communication buttons with which he could summon any quantity of Hebster Securities personnel up to the nine hundred working at present in the Hebster Building lay some eight inches from the other hand. Check. And there were the doors here, the doors there, behind which his uniformed bodyguard stood poised to burst in at a signal which would blaze before them the moment his right foot came off the tiny spring set in the floor. And check. Algernon Hebster could talk business—even with Primeys. Courteously, he nodded at each one of his visitors from Arizona; he smiled ruefully at what the dirty shapeless masses they wore on their feet were doing to the almost calf-deep rug that had been woven specially for his private office. He had greeted them when Miss Seidenheim had escorted them in. They had laughed in his face. "Suppose we rattle off some introductions. You know me. I'm Hebster, Algernon Hebster—you asked for me specifically at the desk in the lobby. If it's important to the conversation, my secretary's name is Greta Seidenheim. And you, sir?" He had addressed the old fellow, but the thin young man leaned forward in his seat and held out a taut, almost transparent hand. "Names?" he inquired. "Names are round if not revealed. Consider names. How many names? Consider names, reconsider names!" The woman leaned forward too, and the smell from her diseased mouth reached Hebster even across the enormous space of his office. "Rabble and reaching and all the upward clash," she intoned, spreading her hands as if in agreement with an obvious point. "Emptiness derogating itself into infinity—" "Into duration," the older man corrected. "Into infinity," the woman insisted. "Gabble, gabble, honk?" the young man queried bitterly. "Listen!" Hebster roared. "When I asked for—" The communicator buzzed and he drew a deep breath and pressed a button. His receptionist's voice boiled out rapidly, fearfully:

"I remember your orders, Mr. Hebster, but those two men from the UM Special Investigating Commission are here again and they look as if they mean business. I mean they look as if they'll make trouble." "Yost and Funatti?" "Yes, sir. From what they said to each other, I think they know you have three Primeys in there. They asked me what are you trying to do—deliberately inflame the Firsters? They said they're going to invoke full supranational powers and force an entry if you don't—" "Stall them." "But, Mr. Hebster, the UM Special Investigating—" "Stall them, I said. Are you a receptionist or a swinging door? Use your imagination, Ruth. You have a nine-hundred-man organization and a ten-million-dollar corporation at your disposal. You can stage any kind of farce in that outer office you want—up to and including the deal where some actor made up to look like me walks in and drops dead at their feet. Stall them and I'll nod a bonus at you. Stall them." He clicked off, looked up. His visitors, at least, were having a fine time. They had turned to face each other in a reeking triangle of gibberish. Their voices rose and fell argumentatively, pleadingly, decisively; but all Algernon Hebster's ears could register of what they said were very many sounds similar to gabble and an occasional, indisputable honk! His lips curled contempt inward. Humanity prime! These messes? Then he lit a cigarette and shrugged. Oh, well. Humanity prime. And business is business. Just remember they're not supermen, he told himself. They may be dangerous, but they're not supermen. Not by a long shot. Remember that epidemic of influenza that almost wiped them out, and how you diddled those two other Primeys last month. They're not supermen, but they're not humanity either. They're just different. He glanced at his secretary and approved. Greta Seidenheim clacked away on her machine as if she were recording the curtest, the tritest of business letters. He wondered what system she was using to catch the intonations. Trust Greta, though, she'd do it. "Gabble, honk! Gabble, gabble, gabble, honk, honk. Gabble, honk, gabble, gabble, honk? Honk." What had precipitated all this conversation? He'd only asked for their names. Didn't they use names in Arizona? Surely, they knew that it was customary here. They claimed to know at least as much as he about such matters. Maybe it was something else that had brought them to New York this time—maybe something about the Aliens? He felt the short hairs rise on the back of his neck and he smoothed them down self-consciously. Trouble was it was so easy to learn their language. It was such a very simple matter to be able to understand them in these talkative moments. Almost as easy as falling off a log—or jumping off a cliff. Well, his time was limited. He didn't know how long Ruth could hold the UM investigators in his outer office. Somehow he had to get a grip on the meeting again without offending them in any of the innumerable, highly dangerous ways in which Primeys could be offended. He rapped the desk top—gently. The gabble-honk stopped short at the hyphen. The woman rose slowly. "On this question of names," Hebster began doggedly, keeping his eyes on the woman, "since you people claim—"

The woman writhed agonizingly for a moment and sat down on the floor. She smiled at Hebster. With her rotted teeth, the smile had all the brilliance of a dead star. Hebster cleared his throat and prepared to try again. "If you want names," the older man said suddenly, "you can call me Larry." The president of Hebster Securities shook himself and managed to say "Thanks" in a somewhat weak but not too surprised voice. He looked at the thin young man. "You can call me Theseus." The young man looked sad as he said it. "Theseus? Fine!" One thing about Primeys, when you started clicking with them, you really moved along. But Theseus! Wasn't that just like a Primey? Now the woman, and they could begin. They were all looking at the woman, even Greta with a curiosity which had sneaked up past her beauty-parlor glaze. "Name," the woman whispered to herself. "Name a name." Oh, no, Hebster groaned. Let's not stall here. Larry evidently had decided that enough time had been wasted. He made a suggestion to the woman. "Why not call yourself Moe?" The young man—Theseus, it was now—also seemed to get interested in the problem. "Rover's a good name," he announced helpfully. "How about Gloria?" Hebster asked desperately. The woman considered. "Moe, Rover, Gloria," she mused. "Larry, Theseus, Seidenheim, Hebster, me." She seemed to be running a total. Anything might come out, Hebster knew. But at least they were not acting snobbish any more: they were talking down on his level now. Not only no gabble-honk, but none of this sneering double-talk which was almost worse. At least they were making sense—of a sort. "For the purposes of this discussion," the woman said at last, "my name will be...will be—My name is S.S. Lusitania." "Fine!" Hebster roared, letting the word he'd kept bubbling on his lips burst out. "That's a fine name. Larry, Theseus and...er, S.S. Lusitania. Fine bunch of people. Sound. Let's get down to business. You came here on business, I take it?" "Right," Larry said. "We heard about you from two others who left home a month ago to come to New York. They talked about you when they got back to Arizona." "They did, eh? I hoped they would." Theseus slid off his chair and squatted next to the woman who was making plucking motions at the air. "They talked about you," he repeated. "They said you treated them very well, that you showed them as much respect as a thing like you could generate. They also said you cheated them." "Oh, well, Theseus." Hebster spread his manicured hands. "I'm a businessman." "You're a businessman," S.S. Lusitania agreed, getting to her feet stealthily and taking a great swipe with both hands at something invisible in front of her face. "And here, in this spot, at this moment, so are we. You can have what we've brought, but you'll pay for it. And don't think you can cheat us." Her hands, cupped over each other, came down to her waist. She pulled them apart suddenly and a tiny eagle fluttered out. It flapped toward the fluorescent panels glowing in the ceiling. Its flight was hampered by the heavy, striped shield upon its breast, by the bunch of arrows it held in one claw, by the olive branch it grasped with the other. It turned its miniature bald head and gasped at Algernon Hebster, then began to drift rapidly down to the rug. Just before it hit the floor, it disappeared.

Hebster shut his eyes, remembering the strip of bunting that had fallen from the eagle's beak when it had turned to gasp. There had been words printed on the bunting, words too small to see at the distance, but he was sure the words would have read "E Pluribus Unum." He was as certain of that as he was of the necessity of acting unconcerned over the whole incident, as unconcerned as the Primeys. Professor Kleimbocher said Primeys were mental drunkards. But why did they give everyone else the D.T.s? He opened his eyes. "Well," he said, "what have you to sell?" Silence for a moment. Theseus seemed to forget the point he was trying to make; S.S. Lusitania stared at Larry. Larry scratched his right side through heavy, stinking cloth. "Oh, an infallible method for defeating anyone who attempts to apply the reductio ad absurdum to a reasonable proposition you advance." He yawned smugly and began scratching his left side. Hebster grinned because he was feeling so good. "No. Can't use it." "Can't use it?" The old man was trying hard to look amazed. He shook his head. He stole a sideways glance at S.S. Lusitania. She smiled again and wriggled to the floor. "Larry still isn't talking a language you can understand, Mr. Hebster," she cooed, very much like a fertilizer factory being friendly. "We came here with something we know you need badly. Very badly." "Yes?" They're like those two Primeys last month, Hebster exulted: they don't know what's good and what isn't. Wonder if their masters would know. Well, and if they did— who does business with Aliens? "We...have," she spaced the words carefully, trying pathetically for a dramatic effect, "a new shade of red, but not merely that. Oh, no! A new shade of red, and a full set of color values derived from it! A complete set of color values derived from this one shade of red, Mr. Hebster! Think what a non-objectivist painter can do with such a—" "Don't sell me, lady. Theseus, do you want to have a go now?" Theseus had been frowning at the green foundation of the desk. He leaned back, looking satisfied. Hebster realized abruptly that the tension under his right foot had disappeared. Somehow, Theseus had become cognizant of the signal-spring set in the floor; and, somehow, he had removed it. He had disintegrated it without setting off the alarm to which it was wired. Giggles from three Primey throats and a rapid exchange of "gabble-honk." Then they all knew what Theseus had done and how Hebster had tried to protect himself. They weren't angry, though—and they didn't sound triumphant. Try to understand Primey behavior! No need to get unduly alarmed—the price of dealing with these characters was a nervous stomach. The rewards, on the other hand— Abruptly, they were businesslike again. Theseus snapped out his suggestion with all the finality of a bazaar merchant making his last, absolutely the last offer. "A set of population indices which can be correlated with—" "No, Theseus," Hebster told him gently. Then, while Hebster sat back and enjoyed, temporarily forgetting the missing coil under his foot, they poured out more, desperately, feverishly, weaving in and out of each other's sentences. "A portable neutron stabilizer for high altit—"

"More than fifty ways of saying 'however' without—" "...So that every housewife can do an entrechat while cook—" "...Synthetic fabric with the drape of silk and manufactura—" "...Decorative pattern for bald heads using the follicles as—" "...Complete and utter refutation of all pyramidologists from—" "All right!" Hebster roared, "All right! That's enough!" Greta Seidenheim almost forgot herself and sighed with relief. Her stenographic machine had been sounding like a centrifuge. "Now," said the executive. "What do you want in exchange?" "One of those we said is the one you want, eh?" Larry muttered. "Which one—the pyramidology refutation? That's it, I betcha." S.S. Lusitania waved her hands contemptuously. "Bishop's miters, you fool! The new red color values excited him. The new—" Ruth's voice came over the communicator. "Mr. Hebster, Yost and Funatti are back. I stalled them, but I just received word from the lobby receptionist that they're back and on their way upstairs. You have two minutes, maybe three. And they're so mad they almost look like Firsters themselves!" "Thanks. When they climb out of the elevator, do what you can without getting too illegal." He turned to his guests. "Listen—" They had gone off again. "Gabble, gabble, honk, honk, honk? Gabble, honk, gabble, gabble! Gabble, honk, gabble, honk, gabble, honk, honk." Could they honestly make sense out of these throat-clearings and half-sneezes? Was it really a language as superior to all previous languages of man as...as the Aliens were supposed to be to man himself? Well, at least they could communicate with the Aliens by means of it. And the Aliens, the Aliens— He recollected abruptly the two angry representatives of the world state who were hurtling towards his office. "Listen, friends. You came here to sell. You've shown me your stock, and I've seen something I'd like to buy. What exactly is immaterial. The only question now is what you want for it. And let's make it fast. I have some other business to transact." The woman with the dental nightmare stamped her foot. A cloud no larger than a man's hand formed near the ceiling, burst and deposited a pail full of water on Hebster's fine custom-made rug. He ran a manicured forefinger around the inside of his collar so that his bulging neck veins would not burst. Not right now, anyway. He looked at Greta and regained confidence from the serenity with which she waited for more conversation to transcribe. There was a model of business precision for you. The Primeys might pull what one of them had in London two years ago, before they were barred from all metropolitan areas— increased a housefly's size to that of an elephant—and Greta Seidenheim would go on separating fragments of conversation into the appropriate shorthand symbols. With all their power, why didn't they take what they wanted? Why trudge wearisome miles to cities and attempt to smuggle themselves into illegal audiences with operators like Hebster, when most of them were caught easily and sent back to the reservation and those that weren't were cheated unmercifully by the "straight" humans they encountered? Why didn't they just blast their way in, take their weird and pathetic prizes and toddle

back to their masters? For that matter, why didn't their masters—But Primey psych was Primey psych—not for this world, nor of it. "We'll tell you what we want in exchange," Larry began in the middle of a honk. He held up a hand on which the length of the fingernails was indicated graphically by the grime beneath them and began to tot up the items, bending a digit for each item. "First, a hundred paper-bound copies of Melville's Moby Dick. Then, twenty-five crystal radio sets, with earphones; two earphones for each set. Then, two Empire State Buildings or three Radio Cities, whichever is more convenient. We want those with foundations intact. A reasonably good copy of the Hermes statue by Praxiteles. And an electric toaster, circa 1941. That's about all, isn't it, Theseus?" Theseus bent over until his nose rested against his knees. Hebster groaned. The list wasn't as bad as he'd expected—remarkable the way their masters always yearned for the electric gadgets and artistic achievements of Earth—but he had so little time to bargain with them. Two Empire State Buildings! "Mr. Hebster," his receptionist chattered over the communicator. "Those SIC men—I managed to get a crowd out in the corridor to push toward their elevator when it came to this floor, and I've locked the...I mean I'm trying to...but I don't think—Can you—" "Good girl! You're doing fine!" "Is that all we want, Theseus?" Larry asked again. "Gabble?" Hebster heard a crash in the outer office and footsteps running across the floor. "See here, Mr. Hebster," Theseus said at last, "if you don't want to buy Larry's reductio ad absurdum exploder, and you don't like my method of decorating bald heads for all its innate artistry, how about a system of musical notation—" Somebody tried Hebster's door, found it locked. There was a knock on the door, repeated almost immediately with more urgency. "He's already found something he wants," S.S. Lusitania snapped. "Yes, Larry, that was the complete list." Hebster plucked a handful of hair from his already receding forehead. "Good! Now, look, I can give you everything but the two Empire State Buildings and the three Radio Cities." "Or the three Radio Cities," Larry corrected. "Don't try to cheat us! Two Empire State Buildings or three Radio Cities. Whichever is more convenient. Why...isn't it worth that to you?" "Open this door!" a bull-mad voice yelled. "Open this door in the name of United Mankind!" "Miss Seidenheim, open the door," Hebster said loudly and winked at his secretary, who rose, stretched and began a thoughtful, slow-motion study in the direction of the locked panel. There was a crash as of a pair of shoulders being thrown against it. Hebster knew that his office door could withstand a medium-sized tank. But there was a limit even to delay when it came to fooling around with the UM Special Investigating Commission. Those boys knew their Primeys and their Primey-dealers; they were empowered to shoot first and ask questions afterwards—as the questions occurred to them. "It's not a matter of whether it's worth my while," Hebster told them rapidly as he shepherded them to the exit behind his desk. "For reasons I'm sure you aren't interested in, I just can't give away two Empire State Buildings and/or three Radio Cities with foundations intact—not at the moment. I'll give you the rest of it, and—" "Open this door or we start blasting it down!"

"Please, gentlemen, please," Greta Seidenheim told them sweetly. "You'll kill a poor working girl who's trying awfully hard to let you in. The lock's stuck." She fiddled with the door knob, watching Hebster with a trace of anxiety in her fine eyes. "And to replace those items," Hebster was going on, "I will—" "What I mean," Theseus broke in, "is this. You know the greatest single difficulty composers face in the twelve-tone technique?" "I can offer you," the executive continued doggedly, sweat bursting out of his skin like spring freshets, "complete architectural blueprints of the Empire State Building and Radio City, plus five...no, I'll make it ten...scale models of each. And you get the rest of the stuff you asked for. That's it. Take it or leave it. Fast!" They glanced at each other, as Hebster threw the exit door open and gestured to the five liveried bodyguards waiting near his private elevator. "Done," they said in unison. "Good!" Hebster almost squeaked. He pushed them through the doorway and said to the tallest of the five men: "Nineteenth floor!" He slammed the exit shut just as Miss Seidenheim opened the outer office door. Yost and Funatti, in the bottle-green uniform of the UM, charged through. Without pausing, they ran to where Hebster stood and plucked the exit open. They could all hear the elevator descending. Funatti, a little, olive-skinned man, sniffed. "Primeys," he muttered. "He had Primeys here, all right. Smell that unwash, Yost?" "Yeah," said the bigger man. "Come on. The emergency stairway. We can track that elevator!" They holstered their service weapons and clattered down the metal-tipped stairs. Below, the elevator stopped. Hebster's secretary was at the communicator. "Maintenance!" She waited. "Maintenance, automatic locks on the nineteenth floor exit until the party Mr. Hebster just sent down gets to a lab somewhere else. And keep apologizing to those cops until then. Remember, they're SIC." "Thanks, Greta," Hebster said, switching to the personal now that they were alone. He plumped into his desk chair and blew out gustily: "There must be easier ways of making a million." She raised two perfect blond eyebrows. "Or of being an absolute monarch right inside the parliament of man?" "If they wait long enough," he told her lazily, "I'll be the UM, modern global government and all. Another year or two might do it." "Aren't you forgetting Vandermeer Dempsey? His huskies also want to replace the UM. Not to mention their colorful plans for you. And there are an awful, awful lot of them." "They don't worry me, Greta. Humanity First will dissolve overnight once that decrepit old demagogue gives up the ghost." He stabbed at the communicator button. "Maintenance! Maintenance, that party I sent down arrived at a safe lab yet?" "No, Mr. Hebster. But everything's going all right. We sent them up to the twentyfourth floor and got the SIC men rerouted downstairs to the personnel levels. Uh, Mr. Hebster—about the SIC. We take your orders and all that, but none of us wants to get in trouble with the Special Investigating Commission. According to the latest laws, it's practically a capital offense to obstruct them."

"Don't worry," Hebster told him. "I've never let one of my employees down yet. The boss fixes everything is the motto here. Call me when you've got those Primeys safely hidden and ready for questioning." He turned back to Greta. "Get that stuff typed before you leave and into Professor Kleimbocher's hands. He thinks he may have a new angle on their gabble-honk." She nodded. "I wish you could use recording apparatus instead of making me sit over an old-fashioned click-box." "So do I. But Primeys enjoy reaching out and putting a hex on electrical apparatus— when they aren't collecting it for the Aliens. I had a raft of tape recorders busted in the middle of Primey interviews before I decided that human stenos were the only answer. And a Primey may get around to bollixing them some day." "Cheerful thought. I must remember to dream about the possibility some cold night. Well, I should complain," she muttered as she went into her own little office. "Primey hexes built this business and pay my salary as well as supply me with the sparkling little knicknacks I love so well." That was not quite true, Hebster remembered as he sat waiting for the communicator to buzz the news of his recent guests' arrival in a safe lab. Something like ninety-five percent of Hebster Securities had been built out of Primey gadgetry extracted from them in various fancy deals, but the base of it all had been the small investment bank he had inherited from his father, back in the days of the Half-War—the days when the Aliens had first appeared on Earth. The fearfully intelligent dots swirling in their variously shaped multicolored bottles were completely outside the pale of human understanding. There had been no way at all to communicate with them for a time. A humorist had remarked back in those early days that the Aliens came not to bury man, not to conquer or enslave him. They had a truly dreadful mission—to ignore him! No one knew, even today, what part of the galaxy the Aliens came from. Or why. No one knew what the total of their small visiting population came to. Or how they operated their wide-open and completely silent spaceships. The few things that had been discovered about them on the occasions when they deigned to swoop down and examine some human enterprise, with the aloof amusement of the highly civilized tourist, had served to confirm a technological superiority over Man that strained and tore the capacity of his richest imagination. A sociological treatise Hebster had read recently suggested that they operated from concepts as far in advance of modern science as a meteorologist sowing a drought-struck area with dry ice was beyond the primitive agriculturist blowing a ram's horn at the heavens in a frantic attempt to wake the slumbering gods of rain. Prolonged, infinitely dangerous observation had revealed, for example, that the dots-inbottles seemed to have developed past the need for prepared tools of any sort. They worked directly on the material itself, shaping it to need, evidently creating and destroying matter at will. Some humans had communicated with them— They didn't stay human. Men with superb brains had looked into the whirring, flickering settlements established by the outsiders. A few had returned with tales of wonders they had realized dimly and not quite seen. Their descriptions always sounded as if their eyes had been turned off at the most crucial moments or a mental fuse had blown just this side of understanding.

Others—such celebrities as a President of Earth, a three-time winner of the Nobel Prize, famous poets—had evidently broken through the fence somehow. These, however, were the ones who didn't return. They stayed in the Alien settlements of the Gobi, the Sahara, the American Southwest. Barely able to fend for themselves, despite newly acquired and almost unbelievable powers, they shambled worshipfully around the outsiders, speaking, with weird writhings of larynx and nasal passage, what was evidently a human approximation of their masters' language—a kind of pidgin Alien. Talking with a Primey, someone had said, was like a blind man trying to read a page of Braille originally written for an octopus. And that these bearded, bug-ridden, stinking derelicts, these chattering wrecks drunk and sodden on the logic of an entirely different life-form, were the absolute best of the human race didn't help people's egos any. Humans and Primeys despised each other almost from the first: humans for Primey subservience and helplessness in human terms, Primeys for human ignorance and ineptness in Alien terms. And, except when operating under Alien orders and through barely legal operators like Hebster, Primeys didn't communicate with humans any more than their masters did. When institutionalized, they either gabble-honked themselves into an early grave or, losing patience suddenly, they might dissolve a path to freedom right through the walls of the asylum and any attendants who chanced to be in the way. Therefore the enthusiasm of sheriff and deputy, nurse and orderly, had waned considerably and the forcible incarceration of Primeys had almost ceased. Since the two groups were so far apart psychologically as to make mating between them impossible, the ragged miracle-workers had been honored with the status of a separate classification: Humanity Prime. Not better than humanity, not necessarily worse—but different, and dangerous. What made them that way? Hebster rolled his chair back and examined the hole in the floor from which the alarm spring had spiraled. Theseus had disintegrated it—how? With a thought? Telekinesis, say, applied to all the molecules of the metal simultaneously, making them move rapidly and at random. Or possibly he had merely moved the spring somewhere else. Where? In space? In hyperspace? In time? Hebster shook his head and pulled himself back to the efficiently smooth and sanely useful desk surface. "Mr. Hebster?" the communicator inquired abruptly, and he jumped a bit, "this is Margritt of General Lab 23B. Your Primeys just arrived. Regular check?" Regular check meant drawing them out on every conceivable technical subject by the nine specialists in the general laboratory. This involved firing questions at them with the rapidity of a police interrogation, getting them off balance and keeping them there in the hope that a useful and unexpected bit of scientific knowledge would drop. "Yes," Hebster told him. "Regular check. But first let a textile man have a whack at them. In fact, let him take charge of the check." A pause. "The only textile man in this section is Charlie Verus." "Well?" Hebster asked in mild irritation. "Why put it like that? He's competent, I hope. What does Personnel say about him?" "Personnel says he's competent."

"Then there you are. Look, Margritt, I have the SIC running around my building with blood in its enormous eye. I don't have time to muse over your departmental feuds. Put Verus on." "Yes, Mr. Hebster. Hey, Bert! Get Charlie Verus. Him." Hebster shook his head and chuckled. These technicians! Verus was probably brilliant and nasty. The box crackled again: "Mr. Hebster? Mr. Verus." The voice expressed boredom to the point of obvious affectation. But the man was probably good despite his neuroses. Hebster Securities, Inc., had a first-rate personnel department. "Verus? Those Primeys, I want you to take charge of the check. One of them knows how to make a synthetic fabric with the drape of silk. Get that first and then go after anything else they have." "Primeys, Mr. Hebster?" "I said Primeys, Mr. Verus. You are a textile technician, please to remember, and not the straight or ping-pong half of a comedy routine. Get humping. I want a report on that synthetic fabric by tomorrow. Work all night if you have to." "Before we do, Mr. Hebster, you might be interested in a small piece of information. There is already in existence a synthetic which falls better than silk—" "I know," his employer told him shortly. "Cellulose acetate. Unfortunately, it has a few disadvantages: low melting point, tends to crack; separate and somewhat inferior dyestuffs have to be used for it; poor chemical resistance. Am I right?" There was no immediate answer, but Hebster could feel the dazed nod. He went on. "Now, we also have protein fibers. They dye well and fall well, have the thermoconductivity control necessary for wearing apparel, but don't have the tensile strength of synthetic fabrics. An artificial protein fiber might be the answer: it would drape as well as silk, might be we could use the acid dyestuffs we use on silk which result in shades that dazzle female customers and cause them to fling wide their pocketbooks. There are a lot of ifs in that, I know, but one of those Primeys said something about a synthetic with the drape of silk, and I don't think he'd be sane enough to be referring to cellulose acetate. Nor nylon, orlon, vinyl chloride, or anything else we already have and use." "You've looked into textile problems, Mr. Hebster." "I have. I've looked into everything to which there are big gobs of money attached. And now suppose you go look into those Primeys. Several million women are waiting breathlessly for the secrets concealed in their beards. Do you think, Verus, that with the personal and scientific background I've just given you, it's possible you might now get around to doing the job you are paid to do?" "Um-m-m. Yes." Hebster walked to the office closet and got his hat and coat. He liked working under pressure; he liked to see people jump up straight whenever he barked. And now, he liked the prospect of relaxing. He grimaced at the webfoam chair that Larry had used. No point in having it resquirted. Have a new one made. "I'll be at the University," he told Ruth on his way out. "You can reach me through Professor Kleimbocher. But don't, unless it's very important. He gets unpleasantly annoyed when he's interrupted."

She nodded. Then, very hesitantly: "Those two men—Yost and Funatti—from the Special Investigating Commission? They said no one would be allowed to leave the building." "Did they now?" he chuckled. "I think they were angry. They've been that way before. But unless and until they can hang something on me—And Ruth, tell my bodyguard to go home, except for the man with the Primeys. He's to check with me, wherever I am, every two hours." He ambled out, being careful to smile benevolently at every third executive and fifth typist in the large office. A private elevator and entrance were all very well for an occasional crisis, but Hebster liked to taste his successes in as much public as possible. It would be good to see Kleimbocher again. He had a good deal of faith in the linguistic approach; grants from his corporation had tripled the size of the University's philology department. After all, the basic problem between man and Primey as well as man and Alien was one of communication. Any attempt to learn their science, to adjust their mental processes and logic into safer human channels, would have to be preceded by understanding. It was up to Kleimbocher to find that understanding, not him. "I'm Hebster," he thought. "I employ the people who solve problems. And then I make money off them." Somebody got in front of him. Somebody else took his arm. "I'm Hebster," he repeated automatically, but out loud. "Algernon Hebster." "Exactly the Hebster we want," Funatti said, holding tightly on to his arm. "You don't mind coming along with us?" "Is this an arrest?" Hebster asked Yost, who now moved aside to let him pass. Yost was touching his holstered weapon with dancing fingertips. The SIC man shrugged. "Why ask such questions?" he countered. "Just come along and be sociable, kind of. People want to talk to you." He allowed himself to be dragged through the lobby ornate with murals by radical painters and nodded appreciation at the doorman who, staring right through his captors, said enthusiastically, "Good afternoon, Mr. Hebster." He made himself fairly comfortable on the back seat of the dark-green SIC car, a late-model Hebster Mono-wheel. "Surprised to see you minus your bodyguard," Yost, who was driving, remarked over his shoulder. "Oh, I gave them the day off." "As soon as you were through with the Primeys? No," Funatti admitted, "we never did find out where you cached them. That's one big building you own, mister. And the UM Special Investigating Commission is notoriously understaffed." "Not forgetting it's also notoriously underpaid," Yost broke in. "I couldn't forget that if I tried," Funatti assured him. "You know, Mr. Hebster, I wouldn't have sent my bodyguard off if I'd been in your shoes. Right now there's something about five times as dangerous as Primeys after you. I mean Humanity Firsters." "Vandermeer Dempsey's crackpots? Thanks, but I think I'll survive." "That's all right. Just don't give any long odds on the proposition. Those people have been expanding fast and furious. The Evening Humanitarian alone has a tremendous circulation. And when you figure their weekly newspapers, their penny booklets and throwaway handbills, it adds up to an impressive amount of propaganda. Day after day they bang away editorially at the people who're making money off the Aliens and Primeys. Of course, they're really hitting at the UM, like always, but if an ordinary Firster

met you on the street, he'd be as likely to cut your heart out as not. Not interested? Sorry. Well, maybe you'll like this. The Evening Humanitarian has a cute name for you." Yost guffawed. "Tell him, Funatti." The corporation president looked at the little man inquiringly. "They call you," Funatti said with great savoring deliberation, "they call you an interplanetary pimp!" Emerging at last from the crosstown underpass, they sped up the very latest addition to the strangling city's facilities—the East Side Air-Floating Super-Duper Highway, known familiarly as Dive-Bomber Drive. At the Forty-Second Street offway, the busiest road exit in Manhattan, Yost failed to make a traffic signal. He cursed absent-mindedly, and Hebster found himself nodding the involuntary passenger's agreement. They watched the elevator section dwindling downward as the cars that were to mount the highway spiraled up from the right. Between the two, there rose and fell the steady platforms of harbor traffic while, stacked like so many decks of cards, the pedestrian stages awaited their turn below. "Look! Up there, straight ahead! See it?" Hebster and Funatti followed Yost's long, waggling forefinger with their eyes. Two hundred feet north of the offway and almost a quarter of a mile straight up, a brown object hung in obvious fascination. Every once in a while a brilliant blue dot would enliven the heavy murk imprisoned in its bell-jar shape only to twirl around the side and be replaced by another. "Eyes? You think they're eyes?" Funatti asked, rubbing his small dark fists against each other futilely. "I know what the scientists say—that every dot is equivalent to one person and the whole bottle is like a family or a city, maybe. But how do they know? It's a theory, a guess. I say they're eyes." Yost hunched his great body half out of the open window and shaded his vision with his uniform cap against the sun. "Look at it," they heard him say, over his shoulder. A nasal twang, long-buried, came back into his voice as heaving emotion shook out its cultivated accents. "A-setting up there, a-staring and a-staring. So all-fired interested in how we get on and off a busy highway! Won't pay us no never mind when we try to talk to it, when we try to find out what it wants, where it comes from, who it is. Oh, no! It's too superior to talk to the likes of us! But it can watch us, hours on end, days without end, light and dark, winter and summer; it can watch us going about our business; and every time we dumb two-legged animals try to do something we find complicated, along comes a blasted 'dots-in-bottle' to watch and sneer and—" "Hey there, man," Funatti leaned forward and tugged at his partner's green jerkin. "Easy! We're SIC, on business." "All the same," Yost grunted wistfully, as he plopped back into his seat and pressed the power button, "I wish I had Daddy's little old M-1 Garand right now." They bowled forward, smoothed into the next long elevator section and started to descend. "It would be worth the risk of getting pinged." And this was a UM man, Hebster reflected with acute discomfort. Not only UM, at that, but a member of a special group carefully screened for their lack of anti-Primey prejudice, sworn to enforce the reservation laws without discrimination and dedicated to the proposition that Man could somehow achieve equality with Alien. Well, how much dirt-eating could people do? People without a business sense, that is. His father had hauled himself out of the pick-and-shovel brigade hand over hand and

raised his only son to maneuver always for greater control, to search always for that extra percentage of profit. But others seemed to have no such abiding interest, Algernon Hebster knew regretfully. They found it impossible to live with achievements so abruptly made inconsequential by the Aliens. To know with certainty that the most brilliant strokes of which they were capable, the most intricate designs and clever careful workmanship, could be duplicated— and surpassed—in an instant's creation by the outsiders and was of interest to them only as a collector's item. The feeling of inferiority is horrible enough when imagined; but when it isn't feeling but knowledge, when it is inescapable and thoroughly demonstrable, covering every aspect of constructive activity, it becomes unbearable and maddening. No wonder men went berserk under hours of unwinking Alien scrutiny—watching them as they marched in a colorfully uniformed lodge parade, or fished through a hole in the ice, as they painfully maneuvered a giant transcontinental jet to a noiseless landing or sat in sweating, serried rows chanting to a single, sweating man to "knock it out of the park and sew the whole thing up!" No wonder they seized rusty shotgun or gleaming rifle and sped shot after vindictive shot into a sky poisoned by the contemptuous curiosity of a brown, yellow or vermilion "bottle." Not that it made very much difference. It did give a certain release to nerves backed into horrible psychic corners. But the Aliens didn't notice, and that was most important. The Aliens went right on watching, as if all this shooting and uproar, all these imprecations and weapon-wavings, were all part of the self-same absorbing show they had paid to witness and were determined to see through if for nothing else than the occasional amusing fluff some member of the inexperienced cast might commit. The Aliens weren't injured, and the Aliens didn't feel attacked. Bullets, shells, buckshot, arrows, pebbles from a slingshot—all Man's miscellany of anger passed through them like the patient and eternal rain coming in the opposite direction. Yet the Aliens had solidity somewhere in their strange bodies. One could judge that by the way they intercepted light and heat. And also— Also by the occasional ping. Every once in a while, someone would evidently have hurt an Alien slightly. Or more probably just annoyed it by some unknown concomitant of rifle-firing or javelinthrowing. There would be the barest suspicion of a sound—as if a guitarist had lunged at a string with his fingertip and decided against it one motor impulse too late. And, after this delicate and hardly heard ping, quite unspectacularly, the rifleman would be weaponless. He would be standing there sighting stupidly up along his empty curled fingers, elbow cocked out and shoulder hunched in, like a large oafish child who had forgotten when to end the game. Neither his rifle nor a fragment of it would ever be found. And—gravely, curiously, intently—the Alien would go on watching. The ping seemed to be aimed chiefly at weapons. Thus, occasionally, a 155mm howitzer was pinged, and also, occasionally, unexpectedly, it might be a muscular arm, curving back with another stone, that would disappear to the accompaniment of a tiny elfin note. And yet sometimes—could it be that the Alien, losing interest, had become careless in its irritation?—the entire man, murderously violent and shrieking, would ping and be no more. It was not as if a counterweapon were being used, but a thoroughly higher order of reply, such as a slap to an insect bite. Hebster, shivering, recalled the time he had seen a

black tubular Alien swirl its amber dots over a new substreet excavation, seemingly entranced by the spectacle of men scrabbling at the earth beneath them. A red-headed, blue-shirted giant of construction labor had looked up from Manhattan's stubborn granite just long enough to shake the sweat from his eyelids. So doing, he had caught sight of the dot-pulsing observer and paused to snarl and lift his pneumatic drill, rattling it in noisy, if functionless, bravado at the sky. He had hardly been noticed by his mates, when the long, dark, speckled representative of a race beyond the stars turned end over end once and pinged. The heavy drill remained upright for a moment, then dropped as if it had abruptly realized its master was gone. Gone? Almost, he had never been. So thorough had his disappearance been, so rapid, with so little flicker had he been snuffed out—harming and taking with him nothing else—that it had amounted to an act of gigantic and positive noncreation. No, Hebster decided, making threatening gestures at the Aliens was suicidal. Worse, like everything else that had been tried to date, it was useless. On the other hand, wasn't the Humanity First approach a complete neurosis? What could you do? He reached into his soul for an article of fundamental faith, found it. "I can make money," he quoted to himself. "That's what I'm good for. That's what I can always do." As they spun to a stop before the dumpy, brown-brick armory that the SIC had appropriated for its own use, he had a shock. Across the street was a small cigar store, the only one on the block. Brand names which had decorated the plate-glass window in all the colors of the copyright had been supplanted recently by great gilt slogans. Familiar slogans they were by now—but this close to a UM office, the Special Investigating Commission itself? At the top of the window, the proprietor announced his affiliation in two huge words that almost screamed their hatred across the street: HUMANITY FIRST! Underneath these, in the exact center of the window, was the large golden initial of the organization, the wedded letters HF arising out of the huge, symbolic safety razor. And under that, in straggling script, the theme repeated, reworded and sloganized: "Humanity first, last and all the time!" The upper part of the door began to get nasty: "Deport the Aliens! Send them back to wherever they came from!" And the bottom of the door made the store-front's only concession to business: "Shop here! Shop Humanitarian!" "Humanitarian!" Funatti nodded bitterly beside Hebster. "Ever see what's left of a Primey if a bunch of Firsters catch him without SIC protection? Just about enough to pick up with a blotter. I don't imagine you're too happy about boycott-shops like that?" Hebster managed a chuckle as they walked past the saluting, green-uniformed guards. "There aren't very many Primey-inspired gadgets having to do with tobacco. And if there were, one Shop Humanitarian outfit isn't going to break me." But it is, he told himself disconsolately. It is going to break me—if it means what it seems to. Organization membership is one thing and so is planetary patriotism, but business is something else.

Hebster's lips moved slowly, in half-remembered catechism: Whatever the proprietor believes in or does not believe in, he has to make a certain amount of money out of that place if he's going to keep the door free of bailiff stickers. He can't do it if he offends the greater part of his possible clientele. Therefore, since he's still in business and, from all outward signs, doing quite well, it's obvious that he doesn't have to depend on across-the-street UM personnel. Therefore, there must be a fairly substantial trade to offset this among entirely transient customers who not only don't object to his Firstism but are willing to forgo the interesting new gimmicks and lower prices in standard items that Primey technology is giving us. Therefore, it is entirely possible—from this one extremely random but highly significant sample—that the newspapers I read have been lying and the socioeconomists I employ are incompetent. It is entirely possible that the buying public, the only aspect of the public in which I have the slightest interest, is beginning a shift in general viewpoint which will profoundly affect its purchasing orientation. It is possible that the entire UM economy is now at the top of a long slide into Humanity First domination, the secure zone of fanatic blindness demarcated by men like Vandermeer Dempsey. The highly usurious, commercially speculative economy of Imperial Rome made a similar transition in the much slower historical pace of two millennia ago and became, in three brief centuries, a static unbusinesslike world in which banking was a sin and wealth which had not been inherited was gross and dishonorable. Meanwhile, people may already have begun to judge manufactured items on the basis of morality instead of usability, Hebster realized, as dim mental notes took their stolid place beside forming conclusions. He remembered a folderful of brilliant explanation Market Research had sent up last week dealing with unexpected consumer resistance to the new Ewakleen dishware. He had dismissed the pages of carefully developed thesis— to the effect that women were unconsciously associating the product's name with a certain Katherine Ewakios who had recently made the front page of every tabloid in the world by dint of some fast work with a breadknife on the throats of her five children and two lovers—with a yawning smile after examining its first brightly colored chart. "Probably nothing more than normal housewifely suspicion of a radically new idea," he had muttered, "after washing dishes for years, to be told it's no longer necessary! She can't believe her Ewakleen dish is still the same after stripping the outermost film of molecules after a meal. Have to hit that educational angle a bit harder—maybe tie it in with the expendable molecules lost by the skin during a shower." He'd penciled a few notes on the margin and flipped the whole problem onto the restless lap of Advertising and Promotion. But then there had been the seasonal slump in furniture—about a month ahead of schedule. The surprising lack of interest in the Hebster Chubbichair, an item which should have revolutionized men's sitting habits. Abruptly, he could remember almost a dozen unaccountable disturbances in the market recently, and all in consumer goods. That fits, he decided; any change in buying habits wouldn't be reflected in heavy industry for at least a year. The machine tools plants would feel it before the steel mills; the mills before the smelting and refining combines; and the banks and big investment houses would be the last of the dominoes to topple. With its capital so thoroughly tied up in research and new production, his business wouldn't survive even a temporary shift of this type. Hebster Securities, Inc., could go like a speck of lint being blown off a coat collar.

Which is a long way to travel from a simple little cigar store. Funatti's jitters about growing Firstist sentiment are contagious! he thought. If only Kleimbocher could crack the communication problem! If we could talk to the Aliens, find some sort of place for ourselves in their universe. The Firsters would be left without a single political leg! Hebster realized they were in a large, untidy, map-splattered office and that his escort was saluting a huge, even more untidy man who waved their hands down impatiently and nodded them out of the door. He motioned Hebster to a choice of seats. This consisted of several long walnut-stained benches scattered about the room. P. Braganza, said the desk nameplate with ornate Gothic flow. P. Braganza had a long, twirlable and tremendously thick mustache. Also, P. Braganza needed a haircut badly. It was as if he and everything in the room had been carefully designed to give the maximum affront to Humanity Firsters. Which, considering their crew-cut, closely shaven, "Cleanliness is next to Manliness" philosophy, meant that there was a lot of gratuitous unpleasantness in this office when a raid on a street demonstration filled it with jostling fanatics, antiseptically clean and dressed with bare-bones simplicity and neatness. "So you're worrying about Firster effect on business?" Hebster looked up, startled. "No, I don't read your mind," Braganza laughed through tobacco-stained teeth. He gestured at the window behind his desk. "I saw you jump just the littlest bit when you noticed that cigar store. And then you stared at it for two full minutes. I knew what you were thinking about." "Extremely perceptive of you," Hebster remarked dryly. The SIC official shook his head in a violent negative. "No, it wasn't. It wasn't a bit perceptive. I knew what you were thinking about because I sit up here day after day staring at that cigar store and thinking exactly the same thing. Braganza, I tell myself, that's the end of your job. That's the end of scientific world government. Right there on that cigar-store window." He glowered at his completely littered desk top for a moment. Hebster's instincts woke up—there was a sales talk in the wind. He realized the man was engaged in the unaccustomed exercise of looking for a conversational gambit. He felt an itch of fear crawl up his intestines. Why should the SIC, whose power was almost above law and certainly above governments, be trying to dicker with him? Considering his reputation for asking questions with the snarling end of a rubber hose, Braganza was being entirely too gentle, too talkative, too friendly. Hebster felt like a trapped mouse into whose disconcerted ear a cat was beginning to pour complaints about the dog upstairs. "Hebster, tell me something. What are your goals?" "I beg your pardon?" "What do you want out of life? What do you spend your days planning for, your nights dreaming about? Yost likes the girls and wants more of them. Funatti's a family man, five kids. He's happy in his work because his job's fairly secure, and there are all kinds of pensions and insurance policies to back up his life." Braganza lowered his powerful head and began a slow, reluctant pacing in front of the desk. "Now, I'm a little different. Not that I mind being a glorified cop. I appreciate the regularity with which the finance office pays my salary, of course; and there are very few

women in this town who can say that I have received an offer of affection from them with outright scorn. But the one thing for which I would lay down my life is United Mankind. Would lay down my life? In terms of blood pressure and heart strain, you might say I've already done it. Braganza, I tell myself, you're a lucky dope. You're working for the first world government in human history. Make it count." He stopped and spread his arms in front of Hebster. His unbuttoned green jerkin came apart awkwardly and exposed the black slab of hair on his chest. "That's me. That's basically all there is to Braganza. Now if we're to talk sensibly I have to know as much about you. I ask—what are your goals?" The President of Hebster Securities, Inc., wet his lips. "I am afraid I'm even less complicated." "That's all right," the other man encouraged. "Put it any way you like." "You might say that before everything else, I am a businessman. I am interested chiefly in becoming a better businessman, which is to say a bigger one. In other words, I want to be richer than I am." Braganza peered at him intently. "And that's all?" "All? Haven't you ever heard it said that money isn't everything, but that what it isn't, it can buy?" "It can't buy me." Hebster examined him coolly. "I don't know if you're a sufficiently desirable commodity. I buy what I need, only occasionally making an exception to please myself." "I don't like you." Braganza's voice had become thick and ugly. "I never liked your kind and there's no sense being polite. I might as well stop trying. I tell you straight out—I think your guts stink." Hebster rose. "In that case, I believe I should thank you for—" "Sit down! You were asked here for a reason. I don't see any point to it, but we'll go through the motions. Sit down." Hebster sat. He wondered idly if Braganza received half the salary he paid Greta Seidenheim. Of course, Greta was talented in many different ways and performed several distinct and separately useful services. No, after tax and pension deductions, Braganza was probably fortunate to receive one-third of Greta's salary. He noticed that a newspaper was being proffered him. He took it. Braganza grunted, clumped back behind his desk and swung his swivel chair around to face the window. It was a week-old copy of The Evening Humanitarian. The paper had lost the voice-ofa-small-but-highly-articulate-minority look, Hebster remembered from his last reading of it, and acquired the feel of publishing big business. Even if you cut in half the circulation claimed by the box in the upper left-hand corner, that still gave them three million paying readers. In the upper right-hand corner, a red-bordered box exhorted the faithful to "Read Humanitarian!" A green streamer across the top of the first page announced that "To make sense is human—to gibber, Prime!" But the important item was in the middle of the page. A cartoon. Half-a-dozen Primeys wearing long, curved beards and insane, tongue-lolling grins sat in a rickety wagon. They held reins attached to a group of straining and portly gentlemen dressed—somewhat simply—in high silk hats. The fattest and ugliest of these, the one in the lead, had a bit between his teeth. The bit was labeled "crazy-money" and the man, "Algernon Hebster."

Crushed and splintering under the wheels of the wagon were such varied items as a "Home Sweet Home" framed motto with a piece of wall attached, a clean-cut youngster in a Boy Scout uniform, a streamlined locomotive and a gorgeous young woman with a squalling infant under each arm. The caption inquired starkly: "Lords of Creation—Or Serfs?" "This paper seems to have developed into a fairly filthy scandal sheet," Hebster mused out loud. "I shouldn't be surprised if it makes money." "I take it then," Braganza asked without turning around from his contemplation of the street, "that you haven't read it very regularly in recent months?" "I am happy to say I have not." "That was a mistake." Hebster stared at the clumped locks of black hair. "Why?" he asked carefully. "Because it has developed into a thoroughly filthy and extremely successful scandal sheet. You're its chief scandal." Braganza laughed. "You see, these people look upon Primey dealing as more of a sin than a crime. And, according to that morality, you're close to Old Nick himself!" Shutting his eyes for a moment, Hebster tried to understand people who imagined such a soul-satisfying and beautiful concept as profit to be a thing of dirt and crawling maggots. He sighed. "I've thought of Firstism as a religion myself." That seemed to get the SIC man. He swung around excitedly and pointed with both forefingers. "I tell you that you are right! It crosses all boundaries—incompatible and warring creeds are absorbed into it. It is willful, witless denial of a highly painful fact— that there are intellects abroad in the universe which are superior to our own. And the denial grows in strength every day that we are unable to contact the Aliens. If, as seems obvious, there is no respectable place for humanity in this galactic civilization, why, say men like Vandermeer Dempsey, then let us preserve our self-conceit at the least. Let's stay close to and revel in the things that are undeniably human. In a few decades, the entire human race will have been sucked into this blinkered vacuum." He rose and walked around the desk again. His voice had assumed a terribly earnest, tragically pleading quality. His eyes roved Hebster's face as if searching for a pin-point of weakness, an especially thin spot in the frozen calm. "Think of it," he asked Hebster. "Periodic slaughters of scientists and artists who, in the judgment of Dempsey, have pushed out too far from the conventional center of so-called humanness. An occasional auto-da-fe in honor of a merchant caught selling Primey goods—" "I shouldn't like that," Hebster admitted, smiling. He thought a moment. "I see the connection you're trying to establish with the cartoon in The Evening Humanitarian." "Mister, I shouldn't have to. They want your head on the top of a long stick. They want it because you've become a symbol of dealing successfully, for your own ends, with these stellar foreigners, or at least their human errand-boys and chambermaids. They figure that maybe they can put a stop to Primey-dealing generally if they put a bloody stop to you. And I tell you this—maybe they are right." "What exactly do you propose?" Hebster asked in a low voice. "That you come in with us. We'll make an honest man of you—officially. We want you directing our investigation; except that the goal will not be an extra buck but all-important interracial communication and eventual interstellar negotiation." The president of Hebster Securities, Inc., gave himself a few minutes on that one. He wanted to work out a careful reply. And he wanted time—above all, he wanted time!

He was so close to a well-integrated and worldwide commercial empire! For ten years, he had been carefully fitting the component industrial kingdoms into place, establishing suzerainty in this production network and squeezing a little more control out of that economic satrapy. He had found delectable tidbits of power in the dissolution of his civilization, endless opportunities for wealth in the shards of his race's self-esteem. He required a bare twelve months now to consolidate and coordinate. And suddenly—with the open-mouthed shock of a Jim Fiske who had cornered gold on the Exchange only to have the United States Treasury defeat him by releasing enormous quantities from the Government's own hoard—suddenly, Hebster realized he wasn't going to have the time. He was too experienced a player not to sense that a new factor was coming into the game, something outside his tables of actuarial figures, his market graphs and cargo loading indices. His mouth was clogged with the heavy nausea of unexpected defeat. He forced himself to answer: "I'm flattered. Braganza, I really am flattered. I see that Dempsey has linked us—we stand or fall together. But—I've always been a loner. With whatever help I can buy, I take care of myself. I'm not interested in any goal but the extra buck. First and last, I'm a businessman." "Oh, stop it!" The dark man took a turn up and down the office angrily. "This is a planet-wide emergency. There are times when you can't be a businessman." "I deny that. I can't conceive of such a time." Braganza snorted. "You can't be a businessman if you're strapped to a huge pile of blazing faggots. You can't be a businessman if people's minds are so thoroughly controlled that they'll stop eating at their leader's command. You can't be a businessman, my slavering, acquisitive friend, if demand is so well in hand that it ceases to exist." "That's impossible!" Hebster had leaped to his feet. To his amazement, he heard his voice climbing up the scale to hysteria. "There's always demand. Always! The trick is to find what new form it's taken and then fill it!" "Sorry! I didn't mean to make fun of your religion." Hebster drew a deep breath and sat down with infinite care. He could almost feel his red corpuscles simmering. Take it easy, he warned himself, take it easy! This is a man who must be won, not antagonized. They're changing the rules of the market, Hebster, and you'll need every friend you can buy. Money won't work with this fellow. But there are other values— "Listen to me, Braganza. We're up against the psycho-social consequences of an extremely advanced civilization smacking into a comparatively barbarous one. Are you familiar with Professor Kleimbocher's Firewater Theory?" "That the Aliens' logic hits us mentally in the same way as whisky hit the North American Indian? And the Primeys, representing our finest minds, are the equivalent of those Indians who had the most sympathy with the white man's civilization? Yes. It's a strong analogy. Even carried to the Indians who, lying sodden with liquor in the streets of frontier towns, helped create the illusion of the treacherous, lazy, kill-you-for-a-drink aborigines while being so thoroughly despised by their tribesmen that they didn't dare go home for fear of having their throats cut. I've always felt—" "The only part of that I want to talk about," Hebster interrupted, "is the firewater concept. Back in the Indian villages, an ever-increasing majority became convinced that firewater and gluttonous paleface civilization were synonymous, that they must rise and

retake their land forcibly, killing in the process as many drunken renegades as they came across. This group can be equated with the Humanity Firsters. Then there was a minority who recognized the white men's superiority in numbers and weapons, and desperately tried to find a way of coming to terms with his civilization—terms that would not include his booze. For them read the UM. Finally, there was my kind of Indian." Braganza knitted voluminous eyebrows and hitched himself up to a corner of the desk. "Hah?" he inquired. "What kind of Indian were you, Hebster?" "The kind who had enough sense to know that the paleface had not the slightest interest in saving him from slow and painful cultural anemia. The kind of Indian, also, whose instincts were sufficiently sound so that he was scared to death of innovations like firewater and wouldn't touch the stuff to save himself from snake bite. But the kind of Indian—" "Yes? Go on!" "The kind who was fascinated by the strange transparent container in which the firewater came! Think how covetous an Indian potter might be of the whisky bottle, something which was completely outside the capacity of his painfully acquired technology. Can't you see him hating, despising and terribly afraid of the smelly amber fluid, which toppled the most stalwart warriors, yet wistful to possess a bottle minus contents? That's about where I see myself, Braganza—the Indian whose greedy curiosity shines through the murk of hysterical clan politics and outsiders' contempt like a lambent flame. I want the new kind of container somehow separated from the firewater." Unblinkingly, the great dark eyes stared at his face. A hand came up and smoothed each side of the arched mustachio with long, unknowing twirls. Minutes passed. "Well. Hebster as our civilization's noble savage," the SIC man chuckled at last. "It almost feels right. But what does it mean in terms of the overall problem?" "I've told you," Hebster said wearily, hitting the arm of the bench with his open hand, "that I haven't the slightest interest in the overall problem." "And you only want the bottle. I heard you. But you're not a potter, Hebster—you haven't an elementary particle of craftsman's curiosity. All of that historical romance you spout—you don't care if your world drowns in its own agonized juice. You just want a profit." "I never claimed an altruistic reason. I leave the general solution to men whose minds are good enough to juggle its complexities—like Kleimbocher." "Think somebody like Kleimbocher could do it?" "I'm almost certain he will. That was our mistake from the beginning—trying to break through with historians and psychologists. Either they've become limited by the study of human societies or—well, this is personal, but I've always felt that the science of the mind attracts chiefly those who've already experienced grave psychological difficulty. While they might achieve such an understanding of themselves in the course of their work as to become better adjusted eventually than individuals who had less problems to begin with, I'd still consider them too essentially unstable for such an intrinsically shocking experience as establishing rapport with an Alien. Their internal dynamics inevitably make Primeys of them." Braganza sucked at a tooth and considered the wall behind Hebster. "And all this, you feel, wouldn't apply to Kleimbocher?" "No, not a philology professor. He has no interest, no intellectual roots in personal and group instability. Kleimbocher's a comparative linguist—a technician, really—a specialist in basic communication. I've been out to the University and watched him work. His

approach to the problem is entirely in terms of his subject—communicating with the Aliens instead of trying to understand them. There's been entirely too much intricate speculation about Alien consciousness, sexual attitudes and social organization, about stuff from which we will derive no tangible and immediate good. Kleimbocher's completely pragmatic." "All right. I follow you. Only he went Prime this morning." Hebster paused, a sentence dangling from his dropped jaw. "Professor Kleimbocher? Rudolf Kleimbocher?" he asked idiotically. "But he was so close...he almost had it...an elementary signal dictionary...he was about to—" "He did. About nine forty-five. He'd been up all night with a Primey one of the psych professors had managed to hypnotize and gone home unusually optimistic. In the middle of his first class this morning, he interrupted himself in a lecture on medieval Cyrillic to...to gabble-honk. He sneezed and wheezed at the students for about ten minutes in the usual Primey pattern of initial irritation, then, abruptly giving them up as hopeless, worthless idiots, he levitated himself in that eerie way they almost always do at first. Banged his head against the ceiling and knocked himself out. I don't know what it was, fright, excitement, respect for the old boy perhaps, but the students neglected to tie him up before going for help. By the time they'd come back with the campus SIC man, Kleimbocher had revived and dissolved one wall of the Graduate School to get out. Here's a snapshot of him about five hundred feet in the air, lying on his back with his arms crossed behind his head, skimming west at twenty miles an hour." Hebster studied the little paper rectangle with blinking eyes. "You radioed the air force to chase him, of course." "What's the use? We've been through that enough times. He'd either increase his speed and generate a tornado, drop like a stone and get himself smeared all over the countryside, or materialize stuff like wet coffee grounds and gold ingots inside the jets of the pursuing plane. Nobody's caught a Primey yet in the first flush of...whatever they do feel at first. And we might stand to lose anything from a fairly expensive hunk of aircraft, including pilot, to a couple of hundred acres of New Jersey topsoil." Hebster groaned. "But the eighteen years of research that he represented!" "Yeah. That's where we stand. Blind Alley umpteen hundred thousand or thereabouts. Whatever the figure is, it's awfully close to the end. If you can't crack the Alien on a straight linguistic basis, you can't crack the Alien at all, period, end of paragraph. Our most powerful weapons affect them like bubble pipes, and our finest minds are good for nothing better than to serve them in low, fawning idiocy. But the Primeys are all that's left. We might be able to talk sense to the Man if not the Master." "Except that Primeys, by definition, don't talk sense." Braganza nodded. "But since they were human—ordinary human—to start with, they represent a hope. We always knew we might some day have to fall back on our only real contact. That's why the Primey protective laws are so rigid; why the Primey reservation compounds surrounding Alien settlements are guarded by our military detachments. The lynch spirit has been evolving into the pogrom spirit as human resentment and discomfort have been growing. Humanity First is beginning to feel strong enough to challenge United Mankind. And honestly, Hebster, at this point neither of us know which would survive a real fight. But you're one of the few who have talked to Primeys, worked with them—" "Just on business." "Frankly, that much of a start is a thousand times further along than the best that we've been able to manage. It's so blasted ironical that the only people who've had any

conversation at all with the Primeys aren't even slightly interested in the imminent collapse of civilization! Oh, well. The point is that in the present political picture, you sink with us. Recognizing this, my people are prepared to forget a great deal and document you back into respectability. How about it?" "Funny," Hebster said thoughtfully. "It can't be knowledge that makes miracle-workers out of fairly sober scientists. They all start shooting lightnings at their families and water out of rocks far too early in Primacy to have had time to learn new techniques. It's as if by merely coming close enough to the Aliens to grovel, they immediately move into position to tap a series of cosmic laws more basic than cause and effect." The SIC man's face slowly deepened into purple. "Well, are you coming in, or aren't you? Remember, Hebster, in these times, a man who insists on business as usual is a traitor to history." "I think Kleimbocher is the end." Hebster nodded to himself. "Not much point in chasing Alien mentality if you're going to lose your best men on the way. I say let's forget all this nonsense of trying to live as equals in the same universe with Aliens. Let's concentrate on human problems and be grateful that they don't come into our major population centers and tell us to shove over." The telephone rang. Braganza had dropped back into his swivel chair. He let the instrument squeeze out several piercing sonic bubbles while he clicked his strong square teeth and maintained a carefully focused glare at his visitor. Finally, he picked it up, and gave it the verbal minima: "Speaking. He is here. I'll tell him. 'Bye." He brought his lips together, kept them pursed for a moment and then, abruptly, swung around to face the window. "Your office, Hebster. Seems your wife and son are in town and have to see you on business. She the one you divorced ten years ago?" Hebster nodded at his back and rose once more. "Probably wants her semiannual alimony dividend bonus. I'll have to go. Sonia never does office morale any good." This meant trouble, he knew. "Wife-and-son" was executive code for something seriously wrong with Hebster Securities, Inc. He had not seen his wife since she had been satisfactorily maneuvered into giving him control of his son's education. As far as he was concerned, she had earned a substantial income for life by providing him with a wellmothered heir. "Listen!" Braganza said sharply as Hebster reached the door. He still kept his eyes studiously on the street. "I tell you this: You don't want to come in with us. All right! You're a businessman first and a world citizen second. All right! But keep your nose clean, Hebster. If we catch you the slightest bit off base from now on, you'll get hit with everything. We'll not only pull the most spectacular trial this corrupt old planet has ever seen, but somewhere along the line, we'll throw you and your entire organization to the wolves. We'll see to it that Humanity First pulls the Hebster Tower down around your ears." Hebster shook his head, licked his lips. "Why? What would that accomplish?" "Hah! It would give a lot of us here the craziest kind of pleasure. But it would also relieve us temporarily of some of the mass pressure we've been feeling. There's always the chance that Dempsey would lose control of his hotter heads, that they'd go on a real gory rampage, make with the sound and the fury sufficiently to justify full deployment of troops. We could knock off Dempsey and all of the big-shot Firsters then, because John

Q. United Mankind would have seen to his own vivid satisfaction and injury what a dangerous mob they are." "This," Hebster commented bitterly, "is the idealistic, legalistic world government!" Braganza's chair spun around to face Hebster and his fist came down on the desk top with all the crushing finality of a magisterial gavel. "No, it is not! It is the SIC, a plenipotentiary and highly practical bureau of the UM, especially created to organize a relationship between Alien and human. Furthermore, it's the SIC in a state of the greatest emergency when the reign of law and world government may topple at a demagogue's belch. Do you think"—his head snaked forward belligerently, his eyes slitted to thin lines of purest contempt—"that the career and fortune, even the life, let us say, of as openly selfish a slug as you, Hebster, would be placed above that of the representative body of two billion socially operating human beings?" The SIC official thumped his sloppily buttoned chest. "Braganza, I tell myself now, you're lucky he's too hungry for his blasted profit to take you up on that offer. Think how much fun it's going to be to sink a hook into him when he makes a mistake at last! To drop him onto the back of Humanity First so that they'll run amuck and destroy themselves! Oh, get out, Hebster. I'm through with you." He had made a mistake, Hebster reflected as he walked out of the armory and snapped his fingers at a gyrocab. The SIC was the most powerful single government agency in a Primey-infested world; offending them for a man in his position was equivalent to a cab driver delving into the more uncertain aspects of a traffic cop's ancestry in the policeman's popeyed presence. But what could he do? Working with the SIC would mean working under Braganza— and since maturity, Algernon Hebster had been quietly careful to take orders from no man. It would mean giving up a business which, with a little more work and a little more time, might somehow still become the dominant combine on the planet. And worst of all, it would mean acquiring a social orientation to replace the calculating businessman's viewpoint which was the closest thing to a soul he had ever known. The doorman of his building preceded him at a rapid pace down the side corridor that led to his private elevator and flourished aside for him to enter. The car stopped on the twenty-third floor. With a heart that had sunk so deep as to have practically foundered, Hebster picked his way along the wide-eyed clerical stares that lined the corridor. At the entrance to General Laboratory 23B, two tall men in the gray livery of his personal bodyguard moved apart to let him enter. If they had been recalled after having been told to take the day off, it meant that a full-dress emergency was being observed. He hoped that it had been declared in time to prevent any publicity leakage. It had, Greta Seidenheim assured him. "I was down here applying the clamps five minutes after the fuss began. Floors twenty-one through twenty-five are closed off and all outside lines are being monitored. You can keep your employees an hour at most past five o'clock—which gives you a maximum of two hours and fourteen minutes." He followed her green-tipped fingernail to the far corner of the lab where a body lay wrapped in murky rags. Theseus. Protruding from his back was the yellowed ivory handle of quite an old German S.S. dagger, 1942 edition. The silver swastika on the hilt had been replaced by an ornate symbol—an HF. Blood had soaked Theseus' long matted hair into an ugly red rug. A dead Primey, Hebster thought, staring down hopelessly. In his building, in the laboratory to which the Primey had been spirited two or three jumps ahead of Yost and Funatti. This was capital offense material—if the courts ever got a chance to weigh it.

"Look at the dirty Primey-lover!" a slightly familiar voice jeered on his right. "He's scared! Make money out of that, Hebster!" The corporation president strolled over to the thin man with the knobby, completely shaven head who was tied to an unused steampipe. The man's tie, which hung outside his laboratory smock, sported an unusual ornament about halfway down. It took Hebster several seconds to identify it. A miniature gold safety razor upon a black "3." "He's a third-echelon official of Humanity First!" "He's also Charlie Verus of Hebster Laboratories," an extremely short man with a corrugated forehead told him. "My name is Margritt, Mr. Hebster, Dr. J.H. Margritt. I spoke to you on the communicator when the Primeys arrived." Hebster shook his head determinedly. He waved back the other scientists who were milling around him self-consciously. "How long have third-echelon officials, let alone ordinary members of Humanity First, been receiving salary checks in my laboratories?" "I don't know." Margritt shrugged up at him. "Theoretically no Firsters can be Hebster employees. Personnel is supposed to be twice as efficient as the SIC when it comes to sifting background. They probably are. But what can they do when an employee joins Humanity First after he passed his probationary period? These proselytizing times you'd need a complete force of secret police to keep tabs on all the new converts!" "When I spoke to you earlier in the day, Margritt, you indicated disapproval of Verus. Don't you think it was your duty to let me know I had a Firster official about to mix it up with Primeys?" The little man beat a violent negative back and forth with his chin. "I'm paid to supervise research, Mr. Hebster, not to coordinate your labor relations nor vote your political ticket!" Contempt—the contempt of the creative researcher for the businessman-entrepreneur who paid his salary and was now in serious trouble—flickered behind every word he spoke. Why, Hebster wondered irritably, did people so despise a man who made money? Even the Primeys back in his office, Yost and Funatti, Braganza, Margritt—who had worked in his laboratories for years. It was his only talent. Surely, as such, it was as valid as a pianist's? "I've never liked Charlie Verus," the lab chief went on, "but we never had reason to suspect him of Firstism! He must have hit the third-echelon rank about a week ago, eh, Bert?" "Yeah," Bert agreed from across the room. "The day he came in an hour late, broke every Florence flask in the place and told us all dreamily that one day we might be very proud to tell our grandchildren that we'd worked in the same lab with Charles Bolop Verus." "Personally," Margritt commented, "I thought he might have just finished writing a book which proved that the Great Pyramid was nothing more than a prophecy in stone of our modern textile designs. Verus was that kind. But it probably was his little safety razor that tossed him up so high. I'd say he got the promotion as a sort of payment in advance for the job he finally did today." Hebster ground his teeth at the carefully hairless captive who tried, unsuccessfully, to spit in his face; he hurried back to the door, where his private secretary was talking to the bodyguard who had been on duty in the lab. Beyond them, against the wall, stood Larry and S.S. Lusitania conversing in a lowvoiced and anxious gabble-honk. They were evidently profoundly disturbed. S.S. Lusitania kept plucking tiny little elephants out of her rags which, kicking and trumpeting

tinnily, burst like malformed bubbles as she dropped them on the floor. Larry scratched his tangled beard nervously as he talked, periodically waving a hand at the ceiling, which was already studded with fifty or sixty replicas of the dagger buried in Theseus. Hebster couldn't help thinking anxiously of what could have happened to his building if the Primeys had been able to act human enough to defend themselves. "Listen, Mr. Hebster," the bodyguard began, "I was told not to—" "Save it," Hebster rapped out. "This wasn't your fault. Even Personnel isn't to blame. Me and my experts deserve to have our necks chopped for falling so far behind the times. We can analyze any trend but the one which will make us superfluous. Greta! I want my roof helicopter ready to fly and my personal stratojet at LaGuardia alerted. Move, girl! And you...Williams, is it?" he queried, leaning forward to read the bodyguard's name on his badge, "Williams, pack these two Primeys into my helicopter upstairs and stand by for a fast take-off." He turned. "Everyone else!" he called. "You will be allowed to go home at six. You will be paid one hour's overtime. Thank you." Charlie Verus started to sing as Hebster left the lab. By the time he reached the elevator, several of the clerks in the hallway had defiantly picked up the hymn. Hebster paused outside the elevator as he realized that fully one-fourth of the clerical personnel, male and female, were following Verus' cracked and mournful but terribly earnest tenor. Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the shorn: We will overturn the cesspool where the Primey slime is born, We'll be wearing cleanly garments as we face a human morn— The First are on the march! Glory, glory, hallelujah, Glory, glory, hallelujah... If it was like this in Hebster Securities, he thought wryly as he came into his private office, how fast was Humanity First growing among the broad masses of people? Of course, many of those singing could be put down as sympathizers rather than converts, people who were suckers for choral groups and vigilante posses—but how much more momentum did an organization have to generate to acquire the name of political juggernaut? The only encouraging aspect was the SIC's evident awareness of the danger and the unprecedented steps they were prepared to take as countermeasure. Unfortunately, the unprecedented steps would take place upon Hebster. He now had a little less than two hours, he reflected, to squirm out of the most serious single crime on the books of present World Law. He lifted one of his telephones. "Ruth," he said. "I want to speak to Vandermeer Dempsey. Get me through to him personally." She did. A few moments later he heard the famous voice, as rich and slow and thick as molten gold. "Hello Hebster, Vandermeer Dempsey speaking." He paused as if to draw breath, then went on sonorously: "Humanity—may it always be ahead, but, ahead or behind, Humanity!" He chuckled. "Our newest. What we call our telephone toast. Like it?"

"Very much," Hebster told him respectfully, remembering that this former video quizmaster might shortly be church and state combined. "Er...Mr. Dempsey, I notice you have a new book out, and I was wondering—" "Which one? Anthropolitics? "That's it. A fine study! You have some very quotable lines in the chapter headed, 'Neither More Nor Less Human.' " A raucous laugh that still managed to bubble heavily. "Young man, I have quotable lines in every chapter of every book! I maintain a writer's assembly line here at headquarters that is capable of producing up to fifty-five memorable epigrams on any subject upon ten minutes' notice. Not to mention their capacity for political metaphors and two-line jokes with sexy implications! But you wouldn't be calling me to discuss literature, however good a job of emotional engineering I have done in my little text. What is it about, Hebster? Go into your pitch." "Well," the executive began, vaguely comforted by the Firster chieftain's cynical approach and slightly annoyed at the openness of his contempt, "I had a chat today with your friend and my friend, P. Braganza." "I know." "You do? How?" Vandermeer Dempsey laughed again, the slow, good-natured chortle of a fat man squeezing the curves out of a rocking chair. "Spies, Hebster, spies. I have them everywhere practically. This kind of politics is twenty percent espionage, twenty percent organization and sixty percent waiting for the right moment. My spies tell me everything you do." "They didn't by any chance tell you what Braganza and I discussed?" "Oh, they did, young man, they did!" Dempsey chuckled a carefree scale exercise. Hebster remembered his pictures: the head like a soft and enormous orange, gouged by a brilliant smile. There was no hair anywhere on the head—all of it, down to the last eyelash and follicled wart, was removed regularly through electrolysis. "According to my agents, Braganza made several strong representations on behalf of the Special Investigating Commission which you rightly spurned. Then, somewhat out of sorts, he announced that if you were henceforth detected in the nefarious enterprises which everyone knows have made you one of the wealthiest men on the face of the Earth, he would use you as bait for our anger. I must say I admire the whole ingenious scheme immensely." "And you're not going to bite," Hebster suggested. Greta Seidenheim entered the office and made a circular gesture at the ceiling. He nodded. "On the contrary, Hebster, we are going to bite. We're going to bite with just a shade more vehemence than we're expected to. We're going to swallow this provocation that the SIC is devising for us and go on to make a worldwide revolution out of it. We will, my boy." Hebster rubbed his left hand back and forth across his lips." Over my dead body!" He tried to chuckle himself and managed only to clear his throat. "You're right about the conversation with Braganza, and you may be right about how you'll do when it gets down to paving stones and baseball bats. But if you'd like to have the whole thing a lot easier, there is a little deal I have in mind—" "Sorry, Hebster my boy. No deals. Not on this. Don't you see we really don't want to have it easier? For the same reason, we pay our spies nothing despite the risks they run and the great growing wealth of Humanity First. We found that the spies we acquired

through conviction worked harder and took many more chances than those forced into our arms by economic pressure. No, we desperately need L'affaire Hebster to inflame the populace. We need enough excitement running loose so that it transmits to the gendarmerie and the soldiery, so that conservative citizens who normally shake their heads at a parade will drop their bundles and join the rape and robbery. Enough such citizens and Terra goes Humanity First." "Heads you win, tails I lose." The liquid gold of Dempsey's laughter poured. "I see what you mean, Hebster. Either way, UM or HF, you wind up a smear-mark on the sands of time. You had your chance when we asked for contributions from public-spirited businessmen four years ago. Quite a few of your competitors were able to see the valid relationship between economics and politics. Woodran of the Underwood Investment Trust is a first-echelon official today. Not a single one of your top executives wears a razor. But, even so, whatever happens to you will be mild compared to the Primeys." "The Aliens may object to their body-servants being mauled." "There are no Aliens!" Dempsey replied in a completely altered voice. He sounded as if he had stiffened too much to be able to move his lips. "No Aliens? Is that your latest line? You don't mean that!" "There are only Primeys—creatures who have resigned from human responsibility and are therefore able to do many seemingly miraculous things, which real humanity refuses to do because of the lack of dignity involved. But there are no Aliens. Aliens are a Primey myth." Hebster grunted. "That is the ideal way of facing an unpleasant fact. Stare right through it." "If you insist on talking about such illusions as Aliens," the rustling and angry voice cut in, "I'm afraid we can't continue the conversation. You're evidently going Prime, Hebster." The line went dead. Hebster scraped a finger inside the mouthpiece rim. "He believes his own stuff." he said in an awed voice. "For all of the decadent urbanity, he has to have the same reassurance he gives his followers—the horrible, superior thing just isn't there!" Greta Seidenheim was waiting at the door with his briefcase and both their coats. As he came away from the desk, he said, "I won't tell you not to come along, Greta, but—" "Good," she said, swinging along behind him. "Think we'll make it to—wherever we're going?" "Arizona. The first and largest Alien settlement. The place our friends with the funny names come from." "What can you do there that you can't do here?" "Frankly, Greta, I don't know. But it's a good idea to lose myself for a while. Then again, I want to get in the area where all this agony originates and take a close look; I'm an off-the-cuff businessman; I've done all of my important figuring on the spot." There was bad news waiting for them outside the helicopter. "Mr. Hebster," the pilot told him tonelessly while cracking a dry stick of gum, "the stratojet's been seized by the SIC. Are we still going? If we do it in this thing, it won't be very far or very fast." "We're still going," Hebster said after a moment's hesitation.

They climbed in. The two Primeys sat on the floor in the rear, sneezing conversationally at each other. Williams waved respectfully at his boss. "Gentle as lambs," he said. "In fact, they made one. I had to throw it out." The large pot-bellied craft climbed up its rope of air and started forward from the Hebster Building. "There must have been a leak," Greta muttered angrily. "They heard about the dead Primey. Somewhere in the organization there's a leak that I haven't been able to find. The SIC heard about the dead Primey and now they're hunting us down. Real efficient, I am!" Hebster smiled at her grimly. She was very efficient. So was Personnel and a dozen other subdivisions of the organization. So was Hebster himself. But these were functioning members of a normal business designed for stable times. Political spies! If Dempsey could have spies and saboteurs all over Hebster Securities, why couldn't Braganza? They'd catch him before he had even started running; they'd bring him back before he could find a loophole. They'd bring him back for trial, perhaps, for what in all probability would be known to history as the Bloody Hebster Incident. The incident that had precipitated a world revolution. "Mr. Hebster, they're getting restless," Williams called out. "Should I relax 'em out, kind of?" Hebster sat up sharply, hopefully. "No," he said. "Leave them alone!" He watched the suddenly agitated Primeys very closely. This was the odd chance for which he'd brought them along! Years of haggling with Primeys had taught him a lot about them. They were good for other things than sheer gimmick-craft. Two specks appeared on the windows. They enlarged sleekly into jets with SIC insignia. "Pilot!" Hebster called, his eyes on Larry, who was pulling painfully at his beard. "Get away from the controls! Fast! Did you hear me? That was an order! Get away from those controls!" The man moved off reluctantly. He was barely in time. The control board dissolved into rattling purple shards behind him. The vanes of the gyro seemed to flower into indigo saxophones. Their ears rang with supersonic frequencies as they rose above the jets on a spout of unimaginable force. Five seconds later they were in Arizona. They piled out of their weird craft into a sage-cluttered desert. "I don't ever want to know what my windmill was turned into," the pilot commented, "or what was used to push it along—but how did the Primey come to understand the cops were after us?" "I don't think he knew that," Hebster explained, "but he was sensitive enough to know he was going home, and that somehow those jets were there to prevent it. And so he functioned, in terms of his interests, in what was almost a human fashion. He protected himself." "Going home " Larry said. He'd been listening very closely to Hebster, dribbling from the right-hand corner of his mouth as he listened. "Haemostat, hammersdarts, hump. Home is where the hate is. Hit is where the hump is. Home and locks the door." S.S. Lusitania had started on one leg and favored them with her peculiar fleshy smile. "Hindsight," she suggested archly, "is no more than home site. Gabble, honk?"

Larry started after her, some three feet off the ground. He walked the air slowly and painfully as if the road he traveled were covered with numerous small boulders, all of them pitilessly sharp. "Goodbye, people," Hebster said. "I'm off to see the wizard with my friends in greasy gray here. Remember, when the SIC catches up to your unusual vessel—stay close to it for that purpose, by the way—it might be wise to refer to me as someone who forced you into this. You can tell them I've gone into the wilderness looking for a solution, figuring that if I went Prime I'd still be better off than as a punching bag whose ownership is being hotly disputed by such characters as P. Braganza and Vandermeer Dempsey. I'll be back with my mind or on it." He patted Greta's cheek on the wet spot; then he walked deftly away in pursuit of S.S. Lusitania and Larry. He glanced back once and smiled as he saw them looking curiously forlorn, especially Williams, the chunky young man who earned his living by guarding other people's bodies. The Primeys followed a route of sorts, but it seemed to have been designed by someone bemused by the motions of an accordion. Again and again it doubled back upon itself, folded across itself, went back a hundred yards and started all over again. This was Primey country—Arizona, where the first and largest Alien settlement had been made. There were mighty few humans in this corner of the southwest any more— just the Aliens and their coolies. "Larry," Hebster called as an uncomfortable thought struck him. "Larry! Do...do your masters know I'm coming?" Missing his step as he looked up at Hebster's peremptory question, the Primey tripped and plunged to the ground. He rose, grimaced at Hebster and shook his head. "You are not a businessman," he said. "Here there can be no business. Here there can be only humorous what-you-might-call-worship. The movement to the universal, the inner nature—The realization, complete and eternal, of the partial and evanescent that alone enables...that alone enables—" His clawed fingers writhed into each other, as if he were desperately trying to pull a communicable meaning out of the palms. He shook his head with a slow rolling motion from side to side. Hebster saw with a shock that the old man was crying. Then going Prime had yet another similarity to madness! It gave the human an understanding of something thoroughly beyond himself, a mental summit he was constitutionally incapable of mounting. It gave him a glimpse of some psychological promised land, then buried him, still yearning, in his own inadequacies. And it left him at last bereft of pride in his realizable accomplishments with a kind of myopic half-knowledge of where he wanted to go but with no means of getting there. "When I first came," Larry was saying haltingly, his eyes squinting into Hebster's face, as if he knew what the businessman was thinking, "when first I tried to know...I mean the charts and textbooks I carried here, my statistics, my plotted curves were so useless. All playthings I found, disorganized, based on shadow-thought. And then, Hebster, to watch real-thought, real-control! You'll see the joy—You'll serve beside us, you will! Oh, the enormous lifting—" His voice died into angry incoherencies as he bit into his fist. S.S. Lusitania came up, still hopping on one foot. "Larry," she suggested in a very soft voice, "gabble-honk Hebster away?" He looked surprised, then nodded. The two Primeys linked arms and clambered laboriously back up to the invisible road from which Larry had fallen. They stood facing

him for a moment, looking like a weird, ragged, surrealistic version of Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Then they disappeared and darkness fell around Hebster as if it had been knocked out of the jar. He felt under himself cautiously and sat down on the sand, which retained all the heat of daytime Arizona. Now! Suppose an Alien came. Suppose an Alien asked him point-blank what it was that he wanted. That would be bad. Algernon Hebster, businessman extraordinary—slightly on the run, at the moment, of course—didn't know what he wanted; not with reference to Aliens. He didn't want them to leave, because the Primey technology he had used in over a dozen industries was essentially an interpretation and adaptation of Alien methods. He didn't want them to stay, because whatever was orderly in his world was dissolving under the acids of their omnipresent superiority. He also knew that he personally did not want to go Prime. What was left then? Business? Well, there was Braganza's question. What does a businessman do when demand is so well controlled that it can be said to have ceased to exist? Or what does he do in a case like the present, when demand might be said to be nonexistent, since there was nothing the Aliens seemed to want of Man's puny hoard? "He finds something they want," Hebster said out loud. How? How? Well, the Indian still sold his decorative blankets to the paleface as a way of life, as a source of income. And he insisted on being paid in cash—not firewater. If only, Hebster thought, he could somehow contrive to meet an Alien—he'd find out soon enough what its needs were, what was basically desired. And then as the retort-shaped, the tube-shaped, the bell-shaped bottles materialized all around him, he understood! They had been forming the insistent questions in his mind. And they weren't satisfied with the answers he had found thus far. They liked answers. They liked answers very much indeed. If he was interested, there was always a way— A great dots-in-bottle brushed his cortex and he screamed. "No! I don't want to!" he explained desperately. Ping! went the dots-in-bottle and Hebster grabbed at his body. His continuing flesh reassured him. He felt very much like the girl in Greek mythology who had begged Zeus for the privilege of seeing him in the full regalia of his godhood. A few moments after her request had been granted, there had been nothing left of the inquisitive female but a fine feathery ash. The bottles were swirling in and out of each other in a strange and intricate dance from which there radiated emotions vaguely akin to curiosity, yet partaking of amusement and rapture. Why rapture? Hebster was positive he had caught that note, even allowing for the lack of similarity between mental patterns. He ran a hurried dragnet through his memory, caught a few corresponding items and dropped them after a brief, intensive examination. What was he trying to remember—what were his supremely efficient businessman's instincts trying to remind him of? The dance became more complex, more rapid. A few bottles had passed under his feet and Hebster could see them, undulating and spinning some ten feet below the surface of the ground as if their presence had made the Earth a transparent as well as permeable medium. Completely unfamiliar with all matters Alien as he was, not knowing—not

caring!—whether they danced as an expression of the counsel they were taking together, or as a matter of necessary social ritual, Hebster was able nonetheless to sense an approaching climax. Little crooked lines of green lightning began to erupt between the huge bottles. Something exploded near his left ear. He rubbed his face fearfully and moved away. The bottles followed, maintaining him in the imprisoning sphere of their frenzied movements. Why rapture? Back in the city, the Aliens had had a terribly studious air about them as they hovered, almost motionless, above the works and lives of mankind. They were cold and careful scientists and showed not the slightest capacity for...for— So he had something. At last he had something. But what do you do with an idea when you can't communicate it and can't act upon it yourself? Ping! The previous invitation was being repeated, more urgently. Ping! Ping! Ping! "No!" he yelled and tried to stand. He found he couldn't. "I'm not...I don't want to go Prime!" There was detached, almost divine laughter. He felt that awful scrabbling inside his brain as if two or three entities were jostling each other within it. He shut his eyes hard and thought. He was close, he was very close. He had an idea, but he needed time to formulate it—a little while to figure out just exactly what the idea was and just exactly what to do with it! Ping, ping, ping! Ping, ping, ping! He had a headache. He felt as if his mind were being sucked out of his head. He tried to hold on to it. He couldn't. All right, then. He relaxed abruptly, stopped trying to protect himself. But with his mind and his mouth, he yelled. For the first time in his life and with only a partially formed conception of whom he was addressing the desperate call to, Algernon Hebster screamed for help. "I can do it!" he alternately screamed and thought. "Save money, save time, save whatever it is you want to save, whoever you are and whatever you call yourself—I can help you save! Help me, help me—We can do it—but hurry. Your problem can be solved—Economize. The balance-sheet—Help—" The words and frantic thoughts spun in and out of each other like the contracting rings of Aliens all around him. He kept screaming, kept the focus on his mental images, while, unbearably, somewhere inside him, a gay and jocular force began to close a valve on his sanity. Suddenly, he had absolutely no sensation. Suddenly, he knew dozens of things he had never dreamed he could know and had forgotten a thousand times as many. Suddenly, he felt that every nerve in his body was under control of his forefinger. Suddenly, he— Ping, ping, ping! Ping! Ping! PING! PING! PING! PING! "...like that," someone said. "What, for example?" someone else asked. "Well, they don't even lie normally. He's been sleeping like a human being. They twist and moan in their sleep, the Primeys do, for all the world like habitual old drunks. Speaking of moans, here comes our boy." Hebster sat up on the army cot, rattling his head. The fears were leaving him, and, with the fears gone, he would no longer be hurt. Braganza, highly concerned and unhappy, was standing next to his bed with a man who was obviously a doctor. Hebster smiled at both of them, manfully resisting the temptation to drool out a string of nonsense syllables.

"Hi, fellas," he said. "Here I come, ungathering nuts in May." "You don't mean to tell me you communicated!" Braganza yelled. "You communicated and didn't go Prime!" Hebster raised himself on an elbow and glanced out past the tent flap to where Greta Seidenheim stood on the other side of a port-armed guard. He waved his fist at her, and she nodded a wide-open smile back. "Found me lying in the desert like a waif, did you?" "Found you!" Braganza spat. "You were brought in by Primeys, man. First time in history they ever did that. We've been waiting for you to come to in the serene faith that once you did, everything would be all right." The corporation president rubbed his forehead. "It will be, Braganza, it will be. Just Primeys, eh? No Aliens helping them?" "Aliens?" Braganza swallowed. "What led you to believe—What gave you reason to hope that...that Aliens would help the Primeys bring you in?" "Well, perhaps I shouldn't have used the word 'help.' But I did think there would be a few Aliens in the group that escorted my unconscious body back to you. Sort of an honor guard, Braganza. It would have been a real nice gesture, don't you think?" The SIC man looked at the doctor, who had been following the conversation with interest. "Mind stepping out for a minute?" he suggested. He walked behind the man and dropped the tent flap into place. Then he came around to the foot of the army cot and pulled on his mustache vigorously. "Now, see here, Hebster, if you keep up this clowning, so help me I will slit your belly open and snap your intestines back in your face! What happened?" "What happened?" Hebster laughed and stretched slowly, carefully, as if he were afraid of breaking the bones of his arm. "I don't think I'll ever be able to answer that question completely. And there's a section of my mind that's very glad that I won't. This much I remember clearly: I had an idea. I communicated it to the proper and interested party. We concluded—this party and I—a tentative agreement as agents, the exact terms of the agreement to be decided by our principals and its complete ratification to be contingent upon their acceptance. Furthermore, we—All right, Braganza, all right! I'll tell it straight. Put down that folding chair. Remember, I've just been through a pretty unsettling experience!" "Not any worse than the world is about to go through," the official growled. "While you've been out on your three-day vacation, Dempsey's been organizing a full-dress revolution every place at once. He's been very careful to limit it to parades and verbal fireworks so that we haven't been able to make with the riot squads, but it's pretty evident that he's ready to start using muscle. Tomorrow might be it; he's spouting on a world-wide video hookup and it's the opinion of the best experts we have available that his tag line will be the signal for action. Know what their slogan is? It concerns Verus, who's been indicted for murder; they claim he'll be a martyr." "And you were caught with your suspicions down. How many SIC men turned out to be Firsters?" Braganza nodded. "Not too many, but more than we expected. More than we could afford. He'll do it, Dempsey will, unless you've hit the real thing. Look, Hebster," his heavy voice took on a pleading quality, "don't play with me any more. Don't hold my threats against me; there was no personal animosity in them, just a terrible, fearful worry over the world and its people and the government I was supposed to protect. If you still have a gripe against me, I, Braganza, give you leave to take it out of my hide as soon as

we clear this mess up. But let me know where we stand first. A lot of lives and a lot of history depend on what you did out there in that patch of desert." Hebster told him. He began with the extraterrestrial Walpurgisnacht. "Watching the Aliens slipping in and out of each other in that cockeyed and complicated rhythm, it struck me how different they were from the thoughtful dots-in-bottles hovering over our busy places, how different all creatures are in their home environments—and how hard it is to get to know them on the basis of their company manners. And then I realized that this place wasn't their home." "Of course. Did you find out which part of the galaxy they come from?" "That's not what I mean. Simply because we have marked this area off—and others like it in the Gobi, in the Sahara, in Central Australia—as a reservation for those of our kind whose minds have crumbled under the clear, conscious and certain knowledge of inferiority, we cannot assume that the Aliens around whose settlements they have congregated have necessarily settled themselves." "Huh?" Braganza shook his head rapidly and batted his eyes. "In other words we had made an assumption on the basis of the Aliens' very evident superiority to ourselves. But that assumption—and therefore that superiority—was in our own terms of what is superior and inferior, and not the Aliens'. And it especially might not apply to those Aliens on...the reservation." The SIC man took a rapid walk around the tent. He beat a great fist into an open sweaty palm. "I'm beginning to, just beginning to—" "That's what I was doing at that point, just beginning to. Assumptions that don't stand up under the structure they're supposed to support have caused the ruin of more closethinking businessmen than I would like to face across any conference table. The four brokers, for example, who, after the market crash of 1929—" "All right," Braganza broke in hurriedly, taking a chair near the cot. "Where did you go from there?" "I still couldn't be certain of anything; all I had to go on were a few random thoughts inspired by extrasubstantial adrenalin secretions and, of course, the strong feeling that these particular Aliens weren't acting the way I had become accustomed to expect Aliens to act. They reminded me of something, of somebody. I was positive that once I got that memory tagged, I'd have most of the problem solved. And I was right." "How were you right? What was the memory?" "Well, I hit it backwards, kind of. I went back to Professor Kleimbocher's analogy about the paleface inflicting firewater on the Indian. I've always felt that somewhere in that analogy was the solution. And suddenly, thinking of Professor Kleimbocher and watching those powerful creatures writhing their way in and around each other, suddenly I knew what was wrong. Not the analogy, but our way of using it. We'd picked it up by the hammer head instead of the handle. The paleface gave firewater to the Indian all right— but he got something in return." "What?" "Tobacco. Now there's nothing very much wrong with tobacco if it isn't misused, but the first white men to smoke probably went as far overboard as the first Indians to drink. And both booze and tobacco have this in common—they make you awfully sick if you use too much for your initial experiment. See, Braganza? These Aliens out here in the desert reservation are sick. They have hit something in our culture that is as psychologically indigestible to them as...well, whatever they have that sticks in our mental

gullet and causes ulcers among us. They've been put into a kind of isolation in our desert areas until the problem can be licked." "Something that's as indigestible psychologically—What could it be, Hebster?" The businessman shrugged irritably. "I don't know. And I don't want to know. Perhaps it's just that they can't let go of a problem until they've solved it—and they can't solve the problems of mankind's activity because of mankind's inherent and basic differences. Simply because we can't understand them, we had no right to assume that they could and did understand us." "That wasn't all, Hebster. As the comedians put it—everything we can do, they can do better." "Then why did they keep sending Primeys in to ask for those weird gadgets and impossible gimcracks?" "They could duplicate anything we made." "Well, maybe that is it," Hebster suggested. "They could duplicate it, but could they design it? They show every sign of being a race of creatures who never had to make very much for themselves; perhaps they evolved fairly early into animals with direct control over matter, thus never having had to go through the various stages of artifact design. This, in our terms, is a tremendous advantage; but it inevitably would have concurrent disadvantages. Among other things, it would mean a minimum of art forms and a lack of basic engineering knowledge of the artifact itself if not of the directly activated and altered material. The fact is I was right, as I found out later. "For example. Music is not a function of theoretical harmonics, of complete scores in the head of a conductor or composer—these come later, much later. Music is first and foremost a function of the particular instrument, the reed pipe, the skin drum, the human throat—it is a function of tangibles which a race operating upon electrons, positrons and mesons would never encounter in the course of its construction. As soon as I had that, I had the other flaw in the analogy—the assumption itself." "You mean the assumption that we are necessarily inferior to the Aliens?" "Right, Braganza. They can do a lot that we can't do, but vice very much indeed versa. How many special racial talents we possess that they don't is a matter of pure conjecture—and may continue to be for a good long time. Let the theoretical boys worry that one a century from now, just so they stay away from it at present." Braganza fingered a button on his green jerkin and stared over Hebster's head. "No more scientific investigation of them, eh?" "Well, we can't right now and we have to face up to that mildly unpleasant situation. The consolation is that they have to do the same. Don't you see? It's not a basic inadequacy. We don't have enough facts and can't get enough at the moment through normal channels of scientific observation because of the implicit psychological dangers to both races. Science, my forward-looking friend, is a complex of interlocking theories, all derived from observation. "Remember, long before you had any science of navigation you had coast-hugging and river-hopping traders who knew how the various currents affected their leaky little vessels, who had learned things about the relative dependability of the moon and the stars—without any interest at all in integrating these scraps of knowledge into broader theories. Not until you have a sufficiently large body of these scraps, and are able to distinguish the preconceptions from the actual observations, can you proceed to organize a science of navigation without running the grave risk of drowning while you conduct your definitive experiments.

"A trader isn't interested in theories. He's interested only in selling something that glitters for something that glitters even more. In the process, painlessly and imperceptibly, he picks up bits of knowledge which gradually reduce the area of unfamiliarity. Until one day there are enough bits of knowledge on which to base a sort of preliminary understanding, a working hypothesis. And then, some Kleimbocher of the future, operating in an area no longer subject to the sudden and unexplainable mental disaster, can construct meticulous and exact laws out of the more obviously valid hypotheses." "I might have known it would be something like this, if you came back with it, Hebster! So their theorists and our theorists had better move out and the traders move in. Only how do we contact their traders—if they have any such animals?" The corporation president sprang out of bed and began dressing. "They have them. Not a Board of Director type perhaps—but a business-minded Alien. As soon as I realized that the dots-in-bottles were acting, relative to their balanced scientific colleagues, very like our own high IQ Primeys, I knew I needed help. I needed someone I could tell about it, someone on their side who had as great a stake in an operating solution as I did. There had to be an Alien in the picture somewhere who was concerned with profit and loss statements, with how much of a return you get out of a given investment of time, personnel, materiel and energy. I figured with him I could talk—business. The simple approach: What have you got that we want and how little of what we have will you take for it. No attempts to understand completely incompatible philosophies. There had to be that kind of character somewhere in the expedition. So I shut my eyes and let out what I fondly hoped was a telepathic yip channeled to him. I was successful. "Of course, I might not have been successful if he hadn't been searching desperately for just that sort of yip. He came buzzing up in a rousing United States Cavalry-routs-theredskins type of rescue, stuffed my dripping psyche back into my subconscious and hauled me up into some sort of never-never-ship. I've been in this interstellar version of Mohammed's coffin, suspended between Heaven and Earth, for three days, while he alternately bargained with me and consulted the home office about developments. "We dickered the way I do with Primeys—by running down a list of what each of us could offer and comparing it with what we wanted; each of us trying to get a little more than we gave to the other guy, in our own terms, of course. Buying and selling are intrinsically simple processes; I don't imagine our discussions were very much different from those between a couple of Phoenician sailors and the blue-painted Celtic inhabitants of early Britain." "And this...this business-Alien never suggested the possibility of taking what they wanted—" "By force? No, Braganza, not once. Might be they're too civilized for such shenanigans. Personally, I think the big reason is that they don't have any idea of what it is they do want from us. We represent a fantastic enigma to them—a species which uses matter to alter matter, producing objects which, while intended for similar functions, differ enormously from each other. You might say that we ask the question 'how?' about their activities; and they want to know the 'why?' about ours. Their investigators have compulsions even greater than ours. As I understand it, the intelligent races they've encountered up to this point are all comprehensible to them since they derive from parallel evolutionary paths. Every time one of their researchers gets close to the answer of why we wear various colored clothes even in climates where clothing is unnecessary, he slips over the edges and splashes.

"Of course, that's why this opposite number of mine was so worried. I don't know his exact status—he maybe anything from the bookkeeper to the business-manager of the expedition—but it's his neck, or should I say bottleneck, if the outfit continues to be uneconomic. And I gathered that not only has his occupation kind of barred him from doing the investigation his unstable pals were limping back from into the asylums he's constructed here in the deserts, but those of them who've managed to retain their sanity constantly exhibit a healthy contempt for him. They feel, you see, that their function is that of the expedition. He's strictly supercargo. Do you think it bothers them one bit," Hebster snorted, "that he has a report to prepare, to show how his expedition stood up in terms of a balance sheet—" "Well, you did manage to communicate on that point, at least," Braganza grinned. "Maybe traders using the simple, earnestly chiseling approach will be the answer. You've certainly supplied us with more basic data already than years of heavily subsidized research. Hebster, I want you to go on the air with this story you told me and show a couple of Primey Aliens to the video public." "Uh-uh. You tell 'em. You can use the prestige. I'll think a message to my Alien buddy along the private channel he's keeping open for me, and he'll send you a couple of humanhappy dots-in-bottles for the telecast. I've got to whip back to New York and get my entire outfit to work on a really encyclopedic job." "Encyclopedic?" The executive pulled his belt tight and reached for a tie. "Well, what else would you call the first edition of the Hebster Interstellar Catalogue of All Human Activity and Available Artifacts, prices available upon request with the understanding that they are subject to change without notice?"

THE door-knob turned, then rattled. Dr. David Wong stepped out from behind the large bookcase, listening. He pressed the brass handle of the top shelf and the case silently pivoted back to become part of the wall, obliterating the dark passage behind it. An imperative knocking began at the door; David walked softly to his desk and picked up his notebook. He tried to remain relaxed, but he could feel the tightening of his shoulder muscles. With his right hand, he shut his notebook and concealed it under a mass of papers, while his left hand pressed the desk button to release the lock of the door. The door burst open and two men strode in, a black-uniformed Ruler, followed by a watchguard. Black-visored cap still on his head, the first man marched to the desk and spoke without ceremonial greeting. "The door was locked, Dr. Wong?" "Correct, Dr. Lanza. The door was locked." "I shall have to instruct the guard to report it. Have you forgotten Leader Marley's Maxim: Constructive science does not skulk behind locked doors?" Wong leaned back in his chair and smiled at his visitors. "The wisdom of Leader Marley is a constant help to us all, but his generosity is also a byword. Surely you remember that on the tenth anniversary of his accession, he honored me by the grant of occasional hours of Privacy, as a reward for my work on Blue Martian Fever?" "I remember now," said Dr. Lanza. "But what for?" asked Officer Blagun. "It's anti-social!" "Evidently you have forgotten, Officer Blagun, another Maxim of Leader Marley: Nature has not equipped one Category to judge the needs of another; only the Leader understands all. Now, Dr. Lanza, will you tell me the reason for this visit? Since your promotion from Research to Ruler, I have rarely been honored by your attention." "I am here with a message," said Lanza. "Leader Marley's compliments, and he requests your presence at a conference on next Wednesday at ten in the morning." "Why did you have to deliver that in person? What's wrong with using Communications?" "It's not my province to ask questions, Dr. Wong. I was told to come here, and I was told to wait for a reply." "Next Wednesday at ten? Let's see, this is Friday." David Wong pressed the key of his electronic calendar, but he had no need to study the dull green and red lights that flashed on to indicate the pattern of his day. He did not delude himself that he had any real choice, but he had learned in the past fifteen years that it kept up his courage to preserve at least the forms of independence. He allowed a decent thirty seconds to ponder the coded lights, then blanked the board and looked up with an easy smile. "Dr. Wong's compliments to Leader Marley, and he will be honored to attend a conference on Wednesday at ten." Nodding his head, Dr. Lanza glanced briefly around the office. "Queer, old-fashioned place you have here." "Yes. It was built many years ago by a slippery old politician who wanted to be safe from his enemies. Makes a good place for Research, don't you think?" Lanza did not answer. He strode to the door, then paused to look back. "You understand, Dr. Wong, that I shall have to report the locked door? I have no choice."

"Has anyone?" Officer Blagun followed his superior, leaving the door wide open behind them. Wong remained rigid in his chair until the clack of heels on marble floor had become a mere echo in his brain, then stretched out his hand to the intercom. He observed with pride that his hand did not tremble as he pressed the dial. "Get me Dr. Karl Haslam . . . Karl? Can you meet me in the lab right away? I've thought of a new approach that might help us crack the White Martian problem. Yes, I know we planned on conferring tomorrow, but it's getting later than you think." Again he pressed the dial. "Get me Leah Hachovnik. Leah? I've got some new stuff to dictate. Be a good girl and come along right away." Breaking the connection, he drew out his notebook and opened it. David Wong was a big man, tall, well-muscled, compact, and he might have been handsome but for a vague something in his appearance. His lean face and upcurving mouth were those of a young man; his hair was a glossy black, too thick to be disciplined into neatness; and he was well-dressed, except for the unfashionable bulging of his jacket pocket, where he carried a bulky leather case of everfeed pens and notebooks. But it was his eyes that were disconcerting—an intense blue, brilliant and direct, they had a wisdom and a comprehension that seemed incongruous in so young a face. A worried frown creased his forehead as he turned back to one of the first pages, studying the symbols he had recorded there, but he looked up without expression on hearing the tapping of slender heels. "Quick work, Leah. How are you this morning?" "As if anybody cared!" Leah Hachovnik settled down before the compact stenograph machine, her shoulders slumped, her thin mouth drooping at the corners. "Feel like working?" said David. "As much as I ever do, I guess. Sometimes I wonder if the traitors in the granite quarries have it any worse than I do. Sometimes I wish I'd been born into some other Category. Other people have all the luck. I don't know what it is, Dr. Wong, but I just don't seem to have the pep I used to have. Do you think it could be the climate here in New York?" "People do grow older, Leah," he reminded her gently. "I know. But Tanya—you remember my twin sister Tanya, the one that got so sick that time, ten years ago, when you did that experiment with Blue Martian Fever, and she had to be sent out to Arizona? Of course I haven't ever seen her since then —people in Office Category never get permission for that kind of travel—but she writes me that ever since she got well again she feels just like a kid, and works as hard as she ever did, and she still seems to enjoy life. Why, she's had three proposals of marriage this past year alone, she says, and yet she's thirty-five, just the same age as I am—being twins, you know?—and nobody's proposed to me in ages. Well, I'm certainly going to try to find out what her method is. She's coming back tomorrow." "She's what?" "Coming back. BureauMed is sending her back here to the Institute to take up her old job in Intercom. Funny they haven't told you, her being an old employee and all." Dr. Wong was gripping his notebook in stiff fingers, but he replied easily, "Oh, well, BureauMed is a complex organization. With all they have to do, it's not surprising they get things mixed up sometimes." "Don't I know!" she sighed, and droned on in a dreary monotone. "This one institute alone would turn your hair gray before your time. I don't know how some people seem to

keep so young. I was just thinking to myself this morning when I watched you walking through the office, 'Why, Dr. Wong doesn't seem to age a bit! He looks just as young as he ever did, and look at me!' " Looking at her, David admitted to himself, was not the pleasure it had once been. Ten years ago, she and her twin sister Tanya had been plump, delectable, kittenish girls, their mental equipment no more than standard for Office Category, of course, but their physical appearance had been outstanding, almost beautiful enough for Theater Category. Creamy ivory skin, gray eyes, and soft red hair dramatized by a freakish streak of white that shot abruptly back from the center of the forehead, Tanya's swirling to the left, and Leah's to the right, one girl the mirror image of the other. But the Leah sitting before him now was thin and tired-looking, her sallow skin was lined, and her soft voice had become vinegary with disappointments. Her red hair had faded to a commonplace brown, and the white streak in the center was yellowed. An unwanted, souring old maid. But there was only one response to make. "You look fine to me, Leah," he said. "What time did you say your sister is coming?" "Tomorrow evenings' Playground Jet. Why?" "We'll have to think of a way to celebrate. But right now, I'd like to get started on my new paper. I've got to meet Dr. Haslam before long." "I know." She raised her faded gray eyes. "That was a funny thing you said to him just now over the intercom. You said to him it was getting late. But it isn't late. It's only eleven o'clock in the morning." David stared. "Do you mean to say you were listening to our conversation? Why did you do that?" She fidgeted and turned away from him. "Oh, I just happened to be at Comdesk and I guess the circuit wasn't closed. Does it matter? But it seemed a funny thing for you to say." "People in Office Category are not supposed to understand Research," he said severely. "If they were capable of Research, Leader Marley's planners would have placed them there. As for its being late, it is, as far as White Martian Fever is concerned. Which is the subject of my paper. Prepare to take dictation." Shrugging her shoulders, she poised her bony fingers over the keys of the little machine. "Paper for delivery at the Summer Seminar," he began. "But, Dr. Wong, that doesn't have to be ready for three months yet!" "Miss Hachovnik! Please remember Leader Marley's Maxim: Individuals born into Office Category are the bone and muscle of the State; Nature has designed them to act, not to think." "Yes, Dr. Wong. I'm sorry." "Don't worry, Leah. We're old friends, so I won't report you. All set?" He took a pencil from his leather case and tapped it against his notebook as he ruffled the pages, wondering how to begin. It was hard to think logically when a part of his mind was in such confusion. Had Leah been listening in to all of his phone conversations? If so, it was fortunate that he had long ago devised an emergency code. Was it only idle curiosity that had prompted her or was she acting under orders? Was anyone else watching him, he wondered, listening to his talk, perhaps even checking the routine of his experimental work? There was Lanza this morning—why had he come unannounced, in person, when a Communications call would have served the purpose equally well? Leah's voice broke in. "I'm ready, Dr. Wong."

He cleared his throat. ". . . the Summer Seminar. Title: The Propagation of White Martian virus. Paragraph. It will be remembered that the early attempts to establish Earth colonies on Mars were frustrated by the extreme susceptibility of our people to two viruses native to the foreign planet, viruses which we designate as Blue Martian and White Martian, according to the two distinct types of fever which they cause. Blue Martian Fever in the early days caused a mortality among our colonists of nearly eightyfive per cent, and made the establishment of permanent colonies a virtual impossibility. "Under the inspired leadership of Leader Marley and with the advice of his deputy Dr. Lanza, this laboratory in Research worked out a method of growing the virus and producing an immunizing agent which is effective in nearly all human beings. Only the cooperation of several Categories made possible such a feat. It will not be forgotten that even the humblest helpers in the Institute had their share in the project, that some of them acted as human volunteers in the experiments, well knowing the risks they ran, and were afterward rewarded by a Free Choice. "One person in Office Category, for instance, was given the privilege of learning to play the flute, although nobody in his family had ever belonged to Music, and another person in Menial Category was permitted a month's study of elementary algebra, a nearly unheard of indulgence for a person in his position. But as Leader Marley so graciously remarked in conferring the awards: 'To the individual who risks much, the State gives much.' " "Like me and Tanya?" the girl asked, stopping her typing. "Yes, like you and Tanya. You were allowed to act a part in an amateur Theater group, I remember, and since Tanya was made too ill to be able to use a Free Choice, she was sent out west to the Playground, just as though she had belonged to Ruler Category. Now where was I?" "'The State gives much.'" "Oh, yes. Paragraph. Since the discovery of the immunizing mechanism to Blue Martian, permanent colonies have been established on Mars. But there remains the more elusive problem of White Martian Fever, which, though its mortality is only thirty per cent, is still so crippling to those victims who survive that the Martian colonies cannot begin to expand, and the resources of the planet cannot be fully developed until an immunizing agent is found. "For the past eight years this laboratory has been working at the problem, among others, and we are now in a position to report a small degree of progress. Since it proved to be impossible to grow the virus in the usual media, it occurred to us—" The intercom buzzed, and Dr. Wong turned away to open the dial. "David? What's happened to you? I've been waiting here in the lab a quarter of an hour." "Sorry, Karl. I thought I had more time. Be right down." He reached for his white lab coat and shoved his long arms into the starched sleeves. "That's all we have time for now, Leah. Can you get an early lunch and be back here this afternoon at two?" But she was not listening. She was leaning over to look at the desk, staring avidly at the open pages of Dr. Wong's notebook. Without comment he picked up the book, closed it, put it in the top drawer and locked the drawer. She watched him with curious eyes. "What funny marks those were, Dr. Wong! Do you keep your notes in a private system of shorthand?" "No. I write them in Coptic. For the sake of privacy." "What's Coptic?"

"A dead language, spoken by the ancient Egyptians thirty or forty centuries ago." "But you're Research, not Linguistics! It's against the law for you to know other languages. Are you a traitor?" "My dear Leah," he said, "I'm far too sensible a man to go in for bootleg study, to learn anything without permission. I have no wish to end up with a pick-ax in my hands. But you shouldn't tax your little mind with thinking. It's not your job. You're not equipped for it, and it's dangerous." David passed the watchguard stationed in the basement corridor, walked through the open door of the laboratory, past the bench where a row of pretty technicians sat making serial dilutions of bacterial and virus suspensions, through the glow of the sterilizing room, and on into the small inner lab where flasks of culture media and developing hens' eggs sat in a transparent incubator, and petri dishes flecked with spots of color awaited his inspection. Dr. Karl Haslam was standing at the work bench, with a pair of silver forceps which held a small egg under the psi light. Gently he lowered the egg into its warm observation chamber, covered the container, and sat down. "Well, here I am. What's gone wrong? Explain yourself, my boy." "Just a minute." Grinning maliciously, David took down a bottle from the shelf of chemicals, poured a colorless liquid into a beaker, and walked casually toward the doorway as he agitated the mixture of hydrogen sulphide and mercaptans. He held his breath, then coughed, when the fumes of putrescence filled the room and drifted out the door. He looked into the technician's room. "Sorry for the aroma, girls, but this is a vital experiment." "Can't you at least shut the door?" one called pleadingly. "Explain to the watchguard out there, will you?" Closing the door, he turned on the ventilator and sat down beside Dr. Haslam. "Why all the melodrama?" Karl asked, baffled. "First you call me by emergency code, then you hole in like a conspirator. I'm beginning to think you're a great loss to Theater. What's happened? Why is it later than I think?" "Do you take everything as a joke, Karl?" "Certainly, until I'm forced to do otherwise. What's worrying you?" "I'm afraid of being arrested for treason. Don't laugh! This morning I received a message, delivered in person by our old schoolmate Lanza, to report to Leader Marley on Wednesday, and Marley hasn't paid any attention to me since he last inspected our lab, years ago. For another thing, Leah Ilachovnik is making a nuisance of herself with her curiosity about my affairs. If she weren't so clumsy about her prying, I'd almost believe she was under orders to spy on me." Karl moved impatiently. "I hope you're not turning psychotic. You have a clean record of continuous production and you've never mixed in politics. You've never expressed what you may really think of our Leader even to me, although we've been friends since we were in Med-school, and I hope you never will. And you're making progress with White Martian. Why, my boy, you're all set! What's treasonable about that?" Someone knocked at the door. Hastily David uncovered the fragrant beaker and waved it about as he called, "Come in!" The watchguard looked in for an instant, wrinkled his nose, and quickly shut the door. Laughing, David covered the beaker, and began walking about with long nervous strides, snapping his fingers as he tried to explain. "I'm in trouble, Karl. I've run into something I don't know how to deal with, and I need help, I need advice, I need cooperation. I've lived alone with this thing for ten long years,

hoping month after month that something would turn up so I could evade the issue. But nothing has. And now there's going to be a showdown." Karl touched his arm sympathetically. "My dear boy—" "That's it!" shouted David. "What's what?" "That's what I'm trying to tell you. Why do you always call me your 'dear boy?' You know I'm a year older than you are." "It's just habit, I suppose. You look so young—your hair is black, while mine is nearly white. You're full of vigor, while I begin to creak with middle age. I didn't realize that I irritated you with my little phrase. I should think you'd be pleased that you have somehow managed to sip at the fountain of youth." David sank down on a stool. "I'm not pleased. I'm terrified." "What do you mean?" "I mean that's exactly what's happened. I have sipped at the fountain of youth. I've discovered how to keep people from growing old. I myself have not aged a bit in the last ten years." There was a long silence. Karl sat unmoving, his face like stone. "I don't believe you," he said at last. "It's no longer a question of belief. In a few days everybody will know, the proof will stare you in the face. And what will happen then?" "Evidence?" Karl asked. "I can't accept a statement as a fact." "Would you like to see my mice? Come with me." David Wong hurried into the small animal room and paused before a stack of wire cages in which furry creatures darted and squeaked. "You remember when we were working on Blue Martian, those peculiar mutants we found in our mice, and how I used six of them in trying to make antibodies to the virus?" "I remember," said Karl. "They were spotted with tufts of white hair on the right forelegs." David took down a cage, thrust in his hand, and brought out two of the tiny black mice which crawled over his trembling hand. Their right forelegs bore tufts of long white hair. "These," he said, "are the same mice." "Their descendants, you mean. Mice don't live that long." "These mice do. And they'll go on living. For years I've lived in fear that someone would notice and suspect the truth. Just as for years, every time someone has laughed and told me I never seemed to age a day, I've been terrified that he might guess the truth. I'm not aging." Karl looked dazed. "Well, my boy, you've got a bear by the tail. How did you find the elixir or whatever it is?" "You remember the early work with radioactive tracers, a couple of hundred years ago, that proved that all our body cells are in a continuous state of flux? There's a dynamic equilibrium between the disintegration and the resynthesis of the essential factors such as proteins, fats and amino groups, but the cell directs all the incoming material into the right chemical structures, under the influence of some organizing power which resides in the cell. "Foreign influences like viruses may disrupt this order and cause cancer. The cells are continually in a state of change, but always replace their characteristic molecules, and it is only as they grow older that they gradually become 'worn out.' Then the body grows old, becomes less resistant to infection, and eventually succumbs to one disease or another. And you know, of course, that viruses also have this self-duplicating ability.

"I reasoned that at birth a man had a definite, finite amount of this essential selfduplicating entity—SDE—in his body cells, a kind of directing factor which reproduces itself, but more slowly than do the body cells. In that case, with the normal multiplication of the cells, the amount of SDE per cell would slowly but surely grow smaller with the years. Eventually the time would come when the percentage would be below the critical level—the cells would be less resistant, would function with less efficiency, and the man would 'grow old.' " Karl nodded soberly. "Reasonable hypothesis." "But one day, by pure chance, I isolated a component which I recognized as being the factor essential to the normal functioning of body cells. It hit me like a toothache. I found that I could synthesize the SDE in the lab, and the only problem then was to get it into a man's cells. If I could do that, keep the SDE level up to that of youth, a man would stop aging! Since viruses penetrate our cells when they infect us, it was no trick at all to effect a chemical coupling of the SDE to the virus. I used Martian Blue, since it was handy, and its effects arc usually brief. "Presto! Old age is held at bay for another twenty or thirty years—I really don't know how long. These mice were my first experiment, and as you see, they're still alive. Next, I tried it on myself." David put the mice back in their cage, locked it, and returned to the lab. "Tomorrow, the whole thing is bound to come out because Tanya Hachovnik is coming back. You know her sister Leah—gray, dried-up, soured on life. Well, I've had ways of checking, and when Tanya Hachovnik walks into the Institute, everyone will see her as the same luscious redhead of twenty-five we knew ten years ago. I realize that what I did was a criminal act. I didn't think the thing through or I wouldn't have been such a fool. But when I made those final experiments, I used the Hachovnik twins for a controlled pair." "You must have been crazy!" "Perhaps I was. I'd tried it on myself, of course, with no bad effects except a few days' fever, but I realized that without a control I never could be sure the SDE was actually working. It might be just that my particular genetic constitution caused me to age more slowly than the average. So I chose the twins. To Leah I gave the attenuated Martian Blue, but to Tanya I gave the simple Blue coupled with SDE. The experiment worked. Identical twins—one grows old like other people; the other remains young. I know now, Karl, how to prolong youth indefinitely. But what in the name of Leader Marley shall I do with my knowledge?" Karl Haslam absently twisted his white hair and spoke slowly, as though he found trouble in choosing his words. "You realize, of course, that it is your duty to acquaint Leader Marley with all the details of your discovery?" "Is it? Can you imagine what this will do to our society? What about the generations of children coming into a world where no places have been vacated for them by death? What about the struggles for power? Who will decide, and on what basis, whether to confer or to withhold this gift? There'll be riots, civil wars. I know that I'm only a scientist; all I ever wanted from life was to be left alone, in a peaceful laboratory, and let other people worry about the world and its troubles. But now—don't you see that by the mere fact that I made this discovery, I've lost the right to sit by quietly and let other people make the decisions?" "But, David, you and I aren't able to handle such a problem! We're only Research!"

"I know. We're inadequate, yet we have the responsibility. The men who created atomic power probably felt inadequate, too, but could they have made as bad a mess of handling it as others did? Suppose I did turn this over to Marley—he'd use it to become the most absolute tyrant in the history of the race." Karl ran his fingers through his hair and smiled crookedly. "Well, you could always start a revolution, I suppose, and start by assassinating the Leader." "With what kind of weapon? Men like you and me are not allowed to own so much as an old-fashioned pistol. Except for the Military, Marley's the only man allowed to wear a Needler. And, besides, I'm a Research, not a Military. I hate violence and I'm naturally conditioned against killing." "Then you shouldn't have got into this mess. It would have been far better never to have discovered this SDE. I presume your notes are safely locked up, by the way?" David grinned. "Don't worry about my notes; they're written in Coptic. You remember when I was still in Medschool and made my first important discovery, how to prevent the development of hereditary baldness by the injection of certain parahormones? Leader Marley rewarded me with a Free Choice, and I chose to learn a dead language. Not half a dozen men in the world could read my notes." "If your notes are safe, why don't you just destroy your mice and get rid of your proof that way?" "And the Hachovnik twins?" "You could at least keep Tanya out of sight." "Don't be a fool. That would only be a temporary measure and has nothing to do with the real problem. Lanza and Marley may suspect the truth right now, for all I know; they keep such close watch on my work. Anyway, the secret is bound to come out sooner or later." Dr. Haslam clasped his hands and stared at them for a long while. His lined face looked grayer than ever. He looked up at last with a faint smile. "Well, my boy, I never asked you to discover this stuff, but since you have—I hereby burn my bridges! You're right, we can't give it to Marley. But you can't handle it alone. What we need is time, and we haven't got it. We shall both be liquidated before this is over, there's no doubt of that, but we must do what we can. When is Tanya arriving?" "Tomorrow night, on the Playground Jet." "And you see Leader Marley when?" "Next Wednesday." "Five days yet. Then this is what we'll do. Too bad Lanza is in the other camp, but there's you and me, and I think Hudson and Faurë from Serology will come in with us. We'll need others —sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists—the most promising material from all Categories if we're to create a new society based on the prospect of immortality. But I'll see the first two and bring them to your apartment tomorrow night for Tanya's welcome-home party. I leave it to you to muzzle Leah." "That won't do," said David. "I don't have a current Free Choice." "But I have. Two, as a matter of fact, a reward for curing the insomnia of Leader Marley's wife. I choose to give a party, I choose tomorrow night, and I choose your apartment." A knock rattled the door, and the watchguard thrust in his head. "How much longer is this here experiment going to take? Do you guys want to be reported?" "Just finishing, Officer," called Karl. "You can leave the door open now."

"What a stink!" said the guard. "Thank God I'm in Military!" It hardly seemed like a party, David thought. His guests were ill at ease, and their conversation labored, then stopped altogether when the Menial came into the library with a tray of glasses and niblets. "Put them on the liquor cabinet, James," said David. "And that will be all. Enjoy yourself tonight." The Menial put down the tray and then stooped to fumble with the lock. "Let that alone! I've told you a thousand times not to monkey with my liquor cabinet!" "Don't you want me to get out the ice cubes, Doctor?" "I'll do it. You can go now." "But are you sure you won't want me later in the evening, Doctor? Who's to serve the supper? Who's going to clear up afterward?" "We'll manage. Don't worry about us." James shuffled out of the room. "I suppose that means I'll manage," said Leah, with a self-pitying sigh. "I've noticed that whenever people decide to rough it and do without a Menial, they take it for granted the women will do the work, never the men—unless the women are still young and pretty. Well, at any rate, I'll have Tanya to help me. I still don't see why you wouldn't let me go to the Port to meet her, Dr. Wong." "I just thought it would be more of a celebration if we had a surprise party all waiting for her to walk into. Dr. Haslam will bring her here directly from the Port, and here we all are, her old friends from the Institute, waiting to welcome her home." "I'd hardly say all," said Leah. "I'm the only person from Office that's here. And why have a party in your Library, Dr. Wong? Nothing here but books, books, books." "Because I keep my liquor here, in the only room I have a right to lock up. My Menial is a good man, but he can't resist an opened bottle." "Well, it's still a gloomy party." David turned appealingly to his other guests, Hudson and Faure, but they only looked uncomfortable. "Perhaps we need a drink." David unlocked the cupboard and picked up a bottle which he set down hastily when he heard voices in the hall. He hurried to the outer door and opened it a few inches to reveal the sturdy shoulders of the watchguard of the floor and, beyond him, Karl Haslam. "Everything in order, Officer?" asked Karl. "Your permit is in order, Dr. Haslam. A private party. Let me just check—yes, three guests have arrived, and you two make five. That all? You have until midnight. But it beats me why you people in Research prefer a party without a watchguard, or why Leader Marley ever gives permission. Why, in all my years in Military, I've never been to an unwatched party, and I must say it never held us down any." Karl laughed a little too forcedly. "I'll bet it didn't! But all Research people are a little peculiar. You must have noticed that yourself." "Well—" "And you know how generous Leader Marley is, and how kind he is to loyal citizens. He wants us to be happy, so he pampers us now and then." "I guess he knows what he's doing, all right. Well, I'll check you out at twelve, then." "Go on in, Tanya," said Karl. They stepped into the apartment and David quietly closed the door. "Hi, Sis," drawled Leah. "You made us wait long enough!" She walked toward the girl, hand outstretched, then stopped with a gasp of disbelief.

Tanya's red hair was still brilliant and gleaming, her creamy skin unlined, and her full red lips curved up into a friendly smile as she leaned forward for a sisterly kiss. But Leah jerked away and glared with anger. A puzzled frown creased Tanya's lovely white forehead. "What's the matter, Leah? Aren't you glad to see me? You look so strange, as though you'd been terribly ill!" Leah shook her head, tears of rage gathering in her pale eyes. "I'm okay," she whispered. "It's you. You haven't changed. I have. You're still young, you're pretty, you're just the way I used to be!" She whirled to face David, her voice choking. "What have you done to her, Dr. Wong?" The four men in the room were all staring at the sisters, scarcely believing what they saw, although they had all been prepared for the contrast. The twin sisters were no longer twins. One had retained her youth the other was faded, aging. "This is awful," Haslam muttered. "Absolutely ghastly." He put a comforting hand on Leah's shoulder, and with a deep sob she hid her face against him and cried. Hudson and Faure could not take their eyes from Tanya, and David leaned against the wall to stop his trembling. "Sit down, all of you," he said. "First we'll have a drink. I'm sure we all need it. Then we'll face—what has to be faced." An hour later, they had achieved a calmness, of sorts. They had given up some of their normal sobriety to achieve the calm, but they were grateful to the drug for cushioning the shock. David paced the floor, glass in hand, talking rapidly as he finished his long explanation. "So you see what happened," he said. "When I began the experiment, I had no idea how staggering the results might be. That is, I knew in my mind, but I never imagined the redness of what would happen. I thought of it as just an experiment." Leah sniffed, her resentment somewhat dulled by drink. "So I was just an experiment! Don't you ever think about people's feelings? I know I'm not as good as you are; I'm only Office, but I'm human." Karl patted her hand. "Of course you are, Leah. But that is one of the defects of people in Research—they forget about human emotions." He looked up sternly at David. "They go ahead with their experiments, and hang the consequences. If Dr. Wong had had any sense, he would never have kept this a secret for ten years, and we might have had ten years to prepare ourselves for such a responsibility. Instead, we have only a few days or, at most, weeks. Hudson! Faure! How do you feel about this thing now? Are you still game?" Both men seemed a little dazed, but Faure pulled himself together, speaking slowly, like a man in a dream. "We're with you. It's still hard to believe: we've got immortality!" "I'd hardly call it immortality," said Hudson drily, "since, as I understand it, SDE does not kill disease entities, nor ward off bullets or the disintegrating nuclear shaft of the needler—as we will very likely find out before very long. But what do we do now? When people see these two girls together, it won't be an hour before Marley hears about it." David spoke up with a new authority. "He must not hear about it. I know how poorly equipped I am to handle this situation, but since I created it, I must assume responsibility, and I have made my plans. "First, you, Tanya. Try to realize that if the Leader finds out that I have this secret of keeping youth, he will want it for himself. Nobody in Menial, nobody in Office, nobody

in Research—almost nobody at all—will be allowed to benefit from it. Marley will use it as a special reward for certain Rulers, and he will try to keep its very existence a secret so that people in general will not be envious or rebellious. That means that he will have to get rid of you." "Get rid of me? But I haven't done any harm!" "Just by existing and letting people look at your unchanging youth; you will be a threat to him, for you will give away his secret. How he'll deal with you, I don't know. Concentration camp, exile, or more probably, simple execution on grounds of treason, such as unauthorized choices of activity or study. It doesn't matter, he'll find a way. The only safety for you is in keeping hidden. You must stay quietly in Leah's apartment until we can find a refuge for you. Do you see that?" She looked around in bewilderment. "Is that right, Dr. Haslam? And what will they think at the Institute? I'm supposed to go back to my job in Intercom." "Dr. Wong is right," he said kindly. "Please believe us. It's hard for you to understand that we are asking you to do something secret, but just try to remember that you are, after all, an Office Category and are not equipped by training or constitution to think out problems like this. We'll tell you what is the right thing to do. You just do as we tell you, and you'll be perfectly safe." Leah snickered. "Oh, she'll be safe enough, being as pretty as she is! What are you going to do about me? Don't I count?" "We'll come to that in a few minutes. Right now, we need food. Leah, you and Tanya be good girls and go out to the kitchen and heat up some supper for us. After we've eaten, we'll talk about you." As soon as the girls were out of the room, the four men drew together at the table. "No use burdening them with too much knowledge," Karl remarked. "Even as it is, they are a great danger to us, and the less they know the better. David, will you proceed?" "I have little to add to the plans we made last night at the lab. The thing we need most is time; and next to that, a hiding place. We may very soon be classed as traitors, with every watchguard on the continent hunting for us. We will take care that they don't find us. Now, you said last night that each one of you has accumulated a Free Choice during the past year, which hasn't yet been used." "That's right," said Fauth. "I intended to use mine next winter to live among the Australian aborigines for a week. I've been wanting that for years, but the planners always refused me; it was a project without practical purpose." "And I intended to use mine to attempt a water-color painting," added Hudson. "In my boyhood I hoped to be put in Arts Category, but the Planners laughed at me. I suppose it's wrong, yet I still have the yen." "You have my sympathy," said Karl. "I was going to take an Aimless Tramp. Just shed my identity and wander on foot through the great north area of woods and lakes." David sighed. "Well, if we are successful in hiding and in changing the world as we'd like, you can all three be free to do as you like without asking permission. But at present that's only the wildest of dreams. And, first, we must find our refuge. Today is Saturday. Tomorrow morning, each of you will go to BureauMed and claim your Free Choice. And each of you will choose an Aimless Tramp." "But I don't like hiking," objected Hudson. "You won't be hiking. You'll take off in your roboplanes and then disappear. You will be without supervision. You will then proceed, disguised as you think suitable, to find a place for our new colony—somewhere in South America?—and make preliminary

arrangements to receive us. You must be back by Tuesday afternoon at the latest. On Tuesday, as soon as you have reported back to BureauMed, get to the Institute as fast as you can." "Why the deadline?" "Because by Tuesday afternoon, sometime before evening, probably, I expect all three of you to be suffering from an attack of Blue Martian Fever, and I want you to get expert hospital care. You will be the nucleus of the new regime." Karl laughed. "I wish you could have picked a base for your SDE that was less unpleasant than Blue Martian." "Who's got Blue Martian?" asked Tanya, as the girls came in from the kitchen with their trays of food. "I'll never forget how sick it made me." "You should worry," said Leah. "It kept you young and beautiful, didn't it?" "You won't have to envy her, Leah," said David going to the liquor cabinet. "I'm going to give you and the others a shot of the SDE-Martian Blue. Sometime Tuesday afternoon you should feel the first symptoms. But after forty-eight hours in the hospital, you'll be good as new. And you will all stop growing older." They watched, fascinated, as he opened the cooling compartment of the liquor cupboard. "I always like plenty of ice in my drinks," he remarked, drawing out a tray of cubes and opening a small door behind the tray. He removed several small bottles filled with a milky liquid, and a copper box of sterile needles and syringes. "Who'll be first?" There was a knock at the door, and David stopped. "What is it?" he called. "Me," came the watchguard's voice. "Just thought I'd do you a favor and tell you it's only ten minutes till checkout time. Time to get yourselves decent!" They could hear the rumble of his laugh as he moved on down the hall. Trembling, David picked up a bottle, poured alcohol onto the rubber cap, and deftly filled the sterile syringe. He reached for a piece of cotton, dipped it in iodine, and looked up, waiting. Karl Haslam had already bared his left arm. David swabbed the spot on the upper deltoid. Karl laughed. "Here I come, Methuselah!" "All set?" asked David. He plunged the needle home. David ran up the steps of the Institute, two at a time, and hurried toward his office through the echoing corridors, where the usual watchguard sauntered on patrol. "Morning, Jones." "Good morning, Doctor. Pretty early, aren't you?" "Wednesday's my busy day." He settled at his desk, miserably conscious of the open door and curious eyes behind him, opened his briefcase, then glanced at his wristwatch. More than an hour before his interview with Leader Marley. Spreading some data sheets before him, he looked at them blankly as he tried to order his thoughts. His eyes were ringed with dark depressions, for he had had no sleep. There had been so many things to plan for, so many arrangements to make. It was possible, of course, that this morning's talk would turn out to be mere routine. There might remain several weeks of freedom—but there might be only a few hours. He shrank from the complexity of the problem before him; he was a Research man, devoted to his test tubes and his culture growths, and would have been happy never to face any problem beyond them.

He had a moment's revulsion at the unfairness of the fact that a simple experiment in the lab, an addition to man's knowledge of the Universe, should have plunged him against his will into a situation far beyond his ability to handle. There had been, as Karl pointed out, the alternative of turning the SDE over to the Leader. That would have absolved him of all responsibility. But that was the trouble, he thought. Responsibility could not be confined to squiggles in his notebook, when those squiggles might affect the whole of society. "Dr. Wong!" He jumped and turned around hastily. "Leah! What in the world?" She stood in the doorway, glaring at him, breathing heavily as though she were trying to hold back sobs. Slowly she tottered to the desk and sank down into her chair by the stenograph. "You doublecrosser!" she whispered. He looked quickly at the doorway, but the guard had not come back. Leaning forward, he questioned her fiercely. "What are you doing here? They told me yesterday that several people had come down with attacks of Blue Martian. Why aren't you in the hospital with the others?" "Because I wasn't sick!" "But I gave you—" "Imagine how I felt," she raced on, "watching Dr. Haslam start having a chill, hearing Dr. Faure complain about his awful headache, and listening to Dr. Hudson dial Intercom and call for a doctor. And all that time I was waiting, waiting for something to happen to me. And nothing did! What have you got against me, Dr. Wong, that you infect all the others and only pretend to do it to me? I don't want to grow old any more than they do!" "But I wasn't pretending. Quiet, now, and let me think." He waited until the watchguard had passed by the door, then raised his head. "Look here, Leah. Evidently the infection didn't take. This is what must have happened. That treatment I gave you ten years ago must have made you permanently immune to Blue Martian, and the antibodies it formed in your cells simply protected you against this new invasion of the virus. It never occurred to me that the immunity would last so long. But don't worry, I'll find a way." She looked suspicious. "What do you mean?" "I mean that there's no reason why Blue Martian should be the only vehicle for giving you the SDE. There must be other viruses that will work equally well. It's only a question of finding one." "And how long will that take you?" "How long does anything take in Research? Maybe a week, maybe a year." "And maybe ten! I can't wait, Dr. Wong. I'm thirty-five now; I'm growing older. What good will a long life do me, if it only preserves me as the middle-aged woman I'll be by then? And all those years that I'll be getting older and older, there'll be Tanya, lively and pretty, to remind me that I was once like that, too. I can't face it!" "The watchguard will hear you!" Haggard-faced, he watched her shaking shoulders, hearing her muffled sobs. "You're a criminal, Dr. Wong! It was a crime, what you did to Tanya and me." "I didn't realize in the beginning or I'd never have touched the thing. I know it now, even better than you do, but what can I do?"

She looked up and wiped her eyes, her mouth set hard. "I know what I can do. I can report you to the Leader." "What good will that do? You know how terrible you feel now about being left out— though I swear I never meant it to be like this. But just try to imagine. If you report me so that Leader Marley gets the secret of SDE, then thousands of people will be put in just the same situation you are in. You're only one person suffering. But then there'd be hundreds of thousand'', millions! Surely you wouldn't want to have that on your conscience?" "Do you think I'd care?" "You would when you felt calmer. You're wrought up, ill. Let me send you home. Promise me you'll go home quietly, talk it over with Tanya, and not say anything to anyone else. I'll think of a way out for you. Just be patient." "Patient!" He thought of calling Karl Haslam. Karl would know best how to deal with her, how to bring her back to reason. He reached toward the intercom, then dropped his hand in despair. Karl was in the hospital, with Faurë and Hudson, shivering with the cold of Blue Martian fever. But he had to get her away. He pressed the intercom dial. "Dr. Wong speaking. Miss Hachovnik is ill and is being sent home. Please send an aircab for her at once." He helped Leah to her feet, and spoke pleadingly. "Promise you'll be good, Leah?" The fury in her eyes nearly knocked him down. Without a word, without a gesture, she walked out. David felt as though he'd been put through a wringer as he followed Officer Magnun into the Leader's suite at State House. Several nights of sleeplessness, the worries of planning for a refuge, and the scene with Leah had left him limp and spiritless. The girl was a danger, he knew, but she was only one of many. He nodded at Dr. Lanza, who was busy reading reports from BureauMed, and saluted Leader Marley, who was talking with a watchguard. Marley looked up briefly. "Sit down, Wong." David folded himself into a chair, grateful for a few moments in which to collect himself, while Marley gave the last of his orders. "Put them in the Vermont granite quarries, and keep them at work for the next year." "As you say, Leader. With the usual secrecy, of course?" "No, you blockhead! These are a bunch of nobodies. Use all the publicity you can get. Keep a punishment a secret and how can it have any effect on other people? No, I want full radio and news coverage and telecast showings as they swing the first pick at the first rocks. People have got to realize that the Leader knows best, that treason doesn't pay. No matter how clever they think they are, they'll always get caught. Understand?" "As you say, Leader." "Then get going." As the guard left the room, Leader Marley turned to David. "What fools people are!" He ran his beefy hands through a shock of black hair, blinked his eyes, and wrinkled the heavy black brows that met over his nose. Wonderingly, he shook his massive head as he drew his gleaming needler from his breast pocket and played with it, tossing it from hand to hand while he talked. "I'm probably the most generous Leader the State has had since the Atomic Wars, Wong, and I never withhold a privilege from someone who has deserved it. But people mistake me when they think that I am weak and will overlook treason."

"Your generosity is a byword, Leader Marley," said Wong. "But some people are incapable of acting for their best interests even when you have defined it for them. Who are these latest traitors?" "Oh, nobody really important, of course, except as they waste time which they owe to the State. Just attempts at illegal study. An Office Category who had found a basement room in a deserted building and was spending all his evening hours there practicing the violin. A Theater man who was illegally trying to learn carpentry. And a teacher of mathematics who had forged a key to the Linguistics library, and had been getting in every night to study a dead language—Cuneiform, Latin, something like that, utterly without practical value. This last one is an old man, too, and ought to have known better. People must be made to realize that if they want the privilege of useless study, they will have to earn it. And I am very broadminded in such cases." "Nobody has better reason to know that than I, Leader Marley, and I am always grateful to you." Marley coughed and straightened the jacket over his bearlike chest as he put back his needler. "Now to business. Where's that memorandum, Lanza?" Dr. Lanza handed him the paper, then sat down beside the Leader. "First. When Dr. Lanza called on you last week, he found the door to your office locked. What explanation do you have?" David smiled and spread his hands. "My explanation is the generosity of Leader Marley. You have so many affairs to occupy your attention that it is not surprising that you do not remember rewarding me with a Free Choice some years ago, for my work on Martian Blue. I chose, as I am sure you remember now, an occasional hour of Privacy." The Leader blinked. "That's right. I had forgotten. Well, the Leader never goes back on his word. Though why in the name of Marley you fellows want a crazy thing like that is beyond me. What do you do, behind a locked door, that you don't want anyone to see?" "Do you doubt my loyalty, Leader Marley?" "I doubt everything. What do you want with Privacy?" Lanza broke in amiably. "I'm afraid we just have to accept such wishes as one of the harmless abnormalities of the Research mind, Leader. Since I grew up in that Category, I understand it to some extent." "You're right in calling it abnormal. I think perhaps I'd better remove that from the possible Choices in the future. It could easily be misused, and it never did make any sense to me. "Well, second. It's been more than three years since you reported any progress with the problem of White Martian Fever, Wong. What is your explanation?" "Research is not always swift, Leader." "But I distinctly ordered you to find an immunizing agent within three years. Our colonies on Mars cannot wait forever. I've been patient with you, but you've had more than enough time." "I am very sorry, Leader Marley. I have done my best and so have my colleagues. But the problem is complex. If I may explain, we had to find a suitable culture medium for growing the virus, and then we had to work at the problem of coupling it with suitable haptens—" Impatiently, Marley waved his hand. "You know I don't understand your jargon. That's not my business, what troubles you've had. I want results. You got results on Blue Martian quickly enough."

"We were fortunate. But when we storm the citadel of knowledge, Leader Marley, no one can predict how long it will take for the citadel to fall." "Nonsense! I'm warning you, Wong, you're failing in your duty to the State, and you can't escape the consequences with poetic doubletalk. I allow special privileges to you people in Research and I expect a proper appreciation in return. When I order you to produce a protection for White Martian, I want results!" "But you can't get a thing like that just by asking for it. Such things are simply not under your control." "Watch yourself, Wong! Your remarks are dangerously close to treason!" "Is it treason to tell you a plain fact?" Stony-faced, David stared defiantly at Marley, trying to control the trembling of his body. If he had had a needler at that instant, he realized incredulously, he would have shot the Leader and thought his own life a small price to pay for such a pleasure. Lanza coughed. "I'm afraid Dr. Wong is not well, Leader. Worrying over the slowness of his work has distorted his reactions. But I am sure that you will understand, as you always do, and be indulgent" "I'll overlook your remarks, Wong," said Marley, relaxing. "But you'd better change your attitude. You Research people cause me more trouble than any other three Categories put together. Sometimes I wonder if a spell in the granite quarries mightn't—" A light flashed on his desk. He watched the blinking code for a second, then rose abruptly and left the room. The two men sat in silence. David glanced at Lanza, and Lanza shifted in his chair. "Thanks for the good word," said David wearily. "How do you like being a Ruler, by the way? When we were at Medschool together, I thought you were a man with ideas." "When I was at Medschool I didn't know what was good for me," Lanza replied stiffly. "And you think you do now?" A slow flush crept over Lanza's face. "Look here, Wong! Each man has to make his own terms with himself. Don't act so smug! You shut yourself away inside the nice white walls of your laboratory and ignore all the conflicts of life. You shut your ears and your eyes, live in perfect harmony with your test tubes, and let the world go hang. Well, that isn't my way." "Your way, apparently, is to worm yourself into the confidence of that steel-hearted imbecile who rules our lives and our thoughts, and spend twenty-four hours a day saying, 'Yes, Yes,' and waiting for him to die so you can step into his shoes!" "We're alone," said Lanza. "I won't report you. But I have no intention of justifying myself. Have you any idea why you've been let alone for so long? You haven't produced anything tangible in several years. Haven't you ever wondered why no one put on the pressure? Haven't—" He broke off as Marley lumbered back into the room and fell into a chair. The Leader's manner had altered. He stared at David with grim inquiry, the beady eyes traveling slowly over him, taking in his rumpled hair, his strained face, the rigid set of his shoulders. At last Marley spoke, his voice soft with menace. "You're looking well, Dr. Wong. Remarkably well. In fact, it occurs to me that you don't seem to have aged a bit since my last visit to your laboratory. Tell me, how do you keep your youth?"

David could feel the rush of blood through his body, feel the thud of his racing heart. He kept his voice low so that it would not tremble. "Thank you, Leader Marley, for your kindness in noticing my appearance. I suppose I chose my parents well. They both lived to be over ninety, you know." "This is no joking matter. I've just had a report. An epidemic of Blue Martian fever has broken out among the people of your Institute. Why have you not mentioned it?" "If you will forgive me, Leader Marley, I've had no chance. I reported it in the usual manner to the health authorities, and have here in my briefcase a memorandum which I hoped to bring to your attention, among several other matters, when you had finished giving your instructions to me." Marley continued implacably, "And how did this epidemic begin? It was my understanding that no insect existed here on Earth that could transmit the virus. Yet several people from your lab came down with the disease on the same day. What is your explanation?" "It's very simple. To prepare the vaccine, as I am sure you will remember from your last visit to us, we have to keep in the lab a limited number of the Fafli, the Martian insects which act as hosts at one stage of the virus's life. Last week a Menial carelessly knocked over one of the cages and several Fafli escaped. The Menial was discharged, of course, and put in Punishment, but the damage had already been done." "You have a very ready explanation." "Would you rather I had none at all, Leader Marley?" "Well, let that go." Marley drummed his plump fingers on the desk as he continued. "There was another report for me just now. A report so wild, so incredible, so staggering that I can scarcely bring myself to take it seriously. From an Office Category at the Institute." David's heart beat wildly, but he forced a smile to his lips. "Oh, yes. You must mean Miss Hachovnik. I've been worried about that poor girl for some time." "What do you mean, 'poor girl'?" "It's very distressing to me, because she has been a good and loyal worker for many years. But she is becoming unstable. She has a tendency to burst into tears over nothing, is sometimes hysterical, seems to have secret grievances, and is extremely jealous of all women whom she considers more attractive. She was never too bright, to be sure, but until recently she has done her work well, so I've hated to take any action. Just this morning I had to send her home because she was ill." "Do you mean to say," asked Marley, "that none of her story is true?" "I don't know. What is her story?" "She reports that you have been working on a private project of your own, instead of on White Martian. That you have discovered a way to make people immortal, by infecting them with Blue Martian. What is your explanation?" David only stared, his mind so blurred with panic that he could not speak. His stunned silence was broken by a laugh. It was Dr. Lanza, leaning backward in his chair, holding himself over the stomach as he shook his head. "These hysterical women!" His laughter trailed off to a commiserating chuckle. "You're too forbearing, Wong. You shouldn't keep a worker who's so far gone. Take a leaf from Leader Marley's book and remember: Kindness is often weakness; when it is necessary for the good of the State, be harsh!" "I hardly know what to say," said David. "I had no idea she'd gone so far." "Then there's no truth in it?" Marley persisted. "What she says is impossible?"

"Well," said David judiciously, "we people in Research have learned not to call anything impossible, but this dream of immortality is as old as the human race. We have a thousand legends about it, including the story of the Phoenix, that fabulous bird which, when consumed by fire, rose triumphant from its own ashes to begin life anew. A pretty story, of course. But I need only put it to a mind as logical as yours, Leader Marley. Throughout all the millennia of man's existence, the Sun has always risen each morning in the east, and thus we know that it always will. That is the order of nature. Likewise, from the earliest generations of man, no individual has ever lived longer than a hundred and some years, and thus we know that he never will. That is the order of Nature and we can't alter it to the best of my knowledge." Leader Marley was thoughtful. He touched the intercom. "Send in Officer Magnun." David held his breath. "Magnun, Office Category Hachovnik is to be taken from her home at once and put in indefinite Psychodetention." Marley stood up. "Very well, Dr. Wong. You may go. But I shall suspend your privilege of Privacy, at least until after you have devised a protection against White Martian. It is not wise to disregard the wishes of the Leader. Lanza, show him out." At the street door, they paused. Lanza looked at David speculatively. "You do keep your youth well, David." "Some people do." "I remember that legend of the Phoenix. What do you suppose the Phoenix did with his new life, once he'd risen from the ashes of his old self?" "I'm no philosopher." "Neither am I. But you and I both know that the principle of induction was exploded centuries ago. It's true that the Sun has always risen in the east. But is there anything to keep it, someday, from rising in the west?" That night David sat late at his desk. Through the open door behind him, he could hear the watchguard slowly pacing the dimly lit corridor. He could feel time pressing at his back. He was reprieved, he knew, but for how long? He got up, at one point, when the corridor behind him was quiet, and went to the bookcase. He pressed the brass handle, saw the shelves silently swing away from the wall, then set it back again. The mechanism, installed a century ago by a cautious politician, was still in good order. Back at his desk, he thought of Leah and her lost youth, lost because of his own impersonal attitude. He felt sorry for her, but there was nothing he could do for her now. It was a relief to know that Tanya, at least, remained hidden and secure in her sister's apartment. It was after midnight before he closed his notebook and locked it away in the top drawer. His plans were completed. There would not be time given him, he knew, to finish his work on White Martian. That would have to be dropped, and resumed at some more favorable time in the future—if there was a future for him. But he would begin at once to produce in quantity a supply of the SDE-Blue Martian, for he was sure that the untrained guards who watched his movements would never realize that he had shifted to another project. With a brief good night to the guard, he left the building to walk home. His shoulders were straight, his stride confident, and he disdained looking behind him to see if anyone was following. He had made his terms with himself, and only death, which he would certainly try to prevent, could alter his plans.

Going into his apartment he wearily turned on the light. Then he froze, feeling as though he had been clubbed. Leah Hachovnik was huddled at one end of the sofa, her face dripping tears. "I thought you'd never come," she whispered. He slumped down beside her. "How did you get here, Leah? I thought you were—" "I hid in your hallway until the watchguard was at the other end. When his back was turned, I just took off my shoes and slipped in. I've been waiting for hours." Her voice was almost inaudible, spent beyond emotion. "They got Tanya," she said dully. "They took her away." "What happened? Ouick!" "After I reported to BureauMed—I'm sorry I did that, Dr. Wong, but I just couldn't help myself. I didn't tell them about Tanya and the others, just about you. Then I walked around for hours, hating you, hating Tanya, hating everybody. Finally I got so tired that I went home. Just as I got into the hall, I heard a loud knock and I saw Officer Magnun at my door. When Tanya opened it, he simply said, 'Office Category Hachovnik?' When she nodded her head, he said, 'You're under detention.' She screamed and she fought, but he took her away. Since then, I've been hiding. I'm afraid." David tried to think. He remembered that he had said only "Miss Hachovnik" in his talk with the Leader. Had Marley never known that there was more than one? But Lanza surely knew. Or had he merely assumed that Magnun would ask for Leah? Would they realize, at Psychodetention, that they had the wrong woman? Probably not, for she would be hysterical with terror, and her very youth and beauty taken in connection with the "jealousy and envy of younger women" which was noted in her commitment order, would seem to confirm her madness. He was still safe, for a while—if he could keep Leah away from the Institute. "I'm afraid," she whimpered. "Don't let them put me away." "Then you'll have to do exactly as I tell you. Can you follow orders exactly?" "Yes, yes!" "I'll have to hide you here. We can fix up my library as a room for you. It's the only room I can keep locked, and which my Menial never enters in my absence. Whatever happens, Leah —no matter what happens—keep yourself hidden. More than your life depends on that." When the three convalescents returned from the hospital, pale and shaky, David summoned them to his office. At the door, Watchguard Jones looked them over. "Say, that Blue Martian fever sure does take it out of you. You fellows look like you've been plenty sick!" "They have been," said David. "Let them by so they can sit down and rest." Jones moved aside, but he lounged in the doorway, listening. David ignored him. "Glad to see you back, gentlemen. I'll make this brief. You have been the victims of a laboratory accident just as much as if you'd been contaminated with radiation. Our Leader Marley, who understands the problems of all Categories, has very generously consented to grant you a two weeks' convalescence, in addition to a Free Choice. Take a few minutes to think over your decision." He strolled over to the window and looked out at the green of the trees just bursting into leaf. Then, as if on impulse, he turned back. "While you're thinking it over, will you look at these protocols? We discussed them before you got sick, you remember—a plan to prevent an epidemic of Blue Martian. Do you approve of the final form? I'd like to carry on, and after all," he added with an ironic smile, "it's getting later than we might think."

He handed each man a sheet of paper whose contents were identical. They studied them. Karl Haslam was the first to speak. "You think, then, that other cases of Blue Martian may develop?" "It is certainly probable. Those Fafli insects were never caught." Karl looked back at his paper. It contained a list of names, some of which were well known to all the country, some of them obscure. Thoughtfully, he nodded as he ran down the list. Hudson glanced up, frowning, his finger pointed at one name. "I don't know," he said slowly, "that this particular experiment would prove useful. Surely the Lanza method has not proved to be as effective as we once hoped." "You may be right. But there's the bare possibility that the modified Lanza method might be of enormous benefit to us." "It is uncertain. Too much of a risk. That's my opinion." "Then I'll reconsider. The rest has your approval? Very well. And now what choice have you made for your holiday?" "I think we are all agreed," said Karl soberly. "We'll have an Aimless Tramp." "An excellent idea," approved David. "Oh, Jones, will you get an aircab to take the doctors to BureauMed, and then arrange for their Roboplanes to be serviced and ready in an hour?" "I don't know as I ought to leave my post," said Jones. "You'd rather stay with us and perhaps be exposed to the Fever?" "Okay, okay!" When his footsteps had died away, David leaned forward. "We've done our best. Another month or so and we should be completely ready for our retirement act." "If we have a month," said Faure. David grinned. "Well, if our time runs out, at least we'll go down fighting. You know all your lines, your props are ready, the plot is worked out, and we can slip into our makeup in an instant —provided the audience shows up." "You're getting to be quite a joker, David," said Karl. "What if the audience comes around to the stage door?" "Then we'll try to receive him properly. Our Leader is a man of iron, but I doubt that lie's immortal." They heard the approaching guard. "I'm sure you'll benefit from your holiday," David went on. "That last checkup showed an antibody titer entirely too high for safety." "In other words, it's time for us to get going?" asked Karl, smiling. "That's right. Only the next time the antibody curve rises, it will be for keeps." Four days later it was reported that Judge Brinton, the well-known champion of Category rights, was ill with Blue Martian fever. Three little-known nuclear physicists living in the same department in Oak Ridge developed symptoms on the same day. Sporadic cases of Blue Martian flared up all over the continent. Occasionally a whole family was affected—husband, wife, and all the children. There was a mild epidemic at MIT, a more serious one at the School of Social Structure, and at Harvard Medical School nearly a third of the senior class, and they the most brilliant, were hospitalized at the same time. Rumors blanketed the country like a fog, and people everywhere became uneasy. There were no deaths from the illness, but the very idea that an infectious disease could flare up unpredictably all over the nation, out of control, was frightening. It was said that

the disease had been beamed to Earth by alien enemies from space; that all its victims became sterile; or that their minds were permanently damaged. It was also said, though people laughed even as they repeated the rumor, that if you once had Blue Martian Fever you'd become immortal. This particular theory had been clearly traced to the ravings of a red-haired madwoman who was confined to Psychodetention, but still it was too ridiculous not to repeat. For a week, comedians rang a hundred changes on the basic joke: Wife: Drop dead! Husband: I can't. I've had Blue Martian. The unrest became so great that Leader Marley himself appeared on the telecaster to reassure the nation. He was an impressive figure on the lighted screen, resting solid and at ease in a leather chair, raising his massive black head, lifting his big hand to gesture as his rich voice rolled out. "You have nothing to fear," he said. "Under your beneficent Leaders, infectious disease has been wiped out many years ago. BureauMed informs me that these scattered cases of Blue Martian fever have been caused by the escape of a few Fafli insects, which have, since then, been isolated and destroyed. The illness has no serious after-effects. And as for the rumors that it confers immortality—" He allowed his face to break into a pitying smile as he slowly shook his head, looking regretful and yet somehow amused. "Those who continue to spread gossip about the fever will only reveal themselves as either psychotics or traitors. Whichever they are, they will be isolated for the good of our society." The effect of his words was somewhat diminished by the brief glimpse people had of Dr. Lanza, who reached a hand to help the Leader rise. For Dr. Lanza wore an anxious frown, and his face was thin with worry. In spite of numerous arrests, the rumors continued. For two weeks sporadic outbreaks of the fever occurred, and then, abruptly, they ceased. It was more than a week after the last case had been reported that David sat in his basement laboratory beside the opened mouse cage, watching with wry affection as the furry creatures crawled over his hand. These were historic mice, he reflected, whose reactions to SDE had opened up a new world, a world which he must somehow help to make better than the present one. His three colleagues had returned a few days ago from their holiday. They had calmly come back to work, and apparently nobody had thought to put two and two together, and thus connect the epidemic with the vacationers. It had been unfortunate that Tanya should have been put under arrest; it was difficult trying to find amusement for Leah so that she would keep out of sight, but still, on the whole, their luck had been good. But it was time for David to go back to work in his office. Gently he detached the mice from his hand, dropped them into their cage, and closed the wire trap. He took his leather pencil case and the keys to his desk from the pocket of his lab coat and laid them on the desk, below the nail on which his wristwatch hung. Carelessly he dropped his lab coat onto the desk and reached for his jacket, then paused, listening. The chatter in the technicians' room suddenly died. In the unnatural quiet sounded a steady march of feet. David turned to meet the probing black eyes of Leader Marley. Just behind him were Dr. Lanza and Officer Magnun.

There was no time to conceal his mice, David realized. Shrugging into his jacket, he strode forward without hesitation, a smile on his face, and stretched out his hand. "Leader Marley! This is indeed an honor. If you had only notified us of your visit, we should have been prepared." "Young as ever, I see, Wong." "Thank you, Leader." There was no banter in Marley's eyes, he noted, but he continued amiably. "It has been some years since you have honored us by a visit in person. I'm afraid a laboratory is not a very exciting place, but I'd be honored to show you anything that may be of interest to you." A faint contempt curled Marley's mouth as he glanced around the room. "Nothing to see that I haven't seen before, is there? A lot of test tubes, a bunch of flasks, a mess of apparatus you'd think had been dreamed up by an idiot, and a bad smell. You still keep animals, I notice." He sauntered over to the bench, picked up the cage and looked at the scurrying rodents. David scarcely breathed. Marley only nodded. "Well, mice are mice." He put down the cage and turned away. "These look just like the ones I saw when I was here eight or ten years ago. Same white patch on the forelimbs. I never knew mice could live that long." "But—" began Lanza, bending over to study the mice. "What an amazing memory you have, Leader," said David. "Just as you guessed, these mice are the direct descendants of the ones you saw on your former visit, a special mutant strain. The chief difference is that these are marked with white patches on the right forelimbs, while, as I am sure you recall, the original specimens were marked on the left forelimbs. Odd how these marks run in families, isn't it?" Lanza put down the cage and strolled toward the door as Marley took a last bored look around. "Nothing new here that I ought to see, Lanza?" "No. Nothing new." "Well, I've no time to waste. I've come here for two reasons, Dr. Wong. We both want a booster shot for Blue Martian. Ten years is a long time, and there's been this epidemic." "Which is now under control." "That may be, but I still want a booster. You Research people don't always know as much as you think you do. When that's done, I want a detailed report of your progress on White Martian." "I shall be happy to give it," said David. "If you will go directly to my office, I'll pick up the vaccine and syringes, and be with you in a few minutes." Marley and Officer Magnun marched to the door, and David followed, standing aside to let Lanza precede him. Lanza hesitated there, staring at the floor. Then he smiled and looked directly at David. "Beautiful spring weather we are having. I'm wondering about the marvelous order of nature. Did you happen to notice, this morning, whether the Sun did actually rise in the east?" David stared at the retreating back. There was no longer any doubt in his mind. Lanza knew. What was he going to do? "Hurry up, Doctor," said Officer Magnun from the doorway. "Right away." He opened the refrigerator and inspected the two groups of red-capped vials sitting on the shelf. He had no time to think, no time to weigh pros and cons; he

could only act. Choosing two vials, he added them to the sterile kit from the autoclave, and took a last look around. He noticed his watch still hanging on the wall, and the lab coat which covered his leather pencil case. He started to take them, then slowly dropped his hand and touched the intercom. "Get me Dr. Karl Haslam." "You're keeping the Leader waiting," said Magnun, but David paid no attention. "Dr. Haslam? Dr. Wong speaking. I may be a little late getting up to see those precipitates of yours. But you keep them simmering, just in case. It's very probable that the antibody curve will rise. . . Yes, I'll let you know if I can." Magnun followed him to the office, then strolled away for a chat with Watchguard Jones. David put his things on his desk and made his preparations in businesslike fashion while Marley and Lanza glanced curiously around the office. He watched apprehensively as Marley inspected the bookcase, then turned away. "I never could understand why Research needs so many books," he remarked. "Please roll up your sleeve, Leader Marley. I'm ready for you now." Deftly he assembled the syringe, filled it to the two centimeter mark, and scrubbed the arm presented to him. "Ready?" He inserted the needle and slowly expelled the fluid. Then, taking a fresh syringe, he repeated the operation, filling from the second vial. "Why do those bottles have different numbers?" asked Marley. "Aren't we getting the same thing?" "Certainly. Just lab routine, so we can keep track of how many units have been used from our stock. There, that does it, Lanza. Both of you will be perfectly safe for a good many years to come." He was washing his hands at the sink when he heard a struggle at the door. Turning, he saw Leah, thin, gaunt and terrified, held fast in the grip of Officer Magnun, who forced her inside and slammed the door behind them. "What's the meaning of this intrusion?" demanded Marley. "There's some funny business going on, Leader," said Magnun. "I caught this woman trying to sneak in here. She says she's Miss Hachovnik and she works here. Only she ain't. I arrested Miss Hachovnik myself, and I remember well enough what she looked like. She was a cute chick, not a bit like this dame." Marley was staring at the sobbing girl, eyes blinking as he thought, looked back, remembered. Slowly his eyes shifted to David, and David felt like a man impaled. "You may leave, Magnun," said the Leader. "You don't want me to arrest this woman?" "Let go of her! I said you may leave!" "As you say, Leader." When the door closed, the room throbbed to Leah's sobs. "I couldn't help it, Dr. Wong," she cried. "I got so bored, sitting and looking at those books, day after day, with nothing to do! I thought I'd just slip down here for an hour and say hello to people, and—" "Quiet, Hachovnik!" roared Marley. He quieted his voice. "I understand now, Wong. I remember. There were two girls. Twins. The one in Psychodetention, according to Officer Magnun, is still beautiful and young. It's no use, Wong. You do know the secret of immortality. And you told me the Phoenix was only a fairy tale!"

David felt entirely calm. Whatever might happen now, at least the suspense was over. He had done all he could, and it was a relief to have things in the open. He thought fleetingly of his colleagues, alerted by his message, frantically putting their plans into operation, but he leaned back against the sink with every appearance of ease. "You're not quite right, Leader Marley. I cannot confer immortality. All I am able to do is stave off the aging process." "That will do me nicely. And it's connected somehow with the Blue Martian virus?" "Yes. The disease serves as the vehicle." With a brisk motion, Marley drew his needler from his breast pocket and aimed it steadily at David. "Give it to me!" "You're rather ambiguous," said David. How were his friends getting along? Were they ready yet? Had Karl visited the basement lab? "Do you mean you want me to give you the injection to prolong your life, or the secret of how to do it, or what?" "Don't quibble! First you'll give me the injection to make me immortal. Then you'll turn over to me all your notes on procedure. Then my friend here will needle you with a shaft of electrons and end your interest in the problem." "Surely you won't keep such a good thing all for yourself," said David. "What about Dr. Lanza? He's your right-hand man. Don't you want him to live forever, too? What about Officer Magnun? He's a faithful servant." "You're stalling, Wong. Do you want me to kill you now?" "It won't be wise to needle me yet, Leader Marley. The secret would be lost forever." "I'll have your notes!" "Yes? Try to read them. They're written in Coptic, a dead language that you consider it a waste of time to learn, because such knowledge is impractical. There aren't half a dozen men on Earth who could make head or tail of my notebook." "Then I'll find that half-dozen! I want the injection." He gestured with the gleaming weapon. "This is once when I have no Free Choice," said David. "Very well." He started toward the door, but halted at the roar of command. "Stop! Do you think I'm fool enough to let you out of my sight?" "But I have to get the inoculant." "Use the intercom. Send for it." David slumped into the chair and opened the intercom. He could almost feel the electronic shaft of the needier ripping into his body. His heart beat wildly, and the tension of adrenalin ran through his body. His lips felt cold, but he held them steady as he spoke into the dial. "Get me Dr. Haslam. . . Karl? David Wong speaking. Will you send someone up with a vial of phoenix special? The precipitates? I should say the antibody titer has reached the danger point. Don't delay treatment any longer." Silently they waited. Marley's grim face did not relax; his eyes were alight. Leah lay back in her chair with closed eyes, and Lanza stared intently at the floor. A soft knock came at the door, and a female technician hurried in, carrying a tray. "I'm sorry to be so slow, Dr. Wong. Dr. Haslam had a little trouble locating the right vial. Oh, and he said to tell you not to worry about those precipitates. They're taken care of." "Just a minute," said David. "Leader Marley, Miss Hachovnik here is very ill. Won't you let this girl help her to the rest room? She'll be safe there until you're ready for her."

Marley looked at the half-fainting woman. "All right. You take her there, Lanza, and this girl too. Lock them in. And she's not to talk. Do you understand? She's not to talk!" "As you say, Leader Marley," the technician whispered. She helped Leah to her feet, and Lanza followed them from the room. Marley closed the door and locked it. "Now, then, Wong, give me that shot, and heaven help you if you try any tricks!" "Will you bare your arm while I prepare the syringe?" Awkwardly hanging onto the needler, Marley tugged at his sleeve while David calmly picked up a bottle of colorless liquid and filled his syringe. He turned to the Leader, swabbed his arm, then picked up the syringe. "There you are," said David. Jerking the syringe upward, he forced a thin jet of pure alcohol into the man's eyes. Marley screamed. Agonizing pain blinded him, and as he clutched at his eyes, David snatched the needler from the writhing fingers, and flashed the electronic dagger straight to the heart. He stared at the twitching body for only an instant. People were pounding on the door, shouting. He tugged at the desk drawer to get his notebook, then remembered sickly that he had left his keys in the lab. He would have to leave his notes. The shouts were growing louder, people were battering the door. Swiftly he moved to the bookcase, swung it away from the wall, and dropped into darkness. He brought the bookcase back, then turned and ran along the black passageway. Leader Lanza sat in his suite at State House, conferring with his subordinates. "It hardly seems possible, Magnun, that so many people could have slipped through your fingers without help from the Military. You say both the Hachovnik twins have disappeared?" "Yes, Leader." "And how many people from the Institute?" "Six, Leader. But it didn't do them any good. We got them, all right." "But you found no bodies!" "They wouldn't have bodies after we got through with them, Leader." "You're quite certain, Officer Magnun, that all the fugitives were destroyed?" Lanza looked tired, and his officers noticed in him a lack of firmness, an indecision, to which they were not accustomed in a Leader. "Say, those babies never had a chance, Leader. We picked up their roboplanes somewhere over Kansas, and we shot them out of the air like ducks. They didn't even fire back. They just crashed, burned, disintegrated. They won't give you any more trouble. Why, we even picked up the remains of Doc Wong's wristwatch and that old beat-up pencil case of his." He flung them on the desk. Lanza fingered the charred and molten relics. "That will do, Magnun. I'll call you when I need you." "Say, ain't you feeling well, Leader? You look kind of green." "That will be all, Magnun!" "As you say, Leader." Lanza shoved aside the charred remnants and spread out the papers waiting for him, the unimportant, miscellaneous notes accumulated over the years by Hudson, Faure, and Haslam. And the unreadable notebook of David Wong. He sighed and looked up as his secretary entered. "I'm sorry to disturb you, Leader. You look tired."

"The funeral this morning was quite an ordeal, and so much has happened the last three days!" "Well, I thought you ought to know that strange reports are coming in. Some of our most prominent citizens have disappeared. We're trying to trace them, of course, but—" "Anything more?" "Those rumors about Blue Martian are cropping up again." "Yes? And—?" "That old man you asked me to bring from the Vermont quarries, the one who was detained for illegal study of the Coptic language? Well, I guess the excitement of his release was too much for him. He died of a heart attack when he was being taken to the plane." Lanza sighed. "Very well, that will be all." Alone at last, he looked sadly through the pages of David's notebook, at the tantalizing curls and angles of the Coptic letters, cryptic symbols of a discovery which prevented a man from growing old. Well, no one could read them now. That secret was dead, along with its discoverer, because, in this world, no study was permitted without a practical end in view. And perhaps it was just as well. Could any man be trusted, he wondered, to deal wisely with a power so great? After closing the notebook, he dropped his head into his hands. How his head ached! He felt cold, suddenly, and his whole body began to shake with a hard chill. He lifted his head, his vision blurred, and suddenly he knew. He had Blue Martian fever! Teeth chattering, he paced wildly about the room, puzzling things out, trying to remember. That booster shot! And then he realized the amazing truth: David Wong had given him a chance! He had inoculated him with the seeds of immortality, giving him a chance to help right the wrongs of this Categorized world. And now he was left alone in a world of mortals. David and the others had been annihilated, and he was left to live on and on alone. He staggered toward his private apartments, then sank into his chair as his secretary once again ran into the room. With a supreme effort he controlled his trembling. "Yes?" "Leader Lanza. Another report." "Just a minute," said Lanza, trying to bring his eyes into focus on the excited girl. "I am in need of a rest. As soon as you have gone, I shall retire into seclusion for a few days. There are to be no interruptions. Is that clear? Now, proceed." "There's a new epidemic of Martian Fever reported where one never was before." He stirred tiredly. "Where now?" "South America. Somewhere in the Andes." "I think we'll have just one Category after this," said Lanza dreamily. "Category Phoenix." "What did you say, Leader?" His thoughts wandered. No wonder Magnun's men found no bodies. The planes they shot down were roboplanes, after all, and it was easy to plant in an empty seat a man's wristwatch and his bulky leather pencil case. David and the others were safe now. They were free and had enough time to plan for the new free world. "What did you say, Leader?" the girl repeated, bewildered. "Nothing. It doesn't matter." He frowned painfully, and then shrugged. "On second

thought, I may be away longer than a week. If anyone asks for me, say I'm on an Aimless Tramp. I've always hoped that some day I might earn the right to a Free Choice." "But you're the Leader," the girl said in astonishment. "You're entitled to all the Free Choices you want!" He lifted his twitching head, smiling wanly. "It would seem that way, wouldn't it? Well, whether I am or not, I think I've really earned a Free Choice. I wonder," he said in a wistful voice, "whether the climate in the Andes is hospitable."

SURFACE TENSION by James Blish Dr. Chatvieux took a long look over the microscope, leaving la Ventura with nothing to do but look out at the dead landscape of Hydrot. Waterscape, he thought, would be a better word. The new world had shown only one small, triangular continent, set amid endless ocean; and even the continent was mostly swamp. The wreck of the seed-ship lay broken squarely across the one real spur of rock Hydrot seemed to possess, which reared a magnificent twenty-one feet above sea-level. From this eminence, la Ventura could see forty miles to the horizon across a flat bed of mud. The red light of the star Tau Ceti, glinting upon thousands of small lakes, pools, ponds, and puddles, made the watery plain look like a mosaic of onyx and ruby. "If I were a religious man," the pilot said suddenly, "I'd call this a plain case of divine vengeance." Chatvieux said. "Hmm?" "It's as if we've been struck down for—is it hubris, arrogant pride?" "Well, is it?" Chatvieux said, looking up at last. "I don't feel exactly swollen with pride at the moment. Do you?" "I'm not exactly proud of my piloting," la Ventura admitted. "But that isn't quite what I meant. I was thinking about why we came here in the first place. It takes arrogant pride to think that you can scatter men, or at least things like men, all over the face of the Galaxy. It takes even more pride to do the job—to pack up all the equipment and move from planet to planet and actually make men suitable for every place you touch." "I suppose it does," Chatvieux said. "But we're only one of several hundred seed-ships in this limb of the Galaxy, so I doubt that the gods picked us out as special sinners." He smiled drily. "If they had, maybe they'd have left us our ultraphone, so the Colonization Council could hear about our cropper. Besides, Paul, we try to produce men adapted to Earthlike planets, nothing more. We've sense enough—humility enough, if you like—to know that we can't adapt men to Jupiter or to Tau Ceti." "Anyhow, we're here," la Ventura said grimly. "And we aren't going to get off. Phil tells me that we don't even have our germ-cell bank any more, so we can't seed this place in the usual way. We've been thrown onto a dead world and dared to adapt to it. What are the panatropes going to do—provide built-in waterwings?" "No," Chatvieux said calmly. "You and I and the rest of us are going to die, Paul. Panatropic techniques don't work on the body, only on the inheritance-carrying factors. We can't give you built-in waterwings, any more than we can give you a new set of brains. I think we'll be able to populate this world with men, but we won't live to see it." The pilot thought about it, a lump of cold collecting gradually in his stomach. "How long do you give us?" he said at last. "Who knows? A month, perhaps." The bulkhead leading to the wrecked section of the ship was pushed back, admitting salty, muggy air, heavy with carbon dioxide. Philip Strasvogel, the communications officer, came in, tracking mud. Like la Ventura, he was now a man without a function, but it did not appear to bother him. He unbuckled from around his waist a canvas belt into which plastic vials were stuffed like cartridges. "More samples, Doc," he said. "All alike—water, very wet. I have some quicksand in one boot, too. Find anything?" "A good deal, Phil. Thanks. Are the others around?"

Strasvogel poked his head out and hallooed. Other voices rang out over the mudflats. Minutes later, the rest of the survivors were crowding into the panatrope deck: Saltonstall, Chatvieux's senior assistant; Eunice Wagner, the only remaining ecologist; Eleftherios Venezuelos, the delegate from the Colonization Council; and Joan Heath, a midshipman whose duties, like la Ventura's and Strasvogel's, were now without meaning. Five men and two women—to colonize a planet on which standing room meant treading water. They came in quietly and found seats or resting places on the deck, on the edges of tables, in corners. Venezuelos said: "What's the verdict, Dr. Chatvieux?" "This place isn't dead," Chatvieux said. "There's life in the sea and in the fresh water, both. On the animal side of the ledger, evolution seems to have stopped with the crustacea; the most advanced form I've found is a tiny crayfish, from one of the local rivulets. The ponds and puddles are well-stocked with protozoa and small metazoans, right up to a wonderfully variegated rotifer population—including a castle-building rotifer like Earth's Floscularidae. The plants run from simple algae to the thalluslike species." "The sea is about the same," Eunice said, "I've found some of the larger simple metazoans—jellyfish and so on —and some crayfish almost as big as lobsters. But it's normal to find salt-water species running larger than freshwater." "In short," Chatvieux said, "we'll survive here—if we fight." "Wait a minute," la Ventura said. "You've just finished telling me that we wouldn't survive. And you were talking about us, not about the species, because we don't have our germ-cell banks any more. What's—" "I'll get to that in a moment," Chatvieux said. "Saltonstall, what would you think of taking to the sea? We came out of it once; maybe we could come out of it again." "No good," Saltonstall said immediately. "I like the idea, but I don't think this planet ever heard of Swinburne, or Homer, either. Looking at it as a colonization problem, as if we weren't involved ourselves, I wouldn't give you a credit for epi oinopa ponton. The evolutionary pressure there is too high, the competition from other species is prohibitive; seeding the sea would be the last thing we attempt. The colonists wouldn't have a chance to learn a thing before they were destroyed." "Why?" la Ventura said. The death in his stomach was becoming hard to placate. "Eunice, do your seagoing Coelenterates include anything like the Portuguese man-ofwar?" The ecologist nodded. "There's your answer, Paul," Saltonstall said. "The sea is out. It's got to be fresh water, where the competing creatures are less formidable and there are more places to hide." "We can't compete with a jellyfish?" la Ventura asked, swallowing. "No, Paul," Chatvieux said. "The panatropes make adaptations, not gods. They take human germ-cells—in this case, our own, since our bank was wiped out in the crash—and modify them toward creatures who can live in any reasonable environment. The result will be manlike and intelligent. It usually shows the donor's personality pattern, too. "But we can't transmit memory. The adapted man is worse than a child in his new environment. He has no history, no techniques, no precedents, not even a language. Ordinarily the seeding teams more or less take him through elementary school before they leave the planet, but we won't survive long enough for that. We'll have to design our colonists with plenty of built-in protections and locate them in the most favorable environment possible, so that at least some of them will survive the learning process."

The pilot thought about it, but nothing occurred to him which did not make the disaster seem realer and more intimate with each passing second. "One of the new creatures can have my personality pattern, but it won't be able to remember being me. Is that right?" "That's it. There may be just the faintest of residuums —panatropy's given us some data which seem to support the old Jungian notion of ancestral memory. But we're all going to die on Hydrot, Paul. There's no avoiding that. Somewhere we'll leave behind people who behave as we would, think and feel as we would, but who won't remember la Ventura, or Chatyieux, or Joan Heath—or Earth." The pilot said nothing more. There was a gray taste in his mouth. "Saltonstall, what do you recommend as a form?" The panatropist pulled reflectively at his nose. "Webbed extremities, of course, with thumbs and big toes heavy and thornlike for defense until the creature has had a chance to learn. Book-lungs, like the arachnids, working out of intercostal spiracles—they are gradually adaptable to atmosphere-breathing, if it ever decides to come out of the water. Also I'd suggest sporulation. As an aquatic animal, our colonist is going to have an indefinite lifespan, but we'll have to give it a breeding cycle of about six weeks to keep its numbers up during the learning period; so there'll have to be a definite break of some duration in its active year. Otherwise it'll hit the population problem before it's learned enough to cope with it." "Also, it'll be better if our colonists could winter inside a good hard shell," Eunice Wagner added in agreement. "So sporulation's the obvious answer. Most microscopic creatures have it." "Microscopic?" Phil said incredulously. "Certainly," Chatvieux said, amused. "We can't very well crowd a six-foot man into a two-foot puddle. But that raises a question. We'll have tough competition from the rotifers, and some of them aren't strictly microscopic. I don't think your average colonist should run under 25 microns, Saltonstall. Give them a chance to slug it out." "I was thinking of making them twice that big." "Then they'd be the biggest things in their environment," Eunice Wagner pointed out, "and won't ever develop any skills. Besides, if you make them about rotifer size, I'll give them an incentive for pushing out the castle-building rotifers. "They'll be able to take over the castles as dwellings." Chatvieux nodded. "All right, let's get started. While the panatropes are being calibrated, the rest of us can put our heads together on leaving a record for these people. We'll micro-engrave the record on a set of corrosion-proof metal leaves, of a size our colonists can handle conveniently. Some day they may puzzle it out." "Question," Eunice Wagner said. "Are we going to tell them they're microscopic? I'm opposed to it. It'll saddle their entire early history with a gods-and-demons mythology they'd be better off without." "Yes, we are," Chatvieux said; and la Ventura could tell, by the change in the tone of his voice that he was speaking now as their senior. "These people will be of the race of men, Eunice. We want them to win their way back to the community of men. They are not toys, to be protected from the truth forever in a fresh-water womb." "I'll make that official," Venezuelos said, and that was that. And then, essentially, it was all over. They went through the motions. Already they were beginning to be hungry. After la Ventura had had his personality pattern recorded, he was out of it. He sat by himself at the far end of the ledge, watching Tau Ceti go redly

down, chucking pebbles into the nearest pond, wondering morosely which nameless puddle was to be his Lethe. He never found out, of course. None of them did. I Old Shar set down the heavy metal plate at last, and gazed instead out the window of the castle, apparently resting his eyes on the glowing green-gold obscurity of the summer waters. In the soft fluorescence which played down upon him, from the Noc dozing impassively in the groined vault of the chamber, Lavon could see that he was in fact a young man. His face was so delicately formed as to suggest that it had not been many seasons since he had first emerged from his spore. But of course there had been no real reason to expect an old man. All the Shars had been referred to traditionally as "old" Shar. The reason, like the reasons for everything else, had been forgotten, but the custom had persisted; the adjective at least gave weight and dignity to the office. The present Shar belonged to the generation XVI, and hence would have to be at least two seasons younger than Lavon himself. If he was old, it was only in knowledge. "Lavon, I'm going to have to be honest with you," Shar said at last, still looking out of the tall, irregular window. "You've come to me for the secrets of the metal plates, just as your predecessors did to mine. I can give some of them to you—but for the most part, I don't know what they mean." "After so many generations?" Lavon asked, surprised. "Wasn't it Shar III who first found out how to read them? That was a long time ago." The young man turned and looked at Lavon with eyes made dark and wide by the depths into which they had been staring. "I can read what's on the plates, but most of it seems to make no sense. Worst of all, the plates are incomplete. You didn't know that? They are. One of them was lost in a battle during the final war with the Eaters, while these castles are still in their hands." "What am I here for, then?" Lavon said. "Isn`t there anything of value on the remaining plates? Do they really contain `the wisdom of the Creators' or is that another myth?" "No. No, that's true," Shar said slowly, "as far as it goes." He paused, and both men turned and gazed at the ghostly creature which had appeared suddenly outside the window. Then Shar said gravely, "Come in, Para." The slipper-shaped organism, nearly transparent except for the thousands of black-andsilver granules and frothy bubbles which packed its interior, glided into the chamber and hovered, with a muted whirring of cilia. For a moment it remained silent, probably speaking telepathically to the Noc floating in the vault, after the ceremonious fashion of all the protos. No human had ever intercepted one of these colloquies, but there was no doubt about their reality: humans had used them for long-range communications for generations. Then the Para's cilia buzzed once more. Each separate hairlike process vibrated at an independent, changing rate; the resulting sound waves spread through the water, intermodulating, reinforcing or canceling each other. The aggregate wave-front, by the time it reached human ears, was recognizable human speech. "We are arrived, Shar and Lavon, according to the custom."

"And welcome," said Shar. "Lavon, let's leave this matter of the plates for a while, until you hear what Para has to say; that's a part of the knowledge Lavons must have as they come of age, and it comes before the plates. I can give you some hints of what we are. First Para has to tell you something about what we aren't." Lavon nodded, willingly enough, and watched the proto as it settled gently to the surface of the hewn table at which Shar and been sitting. There was in the entity such a perfection and economy of organization, such a grace and surety of movement, that he could hardly believe in his own new-won maturity. Para, like all the protos, made him feel not, perhaps, poorly thought-out, but at least unfinished. "We know that in this universe there is logically no place for man," the gleaming now immoble cylinder upon the table droned abruptly. "Our memory is the common property to all our races. It reaches back to a time when there were no such creatures as men here. It remembers also that once upon a day there were men here, suddenly, and in some numbers. Their spores littered the bottom; we found the spores only a short time after our season's Awakening, and in them we saw the forms of men slumbering. "Then men shattered their spores and emerged. They were intelligent, active. And they were gifted with a trait, a character, possessed by no other creature in this world. Not even the savage Eaters had it. Men organized us to exterminate the Eaters and therein lay the difference. Men had initiative. We have the word now, which you gave us, and we apply it, but we still do not know what the thing is that it labels." "You fought beside us," Lavon said. "Gladly. We would never have thought of that war by ourselves, but it was good and brought good. Yet we wondered. We saw that men were poor swimmers, poor walkers, poor crawlers, poor climbers. We saw that men were formed to make and use tools, a concept we still do not understand, for so wonderful a gift is largely wasted in this universe, and there is no other. What good are tool-useful members such as the hands of men? We do not know. It seems plain that so radical a thing should lead to a much greater rulership over the world than has, in fact, proven to be possible for men." Lavon's head was spinning. "Para, I had no notion that you people were philosophers." "The protos are old," Shar said. He had again turned to look out the window, his hands locked behind his back. "They aren't philosophers, Lavon but they are remorseless logicians. Listen to Para." "To this reasoning there could be but one outcome," the Para said. "Our strange ally, Man, was like nothing else in this universe. He was and is ill-fitted for it. He does not belong here; he has been—adopted. This drives us to think that there are other universes besides this one, but where these universes might lie, and what their properties might be, it is impossible to imagine. We have no imagination, as men know." Was the creature being ironic? Lavon could not tell. He said slowly: "Other universes? How could that be true?" "We do not know," the Para's uninflected voice hummed. Lavon waited, but obviously the proto had nothing more to say. Shar had resumed sitting on the window sill, clasping his knees, watching the come and go of dim shapes in the lighted gulf. "It is quite true," he said. "What is written on the remaining plates makes it plain. Let me tell you now what they say. "We were made, Lavon. We were made by men who are not as we are, but men who were our ancestors all the same. They were caught in some disaster, and they made us here in our universe so that, even though they had to die, the race of men would live."

Lavon surged up from the woven spyrogrya mat upon which he had been sitting. "You must think I'm a fool!" he said sharply. "No. You're our Lavon; you have a right to know the facts. Make what you like of them." Shar swung his webbed toes back into the chamber. "What I've told you may be hard to believe, but it seems to be so; what Para says backs it up. Our unfitness to live here is self-evident. I’ll give you some examples: "The past four Shars discovered that we won't get any further in our studies until we learn how to control heat. We've produced enough heat chemically to show that even the water around us changes when the temperature gets high enough. But there we're stopped." “Why?” "Because heat produced in open water is carried off as rapidly as it's produced. Once we tried to enclose that heat, and we blew up a whole tube of the castle and killed everything in range; the shock was terrible. We measured the pressures that were involved in that explosion, and we discovered that no substance we know could have resisted them. Theory suggests some stronger substances—but we need heat to form them! "Take our chemistry. We live in water. Everything seems to dissolve in water, to some extent. How de we confine a chemical test to the crucible we put it in? How do we maintain a solution at one dilution? I don't know. Every avenue leads me to the same stone door. We're thinking creatures, Lavon, but there's something drastically wrong in the way we think about this universe we live in. It just doesn't seem to lead to results." Lavon pushed back his floating hair futilely. "Maybe you're thinking about the wrong results. We've had no trouble with warfare, or crops, or practical things like that. If we can't create much heat, well, most of us don't miss it; we don't need any. What's the other universe supposed to be like, the one our ancestors lived in? Is it any better than this one?" "I don't know," Shar admitted. "It was so different that it's hard to compare the two. The metal plates tell a story about men who were traveling from one place to another in a container that moved by itself. The only analogy I can think of is the shallops of diatom shells that our youngsters used to sled along the thermocline; but evidently what's meant is something much bigger. "I picture a huge shallop, closed on all sides, big enough to hold many people—maybe twenty or thirty. It had to travel for generations through some kind of space where there wasn't any water to breathe, so that the people had to carry their own water and renew it constantly. There were no seasons; no yearly turnover; no ice forming on the sky, because there wasn't any sky in a closed shallop; no spore formation. "Then the shallop was wrecked somehow. The people in it knew they were going to die. They made us, and put us here, as if we were their children. Because they had to die, they wrote their story on the plates, to tell us what had happened. I suppose we'd understand it better if we had the plate Shar III lost during the war, but we don't." "The whole thing sounds like a parable," Lavon said, shrugging. "Or a song. I can see why you don't understand it. What I can't see is why you bother to try." "Because of the plates," Shar said. "You've handled them yourself, so you know that we've nothing like them. We have crude, impure metals we've hammered out, metals that last for a while and then decay. But the plates shine on and on, generation after generation. They don't change; our hammers and graving tools break against them; the little heat we can generate leaves them unharmed. Those plates weren't formed in our universe—and that one fact makes every word on them important to me. Someone went to a great deal of trouble to make those plates in-destructible to give them to us. Someone to

whom the word 'stars' was important enough to be worth fourteen repetitions, despite the fact that the word doesn't seem to mean anything. I'm ready to think that if our makers repeated the word even twice on a record that seems likely to last forever, it's important for us to know what it means." "All these extra universes and huge shallops and meaningless words— I can't say that they don't exist, but I don't see what difference it makes. The Shars of a few generations ago spent their whole lives breeding better crops for us, and showing us how to cultivate them instead of living haphazardly off bacteria. That was work worth doing. The Lavons of those days evidently got along with-out the metal plates, and saw to it that the Shars did, too: Well, as far as I'm concerned, you're welcome to the plates, if you like them better than crop improvement—but I think they ought to be thrown away." "All right," Shar said, shrugging. "If you don't want them, that ends the traditional interview. We'll go our—" There was a rising drone from the table-top. The Para was lifting itself, waves of motion passing over its cilia, like the waves which went across the fruiting stalks of the fields of delicate fungi with which the bottom was planted., It, had been so silent that Lavon had forgotten it; he could tell from Shar's startlement that Shar had, too. "This is a great decision," the waves of sound washing from the creature throbbed. "Every proto has heard it and agrees with it. We have been afraid of these metal plates for a long time, afraid that men would learn to understand them and to follow what they say to some secret place, leaving the protos behind. Now we are not afraid." "There wasn't anything to be afraid of," Lavon said indulgently. "No Lavon before you had said so," Para said. "We are glad. We will throw the plates away." With that, the shining creature swooped toward the embrasure. With it, it bore away the remaining plates, which had been resting under it on the table-top, suspended delicately in the curved tips of its supple cilia. With a cry, Shar plunged through the water toward the opening. "Stop, Paral" But Para was already gone, so swiftly that he had not even heard the call. Shar twisted his body and brought up on one shoulder against the tower wall. He said nothing. His face was enough. Lavon could not look at it for more than an instant. The shadows of the two men moved slowly along the uneven cobbled floor.. The Noc descended toward them from the vault, its single thick tentacle stirring the water, its internal light flaring and fading irregularly. It, too, drifted through the window after its cousin, and sank slowly away toward the bottom. Gently its living glow dimmed, flickered, winked out. II For many days, Lavon was able to avoid thinking much about the loss. There was always a great deal of work to be done. Maintenance of the castles, which had been built by the now-extinct Eaters rather than by human hands, was a never-ending task. The thousand dichotomously bracing wings tended to crumble, especially at their bases where they sprouted from each other, and no Shar had yet come forward with a mortar as good as the rotifer-spittle which had once held them together. In addition, the breaking through of windows and the construction of chambers in the early days had been haphazard and

often unsound. The instinctive architecture of the rotifers, after all, had not been meant to meet the needs of human occupants. And then there were the crops. Men no longer fed precariously upon passing bacteria: now there were the drifting mats of specific water-fungi, rich and nourishing, which had been bred by five generations of Shars. These had to be tended constantly to keep the strains pure, and to keep the older and less intelligent species of the protos from grazing on them. In this latter task, to be sure, the more intricate and far-seeing prototypes cooperated, but men were needed to supervise. There had been a time, after the war with the Eaters, when it had been customary to prey upon the slow-moving and stupid diatoms, whose exquisite and fragile glass shells were so easily burst, and who were unable to learn that a friendly voice did not necessarily mean a friend. There were still people who would crack open a diatom when no one else was looking, but were regarded as barbarians, to the puzzlement of the protos. The blurred and simple-minded speech of the gorgeously engraved plants had brought them into the category of pets—a concept which the protos were utterly unable to grasp, especially since men admitted that diatoms on the half-frustrule were delicious. Lavon had had to agree, very early, that the distinction was tiny. After all, humans did eat the desmids, which differed from the diatoms only in three particulars: their shells were flexible, they could not move, and they did not speak. Yet to iavon, as to most men, there did seem to be some kind of distinction, whether the protos could see it or not, and that was that. Under the circumstances he felt that it was a part of his duty, as a leader of men, to protect the diatoms from the occasional poachers who browsed upon them, in defiance of custom, in the high levels of the sunlit sky. Yet Lavon found it impossible to keep himself busy enough to forget that moment when the last clues to Man's origin and destination had been seized and borne away into dim space. It might be possible to ask Para for the return of the plates, explain that a mistake had been made. The protos were creatures of implacable logic, but they respected Man, and might reverse their decision if pressed We are sorry. The plates were carried over the bar and released in the gulf. We will have the bottom there searched, but... With a sick feeling he could not repress, Lavon knew that when the protos decided something was worthless, they did not hide it .in some chamber like old women. They threw it away—efficiently. Yet despite the tormenting of his conscience, Lavon was convinced that the plates were well lost. What had they ever done for man, except to provide Shars with useless things to think about in the late seasons of their lives? What the Shars themselves had done to benefit Man, here, in the water, in the world, in the universe, had been done by direct experimentation. No bit of useful knowledge ever had come from the plates. There had never been anything in the plates but things best left unthought. The protos were right. Lavon shifted his position on the plant frond, where he had been sitting in order to overlook the harvesting of an experimental crop of blue-green, oil-rich algae drifting in a clotted mass close to the top of the sky, and scratched his back gently against the coarse bole. The protos were seldom wrong, after all. Their lack of creativity, their inability to think an original thought, was a gift as well as a limitation. It allowed them to see and feel things at all times as they were—not as they hoped they might be, for they had no ability to hope, either.

"La-von! Laa-vah-on!" The long halloo came floating up from the sleepy depths. Propping one hand against the top of the frond, Lavon bent and looked down. One of the harvesters was looking up at him, holding loosely the adze with which he had splitting free the glutinous tetrads of the algae. "Up here. What's the matter?" "We have the ripened quadrant cut free. Shall we tow it away?" `Tow it away," Lavon said, with a lazy gesture. He leaned back again. At the same instant, a brilliant reddish glory burst into being above him, and cast itself down toward the depths like mesh after mesh of the finest-drawn gold. The great light which lived above the sky during the day, brightening or dimming according to some pattern no Shar ever had fathomed, was blooming again. Few men, caught in the warm glow of that light, could resist looking up at it— especially when the top of the sky itself wrinkled and smiled just a moment's climb or swim away. Yet, as always, Lavon's bemused upward look gave back nothing but his own distorted, bobbling reflection, and a reflection of the plant on which he rested. Here was the upper limit, the third of the three surfaces of the universe. The first surface was the bottom, where the water ended. The second surface was the thermocline, the invisible division between the colder waters of the bottom and the warm, light waters of the sky. During the height of the warm weather, the thermocline was so definite a division as to make for good sledding and for chilly passage. A real interface formed between the cold, denser bottom waters and the warm reaches above, and maintained itself almost for the whole of the warm season. The third surface was the sky. One could no more pass through that surface than one could penetrate the bottom, nor was there any better reason to try. There the universe ended. The light which played over it daily, waxing and waning as it chose, seemed to be one of its properties. Toward the end of the season, the water gradually grew colder and more difficult to breathe, while at the same time the light became duller and stayed for shorter periods between darknesses. Slow currents started to move. The high waters turned chill and began to fall. The bottom mud stirred and smoked away, carrying with it the spores of the fields of fungi. The thermocline tossed, became choppy, and melted away. The sky began to fog with particles of soft silt carried up from the bottom, the walls, the corners of the universe. Before very long, the whole world was cold, inhospitable, flocculent with yellowing dying creatures. Then the protos encysted; the bacteria, even most of the plants and, not long afterward, men, too, curled up in their oil-filled amber shells. The world died until the first tentative current of warm water broke the winter silence. "La-von!" Just after the long call, a shinning bubble rose past Lavon. He reached out and poked it, but it bounded away from his sharp thumb. The gas-bubbles which rose from the bottom in late summer were almost invulnerable—and when some especially hard blow or edge did penetrate them, they broke into smaller bubbles which nothing could touch, and fled toward the sky, leaving behind a remarkably bad smell. Gas. There was no water inside a bubble. A rnan who got inside a bubble would have nothing to breathe. But, of course, it was impossible to penetrate a bubble. The surface tension was too strong. As strong as Sitar's metal plates. As strong as the top of the sky.

As strong as the top of the sky. And above that—once the bubble was broken—a world of gas instead of water? Were all worlds bubbles of water drifting in gas? If it were so, travel between them would be out of the question, since it would be impossible to pierce the sky to begin with. Nor did the infant cosmology include any provisions for bottoms for the worlds. And yet some of the local creatures did burrow into the bottom, quite deeply, seeking something in those depths which was beyond the reach of Man. Even the surface of the ooze, in high summer, crawled with tiny creatures for which mud was a natural medium. Man, too, passed freely between the two countries of water which were divided by the thermocline, though many of the creatures with which he lived could not pass that line at all, once it had established itself. And if the new universe of which Shar had spoken existed at all, it had to exist beyond the sky, where the light was. Why could not the sky be passed, after all? The fact that bubbles could be broken showed that the surface skin that formed between water and gas wasn't completely invulnerable. Had it ever been tried? Lavon did not suppose that one man could butt his waythrough the top of the sky, any more than he could burrow into the bottom, but there might be ways around the difficulty. Here at his back, for instance, was a plant which gave every appearance of continuing beyond the sky: its uppermost fronds broke off and were bent back only by a trick of reflection. It had always been assumed that the plants died where they touched the sky. For the most part, they did, for frequently the dead extension could be seen, leached and yellow, the boxes of its component cells empty, floating imbedded in the perfect mirror. But some were simply chopped off, like the one which sheltered him now. Perhaps that was only an illusion, and instead it soared indefinitely into some other place— some place where men might once have been born, and might still live ... The plates were gone. There was only one other way to find out. Determinedly, Lavon began to climb toward the wavering mirror of the sky. His thornthumbed feet trampled obliviously upon the clustered sheaves of fragile stippled diatoms. The tulip-heads of Vortae, placid and murmurous cousins of Para, retracted startledly out of his way upon coiling stalks, to make silly gossip behind him. Lavon did not hear them. He continued to climb doggedly toward the light, his fingers and toes gripping the plant-bole. "Lavon! Where are you going? Lavon!" He leaned out and looked down. The man with the adze, a doll-like figure, was beckoning to him from a patch of blue-green retreating over a violet abyss. Dizzily he looked away, clinging to the bole; he had never been so high before. Then he began to climb again. After a while, he touched the sky with one hand. He stopped to breathe. Curious bacteria gathered about the base of his thumb where blood from a small cut was fogging away, scattered at his gesture, and wriggled mindlessly back toward the dull red lure. He waited until he no longer felt winded, and resumed climbing. The sky pressed down against the top of his head, against the back of his neck, against his shoulders. It seemed to give slightly, with a tough, frictionless elasticity. The water here was intensly bright, and quite colorless. He climbed another step, driving his shoulders against that enormous weight. It was fruitless. He might as well have tried to penetrate a cliff.

Again he had to rest. While he panted, he made a curious discovery. All around the bole of the water plant, the steel surface of the sky curved upward, making a kind of sheath. He found that he could insert his hand into it—there was almost enough space to admit his head as well. Clinging closely to the bole, he looked up into the inside of the sheath, probing with his injured hand. The glare was blinding. There was a kind of soundless explosion. His whole wrist was suddently encircled in an intense, impersonal grip, as if it were being cut in two. In blind astonishment, he lunged upward. The ring of pain traveled smoothly down his upflung arm as he rose, was suddenly around his shoulders and chest. Another lunge and his knees were being squeezed in the circular vine. Another— Something was horribly wrong. He clung to the bole and tried to gasp, but there was— nothing to breathe. The water came streaming out of his body, from his mouth, his nostrils, the spiracles in his sides, spurting in tangible jets. An intense and fiery itching crawled over the entire surface of his body. At each spasm, long knives ran into him, and from a great distance he heard more water being expelled from his book-lungs in an obscene, frothy sputtering. Lavon was drowning. With a final convulsion, he kicked away from the splintery bole, and fell. A hard impact shook him; and then the water, which had clung to him so tightly when he had first attempted to leave it, took him back with cold violence. Sprawling and tumbling grotesquely, he drifted down and down and down, toward the bottom. III For many days, Lavon lay curled insensibly in his spore, as if in the winter sleep. The shock of cold which he had felt on re-entering his native universe had been taken by his body as a sign of coming winter, as it had taken the oxygen-starvation of his brief sojourn above the sky. The spore-forming glands had at once begun to function. Had it not been for this, Lavon would surely have died. The danger of drowning disappeared even as he fell, as the air bubbled out of his lungs and readmitted the lifegiving water. But for acute desiccation and third degree sunburn, the sunken universe knew no remedy. The healing amnionic fluid generated by the spore-forming glands, after the transparent amber sphere had enclosed him, offered Lavon his only chance. The brown sphere was spotted after some days by a prowling ameba, quiescent in the eternal winter of the bottom. Down there the temperature was always an even 4°, no matter what the season, but it was unheard of that a spore should be found there while the high epilimnion was still warm and rich in oxygen. Within an hour, the spore was surrounded by scores of astonished protos, jostling each other to bump their blunt eyeless prows against the shell. Another hour later, a squad of worried men came plunging from the castles far above to press their own noses against the transparent wall. Then swift orders were given. Four Para grouped themselves about the amber sphere, and there was a subdued explosion as the trichocysts which lay embedded at the bases of their cilia, just under the pellicle, burst and cast fine lines of a quickly solidifying liquid into the water. The four Paras thrummed and lifted, tugging.

Lavon's spore swayed gently in the mud and then rose slowly, entangled in the web. Nearby, a Noc cast a cold pulsating glow over the operation—not for the Paras, who did not need the light, but for the baffled knot of men. The sleeping figure of Lavon, head bowed, knees drawn up to its chest, revolved with an absurd solemnity inside the shell as it was moved. "Take him to Shar, Para." The young Shar justified, by minding his own business, the traditional wisdom with which his hereditary office had invested him. He observed at once that there was nothing he could do for the encysted Lavon which would not be classifiable as simple meddling. He had the sphere deposited in a high tower room of his castle, where there was plenty of light and the water was warm, which should suggest to the hibernating form that spring was again on the way. Beyond that, he simply sat and watched, and kept his speculations to himself. Inside the spore, Lavon's body seemed rapidly to be shedding its skin, in long strips and patches. Gradually, his curious shrunkenness disappeared. His withered arms and legs and sunken abdomen filled out again. The days went by while Shar watched. Finally he could discern no more changes, and, on a hunch, had the spore taken up to the topmost battlements of the tower, into the direct daylight. An hour later, Lavon moved in his amber prison. He uncurled and stretched, turned blank eyes up toward the light. His expression was that of a man who had not yet awakened from a ferocious nightmare. His whole body shone with a strange pink newness. Shar knocked gently on the wall of the spore. Lavon turned his blind face toward the sound, life coming into his eyes. He smiled tentatively and braced his hands and feet against the inner wall of the shell. The whole sphere fell abruptly to pieces with a sharp crackling. The amnionic fluid dissipated around him and Shar, carrying away with it the suggestive odor of a bitter struggle against death. Lavon stood among the bits of shell and looked at Shar silently. At last he said: "Shar—I've been beyond the sky." "I know," Shar said gently. Again Lavon was silent. Shar said, "Don't be humble, Lavon. You've done an epochmaking thing. It nearly cost you your life. You must tell me the rest—all of it." 'The rest?" "You taught me a lot while you slept. Or are you still opposed to useless knowledge?" Lavon could say nothing. He no longer could tell what he knew from what he wanted to know. He had only one question left, but he could not utter it. He could only look dumbly into Sitar's delicate face. "You have answered me," Shar said, even more gently. "Come, my friend; join me at my table. We will plan our journey to the stars." It was two winter sleeps after Lavon's disastrous climb beyond the sky that all work on the spaceship stopped. By then, Lavon knew that he had hardened and weathered into that temporarily ageless state a man enters after he has just reached his prime; and he knew also that there were wrinkles engraved upon his brow, to stay and to deepen.

"Old" Shar, too had changed, his features losing some of their delicacy as he came into his maturity. Though the wedge-shaped bony structure of his face would give him a withdrawn and poetic look for as long as he lived, participation in the plan had given his expression a kind of executive overlay, which at best gave it a masklike rigidity, and at worst coarsened it somehow. Yet despite the bleeding away of the years, the space-ship was still only a hulk. It lay upon a platform built above the tumbled boulders of the sandbar which stretched out from one wall of the world. It was an immense hull of pegged wood, broken by regularly spaced gaps through which the raw beams of the skeleton could be seen. Work upon it had progressed fairly rapidly at first, for it was not hard to visualize what kind of vehicle would be needed to crawl through empty space without losing its water. It had been recognized that the sheer size of the machine would enforce a long period of construction, perhaps two full seasons; but neither Shar nor Lavon had anticipated any serious snag. For that matter, part of the vehicle's apparent incompleteness was an illusion. About a third of its fittings were to consist of living creatures, which could not be expected to install themselves in the vessel much before the actual takeoff. Yet time and time again, work on the ship had had to be halted for long periods. Several times whole sections needed to be ripped out, as it became more and more evident that hardly a single normal, understandable concept could be applied to the problem of space travel. The lack of the history plates, which the Para steadfastly refused to deliver up, was a double handicap. Immediately upon their loss, Shar had set himself to reproduce them from memory; but unlike the more religious of this people, he had never regarded them as holy writ, and hence had never set himself to memorizing them word by word. Even before the theft, he had accumulated a set of variant translations of passages presenting specific experimental problems, which were stored in his library, carved in wood. But most of these translations tended to contradict each other, and none of them related to space-ship construction, upon which the original had been vague in any case. No duplicates of the cryptic characters of the original had ever been made, for the simple reason that there was nothing in the sunken universe capable of destroying the originals, nor of duplicating their apparently changeless permanence. Shar remarked too late that through simple caution they should have made a number of verbatim temporary records—but after generations of green-gold peace, simple caution no longer covers preparation against catastrophe. (Nor, for that matter, did a culture which had to dig each letter of its simple alphabet into pulpy waterlogged wood with a flake of stonewort, encourage the keeping of records in triplicate.) As a result, Shar's imperfect memory of the contents of the history plates, plus the constant and millennial doubt as to the accuracy of the various translations, proved finally to be the worst obstacle to progress on the spaceship itself. "Men must paddle before they can swim," Lavon observed belatedly, and Shar was forced to agree with him. Obviously, whatever the ancients had known about spaceship construction, very little of that knowledge was usable to a people still trying to build its first spaceship from scratch. In retrospect, it was not surprising that the great hulk still rested incomplete upon its platform above the sand boulders, exuding a musty odor of wood steadily losing its strength, two generations after its flat bottom had been laid down.

The fat-faced young man who headed the strike delegation was Phil XX, a man two generations younger than Lavon, four younger than Shar. There were crow's-feet at the corners of his eyes, which made him look both like a querulous old man and like an infant spoiled in the spore. "We're calling a halt to this crazy project," he said bluntly. "We've slaved our youth away on it, but now that we're our own masters, it's over, that's all. Over." "Nobody's compelled you," Lavon said angrily. "Society does; our parents do," a gaunt member of the delegation said. "But now we're going to start living in the real world. Everybody these days knows that there's no other world but this one. You oldsters can hang on to your superstitions if you like. We don't intend to." Baffled, Lavon looked over at Shar. The scientist smiled and said, "Let them go, Lavon. We have no use for the fainthearted." The fat-faced young man flushed. "You can't insult us into going back to work. We're through. Build your own ship to no place!" "All right," Lavon said evenly. "Go on, beat it. Don't stand around here orating about it. You've made your decision and we're not interested in your self-justifications. Good-by." The fat-faced young man evidently still had quite a bit of heroism to dramatize which Lavon's dismissal had short-circuited. An examination of Lavon's stony face, however, convinced him that he had to take his victory as he found it. He and the delegation trailed ingloriously out the archway. "Now what?" Lavon asked when they had gone. "I must admit, Shar, that I would have tried to persuade them. We do need the workers, after all." "Not as much as they need us," Shar said tranquilly. "How many volunteers have you got for the crew of the ship?" "Hundreds. Every young man of the generation after Phil's wants to go along. Phil's wrong about that segment of the population, at least. The project catches the imagination of the very young." "Did you give them any encouragement?" "Sure," Lavon said. "I told them we'd call on them if they were chosen. But you can't take that seriously! We'd do badly to displace our picked group of specialists with youths who have enthusiasm and nothing else." " That's not what I had in mind, Lavon. Didn't I see a Noc in your chambers somewhere? Oh, there he is, asleep in the dome. Noc!” The creature stirred its tentacles lazily. "Noc, I've a message," Shar called. "The protos are to tell all men that those who wish to go to the next world with the spaceship must come to the staging area right away. Say that we can't promise to take everyone, but that only those who help us build the ship will be considered at all." The Noc curled its tentacles again and appeared to go back to sleep. Actually, of course, it was sending its message through the water in all directions. IV Lavon turned from the arrangement of speaking-tube megaphones which was his control board and looked at the Para. "One last try," he said. "Will you give us back the plates?" "No, Lavon. We have never denied you anything before, but this we must."

"You're going with us though, Para. Unless you give us the knowledge we need, you'll lose your life if we lose ours." "What is one Para?" the creature said. "We are all alike. This cell will die; but the protos need to know how you fare on this journey. We believe you should make it without the plates." “Why?” The proto was silent. Lavon stared at it a moment, then turned deliberately back to the speaking tubes. "Everyone hang on," he said. He felt shaky. "We're about to start. Toi, is the ship sealed?" "As far as I can tell, Lavon." Lavon shifted to another megaphone. He took a deep breath. Already the water seemed stifling, though the ship hadn't moved. "Ready with one-quarter power. One, two, three, go." The whole ship jerked and settled back into place again. The raphe diatoms along the under hull settled into their niches, their jelly treads turning against broad endless belts of crude leather. Wooden gears creaked, stepping up the slow power of the creatures, transmitting it to the sixteen axles of the ship's weels. The ship rocked and began to roll slowly along the sandbar. Lavon looked tensely through the mica port. The world flowed painfully past him. The ship canted and began to climb the slope. Behind him, he could feel the electric silence of Shar, Para, the two alternate pilots, as if their gaze were stabbing directly through his body and on out the port. The world looked different, now that he was leaving it. How had he missed all this beauty before? The slapping of the endless belts and the squeaking and groaning of the gears and axles grew louder as the slope steepened. The ship continued to climb, lurching. Around it, squadrons of men and protos dipped and wheeled, escorting it toward the sky. Gradually the sky lowered and pressed down toward the top of the ship. "A little more work from your diatoms, Tanol," 'Lavon said. "Boulder ahead." The ship swung ponderously. "All right, slow them up again. Give us a shove from your side, Than—no, that's too much—there, that's it. Back to normal; you're still turning us! Tanol, give us one burst to line us up again. Good. All right, steady drive on all sides. Won't be long now." "How can you think in webs like that?" the Para wondered behind him. "I just do, that's all. It's the way men think. Overseers, a little more thrust now; the grade's getting steeper." The gears groaned. The ship nosed up. The sky brightened in Lavon's face. Despite himself, he began to be frightened. His lungs seemed to burn, and in his mind he felt his long fall through nothingness toward the chill slap of water as if he were experiencing it for the first time. His skin itched and burned. Could he go up there again? Up there into the burning void, the great gasping agony where no life should go? The sandbar began to level out and the going became a little easier. Up here, the sky was so close that the lumbering motion of the huge ship disturbed it. Shadows of wavelets ran across the sand. Silently, the thick-barreled bands of blue-green algae drank in the light and converted it to oxygen, writhing in their slow mindless dance just under the long mica skylight which ran along the spine of the ship. In the hold, beneath the latticed corridor and cabin floors, whirring Vortae kept the ship's water in motion, fueling themselves upon drifting organic particles.

One by one, the figures wheeling about the ship outside waved arms or cilia and fell back, coasting down the slope of the sandbar toward the familiar world, dwindling and disappearing. There was at last only one single Euglena, half-plant cousin of the protos, forging along beside the spaceship into the marches of the shallows. It loved the light, but finally it, too, was driven away into cooler, deeper waters, its single whiplike tentacle undulating placidly as it went. It was not very bright, but Lavon felt deserted when it left. Where they were going, though, none could follow. Now the sky was nothing but a thin, resistant skin of water coating the top of the ship. The vessel slowed, and when Lavon called for more power, it began to dig itself in among the sandgrains. "That's not going to work," Shar said tensely. "I think we'd better step down the gear ratio, Lavon, so you can apply stress more slowly." "All right," Lavon agreed. "Full stop, everybody. Shar, will you supervise gearchanging, please?" Insane brilliance of empty space looked Lavon full in the face just beyond his big mica bull's eye. It was maddening to be forced to stop here upon the threshold of infinity; and it was dangerous, too. Lavon could feel building in him the old fear of the outside. A few moments more of inaction, he knew with a gathering coldness at the pit of his stomach, and he would be unable to go through with it. Surely, he thought, there must be a better way to change gear-ratios than the traditional one, which involved dismantling almost the entire gear-box. Why couldn't a number of gears of different sizes be carried on the same shaft, not necessarily all in action all at once, but awaiting use simply by shoving the axle back and forth longitudinally in its sockets? It would still be clumsy, but it could be worked on orders from the bridge and would not involve shutting down the entire machine—and throwing the new pilot into a blue-green funk. Shar came lunging up through the trap and swam himself a stop. "All set," he said. "The big reduction gears aren't taking the strain too well, though." "Splintering?" "Yes. I'd go it slow at first." Lavon nodded mutely. Without allowing himself to stop, even for a moment, to consider the consequences of his words, he called "Half power." The ship hunched itself down again and began to move, very slowly indeed, but more smoothly than before. Overhead, the sky thinned to complete transparency. The great light came blasting in. Behind Lavon there was an uneasy stir. The whiteness grew at the front ports. Again the ship slowed, straining against the blinding barrier. Lavon swallowed and called for more power. The ship groaned like something about to die. It was now almost at a standstill. "More power," Lavon called out. Once more, with infinite slowness, the ship began to move. Gently, it tilted upward. Then it lunged forward and every board and beam in it began to squall. "Lavon! Lavon!" Lavon started sharply at the shout. The voice was coming at him from one of the megaphones, the one marked for the port at the rear of the ship. "Lavon!" "What is it? Stop your damn yelling."

"I can see the top of the sky! From the other side, from the top side! It's like a big sheet of metal. We're going away from it. We're above the sky, Lavon, we're above the sky!" Another violent start swung Lavon around toward the forward port. On the outside of the mica, the water was evaporating with shocking swiftness, taking with it strange distortions and patterns made of rainbows. Lavon saw Space. It was at first like a deserted and cruelly dry version of the bottom. There were enormous boulders, great cliffs, tumbled, split, riven, jagged rocks going up and away in all directions. But it had a sky of its own—a deep blue dome so far away that he could not believe it, let alone compute, what its distance might be. And in this dome was a ball of white fire that seared his eyeballs. The wilderness of rock was still a long way away from the ship, which now seemed to be resting upon a level, glistening plain. Beneath the surface-shine, the plain seemed to be made of sand, nothing but familiar sand, the same substance which had heaped up to form a bar in Lavon's own universe, the bar along which the ship had climbed. But the glassy, colorful skin over it— Suddenly Lavon became conscious of another shout from the megaphone banks. He shook his head savagely and asked. "What is it now?" "Lavon, this is Than. What have you gotten us into? The belts are locked. The diatoms can't move them. They aren't faking, either; we've rapped them hard enough to make them think we are trying to break their shells, but they still can't give us more power." "Leave them alone," Lavon snapped. "They can't fake; they haven't enough intelligence. If they say they can't give you more power, they can't." "Well, then, you get us out of it," Than's voice said frightenedly. Shar came forward to Lavon's elbow. "We're on a space-water interface, where the surface tension is very high," he said softly. "This is why I insisted on our building the ship so that we could lift the wheels off the ground whenever necessary. For a long while I couldn't understand the reference of the history plates to 'retractable landing gear,' but it finally occurred to me that the tension along a space-water interface—or, to be more exact, a space-mud interface—would hold any large object pretty tightly. If you order the wheels pulled up now, I think we'll make better progress for a while on the belly-treads." "Good enough," Lavon said. "Hello below—up landing gear. Evidently the ancients knew their business after all, Shar." Quite a few minutes later, for shifting power to the belly-treads involved another setting of the gear box, the ship was crawling along the shore toward the tumbled rock. Anxiously, Lavon scanned the jagged, threatening wall for a break. There was a sort of rivulet off toward the left which might offer a route, though a dubious one, to the next world. After some thought, Lavon ordered his ship turned toward it. "Do you suppose that thing in the sky is a 'star'?" he asked. "But there were supposed to be lots of them. Only one is up there—and one's plenty for my taste." "I don't know," Shar admitted. 'But I'm beginning to get a picture of the way the universe is made, I think. Evidently our world is a sort of cup in the bottom of this huge one. This one has a sky of its own; perhaps it, too, is only a cup in the bottom of a still huger world, and so on and on without end. It's a hard concept to grasp, I'll admit. Maybe

it would be more sensible to assume that all the worlds are cups in this one common surface, and that the great light shines on them all impartially." "Then what makes it seem to go out every night, and dim even in the day during winter?" Lavon demanded. "Perhaps it travels in circles, over first one world, then another. How could I know yet?" "Well, if you're right, it means that all we have to do is crawl along here for a while, until we hit the top of the sky of another world," Lavon said. "Then we dive in. Somehow it seems too simple, after all our preparations." Shar chuckled, but the sound did not suggest that he had discovered anything funny. "Simple? Have you noticed the temperature yet?" Lavon had noticed it, just beneath the surface of awareness, but at Shar's remark be realized that he was gradually being stifled. The oxygen content of the water, luckily, had not dropped, but the temperature suggested the shallows in the last and worst part of the autumn. It was like trying to breathe soup. "Than, give us more action from the Vortae," Lavon called. "This is going to be unbearable unless we get more circulation." It was all he could do now to keep his attention on the business of steering the ship. The cut or defile in the scattered razor-edged rocks was a little closer, but there still seemed to be many miles of rough desert to cross. After a while, the ship settled into a steady, painfully slow crawling, with less pitching and jerking than before, but also with less progress. Under it, there was now a sliding, grinding sound, rasping against the hull of the ship itself, as if it were treadmilling over some coarse lubricant whose particles were each as big as a man's head. Finally Shar said, "Lavon, we'll have to stop again. The sand this far up is dry, and we're wasting energy using the treads." "Are you sure we can take it?" Lavon asked, gasping for breath. "At least we are moving. If we stop to lower the wheels and change gears again, we'll boil." "We'll boil if we don't," Shar said calmly. "Some of our algae are already dead and the rest are withering. That's a pretty good sign that we can't take much more. I don't think we'll make it into the shadows, unless we do change over and put on some speed." There was a gulping sound from one of the mechanics. "We ought to turn back," he said raggedly. "We were never meant to be out here in the first place. We were made for the water, not this hell." "We'll stop," Lavon said, "but we're not turning back. That's final." The words made a brave sound, but the man had upset Lavon more than he dared to admit, even to himself. "Shar," he said, "make it fast, will you?" The scientist nodded and dived below. The minutes stretched out. The great white globe in the sky blazed and blazed. It had moved down the sky, far down, so that the light was pouring into the ship directly in Lavon's face, illuminating every floating par-tide, its rays like long milky streamers. The currents of water passing Lavon's cheek were almost hot. How could they dare go directly forward into that inferno? The land directly under the "star" must be even hotter than it was here! " Lavon! Look at Para!" Lavon forced himself to turn and look at his proto ally. The great slipper had settled to the deck, where it was lying with only a feeble pulsation of its cilia. Inside, its vacuoles

were beginning to swell, to become bloated, pear-shaped bubbles, crowding the granulated protoplasm, pressing upon the dark nuclei. "This cell is dying," Para said, as coldly as always. "But go on—go on. There is much to learn, and you may live, even though we do not. Go on." "You're . . . for us now?" Lavon whispered. "We have always been for you. Push your folly to its uttermost. We will benefit in the end, and so will Man." The whisper died away. Lavon called the creature again, but it did not respond. There was a wooden clashing from below, and then Shar's voice came tinnily from one of the megaphones. "Lavon, go ahead! The diatoms are dying, too, and then we'll be without power. Make it as quickly and directly as you can." Grimly, Lavon leaned forward. "The `star' is directly over the land we're approaching." "It is? It may go lower still and the shadows will get longer. That's our only hope." Lavon had not thought of that. He rasped into the banked megaphones. Once more, the ship began to move. It got hotter. Steadily, with a perceptible motion, the "star" sank in Lavon's face. Suddenly a new terror struck him. Suppose it should continue to go down until it was gone entirely? Blasting though it was now, it was the only source of heat. Would not space become bitter cold on the instant—and the ship an expanding, bursting block of ice? The shadows lengthened menacingly, stretched across the desert toward the forwardrolling vessel. There was no talking in the cabin, just the sound of ragged breathing and the creaking of the machinery. Then the jagged horizon seemed to rush open upon them. Stony teeth cut into the lower rim of the ball of fire, devoured it swiftly. It was gone. They were in the lee of the cliffs. Lavon ordered the ship turned to parallel the rockline; it responded heavily, sluggishly. Far above, the sky deepened steadily from blue to indigo. Shar came silently up through the trap and stood beside Lavon, studying that deepening color and the lengthening of the shadows down the beach toward their world. He said nothing, but Lavon knew that the same chilling thought was in his mind. "Lavon." Lavon jumped. Shar's voice had iron in it. "Yes?" "We'll have to keep moving. We must make the next world, wherever it is, very shortly." "How can we dare move when we can't see where we're going? Why not sleep it over—if the cold will let us?" "It will let us." Shar said. "It can't get dangerously cold up here. If it did, the sky—or what we used to think of as the sky—would have frozen over every night, even in summer. But what I'm thinking about is the water. The plants will go to sleep now. In our world that wouldn't matter; the supply of oxygen is enough to last through the night. But in this confined space, with so many creatures in it and no source of fresh water, we will probably smother." Shar seemed hardly to be involved at all, but spoke rather with the voice of implacable physical laws. "Furthermore," he said, staring unseeingly out at the raw landscape, "the diatoms are plants, too. In other words, we must stay on the move for as long as we have oxygen and power—and pray that we make it."

"Shar, we had quite a few protos on board this' ship once. And Para there isn't quite dead yet. If he were, the cabin would be intolerable. The ship is nearly sterile of bacteria, because all the protos have been eating them as a matter of course and there's no outside supply of them, any more than there is for oxygen. But still and all there would have been some decay." Shar bent and tested the pellicle of the motionless Parawith a probing finger. "You're right, he's still alive. What does that prove?" "The Vortae are also alive; I can feel the water circulating. Which proves it wasn't the heat that hurt Para. It was the light. Remember how badly my skin was affected after I climbed beyond the sky? Undiluted starlight is deadly. We should add that to the information on the plates." "I still don't see the point." "It's this. We've got three or four Noc down below. They were shielded from the light, and so must be alive. If we concentrate them in the diatom galleys, the dumb diatoms will think it's still daylight and will go on working. Or we can concentrate them up along the spine of the ship, and keep the algae putting out oxygen. So the question is: which do we need more, oxygen or power? Or can we split the difference?" Shar actually grinned. "A brilliant piece of thinking. We'll make a Shar of you yet, Lavon. No, I'd say that we can't split the difference. There's something about daylight, some quality, that the light Noc emits doesn't have. You and I can't detect it, but the green plants can, and without it they don't make oxygen. So we'll have to settle for the diatoms—for power." Lavon brought the vessel away from the rocky lee of the cliff, out onto the smoother sand. All trace of direct light was gone now, although there was still a soft, general glow on the sky. "Now, then," Shar said thoughtfully, "I would guess that there's water over there in the canyon, if we can reach it. I'll go below and arrange—" Lavon gasped, "What's the matter?" Silently, Lavon pointed, his heart pounding. The entire dome of indigo above them was spangled with tiny, incredibly brilliant lights. There were hundreds of them, and more and more were becoming visible as the darkness deepened. And far away, over the ultimate edge of the rocks, was a dim red globe, crescented with ghostly silver. Near the zenith was another such body, much smaller, and silvered all over ... Under the two moons of Hydrot, and under the eternal stars, the two-inch wooden spaceship and its microscopic cargo toiled down the slope toward the drying little rivulet. V The ship rested on the bottom of the canyon for the refit of the night. The great square doors were thrown open to admit the raw, irradiated, life-giving water from outside—and the wriggling bacteria which were fresh food. No other creatures approached them, either with curiosity or with predatory intent, while they slept, though Lavon had posted guards at the doors. Evidently, even up here on the very floor of space, highly organized creatures were quiescent at night. But when the first flush of light filtered through the water, trouble threatened. First of all, there was the bug-eyed monster. The thing was green and had two snapping claws, either one of which could have broken the ship in two like a spyrogyra straw. Its

eyes were black and globular, on the ends of short columns, and its long feelers were as thick as a plantbole. It passed in a kicking fury of motion, however, never noticing the ship at all. "Is that—a sample of the kind of life we can expect in the next world?" Lavon whispered. Nobody answered, for the very good reason that nobody knew. After a while, Lavon risked moving the ship forward against the current, which was slow but heavy. Enormous writhing worms whipped past them. One struck the hull a heavy blow, then thrashed on obliviously. "They don't notice us," Shar said. "We're too small, Lavon, the ancients warned us of the immensity of space, but even when you see it, it's impossible to grasp. And all those stars—can they mean what I think they mean? It's beyond thought, beyond belief!" "The bottom's sloping," Lavon said, looking ahead intently. "The walls of the canyon are retreating, and the water's becoming rather silty. Let the stars wait, Shar; we're coming toward the entrance of our new world." Shar subsided moodily. His vision of space had disturbed him, perhaps seriously. He took little notice of the great thing that was happening, but instead huddled worriedly over his own expanding speculations. Lavon felt the old gap between their two minds widening once more. Now the bottom was tilting upward again. Lavon had no experience with deltaformation, for no rivulets left his own world, and the phenomenon worried him. But his worries were swept away in wonder as the ship topped the rise and nosed over. Ahead, the bottom sloped away again, indefinitely, into glimmering depths. A proper sky was over them once more, and Lavon could see small rafts of plankton floating placidly beneath it. Almost at once, too, he saw several of the smaller kinds of protos, a few of which were already approaching the ship— Then the girl came darting out of the depths, her features distorted with terror. At first she did not see the ship at all. She came twisting and turning lithely through the water, obviously hoping only to throw herself over the ridge of the delta and into the savage streamlet beyond. Lavon was stunned. Not that there were men here—he had hoped for that—but at the girl's single-minded flight toward suicide. "What—" Then a dim buzzing began to grow in his ears, and he understood. "Shar! Than! Tanol!" he bawled. "Break out crossbows and spears! Knock out all the windows!" He lifted a foot and kicked through the big port in front of him. Some-one thrust a crossbow into his hand. "Eh? What's happening?" Shar blurted. "Rotifers!" The cry went though the ship like a galvanic shock. The rotifers back in Lavon's own world were virtually extinct, but everyone knew thoroughly the grim history of the long battle man and proto had waged against them. The girl spotted the ship and paused, stricken by despair at the sight of the new monster. She drifted with her own momentum, her eyes alternately fixed hypnotically upon the ship and glancing back over her shoulder, toward the buzzing snarled louder and louder in the dimness. "Don't stop!" Lavon shouted. "This way, this way! We're friends! We'll help!"

Three great semi-transparent trumpets of smooth flesh bored over the rise, the many thick cilia of their coronas whirring greedily. Dicrans—the most predacious of the entire tribe of Eaters. They were quarreling thickly among themselves as they moved, with the few blurred, pre-symbolic noises which made up their "language." Carefully, Lavon wound the crossbow, brought it to his shoulder, and fired. The bolt sang away through the water. It lost momentum rapidly, and was caught by a stray current which brought it closer to the girl than to the Eater at which Lavon had aimed. He bit his lip, lowered the weapon, wound it up again. It did not pay to underestimate the range; he would have to wait until he could fire with effect. Another bolt, cutting through the water from a side port, made him issue orders to cease firing. The sudden irruption of the rotifers decided the girl. The motionless wooden monster was strange to her and had not yet menaced her—but she must have known what it would be like to have three Dicrans over her, each trying to grab away from the other the biggest share. She threw herself toward the big port. The Eaters screamed with fury and greed and bored after her. She probably would not have made it, had not the dull vision of the lead Dicran made out the wooden shape of the ship at the last instant. It backed off, buzzing, and the other two sheered away to avoid colliding with it. After that they had another argument, though they could hardly have formulated what it was that they were fighting about. They were incapable of saying anything much more complicated than the equivalent of "Yaah," "Drop dead," and "You're another." While they were still snarling at each other, Lavon pierced the nearest one all the way through with an arablast bolt. It disintegrated promptly—rotifers are delicately organized creatures despite their ferocity—and the remaining two were at once involved in a lethal battle over the remains. "Than, take a party out and spear me those two Eaters while they're still fighting," Lavon ordered. "Don't forget to destroy their eggs, too. I can see that this world needs a little taming." The girl shot through the port and brought up against the far wall of the cabin, flailing in terror. Lavon tried to approach her, but from somewhere she produced a flake of stonewort chipped to a nasty point. He sat down on the stool before his control board and waited while she took in the cabin, Lavon, Shar, the pilot, the senescent Para. At last she said: "Are—you—the gods from beyond the sky?" "We're from beyond the sky, all right," Lavon said. "But we're not gods. We're human beings, like yourself. Are there many humans here?" The girl seemed to assess the situation very rapidly, savage though she was. Lavon had the odd and impossible impression that he should recognize her. She tucked the knife back into her matted hair—ah, Lavon thought, that's a trick I may need to remember—and shook her head. "We are few. The Eaters are everywhere. Soon they will have the last of us." Her fatalism was so complete that she actually did not seem to care. "And you've never cooperated against them? Or asked the protos to help?" "The protos?" She shrugged. "They are as helpless as we are against the Eaters. We have no weapons which kill at a distance, like yours. And it is too late now for such weapons to do any good. We are too few, the Eaters too many."

Lavon shook his head emphatically. "You've had one weapon that counts all along. Against it, numbers mean nothing. We'll show you how we've used it. You may be able to use it even better than we did, once you've given it a try." The girl shrugged again. "We have dreamed of such a weapon now and then, but never found it. I do not think that what you say is true. What is this weapon?" "Brains," Lavon said. "Not just one brain, but brains. Working together. Cooperation." "Lavon speaks the truth," a weak voice said from the deck. The Para stirred feebly. The girl watched it with wide eyes. The sound of the Para using human speech seemed to impress her more than the ship or anything else it contained. "The Eaters can be conquered," the thin, buzzing voice said. "The protos will help, as they helped in the world from which we came. They fought this flight through space, and deprived Man of his records; but Man made the trip without the records. The protos will never oppose men again. I have already spoken to the protos of this world and have told them what Man can dream, Man can do, whether the protos wish it or not. "Shar, your metal records are with you. They were hidden in the ship. My brothers will lead you to them. 'This organism dies now. It dies in confidence of knowledge, as an intelligent creature dies. Man has taught us this. There is nothing that knowledge . . . cannot do. With it, men . . . have crossed . . . have crossed space . . . The voice whispered away. The shining slipper did not change, but something about it was gone. Lavon looked at the girl; their eyes met. "We have crossed space," Lavon repeated softly. Shar's voice came to him across a great distance. The young-old man was whispering: But have we?" "As far as I'm concerned, yes," said Lavon.

THE GADGET HAD A GHOST BY MURRAY LEINSTER THIS was Istanbul, and the sounds of the city—motor-cars and clumping donkeys, the nasal cries of peddlers and the distant roar of a jet-plane somewhere over the city—came muted through the windows of Coghlan’s flat. It was already late dusk, and Coghlan had just gotten back from the American College, where he taught physics. He relaxed in his chair and waited. He was to meet Laurie later, at the Hotel Petra on the improbably-named Grande Rue de Petra, and hadn’t too much time to spare; but he was intrigued by the unexpected guests he had found waiting for him when he arrived. Duval, the Frenchman, haggard and frantic with impatience; Lieutenant Ghalil, calm and patient and impressive in the uniform of the Istanbul Police Department. Ghalil had introduced himself with perfect courtesy and explained that he had come with M. Duval to ask for information which only Mr. Coghlan, of the American College, could possibly give. They were now in Coghlan’s sitting-room. They held the iced drinks which were formal hospitality. Coghlan waited. “I am afraid,” said Lieutenant Ghalil, wryly, “that you will think us mad, Mr. Coghlan.” Duval drained his glass and said bitterly, “Surely I am mad! It cannot be otherwise!” Coghlan raised sandy eyebrows at them. The Turkish lieutenant of police shrugged. “I think that what we wish to ask, Mr. Coghlan, is: Have you, by any chance, been visiting the thirteenth century?” Coghlan smiled politely. Duval made an impatient gesture. “Pardon, M. Coghlan! I apologize for our seeming insanity. But that is truly a serious question!” This time Coghlan grinned. “Then the answer’s ‘No.’ Not lately. You evidently are aware that I teach physics at the College. My course turns out graduates who can make electrons jump through hoops, you might say, and the better students can snoop into the private lives of neutrons. But fourth-dimension stuff—you refer to time-travel I believe— is out of my line.” Lieutenant Ghalil sighed. He began to unwrap the bulky parcel that sat on his lap. A book appeared. It was large, more than four inches thick, and its pages were sheepskin. Its cover was heavy, ancient leather—so old that it was friable—and inset in it were deeplycarved ivory medallions. Coghlan recognized the style. They were Byzantine ivorycarvings, somewhat battered, done in the manner of the days before Byzantium became successively Constantinople and Stamboul and Istanbul. “An early copy,” observed Ghalil, “of a book called the Alexiad, by the Princess Anna Commena, from the thirteenth century I mentioned. Will you be so good as to look, Mr. Coghlan?” He opened the volume very carefully and handed it to Coghlan. The thick, yellowed pages were covered with those graceless Greek characters which—without capitals or divisions between words or any punctuation or paragraphing—were the text of books when they had just ceased to be written on long strips and rolled up on sticks. Coghlan regarded it curiously. “Do you by any chance read Byzantine Greek?” asked the Turk hopefully. Coghlan shook his head. The police lieutenant looked depressed. He began to turn pages, while Coghlan held the book. The very first page stood up stiffly. There was brown, crackled adhesive around its edge, evidence that at some time it had been glued to

the cover and lately had been freed. The top half of the formerly hidden sheet was now covered by a blank letterhead of the Istanbul Police Department clipped in place by modern metal paperclips. On the uncovered part of the page, the bottom half, there were five brownish smudges that somehow looked familiar. Four in a row, and a larger one beneath them. Lieutenant Ghalil offered a pocket magnifying-glass. “Will you examine?” he asked. Coghlan looked. After a moment he raised his head. “They’re fingerprints,” he agreed. “What of it?” Duval stood up and abruptly began to pace up and down the room, as if filled with frantic impatience. Lieutenant Ghalil drew a deep breath. “I am about to say the absurd,” he said ruefully. “M. Duval came upon this book in the Bibliotheque National in Paris. It has been owned by the library for more than a hundred years. Before, it was owned by the Comptes de Huisse, who in the sixteenth century were the patrons of a man known as Nostradamus. But the book itself is of the thirteenth century. Written and bound in Byzantium. In the Bibliotheque National, M. Duval observed that a leaf was glued tightly. He loosened it. He found those fingerprints and— other writing.” Coghlan said, “Most interesting,” thinking that he should be leaving for his dinner engagement with Laurie and her father. “Of course,” said the police officer, “M. Duval suspected a hoax. He had the ink examined chemically, then spectroscopically. But there could be no doubt. The fingerprints were placed there when the book was new. I repeat, there can be no doubt!” Coghlan had no inkling of what was to come. He said, puzzledly: “Fingerprinting is pretty modem stuff. So I suppose it’s remarkable to find prints so old. But—” Duval, pacing up and down the room, uttered a stifled exclamation. He stopped by Coghlan’s desk. He played feverishly with a wooden-handled Kurdish dagger that Coghlan used as a letter-opener, his eyes a little wild. Lieutenant Ghalil said resignedly: “The fingerprints are not remarkable, Mr. Coghlan. They are impossible. I assure you that, considering their age alone, they are quite impossible! And that is so small, so trivial an impossibility compared to the rest! You see, Mr. Coghlan, those fingerprints are yours!” While Coghlan sat, staring rather intently at nothing at all, the Turkish lieutenant of police brought out a small fingerprint pad, the kind used in up-to-date police departments. No need for ink. One presses one’s fingers on the pad and the prints develop of themselves. “If I may show you—” Coghlan let him roll the tips of his fingers on the glossy top sheet of the pad. It was a familiar enough process. Coghlan had had his fingerprints taken when he got his passport for Turkey, and again when he registered as a resident-alien with the Istanbul Police Department. The Turk offered the magnifying glass again. Coghlan studied the thumbprint he had just made. After a moment’s hesitation, he compared it with the thumbprint on the sheepskin. He jumped visibly. He checked the other prints, one by one, with increasing care and incredulity. Presently he said in the tone of one who does not believe his own words: “They—they do seem to be alike! Except for—”

“Yes,” said Lieutenant Ghalil. “The thumbprint on the sheepskin shows a scar that your thumb does not now have. But still it is your fingerprint—that and all the others. It is both philosophically and mathematically impossible for two sets of fingerprints to match unless they come from the same hand!” “These do,” observed Coghlan. Duval muttered unhappily to himself. He put down the Kurdish knife and paced again. Ghalil shrugged. “M. Duval observed the prints,” he explained, “quite three months ago—the prints and the writing. It took him some time to be convinced that the matter was not a hoax. He wrote to the Istanbul Police to ask if their records showed a Thomas Coghlan residing at 750 Fatima. Two months ago!” Coghlan jumped again. “Where’d he get that address?” “You will see,” said the Turk. “I repeat that this was two months ago! I replied that you were registered, but not at that address. He wrote again, forwarding a photograph of part of that sheepskin page and asking agitatedly if those were your fingerprints. I replied that they were, save for the scar on the thumb. And I added, with lively curiosity, that two days previously you had removed to 750 Fatima—the address M. Duval mentioned a month previously.” “Unfortunately,” said Coghlan, “that just couldn’t happen. I didn’t know the address myself, until a week before I moved.” “I am aware that it could not happen,” said Ghalil painedly. “My point is that it did.” “You’re saying,” objected Coghlan, “that somebody had information three weeks before it existed!” Ghalil made a wry face. “That is a masterpiece of understatement—” “It is madness!” said Duval hoarsely. “It is lunacy! Ce n’est pas logique! Be so kind, M. Coghlan, as to regard the rest of the page!” Coghlan pulled off the clips that held the police-department letterhead over the top of the parchment page, and immediately wondered if his hair was really standing on end. There was writing there. He saw words in faded, unbelievably ancient ink. It was modern English script. The handwriting was as familiar to Coghlan as his own— Which it was. It said! See Thomas Coghlan, 750 Fatima, Istanbul. Professor, President, so what? Gadget at 80 Hosain, second floor, back room. Make sure of Mannard. To be killed. Underneath, his fingerprints remained visible. Coghlan stared at the sheet. He found his glass and gulped at it. On more mature consideration, he drained it. The situation seemed to call for something of the sort. There was silence in the room, save for the drowsy sounds of the night outside. They were not all drowsy, at that. There were voices, and somewhere a radio emitted that nasal masculine howling which to the Turkish ear is music. Uninhibited taxicabs, an unidentifiable jingling, an intonation of speech, all made the sound that of Istanbul and no other place on earth. Moreover, they were the sounds of Istanbul at nightfall. Duval was still. Ghalil looked at Coghlan and was silent. And Coghlan stared at the sheet of ancient parchment.

He faced the completely inexplicable, and he had to accept it. His name and present address—no puzzle, if Ghalil simply lied. The line about Laurie’s father, Mannard, implied that he was in danger of some sort; but it didn’t mean much because of its vagueness. The line referring to another address, 80 Hosain, and a “gadget” was wholly without any meaning at all. But the line about “professor, president”—that hit hard. It was what Coghlan told himself whenever he thought of Laurie. He was a mere instructor in physics. As such, it would not be a good idea for him to ask Laurie to marry him. In time he might become a professor. Even then it would not be a good idea to ask the daughter of an umpty-millionaire to marry him. In more time, with the breaks, he might become a college president—the odds were astronomically against it, but it could happen. Then what? He’d last in that high estate until a college board of trustees decided that somebody else might be better at begging for money. All in all, then, too darned few prospects to justify his ever asking Laurie to marry him—only an instructor, with a professorship the likely peak of his career, and a presidency of a college something almost unimaginable. So, when Coghlan thought of Laurie, he said sourly to himself, “Professor, president, so what?” And was reminded not to yield to any inclination to be romantic. But he had not said that four-word phrase to anybody on earth. He was the only human being to whom it would mean anything at all. It was absolute proof that he, Thomas Coghlan, had written those words. But he hadn’t. He swallowed. “That’s my handwriting,” he said carefully, “and I have to suppose that I wrote it. But I have no memory of doing so. I’ll be much obliged if you’ll tell me what this is all about.” Duval burst into frantic speech. “That is what I have come to demand of you, M. Coghlan! I have been a sane man! I have been a student of the Byzantine empire and its history! I am an authority upon it! But this— modern English, written when there was no modern English? Arabic numerals, when Arabic numerals of that form were unknown? House-numbers when they did not exist, and the city of Istanbul when there was no city of that name on Earth? I could not rest! M. Coghlan, I demand of you—what is the meaning of this?” Coghlan looked again at the faded brown writing on the parchment. Duval abruptly collapsed, buried his face in his hands. Ghalil carefully crushed out his cigarette. He waited. Coghlan stood up with a certain deliberation. “I think we can do with another drink.” He gathered up the glasses and left the room, but he did not find that his mind grew any clearer. He found himself wishing that Duval and Ghalil had never been born, to bring a puzzle like this into his life. He hadn’t written that message—but nobody else could have. And it was written. It suddenly occurred to him that he had no idea what the message referred to, or what he should do about it. He went back into the living-room with the refilled glasses. Duval still sat with his head in his hands. Ghalil had another cigarette going, was regarding its ash with an expression of acute discomfort. Coghlan put down the drinks. “I don’t see how anyone else could have written that message,” he observed, “but I don’t remember writing it myself, and I’ve no idea what it means. Since you brought it, you must have some idea.”

“No,” said Ghalil. “My first question was the only sane one I can ask. Have you been traveling in the thirteenth century? I gather that you have not. I even feel that you have no plans of the sort.” “At least no plans,” agreed Coghlan, with irony. “I know of nowhere I am less likely to visit.” Ghalil waved his cigarette, and the ash fell off. “As a police officer, there is a mention of someone to be killed; possibly murdered. That makes it my affair. As a student of philosophy it is surely my affair! In both police work and in philosophy it is sometimes necessary to assume the absurd, in order to reason toward the sensible. I would like to do so.” “By all means!” said Coghlan dryly. “At the moment, then,” said Ghalil, with a second wave of his cigarette, “you have as yet no anticipation of any attempt to murder Mr. Mannard. You have no scar upon your thumb, nor any expectation of one. And the existence of—let us say—a ‘gadget’ at 80 Hosain is not in your memory. Right?” “Quite right,” admitted Coghlan. “Now if you are to acquire the scar,” observed Ghalil, “you will make—or have made, I must add—those fingerprints at some time in the future, when you will know of danger to Mr. Mannard, and of a gadget at 80 Hosain. This—“ “Ce n’est pas logique!” protested Duval bitterly. “But it is logic,” said Ghalil calmly. “The only flaw is that it is not common sense. Logically, then, one concludes that at some time in the future, Mr. Coghlan will know these things and will wish to inform himself, in what is now the present, of them. He will wish—perhaps next week—to inform himself today that there is danger to Mr. Mannard and that there is something of significance at 80 Hosain, on the second floor in the back room. So he will do so. And this memorandum on the fly-leaf of this very ancient book will be the method by which he informs himself.” Coghlan said, “But you don’t believe that!” “I do not admit that I believe it,” said Ghalil with a smile. “But I think it would be wise to visit 80 Hosain. I cannot think of anything else to do!” “Why not tell Mannard about all this?” asked Coghlan dryly. “He would think me insane,” said the Turk, just as dryly. “And with reason. In fact, I suspect it myself.” “I’ll tell him,” said Coghlan, “for what it’s worth. I’m having dinner with him and with his daughter tonight. It will make small talk at least.” He looked at his watch. “I really should be leaving now.” Lieutenant Ghalil rose politely. Duval took his head from his hands and stood up also, looking more haggard now than at the beginning of the talk. Something occurred to Coghlan. “Tell me,” he said curiously, “M. Duval, when you first found this book, what made you loosen a glued-down page?” Duval spread out his hands. Ghalil turned back the cover again, and put the fly-leaf flat. On what had been the visible side there was a note, a gloss, of five or six lines. It was in an informal sort of Greek lettering, and unintelligible to Coghlan. But, judging by its placement, it was a memo by some previous owner of the book, rather than any contribution of the copyist.

“My translator and M. Duval agree,” observed Ghalil. “They say it says, ‘This book has traveled to the frigid Beyond and returned, bearing writing of the adepts who ask news of Appolonius.’ I do not know what that means, nor did M. Duval, but he searched for other writings. When he saw a page glued down, he loosened it—and you know what has resulted.” Coghlan said vexedly, “I wouldn’t know what an adept is, and I can hardly guess what a frigid beyond is, or a warm one either. But I do know an Appolonius. I think he’s a Greek, but he calls himself a Neoplatonist as if that were a nationality, and says he hails from somewhere in Arabia. He’s trying to get Mannard to finance some sort of political shenanigan. But he wouldn’t be referred to. Not seven centuries ago!” “You were,” said Ghalil. “And Mr. Mannard. And 80 Hosain. I think M. Duval and myself will investigate that address and see if it solves the mystery or deepens it.” Duval suddenly shook his head. “No,” he said with a sort of pathetic violence. “This affair is not possible! To think of it invites madness! Mr. Coghlan, let us thrust all this from our minds! Let us abandon it! I ask your pardon for my intrusion. I had hoped to find an explanation which could be believed. I abandon the hope and the attempt. I shall go back to Paris and deny to myself that any of this has ever taken place!” Coghlan did not believe him, said nothing. “I hope,” said Ghalil mildly, “that you may reconsider.” He moved toward the door with the Frenchman in tow. “To abandon all inquiry at this stage would be suicidal!” Coghlan said: “Suicidal?” “For one,” admitted Ghalil, ruefully, “I should die of curiosity!” He waved his hand and went out, pushing Duval. And Coghlan began to dress for his dinner with Laurie and her father at the Hotel Petra. But as he dressed, his forehead continually creased into a scowl of somehow angry puzzlement. II All the taxicabs of Istanbul are driven by escaped maniacs whom the Turkish police inexplicably leave at large. The cab in which Coghlan drove toward the Hotel Petra was driven by a man with very dark skin and very white teeth and a conviction that the fate of every pedestrian was determined by Allah and he did not have to worry about them. His cab was equipped with an unusually full-throated horn, and fortunately he seemed to love the sound of it. So Coghlan rode madly through narrow streets in which foot-passengers seemed constantly to be recoiling in horror from the cab-horn, and thereby escaping annihilation by the cab. The cab passed howling through preposterously narrow lanes. It turned corners on two wheels with less than inches to spare. It rushed roaring upon knots of people who dissolved with incredible agility before its approach, and it plunged into alleys like tunnels, and it emerged into the wider streets of the more modern part of town with pungent Turkish curses hanging upon it like garlands. Coghlan did not notice. Once he was alone, suspicions sprang up luxuriantly. But he could no more justify them than he could accept the situation his visitors had presented. The two had not asked for money or hinted at it. Coghlan didn’t have any money, anyhow, for them to be scheming to get. The only man a swindling scheme could be aimed at was Mannard. Mannard had money. He’s made a fortune building dams, docks,

railroads and power installations in remote parts of the world. But he was hardly a likely mark for a profitable hoax, even if his name was mentioned in that memorandum so impossibly in Coghlan’s handwriting. He was one of the major benefactors of the college in which Coghlan taught. He had at least one other major philanthropy in view right now. He’d be amused. But there was Laurie, of course. She was a point where he could be vulnerable, be hit hard. Decidedly Mannard had to be told about it. The cab rushed hooting down the wide expanse of the Grande Rue de Petra. It made a U-turn. It peeled its way between a sedate limousine and a ferocious Turkish Army jeep, swerved precariously around a family group frozen in mid-pavement, barely grazed a parked convertible, and came to a squealing stop precisely before the canopy of the Hotel Petra. Its chauffeur beamed at Coghlan and happily demanded six times the legal fare for the journey. Coghlan beckoned to the hotel Commissionaire. He put twice the legal fare in the man’s hand, said, “Pay him and keep the change,” and went into the hotel. His action was a form of American efficiency. It saved money and argument. The discussion was already reaching the shouting stage as he entered the hotel’s large and impressive lobby. Laurie and her father were waiting for him. Laurie was a good deal better-looking than he tried to believe, so he muttered, “Professor, president, so what?” as he shook hands. It was very difficult to avoid being in love with Laurie, but he worked at it. “I’m late,” he told them. “Two of the weirdest characters you ever saw turned up with absolutely the weirdest story you ever heard. I had to listen to it. It had me flipped.” A gleaming white shirt-front moved into view. A beaming smile caressed him. The short broad person who called himself Appolonius the Great—he came almost up to Coghlan’s shoulder and outweighed him by forty pounds—cordially extended a short and pudgy arm and a round fat hand. Coghlan noticed that Appolonius’ expensive wrist-watch noticeably made a dent in the fatness of his wrist. “Surely,” said Appolonius reproachfully, “you found no one stranger than myself!” Coghlan shook hands as briefly as possible. Appolonius the Great was an illusionist— a theatrical magician—who was taking leave from a season he described as remarkable in the European capitals west of the Iron Curtain. His specialty, Coghlan understood, was sawing a woman in half before his various audiences, and then producing her unharmed afterward. He said proudly that when he had bisected the woman, the two halves of her body were carried off at opposite sides of the stage. This, he allowed it to be understood, was something nobody else could do with any hope of reintegrating her afterward. “You know Appolonius,” grunted Mannard. “Let’s go to dinner.” He led the way toward the dining-room. Laurie took Coghlan’s arm. She looked up at him and smiled. “I was afraid you’d turned against me, Tommy,” she said. “I was practising a look of pretty despair to use if you didn’t turn up.” Coghlan looked down at her and hardened his heart. On two previous occasions he’d resolutely broken appointments when he’d have seen Laurie, because he liked her too much and didn’t want her to find it out. But he was afraid she’d guessed it anyway. “Good thing I had this date,” he told her. “My visitors had me dizzy. Come to think of it, I’m going to ask Appolonius how they did their stunt. It’s in his line, more or less.” The headwaiter bowed the party to a table. There were only the four of them at dinner, and there was the gleam of silver and glass and the sound of voices, with a string

orchestra valiantly trying to make a strictly Near-Eastern version of the Rhapsody in Blue sound like American swing. They didn’t make it, but at least it wasn’t loud. Coghlan waited for the hors d’oeuvres, his face unconsciously growing gloomy. Appolonius the Great was lifting his wine-glass. The deeply-indented wristwatch annoyed Coghlan. Its sweep second-hand irritated him unreasonably. Appolonius was saying blandly: “I think it is time for me to reveal my great good fortune! I offer a toast to the Neoplatonist Autonomous Republic-to-be! Some think it a lie, and some a swindle and me the would-be swindler. But drink to its reality!” He drank. Then he beamed more widely still. “I have secured financing for the bribes I need to pay,” he explained. All his chins radiated cheer. “I may not reveal who has decided to enrich some scoundrelly politicians in order to aid my people, but I am very happy. For myself and my people!” “That’s fine!” said Mannard. “I shall no longer annoy you for a contribution,” Appolonius assured him. “Is it not a relief?” Mannard chuckled. Appolonius the Great was almost openly a fake; certainly he told about his “people” with the air of one who does not expect anybody to take him seriously. The story was that somewhere in Arabia there was a group of small, obscure villages in which the doctrines of Neoplatonism survived as a religion. They were maintained by a caste of philosopher-priests who kept the population bemused by magic, and Appolonius claimed to have been one of the hierarchy and to be astonishing all Europe with the trickery which was the mainstay of the cult. It sounded like the sort of publicity an overimaginative press-agent might have contrived. A tradition of centuries of the development and worship of the art of hocus-pocus was not too credible. And now, it seemed, Appolonius was claiming that somebody had put up money to bribe some Arab government and secure safety for the villagers in revealing their existence and at-leasteccentric religion. “I’d some visitors today,” said Coghlan, “who may have been using some of your Neoplatonistic magic.” He turned to Mannard. “By the way, sir, they told me that I am probably going to murder you.” Mannard looked up amusedly. He was a big man, deeply tanned, and looked capable of looking after himself. He said: “Knife, bullet, or poison, Tommy? Or will you use a cyclotron? How was that?” Coghlan explained. The story of his interview with the harassed Duval and the skeptical Ghalil sounded even more absurd than before, as he told it. Mannard listened. The hors d’oeuvres came. The soup. Coghlan told the story very carefully, and was the more annoyed as he found himself trying to explain how impossible it was that it could be a fake. Yet he didn’t mention that one line which had most disturbed him. Mannard chuckled once or twice as Coghlan’s story unfolded. “Clever!” he said when Coghlan finished. “How do you suppose they did it, and what do they want?” Appolonius the Great wiped his mouth and topmost chin. “I do not like it,” he said seriously. “I do not like it at all. Oh, the book and the fingerprints and the writing . . . one can do such things. I remember that once, in Madrid, I—but no matter! They are amateurs, and therefore they may be dangerous folk.”

Laurie said, “I think Tommy’d have seen through anything crude. And I don’t think he told quite all the story. I’ve known him a long time. There’s something that still bothers him.” Coghlan flushed. Laurie could read his mind uncannily. “There was,” he admitted, “a line that I didn’t tell. It mentioned something that would mean nothing to anyone but myself—and I’ve never mentioned it to anyone.” Appolonius sighed. “Ah, how often have I not read someone’s inmost thoughts! Everyone believes his own thoughts quite unique! But still, I do not like this!” Laurie leaned close to Coghlan. She said, under her breath, “Was the thing you didn’t tell—about me?” Coghlan looked at her uncomfortably, and nodded. “Nice!” said Laurie, and smiled mischievously at him. Appolonius suddenly made a gesture. He lifted a goblet with water in it. He held it up at the level of their eyes. “I show you the principle of magic,” he said firmly. “Here is a glass, containing water only. You see it contains nothing else!” Mannard looked at it warily. The water was perfectly clear. Appolonius swept it around the table at eye-level. “You see! Now, Mr. Coghlan, enclose the goblet with your hands. Surround the bowl. You, at least, are not a confederate! Now . . . The fat little man looked tensely at the glass held in Coghlan’s cupped hands. Coghlan felt like a fool. “Abracadabra 750 Fatima Miss Mannard is very beautiful!” he said in a theatrical voice. Then he added placidly, “Any other words would have done as well. Put down the glass, Mr. Coghlan, and look at it.” Coghlan put down the goblet and took his hands away. There was a gold-piece in the goblet. It was an antique—a ten-dirhem piece of the Turkish Empire. “I could not build up the illusion,” said Appolonius, “but it was deceptive, was it not?” “How’d you do it?” asked Mannard interestedly. “At eye-level,” said Appolonius, “you cannot see the bottom of a goblet filled with water. Refraction prevents it. I dropped in the coin and held it at the level of your eyes. So long as it was held high, it seemed empty. That is all.” Mannard grunted. “It is the principle which counts!” said Appolonius. “I did something of which you knew nothing. You deceived yourselves, because you thought I was getting ready to do a trick. I had already done it. That is the secret of magic.” He fished out the gold-piece and put it in his vest pocket, and Coghlan thought sourly that this trick was not quite as convincing as his own handwriting, his own fingerprints and most private thoughts, written down over seven centuries ago. “Hm . . . I think I’ll mention your visitors to the police,” said Mannard. “I’m mentioned. I may be involved. It’s too elaborate to be a practical joke, and there’s that mention of somebody getting killed. I know some fairly high Turkish officials ... you’ll talk to anyone they send you?” “Naturally.” Coghlan felt that he should be relieved, but he was not. Then something else occurred to him. “By the way,” he said to Appolonius, “you’re in on this, too. There’s a memorandum that says the ‘adepts’ were inquiring for you!” He quoted, as well as he was able, the memo on the back of the page containing his fingerprints. The fat man listened, frowning.

“This,” he said firmly, “I very much do not like! It is not good for my professional reputation to be linked with tricksters. It is very much not good!” Astonishingly, he looked pale. It could be anger, but he was definitely paler than he had been. Laurie said briskly: “You said something about a gadget, Tommy. At—80 Hosain, you said?” Coghlan nodded. “Yes. Duval and Lieutenant Ghalil said they were going to make inquiries theme.” “After dinner,” suggested Laurie, “we could take the car and go look at the outside, anyhow? I don’t think Father has anything planned. It would be interesting—” “Not a bad thought,” said Mannard. “It’s a pleasant night. We’ll all go.” Laurie smiled ruefully at Coghlan. And Coghlan resolutely assured himself he was pleased—it was much better for him not to be anywhere with Laurie, alone. But he was not cheered in the least. Mannard pushed back his chair. “It’s irritating!” he grunted. “I can’t figure out what they’re driving at! By all means, let’s go look at that infernal house!” They went up to Mannard’s suite on the third floor of the Petra, and he telephoned and ordered the car he’d rented during his stay in Istanbul. Laurie put a scarf over her head. Somehow even that looked good on her, as Coghlan realized depressedly. Appolonius the Great had blandly assumed an invitation and continued to talk about his political enterprise of bribery. He believed, he said, that there might be some ancient manuscripts turned up when enlightenment swept over the furtive villages of his people. Coghlan gathered that he claimed as many as two or three thousand fellow-countrymen. The car was reported as ready. “I shall walk down the stairs!” announced Appolonius, with a wave of his pudgy hand. “I feel somehow grand and dignified, now that someone has given me money for my people. I do not think that anyone can feel dignified in a lift.” Mannard grunted. They moved toward the wide stairs, Appolonius in the lead. The lights went out, everywhere. Immediately there was a gasp and a crashing sound. Mannard’s voice swore furiously, halfway down the flight of curving steps. A moment ago he had been at the top landing. The lights came on again. Mannard came storming up the steps. He glared about him, breathing hard. He was the very opposite of the typical millionaire just then. He looked hardboiled, athletic, spoiling for a fight. “My dear friend!” gasped Appolonius. “What happened?” “Somebody tried to throw me downstairs!” growled Mannard balefully. “They grabbed my foot and heaved! If I’d gone the way I was thrown—if I hadn’t handled myself right—I’d have gone over the stair-rail and broken my blasted neck!” He glared about him. But there were only the four of them in sight. Mannard peered each way along the hotel corridors. He fumed. But there was literally nobody around who could have done it. “Oh, maybe I slipped,” he said irritably, “but it didn’t feel like that! Dammit— Oh, there’s no harm done!” He went down the stairs again, scowling. The lights stayed on. The others followed. Laurie said shakily: “That was odd, wasn’t it?” “Very,” said Coghlan. “If you remember, I said I’d been told that I’d probably murder him.”

“But you were right by me!” said Laurie quickly. “Not so close I couldn’t have done it,” said Coghlan. “I sort of wish it hadn’t happened.” They reached the lower floor of the hotel, Mannard still bristling. Appolonius walked with a waddling, swaying grace. To Coghlan he looked somehow like pictures of the Agha Khan. He beamed as he walked. He was very impressive. And he’d been thinking as Coghlan had thought, for in the lobby he turned and said blandly: “You said something about a prophecy that you might murder Mr. Mannard. Be careful, Mr. Coghlan! Be careful!” He twinkled at the two who followed him, and resumed his splendid progress toward the car that waited outside. It was dark in the back of the car. Laurie settled down beside Coghlan. He was distinctly aware of her nearness. But he frowned uneasily as the car rolled away. His own handwriting in the book from ancient days had said, “Make sure of Mannard. To be killed.” And Mannard had just had a good chance of a serious accident. . . Coghlan felt uncomfortably that something significant had taken place that he should have noticed. But, he irritably assured himself, it couldn’t be anything but coincidence. III Coghlan breakfasted on coffee alone, next morning, and he had the dour outlook and depressed spirit that always followed an evening with Laurie these days. The trouble was, of course, that he wanted to marry her, and resolutely wouldn’t even consider the possibility. He drank his coffee and stared glumly out into the courtyard below his windows. His apartment was in one of the older houses of the Galata district, slicked up for modem times. The courtyard had probably once been a harem garden. Now it was flag-stoned, with a few spindling shrubs, and the noises of Istanbul were muted when they reached it. There came brisk footsteps. Lieutenant Ghalil strode crisply across the courtyard. He vanished. A moment later, Coghlan’s doorbell rang. He answered it, scowling. Ghalil grinned as he said, “Good morning!” “More mystery?” demanded Coghlan suspiciously. “A part of it has been cleared up in my mind,” said Ghalil. “I am much more at ease in my thoughts.” “I’m having coffee,” growled Coghlan. “I’ll get you some.” He got out another cup and poured it. He had an odd feeling that Ghalil was regarding him with a new friendliness. “I have a letter for you,” said the Turk cheerfully. He passed it over. It was a neatly typed note, in English, on a letterhead that Coghlan could make out as that of the Ministry of Police—which is officially based in Ankara rather than Istanbul, but unofficially has followed the center of gravity of crime to the older city. The signature was clear. It was that of a cabinet minister, no less. The note said that at the request of the American, Mr. Mannard, Lieutenant Ghalil had been appointed to confer with Mr. Coghlan on a matter which Mr. Coghlan considered serious. The Minister of Police assured Mr. Coghlan that Lieutenant Ghalil had the entire confidence of the Ministry, which was sure that he would be both cooperative and competent. Coghlan looked up, confused.

“And I thought you the suspicious character!” said Ghalil. “But you surely did the one thing a suspicious character would not do—call in the police at the beginning. Because you thought me suspicious!” He chuckled. “Now, if you still have doubts, I can report that you wish to confer with a person of higher rank. But it will not be easy to get anyone else to take this matter seriously! Or in quite so amicable a manner, orders or no, in view of the implied threat to Mr. Mannard and my comparative assurance that you are innocent so far—” he smiled slightly— “of any responsibility for that threat.” Coghlan had been thinking about that, too. He growled: “It’s ridiculous! I’d just barely told Mannard about it last night, when he had an accident and almost got himself killed, and a third party who was along had the nerve to warn me—” Ghalil tensed. He held up his hand. “What was that?” Coghlan impatiently told of Mannard’s tripping on the stairs. “A coincidence, obviously,” he finished. Then, placing the defense before any offense: “What else?” “What else indeed?” agreed Ghalil. He said abruptly, “What do you think of 80 Hosain? You saw it last night.” Coghlan shrugged his shoulders. The carload of them—Mannard, Laurie, Appolonius the Great and Coghlan—had driven deep into the Galata quarter and found 80 Hosain. It was a grimy, unbelievably ancient building, empty of all life, on a winding, narrow, noisome alleyway. When the car found it, there were shabby figures gathered around, looking curiously at police outside it. Ghalil himself came to ask what the people in the car wanted. Then the whole party went into the echoing deserted building and up to the empty back room on the second floor. Coghlan could see and smell that room now. The house itself had been unoccupied for a long time. It was so old that the stone flooring on the ground level had long since worn out and been replaced by wide, cracked planks now worn out themselves. The stone steps leading to the second story were rounded in their centers by the footsteps of past generations. There were smells. There was mustiness. There was squalor and evidences of neglect continued for a millennium. There were cobwebs and dirt and every indication of degradation; yet the door-lintels were carved stone from a time when a workman was an artisan and did the work of an artist. The back room was empty of everything but the grime of ages. Plaster had fallen, revealing older plaster behind it, and on the older plaster there were traces of color as if the walls had been painted in figures no longer to be made out. And there was one place, on the western wall, where the plaster was wet. A roughly square spot of a foot-and-a-half by a foot-and-a-half, about a yard above the floor-level, glistening with moisture. In Coghlan’s living-room, with Ghalil looking interestedly at him, Coghlan frowned. “There was nothing in the room. It was empty. There was no ‘Gadget’ there as Duval’s book declared.” Ghalil said mildly: “The book was of the thirteenth century. Would you expect to find anything in a room after so long a time, so many lootings, the use of twenty generations?” “I was guided only by Duval’s book,” said Coghlan with some irony. “You suspect that wet spot on the wall, eh?” “I didn’t understand it,” admitted Coghlan, “and it was— peculiar. It was cold.” “Perhaps it is the gadget,” said Ghalil. He said in mild reproof, “After you left, I felt it as you had done. It was very cold. I thought my hand would be frost-bitten, when I kept it

there for some time. In fact, later I covered the spot with a blanket, and frost appeared under it!” Coghlan said impatiently, “Not without refrigerating apparatus, and that’s out of the question!” Ghalil thought that over. “Yet it did appear.” “Would refrigerating apparatus be called a gadget?” Coghlan wondered. The Turk shook his head. “It is peculiar. I learn that it is traditional that a spot on the plaster in that room has always been and will always be wet. It has been considered magical, and has given the place a bad name—which is one reason the house is empty. The legend is verifiable for sixty years. Refrigeration was not known in small units so long ago. Would that coldness be another impossibility of this affair?” Coghlan said, “We talk nonsense all the time!” Ghalil thought, again. “Could refrigeration be a lost art of the ancients?” he asked with a faint smile, “and if so, what has it to do with you and Mr. Mannard and this— Appolonius?” “There aren’t any lost arts,” Coghlan assured him. “In olden times people did things at random, on what they thought were magical principles. Sometimes they got results. On magical reasoning, they used digitalis for the heart. It happened to be right, and they kept on. On magical reasoning, they hammered copper past all sanity. It got hardened, and they thought it was tempered. There are electroplated objects surviving from a thousand years and more ago. The Greeks made a steam turbine in the classic age. It’s more than likely that they made a magic lantern. But there could be no science without scientific thinking. They got results by accident, but they didn’t know what they were doing or what they’d done. They couldn’t think technically . . . so there are no lost arts, only redefinitions. We can do everything the ancients could.” “Can you make a place that will stay cold for sixty years—let alone seven hundred?” “It’s an illusion,” said Coghlan. “It must be! You’d better ask Appolonius how it’s done. That’s in his line.” “I would be pleased if you would examine again that cold place on the wall at 80 Hosain,” said Ghalil ruefully. “If it is an illusion, it is singularly impenetrable!” “I promised,” said Coghlan, “to go on a picnic today with the Mannards. They’re going up along the Sea of Marmora to look at a piece of ground.” Ghalil raised his eyebrows. “They plan a home here?” “A children’s camp,” Coghlan explained with reserve. “Mannard’s a millionaire. He’s given a lot of money to the American College, and it’s been suggested that he do something more. A camp for slum-children is projected. He may finance it to show what can be done for children’s health by the sort of thing that’s standard in the United States. He’s looking over a site. If he puts up the money, the camp will be handled by Turkish personnel and the cost and results worked out. If it’s successful, the Turkish Government or private charities will carry it on and extend it.” “Admirable,” said Lieutenant Ghalil. “One would not like to see such a man murdered.” Coghlan did not comment. Ghalil rose. “But—come and examine this refrigeration apparatus of ancient days, please! After all, it is undoubtedly mentioned in a memorandum in your handwriting of seven hundred years ago! And—Mr. Coghlan, will you be careful?” “Of what?”

“For one, Mr. Mannard.” Ghalil’s expression was wry. “I do not believe in things from the past any more than you do, but as a philosopher and a policeman I have to face facts even when they are impossible, and possibilities even when they are insane. There are two things foretold which disturb me. I hope you will help me to prevent them.” “The murder of Mannard, of course. But what’s the other?” “I should regret that, and I guard against it,” Ghalil told him. But I would be intellectually more disturbed if you should cut your thumb. A murder would be explicable.” Coghlan grinned. “I won’t. That’s not likely!” “That is why I dread it. Please come to 80 Hosain when you can. I am having the room examined microscopically—and cleaned in the process. I even have it garrisoned, to prevent any preparation of illusion.” He waved his hand and went away. An hour later, Coghlan joined the excursion which was to inspect a site for a possible children’s camp. An impressive small yacht lay at dock on the shore of the Golden Horn. There was a vast confusion everywhere. From Italian freighters to cabin-cruisers, from clumsy barges to lateen-rigged tubs and grimy small two- and three-passenger rowboats— every conceivable type of floating thing floated or moved or was docked all about. The yacht had been loaned as a grand gesture by its owner, so that Mannard would make a gift of money the yacht’s owner preferred to spend otherwise. Laurie looked relieved when Coghlan turned up. She waved to him as he came aboard. “News, Tommy! Your friend Duval telephoned me this morning!” “What for?” “He sounded hysterical and apologetic,” Laurie told him, “because he’d been trying to reach Father, and couldn’t. He said he could not tell me the details or the source of his information, but he had certain knowledge that you intended to murder my father. He nearly collapsed when I said sweetly, ‘Thank you so much, M’sieur Duval! So he told us last night!’ “ She grinned. “It wasn’t quite the reaction he expected!” “If he were an honest man,” Coghlan mused, “that’s just exactly what he’d have done—tried to warn your father. But he couldn’t say why he thought a murder was in the wind, because that’s unbelievable. Maybe he is honest. I don’t know.” Appolonius the Great came waddling down to the dock, in a marvelous yachting costume. He beamed and waved, and the sunlight gleamed on his wristwatch. A beggar thrust up to him and whined, holding out a ragged European cap. The beggar cringed and gabbled shrilly. And Appolonius the Great paused, looked into the extended cap with apparent stupefaction, and pointed; whereupon the beggar also looked into the cap, yelped, and fled at the top of his speed, clutching the cap fast. Appolonius came on, shaking all over with his amusement. “You say?” he asked amiably as he reached the yacht’s deck. “Indeed I cannot resist such jests! He held out his cap, and I looked, and feigned surprise—and there was a handful of jewels in the cap! True, they were merely paste and trinketry, but I added a silver coin to comfort him when he discovers they are worthless.” He waddled forward to greet Mannard. There was around the yacht that pandemonium which in the Near East accompanies every public activity. Men swarmed everywhere. Even the yacht carried a vastly larger crew than seemed necessary, there being at least a dozen of them on a boat that three American sailors would have navigated handily. Sailors seemed to fall all over each other in getting ready for departure.

The party of guests was not large. There was a professor from the College. A local politico, the owner of the proposed campsite. A lawyer. The Turkish owner of the yacht glowed visibly as last-minute baskets of food came aboard. He was not paying for them. Coghlan and Laurie sat at the very stern of the yacht when at last it pulled out and went on up the Golden Horn. There was little privacy, because of the swarming number of the crew, and Coghlan did not try for greater privacy. He looked at the panorama of the city which had been the center of civilization for a thousand years—and now was a rabbitwarren of narrow streets and questionable occupations. Laurie, beside him, watched the unfolding view of minarets and domes and the great white palace which had been the Seraglio, and the soaring pile of Hagia Sophia, and all the beauty of this place, notorious for its beauty for almost two thousand years. There was bright sunshine to add to it, and the flickering of sun-reflections on the water. These things seemed to cast a glamor over everything. But Laurie looked away from it at Coghlan. “Tommy,” she said, “will you tell me what was in that mysterious message that you wouldn’t tell last night? You said it was about me.” “It was nothing important,” said Coghlan. “Shall we go up to the pilot-house and see how the yacht’s steered?” She faced him directly, and smiled. “Does it occur to you that I’ve known you a long time, Tommy, and I’ve practically studied you, and I can almost read your mind—I hope?” He moved restlessly. “When you were ten years old,” she said, “you told me very generously that you would marry me when you grew up. But you insisted ferociously that I shouldn’t tell anybody!” He muttered something indistinct about kids. “And you took me to your Senior Prom,” she reminded him, “even if I had to make my father leave Bogota two months early so I’d be around when it was time for you to pass out the invitation. And you were the first boy who ever kissed me,” she added amiably, “and until—well—lately you used to write me very nice letters. You’ve paid attention to me all our lives, Tommy!” He said: “Cigarette?” “No,” she said firmly. “I’m working up to something.” “No use talking,” he said sourly. “Let’s join the others.” “Tommy!” she protested. “You’re not nice! And here I am trying to spare you embarrassment!” She grinned at him. “You wouldn’t want my father to ask what your intentions are!” “I haven’t any,” he said grimly. “If I were only a rich woman’s husband I’d despise myself. If I didn’t, you’d despise me! It wouldn’t work out. And I wouldn’t want to be just your first husband!” Her eyes grew softer, but she shook her head reproachfully. “Then—how about being a brother to me? You ought to suggest that, if only to be polite.” Coghlan had known her a long, long time. Her air of comfortable teasing would have fooled people. But Coghlan felt like a heel. He muttered under his breath. He stood up. “You know damned well I love you!” he said angrily. “But that’s all! I can’t turn it off, but I can starve it to death! And there’s no use arguing about it! You’ll be leaving

soon. If you weren’t, I wouldn’t come near you here! Nobody could be crazier about anybody else than I am about you, but you can’t wear me down. Understand?” “I wouldn’t want to break your spirit, Tommy,” said Laurie reasonably. “But I’m getting desperate!” Then she smiled. He growled and strode irritably away. When his back was turned, her smile wavered and broke. And when he looked back at her a little later she was staring out over the water, her back to the others on the yacht. Her hands were tightly clenched. The yacht steamed on up the Bosphorus. There were the hills on either side, speckled with dwellings which looked trim and picturesque from the water, but would be completely squalid at close view. The sky was deepest azure, and this was the scene of many romantic happenings in years gone by. But the owner of the yacht talked expansively to Mannard in the thickest of Turkish accents. The professor from the American College was deep in discussion with the lawyer on the responsibility of the municipal government for the smell of decaying garbage which made his home nearly uninhabitable. The owner of the site to be inspected spoke only Turkish. That left only Appolonius the Great. Coghlan brought up the subject of the cryptic and quite incredible message in the Alexiad. “Ah, it is a mystification,” said Appolonius genially. “It is also, I think, an intended swindle. But Mr. Mannard has spoken to the police. They will inquire into those persons. It would be unprofessional for me to interfere!” Coghlan said shortly: “Not if it’s a scheme for a swindle.” “That,” acknowledged Appolonius, “disturbs me. As you know, I have recently received a large sum from a source that would surprise you, to bribe my people to freedom. I do not like to be associated with downright scoundrels! Therefore I stand aside—lest it be considered that I am a scoundrel too!” Coghlan turned away, considering. This was not a cheerful day for him. He doggedly would not go back to Laurie. It had cost him a great deal to make the decision he’d made. He wouldn’t change it. There was no use talking to her. Thinking about her made him miserable. He tried, for a time, to put his mind on the matter of 80 Hosain; to imagine some contrivance, possible to the ancients, which would amount to apparatus to produce cold. In Babylonia the ancients had known that a shallow tray, laid upon blankets, would radiate heat away at night and produce a thin layer of ice by morning on a completely windless and cloudless night. The heat went on out to empty space, and the blanket kept more heat from rising out of the earth. But Istanbul was hardly a place of cloudlessness. That wouldn’t work here. The ancients hadn’t understood it, anyhow. He gave it up. The yacht drew nearer to the shore as the Sea of Marmora expanded from the Bosphorus. It tied up to a rickety wharf, with seemingly innumerable sailors clumsily achieving the landing. Mannard went ashore to inspect the proposed campsite. Sailors carted ashore vast numbers of baskets, folding tables, and the other apparatus for an alfresco luncheon. Coghlan smoked dourly on the yacht’s deck. Laurie went ashore, and he sat still, feeling as ridiculous as a sulking child. Presently he wandered across the wharf and moved about at random while the lunch was spread out. When the exploring party came back, Coghlan allowed himself to be seated— next to Laurie. She casually ignored their recent discussion and chatted brightly. He sank into abysmal gloom.

The matter of the proposed children’s camp was discussed at length in at least three languages. Luncheon progressed, with sailors acting as waiters and bringing hot dishes from the galley of the yacht. The owner of the land rose and made a florid, perspiring speech in the fond hope of unloading land he could not use, at a fancy price he could. The professor from the American College spoke warmly of Mannard, and threw in a hint or two that his own specialty could use some extra funds. Coghlan saw clearly that everybody in the world was out to get money from Mannard by any possible process, and grimly reiterated to himself his own resolution not to take part in the undignified scramble by trying to marry Laurie. The sailors brought coffee. Coghlan drank his while the speechmaking went on. Mannard talked absorbedly to the lawyer, and to the owner of the land. The children’s camp seemed to be practically assured. That, to Coghlan, was one bright spot in a thumping bleak day. He saw Mannard start to drink his coffee, then feel the cup with his hands and give it to a sailor to be taken back to the yacht to be replaced with hot coffee. It had gotten cold. Laurie chatted brightly with Appolonius. He beamed at her. A sailor came back with Mannard’s cup. He felt it, as he always did. He lifted it toward his lips. There was a violent cracking sound. Echoes rang all about. Voices stopped. Mannard was staring in stupefaction at the coffee-cup in his hand. It was broken. It had been smashed by a bullet. Coffee was spilled everywhere, and Mannard absurdly held the handle of the cup from which he had been about to drink. Coghlan was in motion even as he saw in his mind’s eye the phrase in his own handwriting on a yellowed sheepskin page: “Make sure of Mannard. To be killed.” IV It was preposterous. Mannard stood up abruptly, raging, with the smashed handle of the coffee-cup in his hand. He did not seem to realize that by rising he became an even better target. There was an instant’s stunned immobility, on the part of everyone but Coghlan. He plunged forward, toppling the flimsy table in a confusion of smashed china and scrambled silverware. “Get down!” snapped Coghlan. He pushed Laurie’s father back into his seat. All about was absolute tranquillity save for the white-faced men who picked themselves up with stiff, frightened movements after Coghlan’s rush had toppled them. The hillsides were green and silent save for the minor cries of insects. The water was undisturbed. Some sailors began to run ashore from the yacht. “Everybody gather round here!” commanded Coghlan angrily. “The shot was at Mannard! Get close!” Laurie was the only one who seemed to obey. She was white-faced as the rest, but she said: “I’m here, Tommy. What do we do?” “Not you, damn it! Somebody shot at your father! If we get around him and get him to the yacht, they can’t see him to shoot again. You get in the center here too!” He commanded the Turkish-speaking sailors with violent gestures, and they obeyed his authoritative manner. He and Laurie and the sailors fairly forced the sputtering, angry Mannard off the wharf and onto the craft moored at its end. The other members of the

picnic-party were milling into action. The lawyer scuttled aboard. The owner of the land was even before him. Only Appolonius sat where his chair had toppled, his face gray and filled with an astounded expression of shock. The professor from the American College went on board and disappeared entirely. Coghlan went back and dragged at Appolonius. The fat man scrambled to his feet and went stiffly out the wharf and on board. “Somebody who can talk Turkish,” snapped Coghlan, “tell the sailors to help me hunt for whoever fired that shot! He’s had a chance to get away, but we can look for him, anyhow!” A voice, chattering, said unintelligible things. Sailors went ashore, Coghlan in the lead. They obeyed Coghlan’s gestured commands and tramped about with him in the brushwood, hunting industriously and without visible timidity. But Coghlan fumed. He could not give detailed commands. He couldn’t be sure they were watching for footprints or a tiny ejected shell which would tell at least where the would-be murderer had been. There were shouts from the yacht. Coghlan ignored them, searching angrily but with an increasing sensation of futility. Then Laurie came running ashore. “Tommy! It’s useless! He’s gone! The thing to do is to get back to Istanbul and tell the police!” Coghlan nodded angrily, wondering again if the marksman who had missed Mannard might not settle for Laurie. He stood between her and the shore, and shouted and beckoned to the sailors. He led them back to the yacht, in a tight circle around Laurie. The yacht cast off with unseemly haste. It sped out from the shore and headed back for Istanbul. Mannard sat angrily in a deck-chair, his eyes hard. He nodded to Coghlan. “I didn’t see the point of protecting me,” he admitted grimly, “not at the time. But that crazy business you were telling me last night did hint at this.” Then he said with explosive irritation: “Dammit, either they meant to kill me without asking for money, or they don’t care much whether they kill me or not!” Coghlan nodded. “They might figure on being reckless with you,” he said coldly, “so if you get killed that’ll be all the more reason for Laurie to pay up if something happens. Or—they might figure that if they’re reckless enough with you, you’ll pay up the more quickly if they threaten Laurie.” “What’s that?” demanded Mannard sharply. “I don’t know what the scheme is,” Coghlan told him. “It looks crazy! But though the threat seems directed against you, the danger may be even greater for Laurie.” Mannard said grimly: “Yes. That’s something to watch out for. Thanks.” The yacht ploughed through the water back toward Istanbul. The sun shone brightly on the narrow blue sea. The hills on either side seemed to shimmer in the heat. But the atmosphere on the yacht was far from relaxed. The sailors bore high interest beneath a mask of discretion, most of them managing to occupy themselves near the Turkish guests, who huddled together and talked excitedly. Laurie put her arm in Coghlan’s. “There’s such a thing as courage, Tommy,” she said, “and such a thing as recklessness. You took chances, searching on shore. I wouldn’t like you to be killed.” “It could be,” he said harshly, “that the whole idea is to scare one or the other of you so completely—even if one of you had to be killed—that you’ll be ready to pay hugely at the first demand for money.” “But how—”

He said fiercely: “If you were kidnapped, for instance! Be careful—hear me? Don’t go anywhere in response to a note of any kind.” He went impatiently away and paced up and down, alone, until the yacht docked once more. Then there was more confusion. Mannard was intent upon an immediate conference with police. Coghlan and Laurie went with him to headquarters, in a cab. Presently, there was some embarrassment. Mannard could not bring himself to tell so incredible a tale as that a book seven hundred years old had had a seven-hundred-year-old message in it which said he was to be killed, and that the shot which had so narrowly missed him today seemed to be connected with it. He doggedly told only the facts of the event itself. No, he had no enemies that he knew of. No, he had not received any message, himself, that he could consider a threat. He could not guess what was behind the attempt on his life. The police were polite and deeply concerned. They assured him that Lieutenant Ghalil would be notified immediately. He had been assigned to a matter Mr. Mannard had mentioned before. As soon as it was possible to reach him. That affair, inconclusive as it was, took nearly an hour of time. Mannard fumed, in the cab on the way back to the hotel. “Ghalil’s mixed up in this all the way through!” he said darkly. “It could be on orders, or it could be something else.” “I know he has orders,” said Coghlan briefly. “And I think I know where he’ll be. I’ll hunt him up. Now.” The cab stopped before the Hotel Petra. Mannard and Laurie got out. Coghlan stayed in. Laurie said: “Take care of yourself, Tommy. Please!” The cab pulled out into traffic and bounded for 80 Hosain with the mad, glad disregard for all safety rules which is the lifeblood of Istanbul taxicabs. 80 Hosain, by daylight, was even less inviting to look upon than it had seemed the night before. The street was narrow and unbelievably tortuous. It was paved with worn cobbles which sloped toward its center in the vain hope that rain would wash street-debris away. Because of its winding, it was never possible to see more than fifty feet ahead. When the building at last appeared, there was a police-car before it and a uniformed policeman on guard at the door. His neatness was in marked contrast to his squalid surroundings—but even so this section might have been a most aristocratic quarter in the times of the Byzantine Empire. Coghlan was admitted without question. There was already an extensive process of cleaning-up under way. It smelled much less offensive than before. He went up the stairs and into the back room which was mentioned in the message he simply must have written, and simply hadn’t. Duval sat on a campstool in one corner, more haggard than before. There were many books on the floor beside him, and one lay open in his hand. Ghalil smoked reflectively on a windowsill. The blank stone wall of the next building showed half-a-dozen feet beyond. Only the grayest and gloomiest of light came in the windows. Ghalil looked up and seemed pleased when Coghlan entered. “I hoped you would come after the boat-trip,” he said cordially. “M. Duval and myself are still exchanging mutual assurances of our lunacy.”

“Up in the Sea of Marmora,” said Coghlan curtly, “somebody tried to kill Mannard. Since that’s supposedly a part of this affair, it may be crazy but it’s surely serious! Did Headquarters tell you about it?” “There was no need,” said Ghalil mildly. “I was there.” Coghlan stared. “I have believed Mr. Mannard in danger from the beginning,” Ghalil explained apologetically. “I underestimated it, to be sure. But after you told me of the affair of last night—when even he believes he tripped—I have taken every possible precaution to guard him. So of course I went on the yacht.” Coghlan said incredulously, “I didn’t see you!” “It was stifling below-decks,” said Ghalil wryly. “But most of the sailors were my men. You must have noticed that they were not skilled seamen?” Coghlan found all his ideas churned up again. “But—” “He was in no danger from the bullet,” Ghalil assured him. “I was concerned about the luncheon. In Istanbul when we think of an impending murder we think not only of knives and guns, but of poison. I took great pains against poison. The cook on the yacht tasted every item served, and he has a talent for detecting the most minute trace of the commoner poisons. An odd talent to have, eh?” “But Mannard was shot at?” protested Coghlan. Lieutenant Ghalil nodded. He puffed tranquilly on his cigarette. “I am an excellent marksman,” he said modestly. “I watched. At the last possible instant—and I am ashamed to say only by accident—it was discovered that his coffee was poisoned.” Coghlan found suspicion and bewilderment battling for primacy in his mind. “You recall,” said Ghalil carefully, “that Mr. Mannard talked absorbedly and at length. When he went to drink his coffee, he found it cold. He sent his cup to be refilled. I am disturbed,” he interjected vexedly, “because only by accident he is alive! The cook— my talented man—poured aside the cooled coffee and refilled Mr. Mannard’s cup. And he has a fondness for tepid coffee, which I find strange. He went to drink the coffee Mr. Mannard had returned—and something had been added to it. More might remain in the cup. He told me instantly. There was no time to send a message. Mr. Mannard already had the cup in his hand. There was need for spectacular action. And I was watching the dinner-party, prepared to intervene in case of such need. I am an excellent marksman and there was nothing else to do, so I shot the cup from his hand.” Coghlan opened his mouth, managed to close it again. “You—shot the cup . . . Who tried to poison him?” Ghalil pulled a small glass bottle from his pocket. It was unstoppered, but there was a film of tiny crystals in it as if some liquid had dried. “This,” he observed, “fell from your pocket as you hunted in the brushwood for the marksman who actually was on the yacht. One of my men saw it fall and brought it to me. It is poison.” Coghlan looked at the bottle. “I’m getting a little bit fed up with mystification. Do I get arrested?” “The fingerprints upon it are smudged,” said Ghalil. “But I am familiar with your fingerprints. They are not yours. It was slipped into your pocket—not fully, therefore it fell out. You do not get arrested.” “Thank you,” said Coghlan with irony.

His foot pushed aside one of the books on the floor beside Duval. They were of all sizes and thickness, and all were modern. Some had the heavy look of German technical books, and one or two were French. The greater number were in modern Greek. “M. Duval searches history for references which might apply to our problem,” said the Turk. “I consider this a very important affair. That, in particular—” he pointed to the wet spot on the wall—”seems to me most significant. I am very glad that you came here, with your special knowledge.” “Why? What do you want me to do?” “Examine it,” said Ghalil. “Explain it. Let me understand what it means. I have a wholly unreasonable suspicion I would not like to name, because it has only a logical basis.” “If you can make even a logical pattern out of this mess,” said Coghlan bitterly, “you’re a better man than I am. It simply doesn’t make sense!” Ghalil only looked at him expectantly. Coghlan went to the wet spot. It was almost exactly square, and there was no trace of moisture above it or on either side. Some few trickles dripped down from it, but the real wetness was specifically rectangular. Coghlan felt the wall about it. Everywhere except in the wet spot the wall had the normal temperature of a plaster coating. The change of temperature was exactly what would have been apparent if a square-shaped freezing unit had been built into the structure. The plaster was rotten from long soaking. Coghlan took out a pocket-knife and dug carefully into it. “What rational connection can this have with that stuff in the book, and with somebody trying to kill Mannard?” he demanded as he worked. “No rational connection,” admitted Ghalil. “A logical one. In police work one uses reason oneself, but does not expect it of events.” An irregularly shaped patch of wetted plaster cracked and came away. Coghlan looked at it and started. “Ice!” he said sharply. “There must be some machinery here!” The space from which the plaster had come was white with frost. Coghlan scraped at it. A thin layer of ice, infinitesimally thin. Then more wet plaster, which was not frozen. Coghlan frowned. First ice, then no ice—and nothing to make the ice where the ice was. A freezing coil could not work that way. Coldness does not occur in layers or in thin sheets. It simply does not. Coghlan dug angrily, stabbing with the point of the knife. The knife grew very cold. He wrapped his handkerchief about it and continued to dig. There was wetness and rotted plaster for another inch. Then the heavy stone wall of the building. “The devil!” he said angrily. He stood back and stared at the opening. There was silence. He had made a hole through rotted plaster, bind found nothing but a thin layer of ice, and then more rotted plaster. He looked at it blankly. Then he saw that though the frost had been cut away, there was a slight mist in the opening he had made. He blew his breath into the hole. He made an astonished noise. “When I blew my breath there, it turned to fog when it went through the place where the plaster layers joined!” His tone was unbelieving. “There is refrigeration?” asked Ghalil. “There’s nothing!” protested Coghlan. “There’s no possible explanation for a cold space in the middle of air!”

“Ah!” said the Turk in satisfaction. “Then we progress! Things which are associated with the same thing are associated with each other. This associates with the impossibility of your fingerprints and your handwriting and the threat to Mr. Mannard!” “I’d like to know what does this trick!” said Coghlan, staring at the hole. “The heat’s absorbed, and there’s nothing to absorb it!” He unwrapped his handkerchief from the knife, and scrubbed the cloth at the wall until a corner was set. He poked the wetted cloth into the hole he’d made. A moment later he pulled it out. There was a narrow, perfectly straight line of ice across the wetted linen. “There’s never been a trick like this before!” he said in amazement. “It’s something really new!” “Or extremely old,” said Ghalil mildly. “Why not?” “It couldn’t be!” snapped Coghlan. “We don’t know how to do it! You can bet the ancients didn’t! It couldn’t be anything but a force-field of some sort, and there’s no known force-field that absorbs energy! There just isn’t any! Anyhow, how could they generate a force-field that was a plane surface?” He began to dig again, nervously, at the edge of the wet spot. The plaster was harder here. Duval said hopelessly, “But what would such a thing have to do with the history of the Byzantine Empire, and fingerprints, and M. Mannard—” Coghlan jabbed at the plaster. There was a sudden, brittle sound as the knifeblade snapped. The broken end tinkled on the floor. Coghlan stood frozen, looking down at his thumb. The breaking blade had cut it. There was dead silence in the room. “What is the matter?” “I’ve cut my thumb,” said Coghlan briefly. Ghalil, eyes blank, got up and started across the room toward him. “I would like to see—” “It’s nothing,” said Coghlan. To himself he said firmly that two and two are four, and things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other, and— He pressed the edges of the cut together, closed his fist on it, and put the fist firmly in his pocket. “This business of the wall,” he said casually—too casually— “has me bothered. “I’m going back to my place and get some stuff to make a couple of tests.” Ghalil said quickly: “There is a police-car outside. I will have the driver take you and bring you back.” “Thanks,” said Coghlan. He thought firmly: two and two is always four, without exception. Five and five is ten. Six and six is twelve . . . There is no such thing as a fingerprint showing a scar that does not exist, and then that scar being made afterward. . . They went down the stairs together. Ghalil gave instructions to the driver. From time to time he glanced very thoughtfully at Coghlan’s face. Coghlan climbed in the car. It started off, headed for his home. He sat still for minutes as the trim car threaded narrow streets and negotiated sharp corners designed for donkey-traffic alone. The driver was concerned only with the management of his car. Coghlan watched him abstractedly. Two and two. . . He took his hand out of his pocket and looked at the cut on his thumb very carefully. It was probably the most remarkable cut in human history. It was shallow, not a serious

matter at all, in itself; but it would leave—Coghlan could not doubt—a scar exactly like the one on the print on the sheepskin page which chemical and spectroscopic examination said was seven-hundred years old. Coghlan put the impossible hand back in his pocket. “I don’t believe it!” he said grimly. “I don’t believe it!” V The driver had evidently been instructed to wait. ‘When Coghlan got out of the car he smiled politely, set his handbrake, and turned off the motor. Coghlan nodded and went into the courtyard below his windows. He felt a very peculiar dogged anger, and was not at all certain what he felt it toward. He headed for the stairway to his apartment. Across the flagstoned courtyard, a plump figure came disconsolately out of that stairway. It was Appolonius the Great. He was not twinkling as usual. He looked desperately worried. But his expression changed at sight of Coghlan. “Ah, Mr. Coghlan!” he said delightedly. “I thought I had missed you!” Coghlan said politely: “I’m glad you didn’t. But I’m only here on an errand—” “I need only a moment,” said Appolonius, beaming. “I have something to say which may be to your advantage.” “Come along,” said Coghlan. He led the way. Appolonius, a few hours back, had looked as deeply concerned as any man could look. Now he appeared more nearly normal. But he was still not his usual unctuous self. He came toiling up the stairs with his customary smile absent as if turned off by a switch. When Coghlan opened the door for him, however, the smile came back as if the same switch had been turned again. Coghlan had a sudden startled feeling that Appolonius might be dangerous. “Just a moment,” he said. He went into the bath and washed out the small cut and put antiseptic on it. It was not much deeper than a scratch, but he wanted to avoid a scar if possible. A scar would mean that the fingerprint on that seven-hundred-year-old page of sheepskin was authentic; was actually his. And he was not willing for that to be true. He came back into the living-room to find Appolonius sitting in a chair on the far side of the room from the open windows. “Now I’m at your service,” said Coghlan. “That was a bad business today—about Mannard.” Appolonius looked at him steadily, with a directness and force that was startlingly unlike his usual manner. “I have information,” he said evenly. “May I show you my information?” Coghlan waited. “I am a professional illusionist,” said Appolonius, that odd force now in his voice. “Deceptions are my profession. My fame is considerable.” “So I’ve heard,” agreed Coghlan. “Of course,” said Appolonius, “I do not use all my knowledge of illusion on the stage. Much of it would be lost upon theatrical audiences.” His voice changed, became deliberately sarcastic. “In my native country there is a superstition of evil spirits. The Magi—the priesthood—the holders of the traditions and lore of—ah—Neoplatonism, make use of this belief. They foster it, by driving away numerous evil spirits. The process

is visible. Suppose I assured you that there was an evil spirit in this very room, listening to our talk?” “I’d be a trifle doubtful,” said Coghlan gently. “Allow me,” said Appolonius politely, “to demonstrate.” He glanced about the room as if looking for some indication which only he would see. Then he pointed a pudgy finger across the room, toward a table near the open windows. His wristwatch showed itself, indented in his fat wrist. He uttered a series of cryptic syllables in a round, authoritative voice. There was a sudden roaring noise. Smoke rushed up from the table. It formed a ghostly, pear-shaped figure inside the room. It hovered a moment, looking alive and menacing, then darted swiftly out the window. It was singularly convincing. Coghlan considered. After a moment he said thoughtfully: “Last night you explained the principle of magic. You do something in advance, which I know nothing about. Then, later, you do something else which seems to produce remarkable results. And I am supposed to think that what you do later produced the results which you had arranged earlier.” “That is true. But this particular demonstration?” “I’d guess,” suggested Coghlan, “that you put a little smokesquib on the table there—I hope in an ashtray. It had a fuse, which you lighted from your cigarette. You did this while I was bandaging my finger in the other room. You knew how long the fuse would burn. And you have a sweep-second watch on your wrist. Still, you must have had long practise timing a conversation to lead up to your effect at just the instant the fuse will set off the squib.” Appolonius’ eyes grew intent. Coghlan added: “And the table’s by the window and there’s a draft going out. It looked like an evil spirit leaping up from my ashtray, and then flowing out the window and away. Effective!” “A compliment from you, Mr. Coghlan,” said Appolonius, unsmiling, “is a compliment indeed. But I penetrate your illusions as readily as you do mine. More readily!” Coghlan looked at his bandaged thumb, and then up. “Now, what do you mean by that?” “I think it would be well to consider,” said Appolonius, harshly, “that I can unmask you at any instant.” “Oh!” said Coghlan, in lively interest. “You think I’m in a conspiracy with Duval and Lieutenant Ghalil to swindle Mannard out of some money?” “I do,” said Appolonius. “I could explain to Mr. Mannard. Shall I?” Coghlan found himself amused. “So you know everything! Tell you what, Appolonius. If you’ll explain the refrigeration business I’ll let you in on everything else!” He explained carefully: “I mean the refrigeration at 80 Hosain, where we went last night. Elucidate that, and I’ll tell you everything I know!” Appolonius’ eyes wavered. He said contemptuously: “I am not to be trapped so easily! That is a foolish question!” “Try to answer it!” Coghlan waited with a dry patience. “You can’t? My dear Appolonius! You don’t even know what I’m talking about! You’re a faker, trying to cut in on a swindle by a bluff! Clear out!”

There were sounds out in the courtyard. Footsteps. Appolonius looked more menacing still. Coghlan snapped: “Clear out! You bother me! Get going!” He opened the door. There were footsteps at the bottom of the stairs. Appolonius said nastily: “I have taken precautions! If anything should happen to me— you would be sorry!” “I’d be heart-broken!” said Coghlan impatiently. “Shoo!” He pushed Appolonius out and closed the door. He went to the small room in which he kept his private experimental equipment. As an instructor in physics he worked on a limited budget at the college. He had his classes build much of the apparatus used, both to save money and because they would learn more that way. But some things he had to build himself—again to save money, and for the plain satisfaction of the job. Now he began to pack stray items. A couple of thermometers. Batteries and a couple of coils and a headset that would constitute an induction balance when they were put together. A gold-leaf electroscope. He got out the large alnico magnet that had made a good many delicate measurements possible. He was packing a scintillometer when his doorbell rang. He answered it, scowling. There stood Mannard and Laurie, studying the scowl. They came in and Mannard said genially: “Our little friend Appolonius is upset, Tommy. He’s not himself. What’d you do to him?” “He thinks,” said Coghlan, “that everything that’s happened in the past thirty hours is part of a scheme to extort money from you—the scheme operating from the fourth dimension. He demanded a cut on threat of revealing all. I put him out. Did he expose me as a scoundrel and a blackmailer?” Mannard shook his head. Then he said: “I’m taking Laurie home. I wouldn’t run away myself, but you may be right—she may be the real target of this scheme when it gets in good working order. So I’m taking her away. How about coming along?” He added bluntly: “You could pick out some real equipment for the physics laboratory at the college. It’s needed, and I’ll pay for it.” It was transparent. Coghlan looked at Laurie. She protested reproachfully: “It’s not me, Tommy! I wouldn’t ply you with cyclotrons!” “If you want to make a gift to the lab, I’ll give you a whopping list,” said Coghlan. “But there’s a gadget over at 80 Hosain that I’ve got to work out. It produces a thin layer of cold in air. I think it’s a force-field of some sort, but it’s a plane surface! I’ve got to find out what makes it and how it works. It’s something new in physics!” Laurie muttered to herself. Coghlan added: “Ghalil’s there now, waiting for me—he and Duval.” “I want to talk to that Lieutenant Ghalil,” said Mannard, grumpily. “The police were going to refer this morning’s shooting business to him, but I guess he wasn’t too concerned! He hasn’t tried to get in touch with me!” Coghlan opened his mouth and then closed it. It would hardly be tactful to tell Mannard who had shot the cup out of his hand. If he heard that news before he got the full story, it might create a certain indignation. And it was Ghalil’s story to tell. So he said: “I’m headed back with this stuff now. You can pile in the police-car with me and talk to him right away. He’ll see you get back to the hotel.” Mannard nodded. “Let’s go.”

Coghlan packed his equipment into a suitcase and headed for the door. As they went out, Laurie caught his arm. She said breathlessly: “Tommy! You cut your thumb! Was it—will it—” “Yes,” he told her. “It was in the place the scar showed, and I’m afraid it will leave that scar.” She followed him down the stairs, was silent on the way across the courtyard. Her father went to dismiss the car that had brought them here. Laurie said in a queer voice: “That book came from the thirteenth century, they said. And your fingerprints are in it. And this gadget you’re talking about . . . could it take you back to the thirteenth century, Tommy?” “I’m not planning to make the trip,” he told her dryly. “I don’t want you to go back to the thirteenth century!” she said fiercely. She was even a little bit pale. “I know it’s ridiculous. It’s as impossible as anything could be! But I don’t want you to go back there! I don’t want to have to think of you as—dead for centuries, and buried in some mouldly old crypt—just a skeleton—” “Stop it!” he said harshly. She gulped. “I mean it!” “I wish things were different,” he said bitterly. Then she grinned, still pale. “I’ll wear you down,” she promised. “Won’t that be nice?” Then her father came back from the other car and they got into the police-car. It headed back for 80 Hosain. In the room on the second floor, Ghalil was painstakingly pulling down plaster. He had not touched the wall on which the wet spot showed. That remained as Coghlan had left it. But there had been places on the other walls where bits of plaster had fallen away. Dim colors showed through. It was becoming clear, from Ghalil’s work, that the original plaster of the room had been elaborately decorated, with encaustic, most likely—wax colors laid on the wall and melted into the plaster. He had already uncovered a fragment of what must have been a most spirited mural. It appeared to deal with nymphs and satyrs, from the irregular space so far disclosed. Duval was agitatedly examining each new portion of the scene as the removal of the overlying plaster showed it. But Ghalil stopped his labor when Coghlan and the others arrived. He’d met Mannard the night before, of course. “Ah, Mr. Mannard!” he said cordially. “We perform archaeological research!” Mannard bristled at him. “I’ve been trying to reach you to tell you about an attempt on my life today! At Police Headquarters they said they’d try to find you. They implied that all my affairs were in your lap!” Ghalil glanced at Coghlan. “Your affairs have at least been on my mind,” he admitted. “Did not Mr. Coghlan explain the measures I took?” “No,” said Coghlan dryly. “I didn’t. I’m going to work on this refrigeration affair. You tell it.” He went over to the incredible patch of moisture on the wall. Laurie went with him. Behind them, Ghalil’s voice droned as Coghlan opened the suitcase of apparatus, began to fit together the induction balance. Suddenly Mannard said explosively: “What? You shot the cup out of my hand?” Laurie reared up in amazement. “Go listen,” commanded Coghlan. “I’m going to work here.” Laurie went away.

Coghlan got busy with the induction balance. There was, he soon discovered, no metal behind the wet spot on the wall. Nor above it. Nor below or on either side. There were no wires running to the place that had stayed cold “since always.” There was no metal of any sort in the wall. Coghlan sweated a little. There could not be a refrigeration apparatus without metal. He put the induction balance away. He stuck a thermometer into the hole he’d made earlier. He moved it carefully back and forth, watching the mercury shrink. He swallowed when he saw its final reading. He hooked up the thermocouple—infinitely thin wires, of different metals, joined at their tips. He hooked on the microvoltometer. He soon found a particular spot. It was a very particular spot indeed. The tips of the wires had to be at an exact depth inside the hole. A hundredth of an inch off made the microvoltometer sway wildly. He changed a connection to get a grosser reading—millivolts instead of microvolts—and found that exact depth in the hole again. He went pale. Laurie said: “Tommy, I’m back.” He turned and said blankly, “A hundred and ninety millivolts! And it’s below the temperature of dry ice!” Laurie said wistfully, “I can’t even raise the temperature of that, can I, Tommy?” He didn’t notice. He put down the thermocouple and brought out the alnico magnet. He wrestled the keeper off its poles. “This doesn’t make sense,” he said absorbedly, “but if it is a field of force . . .“ He turned again to the wall and the hole he’d made in it. He put the heavy, intensely strong magnet near the opening. The opening clouded. It acquired a silvery sheen which had the look of metal as the magnet neared it. Coghlan pulled the magnet away. The look of metal vanished. He put the magnet back, and the silvery appearance was there again. He was staring at it, speechless, when Mannard came over with Ghalil and Duval. Mannard carried the thick, ancient volume with the battered ivory medallions in its cover—and Coghlan’s seven-hundred-year-old fingerprints on its first page. “Tommy,” said Mannard uncomfortably, “I don’t believe this! But put one of your fingerprints alongside one of these, dammit!” Ghalil matter-of-factly struck a match and began to make a deposit of soot on the scraping-tool which he’d used to pull down plaster. Coghlan ignored them, staring at the hole in the plaster. “What’s the matter with him?” demanded Mannard. “Science,” said Laurie, “has reared its ugly head. He’s thinking.” Coghlan turned away, lost in concentrated thought. Ghalil said mildly: “A finger, please.” He took Coghlan’s hand. He paused, and then deliberately took the bandage off the thumb. He pressed the thumb against the sooted scraper. Mannard, curious and uneasy, held up the book. Ghalil pressed the thumb down. It hurt. Coghlan said: “Wait a minute! What’s this?” as if startled awake. Ghalil took the book to a window. He looked. Mannard crowded close. In silence, Ghalil passed over his pocket magnifying-glass. Mannard looked, exhaustively. “That’s hard to explain,” he said heavily. “The scar and all...” Coghlan said: “All of you, look at this!” He moved the alnico magnet to and fro. The silvery film appeared and disappeared. Ghalil looked at it, and at Coghlan’s face.

“That silvery appearance,” said Coghlan painfully, “will appear under the plaster wherever it’s cold. I doubt that this magnet alone will silver the whole space at once, though—and it’s twenty times as strong as a steel magnet, at that. Apparently a really powerful magnetic field is needed to show this up.” The silvery film vanished again when he pulled back the magnet. “Now,” said Ghalil mildly, “just what would that be? A—what you would call a gadget?” Coghlan swallowed. “No,” he said helplessly. “There’s a gadget, all right, but it must be back in the thirteenth century. This is—well—I guess you’d call this the gadget’s ghost.” VI It grew dark in the room, and Coghlan finished clearing away the plaster from the wet spot by the light of police flashlights. As he removed the last layer of plaster, frost appeared. As it was exposed to view it melted, reluctantly. Then the wall was simply wet over colorings almost completely obliterated by the centuries of damp. At the edges of the square space, the wetness vanished. Coghlan dug under its edge. Plaster only. But there were designs when he cleared plaster away back from the edge. The wall had been elaborately painted, innumerable years ago. Duval looked like a man alternately rapt in enthusiasm at the discovery of artwork which must extend under all the later plaster of this room, and hysterical as he contemplated the absolute illogic of the disclosure. Mannard sat on a camp-chair and watched. The flashlight beams made an extraordinary picture. One played upon Coghlan as he worked. Laurie held it for him, and he worked with great care. “I take it,” said Mannard after a long silence, and still skeptically, “that you’re saying that this is a sort of ghost of a gadget that was made in the thirteenth century.” “When,” said Ghalil, from a dark corner, “there were no gadgets.” “No science,” corrected Coghlan, busy at the wall. “They achieved some results by accident. Then they repeated all the things that had preceded the unexpected result, and never knew or cared which particular one produced the result they wanted. Tempering swords, for example.” Duval interposed: “The Byzantine Empire imported its finer swords.” “Yes,” agreed Coghlan. “Religion wouldn’t let them use the best process for tempering steel.” “Religion?” protested Mannard. “What did that have to do with tempering swords?” “Magic,” said Coghlan. “The best temper was achieved by heating a sword white-hot and plunging it into the body of a slave or a prisoner of war. It was probably discovered when somebody wanted to take a particularly fancy revenge. But it worked.” “Nonsense!” snapped Mannard. “Some few cutlers use essentially the same process now,” said Coghlan, absorbed in removing a last bit of plaster. “It’s a combination of salt and nitrogenous quenching. Human blood is salt. Steel tempers better in salt water than in fresh. The ancients found that human blood gave a good temper. They didn’t think scientifically and try salt water. And the steel gets a better surface-hardening still, if it’s quenched in the presence of nitrogenous matter—like human flesh. Cutlers who use the process now soak scrap leather in salt water and plunge a white-hot blade in that. Technically, it’s the same thing as

stabbing a slave—and cheaper. But the ancients didn’t think through to scrap leather and salt water. They stuck to good old-fashioned magic tempering—which worked.” He stood back. He brushed plaster dust off his fingers. “That’s all we can do without more apparatus. Now—” He picked up the alnico magnet and moved it across all the cleared space. An oblong pattern of silveriness appeared at the nearest part of the wet place to the magnet. It followed the magnet. It followed the magnet to the edge, and ran abruptly off into nothingness as the magnet passed an invisible boundary. “At a guess,” said Coghlan thoughtfully, “this is the ghost, if you want to call it that, of what the ancients thought was a magic mirror—to look into the future with. Right, Duval?” Duval said tensely: “It is true that all through the middle ages alchemists wrote of and labored to make magic mirrors, as you say.” “Maybe this one started the legend,” said Coghlan. “The flashlight battery’s getting weak—” Ghalil’s voice from the darkness. “We need better light and more apparatus,” said Coghlan. “I doubt if we can do any more before morning.” His manner was matter-of-fact, but inside he felt oddly numb. His thumb stung a little. The cut had been irritated by plaster dust and by the soot that got into it when Ghalil took a fresh thumbprint to show Mannard. In the last analysis, he’d cut his thumb investigating the ghost of a gadget because presently he must write a memorandum and have it delivered yesterday, which memo would be the cause of the discovery of the ghost of a— He felt the stirring about him as the others made ready to leave. He heard Mannard say irritably: “I don’t get this! It’s preposterous!” “Quite so,” said Ghalil, “so we shall have to be very careful. My Moslem ancestors had a saying that the fate of every man was writ upon his forehead. I hope, Mr. Mannard, that your fate is not writ upon the sheepskin page I showed you just now.” “But what’s it all about?” demanded Mannard. “Who’s back of it? What’s back of it?” Ghalil sighed, voicing a shrug. They descended the stairs. The dark, narrow, twisty street outside looked ominous. Ghalil opened the door of the waiting police-car. He said to Mannard, in a sort of humorous abandonment of reason: “Unfortunately, Mr. Coghlan was—or has not yet been—very specific in the memorandum which began this series of events. He said only—” he repeated the last line of Coghlan’s handwriting in the sheepskin book—” ‘Make sure of Mannard. To be killed.’“ Mannard said bitterly: “That’s specific enough!” He and Laurie and Coghlan got into the back of the car. Lieutenant Ghalil climbed into the front seat, beside the driver. The car’s motor roared as it got the car into motion. “Your message, when you do write it, Mr. Coghlan,” he said over his shoulder as the car moved toward a bend in the winding alleyway, “will be purposefully unclear. It is as if you will know that a clear message would prevent what you will wish to have happened. Thus it appears that you will write that message to bring about exactly what has already happened and will continue to happen up to the moment you write it—” Then he snapped an explosive Turkish word to the driver. The driver jammed on the brakes. The car came to a screaming stop. “One moment,” said Ghalil politely.

He got out of the car. He looked at something in the headlight beams. He touched it very cautiously. He waved the car back, and whistled shrilly. Men came running from the house they had just left. Ghalil spoke crisply, in Turkish. They bent over the object on the cobbles of the lane. The flashlight beams seemed insufficient and they struck matches. Presently Ghalil and a policeman picked up the thing gingerly and moved it with exquisite care to the side of the alley. They put it down against a wall. There Ghalil knelt and examined it again by the light of other matches. He got up and brushed off his hands. He came back to the cam, got in. He spoke to the driver in Turkish and the car moved on again, more slowly. At the next curve it barely crawled. “What was that?” demanded Mannard. Lieutenant Ghalil hesitated. “I fear it was another attempt upon your life,” he said apologetically. “A bomb. My men did not see it placed because of the many curves in the street.” For a short while there were only breathing sounds in the car. The car came to a slightly wider highway and moved more swiftly. Presently Ghalil went on: “I was saying, Mr. Mannard, that when Mr. Coghlan writes the memorandum we showed him yesterday, he will wish things to happen exactly as they will have happened. For that reason he will not be explicit in his message. He will not mention rifle-shots or bombs, times or locales. Knowing this, I trust that you will survive until the affair is concluded. I am making every effort to bring it about.” Coghlan found his voice. He said savagely: “But you can’t risk lives on crazy reasoning like that!” “I am taking every sane precaution,” Ghalil said tiredly. “Among them, I shall ask you to remain at the Hotel Petra tonight, with my men guarding you as well as Mr. Mannard and Miss Mannard.” “If there’s any risk to her, I’m certainly staying!” growled Coghlan. The car emerged into still wider streets. There were more people about, now. Here, in the modern section, all lights were electric. Here were motion-picture theatres, and motorcars, and people in wholly European dress instead of the compromises between Eastern and Western costume to be found in the poorer quarters. The Hotel Petra loomed up, impressively illuminated. The police-car stopped before it. Ghalil got out and looked casually about him. A lounger, nearby, signalled inconspicuously. Ghalil nodded. The lounger moved away. Ghalil opened the car door for the others to emerge. “I impose myself upon you also,” he said politely. “I shall stay on watch until affairs mature.” They entered the lobby, went toward the lift, only slightly reassured by bustle and bright lights. Coghlan said suddenly: “Where’s Duval? He’s in this too!” “He remains at 80 Hosain,” said Ghalil briefly. “Poor man! He is wedded to logic and in love with the past. He is sorely tempted to a crime of passion! But I have left men with him.” They crowded into the lift. It rose. There was a man polishing woodwork in the hall outside Mannard’s suite. He looked like an hotel employee, but nodded to Lieutenant Ghalil. “One of my men,” the Turk said. “All is well so far. There are other guards.”

They went into the suite. Mannard looked definitely grim. “I’m going to order something to eat,” he told Ghalil. “It’s nearly ten o’clock, and we all missed dinner. But we’re going to get this thing thrashed out! I want some straight talk! If that’s the truth about somebody leaving a bomb on the street—and if gadgets have ghosts—” He was in a state of mind in which consecutive thought was not easy. There were too many inexplicables, too many tag ends of fact. From Coghlan’s tale of an impossible book with an impossible message—which Mannard had seen now—to a preposterous shot smashing a coffee-cup to keep him from drinking an incredibly poisoned drink, and to a physical phenomenon of frost without refrigeration and a look of silvery metal which was not matter . . . Mannard was an engineer. He was hard-headed. He was prepared to face anything which was fact, and worry about theory afterward. But he was not able to adjust to so many facts at once, each of them contradicting any reasonable theory. He looked at once irritable and dogged and a little frightened. “When I try to think this thing over, I don’t believe even what I tell myself!” he said angrily. “Things happen, and I believe ‘em while they’re happening, but they don’t make any damned sense afterward!” He stamped out of the room. They heard him telephoning an order for dinner for four sent up to the suite at once. Then he snapped: “Yes, that’s all. What? Yes, she’s in—who wants her? Who? Oh. Send him on up.” He came back. “What the hell does Appolonius want to see you for, Laurie? He was downstairs asking if you’d see him when I phoned. He’s coming up.” Then he went back to his former subject, still fuming. “I tell you, there’s something wrong about the whole approach to this business! It seems that somebody is trying to kill me. I don’t know why they should, but if they really want to it ought to be a simple enough job! It shouldn’t call for all these trimmings! Nobody would set out to kill somebody and add in a sevenhundred-year-old book and a forgery of Tommy’s fingerprints and a gadget’s ghost and all the rest! Not if a plain, ordinary murder was back of it—or a swindle either! So what in—” The buzzer at the door of the suite. Coghlan went to answer it. Appolonius the Great started visibly when he saw Coghlan. He said with great dignity: “I had a note from Miss Mannard. She asked me to befriend her in this tragic time—” Mannard’s voice came from behind Coghlan. “Dammit, we’ve got to look for a simple scheme! A simple purpose! There’s a mix-up here! We’re linking things that just don’t belong together!” Appolonius gasped. “That is—Mr. Mannard!” “Why not?” said Coghlan. There was a chattering sound. The teeth of Appolonius the Great seemed to be its source. He leaned against the door. “Pardon! Let me recover myself! I do not wish to be faint. This is—incredible!” Coghlan waited. The small fat man’s face was in shadow. He took several deep breaths. “I—think I can act naturally now.” Coghlan closed the door behind him. And Appolonius walked into the sitting room of the suite with his usual strutting waddle—but his usual beaming smile simply could not jell. He bowed elaborately to Mannard and to Laurie, with sweat shining on his face. Mannard said:

“Appolonius, this is Lieutenant Ghalil of the police. He thinks I’m in some danger.” Appolonius the Great swallowed. He said to Mannard: “I came because I thought you were dead.” A rather thoughtful silence followed. Then Lieutenant Ghalil cleared his throat to ask the obvious questions—and paused, looking exceeding alert, as Appolonius’ pudgy right hand went into his coat pocket— Only an envelope came out. A Hotel Petra envelope. His fat fingers shaking, Appolonius drew out the single sheet it enclosed and handed it to Mannard. Mannard read. He flushed, speechless with anger. He handed it to Ghalil. Ghalil read, and said slowly: “But the letter is dated tomorrow!” He passed it politely to Laurie. “I do not think you wrote this, Miss Mannard.” He returned his gaze to the shaken, uneasy, almost trembling figure of that small magician who called himself Appolonius the Great. Coghlan moved to be beside Laurie as she read. Her shoulder touched his. The note said: “Dear Mr. Appolonius; You are the only person I know in Istanbul to ask for help in the tragic circumstances of my father’s death. Will you help me, please? Laurie Mannard.” “I have heard of post-dated checks,” said Ghalil. “I think that is an American custom. But pre-written letters… Appolonius seemed to shiver. “I—did not notice that,” he said unsteadily. “But it—would seem to be like the message of which Mr. Coghlan told us—with his fingerprints.” “Not quite,” said Ghalil, shaking his head. “No, not quite!” Mannard said furiously: “Where’d you get this, Appolonius? It’s a forgery, of course. I’m not dead yet!” “I had been—away from my hotel. I returned and that—letter awaited me. I came here at once.” “It is dated tomorrow,” Ghalil pointed out. “Which could be an error of timing, or a confusion in time itself. But I do not think so. Certainly it seems to imply, Mr. Mannard, that you are to die tonight, or surely tomorrow morning. But on the other hand, Mr. Coghlan will not write with certainty of your death when he does write in that book. So there is hope—” “I have no intention of dying tonight,” said Mannard angrily. “No intention at all!” “Nor,” said Lieutenant Ghalil, “have I any intention of forwarding such a project. But I can think of no precautions that are not already in force.” Appolonius sat down abruptly, as if his knees had given way beneath him. His sudden movement drew all eyes. “Has something occurred to you?” asked Ghalil mildly. Appolonius shivered. “It—occurs to me—” he paused to moisten his lips—”to tell of my visit with Mr. Coghlan today. I—accused him of mystification. “He admitted that there was a conspiracy. He—offered to admit me to it. I—I now accuse Mr. Coghlan of designing to murder Mr. Mannard!”

The lights went out. There was dead blackness in the room. Instantly there was an impact of body against body. Then groaning, gasping breaths in the darkness. Men struggled and strained. There were thumpings. Laurie cried out. Then Ghalil’s voice panted, as if his breathing were much impeded: “You—happen to be strangling me, Mr. Coghlan! I think that I am—strangling him! If we can only hold him until the lights—he is very strong—” The struggle went on in the darkness on the floor. VII There was a frantic scratching of a pass-key in the door to the suite. Flashlight beams licked in the opening. Men rushed in, their lights concentrating on the squirming heap of bodies on the floor. Mannard stood embattled before Laurie, ready to fight all corners. The men with flashlights rushed past him, threw themselves upon the struggle. They had Appolonius the Great on his feet, still fighting like a maniac, when the lights flashed back into brightness as silently and unreasonably as they had gone out. Coghlan stood back, his coat torn, a deep scratch on his face. Lieutenant Ghalil bent down and began to search the floor. After a moment he found what he looked for. He straightened with a crooked Kurdish knife in his hand. He spoke in Turkish to the uniformed police, against whom fat little Appolonius still struggled in feverish silence. They marched him out. He still jumped and writhed, like a suitful of fleshy balloons. Ghalil held out the knife to Coghlan. “Yours?” Coghlan was panting. “Yes—I use it as a letter-opener on my desk. How’d it get here?” “I suspect,” said Ghalil, “that Appolonius picked it up when he visited you today.” He began to brush off his uniform. He still breathed hard. Mannard said indignantly, “I don’t get this! Did Appolonius try to kill me? In Heaven’s name why? What would he get out of it?” Ghalil finished the brushing process. He said with a sigh: “When M. Duval first brought me that incredible book, I put routine police inquiries through on everyone who might be involved. You, Mr. Mannard. Mr. Coghlan. Of course M. Duval himself. And even Appolonius the Great. The last information about him came only today. It appears that in Rome, in Madrid, and in Paris he has been the close friend of three rich men of whom one died in an automobile accident, one apparently of a heart attack, and one seemed to have committed suicide. It is no coincidence, I imagine, that each had given Appolonius a large check for his alleged countrymen only a few days before his death. I think that is the answer, Mr. Mannard.” “But I’ve given him no money!” protested Mannard blankly. “He did say he’d gotten money, of course, but—” and suddenly he stopped short. “Damnation! A forged check going through the clearing-house! It had to be deposited while I was alive! And I had to be dead before it was cleared, or I’d say it was a forgery! If I was dead, it wouldn’t be questioned—” “Just so,” said Ghalil. “Unfortunately, the banks have not had time to look through their records. I expect that information tomorrow.” Laurie put her hand on Coghlan’s arm. Mannard said abruptly: “You moved fast, Tommy! You and the lieutenant together. How’d you know to jump him when the lights went out?”

“I didn’t know,” admitted Coghlan. “But I saw him looking at that wristwatch of his, with the second-hand sweeping around. He showed me a trick today, at my apartment, that depended on his knowing to a split-second when something was going to happen. I was just thinking that if he’d been expecting the lights to go out last night, he could have been triggered to throw you down-stairs. Then the lights went out here—and I jumped.” “It was desperation,” Ghalil interposed. “He has tried four separate times to assassinate you, Mr. Mannard.” “You said something like that—” “You have been under guard,” admitted Ghalil, “since the moment M. Duval showed me that book with the strange record in it. You had rented an automobile. My men found a newly contrived defect in its muffler, so that deadly carbon-monoxide poured into the back of it. It was remedied. A bomb was mailed to you, and reached you day before yesterday—before I first spoke to Mr. Coghlan. It was—” he smiled apologetically—”intercepted. Today he tried to poison you at the Sea of Marmora. That failed by means he did not understand or like. Moreover, he was frightened by the affair of the book. He considered that another conspiracy existed, competing with his. The mystery of it, and the unexplained failure of attempts to assassinate you, drove him almost to madness. When even the bomb failed to blow up my police-car—” “Suppose,” said Mannard grimly, “just suppose you explain that book hocus-pocus you and Duval are trying to put over!” “I cannot explain it,” said Ghalil gently. “I do not understand it. But I think Mr. Coghlan proceeds admirably—” The door to the suite buzzed. Ghalil admitted a waiter carrying a huge tray. The waiter said something in Turkish and placed the tray on a table. He went out. “A man was caught in the basement with a sweep-second wristwatch,” said Ghalil. “He had turned off the lights and turned them on again. He is badly frightened. He will talk.” Laurie looked at Coghlan. Then, trembling a little, she began to uncover dishes on the tray. Mannard roared: “But what the hell’s that book business, and Tommy’s fingerprints, and the stuff on the wall? They’re all part of the same thing!” “No,” said the Turk. “You make the mistake I did, Mr. Mannard. You assumed that things which are associated with the same thing are connected with each other. But it is not true. Sometimes they are merely apparently associated—by chance.” Laurie said, “Tommy, I—think we’d better eat something.” “But do you mean,” demanded Mannard, “that it’s not hocus-pocus? Do you expect me to believe that there’s a gadget that’s got a ghost? D’you mean that Tommy Coghlan is going to put his fingerprints under a memorandum that says I’m going to be killed? That he’s going to write it?” “No,” admitted Ghalil. “Still, that unbelievable message is the reason I set men to guard you three days ago. It is the reason you are now alive.” He looked hungrily at the uncovered dishes. “I starve,” he confessed. “May I?” Mannard said, “It’s too crazy! It’d be like a miracle! Confusion in time so there’d be all this mix-up to save my life? Nonsense! The laws of nature don’t get suspended—” Coghlan said thoughtfully, “When you think of it, sir, that field of force isn’t a plane surface. It’s like a tube—the way a bubble can be stretched out. That’s what threw me off. When you think what a magnetic field does to polarized light—” “Consider me thinking of it,” growled Mannard. “What of it?”

“I can duplicate that field,” said Coghlan thoughtfully. “It’ll take a little puttering around, and I can’t make a tube of it, but I can make a field that will absorb energy—or heat—and yield it as power. I can make a refrigeration gadget that will absorb heat and yield power. It’ll take some research . . .“ “Sure of that?” snapped Mannard. Coghlan nodded. He was sure. He’d seen something happen. He’d figured out part of how it happened. Now he could do things the original makers of the gadget couldn’t do. It was not an unprecedented event, of course. A spectacle-maker in Holland once put two lenses together and made a telescope which magnified things but showed them unhappily upside down. And half a continent away, in Italy, one Galileo Galilei heard a rumor of the feat and sat up all night thinking it out—and next morning made a telescope so much better than the rumored one that all field-glasses are made after his design to this day. “I’ll back the research,” said Mannard shrewdly. “If you’ll make a contract with me. I’ll play fair. That’s good stuff!” He looked at his daughter. Her face was blank. Then her eyes brightened. She smiled at her father. He smiled back. She said, “Tommy—if you can do that—oh, don’t you see? Come in the other room for a moment. I want to talk to you!” He blinked at her. Then his shoulders straightened. He took a deep breath, muttered four words, and said, “Hah!” He grabbed her arm and led her through the door. Mannard said satisfiedly: “That’s sense! Refrigeration that yields energy! Power from the tropics! Running factories from the heat of the Gulf Stream!” “But,” said Ghalil, “does not that sound as improbable as that a gadget should have a ghost?” “No,” said Mannard firmly. “That’s science! I don’t understand it, but it’s science! And Laurie wants to marry him, besides. And anyhow, I know the boy! He’ll manage it!” The telephone rang. It rang again. They heard Coghlan answex it. He called: “Lieutenant! For you!” Ghalil answered the telephone. He pointedly did not observe the new, masterful, confident air worn by Coghlan, or the distinctly radiant expression on Laurie’s face. He talked, in Turkish. He hung up. “I go back to 80 Hosain,” he said briefly. “Something has happened. Poor M. Duval grew hysterical. They had to send for a physician. They do not know what occurred—but there are changes in the room.” “I’m coming with you!” said Coghlan instantly. Laurie would not be left behind. Mannard expansively came too. The four of them piled again into the police-car and headed back for the squalid quarter of the city in which the room with the gadget’s ghost was to be found. Laurie sat next to Coghlan, and the atmosphere about them was markedly rosy. Ghalil watched streets and buildings rush toward them, the ways grow narrower and darker and the houses seemed to loom above the racing car. Once he said meditatively: “That Appolonius thought of everything! It was so desperately necessary to kill you, Mr. Mannard, that he had even an excuse for calling on you to murder you, though he expected a street-bomb to make it unnecessary! It must be time for his forged check to appear at your bank! That letter was a clever excuse, too. It would throw all suspicion upon the engineers of the mystery of the ancient book.” Mannard grunted. “What’s happened where we’re going? What sort of changes in the room?” Then he said suspiciously:

“No occult stuff?” “I doubt it very much,” said Ghalil. There was another car parked in the narrow lane. The police at the house had gotten a doctor, who was evidently still in the building. They went up into the room on the second floor. There were three policemen here, with a grave, mustachioed civilian who had the consequential air of the physician in a European—or Asiatic—country. Duval lay on a canvas cot, evidently provided for the police who occupied the building now. He slept heavily. His face was ravaged. His collar was torn open at his throat, as if in a frenzy of agitation when he felt that madness come upon him. His hands were bandaged. The physician explained at length to Ghalil, in Turkish. Ghalil then asked questions of the police. There was a portable electric lantern on the floor, now. It lighted the room acceptably. Coghlan’s eyes swept about the place. Changes? No change except the cot. . . No! There had been books here beside Duval, on the floor. Ghalil had said they were histories in which Duval tried to find some reference to the building itself. There were still a few of those books—half a dozen, perhaps, out of three or four times as many. The rest had vanished. But in their place were other things. Coghlan was staring at them when Ghalil explained: “The police heard him making strange sounds. They came in and he was agitated to incoherence. His hands were frost-bitten. He held the magnet against the appearance of silver and thrust books into it, shouting the while. The books he thrust into the silvery film vanished. He does not speak Turkish, but one of them thought he was shouting at the wall in Greek. They subdued him and brought a physician. He was so agitated that the physician gave him an injection to quiet him.” Coghlan said: “Damn!” He bent over the objects on the floor. There was an ivory stylus and a clumsy reed pen and an ink-pot—the ink was just beginning to thaw from solid ice—and a sheet of parchment with fresh writing upon it. The writing was the same cursive hand as the memo mentioning “frigid Beyond” and “adepts” and “Appolonius” in the old, old book with Coghlan’s fingerprints. There was a leather belt with a beautifully worked buckle. There was a dagger with an ivory handle. There were three books. All were quite new, but they were not modern printed books: they were manuscript books, written in graceless Middle Greek with no spaces between words or punctuation or paragraphing. In binding and make-up they were exactly like the Alexiad of seven hundred years ago. Only—they were spanking new. Coghlan picked up one of them. It was the Alexiad. It was an exact duplicate of the one containing his prints, to the minutest detail of carving in the ivory medallions with which the leather cover was inset. It was the specifically same volume— But it was seven-hundred years younger— And it was bitterly, bitterly cold. Duval was more than asleep. He was unconscious. In the physician’s opinion he had been so near madness that he had had to be quieted. And he was quieted. Definitely. Coghlan picked up the alnico magnet. He moved toward the wall and held the magnet near the wet spot. The silvery appearance sprang into being. He swept the magnet back and forth. He said: “The doctor couldn’t rouse Duval, could he? So he could write something for me in Byzantine Greek?” He added, with a sort of quiet bitterness. “The thing is shrinking—naturally!”

It was true. The wet spot was no longer square. It had drawn in upon itself so that it was now an irregular oval, a foot across at its longest, perhaps eight inches at its narrowest. “Give me something solid,” commanded Coghlan. “A flashlight will do.” Laurie handed him Lieutenant Ghalil’s flashlight. He turned it on—it burned only feebly—and pressed it close to the silvery surface. He pushed the flashlight into contact. Into the silvery sheen. Its end disappeared. He pushed it through the silver film into what should have been solid plaster and stone. But it went. Then he exclaimed suddenly and jerked his hand away. The flashlight fell through—into the plaster. Coghlan rubbed his free hand vigorously on his trouser-leg. His fingers were numb with cold. The flashlight had been metal, and a good conductor of frigidity. “I need Duval awake!” said Coghlan angrily. “He’s the only one who can write that Middle Greek—or talk it or understand it! I need him awake!” The physician shook his head when Ghalil relayed the demand. “He required much sedative to quiet him,” said Ghalil. “He cannot be roused. It would take hours, in any case.” “I’d like to ask them,” said Coghlan bitterly, “what they did to a mirror that would make its surface produce a ghost of itself. It must have been something utterly silly!” He paced up and down, clenching and unclenching his hands. “To make a gadget Duval called a ‘magic mirror’ “—his tone was sarcastic—”they might try diamond-dust or donkey-dung or a whale’s eyelashes. And one of them might work! Somebody did get this gadget, by accident we can’t hope to repeat!” “Why not?” “We can’t think, any more, like lunatics or barbarians or Byzantine alchemists!” snapped Coghlan. “We just can’t! It’s like a telephone! Useless by itself. You have to have two telephones in two places at the same time. We can see that. To use a thing like this, you have to have two instruments in the same place at different times! With telephones you need a connection of wire, joining them. With this gadget you need a connection of place, joining the times!” “A singularly convincing fantasy,” said Ghalil, his eyes admiring. “And just as you can detect the wire between two telephone instruments—” “—You can detect the place where gadgets are connected in different times! The connection is cold. It condenses moisture. Heat goes into it and disappears. And I know,” said Coghlan defiantly, “that I am talking nonsense! But I also know how to make a connection which will create cold, though I haven’t the ghost—hah, damn it!—of an idea how to make the instruments it could connect! And making the connection is as far from making the gadgets as drawing a copper wire is from making a telephone exchange! All I know is that an alnico magnet will act as one instrument, so that the connection can exist!” Mannard growled: “What the hell is all this? Stick to facts! What happened to Duval?” “Tomorrow,” said Coghlan in angry calm, “he’s going to tell us that he heard faint voices through the silvery film when he played with the magnet. He’s going to say the voices were talking in Byzantine Greek. He’s going to say he tried to rap on the silver stuff—it looked solid—to attract their attention. And whatever he rapped with went through! He’ll say he heard them exclaim, and that he got excited and told them who he was—maybe he’ll ask them if they were working with Appolonius, because Appolonius was mentioned on the flyleaf of that book—and offer to swap them books and information about modern times for what they could tell and give him! He’ll swear he jammed books

through—mostly history-books in modern Greek and French— and they shoved things back. His frost-bitten hands are the evidence for that! When something comes out of that film or goes into it, it gets cold! The ‘frigid Beyond’! He’ll tell us that the ghost of the gadget began to get smaller as he swapped—the coating or whatever produced the effect would wear terrifically with use!—and he got frantic to learn all he could, and then your policemen came in and grabbed him, and then he went more frantic because he partly believed and partly didn’t and couldn’t make them understand. Then the doctor came and everything’s messed up!” “You believe that?” demanded Mannard. “I know damned well,” raged Coghlan, “he wouldn’t have asked them what they did to the mirror to make it work! And the usable surface is getting smaller every minute, and I can’t slip a written note through telling them to run-down the process because Duval’s the only one here who could ask a simple question for the crazy answer they’d give!” He almost wrung his hands. Laurie picked up the huge, five-inch-thick book that had startled him before. Mannard stood four-square, doggedly unbelieving. Ghalil looked at nothing, with bright eyes, as if savoring a thought which explained much that had puzzled him. “I’ll never believe it,” said Mannard doggedly. “Never in a million years! Even if it could happen, why should it here and now? What’s the purpose—the real purpose in the nature of things? To keep me from getting killed? That’s all it’s done! I’m not that important, for natural laws to be suspended and the one thing that could never happen again to happen just to keep Appolonius from murdering me!” Then Ghalil nodded his head. He looked approvingly at Mannard. “An honest man!” he said. “I can answer it, Mr. Mannard. Duval had his historybooks here. Some were modern Greek and some were French. And if the preposterous is true, and Mr. Coghlan has described the fact, then the man who made this— this ‘gadget’ back in the thirteenth century was an alchemist and a scholar who believed implicitly in magic. When Duval offered to trade books, would he not agree without question because of his belief in magic? He would have no doubts! What Duval sent him would seem to him magic. It would seem prophecy—in flimsy magic form, less durable than sheepskin—but magic nonetheless. He could even fumble at the meaning of the Greek. It would be peculiar—but magic. He could read it as 'perhaps' a modern English-speaking person can read Chaucer. Not clearly, and fumblingly, but grasping the meaning dimly. And this ancient alchemist would believe what he read! It would seem to him pure prophecy. And he would be right!" Ghalil's expression was triumphant. "Consider! He would have not only past history but future history in his hands! He would use the information! His prophecies would be right! Perhaps he could even grasp a little of the French! And what happens when superstitious men find that a soothsayer is invariably right? They guide themselves by him! He would grow rich! He would grow powerful! His sons would be noblemen, and they would inherit his secret knowledge of the future! Always they would know what was next to come in the history of Byzantium and—perhaps even elsewhere! And men, knowing their correctness, would be guided by them! They would make the prophecies come to pass! Perhaps Nostradamus compiled his rhymes after spelling through a crumbling book of paper —they had no paper in Byzantium or later in Europe itself and startlingly foretold the facts narrated in a book our friend Duval sent back to ancient Istanbul!" Then Ghalil sat down on the foot of the cot, almost calmly.

"Knowledge of the future, in a superstitious age, would make the future. This event, Mr. Mannard, did not come about to save your life, but to direct the history of the world through the Dark Ages to the coming of today. And that is surely significant enough to justify what has happened!" Mannard shook his head. "You're saying now," he said flatly, "that if Tommy doesn't write down what you showed me, all this won't happen because Duval won't find the writing. If he doesn't find the writing, the books won't go back to the past. All history will be different. Mygreatgrandfather and yours, maybe, *ill never be born and we won't be here. No! That's nonsense!" Coghlan looked at the book in Laurie's hand. He took it from her. "This is exactly like Duval's book," he said. "It is the same book," said Ghalil, with confidence. "And I think you know what you will do." "I'm not sure," said Coghlan. He frowned. "I don't know." Laurie said urgently: "If it isn't nonsense, Tommy, then—I could not be at all, and you could not be at all . . . we'd never meet each other, and you wouldn't have that research to do—and—and—" There was silence. Coghlan looked around on the floor. He picked up the reed pen. He said, unnecessarily: "I still don't believe this." But he dipped the pen in the thawing ink of the ink-pot. Laurie steadied the book for him to write. He wrote: See Thomas Coghlan, 750 Fatima, Istanbul. He looked at her and hesitated. Then he said: "There was something I'd say to myself . . . written down here, it was what made me believe in it enough to trail along." He wrote: Professor, president, so what? Ghalil said mildly: "I am sure you remember this address." "Yes," said Coghlan seriously. He wrote: Gadget at 80 Hosain, second floor, back room. Mannard said grimly: "It's still nonsense!" Coghlan wrote: Make sure of Mannard. To be killed. "That's a slight exaggeration," he observed slowly, but it's necessary, to make us act as we did." He was smudging ink on his fingers when Ghalil said politely: “May I help? The professional touch—” Coghlan let him smear the smudgy black ink on his fingertips. Ghalil painstakingly rolled the four finger-prints, the thumb-print below. He said calmly: “This is unique—to make a fingerprint record I will see again when it is seven centuries old! Now what?” Coghlan picked up the magnet. It was much brighter than a steel one. It had the shine of aluminum, but it was heavy. He presented it to the dwindling wet spot on the wall. The wet place turned silvery. Coghlan thrust the book at the shining surface. It touched. It went into the silver. It vanished. Coghlan took the magnet away. The wet place looked, somehow, as if it were about to dry permanently. Duval breathed stertorously on the canvas cot. “And now,” said Ghalil blandly, “we do not need to believe it any more. We do not believe it, do we?”

“Of course not!” growled Mannard. “It’s all nonsense!” Ghalil grinned. He brushed off his fingers. “Undoubtedly,” he said sedately, “M. Duval contrived it all. He will never admit it. He will always insist that one of us contrived it. We will all suspect each other, for always. There will be no record anywhere except a very discreet report in the archives of the Istanbul Police Department, which will assign the mystification either to M. Duval or to Appolonius the Great— after he has gone to prison, at least. It is a singular mystery, is it not?” He laughed. A week later, Laurie triumphantly pointed out to Coghlan that it was demonstrably all nonsense. The cut on his thumb had healed quite neatly, leaving no scar at all.

Conditionally Human By Walter M. Miller HE KNEW there was no use hanging around after breakfast, but he could not bear leaving her like this. He put on his coat in the kitchen, stood uncertainly in the doorway, and twisted his hat in his hands. His wife still sat at the table, fingered the handle of an empty cup, stared fixedly out the window at the kennels behind the house, and pointedly ignored his small coughings and scrapings. He watched the set of her jaw for a moment, then cleared his throat. "Anne?" " What?" "I can't stand seeing you like this." "Then go away." "Can't I do anything—?" "I told you what to do." Her voice was a monotone, full of hurt. He could neither endure the hurt nor remove it. He gingerly crossed the room to stand behind her, hoping she'd look up at him and let her face go soft, maybe even cry a little. But she kept gazing at the window in accusing silence. He chuckled suddenly and touched her silk-clad shoulder. The shoulder shivered away. Her dark hair quivered as she shuddered, and her arms were suddenly locked tightly about her breasts as if she were cold. He pulled his hand back, and his big pliant face went slack. He gulped forlornly. "Honeymoon's over, huh?" "Ha!" He backed a step away, paused again. "Hey, Baby, you knew before you married me," he reminded her gently. "I did not." "You knew I was a District Inspector for the F.B.A. You knew I had charge of a pound." "I didn't know you killed them!" she snapped, whirling. "I don't have to kill many," he offered. " That's like saying you don't kill them very dead." "Look, honey, they're only animals." "Intelligent animals!" "Intelligent as a human imbecile, maybe." "A baby is an imbecile. Would you kill a baby?— Of course you would! You do! That's what they are: babies. I hate you." He withered, groped desperately for a new approach, tried a semantic tack. "Look, `intelligence' is a word applicable only to humans. It's the name of a human function, and . . ." "And that makes them human!" she finished. "Murderer!" "Baby—!" "Don't call me baby! Call them baby!" He made a miserable noise in his throat, backed a few steps toward the door, and beat down his better judgment to speak again: "Anne, honey, look! Think of the good things about the job. Sure—everything has its ugly angles. But just think: we get this house rentfree; I've got my own district with no local bosses to hound me; I make my own hours; you'll meet lots of people that stop in at the pound. It's a fine job, honey!"

Her face was a mask again. She sipped her coffee and seemed to be listening. He blundered hopefully on. "And what can I do about it? I can't help my aptitudes. Placement Division checked them, sent me to Bio-Authority. Period. Okay, so I don't have to work where they send me. I could ignore the aptitudes and pick common labor, but that's all the law allows, and common laborers don't have families. So I go where they need my aptitudes." "You've got aptitudes for killing kids?" she asked sweetly. He groaned, clenched his eyes closed, shook his head fiercely as if to clear it of a sudden ache. His voice went desperately patient. "They assigned me to the job because I like babies. And because I have a degree in biology and an aptitude for dealing with people. Understand? Destroying unclaimed units is the smallest part of it. Honey, before the evolvotron, before anybody ever heard of Anthropos Incorporated, people used to elect animal catchers. Dogcatchers, they called them. Didn't have mutant dogs, of course. But just think of it that way—I'm a dog-catcher." Ice-green eyes turned slowly to meet his gaze. Her face was delicately cut from cold marble. One corner of her mouth twitched contempt at him. Her head turned casually away again to stare out the window toward the kennels again. He backed to the door, plucked nervously at a splinter on the woodwork, watched her hopefully for a moment. "Well, gotta go. Work to do." She looked at him again as if he were a specimen. "Do you need to be kissed?" He ripped the splinter loose, gulped, "See you tonight," and stumbled toward the front of the house. The honeymoon indeed was done for District Inspector Norris of the Federal Biological Authority. Anne heard his footsteps on the porch, heard the sudden grumble of the kennel-truck's turbines, choked on a sob and darted for the door, but the truck had backed into the street, lurched suddenly away with angry acceleration toward the highway that lay to the east. She stood blinking into the red morning sunlight, shoulders slumped. Things were wrong with the world, she decided. A bell rang somewhere, rang again. She started slightly, shook herself, went to answer the telephone. A carefully enunciated voice that sounded chubby and professional called for Inspector Norris. She told it disconsolately that he was gone. " Gone? Oh, you mean to work. Heh heh. Can this be the new Mrs. Norris?" The voice was too hearty and greasy, she thought, muttered affirmatively. "Ah, yes. Norris spoke of you, my dear. This is Doctor Georges. I have a very urgent problem to discuss with your husband. But perhaps I can talk to you." "You can probably get him on the highway. There's a phone in the truck." What sort of urgent problems could doctors discuss with dogcatchers, she wondered. "Afraid not, my dear. The inspector doesn't switch on his phone until office hours. I know him well, you see." "Can't you wait?" "It's really an emergency, Mrs. Norris. I need an animal from the pound—a Chimp-K48-3, preferably a five year old." "I know nothing about my husband's business," she said stiffly. "You'll have to talk to him." "Now see here, Mrs. Norris, this is an emergency, and I have to have ...” "What would you do if I hadn't answered the phone?" she interrupted. "Why I—I would have—"

"Then do it," she snapped, dropped the phone in its cradle, marched angrily away. The phone began ringing again. She paused to glance back at it with a twinge of guilt. Emergency, the fat voice had said. But what sort of emergency would involve a chimp K48, and what would Georges do with the animal? Butchery, she suspected, was somehow implied. She let the phone ring. If Norris ever, ever, ever asked her to share his work in any way, she'd leave him, she told herself. The truck whirred slowly along the suburban street that wound among nestled groups of pastel plasticoid cottages set approximately two to an acre on the lightly wooded land. With its population legally fixed at three hundred million, most of the country had become one gigantic suburb, dotted with community centers and lined with narrow belts of industrial development. There was no open country now, nor had there been since the days of his grandparents. There was nowhere that one could feel alone. He approached an intersection. A small animal sat on the curb, wrapped in its own bushy tail. The crown of its oversized head was bald, but its body was covered with bluegray fur. A pink tongue licked daintily at small forepaws equipped with prehensile thumbs. It eyed the truck morosely as Norris drew to a halt and smiled down out of the window at it. "Hi, kitten," he called. "What's your name?" The Cat-Q-5 stared at him indifferently for a moment, uttered a stuttering high-pitched wail, then cried: "Kitty Rorry." "Kitty Rorry. That's a nice name. Where do you live, Rorry?" The Cat-Q-5 ignored him. " Whose child are you, Rorry? Can you tell me that?" Rorry regarded him disgustedly. Norris glanced quickly around. There were no houses near the intersection, and he feared that the animal might be lost. It blinked at him, sleepily bored, then resumed its paw-bath. He repeated the questions. " Mama kiyi, kiyi Mama," it finally reported. " That's right, Mama's kitty. But where's Mama? Do you suppose she ran away?" The Cat-Q-5 looked startled. It stuttered for a moment. Its fur crept slowly erect. It glanced both ways along the street, shot suddenly away at a fast scamper along the sidewalk. Norris followed it in the truck for two blocks, where it darted onto a porch and began wailing through the screen: "Mama no run ray! Mama no run ray!" He chuckled and drove on. A couple who failed the genetic requirements, who could have no children of their own, could get quite attached to a Cat-Q-5, but the cats were emotionally safer than any of the quasi-human chimp-K models called "neutroids." The death of a neutroid could strike a family as hard as the death of a child, while most couples could endure the loss of a cat-Q or a dog-F. A couple with a genetic "C" rating were permitted to own one neutroid, or two non-humanized models of daily food intake less than four hundred calories each. Most psychologists regarded the neutroids as emotional dynamite, and advised attaching affections to some tail-wagger with a lower love-demand potential. Norris suddenly lost his vestigial smile. What about Anne? What outlet would she choose for her maternal needs?—for his own Social Security card was stamped "GeneticC"—and Anne loved kids. He had been thinking in terms of the kennel animals, how she might direct her energies toward helping him take care of them, but now that her hostility was evident . . . well .. . suppose she wanted a pseudoparty and a neutroid of her own? Of this, he disapproved.

He shuddered slightly, fumbled in his pocket, and brought out a slightly battered invitation card that had come in yesterday's mail: You are cordially invited to attend the pseudoparturition and ensuing cocktail hour to celebrate the arrival of HONEY BLOSSOM Blessed event to occur on Twelveweek's Sixday of 2063 at 19:30 hours Reception Room, Rockabye Hours Clinic R.s.v.p. Mr. & Mrs. John Hanley Slade The invitation had come late, the party would be tonight. He had meant to call Slade today and say that he and Anne would probably drop in for cocktails, but would be unable to get there in time for the delivery. But now that she had reacted so hostilely to the nastier aspects of his job, perhaps he had better keep her away from sentimental occasions involving neutroids. The battered card reminded him to stop in Sherman III Community Center for his mail. He turned onto the shopping street that paralleled the great highway and drove past several blocks of commercial buildings that served the surrounding suburbs. At the down-ramp he gave the attendant a four-bit bill and sent the truck down to be parked under the street, then went to the message office. When he dropped his code-disk in the slot, the feedway under his box number chattered out a yard of paper tape at him. He scanned it slowly from end to end—note from Aunt Maye, bill from SynZhamilk Products, letter from Anne's mother. The only thing of importance was the memo from the chief, a troublesome tidbit that he had been expecting for days: Attention All District Inspectors: Subject: Deviant Neutroid. You will immediately begin a systematic and thorough survey of all animals whose serial numbers fall in the Bermuda-K-99 series for birth dates during weeks 26 to 32 of year 2062. This is in connection with the Delmont Negligency case. Seize all animals in this category, impound, and run applicable sections of normalcy tests. Watch for signs of endocrinal deviation and non-standard response patterns. Delmont has confessed to passing only one non-standard model, but there may have been others. He disclaims memory of deviant's serial number. This could be a ruse to bring a stop to investigation when one animal is found. Be thorough. If allowed to reach age-set or adulthood, such a deviant could be dangerous to its owner or to others. Hold all seized K-99s who exhibit the slightest departure from standard in the normalcy tests. Forward these to Central Lab. Return standard models to their owners. Accomplish entire survey project within seven days. C. Franklin "Seven days!" he hissed irritably, wadded the tape in his pocket, stalked out to get the truck. His district covered two hundred square miles. With a replacement quota of seventyfive neutroids a week, the district would have probably picked up about forty K-99s from the Bermuda factory influx during the six-week period last year. Could he round them up

in a week? Doubtful. And there were only eleven empty cages in the kennel. The other forty-nine were occupied by the previous inspector's "unclaimed" inventory—awaiting destruction. The crematorium behind the kennels would have a busy week. Anne would love that. He was halfway to Wylo City when the radiophone buzzed on the dashboard. He pulled into the slow lane and answered quickly, hoping for Anne's voice. A polite professional purr came instead. "Inspector Norris? Doctor Georges." Norris made a sour mouth, managed a jovial greeting. "Are you extremely busy at the moment?" Georges asked. He paused. Georges usually wanted a favor for some wealthy patient, or for some wealthy patient's tail-wagger. "Extremely," he grunted. "Eh? Oh well, this won't take long. One of my patients—a Mrs. Sarah Glubbes—called a while ago and said her baby was sick." "So?" "No baby. I must be getting absent minded, because I forgot she's class C until I got there." "I'll guess," Norris muttered. "Turned out to be a neutroid." "Of course, of course." "Why tell me?" " It's dying. Eighteenth order virus. Naturally, I can't get it admitted to a hospital." "Ever hear of vets?" "You don't understand. She insists it's her baby, believes it's her own. How can I send it to a vet?" "That's your worry. Is this an old patient of yours?" "Why, yes, I've known Sarah since—" "Since you presided at her pseudopart?" "How did you know?" " Just a guess. If you put her through pseudopart, then you deserve all the trouble you get." " I take it you're a prohibitionist." " Skip it. What did you want from me?" "A replacement neutroid. From the kennel." "Baloney. You couldn't fool her. If she's blind, she'd still know the difference." "I'll have to take the chance. Listen, Norris, it's pathetic. She knows the disease can be cured—in humans—with hospitalization and expensive treatment that I can't get for a neutroid. No vet could get the drug either. Scarce. It's pathetic." "I'm crying all over the steering wheel." The doctor hesitated. "Sorry, Norris, I thought you were human." "Not to the extent of doing quasi-legal favors that won't be appreciated for some rich neurotic dame and a doc who practices pseudopart." "One correction," Georges said stiffly. "Sarah's not rich. She's a middle-aged widow and couldn't pay for treatment if she could get it." "Oh—" "Thanks anyway, Norris." "Hold it," he grunted. "What's the chimp's series?" "It's a K-48, a five-year-old with a three-year age set." Norris thought for a moment. It was a dirty deal, and it wouldn't work. "I think I've got one in the kennel that's fairly close," he offered doubtfully.

"Good, good, I'll have Fred go over and—" "Wait, now. This one'll be spooky, won't know her, and the serial number will be different." "I know, I know," Georges sighed. "But it seems worth a try. An attack of V-i8 can cause mild amnesia in humans; that might explain why it won't know her. About the serial number—" "Don't try changing it," Norris growled. " How about obliterating—" "Don't, and I'll check on it a couple of weeks from now to make damn sure you didn't. That's a felony, Georges." "All right, all right, I'll just have to take the chance that she won't notice it. When can I pick it up?" "Call my wife in fifteen minutes. I'll speak to her first." "Uh, yes . . . Mrs. Norris. Uh, very well, thanks, Inspector." Georges hung up quickly. Norris lit a cigaret, steeled himself, called Anne. Her voice was dull, depressed, but no longer angry. "All right, Terry," she said tonelessly. "I'll go out to the kennel and get the one in cage thirty-one, and give it to Georges when he comes." "Thanks, babe." He heard her mutter, "And then I'll go take a bath," just before the circuit clicked off. He flipped off the auto-driver, took control of the truck, slipped into the fast lane and drove furiously toward Wylo City and the district wholesale offices of Anthropos Incorporated to begin tracing down the suspected Bermuda K-99s in accordance with Franklin's memo. He would have to check through all incoming model files for the six week period, go over the present inventory, then run down the Bermuda serial numbers in a mountain of invoices covering a thirty-week period, find the pet shops and retail dealers that had taken the doubtful models, and finally survey the retail dealers to trace the models to their present owners. With cooperation from wholesaler and dealers, he might get it down to the retail level by mid-afternoon, but getting the models away from their owners would be the nasty part of the job. He was feeling pretty nasty himself, he decided. The spat with Anne, the distasteful thoughts associated with Slade's pseudoparty, the gnawing remorse about collaborating with Dr. Georges in a doubtful maneuver to pacify one Sarah Glubbes, a grim week's work ahead, plus his usual charge of suppressed resentment toward Chief Franklin—it all added up to a mood that could turn either black or vicious, depending on circumstance. If some doting Mama gave him trouble about impounding her darling tail-wagger, he was, he decided, in the right kind of mood to get a warrant and turn the job over to the sheriff. The gasping neutroid lay on the examining table under the glaring light. The torso quivered and twitched as muscles contracted spasmodically, but the short legs were already limp and paralyzed, allowing the chubby man in the white coat to lift them easily by the ankles and retrieve the rectal thermometer. The neutroid wheezed and chattered plaintively as the nurse drew the blanket across its small body again. "A hundred and nine," grunted the chubby man, his voice muffled by the gauze mask. His eyes probed the nurse's eyes for a moment. He jerked his head toward the door. "She still out there?" The nurse nodded.

The doctor stared absently at the thermometer stem for a moment, looked up again, spoke quietly. "Get a hypo—necrofine." She turned toward the sterilizer, paused briefly. "Three c.c.s?" she asked. "Twelve," he corrected. Their eyes locked with his for several seconds; then she nodded and went to the sterilizer. "May I leave first?" she asked tonelessly while filling the syringe. "Certainly." "What'll I say to Mrs. Glubbes?" She crossed to the table again and handed him the hypo. "Nothing. Use the back way. Go tell Fred to run over to the kennels and pick up the substitute. I've called Mrs. Norris. Oh yeah, and tell Fred to stop in here first. I'll have something for him to take out." The nurse glanced down at the squirming, whimpering newt, shivered slightly, and left the room. When the door closed, Georges bent over the table with the hypo. When the door opened again, Georges looked up to see his son looking in. "Take this along," he grunted, and handed Fred the bundle wrapped in newspapers. "What'll I do with it?" the youth asked. " Chuck it in Norris's incinerator." Fred glanced at the empty examining table and nodded indifferently. "Can Miss Laskell come back now?" he asked in going. "Tell her yeah. And hurry with that other neut." "Sure, Pop. See you later." The nurse looked in uncertainly before entering. "Get cleaned up," he told her. "And go sit with Mrs. Glubbes." "What'll I say?" "The `baby' will recover. She can take it home late this afternoon if she gets some rest first." "What're you going to do?—about the substitute." " Give it a shot to put it to sleep, give her some codeine to feed it." "Why?" "So it'll be too groggy for a few days to even notice her, so it'll get addicted and attached to her because she gives it the coedine." "The serial number?" "I'll put the tattooed foot in a cast. V-18 paralysis—you know." "Smart," she muttered, but there was no approval in her voice. When she had changed clothes in the anteroom, she unlocked the door to the office, but paused before passing on into the reception room. The door was ajar, and she gazed through the crack at the woman who sat on the sofa. Sarah Glubbes was gray and gaunt and rigid as stone. She sat with her hands clenched in her lap, her wide empty eyes—dull blue spots on yellowed marble orbs—staring ceilingward while the colorless lips of a knife-slash mouth moved tautly in earnest prayer. The nurse's throat felt tight. She rubbed it for a moment. After all, the thing was only an animal. She straightened her shoulders, put on a cheerful smile, and marched on into the reception room. The yellowed orbs snapped demandingly toward her. "Everything's all right, Mrs. Glubbes," she began.

"Finished," Norris grunted at three o'clock that afternoon. "Thirty-six K-99s," murmured the Anthropos file-clerk, gazing over Norris's shoulder at the clip-board with the list of doubtful neuts and the dealers to whom they had been sent. "Lots of owners may be hard to locate." "Yeah. Thanks, Andy, and you too, Mabel." The girl smiled and handed him a slip of paper. "Here's a list of owners for thirteen of them. I called the two local shops for you. Most of them live here close." He glanced at the names, felt tension gathering in his stomach. It wasn't going to be easy. What could he say to them? Howdy, Ma'am, excuse me, but I've come to take your little boy away to jail ... Oh, yes ma'am, he'll have a place to stay—in a little steel cage with a forkful of straw, and he'll get vitaminized mush every day. What's that? His sleepy-time stories and his pink honeycrumbles? Sorry, ma'am, your little boy is only a mutated chimpanzee, you know, and not really human at all. "That'll go over great," he grumbled, staring absently at the window. "Beg pardon, sir?" answered the clerk. "Nothing, Andy, nothing." He thanked them again and strode out into the late afternoon sunlight. Still a couple of hours working time left, and plenty of things to do. Checking with the other retail dealers would be the least unpleasant task, but there was no use saving the worst until last. He glanced at the list Mabel had given him, checked it for the nearest address, then squared his shoulders and headed for the kennel truck. Anne met him at the door when he came home at six. He stood on the porch for a moment, smiling at her weakly. The smile was not returned. "Doctor Georges' boy came," she told him. "He signed for the—" She stopped to stare at him, then opened the screen, reached up quickly to brush light fingertips over his cheek. "Terry! Those welts! What happened—get scratched by a cat-Q?" "No, by a human-F," he grumbled, and stepped past her into the hall; Anne followed, eyeing him curiously while he reached for the phone and dialed. "Who're you calling?" she asked. "Society's Watchdog," he answered as the receiver buzzed in his ear. "Your eye, Terry—it's all puffy. Will it turn black?" "Maybe." "Did the human-F do that too?" " Uh-uh. Human-M—name of Pete Klusky ... The phone croaked at him suddenly. "This is the record-voice of Sheriff Yates. I'll be out from five to seven. If it's urgent, call your constable." He hung up briefly, then irritably dialed the locator service. "Mnemonic register, trail calls, and official locations," grated a mechanical voice. "Your business, please." "This is T. Norris, Sherman-9-4566-78B, Official rating B, Priority B, code XT-88-UBio. Get Sheriff Yates for me." "Nature of the call?" "Offish biz." " I shall record the call." He waited. The robot found Yates on the first probability-trial attempt—in the local pool-hall. "I'm getting to hate that infernal gadget," Yates snapped. "Acts like it's got me psyched. Whattaya want, Norris?"

Cooperation. I'm mailing you three letters charging three Wylo citizens with resisting a federal official—namely me—and charging one of them with assault. I tried to pick up their neutroids for a pound inspection, and—" Yates bellowed lusty laughter in his ear. " Not funny," he growled. "I've got to get those neutroids. It 's connected with the Delmont case." Yates stopped laughing. "Oh? Well . . . I'll take care of it." "Rush order, Sheriff. Can you get the warrants tonight and pick up the animals in the morning?" "Easy on those warrants, boy. Judge Charleman can't be bothered just any time. I can get the newts to you by noon, I guess, provided we don't have to get a helicopter posse to chase down the mothers." "Well, okay—but listen—I want the charges dropped if they cooperate with you. And don't shake the warrants at them unless you have to. Just get those newts, that's all I want." "Okay, boy. Give me the dope." Norris read him the names and addresses of the three unwilling owners, and a precise account of what happened in each case. As soon as he hung up, Anne muttered "Sit still," perched on his knees, and began stroking chilly ointment across his burning cheek. He watched her cool eyes flicker from his cheek to his own eyes and down again. She was no longer angry, but only gloomy and withdrawn from him. He touched her arm. She seemed not to notice it. "Hard day, Terry?" "Slightly. I picked up nine newts out of thirteen, anyhow. They're in the truck now." "Good thing you didn't get them all. There are only twelve empty cages." "Twelve?—oh, Georges picked one up, didn't he?" "And sent a package," she said, eyeing him soberly. " Package? Where is it?" "In the crematorium. The boy took it back there." He swallowed a tight spot in his throat, said nothing. "Oh, and darling—Mrs. Slade called. Why didn't you tell me we're going out tonight?" "Going—out?" It sounded a little weak. "Well, she said she hadn't heard from you. I couldn't very well say no, so I told her I'd be there, at least." "You—?" "Oh, I didn't say about you, Terry. I said you'd like to go, but you might have to work. I'll go alone if you don't want to." He stared at her with a puzzled frown. "You want to go to the psuedoparty?" "Not particularly. But I've never been to one. I'm just curious." He nodded slowly, felt grim inside. She finished with the ointment, patted his cheek, managed a cheerful smile. "Come on, Terry. Let's go unload your nine neutroids." He stared at her dumbly. "Let's forget about this morning, Terry." He nodded. She averted her face suddenly, and her lip quivered. "I—I know you've got a job that's got to be—" She swallowed hard and turned away. "See you out in the kennels," she choked gaily, then hurried down the hall toward the door. Norris scratched his chin unhappily as he watched her go.

"

After a moment, he dialed the mnemonic register again. "Keep a line on this number," he ordered after identifying himself. "If Yates or Franklin calls, ring continuously until I can get in to answer. Otherwise, just memorize the call." "Instructions acknowledged," answered the circuitry. He went out to the kennels to help Anne unload the neutroids. A sprawling concrete barn housed the cages, and the barn was sectioned into three large rooms, one housing the fragile, humanoid chimpanzee-mutants, and another for the lesser breeds such as cat-Qs, dog-Fs, dwarf bears, and foot-high lambs that never matured into sheep. The third room contained a small gas chamber, with a conveyor belt leading from it to the crematorium. He usually kept the third room locked, but he noticed in passing that it was open. Evidently Anne had found the keys in order to let Fred Georges dump his package. A Noah's Ark Chorus greeted him as he passed through the animal room, to be replaced by the mindless chatter of the doll-like neutroids as soon as he entered the air conditioned neutroidsection. Dozens of blazing blond heads began dancing about their cages. Their bodies thwacked against the wire mesh as they leaped about their compartments with monkey-grace, in recognition of their feeder and keeper. Their human appearance was broken only by two distinct features: short beaverlike tails decorated with fluffy curls of fur and an erect thatch of scalp hair that grew up into a bright candle-flame. Otherwise, they appeared completely human, with baby-pink skin, quick little smiles, and cherubic faces. They were sexually neuter and never grew beyond a predetermined age-set which varied for each series. Age-sets were available from one to ten years, human equivalent. Once a neutroid reached its age-set, it remained at this stage of retarded development until death. "They must be getting to know you pretty well," Anne said as she came from behind a section of cages. "A big loud welcome for Pappa, huh?" He frowned slightly as he glanced around the gloomy room and sniffed the animal odors. "That's funny. They don't usually get this excited." She grinned. "Big confession: it started when I came in." He shot her a quick suspicious glance, then walked slowly along a row of cages, peering inside. He stopped suddenly be-side a three year old K-76 to stare. "Apple cores!" He turned slowly to face his wife, trying to swallow a sudden spurt of anger. "Well?" he demanded. Anne reddened. "I felt sorry for them, eating that goo from the mechanical feeders. So I drove down to Sherman III and bought six dozen cooking apples." "That was a mistake." She frowned irritably. "We can afford it." "That's not the point. There's a reason for mechanical feedings." "Oh? What is it?" He hesitated, knowing she wouldn't like the answer. But she was already stiffening. "Let me guess," she said coldly. "If you feed them yourself they get to love you. Right?" "Uh, yeah. They even attach some affection to me because they know that right after I come in, the feeders get turned on." "I see. And if they love you, you might get queasy about running them through Room 3's production line, eh?" "That's about the size of it," he admitted.

"Okay, Terry, I feed them apples, you run your production line," she announced firmly. "I can't see anything contradictory about that, can you?" Her eyes told him that he had damn well better see something contradictory about it, whether he admitted it or not. "Planning to get real chummy with them, are you?" he inquired stiffly. "Planning to dispose of any soon?" she countered. " Honeymoon's off again, eh?" She shook her head slowly, came toward him a little. "I hope not, Terry—I hope not." She stopped again. They watched each other doubtfully amid the chatter of the neutroids. After a time, he turned and walked to the truck, pulled out the snare-pole and began fishing for the squealing, squeaking doll-things that bounded about like frightened monkeys in the truck's wire mesh cage. They were one-family pets, always frightened of strangers, and these in the truck remembered him only as the villain who had dragged them away from Mamma into a terrifying world of whirling scenery and roaring traffic. They worked for a time without talking; then Anne asked casually: "What's the Delmont case, Terry?" "Huh? What makes you ask?" "I heard you mention it on the phone. Anything to do with a black eye and a scratched face?" He nodded sourly. "Indirectly. It's a long story. Well—you know about the evolvotron." "Only that Anthropos Incorporated uses it to induce mutations." "It's sort of a sub-atomic surgical instrument—for doing `plastic surgery' to reproductive cells—Here! Grab this chimp! Got him by the leg." "Oop! Got him. . . . Go ahead, Terry." "Using an evolvotron on the gene-structure of an ovum is likeplaying microscopic billiards—with protons and deuterons and alpha particles for cue-balls. The operator takes the living ovum, mounts it in the device, gets a tremendously magnified image of it with the slow-neutrino shadowscope, compares the image with a gene-map, starts gouging out submolecular tidbits with single-particle shots. He juggles them around, hammers chunks in where nothing was before, plugs up gaps, makes new gaps. Catch?" She looked thoughtful, nodded. "Catch. And the Lord Man made neutroid from the slime of an ape," she murmured. "Heh? Here, catch this critter! Snare's choking him!" "Okay—come to Mamma . . . Well, go on--tell me about Delmont." "Delmont was a green evolvotron operator. Takes years of training, months of practice." "Practice?" "It's an art more than a science. Speed's the thing. You've got to perform the whole operation from start to finish in a few seconds. Ovum dies if you take too long." "About Delmont—" "Got through training and practice tryouts okay. Good rating, in fact. But he was just one of those people that blow up when rehearsals stop and the act begins. He spoiled over a hundred ova the first week. That's to be expected. One success out of ten tries is a good average. But he didn't get any successes." "Why didn't they fire him?" "Threatened to. Guess he got hysterical. Anyhow, he reported one success the next day. It was faked. The ovum had a couple of flaws—something wrong in the nervous system's

determinants, and in the endocrinal setup. Not a standard neutroid ovum. He passed it on to the incubators to get a credit, knowing it wouldn't be caught until after birth." "It wasn't caught at all?" "Heh. He was afraid it might not be caught. So he suppressed the testosterone flow to its incubator so that it would be—later on." "Why that?" "All the neutroids are potential females, you know. But male hormone is pumped to the foetus as it develops. Keeps female sexuality from developing, results in a neuter. He decided that the inspectors would surely catch a female, and that would be blamed on a malfunction of the incubator, not on him." "So?" Norris shrugged. "So inspectors are human. So maybe a guy came on the job with a hangover and missed a trick or two. Besides, they all look female. Anyhow, she didn't get caught." "How did they ever find out Delmont did it?" "He got caught last month—trying it again. Confessed to doing it once before. No telling how many times he really did it." Norris held up the final kicking, squealing, tassel-haired doll from the back of the kennel-truck. He grinned down at Anne. "Now take this little yeep, for instance. Might be a potential she. Might also be a potential murderer. All these kiddos from the truck came from the machines in the section where Delmont worked last year when he passed that fake. Can't have non-standard models on the loose. Can't have sexed models either—then they'd breed, get out of hand. The evolvotron could be shut down any time it became necessary, and when that generation of mutants died off . . . " He shrugged. Anne caught the struggling baby-creature in her arms. It struggled and tried to bite, but subsided a little when she disentangled it from the snare. " Kkr-r-reeee!" it cooed nervously. "Kree Kkr-r-reeee!" "You tell him you're no murderer," she purred to it. He watched disapprovingly while she fondled it. One code he had accepted: steer clear of emotional attachments. It was eight months old and looked like a child of two years—a year short of its age-set. And it was designed to be as affectionate as a human child. "Put it in the cage, Anne," he said quietly. She looked up and shook her head. "It belongs to somebody else. Suppose it transfers its fixation to you? You'd be robbing its owners. They can't love many people at once." She snorted, but installed the thing in its cage. "Anne—" Norris hesitated, knowing that it was a bad time to approach the subject, but thinking about Slade's pseudoparty tonight, and wondering why she had accepted. "What, Terry?" He leaned on the snare pole and watched her. "Do you want one of them for yourself? I can sign an unclaimed one over to you. Wouldn't cost anything." She stared at him evenly for a moment, glanced down at her feet, paced slowly to the window to stand hugging her arms and looking out into the twilight. "With a pseudoparty, Terry?" He swallowed a lump of anxiety, found his voice. "Whatever you want." "I hear the phone ringing in the house." He waited.

"It stopped," she said after a moment. "Well, babe?" "Whatever I want, Terry?" She turned slowly to lean back against a patch of gray light and look at him. He nodded. "Whatever you want." "I want your child." He stiffened with hurt, stared at her open-mouthed. "I want your child." He thrust his hand slowly in his hip pocket. "Oh, don't reach for your social security card. I don't care if it's got `Genetic triple-Z' on it. I want your child." "Uncle Federal says `no,' babe." "To hell with Uncle Federal! They can't send a human through your Room 3! Not yet, anyhow! If it's born, the world's stuck with it!" "And the parents are forcibly separated, reduced to common-labor status. Remember?" She stamped her foot and whirled to the window again. "Damn the whole hellish world!" she snarled. Norris sighed heavily. He was sorry she felt that way. She was probably right in feeling that way, but he was still sorry. Righteous anger, frustrated, was no less searing a psychic acid than the unrighteous sort, nor did a stomach pause to weigh the moral worth of the wrath that drenched it before giving birth to an ulcer. "Hey, babe, if we're going to the Slade affair—" She nodded grimly and turned to walk with him toward the house. At least it was better having her direct her anger at the world rather than at him, he thought. The expectant mother played three games of badminton before sundown, then went inside to shower and dress before the guests arrived. Her face was wreathed in a merry smile as she trotted downstairs in a fresh smock, her neck still pink from the hot water, her wake fragrant with faint perfume. There was no apparent need for the smock, nor was there any pregnant caution in the way she threw her arms around John's neck and kicked her heels up behind. "Darling!" she chirped. "There'll be plenty of milk. I never believed in bottle-feeding. Isn't it wonderful?" "Great. The injections are working, I guess." She looked around. "It's a lovely resort-hospital. I'm glad you didn't pick Angel's Haven." "So am I," he grunted. "We'll have the reception room all to ourselves tonight." " What time is it?" "Seven ten. Oh, the doe called to say he'd be a few minutes late. He was busy all day with a sick baby." She licked her lips and glanced aside uneasily. "Class A couple?" "No, doll. Class C—and a widow." "Oh." She brightened again, watched his face teasingly. "Will you pace and chainsmoke while I'm in delivery?" He snorted amusement. "Hey, it's not as if you were really . . " He stopped amid a fit of coughing. "Not as if I really what?" His mouth opened and closed. He stammered helplessly. "Not as if I were really what?" she demanded, eyes beginning to brim.

Listen, darling, I didn't mean . . .” A nurse came clicking across the floor. "Mrs. Slade, it's time for your first injection. Doctor Georges just called. Will you come with me please?" "Not as if I what, John?" she insisted, ignoring the nurse. "Nothing, doll, nothing—" "Mrs. Slade—" "All right, nurse, I'm coming." She tossed her husband a hurt glance, walked away dabbing at her eyes. "Expectant dames is always cranky," sympathized an attendant who sat on a bench nearby. "Take it easy. She won't be so touchy after it comes." John Hanley Slade shot an irritable glare at the eavesdropper, saw a friendly comedianface grinning at him, returned the grin uneasily, and went over to sit down. "Your first?" John Hanley nodded, stroked nervously at his thin hair. "I see 'em come, I see 'em go. It's always the same." "Whattaya mean?" John grunted. "Same expressions, same worries, same attitudes, same conversation, same questions. The guy always makes some remark about how it' not really having a baby, and the dame always gets sore. Happens every time." "It's all pretty routine for you, eh?" he muttered stiffly. The attendant nodded. He watched the expectant father for several seconds, then grunted: "Go ahead, ask me." "Ask you what?" "If I think all this is silly. They always do." John stared at the attendant irritably. "Well—?" "Do I think it's silly? No, I don't." "Fine. That's settled, then." "No, I don't think it's silly, because for a dame ain't satisfied if she plunks down the dough, buys a newt, and lets it go at that. There's something missing between bedroom and baby." "That so?" John's sarcastic tone was apparently lost on the man. "It's so," he announced. "Physiological change—that's what's missing. For a newt to really take the place of a baby, the mother's got to go through the whole build-up. Doc gives her injections, she craves pickles and mangoes. More injections for morning sickness. More injections, she gets chubby. And finally the shots to bring milk, labor, and false delivery. So then she gets the newt, and everything's right with the world." "Mmmph." "Ask me something else," the attendant offered. John looked around helplessly, spied an elderly woman near the entrance. She had just entered, and stood looking around as if lost or confused. He did not recognize her, but he got up quickly. "Excuse me, chum. Probably one of my guests." "Sure, sure. I gotta get on the job anyhow." The woman turned to stare at him as he crossed the floor to meet her. Perhaps one of Mary's friends, he thought. There were at least a dozen people coming that he hadn't met. But his welcoming smile faded slightly as he approached her. She wore a shabby dress, her hair was disheveled in a gray tangle, her matchstick legs were without make-up, and there were fierce red lines around her eyelids. She stared at him with wide wild eyes—dull orbs of dirty marble with tiny blue patches for pupils. And her mouth was a thin slash between gaunt leathery cheeks.

"

"Are—are you here for the party?" he asked doubtfully. She seemed not to hear him, but continued to stare at or through him. Her mouth made words out of a quivering hiss of a voice. "I'm looking for him." "Who?" "The doctor." He decided from her voice that she had laryngitis. "Doctor Georges? He'll be here soon, but he'll be busy tonight. Couldn't you consult another physician?" The woman fumbled in her bag and brought out a small parcel to display. "I want to give him this," she hissed. "I could—" "I want to give it to him myself," she interrupted. Two guests that he recognized came through the entrance. He glanced toward them nervously, returned their grins, glanced indecisively back at the haggard woman. "I'll wait," she croaked, turned her back, and marched to the nearest chair where she perched like a sick crow, eyes glued to the door. John Hanley Slade felt suddenly chilly. He shrugged it off and went to greet the Willinghams, who were the first arrivals. Anne Norris, with her husband in tow, zig-zagged her way through a throng of chattering guests toward the hostess, who now occupied a wheel-chair near the entrance to the delivery room. They were a few minutes late, but the party had not yet actually begun. " Why don't you go join the father's sweating circle?" Anne called over her shoulder. "The men are all over with John." Norris glanced at the group that had gathered under a cloud of cigar smoke over by the portable bar. John Slade stood at the focus of it and looked persecuted. " Job's counselors," Terry grunted. A hand reached out from a nearby conversation-group and caught his arm. "Norris," coughed a gruff voice. He glanced around. "Oh—Chief Franklin. Hello!" Anne released his hand and said "See you later," then wound her way out of sight in the milling herd. Franklin separated himself from the small congregation and glanced down coolly at his district inspector. He was a tall man, with shoulders hunched up close to his head, long spindly legs, a face that was exceedingly wide across the cheekbones but narrow at the jaw. Black eyes gazed from under heavy brows, and his unruly black hair was badly cut. His family tree had a few Cherokee Indians among its branches, Norris had heard, and they were frequently on the warpath. Franklin gulped his drink casually and handed the glass to a passing attendant. "Thought you'd be working tonight, Norris," he said. "I got trapped into coming, Chief," he replied amiably. "How're you doing with the Delmont pickup?" "Nearly finished with record-tracing. I took a break today and picked up nine of them." "Mmmph. I wondered why you plastipainted that right eye." Franklin rolled back his head and laughed loudly toward the ceiling. "Newt's mamma tossed the crockery at you, did she?" "Her husband," he corrected a little stiffly. "Well—get them in a hurry, Norris. If the newt's owner knows it's a deviant, he might hear we're after something and hide it somewhere. I want them rounded up quickly."

"Expect to find the one?" Franklin nodded grimly. "It's somewhere in this part of the country—or was. It narrows down to about six or eight districts. Yours has a good chance of being it. If I had my way, we'd destroy every Bermuda K-99 that came out during that period. That way, we'd be sure—in case Delmont faked more than one." "Be pretty tough on dames like Mary," Norris reminded him, glancing toward Mrs. Slade. "Yeah, yeah, five hundred Rachels blubbering for their children, and all on my neck. I'd almost rather let the deviant get away than have to put up with the screaming mommies." "The burdens of office, Chief. Bear up under the brickbats. Herod did." Franklin glowered at him suspiciously, noticed Norris's bland expression, muttered "eh heh heh," and glanced around the room. "Who's presiding over the whelping tonight?" Norris asked. "Local doctor. Georges. You ought to know him." Terry's eyebrows went up. He nodded. " He's already here. Saw him come in the doctor's entrance a few minutes ago. He's probably getting ready. Well, Norris . . . if you'll excuse me ..." Norris wandered toward the bar. He had been to several pseudoparties before. There was nothing to it, really. After the guests had gathered, the medics rolled the mother into delivery, and everyone paced restlessly and talked in hushed voices while she reenacted the age-old drama of Birth—in a way that was only mildly uncomfortable and did nothing to aggravate the population problem. Then, when they rolled her out again—fatigued and emotionally spent—the nurse brought out a newly purchased neutroid, only a few days out of the incubator, and presented it to the mother. When the oohs and awws were finished, the mother went home with her child to rest, and the father whooped it up with the guests. Norris hoped to get away early. He had things to do before dawn. "Who's that hag by the door?" a guest grunted in his ear. Norris glanced incuriously at the thin-lipped woman who sat stiffly with her hands in her lap, not gazing at the guests but looking through and beyond them. He shook his head and moved on to shake hands with his host. "Glad you came, Norris!" Slade said with a grin, then leaned closer. "Your presence could be embarrassing at a time like this, though." "How's that?" " You should have brought your net and snare-pole, Norris," said a man at Slade's elbow. "Then when they bring the baby out, go charging across the room yelling "That's it! That's the one I'm after!' " The men laughed heartily. Norris grinned weakly and started away. "Hey, Slade," a voice called. "They're coming after Mary." Norris stood aside to let John hurry toward his wife. Most of the crowd stopped milling about to watch Dr. Georges, a nurse, and an attendant coming from a rear door to take charge of Mary. "Stop! Stop right there!" The voice came from near the front entrance. It was a choked and hoarse gasp of sound, not loud, but somehow penetrating enough to command the room. Norris glanced aside during the sudden lull to see the thin-lipped woman threading her way through the crowd, and the crowd folded back to clear a way. The farther she walked, the quieter the room, and Norris suddenly realized that somehow the center of the room was almost clear of people so that he could see Mary and John and the medics standing near the delivery room

door. They had turned to stare at the intruder. Georges' mouth fell open slightly. He spoke in a low voice, but the room was suddenly silent enough so that Norris could hear. " Why, Sarah—what 're you doing here?" The woman stopped six feet away from him. She pulled out a small parcel and reached it toward him. "This is for you," she croaked. When Georges did not advance to take it, she threw it at his feet. "Open it!" she commanded. Norris expected him to snort and tell the attendants to toss the nutty old dame out. Instead, he stooped, very slowly, keeping his eyes on the woman, and picked up the bundle. "Unwrap it!" she hissed when he paused. His hands fumbled with it, but his eyes never left her face. The package came open. Georges glanced down. He dropped it quickly to the floor. "An amputated—" Chubby mouth gaping, he stared at the gaunt woman. "My Primrose had a black cowlick in her tail!" The doctor swallowed and continued to stare. "Where is my Primrose?" The woman had her hand in her purse. The doctor retreated a step. "Where is my baby?" "Really, Sarah, there was nothing to do but—" Her hand brought a heavy automatic out of the purse. It wavered and moved uncertainly, too weighty for her scrawny wrist and arm. The room was suddenly a scramble and a babble. "You killed my baby!" "The first shot ricocheted from the ceiling and shattered a window," said the television announcer. "The second shot went into the wall. The third shot struck Doctor Georges in the back of the head as he ran toward the delivery room door. He died instantly. Mrs. Glubbes fled from the room before any of the guests could stop her, and a dragnet is now combing..." Norris shuddered and looked away from the television screen that revealed the present state of the reception room where they had been not more than two hours ago. He turned off the set, nervously lit a cigaret, and glanced at Anne who sat staring at nothing on the other end of the sofa. " How do you feel?" he murmured. She looked at him dumbly, shook her head. Norris got up, paced to the magazine rack, thumbed idly through its contents, glanced back at her nervously, walked to the window, stood smoking and staring toward the street for a time, moved to the piano, glanced back at her nervously again, tried to play a few bars of Beethoven's Fifth with one finger, hit a foul note after the opening ta-ta-ta-taaaahh, grunted a curse, banged a crashing discord with his fist, and leaned forward with a sigh to press his forehead against the music rack and close his eyes. "Don't blame yourself, Terry," she said softly. " If I hadn't let him have that impounded newt, it wouldn't have happened." She thought that over briefly. "And if my maternal grandfather hadn't lied to his wife back in 2013, I would never have been born." "Why not?"

"Because if he'd told her the truth, she'd have up and left him, and Mother wouldn't have been born." "Oh. Nevertheless—" "Nevertheless nothing!" She shook herself out of the blue mood. "You come here, Terry Norris!" He came, and there was comfort in holding her. She was prepared to blame the world all right, but he was in the world, and a part of it, and so was she. And there was no sharing of guilt, but only the whole weight of it on the shoulders of each of them. He thought of the Delmont case, and the way Franklin talked casually of slaughtering five hundred K-99s just to be sure, and how he continued to hate Franklin's guts for no apparent reason. Franklin was not a pleasant fellow, to be sure, but he had done nothing to Norris personally. He wondered if he hated what Franklin represented, but directed the hate at Franklin's person because he, Norris, represented it too. Franklin, however, liked the world as he found it, and was glad to help keep it that way. If I think something's wrong with the set-up, but keep on being a part of it, then the wrongness is not part mine, he thought, it's all mine, because I bought it. "It's hard to decide," he murmured. "What's that, Terry?" "Whether it's all wrong, dead wrong—or whether it's the best that can be done under the circumstances." "Whatever are you talking about?" He shook himself and yawned. "About going to bed," he grunted. They went to bed at midnight. At one o'clock, he became certain she was asleep. He lay in darkness for a time, listening to her even breathing. Then he sat up and eased himself out of bed. There was work to be done. He tiptoed quietly out of the bedroom, carrying his shoes and his trousers. He dressed in the kitchen by the glow of a cigaret ember and stole quietly out into the chilly night. A half-moon hung low in a misty sky, and the wind was sharp out of the north. He walked quietly toward the kennels. There were only three empty cages. He needed twenty-seven to accommodate the doubtful K-99s that were to be picked up during the next few days. There was work to be done. He went into the neutroid room and flicked a switch. A few sleepy chatters greeted the light. One at a time he awoke twenty-four of the older creatures and carried them to a large glass-walled compartment. These were the long-time residents; they knew him well, and they came willingly, snuggling sleepily against his chest. He whistled tunelessly while he worked, began carrying them by the tails, two in each hand, to speed the chore. 'When he had gotten them in the glass chamber, he sealed the door and turned on the gas. Then he switched off the lights, locked up for the night again, and walked back toward the house through the crisp grass. The conveyor belt from the chamber to the crematorium would finish the job unaided. Norris felt suddenly ill. He sank down on the back steps and laid his head on his arms across his knees. His eyes burned, but thought of tears made him sicker. When the low chug of the crematorium's igniter coughed quietly from the kennels, he staggered hurriedly away from the steps to retch. She was waiting for him in the bedroom. She sat on the window-seat, her small figure silhouetted against the paleness of the moonlit yard.

She was staring silently out at the dull red tongue of exhaust gas from the crematorium chimney when he tiptoed down the hall and paused in the doorway. She looked around. Dead silence between them, then: "Out for a walk, eh, Terry?" A resumption of the dead silence. He backed quietly away without speaking. He went to the parlor and lay down on the couch. After a time, he heard her puttering around in the kitchen, and saw a light. A little later, he opened his eyes to see her dark shadow over him, surrounded by an aura of negligee. She sat down on the edge of the couch and offered him a glass. "Drink it. Make your stomach rest easy." "Alcoholic?" "Yeah." He tasted it: milk, egg yolk, honey, and rum. "No arsenic?" She shook her head. He drank it quickly, lay back with a grunt, took her hand. They were silent for a time. "I—I guess every new wife thinks her husband's flawless—for a while," she murmured absently. "Silly—how it's such a shock to find out the obvious: that he's no different from the other bull humans of the tribe." Norris stiffened, rolled his face quickly away from her. After a moment, her hand crept out to touch his cheek lightly. Her cool fingertips traced a soft line up and along his temple. "It's all right, Terry," she whispered. He kept his face averted. Her fingers stroked for a moment more, as if she were feeling something new and different in the familiar texture of his hair. Then she arose and padded quietly back to the bedroom. Norris lay awake until dawn, knowing that it would never be all right Terry, nor all right World—never, as long as the prohibiting, the creating, the killing, the mockery, the falsification of birth, death, and life continued. Dawn inherited the night mist, gathered it into clouds, and made a gloomy gray morning of it. Anne was still asleep when he left for work. He backed out the kennel-truck, meaning to get the rest of the Bermuda K-99s as quickly as possible so that he could begin running the normalcy tests and get the whole thing over with. The night's guilt was still with him as he drove away, a sticky dew that refused to depart with morning. Why should he have to kill the things? Why couldn't Franklin arrange for a central slaughter house for destroying neutroids that had been deserted, or whose owners could not be located, or that found themselves unclaimed for any other reason? But Franklin would purple at the notion. It was only a routine part of the job. Why shouldn't it be routine? Why were neutroids manufactured anyhow? Obviously, because they were disposable—an important feature which human babies unfortunately lacked. When the market became glutted with humans, the merchandise could not be dumped in the sea. Anthropos' mutant pets fulfilled a basic biological need of Man—of all life, for that matter—the need to have young, or a reasonable facsimile, and care for them. Neutroids kept humanity satisfied with the restricted birth rate, and if it were not satisfied, it would breed itself into famine, epidemic, and possibly extinction. With the population held constant at five billions, the Federation could insure a decent living-standard for everyone.

And as long as birth must be restricted, why not restrict it logically and limit it to genetic desirables? Why not? Norris felt no answer, but he was acutely aware of the "genetic C" on his social security card. The world was a better place, wasn't it? Great strides since the last century. Science had made life easier to live and harder to lose. The populace thoughtlessly responded by pouring forth a flood of babies and doddering old codgers to clutter the earth and make things tougher again by eating and not producing; but again science increased the individual's chances to survive and augmented his motives for doing so—and again the populace responded with fecundity and long white beards, making more trouble for science again. So it had continued until it became obvious that progress wasn't headed toward "the Good Life" but toward more lives to continue the same old meager life as always. What could be done? Impede science? Unthinkable! Chuck the old codgers into the sea? Advance the retirement age to ninety and work them to death? The old codgers still had the suffrage, and plenty of time to go to the polls. The unborn, however, were not permitted to vote. Man's technology had created little for the individual. Man used his technology to lengthen his life and sweeten it, but something had to be subtracted somewhere. The lives of the unborn were added unto the years of the aged. A son of Terry Norris might easily live till 100, but he would have damn little chance of being born to do it. Neutroids filled the cradles. Neutroids never ate much, nor grew up to eat more or be on the unemployment roles. Neutroids could be bashed with a shovel and buried in the back yard when hard times came. Neutroids could satisfy a woman's longing for something small and lovable, but they never got in the economic way. It was no good thinking about it, he decided. It was a Way Of Doing Things, and most people accepted it, and if it sometimes yielded heartache and horrors such as had occurred at Slade's pseudoparty, it was still an Accepted Way, and he couldn't change it, even if he knew what to do about it. He was already adjusted to the world-as-it-was, a world that loved the artificial mutants as children, looked the other way when crematorium flames licked in the night. He had been brought up in such a world, and it was only when emotion conflicted with the grim necessity of his job that he thought to question the world. And Anne? Eventually, he supposed, she would have her pseudo-party, cuddle a neutroid, forget about romantic notions like having a kid of her own. At noon he brought home another dozen K-99s and installed them in the cages. Two reluctant mothers had put up a howl, but he departed without protest and left seizure of the animals to the local authorities. Yates had already delivered the three from yesterday. "What, no more scratches, bruises, broken bones?" Anne asked at lunch. He smiled mechanically. "If Mamma puts up a squawk, I go. Quietly." "Learned your lesson yesterday?" "Mmm! One dame pulled a fast one on me though. I think. Told her what I wanted. She started moaning, but she let me in. I got her newt, started out with it. She wanted a receipt. So, I took the newt's serial number off the check list, made out the receipt. She took one look and squealed `That's not Chichi's number!' and grabbed for her tail-wagger. I looked at its foot-tattoo. Sure enough—wrong number. Had to leave it. A K-99 all right, but not even from Bermuda Plant." "I thought they were all registered."

"They are, babe. Wires get crossed sometimes. I told her she had the wrong newt, and she started boiling. Got the sales receipt and showed it to me. Number checked with the newt's. Something's fouled up somewhere." "Where'd she get it?" " ' O Reilley's pet shop—over in Sherman II. Right place, wrong serial number." " Anything to worry about, Terry?" " Well, I've got to track down that doubtful Bermuda model." "Oh." " And—well--" He frowned out the window at the kennels. "Ever think what'd happen if somebody started a black market in neutroids?" They finished the meal in silence. Apparently there was going to be no further mention of last-night's mass-disposal, nor any rehash of the nightmare at Slade's party. He was thankful. The afternoon's work yielded seven more Bermuda neutroids for the pound. Except for the missing newt that was involved in the confusion of serial numbers, the rest of them would have to be collected by Yates or his deputies, armed with warrants. The groans and the tears of the owners left him in a gloomy mood, but the pickup phase of the operation was nearly finished. The normalcy tests, however, would consume the rest of the week and leave little time for sleeping and eating. If Delmont's falsification proved extensive, it might be necessary to deliver several of the animals to central lab for dissection and complete analysis, thus bringing the murderous wrath of the owners upon his head. He had a hunch about why bio-inspectors were frequently shifted from one territory to another. On the way home, he stopped in Sherman II to check with the dealer about the confusion of serial numbers. Sherman II was the largest of the Sherman communities, covering fifty blocks of commercial buildings. He parked in the outskirts and took a sidewalk escalator toward O'Reilley's address. He had spoken to O'Reilley on the phone, but had not yet visited the dealer's shop. It lay on a dingy side street that was reminiscent of centuries past, a street of small bars and bowling alleys and cigar stores. There was even a shop with three gold balls above the entrance, but the place was now an antique store. A light mist was falling when he stepped off the escalator and stood in front of the pet shop. A sign hung out over the sidewalk, announcing: J. "DOGGY" O'REILLEY PETS FOR SALE DUMB BLONDES AND GOLDFISH MUTANTS FOR THE CHILDLESS BUY A BUNDLE OF JOY He frowned at the sign for a moment, then wandered through the entrance into a warm and gloomy shop, wrinkling his nose at the strong musk of animal odors. O'Reilley's was no shining example of cleanliness. Somewhere a puppy was yapping, and a parrot croaked the lyrics of A Chimp To Call My Own—theme song of a soap opera about a lady evolvotron operator, Norris recalled. He paused briefly by a tank of silk-draped goldfish. The shop had a customer. An elderly lady haggled with the wizened manager over the price of a half-grown secondhand dog-F. She shook her last dog's death certificate under his nose and demanded a guarantee of the dog's alleged F-5 intelligence. The old man offered to swear on a Bible

that the dog was more knowledgeable than some humans, but he demurred when asked to swear by his ledger. The dog was lamenting, "Don' sell me, Dadda, don' sell me," and punctuating the pleas with mournful train-whistle howls. Norris smiled quietly. The non-human pets were brighter than the neutroids. A K-108 could speak a dozen words, but a K-99 never got farther than "mamma," "pappa," and "cookie." Anthropos feared making quasi-humans too intelligent, lest sentimentalists proclaim them really human. He wandered on toward the rear of the building, pausing briefly by the cash register to inspect O'Reilley's license which hung in a dusty frame on the wall behind the counter: " James Fallon O'Reilley . . . authorized dealer in mutant animals ... all non-predatory mammals including chimpanzee-K series . . . license expires 15W 3D 2063Y . . ." Expiration date approaching, he noticed, but otherwise okay. He headed for a bank of neutroid cages along the opposite wall, but O'Reilley minced across the floor to meet him. The elderly lady was leaving. O'Reilley's face wore a v-shaped smirk on a loose-skinned face, and his bald head bobbled professionally. "And a good afternoon to ye, sir. What'll it be this foine drizzlin' afternoon? A dwarf kangaroo perhaps, or a—" He paused to adjust his spectacles as Norris flashed a badge and presented his card. O'Reilley's smile waned. "Inspector Norris it is," he muttered at the card, then looked up. "What'd they do with the last 'un, flay him alive?" "My predecessor was transferred to the Montreal area." "And I thought that I spoke to him only yesterday!" "On the phone? That was me, O'Reilley. About the rundown on the K-99 sales." "I gave it to you properly, did I not?" the oldster demanded. " You gave it to me. Maybe properly." O'Reilley seemed to puff up slightly and glower. "Meaning?" " There's a mix-up in serial numbers on one of them. May not be your mistake." "No mistakes, no mistakes." "Okay, we'll see." Norris glanced at his list. "Let's check this number again—K-99LJZ-35i." "It's nearly closing time," the oldster protested. "Come back some other day, Norris." "Sorry, this one's rush. It'll only take a minute. Where's your book?" The oldster began to quiver angrily. "Are you suggestin', sir, that I falsely—" " No," he growled, "I'm suggesting that there was a mistake. Maybe my mistake, maybe yours, maybe Anthropos, maybe the owners. I've got to find out, that's all. Let's have the book." "What kind of a mistake? I gave you the owner's name!" " She has a different newt." "Can I help it if she traded with somebody?" " She didn't. She bought it here. I saw the receipt." Norris was beginning to become impatient, tried to suppress it. "Then'she traded with one of my other customers!" O'Reilley insisted. Norris snorted irritably. "You got two customers named Adelia Schultz?—Come on, pop, let's look at the duplicate receipt. Now." "Doubt if it's still around," O'Reilley grumbled, refusing to budge. Norris suddenly erupted. He turned away angrily and began pacing briskly around the shop, looking under cages, inspecting fixtures, probing into feeding troughs with a pencil, looking into feed bags, examining a dog-F's wiry coat.

"Here there! What do you think you're doing?" the owner demanded. Norris began barking off check-points in a loud voice. "Dirty cat-cage . . . inadequate ventilation . . . food trough not clean . . . no water in the newt cages ..." "I water them twice a day!" O'Reilley raged. ". . . mouldy rabbit-meal . . . no signs of disinfectant ... What kind of a disease-trap are you running here?" He came back to face O'Reilley who stood trembling with rage and cursing him with his eyes. "Not to mention that sign outside," Norris added casually. "`Dumb blondes' they outlawed that one the year Kleyton got sent up for using hormones on K-108s, trying to grow himself a harem. Well?" "Doubt if it's still around," O'Reilley repeated. "Look, pop!" Norris snapped. "You're required to keep sales receipts until they're microfilmed. There hasn't been a micro-filming for over a year." "Get out of my shop!" "If I go, you won't have a shop after tomorrow." "Are you threatening me?" " Yeah." For a moment, Norris thought the old man would attack him. But O'Reilley spat a sudden curse, scurried toward the counter, grabbed a fat book from beneath the cash register, then hurried away toward the stairs at the rear of the shop. " Hey, pop! Where you going?" "Get me glasses!" "You're wearing your glasses!" Norris started after him. "New ones. Can't see through them." O'Reilley bounded up-stairs. "Leave the book here and I'll check it!" Norris stopped with his foot on the bottom step. O'Reilley slammed the door at the head of the stairs, locked it behind him. Grumbling suspiciously, the inspector went back to the counter to wait. Five minutes passed. The door opened. O'Reilley came downstairs, looking less angry but decidedly nervous. He slammed the book on the counter, riffled its pages, found a place, muttered "Here it is, see for yourself," and held it at a difficult angle. "Give it here." O'Reilley reluctantly released it, began babbling about bureaucracy and tin-horn inspectors who acted like dictators and inspection codes that prescribed and circumscribed and prohibited. Norris ignored him and stared at the duplicate receipt. " Adelia Schultz . . . received Chimpanzee-K-99-LJZ-35i on..." It was the number on the list from Anthropos. It was the number of the animal he wanted for normalcy tests. But it was not the number of Mrs. Schultz's neutroid, nor was it the number written on Mrs. Schultz's copy of this very same invoice. O'Reilley was still babbling at him. Norris held the book up to his eye, took aim at the bright doorway across the surface of the page. O'Reilley stopped babbling. "Rub marks," the inspector grunted. "Scrape marks on the paper." O'Reilley's breathing sounded asthmatic. Norris lowered the book. "Nice erasure job—for a carbon copy. Do it while you were upstairs?" O'Reilley said nothing. Norris took a scrap of paper, folded his handkerchief over the point of his pocketknife blade, used the point to clean out the eraser dust from between the receipts, emptied the dust on the paper, folded it and put it in his pocket.

"Evidence." O'Reilley said nothing. Norris tore out the erased receipt, pocketed it, put on his hat and started for the door. "See you in court, O'Reilley." " Wait!" He turned. "Okay—I'm waiting." "Let's go sit down first," the deflated oldster muttered weakly. "Sure." They walked up the flight of stairs and entered a dingy parlor. He glanced around, sniffed at the smell of cabbage boiling and sweaty bedclothing. An orange-haired neutroid lay sleeping on a dirty rug in the corner. Norris stared down at it curiously. O'Reilley made a whining sound and slumped into a chair, his breath coming in little whiffs that suggested inward sobbing. Norris gazed at him expressionlessly for a moment, then went to kneel beside the newt. "K-99-LJZ-35i," he read aloud, peering at the sole of the tattooed foot. The newt stirred in its sleep at the sound of a strange voice. When Norris looked at O'Reilley again, the old man was staring at his feet, his forehead supported by a leathery old hand that shielded his eyes. "Lots of good explanations, O'Reilley?" "Ye've seen what ye've seen; now do what ye must. I'll say nothing to ye." "Look, O'Reilley, the newt is what I'm after. So I found it. I don't know what else I've found, but juggling serial numbers is a serious offense. If you've got a story, you better tell it. Otherwise, you'll be telling it behind bars. I'm willing to listen here and now. You'd better grab the chance." O'Reilley sighed, looked at the sleeping newt in the corner. "What'll ye do with her?" " The newt? Take her in." O'Reilley sat in gloomy silence while he thought things over. "We were class-B, me and the missus," he mumbled suddenly, "allowed a child of our own if we could have 'un. Fancy that, eh? Ugly old coot like me—class-B." "So?" "The government said we could have a child, but Nature said we couldn't." "Tough." "But since we were class B, we weren't entitled to own a newt. See?" "Yeah. Where's your wife?" "With the saints, let's hope." Norris wondered what sort of sob-story this was getting to be. The oldster went on quietly, all the while staring at the sleeping figure in the corner. "Couldn't have a kid, couldn't own a newt either—so we opened the pet shop. It wasn't like havin' yer own, though. Missus always blubbered when I sold a newt she'd got to feeling like a mother to. Never swiped one, though—not till Peony came along. Last year this Bermuda shipment come in, and I sold most of 'em pretty quick, but Peony here was puny. People ‘fraid she'd not last long. Couldn't sell her. Kept her around so long that we both loved her. Missus died last year. `Don't let anybody take Peony,' she kept saying afore she passed on. I promised I wouldn't. So I switched 'em around and moved her up here." "That all?" O'Reilley hesitated, then nodded. "Ever done this before?"

O'Reilley shook his head. There was a long silence while Norris stared at the child-thing. "Your license could be revoked," he said absently. "I know." He ground his fist thoughtfully in his palm, thought it over some more. If O'Reilley told the truth, he couldn't live with himself if he reported the old man . . . unless it wasn't the whole truth. "I want to take your books home with me tonight." "Help yourself." "I'm going to make a complete check, investigate you from stem to stern." He watched O'Reilley closely. The oldster was unaffected. He seemed concerned— grief-stricken—only by the thought of losing the neutroid. "If plucking a newt out of stock to keep you company was the only thing you did, O'Reilley, I won't report you." O'Reilley was not consoled. He continued to gaze hungrily at the little being on the rug. "And if the newt turns out not to be a deviant," he added gently, "I'll send it back. We'll have to attach a correction to that invoice, of course, and you'll just have to take your chances about somebody wanting to buy it, but . . . " He paused. O'Reilley was staring at him strangely. "And if she is a deviant, Mr. Norris?" He started to reply, hesitated. "Is she, O'Reilley?" The oldster said nothing. His face tightened slowly. His shoulders shook slightly, and his squinted eyes were brimming. He choked. "I see." O'Reilley shook himself, produced a red bandana, dabbed at his eyes, blew his nose loudly, regathered his composure. "How do you know she's deviant?" O'Reilley gave him a bitter glance, chuckled hoarsely, shuffled across the room and sat on the floor beside the sleeping newt. He patted a small bare shoulder. "Peony? . . . Peony-girl . . . Wake up, me child, wake up." Its fluffy tail twitched for a moment. It sat up, rubbed its eyes, and yawned. There was a lazy casualness about its movements that caused Norris to lean closer to stare. Neutroids usually moved in bounces and jerks and scrambles. This one stretched, arched its back, and smiled—like a two year old with soft brown eyes. It glanced at Norris. The eyes went wider for a moment, then it studiously ignored him. "Shall I play bouncey, Daddy?" it piped. Norris sucked in a long slow breath and sat frozen. "No need to, Peony." O'Reilley glanced at the inspector. "Bouncey's a game we play for visitors," he explained. "Making believe we're a neutroid." The inspector could find nothing to say. Peony licked her lips. "Wanna glass of water, Daddy." O'Reilley nodded and hobbled away to the kitchen, leaving the man and the neutroid to stare at each other in silence. She was quite a deviant. Even a fully age-set K-108 could not have spoken the two sentences that he had heard, and Peony was still a long way from age-set, and a K-99 at that. O'Reilley came back with the water. She drank it greedily, holding the glass herself while she peered up at the old man. "Daddy's eyes all wet," she observed. O'Reilley began trembling again. "Never mind, child. You go get your coat."

"Whyyyy?" "You're going for a ride with Mr. Norris." She whirled to stare hostilely at the stunned visitor. "I don't want to!" The old man choked out a sob and flung himself down to seize her in his arms and hug her against his chest. He tearfully uttered a spasmodic babble of reassurances that would have frightened even a human child. The deviant neutroid began to cry. Standard neutroids never cried; they whimpered and yeeped. Norris felt weak inside. Slowly, the old man lifted his head to peer at the inspector, blinking away tears. He began loosening Peony from the embrace. Suddenly he put her down and stood up. "Take her quickly," he hissed, and strode away to the kitchen. He slammed the door behind him. The latch clicked. Peony scampered to the door and began beating on it with tiny fists. "Daddy . . . Daddy!!! Open 'a door!" she wailed. Norris licked his lips and swallowed a dry place. Still he did not budge from the sofa, his gaze fastened on the child-thing. Disjointed phrases tumbled through his mind . . . what Man hath wrought . . . out of the slime of an ape . . . fat legs and baby fists and a brain to know . . . and the State spoke to Job out of a whirlwind, saying .. . "Take her!" came a roaring bellow from the kitchen. "Take her before I lose me wits and kill ye!" Norris got unsteadily to his feet and advanced toward the frightened child-thing. He carried her, kicking and squealing, out into the early evening. By the time he turned into his own driveway, she had subsided a little, but she was still crying. He saw Anne coming down from the porch to meet him. She was staring at the neutroid who sat on the front seat beside him, while seven of its siblings chattered from their cages in the rear of the truck. She said nothing, only stared through the window at the small tearstained face. "Home . . . I want to go home!" it whined. Norris lifted the newt and handed it to his wife. "Take it inside. Keep your mouth shut about it. I'll be in as soon as I chuck the others in their cages." She seemed not to notice his curtness as she cradled the being in her arms and walked away. The truck lurched on to the kennels. He thought the whole thing over while he worked. When he was finished, he went back in the house and stopped in the hall to call Chief Franklin. It was the only thing to do: get it over with as quickly as possible. The operator said, "His office fails to answer. No taped readback. Shall I give you the locator?" Anne came into the hall and stood glaring at him, her arms clenched across her bosom, one foot tapping the floor angrily. Peony stood behind her, no longer crying, and peering at him curiously around Anne's skirt. "Are you doing what I think you're doing, Terry?" He gulped. "Cancel the call," he told the operator. "It'll wait till tomorrow." He dropped the phone hard and sank down in the straight chair. It was the only thing to do: delay it as long as he could. "We'd better have a little talk," she said. "Maybe we'd better," he admitted. They went into the living room. Peony's world had evidently been restricted to the pet shop, and she seemed awed by the clean, neat house, no longer frightened, and curious

enough about her surroundings to forget to cry for O'Reilley. She sat in the center of the rug, occasionally twitching her tail as she blinked around at the furniture and the two humans who sat in it. "The deviant?" "A deviant." "Just what are you going to do?" He squirmed. "You know what I'm supposed to do." "What you were going to do in the hall?" "Franklin's bound to find out anyway." "How?" "Do you imagine that Franklin would trust anybody?" "So?" "So, he's probably already got a list of all serial numbers from the District Anthropos Wholesalers. As a double check on us. And we'd better deliver." "I see. That leaves you in a pinch, doesn't it?" "Not if I do what I'm supposed to." "By whose law?" He tugged nervously at his collar, stared at the child-thing who was gazing at him fixedly. "Heh heh," he said weakly, waggled a finger at it, held out his hands invitingly. The child-thing inched away nervously. "Don't evade, Terry." "I wanna go home . . . I want Dadda." "I gotta think. Gotta have time to think." "Listen, Terry, you know what calling Franklin would be? It would be M, U, R, D, E, R." "She's just a newt." "She?" "Probably. Have to examine her to make sure." "Great. Intelligent, capable of reproduction. Just great." "Well, what they do with her after I'm finished with the normalcy tests is none of my affair." "It's not? Look at me, Terry . . . No, not with that patiently suffering. . . . Terry!" He stopped doing it and sat with his head in his hands, staring at the patterns in the rug, working his toes anxiously. "Think—gotta think." "While you're thinking, I'll feed the child," she said crisply. "Come on, Peony." "How'd you know her name?" "She told me, naturally." "Oh." He sat trying grimly to concentrate, but the house was infused with Anne-ness, and it influenced him. After a while, he got up and went out to the kennels where he could think objectively. But that was wrong too. The kennels were full of Franklin and the system he represented. Finally he went out into the back yard and lay on the cool grass to stare up at the twilight sky. The problem shaped up quite formidably. Either he turned her over to Franklin to be studied and ultimately destroyed, or he didn't. If he didn't, he was guilty of Delmont's crime. Either he lost Anne and maybe something of himself, or his job and maybe his freedom. A big silence filled the house during dinner. Only Peony spoke, demanding at irregular intervals to be taken home. Each time the child-thing spoke, Anne looked at him, and each time she looked at him, her eyes said "See?"—until finally he slammed down his fork and

marched out to the porch to sulk in the gloom. He heard their voices faintly from the kitchen. "You've got a good appetite, Peony." "I like Dadda's cooking better." "Well, maybe mine'll do for awhile." "I wanna go home." "I know—but I think your dadda wants you to stay with us for awhile." "I don't want to." "Why don't you like it here?" "I want Dadda." "Well maybe we can call him on the phone, eh?" " Phone?" "After you get some sleep." The child-thing whimpered, began to cry. He heard Anne walking with it, murmuring softly. When he had heard as much as he could take, he trotted down the steps and went for a long walk in the night, stalking slowly along cracked sidewalks beneath overhanging trees, past houses and scattered lights of the suburbs. Suburbs hadn't changed much in a century, only grown more extensive. Some things underwent drastic revision with the passing years, other things—like walking sticks and garden hoes and carving knives and telephones and bicycles—stayed pretty much as they were. Why change something that worked well as it was? Why bother the established system? He eyed the lighted windows through the hedges as he wandered past. Fluorescent lights, not much different than those of a century ago. But once they had been campfires, the fires of shivering hunters in the forest, when man was young and the world was sparsely planted with his seed. Now the world was choked with his riotous growth, glittering with his lights and his flashing signs, full of the sound of his engines and the roar of his rockets. He had inherited it and filled it—filled it too full, perhaps. There was no escaping from the past. The last century had glutted the Earth with its children and grandchildren, had strained the Earth's capacity to feed, and the limit had been reached. It had to be guarded. There was no escape into space, either. Man's rockets had touched two planets, but they were sorry worlds, and even if he made them better, Earth could beget children—if allowed—faster than ships could haul them away. The only choice: increase the death rate, or decrease the birth rate—or, as a dismal third possibility—do nothing, and let Nature wield the scythe as she had once done in India and China. But letting-Nature-do-it was not in the nature of Man, for he could always do it better. If his choice robbed his wife of a biological need, then he would build her a disposable baby to pacify her. He would give it a tail and only half a mind, so that she would not confuse it with her own occasional children. Peony, however, was a grim mistake. The mistake had to be quickly corrected before anyone noticed. What was he, Norris, going to do about it, if anything? Defy the world? Outwit the world? The world was made in the shape of Franklin, and it snickered at him out of the shadows. He turned and walked back home. Anne was rocking on the porch with Peony in her arms when he came up the sidewalk. The small creature dozed fitfully, muttered in its sleep. "How old is she, Terry?" Anne asked. "About nine months, or about two years, depending on what you mean." "Born nine months ago?"

"Mmmh. But two years by the development scale, human equivalent. Newts would be fully mature at nine or ten, if they didn't stop at an age-set. Fast maturation." "But she's brighter than most two year olds." "Maybe." " You've heard her talk." "You can't make degree-comparisons between two species, Anne. Not easily anyhow. `Bright'?—signifying I.Q.?—by what yardstick." "Bright—signifying on-the-ball—by my yardstick. And if you turn her over to Franklin, I'll leave you." " Car coming," he grunted tonelessly. "Get in the house. It's slowing down." Anne slipped out of her chair and hurried inside. Norris lingered only a moment, then followed. The headlights paused in front of a house down the block, then inched ahead. He watched from deep in the hall. "Shall I take her out to the kennels right quick?" Anne called tensely. " Stick where you are," he muttered, and a moment later regretted it. The headlights stopped in front. The beam of a powerful flashlight played over the porch, found the house-number, winked out. The driver cut the engine. Norris strode to the living room. "Play bouncey!" he growled at Peony. "Don't want to," she grumbled back. "There's a man coming, and you'd better play bouncey if you ever want to see your Dadda again!" he hissed. Peony yeeped and backed away from him, whimpering. "Terry! What're you talking about? You should be ashamed!" " Shut up. . . . Peony, play bouncey." Peony chattered and leaped to the back of the sofa with monkey-like grace. "She's frightened! She's acting like a common newt!" "That's bouncey," he grunted. " That's good." The car door slammed. Norris went to put on the porch light and watch the visitor come up the steps—a husky, bald gentleman in a black suit and Roman collar. He blinked and shook his head. Clergyman? The fellow must have the wrong house. " Good evening." "Uh—yeah." "I'm Father Mulreany. Norris residence?" The priest had a slight brogue; it stirred a vague hunch in Norris' mind, but failed to clear it. "I'm Norris. What's up?" "Uh, well, one of my parishioners—I think you've met him—" "Countryman of yours?" "Mmm." "O'Reilley?" "Yes." "What'd he do, hang himself?" "Nothing that bad. May I come in?" "I doubt it. What do you want?" "Information." "Personal or official?" The priest paused, studied Norris's silhouette through the screen. He seemed not taken aback by the inspector's brusqueness, perhaps accepting it as normal in an era that had little regard for the cloth.

"O'Reilley's in bad shape, Inspector," Mulreany said quietly. "I don't know whether to call a doctor, a psychiatrist, or a cop." Norris stiffened. "A cop?" " May I come in?" Norris hesitated, feeling a vague hostility, and a less vague suspicion. He opened the screen, let the priest in, led him to the living room. Anne muttered half-politely, excused herself, snatched Peony, and headed for the rear of the house. The priest's eyes followed the neutroid intently. "So O'Reilley did something?" "Mmm." " What's it to you?" Mulreany frowned. "In addition to things you wouldn't understand—he was my sister's husband." Norris waved him into a chair. "Okay, so—?" "He called me tonight. He was loaded. Just a senseless babble, but I knew something was wrong. So I went over to the shop." Mulreany stopped to light a cigaret and frown at the floor. He looked up suddenly. "You see him today?" Norris could think of no reason not to admit it. He nodded irritably. Mulreany leaned forward curiously. "Was he sober?" "Yeah." "Sane?" "How should I know?" "Did he impress you as the sort of man who would suddenly decide to take a joint of pipe and a meat cleaver and mass-slaughter about sixty helpless animals?" Norris felt slightly dazed. He sank back, shaking his head and blinking. There was a long silence. Mulreany was watching him carefully. "I can't help you," Norris muttered. "I've got nothing to say." "Look, Inspector, forget this, will you?" He touched his collar. Norris shook his head, managed a sour smile. "I can't help you." "All right," Mulreany sighed, starting to his feet. "I'm just trying to find out if what he says . . ." "Men talking about Dadda?" came a piping voice from the kitchen. Mulreany shot a quick glance toward it. ". . . is true," he finished softly. There was a sudden hush. He could hear Anne whispering in the kitchen, saw her steal a glance through the door. "So it is true," Mulreany murmured. Face frozen, Norris came to his feet. "Anne," he called in a bitter voice. "Bouncey's off." She came in carrying Peony and looking murderous. "Why did you ask him in?" she demanded in a hiss. Mulreany stared at the small creature. Anne stared at the priest. "It's poison to you, isn't it!" she snapped, then held Peony up toward him. "Here! Look at your enemy. Offends your humanocentrism, doesn't she?" "Not at all," he said rather wistfully. "You condemn them." He shook his head. "Not them. Only what they're used for by society." He looked at Norris, a bit puzzled. "I'd better leave." "Maybe not. Better spill it. What do you want?" "I told you. O'Reilley went berserk, made a butcher shop out of his place. When I got there, he was babbling about a talking neutroid—'his baby'—said you took it to the pound

to destroy it. Threatened to kill you. I got a friend to stay with him, came over to see if I could find out what it's all about." "The newt's a deviant. You've heard of the Delmont case?" " Rumors." "She's it." "I see." Mulreany looked glum, grim, gloomy. "Nothing more I need to know I guess. Well—" Norris grabbed his arm as he turned. "Sit a spell," he grunted ominously. The priest looked puzzled, let himself be guided back to the chair. Norris stood looking down at him. "What's the matter with Dadda?" Peony chirped. "I wanna go see Dadda." "Well?" Norris growled. "What about her?" "I don't understand." " You people are down on Anthropos, aren't you?" Mulreany kept patience with an effort. "To make nitroglycerin for curing heart trouble is good, to make it for blowing open safes is bad. The stuff itself is morally neutral. The same goes for mutant animals. As pets, okay; as replacements for humans, no." "Yeah, but you'd just as soon see them dead, eh?" Mulreany hesitated. "I admit a personal dislike for them." "This one?" " What about her?" " Better dead, eh?" "You couldn't admit she might be human?" "Don't know her that well. Human? How do you mean—biologically? Obviously not. Theologically? Why should you care?" "I'm interested in your particular attitude, buster." Mulreany gazed at him, gathering a glower. "I'm a little doubtful about my status here," he growled. "I came for information; the roles got switched somewhere. Okay, Norris, but I'm sick of neo-pagan innocents like you. Now sit down, or show me the door." Norris sat down slowly. The priest watched the small neutroid for a moment before speaking. "She's alive, performs the function of living, is evidently aware. Life—a kind of functioning. A specific life—an in-variant kind of functioning—with sameness-of-self about it. Invariance of functioning—a principle. Self, soul, call it what you like. Whatever's alive has it." He paused to watch Norris doubtfully. Norris nodded curtly. "Go on." "Doesn't have to be anything immortal about it. Not unless she were known to be human. Or intelligent." "You heard her," Anne snapped. "I've heard metal boxes speak with great wisdom," Mulreany said sourly. "And if I were a Hottentot, a vocalizing computer would . . ." "Skip the analogies. Go on." "What's intelligence? A function of Man, immortal. What's Man? An intelligent immortal creature, capable of choice." "Quit talking in circles." "That's the point. I can't—not where Peony's concerned. What do you want to know? If I think she's equal to Man? Give me all the intelligence test results, and all the data you can get—I still couldn't decide."

"Whattaya need? Mystic writings in the sky?" "Precisely." "I feel a bush being beat about," Anne said suddenly. "Is this guy going to make things tough, or isn't he?" Mulreany looked puzzled again. "To the point, then," Norris said. "Would you applaud if she gets the gasser?" "Hardly." "If you had it to decide for yourself—" "What? Whether to destroy her or not?" Mulreany snorted irritably. "Not if there was the least doubt in my mind about her. She's a shadow in the brush. Maybe it's ten to one that the shadow's a bear and not a man—but on the one chance, don't shoot, son, don't shoot." "You think the authorities have a right to kill her, maybe?" Anne asked. "Who, him?" Mulreany jerked his head toward Norris. "Well, say him." "I'd have to think about it. But I don't think so." "Why? The government made her. Why can't it un-make her?" "Made her? Did it now?" "Delmont did," Norris corrected. "Did he now?" said Mulreany. "Why not?" Anne snorted. "I, the State, am Big Fertility," Norris said sourly; then baiting Mulreany: "Thou shalt accept no phallus but the evolvotron." Mulreany reddened, slapped his knee, and chortled. The Norrises exchanged puzzled glances. "I feel an affinity," Anne murmured suspiciously. Norris came slowly to his feet. "If you talk to anybody about Peony, you may be responsible for her death." "I don't quite see—" "You don't need to." Mulreany shrugged. "Tell O'Reilley the same." Mulreany nodded. "You've got my word." "Your which?" "Sorry, I forgot. Ancient usage. I won't mention Peony. I'll see that O'Reilley doesn't." Norris led him to the door. The priest was obviously suppressing large quantities of curiosity, but contained it well. On the steps, he paused to look back, wearing a curious smirk. "It just occurred to me—if the child is `human' in the broad sense, she's rather superior to you and I." "Why?" "Hasn't picked an apple yet."Norris shrugged slightly. "And Inspector—if Delmonte made her—ask yourself: Just what was it that he `made'?" He nodded quickly. "Goodnight." "What do you make of him?" Anne hissed nervously. "Backworldsman. Can't say." "Fool, why'd you bring him in?" "I'm no good at conspiracies." "Then you will do it?"

"What?" "Hide her, or something." He stared at her doubtfully. "The only thing I can hope to do is falsify the test reports and send her back to O'Reilley as a standard model." "That's better than nothing." "And then spend the rest of our days waiting for it to be uncovered," he added grimly. "You've got to, Terry." Maybe, he thought, maybe. If he gave her back to O'Reilley, there was a good chance she'd be discovered when the auditor came to microfilm the records and check inventory. He certainly couldn't keep her himself —not with other Bio-agents wandering in and out every few days. She could not be hidden. He sat down for a smoke and watched Anne tiptoe to the sofa with the sleeping Peony. It would be easy to obey the law, turn her over to Franklin, and tell Anne that he had done something else with her, something like ... He shuddered and chopped the thought off short. She glanced at him curiously. "I don't like the way you're looking at me," she muttered. "You imagine things." "Uh-uh. Listen to me, Terry, if you let that baby . . ." "I'm sick of your ifs!" he barked. "If I hear another goddam threat of your leaving if, then to hell with it, you can leave any time!" " Terry!" She puzzled in his direction for a moment, then slowly wandered out, still puzzling. He sank lower in the chair, brooding. Then it hit him. It wasn't Anne that worried him; it was a piece of himself. It was a piece of himself that threatened to go, and if he let Peony be packed off to Central Lab, it would go, and thereafter he would not be able to stomach anything, even himself. The morning news from the Scriber was carefully folded be-side his plate when he came to the table for breakfast. It was so deliberately folded that he bothered to notice the advertisement in the center of the displayed portion. "You lay this out for my benefit?" he asked. "Not particularly," she said casually. He read it with a suspicious frown: BIOLOGISTS WANTED by ANTHROPOS INCORPORATED for Evolvotron Operators Incubator Tenders Nursery Supervisors Laboratory Personnel in NEW ATLANTA PLANT Call or write: Personnel Manager ANTHROPOS INCORPORATED Atlanta, Georgia

Note: Secure Labor Department release from present job before applying. "What's this supposed to mean to me?" he demanded. "Nothing in particular. Why? Does it mean something to you?" He brushed the paper aside and decided to ignore the subtlety, if any. She picked it up, glanced at it as if she had not seen it before. "New jobs, new places to live," she murmured. After breakfast, he went down to police headquarters to sign a statement concerning the motive in Doctor Georges' murder. Sarah Glubbes had been stashed away in a psychopathic ward, according to Chief Miler, and would probably stay awhile. "Funny thing, Norris," the cop said. "What people won't do over a newt! You know, it's a wonder you don't get your head blown off. I don't covet your job." " Good." He signed the paper and glanced at Miler coolly. "Must take an iron gut, huh, Norris?" " Sure. Just a matter of adaptation." "Guess so." Miler patted his paunch and yawned. "How you coming on this Delmont business? Picked up any deviants yet?" Norris pitched the fountain pen on the desk, splattering ink. "What made you ask that?" he said stiffly. "Nothing made me. I did it myself. Touchy today?" "Maybe." Miler shrugged. "Something made you jump when I said `deviants.' " "Nothing made me. I—" "Ya, ya, sure, but—" "Save it for a suspect, Fat." He stalked out of the office, leaving Miler tapping his pencil and gazing curiously after him. A phone rang somewhere behind him. He hurried on—angry with himself for jumpiness and for indecisiveness. He had to make a choice, and make it soon. It was the lack of a choice that left him jumpy, susceptible to a jolt from either side. "Norris . . . Hey, Norris . . ." Miler's voice. He whirled to see the cop trotting down the steps behind him, his pudgy face glistening in the morning sun. "Your wife's on the phone, Norris. Says it's urgent." When he got back to the office, he heard the faint, "Hello, hello!" coming from the receiver on the desk, caught it up quickly. " Anne? What's wrong?" Her voice was low and strained beneath a cheerful overnote. "Nothing's wrong, darling. We have a visitor. Come right home. Chief Franklin's here." It knocked the breath out of him. He felt himself going white. He glanced at Chief Miler, sitting calmly nearby. "Can you tell me about it now?" he asked her. " Not very well. Please hurry home. He wants to talk to you about the K-99s." "Have the two of them met?" "Yes, they have." She paused, as if waiting for him to speak, then said, "Oh, that! Bouncey, honey—remember bouncey?" " Good, I'll be right home." He hung up and started out. "Troubles?" the chief called after him. "Just a sick newt, if it's any of your business," he called back.

Franklin's helicopter was parked in the empty lot next door when Norris drove up in front of the house. The departmental chief heard the truck and came out on the porch to watch his agent walk up the path. His bulky body was loosely draped in gray tweeds, and his hawk face was a dark solemn mask. He greeted Norris with a slow, almost sarcastic nod. "I see you don't read your mail. If you'd looked at it, you'd have known I was coming. I wrote you yesterday. " "Sorry, Chief, I didn't have a chance to stop by the message office this morning." Franklin grunted. "Then you don't know why I'm here?" "No, sir." "Let's sit out on the porch," Franklin said, and perched his bony frame on the railing. "We've got to get busy on these Bermuda-K-99s, Norris. How many have you got?" "Thirty-four, I think." "I counted thirty-five." " Maybe you're right. I—I'm not sure." "Found any deviants yet?" "Uh—I haven't run any tests yet, sir." Franklin's voice went sharp. "Do you need a test to know when a neutroid is talking a blue streak?" "What do you mean?" "Just this. We've found at least a dozen of Delmont's units that have mental ages that correspond to their physical age. What's more, they're functioning females, and they have normal pituitaries. Know what that means?" "They won't take an age-set then," Norris said. "They'll grow to adulthood." "And have children." Norris frowned. "How can they have children? There aren't any males." "No? Guess what we found in one of Delmont's incubators." "Not a—" "Yeah. And it's probably not the first. This business about padding his quota is baloney! Hell, man, he was going to start his own black market! He finally admitted it, after twenty-hours' questioning without a letup. He was going to raise them, Norris. He was stealing them right out of the incubators before an inspector ever saw them. The K99s—the numbered ones—are just the ones he couldn't get back. Lord knows how many males he's got hidden away someplace!" " What're you going to do?" "Do! What do you think we'll do? Smash the whole scheme, that's what! Find the deviants and kill them. We've got enough now for lab work." Norris felt sick. He looked away. "I suppose you'll want me to handle the destruction, then." Franklin gave him a suspicious glance. "Yes, but why do you ask? You have found one, haven't you?" "Yes, sir," he admitted. A moan came from the doorway. Norris looked up to see his wife's white face staring at him in horror, just before she turned and fled into the house. Franklin's bony head lifted. "I see," he said. "We have a fixation on our deviant. Very well, Norris, I'll take care of it myself. Where is it?" "In the house, sir. My wife's bedroom." "Get it."

Norris went glumly in the house. The bedroom door was locked. "Honey," he called softly. There was no answer. He knocked gently. A key turned in the lock, and his wife stood facing him. Her eyes were weeping ice. "Stay back!" she said. He could see Peony behind her, sitting in the center of the floor and looking mystified. Then he saw his own service revolver in her trembling hand. "Look, honey—it's me." She shook her head. "No, it's not you. It's a man that wants to kill a little girl. Stay back." "You'd shoot, wouldn't you?" he asked softly. "Try to come in and find out," she invited. "Let me have Peony." She laughed, her eyes bright with hate. "I wonder where Terry went. I guess he died. Or adapted. I guess I'm a widow now. Stay back, Mister, or I'll kill you." Norris smiled. "Okay, I'll stay back. But the gun isn't loaded." She tried to slam the door; he caught it with his foot. She struck at him with the pistol, but he dragged it out of her hand. He pushed her aside and held her against the wall while she clawed at his arm. "Stop it!" he said. "Nothing will happen to Peony, I promise you!" He glanced back at the child-thing, who had begun to cry. Anne subsided a little, staring at him angrily. "There's no other way out, honey. Just trust me. She'll be all right." Breathing quickly, Anne stood aside and watched him. "Okay, Terry. But if you're lying—tell me, is it murder to kill a man to protect a child?" Norris lifted Peony in his arms. Her wailing ceased, but her tail switched nervously. "In whose law book?" he asked his wife. "I was wondering the same thing." Norris started toward the door. "By the way—find my instruments while I'm outside, will you?" "The dissecting instruments?" she gasped. "If you intend—" "Let's call them surgical instruments, shall we? And get them sterilized." He went on outside, carrying the child. Franklin was waiting for him in the kennel doorway. "Was that Mrs. Norris I heard screaming?" Norris nodded. "Let's get this over with. I don't stomach it so well." He let his eyes rest unhappily on the top of Peony's head. Franklin grinned at her and took a bit of candy out of his pocket. She refused it and snuggled closer to Norris. "When can I go home?" she piped. "I want Daddy." Franklin straightened, watching her with amusement. "You're going home in a few minutes, little newt. Just a few minutes." They went into the kennels together, and Franklin headed straight for the third room. He seemed to be enjoying the situation. Norris hating him silently, stopped at a workbench and pulled on a pair of gloves. Then he called after Franklin. " Chief, since you're in there, check the outlet pressure while I turn on the main line, will you?" Franklin nodded assent. He stood outside the gas-chamber, watching the dials on the door. Norris could see his back while he twisted the main-line valve. "Pressure's up!" Franklin called. "Okay. Leave the hatch ajar so it won't lock, and crack the intake valves. Read it again." "Got a mask for me?"

Norris laughed. "If you're scared, there's one on the shelf. But just open the hatch, take a reading, and close it. There's no danger." Franklin frowned at him and cracked the intakes. Norris quietly closed the main valve again. " Drops to zero!" Franklin called. " Leave it open, then. Smell anything?" "No. I'm turning it off, Norris." He twisted the intakes. Simultaneously, Norris opened the main line. " Pressure's up again!" Norris dropped his wrench and walked back to the chamber, leaving Peony perched on the workbench. "Trouble with the intakes," he said gruffly. "It's happened before. Mind getting your hands dirty with me, Chief?" Franklin frowned irritably. "Let's hurry this up, Norris. I've got five territories to visit." "Okay, but we'd better put on our masks." He climbed a metal ladder to the top of the chamber, leaned over to inspect the intakes. On his way down, he shouldered a light-bulb over the door, shattering it. Franklin cursed and stepped back, brushing glass fragments from his head and shoulders. "Good thing the light was off," he snapped. Norris handed him the gasmask and put on his own. "The main switch is off," he said. He opened the intakes again. This time the dials fell to normal open-line pressure. "Well, look—it's okay," he called through the mask. "You sure it was zero before?" "Of course I'm sure!" came the muffled reply. "Leave it on for a minute. 'We'll see. I'll go get the newt. Don't let the door close, sir. It'll start the automatics and we can't get it open for half an hour." "I know, Norris. Hurry up." Norris left him standing just outside the chamber, propping the door open with his foot. A faint wind was coming through the opening. It should reach an explosive mixture quickly with the hatch ajar. He stepped into the next room, waited a moment, and jerked the switch. The roar was deafening as the exposed tungsten filament flared and detonated the escaping anesthetic vapor. Norris went to cut off the main line. Peony was crying plaintively. He moved to the door and glanced at the smouldering remains of Franklin. Feeling no emotion whatever, Norris left the kennels, carrying the sobbing child under one arm. His wife stared at him without understanding. "Here, hold Peony while I call the police," he said. "Police? What's happened?" He dialed quickly. "Chief Miler? This is Norris. Get over here quick. My gas chamber exploded—killed Chief Agent Franklin. Man, it's awful! Hurry." He hung up and went back to the kennels. He selected a normal Bermuda-K-99 and coldly killed it with a wrench. "You'll serve for a deviant," he said, and left it lying in the middle of the floor. Then he went back to the house, mixed a sleeping capsule in a glass of water, and forced Peony to drink it. "So she'll be out when the cops come," he explained to Anne. She stamped her foot. "Will you tell me what's happened?" "You heard me on the phone. Franklin accidentally died. That's all you have to know."

He carried Peony out and locked her in a cage. She was too sleepy to protest, and she was dozing when the police came. Chief Miler strode about the three rooms like a man looking for a burglar at midnight. He nudged the body of the neutroid with his foot. "What's this, Norris?" "The deviant we were about to destroy. I finished her with a wrench." "I thought you said there weren't any deviants." "As far as the public's concerned, there aren't. I couldn't see that it was any of your business. It still isn't." "I see. It may become my business, though. How'd the blast happen?" Norris told him the story up to the point of the detonation. "The light over the door was loose. Kept flickering on and off. Franklin reached up to tighten it. Must have been a little gas in the socket. Soon as he touched it—wham!" "Why was the door open with the gas on?" "I told you—we were checking the intakes. If you close the door, it starts the automatics. Then you can't get it open till the cycle's finished." "Where were you?" "I'd gone to cut off the gas again." "Okay, stay in the house until we're finished out here." When Norris went back in the house, his wife's white face turned slowly toward him. She sat stiffly by the living room window, looking sick. Her voice was quietly frightened. "Terry, I'm sorry about everything." "Skip it." "What did you do?" He grinned sourly. "I adapted to an era. Did you find the instruments?" She nodded. "What are they for?" "To cut off a tail and skin a tattooed foot. Go to the store and buy some brown hair-dye and a pair of boy's trousers, age two. Peony's going to get a crewcut. From now on, she's Mike." "We're class-C, Terry! We can't pass her off as our own." "We're class-A, honey. I'm going to forge a heredity certificate." Anne put her face in her hands and rocked slowly to and fro. "Don't feel bad, baby. It was Franklin or a little girl. And from now on, it's society or the Norrises." "What'll we do?" "Go to Atlanta and work for Anthropos. I'll take up where Delmont left off." "Terry!" "Peony will need a husband. They may find all of Delmont's males. I'll make her one. Then we'll see if a pair of chimp-Ks can do better than their makers." Wearily, he stretched out on the sofa. " What about that priest? Suppose he tells about Peony. Suppose he guesses about Franklin and tells the police?" "The police," he said, "would then smell a motive. They'd figure it out and I'd be finished. We'll wait and see. Let 's don't talk; I'm tired. We'll just wait for Miler to come in." She began rubbing his temples gently, and he smiled. "So we wait," she said. "Shall I read to you, Terry?" "That would be pleasant," he murmured, closing his eyes.

She slipped away, but returned quickly. He heard the rustle of dry pages and smelled musty leather. Then her voice came, speaking old words softly. And he thought of the small child-thing lying peacefully in her cage while angry men stalked about her. A small life with a mind; she came into the world as quietly as a thief, a burglar in the crowded house of Man. " I will send my fear before thee, and I will destroy the peoples before whom thou shalt come, sending hornets to drive out the Hevite and the Canaanite and the Hethite before thou enterest the land. Little by little I will drive them out before thee, till thou be increased, and dost possess the land. Then shalt thou be to me a new people, and I to thee a God . . ." And on the quiet afternoon in May, while he waited for the police to finish puzzling in the kennels, it seemed to Terrell Norris that an end to scheming and pushing and arrogance was not too far ahead. It should be a pretty good world then. He hoped Man could fit into it somehow.

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