Thurmon sighed, then reached over and placed a scroll in the scanner. "I have already gone into that question with research technicians," he said. "And I have the figures here." He switched on the scanner and began to read.
"The average nubile female, aged thirteen to twenty-one, is two feet, ten inches high and weighs forty-eight pounds." Thurmon flicked the switch again and peered up. "I don't think I'll bother with pelvic measurements," he said. "You can already see that giving birth to a six or seven-pound infant is a physical impossibility under the circumstances. It cannot be done."
"But surely there must be some larger females! Perhaps a system of selective breeding, on a gradual basis-"
"You're talking in terms of generations. We haven't got that much time." Thurmon shook his head. "No, we're stopped right here. We can't get normal babies without normal women, and the only normal women are those who began life as normal babies."
"Which comes first?" Littlejohn murmured. "The chicken or the egg?"
"Nothing. Just an old saying. From history."
Thurmon frowned. "Apparently, then, that's all you can offer in your professional capacity as an historian. Just some old sayings." He sighed. "Too bad you don't know some old prayers. Because we need them now."
He bowed his head, signifying the end of the interview.
Littlejohn rolled out of the room.
His 'copter took him back to his own dwelling, back across the rooftops of New Chicagee. Ordinarily, Littlejohn avoided looking down. He dreaded heights, and the immensity of the city itself was somehow appalling. But now he gazed upon the capital and center of civilization with a certain morbid affection.
New Chicagee had risen on the ashes of the old, after the war's end. Use of thermo-nucs had been limited, fortunately, so radioactivity did not linger, and the vast craters hollowed out by ordinary warheads had been partially filled by rubble and debris. Artificial fill had done the rest of the job, so that now New Chicagee was merely a flat prairie as it must have been hundreds of years ago-a flat prairie on which the city had been resurrected. There were almost fifty thousand people here in the capital; the largest congregation of population on the entire continent. They had built well and surely this time, built for the security and certainty of centuries to come.
Littlejohn sighed. It was hard to accept the fact that they had been wrong; that all this would end in nothingness. They had eliminated war, eliminated disease, eliminated famine, eliminated social inequality, injustice, disorders external and internal-and in so doing, they had eliminated themselves.
The sun was setting in the west, and long shadows crept over the city below. Yes, the sun was setting and the shadows were gathering, the night was coming to claim its own. Darkness was falling, eternal darkness.
It was quite dark by the time Littlejohn's 'copter landed on the rooftop of his own dwelling; so dark, in fact, that for a moment he didn't see the strange vehicle already standing there. Not until he had settled into his coasterchair did he notice the presence of the other 'copter, and then it was too late. Too late to do anything except sit and stare as the gigantic shadow loomed out of the night, silhouetted against the sky.
The shadow shambled forward, and Littlejohn gaped, gaped in terror at the titanic figure. He opened his mouth to speak, but words did not form; there were no words to form, for how does one address an apparition?
Instead, it was the apparition which spoke.
"I have been waiting for you," it said.
"I want to talk to you." The voice was deep, menacing.
Littlejohn shifted in his coasterchair. There was nowhere to go, no escape. He gazed up at the shadow. Finally he summoned a response. "Shall we go inside?" he asked.
The figure shook its head. "Where? Down into that dollhouse of yours? It isn't big enough. I've already been there. What I have to say can be said right here."
"W-who are you?"
The figure stepped forward, so that its face was illuminated by the fluorescence streaming from the open door which led to the inclined chairway descending to Littlejohn's dwelling.
Littlejohn could see the face, now-the gigantic, wrinkled face, scarred and seared and seamed. It was a human face, but utterly alien to the humanity Littlejohn knew. Faces such as this one had disappeared from the earth a lifetime ago. At least, history had taught him that. History had not prepared him for the actual living presence of a- "Naturalist!" Littlejohn gasped. "You're a Naturalist! Yes, that's what you are!"
The apparition scowled.
"I am not a Naturalist. I am a man."
"But you can't be! The war-"
"I am very old. I lived through your war. I have lived through your peace. Soon I shall die. But before I do, there is something else which must be done."
"You've come here to kill me?"
"Perhaps." The looming figure moved closer and stared down. "No, don't try to summon help. When your servants saw me, they fled. You're alone now, Littlejohn."
"You know my name."
"Yes, I know your name. I know the names of everyone on the council. Each of them has a visitor tonight."
"Then it is a plot, a conspiracy?"
"We have planned this very carefully, through the long years. It's all we lived for, those few of us who survived the war."
"But the council wasn't responsible for the war! Most of us weren't even alive, then. Believe me, we weren't to blame-"
"I know." The gigantic face creased in senile simulation of a smile. "Nobody was ever to blame for anything, nobody was ever responsible. That's what they always told me. I mustn't hate mankind for multiplying, even though population created pressure and pressure created panic that drove me mad. I mustn't blame Leffingwell for solving the overpopulation problem, even though he used me as a guinea-pig in his experiments. I mustn't blame the Yardsticks for penning me up in prison until revolution broke out, and I mustn't blame the Naturalists for bombing the place where I took refuge. So whose fault was it that I've gone through eighty years of assorted hell? Why did I, Harry Collins, get singled out for a lifetime of misery and misfortune?" The huge old man bent over Littlejohn's huddled form. "Maybe it was all a means to an end. A way of bringing me here, at this moment, to do what must be done."
"Don't harm me-you're not well, you're-"
"Crazy?" The old man shook his head. "No, I'm not crazy. Not now. But I have been, at times, during my life. Perhaps we all are, when we attempt to face up to the complications of an average existence, try to confront the problems which are too big for a single consciousness to cope with in a single life-span. I've been crazy in the city, and crazy in the isolation of a cell, and crazy in the welter of war. And perhaps the worst time of all was when I lost my son.
"Yes, I had a son, Littlejohn. He was one of the first, one of Leffingwell's original mutations, and I never knew him very well until the revolution came and we went away together. He was a doctor, my boy, and a good one. We spent almost five years together and I learned a lot from him. About medicine, but that wasn't important then. I'm thinking of what I learned about love. I'd always hated Yardsticks, but my son was one, and I came to love him. He had plans for rebuilding the world, he and I and the rest of us. We were going to wait until the revolution ended and then help restore sanity in civilization.
"But the Naturalists flew over and dropped their bomb, and my boy died. Over four hundred of our group died there in the canyon-four hundred who might have changed the fate of the world. Do you think I can forget that? Do you think I and the few others who survived have ever forgotten? Can you blame us if we did go crazy? If we hid away out there in the western wilderness, hid away from a world that had offered us nothing but death and destruction, and plotted to bring death and destruction to that world in return?
"Think about it for a moment, Littlejohn. We were old men, all of us, and the world had given us only its misery to bear during our lifetimes. The world we wanted to save was destroying itself; why should we be concerned with its fate or future?
"So we changed our plans, Littlejohn. Perhaps the shock had been too much. Instead of plotting to rebuild the world, we turned our thoughts to completing its destruction. Our tools and texts were gone, buried in the rubble with the bodies of fine young men. But we had our minds. Crazed minds, you'd call them-but aware of reality. The grim reality of the post-revolutionary years.
"We burrowed away in the desert. We schemed and we dreamed. From time to time we sent out spies. We knew what was going on. We knew the Naturalists were gone, that six-footers had vanished from a Yardstick world. We knew about the rehabilitation projects. We watched your people gradually evolve new patterns of living and learning. Some of the former knowledge was rescued, but not all. Our little group had far more learning than you've ever dreamed of. Fifty of us, between ourselves, could have surpassed all your scientists in every field.
"But we watched, and we waited. And some of us died of privation and some of us died of old age. Until, at last, there were only a dozen of us to share the dream. The dream of destruction. And we knew that we must act swiftly, or not at all.
"So we came into the world, cautiously and carefully, moving unobtrusively and unobserved. We wanted to contemplate the corruption, seek out the weaknesses in your degenerate civilization. And we found them, immediately. Those weaknesses are everywhere apparent, for they are physical. You're one of a dying race, Littlejohn. Mankind's days are numbered. There's no need for grandiose schemes of reactivating warheads in buried missile-centers, of loosing thermo-nucs upon the world. Merely by killing off the central council here in New Chicagee, we can accomplish our objective. A dozen men die, and there's not enough initiative left to replace them. It's as simple as that. And as complicated."
Harry Collins nodded. "Yes, as complicated. Because the only weaknesses we've observed are physical ones. We've seen enough of the ways of this new civilization to realize that.
"All of the things I hated during my lifetime have disappeared now-the crowding, the competition, the sordid self-interest, the bigotry, intolerance, prejudice. The anti-social aspects of society are gone. There is only the human race, living much closer to the concept of Utopia than I ever dreamed possible. You and the other survivors have done well, Littlejohn."
"And yet you come to kill us."
"We came for that purpose. Because we still retained the flaws and failings of our former cultures. We looked for targets to blame, for villains to hate and destroy. Instead, we found this reality.
"No, I'm not crazy, Littlejohn. And I and my fellows aren't here to execute revenge. We have returned to the original plan; the plan Leffingwell had, and my son, and all the others who worked in their own way for their dream of a better world. We come now to help you. Help you before you die-before we die."
Littlejohn looked up and sighed. "Why couldn't this have happened before?" he murmured. "It's too late now."
"But it isn't too late. My friends are here. They are telling your fellow council-members the same thing right now. We may be old, but we can still impart what we have learned. There are any number of technological developments to be made. We can help you to increase your use of atomic power. There's soil reclamation and irrigation projects and biological techniques-"
"You said it yourself," Littlejohn whispered. "We're a dying race. That's the primary problem. And it's an insoluble one. Just this afternoon-" And he told him about the interview with Thurmon.
"Don't you understand?" Littlejohn concluded. "We have no solution for survival. We're paying the price now because for a while we wouldn't heed history. We tried to defeat Nature and in the end Nature has defeated us. Because we would not render unto Caesar the things which are-"
Harry Collins smiled. "That's it," he said.
"Caesar. That's the answer. Your own medical men must have records. I know, because I learned medicine from my son. There used to be an operation, in the old days, called a caesarean section-used on normal women and on dwarfs and midgets too, in childbirth. If your problem is how to deliver normal children safely, the technique can be revived. Get hold of some of your people. Let's see what data you have on this. I'll be glad to furnish instruction-"
There was excitement after that. Too much excitement for Littlejohn. By the time the council had assembled in emergency session, by the time plans were formulated and he returned to his own dwelling in the helicopter, he was completely exhausted. Only the edge of elation sustained him; the realization that a solution had been found.
As he sank into slumber he knew that he would sleep the clock around.
And so would Harry Collins. The old man and his companions, now guests of the council, had been temporarily quartered in the council-chambers. It was the only structure large enough to house them and even so they had to sleep on the floor. But it was sufficient comfort for the moment.
It was many hours before Harry Collins awoke. His waking was automatic, for the tiny telescreen at the end of the council room glowed suddenly, and the traditional voice chirped forth to interrupt his slumber.
"Good morning," said the voice. "It's a beautiful day in New Chicagee!"
Harry stared at the screen and then he smiled.
"Yes," he murmured. "But tomorrow will be better."
THE LANI PEOPLE.
by J. F. Bone
The boxed ad in the opportunities section of the Kardon Journal of Allied Medical Sciences stood out like a cut diamond in a handful of gravel. "Wanted," it read, "Veterinarian - for residency in active livestock operation. Single recent graduate preferred. Quarters and service furnished. Well-equipped hospital. Five-year contract, renewal option, starting salary 15,000 cr./annum with periodic increases. State age, school, marital status, and enclose recent tri-di with application. Address Box V-9, this journal."
Jac Kennon read the box a second time. There must be a catch to it. Nothing that paid a salary that large could possibly be on the level. Fifteen thousand a year was top pay even on Beta, and an offer like this for a new graduate was unheard of - unless Kardon was in the middle of an inflation. But Kardon wasn't. The planet's financial status was A-1. He knew. He'd checked that immediately after landing. Whatever might be wrong with Kardon, it wasn't her currency. The rate of exchange was 1.2-1 Betan.
A five-year contract - hmm - that would the seventy-five thousand. Figure three thousand a year for living expenses, that would leave sixty-plenty of capital to start a clinic. The banks couldn't turn him down if he had that much cash collateral.
Kennon chuckled wryly. He'd better get the job before he started spending the money he didn't have. He had 231 credits plus a few halves, tenths, and hundredths, a diploma in veterinary medicine, some textbooks, a few instruments, and a first-class spaceman's ticket. By watching his expenses he had enough money to live here for a month and if nothing came of his efforts to find a job on this planet, there was always his spaceman's ticket and another world.
Another world! There were over six thousand planets in the Brotherhood of Man. At two months per planet, not figuring transit time, it would take more than a thousand Galactic Standard years to visit them all, and a man could look forward to scarcely more than five hundred at best. The habitat of Man had become too large. There wasn't time to explore every possibility.
But a man could have certain standards, and look until he found a position that fitted. The trouble was - if the standards were too high the jobs were too scarce. Despite the chronic shortage of veterinarians throughout the Brotherhood, there was a peculiar reluctance on the part of established practitioners to welcome recent graduates. Most of the ads in the professional journals read "State salary desired," which was nothing more than economic blackmail - a bald-faced attempt to get as much for as little as possible. Kennon grimaced wryly. He'd be damned if he'd sell his training for six thousand a year. Slave labor, that's what it was. There were a dozen ads like that in the Journal. Well, he'd give them a trial, but he'd ask eight thousand and full GEA benefits. Eight years of school and two more as an intern were worth at least that.
He pulled the portable voicewrite to a comfortable position in front of the view wall and began composing another of the series of letters that had begun months ago in time and parsecs away in space. His voice was a fluid counterpoint to the soft hum of the machine.
And as he dictated, his eyes took in the vista through the view wall. Albertsville was a nice town, too young for slums, too new for overpopulation. The white buildings were the color of winter butter in the warm yellow sunlight as the city drowsed in the noonday heat. It nestled snugly in the center of a bowl-shaped valley whose surrounding forest clad hills gave mute confirmation to the fact that Kardon was still primitive, an unsettled world that had not yet reached the explosive stage of population growth that presaged maturity. But that was no disadvantage. In fact, Kennon liked it. Living could be fun on a planet like this.
It was abysmally crude compared to Beta, but the Brotherhood had opened Kardon less than five hundred years ago, and in such a short time one couldn't expect all the comforts of civilization.
It required a high population density to supply them, and while Kardon was integrated its population was scarcely more than two hundred million. It would be some time yet before this world would achieve a Class I status. However, a Class II planet had some advantages. What it lacked in conveniences it made up in opportunities and elbow room.
A normal Betan would have despised this world, but Kennon wasn't normal, although to the casual eye he was a typical representative of the Medico-Technological Civilization, long legged, fair haired, and short bodied with the typical Betan squint that left his eyes mere slits behind thick lashes and heavy brows. The difference was internal rather than external.
Possibly it was due to the fact that his father was the commander of a Shortliner and most of his formative years had been spent in space. To Kennon, accustomed to the timeless horror of hyper space, all planets were good, broad open places where a man could breathe unfiltered air and look for miles across distances unbroken by dually bulk heads and safety shields. On a planet there were spaciousness and freedom and after the claustrophobic confinement of a hyper ship any world was paradise. Kennon sighed, finished his letters, and placed them in the mail chute. Perhaps, this time, there would be a favorable reply.
Kennon was startled by the speed with which his letters were answered. Accustomed to the slower pace of Beta he had expected a week would elapse before the first reply, but within twenty-four hours nine of his twelve inquiries were returned. Five expressed the expected "Thank you but I feel that your asking salary is a bit high in view of your lack of experience." Three were frankly interested and requested a personal interview. And the last was the letter, outstanding in its quietly ostentatious folder-the reply from Box V-9.
"Would Dr. Kennon call at 10 A.M. tomorrow at the offices of Outworld Enterprises Incorporated and bring this letter and suitable identifications? Kennon chuckled. Would he? There was no question about it. The address, 200 Central Avenue, was only a few blocks away. In fact, he could see the building from his window, a tall functional block of durilium and plastic, soaring above the others on the street, the sunlight gleaming off its clean square lines. He eyed it curiously, wondering what he would find inside.
The receptionist took his I.D. and the letter, scanned them briefly, and slipped them into one of the message tubes beside her desk. "It will only be a moment, Doctor," she said impersonally. "Would you care to sit down? '"
Thank you," he said. The minute, reflected, could easily be an hour. But she was right. It was only a minute until the message tube clicked and popped a capsule onto the girl's desk. She opened it, and removed Kennon's I.D. and a small yellow plastic rectangle. Her eyes widened at the sight of the plastic card.
"Here you are, Doctor. Take shaft number one. Slip the card into the scanner slot and you'll be taken to the correct floor. The offices you want will be at the end of the corridor to the left. You'll find any other data you may need on the card in case you get lost." She looked at him with a curious mixture of surprise and respect as she handed him the contents of the message tube.
Kennon murmured an acknowledgment, took the card and his I.D., and entered the grav-shaft. There was the usual moment of heaviness as the shaft whisked him upward and deposited him in front of a thickly carpeted corridor.
Executive level, Kennon thought as he followed the receptionist's directions. No wonder she had looked respectful. But what was he doing here? The employment of a veterinarian wasn't important enough to demand the attention of a senior executive. The personnel section could handle the details of his application as well as not. He shrugged. Perhaps veterinarians were more important on Kardon. He didn't know a thing about this world's customs.