Photographs and tri-dis would have to be taken, the parasite would have to be identified and its sensitivity to therapy determined. Studies would have to be made on its life cycle, and the means by which it gained entrance to its host. It wouldn't be simple, because this trematode was probably Hepatodirus hominis, and it was tricky. It adapted, like the species it parasitized.
Kennon leaned back from the microscope and studied the illustrations in the parasitology text. No matter how much Hepatodirus changed its life cycle, it could not change its adult form. The arrangements of the suckers and genital structures were typical. Old Doc's library on parasites was too inadequate for more than diagnosis. He would have to wait for his own books to be uncrated before he could do more than apply symptomatic treatment. He sighed and rose slowly to his feet. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day.
The door opened behind Mm and Copper slipped quietly into the office. She looked at him curiously, a faint half-shy smile on her face.
"What is it?" Kennon asked.
"Are you ready to fill out the autopsy protocol? It's customary."
"It's also customary to knock on a door before entering."
"Is it? Old Doc never mentioned it."
"I'm not Old Doc."
"No, you're not," she admitted. "You're much younger - and far more beautiful. Old Doc was a fat, gray old man." She paused and eyed Kennon appraisingly with a look on her pointed face that was the virtual twin of Eloise's. "I think I'll like working for you if you're as nice as you are pretty."
"You don't call a man beautiful or pretty!" Kennon exploded.
"It just isn't done"
"You're a funny human," she said. "I called Old Doc beautiful, and he didn't mind."
"That's different. He was an old man."
"What difference does that make?"
"I don't like it," Kennon said, hitting on the perfect answer.
She stiffened. "I'm sorry, Doctor. I won't do it again." She looked down at him, head cocked sideways. "I guess I have a lot to learn about you. You're much different from Old Doc. He didn't snap at me." She paused for a moment, then drew a deep breath.
"About that report," she said. "Regulations require that each post-mortem be reported promptly and that a record of the Lani concerned be posted in the death book together with all pertinent autopsy data. Man Blalok is very fussy about proper records." She drew one of the chairs to a spot beside the desk and sat down, crossed her long legs, and waited expectantly.
Kennon's mouth was suddenly dry. This situation was impossible. How in the name of Sir Arthur Fleming could he dictate a coldly precise report with a naked redhead sitting beside him? "Look," he said. "I won't need you. I can operate a voicewriter. You can pick up the material later and transcribe it."
Her face fell. "You don't like me," she said, her green eyes filling with quick tears. "Old Doc never---"
"Oh, damn Old Doc!" Kennon snapped. "And stop that sniveling -- or get out. Better yet -- get out and stop sniveling!"
She leaped to her feet and fled.
Kennon swore. There was no reason for him to act that way. He had been more brutal than necessary. But the girl -- no, the Lani -- was disconcerting. He felt ashamed of himself. He had behaved like a primitive rather than a member of one of the oldest human civilizations in the galaxy. He wouldn't bark at a dog that way. He shook his head. Probably he was tired. Certainly he was irritable, and unclad females virtually indistinguishable from human weren't the most soothing objects to contemplate.
He wondered if his exasperation was real or merely a defense mechanism. First Eloise, and then this! Confound it! He was surrounded! He felt trapped. And it wasn't because he'd been away from women too long. A week was hardly that. He grinned as he recalled the blonde from Thule aboard the starship. Now there was a woman, even though her ears were pointed and her arms were too long. She didn't pressure a man. She let him make the advances.
He grinned. That was it. He was on the defensive. He was the one who was being pursued -- and his male ego had revolted. He shrugged and turned his attention to the autopsy report, but it was hopeless. He couldn't concentrate. He jotted a few notes and dropped them on the desk -- tomorrow would be time enough. What he needed now was a stiff drink and eight hours' sleep.
Kennon stopped at Blalok's house long enough to tell the superintendent what was causing the trouble. Blalok scowled. "We've never had flukes here before," he said. "Why should they appear now?"
"They've been introduced," Kennon said. "The thing that bothers me is how Dr. Williamson missed them."
"The old man was senile," Blalok said. "He was nearly blind the last six months of his life. I wouldn't doubt that he let his assistants do most of his work, and they could have missed them."
"Possibly, but the lesions are easy to see. At any rate, the culprit is known now."
"Hepatodirus hominis -- the human liver fluke. He's a tricky little fellow -- travels almost as far as men do."
"I'm glad it's your problem, not mine. All I can remember about flukes is that they're hard to eradicate."
"Particularly H. hominis."
"You can tell me about it later. Right now Mr. Alexander's over at Old -- your house. Probably he's looking for you."
"He went up to Station Fourteen. We'll see him tomorrow."
"I'll say good night then," Kennon said.
"I'm glad you're here. It's a load off my shoulders. See you tomorrow." Blalok waved a friendly good night and left the lights on long enough for Kennon to make his way to his quarters.
Alexander was seated in a heavily upholstered chair listening to a taped symphony in the stereo, his eyes half closed, an expression of peace on his face. An elderly Lani stood beside him. It was a comfortable picture.
The humanoid saw Kennon and gasped, a tiny indrawn sound of surprise. Alexander's eyes snapped open. "Oh -- it's you," he said. "Don't worry, Kara -- it's your new doctor."
Kara smiled. "You startled me," she said. "I was dreaming."
"On your feet?" Alexander interjected idly.
"I should have known you at once, Doctor. There's talk about you all over the yards, ever since you arrived."
"They know what is going on around here better than any of us," Alexander chuckled. "The grapevine is amazingly efficient. Well -- what's the story?"
"Hmm - not good."
"I think it can be stopped. I looked at the records. It doesn't seem to have been here too long."
"I hope you're right. How long will it take?"
"Several months, maybe a year, maybe more. I can't say. But I'll try to clean it up as quickly as possible. I'm pretty sure of the fluke, and it's a hard one to control."
"That's an offworld parasite, isn't it?"
"Yes. It originated on Santos. Parasitized the Varl originally, but liked humans better. It's adapted to a hundred different planetary environments, and it keeps spreading. It's a real cutie - almost intelligent the way it behaves. But it can be licked."
"Good - get on it right away."
"I'm starting tomorrow."
"Fine -- I thought you'd be the right man. Kara! Fix the doctor a drink. We might as well have a nightcap -- then I'll go back to the house and listen to Henry and Anne's screams about poor mistreated Douglas, and then back to Albertsville tomorrow. Duty and the credits call."
With mild surprise, Kennon realized that Alexander was drunk. Not obnoxiously, but enough to change his character. Intoxicated, he was a friendlier person. If there was any truth in the ancient cliche about alcohol bringing out a man's true character, then Alexander was basically a very nice person indeed.
"Well -- here's your home for the next five years," Alexander said. "Eight rooms, two baths, a freshener, and three Lani to keep the place running. You've got it made."
"Perhaps -- we'll see when we tackle this fluke infestation. Personally, I don't think I'm going to have an easy time. Tomorrow I'm going to be up to my neck in trouble trying to save your profits."
"You'll do it. I have confidence in you."
"I still think you should have hired a medic."
"This isn't all of your job," Alexander said. "And besides I can't afford to do it. Oh - not the money, but it might be admitting that the Lani might be human. And we've gone to a great deal of trouble to prove they're not." He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "There's a story behind this."
"I wouldn't doubt it."
"Maybe it'd be better if I told it. It goes back over four centuries. Grandfather was a clever man. After he had secured this island he became worried about the surviving Lani. He didn't want to be accused of genocide, since the Lani were so human in appearance. So he had his medical officer make a few autopsies. The M.D. reported that while there was similarity, the Lani were probably not human.
"That was enough for Grandfather. He requested a Court of Inquiry. The court was sitting in Halsey and the hearing was private. Even so, it leaked and Grandfather was highly unpopular for a time until the lab reports came in. It cost him over eight hundred Ems and nearly two years' time to finish the case, but when it was over the Lani were declared alien, and Grandfather had ironclad discovery rights.
"They really put him through the mill. Grandfather furnished the bodies and three court-appointed M.O.'s went through them with microscopes. They didn't miss a thing. Their reports are so detailed that they're classics of their kind. They're almost required reading for anyone who wants to learn Lani structure and function. The court rendered an interim decision that the Lani were nonhuman, and armed with this, Grandfather prepared the final tests which were run by a team of court-appointed medics and biologists, who made in vitro and live tests on a number of Lani female prisoners. The tests ran for over two years and were totally negative. So the Alexander family acquired Flora and the Otpens, and a legal status." Alexander stood up. "Well -- that's a capsule summary. The records are in the library if you'd care to check them."
"Just to prove we're honest." He moved carefully toward the door, opened it, and disappeared into the night.
Silently Kennon watched him descend the porch steps. He seemed steady enough. For a moment Kennon debated whether he should see him home -- and then decided against it. If Alexander needed help he'd have asked for it. As it was, it was better to leave things alone. Certainly he didn't know Alexander well enough to act as a guardian. He turned back to the living area. The stereo was playing something soft and nostalgic as Kennon sank into the chair Alexander had vacated. He let his body relax. It had been as full a day as he had ever spent filled with changes so abrupt that they were exhausting. He felt confused. There were no precedents he could apply. Neither his studies nor his travels had prepared him for living in a situation like this.
Legally and biologically the Lani weren't human. But they were intelligent, upright, bipedal mammals whose morphology was so close to man's that it had taken the ultimate test to settle their status. And being a Betan, Kennon was suspicious of the accuracy of that ultimate test.
But the Brotherhood of Man was based upon it. The feeling of unity that pervaded mankind's expanding empire was its product. From almost the beginning of mankind's leap to the stars it had been recognized that men must help each other or perish. The spirit of co-operation against the common enmity of alien worlds and cultures transcended the old petty rivalries on Earth. Men -- all men -- were brothers in arms.
And so the Brotherhood was born -- and the concept born of necessity developed its muscles in a thousand battles on a thousand hostile worlds. And ultimately it evolved into the only form of central authority that men would accept. Yet basically it was not a government. It was an attitude of mind. Men accepted its decisions as they would accept the rulings of a family council, and for the same reasons.
The Brotherhood laid down certain rules but it did not attempt to enforce them. After all, it didn't need to. It also arbitrated disputes, admitted new worlds to membership, and organized concerted human effort against dangerous enemies. And that was all. Yet in its sphere the authority of the Brotherhood was absolute.
There was only one criterion for membership in the Brotherhood -- membership in the human race. No matter how decadent or primitive a population might be, if it was human it was automatically eligible for Brotherhood - a free and equal partner in the society of human worlds.
Kennon doubted that any nonhuman race had ever entered the select circle of humanity, although individuals might have done so. A docked Lani, for instance, would probably pass unquestioned as a human, but the Lani race would not. In consequence they and their world were fair prey, and had been attacked and subjugated.
Of course, proof of inhumanity was seldom a problem. Most alien life forms were obviously alien. But there were a few -- like the Lani--where similarities were so close that it was impossible to determine their status on the basis of morphology alone. And so the Humanity Test had come into being.
Essentially it was based upon species compatibility -- on the concept that like can interbreed with like. Tests conducted on every inhabited world in the Brotherhood had proven this conclusively. Whatever changes had taken place in the somatic characteristics of mankind since the Exodus, they had not altered the compatibility of human germ plasm. Man could interbreed with man - aliens could not. The test was simple. The results were observable. And what was more important, everyone could understand it. No definition of humanity could be more simple or direct.
But was it accurate?
Like other Betans, Kennon wondered. It was -- so far - probably. The qualifying phrases were those of the scientist, that strange breed that refuses to accept anything as an established fact until it is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. After all, the human race had been spaceborne for only six thousand years -- scarcely time for any real differences to develop. But physical changes had already appeared -- and it would only be a question of time before these would probably be followed by genetic changes. And in some groups the changes might be extensive enough to make them genetic strangers to the rest of humanity.
What would happen then? No one knew. Actually no one bothered to think about it except for a few far-seeing men who worried as they saw.
Four words. But because of them the Betans were slowly withdrawing from the rest of humanity. Already the radiations of Beta's variant-G sun had produced changes in the population. Little things like tougher epidermis and depilation of body hair -- little things that held alarming implications to Beta's scientists, and to Beta's people. Not too many generations hence a Betan outside his home system would be a rarity, and in a few millennia the Betan system itself would be a closed enclave peopled by humans who had deviated too far from the basic stock to mingle with it in safety.
Of course, the Brotherhood itself might be changed by that time, but there was no assurance that this would happen. And mankind had a history of dealing harshly with its mutants. So Beta would play it safe.
Kennon wondered if there were other worlds in the Brotherhood that had come to the same conclusion. Possibly there were. And possibly there were worlds where marked deviations had occurred. There wasn't a year that passed that didn't bring some new human world into the Brotherhood, and many of these had developed from that cultural explosion during the First Millennium known as the Exodus, where small groups of colonists in inadequate ships set out for unannounced goals to homestead new worlds for man. Some of these survived, and many were being discovered even at this late date. But so far none had any difficulty in proving their human origin.
The Lani, conceivably, could have been descendants of one of these groups, which probably explained the extreme care the Brotherhood courts had taken with their case. But they had failed the test, and were declared animals. Yet it was possible that they had mutated beyond genetic compatibility. If they had, and if it were proved, here was a test case that could rock the galaxy -- that could shake the Brotherhood to its very foundations -- that could force a re-evaluation of the criteria of humanity.
Kennon grinned. He was a fine employee. Here he was, less than a full day on the job, dreaming how he could ruin his employer, shake the foundation of human civilization, and force ten thousand billion humans to change their comfortable habit patterns and their belief in the unchangeable sameness of men. He was, he reflected wryly, an incurable romantic.
"Wake up, Doctor, it's six A.M." A pleasant voice cut through Kennon's slumber. He opened one eye and looked at the room. For a moment the strange surroundings bothered him, then memory took over. He stirred uncomfortably, looking for the owner of the voice.
"You have your morning calls at seven, and there's a full day ahead," the voice went on. "I'm sorry, sir, but you should get up." The voice didn't sound particularly sorry.