"I have my reasons -- but they have nothing to do with medicine."
"Oh -- I see. Ethical." The interne's voice was faintly sarcastic.
"Manners, Doctor -- manners." Kennon's voice was gentle but the interne flushed a dull red.
"Don't mention it. It's normal for a graduate to confuse liberty with license." Kennon smiled. "Don't worry. I shan't report you."
"That's good of you, sir." Smalley's face registered relief. Demerits were difficult to erase -- particularly ones of courtesy.
Kennon wondered if the young man would report himself. He doubted it. The interne didn't look the type -- probably he was dated for some obscure job, like a general practitioner. He shrugged. It took all kinds to make a profession. Even the Smalleys had their place.
"That girl you brought in," Smalley said as they entered a white car emblazoned with the three crosses, red, blue, and green, that represented the three fields of medicine. "She's an interesting case. I've never seen space shock before. And the patient herself -- one would hardly believe she was a Betan."
"She isn't," Kennon said.
"So?" Blond eyebrows rose in inverted U's of surprise. "But that's hardly possible. Our tests indicate-"
"Don't you think that this is a matter for Dr. Brainard?" Kennon said icily. "Protocol--"
"Of course. Stupid of me -- but the case is so interesting. Half the center staff have seen her already. I wasn't proposing to discuss the case. It wouldn't be proper. Even though you are only a veterinarian."
"Only?" Kennon's voice was hard. "I shouldn't have to remind you of this, Mr. Smalley -- but I have been for the past two years on a world of bad manners. I expected better here at home."
Smalley flushed to the roots of his straw-colored hair. "Sorry, Doctor," he muttered. "I don't know what's the matter with me."
"I can tell you," Kennon said. "You've just graduated."
"How did you know?" Smalley said.
"I was a graduate once, myself -- not too long ago."
"How long, sir?"
"Class of Eighty-seven."
"That's twelve years ago," Smalley said.
Kennon nodded. Ten years lost. Not bad -- not bad at all. But Alexander could have done a lot in ten years.
"I meant no disrespect," Smalley said worriedly.
"I know it. But if you intend to practice on Beta, you'd better polish your professional manner. Now where I was, it didn't make much difference. Laymen often called me 'Doc.'"
Smalley was properly shocked. "I hope you didn't encourage them, sir."
"It was impossible to discourage them," Kennon said. "After all, when the man who hires you----"
"Oh -- entrepreneurs," Smalley said in a tone that explained everything.
The car stopped in front of the Medical Center's staff entrance. "This way, sir," Smalley said. He led the way down a green-tiled corridor to an elevator -- then down another corridor past a pair of soft-footed nurses who eyed them curiously -- looking at Kennon's tunic and sandals with mild disapproval in their eyes. Smalley stopped and knocked softly on a closed door.
"Enter," said a pleasant baritone voice from the annunciator.
"Dr. Brainard -- Dr. Kennon," Smalley said.
Kennon liked the man instantly. A plump, pink-cheeked man of middle age, with prematurely white hair, Dr. Will Brainard combined a fatherly appearance with an impression of quick intelligence. The fat that sheathed his stocky body had obviously not touched his mind. Brainard rose from the deep chair near the window where he had been sitting, knocked the ashes from his pipe, and bowed stiffly. His eyes -- sharp points of blue in the smooth pinkness of his face - surveyed Kennon curiously.
"So you're the young man who takes untrained pregnant women for rides in old-fashioned spacers," he said. "Didn't you know what would happen?"
"I was in a hurry, Doctor," Kennon said.
"Obviously. Now tell me about it." Brainard looked at the eager-faced interne standing behind Kennon. "That will be all, Smalley," he said.
Kennon waited until the door closed. "Ordinarily," he said, "I'd never have done a thing like that, but there were some very pressing reasons. However, I should have given her an injection of Somnol before we started. I'm criminally liable. If anything happens to her----" His voice was tight with worry.
"You'd give her an injection?" Brainard said. "I hope you didn't mean that."
"But I did, sir. I've given thousands of Lani injections."
"What's a Lani?"
"She is, sir. The impression has been that her race isn't human."
"Nonsense -- it's obvious she is."
"A Brotherhood Court of Inquiry didn't think so."
"Hmm. Is that so?"
"Yes, sir. -- But before I go on, tell me, how is she?"
"Oh, she'll be fine. A little mental therapy and plenty of rest are all she needs. She's a remarkably healthy young woman. But this is beside the point. There are a number of unusual features about this case that need investigation." Brainard took a standard hospital form from his desk. "Mind if I ask you some questions, Doctor?"
"Not at all but you are due for some unpleasant shocks as you go through that form."
"I believe I can survive them," Brainard said dryly.
"This is professional confidence---" Kennon began.
"Of course, of course," Brainard said impatiently. "Now let's get on with it."
"This is the most amazing tale I've ever heard," Brainard said slowly. "Are you certain you are telling the truth?"
Kennon grinned. "I don't blame you for not believing me -- but the evidence is conclusive, and there is enough documentary evidence in the space ship -- and in the fact of the ship itself to prove what I am saying. Laboratory tests here will establish the fact that Copper's child is also mine. And as for Flora, a Brotherhood Investigation Team can prove that part."
"That will be attended to," Brainard said grimly.
"But how did you deduce she wasn't from a Betan colony?" Kennon asked.
Brainard smiled. "That wasn't hard. Her sun tan and the condition of her feet proved she was a practicing nudist. No Betan girl ever practices nudism to my knowledge. Besides, the I.D. tattoo under her left arm and the V on her hip are no marks of our culture. Then there was another thing -- the serological analysis revealed no gerontal antibodies. She had never received an injection of longevity compound in her life. This might occur, but it's highly improbable. The evidence indicates that she's extra-Betan."
"But this business of her being fifteen years old! That's impossible. She has the development of a woman of twenty-five."
"Remember the Alpha V colony?" Kennon said.
"Of course -- oh -- I see! It could be something like that. Certainly -- strong yellow G-type sun -- an isolated colony serviced at twenty-year intervals -- there was a marked physical precocity."
"And if this had been continued for several millennia?" Kennon asked.
"Hmm -- I see. Yes, it's possible. On Alpha V the colonists grew from infancy to maturity in fifteen years."
"And wasn't Heaven one of our early colonies?"
"Yes -- it was established after the Great Schism near the end of the First Millennium -- when science and religion split irrevocably on this world. We packed the whole lot of them off to a world of their own where they could develop as they pleased. They called it Heaven -- odd name for a fogworld - but there's no accounting for tastes." Brainard chuckled.
"I thought that was the case, but I couldn't remember. My ancient history is pretty weak."
"You should read more," Brainard said. "But as I see it -- this girl is of Betan ancestry providing your theory and the facts coincide."
"Which could also explain why an outworld species of agerone would be toxic. They tried to prolong Lani life and met with failure. Our plants are mutant forms."
"Just as we are a mutant race," Brainard said, "or partly mutant." He sighed. "You have brought us a great deal of trouble, Kennon. You are bringing matters to a head. If our investigations prove your statements, we are morally bound to open the Lani question. And if those people are of Betan origin -- that fellow Alexander will have plenty to answer for."
"I don't believe it is really his fault," Kennon said slowly. "I don't think he has ever known the truth."
"Why didn't you tell him?"
"The answer to that should be obvious. Even though I trusted him completely, I could never be sure. He has a Free Trader background and those people can't he trusted where money's concerned. The whole Kardonian culture is an outgrowth of Free Traderism: small business, independent corporation, linear trusts, and all the cutthroat competition such a culture would naturally have. It's a regular jungle of Free Enterprise. I couldn't predict how he would react. He could either act in a moral manner and make restitution, or he could quietly cut our throats and go on with his business."
"I see. The temptation to cut a throat might be overwhelming."
"They fight commercial wars," Kennon said.
"Disgusting -- utterly uncivilized! Under the circumstances you had no other course. Still, they have no moral right to enslave human beings."
"There is always the element of doubt. Maybe they didn't know. After all, an impartial court declared the Lani alien - and the Betan mutation isn't known throughout the Brotherhood."
"One doesn't go around broadcasting data on the variations of one's germ plasm," Brainard said. "That's a private affair - a matter of personal privacy."
"And public safety?"
Brainard nodded. "We're no more courageous than any other civilization. We have no desire to borrow trouble. We are content to leave things alone."
"That's the trouble," Kennon said. "We're all content to leave things alone. If I hadn't found the spaceship I'd not have been able to lay aside my moral conditioning. And if I had not, Copper would not have become pregnant and forced me into these drastic actions. It's even possible that I would have done nothing." He grimaced. "And when I left Alexander's employment mnemonic erasure would have removed all memory of the Lani's human origin." He shrugged. "I still am not certain that it wouldn't have been the wiser course. Naturally, once I knew, I couldn't do anything else than what I did."
"Naturally," Brainard said. "Humanity reaches the heights when it faces questions of moral responsibility."
"To mankind," Kennon added heavily. "We have a convenient blind spot regarding our moral responsibility to other intelligent races."
"A harsh fact, but true -- and who is to judge whether it is right or wrong? We achieved dominance of Earth by our moral responsibility to family, tribe, and nation -- and we nearly exterminated ourselves when we forgot that this responsibility went beyond nations and embraced all mankind. We learned that after the Exodus. As for the other races - perhaps someday we will learn moral responsibility for all intelligence -- but we are not ready for that yet. That's too big a mental hurdle." Brainard sighed. "We are what we are, and we change slowly. But we change."
"True enough," Kennon said. "But it's hard to be philosophical about it."
"You're young. Live a couple of centuries and you will understand patience."
"You know," Brainard said thoughtfully,"you still have plenty of things to do."
"I know. I'll have to make a transcript of this discussion, have it witnessed, and make a sealed record. I have to arrange for the reposition of the evidence inside the Egg, and a complete recording of the Egg itself."
"And to be safe you'll need several facsimiles, properly attested. The arms of these outworld entrepreneurs are long, and unfortunately not all Betans are models of honesty."
"I'd better get started then."
"Let me help you,"Brainard said. "I have a little influence in this area - and your cause interests me." He picked up the phone on his desk.
Kennon sighed. He had found an ally.
"What are you going to do with that girl?" Brainard asked.
"Formalize our mating as soon as she is able to get out of bed," Kennon replied.
"She is an ignorant, untrained savage!" Brainard protested. "You should hear the stories the nurses tell about her!"
Kennon chuckled. "You don't have to tell me about those. I've lived with Lani for two years. But she's not stupid."
"What are your plans?"
"After we establish her humanity legally," Kennon said, "I'm going to send her to school."
"For twenty years?"