dimecres, 31 d’agost de 2016

Ex-vector Commander Jim Channing strode purposefully to the reception desk of Planet Enterprises, Inc. "I want," he told the well-built blonde who was making an interested survey of his lean features, "to buy a planet." "Yes, sir." Her interest evaporated. She took a card from a filing cabinet and handed it to him. "If you will just fill this out." It was a simple questionnaire—type, location, size—and Channing's stylo moved rapidly over it. He hesitated only at the last, stark question, "How much are you prepared to pay?" Then he wrote neatly in the space provided "One hundred thousand credits." That was exactly the amount of his signing-off bonus. It also represented his total finances. The unimaginative minds that calculated the pay of a red-blooded space officer didn't take into account all the attractive ways of spending it that a rumbustious pioneer Vector provided. He gave the blonde the card and she wrote a name on it. The smile she gave him was altogether impersonal. She liked the look of the big, gangling fellow with "Space" written all over his bronzed face and crinkled blue eyes, but.... She said, "Will you come this way, please?" The name on the desk identified him as "Mr. Folan" and he was a tall, affable man. "I think we can suit you, Commander—er—Mr. Channing," he said, "though what we have in mind mightn't be quite as large as you wish. Earth-type planets come rather high, you know. Now if you were to choose a Sirius- or a Vega-type—" "Thank you, no," Jim said firmly. He had heard too much about the hazards of alien-type planets. "In that case," Mr. Folan said busily, "let's see what we have available." A month later the doors of the automatic shuttle slid across and admitted Jim Channing to the third planet of Phylox Beta. It also disgorged one spaceboat, a clutter of machinery, a thousand tons of strawberry plants and a fully equipped house. While he was still taking in the first glimpse of his future home, the massive doors slammed shut and the giant ship took off smoothly and silently. A moment later it winked into sub-space. He was in business. The planet possessed only one sizable island—it could hardly be dignified by the name of continent. The rest was covered by a vast ocean. Still, as Folan had explained, he couldn't really expect anything more—not in the line of an Earth-type, anyway—for the money. He spent a week figuring out the remote controls that operated the planting machinery. Once it clanked into operation, it worked entirely on its own. He had only to push a few buttons to send it lumbering in new directions and the big island steadily took on a resemblance to a huge strawberry patch while Channing fished and lounged in the sun. When the galactic trade agent came, the strawberries were waiting for him, neatly piled into a mountain of gleaming cans. He was a friendly, talkative little man, glad to exercise his tongue again after the lonely months in space. "What are you growing here?" he asked Channing. "Strawberries." The friendly smile disappeared. "Every planet in the Galaxy seems to be growing strawberries this year. I can't even give them away." "But I thought the Ursa Major colonies—" The little man shook his head. "So does everyone else. There's a million tons of strawberries the colonies can't use headed there already. Now if it was upklin seeds—" "Upklin seeds?" The agent looked at him in surprise. "You mean you haven't heard about upklin seeds?" "No. Not a thing." "Well, of course, you are a newcomer. It's this new race that's been discovered somewhere in The Sack. They are as rich as all get-out and they have a passion for upklin seeds. Trouble is they can't grow them on local planets and they are offering fancy prices to anybody that can supply them. I paid a thousand credits a bushel for them to your next-door neighbor on the fourth planet last week. Got a hundred bushels." Channing did a bit of mental arithmetic. A hundred thousand credits for one crop. Whew! "Could I grow them here?" The agent shook his head. "You need p


dimarts, 30 d’agost de 2016

A month later the doors of the automatic shuttle slid across and admitted Jim Channing to the third planet of Phylox Beta. It also disgorged one spaceboat, a clutter of machinery, a thousand tons of strawberry plants and a fully equipped house. While he was still taking in the first glimpse of his future home, the massive doors slammed shut and the giant ship took off smoothly and silently. A moment later it winked into sub-space. He was in business.
The planet possessed only one sizable island—it could hardly be dignified by the name of continent.
The rest was covered by a vast ocean. Still, as Folan had explained, he couldn't really expect anything more—not in the line of an Earth-type, anyway—for the money.
He spent a week figuring out the remote controls that operated the planting machinery. Once it clanked into operation, it worked entirely on its own. He had only to push a few buttons to send it lumbering in new directions and the big island steadily took on a resemblance to a huge strawberry patch while Channing fished and lounged in the sun.
When the galactic trade agent came, the strawberries were waiting for him, neatly piled into a mountain of gleaming cans. He was a friendly, talkative little man, glad to exercise his tongue again after the lonely months in space.
"What are you growing here?" he asked Channing.
The friendly smile disappeared. "Every planet in the Galaxy seems to be growing strawberries this year. I can't even give them away."
"But I thought the Ursa Major colonies—"
The little man shook his head. "So does everyone else. There's a million tons of strawberries the colonies can't use headed there already. Now if it was upklin seeds—"
"Upklin seeds?"
The agent looked at him in surprise. "You mean you haven't heard about upklin seeds?"
"No. Not a thing."
"Well, of course, you are a newcomer. It's this new race that's been discovered somewhere in The Sack. They are as rich as all get-out and they have a passion for upklin seeds. Trouble is they can't grow them on local planets and they are offering fancy prices to anybody that can supply them. I paid a thousand credits a bushel for them to your next-door neighbor on the fourth planet last week. Got a hundred bushels."
Channing did a bit of mental arithmetic. A hundred thousand credits for one crop. Whew!
"Could I grow them here?"
The agent shook his head. "You need plenty of soft marsh and a Jupiter-type atmosphere."
Then he had a sudden idea and he spoke long and seriously to Channing, explaining quite a few things that were new to him. Channing was still considering them, staring thoughtfully at the ground, after the little man left.

Next day Channing took off for the nearest sub-space center and a few hours later he was in Mr. Folan's office at Planet Enterprises, gingerly balancing his cap on his knee. Mr. Folan's sleek head nodded as Channing made his points and when he was finished the executive pressed a buzzer and called for the file.
"You realize, Mr. Channing," he said conversationally, as he turned over the pages, "that what you are asking will be a most expensive undertaking."
"I know that," Channing said eagerly, "but upklin seeds are such a sure-fire proposition that I thought Planet Enterprises might be willing to do the job on a percentage basis."
Mr. Folan wrote some figures on the margin of the folder and considered deeply. "Yes," he said at last, "I think it would work out on a seventy-thirty split."
Mr. Folan inclined his head graciously. "Seventy per cent for Planet Enterprises and thirty for yourself."
Channing said slowly, "That's a bit steep."
In a few brisk words, Mr. Folan showed just why he was an executive of Planet Enterprises, Inc. He gave Channing the figures for transforming the planet's characteristics to those of Jupiter; he told him what acreage of upklin seeds he could grow and the exact profit to be expected. Channing's share should be about one hundred and fifty thousand credits per crop.
Fighting a rearguard battle, Channing said, "Your three hundred and fifty thousand won't look so bad on the balance sheet, either."
Folan reeled off his figures again with practiced glibness. Channing had the sudden suspicion that his proposition wasn't entirely unexpected. But the figures sounded reasonable and he had to admit that Planet Enterprises was risking a great deal of money.
"Then there is the not inconsiderable cost of your own metamorphosis, Mr. Channing," Folan added.
"Huh?" said Channing.
There followed the most excruciating half-hour of Channing's life. Proposition followed explanation, counter-explanation followed counter-proposition. At the end of that time he emerged from the office with a stricken look and a small white card. The blonde receptionist read the look correctly and definitely and finally crossed him off her list.

For a jube, Ckm Dyk wasn't at all bad-looking. His four legs growing directly from the bottom of the muscular, hairy trunk were strong and sturdy—always a mark of handsomeness in a male, for the legs had to take most of the strain of a gravitational pull several times that of Earth. He had three flexible tentacles, a thin melon slice for a mouth, but nothing resembling a nose. He didn't need one, since he breathed through a set of gills at the sides of his head.
He remembered vaguely that he had once been Jim Channing, an Earthman, but the memory had nearly faded. He had been warned of that, that he would soon forget he had ever been anything except what he was now, but he had already forgotten the warning.
Phylox Beta III had changed, too, and in as great a degree. The wide ocean had become a turgid, soupy mush, covered by the trailing growths of the upklin flowers. The blue skies had turned an angry red and the sharp wind that rustled the hair on his squat body was almost pure methane.
He waddled down to the low disk-shaped skimmer and started the jets. As it pushed its way through the clinging masses of the upklin flowers, he surveyed his crop happily. This was his second crop and it promised to be even better than the first. He was going to be a very wealthy buk, he told himself. He could buy.... His mind floundered. He didn't know what Jubes longed for, what they sought wealth for. He was certain at the same time that there was a flaw in his contentment, that something was missing.
What he was missing dropped from the sky a few days later. It came in a spaceboat and was his neighbor from Phylox Beta IV. Her body hair was a rich golden brown and she wore pretty bracelets, studded with basim stones, on each of her four legs. Ckm Dyk's single eye, with its perpendicular outer eyelids and horizontal nictitating inner membranes to filter out the infra-red rays, shone with an emotion that was more than pleasure.
Her thoughts flooded his mind. There was a warm recognition of his admiration and a delicious suggestion that it wasn't unacceptable.
"The agent told me you were upklin farming. I came to see if I could be of any help," she told him.

The sentences rang like golden bells within his burgeoning consciousness. He tried to shape his answering thought coherently, but his lack of telepathic experience betrayed him. She flinched momentarily beneath the raw, undirected stream of passionate love that overwhelmed her mind.
Then an answering wave of shy, tender awareness and acquiescence laved his senses. Without the clumsy barrier of speech between them, they had scaled in a few pulsating moments the shining heights of love and devotion that human passion sometimes cannot find in a lifetime of searching.
Ckm Dyk had never been so happy. They decided to farm the two planets together so they could be with each other always. There was sound economic sense in this; with both of them helping, the output of each planet would be nearly doubled. It meant a huge increase in administrative and paper work for Ckm Dyk, but he didn't mind that. Often, as he pored over account books and production figures, a tremulous, shy devotion would envelop him in a gauzy mental cloud and he would lay down his stylo and answer Aln Muh with all the great love that surged within him.
As the months passed, his happiness increased. The perfect attunement of their minds excluded all the scalding jealousies and the offended silences of misunderstanding that can mar the most loving human relationships. They did not need to see each other; the physical presence of the beloved was unimportant; they loved more with their minds than with their bodies.
It seemed improbable that such a glorious idyll should ever be disturbed. Then, one morning, a shuttle-spacer came silently out of the red sky and landed beside the house. Ckm Dyk waddled toward it, impelled by a carefully built-in series of reflexes which he had completely forgotten about and entered its gaping maw. He never once looked at Aln Muh and the passionate entreaties that echoed through his mind only roused in him a dull irritation.

Jim Channing again found himself in Mr. Folan's office. The figures the tall, sleek-haired man was reading out to him made tuneful music. Even when Planet Enterprises' massive deduction was made, his share was comfortingly more than a million.
"Not bad payment, Mr. Channing, for five years of life! In any case, it's all over now—just a bad memory."
The executive smiled at him from his comfortable, familiar chair, aware of the torrents of confused thoughts hidden behind the gray eyes.
When he had come out of the stupor that succeeded the almost disintegrating effects of his re-metamorphosis, Jim Channing remembered clearly the terms of the bargain he had made. He was to become a Jube, a living nightmare, living in a nightmare world, for five years. At the end of that time, Planet Enterprises promised him, he would be given back his humanity and he would have earned enough money to keep him in luxury for the rest of his life.
They had kept their promise—to the letter. He felt it ungrateful of him that his paramount emotion was fury. He had been happy; no human attachment could ever make him as happy again. He longed for the glorious love and trust he had shared during that tremendous five years. Perhaps he had been a repulsive monster from whom any woman would run screaming. But he didn't want a woman. He wanted Aln Muh.
He said, picking his words with the greatest care, "Would a further metamorphosis be possible?"

Folan's jaw dropped. It was a question he'd never expected to hear from any of the men who had taken the terrible choice for the glittering reward he held out to them. Most of them had picked up their vouchers and asked the way to the nearest tavern; many of the alien races did not find alcohol compatible with their metabolisms. A few had inquired tentatively about his current receptionist. Planet Enterprises had a big turnover in pretty receptionists, but they didn't lose them to men who had been unhuman horrors for five years. One big red-haired character had wanted to start a private war against the Sirians, whose brother he had been until two days previously. But none of them had wanted to go back.
He said, "It's possible, Mr. Channing. But I must tell you that a second metamorphosis is very expensive—and it's permanent."
"You mean if I become a Jube again, I must stay one?"
The executive nodded.
Channing gestured toward the payment voucher.
"You said it was expensive. Is there enough there to cover it?"
Folan looked curiously at him. "Yes, more than enough."
He waited to hear what the big man would say next.
Channing licked dry lips. A terrible doubt assailed him. Maybe Aln Muh had been metamorphosed too. Maybe she had returned to her former self—whatever that may have been—while he sat here.
He looked down at the big, freckled hands resting on his knees. They were trembling and his palms felt moist. Without looking up, he asked, "Is the period of metamorphosis, always for a term of five years?"
"Invariably. No other term is possible in the present state of our knowledge of the technique—except permanency."
A great sigh escaped Channing. That was all right, then. Aln Muh was genuinely a Jube. The agent had told him about her—mentioned her by name, he remembered now—had said that she was upklin farming on the neighboring planet. If she had been metamorphosed, she would have been taken from him more than a year ago.
He tossed his cap on the table decisively and stood up.
"All right. I'll take the permanent treatment."

Ckm Dyk sucked the methane through his gills with satisfaction. It was good to be home again. He had forgotten already that he had ever been Jim Channing, that he would never be human again.
He did not know that less than five minutes after the shuttle-ship had borne him off to Galactic Enterprises, Aln Muh had sent her spaceboat hurtling toward the fiery orb of Phylox Beta, mad with the grief of having lost him. It would not have concerned him much if he had known.
Jubes make tender and devoted lovers, but they are notorious for their exceedingly bad memories.


dilluns, 29 d’agost de 2016

It all started with a Dutchman, a Pennsylvania Dutchman named Peter Scheinberger, who tilled a weather beaten farm back in the hills. A strong, wiry man he was—his arms were knotted sections of solid hickory forming themselves into gnarled hands and twisted stubs of fingers. His furrowed brow, dried by the sun and cracked in a million places by the wind was well irrigated by long rivulets of sweat. When he went forth in the fields behind his horse and plow, it wasn't long before his hair was plastered down firmly to his scalp. The salty water poured out of the deep rings in his ruddy neck and ran down his dark brown back. As he grew older the skin peeled and grew loose. It hung on him in folds like the brittle hide of a rhino. It seemed that the more years he spent in his fields behind the plow horse, the more he slipped back into the timeless tradition of his forefathers. He was a proud descendant of a long line of staunch German settlers commonly known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. He grew up in his fundamental, religious sect having never known any other environment. He was exposed to the sun, soil, and wind from the early days of his childhood, and along with the elements he also was exposed to the evils of the hexerei. The hexerei, or witchcraft, was something that was never doubted or scoffed at by his people. Then why should he, a good Pennsylvania Dutchman, doubt or scoff at such tradition? Perhaps, had he moved away from his ancestral lands and had been cultured in modern communities, been educated and raised in other schools, he might have matured. But having no time for any other diversions than might be found on his rustic homestead, he grew up behind the plow horse, tramping in the dark, stony pasture land, eking out his meager existence from the black fields of Pennsylvania. Now, Peter's life could have gone on unnoticed among these forgotten hills, except for the strange visit of Martin G. Mirestone, student of German history. It was a cold night when Peter met Mirestone. Peter had been sitting up rather late pondering over an old, yellowed book by the light of a kerosene lamp. The pale flame flickered about the walls sending shadows scurrying back and forth creating all types of weird shapes and designs. Peter huddled over the withered pages, every now and then glancing up at the walls to watch the fantastic games that light and dark were playing. Then putting his book aside for the night he prepared to go to bed. He went over to the window to draw the shutters, stopping for an instant to peer out into the gloom along the stony path that ran from his house to an old foot-bridge about fifty feet away. Curling up from the gorge, mist seemed to play among the rotted planks; it rose and fell in great billowing blankets, sometimes concealing the structure from view. Peter was about to latch the shutter and leave when his attention was focused upon a figure that seemed to emerge from the fog—sort of fading in from nowhere. It made its way across the narrow span like some ghostly apparition. The mist enveloped his legs and clouded his features. Peter drew back in terror, for the mere appearance of the man coming out of the darkness was enough to fill his infant brain with visions of death and hexerei. As the figure drew closer Peter saw that it was wearing a cloak. All the more ghostly it appeared with the cloak sailing behind him in the wind like some devil's banner. Peter just stood transfixed as he watched the stranger come up the winding road to his house. Slamming the shutter he hurriedly fastened it and then turned to the door to bolt that also. Too late. The door was thrown open revealing a tall man clothed in black. His face was wreathed in a wide grin—a grin that seemed to make fun of the grayish pallor of his face and the ominous appearance of his wild garb. Before the man stepped inside, Peter made a mental image of the scene, for it was to be firmly imbedded in his mind so that he would never forget the slightest detail for the rest of his life—the wind blowing about the fierce visage, tossing up the long strands of hair; the massive, veined hand that clutched the wrought iron thumb-latch, and the way that the lamp struck his face, highlighting the thin, ridged nose and high cheekbones. "Peter Scheinberger, heh?" the man spoke in perfect German. "Peter Scheinberger, the last of your clan here in America." It was several seconds before Peter could muster up enough courage to answer him. Drawing back slowly he braced himself against the table, and in a thick, guttural German asked, "Who are you?" The stranger shut the door and drew the bolt. He crossed the room and, with an air of one who was accustomed to having his own way wherever he went, scanned the shelves of Peter's larder with a practiced eye. Peter watched him closely as he drew down a bottle of wine, broke the neck against a beam above him, and settled down in Peter's easy chair. He poured a glass full and shoved it across the table towards the anxious Peter, and then poured another glass for himself. "Mirestone," the stranger finally answered, "Martin G. Mirestone." Then, draining his glass, he added, "Student of German history." All this was beyond Peter's comprehension. No one ever had the audacity to walk into his house and help himself to whatever he wanted—he was indeed unheard of in his tiny social world. "Well, what are you staring at?" Mirestone boomed out. "Take my cloak, please, then be seated. We'll talk." Taking the cloak and draping it over a wooden peg in the wall, Peter moved cautiously around the foreboding character that monopolized his small house. Carefully seating himself opposite the man, he moved the table so that it set between them as a protective barrier. "I'll make myself clear to you," Mirestone explained, "For I want my stay to be as brief as possible." He poured himself another glass of wine, then settled back in the chair, half closing his eyes. "You see, I am a student, you might say, of German history or folklore. I am in the process of writing a collective history of the Pennsylvania Dutch folk, their habits, beliefs, and—" he broke off for an instant as he leaned forward across the table, staring into the frightened eyes of Peter "—and their superstitions." Shifting his chair around in order to get benefit from the heat of the fireplace, Mirestone went on. "Now I want facts, Scheinberger, authentic facts. I am prepared to pay you well for your trouble, but I insist on information that is backed up with sound, accurate truth." Peter became more relaxed but still slightly uneasy. He didn't like the attitude of this man, Mirestone. He was too sure of himself—altogether too cocky. But then on the other hand he had said there would be a financial gain from any business that he could transact with him. Money was something that Peter knew he needed in order to keep his farm going, and any income, however small it may be, would be welcomed gratefully. Yes, he decided that he had better endure the rudeness of this man. For a few seconds, however, the tall stranger seemed to lose all of his cockiness, and a somber look crept over his jovial features. "Have you ever heard of the hex of the white feather?" Peter thought a moment before he replied. "Yes. I have heard of it." Then nervously he fingered his glass of wine that he had not as yet touched. Raising it up to his lips he sipped it slowly as he stared at Mirestone over the rim of the glass. "Yes. I have heard of it," he repeated. "Good, good. You have heard of it. Now, you will tell me about it, of course. I want to know all about it—how it is practiced, the results, and so forth." "Is that why you came here? Only to learn of the white feather hex?" Mirestone climbed to his feet and paced the room. "Yes," he said. Peter noted a sad tone in his voice, and he waited for him to say more. "Yes," Mirestone continued. "I have, like you, heard of the hex of the white feather. I have traced it down to several families, but none could tell me anything about it that was factual. Half of the stupid fools made up stories as they went along—some concocting the biggest bunch of asinine tales that I've ever heard. But you, Peter, are a descendant of the Scheinbergers. I know for a fact that Otto Scheinberger practiced the white feather hex and passed the power on down to your father. From there it stopped. However, there must be some record of it in your family. You are in possession of the books of your grandfather, aren't you?" "I have several of his books. Some of them I have read." "Well," Mirestone waited. "Did you come across anything about the hex?" "Yes," answered Peter. "I read about that which you mention." "Splendid, now we are getting somewhere. Can you find me the book that tells of it?" Peter finished drinking his wine and setting the glass upon the table, he slowly rose and faced Mirestone with a look of superiority playing about his rustic features. "No, I am afraid not. You see, I have burned the book." Mirestone's face went white. "You burned it?" "Yes," said Peter. "I don't wish to have anything to do with such black magic. It is better burned." "But you must remember the hex. Although the book is destroyed you still have the information in your head, nein?" "I could never forget it if I wanted to," replied Peter reluctantly. "If I could burn my memory also it would be better." Mirestone went back to the fireplace and placed several chunks of wood on the blaze. A bright orange glow leaped out from the hearth and danced mockingly over his pallid brow, hiding his lank jowls in the shadows cast by the cheekbones. Like some grim spectre he rose up, towering above the little Dutchman. Peter had only to look into his eyes to see the imperative request that lingered behind the hollowed sockets. Throughout the remainder of the night Peter, almost in spite of himself, wracked his brain to bring back to mind everything that was mentioned in the book about the hex of the white feather. The idea was clear enough, but the minute details, the infinite possibilities for mistake, and the exacting specifications concerning the experiment were blurred in his memory. He knew that with time he could bring back everything that he had read, but it would take deep concentration and, perhaps, many days of trial and error to determine the right path that they must follow in order to have success. Mirestone, realizing that any distraction would break Peter's train of thought, sat quietly in the corner finishing off the Dutchman's supply of wine. He watched Peter closely through his slitted eyes, and it seemed that his compelling stare was the only force that could drive the frightened Peter on. Every so often Peter would glance up and see Mirestone leaning back in the corner half concealed by the deep shadows—only his partially opened eyes could be seen flickering in the fiery glow of the hearth. Then he would cover his face with his large, knotted hands, work the twisted fingers through his hair, and try to bring back to mind the evil recipe. The glow from the fireplace gradually died down to make room for the streams of morning dawn. Peter blinked sleepily and got up to stretch a bit. Outside the dull morning light worked its way over Peter's farm—clouds of mist still poured up from the gorge, circling the bridge and creeping up the bank across the fields. Peter unlatched the heavy oaken door and went outside to the outbuildings. Meanwhile, Mirestone had started a fire in the stove and was placing slabs of bacon in the pan. "Nothing like a good old-fashioned peasant's breakfast," he laughed as Peter came in the door several minutes later. "So, you brought a goat, heh?" he noticed. "Are you figuring on starting in soon?" Peter set a small kid on the floor and watched it scamper about the room, looking for an exit. "Yes, we might as well. I don't like this business at all. I wish to get it over with as soon as possible, and——" Peter eyed Mirestone squarely. "I expect to be paid well for my trouble." He was trying to make himself believe that that was his only reason for complying with Mirestone's demands. Actually he was not so sure.... As the heat of the noon day sun blasted down on their backs, Mirestone watched Peter pass a feather, freshly plucked from a white Leghorn, under the nose of the bleating kid. Mirestone listened carefully to what Peter was telling him. The breath of the victim had to be spread over the feather before anything further could be done. "Tie him," commanded Peter. Mirestone held the goat by the scruff of his neck and fastened a halter about him. The other end was secured to a stake allowing the kid to run about in a circle of ten feet or so in diameter. "We will leave him for awhile," said Peter as he walked back to the kitchen. Mirestone followed in the Dutchman's footsteps, and when they were inside, he listened intently as Peter recited a monosyllabic chant over the feather. "The chant is easy enough to learn," Peter assured him. "You will master it quickly." "I understand so far," Mirestone said. "Then that is all," Peter finished, "except that you can hang the feather up and watch it grow red." "Red?"



diumenge, 28 d’agost de 2016

LOST IN TRANSLATION In any decently-run jail, he told himself with indignation, there would at least have been other prisoners to talk to. But on Tr'en Korvin was all alone. True, every night the guards came in and gave him a concentrated lesson in the local language, but Korvin failed to get much pleasure out of that, being unconscious at the time. But now he was equipped to discuss almost anything from philosophy to plumbing, but there was nobody to discuss it with. He changed position on the bunk and stared at the walls. The Tr'en were efficient; there weren't even any imperfections in the smooth surface to distract him. He wasn't tired and he wasn't hungry; his captors had left him with a full stock of food concentrates. But he was almightily bored, and about ready to tell anything to anyone, just for the chance at a little conversation. As he reached this dismal conclusion, the cell door opened. Korvin got up off the bunk in a hurry and spun around to face his visitor. The Tr'en was tall, and slightly green. He looked, as all the Tr'en did, vaguely humanoid—that is, if you don't bother to examine him closely. Life in the universe appeared to be rigidly limited to humanoid types on oxygen planets; Korvin didn't know why, and neither did anybody else. There were a lot of theories, but none that accounted for all the facts satisfactorily. Korvin really didn't care about it; it was none of his business. The Tr'en regarded him narrowly through catlike pupils. "You are Korvin," he said. It was a ritual, Korvin had learned. "You are of the Tr'en," he replied. The green being nodded. "I am Didyak of the Tr'en," he said. Amenities over with, he relaxed slightly—but no more than slightly—and came into the cell, closing the door behind him. Korvin thought of jumping the Tr'en, but decided quickly against it. He was a captive, and it was unwise to assume that his captors had no more resources than the ones he saw: a small translucent pistollike affair in a holster at the Tr'en's side, and a small knife in a sheath at the belt. Those Korvin could deal with; but there might be almost anything else hidden and ready to fire on him. "What

 satisfied. "The machine," he announced, "has been adjusted satisfactorily to your physiology. The questioning will now continue."
Korvin swallowed again. The test hadn't really seemed extensive enough to him. But, after all, the Tr'en knew their business, better than anyone else could know it. They had the technique and the logic and the training.
He hoped they were right.
The Ruler was frowning at him. Korvin did his best to look receptive. "Why did you land your ship on this planet?" the Ruler said.
"My job required it," Korvin said.
The Ruler nodded. "Your job is to crash your ship," he said. "It is wasteful but the machines tell me it is true. Very well, then; we shall find out more about your job. Was the crash intentional?"
Korvin looked sober. "Yes," he said.
The Ruler blinked. "Very well," he said. "Was your job ended when the ship crashed?" The Tr'en word, of course, wasn't ended, nor did it mean exactly that. As nearly as Korvin could make out, it meant "disposed of for all time."
"No," he said.
"What else does your job entail?" the Ruler said.
Korvin decided to throw his first spoke into the wheel. "Staying alive."
The Ruler roared. "Do not waste time with the obvious!" he shouted. "Do not try to trick us; we are a logical and scientific race! Answer correctly."
"I have told the truth," Korvin said.
"But it is not—not the truth we want," the Ruler said.
Korvin shrugged. "I replied to your question," he said. "I did not know that there was more than one kind of truth. Surely the truth is the truth, just as the Ruler is the Ruler?"
"I—" The Ruler stopped himself in mid-roar. "You try to confuse the Ruler," he said at last, in an approximation of his usual one. "But the Ruler will not be confused. We have experts in matters of logic"—the Tr'en word seemed to mean right-saying—"who will advise the Ruler. They will be called."
Korvin's guards were standing around doing nothing of importance now that their captor was strapped down in the lie-detector. The Ruler gestured and they went out the door in a hurry.
The Ruler looked down at Korvin. "You will find that you cannot trick us," he said. "You will find that such fiddling"—chulad-like Korvin translated—"attempts will get you nowhere."
Korvin devoutly hoped so.

The experts in logic arrived shortly, and in no uncertain terms Korvin was given to understand that logical paradox was not going to confuse anybody on the planet. The barber who did, or didn't, shave himself, the secretary of the club whose members were secretaries, Achilles and the tortoise, and all the other lovely paradox-models scattered around were so much primer material for the Tr'en. "They can be treated mathematically," one of the experts, a small emerald-green being, told Korvin thinly. "Of course, you would not understand the mathematics. But that is not important. You need only understand that we cannot be confused by such means."
"Good," Korvin said.
The experts blinked. "Good?" he said.
"Naturally," Korvin said in a friendly tone.
The expert frowned horribly, showing all of his teeth. Korvin did his best not to react. "Your plan is a failure," the expert said, "and you call this a good thing. You can mean only that your plan is different from the one we are occupied with."
"True," Korvin said.
There was a short silence. The expert beamed. He examined the indicators of the lie-detector with great care. "What is your plan?" he said at last, in a conspiratorial whisper.
"To answer your questions, truthfully and logically," Korvin said.
The silence this time was even longer.
"The machine says that you tell the truth," the experts said at last, in a awed tone. "Thus, you must be a traitor to your native planet. You must want us to conquer your planet, and have come here secretly to aid us."
Korvin was very glad that wasn't a question. It was, after all, the only logical deduction.
But it happened to be wrong.

"The name of your planet is Earth?" the Ruler asked. A few minutes had passed; the experts were clustered around the single chair. Korvin was still strapped to the machine; a logical race makes use of a traitor, but a logical race does not trust him.
"Sometimes," Korvin said.
"It has other names?" the Ruler said.
"It has no name," Korvin said truthfully. The Tr'en idiom was like the Earthly one; and certainly a planet had no name. People attached names to it, that was all. It had none of its own.
"Yet you call it Earth?" the Ruler said.
"I do," Korvin said, "for convenience."
"Do you know its location?" the Ruler said.
"Not with exactitude," Korvin said.
There was a stir. "But you can find it again," the Ruler said.
"I can," Korvin said.
"And you will tell us about it?" the Ruler went on.
"I will," Korvin said, "so far as I am able."
"We will wish to know about weapons," the Ruler said, "and about plans and fortifications. But we must first know of the manner of decision on this planet. Is your planet joined with others in a government or does it exist alone?"
Korvin nearly smiled. "Both," he said.
A short silence was broken by one of the attendant experts. "We have theorized that an underling may be permitted to make some of his own decisions, leaving only the more extensive ones for the master. This seems to us inefficient and liable to error, yet it is a possible system. Is it the system you mean?"
Very sharp, Korvin told himself grimly. "It is," he said.
"Then the government which reigns over several planets is supreme," the Ruler said.
"It is," Korvin said.
"Who is it that governs?" the Ruler said.
The key question had, at last, been asked. Korvin felt grateful that the logical Tr'en had determined to begin from the beginning, instead of going off after details of armament first; it saved a lot of time.
"The answer to that question," Korvin said, "cannot be given to you."
"Any question of fact has an answer," the Ruler snapped. "A paradox is not involved here; a government exists, and some being is the governor. Perhaps several beings share this task; perhaps machines do the work. But where there is a government, there is a governor. Is this agreed?"
"Certainly," Korvin said. "It is completely obvious and true."
"The planet from which you come is part of a system of planets which are governed, you have said," the Ruler went on.
"True," Korvin said.
"Then there is a governor for this system," the Ruler said.
"True," Korvin said again.
The ruler sighed gently. "Explain this governor to us," he said.
Korvin shrugged. "The explanation cannot be given to you."
The Ruler turned to a group of his experts and a short muttered conversation took place. At its end the Ruler turned his gaze back to Korvin. "Is the deficiency in you?" he said. "Are you in some way unable to describe this government?"
"It can be described," Korvin said.
"Then you will suffer unpleasant consequences if you describe it to us?" the Ruler went on.
"I will not," Korvin said.
It was the signal for another conference. With some satisfaction, Korvin noticed that the Tr'en were becoming slightly puzzled; they were no longer moving and speaking with calm assurance.
The plan was taking hold.
The Ruler had finished his conference. "You are attempting again to confuse us," he said.
Korvin shook his head earnestly. "I am attempting," he said, "not to confuse you."
"Then I ask for an answer," the Ruler said.
"I request that I be allowed to ask a question," Korvin said.
The Ruler hesitated, then nodded. "Ask it," he said. "We shall answer it if we see fit to do so."
Korvin tried to look grateful. "Well, then," he said, "what is your government?"
The Ruler beckoned to a heavy-set green being, who stepped forward from a knot of Tr'en, inclined his head in Korvin's direction, and began. "Our government is the only logical form of government," he said in a high, sweet tenor. "The Ruler orders all, and his subjects obey. In this way uniformity is gained, and this uniformity aids in the speed of possible action and in the weight of action. All Tr'en act instantly in the same manner. The Ruler is adopted by the previous Ruler; in this way we are assured of a common wisdom and a steady judgment."
"You have heard our government defined," the Ruler said. "Now, you will define yours for us."
Korvin shook his head. "If you insist," he said, "I'll try it. But you won't understand it."
The Ruler frowned. "We shall understand," he said. "Begin. Who governs you?"
"None," Korvin said.
"But you are governed?"
Korvin nodded. "Yes."
"Then there is a governor," the Ruler insisted.
"True," Korvin said. "But everyone is the governor."
"Then there is no government," the Ruler said. "There is no single decision."
"No," Korvin said equably, "there are many decisions binding on all."
"Who makes them binding?" the Ruler asked. "Who forces you to accept these decisions? Some of them must be unfavorable to some beings?"
"Many of them are unfavorable," Korvin said. "But we are not forced to accept them."
"Do you act against your own interests?"
Korvin shrugged. "Not knowingly," he said. The Ruler flashed a look at the technicians handling the lie-detector. Korvin turned to see their expression. They needed no words; the lie-detector was telling them, perfectly obviously, that he was speaking the truth. But the truth wasn't making any sense. "I told you you wouldn't understand it," he said.
"It is a defect in your explanation," the Ruler almost snarled.
"My explanation is as exact as it can be," he said.
The Ruler breathed gustily. "Let us try something else," he said. "Everyone is the governor. Do you share a single mind? A racial mind has been theorized, though we have met with no examples—"
"Neither have we," Korvin said. "We are all individuals, like yourselves."
"But with no single ruler to form policy, to make decisions—"
"We have no need of one," Korvin said calmly.
"Ah," the Ruler said suddenly, as if he saw daylight ahead. "And why not?"
"We call our form of government democracy," Korvin said. "It means the rule of the people. There is no need for another ruler."
One of the experts piped up suddenly. "The beings themselves rule each other?" he said. "This is clearly impossible; for, no one being can have the force to compel acceptance of his commands. Without his force, there can be no effective rule."
"That is our form of government," Korvin said.
"You are lying," the expert said.
One of the technicians chimed in: "The machine tells us—"
"Then the machine is faulty," the expert said. "It will be corrected."
Korvin wondered, as the technicians argued, how long they'd take studying the machine, before they realized it didn't have any defects to correct. He hoped it wasn't going to be too long; he could foresee another stretch of boredom coming. And, besides, he was getting homesick.
It took three days—but boredom never really had a chance to set in. Korvin found himself the object of more attention than he had hoped for; one by one, the experts came to his cell, each with a different method of resolving the obvious contradictions in his statements.
Some of them went away fuming. Others simply went away, puzzled.
On the third day Korvin escaped.
It wasn't very difficult; he hadn't thought it would be. Even the most logical of thinking beings has a subconscious as well as a conscious mind, and one of the ways of dealing with an insoluble problem is to make the problem disappear. There were only two ways of doing that, and killing the problem's main focus was a little more complicated. That couldn't be done by the subconscious mind; the conscious had to intervene somewhere. And it couldn't.
Because that would mean recognizing, fully and consciously, that the problem was insoluble. And the Tr'en weren't capable of that sort of thinking.
Korvin thanked his lucky stars that their genius had been restricted to the physical and mathematical. Any insight at all into the mental sciences would have given them the key to his existence, and his entire plan, within seconds.
But, then, it was lack of that insight that had called for this particular plan. That, and the political structure of the Tr'en.
The same lack of insight let the Tr'en subconscious work on his escape without any annoying distractions in the way of deep reflection. Someone left a door unlocked and a weapon nearby—all quite intent, Korvin was sure. Getting to the ship was a little more complicated, but presented no new problems; he was airborne, and then space-borne, inside of a few hours after leaving the cell.
He set his course, relaxed, and cleared his mind. He had no psionic talents, but the men at Earth Central did; he couldn't receive messages, but he could send them. He sent one now.
Mission accomplished; the Tr'en aren't about to come mar

I asked him if he really thought a knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages an essential requisite to a good education. JOHNSON. 'Most certainly, Sir; for those who know them have a very great advantage over those who do not. Nay, Sir, it is wonderful what a difference learning makes upon people even in the common intercourse of life, which does not appear to be much connected with it.' 'And yet, (said I) people go through the world very well, and carry on the business of life to good advantage, without learning.' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, that may be true in cases where learning cannot possibly be of any use; for instance, this boy rows us as well without learning, as if he could sing the song of Orpheus to the Argonauts, who were the first sailors.' He then called to the boy, 'What would you give my lad, to know about the Argonauts?' 'Sir, (said the boy) I would give what I have.' Johnson was much pleased with his answer, and we gave him a double fare. Dr. Johnson then turning to me, 'Sir, (said

MacNamara ambled across the loading ramp, savoring the dry, dusty air that smelled unmistakable of spaceship. He half-consciously separated the odors; the sweet, volatile scent of fuel, the sharp aroma of lingering exhaust gases from early morning test-firing, the delicate odor of silicon plastic which was being stowed as payload. He shielded his eyes against the sun, watching as men struggled with the last plastic girders to be strapped down, high above the dazzling ground of White Sands. The slender cargo doors stood open around Valier's girth, awaiting his own personal O.K.
This flight would be the fourth for Major Edward MacNamara; as he neared the great, squatting shock absorbersnical engineers in the Air Force never occurred to him at the time. He was a pilot, and a good one, but he had languished as C.O. of a maintenance squadron for nearly two years before he was given another  he could feel the tension begin to knot his stomach. He had, of course, been overwhelmed by the opportunity to participate in Operation Doughnut. The fact that he had been one of the best mecha

Like the telephone. Two days ago Corporal Bettijean Baker had been answering the rare call on the single line—in that friendly, husky voice that gave even generals pause—by saying, "Good morning. Office of the Civil Health and Germ Warfare Protection Co-ordinator." Now there was a switchboard out in the hall with a web of lines running to a dozen girls at a half dozen desks wedged into the outer office. And now the harried girls answered with a hasty, "Germ War Protection."

dissabte, 27 d’agost de 2016

The natives of Wellington V feed on airborne plankton, which is carried by the vibrations of sound or speech. This was a little-known fact for many years, but did account for the joy with which the first explorers on Wellington V were greeted. Their speech created waves that fed the natives. When eating, the natives emit a strange humming noise, due to the action of the peculiar glottis. These facts drove the first settlers, like Treth Schmaltar, to the invention of a new instrument. This was a large drumlike construction with a small hole in its side through which airborne plankton could enter. Inside the drum, a Wellingtonian crouched. When the drum was Don't take your eye off music ... there is going to be a lot more to it than meets the ear! This first selection deals entirely with the Music Section of the Almanack. Passed over in this anthology, which is intended for general readership, are all references to the four-dimensional doubly extensive polyphony of Green III (interested parties are referred to "Time in Reverse, or the Musical Granny Knot," by Alfid Carp, Papers of the Rigel Musicological Society) or, for reasons of local censorship, the notices regarding Shem VI, VII and IX and the racial-sex "music" which is common on those planets. All dates have been made conformable with the Terran Calendar (as in the standard Terran edition of the Almanack) by application of Winstock Benjamin's Least Square Variable Time Scale. FEBRUARY 17: Today marks the birth date of Freem Freem, of Dubhe IV, perhaps the most celebrated child prodigy in musical history. Though it is, of course, true that he appeared in no concerts after the age of twelve, none who have seen the solidographs of his early performances can ever forget the intent face, the tense, accurate motions of the hands, the utter perfection of Freem's entire performance. His first concert, given at the age of four, was an amazing spectacle. Respected critics refused to believe that Freem was as young as his manager (an octopoid from Fomalhaut) claimed, and were satisfied only by the sworn affidavit of Glerk, the well-known Sirian, who was present at the preliminary interviews. Being a Sirian, Glerk was naturally incapable of dissimulation, and his earnest supersonics soon persuaded the critics of the truth. Freem was, in actuality, only four years old. In the next eight years, Freem concertized throughout the Galaxy. His triumph on Deneb at the age of six, the stellar reception given him by a deputation of composers and critics from the Lesser Magellanic Cloud when he appeared in that sector, and the introduction (as an encore) of his single composition, the beloved Memories of Old Age, are still recalled. And then, at the age of eleven, Freem's concerts ceased. Music-lovers throughout the Galaxy were stunned by the news that their famed prodigy would appear no longer. At the age of twelve, Freem Freem was dead. Terrans have never felt this loss as deeply as other Galactic races, and it is not difficult to see why. The standard "year" of Dubhe IV equals 300 Earth years; to the short-lived Terrans, Freem Freem had given his first concert at the age of 1200, and had died at the ripe old age of 3600 years. "Calling a 1200-year-old being a child prodigy," states the Terran Dictionary of Music and Musicians, rather tartly, "is the kind of misstatement up with which we shall not put." Particularly noteworthy is the parallel attitude expressed by the inhabitants of Terk I, whose "year" is approximately three Terran days, to the alleged "short" life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. MAY 12: Wilrik Rotha Rotha Delk Shkulma Tik was born on this date in 8080. Although he/she is renowned both as the creator of symphonic music on Wolf XVI and as the progenitor of the sole Galactic Censorship Law which remains in effect in this enlightened age, very little is actually known about the history of that law.


divendres, 26 d’agost de 2016

Este es el año 2381, y esta es la Mónada Urbana 116: 885.000 seres humanos viven alojados en las mil plantas de esta gigantesca torre, una obra maestra de ingeniería de la nueva humanidad. En este mundo interior nadie siente deseos de abandonar existe la perfecta felicidad: se desconocen las inhibiciones, los traumas y las frustraciones: el equilibrio emocional es mantenido a toda costa; los descontentos son enfermos... Y la Mónada Urbana 116 es tan solo una de las cincuenta y una torres que forman la constelación Chipitts, la cual a la vez, es tan solo una de las muchas constelaciones semejantes que hay por toda la Tierra. Un planeta que ha conseguido eliminar las guerras y albergar a setenta mil millones de habitantes en su pequeña superficie. Sin embargo, no siempre resulta tolerable la vida fácil, planificada En el año 2381, las personas viven confinadas en enormes edificios (llamados Monurb, acrónimo de Mónada Urbana) sin salir nunca a la superficie. Ésta es la solución propuesta para el ingente crecimiento de la población, que no cesa ya que en esta nueva sociedad, uno de los valores máximos es la fertilidad. Como consecuencia de esto, la libertad sexual es una realidad absoluta. Los hombres tienen plena potestad para hacer de “rondadores nocturnos”, es decir, visitar las moradas de mujeres que les interesen físicamente, y pasar la noche con ellas. Negarse está prohibido porque reprimiría sexualmente al individuo en cuestión, algo innombrable en la sociedad propuesta. El carácter machista de esta situación es palpable, en cuanto a que permite incondicionalmente el adulterio y la realización del deseo sexual sin obstáculos. ‘El Mundo Interior’ es, en este sentido, una historia coral que reflexiona tangencialmente los aspectos extremos de esta sociedad, con capítulos dedicados a un solo personaje, de forma alternada. Lo grande de Silverberg es su lenguaje insinuado, nunca explícito, acerca de los temas que preocupan a los personajes. Un estilo más reflexivo y menos visual de lo que solemos encontrar en la ciencia-ficción, con un vocabulario propio.

So Skrrgck, an obliging fellow at heart, tried first to get it back, but this proved impossible, for he had sold the building to the Aldebaranian Confederacy for use in its annual "prosperity fiesta." The dominant culture of the Aldebaranian system is a descendant of the "conspicuous destruction" or "potlatch" type, in which articles of value are destroyed to prove the wealth and power of the destroyers. It was customary once every Aldebaranian year—about six Terran—for the Aldebaranian government to sponsor a token celebration of this destructive sort, and it had purchased the Merchandise Mart from Skrrgck as part of its special celebration marking the first thousand years of the Confederacy. Consequently, the building, along with everything else, was totally destroyed in the "bonfire" that consumed the entire fourth planet from the main Aldebaranian sun. Nor was Skrrgck able to arrange the return to Terra of the occupants of the building, some 20,000 in number, because he had sold them as slaves to the Boötean League. The history of man becomes fearfully and wonderfully confusing with the advent of interstellar travel. Of special interest to the legally inclined student is the famous Skrrgck Affair, which began before the Galactic Tribunal with the case of Citizens vs. Skrrgck. The case, and the opinion of the Court, may be summarized as follows: Skrrgck, a native of Sknnbt (Altair IV), where theft is honorable, sanctioned by law and custom, immigrated to Earth (Sol III) where theft is contrary to both law and custom. While residing in Chicago, a city in a political subdivision known as the State of Illinois, part of the United States of America, one of the ancient nation-states of Earth, he overheard his landlady use the phrase "A license to steal," a common colloquialism in the area, which refers to any special privilege.

Skrrgck then went to a police station in Chicago and requested a license to steal. The desk sergeant, as a joke, wrote out a document purporting to be a license to steal, and Skrrgck, relying on said document, committed theft, was apprehended, tried and convicted. On direct appeal allowed to the Galactic Tribunal, the Court held:
(1) All persons are required to know and obey the law of the jurisdiction in which they reside.
(2) Public officials must refrain from misrepresenting to strangers the law of the jurisdiction.
(3) Where, as here, a public official is guilty of such misrepresentation, the requirement of knowledge no longer applies.
(4) Where, as here, it is shown by uncontradicted evidence that a defendant is law-abiding and willing to comply with the standards of his place of residence, misrepresentation of law by public officials may amount to entrapment.
(5) The Doctrine of Entrapment bars the State of Illinois from prosecuting this defendant.
(6) The magnitude of the crime is unimportant compared with the principle involved, and the fact that the defendant's unusual training on Sknnbt enabled him to steal a large building in Chicago, known as the Merchandise Mart, is of no significance.
(7) The defendant, however, was civilly liable for the return of the building, and its occupants, or their value, even if he had to steal to get it, provided, however, that he stole only on and from a planet where theft wgalas le.

chapter of Ezekiel as a strange and nearly unfathomable account of a vision. I suggest that it is strange only because it is written by a man far removed from us in time and experience, about a subject totally unfamiliar to men of his time. I do not think that this was a vision in the usual sense, nor was it meant to be mystical. This particular chapter has been called "Science fiction in the Bible" and many attempts have been made to unravel the meaning of the original author, along both spiritual and mundane lines. I am convinced that this chapter is the account of an actual happening; the landing of extraterrestial beings, reported by a careful, truthful and self-possessed observer. I am not a student of theology and therefore you may feel that I am being presumptive in attempting to throw light on a mystery as old and well-studied as Ezekiel's first chapter. I feel that any success that I may have in doing so will be due to the accident of my birth at the very beginning of an era when the events I have to describe are fact, or are about to become fact. If, as I believe, this is an account of an actual encounter with men from space, I may be better able to interpret the meaning than a student of theology, who by training and interest, is looking for a theological meaning. I have worked with mechanical things, and as an instructor of aircraft mechanics for most of my adult life. During this time I have had to untangle a lot of mechanical misconceptions and misunderstandings. I think that this gives me some insight into this problem. If you are not too familiar with the Old Testament, I suggest that you read through the first chapter of Ezekiel to get the feeling of the flow of words, and a general idea of what sort of material we will be covering. If you have done a considerable amount of reading in the Bible, I am sure you will notice at once how different and "un-Bible-like" this chapter sounds. It isn't long. The first chapter covers little more than one page. Don't expect to get a clear picture the first time through. It seems to have an elusive quality. About the time you feel that you have hold of a fact, it seems to be contradicted in a later verse. I am going to try to show you that this is due to your own preconceived notions of what some of the words and phrases mean. You, not Ezekiel, are supplying the contradictions. You will see that I am not going to make excuses for the words, as written. It is my belief that those who had the task of translating the Bible from its original tongue and re-copying it through the ages were particularly careful of this chapter because they did not understand it and were afraid of damaging it. Let us begin with the first verse of chapter one:

















dijous, 25 d’agost de 2016

Take, again, that strange identification of the Gallic Hercules with his analogue Napoleon. How, as a jay taught by Talma, he at the Tuillcries apes the fine birds and court splendour of the old regime (p. 294). Then read the quatrain at p. 297, where the simple soldier reaches empire, and so strikes close analogy again with Cromwell. Then read (p. 300) that awful curse fulminated, when counsel shall die out of the shaven head ; see Sclavonia gather (p. 303), and old Moscow burn, whilst the eagle (p. 304) is beaten back with a swarm of birds, and hovers to its fall at Leipsic* • Touching this curse to fall on Napoleon, a somewhat singular analogy arises in comparing with it the axiom laid down by Thomasius, quoted in Bruncker's "Hist. Crit. Phllos.," v.488. He says that the spirit is, as it were, resident in the centre of all bodies, and thence emits rays, so extending matter. But where it draws back the rays from the circumference of the material to the centre, it soon dissolves and corrupts the body. Si vera radios ex circumfereniia materia spiritus attrahat ad centrum, resolvitur corpus et corrumpitur. If we suppose this to have taken place at the epileptic seizure of Napoleon, the mental attack becomes an image or antitype of the battle of Leipsic, when the swarm of birds beat back the eagle. An interpreter, such as Joseph, could have told him the meaning of the dream or swoon. The defeat was first of all rehearsed in the soldier's own brain. XXll PREFACE. I do not deem it necessary to particularize any further ; for if all this gathered into one conspectus is not enough to carry conviction home to the mind of any one ; and, make the reader know that at Salon, three hundred and odd years since, there lived a Frenchman, who saw all this in visions of the night, interpretative speech accompanying, and set it down at first in too clear prose, and secondly in rythmic riddles afterwards ; why, then, I think that fifty times more evidence, thrown in upon the top, could carry no conviction with it. I have said many things about science and its modern tendencies that will be deemed foolish by some, and by others undeservedly severe, so that a few words upon it seem necessary here. If the word "science" merely means the study of nature, it has my admiration as a pursuit. But if it means know- ledge, I say it is an absolute misnomer. There is no true knowledge out of wisdom, and all that is wisdom in man is comprised in his veneration of Deity. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." It is evident, that what we call science in this day, does not tend that way at all. But, to take it briefly another way, if you do not know the first cause of anything, you can only attain to a knowledge of relativities, but never of anything as it is in itself Your methods can have neither beginning nor end. Hence a man can only attain to relative knowledge which, in the strict meaning of PREFACE. xxm words, is not knowledge at all. Thus science is impossible. Those, who pretend to science, talk much now about an Atomic Theory. They speak of their atom, con- trary to its etymology, as being a thing infinitely divisible. This they adopt as a subterfuge, that no one may be able to drive them home. But if you leave them to their own devices, — their own chemical analyses, quantitative and qualitative, when they get beyond vapour, leave them in possession of a nothing to divide. It is then they approach Deity in minimis; but for the cloud upon their sight they cannot see Him. Such men apprehend nothing except through the intellect ; but the perfect intellect yields only half the man. It can only deal with the subject-matter furnished to it by the senses. There is, high-placed above it, the spirit of life ; which possesses a sense of its own, and by this the heart and head are inter- linked. When the ideas (for lack of a better word) of these two are thought into harmony,— or, what Coleridge would call " unity,"— then, and then only, is the comment of the whole man perfect. Take this for an axiom : If you believe your sense, you may be right ; if you believe your senses, you are out of them. Cogito ergo sum (" I think therefore I am ") has been accredited to Descartes as wisdom for a long time. It is nonsense. It is a proof gathered from the action of the intellect alone, and is a critique XXIV PREFACE. physical, rather than metaphysical, and here can afford no proof of anything. Another word about Atoms, and I must have done, or this will not be a preface, but a metaphysical treatise ; and though that may be greatly wanted, this is not the place for it. Yet, as I have arraigned science, it becomes advisable that I should furnish to the competent reader a spot or foothold, where being placed, he may, if he will, command my meaning. In the Chaldaic oracles there occur two curious lines ; I quote them below that there may be no equivoca- tion possible.* " Now, these fabricate individual things (ro urnfxa, atoms), and sensible objects, and corporeal things, and things classed under matter." The Neoplatonists said that ideas were an emanation of the divine fire. Plato said very much the same thing of the human soul itself An atom thus becomes a fiery individuality (atomic) ; not, observe, what the nonsensical chemist of to-day calls it, — when by his terrene fire he has reached vapour, — an infinitely divisible atom, but a particle indivisible ; that, having traversed all the forms, goes out at the other end of matter ; or back again in a chariot of fire to the idea it started from. The world's Opifex made it by fire, and the tradition of Elias is that it will be dissolved by fire at last ; but what, friend, should it prove that * Ot Se Ta &To^a Kol alaBTjTa iruMtovpyovcn Stanley's " Hist. Chald. Phil.," p. 43.


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" Gentem quidem nullam video, ncque tarn humanam atque 
doctam, neque tam immanctn tamque barbaram, qua: non significan 
futura, et h quibusdam intelligi prxdicique posac censcftt." — CiCERo. 
/V Pii/inatione, i. 2. 


The Leadenhall Prefs, E.C. served.) 

"Quorum poientia intellectualis immediate a Deo agitata 
creditur, prophetos dicuntur ; quorum voluntas heroes ; at 
quorum intellectus et voluntas censetur agitata a potentiis 

dimarts, 23 d’agost de 2016

THE DARK NEBULA Years melted into the past, centuries, aeons. The light of the incandescent star, sank to a furious red. It was later, that I saw the dark nebula—at first, an impalpable cloud, away to my right. It grew, steadily, to a clot of blackness in the night. How long I watched, it is impossible to say; for time, as we count it, was a thing of the past. It came closer, a shapeless monstrosity of darkness—tremendous. It seemed to slip across the night, sleepily—a very hell-fog. Slowly, it slid nearer, and passed into the void, between me and the Central Suns. It was as though a curtain had been drawn before my vision. A strange tremor of fear took me, and a fresh sense of wonder. The green twilight that had reigned for so many millions of years, had now given place to impenetrable gloom. Motionless, I peered about me. A century fled, and it seemed to me that I detected occasional dull glows of red, passing me at intervals. Earnestly, I gazed, and, presently, seemed to see circular masses, that showed muddily red, within the clouded blackness. They appeared to be growing out of the nebulous murk. Awhile, and they became plainer to my accustomed vision. I could see them, now, with a fair amount of distinctness—ruddy-tinged spheres, similar, in size, to the luminous globes that I had seen, so long previously. They floated past me, continually. Gradually, a peculiar uneasiness seized me. I became aware of a growing feeling of repugnance and dread. It was directed against those passing orbs, and seemed born of intuitive knowledge, rather than of any real cause or reason. Some of the passing globes were brighter than others; and, it was from one of these, that a face looked, suddenly. A face, human in its outline; but so tortured with woe, that I stared, aghast. I had not thought there was such sorrow, as I saw there. I was conscious of an added sense of pain, on perceiving that the eyes, which glared so wildly, were sightless. A while longer, I saw it; then it had passed on, into the surrounding gloom. After this, I saw others—all wearing that look of hopeless sorrow; and blind. A long time went by, and I became aware that I was nearer to the orbs, than I had been. At this, I grew uneasy; though I was less in fear of those strange globules, than I had been, before seeing their sorrowful inhabitants; for sympathy had tempered my fear. Later, there was no doubt but that I was being carried closer to the red spheres, and, presently, I floated among them. In awhile, I perceived one bearing down upon me. I was helpless to move from its path. In a minute, it seemed, it was upon me, and I was submerged in a deep red mist. This cleared, and I stared, confusedly, across the immense breadth of the Plain of Silence. It appeared just as I had first seen it. I was moving forward, steadily, across its surface. Away ahead, shone the vast, blood-red ring [15] that lit the place. All around, was spread the extraordinary desolation of stillness, that had so impressed me during my previous wanderings across its starkness. Presently, I saw, rising up into the ruddy gloom, the distant peaks of the mighty amphitheatre of mountains, where, untold ages before, I had been shown my first glimpse of the terrors that underlie many things; and where, vast and silent, watched by a thousand mute gods, stands the replica of this house of mysteries—this house that I had seen swallowed up in that hell-fire, ere the earth had kissed the sun, and vanished for ever. Though I could see the crests of the mountain-amphitheatre, yet it was a great while before their lower portions became visible. Possibly, this was due to the strange, ruddy haze, that seemed to cling to the surface of the Plain. However, be this as it may, I saw them at last. In a still further space of time, I had come so close to the mountains, that they appeared to overhang me. Presently, I saw the great rift, open before me, and I drifted into it; without volition on my part. Later, I came out upon the breadth of the enormous arena. There, at an apparent distance of some five miles, stood the House, huge, monstrous and silent—lying in the very center of that stupendous amphitheatre. So far as I could see, it had not altered in any way; but looked as though it were only yesterday that I had seen it. Around, the grim, dark mountains frowned down upon me from their lofty silences. Far to my right, away up among inaccessible peaks, loomed the enormous bulk of the great Beast-god. Higher, I saw the hideous form of the dread goddess, rising up through the red gloom, thousands of fathoms above me. To the left, I made out the monstrous Eyeless-Thing, grey and inscrutable. Further off, reclining on its lofty ledge, the livid Ghoul-Shape showed—a splash of sinister color, among the dark mountains. Slowly, I moved out across the great arena—floating. As I went, I made out the dim forms of many of the other lurking Horrors that peopled those supreme heights. Gradually, I neared the House, and my thoughts flashed back across the abyss of years. I remembered the dread Specter of the Place. A short while passed, and I saw that I was being wafted directly toward the enormous mass of that silent building. About this time, I became aware, in an indifferent sort of way, of a growing sense of numbness, that robbed me of the fear, which I should otherwise have felt, on approaching that awesome Pile. As it was, I viewed it, calmly—much as a man views calamity through the haze of his tobacco smoke. In a little while, I had come so close to the House, as to be able to distinguish many of the details about it. The longer I looked, the more was I confirmed in my long-ago impressions of its entire similitude to this strange house. Save in its enormous size, I could find nothing unlike. Suddenly, as I stared, a great feeling of amazement filled me. I had come opposite to that part, where the outer door, leading into the study, is situated. There, lying right across the threshold, lay a great length of coping stone, identical—save in size and color—with the piece I had dislodged in my fight with the Pit-creatures. I floated nearer, and my astonishment increased, as I noted that the door was broken partly from its hinges, precisely in the manner that my study door had been forced inward, by the assaults of the Swine-things. The sight started a train of thoughts, and I began to trace, dimly, that the attack on this house, might have a far deeper significance than I had, hitherto, imagined. I remembered how, long ago, in the old earth-days, I had half suspected that, in some unexplainable manner, this house, in which I live, was en rapport—to use a recognized term—with that other tremendous structure, away in the midst of that incomparable Plain. Now, however, it began to be borne upon me, that I had but vaguely conceived what the realization of my suspicion meant. I began to understand, with a more than human clearness, that the attack I had repelled, was, in some extraordinary manner, connected with an attack upon that strange edifice. With a curious inconsequence, my thoughts abruptly left the matter; to dwell, wonderingly, upon the peculiar material, out of which the House was constructed. It was—as I have mentioned, earlier—of a deep, green color. Yet, now that I had come so close to it, I perceived that it fluctuated at times, though slightly—glowing and fading, much as do the fumes of phosphorus, when rubbed upon the hand, in the dark. Presently, my attention was distracted from this, by coming to the great entrance. Here, for the first time, I was afraid; for, all in a moment, the huge doors swung back, and I drifted in between them, helplessly. Inside, all was blackness, impalpable. In an instant, I had crossed the threshold, and the great doors closed, silently, shutting me in that lightless place. For a while, I seemed to hang, motionless; suspended amid the darkness. Then, I became conscious that I was moving again; where, I could not tell. Suddenly, far down beneath me, I seemed to hear a murmurous noise of Swine-laughter. It sank away, and the succeeding silence appeared clogged with horror. Then a door opened somewhere ahead; a white haze of light filtered through, and I floated slowly into a room, that seemed strangely familiar. All at once, there came a bewildering, screaming noise, that deafened me. I saw a blurred vista of visions, flaming before my sight. My senses were dazed, through the space of an eternal moment. Then, my power of seeing, came back to me. The dizzy, hazy feeling passed, and I saw, clearly. XXIII

This vain fat Austrian with hard, suspicious eyes, with his relentless ambition, and his cynical schemes, may like all Austrians, have a certain weakness for the heroes of ancient Rome and the Italian civilization of Renaissance, but he has sufficient sense of the ridiculous to realize that the Germany of Weimar could never be dominated by a little Upper-Austrian bourgeois disguised as a Sulla, a Julius Caesar or a condottiere … His ideal hero is Julius Caesar in Tyrolese dress” (224) 2. “Hitler’s intelligence is in point of fact profoundly feminine: his mind, his ambitions, even his will are not in the least virile ... Hitler is the dictator, the “woman” Germany deserves” (239)

 que muestra la evolución del progreso técnico es el de Irán, en agosto de 1952. Los datos los tomo del agudo y delicioso libro de Kart Meyer y Shareen Blair Brysac, titulado “Kingmakers, the invention of the modern Middle East”. El fondo del asunto era, como ahora, el petróleo. El 15 de marzo, 1951, ante la negativa británica de aumentar la participación


dilluns, 22 d’agost de 2016

I returned the egg to Camilla's bare and fevered breastbone, and went back to the house for a long cool drink. That was ten days ago. I know I ought to have kept a record; I examined the blue egg every day, watching how some nameless life grew within it, until finally the angel chipped the shell deftly in two parts. This was evidently done with the aid of small horny out-growths on her elbows; these growths were sloughed off on the second day. I wish I had seen her break the shell, but when I visited the blackberry tangle three days ago she was already out. She poked her exquisite head through Camilla's neck feather, smiled sleepily, and snuggled back into darkness to finish drying off. So what could I do, more than save the broken shell and wriggle my clumsy self out of there? I had removed Camilla's own eggs the day before—Camilla was only moderately annoyed. I was nervous about disposing of them even though they were obviously Camilla's, but no harm was done. I cracked each one to be sure. Very frankly rotten eggs and nothing more. In the evening of that day I thought of rats and weasels, as I should have earlier. I hastily prepared a box in the kitchen and brought the two in, the angel quiet in my closed hand. They are there now. I think they are comfortable. Three days after hatching, the angel is the length of my fore-finger, say three inches tall, with about the relative proportions of a six-year-old girl. Except for head, hands, and probably the soles of her feet, she is clothed in feathery down the color of ivory. What can be seen of her skin is a glowing pink—I do mean glowing, like the inside of certain seashells. Just above the small of her back are two stubs which I take to be infantile wings. They do not suggest an extra pair of specialized forelimbs. I think they are wholly differentiated organs; perhaps they will be like the wings of an insect. Somehow I never thought of angels buzzing. Maybe she won't. I know very little about angels.

As I watched, the he-Kappa got her in his arms and bore her to the ground, their bodies locked in a tight embrace. They lay there together for a while. But when at last he stood up, there was a wretched look on his face that I can't quite put into words: it might have been the product of disappointment or, again, it could well have been an expression of remorse." "But I cannot bring myself to associate with ... the pessimist weary of life who did not kill himself."KAPPA Não tenho consciência de qualquer espécie, nem mesmo artística. Sensibilidade é tudo que tenho

From the author of Rashomon comes a Swiftian satire of Japanese society thinly disguised as the fictitious Kappaland. Peopled with creatures from Japanese folklore, Kappland serves as a vehicle for the humorous examination of the moral foibles of Japanese society in the early 20th century.

The door opened, and the men of the congregation began to come out of the church at Peribonka. A moment earlier it had seemed quite deserted, this church set by the roadside on the high bank of the Peribonka, whose icy snow-covered surface was like a winding strip of plain. The snow lay deep upon road and fields, for the April sun was powerless to send warmth through the gray clouds, and the heavy spring rains were yet to come. This chill and universal white, the humbleness of the wooden church and the wooden houses scattered along the road, the gloomy forest edging so close that it seemed to threaten, these all spoke of a harsh existence in a stern land. But as the men and boys passed through the doorway and gathered in knots on the broad steps, their cheery salutations, the chaff flung from group to group, the continual interchange of talk, merry or sober, at once disclosed the unquenchable joyousness of a people ever filled with laughter and good humour. Cleophas Pesant, son of Thadee Pesant the blacksmith, was already in light-coloured summer garments, and sported an American coat with broad padded shoulders; though on this cold Sunday he had not ventured to discard his winter cap of black cloth with harelined ear-laps for the hard felt hat he would have preferred to wear. Beside him Egide Simard, and others who had come a long road by sleigh, fastened their long fur coats as they left the church, drawing them in at the waist with scarlet sashes. The young folk of the village, very smart in coats with otter collars, gave deferential greeting to old Nazaire Larouche; a tall man with gray hair and huge bony shoulders who had in no wise altered for the mass his everyday garb: short jacket of brown cloth lined with sheepskin, patched trousers, and thick woollen socks under moose-hide moccasins. "Well, Mr. Larouche, do things go pretty well across the water?" "Not badly, my lads, not so badly." Everyone drew his pipe from his pocket, and the pig's bladder filled with tobacco leaves cut by hand, and, after the hour and a half of restraint, began to smoke with evident satisfaction. The first puffs brought talk of the weather, the coming spring, the state of the ice on Lake St. John and the rivers, of their several doings and the parish gossip; after the manner of men who, living far apart on the worst of roads, see one another but once a week. "The lake is solid yet," said Cleophas Pesant, "but the rivers are no longer safe. The ice went this week beside the sand-bank opposite the island, where there have been warm spring-holes all winter." Others began to discuss the chances of the crops, before the ground was even showing. "I tell you that we shall have a lean year," asserted one old fellow, "the frost got in before the last snows fell." At length the talk slackened and all faced the top step, where Napoleon Laliberte was making ready, in accord with his weekly custom, to announce the parish news. He stood there motionless for a little while, awaiting quiet,—hands deep in the pockets of the heavy lynx coat, knitting his forehead and half closing his keen eyes under the fur cap pulled well over his ears; and when silence fell he began to give the news at the full pitch of his voice, in the manner of a carter who encourages his horses on a hill. "The work on the wharf will go forward at once ... I have been sent money by the Government, and those looking for a job should see me before vespers. If you want this money to stay in the parish instead of being sent back to Quebec you had better lose no time in speaking to me." Some moved over in his direction; others, indifferent, met his announcement with a laugh. The remark was heard in an envious undertone:—"And who will be foreman at three dollars a day? Perhaps good old Laliberte ..." But it was said jestingly rather than in malice, and the speaker ended by adding his own laugh. Hands still in the pockets of his big coat, straightening himself and squaring his shoulders as he stood there upon the highest step, Napoleon Laliberte proceeded in loudest tones:—"A surveyor from Roberval will be in the parish next week. If anyone wishes his land surveyed before mending his fences for the summer, this is to let him know." The item was received without interest. Peribonka farmers are not particular about correcting their boundaries to gain or lose a few square feet, since the most enterprising among them have still two-thirds of their grants to clear,—endless acres of woodland and swamp to reclaim. He continued:—"Two men are up here with money to buy furs. If you have any bear, mink, muskrat or fox you will find these men at the store until Wednesday, or you can apply to Francois Paradis of Mistassini who is with them. They have plenty of money and will pay cash for first-class pelts." His news finished, he descended the steps. A sharp-faced little fellow took his place. "Who wants to buy a fine young pig of my breeding?" he asked, indicating with his finger something shapeless that struggled in a bag at his feet. A great burst of laughter greeted him. They knew them well, these pigs of Hormidas' raising. No bigger than rats, and quick as squirrels to jump the fences. "Twenty-five cents!" one young man bid chaffingly. "Fifty cents!" "A dollar!" "Don't play the fool, Jean. Your wife will never let you pay a dollar for such a pig as that." Jean stood his ground:—"A dollar, I won't go back on it." Hormidas Berube with a disgusted look on his face awaited another bid, but only got jokes and laughter. Meantime the women in their turn had begun to leave the church. Young or old, pretty or ugly, nearly all were well clad in fur cloaks, or in coats of heavy cloth; for, honouring the Sunday mass, sole festival of their lives, they had doffed coarse blouses and homespun petticoats, and a stranger might well have stood amazed to find them habited almost with elegance in this remote spot; still French to their finger-tips in the midst of the vast lonely forest and the snow, and as tastefully dressed, these peasant women, as most of the middle-class folk in provincial France. Cleophas Pesant waited for Louisa Tremblay who was alone, and they went off together along the wooden sidewalk in the direction of the house. Others were satisfied to exchange jocular remarks with the young girls as they passed, in the easy and familiar fashion of the country,-natural enough too where the children have grown up together from infancy. Pite Gaudreau, looking toward the door of the church, remarked:—"Maria Chapdelaine is back from her visit to St. Prime, and there is her father come to fetch her." Many in the village scarcely knew the Chapdelaines. "Is it Samuel Chapdelaine who has a farm in the woods on the other side of the river, above Honfleur?" "That's the man." "And the girl with him is his daughter? Maria ..." "Yes, she has been spending a month at St. Prime with her mother's people. They are Bouchards, related to Wilfrid Bouchard of St. Gedeon ..." Interested glance






The Razor's Edge tells the story of Larry Darrell, an American pilot traumatised by his experiences in World War I, who sets off in search of some transcendent meaning in his life. The story begins through the eyes of Larry's friends and acquaintances as they witness his personality change after the War. His rejection of conventional life and search for meaningful experience allows him to thrive while the more materialistic characters suffer reversals of fortune.

dissabte, 20 d’agost de 2016

Sodom and Gomorrah, Texas By R. A. LAFFERTY........MANUEL shouldn't have been employed as a census taker. He wasn't qualified. He couldn't read a map. He didn't know what a map was. He only grinned when they told him that North was at the top. He knew better. But he did write a nice round hand, like a boy's hand. He knew Spanish, and enough English. For the sector that was assigned to him he would not need a map. He knew it better than anyone else, certainly better than any mapmaker. Besides, he was poor and needed the money. They instructed him and sent him out. Or they thought that they had instructed him. They couldn't be sure. "Count everyone? All right. Fill in everyone? I need more papers." "We will give you more if you need more. But there aren't so many in your sector." "Lots of them. Lobos, tejones, zorros, even people." "Only the people, Manuel! Do not take the animals. How would you write up the animals? They have no names." "Oh, yes. All have names. Might as well take them all." "Only people, Manuel." "Mulos?" "No." "Conejos?" "No, Manuel, no. Only the people." "No trouble. Might as well take them all." "Only people—God give me strength!—only people, Manuel." "How about little people?" "Children, yes. That has been explained to you." "Little people. Not children, little people." "If they are people, take them." "How big they have to be?" "It doesn't make any difference how big they are. If they are people, take them." That is where the damage was done. The official had given a snap judgement, and it led to disaster. It was not his fault. The instructions are not clear. Nowhere in all the verbiage does it say how big they have to be to be counted as people. MANUEL took Mula and went to work. His sector was the Santa Magdalena, a scrap of bald-headed and desolate mountains, steep but not high, and so torrid in the afternoons that it was said that the old lava sometimes began to writhe and flow again from the sun's heat alone. In the center valley there were five thousand acres of slag and vitrified rock from some forgotten old blast that had melted the hills and destroyed their mantle, reducing all to a terrible flatness. This was called Sodom. It was strewn with low-lying ghosts as of people and objects, formed when the granite bubbled like water. Away from the dead center the ravines were body-deep in chaparral, and the hillsides stood gray-green with old cactus. The stunted trees were lower than the giant bushes and yucca. Manuel went with Mula, a round easy man and a sparse gaunt mule. Mula was a mule, but there were other inhabitants of the Santa Magdalena of a genus less certain. Yet even about Mula there was an oddity in her ancestry. Her paternal grandfather had been a goat. Manuel once told Mr. Marshal about this, but Mr. Marshal had not accepted it. "She is a mule. Therefore, her father was a jack. Therefore his father was also a jack, a donkey. It could not be any other way." Manuel often wondered about that, for he had raised the whole strain of animals, and he remembered who had been with whom. "A donkey! A jack! Two feet tall and with a beard and horns. I always thought that he was a goat." Manuel and Mula stopped at noon on Lost Soul Creek. There would be no travel in the hot afternoon. But Manuel had a job to do, and he did it. He took the forms from one of the packs that he had unslung from Mula, and counted out nine of them. He wrote down all the data on nine people. He knew all there was to know about them, their nativities and their antecedents. He knew that there were only nine regular people in the nine hundred square miles of the Santa Magdalena. But he was systematic, so he checked the list over again and again. There seemed to be somebody missing. Oh, yes, himself. He got another form and filled out all the data on himself. Now, in one way of looking at it, his part in the census was finished. If only he had looked at it that way, he would have saved worry and trouble for everyone, and also ten thousand lives. But the instructions they had given him were ambiguous, for all that they had tried to make them clear. So very early the next morning he rose and cooked beans, and said, "Might as well take them all." He called Mula from the thorn patch where she was grazing, gave her salt and loaded her again. Then they went to take the rest of the census, but in fear. There was a clear duty to get the job done, but there was also a dread of it that his superiors did not understand. There was reason also why Mula was loaded so she could hardly walk with packs of census forms. Manuel prayed out loud as they climbed the purgatorial scarp above Lost Souls Creek, "ruega por nosotros pecadores ahora—" the very gulches stood angry and stark in the early morning—"y en la hora de neustra muerte." THREE days later an incredible dwarf staggered into the outskirts of High Plains, Texas, followed by a dying wolf-sized animal that did not look like a wolf. A lady called the police to save the pair from rock-throwing kids who might have killed them, and the two as yet unclassified things were taken to the station house. The dwarf was three foot high, a skeleton stretched over with brown-burnt leather. The other was an un-canine looking dog-sized beast, so full of burrs and thorns that it might have been a porcupine. It was a nightmare replica of a shrunken mule. The midget was mad. The animal had more presence of mind: she lay down quietly and died, which was the best she could do, considering the state that she was in. "Who is census chief now?" asked the mad midget. "Is Mr. Marshal's boy the census chief?" "Mr. Marshal is, yes. Who are you? How do you know Marshal? And what is that which you are pulling out of your pants, if they are pants?" "Census list. Names of everybody in the Santa Magdalena. I had to steal it." "It looks like microfilm, the writing is so small. And the roll goes on and on. There must be a million names here." "Little bit more, little bit more. I get two bits a name." They got Marshal there. He was very busy, but he came. He had been given a deadline by the mayor and the citizen's group. He had to produce a population of ten thousand people for High Plains, Texas; and this was difficult, for there weren't that many people in the town. He had been working hard on it, though; but he came when the police called him. "You Marshal's little boy? You look just like your father," said the midget. "That voice, I should know that voice even if it's cracked to pieces. That has to be Manuel's voice." "Sure, I'm Manuel. Just like I left, thirty-five years ago." "You can't be Manuel, shrunk three feet and two hundred pounds and aged a million." "You look here at my census slip. It says I'm Manuel. And here are nine more of the regular people, and one million of the little people. I couldn't get them on the right forms, though. I had to steal their list." "You can't be Manuel," said Marshal. "He can't be Manuel," said the big policemen and the little policeman. "Maybe not, then," the dwarf conceded. "I thought I was, but I wasn't sure. Who am I then? Let's look at the other papers and see which one I am." "No, you can't be any of them either, Manuel. And you surely can't be Manuel." "Give him a name anyhow and get him counted. We got to get to that ten thousand mark." "Tell us what happened, Manuel—if you are. Which you aren't. But tell us." "After I counted the regular people I went to count the little people. I took a spade and spaded off the top of their town to get in. But they put an encanto on me, and made me and Mula run a treadmill for thirty-five years." "Where was this?" "At the little people town. Nuevo Danae. But after thirty-five years the encanto wore off and Mula and I stole the list of names and ran away." "But where did you really get this list of so many names written so small?" "Suffering saddle sores, Marshal, don't ask the little bug so many questions. You got a million names in your hand. Certify them! Send them in! There's enough of us here right now. We declare that place annexed forthwith. This will make High Plains the biggest town in the whole state of Texas." SO Marshal certified them and sent them into Washington. This gave High Plains the largest percentage increase of any city in the nation, but it was challenged. There were some soreheads in Houston who said that it wasn't possible. They said High Plains had nowhere near that many people and there must have been a miscount. And in the days that the argument was going on, they cleaned up and fed Manuel, if it were he, and tried to get from him a cogent story. "How do you know it was thirty-five years you were on the treadmill, Manuel?" "Well, it seemed like thirty-five years." "It could have only been about three days." "Then how come I'm so old?" "We don't know that, Manuel, we sure don't know that. How big were these people?" "Who knows? A finger long, maybe two?" "And what is their town?" "It is an old prairie-dog town that they fixed up. You have to dig down with a spade to get to the streets." "Maybe they were really all prairie dogs, Manuel. Maybe the heat got you and you only dreamed that they were little people." "Prairie dogs can't write as good as on that list. Prairie dogs can't write hardly at all." "That's true. The list is hard to explain. And such odd names on it too." "Where is Mula? I don't see Mula since I came back." "Mula just lay down and died, Manuel." "Gave me the slip. Why didn't I think of that? Well, I'll do it too. I'm too worn out for anything else." "Before you do, Manuel, just a couple of last questions." "Make them real fast then. I'm on my way." "Did you know these little people were there before?" "Oh, sure. There a long time." "Did anybody else ever see them?" "Oh, sure. Everybody in the Santa Magdalena see them. Eight, nine people see them." "And Manuel, how do we get to the place? Can you show us on a map?" Manuel made a grimace, and died quietly as Mula had done. He didn't understand those maps at all, and took the easy way out. They buried him, not knowing for sure whether he was Manuel come back, or what he was. There wasn't much of him to bury. IT was the same night, very late and after he had been asleep, that Marshal was awakened by the ring of an authoritative voice. He was being harangued by a four-inch tall man on his bedside table, a man of dominating presence and acid voice. "Come out of that cot, you clown! Give me your name and station!" "I'm Marshal, and I suspect that you are a late pig sandwich, or caused by one. I shouldn't eat so late." "Say 'sir' when you reply to me. I am no pig sandwich and I do not commonly call on fools. Get on your feet, you clod." And wonderingly Marshal did. "I want the list that was stolen. Don't gape! Get it!" "What list?" "Don't stall, don't stutter. Get me our tax list that was stolen. It isn't words that I want from you." "Listen, you cicada, I'll take you and—" "You will not. You will notice that you are paralyzed from the neck down. I suspect that you were always so from there up. Where is the list?" "S-sent it to Washington." "You bug-eyed behemoth! Do you realize what a trip that will be? You grandfather of inanities, it will be a pleasure to destroy you!" "I don't know what you are, or if you are really. I don't believe that you even belong on the world." "Not belong on the world! We own the world. We can show written title to the world. Can you?" "I doubt it. Where did you get the title?" "None of your business. I'd rather not say. Oh, well, we got it from a promoter of sorts. A con man, really. I'll have to admit that we were taken, but we were in a spot and needed a world. He said that the larger bifurcates were too stupid to be a nuisance. We should have known that the stupider a creature, the more of a nuisance it is." "I had about decided the same thing about the smaller a creature. We may have to fumigate that old mountain mess." "Oh, you can't harm us. We're too powerful. But we can obliterate you in an instant." "Hah!" "Say 'Hah, sir' when you address me. Do you know the place in the mountain that is called Sodom?" "I know the place. It was caused by a large meteor." "It was caused by one of these." What he held up was the size of a grain of sand. Marshal could not see it in detail. "There was another city of you bug-eyed beasts there," said the small martinet. "You wouldn't know about it. It's been a few hundred years. We decided it was too close. Now I have decided that you are too close." "A thing that size couldn't crack a walnut." "You floundering fop, it will blast this town flat!" "What will happen to you?" "Nothing. I don't even blink for things like that." "How do you trigger it off." "You gaping goof, I don't have time to explain that to you. I have to get to Washington." It may be that Marshal did not believe himself quite awake. He certainly did not take the threat seriously enough. For the little man did trigger it off. WHEN the final count was in, High Plains did not have the highest percentage gain in population in the nation. Actually it showed the sharpest decline, from 7313 to nothing. They were going to make a forest preserve out of the place, except that it has no trees worthy of the name. Now it is proposed to make it the Sodom and Gomorrah State Park from the two mysterious scenes of desolation there, just seven miles apart. It is an interesting place, as wild a region as you will ever find, a

divendres, 19 d’agost de 2016

trouble began in a seemingly trivial way. Connor had wanted to speak to Rhoda, his wife, wished himself onto a trunk line and then waited. "Dallas Shipping here, Mars and points Jupiterward, at your service," said a business-is-business, unwifely voice in his mind. "I was not calling you," he thought back into the line, now also getting a picture, first flat, then properly 3-D and in color. It was a paraNormally luxurious commercial office. "I am the receptionist at Dallas Shipping," the woman thought back firmly. "You rang and I answered." "I'm sure I rang right," Connor insisted. "And I'm sure I know my job," Dallas Shipping answered. "I have received as many as five hundred thought messages a day, some of them highly detailed and technical and—" "Forget it," snapped Connor. "Let's say I focussed wrong." He pulled back and twenty seconds later finally had Rhoda on the line. "Queerest thing happened," he projected. "I just got a wrong party." "Nothing queer about it," his wife smiled, springing to warm life on his inner eye. "You just weren't concentrating, Connor." "Don't you hand me that too," he grumbled. "I know I thought on the right line into Central. Haven't I been using the System for sixty years?" "Exactly—all habit and no attention." How smugly soothing she was some days! "I think the trouble's in Central itself. The Switcher isn't receiving me clearly." "Lately I've had some peculiar miscalls myself," Rhoda said nervously. "But you can't blame Central Switching!" "Oh, I didn't mean that!" By now he was equally nervous and only too happy to end the conversation. Ordinarily communications were not monitored but if this one had been there could certainly be a slander complaint. ON his way home in the monorail Connor tried to reach his office and had the frightening experience of having his telepathic call refused by Central. Then he refused in turn to accept a call being projected at him, but when an Urgent classification was added he had to take it. "For your unfounded slander of Central Switching's functioning," announced the mechanically-synthesized voice, "you are hereby Suspended indefinitely from the telepathic net. From this point on all paraNormal privileges are withdrawn and you will be able to communicate with your fellows only in person or by written message." Stunned, Connor looked abo

ut at his fellow passengers. Most of them had their eyes closed and their faces showed the mild little smile which was the outer hallmark of a mind at rest, tuned in to a music channel or some other of the hundreds of entertainment lines available from Central. How much he had taken that for granted just a few minutes ago!
Three men, more shabbily dressed, were unsmilingly reading books. They were fellow pariahs, Suspended for one reason or another from paraNormal privileges. Only the dullest, lowest-paying jobs were available to them while anyone inside the System could have Central read any book and transmit the information directly into his cortex. The shabbiest one of all looked up and his sympathetic glance showed that he had instantly grasped Connor's changed situation.
Connor looked hastily away; he didn't want any sympathy from that kind of 'human' being! Then he shuddered. Wasn't he, himself, now that kind in every way except his ability to admit it?
When he stepped onto the lushly hydroponic platform at the suburban stop the paraNormals, ordinarily friendly, showed that they, too, already realized what had happened. Each pair of suddenly icy eyes went past him as if he were not there at all.
He walked up the turf-covered lane toward his house, feeling hopelessly defeated. How would he manage to maintain a home here in the middle of green and luxuriant beauty? More people than ever were now outside the System for one reason or another and most of these unfortunates were crowded in metropolitan centers which were slumhells to anyone who had known something better.
How could he have been so thoughtless because of a little lapse in Central's mechanism? Now that it was denied him, probably forever, he saw more clearly the essential perfection of the system that had brought order into the chaos following the discovery of universal paraNormal capacities. At first there had been endless interference between minds trying to reach each other while fighting off unwanted calls. Men had even suggested this blessing turned curse be annulled.
The Central Synaptic Computation Receptor and Transmitter System had ended all such negative thinking. For the past century and a half it had neatly routed telepathic transmissions with an efficiency that made ancient telephone exchanges look like Stone Age toys. A mind could instantly exchange information with any other Subscribing mind and still shut itself off through the Central machine if and when it needed privacy. Except, he shuddered once more, if Central put that Urgent rating on a call. Now only Rhoda could get a job to keep them from the inner slumlands.
He turned into his garden and watched Max, the robot, spading in the petunia bed. The chrysanthemums really needed more attention and he was going to think the order to Max when he realized with a new shock that all orders would have to be oral now. He gave up the idea of saying anything and stomped gloomily into the house.

AS he hung his jacket in the hall closet he heard Rhoda coming downstairs. "Queer thing happened today," he said with forced cheerfulness, "but we'll manage." He stopped as Rhoda appeared. Her eyes were red and puffed.
"I tried to reach you," she sobbed.
"Oh, you already know. Well, we can manage, you know, honey. You can work two days a week and—"
"You don't understand," she screamed at him. "I'm Suspended too! I tried to tell it I hadn't done anything but it said I was guilty by being associated with you."
Stunned, he fell back into a chair. "Not you, too, darling!" He had been getting used to the idea of his own reduced status but this was too brutal. "Tell Central you'll leave me and the guilt will be gone."
"You fool, I did say that and my defense was refused!"
Tears welled in his eyes. Was there no bottom to this horror? "You yourself suggested that?"
"Why shouldn't I?" she cried. "It wasn't my fault at all."
He sat there and tried not to listen as waves of hate rolled over him. Then the front bell rang and Rhoda answered it.
"I haven't been able to reach you," someone was saying through the door. It was Sheila Williams who lived just down the lane. "Lately lines seem to get tied up more and more. It's about tonight's game."
Just then Rhoda opened the door and Sheila came to an abrupt halt as she saw her old friend's face. Her expression turned stony and she said, "I wanted you to know the game is off." Then she strode away.
Unbelieving, Rhoda watched her go. "After forty years!" she exclaimed. She slowly came back to her husband and stared down at him. "Forty years of 'undying' friendship, gone like that!" Her eyes softened a little. "Maybe I'm wrong, Connor, maybe I said too much through Central myself. And maybe I'd have acted like Sheila if they had been the ones."
He withdrew his hands from his face. "I've done the same thing to other wretches myself. We'll just have to get used to it somehow. I've enough social credits to hang on here a year anyway."
"Get used to it," she repeated dully. This time there was no denunciation but she had to flee up the stairs to be alone.
He went to the big bay window and, trying to keep his mind blank, watched Max re-spading the petunia bed. He really should go out and tell the robot to stop, he decided, otherwise the same work would be repeated again and again. But he just watched for the next hour as Max kept returning to the far end of the bed and working his way up to the window, nodding mindlessly with each neat twist of his spade attachment.
Rhoda came back downstairs and said, "It's six-thirty. The first time since the boys left that they didn't call us at six." He thought of Ted on Mars and Phil on Venus and sighed. "By now," she went on, "they know what's happened. Usually colonial children just refuse to have anything more to do with parents like us. And they're right—they have their own futures to consider."



dimecres, 17 d’agost de 2016

soviet alternatives

He left the car at the curb, slamming its door behind him and walking briskly to the entrance. Hard, handsome in the Slavic tradition, dedicated, Ilya Simonov was young for his rank. A plainclothes man, idling a hundred feet down the street, eyed him briefly then turned his attention elsewhere. The two guards at the gate snapped to attention, their eyes straight ahead. Colonel Simonov was in mufti and didn't answer the salute.
The inside of the old building was well known to him. He went along marble halls which contained antique statuary and other relics of the past which, for unknown reason, no one had ever bothered to remove. At the heavy door which entered upon the office of his destination he came to a halt and spoke briefly to the lieutenant at the desk there.
"The Minister is expecting me," Simonov clipped.
The lieutenant did the things receptionists do everywhere and looked up in a moment to say, "Go right in, Colonel Simonov."
Minister Kliment Blagonravov looked up from his desk at Simonov's entrance. He was a heavy-set man, heavy of face and he still affected the shaven head, now rapidly disappearing among upper-echelons of the Party. His jacket had been thrown over the back of a chair and his collar loosened; even so there was a sheen of sweat on his face.
He looked up at his most trusted field man, said in the way of greeting, "Ilya," and twisted in his swivel chair to a portable bar. He swung open the door of the small refrigerator and emerged with a bottle of Stolichnaya vodka. He plucked two three-ounce glasses from a shelf and pulled the bottle's cork with his teeth. "Sit down, sit down, Ilya," he grunted as he filled the glasses. "How was Magnitogorsk?"
Ilya Simonov secured his glass before seating himself in one of the room's heavy leathern chairs. He sighed, relaxed, and said, "Terrible, I loath those ultra-industrialized cities. I wonder if the Americans do any better with Pittsburgh or the British with Birmingham."
"I know what you mean," the security head rumbled. "How did you make out with you assignment, Ilya?"
Colonel Simonov frowned down into the colorlessness of the vodka before dashing it back over his palate. "It's all in my report, Kliment." He was the only man in the organization who called Blagonravov by his first name.
His chief grunted again and reached forward to refill the glass. "I'm sure it is. Do you know how many reports go across this desk daily? And did you know that Ilya Simonov is the most long-winded, as the Americans say, of my some two hundred first-line operatives?"
The colonel shifted in his chair. "Sorry," he said. "I'll keep that in mind."
His chief rumbled his sour version of a chuckle. "Nothing, nothing, Ilya. I was jesting. However, give me a brief of your mission."
Ilya Simonov frowned again at his refilled vodka glass but didn't take it up for a moment. "A routine matter," he said. "A dozen or so engineers and technicians, two or three fairly high-ranking scientists, and three or four of the local intelligentsia had formed some sort of informal club. They were discussing national and international affairs."
Kliment Blagonravov's thin eyebrows went up but he waited for the other to go on.
Ilya said impatiently, "It was the ordinary. They featured complete freedom of opinion and expression in their weekly get-togethers. They began by criticizing without extremism, local affairs, matters concerned with their duties, that sort of thing. In the beginning, they even sent a few letters of protest to the local press, signing the name of the club. After their ideas went further out, they didn't dare do that, of course."
He took up his second drink and belted it back, not wanting to give it time to lose its chill.
His chief filled in. "And they delved further and further into matters that should be discussed only within the party—if even there—until they arrived at what point?"
Colonel Simonov shrugged. "Until they finally got to the point of discussing how best to overthrow the Soviet State and what socio-economic system should follow it. The usual thing. I've run into possible two dozen such outfits in the past five years."
His chief grunted and tossed back his own drink. "My dear Ilya," he rumbled sourly, "I've run into, as you say, more than two hundred."
Simonov was taken back by the figure but he only looked at the other.
Blagonravov said, "What did you do about it?"
"Several of them were popular locally. In view of Comrade Zverev's recent pronouncements of increased freedom of press and speech, I thought it best not to make a public display. Instead, I took measures to charge individual members with inefficiency in their work, with corruption or graft, or with other crimes having nothing to do with the reality of the situation. Six or seven in all were imprisoned, others demoted. Ten or twelve I had switched to other cities, principally into more backward areas in the virgin lands."
"And the ringleaders?" the security head asked.
"There were two of them, one a research chemist of some prominence, the other a steel plane manager. They were both, ah, unfortunately killed in an automobile accident while under the influence of drink."
"I see," Blagonravov nodded. "So actually the whole rat's nest was stamped out without attention being brought to it so far as the Magnitogorsk public is concerned." He nodded heavily again. "You can almost always be depended upon to do the right thing, Ilya. If you weren't so confoundedly good a field man, I'd make you my deputy."
Which was exactly what Simonov would have hated, but he said nothing.
"One thing," his chief said. "The origin of this, ah, club which turned into a tiny underground all of its own. Did you detect the finger of the West, stirring up trouble?"
"No." Simonov shook his head. "If such was the case, the agents involved were more clever than I'd ordinarily give either America or Common Europe credit for. I could be wrong, of course."
"Perhaps," the police head growled. He eyed the bottle before him but made no motion toward it. He wiped the palm of his right hand back over his bald pate, in unconscious irritation. "But there is something at work that we are not getting at." Blagonravov seemed to change subjects. "You can speak Czech, so I understand."
"That's right. My mother was from Bratislava. My father met her there during the Hitler war."
"And you know Czechoslovakia?"
"I've spent several vacations in the Tatras at such resorts as Tatranski Lomnica since the country's been made such a tourist center of the satellites." Ilya Simonov didn't understand this trend of the conversation.
"You have some knowledge of automobiles, too?"
Simonov shrugged. "I've driven all my life."
His chief rumbled thoughtfully, "Time isn't of essence. You can take a quick course at the Moskvich plant. A week or two would give you all the background you need."
Ilya laughed easily. "I seem to have missed something. Have my shortcomings caught up with me? Am I to be demoted to automobile mechanic?"
Kliment Blagonravov became definite. "You are being given the most important assignment of your career, Ilya. This rot, this ever growing ferment against the Party, must be cut out, liquidated. It seems to fester worse among the middle echelons of ... what did that Yugoslavian Djilas call us?... the New Class. Why? That's what we must know."
He sat farther back in his chair and his heavy lips made a mout. "Why, Ilya?" he repeated. "After more than half a century the Party has attained all its goals. Lenin's millennium is here; the end for which Stalin purged ten millions and more, is reached; the sacrifices demanded by Khrushchev in the Seven-Year Plans have finally paid off, as the Yankees say. Our gross national product, our per capita production, our standard of living, is the highest in the world. Sacrifices are no longer necessary."
There had been an almost whining note in his voice. But now he broke it off. He poured them still another drink. "At any rate, Ilya, I was with Frol Zverev this morning. Number One is incensed. It seems that in the Azerbaijan Republic, for one example, that even the Komsomols were circulating among themselves various proscribed books and pamphlets. Comrade Zverev instructed me to concentrate on discovering the reason for this disease."
Colonel Simonov scowled. "What's this got to do with Czechoslovakia—and automobiles?"
The security head waggled a fat finger at him. "What we've been doing, thus far, is dashing forth upon hearing of a new conflagration and stamping it out. Obviously, that's no answer. We must find who is behind it. How it begins. Why it begins. That's your job?"
"Why Czechoslovakia?"
"You're unknown as a security agent there, for one thing. You will go to Prague and become manager of the Moskvich automobile distribution agency. No one, not even the Czech unit of our ministry will be aware of your identity. You will play it by ear, as the Americans say."
"To whom do I report?"
"Only to me, until the task is completed. When it is, you will return to Moscow and report fully." A grimace twisted Blagonravov's face. "If I am still here. Number One is truly incensed, Ilya."

There had been some more. Kliment Blagonravov had evidently chosen Prague, the capital of Czechoslovakia, as the seat of operations in a suspicion that the wave of unrest spreading insidiously throughout the Soviet Complex owed its origins to the West. Thus far, there had been no evidence of this but the suspicion refused to die. If not the West, then who? The Cold War was long over but the battle for men's minds continued even in peace.
Ideally, Ilya Simonov was to infiltrate whatever Czech groups might be active in the illicit movement and then, if he discovered there was a higher organization, a center of the movement, he was to attempt to become a part of it. If possible he was to rise in the organisation to as high a point as he could.
Blagonravov, Minister of the Chrezvychainaya Komissiya, the Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage, was of the opinion that if this virus of revolt was originating from the West, then it would be stronger in the satellite countries than in Russia itself. Simonov held no opinion as yet. He would wait and see. However, there was an uncomfortable feeling about the whole assignment. The group in Magnitogorsk, he was all but sure, had no connections with Western agents, nor anyone else, for that matter. Of course, it might have been an exception.
He left the Ministry, his face thoughtful as he climbed into his waiting Zil. This assignment was going to be a lengthy one. He'd have to wind up various affairs here in Moscow, personal as well as business. He might be away for a year or more.
There was a sheet of paper on the seat of his aircushion car. He frowned at it. It couldn't have been there before. He picked it up.
It was a mimeographed throw-away.
It was entitled, FREEDOM, and it began: Comrades, more than a hundred years ago the founders of scientific socialism, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, explained that the State was incompatible with liberty, that the State was an instrument of repression of one class by another. They explained that for true freedom ever to exist the State must wither away.
Under the leadership of Lenin, Stalin, Krushchev and now Zverev, the State has become ever stronger. Far from withering away, it continues to oppress us. Fellow Russians, it is time we take action! We must....
Colonel Simonov bounced from his car again, shot his eyes up and down the street. He barely refrained from drawing the 9 mm automatic which nestled under his left shoulder and which he knew how to use so well.
He curtly beckoned to the plainclothes man, still idling against the building a hundred feet or so up the street. The other approached him, touched the brim of his hat in a half salute.
Simonov snapped, "Do you know who I am?"
"Yes, colonel."
Ilya Simonov thrust the leaflet forward. "How did this get into my car?"
The other looked at it blankly. "I don't know, Colonel Simonov."
"You've been here all this time?"
"Why, yes colonel."
"With my car in plain sight?"
That didn't seem to call for an answer. The plainclothesman looked apprehensive but blank.
Simonov turned on his heel and approached the two guards at the gate. They were not more than thirty feet from where he was parked. They came to the salute but he growled, "At ease. Look here, did anyone approach my vehicle while I was inside?"
One of the soldiers said, "Sir, twenty or thirty people have passed since the Comrade colonel entered the Ministry."
The other one said, "Yes, sir."
Ilya Simonov looked from the guards to the plainclothes man and back, in frustration. Finally he spun on his heel again and re-entered the car. He slapped the elevation lever, twisted the wheel sharply, hit the jets pedal with his foot and shot into the traffic.
The plainclothes man looked after him and muttered to the guards, "Blagonravov's hatchetman. He's killed more men than the plague. A bad one to have down on you."
Simonov bowled down the Kaluga at excessive speed. "Driving like a young stilyagi," he growled in irritation at himself. But, confound it, how far had things gone when subversive leaflets were placed in cars parked in front of the ministry devoted to combating counter revolution.

He'd been away from Moscow for over a month and the amenities in the smog, smoke and coke fumes blanketing industrial complex of Magnitogorsk hadn't been particularly of the best. Ilya Simonov headed now for Gorki Street and the Baku Restaurant. He had an idea that it was going to be some time before the opportunity would be repeated for him to sit down to Zakouski, the salty, spicy Russian hors d'oeuvres, and to Siberian pilmeny and a bottle of Tsinandali.
The restaurant, as usual, was packed. In irritation, Ilya Simonov stood for a while waiting for a table, then, taking the head waiter's advice, agreed to share one with a stranger.
The stranger, a bearded little man, who was dwaddling over his Gurievskaya kasha dessert while reading Izvestia, glanced up at him, unseemingly, bobbed his head at Simonov's request to share his table, and returned to the newspaper.
The harried waiter took his time in turning up with a menu. Ilya Simonov attempted to relax. He had no particular reason to be upset by the leaflet found in his car. Obviously, whoever had thrown it there was distributing haphazardly. The fact that it was mimeographed, rather than printed, was an indication of lack of resources, an amateur affair. But what in the world did these people want? What did they want?
The Soviet State was turning out consumer's goods, homes, cars as no nation in the world. Vacations were lengthy, working hours short. A four-day week, even! What did they want? What motivates a man who is living on a scale unknown to a Czarist boyar to risk his position, even his life! in a stupidly impossible revolt against the country's government?
The man across from him snorted in contempt.
He looked over the top of his paper at Smirnov and said, "The election in Italy. Ridiculous!"
Ilya Simonov brought his mind back to the present. "How did they turn out? I understand the depression is terrible there."
"So I understand," the other said. "The vote turned out as was to be expected."
Simonov's eyebrows went up. "The Party has been voted into power?"
"Ha!" the other snorted. "The vote for the Party has fallen off by more than a third."
The security colonel scowled at him. "That doesn't sound reasonable, if the economic situation is as bad as has been reported."
His table mate put down the paper. "Why not? Has there ever been a country where the Party was voted into power? Anywhere—at any time during the more than half a century since the Bolsheviks first took over here in Russia?"
Simonov looked at him.
The other was talking out opinions he'd evidently formed while reading the Izvestia account of the Italian elections, not paying particular attention to the stranger across from him.
He said, his voice irritated, "Nor will there ever be. They know better. In the early days of the revolution the workers might have had illusions about the Party and it goals. Now they've lost them. Everywhere, they've lost them."
Ilya Simonov said tightly, "How do you mean?"
"I mean the Party has been rejected. With the exception of China and Yugoslavia, both of whom have their own varieties, the only countries that have adopted our system have done it under pressure from outside—not by their own efforts. Not by the will of the majority."
Colonel Simonov said flatly, "You seem to think that Marxism will never dominate the world."
"Marxism!" the other snorted. "If Marx were alive in Russia today, Frol Zverev would have him in a Siberian labor camp within twenty-four hours."
Ilya Simonov brought forth his wallet and opened it to his police credentials. He said coldly, "Let me see your identification papers. You are under arrest."
The other stared at him for a moment, then snorted his contempt. He brought forth his own wallet and handed it across the table.
Simonov flicked it open, his face hard. He looked at the man. "Konstantin Kasatkin."
"Candidate member of the Academy of Sciences," the other snapped. "And bearer of the Hero of the Soviet Union award."
Simonov flung the wallet back to him in anger. "And as such, practically immune."
The other grinned nastily at him. "Scientists, my police friend, cannot be bothered with politics. Where would the Soviet Complex be if you took to throwing biologists such as myself into prison for making unguarded statements in an absent-minded moment?"
Simonov slapped a palm down on the table. "Confound it, Comrade," he snapped, "how is the Party to maintain discipline in the country if high ranking persons such as yourself speak open subversion to strangers."
The other sported his contempt. "Perhaps there's too much discipline in Russia, Comrade policeman."
"Rather, far from enough," Simonov snapped back.
The waiter, at last, approached and extended a menu to the security officer. But Ilya Simonov had come to his feet. "Never mind," he clipped in disgust. "There is an air of degenerate decay about here."
The waiter stared at him. The biologist snorted and returned to his paper. Simonov turned and stormed out. He could find something to eat and drink in his own apartment.

The old, old town of Prague, the Golden City of a Hundred Spires was as always the beautifully stolid medieval metropolis which even a quarter of a century and more of Party rule could not change. The Old Town, nestled in a bend of the Vltava River, as no other city in Europe, breathed its centuries, its air of yesteryear.
Colonel Ilya Simonov, in spite of his profession, was not immune to beauty. He deliberately failed to notify his new office of his arrival, flew in on a Ceskoslovenskè Aerolinie Tupolev rocket liner and spent his first night at the Alcron Hotel just off Wenceslas Square. He knew that as the new manager of the local Moskvich distribution agency he'd have fairly elaborate quarters, probably in a good section of town, but this first night he wanted to himself.
He spent it wandering quietly in the old quarter, dropping in to the age-old beer halls for a half liter of Pilsen Urquell here, a foaming stein of Smichov Lager there. Czech beer, he was reminded all over again, is the best in the world. No argument, no debate, the best in the world.
He ate in the endless automated cafeterias that line the Viclavské Námesi the entertainment center of Prague. Ate an open sandwich here, some crabmeat salad there, a sausage and another glass of Pilsen somewhere else again. He was getting the feel of the town and of its people. Of recent years, some of the tension had gone out of the atmosphere in Moscow and the other Soviet centers; with the coming of economic prosperity there had also come a relaxation. The fear, so heavy in the Stalin era, had fallen off in that of Khrushchev and still more so in the present reign of Frol Zverev. In fact, Ilya Simonov was not alone in Party circles in wondering whether or not discipline had been allowed to slip too far. It is easier, the old Russian proverb goes, to hang onto the reins than to regain them once dropped.
But if Moscow had lost much of its pall of fear, Prague had certainly gone even further. In fact, in the U Pinkasu beer hall Simonov had idly picked up a magazine left by some earlier wassailer. It was a light literary publication devoted almost exclusively to humor. There were various cartoons, some of them touching political subjects. Ilya Simonov had been shocked to see a caricature of Frol Zverev himself. Zverev, Number One! Ridiculed in a second-rate magazine in a satellite country!
Ilya Simonov made a note of the name and address of the magazine and the issue.
Across the heavy wooden community table from him, a beer drinker grinned, in typically friendly Czech style. "A good magazine," he said. "You should subscribe."
A waiter, bearing an even dozen liter-size steins of beer hurried along, spotted the fact that Simonov's mug was empty, slipped a full one into its place, gave the police agent's saucer a quick mark of a pencil, and hurried on again. In the U Pinkasu, it was supposed that you wanted another beer so long as you remained sitting. When you finally staggered to your feet, the nearest waiter counted the number of pencil marks on your saucer and you paid up.
Ilya Simonov said cautiously to his neighbor, "Seems to be quite, ah, brash." He tapped the magazine with a finger.
The other shrugged and grinned again. "Things loosen up as the years go by," he said. "What a man wouldn't have dared say to his own wife five years ago, they have on TV today."
"I'm surprised the police don't take steps," Simonov said, trying to keep his voice expressionless.
The other took a deep swallow of his Pilsen Urquell. He pursed his lips and thought about it. "You know, I wonder if they'd dare. Such a case brought into the People's Courts might lead to all sort of public reaction these days."
It had been some years since Ilya Simonov had been in Prague and even then he'd only gone through on the way to the ski resorts in the mountains. He was shocked to find the Czech state's control had fallen off to this extent. Why, here he was, a complete stranger, being openly talked to on political subjects.
His cross-the-table neighbor shook his head, obviously pleased. "If you think Prague is good, you ought to see Warsaw. It's as free as Paris! I saw a Tri-D cinema up there about two months ago. You know what it was about? The purges in Moscow back in the 1930s."
"A rather unique subject," Simonov said.

GUN FOR HIRE By MACK REYNOLDS J OE PRANTERA called softly, "Al." The pleasurable, comfortable, warm feeling began spreading over him, the way it always did. The older man stopped and squinted, but not suspiciously, even now. The evening was dark, it was unlikely that the other even saw the circle of steel that was the mouth of the shotgun barrel, now resting on the car's window ledge. "Who's it?" he growled. Joe Prantera said softly, "Big Louis sent me, Al." And he pressed the trigger. And at that moment, the universe caved inward upon Joseph Marie Prantera. There was nausea and nausea upon nausea. There was a falling through all space and through all time. There was doubling and twisting and twitching of every muscle and nerve. There was pain, horror and tumultuous fear. And he came out of it as quickly and completely as he'd gone in. He was in, he thought, a hospital and his first reaction was to think, This here California. Everything different. Then his second thought was Something went wrong. Big Louis, he ain't going to like this. He brought his thinking to the present. So far as he could remember, he hadn't completely pulled the trigger. That at least meant that whatever the rap was it wouldn't be too tough. With luck, the syndicate would get him off with a couple of years at Quentin. A

In the adjoining room was a circular table that would have accommodated a dozen persons. Two were seated there now, papers, books and soiled coffee cups before them. There had evidently been a long wait.
Reston-Farrell, the one Joe had already met, was tall and drawn of face and with a chainsmoker's nervousness. The other was heavier and more at ease. They were both, Joe estimated, somewhere in their middle fifties. They both looked like docs. He wondered, all over again, if this was some kind of pressure cooker.
But that didn't explain the view from the window.
Reston-Farrell said, "May I present my colleague, Citizen Warren Brett-James? Warren, this is our guest from ... from yesteryear, Mr. Joseph Salviati-Prantera."
Brett-James nodded to him, friendly, so far as Joe could see. He said gently, "I think it would be Mr. Joseph Prantera, wouldn't it? The maternal linage was almost universally ignored." His voice too gave the impression he was speaking a language not usually on his tongue.
Joe took an empty chair, hardly bothering to note its alien qualities. His body seemed to fit into the piece of furniture, as though it had been molded to his order.
Joe said, "I think maybe I'll take that there drink, Doc."
Reston-Farrell said, "Of course," and then something else Joe didn't get. Whatever the something else was, a slot opened in the middle of the table and a glass, so clear of texture as to be all but invisible, was elevated. It contained possibly three ounces of golden fluid.
Joe didn't allow himself to think of its means of delivery. He took up the drink and bolted it. He put the glass down and said carefully, "What's it all about, huh?"
Warren Brett-James said soothingly, "Prepare yourself for somewhat of a shock, Mr. Prantera. You are no longer in Los Angeles—"
"Ya think I'm stupid? I can see that."
"I was about to say, Los Angeles of 1960. Mr. Prantera, we welcome you to Nuevo Los Angeles."
"Ta where?"
"To Nuevo Los Angeles and to the year—" Brett-James looked at his companion. "What is the date, Old Calendar?"
"2133," Reston-Farrell said. "2133 A.D. they would say."
Joe Prantera looked from one of them to the other, scowling. "What are you guys talking about?"
Warren Brett-James said softly, "Mr. Prantera, you are no longer in the year 1960, you are now in the year 2133."
He said, uncomprehendingly, "You mean I been, like, unconscious for—" He let the sentence fall away as he realized the impossibility.
Brett-James said gently, "Hardly for one hundred and seventy years, Mr. Prantera."
Reston-Farrell said, "I am afraid we are confusing you. Briefly, we have transported you, I suppose one might say, from your own era to ours."
Joe Prantera had never been exposed to the concept of time travel. He had simply never associated with anyone who had ever even remotely considered such an idea. Now he said, "You mean, like, I been asleep all that time?"
"Not exactly," Brett-James said, frowning.
Reston-Farrell said, "Suffice to say, you are now one hundred and seventy-three years after the last memory you have."
Joe Prantera's mind suddenly reverted to those last memories and his eyes narrowed dangerously. He felt suddenly at bay. He said, "Maybe you guys better let me in on what's this all about."
Reston-Farrell said, "Mr. Prantera, we have brought you from your era to perform a task for us."
Joe stared at him, and then at the other. He couldn't believe he was getting through to them. Or, at least, that they were to him.
Finally he said, "If I get this, you want me to do a job for you."
"That is correct."
Joe said, "You guys know the kind of jobs I do?"
"That is correct."
"Like hell you do. You think I'm stupid? I never even seen you before." Joe Prantera came abruptly to his feet. "I'm gettin' outta here."
For the second time, Reston-Farrell said, "Where would you go, Mr. Prantera?"
Joe glared at him. Then sat down again, as abruptly as he'd arisen.

"Let's start all over again. I got this straight, you brought me, some screwy way, all the way ... here. O.K., I'll buy that. I seen what it looks like out that window—" The real comprehension was seeping through to him even as he talked. "Everybody I know, Jessie, Tony, the Kid, Big Louis, everybody, they're dead. Even Big Louis."
"Yes," Brett-James said, his voice soft. "They are all dead, Mr. Prantera. Their children are all dead, and their grandchildren."
The two men of the future said nothing more for long minutes while Joe Prantera's mind whirled its confusion.
Finally he said, "What's this bit about you wanting me to give it to some guy."
"That is why we brought you here, Mr. Prantera. You were ... you are, a professional assassin."
"Hey, wait a minute, now."
Reston-Farrell went on, ignoring the interruption. "There is small point in denying your calling. Pray remember that at the point when we ... transported you, you were about to dispose of a contemporary named Alphonso Annunziata-Rossi. A citizen, I might say, whose demise would probably have caused small dismay to society."
They had him pegged all right. Joe said, "But why me? Why don't you get some heavy from now? Somebody knows the ropes these days."
Brett-James said, "Mr. Prantera, there are no professional assassins in this age, nor have there been for over a century and a half."
"Well, then do it yourself." Joe Prantera's irritation over this whole complicated mess was growing. And already he was beginning to long for the things he knew—for Jessie and Tony and the others, for his favorite bar, for the lasagne down at Papa Giovanni's. Right now he could have welcomed a calling down at the hands of Big Louis.
Reston-Farrell had come to his feet and walked to one of the large room's windows. He looked out, as though unseeing. Then, his back turned, he said, "We have tried, but it is simply not in us, Mr. Prantera."
"You mean you're yella?"
"No, if by that you mean afraid. It is simply not within us to take the life of a fellow creature—not to speak of a fellow man."
Joe snapped: "Everything you guys say sounds crazy. Let's start all over again."
Brett-James said, "Let me do it, Lawrence." He turned his eyes to Joe. "Mr. Prantera, in your own era, did you ever consider the future?"
Joe looked at him blankly.
"In your day you were confronted with national and international, problems. Just as we are today and just as nations were a century or a millennium ago."
"Sure, O.K., so we had problems. I know whatcha mean—like wars, and depressions and dictators and like that."
"Yes, like that," Brett-James nodded.
The heavy-set man paused a moment. "Yes, like that," he repeated. "That we confront you now indicates that the problems of your day were solved. Hadn't they been, the world most surely would have destroyed itself. Wars? Our pedagogues are hard put to convince their students that such ever existed. More than a century and a half ago our society eliminated the reasons for international conflict. For that matter," he added musingly, "we eliminated most international boundaries. Depressions? Shortly after your own period, man awoke to the fact that he had achieved to the point where it was possible to produce an abundance for all with a minimum of toil. Overnight, for all practical purposes, the whole world was industrialized, automated. The second industrial revolution was accompanied by revolutionary changes in almost every field, certainly in every science. Dictators? Your ancestors found, Mr. Prantera, that it is difficult for a man to be free so long as others are still enslaved. Today the democratic ethic has reached a pinnacle never dreamed of in your own era."
"O.K., O.K.," Joe Prantera growled. "So everybody's got it made. What I wanta know is what's all this about me giving it ta somebody? If everything's so great, how come you want me to knock this guy off?"
Reston-Farrell bent forward and thumped his right index finger twice on the table. "The bacterium of hate—a new strain—has found the human race unprotected from its disease. We had thought our vaccines immunized us."
"What's that suppose to mean?"
Brett-James took up the ball again. "Mr. Prantera, have you ever heard of Ghengis Khan, of Tamerlane, Alexander, Caesar?"
Joe Prantera scowled at him emptily.
"Or, more likely, of Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin?"
"Sure I heard of Hitler and Stalin," Joe growled. "I ain't stupid."
The other nodded. "Such men are unique. They have a drive ... a drive to power which exceeds by far the ambitions of the average man. They are genii in their way, Mr. Prantera, genii of evil. Such a genius of evil has appeared on the current scene."
"Now we're getting somewheres," Joe snorted. "So you got a guy what's a little ambitious, like, eh? And you guys ain't got the guts to give it to him. O.K. What's in it for me?"
The two of them frowned, exchanged glances. Reston-Farrell said, "You know, that is one aspect we had not considered."
Brett-James said to Joe Prantera, "Had we not, ah, taken you at the time we did, do you realize what would have happened?"
"Sure," Joe grunted. "I woulda let old Al Rossi have it right in the guts, five times. Then I woulda took the plane back to Chi."
Brett-James was shaking his head. "No. You see, by coincidence, a police squad car was coming down the street just at that moment to arrest Mr. Rossi. You would have been apprehended. As I understand Californian law of the period, your life would have been forfeit, Mr. Prantera."
Joe winced. It didn't occur to him to doubt their word.
Reston-Farrell said, "As to reward, Mr. Prantera, we have already told you there is ultra-abundance in this age. Once this task has been performed, we will sponsor your entry into present day society. Competent psychiatric therapy will soon remove your present—"
"Waita minute, now. You figure on gettin' me candled by some head shrinker, eh? No thanks, Buster. I'm going back to my own—"
Brett-James was shaking his head again. "I am afraid there is no return, Mr. Prantera. Time travel works but in one direction, with the flow of the time stream. There can be no return to your own era."