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Dick Seaton and Marc DuQuesne are the deadliest enemies of the Universe - their feud has blazed among he stars and changed the history of a thousand planets. But now a threat from outside the Galaxy drives them into a dangerous alliance as hordes of strange races drive to a collision with mankind!
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Llurdi and Jelmi
Llurdi and Fenachrone
Of Disembodied Intelligences
DuQuesne and Klazmon
Among the Jelmi
Jelmi on the Moon
DuQuesne and the Jelmi
DuQuesne and Sennlloy
Seeker Sevance of Xylmny
Ky-El Mokak the Wilder
Humanity Triumphant, Not Inc
DuQuesne and Fenachrone
Re-Seating of the Premier
DuQuesne and Sleemet
DuQuesne to the Rescue
Appearances are deceiving. A polished chunk of metal that shines like a Christmas-tree ornament may hold—and release—energy to destroy a city. A seed is quite another order of being to the murderous majesty of a toppling tree. A match flame can become a holocaust.
And the chain of events that can unseat the rulers of galaxies can begin in a cozy living room, before a hearth. . . .
Outwardly, the comfortable (if somewhat splendidly furnished) living room of the home of the Richard Ballinger Seatons of Earth presented a peaceful scene. Peaceful? It was sheerly pastoral! Seaton and Dorothy, his spectacularly auburn-haired wife, sat on a davenport, holding hands. A fire of pine logs burned slowly, crackling occasionally and sending sparks against the fine bronze screen of the fireplace. Richard Ballinger Seaton Junior lay on the rug, trying doggedly, silently, and manfully, if unsuccessfully, to wriggle toward those entrancing flames.
Inwardly, however, it was very much otherwise. Dorothy’s normally pleasant—as well as beautiful—face wore a veritable scowl.
The dinner they had just eaten had been over two hours late; wherefore not one single item of it had been fit to feed to a pig. Furthermore, and worse, Dick was not relaxed and was not paying any attention to her at all. He was still wound up tight; was still concentrating on the multitude of messages driving into his brain through the button in his left ear—messages of such urgency of drive that she herself could actually read them, even though she was wearing no apparatus whatever.
She reached up, twitched the button out of his ear, and tossed it onto a table. “Will you please lay off of that stuff for a minute, Dick?” she demanded. “I’m fed up to the eyeballs with this business of you killing yourself with all time work and no time sleep. You never had any such horrible black circles under your eyes before and you’re getting positively scrawny. You’ve got to quit it. Can’t you let somebody else carry some of the load? Delegate some authority?”
“I’m delegating all I possibly can already, Red-Top.” Seaton absently rubbed his ear. Until Dorothy had flipped it away, the button had been carrying to him a transcription of the taped reports of more than one hundred Planetary Observers from the planet of Norlamin, each with the IQ of an Einstein and the sagacity of an owl. The last report had had to do with plentiful supplies of X metal that had been turned up on a planet of Omicron Eridani, and the decision to dispatch a fleet of cargo-carrying ships to fetch them away.
But he admitted grudgingly to himself that that particular decision had already been made. His wife was a nearer problem. Paying full attention to her now, he put his arm around her and squeezed.
“Converting a whole planet practically all at once to use fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-order stuff is a job of work, believe me. It’s all so new and so tough that not too many people can handle any part of it. It takes brains. And what makes it extra tough is that altogether too many people who are smart enough to learn it are crooks. Shysters—hoodlers—sticky-fingers generally. But I think we’re just about over the hump. I wouldn’t wonder if these Norlaminian ‘Observers’—snoopers, really—from the Country of Youth will turn out to be the answer to prayer.”
“They’d better,” she said, darkly. “At least, something had better.”
“Besides, if you think I look like the wrath of God, take a good look at Mart sometime. He’s having more grief than I am.”
“I already have; he looks like a refugee from a concentration camp. Peggy was screaming about it this morning, and we’re both going to just simply . . .”
What the girls intended to do was not revealed, for at that moment there appeared in the air before them the projected simulacra of eight green-skinned, more-or-less-human men; the men with whom they had worked so long; the ablest thinkers of the Central System.
There was majestic Fodan, the Chief of the Five of Norlamin; there was white-bearded Orion, the First of Astronomy; Rovol, the First of Rays; Astron, the First of Energy; Drasnik, the First of Psychology; Satrazon and Caslor, the Firsts of Chemistry and of Mechanism, respectively; and—in some ways not the least—there was that powerhouse of thought, Sacner Carfon the two thousand three hundred forty-sixth: the hairless, almost porpoise-like Chief of the Council of the watery planet Dasor. They were not present in the flesh. But their energy projections were as seemingly solid as Seaton’s own tall, lean body.
“We come, Overlord of the System, upon a matter of—” the Chief of the Five began.
“Don’t call me ‘Overlord’. Please.” Seaton broke in, with grim foreboding in his eyes, while Dorothy stiffened rigidly in the circle of his arms. Both knew that those masters of thought could scarcely be prevailed upon to leave their own worlds even via projection. For all eight of them to come this far—almost halfway across the galaxy!—meant that something was very wrong indeed.
“I’ve told you a dozen times, not only I ain’t no Overlord but I don’t want to be and won’t be. I don’t like to play God—I simply have not got what it takes.”
“ ‘Coordinator’, then, which is of course a far better term for all except the more primitive races,” Fodan went imperturbably on. “We have told you, youth, not a dozen times, but once, which should have been sufficient, that your young and vigorous race possesses qualities that our immensely older peoples no longer have. You, as the ablest individual of your race, are uniquely qualified to serve total civilization. Thus, whenever your services become necessary, you will so serve. Your services have again become necessary. Orion, in whose province the matter primarily lies, will explain.”
Seaton nodded to himself. It was going to be bad, all right, he thought as the First of Astronomy took over.
“You, friend Richard, with some help from us, succeeded in encapsulating a group of malignant immaterial entities, including the disembodied personality of your fellow-scientist Doctor Marc C. DuQuesne, in a stasis of time. This capsule, within which no time whatever could or can elapse, was launched into space with a linear acceleration of approximately three times ten to the twelfth centimeters per second squared. It was designed and powered to travel at that acceleration for something over one hundred thousand million Tellurian years; at the end of which time it was to have been rotated through the fourth dimension into an unknown and unknowable location in normal three-dimensional space.”
“That’s right,” Seaton said. “And it will. It’ll do just exactly that. Those pure-intellectual louses are gone for good; and so is Blackie DuQuesne.”
“You err, youth,” corrected the Norlaminian. “You did not allow us time sufficient to consider and to evaluate all the many factors involved. Rigid analysis and extended computation show that the probability approaches unity that the capsule of stasis will, almost certainly within one Tellurian year of its launching and highly probably in much less time, encounter celestial matter of sufficient density to volatilize its uranium power bars. This event will of course allow the stasis of time to collapse and the imprisoned immaterial entities will be liberated; in precisely the same condition as in the instant of their encapsulation.”
Dorothy Seaton gasped. Even her husband showed that he was shaken. DuQuesne and the Immortals free? But—
“But it can’t!” he fairly yelled the protest. “It’ll dodge—it’s built to dodge anything that dense!”
“At ordinary—or even extraordinary—velocities, yes,” the ancient sage agreed, unmoved. “Its speed of reaction is great, yes; a rather small fraction of a trillionth of a second. That interval of time, however, while small, is very large indeed relative to zero. Compute for yourself, please, what distance that capsule will in theory traverse during that space of time at the end of only one third of one of your years.”
Seaton strode across the room and uncovered a machine that resembled somewhat a small, unpretentious desk calculator. He picked up a helmet and thought into it briefly; then stared appalled at the figure that appeared on a tape.
“My—aunt’s—cat’s—kitten’s—pants—buttons,” he said, slowly. “It’d’ve been smarter, maybe, to’ve put ’em in orbit around a planetless sun. . . . And I don’t suppose there’s a Chinaman’s chance of catching ’em again that same way.”
“No. Those minds are competent,” agreed the Norlaminian. “Only one point is clear. You must again activate the Skylark of Valeron and again wear its sixth-order controller, since we know of no other entity who either can wear it or should. We eight are here to confer and, on the basis of the few data now available, to plan.”
Seaton scowled in concentration for two long minutes.
It was a measure of the strain that had been working on him that it took that long. As he had said, he was no God, and didn’t want to be. He had not gone looking for either conquest or glory. One thing at a time . . . but that “one thing” had successively led him across a galaxy, into another dimension, through many a hard and desperate fight against some of the most keen-honed killers of a universe.
His gray eyes hardened. Of all those killers, it was Blackie DuQuesne who posed the greatest threat—to civilization, to Seaton himself, and above all to his wife, Dorothy. DuQuesne at large was deadly.
“All right,” he snapped at last. “If that’s all that’s in the wood, I suppose that’s the way it’ll have to be carved.”
The Norlaminian merely nodded. He, at least, had had no doubts of how Seaton would react to the challenge. Typically, once Seaton had decided speed became of the essence. “We’ll start moving now,” he barked. “The parameters give us up to a year—maybe—but from this minute we act as though DuQuesne and the Intellectuals are back in circulation right now. So if one of you—Rovol?—will put beams on Mart and Peg and project them over here, we’ll get right at it.”
And Dorothy, her face turning so white that a line of freckles stood boldly out across the bridge of her nose, picked the baby up and clasped him fiercely, protectively to her breast.
M. Reynolds (“Martin” or “Mart”) Crane was tall, slender, imperturbable; his black-haired, ivory-skinned wife Margaret was tall and whistle stacked—she and Dorothy were just about of a size and a shape. In a second or two their full working projections appeared, standing in the middle of the room facing the Seatons—projections so exactly true to life and so solid-seeming as to give no indication whatever that they were not composed of fabric and of flesh and bone and blood.
Seaton stood up and half-bowed to Margaret, but wasted no time in getting down to business. “Hi, Peg—Mart. He briefed you?”
“Up to the moment, yes,” Crane replied.
“You know, then, that some time in the indeterminate but not too distant future all hell is going to be out for noon. Any way I scan it, it looks to me as though, more or less shortly, we’re going to be spurlos versenkt—sunk without a trace.”
“You err, youth.” Drasnik, the First of Psychology of Norlamin, spoke quite sharply, for him. “Your thinking is loose, turbid, confused; inexcusably superficial; completely . . .”
“But you know what their top man said!” Seaton snapped. “The one they called ‘One’—and he wasn’t kidding, either, believe me!”
“I do, youth. I know more than that, since they visited us long since. They were not exactly ‘kidding’ you, perhaps, but your several various interpretations of One’s actual words and actions were inconsistent with any and every aspect of the truth. Those words and actions were in all probability designed to elicit such responses and reactions as would enable him to analyze and classify your race. Having done so, the probability approaches unity that you will not again encounter him or any of his group.”
“My—God!” Dorothy, drawing a tremendously deep breath, put Dick the Small back down on the rug and left him to his own devices. “That makes sense . . . I was scared simply witless.”
“Maybe,” Seaton admitted, “as far as One and the rest of his original gang are concerned. But there’s still DuQuesne. And if Blackie DuQuesne, even as an immaterial pattern of pure sixth-order force, thinks that way about me I’m a Digger Indian.”
“Ah, yes; DuQuesne. One question, please, to clarify my thinking. Can you, do you think, even with the fullest use of all the resources of your Skylark of Valeron, release the intact mind from any body?”
“Of course I. . . oh, I see what you mean. Just a minute; I think probably I can find out from here.” He went over to his calculator-like instrument, put on a helmet, and stood motionless for a couple of minutes while the great brain of the machine made its computation. Then, wearing a sheepish grin:
“A flat bust. I not only couldn’t, I didn’t,” he reported, cheerfully. “So One not only did the business, but he was good enough to make me know that I was doing it. What an operator!” He sobered, thought intensely, then went on, “So they sucked us in. Played with us.”
“You are now beginning to think clearly, youth,” Drasnik said. “We come now, then, to lesser probabilities. DuQuesne’s mind, of itself, is a mind of power.”
“You can broadcast that to the all-attentive universe,” Seaton said. “Question: how much stuff has he got now? We know he’s got the fifth order down solid. Incarnate, he didn’t know any more than that. However, mind is a pattern of sixth-order force. Knowing what we went through to get the sixth, and that we haven’t got it all yet by seven thousand rows of Christmas trees, the first sub-question asks itself: Can a free mind analyze itself completely enough to work out and to handle the entire order of force in which it lies?
“We may assume, I think, that One could have given DuQuesne full knowledge of the sixth if he felt like it. The second sub-question, then, is; did he? If those questions aren’t enough to start with I can think of plenty more.”
“They are enough, youth,” Fodan said. “You have pointed out the crux. We will now discuss the matter. Since this first phase lies largely in your province, Drasnik, you will now take over.”
The discussion mounted, and grew, and went on and on. Silently Dorothy slipped away, and the projection of force that was Margaret Crane followed her into the kitchen.
There was no need for Dorothy to prepare coffee and sandwiches for her husband, not by hand; one thought into a controller would have produced any desired amount of any desired comestibles. But she wanted something to do. Both girls knew from experience that a conference of this sort might go on for hours; and Dorothy knew that with food placed before him, Seaton would eat; without it, he would never notice the lack.
She did not, of course, prepare anything for the others.
They were not there. Their bodies were at varying distances—a few miles for Crane and his wife, an unthinkable number of parsecs for the Norlaminians and Sacner Carfon. The distance between Earth and the Green System was so unthinkably vast that there was no point in trying to express it in numbers of miles, or even parsecs. The central green sun of the cluster that held Norlamin, Osnome and Dasor was visible from Earth, all right—in Earth’s hugest optical telescopes, as a tiny, 20th-magnitude point—but the light that reached Earth had been on its way for tens of thousand of years before Seaton’s ancestors had turned from hunting to agriculture, had taken off their crude skins and begun to build houses, cities, machines and, ultimately, spaceships.
To all of this Dorothy and Peggy Crane were no strangers; they had been themselves in such projections countless times. If they were more than usually silent, it was not because of the astonishing quality of the meeting that was taking place in the Seatons’ living room, but because of the subject of that meeting. Both Dorothy and Peg knew Marc DuQuesne well. Both of them had experienced his cold, impersonal deadliness.
Neither wanted to come close to it again.
Back in the living room, Seaton was saying: “If One gave DuQuesne all of the sixth-order force patterns, he can be anywhere and can do practically anything. So he probably didn’t. On the other hand if One didn’t give him any of it DuQuesne couldn’t get back here in forty lifetimes. So he probably gave him some of it. The drive and the projector, at least. Maybe as much as we have, to equalize us. Maybe One figured he owed the ape that much. Whatever the truth may be, we’ve got to assume that DuQuesne knows as much as we do about sixth-order forces.” He paused, then corrected himself. “If we’re smart we’ll assume that he knows more than we do. So we’ll have to find somebody else who knows more than we do to learn from. Question—how do we go about doing that? Not by just wandering around the galaxy at random, looking; that’s one certain damn sure thing.”
“It is indeed,” the moderator agreed. “Sacner Carfon, you have, I think, a contribution to make at this point?”
“I have?” The Dasorian was surprised at first, but caught on quickly. “Oh—perhaps I have, at that. By using Seaton’s power and that of the Brain on the Fodan-Carfon band of the sixth, it will undoubtedly be possible to broadcast a thought that would affect selected mentalities wherever situate in any galaxy of this universe.”
“But listen!” protested Seaton. “We don’t want to advertise how dumb we are all over space!”
“Of course not. The thought would be very carefully built and highly selective. It would tell who we are, what we have done, and what we intend and hope to do. It would state our abilities and—by inference, and only to those we seek—our lacks; and would invite all qualified persons and entities to get in touch with us.”
Seaton looked abstracted for a moment. He was thinking. The notion of sending out a beacon of thought was probably a good one—had to be a good one—after all, the Norlaminians and Sacner Carfon knew what they were doing. Yet he could see complications. The Fodan-Carfon band of the sixth order was still very new and very experimental. “Can you make it selective?” he demanded. “I don’t mind telling our prospective friends we need help—I don’t want to holler it to our enemies.”
The Dasorian’s deep voice chuckled. “It can not be made selective,” he said. “The message would of necessity be on such a carrier as to be receivable by any intelligent brain. Yet it can be hedged about with such safeguards, limitations and compulsions that no one could or would pay attention to it except those who possess at least some ability, overt or latent, to handle the Fodan-Carfon band.”
Seaton whistled through his teeth. “Wow! And just how are you going to clamp on such controls as those? I don’t see how anything but magic—sheer, unadulterated, pure black magic!—could swing that load.”
“Precisely. Or, rather, imprecisely. It is unfortunate that your term ‘magic’ is so inexcusably loose and carries so many and so deplorable connotations and implications. Shall we design and build the thought we wish to send out?”
The thought was designed and was built; and was launched into space with the inconceivable, the utterly immeasurable velocity of its order of being.
A red-haired stripper called Madlyn Mannis, strutting her stuff in Tampa in Peninsula Florida, felt it and almost got it; but, not being very strongly psychic, shrugged it off and went on about the business of removing the last sequin-bedecked trifle of her costume. And, as close to the dancer as plenteous baksheesh could arrange for, a husky, good-looking young petrochemical engineer named Charles K. van der Gleiss felt a thrill like nothing he had ever felt before—but ascribed it, naturally enough, to the fact that this was the first time he had ever seen Madlyn Mannis dance. And in Washington, D.C. one Doctor Stephanie de Marigny, a nuclear physicist, pricked up her ears, tightened the muscles of her scalp, and tried for two full minutes to think of something she ought to think of but couldn’t.
Out past the Green System the message sped, and past the dust and the incandescent gas that had once been the noisome planet of the Fenachrone. Past worlds where amphibians roared and bellowed; past planets of methane ice where crystalline life brooded sluggishly on its destiny.
In the same infinitesimal instant it reached and passed the Rim Worlds of our galaxy; touching many minds but really affecting none. Farther and farther out, with no decrease whatever in speed, it flew; past the inconceivably tiny, inconceivably fast-moving point that housed the seven greatest, most fearsome minds that the Macrocosmic All had ever spawned—minds that, knowing all about that thought already, ignored it completely.
Immensely farther out, it flashed through the galaxy in which was the solar system of Ray-See-Nee—where, for the first time, it made solid contact with a mind in a body human to the limit of classification. Kay-Lee Barlo, confidential secretary of Department Head Bay-Lay Boyn, stiffened so suddenly that she stuttered into her microphone and had to erase three words from a tape—and in that same instant her mother at home went into deep trance.
And still farther out, in a galaxy lying almost on the universe’s Arbitrary Rim, in the Realm of the Llurdi, the message found a much larger group of receivers. While none of the practically enslaved Jelmi could do much of anything about that weirdly peculiar and inexplicably guarded thought, many of them were very much interested in it; particularly Valkyrie-like Sennlloy, a native of the planet Allondax and the master biologist of all known space; ancient Tammon, the greatest genius of the entire Jelman race; and newlyweds Mergon and Luloy, the Mallidaxian savants.
None of the monstrous Llurdi—not even their most monstrous “director”, Klazmon the Fifteenth—being monstrous—could receive the message in any part. And how well that was! For if those tremendously able aliens could have received that message, could have understood it and acted upon it, how vastly different the history of all humanity would have been!
Dorothy Seaton was highly averse to having the appearance of her living room ruined by office equipment. Seaton, however, was living and working under such high tension that he had to have almost instant access to the Valeron’s Brain, at any time of the day or night or wherever he might be. Hence this compromise—inconspicuous machines, each direct-connected to the cubic mile of ultra-miniaturization that was the Brain. E. E. S.
The distance from Earth to the Realm of the Llurdi is such that it is worth while to take a moment to locate it in space.
It has been known for a long time that solar systems occur in lenticular aggregations galled galaxies; each galaxy consisting of one or more thousands of millions of solar systems. And for almost as long a time, since no definite or systematic arrangement of the galaxies could be demonstrated, the terms “Universe” and “Cosmic All” were interchangeable; each meaning the absolute totality of all matter and all space in existence anywhere and everywhere.
There had been speculations, of course, that galaxies were arranged in lenticular universes incomprehensibly vast in size, so that the term “Cosmic All” should be reserved for a plurality of universes and a hyper-space of more than three spatial dimensions.
Seaton and Crane in the Skylark of Valeron proved that our galaxy, the Milky Way, lies in a lenticular universe by charting every galaxy in that universe. And they suggested to the various learned societies that the two celestial aggregates should be named, respectively, the First Galaxy and the First Universe.
Many millions of parsecs distant from Tellus and its First Galaxy, then, out near the Arbitrary Rim of the First Universe, there lay the Realm of the Llurdi. This Realm, which had existed for over seventy thousand Tellurian years, was made up of four hundred eighty-two planets in exactly half that many solar systems.
Two planets in each populated system were necessary because the population of the Realm was composed of two entirely different forms of highly intelligent life. Of these two races the Jelmi—the subject race, living practically in vassalage—were strictly human beings and lived on strictly Tellus-type worlds.
The master race, the Llurdi, had originated upon the harsh and hostile planet Llurdiax—Llurdiaxorb Five—with its distant, wan, almost-never-seen sun and its incessant gales of frigid, ice-laden, ammonia- and methane-impregnated, forty-pounds-to-the-square-inch air. Like mankind, they wore clothing against the rigors of their environment. Unlike mankind, however, they wore clothes only for protection, and only when protection was actually necessary. Nor was Llurdiax harsh or forbidding—to them.
It was the best of all possible worlds. They would not colonize any planet that was not as nearly as possible like the mother world of their race.
Llurdi, although they are erect, bifurcate, bi-laterally symmetrical, bi-sexual, mammalian, and have a large crania and six-digited hands each having two opposed thumbs, are not humanoids. Nor, despite their tremendous, insensitive, unfreezable wings, are they either birds or bats. Nor flying cats, although they have huge, vertically-slitted eyes and needle-sharp canine teeth that protrude well below and above their upper and lower lips. Also, they have immensely strong and highly versatile tails; but there is nothing simian about them or in their ancestry.
The Realm was not exactly an empire. Nor was Llanzlan Klazmon the Fifteenth exactly an emperor. The title “Llanzlan” translates, as nearly as possible, into “Director”; and that was what Klazmon regarded himself as being.
It is true that what he said, went; and that if he didn’t like any existing law he expunged it from all existence. But that was exactly the way things should be. How else could optimum conditions be achieved and maintained in an ever-expanding, ever-changing, ever-rising economy? He ruled, he said and thoroughly believed, with complete reason and perfect fairness and strictly in accordance with the findings of the universe’s largest and most competent computers as to what was for the best good of all.
Wherefore everyone who did not agree with him was—automatically, obviously, and unquestionably—wrong.
Llurdias, the capital city of the world Llurdiax and of the Realm, had a population of just over ten million and covered more than nine hundred square miles of ground. At its geometrical center towered the mile-square, half-mile-high office-residence-palace (the Llurdian word “llanzlanate” has no Tellurian equivalent) of Llanzlan Klazmon the Fifteenth of the Realm of the Llurdi. And in that building’s fifth sub-basement, in Hall Prime of Computation, Klazmon and his Board of Advisors were hard at work.
That vast room, the first receptor of all the reports of the Realm, was three-quarters full of receivers, recorders, analyzers—bewilderingly complex instrumentation of all kinds. From most of these devices tapes were issuing—tapes that, en route to semi-permanent storage, were being monitored by specialists in the hundreds of different fields of the Llurdan-Jelmi economy.
Klazmon the Fifteenth and his Board, seated at a long conference table in hard-upholstered “chairs” shaped to fit the Llurdan anatomy, were paying no attention to routine affairs.
“I have called this meeting,” the ruler said, “to decide what can be done to alleviate an intolerable situation. As you all know, we live in what could be called symbiosis with the Jelmi; who are so unstable, so illogical, so bird-brained generally that they would destroy themselves in a century were it not for our gentle but firm insistence that they conduct themselves in all matters for their own best good. This very instability of their illogical minds, however, enables them to arrive occasionally at valid conclusions from insufficient data; a thing that no logical mind can do. These conclusions—they are intuitions, really—account for practically all the advancement we Llurdi have made and explain why we have put up with the Jelmi—yes, cherished them—so long.”
He paused, contemplating the justice of the arrangement he had just described. It did not occur to him that it could in any way be described as “wrong.”
He went on: “What most of you do not know is that intuitions of any large worth have become less and less frequent, decade by decade, over the last few centuries. It was twelve years ago that the Jelm Jarxon elucidated the ‘Jarxon’ band of the sixth order, and no worth-while intuition has been achieved since that time. Beeloy, has your more rigorous analysis revealed any new fact of interest?”
A young female stood up, preened the short fur back of her left ear with the tip of her tail, and said, “No, sir. Logic can not be applied to illogic. Statistical analysis is still the only possible tool and it cannot be made to apply to the point in question, since it is incapable of certainty and since the genius-type mind occurs in only one out of thousands of millions of Jelmi. I found a very high probability, however—point nine nine nine plus—that the techniques set up by our ancestors are wrong. In breeding for contentment by destroying the discontented we are very probably breeding out the very characteristics we wish to encourage.”
“Thank you, Beeloy. That finding was not unanticipated. Kalton, your report on Project University, please.”
“Yes, sir.” An old male, so old that his fur was almost white, stood up. “Four hundred males and the same number of females, the most intelligent and most capable Jelmi alive, were selected and were brought here to the Llanzlanate. They were put into quarters that were Jelm-type in every respect, even to gravity. They were given every inducement and every facility to work-study and to breed.
“First, as to work-study. They have done practically nothing except waste time. They seem to devote their every effort to what they call ‘escape’ by means of already-well-known constructions of the fifth and sixth orders—all of which are of course promptly negated. See for yourselves what these insanely illogical malcontents are doing and know for yourselves that, in its present form, Project University is a failure as far as producing intuitions is concerned.”
Kalton picked up a fist-sized instrument between the thumbs of his left hand and a tri-di “tank” appeared on the table’s top, in plain sight of every member of the Board. Then, as he began to finger controls, a three-dimensional scene in true color appeared in the tank; a smoothly-flowing, ever-shifting scene that moved from room to room and from place to place as the point of view traversed the vast volume of the prison.
It did not look like a prison. The apartments, of which there were as many as the Jelmi wanted, were furnished as luxuriously as the various occupants desired; with furniture and equipment every item of which had been selected by each occupant himself or herself. There were wonderful rugs and hangings; masterpieces of painting and of sculpture; triumphs of design in fireplaces and tables and chairs and couches. Each room or suite could be set up for individual control of gravity, temperature, pressure, and humidity. Any imaginable item of food or drink was available on fifteen seconds’ notice at any hour of the day or night.
In the magnificent laboratories every known or conceivable piece of apparatus could be had for the asking; the memory banks of the library would furnish in seconds any item of information that had been stored in any one of them during all seventy thousand years of the Realm’s existence.
And there were fully-equipped game and exercise rooms, ranging in size from tiny card-rooms up to a full-sized football field, to suit every Jelman need or desire for play or for exercise.
But not one of the hundreds of Jelmi observed—each one a perfect specimen physically, as was plainly revealed by the complete absence of clothing—appreciated any one of these advantages! Most of the laboratories were vacant and dark. The few scientists who were apparently at work were not doing anything that made sense. The library was not in use at all; the Jelmi who were reading anything were reading works of purely Jelman authorship—mostly love stories, murder mysteries, and science fiction. Many Jelmi seemed to be busy but their activities were as pointless as cutting out paper dolls.
“The pale, frail, practically hairless, repulsive, incomplete, illogical, and insane animals refuse steadfastly to cooperate with us on any level.”
Any Earthman so frustrated would have snarled the sentence, but the Llurd merely stated it as a fact. “You can all see for yourselves that as far as productive work is . . . but hold!”
The viewpoint stopped moving and focussed sharply on a young man and a young woman who, bending over a table, were working on two lengths of smooth yellow material that looked something like varnished cambric. “Mergon and Luloy of planet Mallidax,” Kalton said into the microphone. “What are you doing? Why are you so far away from your own laboratories?”
Mergon straightened up and glared at what he thought was the point of origin of the voice. “If it’s any of your business, funnyface, which it isn’t,” he said savagely, “I’m building a shortlong whatsit, and Luloy has nothing to do with it. When I get it done I’m personally going to tear your left leg off and beat you to death with the bloody end of it.”
“You see?” Kalton dispassionately addressed the other members of the Board. “That reaction is typical.”
He manipulated controls and both Jelmi leaped to their feet, with all four hands pressed to their buttocks. The fact that Luloy was a woman—scarcely more than a girl, in fact—was of no consequence at all to Kalton. Even Llurdan sex meant very little to the Llurdi. Jelman sex meant nothing whatever.
“Nerve-whip,” Kalton explained to his fellows. He dropped his controller into his lap and the tri-di tank vanished. “Nothing serious—only slightly painful and producing only a little ecchymosis and extravasation. Neither of those two beasts, however, will be at all comfortable until they get back where they belong. Now, to continue my report:
“So much for failure to work-study. Failure-refusal to breed, while not possible of such simple and easy demonstration, is no less actual, effective, and determined. A purely emotional, non-logical, and ridiculous factor they call ‘love’ seems to be involved, as does their incomprehensibly exaggerated, inexplicable craving for ‘liberty’ or ‘freedom’.”
The Llanzlan said thoughtfully, “But surely, unwillingness to breed cannot possibly affect the results of artificial insemination?”
“It seems to, sir. Definitely. There is some non-physical and non-logical, but nevertheless powerful, operator involved. My assistants and I have not been able to develop any techniques that result in any except the most ephemeral pregnancies.”
“You apparently wish to comment, Velloy?” Klazmon asked.
“I certainly do!” a middle-aged female snapped, giving one tautly-outstretched wing a resounding whack with her tail. “Of course they haven’t! As Prime Sociologist I said five years ago and I repeat now that no mind of the quality of those of the Jelmi here in the llanzlanate can be coerced by any such gross physical means. Kalton talks of them and thinks of them as animals—meaning lower animals. I said five years ago and still say that they are not. Their minds, while unstable and completely illogical and in many instances unsane to the point of insanity, are nevertheless minds of tremendous power. I told this Board five years ago that the only way to make that project work—to cause selected Jelmi to produce either ideas or young or both—was to give the selectees a perfect illusion of complete freedom, and I recommended that course of action. Since I could not prove my statement mathematically, my recommendation was rejected. While I still cannot prove that statement, it is still my considered opinion that it is true; and I now repeat both statement and recommendation. I will keep on repeating them at every opportunity as long as this Board wastes time by not accepting them. I remind you that you have already wasted—lost—over five years.”
“Your statement becomes more probable year by year,” the Llanzlan admitted. “Kalton, have you anything more to say?”
“Very little. Only that, since Project University has admittedly failed, we should of course adopt—”
Kalton was silenced in mid-sentence by a terrific explosion, which was followed by a rumbling crash as half of one wall of the Hall collapsed inward.
A volume of Jelman air rushed in, enveloping a purposeful company of Jelmi in yellow coveralls and wearing gas-masks. Some of these invaders were shooting pistols; some were using or throwing knives; but all were covering and protecting eight Jelmi who were launching bombs at one great installation of sixth-order gear—the computer complex that was the very nerve center of the entire Realm.
For the Jelmi—who, as has been said, were human to the last decimal of classification—had been working on fifth- and sixth-order devices purely as a blind; their real effort had been on first-order effects so old that their use had been all but forgotten.
The Jelman plan was simple: Thirty men and thirty women would destroy the central complex of the computer system of the entire Realm. Then, if possible, the survivors of the sixty would join their fellows in taking over an already-selected Llurdan scout cruiser and taking off at max.
It was quite probable that many or even most of the attacking sixty would die. It was distinctly possible that they all would. All sixty, however, were perfectly willing to trade their lives for that particular bank of sixth-order apparatus, in order that seven hundred forty other Jelmi could escape from Llurdiax and, before control could be re-established, be beyond their masters’ reach.
Theoretically, the first phase of the operation should have been successful; the Realm’s nerve center should have been blown to unrecognizable bits. The Jelmi knew exactly what they were going to do, exactly how they were going to do it, and exactly how long it would take. They knew that they would have the advantage of complete surprise. There would be, they were sure, half a second or so of the paralysis of shock, followed by at least one second of utter confusion; which would give them plenty of time.
They were sure it would be as though, during a full-formal session of the Supreme Court, a gang of hoodlums should blast down a wall and come leaping into the courtroom with Tommy-guns ablaze and with long knives flying and stabbing and slashing. Grave, stately, and thoughtful, the justices could not possibly react fast enough to save their lives or their records or whatever else it was that the gangsters were after.
The Jelmi, however, had never seen any Llurd in emergency action; did not know or suspect how nearly instantaneous the Llurdan speed of reaction was; did not realize that a perfectly logical mind can not be surprised by any happening, however unusual or however outrageous.
Yelling, shooting, throwing, stabbing, slashing, the men and women of the Jelmi rushed into battle; to be met—with no paralysis and no confusion and no loss of time whatever—by buffeting wings, flailing tails, tearing teeth, and hard, highly skilled hands and fists and feet.
Many machine operators, as agile in the air as bats, met the bombs in midair and hurled them out into and along the corridor through the already-breached wall, where they exploded harmlessly. Harmlessly, that is, except for a considerable increase in the relatively unimportant structural damage already wrought.
Two knives were buried to their hilts in the huge flying muscles of the Llanzlan’s chest. His left wing hung useless, its bones shattered by bullets. So did his right arm. Nevertheless, he made it at speed to his console—and the battle was over.
Beams of force lashed out, immobilizing the human beings where they stood. Curtains of force closed in, pressing the Jelmi together into a tightly packed group. An impermeable membrane of force confined all the Jelman air and whatever Llurdan atmosphere had been mixed with it.
The Llanzlan, after glancing at his own wounds and at the corps of surgeons already ministering to his more seriously wounded fellows, resumed his place at the conference table.
He said, “This meeting will resume. The places of those department heads who died will be taken by their first assistants. All department heads are hereby directed to listen, to note, and to act. Since Project University has failed, it is to be closed out immediately. All Jelmi—I perceive that none of those present is dead, or even seriously wounded—will be put aboard the ship in which they intended to leave Llurdiax. They will be given all the supplies, apparatus, and equipment that they care to requisition and will be allowed to take off for any destination they please.”
He glanced at the captured Jelmi, imprisoned in their force-bubble of atmosphere. To them it reeked of methane and halogens, but they stood proudly and coldly listening to what he said.
He dismissed them from his mind and said. “A recess will now be taken so that those of us who are wounded may have our wounds dressed. After that we will consider in detail means of inducing the Jelmi to resume the production of breakthroughs in science.”
Some hours later, far out in deep space, the ex-Llurdan scout cruiser—now named the Mallidax, after the most populous Jelman planet of the Realm—bored savagely through the ether. Its crew of late revolutionaries, still dazed by the fact that they were still alive, recuperated in their various ways.
In one of the larger, more luxurious cabins Luloy of Mallidax lay prone on a three-quarter-size-bed, sobbing convulsively, uncontrollably. Her left eye was swollen shut. The left side of her face and most of her naked body bore livid black and blue bruises—bruises so brutally severe that the marks of Kalton’s sense-whip punishment, incurred earlier for insubordination, were almost invisible. A dozen bandages showed white against the bronzed skin of her neck and shoulders and torso and arms and legs.
“Oh, snap out of it, Lu, please!” Mergon ordered, almost brusquely. He was a burly youth with crew-cut straw-colored hair; and he, too, showed plenty of evidence of having been to the wars. He had even more bruises and bandages than she did. “Don’t claim that you wanted to be a martyr any more than I did. And they can engrave it on a platinum plaque that I’m damned glad to get out of that fracas alive.”
Stopping her crying by main strength, the girl hauled herself up into a half-sitting position and glared at the man out of her one good eye.
“You . . . you clod!” she stormed. “It isn’t that at all! And you know it as well as I do. It’s just that we . . . they . . . he . . . not a single one of them so much as . . . why, we might just as well have been merely that many mosquitoes—midges—worse, exactly that many perfectly innocuous saprophytic bacilli.”
“Exactly,” he agreed, sourly, and her glare changed to a look almost of surprise. “That’s precisely what we were. It’s humiliating, yes. It’s devastating and it’s frustrating. We tried to hit the Llurdi where it hurt, and they ignored us. Agreed. I don’t like it a bit better than you do; but caterwauling and being sorry for yourself isn’t going to help matters a—”
“Caterwauling! Being sorry for myself! If that’s what you think, you can . . .”
“Stop it, Lu!” he broke in sharply, “before I have to spank your fanny to a rosy blister!”
She threw up her head in defiance; then what was almost a smile began to quirk at the corners of her battered mouth. “You can’t, Merg,” she said, much more quietly than she had said anything so far. “Look—it’s all red, green, blue, yellow, and black already. That last panel I bounced off of was no pillow, friend.”
“Llenderllon’s favor, sweetheart!” Bending over, he kissed her gingerly, then drew a deep breath of relief. “You scared me like I don’t know when I’ve been scared before,” he admitted. “We need you too much—and I love you too much—to have you go off the deep end now. Especially now, when for the first time in our lives we’re in position to do something.”
“Such as what?” Luloy’s tone was more lifeless than skeptical. “How many of our whole race are worth saving, do you think? How many Jelmi of all our worlds can be made to believe that their present way of life is anything short of perfection?”
“Very few, probably,” Mergon conceded. “As of now. But—”
He paused, looking around their surroundings. The spaceship, which had once been one of the Llurdi’s best, might have a few surprises for them. It was a matter for debate whether the Llurdi might not have put concealed spy devices in the rooms. On balance, however, Mergon thought not. The Llurdi operated on grander scales than that.
He said, “Luloy, listen. We tried to fight our way to freedom by attacking the Llurdi right where it hurts, in center of their power. We lost the battle. But we have what we were fighting for, don’t we? Why do you think they let us go, perfectly free?”
Luloy’s eye brightened a little, but not too much. “That’s plain enough. Since they couldn’t make us produce either new theories or children in captivity, they’re giving us what they say is complete freedom, so that we’ll produce both. How stupid do they think we are? How stupid can they get? If we could have wrecked their long eyes, yes, we could have got away clean to a planet in some other galaxy, ’way out of their range; but now? If I know anything at all, it’s that they’ll hold a tracer beam—so weak as to be practically indetectable, of course—on us forever.”
“I think you’re right,” Mergon said, and paused. Luloy looked at him questioningly and he went on, “I’m sure you are, but I don’t think it’s us they are aiming at. They’re probably taking the long view—betting that, with a life-long illusion of freedom, we’ll have children of our own free will.”
Luloy nodded thoughtfully. “And we would,” she said, definitely. “All of us would. For, after all, if we on this ship all die childless what chance is there that any other Jelmi will try it again for thousands of years? And our children would have a chance, even if we never have another.”
“True. But on the other hand, how many generations will it take for things now known to be facts to degenerate into myths? To be discredited completely, in spite of the solidest records we can make as to the truth and the danger?”
Luloy started to gnaw her lip, but winced sharply and stopped the motion. “I see what you mean. Inevitable. But you don’t seem very downcast about it, so you have an idea. Tell me, quick!”
“Yes, but I’m just hatching it; I haven’t mentioned it even to Tammon yet, so I don’t know whether it will work or not. At present a sixth-order breakthrough can’t be hidden from even a very loose surveillance. Right?”
By now Luloy’s aches and pains were forgotten. Eyes bright, she nodded. “You’re so right. Do you think one can be? Possibly? How?”
“By finding a solar system somewhere whose inhabitants know so much more than we do that the emanations of their sixth-order installations continuously or regularly at work will mask those of any full-scale tests we want to make. There must be some such race, somewhere in this universe. The Llurdi charted this universe long ago—they call it U-Prime—and I requisitioned copies of all the tapes. Second: the Llurdi are all strictly logical. Right?”
“That’s right,” the girl agreed. “Strictly. Insanely, almost, you might say.”
“So my idea is to do something as illogical as possible. They think we’ll head for a new planet of our own; either in this galaxy or one not too far away. So we won’t. We’ll drive at absolute max for the center of the universe, with the most sensitive feelers we have full-out for very strong sixth-order emanations. En route, we’ll use every iota of brain-power aboard this heap in developing some new band of the sixth, being mighty careful to use so little power that the ship’s emanations will mask it. Having found the hiding-place we want, we’ll tear into developing and building something, not only that the Llurdi haven’t got, but a thing that by use of which we can bust Llanzlan Klazmon the Fifteenth loose from his wings and tail—and through which he can’t fight back. So, being absolutely—stupidly—logical about everything, what would His Supreme Omnipotence do about it?”
Luloy thought in silence for a few seconds, then tried unsuccessfully to whistle through battered, swollen lips. “Oh, boy!” she exclaimed, delightedly. “Slug him with a thing like that—demonstrate superiority—and the battle is over. He’ll concede us everything we want, full equality, independence, you name it, without a fight—without even an argument!”
Grinning, Mergon caught her arm and led her out of the room. Throughout the great hulk of the Llurd spaceship the other battered Jelmi veterans were beginning to stir. To each of them, Mergon explained his plan and from each came the same response. “Oh, boy!”
They began at once setting up their work plans.
The first project was to find—somewhere!—a planet generating sufficient sixth-order forces to screen what they were going to do. In the great vastnesses of the Over-Universe there were many such planets. They could have chosen that which was inhabited by Norlaminian or Dasorian peoples. They could have chosen one of a score which were comparatively nearby. They, in fact, ultimately chose and set course for the third planet of a comparatively small G-type star known to its people as Tellus, or Earth.
They could have given many reasons why this particular planet had been selected.
None of these reasons would have included the receipt of the brief pulse of telepathic communication which none of them, any longer, consciously remembered.
And back on Llurdiax the Llanzlan followed the progress of the fleeing ship of Jelm rebels with calm perception.
His great bat wings were already mending, even as the scars of the late assault on his headquarters were already nearly repaired by a host of servo-mechanisms. Deaf to the noise and commotion of the repairs, heedless of the healing wounds which any human would have devoted a month in bed to curing, the Llanzlan once again summoned his department heads and issued his pronouncement:
“War, being purely destructive, is a product of unsanity. The Jelmi are, however, unsane; many of them are insane. Thus, if allowed to do so, they commit warfare at unpredictable times and for incomprehensible, indefensible, and/or whimsical reasons. Nevertheless, since the techniques we have been employing have been proven ineffective and therefore wrong, they will now be changed. During the tenure of this directive no more Jelmi will be executed or castrated: in fact, a certain amount of unsane thinking will not merely be tolerated but encouraged, even though it lead to the unsanity termed ‘war’. It should not, however, be permitted to exceed that quantity of ‘war’ which would result in the destruction of, let us say, three of their own planets.
“This course will entail a risk that we, as the ‘oppressors’ of the Jelmi, will be attacked by them. The magnitude of this risk—the probability of such an attack—cannot be calculated with the data now available. Also, these data are rendered even less meaningful by the complete unpredictability of the actions of the group of Jelmi released from study here.
“It is therefore directed that all necessary steps be taken particularly in fifth- and sixth-order devices, that no even theoretically possible attack on this planet will succeed.
“This meeting will now adjourn.”
It did; and within fifteen minutes heavy construction began—construction that was to go on at a pace and on a scale and with an intensity of drive theretofore unknown throughout the Realm’s long history. Whole worldlets were destroyed, scavenged for their minerals, their ores smelted in giant atomic space-borne foundries and cast and shaped into complex machines of offense and defense. Delicate networks of radiation surrounded every Jelm and Llurd world, ready to detect, trace, report and home on any artifact whatsoever which might approach them. Weapons capable of blasting moons out of orbit slipped into position in great latticework spheres of defensive emplacements.
The Llurdi were preparing for anything.
Llurdan computations were never wrong. Computers, however, even Llurdan computers, are not really smart—they can’t really think. Unlike the human brain, they can not arrive at valid conclusions from insufficient data. In fact, they don’t even try to. They stop working and say—in words or by printing or typing or by flashing a light or by ringing a bell—“DATA INSUFFICIENT”: and then continue to do nothing until they are fed additional information.
Thus, while the Llanzlan and his mathematicians and logicians fed enough data into their machines to obtain valid conclusions, there were many facts that no Llurd then knew. And thus those conclusions, while valid, were woefully incomplete; they did not cover all of actuality by far.
For, in actuality, there had already begun a chain of events that was to render those mighty fortresses precisely as efficacious against one certain type of attack as that many cubic miles of sheerest vacuum.
The type of attack which was about to challenge the Llurdi was from a source no civilized human would have believed still existed.
If Richard Seaton, laboring at Earth’s own defenses uncountable parsecs away, had been told of it, he would flatly have declared the story a lie. He ought to know, he would have said. That particular danger to the harmony of the worlds had long since been destroyed . . . and he was the man who had destroyed it!
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