All of the characters in this book
are fictitious, and any resemblance
to actual persons, living or dead,
is purely coincidental.
who made writing possible for me
EIGHT KEYS TO EDEN
SEVEN DOORS TO SEVEN ROOMS OF THOUGHT
1 Accept the statement of Eminent Authority without basis,
2 Disagree with the statement without basis, out of general contrariness.
3 Perhaps the statement is true, but what if it isn't? How then to
account for the phenomenon?
4 How much of the statement rationalizes to suit man's purpose
that he and his shall be ascendant at the center of things?
5 What if the minor should become major, the recessive dominant,
the obscure prevalent?
6 What if the statement were reversible, that which is considered
effect is really cause?
7 What if the natural law perceived in one field also operates
unperceived in all other phases of science? What if there
be only one natural law manifesting itself, as yet, to us in
many facets because we cannot apperceive the whole, of
which we have gained only the most elementary glimpses,
with which we can cope only at the crudest level?
And are those still other doors, yet undefined,
on down the corridor?
One minute after the regular report call from the planet Eden
was overdue, the communications operator summoned his supervisor.
His finger hesitated over the key reluctantly, then he gritted
his teeth and pressed it down. The supervisor came boiling out
of his cubicle, half-running down the long aisle between the forty
operators hunched over their panels.
"What is it? What is it?" he quarreled, even before he came to
"Eden's due. Overdue." The operator tried to make it laconic,
but it came out sullen.
The supervisor rubbed his forehead with his knuckles and
punched irritably at some buttons on an astrocalculator. An up-to-the-second
star map lit up the big screen at the end of the room.
He didn't expect there to be any occlusions to interfere with the
communications channel. The astrophysicists didn't set up reporting
schedules to include such blunders. But he had to check.
He heaved a sigh of exasperation. Trouble always had to come
on his shift, never anybody else's.
"Lazy colonists probably neglecting to check in on time," he
rationalized cynically to the operator. He rubbed his long nose
and hoped the operator would agree that's all it was.
The operator looked skeptical instead.
Eden was still under the first five-year test. Five-year experimental
colonists were arrogant, they were zany, they were a lot
of things, some unprintable, which qualified them for being test
colonizers and nothing else apparently. They were almost as
much of a problem as the Extrapolators.
But they weren't lazy. They didn't forget.
"Some fool ship captain has probably messed up communications
by inserting a jump band of his own." The supervisor hopefully
tried out another idea. Even to him it sounded weak. A
jump band didn't last more than an instant, and no ship captain
would risk his license by using the E frequency, anyway.
He looked hopefully down the long room at the bent heads of
the other operators at their panels. None was signaling an
emergency to draw him away from this; give him an excuse to
leave in the hope the problem would have solved itself by the time
he could get back to it. He chewed on a knuckle and stared
angrily at the operator who was sitting back, relaxed, looking
at him, waiting.
"You sure you're tuned to the right frequency for Eden?" the
supervisor asked irritably. "You sure your equipment is working?"
The operator pulled a wry mouth, shrugged, and didn't bother
to answer with more than a nod. He allowed a slight expression
of contempt for supervisors who asked silly questions to show. He
caught the surreptitious wink of the operator at the next panel,
behind the supervisor's back. The disturbance was beginning to
attract attention. In response to the wink he pulled the dogged
expression of the unjustly nagged employee over his features.
"Well, why don't you give Eden an alert, then!" the supervisor
muttered savagely. "Blast them out of their seats. Make 'em get off
their—their pants out there!"
The operator showed an expression which plainly said it was
about time, and reached over to press down the emergency key.
He held it down. Eleven light-years away, if one had to depend
upon impossibly slow three-dimensional space time, a siren which
could be heard for ten miles in Eden's atmosphere should be
The supervisor stood and watched while he transferred the
gnawing at his knuckles to his fingernails.
He waited, with apprehensive satisfaction, for some angry
colonist to come through and scream at them to turn off that
unprintable-phrases siren. He braced himself and worked up some
choice phrases of his own to scream back at the colonist for
neglecting his duty—getting Extrapolation Headquarters here on
Earth all worked up over nothing. He wondered if he dared
threaten to send an Extrapolator out there to check them over.
He decided the threat would have no punch. An E would pay
no attention to his recommendation. He knew it, and the colonist
would know it too.
He began to wonder what excuse the colonist would have.
"Just wanted to see if you home-office boys were on your toes,"
the insolent colonist would drawl. Probably something like that.
He hoped the right words wouldn't fail him.
But there was no response to the siren.
"Lock the key down," he told the operator. "Keep it blasting
until they wake up."
He looked down the room and saw that a couple of the near
operators were now frankly listening.
"Get on with your work," he said loudly. "Pay attention to what
It was enough to cause several more heads to raise.
"Now, now, now!" he chattered to the room at large. "This is
nothing to concern the rest of you. Just a delayed report, that's
all. Haven't you ever heard of a delayed report before?"
He shouldn't have asked that, because of course they had. It
was like asking a mountain climber if he had ever felt a taut rope
over the razor edge of a precipice suddenly go slack.
"But there's nothing any of you can do," he said. He tried to
cover the plaintive note by adding, "And if you louse up your
own messages ..." But he had threatened them so often that there
was no longer any menace.
He spent the next ten minutes hauling out the logs of Eden to
see if they'd ever been tardy before. The logs covered two and a
fraction years, two years and four months. The midgit-idgit
scanner didn't pick up a single symbol to show that Eden had been
even two seconds off schedule. The first year daily, the second
year weekly, and now monthly. There wasn't a single hiccough
from the machine to kick out an Extrapolator's signal to watch
for anything unusual.
Eden heretofore had presented about as much of an outré
problem as an Iowa cornfield.
"You're really sure your equipment is working?" he asked again
as he came back to stand behind the operator's chair. "They
haven't answered yet."
The operator shrugged again. It was pretty obvious the colonists
hadn't answered. And what should he do about it? Go out there
personally and shake his finger at them—naughty, naughty?
"Well why don't you bounce a beam on the planet's surface,
to see?" the supervisor grumbled. "I want to see an echo. I want
to see for myself that you haven't let your equipment go sour.
Or maybe there's a space hurricane between here and there. Or
maybe a booster has blown. Or maybe some star has exploded
and warped things. Maybe ... Well, bounce it, man. Bounce
it! What are you waiting for?"
"Okay, okay!" the operator grumbled back. "I was waiting for
you to give the order." He grimaced at the operator behind the
supervisor. "I can't just go bouncing beams on planets if I happen
to be in the mood."
"Now, now. Now, now. No insubordination, if you please," the
Together they waited, in growing dread, for the automatic
relays strung out through space to take hold, automatically
calculating the route, set up the required space-jump bands. It
was called instantaneous communication, but that was only
relative. It took time.
The supervisor was frowning deeply now. He hated to report
to the sector chief that an emergency had come up which he
couldn't handle. He hated the thought of Extrapolators poking
around in his department, upsetting the routines, asking questions
he'd already asked. He hated the forethought of the admiration
he'd see in the eyes of his operators when an E walked into the
room, the eagerness with which they'd respond to questions, the
thrill of merely being in the same room.
He hated the operators, in advance, for giving freely of admiration
to an E that they withheld from him. He allowed himself the
momentary secret luxury of hating all Extrapolators. Once upon a
time, when he was a kid, he had dreamed of becoming an E.
What kid hadn't? He'd gone farther than the wish. He'd tried.
And had been rebuffed.
"Clinging to established scientific beliefs," the tester had told
him with the inherent, inescapable superiority of a man trying to
be kind to a lesser intelligence, "is like being afraid to jump off
a precipice in full confidence that you'll think of something to
save yourself before you hit bottom."
It might or might not have been figurative, but he had allowed
himself the pleasure of wishing the tester would try it.
"To accept what Eminent Authority says as true," the tester
had continued kindly, "wouldn't even qualify you for being a
scientist. Although," he added hopefully, "this would not bar
you from an excellent career in engineering."
It was a bitter memory of failure. For if you disbelieved what
science said was true, where were you? And if it might not be true,
why was it said? Even now he shuddered at the chaos he would
have to face, live with. No certainties on which to stand.
He washed the memory out of his thought, and concentrated
on the flashing pips that chased themselves over the operator's
screen. There was nothing wrong with the equipment. Nothing
wrong with the communication channels between Eden and Earth.
"Blasted colonists," the supervisor muttered. "Instead of a beam
on their planet, I'd like to bounce a rock on their heads. I'll bet
they've let all the sets at their end get out of order."
He knew it was a foolish statement, even if the operator's face
hadn't told him so. Any emergency colonist, man or woman—and
there were fifty of them on Eden—could build a communicator.
That was regulation.
"You sure there haven't been any emergency calls from them?"
he asked the operator with sudden suspicion. "You're not covering
up some neglect in not notifying me? If you're covering up, you'd
better tell me now. I'll find out. It'll all come out in the investigation,
The operator turned around and looked at him levelly. He
looked him over, with open contempt, from bald head to splayed
feet. Then he coolly turned his back. There was a limit to just
how much a man could stand, even to hold a job at E Headquarters.
It was about time the supervisor got somebody with brains onto
the job. The sector chief should be called immediately. Supervisors
were supposed to have enough brains to think of something
so obvious as that. That much brains at least.
The first reaction of the sector chief to the dreaded words "delayed
report" was a shocked negation, an illusory belief that it couldn't
happen to him.
To the intense annoyance of the communications supervisor,
his first act was to rush down to communications and go through
all the routines for rousing the colonists the supervisor had tried.
His worry was mounting so rapidly that he hardly noticed the
resigned expression of the operator who knew he would have to
go through all these useless motions again and again before it was
all over, and somebody did something.
"Well," the chief said to the supervisor. "It's my problem now."
He sighed, and unconsciously squared his shoulders.
"Yes, Chief Hayes," the supervisor agreed quickly. Perhaps too
quickly, with too much relief? "Well, that is, I mean ..." his voice
trailed off. After all, it was.
"You understand my check of your routines was no reflection on
you or your department," Hayes said diplomatically. "It's a heavy
responsibility to alert E.H.Q., pull the scientists off who knows
what delicate, critical work—maybe even hope to get the attention
of an E—all that. I had to make sure, you know."
"Of course, Chief Hayes," the supervisor said, and relaxed some
of his resentment. "Serious matter," he chattered. "Disgrace if an
E, without half trying, put his finger on our oversight. We all
understand that." He tried to include the nearby operators, his
boys, in his eager agreement, but they were all busy showing how
intensely they had to concentrate on their work.
"That's probably all it is—an oversight," Hayes said with
unconvincing reassurance; then, at the hurt look on the supervisor's
face, added, "Beyond our control here, of course. Something it
would take at least a scientist to spot, something we couldn't be
expected ... What I mean is, we shouldn't get alarmed until
we know, for sure. And—ah—keep it confidential."
"Of course, Chief Hayes," the supervisor said in a near whisper.
He looked meaningfully around at the room of operators, but
did manage not to put his finger to his lips. Those who were
observing out of the corners of their eyes were grateful for at
On his way back to his own office Chief William Hayes reflected
that the bit about keeping it confidential was on the corny side.
Within fifteen minutes he'd start spreading it all over E.H.Q.,
himself. Every scientist, every lab assistant would know it. Every
clerk, every janitor would know it. E.H.Q. would have to work full
blast all night long, and some of the lesser personnel had homes
down in Yellow Sands at the foot of the mountain.
These would be calling their husbands and wives, telling them
not to fix dinner, not to worry if they didn't come home all night.
No matter how guarded, the news would leak out, the word spread,
and the newscast reporters would pick it up for the delectation
of the public. Eden colony cut off from communication. Nobody
knows ... Wonder ... Fear ... Delicious ... Exciting....
Or was this the kind of thinking that had kept him from
qualifying as an E? What was it the examiner had asked? "Mr.
Hayes, why do you feel it is all right for you to view, to read, to
know—but that others should be protected from seeing, reading,
knowing? What are these sterling qualities you have that make it
all right for you to censor what would not be right for others?"
He abruptly brought his mind back to the present. Perhaps he'd
first better prepare a news statement before he did anything else,
something noncommittal, reassuring. No point in getting the
populace stirred up.
As he sat down behind his desk, a big man in a brown suit,
natural iron-gray hair, a calm and administrative face, he began
to realize that for the next twenty-four hours, at least, he would
be in the spotlight. Well, he'd give a good account of himself.
Demonstrate that he had an executive capacity beyond the needs
of his present job. More than a mere requisition signer, interoffice
For one thing the scientists would give him trouble. If he had
been deeply hurt that they thought he couldn't open up his mind
enough to become an E, what about scientists whose limits were
reached still farther along? He must remember to keep his temper,
use persuasion, maybe kid them a little. The blasted experts were
almost as bad as E's—worse, in a way, because the E didn't have
to remind anybody of his dignity, or how important the work was
he was doing.
But then, you never asked an E to drop what he was doing, and
listen. You never asked an E to do anything. He either noticed and
was interested, or he didn't notice, or wasn't interested.
But nobody ever told an E that he must apply himself to a
problem. Once a man became a full-fledged Extrapolator he was
outside all law, all frameworks, all duty, all social mores. That was
the essence of E science, that any requirement outside of his
own making didn't exist. It had to be that way. That kind of mind
could not tolerate barriers, but spent itself constantly in destroying
them. Erect barriers of triviality, and it would waste its substance
upon trivial matters. The only answer was to remove all possible
barriers for the E, lest immersion in something trivial prevent that
mind from seeking out a barrier to knowledge, a problem of
But the scientists! Hayes sighed. If only the scientists wouldn't
keep thinking they were cut from the same cloth as the E. They
had to have restrictions, organization imposed upon them. Yes
They'd grumble at being taken away from their work to assemble
a review of all the known facts about Eden—a dead issue as far as
their own work was concerned, for Eden had been assayed and
filed away as solved. They'd moan and groan about having to drag
up the facts that had been analyzed and settled long ago.
He saw himself compared with the producer of a show, and
theatrical performers didn't come any more temperamental than
scientists. He'd be hearing about how much of their time he'd
wasted for months to come. Every time any administrator asked
why they hadn't produced whatever it was they were working on,
it would be because Chief Hayes had interrupted them at the
most crucial moment and they'd had to begin all over again.
Oh, they'd drag their heels, all right, and he'd have to remind
them, tactfully, that their prime duty was to serve the Extrapolators;
that they were employed here only because someday, in
some co-ordinate system, somebody might be able to supply a
key fact that some E might want to know.
They'd ask him, slyly, what guarantee he had that any E would
be listening if they did produce a review of the Eden complex,
knowing he could give no such guarantee.
They'd drag their heels because, deep down, they carried a
basic resentment against the E—because, experts though they
were, each of them, somewhere along the line, had learned the
bitter limits in his mind that prevented him from going on to
become an E.
They'd drag their heels because the E's, each blasted one of
them, would regard the absolutely true facts proved beyond
question by science with an attitude of skepticism, temporarily
accepting the uncontestably immutable as only provisionary, and
probably quite wrong.
Oh, they'd grumble, and they'd drag their heels at first; but they
would get into it. They'd get into it, not because the sector chief
had babied them along, kidded them, coaxed them, but because,
as surely as his name was Bill Hayes, some unprintable E would
ask a question for which they had no answer. Or even worse, some
question that made no sense, but left the scientist feeling that
perhaps it should have!
That was the E brand of thinking which gave everybody trouble—and
without which man could never have gone on creeping
outward and outward among the stars. Every new planet, or
subplanet, or sun or blasted asteroid seemed to call for some
revision of known laws. Sometimes an entirely new co-ordinate
system had to be resolved. Oh, science was easy, a veritable snap,
while man crawled around on the muddy bottom of his ocean of
air and concluded that throughout all the universe things must
conform to his then notion of what they must be. As ignorant as a
damned halibut must be of the works and thoughts of man.
And often the E was unable to resolve the co-ordinate system—which
was simply a euphemistic way of saying that he didn't
come back. And without him, man could go no farther. An E,
therefore, was the rarest and most valuable piece of property in
the universe. Whatever else man might be, he will go to any
lengths to protect the value of his property.
All right, Bill, perhaps a part of that is true. But give the scientists
their full due. They'd work with a will once they grew
aware of the need of it, because they were just as concerned as
anybody else with what might have happened to those colonists.
But first they would argue.
His secretary interrupted his thought by coming in from her
own office. She had an inch-thick stack of midgit-idgit cards in
"Here's that batch of scientists who worked on the original
Eden survey," she said.
"So many?" Hayes asked ruefully. "Maybe I'd better send an
"You're the boss," she said easily. "But if I know scientists, they
don't read bulletins."
"Yeah, sure," he agreed. "You made sure this is everybody? Nobody
is slighted? They'll scream like stuck pigs when I ask them,
but they'll be even worse if I slight anybody by not asking."
"Double checked with Personnel's own midgit-idgit," she replied.
"The machine says if anybody is left out, it's not its fault,
that it would only be because we stupid humans forgot to inform
it in the first place."
"Sometimes I think that machine complains more than people
do," he answered. "Certainly it is a lot more insolent."
"Gets more work done, though," she said comfortably. "You
want anything more?"
"Not right now."
"Buzz if you do. The idgit is working out the supply list for
that new exploration ship, and it wants service, too," she reminded
him. "It's worse than you are," she added.
He looked up at her familiarity with a twinkle.
"It can't fire you," he said softly.
"Oh?" she asked. "You think not? Just let me feed it a few wrong
data and watch what happens to your li'l ol' lovin' secretary."
She winked at him, laughed, and went back to her office.
Sector Chief Hayes sighed, and pulled the stack of cards toward
him. First he must sort them out according to protocol because
his diplomacy wouldn't be worth the breath used in it if
he called the wrong man first. At a glance he saw that the idgit
had already sorted them correctly according to status.
"If you're so smart," he muttered to the absent machine, "why
didn't you call them too?"
He picked up the first card, and dialed the man's intercom
number. It would be like opening the lid of Pandora's box....
At that instant the red light of the E intercom flashed on. Hayes
dropped the ordinary key back into its slot, and pushed the E
key to open. He did not recognize the voice that came through.
"How soon," the voice asked, "will we be able to get into this
"I'm setting it up now," he said quickly. "By tomorrow morning,
surely. That is, if we haven't solved it ourselves. Something minor
that wouldn't require an E."
"Morning will be fine. Two, possibly three Seniors will be available."
The red light flashed off, showing the connection had been
broken. He sat back in his chair, suddenly conscious that his
forehead was wet with sweat, that his shirt was sticking to his
body. Not conscious that he was grinning joyfully.
Now let those pesty scientists challenge him with the question
of whether any E's would be listening to their review. Two of
'em. Maybe three. Besides, of course, all the Juniors, the apprentices,
He dialed the first scientist again. But this time he didn't mind
it being Pandora's box. It was a terrible thing for a man to realize
he could never be an E. The scientists had to take it out on somebody.
"Hello, Dr. Mille," he said cordially in answer to a gruff grunt.
"This is Bill Hayes, of Sector Administration."
"All right! All right!" the voice answered testily. "What is it
In the early dawn, out at the hangar, away from the main E
buildings and the endless discussions going on inside them, Thomas
R. Lynwood moved methodically through his preflight inspection.
Speculative thinking was none of his concern. His job was to
pilot an E wherever he might want to go, and bring him back
again—if possible. To Lynwood reality was a physical thing—the
feel of controls beneath his broad, square hands; the hum of
machinery responsive to his will. He liked mathematics not for
its own sake but because it best described the substance of
things, the weight, the size, the properties of things, how they
behaved. He was too intelligent not to realize mathematics could
also communicate speculative unrealities, but he was content to
wait until the theorists had turned such equations into machines,
controls, forces before he got excited.
He was one who, even in childhood, had never wanted to be
an E. He didn't want to be one now. Somebody had once told
him in Personnel that was why he was a favorite pilot of the E's,
but he discounted that. They didn't try to tell him how to run
his ship—well, most of them didn't—and he didn't try to tell them
how to solve their problems.
The men around the hangar had another version of why the
E's liked him to pilot them around—he was lucky. Somehow he
always managed to come back, and bring the E with him. Well,
sure. He didn't want to get stuck somewhere, wind up in a gulio's
gullet, gassed by an atmosphere that turned from oxygen-nitrogen
into pure methane without warning or reason, and against all
known chemical laws, or whiffed out in the lash of a dead star
suddenly gone nova.
But sometimes a pilot couldn't help himself. These E's would
fiddle around in places where human beings shouldn't have gone.
Most of the time they weren't allowed even one mistake. He
was lucky, sure, but part of it might be because he'd never
been sent out with the wrong E.
There could be a first time. Luck ran out if you kept piling
your bets higher and higher. But until then ...
He was square-jawed, a freckled man with red hair. Contrary
to superstition, he didn't have a fiery temper. He was forty and
had already built up a seniority of twenty years in deep space.
He was captain of his ship and wanted nothing more. Sure, it
was only a three-man crew—himself, a flight engineer, an astronavigator.
But it was an E ship, which meant that he outranked
even the captains of the great luxury liners.
There was a time when the realization caused him to strut a
little, but he'd got over it. He was single, had no ties, wanted
none. He had a good job which he took seriously, was doing significant
work which he also took seriously, was paid premium
wages even for a space captain, which didn't matter except in
terms of recognition. He didn't mind going anywhere in the known
universe, or how long he would be away. He hoped he would
get back someday, but he wasn't fanatic about it.
In a routine so well-practiced that it had become ritual, he
checked over the cruiser point by point. Of course the maintenance
men had checked each item when they had, after his last trip,
dismantled, cleaned, oiled, polished, tested, and reassembled one
part after another. Then maintenance supervisors had checked
over the ship with a gimlet-eyed attitude of hoping to find some
flaw, just one tiny flub, so they could turn some luckless mechanic
inside out. The Inspection Department, traditionally an enemy
of Maintenance, took over from there and inspected every part as
if it had been slapped together by a bunch of army goof-offs
who knew that pilots were expendable in peace or war and, unconsciously
at least, aided in expending them.
Both departments had certified, with formal preflight papers,
that the ship was in readiness for deep space. But Lynwood considered
such papers as so much garbage, and went over the entire
ship himself. This might have had something to do with his so-called
He wondered if Frank and Louie had checked into the ship
this morning. Probably had; last night's outing wasn't much to
hang over about. A steak at the Eagle Cafe down in Yellow Sands,
a couple of drinks at Smitty's, a game of pool at Smiley's, a few
dances at the Stars and Moons. Big night out for his crew before
they left for deep space. Yellow Sands was strictly for young
families, where bright-boy hubby worked up on the hill at E.H.Q.,
and wifey raised super-bright kids who already considered Dad
to be behind the times. Their idea of sin in that town was to
snub the wrong matron at a cocktail party; or not snub, as the
case might be. Not that it mattered much, neither Frank nor
Louie was dedicated to hell-raising.
When he at last opened the door to the generator room, he
saw his flight engineer, Frank Norton, had a couple of student
E's on his hands.
It was one of the nuisances of being stationed here at E.H.Q.
that you'd have swarms of these super-bright youngsters hanging
around, asking questions, disputing your answers, arguing with
each other, and, if you didn't watch them carefully, taking things
apart and putting them back together in different hookups to see
what would happen.
The first thing these kids were taught was to disregard everything
everybody had ever said; to start out from scratch as if nobody
had ever had the sense to think about the problem before;
to doubt most of all the opinions of experts, for, obviously, if the
experts were right then there would be no problem. Most of them
didn't have to be taught it, they seemed to have been born with
it. Time was you batted a young smart aleck down, told him to go
get dry behind the ears before he shot off his mouth. But not
these days. These days you looked at him hopefully, and crossed
your fingers. He might grow up to be an E.
Tom wondered what it would be like to doubt the realities,
the very machinery under his hands, to assume that although it
had always worked it might not work this time. He could not
conceive that state of mind, or how a man could live in it without
going insane. Every time he saw these tortured kids saying, "Well,
maybe, but what if ..." he was glad to be nothing more than
a ship captain who knew his machinery was exactly what it was
supposed to be and nothing else.
But, in a way, it was nice for the lads too. After thousands of
years of man's almost rabid determination to destroy the brightest
and best of his young, the world had finally found a place for
the bright boy.
This morning, probably because of the early dawn hour, there
were only two of them in the generator room. As expected, they
were arguing over the space-jump band. Frank was standing
over to one side, observing but not participating. His cap was
pushed back on his blond head, his big face expressionless. It
was common gossip throughout flight crews everywhere that
Frank, blindfolded, could take a cruiser apart and put it back
together without missing a motion.
"The jump band is founded on the basic of the Moebius strip,"
one student E was saying heatedly. "This little gadget sends out
a field in the shape of such a strip, a band with a half twist before
rejoined. Its width is as variable as we need it, up to a light-year."
"Only it hasn't any width at all," the other student argued.
"That's the whole point. The Moebius strip has only one edge,
so it can't have width. We enter that edge, go through a line
that doesn't exist, and come out a light-year away, without taking
any longer than the time to pass a point."
"But that's what happens, not how," the other shouted angrily.
"Everybody knows what happens. Tell me how and maybe I'll
Tom caught his flight engineer's eye and signaled with his head
that it might be a good idea to get rid of the students. Any other
time it would be all right, a part of their stand-by job, but they'd
got word last night to have the ship in readiness from six o'clock
on. They might have to wait all day, but then again, some E might
get an idea and want to go shooting out to Eden right off.
Frank caught the signal, grinned, and began to herd the two
students toward the door. They were in such heated argument
now, accusing one another of parrot repetition instead of thinking
for himself, that they didn't realize that they were being nudged
out of the ship, down its ramp, and out on the field.
"Don't think it hasn't been educational, and all," Frank murmured
to them as he got them off the ramp. "You get the how of
it figured out, you let me know."
The two looked at him as if he might be an interesting phenomenon,
decided he wasn't, and wandered away, back toward the
school dormitories, still arguing.
"Sometimes I think a quiet milk run out to Saturn would have
its brighter side," Frank muttered to Tom when he came back
inside the ship. Tom grinned at him in wordless understanding.
There was no tension between them. They had worked together
so long that they had got over all the attraction-repulsion conflicts
which operate far beneath the surface mind to cause likes and
dislikes. Now they accepted one another in the way a man accepts
his own hands—proud of them when they do something with extra
skill, making allowances when they fumble; but never considering
doing without them.
"Wonder who the E will be this time?" Frank asked, without
too much concern. It didn't really matter. An E was an E, for
better or for worse.
"Haven't heard," Tom answered. "Probably not decided yet.
If the Senior E's think it isn't much of a problem, they might
send a Junior. Or if they don't want to be bothered, they might
send a Junior who's up for his solo problem."
"Whoever, or whatever, I'm sure it will be interesting," Frank
commented with a grin. Tom returned the grin. There wasn't any
malice in it, nor any of the basic enmity and destructiveness of
the stupid toward the bright, just a recognition that an E was
an E. They had a vast respect for an E, but you couldn't get
around it that some of them were—well, maybe eccentric was
"I hear there's trouble on that planet we're going to—Eden, isn't
it?" Frank commented.
"You think we'd be hauling an E out there if there weren't?"
Tom countered wryly.
They continued to check over each item in the generator room,
their flying fingers making sharp contrast to their slow, idle conversation.
They gave the room extra care this time because there
had been some quick-fingered students around who just might
have got it into their heads to improve the machinery. Satisfied
at last that there had been no subtle meddling, they snapped the
cowl of the generator back into position. They took one more
sharp look around, then walked, single file, up the narrow passage
to the control room. Louie LeBeau was sitting in the astronavigator's
seat, checking over his star charts and instruments.
He glanced up at them as they came level with his cubicle. He
was the third man of the team, as used to them as they were to
"Fourteen hop adjustments to get us past Pluto and out of the
heavy traffic," he grumbled sourly. His round face and liquid
brown eyes were perpetually disgusted. "They keep saying over
at Traffic that they're going to provide a freeway out of the solar
system so we can take it in one hop, but they don't do it. Wonder
when we'll ever go modern, start doing things scientific?"
They paid no attention to his grumbling. That was just Louie.
"Then how many hops to Eden, after Pluto?" Tom asked.
"I figure twenty," Louie answered. "Can't take full light-year
leaps every time. There's stuff in the way. There's always stuff
in the way to louse up a good flight plan. Universe is too crowded.
There'll be no trouble getting to Eden, no trouble getting there.
Make it in about fourteen hours. Fourteen hours to go eleven
lousy little light-years. Fourteen hours I got to work in one stretch.
Wait'll the union agent hears you're working me fourteen hours
without a relief. And are you letting me get my rest now, so I
can work fourteen hours? Or are you stopping me from resting
with a lot of questions?"
"But you think there may be trouble after we get to Eden?"
Louie looked at him. There was no fear in the soft, brown eyes;
just an enormous indignation that life should always treat him
"Don't you?" he asked.
Calvin Gray, Junior Extrapolator, stood nude before his bathroom
mirror and played a no-beard light over his chin and thin cheeks.
That should take care of the beard problem for the next six
months or so. He leaned forward and examined the fine lines
beginning to appear at the corners of his eyes. Well, that was one
of the signs he'd reached the thirty mark. One couldn't stay forever
at the peak of youth—not yet, anyway. Perhaps he should
think about that sometime.
Trouble was, there was always something more urgent....
He became conscious that Linda was standing in the bathroom
door watching him. He hadn't heard her get out of bed.
"You used the no-beard just last month, Cal," she said. There
was a questioning note in her voice.
"Want to keep handsome," he said lightly. "Never know when
I might have to run out to some other world. Wouldn't want one
of my other wives to catch me with stubble on my face."
It was a stale joke, a childish one, but it served to introduce
the topic foremost in his mind.
"This Eden problem. I can't plan on it, but I hope it's my solo
to qualify me for my big E. I'm due, you know."
Linda chose to avoid coming directly to grips with it.
"Yehudi is already at the door," she said, and made a face of
exasperation. "Someday I'm going to turn off the gadget that signals
the orderly room the minute you get out of bed, so I can
have you all to myself."
"It's better if you get used to him," Cal cautioned. "Turn off
the signal and that turns on an alarm. Instead of one Yehudi,
you'd have twenty rushing in to see what was wrong."
"Well, it seems to me a grown man ought to be able to take
his morning shower without an observer standing by to see that
he doesn't drown himself or swallow the soap," she commented
with a touch of acid.
"Get used to it, woman," he commanded. "There's only one
observer now. When—if I get my Senior rating, there'll be three."
She didn't say anything. Instead she stepped over to him,
pressed her nude body against his, and tenderly nuzzled his arm.
"Maybe if we go back to bed, he'll go away," she said, and
glittered her eyes at him wickedly.
"He won't, but it's a good idea," Cal grinned at her.
"You could tell him to go away," she whispered with a little
She was fighting. She was fighting with the only weapon she
had to hold him, to keep him from going away, to face an unknown.
He knew it, and the bitterness in her eyes, back of her
teasing, showed she knew he knew it.
He took her tenderly in his arms, held her close to him, stroked
her hair, kissed her mouth. She pulled her face away, buried it
in his chest. He felt her sobbing.
He picked her up, lightly, carried her back into the bedroom,
laid her gently on the bed, and, oblivious to the attendant who
stood expressionless inside the door, knelt down beside the bed
and held her head in his arms.
"Don't fight it," he said softly. "It isn't the first time a man has
had to go."
"It's the first time it ever happened to me," she sobbed.
"You knew when you married me.... You agreed...."
"It was easy to agree, then. There was the glamor of being
known as the wife of an E. Now that doesn't matter. There's just
you, and the thought of losing you, never seeing you again."
"I haven't gone yet," he reminded her. "I don't know that I'll
get the job. There are three Seniors at base right now. One of
them might want it. Even if I do get the problem, who says I
won't be back? You take old McGinnis. He's eighty if he's a day.
He's been an E for nigh on to fifty years. He's still around, you'll
She was quieter now. She lay, looking at him, drinking in his
dark hair, blue eyes, handsome face, the shape of his intelligent
head, the slope of his neck and shoulders, the tapering waist, all
the masculine grace and beauty. She pressed her closed fist into
her mouth. All the beauty she might never see again, feel enfolded
around her, enfold with herself.
"I'm a little fool," she said through clenched teeth. "Of course
you'll be back. And you'd better make it quick, or I'll come after
He kissed her, rumpled her short hair, straightened her crumpled
body on the bed, pulled the sheet over her.
"Why don't you go back to sleep," he suggested. "Rest. I'll have
breakfast in the E club room. That's where we'll be watching the
Eden briefing. Sleep. Sleep all morning."
Gently he closed her eyes with the tip of his forefinger. Gently
he kissed her once more. This time she didn't cling to him, try
to hold him.
He tucked the sheet in around her throat. Dutifully, she kept
her eyes closed. He stood up then, and signaled the orderly.
"I'll take my shower now," he said.
The orderly didn't speak, just followed him into the bathroom
to stand in the doorway and watch him through the shower glass.
He was rigidly obeying the cardinal rule of E.H.Q.
Unless his life is in danger, never interrupt the thinking of an
E. The whole course of man's destiny in the universe may depend
How much of the future of the universe depended upon his
not interrupting the scene he had just witnessed wasn't for him
to say. He sighed. He thought of his own wife—shrewish, fat,
coarse, always complaining. He wondered what she would do if
he picked her up, carried her to bed, closed her eyes with his
fingers. For once, he'd bet, she'd be speechless.
He must try it sometime. But first, she'd have to lose about
When Cal got to the E club room two Seniors were already
there—McGinnis and Wong. He thought their greeting was a shade
more cordial, a shade more interested than usual. They seemed,
this time, to be looking at him as if he were a person, not
merely a Junior E. When he turned away from them to greet
the three Juniors, who, along with himself, ranked the club-room
privileges, he became certain of his impressions. Their faces
were frankly envious.
Eden was to be his problem!
He'd hoped for it. Even half expected it. Yet all the way through
his shower, dressing, coming down the elevator from his apartment,
he'd been nagged with the fear he might not be considered;
that the grief of Linda and her rise above it would lead only to
anticlimax. By the time he'd got to the club-room door, followed
by his orderly, he had already conditioned himself to disappointment.
Now he subdued his elation while he told his orderly what he
wanted for breakfast.
"You fellows join me in something?" he asked both Juniors and
"A second cup of coffee," Wong agreed.
"A second bourbon," old McGinnis said drily.
The Juniors shook their heads negatively. Yesterday they had
been his constant companions, only a few degrees below him in
accomplishment, pushing rapidly to become his equal competitors
for the next solo. Today, this morning, there was already a gap
between them and him, a chasm they would make no move to
bridge until they had earned the right. They seated themselves
at another table, apart.
"Of course we haven't asked you if you want this Eden problem,"
McGinnis commented while orderlies placed food and
drink in front of them. "We ought to ask him, hadn't we, Wong?"
"First I should ask if either of you want it?" Cal said quickly.
"Or perhaps Malinkoff, if he shows up."
"Malinkoff is too deep in something to come to the briefing,"
"Wong and I came only to help on your first solo, if we can,"
McGinnis said. "Always think a young fellow needs a little send-off.
I remember, about fifty years ago, more or less ..."
"Worst thing to guard against," Wong interrupted, "is disappointment.
This whole thing might add up to nothing. Might not
turn out to be a genuine solo at all, just something any errand
boy could do. In that case it wouldn't qualify you. You know
"Sure," Cal said. Naturally the problem would have to give real
challenge. You didn't just go out and knock a home run to become
an E. You tackled something outside the normal frame of reference,
something that required original thinking, the E kind of thinking.
You brought it off successfully. A given number of Seniors reviewed
what you'd done. If they thought it was worth something,
you got your big E. If they didn't, you tried again. And you didn't
get it by default, just because somebody thought there should be
a given quota of Seniors on the list.
"Little or big," he added, "I'd like the problem."
They said no more. He knew the score. He'd had twelve years
of the most intensive training the E's themselves could devise.
He knew that sometimes a Junior spent another ten or twelve
years chasing down jobs which anybody on the spot could have
solved if they'd used their heads a little before they ran on to
something that challenged that training. He'd be lucky if this was
big enough—but not too big.
That was in their minds, too.
On ordinary days there were only the usual few science reporters
in the press room of E.H.Q. These held their jobs by the difficult
compromise between the scientists' insistence upon accuracy and
their publishers' equal insistence upon sensationalism.
Since the publisher paid the salary; since rewrite men, like
television writers, maintained their own feeling of superiority to
the mass by writing down to the level of a not very bright twelve-year-old;
since the facts had to be trimmed and altered to fit
the open space or time slot; even these reporters had a difficult
time of maintaining the usual odds—that there is only a twenty-to-one
chance that anything said in the newspapers or on the air
may be accurate.
But on this morning the press room was crowded. In spite of all
efforts of journalism to stir up old animosities to make news,
or to force factional leaders into rashness which could not be
settled without violence; the various states of world government
insisted upon negotiating ethnical differences amicably, and
factional leaders persisted in keeping their heads. There had been
no world-shaking discoveries made in the last week or so; the
public no longer believed that changing a screw thread was
exactly a scientific "break-through"; no real or imagined scandals
seemed of such journalistic stature as to work the public into a
frenzy of intolerance for one another's aberrations.
In such a dry spell, when advertisers were beginning to question
circulation figures, and editors were racking their brains for a
strong hate symbol to create interest, the delayed report from
Eden came as a summer shower, that might be magnified into a
EDEN SILENT quickly became COLONY FEARED LOST
and progressed normally to COLONY WIPED OUT.
That there was no proof of loss or destruction bothered no one
in journalism. If it did turn out this way, they'd have been on top
of the news; and if it didn't, well, who remembers yesterday's
headlines in the press of today's new hate and panic.
The public, with an established addiction to ever increasing
daily doses of sensationalism, and deprived of its shots through
this dry spell, snapped out of its apathy to greet this new thrill
with vociferous calls to editors, wires to congressmen, telegrams
to the Administration.
What are we doing about this colony that has been wiped
out? Where is our space battle fleet? Who is going to be punished?
It was an overnight sensation, and on this morning following the
news leak there could even be seen some secretaries to the writers
for top commentators and columnists in the crowded press room.
Naturally these stood in little groups apart and associated only
with each other to maintain the literary tradition of proper
insulation from the realities of what was going on in the rest of
the world. Obviously no first-rate writer could have afforded to
appear in person not only because of damage to his stature
lest it be noted he was doing his own spadework; but, more
important, first-hand observation might limit his capacity for
rationalizing the situation into the mold demanded by the bias
of his commentator or columnist. It was always difficult to maintain
author integrity when the facts did not support the sensationalism
required by the employers, and best not to put oneself
in such a position.
Now two of these secretaries could be seen over in a corner of
the press room exchanging their views, probing one another for
information. No one thought it curious they weren't trying to
get the information from source for everyone in journalism understands
the importance lies in what the competition is going to
say, not in what happened.
"How long has it been since the first message came through,
"Fourteen hours, about."
"We could have had a rescue fleet out there by now."
"To rescue 'em from what?"
"I understand an assistant attorney general is checking into it."
"So Gunderson's still gunning for the E's, eh?"
"Has he ever let up since he became attorney general? Gripes
his soul he can't arrest them for not doing what he wants, or for
doing what he doesn't want."
"How'd they ever get immune, anyhow?"
"Skip class that day in history?"
"Vague, myself. Right after the insurrection. Seems there were
two powers, Russia and America. The people of the world got
fed up, gave a pox to both their houses, boiled over, formed a
world government. Somehow the scientists got in their licks in
the turmoil, pointed out that scientists who have to confine their
discoveries to what suits the ideology of the non-scientists can
only find limited solutions."
"Quite a deal."
"Could only happen in a world turmoil, when everything was
fluid. Anyhow, they got away with it, for a certain group,
Extrapolators, had to be free to extrapolate without fear of
"Boy, something. Imagine. Take any dame you want. Nobody
can squawk. Take any money, riches you want. Nobody can stop
"Funny thing. Nothing like that happens. Idea seems to be that
when you don't have to fight against restrictions, they aren't important
any more. At least not to an E."
"Guess that's why one of 'em pointed out that police are the
major cause of crime."
"Whether he was right or wrong, that's what sent Gunderson
into a tail spin. I wouldn't be surprised but what he's a little hipped
on that subject. He'll get 'em one of these days. Even an E can
make a mistake, and when one of 'em does, he'll be there."
"I dunno, the public has a lot of hero-worship for the E. Pretty
tough for any politician to buck that."
"The public! You know as well as I do—they think what we tell
'em to think, you and me."
"You think that's why he's got a man out here on this Eden
thing? Looking for a mistake?"
"Maybe. Maybe not. He just never passes up the chance that
maybe this time he can grab something."
"Between Gunderson and the E's, I'll take the E's."
"Your boss feel the same way?"
"Far as I know."
"But if your boss changed his mind, you would have an agonizing
"Well, sure. A guy's got to eat."
The west wall of the E club room began to glow, lose its appearance
of solidity. Cal signaled his orderly to lift away his table.
Now, where the west wall had been, another room seemed to
join this one, an office. A large man in a brown suit made an
entrance through the door of the office and sat down back of the
desk. His face was drawn with weariness.
"I am Bill Hayes," he said. "Sector administration chief of the
Eden area. I am acting moderator of this review. We follow the
usual rules of procedure. I just want to say, as an aside, that the
scientists involved in this problem have been up all night reviewing
every known fact about Eden. We ask the indulgence of the
E's not only for the kind of knowledge that may prove too little,
but for any strain caused by trying to assemble such massive data
into order in so short a time.
"For the press, let me say we are aware of some questions of
why we didn't immediately send out a fleet of ships as soon as
the call failed to come through. A military man does not rush
troops into battle until he has some idea of what he must oppose;
even a plumber needs to get some idea of the problem before
he knows what tools to take with him. It would serve no constructive
purpose to rush an unprepared fleet out to rescue, and
might prove the highest folly."
All over E.H.Q., in the various buildings where anybody was
directly concerned, the same effect would be taking place as appeared
here in the club room. The tri-di screen wall would seem
to join the room of the person speaking. A pressed button signaled
the desire to speak, and like the chairman of a meeting, Bill
Hayes decided whom to recognize. It was a way to conduct a
meeting of two or three thousand people as intimately as a small
"The E's have signaled they are ready for the Eden briefing,"
Hayes continued formally. He faded out his own office, and was
immediately replaced by an astrophysics laboratory. The review
of Eden was under way.
With sky charts, pointers, math formulae and many references
to documentation, the astrophysicist established the celestial
position of Ceti relative to Earth, and its second planet Ceti II—popularly
called, he had heard, Eden. For his part, bitterly, he
preferred a little less popularizing of scientific data, a little more
exactitude. He would, therefore, continue to call it Ceti II.
He reminded Cal of certain teachers in schools he had been
asked to leave back in his ugly duckling days. How didactically,
positively, they clung to their exactitudes—like frightened little
children in a chaotic world too big for them to face, hanging on
to mother's skirts, something safe, sure, dependable.
The astrophysicist continued, at considerable length, to establish
the position of Ceti II to his own complete satisfaction.
In his own mind Cal willingly conceded that, at least in terms
of third-dimensional space-time continuum, Eden could be found
where the man said it was. Then he reminded himself, sternly,
that the essence might be that Eden was there no longer; that
he'd better pay closest attention to everything said, however
positive and didactic, lest he find his own mind closed to a solution.
He reminded himself that, after all, these people had worked
all night for his benefit, while he lay peacefully in Linda's arms.
He reminded himself that one little bit of datum, one little
phrase, carelessly heard now, might mean his success or failure.
Didactic pedantry has its place in science, and these were scientists,
not vaudeville performers. Silently, he apologized to the lot
A geophysicist took over the review. He quickly got down out
of space to the surface of Eden. Personally he didn't mind calling
it Eden, just so all the purists knew he was referring to Ceti II.
This was supposed to be humorous, and he waited until all the
viewers had had a chance to chuckle with him.
If the astrophysicist signaled his demand for a retraction and
apology for this public ridicule, Bill Hayes apparently didn't feel
it worth breaking up the review to oblige him.
After he had enjoyed his own humor, the geophysicist did present
his capsule of knowledge with excellent brevity.
There were no large continents. Instead, there were thousands
of islands, so many that the land mass roughly equaled the sea
surface. The islands had not been counted, he admitted, and
then needlessly explained that Eden had been discovered only
ten years ago. Since universe exploration was expanding much
faster than properly qualified scientists could follow to catalogue
conditions, details such as this had been left for future colonists
He took time out to complain that the younger generation was
too dazzled by glamor and wanted to become entertainment stars,
sports stars, jet jockeys exploring space, and there weren't enough
going into the solid sciences to keep up with the work to be
A biophysicist interposed here and stated that his research with
the injection of uric acid into rats caused a marked rise in
intelligence, and if the Administration would just pay attention
and let him have the grant he was asking, he felt confident that
research in how to change the human kidney structure would
take us a long mutant leap ahead toward humans with super-intelligence.
Bill Hayes cut him off as tactfully as possible and suggested
that the Eden problem was here and now, and perhaps we should
get that one out of the way first. Both scientists, by their expressions,
indicated that they did not appreciate being frustrated,
hampered, driven—but they did comply.
Back to Eden they went.
The climate was something like that of the Hawaiian area.
Partly this was due to the variable plane rotation that heated all
parts evenly, partly due to favorable flow of ocean currents. It
had been noted that there was such an interweaving of cool and
warm currents all over the globe that a relatively even temperature
was maintained throughout. Some differential in spots, of
course, enough to cause rainfall, but no real violence of storms,
not as we classified hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes here on
"Probably no sudden storm to wipe out the colony before they
could send news, then," Wong suggested in an aside to Cal.
"Or a freak one did occur and they weren't prepared because
it wasn't supposed to happen," Cal said.
Wong and McGinnis exchanged a quick glance, and Cal knew
Wong had laid a little trap to see how easily he might be lulled
into a premature conclusion.
The gravity was slightly less, the geophysicist was saying, but
only to the extent that man, newly arrived from Earth, walked
with a springier step, didn't tire as quickly. Not enough to cause
nausea, even to the inexperienced. The oxygen content of the air,
in fact the whole make-up of the air, was so close to Earth
quality there were no breathing adaptations necessary.
So much for generalities. He went on to document them with
exactitudes. He teamed up with a meteorologist to explain the
distribution of rainfall in spite of lack of frigid and torrid air
masses. Cal's doubt was not appeased. Weather prediction was
about on a par with race-horse handicapping, and easy to explain
after it happened.
Eventually the geophysicist and the meteorologist completed
their duet to the accompaniment of oceanographers and geologists.
A chorus of botanists replaced them on the tri-di screen, the
major theme of their epic being that an astonishing proportion
of the plant forms bore edible fruit, nuts, seeds, leaves, stems,
roots, flowers. A choir of zoologists joined their voices here to
point out the large number of small meat animals, fish, and
crustaceans—with the whole thing sounding like a pean of thanksgiving.
After two hours, the condensed information added up to a most
interesting fact. In essence, due to quite natural conditions—odd
how much the scientists seemed to need stressing the word
"natural"—Eden was more favorable to easy human life than
Cal leaned forward. Here was the spot where some student
or apprentice might distinguish himself by asking an embarrassing
question or so. Say the range of easily possible conditions on
any given planet was a scale ten miles in length. Then that area
on the scale where man could exist without artificial aids would
still be less than a hair's breadth. And now to find a planet more
nearly perfect for man than the one on which he evolved....
Or were the students considering this too obvious to mention?
He decided to nudge them a little. Sometimes a discussion of the
too obvious brought out things not obvious at all.
"How frequently," he asked, when Hayes had cut him in, "do
we find a mass revolving in such a manner that its poles revolve
at right angles to its forward revolution, so there is no real pole?"
"It requires near-perfect roundness, and an even distribution of
land and water masses, such as we have on Ceti II," the first
"How frequently do we find that?" Cal repeated.
"I know of no other," the astrophysicist replied shortly.
"Any evidence of tampering with those ocean currents to get
them flowing so beneficially?" Cal asked.
"None yet discovered," an oceanographer cut in.
Well, at least he hadn't stated with positiveness that there hadn't
been and couldn't be. But an anthropaleontologist inserted himself
and spoiled the effect of open-mindedness.
"There is definitely no life form on Eden with sufficient intelligence
for that," the man said, "nor has there ever been. Such a
feat would require enormous engineering works. Such works under
the ocean would be matched by comparable works on land,
and would therefore show up in our aerial surveys, however
ancient and overgrown."
Cal sighed softly to himself. The human kind of civilization,
yes, that would have left traces. But what of some other kind?
Perhaps a deep-sea kind that had never come out upon the land?
Never mind the arguments that such a civilization could not have
developed—that was looking at it from the human point of view
again. Had man grown so accustomed to not finding comparable
intelligence anywhere in the universe he had begun to discount,
or forget, there could be?
The review went on and on. The zoologist sketched in the
prevalent animals and fish forms, showed there was nothing in
land animals higher than a large rodent, no sea mammals at all,
no fish larger than the tarpon. Nothing at all to hint at a line of
A bacteriologist exclaimed at length over the similarity of
minute life forms to those on Earth, and used the occasion to again
expound the old theory of space-floating life spores to seed all
favorable matter, and thus develop similar forms through evolution,
wherever found. Quickly and tactfully Bill Hayes nudged
him back on the track before the expected storm of controversy
could break out.
Then there was a short lunch time, but not a leisurely one.
Quite aside from the emergency of what might be happening to
the colonists, there was growing clamor from the people and
pressure from various governmental bodies to get off the dime
and get going—rescue those people, or, cynically, at least make a
show of action to quell the flood of telegrams. E.H.Q. resisted
the pressures in favor of doing a workmanlike job in preparation
for a genuine rescue instead of a haphazard show, but was mindful
of them nevertheless.
Anyone who has witnessed even so much as a traffic-court trial
cannot help but realize that "government by law instead of man"
is a mere political phrase without meaning in reality. The
ascendancy of me-and-mine over you-and-yours runs so deep in
the human psyche that abstract idealisms must always take second
place where such ascendancy is threatened. Thus we see that
the belly-crawler, meek and subservient to the judge, comes off
with a token sentence while the man who attempts to maintain
his pride, his rights, his self-respect gets the book thrown at him.
No practical attorney is unaware that the judgment of his case
depends largely upon who presides, the whims, the prejudices,
the moods, the viewpoint of the judge; and that the law merely
provides justification for the imposition of those whims, moods,
prejudices, and viewpoints.
The announcement at E.H.Q. that a Junior E would be given
this problem gave Gunderson's man the opening he had hoped
to find. A hurried call to the capitol and a brief conversation with
Gunderson himself confirmed his conclusions. Perhaps the E was
above all law, and it might not be expedient to challenge that
right now, but immunity did not necessarily extend to the
In view of the known ambitions of certain judges, it should
not be difficult to make a test case of this—whether the E's had
a right to jeopardize a colony of human beings by assigning an
unqualified man to the problem.
A question, too, of who had jurisdiction over the Juniors, the
apprentices, the students. How far down the line did the mantle
of the E extend to protect those not yet qualified? How far out
did the Administration of E.H.Q. extend to substitute for government?
How much of a state within a state had E.H.Q. become?
Now, while the public was clamoring for action, and E.H.Q.
was, instead, droning on through a mass of inconsequential detail,
now while public sentiment was crystallizing, or could be
crystallized into placing human welfare over science procedures,
now was the time.
It was not difficult to find a judge who was predisposed to favor
the request of the attorney general.
After lunch at E.H.Q., the colonizing administrator took over the
The precolonizing scientists had not been trapped by the obviously
favorable aspects of Eden into neglecting their full duties.
No indeed they had given the full routine of tests and had
come up with exactly nothing that might be unfavorable to man,
at least not more so than on Earth.
Colonization had followed the usual plan. Fifty professional
colonists had been sent out to Eden. They knew their jobs. They
were temperamentally suited to the work.
As usual, they were to live there for five years, leaning as
lightly as possible on Earth supplement. Their prime purpose was
to adapt primitive ecology to human needs, how it could be done.
It was not the job of this first colony to explore, to catalogue.
They were expected to do only what any pioneer does—endure,
exist, and prove it possible.
In honesty the colonizing administrator had to point out there
had been more than the usual dissatisfaction from this colony.
The burden of their complaint was that they found living too
easy. They were professionals, accustomed to challenge.
They had first recommended, then demanded, that they be
transferred and the planet given over to the second-phase colonists.
They complained they were dying on the vine, that easy living
was making farmers and storekeepers out of them, that they were
getting soft, ruined by disuse of their talents for meeting and
coping with hostile conditions. There had even been threats that
one of these days they would all pile into their ship and come
back home. So far he had stopped them by threats of his own,
that he would personally see they never got another assignment.
He had resisted their demands. Five years was a short enough
time. Some organisms took longer than that to develop in the
human body or mind, to make their inimical presence known.
Some did not show up until the second or third generation; which
was the reason for the second-phase colonists, to live there for
three generations, before the planet could be opened to young
John Smith and his wife Mary who dreamed of owning a little
chicken ranch out away from it all. He had argued that boredom
might be just the very inimical condition they were having to
Cal felt a twinge of disappointment here. Perhaps the dissatisfied
colonists had merely gone on strike! Unable to get satisfaction
from their administrator, they chose not to communicate as a
means of drawing attention, getting an investigation of their
plight. Drastic, perhaps, but man had been known to do drastic
things before when he felt treated unfairly.
This seemed such a likely solution that for a moment he let
his disappointment override his interest. Such would be an
administrative hassle, nothing to challenge an E at all, not even
Still, it might not be the solution. He had better listen to the
whole of the problem.
The colonists had chosen a large island for their first settlement.
In the center was a small mountain. It had been given the
name of Crystal Palace Mountain because it was crested with an
outcropping of amethystine quartz-crystal structures in natural
pillars, domes, arches, spires.
Like spokes of a wheel radiating out from the hub, ridges fell
away from this mountain, and in between the ridges there lay
fertile valleys watered by perpetual streams.
It was in one of these valleys, about halfway between the
mountain and the sea, that the colonists settled. Some bucolic wit
had named the first settlement Appletree, because there they
would gain knowledge, and everybody knows that the apple was
the Garden of Eden's fruit of knowledge. No one quite knew
when the name Eden was first applied to the planet. Suddenly,
during the first scientific expedition, everyone was referring to it
"For exactitude," the administrator said diplomatically. "Of
course we still designate it as Ceti II."
As was customary, the colony had communicated multitudes
of progress pictures over the space-jump band. Here was the
valley before they had started to fell trees. Here it was in progress
of clearing. Here they were converting the trees into lumber for
houses. Here were the first houses so that some could move out
of the living quarters in the ship. Here they were uprooting the
stumps, turning the sod, planting Earth seed. These were barns
for the cattle and horses sent with them from Earth.
A collection of community buildings came next in the series of
photographs, and finally there was the whole village of Appletree,
with a collection of small farms surrounding it. The pictures
showed it all as ideal for man as a distant view of a rural valley
in Ohio. Productive, progressive, and peaceful—from a distance.
But back of the post-card scene, human psychology progressed
The reporting psychologist was most emphatic on this issue. His
department would have been most alarmed had differences and
schisms not developed. That would have been an abnormality
calling for investigation.
Differences in outlook became apparent in spite of the common
temperament and experience of the group. Little personal enmities
developed and grew. Sympathizers drew together in little
groups, each group considering its stand to be the right one, and
therefore all who disagreed wrong.
The psychologist said he was sure all viewing would remember
the classical picture of primitive Earth man at first awareness.
He stands upon a hill and looks about him. There comes the
astonishing realization that he can see about the same distance
in all directions.
"Why," he exclaims to himself, "I must be at the very center
His awe and wonder was to grow. Wherever he went, he found
he was still at the center of things. There could be only one conclusion.
"Because I am always at the center of things, I must be the
most important event in all creation!"
Still later comes another realization.
"Those who are with me, and are therefore a part of me-and-mine,
are also at the center of things and share my importance.
Those who are not with me, and not a part of me-and-mine,
are not at the center of things, and are therefore of an inferior
It could readily be seen—the psychologist was allowing a note
of dryness to enter his comments—that the bulk of man's philosophy,
religion, politics, social values, and yes, too often even his
scientific conclusions, was based upon this egocentric notion; the
supreme importance and rightness of me-and-mine ascendant at
the center of things, opposed to those who are not a part of me-and-mine,
on the outside, and therefore inferior.
There must have been a signal from Bill Hayes, for the
psychologist left the generalities behind and came back to the
The very ease of living on Eden fostered the growth of schisms,
for there was no common enemy to band the group into one
solid me-and-mine organism—the audience would recall that when
Earth was divided into nations it had always been imperative to
find a common enemy in some other nation; that this was the
only cohesive force man had been able to find to keep the nation
Factions took shape on Eden and clashed in town meetings.
At last, as expected, some dissident individuals and family groups
could no longer tolerate the irritation of living in the same
neighborhood with the rest. These broke off from the main
colony, and migrated across the near ridge to settle in an adjacent
Psychologically, it was a most satisfactory development, playing
out in classical microcosm the massive behavior of total man. For,
as everyone knew, had men ever been able to settle their differences,
had man been able to get along peacefully with himself,
he might have developed no civilization at all.
Man's inability to stand the stench of his own kind was the
most potent of all forces in driving him out to the stars.
Bill Hayes, a weary and red-eyed moderator now, apparently
decided he could no longer stand the stench of the psychologist
and abruptly cut him off. He himself took over the summation.
It boiled down to a simple statement.
The colonists had reported everything that happened, of significance
or not. These reports had all been thoroughly sifted in the
normal course of E.H.Q.'s daily work as they were received. They
had been collated and extended both by human and machine
minds to detect any subtle trends away from norm.
There had been nothing, absolutely nothing. The reports might
as well have originated somewhere near Eugene, Oregon. They
were about as unusual as a Saturday night bath back on the farm.
Then silence. Sudden, inexplicable silence.
"It bothers me, it bothers me a lot," Cal said to the two E's,
following the review, "that Eden should be more favorable to
effortless human existence than Earth."
He snapped on the communicator and asked the ship be in
readiness for take-off.
McGinnis and Wong looked at one another.
"You think it might have been the original Garden of Eden?"
Wong asked. His face was impassive. "It fits, you know. Man was
banished from an ideal condition and forced to live by the sweat
of his brow."
"Not that so much," Cal said. "Not unless the whole concept
of evolution is haywire, and we're reasonably sure it isn't that
far off. Probably the colonists have gone on strike, but I still keep
thinking that when we want to catch rats we set a trap with a
better food than they can get normally."
There was a twinkle in McGinnis's eye.
"You think Eden is an alluring trap, especially baited to catch
human beings?" he asked.
"I don't exactly think that. I just keep wondering," Cal answered.
They were interrupted by a diffident yet insistent knock on
the door. This in itself was such a violation of E.H.Q. rules, never
to interrupt the thinking of an E, that all three stopped talking.
The three Juniors, who had been sitting by, listening, arose
from their seats and stood facing the door. The orderlies looked
to the E's for instruction. At a nod from McGinnis, one of them
walked over to the door and opened it.
Bill Hayes was standing there, flushed with embarrassment.
"Your pardon, E's," he said hurriedly. "I'm just an errand boy,
under instruction from General Administration. We have been
served with a court injunction to prevent assignment of a Junior
to the Eden matter."
Cal froze in alarm and disappointment. At the last moment
to have his chance snatched away from him. He should have gone
immediately the review was over, without waiting for any advice
McGinnis and Wong might care to give. Now ...
McGinnis caught his eye and gave a slight nod toward a door
that opened on another hallway. He flashed a command with
his eyes to get going, then turned back to Hayes.
"I was unaware that the E's must heed court orders," he said
"It's a question of where civil jurisdiction stops and E jurisdiction
takes over," Hayes explained nervously. "While the
colonists are employed by E.H.Q., and under their direction, it
is held they are also Earth citizens, with citizen rights. Civil
authority feels it must answer for their welfare."
"I thought restrictions upon the E were removed by act of
World Congress some seventy years ago," Wong said mildly.
"The injunction makes it clear there is no restriction upon the
Senior E; just the Junior, who really isn't an E yet."
"It is the decision of the E's that a Junior will handle this
problem," McGinnis said, and turned his back as if that settled
Hayes cleared his throat nervously.
"I'm sorry," he said. "If it were up to me ... Well, the argument
before the court ran this way: That where there is no
restriction upon the E in arriving at a solution, there is also no
compulsion upon civil authority to adopt that solution. They cited
instances ... Well, any number of instances. It seems ..."
Cal heard no more. He had been pacing the room, and now,
while Hayes's perspiring attention was focused imploringly on
Wong and McGinnis, he slipped out the door.
The orderly at that door raised a finger in salute, and at Cal's
request quickly wheeled a hall-car from a storage closet.
"Take me out to the Eden ship," Cal said quietly. "You know
where it is?"
"Yes," the orderly answered. He took his place at the controls
and Cal slipped into the seat beside him.
They sped through the halls at maximum speed, out the rear
exit of the E building, down the maze of ramps and out across
the landing field to the entrance of the ship.
Cal expected to see guards posted there to enforce the injunction,
but none were in evidence. As they drew up to the open
door, he saw Lynwood and Norton, pilot and engineer, standing
just inside waiting for him. There was no strain in their faces to
show they had received orders not to take off with him.
He climbed out of the car, and with another nod the orderly
drove it back to the E building. Henceforward the ship's crew
would be the E's orderlies.
Cal climbed the short ramp and entered the ship.
"You have clearance to take off at once?" he asked Lynwood.
Lynwood nodded. "Since early morning," he answered.
"Fine. Let's get going," Cal said. "I'm in a hurry, of course," he
added with a grin.
"Of course," the two men answered, then seeing his grin, relaxed
and returned it. Apparently this E was human.
It took only a minute for them to reach the control room, where
Louie sat in his navigator's cubby; and only ten more seconds for
the ship to lift clear. And still no command came over the radio to
Someone in civil authority had slipped. Had Gunderson really
felt that a simple injunction would stop everything, that the E's
would not challenge this encroachment? Was he playing some
deeper game, allowing the Junior to slip through his fingers in the
hope he would louse up the Eden rescue, add strength to the
campaign to bring the E's back under civil control—his control?
Or had someone genuinely slipped?
The command to halt, turn around, and return to base did not
come until their second hop had brought them into the Mars orbit.
Then it came from space police in charge of shipping traffic at
"I am under orders from E.H.Q. to proceed," Tom answered,
after a quick, questioning look at Cal.
"The attorney general's office orders you to halt," the voice
Tom looked at Cal again, questioning. This was bucking the
federal government, his license wouldn't be worth the paper it
was written on if he ignored the order. To say nothing of any
other punishment they might choose to hand him.
"Keep going," Cal answered shortly. "And make your next jump
as quickly as you can."
"I am under orders to keep going," Tom answered the police.
If he refused the request of an E, a lifetime of work would go
down the drain.
Over in his seat, Frank Norton's fingers were speeding through
the intricate pattern of setting up the next jump. He and Louie
were working as one man.
"I am under orders to disable you if you refuse," the police
"We have an E on board," Tom answered. "You'd be risking a
"I am advised he is a Junior E," the voice said in clipped speech.
"Not such a risk."
"Far as I'm concerned," Tom answered laconically, "he's an E.
I have to follow his orders."
He nodded to Frank who touched the jump switch. There was
an instant silence. They were at the approach to the asteroid
"They can get us here," Louie spoke up. "We have to give over
controls so they can take us through. No chart can keep up to the
microsecond on these asteroid movements. They have to calculate
a path in short hops, and take us through a step at a time. I keep
saying there ought to be an expressway out of the solar system,
"What about a good long jump at right angles?" Cal asked.
"Get over it instead of through it?"
"It's illegal," Louie complained.
"Our necks are already out," Tom said quietly.
"Okay, you're the boss. But I'll have to figure it. It takes time to
"Well, get going on it."
"There's stuff all over," Louie explained. "Not just a band, like
most people think. The asteroids have moved at right angles, too.
Not so thick, but there's a globe of stuff, not just a belt. Maybe a
bunch of little jumps."
"We can't start making them until you figure them, Louie,"
Frank reminded him.
The radio gave its hum of life, and a voice came through.
"We have orders from space police not to escort you through,
to turn you back."
"This is an E ship, with an E on board. His command is to
come through," Tom said.
"I just work here," the voice answered as if it were bored and
tired. "I take my orders from Space Control."
Tom looked over at Louie. Louie apparently caught the look
out of a corner of his eye, and impatiently waved a finger not to
bother him. His other hand was speeding through the movements
of manipulating the astrocalculator. Then he nodded his head,
still not looking up, and the co-ordinates flashed in front of Frank.
Now, as rapidly as Louie, Frank set up the pattern of the jump
"I take my orders from the E's," Tom answered in a voice
that matched the boredom, tiredness. Then with a nod from
Frank, "Now!" he said.
There was silence again.
"It's going to add at least an hour," Louie complained. "I've got
to pick my way through this muck."
"We've got time now," Tom answered easily. "Not likely they
can find us out here, away from the regular lanes."
"Not unless we run across a prowl ship," Louie said. "You know
there's some smuggling, and now and then a shipping company
thinks it can beat the rap, not pay the toll, by doing the same
thing we're doing. The prowl patrol is on to all the tricks. We're
not the first ones to try it."
"Just keep figuring, Louie," Tom said.
"All right, all right!" Louie quarreled back.
Tom looked at Cal and grimaced.
"Louie's all right," he said. "Just has to complain."
"I'm sure of it," Cal answered with a grin.
It took closer to two hours. They had no way of knowing how
many times the space police had made a fix on their position
only too late to catch them hovering there. There must have been
some fix made and a pretty careful calculation of where they could
go next, for as they neared the outer moons of Jupiter the radio
crackled into life again.
"This is your last warning. We intend to board you and take
over. We will disintegrate your ship if you resist."
Cal took the microphone in his own hand to answer.
"We intend to keep going," he said. "This is a jurisdictional
dispute between the attorney general's office and E.H.Q. We will
not allow you to board us, and I suggest you get confirmation of
orders to disintegrate us directly from the attorney general in
person. Meanwhile you can pass the buck to your Saturn patrol
if those orders are confirmed."
Tom nodded to Frank, and the next jump key was pressed.
In the Saturn field, still another voice came through. "Orders
from the attorney general himself are to allow you to proceed. Say,
Lynwood, what is this all about?"
"Some sort of petty squabble over who gives orders to who,"
Lynwood answered. "I just work here," he added tiredly.
"Well," said the voice. "So do I. Guess they'll fight it out in the
courts now. You understand, we had our orders."
"You understand, so did I." Tom answered.
"Sure," the voice answered, and cut out.
Cal wondered whether the orders to disintegrate had been a
bluff. Would the attorney general have dared disintegrate a ship
with even a Junior E on board? Maybe it had been just a threat of
the local police, one they didn't expect to have called.
Or maybe he had played directly into the attorney general's
hands by defying him, and getting that defiance on record was
what the man had wanted.
Whatever it was, the Eden matter had become bigger than
merely finding out what had happened to some colonists. Whatever
it was, he'd better find a successful solution, because the attorney
general was counting on him to fail. And if he did fail, certainly
the position of the Junior E would be altered, and possibly a deep
thrust into the very heart of the Senior E position, as well.
Louie was right. After they cleared the solar system there was no
trouble getting to Eden. And there was no trouble circumnavigating
the globe while still in space.
Closer, but still outside the atmosphere in their surveying
spiral, they had no trouble in locating the island with Crystal
Palace Mountain at its center. There was only one such spot on
Eden, and in their telescope viewer its crystalline spires and
minarets sparkled back at them like a diamond set in jade.
The trouble began when they hovered over the location, when
they amplified their magnification to get a close look at the
Appletree village before dropping down to land.
Louie found the right valley. He said it was the right valley, and
he stuck to his claim stubbornly.
But there was no settlement there. No sign there had ever been.
Louie could see that for himself, they told him. There was
nothing but virgin land. The trees were undisturbed, and old.
There were splashes of rolling meadows spotted here and there
by other trees, untilled meadows sloping downward from the
ridges to the river. And not a blemish nor scar to show that man
had ever landed there.
"Fine thing," Norton chaffed him. "Fine navigation, Louie. Get
us clear across the universe in great shape, and then you can't
even find the landing field."
But Louie was in no mood for banter. He wished Tom would
go back and hold the manual controls of the ship instead of
letting it hover on automatic. He wished Cal would go back to his
stateroom and think. He wished Frank Norton would shut up. He
wished they wouldn't all stand over him, reading his charts over
In irritated silence he reduced the viewscope dimensions to
scale, and snapped a picture of the whole island. He took the
fresh picture, still moist from its self-developing camera, and laid
it beside the chart. Wordlessly, for the benefit of them all, he traced
his pencil over the outlines of the chart and their duplicates in the
picture. As in comparing fingerprints, he flicked his pencil at the
points of identity. There were far too many to ignore. He poked
the point of his pencil at Appletree where it was located on the
chart. Then he picked out the same location in the picture.
It was not the science of navigation that was wrong.
"It's just one of those dirty tricks life plays on a fellow," Tom
said over Cal's shoulder. "You got us in the right place, Louie, but
probably in the wrong time slot. You've warped us right out of our
own time, and Eden hasn't been discovered yet. Maybe won't
be for another million years. Maybe, back on Earth, man is just
"Yeah," Norton agreed. "Or maybe in the wrong dimension.
You and your fancy navigation. Now you take a midgit-idgit
navigating machine. It wouldn't know how to pull such fancy
short cuts. Take a little longer, maybe, but when we got there
we'd be there."
They were both talking nonsense and knew it. Time and
dimensional travel were still purely theoretical. Louie ignored the
ribbing with elaborate patience.
"You know what I think," he asked seriously. "I think the whole
thing's a hoax. I'll betcha there never was any settlement there.
I'll betcha the colonists have pulled a whingding all the way
"There's a whole raft of pictures to show they were there,"
Frank reminded him.
"Pictures!" Louie answered scornfully. "You think they couldn't
fake pictures?" He thought for a moment. "And where's their
ship, their escape ship?" he asked as a clincher. "They didn't like
it here and have gone off somewhere else, and then covered up
by sending reports and pictures on how things would have
developed if they'd stayed."
There was a sense of unreality in the whole conversation. Cal
let the talk flow on, knowing it was a reaction to shock. What if a
modern ocean liner pulled into the harbor of New York—to find
an untouched Manhattan Island in its virgin state?
It couldn't happen, therefore it wasn't to be treated seriously.
"Better set up communication with Earth," Cal said quietly.
In E science the unpredictable, the incredible, the illogical
could happen at any time. With a mind more open to acceptance
of this, he had felt the run of shock sooner. For them, the shock
impact was delayed since their minds rejected the illogical as
unreal. For him the human shock came at once, and then, as E
thinking took over, passed off.
"Sure, Cal," Lynwood agreed. It was a measure of their acceptance
that they had quite normally fallen into using his first name.
On the emergency signal it took less than three minutes to clear
through eleven light-years to E.H.Q.—and then sixteen minutes
for the operator at base to find Bill Hayes.
"Sector Chief Hayes here," the voice said at last through the
"Gray here, on the Eden matter," Cal answered. "Any other E's
"Hm-m," Hayes answered. "Wong has picked up on a problem
in the Pleiades sector, and left this morning. Malinkoff has given
out word not to disturb him if the whole universe falls apart.
That leaves McGinnis, who, I believe, is spending his time working
on the defense against the injunction by Gunderson. An example
of the way petty restrictions can bring a fine mind down to
trivial problems. But he said call him if you need him."
"Please," Cal said. "And you might stay on while I talk to him,
if you're not busy."
"Sure, E Gray, sure," Hayes answered. "I'm flashing the operator
to locate McGinnis. Seen anything of the police ship, yet? I
understand one is following to observe what you do."
"I'm sure it will be a big help," Cal said drily. "Not that it
matters, so long as it doesn't get in the way."
McGinnis came on at that point.
"I'm not yelling for help, yet," Cal told him. "But here's what it
is like at this end." He sketched in the details, and heard a sharp
gasp at the other end from Hayes.
"Now I'd like to stay on this problem," he concluded his brief
summary. "But somewhere there's fifty colonists in trouble because
this whole thing is out of focus. I'm not a full E, and maybe their
lives are more important than my ambition to do a solo job.
Certainly more important. Then, trivial as it is, we'd be playing
right into Gunderson's hands if we've sent out a boy to do a man's
"Dismiss the Gunderson side of it," McGinnis said drily. "It's
inconsequential to the main issue. As for that, I don't know any
more than you do. There's never been anything like this. Colonists
have been wiped out on other planets, sure; but what happened
left traces. This one is an oddball, and I'd say you're as well
equipped to handle it as anybody else."
"I don't—I don't understand this at all," Hayes said in a worried
"Who does?" Cal asked. "I'd say set up for continuous communication.
I'll leave it wide open here, so that everything we say
will come through. Then, if anything should happen to us, you'll
have the record up to that point."
"It's the only thing we can do," Hayes agreed.
"If you think I should come out there to stand by, I'll do it,"
McGinnis said. But the tone of his voice said he hoped Cal would
shoulder the full responsibility, not weaken out of a chance at a
"I'm not crying uncle, yet," Cal said. "But I may have to take
you up on the offer. I hope not."
"But do you know anything is wrong?" Hayes asked incredulously.
He was having the same trouble facing the reality as the
"If you were flying to Los Angeles and found only desert where
the city is supposed to be, you might assume something was
wrong," Cal answered drily. "But I don't know what it is. Do you
have a recorder set up, so I can begin trying to find out?"
"Yes, yes, E Gray," Hayes said hurriedly. He was suddenly
conscious that he had been interrupting an E conversation, not
once but several times. "Pardon the intrusions. It was just
"I understand," Cal reassured him.
When Cal stood up from the communicator, the eyes of the
crew were on him. Overhearing his conversation with Earth had
sobered them, made reality come closer.
"You think it might be a mirage?" Tom asked. "Some freak air
current reflecting from another island and superimposing over this
one?" Then he answered himself. "No. I guess it isn't. There aren't
"Let's pan down to the ground with the scanner," Cal said.
"Take it slow over the area where the village is supposed to be."
Glad to be doing something with his hands, Lynwood twisted
the controls to take them instantly, in magnification, to a distance
slightly above the tops of the trees. The automatic pilot caused
the ship to drift with the rotation of the planet, keeping them in
fixed relative position.
They scanned the ground rod by rod. There were expanses of
heavy tree and bush growth that they could not penetrate. Some
of these trees grew where the pictures showed cleared fields,
buildings, truck gardens, cattle pastures.
"Those big trees didn't grow up in a month, since the last
colonist report," Louie said positively. He still clung to his belief
that it was all a hoax.
Cal made no comment. He was intent on the scanner screen.
There were heavy foliage spots, but there were also bare areas
covered by a soft, springy turf and patches of wild flowers. But
there was no sign of man or his works. There was not so much
as a board, the glint of a nail, not a furrow, not even the scar of a
campfire. And no indication that there had ever been.
In the sandy patches along the banks of the small meandering
river, there was not even a footprint.
They swept the scanner down the valley.
"Wait a minute," Cal said. "There are some cows and horses."
He held the scanner fixed while they studied the animals. In two
small herds, the animals grazed contentedly near a patch of woods.
"We're in the right time slot, then," Tom said, with an attempt
to pick up the spirit of treating it lightly. "They've been here. Else
the cows and horses wouldn't be."
"Funny thing about those horses," Frank commented in a
puzzled voice. "I grew up on a farm. Those are work horses, but
field horses always have harness marks on them where the hair
gets rubbed off or the skin gets calloused. If they used these
horses for work, there ought to be collar and hames rubs on their
necks. There ought to be worn streaks left by the traces on their
sides. There isn't. Far as the evidence shows, they might have
been wild all their lives."
"Whatever happened didn't seem to hurt them any," Cal agreed.
He swept the scanner on down the valley to the sandy shore
of the sea. They were close enough to pick up the brown streaks
of beached seaweed. A flock of shore birds were busy running up
the sand away from the gentle, beaching waves, then following
the water line back down to dig their beaks into the soft, wet
sand for food. The birds showed no alarm, no sign of lurking
presence near them.
Cal brought the scanner back up the valley and over to one of
the ridges bordering it. High on the crest of the ridge, the undergrowth
was less luxuriant than down in the valley.
And it was here they caught their first glimpse of a human
He was hunkered down behind some rocks at the crest, peering
over them at the valley below. From the shape of his shoulders and
back, the set of his head, they knew it to be a man. As far as they
could tell, he had no clothes on. Apparently they had caught him
at the moment of his arrival at the crest.
They watched him turn his head as he looked quickly, then
searchingly, up and down the valley. They watched his hand
come up to shade his eyes against the light from Ceti as he
attempted to see into the dark patches of foliage where the
village ought to be.
What he saw, or did not see, seemed to stun him. He squatted,
as frozen as a statue for long moments. Then, on hands and knees,
they saw him back away from the crest. Now they saw he did not
wear even so much as a breechclout. When the height of the
ridge concealed him from the other side, he sprang to his feet and
began to run, zigzagging in the manner of an obstacle racer to
avoid the bushes.
"Looks like they've decided to make a nudist colony of it,"
"And faked the pictures so nasty-minded old Earth people
wouldn't come out to break it up," Louie persisted.
"Then why should he be so scared?" Frank asked.
"Notice that patch of bare dirt he's crossing?" Cal asked. "See
the little spurts of dust when he puts his feet down? Now look
The three crewmen leaned closer to look over his shoulder at
the scanning screen. Cal adjusted it minutely, to get a sharp focus
on the ground.
"No footprints!" Lynwood exclaimed. "He doesn't leave any
The three of them looked at Cal, wide-eyed. Cal didn't like what
he saw in Louie's eyes. The habitual irritation and annoyance with
life's little petty tricks was gone.
The look had been replaced with fear, and something more.
The naked man, running frantically down the side of the slope,
disappeared momentarily under some taller growth, came out the
other side of it still running. He leaped over a small ravine,
stumbled, recovered himself, and disappeared again beneath a
larger growth of trees. Below him, on his side of the ridge, there
lay another valley with its own stream.
They caught one more fleeting glimpse, a mere flash of sunlight
on tan skin. He was still heading downward in the direction of the
stream. It was their last sight of him. They watched for a while
longer, but he did not reappear under the green canopy of forest.
"Just a guess," Cal said. He spoke matter-of-factly in the hope
the casualness would wash the fear and awe from Louie's eyes.
"That's probably one of the dissident men who broke away from
the main colony and set up housekeeping in this adjacent valley.
Apparently the same things have happened to him as happened
to the main colony, whatever it was.
"I'd guess it came as pretty much of a shock and he's just now
worked up courage to scout the main valley. From that I'd say
whatever happened wasn't very long ago, not more than a week.
Just a guess."
None of the crew answered him. It was obviously not the case of
a voyeur spying on others—not with the kind of excitement the
running man had shown. Running away—that is.
"Let's drop down into the atmosphere," Cal suggested. "I'd
assume it is breathable from the fact we've seen earth animals
and a human being. Still we'd better make tests."
"Yeah," Louie said unexpectedly. "If the man isn't making any
footprints maybe he isn't breathing, either." He tried to make it a
joke, to fight his fear with self-derision. He didn't succeed. Nobody
laughed. He swallowed hard and studied the charts again for no
Cal glanced quickly from Tom to Frank. A look at Norton's
face showed him Frank wasn't very far behind Louie in the
progress of shock. Perhaps, as with himself, it was Lynwood's
sense of responsibility for his crew that was helping the pilot
to maintain a better control. But there was a white line around
Lynwood's mouth, running up the line of his jaw. Caused by
clenching his teeth too tightly? Clenched, to keep them from
However experienced a man became, however dependable the
reactions, one never knew how to predict reaction in the face of
the completely unknown. Yet Cal knew that even if he asked
any of the men if they feared to take him down it would be an
insult never forgotten. It was their job to take an E where he
wanted to go. It wouldn't be the first time they had gambled
their lives on the judgment of an E.
"Oh-oh," Tom exclaimed. "We have company." He pointed to
an indicator on the panel.
They swept the space around them with the scanner, and
hovering off to one side they picked up another ship. They watched
it for a while, as it hovered there. It made no move to come closer,
no move to communicate with them.
"From its markings," Tom said at last, "I think that's a special
investigation ship from the attorney general's office. Wonder what
they're doing here?"
"To make first-hand observation of my failure," Cal said shortly.
"Let's get on with our work."
Perhaps it helped the crew to realize they were not alone, that
whatever might happen to them would not only be heard on the
E.H.Q. channel back to Earth, but would also be seen by these
special observers. Perhaps it bucked them up a little to know that
they were being watched, that faltering uncertainty would be
noted and scorned. Perhaps it was the mechanical routine of air
sampling and testing as they lowered the ship by degrees.
Norton grew more relaxed, more sure of himself. Lynwood
handled the ship on manual control with ease, almost with flourish.
But Louie's hands, gripping the edges of the chart table, still
showed bloodless white at the knuckles. Perhaps because there
was nothing for him to do at the moment, he alone wasn't snapping
out of it.
The tests showed normal atmosphere. It checked exactly with
the readings for this altitude established by the surveying scientists.
To complete the record, Cal repeated them aloud each time so the
open communicator would carry the information back to Earth
where, by now, not only McGinnis and Hayes would be listening,
but probably a group of scientists as well. Perhaps their hands, too,
gripped the edges of tables, showed bloodless at the knuckles?
To wait, helplessly, eleven light-years away might create more
tenseness than being right on the scene. Yet no voice came through
the ship's speaker, either from Earth or from the observer's ship.
Perhaps McGinnis, forgetting his eighty years, wished now he
were at Eden instead of Cal. Perhaps, mindful of his years, he
didn't. He made no comment.
Tom dropped the ship lower and lower, each time pausing for
an air sample. Each time they scanned the valley where the village
of Appletree should be. There was no change. Now the unlikely
idea of a superimposed mirage was dispelled. The disappearance
of the colony was no trick of vision. The ship hovered, at the last,
not more than fifty feet from the ground.
"Let's set her down, Tom," Cal said quietly.
Tom shrugged, as if that were the only thing left to do.
"You're the E," he said. His glance at Louie showed he was
placing the responsibility not so much to avoid consequences for
himself, nor so much to assure they were willing to follow an E's
orders without question, as to remind Louie that there was, after
all, an E with them. And if he were willing to face this unknown,
they could hardly do less themselves.
But Louie's eyes were fixed in unblinking stare upon the ground
below them. He was frozen and unheeding.
The actual landing was so flawless that Cal, involuntarily,
glanced out of the port to confirm that they were no longer hovering.
"Might as well open up," he said. "Nothing has happened to us,
Norton pushed a button. The exit hatch slipped open and the
ramp unfolded and slid down to touch ground. Cal, flanked by
Tom and Frank, looked through the opening into the woods
And while they looked, a man came from behind the screening
protection of some shrubbery. He was followed by two other
men. All of them were completely naked.
"You three stay inside the ship until I signal you to come out,"
Cal instructed. "If anything unusual happens to me, stand off
from the planet until help can come from Earth. Don't be foolish
and try to help me."
"You're the E," Tom repeated. When a man is outside his own
knowledge, heroics might do more harm than good.
Cal stepped through the exit and walked slowly down the ramp.
The three colonists seemed in no panic. They walked toward
him, also slowly, obviously in attempt at dignified control. Yet
their faces were breaking into broad grins of relief and welcome.
Cal stepped off the ramp, took a step toward them, then it
He heard breathless grunts of surprise and pain behind him.
He whirled around. The three crewmen were lying awkwardly on
the ground. There was no ship. The three crewmen were completely
Cal felt the stirring of a breeze, and looked down quickly at
his own body. He also was nude.
He turned back to face the colonists. They had stopped in
front of him. Their joyous grins had been replaced by grimaces of
Behind him the crewmen were in the act of getting to their feet.
A quick glance showed Cal none was hurt. Louie looked around,
dazed and uncomprehending. There was not so much as a bent
blade of grass to show where the ship's weight had pressed. Louie
sank down suddenly on the ground and buried his face in his
Tom and Frank stood over him, in the way a man would try to
shield some wounded portion of his own body, instinctively.
A fact obvious to all of them was that their own communication
with Earth had been shut off. In this daylight they could not see
the observer ship hovering out in space, but its occupants had no
doubt seen them, seen what had happened. It, no doubt, was
telling Earth what it had seen—the attorney general's office, at any
rate. Doubtful that it was including E.H.Q. in its report. Problematical
that the attorney general would tell E.H.Q. what had
Cal hoped the observers would have enough sense not to try to
A second shock, powerfully magnified, hit him then. Because he
was personally involved?
For what seemed an interminable time, Cal's mind ceased to
function rationally, and like an animal suddenly faced with the
unknown he froze, shrank within himself, stood motionless. Yet
far down within his mind, there was still detached observation,
as if a part of him were removed from all this, still in the role
of disinterested observer.
The crew behind him was likewise frozen in tableau. And the
colonists in front of him. A balance in number, with himself in
between, a still picture from a modernist ballet.
Or a charade. Guess what this is!
He felt laughter bubbling to his lips, recognized it for the
beginning of hysteria, and the impulse was washed away.
With that portion of detached curiosity he watched his mind
functioning, darting frantically here and there for rational explanation,
and momentarily taking refuge in irrationality. It was all
being done with trick photography! Such a sudden transition could
take place in a motion picture, a transition from reality into a
dream sequence lying discarded on the cutting-room floor.
Reversion to the primitive, accounting for the phenomena by
devising a mind more powerful than his own. The childhood view
of the omnipotent parent, reality's disillusionment, the parent
substitute, the creation of a god in his parent's image without the
weakness of his parent, so that he might go on in perpetual
irresponsibility since he could now place responsibility outside
Or this was a fairy story in which he lived. This was the spell of
enchantment. This was magic. And at the first concept of magic,
the first lesson of E sharpened into focus once more.
"Anything is magic if you don't understand how it happens, and
science if you do."
In that odd, detached portion of his mind he deliberately used
the statement as a foundation. Upon it he reconstructed the
science of E. The universe and all in it is logical, logical at least
to man because he is part of that universe, of its essence. There
can be nothing in the universe that is wrong, or out of place,
except and only as the limited interpretation of man who sees
a force in terms of a threat to the ascendancy of himself-and-his
at the center of things. This is the sole basis of morality, and
prevents man's appreciation of total reality.
He had been trapped in the first concept, and was accepting
these phenomena as a statement of Eminent Authority. But
what if this were not the whole of reality, what then?
Once begun, his mind progressed rapidly through the seven
stages of E science, and in the seventh he found rationality. If
there is only one natural law, and we see it only in seemingly
unrelated facets because of our ignorance, because we cannot
apperceive the whole, then this, too, is no more than another
Perhaps it was this which broke the spell. Perhaps it was the
movement of the colonists. They were moving, withdrawing,
walking backward step by step. Their faces were masks of despair,
and in them Cal read the knowledge that what had just happened
to him, his men, his ship, had previously happened to them.
Slowly they backed away, backed out of the open space, sought
the shelter of a great and spreading tree at the edge of the clearing.
There they paused.
It was a return to ballet, a gravely executed change in the
proportions of the tableau. They stood, a drooped and huddled
group, cowering beneath the tree, in nude dejection, in the
suggestion of a wary crouch, uncertain whether to flee precipitously,
or freeze to make themselves as small and inconspicuous as
In the same grave choreography he turned to look at his crew.
And at the turning, as if on signal, on musical cue, Tom and Frank
began the pantomime of urging Louie to his feet. Louie looked
at the two standing men alternately. With bloodless lips he tried
to grin wryly, apologetically, for what his nervous system was
doing to his body against his will.
The old flash of an expression which seemed to say, "This is just
the kind of dirty trick life always plays on me," came back into
his eyes for an instant, and he tried to grin. But the attempt was a
grimace of terror. He cowered back down at their feet, his courage
swamped in funk.
"Let's get him under the tree," Cal said, and wondered why he
had spoken in such a low voice, almost a whisper. That, too, was
a part of the classical pattern of fear, to make no noise. As was
getting him under the tree, an animal's instinct to hide from the
eyes of the unknown.
As the four of them approached the tree, with Tom and Frank
half-carrying, half-dragging Louie—and he still trying to make his
legs behave, support him—the colonists made a fluttering movement
of uncertainty, as if to bolt, to run in panic, farther and
farther back into sheltering protection of the deep forest.
But they stood their ground, in acceptance. The seven men came
together under the protecting branches of the tree. Protection?
Louie sank down gratefully, and clutched the trunk of the tree,
as if, on a high place, he feared falling.
"Sorry," he muttered through clenched teeth. "Just can't help
One of the colonists answered first, the tall, leather-faced, spare-framed
one. Stamped on his face was his origin, the imperishable
impression of the West Texan, grown up in a harsh land that
can be made responsive to man's needs only through strength,
his will to survive against all odds.
"It figgers," the man said in his quiet drawl. "We've all been
like that for days, maybe a week or more. Lost count. You're doin'
all right. Better than some."
Cal drew a deep breath, consciously squared his shoulders,
fought off the urge to like dejection.
"Then everybody's still alive?" he asked.
"Oh yeah, sure. Nobody's kill't. Just hidin' out in the woods,
and mostly from each other. It's a turrible thing." He looked down
at himself with a wry grimace. "Not outta shame," he added.
"We've seen naked bodies before. Just plumb scared, I guess."
To talk, to hear himself talking, and that to strangers, to tell
somebody about it, seemed to restore some confidence in himself.
Something of quiet dignity came back over him, a knowledge of
responsibility for leadership. He straightened, as if silently reminding
himself that he was a man.
"I'm Jed Dawkins," he said. "Sort of the kingpin of the colony,
I reckon you might say. Mayor of Appletree, or what was Appletree.
I don't rightly know if I'm mayor of anything now. This here
is Ahmed Hussein, and this miserable hunk o' man is Dirk Van
Tassel. Manner of speakin'," he amended. "He ain't no more
miserable than the rest of us."
"I'm Calvin Gray," Cal answered. He indicated his crew. "This
is Tom Lynwood, Frank Norton, Louie LeBeau. They're all good
men. Just under the weather right now."
"You should'a seen us when it first happened," Jed said with
feeling. "I reckon you're the E? Come to find out why we didn't
communicate?" He spread his open hands and waved them to
indicate the area around him. "Now you see why we didn't.
Hollerin' loud as we could wouldn't do the job, and that's all we
Somehow the introductions relaxed them all a little, as if the
familiar formality provided some kind of normalcy in an incredible
"Don't seem right hospitable, just standin' here," Jed added with
a shrug. "But there ain't no house, nor camp, nor fire to share
"We're not suffering at the moment, except mentally," Cal
reassured him. Involuntarily he glanced up at the spreading
branches of the tree, as if to reassure himself also; then grinned
in self-consciousness at the pantomime of fear. "First thing is to
find out what happened."
"Might as well hunker down right here on the ground," Jed
said. "One place is good as another right now."
The men all crouched or sat on the dead leaves which carpeted
the ground. Cal suddenly realized he was glad to take the strain
from his legs, as if he had been maintaining stance through sheer
"It is a poor greeting to visitors from home," Ahmed spoke up,
then cleared his voice in surprise to hear himself speaking. "We
cannot even provide a cup of coffee."
"Cain't have no fire," Dawkins explained. "See?"
He picked up two dead twigs laying on the ground near him.
He began rubbing them together, in the ancient way of creating
fire. The two sticks flew apart and out of his hands.
"Try it," he invited Cal.
Curious, even unbelieving, Cal picked up two broken branches.
He started to rub them together. He felt them twisted, wrenched,
and pulled out of his hands. He saw them flying through the air
with a force he had not provided. He got up, picked them up
again, sat back down, and held the sticks very tightly in his hands.
He tried to bring them together. Suddenly, he simply lost interest.
"Oh to hell with it," he said unexpectedly, and dropped the
sticks. His astonishment at himself was a shock.
There was a kind of chuckle from Van Tassel, one without
mirth. "Kind of gets you, doesn't it?" he said.
Cal looked at his hands, and at the sticks laying beside him.
"Now why would I do that?" he asked. "All at once it seemed
unimportant to start a fire, or even try. What's happened here?
What's been going on?"
"Cain't explain it," Dawkins said. "Sort of hoped you bein' an
E, and all ..."
"Maybe if you told me just what happened, started at the
beginning when everything was normal...."
"Something else you should tell him, Jed," Ahmed spoke up. He
looked at Cal, and explained himself. "We don't think easily," he
added. "Can't keep our minds on anything for more than a minute
or so. In fact, I'm a little surprised that we've been able to carry on
the conversation this long. From the way we've been behaving, I
would have expected more that we'd have wandered away back
into the woods before now—simply left you to your own devices
without interest in you. Strange."
"Yeah," Jed confirmed, "I was thinkin' that, too. Funny thing.
Right now I feel like I could tell the whole yarn. I feel like ...
Well, while I'm in the mood I'd better git it said. Don't know how
long I can keep interested.
"Well, there we were, one day, seems like it ought to be about
a week ago, give or take a couple of days. Anyway, I remember
it was around noon...."
It was one day around noon.
Jed Dawkins had come in early from his experimental field to
get his dinner, well, city folks would call it lunch, and so he'd
be ready afterwards for a talk with the colony committee. He'd
eaten his lunch, all right, a good one. There was never any scarcity
of food on Eden. Always plenty, and wide variety. If anything,
a man ate too much and didn't have to work hard enough to get
it. That was the main thing that had been wrong with Eden,
right from the start. Man was ordained to earn his bread by the
sweat of his brow, and there's no reason to sweat for it on Eden.
He was lying on the hammock that was stretched between two
big trees in the front yard of his house. The house was set a little
way off from the rest of the village, oh maybe five hundred yards
more or less, not so far he couldn't be handy when he was needed
by the colony, but still far enough to give a man some space.
The domestic sound of rattled pots and pans came from the
kitchen window where his wife Martha was washing up after dinner.
It was a drowsy, peaceful time. Honeybees they'd brought
from Earth were buzzing the flowers Martha had planted all
around. A bird was singing up in the trees above him. A man
ought to be pretty contented with a life like that, he remembered
telling himself. Ought to be.
He felt like taking a nap, but made himself keep awake because
the committee was coming right over, and he didn't want to
wake up all groggy, the way a man does when he sleeps in the
daytime. Couldn't afford to be groggy because the committee was
all set up to scrap out something that was splitting the colony
right down the middle.
He remembered looking out at the fields where the grains and
vegetables were growing, thinking how easy it was to farm here—plenty
of rain, plenty of sun, no storms to flatten and ruin the
crops, not even enough insect pests to worry a man. He looked
out at the fenced pastures where the colony's community stock
The horses had eaten their fill and were ambling up from the
drinking pond, getting ready to take a siesta of their own in the
shade of some trees at the corner of their pasture. The cows were
already lying down in a grove of trees and were sleepily chewing
their cuds. The green grass around them was so tall he could
barely see their heads and backs.
His house was on top of a little hill, knoll you might call it.
Martha, like himself, had been raised in West Texas where all
you could see, as the city feller said, was miles and miles of miles
and miles. She never could stand not being able to see a long ways
off, and she'd picked out this spot herself. They could see all
the valley and the sea, and some dim shapes of islands in the
distance. Right nice.
Yes, it was all very peaceful—and tame.
That was the main trouble in the colony. Too tame. Some of
them got restless. They argued the five-year test was all right
for most planets. You needed every bit of it to prove that man
could make it there, or couldn't, or how much help he would need
from Earth, maybe for a while, maybe always.
On Eden you didn't have to prove anything. There wasn't
anything to make a man feel like a man, proud to be one. Maybe
that would be all right for ordinary folks, but for experimental
colonists it was a slow death—almost as bad as living on Earth.
Sure, they'd made their complaints to Earth. Half a dozen times
or maybe more. They'd asked for an inspector to come out and
see for himself, and see what it was doing to the colonists. Jed
put it right up to E.H.Q. that they were plumb ruining a prime
batch of colonists with this easy living.
A man had to stretch himself once in a while if he expected to
Some of the colonists were getting so lazy they'd stopped bitching
and were even talking about maybe just staying on here
after the experimental was over—maybe getting a doctor to reverse
the operation so they could have kids—which, of course,
you couldn't have in an experimental colony.
And that was bad. What with easy living and wanting kids as
was normal to most, experimental colonists weren't so plentiful
that Earth could afford to lose any.
Some of the colonists wanted to leave this—well, they called it a
Lotus Land, whatever that was—right away, before everybody
went under, got plumb ruined. They were all for taking the escape
ship and hightailing it back to Earth. Sure, they knew there'd be
a stink, and they'd get a little black mark in somebody's book for
not obeying orders to stick it out. But that was better than losing
their trade, their desire to follow it. Maybe there'd be a penalty
and they'd be marooned to stay on Earth for a while. But they'd
bet there was a hundred planets laying idle right now because
there weren't enough experimentals to go around.
They'd get a black mark, but after a while they'd get another
job too. Anyway, living on Earth couldn't be any worse for them
than living here.
Half of them wanted to stay here permanently. The other half
wanted to leave right now. That was what the committee was
going to decide today. He'd done some checking around, and it
looked like they were going to vote to go. He'd also checked
with them who wanted to stay permanently, and it looked like,
in a showdown, they'd come along. They were proud to be men,
too, men and women. Everybody would join. He'd been pretty
sure of it.
Even the dissenters who'd moved away across the ridge. That
was the trouble with them. There hadn't been enough hardship
to bind the community together. People forgot how to be kind to
one another and get along when there wasn't any hardship to
share among themselves.
It would mean deserting the planet entirely. Even though his
sympathies were with the ones who wanted to go, Jed felt there
was something wrong, real bad, about deserting the planet. Still
and all, if they voted to go he couldn't stop them.
Maybe Earth would let the three-generation colonists come on
out without the total test period. But maybe not. Maybe E.H.Q.
would decide that Eden was too hard to colonize because it was
too easy. Maybe they'd abandon the planet entirely. There'd be no
more humans here, and no more coming.
That was when he hit the ground with a solid thump!
He first thought the hammock had somehow twisted out from
under him, and he looked up at it resentfully, the way a man
blames something else for his own fault. There wasn't any
At the same time, he heard Martha cry out. He craned his neck
quickly in the direction of the house. There wasn't any house.
Martha was standing there on bare ground, and there wasn't a
dad-blamed thing else, not a stove, nor a chair, a dish, nothing.
And Martha didn't have a stitch of clothes on her!
His first thought was that she ought to have more sense than to
stand right out in the yard plumb naked. What was the matter
with her anyhow? He peered quickly down toward the village
to see if anybody was looking up in this direction.
The whole thing hit him like a blow on top the head. There
wasn't any hammock. There wasn't any house.
There wasn't any village.
He saw a whole passel of people squirming around down there
where the village ought to be. They were standing, or crouched,
or lying around as if they'd fallen down.
And every one of the crazy galoots was plumb naked.
And so was he! He'd just realized it.
It had all happened so quietly that that fool bird up in the
tree was still singing. Hadn't missed a note. Funny how a thing
like that stood out above all the rest. Still singing.
Jed got up on his knees, scrambled to his feet, and dodged
behind a tree. Fine lot of authority he'd have as village mayor
if anybody saw him standing out in his front yard naked as a
The reminder of his responsibility caused him to sweep his eyes
beyond the sight of the village to where their spaceship should be
in its hangar, always ready for instant escape if anything should
go wrong, real wrong, that is. This ship wasn't there. The hangar
wasn't there. Nothing.
For a little bit he thought he must be looking in the wrong
direction. He'd got turned around or something in the confusion,
because there was a grove of trees where the hangar ought to be.
And it was the same grove they'd cleared away over two years
ago. He recognized one of the trees because it had a peculiar
And he remembered feeding the trunk of that very tree into
the power saw for lumber. It was twisted and gnarled, and Martha
had asked him to save the wood for furniture because it was real
pretty. That was the tree, there on the edge of the grove.
He felt drunk, in a daze. He turned the other direction and
looked out where the experimental fields ought to be. They'd
cleared that whole area of timber and brush because it was a
good, flat land. Only they hadn't, because that was virgin forest,
Maybe he'd gone insane? He felt a flood of relief. Sure, that
was it. He'd just gone insane, that was all. Everything else was
"The calves have got loose to the cows and they're going to
take all the milk, Jed."
He turned around and looked at Martha. If he was crazy, so
was she. Her eyes showed it. Her words showed it, at a time
like this to be worrying about them fool calves getting out. It took
all the comfort away from him. Her face was white, her eyes were
"You got some dirt on your cheek, Martha," he heard himself
saying. "And for Pete's sake, woman, put on some clothes. The
committee's coming over, and you running around like that!"
He thought he had the solution then. He'd fallen asleep in the
hammock after all, while he was waiting for the committee, and
he was dreaming. Of course, he ought to have known all along.
This was just the way things happened in a dream—even him
and Martha running around naked. He even chuckled to himself.
He must be a pretty moral kind of fellow after all, because even in
a dream it was his own wife that was next to him there, naked—not
some other man's.
The fool things a man can dream! Might as well make the most
of it. He took her into his arms, and she clung to him.
Must have got the sheet tangled around his throat to choke him,
and he was dreaming it was her arms. But there hadn't been any
sheet in the hammock when he went to sleep.
And he wasn't dreaming.
"What's happened, Jed?" she whispered. Even her whisper was
shaking with fear, and her arms were wound around his neck so
tight now he could hardly breathe.
"Now, now, Martha," he cautioned. "Don't you go getting
"What has happened?" she asked again.
"I don't know," he said. They were both talking in low tones.
"It's some kind of a miracle," she whispered.
"Now there's a woman's thinking for you," he chided her fondly,
joshing her a little. "Nothing of the sort. It's just plain ... Well
any scientist would tell you that ..." And then he stopped.
He was pretty sure the frameworks of science, as he knew them,
wouldn't be able to tell you.
He guessed that while they stood there clinging to one another,
they both went a little nuts. It was sort of like drowning, he
guessed. You'd have the feeling of sinking down and down, and
there'd be nothing but blinding, swirling chaos all around you.
Then you'd kind of come to for a minute, and there'd be the trees,
the sky, the farm animals, the sea in the distance.
You'd look down toward the village, and make a mental note,
almost absently, that people were getting to their feet now, some
of them clinging together the way you and Martha were—and
then back down into mental chaos you'd go again.
That went on several times, he remembered, before he'd begun
to snap out of it a little.
"But the funniest thing of all," Jed said, and looked at Cal
quickly, penetratingly. "I had the feeling all the time that we
were being watched!"
Cal said nothing.
"You know," Jed explained. "Like catching an animal in a
trap? Then watching it, to see what it will do?"
Cal nodded, without speaking.
"It was just another crazy thought, I guess," Jed said deprecatingly.
But, clearly, he didn't believe it was.
At E.H.Q. on Earth communication had been working fine. The
operator sat back and listened with trained ear alert for flaw or
fade. A glance at the adjacent recording instrument told him it
was taking down everything said—had been for hours.
Nice deal about those naked colonists. Maybe the astronavigator
on the E cruiser had been right. Maybe they'd all just gone back to
nature, all the way back.
He wondered if there were any pretty young female colonists.
And how far did that word experimental take you? Some
experiment! He realized his interest was running deeper than
that of a detached technician's concern for well-operated equipment—mechanical,
that is. Well, let it. Live a little once in a
while. At least dream.
The department supervisor hovered near the back of the
operator's chair, breathing down his neck. He gnawed at the
knuckles of his hand, and hoped nothing would go wrong this
time. That astronavigator, Louie LeBeau, was probably right.
Those colonists had turned nudist, and were afraid to report what
they'd done back to Earth!
He looked around guiltily, wondering if he'd exclaimed it aloud.
He decided he hadn't.
If he were out there, instead of that E, he'd make them put
their clothes back on, on the double. Getting everything all upset,
causing all this trouble, getting everybody excited, all of E.H.Q.
aroused, taking up the time of an E—just because they wanted
to frolic around without any clothes on!
If they were going to act like irresponsible children, they should
be spanked like irresponsible children.
He wondered if there were any young pretty female colonists
who ought to be spanked.
"... E Gray has just stepped off the landing ramp," the pilot
out there was reporting. "He is walking toward the three
colonists. Now they have started walking toward him. They do
not seem hostile. They seem glad to see us. My crew and I are
still at our stations, ready for ..."
The set simply didn't register anything more except that faint
sigh of uncompleted force fields in space.
"What now? What now?" the supervisor pushed the operator
to one side, and barely restrained the impulse to cuff him on the
side of the head. "Now what did you do? Why did you meddle
with it when it was coming in so clear and strong? What's happened?"
"I didn't do anything. I didn't meddle with it. I don't know
what's happened," the operator flared back. "The signal just
stopped. That's all."
There was an imperative flashing of the signal light on the line
that had been rigged to give direct connection of the running
report to Hayes's office. The operator hesitated, then flipped
open the key, as if he were touching a rattlesnake.
"What's happened down there?" Hayes complained abruptly,
without diplomatic softness. "This is a very crucial point!"
"I don't know what happened. I don't know," the supervisor
quarreled back. "The signal just stopped coming. We weren't doing
anything to the equipment."
He looked up at the continuously changing tri-di star map which
made the far wall appear to be a view into a miniature universe.
"There's no reason for an occlusion," he said to Hayes. "And the
set here is alive. It must be at the other end."
He turned to the operator, and said loudly, "Bounce a beam on
Eden's surface. Just see if any booster has gone out between here
and there." Most of it was making a show of efficiency for Hayes.
"Here we go again," the operator mumbled to himself, and
pressed down a key. The returning pips showed the signal was
getting through to Eden.
"Pilot Lynwood! Pilot Lynwood!" the supervisor nagged into
the mike. "Speak up! Do you hear me?"
The operator sighed deeply. His panel partner grimaced something
halfway between a grin and a sneer of disgust.
"They don't answer," the supervisor said at last to Hayes. "It's
the same as before."
"Here we go again," Hayes groaned, but not only to himself.
"All right," he said wearily, after a moment's hesitation. "Keep the
channel open. Keep trying to contact them. Let me know if
But he already felt the conviction that it would do no good. It
was too much of the same pattern as before. What could have
There'd have to be another review, he supposed. A longer
and more detailed one. There must be, had to be, something they'd
overlooked in the first one. Had he been right in freezing out so
many who wanted to speculate in that first one? But in the interests
The scientists would grumble, even worse than before, because
now each one of them would be worried lest it was his own field
of knowledge that had failed. Hunting a needle in a haystack was
easy. At least you knew what a needle looked like, could recognize
it when you saw it.
It would probably all end with nothing solved. E McGinnis
would go out in a rescue ship. He'd already told E Gray that he
would be available in an emergency, and this looked like an
emergency. And that would leave E.H.Q. without a single E in
Why didn't General Administration get busy and qualify more
E's? It shouldn't be so difficult as all that to teach people to think!
There was something mighty wrong with the way kids were
brought up if only one in a million could still think by the time he
was grown. Less than one in a million could qualify as an E.
A boy had to be a natural rebel to start with, because if he
believed what people said he wouldn't get anywhere, no farther
than the people who said it. And if he didn't believe what they
told him, they punished him, outcast him, whipped him, violenced
him into submission if they could. If they couldn't they shut him
up in a prison, labeled him dangerous to society.
It was a wonder that any were able to walk the thin line between
rebelliousness and delinquency! And if a few were able, they were
still of no use unless they learned what science had to offer as a
base. Ah, there was the rub. How to keep alive the curiosity, the
inquisitiveness, the skepticism; and at the same time teach him
the basics he must have for constructive thought? For if he were
not beaten into submission by the punitive methods of society,
he was persuaded into it by his teachers, who were ever so sure
of their facts and proofs.
Now you take this Eden problem. Probably wouldn't be tough
at all if a guy could just think. But what could have happened?
He understood there was an observer ship out there, sent out
by the attorney general's office. Why wasn't it reporting? Probably
was—to the attorney general's office. Fine lot of good E.H.Q.
would get out of that. He was no fool. He knew the attorney
general would gladly sacrifice the whole lot of colonists, if it
would give him a weapon to fight E.H.Q.
Why hadn't E.H.Q. sent along an observer ship also? These
cocky E's! Probably hadn't thought it necessary. Always ready to
assume they could handle the situation by themselves!
He wondered if he dared voice that criticism during the review,
get it on record. He thought about it, and decided in favor of
playing it safe. Maybe that was the trouble. Everybody was too
concerned with his own skin, too willing to play it safe. But an
employee of E.H.Q. to make a public criticism of an E! No, better
play it safe.
He sighed heavily, and asked the operator to please see if E
McGinnis would talk to him.
He suspected that E McGinnis would just stand off from the
planet and wait for E Gray to get in touch. Nothing seemed to
have happened while E Gray's cruiser was out in space. It must
be something connected with landing, being on the surface of the
But E Gray could signal to E McGinnis. Those pesky colonists!
Why hadn't they signaled to E Gray? Why hadn't they come out
of their bushes and signaled the danger? Surely they must know
what it was. They were alive and healthy, three of them at least.
Why hadn't they used their stupid heads?
But then, how could they have known E Gray was out in space,
or even in their stratosphere? Well, they had telescopes, didn't
they? Or did they? Sure they did. No matter what happened to
the buildings, they must have all sorts of equipment hidden under
the trees, or in caves.
Why hadn't E Gray been more cautious about landing? Rushing
in there like a green school kid, without even rudimentary precautions.
That's what came from sending out a boy to do a man's
job. Maybe the attorney general's office had been right in its
attempt to prevent a Junior from going. What was the use of all
that E training, if the boy didn't have enough sense ...
At least E McGinnis would have enough sense to stand off,
not go rushing in blindly. Grand old man, E McGinnis. Now there
was a real product of E science, the veritable dean of the E's.
E Gray would probably have enough sense to know he'd be
followed by a rescue ship as soon as something went wrong. And
between an E out in space and another on the ground, they
shouldn't have any trouble in working it out. He wondered if he
should suggest that to E McGinnis as soon as the operator located
him. Even if the grand, lovable old man thought of it for himself,
he'd compliment Hayes for thinking it, reasoning it all out!
The intercom operator came on his line.
"Sir," she said, and cleared her throat. He could hear her gulp.
Her voice was very small, thin. "Sir," she began again. "I contacted
E McGinnis. He said some things. He told me to tell you exactly
what he said, word for word. I took it down in shorthand, so I
"Well! Well!" he exclaimed impatiently. His brusqueness seemed
to give her courage.
"Sir," she said a little stronger. "E McGinnis won't talk to you.
He says the foggy, rambling way that review was conducted was
a disgrace. He says why don't you get on with what you have to
do instead of bothering people. He says not to waste any more of
his time unless you can come up with something he doesn't already
know. He says he doubts you'd know what that was even if it hit
you in the face. He said to tell you the exact words, so I took it
down in shorthand, so I could. Because—he said to."
She was all but wailing, as she finished.
"All right," Hayes sighed tiredly. Senile old devil! No wonder
things were going to pot, if this was a sample of E training. "Send
me your notes so I can follow them carefully," he told the operator.
"So you can tear them up before they get spread all over the
joint," she mumbled, but she had already thrown the key so he
couldn't hear her.
Resignedly, because he knew he was going to catch it from the
scientists just as bad, because he was feeling very sorry for himself
that he must always be in the middle of things, he began to arouse
He felt so sorry for himself that he dropped his tentative plan
to have the midgit-idgit check the personal attributes of the
individual colonists out there—to see if some of them might be
young, pretty, female—34-24-34.
As if the idea were now red hot, he dropped the plan of telling
General Administration that, since Eden was in his sector, perhaps
he should go out there, personally.
The observer ship, with an assistant attorney general aboard was,
indeed, reporting directly to the attorney general's office—to
Gunderson in person. On their own secret channel, of course. Had
to be secret. All right for them to know, because they were very
special persons, but the people should not be told.
"Gray is coming out of the ship," the assistant was saying. "He
is starting down the ramp. He is alone. He has no apparent
weapons. Making a grandstand play of it. Far as we can tell, the
crew isn't covering him. Now he is at the foot of the ramp. The
three unclothed men are moving toward him, spread out a little,
crouching, obviously going to attack. The stupid fool doesn't seem
to realize it. He's ...
"Wait a minute. I don't believe it...."
"Well, what?" Gunderson exploded from his end.
"Sir," the assistant gulped, "the ship disappeared, just like that."
"No, sir. It did. The three crewmen are sprawled on the ground.
Now two of them are getting up. There isn't a sign of the ship, the
ramp, or anything."
"Can't be. Has to be around somewhere."
"No, sir. Isn't. Sorry to contradict you, sir. It isn't anywhere."
"They probably set controls to send the ship back into space,
and jumped out before it took off. Search space. You'll find it.
Ships don't just disappear."
"I'll search, of course. But this ship just disappeared."
"All right, what's going on? What else?"
"They're naked. Naked as the day they were born. All four of
them. Same as the colonists."
"Keep track of where they put their clothes. Photograph it. Get
"Sir, their clothes disappeared right off their bodies. First they
were fully dressed, Gray was, anyhow. Maybe the crew could
have undressed inside the ship, but Gray was fully dressed—and
then he wasn't. Just like that."
"Shall I land, sir? Place them under arrest?"
"Wait a minute. Let's think of a good charge. Something to
stand up in court. Have to make this airtight right from the
beginning in case some stupid judge decides to make a show of
"Indecent exposure, sir? Lewd public behavior?"
"Pretty weak, in view of what's involved."
"A suggestion, sir. Maybe a morals charge is the most effective
weapon we could have. Attack the E structure on the grounds of
bad scientific judgment, and every egghead on Earth will feel
compelled to rise up in their defense—except, of course, those
employed by the government. But on a morals charge there
wouldn't be one voice raised—fear of being tarred with the same
brush. Except maybe a few radicals that are already discredited.
Any other charge might get public sentiment aroused against us,
but a morals charge—think of the backing we'd get from the
women's clubs, P.T.A., all the pressure groups determined to
dictate to the rest of the world how it should behave. It's worked
for hundreds of years, sir. Never fails."
"Hm-m," Gunderson mused. "You may be right."
"Shall I land, sir, make the arrest?"
"You've got plenty of photographic evidence?"
"All we'd need, sir, at least for the lewd, public indecent exposure
"Wait a minute. How about the colonists? Got pictures of
"The three men, sir. No others."
"Let's don't rush into this," Gunderson said slowly. "Without a
ship they're not going to get far. Hold off, and keep taking pictures.
Maybe we can get something stronger on Gray than just an
indecent exposure, or at least get some pictures that could be
interpreted as more than just that. Get pictures of as many
colonists as possible, too, in case they've gone nudist."
"You'd want to prosecute the colonists, too?"
"Might be a smart idea. That way, nobody could claim we'd
been gunning for the Junior E. Make it impartial, play no favorites.
Hm-m, even if we decided not to prosecute, we'd have the
pictures in their dossiers, so that anytime in the future, for the
rest of their lives, if any of them gave us any trouble, we could
quietly let them know what we've got, and they'll just fold up
and quit. That's worked for hundreds of years, too."
"Yes, sir. Smart thinking, sir." The assistant knew that already
Gunderson had adopted the idea as his own, and to hold his job
he'd better let Gunderson go on thinking so. Of course, if the
idea should backfire, then Gunderson would remember quickly
enough where it had originated.
"Hm-m, you know," Gunderson was saying. "This could work
out all right. If their ship's gone they're not communicating with
E.H.Q. And if they're not communicating, E.H.Q. will send out
another ship to see why. Maybe there'll be an E on it. I hear the
only one available is McGinnis—that guy who's planning to fight
us on that injunction.
"Now suppose he landed. Suppose he went nudist, or we could
make pictures look like he did. The guy would have to undress
sometime, take a bath. Slap a morals charge on him. Nobody
with a public reputation ever fights a charge like that, guilty or
innocent. They pay up or knuckle under to keep it quiet. Have,
for hundreds of years; always will, as long as a bunch of fat, old,
ugly biddies, male and female, who nobody wants that way are
viciously resentful that they can't have what somebody else is
enjoying. Young ones, too, so twisted and warped with frustrations
they don't dare try what they daydream about. They're even
worse. Yeah, a morals charge is the way to get at him."
"But I understood there was a law, that we couldn't charge an
E for any offense."
"We can try him in the newspapers, can't we? On the
televiewers. That's the whole point. We can't charge an E now,
but wait until we get things stirred up on a morals basis. That
law'll be changed in a hurry, because any legislator that tried to
hold out against changing it would be drawn and quartered by
his constituents—and has enough sense to know it.
"Hm-m," he breathed in satisfaction. "That's the way to go
about it. Don't know why I haven't thought of it before. If you
guys would read your history of how police enforcement officers
got things back under control each time some idealist started
squawking about human rights, you'd think of these things, too.
"Now don't go off half-cocked. Just stand by. Keep me posted on
every move. If I've got to do the thinking on how to get those
E's back under police control, the way scientists were before, I've
got to have information.
"And keep taking pictures!"
"After everything disappeared, the buildings, the escape ship,
everything," Cal reviewed, "and you, with your wife, found yourself
crouching under the trees in what had been your front yard,
without any clothes on—what then?"
"That was the beginning of it," Jed Dawkins answered. He
looked toward his two companions as if for confirmation. He looked
at the three crewmen, at Cal, all sprawled or crouched there
beneath the tree at the edge of the clearing. "We thought it was
the end of everything," he said in retrospect, "but we found out
quick that things had just begun."
Cal nodded. Dawkins had told his tale simply, without fictitious
emotionalism, without straining to get the horror of it across—and
thereby succeeded. He glanced at his three crewmen, to see
how they were faring. Louie seemed to have gained some control
over his nerves, and yet the way he sat there staring at nothing
showed he was enduring some special horror of his own. Frank
Norton shifted his position, pulled a dry stick from beneath the
leaves, looked at it resentfully, and tossed it aside. He settled
back down and indicated by his expression that now he could be
One grateful fact, the day was warm, the breeze under the tree
was gentle, the ground on which they sat was not too wet for
comfort. Except for custom, for modesty, clothes weren't really
needed; and perhaps the shock of being without them would pass.
Nudists, on Earth, claimed that one very quickly lost all self-consciousness
if no one were clothed; that such was part of the
value; that sex, for instance, became less of an issue instead of
more because, without concealment, one could see instead of
imagining, and the sight more often discouraged than enticed.
Cal wondered what the militant moralists would make of the
idea that clothes encouraged immorality.
"It was a hard thing to believe," Jed was saying. "It wasn't like
a natural thing—like a cyclone, or earthquake, or fire, or flood.
Nothin' like that. Them things a man can understand. Even if he's
dyin', at least he knows, he understands, what's killin' him. I
never thought I'd hear myself say it would be a comfort to know
what you was dyin' of, but, believe me ..."
He broke off and stared in front of himself. His voice took on
a note of perplexity.
"Only nobody died. Nobody even got hurt. We was like little
kids screamin' at the top of their lungs when they ain't hurt at
all—only scared." He looked abashed. "I got to tell you, real
truthful," he said, "most of the yellin' came from the men. The
women, by and large, was real swell.
"Fact is," he continued, "come to think of it, I don't recollect
ever seein' a woman in real hysterics. Plenty of fake, of course.
Say she's tryin' to hook some man into protectin' her; or lay
public blame on him for not doin' it. Other times, in real danger,
womenfolks, our kind of womenfolks, anyhow, they pitch right in
and help. It takes a man to make a jackass outta himself at the
Cal nodded and smiled. There was an attempt at a hollow
laugh from Louie, as if the shoe had fit. Jed didn't seem to realize
it, and made no apology about present company being excepted.
"It wasn't like the aftermath of a storm, either," Jed said,
"where you begin pickin' up the pieces to start over. We—we
couldn't pick up any pieces."
They couldn't pick up any pieces. In a way, that was worse than
the disappearance of things. In a catastrophe, after taking care
of those that are hurt, first thing a man does is gather the materials
and tools to fix things up again. The women, after soothing them
that's hurt, taking care of them as much as possible, first thing
they think of is making hot coffee, maybe hot soup.
That was when they began to realize this was more than the
desolation following a cyclone or other freak of nature.
Cal wanted to know what happened? Well, there he was, still
sort of hiding behind his tree. It was Martha who snapped out of
it first, who insisted that clothes or no clothes it was their plain
duty to get down to the village where they could help somebody.
He'd need other men to help him get things back in shape; she
could help the other women take care of the needy.
And still he hung back, ashamed of his nakedness. She scolded
him then, pointed out that if everybody was naked, their being
naked too wasn't likely to start up a passel of gossip.
He gave in to her scolding, because she was right, and came
out from behind his tree. It seemed more than passing strange to
be walking down that slope naked, in plain sight of everybody.
Thing that helped was that nobody seemed of a mind to stop and
stare at them.
Everybody had his mind on his own problems, and then a
funny thing happened. Maybe, Jed reasoned, it was seeing that
everybody else was naked too. Anyway, the self-consciousness
disappeared all of a sudden, and they didn't think any more
about it—not right then, anyhow.
By the time they'd got to the foot of their hill and into the
crowd of people, he forgot all about it. There was plenty of other
things to think about. Martha pitched right in, the way he ought
to have done. She was the one who thought of giving the men
something to do, get them over their hysterics.
"Why don't some of you men get a fire going!" she called out,
as soon as they got to the edge of the crowd. "Something hot to
drink is what we need most. Hot water, in case anybody is hurt."
Of course she wasn't thinking straight, not entirely. They
didn't have a pot to heat water in. Or maybe she was, because
right away he heard her asking other women if any of them knew
where there might be some dried gourds. He remembered then
an old pioneer trick—cutting open a gourd, scooping out the seed,
filling it with water, dropping hot stones into it until it boiled,
It might seem funny to city women, always protected against
everything, that Martha wasn't more excited, and helpless. First
place, she had her man already, and didn't need to put on such a
show. Second place, she was a colonist woman, an experimental
colonist woman, trained all her life to take care of the unexpected;
and for the experimentals something unexpected was always
Under her influence, and maybe a little under his, Jed acknowledged,
now that he'd been set straight by Martha's example,
everybody began to settle down a little, like they would after the
first shock of a fire or flood. It was all over. Now it was time to
start picking up the pieces, rebuilding.
Only it wasn't all over.
That's when they found out they couldn't build a fire.
Easiest way, without matches, is to string a bow and twirl a
stick in a hole punched into another stick. Next easiest way is to
find a piece of flint, strike two pieces together to make sparks and
hope one will set a wad of punk on fire. If no other way, rubbing
two dry sticks together will do it if you can rub them fast enough,
get them hot enough to make the powdered fibers burst into flame.
Or if they'd had some of those quartz crystals from the top of
the mountain to focus sun rays....
But they couldn't make a bow, or strike two stones together,
or rub two sticks together. It couldn't be done. Well, Cal had seen
for himself what happened when it was tried. All the men were
trying it, and for a little bit everybody thought it was only happening
to him, that he must have lost the knack, or something. For
a little bit there the men were more worried about how their
wife would bring it up for weeks or months, how he had let the
rest of the men show him up when it came to building a fire.
One of the men tore it then.
He yelled out that somebody he couldn't see was watching him
over his shoulder, that it wasn't meant they should have fire.
Cal looked quickly at Louie at that point of the story. Louie was
staring, with mouth open, at Jed; and in his eyes was confirmation
of that same feeling. But Jed didn't notice the effect, and went on
with the telling.
Everybody stopped and listened to the man, because they were
having the same feeling. Jed knew it. Him, too. The crowd might
have panicked right there if the man had let it rest, but he started
explaining it, the way a man does, and makes himself ridiculous.
He kept on yelling how the men shouldn't listen to the women.
That it was in the first Garden of Eden that man had made the
mistake of listening to woman; that it was Eve who had egged
Adam into eating that apple because a woman was never satisfied
to leave well enough alone. And now, he said, in this new Eden,
man was being given another chance. If he was smart, if he's
learned anything at all, this time he wouldn't listen to no woman.
Somebody bust out laughing when he said that, and it kind of
eased the tension a little.
A woman said, real disgusted, that if the men was too helpless
to start a little fire, least they could do was scrape up some dry
leaves because in a few hours it would get dark. Magic or no
magic, watchers or no watchers, night would fall, and she for
one liked a soft bed. That caused them to look up at the sky,
and sure enough the sun, Ceti, was already half way down the
sky from where it had been at noon. At least the world was
turning and time was moving. That, at least. About three hours
had passed in what seemed like minutes.
Somebody else, one of the men this time, said why didn't they
go a little farther than scraping up some leaves. Why didn't they
get busy and knock together some shelters in case it rained during
the night—the way it often did.
Now any one of them, man or woman, ought to have been able
to put up a small shelter in less time than it takes to tell about it,
even without no tools. Break off a limb, or take a sharp stone, dig
holes in the ground with it. Take straight saplings, trim them,
stick them upright in the ground, tamp in the dirt good and hard,
lash them together with vines, lash other poles together to make
the frame of the roof, lift that onto the poles and lash them all
together with braces. Thatch it with grass, and there you were.
But there they weren't. They couldn't do it.
Things just wouldn't behave. They dug a hole, and it filled
right up again. They couldn't cut down a sapling, because the
sharp stone, the only tool they had, would fly out of their hands.
They even tried lashing some saplings together where they grew,
and the saplings were like things alive. They wouldn't be bound.
The vines slithered out of their hands and dropped to the ground,
and the saplings sprang up again straight.
Not only that. They could scrape together some leaves into a
pile, all right, but when anybody tried to lie down in them the
leaves would scatter as if blown by a wind. Only there wasn't
Some of the women got pretty disgusted with their menfolks.
They tried it themselves, and the same things happened. After
that, they was a little more forgiving.
A couple more hours had passed while they were trying that.
The sun got low. People began to realize they were getting hungry,
and they began to realize there wasn't any way to cook supper.
Now there wasn't any real hardship, not physical. Nobody'd
been hurt. Shook up a little, scared for sure. But not hurt.
The river was still flowing good, clean water. All they had to do
was go down to the river bank and cup the water in their hands,
lift it to their lips; or even better, lie down on the bank and lower
their faces into the water. They could do that. It helped a little
to know they could.
The wild bushes and trees all around had plenty of fruit and
nuts to eat. One thing you could say for Eden, the fruit didn't seem
to depend on seasons. There was always something ripe, and
plenty of it.
The people wandered off from the village site then, to forage
their supper, for all the world like animals grazing in a pasture.
They sort of hung together, in herds, glad to be together—then.
By dark they all came back and sat around in a circle, the way
people in the wilds sit around a campfire. It seemed funny without
a campfire. The darker it got, the funnier it felt. The more you
thought about it, the stranger it got. The excitement had begun
to wear off, and people were starting to think a little. It got
stranger and stranger. In the dusk you could see the same
thought in all the gleaming eyes.
They couldn't have fire!
Maybe the strangest thing of all, nobody was trying to explain
what had happened. Now you take mankind, he's always right
in there with an explanation for everything. Maybe it's not the
right one, maybe, looking back, it's a silly one—but at the time he
believes it, and that's a comfort.
But this was like being in a dream, knowing it's a dream, knowing
it can't happen this way, and so it doesn't have to be explained.
And yet, isn't that the worst part of a bad dream? No explanation
for what's happening in it? Nothing you can do about it, either?
Somebody said, it being dark and all, they should get some
sleep. Somebody mentioned being thankful there weren't any
children. That was one of the hardships of being an experimental
colonist, you couldn't have children. Wouldn't be right to expose
children to hardships they'd have to suffer helpless. Only here,
the way kids were, he wouldn't have been surprised if kids would
have taken to it a lot easier than the grown folks.
The people sort of bedded down all together, the way a herd
of animals take shelter, each, even in its sleep, taking comfort
from the presence and protection of the others. They bedded
around on the ground, making themselves comfortable as possible.
One thing you could say, experimental colonists might not be long
on brains, the way scientists are, but they weren't picked for that.
They were picked for endurance, and the brainy will often crack
up under a strain that the enduring kind hardly notices. Far as
endurance went, physical, this wasn't bad.
Up through the leaves, and in between the trees, the stars
were as bright as ever—brighter because there wasn't no fire to dim
their glow. They couldn't see Earth, of course, but everybody knew
right where to look for Sol. There it was, a tiny little spot of light
in its constellation. It was still there.
Somebody said into the darkness that it was only two more days
until the regular monthly communication with Earth was due.
That as soon as E.H.Q. didn't hear from them, there'd be a rescue
party out here in nothing flat. So, at worst, it meant living this way
only five or six more days.
That made everybody feel better. It was a comforting thing
to look up through the leaves, to see Sol in the sky, to know they
weren't forgotten back home; that on Earth people would soon be
buzzing around like a disturbed hive of hornets, with stingers
cocked and ready as soon as the message didn't get through.
Yep, somebody said, just like the museum collection of Western
movies where the U.S. cavalry always got there in time. At least
they weren't being attacked by no Indians, somebody said.
Or were they? Maybe everybody asked that to themselves, but
nobody said it.
Most everybody got some sleep. No one really suffered, any
discomfort just showed them how soft they were getting with
easy living. Considering everything, they were coming along just
fine. And in a few days everything would be all right again. They
went to sleep thinking that even if there was some equivalent to
the old-time Indians attacking them, rescue would soon be here
and they would be safe.
Because man always wins.
Most people were wide awake by dawn. Some had slept in
little bits, waking often enough to keep a sense of continuity.
Others, those who slept better, awoke with a start; looked around
themselves wildly, realized they were lying out in the open plumb
naked in front of other people; maybe wondered for an instant
what kind of party they'd been to the night before; and nearly
bolted in panic before they remembered.
Most everyone felt sort of surprised that things weren't back to
normal, with yesterday being something soonest forgot soonest
mended. It takes time for folks to realize—things.
Not having a hot drink for breakfast was another little hardship,
a reminder of how soft they'd got. But nobody complained.
Seemed like everybody had woke with a determination to make
the best of things and help one another do the same. Everybody
was pitching in together to make the best of things. Once they
bit into the cool fruit on the trees around them, even not having
a hot drink to start the day didn't seem to matter.
Some of the women got together and decided it would help
things get back to normal if the people covered their nakedness,
or least parts of it. It might be all right just among themselves,
they said, because everybody was in the same fix and knew
what happened—but how would they feel when the rescue ship
landed and they had to walk out in front of strange men with
They picked some big green leaves without any trouble. But
when they strove to pin them together with thorns, the thorns
just slipped out and fell to the ground. Then they tried sewing the
leaves together with bindweed. Same thing. The bindweed
slithered out and fell to the ground.
One woman figured to stick some leaves together with thick
mud from the river and paste them with more mud on her body.
It wouldn't stick, peeled right off like she was oiled. One man
said he could do it without leaves, just cover himself with mud.
He lay down in a muddy pool and got himself covered with wet
He was a sight. All at once he looked vulgar, obscene. And
nobody had, before. That did it. Somebody said they were
humans, not pigs, and if the men on the rescue ship had never
seen a naked body before it was time they did. What was so
wrong about the human body, anyhow?
They made the muddy man go bathe himself in the river, and
gave up trying to cover themselves. All at once the desire to
cover themselves was a nasty kind of thinking, something to be
Midmorning somebody got to wondering if the ten colonists
who'd broken off from the main colony and moved across the
ridge were all right.
Soon as he reminded them, everybody began to laugh. What
fools they'd all been. Showed you how a bit of trouble could keep
a man from thinking straight. Here they'd been eating and sleeping
like animals when, all the while, just across the ridge there'd
be houses and beds, fires and clothes. Sure, those folks might
differ in some opinions, but humans always stood ready to help
one another in distress, differences forgotten.
In a body, they started for the ridge. Everybody knew just
where the dissidents had built their homes. But when they got
to the top of the ridge there weren't no houses there. Nothing but
virgin woods, same as this side. That shook them up. They'd been
Maybe it was the jolt of that, maybe it was a measure that we
still weren't thinking straight, something—they didn't go on down
and join forces. Nobody thought of it, somehow. They went back
down and congregated around where the village had been. Maybe
it was the beginning of something that would come later, something
Cal would see for himself. That they were already not thinking
the way humans do. Thinking and behaving more the way dumb
Nothing else worth mentioning happened that day, nor the
next. In some ways it was still like a dream. The way people were
just accepting things, without question, maybe without curiosity.
Jed remembered one time an E had said there was a wider gap
between the thinking man and the average man than there
was between that average man and the ape. He'd resented it at
the time, of course, but now he thought of it again and began to
realize what the E had meant.
Two or three people commented on how easy it was to go back
to nature, wondered why they hadn't all done it before. How
stupid it was for man to knock himself out chasing all over the
universe, undergoing such hardships, when all a man could ever
want was right here.
Jed tried to put down this kind of talk when it came up. He
reminded them it was Lotus Land thinking, and would be the
ruination of a prime bunch of colonists. He reminded them they'd
been through hardships worse than this, and had ought to keep
their wits about them.
Funny thing, though. He couldn't get very excited about it.
Just did it because it was his duty. Maybe not even that strong,
maybe because once upon a time, long ago, hardly remembered,
it had been his duty.
It was the next day that things got real rough.
Somebody, in a clearer-thinking moment, said they couldn't be
sure when the rescue ship would get here; that when the rescuers
came and didn't see any village they wouldn't know what to
think—maybe they'd just go away. Shows we weren't thinking so
straight after all, to believe that you'd go away just because you
didn't find our village.
Anyhow, hadn't we ought to work out some kind of a message?
Maybe scrape some kind of a message on the ground? They
decided the smooth sand above the tide line down on the sea
shore was the best place for it.
Nobody had anything else to do, so the whole colony, all
forty of them, walked the couple of miles down to the seashore.
They picked out a nice stretch of white sand, and with a broken
piece of driftwood they started to scratch a message, just a big
SOS. The driftwood wriggled out of their hands like a snake.
Nobody could hold it. Several men tried together, made no
Somebody started scooping out a furrow with his hands. The
furrow closed up and smoothed out right behind him. Somebody
tried piling up sand, first in letters, then in code signals. Made no
difference. Sand smoothed right out again.
Then somebody got a bright idea. All right, he said. Didn't
need to use a stick, or scoop out a furrow, or pile up the sand. They
had their bare feet, didn't they? They could tromp out the letters
that way. Footprints, close together, would be as good as a
That's when it happened.
Jed tried it himself. And his footprints disappeared. They just
weren't there. Everybody looked behind himself, where he'd been
walking. Nobody was leaving any footprints.
That's when they bolted in panic.
Jed looked quickly at Cal when he told him how the colonists had
spooked, bolted in panic. As if he expected disbelief.
"Maybe that seems funny to you," he commented. "After taking
so much we'd spook like crazy animals and hightail for the woods
over not making footprints."
"Pretty fundamental thing," Cal said with a shrug. "Animals are
aware of spoor long before they are aware of tools. It hit deep
down into fundamental being, a thing like that."
Jed looked relieved. Hussein and Van Tassel exchanged glances,
as if confirming their belief that an E would understand their
problems. Cal appreciated the confidence expressed in that
glance, but did not feel it was justified. It was now pretty obvious
that this was some alien co-ordinate system, never before encountered
by man. But how to get hold of it? How to reconcile with it?
Coexist with it?
Never before encountered by man? What if the myths of early
man be true? And too authentic the legends of his being a pawn
to the will of the gods? Could there have been some factual basis
for the gods? And not, as was supposed, rationalizations dreamed
up by man to account for the control of phenomena at a level
beyond his own power to control?
"It's been bad since then," Jed continued. "Seems like once they
got the wind up, the whole thing hit them all over again. Like
cattle in a stampede, they didn't have a lick of sense. They
didn't even stay together. They scattered in all directions, hid out
in the bushes from each other.
"You could hunt for 'em, call for 'em, yell your lungs out. You
could pass within ten feet of one of 'em, callin', pleadin', and they
wouldn't say a word. Just stand there and watch you like a
hunted animal, not even breathin' lest you discover them.
"After a couple of days, some of us kind of pulled ourselves
together—me and Martha, Ahmed and Dirk here. Maybe a dozen
of us now have got together again. Funny thing though, even so,
all we want is to hide. Can't get over hidin', somehow. That's
why you didn't see us from the air. We was hidin' from you.
"Martha, couple other womenfolks, they practically had to
push us out of the woods to come greet you, lead you to us. They
wouldn't come themselves, being naked and all. They told us,
first thing was to get some clothes for them from the ship.
"We was countin' on the arrival of your ship to bring the rest
of the colonists back to their senses. Some ain't been found yet,
not since the footprint thing. If they were watchin' you from
hidin' places, if they also saw your ship disappear—well now, I
just don't know."
"There'll be another ship from Earth," Cal said. "In a matter of
fifteen or twenty hours at most. We were communicating at the
time. They'll know we didn't cut out through choice."
"Yes," Tom Lynwood confirmed. "As I remember, I got cut off
in the middle of a sentence. They'll know something was wrong."
"There's another ship out there right now," Cal added. "Not
an E.H.Q. ship, but one that would have seen what happened.
We'll not count on anything from them, but an E.H.Q. ship will
be here soon, probably with an E on board—McGinnis."
"Don't know what good it would do," Jed said despondently.
"That ship might disappear, too, soon as it landed. And the next,
and the next."
"I don't plan to let it land," Cal told them. "You'll notice nothing
happened to us until we touched ground. I'll find a way to talk
to the ship, keep it from landing until we've got a line on
whatever this is."
"You figger to solve this one?" Jed asked curiously, unbelieving.
"I'm going to try," Cal said with more confidence than he felt.
"It's what I'm here for. Maybe I can't solve it, but I can try."
"I don't know how you're going to start," Dirk spoke up. "We're
just like animals here. We can't use tools."
"But animals do use tools," Cal answered after a moment.
"Materials, anyway. Birds build nests using sticks, grass, clay.
Monkeys and apes throw sticks and stones. Even insects use
materials. Basic difference between man and the rest is that man
gives special shapes to tools, where mainly the rest use whatever
falls to hand. But all higher, organized protoplasmic life uses
tools in one form or another."
"We ain't allowed to," Jed said emphatically. "Not even what's
at hand. Somebody, or somethin', is bound and determined we
ain't goin' to."
At that moment Cal felt close to a solution, or at least an
understanding of the nature of the problem, which is the first
step toward solution. But like the specter seen in twilight from the
corner of the eye, as soon as he tried to focus on the problem, the
concept disappeared. Something about protoplasmic life using
materials. Non-protoplasmic life? Could there be, and still meet
the definitions of what constitute life? As compared with our
evolution, from its earliest beginning finding some other approach
to the manipulation of the physical universe? A totally alien kind
of science? Come to think of it, the use of material to affect other
material was a cumbersome, indirect, awkward way of going
about it, as compared with ...
Compared with what?
The concept would not yet allow him full focus upon it. He
filed it away for future contemplation.
He saw Dawkins and the other colonists looking at him defiantly,
as if interpreting his silence to be doubt of their veracity about
the taboo on tools. Their eyes challenged him to disbelieve them,
to find out for himself.
"Other than the feeling of being watched," he said carefully,
"have you had any sign, any other evidence or indication of
somebody, or something? I know about the feeling, because I feel
it too. And very strongly, right now. But any specific evidence?"
Jed Dawkins looked relieved at the confession.
"Everything's the evidence. Everything that's happened. What
more evidence would you want?" he said.
"One of the strongest arguments in favor of something, or some
kind of intelligence," Cal said slowly, "is that nobody's been hurt.
All natural law hasn't been canceled. We still have light radiation,
heat radiation, gravity, water still flows, the planet still turns.
Trees still grow and fruit still ripens. We can talk and be understood,
using our tongues and minds as tools. We can still eat and
drink. We can still know.
"This is no chaotic co-ordinate system that defies all natural law.
This is a deliberate manipulation of some natural laws to get a
result. Man manipulates natural laws by the use of tools and
materials, but he doesn't suspend them. Here, apparently without
tools, at least tools we can perceive, natural law is manipulated,
but not suspended.
"When the village disappeared, no one was hurt. A lot of
people were caught in awkward positions and fell, some of them
several feet. There should have been at least a few broken bones,
pulled ligaments. There weren't. Our ship landed safely. We were
a long time in the atmosphere of Eden, and for a few minutes
there on the ground we were still using tools of a high order.
It was only when danger of real harm to us was past that the ship
"I reckon it's comfortin' to know we ain't meant to be hurt," Jed
said, and looked at his two companions. "I guess it is," he repeated
doubtfully. "Maybe it ain't something as nice and familiar as a
cyclone, or a den of rattlesnakes, something you could understand,
but you got to admit we ain't been hurt yet." It was as if he were
arguing the point with his companions.
"Something I've been noting, Jed," Ahmed spoke up. "A
discrepancy of a sort that has me puzzled. Sun reckoning, we've
been able to keep our minds on this subject for over two hours
now. As if, whatever this is manipulating natural laws can also
manipulate the way our minds work."
"Yeah," Jed admitted slowly, his face thoughtful. He turned to
Cal. "Like I said at the start. Our minds have sort of wandered of
late. Start to do something, and first thing y'know, we're doin'
something else. Can't keep our minds on one thing very long—like
"That might be no more than the aftermath of deep shock,"
"It's for a purpose!"
Startled at the outburst, they all turned and looked at Louie.
"It's for a purpose," Louie repeated in a kind of rapture. "They
want us to understand we are being watched over, cared for.
That colonist you all laughed at was right. This is the first Garden
of Eden, where man lived in complete innocence. Now man has
been returned to it, to live again in complete innocence. You do
not think straight because there is no reason. You will be cared
for. Woe unto him who seeks to despoil it again by seeking vain
His eyes were wild, his face contorted with a mixture of
exaltation and condemnation.
"Shut up, Louie," Tom said in a low, firm voice.
"We understand," Jed said tolerantly. "Some of the colonists
are talkin' the same way. He's got plenty of company."
All the rest of that day, and throughout the following, Cal and Tom
worked with Jed in trying to round up the colonists, get them
living together again.
By agreement, Ahmed and Dirk stayed with the small band of
colonists that had overcome their fears enough to mingle together
again. Louie frankly deserted his shipmates, and spent all his
time with the colonists. Frank, as if reverting to his childhood
farming days, occupied himself with trying to round up the stock.
He tried to keep the cows separated from their calves so the
colonists would have milk to drink, but without ropes or corrals
it was hopeless. He finally gave up his attempt to husband the
stock, and he too seemed content then to mingle with the colonists.
The marked change in Louie could not be ignored, for he was
not idling away his time in lazy feeding and sleeping. He had
dropped his lifelong pose of superficial complaint that the fates
always gave him the dirty end of the stick, and now he spent
his time preaching to the little band of colonists. Or wandering
through the forests and undergrowth calling, praying, comforting.
Cal felt no condemnation for him. He was not the first man,
seemingly dedicated to science, who, confronted with mysteries
beyond his power to comprehend, reverted to childlike superstitious
awe for an explanation. In the face of mystery or catastrophe,
it takes a faith beyond the capacity of most to continue believing
that the universe has a rational order to its laws that can be
comprehended if man persists. It is temptingly easy for man to
revert back to the irresponsibility of childhood, assuming that the
control of phenomena is in the hands of those stronger, wiser
than he. It takes a strength, in the face of this temptation, to go on
believing that man can know, that it is not morally wrong for
him to know.
No blame then for Louie.
Tom was torn in his loyalties. He frequently remembered that
away from E.H.Q. the crew become the E's attendants, and that
their first duty is always to the E. But separation from the other
two men of his crew was like the loss of a part of himself. To
these also he had a duty. He tried to solve his problem by
alternating his time, spending part of it with Cal, the remainder
with his crew.
Cal and Jed made a trip the following morning across the ridge,
and found the dissident group huddled together in abject terror.
They had seen the ship coming down through the atmosphere
and, all together, they had climbed the ridge, where one of their
scouts had recently gone, to watch the ship's landing—and its
Once they were found, it took little persuasion to convince
them they should return to the other colonists, that differences
of opinion meant nothing now as against the need of human
beings to cling together in the face of catastrophe.
But they too were having trouble thinking in a straight line,
and even though they first appeared eager to join the other
colonists, it took some doing to keep them all together and moving
forward to cross the ridge, to come down the other side, to
assemble again at the site of the village with the others.
And yet, within minutes, neither band seemed to remember
that they had ever been separated.
By the time they had returned, it was apparent that Louie was
succeeding where Jed had failed in finding the colonists. In the
few hours that had elapsed, the nucleus had tripled in size.
Louie's wandering through the brush, calling, pleading with them
to follow him, promising there was no danger if they would
allow him to watch over them, intercede for them with Those who
had caused all this, had indeed coaxed them from their hiding
places, calmed their fears.
And still through the day he toiled, finding them, bringing
them back into the fold, one and two and three at a time, until,
at last, by Jed's count, all were there, no more missing.
And yet, in spite of his success, there was a kind of hurt and
disappointment in Louie's eyes. For once back, they not only forgot
their fears, they seemed also to forget him. They coalesced
into a placid herd, without memory of their panic. Without
memory of the shepherd who had found the lost sheep and returned
them to the fold.
They wandered among the trees and bushes, picking fruit and
nuts, eating leaves and stems and flowers of plants. They wandered
down to the river to lie prone on the sand, dip their faces
into the clear cold water to drink. During the heat of the day
they bathed in the river, and as they lay on white sand or grassy
slopes to dry, they slept contentedly.
The phenomenon was not as startling to Cal as it might have
seemed to others.
On Earth, gradually learned through trial and error, experimental
colonists were not picked for their jobs because of flexible,
incisive, or brilliant minds. Quite the contrary. The basic test of
a successful colonist was endurance—the endurance of hardship,
privation, the stoic indifference to conditions of discomfort,
monotony, pain, uncleanliness, immodesty—conditions which
would send a more imaginative or sensitive temperament into
a downward-spiraling syndrome of failure. They were the kind
of men and women who, on Earth in an earlier time, had been
able to endure the harshness of the sea, of arctic cold, jungle disease,
desert heat; to make those first steps in taming a hostile
environment, so that men with less endurance, but with more
delicately poised and sensitive minds, following them might then
It was characteristic of such men and women, even under
Earth conditions, that they seldom questioned their reasons for
these things. They simply went, and endured, and tamed. Even
on Earth, when the taming had been done, they moved on. This
was the stuff of the experimental colonist.
Now, here, that temperament still persisted. They had fled in
panic, but now they had returned to their original purpose—to
endure. It was enough.
Louie was to learn, in disappointment, that failure to be curious
about scientific reasoning was usually accompanied by an equal
failure to be curious about philosophical implications. They
listened idly to his exhortations, but their eyes did not light with
fire nor cloud with doubt. They simply wandered away after
a time and ate or slept.
In the evening of that second day, Cal sat with Tom and Jed
down by the bank of the river where the sky was clear and the
stars beginning to shine. They were talking quietly of home, of
Eden, of the colonists who, more and more, seemed to take on
the character of a contented herd of animals. So far there had
been no attempt of the old males to drive the young ones out of
the herd, destroy them, but that might come in time; as surely
as the old males on Earth by tacit agreement on both sides, were
always able to work up a war for the purpose of weeding out
and destroying lusty young male competition.
They were talking of the curious fact that all three of them
seemed able to continue thinking in a straight line, hold their
minds to a subject, while all the rest grew more vague, less
retentive, more content to live from moment to moment, without
concern for past or future.
Except Louie. He too seemed able to hold his thinking in a
straight line, one tangential to theirs. He seemed, in these hours,
to have turned wholly mystical, to a stronger belief that they
were being watched and cared for by some higher power, and
that this was for a purpose. Yet not so tangential, for Cal had
come to the same conclusion, although his interpretation differed.
"I can't doubt that there is an intelligent direction of this
peculiar co-ordinate system," he said to Tom and Jed. "But I
must doubt it is supernatural in the way Louie interprets. Anything
appears to be magic when we don't understand how it
happens, and becomes science when we do."
He paused, and looked at his companions' faces in the starshine.
They were quiet, reposed, listening.
"Ever since man got up off the bottom of his ocean of air," he
said, "and out into space, we've been prepared to run into some
form of intelligence which doesn't behave the way we do. Not
prepared to do anything about it, you understand," he said with
a shrug. "Just theoretically prepared that it might happen. It was
a possibility. Now it does seem to have happened. E McGinnis
asked me, before I left Earth, if I thought Eden was an alluring
trap, especially baited to catch some human beings. It begins to
appear that it is."
"I've caught many a wild animal in my day," Jed said slowly,
thoughtfully. "I've pinned 'em up in cages, watched how they
behaved. I guess scientists do that all the time. Don't want to
hurt 'em, fact make 'em as comfortable as they can—just want to
know about 'em. Sometimes, after I watched them awhile I'd
turn 'em aloose and watch 'em scoot back to their natural world.
That could happen to us. Sometimes they'd die, and I wouldn't
know why. That could happen. Some animals won't bear young
in captivity. We can't because of an operation. Maybe whatever's
holdin' us don't know that, and might turn us aloose when, after
a time, we don't bear any young."
He paused and looked even more thoughtful.
"Sometimes," he added slowly, "after I studied 'em, found out
how they would behave no matter what, I had to kill 'em, because
they was too dangerous to let run around among humans. That
"I haven't done much trapping," Tom said. "But in zoos I've
watched animals in cages. The thought always came to me that
if they could think the way we do, they could just open their
cages and walk away."
"Now you take turkeys," Jed answered. "Pin 'em up with a high
fence, they'll back up, take off and fly over it. But pin 'em with
a low fence, and they won't. Seems like they know they have to
fly over a high obstruction, but don't figger on it for a low one.
Sometimes they flutter up against it, or try to push it over, but
most of the time they just walk around and around in the yard
lookin' for an opening."
"Natural survival pattern," Cal commented. "In the woods, in
their natural state, when they came up against a fallen log, it
took more effort to lift their heavy bodies in flight over it than it
took to walk around the log. It became a fixed pattern of behavior
to walk around it."
"That's what they do with a low fence then," Jed said. "They
just keep tryin' to walk around the obstruction. Not enough sense
to treat it like a high fence, because it ain't high, see? No use
tryin' to tell 'em it's high, because they know it ain't. So they
can't solve it. Seems awful stupid, somehow, a little low fence,
all that blue sky above 'em, and they can't figger it out."
"I suspect that's what's happening to us," Cal said. "We've always
argued that wherever there is matter and energy in the
universe, certain natural laws will prevail. We've learned ways
to take advantage of those natural laws, to do certain things that
will make them work for us instead of against us.
"We've always argued that for any kind of intelligence to arise
in the universe it, too, would have to become aware of these
natural laws; that it, too, would have to do these same certain
things to take advantage of those laws; that because the laws
and what to do about them would always be similar man would
have a lot in common with that other intelligence, and a means
of communicating because of that similarity.
"We'd argue that whatever its evolutionary physical shape, this
wasn't so important as its mental evolution—because that mental
evolution would follow the same course as ours. They wouldn't
be truly alien, because science would be a common denominator.
"Now it appears we could be wrong. Maybe our concept of
science is too narrow. Maybe we're like the turkey. We've become
so fixed in our pattern of solving a problem we can't change, can't
back off and take another look, see the problem not as it appears
but as it really is."
"But isn't that the science of E?" Tom asked curiously. "To be
able to extrapolate any co-ordinate system? I'm not criticizing,"
he added hastily. "Just asking."
"I suspect even our means of extrapolation are too limited, too
based on the relationship of things and forces to each other, too
set in the notion that only physical tools can affect physical things.
We may be looking at a low fence, calling it a log, and therefore
not able to understand why we can't walk around the
obstruction in the usual manner." He stopped, and added with
a shrug. "Stupid, maybe. Or like the turkey, the yard is so big
that he never gets a picture of it as a whole enclosure. By the
time he's wandered down this side of the fence he's forgot what
he found on the other side. Never can put the whole thing together
in his mind. That's my trouble, anyhow. So far, I'm not able to
put the whole thing together, see it all as one piece.
"When I do, if I do, then maybe like a caged animal I'll see
how to unlock an opening, or maybe realize the only way out is
There beside the softly flowing river, where water was obeying
natural law without any trouble, the three men broke off their
discussion when they saw a bright flash high in the sky above
them. All three knew what it meant.
Another E ship had arrived.
No doubt the ship would expect light signals from the colonists
in acknowledgment of their space flare.
If the ship had come while this portion of the planet was still
in daylight, they would have seen there was no village, no ship,
no equipment for direct communication. They may even have
reasoned there was no means of signaling with artificial light.
But there was nothing to tell them that those on Eden could
not build a fire.
As if they were present on the ship themselves, the three men
could anticipate what must be happening there. Right now they
would be anxiously waiting for signal flares to light up, to spring
up like signal fires on a lonely island where a marooned man has,
at last, sighted a ship on the horizon.
The colonists were no longer hiding, but were freely wandering
in open spaces. If the ship had arrived before dusk they would
have seen the men and women in the viewscopes. If after dusk,
they still might have spotted them in the infrared viewers which
picked up the heat differentials and gave a fair approximation of
The men on the ship would be waiting and looking at their
watches. How long, they would be asking, does it take those
colonists, that E down there, to get a signal fire going?
About five minutes passed, and another flare lighted the
"Get off the dime down there!" it seemed to say. "Acknowledge
Cal took the chance that they might have an infrared viewscope
directly on him, and he waved his arms above his head.
But apparently they had not spotted him, for there was no
At intervals of five minutes at first, then later cut to fifteen
minutes, throughout the long night the flares continued to light
"Talk to us," the flares begged. "Surely you were expecting us.
Surely you would not all be sleeping so soundly that our light
could not rouse you."
Several times the three men stood up and waved their arms,
but it brought no answer from the ship. In the darkness perhaps
the equipment wasn't good enough. Perhaps in the night breeze
bushes and trees also swayed with movement.
Once there was a rustle in the brush, and in the starlight they
recognized the figure of Louie approaching them.
"This has got to stop," he said worriedly as he came up to
them. "That light is an unnatural thing. It will anger Them. It
is not meant for the peace of Eden to be disturbed by any
artificial thing. And if They should turn Their wrath upon us—woe,
His face was stricken in the light of a new flare, and as suddenly
as he had come to object, he left, plunged back under the trees
to seek his people, be beside them, comforting them when
disaster struck down.
After a time the three men gave up trying to wave their
acknowledgment of the flares in darkness. They watched for an
hour or so, and then tried to sleep. The periodic flares continued
to come throughout the long night, as if now no longer pleading
for acknowledgment, but rather reassuring men in such deep distress
that they could not answer. Reassuring them that help was
at hand and morning would come.
They tried to sleep, and although fitfully disturbed by the
continuing flares, they did sleep. But at the first hint of dawn,
Cal awoke and aroused his two companions, and by the time
there was enough light for the ship to see clear detail upon the
ground, the three men were ready for a better attempt at answering
the ship's signal.
They went up to the village site, where the colonists were sleeping
in the way a herd is bedded down together. They awoke
Frank and Martha, Ahmed and Dirk, and told them of their
plan. Louie, too, awoke, heard the plan, and tried to warn them
against it. Any attempt, he said, to communicate with those not
on Eden would surely increase the wrath of Those who wanted
only the natural state here—a wrath still withheld because of
superhuman mercy, but which must not be tried too far.
In spite of his warnings, Cal, and those co-operating with him,
got together enough colonists to carry out his plan.
Good-naturedly, the colonists did as they were told, but with
the attitude that it was something amusing, that there was nothing
they'd rather be doing at the moment. Any sense of urgency
about communicating with home seemed to have been washed
from their minds.
In a clear space, on the soft grass, Cal got the colonists to sit
or lie in certain positions. Checked against Tom's knowledge of
ancient signal patterns, those certain positions took the shape of
Three men lay in a triangle. Next to that, six men sat in a
circle, and last three more men lay in another triangle. Cal hoped
someone on the ship would be able to read the ancient message.
"Keep clear of me. I am maneuvering with difficulty."
The signal had no more than formed when there was a flash
from the ship so bright that it could be seen in the morning sky.
They had read his signal, and now they began a series of flashes,
of questions. "What's going on down there?" was the essence of
It was well the ship had caught the first signal, for the colonists
lost all interest in the game which had no point. They simply
stood up and wandered away in search of their breakfasts from
the trees and bushes.
Louie, who had stood to one side glowering, now took charge
of them again and shepherded them to a grove of trees where
the fruit seemed especially large and succulent.
But now that the ship had spotted him, Cal could signal alone.
He lay down on the ground, himself, to move his arms in
semaphore positions. But even as he lay back, he became conscious
that he, too, could hardly care less. With a detached interest
that amounted to amusement at such childish, primitive
things, he watched his arms spell out one more message.
"Keep off! No mechanical science allowed in this co-ordinate
He stood up then, and made a farewell gesture toward the
At that instant he felt strangely that he had passed into another
stage of growth, completed a task, cut himself off from an environment
that had held him back. What the ship did, in response to
his warnings, no longer mattered. If it landed, its personnel too
would join the colonists. If it obeyed the request of an E, it might
circle there indefinitely.
Indefinitely watching the turkeys circle inside their low fence,
unable to aid them, release them.
He did not particularly care what they did.
They could go on, spluttering out their signals, trying to
question him. He didn't even try to read their messages. It didn't
matter. Their science had nothing to do with him, nothing to
offer him. Through it he could not reach a solution.
Somehow he knew that already.
"This time," the communications supervisor said with all the firmness
he could muster, "this time there must not be any interference
with communication. There just absolutely must not be!"
"Well, it wasn't my fault," the operator retorted with an exasperation
that blanketed prudent restraint. "You heard what E
McGinnis said—that they could identify E Gray, and the ship's
crew, and many of the colonists, but that there was no sign of
the ship that took them there. If there wasn't any ship there
couldn't be any communication. It's not my fault. I can't receive
something that wasn't sent."
"I know, I know," the supervisor said, and then, worried that
he may be giving the appearance of backing down, commanded
savagely, "just watch it, that's all!" He chewed violently at his
knuckle and glared at the operator.
"Just watch it," the operator mumbled bitterly. "Just watch it,
the man says. And what will I watch if the message stops coming?"
"Now, now, now, now," the supervisor nagged, "we'll have no
insubordination, if you please."
And upstairs this time more than Bill Hayes, sector chief,
were monitoring the message. The top administrative brass
of E.H.Q. were assembled in their big plush conference room
used for arriving at major policy decisions that sometimes affected
the whole course of man's progress and direction in occupying
They sat in worried silence as E McGinnis reported the two
messages he had received from Junior E Gray.
First: Keep clear of me. I am maneuvering with difficulty.
Then: Keep off. No mechanical science allowed in this co-ordinate
They looked at one another under beetled brows. They
wondered, at first privately and then openly if that Junior E had
blown his stack. They had looked at many a problem finally
solved by the E's, but never before had such a ridiculous situation
And right at the time, too, when the civil government had decided
to place a curb on E.H.Q.'s freedom of movement, its control
over the experimental phases of planet development. The injunction
to halt a Junior E from taking over the Eden problem fooled
none of them. They knew that Gunderson wasn't concerned for
those colonists out there, that he was merely using the public
furor to advance his own personal power. They knew that the
police worked unremittingly, unceasingly, always and ever to
bring every phase of human activity under their control. They
knew it was a centuries-old tactic to wait for the right situation
to arise, so that the lawmakers could be stampeded into passing
some law which seemed only to apply to this given condition but
in actuality broadened police powers over a wide area of man's
Yes, there was far more at stake here than the fate of fifty
colonists. In a sense E.H.Q. itself was the stake. The whole science
of E was at stake.
And E McGinnis had played right into Gunderson's hands. It
was he who had been the E influence in deciding to allow a
Junior to handle the problem in the first place. It was he who
was standing off from the planet, not landing and taking over
things as he should.
There was obviously no danger. By his own report, the people
on Eden were in good health, and from their apparent actions, not
This message about no mechanical science being allowed, for
example. Did the Junior mean the colonists wouldn't allow it?
Must mean that. What else could prevent it? But when an E, a
real E, took charge in an experimental colony, the colonists had
nothing further to say about the matter. True, when the five-year
experimental period was over and the three-generation colonists
took over a planet, then it came more under civil control, and
E.H.Q. largely withdrew with the provision that it could step
back in at any time the problem seemed not to have been solved
But while under the five-year test ... The E was the final
word, or should be. The colonists knew it. The E knew it, or
should know it. Obviously then it was weakness on the part of
the Junior if he allowed the colonists to dictate that there could
be no mechanical science. Proof of his inability to handle the job.
A perfect setup for Gunderson!
They decided they were forced to take a strong hand with
McGinnis. Ordinarily the E was the final word, not only with the
colonists, but with the administration at E.H.Q. But maybe there
were times when he shouldn't be. Yes, definitely they should take
a hand. After all, Gray was still a Junior, hardly more than a
boy. Was it right that a mere boy could stop investigation by
anyone except himself? Tell Earth with all its power and might
what to do?
Definitely there was a time when an exception to general E
policy should be made. Definitely this was that time. If nothing
else, they must take a strong hand to prevent Gunderson from
moving in with his police powers. Protect the E science from
Gunderson, or at least salvage what they might.
Their conference over, they asked for a connection with
"We assume you will land and take charge, E McGinnis?" the
board chairman asked.
"Certainly not," McGinnis snapped back. "An E has forbidden
"Well now," the chairman argued, and sweat began to come
out on his forehead. "He's only a Junior. We have decided his
judgment isn't mature enough for this problem."
"I have every confidence in Junior E Gray," McGinnis said
acidly. "And every E in the system will back me. It makes no
difference what you have decided. Either the science of E means
something, or it doesn't. Either we have complete freedom to
handle a problem, or we don't. Let me remind you, gentlemen,
this isn't the first time that laymen have decided the E is a fool
and tried to take matters into their own hands. Do you want to
repeat past disasters?"
"If we don't land a ship, E McGinnis"—the chairman was all
but pleading now—"Gunderson's police will. We feel we must
land a ship to take a firmer control over the situation. Public
sentiment demands it. Policy demands it. Perhaps the whole future
of E demands it."
A new voice cut into the communications hookup, a feminine
"Gentlemen," she said, "this is Linda Gray. I requested that
I be cut in on any communication concerning my husband, and
E McGinnis made it an order before he left. If another ship does
land, I must be on it. I want to be with my husband."
"I will not be landing on Eden, Linda," E McGinnis said
firmly. "An E has forbidden it. That is enough for any other E
in the universe. No other E will land. Your husband is all right.
He is in good health, and apparently mentally sound. At least
sound enough to warn us against landing. He must have a reason.
We don't know, yet, what it is.
"Now he has stopped communicating, we don't know why. He
must have a reason for that, too. It is probably a sound reason.
E science has been drilled into him until it is a part of his every
mind cell, perhaps even every body cell.
"I assume he is not communicating because we can't help him,
because communicating with us distracts him from solving the
problem. If E.H.Q. decides to send out a ship on its own, and
risk landing in an unknown co-ordinate system, against the orders
of two E's, which will become the combined orders of all E's in
the universe, that is their decision. If you wish to be on it, that
is your decision.
"I am cutting off now. It will be no accident that E.H.Q. cannot
connect with me. I'm cutting out because I don't want to be distracted
any further. I'm trying to think."
The acid rebuff of the old E left the administrative board
hanging in a vacuum of indecision, frustration. Angry determination
to do something, anything.
They were caught between the intransigence of the E fraternity
it was their duty to serve and from whom they should be able
to expect help, and the obvious determination of Gunderson to
use this incident as his means of regaining control over the E's
and E.H.Q. for civil authority. Didn't the stupid E see the danger?
Wasn't it the same danger that men of science had always faced,
the same mistake they had always made—leaving out the human
element in a problem?
The eternal blind spot in men of science! The average man
doesn't give a tinker's damn for progress or knowledge, not really.
He wants only that he and his shall be ascendant at the center
of things, the inevitable, the only possible goal of the non-science
mind. Surely the history of science versus non-science should have
made this evident long ago! Surely there had been enough
incidents in history....
Very well, it was up to them to help the E in spite of himself.
If he refused the see the clear danger to his whole structure—and
their own ascendant position at the center of it—it was their
clear duty to protect him nonetheless.
They would send out another ship, a large one, a floating
laboratory, a miniature E.H.Q., at least to be there on the scene;
to help in any way they could, perhaps to counter the moves
Gunderson's police might make, at least to stand by.
At least, in the face of all this public clamor about Eden, to
show their concern. The chairman of the board rationalized it
masterfully, without once mentioning that their real concern was
to remain ascendant at the center of things at all costs, and thereby
maintained the tradition of all non-science endeavors.
"Gentlemen," he said in summary, "we have a grave responsibility
not only to the E structure, but to all mankind as well. In
every system, in every rule, there must be provision for the exception.
Gray is only a Junior E. Herein lies the weakness of our
position. Herein lies Gunderson's strength, his weapon for swaying
the sentiment of the people. A Junior E is not mature enough
to make the decisions affecting the life or death of fifty people.
More than that, perhaps the future progress of mankind.
"May I point out, gentlemen, that in a showdown, if it should
become necessary for us to land a ship to rescue those colonists, in
spite of the Junior's demand that we stay clear of the planet, we
will not be overriding the decision of an E, but of a boy who
has not yet proved his capacity to merit an E.
"We have to draw the line somewhere. I am forced to agree
with Gunderson on that. If we must honor the command of the
Junior E, then why not the Associate E? Why not the student E?
Why not the apprentice student E? Why not any kid in the
universe who thinks he is extra smart?
"The line of demarcation, the point at which civil control over
the individual gives way to immunity from civil control has never
been clearly drawn. We may regret that the issue has arisen at
all, but it has arisen. Gunderson's purpose is clear. He intends to
bring the E structure back under civil control. We must salvage
what we can. Perhaps if we concede his control over the Juniors
on down, we can maintain the immunity of the Senior E. We must
work to save at least that much."
The floating laboratory, which might have to become a rescue
ship, left six hours later.
Linda was on it.
There was no frustration, no uncertainty in Gunderson's mind.
His course was now clear. His observer ship had also read the
messages spelled out by the placement of naked bodies on
the grass, and in the semaphore wavings of the Junior E's arms.
The photographs taken were all the evidence he needed to prove
the morals charges he intended to bring.
It might not be wise to allow the total photographs to show
in the newspapers, on television, for there were ex-navy men here
and there who might interpret the code. But enlarged pictures
of the individuals, separated from the total, disporting themselves
in lewd, naked positions would do the job.
Clearly the police must put a stop to this. He would have every
organization in the universe dedicated to dictating the morals of
others on his side. No politician would have the guts to stand up
There remained only one thing to do. Go out and get that
Junior E, place him under arrest, bring him back for trial. Perhaps
it might be wise to let the colonists off easy—he could easily show
that it was the influence of the Junior which had made a disgusting
orgy develop there on Eden. Never mind that they were
naked before the Junior arrived. The public could always be
razzle-dazzled about the nature of the evidence, its order and
meaning. It was an old police, prosecution, and political trick to
separate a few items from the total context, but still a good one;
for the public never bothered to know the whole context of anything.
An old trick to fasten on phrases and slogans to fix an
attitude in the public mind, for a phrase or slogan was about all
the public was able to master. Anyone who had ever served on
a jury, observed its deliberations, knew that out of all the welter
of evidence, only certain isolated statements or facts, often minor
and insignificant, penetrated the juror's mind, and around these
bits he formed his conclusions. Any smart lawyer knew that, and
tried to set up his case accordingly.
His own course was clear.
His orders to the selected captain of his police ship were equally
1. Proceed at once to Eden, the scene of the crime.
2. Ignore any protests from the E ship already out there,
or any other ship E.H.Q. might have sent.
3. Ignore any signals from the Junior E on the planet.
4. Land on the planet at the site of Appletree, the main
site of the lewd and obscene crime.
5. Place Junior E Calvin Gray under arrest.
6. Place the crew of the Junior E's ship, Thomas Lynwood,
Franklin Norton, Louis LeBeau, under arrest.
7. Place any colonist who opposed the police under arrest.
8. Place the remainder of the colonists in detention under
9. Place E McGinnis under arrest if he interfered in any
way with the police in carrying out the foregoing
The police captain raised his eyebrows when he read the final
Place a Senior E under arrest?
Certainly, a Senior E. It was one thing to allow these birds to
wander around, free as air to do as they please. It was one thing
to let them get away with making such statements as "The police
attitude toward the people is the major cause of crime." It was
something else, and time the E's found it out, for them to make
any overt move to interfere with the police in their performance
Personally, he hoped the old E would be fool enough to resist.
It would strengthen his case.
The police captain obeyed the first of the orders without a
hitch. He proceeded to the scene of the crime.
He obeyed the second order. He ignored the command of E
McGinnis, received over the ship's communicator when they
arrived at the scene of the crime, to stand clear of the planet.
What policeman moving in to make an arrest for an illegal act—and
certainly running around stark naked, posing in lewd and
indecent postures in full view of the public, was an illegal act—would
pay any attention to the request of an onlooker which
amounted to "Aw, let 'em alone, copper"?
There was no communication at all from the Junior E on the
planet's surface, so the third order did not apply.
It was in trying to execute the fourth order that he ran into
He passed inside the orbits of the three other ships now
circling the planet, the police observer ship, the E McGinnis ship,
the E.H.Q. floating laboratory. He gave orders to lower his ship
into Eden's atmosphere.
The proper buttons were pushed, the proper levers pulled.
And nothing happened.
It was as if some invisible shield held him back. He could not
lower the ship into the atmosphere gently, taking the normal
precautions against crashing. Very well then, not so gently. Full
power. And nothing happened. They lowered not another inch.
A thrust. A thrust at tangent to the surface. Once past whatever
this barrier was, they could skim the surface and come back to
land on the proper site. They backed the ship farther out into
space. They made their thrust with full speed and momentum.
There was no sensation when they hit the barrier, but they
did not penetrate it. It was as if a flat stone had been skipped
across slick ice, and they shot back out into space again. The tangent
penetration would not do.
Very well, then. A direct thrust, full power, straight down. Be
prepared to put braking forces into immediate power, lest they
crash the ship at full power against the surface.
And again, no sensation. Against all natural laws of inertia, they
came to a full stop at the given level outside the atmosphere without
any feeling of jar or opposing pressure at all.
What now, Mr. Gunderson, sir?
Reluctantly, Gunderson ordered the police captain to contact
E McGinnis. E science apparently had some kind of shield which
they'd kept secret from the people—and wouldn't there be a stink
over that one, once he released that information! Contact E
McGinnis and find out!
"Why sure," E McGinnis cackled with derisive laughter, "sure
there's a shield. I didn't make it. I wouldn't know how. No, I
don't know what's causing it. But I'll tell you what I think. I think
They've caught the specimen They want. There's an E down
"So, naturally, the trap door is closed."
Cal didn't know, couldn't have known, that his efforts to signal
McGinnis not to land were unnecessary. Didn't know, couldn't
have known, that he himself was the specimen They had hoped
to catch. That having caught what They wanted They would
naturally close the door to the trap to prevent any possibility of
escape, as yet, or any interference with their experiment.
From the moment he walked away from the grassy slope where
he had signaled the outer ship, he moved and thought as someone
detached from ordinary existence. As he walked away from the
slope, ignoring the frantic signals from the ship out in space, he
felt he was also walking out of a shell of superficial cerebration
and into a deeper sense of reality. It was as if, in spite of E
training, for the first time in his life, he could commit himself
wholly, in all areas of his being, to the consideration of a problem.
His conviction was complete that the ship could give him nothing
he needed, that all Earth's mechanical science could give him
nothing he needed. That it could not provide the key to unlock
the door which led into this new area of reality. He must find,
must define, some new concept of man's relation to the universe.
He must again travel that road, that million-year-long road man
had traveled in trying to determine his position in reality.
He wandered down to the river, climbed to the top of a great
boulder that overhung a pool, and sat down with his feet hanging
over the edge. He watched some young colonists wade through
the pool to drive fish into the shallows where they could pin them,
with their legs, catch them with their hands. In their need for
protein, the colonists were finding, as many Earth peoples had
found, raw fish were excellent in flavor and texture as food.
At the beginning of the road man had traveled first there was
awareness, awareness of self as something separate from environment.
There was awareness of self-strength, ability to do certain
things to and with that environment. There was awareness of self
always at the center of things, and therefore awareness of his
importance in the scheme of things. But there was awareness of
There was awareness of things happening to his environment
which he, in all his strength and importance, could not do. Awareness
gives rise to reason, reason gives rise to rationalization. If
things happened in his environment which he himself could not
do, then there must be something stronger and more important
To be ascendant at the center of things, to remain ascendant,
meant that all things of lesser importance, outside the center,
must be made subservient to him, else that ascendancy was lost.
And if they would not assume positions of subservience, they
must be destroyed.
If there were unseen beings, stronger and more important than
he, who could do unexplained things to his environment; then it
was plain that he must assume positions of subservience to those
beings, lest he himself be destroyed.
So man created his gods in his own image, with his own
Was this a wrong turning of the road? No-o.... Awareness
carries with it its commands and penalties. A problem must have
an answer. Conscious and willful beings beyond his own strength
and importance became the only answer open to him at that
stage of his mental evolution. And served the important need of
bringing order to chaos. Let all things he could not do, and therefore
could not understand, be attributed to those higher beings.
Without such an answer, awareness without resolution would
have driven him into madness. Without such an answer, man
could not have survived to remain aware.
But answers also carry in themselves their commands and their
penalties. The penalty being that when one thinks he has the
answer he stops looking for it. The command being that he must
conduct himself in accord with the answer.
The long, long road that led him nowhere. That today still leads
untold millions nowhere. For the penalty of a wrong answer is
failure to solve the problem. That non-science had failed to provide
any answer beyond the primitive one was self-evident.
To some, then, it became evident that the question must be
reopened. Through the long written history of man, here and
there, by accident often, sometimes by cerebration, the use of
the brain with which he was endowed, man found on occasion
he could do things to his environment that heretofore had been
the province of the gods—and in the doing had not become a
god! To the courageous, the brave, the daring, the foolhardy
questions then that demanded new answers.
Perhaps the most daring and courageous question of all time
was asked by Copernicus: What if man is not at the center of
the universe, the reason for its creation?
He personally escaped the penalties for asking it. The question
was too new, too revolutionary for the men of his day to grasp,
for the non-science leaders, secure in their ascendancy at the
center of things, to see in it the threat to their ascendancy. It was
on his followers, those who saw sense in the question, that the
wrath of non-science descended. Non-science used the only
method it had ever devised to achieve the only result it had
ever been able to countenance—torture and force to make dissidents
kneel in subservience.
But the question had been asked! And once asked, it could
not be erased!
Still, it was almost an accidental question. For the method of
science, as something understood and communicable, as a calculated
point of view, had not yet been discovered. The key that
would unlock its door had not yet been found.
Cal lay back on the rock to bathe in the warm rays of Ceti,
almost to doze, yet with thought running clear and unimpeded.
The splashing and the laughter of the colonists below the rock
were no more than accompanying music.
The key which opened the door to physical science was not
discovered until 1646 by a bunch of loafers, ne'er-do-wells,
beatniks, who hung around the coffee shops of London. Later,
because non-science always persecutes those who dare ask questions
and thereby demonstrate some subversion to subservience,
many had to flee to Oxford which, at that time, was sanctuary
for those who differed from popular thought.
As he lay there drinking in the sun, the peacefulness, he sent
his vision back through the card index of his mind to find the
reference, the key that opened the door to physical science, the
pregnant point of view that would give birth to a whole new
concept of man's relationship to the universe. He found the
passages in Thomas Sprat's History of the Royal Society of
"... to make faithful records of all the works of nature, or art
which can come within their reach ... They have stud'd to make
it, not only an enterprise of one season, or of some lucky opportunity;
but a business of time; a steddy, a lasting, a popular, an
He stirred restlessly and changed his position to lay his head
on one arm. Not quite, not yet the key. Ah, here it was, perhaps
the most significant sentence ever written by man.
"They have attempted to free it from the artifice, and humors,
and passions of sects; to render it an instrument whereby mankind
may obtain a dominion over Things, and not only over one
That was it. That was the essence of its difference from non-science,
for the only method ever discovered until then was the
non-science method of making its judgments prevail over all
Once this answer was discovered, it too could not be erased
in spite of all the efforts of non-science. With that answer, man
had come this far.
Could it be that science, as with non-science, was only a partial
answer? Only another stage? Only a section of the road man
must travel? Something as limited in its way as non-science was
limited? Something too narrow to contain the whole of reality?
Something also to be left behind? A milestone passed, instead
of the goal?
What comes after science? What new door must be opened
into a still newer point of view? What pregnant new concept of
his relationship to reality must man now discover before he could
continue his journey down the long road toward total comprehension?
He could ask the question, but it was not the right question;
for it contained no hint of an answer. He felt an irritation in himself,
almost as if some teacher in the past had shaken his head
For a moment he welcomed the distracting shout from one of
the colonists, and sat up. In the shallows of the river one of the
men had caught a foot long fish and was holding it up in his hands.
Delightedly, the others acknowledged his victory, and renewed
their efforts. He lay back down again, and stretched his cramped
Too fast! He had come down the long, long road too fast. He
had missed something, something early. Something man had
known in pre-science, and had forgotten in science.
These colonists. Would they grow in awareness? Now they
seemed only to be a part of their environment, without curiosity,
their fears of even the day before forgotten. Wiped away, as
though it had never been, was their memory of a previous existence
to this. They were wholly at one with their environment—unaware.
Were they to begin the long road? To telescope its distance?
Would they be able to continue living without peopling the trees,
the streams, the clouds, the winds, with spirits benign and
vengeful—created in their own image? Could they continue to live
alone in the universe?
Yes, that was the thing he had missed. Loneliness.
In separating himself from the animals, man had cut off his
kinship with them. And so he found companionship with the gods.
And cutting himself off from the gods ...
Was man the only thing aware throughout the universe? What
purpose then his exploration of it? What might he find that he
had not already found?
Already, like a minor thread almost unheard in the symphony
of exploding exploration, the questions of the artists were already
finding themselves woven into music, painting, literature.
"Are we alone? In all this glittering, sterile universe, are there
none other than we who are aware?"
The theme would expand as the purposelessness of colonizing
still more and more worlds became wider known. The minor
would become major, the recessive dominant. The endless aim
of non-science to make all others subservient had lost its purpose
for those who could still think. The dominion over things instead
of people, the goal of science—was that also to lose its purpose
for those who could still think? Until man, defeated by purposelessness,
sank back in apathy, lost the very willingness to live—and
What if some other awareness did inhabit the universe, sentient—and
lonely? What if, farther along in its explorations, it was
feeling that apathy? Facing that dissolution?
When one is lonely, the sensible thing is to seek companionship!
To discover in companionship purpose not apparent to the
alone—or at least hope to discover it.
For companionship there must be communication. And yet the
exasperation, the futility of trying to communicate with a friend
who always interpreted everything one said and did as meaning
something entirely different from the intent.
Some other friend was the normal answer. But what if there
were no other? Wouldn't one extra effort, a final attempt to break
through that closed mind be made?
Communication, then. That was wanted. He would try. But if
Their frameworks were so different from his that They misinterpreted
all his efforts?
He was interrupted by the soft pad of footsteps, bare feet on
grass that sprang up to leave no sign it had been trod upon. A
young colonist and his wife, hand in hand, laughing gaily, were
coming toward him. The man was carrying a fresh-caught fish.
They came to a stop at the base of his rock and looked up at
him, the Ceti light glinting on their smiling faces.
"We gave Louie a fish because he said it was our duty," the
young man said. "I don't remember why it is our duty. Perhaps
it is our duty to give you one too."
At least they were being impartial.
When he had pulled the scaled skin of the fish away from the
flesh, the flesh away from the bones, and eaten his fill, Cal lay
back on the rock again, to doze, to continue his search for a means
He was now sharply aware of Their presence, of Their urgency,
of Their long patience. Awareness! Once man had got over his
greedy delight in occupying more and more of the universe simply
because he could, to protect himself against the cosmic loneliness
that must follow, he too would be searching for awareness.
But he would define it in his own terms, and pass it by if it
did not meet those terms.
That there was some other intelligence which had found man
instead, Cal did not doubt. The experiment of Eden, the
manipulation of natural laws, the denial of physical tools—for what
purpose? To clear away the debris which prevented communication
of awareness as They defined it?
There was a trace, a minor trace of awareness in man not
dependent upon the tools and artifacts of physical science—extra-sensory
perception, psi. Underdeveloped, because with physical
tools its development had been made unnecessary? Because having
found the answers with physical tools, man stopped looking
for answers other than these?
Was there, then, a science of controlling things, forces, without
the use of physical tools? Was there a road of transition from the
crude manipulation of things and forces through tools to a
manipulation without them? There was precedent in man's science.
The elaborate wirings of the first bulky and crude electronic sets,
that gave way to a printed diagram of such wirings on a card
to obtain the same result?
A step farther? The visual picture, the mental image of the
diagram to obtain the same result? But how?
To one whose total orientation is through the use of physical
tools (for the material printed on the card diagram was the
physical carrier of the current) how to cause the current to follow
the mental image of that diagram? With voice and music bathing
one's senses simply because one thought of the diagram of a receiver?
He felt like the turkey come up against the obstruction of a
fence too low to justify the effort of flying over it. Instead of flying,
he was walking around and around, looking for an opening, walking
in an endless circle.
Excitedly, he climbed down from the rock and headed for a
patch of bare sand at the river's edge.
In every framework of thought which man had ever devised,
the circle was prominent, vital. It played its part in every creed
of every race, of every time. It was as essential to the ancient arts
of magic as to the current methods of science. It played its part
in the movement of planets, the shape of stars, perhaps the essence
of the total universe.
Man might be too didactic in requiring that awareness develop
a physical science comparable to his own, but surely awareness,
whatever form it took, would know the circle.
He sank down on his haunches beside the smooth sand, and
with the tip of his finger he quickly drew a circle.
The furrow, scratched in the sand, did not close or smooth out!
He sat back and waited. Nothing happened. It was almost as
if the invisible intelligence were saying, "All right. You are aware
of a circle. That was obvious to us from your artifacts. What else
do you know?"
He leaned forward, and as nearly as he could estimate, he
dotted the center of the circle with a finger, then scratched a
radius to the perimeter. It stayed. To one side he drew another
line, approximating the radius and in parenthesis he drew a small
2. Beside this he wrote R². He drew an equals sign. He scratched
the pi sign.
Then he drew another circle and with the palm of his hand
he smoothed all its interior. That should be plain enough. The
symbols stayed. They understood his mathematics, then. The
equation seemed undisturbed, yet there was something wrong
with it. He had to look closely at the sand before he saw what
The = had changed to : !
Why had they changed the meaning by substituting "proportionate
to" for "equals"? He felt a flash of exasperation. Well sure,
without tools he could not draw a perfect circle, nor two of them
entirely equal. It was pedantic of them to split hairs over that?
He must practice, without tools, to draw a perfect circle?
Or was that running around inside his low fence?
He looked down at the sand, and saw the entire scratching was
now smoothed out. Apparently he was on the wrong track. Hadn't
got what they meant.
He wrote again in the sand: "pi = 3.14159265...."
Again = changed to : .
Again he felt his flash of exasperation. It must be obvious by
his string of dots that he knew pi had never been exactly resolved.
They were being too pedantic. He must exactly resolve it? Yet
the numbers could be continued to infinity and never exactly resolved.
He looked down again, and the equation was gone.
Wrong track again.
He sat forward, hugged his knees, and stared into the water.
The equation had never been exactly resolved, yet man used
it as a constant, an absolute. An obvious fallacy. Was the difference
between physical science and psi science based in this
insignificant difference in exactness? Try something else. See
what happens. There was an equation which had proved its effectiveness,
upon which the whole science of atomics was based.
"E = MC²," he wrote.
Again = changed to : .
What were they saying? That the fallacy lay in using the equals
sign? That the science of psi was one of proportion. But equals
was one of the possible proportions. Had we become walled in
our low fence because we were too dependent upon the exact
balance? Been satisfied to find that answer, and therefore stopped
looking for the possibilities inherent in unbalanced equations?
He looked down at the symbols again half expecting to see
them erased. But they were still there. So he was starting on the
right track. But wait.
Before his eyes he saw the C² smooth out, disappear. Only
"E : M" remained. Were they saying that dependence upon
constants was the low fence? That man must learn to do without
his firm absolutes? That was the ultimate in relativity: Energy is
proportionate to matter. But so all-inclusive as to be too vague
For more than three centuries now, controversy had raged over
Einstein's use of C² in his expression. Some held that it was a
product of his time, that he was able to make only one step beyond
classical physics where all things must be related to a fixed value.
Others held that its inclusion was a deliberate fallacy; that
Einstein, by his other work, had shown he knew it was a fallacy;
that, tongue in cheek, he inserted it into his equation in full
knowledge that his fellow scientists of his day could not even bear
to think of the awesome concept of things without orientation
to an absolute; that he knew they would reject him entirely, refuse
even to consider his thought unless he catered that much to
The need of the absolute was not mathematical or scientific,
but emotional. Man was still tortured by his determination to be
the center of things, himself the fixed absolute! The need of a
familiar, fixed cave where he might run and hide, close himself
in securely when the chaos of storm outside became too frightening
to bear. The need of a fixed absolute, whether in philosophy
or science, a fixed spot that would not shift.
The science of psi, then, was based in a willingness to shift?
He looked down at the equation, to see if he were still on the
It had changed again. Now it read "EδM": The form of the
function of energy to matter is variable.
Quickly, another change. "Df(em)": The form of the function
and the independent variable of the function vary together.
Still another: "E = f(M)": There is a general relationship of
energy to matter.
And then: "F(e,m) = 0": There is a general unspecified relationship
between energy and matter.
He slapped his hand down on the sand in frustration.
"All right," he said. "You've made your point. And it means
about as much as if I said to the turkey, 'All you have to do is
There was a stir behind him. He turned his head and saw
Louie. A deep sigh, almost a sob came from Louie as he stared
down at the symbols in the sand.
"They talked to you," Louie said brokenly. "I wanted only to
serve Them, but it was to you They talked."
And all the tragedy of his life was contained therein.
Cal sprang to his feet, and put his arms around the other man's
shoulders. The two of them, the bitter and the sympathetic, looked
down at the sand. The symbols were still changing, and now read
"There is an infinity of relationships between matter and energy,
an infinity of forms to be taken by matter as you control the energy."
The signs were wiped out, and the sense of Their presence was
gone. Cal felt the withdrawal, the sense of a lesson being over.
He did not regret it, he had enough to think about. But first,
there was Louie, racked with broken sobbing.
Here was a man whose life had been a search for certainties,
absolutes that would not shift under the weight of his questioning.
No doubt in his youth he had turned to the religions of the day—and
found them a tissue of rationalizations without contact in
reality. Then to science—and found it, too, constantly shifting in
its interpretations, making new evaluations as evidence discounted
the old. The shock of landing on Eden to drive him back into
childhood interpretations again—at last, the clear evidence that
had been denied his belief in youth.
Wholehearted in his belief of Them, yet it was not to him They
"Louie," Cal said slowly. "If you were lonely, very lonely, if
you had searched through the years for companionship, and
thought you might have found it, would it please you to have
that companion drop to his knees, grovel before you? Would this
be your idea of companionship?
"What manner of monstrous egotism would require that? What
but the incredible vanity of primitive man, to whom life meant
nothing more than conquering or being conquered, could imagine
such conduct would be pleasing to another intelligence?
"We are men, Louie. If, in our loneliness, we found another
intelligence, wouldn't we want an equal exchange instead of
abasement? The use of that intelligence to know, to understand,
instead of a denial of it?"
Louie twisted out of Cal's embracing arm, and ran stumbling
toward the depths of the forest.
For another week, perhaps ten days or more, since time measurement
had lost its meaning, Cal lived among the colonists, watched
their complete retrogression into a state of unawareness. Even the
speech which they had retained seemed now to thin and falter as
the simplifying of their idea-content no longer required its use.
Only Tom and Jed seemed to retain their orientation to the
past, the clarity of awareness. These two spent much time together,
seemed always available when Cal needed them, yet did not intrude
upon his thought. Frank now seemed one with the colonists.
Louie lived on the outskirts of the herd, near the colonists but
not of them. He had ceased to exhort, warn, command, argue.
His face was closed, told nothing of what he was thinking.
And he had ceased to demand his tithe as intercessor. He was
gathering his own food, catching his own fish.
And he seldom let Cal out of his sight.
Tom and Jed helped as best they could by maintaining contact
with the old reality. They spent much of the daytime with the
colonists. At night they turned their faces to the dark sky to watch
the ships, now grown to four, bathed in the light of Ceti like a
constellation of bright stars above them. They read the intermittent
flashes of light from McGinnis, and from the E.H.Q. laboratory.
McGinnis told of the police ship's attempts to break through
the barrier surrounding Eden, and its failure. The laboratory told
of Linda's presence on board, and now and then flashed out a
message to Cal from Linda of her love, her nearness, her faith
in him, her desire to be with him, her patience in waiting.
McGinnis told of the arrival of a fifth ship, carrying Gunderson
in person. He had been unable to believe his police captain. Unable
to believe that the ship could not land at will. He had come
in person to take charge, and apparently fumed his frustration in
idleness, unable to do anything with the situation, unwilling to
go back to Earth and leave it alone.
Tom and Jed told Cal the content of these messages, but to
Cal the reports of the police activity seemed noises heard from
far away and unrelated to himself. The messages from Linda
seemed the haunting strains of a song remembered from long ago.
For his mind was wholly enrapt with the problem. He had
been given the key—reality is a matter of proportion, change the
concept of proportion and you change the material form—but he
had not found the lock and the door it would open. He knew it,
but he couldn't do it.
Perhaps Tom might help? Tom was well-grounded in math, had
to be for his job as pilot.
"Look, Tom," Cal said one morning after they had given him
the night's messages from the ships. He squatted on the ground
and brushed away some leaves from an area of dirt. "Watch the
equals sign." He scratched a formula in the dirt:
"2 + 2 = 4"
The = changed to : . Then to δ. Then through the series of
Tom leaped to his feet from the log where he had been sitting.
"That's crazy," he exclaimed. "It isn't just proportionate, it isn't
variable. It equals."
Jed was looking from one to the other, obviously at a loss.
"Well," Cal said drily, "I'm much more interested in what
They have to say than in trying to convince Them that They're
"But if everything were only proportionate and variable," Tom
argued, "then you'd have nothing fixed, constant. Why the proportionate
relationship might be dependent solely upon choice.
Nothing would be solid, dependable."
"Not even the footprints under your feet," Cal answered softly.
"Not a house, nor a field of grain, nor a spaceship. Simply alter
the choice of proportion—and they aren't there anymore."
Throw a key at the feet of a turkey and it is useless to him. Show
him the lock it fits, and it is still useless without the knowledge
of how to insert the key and turn it. Unlock it for him, and still
it is useless without the knowledge of how to push or pull the
This was the essence of why so few mastered the simple steps
of physical science, the essence of why so few were able to get
beyond step two of E science. Anyone could disagree with a
statement, but in answer to "What if it not be true, how then to
account for the phenomena?" most bogged down at that point,
unable to demonstrate with evidence the validity of some other
Everyone knew the equation E = MC², but few could implement
it to build an atomic power plant.
Perhaps the reactions of Tom, that taking away the concept of
a balanced equation destroyed all certainty, and therefore was
not to be countenanced, was a reflection of his own reaction, willing
though he might be to consider something else.
In his wanderings about the island, picking fruits and nuts,
stems and leaves, catching fish when he hungered, drinking the
clear water of the stream when he thirsted, yet so enrapt that
he was unaware he was taking care of his body's needs, Cal built
up whole structures of alien philosophies on the nature of the
universe, and saw them topple of their own weight.
Until, at last, he realized the basic flaw in all his reasoning.
He was too well-grounded in the essence of physical science, and
all physical science was built on the balanced equation. Even in
trying to consider the unbalanced equation, he had been attempting
to determine the exact nature of the unbalance, and to supply
it as an X factor on the other side of the equation to restore
To restore balance was to maintain the status quo of physical
reality. To turn the key in the lock, to open the door, he must
change the physical reality to balance the equation, rather than
supply the X factor to keep reality unchanged.
But how to do it still eluded him.
At times, as if seeing partial diagrams, he seemed very close
to a solution. At times it seemed the printed card of an electronic
wiring was necessary only because the human mind could not
visualize the whole without that aid, that music did not come
through because in incomplete visualization some little part was
left dangling, unconnected. And the long history of non-science
belief in the magic properties of cabalistic signs and designs rose
up to taunt him, to goad him with the possibility that perhaps
man had once come close to the answer of how to control
physical properties without the use of tools; that the development
of a physical science had taken man down a sidetrack instead
of farther along the direct route toward his goal.
Or that man had once been shown, and never understood, or
forgot. Yet kept alive the memory that physical shifts could be
changed if he could only draw the right design.
Through his wanderings, one fact gradually intruded upon his
mind. It seemed the farther inland he roamed, the closer he
came to grasping the problem; the nearer the seashore, the more
it eluded him.
One morning he looked up at the glittering heights of Crystal
Palace Mountain, and suddenly he resolved to climb it. Perhaps
the winds of the mountain being stronger, the fuzziness of his
thought would be blown away? Perhaps the arrangement of the
crystalline structures, the arches and spires, might catch his brain
waves, modulate them, transform them, strengthen them, feed
them back, himself a part of the design instead of outside it?
In the framework of physical science a nonsense notion. But
what harm to try?
He sought out Tom and Jed, the two who would miss him, the
two who would care.
"There ain't no water up there, far as I know," Jed said. "And
you can't carry none, now. Me and a party scouted the mountain
once. It's mighty purty, but useless. The quartz ain't valuable
enough to cover its shipping costs back to Earth. The ground
is too rocky to farm. Not much in the way of food growing there.
So we never went back."
"The scientists surveyed it when the planet was first discovered,"
Cal said. "One of the first places they went because it was so
outstanding. But they found nothing interesting and useful either.
Still, I think I'll go."
"Well," Jed said with a shrug. "You can't get lost. If you should
lose your bearings, just walk downhill and you'll come to food
and water. Follow the shore line until you get back, either
direction. And, I reckon, the way things go now, you ain't goin'
to hurt yourself. We won't worry about you none. We're all gettin'
along all right, so you needn't worry about us either."
"You want me to come with you, Cal?" Tom asked.
"No," Cal answered, "I think better if I'm alone."
He left them then, went past some colonists who were picking
berries and eating them, and on up the valley that ran between
It was only a few miles to the foothills, a gradual rise of the
valley floor, a gradual shallowing and narrowing of the stream,
a gradual drawing in of the spokelike ridges until the valley at
last became a ravine. The morning air was clear and still, the
scent of flowers and ripening fruit was sweet.
Before he left the ravine to begin his climb he ate some of the
fruit, and washed the lingering sweet taste from his mouth with
a long, cool drink of water from one of the many springs that fed
He looked up at the mountain above him, and his eye picked
out the most likely approach to its summit. It was not a high
mountain, not in terms of those tremendous, tortured skin folds
of other planets. Hardly more than a high hill in terms of those.
Nor, as far as he could see, would the climb be difficult or
The fanciful thought of Mount Olympus on Earth came into
his mind, although this one was not so inaccessible, so parched
and barren. The gods of Greece would have found this a pleasanter
place, although they might not have lived so long in the minds of
man, since the mountain was more easily climbed, and therefore
man would have been the more easily convinced after repeated
explorations that no gods lived there after all.
Would the Greeks, as with the later religions, have placed the
site of heaven farther and farther away, retreating reluctantly,
as man explored the earlier site and found no heaven there?
Retreat after retreat until at last the whole idea was patently
Dead are the gods, forever dead, and yet—to what may man
now turn in rapture? In ecstasy? In communion? What, in all
physical science, filled the deep human need of these expressions?
The climb of the first slope, up to the crest of the ridge he
intended to follow, was quickly done. He turned there and looked
behind him, at the valley of the colonists below, and far down
where the valley merged into the sea, and far on out at the
hazy purple line of another island. As he started to turn back
again, to resume his climb, his eye caught a flash of something
moving in the ravine below him, sunlight on brown, bare skin.
He waited until he caught another glimpse through the trees.
As he had suspected it was Louie, still trying to keep him always
His first impulse was to call out, to wait for Louie, ask him to
join in the climb. He discarded the impulse. His need was to get
away from all others. And sympathetic and compassionate though
he might be, the confusion in Louie's mind seemed to intrude upon
his own. Nor had his earlier attempts to comfort Louie met success.
Let Louie follow if he willed. Perhaps the clean air would
clear his mind as well. He feared no physical harm, even if Louie's
tortured mind intended it. There were no tools to strike at him
from a distance. Even a boulder pushed from a height above him
would not strike, for that would be the physical use of a tool
to gain an end. He feared no bodily attack from ambush, for
his own strength and knowledge were dependable.
He began his climb again, followed the crest of the ridge where
it swept upward to buttress the side of the mountain. The going
was not difficult. The trees and shrubs grew thinner here, and
provided clear spaces for him to wind among them. The stones,
at first a problem to his bare feet, bothered him less and less
until he forgot them. He felt no physical discomfort, neither from
tiredness nor thirst, nor from the branches scraping his bare skin,
nor anything to drag his mind into trivialities.
Nor tortured theories such as had plagued him in trying to
reason out the new concepts of a proportionate, variable reality.
Instead, there was a sense of well being, anticipated completeness,
a merging of the often quite separated areas of thought,
intuition, and appreciation.
Although at no great height, now the trees no longer grew so
tall that they obscured his vision of the heights above. As he
climbed they were replaced by shrubs shoulder high, then waist
high, then merely low, creeping growths which his feet avoided
without mental direction.
A curve of the ridge brought him to the first outcroppings of
crystallized quartz. On them he saw no signs of scar left by the
geologist's hammer, no imperfections where nodes may have been
broken away. They were complete, singularly unweathered.
There was no path, nor hint of one, nor sign that either scientist
or colonist had ever passed this way.
The ridge swung back into line, and still he climbed, effortlessly
and without consciousness of passing time. Time and space and
matter seemed to have receded far into the background of
consciousness. Man's star-strewn civilization was no more than a
dream. It was as if he, alone and complete, occupied the whole of
the universe, encompassed it as he was encompassed by it.
Yet not alone! Their presence, which seemed so evanescent on
the valley floor, was closer now, more clearly sensed. Almost as
if, at any instant, the veil of blindness would disperse and They
would stand revealed.
Now up the final slope of the mountain he threaded his way
through higher outcroppings of a more perfectly formed quartz,
with deeper amethystine hue scintillating in the Ceti sun's light,
diffracted not only in the purples but into greens and reds and
As he came around the base of one of these, there towering
above he caught his first full view of the greater spires, pinnacles,
buttresses, and arches of the mountain's crest.
It was the crystal palace.
The climb had been steep, steeper than it had appeared from
below, yet his breathing was not labored, his mouth was not dry
from thirst, nor were his muscles protesting the effort. He did
not need to stop and rest, to gather his energy for the last steep
assault upon the peak.
Far below him he saw Louie toiling up a slope, then dropping
with every appearance of exhaustion when he came to each
level place. Still he would rest no more than a minute, and
always his head was turned to keep sight of Cal above him. He
would push himself to his knees, then to his feet; and slowly,
step by step, begin his climb again.
As if from far away, Cal felt a pity at the uselessness of the
self-torture, the senseless need of man to punish himself for the
guilt of imagined wrongs; and felt a wonder if the strangely
developed moral sense of man had not, after all, done more harm
than good. For in the ordered universe, where everything fitted
into the whole, what could be either good or bad, right or wrong,
except as a reflection of man's inadequacies in his imaginings?
Rightness and good, wrongness and evil, these could not possibly
be other than assessments of furtherance or threat to the ascendancy
of me-and-mine at the center of things, and had no meaning
beyond that context.
He turned from watching Louie, pitying him, and made the
last sharp climb with no more effort than the whole had been.
Now he drew near to the towering structures of the crest, now
he was beside them. Now he walked beneath and through an
arch which seemed almost a gothic entrance.
And stood transfixed in ecstasy.
Magnificent the dreams of man that took form in steel and
stone and glass, yet none matched the lightness, the grace, the
intricacy, the sublime simplicity of these interwoven crystalline
structures where light from the noonday sun separated prismatically
until it filled the air with myriads of living, darting,
colored sparks of fire above him. Where the breeze that blew
through the vibrating spires made blended sounds the ear could
barely endure in rapture.
As once, in childhood, he had stood in a grove of giant trees
that laced their limbs in gothic splendor above him, now again
he stood, lost in time and space and being, lost in vision and in
music which neither had nor needed form nor beginning nor end.
And knew it was a simple tool; Their concession to the mind of
man, to bridge the gap between Their minds and his.
Without wondering more, he sank down upon the mossy turf
of the floor and lay supine to gaze upward, to follow line to
blended line until they seemed mirrored into infinity.
The darting lights above him whirled, spiraled up, then down,
clockwise, then counterclockwise, reminding him ... reminding
... the internal structure of crystals....
Across the universe, two billion years ago, there too a planet
coalesced from the mutually attracted vortices of twisted space;
gases compelled by gravitational forces solidifying to hardened
matter, forming a crust over a molten core. In the soupy atmosphere
of metallic salts and gases, tortured and rent by electrical
storms of incalculable fury, among the vibrating crystals one
formed that was aware.
Not in the sharp awareness of later times, but at the first only
ill-defined, perhaps no more than the awareness of acid chains of
molecules that formed into non-crystalline viscid protoplasm on
another planet across the universe. No distinct line of cleavage
where affinity to other chemicals left off and sentient selectivity
began marked the distinction here as in that protoplasm.
As with its cousin across the universe, the one-celled amoeba,
these crystals too were sensitive to light, to heat, to cold—to food.
Ill-defined, but distinct already from the non-sentient crystals
about them, these life forms grew through absorbing from the
rich and soupy atmosphere those elements necessary to growth,
to branching, to cleavage into new individuals.
What is awareness? At what point even in protoplasmic life
does it appear? The amoeba avoids pain, seeks food, reproduces
itself, and blunders blindly through its environment in search
for condition more favorable to its continuance.
In the monotony of a purposeless existence, most humans do
no more than that.
Must awareness, too, be defined in terms of the consciousness
of me-and-mine? Defined only by what me-and-mine can feel,
know? A protoplasmic growth feeling awareness, excluding all
possibility of awareness in other kinds of growth because they
are not a part of me-and-mine, therefore too inferior to know
Each crystal structure has its own vibration characteristic, and
on that planet, in time, one special vibratory rate knew awareness
of self. Mutation here too gave added complexity to the structure,
and self-awareness took on that added growth of awareness of
Through eons of time, and the mutations brought by time,
awareness of self and surroundings grew into awareness of wider
peripheries, to sensing their world, its structure, its nature.
Another mutant leap and there was comprehension of other
worlds, of other stars. Theirs was a vibratory awareness, directly
akin to the vibrating fields of force which compose the material
universe, and the vibrations of fields of force can be altered. To
change their surroundings to a more suitable environment
through vibration rates of things led surely to negation of distance.
To change from crystal form to fields of energy and back again
combined with negation of distance—they too spread out and out
among the stars.
At first it was enough. But awareness is never still. Questions
In all the universe were they the only sentient thing? Did any
cry but theirs rise to the stars, seeking to know? Because of the
nature of their being their search was unconcerned with the
outer shape of things which could be changed by them at will,
but rather with the inner vibratory rate which would signal
They found no more than unconscious interaction of forces.
Water runs down hill without knowing that it does, without the
internal structure to provide the vibratory rate which would permit
For long eras they too were imprisoned within the confines of a
me-and-mine envisioning, and it took a major leap for them to
conceive that other structures than the crystalline might have a
form of awareness. Alien to their kind, perhaps, yet a kind which
must be acknowledged.
For they found something, at last, in a viscid non-crystalline
On one distant planet this substance was already differentiated
and specialized to a high degree. From the simplest to the most
complex of its organization there were degrees of awareness, and
in the most complex of these there was undeniable evidence of
sentience outside of self.
Joy! Unparalleled ecstasy!
Recognition is not wisdom. With the unwisdom of inexperience
in communicating with an unlike thing, not realizing that the
values of their kind of awareness might not be the values of this
differing kind, they rushed in with all their powers and forces, a
joyful rapturous pyrotechnical display of material manipulation
to show this new life form that they too were aware—to communicate
that the loneliness of one might now be softened by the
presence of the other.
And man fell down to the ground and groveled his face in the
His awareness was of the outer shapes of things, his security lay
in adapting himself to those shapes, his certainties lay in the
dependability of those shapes. A rock was a rock.
But no! The crystals were delighted that they had brought
something which they could share with this new life form. The
rock could be a tree! See!
And lo, the rock was a tree.
And the people were sore afraid.
For that which had been certain and sure was no longer so.
This mountain wall which had formed an impassable barrier to
migration into a new and richer valley was rent asunder, so!
And beyond, the new valley beckoned. But the people huddled in
their caves and dared not venture forth.
The vibrating entities, no longer dependent upon their
crystalline forms, withdrew to confer among themselves. To one
life form, awareness composed of the outer shape of things, the
relationship of those shapes, security in the unchanging shape.
To the other life form, awareness composed of the inner vibration,
the relationships of those vibrations, with outer shapes changed
at will, and therefore meaningless.
Yet even this protoplasmic life must see the changing shapes
of things. The clouds that formed and disappeared; the seed
that became root and stem and leaf and flower; the infant that
became man, and man that decomposed as corpse. Surely this life
form must see an inner cause! Surely they must see that even
the permanent rock changed slowly into dust, that the eternal
sea was restless, never still; that stars moved in the vault of
heavens, warmth changed to cold and night to day. How did they
account for changes in these outer forms if not by inner cause?
They changed the shapes of things themselves, these men; the
seed ground into meal, the moving animal shot down with stick
or stone and stilled and changed to food, the moving of the smaller
rocks, erection of a dwelling made of poles and thatch to change
environment for the man inside. Change, then, man knew; why
fear the greater change, the easier one? Why tug and lift and
strain to move the boulder from the path, when all was needed
was to shift proportion in one tiny way, rebalance the equation of
relationship with one slight thought, and lo, the stone no longer
barred the way?
Too long ago, lost in the distant past, the crystals had forgot
their own once-orientation of all other things to me-and-mine,
forgot to credit it to man. To lift the boulder with one's strength
to serve a purpose was within the ken of man, a thing that he
could do. To see it lifted, moved, without his strength, bespoke a
greater strength than his, and purpose that he could not understand.
And man fell to his knees in fear and awe.
For man knew only one relation to all things—to conquer if he
could, and force acknowledgment of superior strength and purpose.
To kill if that acknowledgment was not given. To survive
by giving that acknowledgment to a stronger one than he.
Man groveled in the dust, the only pattern of survival that he
knew when strength beyond his own was shown. But even while
he knelt, to scheme a way that he-and-his might find ascendancy
in future days. The one invariable pattern persisting from the
cave man dressed in furs to diplomat in striped pants, the only
pattern possible while me-and-mine ascendant is the aim and
To show another pattern then, the crystals aim. Ascendancy
of me-and-mine was meaningless, belonged to orders of awareness
lower than intelligence that they could meet in partnership.
Instruct them, then. No joy or purpose in conquering them. No
companionship in these disgusting grovelings. Show them the
inner forces that controlled the outer shapes of things.
Once crystals, now divorced from hardened form, the outer
shape of things was no longer a consideration in their life; but
for this form of life, still dependent for that life upon the
maintenance of material form, no doubt the shapes and forms of
things were paramount to them. Well then, show them the true
relationship, sketch out upon the sands the diagram of how the
forces that control the shapes of things are interwoven, interact.
Before the kneeling men, the cabalistic diagrams took shape,
and lo, a spring of water flowed from dry and barren stone.
But man saw only shape of diagram, its cabalistic lines and
form. A sacred thing, a magic thing, a sign that he might draw
with finger in the air or in the sand, protection from the evil
forces that surrounded him.
The sentient fields of force withdrew. Too soon, too soon. Man
was not ready for communication. Too soon, too soon.
But man did not forget, the memory lived on. And fathers
spoke to sons, and made the outer forms of gestures, drew the
cabalistic signs, and told of magic things and powers that these
signs could do. To some, one diagram was shown, a way to build
a house of stone that better weathered the storms of Earth. The
house of stone became a holy place, a thing existing in its own
right, and not, as was intended, an example of one use to which
this arrangement of forces might be put.
And to some other man another diagram was shown, this time
to slay an animal for food. And men fought wars over these
differing symbols, each side determined to make its symbol
ascendant over the other.
Deep within the Asian land where contact had been made, the
memories lived on, and some of the meaning of the diagrams
beyond their outer shape had gained sway. The racial memory
persisted, and in the latter Pleistocene epoch the knowledge of
altering shapes through force of mind became a racial memory,
coalesced into cults of belief, degenerated into forms and phrases;
but from generation to generation the memory was kept alive
that once, when the world was new, the form of things was indeed
changed by thought. This holy man, far away and long ago, had
pointed his finger at a tree, and lo! a beautiful nymph had stepped
forth clad in jewels and coins to make him rich. This hero climbed
a mountain and a voice spoke unto him, and proof of this were
letters cut in stone. Well-witnessed, this divine one changed some
water into wine, and fed a multitude from five small loaves and
A kind of radiation of its own, always the cults who sought the
inner meanings formed within that Asian land and spread outward
through the world.
But out on the periphery, and not exposed to thought of inner
meanings, another cult took shape. Here concern was solely with
the outer shape and size and weight and measurement of things,
and how the size and shape and weight of one interacted with
another. The Dravidian culture, which grasped only the idea but
not the method of how the inner vibration could change the
outer shape receded and became submerged in the Western cult
that found a method in the measurement of shape and weight of
things to make them change.
It was Rabindranath, centuries later, who described the
essential difference between the Indian and the Grecian civilization
as that between a forest culture which had known no walls,
and a city culture where everything has limit and every inch must
But perhaps, also, the Greeks had never seen this tree changed
into bird, this cloud changed into flower. Not trapped by memories
grown into tradition that must not die, they hit upon an approach
that man could master. For it was the Greek beginnings which led
to the Oxford definition of how to make scientific inquiry into
the properties of things.
Inquiry into the properties, at first the outer shapes and weights,
led inevitably straight back to vibrations. All matter is merely a
specific vibration of energy, a range of vibrations feeling solid
to the senses, as a range of light vibrations translate into color
through the eyes.
E = MC²!
It took man far. He too began an exploration of the stars!
Failure in their first attempt had brought a wisdom to the
sentient fields of force. This time they did not rush in with
pyrotechnic displays to show the wondrous power they knew.
Observing patiently through the centuries, by now they knew
man well. They knew his weakness, yet by making thing react
with thing, he'd proved his strength. For here he was among the
Perhaps by now he might communicate? Perhaps, by now, he
would not prostrate himself and grovel in the dust, if someone
But careful, perhaps he would.
There had been a man by name of Galileo, with the first crude
telescope he'd made, who first saw the rings of Saturn. But not as
rings, but rather in the planet's tilting, he had seen a spot of light
on either side. And sometime later, when he looked again, the
tilting of the planet back had made the rings edge on, and so
they disappeared. He never looked again, nor told of what he'd
seen; for legend had it that the god Saturn periodically devoured
his own children, and this phenomenon he'd seen, if it became
widely known, would be interpreted as the proof the legend was
correct—and do incalculable damage to scientific inquiry. He'd
known the temper of his fellow man well enough to take no
chances of this kind, to note the experience in his works, perhaps
discuss it with a cautious friend or two, but to add no further fuel
to the raging fires of superstition that consumed men's minds and
seared out possibility of rational thought.
So walk with care. For superstition still is paramount, despite
the fact that some men know how to reach the stars.
To communicate this time, the fields of force took a sere planet,
of barren, blistered rock, and with a concept made it into the
garden of man's dreams. On one island, they set up a crystalline
structure, a thing, this much concession to the mind of man; a tool,
to amplify and clarify their thought to reach the still rudimentary
but nevertheless present centers of man's mind—some certain
man who might be ready to receive that thought.
Placed in man's exploratory path, the waiting was not long
until man found it. They had not led him to it through any
intuitive change of course that he might find suspect. The explorers
landed, claimed it for Earth, and went away. None among them
felt any pull from the crystal tool upon the mountaintop.
The scientists came to make their measurements. Their busy
minds were full of weight and size and the relationship of thing
to thing. Perhaps by now they too were so committed to the
use of a thing to act upon another thing that they could not
countenance the thought that thought could act upon a thing direct.
They measured the crystal tool, and recorded all their measurements,
but found no meaning in its arches and its spires. If any
felt the impact of the thinking of the fields of force, he made no
sign nor gave response. Indeed, to preserve his status and
reputation with his fellow scientists he'd not have dared admit a
meaning that could not be measured with his instruments.
Forevermore he'd be outcast, if he but hinted that he thought
their science was insufficient to capture everything of meaning
there. And to scientist most of all, his status with his fellow man
means more than truth. At least to most. But are there some to
whom the truth is paramount?
Yes, for had not scientist after scientist through the years risked
and lost his status through his questioning? And then perhaps
today there are such men.
So walk with care, and wait.
The colonists came, and as the scientists' minds had been filled
with measurements and weights and analyses; the colonists' minds
were filled with cabins, fields, food.
Surely, among men somewhere, there must be those not wholly
captured on the one hand by formless superstition; and on the
other hand not bound within the tightly narrowed circle of weight
and measurement! Surely man must know by now he could not
capture the inner meaning of a thing through a description of its
But as long as man got by, and did great things by using
physical things to act upon other physical things, even in
considering the universal energy as a thing, he would look no
All right then, a little nudge in another direction. Change the
concept of the planet slightly, so that one thing cannot act upon
another, no tool be used except this crystal set to act as intermediary.
Let that happen, and out from Earth a man would come,
perhaps a dozen men, perhaps a hundred ships, a thousand men,
and all to find their ships, their tools, were gone. But someday
there would come a man with mind trained in the ability to
conceive that there might be a road to truth outside the useless
superstitions that sent man to groveling in the dust at each small
breath that blew, and also one who would not quit because he
had no weather vane to test the direction of that breath.
And they would know when that mind came.
The first man came. Take away his tools and wait. He did not
fall to earth in awe nor freeze in fear. His mind searched curiously.
Enough. The man was here. Shield off the planet from the rest
that he be undisturbed in his thought.
Could he go farther? Conceive the purpose of this lack of tools,
that it was by design? And still not grovel in the dust? They'd
made their move. Could he respond?
He drew a circle in the sand!
This time there might be surcease to the loneliness, and two
intelligences so unlike commune. The very unlikeness of each
bringing to the other thought not yet considered, and together
going on to find ... to find ...
Now let him see the fallacy of such strict measurement. Now
let him think, to realize that measuring the balance of the status
quo of things in only one relationship of an infinity of possibilities,
to realize that he can change his measurements to balance an
equation designed to express the status quo, or with equal
truth, at his desire, he can change the status quo, the shape of
things, to fit the equation he desires.
Let him wander, puzzled, worrying on this. Let him work it out
himself, for experience from long ago had taught them that if
man was not ready to accept an alien thought he could not,
would not, accept but in his own interpreting.
Now, at last, at his readiness to make things fit the equation he
conceives, instead of making the equation fit the things as they
are, bring him closer in the range of the amplifier, the crystal tool,
that communication might be direct.
He holds the key.
He knows the lock.
He finds the door.
Show him the one small step remaining—the diagram, the
design, the movement of the forces of his mind.
To turn the key.
Unlock the lock.
Throw wide the door.
As one awakened from a deep sleep, a hypnotic trance, Cal
opened his eyes.
Man's ancient thought filled his being, the subject of man's
dreams, of yearnings, of philosophies. In ancient eidetic memory,
the unbroken thread persisted: If I could only grasp this elusive
thing, always just barely beyond my reach, I would not need the
ox, the wagon, the train, the plane, the spaceship to transport me
from here to there.
And now, at last, the thought was in Cal's grasp. Express the
things and forces balanced in equation to describe them as they
are; or, equally, to alter the things and forces instead to fit the
equation balance one had in mind; purely a matter of choice.
Each was the use of natural law. No chaos here, no magic, one
as much true science as the other.
How long had he slept, and dreamed? A few minutes? An
hour? Or by chance was he another Rip Van Winkle, doomed to
find the colonists aged or dead?
But why wonder?
A short distance first, just outside the amphitheater, just a small
test. He first rearranged the relative position of himself to the
amphitheater, to be outside instead of in it. He diagrammed the
forces in his mind that would alter the relationship, connected
He was standing outside the entrance arch.
With a hoarse cry, Louie, who had been watching all the while
through the open arch, shrank back away from Cal, wavered in
uncertainty, then fell to his knees, then groveled in the dust.
"Forgive me!" he cried. "In my blind, senseless vanity, I did not
know you were a Holy One. I was going to kill you, I confess.
Woe! Woe! I saw you lying there in Their temple, defaming it in
blasphemy by your sleep. But when I tried to enter, I could not.
Their will prevented me. Some shielding force protected you.
And then I knew you were a Holy One. Forgive me. Let me
live to expiate my sin."
"Louie, Louie," Cal said sadly.
As if in tangled ball, the thought stream of Louie, twisted and
warped by the false reasonings and interpretations fed to him in
childhood, seemed clearly revealed to Cal. Again a change in
concept of relationship to reality, the schematic of forces visualized,
the untangling, straightening of thought.
Louie scrambled to his feet, a rueful grin on his face.
"Sorry, Cal," he said. "I must have gone nuts there for a while,
shock and all. I'm all right now. Don't worry anymore about me.
I'll get on back to the rest."
"Sure, Louie. See you there," Cal agreed.
A rearrangement of relationships, and Cal walked out from
behind a bush to approach Jed and Tom.
"You must not have gone all the way to the top," Jed said when
he looked up and caught sight of Cal. "It's just barely past noon,
I reckon. Didn't expect to see you back until nightfall."
"I took a short cut," Cal said with a grin. "Little past noon," he
continued, as if musing with a thought. "About the same time of
day that everything happened a couple of weeks ago."
"Yeah, about the same time of day," Jed said, and looked at
Tom had arisen to his feet and was staring at Cal curiously,
sensing a difference in the E. Now Jed felt it too, and looked at
Cal with puzzlement on his face.
"There's something important about it being around this time
of day, Cal?" he asked.
"Not really," Cal said, "but I thought it might be helpful. I
could restore the village, the fields, the escape ship, everything
just as it was; make it feel like a continuation of the same day to
the people. It being the same time of day would help the illusion
that no time had passed, nothing had happened."
Tom's eyes narrowed in speculation.
"You can do that, Cal?" he asked. "You've solved the problem?"
"Yes," Cal said simply. "I'll tell you about it sometime. There's
quite a few loose ends to catch up right now." He turned to Jed.
"How about it, Jed?" he asked. "Think it'll be too much of a shock
to put things back as they were?"
In spite of himself, Jed was trembling. He drew a deep breath,
firmed his jaw. Seemed to set himself as one does in the dentist's
chair at the approach of the drill.
It was a bigger equation, a more complex one, but not different
The village of Appletree sprang suddenly into being, the hangar
with the metallic gleam of the ship inside, the fields, the pasture
fences with the calves separated from the cows. A few people,
clothed, were walking on the dirt street between the houses. They
looked at one another. They looked up at the sky, at the fields
around them, the forests beyond. They looked back at one another.
They shook their heads, and blinked their eyes, as if suddenly
wakened from a sleep, a dream, the craziest dream.
Later they would compare the dream, and with Jed's help
piece together, and feel the shock, and wonder.
Upon the hill, away from the village, where Jed lay, clothed,
in the hammock swung between two trees, Martha came out of
the house, clothed.
"I must have sat down in a chair for a minute and fallen asleep
or something, Jed," she said as she came to stand beside him.
"And I had the funniest dream. You can't imagine. You know how
sometimes we'll dream about being out in front of folks, all
"That wasn't any dream, Martha," he answered with a grin.
"All the people in the village are going to start realizing it pretty
soon. They'll need some help. We'd better walk down there. Them
people across the ridge, too. Bet they'll be hightailing it back over
here first thing you know. And something else, there's an E ship
here, come to find out why we didn't communicate."
"Well whatever on Earth are you talkin' about, Jed?" she asked
curiously. "It won't be time to communicate for a couple of days
yet. You ought to know that. Have you been dreaming, too? Or
you and the boys fermenting something? Here, let me smell your
"Aw, now Martha," he said with a huge grin. He clambered out
of the hammock and stood up, took her in his arms, hugged her
"Jed!" she scolded. "Right out here in the front yard in front
of everybody." But she didn't struggle away from him.
"Won't matter a bit," he said. "Not after what's been goin' on
in front of everybody right along."
"Whatever has been goin' on can't be half as bad as what I've
been dreamin'," she said.
"Better start gettin' used to the idea that it wasn't a dream,
Martha," he cautioned.
"Jed!" she scolded again, her face aflame with embarrassment.
The communications operator looked up as the supervisor came
down the aisle toward him.
"Communication from the E.H.Q. ship at Eden coming in just
fine," he said enthusiastically. He'd thought it over and decided
he'd better repair some fences. Good job here, no use letting his
irritation with the supervisor's old-maid fussiness make him cut
off his nose to spite his face.
"See that it does," the supervisor answered sharply. He
recognized the overture for what it was, felt relieved that he
wouldn't have any more insubordination, was willing to let bygones
be bygones—after a suitable period of punishment. "What's been
happening?" he asked with a curiosity that got the better of his
desire to discipline.
"E Gray has come back out of that quartz outcropping where
we lost him. He's standing there talking to the astronavigator who
followed him up the mountain."
"More of the same, I guess," the supervisor said. "Nothing's
happened for ten days. Nothing likely to happen," he said. He
turned and started back down the aisle toward his own office.
"Wait a minute," the operator called. "Here's something."
Other operator heads raised up all down the aisle.
"Now, now; now, now!" the supervisor quarreled at them. "Get
on with your work, nothing to concern you here, none of your
But of course it was everybody's business. Anything different
was everybody's business. All over the world everybody was
wondering about the enigma of Eden, everybody speculating,
everybody with a different answer. Some were gleeful that science
had finally got its comeuppance, and felt no more than a pleasure
that the bigdomes had proved they weren't any smarter than
anybody else. Others took an equal pleasure in crying woe, woe,
at this proof there were mysteries beyond man's knowing, woe,
woe, now that man would be punished for trying to know what
he was not meant to know.
The operator took time out, in spite of the supervisor's
admonishments, to listen frankly.
"They've lost sight of the E," the operator exclaimed. "No,
wait a minute. There he is, down in the valley, coming out from
behind a bush to talk to the pilot and the head man of the colony."
"Can't have happened like that," the supervisor grumbled. "Ten
or twelve miles from that mountain top to the valley. The ship
has garbled their reporting. Probably got behind in reporting
and then just decided to skip the journey back, and pick up to
make it current. There's going to be complaints about this."
"Well, you were right here," the operator said. "You were
listening. I didn't skip anything. It wasn't my fault."
"All right, all right."
"Wait a minute," the operator said. "Here, listen in."
The supervisor's eyes grew round.
"Can't be," he exclaimed.
"All the buildings, everything's just like it was before," the
operator said loudly to the room at large. "All of a sudden, the way
they report it."
"They're faking the reports," the supervisor grumbled irritably.
"Have to be."
"Now, no matter how much they fake, you can't rebuild all
those buildings in a couple hours," the operator argued.
"None of our business," the supervisor cautioned. "We just
take the reports. Can't criticize us for whatever the E.H.Q. ship
out there's doing."
"And everybody's got their clothes back on," the operator said
There was a sigh of regret up and down the aisle.
"Now the E's disappeared again," the operator said, "They're
scanning all over, trying to find him."
The supervisor put down his headset with resolution.
"I'm going to my office to make a report on the sloppy way
this reporting has been done. There's going to be fur flying over
these skips and jumps, and I don't want it to be our fur. Best
thing is to make the complaint first," he said to the room at
large. "Now you call me if there's any more of this bollix," he
said to the operator as he left.
An hour passed while the supervisor sat in his office. He wrote
furiously, scratched out, wrote some more, tore up papers and
threw them in the vague direction of the wastebasket, started
afresh to write some more. How to report without stepping on
His buzzer sounded softly to give him respite, and he looked
up from a virtually blank piece of paper to the board. The Eden
"Oh, no," he groaned. But he left his desk at once and half
trotted up the aisle.
"Now the captain of the ship says he wants Sector Chief Hayes
at once," the operator called out. "Something very important."
"Very well," the supervisor said. "Ring him."
But Hayes didn't wait for the ring. He had been listening, red-eyed,
tired, gaunt for lack of sleep.
"Give me connection," he said to the operator as soon as the
"Bill Hayes here, Captain," he said, as soon as he received the
signal. "What now?"
"Mrs. Gray, the Junior E's wife, has disappeared from aboard
ship," the Captain said without any preliminaries.
"What do you mean 'disappeared'?" Hayes asked. "How could
she disappear in deep space? Have you looked everywhere?
Checked the lifeboats? Maybe she took one and tried to get down
to her husband by herself."
"We've looked everywhere. No lifeboats missing. No port has
opened. You ought to know we wouldn't bother you until we'd
checked everything out first."
"She can't have disappeared into thin air, thin space," Hayes
quarreled back. "She must be on your ship somewhere. When was
she last seen?"
"That's—ah—that's mainly why I'm calling you, Bill," the captain
said. "A wild tale, obviously a mistake. One of the crewmen passed
her stateroom about an hour ago. Door was open and he looked
in, the way anybody does. Says he saw her standing inside her
cabin embracing a man. Says he didn't stop to look close, but he
was pretty sure it was E Gray. Says he knows because he's had
access to the viewscope and has watched E Gray on the surface
"There's been no report of any ship leaving Eden, joining you,
Captain," Hayes said accusingly.
"Because there hasn't been any," the captain snapped back.
"So it can't have been E Gray she was embracing. That's why
I called you. Looks like we're going to have some petty scandal
mixed up with everything else."
"Looks like it, then," Hayes said with a vast weariness. "Some
member of your crew, or one of the scientists," he said. "Keep
looking. Somebody's hiding her, probably to keep the scandal
from breaking. But it seems odd to me that she was so anxious
to get out there near her husband and then in ten days she'd ..."
"Maybe her real anxiety was to be near somebody already
assigned to the ship," the captain said. "I mean, we've got to
consider all the possibilities. Somebody she knew there at E.H.Q."
"Keep checking, Captain. I'll see if the Board wants to contact
E McGinnis. Maybe he knows what's been going on around here
that could lead us to the guy who's hiding her."
"I'll keep checking, but she's not on board my ship," the captain
said. He sighed. Bill Hayes sighed. They broke connection.
Hayes made contact with the Board chairman. It took only a
few minutes to spin the latest tale of woe. Another minute for the
Board to decide direct intervention.
"Now they want me to make contact with the other ship,"
the operator said to the supervisor. "The Wheel himself wants to
know if E McGinnis will talk to him."
"Well, contact it, contact it," the supervisor commanded
"I'm doing it! I'm doing it!" the operator quarreled back.
The both of them listened in on the conversation, on the grounds
that testing the quality of reception was a necessity. E McGinnis's
pilot was quite explicit.
"E McGinnis left orders that under no circumstances was he
to be disturbed," the pilot said. "He, E Gray and Mrs. Gray are
in his cabin, in conference."
"E Gray! Mrs. Gray!" the chairman exploded. "Impossible. How
the devil did they get into your ship?"
"Don't ask me," the pilot said in a tired voice. "I just work here.
I'm sitting here minding my own business. I see E McGinnis's
door open. He leans out the door and gives me my orders. I look
past him and I see E Gray and Mrs. Gray sitting in the room.
Don't ask me how they got in there. I don't know. But I do know
this, I'm going to get myself a nice quiet milk run to Saturn or
someplace, soon as I get back to E.H.Q. If I ever do get back."
"Now, now," the Board chairman soothed. "I'm sure there's a
simple explanation." Crewmen willing to pilot an E around the
universe were hard to find.
"Yeah? After what I've seen out here, I don't think I'd even
want to hear it," the pilot said, and without apology cut off the
Had the pilot been able, a moment later, to look into the E's
stateroom he would have seen still another visitor, another who
had not entered his ship by any normal means.
Attorney General Gunderson sat in a chair facing the two E's
and Linda. He seemed stunned, frozen into immobility. Only his
eyes were alive, darting here and there, unbelieving. There is
limit to the number of shocks the mind can withstand, and the
series had come too fast for him to adjust to them.
He too had picked up Junior E Gray as soon as he came through
the arch of the quartz outcropping on top of the mountain, the
structure that somehow interfered with their visoscope's ability to
penetrate and see what went on inside. He had been watching
when Gray suddenly disappeared from where he had been talking
with the astronavigator. That had been a shock, immediately
followed by a greater one, when the ship's operator had scanned
the valley and found Gray talking with the E's pilot and the chief
of the colonists. There was no way in which the journey could
have been made that rapidly.
He was still watching when the village, the fields, the escape
ship, the E ship all had suddenly materialized before his eyes.
And the people were all clothed. It couldn't be done, but he
had seen it. But he kept his head. E science must be farther along
than he'd realized, to produce a miracle such as this—but it was
science. He must hold to that, otherwise ...
He saw his case begin to melt out from under him, and he
made one more effort to regain some measure of control. He gave
his own pilot orders to land on the surface of Eden. He transmitted
orders to the other two police ships to follow in close formation;
the three of them to land and take custody.
But the barrier still remained, and the ships could not penetrate
He told himself that all wasn't lost. Maybe the E was back in
control of Eden, but he, Gunderson, still had a morals case. All
those photographs! Some of the press and commentators might
desert him, now that the Junior had proved adequate to the job.
Unless he chose carefully, some stupid judge might decide the
means were justified by the end result. But there were those
photographs, and the world was full of Mrs. Grundy. He might
have to back up a little bit on the incompetence of the Junior
E, but Mrs. Grundy would be behind him a hundred per cent on
the morals issue—when he released some of the photographs, and
titillated her nasty imagination by reference to others too indecent
It was then that the observer ship got a call through to him,
and told him that the photographs, every one of them, had
disappeared from the ship's vault where they had been locked,
and the only thing remaining in the vault was one little slip of
paper which read, "Shame on you for taking feelthy pictures.
Naughty, naughty! Calvin Gray."
The case was crumbling, but all was not lost. He still had
witnesses. He thought for a minute and began to wonder about
those witnesses. Any judge, anybody around the courts, anybody
connected with the press, and maybe even some of the public
knew that any police officer will swear to any lie to back up
another police officer because he might need the favor returned
Without concrete evidence ...
He suddenly found himself standing in the cabin of the E ship,
confronted by E McGinnis, Junior E Gray, and Mrs. Gray. He
sank down in a chair and sat frozen, immobile. Only his eyes
were alive, darting frantically here and there as if expecting
some hole to open up and swallow him—perhaps wishing one
"I don't know just what to do with you," Cal said a little sadly,
ruefully. "Far as the E's are concerned, you've only been a minor
nuisance, hardly worth noticing, but your intentions were
dangerous. As far back as man's history goes the growth of police
powers immediately preceded and caused the fall and destruction
of each culture.
"It is a law of the nature of man that he will resist the
ascendancy of any special me-and-mine group over him; that this
resistance will grow until man will even destroy himself in the
attempt to destroy that ascendancy. In more recent history it
was the growth, extension, and severity of the police in controlling
every activity of man that destroyed both the United States and
"Now you are attempting to rebuild that same police control in
world government. The result will be the same. Man will destroy
himself in trying to destroy you.
"We in E don't want that to happen. We see no need of it.
We have already warned that the attitude of the police toward
the public is the major cause of crime, that crime will increase
with each increase of police power and severity until the whole
structure rots and crumbles.
"Yet man has not yet progressed far enough to know how to
maintain an organized society without some special body to
enforce that organization. It's a problem which the E's haven't
solved, probably because we know too little about the natural
laws affecting the behavior of man. Perhaps it is still a field
belonging to non-science, because science doesn't know enough
yet to take hold of it.
"I would suggest, Gunderson, that you turn your talents and
your organization to solving this problem of how to build an
organized society instead of destroying it."
The chair where Gunderson had sat was empty.
E McGinnis looked at Cal; he too was sitting silent and
immobile. But E science had inured him to shock. He waited
because it was E Gray's show, and he was letting Cal handle it.
"Where is he now?" McGinnis asked when he saw the empty
"Sitting at his desk in his office back on Earth," Cal said with a
grin. "Our boy has a few things to think about."
"You've explained the theory back of all this"—McGinnis changed
the subject—"but I still find it incredible. It's still just theory."
"Well," Cal said, "theory comes first. Even to add two and two,
you first have to get the idea that it can be done, a theory of how
it is done, but that still won't get you four. You've got to learn
how to apply the theory.
"When I first found I knew how, I was pretty concerned. The
whole basis of science is that anybody can do it, anybody who
follows the step-by-step method. It doesn't take any special gifts
that can't be trained. I had visions of a world, a universe of people,
in possession of this theory and method before they were wise
enough to use it, and chaos.
"But when I thought it over, I stopped worrying. The methods
of science are also open to all. But few bother to learn them. Most
prefer their frustrations and their miseries to making the effort
which will solve them. For centuries the libraries containing all the
accumulated knowledge and wisdom of mankind have been free
and open to anybody who wants to read, but few have bothered
to absorb that knowledge and that wisdom.
"This new key we have that unlocks the door to another vista
of knowledge, another point of view whereby we can change
material things to suit our desire, is merely another advance of
science. For science, after all, is no more than organized knowledge
of reality. You can't multiply six times six until you've learned how
to add two and two. Most people won't bother.
"It will be a long, long time before any significant number will
graduate through all the normal seven steps of E science to become
ready for the eighth. Some of the E's will master it, but you know
how few E's there are. And the E's have enough restraint, wisdom,
and selflessness to use this new knowledge for the benefit of man
instead of his detriment.
"I suspect that one has to be graduated beyond the desire to
make me-and-mine ascendant over others before he can absorb
"Maybe that's my trouble," McGinnis said slowly. "I've been
thinking, all along, of how much power this gives the E's. Wondering
if even the E's should have that much power over others."
Linda spoke up.
"E McGinnis," she said, "Cal has solved the problem of what
happened to the colonists, why they didn't communicate. Do you
think this will qualify him for his big E?"
Both men burst into laughter.
"No question of it, Linda," E McGinnis said with a chuckle.
"But I doubt it really matters to E Gray, now. He can do things
none of the rest of us can do, and the real question now is
whether we have the right to call ourselves Seniors until we can
match his ability."
"I think," Cal said slowly, "we'd better recommend to E.H.Q.
that the colonists be withdrawn from Eden, assigned somewhere
else. I've left the shield around the planet so none can enter or
leave without the eighth key. I can unlock the door and close it
again. Perhaps Eden should become the next step for the E, the
next hurdle he must cross.
"When I've sent my ship and crew back to Earth, and we've
removed all the colonists, it might be a good idea to restore Eden
to what it was when I arrived—a place where no tools will work,
no physical tools. To qualify for E, a man will be put on the
island, where he can live as we lived, to work out the step-by-step
method. When he's ready, he can go into the thought-amplifier
on top of the mountain, and if his mind is open enough to the
potentials he'll receive the final step of instruction—as I did.
"One by one, as the E's shake free of their present projects, they
can take this next step."
"I'm not working on any project right now," E McGinnis said
"I'll be right back," Cal said with a grin, "and we'll get started
The chair where he had been sitting was empty.
Cal stood within the crystal amphitheater atop the mountain and
watched the interplay of lights until he felt communion come.
"Be patient," he said. "There will be more, and more, and more.
"You had an advantage," he reminded Them. "You started with
a crystalline vibration nearer to the force field than that possible
in protoplasm. We've had to come up the hard way.
"But we have come up.
"You had no competition. We've had to fight for our very lives
every inch of the way, endure the setbacks lasting for centuries,
millennia. It is no wonder that the me-and-mine-ascendant concept
has dominated all our thought, and does still. Without it,
we'd not have survived at all.
"It takes time to outgrow it, to learn we can survive without
it. Five hundred years after Copernicus, a survey of the high
school students in the United States revealed that a third of
them still rejected his knowledge, still believed the Earth to be
at the center of the universe and man was the reason why the
universe had been created at all. But two thirds had adjusted.
"More important, there was a Copernicus.
"Don't sell man short because he's slow to learn, and you are
impatient for fuller, deeper exploration of the truths in reality.
He has much to offer you, as you to him. Competition for survival
has given him ingenuity.
"Once all learned men believed the Earth to be the center of
the universe, but there was a Copernicus who asked the question,
'What if it isn't so?'
"Millions of men watched apples fall to the ground, but one
did ask if this might not be the key to the structure of the universe,
the balance of the stars.
"Billions watched the stars, but finally one did ask, 'What if the
light be curved instead of straight?'
"There is capacity in man, this protoplasmic life, that had to
learn an ingenuity which might surpass even yours.
"This is not the final door in the corridor of thought. Still other
doors, on down the corridor, are yet to be explored. And you may
need these special gifts of man to open them, as he has needed
this new room of thought.
"Be patient. A million or a billion may come here to seek the
method that can change things to fit the equation of desire, before
one comes who asks a question even you have not conceived.
"But someday he will come—and ask."
The lights danced faster now in patterns of delight.