BY DAMON KNIGHT
ILLUSTRATED BY EMSH
Destiny reached out a hand to Algernon Weaver—but he
was a timid man, at first. But on the strange world of
Terranova, there was much to be learned—of destiny,
and other things....
It was a very different thing,
Algernon Weaver decided, actually
to travel in space. When you
read about it, or thought about
it in terms of what you read,
it was more a business of going
from one name to another. Algol
to Sirius. Aldebaran to Epsilon
Ceti. You read the names, and
the descriptions that went with
them, and the whole thing—although
breathtaking in concept,
of course, when you really stopped
to meditate on it—became
rather ordinary and prosaic and
somehow more understandable.
Not that he had ever approved.
No. He had that, at least, to look
back upon; he had seen the whole
enterprise as pure presumption,
and had said so. Often. The
heavens were the heavens, and
Earth was Earth. It would have
been better—much better for all
concerned—if it had been left
He had held that opinion, he
reminded himself gratefully,
from the very beginning, when
it was easy to think otherwise.
Afterward, of course—when the
first star ships came back with
the news that space was aswarm
with creatures who did not even
resemble Man, and had never
heard of him, and did not think
much of him when they saw him....
Well, who but an idiot could
hold any other opinion?
If only the Creator had not
seen fit to make so many human
beings in His image but without
His common sense....
Well, if He hadn't then for one
thing, Weaver would not have
been where he was now, staring
out an octagonal porthole at an
endless sea of diamond-pierced
blackness, with the empty ship
humming to itself all around
It was an entirely different
thing, he told himself; there
were no names, and no descriptions,
and no feeling of going
from one known place to another
known place. It was more like—
It was like standing outdoors,
on a still summer night, and
looking up at the dizzying depths
of the stars. And then looking
down, to discover that there was
no planet under your feet—and
that you were all alone in that
It was enough to make a
grown man cry; and Weaver had
cried, often, in the empty red
twilight of the ship, feeling himself
hopelessly and forever cut
off, cast out and forgotten. But
as the weeks passed, a kind of
numbness had overtaken him, till
now, when he looked out the
porthole at the incredible depth
of sky, he felt no emotion but a
thin, disapproving regret.
Sometimes he would describe
himself to himself, just to refute
the feeling that he was not really
here, not really alive. But his
mind was too orderly, and the
description would come out so
cold and terse—"Algernon James
Weaver (1942- ) historian,
civic leader, poet, teacher, philosopher.
Author of Development
of the School System in Schenectady
and Scoharie Counties, New
York (pamphlet, 1975); An Address
to the Women's Clubs of
Schenectady, New York (pamphlet,
1979); Rhymes of a Philosopher
(1981); Parables of a Philosopher
(1983), Reflections of a
Philosopher (1986). Born in Detroit,
Michigan, son of a Methodist
minister; educated in Michigan
and New York public
schools; B.A., New York State
University, 1959; M.A., N.Y.S.U.
Extension, 1964. Unmarried.
That was the trouble, it began
to sound like an obituary.
And then the great humming
metal shell would begin to feel
like a coffin....
Presumption. Pure presumption.
None of these creatures
should have been allowed to get
loose among the stars, Man least
of all. It cluttered up the Universe.
It undermined Faith. And
it had got Algernon Weaver
into the devil of a fix.
It was his sister's fault, actually.
She would go, in spite of
his advice, up to the Moon, to
the UN sanatorium in Aristarchus.
Weaver's sister, a big-framed,
definite woman, had a
weak heart and seventy-five superfluous
pounds of fat. Doctors
had told her that she would live
twenty years longer on the
Moon; therefore she went, and
survived the trip, and thrived in
the germ-free atmosphere,
weighing just one-sixth of her
former two hundred and ten
Once, she was there, Weaver
could hardly escape visiting her.
Harriet was a widow, with large
resources, and Weaver was her
only near relative. It was necessary,
it was prudent, for him to
keep on her good side. Moreover,
he had his family feeling.
He did not like it, not a minute
of it. Not the incredible
trip, rising till the Earth lay below
like a botched model of itself;
not the silent mausoleum of
the Moon. But he duly admired
Harriet's spacious room in the
sanatorium, the recreation
rooms, the auditorium; space-suited,
he walked with her in the
cold Earthlight; he attended her
on the excursion trip to Ley
Field, the interstellar rocket
base on the far side of the
The alien ship was there, all
angles and planes—it came from
Zeta Aurigae, they told him, and
was the second foreign ship to
visit Sol. Most of the crew had
been ferried down to Earth,
where they were inspecting the
people (without approval,
Weaver was sure). Meanwhile,
the remaining crewman would
be pleased to have the sanatorium
party inspect him.
They went aboard, Harriet
and two other women, and six
men counting the guide and
Weaver. The ship was a red-lit
cavern. The "crewman" turned
out to be a hairy horror, a three-foot
headless lump shaped like
an eggplant, supported by four
splayed legs and with an indefinite
number of tentacles wriggling
below the stalked eyes.
"They're more like us than
you'd think," said the guide.
"They're mammals, they have a
nervous organization very like
ours, they're susceptible to some
of our diseases—which is very
rare—and they even share some
of our minor vices." He opened
his kit and offered the thing a
plug of chewing tobacco, which
was refused with much tentacle-waving,
and a cigar, which was
accepted. The creature stuck the
cigar into the pointed tip of its
body, just above the six beady
black eyes, lit it with some sort
of flameless lighter, and puffed
clouds of smoke like a volcano.
"—And of course, as you see,
they're oxygen breathers," the
guide finished. "The atmosphere
in the ship here is almost identical
to our own—we could
breathe it without any discomfort
Then why don't we? Weaver
thought irritably. He had been
forced to wear either a breathing
mask or a pressure suit all
the time he had been on the
Moon, except when he had been
in his own sealed room at the
sanatorium. And his post-nasal
drip was unmistakably maturing
into a cold; he had been
stifling sneezes for the last half
He was roused by a commotion
up ahead; someone was on the
floor, and the others were crowding
around. "Help me carry
her," said the guide's voice
sharply in his earphones. "We
can't treat her here. What is she,
a heart case?... Good Lord.
Clear the way there, will you?"
Weaver hurried up, struck by
a sharp suspicion. Indeed, it was
Harriet who was being carried
out—and a good thing, he
thought, that they didn't have to
support her full weight. He wondered
vaguely if she would die
before they got her to a doctor.
He could not give the thought
his full attention, or feel as
much fraternal anxiety as he
He had ... he had to sneeze.
The others had crowded out
into the red-lit space of the control
room, where the airlock was.
Weaver stopped and frantically
tugged his arm free of the rubberoid
sleeve. The repressed
spasm was an acute agony in his
nose and throat. He fumbled the
handkerchief out of his pocket,
thrust his hand up under the
helmet—and blissfully let go.
His eyes were watering. He
wiped them hurriedly, put the
handkerchief away, worked his
arm back into the sleeve, and
looked around to see what had
become of the others.
The airlock door was closed,
and there was no one in the room
but the hairy eggplant shape of
the Aurigean, still puffing its
"Hey!" said Weaver, forgetting
his manners. The Aurigean
did not turn—but then, which
was its front, or back? The
beady black eyes regarded him
Weaver started forward. He
got nearly to the airlock before
a cluster of hairy tentacles
barred his way. He said indignantly,
"Let me out, you monster.
Let me out, do you hear?"
The creature stood stock-still
in an infuriating attitude until
a little light on the wall changed
from orange to red-violet. Then
it crossed to the control board,
did something there, and the
inner door of the lock swung
"Well, I should think so!" said
Weaver. He stepped forward
again—But his eyes were beginning
to water. There was an
intolerable tickling far back in
his nostrils. He was going to—he
Eyes squeezed shut, his whole
body contorted with effort, he
raised his arm to begin the desperate
race once more. His hand
brushed against something—his
kit, slung just above his waist.
There were handkerchiefs in the
kit, he recalled suddenly. And
he remembered what the guide
had said about Aurigean air.
He tugged the kit open, fumbled
and found a handkerchief.
He zipped open the closure of his
helmet and tilted the helmet
back. He brought up the handkerchief,
and gave himself over
to the spasm.
He was startled by a hoarse
boom, as if someone had scraped
the strings of an amplified bull
fiddle. He looked around, blinking,
and discovered that the
sound was coming from the
Aurigean. The monster, with its
tentacles tightly curled around
the tip of its body, was scuttling
into the corridor. As Weaver
watched in confusion, it vanished,
and a sheet of metal slid
across the doorway.
More boomings came shortly
from a source Weaver finally
identified as a grille over the
control panels. He took a step
that way, then changed his mind
and turned back toward the airlock.
Just as he reached the nearer
airlock door, the farther one
swung open and an instant torrent
of wind thrust him outward.
Strangling, Weaver grabbed
desperately at the door-frame as
it went by. He swung with a
sickening thud into the inner
wall, but he hung on and pulled
himself back inside.
The force of the wind was
dropping rapidly; so was the air
pressure. Ragged black blotches
swam before Weaver's eyes. He
fumbled with his helmet, trying
to swing it back over his head;
but it stubbornly remained
where it was. The blow when he
struck the airlock wall, he
thought dimly—it must have
bent the helmet so that it would
not fit into its grooves.
He forced himself across the
room, toward the faint gleam of
the Aurigean control board—shaped
like a double horseshoe it
was, around the two lattice-topped
stools, and bristling with
levers, knobs and sliding panels.
One of these, he knew, controlled
the airlock. He slapped
blindly at them, pulling, pushing,
turning as many as he could
reach. Then the floor reeled under
him, and, as he fell toward
it, changed into a soft gray endless
When he awoke, the airlock
door was closed. His lungs were
gratefully full of air. The Aurigean
was nowhere to be seen;
the door behind which he had
disappeared was still closed.
Weaver got up, stripped off
his spacesuit, and, by hammering
with the sole of one of the
boots, managed to straighten
out the dent in the back of the
helmet. He put the suit back on,
then looked doubtfully at the
control board. It wouldn't do to
go on pulling things at random;
he might cause some damage.
Tentatively, he pushed a slide he
remembered touching before.
When nothing happened, he
pushed it back. He tried a knob,
then a lever.
The inner door of the airlock
Weaver marched into it, took
one look through the viewport
set in the outer door, and scrambled
back out. He closed the airlock
again, and thought a minute.
In the center of each horseshoe
curve of the control board was
a gray translucent disk, with six
buttons under it. They might,
Weaver thought, be television
screens. He pressed the first button
under one of them, and the
screen lighted up. He pressed the
second button, then all the
others in turn.
They all showed him the same
thing—the view he had seen
from the viewport in the airlock:
stars, and nothing but
The Moon, incredibly, had disappeared.
He was in space.
His first thought, when he was
able to think connectedly again,
was to find the Aurigean and
make him put things right. He
tried all the remaining knobs
and levers and buttons on the
control board, reckless of consequences,
until the door slid open
again. Then he went down the
corridor and found the Aurigean.
The creature was lying on the
floor, with a turnip-shaped thing
over its head, tubes trailing
from it to an opened cabinet in
the wall. It was dead—dead and
He searched the ship. He
found storerooms, with cylinders
and bales of stuff that looked as
if it might possibly be food; he
found the engine room, with
great piles of outlandishly
sculptured metal and winking
lights and swinging meter
needles. But he was the only living
thing on board.
The view from all six directions—in
the control room telescreens,
and in the ship's direct-view
ports alike—was exactly
the same. The stars, like dandruff
on Weaver's blue serge
suit. No one of them, apparently,
any nearer than the others.
No way to tell which, if any of
them, was his own.
The smell of the dead creature
was all through the ship.
Weaver closed his helmet against
it; then, remembering that the
air in his suit tank would not
last forever, he lugged the
corpse out to the airlock, closed
the inner door on it, and opened
the outer one.
It was hard for him to accept
the obvious explanation of the
Aurigean's death, but he finally
came to it. He recalled something
the guide had said about the
Aurigeans' susceptibility to
Earthly infections. That must
have been it. That had been why
the creature had bellowed and
run to seal itself off from him.
It was all his fault.
If he had not sneezed with his
helmet open, the Aurigean would
not be dead. He would not be
marooned in space. And the
other Aurigeans, down on Earth,
would not be marooned there.
Though they, he decided wistfully,
would probably get home
sooner or later. They knew
where home was.
As far as he could, he made
himself master of the ship and
its contents. He discovered, by
arduous trial and error, which
of the supposed foods in the
storerooms he could eat safely,
which would make him sick, and
which were not foods at all. He
found out which of the control
board's knobs and levers controlled
the engines, and he shut
them off. He studied the universe
around him, hoping to see
After nearly a month, it happened.
One star grew from a
brilliant pinpoint to a tiny disk,
and each time he awoke it was
Weaver took counsel with himself,
and pasted a small piece of
transparent red tape over the
place on the telescreen where the
star appeared. He scratched a
mark to show where the star
was on each of three succeeding
"days." The trail crawled diagonally
down toward the bottom
of the screen.
He knew nothing about astrogation;
but he knew that if he
were heading directly toward
the star, it ought to stay in the
same place on his screen. He
turned on the engines and swung
the steering arm downward.
The star crawled toward the
center of the screen, then went
past. Weaver painstakingly
brought it back; and so, in
parsec-long zigzags, he held his
The star was now increasing
alarmingly in brightness. It occurred
to Weaver that he must
be traveling with enormous
speed, although he had no sensation
of movement at all. There
was a position on the scale
around the steering arm that he
thought would put the engines
into reverse. He tried it, and
now he scratched the apparent
size of the star into the red
tape. First it grew by leaps and
bounds, then more slowly, then
hardly at all. Weaver shut off
the engines again, and waited.
The star had planets. He
noted their passage in the telescreen,
marked their apparent
courses, and blithely set himself
to land on the one that seemed
to be nearest. He was totally
ignorant of orbits; he simply
centered his planet on the
screen as he had done with the
star, found that it was receding
from him, and began to run it
He came in too fast the first
time—tore through the atmosphere
like a lost soul and frantically
out again, sweating in
the control room's sudden heat.
He turned, out in space, and
carefully adjusted his speed so
that ship and planet drifted
softly together. Gently, as if he
had been doing this all his life.
Weaver took the ship down upon
a continent of rolling greens and
browns, landed it without a jar—saw
the landscape begin to tilt
as he stepped into the airlock,
and barely got outside before
the ship rolled ten thousand feet
down a gorge he had not noticed
and smashed itself into a powdering
Two days later, he began
turning into a god.
They had put him into a kind
of enclosed seat at the end of a
long rotating arm, counter-weighted
at the opposite side of
the aircar proper, and the whole
affair swung gently in an eccentric
path, around and around,
and up and down as the aircar
moved very slowly forward
through the village.
All the houses were faced with
broad wooden balconies stained
blood-red and turquoise, umber
and yellow, gold and pale green;
and all of these were crowded to
bursting with the blue and white
horny chests and the big-eyed
faces of the bug things. Weaver
swung in his revolving seat past
first one level and another, and
the twittering voices burst
around him like the stars of a
This was the fifth village they
had visited since the bug things
had found him wandering in the
mountains. At the first one, he
had been probed, examined and
twittered over interminably;
then the aircar had arrived, they
had strapped him into this
ridiculous seat and begun what
looked very much like a triumphal
tour. Other aircars,
without the revolving arm, preceded
and followed him. The
slowly floating cars and their
riders were gay with varicolored
streamers. Every now and then
one of the bug things in the cars
would raise a pistol-like object
to fire a pinkish streak that
spread out, high in the air, and
became a gently descending,
diffusing cloud of rosy dust. And
always the twittering rose and
fell, rose and fell as Weaver revolved
at the end of the swinging
One had to remember, he reminded
himself, that Earthly
parallels did not necessarily apply.
It was undignified, certainly,
to be revolving like a child
on a merry-go-round, while
these crowds glared with bright
alien eyes; but the important
thing was that they had not once
offered him any violence. They
had not even put him into the
absurd revolving seat by force;
they had led him to it gently,
with a great deal of gesturing
and twittered explanation. And
if their faces were almost
the constantly-moving complexity
of parts that he had seen in
live lobsters—well, that proved
nothing except that they were
not human. Later, perhaps, he
could persuade them to wear
It was a holiday; a great occasion—everything
that. The colored streamers, the
clouds of rosy dust like sky-rockets,
the crowds of people
lined up to await him. And why
not? Clearly, they had never before
seen a man. He was unique,
a personage to be honored: a
visitor descended from the
heavens, clothed in fire and
glory. Like the Spaniards among
the Aztecs, he thought.
Weaver began to feel gratified,
his ego expanding. Experimentally,
he waved to the massed
ranks of bug things as he passed
them. A new explosion of twittering
broke out, and a forest of
twiglike arms waved back
at him. They seemed to regard
him with happy awe.
"Thank you," said Weaver
graciously. "Thank you...."
In the morning, there were
crowds massed outside the
building where he had slept; but
they did not put him into the
aircar with the revolving arm
again. Instead, four new ones
came into his room after he had
eaten the strange red and orange
fruits that were all of the
bug diet he could stomach, and
began to twitter very seriously
at him, while pointing to various
objects, parts of their bodies, the
walls around them, and Weaver
After awhile, Weaver grasped
the idea that he was being instructed.
He was willing to co-operate,
but he did not suppose
for a moment that he could master
the bird-like sounds they
made. Instead, he took an old
envelope and a stub of pencil
from his pocket and wrote the
English word for each thing
they pointed out. "ORANGE,"
he wrote—it was not an orange,
but the color was the same, at
any rate—"THORAX. WALL.
In the afternoon, they brought
a machine with staring lenses
and bright lights. Weaver
guessed that he was being televised;
he put a hand on the nearest
bug thing's shoulder, and
smiled for his audience.
Later, after he had eaten
again, they went on with the
language lesson. Now it was
Weaver who taught, and they
who learned. This, Weaver felt,
was as it should be. These creatures
were not men, he told himself;
he would give himself no
illusions on that score; but they
might still be capable of learning
many things that he had to
teach. He could do a great deal
of good, even if it turned out
that he could never return to
He rather suspected that they
had no spaceships. There was
something about their life—the
small villages, the slowly drifting
aircars, the absence of noise
and smell and dirt, that somehow
did not fit with the idea of
space travel. As soon as he was
able, he asked them about it. No
they had never traveled beyond
their own planet. It was a great
marvel; perhaps he could teach
them how, sometime.
As their command of written
English improved, he catechized
them about themselves and their
planet. The world, as he knew
already, was much like Earth as
to atmosphere, gravity and
mean temperature. It occurred
to him briefly that he had been
lucky to hit upon such a world,
but the thought did not stick; he
had no way of knowing just how
improbable his luck had been.
They themselves were, as he
had thought, simple beings.
They had a written history of
some twelve thousand of their
years, which he estimated to be
about nine thousand of his.
Their technical accomplishments,
he had to grant, equalled
Earth's and in some cases surpassed
them. Their social organization
was either so complex
that it escaped him altogether,
or unbelievably simple. They
did not, so far as he could discover,
have any political divisions.
They did not make war.
They were egg-layers, and
they controlled their population
simply by means of hatching
only as many eggs as were needed
to replace their natural
Just when it first struck
Weaver that he was their appointed
ruler it would be hard
to say. It began, perhaps, that
afternoon in the aircar; or a
few days later when he made his
first timid request—for a house
of his own. The request was
eagerly granted, and he was
asked how he would like the
house constructed. Half timidly,
he drew sketches of his own
suburban home in Schenectady;
and they built it, swarms of
them working together, down to
the hardwood floors and the
pneumatic furniture and the
picture mouldings and the lampshades.
Or perhaps the idea crystallized
when he asked to see some
of their native dances, and
within an hour the dancers assembled
on his lawn—five hundred
of them—and performed
At, any rate, nothing could
have been more clearly correct
once he had grasped the idea.
He was a Man, alone in a world
of outlandish creatures. It was
natural that he should lead; indeed,
it was his duty. They were
poor things, but they were
malleable in his hands. It was a
great adventure. Who knew how
far he might not bring them?
Weaver embarked on a tour
of the planet, taking with him
two of the bug things as guides
and a third as pilot and personal
servant. Their names in
their own tongue he had not
bothered to ask; he had christened
them Mark, Luke and
John. All three now wrote and
read English with fair proficiency;
thus Weaver was well
The trip was entirely enjoyable.
He was met everywhere by
the same throngs, the same delight
and enthusiasm as before;
and between villages—there
seemed to be nothing on the
planet that could be called a city—the
rolling green countryside,
dotted with bosquets of yellow- and
orange-flowered trees, was
most soothing to the eye. Weaver
noted the varieties of strangely
shaped and colored plants, and
the swarms of bright flying
things, and began an abortive
collection. He had to give it up,
for the present: there were too
many things to study. He looked
forward to a few books to be
compiled later, when he had
time, for the guidance of Earthmen
at some future date: The
Flora of Terranova, The Fauna
All that was for the distant
future. Now he was chiefly concerned
with the Terranovans
themselves—how they lived,
what they thought, what sort of
primitive religion they had, and
so on. He asked endless questions
of his guides, and through
them, of the villagers they met;
and the more he learned, the
more agitated he became.
"But this is monstrous," he
wrote indignantly to Mark and
Luke. They had just visited a
house inhabited by seventeen
males and twelve females—Weaver
was now beginning to
be able to distinguish the sexes—and
he had inquired what
their relations were. Mark had
informed him calmly that they
were husbands and wives; and
when Weaver pointed out that
the balance was uneven, had
written, "No, not one to one. All
to all. All husband and wife of
Mark held Weaver's indignant
message up to his eyes with one
many-jointed claw, while his
other three forelimbs gestured
uncertainly. Finally he seized
the note-pad and wrote, "Do not
understand monstrous, please
forgive. They do for more
change, so not to make each
other have tiredness."
Weaver frowned and wrote,
"Does not your religion forbid
Mark consulted in his own
piping tongue with the other
two. Finally he surrendered the
note-pad to Luke, who wrote:
"Do not understand religion to
forbid, please excuse. With us
many religion, some say spirits
in flower, some say in wind and
sun, some say in ground. Not
say to do this, not to do that.
With us all people the same, no
one tell other what to do."
Weaver added another mental
note to his already lengthy list:
He wrote: "Tell them this
Mark turned without hesitation
to the silently attentive
group, and translated. He turned
back to Weaver and wrote, "They
ask please, what to do now instead
of the way they do?"
Weaver told him, "They must
mate only one to one, and for
To his surprise, the translation
of this was greeted by unmistakable
twitterings of gladness.
The members of the
adulterous group turned to each
other with excited gestures, and
Weaver saw a pairing-off process
begin, with much discussion.
He asked Mark about it later,
as they were leaving the village.
"How is it that they did this
thing before—for more variety,
as you say—and yet seem so glad
Mark's answer was: "They
very glad to do whatever thing
you say. You bring them new
thing, they very happy."
Weaver mused on this, contentedly
on the whole, but with
a small undigested kernel of uneasiness,
until they reached the
next village. Here he found a
crowd of Terranovans of both
sexes and all ages at a feast of
something with a fearful stench.
He asked what it was; Mark's
answer had better not be revealed.
Feeling genuinely sick
with revulsion, Weaver demanded,
"Why do they do such an awful
thing? This is ten times
worse than the other."
This time Mark answered
without hesitation. "They do
this like the other, for more
change. Is not easy to learn to
like, but they do, so not to make
themselves have tiredness."
There were three more such
incidents before they reached
the village where they were to
sleep that night; and Weaver
lay awake in his downy bed,
staring at the faint shimmer of
reflected starlight on the carved
roof-beams, and meditating soberly
on the unexpected, the
appalling magnitude of the task
he had set himself.
From this, he came to consider
that small dark kernel of
doubt. It was of course dreadful
to find that his people were so
wholly corrupt, but that at least
was understandable. What he
did not understand was the
reason they could be so easily
weaned from their wickedness.
It left him feeling a little off-balance,
like a man who has
hurled himself at his enemy and
found him suddenly not there.
This reminded him of ju-jitsu,
and this in turn of the ancient
Japanese—to whom, indeed, his
Terranovans seemed to have
many resemblances. Weaver's
uneasiness increased. Savage
peoples were notoriously devious—they
smiled and then thrust
knives between your ribs.
He felt a sudden prickling
coldness at the thought. It was
improbable, it was fantastic that
they would go to such lengths
to gratify his every wish if they
meant to kill him, he told himself;
and then he remembered
the Dionysian rites, and a host
of other, too-similar parallels.
The king for a day or a year,
who ruled as an absolute monarch,
and then was sacrificed—
And, Weaver remembered
with a stab of panic, usually
He had been on Terranova for
a little over a month by the local
calendar. What was his term
of office to be—two months?
Six? A year, ten years?
He slept little that night, woke
late in the morning with dry,
irritated eyes and a furred
mouth, and spent a silent day,
inspecting each new batch of natives
without comment, and
shivering inwardly at each motion
of the clawed arms of Mark,
Luke or John. Toward evening
he came out of his funk at last,
when it occurred to him to ask
He put the query slyly, wording
it as if it were a matter of
general interest only, and of no
great importance. Were they
familiar with machines that
killed, and if so, what varieties
did they have?
At first Mark did not understand
the question. He replied
that their machines did not kill,
that very long ago they had done
so but that the machines were
much better now, very safe and
not harmful to anyone. "Then,"
wrote Weaver carefully, "you
have no machines which are
made for the purpose of killing?"
Mark, Luke and John discussed
this with every evidence
of excitement. At last Mark
wrote, "This very new idea to
"But do you have in this world
no large, dangerous animals
which must be killed? How do
you kill those things which you
"No dangerous animals. We
kill food things, but not use machines.
Give some things food
which make them die. Give some
no food, so they die. Kill some
with heat. Some eat alive."
Weaver winced with distaste
when he read this last, and was
about to write, "This must
stop." But he thought of oysters,
and decided to reserve judgment.
After all, it had been foolish
of him to be frightened last
night. He had been carried away
by a chance comparison which,
calmly considered, was superficial
and absurd. These people
were utterly peaceful—in fact,
He wrote, "Take the aircar up
farther, so that I can see this
village from above."
He signaled John to stop
when they had reached a height
of a few hundred feet. From this
elevation, he could see the village
spread out beneath him like
an architect's model—the neat
cross-hatching of narrow streets
separating the hollow curves of
rooftops, dotted with the myriad
captive balloons launched in
honor of his appearance.
The village lay in the gentle
hollow of a wide valley, surrounded
by the equally gentle
slopes of hills. To his right, it
followed the bank of a fair-sized
river; in the other three directions
the checkered pattern ended
in a careless, irregular outline
and was replaced by the
larger pattern of cultivated
It was a good site—the river
for power, sanitation and transportation,
the hills for a sheltered
climate. He saw suddenly,
in complete, sharp detail, how it
"The trip is over," he wrote
with sudden decision. "We will
stay here, and build a city."
The most difficult part was the
number of things that he had to
learn. There was no trouble
about anything he wanted done
by others; he simply commanded,
and that was the end of it.
But the mass of knowledge about
the Terranovans and their world
before he came appalled him not
only by its sheer bulk but by its
intricacy, the unexplained gaps,
the contradictions. For a long
time after the founding of New
Washington—later New Jerusalem—he
was still bothered a
little by doubt. He wanted to
learn all that there was to learn
about the Terranovans, so that
finally he would understand
them completely and the doubt
would be gone.
Eventually he confessed to
himself that the task was impossible.
He was forty-seven
years old; he had perhaps thirty
years ahead of him, and it was
not as if he were able to devote
them solely to study. There was
the written history of the Terranovans,
which covered minutely
a period of nine thousand
years—though not completely;
there were periods and places
which seemed to have left no
adequate records of themselves.
The natives had no reasonable
explanation of this phenomenon;
they simply said that the keeping
of histories sometimes went
out of fashion.
Then there was the biology of
the Terranovans and the countless
other organisms of the
planet—simply to catalogue
them and give them English
names, as he had set out to do,
would have occupied him the
rest of his lifetime.
There was the complex and
puzzling field of social relations—here
again everything seemed
to be in unaccountable flux, even
though the over-all pattern remained
the same and seemed as
rigid as any primitive people's.
There was physics, which presented
of translation; there was engineering,
there was medicine,
there was economics....
When he finally gave it up, it
was not so much because of the
simple arithmetical impossibility
of the job as because he realized
that it didn't matter. For a time
he had been tempted away from
the logical attitude toward these
savages of his—a foolish weakness
of the sort that had given
him that ridiculous hour or two,
when, he now dimly recalled, he
had been afraid of the Terranovans—afraid,
of all things,
that they were fattening him for
Whereas it was clear enough,
certainly, that the former state
of the Terranovans, their incomprehensible
society and language
and customs, simply had no practical
importance. He was changing
all that. When he was
through, they would be what he
had made them, no more and no
It was strange, looking back,
to realize how little he had seen
of his destiny, there at the beginning.
Timid little man, he
thought half in amusement, half
contemptuously: nervous and
fearful, seeing things small.
Build me a house, like the one I
had in Schenectady!
They had built him a palace—no,
a temple—and a city; and
they were building him a world.
A planet that would be his to the
last atom when it was done; a
corner of the universe that was
Algernon James Weaver.
He recalled that in the beginning
he had felt almost like
these creatures' servant—"public
servant," he had thought, with
self-righteous lukewarm, pleasure.
He had seen himself as one
who built for others—the more
virtuous because those others
were not even men.
But it was not he who built.
They built, and for him.
It was strange, he thought
again, that he should not have
seen it from the first. For it was
perfectly clear and all of a pattern.
The marriage laws. Thou
shalt not live in adultery.
The dietary laws. Thou shalt
not eat that which is unclean.
And the logical concomitant,
the law of worship. Thou shalt
have no gods before Me.
The apostles ... Mark, Luke
and John. Later, Matthew,
Philip, Peter, Simon, Andrew,
James, Bartholomew and
He had a feeling that something
was wrong with the list
besides the omission of Judas—unluckily,
he had no Bible—but
it was really an academic question.
They were his apostles, not
The pattern repeated itself, he
thought, but with variations.
He understood now why he
had shelved the project of Christianizing
the natives, although
one of his first acts had been to
abolish their pagan sects. He had
told himself at first that it was
best to wait until he had put
down from memory the salient
parts of the Holy Bible—Genesis,
say, the better-known Psalms,
and a condensed version of the
Gospels; leaving out all the
begats, and the Jewish tribal
history, and awkward things like
the Songs of Solomon. (Thy
mandibles are like pomegranates ... no,
it wouldn't do).
And, of course, he had never
found time to wrack his brains
for the passages that eluded
him. But all that had been merely
a subterfuge to soothe his conscience,
while he slowly felt his
way into his new role.
Now, it was almost absurdly
simple. He was writing his own
holy book—or rather, Luke,
Thomas, and a corps of assistants
were putting it together
from his previous utterances, to
be edited by him later.
The uneasy rustling of chitinous
arms against white robes
recalled him from his meditation.
The swarm of priests, altar boys,
and the rest of his retinue was
still gathered around him, waiting
until he should deign to notice
them again. Really, God
thought with annoyance, this
woolgathering—at such a moment!
The worshippers were massed
in the Temple. A low, excited
twittering rose from them as He
appeared and walked into the
beam of the spotlight.
The dark lenses of television
cameras were focused on Him
from every part of the balcony
at the rear of the hall. The
microphones were ready. Weaver
walked forward as the congregation
knelt, and waited an impressive
moment before He
spread His hands in the gesture
that meant, "Rise, my children."
Simon, previously coached,
translated. The congregation
rose again, rustling, and then
At a signal from Simon, the
choir began a skirling and
screeching which the disciples
warranted to be music—religious
music, composed to fit the requirements
He had laid down.
Weaver endured it, thinking that
some changes must come slowly.
The hymn wailed to an end,
and Weaver gripped the lectern,
leaning carefully forward toward
the microphones. "My children,"
He began, and waited for
Solomon's twittering translation.
"You have sinned greatly—"
Twitter. "—and in many ways."
Twitter. "But I have come among
you—" Twitter. "—to redeem
your sins—" Twitter. "—and
make them as though they had
never been." Twitter.
He went on to the end, speaking
carefully and sonorously. It
was not a long sermon, but He
flattered Himself that it was
meaty. At the end of it He
stepped back a pace, and folded
His arms, in their long white-silk
sleeves, across His chest.
Simon took over now, and so
far as Weaver could judge, he
did well. He recited a litany
which Weaver had taught him,
indicating by gestures that the
congregation was to repeat after
him every second speech. The
low chirping welled from the
hall; a comforting, warming
sound, almost like the responses
of a human congregation.
Weaver felt tears welling to His
eyes, and He restrained Himself
from weeping openly only by a
gigantic effort. After all, He was
a god of wrath; but the love
which swept toward Him at this
moment was a powerful thing to
When it was all over, He went
back to His sanctum, dismissed
all His retinue except His regular
assistants, and removed the
"The people responded well,"
He said. "I am pleased."
Simon said, "They will work
hard to please You, Master. You
bring great happiness to them."
"That is well," said Weaver.
He sat down behind His great
desk, while the others stood attentively
below Him, in the
sunken fore-section of the sanctum.
"What business have you
for Me today?"
"There is the matter of the
novel, Master," said Mark. He
stepped forward, mounted the
single step to Weaver's dais,
and laid a sheaf of papers on
the desk. "This is a preliminary
attempt which one called Peter
Smith has made with my unworthy
"I will read it later," Weaver
told him. It was poor stuff, no
doubt—what else could one expect?—but
it was a start. He
would tell them what was wrong
with it, and they would try
Literary criticism, armaments,
tariffs, manners—there was no
end to it. "What else?"
Luke stepped forward. "The
plans for the large weapons You
commanded Your servants to
design, Master." He put three
large sheets of parchment on the
Weaver looked at the neat
tracery on the first, and frowned.
"You may come near Me," He
said. "Show Me how these are
meant to operate."
Luke pointed to the first drawing.
"This is the barrel of the
weapon, Master," he said. "As
You commanded, it is rifled so
that the missile will spin. Here
the missile is inserted at the
breech, according to Your direction.
Here is the mechanism
which turns and aims the weapon,
as You commanded. It is
shown in greater detail on this
second sheet.... And here, on the
third, is the missile itself. It is
hollow and filled with explosive
powder, as You ordered, and
there is in the tip a device which
will attract it to the target."
Weaver gravely nodded. "Has
it been tested?"
"In models only, Master. If
You direct, the construction will
begin at once."
"Good. Proceed. How many of
these can you make for Me within
Luke hesitated. "Few, Master.
At first all must be done by hand
methods. Later it will be possible
to make many at a time—fifty,
or even a hundred in one month—but
for the first two or three
months, Master, two weapons in
a month is all that Your unworthy
servants can do."
"Very well," said Weaver. "See
He turned and examined the
large globe of the planet which
stood on His desk. Here was another
product of His genius; the
Terranovans had scarcely had
maps worthy of the name before
The three major continents
trailed downward like fleshy
leaves from the north pole; He
had called them America, Europe
and Asia, and they were so lettered
on the globe. In the southern
hemisphere, besides the tips
of Europe and Asia and fully a
third of America, there was a
fourth continent, shaped rather
like a hat, which He had called
Australia. There was no Africa
on Terranova, but that was
small loss: Weaver had never
thought highly of Africa.
The planet itself, according to
the experts who had been assigned
the problem, was a little
more than ten thousand miles in
diameter. The land area, Weaver
thought, probably amounted to
more than fifty million square
miles. It was a great deal to defend;
but it must be done.
"Here is your next assignment,"
He told Luke. "Put a
team to work on selecting and
preparing sites for these guns,
when they are built. There must
be one in every thousand square
Luke bowed and took the plans
... For otherwise, Weaver
thought somberly, another ship
might land, some day. And how
could I trust these children not
to welcome it?
Sunlight gleamed brilliantly
from the broad, white-marble
plaza beyond the tall portico.
Looking through the windows,
He could see the enormous block
of stone in the center of the
plaza, and the tiny robot aircar
hovering near it, and the tiny
ant-shapes of the crowd on the
opposite side. Beyond, the sky
was a clear, faultless blue.
"Are you ready now, Master?"
Weaver tested His limbs. They
were rigid and almost without
sensation; He could not move
them so much as the fraction of
an inch. Even His lips were as
stiff as that marble outside. Only
the fingers of His right hand,
clutching a pen, felt as if they
belonged to Him.
A metal frame supported a
note-pad where His hand could
reach it. Then he wrote, "Yes.
Proceed with the statue."
Luke was holding a tiny torpedo-shaped
object that moved
freely at the end of a long, jointed
metal arm. He moved it tentatively
toward Weaver's left
shoulder. Outside, the hovering
aircar duplicated the motion:
the grinder at its tip bit with a
screech into the side of the huge
Weaver watched, feeling no
discomfort; the drug Luke had
injected was working perfectly.
Luke moved the pantograph
pointer, again and again, until
it touched Weaver's robed body.
With every motion, the aircar
bored a tunnel into the stone to
the exact depth required, and
backed out again. Slowly a form
was beginning to emerge.
The distant screech of the
grinder was muffled and not
unpleasant. Weaver felt a trifle
The top of one extended arm
was done. The aircar moved over
and began the other, leaving the
head still buried in stone.
After this, Weaver thought,
He could rest. His cities were
built, His church founded, His
guns built and tested, His people
trained. The Terranovans
were as civilized as He could
make them in one generation.
They had literary societies,
newsstands, stock markets, leisure
and working classes, baseball
leagues, armies.... They had
had to give up their barbaric
comfort, of course; so much the
better. Life was real, life was
earnest—Weaver had taught
The mechanism of His government
ran smoothly; it would continue
to run, with only an occasional
guiding touch. This was
His last major task. The monument.
Something to remember Me
by, He thought drowsily. Myself
in stone, long after I am gone.
That will keep them to My ways,
even if they should be tempted.
To them I will still be here,
standing over them, gigantic,
They will still have something
Stone dust was obscuring the
figure now, glittering in the sunlight.
Luke undercut a huge
block of the stone and it fell,
turning lazily, and crashed on
the pavement. Robot tractors
darted out to haul the pieces
Weaver was glad it was Luke
whose hand was guiding the
pantograph, not one of the
bright, efficient younger generation.
They had been together a
long time, Luke and He. Almost
ten years. He knew Luke as if
he were a human being; understood
him as if he were a person.
And Luke knew Him better than
any of the rest; knew His smiles
and His frowns, all His moods.
It had been a good life. He had
done all the things He set out to
do, and He had done them in His
own time and His own way. At
this distance, it was almost impossible
to believe that He had
once been a little man among
billions of others, conforming to
their patterns, doing what was
expected of Him.
His free hand was growing
tired from holding the pen. When
all the rest was done, Luke would
freeze that hand also, and then
it would be only a minute or so
until he could inject the antidote.
He scribbled idly, "Do you remember
the old days, before I
"Very well, Master," said the
apostle. "But it seems a long
Yes, Weaver told Himself contentedly;
just what I was thinking.
We understand each other,
Luke and I. He wrote, "Things
are very different now, eh?"
"Very different, Master. You
made many changes. The people
are very grateful to You."
He could see the broad outlines
of the colossal figure now:
the arms, in their heavy ecclesiastical
sleeves, outstretched in
benediction, the legs firmly
planted. But the bowed head was
still a rough, featureless mass
of stone, not yet shaped.
"Do you know," Weaver wrote,
on impulse, "that when I first
came, I thought for a time that
you were savages who might
want to eat Me?"
That would startle Luke, He
thought. But Luke said, "We all
wanted to, very much. But that
would have been foolish, Master.
Then we would not have had all
the other things. And besides,
there would not have been
enough of You for all."
The aircar screeched, driving
a tunnel along the edge of the
God felt a cold wind down the
corridor of time. He had been
that close, after all. It was only
because the natives had been
cold-bloodedly foresighted that
He was still alive. The idea infuriated
Him, and somehow He
was still afraid.
He wrote, "You never told me
this. You will all do a penance
Luke was dabbing the pointer
carefully at the bald top of
Weaver's head. His horny, complicated
face was unpleasantly
close, the mandibles unpleasantly
big even behind his mouth veil.
Luke said, "We will, very
gladly ... except that perhaps
the new ones will not like it."
Weaver felt bewildered. In one
corner of His mind He felt a
tiny darkness unfolding: the
kernel of doubt, forgotten so
long, but there all the time.
Growing larger now, expanding
to a ragged, terrifying shape.
He wrote, "What do you mean?
Who are 'the new ones'?"
Luke said, "We did not tell
You. We knew You would not like
it. A spaceship landed in Asia
two months ago. There are three
people in it. One is sick, but we
believe the other two will live.
They are very funny people,
The pantograph pointer moved
down the side of God's nose and
another wedge of stone fell in
"They have three long legs,
and a very little body, and a head
with one eye in front and one
behind. Also they have very
funny ideas. They are horrified
at the way we live, and they are
going to change it all around."
Weaver's fingers jerked uncontrollably,
and the words wavered
across the page. "I don't understand.
I don't understand."
"I hope You are not angry.
Master," said Luke. "We are
very grateful to You. When You
came, we were desperately bored.
There had been no new thing for
more than seven thousand years,
since the last ship came from
space. You know that we have
not much imagination. We tried
to invent new things for ourselves,
but we could never think
of anything so amusing as the
ones You gave us. We will always
remember You with gratitude."
The pantograph was tracing
Weaver's eyelids, and then the
unfeeling eyes themselves.
"But all things must end," said
Luke. "Now we have these
others, who do not like what you
have done, so we cannot worship
you any more. And anyway, some
of the people are growing tired.
It has been ten years. A long
One thought pierced through
the swirling fear in Weaver's
mind. The guns, built with so
much labor, the enormous guns
that could throw a shell two hundred
miles. The crews, manning
them night and day to destroy
the first ship that came in from
space. And they had never meant
to use them!
Anger fought with caution. He
felt peculiarly helpless now,
locked up in his own body like a
prison. "What are you going to
do?" he scrawled.
"Nothing that will hurt, Master,"
said Luke. "You remember,
I told you long ago, we had no
machines for killing before you
came. We used other things, like
this drug which paralyzes. You
will feel no pain."
Algernon Weaver's hand,
gripping the pen as a drowning
man holds to a stave, was moving
without his volition. It was
scrawling in huge letters, over
and over, "NO NO NO"....
"It is too bad we cannot wait,"
said Luke, "but it has to be done
before the new ones get here.
They would not like it, probably."
He let the pointer go, and it
hung where he had left it. With
two jointed claws he seized
Weaver's hand and straightened
it out to match the other, removing
the pen. With a third claw he
thrust a slender needle under the
skin. Instantly the hand was as
rigid as the rest of Weaver's
body. Weaver felt as if the last
door had been slammed, the telephone
wires cut, the sod thrown
on the coffin.
"This is the way we have decided,"
said Luke. "It is a shame,
because perhaps these new ones
will not be as funny as you, after
all. But it is the way we have
He took up the pantograph
In the plaza, the aircar ground
at the huge stone head, outlining
the stern mouth, the resolute,
bearded jaw. Helplessly, Weaver
returned the stare of that remorseless,
brooding face: the
face of a conqueror.
This etext was produced from Space Science Fiction March 1953. Extensive
research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
copyright on this publication was renewed.