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WORLDS OF 




SCIENCE FICTION • June 1973 • 750 

BRILLIANT NEW NOVEL! 

OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 

CLIFFORD D. SIMAK 



MNARRA MOBILIS 
Sidney J. Van Scyoc 

PROMISE THEM ANYTHING 
Dean McLaughlin 






The first two novels in 

PHILIP JOSE FARMER’S 

Stunning Riverworld Trilogy! 




1^ ^ .fe gSSBftto 

t>SE. 






A.XJ-T>*0». 0» 

■TX> VO’UK SeATTl'V-’aV.ti 
Bon^V£» e,o 



TO YOUR SCATTERED 
BODIES GO 

“An imaginative science fiction novel 
... [set] in an unfamiliar barren land. 
. . . Intellectually challenging.”— Pwfe- 
lishers Weekly. “Intriguing and in- 
genious.”— Library Journal. “A 
fascinating, exciting book.” —St. 
Louis Post -Dispatch. “I couldn’t put 
it down.” —Minneapolis Tribune. 
Winner of the 1972 Hugo Award 
FOR Best Science Fiction Novel 
OF THE Year. 

Putnam edition, $4.95 
Berkley paperback, 750 

G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS 200 



THE FABULOUS 
RIVERBOAT 

“A wild romp across a landscape 
that Hieronymous Bosch might have 
dreamed up. . . . Clever, fast-moving, 
and really different.” —Publishers 
Weekly. “An intriguing, multi-char- 
actered novel set on the planet River- 
world where all humanity has been 
reborn.” —The Booklist. “A highly 
imaginative story.” —Boston Globe. 

Putnam edition, $5.95 
Berkley paperback, 750 

From your bookseller, or order 
direct from the publisher. 

lison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016 



Barry Malzberg finds the institutional 
church deaf to the trumpets of the 
Apocalypse. But for Raymond Jones 
all the lions of Rome can’t stop the 
“new men” of Trelawney’s World. 

With Clancy O’Brien Christianity 
comes up from its sewage chamber 
chapel for full-screen entertainment. 
While George Smith finds Christianity 
compatible with Vertality according 
to the Mark 184B. 

Dean Koontz sees a sinless child con- 
taminated. Raylyn Moore sees a moun- 
tain mystic electrocuted. Gail Kimberly 
sees centaurs; Roger Lovin, winged 
boatmen; Leigh Brackett, gentle Hywl; 
Thomas Scortia, the Wandering Jew. 

Ten farsighted authors see humans 
and aliens and believable peoples in 
search after a common language. . . . 
As the Lorsii asked the Apostle, “What 
means this ‘wrong’?’’ 




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We»lDS OF 

rm SCIENCE 
I I 3 FICTION 



May-Juna tSTS 
Vot.21,No. 11 

laauaiee 

ALL NEW 
STORIES 



Arnold E. Abramson, Publisher 

Ejler Jakobsson, Editor Theodore Sturgeon, Contributing Editor 

Judy-Lynn Benjamin, Meneging Editor Lester del Rey, Feeture Editor 

L C. Murphy, Subscription Director Jey Tunick, Circulation Director 



SERIAL (Part!) ", ? 

OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN, 

Clifford D. Simak 6 

NOVELETTES 

SUSIE'S REALITY, Bob Stickgold 84 

MNARRA MOBILIS, Sydney J. Van Scyoc 114 

PROMISE THEM ANYTHING, 

Dean McLaughlin 138 

SHORT STORY 

EXPERIMENT, Beverly Goldberg 162 

FEATURES 

HUE AND CRY: Readers Write and Wrong 4 

READING ROOM, Lester del Rey . . 167 

SF CALENDAR 173 



Cover by Brian Boyle Studio, suggested by MNARRA MOBILIS 



Worlds of IF is published bimonthly by 
UPD Publishing Corporation, a subsidi- 
ary of Universal Publishing & Distributing 
Corporation. Arnold E. Abramson, Presi- 
dent. Main Offices: 235 East 45 Street, 
New York, N.Y. 10017. Single copy: 75e. 
12-issue subscription: $S.OO in U.S., 
$10.00 elsewhere. 



Worlds of IF is published in the United 
Kingdom by Universal-Tandeni Pub- 
lishing Company. Ltd., 14 Gloucester 
Road, London SW7 4RD. Arnold E. Ab- 
ramson, Chairman of the Board. Ralph 
Stokes, Managing Director. Single 
copy: 25p. 12-issue subscription in the 
United Kingdom: £3.60. 



Copyright * 1973 by UPD Publishing Corporation under International, Universal and 
Pan-American Copyright Conventions. All rights reserved. Second class postage 
paid at New York, N.Y. and additional mailing offices. The publishers assume no re- 
sponsibility for unsolicited material. All stories printed in this magazine are fiction 
and any similarity between characters and actual persons is coincidental. Printed 
in U.S.A. 











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Dear Mr, Jakobsson: 

Vm beginning to believe you 
have a particular taste for sf 
stories dealing with androids 
and! or cyborgs, because / find a 
high percentage of such stories in 
both Galaxy Magazine and 
Worlds of If. The February issue 
of If contains two of that kind: 
The Never Girl and Ghosts. And 
surprisingly {to me) both were on 
the better side of mediocre, most 
stories of that kind today, when al- 
most every aspect of the general 
field has been explored barely 
short of the point of diminishing 
returns, being mediocre. 

Rarely are any as original or 
interesting as those by Michael 
Coney and Robert Young in this 
issue. 

Although a lot of the history 
provided to us in the footnote in 
The Never Girl seemed unbeliev- 
able as far as necessity andjor 
logical or likely consequences 
are concerned, it was indeed a 
fascinating treatment of the 
general field known to many as 
**the new biology.** And Ghosis 



was just long enough for its unique- 
ness to hold interest until the 
end. 

But the best story in the maga- 
zine by far was Clifford Simak*si 
Contraction Shack. Written by cfi 
man who is probably one of the 
twenty all-time greatest writers 
of sf in the world, a Simak story is 
always good and usually among 
the best. His story in this issue of 
If was one of the latter. 

Pluto itself is probably the 
most intriguing of all the known 
planets, being, as Simak brings 
out so well in his story, at the out- 
ermost rim of the solar system. 
And Simak exploited its mystery 
as few other sf writers could do. 

I was expecting a different 
outcome of the explorers* inves- 
tigation — something on the or- 
der of their discovering that the 
aliens who built Pluto were origi- 
nally the ^guardians of the uni- 
verse, similar to the Watchers 
from The Fantastic Four, with 
sentries in each galaxy and one in 
every star system (not solar sys- 
tem; there*s only one Sol). But I 
wasn*t disappointed at the real 
revelation at the end of the story. 
And the only other flaw in the 
piece was the overemotionalism 
of the expedition* s leader after 
he found out how his creators had 
( Continued on page 1 74 ) 



4 



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CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



Fleeing Earth’s end they come— to 
give their ’’eiders" another chance! 



CLIFFORD D, SIMAK 



1 « Bentley Price, photographer 
for Global News Service, had put 
a steak on the broiler and settled 
down in a lawn chair, a can of beer 
in hand, to watch it, when the door 
opened under an ancient white 
oak tree and people started walk- 
ing out of it. 

Many years had passed since 
Bentley Price had been as- 
tounded. He had come, through 
bitter experience, to expect the 
unusual and to think but little of 
it. He took pictures of the unusu- 
al, the bizarre, the violent, then 
turned around and left, sometimes 
most hurriedly, for there was 
competition from such as the AP 
and the UPI, and an up-and-com- 
ing news photographer could al- 
low no grass to grow beneath his 
feet. And while picture editors 
certainly were not individuals 
to be feared, it was often wise to 
keep them mollified. 

But now Bentley was as- 
tounded, for what was happening 
was not something that could eas- 
ily be imagined or ever recon- 
ciled to any previous experi- 
ence. He sat stiff in his chair, the 
beer can rigid in his hand and a 
glassy look about his eyes, watch- 
ing the people walking from the 
doorway. Although now he saw 
that the opening was not exactly 
a door, but a ragged hole of dark- 
ness that quivered at the edges and 
was somewhat larger than any 
common door, for people were 
emerging four and five abreast. 



They seemed quite ordinary^ |j 
although they were dressed a bit a 
outlandishly. If they all had been 1 
young he would have thought they | 
were from a university or a youth | 
center and wearing the crazy kind 
of clothes that college students af- 
fected. But while some of these 
people were young, a lot of them 
were not. 

One of the first to have walked 
out onto the lawn was a tall thin 
man, graceful in his leanness. He 
had a great unruly mop of iron- 
gray hair and his neck looked like a 
turkey's. He wore a short gray 
skirt that ended just above his 
knees. A red shawl draped across 
one shoulder was fastened at his 
waist by a belt that also held the ": 
skirt in place. He looked, Bentley 
told himself, like a Scot in kilts, 
but without the plaid. 

Beside him walked a young 
woman dressed in a white and 
flowing robe that came down to 
her sandaled feet. The robe was 
belted and her intensely black 
hair, worn in a ponytail, hung 
down to her waist. She had a pretty 
face, thought Bentley — the kind 
of prettiness one seldom saw — 
and her skin, what little could be 
seen of it, was as white and clear as 
the robe she wore. 

The two walked toward Bentley 
and stopped in front of him. 

“I presume,” said the man, 
“that you are the proprietor.” 

Something was wrong with the 
way he talked. He slurred his 



8 



IF 




words. But he was entirely un- 
derstandable. 

“I suppose,” said Bentley, 
“you mean do I own the joint.” 
“Perhaps I do,” the other said. 
“My speech may not be of this day, 
but you seem to hear me rightly.” 
“Sure I do,” said Bentley, “but 
what about this day? You mean to 
tell me you speak different every 
day?” 

“I do not mean that at all,” said 
the man. “You must pardon our 
intrusion. It must appear un- 
seemly. We’ll endeavor not to 
harm your property.” 

“Well, I tell you, friend,” said 
Bentley, “I don’t own the place. 
I’m just holding down the home- 
stead for an absent owner. Will 
you ask those people not to go 
tramping over flower beds? Joe’s 
missus will be awful sore if she 
comes home and finds those flow- 
ers messed up. She sets a store by 
them.” 

All the time that they’d been 
talking, people had been coming 
through the door and now they 
were ail over the place and spilling 
over into the yards next door and 
the neighbors were coming out to 
see what was going on. 

The girl smiled brightly at Bent- 
ley. “I think you can be easy about 
the flowers,” she said. “These are 
good people, well-intentioned 
and on their best behavior.” 

“They count upon your suffer- 
ance,” said the man. “They are ref- 
ugees.” 



Bentley took a good look at 
them. They didn’t look like refu- 
gees. In his time, in many differ- 
ent parts of the world, he had pho- 
tographed a lot of refugees. They 
were grubby and usually packed a 
lot of plunder, but these people 
were neat and clean and they car- 
ried very little, a small piece of 
luggage, perhaps, or a sort of at- 
tache case, like the one the man 
who was speaking with him had 
tucked under one arm. 

“They don’t look like refugees 
to me,” he said. “Where are they 
refugeeing from?” 

“From the future,” said the 
man. “We beg utmost indul- 
gence of you. What we are doing, I 
assure you, is a matter of our life 
or death.” 

That shook Bentley up. He went 
to take a drink of beer and then de- 
cided not to and, reaching down, 
set the beer can on the lawn. He 
rose slowly from his chair. 

“I tell you, mister,” he said, “if 
this is some sort of publicity stunt 
I won’t lift a camera. I wouldn’t 
take no shot of no publicity stunt, 
no matter what it was.” 

“Publicity stunt?” asked the 
man and there could be no doubt 
that he was plainly puzzled. “I 
am sorry, sir. What you say eludes 
me. 

Bentley took a close look at the 
door. People still were coming 
out of it, still four and five abreast 
and there seemed no end to them. 
The opening hung there as he first 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



9 




had seen it, a slightly ragged blob 
of darkness that quivered at th^ 
edges. It blotted out a small sec- 
tion of the lawn, but behind and 
beyond it he could see the trees 
and shrubs and the play-set in the 
back yard of the house next door. 

If it was a publicity stunt, he 
decided, it was a topnotch job. A 
lot of PR jerks must have beat their 
brains out to dream up one like 
this. How had they rigged that rag- 
ged hole and where did all the peo- 
ple come from? 

“We come,“ said the man, 
“from five hundred years in the fu- 
ture. We are fleeing from the end 
of the human race. We ask your 
help and understanding." 

Bentley stared at him. “Mis- 
ter," he asked, “you wouldn’t kid 
me, would you? If I fell for this I 
would lose my job." 

“We expected, naturally,” 
said the man, “to encounter dis- 
belief. I realize there is no way 
we can prove our origin. We ask 
you, please, to accept us as we de- 
fine ourselves." 

“I tell you what," said Bentley. 
“I will go with the gag. I will take 
some shots, but if I find it’s public- 
ity—" 

“You are speaking, I presume, 
of taking photographs." 

“Of course I am," said Bentley. 
“The camera is my business, un- 
derstand?" 

“We didn’t come to have photo- 
graphs taken of us. If you have 
some compunctions about this 



matter, please feel free to follow 
them. We will not mindat all." 

“So you don’t want your pic- 
tures taken," Bentley said fierce- 
ly. “You’re like a lot of other peo- 
ple. Yoju get into a jam and then 
you scream because someone 
snaps a picture of you." 

“We have no objections," ' said 
the man. “Take as many pictures 
as you wish." 

“You don’t mind?" 

“Not at all." 

Bentley swung about, heading 
for the back door. His foot caught 
the can. of beer as he turned and 
sent it flying. 

Three cameras lay on the kitch- 
en table, where he had been work- 
ing with them before he’d gone out 
to broil the steak. He grabbed up 
one of them and was turning back 
toward the door when he thought 
of Molly. Maybe he’d better let 
Molly know about this, he told 
himself. The guy had said all these 
people were coming from the fu- 
ture and if that were true, it would 
be nice for Molly to be in on it 
from the start. Not that he be- 
lieved a word of it, of course, but it 
was mighty funny, no matter what 
was going on. 

He picked up the kitchen phone 
and dialed. He grumbled at him- 
self. He was wasting time when he 
should be taking pictures. Molly 
might not be home. It was Sunday 
and a nice day and there was no 
reason to expect to find her home. 

Molly answered. 



10 



IF 




“Molly, this is Bentley. You 
know where 1 live?” 

“You’re over in Virginia. 
Mooching free rent off Joe while 
he is gone.” 

“It ain’t like that at all. I’m tak- 
ing care of the place for him. Ed- 
na, she has all these flowers — ” 
“Ha!” said Molly. 

“What I called about,” said 
Bentley, “is would you come over 
here?” 

“I will not,” said Molly. ^‘If you 
have in mind making passes at me 
you have to take me out.” 

“I ain’t making passes at no 
one,” Bentley protested. “I got 
people walking out of a door all 
over the back yard. They say 
theyYe from the future, from five 
hundred years ahead.” 

“What! Impossible — ” 

“That’s what 1 think, too. But 
where are they coming from? 
There must be a thousand of them 
out there. Even if they’re not from 
the future it ought to be a story. 
You better haul yoiir tail out here 
and talk with some of them. Have 
your byline in all the morning pa- 
pers.” 

“Bentley, this is on the level?” 
“On the level,” Bentley said. “I 
ain’t drunk and I’m not trying to 
trick you out here and — ” 

“All right,” she said. “I’ll be 
right out. You better call the of- 
fice. Manning had to take the 
Sunday trick himself this week' 
and he’s not too happy with it, so 
be careful how you say hi, there. 










Donald A. Wollhaim, Publishar 

When it comes to producing "a 
best of the year" anthology Theo- 
dore Sturgeon wrote that Woll- 
heim ""knows well what he is do- 
ing."" 

THE 1973 ANNUAL WORLD S 
BEST SF is Wollheim. iUQ1053) 
Tastes differ in the collections, 
but DAW sticks to the real sci- 
ence fiction and shuns oddball 
and ""fun-and-games"" items. You 
can rely upon this one. 

E.C. Tubb"s marvelous space 
adventures of Dumarest con- 
tinue as he tries to find the where- 
abouts of lost Earth in MAYENNE. 
(UQi054). 

""Startlingly impressive/" says 
Harlan Ellison about Gordon 
Dickson's short stories and 
novelettes in THE BOOK OF 
GORDON DICKSON. (UQW55). 

And startling, too, is the word 
for Michael G. Coney's FRIENDS 
COME IN BOXES (UQW56); a 
single day in the year 2256 A.D. 
when a number of "immortals" 
learn the facts of life. 



Each of the DAW titles for May 
is 95c 






OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



n 




But he'll want to get some other 
people out there. If this isn't just a 
joke—" 

"It's not any joke," said Bent- 
ley. "I ain't crazy enough to joke 
myself out of any job." 

"I'll be seeing you," said Molly. 

She hung up. 

Bentley had started to dial the 
office numbers when the screen 
door slammed. He looked around 
and the tall thin man stood just in- 
side the kitchen. 

"You'll pardon me," the tall 
man said, "but there seems to be a 
matter of some urgency. Some of 
the little folks need to use a bath- s 
room. I wonder if you’d mind — " 

"Help yourself," said Bentley, 
making a thumb in the direction 
of the bath. "If you need it, there’s 
another one upstairs.’’ 

Manning answered after a half- 
dozen rings. 

"I got a story out here,” Bent- 
ley told him. 

"Out where?’’ 

"Joe’s place. Out where I am liv- 
ing.” 

"Okay. Let’s have it.” 

"I ain’t no reporter,^” said Bent- 
ley. "I ain’t supposed to get you 
stories. All I do is take the pic- 
tures. This is a big story and I 
might make mistakes and I ain’t 
paid to take the heat—” 

"All right,” said Manning 
wearily. "I’ll dig up someone to 
send out. But Sunday and over- 
time and all, it better be a good 
one.” 



"I got a thousand people out in 
the backyard, coming through a 
funny door. They say they’re from 
the future — ” 

"They say they’re from the 
what?” howled Manning. 

"From the future. From five 
hundred years ahead.” 

"Bentley, you’re drunk.’’ 

"It don’t make no never mind 
to me,” said Bentley. "It’s ho skin 
off me. I told you. You do what 
you want.” 

Re hung up and picked up a 
camera. 

A steady stream of children, ac- 
companied by some adults, was 
coming through the kitchen door. 

"Lady,” he said to one of the 
women, "there’s another one up- 
stairs. You better form two lines.” 

2* Steve Wilson, White House 
press secretary, was heading for 
the door of his apartment and an 
afternoon with Judy Gray, his of- 
fice secretary, when the phone 
rang. He retraced his steps to pick 
it up. 

"This is Manning,” said the 
voice at the other end. 

"What can I do for you, Tom?” 
"You got your radio turned on?” 
"Hell, no. Why should I have a 
radio turned on?” 

"There’s something screwy hap- 
pening,” said Manning. "You 
should maybe know about it. 
Sounds like we’re being in- 
vaded.” 

"Invaded?” 



12 



IF 





Winner of Hugo and Nebula Awards 




Provoking insights 
lor 

changing 
the world 
into 
our 

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An Avon Book 95c 



“Not that kind of invasion. 
People walking out of nothing. 
Say they’re from the future.” 
“Look, if this is a gag — ” 

“I thought so, too,” said Man- 
ning. “When Bentley first called 
in — 

“You mean Bentley Price, your 
drunken photographer?” 

“That’s the one,” said Man- 
ning, “but Bentley isn’t drunk. 
Not this time. Too early in the 
day. Molly’s out there now and I 
have sent out others. AP is on it 
and — ” 

“Where is this all going on?” 
“One place is over across the riv- 
er. Not far from Fails Church.” 
“One place?” 

“There are others. Wc have it 



from Boston, Chicago, Minne- 
apolis. AP just came in with a re- 
port from Denver.” 

“Thanks, Tom. I owe you.” 

He hung up, strode across the 
room and snapped on a radio. 

“. . .so far known,” said the 
radio. “Only that people are 
marching out of what one observ- 
er called a hole in the landscape. 
Coming out five and six abreast. 
Like a marching army, one be- 
hind the other, a solid stream of 
them. This is happening in Vir- 
ginia, just across the river. We 
have similar reports from Bos- 
ton, the New York area, Minne^ 
apolis, Chicago, Denver, New 
Orleans, Los Angeles. As a rule, 
not in the cities themselves, but in 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



13 





the country just beyond the cities. 
And here is another one — Atlan- 
ta, this time.” A quiver in the 
deadpan voice betrayed momen- 
tary unprofessional excite- 
ment. “No one knows who they are 
or where they comp from or by 
what means they are coming. 
They are simply here, walking in- 
to this world of ours. Thousands 
of them and more coming every 
minute. An invasion, you might 
call it, but not a warlike inva- 
sion. They are coming empty- 
handed. They are quiet and peace- 
able. They’re not bothering any- 
one. One unconfirmed report is 
that they are from the future, but 
that, on the face of it, is impossi- 
ble—” 

Wilson turned the radio to a 
whisper, went back to the phone 
and dialed. 

The White House switchboard 
answered. 

“That you, Della? This is Steve. 
Where is the President?” 

“He’s taking a nap.” 

“Could you get someone to 
wake him? Tell him to turn on the 
radio. I am coming in.” 

“But, Steve, what is going on? 
What is— ” 

He broke the connection, 
dialed another number. After a 
time Judy came on the line. 

“Is something wrong, Steve? I 
was just finishing packing the 
picnic basket. Don’t tell me — ” 

“No picnic today, sweetheart. 
We’re going back to work.” 



“On Sunday?” 

“Why not on Sunday? We have 
problems. I’ll be right along. Be 
outside, waiting for me.” 

“Damn,” she said. “There goes 
my plan. I had planned to make 
you, right out in the open, on the 
grass under the trees.” 

“I’m going to torture myself 
all day,” said Wilson, “thinking 
of what I missed.” 

“All right, Steve,” she said. “I’ll 
be outside waiting on the curb.” 

He turned up the radio. “. . .flee- 
ing from the future. From some- 
thing that happened in their fu- 
ture. Fleeing back to us, to this 
particular moment. There is, of 
course, no such thing as time trav- 
el, but there are all these people 
and they must have come from 
somewhere. . .” 

3* Samuel J. Henderson stood 
at the window, looking out across 
the rose garden, bright in the suna- 
mer sun. 

W)iy the hell, he wondered, did 
everything have to happen on 
Sunday when everyone was scat- 
tered and it took no end of trouble 
to get hold of them? It had been on 
another Sunday that China had 
exploded and on still another that 
Chile had gone down the drain and 
here it was again — whatever this 
might be. 

The intercom purred at him and, 
turning from the window, he went 
back to his desk and flipped up the 
key. 




“The secretary of defense,” 
said the secretary, “is on the 
line.” 

“Thank you, Kim,” he said. 

He picked up the phone. “Jim, 
this is Sam. You’ve heard?” 

“Yes, Mr. President. Just a mo- 
ment ago. On the radio. Just a 
snatch of it.” 

“That’s all I have, too. But there 
seems no doubt. We have to do 
something, do it fast. Get the sit- 
uation under control.” 

“f know. We’ll have to take care 
of them. Housing. Food.” 

“Jim, the armed forces have to 
do the job. There is no one else who 
can move fast enough. We have to 
get them under shelter and keep 
them together. We can’t let them 
scatter. We have to keep some sort 
of control over them for a time at 
least. Until we know what is go- 
ing on.” 

“We may have to call out the 
guard.” 

“1 think,” said the President, 
“perhaps we should. Use every 
resource at your command. You 
have inflatable shelters. How 
about transportation and food?” 
“We can handle things for a few 
days. A week, maybe. Depends 
upon how many of them there are. 
In a very short time we’ll need help. 
Welfare. Agriculture. Whoever 
can lend a hand. We’ll need a lot of. 
manpower and supplies.” 

“You have to buy us some 
time,” said the President. “Until 
we have a chance tq look at what 



we have. You’ll have to handle it 
on an emergency basis until we 
can settle on some plan. Don’t 
worry too much about proce- 
dures. If you have to bend a few of 
them we’ll take care of that. I’ll be 
talking to some of the others. 
Maybe we can all get together 
some time late this afternoon or 
early evening. You are the first to 
call in. I’ve heard from none of the 
others.” 

“The CIA? The FBI?” 

“I would imagine they both 
might be moving. I haven’t heard 
from either. I suppose they’ll be 
reporting in.” 

“Mr President, do you have any 
idea — ” 

“None at all. I’ll let you know as 
soon as possible. Once you get 
things moving, get in touch again. 
I’ll need you, Jim.” 

“I’ll get on it immediately.” 

“Fine, then. I’ll be seeing you.” 

The intercom purred. 

“Steve is here,” said the Presi- 
dent’s secretary. 

“Send him in.” 

Steve Wilson caitie through the 
door. 

Henderson motioned toward a 
chair. “Sit down, Steve. What have 
we got?” ' ' 

“It’s spreading, sir. All over the 
United States and Europe. Up in 
Canada. A few places in South 
America. Russia. Singapore. 
Manila. Nothing yet from China 
or Africa. So far, no explana- 
tion. It’s fantastic, sir. Unbe- 



OURCHILDREN^SCHILDREN 15 




lievable. One is tempted to say it 
can’t be happening. But it is. 
Right in our laps.” 

The President removed his 
glasses, placed them on the desk, 
pushed them back and forth with 
his fingertips. 

“I’ve been talking with Sand- 
burg. The army will have to get 
them under shelter, feed them, 
care for them. How’s the weath- 
er?” 

“1 didn’t look,” said Wilson, 
“but if 1 remember correctly 
from the morning broadcasts, 
good everywhere, except the Pa- 
cific Northwest.^ It’s raining 
there. It’s always raining there.” 

“I tried to get State,” said the 
President. “But, hell, you never 
can get State. Williaips is out at 
Burning Tree. I left word. Some- 
one’s going out to get him. Why 
does everything always have to 
happen on Sunday? I suppose 
the press is gathering.” 

“The lounge is filling up. In an- 
other hour they’ll be pounding on 
the door. I will have to let them in, 
but I can hold them for a while. By 
six o’clock, at the latest, they’ll ex- 
pect some sort of statement.” 

“Tell them we’re trying to find 
out. The situation is under 
study. You can tell them the armed 
services are moving rapidly to 
help these people. Stress the help. 
Not detention — help. The guard 
may have to be called out to do the 
job. That is up to Jim.” 

“Maybe, sir, in another hour 



or two we’ll know more about it.” 
“Maybe. You have any thoughts 
on the matter, Steve?” 

The press secretary ^ook his 
head. 

“Well, we’ll find out. 1 expect to 
be hearing from a lot of people. It 
seems incredible that we can sit 
here, knowing nothing.” 

“You’ll probably have to go on 
TV, sir. The people will expect 
it.” 

“I suppose so.” 

“I’ll alert the networks.’^ 

“I suppose I had better talk 
with London and Moscow. Prob- 
ably Peking and Paris. We’re all 
in this together — we should act 
together. Williams, soon as he 
calls in,* will know about that. I 
think I’d better phone Hugh at the 
U.N. See what he thinks.” 

“How much of this is for the 
press, sir?” 

“The TV, I guess. Better keep 
the rest quiet for the moment. You 
have any idea of how many of these 
people are invading us?” 

“UPI had an estimate. Twelve 
thousand an hour. That’s in one 
place. There may be as many as a 
hundred places. The count’s not 
in.” 

“For the love of God,” said the 
President, “a million an hour. 
How will the world take care of 
them? We have too many people 
now. We haven’t got the housing 
or the food. Why, do you suppose, 
are they coming here? If they are 
from the future they ought to have 



16 



IF 




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historical data. They ought to 
know the problems they’re creat- 
ing.” 

“They must have a compelling 
reason,” said the secretary, 
“whoever they are. They’re act- 
ing from some sort of despera- 
tion. Certainly they know we are 
limited in our capacity to put 
them up and keep them.” 

“Children of our children,” 
said the President, “many times 
removed. If they’re truly from the 
future they are our descendants. 
We can’t turn our backs on them.” 

“I hope everyone feels' the 
same about it,” said Wilson. 
‘‘‘They’ll create an economic 
pinch if they keep coming and in 
an economic pinch there will be 



resentment. We talk about the 
present generation gap. Think 
of how much greater that ^ap will 
be when not two generations, but 
a number are involved.” 

“The churches can help a lot,” 
said the President, “if they will. If 
they don’t, we could be in trouble. 
Let one loud-mouthed evangelist 
start some pulpit-thumping and 
we’ve had it.” 

Wilson grinned. “You’re talk- 
ing about Billings, sir. If you think 
it would be all right, I could get in 
touch with him. We knew one an- 
other back in college. I can talk 
with him, but I don’t know what 
good I’ll do.” 

“Do what you can,” said the 
President.. “Reason with him. If 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



17 





he refuses to see reason we'll find 
someone who can really lean on 
him. What bothers me is the wel- 
fare population. Bread out of 
their mouths to feed all these extra 
mouths. It'll take fast footwork to 
keep them in line. The labor 
unions may be scared by all the ex- 
tra manpower, but they are hard- 
headed people, all of them. A man 
can talk to them. They under- 
stand economics and you can 
make some sense to them." 

The intercom came to life. The 
President thumbed the lever. 

“Secretary Williams on the 
line, sir." 

Wilson stood up to leave. The 
President reached for the phone. 
He looked up at Wilson. 

“Stay close," sai^l the Presi- 
dent. 

“I intend to, sir," said Wilson. 

4 . All the buttons on Judy's 
phone were blinking. She was 
talking quietly into the trans- 
mitter. The spindle on her desk 
was festooned with notes. 

When Wilson came into the of- 
fice she hung up. The lights kept on 
blinking. 

“The lounge is full," she said. 
“There is one urgent message. 
Tom Manning has something for 
you. Said it is top important. 
Shall I ring him?" 

“You carry on," said Wilson. 
“I’ll get him." 

He sat down at his desk, hauled 
the phone close and dialed. 



“Tom, this is Steve. Judy said 
you have something important." 

“I think we do," said Manning. 
“Molly has someone. Seems to be 
a sort of leader of the gang out in 
Virginia. Don't know how his cre- 
dentials run, if there are creden- 
tials. But the thing is, he wants to 
talk with the President. Says he 
can explain. In fact, he insists on 
explaining." 

“Has he talked with Molly?" 

“Some. But not important 
stuff. He is reserving that." 

“It has to be the President?" 

“He says so. His name is May- 
nard Gale. He has a daughter with 
him. Name of Alice." 

“Why don't you ask Molly to 
bring them along? Back way, not 
out in front. I’ll notify the gate. 
I’ll see what can be done." 

“There’s just one thing, Steve." 

“Yes?" 

“MolFy found this guy. She has 
him hidden. He is her exclusive." 

“No," said Wilson. 

“Yes," insisted Manning. “She 
sits in on it. It has to be that way. 
Goddamn it, Steve, it’s only fair. 
You can’t ask us to share this. 
Bentley snagged him first and 
Molly hung onto him." 

“What you’re asking me to do 
would ruin me. You know that as 
well as I do. The other press asso- 
ciations, The Times, The Post, all 
the rest of them — " 

“You could announce it," said 
Manning. “You’d get the infor- 
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18 



IF 




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sive interview with Gale. You owe 
us that much, Steve.” 

“I’d be willing to announce 
that Global brought him in,” said 
Wilson. “You’d be given full cred- 
it for it.” 

“But no exclusive interview?” 
“You have the man right now. 
Get your interview. Get it first, 
then bring him in. That would be 
your privilege. I might not like it, 
Tom, but there’s not a thing I could 
do to stop it.” 

“But he won’t talk until he’s 
seen the President. You could re- 
lease him to us once he’s talked.” 
“We have no hold on him. Not 
at the moment anyhow. We 
would have no right to release him 
to anyone. And how do you know 



he’s what he says he is?” 

“I can’t be sure, of course,” said 
Manning. “But he knows what is 
going on. He’s part of what is go-* 
ing on. He has things all of us need 
to know. You wouldn’t have to buy 
his story. You could listen, then 
exercise your judgment.” 

“Tom, I can’t promise any- 
thing at all. You know I can’t. I’m 
surprised you asked.” 

“Call me back after you’ve 
thought it over,” Manning said. 
“Now, wait a second, Tom.” 
“What is it now?” 

“It seems to me you might be 
running on thin ice* You’re with- 
holding vital information.” 

“We have no information.” 

“A vital source of informa- 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



19 





tion, then. Public policy may be 
at issue. And what is more, you 
are holding the man against his 
will.” 

“We’re not holding him. He’s 
sticking tight to us. He figures we 
are the only ones who can get him 
to the White House.” 

“Well, impeding him. Refus- 
ing to give him the assistance that 
he needs. And — I can’t be sure of 
this, I can only guess — you might 
be dealing with the equivalent of 
an ambassador.” 

“Steve, you can’t lean on me. 
We’ve been friends too long.” 

“Let me tell you something, 
Tonw I’m not going along with 
this. Friendship or not. I have a 
hunch I could get a court order 
within the hour.’’ 

“You couldn’t get away with it.” 
“You’d better talk to your law- 
yer. I’ll look forward to hearing 
from you.’’ 

He slammed down the phone 
and stood up. 

“What was that all about?” 
asked Judy. 

“Tom tried to bluff me.” 

“You were pretty rough on 
him.” 

“Damn it, Judy, I had to be. If I 
had knuckled under — I couldn’t 
knuckle under. In this job you 
don’t make any deals.” 

“They’re getting impatient out 
there, Steve.” 

“Okay. You better let them in.” 
They came in with a rush, quiet- 
ly, orderly, finding their accus- 



tomed seats. Judy closed the doors. 

“You have anything for us, 
Steve?” AP asked.. 

“No statement,” said Wilson. 
“Really not anything at all. I 
guess all 1 have to say is that I’ll let 
you know as soon as there is any- 
thing to tell. As of less than half an 
hour ago, the President knew no 
more about this than you do. He 
will -have a statement later, as 
soon as he has some data to base a 
statement on. I guess the only 
thing I can tell you is that the 
armed forces will be assigned the 
job of getting these people under 
shelter and providing food and 
other necessities for them. This 
is only an emergency measure. A 
more comprehensive plan will be 
worked out later, perhaps involv- 
ing a number of agencies.” 

“Have you any idea,” asked the 
Washington Post, “who our visi- 
tors are?” 

“None at all,” said Wilson. 
“Nothing definite. Not who they 
are or where they come from or 
why they came or how.” 

“You don’t buy their story they 
are coming from the future?” 

“I didn’t say that, John. We 
maintain the open mind of ignor- 
ance. We simply do not know.” 
“Mr. Wilson,” The New York 
Times asked, “has any contact 
been made with any of the visitors 
who can supply us facts? Have any 
conversations been initiated 
with these people?” 

“At the moment, no.” 



20 



IF 




“Can we assume from your an- 
swer that such a conversation 
may be imminent?” 

“Actually no such assumption 
would be justified. The adminis- 
tration is anxious, naturally, to 
learn what it’s all about, but this 
event began happening not a 
great deal longer than an hour ago. 
There simply has been no time to 
get much done. I think all of you 
can understand that.” 

“But you do anticipate there’ll 
be some conversations.” 

“I can only repeat that the ad- 
ministration is anxious to know 
what is going on. I would think 
that some time soon we may be 
talking with some of the people. 
Not that I know of any actual 
plans to do so, but surely that 
would seem to be an early logi- 
cal course. It occurs to me that 
members of the press may al- 
ready have talked with some of 
them. You may be way ahead of 
us.” 

“We have tried,” said UPI, “but 
none of them is saying much. It’s 
almost as if they had been coached 
to say as little as possible. They 
will simply say they have come 
from the future — from five hun- 
dred years ahead — and they apol- 
ogize for disturbing us, but ex- 
plain it was a matter of life and 
death for them to come. Beyond 
that, nothing. We are simply get- 
ting nowhere with them. I won- 
der, Steve, will the President be 
going on television?” 



^ “I would think he might. I can’t 
tell you when. I’ll let you know im- 
mediately when a time is set.” 

“Mr. Wilson,’’ asked the 
Times, “can you say whether the 
President will talk with Moscow 
or London or «ome of the other 
governments?” 

“I’ll know more about that af- 
ter he talks with State.” 

“Has he talked with State?” 

“By now perhaps he may have. 
Give me another hour or so and I 
may have something for you. All 1 
can do now is assure you I’ll give 
you what I have as soon as the sit- 
uation develops.” 

“Mr. Press Secretary,” said 
the Chicago Tribune, “I suppose 
it has occurred to the adminis- 
tration that the addition to the 
world’s population of some two 
and a half million an hour—” 
“You’re ahead of me there,” 
said Wilson. “My latest figure 
was something over a million an 
hour.” 

“There are now,” said The 
Tribune, “about two hundred of 
the tunnels or openings or what- 
ever you may call them. Even if 
there should be no more than that 
it means that within less than 
forty-eight hours more than a bil- - 
lion people will have emerged up- 
on the Earth. My question is how 
is the world going to be able to 
feed that many additional peo- 
ple?” 

“The administration,” Wil- 
son told the Tribune, “is very 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



21 




acutely aware of the problem. 
Does that answer your question?" 

"Partially, sir. But how does it 
propose to meet the problem?" 

"That will be a matter for con- 
sultation," said Wilson stiffly. 

"You mean you won't answer 
it?" 

"1 mean that at the moment I 
can’t answer it." 

"There is another similar ques- 
tion," said the Los Angeles 
Times, "concerning the ad- 
vanced science and technology 
that must exist in a world five hun- 
dred years ahead. Has there been 
any consideration given — " 

"There has not," said Wilson. 
"Not yet." 

The TVew York Times arose. 
"Mr. Wilson," he said, "we seem 
now to be moving far afield. Per- 
haps later some similar ques- 
tions will be possible to answer." 

"I would hope so, sir," said Wil- 
son. 

He stood and watched the press 
corps file back into the lobby. 

5 « The army was having trou- 
ble. 

Lieutenant Andrew Shelby 
phoned Major Marcel Burns. 
"Sir, I can’t keep these people to- 
gether," he reported. "They are 
being kidnaped." 

"What in hell are you talking 
about, Andy? Kidnaped?" 

"Well, maybe not that, actual- 
ly. But people are taking them in. 
One big house is full of them. 



There must be twenty or more of 
them inside. I talked with the own- 
er. Look here, I told him, I have to 
keep these people together. I 
can’t let them get scattered. I’ve 
got to load them up and take them 
where they have shelter and food. 
Lieutenant, said this man, you 
don’t have to worry about the peo- 
ple I have here. If food and shelter 
are your only worry you can stop 
worrying. They a^e my house 
guests, sir, and they have food and 
shelter. And he was not the only 
one. That was only one house. 
Other houses, all up. and down the 
street, they have them, too. The 
whole neighborhood has them. 
Everyone is taking them in. 
That’s not the whole story, either. 
Pex)ple are driving in from miles 
away to load them up and take 
them off to take care of them. 
They’re being scattered all over 
the countryside and I can’t do a 
thing about it." 

"Are they still coming out of 
that door or whatever it is?" 

"Yes, sir, they are still coming 
out of it. They have never stopped. 
It’s like a big parade. They just 
keep marching out of it. I try to 
keep them together, sir, but they 
wander and they scatter and they 
are taken up by all the people in 
the neighborhood and I can’t 
keep track of them." 

"You’ve been transporting 
some of them?" 

"Yes, sir. As fast as I can load 
them up." 



22 



IF 




“What kind of people are 
they?’^ 

“Just ordinary people, sir. Far 
as I can see. No different from us, 
except that they got a sort of 
funny accent. They dress funny. 
Some of them in robes. Some of 
them in buckskins. Some of them 
in — oh, hell, they have all kinds of 
clothes. Like they were at a mas- 
querade. But they are polite and 
cooperative. They don’t give us 
trouble. It’s just that there are 
so many of them. More of them 
than 1 can haul away. They scat- 
ter, but that ain’t their fault. It’s 
the people who invite them home. 
They are friendly and real nice, 
but there are just too many of 
them.” 

The major sighed. “Well, carry 
on. Do the best you can.” 

6 « The buttons on Judy's tele- 
phone had never stopped their 
blinking. The lounge was jammed 
with waiting newsmen. Wilson 
got up from his desk and moved 
over to the row of clacking tele- 
types. 

Global News was coming up 
with its fifth new lead. 

Washington (GN) — Mil- 
lions of visitors who say 
they are from 500 years in the 
future continued to come to 
the present world this after- 
noon, pouring in steady 
streams from more than 200 
“time tunnels.” 



There has been general 
public reluctance to ac- 
cept their explanation that 
they are from the future, but 
it is now beginning to gain 
some acceptance in offi- 
cial quarters, not so much in 
Washington as in some cap- 
itals abroad. Beyond the as- 
sertion that they are from 
the future, however, the ref- 
ugees will add little else in 
the way of information. It 
is confidently expected 
that in the next few hours 
more information may be 
forthcoming. So far, in the 
confusion of the situa- 
tion, no one who* can be 
termed a leader or a spokes- 
man has emerged from the 
hordes of people pouring 
from the tunnels. But there 
are now some indications 
that such a spokesman may 
have been located and that 
soon his story will be told. 
The distribution of the tun- 
nels is worldwide and they 
have been reported on every 
continent. An unofficial 
estimate places the number 
of people passing through 
them at close to two million 
an hour. At this rate. . . 

“Steve,” said Judy, “Tom Man- 
ning is on the phone.” 

Wilson went back to his desk. 
“Have you got your court order 
yet?” Manning asked. 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



23 




“Not yet. I gave you time.” 
“Well, you can get it any time 
you want to. Our attorney says 
you can.” 

“I don’t think I’ll need it.” 
“Matter of fact, you won’t. 
Molly is already on her way. With 
Gale and his daughter. She’ll be 
there in twenty minutes, more or 
less, depending on the traffic. It 
is getting hairy out there. Sight- 
seers pouring in and a slew of 
army trucks.” 

“Tom,” said Wilson, “there is 
something I want to say. I know 
why you had to do it. You simply 
had to try.” 

“Steve, there’s one thing more.” 
“What is it, Tom?” 

“Gale talked a little to Molly. 
Not much. There was one thing he 
asked her to pass along. Some- 
thing he said couldn’t wait.” 
“You’re passing it along?” 

“He said to station an artillery 
piece in front of each of the time 
tunnels. High-explosive rounds. 
If anything happens, fire straight 
into the tunnel. Don’t pay any at- 
tention to the people who may be 
in it, just fire. If necessary, keep 
on firing.” 

“Any idea of what could hap- 
pen?” 

“He wouldn't say. Just that we 
would know. Said the explosion 
would knock out the tunnel, col- 
lapse it, put an end to it. You’ll 
take it from here?” 

“I’ll take it from here.” 

“I’m not going to use it now,” 



said Manning. “Not right away.” 

Wilson hung up, picked up the 
Presidential phone. 

“Kim,” he asked, “when can I 
get in?” 

“He’s on the phone now. Other 
calls are holding. There are peo- 
ple with him. How important is 
this, Steve?” 

“Top important. I have to see 
the man.” 

“Come on in. I’ll slip you in as 
soon as possible.” 

“Judy,” said Wilson. “Molly 
Kimball is coming in the back 
way. She’ll have two of the refu- 
gees with her.” 

“I’ll call the gate,” said Judy. 
“And security. When they get 
here? 

“If I’m not back send them in to 
Kim.” 



7 * Sandburg, the secretary of de- 
fense, and Williams, the secre- 
tary of state, sat on a davenport 
in front of the President’s desk. 
Reilly Douglas, the attorney 
general, held down a chair at its 
corner. They nodded to Wilson 
when he came into the room. 

“Steve,” said the President, “I 
know that what you have must be 
important.’’ The words were 
barely short of a rebuke. 

“I think so, Mr. President,” 
said Wilson. “Molly Kimball is 
bringing in one of the refugees 
who says he is a spokesman for at 
least the Virginia group. I 



24 



IF 




thought you might want to see him, 
sir.” 

“Sit down, Steve/’ said the Pres- 
ident. “What do you know about 
this man? Is he really a spokes- 
man? An accredited spokes- 
man?” 

“I don’t know,” said Wilson, “f 
would suppose he might have 
some credentials.” 

“In any case,” said the secre- 
tary of state, “we should listen to 
what he has to say. God knows no 
one else has been able to tell us 
anything.” 

Wilson took a chair next to the 
attorney general and settled in- 
to it. 

“The man sent a rnessage 
ahead,” he said. “He thought we 
should know as soon as possible. 
He suggested an artillery piece, 
firing high-explosive rounds, be 
placed in front of every door or 
time tunnel or whatever the peo- 
ple are coming out of.” 

“There is some danger, then?” 
asked the secretary of defense. 

Wilson shook his head. “1 don’t 
know. He apparently was not 
specific. Only if anything hap- 
pened at any tunnel we should fire 
an explosive charge directly in- 
to it. Even if there were people in 
it. To disregard the people and 
fire. He said the explosive would 
collapse the tunnel.” 

“What could happen?” asked 
Sandburg. 

“Tom Manning passed on the 
word from Molly. He quoted the 



spokesman as saying we would 
know. I got the impression the 
measure is precautionary only. 
He’ll be here in a few minutes. He 
can tell us.” 

“What do you think?” the Pres- 
ident asked the others. “Should 
we see this man?” 

“I think we have to,” said Wil- 
liams. “It’s not a matter of proto- 
col, because in the situation as^ it 
stands we have no idea what pro- 
tocol might be. Even if he isn’t 
what he says he is he can give us in- 
formation — and so far we have 
none at all. It isn’t as if we were ac- 
cepting him as an ambassador 
or official representative of 
those people out there. We can use 
our judgment as to how much of 
his story we’ll accept.” 

Sandburg nodded gravely. “I 
think we should have him in.” 

“I don’t like the idea of a press 
association’s bringing him in,” 
said the attorney general. “The 
news media are not particularly 
disinterested parties. There 
would be a tendency to palm their 
own man off on us.” 

“I know Tom Manning,” said 
Wilson. - Molly, too, for that mat- 
ter. They won’t trade on it. Maybe 
they would have if this spokesman 
had given an interview to Molly, 
but he hasn’t talked to anyone. 
The President, he said, is the on- 
ly man he’ll speak with.” 

“The act of a public-spirited 
citizen,” said the attorney gen- 
eral. 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



25 




The secretary of state said, ‘‘We 
won't, of course, be seeing him in 
any official capacity unless we 
make it so. We won't be bound by 
anything he says or anything we 
say." 

“But," said the secretary of de- 
fense, “I want to hear more about 
blowing up those tunnels. I don't 
mind telling you they have both- 
ered me. I suppose it's all right as 
long as only people are coming 
out of them. But what would we do 
if something else started coming 
through?" 

“Like what?" asked Douglas. 

“I don't know," said Sandburg. 

“How deeply, Reilly, does your 
objection go?" the President 
asked the attorney general. 

“Not deeply," said Douglas. 
“Just a lawyer's reaction against 
irregularity." 

“Then I think," said the Presi- 
dent, “that we should see him." He 
looked at Wilson. “Do you know, 
has he got a name?" 

“Maynard Gale," said Wilson. 
“He has his daughter with him. 
Her name is Alice." 

The President nodded. “You 
men have the time to sit in on 
this?" 

They nodded. 

“Steve," said the President. 
“You as well. He’s your baby." 

8 * The village had known hunger, 
but now the hunger ended: For 
some time in the night a miracle 
had happened. High up in the sky. 



just beyond the village, a hole had 
opened up and out of the hole had 
poured a steady stream of wheat. 
The foolish boy with the crippled 
leg who belonged to no one, who 
had simply wandered into the 
village, who was crippled in his 
mind as well as in his body, had 
been the first to see it. Skulking 
through the night as well as he 
could with one leg that dragged, 
unable to sleep, looking for the 
slightest husk that he could steal 
and chew on, he had seen the grain 
plunging from the sky in the bright 
moonlight. He had been fright- 
ened and had turi^ed to run, but his 
twisting hunger had not let him. 
He had not known what the cas- 
cade was at first, but then it was 
something new and it might be 
something he could eat and he had 
not run away. So, frightened still, 
he had crept upon it and finally, 
seeing what it was, had rushed up- 
on it and thrown himself upon the 
pile that had accumulated. He 
had stuffed his mouth, chewing 
and gasping, gulping to swallow 
the half-chewed grain, strangling 
and coughing, but stuffing his 
mouth again as soon as he man- 
aged to clear his throat. The over- 
loaded stomach, unaccustomed 
to such quantities of food, had re- 
volted, and he had rolled down off 
the pile and lain upon the ground, 
weakly vomiting. 

It was there that others found 
him later. They kicked him out of 
the way, for with this wondrous 



26 



IF 




thing that had happened and that 
had been spotted by a man of the 
village who had happened to go 
out to relieve himself, they had no 
time for a foolish, crippled boy 
who had merely attached himself 
to the village and did not belong 
there. 

The village was aroused imme- 
diately and everyone came with 
baskets and with jars to carry off 
the wheat, but there was far more 
than enough to fill all receptacles, 
so the headmen got together and 
made plans. Holes were dug in 
which the grain was dumped, which 
was no way to treat good wheat. 
But it had to be hidden, if possi- 
ble, from the sight of other villages 
and it was the only thing the peo- 
ple could think of to do imme- 
diately. With the dryness and the 
drought upon the land there was no 
moisture in the ground to spoil the 
wheat and it could be safely buried 
until that time when something 
else could be devised to store it. 

But the grain kept pouring from 
the sky and the ground was baked 
and hard to dig and they could not 
dispose of the pile. 

In the morning soldiers came 
and, thrusting the villagers to one 
side, began hauling the wheat 
away in trucks. 

The miracle kept on happen- 
ing. The wheat continued to pour 
from the sky, but now it was a less 
precious miracle, not for the vil- 
lage alone, but for a lot of other 
people. 



9m “I would suppose,” said 
Maynard Gale, “that you would 
like to know exactly who we arc 
and where we’re from.” 

“That,” agreed the President, 
“might be an excellent place to 
start.” 

“We are,” said Gale, “most or- 
dinary, uncomplicated people 
from the year twenty-four hun- 
dred ninety-eight, almost five 
centuries in your future. The 
span of time between you and us is 
about the same as the span of time 
between the American voyages 
of Christopher Columbus and 
your present day. 

“We arc traveling here through 
what I understand you are call- 
ing, in a speculative way, time 
tunnels, and that name is good 
enough. We are transporting our- 
selves through time and I will not 
even attempt to try to explain 
how it is done. Actually I couldn’t 
even if I wanted to. I do not under- 
stand the principles except in a 
very general way. If^ in fact, I 
understand them at all. The best I 
could do would be to give you a 
very inadequte layman’s ex- 
planation.” 

“You say,” said the secretary of 
state, “that you are transporting 
yourselves through time back to 
the present moment. May I ask 
how many of you intend to make 
the trip?” 

“Under ideal circumstances, 
Mr. Williams, I would hope all of 
us.” 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



27 




“You mean your entire popula- 
tion? Your intention is to leave 
your world empty of any human 
beings?" 

“That, sir, is our heartfelt 
hope." 

“And how/ many of you are 
there?" 

“Give or take a few thousand, 
two billion. Our population, as 
you will note, is somewhat less 
than yours at the present moment 
and later I will explain why 
this—" 

“But why?" asked the attorney 
general. “Why did you do this? 
You must know that our world's 
economy cannot support both 
your population and our own. 
Here in the United States, per- 
haps in a few of the more favored 
countries of the world, the situa- 
tion can be coped with for a limied 
period of time. We can, as a mat- 
ter of utmost urgency, shelter 
you and feed you, although it will 
strain even our resources. But 
there are other areas of Earth that 
could not manage to sustain you 
even for a week." 

“We are well aware of that," 
said Maynard Gale. “We are try- 
ing to make certain provisions to 
alleviate the situation. In India, 
in China, in some African and 
South American areas we are 
sending back in time not only peo- 
ple, but wheat and other food sup- 
plies, in the hope that whatever we 
can send may help. We know how 
inadequate these provisions will 



be. And we know as well the stress 
we place upon all the people of this 
time. You must believe me when I 
say we did not arrive at our de- 
cision lightly." 

“I would hope not," said the 
President, somewhat tartly. 

“1 think," said Gale, “that in 
your time you may have taken note 
of published speculations about 
whether or not there are other in- 
telligences in the universe, and 
the almost unanimous conclu- 
sion that there must surely be. 
Which raises the subsidiary ques- 
tion of why, if this is so, none of 
these intelligences has sought us 
out — why we have not been visit- 
ed. The answer to this, of course, is 
that space is vast and the distances 
between stars are great and that 
our solar system lies far out in one 
of the galactic arms, far from the 
greater star density in the galac- 
tic core, where intelligence might 
have risen first. And then there is 
the speculation concerning what 
kind of people, if you want to call 
them that, might come visiting if 
they should happen to do so. Here 
1 think the overwhelming, al- 
though by no .means unanimous 
body of opinion is that by the time 
a race had developed star-roving 
capability it would have arrived 
at a point of social and ethical de- 
velopment where it would pose no 
threat. 

“And while this may be true 
enough, there would always be ex- 
ceptions and we, it seems, in our 



28 



IF 




own time, have become the vic- 
tims of one of these exceptions.” 
“What you are saying,” said 
Sandburg, “is that you have been 
visited, with what appears to have 
been unhappy results. Is that why 
you sent ahead the warning about 
the planting of artillery?” 

“You haven’t yet set up the 
guns? From the tone of your 
voice — ” 

“We have not had time.” 

“Sir, 1 plead with you. We dis- 
cussed the possibility that some 
of them might break through the 
defenses we set up and invade the 
tunnels. We have strong defenses, 
of course, and there are strict or- 
ders — to be carried out by de- 
voted men — to destroy any tunnel 
where a breakthrough might oc- 
cur but there is always the chance 
that son^ething could go wrong.” 
“But your warning was so in- 
definite. How will we know if 
something — ” 

“You would know,” said Gale. 
“There would be no doubt at all. 
Take a cross between your larg- 
est, most powerful mammal and 
your most agile one. Let it move so 
fast that it seems no more than a 
blur. Give it teeth and claws and an 
armament of poison spines. Not 
that they look like your bears or 
tigers or even elephants — ” 

“You mean they carry nothing 
but claws and teeth and poison 
darts?” 

“You’re thinking of weapons, 
sir. They don’t need weapons. 



They are unbelievably fast and 
strong. They are filled with 
thoughtless bloodlust. They take 
a lot of killing. Tear them apart 
and they will keep coming at you. 
They can tunnel under fortifica- 
tions and tear strong walls apart.” 

“It is unbelievable,” said the at- 
torney general. 

“You’re right,” said Gale. “But 
1 am telling you the truth. We 
have held them off for almost 
twenty years^ but we can foresee 
the end. We foresaw it a few years 
after they first landed. We knew 
we had only one chance — to re- 
treat. And the only pl^ce we could 
retreat to was the past. We can 
hold them off np longer. Gentle- 
men, believe me, five hundred 
years from now the human world 
is coming to an end.” 

“They can’t follow you through 
time, however,” said the Presi- 
dent. 

“If you mean, can they dupli- 
cate our time capability, I am 
fairly sure they can’t. They’re not 
that kind of being.” 

“There is a serious flaw in your 
story.” said the secretary of state. 
“You describe these alien in- 
vaders as little more than fer- 
ocious beasts. Intelligent, per- 
haps, but still mere animals. For 
intelligence to be transformed 
into a technology such as would 
be necessary to build what I sup- 
pose you would call a spaceship, 
they would require manipulatory 
members — hands or perhaps even 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



29 




tentacles, something of the sort." 

"They have them." 

"But you saitl—" 

"I'm sorry," said Gale. "It can- 
not all be told at once. They have 
members armed with claws. They 
have other members that et\d in 
the equivalent of hands. And they 
have manipulatory tentacles as 
well. Theirs is a strange evolu- 
tionary case. In their evolu- 
tionary development, apparent- 
ly, and for what reason we do not 
know, they di^ not trade one thing 
for another, as has been the case in 
the evolution of the creatures of 
the Earth. They developed new 
organs and abilities, but they let 
go of none of those they already 
had. They hung on to everything. 
They loaded the evolutionary 
deck in their own favor. 

"I would suspect that if they 
wished they could build most effi- 
cient weapons. We have often 
wondered why they didn't. Our 
psychologists postulate that 
these aliens glory in killings They 
may have developed their space- 
traveling capability for no other 
reason than to find other life 
forms to destroy. Killing is an in- 
tensely personal experience for 
them — as religion once was for the 
human race. And since it is so per- 
sonal it must be done personally, 
without mechanical aids. It must 
be done with claws and fangs and 
poison tail. They may feel about 
mechanical killing aids what an 
accomplished swordsman of 



some hundreds of years ago must 
have felt about the first guns— con- 
tempt. Perhaps each one of them 
must continually reassert his man- 
hood — selfhood, perhaps — and the 
only means by which he can do this 
is slaughter, personally accom- 
plished. Their individual standing, 
their regard for themselves, the re- 
gard of their fellowsTor them, may 
be based upon the quality and the 
quantity Of their killing. 

"We know little of them. There 
has been, as you can imagine, no 
cornmuniciation with them. We 
have- photographed them and we 
have studied them dead, but this is 
only superficial to any under- 
standing of them. They do not 
fight campaigns. They seem to 
have no real plan of battle, no 
strategy. If they had, they would 
have wiped us out long ago. They 
make sudden raids and then re- 
tire. They make no attempt to 
hold territory as such. They don't 
loot. All they seem to want is kill- 
ing, At times it has seemed to us 
that they have deliberately not 
.wiped us out — as if they were con- 
serving us, maktng us last as long 
as possible, so we’d still be there to 
satisfy their bloodlust." 

Wilson glanced at the girl sit- 
ting on the sofa beside Gale and 
caught on her face a shadow of 
terror. 

“Twenty years?” Sandburg 
said. "You held these beasts off for 
twenty years?" 

"We are doing better now," said 



30 



IF 




Gale. "‘Or at least we were doing 
better before we left. We now 
have weapons. At first we had 
none. Earth had been without war 
and weapons for a hundred years 
or more when their spaceship 
came. They would have ex- 
terminated us then if they had 
fought a total war, but as I have ex- 
plained, it has not been total war. 
That gave us time to develop 
some defense. We fabricated 
weapons, some of them rather 
sophisticated weapons, but even 
your weapons of today would not 
be enough. Your nuclear weapons 
might work, perhaps, but no sane 
society—” 

He stopped in some 
embarrassment, waited for a mo- 
ment and then went on. “We killed 
a lot of them, of course, but it 
seemed to make no difference. 
There always seemed as many of 
them as ever, if not more. Only the 
one spaceship came, as far as we 
could determine. It could not have 
carried many of them, large as it 
was. The only answer to their 
numbers seems to be that they are 
prolific breeders and that they 
reach maturity in an incredibly 
xshort time. They don’t seem to 
mind dying. They never run or 
hide. I suppose, again, that it is 
their warrior’s code. They seem to 
know nothing quite as glorious as 
death in battle. And they take 
much killing. Kill a hundred of 
them and let one get through and it 
more than evens the score. If we 



had stayed they would eventually 
have wiped us out. Even trying to 
conserve us, as they may have been 
trying, they still would have ex- 
terminated us. That is why we’re 
here. 

“It is impossible, I think, for the 
human race to accept the sort of 
creatures they are. There is noth- 
ing that we know that can com- 
pare with them.” 

“Perhaps,” said the President, 
“in view of what we have been told, 
we should do something now in re- . 
gard to that artillery.” 

“We have, of course,” the at- 
torney general pointed out, “no 
real evidence.” 

“I would rather,” said Sand- 
burg sharply, “move without 
ironclad evidence than find it sud- 
denly sitting in my lap.” 

The President reached for his 
phone. He said to the secretary of 
defense, “Use this phone. Kim will 
put through the call.” 

“After Jim has made his call,” 
said State, “perhaps I should use 
the phone. We’ll want to get off an 
advisory to the other govern-^ 
ments.” 

10 . Miss Emma Garside turned 
off the radio and sat bolt upright 
in her chair in something ap- 
proaching silent awe of herself 
for the brilliance of the idea that 
had just occurred to her. It was 
not often (well, actually never be- 
fore) that she had felt that way, 
' for — although a proud wom- 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



31 




an — she was inclined to be mousy 
in both her actions and her 
thoughts. The pride she had was a 
secret one, divulged only occa- 
sionally and guardedly to Miss 
Clarabelle Smythe, her closest 
friend. It was something she held 
close within herself for comfort, 
although there were times she 
flinched a little when she remem- 
bered the undoubted horse thief 
and the maa who had been hanged 
for a rather heinous offense. She 
had never mentioned either the 
horse thief or the hanged man to 
her good friend Clarabelle. 

The Sunday afternoon sun- 
light slanted through the west win- 
dow, falling on the worn carpet- 
ing where the aged cat slept, tightly 
rolled into a ball. In the garden at 
the rear of the dowdy house on the 
dowdy street a catbird was calling 
sassily — perhaps preparing for 
a new inroad on the raspberry 
patch — but she paid it no atten- 
tion. 

It had cost a deal of money, she 
thought. The pride she had was a 
ter writing and some traveling, 
but what she knew had been worth 
the money and time. For there was 
no one else in this little town who 
could trace back his or her blood 
as far as she — to the Revolution 
and beyond, back to English days 
and little English villages that lay 
sunken deep in time. And while 
there had been a horse thief and a 
hanged man and others of some- 
what dubious character and un- 



distinguished lineage, they had 
been offset by country squires and 
sturdy yeomen, with even the hint 
of an ancient castle somewhere in 
the background, although she 
never had quite been able to auth- 
enticate the castle. 

And now, she thought, and now! 
She had carried her family re- 
search back as far as human in- 
genuity and records went. Now 
could she — would she dare — pro- 
ceed in the opposite direction, 
forward in^to the future? She 
knew all the old ancestors and 
here, she told herself, was the 
opportunity to acqiraint herself 
with all the new descendants. If 
these people were really what the 
radio hinted they might be — it 
surely could be done. But if it were 
to be done she would have to do it, 
for there would be no records. She 
would have to go among them— 
those who came from the area of 
New England — and she would 
have to ask her questions and she 
might ask many different people 
before she got a clue. Are there, 
my dear, any Garsides or Lam- 
berts or Lawrences in your family 
tree? Well, then, if you think so, 
but don’t really know — is there 
anyone who would? Oh, yes, my 
dear, of course it is most import- 
ant — I cannot begin to tell you 
how important . . . 

She sat in the chair, unstirring 
while the cat slept on and the cat- 
bird screamed, feeling in her that 
strange sense of family that had 



32 



IF 




driven her all these years and 
which, given this new develop- 
ment, might drive her further yet. 

11. “So,” said the President, 
leaning back in his chair, “as we 
have it so far, the Earth some five 
hundred years from now is being 
attacked by beings from space. It 
is impossible for the people of 
that day to cope with them and 
their only recourse is to retreat 
back into the past. Is that a fairly 
accurate summary of what 
you’ve told us?” 

Gale nodded. “Yes, sir, I would 
say it is.” 

“But now that you are here — or 
a lot of you are here and more 
coming all the time — what hap- 
pens now? Or have you had no 
opportunity to plan ahead?” 

“We have plans,” said Gale, 
“but we will need some help.” 
“What I want to know,” said the 
attorney general, “is why you 
came back to us. Why to this par- 
ticular moment in time?” 

“Because,” said Gale, “you 
have the technology that we need 
and the resources. We made a 
thorough historical survey and 
this particular time slot, give or 
take ten years, seemed to suit our 
purpose best.” 

“What kind of technology are 
you thinking of?” 

“A technology that is capable 
of fabricating other time ma- 
chines. We have the plans and the 
specifications and the labor 



force. /We will need materials 
and your fbrebearance.” 

“But why time machines?” 

“We do not intend to stay 
here,” said Gale. “It would be un- 
fair to do so. It would put too great 
a strain on your economy. As it is 
we are putting a great strain upon 
it. But we could not stay up there in 
the future. 1 hope you under- 
stand that we had to leave.” 

“Where will you be going?” 
asked the President. 

“Deeper into time,” said Gale. 
“Tcy^the Mid-Miocene.” 

“The Miocene?” 

“A geological epoch. It began, 
roughly, some twenty-five million 
years ago, lasted for some twelve 
million years.” 

“But why the Miocene? Why 
twenty-five million years? Why 
not ten million or fifty million or 
a hundred million?” 

“There are a number of consid- 
erations,” said Gale. “We have 
tried to work it out as carefully as 
we can. The main reason is that 
grass first appeared in the Mio- 
cene. Paleontologists believe 
that grass appeared at the begin- 
ning of the period. They base their 
belief upon the development of 
high-crowned cheek-teeth in the 
herbivores of that time. Grass 
carries abrasive minerals and 
wears down the teeth. The de- 
velopment of high-crowned teeth 
that grew throughout the ani- 
mal’s lifetime would be an answer 
to this. The teeth are the kind that 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



33 




one would expect to find in crea- 
tures that lived on grass. There is 
evidence, too, that during the 
Miocene more arid conditions 
came about, which led to the re- 
placement of forests by exten- 
sive grass prairies that supported 
huge herds of grazing animals. 
This, say the paleontologists, be- 
gan with the dawn of the Miocene, 
twenty-five million years ago, but 
we have chosen as our first target 
twenty million years into the past. 
The paleontologists’ timetable 
may be in error, although we do 
not believe it is.” 

“If that is where you’re 
heading.” the attorney general 
asked, “Why are you stopping 
here? Your time tunnels, I as- 
sume — the ones you used to reach 
us — would have carried you that 
far.” 

“That is true, sir. But we didn’t 
have the time. This move had to be 
made as rapidly as possible.” 

“What has time to do with it?” 

“We can’t go into the Miocene 
without implements and tools, 
with no seed stocks or agricul- 
tural animals. We have all those in 
our own time, of course, but it 
would have taken weeks to gather 
and transport them to the tunnel 
mouths. There was also the matter 
of capacity. Every tool or bag of 
seed or head of livstock would 
mean it would take longer to move 
the people. Given the time and 
without the pressure of the aliens 
we would have done it that way. 



going directly to the Miocene. 
But the logistics were impos- 
sible. The monsters knew some- 
thing was going on and we knew 
that as soon as they fo.und out what 
it was they would attack the tun- 
nel heads. We felt we have to move 
as swiftly as we could to save as 
many people as we could.. So we 
arrive here empty-handed.” 

“You expect us to furnish you 
with all the things you need?” 
“"Reilly,” the President said 
quietly, “it seems to me you are be- 
ing somewhat uncharitable. 
This is not a situation we asked for 

nor one that we expected, but it is 
one we have and we must deal with 
it as gracefully and as sensibly as 
we can. As a nation we have 
helped and still are helping other 
less favored peoples. It is a mat- 
ter of foreign policy, of course, but 
it is also an old American ten- 
dency to hold out a helping hand. 
These people on our soil are, 1 
would imagine our own descen- 
dants, hence native Americans, 
and it doesn’t seem to me that we 
should balk at doing for thern 
what we have done for others.” 
“If,” the attorney general 
pointed out, “any of this is true.” 
“That is something,” the Presi- 
dent agreed, “we must determine. 
I imagine that Mr. Gale would not 
expect us to accept what he has 
told us without further investi- 
gation when that is possible. 
There is one thing, Mr, Gale, that 
rather worries me. You say that 



34 



IF 




you plan on going back to a time 
when grass has evolved. Do you in- 
tend going blind? What would 
happen if, when you got there, you 
found the paleontologists were 
mistaken about the grass — or 
that there were other circum- 
stances that made it very difficult 
for you to settle?” 

“We came here blind, of 
course,” said Gale. “But that was 
different. We had fairly good his- 
toric evidence. We knew what we 
would find. We can’t be as certain 
when we deal with time spans cov- 
ering millions of years. But we 
think we have an answer fairly 
well worked out. Our physicists 
and other scientists have devel- 
oped, at least theoretically, a 
means of communication through 
a time tunnel. We hope to be able 
to send through an advance party 
that can explore the situation and 
then report back to us. 

“One thing I have not explained 
is that our travel capability is in 
one direction only. We can go 
into the past — we cannot move 
into the future. So, if any advance 
party is sent back and finds the 
situation untenable it has no re- 
course other than to stay there. 
Our great fear is that we may have 
tp keep readjusting the destina- 
tion of the tunnels and may have 
to send out — and abandon — sev- 
eral advance parties. Our people, 
gentlemen, are quite prepared to 
face such a situation. We have 
men guarding the tunnel heads 



who do not expect to travel 
through the tunnels. They are well 
aware that a time will come when 
each tunnel must be destroyed 
and that they and whoever else 
may not have made it through the 
tunnels must then face death. 

“I don’t tell you this to enlist 
your sympathy. I only say it to as- 
sure you that whatever dangers 
there may be we are quite willing to 
face. We shall not call upon you for 
more than you are willing to give. 
We shall be grateful, of course, for 
anything that you may do.” 

“Kindly as I may feel toward 
you,” said the secretary of state, 
“and much as I am disposed, short 
of a certain natural skepticism, 
to believe what you have told us, I 
am considerably puzzled by 
some of the implications. What 
is happening now, right here this 
minute, will become a matter of 
historical record. It stands to 
reason that it now becomes a part 
of history that is read in the fu- 
ture. So you knew before you 
started how this all came out. You 
would have had to know.” 

“No,” said Gale, “we did not 
know. It was not in our history. 
It hadn’t, strange as it may sound 
to you, yet happened.” 

“But it had,” said Sandburg. 
“It must have.” 

“Now,’’ said Gale, “you are 
getting into an area that I do not 
myself understand — philosophical 
and physical concepts, strangely 
intertwined and so far as I am con- 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



35 




cerned, impossible of lay under- 
standing. The point you have made 
is something that our scientific 
community gave much thought 
to. At first we asked ourselves if 
it lay within our right to change 
history, to go back into the past 
and introduce factors that would 
change the course of events. We 
wondered what effects such his- 
tory-changing would have and 
what would happen to the history 
that we already have. But now we 
are told that it will have no effect 
at all upon the history that already 
has been laid down. I know all this 
must sound impossible to you and 
1 admit that I don’t fully under- 
stand all the factors myself. The 
human race passed this way once 
before, when our ancestors were 
moving toward their future and 
what is happening now did not 
happen then. So the human race 
moved into our time and the alien 
invaders came. Now we come 
back to escape the aliens and from 
this moment forward nothing will 
be quite as we understand our 
past. History has been changed, 
but not our history, not the histo- 
ry that led to the moment that we 
left. Your history has been 
changed. By our action you are on 
a new and different course. Wheth- 
er on this second time track the 
aliens will attack we cannot be 
sure, but the indications are they 
will.” 

“This,” said Douglas flatly, “is 
a lot of nonsense.” 



“Believe me,” said Gale, “it is 
not intended as nonsense. The men 
who worked it out, who thought it 
through, are honorable and ac- 
complished scholars.” 

“This is nothing,” said the Pres- 
ident, “that we can resolve at the 
moment. Since it is done, we can 
safely put it off until another day. 
After all, what’s done is done and 
we have to live with it. One more 
thing puzzles me.” 

“Please say it, sir,” said Gale. 
“Those twenty million years — 
why go back so far?” 

“We want to go back far 
enough so that our occupation of 
that segment of Earth’s time can- 
not possibly have any impact on 
the rise of mankind. We probably 
will not be there too long. Our 
historians tell us that man, in his 
present state of technology, can- 
not look forward to more than a 
million years on Earth, perhaps 
much less than. that. In a million 
years, in far less than a million 
y&ars, we’ll all be gone from 
Earth. Once man can leave the 
Earth he probably will leave it. 
Give him a million years and he 
surely will be gone.” 

“But you will have impact in 
the Miocene,” Williams pointed 
out. “You’ll use up natural re- 
sources.” 

“Some iron. Not enough for 
the amount to be noticed. So lit- 
tle is left where we came from 
that we know how to be frugal.” 
“You’ll need energy.” 



36 



IF 




“We have fusion power,” said 
Gale. “Our economy would be a 
great shock to you. We make 
things to last. Not for ten years 
or twenty, but for centuries. Ob- 
solescence no longer is a factor 
in our economy. As a result our 
manufacturing is less than one 
per cent of what yours is today.” 

“That’s impossible,” said Sand- 
burg. 

“By your present standards, 
perhaps,” admitted Gale. “Not 
by ours. We had to change our 
life style. We simply had no 
choice. Centuries of overuse of 
natural resources left us impover- 
ished. We had to do with what we 
had. We had to find ways in which 
to do it.” 

“If what you say about man’s 
remaining on Earth for no longer 
than another million years is 
true,” said the President, “I don’t 
quite understand why you have to 
travel back the twenty million. 
You could go back only five and 
it would be quite all right.” 

Gale shook his head. “We’d be 
getting too close, then, to the fore- 
runners of mankind. True, man 
as we recognize him, rose no more 
than two million years ago, but 
the first primates came into being 
some seventy million years ago. 
We’ll be intruding on those first 
primates, of course, but perhaps 
with no great impact. And it 
would be impossible for us to miss 
them, for to go beyond them would 
place us in the era of the dino- 



saurs, which would not be a com- 
fortable time period. Not just be- 
cause of the dinosaurs alone. The 
critical period for mankind, the 
appearance of the forerunners of 
the australopithecines, could not 
have been later than fifteen mil- 
lion years ago. We can’t be cer- 
tain of these figures. Most of our 
anthropologists believe that if we 
went back only ten million it prob- 
ably would be safe enough. But 
we want to be sure. And there is 
no reason why we can’t go deeper 
into time. So, the twenty million. 
And there is another thing — we 
want to leave room enough for 
you.” 

Douglas leaped to his feet. “For 
us?” 

The President raised a restrain- 
ing hand. “Wait a minute, Reilly. 
Let’s have the rest of it.” 

“It makes good sense,” said 
Gale, “or we think it does. Con- 
sider this— just five hundred years 
ahead lies the invasion of Earth 
from space. Yes, I know, because 
of the new course of events our 
arrival in your time has created 
the attack may not happen, but 
our scholars think it will — they’re 
almost sure it will. So why should 
you move forward to meet it? 
Why not go back with us? You’ve 
got a five-hundred-year margin. 
You could make use of it. You 
could go back, not in a hurry as 
we^ll be going, but over the course 
of a number of years. Why not 
leave Earth empty and go back to 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



37 




make a new beginning? It would 
be a fresh start for the human 
race. New lands to develop — " 

“This is sheer insanity!" shouted 
Douglas. “If we, your ancestors, 
left, you wouldn't be here to start 
with and — " 

“You're forgetting what he ex- 
plained to us," said Williams, 
“about a different time track." 

Douglas sat down. “I wash my 
hands of it," he said. “I'll have no 
more to do with it." 

“We couldn't go back with 
you," said Sandburg. “There are 
too many of us." 

“Not with us. Like us. Togeth- 
er there would be far too many of 
us. There are too many of you 
now. Here is the chance, if you 
will take it, to reduce your popu- 
lation to more acceptable num- 
bers. We go back twenty million 
years. Half of you go back nine- 
teen million years, the other eigh- 
teen million years. Each group of 
us would be separated by a mil- 
lion years. We wouldn't interfere 
with one another." 

“There is one drawback," said 
Williams. “We wouldn’t be like 
you. We would have a disastrous 
impact on the resources of what- 
ever period we inhabited. We'd 
use up whatever fuels and iron—" 

“Not," said Gale, “if you had 
our philosophy, our viewpoint and 
our technologies." 

“You would give these things 
to us?" 

“If you were going back," said 



Gale, “we would insist on it." 

The President rose. “I think," 
he said, “we have reached a point 
where we must stop. There are 
things to be done. We thank you, 
Mr. Gale, for coming to us and 
bringing along your lovely daugh- 
ter. I wonder if we might have the 
privilege — later— of talking fur- 
ther with you." 

"‘Certainly," said Gale. “It 
"would be a pleasure. There are 
others of us whom you should 
be talking with, men and women 
who know far more than I do 
about many aspects of the situa- 
tion." 

“Would it be agreeable to the 
two of you," asked the President, 
“to be my house guests? I’d be 
glad to put you up." 

Alice Gale spoke for the first 
time. She clapped her hands to- 
gether, delighted. “You mean here 
in the White House?" 

The President smiled. “Yes, my 
dear, in the White House. We’d 
be very glad to have you." 

“You must pardon her," her 
father said. “It happens that the 
White House is a special interest 
of hers. She has studied it. She 
has read everything about it she 
can lay her hands on. Its history 
and its achitecture, everything 
about it." 

“Which," said the President, “is 
a great compliment to us." 

1 2 « The people were still march- 
ing from the door, but now mili- 



38 



IF 




tary policemen were there to di- 
rect them and to keep the mouth 
of the tunnel free for those who 
pressed on from behind. Other 
soldiers held back the crowds of 
curious sightseers who had flocked 
into the area. A bullhorn voice 
bawled out directions and when 
the bullhorh fell silent, the tinny 
chatter of a radio could be heard 
from one of the hundreds of cars 
parked up and down the street. 
Some were against the curb — oth- 
ers, in a fine display of the disre- 
spect of property, had pulled up 
on lawns. Military trucks and per- 
sonnel carriers trundled down the 
street, halted long enough to take 
on a load of refugees, roared off. 
But the people came out of the 
tunnel faster than the trucks could 
cart them away and the great mass 
of people kept pushing outward. 

Lieutenant Andrew Shelby 
spoke into his phone. “We ain’t 
more than making a dent in them. 
Major Burns. Christ, I never saw 
so many people. It would be easi- 
er if we could get some of the 
sightseers out of the area. They 
don’t want to leave and we haven’t 
got the manpower to make them. 
We’ve closed off all civilian traffic 
to the area and, the radio has been 
asking people not to come out 
here, but they are still coming or 
are trying to come and the roads 
are clogged. I hate to think of 
what it will be like once it gets 
dark. How about them engineers 
who were supposed to come out 



here and put up some floodlights?’’ 
“They’re on their way,’’ said 
Burns. “Hang in there, Andy, and 
do every ting you can. We got to 
get those people out of there.’’ 

“I need more carriers,’’ the lieu- 
tenant said. 

“I’m feeding them in,’’ the ma- 
jor told him, “as fast as I can lay 
my hands on them. And another 
thing — there’ll be a gun crew com- 
ing out.’’ 

“We don’t need no gun. What 
we need a gun for?’’ 

“I don’t know,’’ the major said. 
“All I know it is on its way. No 
one told me what it was coming 
for.’’ 



13. “You can’t honestly believe 
this story,’’ Douglas protested. 
“It’s too preposterous to admit 
of any credence. I tell you, we’ve 
been had.’’ 

Williams said quietly, “So are 
all these people coming out of the 
time tunnels preposterous. There 
has to be some explanation of 
them. Gale’s may be a bit fantas- 
tic, but it holds together in a sort 
of zany fashion. I admit I have 
some difficulty — ’’ 

“And his credentials,’’ the at- 
torney general pointed out. “Iden- 
tification rather than credentials. 
Ombudsman for the Washington 
community, a social service work- 
er of some kind. No connection 
with any govermental unit — ’’ 

“Maybe,” said Williams, “they 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



39 




have no real government. You 
must realize that five centuries 
from now there would be changes."' 

“Steve,” the President asked, 
“what do you make of it? You're 
the man whol)rought him in.” 

“A waste of time,” said Doug- 
las. 

“If you want me to vouch for 
his story,” said Wilson, “I can't 
do that, of course.” 

“What did Molly say?” asked 
Sandburg. 

“Nothing really. She simply 
turned him over to me. He told 
her none of the things that he told 
us, of that I'm sure, but she 
wormed out of him and his daugh- 
ter some sort of story about what 
kind of world they came from. 
She said she was satisfied.” 

“Did Global News try to make 
a deal?” asktjd Douglas. 

“Of course they did. Any news 
agency or any reporter worth his 
salt certainly would have tried. 
They would have been delinquent 
in their job if they hadn't tried. 
But Manning didn't press too 
hard. He knew as well as I did — ” 
“You didn't make a deal?” 
asked Douglas. 

“You know he didn't,” said the 
President. 

“What I need right now,” said 
Wilson, “is some indication of 
how much I should tell the press.” 
“Nothing,” said Douglas. “Ab- 
solutely nothing.” 

“They know I've, been in here. 
They know something is going on. 



They won't be satisfied with noth- 
ing.” 

“They don’t need to know.” 

“But they do need to know,” 
said Wilson. “You can't treat the 
press as an adversary. They have a 
legitimate function — the people 
have a right to know. The press 
has played ball with us before and 
they will this time, but we can't 
ignore them. We have to give them 
something and it had better be the 
truth.” 

“I would think,” said Williams, 
“that we should tell them we have 
information that tends to make us 
believe these people , may be, as 
they say, from the future, but that 
we need some time to check. At 
the moment we can make no posi- 
tive announcement. We are still 
working on it.” 

“They'll want to know,” said 
Sandburg, “why they are com- 
ing back. Steve has to have some 
sort of answer. We can't send him 
out there naked. Besides, they 
will know within a short time, that 
we are placing guns in front of the 
tunnels.” 

“It would scare hell out of ev- 
eryone,” said Williams, “if it were 
known why the guns were being 
placed. There would be a world- 
wide clamor for us to use the guns 
to shut down the tunnels.” 

“Why don't we Just say,” sug- 
gested the President, “that the 
people of the future are facing 
some great catastrophe and are 
fleeing for their lives? The guns? I 



40 



IF 




suppose we’ll have to say some- 
thing about them. We can’t be 
caught in a downright falsehood. 
You can say they are no more 
than routine precaution.” 

“But only^ if the question is 
raised,” said Sandburg. 

“Okay,” said Wilson, “but that 
isn’t all of it. There’ll be other 
questions. Have we consulted with 
other nations? How about the 
UN? Will there be a formal state- 
ment later?” 

“You could say, perhaps,” said 
Williams, “that we have contacted 
other governments. We have that 
advisory about the guns.” 

“Steve,” said the President, 
“you’ll have to try to hold them 
off. We’ve got to get our feet un- 
der us. Tell them you’ll be back 
to them later.” 

By Molly Kimball 

Washington (Global 

News)— The people who are 
coming from the tunnels are 
refugees from time. 

This was confirmed late 
today by Maynard Gale, 
one of the refugees. He re- 
fused to say, however, why 
they were fleeing from a fu- 
ture which he says lies 500 
years ahead of us. The cir- 
cumstances of their flight, 
he insisted, could only be 
revealed to a constituted 
government. He said he was 
making efforts to make con- 
tact with an appropriate au- 



thority. He explained that 
he held the position of om- 
budsman for the Washing- 
ton community in his future 
time and had been delegated 
to communicate with the 
Federal Government upon 
his arrival here. 

He did, however, give a 
startling picture of the kind 
of society in which he lives, 
or rather, did live — a world 
in which there are no nations 
and from which the concept 
of war has disappeared. 

It is a simple society, he 
said, forced to become sim- 
ple by the ecological prob- 
lems that we face today. It 
is no longer an industrial 
society. Its manufacturing 
amounts to no more, per- 
haps less, than one per cent 
of today’s figure. What it 
does manufacture is made 
to last. The philosophy of 
obsolescense was abandoned 
only a short distance into 
our future, he said, in the 
face of dwindling natural 
resources; a dwindling about 
which economists and ecol- 
ogists have been warning us 
for years. 

Because its coal and fossil 
fuels are almost gone the 
future world, said Gale, re- 
lies entirely on fusion for its 
energy. The development 
of that type of power, he 
said, is the only thing that 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



41 




holds the delicate economic 
fabric of his world together. 

The world of 500 years 
from now is highly compu- 
terized, with the greater part 
of the population living in 
“high-rise” cities. A half- 
dozen towers, some of them 
reaching as high as a mile, 
will constitute a city. Ur- 
ban sprawl is gone, leaving 
vast surface areas free for 
agricultural purposes. The 
cities are built in large part 
from converted scrap metal, 
which in our day would have 
been buried in landfills. Ad- 
ministration is almost entire- 
ly by computer. 

There is, Gale said, none 
of the great spread of wealth 
that is found in our world. 
No one is rich and there is 
none of the abject poverty 
that today oppresses mil- 
lions. Apparently there has 
been not only a change in 
life style, but a change as 
well in life values. Life is 
simpler and kinder and less 
competitive — there are few 
eager beavers in the world 
of 500 years ahead . . . 

14« A crowd, quiet and order- 
ly, was gathering in Lafayette 
Park as crowds had gathered 
through the years, to stand staring 
at the White House, not demand- 
ing anything, not expecting any- 
thing, simply gathering there in a 



dumb show of participation in a 
nation’s crisis. Above the crowd 
Andy Jackson still sat his ‘earing 
charger, the patina of many years 
upon both horse and rider, friends 
to perching pigeons. 

No one quite knew what this 
crisis meant or if it might even 
be a crisis. The people had as yet 
no idea of how it had come about 
or what it might mean to them, 
although there were a few who had 
done some rather specific, al- 
though distorted, thinking on the 
subject and were willing (at times 
insistently) to share with their 
neighbors what they had been 
thinking. 

In the White House a flood of 
calls had started to come in and 
were stacking up — calls from 
members of the Congress, from 
party stalwarts ready with sugges- 
tions and advice, from business- 
men and industrialists suddenly 
grown nervous, from crackpots 
who held immediate solutions. 

A television camera crew drove 
up in a van and set up for busi- 
ness, taking footage of the La- 
fayette crowd and of the White 
House, gleaming in the summer 
sun. A newsman on the van was 
doing a stand-up commentary 
against the background. 

Straggling tourists trailed up 
and down the avenue, somewhat 
astonished at thus being caught 
up in the middle of history, and 
the White House squirrels came 
scampering down to the fence and 



42 



IF 




through it out onto the sidewalk, 
sitting up daintily, forepaws folded 
on their chests, begging for hand- 
outs. 



1 5 « Alice Gale stood in the win- 
dow, gazing across Pennsylvania 
Avenue at the gathering crowd 
in the park beyond it. She hugged 
herself in shivering ecstasy, not 
daring, to believe that she actually 
was here — that she could be back 
in twentieth-century Washington 
where history had been made, 
where legendary men had lived — 
and at this moment in the very 
room where crowned heads had 
slept. 

Crowned heads, she thought. 
What an awful, almost medieval 
phrase. And yet it had a certain 
ring to it, a certain elegance that 
her world had never known. 

She had caught a glimpse of 
the Washington Monument as she 
and her father had been driven in- 
to the White House grounds. And 
out there a marble Lincoln sat in 
his marble chair, his arms resting 
on its arms and his massive, whisk- 
ered face bearing that look of 
greatness, of sorrow and compas- 
sion that had quieted thousands 
into reverent silence as they 
climbed the stairs to stand face to 
face with him. 

Just across the hallway her fa- 
ther was in Lincoln’s bedroom 
with its massive Victorian bed and 
the velvet-covered slipper chairs. 



Although, she recalled, Lincoln 
had never really slept there. 

It was history brought back to 
life, she thought, history resur- 
rected. And it was a precious thing. 
It would be something to remem- 
ber always, no matter what might 
tie ahead. It would be something 
to remember in the Miocene. And 
what, she wondered with a little 
shiver, might the Miocene be like? 
If they ever got there, if the peo- 
ple of this time should decide to 
help them get there? 

But whatever might happen she 
had something she could say: Once 
I slept in the Queens Bedroom, 

She turned from the window 
and looked in wonder once again 
renewed at the huge four-poster 
bed with its hangings and counter- 
pane of rose and white, at the ma- 
hogany bookcase-secretary that 
stood between the windows, at 
the soft white carpeting. 

It was selfish of her, she knew, 
to be feeling like this when so 
many others of her world at this 
very moment stood homeless and 
bewildered, unsure of their wel- 
come, perhaps wondering if they 
would be fed and where they might 
lay their heads this night, but even 
as she tried she could not rebuke 
herself. 



16# “Terry,” said the President, 
speaking into the phone, “this is 
Sam Henderson.” 

“How good of you to call, Mr. 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



43 




President,” said Terrance Rob- 
erts on the other end. “What can 
I do for you?” 

The President chuckled. “May- 
be you can do a lot for me. I don’t 
know if you will want to. You’ve 
heard what’s happening?” 

“Strange things,” said the labor 
leader. “A lot of speculation. Are 
you folks in Washington making 
any sense of it ?” 

“Some,” said the President. “It 
would seem the people of the fu- 
ture face catastrophe and their 
only escape is to run back into 
time. We haven’t got the full story 
yet.” 

“But, Mr. President — time 

travel?” 

“I know. It doesn't sound possi- 
ble. I haven’t talked to any of our 
physicists, although I intend to do 
so and I suspect they’ll tell me it’s 
impossible. But one of the people 
who came through a time tunnel 
swears that’s exactly what he did. 
If there were any other way to ex- 
plain what is taking place I’d be 
more skeptical than I am. But I’m 
forced by circumstances to accept 
some explanation — at least pro- 
visionally.” / 

“You mean all of them from 
up ahead are coming back? How 
many of them are there?” 

“A couple of billion or so, I 
guess.” 

“But, Mr. President, how will 
we take care of them?” 

“Well, that’s really what I 
wanted to talk with you about. It 



seems they don’t intend to stay 
here. They mean to go farther 
back in time — some twenty mil- 
lion years farther. But they need 
help to do. it. They need new time 
tunnels built and they’ll need 
equipment to take with them — ” 
“We can’t build time tunnels.” 
“They can show us how.” 

“It would cost a lot. Both in 
manpower and materials. Can they 
pay for it?” 

“I don’t know. I never thought 
to ask. I don’t suppose they can. 
But it seems to me we have to do 
it. We can’t let them stay here. 
We have too many people as it 

is. ” 

“Somehow, Mr. President,” 
said Terrance Roberts, “I can 
sense what you want to ask me.” 
The President laughed. “Not 
only you, Tejry. The industrialists 
as well — everyone, in fact. But I 
have to know beforehand what 
kind of cooperation I can expect. 
I wonder if you’d mind coming 
here so a few of us can talk about 

it. ” 

“Certainly, I’ll come. Just let 
me know when you want me. Al- 
though I’m not just sure how 
much I can do for you. Let me 
ask around some, ta)k to some of 
the other boys. Exactly what do 
you have in mind?” 

“I’m not entirely sure. That’s 
something I’ll need some help to 
work out. On the face of it we 
can’t do the kind of job that’s 
called for under existing circum- 



44 



IF 




stances. The government alone 
can’t assume the kind of costs in- 
volved — I’m not thinking just of 
the tunnels. I have no idea so far 
what they would involve. But we 
would need to furnish the re- 
sources for an entire new civiliza- 
tion and that would cost a lot of 
money. The taxpaying public 
would never stand for it. So we'll 
have to turn elsewhere for help. 
Labor will have to pitch in — indus- 
try will have to help. A national 
emergency calls for extraordinary 
measures. I don’t even krrow how 
long we can feed all these people 
and—” 

“We’re not the only ones who 
have that problem,” said Roberts. 
“The rest of the world has it, too.” 

“That’s right. And they’ll also 
have to take some action. If there 
were time we could put together 
some sort of international setup, 
but a thing like that takes time 
and we haven't got it. To start 
with, at least, it has to be a na- 
tional action.” 

“Have you talked to any of the 
other nations?” 

“Britain and Russia,” said the 
President. “Some of the others. 
But not about the additional time 
tunnels. Once we get an idea or 
two shaped up we can see what 
some of the others think. Pool our 
thoughts. But we can’t take much 
time. Whatever we do we'll have 
to get started on almost immedi- 
ately and work as fast as we can.” 

“You’re sure there are people 



who can explain these tunnels — 
whatever they are? Well enough 
so that our scientists and engineers 
can understand the principles in- 
volved? And the technology well 
enough — hell, Mr. President, this 
is sheer insanity. American labor 
building time tunnels! This has 
got to be a bad joke.” 

“I’m afraid,” Henderson said, 
“it isn’t a joke. We’re in a mess, 
Terry. I don’t know how bad. I 
imagine it will be a day or two 
before we have the full story and 
know what we really face. All I 
ask right now is that you think 
about it. Get a few ideas together. 
Figure out what you can do. I’ll 
let you know about coming down. 
No use coming now. We have to 
get a few things sorted out before 
we can talk. I’ll be in touch as 
soon as I know a little more about 
it.” 

“Any time, Mr. President,” said 
Roberts. “You let me know and 
I’ll be there.” 

The President hung up and 
buzzed Kim. “Ask Steve to come 
in,” he said when she opened the 
door. He tilted back in his chair 
and locked his hands behind his 
head, staring at the ceiling. Less 
than five hours ago, he thought, 
he’d stretched out for a nap, look- 
ing forward to a lazy Sunday af- 
ternoon. He didn’t get many lazy 
afternoons and when they came 
he treasured them. He had no 
more than shut his eyes than the 
world had fallen in on him. Christ, 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



45 




he asked himself, what am ! to 
do? What can I do? What's the 
wise thing to do? Without even 
trying a man could make a mis- 
take or a number of mistakes and 
Henderson sensed that in this sit- 
uation he could not afford mis- 
takes. 

Steve Wilson came in. The Pres- 
ident took his hands from behind 
his head and tilted forward in the 
chair. 

'‘Have you had the press in, 
Steve?" 

“No, sir, 1 haven’t. They're 
po.unding on the door, but I 
haven't let them in. I didn’t have 
the guts to face them with the lit- 
tle you gave me. I had hoped—’’ 

“All right, then," said the Pres- 
ident. “Your hopes paid off. You 
can give them all of it with two 
exceptions. You can’t tell them 
why we have the guns planted. That 
still has to be simply normal pre- 
cautions. And there must be no 
hint of Gale’s suggestion that we 
go back in time with them." 

“I can’t tell them, then, about 
why they’re leaving the future? 
Nothing about the aliens?" 

The President shook his head, 
“Simply say that this point has 
not been sufficiently clarified and 
needs more study before anything 
can be said of it." 

“They won’t like it," said Wil- 
son, “but I guess I can manage. 
How about the TV? 1 have alerted 
the networks you may want time 
this evening." 



“How about ten o'clock? That's 
a little late, 1 suppose, but—’’ 

“Ten will be all right." 

“Then you set it up. Tell them 
only ten or fifteen minutes." 

“I’ll draft up something for you 
to look at." 

“You have your hands full, 
Steve. I'll ask Brad and Frank to 
put it together." 

“They'll want to know if you’ve 
talked with anyone." 

“1 talked with Sterling in Lon- 
don and Menkov in Moscow. You 
can tell them Menkov has talked 
with the Russian equivalent of our 
Gale and has substantially the 
same story we got. London still 
hadn’t been contacted by anyone 
when I spoke with Sterling. You 
can say I plan to talk with other 
national leaders before the day is 
out." 

“How about a cabinet meeting? 
The question is sure to come up." 

“I’ve been seeing cabinet mem- 
bers off and on during the last few 
hours. This is the first time since 
it’s started there has been no one 
in this office. And I’ll be confer- 
ring wkh people on the Hill, of 
course. Anything else you can 
think of, Steve?" 

“There’ll probably be a lot of 
other . questions. I’ll manage to 
field them. You can’t anticipate 
them all. This will satisfy them." 

“Steve, what do you think of 
Gale? Your own personal opinion. 
How do you size him up?" 

“It’s hard to know," said Wil- 



46 



IF 




son. “No rear impression, I’d say. 
Except that I can’t figure out 
where he’d gain anything by not 
telling the truth, or at least the 
truth as he saw it. However you 
look at it, those people out there 
are in serious trouble and they 
look to us ta help them. Maybe 
they have a thing or two to hide — 
maybe it’s not exactly as Gale told 
it, but I think mostly it is. Hard 
as it may be to accept. I’m in- 
clined to believe him.’’ 

“1 hope you’re right,’’ said the 
President. “If we’re wrong, they 
could make us awful fools.” 

17. The chauffeured car went up 
the curving drive to the gracious 
mansion set well back from the 
street among flowers and trees. 
When it stopped before the portico 
the chauffeur got out and opened 
the rear door. The old man fum- 
bled out of it, groping with his 
cane. He petulantly struck aside 
the chauffeur’s proffered hand. 

“I can still manage to get out of 
a car alone,” he panted, finally 
disengaging himself from it and 
standing, albeit a little shakily and 
unsure of himself, upon the drive- 
way. “You wait right here for 
me,” he said. “It may take a little 
while, but you wait right here for 
me.” 

“Certainly, Senator,” said the 
driver. “Those stairs, sir— they 
look a little steep.” 

“You stay right here,” said Sen- 
ator Andrew Oakes. “Go sit be- 



hind the wheel. Time comes when 
1 can’t climb stairs I’ll go back 
home and let some young man 
have my seat. But not right yet,” 
he said, wheezing a little. “Not 
right now. Maybe in another year 
or two. Maybe not. Depends on 
how I feel.” 

He stumped toward the stairs, 
clomping his cane with weighty 
precision on the driveway. He 
mounted the First step and stood 
there for a moment before at- 
tempting the next one. As he 
mounted each step, he looked to 
either side of him, glaring into the 
landscape as if daring someone to 
remark on his progress. But no 
one was in sight except the chauf- 
feur, who had gone back to sit be- 
hind the wheel, studiously not 
watching the old man’s progress 
up the stairs, 

The door came open when he 
was crossing the pillared entrance. 

' “I am glad to see you. Sena- 
tor,” said Grant Wellington, “but 
there was no need to make the 
trip. I could have come to your 
apartment.” 

The Senator stopped, planting 
himself sturdily before his host. 
“Nice day for a drive,” he said. 
“And you said you would be 
alone.” 

Wellington nodded. “Family’s 
in New England and it’s the ser- 
vants’ day off. We’ll be quite 
alone.” 

“Good,” said the Senator. “At 
my place you can never be sure. 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



47 




People in and out. Phones ringing 
all the time. This is better." 

He stumped into the entry. “To 
your right," said Wellington, clos- 
ing the door. 

The old man went into the 
study, shuffled across the carpet- 
ing, dropped into a huge uphol- 
stered chair to one side of the fire- 
place. He laid his cane carefully 
on the floor beside him, looked 
around at the book-lined shelves, 
the huge executive desk, the com- 
fortable furniture, the paintings 
on the wall. 

“You have got it good. Grant," 
he said. “1 sometimes worry about 
that. Maybe you have it too 
good." 

“Meaning I won't fight? Will 
be afraid to dirty my hands?" 

“Something like that. Grant. 
But I tell myself Tm wrong. Did 
plenty of fighting in your day. Out 
in the business world." He ges- 
tured at the paintings. “Always 
suspicious of a man who owns a 
Renoir." 

“How about something to drink. 
Senator?" 

“Late enough in the afternoon," 
said the Senator judiciously, “for 
a splash of bourbon. Great drink, 
bourbon. American. Has charac- 
ter. I remember you drink scotch." 

“With you," said Wellington, 
“I drink bourbon." 

“You been listening to what is 
happening?" 

“Saw some of it on TV." 

“Man could stub his toe on a 



thing like that. He could stub his 
toe real bad." 

“You mean Henderson." 

“I mean everybody. Easy thing 
to do." 

Wellington brought the Senator 
his drink, went back to the bar to 
pour his own. The old man settled 
more deeply into the chair, fon- 
dling the glass. He took a drink, 
puffed out his cheeks in apprecia- 
tion. “For a scotch man," he said, 
“you carry a good brand." 

“I took my cue from you," said 
Wellington, coming back and sit- 
ting on a sofa. 

“I imagine the man at sixteen 
hundred has a lot on his mind. 
Maybe more than he can handle. 
Batch of decisions to be made. 
Yes, sir, a lot of them." 

“I don't envy him," said Well- 
ington. 

“Most terrible thing that can 
happen to a man with election 
coming up next year. He'll have 
that on his mind and it won't help 
him any. Trouble is he has to say 
something, has to do something. 
Nobody else has to, but he has 
to." 

“If you are trying to say that I 
should say nothing or do nothing, 
you are succeeding very well," 
said Wellington. “Never try to be 
subtle. Senator. You're not very 
good at it." 

“Well, I don't know," said the 
Senator. “You can't come straight 
out and tell a man to keep his 
mouth shut." 



48 



IF 




“If these people are really from 
the future—’’ 

“Oh, they’re from the future, 
all right. Where else could they 
come from?” 

“Then you can’t go wrong on 
them,” said Wellington. “They 
are our descendants. What they 
are doing is like a bunch of kids 
running home after they got hurt.” 

“Well, now, I don’t know,” 
said the Senator. “Anyway they’re 
not exactly what I came to talk 
about. Not the people — but old 
Sam up there in the White House. 
He’s the one who’s got to do 
something about them and he’s 
bound to make mistakes. We got 
to watch carefully and evaluate 
those mistakes. We can jump on 
some of them and some of them 
we can’t. There may be even a few 
things he does that we have to go 
along with — we can’t be too un- 
reasonable. But the thing right 
nbw is not to commit ourselves. 
You know and I know there are 
a lot of people want that nomina- 
tion next summer to run against 
old Sam and I mean, if I can imag- 
ine it, that you are the one who 
gets it. Some of the other boys will 
think they see some opportunities 
in what the man up there does and 
they’ll get anxious and start shoot- 
ing off their mouths — and I tell 
you. Grant, that the people won’t 
remember who was first, but the 
one who happens to be right.” 

“Of course I appreciate your 
concern,” said Wellington, “but 



it happens that you made this trip 
for nothing. I have no intention 
whatever of takiiig a position. I’m 
not sure right now there is a posi- 
tion one can take.” 

The Senator held out his empty 
glass. “If you don’t mind,” he 
said. “Another little splash.” 

Wellington poured another little 
splash and the Senator settled back 
again. 

“That matter of a position,” 
he said, “is something that is go- 
ing to require some long and pray- 
erful thought. It has not yet be- 
come apparent, but there will be 
positions practically begging to be 
taken and a man must look over 
good and select very carefully. 
What you say abouY these folks 
being our descendants is ail well 
and good. You being a man whose 
family history is long and proud 
would think that way, of course. 
But you got to remember that 
there are a lot of people with lit- 
tle family history and not proud 
of what they have and these peo- 
ple — who make up the greatest 
part of the good old USA — are 
not going to give a damn about 
these particular descendants. May- 
be them being our descendants 
will make it all the worse. There 
are a lot of families these days 
that are having lots of trouble 
with their own immediate prog- 
eny. 

“Several millions of these peo- 
ple are already through the tun- 
nels and they are still pouring 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



49 




through. But while we can hold up 
our hands in pious horror and ask 
how we are going to take care of 
them, the^eal gut reaction will 
come when those extra millions 
begin to have an effect on the econ- 
omy. Food may suddenly get 
scarce and other things, too. Then 
prices will goTip and there'll be a 
housing problem and a labor prob- 
lem and there won't be goods 
enough to go around. And while 
all this is now just economic talk, 
in ^ little while it will cease to be 
just talk and every man and wom- 
an in this fair land will feel the im- 
pact of it and that's when there's 
hell to pay. And that's the time 
when a man like you must pick 
out his position^nd study all the 
angles before settling on one.” 
“Good God!” said Wellington. 
“This thing happening out there 
is made up of our own people 
fleeing back to us — and here we 
sit, the two of us, and try to fig- 
ure out a good, safe political posi- 
tion — ” 



“Politics,” said the Senator, “is 
a very complicated and a most 
practical business. You've got to 
be hard-headed about it. You can't 
ever afford to get emotional about 
it. That's the first thing that you 
must remember — don’t get emo- 
tional about anything at all. Oh, 
it’s all right to appear to be emo- 
tional. Sometimes that has a cer- 
tain appeal for the electorate. But 
before you can afford to feel any- 
thing you must have every angle 



figured out. Emotions are for ef- 
fect only.” 

“The way you put it. Senator, 
is not too attractive. It leaves a 
slightly dirty taste.” 

“Sure, I know,’’ said the Sena- 
tor. “1 know about that dirty taste 
myself. You just shut your mind 
to it, is all. It’s all right, of course, 
to be a great statesman and a hu- 
manitarian, but before you get to 
be a statesman you have to be a 
dirty politician. You have to get 
elected first. And you never get 
elected without feeling just a little 
dirty.” 

He placed the glass on the table 
beside his chair, fumbled for his 
cane and found it, heaved himself 
erect. 

“Now, you mind,” he said, “be- 
fore you go saying anything you 
just check with me. I been through 
all this many times before. I guess 
you could say I have developed^a 
political instinct for the jugular 
and I am seldom wrong. Up there 
on the Hill we hear things. There 
are some real good pipelines. I’ll 
know when anything’s about to 
happen — so we’ll have time to 
study it.” 



1 8« The press conference had 
gone well. Arrangements had 
been made for the President’s TV 
appearance. The clock on the 
wall ticked over to 6 P.M. The tele- 
types went on clucking softly. 

Wilson said to Judy, “^ou’d bet- 



50 



IF 




ter call it a day. It’s time to close 
up shop.” 

“How about yourself?” 

“I’ll hang on for a while. Take 
my car. Til pick it up at your 
place.” 

He reached into his pocket, 
pulled out the keys and tossed them 
to her. 

“When you get there,” Judy 
said, “come up for a drink. I’ll be 
up and waiting.” 

“It may be late.” 

“If it’s too late, why bother go- 
ing home? You left your tooth- 
brush last time.” 

“Pajamas,” he said. 

“When did you ever need pa- 
jamas?” 

He grinned at her lazily. 
“Okay,” he said. “Toothbrush, no 
pajamas.” 

“Maybe,” said Judy, “it’ll make" 
up for this afternoon.” 

“What this afternoon?” 

“I told you, remember. What I 
planned to do.” 

“Oh, that.” 

“Yes, oh, that. I’ve never done 
it that way.” 

“You’re a shameless child. Now 
run along.” 

“The kitchen will be sending 
coffee and sandwiches to the 
press lounge. Ask them nice and 
they’ll throw a crust to you.” 

He sat and watched her go. She 
walked surely, but with a dainti- 
ness that always intrigued and 
puzzled him, as if she were a sprite 
who was consciously trying to 



make an Earth creature of her- 
self. 

He shuffled the loose papers on 
the desk into a pile and stacked 
them to one side. 

He sat quietly th^i and listened 
to the strange mutterings of the 
place. Somewhere a phone rang. 
There was the distant sound of 
someone walking. Out in the 
lounge someone was .typing aiiu 
against the wall the wire machines 
went on with their clacking. 

It was all insane, he told him- 
self. The entire business was 
stark, staring crazy. No one in his 
right mind would believe a word of 
it. Time tunnels and aliens out of 
space were the sort of junk the jun- 
iors watched on television. Could 
it, he wondered,- be a matter of 
delusion, of mass hysteria? 
When the sun rose tomorrow 
would it all be gone and the world 
be back on the old footing? 

He shoved back the chair and 
stood up. Judy’s deserted con- 
sole had a couple of lights flash- 
ing and he let them flicker. He 
strode out to the corridor and fol- 
lowed it to the outer door. In the 
garden outside the heat of the 
summer day was waning and long 
shadows stretched across the lawn. 
The flower beds lay in all their 
glory — roses, heliotrope, gerani- 
ums, nicotiana, columbines and 
daisies. He stood, looking across 
the parkjto where the Washington 
Monument reared its classic 
whiteness. 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



51 




Behind him he heard a footstep 
and swung around. A woman 
stood a short distance away. She 
wore a white robe that came down 
to her sandaled feet. 

_“Miss Gale,” he said, a little 
startled. “What a pleasant sur- 
prise.” 

“I hope,” she said, “I have done 
nothing wrong. No one stopped 
me. Is it all right to be here?” 
“Certainly. As a guest — ” 

“I had to see the garden. 1 had 
read so much of it.” 

“You have never been here, 
then?” 

She hesitated. “Yes, I have. 
But it was not the same. It was 
nothing like this.” 

“Well,” he said, “I suppose that 
things do change.” 

“Yes,” she said, “they do.” 

“Is something wrong?” 

“No, 1 guess not.” She hesitat- 
ed again. “1 see you don’t under- 
stand. I can't imagine there is any 
reason why I shouldn’t tell you.” 
“Tell me what? Something 
about this place?” 

“It’s this,” she said. “In my 
time, five hundred years ahead, 
there isn’t any garden. There isn’t 
any White House.” 

He stared at her. 

“See?” she said. “You don’t be- 
lieve it. You won’t believe me. We 
have no nations there — we just 
have one big nation, although 
that’s not exactly right. There 
aren’t any nations and there isn’t 
any White House. A few ragged. 



broken walls is all, a piece of 
rusted fence sticking from the 
ground that you stub your toe on. 
There isn’t any park and there 
aren’t any flower beds. Now can 
you understand? Can you know 
what all this means to me?” 

“But how? When?” 

“Not right away,” she said. 
“Not for a century or more. And 
now it may never happen. The 
history you will make will not 
quite be ours.” 

She stood there, a thin slip of a 
girl in her chaste white robe, speak- 
ing of a future when there would 
be no White House. He shook his 
head, bewildered. 

“How much do you under- 
stand,” he asked,' “of this time- 
track business?” 

“There are equations that you 
have to know to grasp it all,” she 
said. “There are, I suppoise, only 
a few people who really do. But 
basically it’s quite simple. It’s a 
cause and effect situation and 
once you change the cause or, more 
likely, many causes, as we must 
have done in coming here — ” 

He made a motion of futility 
with his hand. “I still can’t believe 
it,” he said. “Not just the time 
track, but all the rest of it. I woke 
up this morning and I was going 
on a picnic. You know what a pic- 
nic is?” 

“No,” she said. “I don’t know 
what a picnic is. So we’re even.” 
“Some day I’ll take you on a pic- 
me. 



52 



IF 




“I wish you would,” she said. “Is 
it something nice?” 



19# Bentley Price came home a 
bit befuddled, but somewhat tri- 
umphant, for he had talked his 
way past a roadblock set up by the 
military, had yelled a jeep off the 
road and honked his way through 
two blocks clotted by refugees and 
spectators who had stayed in the 
area despite all efforts by the 
MPs to move them out. The drive- 
way was partly blocked by a car, 
but he made his way around it, 
clipping a rose bush in the process. 

Night had fallen and it had been 
a busy day and all Bentley wanted 
was to get into the house and col- 
lapse on a bed. But first he had to 
clear the car of cameras and other 
equipment, for it would never do, 
with so many strangers in the 
neighborhood, to leave the stuff 
locked in the car, as had been his 
habit. A locked car would be no de- 
terrent to someone really bent on 
thievery. He hung three cameras by 
their straps around his neck and 
was hauling a heavy accessories 
bag out of the car when he saw, 
with outrage, what had happened 
to Edna's flower bed. 

A gun stood in the center of it, 
its wheels sunk deep into the soil, 
and around it stood the gun crew. 
The gunsite was brightly illumi- 
nated by a large spotlight that had 
been hung high in the branches of a 
tree and there could be no doubt of 



the havoc that had been wrought 
upon the flowers. 

Bentley charged purposefully up- 
on the gun, brushing aside one 
astounded cannoneer, to square 
off, like an embattled bantam 
rooster, before a young man who 
had bars on his shoulders. 

“You have your nerve,” said 
Bentley. “Coming here when the 
owner happens to be gone — ” 

“Are you the owner, sir?” asked 
the captain of the gun crew. 

“No,” said Bentley. “I am not, 
but I am responsible. I was left 
here to look out for the joint 
and—” 

“We are sorry, ^ir,” said the of- 
ficer, “if we have displeased you, 
but we had our orders, sir.” 

Bentley yelled at him, “You had 
orders to set up this contraption 
in the middle of Edna’s flower 
bed? 1 suppose the orders said to 
set up in the middle of a flower 
bed; not a few feet forward or a 
few feet back, but in the middle of 
a bed a devoted woman has slaved 
to grow to perfection — ” 

“No, not precisely that,” said 
the officer. “We were ordered to 
cover the mouth of the time tun- 
nel and to do that we needed a clear 
line of fire.” 

“That don’t make no sense,” 
said Bentley. “Why would you 
want to cover the tunnel with all 
them poor people coming out?” 

“I don’t know,” said the officer. 
“No one bothered to explain to 
me. 1 simply got my orders and 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



53 




Tm about to carry them out, flow- 
er bed or no Hower bed, owner or 
no owner." 

“Somehow," said Benttey, “you 
don't sound like no gentleman to 
me and that's what you're sup- 
posed to be, ain't it, an officer and 
a gentleman? There wouldn't be 
any gentleman set up no gun in the 
middle of a flower bed and there 
wouldn't be any officer aim his 
gun at a bunch of refugees and — " 

A shrill scream split the night. 
Bentley spun and saw that some- 
thing was happening in the tun- 
nel. People were still coming out 
of it, but they weren't marching 
out four and five abreast as before. 
They were running out, fighting 
to get out and overriding them 
and plowing through them was a 
horror that Bentley never quite 
got sorted in his mind. He had the 
impression of wicked teeth and 
mighty talons — of terrible power 
and ferocity — and quite by habit 
his hands went down to grip a 
camera and bring it to his eye. 

Through the lens he saw that 
there was not one, but two of the 
creatures, one almost through the 
tunnel and^ the other close be- 
hind. He saw the bodies of people 
flying through the air like limp 
dolls thrown about by children 
and others were crushed beneath 
the monster's treading feet. And 
he saw writhing tentacles, as if 
the creatures could not quite make 
up their minds if they were ani- 
mals or octopi. 



Sharp orders rang out behind 
him and almost at his elbow the 
gun belched sudden flame that lit 
up all the houses and the yards and 
gardens. A thunderclap knocked 
him to one side and as he hit the 
ground and rolled he saw a num- 
ber of things. The tunnel had sud- 
denly blinked out in an explosion 
that was little more than a con- 
tinuation of the thunderclap, al- 
though it was more mind-numbing 
and nerve-shaking. There were 
dead people and a dead creature 
that smoked as if it had been fried. 
But while one of the animals lay 
on the lawn beneath the great oak 
tree that had marked the tunnel, 
the other was very much" alive. 
That one and the gun and its crew 
became mixed up and people 
were running, screaming in ter- 
ror. 

Bentley scrambled to his feet and 
saw the gun crew dead, ripped and 
flung and trampled. The gun had 
tipped over. Smoke still trailed 
from its muzzle. From down the 
street came shrill, high screams 
and he caught — for an instant on- 
ly — the flickering motion of 
something large and dark whip- 
ping across a^^corner of a yard. A 
picket fence exploded in a shower 
of white slivers as the dark thing 
vanished through it. 

He sprinted around the corner of 
the house and burst through the 
kitchen door, clawing for the 
phone, dialing almost by in- 
stinct, praying the line was open. 



54 



IF 




“Global News,” said a raspy 
voice. “Manning.” 

“Tom, this is Bentley.” 

“Yes, Bentley. What is it now? 
Where are you?” 

“1 am home. Out at Joe’s place. 
And I got some news.” 

“Are you sober?” 

“Well, I stopped by a place I 
know and had a drink or two. Sun- 
day, you know. None of the regu- 
lar places open. And when I come 
home I found a gun crew right in 
Edna’s flower bed — ” 

“Hell,” said Manning, “that’s 
no news. We had that a couple of 
hours ago. They set up guns at all 
the tunnels for some reason.” 

“I know the reason.” 

“Well, now, that’s nice,” said 
Manning. 

“Yeah, there was a monster 
come through the tunnel and — ” 

“A monster? What kind of mon- 
ster?” 

“Well, I don’t know,” said Bent- 
ley. “1 never got a real good look at 
it. And there wasn’t only one 
monster. There was two of them. 
One of them the gun killed, but the 
other got away. It killed the gun 
crew and tipped over the gun and 
all the people ran screaming and 
it got away. I saw it bust right 
through a picket fence — ” 

“Now, Bentley,” said Manning, 
“stop talking so fast. Take it a lit- 
tle slow and tell me. You say one 
got away. There is a monster 
loose — ’’ 

“There sure is. He killed the gun 



crew and maybe other people, 
too. The tunnel is shut down and 
there’s a dead beast out there.” 
“Now tell me about the mon- 
ster. What kind of monster was 
it?’^ 

“I can’t tell you that,” said Bent- 
ley, “but I got pictures of it.” 

“Of the dead one, I suppose.” 
“No, the live one,” said Bent- 
ley, his voice bright with scorn. “I 
wouldn’t never bother with no 
dead monster when there’s a live 
one. 

“Now, listen, Bentley. Listen 
closely. Are you in shape to 
drive?” 

“Sure, I’m in shape to drive. I 
drove out here, didn’t I?” 

“All right. I’ll send someone else 
out there. And you — I want you to 
get in here as quickly as you can 
with the pictures you have. And 
Bentley — ” 

“Yes?” 

“You’re sure you’re right? There 
really was a monster?” 

“I’m sure I’m right,” said Bent- 
ley piously. “I only had a drink or 
two.” 

20 . Steve Wilson strode into the 
press louhge in search of coffee 
and sandwiches. A dozen or so 
newsmen were still there. 

“Anything new, Steve?” asked 
Carl Anders of AP. 

Wilson shook his head. “Every- 
thing seems to be quiet. If any- 
thing of consequence were going 
on I think I would know it.” 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



55 




"‘And tell us?” 

“And tell you,” Wilson said 
sharply. “You know damn well 
we’ve played fair with you.” 

“Yeah? How about the guns?” 

“Simply routine emergency pre- 
caution. How about some sand- 
wiches or did you guys eat them 
all?” 

“Over there in the corner, 
Steve,’' said John Gates of the 
Washington Post. 

Wilson piled two sandwiches on 
a plate and got a cup of coffee. As 
he came back across the room 
Gates slid over on the davenport 
where he had been lounging and 
patted a place beside him. Wilson 
sat down, putting his plate and cup 
on the coffee table. 

Anders came over to take a near- 
by chair. Henry Hunt, the New 
York Times man, sat down on the 
davenport on the other side of 
Wilson. 

“It’s been a long day, Steve,” he 
said. 

Wilson bit into a sandwich. 
“Rough,'’ he said. 

“What’s going on right now?” 
asked Anders. 

“Perhaps quite a bit. Nothing 
that I know of. There’s nothing I 
can tell, nothing that 1 know.” 

Gates chuckled, “You can talk, 
can’t you?” 

“Sure I can talk. But I can’t give 
you anything. You guys know pro- 
cedure. If I should happen to say 
something that makes sense it's 
off the record.” 



“Well, hell— yes, of course,'’ 
said Anders. "‘You newspapered 
yourself. You know how it is.” 

“I know how it is,” said Wilson. 

“What bothers me,” said Hunt, 
“is how anyone, even the Presi- 
dent, knows where to take hold of a 
thing like this. There’s no 
precedent. Nothing like this has 
ever happened before, nothing 
remotely like it. As a rule a crisis 
will build up— you can see it com- 
ing and be halfway ready for it. 
But not this one. This one ex- 
ploded without warning.” 

“That's bothering me, too,” said 
Anders. “How do you find a 
handle?” 

“You're stuck with it,” said Wil- 
son. “You can't just ignore it. You 
do the best you can. You try to find 
out what it’s all about. In a case 
like this you have to be somewhat 
skeptical and that doesn't allow 
you to move as fast as you'd like to 
move. You have to talk with a lot 
of people — you have to check 
around and develop some sort of 
judgment. I suspect you might 
pray a lot.” 

“Is that what the President did?'’ 
asked Anders. 

“That's not what I said. I was 
just trying to think through a 
hypothetical question.” 

“What do you think of it, 
Steve?” asked Gates. “You, not 
the President.” 

“It’s hard to tell,” said Wilson. 
“It’s all too new. I found myself 
just a while ago wondering if it 



56 



IF 




1 

i 

was all delusion, if it might not be 
gone by morning. Of course, I 
know it won’t be. But it boggles 
the mind to think of it. I have 
brought myself to believe these 
people are really from the future. 
But even if they’re not — they’re 
here and we have to deal with 
them. I suppose it doesn’t really 
matter where they came from.” 

“You, personally, still have 
doubts?” 

“You mean are they from the fu- 
ture? Their explanation holds up. 
Why should they lie? What would 
they gain by lying?” 

“But, still you — ” 

“Now, wait a minute. I don't 
want you to start speculating that 
the answer we have is wrong. That 
would be unrealistic. This is 
among friends, remember? Just 
sitting down and talking.” 

The pressroom door came open. 
Wilson looked up. Brad Reynolds 
stood in the doorway. His face 
wore a pitiful, stricken look. 

“Steve,” he said. “Steve, I have 
to see you.” 

“What’s going on?'’ asked Hunt. 

Through the open door came a 
frantic clanging as a bell on one 
of the teletypes signaled a bul- 
letin. 

Wilson rose to his feet so swiftly 
that he joggled the coffee table, 
tipping his cup. Coffee ran across 
the table and dripped onto the 
carpet. 

He strode across the room and 
gripped Reynolds by the arm. 



“A monster got through!” Rey- 
nolds blurted out. “Global has it. 
It’s on radio.” 

“For the love of God,” said Wil- 
son. He glanced back over his 
shoulder at the newsmen and saw 
that they had heard. 

“What’s this about monsters?’' 
shouted Anders. “You never told 
us about any monsters.” 

“Later,” said Wilson savagely. 
He pushed Reynolds back into the 
pressroom and slammed the door 
behind him. 

“I thought you and Frank were 
working on the TV speech,” he 
said. “How did you — ” 

“The radio,” said Reynolds. 
“We heard it on the radio. What 
will we do about the TV talk? He 
can’t go on TV without mention- 
ing this and it’s only an hour 
away.” 

“We’ll take care of that,” said 
Wilson. “Does Henderson know?’' 

“Frank went to tell him. I came 
to you.” 

“Do you know what happened? 
Where it happened?” 

“Down in Virginia. Two of them 
came through the tunnel. The gun 
got one of them. The other one got 
through. It killed the gun crew — ” 

“You mean one of them is run- 
ning loose?” 

Reynolds nodded miserably. 



21 . Tom Manning turned from 
his desk, and ran fresh paper into 
the typewriter. He wrote: 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



57 




Third Lead: Monster 

Washington, D.C. 
(Global) — An alien beast is 
loose on Earth tonight. No 
one knows where it is. It 
came out of a time tunnel in 
Virginia and disappeared 
after killing the crew of an 
artillery piece posted in front 
of the tunnel, placed to pre- 
vent the very thing that hap- 
pened. A second beast came, 
through with it, but this one 
was killed by the gun. 

There are unconfirmed re- 
ports that several other peo- 
ple, in addition to the gun 
crew, were killed by the tun- 
nel monster. 

Eyewitnesses said th^t the 
beast was large and unbe- 
lievably quick in its move- 
ments. No one got a good 
look at it. “It moved too fast 
for anyone really to see it,“ 
said one eyewitness. With- 
in seconds after emerging 
from the tunnel it disap- 
peared. There is no clue as to 
where it may be now. 

“Mr. Manning," said someone 
at his elbow. 

Manning looked up. A copy boy 
stood there. 

“Mr. Price’s pictures," said the 
copy boy, handing them to him. 

Manning looked at the one on 
top and drew in his breath sharply. 
“Jesus H. Christ," he said aloud to 
himself, “will you look at that!" 



It was the sort of picture that 
some press flack would dream up 
to advertise a horror movie, but 
without the phoniness of such a 
drawing. The creature was in mo- 
tion even in the still photo, and 
probably moving fast, for there 
was a sense of power and swift- 
ness in it. Bentley’s super-fast film 
had frozen it in all its ferocity — 
the fangs, the talons, the nest of 
writhing tentacles positioned 
around its squat, thick neck. The 
very shape of it was eviK It was 
beast, but more than beast. There 
was in it some quality that sent a 
shiver up Manning’s spine — not a 
shiver of horror, but of outland- 
ish, unreasoning fear. 

Manning swung back to the desk 
and laid the pictures on its top. 
With a swipe of his hand he fanned 
them out. All of them were hor- 
rifying. A couple of them showed 
the fleeing crowd — dark shadows 
in a hurry. Another showed, 
somewhat less well than Manning 
would have liked, the shambles 
where the tunnel mouth had been, 
with the dead creature crumpled 
on top of the trampled human 
bodies. 

“That goddamned Price," said 
Manning soulfully. “He never got 
a shot of the monster and the gun 
crew." 

22 * “We can’t cancel your TV 
appearance," Wilson told the 
President. “The situation is bad 
enough right now. It will be wqrse 



58 



IF 




if we cancel. We can fix it with a 
paragraph or two. Say that the 
Virginia incident is too recent to 
comment on. Give assurance 
that it will be run down, that the 
beast will be found and killed. That 
we’re already closing in on it — ” 

“But we aren’t,” said the Presi- 
dent. ”We don’t know where the 
hell it is. There’s been no report of 
it. You remember what Gale 
said — how fast they could move. 
Traveling in the dark, this thing 
could be deep into the mountains 
of West Virginia and well hidden 
before daylight.” 

“There’s more reason right now 
than there ever was,” said Frank 
Howard, who had been working 
on the speech text with Reynolds, 
“for you to talk to the people. The 
entire country will be in ah up- 
roar and we’ll have to tame them 
down.” 

“You know, Frank,” said the 
President, don’t seem to care 
right now to tame the country 
down. Can4 you get it through 
your head that this is not a political 
matter? It’s far more than that. I 
can’t be sure just how much dan- 
ger the country may be facing, 
but I know that there is danger. 
I’ve asked Gale to step down here 
and tell us what he thinks. He 
knows more than we do.” 

“What you refuse to under- 
stand, sir,” said Wilson, “is that 
the country’s waiting to hear 
from .you. The people would like 
some sort of assurance, but if you 



can’t give them that you can let 
them know that we are on the job. 
Seeing and hearing you will be 
visible proof that everything has 
not entirely gone to pot. They 
need some physical evidence that 
the government is aware of what 
is going on — ” 

The box on the President’s desk 
purred. “Yes?” Henderson said. 

“A call for Mr. Wilson^ sir, an 
urgent call. Can he answer it in 
there?” 

The President lifted the receiv- 
er and handed it to Wilson. 

“This is Henry,” said Hunt’s 
voice. “Sorry for breaking in, but 
I thought you should know. One of 
the other tunnels failed out in 
Wisconsin. It just came in on AP.” 

“Failed, you say? Not like Vir- 
ginia. Nothing came through?” 

“Apparently. The message said 
it failed. Blinked out. Wasn’t there 
any more.” 

“Thank you, Henry. Thanks for 
telling me.” 

He said to the President, “An- 
other tunnel is out. Cut off. dis- 
appeared. I suppose the people 
did it at the other end. Gale told 
us, if you remember, that they 
had men on guard who were^pre- 
pared to collapse the tunnels if 
anything went wrong.” 

“I do recall,” said the Presi- 
dent. “The invaders must be get- 
ting at them. I don’t like to think 
about it. It must take a lot of cour- 
age to do a thing like that. The 
ones at the other end of the Vir- 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



59 




ginia tunnel apparently didn't 
have the chance." 

‘‘About the speech, sir," said 
Reynolds. “The time rs getting 
short." 

“All right. I suppose I have to. 
Do the best you can. But don't say 
anything about our having it 
tracked down and cornered." 

“You'll have to tell them what it 
is," said Wilson. “There has to be 
an explanation of what the ani- 
mal is. We'll have to tell the peo- 
ple it's beasts such as this that the 
tunnel folks are fleeing." 

“There'll be a scream to shut 
down the tunnels," Reynolds 
said. 

“Let them scream," said the 
President. “We don't know of any 
way of shutting them except fir- 
ing into them. And we can't fire 
into crowds of refugees without 
reason — our own refugees." 

“In a short while," said Howard, 
“there may be no need. One tunnel 
has shut down of itself. There will 
be others. In a few hours maybe 
all of them will close," 

“I hope not," said the Presi- 
dent. “No matter what else hap- 
pens, no matter what problems 
they may bring us, I can't help but 
hope all the people do get 
through." 

Kim stuck her head in the door. 
“Mr. Gale is here, sir." 

“Send him in." 

Gale came into the room. He 
stumbled a little as he started 
across the room, then stiffened 



and marched to within a few feet 
.of the desk. His face was haggard. 

“I am so sorry, sir," he said. “I 
can't properly express the regrets 
of myself or of my people. We 
thought we had taken safe- 
guards." 

“Please sit down, Mr. Gale," 
said the President. “You can help 
us now. We need your help." 

Gale sat carefully in the chair. 
“You mean about the alien. You 
want to know more about it. I 
could have told you more this 
afternoon, but there was so much 
to tell and 1 never thought — " 

“I'll accept your word for that. 
You did make provisions to guard 
against what happened. Perhaps 
you did the best you could. Now we 
need your help to find this crea- 
ture. We need to know something 
about its habits, what we can ex- 
pect. We have to hunt it down." 

“Luckily," said Reynolds, 
“there's only one of them. When 
we get it — " 

“It is, unfortunately," said Gale, 
“not as lucky as you think. The 
aliens are bisexual creatures." 

“You mean — " 

“That's exactly what I mean," 
said Gale. “The young are hatched 
from eggs. Any of the adults can 
lay fertilized eggs. And 1^ them 
in great numbers. Once hatched, 
the young need no care— or at 
least are given no care." 

“Then," said the President, “we 
must find it before it starts laying 
eggs." 



60 



IF 




“That is right,” said Gale, “al- 
though I fear you may already be 
too late. From what we know of 
them I would suspect that the alien 
would start laying eggs within a 
few hours after its emergence from 
the tunnel. It would recognize the 
crisis. The aliens are highly intel- 
ligent. This one knows that it is the 
sole representative of its species 
in this particular time and that the 
future of the species here may de- 
pend on it alone. This will not be an 
intellectual realization only — its 
body will also respond to the situa- 
tion. All its physical resources will 
be aimed now at reproduction. 
Furthermore, realizing that even- 
tually it will be hunted down and 
slain, it will scatter its clutches of 
eggs over as much territory as it 
can. It will locate them in the least 
accessible spots. It is fighting, 
you understand, not only for it- 
self, but for the species. Perhaps 
not at all for itself, but only for the 
species.”. 

“I would suspect,” $aid the 
President, “that it might be head- 
ing for the mountains. But that 
supposition is based only on my 
knowledge there are mountains to 
the west.” 

Gale said, “It has as good a geo- 
graphical knowledge of this area as 
any of us here. The geography is 
the same five hundred years from 
now as it is today.” 

“Then,” said the President, “as- 
suming that it would have headed 
for the mountains, we must not 



only head it off, but we will have to 
give some thought to evacuating 
the people from that area.” 

“You're thinking nuclear,” said 
Wilson. “Blanketing the area with 
bombs. You can’t do that, sir. Only 
as a last resort — and perhaps not 
even then. The tonnage would 
have to be massive and the fall- 
out — ” 

“You’re jumping to conclusions, 
Steve.” Henderson turned to 
Gale. “You told us your people 
could supply us with specifica- 
tions for the building of the tun- 
nels.” 

“That is true,” said Gale. 

“The point is this — if we are to 
do anything at all we should do it 
quickly. If we delay, a danger- 
ous social and economic, not to 
say political, situation may build 
up. And this matter of the alien 
has given us even less time than I 
thought we had. For that reason it 
seems to me important that we 
have the specifications and talk 
with your people who can explain 
them to us as soon as possible.” 

“Mr. President,” said Reynolds, 
“we have less than two hours to get 
your talk shaped up.” 

“Certainly,’" said the President. 
“I am sorfy to have held you up. 
Steve, you stay a moment, 
please.” 

“Thank you, sir,” said Howard, 
following Reynolds toward the 
door. 

“Now, where were we?” said the 
President. “Oh, yes, I was saying 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



61 




that we need to get to work on the 
matter of the tunnels. I plan to 
have some of our physicists and 
engineers come in and confer with 
your people.” 

“Does that mean that you will 
help us?” 

“I would think so, although at 
the moment Tm in no position to 
make a positive commitment. 
But I don’t see much else that we 
can do. We can’t keep you here. 
We can't possibly absorb you in- 
to our population. The first step 
would seem to be to talk with your 
physicists and find out what’s in- 
volved. Until we know that^we 
can’t do any planning. And there's 
also the matter of selecting 
sites.” 

“We have that all worked out,'’ 
said Gale. “Our geologists have 
made a study of the Miocene ter- 
rain. Stable land surfaces have 
been pinpointed and mapped out. 
We can’t be entirely sure, of 
course, but our people, operating 
within their best knowledge, have 
done at least the preliminary 
work.” 

“Then,” said Henderson, “we 
won’t have to worry about that. 
But we do need something to get 
started on.” 

“The men you want to talk 
with,” said Gale, “were among the 
first to come through the tunnel. I 
can give you their names,- but I'll 
have to go with whoever is sent to 
contact them. Without me they'd 
refuse to come. You can under- 



stand our situation, sir. We could 
take no chances of our men or their 
information falling into other 
than official hands.” 

Henderson frowned. “I’m reluc- 
tant to let you leave. You can, of 
course, walk out of here any time 
you wish — you are in no way de- 
tained. But our information so far 
is sketchy. You have done an ex- 
cellent job of supplying us with it, 
of course, but new situations can 
arise.” 

“I understand,” said Gale. 
“Alice, iperhaps. They know her 
and if she carried a note from me 
on a White House letterhead—” 
“That would be fine,” said the 
President, “if she would be will- 
ing. Steve, I wonder if you’d 
undertake to accompany her.” 
“Certainly, sir. But my car’s not 
here. Judy drove it home.” 

“You can have a White House 
car and driver. Perhaps we’d bet- 
ter send along a secret service 
man. It may seem a silly precau- 
tion, but a lot is riding on this.” 

He put up his hand and made a 
gesture of wiping his face. 

“I hope to God, Mr. Gale,” he 
said, “that you and I, your people 
and our people, can work togeth- 
er on this. This is just the begin- 
ning of it. It’s going to get rough. 
There’ll be all sorts of pressure, all 
kinds of frenzied screaming. Have 
you got a good strong back and a 
good thick skin?” 

“I think I have,” said Gale, try- 
ing to sound sure of himself. 



62 



IF 




23 . The attorney gcncraFs ' vis- 
itor was an old and valued friend. 
They had been roommates at Har- 
vard and in the years since then had 
kept in touch. Reilly Douglas 
knew that in large part he owed his 
cabinet appointment to the good 
offices and perhaps the political 
pressure commanded by Clinton 
Chapman, a man who headed one 
of the nation’s most prestigious in- 
dustrial complexes and was a 
heavy contributor to the party’s 
funds. 

“I know this must be a busy time 
for you,” Chapman told Douglas, 
“and under the circumstances 
I’ll take very little of your time.” 

“It’s good to see a friendly 
face,” said Douglas. “I don’t mind 
telling you 1 don’t go along with 
all that’s supposed to be hap- 
pening. Not that there’s nothing to 
it, for there is. But we’re rushing 
into things. The President has ac- 
cepted at face value this story of 
time traveling and — while I can 
see no other explanation at the 
moment — it seems to me there 
should be some further study of the 
matter before we commit our- 
selves.” 

“Well, now,’’ said Chapman, “I 
agree with you — I couldn’t agree 
more completely. I called in some 
of my physicists this afternoon. 
You know, of course, that among 
our several branches, we have a re- 
spectable corps of research peo- 
ple. Well, as I was saying, I called 
a few of them together earlier to- 



day ^and we did some brain-storm- 
ing on this time-tunnel busi- 
ness — ” 

“And they told you it was impos- 
sible.” 

“Not exactly that,” said Chap- 
man. “Not quite that at all. Not 
that any of them can see how it’s 
done, but they told me — and this is 
something that sure surprised 
me — that the nature of time flows 
has been a subject of some quiet 
study and scholarly dispute for a 
number of years. They talked 
about a lot of things I didn’t un- 
derstand and used terms I’d never 
heard before and some that have 
slipped my mind. They talked 
about the principle of wave re- 
tardation and causality and there 
was quite a lot of discussion 
about time-symmetrical field 
equations and the upshot of it all 
seemed to be that while, on the 
basis of present knowledge and re- 
search what seems to be hap- 
pening is plain impossible, there 
is really nothing hard and fast 
that says it can’t be done.” 

“So what Gale says could be 
true,” said Douglas. “There seems 
no other explanation, but my 
point is that we should not move 
until we know it’s true. And, per- 
sonally, while I could think of no 
other explanation, I found a 
great deal of difficulty in believ- 
ing it.” 

“Just exactly what,” asked 
Chapman, “is the government 
thinking about doing? Building 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



63 




new tunnels, I understand, and 
sending the people of the future 
still farther back in time. Do they 
have any idea of what it's going to 
cost? Or how long it might take?" 

“They have no idea," said 
Douglas. “Not a single figure. No 
inkling of what’s involved. But if 
anything can be done we will have 
to do it. The people from the fu- 
ture can’t be kept here. It would be 
impossible to contain them. 
Somehow we must get rid of 
them." 

“My hunch," said Chapman, “is 
that it will cost a bundle. And 
there’ll be hell’s own uproar about 
the money it will take. The public 
is more tax conscious than it has 
ever been and something like this 
could bring about a confiscatory 
tax." 

“You’re getting at something, 
Clint." 

“Yes, I suppose I am. A gam- 
ble, you might say." 

“You always gambled well," 
said Douglas. 

“It’s going to take a lot of mon- 
ey," Chapman said. 

“Tax money," Douglas said. 

“I know. Tax money. And that 
could mean we’ll lose the election 
a year from now. You know I’ve 
always been rather generous in 
my campaign contributions and 
have rarely asked for favors. I’m 
not asking for one now. But un- 
der certain circumstances I 
would be willing to make what I 
think of as a somewhat more sub- 



stantial contribution. Not only to 
the party, but to the country." 

“That would be very generous of 
you," said Douglas, not entirely 
sure that he was happy with the 
turn the talk had taken. 

“I’d have to have some figures 
and some facts, of course," said 
Chapman, “but unless the cost is 
higher than I could manage, I 
think I would be agreeable to tak- 
ing over the construction of the 
tunnels. That is, if the tunnels can 
be built." 

“In return for which?" 

“In return for which,’’ said 
Chapman, “I should like ex- 
clusive future license for the~build- 
ing of tunnels and the operation 
of them." 

Douglas frowned. “I don’t 
know," he said. “I can’t be certain 
of the legality of an arrangement 
of that sort. And there is the in- 
ternational angle — ’’ 

“If you applied yourself to it," 
said Chapman, “you could figure 
out a way. I am sure you could. 
You’re a damn good lawyer, Reil- 
ly" 

“There must be something I am 
missing. I don’t see why you 
should want the license. What good 
would the tunnels be?" 

“After all of this is over," Chap- 
man said, “people will be con- 
siderably intrigued with the idea 
of traveling in time. A brand new 
way of traveling. A way of getting 
to places they could never get to be- 
fore." 



64 



IF 




“But that’s insane!” 

“Not as insane as you might 
think. Imagine what a sportsman 
would be willing to pay for the 
privilege of going back to pre- 
historic days for a spot of hunting. 
Universities would want to send 
teams of paleontologists back to 
the Age of Reptiles to study and 
photograph the dinosaurs. Clas- 
sical historians would sell their 
souls to go back and learn what 
really happened at the siege of 
Troy.” _ 

“And the church,” said Douglas, 
rather acidly, “might want a first- 
class ticket for a seat at the 
Crucifixion.” 

“I suppose that, too,” Chapman 
agreed. “And, as you imply, there 
would be times when it might get 
slightly sticky. Rules and regula- 
tions would have to be worked out 
and certain safeguards set up not 
to change the course of history, 
but—” 

“It wouldn’t work,’’ said 
Douglas, flatly. “Time traveling, 
we are told, works in only one 
direction, back toward the past. 
Once you go back you can’t re- 
turn.” 

“I’m not so sure of that,” said 
Chapman. “Maybe that’s what 
you were told. Maybe that’s true 
now. But my physicists assured me 
this afternoon that if you can 
move in time at all, you can move 
in both directions. They were sure 
of that. Sure it could be worked 
out. It simply makes no sense. 



they said, that the flow would go 
only one way. If you can go into 
the past you certainly can go into 
the future. That’s what we have 
right now.” 

“Clint, I can’t go along on this.” 
“You can think about it. You 
can see how things develop. You 
can keep me well informed. If it 
should work out, there would be 
something very worthwhile in it 
for you.” 

24 . “So now you’ll explain to 
me, perhaps,” said Alice Gale, 
“what a picnic is. You told me this 
afternoon you had been going on 
a picnic.” 

The secret service man hunched 
forward on the seat. “Has Steve 
been talking picnic to you? Don’t 
ever chance it with him.” 

“But, Mr. Black,” she said, “I 
don’t even know what a picnic is.” 
“It’s fairly simple,” Wilson told 
her. “You pack a lunch and you go 
out in a park or woods and you eat 
it there.” 

“But we did that in our own 
time,” she said. “Although we did 
not call it picnic. I don’t think we 
called it anything at all. I never 
heard it call^ anytl^ing at all.” 

The car rolled slowly down the 
drive, heading for the gate. The 
driver sat stiffly erect. The car 
slowed to a halt and a soldier came 
to the driver’s window. Other 
military men were stationed by 
the gate. 

“What is going on?” asked Wil- 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



65 




son. “I hadn’t heard of this.” 

Black shrugged. “Someone got 
the wind up. This place is closed in 
tight. It’s stiff with military. 
Mortars are scattered through the 
park and no one knows what else.’’ 

“Does the President know about 
it?” 

“I’m not sure,” said Black. “No 
one might have thought to tell 
him.” 

The soldier stepped back and the 
gate came open and the car went 
through. It proceeded silently 
along the street, heading for the 
bridge, 

Wilson peered through the win- 
dow. “Where is everyone?” he 
asked. “A Sunday night and the 
tourist season and there’s no one 
here.” 

“You heard the news,” said 
Black. 

“Of course I heard the news.” 

“Everyone’s holed up. Every- 
one’s indoors. They expect an 
alien to come leaping at them.” 

“We had such lovely places 
where we could go on picnics,” 
said Alice Gale. “So many parks, 
so much wild land. More open 
spaces than you have. Not as 
crowded as you have it now, al- 
though somehow I like it crowded. 
There are so many people — there 
is so much to see.” 

“You are enjoying it,” said Wil- 
son. 

“Yes, of course. Although I have 
the feel of guilt in my enjoyment. 
My father and I should be with our 



people. But I was telling you of 
our time. It was a good age to live 
in. Until the aliens came, of 
course. And even then, in the 
earlier days, before there were so 
many of them. They were not at 
our throats all the time, you know, 
except in the last few years. Al- 
though 1 don’t think we ever were 
unaware of them. We always 
talked about them. We never real- 
ly forgot them, no matter what. 
All my life, I think, they have been 
in my mind. There were periods in 
the later years when we were ob- 
sessed with them. We continually 
looked over our shoulders to see if 
they were there — we were never 
free of them. We talked of them 
and studied them.” 

“You. say you studied them,” 
said Wilson. “Exactly how did you 
study them? Who studied them?” 
“Why,” she said, “biologists, of 
course. At times they came into 
possession of an alien’s body. 
And the psychologists and 
psychiatrists also examined what 
they could. The evolutionists — ” 
“Evolutionists?” 

“Certainly, evolutionists. For 
these aliens were very strange 
evolutionarily. They seemed to be 
consciously^ in control of their 
evolutionary processes. There are 
occasions when you are inclined to 
suspect they can order their evolu- 
tionary processes. My father, I 
think, explained some of this to 
you. In all their long history they 
apparently gave up no advan- 



66 



IF 




tage they had gained. They made 
no compromises. They kept what 
they had and needed and added 
whatever else they could develop. 
This, of course, means that they 
can adapt to almost any condi- 
tion or situation. They respond al- 
most instantly to stresses and 
emergencies.” 

“You almost sound,” said 
Black, “as if you — well, not you, 
perhaps, but your people — might 
admire these creatures.” 

She shook her head. “We hated 
them and feared them. That is 
quite apparent, for we ran away 
from them. But, yes, I suppose we 
might have felt something like 
awed admiration, although we 
did not admit it. I don’t think any- 
one ever said it.” 

“Lincoln is coming up ahead,” 
said Wilson. “You know about 
Lincoln, of course.” 

“Yes,” she said. “My father has 
been staying in Lincoln’s bed- 
room.” 

The memorial loomed ahead, 
softly lit against the night. The 
statue sat brooding in the marble 
chair. 

The car moved past and the 
memorial was left behind. 

“If we can find the time,” said 
Wilson, “in the next few days, 
we’ll go out to see it. Or have you 
seen it? You said the White House 
no longer existed where you came 
from.” 

“It did not, nor did the 
memorial,” she said. “Part of it is 



left, but less than half. The stones 
have crumbled.” 

“What is this?” asked Black. 

“In the time the people of the 
tunnel came from,” said Wilson, 
“Washington had been destroyed. 
The White House is a wilderness.” 

“But that’s impossible. I don’t 
understand. A war?” - 

“Not a war,” said Alice Gale. 
“It’s hard to explain, even if you 
know history and 1 have only 
small understanding of it. But I 
have read a little. Economic col- 
lapse, perhaps, is the best name 
for what happened. Probably 
some ethical collapse occurred as 
well. A time of mounting infla- 
tion that reached ridiculous 
heights, matched by a mounting 
cynicism, a loss of faith in govern- 
ment, which contributed to the 
failure of government, a growing 
gap of resources and understand- 
ing between the rich and poor — all 
these brought about a social disas- 
ter. Not in this^ nation alone, but in 
all the major powers. One after 
one they fell. The economy was 
gone — governments vanished 

and mobs ran in the street. Blind 
mobs struck out — not at anything 
in particular but at anything at 
all. You must excuse me, 
please — I tell it very badly.” 

“And this is all ahead of us?” 
asked Black. 

“Not now,” said Wilson. “Not 
any more it isn’t. Or at least it 
doesn’t have to be. We’re on a dif- 
ferent time track now.” 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



67 




‘‘You," said Black, “are as bad 
as she is. You don't either one, 
make sense." : 

“I’m sorry, Mr. Black," said 
Alice. 

“Don’t mind me," said Black. 
“I’m not the intellectual sort. I'm 
just an educated cop. Steve will 

tell you that." 

/ 

25 . The Reverend Dr. Angus 
Windsor was a good man. He 
stood in gra9e and was distin- 
guished in good works. He was 
pastor of a church that had its 
roots in wealth, a long history and 
a certain elegance, yet this did not 
prevent him from going where the 
need was greatest — outside his 
own parish, certainly, for in that 
particular parish need was seldom 
evident. He was seen in the ghettos 
and was present where the young 
demonstration marchers had 
fallen beneath the clubs of the po- 
lice. When he heard of a family 
that had need of food he showed up 
at the door with a bag of groceries 
and before he left managed to 
find a few dollars in his pockets 
that he could get along without. 
He was a regular visitor at prisons 
and the lonely old folks put away 
to die in rest homes were familiar 
with his stately tread, his stooped 
shoulders, his long white hair and 
patient face. That he was not at all 
adverse to good publicity, some- 
times even seemed to court it, was 
held against him by some of the in- 

68 



fluential members of his congre- 
gation, who subscribed to the be- 
lief that this characteristic was 
unseemly in him. But he went his 
way without paying attention to 
this criticism. He was once sup- 
posed to have told an old, dear 
friend that it was a small price to 
pay for the privilege of doing 
good — although whether he 

meant by price the publicity or the 
criticism was not entirely clear. 

So it was thought by the news- 
men present not at ^11 unusual 
when, late in the evening, he ap- 
peared at the site where the tunnel 
had been closed upon the emer- 
gence of the aliens. 

The newsmen clustered around 
the old man. 

“What are you doing here, Dr. 
Windsor?" asked one of them. 

“I came," said Dr. Angus, “to 
offer to these poor souls the small 
shreds of comfort k is in my pow- 
er to dispense. I had a little trou- 
ble with the military. I under- 
stand they are letting no one in. 
But I see they permit you people 
here." 

“Some of us talked our way 
through. Others parked a mile or 
so away and walked." 

“The good Lord interceded for 
me," said Dr. Angus, “and they 
let me through the barricade." 

“How did He intercede for 
you?" 

“He softened their hearts toward 
me and they let me come. But now 
I must speak to these poor folks." 

IF 




He motioned at the scattered 
groups of refugees standing in the 
yards and along the street. 

/ The dead alien lay on its back, 
its limp tentacles lying snakelike 
along the ground. Most of the hu- 
man bodies at the tunnel mouth 
had been moved. A few still made 
shadowed lumps covered by 
blankets. The gun lay where it had 
been toppled on its side. 

“The army is sending out a 
team,” said one of the newsmen, 
“to haul in the alien. They want to 
have a good look at him.” 

Spotlights mounted in trees 
cast a radiance over the area 
where the tunnel mouth had been. 
A generator coughed and sput- 
tered in the darkness. Trucks 
pulled in, loaded up and left. On 
occasion a bullhorn roared out 
orders. 

Dr. Windsor, with an instinct 
born of long practice, headed un- 
erringly for the largest group of 
refugees huddled under a sway- 
ing street lamp. Most of them were 
standing on the pavement, but 
others sat on the curbs and small 
groups were scattered on the 
lawns. 

Dr. Windsor came to a group of 
women: he always zeroed in on 
women. He had found them more 
receptiv^e than men. 

“I have come,” he said, “to of- 
fer you the comfort of the Lord. In 
times like this we should always 
turn to Him.” 

The women stared at him in 



some amazement. Some instinc- 
tively backed away. 

“I’m the Reverend Windsor,” 
he told them, “and I came from 
Washington. I go where I am 
called to meet a need. Would you 
pray with me?” 

A tall, slender, grandmotherly 
woman stepped to the forefront 
of the group. “Please go away,” 
she said. 

Dr. Windsor fluttered his hands, 
stricken off balance. “I don’t un- 
derstand,” he said. “I only 
meant — ” 

“We know what you meant,” the 
woman told him, “and we thank 
you for the thought. We know you 
intend only kindness.” 

“You can’t mean what you are 
saying,” said Dr. Windsor. “You 
cannot hope to deprive all the 
others — ” 

A man thrust throligh the crowd 
and took the pastor by the arm. 
“Friend,” he said. “Keep it down.” 

“But this woman — 

“I know. I heard what you said 
to her and she to you. She speaks 
for all of us.” 

“1 fail to understand.” 

“There is no need for you to un- 
derstand. Now will you please 
go." 

“You reject me?” 

“Not you, sir. Not personally. 
We reject the principle you stand 
for.” 

“You reject Christianity? 

“Not Christianity alone. We re- 
jected all dogma a century ago. 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



69 




Our nonbelief is as firm a faith as 
is your belief. We do not thrust 
our principles on you. Will you 
please not thrust yours on us?” 
“This is incredible,” said the 
Dr. Windsor. “I can’t believe my 
ears. 1 will not believe it. There 
must be some mistake. I had only 
meant to join with you in prayer.” 
“But we no longer pray.” 

Dr. Windsor turned, went blun- 
dering past the waiting news- 
men, who had trailed after him. 
He shook his head, bewildered. It 
was unbelievable. It could not be 
right. It was inconceivable. It 
was blasphemous. 

After all the years of man’s 
agony, after al^the searching for 
the truth, after all the saints and 
martyrs, it could not come to this. 

26 . General Daniel Foote, com- 
mander at Fort Myer, was wait- 
ing with three other men in his of- 
fice. 

“You should not have come 
alone,” he said to Wilson. “I said 
so to the President — offered to 
send an escort— but he vetoed 
the idea. He said he wanted to draw 
no attention to the car.” 

“There was little traffic on the 
road,” said Wilson. 

The general shook his head. 

-^“These are unsettled times,” he 
said. 

“General Foote, may I pre- 
sent Miss Alice Gale. Her father is 
the man who contacted us.” 

The general said, “I am de- 



lighted to meet you. Miss Gale. 
These three gentlemen have told 
me something of your father. 
And Mr. Black. I’m glad you are 
along.” 

“Thank you, sir,” said Black. 

“I should like the privilege,” 
Alice said, “of introducing my 
own people. Dr. Hardwicke — 
Dr. Nicholas Hardwicke, Mr. 
Wilson, Mr. Black. Dr. Hard- 
wicke is a sort of Albert Einstein 
of our time.” 

The ungainly, bearlike man 
smiled at her. “You must not 
praise me unduly, my dear,” he 
said. “They’ll' expect far too much 
af me. Gentlemen, I am very 
pleased to be here and to meet you. 
It is time we were getting on in this 
matter, which must be quite un- 
pleasant to you. I am glad to see 
you reacting so promptly and so 
positively. Yout president must 
be a most unusual man.” 

“We think so,” Wilson said. 

“Dr. William Cummings,” said 
Alice. “Dr. Hardwicke was a fel- 
low townsman of ours, but Dr. 
Cummings came from the Denver 
region. My father and the others 
thought it would be best if he were 
with Dr. Hardwicke when they 
met your scientists.” 

Cummings was small, bald, with 
a wrinkled, elfin face. “I am glad 
to be here,” he said. “We all are 
glad to be here. We must tell you 
how deeply we regret what hap- 
pened at the tunnel.” 

“And, finally,” said Alice, 



70 



IF 




“Dr. Abner Osborne. He is a long- 
time family friend.” 

Osborne put an arm about the 
girPs shoulders and hugged her. 
“These other gentlemen,” he 
said, are physicists, but I’m a 
more lowly creature. I am a ge- 
ologist. Tell me, my dear, how is 
your father? I looked for him af- 
ter we came through, but couldn’t 
seem to find him.” 

General Foote drew Wilson 
aside. “Tell me what you know of 
the escaped alien.” 

“We’ve had no further reports. 
The assumption is it would head 
for the mountains.” 

Foote nodded. “I think you may 
be right. We have had some ru- 
mors. They all came from the 
west. Harper’s Ferry. Strasburg. 
Luray. They must be wrong. Noth- 
ing could travel that fast. Are you 
absolutely sure there was only 
one of them?” 

“You should know,” said Wil- 
son curtly. “Your men were there. 
Our information is that one was 
killed. The other got away.” 

“Yes, yes, I know,” said Foote. 
“We are bringing in the dead 
one. 

The general was upset, thought 
Wilson. He was jittery. Was there 
something he knew that the White 
House didn’t know? 

“Are you trying to tell me 
something. General?” 

“No. Not at all,” he said. 

The son of a bitch, Wilson 
thought. Foote had simply been 



trying for an insider ^oop from 
the White House to use for small 
talk at the officers’ club. 

“1 think,” said Wilson, “that we 
had best get started back.” 

Once more in the car. Black sat 
in front with the driver. Wilson 
and Osborne took the jump seats. 

“You may think it strange,” said 
Osborne, “that there’s a geolo- 
gist in the group.” 

“I had wondered,” Wilson 
said. “Not that you aren’t wel- 
come.” 

“It was thought,” said Osborne, 
“that there might be some ques- 
tions about the Miocene.” 

“Anent our also fleeing our 
time, you mea^?” 

“It is one way in which the prob- 
lem could be solved.” 

“Are you trying to tell me that 
you were fairly sure some of the 
aliens would get through? That 
enough of them might get through 
for us to be forced to leave?” 
“Certainly not,” said the geol- 
ogist. “We had hoped none would 
get through. We had set up pre- 
cautions. I can’t imagine what 
could have gone wrong. I’m not in- 
clined to think that this single 
alien — ” 

“But you don’t know.” 

“You’re right. They’re clever. 
And capable. Some of our biol- 
ogists could tell you more.” 

“Then why this feeling we 
should go back into the Mio- 
cene?” 

“You’re nearing a danger 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



71 




point,” said Osborne. “Our his- 
torians could explain it better 
than I can, but all the signs are 
there. Oh, I know that our having 
dropped in on you will alter your 
future to a point — but our effect 
may have come too late for you to 
avoid one great danger. 

“What you’re talking about is , 
the economic and social col- 
lapse. Alice briefed us on it — 
Washington and the White House 
are gone in your time. I suppose 
New York as well, and Chicago 
and all the rest of the major cities 
both here and abroad-—” 

“You’re top-heavy,” said Os- 
borne. “You’ve gotten out of bal- 
ance. I think it’s gone too far to 
stop. You have a runaway econo- 
my and the social cleavages are 
getting deeper by the day.” 

“And going back to the Mio- 
cene would put an end to it?” 

“It would be a new start:” 

“I’nt not so sure,” said Wilson. 

Up in the front Black raised his 
voice. “It’s time for the Presi- 
dent’s speech. Want me to turn on 
the radio?” 

He didn’t wait for an answer. 
The next voice was Henderson’s. 

“. . .little I can tell you. So I am 
not going to keep you long. We 
are still in the process of sorting 
out the facts and I would be doing 
you a disservice if I told you 
less — or more — than facts. You 
may be assured that your govern- 
ment will level with you. As soon 
as we know anything for certain. 



you are going to know it, too. 
We’ll pass it on to you. 

“These things we do know. 
Among us are refugees, appar- 
ently from some five hundred years 
in our future. All details are not yet 
clear — we do not, for instance, 
know their exact method of 
transportation or arrival — but the 
essential facts are as I have stat- 
ed them to you. The refugees do 
not intend to stay here. As soon as 
possible they intend to go on, to 
leave us as they came. But to do so 
they need our help. Not only our 
help in building equipment and 
installations, but our help in sup- 
plying the bare basics that will en- 
able them to start over again. For 
economic reasons which every- 
one must understand, we, in con- 
junction with the rest of the world, 
cannot refuse to help them. Not 
that we would refuse in any case. 
They are our children’s children, 
several times removed. They are 
our flesh and blood and we cannot 
withhold assistance. How we will 
go about helping them is now un- 
der consideration. There are 
problems and they must and will 
be solved. There must be no delay 
and our effort must ^be whole- 
hearted. It will call for sacrifice 
and devotion from everyone of 
you. There are many details you 
should be told, many questions 
that must occur to you. These all 
will be fully given and fully an- 
swered later — there is not time to 
put everything before you this 



72 



IF 




evening. After all, this all began 
happening only a few hours ago. 
It has been a busy Sunday.’’ 

The voice was confident, reso- 
nant, with" no hint of desper- 
ation — with even a touch of hu- 
mor in these last words — and, 
thought Wilson, there must be in 
the man a certain sense of desper- 
ation. No other President be- 
fore him had ever been called upon 
to make such an outlandish an- 
nouncement. Henderson was still 
a polished politician. He still 
could sell himself, still could reas- 
sure the nation. Hunched forward 
on the jump seat, Wilson felt a 
sudden surge of pride in him. 

“All of you know by now,” the 
President continued, “that two 
alien life forms came through what 
has become known as a time tun- 
nel in Virginia. One was killed, the 
other escaped. 1 must be honest 
with you and say that we have no 
subsequent word of it. We are 
pressing all efforts to find and de- 
stroy it and while it may take a lit- 
tle time, we will do exactly that. I 
ask you most urgently not to 
place too much emphasis upon the 
fact that an alien is loose upon the 
Earth. It is only one of the many 
problems we face tonight — and 
not the most important. Given 
the sort of cooperation that I 
know we can expect from you we 
will solve them.” 

He paused and for a moment 
Wilson wondered if that was all 
-—although he knew it would not 



be, for the President bad not said 
good night. 

The voice took up again. “I have 
one unpleasant thing to say and, 
unpleasant as it may be, I know 
that on due consideration you’ll 
realize, I think, that it is neces- 
sary for the good of all of us. I 
have, just a few minutes ago, 
signed an executive ord^r declar- 
ing a national emergency. Un- 
der that order a bank and trading 
holiday has been declared. This 
means that no banks or other fi- 
nancial institutions will open 
their doors for business or trans- 
act any business until further no- 
tice. Under the order all trading 
in stocks, shares, bonds and com- 
modities, will be suspended un- 
til further notice. All prices, 
salaries and wages will be frozen. 
This, of course, is an intolerable 
situation and cannot exist for 
long. Because of this, it is only an 
emergency order that will be lift- 
ed as soon as the Congress and 
other branches of the govern- 
ment can implement rules and 
regulations imposing such re- 
straints as are necessary under 
the situation that has been im- 
posed upon us. I hope that you will 
bear .with us over the few days the 
executive order will be in force. 
It was only with the utmost re- 
luctance that I decided it was 
necessary.” 

Wilson let out his breath slowly, 
not realizing until then that he 
had caught and held it. 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



73 




There’d be unsheeted hell to pay, 
he knew. From the country and 
the White House press corps. For 
Christ* s sake, Steve, you could 
have tipped us off. You could have 
let us know ... And they would not 
believe him when he told them he 
had not known himself. 

The declaration of a national 
eniergency was such a logical 
step that the media men should 
have guessed it — he, himself, 
should have thought of it. But he 
hadn’t. He wondered if the Presi- 
dent had talked it over with any- 
one and he doubted that he had. 
There hadn’t been much time and 
there had been other things to talk 
about. 

The President was saying 
good night to his listeners. 

“Good night, Mr. President,’’ 
said Wilson and wondered why 
the others looked at him so 
strangely. 

27 . The office was dark except 
for the feeble light from the clack- 
ing wire machines ranged along 
the wall. Wilson crossed to his 
desk and sat down. He leaned for- 
ward to snap on the desk lamp, 
then pulled back his hand. He had 
no need of light and there was heal- 
ing in the dark. He leaned back in 
his chair — for the first time since 
this afternoon nothing was press- 
ing him, but inside him still 
throbbed the nagging sense that he 
should be up and doing. 

The President, Steve thought. 



should long since have been in bed. 
It was nearly midnight and well 
past his usual bedtime and he had 
missed his nap in the aftrnoon. 
Samuel Henderson was getting 
too old for this sort of thing. He 
had seemed drawn and haggard 
when the refugee scientists had 
been escorted to his office to be 
introduced to the men from the 
National Academy. 

“You heard my speech, Steve?’’ 
the President had asked when the 
others were gone. 

“In the car.’’ 

“What do you think? Will /the 
country go along?’’ 

“Not at first. Not willingly. 
But when they think about it, I be- 
lieve they will. Wall Street will 
raise a lot of dust.’’ 

“Wall Street,’’ Henderson had 
said, “is something I can’t afford 
to give my time to right now.’’ 

“You should be heading for 
bed, Mr. President. It’s been a 
long, hard day.’’ 

“Directly. First I have to talk 
with Treasury, and Sandburg 
phoned to ask if he could come 
over.’’ 

Directly. . . But it would be hours 
before Henderson got to sleep. 

Somewhere in some secret 
room the scientists were talking. 
Out there in the vastness of the na- 
tion — of the world, in fact — peo- 
ple from the future were walking 
from their tunnels. In the moun- 
tains to the west an alien horror 
skulked in the night. 



74 



IF 




The whole scene still was unbe- ning down into wads of folded pa- 
lievable. Everything had hap- per on the floor, 
pened too fast — no man had been A new story was just starting, 
given time to catch up with it. In a 

few hours people would be wak- WASHINGTON, D.C. 

ing to a new day that in many re- (AP) — A search is being 

spects would be utterly unlike pressed tonight in the moun- 

any day before in all of human tains west of here for the 

history — face problems and di- alien who escaped from a 

lemmas no man or woman had . time tunnel in Virginia a 

ever faced before. few hours ago. There have 

Light showed through the crack been numerous reports of 

under the doors that led into the sightings, but none can be 

press lounge. Some media men confirmed. There is reason 

would still be there, although they to believe that most of them 

were not working. There was no arose from fertile and con- 

sound of typewriters. Steve re- cerned imaginations. A 

membered that he had never got- number of troops and con- 

ten to eat his sandwiches. He had tingents from many police 

put two of them on a plate and had and sheriff’s departments 

taken a bite out of one when Brad are being deployed into the 

Reynolds had rushed into the area, but there is little hope 

lounge with his story of the alien’s that a great deal can be done 

escape. Now that he thought of it before daylight. . . 

Steve realized that he was hun- 
gry. There might be some sand- Wilson hauled in the copy pa- 
wiches left, although they would per, let it fall and curl up before 
be dry by now — and for some rea- his feet. He read rapidly, 
son he wanted to stay here in the 

dark, alone, with no necessity of LONDON, ENGLAND 

talking to anyone at all. (AP) — As dawn came this 

Although, perhaps, he should see morning ministers, were 

what was on the wires. He sat for a still in conference at the res- 

moment longer, unwilling to idence of the Prime Minis- 

move, then got up and went across ter. Throughout the night 

the room to the bank of teletypes. there had been a steady com- 

AP first, he thought. Good, old ing and going. . . 

stolid AP. Never sensational, 

usually solid. NEW DELHI, INDIA 

Yards of copy had been spilling (AP) — For the last ten hours 

out of the machine. It was run- people and wheat have con- 



OU^ CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



75 




tinued to pour out of the tun- 
nels from the future. Both 
present problems. . . 

NEW YORK, NY. 
(AP) — Evidence multi- 
plied throughout the night 
that dawn may bring an ex- 
plosion of protest and riot- 
ing, not only in Harlem, but 
in many other minority 
areas of the city. Fears that 
the heavy influx of refugees 
from the future may bring 
about a reduction in food 
allotments and other wel- 
fare benefits are expected 
to spark widespread dem- 
onstration. All police 
leaves have been canceled 
and the police force has been 
notified that its personnel 
must be prepared to work 
around the clock . . . 



WASHINGTON, D.C. 
(AP) — The President’s ac- 
tion declaring a business hol- 
iday and freezing wages and 
prices was both attacked and 
praised . . . 

Moscow, Madrid, Singapore, 
Brisbane, Bogotfi, Cairo, Kiev — 
and then: 



NASHVILLE, TENN 
(AP) — The Rev. Jake Bill- 
ings, noted evangelist, to- 



day called for a crusade to 
“bring the people of the fu- 
ture back into the arms of 
Christ.” 

He issued the call from his 
headquarters here after 
learning that a group of ref- 
ugees who had come through 
the now-closed time tunnel 
near Falls Church, Va., had 
refused the ministrations 
of the Rev. Dr. Angus Wind- 
sor, a celebrated church- 
man of Washington, D.C., 
giving as their reason that 
they had turned their backs, 
not on Christianity alone, 
but on all religion. 

“They came to us for 
help,” said the Rev. Billings, 
“but the help that they are 
seeking is not the help they 
should be given. Rather than 
helping them, as they ask, to 
go farther back in time, we 
should help them to return 
to the brotherhood of 
Christ. They are fleeing 
from the future for their 
lives, but they have already 
lost a thing far more pre- 
cious than their lives. How 
their rejection of Christ 
may have come about I have 
no way of knowing. I do 
know that it is our duty to 
point out to them the road of 
devotion and of righteous- 
ness. I call upon all Chris- 
tians to join me in my prayers 
for them.” 



76 



IF 




Wilson let the long sheaf of pa- 
per fall and went back to his desk. 
He switched on the light and, pick- 
ing up the phone, dialed the switch- 
board. 

“Jane — I thought I recognized 
your voice. This is Steve Wilson. 
Will you put in a call to Nashville 
for the Rev. Jake Billings? Yes, 
Jane, I know what time it is. I 
know he probably is asleep) — we’ll 
simply have to wake him up. No, 
L don’t know his number. Thank 
yoii, Jane. Thank you very much.” 

He settled back in the chair and 
growled at himself. When he had 
talked with the President early in 
the afternoon Jake Billings had 
been mentioned. Steve had prom- 
ised he would call him and then the 
matter had not crossed his mind 
again. But who in hell would have 
thought a thing like this would hap- 
pen? 

Windsor, he thought. It would 
take an old busybody, a meddling 
fool like Windsor to go messing 
into it. And then, when he got his 
face pushed in, to go bawling to 
the newsmen, telling what had 
happened. 

Christ, that’s all we need, Steve 
thought, to get the Windsors and 
the Billings of the country all 
mixed up in this, wringing their 
hands and crying for a crusade. . 

A crusade, he grimly told him- 
self, was the last thing that was 
needed. There was trouble enough 
without a gang of pulpit-thump- 
ers adding to the dustup. 



The phone tinkled at him and he 
picked up the receiver. Jane said, 
“The Rev. Mr. Billings is on the 
line, sir.” 

“Hello,” said Wilson. “Is this 
Reverend Billings?” 

“Yes, God bless you,” said the 
deep, solemn voice. “What can 1 
do for you?” 

“Jake, this is Steve Wilson.” 

“Wilson? Oh, yes, the press sec- 
retary. I should have known it was 
you. They didn’t say who was call- 
ing. They just said the White 
House.” 

The bastard, Wilspn told him- 
self. He’s disappointed. He 
thought it was the President. 

“It’s been a long time, Jake,” he 
said. 

“Yes,” said Billings. “How long 
ago? Ten years?” 

“More like fifteen,’- said Wil- 
son. 

“I guess you’re right at that,” 
said Billings. “The years do have 
the habit—” 

“I’m calling you,” said Wilson, 
“about this crusade you’re drum- 
ming up.” 

“Crusade? Oh, you mean the one 
to get the future people back on- 
to the track. I am so glad you 
called. We need all the help we can 
get. I view it as fortunate that 
they came back to us, for whatever 
reason. When- 1 think of the hu- 
man race, a mere five hundred 
years from now, forsaking the hu- 
man faith that has sustained us all 
these years I get a cold shiver up 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



77 




my spine. Vm so glad that you are 
with us. I can’t tell you how glad I 
am that you — ” ^ 

“I’m not with you, Jake.’’ 
“You’re not with us? What do 
you mean, you’re not with us?”' 
“I’m not with you, Jake — that 
is what I mean. I’m calling to ask 
that you call off this silly cru- 
sade.’’ 

“I can’t.’’ 

“Yes, you can. We have trouble 
enough without some damn fool 
crusade. You’ll be doing the 
country a disservice if you keep 
it up. We have problems up to 
here and we don’t need any more. 
This isn’t just a situation that 
will allow Jake Billings to show 
off his piety. This is life and death, 
not only for the refugees, but for 
every one of us.” 

“It seems to me, Steve, you’re 
using an approach that is unnec- 
essarily rough.” 

“If I am,” said Wilson, “it’s be- 
cause I’m upset at what you’re do- 
ing. This i& important, Jake. We 
have a job — to get the refugees 
to where they want to go before 
they upset our economy. And 
while we do that we’ll be getting 
plenty of flack. We’re going to get 
it from industry, from labor, 
from people on welfare, from pol- 
iticians who will grab the chance 
to take cheap shots at us. With all 
of this we can’t face flack from 
you. What difference can it pos- 
sibly make to you? You’re not 
dealing with a present situa- 



tion, a present people. You iire 
dealing with the future, with a 
segment of time that ordinarily 
would be out of your reach. The 
refugees are back here, sure, but 
the windmill you are tilting at 
wasn’t even built until long after 
you and I were dead.” 

“God moves,” said Billings, “in 
many mysterious ways.” 

Wilson said, “Climb down from 
your pulpit. You’re not going to 
impress me, Jake. You never did.” 
“Steve, are you calling for the 
President?” 

“If you mean did he ask me to 
make this call, the answer is no. 
He probably doesn’t know as yet 
what you have done. But when he 
finds out about it he is going to be 
sore. The two of us talked about 
you earlier in the day. We were 
afraid you-might take some sort of 
hand. We couldn’t, of course, fore- 
see what happened. But you do 
take a hand in everything that 
happens. I was supposed to phone 
you, to head you off beforehand. 
But so many things were coming 
up I never found the time.” 

“I can see your position,” said 
Billings soberly. “I think I can 
even understand it. But you and I 
see things from different view- 
points. To me the thought that the 
human race became a godless 
people is a personal agony. It 
goes against everything I have 
been taught, everything I’ve lived 
by, all that I’ve believed in.” 

“You can rest easy,” Wilson 



78 



IF 




said. “It will go no further. The 
human future is ending five hun- 
dred years from now,” 

“But they’ll be going back in 
time.” 

“We hope they will,” Wilson 
said bitterly. “They’ll go back if 
we aren’t completely hogtied by 
people like you.” 

“If they go -back,” protested 
Billings, “they’ll make a new start. 
We’ll give them what they need to 
make a new start. Into a new land 
and a new time where they’ll build 
a godless culture. They may in 
time go out in space, out to other 
stars, and they’ll go as godless 
people. We can’t allow that, 
Steve.” 

“Maybe you can’t. I can. It 
doesn’t bother me. There are a hell 
of a lot of other people it won’t 
bother either. You’re blind if you 
can’t see the beginning, the roots 
of their rejection of religion in 
the present. Maybe that is what is 
really bugging you.” 

“That may be so,” Billings ad- 
mitted. “I haven’t had time to 
think it through. Even if what you 
say were true it would make no dif- 
ference. I still would have to do 
exactly what I’m doing.” 

“You mean you intend to go 
ahead? Even knowing what it 
means to all of us? Stirring up peo- 
ple, riding that white horse — ” 

“I have to do it, Steve. My con- 
science — ” 

“You’ll think it over? I can call 
again?” 



For there was no use arguing 
further. No point in trying to talk 
reason to this pious madman. 
Steve had known Billings since 
their undergraduate years. And 
he should have known from the 
very first that it would be useless 
to try to make Jake see another’s 
point of view. 

“Yes, call again,” said Billings, 
“if you wish. But I won’t recon- 
sider. I know what I must do. You 
cannot persuade me otherwise.” 

“Good night, Jake. Sorry that I 
woke you up.” 

“You didn’t wake me up. I ex- 
pect no sleep this night. It was good 
to hear your voice, Steve.” 

Wilson hung up and sat quietly 
in his chair. Maybe, he thought, if 
he had spoken differently — if 
he had not come on so strong — he 
might have accomplished some- 
thing. Although he doubted it. 
There was no such thing as talk- 
ing reason to Jake Billings — nev- 
er had been. Perhaps if he had 
phoned this afternoon, after he 
first had talked with the Presi- 
dent, he might have been able at 
least to have moderated Billings’ 
action, but he doubted that as 
well. It had been, he told himself, 
a hopeless business from the 
start. Billings himself was hope- 
less. 

He looked at his watch. It was 
almost two o’clock. Picking up 
the phone, he dialed Judy’s num- 
ber. Her sleepy voice answered. 

“Did I, wake you up?” 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



79 




“No, Tve been waiting for you. 
Steve, you’re awful late. What 
happened?” 

“I had to go to Fort Myer to 
pick up some refugees. Scien- 
tists. They’re here, talking to the 
academy people. I won’t make 
it, Judy.” 

“You’re not coming out?” 

“I should stay in touch. Too 
much is happening.” 

“You’ll be dead on your feet, 
come morning.” 

“I’ll stretch out on a couch in the 
lounge and get some rest.” 

“I could come down. Stand 
watch.” 

“No need. Someone will get 
hold of me if I’m needed. You go to 
bed. Be a little late in the morning 
if you want. I can get along.” 
“Steve?” 

“Yes?” 

“It’s not going good, is it?” 

“It’s too soon to tell.” 

“I saw the President on TV. 
It’ll be an awful mess. We’ve nev- 
er faced anything like this be- 
fore.” 

“No, not quite like this before.” 
“I’m scared, Steve.” 

“So am I,” said Wilson. “It’ll 
be different in the morning. 
We’ll feel different in the morn- 
ing.” 

“I have a terrible sensation,” 
Judy said, “that the solid ground 
is slipping out from under my 
feet. I’ve been thinking about my 
mother and sister out in Ohio. 1 
haven’t seen Mom in a long time.” 



“Phone her. Talk, with her. 
You’ll feel better.” 

“I tried to. I tried and tried. But 
the circuits are jammed. Every- 
one is calling everyone. Like a 
holiday. The country is upset.” 

“I just made a long-distance 
call.” 

“Sure you did. You’re the White 
House. They clear the lines for 
you.” 

“You can call her tomorrow. 
Things will quiet down tomor- 
row.” 

“Steve, you’re sure you can’t 
come out. I need you.” 

“Sorry, Judy. Truly sorry. I 
have this horrible feeling that I 
should stay in reach. I don’t know 
why, but I do.” 

“I’ll see you in the morning 
then.” 

“Try to get some sleep.” 

“You, too. Try to shut this out, 
try to get some sleep. You’ll need 
it. Tomorrow will be bad.” 

They said good night and he put 
the receiver back into its cradle. 
He wondered why he was staying 
here. There was at the moment no 
real need for him to stay. Al- 
though one could never know. 
Hell could break loose at any time. 

He should try to get some sleep, 
he told himself, but somehow he 
resisted sleep. He didn’t. need it — 
he was too strung out, too tense to 
sleep. Later he’d need sleep, when 
there was no chance of sleep. A few 
hours from now 21II this would 
catch up with him. But right now 



80 



IF 




his nerves were too tight, his brain 
too busy to allow for sleep. 

He went out and around the 
walk to the front lawn. The night 
was soft, resting for the heat and 
turmoil of the coming day. The 
city was quiet. Somewhere a 
motor growled, but there were no 
cars on the avenue. The pillars of 
the portico gleamed softly in the 
night. The sky was clear and a mil- 
lion stars hung there. A red light 
went blinking across the sky and 
from far overhead came the thrum 
of motors. 

A dark figure stirred at the edge 
of a group of trees. 

“You all right, sir?"’ a voice 
asked. 

“Yes,” said Wilson. “Just out 
for a breath of air.” 

He saw now that the dark figure 
was a soldier, his rifle held aslant 
his chest. 

“Don’t go wandering,” said the 
soldier. “There are a lot af us out 
here. Some of the boys might be a 
little nervous.” 

“I won’t,” said Wilson. “I’ll go 
back indirectly.” 

He stood listening to the quiet- 
ness of the city, feeling the soft- 
ness of the night. Something was 
different about it. Despite the 
quiet and the softness a certain 
tenseness seemed to reach out to 
touch him. 

28 . A sound brought Elmer Ellis 
out of a sound sleep. He sat up in 
bed, befuddled, unable for a mo- 



ment to orient himself. On the 
night table beside the bed the 
clock was ticking loudly ancT be- 
side him his wife, Mary, was lever- 
ing herself up on her elbows. 

Her sleepy voice asked, “What is 
it, Elmer?” 

“Something’s at the chickens,” 
he said, for now the reason for his 
waking came churning into his 
consciousness. 

The sound came again, the 
frightened flapping, squawking 
of the chickens. He threw back the 
covers and his feet hit the cold 
floor so hard they hurt. 

He groped for his trousers, got 
his legs into them, slid his feet in- 
to his shoes, did not stop to tie the 
laces. The squawking still went on. 

“Where is Tige?” asked Mary. 

“Damn dog,” he growled. 
“Probably off chasing possum.” 

He charged out of the bedroom 
and into the kitchen. Groping, he 
found the shotgun, lifted it from 
its pegs. From the game bag that 
hung beneath the pegs he took a 
handful of shells, jammed them in- 
to a pocket, found two more and 
thrust them into the chambers of 
the double-barrel. 

Bare feet pattered toward him. 
“Here’s the flashlight, Elmer. You 
can’t see a thing without it.” 

She thrust it at him and he took 
it. 

The night was pitch black out- 
side and he switched on the light to 
see his way down the porch steps. 
The squawking in the henhouse 



OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 81 




continued and there was no sign df 
Tige. 

This was strange. In a flare of 
anger he had said the dog was 
probably out hunting possum 
and that couldn’t be true. Tige nev- 
er went out hunting on his own. 
He was too old and stiff in the 
joints and he loved his bed under 
the porch. 

“Tige,” he said, not too loudly. 

The dog whined from under the 
porch. 

“What the hell is wrong with 
you?” asked Elmer. “What is out 
there, boy?” 

Suddenly he was afraid — more 
afraid than he had ever been be- 
fore. Even more afraid than that 
time he had run into the Vietcong 
ambush. This was a different 
kind of fear — like a cold hand 
reaching out and gripping him 
and holding him and he knowing 
he’d never get away. 

The dog whined again. 

“Come on, boy,” said Elmer. 
“Come on out and get them.” 

Tige did not come out. 

“All right, then,” said Elmer. 
“Stay there.” 

He went across the farmyard, 
shining his light ahead of him, 
picking out the henhouse door. 

The frightened squawking was 
louder than ever now, insane and 
frantic. 

Long ago, he told himself, he 
should have repaired the hen- 
house, plugged up the holes. The 
shape it was in, a fox would have 



no trouble gaining entry. Al- 
though it was strange, if what both- 
ering the chickens were a fox, that 
the animal should still be there. At 
the first fl«sh of light, the first 
sound of a human voice, a fox 
would have been gone. 

What was in there? A weasel, 
maybe, or a mink? Even a rac- 
coon? 

Outside the door he paused, re- 
luctant to go on. But he couldn’t 
turn back now. He’d never be able 
to live with himself if he did. Why, 
he wondered, should he be so 
frightened? It . was Tige, he 
thought. Tige was so scared that he 
refused to come from beneath the 
porch and some of that fright had 
rubbed off on him. 

“Damn that dog,” he said. 

He reached out and lifted the 
lalch^ slammed the door back 
against the side of the building. He 
balanced^the gun in his right hand 
and directed the flash with his left. 

The first thing he saw in the cir- 
cle of light were feathers — feathers 
floating in the air. Then the run- 
ning, squawking, flapping chick- 
ens and in among the chickens . . . 

Elmer Ellis dropped the flash 
and screamed and in mid-scream 
jerked the gun to his shoulder and 
fired blindly into the henhouse, 
first the right barrel, then the left, 
the shots so close together that 
they sounded as one explosion. 

Then they were coming at him, 
leaping from the open door, hun- 
dreds of them, it seemed, faintly 



82 



IF 




seen in the light of the flash that lay 
on the ground — horrible little 
monsters such as one would never 
see except in some sweating 
dream. He reversed the gun, 
scarcely realizing that he did so, 
grasping the barrels in both his 
hands, using it as a club, flailing 
with U blindly as they came 
swarming out at him. 

Jaws fastened on an ankle and a 
heavy body struck him in the chest. 
Claws raked his left leg from hip to 
knee and he knew that he was go- 
ing down and that once he was 
down they would finish him. 

He sagged to his knees and now 
one of them had him by the arm 
and he tried to fight it off, while an- 
other clawed his back to ribbons. 
He tipped over on one side and 
ducked down his head, covering it 
with his one free arm, drawing up 
his knees to protect his belly. 

And that was all. They no long- 
er chewed or ripped him. He jerked 
up his head and saw them, fiitting 
shadows, moving out into the 
dark. The beam of the fallen flash- 
light caught one of them mo- 
mentarily and for the first time he 
really saw the sort of creatures 
that had been in the henhouse and 
at the sight of it he bawled in utter 
terror. 

Then it was gone — all of them 
were gone — and he was alone in the 
yard. He-tried to get up. Halfway 
there, his tegs folded under him 
and he fell heavily. He crawled to- 
ward the house, clawing "at the 



ground to puli himself along. He 
felt a wetness on one arm and one 
leg and a stinging pain was begin- 
ning in his back. 

The kitchen window glowed with 
a lighted lamp. Tige came out from 
beneath the porch and crawled to- 
ward him, belly flat against the 
ground, whining. Mary, in her 
nightgown, was running down the 
stairs. 

“Get the sheriff!” he yelled at 
her, gasping with the effort. 
“Phone the sheriff—” 

She raced across the yard and 
kneeled beside him, trying to get 
her hands under his body to lift 
him. 

He pushed her away. “Get the 
sheriff. The sheriff has to know 
right away.” 

“You’re hurt. You’re bleed- 
ing.” 

“I’m all right,’’ he told her 
fiercely. “They’re gotit. But the 
others must be warned. You didn’t 
see them. You don’t know.” 

“I have to get you in and call the 
doctor.” 

“The sheriff first,’’ he said. 
“Then the doctor.” 

She rose and raced back to the 
house. 

He tried to crawl, covered only 
a few feet and then lay still. Tige 
came crawling out to meet him, 
edged in close to him and began to 
lick his face. 



TO BE CONCLUDED 



OUR[ CHILDREN'S CHILDREN 



83 




Faith can move mountains. 
Susie s removed — Susie f 



SUSIE'S 

REALITY 



BOB STICKGOLD 





I 

Steve Spencer tried to hide 
all of his six-two frame be- 
hind the lichen-covered 
rock and comprehend the 
magnitude of the slide 
which had somehow failed to 
kill him. A huge slab of gran- 
ite had cleaved his protec- 
tive boulder in half seconds 
earlier and he was not yet 
convinced that a hard shove 
wouldn’t turn that life-sav- 
ing stone into a joint execu- 
tioner and gravemarker. 
His body ached from fa- 
tigue. He hadn’t moved a 
muscle in an hour and a half 
and his hair was tickling his 
nose. It was at times like this 
that he promised to have his 
shoulder-length blond hair 
chopped to a crewcut. 

These old mountains will 
never be the same, he 
thought. But unless my aim 
improves, neither will the 
rest of the world ... 

He stared dumbly at the 
carbine by his side and tried 
to justify murdering poor, 
scared Susie. It would make 
a pretty lousy ending for his 
doctoral thesis. 



W HEN the doctoral research 
committee approved his pro- 
posal Steve was jubilant. His lean 
frame arranged itself randomly 



over the old stuffed chair that 
adorned his living room. Chuck 
Dorin, his roommate and co- 
worker, tried to ignore him. 
Chuck’s upcoming psychology 
test would definitely keep Chuck 
from being in a good mood for the 
next twenty-four hours. 

‘‘You know,” commented 
Steve, “this just might set a de- 
partmental record for the laziest 
doctpfal project ever to pass the 
research committee. All I have 
to do is take toys away from them 
when they’re not looking. It’s just 
that simple, stealing from 
babies.’’ 

Chuck’s broad . shoulders, 
topped by a tangle of curly black 
hair that looked as if it might or 
might not be hiding a head, gave 
no sign that he might be listening. 

“You know?” taunted Steve. 

Chuck turned his large frame 
and caromed a box of tissues off 
Steve's left shoulder. “Get off it,” 
he grumbled. “You’re about as 
cynical as a pair, of newlyweds. 
I’ve never seen you so excited 
about anything — ” 

When he thought about it Steve 
doubted that newlyweds got 
nearly this excited. 

The whole project had come up 
more or less by accident and, in 
the end, Steve had to give Sue 
Malor credit for giving him the 
idea in the first place. They had 
gone out for pizza after an unusu- 
ally bad movie and Steve had tried 
to.explain to her the develop- 



86 



IF 




ment of the “object concept” in 
infants. 

“It was way back in the nine- 
teen-twenties that Piaget first in- 
troduced the ‘object concept’ in- 
to his studies of the development 
of intelligence in infants,” he 
began. Sue’s lithe figure sat back 
in the chair, a straw tenuously 
running from her lips to a coke. 
“According to Piagetian theory 
a newborn infant has no idea that 
the objects he sees are real. To^iim 
they are merely parts of a picture, 
with no reality of their own. But as 
the infant gets older he starts to 
experience the objects in other 
ways. He learns that what can be 
seen can also be felt and some- 
times heard or smelled. In time, he 
realizes that these properties go 
together. But the object still is 
real only in his perceptiort. If the 
object is covered — or hidden — the 
infant shows no sign that he is 
aware that it still exists.” Steve 
was building steam, his tong, bony 
arms gesturing as he spoke. 

“By six months he starts to un- 
derstand that the objects have in- 
dependent existences. If you put 
a watch — or toy — under a pillow 
and then show him where it is he 
will learn to look for it there. Even 
so, if you then put it un- 
der — say — his blanket, he's still 
likely to look for it under the pil- 
low. It isn’t until the infant is 
eighteen months old that he final- 
ly realizes that objects have truly 
independent existences — that 



they are not present merely by 
virtue of his perception of them. 
So the child only slowly evolves 
the concept of the inherent 
reality of objects — and only 
through constantly recurring re- 
inforcements in his everyday 
life.” By now Steve’s comments 
were only vaguely aimed at Sue. 

She pushed a strand of long 
black hair from her eye and ab- 
sently tucked it behind her ear. 
“No one has convinced me that 
some things really exist.” She 
was still foul-tempered from a 
chemistry class where she had 
just been told that sometimes elec- 
trons were waves and sometimes 
they were particles. “All you sci- 
entists ever do is make up stupid 
theories and then cram every- 
thing into them. Time is relative, 
momentum is quantized, matter 
is waves and light is particles. 
Good thing those infants decide 
that objects are real. They would 
look pretty dumb trying to fit 
them into any other theory.” She 
blew through the straw into 
Steve’s face. “Not that an illustri- 
ous graduate student couldn’t get 
the data to fit, but I just thought it 
might be kind of tricky for a two- 
year-old.” She attempted a hor- 
rible face and then settled for 
sticking out her tongue ^at him. 
Steve’s face was blank. His eyes 
were focused on infinity. “Are 
you all right, Steve?” she asked. 
“Do you feel sick?” He had con- 
sumed quite a large pizza. 



SUSIE^S REALITY 



87 




“No, no,” cried Steve. “What 
you just said — what did you 
mean?” Sue could feel the eyes of 
everyone in the restaurant turn 
toward her idiotic Steve. She had 
no idea what he was talking about, 
but the symptoms were clear. “It's 
a great idea!” he continued. 

Another brainstorm had 
struck him in the head, she decid- 
ed, and in the next instant he 
would be lecturing her wildly, 
scribbling on napkins and demand- 
ing instant comprehension from 
her. In a couple of days, after he 
had calmed down, he would ex- 
plain it again more simply and she 
would finally find out what it was 
all about. But she hated these res- 
taurant scenes. 

“No sarcasm, please,” he said. 
“You’ve brought up a fantastic 
question. What if the child devel- 
oped a different object concept? 
What if he decided that when an 
object disappeared from sight it 
no longer existed? Don't you see? 
We can test it in the lab. With 
monkeys. Use trap doors, stuff 
like that. We can convince an in- 
fant monkey ^hat objects have no 
independent reality. It's a beau- 
tiful project. Caa they learn thaft 
an object isn't real? And what will 
happen if we change things and let 
them find out that the objects are 
real? It's beautiful! Absolutely 
beautiful!” His voice trailed off 
as he began scribbling notes on 
one napkin after another. Sue 
was surprised. Fon once she had 



understood what he was talking 
about the first time through. 

L ater that night Steve went 
through it again, explaining this 
time to Chuck. “The basic ques- 
tion, then, is: If the experiences 
of the infant indicate that ob- 
jects exist only as extensions 
of its own perceptions, what sorts 
of conclusions will it draw? Is the 
development of the concept that 
objects are real — with indepen- 
dent existences — automatic? Or is 
it something infants learn through 
experience?” 

Chuck asked, “Why limit your- 
self to whether objects can exist 
independently? Why not ex- 
plore all types of ‘realities' the in- 
fant can be convinced of? What if 
some objects could never be 
touched? You could use holo- 
grams. And monkeys for infants. 
That way you could take some- 
thing like, say, fruit — which we 
know monkeys like — and present 
it only as an image. Rig up some 
gadget to spray the smell in with 
the image. What would the mon- 
keys do with that?” 

Steve was catching on. “Fan- 
tastic. We could let them play with 
a pocket watch and after a while 
just introduce the sound, and see 
how the monkeys respond to 
that — ” 

The sky was turning a pale blue 
when they finally gave up and 
went to bed. They had worked out 
an even dozen key experiments 



IF 




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and both men were exhausted. 
Steve rose in time to keep a lunch 
date with Sue. 

“Fm going to write up what we 
were talking about yesterday/’ 
he said before they had even found 
a table. “Chuck and I tossed it 
around all night and Fm sure I can 
get it approved as my Ph. D. proj- 
ect. That’ll mean I’ll get all the ma- 
terials and money that I need, 
plus the time to work on it.’’ Sue 
was delighted. Something in the 
back of her head told her that she 
would be rooting for the monkeys 
and not for Steve/but it did seem 
that for once she might be able to 
keep track of what he was doing. 

“You know,’’ she suggested, 
“it’ll be sort of tricky if the mon- 
keys accept whatever reality they 
are shown.’’ 

“How so?’’ asked Steve. 

She realized that was the result 
he really wanted and saw no 
problems in accepting it. 

“Well, then you’ll say that the 
monkeys were taught that some- 
thing was real that wasn’t — and 
they accepted it, right?” 

“Yeh.” Steve seemed to know 
that he was being set up, but to 
have no idea just where she was 
heading. 

“Then how will you know that 
you don’t have your realities back- 
ward?” 

She waited, but he simply 
stared as if he had already consid- 
ered the question and its implica- 
tions long before she asked it. She 



decided she would have to wait 
and see. 

B y the end of the week a 
heavily documented research 
proposal was in the hands of the 
chairman of the doctoral proj- 
ect committee. Ten days later 
Steve defended the proposal be- 
fore the committee and it was ap- 
proved. 

It took him and Chuck another 
week to build the first experi- 
mental cage and they unveiled it 
for Sue with paternal pride. “Ev- 
ery part of the floor is a trap- 
door,” explained Steve. “We can 
remove any object from any sec- 
tion of the cage instantly.” The 
contraption stood in one corner 
of the laboratory, across from the 
door. It was large — six fc^et square 
and four feet high. The floor was a 
grid of six-inch square tiles. A vast 
number of wires ran to a series of 
controls in front of the cage. 

“Or put things in,” added 
Chuck. “One of the stages of in- 
fant learning is the discovery 
that when an object disappears 
from sight one may expect it to 
show up again — perhaps random- 
ly .or in a specific place, but not 
necessarily where it went out of 
sight. So we’ve rigged up some 
loading platforms that will shoot 
objects up into the cage so that 
they just seem to materialize.” 
“Remember, Sue?” Steve 
asked. “We were talking that 
night about a watch placed under 



SUSIE'S REALITY 



89 




the pillow and then moved in earli- 
er experiments with infants? 
Well we’re going to do something 
just like that. Whenever our pock- 
et watch ‘disappears’ through a 
trapdoor, we’ll simultaneously 
sneak another one exactly like it 
into a predetermined loca- 
tion.” 

“Behind the surrogate moth- 
er,” Chuck explained. 

“The what?” asked Sue. 

“She’s not going to like this,” 
Steve cautioned Chuck. He would 
have preferred not to have the 
point come up. 

“Isn’t someone going to ex- 
plain this little tidbit to me?” 

“Okay, it’s simple.” Steve’s 
tone was defensive. “We can on- 
ly have one monkey in a 
cage — otherwise we can’t control 
the experiment. But each cage 
will contain a surrogate moth- 
er — a phony made of wire and 
cloth, with nipples attached to 
bottles for feeding the experi- 
ment’s subject.” 

“The poor things will go crazy 
without real mothers to give them 
affection.” 

“They won’t,” countered 
Chuck. “In previous experi- 
ments caged monkeys definitely 
have not gone crazy. But ours 
won’t even lack affection. Steve 
and I will be handling them and 
giving them love as part of the 
deal. They’ve gojt to be able to trust 
us completely for us to get the 
right readings.” 



“If it’ll make you feel belter,” 
Steve suggested to Sue, “you can 
pitch in — feed them by bottle 
whenever you want. It’ll be all to 
the good.” 

“What are all these •ther gad- 
gets for?” she asked. She definite- 
ly did not like the use of the surro- 
gate mothers and now she was be- 
coming suspicious and worried. 

“These were the most fun,” 
Chuck told her, pointing. 
“They’re tiny nozzles — these 
tubes are attached to' aerosol dis- 
pensers, so that we can add vari- 
ous smells to the cage without 
showing the objects the scents be- 
long to.” ^ 

Steve pointed o\it a number of 
buttons located at various 
points around the cage, each with a 
single wire running from it. “And 
these are minispeakers, so that we 
can do the same thing with 
sounds — like suggest a rattle or a 
tom-tom. They’re grounded to the 
cage, so we need only a single thin 
wire running to each speaker.” 

Sue looked at a huge piece of 
equipment sitting on a cart next 
to the cage. “And this, I suppose, 
is to dissect their brains with when 
you’re done with them?” 

Chuck laughed. “It’s a laser. 
We’re using it to produce holo- 
grams, three-dimensional im- 
ages of an object that isn’t really 
there. We can project the image 
of, say, an orange into the cage. 
We can use aerosol spray to add 
the smell to go with the image. 



90 



IF 




Every once in a while the monkey 
will be able to see and smell an 
orange, but he’ll never be able to 
grab it,” 

Sue was impressed. She 
couldn’t imagine how the mon- 
keys might react. Steve told her 
not to try. 

“We’re not supposed to as- 
sume or try to predict — the pur- 
pose of the experiment is to find 
out what will happen under the 
test conditions. All we can do 
now is wait. The shop says it can 
have the other five cages for us in 
two weeks. Then we’ll be ready to 
start.” 

<<¥’M NOT so sure I appreci- 

Aate having one named after 
me,” Sue whispered. She watched 
the infant monkey named Susie as 
it fed itself from the surrogate 
mother. “I don’t care what you 
say, it just isn’t natural for that 
poor thing to have to nurse from a 
mother made of cloth and^wire.” 
Steve was edgy. He didn’t care for 
the isolation of the monkeys any 
more than Sue did, but it had to be 
done. The big question was how 
the monkeys were going to re- 
spond to their “realities.” Sue 
seemed to read his mind. “And 
what you’re going to convince 
4hose poor creatures is real is go- 
ing to drive them insane. I’m cer- 
tain it will.” 

“Why?” argued Steve. “Do 
dogs go crazy when they’re con- 
fronted with radios and televi- 



sion sets? And what about eleva- 
tors? They go into this little 
room. Thirty seconds later they 
leave by the same door and they’re 
in an entirely different place. 
They don’t even seem to notice 
it.” ' 

“But that’s different,” Sue in- 
sisted. “Dogs basically know 
that objects exist. Radio and 
television are just things that 
won’t work for them. They proba- 
bly throw them out the way you 
throw out what you can’t use.” 
“You don’t know that’s how 
they react,” protested Steve. 

“But neither do you,” she per- 
sisted. “But with these monkeys 
you’re going to switch things 
around, so that what used to be real 
will start disappearing and what 
used to be untouchable will be- 
come solid. What’s that going to 
do to the poor things?” 

“Just one poor thing,” said 
Steve. “Just Susie.” 

“Thanks,” Sue growled. 

The addition of this new series 
of experiments was the last 
change that had been made in the 
plans for the project — and Steve 
and Chuck agreed it was the most 
important. One of the monkeys 
would find, after twelve months, 
that objects changed from one 
“reality class” to another. 
“Reality classes” referred to the 
apparent characteristics of a 
set of items---the classifications 
had been worked out while they 
had waited for the cages to be fin- 



SUSIE^SREALTIY 



91 




ishcd. The whole program had fi- 
nally shaped up into a compre- 
hensive whole. In all, six monkeys 
would be used — three experi- 
mental and three control. The 
control monkeys would merely 
live in the special cages, dubbed 
“reality cages’" by Sue. No ob- 
jects would disappear or reap- 
pear, no smells, sounds or images 
would be presented out of nor- 
mal context. These three would be 
raised in the generally accepted 
“real"’ world. Only the three ex- 
perimental monkeys would be 
subjected to altered reali- 
ties — one for six months, one for 
twelve months and one for 
eighteen. After their time was up 
they would be transferred into 
other cages, where they would ex- 
perience standard realities. 
Steve and Chuck planned to watch 
carefully the reactions and 
adaptations of the monkeys to 
this change. 

“Only Susie will have objects 
changing from one class to anoth- 
er,” explained Steve. “For the 
first six months each of the three 
experimental animals will be 
given twelve objects to play with 
and each will have a different 
reality or, as we put it, each will 
belong to a different ‘reality 
class.’ Thus, one class will be rep- 
resented by the orange. It will al- 
ways be seen and smelled, but the 
monkeys will never be able to 
touch it. Another, represented 
by the watch, will always disap- 



pear when out of the monkey’s vi- 
sion, but will reappear immedi- 
ately in a certain place, behind 
the surrogate mother. Another 
class, including a jrattle, will dis- 
appear, but reappear at a ran- 
dom time and aj^ndom place. Ba- 
nanas will sometimes be real and 
sometimes only images with 
smells. And so on. Only the twelve 
objects will be used. For Fred, 
who’ll spend six months in the real- 
ity cages, this will be all that he 
goes through.” 

“Go on,” said Sue. Steve had 
never explained the final layout 
before and Sue was convinced the 
reason was that he didn’t think she 
would like it. “Paul goes for twelve 
months and Susie for eighteen. 
What happens to them?” 

“Calm down,” Steve said. “I 
can’t explain it to you if you’re al- 
ready convinced that it’s going to 
‘ be something awful. Believe me, 
it won’t be.” Sue relented. Her 
scowl disappeared. “Okay,” 
Steve said. “After the first six 
months Paul and Susie will be giv- 
en new objects. Each will be mani- 
pulated to fit into one of the 
twelve reality classes identified 
by the original twelve objects. 
Once introduced, each new ob- 
ject will always appear in the 
same reality class and no contra- 
dictons will be made. The ques- 
tion is will the animals learn to 
categorize objects according to 
their class? We’re hoping that 
maybe the monkeys will be able 



92 



IF 




to classify the objects after a 
very short encounter with them. 
This would tend to show that they 
actually a(re aware of the differ- 
ent realities and have accepted 
them.” 

“And Susie?” asked Sue. “What 
special treats does she get for her 
last six months?” 

“Precisely what you suggest- 
ed,” interjected Chuck. He had 
come in minutes earlier and had 
been listening quietly. “We’re 
going to take objects that Susie 
is familiar with, that have always 
acted in the same way, and switch 
them into another reality class. 
The doll, which had always be- 
haved as a real doll will become 
just an image. The orange, which 
she had never been able to grasp, 
will become a real object. And 
when the watch is hidden from her 
it won’t reappear behind the sur- 
rogate mother. It’ll just stay right 
where it was put — and I really 
don’t know what you’re so upset 
about.” He was mad now — and 
worried that she might convince 
Steve to modify the experiments 
in some way. 

“It’s just so unnatural,” she 
complained. 

“So is wearing clothes — and so 
is driving a car,” he snapped and 
stomped out of the room. 

“It’s not just that, Steve.” She 
was still unsettled by the whole 
affair. “The more I think about it, 
the less I like what Susie is going 
to have to go through.” 



“Well, you won’t be the first per- 
son ever to empathize with an 
ape.” 

“I don’t feel just empathy,” Sue 
told him. “What Chuck said is 
true. Man lives in a completely 
unnatural world. Look, ever 
since man became a technologi- 
cal creature scientists have been 
arguing with the rest of us that 
what we think is true isn’t. So when 
Armstrong landed on the moon 
reporters found that something 
like a quarter of the people they 
interviewed didn’t believe that he 
was really on the moon. They 
thought it was all a colossal put- 
on. 

Steve started rolling long 
strands of hair around a pencil. 
Since he had let his hair grow he 
had picked up several of Sue’s 
nervous habits. “So what are you 
getting at? You think they’re as 
dumb as Susie? Or dumber?” 

“No, but they’re just as lucky.” 
She groped for words. “Don’t you 
see? Science has destroyed mod- 
ern man’s confidence in reality. 
He doesn’t know whether to be- 
lieve his senses or not and no at- 
tempt is made to clarify the con- 
tradiction. That’s why I get so 
mad when some bigdome gets up 
in front of the class and tells me 
that matter is just waves and not 
really solid at all. If you were 
shown an object disappearing 
and reappearing across the room 
you would say ‘Wow, teleporta- 
tion!” There is no alteration of 



SUSIE'S REALITY 



93 




reality that you wouldn't accept. 
Sure, in some ways that's a good 
thing. But this is what I meant 
when I said I wasn't so sure that 
objects did exist. Those people 
who insisted that Armstrong was 
on a movie set would never have 
any trouble with disappearing 
objects. To them it would be a 
gimmick. For you and me — any- 
thing we believe we make our 
senses accept. Some day we're go- 
ing to have to confront all of 
this — and I don't see anyone try- 
ing to get ready—” 

“Fm sorry,” said Steve. “I real- 
ly don’t understand what you’re 
getting at.” 

“You probably never will,” she 
answered. 

n 

Steve slowly raised a hand 
to wipe his forehead. Damn 
her, he thought. Shes right 
down there, somewhere. He 
had been stupid to fire at 
that great a distance and it 
had never dawned on him 
that a police carbine would 
fire any differently from 
the old twenty-two he had 
grown up with. All he had 
managed to do was scare Su- 
sie enough to convince her to 
retaliate and she showed no 
inclination to reveal her 
position now. 

He had radioed for more 
men and had been promised 



a squad of army sharpshoot- 
ers, but the men refused to 
approach within line of 
sight and the squad had been 
dropped off two miles ^own 
the valley. If they didn’t spot 
her by sunset they wouldn’t 
have a chance, and Coleman 
had radioed in that the 
Pentagon had decided to 
level the whole area if they 
didn’t get her. Susie had 
sealed her own fate. There 
was no way out. And he had 
taught her — was that fair? 
Yes, ho^ the ultimate buf- 
foon, had taught her to do it. 
He was tired and worn out. 
Nothing made sense. Level- 
ing ten square miles of 
Rockies to kill a single mon- 
key made more sense than 
most of the day’s events. A 
lazy doctoral thesis, he had 
called it. How was he going 
to write this one up? 

S TEVE had somewhat hopefully 
labeled the occasion a celebra- 
tion, but a break in the tedium 
might have been more accurate. 
The experiment was six months 
old today and he, Sue and Chuck 
had ordered pizza and cham- 
pagne to celebrate the end of 
Phase One. Tomorrow two of the 
monkeys would come out of their 
reality cages and Paul and Susie 
would be introduced to their first 
new objects. Despite all this, a 
half-year of boring repetition 



94 



IF 




had drained Steve of his enthusi- 
asm. 

“Those damn monkeys accept 
anything,” he complained. 
“There is absolutely no differ- 
ence between the experimental 
animals and the controls. Except 
in what they take for reality. 
Whenever the watch disappears 
they look behind Mama for it. 
When the rattle disappears they 
don’t expect it back. When the ba- 
nana turns out to be only an 
image they ignore it. They’re com- 
pletely predictable — so where’s 
the fun? I’d like to hit one of those 
beasts on the head with an 
orange!” It had been five months 
since any of the experimental 
animals had shown any interest 
at all in the sight and smell of an 
orange. 

“For Pete’s sake, Steve, how can 
you complain?” argued Sue. 
“The experiment so far is a suc- 
cess. Your results have been per- 
fectly clear — and better than you 
had any right to expect.” 

“Not to mention,” Chuck 
added, “three publications in six 
months. I know a lot of people 
who would give their right arms to 
be bored like that.” 

“I’m not complaining about 
the results,” Steve said. “You’re 
both absolutely right — there’s 
no doubt that the monkeys accept 
whatever reality they’re given. 
They’ve learned and accepted all 
twelve reality classes without a 
flinch. What has me climbing 



walls is that, beyond the obvious, 
there hasn’t been a single event 
worth getting excited about.” 
“Well, that’s what this celebra- 
tion is all about,” Sue added 
cheerily. “Tomorrow you’re sure 
to get some interesting results. 
Fred comes out of the reality cage 
and you can hit him with that 
orange. And I bet Paul and Susie 
will be happy to see their first new 
toys in six months.” 

Steve relaxed. “Okay. I admit 
I am expecting a little change to- 
morrow. But somehow I’m con- 
vinced that they’ll make it as dull 
as possible.” He drank a glass of 
champagne without pausing. 
“And you—” He pointed a finger 
accusingly at Sue. “You have ev- 
ery. right to be cheerful. As long as 
those little brats ^o on without 
any shocks or confusion your lit- 
tle conscience feels just fine. I’m 
almost convinced that anything 
that would cheer me up would turn 
you sour.” 

Sue looked suddenly thought* 
ful. But, “Wait till tomorrow — ” 
was all she said. 

“At this point,” he muttered, 
“I’ll take whatever I can get.” 

T he next morning all three 
were at the lab by eight-thirty. 
A certain air of confidence was al- 
so present. Steve gave each of the 
monkeys a nut, as he did every 
morning, then turned to his fellow 
humans. “Where would you sug- 
gest we start?” 



SUSIE'S REALITY 



95 




“Let’s transfer Fred out of the 
reality cage and give him an 
orange,” urged Sue. 

Steve opened Fred’s cage and 
called to Fred. The monk scam- 
pered to him and leaped into 
* Steve’s arms. “Okay, boy, you’re 
in for a little fun.” Steve trans- 
ferred him to another cage across 
the room. Sue had already placed 
an orange near the door of the 
cage. Fred looked at the orange 
and wandered away. 

“He’s sure it isn’t real,” whis- 
pered Chuck. “It might take a 
while.” 

“We’ll wait,” Steve decided. 
“He’s got nothing else in the cage 
to play with, so it shouldn’t take 
too long.” 

Within five minutes Fred had 
returned to the orange. He sat and 
looked at it, then tried to pass his 
hand through the image. The 
orange was sent rolling across the 
cage. Fred froze, his eyes fixed on 
the orange. He looked at his hand 
and back at the orange. He circled 
in the cage nervously for a few 
minutes, then returned to the 
fruit. He batted it lightly. It rolled. 
He hit it again, harder, and final- 
ly sent it flying across the cage. He 
jumped about, screaming in ex- 
citement. Finally he pounced on 
the fruit, held it firmly in his 
hands. He turned it over and over, 
put it down, picked it up and went 
through the whole procedure 
again. He was convinced. The 
orange was real. 



In minutes he had devoured it. 

Steve was delighted. From her 
purse Sue produced a bottle of 
wine. 

“I think we need another cele- 
bration,’’ she proclaimed. “A 
toast to crazy monkeys.” All three 
gathered around the bottle. 

After a semblance of order 
had returned to the scene Chuck 
said, “I want to give Paul or Susie 
a new toy.” 

“Something that will disap- 
pear and then reappear behind 
Mama,” suggested Sue. For the 
past six months, the watch had al- 
ways reappeared behind Mama 
after disappearing. 

“Let’s give Paul a bell,” Steve 
said. He pulled one down from a 
shelf and walked over to Paul’s 
cage. “Paul, I’ve got a toy for 
you.” Steve rang the bell, then 
opened the door and set it down in 
the cage. 

Paul took it tentatively, but 
dropped it when it rang. He picked 
it up again and it rang again. He 
dropped it. After going through 
the same routine a half dozen 
times he was running around the 
cage ringing the bell loudly. 

“Let’s hide it now,” said Chuck. 
He retrieved the bell from Paul. 
“Here it goes,* Paul,” Chuck an- 
nounced and hid it under a large 
inverted bowl. The bowl was rou- 
tinely used to make objects “dis- 
appear.” Steve drppped the bell 
through the trapdoor beneath the 
bowl and raised another one into 



96 



IF 




the cage behind Mama. Paul con- 
templated the bowl. Chuck right- 
ed the bowl, showing the empty 
space. Paul sat a minute, then 
went slowly over to Mama.^ See- 
ing the bell, he let out a shout, 
picked it up and ran about the 
cage, ringing it merrily. 

“He looked behind Mama 
first.” Sue was delighted. “He 
looked behind Mama!” Quickly 
they put the bell under the bowl 
again. This time Paul didn’t even 
pause, but headed straight for 
Mama. 

“He was damn sure of himself 
that time,” Sue said. “There was 
no question. He knew the reality 
class and put the bell right into it.” 

“Another resounding suc- 
cess,” announced Chuck. 

Steve grinned. “Another pa- 
per.” 

Everything was going better 
than they had expected. They 
tried another orange with Fred. 
He attacked and devoured it im- 
mediately. They gave a bell to 
Susie arid her reactions were 
identical to Paul’s. 

“Let’s try Susie’s trick with it,” 
suggested Chuck. Susie’s trick 
had been worked out jointly by 
Steve and Susie. For the effective 
operation of the trapdoors the 
monkeys had to be looking else- 
where or the object had to be cov- 
ered To prevent the animal’s see- 
ing the mechanism in operation. 
Susie, unlike both Fred and Paul, 
had figured this out. After a while 



she had started to cover her eyes 
in order to make things disap- 
pear. Steve had quickly sensed 
that this was Susie’s intent and 
had whisked away the watch when 
she covered her eyes. When she 
uncovered them and didn’t sec the 
watch she headed straight for 
Mama. Over the next two of three 
days she and Steve had perfected 
the trick. Now the bell was put over 
an exposed trapdoor, in plain 
sight of Susie. But instead of cov- 
ering her eyes she grabbed it and 
started to play with it. Steve re- 
trieved it and tried again. On the 
fourth try Susie cooperated. 
She sat about two feet from the bell 
and covered her eyes. Steve 
dropped it through a trapdoor and 
transferred it behind Mama. 
Susie uncovered her eyes, gtamed 
toward where it had been and hcad- 
ecl for Mama. 

“Enough,” Chuck said. “I can’t 
take any more of this.” She and 
Steve agreed and the three left for 
the day. All three were hung over 
the next mornings 

O NCE again things fell into a 
monotonous routine. In a 
month’s time Fred was indis- 
tinguishable from his control. 
Anything he saw he assumed was 
real. There was nothing left to do 
with him. Paul and Susie delight- 
ed in the occasional new toys 
they received, but they would 
classify each object as soon as 
enough time and events had passed 



SUSIE'S REALITY 



97 




to define which reality class it was 
in. The tedium returned and the 
next five months crept past un- 
bearably slowly. Only the ques- 
tion of how Susie would react to 
an, object's changing from one 
realky to another kept Steve's 
interest alive. Still, the celebra- 
tipn after one year was consider- 
ably gayer than the six-month fes- 
tivities. 

Ill 

The sun was slowly creep- 
ing toward the mountain 
peaks and now the lichen- 
covered boulder cast a dark 
shadow over Steve. For the 
first time in two hours he 
dared to shift his position. 
Coleman reported that the 
sharpshooters had taken 
cover in the brush that sur- 
rounded Ihe bottom edge of 
the scree field, but could 
catch no sight of Susie. If no 
one could hit S^sie by sun- 
set a helicopter would ferry 
out all personnel and the 
bombers would move in. The 
valley had already been evac- 
uated and Steve had heard 
a low-flying plane broad- 
casting warnings to any 
campers or hikers who 
might still be in the area. Su- 
sie was unable to move with- 
out giving away her posi- 
tion, but she could easily sit 
and wait until dark. Steve 



broke into a cold sweat as 
his mind touched on the idea 
of Susie's bringing about a 
premature sunset. That 
way lay madness, he 
thought, and drove the con- 
cept from his mind. If he had 
any guts he'd take his 
chances with Susie in the 
hopes that if Susie got him 
one of the sharpshooters 
would get her. God only 
knew what she could do if she 
set her mind to it. But he just 
sat and prayed for the tiny 
movement that would give 
away her position. 

Susie, you have to die any- 
how. Let me do it — I started 
it .. . 

If only he had stopped his 
experiments at twelve 
months. 

OMORROW we start 
A Phase Three,” Steve an- 
nounced, “and once ^gain our en- 
nui will give way to a succession 
of astonishing events.” He wasn’t 
really drunk, but wine plus the ex- 
citement had rhade him a bit light- 
headed. 

“I do worry about Susie, 
though,” said Sue. “She seems so 
much brighter than the others 
and I’m afraid that the shift may 
really mess her up.” 

“Oh, get off it. Sue. I thought 
you were the one who wasn’t so 
sure that objects existed in the 
first place. And Susie definitely 



98 



IF 




doesn’t believe they do. She 
should be able to cope well with the 
change. You’ll see. Tomorrow 
morning we’ll put the watch un- 
der Susie’s bowl and it’ll just stay 
there. Want to bet on what hap- 
pens?” 

“I don’t know,” she muttered. 
“I just hope that nothing goes 
wrong.” She finished her wine and 
the three left. 



M onday belonged to Susie. 

Steve showed no signs of be- 
ing tense. He was the scientist 
now and he was careful to make 
sure that Susie would get no cue 
from him of the changes to come. 
He proceeded through the morn- 
ing ritual, giving Susie a nut from 
the jar on the counter. She 
snatched it from his hand and ran 
over to Mama. Jumping up and 
down, she dropped it behind 
Mama — in a small pile of about a 
dozen nuts. 

The smile disappeared from 
Steve’s face. ”What the hell?” He 
whirled to face Sue. “Is this your 
idea of an apology to Susie — to 
give her extra nuts?” Sue’s face 
showed incomprehension. “We 
went over procedure several 
times — there ^ere to be no changes 
in today’s routine except for the 
actual shifting of objects from 
one reality class to another. So 
you go and give her a dozen nuts 
the very morning of the switch!” 

“I did not. I couldn’t have. 



Chuck got here before me. He’ll 
tell you I didn’t.” 

“1 don’t see how she could have, 
Steve. Someone must have come 
in before any of us — or else last 
night.” 

Steve was in a fury. “Well, if this 
is someone’s idea of a joke it’s a 
pretty poor one.” All three stood 
around, troubled and disappoint- 
ed. 

“Look,” said Chuck. “We obvi- 
ously can’t change Susie’s sched- 
ule today.” She was sitting in the 
far corner of her cage, shivering 
with fright at Steve’s violent out- 
burst. “Let’s transfer Paul out of 
the reality cage today and we can 
switch Susie’s schedule to 
Wednesday. Two days isn’t really 
going to matter and in a month 
you’ll hardly remember what 
happened.” 

“Okay,” muttered Steve. “But 
first I put up a big no goddam 

FEEDING THE MONKEYS sign. And 
remind me to make sure that those 
nuts get moved from Susie’s cage. 
They’re right behind Mama, over 
the loading platform. Whoever 
put the nuts there had a real sense 
of humor.” 



E verything went smoothly 
until Steve returned from lunch 
the next afternoon. He was get- 
ting over his anger and had again 
become excited about Susie’s 
switch, set for the next morning. 
As he wandered past Susie’s cage 



SUSIE^S REALITY 



99 




he saw a fresh pile of nuts behind 
Mama. 

He dragged Chuck out of the lab 
and into the hall. 

“Have you been here all after- 
noon?” he asked^ “Since I left for 
lunch?” The anger in his voice was 
obvious. 

“Essentially, Why?” 

“What do you mean, ‘essen- 
tially’?” 

“1 mean yes, except that I went 
downstairs for a coke around 
twelve-thirty. What’s going on a- 
round here?” 

“Did you give Susie any nuts?” 
Steve snarled through clenched 
teeth. 

“Of course not.” 

Steve was in a rage. “There’s a 
new stack of nuts on the trapdoor 
behind Mama. And if 1 find the 
funnyman whose pulling this. I’ll 
kill him! Tonight those nuts go 
home with me and I’ll bring two in 
every day.” He turned to leave. 
“I’ll be back later. If I try to work 
in this mood I’ll drive Susie up a 
wall. But I’m still changing her 
over tomorrow morning.” 

When he came back that after- 
noon he still couldn’t concentrate 
constructively. People didn’t 
mess up other people’s experi- 
ments for a joke. Had he somehow 
managed to offend someone 
enough to have called down this. 
kind of vengeance on himself? 

“Steve,” Chuck called. “Pay at- 
tention to what you’re doing.” 

Steve returned to his senses and 



realized that Suzie had beeji cov- 
ering her eyes, trying to make the 
rattle disappear. As she repeat- 
ed the gesture he dropped the toy 
through the trapdoor. 

“Why don’t you call it a day?” 
Chuck suggested. “It would be a 
real shame if you messed up badly 
enough for us to have to postpone 
the transfer again.” 

Steve nodded. He was tired and 
discouraged. He trudged out of 
the lab and took an elevator to 
the lobby. He was almost out of 
the building when he realized that 
he had forgotten the nuts. 

In a foul humor he rode back 
upstairs and slammed into the 
lab. Chuck was closing the door to 
Susie’s cage. 

“You must really be out of it, 
Steve,” chided Chuck. “You left 
the rattle in Susie’s cage. If I 
hadn’t heard her playing with it 
she would have had it with her all 
night.” The rule that non-reaUoys 
should not stay in the cages when 
the animals were alone was strict. 

“How could I have?” insisted 
Steve. “I dropped it out just be- 
fore I left.” 

“Well no one else has been here 
since you left, Steve. I’d try to get 
some extra sleep tonight if I were 
you. A sleeping pill couldn’t hurt 
any. You’re starting to look bad.” 
Steve grunted in irritation and 
headed for the door. “Don’t for- 
get the nuts!” called Chuck. Steve 
snatched the jar from the bench 
and stomped out. 



100 



IF 




S TEVE was up at six-thirty the 
next morning. His night had 
been filled with nightmares fea- 
turing Susie and nuts and watches 
and rattles, appearing and dis- 
appearing. He finally awoke in 
a cold sweat after he himself had 
disappeared from his last dream. 
He was tired and groggy and want- 
ed nothing more than to abandon 
the whole project. Only the reali- 
zation that in twelve hours the 
switch would be completed kept 
him going. Then he could look for- 
ward to another six months of 
luxurious boredom. 

He joined Sue fqr breakfast at 
eight. She was alert and excited 
by the day’s plans. Bu^ she was vis- 
ibly shaken by Steve’s apparent 
condition. He told her about the 
nuts and the rattle, and his dreams 
of the night before. A grin crept 
across her face. 

“I’m sorry, Steve — it’s just that 
we’ve come full circle.” She 
couldn’t wipe the smile off her face. 
“You got this whole scheme from 
me when I doubted the reality of 
certain interpretations of mat- 
ter and phenomena — and I’m al- 
most convinced now you’re not sO 
sure yourself that things are what 
they seem — or as they sometimes 
are represented to be.” 

“That’s stupid,’’ he growled. 
“Come on,” she said, rising. 
“Let’s get down to the lab. We 
wouldn’t want Chuck to start with- 
out us, would we?” 

She showed him a huge pout and 



Steve had to smile despite himself. 

Chuck was waiting when they 
reached the lab and he was eager to 
get started. Steve gave Susie her 
nut and chatted inanely with her 
for a couple of minutes. Then he 
gave Susie the watch to play with. 
As always, Susie accepted it 
readily. She danced around the 
cage, pausing now and then to lis- 
ten to its ticking. After a few min- 
utes Steve wrestled it away from 
her and slipped it ynder the bowl. 
This time it would stay there. In 
more than a thousand trials dur- 
ing the past year Susie had al- 
ways seen it disappear and reap- 
pear behind Mama. This time it 
would not. 

As always, Susie ran to the sur- 
rogate Mama and reached for the 
watch. It wasn’t there. Susie froze. 
She sat motionless for exactly 
thirty seconds and then started 
screaming wildly. Steve showed 
Susie the watch under the bowl 
and then covered it again. She 
stared at the bowl for long seconds 
and then slowly lifted her hands 
to cover her eyes. 

“She’s trying to' make it disap- 
pear,” whispered Sue. “She wants 
it to disappear. Oh, God — she 
will go mad this time.” 

Susie uncovered her eyes, 
walked cautiously to Mama, and 
peered behind the dummy parent. 
Immediately she started chat- 
tering happily. She reached be- 
hind Mama. In an instant she had 
the watch in her hand. 



SUSIE'S REALITY 



101 




F or a long time Steve, Sue 
and Chuck simply stared at 
Susie and the watch. No one said 
a word. No one moved. What was 
there to say? Without breaking the 
silence Steve examined the cage. 
The trapdoors were all wired 
properly. The releases were in 
position. The loading platforms 
were all empty and the recepta- 
cle beneath the bowl was empty. 
He opened the door to the cage and 
lifted the bowl. There was noth- 
ing there. Three blank faces stared 
at the bowl. 

Steve turned to the others. 
“Have I gone crazy? Did either of 
you see it? It disappeared. Didn’t 
it?” His voice verged on hysteria. 

Sue nodded. “Yes — and then it 
reappeared behind Mama. .We 
all saw it.” 

“No!” shouted Chuck. “Some- 
one’s pulling some sort of a 
stunt,” He didn’t sound at all con- 
fident of his explanation. 
“What’s the matter with us? It’s 
obviously some sort of a joke. 
Look out.” He pushed past Steve 
and examined the wires operat- 
ing the trapdoors and loading 
platforms. “Everything seems 
okay,” he muttered, but then dis- 
connected the trapdoors and 
loading platforms. “This reality 
bit is going to all of our heads.” 
He retrieved the watch from Su- 
sie and placed it under the bowl. 
“Now let’s see this work!” 

He felt foolish. Whoever had 
rigged this gag would never let 



them forget their reactions. All 
three were in position to look be- 
hind Mama as Susie covered her 
eyes. Instantly the watch ap- 
peared behind Mama. 

“This is insane.” Steve jammed 
his hands deep into his pockets. 
“This just isn’t real.” He paced 
back and forth, trying to regain 
his self-control. ‘There is a nice 
rational explanation for all of 
this. And we’re going to find it.” 

Without saying a word Sue re- 
trieved the watch from Susie. The 
others stared as she placed the 
watch on top of the inverted bowl, 
in plain sight. Susie immediate- 
ly rais^ her hands and covered 
her eyes. A split second later the 
watch vanished, only to reap- 
pear simultaneously behind 
Mama. 

“Oh, my God,” whispered 
Chuck. “Steve — the nuts. They ap- 
peared behind the surrogate 
mother. Just like the watch.” 

Steve stared straight ahead. 
“Yes.” His voice was controlled. 
“And I know I didn’t leave the rat- 
tle in there last night.” 

She turned to Steve. “Susie did 
it, didn’t she? She made her reality 
work.” 

Steve started to laugh. “Well, I 
guess it isn’t morning yet. This has 
got to be just another one of those 
nightmares I was having last 
night.” 

Sue said “Let’s break.” She 
turned to Chuck. “Let’s go some- 
where else — do something else. I 



102 



IF 




don’t want to stay here any longer. 
Not just now.” 

“No,” said Chuck. “I want to 
try a couple of things first. Give 
me the orange.” Sue looked at him 
blankly. “I want to see if it’s real 
to Susie.” Susie had never expe- 
rienced a real orange. Only a 
hologram and a smell. He took the 
orange and put it in Susie’s cage 
by the door. All three gazed ia 
silence. 

At first Susie simply ignored 
it. She had seen the holograms 
many times and had no reason to 
suspect that this was any differ- 
ent. After a few minutes Steve 
reached in and gave the orange a 
shove. He took the watch from the 
cage and closed the door. Susie 
studied the orange intently. She 
had never seen a hologram roll, 
so this was definitely a novelty. 
She approached the orange, sat a 
foot away from it, considering 
what to do. Finally she reached 
out an arm and swatted at it. Her 
hand went right through tl^e 
orange. 

”Let’s get out of here,” Chuck 
urged. 

“I thought you wanted to test 
two things,” Sue said. She stared at 
the cage in a trance. 

“Forget it,” said Chuck. “Right 
now I want to test a pitcher of 
beer.” The three headed for the 
door. The watch was still clutched 
in Steve’s right hand. As he fol- 
lowed the others out he pulled the 
door shut behind him. As it closed 



he felt the watch vanish from his 
hand. He hurried away. 

They were waiting for him at 
the elevators. “You can stay here 
if you want,” he said, without 
slowing down. “I’m taking the 
stairs.” The others followed him. 

T heir conversation was rei^ 
stricted to the weather as they 
drank their first pitcher of beer. 
They were halfway through the 
second when Chuck violated the 
unspoken taboo. His face was 
tense. 

“I think I believe it,” he said 
and suddenly the clamp that had 
been holding all three silent was 
released. “It doesn’t make any 
sense and it can’t be and it’s 
crazy — but I believe it. Some- 
thing in the back of my brain keeps 
saying ‘She did it, so what?’ And I 
have no answer.” 

“I know,” said Steve. “The 
same thoughts have been going 
through my head. ‘Why not?’ my 
head keeps asking. And I don’t 
know why not; I never really 
could believe in relativity either. 
I mean that Sue here could take off 
in a starship, eat lunch, take a 
shower, land, get off— and I’d be 
eighty years old. But I accept it 
anyhow, because I’ve been told 
it’s true. Well this is just the oppo- 
site. All my training, all my intel- 
lect says, ‘You’re hallucinating, 
dreaming, undergoing mass 
hypnosis — ’ Things like that. But 
this time something keeps asking. 



SUSIE'S REALITY 



103 




‘Why not?’ And I can’t answer.” 

‘‘You know,” Sue suggested, 
‘‘in a way we have gone crazy. I 
mean I don’t really think we, have, 
but if what we saw did actually 
happen — then maybe all those 
other people who have been 
locked . up for being crazy 
aren’t — at least some of them. I 
mean, there’s one reality that’s ac- 
cepted — and if you perceive or 
believe in any other you’re crazy. 
And ft doesn’t matter whether 
you saw it because you were on 
drugs or because it really is like 
that. You’re just as crazy in the 
eyes of the world.” She looked 
from Steve to Chuck and then 
down at her empty glass. ‘‘It’s easi- 
er,” she whispered. ‘‘It’s easier if 
you don’t try to fight the question 
of your sanity. Either we are 
crazy — or we don’t know what the 
word means any more.” She had 
nothing more to say. 

‘‘Okay,” argued Chuck, ‘‘may- 
be we are crazy — and maybe Su- 
sie did all those things we saw her 
do. I’m not sure which. But if she 
did do what we saw her do — how 
could she? I mean, a lot of people 
have watched a lot of monkeys do 
a lot of things and I’ve never heard 
of this before. If we did see what 
we think we saw there still has to be 
a logical explanation for it. It’s 
not going to bring everything 
crumbling down around us — any 
more than when people found out 
that energy could be changed to 
matter. Forty years ago no one 



would have believed it possi- 
ble — but when the transforma- 
tion proved. out it didn’t destroy 
the rest of our structures. We just 
had to modify them a bit.” 

‘‘There’s no comparison,” ob- 
jected Steve. ‘‘If. some physicist 
had given a completely incom- 
prehensible lecture and then 
showed us a machine that could do 
what Susie did — we’d have no 
trouble accepting it. Even if we 
couldn’t understand the explana- 
tion, the knowledge that an ex- 
planation existed would be all 
that we’d need. The problem is 
that we have no explanation for 
what we just saw. It contradicts 
everything we’ve been taught and 
everything our senses have told 
us. We can’t fit it in anywhere. 
When you stop to think about it, an 
aborigine would have more trou- 
ble dealing with New York City 
than we have had with this.” Some 
of the shock was slipping from 
Steve’s mind. He was slowly con- 
structing a web of support for his 
wounded reality. 

‘‘But why did it happen now?” 
insisted Chuck. ‘‘Why us?” 

‘‘That’s easy,” answered Sue. A 
picture had 'slowly been forming 
in her mind, too, but she was afraid 
of Steve’s reaction to^ it. He 
wasn’t going to like it. “We taught 
her. Steve, you always said that 
you would never go into an exper- 
iment unwilling to accept any 
particular results, but that’s ex- 
actly what you’ve done. 



104 



IF 




“What have we been doing for 
the past year? We asked the ques- 
tion, ‘What happenes when you 
teach a monkey from infancy that 
reality is different from what we 
know it to be? What happens if 
you convince the monkey that 
some objects are insubstantial 
and others can arbitrarily dis- 
appear?’ Well, we asked the ques- 
tion and we’ve gotten our answer. 
The reality they are taught be- 
comes their reality. I don’t mean 
that they believe what is false — I 
mean that what is true for them is 
different from what is true for us. 
We’ve all been taught one reality, 
so we all believe it and it is real for 
us. Our experiment has never 
been done before.’’ 

“That’s not actually correct,’’ 
Chuck put in. “In ancient times 
people believed in witches, mira- 
cles, stuff like that — and there ap- 
peared to be a lot to support their 
convictions. Whenever quack 
cures and stories about witches and 
miracles are discredited, the so- 
called mysteries seem to stop 
happening. We have assumed 
that they never did happen but we 
don’t really know that. We just 
figured that what we found to be 
true after we got there was true be- 
fore. But when you stop to think 
about it, that sure leaves a lot of 
unexplained stories. We’ve just 
never had anything else to do with 
the data — so we chucked it out.” 
“But it still doesn’t work,” ar- 
gued Steve. “What about our real- 



ity? Maybe Susie expected the 
watch to disappear and the 
orange to be insubsUntial — but 
I’ll be damned if wp did. We ex- 
pected them both to be just what 
they always have been for us. How 
come her reality worked and ours 
didn’t? There were three of us, you 
know.” 

“That’s not fair,” replied Sue. 
“We don’t really have that firm a 
grip on any particular reality. 
We’ve all accepted relativity 
and the wave theory of matter. 
Steve, you said minutes ago that if 
some scientist said a fact was rea- 
sonable you’d have no trouble ac- 
cepting it. Well, you’d have a hell 
of a time convincing Susie. Peo- 
ple give up their realities too 
easily. 

“The three of us are already ac- 
cepting what happened. We’ve 
got no faith in our realities. But 
Susie’s never lost her faith — so 
hers was just that much stronger. I 
don’t think we ever had much 
chance against her. That’s Why 
crazy people get locked up. The 
whole purpose of therapy is to 
convince the person that his or 
her reality is not real. You know 
that what I’m saying is almost ex- 
actly what a shrink would say. 
He’d just insist that the reality 
that the crazy person saw didn’t 
exist. That’s the only differ- 
ence.” 

“Now that’s what I call a minor 
difference,” Steve muttered, “So 
what do we do— write it up and 



SUSIE^S REALITY 



105 




submit it? That minor differ- 
ence might just be major enough 
to get us all locked up for a good 
long while. We may be con- 
vinced=-but there are a few billion 
people out there who would not.” 
“I’m not sure,” Sue protested. 
“1 think you’ll find a lot more sup- 
port than you could imagine.” 
“Well, I still want to know 
where we go from here.” Steve felt 
better, but the thought of trying 
to convince someone else of what 
he. Sue and Chuck thought they 
had seen happen brought back all 
of his fears and doubts. 

“Convince other people,” said 
Chuck. “Professor Coleman’s 
head of psychology. Let’s talk to 
him. But first we’d better show 
him.” 

“Yes — don’t tell him what’s go- 
ing to happen,” warned Siie. “I 
think he’s more sure of his reality 
than all of us and Susie put to- 
gether. If he knows what we’re ex- 
pecting, I’m not sure that he 
couldn’t stop her.” 

“Besides,” said Chuck. “I’d feel 
better if someone else saw it, 
too.” 

4<TPHREE more nervous, se- 
A cretive people I’ve never 
seen.” Coleman was both irritated 
and interested. “But it’s clear that 
you’re going to be insistent, so 
let’s see what this is all about.” 
Steve had practically dragged the 
short, stocky Coleman from his of- 
fice, much to the astonishment of 



his staff. When they reached the lab 
they found the door ajar and Su- 
sie’s cage empty. A neat stretch of 
bars was missing. 

Coleman pushed past Steve to 
examine the cage. 

“Strange,” he muttered. “Met- 
al doesn’t look like it’s been cut. 
There are no marks at all. How was 
it done?” He turned to Steve. “1 
gather this isn’t what you intend- 
ed to show me?” 

All three started talking at once. 
In a matter of minutes Coleman 
was seriously considering call- 
ing for three straitjackets. 

Steve took over. 

“So you see. Dr. Coleman, Su- 
sie must have made the bars disap- 
pear, too,” he finished, “I know 
this is going to be hard to — ” 

The blare of a fire alarm inter- 
rupted him. 

“There’s no test schedule for 
today,” muttered Coleman. He 
grabbed a phone and called his of- 
fice. “They don’t know anything 
about it,’' he reported. “Let’s go.” 

They took the stairs to the first 
floor and headed for the front 
door. As they passed a corridor, 
they saw a crowd gathered at its 
end. Someone saw Professor 
Coleman and hailed him. 

Dr. Lewis Pearson, a younger 
member of the psychology depart- 
ment faculty, waved from the edge 
of the crowd and was obviously 
quite upset. Coleman started down 
the hall at a jog. 

Steve, Sue and Chuck followed 



106 



IF 




him. The crowd parted to let them 
through. 

They found themselves staring 
at the outer wall of the building. 
Or, rather, out through the wall. 
A circle three feet in diameter and 
some six inches above the floor 
had been cut out of the wall. It 
was a perfectly clean hole and it 
looked disturbingly familiar to 
the four. 

Pearson was speaking hurriedly 
to Coleman: “. . . and it appears 
that that’s why she pulled the 
alarm. She’s completely incoher- 
ent, but she sticks to her story. 
She says the monkey just covert 
its eyes and the hole appeared. 

“I’ve called the hospital for an 
ambulance, but we still have this 
crazy hole to deal with. Look at 
it. The edges are clean. How could 
anyone make a hole like this and 
not be noticed?’’ Pearson looked 
at Coleman for an answer. 

“Where’s the girl?” asked Cole- 
man. “I think I’d better talk to 
her.” 

“She’s in your office — the sec- 
retaries are taking care of her.” 

Coleman wordlessly took off 
for his office, Steve, Sue and 
Chuck still a part of his entourage. 

“You know she’s telling the. 
truth, Coleman, don’t you?” Steve 
said. “We’ve got to get Susie 
back. God only knows what she 
may do if she gets scared.” 

“When I need your advice I’ll 
ask for it.” Coleman spoke over 
his shoulder as he strode. “If you 



want to handle the fire department 
and the police and whatever else — 
they’re yours. But as regards this 
poor woman. I’m at least tempor- 
arily in charge.” 

Steve walked with him in si- 
lence. 

They found the girl sitting be- 
tween two comforting secretaries 
in Coleman’s office. Tears were 
streaming down her cheeks, and 
she looked scared. 

“I swear { saw it,” she said. 
“I’m not crazy. A monkey just 
made the hole appear.” 

Coleman sent the other women 
away. “We know,” he said quiet- 
ly. “The monkey escaped from 
one of our labs and we’re looking 
for her. Do you know which way 
she went after she got out?” 

Coleman sounded and looked 
as if he only half believed his own 
words. 

“Don’t play games with me,” 
the girl whispered. “I saw it, I real- 
ly did—” 

Sue came forward and put an 
arm around the girl. 

“Dr. Coleman’s not playing 
games,” she said. “He’s just hav- 
ing a hard tinie believing what’s 
happened. So am I. You’re not 
crazy. Not at all. Really.” 

The girl started to whimper 
quietly. 

“Come on,” said Coleman. 
“We can leave her with my staff. 
We’ve got to find that damn mon- 
key of yours. 

The fire trucks arrived. Cole- 



SUSIE'S REALITY 



107 




man spoke to the fire chief and 
asked to use the car radio. 

“Put me in touch with Chief 
Heninger.” Coleman was contact- 
ing the police chief. “Chief Hen- 
inger? This is Dr. Coleman, Tm 
head of the psychology depart- 
ment at the university. I’m afraid 
we’re going to need your help.’’ 

“What seems to be the prob- 
lem?’’ 

Coleman hesitated. This would 
have to be phrased carefully. “I 
can’t explain all the details. I’m 
afraid. The project is classified. 
Goverment security. We’ve been 
conducting some very important 
experiments with a group of mon- 
keys and one of them has escaped. 
We need your help to find her and 
get her back.’’ 

“Have you tried the humane 
society. Dr. Coleman? They’re 
animal exp — ’’ 

“You don’t understand,” Cole- 
man snapped. “Look, Heninger, 
this monkey is dangerous. It may 
be more dangerous at this mo- 
ment than any other living crea- 
ture. I can’t begin to tell you the 
damage it could cause if it’s not 
caught. This is an emergency and 
a big one. Get the humane society, 
too, but we need every man you’ve 
got.” Coleman paused for a sec- 
ond. “I’ll take full responsibility 
if there’s any problem about your 
committing so many men to it, 
but we need literally everything 
you’ve got. This monkey could 
wipe out the whole city!” 



Quiet static hummed over the 
radio and Heninger’s' breathing 
could be heard in the background. 

“What do you mean danger- 
ous?” he finally asked. “This mon- 
key got some kind of disease? Or 
does — ” 

Steve grabbed the microphone 
from Coleman and signaled to the 
others to be quiet. He began talk- 
ing in a deep voice, hoping he re- 
membered lines from an amateur 
theatrical he had appeared in dur- 
ing his undergraduate days. This 
was a dangerous gambit, he knew, 
but it was necessary. “Heninger? 
Just shut up a second. This is Ma- 
jor Pomeroy, Army — CIA liaison 
from this district.” Some of it 
was coming back to him, but he 
was also improvising nicely. His 
confidence grew, “t’m slapping a 
complete security blanket on this 
affair right now. That’s official. 
I don’t want you talking to any 
reporters or anyone else about 
this. You just tell them you’re 
looking for a missing monkey. 
Don’t say a word more. Under- 
stand?” 

Heninger sounded impressed. 
“Yes, Major. I understand.” 

“Good. Are these lines se- 
cured?” 

“Secured, sir?” Heninger was 
not at all sure of what was going 
on. 

' “Secured. Are they scrambled? 
Or can just anyone with a radio 
pick this up?” Steve was begin- 
ning to enjoy reliving the old role 



108 



IF 




— these last lines were straight out 
of that long-ago play. 

“No, sir, they’re not. We’re not 
set up for anything like that.” 

Steve turned to Coleman and 
spoke for Heninger’s benefit. 
“Well, Professor, give him any 
instructions you can, but remem- 
ber that the lines are not secured.” 
He handed the microphone back 
to Coleman and sank back into 
his seat. He found himselt at once 
exhilarated and scared, but evi- 
dently the p)oy had worked. 

He listened to Coleman. 

“Just put every man you have 
on it. We’ve got to get her back, 
and fast.” Coleman paused. “And 
listen. Chief, it’s a really strange 
monkey. When you catch her, tell 
your men to tie her hands behind 
her back.” He spoke slowly. “And 
if it looks as if she were going to 
cover her eyes shoot her — fast. 
And shoot to kill.” 

He looked away from Steve. 
The decision had been his to make 
and he had made it. 

Silence fell at the other end of 
the line before Heninger asked, 
“Is that all. Dr. Coleman?” 

“Yes, that’s all I can think of 
now.” Coleman sounded ex- 
hausted and Steve realized the 
man had been made to act force- 
fully out of character. “I’ll keep 
in touch. If you’d tell us the lo- 
cation of any sightings of her. I’d 
appreciate it.” 

“Very good, sir. I’ll send out 
the alert right away.” 



T en minutes later the call came 
through on the fire chiefs ra- 
dio. “We’ve just received a call 
about a monkey spotted at Mor- 
heim and Blake. Car Seventeen is 
almost there and on its way. We’ll 
keep you informed.” 

“Right,” Steve answered for 
Coleman. “We’re also on our 
way.” They took off for the area. 
It would take several minutes to 
get there. 

They weren’t halfway there when 
Heninger called back. He was 
clearly upset. “Coleman, what the 
hell kind of monkey is that?” 
“What seems to be the prob- 
lem, Heninger?” asked Steve. 

“How the hell should 1 know? 
Nelson in Car Seventeen Just called 
in and he’s completely incoherent. 
Keeps saying something about his 
partner having disappeared while 
trying to catch that monkey. I’m 
trying to find out where he went 
to, but Nelson keeps saying that 
he just disappeared. He sounds 
crazy, Coleman, and I want to 
know what’s going on.” 

Sieve took the mike. “Heninger, 
this is Pomeroy. I thought I told 
you that this could not be dis- 
cussed on unsecured lines. You’re 
just going to have to believe that 
what you’re doing is right. We’re 
approaching Morheim and Blake 
now. Have there been any more 
sightings?” 

“No,” reported Heninger glum- 
ly. “But my men are fanning^ out. 
If the monkeys keeps going in the 



SUSIE'S REALITY 



109 




direction she was first heading, 
she’ll be getting into the mountains 
pretty soon.” 

The fire chief’s car reached 
Morheim and Blake as Nekon 
was being taken into another 
prowl car by fellow cops. As they 
drove off he looked completely 
stunned. 

“It looks like Susie’s taken her 
first casualty,” commented Chuck. 

No one answered. 

“Coleman, are you there?” It 
was Heninger. 

“I’m here. What do you want?” 

“We’ve lost contact with Car 
Twelve. We’re having all our men 
on the lookout for it, so that 
means you, too. Can that monkey 
. . . Hold it;” A pause came while 
Heninger talked to someone else. 
“Coleman, they’ve found our car 
at Gasser and Blake.” Steve ges- 
tured and the fire chief’s car 
turned and headed down Blake. 
It was five blocks to Gasser. Hen- 
inger reported intermittently. “It’s 
sitting in the middle of the street 
... the men inside aren’t moving 
. . . they look like they’re frozen 
in place. I’m getting this from Car 
Eight, they’re sending a man over 
to Car Twelve. Can’t you tell me 
anything about what we’re up 
against?” There was a pleading 
tone in Heninger’s voice. But they 
had reached Gasser, and Steve got 
out of the car, followed by Chuck. 

Chuck realized what had hap- 
pened before anyone. “The holo- 
grams^” he whispered. 



The policeman had just reached 
Car Twelve. “Wait!’’ called Steve, 
but he was too late. The man had 
reached for the handle of the car 
door and had fallen right through 
the door, through both of the car’s 
occupants and the floor of the car 
to land heavily on the street be- 
low. He started to get up, saw 
himself merged with the driver and 
fainted. His partner, who had 
watched the whole affair from Car 
Eight, started babbling hysterical- 
ly into his radio. 

Steve reached into the fire 
chief’s car for the mike and called 
Heninger. 

“Listen, Heninger,” he said. 
“I’m afraid things are getting out 
of hand. I want to change plans — ” 
“You’re damn right they’re out 
of hand!” shouted Heninger. “I 
just got a call from Coleman’s of- 
fice that Parker, the man from 
Car Seventeen who disappeared, 
showed up in one of Coleman’s 
monkey cages. He’s stark raving 
mad. What is God’s name is going 
on? That’s five miles from where 
he disappeared — ” 

“Heninger, shut up and listen,” 
Steve barked. “Pull your men 
back a bit. I don’t want them to 
try to capture the monkey. Just 
follow it at a distance and keep us 
informed as to its whereabouts. 
We’ll try to take it ourselves.” 
“That’s fine with me,” retorted 
Heninger. “It’s definitely heading 
for the mountains.” 

“Heninger, we’re going to want 



110 



IF 




a megaphone and portable two- 
way radio when we catch up with 
her,” Steve said. He paused for a 
moment.’“And a rifle.” 

T he fife chiefs car caught up 
with Susie in a clearing just 
outside the city limits. She was 
heading for the mountains. Four 
police cars sat at the edge of the 
field, some two hundred yards 
from Susie. They had gotten a 
vague, illogical story about the 
Car Twelve affair and wanted 
nothing to do with the monkey. 
The police gave Steve the mega- 
phone, radio and a carbine. He 
had little idea of exactly what he 
was going to do, but the respon- 
sibility was now his. Coleman was 
a fine administrator, but Susie 
was Steve’s project and would re- 
main so until this issue was set- 
tled. 

One . way or the other, he 
thought. He took off at a jog af- 
ter Susie. 

“Steve, wait for me,” called 
Sue, running up to him. “I’m 
coming, too.” 

Steve said, “You’re not com- 
ing. First of all. I’d have to worry 
about you, too. Then — two people 
are much more likely to panic 
Susie. Finally — you’ll slow me 
down. I have no idea how fast 
she’s going to be moving.” 

He started off again before she 
could argue and Chuck led her 
back to the car. 

For an hour or so Steve sim- 
SUSIE'S REALITY 



ply followed Susie at a distance. 
She was aware of his presence, 
but did nothing about it. 
She moved slowly, being unsure 
of the world. Until today her 
whole life had been spent in a cage 
and now she had much to cope 
with. 

It would not make the situa- 
tion any easier, Steve realized, if 
he startled her now. She would be 
upset until she began to get ac- 
customed to the vaster world. He 
had tried twice to call her by meg- 
aphone. Each time Susie had only 
responded by speeding up her pacc^ 
He followed her into the moun- 
tains for another hour and tried 
the megaphone again. i 

“l^usie, come here, Susie. It’s 
me, Steve. I’ve got some nuts for 
you.” They were on the scree field 
now and Susie’s size and agility 
were giving her greater and grtaU 
er advantage over Steve. He was 
losing ground fast. 

It was then that he had decided 
he would have to shoot. He pre- 
tended that he would be shooting 
to wound, but he was far from an 
expert marksman and she was a 
good hundred and fifty feet away. 
The carbine turned out to be more 
powerful than he had expected and 
his shot hit ,the boulders twenty 
feet above and beyond her. Susie 
got the message fast. She spun 
around, screaming angrily, look- 
ing for Steve. But he was behind 
a large lichen-covered boulder, out 
of her sight. The next thing he 

m 




knew the mountainside was com- 
ing down on top of him. 

H e was truly frightened now, 
for the first time in his mem- 
ory. He had never really consid- 
ered that his life was at stake in 
this venture. Losing now would 
make an even worse ending for his 
thesis than what had already hap- 
pened. 

It was getting dark and 
neither Steve nor any of the 
sharpshooters had seen so 
much as a hint of Susie. The 
sun was sinking rapidly. In 
another fifteen minutes it 
would be behind the moun- 
tains and the helicopter 
would be coming in to evac- 
uate the area. , 

The radio came alive with 
Sue’s voice. “Steve, don’t 
do anything until I get there. 
They’re flying me in now. I 
can stop Susie. The whole 
situation has changed.’’ Her 
voice was strained. “I’ll be 
there in five minutes. Tell 
those army people to hold 
their fire while I try.’’ 

The connection was bro- 
ken and Steve could already 
hear the approaching heli- 
copter. He relayed her mes- 
sage to the other hunters just 
as the aircraft appeared over 
the ridge. In another minute 
it was hovering ten feet off 
the ground and Sue scam- 



pered down a rope ladder. 
The helicopter was gone in 
an Instant, climbing at full 
thrust. 

Steve pointed to the gen- 
eral area where he knew Su- 
sie had to be. “Be careful,’’ 
he whispered. 

Sue started slowly toward 
the hidden monkey. 

“Susie, Susie — it’s all 
right, Susie. Come on out 
Susie — it’s me.” She held 
her hands out in front of her. 
“I’ve got some nuts for 
you.” There was a slight 
movement about fifty feet 
down the scree field to her 
right. Sue came to within ten 
feet of where Susie was hid- 
den. She stopped. “Good 
Susie, everything’s going to 
be all right, Susie. Here are 
some nuts.” She threw the 
nuts just to one side of Su- 
sie’s hiding place. After a 
moment Susie appeared. 
Cautiously, she took a nut 
and ate it. Her nervousness 
seemed to abate when she 
saw no one else and she 
started into the rest of the 
nuts, keeping one eye on 
Sue. 

Slowly Sue raised her 
hands from her sides up to 
her lips. “Goodbye, Susie. 
Maybe we’ll meet again,” 
she whispered and slowly 
covered her eyes. 

Susie was gone. • 



112 



IF 




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Soma Contributors 
Past and Prasont 

Pou! Anderson 
iseec Asknov 
Alfred Bester 
James BUsh 
Robert Bloch 
Ray Bradbury 
Arthur C. Clarka 
L Sprague de Camp 
Lester del Rey 
Robert A. Heinlein 
Wmy Ley 

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Frederik Pohl 
Robert S. Richardson 
Robert Silverberg 
Theodore Sturgeon 
A.E. Van Vogt 
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. 




ADDRESS 






114 





NOVELETTE 



The planet was perfect for human 
seeding. . .but who reaped the harvest? 



MNARRA MOBILIS 



SYDNEY J. VANSCYOC 




I 

When heat began to flte 
upward through rock and 
soil, when the leaf clusters 
she had generated that 
morning nourished her with 
steadily diminishing quanti- 
ties of solar energy, Mnarra 
knew evening approached. 
Slowing, stopping, she called 
back the plasmic arms of 
herself which had flowed 
through the soil ahead of her 
main body. 

Reunited, she dissolved 
the taut cable of elastic root 
strands that connected her to 
the leaf clusters, which by 
now lay two miles south of 
her position. Then she be- 
gan to generate a new cable 
of strands upward. When the 
strands separated near the 
surface she spun out glossy 
new clusters of leaves to tow- 
er above the sparse spring 
vegetation on the hillside. 
The leaves spread deep green 
faces to the moons. Faint 
washes of reflected solar en- 
ergy reached Mnarra. 

She gathered herself into 
a pocket of limestone for 
the night. She was an ageless 
being who traveled alone 
and neither rock, soil nor 
water hindered her. She 
stopped only for night and 
then she soothed herself with 
ancient electrochemical 



conjugations, patterns as 
old as time. 

As old as Mnarra’s time. 

Hours later the leaf clus- 
ters alerted her. Sunlight 
grayed the darkness. Soon 
would be dawn, the celebra- 
tion. Mnarra prepared the 
scarlet blossoms with which 
she always greeted the new 
Sun. 

The sun rose. Her new 
leaves transmitted its ener- 
gy deep. Mnarra shuddered, 
enraptured. Her blossoms 
unfurled splendidly, one 
from the center of each leaf 
cluster, velvety petals coil- 
ing and spiraling out from 
soft golden eyes. 

She began to move again. 
Northward, always north- 
ward during the days of 
spring. The elastic cable of 
strands stretched dfter her. 
The leaf clusters fed her gen- 
erously. 

bn the other hillside, two 
miles south, the leaf clusters 
that had served her the pre- 
vious day wilted. The scarlet 
flowers that had celebrated 
the previous dawn drooped 
and died. 

But this was of no r,eal 
consequence. Mnarra had 
created. Mnarra had drawn 
nourishment. Now Mnarra 
continued her season’s jour- 
ney. 

Thus always. 



116 



IF 




ABOARD the settlement’s only 
hoverscooter Brennan hung 
briefly at the crest of the hill. 
Sweeping down its western flank. 
Earth grasses grew tender and 
green. At the foot of the hill, on the 
edge of the plain. New Powell was 
a collection of domes and dorms, 
each with its own broad apron of 
lawn. Then, like rays, the fields 
spread from the edge of the settle- 
ment. Corn stretched due west in a 
wide swath. Beans, tomatoes, 
squash, beets grew in thriving 
rows. And bounding the rays was 
a deep arc of wheat. 

Brennan’s eyes swept back up 
the hill to appraise the grazing 
Jerseys. It had been a busy ten 
months since landfall. There had 
been fields to clear; shelters to 
erect, the dairy herd to incubate 
from embryonic motes to birth- 
stage calves and then to tend care- 
fully through motherless in- 
fancy. 

But now their first growing sea- 
son was successfully launched 
and Brennan could hang here for- 
getting this was an alien world. He 
could imagine instead that he and 
his party had moved back through 
time to an era when their own 
Earth was a place of rolling hills 
and swaying grasses, to a time 
when the sky was blue, when puffy 
white clouds moved across it like 
great mindless gods set adrift. He 
could hang here and pretend City- 
America had never been perpe- 
trated upon the North American 



continent, that the congested 
gray sky clamminess of total ur- 
ban development had somehow 
been averted, the pastoral values 
preserved, cherished. 

And then he could move north 
from the crest of the hill and find 
himself upon an alien world 
again. His shoulders tightened as 
he did so. 

The vegetation below him now 
was not so different in form from 
what he might have found in the 
American wilderness centuries 
before. Green plants crawled, 
stood, reached, some with leaves 
palmate, others with leaves fan- 
shaped, oval or round. The differ- 
ence lay in response to season. 
Brennan had hopped these nearer 
hills a dozen times in the months 
since landfall. In late summer the 
vegetation had been lush and 
green. In autumn it had remained 
green. It had never browned for 
winter. 

Then with the onset of spring, 
despite frequent showers, the 
vegetation faded. Dark green be- 
came pale, even yellow. Now, two 
weeks after Brennan’s last sur- 
vey, barren soil showed through in 
large dark patches. Brennan took 
the scooter low. He had never ob- 
served the plants below to bloom 
or to seed. There appeared to be 
no other form of regeneration in 
progress either. 

He pulled the scooter high again, 
hoping that when he crossed the 
hills directly to the north, he 



AANARRAAAOBILIS 



117 




would find a different scene. 

What he found was the same yel- 
low-green carpet, sparse and un- 
encouraging. He hung over the 
wilting hills, troubled. Perhaps 
this was normal for spring. 

Perhaps it wasn’t. Last fall they 
had cleared their selected fields 
and hillsides in full expectation 
that the native vegetation would 
reappear, that they would have to 
root it out again. But it hadn’t re- 
appeared. Brennan frowned 
thoughtfully. The survey report, 
certainly, had told them little 
about native plant life beyond the 
fact that most species were ined- 
ible, many poisonous to warm- 
blooded animal life. The logical 
assumption, in view of the ob- 
served phenomena, was that the 
plant life of this world followed a 
different seasonal cycle from that 
of Earth vegetation, that it re- 
produced by radically differ- 
ent methods. 

But he had not checked the 
hoverscooter out to contemplate 
the dying hillsides. Today was 
the day he made his first visit to 
the crater area some miles north 
of the settlement. He lofted. 

F rom the survey report he 
had visualized a few dozen 
small craters — shallow, perhaps 
five feet in diameter — pocking 
the arm of the plain that reached 
around the hills to the north. Half 
an hour later he crossed the final 
barricade of hills and caught his 



breath, startled. Below' lay a vast 
area of land totally disfigured 
by craters forty feet and more in 
diameter — and deep. They in- 
terlocked in a crazy chain, some 
with rims sharp and relatively 
fresh, others worn, filling with 
soil. 

Unbelieving, he swung his 
scooter to measure the area. 

At noon he set down on a hill- 
side, stepped off the scooter. The 
craters claimed a swath of plain 
three miles wide and seven miles 
deep. The entire area was pocked, 
crater superimposed upon cra- 
ter. Only a few appeared recent. 
Most were older. Some had re- 
filled with soil, only slight inden- 
tations marking their locations. 
Still others held water. 

Brennan’s shoulders tightened 
with anger. EarthAuthority had 
permitted his people to erect their 
settlement and claim their fields a 
bare ten miles from this devasta- 
tion zone — without informing 
them of the magnitude of the phe- 
nomenon, without making any 
attempt to discover the forces 
behind the pocking, without even 
drawing charts to show the distri- 
bution of crater zones across the 
face of this continent. That was 
one of the few concrete facts he 
had gleaned from the report, that 
this area was one of dozens scat- 
tered across the continent. 

Abruptly Brennan reboarded 
the scooter and lifted off the hill- 
side. Swinging down, he ap- 



118 



IF 




proached the freshest crater, ma- 
neuvered the scooter down into 
it. Gingerly he avoided the steep- 
ly sloping walls. He tilted the ve- 
hicle to peer over the side, un- 
damped the handlamp and shone 
it down. 

He could see nothing at the bot- 
tom of the crater but mud. 

Did meteorites bury them- 
selves? He frowned. Did meteor- 
ites, for that matter, fall within 
sharply defined geographical 
belts? 

He took the scooter up. Mete- 
orites were one of the many topics 
his perfunctory CityAmerica 
education had not touched up- 
on. But if these craters were not 
the result of meteorite showers, 
what other explanation was 
plausible? Explosive deposits 
of natural gas? If so, what had 
detonated them? 

He returned home over the 
plain, detouring out and around 
the jutting line of hills. He hov- 
ered low, watching the terrain 
grimly. He found no trace of any 
crater beyond the devastation 
zone. So perhaps there was no ac- 
tual threat to the settlement. 

Nevertheless, later in the week 
he returned afoot with a crew of 
men. They lowered into the four 
most recent craters to attempt to 
excavate whatever rock of met- 
al bodies might have impacted the 
soil with such force. They found 
nothing to excavate, emerged 
empty-handed. 



As they packed their gear for the 
return trek, DiChiara, Brennan’s 
second in command, scratched 
the dark soil thoughtfully. “I 
don’t see any sign that this is a vol- 
canic area.” 

Brennan’s gaze moved from the 
plain to the hills, gentle, sensu- 
ous in their almost fleshlike con- 
tours. He was all too aware that his 
eyes were untrained. “I don’t ei- 
ther,” he said without convic- 
tion. ‘‘Next week I’ll take the 
scooter south for a recon run.” 
DiChiara glanced at him sharp- 
ly. ‘‘You think you’ll find another 
crater area down there?” . 

‘‘I don’t know what I’ll find.” 
DiChiara stretched erect. “May- 
be I could ride along.” 

Brennan was noncommittal. 
“Maybe so, Dick.” He hitched his 
shovel upon his back. The expe- 
dition had not been productive. 
His disquietude was greater 
now than it had been earlier. 
There should have been something 
at the bottom of the craters, 

Mlondas moved deep when 
it was cold, stretching taut 
the cable of root strands that 
connected him to his leaf 
clusters^. But on warm days 
he skimmed near the sur- 
face, a thin layer of plasma 
rippling through the topsoil, 
unhindered by roots and 
nodes. 

Now it was spring and 
those roots grew flaccid. But 



MNARRAMOBILIS 



119 




Mlondas did not mourn the 
ground cover that withered 
overhead. Where it thinned, 
the soil lay bare and the sun’s 
warmth poked through in 
friendly fingers. 

Soon the intensity of heat 
told him the sun was at ze- 
nith. He paused to spread 
himself molecule-thin in 
the upper inch of topsoil. 
Dawn was the celebration, 
the occasion for creating 
great waxen white flowers to 
declare his formal ecstasy. 
But noon was more dear. 
Rapturously he basked. 

The time passed and Mlon- 
das drew himself together, 
flowed into a deeper layer 
and continued on. There 
weren’t many minutes to 
tarry. An ancient being, 
Mlondas traveled slowly. 

Traveled slowly, traveled 
south, in spring. 

Thus always. 

T hey moved a hundred feet 
above the plain, Brennan and 
DiChiara. Brennan watched the 
ground intently, trying to con- 
ceal his irritation. He had looked 
forward to a solitary hover. But 
DiChiara had talked his way 
aboard. 

Now DiChiara talked his way 
southward. “You ever wonder 
how the Latins developed as a 
talkative, volatile race while 
Northern Europeans are typi- 



cally repressed and quite distant?” 

“I didn't,” Brennan admitted, 
unencouragingly. 

“Well, contrast the climates 
they evolved from. The Latins 
never had to contain themselves. 
They could expand all over the 
great outdoors — year 'round. But 
the Scandinavians were sealed 
up together months at a time, 
drifted in, surrounded by hostile 
elements. No way to escape each 
other but in — into themselves. If 
they let themselves express every 
emotion, like the Latins, if 
they — well, take that dorm blow- 
up between Swenson and Diaz 
last winter, during the rains, 
Swen was simply reacting — ” 

Brennan’s hands tightened on 
the controls. So they were back to 
Swenson. “Swenson has permis- 
sion to erect an individual shel- 
ter anywhere within the boun- 
daries of the settlement. I granted^ 
that several months ago.” 

DiChiara nodded. “Sure. Sure. 
BjLit Swen wants to locate on the 
other side of the fields. He’s of 
Swedish stock. He wants privacy. 
He figures that after next month, 
when he and Tilla are married — ” 

“No. It’s policy, Dick — until 
the ship checks back we live as a 
unit. There are half-dozen couple 
cottages Swen and Tilla can 
choose from if they don’t want to 
build.” 

DiChiara moved discontented- 
ly. “Now look, Bren, this isn’t 
CityAmerica, These people 



120 



IF 




came here to be free — and you’re 
administering New Powell like 
an Earthside housing develop- 
ment.” 

Brennan peered at DiChiara. 
Smiled grimly. He remembered 
his childhood, remembered a 
pale finger of sunlight falling on- 
to the asphalt play area at the bot- 
tom of the concrete-slab canyon, 
remembered fighting savagely 
to occupy it. Now he glanced at 
the bright sun overhead. “I’m run- 
ning New Powell like a detach- 
ment to a world we know very lit- 
tle about. Over the next four years 
we’ll learn. Then we can disperse 
and enjoy our freedom.” 

“For God’s sake, Bren! What is 
there to learn? There’s no animal 
life here. Not even insects. The 
survey ship determined that 
much. So if Swen and Tilla clear a 
place and put in Earth grasses, 
fence the area after they have chil- 
dren, come out to the fields every 
day like everyone else — ” 

Brennan shook his head. “Drop 
it, Dick.” New Powell had been 
endowed, like every EarthAu- 
thority-sponsored settlement, 
with equipment, food, supplies 
and seeds to insure survival 
through their first five settlement 
years. The ship would check back 
at the end of that period. If they 
had succeeded in making the 
planet bear, it was theirs. But if 
they had failed they would be re- 
turned to CityAmerica, to the 
bottom of the planet party list. 



those of them who chose to try 
again. 

Brennan was aware that his 
headsman’s training had been as 
perfunctory as his early, tity- 
America education. But one 
principle he had grasped firmly. 
It was not always the hard worlds, 
the hostile worids, that defeated 
the settling party. Sometimes it 
was the lush worlds. 

The too-easy worlds. 

This could be one. The colo- 
nists faced no anomalies of ter- 
rain or climate here. There was no 
hostile animal life. The sky was 
bright, the air fragrant. The fields 
were already thriving, the young 
dairy stock flourishing. But Bren- 
nan didn’t intend to let his people 
relax and enjoy until they had 
passed their first five-year test. 

They continued across the plain 
in strained silence. Five miles 
south of New Powell, Brennan 
began zigging and zagging, cut- 
ting broad swaths across the yel- 
low-green terrain. Ten miles south 
DiChiara came to life again. “You 
ever think what’s going to happen 
if all these plants die and the 
ground is bare when the rains 
come?” 

“I’ve thought about it. But the 
heavy rains aren’t due before late 
fall. I’m sure the ground cover will 
regenerate by then.” 

DiChiara shrugged. “Nan Perry 
suggested we sow the hills right 
away. Just in case.” 

Brennan’s brow rose. “Oh?” 



AANARRAAAOBILIS 



121 




“We have grass seed enough to 
cover a dozen of the nearest hills. 
They’d take now and hold the soil. 
A month from now it might be too 
late.’’ 

Brennan shook his head. “No, 
we’re not scattering seed that far 
afield until we’ve had more time to 
evaluate the local life cycle.’’ 

“Well, it’s going to demolish 
our life cycle if the hills come 
down and we’re inundated in 
mud.” 

Brennan sighed. “Look, Dick, 
there’s no sign these hills have ever 
come down. We landed in late sum- 
mer and the vegetation was 
thick. Between now and late sum- 
mer this year, something will hap- 
pen. The ground will be covered 
again.” 

DiChiara appraised Brennan 
darkly. “Maybe you should put 
that sentiment in a frame and 
hang it at the next community 
meeting. I hear things you don’t.” 
Brennan frowned. “Do you?” 
“Some of our people think 
we’ve killed this world.” 

Brennan’s brows arched, under- 
scoring his patent disbelief. 

“Well, look around. It’s spring 
— and everything is dying. Ev- 
erything except our crops. Twan 
Yano says we’ve pierced the flesh 
and the beast perishes. Nan Perry- 
says we’ve already destroyed the 
planet’s ecology by putting down 
our alien seeds. Nick Sorenson 
thinks we’ve introduced a new el- 
ement, some element that didn’t 



exist here before and now it’s poi- 
soned all the plant life. Kerri Rice 
says. — ’’ 

His recital was interrupted. 
Brennan swung the scooter 
abruptly, his eyes intent on the 
ground. Describing a broad arc, 
he brought the scooter down. 

“All right, look at that!” 

DiChiara looked, clinging to the 
passenger bar. His speech drib- 
bled away into un-Latinate si- 
lence. 

B rennan dismounted. At 
his feet a broad patch of dark 
green foliage sprang from the 
soil. The leaves grew in clusters, 
dozens of clusters, young and ag- 
gressive. Each cluster was 
crowned with a single scarlet 
blossom, its velvety petals cork- 
screwing gracefully from a deep 
golden center. 

Suddenly DiChiara was beam- 
ing, his dark face transformed. 
“Hey! It’s spring, Brennie! The 
place is blooming!” He laughed. 
“Hey, do you think — ” 

“I think we’d better leave the 
flowers where they are.” 

“And bring the people instead. 
Hover them out in pairs. Yano 
and Nan Perry first. Sorenson and 
Rice next. Schroeder and Vincin- 
zi.Then— ” 

Brennan shook his head. “No, 
even by twos, that would add up to 
seventy-five round trips. I think 
we can declare a day off for any- 
one who wants to hike out.” 



122 



IF 




“Um.” DiChiara considered 
the proposition, nodded vigor- 
ously. “Sure. Just run the scooter 
out with picnic supplies. Make a 
day of it, a real day. A spring festi- 
val.” 

Brennan was less enthusiastic 
about festivals than about facts. 
He stooped, touched a single crisp 
leaf, turned it, examined it. “I’ve 
never seen this plant before,” he 
said, his face serious. 

“Yeah? Well, lots of plants only 
pop up at certain seasons, don’t 
they?” 

“Lots of plants — Earth plants 
— bloom only at certain seasons. 
Usually the foliage is on dis- 
play for longer periods.” Bren- 
nan stood, frowned across the 
plain. He reboarded the scooter. 
“Let’s see if we can spot another 
stand of it.” 

In the ho^rscooter they de- 
scribed a series of broadening 
semi-circles. Some minutes later 
they spotted the second patch. 

Approached it. Landed. 

Stood saying nothing. 

The second patch of foliage 
lay two miles south of the first. 
And it was dying. 

DiChiara looked uneasily 
back in the direction of the first 
patch. “Well, there's no way to tell 
how long these leaves have been 
out,” he said. “Who knows? It 
might be a species that only lives 
a week or two.” 

“Might be.” 

DiChiara paced around the 



ragged patch of dying greenery. 
“Or water shortage? We’ve had 
showers, but maybe out here — ” 
He shrugged, offering the theo- 
ry deprecatingly. 

Brennan rejected it. “The other 
patch is only two miles away. It 
doesn’t look parched.” 

'^m.” DiChiara brightened. 
“Well, maybe if we take another 
hop we’ll find a third patch. In bet- 
ter shape.” 

Brennan chewed his lip. “Good 
idea.” 

They hopped. 

The third patch of leaf clusters 
lay almost three, miles farther 
south. This patch wasn’t dying. It 
was dead. 

“I think we’d better bring the ag 
team out here before we let the 
others know about these plants,” 
Brennan said when they had paced 
around the brown vegetation, 
handled the collapsed flowers. 

DiChiara nodded. “It would 
really shoot morale if everyone 
heard about this. The only thing 
coming up — and it’s dying as 
fast as it grows.” 

“That’s not necessarily signifi- 
cant, Dick. We can’t expect plant 
life here to follow the same sea- 
sonal schedule we’d expe'et on 
our own world.” 

Good words. Reasonable 
words. But Brennan’s feelings, as 
he lifted the hoverscooter back 
toward New Powell, were not of 
the same order. 

‘^At least we didn’t spot another 



AANARRAAAOBILIS 



123 




crater zone in our backyard/’ Di- 
Chiara pointed out. 

II 

B RENNAN’S feelings became 
still more confused two days 
later when he and DiChiara hiked 
the ag team across the plain ex- 
pecting to find the patch of flow- 
ers ten miles south of New Powell. 
They found it six miles south in- 
stead, fresh and vigorous, bloom- 
ing in the midmorning sun. 

DiChiara checked his pedome- 
ter, took visual bearings. He 
growled, “This isn’t where we left 
our leafy friends. Is it, Bren?” 
Brennan was stepping around 
the clusters of leaves, measuring 
off the dimensions of the patch. 
“This isn’t the same patch at all. 
It’s more oblong. And has slight- 
ly less area.” 

DiChiara squatted, touching the 
point of a leaf. He addressed 
Schroeder, New Powell’s chief 
agtech. “Well, what do you make 
of it, Schroeder?” 

Schroeder’s lopsided lips curled 
up. “What do I make of what?” He 
examined the leaf clusters per- 
functorily. “It’s a patch of some- 
thing. It’s growing out of the 
ground. I think it lives here.” 
DiChiara stood, embarrassed. 
Brennan smiled tightly. With 
crops booming, Schroeder and 
Vincinzi were cocky. The hike 
across the plain had turned into a 
contest, ag team pushing to out- 



do command team. “1 think the 
point, Dick, was to compare a 
healthy patch with an unhealthy 
patch — and decide what made 
the difference.” 

DiChiara rubbed his dark hair. 
“But the healthy patch we had in 
mind is four miles on. And the un- 
healthy patch is two miles past 
that.” 

“And you boys can’t manage 
it?” Schroeder suggested. 

The command team could man- 
age it. Or could have. But less than 
two miles from the new patch of 
leaf clusters, they encountered a 
second patch, a dying patch. 

Two miles beyond that, they 
reached a dead patch. 

“This is the one we were look- 
ing at the other day,” DiChiara 
said, shaking his head. “It was in 
the same condition then that the 
first one is now. And the one be- 
yond it — two miles farther out — 
was in the same condition as the 
one we found two miles ahead to- 
day. And two miles beyond that — ” 

Schroeder groaned. 

“Two miles beyond that,” Di- 
Chiara insisted doggedly, “was. a 
dead patch. Dead like this one.” 

Vincinzi pulled a pad from her 
pocket. “Dick, could you run 
through that again and let me 
make a pictorial representa- 
tion?” 

“I don’t think he can say all that 
again,” Schroeder said. 

But DiChiara could. And then 
they clustered around Vincinzi, 



124 



IF 




intently studying her diagram. 

“It might be significant that 
all these patches of vegetation 
are aligned north and south,” she 
said thoughtfully, nibbling the 
end of her jotter. “And there’s a 
north-south sequence to the life 
stage, too.” 

DiChiara nodded. “The freshest 
patch is always farthest north, the 
wilting one in the middle, the 
dead patch south.” 

“What does that prove?’’ 
Schroeder demanded. 

Vincinzi was carefully detail- 
ing her representation to indi- 
cate progressive life sta^e. “Do 
you think it would be all right if we 
dug a few of these withered clus- 
ters?” she asked Brennan. 

He shrugged. “I don’t think it 
can hurt anything. You might 
learn something from the roots.” 
What they learned was that the 
clusters had no roots. The stems 
extended inches into the soil. 
Then there was nothing. They laid 
the dug clusters out on the ground 
and sfared at them in perplexity. 

“What keeps the damn things 
alive?” Schroeder growled, his in- 
terest finally engaged, ( 

DiChiara grinned. “Nothing 
keeps them alive. They’re dead.” 
Schroeder glowered, kicked the 
pile at their feet. “All right, let’s 
move north again and dig samples 
from the other two stands.” 

T he middle stand, dying, was 
as rootless as the first. Their 



selected cluster from the nor- 
thernmost stand, however, re- 
sisted their efforts to remove it 
from the soil. When they had dug 
to a depth of two feet, they shov- 
eled dirt out of the area beneath 
the base of the plant stem. Extend- 
ing from the stem was a single 
wiry strand. 

Vincinzi brushed the soil from 
the strand and tested it gingerly 
with her forefinger. She looked 
up at the three men. “It’s tough. 
And it’s growing toward the mid- 
dle of the stand. We won’t be able 
to follow it without uprooting 
other plants.” 

“You can uproot a plant that has 
no roots?” Shroeder asked dark- 

ly- 

“There may be a large commu- 
nal root,” Vincinzi pointed out, 
standing. “Near the center of the 
cluster.” 

Brennan squatted, examined the 
tough strand. He shook his head. 
“We don’t want to dig any farther 
into the patch. But we could poke 
around the edges some more.” 

They poked. All the wiry strands 
grew toward the center of the 
clump, 

“All right,” Schroeder said 
vengefully, when they stood back 
from the patch of green. “We’re 
marching two miles due south 
again, children, and we’re digging 
out that entire patch. We’re dig- 
ging to a depth of five feet, ten if we 
have to, to find that central root. 
Because I want to see it.” He 



AANARRAAAOBILIS 



125 




hoisted his shovel over his shoul- 
der. “Objections, Brennan?” 

Brennan peered souths nar- 
rowed his eyes in thought. The 
patch there was obviously mori- 
bund. “No objections.” 

This time their trek south was si- 
lent. When they reached the dying 
stand of vegetation, they set to 
work doggedly, digging, piling 
the limpening leaf clusters on 
their flaccid stems to one side. 

They dug to a depth of five feet. 
It grew dusky around them. They 
dug a foot farther. Then they ate, 
dispirited.- 

“Well, I don’t know,” Schroe- 
der said finally. “There ought to 
be something down there — some- 
where.” 

“Maybe if we kept digging,” 
DiChiara suggested lamely. 

“Sure, sure,” Schroeder said in 
disgust. “Why don’t we bring the 
whole settlement out and dig up 
the entire plain. If we don’t find 
anything — at least we could plant 
the area for fall.” 

It was dark when they began 
the trek back across the plain. The 
two moons overhead were gold 
and gray against the dark sky. In 
the distance they could see the 
frail light of New Powell. Soon 
they saw something else! Four 
miles from New Powell an entirely 
new patch of leaf clusters grew, 
springing green and vigorous from 
the.soil. 

Vincinzi took it calmly, Schroe- 
der blackly, Brennan silently. It 



was DiChiara who had hysterics. 

When he was calm again Vin- 
cinzi said, “You know, I think 
these plants are going north for 
the summer. I think they’re mi- 
grating.” 

Brennan nodded, admitting to 
the inevitability of the conclusion. 
“1 think you could be right, Vin.” 

“I think no one’s going to be- 
lieve how we spent the day,” 
Schroeder groaned. 

DiChiara scrambled to his feet. 
“Well, I know how I’m going to 
spend the rest of the night. I’m go- 
ing to bed.” He stumbled away to- 
ward New Powell. 

The night was disturbed. 
Strange things occurred 
above. The soil was jarred in 
an unsettling fashion. Mnar- 
ra quivered and burrowed 
deeper, stretching her new 
root strands tight. She hud- 
dled, uncertain. 

Later she flowed cautious- 
ly back to the upper layers 
of soil. The disturbance had 
passed. She remained alert 
for a while, ready to retreat. 
Finally she relaxed and lulled 
herself with the conjugations 
of night. Her fresh leaf clus- 
ters caught mellow silver- 
gold moonbeams and fed her 
that light sustenance while 
she dreamed. 

T WAS midmorning when Vin- 
cinzi stepped into the head- 



126 



IF 




man’s dome. She hesitated uncer- 
tainly at the door to Brennan’s of- 
fice. “I’m a little upset, Bren. 
There’s something we should have 
caught last night when we decided 
those plants wefe migrating.” 

Brennan nodded, motioning to- 
ward the papers that lay on his 
secretary. “I was just getting to 
it.” 

“Oh?” Surprised, she bent, stud- 
ied the rough map he had drawn. 

“They’re due to pop up at the 
south end of the cow pasture some 
time tomorrow night, if they con- 
tinue on the same course at the 
same rate,” he said. “Whether 
they turn up just inside or just 
outside the fence depends upon 
how exactly they conform to the 
average distance of two miles a 
day.” 

“Yes, that’s how I calculated it, 
too.” 

“Mention it to anyone?” 

She shook her head. “Not even 
to Schroeder. We can’t let the cat- 
tle near that foliage. Can we?” 

“We can’t.” Brennan tapped the 
microviewer on his desk. “I re- 
checked the plant files last night. 
The survey team only tested the 
most prevalent species. This spe- 
cies wasn’t among those. But more 
local species are poisonous than 
not.’’ 

“If it only appears at this sea- 
son and only in isolated patches 
the survey team may not have 
seen it.” Vincinzi frowned thought- 
fully. “We don’t even have a place 



to house the cattle temporarily, 
do we?” 

“We’re canning beans in the 
cow barn today.” The enclosed 
cattle structures of the winter be- 
fore had been disassembled, their 
components formed into a single 
open cattle shelter in the pasture 
and processing sheds near the 
fields for the first crops. Brennan 
directed Vincinzi’s attention back 
to his map. “The pasture is five 
miles long between the hillside 
portions and the plains portion 
that reaches behind New Powell. 
The plants, whatever they are, 
should erupt inside the fenced area 
twice.” 

“Don’t we have some spare 
fence we could throw around the 
foliage when it appears?” Vincinzi 
proposed. 

“We do. But we’re claiming this 
land, Vin. Just this one small par- 
cel, for the time being. There’s 
half a continent to our east and 
half a continent to our west. I 
want that flower bed to learn to 
detour around us.” 

Vincinzi smiled palely at the 
image. “I don’t believe any of our 
people have ever trained a flower 
bed, Bren.” 

“It’s a skill most CityAmeri- 
cans neglect to develop,” Brennan 
agreed dryly. “Here’s my idea. 
Tomorrow we disassemble the 
pasture cow shelter. Around noon 
we establish a watch in the area 
where we expect those plants to 
erupt. As soon as they show, we 



AANARRAAAOB4LIS 



127 




cover them with roof sheeting 
from the cow shelter. That stuff’s 
pretty tough. It should hold them. 
Then we string fencing around the 
patch for a few days. The next 
day we set a guard on the entire 
pasture, because once we’ve dis- 
rupted the ’pattern, there’s no tell- 
ing when or where new foliage is 
likely to reappear. When it shows 
its head again, we follow the same 
procedure.” 

“In other words we smother the 
plants out?” 

“I hope it doesn’t amount to 
that. According to my map, they 
will pass through the western half 
of the pasture. I’ll be satisfied if 
we can divert them to the other 
side of the fence and keep them 
there.” 

Vincinzi was troubled. “But the 
species may not have lateral mo- 
bility, you know. It occurred to 
me that perhaps there is one very 
deep root that extends for miles, 
with the foliage and flowers erupt- 
ing at intervals along it. I’m as- 
suming it lies much deeper than 
we dug last night,” 

“Well, if that’s the case, maybe 
we can teach it not to erupt along 
the interval that includes our 
lands.” 

“Maybe. But this seems out of 
line with the way we treated the 
plant yesterday. We were very 
conservative about interfering with 
it then.” 

"“That was before we realized it 
was coming through the cow pas- 



ture. 1 wouldn’t be so gentle with 
any other native species that ap- 
peared inside our territory.” 

Vincinzi was still not entirely 
pleased with the proposed plan. 
But she could advance none to 
match it. “We’ll have to tell the 
others about the plant, won’t we?” 
“I’m calling a community 
meeting tonight.” 



It had never happened be- 
fore. At . nightfall Mnarra 
halted, gathered herself and 
generated her new cable of 
root strands. The strands 
separated and reached to the 
proper level. Then she began 
spinning out fresh leaf clus- 
ters. 

She could tell they did not 
rise as they should have. She 
could tell they were in some 
way blocked. And although 
there should have been 
washes of moonlight travel- 
ing down the root strands to 
her, there were none. 

None at all. 

It had never happened be- 
fore. She settled, troubled, 
and tried to follow the night 
pattern she had established 
over the centuries. But the 
dreamlike electrochemical 
conjugations did not soothe 
her, did not lull her. Some- 
thing was wrong above, 
gravely so. 

At last she achieved a state 



128 



IF 




of semiconsciousness. She 
rested. 

She realized with fearful 
suddenness that the soil 
around her was almost noon- 
warm. Quickly she shud- 
dered to full consciousness 
and stretched, spreading her- 
self in a thin layer. 

It was true. The sun had 
long risen. But her leaves 
had sent her no message of 
dawning light. She had cre- 
ated no flowers in celebra- 
tion. 

It had never happened be- 
fore. 

She moved up through the 
soil until she hovered in the 
upper inch of topsoil. She 
could feel the stems of her 
own leaf clusters. They were 
not as they should have been. 
They were pushed downward 
through the soil, jammed 
inches deeper than they 
should have been. And they 
were flaccid. 

She didn’t dare enter the 
air above to probe for 
causes. It would be out of 
order. Instead she moved 
deep again, gathered herself 
in a globular formation and 
thought. 

The solar energy the leaf 
clusters should have been dis- 
patching to her was not sore- 
ly missed. Not today. There 
were elements of her plasma 
that could be converted back 



to energy without particular 
difficulty. 

But she was not a being of 
boundless matter. There were 
limits. 

She could only move 
ahead and hope that tomor- 
row’s stand of foliage would 
not be impeded. She would 
not move far, first because 
half the day was already 
gone, second because she did 
not care to expend energy 
extravagantly. She would 
move ahead a short distance 
and then she would rest. 
Then she would create new 
root strands, new leaves. 

And she did. 

And it did not work. 

Nor did it work the day 
after. 

Finally she knew she would 
have to take a radical step. 
She would have to deviate. 
She would have to abandon 
her established meridian and 
set an alien course. It was 
spring, but Mnarra would 
travel for one day, two if 
necessary, west. Because she 
was discovering something 
she had never suspected. 
The leaf clusters had given 
her more than energy. They 
had provided her stimulation 
that was essential to well- 
being, to her will to live. 

She knew something now 
that no being of her race had 
ever known before. 



AANARRAAAOBILIS 



129 




it took a while, but 
▼ ▼ there she blows,” DiChi- 
ara said triumphantly the evening 
the leaf clusters finished their pre- 
cipitant growth at the edge of 
New Powell’s communal lawn. 

Brennan nodded. His strategy 
had worked, though he had suf- 
fered qualms. He studied the 
strange plants at his feet. This 
patch was smaller than any he had 
seen on the plain. But the foliage 
appeared healthy. He glanced 
around at the gathered members 
of the community. There was no 
mistaking their avid interest. 

“Now, where does it bloom?” 
“No idea,” Brennan admitted. 
“Maybe someone will stay the 
night to keep watch.” 

“Ha! I know thirty-two of us 
who plan to stay the night.” 

“Well, happy flower-watch. I 
intend to hit the bunk. Tomor- 
row we have to think plant again,” 
“We do?” DiChiara was sur- 
prised. 

“We do. It traveled almost due 
west today,” Brennan pointed 
out. “If it heads north. again to- 
morrow, we can let it go. But if it 
heads west, it’s going to surface in 
the fields.” 

“Uh, oh.” DiChiara glanced to- 
ward the fields. “But it couldn’t do 
much damage to the corn or 
wheat, Bren. I mean, this patch 
isn’t more than twelve feet in di- 
ameter.” 

“The patches on the plain were 
more like twenty-five feet in diam- 



eter. Could be it will lay on extra 
area tomorrow and next day to 
compensate for the past few days.” 
“Oh? You’re buying Schroe- 
der’s theory about the lateral- 
growing root twenty feet down?” 
Brennan shook his head. “I 
haven’t heard a theory yet I can 
subscribe to. It just strikes me this 
species shows interesting adap- 
tive qualities. Maybe part of the 
adaption to the unusual condi- 
tions we’ve presented is to leash its 
growth for a few days — and then 
really to spread wide.” 

“Um. So what do we do if it tries 
to take over the wheat?” 

Brennan shook his head weari- 
ly. “I don’t know. I’m going to 
sleep on the problem.” 

He did sleep on it. But he was 
awake soon after dawn, his curi- 
osity tickling. He reached the 
plant site a quarter hour later. 

He reached the, plant site a half 
hour late. 

Vincinzi’s voice was hushed. “It 
bloomed just at sunrise, Bren. It 
was the most moving experience 
I’ve ever had. The blossoms ap- 
peared from the stalks and un- 
folded just as the sun came over the 
hill. It was like a salute. A salute 
to dawn.” 

Brennan looked around the cir- 
cle of faces. Vincinzi wasn’t the 
only one who had been stricken 
with awe. His people — there were 
more than thirty-two of them — sat 
and stood, attention fixed almost 
reverently, faces dazed. The pet- 



130 



IF 




als of the flowers spiraled scarlet 
and graceful from deep golden 
centers. Dew stood limpid on 
dark leaves. 

“Maybe I’ll get to see it tomor- 
row,’’ Brennan said. 

Ill 

Mlondas reached the ap- 
pointed area at the appoint- 
ed time. He flowed into po- 
sition smoothly. 

He waited. He waited 
through the long day, sun- 
ning himself in the topsoil. 
Mnarra did not come. 

Sometimes it happened. 
There was a slight discrep- 
ancy in their rates of travel. 
One arrived before the oth- 
er. Mlondas waited anoth- 
er day, his leaf clusters 
turned hungrily to the sun. 
He gorged himself. He ex- 
panded his matter. 

Then Mlondas waited an- 
other day. The interval be- 
tween their arrivals had nev- 
er before stretched to this 
length. It had never hap- 
pened. 

On the fourth day, Mlon- 
das did something he had 
never done before. He 
moved south of the spring 
mating area. Mnarra had 
been delayed. He must reach 
her, because soon he must 
begin his summer journey 
north. His arrival at the au- 



tumn mating area must coin- 
cide with Mrruka’s. 

He moved quickly, tak- 
ing no time to sun himself in 
the upper layers. His wax- 
en white flowers wilted be- 
hind. 

<4TP HERE’S another one com- 
X ing.’’ 

Brennan looked up from his pa- 
pers, startled. Schroeder stood in 
the open door, his face indignant. 

“It’s coming down from the 
north, a white one.’’ 

Brennan stared at his chief ag- 
tech. Slowly he stood. “Where is 
it?’’ 

“It’s four miles out. Swen and 
Tilla were hiking up to look at the 
crater area. Swen had the pedom- 
eter. This one’s traveling fast, 
Bren. Faster than the other one 
ever traveled. The wilting patch is 
almost four miles north of the 
fresh patch.’’ 

“And the third patch?’’ 

“They didn’t find it. They ran in- 
to the crater area first.’’ 

Brennan made a swift decision. 
“I’d better take the scooter out. 
Want to come?’’ 

Schroeder did. Lofting into the 
late afternoon, they soon con- 
firmed Swen’s report. The first 
patch, leaves and white flowers 
fresh, lay four miles north of New 
Powell. The second patch, wilt- 
ing, lay four niiles north of the 
first. And the third, withered and 
brown, lay near the center of the 



MNARRA MOBILIS 



131 




crater area. It was difficult to 
distinguish from the surround- 
ing vegetation, which was now 
just as brown, just as withered. 

“The damn thing's fast, what- 
ever it is." 

Brennan nodded. “It’s so fast it’s 
going, to come up inside the pas- 
ture area in just a couple of hours, 
Guy.’’ Quickly he turned the hov- 
erscooter and headed south to 
New Powell. Luckily the pasture 
cow shed had not yet been reas- 
sembled. “We’ve got to get a crew 
out to the north pasture fast.” 

They had their crew on duty 
within the hour. The new plant ar- 
rived just after dusk, poking its 
mi^ltiple green heads aggressive- 
ly through the'soil. Moving quick- 
ly they smothered it, fenced it. 

Then they stood around it. “Any 
news about the other one?” 
Schroeder demanded. 

Masters had just arrived from 
New Powell. “It surfaced half a 
mile up the lawn from its last posi- 
tion.” 

“In the clear?” Brennan asked. 
Night before last the plant had at- 
tempted to emerge beneath the 
floor of one of the storage domes. 
The result had been a dome encir- 
cled by a foot-deep flower bed. The 
next evening foliage had failed 
to appear anywhere within or 
around New Powell. 

“Yep. It’s smack in the middle 
of the cottage area lawn. It’s small 
again. About fifteen feet diame- 
ter.” 



Brennan nodded, then returned 
his attention to the crew. “I want 
you to stay on duty here through 
the night. Take turns walking the 
entire pasture with handlamps. 
This stand doesn’t behave quite 
like the other one. There’s always 
the chance it might surface again 
before morning.” 

He and Schroeder returned to 
New Powell together to appraise 
the other patch of vegetation. 
“At least this business keeps 
minds off what’s going on out 
there,” Schroeder said sotto voce, 
motioning behind. 

Brennan refrained from glanc- 
ing in the direction of the night- 
darkened plain. A week ago the 
vegetation there had been dying. 
Now it was dead. His conviction 
that the land would cover again by 
late summer wavered painfully. 

“We’re going to have a mud 
bath if that stuff doesn’t grow back 
before the rains,” Schroeder con- 
tinued in a low voice. “I took units 
in erosion control. But there’s ^o- 
ing to be no controlling this place. 
Not even our own hillsides and 
pastures, if the rest of the place 
turns to slop.” 

“I know,” Brennan said with- 
out expression. “There’s nothing 
we can do but wait.” 

“And hope?” Schroeder was 
glum. “You sitting flower-watch 
tonight?” 

“I think I may,” Brennan said. 
Discouragement weighed heavi- 
ly upon him. Their own fields 



132 . 



IF 




thrived, but tlje rest of the world 
seemed to be dying. Irrational- 
ly, he couldn’t helpv feeling re- 
sponsible for the death that lay 
across the land. 

Mlondas reacted with swift 
indignation when his leaf 
clusters were flattened as he 
unfurled them tjirough the 
soil. He had traveled for 
days south from the appoint- 
ed area and he did not intend 
to be frustrated. Not in any 
way. 

His days of waiting and 
engorging had provided 
him with extra matter. 
There was no point in con- 
serving it, in waiting here 
where he was thwarted. He 
moved forward, breaking 
connection with the leaves 
that had been maltreated. 
He moved quickly, spread- 
ing himself thin, riding the 
top layers of soil, then dodg- 
ing deep. Searching. 

It was hours before he 
found the first clue that 
Mnarra had been near. Her^^ 
charge still clung to the soil. 

He decided quickly. He 
had never deviated before. 
There had never been neces- 
sity, any more than there 
had ever been necessity to 
venture south of the mating 
area. 

This time was different. 
He followed Mnarra’s trail. 



T he inhabitants of New Powell 
stood around the giant patch of 
foliage in awe. It flowed across 
the entire broad lawn north of the 
dorm area, rustling in the evening 
breeze. 

Brennan, DiChiara, Schroeder 
and Vincinzi circled the patch. 
“It’s at least twice as big as any of 
the earlier patches,” Schroeder 
grumbled when they had mea- 
sured off the circumference. 
“And look, it’s several hands tall- 
er than before.” 

Brennan looked. Nodded. He 
could only agree. This new patch 
lay a bare half mile north of the 
spot where the red blossoms had 
greeted the sun that morning, 
more than three miles from the 
pasture where they had smoth- 
ered the other patch of foliage 
the previous evening. 

“Bren, do you think the patches 
met and combined?” Vincinzi 
suggested. “That would account 
for the increased area.” 

“1 don’t know.” Brennan glanced 
around. “But I guess everyone in 
New Powell is pulling fiower- 
watch tonight.” He had spread his 
own blanket on the grass last night 
for the first time. He had slept the 
night fitfully, waking frequent- 
ly to be sure the blossoms had not 
emerged without him. 

Then the sky grayed with ap- 
proaching dawn and he sat up. 
Dozens of faces glistened silent- 
ly in the bare light. 

“Don’t miss it, Bren,” Vincinzi 



MNARRA AAOBILIS 



133 




said softly when he turned his head 
to check the condition of the east- 
ern sky. 

He didn’t miss it. First he caught 
the scarlet rim of the sun above 
the hill. Then he turned his head to 
see the scarlet flowers rising ma- 
jestically from their leafy 
thrones. They slid slowly up into 
the crisp morning air and imme- 
diately unfurled, tall and proud. 

It was a ceremonial salute. He 
felt it. A salute to the day. Awe 
moved him, crowding away doubt 
and worry. It was many minutes 
before he took his eyes from the 
scarlet flowers, before he moved. 
Toward this moment, he felt, his 
life had been directed. For this 
brief glimpse of the majesty of 
creation, of the unity of nature 
he had endured the empty years, 
the painful and anxious years. 

“What do you think about itiain- 
taining a patrol in the pasture to- 
night?” DiChiara asked. 

“Tonight?” Brennan consid- 
ered, reluctantly, wanting mere- 
ly to spread his blanket and sit. “I 
suppose we should, just jn case. 
You’ve been here for sunrise sev- 
eral times. Mind handling the pa- 
trol yourself?” 

“I’ll take it if there isn’t anyone 
else.” 

“Maybe you can talk Harder 
into handling it.” Brennan 
shrugged the matter off. “Stay- 
ing, Vin?” 

She nodded. “I’m eager to see if 
the two patches have combined. 

134 

/ 



I’ve promised myself I’ll get back 
to .my own bunk after one more 
evening, though.” 

The early evening hours were- 
passed convivially. Conversa- 
tional groups formed, mingled, 
reformed. Refreshments were 
passed. Songs were sung, songs 
that had survived despite the long 
asphalt-black years of CityAmer- 
ica. In the early morning hours ' 
the settlers stretched out on their 
blankets or retired to nearby 
dorms. The lawn became quiet. 
Voices were low, conversation 
fragmentary. 

Brennan lay on his back a bare 
yard from the perimeter of the 
foliage. “We should do this more 
often.” 

Vincinzi rollecTto her stomach. 
“Sit up with a flower bed?” 

“No, have spontaneous gather- 
ings. Out in the open.-No plans, no 
formal arrangements. Just ev- 
eryone together for. the eve- 
ning.” 

Vincinzi smiled. “That would be 
fun. I don’t think we’ve thrown off 
enough of our CityAmerica so- 
cial habits.” 

“We’ve been here less than a 
year.” Some of the settlers had 
opened up easily, quickly dis- 
carding the depersonalized 
facades imperative for survival 
in the population crush of urban 
life. Others — including Bren- 
nan — had been slower to emerge. 
“You know, I signed on the planet 
party list because I wanted to see 

IF 




the stars. And there tliey are.” His 
eyes moved across the diamond-lit 
blackness. 

Vincinzi laughed. “I think 
they’ve been up there every night 
since we landed.” 

“Well, this is the first time — last 
night and tonight — that I’ve actu- 
ally come out from under the roof 
long enough to enjoy them.” 
Much of his busyness, he sus- 
pected, had been designed to cush- 
ion him from the shock of finding 
his total circumstance, his entire 
lifelong frame of reference, sud- 
denly and totally changed, per- 
manently changed. 

Soon they dozed. 

Then the eastern sky was gray, 
and the inhabitants of New 
Powell woke. Brennan sat, rocked 
Vincinzi’s shoulder. “Time.” 

Vincinzi sat, looked around. 
“Everyone’s here.” 

“Not quite.” Brennan surveyed 
the gathering. Most sat farther 
back. Behind them others stood 
in their nightwear. Near the 
dorms, dozens more huddled in 
the half-light. “Want to move 
back? We could probably see bet- 
ter.” 

“You?” 

Brennan shrugged. “I’m happy 
here.” 

“AH right, I’ll take the close 
view. But I reserve the right to 
move later.” Her hand crept for- 
ward. 

Into his. 

His shoulder moved. 

AANARRA AAOBILIS 



Against hers. 

The sun rose. 

Vincinzi’s hand tightened on 
Brennan’s. “They’ve mingled.” 

The flowers rose slowly, proud- 
ly, petals streaked, scarlet on 
white, white on scarlet. They stood 
in silent homage to the sun. From 
the settlers, a communal gasp of 
awe. Brennan’s heart squeezed. 
The moment was again, the mo- 
ment his days had been directed 
toward. The moment of unity, 
sun a scarlet circlet at hilltop, 
blossoms standing tall — 

— and earth blooming before 
him. 

Earth blooming up in a great 
dark fountain from the center of 
the flowers. Blooming up in an 
explosive fountain, a fountain 
that first knocked Brennan back 
and then carried him with it. 

He heard a cry. Whether it was 
his own or Vineinzi’s, he never 
knew. They were one with each 
other, with the bright flowers, 
with the soil, in their last moment. 

It was many days before 
the explosion-scattered 
fragments of Mnarra’s un- 
expended plasma tunneled 
through rock, soil and water 
to reunite in the limestone 
pocket many miles south of 
the new crater. Then Mnar- 
ra was whole again, the 
spring seeding accom- 
plished, the ancient ritual 
observed. The young she had 

135 




created in union with Mlon- 
das grew green and thick on 
the land to a radius of hun- 
dreds of miles. They prolif- 
erated, their reaching roots 
loosening the soil. 

It had not mattered, then, 
that this year there had been 
disturbances and devia- 
tions. Even on the night be- 
fore the formal celebration 
of the mating, before the ex- 
plosive dawn distribution 
of their seed to the winds 
above, she had felt distur- 
bance overhead, had felt the 
soil jarred and compacted. 

Perhaps it would never 
happen again. 

But she could not pause 
now. Far and far to the south, 
Mtunnas had surely com- 
pleted his spring seeding 
with Mpurta. Now he would 
be traveling north, travel- 
ing to the mating area where 
he and Mnarra would meet 
at the end of autumn to seed 
that half of her designated 
lands. Mnarra had a re- 
sponsibility. If she failed 
to meet Mtunas, if they 
failed to mate and seed, the 
land would lie exposed to 
wind and rain. 

Quickly Mnarra extruded 
a cable of root strands. They 
separated. She spun out 
large, hungry green leaves. 

They fed her. She moved 
south. 



A WEEK after the explosion^ 
DiChiara stood in the head- i 
man’s office, weary, eyes dark-| 
rimmed. He stared at the sketch^ 
Brennan had made of the deadly ! 
flower’s course through the vil-^ 
lage. His own blood-red X marked^ 
the spot of the disaster — twenty^ 
of their people killed outright,j 
Headman Brennan and Agtech . 
Vincinzi among them; dozens in-- 
jured, some critically; two dorms 
badly damaged. 

DiChiara had seen it from the . 
pasture, the dawn blooming of^ 
the strange flowers, the subse- 
quent blossoming of the land. He 
had heard the thunderous report, 
the cries. But he hadn’t believed itv 
not for hours. Sometimes he stilt 
didn’t believe it. He kept Bren- 
nan’s sketch tacked near the secre- 
tary to hold the reality before 
him. 

Schrgeder appeared at the of- 
fice door, face heavy. “No sign. I 
sent Swen fifteen miles north. this 
morning. Harder fifteen miles 
south this afternoon. I don’t think 
we’re going to catch those flow- 
ers, Dick. Not now.’’ 

DiChiara’s fist hit the secretary 
top in frustration. “You sent the 
boys in search pattern?’’ 

“As usual.” 

DiChiara sat, his eyes bleak. He 
had heard dozens of theories con- 
cerning that explosion. But 
DiChiara wasn’t interested in 
theories. “Any reshow of the oth- 
er species in the pasture?” 



136 



IF 




“No.” Four days after the ex- 
plosion the second crisis had de- 
scended. Thousands of native 
seedlings had suddenly sprouted, 
tender and green, growing 
fast — growing everywhere, in the 
lawns, in the fields, in the pasture. 
The settlers lost half their dairy 
herd to the poisonous seedlings 
before their numbed minds 
grasped the , nature of the crisis. 
“I think we have them elimin- 
ated, Dick. Parnell came up with 
an interesting theory—” 

DiGhiara shoot his head. “No. I 
want facts, Guy. Somehow^that 
vegetation reseeded right under 
our eyes. It must have happened 
before the plants on the plain with- 
ered. Now, instead of our people 
sitting on the lawn theorizing, I 
want observers on the plain. Ev- 
ery day, Guy. I want detailed day 
to day observations on the life 
cycle of the native vegetation. 
Next year I want to know in ad- 
vance when you expect that 
ground cover to regenerate so I 
can have crews waiting in the pas- 
ture. I don’t want to lose cattle 
again, Guy.” 

Schroeder nodded: “I see your 
point. You want me to continue 
the search for the flowers too?” 

DiChiara considered. “No. I’ll 
buy your conclusion that they’ve 
fled the scene. But they’ll be back, 
Guy, They’ll be heading for the 
crater area again come next 
spring — that much I’ll bet on. And 
by early spring we’re going to 



have crews watching for them.” 
The colonists would be ready for 
the treacherous flowers next 
time. When the foliage ap- 
peared, they would dig it out^ burn 
it out, smother it out, extermin- 
ate it. There were going to be no 
more explosions, not within New 
Powell, not near New Powell — not 
unless the settlers made the ex- 
plosions themselves, bombing 
the plants out of existence. 

But DiChiara didn’t have to 
elaborate upon his plans. Schroe- 
der understood. All New Powell 
understood. When next the scar- 
let and white flowers came strid- 
ing across the plain they would die. 

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AANARRAAAOBILIS 



137 





NOVELETTE 




Knowledge is power and the 
Bzrahbas knew all— until 
they met the unknowable! 



PROMISE THEM 




of the conference room 
like a man stunned. He gripped his 
portfolio in both hands. A thing 
as big and frightening as this 
must not be let get away, get told 
around. 

Someone edged over beside 
him. Someone else coming out. 
Kurt Richler. “What do you 
think?“ Kurt asked. 

“I think we’ve got trouble,’’ 
Darrah said. 




139 



“Ach,” Richler said, nodding. 
“Trouble.” He wandered away. 

A goodly crowd was already 
waiting at the elevators. Sub- 
dued, all talked in low tones. 
Some of them just stood, looking 
blankly at blank walls. A car took 
eight or ten into its mouth and 
swallowed them whole as Darrah 
approached. He leaned against the 
wall, staying apart from the rest of 
the people. He got out his tobac- 
co pouch and began stuffing his 
pipe. 

Quite a scene it had been. Old 
Sami up there on the platform like 
some college professor. Old 
Sami — Sami Berkan, Secretary 
General of the. United Na- 
tions— but for once a Sami Ber- 
kan who acted more like a fresh- 
man who hadn’t studied, now 
called on to recite. 

“I want ideas, gentlemen,” he 
had said. “No matter how ab- 
surd, I want them. The demand 
these creatures have made is — I 
would say — preposterous. But I 
must also say that they have made 
it and we must accept that they 
have power to force compliance 
to anything they demand. We are 
helpless, gentlemen. Helpless.” 

Then he played the tape. 

tt’^OU shall make note I have 
X taken effort your language 
to learn,” the Bzrabba said. It had 
a wheezing, raspy voice. “We wish 
to be cause of as little inconven- 
ience as possible.” 



Berkan was still trying to make 
his stomach stay where it be- 
longed. He had been briefed, of 
course. He had been shown dozens 
of pictures. He had been tipped off 
about the smell. (Like rotting 
wood and dung in an abattoir.) All 
the same, meeting face to face 
(more or less) and nose to nose (but 
where were its olfactory organs 
placed? Did it have olfactory or- 
gans?) took some getting used to. / 
mil feel all right in a minute, he ^ 
told himself. 

Or two minutes. 

Five? 

He glanced out into the heavy 
gray haze that hung above the East' 
River. On second thought, it 
would be best not to open the win- 
dow. He wanted badly to close his 
eyes — shut out at least the sight of 
the creature in front of his desk. 
He had been warned, though — as if 
he needed warning — that he must 
do nothing that might offend. All 
the available evidence indicated 
that the civilization of the 
Bzrabba (as they called them- 
selves) was superior to human 
civilization in about the same 
proportion as human civiliza- 
tion was superior to that of ter- 
mites. 

“One of our languages — yes,” 
the Secretary General said. 
“We have many. My own native 
language is Turkish, but — yes — I 
am fluent in this one.” 

“Do you humans possess infor- 
mational speech from the egg?” 



140 



IF 




the alien wondered. One of its 
arms — one of the pair that lacked a 
grasping appendage— made a 
limp gesture. “Neglect that. It is 
mere intellectual curiosity. 
We have no time for that. It might 
be interesting to kqow, but — ” 
The arm’s tip cracked like a whip. 
“We wish to be cause of not more 
inconvenience than we must,” it 
said again. “We have come only 
for that which is ours.” 

If a lobster and a cuttlefish 
could be mated, something like 
this creature from the stars might 
have been the result. Erect, it 
stood eight feet tall, not counting 
the four stubby, down-covered, 
many-branched antlers on top. Its 
upper torso was a medley of 
cruves that made Berkan think of 
free-form sculpture, though in a 
general way it could be said to re- 
semble the hard parts of a squid’s 
body. In color it was a blotched 
montage of purple and green. It 
walked (though that was not exact- 
ly the word) on what would have 
been a lobster’s pincers if a lobster 
could stand on its head and if its 
pincers were modified beyond 
recognition. It wore a covering 
over its midsection that could 
have been leather and could have 
been taken for a ^breastplate, 
though Berkan had been given to 
understand that was probably 
not its function. None of the 
Bzrabba had been seen without 
such covering and the most rea- 
sonable explanation was that 



they were worn for essentially 
the same reason Tarzan wore a 
loincloth when he lived with the 
apes — ^just because one associ- 
ated with another species one 
didn’t go around showing off what 
shouldn’t be shown. (Since mouth, 
reproductive organs or excre- 
tory organs had not yet been 
identified there was consider- 
"able debate over exactly what 
was concealed and, of course, it 
would be poor diplomacy to in- 
quire. Ask a Scotsman what he 
wore under his kilt?) 

But the communication recep- 
tors—sight and sound — had been 
at least located. Their locus was 
also the approximate source of 
that ghastly voice. The creature’s 
face, therefore, was down there 
under the arch of its legs. It was 
going to take some getting used 
to. 

Berkan moved from his desk to 
the settee. “I would invite you to 
sit down,” he said. “I must apolo- 
gize that we are not well equipped 
to accommodate — we did not ex- 
pect — I can only suggest you 
adopt the stance that is most rest- 
ful to you. I have no wish to be for- 
mal. This is our first meeting. I 
would like it to be as friendly as 
possible.” Unobtrusively — he 

hoped — Berkan reached over to 
adjust the air-conditioner. Per- 
haps its filters would do some- 
thing to moderate that stench. 

“I offer gratitude,” the crea- 
ture said. “Your gravity — ” It 



PROMISE THEM ANYTHING 



141 




flopped on its back, the end con- 
taining its face pointed toward 
Berkan. It was something of an 
improvement, but Berkan still 
had the feeling he was talking to 
the creature's reproductive or- 
gans. He would just have to shut 
that idea out of his mind. 

'‘1 should make a point of infor- 
mation clear to you," Berkan 
said. “Perhaps it has been done, 
but I see no harm in being posi- 
tive you've understood it.'' 

“What is told three times is 
true," the creature said. Berkan 
took it to signify agreement. 

“The point is this," Berkan 
said. “It is true I am Secretary 
General of the United Nations, 
and someone not familiar with 
the true situation — such as your- 
self— might interpret this to mean 
I am the person most nearly in 
power over all the people in the 
world. ' However, the situation is 
not that simple. ,Our people are 
divided into many groups and the 
men who control each of those in- 
dividual groups hold far more 
power than 1, while I myself have 
only the most tenuous influ- 
ence over what they do. Therefore 
I am not in a position to make 
agreements with you — your civi- 
lization. I can only serve as an 
intermediary." 

“That will satisfy," the Bzrab- 
ba said equably. Its feet were still 
planted squarely on the carpet, 
legs elbowed up grasshopper 
style, as if it were going to do 



pushups with them. “1 myself am 
not exactly voice-bearer of all 
the Bzrabba. This person has 
been led to understand you hu- 
mans speak of myself to be a thing 
called ambassador. That is not 
an accurate description of the 
true facts. Most nearly in your 
language, myself should have the 
appellation of Agent of the Con- 
sortium." 

For practical purposes, Berkan 
supposed, it was a distinction 
without a difference. This par- 
ticular member of the Bzrabba 
landing party (as identified by 
the decorations on its breast- 
plate, but did the same one always 
wear the same breastplate?) had 
shown itself to be their spokes- 
man. If it were hot an ambassa- 
dor, willy-nilly it was fulfilling the 
role of one. 

“It is possible my understand- 
ing of the language is not per- 
fect," the Bzrabba said. “My 
grasp would be an ambassador is 
a person who represents a thing 
called government to another 
thing also called government, the 
two things being same, only sep- 
arate. Our civilization do not 
have this thing called govern- 
ment." 

“Then how do you—" Berkan 
stopped. It would be interesting 
to learn the political structure of 
their civilization, but there 
would be time for that later. Just 
now other matters were more im- 
portant. The whole question of 



142 



IF 




relationships with the Bzrabba 
would have to be settled. 

^HAT uncertainty had been 
A hanging over the world ever 
since the Bzrabba ship appeared 
in orbit around the Earth-moon 
system. (It was an orbit that sent 
astronomers scrambling to de- 
rive new solutions to the famous 
three-body problem, whatever 
that was.) The ship was 673 miles 
long, 244 Vi miles wide in its major 
axis, not counting the five shark’s 
fin projections from its bellied 
midsection. Betraying no de- 
tectable propulsion system, the 
ground party’s dome-shaped land- 
ing craft came down^ gently as a 
drifting balloon. On entering 
the atmosphere, which it did at 
meteoric speed, the hull dis- 
played not the slightest tempera- 
ture rise from friction with the air. 
When the craft touched down in 
front of the terminal building at 
O’Hare International Airport 
in Chicago its weight punched 
through the pavement. It still 
stood there, many miles high. Air- 
craft had to divert to other fields. 

“I hope that our conversation 
can at least form the basis for mu- 
tual understanding,” Berkan 
said. .The air-conditioner wasn’t 
doing a bit of good. 

“Yes,” said the Bzrabba. “That 
is our hope also. We desire to 
cause as small inconvenience as 
possible.” 

A civilization that could build a 



ship as gigantic as theirs— pro- 
pelled by a system men could not 
imagine — could crush humanity 
like a beetle. Berkan was thank- 
ful their attitude was peaceful. 
Through his mind flashed the end- 
less lists of possible motives and 
submotives the think-tank sce- 
nario builders had been cranking 
out — with all the frantic haste of a 
berserk computation ma- 
chine— ever since the Bzrabba had 
come. Some of the ideas had been 
chilling horrors. 

“I do not know what our civili- 
zation can possibly . offer 
yours,” Berkan said. “But — ” He 
gave an inquiring, expectant 
glance. 

“Perhaps I make myself better 
understood by telling you of 
many things,” the Bzrabba said. 
“It shall be permitted?” 

“Certainly.” Berkan settled 
himself to listen. Inevitably a 
visitor from the stars would have 
far more to tell Earth than Earth 
.could tell in return. An intellect 
that could master a totally 
strange tongue in a mere six 
weeks — what wonders could it not 
relate? 

“It is to begin,” the Bzrabba 
said. “You must be told that the 
Bzrabba have existed a very great 
length of time. Since before the 
time of many stars that now you 
see. 

Truth? Boasting? Did it make a 
difference? Berkan nodded but 
reserved judgment. 



PROMISE THEM ANYTHING 



143 




“Our worlds — our civiliza- 
tion has such age that no meaning 
be carried in the mention of 
where the Bzrabba had origin. 
Our worlds, you could say, are pri- 
mordial, having taken composi- 
tion out of matter clouds in an 
eternity when in all the cosmos 
were only small- portions of any 
but the least complex configura- 
tions of matter. The equivalent 
concept in your science would be 
elements, though such rudimen- 
tary procedures for distinguish- 
ing one from another ignore al- 
most all the finer details. Only 
scant abundances of matter more 
complex than approximately 
the number twenty in your no- 
menclature — called by you calci- 
um — can be found in our worlds. 
You will notice that I have taken 
effort to familiarize this person 
with the state of your scientific 
knowledge. It is most interest- 
ing — primitive, but possessed of 
striking instances of true insight. 
Unfortunate that one cannot ex- 
pend more time to absorb such 
pleasures.” 

“Pm flattered,” Berkan said. 
He wasn’t sure that he was, but it 
seemed a polite thing to say. “We 
are all flattered.” 

Again that whipcrack gesture 
with one of the pincerless arms. 

“Though scarcity of them pre- 
vail, there does exist in our tech- 
nology myriad aspects to which 
more elaborate matter struc- 
tures are useful. On these, it is a 



consequence, we place high 
value.” 

B erkan crossed his legs. He 
was beginning to understand. ' 
“You want to establish a trading 
relationship?” In all the think- 
tank scenarios, that possibility 
had stood high on the list of prob- 
able developments. 

“Please to allow the making of 
complete understanding in our 
purpose,” the Bzrabba said. “It 
has been our perception that not^ 
all humans have full education in 
the scientific information other 
humans hold— a very strange cir- 
cumstance that this person is 
bemused by. So you may not know 
that the more elaborate matter 
structures have their creation at 
the innermost part of large 
stars — larger, I would say, than 
the star around which this world 
has orbit. That one is too small and 
constructs only the number two 
element of your nomenclature, 
which you call helium, from the 
number one, named hydrogen.” 

“I remembr being told,” Berkan 
said. “It is the same process as with 
our hydrogen bombs. Or — ” He 
cocked his head, trying to re- 
member. It was one of those dis- 
tinctions scientists were always 
making — distinctions he couldn’t 
understand. “Sometimes they tell 
me it is, sometimes not.” 

“We have found,” the Bzrabba 
went on, “it is most practical to 
secure the more complex con- 



144 



IF 




figurations of matter in quan- 
tities needed by use of a technique 
that removes from suitable stars 
the outer portions whose weight, 
by gravitational power, have 
forced matter construction into 
more elaborate forms. Then it is 
necessary, of course, to leave the 
remaining part — which is al- 
most the pure material desired — 
to dissipate in radiation the 
superfluous energy heat possessed 
in it. Your language would say, ‘to 
cool,’ but such terminology is 
sadly inexact. After a space of 
time the process arrives at com- 
pleteness and the material is 
ripened for our usage.” 

“Entire stars?” Berkan won- 
dered. His grasp of astronomy 
was minimal in spite of his brief- 
ing, but still the casual assertion 
of such abilities — even for the 
Bzrabba — was hard to accept. 

“It is no difficulty to be done,” 
The Bzrabba said. “Merely to ad- 
just the dispositions of a two-star 
system in such fashion that a 
lesser star shall draw, by gravita- 
tion, from the surface of the larger 
streams of matter which are 
thrown in winding outward spiral 
into space surrounding it. Such 
events are now in process else- 
where and are noticed by those of 
you humans that have interest in 
such matters, who say ‘Beta Lyrae 
type’ and believe their selves ^to un- 
derstand the thing proceeding.” 

“I am — ” Berkan fumbled for 
adequate words. He felt as if a wind 



were blowing through him — as if 
the floor under his feet were only 
empty space and distant stars. 

“Please to be reminded,” said 
the Bzrabba, “our civilization is 
advanced in technology beyond 
the comprehension of your most 
all-knowing minds. Our worlds 
scatter through all this galaxy and 
the globular clusters that sur- 
round. Some portion of us have 
journeyed farther. We are vast.” 

Berkan could only nod. The 
Bzrabba might only be boasting 
but — 

“Go on. I’m not sure what this 
has to do with us, but — ” He 
waited. 

“We are a patient people,” the 
Bzrabba said. “Foresighted. Like 
your farmers who plant seeds that 
in a future season they might har- 
vest — similarly do the Bzrabba 
prepare the cores of stars for later 
gathering. It happens, though, 
that often much else has taken 
place in the expanse of time while 
our core is becoming ready for 
usage. Frequently the matter re- 
moved from the star has con- 
densed into planets around the 
other star — the star that was em- 
ployed to do the removing. The 
core itself, in the course of dis- 
charging its superfluous energy 
heat, has undergone minor 
changes — has developed a husk 
of waste materials outside it as a 
shell, a slag that has risen outward 
to cover its surface. It isTrue, that 
husk-shell often does include 



PROMISE THEM ANYTHING 



145 




much matter of desirable con- 
figuration, but in such com- 
plicated mixture and such small 
abundance that to separate the 
wanted from the not-wanted would 
be not efficient. It becomes nec- 
essary therefore to remove that 
husk and discard. We have come to 
do that now." 

Berkan frowned. "1 think I do 
not understand.” 

“But it should be obvious,” the 
Bzrabba said. “As I have said, we 
do not wish to cause more incon- 
venience than is necessary, nor 
have we wapt for anything not 
ours. But our civilization has 
great need and places great value 
on the matter structure number 
twenty-six in your nomenclature, 
which you call iron. That sub- 
stance exists in good quality as the 
inner parts of this, which you mis- 
takenly describe to be, your world. 
It is not yours, but ours. It has dis- 
charged sufficiently now and we 
have come to gather it. I am very 
sorry, but we must request you 
humans please to get off. 

D ARRAHn struck a match and 
got his pipe going. 

For all his shock. Old Sami was 
still a seasoned diplomat. Driven 
numb, back to the wall, his final 
words on the tape had been calm. 

“1 thank you for your frank- 
ness,” he had said. “As I have told 
you I am not in a position to reply 
at this time. I trust it will be ac- 
ceptable to defer a response 



while I confer with my staff and 
advisors and consult with var- 
ious heads of state.” 

An Earth-born diplomat would 
have known he was being put off. 
Maybe the Bzrabba knew it, too, 
but it did not demur. It had not, it 
said, expected instant com-, 
pliance. Adequate time would be 
allowed. 

In the conference room Berkan 
had admitted not knowing what 
the Bzrabba meant by adequate 
time — nor had he thought it wise 
to ask. He had won a little time, 
but that was all. 

“We need ideas, gentlemen,” he 
had said again and waited. 

No one had said a word. 

II 

B ack m his office Darrah 
slouched behind his desk. His 
pipe had gone out. After a while he 
lit it again. He opened his portfo- 
lio and spilled the briefing papers 
in front of him. Each report had a 
folder of its own. He flipped 
through them, made sure they were 
all there. They summarized — so 
he was told — everything known 
about the aliens. Everything. He 
leaned back and drew on his pipe. 

After a while he picked up the 
phone, dialed home. Kris an- 
swered. 

“Kris?” 

She knew his voice. “Mike? 
Something the matter?” 

“I’ll be working late tonight,” he 



146 



IF 




said. “Won’t be home— not till 
very late.” 

“But you never work late.” 

True^ enough, he never had. 
“Tonight I’m working late. 
Something’s come up. No, I can’t 
talk about it.” 

After he had hung up he looked 
at the phone for a while. He didn’t 
know if she really believed, but 
she would have read the papers 
and would know the Bzrabba had 
talked with Sami. If she couldn’t 
figure out why such news meant 
that an economist working on in- 
ternational trade problems had to 
work late — well, it was too bad. 

He stared through his window. 
The skyline lifted out of after- 
noon shadows, all angular shapes 
like a hodgepodge of battle- 
ments. After a while he picked up 
the phone again. 

He got Jorge Kipnis. “Jorge, let 
me talk to his nibs.” 

“He’s not—” 

“Jorge, I was at that meeting 
and you were there, too. Let me 
talk to him.” 

Jorge made no argument. After 
a moment’s wait Darrah was 
talking to Berkan “I’d like to 
hear that tape again. Can you send 
someone down with a copy?” 

“Best not,” Berkan said. “I took 
a chance letting so many hear it. 
Journalists would — ” 

“I’ve been thinking,” Darrah 
said. “I’d like to hear it again. If 
it’s as I remember, it’s just pos- 
sible I’ll want to have a talk of my 



own with — well, you say what he is. 
Superman?” 

“Not ‘man,’” Berkan said. “On' 
the rest of it. I’m sorry to admit, 
you are probably correct. Why 
don’t you come up and we’ll hear 
the tape together? And then, per- 
haps, talk. Of you have anything 
at all to suggest I’ll very much 
want to talk.” 

Darrah could believe that. 
“Now?” 

“Now is the best time, is it not?” 

T he Secretary GeneraTtistened. 

Other men drifted in. They lis- 
tened, too. They asked questions. 
They rubbed their jaws. 

“What do you think?” Berkan 
asked at last. 

Paul Shimer stubbed a cigarette. 
“I’d say it hangs on too many as- 
sumptions. Too many things we 
don’t know.” 

“That’s why I want to talk to 
him,” Darrah said. “I want to find 
out how close I’m guessing.” 

“The chance that you’re right all 
down the line is about one in a hun- 
dred,” Shimer said. 

Reluctantly Darrah nodded. 
“Okay. But look,” he said. 
“They’re talking to us. If they 
thought we were nothing — they 
wouldn’t. They’d just start chop- 
ping and not pay us any more at- 
tention than you’d give the bugs 
under the bark of a tree. And that 
one on tape — he kept saying that 
bit about not causing us any in- 
convenience—” 



PROMISE THEM ANYTHING 



147 




“Huh!” Colin Corcoran mut- 
tered with scornful irony. 

“Maybe they mean it,” Darrah 
said. “Maybe they really do. And 
if that’s so we should try to find out 
how much inconveneince they 
think is necessary.” 

“We already know,” Corcoran 
said flatly. 

“Tm not so sure,” Darrah said. 
“We know one thing they want. 
It’s a lot — it’s frightening — but 
it does leave a lot of other 
aspects — well, indefinite. If we 
take them at their word — ” 

Corcoran frowned. “You’re 
really serious, aren’t you?” 

“Aren’t you?” Darrah asked. 
“Aren’t we all?” 

Berkan tapped a pencil oh his 
desk. “I think,” he said, “our 
chances are probably small. Nev- 
ertheless, we have a possibility 
here — a small hope. It should be 
explored. Now — ” He leaned 
back, gazing at the far wall. 

“You’re going to let him talk to 
that creature?” Shimer objected. 

Berkan raised an eyebrow. “He 
should be there. It is, after all, his 
thought and he will understand 
the ramifications more clearly 
than someone else. But — yes, you 
are right. For the talking it is nec- 
essary to have a man who will say 
neither too much nor too little.” 

He turned his chair and looked 
out into the late afternoon. The 
sky was full of a yellowish haze. 
He thumbed the intercom. “Hel- 
ga? Find out if Walter Lewis is 



still in the building. If he is — ask 
him to come up. If he’s gone home 
or somewhere, locate him.” 

To the men arranged before his 
desk he said, “Merely because a 
quest is doubtful is not a reason 
to reject it without trial.” 

T he Bzrabba had been quar- 
tered in a Waldorf Towers 
suite. Darrah left the elevator a 
half step behind Walter Lewis. The 
weight of the tape recorder was al- 
most pulling his arm from its sock- 
et. They turned down the hall. 

A squad of aides received 
them — UN people assigned to 
serve as the Bzrabba’s errand 
boys. They knew Walter Lewis by 
sight. Darrah and Lewis were 
ushered into the alien’s presence 
with a minimum of bother. 

The room had been stripped of 
its usual furnishings, though a 
painting still hung on the wall and 
drapes still framed the window 
casements. The Bzrabba was 
leaning into what looked like a 
fishnet supported at an angle by a 
chrome-shiny cantilevered frame. 
A paperback in an advanced 
state of dismemberment lay on 
the floor between its feet. As Lewis 
and Darrah entered it carefully 
tore still another page from the 
tattered spine and held it up to its 
visual organ — first one side; then 
the other — and added it to a neat 
pile on its left. As its tricorn pincer 
reached for another page it 
deigned to notice them. The room 



148 



IF 




was full of a stink like something 
dead in a swamp. 

“Quaint, the form of artistic ef- 
fort in which you humans dab- 
ble,” the Bzrabba said. It placed 
the remnant of Finnegans Wake 
on top of the loose pages and came 
erect. “May this one welcome of- 
fer into this, which temporarily 
be its place of occupation?” 

Lewis chattered something 
about how the Bzrabba surely 
didn’t object if they made a tape of 
everything that was said. Darrah 
found an outlet that would take 
the machine’s cord and diddled 
with the reels and switches. The 
aides hurried in with an armchair 
and a small divan, saw them placed 
to everyone’s satisfaction and 
withdrew. The Bzrabba flopped 
on its back. Lewis waited until the 
door clicked shut, then nodded to 
Darrah. 

Darrah got the tape started and 
backed away from the machine. 
The stench was making him phys- 
ically ill. If Lewis was affected he 
showed no sign of it. 

“We’ve come about the request 
you made to the Secretary Gen- 
eral this morning,” Lewis said. 

“Transfer of information has 
been done,” said the Bzrabba. The 
words had an implacable flatness. 

“That’s true,” Lewis said. He 
shifted uneasily in the armchair 
and leaned forward, his hands 
laced together. “We feel, how- 
ever, there are some considera- 
tions we should explore together. 



I’m sure you’ve no objection to 
our discussing the matter.” 

“It is not to make refusal of 
communication,’’ the Bzrabba 
said. “The fact has been said. 
Describe what more must be 
done.” 

Lewis let his breath out slowly. 
His body relaxed like a balloon 
beginning to deflate. Darrah 
looked down at the tape machine. 
It was running just fine. 

“We believe conflicts can be 
averted by mutual understand- 
ing,” Lewis said. He even sounded 
relaxed. “However, before we go 
on, we’d like to satisfy a point or 
two of curiousity. Do you mind?” 

“Objection be not given.” In 
spite of the huskiness of its speech 
the complete indifference of the 
Bzrabba’s attitude could not be 
mistaken. 

“It’s simply this,” Lewis said, 
keeping to a diffident manner. 
“What you want — the only thing 
you want — is the iron. Is that 
right?” 

“Statement does correctness 
have.” 

Lewis was slow with the next 
question. “Our cosmologists 
think — aren’t there a lot of worlds 
with iron inside them? Ones you 
can take without bothering any- 
body?” 

The Bzrabba clacked its pincers. 
It was a sound like chopsticks 
being rattled. “Worlds having 
core of substance called by hu- 
mans iron in natural course do not 



PROMISE THEM ANYTHING 



149 




happen/’ it said. “Bother be to the 
Bzrabba that humans have dis- 
courtesy to occupy without per- 
mission or even to make presence 
known. Nevertheless, the Bzrab- 
ba choose to force no greater in- 
convenience than be not avoid- 
able,” 

Lewis betrayed his dismay only 
in a momentary glance in Dar- 
rah’s direction. Darrah, under 
orders to say nothing, could only 
nod. Lewis went back to the job. 

“Tell us,” he said. “We’ve in- 
ferred from things you’ve said that 
you’ve encountered life — living 
things — on many worlds. We’ve 
been wondering, though — arguing, 

I should say — whether you’ve 
found intelligent creatures before.” 

“Not only worlds,” the Bzrabba 
said. “The interrelated chemical 
processes in complexity — called 
by you humans life — exists many 
places, possessing of myriad 
forms. To the Bzrabba are loca- 
tion-places known to the number 
beyond enumeration. But of the 
ongoing multifarious process — 
called by you life — that which is 
possible to have description as 
creative intellect — such have the 
Bzrabba made count only to the 
quantity of six, of which two still 
have existence. Humans now be 
with the numbers of seven and 
three.” 

Darrah saw the diplomat’s eyes 
twitch at the corners as if in pain. 
He waited, holding very still, 

“What has been the attitude of 



the Bzrabba toward them?” 
Lewis asked. 

“Bemusement,” said the Bzrab- 
ba. All four pairs of pincer-tipped 
arms clasped hands across its body. 
Darrah thought of a grotesque 
Santa Claus holding its belly 
while it laughed. 

“In a universe old, a peculiar 
new item,” it went on. “Inferior, 
but having possession of queer in- 
terest. A rare trifle. Deep has been 
regret in the Bzrabba to have wit- 
ness borne at demise of the four — 
to have to see the wilt of the two 
that yet are remnant.” 

“Thank you,” Lewis said, swal- 
lowing hard, “Our scholars will be 
very interested.” He looked 
around. Darrah gave him a slow, 
grave nod. He might have hoped 
for better. But this would do. 

“Did these others have anything 
the Bzrabba wanted?” Lewis 
asked. “Did their presence ob- 
struct the Bzrabba from any- 
thing?” 

The Bzrabba made a rude noise. 
“They did not dare,” 

Lewis bent to open his brief- 
case. He took out his notebook. 
His face was a plain mask. His 
hand wasn’t quite steady. 

“Quaint also, such an artifact, 
that storage of date and retrieval 
are done,” the Bzrabba observed. 

“What we need is this,” Lewis 
said, looking up from his notes. 
“The Secretary General antic- 
ipates considerable difficulty 
in convincing the leaders of some 



150 



IF 




nations — most, in fact — of how 
seriously you mean your request. 
People in some parts of the world 
aren’t too well informed about 
scientific concepts. It may be ex- 
tremely hard to persuade them 
you mean what you say.” 

“Persuasion shall be done,” the 
Bzrabba said. Cold as a banker 
collecting the widow’s mortgage. 

“The Secretary General,” Lewis 
said, tapping his thumb on the 
notebook, “thinks it’s possible 
they’re more likely to be con- 
vinced if the Bzrabba would send 
emissaries to explain your posi- 
tion directly to Various govern- 
ment leaders in — well, a number 
of countries. In some nations it 
might even be a good idea to speak 
directly to the people. We’d sup- 
ply as much help with learning the 
languages as we’re able, but in 
some cases that might not be much. 
Could we expect your coopera- 
tion?” 

The Bzrabba’s pincers un- 
clasped, one pair at a time, while 
it spoke. “If, by such course, ac- 
tivity be expedited, the Bzrabba 
shall enjoy the giving of as- 
sistance. We have intent, well de- 
clared, to be stimulant of not more 
inconvenience than be made im- 
perative.” 

“You’ve said that several 
times,” Lewis said. He held to a 
casual, conversational tone. 
“Can we rely on it?” 

“Against that which to the num- 
ber of three occasions be spoken 

PROMISE THEM ANYTHING 



no deviation from real fact does 
prevail,” the Bzrabba said. “Fact 
exists. Fact is.” 

Darrah frowned. He and Lewis 
would have to study hard and long 
to be sure what it had said just 
then. He became aware of Lewis 
looking at him, one brow raised. 
Yes, Darrah nodded. Time to 
close it down. 

Lewis rose to his feet. “I think 
that takes care of our immediate 
problem,” he said. “We may have 
more questions later. But for 
now — well, I do want to thank you 
for being so willing to help us.” 

“It be toward mutual purpose,” 
said the Bzrabba. 

Darrah was ready when Lewis 
signaled to stop the recorder. He 
buttoned it up while Lewis kept 
the Bzrabba’s attention with 
small talk. As they left the Bzrab- 
ba was dipping again into Finite- 
gans Wake, remarking as it tore 
out another page that the glue hu- 
mans used left a ragged edge. 

T hey went back and reported 
to Berkan and the dozen men 
waiting with Berkan. The Secre- 
tary General sat at the end of a 
table, so large there was space for 
a man on either side of him. They 
all listened to the tape and then 
they talked. They smoked until the 
air in the room was blue. They 
talked for a long time. 

Some while after midnight Dar- 
rah knocked out his pipe on the 
edge of an ashtray and began to 

151 




fill it for the dozenth time. “I’ve 
based my proposal on two 
points,” he said. “They’re both 
conjectural, but I think one of 
them has now been borne out. It’s 
true they’re contemptuous of us 
and I’ll have to admit that from 
their point of view we’re some- 
what below the status of an un- 
derdeveloped nation. In spite of 
that, they’ve elected to talk with us. 
I think that indicates their con- 
tempt is not absolute. For a guess. 
I’d say they think of us about the 
same way we think about whoop- 
ing cranes. We arouse the conser- 
vationist in them. That's not 
much — but it’s something.” 

He gave up fumbling with his 
pipe and laid it on the table. Hard 
enough keeping clear in his mind 
what he wanted to say. “Beyond 
that,” he went on, “my ground 
isn't solid. But by obliging them to 
send representatives to every 
country in the world — and I think 
. we should include every govern- 
ment and pseudogovernment 
and subgovernment, as many as 
we can think of— we can maybe 
impress them with the level of re- 
sistance they’ll have to contend 
with.” 

Pierre Laffont made a flamboy- 
ant gesture. “Pardon. Do you 
honestly think they are not able?” 

Darrah shrugged. “No,” he 
admitted. “I’d have to say they 
probably can. I’m hoping that 
once they understand the situa- 
tion they won’t want to.” 



“And do you believe that will 
happen?” Laffont asked. 

Darrah slouched farther down in 
his chair. “I donT think anything 
else will help, either. The thing is, 
we don’t have much to lose.” 
Carefully, Berkan laid his pencil 
on the table. “More to the point, 
gentlemen — if we do nothing we 
shall certainly have lost.” 



I T WAS some time after three in 
the morning when Darrah let 
himself into the apartment. He 
tried to be quiet, but Kris awoke 
anyway. “Mike? What time is it?” 
“Late,” he said. “Didn’t mean to 
wake you.” 

“What’s that funny smell?” 

The Bzrabba’s odor had 
permeated his clothes. “Guess this 
suit will have to go to the clean- 
ers,” he said. 

Kris stretched sleepily. “What 
were you doing all this time?” 

He didn’t answer right away. He 
didn’t feel much like talking. 

“All right. Don’t answer.” She 
sounded hurt. She turned over, face 
away from him. 

He sat down to take off his 
shoes. “Kris?” 

“Uhh?” 

“Would you believe if I told you 
I was trying to save the world?” 
“Oh?” Too sleepy to be really in- 
terested. “How?” 

“Making it cost too much.” 
Silence. He thought she’d gone 
back to sleep. “Well? Did you?” 



152 



IF 




He got his other shoe off, set it 
down quietly. “I don’t know. 
We’ll just have to see how It goes.” 

Ill 

H e found himself transferred 
to the diplomatic section. He 
felt awkward there, among the 
carefully speaking, baby-step-prog- 
ress people, but that was where 
Old Sami wanted him and it was a 
vantage point from which he could 
watch what happened. 

Besides, there were more plans 
to build. 

Language^ instruction had not 
been a serious problem. The 
UN’s staff included people skilled 
in virtually all Earth’s major 
tongues. File searches turned up 
people who could teach most of 
the others. That still left the sev- 
eral hundred dialects and tribal 
languages found in the forests and 
.. deserts of the southern con- 
tinents, Asia and the Australasian 
islands. For most of those, the 
Bzrabba appeared quite willing to 
fall back on their capacity to ab- 
sorb a strange language quickly 
from scratch. 

The emissaries went out. Several 
thousand of them. Reports 
trickled back from such hinter- 
lands as Nepal and the Faroe Is- 
lands and disturbing rumors 
about the Bzrabba’s intentions 
were heard from Yemen and the 
Malagasy Republic. The sophis- 
ticated press dismissed such tales 



as the kind of reaction to be ex- 
pected of people only recently 
exposed to civilization of any kind 
and — while the more sensation- 
al press made what they could of 
garbled dispatches— not many 
people were persuaded that the 
Bzrabba were more than they 
seemed which was big and freaky. 

At his new desk, Darrah studied 
reports from a thousand agencies. 
His planning group met daily. 

The Bzrabba were spat on in 
Catania, mobbed in Singapore and 
charged with porcine ancestry in 
Baghdad. The Shah of Iran was 
seen to hold his nose in public. An 
emissary returned from the Sepik 
region of New Guinea still alive, 
but pincushioned by a half-hundred 
spear shafts. In Australia a band of 
aborigines bounced, boomerangs 
off one for half an hour, then dis- 
appeared into the outback. One 
was harpooned. 

Some Bzrabba didn’t return. In 
Bogota there was uncertainty 
whether the shot that killed the 
emissary might have been meant, 
instead, for the President of Co- 
lombia, who had been standing 
beside it at the time. In Peking 
there was less doubt. A crowd tore 
one to scraps. From the African 
bush came the whisper that, roasted 
over a slow fire, Bzrabba was very 
tasty. 

UT they are behaving as if 
-■^nothing happened,” Guido 
Falcone said, dropping the latest 



PROMISE THEM ANYTHING 



153 




sheaf of reports on the desk. 

Darrah nodded. “Looks as if 
maybe that Rand study was right.” 

Falcone started to speak, then 
frowned. “Which one was that?” 

“The one that says they may not 
think the way we do, may not value 
the same things — may not even 
have the concept that they’re in- 
dividuals. There’s some evidence 
for it.” 

“Hah. Big help. So? What do we 
do now?” 

“Wait,” Darrah said, contain- 
ing his feelings and his fears be- 
hind a mask of imperturbabil- 
ity. “Play the game. Pretend we’re 
fumbling for a way to give them 
everything they want, if they’ll 
give us a few things. Some way that 
doesn’t wipe us out. That, and keep 
moving up the price. There’s got 
to be a limit somewhere.” 

“And then?” Falcone asked. 
“What is to stop them from de- 
ciding we want too much? What is 
to stop them from scraping us off 
like vermin?” 

That had been a terror in Dar- 
rah’s thoughts for some time. “I’m 
hoping they’ll think it would be an 
inconvenience to us,” he said. 
“I’m hoping they don’t want to do 
that. Have you got a better idea?” 

I T WAS a long and nervous wait, 
but the time came. The.Bzrabba 
spokesman — the one that wore the 
^breastplate of Agent of the Con- 
sortium — arrived at Berkan’s 
anteroom. There had been no 



warning, but Darrah had been ex- 
pecting the visit for a week. He 
plucked a folder from his secur- 
ity file and met Walter Lewis on 
the way up. It was only a couple of 
flights — they took the stairs. A 
dozen men were scrambling into 
a room that adjoined Berkan’s. 

“Luck, Mr. Darrah,” one of 
them stage-whispered. 

Berkan was speaking as they 
walked in. The stench that met 
them was like being slapped with a 
week-old haddock. 

“I know that some of us have be- 
haved badly,” Old Sami said. “I 
should apologize for them. But you 
should understand they do not 
welcome the prospect you give 
them. Without a more effective 
persuasion than has been done, re- 
sistance must be expected.” 

“Negligible is,” the Bzrabba 
said. “All must vacate our 
property.” 

“I have a question. May I?” 
Walter Lewis asked. He was still 
getting settled in a chair next to 
Berkan’s desk. He unzipped his 
portfolio, but left it lying in his 
lap without taking anything out. 

“No objection be,” said the 
Bzrabba. 

Darrah slipped into a chair off to 
the side. He wished he could do 
some of the talking himself, but 
Old Sami knew best. He gave 
Lewis a nod to proceed. 

“You realize. I’m sure, that ask- 
ing us to evacuate our planet is go- 
ing to cause more than a little in- 



154 



IF 




convenience,” Lewis said quietly. 

The Bzrabba lay almost at his 
feet. “That much, necessary is,” it 
replied. “We have done work for 
purpose of obtaining useful 
measure of that configuration of 
matter, called by you — inspecifi- 
cally — iron. Of this world that 
part be property to us.” 

“Until now, we’ve always 
thought this was our world,” Lewis 
said. 

“In many things opinion of hu- 
mans be a not equivalent to most 
rudimentary level of correct- 
ness,” the Bzrabba said. “To 
claim this be your world, this one 
must announce a not true fact.” 

Lewis appeared to ponder the re- 
sponse, then let it pass. 

“We have some considerations 
that need to be explored,” he said. 
“Assuming for the moment we’re 
willing to evacuate, exactly how 
much do you mean by necessary 
inconvenience?” 

“Explain, please,” the Bzrabba 
said. 

Lewis drew some papers out of 
his portfolio. He didn’t really need 
them, Darrah thought. It was all 
right, though. 

“I believe you’re more or less 
familiar with our technological 
abilities,” Lewis said. “What 
we’re able to do and what we’re not 
able to do. Am I cofrect?” 

“Not all abilities does this per- 
son know in absolute,” the Bzrab- 
ba said. “In many realms of pur- 
pose, it is known. Not all.” 



Lewis nodded. “Yes. Well, 
then. I’m sure you must be aware 
— and this is a fact — we don’t 
have the capability of evacuating 
everybody. Altogether, we might 
be able to send perhaps two dozen 
people into space for a very lim- 
ited time — and not very far. 
That’s as much as we can do.” 

The Bzr^bba’s arms writhed like 
a tangle of snakes. “Does this per- 
son receive information that you 
make refusal to remove selves 
from our property?” 

Lewis’ voice now became pre- 
cise, the words clipped. “I’m not 
saying we refuse,” he said. “Nor 
am I saying we shall. I’m telling 
you, though, the plain fact: we do 
not have the capability of doing 
what you ask.” 

“This one must say again,” it 
said, “this property be ours. Hu- 
mans shall depart from it.” 

Berkan’s chair squeaked as he 
leaned forward. “Are you pre- 
pared to take measures if we do re- 
fuse?” he asked. “Mind you — ” he 
held up a hand — “I am not saying 
we shall or that we shall not. I ask 
your position.” 

“Should it be not-escapable— 
the Bzrabba shall in deep 
reluctance use force necessary to 
ensure the removal be done.” 
Implacable. 

“I see,” Berkan said. Darrah 
caught the hint of a shudder in his 
voice. 

Lewis took it up again, briskly 
efficient. “All right, assuming 



PROMISE THEM ANYTHING 



155 




we’re willing — I’ll admit, we’re 
very reluctant; but assuming oth- 
erwise — could we hope the Bzrab- 
ba will give us the assistance we 
would need?” 

“To the purpose of removing 
humans?” the Bzrabba asked. 
“That in time after, the Bzrabba 
shall the iron substance capability 
to remove have? Without more 
hindrance from fact of their 
presence? By reason they be not?” 
“Uh, yes,” Lewis said after a 
long, thoughtful pause. “Because 
without considerable help from 
you — the Bzrabba — our co- 
operation would simply not be 
possible. To be specific, we’re not 
able to transport ourselves into 
space. Could we hope that the 
Bzrabba are willing to provide 
the transportation?” 

“We wish to be cause of not 
more inconvenience than be 
made imperative,” the Bzrabba 
said for what must have been the 
thousandth time. “Should hu- 
mans not create conveyance the 
Bzrabba must — for alterna- 
tive-supply.” 

D ARRAH slowly let out his 
breath and resumed breathing. 
Lewis was looking his way. He 
nodded gravely. One for our side. 

Lewis went on as if the Bzrab- 
ba’s response had meant nothing. 
“Where can we go?” he asked. 

“That be not a known place,” 
the Bzrabba said. 

“Let me explain further,” Lewis 



said. He hunched down, close to 
the creature’s equivalent of a 
face. “There’s not another habit- 
able planet in the solar system. 
Not for us, especially not with our 
present level of technology. I’m 
told Mars might be just faintly 
possible if we had enough of the 
right kind of equipment, but we 
don’t. And I’m afraid that even if 
we did, the planet wouldn’t have 
the resources to support our 
whole population. So we’ve dis- 
cussed this among ourselves and 
it’s been suggested there might be 
planets around some of the nearby 
stars and that some of them might 
be suitable. If you could tell us 
where they are — and something 
about them — it would save a lot of 
difficulty.” 

“Worlds in gravitational captiv- 
ity of stars be more numerous 
than stars,” the Bzrabba said. 

Lewis podded. “We’ve always 
suspected that.” Darrah had to 
smile. When Lewis first heard the 
idea he had been incredulous. 

“What we still don’t know but 
must surmise,” Lewis went on, “is 
that only some of them — prob- 
ably only a few — will be planets 
that are really suitable. In 
fact — ” he checked his 
notes — “within certain limits 
we’re rather diverse when it comes 
to habitat. Some of us might be 
comfortable on one world — 
others might be more so on anoth- 
er. And with the present state of 
our science, we haven’t a way of 



156 



IF 




knowing where or which these are. 
So— we don’t have much 

choice — we’ll have to ask you for 
help in finding them.” 

“That will enlarge the degree of 
less inconvenience?” the Bzrab- 
ba asked. 

“Very much so,” Lewis said. 
“Perhaps I should remind you — 
it’s you who are asking us to 
move.” 

A silence came, then, which grew 
colder as it lengthened. Lewis sat 
up straight, waiting with austere 
patience. Darrah began to fidget 
until Berkan fixed him with a 
frosted steel eye. 

Finally, the Bzrabba spoke. 
“Survey shall be needed,” it said. 
“Data taking. Many things the 
Bzrabba know, but information 
of that category until now the 
Bzrabba did not have necessity to 
know. It shall require to be dis- 
covered.” 

Lewis nodded. “We suspected 
that might be the case. Our ques- 
tion, though, is whether you’ll do 
it.” 

The Bzrabba struck a pincer 
against its breastplate, making a 
sound like a taut-skinned drum. 
“To make small the inconve- 
nience to you humans, that ac- 
tivity shall undertaking have.” 

Lewis looked to Darrah, who 
nodded gravely, without enthusi- 
asm. It wasn’t going exactly the 
way he’d hoped. It wasn’t even go-* 
ing the way he’d feared. He wasn’t 
sure what to think. 



Lewis turned to the Bzrabba 
again. “We’ll be very grateful,” he 
said. No irony tinged his voice. 
“Now, one other consideration 
we ought to mention. We don’t 
know if you’ve thought of this, but 
our scientists say it’s very prob- 
able that any planet or — for that 
matter — any group of planets we 
might occupy might^be similar to 
this one, but they still won’t be as 
perfect an environment as the one 
we’ve got now. We’re adapted to 
this one and — ” back to his notes 
again, quickly flipping the 
pages— “even a subtle differ- 
ence — say, a^ few percentage 
points of solar radiation or some- 
thing in the atmosphere — might 
have serious consequences. Can 
ypu understand that?” 

“Nevertheless,” said the Bzrab- 
ba. 

Lewis pursed his lips — took a 
breath. “It’s been suggested that 
some of the problems might be al- 
leviated if our technological ca- 
pability were raised and our 
scientific knowledge increased. 
Also — you might consider this a 
separate point — if we do find our- 
selves on a number of different 
worlds they probably wouldn’t all 
be around the same star. It would 
be helpful — minimize the incon- 
venience, you might say — if we 
had some method of communica- 
tion between them. Some mode of 
transportation, perhaps.” 

“To achieve, you are more as- 
sistance requesting?” 



PROMISE THEM ANYTHING 



157 




Inwardly Darrah winced. The 
creature had them figured out— 
maybe it was far ahead of them. 

“Actually we’d much prefer to 
rely on ourselves,’’ Lewis said. 
“What we’d suggest, if you’d be 
willing — you could let us have 
some assistance toward upgrad- 
ing our technology, so we could 
cope with the problems ourselves. 
Then we wouldn’t have to ask for 
help.’’ 

The Bzrabba’s handless arms 
twined around each other, then 
unwrapped. “Such action would 
some aspects simplify, nor would 
much difficulty cause. Informa- 
tion given does also in possession 
of those who give remain. Uncer- 
tainty stands only that you, who 
name selves human, be of limited 
capacity. Dubious would hope be 
that even rudiments of ours could 
humans mastery achieve.’’ 

Lewis casually slipped his notes 
back inside his portfolio. “If you 
want our cooperation — ’’ he be- 
gan. 

“No. Let me,’’ Berkan said. He 
addressed the Bzrabba. “We have 
a saying,” he said. “We say, you 
never know until you have made 
the attempt. I think that has some 
relevarjce to what you have said, 
don’t you think?” 

“To experiment,” the Bzrabba 
said. “That has been done.” 

“BiU not with humans,” Lewis 
said. 

“A consideration,” the Bzrabba 
said. “With humans, not.” 



“So?” Berkan asked. 

“At small effort and small risk 
involved to the Bzrabba — ” one of 
the handless arms writhed snake- 
like, cracked like a whip — “you 
humans shall have warning, 
choice — and consequence.” 

“I think we shall elect the 
choice,’’ Berkan said affably. 
“Yes. Definitely the choice.” 



A gain they sat around a table. 

Again they talked far into the 
night. Every man and woman— 
and there were more than 
twenty — seemed to feel com- 
pelled to give his/her evaluation 
and opinion at tedious length, as if 
otherwise they couldn’t justify 
their presence at what was certain- 
ly the most crucial conference in 
the history of homo sapiens. Dar- 
rah would have commented on 
that, except he had some thoughts 
of his own which — he felt — had to 
be brought out. 

“He didn’t object enough,” Dar- 
rah said. “Everything we asked for 
they’re willing to give. Either he’s 
incredibly naive — and I can’t be- 
lieve that — or he’s thinking some- 
thing we simply have no way to 
guess at.” 

“There is another possibility,” 
Leon Vazquez said. Unwatched, 
his hand sketched perfect poly- 
gons on his doodle pad. “Perhaps 
the astrophysicists are cor- 
rect — the Bzrabba want the iron 
that bad.” 



158 



IF 




‘‘Which leaves us where?” Lazio 
Wiesel asked. He was a fat, bald 
man. Without the mustache he 
would have looked like Church- 
hill. 

‘‘Committed to a deal we can’t 
go through with,” Nicholas Peli- 
kan said from across the table. 

“Are you certain?” Berkan 
said. 

They looked at him. 

“Of course we’re certain,” Peli- 
kan said. 

“Speak only for yourself,” 
Berkan said, but he said it softly 
and his nod was genial. He put his 
fingertips together. “Let us con- 
sider rationally, gentlemen. The 
Bzrabba would seem agreeable to 
provide virtually all things we 
might ne^ if we will only vacate 
our world. Admittedly the 
thought of leaving it seems at first 
unthinkable. But — and here I 
borrow a fragment of Mr. Dar- 
rah’s thinking, although even he 
might not acknowledge it, for I 
mean to turn it around. It’s simply 
this — everything has a value. A 
price.” 

“That is not true,” Jules de 
Bray’s quick gesture spilled the 
ashtray beside his wrist. “That is 
simply not true.” 

Berkan nodded wearily. 
“Nothing is absolutely true,” he 
conceded. “Including what I 
have just said. But in the present 
case — let us think. We are accus- 
tomed to our world and the 
thought of abandoning it seems 



unbearable. Yet, when we 
examine the question carefully, 
what do we find?” 

Tewfik Habib banged a fist on 
the table. Things rattled. “It is our 
world!” He looked like an eagle 
screaming in the wind. 

“That seems to be a point under 
dispute,” Berkan said mildly. 
“Perhaps I should ask, what kind 
of world is it? If we are thoughtful 
and honest with ourselves we dis- 
cover it to be one whose most val- 
uable resources are being rapidly 
used up and whose air and land and 
waters have become increasing- 
ly contaminated by the wastes of 
our industry, our carelessness — 
a world, in short, now under threat 
by a population growth that seems 
impossible to control. We arc 
offered an indefinite number of 
worlds, all of them habitable, with 
ample and intact resources. We 
are al^o promised the technical 
knowledge to use those resources 
wisely and to not foul our nest. 
There is even a hope there will be 
power to do many things we arc not 
presently able to do — things we 
consider not possible. Let us not 
be too hasty in rejecting such a 
proposition. Faults it may have, 
but virtues also.” 

“How do we know they’ll keep 
their promises?” Darrah didn’t 
even see the man who asked. 

“Admittedly, that is a ques- 
tion,” Berkan said. He glanc^ at 
his watch. “Equally, it is possible 
that everything the creature 



PROMISE THEM ANYTH I NG 



159 




seems to promise is of no great 
value to them — is perhaps the 
equivalent of the twenty-four dol- 
lars for Manhattan Island I have 
been told about. Or it is pos- 
sible — as Leon has said — that 
these creatures need iron so 
desperately that, to them, it is 
truly worth the price.” 

“Or it may be,” Jiian de Castro 
suggested, “that they have not yet 
totaled the bill.” 

“Many things we do not know,” 
Berkan said. “We know only what 
they tell us they are willing to do. 
What we must keep in mind are not 
the uncertainties— but rather the 
simple fact that, having little to 
be hoped for, we actually are risk- 
ing very little. I would suggest, 
gentlemen, rather than inventing 
new objections — new things to 
fear — we should put our minds to 
ways and methods to insure that 
further negotiations may be con- 
ducted to our advantage and that 
the best shall be made of this un- 
comfortable situation.” He 
looked at his wrist again. “It is 
very late now. I would suggest that 
we go to our homes and sleep. And 
that we come to the problem with 
fresh minds in the morning.” 



N ot until long after midnight 
did Darrah get home. As he 
groped for his shoelaces in the 
dark, Kris came drowsily awake. 

“That you, Mike?” Then: 
“You’ve got that stink again.” 



“My suit,” he said. “I’ll take it 
to the cleaners tomorrow.” 

“Incinerator,” she said. “They 
never got it out of the other suit.” 

It wasn’t a thing to argue about. 
Not at this hour. “All right. The in- 
cinerator. In the morning.” 

A silence. Then: “Mike?” 
“Hmm?” 

“This time, did you save the 
world?” 

He thought a while. The facts 
were one thing, the possibilities 
another. “No,” he said at last, 
uncomfortably. “But there’s a 
chance we’ll get a good price. 
Might be very good, considering 
the goods are second-hand.” 

4 (¥ T really is strange,” Berkan 
¥ shook his head and passed 
the report across his desk to Dar- 
rah. “1 can only say, they want the 
iron very much.” 

The Bzrabba had supervised the 
design and building of a data 
readout 'machine in Zurich. It 
was gigantic — a mountain had 
to be hollowed out to contain it 
and a glacier was pressed into 
service to keep it cool. Most of its 
structure, the aliens explained, 
was needed to convert Bzrabba 
concepts into human frames of 
reference. It was, .they implied, 
disgustingly inelegant. 

At the last, the information 
cube was fixed in place. It was 
17.7598329 inches on a side, dull 
red, and the data it contained was 
coded into the individual mole- 



160 



IF 




cules of its subst^fKX by isotopic 
variation. Some anonymous tech- 
nician touched a key and the print- 
out spat: 

E = me 1.99999699433141593 . . . 

The Bzrabba said the cube 
included the whole summation of 
Bzrabba science. Maybe it did — 
maybe it didn't. At that point it 
made little difference, for — so 
far— the Bzrabba had not yet 
repeated their request for the iron. 
There was still the remaining part 
of their bargain to fulfill. 

The last Bzrabba, Agent of the 
Consortium, had whisked back to 
Chicago. The landing craft lifted 
as if by its bootstraps, without 
noise or fuss or even a show of 
powerful energies being used. 
When worlds suitable for men 
were found or — if necessary — 
made habitable, they would re- 
turn. For the iron. 

Darrah consigned a future suit to 
the incinerator. 

“I’ll have to admit I don’t under- 
stand them,” he said. He dropped 
the report back on the desk. “If 
we’d asked them for different 
things — They can’t think what we 
asked for has much value. Of 
course, it’s possible they think the 
iron’s worth it all. I don’t know. 
Maybe to them it actually is. 
They never did say what they use 
it for.” 

“Does it make a difference?’’ 
Berkan asked. 



“Maybe it’s us,” Darrah went 
on, frowning at the new thought. 
“Maybe v^ere the thing that has 
value.” 

“Us?” Berkan wondered. “How 
could that be?” 

“I wouldn’t know,” Darrah ad- 
mitted. He shrugged “Whooping 
cranes? I’ve no idea in the world.” 

N either man ever saw the 
Bzrabba again. The Secretary 
General lived to the age of four 
hundred eighty-two as a direct re- 
sult of the advances in molecular 
biology made possible by the 
Bzrabba information cube. Dar- 
rah, having been younger at the 
time, lived to six hundred nine- 
teen. Not for seven full centuries 
did the Bzrabba come back to 
claim their iron, but when they 
did — with 927 great ships to 
evacuate all humans from the 
world of their origin — humanity, 
was armed with the knowledge the 
Bzrabba had given, plus what men 
had gained for themselves, for 
Man was not an old and stagnant 
race and had already spread to 
the near stars to live on many 
worlds that were not naturally 
hospitable before men made 
them so. The fleet’s leading ele- 
ments were met first out near 
Altair. The meeting was cordial. 
Neither side wished to inconven- 
ience the other. Nowhere on the 
spherical perimeter did a Bzrab- 
ba craft penetrate closer to Sol 
than the vicinity of T au Ceti. # 



PROMISE THEM ANYTHING 



161 




I 



In an alternate Eden, would men 
love, hate — or simply forget? 

EXPERIMENT 

BEVERLY GOLDBERG 



P LAYNIA pulled herself to 
her feet, using the branches 
of the nearby yookal tree for sup- 
port. It had been a lovely day and 
now she would join the others for 
a sleep. She walked slowly to the 
place of night gatherings, wonder- 
ing at the ache of her body. She 
did not feel as she used to. She 
could not move as easily — none 
of them could. Things had hap- 
pened to their bodies and one day 
they would play the tapes and find 




out why. She passed her hidden 
place on the way to the others, but 
the memory of that day so long 
ago was dim and easily pushed 
aside. It had never happened again. 

Lyria and Sera were there al- 
ready and Cumny and Treece were 
approaching from the waterside. 
It was strange not to have Jaycee 
with them any more. She had 
stopped just a short time before 
and it was hard to remember that 
she would not begin again. 

Playnia sat down and nodded at 
the others. Each put the food she 
had. gathered on the ground and 
all shared the meal. Hunger 
stopped. They spoke of the day 
that had been and they wondered 
if they would all be there after 
sleep. Sera suggested looking at 
the tapes. Lyria had suggested it 
the sleep before. No one answered 
and they each curled up in the 
shallow depressions their bodies 
had worn into the soil through the 
years and they slept. 

Playnia had the dream she of- 
ten had. When she awoke she was 
still stunned by its vividness and 
she recalled Jaycee’s dreams — they 
had begun just before she stopped. 
Playnia decided that she would 
look at the tapes after one more 
sleep — or two. Looking at the 
tapes meant going into the dark- 
ness of the ship — the ship that once 
shimmered in the light of the sun 



was now shining softly from the 
bite of the sands that shifted 
around it. Playnia did not really 
want to go into that darkness or 
to see the tapes she knew she 
should have seen a long time ago. 
She slowly returned to her sleep. 

4<¥ TELL you, Karl, my orig- 
^ inal paper will stand. We’ll 
find a civilization without war, 
without harmful strife of any kind 
— gentle and cultured.” 

But Karl thought he knew hu- 
man nature. “Altman, you are 
wrong. Their civilization — as you 
call it — will be the same as those 
we Jenow — humans are always the 
same. We’re going to see battles, 
feuds, hostility. Environment had 
no basic effect on shaping human 
society. Man himself is the cause 
of his problems.” 

“I have been studying the orig- 
inal reports again. The planets 
seeded offered so much that with 
all needs easily satisfied, man 
could develop without strife — ” 
Altman stopped as the captain 
entered their quarters to say, 
“Gentlemen, I must ask your in-' 
dulgence. It is necessary that you 
tell the crew what is expected of 
them when we reach Socex, One.” 
The captain looked at them to 
see who would decide on proce- 
dure after landing. His worst fears 
were realized. 



EXPERIMENT 



163 




“I will,” calmly stated each of 
the experts. 

The captain, who had been priv- 
ileged to hear their conflicting 
views through many a meal, de- 
cided to leave his problem where 
it was. 

“Altman,” he said, “you will 
talk at nine. Karl, you may ad- 
dress the crew at three.” 



'OLAYNIA awoke this time 
^ with a slight hunger. She 
walked over to the grove to her 
left and ate of the fruit there. 
When she was satisfied she left 
the sleep area and ambled down 
toward the ship. When she arrived 
she saw that Sera had come there 
before her. They greeted each oth- 
er and turned back — the tapes 
could wait another day. Sera had 
discovered a place of particular 
color and the two of them went to 
the grove to look and feel the 
peace of the color and the touch 
of the breeze. They spent the day 
there — days were beginning to 
pass ever more quickly. Playnia 
had to push thoughts of the old 
days, the one different day, many 
times from her head. Sera, too, 
seemed often to be elsewhere. ' 
That night the five of them de- 
cided to hear a tape after they 
slept. They had made such deci- 
sions twice before. The first time 



the tape had told them of the joys 
of the place where they lived and 
had identified the words for all the 
things around them. The second 
time they had not listened. The 
place itself and the strangeness of 
their bodies that had occurred 
for a time had kept them from it 
— they knew it was wrong not to 
keep listening, but they did not re- 
turn. Now, so many, many years 
later (if the one tape they had 
heard were right about time) they 
thought they should hear another 
tape. But as they were about to 
leave for the ship after their sleep. 
Sera did not waken. Playnia and 
the others put her under the sand 
far from the places they used. 

They did not see the tapes. 

A LTMAN began his lecture 
with the eighty-year-old tape 
of Socex-1. It was a lush and 
green place. A place of little tem- 
perature variation and abundant 
foodstuffs. There were no preda- 
tors on the planet. 

Socex-1 Was one of the many 
worlds that man had been startled 
to find scattered through the uni- 
verse. Planets that were Earthlike, 
and yet offered even more than 
Earth, abounded. Man had set- 
tled many of them, but always 
to destroy them — and often him- 
self. Hence the experiment. Send 
to each of a given number of plan- 



164 



IF 




ets a group of w6^h-~six was 
picked as the optimal nuiribcr— all 
about to give birth. Amnesia 
would be induced and they would 
be set down on the planet to pro- 
duce young. Amniocentesis al- 
lowed the choosing of various 
combinations of male and female 
offspring. Each planet would be 
left strictly alone for a predeter- 
mined period before being revis- 
ited. Perhaps a cure would be 
found to the problems man seemed 
to bring with him wherever he 
went. Each of the groups would be 
taught a language — a language 
developed to keep out precon- 
ceived behavioral patterns. There 
were no words for love or war or 
hate or fear. The lifeship that 
landed them contained tapes first 
acclimating them to the planet, 
then giving them information as 
needed. 

“They will return to the ship 
and play the tapes as a result of 
suggestions implanted at the time 
their amnesia was induced. Man 
is an enterprising animal. We shall 
probably find a peaceful culture — 
a culture devoted to the arts. 
There may be as many as two hun- 
dred people — and we must not 
alarm or influence them. This ex- 
periment will continue — we are 
merely to record the results to 
date. Then we can begin our analy- 
sis. The World Federation, which 



sponsors and supports the project, 
will then decide, on the basis of 
results, on the next step. This is 
the first of ten experimental plan- 
ets. I just want to remind you that 
these are in all probability a peace- 
ful, loving people. Professor Karl 
feels differently. Think carefully 
before deciding whether or not 
you want to be part of the first 
landing unit.” 

K arl began his lecture, with 
the same eighty-year-old tape 
of Socex-1 that Altman had used. 
He, too, pointed out that the plan- 
et was lush and green, a place of 
little temperature variation and 
abundant foodstuffs. There were 
no predators. 

“. . . thus man, becoming bored, 
is likely to engage in all manner 
of competitive sport. This is like- 
ly in turn to lead to real conflict. 
We will probably find a world not 
unlike that of the early stone age 
on Earth. You must be prepared 
to protect yourselves and the re- 
cording equipment as well. But 
we must not interfere with the ex- 
periment. Please bear that in mind 
when you decide whether or not 
you wish to be a part of the first 
landing unit.” 

P LAYNIA walked quickly 
down to the lake. She spent 
some time in the cool, quiet wa- 



EXPERIAAENT 



165 




ter. She sensed a dullness in her- 
self. It was like the feeling she had 
on that day long gone. She won- 
dered why she kept thinking back 
to that — then realized that there 
was something about it she wished 
to remember. She left the water 
and walked over to her hidden 
place — where she had put the thing 
that day. She stared at the ground 
for many hours. At last, hungry, 
she walked back to the grove and 
Cumny and Treece. Lyria had 
stopped the sleep before. 

“Perhaps we should see the 
tapes before we, too, are no 
more,” she almost pleaded. 

Cumny lay down the fruit she 
was holding. 

She said, “No. We have not 
for so long — we ought not.” 

Treece agreed. 

Playnia and the other two lay 
down to sleep-all seemed to 
sleep more these days. As they 
were drifting off Playnia heard 
a mumbled comment about the 
thing that had come from* Cumny 
on that day. 

She sat upright. “Cumny, Cum- 
ny, what thing? Please.” 

But Cumny had stopped. Treece 
looked at Playnia and shrugged. 

“On the day we came apart,” 
Treece said, “we were all so 
ashamed. I never could speak of 
it. Now there is no shame. Shame 
— that is a word like sorrow. It is 



an old word.” A flicker of a long- 
forgotten past seemed to flash 
through her old mind. 

Playnia said, “I thought some- 
thing was happening to all of you, 
too. But it was over so quickly. 
The hurt of it — I can still remem- 
ber the hurt. The tearing and rend- 
ing of my body. But I did not l^t 
it destroy me. Perhaps we should 
have listened to the second tape. 
But the days before that one were 
so lovely. When the hurt ended 
and I saw the horror that had tried 
to destroy me — I stopped it.” 

“Did you feel empty — a lack?” 
Treece asked. 

“Not so much a lack as a fear 
that you would discover my se- 
cret and not want me with you. 
Perhaps the tapes could tell us 
what happened to each of us on 
that day. Do you want to find 
out?” 

Treece shook her head. “No. 
It has been over for so long. The 
days since have been good. Ob, for 
years there was the reminder ev- 
ery month, but that stopped long 
since. It may all be over. We are 
not reminded — not anymore.” 

Playnia glanced up at the sky, 
her attention caught by a large 
shadow. She took Treece by the 
hand and they wandered off into 
the grove. They would come back 
later perhaps. And see if the shad- 
ow returned. • 



166 



IF 




^^r^oom 

LESTER Da REY 



^T^HEY like to call it nostalgia. 

-R When people begin to listen 
again to the old swing records, go 
to revivals of old shcwys or read 
books of the type popular forty 
years or more ago, it’s easy to 
blame it on nostalgia, a senti- 
mental yearning for things past. 
It’s much more convenient for 
tunesmiths, dramatists, writers 
and critics to dismiss it all as nos- 
talgia than it is to wonder if per- 
haps their values have somehow 
been corrupted and if people are 
simply turning to what will again 
give them the things they’ve al- 
ways liked and wanted. 

The sentimental or “camp” 
sense of nostalgia is only a lesser 
definition of the word, not even 
mentioned in Webster’s Second. 
The original and still most im- 
portant definition is homesick- 



ness — an honest feeling, devoid 
of condescension and senti- 
mentality. 

Many people want to go home 
again to where their roots have al- 
ways been. Maybe they want- to be 
able to hum and whistle tunes and 
laugh and have fun at movies and 
plays. The success of playwright 
Neil Simon has not so far been at- 
tributed to nostalgia, yet he is 
one of the few who never seems to 
leave home from the older virtues 
of the drama. And heresy though 
it be now, I suggest that maybe 
people want to go home to the 
kind of fiction that quickened 
their pulses, kept them reading for 
pleasure and excitement long af- 
ter they should have gone to sleep. 
I think we’ve had the novelty of 
trying to be great thinkers and 
daring innovators in our reading 



167 




matter and now at least some of us 
want to go home— go back to 
where strong men tingled with 
powerful emotions, where creeps 
crept off into the night and were 
forgotten, where romance had 
something warm to it other than 
the blankets — return to adven- 
ture, to life with endocrines that 
work, and to fun. 

In witness whereof: seven of 
the books lying before me for re- 
view hark back to fiction and 
writers popular forty or fifty years 
ago. These represent the work of 
three publishers and four writers. 
And one is part of a series that has 
been one of the most popular in re- 
cent years among science-fiction 
and fantasy readers. 

last is Captive of Gor, by 
John Norman (Ballantine, 95c). 
This is advertised as Volume VII 
in the Chronicles of Counter- 
Earth, and the earlier volumes in 
the series are still selling very well 
indeed. I think the only good way 
to describe the series is. also the 
best way to explain its success — 
these novels are the closest thing 
now being written to the Martian 
books of Edgar Rice Burroughs. 
They don’t imitate slavishly. 
They make no attempt to copy 
style directly and the mechani- 
cal device of the lost princess is 
pretty well forgotten after the 
first book. But at their best (par- 



ticularly in the third volume. 
Priest Kings of Gor) they are 
darned good adventure stories 
with the feeling and reach of Bur- 
roughs. Their faults have some- 
times been great and highly an- 
noying, but 'somehow their vir- 
tues — the virtues of good fic- 
tion — save them. 

The current volume, however, 
falls rather short. Tarl, the series 
hero, doesn’t appear until some 
ten pages before the end of a very 
long book and then only under the 
name of Bosk of Port Kar. The 
viewpoint character here is Eli- 
nor Brinton, a spoiled rich girl of 
r^ew York City, who is captured 
and taken to Gor to be a slave. 
Aha! Any student of Gor should 
know most of what occurs from 
there on. Yep, Norman has de- 
cided that maybe he didn’t quite 
get his message across from the 
male viewpoint— maybe some 
readers weren’t quite able to un- 
derstand, even after all those hun- 
dreds of previous pages, that 
women like to be enslaved and 
beaten. So he has taken a woman 
character and shown us how 
much fun it is, and how no woman 
can resist any strong man who 
knows how to subdue her proper- 

ly- 

It takes up 370 pages of text, so 
we get our money’s worth of words, 
at least. But otherwise, the book 



168 



IF 




isn’t worth th4; prk«;, except to 
those really hui^gf^l^TOn or 
able to beat their own women as 
they’d like! . " 

T IN CARTER belongs to a 
-■-'chivalrous school (in the mdd- 
ern sense of chivalry, of course). 
No women are beaten in his 
books, though his male charac> 
ters take enough blows, to satisfy 
the most blood-thirsty. He has 
written three books about a gen- 
tleman from Virginia — sorry, I 
got mixed up — about a modern 
American on the fabulous planet 
of Callisto. These are Jandar of 
Callisto, Black Legion of Cal- 
listo and Sky Pirates of Callisto. 
All are from Dell, at 95c each. 
They are frankly imitative of the 
Burroughs’ Martian series, as 
Carter admits elsewhere. They 
are independent (in the sense that 
Burroughs’ early books were inde- 
pendent, but with cliff-hangers) 
yet the three readily form one con- 
tinuous story devoted to Jan- 
dar’s discovery of the strange and 
entrancing world of Callisto and 
of the princess Darloona — as 
pure and noble a girl as Burroughs 
ever penned and one as nobly 
loved. 

In these, Carter has copied 
every trick of Burroughs, includ- 
ing those that are faults. The story 
begins with the usual business of 



the hero being forced to hide in 
ruins, from which he escapes to 
another world; and we’re given a 
full frame of how the manuscript 
reached Carter, etc. etc. At the 
end of the first two books, we find 
our hero, having lost his princess, 
sitting down to write out the ac- 
count for shipment back to Earth 
before he goes out to find her. Yet 
once we’re in action, it moves 
pretty well. Carter substitutes 
an insect-man for the green Mar- 
tian friend of John Carter, and 
that comes off rather well. The 
beasts and the backgrounds are 
copies of Burroughs, in a sense, 
but they have sufficient origi- 
nality. And the Sky Pirates who 
take up much of the story are a 
good invention and generally 
well worked out, (Exception: 
When a light gas, such as hydro- 
gen, is compressed, it will not have 
greater lifting power — on the 
contrary, putting twice as much 
gas in the same space means the 
gas weighs twice as much, and 
hence will be able to lift less!) 

The only fully original touch of 
the plotting, however, is a mis- 
take. Carter has his hero — logi- 
cally, probably — as a somewhat 
incompetent fighter. This simply 
doesn’t fit the pattern. It’s only af- 
ter he’s taught to be a sword-mas- 
ter that the action perks up. And I 
wonder why Jandar had none of 



READING ROOM 



169 




the advantages of Earthly mus- 
cles on a light world that John Car- 
ter enjoyed on Mars? 

Carter defends imitation by 
stating elsewhere that people can 
no longer read new Burroughs' 
books, much as they want to. So 
someone has to write such books. 
Maybe. But 1 suspect that’s not 
quite true. No modern man can 
really think in Burroughs’ head. I 
suspect that Norman’s Gor is bet- 
ter than any direct imitation can 
be, simply because it permits the 
writer to exercise his own talents 
toward the same end that Bur- 
roughs sought. 

The Jandar novels, within their 
limitations, make for fairly en- 
tertaining reading. Certainly 
they are better than many of the 
imitations of Burroughs written 
when Burroughs was still writing. 

When Lin Carter isn’t imi- 
tating so directly he does a better 
job of getting the Burroughs ef- 
fect, I think. In his Under the 
Green Star (DAW, 95c), he.has an 
epilogue (from which I’ve quoted 
him) in which he deals quite 
frankly with imitation versus be- 
ing influenced by Burroughs. I 
find that Carter considers the 
Jandar novels to be imitations 
and the Green Star story to be 
merely influenced. In some ways, 
I see the difference. And yet, 
there is a considerable imita- 



tive factor here, too. While there is 
no prologue on how Carter 
“found” the manuscript — a de- 
vice I consider clumsy and inef- 
fective — there is a prologue in 
which we are told how our hero 
gets to the world of the Green Star. 
On this device, which was a liter- 
ary trick used by many writers. I’m 
undecided — today it is seldom 
used. Yet perhaps it should be 
whenever the means of getting 
there is interesting in itself. 
Here Carter does fairly well. He 
uses mysticism and astral pro- 
jection, but he avoids the error 
Burroughs made in having his 
hero leave a body on Earth and 
then wake up on Mars fully em- 
bodied — in the same body! I’ve al- 
ways shared Carter’s annoyance 
at this. Then he winds up with the 
straight Burroughs technique of 
having his hero back on Earth, not 
knowing whether his princess has 
escaped doom or not. 

There are other differences. 
An important one is that our 
hero has been a hopeless invalid 
on Earth, so his lust for the active, 
healthy life he can lead on anoth- 
er world is both more convincing 
and more deeply felt than would 
otherwise have been the case. 
There is originality under the 
Green Star. Yet I end up feeling 
that the Lin Carter who is not di- 
rectly imitating Burroughs is 



170 



IF 




really writing much more truly 
like Burroughs! I preferred this 
book to the Jandar ones and rec- 
ommend it to those who really 
are hopefully looking for the 
books that Burroughs, the Mas- 
ter, can no longer give us. There 
must be millions of such readers. 

¥ WON’T say whether Transit to 
^ Scorpio, by Alan Burt Akers 
(DAW, 950), is influenced or imi- 
tative. It begins badly enough 
with an “explanation” from 
Akers on how he acquired the 
tapes from which the story is trans- 
cribed. It then moves on to a fairly 
good beginning. We discover 
that the hero. Dray, reached Kre- 
gen (in the Constellation of 
Scorpio) long ago, having been 
born in 1J75. Not bad — we are 
led to expect a somewhat differ- 
ent hero by his background alone. 
We are also introduced to a group 
of beings who explain Dray’s ar- 
rival on scene — they gather peo- 
ple from many worlds. All of this 
leads in time to the fact that Dray 
has been bounced back and forth 
between Earth and Kregen sev- 
eral times. 

Could be interesting, but some- 
how nothing much seems to come 
of it. Maybe because he’s had 
time to become modern. Dray 
shapes up as no more than any oth- 
er Earthman falling for a beau- 



teous damsel on another world. 
And the returns to Earth don’t 
amount to much, after all, except 
to give him a chance to be stranded 
here at the end, longing to go back 
to his damsel in the same old way. 

In between we have the rise of 
our hero as a warrior, his pursuit 
of his damsel and so on. But sadly 
lacking is the texture of a Bur- 
roughs world. Somehow the ani- 
mals and the cultures Dray finds 
don’t have that alien touch of ro- 
mance that can be found in the 
Master — or in Carter, for that 
matter. It seems to boil down to a 
pretty standard set of experi- 
ences, after the first indication 
that Kregen was going to be truly 
different. It isn’t bad— but I 
didn’t find it particularly good 
either. 

A nother way to imitate, un- 
fortunately, is to make fun of 
something, to satirize it. That is 
what John Jakes has done in his 
Mention My Name in Atlantis 
(DAW, 950). His satire is good- 
natured and sometimes amusing, 
but 1 can’t see it, though the back 
cover calls it an uproarious cliff- 
hanger. The whole idea of turning 
Robert E. Howard’s type of 
sword and sorcery into something 
uproarious strikes me as about on 
a par with trying to make a limer- 
ick out of an Edgar Guest poem. 



READING ROOM 



171 




But if you feel turned on by dis- 
covering “How Conax the 
Chimerical Helped Sink the Lost 
Continent!” you’re not my type 
of reader anyhow, so go ahead. 

A nd now I find that I owe a 
deep apology to those who are 
at least somewhat my type of 
reader. For some reason I can’t 
understand, I seem not to have 
reviewed a darned good book that 
I thoroughly enjoyed. This is 
Other Days, Other Eyes, by Bob 
Shaw (Ace, 950). If it is still avail- 
able on your stands, don’t neglect 
it. 

When it first came out 1 was al- 
most afraid to read it. Shaw’s first 
“slow glass” story was so excep- 
tionally good as a short story that 
I hated to see it forced into a novel. 
I needn’t have worried. It isn’t 
forced. This novel includes the 
short story and the other stories 
that Shaw did on slow glass — that 
nriarvelous substance that holds 
back light so we can see wh^t has 
happened days or even years be- 
fore. But the book does far more 
than put a frame around the con- 
tents— it begins at the beginning 
and traces the whole affair in such 
a way that each story now means 
more to me than when I first read 
it. It also goes on with excellent 
and controlled inventiveness to 
work out a logic that could not 



have been expected from the in- 
vention of slow glass. It’s the novel 
I’ve wanted from Shaw since he 
first did the short story — and the 
fact that the novel is on the same 
background is pure serendipity 
to me. Most highly recommended. 

I ’D ALSO lolce to recommend 
Keith Laumer’s The Glory 
Game (Doubleday, $5.95), but 
with a few reservations. This is a 
story of a potential war between 
the forces of Earth and the alien 
Hukk and of the man who is put 
squarely in the middle. Earth is di- 
vided — the militants want to 
strike now, while we can still beat 
them: As a man in the Space Navy, 
Commodore Dalton might be 
expected, of course to be one of 
the Hardline boys. On the other 
hand, the diplomatic Softliners 
believe the Hukk can be dealt with 
without any dreadful war — and 
they can offer Dalton more than 
the Navy can. But on t’other hand, 
he’s interested in a girl whose fa- 
ther, Senator Kevin, is a Hard- 
liner. And around and around we 
go as Dalton gets caught in the 
Glory Game. To make matters 
worse, during some supposedly 
peaceful maneuvers he has full 
responsibility for mankind — unof- 
ficially — and no authority — offi- 
cially. And the Hukks aren’t play- 
ing the same game. And no matter 



172 



IF 




what he does he’s going to get'ptire 
hell on Earth. 

It’s that kind of a^ situation and 
it’s beautiful. Laumer handles it 
with both logic and zest as the 
situation becomes more tangled. 

But, toward the end of the book 
there’s a curious change of pace. 
Laumer has given a nicely devel- 
oped and detailed story of con- 
flict on all levels through most of 
the novel. But suddenly Dalton is 
isolated and the story seems to 
halt. Truthfully it doesn’t. It picks 
up again. But in the final stages 
the elements of crisis seem to be- 
come telescoped and reduced to a 
much smaller scale. I’d suggest 
that the first eight chapters be 




June 30-July 4. 1973. WESTER- 
CON 26. At San Jose Hyatt 
House. Guest-of-Honor: Larry 

Niven. Membership: $5.00 in ad- 
vance, $6.00 at the door. For in- 
formation: Sampo Productions, 

195 Alhambra, No. 9, San Fran- 
cisco, California 94123. 

• 

August 24-26, 1973. DEEP 

SOUTH CON. At Marriott Ho- 
tel, New Orleans. Guest-of-Hon- 



read quickly — as they will be, 
since they have a fine pace of their 
own; but from chapter nine on, 
readers might well go slowly, 
examining everything against the 
events preceding. It may not seem 
like the same fracas, but it is. And 
careful reading will make this 
stand out. 

I wish Laumer had used anoth- 
er 20,000 words to let us know 
more about Arianne and others 
later, as well as to keep a bit more 
complexity at the end. But it’s 
still a novel that must be recom- 
mended. Laumer is a writer with 
enough different ways of writing 
not to have to imitate even him- 
self. • 



or: Joseph Green. Membership: 
$3.00. For Information: John 

Guidry, 5 Finch Street, New Or- 
leans, Louisiana 70124. 

• 

August 31 -September 3, 1973. 
TORCON 2— 31st World Sci- 
ence Fiction Convention: At Roy- 
al York Hotel, Toronto, Canada. 
Guest-of-Honor: Robert Bloch. 

Fan Guest-of-Honor: William 

Rotsler. Toastmaster at Hugo 
Awards Banquet: Lester del Rey. 
Membership: $7.00 attending and 
$4.00 supporting (until 8/1), 
$10.00 at the door. For informa- 
tion: Torcon 2, Box 4, Station K. 
Toronto 12, Ontario, Canada. 



173 





HUE AND CRY 

bungled. They had created 
him — hadnt they? Well? 

The rest of the issue was good as 
usual, but I did miss the letter 
column. 

Lester Boutillier 
New Orleans, La. 

It bothers me, too, when uncon- 
trollable story lengths acci- 
dentally coincide in one issue to 
crowd out Hue and Cry. This is 
where the reward and research 
live for you and for me. In letters 
such as the above — and the one fol- 
lowing. 

Dear Mr. Jakobsson: 

When we began reading Con- 
struction Shack (If February 
73) by Clifford D. Simak, one of 
our favorite writers, we ex- 
pected good science fiction. Un- 
happily, as we soon discovered], 
the story is less science fiction 
than fictional science! Mr. Si- 
mak*s scientific knowledge is 
surprisingly and deplorably 
' deficient. 

Among his major errors: 

I) Mr. Simak states that 60 
grams per cubic centimeter was 
the ** previously supposed** densi- 
ty of Pluto. But since this value is 
about three times that of the dens- 



( Continued from page 4 } 
est known metal, the majority of 
scientists have never supposed 
anything of the sort! 

2) He ascribes calculation of 
Pluto*s mass to ^^measurement of 
... eccentricities.** But eccen- 
tricity is only a measure of the 
departure of an ellipse from cir- 
cularity. Simak should say ** per- 
turbation,** which is a deviation 
in an orbit due to a gravitational 
field other than the suns. 

3) Simak* s unmanned Plu- 
tonian probe must return to 
Earth since its films are far better 
than its transmissions. Ridicu- 
lous! It is much easier to build a 
one-way probe with any desired 
quality of transmission than a 
necessarily heavier two-way 
probe (the mass-ratio of a two- 
way probe equals the square of that 
fdr a one-way probe). 

4) He declares a ** manned craft 
could pile on velocity that could 
not be safely programed into a 
probe.** What*s he afraid of— col- 
lisions? With what — meteor 
storms? They went out with the sci- 
ence of the * thirties. 

5) From Pluto, he says, "The 
sun ... is not much more than a 
slightly brighter star.** In real- 
ity, from Pluto the sun is 300 times 
brighter than the full moon on 
(from?) Earth! 



174 



IF 




6) He claims an unsuited as- 
tronaut would explode in a vac- 
uum. Blood vessels will rupture, 
yes. But explode? No! Again, sci- 
ence of the * thirties. 

7) **For hundreds of years 
Pluto has been the last outpost," 
Simak says. But Pluto was not dis- 
covered until 1930. So are we to 
think the story occurs centuries 
from now? If so, the flights to Mars 
he mentions are also centuries 
away. Rather unreasonable! 

8) Simak states communica- 
tions time lag between Pluto and 
Earth is 60 hours. Actually it*s no 
more than seven. 

9) Simak thinks electrostatic 
attraction is needed to maintain 
Pluto* s surface dust, which would 
otherwise fly off into space. But 
the .08-G field he assumes is more 
than adequate for the task. Dust 
simply lies there. Only agitated 
molecules of a would-be atmo- 
sphere escape into space! 

There are other mistakes, none 
of them trivial. 

Science fiction has two func- 
tions: to entertain and to inform. 
Construction Shack has miser- 
ably failed in the second func- 
tion — indeed, it has misin- 
formed. 

We have always liked Simak* s 
writing. We hope it will return to 
its usually high standards. 



Rick Conley 
Conley Powell, Ph.D. 

Department of Mechanical 
Engineering 
University of Kentucky 
Lexington, Ky. 

My personal feeling is that 
“the last outpost” was there long 
before it was discovered — and 
that Cliff Simak was indeed writ- 
ing about a moment remote from 
this time, distance measured per- 
haps in wisdom rather than cal- 
endar years or centuries. 

You’re perfectly correct about 
the inapplicability of the sci- 
ence of the ’thirties today. Many 
scientific myths were exploded in 
our lunar landings and Mars fly- 
bys. Cliff invented, I thought, a 
few implausible ones to explode 
in the future — he was telling us to 
expect the unexpected when we 
study the blueprints of creation. 
And saying it in depth. 

if he failed to inform you — per- 
haps you weren’t looking. 

Dear Mr. Jakobsson: 

/ never take time to write to 
publishers, but I enjoyed Death 
and Designation Among The 
Asadi by Michael Bishop so much 
that I decided to write and tell you. 

Jo A nne B. Cavender 
Dayton, Ohio 



HUE ANDCRY 



175 








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Please accept my application tor membership in the Science 
Fiction Book Chib and send me the 4 books whose numbers I 
have written in the boxes below Bill me just 104 (to help 
cover shipping) for all 4 About every 4 weeks, send me the 
club’s bulletin, "Things to Come!' describing the 2 coming 
Selections and a variety of Alternate choices If I wish to 
receive both Selections, I need do nothing, they will be shipped 
to me automatically Whenever I don't want 1 of the 2 Selec 
twns or prefer an Alternate, or no book at all, I will notify 
you by the date specified by returning the convenient form 
always provided 

I need take only 4 Selections or Alternates during the 
coming year, and may resign any time thereafter Most books 
are onW $1 49, plus a modest charge for shipping and han- 
dling (Jccasionally, extra-value Selections are slightly higher 

NO-RISK GUARANTEE; If not deliehted, I may return the 
entire introductory package within 10 days Membership will 
be cancelled I owe nothing 

□ □ □ □ 

Mr, 



Miss Please Print 

Address 



City 



I State Zip I 

L J 



ANY 4 SCBKE HGH0N IfF 
BEST SEUERSHm JUST lU 

when you join and agree to buy only 4 books during the coming year. 



8037 Again, Danger- 
ous Visions, Harlan 
Ellison, ed Forty-six 
pieces, short stories 
& novels Explicit 
scenes and language 
may be offensive to 
some. Pub ed $12 95 
6270 Dune by Frank 
Herbert Celebrated 
winner of Hugo and 
Nebula. Gripping tale 
of family exiled from 
their private planet to 
another, a barren 
desert Pub ed $5 95 
7518 Thuvia, Maid 
of Mars and The 
Chessmen of Mars 
by Edgar Rice 
Burroughs 2-novel, 

1 -volume sci-fi 
special Adventures 
of man on planet 
Mars Spec Ed 
3152 Cities in Flight 
by James Blish. At 
last, the four master- 
pieces in one volume 
-an underground 
classic - that encom- 
passes all mankind, 
his universe, and 
their relationship 
Spec Ed 



2717 Nebula Award 
Stories Seven, Lloyd 
Biggie, Jr , Ed The 
latest novellas and 
short stories - prize- 
winners picked by 
Sci-Fi Writers of 
America Includes 
Anderson, Silverberg, 
and others Pub 
ed $6 95 
6023 The Gods 
Themselves by Isaac 
Asimov The master's 
first novel in 15 years 
and worth the wait 
for a fabulous trip to 
the year 3000 Pub 
ed $5 95 

6171 The Dancer ^ 
From Atlantis by Poul 
Anderson Four people 
from different 
ages and cultures - 
are catapulted by a 
time machine back to 
1400BC Spec Ed 
1008 The Man Who 
Folded Himself by 
David Gerrold Inher- 
iting a time belt 
promises the joys of 
the world -but some- 
thing goes wrong 
Pub ed S4 95 



6577 The Sheep Look 
Up by John Brunner 
The celebrated author, 
of Stand On Zanzibar, 
a mind-bender that 
chronicles the col- 
lapse of civilization 
Pub. ed $6 95 

7633 The Overman 
Culture, Edmund 
Cooper The author of 
Sea-Horse In The Sky 
spins a tale of a city 
encircled by a moat 
roads that lead to one 
place. ..and a new cul- 
ture Pub ed $5 95 
8532 The Hugo 
Winners, Vol ! & II 
Giant 2-in-l volume of 
23 award-winning 
stories, 1955 to 1970. 
Asimov introduces 
each. Pub. ed $15 45 
4432 The Wind 
from The Sun by 
Arthur C. Clarke 
19 sci-fi short takes 
by a master of the 
medium The Cruel 
Sky and Dial F For 
Frankenstein are 
two of the featured 
fantasies Pub ed 
$5 95 



The Science Fiction Book Club offers its own complete, hardbound editions, sometimes altered in size to fit special presses and save members 
even more Members accepted in U S A and Canada only Canadian members will be serviced from Toronto Offer slightly different in Canada,